What is failure? According to our friend Webster, failure is a lack of success. Ok, so what is success? Back to Webster, success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. This past weekend I attempted something that I have never thought about trying or tried before…a 100 mile ultra marathon run. Though my initial definition of success for this race was to finish there was a part of me that knew a 100-mile run is incredibly difficult, especially for seasoned running vets, let alone for someone that has a short history with running, fairly untrained, and ill-prepared. Nevertheless, I showed up to the starting line ready to give it my best shot. And for the first 45-ish miles I did. In positive spirits, laughing and dancing at aid stations, stopping to appreciate the view of the stars in the dead of night, and supporting my fellow runners. However, at about 45 miles, things started to take a turn. The day was now approaching and temperatures were reaching a dry, exhausting 90+ degrees. My feet were beginning to blister as the wear and tear of the trail proved taxing on my shoes and socks. Something in my ankle started to ache and by mile 53 was becoming almost unbearable to walk on. Add in a 5 mile stretch when the only fluid I had to drink was leftover melted ice that I was using to cool my neck. The reality was beginning to set in. “There is no way I am finishing this thing.” Now, if my life dependent upon it. Maybe. I would risk potentially longer term ankle damage to save my life and could have cared less about blistered feet. But with an upcoming hiking trip with my family to Bryce Canyon and Zion, there was no need to risk it. However, I had to finish the 6th loop which, due to a change in the course, would equate to roughly 65 miles…a 100k. With mental resolve I continued the hardest physical endeavors I have ever experienced. Each painful step slower than the previous with the final mile back to base camp taking an hour. Crossing through the timer having been up and on my feet for 21 straight hours, I held my head up high and said, “i’m done.” I was offered the opportunity to change my registration to the 60 mile, since I had completed it. Though appreciative I declined the request, since the 60 wasn’t my goal…the 100 was. And I failed. But did I? Failure is lack of success. And success is accomplishing an aim or purpose. In this regards, though I didn’t reach the 100, my initial goal for starting this whole journey on my 35th birthday was to get off the couch and challenge myself. To test my limits. To endure. And I did. During this race I experienced the hardest thing I ever experienced. I ran/walked the furthest I have ever gone. I also utilized the mental skills I work to instill within others to help me complete my final loop. Sometimes people say “their body failed them.” I don’t think my body failed me. My body protected me. The signals from my ankle were so strong that I had to listen or else I could risk some potentially more damaging outcome. So my body didn’t fail me. Some might say “they weren’t mentally tough enough.” Mentally I felt great and even in the darkest, slowest, most painful times of the race (particularly towards the end) I made a resolve within myself to keep going to finish that loop. I could have had a car take me back at the final aid station, but I dug deep in my body and mind and walked the final, awful, 3 miles. So my body didn’t fail me. My mind didn’t fail me. And I didn’t fail myself. Though I might not have finished. After going 64 miles, over 21 hours, with the support of family and friends at home, and the Born to Run community at the race, I certainly did not fail. Which herein lies the lesson. Step up to the starting line. Whatever that means for you. That job application, that hobby, asking out that person. The regret of never knowing will be heavier and much more long lasting than any pain of the potential “failure” that might come from not giving it a shot. I would much rather fail moving forward, at a painful rate of 1 MPH, then to sit at 0 MPH having never tried. So in closing, I suppose it’s debatable whether we were “Born To Run” (in the literal sense, not the Springsteen sense) as the name of this weekend race suggests, however I know for damn sure we were born to try.
Well, it’s finally come. At 6:00pm PST tonight I will begin my quest to run/walk/hike/vomit my way to 100 miles. Though nervous (quite) I am doing my best not to overthink it and to instead just realize that putting one foot in front of the other is something that iIve been able to do since a little after birth. Now, doing it for a day and a half…straight, might be a different story. Though as a sport psychologist my job is to instill mental toughness and fitness into my clients. This is another opportunity for me to practice what I preach and to do the same. As such, I am embracing courage. I don’t know how this will shake out, but I am stepping up the starting line despite any fear or apprehension. I am embracing compassion. I will be compassionate towards myself when I experience the inevitable lows and doubts that will come from spending 30 straight hours on my feet and trusting that these demons will pass…eventually. I am embracing concentration. My focus will be on the here and now. Each step. From aid station to aid station. I am embracing composure. I will pump myself up when I need encouragement and I will calm myself down when the emotions and nerves start to get the better of me. Finally, I am embracing confidence. I am believing in myself to give a great effort. Will it mean I finish all 100 miles? I hope so. But even if not, I will be stepping up to a mental and physical challenge that I have personally never experienced. Which is, I believe, what this is all about. To deliberately take myself out of my comfort zone. To bring myself to a place that day-by-day living seldom gets me/us to. And knowing that in a dark, low, physically and mentally exhausting place I can manage, I can survive, and I can continue to persist. Do I have to run 100 miles to realize this? Maybe not…but I am. And today is race day.
A-muse-ment. Something that causes laughter or provides entertainment.
