Tag Archives: family

Those Five People

A common piece of guidance that people mention a lot is you are the company you keep. It’s meant to be both a reflection on who you are based on the choices you make of friends, associates and colleagues, but it’s also about the influence those people you spend so much time with have on you.  It’s summed up nicely by Jim Rohn as follows:

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

(Side note – If you are one of those high-minded goobers who get twitterpated over the idea of ending your sentence in prepositions, y’all need to take a deep breath and reassess your priorities. You should also read this.)

From a macro level view, this advice makes sense, provided you take it as general guidance to be reflective on who gets your precious time.  We should all be mindful of that since, let’s be frank, some people get far too much time from us who simply don’t deserve it.

However, the thing that’s always struck me in a weird way about this phrase is when it’s used as advice, it implies you then have complete choice over who those people are.  We often cannot choose our coworkers.  Are you going to upend your career every time there are less-than-awesome folks in your immediate work groups?  Every workplace has them in some form or another and while you shouldn’t settle, you also probably shouldn’t think you will eliminate those kinds of people 100% of the time.

And what about your family, especially if you are a parent with kids?  I don’t think protective services is going to cast a kind eye in your direction if you sit down with your middle schoolers to tell them they need to go away because they are seriously harshing your mellow, bro.

So the question is what to do in those situations since we all likely have some of those Fab Five who aren’t that fabulous or don’t add positive value to our lives.

I think it’s one of three approaches:

  1. Replace those people if you can. (And that’s a bit IF).
  2. Reduce the amount of time you do spend with them.
  3. Increase the positive content you bring into your own life.

It’s #3 that I have been thinking about the most because while it has it’s shortcomings, I think there is often more value here than people may realize.

If there are people who occupy time in your life that you cannot simply get rid of, you can still proactively bring good things into your life.  I am continuously surprised by the extent to which reading the right things, listening to the right things (lectures, podcasts, etc.) and spending the right time (prayer, meditation, quiet time, etc.) can blunt the effects of negativity.

It’s better to have the right 5 people, I do think, since I think their impact is hard to match, but given that we live in a time when we have more options available on the kinds of information and content we bring into our lives, why wouldn’t anyone fill their gray matter up with that as much as they can?  Because even if you cannot choose those 5 people freely, you certainly can choose freely that content in your life.

In fact, this is a big part of my upcoming social media break for Lent because I am finding the amount of negative I get from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. is high (drama, negativity, habitual need to check for updates and likes and mentions and comments while not spending enough time being present with the people right there in front of me) and dwarfing the positive I receive.  I would even argue that, for most people these days, one of those five people may be a social media presence… or perhaps Facebook as an entity is one of those five.  It has been for me.

So assess the people most in your life and think about if they portray who you are and want to be.  That’s good for any of us to do… provided we do it without a sense of smug superiority like we are a queen choosing suitors for our clearly much-desired attention.  But remember we can each make more subtle shifts to change what the daily content of our days can be.

Come Ash Wednesday on March 1st, mine will change quite a bit.  Time to see where it goes.

Seeking the Coaching Sweet Spot

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There’s a funny aspect of coaching where you need to strike a balance between your involvement and your objectivity.  I think the best coaches are driven by a passion to make those they have the privilege of working with better, but they then need to take the proper steps back not to let their own desires become the focus.  That’s a little bit of the secret sauce of it all, really.  You are trusted with being the steward of your trainee’s talent and desires.  To use a legal concept (because why the hell not), you are like the executor and manager of a trust – you have a good faith obligation to what has been entrusted to you.

And trust is such a perfect word and concept because it hits the dual-meaning of duty and also that you are entrusted with the faith your trainee placed in you.

This takes on a new level if the trainee/athlete/student is personally very close to you. The thing that drives you as a coach adds in a new, very strong variable of that relationship… which can be good and bad.  Good in that you are even more committed than usual to a great end result, but bad if… again… the objectivity is lost or the desired end state of your trainee gets steamrolled.

I just started working with my oldest nephew just over 2 weeks ago to really get him weight training for the first time.  He did a little bit in fits and starts with the high school baseball team this past year, but this is his first foray into a structured and very consistent program.  I had my own coach work this up for him as I guide him through it.

Each session we’ve had is a learning experience for both of us.  For him, he is seeing what a well-thought out program of strength, power, mobility, movement prep and conditioning looks like.  For me, I’m seeing what it means to consistently coach someone else on all aspects of strength & conditioning and figuring out how to do this for what he wants… not what Uncle Kevin wants.

