Eulogy

graves

There is a man in my community, I’ve never met him, he passed away about ten years ago. However, his impact was huge. There are still ripple effects happening because of the way he added value to people’s lives and made an impact. Think about that… ten years later, his name is still being spoken and he is still having an impact. No foundation in his name, no organization. Just a man who made a difference.

“He had a lot to say. He had a lot of nothing to say. We’ll miss him…”

~Eulogy, TOOL, Aenima

Take a moment to ponder your death. Think about the people that will attend your funeral. Think about the people that can’t or won’t attend. Enemies. Acquaintances. Friends. Family. Community. Tribe.

What are these people going to say about you when you are gone?

Will you be truly missed once you pass from this world or will there be a great sigh of relief?

Will your name be spoken of ten years after your death? Ten months? Ten weeks?

“Standing above the crowd, he had a voice that was strong and loud. We’ll miss him. Ranting and pointing his finger at everything but his heart. We’ll miss him.”  ~Eulogy

Don’t fool yourself. Are you adding value to those in your life, especially those that are closest to you? Or, are you sucking all the damn life out of every relationship and interaction you have? Are you truly engaging people to bring the best out of them and yourself (again, adding value) or are you just being an asshole who wants his opinion heard and submitted to?

How do you know?

I’m not saying to seek to be everyone’s best friend.But don’t be that miserable fuck that everyone sees coming and mutters a curse word or two under their breath, frantically looks for something else to do before putting on the facade and having to deal with your unbearable ass.

Check yourself. Build yourself up. Build others up. Reciprocate the value they bring and add value of your own.

Not everyone is going to like you. Don’t waste your time on trying to make people like you. Great people always have a metric shit-ton of haters. All the haters can do is talk shit while you build. That’s what the greats do. The haters try to heap on shit, the hated keep building and let their work speak for themselves.

“The world lost a great man when he died…” This could be said in one of two ways at your funeral. The first can be said in an emotional kind of lip service. They are saying what they feel at the time, but more than likely it is only based in emotion and how they wish things to be. The second option is that the world truly lost a great fucking man.

Which do you wish it to be?

You don’t need to make headlines to be a great man. Think of the gentleman I mentioned at the beginning of the article. There are countless “unsung heroes” like him out there. They are unsung, only because on a macro level, they weren’t well known by even the local media, much less nationwide. However, within their community, friends, family and tribe… that’s another story altogether. Their names will be sung for decades…

Pursue Mastery… even in this.

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

~Marcus Aurelius

 

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In Pursuit of Mastery

I’ve been tweaking a few things with the look and feel of the brand.

I like the colors, it reminds me of a private library or study; old paper, journals, leather-bound books, the smell of coffee, whisky and even some sweet tobacco. The kind of place I imagine having where I spend time each day studying, expanding my mind, enjoying a good read, or maybe even a peaceful nap while classical music plays in the background

I’m also reminded of training, hard training. Indoors and outdoors. Dirt, sweat, blood, canvas, chalk, leather, wood and iron, brass and lead. The kind of place I imagine having where I can spend time each day training and pushing myself; understanding and pushing past my self-imposed limitations with loud music in the background.

You’ll notice the picture of Leonidas, from the movie, “300”, accompanied a quote from the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus which reads, “First, decide who you would be, then do what you must do.” I’ve had this picture on my desk for about a year; a few months ago I made it the cover of my binder where I keep my goals. It is a constant reminder to act and pursue.

Underneath the new title, you see the tag line: Freedom | Strength | Courage | Honor | Mastery | Family.

First, let’s take a look at the beginning and ending “tenets” of the tagline.

Freedom: In life. Financial freedom. To do what I want, when I want; not tied to a 9-5 sedentary desk job. To be the craftsman of my own income and potential. In life, freedom from false allegiances, ties and obligations.

Family: You could also call this “Tribe”; the blood of covenants can be much stronger than the water of birth (which is where the saying blood is thicker than water comes from); some friends are closer, more fiercely loyal than family. I am pursuing Mastery in my life for my own sake, to become better, to grow and learn and improve, however, my family and tribe benefit from this and I take pleasure in that fact. I want them to benefit. I want to enrich the relationships I have and make them stronger.

