Build Through Action

Temperance 10/1/2019

My son, Alec, gets frustrated when he can’t do something right the first time. He is still learning that practice is the key to success. Eventually, he will understand the concept of practice. This is not something to get upset about, it is a deficiency. And to overcome the deficiency, you must practice.

When I think about the things I am good at, I consider what it took to get that way. It took hours of repetition. It took patience. It took the realization that glory, if it was to be had, would not come during the practice sessions.

Often, we become good at things we don’t necessarily want to do. We are required by our employer to do job-related tasks. We get good at them, because we don’t want to spend all of our time on the menial stuff. We practice until we become efficient, and then we do the task in the least amount of time possible.

Action is the key to foundational success. –Pablo Picasso

Over 140,000 works of art. That’s what Picasso did. It would take over 383 years to do one a day. Imagine how many pieces he did every day during the course of his life.

In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell wrote that it takes about 10,000 hours to become a master. That’s twenty hours a week for ten years. I don’t recall giving any one area of my life that much time. Am I even working toward one discipline with that much effort?

There are things that I want to get really good at. There are areas that I want to master. Am I putting in the effort to accomplish these in my lifetime? I can’t say that I am. I only have so many years left to get after it, if I don’t increase my efforts now, when will I?

And what about Alec? Even at seven years of age, he is becoming passionate about different hobbies. Of course, I think it is wise for him to try as many as he can. But the sooner he can narrow down one true pursuit, the quicker he can master it. It is a bit of a conundrum but something I think about, and eventually it is something I hope he thinks about.

Who Do You Want to Be?

This is a question my father-in-law asked me a few weeks ago. He was really asking what I wanted to accomplish with all my fitness endeavors. In truth, I could not really answer the question. Since then, I have been stewing over the question. Who do I want to be? Not just physically, but in general. And it ties in with another question that is just as valid: Where do I want to go?

These are some big questions that many are fortunate to answer at a young age. I’ve never had that clarity. I’m still deciding, still evolving into my final state.

We are fortunate to live in a world where we have the opportunity to choose. Not only what we choose, but when we choose.

Guard Yourself From Trouble

Temperance 5/21/2019: Guard Yourself From Trouble

It takes a tremendous amount of self-control to hold your tongue when the pressure is on. As your internal temperature rises, the urge to unleash the verbal fury within strengthens. Can you say what is on your mind in a way that will keep you from trouble? If not, it may be best to bury those word until you can master your emotions.

I can’t recall how many times I let my guard down and spoke in anger without restraint. Every time it came out with the intention to cut. Every time, I regretted it later. How often did I sound foolish? How often were my words a jumbled mess, incoherent, and contrary to the words in my mind? Why couldn’t I have stayed silent? The end-result would have been different. But no, I let pride get in the way. I had to have the last word. What foolishness!

Remember these words by Ben Franklin: If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.

I can do better. We can do better. We can stay humble and remain silent. We don’t have to stoop to the level of those who would antagonize us. Let them bury themselves in the foolishness of their words, while we guard ourselves from trouble.

Those who guard mouth and tongue guard themselves from trouble. -Proverbs 21:23

Don’t Stand by the Wayside

Justice 5/15/2019: Don’t Stand by the Wayside

And you can also commit injustice by doing nothing. -Marcus Aurelius

Nothing is not an option for the just man.

Standing by the wayside saying your hands are clean of evil is not an option when an injustice is being done in your presence. To do nothing is to be complicit in the deed itself. Take hold of your courage and act, while it is in your power to do so.

Daniel was running for his life. Clear the fence and he would be free. But before he could get over, the Cobra Kai bullies caught up to him and pulled him back down. Imagine as Daniel took the beating, the old maintenance man sat in his room listening. Imagine him having the power to intervene but choosing not to. The movie would be one of tragedy, not a tale of an outsider finding a mentor and defying the odds and winning the All-City Karate Tournament. But Mr. Miyagi did not sit idly by in his apartment. He chose not to commit injustice by doing nothing, but rather to do the noble thing. He chose to stand up for justice.

I was nine years old when I first watched The Karate Kid. I remember cheering with the rest of the crowd when Daniel-san landed his crane kick. Some memories just don’t go away. It was a time when the bad guy wasn’t the hero to be idolized. No, the real hero was the one who overcame his fear and released himself from the shackles of victim-hood. And the other hero in The Karate Kid, maybe the real hero, was the one who did not stand on the sidelines but acted when the time came.

 

The Virtue of Justice

What does it mean to live a just life? If right thoughts and right actions equal righteousness, can we be righteous? Our hope is that others treat us with justice. This of course is no guarantee, but it does not change our responsibilities. It is our responsibility to be honest in our deeds and in our words, and that we treat others with justice.

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Justice 5/8/2019: Impeccable Conduct

Fire and swords are slow engines of destruction, compared to the tongue of gossip. -Richard Steele

It can spread quickly and kill an honest person’s reputation. It is sad to see modern society embrace such tactics of destruction.

