A Little Less Every Day

I feel rather fortunate to have some good friends and connections on Facebook who have a gift for providing interesting status updates or thought-provoking links. It’s one of those areas where I find Facebook can really shine as more than just a nice tool to give updates to friends on how you’re doing and really become an amazing means of sharing wisdom.

I can almost hear the groans from here at positing Facebook as a portal through which intelligence can be shared… especially since so much of Facebook can degrade into really mindless (but potentially fun) nonsense.

An excellent example is this link my buddy Chris posted a little while ago:

The post is interesting in its own right as it peers into those closing moments of life where people finally let down their guards and get honest with themselves and those around them.

However, this post was especially interesting to me since I’ve spent the last few days thinking about the same concept in point #1: the importance of living a life true to yourself and your own principles as opposed to constantly striving to only serve the expectations of others.  In a way, this is a bit of a link to my previous post because being nice does not mean kowtowing to the interests of others in hopes of winning their approval, especially if you compromise yourself in the process.

It’s why I am striving to care just a little bit less every day what others think of me, how they judge me or how my actions can be improperly shaped by opinions or views not my own.  This is a tricky process… umm, but I am guessing you knew that.  No matter how noble our intentions, it can be hard not to be affected by friend, family and colleagues.  Heck, Madison Avenue is none of those things and yet has made a borderline science to influencing consumers into purchasing all manner of goods (whether we need them or not).

I’ve found a few interesting benefits to this practice.  One that jumps most readily to mind is how it affects me giving presentations at work.  I’ve actually enjoyed public speaking to a certain degree anyway… I’m a bit of a ham, when you get right down to my core.  But what’s made it even better is an attitude of “Let it rip…”  In doing so, I find myself less concerned about “Oh my God… but… but… what if I MESS IT ALL UP?!?!?!?  THEN WHAT?!?!?!?  I will be shunned forever!  Looked down upon as a blighted soul not fit for human contact!”  You know… or something like that.  But that has not been the case – instead, it has given me a renewed kick in the pants.  Not bad, right?

But in reality, the most important part is each little step will hopefully bring me that much closer to an aligned sense of living with my own values… and as a person profoundly affected by my own personal values, that is hugely important.  If I feel out of whack on this, absolutely nothing feels right.

And it’s a process.  No one just wakes up one day after a particularly good night’s sleep and is just in perfect alignment.  It’s not something you acquire, set back and think, “Ahh… to live out my days as a consistent human being in all ways possible.  Thank goodness for that extra bit of shut-eye.  That hit the spot!”

2010-02-08 - Snowboarding

So here’s to peering down the slope and taking on the ultimate and most worthwhile challenge: being yourself.  Ride hard.  Fall a few times.  Ride again.  It won’t be easy, but you will never regret it.

Nice Guys Finish…

I recently attended a great strength and conditioning seminar down in New Jersey hosted by one of my favorite coaches, Jason Ferruggia. I’ve always enjoyed these kinds of events because of how much I learn and also because of the interactions you have with the other participants.

In one of the Facebook threads following the seminar, a comment was made about me that I could possibly be the “nicest guy you will ever meet.”  I must admit that this is not the first time someone has made this remark to me and every time I have ever heard it, I’ve always had the same reaction: humbled, but with a little bit of a shoulder shrug because I just do not know any other way. It’s how I was raised.

Believe me – I don’t say any of this as a means to brag, boast or pat myself on the back.  Far from it.  I lack the ego to sit around and do that kind of thing anyway.

But it does make me think quite a bit about what it means to be a nice person and the Leo Durocher saying of “Nice guys finish last.”  Heck, as I glanced through the Wikipedia entry for “nice guy” (seriously… there is one) and let me tell you… whoever wrote that, they didn’t look too fondly upon the archetypal nice guy.Marcus Aurelius

I basically chuckle at the entire notion of how someone described as a nice guy is viewed in popular culture.  The guy who never really gets the girl in the end.  The doormat in the office that everyone dumps everything on.  The guy so easily taken advantage of by less-than-true friends.

There are certainly people who fall into all of that, but it’s never fit how I like to see myself.

For me, it’s a fairly simple sort of approach: a combination of (1) the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you and (2) a smattering of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

If you are suddenly finding yourself thinking, “Umm… and that would mean?”, hopefully I can explain.

Everyone knows the Golden Rule.  It’s the simple notion that you treat people as you would be treated.  Clean, simple, concise.  So point #1, check.

