Tag Archives: commitment

The Need for Challenge vs. Acceptance of “Reality”

For as long as I can remember, I need a challenge in order to truly bring out the best in myself. Lacking that feels like I’m in a rut or back on my heels in some horribly passive limbo. It’s not a great feeling at all. Perhaps I can explain better by way of example.

My freshman year of high school, I was in English class and doing OK at it, but something was missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what exactly it was, but something didn’t seem totally right to me. I came into high school with the very well-intentioned advice from my middle school guidance counselors ringing in my ears to not get in over my head by taking some (but not all) honors classes.

Well, this English class was one step down from honors and it hit me one day: I was bored out of my mind. As a kid who knocked out the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 5th grade, I needed more. I needed to get pushed. So after a few months, I switched to honors… and my grades actually went up. Funny how that works.

I don’t think I ever really lost this trait of needing to see what I could do or where I could take myself. Hell, if I find myself feeling blah or in a rut, this is the most-likely culprit.

With that in mind, I’ve been watching a lot of the World Cup… and sometime during the multitude of matches I watched, the soccer itch crept back into my life. Not surprising either. See, I love weight training, Prowler pushes, golf and all the other physical shenanigans I get myself involved in these days, but the thing they don’t provide me is head-to-head competition in a team environment.

Oh sure, you can play in golf scrambles and teams from various gyms will compete together in a Crossfit competition or powerlifting meet… but there is something about a collective whole being greater than the sum of its parts as it faces over against (hopefully) equally-matched competition. It’s one of my favorite athletic highs. You and your teammates staring down an opponent on the field and launching yourself into the game with an unspoken “Get some…” amongst all of you.

But lest you think it’s only about my wanting to hang out with peeps and knock heads against our foe, there is another challenge in the midst of all of this:

The reality that… one day… playing these kinds of sports at a healthy level of competition will pass me by, never to return.

At age 41, I’m sure a lot of people would think playing soccer against 25 year old punks who played in college might be a silly endeavor. Hell, maybe it’s exactly that.

HOWEVER… and yeah, I just all-capped that business right there… the process of working towards being ready to play against competition younger, faster and more skilled is something I actually enjoy. The challenge isn’t just the being on the field and playing. The challenge that may be just as satisfying is what I need to do to myself ready in the first place.

Hence, in an 85 degree gym, I got at it:

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Even more interesting was as spent as I was at the end? A few minutes later, all smiles and feeling good. Because I pushed hard. Because I kept going. Because I took steps towards getting my 41 year old, incredibly good-looking self ready to run down 24 younger punks on crisp Fall mornings.

If you feel an inevitable creeping rut or, worse yet, you are looking up from the bottom of rut and wondering how the hell you got there… find your challenge. That thing that will get you fired up and the blood moving. Physical. Mental. Spiritual. Whatever venue that calls unto you most strongly.

Just get to it. Get at it. And feel that bit of victory for your soul that will follow from a good, determined fight. You’re worth at least that and likely much more.

Lessons From the Laundry Pile

Where the wash and dry magic unfolds.
Where the wash and dry magic unfolds.

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.

I'm with you big guy. That's how I felt about those habits too...
I’m with you big guy. That’s how I felt about those habits too…

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.

Never saw that one coming…

Life Lessons From the Prowler Part 1: Consistency of Conditions

The Prowler is a funny thing.  Well, not so much Will Ferrell kind of funny that fills you with magic and glee and rainbow smiles… more like funny in the sense that you sometimes wonder why in the world you make use of it at all when it causes so much pain and suffering.  Nary a rainbow smile to be found at all.  Insert favorite emoticon frowny face here.

But what I have found is that a lot of rather interesting thoughts occur to me during and after my Prowler sessions.  It dawned on me that maybe I could get a series going on these thoughts and share them with you, dear reader of this blog… because here, we are all about epicmode.  Oh that’s right… beastmode isn’t good enough any more.  EPICMODE FTW OMG!

*Ahem*  Sorry about that – I think the Red Bull I had earlier was stronger than usual.

