With all due respect to Black Sheep for my co-opting their 90s hip-hop classic for my post title, the words of Viktor Frankl ring so true every time I read them. We can always choose our attitudes. Always. Doesn’t mean it’s easy. Doesn’t mean you won’t screw up (and Lord knows I do on this point).
But it does mean that there’s an opportunity every single day to have purpose and meaning. The most amazing part of that? It will always be our own unique creation,something no one else can take or duplicate. Who wouldn’t want that kind of powerful individuality?
I remember telling my parents in the Spring of 1987, my freshman year of high school, that I was going out for the baseball team. Now, they never said anything specific to me about it or made any attempts to dissuade me from trying, but I always had the feeling they were a bit uneasy about it.
My older brother was always an excellent athlete… but me? Not quite so much. I had a generally unremarkable Little League career, didn’t play baseball on the middle school team and there really wasn’t anything to suggest my trying out for the high school team would end in anything but my being cut and coming home devastated.
Somehow, some way… I made the JV team. We didn’t have a freshman team back then like many high schools do these days.
Fast forward ahead to this photo in the Spring of 1990, my senior year at Avon High School and the varsity baseball photo:
There I kneel in all my handsome best and pretty proud to play for a team that would end up ranked #2 in the state. We lost our first game, won 18 in a row and lost our last game in the state tournament to a team we should have annihilated.
This photo explains a lot about my personal philosophy on coaching and actually explains a hell of a lot about me generally.
I played on the Varsity team my junior and senior years of high school with my prime motivator being really damn simple: Don’t. F**king. Screw. Up.
Inspirational right? Almost akin to a battle cry on a bloodstained field of battle from days of yore. But in reality? It was the truth. I was far more concerned about the wrath of my coach if I screwed up than the potential amazing outcomes that would come from playing loose and free. Now, what kind of fun could THAT possibly be?
It came to a head during the final game of my senior year as we lost in the state tournament (as a #2 seed, mind you) to a team we outclassed in seemingly every way possible. I had probably 3 errors in the field that day and my baseball playing career ended with my coach pulling me out of the game and saying to me as I was directed to the bench “My God, Kuz… everything is an adventure with you out there today.” My athletic pinnacle it was not.
That moment has always stuck with me, even now 25 years later and completely affects how I approach every kid I get the privilege of coaching. My philosophy is simple: kids who are relaxed have more fun and play way better than the kid who sees his first at-bat of the season as a life-or-death struggle. As ridiculously simple as that sounds, the trick is being mindful on this point and consistent with every kid you coach. I acutely felt that awkward and self-directed pressure, so for me, it’s really easy to stay on task.
And in fact, I think this is something I seek to do all the time anyway now. When people feel comfortable, they’re just in such a better place as a friend, work colleague, family member or even just a stranger you bump into in line at Starbucks to get a coffee with a complicated name. (Caveat: I love me some Sbux and will fight you to the death if you try and swipe my gold card)
My advice? Find a person who looks out of sorts and see what you can do about it. It’s actually ridiculously easy because all you need to consider is the fact that YOU have been there too. Why not fix it for someone else?
I’m going to be honest with you, my friends – I mostly like the title of this blog post because of the alliteration. I can’t lie about that – I think alliteration is becoming one of my favorite things for no apparent reason. Somehow it just feels good rolling around in my brain. I felt the need to get that little gem out of the way before getting down to the business at hand of today’s post.
My last post on dinner with my Mom has been part of my overall thinking on how to get less complicated about life in general. It’s a trend for me the last few years and my success rate with it, while not perfect, is improving. Part of the reason I feel I am getting some traction on un-complicating things for myself is that I see people making things far too complicated, seemingly every day. The oft-quoted notion of analysis paralysis is prevalent everywhere I look.
I don’t think that’s surprising – life itself can throw a lot of variables at us and there are many things we cannot control. By delving deeply into everything in a non-stop fashion, perhaps we feel there is a certain level of control that returns… or at least that we improve our chances of getting things right. Whatever that means.
