Day 167: Starting to See Results

The last few weeks have been extremely busy around our house.  We are now T-minus 6 days from the grand opening of my wife’s shop, my son’s first birthday is this week, and summer rugby is kicking into gear.  Posts have been sporadic from me because of the time it has taken to get the shop into shape.  I’ve been putting in a lot of late nights there, painting, building, cutting, moving, etc… All the grunt work that goes into opening a place of your own has been my flavor of the month lately.

However, I have been trying very hard to keep up with the rest of my commitments, and this past weekend I saw some tangible evidence that my working out is paying off.  My Father’s Day gift from my wife was a day to myself, and I chose to drive to Rockford, IL for a rugby tournament.  This particular tournament is not a team tournament; all players enter their names into a hat, and teams are chosen at random.  A full day of rugby is played with your new teammates in a double elimination tournament.  Close to 150 ruggers were present this year.

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My team won the whole tournament, and I could tell a big difference in my fitness and strength on the field.  It would have been difficult to make a judgement on my progress in just one or two games but over the course of 6 matches, while playing in both my usual position and out of position, I could tell that my stamina is greatly increased and my confidence is up.  My tackles are stronger and I was able to break out of a few attempted tackles easier than I could have before.

I long ago resigned myself to the fact that it is very difficult for me to put on weight (muscle), especially without having much time to be able to dedicate to lifting heavy.  But even doing the pushups, ab work and stretching every day has been good.  At the beginning of the year, I was having to do 3-4 sets of 10-15 pushups to meet my goal of 50.  Now, I am able to do sets of 50 and I’ve upped my daily goal to 100.  I can see a difference when I look at myself in the mirror, but it’s never enough.  However, I’m ok with that, at this point.  My goal this year wasn’t to pack on weight, it was to get in better shape, and I am well on my way there.

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It’s important to not lose sight of your main objective.  As I said, my goal isn’t to get jacked and ripped, it’s to be in shape.  I would be down on myself right now had my desire been the muscle mass.  But I knew I couldn’t devote the time and energy necessary to achieve that, so I chose a different target.  If, somewhere along the way, I put that size on, then it’s a bonus bit of icing for me.

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I’ll be posting some pictures of some woodwork that I did for the shop.  I’m quite proud of how it turned out, and every project has gotten better.  The desk that I built is functional and helpful, but a little ugly.  I’ve learned from those mistakes, however, and the new projects look great!

Other news?  It’s summer.  Fully, hotly, humidly summer.  I’m considering breaking out the A/C tonight to help us sleep.

As always: This is simply my journal as I try to better myself. I hope it inspires you to focus on yourself. Make 2013 YOUR year.
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Day 136: Amy’s Baking Company – A Lesson in Criticism

Ever seen a full-fledged self-inflicted meltdown?  If you’d like, spend 20 minutes to watch the second half of Kitchen Nightmares from last week.  Without a doubt, you’ll get a shock.

If you don’t have 20 minutes (regretfully, because this is almost must-watch TV), I’ll distill it in concise bullet points:

  • Gordon Ramsey, chef and TV personality, was brought in to Amy’s Baking Company to help save a failing restaurant.
  • The owners, Sammy and Amy – but most specifically head chef Amy- appear to be the most stubborn and pig-headed people you will come across between here and Timbuktu.
  • When Ramsey tried to help, she refused it, threw a fit, then another fit followed by another and another…
  • She lied to customers, fired a waitress for asking which table food was supposed to go to, and refused to listen to constructive criticism about her food.
  • Ultimately, Ramsey walked out of a restaurant for the first time in the show’s history (almost 100 episodes), refusing to help.

So why bring up a TV show?

Well, to be perfectly honest, because it’s a beautiful lesson in self-delusion.  Amy deflected every single piece of criticism leveled at her by blaming others, attempting to turn the tables, and acting offended.  According to the show, she and her husband have fired more than 100 employees in the last year alone.  Judging by her actions (and his) on camera, I wouldn’t doubt that the figure is pretty close to accurate.

Furthermore, Amy and Sammy took to the glorious interwebz to begin to attack everyone who commented on the show and their portrayal, via Facebook, Yelp, Reddit and Twitter.  The posts are clearly the work of someone who believes themselves to be infallible, complete with putdowns, threats and name-calling.  Judging by what I saw on the show, it’s not a stretch to believe who is behind the posts (hint: I think there is an A, M and a Y in the name).  And finally, to top the entire thing off, the couple tried to spin everything that occurred in the last 6 days as being the work of a hacker.  Interestingly, their responses after the hack claim bear striking similarities to those that are the work of the supposed hacker.

Once again…why bring this up?  Sometimes we can’t be told how we should handle a situation, we have to be shown how not to handle a situation.  In this case, the situation warranted constructive criticism.  Amy’s dishes were subpar, thus her restaurant was failing.  Overlay your own personal experience with a difficult situation.  Do you react the same way?  Do you deflect blame?  Do you make excuses?  Do you refuse to listen to someone who is trying to help you?

