Archives For Personal Development

My #1 Fitness Pro Tip

September 2, 2018

Here’s your Where’s Waldo pop quiz for the day… Can you spot the gym amidst the aftermath of this little kid basement rock and roll concert?

basement

This picture is the perfect representation of my all-time favorite fitness pro tip. Years ago I used this pro tip to get myself into the best shape of my life, no bullshit. I’d share a before and after pic but I’m too shy. This was also my favorite tip to share with people in my days as a fitness coach because of its undeniable effectiveness.

What’s the pro-tip you ask? It’s this:

Something is better than nothing, baby.

Today, for me, living this pro tip took the form of one of my favorite pastimes—heading to the basement and half-assing it to some of my favorite tunes amidst whatever rubble remains from the little kid bomb that detonated the day before. Smashed guitars, broken keyboards, and random Halloween decorations, I see your bet and I raise you some burpees.

You don’t need much of anything in the way of equipment, either. I’ll bet I could pretty much wipe the floor with you with a mat and a three towels, four if you sweat like me. Throw in a kettle bell and you’d be a pile of ooze. Male or female, in good shape or not, doesn’t matter. Aside from heavy deadlifts, just about anything can be done with bodyweight. This also takes away your excuses when you’re visiting grandma and there isn’t a fitness facility or piece of equipment in a hundred mile radius. There’s no excuse for avoiding a workout when you’ve given yourself permission to half-ass it.

You might think I’m kidding, but I’m 100% serious. I give you my word. Fifteen minutes is infinitely better than zero minutes. Years ago, 15-20 minutes every day changed my life, no exaggeration.

Our lives are busy. It’s hard to fit things in. We frequently aim too high and fall short. Sometimes we fall short because we set the bar too high. We miss a day or two or three of a habit, we lose the positive momentum and now there’s inertia in the wrong direction. And then we beat ourselves up. Does this sound like a winning recipe?

I think not.

Apply this philosophy to those difficult-to-maintain habits and see what happens. Fitness. Meditation. Learning a new skill. Anything at all that you want to make a central part of your life. Then check back in and tell me what happened. Or privately gloat to yourself about what a badass you are, I won’t be offended. I’m just here to instigate and cheer you on along with these guys. So do it!

nintendo-action-figures

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The less you have…

September 1, 2018

 

I am addicted to security.

To the illusion of security, that is. Security doesn’t actually exist in any real sense. No matter how much you accumulate, or how much you feel protected, anything in life can vanish in an instant. We all know this. Yet many of us live our lives as though it were one constant pursuit of security.

It’s garden variety fear, of course. And it holds us back from living the lives we were meant to live. Yet it’s a difficult thing to shake.

Take my present work situation as an example. I currently work for a company that is going through a period of significant turmoil and I could get laid off in the coming months. The rational side of me knows that even if that happened, everything would be fine. It might even be the best thing for me to have the security blanket torn away. Otherwise I might just keep clinging to it with this conflicted death grip I have going on.

dog_in_blanket

But security is a strange thing. For those afflicted with this disease, it runs deep in our psychology, all the way to the root of our survival instinct.

Yesterday on a bike ride with my family, after a challenging week of work and several days of running hard and losing myself in the stressful narratives, time slowed down and I was able to pay attention and notice things again.

And in an instant, graced by one of those simple epiphanies, it occurred to me. I have habituated myself to amass, to build up, to accumulate as though that will give me security, which deep inside I’ve linked to a belief that this will bring comfort and fulfillment. And of course it won’t.

But that unconscious belief has it more wrong than I even realized. Because in my experience, when I really pay attention, I have noticed that the less you have, the more you appreciate the little things.

The more you’re able to appreciate the little things, the more content you are.

If that’s the case, why fear losing things at all?

Life mulligans

March 16, 2018

Kindergarten, man. Keeps me on my toes.

With St. Patty’s day around the corner, the project du jour for my son’s kindergarten class is building a leprechaun trap. All over the country kids are being assigned this project. Maybe that seems cute to you, possibly even fun. But I beg to differ, my friend.

