Day 1,676 – Thankful for Listening to and Learning from Podcasts and Early Morning Hikes

One of my favorite forms of entertainment is found on one of my most simple of phone apps. I thoroughly enjoy listening to my audiobooks, but sometimes I want something smaller and more bite sized. Something that provides new ideas and insights in a relatively short time period. Podcasts are by far and away one of my favorite forms of entertainment.

About 5 or 6 months ago I happened across an outstanding podcast of Tim Ferriss interviewing one of my absolute favorite thought leaders, Jim Collins. During that podcast Jim shared his annual format of personal planning and goal setting. I listened to that portion several times over and used that to create my personal framework for 2021. One idea shared in a podcast, many ways in which my life has been improved over the past handful of months.

One of the goals is focused on being more outdoors focused and taking advantage of as much time outside as possible. Another goal includes 30+ minutes of physical activity each day. Other goals on the list are directly tied to each of those. Essentially, outside time and physical activity are two of the linchpins of a wide swath of other things I’d like to accomplish in 2021.

One of the changes that this daily focus on my values, dreams, and goals has led to is hiking on Tuesday and Thursday mornings… early… like I usually need a headlamp early. The first few times were difficult in some ways as I attempted to coax my body out of bed a little before 4am. That said, I’ve yet to have a single time when I have regretted the decision to rise early for this activity.

Starting my day in the woods, in the dark, in the quiet, and in the moments of natural stillness has been rewarding beyond anything I could have hoped. I’m so blessed to live 10-15 minute drove from trails in the woods, I’m grateful for finding another way to enjoy that fact. My kind quiets and focuses earlier. My blood gets flowing and I get an early workout in. By the time I wrap up I have a rewarding sense of accomplishment to start the day. In the woods and stillness I feel at home. And at peace. By spending time at home early I bring that peace and serenity with me for the rest of the day. The hike scratches a primal itch I didn’t know I had prior to doing this.

So today I’m grateful for the decision I made in how to focus my time and energy, for listening to more podcasts. I’m also thankful for the new habit it has helped instill, early morning hikes. While I may jot have as much time for other things I’m okay with that. I’m intentionally living into who I want to be and it feels wonderful at such a deep level.


Day 1,675 – Thankful for Enjoying Our First Night on the Water This Season with Becky

This evening Becky and I had one huge task we wished to accomplish. Each year this task is a rite of the transition of spring to summer. This one task is an awesome way to start getting ourselves into a summer kind of mood for the next five months or so.

Tonight we put our pontoon out on the water for the season.

The boys both had stuff going on so it was Becky and I for our second straight date night. Everything went very smooth as we backed the boat and trailer into the water. The sun was out and the temperature was just warm enough to be on the water. We each had a drink and enjoyed time relaxing.

Our first boat ride of the season was spectacular. The water was unseasonably calm. The sun cast beautiful reflections upon the water. We saw a few great blue herons. There were fish occasionally splashing in the water. In the trees and in the sky we saw more eagles than I could accurately count. Everything was so peaceful and serene.

Spending time on the water with Becky tonight was music for my soul. Being out in nature, enjoying all the wildlife around us, the stillness and simplicity of the outdoors, and being anchored in the present was exactly where I needed to be tonight.


Day 1,674 – Thankful for Our 19 Year Anniversary, Going On a Date for the First Time in a Year and a Half, and Time to Just the Two of Us

The last time Becky and I went out to eat alone on a date was about a year and a half ago. Seeing as we’ve got our 2nd shots we decided to celebrate our 19 year anniversary the way we would like – by going out to eat with just the two of us.

Last year we celebrated our anniversary with the boys at home. We ordered out from Love Child – an incredibly delicious restaurant in downtown La Crosse. Tonight we went back out to Love Child and ate there. It felt so comforting to get back to doing something more normal feeling again!

