3 Pillars

This post has been on my mind for a couple years now. It looked a lot different back then compared to what I am about to write.

UBU (You Be You) was an idea that my oldest daughter and I came up with several years ago. It was born from her desire to help people feel confident in being themselves and my desire to encourage her to never stop being the fiercely independent girl (young woman now I guess 😢) that she is. I never want her to lose the free spirit she has in her. UBU would come up from time to time in passing, but really not much more than her asking me when will we do something with this idea. Can we put it on a shirt or do something “cool” like that? Nothing much happened until a couple months ago when I found this really cool local small business that prints designs on all kinds of products. They do it inexpensively and without having to order dozens of products to make it worth you while. I surprised my daughter with a UBU hat recently. It’s “real” now! Kidding aside, although small and insignificant, it was kind of cool to see our idea on a product.

UBU has really taken on a life of it’s own in my mind. A confluence of thoughts banging around in my head have brought it into focus. It’s also expanded rapidly and grew into something much more. Let me explain what is going on in my head.

First, the very clear racial divide our nation faces was brought center stage by the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks. These deaths and all the other information coming out about how difficult it is to live in this country if your skin isn’t white is overwhelming. It also took our simple idea of UBU and turned it on it’s head. For some, UBU is simply not possible, not without the threat of violence and death on your mind. Story after story about black people not feeling comfortable going for a run or taking a walk in their neighborhood sadden me. Reading a story about a black man that purposely doesn’t walk in his own neighborhood without his daughter because if she is by his side then he is “ok” was sickening. So much for UBU.

It is hard to comprehend that in this country, in 2020, we have large groups of people that are disadvantaged because of the color of their skin. It embarrasses me and I feel ashamed. Obviously this is a very complex topic and I am doing my best to work through as much information as I can. I want to figure out how best I can help to change this crisis our country faces. For now, I will read and I will listen.

While our country is playing chicken with what feels like a race war, we’ve had challenges inside our own home with our three adopted kids. I’ve written about them before. I’ve written about the immense challenges they face and the challenges we face trying to parent them. I won’t repeat those stories, but can say I am certain there is nothing harder I will ever do in my life than try to navigate this very complex world of fetal alcohol syndrome and significant trauma. Fortunately, I haven’t had any stories like my daughter yelling “stranger danger” as I try to get her back in our car recently. Unfortunately, what I am about to write is really much more difficult.

I’ve come to the realization that I have to be a much better dad to my adopted kids, to my brain damaged adopted kids. These kids have damaged brains because of what they were exposed to before and after they were born. We won’t ever fully understand the extent of the damage, but we are starting to see some of it play out as we watch our two little biological girls grow and develop very quickly on one end of the age spectrum and my two older biological kids thrive at the other end of the age spectrum.

These kids can be really, really hard sometimes or maybe most of the time. Their behaviors are extremely challenging and very difficult to understand. We go out of our way to make accommodations and do what we can to keep the peace for as many minutes of the day as possible. These accommodations help, but they can’t fix the damage that was done.

They are good kids though. I know their behaviors are not intentional. Unfortunately that doesn’t always stick in my head as the daily grind gets the better of me. As time has gone on and they have gotten older, it is becoming clear they are lagging behind their peers as it relates to school and play. This hasn’t been easy for me to adjust to. I’ve been very fortunate. My older biological kids are “easy”. They do very well at most things. I’m able to push them and challenge them to be better because I know they understand why I’m doing it and I know what they are capable of. I can already see it in my 2.5-year-old too. I haven’t adjusted to the fact that our soon to be 11-year-olds’ play similar to my 2.5-year-old. It’s even harder for me to comprehend that my almost 9-year-old’s play hasn’t evolved in the entire time I’ve known him (5+ years). His play consists of banging two legos or blocks together for hours on end, using very few words. My favorite (sarcasm) is at about 8PM every night he begins pounding on the floor directly about our living room for hours. It can be a lot.

So where does UBU fit in? I realized these kids can’t be themselves without feeling judged either. Judged by strangers, judged by their peers, and although it’s painful to say, judged by me. It may not be verbal, but I know I do it. I know my facial expressions tell them I am trying to figure out why they are acting a certain way when I should simply be ok with who they are and where they are today.

As I continue to look inward in 2020, I realize our UBU idea is a very good one. It is a meaningful one, even if I am the only one that gets something from it. UBU should be practiced and said throughout the day. It is my mantra, I say it often now. Instead of cracking that innocent joke when we see a guy driving by himself in a car with a mask on, I smile and say UBU to myself and my kids. This change in how I think has been a positive one for me. The innocent jokes were never meant to hurt or harm anyone, but I think they were harming my mind. The bottom line is if you aren’t hurting anyone, including yourself, then UBU – always!

As time has gone on something else was taking shape too. The guiding principles I want to live my life by were becoming clear. UBU took me to what I call my 3 Pillars. The name is not creative and I spent no time coming up with it, but regardless let me lay it out for you.

The 3 Pillars help guide me towards living my very best life. They are Accountability, Courage, and Effort (A.C.E). These pillars are surrounded by the Koru. The Koru is a spiral shape based on the appearance of a new unfurling silver fern frond. It symbolizes new life, growth, strength and peace.

Let me define each of the pillars.

Accountability is defined as “answerable for actions or decisions”. As it relates to my life, I break it down further into what I am fully responsible for:

  • Everything I do and say
  • My relationships
  • The roles I’ve chosen to take on

Courage is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens oneself”. This means two very important things to me:

  • Courage to live your authentic life, free of concern of the crowd – I am not a sheep
  • Courage to evolve based on constantly learning and questioning my thoughts, opinions, and actions

Effort is defined as “a vigorous or determined attempt”. This one seems like it is the easiest, but I think in today’s world it may be the most difficult.

  • I will show up and I will do something
  • I will make forward progress, without concern for how much or how little I gain each day

As I explained above, the Koru is a symbol for new life, growth, strength, and peace. I think the Koru is a perfect symbol for how I choose to live my life. I will continuously grow. It won’t be easy and it will take time, but I will continue to grow.

How will I apply what I wrote above? As it relates to the world and specifically the injustices the black community continues to face, I’ll listen. I’ll do my very best to understand. I’ll take what I hear and will find a way to make a positive impact. Maybe that is as simple as educating my kids or maybe there is a larger role for me to play. Regardless I’ll put in the effort necessary to make a difference.

As it relates to my family, I will find a way to meet the very unique needs of my adopted kids. I’ll meet them where they are without judgment. I’ll support all of my kids in whatever way is best for each of them. And when I screw it up, I will try again.

We are living through unprecedented times in our country’s history. Perhaps this is the moment my generation will have that goes down in history. When I look back or talk to my grand kids about this time I want to do so proudly. I want to be able to say I showed up and I tried. I was courageous because I asked myself the hard questions and was willing to answer them honestly. I put away my preconceived notions about many things and began to look at things through the lens of those living it. I want my kids to know I was strong enough to evolve and get better every day.