Living in the late 1600’s, Richard Steele understood the power and speed of gossip. Imagine if he lived in the world today. With the internet and social media, this malevolent power of gossip is amplified beyond anything he could have imagined. One misstep, one action perceived in the wrong way, and the world will be crying for justice. Even if there was no crime, one malicious barb could ruin your career and reputation overnight.

How can you survive in such a world? Live above the noise. Don’t be the one initiating the gossip. Don’t be the one listening to it. Be impeccable in how you conduct yourself. If your reputation is all you got. Protect it by keeping yourself to a higher standard.

Life is short, and truth works far and lives long: let us then speak the truth. –Arthur Schopenauer

The Virtue of Justice

What does it mean to live a just life? If right thoughts and right actions equal righteousness, can we be righteous? Our hope is that others treat us with justice. This of course is no guarantee, but it does not change our responsibilities. It is our responsibility to be honest in our deeds and in our words, and that we treat others with justice.

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Justice 4/17/2019

From good people you’ll learn good, but if you mingle with the bad you’ll destroy such soul as you had. -Musonius Rufus

Bad company corrupts good morals. Move up in this world by eliminating those that would hold you back.

Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Who are your five people? Do they elevate you to a higher standard of living? Do they challenge you and make you a better individual?

Solomon in the first chapter of Proverbs talks about those who would entice you to join with them in evil. Solomon says, “My son, do not walk in the way with them, hold back your foot from their path! He knew that if you hung out with them the peer pressure would be too great. It may seem like an extreme example, but it is one that is all too real for the innocent youth.

A less extreme example would be those toxic friends, coworkers, and family members that are always around. Their constant complaining and bitterness is infectious. You could justify their behavior as just a part of their personality. But spend enough time in their presence, and before too long, their poison will spread to you. After all, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

What is the solution? Cut out the cancer before it spreads. If you cannot remove them from your life completely, spend less time with them. It may seem cold, especially if it is a family member. But what would you rather have? You could be like them, or you could be better.

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The Virtue of Justice

What does it mean to live a just life? If right thoughts and right actions equal righteousness, can we be righteous? Our hope is that others treat us with justice. This of course is no guarantee, but it does not change our responsibilities. It is our responsibility to be honest in our deeds and in our words, and that we treat others with justice.

Trust the Process

The seed goes into the ground. It is nourished and watered every day for five years. After the fifth year, the seed breaks through the ground. In a matter of weeks, it is an eighty foot tree. This is the Chinese Bamboo tree.

I have never heard about this tree until I listened to this short clip by Les Brown.

Imagine being charged with the task of caring for this seed. Miss one day in the five years, and you could jeopardize the seed breaking through the earth. Fully aware of the consequences, you do your task. You trust the process, knowing that if you are faithful until the end, you will reap the rewards. You know what it reminds me of?

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” –Matthew 17:20

There is a seed within me. For decades, it was dormant. It wasn’t getting the nutrients and the water it needed to break through. A little over a year ago, I started to cultivate it. It was time to do the work of a gardener and get busy with life’s purposes. I am on year two and part of me is frustrated. I see seeds sprouting in those around me. When will my seed break through? I have to remind myself I am still in the early stages. I don’t know how long it will take, but I do know that I must continue to water and fertilize.

I tell myself, “I’m gonna move that mountain.” This seems like an impossible task, until I am reminded of the words of Confucius. He said, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away a small stone.” A small stone at a time means the mountain won’t be moved in a day. This is faith in action. I believe the mountain can be moved, and so I chip away a bit at a time. Faith and persistence. Water and fertilizer.

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Photo by Pablo Azurduy on Unsplash

What does the gardener gain from the five years of nurturing the seed? Is it the tree? It may be the only thing the world sees or even judges, but there is more than just the tree. There is the gardener. Not the same person who started the journey five years ago, but a new person. A different person.

Trust the process. Have Faith. Persist. Water and fertilize.

To be successful, you must be willing to do the things today others won’t do in order to have the things tomorrow others won’t have. -Les Brown

3 Take-A-Ways from an Ultra Runner

20 years ago as I soldier, I could run at a 6:30 minute-a-mile pace for about 20-30 minutes. It wasn’t great, but it was a whole lot better than what I can do now. I don’t know if I will ever be able to hold that pace again, though I going to work toward it. Today, I did 6 intervals at that pace for a little over a minute and a half. I have a long ways to go.

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On occasion, my mind is firing with all kinds of thoughts while I am running. If I am lucky, I can remember one or two of them after the run is over. Today, I was fortunate to remember a few of them thanks to a Fathering Podcast I listened to yesterday evening. On the March 15, 2019 episode: The Ultra Running Mindset with Rob Irr, Rob mentioned his three biggest take-a-ways from running:

  • You can always give a little extra. There is always more in the tank. This became my mantra as I got near the end of each interval. Push a little harder. You’ve got more. Get to the end. The temptation is always there to pull up a little short. But even though my body may still reap some benefits from a shortened workout, my mind will not. Pulling up short will not help me overcome adversity in the future. If I start making allowances for not getting to the end in running, where else will I make allowances in life?