It’s essentially a twist on the baseball coaching I’ve done with my 2 oldest nephews for the last 8 or 9 years.  The difference here is in baseball, it’s balanced by the need to focus on all the players.  In this case?  It’s one-on-one.  It would be easy to get all out of sorts and take every bit of how each session goes overly personally.

So what to do?  How to find the magic point in all of this between passion and objectivity?  I think for the near future (and maybe longer), it’s going to be fairly simple: focus on getting my nephew to enjoy the whole process.  That’s honestly it – if I make that my success criteria, the rest of the details will take care of themselves.  Progress will be made and progress, my friends, is the great hook of hooks.

Sometimes your best course of action as a coach is to get out of your own way, stop spending so much time overthinking every nuance with your trainee and just let their enjoyment be the guide.  And maybe you’ll have a little fun more coaching fun in the process too.

Home of the Brave

If you were to have an in-depth conversation with the average person about what they might like to aspire towards in their own development as human beings, I would bet some part of their response would include being a bit more brave or courageous.  Those exact words may not be used as part of the conversation, but my hunch is those notions would be interwoven in the dialogue.  Maybe something more along the lines of “There’s so much more I wish I would do…” with the unstated piece being that they don’t do it out of some reticence or fear.

I alluded to all of this a bit on my post a few weeks back on regret, but I find that most people regret more what they didn’t do or try versus what they did.  In the end, I think we all want to be a little more brave, a little more bold and a little more committed doing more cool stuff.  I know I am.

All of this began to percolate in my head like some fresh-brewed java when I got this photo from my Dad through my uncle:

Kuzia-Grandparents

See, this handsome (albeit serious-looking) couple is my great-grandparents on my father’s father’s side.  I always knew them as Dzia Dzia and Babci, which is Polish for grandfather and grandmother, respectively.  We Kuzia’s are a very creative bunch, as you can easily see.  Always pushing those boundaries.

The reason I marvel at my Dzia Dzia and Babci so much is for something incredibly simple they did and so many others did in the early 1900’s – they hopped on a boat from Poland, traveled across the Atlantic and landed in the United States with very little in their pockets and no ability to speak English.  OK, that’s not entirely true… they had 2 phrases: one for ordering a sandwich and the other of “Which way E-J?” which meant Endicott-Johnson shoe company so they could go and get a job there.

I know these days we sort of take that early surge of immigration to the U.S. for granted as an “Oh, yeah… that happened…” kind of thing with nary a second thought… but damn it, let’s give it that second or even third thought for a moment.

Imagine yourself trying that today – leaving behind the place you grew up, the only life you have ever known and all the people you’ve ever known and traveling to a complete alien part of the world, where the native tongue is one you know nothing of.  And THAT is going to be your new life… just for a shot that your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have it better than you did.  Not a guarantee.  Not a promise.  Just for the potential and only through hard manual labor in a shoe factory.

Damn.  Suddenly feeling nervous about doing Tough Mudder looks utterly silly by comparison.

In the end, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants, my friends, and they are pictured above.  Without their brave act, these words are never typed for you to read and the amazing experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have never occur.  It’s humbling in the best possible way.

The Lesson of Three Fouls

In the event you didn’t know it already, my 3 nephews are one of the greatest joys of my entire existence. As a bachelor guy with no kids of my own, they put life into a kind of perspective that comes from no other place. I know my relationship with them isn’t ever going to be akin to what their parents have with them, I do feel a connection, love and a strong level of protectiveness for them that is just… well… incredible to me.

When they do well or are happy, my heart soars. When they are sad or down or frustrated, it hits me hard. It’s part of that whole thing of being the “sensitive one” in Team Kuzia, I suppose. I like myself just fine that way, hence I take the downs that will always go along with the really great ups.

Today was my oldest nephew’s first basketball game of the year and Berry Insurance (that’s his team) pulled out a 30-28 victory over Finman Windows. It was really kind of nerve-wracking towards the end… you know, as much as one would wrack their nerves over 10-13 year olds playing hoops. Which can be a lot. Why? Because parents and relatives are bat-guano crazy when it comes to their kids, that’s why.

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My nephew (#4) getting his instructions and his game face on… umm, not that you can see the game face. But I assure you… fierce.

