The Crossroads

crossroadsDestinationY_O_U

Where will you be in five years?

You will be somewhere.  Alive or dead, in five years you will be somewhere.   Hopefully, you will be alive, and then the question becomes; will your destination be a well-designed destination, or will it have no design at all?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Today.  You are at a crossroads.   Crossroads are powerful things; they are religious and full of meaning.  They are spiritual and can signify calamity, uncertainty, and risk but they can also signify choice, freedom, and hope.   And today – you are at a crossroads.

You have a choice to make.

Just by showing up today, you have made a choice.   You did something today you’ve never done before and that led you here, to this new place with these new people.  That’s not easy.  It’s not as comfortable as many other things you could probably think of.   I imagine eating ice-cream and watching Netflix might feel more comfortable than this.   I imagine doing some quasi-work to excuse myself from not doing what I said I was going to do might feel better than this in the short-run.  I imagine there are worse places I could have chosen too, but I made a choice – I came to the crossroads and I made a choice to be right here, with you all.

And you made that same choice so here you all are.

You will encounter many crossroads along the way, and this might surprise you but, whatever direction you decide to take when you get to that point, you will always end up at some version of yourself – in five years, no matter which way you turn.   It is inevitable.

The version of yourself that you will encounter in five years will be the result of the direction you went when you made the choices you made today, and the choices you will make tomorrow.   The YOU! that you will discover in five years will be the result of all the excuses and justifications or the sum of all the hard-work and hard-choices you made to get there.

This program really is that important.  You really are that important.   The stakes are high, and you have some hard choices to make if you really want to be the best version of yourself; Destination YOU!

OW! It’s working!

I want to talk about something for a second here because it’s come up from a few of you and we all need to be on the same page. So here it is – credit Brown’s Boot Camp – Weight Loss and total body fitness (correct me if I’m wrong) is 75% diet/nutrition and 25% Physical Activity.   What does that mean?   It means that if you start working out or increasing your workouts but you do nothing about your diet, odds are stacked against that you’ll reach your target weight and maintain a healthier body composition.
Great bodies are made in the kitchen, not in the gym and not on the track.
Think about that for a second. What percentage of your effort goes into your diet and what percentage of your effort goes into your workouts?    We tend to think that when we get out there and run or lift or whatever it is we’re doing, and we get a nice sweat going, that we are putting all of our effort into our workouts and that’s the place for it, but what about with our diets?   What does it look like to put our effort into what we eat? Have you ever thought of it as effort?   I don’t know about you but for me, it’s hard to be hungry and have my body just craving some carbs SO bad.  I get hangry!   Irritated.  It sucks to eat a scheduled meal that looks big but leaves you hungry for more.  How can it be that I just ate all this food and I’m still hungry?   Normally, I would reach for something..anything to feed my craving.   Normally, I’m not really even hungry anymore, I’m just craving something sweet or filling despite feeling in my stomach that I really am full.   If I eat anything else, it’s just stuffing myself.   What I’m driving at is that not eating when you want to and what you want to and as much as you want to when that is what you’ve been doing up to this point is one hard battle to fight.   And you have to keep on fighting it, everyday, all day, with little moments in between where you learn to make yourself busy and forget about it for a minute.
You may not break out into a sweat, but that hungry feeling and those cravings are as much an effort to deal with and resist than pushing yourself to run a 5k everyday.. or a marathon.   It’s almost impossible.   You have to think of little tricks to help you cope with it.   One of my favorites is the Mohammed Ali pushups quote adaped for dieting; “I don’t start counting my pushups until it gets hard!”.   In dieting and watching your portions and food balance, when it gets hard.. is when it starts counting.   When you’re body is lurching with food-cravings and driving you insane, that’s when you’re losing weight, burning calories, getting tougher mentally.. that’s when it’s WORKING!   That’s when you KNOW it’s WORKING.  Getting the signal that what you’re doing is working – even if that signal is pain or discomfort or irritation – still feels good and you can feel a little jolt of accomplishment.   Just don’t get too comfortable because the next craving is right around the corner.

The next level

There’s always another level.   It usually looks something like this;

 

I really enjoy eating whatever I want, playing video games or watching televison, drinking or smoking (or both) and generally having a good time.   Don’t get me wrong!  I know that none of these things are good for me.  As a matter of fact, my feet and legs hurt all the time because I’m overweight, I get winded just going up steps, I have no energy and crash mid-way through the day, I’m pre-diabetic.   What I’m try ing to say is that I know all of this is unsustainable; I’m going to dramatically shorten my life and the life I will have lived won’t really be worth all that much.

