Tag Archives: inspiration

Inspiration. Aspiration. Perspiration.

If you’re into fitness and you spend even a casual amount of time on any social media platform, you’ve no doubt seen a ton of things like this:

#fitspo

Inspiration posts like this flood the Internet, typically coming from well-intentioned souls. They’re usually described as fitspo (shortened for fitness inspiration) or really, #fitspo. Because, sweet mother of God, if you can’t hashtag it, what’s the point anyway? You might as well stayed quiet and keep your messaging to yourself.

I personally don’t think there’s a high degree of efficacy in #fitspo messages, partially because most of the messages aren’t particularly illuminating to me. I mean, I love me a good quote that captures my imagination – I’m all about it. But most #fitspo?  Ehh…

But the real driving issue I have with many of these is their tone of “Let ME tell YOU what’s good for YOU.” I think they miss the mark on inspiration, especially because there are few people walking the planet who can speak from a place of perfect authority to direct anyone. We’re all beautifully imperfect creatures so anything that smacks of “I know best for you…” just rubs me the wrong way. Like, every freaking time.

But aspiration? Ahh… NOW we’re getting somewhere! Aspiration still seeks to uplift while coming from a place of humility because the person offering up the guidance is on the same journey.

That’s impactful. That’s powerful. That’s compelling.

I try like hell to accomplish that in this blog because I am so very far from perfect. I know that seems hard to believe with my chiseled good looks, Adonis-like build and buttery-smooth charm, but it’s true. This blog, at it’s very essence, is seeking to help/counsel/coach others as I work through the same challenges as my readers. If you can avoid some kind of struggle based on my own missteps, then that’s a huge win for me.

And maybe the most important beyond aspiration is perspiration or the quiet act of putting in the time and work to do and be better. Great quotes or great speeches give me goosebumps, but I find the person who quietly leads by example to create a much longer-lasting effect. Don’t talk about it – be about it. I am just so intrigued by those who find their passion, put their heads down and get at it.

 

This, of course, makes me look at some of the stuff I do on social media as well. I post up videos of myself lifting in the gym, hitting some personal best, etc. I still wrestle with the notion that it can easily be a narcissistic endeavor.  “LOOK AT ME! DOING THINGS! WITH WEIGHTS! IF YOU AREN’T DOING LIFTY THINGS, YOU’RE NOT HARD CORE AND AWESOME LIKE ME!” Thankfully, I typically do it to keep myself accountable since I have a lot of friends who will critique what I’m doing if something looks off. Keeps me grounded, honestly.

So that’s my hierarchy of authenticity: Perspiration > Aspiration > Inspiration.

Hopefully it will be keep me pointed in the right direction – I sometimes need a road sign or two along the way, you know.

Keep Your Starts Fresh

Ever since I was a kid, there’s always been something deeply and profoundly appealing to me about a new, crisp piece of paper. It always spoke to me of possibility and excitement because I really wasn’t limited in what I could draw or write upon it. As long as I could imagine it, I could work towards it. Sure, I wasn’t going to be slapping down a Monet masterpiece first time through… but there wasn’t anything saying I could not get there.

I still feel that way today when I get a new notepad, open a fresh file in a word processor or sit down to craft a new blog post. The thought that beckons me forward is simply “Let’s see where the muse takes me today.”  I mean, I don’t think that exact phrase, but it certainly describes the feeling.

It’s for that reason that my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comic (and also the last comic Bill Watterson ever created of that brilliant strip) is this:

Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip, December 31, 1995 on GoComics.com
Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip, December 31, 1995 on GoComics.com

It’s also the perfect comic for the start of this brand and shiny new year of 2014, especially here in New England as the snow falls steadily from Winter Storm Hercules. On a side note… that’s easily the most badass winter storm name I’ve ever heard. I mean… Hercules, for the love of Zeus (mythological puns all fully intended my friends).

I’ve spent time over the past week or so thinking over my own personal goals and resolutions for 2014. Now, a lot of people finding the “resolution” game to be weak and I can certainly understand why. It’s hard to argue with the idea that every day is an opportunity to begin anew without waiting for the calendar to flip to a new year. However, there’s something terribly convenient about using January 1st as a convenient reminder point to take stock in how things are going and what you may need to do in order to point yourself in the right direction. For me, this is partially borne of spending the last 12 years in Corporate America where metrics are very keenly parsed by calendar points in time.

My list of goals is mostly created and I’ve begun the equally important task of creating a system by which I can achieve my goals (which tends to be the shortfall of the resolution crowd – lots of ideas and very little planning to go with them).  I look forward to 2014 with an open heart.

So if you are thinking over what this upcoming year holds in store for you and you have that same feeling as our friends Calvin and Hobbes where you see a year of possibilities… good. Don’t let the cynicism of others rob you of that feeling, certainly not so soon in the year – shake it free from your spirit. But also be sure to remember that hoping and wishing does not a solid plan make. (Must… resist… urge… to make… political commentary…)

But be bold about your optimism and nurture it, beginning today. Even if it’s not the sole thing to carry you through 2014 successfully, it certainly makes for a brighter start and a bit of a glow in your heart… and those are both very good things.