Here is my first installment from the end of my Prowler session yesterday.  To get the full appreciation of Prowler-inspired goodness, it’s critical to get those thoughts captured right as the session ends.  And hey, why not do it in video form while trying to catch your breath?  That sounds like a win for everyone involved.  No script.  No planning.  No edits.  Just pure flow.

This kick-off post is about consistency of conditions  No matter how many times you’ve done something or how much expertise you’ve developing at doing it, you will hit life snags that will throw you off your flow.

Enjoy.  Looking forward to more of these coming soon.

Welcome to the Echo Chamber

The seemingly unending amount of political nonsense currently occurring in the U. S. of A. this election cycle is just… punishing.  I can really think of no other word to describe it better than that.  I suppose this isn’t terribly different from any other major election year, but it just feels like all of us are being forced to repay some horrible debt or penance by watching all of this unfold.  I don’t think I did anything to deserve it… sooooo… yeah, I’m blaming you.  Had to be done – please just accept your responsibility, apologize and let’s move on together into a bright new future, mmkay?  Sweet.

A great term of this political season… and truly of any moment within which soap-boxing and pontificating are taking center stage… is “the echo chamber”.  While our friends at Merriam-Webster take the more traditional definition of echo chamber as “a room with sound-reflecting walls used for producing hollow or echoing sound effects”, I am using it in a slightly more recent sense.  In this case, an echo chamber would be where people preach their views only to the like-minded who, in turn, repeat it to others of the same mind, thus amplifying to the view to the point it seems like a God-given truth.  In reality, it’s just an echo amongst the willing and truly nothing more.

That’s the challenge of the day for all of us, I think.  Elections are actually proving to be a really helpful reminder of how we can each avoid our own personal echo chambers.  I mean, come on… we all have them.  I know I do.  “What’s that? Someone made fun of weightlifters?!?!?  I’m totally going to stomp over here, call upon all the people who think exactly like me so we can smugly hang back and mock everyone who does [INSERT DIFFERENT EXERCISE METHODOLOGY HERE].”  Why do I do this?  Well frankly, because I want to feel right and dammit, I want to be with other people who feel that way too because we are all just SO DAMN RIGHT!  Look at us!  All in agreement and whatnot!  It must be true… I mean, hell… look at ALL OF US agreeing!  Oh who cares if we are but 3 out of 7 billion.

Let’s join together, brothers and sisters of this noble fight, and make something useful out of every ugly, pandering political ad tossed out way.  Each one can remind us a little more of our own warm, snug cocoons of agreement.  Let’s get uncomfortable every once in a while, people.

The Serenity Prayer… Revised.

A  prayer that has become increasingly popular over the last several years is “The Serenity Prayer”.  It’s been used by people recovering from addiction or just people looking for a little more peace in their lives.  While it has a few different forms to it, this is the most common version:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

It’s simple, clear and readily accessible to just about anyone because all of us go through moments in our lives where we scrap, claw and battle… but damn, it sure would help to know if we could even make a change on that thing we war against so fervently.  Knowing that line between the changeable and the impossibly fixed would be helpful.

My last post on thinking… well… got me thinking (funny how that works) about a different kind of line – the one dividing thoughtful consideration and pointed action.  As I wrote previously, I am all for taking time to think, ponder, navel gaze and whatever else you want to call it… but sweet mother of God, there will come a time when all of that contemplation needs to be set aside and action must be taken.  There is certainly value to thinking for the sake of thinking, but most of the time, you are thinking over some issue or question that you then need to do something about.

This is the precise reason why on my About page you will find one of my favorite General Patton quotes – “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.”  Endless thinking becomes endless hand-wringing and worry over how things will turn out.  You will need to reach a moment of putting into motion a plan because a good one now can take you someplace… and let’s be honest… the perfect one never comes.

So maybe that’s how I would have a new version of The Serenity Prayer.  Something along the lines of:

God, grant me the discipline to think deeply,
The drive to commit fully to my actions,
And the wisdom to know the place for each.

It’s not perfect poetry, but you get the general flavor of it all.  Or maybe you just scrap the whole notion and go with 4 simple words: Plan thoughtfully. Execute fiercely.