Father’s day is several days away and on my mind. When my kids think about me, I want them to remember me as someone that always showed up. I want them to remember their dad was far from perfect, but never ever stopped trying to be better. I want them to know I was willing to challenge everything and everyone on my quest to live an authentic life. I want them to know their dad was not a sheep. More than anything though, I want them to know that regardless of what was going on at the time, their dad always had their back and always loved them!

Why do I write this? I write it for my kids. I want them to be able to look back when they are adults, parents, employees/employers and know it’s ok not to have the world figured out. That things can be hard or they can be easy. That ultimately if you have your heart in the right place everything will work out.

#fitlife #fitness #fitnessmotivation #chooseeffort #ivegot2more #accountability #noexcuses #betterthanyesterday #endure #grind #7kids #fetalalcoholsyndrome #blendedfamily #trauma #ubu #coronavirus #opportunity #perspective # lifeskills #responsibility #budgeting # hardwork #sacrifice #portioncontrol #fairness #selfsufficient #covid19 #courage #effort #koru

What the f@&$ is going on?

I think my wife and I ponder this question more than any other these days. What the f@&$ is going on?

Should we fear Covid-19? Are the steps the country, and more specifically the state, is taking reasonable considering the circumstances? What does this look like in a month, in three months, in a year?

I’m rarely short on opinions, but in this case I really don’t know what to think. There are very strong opinions on both sides of this thing. One group is adamant we need to stay at home and help curb this virus to prevent many more from getting sick or dying. The other group believes we need to open up the economy in order to save jobs and ensure we don’t find ourselves in an extended recession or worse. It certainly didn’t take long for Covid-19 to become a polarizing topic.

When big things are happening in the world I usually start by thinking about the economy (the money). No one messes with the money, unless there is a real good reason, right? In this case, leaders of virtually all the major powers have shut their countries down for some period of time. India has been shut down for three weeks and just extended it two more. For context, that is over a billion people on lock down. It’s very hard to comprehend a lackdown of that scale.

The decisions being made by these countries will likely lead to a global recession and massive unemployment. It’s difficult to predict how bad this will get and how long it will take to move past the damage that has been done so far. The money is telling me that a lot of people with a lot to lose believe this is a real threat.

The most common mainstream debate I have seen is how Covid-19 compares to the flu. The same flu that kills about 50,000 people a year. Yes 50,000 people. That number surprised me. Are we just so used to the flu that we are numb to the death toll. I guess that is how we treat automobile deaths too.

With the flu we never lock down a city, state or the country. Why now? Is this really that different? It seems this virus kills those already vulnerable. I’m pretty sure the flu does the same thing. Most data points seem to indicate that Covid-19 is far more contagious, more damaging to your overall health, and more deadly than the flu. Unfortunately they are just data points now and not fact. What we do know is we are precise. We don’t know how many people have been infected, which means we cannot calculate an accurate mortality rate or understand the severity of this virus. It seems like this would be the same situation as the flu as well.

The fact that our healthcare system was overwhelmed so quickly seems to be a telling data point, but by no means does it tell the whole story. My county is fine. The hospitals here aren’t overrun and our overall cases have been and continue to be low. There are also no signs of the numbers changing in a meaningful way anytime soon.

I’ve gone along for the ride so far with little complaint. This virus is something I know nothing about (I am not a medical professional), and as such I felt compelled to rely on their suggestions during this time. That is made much easier for me because my day to day hasn’t really changed. My family situation generally keeps us home bound unless we are very deliberate about going out. School being cancelled for the rest of the year is the only real material change that has impacted us. That is only due to the fact that two of our kids have special needs and struggle a ton with school. Honestly the bigger issue is they also struggle with play. Without constant guidance, ideas and oversight they don’t do much. In a house with nine people that can be an issue.

The governor recently extended our stay at home order and added additional restrictions. This caught my attention. Nothing in particular related to the order or the restrictions, but the simple fact that we were being asked to stay in another two weeks. And more than that, that we were going to continue to comply with this without much discussion or any idea when this may end. It’s certainly got the attention of many in the state – both positive and negative. Of course it immediately turns into a political conversation or evolves into a discussion around the fact we have a woman governor. How quickly these things devolve is embarrassing for our state and our culture in general.

No, every republican doesn’t want to open up the economy tomorrow with an intent on making money while people die in hallways of hospitals. No, every Democrat doesn’t want to stay inside forever while the economy comes crashing down waiting for the government to ride in and save them. And the fact our governor is a woman has nothing to do with anything.

Why can’t we have meaningful discussions on important topics without the social media echo chamber in our minds encouraging us to regurgitate the latest crap we read posted from our favorite like-minded “friends”. Why aren’t we willing to spend real time thinking about a topic, from all angles, before putting our opinion out in the world.

I hate when people speak in absolutes, but I’ll break my own rule right now. I promise, you don’t know if you are right. You can’t be sure because you don’t have all the data and facts in front of you. This simple fact should be enough to give you pause before you spew what you believe to be the gospel on this or any other topic. There is nothing wrong with a strong opinion, but you need to keep an open mind and be willing to see all sides of an issue. Be intellectually honest.

I think we can all agree we need the economy to open back up as soon as possible, but we need to do so in a way that minimizes the risk of harming the health of this country. I would hope we can all agree too that this is a most complex problem we face and no one person or one group is going to solve it. Can we start the conversation there?

All of this does spark some thought for me around personal freedom. Very few have lived through anything like this, so there really isn’t a playbook to follow. That goes for our politicians as well. They certainly didn’t sign up for this and aren’t qualified to handle it. That is not a knock on them, it’s just the reality of the situation we face today.

I think the best thing we can do is pay attention. What changes are being made on my behalf to protect me without my consent? Do these changes stick or do they fade away as the crisis weakens. We cannot be blind to the fact our freedoms can be taken away. If that were to happen, it would happen slowly and over a long period of time. It is your responsibility to protect your own freedoms. The best way to begin is to pay attention.

Today I’m at a point where I’m evaluating everything I possibly can to figure out where we really are and where we are headed. I hope you take the time to think about this too. We are accountable for holding on to our freedoms – no one else can do that for us!!

And no, I don’t know what the f@&$ is going on.

Two quotes to keep you thinking.

The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.

– Leon Trotsky

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

– Benjamin Franklin

#fitlife #fitness #fitnessmotivation #chooseeffort #ivegot2more #accountability #noexcuses #betterthanyesterday #endure #grind #7kids #fetalalcoholsyndrome #blendedfamily #trauma #ubu #coronavirus #opportunity #perspective # lifeskills #responsibility #budgeting # hardwork #sacrifice #portioncontrol #fairness #selfsufficient #covid19

School’s Out – Teach Life Skills

School is cancelled for at least a month. This is a great opportunity to push the pause button on worrying about long division and geometry (sorry to those I am offending – if it makes you feel better there is a laundry list of topics I could have used instead) and take this opportunity to teach our children life skills.

Obviously what you should teach will vary based on age and sometimes maturity level. Some things that have come to mind in the first couple days with the kids home from school are listed below. It’s a brief list meant to get us thinking about teaching our kids skills that will benefit them their entire lives. Think about those things you struggled with when you got out on your own or learned the hard way a time or two. Pass those lessons on now while you have the time and more importantly their attention. The point is to start thinking about the opportunity we have to teach our kids the skills they will need to thrive (or simply survive) in the world.