This is the amusement park that sits along the Santa Monica Pier. I’ve always enjoyed amusement parks. From waiving liability at a carnie created traveling gypsy festival to riding the best at America’s Rollercoast Cedar Point to entering a land of imagination at Disney World…and every ride, game, and funnel cake in between. I find amusement parks…amusing. Not everyone does. Not everyone enjoys the twists and the turns. The crowds. The waiting in line. The greasy food. That’s all good, but we all need our version of an amusement park. Some place, some thing, or some one that we go or turn to for laughter and entertainment. To get away from the seriousness that life sometimes pulls out of us. To let go. To put our arms up. To scream. To be afraid. To feel vibrant. To be…alive. If your stuck. In a rut. Falling prey to the creeping dullness that can sometimes slowly wash over us. Then stop…take a breath…and go find your park. It’s open and waiting to amuse you. Find your park.
Our memory is an interesting thing. It’s not always accurate as we might think it is. It often creates our perceptions and beliefs about the future. It is also influenced by how we are currently feeling in the moment. For instance, if we have a tendency to remember the bad things that have happened to us, then we will likely assume more bad things are to come in the future. Further, if you are feeling sad or in a bad mood, then you will be more likely to remember positive or neutral memories as more negative experiences. Conversely, if you remember the good/positive things that have happened to you, then you will likely be more confident that good/positive things will happen to you in the future. In addition, if you put yourself in a good mood, you will also more likely view your past experiences more positively. So, let’s take a lesson from our buddy memory and do our best to consider the good things that have happened to us. Even if bad things happen, it is important to consider what good might have come from them. As a result of these negative experiences, might you have gotten stronger? More resilient? Been presented with other opportunities? By reflecting on our past using a more positive lens, it will create a more optimistic future and increase our mood in the present. A more positive mood in the present will also positively influence our reflections of the past, which will create a cycle of positive thinking. Fond reflections of the past lead to optimistic attitudes about the future and a more positive mood in the present. In other words, when you look back in the rear view mirror…find the sun.
Saturday night my younger brother and I went to the @chilipeppers concerts at @quickenloans arena. What was awesome about our seats – front row side stage – was that you could see a bit of the behind the scenes action that you might not otherwise see if you’re in the front floor area. As such, what you sacrifice in sound, you make up for in peeling back the curtain on what goes on during a show. Anything from managers roaming around, to the guitar tech racing to fix equipment issues, to the audio guy dialing in the sound. At times, while @anthonykiedis was seemingly dancing, he would give a slight gesture to the audio technician and a slight adjustment would be made to his sound. Blind to the large majority of the audience members and a total pro way of communicating to the rest of your team, the audio guy was able to dial in a sound mix over the course of pre-show rehearsals and throughout the show. The sound changes as the venue fills up with people and can depend on other conditions. A lot goes into it and there are a lot of different elements to adjust along the sound board. Kind of like with us. All of us have a personal sound board consisting of a variety of essential elements that we want to possess. When dialed in correctly it leads to the “life sound” that we want to hear. Elements like confidence, productivity, kindness, love, empathy, toughness, focus, listening, etc. Elements that when dialed in correctly can lead to nice sounding life performance. What are some of your essential elements? Might they be different in your life, relationships, work, or sport/performance? Can you explore what they are? Rank them on a scale of 1-5? Identify where you would ideally like to be on that scale? Then come up with actions items to dial them in? What conditions might throw them off – other people, time of year, potential barriers? How are you sounding these days? Are you dialed in?
My younger brother @dylangraef and I went to the @redhotchilipeppers concert Saturday night in Cleveland, OH. We were fortunate to have front row side stage seats which created a viewing experience unlike any other (more to come on this in future blogs). One obvious highlight is being closer to the band. So close in fact, that we were exchanging glances and gestures with drummer @chadsmithofficial . Secretly, I was hoping that given the “connection” between on-stage band member and off-stage audience member, I thought there might be a chance that I could get a drum stick from him to give to my brother. As they left the stage for the encore, Chad and I exchanged some brief words about the drumming and I made (though I thought) the international sign for “hey, I want a drum stick.” Well apparently, and rightfully so, that got lost in translation because at the end of the show when a drum stick holding Chad Smith approached the side stage, literally 4 feet from our seats, and addressed the crowd he tossed these drum sticks far off into the sea of people and not to us. Slightly disappointed, Dylan and I both looked at each other and said, “but, Chad, I thought we had a connection!” Joking aside, I was really hoping Dylan could get a memoir, especially given our proximity to the stage. However, the story doesn’t end there…as it seldom does. As people left the arena, Dylan and I held back a little and I noticed one of the touring musicians starting to break down his stuff. We made brief eye contact and I yelled “Hey, can we get a drum stick?” After a brief pause, the musician reached down, pulled out a drum head and frisby-ed it near our seats. It just missed but fortunately another roadie handed it to us. Not only was it a drum head, but it had a hand written setlist taped to it! Dylan was so excited and I was ecstatic knowing that this small gesture just completely put a bright “red hot” bow on an already awesome night! So, what’s the lesson here? Well don’t get me a wrong, a drum stick would have been cool. But we didn’t get one and although we were disappointed, we stuck it out for a little longer and got something much more unique. Had we gotten our first choice, we likely would have left and the setlist would have never even crossed our minds. Yet, because we didn’t get our first choice, we actually ended up with something better. How often is it that we don’t always get our first choice? That one door closes? We often react with disappointment. With “why bother?” Perhaps we can realize that there are some really awesome, exciting, kick ass things waiting behind door number two. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Embrace second.
