Day 840 – Thankful for Drawing Inspiration From the Grit of Others – Deena Kastor

The book I’m just wrapping up has been a great one for motivation.  Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor has been a book that’s got running on my brain again (combine that with a handful of other running books by Jurek, Roll & McDougal…  yikes!).  As I get caught up in the story of her success I keep feeling myself drawn to running and the desire to run longer and longer distances.

One of the specific things I am thankful for today is the story she shared of her 2004 Olympic Bronze.  The one goal she’d set for herself was to medal in the Olympics.  She didn’t care the color, she only focused on getting one.  The amount of work she poured into that dream is incredible!  Imagine running 130+ miles every single week.  My entire lower body hurts just thinking about it.

Sticking to her goal she has a specific strategy to win and stuck to her guns while at times she felt like she could have gone out faster.  She gritted it out and finally overtook the 3rd place runner as the mileage was running out.  If you watch the footage below you can see right where Deena realizes she just accomplished her goal…

The funny thing is that after all she did to reach that dream she realized that she could still get better and stronger.  From this she decided to win a major marathon so she worked for it and did it.  Instead of resting on her butt she then set the bar higher and wanted to complete a sub 2:20 marathon and did it.  It’s incredible to see how she just kept raising the bar and working hard to achieve things she’d never dreamt possible before.

Throughout my day today I kept thinking about her running career.  At certain times I felt myself on a 20 mile run that was brutal but kept pushing me towards my dreams.  Other times were those sweet victories that got me dreaming bigger.  Regardless, I just kept thinking about the motivation and grit she showed and used it as motivation to push myself further today.

Huge thank you’s to Deena and everyone in my life who push me to try new things, to get stronger, and inspire me to reach for bigger and bigger dreams.

Thanks!!!

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Day 839 – Thankful for Getting In a Workout with Dominic

Cub Scouts was cancelled tonight due to the icy roads and I was looking forward to a chill night at home. Right before I left work I got a text from Becky asking if I’d like to go to the YMCA with her and Dominic. The lightbulb went off in my head and I immediately said “YES!” I saw an opportunity to do something I’d been wanting to do for a while… lift weights with Dominic.

On our way there Becky and I both asked Dominic to not break me. The plan was for me to do everything he did and keep pace with him. This meant hitting the treadmill for a warm up.

Special thanks to Becky for realizing I might blog about this today 😁

Not to be outdone I saw the pace Dominic selected and pushed mine to the same. As my heart started racing I asked how long we were going to warm up and he said ten minutes. Even though my lungs were burning I saw I was a little behind him for distance so I ratcheted up the pace to gain some ground back. After a while he saw what I did and did the same to stay ahead of me. I may have blacked out for a little bit, but the last I remember we were racing each running at sub 5:20 paces. Pretty sure I’m going to feel that in the morning!

After the warm up of death we both realized the error of our ways and dove into a great workout. He showed me the lifts he normally does and we went right through his routine and closed up with some cool down work on the stair machine.

I had a blast hanging out with him and lifting. It was cool to have some fun time doing something like this as we bonded. We gave each other a hard time, gave each other compliments and high fives, and laughed at ourselves when our egos attempted to be stronger than we were. In a nutshell, it was awesome and I’m excited to do it again sometime.

Thanks!!!

Day 838 – Thankful for an Almost Smartphone Free Sunday

As we drove to church this morning I realized that I’d forgotten my cellphone at home on my dresser.  I instinctively twitched repeatedly and then realized it was going to be okay. The funny thing is that I’ve been considering a cellphone free day for a while, why not do it today?

Throughout the day there were a couple of times when I broke down and turned it on.  Each time I did I immediately went to the one thing I was using it for and ignored any alerts.  Here’s the full detail of usage for the day:

  • Texted my brother to see when would be a good time to call him
  • Turned on Pandora to listen to music while prepping my lunches for the week
  • Checked to see how long to cook turkey tenderloins at and for how long
  • Called Nick back after missing his call, left a voicemail
  • Took Nick’s call back and shot the bull

That’s it.  No social media updates, no videos, no news, no anything on my smartphone.  Typing this will be one of only two things I do computers today, the next being a couple of things for Cub Scouts quick.

