Competition with Balance

I am, by nature, a somewhat competitive person.  I don’t care too much for losing (few do), but I find that where I care more is about the showing up and actually competing.  If I go out and give my best or if my team goes out and leaves it all out on the field, then I’m good no matter the final result… but I would surely prefer the win over that ugly and often nagging feeling of defeat.

My competitive drive also varies based on the activity at hand.  I’m not going to get some kind of red-eyed rage if I’m playing Blokus with my family during Thanksgiving… and obviously, they would seem to share my view as this picture so perfectly illustrates:

Thanksgiving Blokus

Now, when I did that strongman competition last year, I was really and truly competitive.  Oh sure, I wanted the learning experience of it… to better understand what it’s like to be in the strongman arena… and that’s all true… but damn it, I wanted to do well.  Really well.  I did ehh and not much better than that.  It still bothers me a bit to this day because I know I could have and should have done better.  I view the experience as an overall positive… but damn it, I wanted a lot more out of myself that cold December day.


Of late I have been giving more and more thought on what it means to compete… the value of competition… when competition is more of a negative than a positive… and how important it is to win.  I touched on this a bit in my post on greatness a few years back.

I believe this is, in part, driven by what has been going on in the news with the sex abuse scandals at Penn State and Syracuse… although really more by the Penn State situation where it seems painfully clear that a culture was created where as long as football wins (and the dollars associated with such wins) were coming fast and furious, then even the horrific could somehow be acceptable.  It all just left me feeling disgusted, as should surprise no one.

It then got me thinking about how I treat competition in my own life.  I remember one of my teammates on my soccer team saying that his high school coach would tell them, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”

In the most charitable of interpretations, that quote could mean that you have to go out, play hard, push the boundaries to the utmost and leave it up to the refs to make the foul calls.

But there’s such a fine line between playing a very physical brand of soccer and take a lunge at someone’s knee during a slide tackle from behind.  And regardless, the quote is just an utterly horrible thing to say as a leader to a group of teenagers.  Nothing good can come of it.

My take on competition and winning has changed over the years and now that I stand with 39 years on Earth, I think I have it sorted out in a way that is philosophically consistent with my principles:

Outside of things done strictly for fun, I enjoy the act of competing and competing hard.  To quote Vince Lombardi from his “What It Takes to Be Number 1” speech, “The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.”  I enjoy giving my all until the buzzer sounds, the bell rings or the whistle blows, regardless of the score.

Because in the end… my ultimate opponent… the one I try to best each and every time… is who I was yesterday.

Balance Through Imbalance

I seem to have my epiphany moments at odd times and a lot of them seem to come during my morning commute.  While part of it is likely due to the fact that I almost always do that commute with no music or radio on, I think it’s also likely due to the fact that it’s easier to let your mind be open to think about things instead of watching the utter madness of how my fellow humanity drives.  Come on, people… get it together out there!

My latest piece of highway inspiration caught me off guard a little bit, truth be told, because it stood on its head a lot of what I’ve been pondering in terms of creating a better life for myself… because the moment of clarity was all about how I need to possibly get myself out of balance to achieve balance.  A tad bit counterintuitive, to say the least.


Up to this point, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I need to achieve some kind of well-structured harmony of my mind, body and spirit… and that’s still my end goal.  The “A ha!” moment came with the stark realization that my process of achieving that goal was quite likely all out of whack.  I’ve been in a mode of thinking that I needed to treat mind, body and spirit equally in my pursuit of the noble balance, but there’s a pretty significant chance I am not currently balanced equally in those 3 areas anyway.  Maybe I am at 50% body, 35% mind and 15% spirit in terms of where I pay the most attention or where I have achieved the most amount of progress.  Nothing about that would approximate the equally divided personal growth pie of 33.3%, 33.3% and 33.3%.