Present Pain. Future Payoff.

A little slice of personal joy

A funny thing happened on the way to my soccer game this past Sunday.  Not like literally during the drive over, but in the time leading up to the game and it all happened without me specifically noticing it.

As I mentioned a little bit in my post yesterday on potential, my experience at Tough Mudder really opened my eyes a bit to what I can and cannot do.  Going through such an unbelievably challenging event like that (probably the hardest physical thing I have ever done) made me reflective in the weeks that followed.  If you asked “How so, you charming devil?”, well… then (1) thank you for the compliment you kind and observant soul; and (2) let me tell you.

Between work busy-ness and life busy-ness and all the lifting and physical training I do anyway, I’ve sometimes been concerned about overdoing it.  As Saint Mom Kuzia has always said about me, I tend to be either all-in or all-out.  I’m not terribly good at finding that smooth, even-keeled middle that some other people tend to have as they navigate the waves of life.  I’ve gotten a little better in this regard, but certainly not great.  So I have had times where I felt rundown or tired or unmotivated as I pushed through my training sessions.  I would chalk this up to life catching up with me and just being way, way, waaaaay too overstretched.

After Tough Mudder, I suddenly wasn’t so sure.  I certainly have more stress than I would care for, but was that really what was limiting me?  Or, as I wrote yesterday, had I created an artificial boundary around my own potential?  I decided to say “Screw it” and see if I couldn’t get a little more juice going for myself by pushing a little harder in each training session I had.

Lo and behold!  I play soccer this past Sunday, switch to more of a midfield position versus my typical backfield defender position… I need to run a ton more… and probably played the best game I have had in YEARS.  I am no by NO MEANS some kind of talented soccer wiz – quite the contrary.  I picked up the game seriously 10 years ago at 29 and have loved it ever since, but I will never be the guy to dazzle you with my deft footwork and majestic shots on goal.  I’m a worker.  A scrapper.  A hustler… and boy did I hustle this past week and had a ton of fun doing it.

None of this would have happened if I didn’t get myself out of that preconceived notion of my own boundaries.  That’s the beauty of finding moments to really get out of your own comfort zone – the time in that awkward experience is likely terribly unpleasant, but in many ways, you aren’t doing it for that moment, but for ones that follow.

Present pain.  Future payoff.  An excellent personal transaction.

Non-Stop, Full Tilt, Every Day Mayhem


It’s probably not surprising that I enjoy a very well-done inspiration speech.  Certain people who truly have the gift – whether by virtue of being blessed by the gods of Olympus from birth or through, careful, meticulous practice over time – really capture my attention.  The ability to move inspire people to do more and be more than they thought possible just fascinates me.

But something about Ray Lewis’s speech struck a slightly different chord with me when I watched it.  I still had the chills and felt fired up at the end… but a few minutes later, I found myself pausing to think about what he said from a slightly different vantage point.  Ray starts off with:

If tomorrow wasn’t promised, what would you give for today?  Forget everything else.  Forget everything else.  Forget that there was any sunlight left.  What would you spend today thinking about?

The reason this got me to thinking was twofold.  First, it’s about taking nothing for granted today and if tomorrow is never promised, how will you live today.  Second, it also got me thinking about the motto of this blog: Relentlessly push yourself forward.  These two ideas taken together basically add up to an idea of going non-stop, full tilt, every single day.  All good things, right?

The Road to Ribblesdale
Photo Credit: Luc B via Compfight

But can we really do that?  Should we expect ourselves to really and truly do that?  I don’t mean that in some absurdly constructed argument sense where someone says, “No one would live that way since they would make horrible choices, spend all their money and live like lunatics if they 100% committed to that day being their last on earth!”  But what I mean instead is… can you go 100% every single day?  Furthermore, should you even try?

The reason I got to thinking about this was not to say that embracing utter sloth is somehow a good idea, but to wonder how to pace this effort… how to handle the daily ebbs and flows of time, energy and desire.  No one is going to be “ON” 24/7 – not even the most dedicated and motivated.  Burn out would be inevitable with a blistering pace like that.

