Time goes by…or I’ve wasted a lot of time that’s gone by…

Summer 2019 has been one of extremes. Chaperoned a trip to Peru, time with my girls, a productive July, and now what feels to be a squandered August. School is about to start?! How did that happen? And I didn’t do any of the planning and prep work I said I would?

I barely even went to the beach!!

I know, first world problems…

But seriously, plenty of indecision and time wasted this month. Sure, I can complain that I don’t have large blocks of uninterrupted time. Can’t say I’ve done much with that time though. It’s like I’ll feel guilty if I work out too late in the day…but it’s usually the Resistance that got me that late without training. Today for instance: had some quality time with Lucky the Shepherd and took BG for lunch. Other than that? Two quick trips of yard waste to recycling and sold my 1988-89 Fleer Basketball card set (for only $60, a steal!). And wasted a lot of time on the socials and overall…

Wandered off “The Path” and landed in Westeros…

First a word of warning: this post will contain SPOILERS for George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books as well as the Game of Thrones HBO series…

While I started eating all kinds of junk before Thanksgiving 2018, my physical and mental slide didn’t hit its stride until after Christmas Eve.  No mileage and only a few gym visits or workouts in January…not even my foam rolling and Zach’s lower back protocol (Zach Even Esh Lower Back Protocol) . About mid-December, I was also feeling burned out from books and podcasts.  I just wanted something to read or listen to without feeling the need to highlight, underline, mark passages, take notes, use for class, or otherwise “take action” on. So this led me to the local library, and what do I come across in the fiction section but A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by NJ’s own George R. R. Martin (GRRM on Twitter)?  It’s sort of a Game of Thrones prequel story, so I wouldn’t be committing to the whole GoT series.  Not that I had a problem with GoT: I mean, I’m an old-school Dungeons & Dragons geek and I love Lord of the Rings, so GoT should be in my wheelhouse.  These days, I rarely read fiction though, let alone some stuff from my fantasy, swords and sorcery roots.  And GoT is this pop-culture phenomenon: seven seasons of TV, thousands of pages of reading, a whole collection of single malt scotch (GoT Single Malts) (and of course, Johnnie Walker White Walker White Walker Johnnie)…so a major commitment I didn’t necessarily want to get involved with.  That being said Knight was only a collection of three short stories that took place in the same land and universe, but a 100 years prior…should be safe enough right?

Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed Knight!  It brought me back to some younger, easier days.  Brought me back into a time of knights and dragons.  These tales were a bit lighter fare compared to GRRM’s turn in A Song of Ice and Fire.  I didn’t appreciate the significance of the Targaryen name or dynasty while I was reading it either.  That being said, SPOILER ALERT, there were certain things I knew about GoT because of its pop culture popularity: Jon Snow dies and comes back, there is a girl with dragons, etc.  I devoured Knight; my beautiful wife who loves to tease me about my reading (hey, historical books and non-fiction takes me longer to read, so what?) praised me on how quick I read this one.  I explained to her that the book was in the GoT universe and she asked if I was going to read them.  “Do you really want me to get into those?” I warned her, and myself, to no avail…

From mid-December through early February, I consumed, VORACIOUSLY, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons, Fire & Blood, most of A World of Ice & Fire, a book of essays about ASOIAF, ALL SEVEN SEASONS of the show, and dozens of theory videos!  I am on the bandwagon to say the least…and House Stark all the way, though I do love most of the characters.  Got two pairs of my House Stark socks, my King in the North! Shirt, and my Winter is Coming direwolf sigil on my car.  Looking to add the White Walker Johnny Walker and The Night’s Watch Oban to my collection as well.

I loved the books, but I consumed them too fast and with no critical eye.  It turns out that I should’ve been able to figure out the whole R+L=J just from my reading.  The reveal gets made in the show while Bran is training to be the Three-eyed Raven/Crow. The books made a couple overt references to who Jon Snow’s mother was, but nothing definitive.  Well, nothing definitive to the reader anyway, certain characters think they know. The way I consumed these reminds of me of when I finished “climbing the tower”: Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  Those I started after book four came out, but then there was a large gap in time till books five, six and seven came out.  I ended up waiting till they were all out and just absolutely crushed them, reading in almost every single available minute.  So I was reading more to “find out how it ends” as opposed to enjoying the ride. Though, I did feel King “jumped the shark” a bit when he wrote himself into the story with our heroes in modern America, but I digress.  Watching the show or some of these theory videos, there were elements I missed or forgot because of how quickly (and not so critically) consumed these.

