Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A leg to stand on...

Unquestionably, the best thing about the extreme racing that I do is the extraordinary people I have met, and gone on to become close friends with. I may not see them as often as I'd like, but when I do it is in the most intensely bonding settings - and in between we have Facebook, etc, to stay in touch and trade energy and adventure stories.

I have written in the past about oportunities to celebrate these friends' incredible successes - quintuple Ironman, North Pole expeditions... And to support them through tough circumstances - family tragedies, major illnesses... And they are always the first to reach out to me with congratulations or concern about anything exceptional in my life. The rest of the time we are just making one another laugh hysterically and inspiring one another with our shared passion for a life less ordinary.

Yesterday, my Facebook newsfeed blew up with real news. My good friend, Mark Webb, with whom I have toiled alongside in several Death Races and a GoRuck Challenge in Iowa, had been in a serious motorcycle accident and had to have his foot amputated. This was not a story that unfolded gradually. All at once we learned - by way of a Facebook post from his family - that Mark had been in an accident (not his fault - he is an experienced rider who was following all the rules when a car pulled out directly into his path), was badly hurt and rushed to hospital, and that doctors had determined immediately that his right foot would have to be removed. The upside is that he was otherwise not in any grave danger and was getting excellent care.

Immediately, there was a flood of support, love and concern expressed. So many familiar names, and even more unfamiliar ones, were posting messages to Mark's wall. The common theme was how much respect everyone has for who Mark is as a person and how confident we all are that this will not stop him from any of his many pursuits in his awesome life. And most were accompanied with pictures of Mark smiling his way through one brutal challenge after another.

Within hours, Mark popped up himself. First, with this hilariously casual Tweet from his hospital bed ...

 Link to tweet ...

Then with this shameless request ...

Recognizing that Mark was in fine form, and knowing that he was already receiving a healthy dose of sympathy, I went out on a limb and sent him a request of my own. To which he responded with zero hesitation ...

Mark Webb is the kind of person who we all like to think we are, or at least wish we were.

A great friend. A devoted father. A badass motherfucker. An inspiring, courageous human.

The other great thing about this part of my life is that every time I do something awesome, there is always someone beside me has already raised the bar so much higher.

Case in point. I thought I was being super funny and encouraging by doctoring this picture (the first I'd ever seen of Mark, even before meeting him at Winter Death Race 2012. Suffice it to say I was actually a bit intimidated.)...

... and then saw that Jack Cary had just posted this fucking masterpiece!! FTW.

 Click to Watch!

I am so ridiculously blessed in all aspects of my life. Not the least of which is having friends like these.

I will see you next month in Vermont, Webb!! Rest up and then get back at it. Our theme song will be "Footloose" and I am sooooo looking forward to some oblivious racer complaining to you that his feet hurt.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A serious post that really doesn't matter

(WARNING - In spite of my ego-driven belief that I actually know things that could help you, and my inclusion of content from a leading astro-physicist, the most profound statement in this whole post comes from Bill Murray in "Meatballs")

Do you ever get yourself twisted up in your "problems", knowing full well they are the result of abundance not lack? And actually have all the "answers" to which you could easily coach anyone else in your shoes? But don't listen to any of them anyway? And then, just when you are almost all sorted, remember that it is all made up and that none of it matters beyond what we make matter? Yeah, me too!

The past few weeks (even months), I have been grinding through doubts about my relationship, my career, my parenting and my health. In each case, the questions have been very valid (even if the answers are equally evident). But I have been brutally stubborn about wallowing in them. Every week I coach clients through their not dissimilar issues, all while remaining obstinately attached to my own.

Finally, just over the past couple of days, I have simply allowed myself to "be". And have let go of having to "solve" anything for a bit. To just breathe and smile, and be OK with everything not being OK (all while realizing that it actually is)

And, of course, what has happened is that the incessant noise in my head has died down. And I can now hear the voice that was always there, patiently waiting to be heard.

It is saying ... 

"You love her. She loves you. Stop stressing about the past and the future. Are you happy now? Good - then BE love."
"You are ridiculously fortunate to have any job, let alone the amazing one that you have created! Be massively grateful for the awesome parts of it and know that the challenging aspects are there to cause you to stretch and grow. And it is up to you to create the path that you want going forward. The opportunity is infinite - just ask (while being of service and value)."
"You are a great Dad. You have spectacular kids. They are 17 and 15, and (despite your 'best efforts') you are just not as cool as you think. So, simply keep loving them and appreciating and supporting them - and cherish the fleeting moments when they, occasionally, acknowledge that they love and appreciate you too (especially that rarest of admissions that maybe, just maybe, you are sometimes kind of cool). Make the most of your time together, and know that you are creating opportunities for them, too, when you are traveling."
"Of course you are bashed up! You have boasted for years that you take on one Herculean challenge after another with minimal training, with a body already compromised by years of wrestling, snowboarding and spontaneous (entirely unnecessary) stunt-falls. None of this is life-threatening! You have nagging injuries in your shoulder and your groin - both well earned, and both addressable (albeit agonizingly gradually). Slow down, Stretch. Take baby steps. Set longer-term goals. Go back to basics and do the work You know everything you need to know, and have everything you need to have. Remember that you are still able to do so much, and stop taking it all for granted! You are blessed beyond belief."