Someday I’m going to need to take it to the next level.  I can see it there in the distance and it’s been there the whole time but I don’t know what to do, how to get started, it’s going to hurt, it doesn’t look fun or easy, it costs too much, the food taste like crap and I’ll miss all the tasty treats and sugary sweets, it’s just not who I am, my partner doesn’t want to.. on and on, the next level sits out there and, at best, I promise to do something about it – tomorrow.

 

Our paths are all different and we all have different thresholds.  Some people wake up in their 20’s and they start grinding and adopting healthy life-style choices and habits and just take off.  Others pick it up after some calamity or potpourri of things befall them – the switch finally flips, they pull the trigger and they get into it.   Still others keep making excuses and despite having toes amputated, losing eyesight, being relegated to lil’ rascals and mainlining insulen or statens or whatever drugs they need just to find baseline again, they lash out bitterly at the world and doctors and the system and life and the universe.   These last ones never level up.   They die.

If you don’t level up, you die in more ways than one – I’m not saying that levelling up means that we can just keep on living in our bodies and never fail and never fall and we will always get back up again.  I mean that you die without ever being alive in the first place.   You were taking up space the whole time.   You have no gratitude.

But some people DO level up.   They see it and they do it and they achieve it.   They earn their sweat and they earn their bodies, perhaps for the first time.   They shed pounds, they gain muscle, they gain speed and power, they learn gratitude and teamwork and the importance of consistency and balance.   They see excuses for what they are and they become sensative to things that waste time – they become sensitive to time and they have urgency.

But they are hanging on to some things.   They compromised or they settled in at their new level and got comfortable.   They stopped rising and held steady where they were. You can’t get comfortable.

And they see the next level out there.  Something they wanted to avoid and didn’t think they would ever look seriously at.   Maybe it has to do with an even more extreme diet, cutting alcohol or cutting bread or massive amounts of fruit because hey!  fruit is good for you, right?   Maybe the next level for you is a different kind of fitness you never thought to try out before.   Are you a runner?  Maybe the next level is weight lifting. Ever thought about body-building or swimsuit competitions?   Why not?  Why not you?! Maybe it’s time to really learn how to swim and love swimming.  Cycling?  Trapeze artist?

Maybe the next level is to work your way into a new level of performance in the type of fitness that you are already focused on.  Why not break a really audacious time goal? Why not win a race?

What are some of the levels hanging out on your periphery that you don’t feel quite ready to tackle, just yet?   What is holding you back and if it’s a someday thing, why not today?

But for yourself

Getting over the fear that I have of making a call to someone who could create a situation where I either fail or succeed, and to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t even have to be something so dire; it could be the thumbs up or down for a preliminary decision or even more simple.

It could just be that I’m afraid to ask for what I want.

That.  That is really hard for me to do.

Fear of failure is strong with this one.   And this one.. and this one.. and so on, on and on. We’re all afraid of failing, of looking bad, of being less, of losing the respect of our friends and families and even worse sometimes – complete strangers.   We want to be loved – not pitied.   We want to be heroes, not villains.  We want to be good.

I hit that crossroads in junior high school and I remember clearly the turn I took and the path I travelled when I realized I wasn’t doing so hot with quick, zingy come-backs or just standing up for myself, so I decided to just shut up.   It was deliberate.   I remember deciding to play it safe – that if I didn’t say anything and just kept my mouth shut, I would disappear into the noise of a 7th grade existence.   That’s what I did, and it worked.. kinda.

We can’t go back.  We can’t undo that turn like flipping through a choose-your-own-adventure book and explore an alternate reality.  We can’t rewind.  No mulligans, no take-backs.. nothing.  And just as an aside – this is one of those life lessons that stings a bit; You don’t get second chances.   I’m not even going to argue this point here – you know what I mean.   You don’t get do-overs – period.   Once something’s out there, it’s out there. Employ all the damage control you want, a bad first impression, a drunken tirade, a hasty decision in the heat of the moment – they all have consequences and that’s life. Whatever happened might not destroy what you have, but it won’t ever be completely forgotten and it will defnitely add a shade of color to your relationships moving forward.

But even that’s not always a bad thing.

I tried out for the speech team in Junior High.   Looking back now, I feel like I should have been a shoe-in.   I’m fairly comfortable in front of crowds (now), I’ve spoken and spoken well at times, sticking to an outline – when leading my 5k groups or talking to a group of friends or even adult Sunday School in my twenties; sure!  I was nervous, but I wasn’t horrbile.   No!  I’m not really that bad, but when I tried out for the speech team, I had no idea what I was doing.  I don’t think I even told my parents.   They handed me something, I read it extremely nervously, and that was it – I didn’t get in. The only reason I mention this is because I want you to know that I wasn’t happy being a wall-flower. Despite playing it safe, I didn’t want to be relegated to the background.   I wanted to matter.   I wanted to be on the speech team; a place that I earned and a place that I belonged to.   They didn’t want me.

