On Saturday afternoon I was at the track doing a run workout and while I’m there, there is a teenager on the soccer field by himself doing drills. He looked to be 14 or 15 years old. If it was in September when soccer season is going on I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but it was June 4th and about a week from school letting out.
I’m sure most of his friends are at the pool, hanging at the mall, or playing video games. And why shouldn’t they? After all, they’ve worked hard all year in school and deserve to settle back and recharge. But this kid. He’s out there by himself on a Saturday afternoon in June when it’s 90+ degrees doing sprints back and forth, drills with the ball, and everything in between.
The next day I’m out for a bike ride, on my way home, and I pass this basketball court by my house. There is another teenager, probably 15 or 16, by himself on the court with cones setup doing basketball drills. A super hot Sunday afternoon and he could be doing anything, but he chooses to do work.
Whether their goal is to win a high school championship or play in the NBA, these two young men are going to be equally successful outside the athletic world and anything they set their mind to.
Having a strong work ethic is a lifestyle that goes far beyond results and it covers many different aspects of life. It’s a part of who you are, what you stand for, and shows the world that you are proud of the things you do. It’s seen in the way you get up in the morning. It’s seen in the way you raise your children (if you’re a parent), it’s seen in your career, and how you treat the people around you. It’s seen in everything you do in your life.
In my mind a strong commitment always comes down to the WHY. Why you want to do something. You can know what you want to do, how you’re going to do it, and who can help you, but without the why, your chances of sticking to it during the tough times are much less. You are going to hit challenges in your journey. Things are going to get tough. You are going to want to quit at times. And having that why in your back pocket to pull out when you hit those obstacles will re-enforce the deep passion you have for what it is you are doing. You’ll accept the hard times as lessons of growth and you’ll stay committed to your path.
The phrase, ‘talk is cheap’ is pretty accurate. Nothing ever gets done unless you take action. Nothing. In order to do work, well, you have to actually do work. Come up with a plan, stick to it, and execute the heck out of it.
When I was in my early 20s I sent an email to Cam Brown, one of the best Ironman triathletes in the world. He’s won multiple Ironmans and has finished top 3 at the coveted Ironman Hawaii. In my email to him I wrote that he inspires me and asked if he has any advice about training and racing. In his reply he wrote, ‘don’t worry about putting in the big hours right now. You’ll get there. Consistency is what you want to focus on. Day in day out, month after month, year after year, is what will get you to your potential.’
It’s not about what you do on Monday. Or what you do on Saturday. What’s important is that you do something every single day that will help you get closer to achieving your goal. That could be doing some grunt work. It could be taking a day to re-charge.
And remember, nothing happens overnight. Consistency plus patience equals results.
When my Dad passed away from cancer a few days after my first birthday things really changed for our family. From that moment on it was my Mom, brother, and me. See that picture to the left? That’s us. And in case you are wondering – I don’t part my hair like that anymore 🙂
Sacrifice, determination, hard work, and a keep-moving-forward attitude are just a few words I’d use to describe my Mom and what she did for our family. I’m still not sure how she did it, but I guess that’s why she’s my hero. I learned a lot over those 18 years at home, but most of those lessons I didn’t realize until I was much older, looking back on my childhood and adolescence. Here are a few and I hope they help:
My Mom worked as a pharmacy technician and while it was enough to pay the bills, in 1983 pharmacy techs did not make a lot of money. I am still not sure how my Mom pulled it off financially, but I trust her budgeting skills were very good. I bring this up because, even though it is a touchy subject, financial hardship can be an extreme challenge for single parents, but I want you to know something. When it comes to your children and making a better life for them, the values you instill in them trump any type of item you can buy. Teaching them right from wrong will build trust in your relationship and is far more important than buying them an expensive pair of sneakers or jeans.
You only have one set of eyes and ears. You can’t possibly keep after everything your son or daughter is doing and everyone they may be hanging out with. I sure know my Mom couldn’t. But there is one thing she did that I believe not only made our relationship stronger, but helped keep me on a good path. She took a genuine interest in my friends. She got to know them. If my friends came over to the house she would ask them about their interests, sports they are playing, or school. She got to know them before she started worrying who I was spending time with.
She knew which of my friends made good decisions and had good habits, which ones didn’t, and made sure I spent more time with the former. After all, we become like the people we most spend our time with.
It’s hard to make every event, I know. Plus, it’s hard to get your “me time” when you are a single parent, but trust me on this one. Your kids not only want you there, they need you there. The hard work they see you doing day in and day out for the family is rubbing off on them and they work hard in their goals too. Those soccer games, music recitals, or dance competitions mean so much more if they can experience them with you. It’s an opportunity to make your relationship stronger, get to know their teammates, and reinforce how proud you are of their work ethic.
When I was 8 my Mom went on a date and I was so excited. I remember sitting at home with my brother and we couldn’t wait to hear how it went. But when she got home she told us that he did not want to date anyone with kids. Of course, my reply was, “but Mom he doesn’t even know us. Maybe once he meets us he will change his mind.” And she had to tell us that it wasn’t anything personal. The next day at dinner she looked at my brother and me and told us that she decided she won’t date until we are both out of the house because she doesn’t want the drama to impact our family.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t date. But I am saying that when it comes to dating, ALWAYS, include your children in any decisions you make. Deep down they are excited for you to find love, and if they feel a part of that decision then the acceptance of your partner will be more successful.