Throughout the day it’s felt weird.  I’ve started to see how my phone can be very useful (looking things up quickly), but I’ve also noticed just how often I reach for it out of habit and to fill time.  Instead of having it in hand I had to find other ways to pass the time, and it felt pretty good.  It also was relaxing to not have nearly as many interruptions throughout the day.  Who knows, I might need to do this more often!

Thanks!!!

Day 837 – Thankful for the One Question I’d Like to Ask Dad, but I Won’t

Did you know you were going to die?

That’s the question that keeps resonating in my head.  I’d really like to ask Dad that one and get an honest answer.  From the morning of his stroke through the next year and change there have been so many little coincidences I’ve witnessed and heard from so many people.  There were conversations involving big hugs at the end, maybe a little bigger than normal.  The last weekend he had with the boys was one of the most ridiculous he’d ever planned.  More than a small handful of conversations including the the phrase, “if it’s mid time I am ready.”  There are so many of those little moments and things that it just feels like he had to have known, it doesn’t appear to have been a coincidence.

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As I’ve had tie to roll this around in my head over the past month or so (and it’s a big part of one of the last chapters I’m currently writing) I started to put more pieces together.  In the final rest of yoga today my brain finally made the connection that I’d been trying to make for so long.

Did you know you were going to die?  The true answer…  it doesn’t matter.

For reals, I am totally okay with not actually asking him that question because I’ve been able to see the bigger picture hidden within each of those stories.  Whether or not there was some divine intervention or knowledge, we can all tap into the secret of so much joy.

In those moments that seem so prophetic or coincidental, one thing is certain.  Dad was living the present as if each of those moments may have been his last.

Let me sidetrack here for a moment and I’ll come back to this point.

During our morning run yesterday I was in rough shape.  It was my first run since being sick and I was having a tough time getting into it.  Towards the mid point I told Becky I was going to walk for a couple of minutes and would run when she came back from the turn around point.  As I walked in dark silence I thought of something.  What if this was to be the last time I was able to run?  If this was my very last run, for whatever reason, would it be memorable?  Would I be proud of it or have regret that I didn’t push harder or savor it a little more?  With that thought in mind (not any details of why it may be my last, just the realization that it could be my last) everything changed.  I noticed how awesome the cold air felt when drawn in through my nose.  I appreciated the feeling of the impact of the ground going from my foot sending an ever so subtle shock wave up my leg and through my thigh.  With the thought of this run being my last ever I soaked in every sensation and was thankful for it.  I was full of joy and my run was amazing!

When Becky came back up I shared this with her and she teased me about my “morbid” thoughts.  I totally get it, it probably sounds like a fixation on death, but it’s truly not.  I spend zero time in fear of death or injury.  There are absolutely no thoughts on how I could die or be injured.  There’s only the realization that this could be the last time I am able to run and I should really take time to appreciate that thought.

As I apply that practice to the rest of my life I am reminded of a story I heard for the first time not so long ago:

There’s a famous story about a Buddhist teacher named Ajahn Chah. He lifts a crystal goblet from his side table and holds it up to the sun, “Do you see this glass?” he says to his students. “I love this glass. It holds the water admirably. When the sun shines on it, it reflects the light beautifully. When I tap it, it has a lovely ring. Yet for me, this glass is already broken. When the wind knocks it over or my elbow knocks it off the shelf and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When you understand that this glass is already broken,” Chah says, “every minute with it is precious.”

The key is to remember that at any moment things can change and we may be different than we were the moment before.  What was possible before may no longer be possible.  We must remember to appreciate what we are able to do while being ready to appreciate a new set of things we are able to do when life changes.  We must appreciate what we have in the present as if it were the last time we had it.

Back to yoga today…  We had already done a cycling class that was the best I’ve ever participated in.  The teacher pushed and pushed and I gave a ton of effort.  It felt great!  In yoga our instructor offered up one of the more physically challenging classes I’ve ever had.  At one point towards the end I went into halfway lift and did about the most half assed halfway lift I’ve ever done.  I chuckled to myself and thought that if this were my last yoga class I’d be pretty disappointed with that one move to I pressed on afterwards and gave it my all as if it were my last.  It felt amazing…  and opened my mind up for the connection that came during final rest.