Budgeting – I am not sure there is anything more important than financial budgeting. Budgeting gives you control over your finances. It makes every purchasing decision relevant as it relates to your overall financial situation. Budgeting = Discipline; Discipline = Freedom. I cannot recommend this one strong enough.

Hard Work and Sacrifice – Kids need to understand that nothing comes without hard work and sacrifice. If you are willing to do those two things there is not much you can’t accomplish. On the other end of the spectrum, they should be taught what doors close if you don’t work hard in this world. All the things we take for granted are not going to be there if they don’t work hard – everything has a cost. I want to ensure I put my kids out in the world with a strong sense of reality versus a thinking that magically they will have all the same things dad has.

Add Value – Doing what you are told is good, but not remarkable. Doing the things not expected of you is what is important. Those things lighten the load for others and add value in so many ways. I live by the motto “See it – Do it”. Your future spouse and employer will thank me later.

Fairness and Responsibility – This is an exceptional time to discuss how life is not fair. Everybody has lost something at this point. Kids have lost school time, all extracurricular activities, play dates, and on and on. They should be bummed about this. They will likely start feeling sorry for themselves and what they are missing. They need to understand there will be times in their life when things simply don’t work out or go as planned. They need to know how to work through them and it is our responsibility to help them understand they are responsible for how they feeling – no one else. Now is the time to eliminate the victim mentality!

You are not the Center of the Universe (and Neither am I) – This idea seems to be non-existent in our culture today. Kids run the show. They dictate most family activities, meals, and so on. This is significantly more power than a child is capable of handling and we adults put them in that position without thought. Teach kids what they can offer the world, instead of what they can take from it.

Hearing No – They are going to hear no and get rejected often throughout their lives. We have an opportunity to help them work through this rejection by telling them no in a safe environment (ideally with a thoughtful explanation as well).

Car Maintenance – We spend a ton of time in our vehicles and place a heavy reliance on them. We should know how to handle basic maintenance. Things like changing a tire, changing a headlight, and changing the oil come to mind. These improve independence and save a ton of money at the same time!

Grow Something – We don’t understand where our food comes from. It just magically exists at the grocery store whenever we want it. Actually growing your own food, even a small amount, gives you a better appreciation for how amazing the land is and why we need to take care of it. This too is another example where you could be a little more independent and save some cash. I find great joy and satisfaction out of growing things.

Meal Preparation – Another easy way to be more independent and save money is knowing how to feed yourself, and I am not talking about microwave meals and potato chips. Learning how to cook (even just the basics) is a skill that will serve you well your entire life.

Portion Control – From an early age we are told to “clean our plates” and so on. That doesn’t serve us very well as we age, portions grow, and our activity level declines. We should be teaching our kids that feeling “full” is not a good thing and feeling “hungry” is not a bad thing. We should teach our kids that the amount of food they really need is far less than what culture tells them. They should listen to their bodies instead. Oh, and stop with all the snacking.

Cleaning – Leave the place better than you found it. This is a simple one and speaks to responsibility. Take care of yourself, clean up your own messes.

Open Up – Now is a great time to reconnect with your kids. Get to know them and let them get to know you at a deeper level. If you have older kids, I think this is incredibly important. Now would be a great time to talk about the mistakes you have made in your life, the consequences, and how you moved forward. I want my kids to see me as super – human. I hyphenate that word because there are two distinct meanings there. I want them to know I am human. I work hard every day to provide for my family. I have good days and bad days. I swear when I shouldn’t. I overreact. I screw up. But I own it, try to fix it, and move on. I do want them to see me as superhuman though. I want them to trust that their dad has their back and will provide a safe environment for them to grow up in.

We really need to take advantage of this opportunity we have in front of us. We have our kids attention for some period of time and should ensure we don’t waste it. It’s likely the world goes right back to the way it was in the coming months, but there does exist a chance that we are embarking on a way of living we haven’t experienced before. It the latter ends up coming to fruition the more independent and self sufficient we all are the better. Be responsible and be accountable!!!

#fitlife #fitness #fitnessmotivation #chooseeffort #ivegot2more #accountability #noexcuses #betterthanyesterday #endure #grind #7kids #fetalalcoholsyndrome #blendedfamily #trauma #ubu #coronavirus #opportunity #perspective # lifeskills #responsibility #budgeting # hardwork #sacrifice #portioncontrol #fairness #selfsufficient

Trapped

At this point the virus has a lot of us feeling trapped. This feeling is simply perspective though. I am sure other parents with children that have mental, physical, and emotional disabilities can relate to what I’m about to write and add to it. Here is some perspective for you all.

Our ten year old daughter with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) has been a complete mess the last two days. This has nothing to do with the virus or what is going on in the world. She is not missing school or friends. She simply cannot regulate her emotions when she does not get what she wants exactly when she wants it. This has been an evolving situation at school as well, which has led to major battles at home – see some of my older posts (most recently – FAS – The Chase).

I’m not sure if my wife is a saint or masochist – maybe both? She has more patience than I thought was humanly possible. She goes out of her way time and time again to give each child what their needs require. She is truly amazing at being their mom.

As expected, when school was unexpectedly cancelled for the next month, my wife went into planning mode immediately. We know that without a super structured schedule we would be in trouble. The two ten year olds tend to “thrive” (using that word loosely) in a structured environment. They struggle a ton when that structure disappears. We have learned this the hard way during winter, spring and summer breaks.

She set up a very, very simple plan for our FAS daughter. 15 minutes of “work” and at least 15 minutes where she can do what she wants. “Work” over the past two days has consisted of watching two Facebook videos on topics she loves – animals and drawing. This was apparently too much though.

Our daughter has hit DEFCON 4 both days now. Notice I didn’t say DEFCON 5. I reserve that for when I have to chase her through the neighborhood screaming stranger danger (her not me).

Today she got so worked up she gave herself a bloody nose. When she noticed the blood she immediately broke from the melt down and has been mostly ok since. It’s pretty clear this all begins as a manipulation game, then turns into a complete lack of emotional control when she doesn’t get what she wants, which then turns into a melt down. The level of frustration we feel with this complete lack of control is overwhelming.

On the other extreme our eight year old FAS son has no clue that anything is different. You may say, well of course he doesn’t know what is going on in the world, he is eight and has brain damage. That is totally fair, but not what I mean. He hasn’t noticed that his school aged siblings (all four of them) are home every single day. If you lived here that wouldn’t surprise you because you would already know he doesn’t understand days of the week (school days versus weekend days), the seasons (he asked why the pool wasn’t open when there was snow on the ground), or time (he wanted more time in the shower so he asked for 12 seconds). Living with these two is truly bizarre and very difficult to explain most days.

The point is we all live with challenging circumstances from time to time and it’s pretty likely that someone else has it harder than you. Keeping that thought in mind can be of great help when you are having a tough day. Especially if that day is your child basically calling you a kidnapper. If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining!

All that said, I want to get on my soapbox for a second. The real sadness in all of this is my wife and I aren’t the ones truly trapped (although I feel it most days). Those two kids are. They are trapped in their damaged brains every single day with no way out. Maybe medication and therapies can help our daughter control her emotions better, but it isn’t going to be cured. We have lost most hope that our son will ever function without significant help or know the world around him.