Though, I am grateful to be late to the GoT party…it was until I started reading that I realized A Game of Thrones came out in August of 1996, just prior to my sophomore year at American U.  Had it come out one or two years earlier, I might have been on the train from the beginning. Then I find out that the last book, ADWD, came out in 2011…and Book Six, The Winds of Winter, still isn’t out yet!  At least in terms of TV, I get off real easy.  Season 7 of the show aired in July 2017…I just watched them all and only have to wait two months to see the finale season.  And I can not wait for that!  Well, I mean I can actually wait, have no choice really, but you know what I mean…

So what does the world of Westeros in A Song of Ice and Fire have to do with me not being on “the path” anymore?  I suppose it’s an easy excuse for me staying up too late reading/watching and then not getting up at 4:48 AM in the morning any more.  But per my man Charlie Brenneman (The Spaniard) if I really wanted to get up, I’d get up.  Or I’d do the things that would allow me to wake up easier.  So the question really is “why don’t I want to get up and train”?  My mileage wasn’t there, and just running one day a week with my guys in town isn’t enough for the NJ Half at the end of April.  Not hitting the gym is killing my pull-ups and push-ups, let alone what little good mobility/flexibility I’ve got. And surprisingly, despite how much time I’ve taken off, my left bicep strain is still there.  The only part of this toughness training I kept going was the cold showers. So what’s the deal? Great question…I’d say to some extent, I had been resting on my laurels since the height of my fitness for the Spartan Ultra Beast in Killington (the Ultra Beast) waaaay back in September of 2015.  Recently, I’ve been sliding back into “normal” territory, certainly not trying to be “harder to kill” or “gas station ready”. I can make all the excuses I want, but men and women with a lot harder stories and lives than I’ve got manage to get it done.

All is not lost however, which I’m sure you’re happy to read if you’re actually still reading.  I had thrown in some gym visits in January, and some ZEE bodyweight circuits too. The last three weeks have seen a revival of actual mileage and half marathon training.  I like my new pair of Altra Escalantes, though I kept the wrong size (a story for a different post). I’ve resumed my journaling to a small extent, finished Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings and the notes on it, and am writing this blog post.  So, despite my sojourn in Westeros, I’m finding my way back to “the Path”…thanks for reading!  If you’re a fan of GoT or “the Path”, let me know in the comments!  

 

Back on the “warpath”?

Does two solid days of work outs and running constitute being back “on the warpath”? I hope so…been backsliding for far too long…

Every time I thought about arresting this fall and getting back to it, the mountain just seemed so daunting. While I wasn’t in world class shape by any means, I had gotten into my best shape for the Spartan Race Ultra Beast at Killington in 2015. And while I did test on my laurels and get a bit complacent, I kept up on running and training. I was training “for life” as my man Zach Even Esh likes to say.

Unfortunately, the complacency and excuses settled in. The next thing you know, I’ve slid a decent way down my mountain. My pants are right, I’ve put on weight, my gut is larger, and worst of all, I feel “human” or “normal”. I preach to my athletes and students about being “abnormal”, about doing the work, about not settling for mediocrity. They know me as a modern-day Spartan to some extent, but it’s time to earn that nickname again. As I begin the ascent again, I’m reminded how lucky I am to be able to “train for life”. Yesterday was another Memorial Day here in America. And while I didn’t partake in a “Murph” workout at my gym, I did get after it and break the best sweat I’ve had in some time. It is a privilege.

I had the opportunity to see Dierks Bentley in concert again here on the Shore. He opened with “The Mountain”, the title track from his new album out soon. What a great track and so timely as I stare up another mountain.

“It was only a mountain, nothing but a big ol’ rock, only a mountain, it ain’t hard if you don’t stop, it just took a little step, a right then a left then a couple million more, who’s counting? Yeah, that’s only a mountain.”