The middle four tenets are taken from Jack Donovan’s Tactical Virtues in his book “The Way of Men”. I highly recommend reading this book. No, I am not compensated for suggesting it. The book is definitely something I will return to annually, his tactical virtues clarify thoughts and ideas I’ve been driving at.

These four vitures are the qualities you would want in a person if “shit got real”; these are people you want to depend on in a number of scenarios.

Strength: To be physically strong. Strength is a value all its own and you want those you depend on to be strong as well. Mental/emotional/spiritual strength is necessary too, because a weak person will crack regardless of their physical strength when the pressure is on.

Courage: In part, linked with mental/emotional/spiritual strength. It’s also the ability to act, to stand up and fight despite fear.

Honor: Having standards internally and externally to strive towards and to hold yourself accountable to. Having a sense of pride in the things you do that add value to the tribe or shame when you do something to their detriment.

Mastery: To be competent in the task you are given and to continually pursue improvement in areas of your life. Making strengths better and to make your weaknesses areas of competence. To be stronger, smarter, better. To add value to yourself and to the group.

For a better, more in-dept explanation, read “The Way of Men”.

In Pursuit of Mastery is about relentlessly pursuing the best life possible by improving yourself mentally, physically and spiritually.

It all boils down to Mastery, or Mastery covers all of them in some way, shape or form. Like a Master Craftsman of Life.

Masterful in my relationships with tribe and family, in relationships with women and men.

Masterful in my ability to achieve a level of financial freedom; to grow in that area for my benefit and purpose as well as my family and tribe. To carry a level of Mastery and competence in my work.

In pursuit of Strength; competent in the lifts and the PT sessions but continually learning and growing, pushing and striving to be better, stronger, tougher.

To be a man of Honor. Having your “word as your bond” is a rare thing anymore. Its rarity speaks of the lack of understanding of personal and tribal Honor. To continually challenge the weak areas in my life to grow to their fullest potential.

To risk sounding cliché, Mastery is a journey, not necessarily a destination. But it is a journey of ever-increasing skill, knowledge, quality and value. There is always another mountain to climb, another level to rise to, another horizon, another price to pay and another sacrifice to make to get to where you want to be.

 

Pursue Mastery.

101 Days &16lbs later…

So about two months ago I gave you my back story and ended with these wonderful before and after pics of me in 2011 when I decided to get my act together and go for it. I had found some of that fire, that drive: I did not want to deal with Meniere’s Disease anymore, I had to be stronger than it was.

So, what did I do?

P90x? Nope.

Any of Shaun T’s programs? Nope.  (Say, whaaaaaaaaaaaat?!? No seriously, I didn’t.)

TaeBo? Pilates? Shake-Weight? Nope. Nope. NO!

Wanna know? I assume you do because you’ve read this far! Ok…here goes, this is what I did:  I exercised and I made positive food choices. Seriously!

Yes, I will get to the “specifics” of what I did in a minute, but seriously, there isn’t a magic pill! It’s all about getting up off your ass, making the hard and more positive choices and sticking with it! It is a learned and ever-being-learned lesson in my life. You must make the choice to keep moving forward, to do something, to fight the urges to give up and quit. Sometimes you need to get fed up with where you have let yourself get to. More on that another time.

Find out what is “worth it” for you

What do you want to do or keep doing that will make paying the price of admission to the halls of self-discipline and transformation “worth it” to you?

It’s hard, Dads and Moms out there, it’s hard, but it is so worth it! Being able to run up and down the playground with your children is worth it. Being able to rough-house and keep up with the grandkids instead of looking on from your easy chair, sucking air from a canister and unable to do something about it is worth it. Being out and about, active and enjoying life with your family is worth it. Not being a slave to the sickness, medications and having your Doctor’s say you just have to “live with” is worth it!

IT.

IS.

WORTH.

IT.