Now, my nephew has some pretty good athletic ability and is actually really fast. Seriously… kid’s got jets. The thing is… when he gets into game situations, he gets a little bit tentative and never really seems to get after it. It actually goes to something I’ve seen from coaching kids for a little while now: until MAYBE high school, the thing that separate kids in sports is not pure talent, but aggressiveness. Hands down. It’s not even close. You will occasionally have a kid who is sublimely talented, but they are a truly serious outlier.

I wish I could help my nephew be more aggressive out there… not because I am obsessed with winning (I’m not… certainly not for kids) or anything in that realm. I just think he would have more fun if he was just letting loose and rolling with the game instead of feeling pressure to do well. I know this feeling more than I care to admit: it’s pretty much how I was as a kid. It’s hard at that age to sometimes step back and realize it’s just Little League, Pop Warner or rec basketball. It really was for me and if I had been a little more relaxed, I would have played better and had a ton more fun in the process.

So if I could give my oldest nephew and my godson a bit of advice, it would be this: Every game, commit at least 3 fouls. Every. Single. Game.

If you’re currently having a moment of, “Kuzia… you may be the worst kids coach to ever curse this planet”, I don’t blame you. OK, I might… a little bit. Seriously… curse? That’s unduly harsh, you jerk. Umm… where was I?  Oh yeah…

In basketball, committing a foul is something “wrong” or “bad” or “against the rules”, hence a lot of kids avoid it like the plague. They want to be good kids, do the right thing, say their prayers, eat their vegetables and so on. The huge majority of kids just want to do the right thing to make Mom and Dad proud.

But here’s the thing: committing a few fouls per game means you are actually going after it on defense. You are playing a little more aggressively and worrying a hell of a lot less about making a mistake. And quite frankly, in basketball at this age, the last thing you want are kids wringing their hands over messing up, for the love of God. Where’s the fun in that?

Plus, it give the kid a chance to break that cycle of fearing to fail or messing up or looking bad in front of their families. If they know committing some fouls isn’t that bad of a thing, then they can loosen up enough to play hard. This isn’t teaching them to mess things up… it’s teaching them to get past the small nonsense that matters little at all.

Granted, we’re not talking about drilling a kid into a wall on a fast break. Let’s not get completely kooky, kids.

But I think it’s a powerful lesson for kids everywhere and something important to learn as early in life as possible: it’s far better to give your all and mess things up a bit than to never dare mightily at all and wonder “Could I have done more?” But come to think of it… it’s not just kids who need to learn that, now is it?

Memorial Day 2010 – Reflections, Thoughts and A Swift Kick in the Rear

Today is a doubly reflective sort of day for me.  First and foremost, it’s Memorial Day and secondly, I’m getting ready to travel to London on a red-eye out of JFK tonight for a work conference all week.  Memorial Day makes me reflect for what are, I think, fairly obvious reasons and travel always makes me reflect because I know I will be encountering new places, peoples and experiences.

In thinking of Memorial Day, it can be a lot of different things.  It’s a day of rest (well… at least it should be) and BBQs and taking a few minutes to think about the ultimate sacrifice that over a million Americans have made to protect freedoms that most of us just flat out take for granted.  That last part almost sounds cliched, but it probably sounds that way because sometimes the things that are just so obvious tend to get slapped with that kind of unfair tag.  But honestly… how often do any of us think about that?  I mean genuinely and honestly stop for a moment and reflect on the fact that people have died so that you can I can live a fairly uneventful life where we get to raise our kids, go to work, enjoy our weekends and be who we want to be without a lot heck of a lot of interference.

I took a look at the source of all knowledge… Wikipedia, obviously… and found this entry on total U.S. combat casualties over the course of our country’s history.  It’s sobering stuff to look at, especially when you see the Civil War estimates that the war claimed the lives of 2% of the entire population of the country – 625,000 people with close to 600 dying every day.  If that doesn’t give you a moment to pause, then there’s nothing a whole lot I can do to help you at that point.  Just take a moment… even just a quiet 30 seconds… to appreciate the gift of the freedom you enjoy if you live here in the United States.  We are very, very far from perfect, but you would be hard-pressed to find a place much better.  I believe that with all my heart and want our country to stay that way.

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But I also had a slightly less lofty moment of reflection today that had less to do with our freedoms as a people and more to do with what Memorial Day has meant for me personally the last few years.  As a baseball coach, Memorial Day was the day every team, club, organization and such in the town I coach would get out and march.  It’s complete mayhem, but also a lot of fun… except I’m not there this year.  Rather, I am in the midst of doing a bunch of last second packing, e-mail checking and planning before leaving on my trip to London and so I missed the parade this AM for the first time in 4 or 5 years… and I hate that fact almost more than I can say.