First let’s get my weird hang-ups out of the way. I’m not even comfortable lying to my son about Santa Claus. I’ve had to bow out of the tooth fairy conversations at home and leave my wife hanging… something sneaks into your room at night and leaves something under your pillow? That sounds scary as shit, I can’t support that. I suppose I can handle the Easter bunny a little better because at least bunnies are cute and harmless. And there’s chocolate involved. But now we have to introduce the concept of these little green creatures scurrying around town complaining how “They’re always after me Lucky Charms”?

Layer on top of that my son’s quirks… exceptionally gifted, ultra-sensitive… If we trap one will he die? How come I’ve never seen one? Are they real? “Well, they’re these mythical creatures…” So if they’re mythical then they’re not real? Answer one question and it leads to the next, and pretty soon you’re trapped in a web of lies of your own making.

Parents have to sign permission slips for everything under the sun that might pose a risk to their child. Want your kid to put on special glasses to watch the solar eclipse while he’s at school? Sign here. But introducing a new fake holiday-inspired creature into an already packed lineup? I am powerless to intervene.

But setting all that aside, this project introduces the classic dilemma parents face with school projects.

How much should we help him?

My wife and I entered this situation on the same page. This one’s all him. I mean our house is constantly filled with cardboard+packaging tape monstrosities… there was the “safe,” the “vending machine,” the 300 different “marble races,” so if this one isn’t right smack in the middle of his wheelhouse, I don’t know what is. You got this bro!

Except after round #1, things weren’t looking so promising:

And worse yet, as other kids began bringing their leprechaun traps into school before the due date, the bar was set at a whole different level. They were Elaborate. Exquisite. Beautiful. Certainly nothing most kindergarteners could do by themselves.

I won’t rant. I really won’t. Okay maybe just a little bit. COME ON PEOPLE! Must we start doing school projects on behalf of our kids at such an early age?? Can’t we at least try to get things started off on the right foot??

So the new dilemma was born. Do we stick to our original best intentions of having him learn to do his work as independently as possible, especially when he’s perfectly capable of coming up with something? Or when round #2 was coming in not much better than round #1, do we forego our idealistic intentions to avoid a situation where he’s embarrassed about his project relative to the other kids and/or risk having his teachers think he wasn’t taking it seriously (or worse yet that his parents weren’t)… just a family full of lazy asses phoning it in?

At first we did what great parents do. We went tiger mom and tiger dad on his ass. (Sort of.) Try again! Try harder! But we weren’t acknowledging his efforts and were making him feel bad about the work he was doing. He started giving up. Pretty soon things headed south. Son was crying. Mom was upset. Dad was stressed. Plan A wasn’t working.

Dad to the rescue! I intervened. Plan B was to help him as little as possible, allowing him to have all the ideas and just helping him on execution where his ideas outstripped his kindergartener capabilities.

But I, in my infinite wisdom and patience, skipped right past Plan B and initiated Plan C. I had March Madness to watch.

I am almost embarrassed to admit it, but it turns out this is mostly my work:

Don’t get me wrong, I subcontracted some of the work. Penny lane was all him. Tin foil siding and shingles on the roof, mostly him.

#ParentingFail

Parenting guilt is a real thing. Sometimes, as hard as you try not to, you’re impatient, you snap at your kid, you hurt their feelings in some way, and even if you were pretty damn good 99 other times, you dwell on that one time you weren’t at your best and you beat yourself up for it.

But lately I’ve been feeling pretty different about those moments. Because the awesome thing is you get to try again. Kids give you tens of thousands of at-bats to become a better person. Hell, forget the kids, life gives you the at-bats. I’m about to go to work and I’ll probably get dozens over the next several hours. You get them driving to work. You get them in the line at the grocery store. You get them everywhere.

Life gives us mulligans.

Over and over we get to try again. Even on the big stuff. For example I haven’t listened to my heart enough and the consequence is I’ve let others define my career path more than I’ve let my own heart do the talking. But even there, it’s not too late. I get another mulligan. I’ve been granted so many second chances I don’t feel I deserve. It’s one of the compassionate things about life itself. Usually, we get a chance to make it right.

Even if I don’t get a chance to fix something directly, it’s still an opportunity for me to grow as a person in kindness, empathy, wisdom and understanding and apply that to my next at-bat.

So, Leprechauns everywhere, beware of next year’s trap if there’s a mulligan to be granted. Perhaps the trap won’t look like much, but to me it’ll be the best damned trap a first grader ever built with his own two hands.