Day 1,463 – Thankful for a Weekday Morning Hike and the Power of an Hour of Creation In the Workshop

Yes, yesterday was my birthday, but I had a lot going on at work and Becky had her infusion all day. Put those things together and today looked like a much better day to take off together!

After sleeping in a little (5am) I jumped on my bike trainer for a while and got a nice sweat going. We got the boys up and running so they were ready for their virtual school day. Once we knew they were good we hopped in the car and headed out to Perrot State Park. At first it felt weird and awesome to be out on the trail at 8am in the morning on a random-ish Tuesday, but the weird quickly disappeared in the smells of fall in the woods.

Spending time alone in the woods hiking was exactly what I needed after a busy day yesterday. Having time with no calls, texts, or emails while taking in the beauty of the drift less area was so peaceful. The fresh air was exactly what my soul needed as we walked up and down the bluffs. What a great way to kick off a day of playing hooky from work!

After supper I took advantage of some down time and spent about an hour up in my workshop. It’s been a little while since I’ve had some quality time up there and my hands and mind felt the urge to create something. There’s been an idea in the back of my head for a while for a box for a game Gavin and I play often. Without too much prep and planning I dove right in and went to town. The next thing I knew about an hour had flown by and I had the project competed. It felt great!

There’s a beautiful state of flow and serenity when I’m creating. Taking a raw material and transforming it into something useful. Funny how even a small period of time can bring such a state of calm and peace.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,462 – Thankful for Two of the Best Birthday Presents Ever, Feeling Loved and Awesome Memories

Thank you to everyone for all the birthday wishes today! It seemed like they just kept rolling in all day long, one after another after another. I greatly appreciated reading each of them. Taking time to read each of them left me smiling as I thought of some of the great times I’ve had with each of you.

When I was young I remember looking forward to birthday presents. They were one of the best parts, if not the best part, of having a birthday. For one day you got a little more attention and some really cool stuff to boot. There was usually one gift I wanted badly and my parents always seemed to come through somehow. As I grew older the importance of a present has diminished and has been replaced by something much greater.

Throughout the day, from start to finish, I have felt loved. So many people help me feel that regularly, but today of all days it hits home with so much more intensity. People taking time out of their day to reach out and offer a “happy birthday” means they love me enough to take their most precious of resources, their time, and offer it up as a gift. How awesome is that? My heart is full from all that love today! Whether it was a text, a Facebook message, a phone call, a card, a post, or even a voicemail rendition of “Happy Birthday” the love just never stopped all day long. I’ll be sleeping with a huge smile tonight.

The other incredible gift I received from everyone today was the gift of awesome memories. In reading and listening to each birthday wish I took a moment to smile and think of the great times, experiences, and moments we’ve shared. My brain is blown thinking of all the incredible memories everyone has given over all the past 44 years of walking the earth. So many great moments, conversations, back stories, and adventures. I’m thankful for those experiences themselves as well as the memories of them that you brought back to the front of my brain tonight.

Thank you all so much for making this an incredible day. My heart is bursting with love and joy and I look forward to creating new memories while talking about the old ones as well.

All that said, I did get a pretty epic birthday present from Becky and the boys created by our friend Kelsey Lyons! How awesome is this???

Thanks!!!

Day 1,461 – Thankful for Five Years of Daily Gratitude Practice

It’s crazy to think that five years ago, I made the decision to do something each day. The new habit I was going to start involved something that I wasn’t particularly fond of doing (writing) and was based on doing something that I hadn’t been practicing very well (gratitude). When I put the plan together I knew I had to find a way to beat one of my weaknesses – consistency. Next thing I knew I was writing my first blog post expressing my gratitude for something and sharing it for all the social medias to see.

The reason I started this process was because it felt like something was missing from my life. When I really boiled it all down I realized that the issue was a lack of gratitude for all the blessings I have in my life. My hope was that in writing about something I was thankful for each day it would force me to look on the bright side and actively search out gratitude. What I didn’t realize was what a profound impact this practice would have on my entire life.

On each of the past 1,827 days I’ve sat down in silence and stillness by myself to type. Some days have been pretty short and only take 5-10 minutes and others have taken over an hour. On average I’ve taken about 30 minutes to type my gratitude. Some days have almost written themselves and other have been brutal to write as I’ve stared at the laptop screen for what seemed like hours.