There was really no good reason, excuse or explanation for my not being there.  Yes, I really am pulling a whole bunch of things together right now to prepare for my trip… but seriously?  That couldn’t have been done Saturday?  Or yesterday?  And this frustrates me to absolutely no end because that parade is now a bit of tradition and I’m missing it for just no good reason at all.

And all this for one simple and unassailable reason: I just need to do a better job of getting my act together.  Period.  Oh sure, I could go into a very grand and verbose post about how I am a classic introvert who recharges my batteries with alone and quiet time or that I have been very busy with work and blah blah blah.  Those things would have been both true statements… but also really and truly piss-poor excuses.

So in some ways, the fact that I do a better job of reflecting when I travel is probably a good thing so I can reflect myself into fixing my little red wagon and not missing out on things that are most important to me in life… because that often ends up being the end result.

But fear not… this is not a post about wallowing in self-pity and whinging over what has gone before.  I can only take that in myself for about 5-10 minutes before I find it annoying, so Lord knows none of you should have to soak up any of that a second longer.

Because on this day of memorial and day of reflection… I am putting myself back on track with 2 things more important than any little silly gripe I may have:

1) That when people have given their lives so you have the luxury of blogging at home with your feet on the table, it’s best to take that solid shot of perspective with a quiet nod of sincere thanks; and

2) That as long as there are nephews in the world who get a kick out of walking in parades (and hitting bodybuilder poses while waiting for them to start), then there is some real good in the world to make you smile.

And a smile is spreading across my face right now.  Happy Memorial Day 2010, everyone.

My Insanity is the Sanest Thing I’ve Got

If there’s one area that I tend to cause puzzlement in my friends, family and co-workers, it’s the way I approach my training, exercise and diet regime.  It’s not that they are necessarily amazed at my being into health and fitness (since lots of people are), it’s really the specifics of my philosophy and approach that give them pause or cause them to cock their heads, look at my askew and remark (after an extended sigh) “Seriously… why???”

It can actually be a little odd to explain to someone outside of the worldwide family of lifters and physical culture devotees who make this kind of strenuous exertion the best part of their days.

I have talked to or exchanged ideas with on forms a lot of people who are as into training (I almost never call it “working out”, FYI) or even more so into training than I am.  There seems to be a fairly common thread that ties all of us together into one big, borderline irrational family:

The power of transformation.

With training, you will truly get back from it what you give to it.  If you learn a bit and then work hard at what you learned, the results will come.  They just will as sure as day follows night.  They will come faster for some and slower for others, but they do come when you give yourself over to the training.

Can you see the appeal?  Think of how many areas in life where despite your best efforts and all your smarts and all your talents and all the sweat of your brow… you get diddly-squat back in return.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  It’s ridiculously frustrating.

A few years back I went to a doctor for my lower back.  He was a pretty good physician, but very, very old school.  He took a look at my x-rays, showed me how one disc was a bit narrower than the others and simply said, “You need to stop all exercising that loads your vertical spine.”  I gave him a look of “Umm… you gotta be kidding me, dude.”  He went on to say, “I don’t know what it is with you weightlifters and why you can’t seem to stop.  There are so many other wonderful kind of exercise out there.”  You can tell I really didn’t listen to him and I am trying my best to be a lot smarter about how I train… but I ain’t quitting.

I think this is why when I had someone very special and very close to me going through leukemia for several agonizing years, the weight training I did was utter salvation to me.  I could not fix her horrid illness which ravaged away at her for those 5 long years.  It was excruciating to feel so powerless to do much except to be an unyielding form of support the whole way.

My EliteFTS power rack (i.e. my baby)

But during that time while I was training?  I could effect change.  It was at least something I could control and for at least a little while, use to chisel away some of the hurt in the process.  It was also something that taught me a lot about myself and how to push through the challenging parts of life… and then I would use all of that to better support her day after day after day.  The two things began to feed each other and without that constant of my training, I’m not sure what all of those 5 years would have been like.

So the fact I hit a new personal record on my deadlifts (427.5 lbs for 5 reps, in case you were wondering… and I just know you were) tonight just makes me feel like a little bit more is right with the world… that things can make a little more sense… and that when it comes to my training, I will get back what I give.

All of which raises one question for me: If you don’t feel the same about your own exercise program… why not?

You might view me as nuts for what I do… I see it as a lone sane act in a sometimes completely insane world.