Thanks for reading…

Our “Total Money Makeover”

My wife and I have had varying levels of debt since our college days and the early days of our marriage.  At forty years old, we’re still carrying student loan debt.  When we rolled our student loans into one debt (the bulk of which are mine), my mindset was not good.  “This balance is so big we’ll be paying it off till our kids go to college!” (And we didn’t have kids yet!).  How I wish I could have that moment back.  For somebody who considers himself a positive person (and a motivator and coach), how I could let myself get away with that mindset is just awful…and weak.  I never had any urgency to try and pay it off early because the mountain of the debt just seemed so high.  A little over a week ago while we were having a household “money meeting”, Tracy threw a number at me. $40, 263.60…that’s how much money we’ve sent to our student loan over the last 10 years.  Since it’s still only primarily hitting the interest as opposed to the principal, we still owe that amount and more.  I was floored.  “Ya know, we’re like the only ones in our circle of friends that still have student loans.  Everybody else paid there’s off already.”  Wow.  This has gone on long enough.  We’ve gone through periods of time where we’ve been almost debt-free (minus those student loans and a car), but we always slide back down the mountain of debt.  NO MORE.

Enter Dave Ramsey and The Total Money Makeover (Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover).  You’ve probably seen him on YouTube or heard his radio show.  I’m not sure what podcast I was listening to that pointed me in his direction, but I got the book immediately.  I’m fired up!  Tracy and I have jumped into the Total Money Makeover, and I’ll be writing about it in this space.  Join us on our journey to being debt-free!  Hopefully, you’ll be inspired to join us and become debt-free yourself.  Or better yet, use it as a cautionary tale and not fall down the hole of debt in the first place!

Peaks and valleys, or the “name drop” episode

It’s been too long, so my apologies for the length on this one.  Credit to my man Jonny Stofko (@jonnystofko) for the shout-out Ungoogleable shout-out for getting me out of my stupor and lack of writing.  Jonny’s new podcast, Ungoogleable , has had some killer guests on already (Robert Greene and Tom Bilyeu to name a few)…check him out and follow him on the socials.  And now on to the latest post…

You ever have those times in your life where everything is on point?  Every decision you make is the right one, you’re in great physical shape, exhibiting mental toughness, or as Jocko (@jockowillink) says “unmitigated daily discipline in all things”, basically just getting after it! And then there are those times when it’s the total opposite.  You know what I’m talking about?  Where no decision is the right one, the snooze button, missing workouts and runs, tweaking this muscle or that muscle (leading to more missed workouts), arguing with your significant other…the times where you’re not just digging your own hole, but full-on, gleefully sliding down the damn mountain.  The peaks and valleys of life.

Resting on my laurels: in September 2015 I raced the Spartan Race Ultra Beast at Killington, VT.  I finished the 30 miles up and down Killington in just over 12 hours: quite an accomplishment for me!  Based on my 7 hour performance at the 2014 Killington Beast, I don’t think I would’ve finished the 2014 Ultra Beast before the time cut off.  From that “mountain top” of physical and mental preparedness and performance however, it was a slow, sneaky descent into a “valley” of losing those things.  The excuse was my coaching schedule prevented me from putting other races on the calendar as motivation, but if I truly believe I’m “training for life” as my man Zach Even-Esh (@zevenesh) says, that shouldn’t matter.  Another nugget I got from Zach was the difference between getting ready and staying ready.  If you stay ready for action, you never have to “get ready” for action or get back in shape.  Sometimes we press too much if we’re trying to get ready too fast.  Fast forward to today and I’ve had too many fits and starts trying to “get ready”.  I’ve run less than 10 miles in 2018, barely wrestled with any of my guys at practice, and my back seems to be constantly tweaked.  My Ultra Beast fitness seems so far away that the thought of starting is daunting.

I feel ordinary…Rather than getting fired up seeing my boy Charlie (@charliespaniard) crushing a 1000 push-ups in 36 minutes, it’s just demoralizing because it takes me 15 minutes to do a mere 200.  The mountaintop seems so far away, why start the climb?