But hard effort every day?  The best attitude you can bring to the table every day?  Doable without a doubt.  Will your best on a rainy Monday with all-day meetings be as good as your best on a sunny Friday with bluebirds serenading your every step?  Probably not, but that’s fine.  It’s the daily practice that matters.

And that’s where the importance of finding inspiration – whether in a speech, book, song or conversation with a good friend – matters so much.  For in those moments, you can see the possibility of moving a few steps past what you thought was your upper limit.  And when you get past those sticking points to a new, brave place… then you have progress and you have moved yourself forward.

I can’t say how this day will turn out, but I am going to take Ray’s advice and be “pissed off for greatness”… for I can feel a little bit more mojo pushing me to that place beyond what I knew possible.  Time to hustle.

Every Step, A Building Block

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My trusty new kicks.  May they make me fly like the mythical shoes of Hermes.

As I’ve written about before, I made the totally awesome (or epically stupid) decision to do a Tough Mudder in Vermont in May.  Now, in preparing for that little life adventure, there was one thing I assiduously avoided as much as humanly possible… long distance running.  “Dearest Kevin… why pray tell would you avoid running when preparing for a race that involves around 10 miles worth of that very activity???”

Because… I haaaaaate it.  Good Lord, do I hate me some running.  Not sprinting or flying around on a soccer field or a basketball court.  That’s all good.  Oh no, I’m talking about just running over long distances and nothing else.  Where each landing footfall causes me to wonder why on Earth I am putting myself through such drudgery.

Ya feel me, dawg?

But my competitive nature won’t quite allow me to just blow this off completely.  I signed up for this race and damn it, I am gonna punch that thing in its smug face… umm… you know, if an obstacle course can have a face upon which to even have a look.

So the beauties you see above represent a new step for me – my newest weapons in the battle for running dominance.  Before you assume “running dominance” is an utterly insane assertion on my part to go from running-hater to super-elite-marathoner… rest assured, it is not.  Rather, I am running to dominate myself a bit and break through the mental barrier I have to it.

That began today with 2 mile of running during lunch.  Like many things in life, there were positives and negatives.  The positive?  My endurance was actually pretty good.  The negative?  The muscles in the bottom of my feet and lower legs felt like they were hit with napalm.  The BURN!  My God… the BURN!  I chalk this up to having done sprints a day or two ago in my minimalist shoes.  I think, absent that, I would have done a lot better today.  Also on the positive side of the ledger was that the shoes were actually very comfortable (napalm burning aside).

And the true positive of it at all?  Today was a fair number of steps (both physical and mental) towards getting better at something that has always challenged me.  Each step, no matter how painful, was a necessary piece towards preparing for my May race… and also part of my own process to fight through a difficulty I would rather avoid all together.

It sounds horribly clichéd, but this is where character is built.  If I’m not ready to push myself through 2 miles now, how will I ever be ready to do it for 10 with slopes, obstacles, water, mud and freaking electrical wires?  Each step builds on the one just before it and the best path is just to put your head down, don’t think about each time your foot strikes the ground and before long… progress… and not long after that… the finish.

But no finish for me just yet.  68 days and 12 hours to go… and many, many steps.

The Intelligence of Hard Work

Certain things in life will always stick out in your mind, irrespective of when they happened.  I’ve never been able to figure out why I remember certain things or events with the utmost clarity and yet can’t remember at all something from the day before.  Whatever flips that switch, I have no idea, but it would be cool to find out more about it.  In that vein, I always remember a conversation I had with a few guys in college, I think around my junior year.

I had the reputation for being the studious one and probably with good reason.  I never skipped a class in my entire college career… except for one time… and that was so I could do work for a different class.  It was just how I operated since I was very single-minded in my focus to get the best possible grades to help me get into the best possible law school.  Anyway, the topic of grades, studying and intelligence came up and two of these guys said to me, “You know, Kuz… it’s not that you’re really any smarter than either of us.  It’s just that you study more.  I’m sure if we studied that much we would do just as well.”

Even today, some 19 years later, that STILL makes me laugh and shake my head in disbelief, for the simple reason that it’s just a cop-out for being mediocre.