This daily practice has blown my mind on so many occasions. Through making time for gratitude like this my life I’ve lived the most joyful years of my life so far. I’ve learned so much about myself and have found ways to better love into the person I should be. While I started this as something for me I’ve been so excited to see the positive impact it has had for others at times. Taking time to sit in stillness has caused me to pause the busyness of life and take time to think.

Knowing that by the end of the day I’ll have to answer the question, “What am I grateful for today” helps me start my day actively

Thanks!!!

Day 1,460 – Thankful “Gap Sermons” and a Virtual Vacation to New Zealand

Sometimes the sermons and stories that hurt the most also help me grow the most.

There’s been an assortment of homilies at church that have caused me to squirm very uncomfortably in my pew as they hit much closer to home than I would hope that they would. In those moments I pause for a second and feel disappointed in myself. Then I remember that this is all a part of the journey of being a human. I dust myself off, take a deep breath, and then listen close to find the way to improve the shortcoming. With a specific story or example in mind I’m able to take action on working on myself. I loving call them “Gap Sermons” as they help me more clearly see the gap between who I am in that moment and I who I should be.

Tonight’s “Gap Sermon” reminded me to check my ego more often. Instead of focusing on the acts of others and getting frustrated or being judge I would be better served working on myself first. How do I live into the best version of me that I can be? That should be the biggest focus on fixing me first.

What’s got me thinking deeper is that I’m seeing how this would be a better way to help others potentially change their minds. Screaming, yelling, putting up huge signs (especially those with pictures of Trump as “Rambo”) will never change someone’s opinion. Living into the person I should be and modeling that life for others would be much more productive. Be an example for others, but to get there we need to become the right example first.

Over the next days and weeks this will be going through my head as I listen to my inner monologue… Am I focused on living my life in a better way or am I chastising or judging the actions of others as I see myself and/or my views as superior? If the answer isn’t the former I need to pause and check my ego.

Last night Becky and I had an impromptu “Virtual Vacation.” When writing my blog I wanted to find a picture that was fitting. In the search I went into my New Zealand vacation folder and found the pic. After writing was complete I started going through all of the pictures we took on our vacation to New Zealand almost three years ago.

In an instant Becky and I were reliving so many incredible moments and memories created with our family! My mind is blown with all that we crammed into two weeks and by the fact that we only explored less than 25% of the country. So many experiences we will never forget!

Sure, it’s been a bummer to not be able to head out on the vacations we’d planned for this year, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Taking a virtual vacation, even if it was only for thirty minutes was pretty awesome. All throughout last night and today my brain has gone back to some of those awesome memories and brought me great joy. I’m grateful for the virtual vacation last night, we might have to do that again sometime soon!

Thanks!!!

Day 1,459 – Thankful for a Two Foot Environmental Change Setting My Intentions for the Day

While I’ve been working on reducing my phone time over the past few months. Over the past few days I noticed a behavioral pattern that wasn’t resonating with my goal. When I wake up in the morning I reach over to the night stand, grab my phone, and spend a little time looking at my screen. It starts with a quick check of the weather and can go sideways from there. The time I spend on it like that doesn’t benefit me at all and goes opposite of my goal.

I did something different last night. Before I went to bed I set my phone two feet away on my dresser. Where my phone would normally go I laid my copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

The alarm went off, I groggily reached for my phone, and I ended up with Meditations in my hand instead. Smiling, I turned back a couple of pages to a line that’s been stuck in my head for the past couple of days:

Beautiful things of any kind are beautiful in themselves and sufficient to themselves. Praise is extraneous.The object of praise remains what it was – no better and no worse.

This thought has been firmly planted since I re-read it a couple of days ago. In some ways it reminds me to put my ego aside. When I see something beautiful enjoy it, don’t attempt to label it, just savor the moment. Kind of like that line in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty that I love so much:

Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.