There is no person living who isn’t capable of doing more than they think they can do. –Henry Ford

  • Whatever you practice on consistently, you will get better. I want to run faster. How do I do it? I practice running faster. I don’t think there is any other way to put it. Want to do hard stuff? Then practice doing hard stuff. Do you want to make better food choices? Make better choices. Don’t buy the garbage to begin with. Don’t put yourself into a situation where your diet can be compromised. Tell your friends and family that you want to eat better. Ask them to hold you accountable.

Once you recognize that you are off the path, then you should only have one objective. Get back on the path.

The only way I can improve on anything is through consistent practice. It is the message I tell my son. It is the message I tell myself daily. Practice. And then practice some more.

Practice, the master of all things. –Augustus Octavius

  • Sticking with it. Rob’s final point was to finish the race. He talked about seeing some competitors nearly completing the race but being unable to finish. It led me to my own question: Can I finish? Can I finish the training? Can I finish the races I sign up for? All the things I set out to do, the goals, the dreams, the higher quest I feel like I am on, can I finish?

Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending. –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

These are the life principles of an athlete who has the ability to run races over a hundred miles. They are principles that go beyond running and can be applied to any endeavor we choose to pursue. Its effect on me was almost immediate. I hope the value extends to the reader as well.

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I have been running with the Charity Miles App for a little over a year as a member of the #0445Club. If you are a runner or a walker, consider downloading the app. It is a great way to support a wide variety of charities around the world.

Why I Am Running: Mental Warfare

I’ve started running again. Not dabbling as I have done before. Seriously running. I am still trying to figure out why. I can’t go very long. I am not very fast. But for some reason, I feel compelled to run.

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

This morning, I woke up at 3:45. By 4:15, I was out the door. My goal: to run 4 laps in the neighborhood. Each lap is 1.3 miles. If finish it, I will have racked up over 5 before the rooster has even started crowing.

Every morning, I go out with a goal in mind. In order to achieve that goal, I have to follow the plan. It starts when the alarm goes off. 

 Get dressed.
 Drink water.
 Lace up the boots.
 Get out the door.

One misstep throws off the timing. One moment of indecision and the plan could go by the wayside.

In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. –Abraham Maslow

Getting out the door is the first step, but it is not the hardest one. The real test comes during the run.

It is early. It is quiet and cold. I am all alone with the exception of a few early morning commuters. There is nobody here to push me. Nobody to tell me to keep going. At any moment I could stop, and none would be the wiser. Along my route, the opportunity is always present to take the next turn for home. There is a hundred reasons why it would be okay to stop, a hundred reasons to call it quits.

There is a war raging within me on every run. A battle between running and walking, going and stopping, persisting and quitting. My body doesn’t want anything to do with it. My mind says buck up and learn to do the hard things.

The war rages between my body and my mind. The same war that began at 3:45 when my mind told my body to get up. It is a war that has been going on my entire life. Will I do what the body wants to do, or will I obey my mind?

If you are ruled by your mind you are a king; if by body, a slave. –Cato

I have a picture in my mind. It is a version of myself that is faster and has the ability to conquer long distances, all while injury-free. Without this belief, I would never run. But I do believe, and so, I run. I am willing to find out if that which is in mind can become reality. Can my mind truly conquer my body? And if it can…

What else could it conquer?

Imagine a king. What the king wills shall be done. Within reason, a good king could go anywhere, could do anything. A king is like the mind. A good mind, within reason, could go anywhere, could will the body to do anything. Would you be king or would you be ruled by the body?

We all have it within us to go out and be the conquerors of our own bodies. To do so is simple. It is not easy, but it is simple. You do the work. Every day. You don’t give in to the desires of the flesh. You choose differently. You take the courageous step to be different. And if your mind wills it, the body will obey.

By the way, 5.2 miles this morning before the first of the cock-a-doodle-doos.

11 Tips for Banking Your Time

Time is the coin of life. Only you can determine how it is to be spent. -Carl Sandberg

You only have so much in the bank. The sad truth is that there is no making deposits into this account to garner more time. Maybe with diet and exercise you can maximize your allotment, but even that is no guarantee.

Photo by Dmitry Moraine (@wildbook) on Unsplash

You will never know when the Banker closes your account permanently, but until then you can:

 Spend it wisely: “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” –Charles Darwin
 Keep it in perspective: “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
 Balance as you go: “Lost! Somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.” –Horace Mann
 No credit solution: “Of all losses, time is the most irrecuperable for it can never be redeemed.” –King Henry VIII
 Find the value: “Believe me when I tell you that thrift of time will repay you in after life with usury of profit beyond your most sanguine dreams, and that waste of it will make you dwindle alike in intellectual and moral stature beyond your darkest reckoning.” –William Gladstone
 Get a return on your investment: “I say, let no one rob me of a single day who isn’t going to make a full return on the loss.” Seneca
 Work on the micro: “Don’t count the days, make the days count.” –Muhammad Ali
 Remember you are the authorized user: “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you are the pilot.” –Michael Althsuler
 Settle up every night: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
 Everybody else is at the bank too, so don’t be a turd: “Start every day off with a smile and get over it.” –W.C. Fields
 Savor every bit of it: “Do not spoil the wonder with haste.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

The sand is running. Cherish each grain.