It’s a magical world, ol’ blog buddies. Let’s go exploring.

Thunder From The Heavens

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 knew that.  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.

As the bard of our era… Usher, of course… once sang “Don’t talk about it, be about it.”  And as horrified as I am to quote Usher, it’s a succinct way of seeing it.

In the end, Mr. Ocean puts it even better.  As loud, passionate and eloquent as your voice may be, your methodical daily grind of work will always produce a sweeter song.

That Sweet Slow Burn

Inner Glow
Sarah Spaulding via Compfight

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.

Photo from Sarah Spaulding via Compfight

What Motivates The Motivator

Gratuitous photo of my dapper self. Why? Well, why the hell not?

Thursday AM this past week was a conditioning day and instead of my typical fun with the Prowler, I thought I would change things up and do some 50 yard sprints at the football field of my town’s high school.

On the drive over to the field, my mind gently wandered about a little bit and I began to think about this blog and the overall message of it.  I think this was motivated by a book I am reading on blogging that advises bloggers to develop their “elevator pitch” to easily explain what their blog is all about.

Then I got to thinking about others I’ve seen who have motivational style posts… except… well… there was something about their message I couldn’t quite shake.

The solution?

Make a video about it.  Put it on the YouTubes.  Boom.  Go time.

Explaining the (Seemingly) Inexplicable

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?

Vasiliy Alekseyev – One powerful dude.

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.

Morning and Clean Sheets of Paper

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but mornings have become something I enjoy quite a bit.  I was never truly a late night party machine to begin withm as any friend of mine reading this will laugh loudly while saying, “Whoooaaaa… big breaking news there…”  I do enjoy quite a bit about the evening time, but for me it’s the winding down feeling I enjoy, not a time to getting buckwild crazy.  For instance, one of my favorite memories is when I used to live along the Connecticut shoreline, I would head down to the beach on a clear night and sit up in one of the lifeguard chairs for a while.  It was just incredibly peaceful to sit there in the darkness, maybe with some moonlight, and watch the waves lap the shore.

I think my fascination with mornings is due to the feeling that with a new day brings the chance for good, new things to happen.  There is always something inherently positive about that in my mind.  Are there mornings where I am decidedly unexcited about what lies in store for me that day?  Oh, hell yes.  Let’s not get ridiculous about this – I am not going to pretend I walk out the door each morning with the figurative bluebirds of happiness chirping upon each of my shoulders.

But there is just the fact that a new day is starting and I have the chance to make of it what I will.  This is the same feeling I have when I sit down in front of a nice, clean sheet of paper.  What will transpire with that paper is completely up to me.  It could be a mundane shopping list or a series of to-do projects requiring my attention.  It could also be a sketch or a frenetic set of ideas I am excited to get down on paper and organize for a blog post, a training program or just some insight that mysterious popped into my noggin.

It’s the promise of it all that fascinates me.  I have talked about potential before here and here, so I think it’s clear that leaving potential unrealized or without effort to achieve is something to avoid… but it still fires my imagination overall.

So as I write this very morning and think more about the good things in life, I am upbeat and ready to get moving a little bit.  OK, that could be the coffee, but it’s more likely the power of mornings.

Here’s to hoping for good things in store today for you.  That big, clean sheet of paper is in front of us all.  Give it something good.

The Size and Shape of Potential

After I did yesterday’s post, the topic of potential started knocking around a lot in my brain for the rest of the day.  You see, I find potential to be one of the more interesting concepts to think about because it has a lot of nuances to it, both good and bad.  I think this is why I have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with potential.

The positive side of potential is fairly obvious: it’s about having the chance to do much, be much and achieve much.  It’s about that bright horizon of promise where so many good things await and you just want to sprint towards it with fervor.  WOO!  GET SOME!

On the other side of the ledger, I think about the quote from former NFL coach Brian Billick when he said, “Son, your potential is going to get me fired.”  The darker side of potential is that it means someone has gifts, talents and abilities… but without the realization of those innate qualities.  Hmm… that’s never good.  This is when all the promise and hope bumps up against the passage of time and people begin to ask, “Umm… soooo… do you plan on actually doing anything with all of your gifts?  Or are ya just gonna sit on them?”  Oof.  Not good.

Potential: cool and refreshing

It made me think about what analogy works best for potential. My initial thought was a glass of water.  There sits a nice, cold, refreshing glass of water representing all of your potential.  If it just sits there and is ignored, it’s just going to become room temperature and possibly taste a little funky after a while.  Instead, you want to get into and drink deeply of it to gain all of its great benefits.