I’m also reminded to check my ego. When I do something that’s special, or that I’m proud of, or that’s the right thing to do – remember that I don’t need praise or appreciation. The act in of itself is the reward. Sure, appreciation is great, but it should come from inward. This one really hits home when I write a blog post that I feel is one of my best and is only read by a few. Why do I get frustrated? I thought it, I wrote it, and I was transformed and better through the act of it. Why be frustrated or rely on the feedback of others to make the moment better?

Throughout the day this thought was running through my head I looked for ways to live into it instead of accidentally having it happen. All that from one little behavior change!

Quick fun side note – when I’d re-read that line and thought on it for a moment I went back to my book mark, opened it up to the beginning of Chapter 5 and read the following:

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself, “I have to go to work – as a human being.

How funny is that??? It did the trick though. I immediately got out of bed and got moving.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,458 – Thankful for Extra Early Morning Motivation

I’ve made it no secret that one of the reasons I get up early during the week is because I’ve got an awesome running partner. Knowing that there is someone else to workout with makes it much easier to get up and get moving. The days that we don’t run have included a lot of sleeping a little longer on my part. Today was not one of those days.

One of our learning sessions today was an awesome speaker and writer, Jocko Willink. He’s written two of my favorite leadership books Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership. The books are great, but his speaking and presentation skills are better.

Following Jocko on Twitter is a way to see how discipline is done. Each morning he takes a picture of his watch at an early hour as he’s about to hit his workout. Seeing as I would be seeing Jocko on live stream later in the day it only seemed fitting to get up and moving early. Taking a cue from him I took this picture before I got out of bed and got moving:

Instead of rolling over and going back to sleep I got up. I made the bed. I brought my bike and bike trainer upstairs and proceeded to knock out an hour of exercise on it.

That little extra swagger gave me a little more confidence throughout the day. The extra workout got my blood pumping and my brain going. It really helped me set the tone for most of my day.

Jocko’s presentation was outstanding and he gave us a handful of very useful leadership & self-leadership tips to help us all improve our performance at work and in life. One of the points that stuck the most is one that I’d already tested this morning… Discipline equals freedom. Be disciplined in what we do and we have the freedom to more.

I’m grateful for the extra motivation to get up and moving early today, I just might do it again sometime 😉

Thanks!!!

Day 1,457 – Thankful for Multiple Reminders to Live In the Present

Last night was an excellent night of sleep! I often take for granted good health and usually only remember when that’s not the case. Yesterday I tried something different for my allergies and I could breathe through my nose all night long – Woo Hoo!!! I know, not the most exciting thing to be grateful for, but I certainly noticed the difference when I woke up this morning.

I woke up about 30 seconds before Becky’s alarm at 4am and laid back down in bed for a little while. My brain was already off and running so there was no going back to sleep. Instead I paused, reached for my phone, thought better of it, and then reached for Meditations by Marcus Aurelius again. A few pages of that and my day started off in a great place, focused, centered, and with purpose.

Our morning run had one of this moments that remind me of how much I love living near wilderness. Sure, it’s not a huge forest or anything, but it doesn’t take long for us to get to a place in nature without people, especially at 5am. After we turned around and were headed home we were greeted with an unusual sound. It was a lot like a barking dog, but higher pitched and, well, different. Hearing nature close to us like that in the dark was a very awesome encounter. Even our dogs decided it was time to run maybe just a little faster until we were a ways away. As we later determined it was a coyote letting us know that she didn’t appreciate us getting that close to her.

Hearing that sound of nature certainly true me into the present moment 100%. In an instant we weren’t just a couple miles from our house, we were in the wild. There weren’t any thoughts about work, thinking ahead to the day, or anything like that. There was only 100% focus on the natural world around us in that instant. Funny how that hyper focus on the present was a crazy form of mediation. I am so grateful for that experience this morning, it continued to chart the course for my day.

Another beautiful day on the water with my other team. So wonderful spending time with my team outside of the office and somewhere far from the daily whirlwind. The time together was great, the strengthening of our relationships was awesome, and the direction we’re setting our sails for looks pretty sweet. Sharing time doing something I love with my team is something I’m always grateful for.

Yoga tonight provided a couple of cool thought processes.

The first was that I am not able to focus 100% in the face of any distraction. The mosquitos swarming during our outdoor class reminded me of that often. As the Dalai Lama once said, “Whoever feels they are too small to make a difference has never spent a night in a tent with a mosquito.”