 

Positive Food Choices

So, did you notice how I said that I stuck with positive food choices instead of saying that I went on a diet? I like the way this excellent article over at BodyBuilding.com puts it:

Somewhere in the last few decades, people everywhere began to confuse a healthy diet with “dieting.” A healthy diet is balanced and can be altered or customized to achieve specific goals without becoming unhealthy. Dieting, on the other hand, is simple deprivation in the name of fat loss, and with it often comes physical weakness, unhappiness, and a decline in athleticism.

Very, very often, the two are confused, which is why I usually use words like “food choice” or “plan”. Diets suggest “fad”, diet suggests “try it and quit in two weeks if I don’t drop 30lbs”, diet suggests “failure”. Diet is about as cliché’ as joining a fitness club on New Years Day. Whereas a food plan or choice is something you are consciously doing, you have a specific goal in mind, you have a purpose and a why. It is deliberate. Your food choices help support, strengthen and back up your reasons why is it worth it to you.

Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness has a great way of putting it when it comes to making positive food choices. Instead of saying no because you are on a diet, you just say “I don’t X”, whatever X is right now. You don’t drink soda. You don’t eat donuts. People will assume “Oh, you are on a diet?” when you don’t pitch in for the Monday morning office donuts or the mid-day treat run. And you simply say “No, I no longer eat donuts because I am tired of how it makes my body feel.”. People will bribe you, tease, criticize, and generally not understand. Crabs in a bucket, people, crabs in a bucket.

YOLO, they may say. Exactly. You only live once. We prefer to live this one time without prescription drugs, high obesity and an inability to do the things we would love to do because we aren’t healthy enough to do them.

You only live once.

It’ll take some “reprogramming” in your brain, hacking into the Matrix of life and learning a few “life hacks” at restaurants to solidify a lot of your food choices, but you can do it. Again, it is worth it.

Hopefully you get the point, food choice is important. Depending on your goals, the food choices you make will be 85-95% of your success in the gym or where ever you decide to work out. Positive fuel + positive work = positive results. I’m still on the path, I’m still learning and adjusting, but it is worth it.

O.K., enough with the food choices, thank you for staying with me. Let’s get to the physical side of things!

 “Circuit Training”

There is probably a more technical term for this. I’m sure I read it once or a million times, I don’t know. But this is what I did. I didn’t have a gym membership so I focused on body weight exercises. A “leg” move, a “pull” move, a “push” move and something “core” related. I would take these four exercises, do a certain amount of each in a circuit with only the briefest of rests in between – usually 30 seconds – and then when I was finished with the final move, I would rest for 90 to 120 seconds and repeat the circuit. This circuit of exercises and reps would be done five times and then I would call it a day. I focused on doing this twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Here are the exercises I did.

Circuit 1: Squats, Pull Ups, Push Ups, Reverse Crunches/Leg Lifts,

Circuit 2: Lunges, Chin Ups, Dips, Planks

I didn’t start off cranking out the Pull Ups, Chin Ups and Dips. I have a “power tower” at home that comes with bands for weight assistance, meaning, I can take up to a certain amount of pounds off my bodyweight to successfully complete the reps and help build up my strength.

So I started there.

No weight added, just bodyweight squats, lunges, and push ups with reduced weight Pulls, Chins and Dips. All of the “rep” exercises were done in increments of five or ten, depending on the exercise and level of ability. The planks were in time increments of 15 seconds and then I began to build on that, 20sec, 25sec, 30sec, etc as training went on. The weight assisted exercises decreased as my strength increased.

I should stress that I planned ahead, knowing not only what I would do, but, how many reps, how long I would hold a plank, how many total circuits, total duration of the workout, what my warm up would look like, what my cool down stretches would look like, etc. Based on the prior week’s workout, I would try to increase the challenge a bit to stimulate growth. I cannot emphasize enough how much planning and keeping track of your workout plan can help you stay focused. When you are frustrated, you can review and see what you’ve been doing and see where you’ve come from, you can assess what needs improving, and when you are looking at switching things up, you can more clearly assess what has been working or not working.

I should also stress that I didn’t go into this knowing ahead of time what I wanted to do. That is where Nerd Fitness came into play and me diving headlong into the articles to figure out what I wanted and how I wanted to do it. Reading those articles and many of the links Steve provided in his own articles, gave me the direction I needed to put together the circuits and the plan to execute.