In other words, "LET GO of your story about things NOT being PERFECT. See them just as they are, and be GRATEFUL for exactly THAT. Be present to how amazing NOW actually is! And know that the future will be every bit as amazing as the most magical of moments you've already experienced."


(So, that is kind of the end of that post. And I should probably just leave it at that. In fact, if you agree - then you can just stop reading here and say "Well, that was a great post. What will I do now?"

But... there is a bit more that I have to say...)


I have written before about the trouble with "SHOULD" (and others have written more and better on the same), but it is clear now that most of my recent challenges were caused by my focus on how things "should" be ...

So, just in case you've been stuck in a similar state, here are a few things that have helped shake me free of the clutches of the "shitty shitty shoulds" (thanks Regena Garrepy for that perfect term).

  1. THIS TOO SHALL PASS ... (Thanks Penny Light for posting!)
    "Reflect upon the rapidity with which all that exists and is coming to be is swept past us and disappears from sight. For substance is like a river in perpetual flow ... and ever at our side is the immeasurable span of the past and the yawning gulf of the future, in which all things vanish away. Then how is he not a fool who in the midst of all this is puffed up with pride, or tormented, or bewails his lot as though his troubles would endure for any great while?"

    ~  Marcus Aurelius

  2. YOU CAN ALWAYS DO SOMETHING ELSE ... (Thanks Lindsay Love for posting!)


    "Our greatest human adventure is the evolution of consciousness. We are in this life to enlarge the soul, liberate the spirit, and light up the brain."
    ~  Tom Robbins



  6. Ultimately, it all goes back to Meatballs (like most blog posts worth reading), where Bill Murray (aka Tripper Harrison) gives us some existential brilliance at 1:02 in this perfect pep-talk!

So, what that little voice is telling me now is..."Be Happy. And do whatever will make that so. Because THAT is what matters."



Thursday, March 27, 2014


Meeting Joe Desena very much changed my life.

It was in March of 2011, and this is the post I wrote at that time - "My Weekend at Camp in Pittsfield, VT". If you've ever pondered the difference between "trying" and "doing", it is well worth the read. And it was the start of an incredible adventure for me, that has me redefining what is possible for myself again and again, to where I now know there really are no limits.

Joe is the founder of Spartan Race, as well as the creator of The Death Race. He is a world-class endurance athlete, millionaire many times over in business, visionary, and fantastic father and husband. He is also now my good friend, as well as my boss (I am the International Quality Director for Spartan Race - meaning I work with our partners around the world to ensure that our events are the best obstacle races everywhere on the planet).

Joe is one of those incredible individuals who massively impacts the lives of everyone with whom his path crosses. His own story is truly remarkable, but Joe is far more interested in your story - or, more specifically, what story you are going to write from this moment onward. He doesn't give a shit about your excuses - and we are very familiar with Joe's completely deadpan face as he hears them (but doesn't). What Joe does care a LOT about are your dreams, and he lights up as he seizes the opportunity to help you step up - or as he says "Spartan Up!"

You may not all get the chance to meet Joe (but let me know if you'd like to - I know where he is the third weekend in June every year). But you CAN all benefit from Joe's influence, like I have. His new book "Spartan Up!" comes out May 17th and I STRONGLY suggest you pre-order it HERE. I am fortunate to have read an advance copy and I can tell you this - it has much more to do with life than with racing, but it will definitely make you way better at both!

 Spartan Up! The Book

This is the first "product endorsement" I have ever made on my blog - and it is not because I was asked to. It is because I believe that strongly in it. I have seen, first-hand, the difference that Joe is making in people's lives. One of the best feelings ever is running "sweep" at a Spartan Race - following the very last racer, ensuring that they make it safely to the Finish Line. I have done this in several countries, on multiple continents, and am always bown away at the amazing stories I hear. These people often take up to SIX times as long to complete the course as the winners, struggling with every step. They attempt every obstacle, "failing" to complete most and doing doing the 30 "Burpee" penalty at each. They usually cry at some point, when they don't know if they can take another step. Then they remember the commitment they made. They remember the day they decided that enough was enough - they were no longer willing to see life as a collection of things they could not do. And they press on. The biggest tears come at the Finish - when they receive their medal, and the immeasurable respect of other racers, family, staff and strangers. As Joe says "They have now created a new place to stand, from which to look forward at a whole new world of possibility for themselves and others."