I am trying to detach from that way of thinking as best I can. Now, I surely enjoy reflecting and thinking, so I don’t want it to seem as if I only believe in all action, all the time. Perish the thought. Instead, I am against using over-analysis as a replacement for taking some damn action once in a while. The analysis paralysis problem is that it seems to get to an idea that if we just spend a little bit more time wrestling with the problem, gathering more data and re-framing the argument for the hundredth time, we will achieve perfection.
This is a big part of why I am so thoroughly enjoying a book by Gary Keller, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. I could spend many hours describing it, the methods of Keller’s system and such, but suffice it to say, it really is about… well… one thing: creating success by winnowing down the focus of your energy and talents to the one thing that will either make things easier or every other action unnecessary.
Kind of bold, right?
But Keller’s point is compelling in that we often believe success is about adding more or doing more when often, it’s about focusing more and saying no more. Like, A LOT more – something I need to work on as a consummate people-pleaser.
So today I took up his advice to focus on something that is a big thing to me (this blog), did it at a high energy time (first thing this AM) and have creating this little morsel of goodness for your consumption. My hope is that it’s a tasty one, but that is yours to judge and not mine… especially since I think all of my stuff is worth a nibble or two.
With that, I leave you with a question: What would be the one thing you would focus on today to make things easier for yourself? That thing that you would protect and not let time thieves pilfer from your day?
I’m one of those people who tends to like to mull over questions, problems and issues for a while as I try to sort them out. This is both blessing and curse in that I enjoy the thinking process, but it’s obviously pretty easy to slip into a mode of over-complication. Thinking is great, but not if all you do is think and never act – that’s the great corporate maxim of paralysis by analysis.
Perhaps the greatest issue of overthinking problems is you get brutally self-involved, something I view as a borderline high crime for myself because it’s inherently selfish. I’m a firm believer that we were meant to live our lives interacting with our fellow man… and that we should do our best to make that successful.
I think that’s why during a particularly stressful run of late, I did something to remove complication and do something so incredibly simple:
Stopped what I was doing and had dinner with my Mom.
And suddenly, life got a lot more simple. I chatted with her earlier in the day, she talked about how Dad was going to be at a golf event having dinner and then a few hours later it hit me… why don’t I just take her out to dinner?
While I am tempted to go into some kind of deep review of our dinner, what we talked about, how good the food was (it was awesome, quite frankly) and such, I’m not going to do so. Because that’s not the point and would cause me to slip back into the overanalysis world anyway.
Instead, I urge anyone who feels in the midst of their own drama (whether external or self-created) to stop what you’re doing, find someone you care about and just share a meal where you try to listen more than talk (I was only semi-successful in this regard, but I tried hard). That’s it. No fancy self-reflection. No working through a success matrix from your favorite improvement web site. No matter how busy you are. Stop. Get out of your own way. Focus on someone else.
Laundry. It’s really nothing more than the simple act of cleaning your clothes so you have something sparkling and fresh to wear out into society as opposed to looking like an utter goon. Seems simple enough, right?
Well, I never have a problem doing laundry. Heck, most times I am down lifting in my gym, I will snag some clothes out of the hamper and get it cracking while I’m pushing some iron. Two birds. One stone. All win.
Putting the clean clothes away once said laundry was done? Well… suffice it to say I’m not going to be winning any sort of awards, medals or commendations for bravery on that particular point. For reasons I cannot fully fathom, I had a very long run of perfectly clean laundry piling up in front of those gleaming white machines pictured above. I would tell you how long, but I’m going to save myself the embarrassment. Just know it was baaaaad. Real bad.