They didn’t choose to be trapped. They were put in a cell before they entered this world. The fact there is little to no outrage about the circumstances of this population is extremely sad.

#fitlife #fitness #fitnessmotivation #chooseeffort #ivegot2more #accountability #noexcuses #betterthanyesterday #endure #grind #7kids #fetalalcoholsyndrome #blendedfamily #trauma #ubu #coronavirus #opportunity #perspective

Perspective is Everything

I hope what we are living through ends up being a world that will never be the same.

This virus has brought the world to its knees on all fronts. There are deaths. Containment of the virus doesn’t seem likely in the near term. Limits put on our movements are growing by the day – a full quarantine or even stricter measures seem inevitable at this point. Governments around the world don’t seem to know how to react (I know there is a joke to be inserted here). Markets have plummeted. Grocery stores are being overrun with scared customers, some making selfish and irrational decisions. We all find ourselves living in a foreign world, one we didn’t see coming.

In times of chaos, perspective is vital. Take stock of your current state. Are your loved ones safe? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have clothes on your back and shoes on your feet? Did you eat a warm meal today (or two or three)? Did you have a hot shower today? Most of us can answer yes to that and if you can then you have nothing at all to complain about.

No doubt the last couple weeks have been brutal and extremely confusing. It will likely get worse before it gets better. It is really important that we keep in mind the severity of the situation is different for everyone. We need to respect and understand this fact. For many, “challenges” have only come in the form of loss, loss on conveniences, loss of entertainment options and all the other distractions we take for granted. The fact we can’t get exactly what we want when we want it is truly a first world problem.

The stress and challenges are much more significant for those that have compromised immune systems. Worrying about being close to any other human at this point seems like it would be very stressful. I think and worry about the single mother and her child. She has to figure out how to work (assuming her employer is open for business) while having her child home due to schools being shut down for an extended period of time. I think about those people nearing retirement age that have lost a significant percentage of their retirement savings. The scariest part today for most is the fact we really don’t know what will happen in the coming months. The impact on this virus has been and will continue to be far and wide. Everyone will be touched by it in some way.

Regardless, we will be ok. We will eat. We will have clothes to wear. The markets will rebound. There is a really good chance what we do and how we do it will be different – and it may be different for a long time. We will adapt. We will evolve. That is what this country does. We will rise to the occasion in the face of this virus and all the fallout it will cause.

The other point of clarity I think we need to maintain is the fact we have not been to asked to sacrifice in any meaningful way so far. Staying at home is not a sacrifice. Generations before mine were asked or told to make real sacrifices. Sacrifices that had nothing to do with not being able to go to your favorite restaurant or the movies. We need to remember that. We need to maintain perspective and push through this with common sense and level heads. We need to help our neighbor in whatever capacity we can and keep moving forward. Eventually this will pass and we will get to look back at how we handled this crisis and feel proud!

A couple quotes that came to mind in the midst of the chaos of the last 24 hours or so:

#fitlife #fitness #fitnessmotivation #chooseeffort #ivegot2more #accountability #noexcuses #betterthanyesterday #endure #grind #7kids #fetalalcoholsyndrome #blendedfamily #trauma #ubu #coronavirus #opportunity #perspective

Coronavirus – Opportunities

As the virus has forced us to distance ourselves from others, it is forcing us closer to our immediate families. Many of the standard distractions and forced time away from one another have gone away. Schools are closed. Many will work from home for an extended period of time. Northern states are still fairly cold, which naturally limits outdoor activities. Hanging out with friends is discouraged. Many public locations are either strongly discouraged or have shut down. The quarantine is real and the length of time we will be told to stay home is unknown. It seems safe to assume we are looking at a month minimum. Watching how events play out in Washington and the Northeast will be telling for the rest of the country.

As professional leagues, colleges and universities, and eventually the public-school systems shut down this week, the lyrics to a song immediately came to mind. I love the meaning of this song and encourage everyone to read the lyrics and contemplate them. The song is Guaranteed by Eddie Vedder. Several lines resonate with me as we face this virus and quarantine.

Circles they grow and they swallow people whole
Half their lives they say goodnight to wive’s they’ll never know
Got a mind full of questions and a teacher in my soul
So it goes

The bolded line is especially relevant as we are forced to really live with our families during this period. Do you really know your loved ones? Do you know what they think about? What they care about? It will be interesting to see what will happen when we are forced to slow down and live in our homes with our families? I’m sure some or maybe most will find ways around this – luckily the virus hasn’t infected the internet – can you imagine the fall out if that happened?

This is amazing opportunity to get to know our loved ones again, or maybe for the first time. We have been forced to slow down. We won’t be racing around from one activity to the next. We won’t be able to keep ourselves busy finding random things to do outside the home. Granted you could choose to find distractions at home. Binge watch Netflix, spend even more time on your phone, and so on. I hope that isn’t the case though.

I hope we take advantage of this time. I hope we talk to our families. Not only talk, I hope we have real conversations. The virus is a nice way to start these conversations. We should discuss the events that have taken place so far and what may happen in the future. We should talk about the things we take for granted each and every day. We should talk about how easy most of us have it in this country compared to the rest of the world. We should talk about how challenging this is going to be for some of our friends and neighbors. We should talk frankly about what really matters in this life and what clearly doesn’t matter. These won’t be easy conversations, but they are worth it.

We are in dire need of a reality check. Imagine if this virus was killing kids and young adults, instead of older individuals and those that are already sick. Maybe that is the lens we should be viewing all of this through. We have an opportunity to evaluate our priorities and focus on what really matters. The virus will eventually pass and when it does we will be left with a choice – live a better life than we did before or go right back to the same life we had before the virus turned the world upside down.

What will you choose?

#fitlife #fitness #fitnessmotivation #chooseeffort #ivegot2more #accountability #noexcuses #betterthanyesterday #endure #grind #7kids #fetalalcoholsyndrome #blendedfamily #trauma #ubu #coronavirus #opportunity

My Fitness Journey

My commitment to health and fitness over the past 20 years, like many people, has been hot and cold. For periods of time I was very committed and saw positive results. I’ve also had longer periods of time when I did not prioritize my health and fitness. It was always easy to find other things to prioritize. The main one for me was work. Whether it was my job in public accounting or my job now, it was always easy to think I had so much to do. Instead of getting up early to work out, I would get up early and go to the office. Once I get caught up I will get back to working out I thought. Sleep is a super common excuse for many people. You wake up with your alarm clock and you feel exhausted and decide to sleep in, just for today. You tell yourself tomorrow I will get up and get after it. After a couple days of this any momentum you had with exercise is gone and the habit changes. You sleep in every day. You never actually get caught up at work because there is always going to be something to do. It is always easier to choose the path requiring less effort and discomfort, but I’m certain that is not the right choice.