Lord knows I’ve done all three.  I’m the last person to tell you how you need to react.  I’ve had moments in my personal life and moments in my professional life where I lashed out because I felt hurt over a failure.  Part damaged pride, part guilt for failure, but it was all my reaction.  I’ve had to learn the hard way to admit when I am wrong, and I still don’t do it all the time.

That is perhaps our biggest failure as a species.  Our failure to admit when we are wrong.  We come up with all sorts of excuses.  We blame others.  We scapegoat.  We lash back in anger.  And ultimately, we fail.  If we could learn to listen to criticism with an open ear in the first place, and do so without allowing our feelings to get hurt, we could avoid so much prolonged pain and suffering.

It remains to be seen how Amy’s Baking Company fares.  My gut tells me this one will go down in flames.  There will be more people actively seeking to bring the restaurant down than there will be loyal customers.  Call it public schadenfreude, call it mass retribution, call it whatever you want.  The failure to grasp social media will ultimately be Amy and Sammy’s private waterloo, ending a losing campaign that began with a food blogger’s poor review in 2010.

The lesson for you and me:  handle the critics gracefully.  You never know when America will be watching.

Day 111: Laughing In The Face

So I received this comment the other day via email regarding this blog.

“One mans journey into discovering that having no sustainabel roll in ilfe can be masked a narsissistic blog.   Step away from the computer and get a life….and stop thinking the world might have any interest in your banelity.”

Unsurprisingly, the comment was anonymously signed “Trixie”.  Saying nothing of the poor grammar and spelling, I couldn’t help but laugh at the comment.  It’s the first negative comment I’ve received on this blog since I began.  And frankly, I couldn’t care less.

To Trixie, allow me to reiterate what I end most of my posts with:

As always: This is simply my journal as I try to better myself. I hope it inspires you to focus on yourself. Make 2013 YOUR year.

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I can’t blame her for her anger.  The internet provides a wonderful venue for venting frustrations on others because you can do so with little chance of interaction or reprisal.  Very likely, she has an honest-to-goodness reason to be angry about something, and for some reason, my blog set her off.  I don’t know her story.  I don’t know what happened to her yesterday.  I don’t know if there is something that I said that offended her.  There are a lot of things I don’t know.  One thing that I do know, however, is this:  I don’t care about your negative comments.

Aside from the fact that you have provided me with an opportunity to write a post about sloughing off criticism, I don’t care about what you said, Trixie.  If someone wants to read my blog, they can.  If they don’t, they are not forced to.  In fact, I haven’t asked any of my friends on FB to Like my page in the hopes of increasing numbers.  I haven’t advertises this blog.  I rarely mention it in my day-to-day life amongst my friends.  It’s simply my carthartic outlet.  I don’t pretend it to be anything else.

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Criticism, when offered constructively, is not a bad thing.  We should cherish those friends who care enough to point out flaws in the hopes of helping us become better.  In a workplace, constructive criticism given in a positive fashion leads to progress.  On the athletic fields, it creates results.  Criticism, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing.

It is also important to note the way criticism is given.  When given with care and passion, it shows a desire to change something for the better – we can call this positive-oriented criticism.  When given with anger and venom, it shows a lack of faith or unhappiness in the giver – we can call this negative-action criticism.  How we choose to respond to criticism says the most about ourselves.  We can shrug it off, listen to it, or dwell on it.  If we dwell on negative criticism, we expend energy to something that truly doesn’t even involve us; it involves the giver.  If we shrug off positive criticism, we risk not ever progressing.  The best advice is to listen to the critic and consider their intentions.  If they have your interest at heart, pay attention.  If not, let it go.

My favorite quote of all time about criticism:
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 As always: This is simply my journal as I try to better myself. I hope it inspires you to focus on yourself. Make 2013 YOUR year.
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Day 104: A Life Event

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I borrow the picture and title for this blog for a specific purpose.  Please, when you have  a chance, head over to Evan Sanders’ blog The Better Man Projects and read this post.

Evan, I discovered* early this year, has been doing something similar to my goal with this blog – blogging about his journey to be a better man.  Except he started last year.  And he is far more eloquent with his words than I am.  And he has bigger plans.

Part of his plan was to publish a book, which he accomplished this past spring.  He is a published author, embarked on a career change, and seemingly was on top of the world. Yet, while we who follow along were thinking he has it all together, Evan was going through a much darker time in his own mind.

I want to share his post from the other day because it speaks so clearly to all of us.  We all battle our own inner-voice that tells us that we are not successful.  Too often we measure ourselves against where it is that we want to be, instead of measuring how far we’ve come.  This voice of doubt can come creeping in and steal away everything we have worked for, leaving us even more lost and hopeless.

Even in those moments of darkest despair, however, there is always hope.  I don’t want to paraphrase Evan’s insights, so I will simply encourage you to read his post.

“No matter how dark things become, there is always light. You can miss it if you aren’t looking for it.”
Evan Sanders, The Better Man Projects

*It is more appropriate to say that Evan discovered my blog.  He liked my blog shortly after I went live, no doubt suggested to him via WordPress based on similar titles.  I saw his “like” and checked his out and was -and still am- in awe of how much he accomplished last year. 

 As always: This is simply my journal as I try to better myself. I hope it inspires you to focus on yourself. Make 2013 YOUR year.
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