I pushed, pulled, squatted, lunged, sweated and groaned my way through the next 101 days.

And it paid off, creating a new desire and giving me the momentum to keep moving forward and not give up.

Like I said in the previous article. Those before and after pictures might not be P90X transformation-worthy, but I earned that smile on my face. I had worked for it. Though I was only 101 days into a solid journey, it is a beginning, an origin story if you will, that I will always look back to and smile.

Wisdom from Danny Kavadlo

Danny and his brother, Al Kavadlo are two amazing people in the progressive calisthenics and bodyweight exercise arena. I highly suggest you take a look at these guys and see what they have to offer. Attached is a link to an article Danny had published on Bodybuilding.com yesterday.

“How to look like a Badass after age 40”

Go read it, it is worth your time no matter what your age!

Something Danny said in this article, will sound very familiar to the readers of this blog, “You probably do a lot of things for other people—as you should—but when it comes to staying strong, lean, and powerful, do it for yourself and your loved ones, period.” (emphasis added)

Be strong for you.

Be Strong 4 Family.

S4F – Stay in the Fight. Keep. Moving. Forward.

“I’ve got one idea that I’m especially psyched out of my mind about… ya’ know, it’s just one of those ideas where you’re like… YES!” ~Miles Finch, “Elf”

Have you ever had that reaction? Have you ever been reading something and in just a few words, your thoughts, ideas and viewpoint on something were boiled down to a few good sentences and you were just like… YES!

I had that reaction as I was reading this article over at Bodybuilding.com. It’s a “Q&A” session with Mark Divine, Retired Navy SEAL and the owner of SEALFIT. Go read that article, it’s worth it. That article isn’t what “got the ball rolling” here on Strong 4 Family, however it did help sum up and clarify my reasons, goals and drive for being fit and also for passing my experiences on to you, dear reader, hopefully helping you along the way.

The answer to the first question in that article got that reaction from me and I was hooked the rest of the way through. The first question reads: Summarize the SEAL approach to fitness and what it means. Below is the answer:

The SEAL approach to fitness is to be functionally fit and mentally tough so that you can stay in the fight for a long period of time and get the mission accomplished. It’s not nearly as specific as a lot of sport athletics are—bodybuilding, for example. So we really are classic hybrid athletes who use an integrated approach to training. The six domains that SEALs focus on are:

  • Strength, because strength makes us harder to kill, essentially, and more useful to our team.
  • Stamina, because we end up having to do a lot of work and we can’t be shut down by fatigue.
  • Endurance, because we have to swim and hike long distances to get to a target.
  • Work capacity, because we need to do a lot of work in a short period of time.
  • Durability, because we don’t peak for an event and then take a break; we need to stay in it for up to 20 years.
  • Mental toughness, and we can’t just hope to have it. We have specific tools and methods to develop mental toughness and emotional resiliency.

Mental toughness may be the most important quality of all, because as SEALs we are often pushed past our physical breaking point, where only the power of the mind can carry us across the finish line.

YES!

Now, I’m NOT a Navy SEAL or any other kind of special operator. I’ve never served in the Military, Reserves or Coast Guard. I was in High School ROTC (Go Air Force!) and also in the Boy Scouts, but I don’t think those count, not by a long shot. So…why does this resonate so much with me? Why do I have the “Strong 4 Family” approach to my level of fitness and now this blog? Let’s break each of those bullet points down and translate them “S4F” style. Granted, as time goes on I’m sure I’ll be thinking, “Oh! I should’ve added that!”, but you’ll get the basic gist of it. Here we go!

  • Strength, because strength makes us harder to kill, essentially, and more useful to our team.

Ever heard the saying, “You can’t keep a good man down.”? It’s applicable anyone mind you. Like I wrote on the home page of this blog:

Strong – mentally, physically, emotionally – for my family. For my wife, for my children, for those close to me who need my strength. I’m doing this for me and for them!