Well, over my recent holiday break from work, I was taking a nice chunk of time to think over things in my life. It’s really become one of my favorite things to do during the Christmas to New Year’s timeframe as one year closes and a new one begins to shine on the horizon. This matter of my laundry jumped to mind during this period of reflection… and not just in a “Damn… that’s a mess in need of cleaning” kind of way. Instead, I saw it as a bit of a symptom of something that had been nagging at me for a while, but I had not been able to put my finger on. And it was so obvious once it occurred to me. What was this realization, you ask in breathless anticipation? I will tell you:
That I simply got lazy and sloppy in the name of being more laid back. And I hated it. All of it.
See, I kept telling myself for so long that I needed to be less tightly-wound and more mellow. I have a tendency to be way-to-keyed-up for my own good and was in serious need of a chill adjustment. However, there’s a great deal of difference between being more relaxed and just letting everything get messy by being passive.
But it wasn’t just about the pile of laundry that needed to be folded and put away. Hell, my realization was barely about that. What I realized is how easy it had become for me to stop doing little things because I convinced myself it was a sign of being anal or would lead to me being stressed out over minutiae. The problem with this approach is: (a) I didn’t feel any more relaxed and (b) I feel so much more on top of my life when I am taking care of the little things. Not obsessing over them. Not stressing over them. Just knocking those suckers out.
Because you know what happens when you start knocking out the little needed things? You start to build momentum on much bigger things. At least I do. So that’s what I started to do during my break. Clean up everything. Put everything in its place. Never leave crap out for no apparent reason.
It all sounds completely silly doesn’t it? Hell, I feel a little silly just typing it for the whole world to read. However, that mindset of taking care of business really began to snowball and I was looking for more ways to keep that productive momentum going. And this played in beautifully to one of my biggest goals for 2014: Being more proactive in all areas of my life. Less letting things happen and more making things happen.
And I owe it all to a neglected pile of laundry. Life gives lessons in the strangest places. This time it was from a mound of clean clothes and little steps of momentum that came from taking care of them.
I’m a bit of a loud guy from a loud family. I try to catch myself from being inappropriately loud in the wrong place at the wrong time, but hell… I can’t monitor myself that closely all the time. That would be impossible… and really no fun. So screeeeewwww that. Let the decibels ring forth!
However, there are many ways where I am decidedly quiet. Certain things I deem more important to be private or quiet about. If I were to try and give you clear guidelines about what falls onto this list, I think I would come up woefully short of an apt description. Just something about being so out front about these things can just feel… I dunno… unseemly. That’s the word that best captures it.
I think that’s why this image I saw recently (and I wish I could remember which friend posted it to give them proper credit), it struck me so powerfully.
I’m not really one to tout my own praises or merits or great successes, although I have certainly done it a few times in the moment. Lord knows when I finished Tough Mudder in 2012 I was all kinds of fired up and proclaimed that loudly and proudly on my Facebook wall. But that’s very much an exception to the rule for this more retiring cowpoke.
It’s just that this image captures so many great messages, but in sticking with the most obvious, it’s about what you do and not just what you say. Of course what you say can have a positive impact on people – some can inspire others to spectacular feats with their words.
But more often that not? Be more about the doing than the speaking.
I’ve had people come to me for various kinds of career advice and this is usually my #1 piece of feedback. The questions tend to be about networking and who they should set up meetings with and who they need to get to know and what teams and titles they should have. I admire their passion, their desire to advance themselves forward. Passion is a beautiful commodity and if you have it, hold onto it and nurture it (positively).
My response always tends to be the same: “Those things are all good… but you know what gets you noticed most? What gets you furthest in life and work? Consistently kicking ass at what you do.”
Occasionally my remark gets a blank response back as if to say, “Thanks Captain Obvious… I already knewthat. I needed something else…”
Except… you didn’t need something else. You really needed to get down to putting boots to backsides. It’s a good reminder for me as well whenever I begin to think about where I want to be going. If I cannot answer… in detail… about what I am trying to do to kick ass for whatever definition of success I am seeking, then I’m clearly not on the right track.
