Day 92: One Quarter In

 

keep-calm-and-check-progress-5So now that I am one-quarter of the way through this year, I took the opportunity to revisit some of my goals to see where I stand…

Physically:  I’ve been able to get a workout in every single day.  Some days, that workout consists of 50 pushups as I get ready to crawl into bed.  Some days it’s a full, heavy weight session at the gym.  But I’ve done some sort of muscle punishing workout every single day.  I’ve seen some results, too.  Nothing too tremendous, but enough that I’m happy with my progress.

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Day 4

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Day 89

No, I’m probably never going to be huge.  I resigned myself to that my senior year of high school.  Nor do I want to, as my wife claims she doesn’t like overly muscular dudes.  So that’s good.  But I am happy with my results so far.

Reading:

I’ve completed a number of books so far, but I’m slightly behind pace.  I realize that, but I’m not freaking out too badly by that, because when I get into a fiction book, I usually devour it.

Skills:

I’m pleased with my progress.  I’ve made a desk, learned to identify a lot of birds (which reminds me, we’ve seen our first robin in the yard), and I’m progressing towards my first belt in karate.

Running:  

Again, pleased with where I am.  I’m slightly off pace, but that will all change as rugby season comes into full swing this spring.  I run a lot during the spring and fall seasons.  So anywhere that I am behind, I will make it up very soon.  In addition, we’ve got our first adventure race of the season coming up in two weekends.  I’m excited to be running with my wife.  Also, I love my Vibram Five Fingers.

People Who Matter:
I’m a little behind on this, but several upcoming posts include more than one person, so I will be back to pace very shortly.

So that’s it.  A brief look at the first quarter.  I’m sure I could be more in depth, but none of this matters to you.  What really matters here is you.  Is this inspiring you to do something better?  Does it help you continue on a path you’ve wanted to walk?  In the end, that’s what I hope to do…inspire you.

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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 78: “Pretty Good With the Bo Staff”

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This is a gi (uniform).  I don't have one.

This is a gi (uniform). I don’t have one.

We busted out the bo staffs in karate class tonight.  NERVE WRACKING!  I’m the only student in class without a belt.

The next lowest belt in class is an 11-year old girl with a green belt!  In case you’re wondering, let’s just say that makes me the newbie by several years, despite having two decades of age on her.  I don’t even have a gi…I train in scrub pants and a long sleeved shirt.  Ergo, I have no business going up against my classmates when they have a weapon in their hands.

However, that left me with only two options.  One, sit it out.  Miss class.   Fail to learn something.  Not have any fun.

Or two, participate.  And when you participate against people swinging 7 foot hunks of wood in your direction, you better be fully participating!  No half-trying or going slow.  I needed to be focused, rely on my athletic skills, and react as best I could.

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How’d I do?  Well, I made it out of class without any injuries!  Granted, we weren’t actually sparring with each other, but those things pack a punch even if you’re just practicing blocking one another.

“That’s all well and good, brosef, but what’s your point?”

My point is this: You can’t be afraid to try new things just because you might be the only one who doesn’t get it.

And this:  If you’re going to try something new, give it everything you’ve got.  Otherwise, you’ll end up getting hurt.

Oh, and I guess this:  If you’re new to the bo staff, don’t expect to have skills as sweet as Napoleon Dynamite.

Had I not tried, I wouldn’t have had fun.  Had I gone half-speed, I would have wound up with a bruise or three.  Had I gotten a bruise, I might not have tried it again.  I enjoyed the heck out of myself in class tonight.  I never would have learned that, in all honesty, my hand-eye coordination from all my years of other sports lend themselves very well to using a weapon.  I’m actually pretty good at it.  For a beginner.

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You never know what you’ll discover when you try and try hard.

What are you failing to discover?

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 44: Conversations with a Friend

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Confession:  I’m not the most gifted writer.  I don’t have Hemingway’s conciseness, nor King’s ideas, nor Shakespeare’s gift with words.  I find myself critiquing my blog against other, more popular blogs, and always coming away wanting.  Every time I get down on myself, however, I think three thoughts:  1, it doesn’t matter, I’m not doing this for adoration.  2, practice makes perfect.  3, with dedication, I can overcome.

On that note, I had the opportunity to have lunch yesterday with a very close friend.  Among the many topics we discussed was his confession that he follows this blog and has been trying to use it as inspiration for bettering himself.  However, he has trouble maintaining focus beyond a week or so.  It feeds a vicious cycle…he’ll work out for 4 or 5 days, then go 4 or 5 days without working out.  This leads to a desire to work out, so he promises to work out again.  Rinse, lather, repeat.

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It’s a tough cycle to break.  The only way to do so requires intense dedication for a few weeks.   A friend once told me that when it came to cracking your sweet tooth urges, it requires three entire weeks of completely abstaining from sugar.  Her reasoning?  The average taste bud is regenerated every 7 days.  So you have to see to it that the current generation of taste buds is completely gone, as they have the taste.  Then you have to wait 7 days so the next generation never sends the sugar signals to the brain and the nerves begin to “forget”.  Finally, you have to wait one more generation to ensure you’ve completely destroyed those taste pathways.