Whether or not Dad knew he was going to die soon was irrelevant.  What mattered is that he lived so much of his life as if each day may be his last.  This created so many moments in which he was fully present and full of joy.

Full disclosure, I can’t even being to explain how thankful I am to have TWO parents who both modeled this behavior for me.  While I write about Dad as he is gone the same could be said for my mom.  Ever since childhood every goodbye includes an “I love you” and a big old hug.  If that last good bye is actually the last goodbye I can perfectly remember and appreciate each of those hugs and words.

It’s interesting how this realization also has me seeing that I must be focused on what I still have.  It’s so much easier to appreciate what we had when it is gone instead of when it is still right there in front of us.  My hope is that this practice and insight can help me through that.

For so long I’ve pondered that question…  Did Dad know he was going to die?  Today I’m thankful for finally understanding that the question itself is irrelevant, the actions we take to appreciate the present moment are what truly matter.

I have a request for everyone today.  I know, there’s probably only about 3 or 4 people who have made it this far (and that includes me, Becky, and my mom) 😉  Please take one moment today, something that seems routine or ordinary.  Pause for a moment and consider that this may be the last time you do that activity.  Let that sink in.  Have no fears, don’t think about the details of why.  Just think about how this might be the last time you are able to do that thing.  My hope is that the appreciation and sensations you feel will leave you with a huge smile and a heart full of love and joy.

Thanks!!!

Day 836 – Thankful for Teammates Who “Get” Me and an Act of Kindness

Let’s just say that the work day today was pretty awesome.  Is there a much better feeling in the world than knowing that you’re in the right tribe?  Over the course of the day there were many moments in which there was learning, work towards a purpose, jokes, and maybe even a little Vanilla Ice…  From my first conversation through the awesome random gift of coffee through training through conversations and texts with teammates it’s been awesome.  I’m so thankful for teammates who just “get” me.

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This evening was the Winona Chamber of Commerce annual banquet.  We were seated at a table with a couple of our clients and their special guest.  Their guest is a high school senior and will be spending time shadowing them this semester.

As the evening was wrapping up I heard him ask one of the banquet servers a question.  “Do you accept tips?”  The server had to clarify the question a couple of times.  After she got it he said, “It’s really busy tonight and you’ve been working so hard and moving so fast, I really appreciate all that you’ve done.  You really deserve a tip.”  With that he reached into his pocket, pulled some dollar bills out of his wallet and handed them to the server who was almost moved to tears.

I am so thankful to have witnessed this act of kindness for so many reasons.  It was a simple gesture, but one of pure gratitude and appreciation.  I couldn’t help but think about how bright this kid’s future should be, to be this giving at this age?  He just gets it!  How wonderful is that?  I know the next time I get frustrated with “kids nowadays” his face will be what pops into my mind.  He inspired me today and I’m so thankful to have been there for that moment.

Thanks!!!

Day 835 – Thankful for Our Magic Coffee Maker

This morning I had to head out before 5:45 and the strangest thing happened… the coffee maker was full of hot fresh coffee! It was like it somehow knew I had to leave early today! Every other day this week it’s been turning on and firing up a pot of tasty coffee goodness just in time for me to head to work.

I never have to fire it up or prep it, there’s always coffee ready for me. Some mornings it even fills my mug and puts in two ice cubes just like I enjoy it, how crazy is that?

I’m pretty sure it must be magic or something. Maybe some crazy supernatural source. Who knows, it might even be the best wife in the world (Becky) 😉.

Regardless of the source, with my mornings starting like this how could I ever have anything but an awesome day?

Thanks!!!

Day 834 – Thankful for Discouragement

Yes, day is another one of “those” blogs…  one of the blogs in which I am thankful for something that seems outwardly bad, but is actually something worth appreciating.  Bear   with me and you’ll see what I mean.  In conversation with a teammate from one of my offices today we had a great conversation that started off with a shared appreciation for something that I’ll save for the end.  For some reason I’m feeling a little Paul Harvey-is today.