As we talked about the past 19 years it was crazy to think back to the snowstorm of our wedding day. We were wearing shorts and enjoying sun the day before and then before the wedding we had people helping to shovel the sidewalks. Well before midnight the power to our reception hall – and almost the entire city of Medford – went out due to the heavy snowfall.

We took our time and enjoyed time to just the two of us. We savored the delicious food and drink. We relaxed and felt no weight or stress from life. We enjoyed time together. If that’s not a perfect way to enjoy our anniversary I don’t know what is… maybe hiking the rim to rim at the Grand Canyon next year? 😉

One other quick note, in times like this the year 2020 seems so bizarre. It simultaneously seems like one of the longest years of my life and also seems like a year that never really happened as memories from early 2020 seem like they were just a few months ago. My mind can’t quite delineate which of the two is right and vacillates between both answers in an instant.


Day 1,673 – Thankful for Yet Another Quote From Marcus Aurelius & Exercises of Forced Scarcity

Earlier today I read a quote from Marcus Aurelius that just seemed to fit my thought process perfectly today. Coincidentally, today marks what would have been the 1,900th birthday of the Roman emperor and the author of an incredible collection of Stoic thoughts.

Through my several reads of Meditations I’ve learned many things. One of the is that there are certain lines and chapters that hit home more than others depending on my state of mind, recent experiences, and many other variables. One of the reasons I so thoroughly enjoy reading it is due in large part to finding meaning in something I’d otherwise missed in past readings.

The quote today was quite catching based on my thoughts.

The things you think about determines the quality of your mind.

Your soul takes on the the color of your thoughts.

Marcus Aurelius

As I work closer and closer to the conclusion of another huge dream there was a specific task I had to complete. The core of the project included narrowing down a small number of values and lessons learned. I was forced to cull a herd of well over several dozen ideas and distill them into a manageable number of themes.

This forced scarcity exercise took me much longer than I care to admit. Eliminating something can be so difficult, especially when it is a topic so near and dear to me. As I struggled through it I found myself making lists upon lists only to toss them aside as they weren’t quite right.

The clock ticked towards the deadline and I finally decided to let go and focus my mind elsewhere. Once I did all the ideas seemed to stitch themselves together into an incredibly neat, tidy, and cohesive whole. While I stumbled and fumbled so many thoughts in my waking mind some other part of my deeper mind slowly put the pieces together.

What I’m most thankful for about this project was the forced scarcity. Did I seriously need to cut down the list to that small of a size in that short of a time? Of course not, it was a construct of my own making. But by forcing the mindset of scarcity I was able to focus, take action, and put all the pieces together to lead to the breakthrough moment.


Day 1,672 – Thankful for Letting Reflexes Take Over and My Boat Back-er Upper Coach

While Becky was volunteering at the soccer fields and Dominic was reffing Gavin and I were getting the pontoon ready this morning. The weather wasn’t right for boating, but it is always nice to get it ready to go so we can drop it in the water on a random weeknight. The task largely consisted of loading stuff into the boat, but we also had to gas up for the start of the year.

There’s a specific Kwik Trip I like to go to for this task. The one on Rose Street has a lane that leads straight out to the road and the hose is exactly long enough to reach our tank (the height is all wonky with the pontoon being trailered). I’ve been known to wait until that exact pump is open to avoid having to make any crazy turns or having to back up.

As luck would have it the pump was open so I started pulling in. Once the front of the car was already past the pump I noticed that the alley exit was closed due to construction. A brief wave of panic rolled through my brain as the concept of having to back up rose up form the pit of my stomach. I took a deep breath and figured, “what’s the worst that could happen?” Yes, there was a long list of awful possibilities, but that’s what I have insurance for, right?

After gassing up I had Gavin hop out to keep an eye out for anything I may hit. I took a deep breath and then did my best to let my reflexes kick in rather than overthink it. Next thing I knew I was backing it up perfectly straight as I needed to. When we got to the right point I jack knifed the trailer in the exact 90 degree corner I wanted to move it into. Gavin jumped in the car and we pulled out. No second thoughts, no over thinking, no damage, and not even a single re-do or correction. Everything went perfectly!