You cannot keep someone who is mentally, physically and emotionally strong down, period. They do not stay down, they keep getting back up and moving forward. Just ask Rocky, it’s about how much you can get hit and keep moving forward. When you can get hit (mentally, physically, emotionally) and keep moving forward you are harder to kill and you are more useful to your team, to your core, your brotherhood or your family. I want to be strong and lift my kids high above my head, I will not be a father or grandfather who cannot do that. I want to be the kind of father that can play hard with his kids and keep up with them as they grow. When they are teens, I want to be able to throw any of my kids over my shoulder like they were a teddy bear and jump into a lake. Hell, in truth, I want to be like 52 year old Jon Stewart who took on the final qualifier on American Ninja Warrior on Monday night like a damn boss! To get there, I’m also going to need…

  • Stamina, because we end up having to do a lot of work and we can’t be shut down by fatigue.
  • Endurance, because we have to swim and hike long distances to get to a target.

These two go hand in hand for me. It’s part of the whole “keep moving forward” thing. Sometimes you just gotta take the hits and push forward. Sometimes you don’t get a break, you don’t get respite. Life just… Keeps. Coming. At. You.  You have to stand, you have to endure. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally.

As I will discuss later in my “back story”, I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of an ass-kicking sickness. I had to endure and fight through the bouts of extreme vertigo. When the room was spinning uncontrollably and I was violently dry heaving, because there was nothing left inside, and I was fighting to breath… I had to endure. And when it happened again, and again, and again I had to take it. Even though I was scared, even though I knew that there was nothing I could do to stop the episode, I had to take it and I chose to fight and make changes in my life to help keep it at bay. And it changed me, for the better.

I love this quote from Calvin Coolidge, it encourages me to keep moving forward:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world if full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ (Keep Moving Forward!) has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”

  • Work capacity, because we need to do a lot of work in a short period of time.
  • Durability, because we don’t peak for an event and then take a break; we need to stay in it for up to 20 years.

I think these all build off one another, and that’s why I like them so much! Your Strength, your ability to Endure and Stamina help increase your work capacity and also, your work capacity can help you increase your Stamina, Endurance and Strength. A lot of this goes back to what I want to be as a Father and Husband in life. I will not settle for a weak, passive life. Yes, like many parents out there, I want to have more income to provide for my children and spouse. However, I don’t want to be absent, either. So I choose quality over quantity. It’s hard sometimes. As a husband, a father of four and a holder of a full-time job, the work capacity seems HUGE. But that is the price I pay for what I want. I’ve got my whole life to “stay in it”, and I want to be durable the whole damn time! I want to last.

Finally…

  • Mental toughness, and we can’t just hope to have it. We have specific tools and methods to develop mental toughness and emotional resiliency.

By doing things like The Dirty Dash, or Ruck-Walks, Weight Lifting or even Combatives training. By trying to push my body to be stronger, faster, to last longer, to endure it helps reinforce my “Keep Moving Forward” attitude. It helps in continually developing and honing that mental toughness for the rest of the areas in my life. There are times when you are focused and you hit a personal record and it totally takes you by surprise and you own and dominate that personal record. It was hard, but you did it. Later in that day a situation arises at work, maybe a few years ago you would’ve sweated it, but not now. Why? You’re harder now. It’s not as challenging or hard as that PR that you’ve worked so hard to make, is it? See how that can help? Like Mr. Divine said in his Q&A, mental toughness is the most important quality because “we are often pushed past our physical breaking point, where only the power of the mind can carry us across the finish line.”. Sometimes the battle in your mind is the hardest. The choice you make then, in that very second can help you increase your mental toughness when you choose to keep moving forward.

That quote by Calvin Coolidge I shared earlier is the first of three that I have taped at my desk at work. These three quotes I go back to time and time again as a reminder and as an encouragement. They tell me to keep going, keep moving forward. Like Mr. Divine said: to stay in the fight”. I’ll quote the other two out of order, the third quote is this:

“It is not the critic who counts: nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”  ~Theodore Roosevelt

The middle one is this:

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists… it is real… it is possible… it is yours.” ~Ayn Rand, ‘Atlas Shrugged’

Find your reasons to get and stay fit and do not let them go out “spark by irreplaceable spark”.

Be strong for you.

Be Strong 4 Family.

I ask you: What is your drive? What is your “fire”?