I’ve had an extended period of time now where I have been extremely committed to fitness and my overall health. I’m convinced it’s here to stay and can say that with confidence because of how much I love it, but more specifically why I love it. I love the process. I really, really love the process. I also love the fact that I control it all. I control the inputs – EFFORT. The effort drives the outputs – RESULTS. The weights, the treadmill, the road, those things don’t lie and don’t let you down. If you put in the effort you will see results. Obviously, this kind of effort is just one piece of a very complex puzzle. Nutrition is the other piece. I’ve been decent with nutrition over time, but I continue to make progress. My wife who has always done a great job of feeding our family healthy food has gone all in on going as all natural as possible. She is doing an amazing job of helping our family get a little bit healthier every single day. I love it even as I make fun of how obsessive she is getting about it.

The last three years have been an interesting learning experience. I’ve spent a ton of time reading and learning about various fitness and nutritional topics. It is truly a journey and isn’t going to be something that I figure out. It’s not easy to navigate all the information available, but I can say I am in a better spot today than I was when I started on this path. Ultimately that is all that matter – make progress!

Fitness has played a crucial role in my life during this period of time. It has been my meditation and therapy all wrapped into one. I didn’t realize how important it was for a long time. It became clear during some very stressful months at work (my wife would probably say years). Working at a startup is not easy. Putting in hard physical effort each day allowed my brain to reset itself. I pride myself on not “needing” much to live my life, but I can say fitness has become something that not only do I want, but I really need to be the best version of myself. I need the process. The results are just a nice side effect. The constant racking and re-racking of the weights. Trying to increase that weight incrementally each session. The display on the treadmill that shows the time served, miles per hour, and distance – constantly challenging me to do just a little bit more. Tracking everything I do – every activity, everything I eat, everything I drink, my weight – I track it all. Tracking helps identify where and how I should push myself each day – make progress!

Let’s talk details. I’m 5’11 and have always been a classic ectomorph – very hard for me to gain weight. So naturally my goal was to put on some weight and get stronger. For a decent chunk of the last 20 years I think I would consider myself skinny fat. I was thin and kind of athletic, but not in great physical shape. I took steps to change that back in 2014, but really started working hard on a consistent basis a couple years later.

For the majority of 2017 I was hyper-focused on reducing my body fat. I did a ton of research during that period and became very well versed in intermittent fasting and high intensity interval training (HIIT). I fasted several days a week and usually did HIIT twice a week for most of the year. The program worked very well. I reduced my weight to 146.4. I was very thin, but I was toned and more athletic. I certainly wasn’t skinny fat anymore. These two tools were critical to my success then and I still use them now. They are truly invaluable in my opinion.

After reducing my body fat, I wanted to really focus on putting on muscle and adding some weight. I turned to research again and became familiar with various nutritional concepts – caloric surplus, protein requirements for building muscle, macronutrient splits and so on. Obviously, there is a ton of information on all things nutrition and for every “fact” you find, you can find another that disproves the initial fact. Let’s be clear, I wasn’t getting crazy. I was not trying to be a bodybuilder or fitness model. I was simply trying to be a healthy, strong individual. I didn’t change my eating habits a ton, but added creatine and protein powder to the mix. As a result of working really hard and adding in some supplements I was able to put on 10.2 pounds in 2018. It felt great to know the work I put in was effective. I was enjoying the process more and more each day. The only issue was I wasn’t seeing the overall strength gains I was hoping for. I was clearly making progress, but I felt like something was missing.

Not much changed for most of 2019. I was doing the same things and seeing some progress, but it was fairly limited. That’s when I decided to really get serious about what I was eating. I had been eating pretty clean for a long time at this point, but it was becoming clear I was not eating enough to see the strength and muscle gains I wanted. Honestly, I think all along I was more worried about putting on fat by eating more than what it could do for potential muscle growth. It hadn’t been worth it to me. So, I started tracking my food intake much more seriously. I was able to easily see that my calories were way too low for my strength goals, so I started to make some changes. At this point in time I was lifting three days a week and doing HIIT two days a week, the same as 2018. Almost immediately after adjusting how much I was eating I began to see strength gains. I was really excited because I hadn’t stopped my cardio routine, which I thought I may have to do to put on weight.

At the end of 2019, I had only added a pound compared to 2018. That was disappointing, but was offset by the fact I knew I was getting stronger. I could tell by the weight I was pushing around and the ability to add more weight consistently each session that things were moving in the right direction. Ultimately this is proof that health and fitness are a journey and not a destination. There was a lot of discouragement and ups and downs in 2019, but I carried on. I was confident that 2020 would be a great year.

We are now nearly two and a half months into 2020 and my focus couldn’t be better. I am dialed in as it relates to nutrition and my fitness program. I did adjust it some based on a challenge I created for myself. I really like this change and may not deviate from it anytime soon. I’m lifting five days a week and running five or six days a week. I had to break down my lifting to one body part a day to accommodate the additional running. So far it’s worked great.

The challenge was inspired by Jesse Itzler. He did the calendar club challenge in February. He ran miles corresponding to the day of the month. So, February 5he ran 5 miles. February 27 he ran 27 miles and so on. Totally insane effort required, but he got it done. I wasn’t willing to be that crazy – yet. Instead I put together what I call the birthday challenge. I took my birth month, birth day, and last two digits of the year I was born and the total is how many miles I’ll run In March – 113.

I’ve never been stronger, and my weight is up three pounds this year, which again has surprised me due to all the extra cardio. I haven’t adjusted my diet a ton but do pay very close attention to what I eat versus what I am burning. The progress I am seeing in my strength, weight and cardio health is all the encouragement I need to continue grinding.

I had set out goals for myself for 2020, but I am rethinking all of them as we close in on the end of March. The goals in place were exercising 235 days this year, weigh 160 pounds, and run a 20-minute 5k. The first two seem easily achievable now barring injury, so I think a revision is necessary. The 5k goal is a challenge, especially since running for distance is not something I particularly enjoy. I may keep it because I think I would be proud to get that done. I’m considering adding something that will test me in a more holistic way like a triathlon or a spartan race. Time and balancing our busy life will tell. If I have to I will do something 100% on my own. I enjoy what I do enough to realize that a formal race isn’t necessary for validation.

So why did I write this? I want to tell people that investing in your health is worth it. The process and the grind are worth it. I understand that it is easier to choose complacency and avoiding pain and discomfort. It’s not always easy to put in the time. I totally get it, but I can tell you from my experiences that the pain, the effort, and the discomfort are all worth it.

It doesn’t matter what the goal is. What matters is how you will feel when you put in the effort to better yourself. If you need a goal, think about your kids or the type of grandparent you want to be. I can’t think of anything more motivating than that. Whatever it takes to take that first step, figure it out and take it! You won’t regret it.

If you aren’t willing to prioritize your health, don’t bother making excuses, it’s unnecessary. Excuses are simply telling the world you don’t care enough about it and that will be obvious anyway. We all can justify our way out of anything we don’t want to do. I could say I can’t focus on my health because I have too much going. I have seven kids. I have a three-month-old that doesn’t sleep well right now. I have two older kids I have to get to the bus stop, to practices, and to games. I have a couple disabled kids that take a ton out of me most days. I have a very demanding, high stress job that takes every minute I am willing to give it. And most important, I have a wife that I want and need to spend time with every single day because our relationship is critically important to my happiness. It’s not hard to find an excuse or try to justify why you aren’t going to do something. Don’t fool yourself though, you are making a choice and that is completely under your control.