They were discouraged as something wasn’t progressing as planned.  They’d been putting the work in, checking the boxes, and for some reason the results went the wrong direction.  It was incredibly frustrating and I could totally sympathize with them.  There’s something particularly gut wrenching to knowing that you’ve been giving your all and things go a little sideways.  All of that hard work feels squandered and you (I just realized this should really be personalized and not ‘other-ized’) I feel like might as well just hang it up and quit.  Depending on the task or goal sometimes I do.  In other cases I double down, grit it out, keep a growth mindset, and create a way to get it back on track.  In our conversation the discouragement was starting to reaching a peak and we had to figure out how to proceed.

Discouragement is actually a quite beautiful emotion in so many ways, yet it can also be such a horrible thing when used incorrectly.  As are so many things in life, it is totally in our control to wield it as a sword to conquer our goal or to allow it to cut us down.

As a negative discouragement can be something we allow to cut us off from our dreams.  We can allow it to stop us from making great progress and we can succumb to its sibling… fear.  Fear that we might fail.  Fear that we may not be as good as we thought.  Fear that we might never accomplish that dream.  If we give in and quit because of fear or because of the feeling of being discouraged it has become a terrible thing and we aren’t doing ourselves justice.

The positives of discouragement are many.  In some cases this feeling is a way to determine the wheat from the chaff.  If pause and think about the discouragement, maybe the goal, task or dream just wasn’t quite worth it.  It becomes the litmus test for to determine if we’re truly willing to give the effort, time, and energy needed to reach our dream.  This can save us from chasing a dream that isn’t really important to us.  It’s also part of the rub when we find ourselves chasing someone else’s dream instead of our own.  Discouragement is a wonderful tripwire to cause us to pause and re-think our direction.  If we make the decision out of fear (like the previous paragraph) we’ve lost and discouragement is bad.  If we use this opportunity to think with logic and determine that this isn’t right for us discouragement just saved us from wasting our most valuable resource, the present.  How wonderful is that?

Along a similar vein, discouragement has a tendency to cause us to reflect on why a goal was important to us.  We have the opportunity to reexamine it, remember its worth, and then draw additional fire and drive to reach the goal.  Today that was exactly what I heard in the voice of my teammate.  As we talked about the why and what the path ahead held there was an increased passion, even a smile in their voice as we discussed how to press forward with even more vigor.  When we feel discouraged we have an opportunity to dig deep and prove to ourselves just how gritty we can truly be.  When we feel discouraged we have the unique opportunity to re-assess and appreciate just how important that dream is to us.  It reminds us of just how much we care about the success of that goal.  When my teammate is feeling that discouraged there’s a bit of joy I feel because it is so easy to see just how important that goal is to them.  Blend that with how strong their grit is and I know that they will not fail, they will use this feeling to push forward to success.

Lastly, I don’t like to lose.  I know, it’s a statement of competitiveness, but it’s one that drives me.  Not against others, but rather, competitive against the me from last year, the me from yesterday, and the me from an hour ago.  I want to always be better than I have been.  When I feel discouraged it means there is a chance of failure, it means there’s a chance of getting stuck.  If I am the best me possible and logically the dream and path are still right, I want to crush the discouragement to prove to myself that I can do it, to do something I haven’t done, and to build my confidence when a bigger challenge arises…  which it will.  Discouragement reminds me that it would be so easy to fail and lose to myself, to not grow, and it propels and drives me to grit it out.  How wonderful is discouragement then?  It essentially becomes dream fuel!

At the end of the day, discouragement isn’t good or bad, it just is.  Like so much in our lives it’s up to us to add the context, rather, to CHOOSE the context we will apply to it.  That choice makes all the difference in the world.  Realizing the potential greatness to be gained from discouragement, I am so thankful for it today.

So as I started today’s blog I mentioned the context of how our conversation started today.  We spent time talking about so many things that are often perceived as bad are actually beautiful and joy creating things when looked at through the right lens.  As examples we shared death giving us appreciation for life, illness helping us appreciate health, work helping us appreciate purpose.  That conversation was going to be my post for the day until we got to the topic of discouragement…  and as I realized the beautiful symmetry of the two potential topics I smiled and felt great joy.  I am so grateful for a conversation of remembering to choose the right context to something typically perceived as bad as it really helped me see and appreciate discouragement today.

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Thanks!!!