I can practically sense a few doubters reading this and thinking, “How is it a grand point of epiphany to think that maybe you need to spend more attention on the 15% and less on the 50%?  That ain’t some kind of advanced nuclear physics, dude.”  Too truth, my Doubting Thomas… too true.  That wasn’t my clarity moment.  Here is what I realized:

Maybe I need to throw a ton of time and attention to body… even if it is at a 50% point of progress.  Seems a little odd, right?  How is devoting more time to the area where I am the “farthest along” (whatever in the world that even means) going to bring along the two areas that are not quite where I want to be?

Here’s my thought process… and be forewarned, my friends… stepping into my head for even but a moment is gonna leave a mark… tread softly:

I think that if I put in a full commitment to the area of body and really buckle down, get truly disciplined and decide I am going to completely kick ass on all aspects of my physical developments for the next few months… I think there will be tremendous carry over to mind and spirit.  It all gets back to my core belief that developing one area of mind/body/spirit and go a really long way to developing them all.  The commitment to excellence and dedication to discipline I can put forth through consistent training, top-notch diet and a relentless attitude will allow me to prove to myself I can make progress when I commit.  That proof will strengthen my resolve and, hence, strengthen my spirit.

This kind of single-minded focus I think will spillover into mind as well because this approach will force me to be smart and not just burn myself out like some kind of unfocused maniac.

And… in the end… if my body feels good and I know I am making progress, I already know this is the kind of confidence that improves my life as a whole anyway.  I can hardly put into words how much better my life has been ever since I decided sometime in college and then in law school to really start getting myself into shape.  It’s completely night and day.

But while I am still doing well, I think I’ve lost a little bit of the swagger and a little bit of the fun that goes along with it.  I aim to get that back and in getting that back, prove to myself that just an overall improvement to the other spots in my life is going to be part of the package.

Will I completely give up on devoting time to my mind or my spirit?  Of course not.  That would make me a completely shallow and borderline boneheaded fool to do that… but instead, I am going to let them rise with the tides created through getting myself going on the physical part of my life.  Plus, this is not a forever thing to devote this much more time and attention to one part of this little trinity.  These things must be cycled to really make best use of the shorter bursts of focused effort lest you truly become horribly out of balance and just a very one-dimensional person (one of my worst nightmares).

Time to shake up the yin-yang and see what comes out on the other side… and I’m feel pretty good that the other side is only going to be something better.  And more handsome… if that’s even possible.  Seriously… have you met me?  It’s almost unfair.

Transatlantic Musings: Accents, England and Unexpected Perspective

Blogging Gameface

It seems I’ve finally found some time to do some blogging on my trip to London… and that’s during my flight back from London.  Funny how that works out.  Actually, I probably did have time a few others points in the trip, but the jetlag decided to open up a full case (and not just a six-pack) of whup-ass on me by the time evening rolled around each day.  I was able to stumble through some Twitter and Facebook posting and that was the extent of my… *ahem*… intelligent discussion and contribution to the social dialogue of the planet.  Go me.

So here at 36,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, I find a few moments of respite to think back on my trip while my Boeing 777 chariot whisks me along back to the U.S of A.  What keen, penetrating insights have the gods unveiled to me during this sojourn to the land of tea, crumpets, cricket and tiny cars?  Sit back, relax with a nice cup of Earl Grey and let the magic unfold, my friends.

YOU are the one with the funny accent. As an American, it’s always great to get out of the country and spend a bit of time letting your ear adjust to the accents of people from other countries.  The work conference I was at had people from England, France, South Africa, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia, Poland, Sweden, Slovenia and I’m sure other countries that are now completing slipping my mind.  Usually if you go to a foreign land, you can adjust generally to the accents of the people within a day or so because it will be a (generally) uniform set of accents.  This conference was different in that I was with accents, sentence pacing and colloquialisms from a wide range of places.  I never got the chance to let my ear settle in with a single accent… and, quite frankly, I enjoyed that.   It also makes you realize that most of the people at the conference likely looked at me and my other American colleagues as the ones with the funny accents.

I love the fact that international travel (or even domestic travel to different areas of the country) forces a little extra open-mindedness on me.  Perspective, people… its good for the soul.