You have the time. You can make it work. And I promise it is worth it. You will never look back and regret prioritizing your health. It is worth it today and the value will only grow as you look at who you will be in 10, 20, 30 or 40 years from now.

Always choose effort!

#fitlife #fitness #fitnessmotivation #chooseeffort #ivegot2more #accountability #noexcuses #betterthanyesterday #endure #grind #7kids #fetalalcoholsyndrome #blendedfamily #trauma #ubu

Responsibility

What is your greatest responsibility? I’m sure the number of answers are infinite depending on who you are and what stage of life you are at. I bet most parents would say raising kids. That’s what I want to talk about in this post.

Perhaps I’m writing this from a place of anger – fair observation if you come to it. If you lived the last 3 hours of my life, I think you would understand. It’s hard not to be angry when you get another call from the school asking you to come get your 4th grader. What now?

We decided my wife would go get her this time. We thought maybe there was a legitimate reason for the freak out and my wife would be best to figure out what happened. School is getting harder by the day for her – both academically and emotionally/socially (friends, etc.). We were wrong. There was no reason other than she didn’t feel like she wanted to do the work. Let’s be clear on this “work.” Work for our 4th grader has been significantly modified to fit where she is at academically, as well as how much work she can tolerate at a given time. It’s important to also know this school is absolutely exceptional in how they have accommodated her academically and their willingness to work with very difficult behaviors. This is the same school that went out of their way for our adopted son that destroyed the school more than once.

Clearly they didn’t call us because she chose to not do her work. They called because she was breaking things, hiding under desks, leaving the classroom, stuffing her mouth full of broken crayons – you get the picture. On the way home from the school, she tore up our van and threw things at my wife as she drove her home. This was all completely unprovoked because we have learned we don’t talk about the incident on the way home, we don’t talk consequences, we don’t talk at all. We just get home to a place where we can figure things out and handle it. When they got home she refused to get out of the van – strapping herself down with three seatbelts in the back and then somehow wedging herself under the seats. It played out very similar to my post, “The Chase“. Anyway, back to the topic and what I really want to talk about. It ties in because my daughter’s brain is damaged so severely that she is not able to choose to not act out in these ways. The portion of the brain that makes decisions and regulates emotions has been damaged, and she is not the one responsible for the damage.

There is a crisis in this country that never really gets talked about. We love to talk about politics, guns, drugs, sex/gender/etc, but we don’t ever talk about the fact there are far too many people having kids in this country that simply shouldn’t. I’m sure that is uncomfortable to read. It is more uncomfortable to write because I will live what I am about to write.

There is a large percent of the population that would be more than happy to take away the rights of gun owners today. I believe they want to do that because they think it will reduce gun violence (shootings, deaths). I’m not debating gun laws in this post – maybe a different day. My point is we have a large portion of the population that cares a lot about someone else not having a gun and feel they are 100% right. I am surprised we don’t have a similar size group fighting for preventing people having children. As I write this, I think I know why. No one knows this is a real problem.

I believe there are many people in this country that have lost their right to have children. These individuals are those that have had their kids permanently taken away from them before. Those that have knowingly drank during pregnancy, that test positive for drugs at birth, that live in unsafe environments, that simply cannot afford to take care of a child’s most basic needs. I’m sure many people are either mad or feeling really uncomfortable right now. Good, it means you are engaged and will hopefully keep reading.

I feel so strongly about this because the impact from these individuals having kids is absolutely devastating. It’s devastating to the birth mother and father. It’s devastating to the future adoptive parents, assuming the kids are ever adopted (not a given). It’s devastating economically – to the State and community where these parents and kids live. Most important, it is devastating to the kids born into these situations.

Did I think about any of this before I met my wife – no. I was blind to it like most of the country is. Why have we allowed this to go on? Why is there not more outrage over people having kids only to have them taken away over and over and over? The only reason I can think of is this is a problem of the inner cities and super poor neighborhoods and it’s easy to overlook.

Let’s look at my situation. Two of our adoptive kids are biologically related. Their birth mother has a very low IQ, drank heavily during her pregnancies, tested positive for drugs at birth, and grew up in an absolutely terrifying situation. Their brith dad is a known gang member, drug dealer and pimp. We know they have several other siblings out there as well. It terrifies me to think how many more they may have actually had because those little kids are likely dealing with the same things our do.

Our other adopted girl comes from a birth mother that beat her and her siblings regularly, among other significant traumatic events. You need two hands to count her siblings and no one knows who her birth father is.

Each story reached a similar end for the biological parents – the kids were taken from them by the State.

I vacillate from hatred to sadness for the biological parents. I hate them because they have ruined my kids’ lives. They won’t ever have a normal life – everything will always be hard. They won’t have normal functioning brains. They won’t ever trust people properly – two of them would trust literally anyone they spoke to, while the other one doesn’t even trust us. I hate them because what they have done is the most selfish act you can perform. I hate them because they take no responsibility for their actions.

As time has gone on though, I have felt sadness for them too. I realize now the parents never had a chance either (I bet their parents didn’t either). Their parents were the same as they are or potentially even worse. They lived in the same horrendous conditions with little parental supervision or any decent role models. When you step back for a second and lose the anger, you can see this is nothing more than a vicious cycle with no end in sight.

We wonder why there has been no improvement in the inner cities or the super poor neighborhoods. I think the answer is pretty simple. We allow the cycle to perpetuate. Generation after generation deal with the same dysfunction. Poor choices lead to more poor choices. Ultimately, it leads to 100% reliance on others to survive because they can’t find their way out. This cycle has to be broken. Allowing kids to be born into these circumstances is unconscionable.

I’d love to think that with more education and a caring community we could fix this. Maybe it’d be slow, but we could. Unfortunately, I don’t buy that for a second. I don’t think you change a generational problem with more education or someone checking in on you once a week. The circumstances these people live in don’t change. Even if they had the very best of intentions, they can’t escape the chaos of their real lives. They will always go back to their same habits. These habits have helped them to survive.

I think the only solution is to prevent these individuals from having kids – medically. If I had the resources, I would immediately put those resources to work by paying men and women to not have kids. Obviously this is just a blog post and not a policy document. I realize this is a very complicated subject. I realize sometimes people make bad choices, lose their kids, get their shit together, and get their kids back. I am all for that and maybe they can have more kids. That is not the problem I am trying to solve here. I am thinking about the people I described above. I am thinking about my kids’ birth parents. I’m talking about those people that are completely unwilling or unable to live a responsible life, and by having a child immediately put that child in danger because they cannot provide proper care and love.

We cannot continue to allow kids to be born into these environments only to perpetuate this horrible cycle. We need to prioritize resources and our efforts related to this problem. The first step is to acknowledge there is a real problem here and it may not be that hard to make an impact.

Maybe education is a key piece of this, but not for those in the high risk environments, but for those in the middle and upper classes. People need to know what these kids have to go through. That the kids will likely end up having kids too (probably at a very young age) who will live out the same desperate lives as other generations. They need to understand that if the kids get adopted, that doesn’t mean all is well. The adoption story doesn’t always end on a positive note – often times it is ends with overwhelming sadness. We need to understand the human toll related to this, not to mention the significant economic impact this has on all of us. Education certainly has a place.