Yet, look at the language I’m using, how I’m talking to and about myself…it’s negative and self-defeating.  I’ve got a lot going for me, no need to destroy myself with negative self-talk.  Andy Frisella, the MFCEO (@andyfrisella) has had some fire posts recently and it’s about time to start following through.  While recent episodes with Bedros Keuilian (@bedroskeuilian) and Charlie Jabaley (@charlie) have been awesome, it’s Episode #207 DRAW A LINE IN THE SAND that comes to mind.  Since then, I’ve drawn a line in the sand on two issues.  While there has been some backsliding, I’ve had a better mentality.  It’s time to move forward and do so with a more positive mental attitude.  Yes, I slipped up for a bit.  But that’s not me, that doesn’t define me.  I am moving forward and generating momentum with every positive action.  It still feels like a slog at times, but I’m getting the cloudiness out of my head.

Which brings us back to the process, to the journey. We’ve got to find joy in the process, in the work, and life can be simpler. For me, I need to remember this. Time to apply the Stoic discipline I read about: to BE about it. If I can do it, you can do it.  Thanks for reading and drop any thoughts below!

And so it begins…

With a new school year upon us, the test is here. It’s one thing to have morning routines and rituals, the “Get Strong” workout plan from the Kavadlo Brothers (Get Strong), miles with the #guts crew (Guts XC), and hanging out with my girls during the summer time. It’s something totally different to do that during the school year. And OBTW my beautiful wife and our new home too! I type these words on a school bus trying not to spill my bulletproof coffee all over me as I sip and type on my iPhone…we’re on our way to the first test of the season for my XC crew. To some extent, they face the same challenge I face (though they don’t have a mortgage, a beautiful blonde, two daughters and two cats at home): namely, balancing all their activities and still trying to accomplish our goal. My friend Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman (The Spaniard!) talks about living boldly….well we’ve set one bold, audacious goal: the first State Sectional title our school’s XC program has won since 1971. We’ve got one of the top runners in NJ, we’re senior heavy, and have four tremendous captains. One in particular has really taken the reins and is making the most of this opportunity. But it’s one thing to be committed during the summer time when all they had to do was run and hang out (or their summer job). It’s something totally different when my geniuses and Boy Scouts are juggling training, AP classes, work, and maybe a girlfriend.The test is here for all of us. Of course, that’s all life seems to be at times, a series of tests and challenges. Don’t take this as complaining, I’m grateful to be where I’m at with the challenges (read “opportunities”) that I face. Will we be successful? Will we achieve our goal of the title? Will we find that balance? Is it even possible? I certainly don’t want to “sell my soul” for the title or a Coach of the Year or Teacher of the Year award. I certainly don’t want to have the student-athletes in my care do that either, or get so hung up on the prize or the result that they miss this incredible journey we’re on. But, dammit, we want to win! I want to validate the sacrifice of time away from my girls with that title, with the pure and unadulterated joy and celebration that would happen on November 4 after the race. The Stoics would caution us though: what if you don’t win? You can’t control all the variables that go into winning the first State Sectional title since 1971. If you fall short, does that mean the sacrifice of time, sweat equity, and potential tears was meaningless? As an aspiring 21-first Century Stoic myself, I would say: “Of course it wasn’t meaningless! The Guts crew had a blast working to achieve that title. The Guts crew worked and worked for it. The Guts crew lived a “champion mindset” to be the best they could be. The Guts crew had each other’s backs, held each other accountable, picked each other (and their coach) up when necessary. The Guts crew simply tried to perfect the process daily.” And in so doing, made themselves, their coach, and the program all the better. It’s about the journey after all. I’m grateful to be on it with them, and grateful that my girls understand and allow me to do it.

End of Summer “Brain-dump”…

The “busy vs. productive” trap and the “Resistance”, the service industry, cross country practice, AMX, and some gratitude!

–I was determined to make the most of Summer 2017. Normally, my wife and I will take stock of what I got done (or usually not done) and I’ll bemoan the fact that it’s Labor Day already. Well, not this summer! Though I didn’t accomplish the entire “Summer 2017 To-Do List”, I feel very productive. BUT, there’s nothing like a convo with my better half to bring me back down to earth a little bit. And admittedly upon some reflection, there were too many incidents where I was “busy” not “productive”. I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t a little hot after that conversation, but she was right! Can’t rest on my laurels or feel too good about something that should be commended but not celebrated. She is my better half for a reason.