When I tried to matter – I didn’t get picked.

And  I still remember this thirty-five years later- I don’t really remember moping around about not getting on the team.   Maybe because it was confirmation of what I already knew about myself – I can’t be ‘that guy’.   You know the one.  The guy who has a ready answer in any situation.  The guy who all the girls like to be around.  The guy who has earned the admiration of the other guys – he’s the Guy of all Guys!

I guess I’m just writing all of this to say that I’ve always tried to be whatever everyone else wants me to be – or what society thinks I should be, or so I think.   Sure!  I’ve gotten WAY better at just ‘being myself’, but a lot of the things I do, I still do for other people – and I catch myself all the time.   It all sounds so trite, doesn’t it?   It does to me – but I ask myself a few questions and it becomes a little less weird –

Am I really living out MY life, unfettered from the expectations I percieve others have in me?

Guys!   That kind of self-reflexive questioning is NOT a bad thing.   When you add the word ‘really’ to any question, it not only casts doubt on what you have taken for granted for so long, it really forces you to examine why you did so in the first place.   And again, if you’re first response is to defend that position at all costs without really thinking about it, reflexively beating your chest – you lose.  Period.

Am I REALLY living up to my full potential?

How much of my life and how many of my daily actions are purely to curry the favor of someone else?

Or, what does a life look like – what does MY life look like – if it were acted purely from my own self-interest?  

Is that (really) a bad thing?

 

There have been times..

There have been times where I argued with myself about whether I really loved running.

There have been times where I could not convince myself that it was love, in the same way that soaking in a hot tub was love for an activity, or getting a massage, or sex.  I do not love running like I love any of those things.

There was a time recently where I didn’t want to run anymore.

I was done – that time.

But I’m learning and my understanding is growing and I’m realizing that  what I miss most about running is the thing I hate most about running – I miss being able to suffer and then, as pertains to life, to lean.. in.

I miss being at the boundary – the frontier of my abilities – that crystalline edge of possibility.

I miss getting another chance to not feel sorry for myself but instead, trying again.

 

Every single time

We sat around the table throwing ideas out in rapid-fire succession.   Some stuck, some missed wildly and were completely ignored, zinging off into the forgetting, quickly and unnoticed.

The topic this time was business cards, kind of.   Cards we could just hand to someone that had the most relevent information, simply put, with a call to action.  Something catchy, easy and fast.   It was a vague idea for me for a long time, but here they were presenting it with gusto, taking it all on themselves from concept to cards – it was pretty awesome to see.

We fleshed out some ideas, I talked about what my expectations were, they blended those up and spit out their own takes – we had a plan, a concept that could be set free, and, maybe needing a nod from me, they were off.   It only occured to me later that while they were looking at me for my ideas and ‘go-aheads’ and approvals and blessings – did they realize they themselves were practicing the skills they would need to run things themselves?   Did they know that they were taking a crash course in running a business? Even more important (to me) – did I know that this interaction was practice for future business meetings with agendas, actionable plans and open-mindedness to ideas that might otherwise be dismissed out of hand?

Did we know that every interaction, every single time, was an opportunity to build something, create something, help someone, or otherwise have a positive impact somehow?

I like to think they knew it.   I like to think that I knew it too.

Embrace yourself

What an amazing adventure you are.

Have you any idea that your story, your narrative, is the most interesting story?   There is nothing lacking in it.   The hardships would shock most of us and perhaps you are right to hide them from first sight.   We know they are there, we need not know more.  We accept you still as our storyteller, our guide and we, your confidant.

You are a world of experiences and knowledge.   Hints and leanings, hues and reflections.  You are an unmapped surface full of mystery and belonging.   It is written on the still waters of your soul and the kind lines of your eyes.  How could you compare yourself unworthy, unkind and unremarkable when you are so clearly extraordinary beyond measure?

Those that do not love you, do not know you – it’s true – nor do they need know for you to love them in return – because you know  yourself and so, you know the flowering possibility in the strangers cruel stare.   You know the forgiveness and acceptance because you have forgiven and you have accepted – fully.   You.. oh YOU!  You have realized that infinite joy lay within the grasp of your conscious will to be joyful and to bear those joyful things that push you into that light, pulling you from your darkness. That YOU are a spiritual being having a human experience – a soulful spirit above all, immersed in the shroud of humanity.

And so are you.. and You.. and YOU!