There are a lot of ways to think about passion, but whenever we do, it’s most associated with heat in some for or another. White-hot passion about something or someone is certainly the sexier version, of course. What’s interesting to me about something so heated is that it often needs so much more fuel to keep it stoked.
Then there’s the smoldering passion. It’s not nearly as sexy and, at times, can almost seem to be non-existent. Low and slow blends into the background a lot more. That’s just not that interesting… is it?
I know that I feel that way at varying times in my life. You know the mentality: GO BIG OR GO HOME! INTENSITY! GOTTA ME EXXXTREEEEEEEME!
*ahem* It can be get to be a little much and makes you really prone to burnout. Stunner right?
But today is not about the streaking comet across the sky, but about the embers, smoldering away, low and slow.
There is a steadiness to that sweet slow burn that I think deserves praise. It’s got the stamina to hang in there, but where the real magic lies is for it to go from low and slow to big and bright. It just needs well-timed oxygen to drive it from a mellow glow to a total blaze.
The ember may be my new mental image to keep myself better grounded in my own passions. As mentioned above, I tend to be more all-or-nothing and, truthfully, while the periods of all can be incredible, you can only push that for so long before the nothing strikes at your like an viper from the shadows. But the glowing ember? That’s the burn that stays, remains strong and while it needs tending, it has sustaining power. And the best part? It can be fanned to greater heat when needed.
Because who needs that all the time and at every moment? I know I don’t. And let’s be clear – it’s not like this a suggestion of living life without passion. Totally the opposite.
Just understand your intensity and where it gets it’s best use.
Stoke that sweet slow burn… and when you need it… fan it to full-on ferocity.
Let’s chat for a minute about improving yourself. Sure, that’s most of the theme of this blog in general, but let’s talk about it in a seemingly unique and obvious concept. Yes, unique does not often go with obvious, but damn it, tonight it will.
Suppose for a moment you wanted to improve your health, fitness, well-being or some other part of your physical being. Would you just sort of amble about through the day and hope that after a while, you were better off than when you started? Wait… you wouldn’t? Come on… seriously?
Seems pretty straightforward. You don’t tend to get better by accident. There is effort, focus, determination, planning and execution of that planning. It’s not even that complicated – it just takes actually putting into motion a half-decent plan. Not even a great plan necessarily – just something semi-good that you give strong effort to.
Everything you’ve read up to this point is the obvious part. Here is what is a little unique: Why is it so damn few people, including me, take that same approach when it comes to their “inner” development? It’s as if the path to being a better person lies in just saying one day, “Hey, I want to be get better…” at some positive personal quality (listener/thinker/more caring/more resilient/better empathy/stand up for themselves) and one day, BOOM! There it is! Glory, glory hallelujah! Sing unto the heavens for I have raised myself up to new heights! Can I get an amen? AYYYYYYY-MEN!
I am a bit taken aback by the extent to which I swing and miss on this very point. My approach to physical training is focused, planned and borderline obsessive (I prefer meticulous, but then again, I am powerful sweet and don’t see this as a bad thing). I know I need to do certain lifts to get stronger in particular areas and I need to work conditioning to stay in shape. I know if I just blow them off, nothing happens… well, nothing good at least. But what about wanting to be less distracted and more thoughtful/focused? Don’t I need to have a plan for that? Don’t I need to spend actual time on getting better at that?
It’s as I act like these things will just be taken care of because, hell, my mind is going all day long so… umm… it must be working on something. Maybe it’s working on my being more thoughtful too! WOO!
Horrible, horrible plan. And especially galling considering how perfectly clear it is to me that a lot of work goes into my physical development. It’s borderline silly I don’t have time set aside to think about my personal development.
Until now. Finally got that booked into my calendar on a daily basis and what now becomes important is this: Will I do it? Will I guard that time and treat it with the same level of care I do my training? If I do, good things will come. If I don’t… well… then I will just be back to knowing that a very good intention married to a non-existant plan is a sure bet for a looking utterly dopey.
