Tag Archives: reflection

Pushing On By Letting Go

1902864_687774727941279_370871808_nA few months into my journey of adding yoga to my overall fitness/training regimen, I find myself coming up with a lot of ponderings that occur during yoga class itself (or often shortly thereafter). Whether it’s somehow brought upon by improved bloodflow from class or just the fact that I find myself feeling very clear-headed when I’m done, I can’t say. It’s just continuously interesting to me that yoga is far more than a physical challenge for me – it’s really something that flies in the face of how most of my training is structured.

It requires release and a flowing kind of giving-in to the moment whereas when I lift, it’s like a fight and a grind and a sweaty battle to force myself into being better/faster/stronger.

But what caught my attention most and was the impetus for this blog post was the realization that yoga seemed to fly in the face of this site’s very motto of “Relentlessly push yourself forward”.

Or did it?

Hence a little vlog for your consideration. Hope you enjoy:

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…

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.