The Marcus Aurelius piece is a bit of using the philosophy of the classic Stoics that the actions of others, in the end, are meaningless in terms of how I think, feel, respond and conduct myself.  In other words, I am going to always do my best to act according to my principles and if you are a jerk in return… that’s on you, not me.  I think this approach takes more strength as opposed to less because there must always be a vigilance in not allowing others to change who you are or sway you into acting in conflict with your beliefs.

Does this mean I sit back and take whatever garbage people may look to lay on my lap?  Of course not, although I do notice that some people seem to think that since I seek to treat people well, that perhaps I CAN be taken advantage of.  It’s a bit sad to see and when I catch it, that person will always diminish in my eyes.  But how I handle it is simple: I give people the benefit of the doubt and when I see they simply have not earned it, my interactions with them will taper off over time.  Oh and I will continue to be polite when our paths cross… but I am obviously not going to go out of my way for them.  Nice guy should never equal utterly bat guano crazy.

So feel free to be a little nice today while sticking to your guns. It’s surprising how liberating it can be to be to see the good mojo you get in return.  And if you get a healthy dose of jerkiness in return?  Their lost opportunity… not yours.

Completely Shameless Plug

For those who have not seen it, I have an article published over at EliteFTS.com entitled “The Battle to Take Back Awesome”.  Just went up on Friday and I am both proud and humbled by the whole thing.  I had a few pieces over at T-Nation from a few years ago, but this is my first one for EliteFTS and it’s a pretty big moment for me.  It seems to be well-received thus far and I am planning on submitting more going forward.

Please give it a read and comment on it if the mood strikes you.  Also, I do have a Facebook page for this blog, so feel free to follow along there as well.  You can find that here.

What I Learned at My Obstacular Trail Race

I’m someone who likes finding some new challenges for myself every now and again.  I like new stimuli since I can otherwise stagnate, so when my friend, Jason, let me know he was putting together an obstacle trail race to benefit The Wounded Warrior Project, I was 100% game on.  OK, maybe more like 99% game on.  I was there in attitude for sure… but I suppose actually doing a whole bunch of running BEFORE the race probably would have been a good idea and a finer example of 100% game on.

But I was able to recruit my brother (the gentleman with his eyes closed below) and our friend Tom (who ran a half marathon the day before this) to venture forth for 5 miles and 15 obstacles worth of mayhem-filled fun a few weeks ago.

The Spigot Warriors... a team to be reckoned with. Now if my brother can just keep his eyes open.

And I even learned a few things along the way.  What, pray tell?  So glad you (and by you, I mean me) asked!

1) Keep your head down.

I’m not great at endurance style exercise.  This is a combination of not really training that way and not being terribly well-built for it.  Both of these things can be overcome (the first by different training and the second through not letting this become an excuse).  So when I was in the midst of this race, there were a lot of moments that were difficult for me.  If there was one pretty useful trick I used to keep myself moving, it was to keep my head down.  This is actually a big part of why I wore my baseball hat and pulled that sucker nice and low.

If my head was down, I was only focusing on what I could control at that very moment: my next few steps.  Looking ahead to see how much was left to run did me absolutely no good.  Heck, it would have probably discouraged me if I thought about it all that long.  But those next few steps?  I could do those and I could do those every single time until I was done with the 5 miles.

This happens in life all the time.  If you have a daunting task in front of you… especially one that could take quite some time to address… it will never help you to look too far ahead because the only thing you have some semblance of control over is the here and now.  So crush the here and now and move onto the next step.  Keep… your head… DOWN.

2) Stronger teammates = stronger you.

Unless you are some kind of Shaolin monk with keenly-honed powers of self-mastery, the environment around us has a big a effect, both for good and ill.  If you work in an office full of people who are horribly negative and whose chief hobby is complaining about anything and everything… I have a hard time believing you will be all that productive (at least not without listening to your iPod all day long to drown them out).  If you lifts weights consistently with people a lot stronger than you are… lo and behold, you will get a lot stronger too.  I would contend you will also get a lot stronger than you ever would have on your own.

On our team of 3, Tom was the strongest on the endurance front BY FAR.  It wasn’t even close.  He could have left my brother and I in the dust multiple times, except many obstacles required a team effort to complete.  That being said, Tom was still at the lead of our little pack at all times… and he ran a freaking half-marathon the day before.  I kid you not.