And this blog is not about sheepishly sitting idle. It’s relentlessly pushing myself forward. May I not just write it, but live it.
I take a lot of pride in this here blog. Every post I write very much comes from the heart – what I write here, I mean and believe.
But here is something a little funny about the blog. Friends of mine who mention the blog to others who haven’t read it will turn to me and say, “Kev, tell them what your blog is about.” And you know what I inevitably do? I pause… like, for a while. Not the thoughtful pause of a man with great wisdom who is merely taking a moment to let the listener pull closer before he unveils the truth of the universe. Oh, how I wish.
No, it’s more like a pause of, “Sweet mother of God… how do I describe the shenanigans I write on this site? Think, think, think… umm… damn it all…”
So in the interest of having a more well-constructed answer than my typical response of “Well… it’s about a lot of things…” (a real crowd-pleaser, by the way), I will seek to answer in this post.
I am a very strong believer in the idea that every person must have core principles they hold very dear which guide them through life. This doesn’t need to be a massive list – in fact, it should be purposefully brief so as to avoid conflict, confusion and doubt. This blog is a reflection of a few of my core views of life: (1)we are each made up of equal parts mind, body and spirit; (2) a lot of life is thoughtfully developing these things over time; and (3) the development of each of these can have a hugely positive impact on the other parts.
The best example I can give is the meaning of weight training to me and the impact it has had on my life. Lifting weights, especially over the last 5-8 years as I’ve gotten a lot more thoughtful and focused in this effort, has certainly done quite a bit to develop my physical capabilities, but has probably had at least an equal positive impact on my mindset and confidence. There is an inherently amazing level of self-understanding you develop when you throw a few hundred pounds of weight on your back… especially a weight you have never handled in your life… and then see if you can lift it. You begin to wonder about things like:
Will I be able to handle it? What happens if I screw up? How will I handle that gnawing fear in my gut that this lift is going to go straight to hell and take me to the floor in the process? Will I be afraid to try again if I fail? If I succeed, how do I keep progressing?
A great example is a story I’ve heard numerous times about Vasiliy Alekseyev, one of the greatest Olympic weightlifters of all time. He was stuck on one of his lifts at a particular weight – no matter how many times he tried it, he simply could not seem to complete the lift at the weight in question. So, when he went into a competition, his coach had him lift just below at what that weight was… except that’s only what he told Vasiliy. In reality, he had the bar set with the weight Vasiliy had never been able to lift. Up to the platform this giant of a man steps, grabs the weight… completes the lift.
Was he physically any different at that moment? Of course not. He was mentally stuck about what he could and couldn’t do, so it took a little trickery from his coach to get him past that seemingly insurmountable set point.
So what does all of this have to do with Fierce and Mighty? Oh, I have the answer for you (umm… which is most of the reason I asked the question – I don’t want to look like a complete maroon, ya know).
It can take the success of a physical act to get you to see new potential in yourself, not just in the weight room or the track or the pool or the field, but in your entire life. When you can demonstrate to yourself time and time again that you can break through your own preconceived ideas of what is possible, the carryover to other parts of your life is absolutely striking.
That’s what this blog is about more than anything else: my personal journey on the path to developing body/mind/spirit in equal parts, learning something in the process and sharing all of it with you in the hopes you may find benefit as well. I may give advice here, but it always comes from a place of my own steps to follow that advice too.
So that’s Fierce and Mighty, described as best I can. Now if I can just figure out how to explain that to someone in 10 seconds or less in a conversation, I might really be onto something.
A lot of this blog may sound like advice I’m giving to others, but anyone who reads it should keep in mind the fact that oftentimes, its guidance I am striving to apply to myself on a daily basis. Today’s vlog is a good example – I want to hold myself to a certain standard when interacting with others, regardless of how they deem to act towards me. Sometimes it’s on me and… well… sometimes it’s on you, bro. Enjoy.