I realize this is far from scientific, and I can guarantee it has no basis in actual taste bud science or biology.  But it is an interesting thought.  Change requires discipline.  You have to be dedicated to not giving in to your cravings in order to change.  Do you actually change your taste buds?  I doubt it.  What you do is develop new habits and new desires.

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I used to eat McDonald’s almost every day.  In high school, as a growing boy with a sky-high metabolism who constantly played sports, I could eat anything I wanted and not see the effects (outside, at least).  What better way to sate a hunger than three Big Mac’s every day for lunch?  For years, I continued to eat McD’s when available, until I watched the documentary Super Size Me.  It’s not so much that it turned me off of greasy hamburgers as it piqued my curiosity to try a similar experiment –  in reverse.  I committed myself to not eating any fast food for two months.  Those two months turned into almost 6 months, and on the day that I finally broke down and had some fast food…well, let’s just say that I felt the difference.  Within an hour of eating, I was gassy, felt bloated, and actually lost energy.  My body wasn’t used to the preservatives, low quality ingredients and fat in the food, so it didn’t react well.

The point is this:  My desires and cravings changed when I forced myself to abstain from them.  The same has happened to me over the first 6 weeks of this year.  I used to have to drag myself away from the television late at night to go to bed.  After a full day of work, taking care of kids, cooking and evening chores, all I wanted was to shut my brain off.  TV was an all-to-convenient way to do so.  I would head downstairs, plop my feet up on the couch, and veg.   This year, however, I made it a point not to watch TV in the evenings (notable exceptions:  Super Bowl, Grammys, big special events).  I’ve discovered lately that I no longer have a desire to turn on the boob tube.  Instead, when I get downstairs, the first thing I want to do is either run on the treadmill or start working out.  As soon as that is over, I find myself either blogging for the day or cracking open whatever books I am reading.  It took 40 days for me to realize it.  40 days to change my thinking, my habits and my desires.

In the grand scheme of things, 40 days is a blink.  Have you ever given up anything for Lent?  That’s 40 days.  The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a shade under 40 days.  Think about the last time you took a nice vacation that you were looking forward to.  In the month leading up to it, were you counting down the days?  That month was almost 40 days.

Trust me, 40 days is doable.

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As I ran today at the gym, I was thinking about this post.  How could I wrap it up?  Then it dawned on me.  I was running, and I wasn’t even thinking about it.  Several weeks ago, I would have been concentrating on the ticking off the miles, half miles, quarters and tenths of a mile until I was done.  But today?  Today I was focused elsewhere.

That sums up the shift that has happened for me perfectly.  By throwing myself wholeheartedly into this endeavor, I’ve begun to change habits in myself.  It took dedication, because Lord knows there were nights I didn’t want to read my devotional or crank out pushups.  I had to force it.  As I said before, it’s becoming routine for me to almost wander into workouts unconsciously.  I now love reading my books at night.  I feel bad if I don’t post serious thoughts to my blog.  I love it.  I’m becoming disappointed by the things that used to be my goals!

That’s the sign of progress.  When you begin to leave one horizon behind in search of a new horizon, you know you’re moving forward.

And you can quote that.

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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 33, Desk Action

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It’s a messy weekend around the house.  I tore out the old buffet area in our dining room so I could make a “mommy station” for my wife.  The plan is to put in a desk with several hanging file drawers for all of our bills and expenses, and several other multi-use drawers.  I want to make sure she has enough outlets for her computer, the charging stations for the camera and video camera, and whatever else she might need.  I also will be installing shelving units to help her stay organized.

The test of this entire thing is that I’m not doing it prefab.  I’m building the desk, drawers, shelves and facing from scratch.  I’m using this as an opportunity to help complete another skill I’ve been dying to improve upon: my drafting/woodworking ability.

I designed the desk last summer, but this was the first opportunity I had to actually try to complete this project.  It’s very cathartic to be doing something that has been on the to-do list for so long.  Honestly, it’s kind of an analogy for my life so far this year:  I’ve finally gotten off my duff to do the things I’ve always wanted to do.  I don’t know if the desk will turn out exactly like I how I picture it in my mind, nor do I know if what I will be like when this year is over.  But I do know that my home will be better off with this desk, as will my life with my commitments.

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ONE MONTH GOAL UPDATE: In one short month, I’ve already begun to see changes in me.  My concentration and focus have improved, as has my desire to do my job better.  Physically, I’m already clearly in better shape.  My wife even commented that I look a little larger physically, and I can put in two miles at a good hard pace without tiring as easily as I used to.  I’ve upped my pushup routine to 60-75 per day minimum, and I’ve added chair dips and single leg squats to my routine.  I’ve been able to get in some sort of a workout every single day so far.

I’ve also kept up with my readings.  I’ve done my daily devotional every night, knocked out two books so far and started two more.  As mentioned, I’m going to get some of my woodworking goals taken care of this weekend with the desk. I’ve run 14.5 miles thus far, and if I were to count by the average of .5 miles per day, I should be at 16.5, so not far off.