England is a place of dramatic, yet understated, surprises.  If that’s even possible. Due to its rather cozy size, but incredibly rich history, I’ve always found England to be the kind of place where you can suddenly happen upon really cool stuff.  OK, I was hoping to come up with a more creative, inspired and dramatic word than “stuff”, but honestly, isn’t stuff a perfectly good word too?

Anyway, I digress, yet again.  So last night I went out to dinner in… umm… truth be told, I have no idea what town it was.  I think it was actually technically parts of London.  I sometimes think of London like Boston – lots of different areas that are considered part of the greater city, but you’ve never quite sure when you are in the city proper.  As we head out to dinner and get out of cab, BOOM!  Right there looming behind the restaurant was Windsor Castle.  Like THE Windsor Castle.  Home of the Queen and such.  It just struck me a bit how we just happened upon it in almost the same manner you would seemingly run across a Starbucks in the States… just with more royalty, less condescending baristas and less completely useless drink size names (Venti?  Really?  I mean… that’s what we’re going with?  I think I’m asking for a Venti Gulp the next time I hit up 7-11).  Unless they put a Starbucks in Windsor Castle… which would blow my mind.

That being said, it’s that kind of unexpected moments of “Wow” that I love about England.  You get it in New York City as well, actually.  You are just randomly walking down a street, look up and BOOM!  World famous landmark right there in front of you.  It’s a little humbling and can make you feel a little bit small, but I never find it to happen to me in a bad way – it tends to be more of a way to appreciate what you encounter a little more deeply.  For instance, it’s a bit hard to be too self-involved when you have moments like this happen and Lord knows I really need moments like that.  Hell, I think we all do.

When I’m on the shelf, I am TOTALLY on the shelf. Before I left on this trip, I had decided I was putting myself on the shelf to stop all lifting and exercising while allowing the anti-inflammatory steroids I’ve been taking to do their job and to let my neck heal.  I wrote about all of that right here.  The only exercises I’ve really been doing are neck retractions and a lot of focus on having dramatically better posture.  The combination of the steroids, rest and the exercises are really doing an excellent job of making my neck feel just so much better.  Happy Kev.  But there is a dramatically ugly side of this break period and it’s not the first time I’ve noticed it when I’ve been on an off-week or break.  See, when I put myself on the shelf, I go at it full tilt.  How so?  Well, let’s just say that when I’m not lifting, pushing my Prowler, swinging the sledgehammer and all of the other magical tomfoolery that is part of my training arsenal, I’m also eating a ton crappier than I normally would.  A logical person might think, “Well geez, Kev… just because you’re not training doesn’t mean you should let ALL good health habits go to waste.”  To that logical person I say, “Technically true… but here’s the thing… bite me, hoser.”  And yes, I just channeled my inner Mackenzie Brothers there, so take off, eh.

I have a good enough sense of self-awareness to know the truth said that said logical (and totally wet blanket) person speaks, but it doesn’t change the fact that I seem to go full on or full off.  It’s what one of my favorite authors on training and powerlifting, Dave Tate from EliteFTS, describes as “Blast” and “Dust”.  He approaches a lot of things in his life with the notion that he is either going to do it with complete gusto and passion or not at all.  I can well appreciate that fact since I tend to be the same way.  I am shooting for a better middle ground with some balance, but I am mostly wired in an all-or-nothing mindset for many things.

Thankfully, I am going to be going back at it on the bright tomorrow morning as I get back to eating right and totally rocking the Prowler for some fun.  Parking lots of Connecticut, beware… I got some steel with your name all over it.  And anyone who wants to join me is totally welcome… just remember… this is not a spectator sport.  You show up, you push.

So those are some of the thoughts I noticed in one of my favorite countries besides my own – jolly old England.  Thank you, Britannia, for the time to grow a bit, stretch my mind a little bit more and gain a little better insight into myself and the world through which I travel.  May I put it to good use every day.

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