We never know what the future will bring, but when it comes to our kids we want the best possible life for them. As they navigate their teenage years and enter adulthood, know that you did the absolute best possible job you could have. Trust the values you have instilled in them, have faith they have an inner circle of healthy friendships, know you will remain proud of their accomplishments, and enjoy the incredible close relationship you have with your son or daughter in a way only a single parent can.
Most Tuesdays I will run from my house and over to Chestnut Hill Academy to do a track workout. Today on the training schedule was 5 x 1000 at right around 5:25 pace with an easy lap between each repeat.
So I run over there for my warm up, about 20 minutes, then get on the track and do a couple striders to get my heart rate up. I’ve been feeling better each week in these workouts and all I really wanted was to feel comfortable at that pace today. Little did I know I’d get a better lesson in life…..
I run the first repeat then take an easy lap and as I’m coming around there is a guy walking in lane two and he says, “great job buddy.” I said, “hey thanks man.”
Do the second repeat, take an easy lap and I say to him, “never gets easier!” And he gives a good belly laugh and says, “I know the feeling.”
Do the third repeat, take an easy lap and he shouts, “but this is how you get stronger!” And I said, “heck yea man.”
Do the fourth repeat and easy lap and I see him starting to run along the perimeter of the turf field inside the track and I say, “keep it going man!” He says, “I got this!”
Do the last repeat, he takes another walking lap and as we both finish up he puts his arm up to wave and says, “I’ll see ya later.”
As I’m getting ready for Ironman Lake Placid, it’s hard not to think about results. It’s also been 8 years since I did my last Ironman and with a gap that long it’s almost like I’m training for my first one again.
But today this guy on the track reminded me that the experiences and growth within the journey will always be more important than the results. I’m grateful this guy helped motivate me today and I hope I did a little bit of the same for him.
As I get older and look back on the racing/training part of my life, I believe these are the things I will remember the most.
As I’m training hard and getting ready for Ironman Lake Placid, I’m also trying to up my mental game. The other day I was riding my bike inside on the trainer because it was a little cold and rainy outside. If you’re thinking riding your bike inside must be very boring, well, then yes you are right. It’s extremely boring, but a good chance to think about things.
The Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. It makes my legs hurt just typing it. Most people will tell you that the Ironman is all about pacing and nutrition on the bike and run. That it comes down to the last 10k of the marathon. This, of course, is all true. I’ve certainly learned that in my first four Ironmans.
But what about the swim? Many people consider it a warm up for the race and unless you haven’t done your training, the swim is pretty irrelevant to your race. You’re going to get through it and it’s only one hour out of a 10 hour day, or however long it takes you.
And while it’s such a small portion of the race, I think the swim is the most important part. Imagine this: there you are standing at the waters edge about to run in with 3,000 other athletes who want it just as much as you do. Your nerves are trembling and while you have a plan set out for the race, you know there are things that are going to happen that make sticking to that plan more difficult. When the start gun sounds, you run in and you are like a punching bag getting hit and kicked by the other people swimming next to you. You try to look up to see where the next buoy is, but instead you swallow a big gulp of water and think to yourself, ‘this is harder than I thought it was going to be.’
Now you don’t have to enter an Ironman to know what that feels like. The start line of an Ironman is very much like the start line to each day because we all have fears, doubts, and anxiety. We all get kicked down sometimes or swallow a nasty tasting gulp of salt water.
The swim is the most important part of the Ironman because it’s how we choose to handle those nerves right off the bat. How we can take those hits and kicks and realize it’s nothing personal, it’s just a part of the race. Taking it buoy to buoy as to not get overwhelmed by swimming 2.4 miles. It’s how you set your mentality at the start line that is going to make you strong and carry you through to the last 10k of that marathon. Where you can get to the end and say, “I did my best.”
The fear and anxiety we may feel is different for all of us, depending on where we choose to start. But think about all that “training” you did, take it one buoy at a time, pace yourself, and have a great race. No one does it like you.
Here’s a picture my brother took at my first Ironman swim at Florida in 2005:
This morning I processed a few services for people we are helping through HCM Foundation. There were four of them. A medical bill, rent payment, electric bill, and gas bill. Here’s me dropping them in the mailbox:
Helping people through the foundation is always going to be a guiding purpose for my life because I can relate to what most of the families are going through. Being able to pay a bill or a prescription copay is huge. We’ve helped people prevent eviction, get medication they need that is not covered by insurance, and so much more.
But often times what people will thank us for is being there when they had no where else to turn. For caring enough to lend a helping hand in the first place.
Sometimes I think we are so busy or wrapped up in our own lives that it’s hard to recognize our impact on other people.
Never underestimate how much positivity, happiness, and hope a simple phone call, email, smile, or pep talk can bring to someone else. Our mark on this world is so much greater than we give ourselves credit for or can ever imagine.
The next person you talk with after reading this post, think about how much you are impacting them. Maybe you’re the person they need right now.