The second thought process was as I laid on my back watching the shadows slowly rise up and consume the branches of bright yellow leaves above me. In watching the shadows grow I was reminded of the passing of time before my very eyes. In an instant I was reminded that I am temporary, have an expiration date, and am moving closer to it each breath I take. This isn’t doom and gloom or anything, rather a reminder to appreciate and make the most of each moment. Time slips away so easily if we let it, in remembering it is passing we remember to live in it.

All of that brought me back to reading Meditations this morning. The pages I read were focused on remembering to live in each moment we are blessed to have. Don’t live in the past, don’t live in the future. Be here. Now. So many wonderful reminders of that for me today. Meditations, the call of the coyote, breathing, being with my team outside of the day to day, seeing how the shadows pass, each little mosquito bite keeping me anchored in the moment. So many reminders to live now. How awesome of a day is that?

Thanks!!!

Day 1,456 – Thankful for Making the Best of Virtual Training On the First Day of Fall

Normally at this time of the year we’re heading to Minneapolis or Chicago for a few days of training with many other Express offices in the Midwest. We head to the event on Thursday morning and then train in the afternoon, all day Friday, and Saturday morning. In between the training we get a lot of time together as a team, usually doing a team dinner and spending some quality time together.

Due to COVID this wasn’t an option so our Express franchisor found a way to get us as close to that even as possible. We’ve got training throughout most of the week to keep us up to date on new ways to better serve our associates, clients, teammates, and communities. All the training is virtual via Zoom.

At the end of last week Becky made a comment about how beautiful the weather was supposed to be this week. The forecast was showing a sunny and hot start to Fall today and tomorrow. The lightbulbs went off and next thing we knew there was an awesome idea hatching…

Seeing as the training is virtual we can do it just about anywhere. With beautiful weather why not find a way to be outside? What if there was a different way to get some time bonding with my teams? Hmm…

With very short notice we figured out a way to take the teams out on the pontoon to the sandbar while social distancing. Using our mobile hotspots on our phones we were able to catch all of our trainings online while also having time to talk, share training ideas, and spend time getting to know each other better.

How awesome to find a way to share time as a team, spend some time on the water, get some sun, and still get some great training? It certainly didn’t hurt that we had some of the best weather I can remember to start the Fall.

COVID may change our plans, it is up to us to find ways to use it to our advantage. We certainly found a great way to roll with it today!

Thanks!!!

Day 1,455 – Thankful for a Thought Provoking Podcast – Dan Carlin’s Common Sense: Steering Into the Iceberg and the Friend Who Shared It

If you see me tomorrow just know there’s a chance I might look a little tired. One of the things I’m thankful for today might prevent me from getting ay sleep tonight. I even pitched it to a group of my friends that way. The response was spot on “That sounds a lot like, ‘this tastes terrible, you’ve got to try it!'” With that mini-disclaimer in mind, feel free to listen but know you’ve been warned.

I’m a huge fan of Dan Carlin. His Hardcore History podcasts are outstanding. Never in my life would I ever have thought I would find history so enthralling. When Dan shares what he’s learned in his research it helps me see the world a little differently. There have been many lessons I’ve learned through his podcasts. Heck, I even blogged about it almost a year and a half ago: https://thankful4forty.com/2019/03/20/day-903-thankful-for-dan-carlins-hardcore-history/

Imagine my surprise this morning when one of my friends told a few of us there was a great podcast we should check out. I’m always open to hearing new thoughts so I clicked on it and it led me to one of Dan Carlin’s other works, Common Sense. I had no idea there was a mother podcast! Clear my blog queue, there’s been an addition to the front of the line.

The podcast that left me thinking nervously about the state of our nation can be found here: https://www.dancarlin.com/product/common-sense-320-steering-into-the-iceberg

As an independent I was very interested in his thoughts and I’m glad I gave it a listen. There were several points in particular that caught my attention and helped me look at the world through a slightly different lens. It also left me with some nervousness and paranoia of what we may face as a nation in the not too distant future. Rather than get into the details I’ll leave it at this. Long story short, it was incredibly well thought, well said, and very thought provoking. I’d highly recommend it (you might want to make sure you have a supply of melatonin to help you sleep through the night afterwards!)