The big positive is that Tom always being there pushed me and Chris to keep running just a little bit more and pressing just a little bit harder.  If Tom could keep running, so could we, damn it.  And ran we did… for 5 miles and for a total of 1 hour, 11 minutes.  I have never run that far or long in my life and if Tom wasn’t there, I cannot really say I would have done all of that.

3) It takes all kinds.

Dress the part. Or at least dress part of yourself.

I cannot imagine why anyone would have run this in purple short-shorts… shirtless… and with double pierced nipples.  I kept imagining the potential to be hurling yourself through an obstacle in the woods and there being that one branch sticking out  juuuuust the right way.  *shudder*  But hey, he was probably through that course in half the time I was, so who am I to judge?

4) I want more.

It’s sometimes the things you least expect that can interest you the most.  I finished this race, felt like my legs had been beaten severely by a gang of Muay Thai fighters… and yet I wanted to do another one.  As I noted above, I am in no way well-suited (at least not currently) for this kind of activity… but if there is one thing I know about myself, it’s that I need challenges to bring out my best.  This was something new… something hard… yet something ultimately fun that I can do with a team (and I like team stuff quite a bit).  I am already looking up 2012 events for things like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Warrior Dash and so on.  I know I will need to rearrange how I train, but I enjoy the chance to do so.  Sometimes a little forced evolution is good for the soul anyway.

In the end, the entire event reproved something I’ve long known to be true: competitive sporting events are never just a moment of physical activity, but are often very pure opportunities for learning a lot more about yourself.  I would definitely encourage you to give it a try.  You don’t need to be a hyper-competitive monster to enjoy these kinds of things, but until you’ve pushed yourself past a moment after moment where you wanted so badly to quit, I don’t think you will truly know yourself.

Keep your head down.

38 Years. 364 Days.

2011-11-13 17.18.42

I spent some time with my family today to do a little birthday celebration for me one day early.  The work week always tends to bring on a lot more mayhem that I would really like, so today was optimal for everyone.  I’m sure someone just read that previous sentence and thought, “Who in the world likes mayhem?”  Actually, I do… sometimes.  24/7 mayhem is not my cup of Earl Grey, but a little bit of randomness and something to keep me on my toes?  I’ll take some of that on occasion.  Helps me stay a little fresh.

It was a little strange to think about being 1 year and 1 day shy of 40 years old and even weirder for me to think I’ve lived in 5 different decades.  Some may think that by virtue of age, they are qualified to sit back and expound all sorts of wisdom to the masses.  Hmm.  I’m always a little suspect of that since time has the potential to bring some wisdom, it’s not a guarantee.  And you certainly know the guy/gal who feels it is their place… no, their sacred duty to share the pearls of wisdom they’ve gleaned throughout their life… and yet they have about as much of Solomon’s wisdom as a piece of stale rye toast.

And that made me think a bit about this very blog.  No, seriously.

I hope I do a little bit of good with this blog (which is sorely in need of more posts), but as I drove home from my birthday feasting, I wondered, “What is it that brings people to my site in the first place?”  Some of you are family or good personal friends, but I also know there are people out there I have never met before who come here too… and frankly, I would love to get a lot more of you to show up on this little cyber parcel.

In this kind of reflection, it can be truly easy for me to lump myself and my blog away as trivial.  There are plenty of bloggers out there writing on how to improve your life or lift weights or reflecting on what it means to be human.  If I were to look at that vast sea of writers without any context, it would be incredibly easy for me to throw my hands in the air and never write again.

But I do keep writing for a pretty simple reason: none of those people are me.

That’s not a cocky statement to imply “None of those people are me… and damn it, there’s no way in hell any of them are nearly as FREAKING AWESOME as me!  YEAH!”  Perish the thought.

Rather, none of those people are me, hence none of them can bring my perspective and I actually think I have something to share in that regard.  So share it I will.

Plus, now that I’ve begun this writing, I’m not sure I can stop… and I really wouldn’t want to.  I’m a person who is keenly driven by purpose.  When I feel I lack purpose in any part of my life, that area will suffer, guaranteed.  If I see some action as fitting into a bigger plan or a grander scheme or just something bigger than me, then giving it my all is never work and it’s a pure pleasure.  That’s where I find my meaning, my mojo and my moments.  And my alliteration.  Clearly.

So as the page drops off the calendar and I officially drop onto the 39th anniversary of my day of birth, I thank anyone who reads these words… for my purpose is not just to explore all of this for my own sake, but to truly hope that you get something out of this too.