Unfortunately, it’s so easy to fall into that trap. The last few days have seen it rear its ugly head. I’ll have multiple items on “to-do” lists and try to set a priority item. If I decide I don’t want to do it, but feel that I should (a dangerous word) be doing it, I can’t seem to transition to another item on my list. Perhaps it’s not the priority item, but doing something else on my list would be a lot more productive than social media or “busy” computer time. Even posting on this blog would be more productive or beneficial than that!  But hey, I’ll just keep trying to perfect the process.

–I blame the “Resistance” on my lack of writings and blog post though.  The talented writer and sage Steven Pressfield (Steven Pressfield), refers to the force trying to stop us from being creative and getting work done (Do the Work!) as “Resistance”.  It shouldn’t matter if I think nobody reads these posts or pages: if I want to write and improve my writing, I need to “do the work” as he says!

–Something I know for sure is that I’m over waiting tables for the summer.  Though I’m excited for the upcoming year, I’d love another week to just chill out with my girls.  The clock keeps ticking though, so that ain’t happening.  I am very grateful for the summer I’ve had at the restaurant: we’ve been able to stay afloat because of it.

–Though we don’t have a race that matters till October, I’m really looking forward to seeing what my boys can do.  They’ve been working hard this summer.  The guts crew will have some new faces in the lineup this season, and we need to see what we’ve got.  The big target’s been set: most of our competition would say we’re nuts, but that’s what we like.  They seem to be buying into the process and that’s all I can ask for as a coach…we’ll come home with our shields or on them as the Spartans said.

–If you haven’t checked out my boy Charlie “the Spaniard” Brenneman and his podcast “Spaniard 101” and “AM Excellence (AMX)” Spaniard 101 and AMX , you need to get on it.  Every morning Charlie drops a 6-8 minute blast of knowledge and motivation regarding what he’s currently reading.  I’ve read a few extra books this summer just listening to him.  He’s created a community “AMX-Tended” (AMXT) to delve even deeper into the concepts he discusses.  It’s a way to surround yourself with like-minded people and elevate your conversation.  As my blog expands, you’ll find a space dedicated to the podcasts I’m into and what I’m getting out of them.

–If you’ve read this far, thank you!  If you only glanced at the page or clicked the link, thank you too!  Would love to hear from like-minded people.  Feel free to leave a comment or subscribe via email or an RSS feed.  Enjoy the day tomorrow!

Late August Musings…

As the summer ends, I’m wondering how to maintain the morning routine I’ve been trying to follow throughout the summer. I say “routine”, but don’t let me get you thinking I’ve got some rock solid routine day-in, day-out. It’s fairly malleable based on my schedule, but has some basic components as follows. In no particular order: warm water protocol from Brian McKenzie (lemon, ACV, pink salt, cayenne pepper), gratitude journal, daily affirmations (something new I’m trying for my professional goals), listening to that day’s AMX podcast from my friend Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman, some sort of physical work (Zach Even Esh “Lower Back Protocol” foam rolling, running at XC practice, or my latest “Get Strong” (Al and Danny Kavadlo) workout at Vive with my wife, and finally (but inconsistently) some reading.

I like it; I feel it gives me some consistency and a solid start to the day. These usually get done after making the wife’s lunch while my girls are mulling about the house.

But what happens when school starts? Case in point: I’ve got family in town and just having them around (and sleeping in “the office” where I typically do my thing) has thrown me off. Despite really enjoying the visit, I’ve had this nagging feeling in the back of my head like I’m missing or forgetting something.

What about “perfecting the process daily”? I certainly didn’t do that today, but I didn’t set myself up for success either. We stayed up waaay too late, and consequently I didn’t get up earlier enough to train or do most of my thing.

Fortunately, tomorrow’s another day! Do you have any routines or rituals that bring you success and positive energy? What do you do when your routine gets thrown off? Leave a comment with your thoughts, I’d love to read some responses. Thanks for reading!