But what happens when you start to get near the bottom of the glass?  When there is just sips left?  Sure, you have nearly maximized everything of that crisp, satisfying potential… umm… but then what?  It’s gone?  Empty?  Nothing left?  What do you look forward to now?  Is there some kind of problem with being incredibly efficient at bringing out the best of the glass of potential you have because one it’s all done… that’s it?

It was at this point I realized the problem was more with the structure of the analogy.  Sure, there is something keenly appealing about the idea of the cold glass of water and making use of it instead of letting it become lukewarm and bleah… but it really hit me that our potential is never going to be a finite container.  How could it be?

We can always develop and get a little better than before – mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.  There may be some outer boundaries at some point.  For instance, the window of opportunity for me to fulfill my lifelong dream of playing running back for the Dallas Cowboys is quickly closing… and shut your filthy mouths, you naysayers who say it was never open!  But you see what I mean – I probably will not develop 4.2 speed and the ability to hit an inside draw for a game winning touchdown in Dallas.  That’s OK.

But a lot of my other physical development?  I don’t see any outer limits right now.  It may all take a while, but it’s there because… why the hell not?  You and I are mostly limited by our own set boundaries in the end.

Or intellectual development – does anyone seriously believe they have capped out there?  Who couldn’t learn more and open up their mind to new and exciting possibilities until they draw their very last breath?  I will tell you who – those who decided it couldn’t be done and stunted their own growth in that area.  Them and them alone.

I think that was the most eye-opening part of doing the Tough Mudder a few weeks back.  In the middle of the race, several hours in and feeling tired and beaten all to hell, I realized one important thing – as banged up as I felt, I knew I would finish.  I simply knew it as sure as I was drawing breath (which was probably more like wheezing at that moment, but still a form of oxygen intake regardless).  If I could push through that, what else could I do?

Truthfully, all of my physical training since that time has been markedly improved because the 6 grueling hours of that race showed me where I had limited myself in the past.  It took that grind to break down my self-created walls and open up some squeaky-clean and shiny-new potential.

Flex those boundaries a bit today, my friends.  They will stretch more than you think… especially because you probably created 90% of them anyway.

Dissatisfaction and The Value of Your Life

I’ve never seen the movie “Network“, but I’ve seen the pivotal scene from the film more than a few times and I was drawn to finding it today on YouTube.  If you’ve never seen it, here it is:

But what was it that brought me to this?

This is seemingly the 3rd post that jumps to mind for me that deals with some kind of rage (see “Choking On Our Own Rage”) or being pissed off (see “Non-Stop, Full Tilt, Every Day Mayhem” with Ray Lewis’s speech on being “pissed off for greatness”) or today about being mad as hell.  Am I just some kind of bitter angry person?  One of those cranky old curmudgeons who shakes his fist on his front porch at the kids to gell off of his lawn?  The guy who finds nothing to be happy about, but more than a little to complain about?  Thankfully, no… I am none of these things… although who doesn’t enjoy a good moment of declaring how things were so much tougher/better when they were growing up and how kids have it SO easy these days?  It’s damn therapeutic, I tell ya.

Shake it up!
Determined to shake myself out of lethargy

However, the video came to mind for me as I thought about the power of never feeling too satisfied with the state of things.  We all get incredibly busy with work, family, friends and rushing around at a hectic pace.  I may be just imagining it and maybe its just my own life, but everything feels to be at an accelerated pace over the last year or so.  More to do and less time to do it.  Doing this for a few days or weeks is manageable, but over longer periods of time, it’s easy to forget about everything going on around you… because you haven’t really stopped to take a look.

And that’s why… every once in a while… we each need to feel truly dissatisfied and maybe get mad as hell.  Not angry in the sense of being pissed off at your fellow man or mindlessly shouting to the heavens for some kind of ephemeral justice.  No, it needs to be that dissatisfaction with our own lots, lives or situations where we get pissed and think, “No more senseless autopilot… there’s got to be something better out there…”  Or in the words of on-the-edge news anchor Howard Beale in the video above, you need to say “I’m a human being, goddammit! My life has value!”

Because when you get to that point of being dissatisfied, you suddenly improve the opportunity for a change to really occur.  Really and truly to happen.  The alternative is to just feel that nothing will ever improve and whatever you are experiencing at this moment is just as good as it’s going to get.  Is that what you want?  I don’t want that for me and I certainly don’t want that for you.

So the next time you feel that gnawing sense in your gut that you should be able to have something better… there should be more than what is immediately in front of you… don’t stifle it out as a kneejerk reaction and don’t feed it as anger for the sake of anger.  Both are senseless and can be destructive (or in Stars Wars, lead to the path of the dark side).  Instead, let’s make it that extra push to shake us from our complacency and get a little more for ourselves, our families, our friends and anyone else we care about.

The present may be tough, but since the only constant in life is change… why not make that work for us?  We’re human beings.  Our lives have value. And settling belittles all of us a little bit at a time.

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.