This topic has been on my mind for some time now. I wish I saw a better way out, but I don’t. We have to find a way to break the cycle for no other reason than not one of us would want our kids or our grandkids being born into these environments and circumstances. Something has to change.

#fetalalcoholsyndrome #ivegot2more #7kids #endure #grind #accountability #noexcuses #blendedfamily #betterthanyesterday #fewwillhunt #trauma

Where’s Your Coat?

I’ve been asked this question more than any other in my life. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I don’t think so. It’s snowing, where’s your coat? It’s cold outside, you are going to catch a cold, where is your coat? It’s goes on and on and on. So why don’t I wear a coat?

It’s simple. I don’t need one. And you don’t either!

Feeling discomfort and pain is good. Working through these things end up empowering and energizing you. You quickly realize the things you worry about are really not that bad. You realize even the worst things can and will be endured.

Most of us have the luxury of living a life that is almost always comfortable. We grew up comfortable and we continue to live comfortably as adults. In fact, we seek out more comfort as time goes on, not less. You eventually realize you have been conditioned to live and think this way and you are likely passing this mindset on to your kids and those around you. You can change it though if you want to. I think you should.

How comfortable are our lives? I’m not sure they could be easier. If we are hungry, we eat. Not only do we eat whenever we feel like it, we eat exactly what we want. We have more clothing than we will ever wear. We have clothing for any scenario we may find ourselves in although we rarely venture outside of our comfort zone. My personal favorite is the full ski gear I see parents in at the small sledding hill near my house. I could understand it (maybe) if those parents were sledding too, but no this is for fashion and of course the desperate need to stay nice and warm. They must think I’m crazy in my sweatshirt and sweatpants. If it’s hot outside, we crank the AC. If it’s cold outside, we turn on the heat. Our cars have remote starters and seat warmers. It takes far too long for that car to warm up or cool down with me sitting in it. Avoid discomfort at all costs.

I don’t wear a coat. I get the mail in the dead of the winter with no shoes and no shirt. I take the top off the jeep on the first sunny 50-degree day we have. I spend long periods of time fasting (feeling real hunger). I do all kinds of stupid shit. I am fully aware that none of these things are truly significant or difficult in the grand scheme of things (I’m hooked on old war documentaries – you want to see suffering watch some of those). So why do I do it then?

I do them because they serve as a reminder that I can endure and tolerate pain and discomfort. They remind me that almost everything that happens in life is not as bad as it may seem. They help set the tone for my mindset. They help me grow and they absolutely help me thrive.

We are truly fortunate to have all the comforts we do, but I don’t think they can be appreciated properly if you never feel discomfort and pain. The comforts are simply taken for granted and become a given in our lives. Imagine the pain and discomfort you will feel if they are stripped from you, how would you go on?

Push yourself. Challenge yourself. You may be surprised what you can endure. You may even find yourself seeking out the pain and discomfort. Choose it. Choose to be different. Choose to evolve. Choose to be better than yesterday!

#fetalalcoholsyndrome #ivegot2more #7kids #endure #grind #accountability #noexcuses #blendedfamily #betterthanyesterday #fewwillhunt

I Am The Worst…

Aggressive title I know. It wouldn’t be the first time I have been accused of using aggressive language. I think the title fits what I am about to write – let’s see.

Over the past year or so, I have been doing a ton of self-reflection. I’ve been in the right place mentally to do this because of where my life is at now. This is mainly a credit to my wife. I don’t think anyone would say I have an easy or simple life, so it’s certainly not that (see previous blog posts). What we have empowers me each and every day. Our crazy love and devotion to one another. Our amazing partnership that keeps our crazy life together. It’s given me the peace and confidence to really look inward and try to figure some things out about myself. Why am I the way I am?

The only way to improve at anything in life is to challenge yourself. You aren’t going to add muscle if you lift the same weight every day. You won’t run faster if you run the same speed every day. You won’t become a better student if your study habits don’t change. The same goes for who you are and how you live your life. You have to be willing to take an honest look at yourself and own your truth. Only then is it possible to make the necessary changes to improve and grow as a person.

This is not an easy task. Taking an accounting of your life is likely not going to be a pleasant experience. It takes a lot of time and a ton of quiet thinking. Things will pop up from your past that embarrass you or hurt you. You will question your character at times. You will almost certainly question your purpose. You have to decide though, are you willing to own your shit? I mean it. Are you strong enough to take ownership of it all – the good and the bad. This post is the beginning for me, likely one of many exploring this topic. I see myself standing at the bottom of a large hill and we all know what flows down.

Looking back on my 40 years I can certainly pick out some common themes. Some are good, some are bad, and there is a bunch fitting somewhere in the middle. One in particular has drawn my attention though because it’s honestly something I have thought about for a very long time. I can remember thinking about this idea all the way back to high school, and it is still something on my mind regularly. It’s something I call being a “floater”. I made this up. I couldn’t find a suitable definition anywhere, so let me explain.

I couldn’t really explain what I mean by floater until this past weekend. It all finally came together as I was sitting in my Jeep between my daughter’s volleyball games. Almost always when I travel or watch my kids play sports, I listen to podcasts. I enjoy learning about new things and people’s experiences in life. These events are really the only time I am willing to sacrifice my time to listen.

That day, I was listening to Colin O’Brady on The Joe Rogan Experience. The last 15 minutes of the podcast shook me up. Finally, I thought, this is what I was looking for. This was the framework I needed to get all of this out of my head. I’ll paraphrase his thoughts below (in italics).

I think of life as the totality of life experiences between numerical 1 and 10. A 1 being the worst day of your life and 10 being the best. What I’m really afraid of is living a life range bound between 4 and 6. Too often people seek comfort and then wonder, “why am I unsatisfied, why am I not happy?” They live a life of quiet desperation in the middle and a lot has to do with the fact we are afraid of the 1’s. We don’t want to experience discomfort or pain. The totality of life experience is like a pendulum. To experience the highest highs you must embrace discomfort, challenge and pain. You don’t experience the 10’s in spite of the 1’s, but because of them.

He went on to talk about how easy it is for us, particularly in the western world, to live this range-bound life due to the almost inherent comforts and security we typically experience in this country today. This range-bound life idea is what really struck me and gave me the words to get this out.

I call the life lived between 4 and 6 the indifference zone. I’ve loved a line from a Lumineers song for a long time and have it in my head often when I am thinking about how much I care about something, “It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all. The opposite of love is indifference”.

I will speak for myself, but from what I can tell, I am not alone. In fact, I think I am in the majority. I’ve lived the majority of my life firmly stuck in the indifference zone. The worst part of that for me is the fact I knew what I was doing all along. This is why I titled this post, “I Am The Worst…”. There is nothing worse to me than knowingly making a poor decision. And to top it all off, I did nothing about it until only recently.

In the podcast, they make reference to a quote by Thoreau. This succinctly describes how I have felt for most of my life. I bet it hits home for many others as well.