On that note, I must go pack for my upcoming trip to Europe - where I am meeting with Spartan Race organizers in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovaki and Czech Republic over the next several weeks. I am truly blessed to be able to contribute to the growth and inspiration of people around the globe. Speaking of which - let me know what race you will be at so that we can connect in person!! Here is the 2014 Schedule :) ... http://www.spartanrace.com/spartan-obstacle-racing-events.php

Looking forward to seeing you!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

When the carnival (occasionally) stops ...

Late Summer of 2009 I had an anxiety attack.

I'd never had one before (or anything even close to it), so it caught me completely off guard.

I was camping in the North, with my son and some of our friends, and woke in the night in my tent - absolutely pitch black - several hours by canoe from anywhere. It started out slowly, with my remembering a call I'd forgotten to make before embarking on the trip (and the client who would be rightly upset with me). I asked myself what other commitments I may not have followed through on... and the flood started. My wedding vows - having left my wife the year previous. My political career - having resigned my candidacy after a year of fruitless campaigning. My real estate business - shuttered in 2007 to pursue other goals (that didn't pan out). Suddenly, my indefatigable optimism had sputtered to empty, and I was staring at a rather sobering reality - I was basically penniless, separated, living in my truck, apart from my kids, with no solid plan going forward. As my heart started to race I clicked the flashlight on for a few seconds. There was my son sleeping beside me, oblivious to what a complete fuck-up his father was. I hoped he would not wake up, because I did not want him to see me feeling the way I did. I tried to calm down and, hopefully, to even sleep. But that was not going to happen. I started to shake uncontrollably and couldn't catch my breath. I found myself completely unable to think of anything good in my life, or any "solid ground" on which to stand and look forward. What the fuck was I doing? How was I going to take care of my kids? Who screws up this badly? As I felt my whole world unravelling, I spent the next hour flicking the flashlight on and off, praying for the panic to subside.

Before that night, I did not have much sympathy for people who suffer from anxiety. I even knew some, very close to me, but just didn't understand. I am very grateful, now, for that night. While I've never had another episode like that (I did start down a similar path one night at home, but got up and watched "Winnebago Man" until I fell asleep on the couch!), I can now at least empathize and be much more compassionate.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I've also been fairly insensitive to people suffering from depression. I've long been THAT guy who is FULL of advice and ideas about how to "buck up" and "get off the couch" and "make your own happiness". I acknowledged this about a month ago, when I posted this awesome article from The Onion, with the mea culpa that I knew I was a bit much myself sometimes. Looking back, that "gesture" was probably the beginning of an admission (at least internally) that I was showing some rather tell-tale signs of mild depression myself - always tired, lack of usual enthusiasm, neglecting exercise and proper diet. Again, I don't claim to be a "sufferer", but I sure have a much kinder attitude now towards those who are. I have an amazing life, and am fundamentally hardwired towards optimism and energy. So, if I can hit a rough patch like this, I can only imagine how difficult is must be for so many others.

I am not looking for any sympathy, or even support. My problems are ones of abundance - where I've attracted pretty much everything I want and am now finding myself rethinking much of it. And I don't actually renounce most of my philosophies about how to approach life ("seeing the sunny side", "counting my blessings", deciding to be happy", "acting boldly"). I still believe there is so much that we can, and must, do to generate our own outcomes (and I am working on all of that -with a much better understanding of how much work it can be).

But I sure am quite grateful to be able to climb down off my oh-so-high horse and acknowledge my own challenges, and to keep growing in my fledgling humanity.

As for that anxiety attack on the canoe trip, I never was able to reel myself back in - so I finally walked across the campsite and woke up my friend Rob. Being the phenomenal person that he is, he rekindled the campfire and listened to me for the next few hours. He didn't tell me to "cheer up", or to "get over it". He told me that he understood (whether he did or not), and that he knew I would be ok. And that he would stay up with me as long as I needed. I aspire to be as good a person as Rob is.

Finally I went back to bed (if not to sleep, at least to rest) and ended up having a great week of paddling and laughing and bonding with Jack.

And things got better.

As they always do.


A couple of great bits...

  • “This ability to persevere despite obstacles and setbacks is the quality people most admire in others, and justly so; it is probably the most important trait not only for succeeding in life, but for enjoying it as well. To develop this trait, one must find ways to order consciousness so as to be in control of feelings and thoughts. It is best not to expect shortcuts will do the trick.

    - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi