Tag Archives: reflection

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.

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.

The Unsexiness of Excellence

During the past 10 years that I’ve been working at my company, we have gotten a company-wide shutdown that runs from Christmas through New Year’s Day.  As far as perks going, it’s definitely a darn fine one and makes for a perfect way to close out the old year and prepare for the new.  I find myself always becoming more reflective during this chunk of time away from the hustle and bustle of the workplace – not surprising, really.  This last break ended up being 13 glorious days away from work and I was able to get down to some serious navel-gazing time.

And what came out of that period of time?  What new and meaningful insights poured forth from my head like Athena from that of Zeus?  One word kept coming back to me over and over again:

Excellence.

And with that word, the famous Aristotle quote: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

So to the YouTubes I went and made this nice video for you.  Yes, just for you, gentle reader and no one else.

Excellence… a flashy word for something achieved in a very unsexy sort of way.

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

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.

That’s On You Bro

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.

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.

Be A Thinker

Thinking... deeply... or just confused.
Thinking… deeply… or just confused.

In this great, big, beautiful world of ours, there is variety of different approaches to everything in life.  Some people are dark and dour – seemingly each moment of the day is spent in a perpetual state of seriousness.  Other people seem to radiate joy, silliness and a joie de vivre that’s impossible not to be positively affected by.  Each of us will have an approach that works best for us.

But beyond just mood, we each look at the world a little bit differently when thinking about issues and ideas.  Maybe you are truly Zen, where your mind is free from influence and clear-eyed to each situation.  Maybe you are harried and hassled with nary a moment to spend in “wasteful” navel-gazing.

Me?  I’m a bit of a thinker and I’m here to make the case for why you should be too.

I think it’s important for me to discuss what I mean by a thinker before dashing headlong into the rest of this post.  A thinker is not someone who is necessarily smarter than anyone else.  It’s important to dispel this notion because (1) I don’t want your reading this entire blog post thinking “You utterly smug and arrogant son of a biscuit…”; and (2) clear definitions just make life easier.  So there.

My definition of a thinker is someone who takes a bit of time to give thought and reflection to decisions, life actions and issues, whether on an intensely personal scale or affecting the world as a whole.  Pretty simple, right?

I implore more people to take this path for two critically important reasons.

First, it can be very easy in an age of technological advancement and communication that borders on magical to be so busy, hassled and frantic to never stop and think.  I am a thinker, but believe me, I fall into this trap at times as well.

Second, I find myself encountering far too man people these days for whom the idea of giving thought to more than one angle of a question is actually a negative.  By way of example, I can think of a few conversations I have had of late where someone would remark, “Ohh, you can’t make up your mind – you would rather keep going back-and-forth…”  Now, if we were talking about what toppings to get on my burger, that’s one thing.  I mean seriously… there really are some delicious accoutrements out there for a delicious slab of grilled ground beef.  Any combination of cheese, bacon, fried egg, grilled onions and avocado will do nicely… umm… sorry.  Burgers distract me.

But the conversations where this point have come up involved more complicated affairs and the seeming lack of interest in thinking about more than one side of a nuanced issue was a bit troubling to me.  I don’t know if it was general impatience or just a predisposition to settling on a narrow viewpoint and holding on tight or just a pitched battle against any shade of gray in a world someone wants to be black and white.

Hence, I urge you to think and to set aside time for thinking (although I admit I am still struggling with that latter suggestion).  It will amaze how you some of your thorniest life issues will unravel a touch when you devote a little time to the endeavor.  And if you find yourself getting a little stuck with a myriad of questions the more you think… just remember it’s possible (and maybe even likely) that you are experiencing it because it is a tricky question.

Dabble in the grays.  There are many… not just 50 shades.

The Myth of the Mid-Life Crisis

The idea of a “mid-life crisis” seems to be this generic catch-all to explain any activity undertaken by a 40-55 year old that appears to be driven by a misguided intent to make up for lost time or recapture a fleeting bit of youth before it slips through the fingers like grains of sand.  In an interesting twist, almost every case I can think of someone saying a person is going through a mid-life crisis is describing a man – no idea why that is, but it just popped into my mind.  A person in the aforementioned age range can do a variety of things that will call up the mid-life crisis moniker:

  • Buy a sports car, motorcycle or any other propelled sort of toy
  • Does something different with their appearance (colors hair, grows a goatee, gets a tattoo for the first time, etc.)
  • Takes up some new sort of hobby that comes from seemingly out of nowhere

There are certainly more, but these are some of the more obvious.

And the label of this mid-life crisis always comes from someone looking on with a disapproving shake of their head and an exasperated comment of, “Well, there it is… Bill is going through a mid-life crisis.  Does he realize how ridiculous he is acting?”

Except here’s the problem with all of the above:

I think 99.99% of it is pure, 100% unadulterated crap.  Truly.

I got thinking about this the other day as I inch ever-closer to my latest milestone birthday of 40 (coming up in November, so plenty of time for y’all to get your shopping in now… I like gadgets, golf, reading and anything involving lifting heavy stuff repeatedly).  I am planning on doing some kind of trip with any family and friends who would like to come along, not as much as a celebration of “LOOK AT SUPER COOL 40 YEAR OLD ME!  BOOM!” and more just a nice chance to spend time with those closest to me.  But in all of this thinking, I also know I have been reevaluating things in my own life and what I would like to do these next few years.

Now, I don’t plan on buying a Corvette, getting blonde hair implants and moving to LA to finally live out a dream of acting… but what occurred to me about the typical idea of a mid-life crisis is that while people may make some big changes in that 40-55 year old age range, it has a ton more to do with the perspective and (hopefully) wisdom you gain with time and less to do with chasing lost youth.

Are there people who probably meet the criteria of a stereotypical mid-life crisis?  Of course there are.

But for the most part?  I seriously doubt it.

So a 50 year old guy buys a Porsche and it’s the first time in his life he has had a snazzy car.  Maybe he has realized that he has spent a lifetime scrimping and saving and having his nose to the grindstone and finally found a way to just have some fun.

The 45 year old lawyer who decides to get a tattoo for the first time?  Maybe he is just comfortable enough in his own skin to do something different and has finally hit that point in life where the tsk-tsking opinions of others don’t mean doodly-squat.

Heck, my deciding to grow a beard these last 10 days has been nothing more than a “Why don’t I try it?” kind of thing and not a desperate attempt to be different for the sake of being different.  And let’s face facts – I am one handsome SOB.  Take your time to appreciate this for a few minutes before reading on.  I can wait… it will be well-worth your time.

Photo on 7-9-12 at 7.38 AM

Me in all my handsome, shaggy glory.

The best thing about getting older is the perspective you gain on life and the increasingly clear realization that it is your life, only your life and if you live it solely based on the expectations of others as opposed to being true to thine own self, you will end up bitterly disappointed.

And that’s my view as a guy just south of the big 4-0: Put yourself out there.  Try stuff.  VERY few mistakes are fatal and many can be kind of fun.  You have to answer to only yourself at the end of the day (or your deity of choice if you are a believer).

I am still way less-than-perfect at this kind of thing, but damn… I am trying hard.

The final piece of advice: Don’t go and do anything or buy anything just because you feel it will make you cooler, hipper or anything along those silly lines.  But if it’s something important to you?  Or even just something that would be interesting to give a run?  Godspeed.  We are each figuring this out as we go and it’s that process that means the most in the end.

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.