How did I get here? Many well-intended and good decisions. Weird, right? It’d be nice if the decisions you make during your life all had very clear and final consequences. What can and should be interpreted as a good decision can have very negative long-term unintended consequences. It seems as you age, the decisions you make have greater and greater longer term consequences. I think more often than not, we are blind to these unintended consequences. As we float around in the indifference zone, our thinking becomes lazy and less informed. We are simply following the herd in my case, or taking the easy way out. This kind of thinking and acting can lead you to being trapped very, very quickly. Trapped in a career you hate. Trapped in a loveless relationship. Trapped in a suffocating financial situation. These are just a couple common examples of what you can see every day if you look around.

If there is one thing that can be said about me, it’s that I am very deliberate in my decision making. For most of my life though, that meant I chose the easy path. Why did I choose the easy path? Simply put, it always seemed like the right thing to do. Why did it seem like the right thing to do? I’m not really sure. Maybe I have it in me to avoid risk, failure, and putting myself out there. I know there is a great deal of conditioning going on as we grow up. This is natural during the course of your life. The people people around us and our environment contribute to our world view and influence our decision making. The other major contributor that stands out to me is the pressure around cultural norms. Cultural norms certainly drove a big chunk of my decision making, which is incredibly disappointing to me now. I have never really cared what others have thought of me, often times taking contrarian views because debating a topic was always more fun than living in an echo chamber. The reality is, I was just a sheep in the herd.

I’ve lived most of my days treating my life like a checklist. This mentality was encouraged by those around me. Of course it was – the things I was checking off the list were good things. They were achievements. I was doing it; I was becoming a successful adult.

I put a by the first five items on the list really fast. All were accomplished by the time I was 25. This is about as safe and secure as it gets. The world typically perceives this as being a high achiever. Someone that has it all figured out. Someone that is put together. What it really did was plant me firmly in the indifference zone, and I didn’t even know it. I was so busy crossing things off the list, I never had a chance to think about me and what I wanted. I was too busy doing what I thought was right.

Reality sets in really fast when you check off that fifth box. What is next for me? Retirement? I am far too young for that. So what’s next? I don’t know what I am supposed to chase now. You begin to realize that all this time, you’ve been chasing things while a void was growing larger and larger inside you. It was easy to ignore the void during the chase, but now that is mostly over you have to face the truth. All those right decisions you made along the way didn’t equal happiness or fulfillment. Now you start to hear the clock ticking. If you don’t figure this out soon, you will lose your life.

Naturally, you start searching for what is missing. You pick up a couple books to help you along your way, maybe even find some motivation in them. You realize fairly quickly though that this isn’t going to be easy. Time is not your friend. You already have a busy life. How do you find time to figure yourself out? You fall back on what you know. You go after the low hanging fruit. Get a couple easy wins and you will feel better. Maybe this is just a rut that you have to get out of. So you lose yourself in your work – go get that promotion and the big raise. They quickly come and go. Nothing changes though. You don’t feel different. You even start to realize you don’t really care about the promotion or the raise. They feel arbitrary and don’t fill that void inside you for long. Time continues to pass and the desperation you are feeling becomes more and more consuming. You also start feeling this dull, but steady panic in the back of your mind. You are running out of time. You better get your shit together.

All along, you are feeling the obligations of our culture. You have to keep up with your Facebook and Instagram “friends”. After all, their perfectly curated lives look amazing. Maybe they have it figured out? So you start to chase the things that can be purchased – nice vacations, fashionable clothes, a new car, maybe a bigger home.

You want to be an amazing parent too. Today, it’s pretty clear that means signing your kids up for a million activities. How else can you show the world you are a super involved parent and have well rounded kids? What’s most important about this choice is you can wear the grind as a badge of honor. The insane travel from home to work to home to activities to home proves to the world in each social media post just how much you are willing to sacrifice for your child. And being busy and on the run always looks good.

Unfortunately, these things aren’t helping either. Deep inside you the search is intensifying. This can’t be what life is all about. You start to feel isolated. You question if you are the only one that feels this way. Is everyone really happy slogging away at a job they have no passion for? Are they happy spending all their free time away from their spouse as kid duties are split so they can participate in everything they want? The desperation is growing exponentially now and begins to eat you from the inside out.

This is probably a good spot to pause. I am sure I need to clear a couple things up. If you are slogging away at a job you hate because it is the best way to put a roof over your head and food on the table, then obviously that is what you need to do. I’m also not anti kid’s activities. I’ve truly enjoyed watching my kids participate in their extracurricular’s and spent many years coaching them as well. I use these as examples because they are visible every day in real life and in social media. Every day, you can find people stating how much they hate their job, but doing nothing to change their situation. You can find posts from parents completely exhausted from driving their kids all over the place, almost every day of the week, but are unwilling to ask themselves why are they doing it. The bottom line is if you are happy and content doing these things or doing whatever you do, then keep doing them. What makes one person happy and fulfilled doesn’t necessarily translate to the next person. My goal is to push the question – are you happy? Are you fulfilled? Have you ever contemplated those questions?

I believe strongly there is a natural balance to all things, including how we live our lives. It’s never perfect, but when you find some balance, things seem to fall into place. I think giving all of yourself to things or other people is unhealthy for most of us. You may think you can do it all. You may even think it is courageous to sacrifice all of yourself for other things and people. I’d argue it’s actually selfish. Doing that for a long enough period of time will ensure you change, and you won’t even know it. When you are not true to your core, you become a different person, someone you were never meant to be. Letting this go too long will eventually come front and center. It’s only a matter of time. Unfortunately for most people, you face up to this reality when it’s far too late – when you are out of time.

In this post, I’m speaking to the people, like myself, that read the words above and see themselves. The people that want to live a life they are truly proud of. The people that feel that desperation in their soul and those that feel that searching feeling in the back of their mind every day. I’m speaking to the people, like myself, that know there is something more out there, but it always feels like it’s just a little bit out of their reach.

I don’t have this figured out. I still make decisions regularly that I question. Was that the right decision or am I simply following the herd? I think about those regrets above and others all the time. Keeping them in focus will help me improve each day. I won’t let them leave me because I know I need the reminder. I need to be pushed.

Over the past five years or so, I have been very fortunate to make several decisions that put me on a new path. A path towards happiness and fulfillment. These opportunities came along in a very unsuspecting way. I didn’t realize how much impact they would have on my life until much later – unintended consequences don’t have to be negative! I have confidence, clarity and happiness like I have never had before.

I want to say it again, I DO NOT have it all figured out. I have very little figured out. It is important to keep in mind that there really is no destination here, it is all journey. I think of it this way – you are on a sail boat in a never-ending ocean. What you want is the wind at your back. You want to move forward. You’d prefer not to face a headwind all the time. More than anything, you don’t want to be dead in the water or not moving forward. I don’t expect to find holistic happiness and fulfillment. I don’t expect every aspect of my life to be balanced or where I want it to be. I do expect to work on all of me, all the time though. I do expect to embrace this process and make it a life long priority. Most of all, I want to find fulfillment and think about those regrets a little less each day I am alive.

#fetalalcoholsyndrome #ivegot2more #7kids #endure #grind #accountability #noexcuses #blendedfamily #betterthanyesterday #colinobrady