The only part that I was disappointed by in this endeavor was that Becky wasn’t there to witness it. Ever since we first got our pontoon she’s been the one who’s coached me on how to back it up correctly and efficiently. Becky taught me all the tricks I know about backing up the boat and all those lessons paid off today.

I’m glad I remembered to let reflexes kick in and even more grateful for the coach who’s helped me develop those reflexes. Thanks Becky!


Day 1,671 – Thankful for Finding a Place of Serenity On a Road Trip

Oops!!! Somehow I missed hitting the “Publish” button after finishing my blog last night. At least I wrote it on the day I was supposed to 😉

Dominic’s last high school soccer game of the season was today. While Becky went to Gavin’s game here in town I hopped in the car and drove an hour and a half down the Mississippi River to Prairie du Chien. I opted to head across the border into Minnesota and then into Iowa before crossing the Mississippi a second time to go back into Wisconsin.

Of all the drives to and from La Crosse this one has to be amongst my all time favorites. The entire drive has scenic views of the bluffs, the river, and all the wildlife in between. There is little traffic and very few towns which adds even more to the feeling of serenity on the drive. I saw so many migrating birds, eagles, pelicans, and other signs wildlife. Focusing on the road was difficult at times as my eyes, imagination, and wonder pulled me towards the spectacular views of the Mississippi River Valley.

On my way home I remembered something I had noticed as I’d crossed into Iowa. Just a few minutes across the border there was a sign for the “Fish Farm Mounds” and there was a little parking area. After sitting in the car for a while it seemed like a great spot to get out and stretch my legs while taking in more of the view. I am so thankful I chose that exact spot.

When I pulled into the parking area my car was the only one there. I saw a hint of a trail that ended in some barely noticeable steps leading to seemingly nowhere. In a flash I found myself going up the old grass and moss covered carved rock steps. After a dozen or so steps the trail turned sharply to the left. Another dozen or so steps and it turned sharply to the right. At the end of the stairs I stood frozen.

When I have read fictional stories telling of a fairy tale like forest I couldn’t picture anything more idyllic than the glen I walked into. The outside world seemed to fade away when I walked a few steps into this area. It was a large open grassy area surrounded on all sides by thick brush and trees. Several trees provided what would appear to be the perfect amount of shade on a sunny day. I swear I walked out of reality and into a fantasy world. It even felt different in the core of my bones. I wish I sufficient words to share exactly what I mean, but all I can say is that it was so vividly serene.

What made the area even more special were the dozens of burial mounds from indigenous Americans… some from over 2,000 years ago! The most recent amongst them are believed to be from the year 650. No, I didn’t forget the first digit – the newest ones are almost 1,400 years old. Seeing the mounds throughout the area added an additional depth to the magic of this location. It was so easy to see why they would have chosen such a place for the final resting spot of family. I must admit that it was quickly added to the list of places I would like to see my ashes spread after the time of my earthly body has come to an end.

I took a couple of pictures to remind me of this place, though they will never do it justice. The true magic was in the place itself, in the land, and in the history surrounding it. Whenever I read a story of someone running into the woods this is the spot which will be in my mind. I’ve already seared the memory into my heart, or, more fittingly, this place has left its mark upon me.

I am so thankful for taking the time to explore the outdoors. Never in a million years would I have imagined finding a little piece of heaven on Earth like this.


Day 1,670 – Thankful for Chilling on the Couch as a Family on Friday

This has been a great week for a wide variety of reasons. There have been ups and downs, but we definitely won way more than we loss.

The way we’re wrapping up the week is about as perfectly as I could hope… family time on the couch. It doesn’t happen often, but all four of us are now home, chilling on the couch, joking and laughing together as a family.