Sound harsh?  Perhaps… but it’s something I continue to see or hear about today in a variety of contexts.

“Well, I would look as good as Sally if I spent that much time in the gym and was that strict about my eating…”

“Sure, Larry is moving up in the company… but hell, I could do that if I was a workaholic like him…”

Now, if you are comfortable with who you are, please don’t let me try and convince you to be otherwise.  It’s really not my place and I’m a firm believer that each of us has the freedom to pursue whatever path in life brings us the greatest happiness and inner joy, provided that walking such path doesn’t harm others around you.

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But I can’t believe the extent to which people will shake off the commitment, drive and passion of others as being seemingly nothing and if they worked as hard as that person, they would be in the same place.  Here’s the problem with that thinking: If you don’t put in that work, you’re just not the same.  You’re not… and no amount of patting yourself on the back with notions of “If I only did X…” will change that… unless you starting doing whatever X may be.  This is a line of argument that places some vague, hazy notion of “potential” far above working to get someplace.  Potential… in the end… is more of a nice notion and all it means, in the end, is something great that has not been fulfilled as of yet.

Potential is a great thing to have… but only for a very, very small window.  Hanging onto potential too long just becomes a disappointing case of “What could have been…”

None of us has to be like gym rat and diet freak like Sally or work-’round-the-clock like Larry.  We each get our choices and if you choose a different path, more power to you.  I am in full support of that with all my heart.

But the point at which we seek to tear down those who have chosen their own path with notions that we could each reach that too it IF ONLY… then we not only discredit their passion (a horrible act in my book), but we also look to soothe ourselves with a balm of settling for mediocre and explaining it away as if it were acceptable because we could easily get to that place too.  That’s justifying something average.

I don’t come at any of this from a place of cockiness or arrogance – just from knowing that nothing good is achieved or worthwhile without some hard work to get there.  I am far from perfect and would never, ever describe myself as the purest paragon never-ending, ceaseless hard work… but I do work pretty hard for what I believe in.

Remember… the crime is not in picking your own path, but in making that of another who pursues theirs with drive seem like something anyone could do.  I’ve caught myself in this trap a few times before, but with some awareness now, I will battle hard never to do it again.

“We could get your grades, Kuz, if we just studied as much as you do…”  But they didn’t.  And hard work is an intelligence all its own.

Dear 2012…

Dear 2012,

Hi – I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself. I’m Kevin. Since we are going to be spending 366 days together (you sneaky leap year, you!), I thought it was best if we spent a few minutes getting to know each other. But I guess that’s actually the first lesson of the year isn’t it? The fact that our relationship is completely one-sided in every way, shape and form.

I will tell you everything about me. You will tell me nothing about you until the moment it happens.

I will give you my heart, commitment and best effort every day. You will give me absolutely nothing.

I will expect nothing from you. You will expect and demand everything I’ve got… and then some.

Anyone who would look at our relationship from the outside would immediately classify it as hopelessly dysfunctional. In some ways, they’re certainly going to be right.

But mostly? I disagree and do so vehemently.

See, despite the fact that you may be great or indifferent or just a flat-out raging SOB, you are the only option I have… but more than that, you are what will challenge me, inspire me and knock me down, thus giving me a chance to pick myself up, dust myself off and be better than I was before lying flat on my back.

2012-01-02 10.31.08

I have plans for us, 2012. I really do. Oh I know you find that amusing. It’s funny in the vein of the quote attributed to Woody Allen of “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” I get it, but plan I shall and will bob and weave to take on the wrinkles you will throw my way.

I know a lot of people in their Facebook posts or blog articles are talking quite a bit about how they will dominate 2012. That’s not as much my style, but not because I don’t want to do that.  Rather, I will give it my best every single day and test my limits as often as I can. I don’t look to dominate you, 2012… I look to dominate me.

So here’s to the next 365 days of our relationship. You will not willingly give me anything and I will willingly give the best of me. And that’s just fine in my world.

Love, hugs and kisses,

Kevin

P.S. Don’t get cocky, 2012. I might be humble, but I’ll be damned if you think I am just rolling over for you…