Big kudos to my friend Todd for sharing this today! I’m thankful for having a few groups of friends who are willing to share thought provoking reads and podcasts like that. We may not always agree, but we all seem to always get a little more wise after each of those interactions. Thanks for sharing dude!

Thanks!!!

Day 1,454 – Thankful for the Timeless Wisdom of Marcus Aurelius – Strength Through Adversity, Tranquility In an Instant, Quit Complaining, and Choosing to Not Be Harmed

Today I remembered to take my own advice and brought a book with me to the soccer fields. There were a few things on my mind that I wanted to spend some time in thought on. After a quick thought I put my copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius into the pocket of my cargo shorts and I was off. Not gonna lie, I was pretty excited to find that the book was just the right size!

Instead of just going back to where I’d left off the last time I figured I’d test fate and skim a few random pages to see what, if anything, stuck a chord. Within a couple of minutes I ran into what I was looking for and then some! All within three pages was the ark I was searching for.

First off, there was a great bit of info discussing how we turn our obstacles and frustrations into fuel to improve and grow:

Our inward power, when it obeys nature, reacts to events by accommodating itself to what it faces – to what is possible. It needs no specific material. It pursues its own aims as circumstances allow; it turns obstacles into fuel. As a fire it overwhelms what would have quenched a lamp. What’s thrown on top of the conflagration is absorbed, consumed by it – and makes it burn still higher.

Shortly afterwards Marcus shared an interesting thought that helped me remember to seek out those moments of solitude. Not only that, but I was reminded of how to find that tranquility I’ve found on vacations in the past. Obviously those are a no go as of now, but there are still ways I can utilize my vacation memories in very positive ways:

People try to get away from it all – to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish that you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like.

By going within.

Nowhere you can go is more peaceful – more free of interruptions – than your own soul. Especially if you have other things to rely on. An instant’s recollection and there it is: complete tranquility. And by tranquility I mean a kind of harmony.

So keep getting away from it all – like that. Renew yourself. But keep it brief and basic. A quick visit should be enough to ward off all and send you back ready to face what awaits you.

I took a page out of his playbook, put the bookmark in place, and closed the book. I closed my eyes, drew in a deep breath, and thought about being in Alaska. I brought to mind the moment when we were sitting on the beach, watching the sun slowly go down over the mountains behind Resurrection Bay. Talk about inner peace!

When I came back to reality I opened up the book and went back to reading. This next one hit home as I thought about some of the thought processes I’ve recently had related to politics and civil unrest. I’ve been frustrated often and have complained more than I should. In reading this it reminded me to take a deep breath. As I read later as well I considered my thoughts as of late and wondered if I would have the same if I knew my last day of life were tomorrow. Absolutely not. So, if tomorrow is promised no one, why am I worried and complaining about something out of my control? How foolish and wasteful of the precious gift was all have been given? The gift? Today. Now. The present.

What’s there to complain about? People’s misbehavior? But take into consideration:

  • That rational beings exist for one another;

  • That doing what’s right sometimes requires patience;

  • That no one does the wrong thing deliberately;

  • And the number of people who have feuded and envied and hated and fought and died and been buried;

…and keep your mouth shut.

I was about to stop reading after that last line as my brain was reaching capacity. As I’ve admitted to, I have “Shiny Syndrome” and I caught something shiny on the next page. Highlighted from one of the many past readings of this books was the following:

Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed.

Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.

Bingo! There’s the money! I have control over only one thing in my life, how I view the world around me. I cannot control the events of the world, the thoughts of others, or anything along those lines. What I can control is how I react to, respond to, and interpret those outside factors.

Once I pieced everything back together I realized how some of the difficult decisions and situations in my life have all had one very critical and important common theme… they all have made me stronger. I would not be who I am today without the adversity I have faced. I am grateful for each of those moments. While they have hurt in the moment they have been the source of all strength.

Today I’m thankful for the timeless wisdom of Marcus Aurelius. The tremendous impact he has had on me and so many others since his life is overwhelming and inspiring.

Thanks!!!