Happy Mothers Day to all the mom’s out there! Today is an opportunity to thank those amazing women in our lives. And though I could easily spend the rest of today’s blog paying homage to my mother and showering her with well-deserved compliments about her motherly badassery I want to take a different route. Such compliments would certainly be warranted of course. My mom is great (Love ya mom), but I want to consider the concept of mother as a whole rather than focusing solely on the positive characteristics of my own. Mom. Mother. Motherly. Maternal. Matriarch. Though these terms of course refer to actual mothers, I think mother can also serve as a representation of someone or something that provides love and support unconditionally. Mothers give life, act with humility, and go above and beyond without any expectation of, though deserving of, a thank you. What amazing traits these are? Aren’t these traits ones that we can all strive to develop and provide to the world? Regardless of our sex or whether we have given birth, can’t we strive to act in a motherly way to our friends, family, employees, teammates? To show love. To show support. To care. To enhance life. To be humble. To go above and beyond in anything that we do. Can’t we all be a little bit more motherly? Are we mom enough to do it?
They say you are an average of the 5 people you associate most with. Well I am fortunate to have a few sets of 5’s and last year this 5 of us went to @the1975 concert in Columbus, Ohio and approximately a year later, here we are again seeing the 1975 except in Pittsburgh. With this 5 I associate laughter, great conversation, laid backness, authenticity, and a damn good time. Though some things change over the year…growing children, new houses, or different job responsibilities, the association of friendship remains the same. And that’s what we want right? We want a squad (or squads) of people that regardless of what is going on external to those friendships we can always count on them for support, engagement, and/or a damn good time. Who is your consistent crew?
Last night I went and saw @catfishandthebottlemen at Express Live in Columbus, Ohio. I must be choosing some good concerts because once again these guys rocked. Great music, great sound, and an incredibly dynamic front man. Not only that, the crowd in Columbus was totally into it. I’ve been to concerts where the band is crushing it, but for whatever reason, the audience isn’t really doing much. That actually happened when I saw jamestownrevival in Indianapolis this past Sunday. Amazing band. Amazing show. Dud audience. As such, both band and audience have a key roles in creating a magical show experience. One simple strategy for showing one’s appreciation and enthusiasm is by putting your hands up. Whether you move them around, or clap them, or not, that little extra gesture of putting one’s hands over one’s head signals to the band, “hey, I’m with ya!” As a result, the band levels up and plays harder because they are now drawing energy from the crowd, which then elicits even more excitement from the crowd, which then further energizes the band, hence creating a cycle of kick ass band-audience concert magic. All of this occurring because the band shows up and puts out, and the audience raises arms and stays engaged. Do you want to create magic? In your office? Your sport? Your relationships? Keep in mind the simple gestures that will communicate to the other person or organization that you are all in. That will signal, “Hey, I’m with ya.” It doesn’t take much, it doesn’t require talent, it just requires you and your energy. Put your hands up.
I was driving down Olentangy River Road in Columbus, Ohio and had to stop the car and take a picture of this family of geese that was traveling down the road together on some journey. Obviously far from the pond or river where they usually live, could it be that they were going on an adventure? A vacation? I wouldn’t be surprised. Geese, and other birds for that matter, have been known to fly south for the winter. In fact, this phenomenon is so recognized that an endearing term is now used to denote those older individuals that live in Ohio or some other cold climate state, but stay in Florida or some other warm climate state during the winter, as Snow Birds. Geese often travel in a group, a gander. It can be heart wrenching to see a baby goose that has gotten lost or separated from his/her squad. A meme in the making could be, “geese that travel together, stay together.”
Might this apply to humans? I think so! Though I do, really, enjoy traveling on my own. There is a sense of adventure that comes with just having to figure things out by myself and a sense of autonomy that comes with doing what I want, when I want, where I want, and how I want while on a trip. However, I also need plenty of social interaction in my life. Which is why I also love the MANY travel opportunities that emerge from having a solid group of college buddies, two amazing sets of high school friends, work peeps, and a kick ass biological family. But travel doesn’t magically happen. It requires a bit of effort. A decision is needed and at least something has to be booked. Don’t wait any longer. The time is now to channel your inner goose. Geese don’t care about money. Geese don’t care that they don’t have enough time off. Geese don’t even care that they have kids. Geese just gather their gander and go on down the road. Geese vacation and so can you.