Everything else today is secondary to a moment like this.


Day 1,669 – Thankful for Business Sales that Pay Off Now and Even More In the Future

Sorry blog-o-sphere, this is going to be a short one. The 2nd COVID shot has officially kicked my butt and I’m about to crash. The good news is that I’m. Is in the home stretch I’m expecting to feel great by the time I wake up tomorrow morning.

It’s no secret that I love business to business sales. Learning about their challenges and crafting solutions to help them is something I enjoy immensely. When I’m able to find a way to help them save money, recruit and retain better people, and pay those people more I’m smiling from ear to ear.

Of course I’m very interested in seeing the financial wins of a new sale as well. Not only do the solutions help our business eases but they help me provide more for my teammates. When we pull the sale off correctly everyone involved will see financial gain.

That said, over the past week we’ve had a few sales meetings which should prove to be very profitable. More important than the initial gain is the long term development of my teammates as a result of the sale itself. Of course I’m excited to see the financial win, but I’m even more excited to see how these sales help grow our entire team for years to come. I’m thankful for the opportunity to see sales that help a lot now and even more in the future.


Day 1,668 – Thankful for One Step Closer to Normal(ish), Listening to the Advice of Others, and Learning From the Past

As of 8:15 this morning I’ve now got the matching pair of Moderna vaccines. Woo hoo!!! I am incredibly grateful for everyone involved in the research for and creation of the COVID vaccines in such a wildly short amount of time. When I pause and think about it my mind is blown by how quickly these vaccines were created compared to those in the past.

No, I’m not going to immediately get right back into everything I’d been doing thirteen months ago, but it is awesome knowing that I’m one step closer to the normal I used to be used to. There are parts which won’t be the same, for better and worse, but there will be so many more options now that I’ve gotten the second dose.

When talking with others about getting vaccinated I am grateful for all of the advice they shared – especially about what to expect with the 2nd shot. The experiences all varied significantly, but there were definitely some common themes. Being very tired, needing extra sleep, and spiking a fever were some of the most frequently heard. I listened to all of the and prepared in advance by keeping my day largely open and flexible today to withstand any side effects I felt. Hearing the advice of others helped me prepare for the possibilities of what may happen.

After the first dose I was tired within a few hours and kept getting more and more tired until I crashed by 7:30pm. In looking back at the experience I really wished I would have taken a nap earlier to give my body the rest it needed when it was signaling that it needed it. I learned from that experience and kept a more open and flexible day in my work schedule. When I started to crash I shut everything off, crashed hard, and slept. By the time I woke up I was already feeling way better. Who says you an’t teach an old dog new tricks? 😉


Day 1,667 – Thankful for Surprising and Encouraging Signs of Progress

This morning I arose a little before 4am. A long commute to work ahead of me, but I knew I needed some exercise and outdoor time prior to getting in the car for 90 minutes. Off to the bluff trail system I went. My left achilles was a little tight and I knew I was going to be pressed for time so I called an audible and left my backpack in the car.

Over the past several months almost all of the hiking I’ve done has included my 50# pack. With out upcoming trips I want to make sure I’m in the right type of shape to not just accomplish the goal, but to enjoy every minute of it as well.

Unencumbered, I swear I floated up the bluff this morning. It was absolutely wild! Never in my years has going up 500′ on trails felt so incredibly effortless. At no point was my heart beating fast or was I out of breath. I just floated all the way up the bluff trails. By the time I got to the top I paused and had to double check my GPS watch to ensure I hadn’t missed something. Nope, I’d gone up so quickly I had time to explore a little and take an extra bit of trails on my way back to the car.

Talk about building confidence in my ability to handle our future endeavors! Surprising signs of progress like this are so much fun to stumble into. I knew I was slowly but surely getting stronger, but I had no idea I’d improved that much. Sure, Thursday I’ll put the pack on and go back to what has been my new normal, but I’ll do so with some added encouragement and confidence.