Most importantly, I’ve really begun to learn some things about myself.

  1. When I put my mind to something, I can do it.
  2. I work best when I’m holding myself accountable to someone else.
  3. I used to waste a LOT of time.

I’m disappointed because I haven’t done either of the following: finished any of my 13 classic movies or mastered any of my 12 dishes.  The movies are less concerning to me because if push came to shove I could knock them out in a few nights.  However, I like to really take time with learning my food, so I do need to get on the horse with my cooking.

Finally, we’ve really begun to have fun with our bird watching.  It’s become a contest between my wife and I to see if we can identify any new species that show up.  Today we finally ID’d a house finch that has been hanging around the last few days, so I’ve added him to the list.  It’s funny how you never notice things until you look for them.  Appropriate in more ways than one in our life.

“Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift.”
-Albert Einstein

“A bird doesn’t sing because  it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
-Lou Holtz

Day 22, The Why (Rated PG-13: L)

Last night, my wife looked at me and asked me point blank, “Why are you doing this?”

I had to think about that for a second.  I know what I’ve said before about why I am taking this challenge upon myself: I want to push myself, I want to be better, I want to remain motivated, yada yada yada.  But that wasn’t her question.  Her question was why am I doing this physically, mentally, spiritually and personally, all at once?  Why push myself in so many directions?  Why not focus on one aspect or focus in one direction?

Why, indeed, am I doing it all at once?

Hold on, let’s pause.  I need to gather my thoughts on this one…

(Now that I spent 5 minutes making a spiced apple cider to accompany this slice of Thin Mint Pie -healthy!- I’ll continue).

Consider this:

“He who is an athlete only is too crude, too vulgar. He who is a scholar only is too soft. The ideal citizen is the scholar athlete, a person of thought and a person of action.”
-Plato

I have my college football head coach to thank for turning me on to that quote.  Coach Pole may have been quoting the philosopher as a means to implore us to go to class, but knowing the kind of man he was, he was also pushing us to think a little deeper.  What exactly was Plato talking about?

Was Plato decrying either athletes or scholars?  I don’t think so.  I think he was instead exhorting his fellow men to do it all.  Plato was describing the jack-of-all-trades, master of none.  He’s stating that you don’t have to be oxen-strong to succeed, or be grandmaster-smart to make it.   He was preaching balance.  I think it’s something that is dreadfully missing in our society today.  America has become a service driven economy, where you are only as good as your best skill, and that’s what you earn your money for.  As a result we are a society of individuals who, if thrown to the figurative wolves, couldn’t survive because we’ve honed our skills with rarely more than one or two focuses.  Unfortunately, in keeping up with the Joneses, we lose sight of a balanced life.

I didn’t want to be like this.  Yes, I have my skills for which I am rewarded in my business, but I am NOT my job.  To hearken back to a movie I posted a few quotes from two days ago –

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Chuck Palahniuk’s Tyler Durden is uncouth, uncensored, agnostic and nihilistic, but he’s also right in so many ways.  The only thing that defines me is me.  I can choose to let myself deny that and become defined by my job, my income, my neighborhood, car, family, or any other of myriad things that could define me.  Or, I can choose to define myself.

I choose to define me.

Plato said it: scholar and athlete, thought and action.  This is why I choose to do it all.  Because I can.  I want to be stronger, faster, fitter, and look better for my wife.  And I can.  I want to be more well-read, hopefully understand things better and increase my knowledge.  And I can.  I want to have more skills that I can draw upon if and when I need to.  And I can.  I want to know my God better, love my family better, show my friends that I care more, and improve myself for future opportunities.  And I can.  I want to have more memories, look back with more fondness, and realize a better future as a man.  AND I WILL.

So why am I doing this?  Because I want to.

Manliness.

Manliness.

Quick Goal Updates:  I finished Captivating two nights ago, and have begun Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.  I ran another 1.5 miles today on the treadmill (because it’s freaking -14F outside!) and did a light, and I mean verlight, yoga workout tonight after putting the kids to bed, before eating the aforementioned pie.  Between my wife and I, we’ve been identifying a lot of birds at the backyard feeders; we’re up to 7 different types that visit us regularly.  I’m already sketching out a new feeder I want to build to entice jays and orioles.  I can’t remember if I said this already, but my friend Jon and I have already picked out the 14’er we’ll be climbing this summer: Mt Bierstadt in Colorado.  I lost temporarily misplaced the devotional book my wife got me for Christmas, so I have been reading a different devotional online every day.

I’ve begun linking up to blogs and sites that I like to check for motivation, insight and inspiration.  If you’re a guy reading this, chances are you might like this site:  The Art of Manliness.  It’s a great site for out-of-the-ordinary ideas and lost skill sets, all done rather humorously and easy-to-read.

As for me?  This is my part of the journey.  I would love to hear about what is driving and motivating you.  We’re starting to creep up in numbers, so let’s keep up the good work and motivate each other.

As always: This is my journal. I hope it inspires you. Make 2013 your year.
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