X – Marks the Spot

I stood on the stage and my foggy mind wandered.  I felt like I was in a dream.  Everything was moving in slow motion.  I heard the judges’ commands but even they came out in a sloooowww deeeep distorted sound.  I felt as if I was underwater. I could hear one clear sound, my own heart beat.  Thump thump…thump…thump thump…thump.  It was so hot.  A bead of sweat rolled from the top of my bald head to the tip of my nose to my chest.  I looked down to see it roll down my chest like a drop of rain rolling down a windshield.  Pose after pose after pose… I stood on the very end of the stage.  The class was so big I was almost behind a curtain offstage to the right.  The lights were so bright, but I could clearly see the judges’ faces.  They were not looking at me.  This may sound like a normal bodybuilding competition to those unfamiliar or new to the sport, but let me share the problem I experienced that day many years ago, early in my bodybuilding career.  In the sport of bodybuilding a competitor is usually placed in a class based on weight.  In Pre-Judging the competitor is brought out with all the other competitors in the class, and commanded to hit a series of mandatory poses.  The judges score each pose as they compare the competitors.  Now, it is an unspoken, unwritten “rule of thumb” that the top competitors compete in the middle of the stage.  You walk out in numerical order, but that doesn’t last long.  The judges move competitors around so it is easier for them to compare.  The top competitors are brought to the middle.  In 99% of competitions this happens.  Let me be clear – as a bodybuilder, your mission is to be in the MIDDLE of the stage…Posing on the big white X in the MIDDLE of the stage…

On that day many years ago, I stood on the very end of the stage working my butt off.  Not a single judge looked at me for more than .3 seconds.  I thought to myself, “I can’t get them to look at me.  What can I do?  I can’t work any harder.  I’m stuck way out here.  I’m invisible.  I DON’T MATTER!”  I remember a panic coming over me and feeling like I was drowning.  “Great job fellas!  We’ll see you back here tonight,” one of the judges said.  And it was over.  Needless to say, I didn’t place.  I talked to one of the judges after the competition and asked what happened.  “Great job.  Thanks for competing.  Keep working hard.  Stay on your diet,” he said.  Ok…now I knew I was invisible with that canned, cookie cutter answer.  In my hotel bed that night, I whispered , “This WILL NEVER happen to me again.  I will never NOT MATTER again.”

Please don’t think that I’m saying the judges were wrong and that I was somehow cheated that night.  I’m not saying that at all.  It was my fault.  I wasn’t ready.  I deserved to be on the end.  Bodybuilding judges are typically very accurate and they have a tough job.  I’m telling this story to help you if you’re a person stuck on the end of the stage.  Are you invisible?  Do you feel like you don’t matter?  Do you feel like your boss never looks at the great job you do?…Does he/she seem to pile more and more on you without even a thank you?  Is your husband taking you for granted?…assuming the food just appears in the fridge and hot and ready on the table…the kids get themselves up and ready for school…they get homework done on their own…get themselves to ball practice…seem to forget you have a job…or think the errands run themselves?  Does your wife forget you’re working all day to give her nice things?…forget you’re trying to provide your children things and opportunities neither one of you have ever had…does she forget money doesn’t grow on trees and cars don’t take care of themselves?  Do your parents demand you be their doctor, nurse, accountant, chef, and driver?  Do your children expect EVERYTHING from you?…time…money…quietness as to not jeopardize their coolness…money…hot meals…cool clothes…dessert…expensive shoes…money…annnnd money?  All of these situations are a part of life…a part of life we can certainly love and be ok with…if it doesn’t get out of hand.  When it does get to be too much, it becomes a life lived on the END of the stage my friends.  And let’s be honest…it stinks…not all the time…but most of the time.  It’s true… it just stinks to “not matter”…to be “invisible”…to be drowning on the end of the stage.  Here’s the thing : You don’t have to stay way out there.  The middle of the stage is where you CAN be…the middle of the stage represents the exact definition of what you want your life to be…the X that marks the spot…the BEST version of yourself and your life.  Whisper to yourself…or scream if needed…”This WILL NOT happen anymore!  I WILL NOT…NOT MATTER!”  The only thing that doesn’t matter is what anyone else thinks about your decision to move to the middle of the stage. You decide.  Decide that all the circumstances you think are keeping you on the end of the stage WILL NOT keep you from working hard to make yourself visible.  Communicate your problems, your goals, and your strategy with the person(s) who NEED to know, but don’t negotiate once you’ve prayed and decided on the path you’re going to take.  And PLEASE…PLEASE…PLEASE DO NOT think this will be easy.  When I decided I would never be invisible again on the bodybuilding stage, I went back to the drawing board in my contest prep.  I worked years and years and years.  Blood, sweat, sacrifice, tears, and pain… to get where I am today(and still by no means am I where I will be).  And though I feel blessed to be in the middle of the stage in bodybuilding, I am nowhere close to that in life.  But, if I can work in life with the same determination I have in bodybuilding… if I can say I was better than the last contest…better than the last day…that I stayed focus…worked extremely hard…and gave my best…if I or ANY OF US  can honestly say those words…we’ll all be smiling together in the crowded…crowded…crowded middle of the stage!  Let’s work!!! 🙂

Doing work from the MIDDLE of the stage…

     

The REAL MIDDLE of the stage 🙂

 

 

Are They Perfect?

I was on Facebook yesterday when I read one of my friend’s post : “Has anyone ever felt like a total loser when looking at other people’s lives and pictures on here besides me?”  I probably wouldn’t have thought much about this question except last week I faced criticism of my own writing and pictures in this blog and had a tough week in general.  While thinking about that criticism, the question my friend asked, and Facebook in general, I found this quote : “WELCOME TO FACEBOOK, the place where RELATIONSHIPS are perfect, LIARS believe they are telling the truth, & the WORLD shows off they are living a great life: where your FRIENDS & FAMILY block you: and even though you write what you’re really thinking, someone takes it the wrong way!!!”  For the most part, this quote is true, but…it has never bothered me.  Pictures or status updates of beautiful houses, gardens, cars, pools, views, vacations, bathrooms, pets, birthdays, weddings, jobs, children, husbands, wives, and of course….perfect workout sessions…has never bothered me. So what’s the problem?  The problem, to me, seems to be with the receiver or viewer of this information.  If you’re a person who sees or hears this information and it makes you feel worse about yourself, there is a problem.  The easy answer is to say log off and quit Facebook, but Facebook isn’t the real problem is it?  It’s the comparison which can take place in all areas of life.  It is NEVER a good idea to compare yourself to others.  You are you…your life is yours.  Make the most of your own life.

On a personal level, I would like to remind people to not make the mistake of assuming people who share “perfect” pictures and positive stories are presenting themselves as perfect people.  If you do this, YOU are the one assuming the person is or is trying to be perfect.  No one has a perfect life.  We all have stuff.  As a Strength Coach, Father, Man, and seriously amateur blogger, my goal is to inspire…not intimidate.  If I act as if my life is perfect, I am intimidating instead of inspiring.  Having said that, I realize I mostly share funny children inspirations, beautiful pictures, and positive messages.  This does not mean my life is perfect.  As a matter of fact, as I write this now, Aleck is sitting in time-out for putting a gallon of shampoo on Emma Grace’s hair, Ella and Emma Grace are about to join him if they don’t stop fighting over a stinking green crayon, and Amy is going through the house like the Tasmanian Devil because she has lost her checkbook and the business checkbook… allllllll while Phineas and Ferb and Disney XD  blare through the TV at 100000 decibels.   I don’t take pictures of the girls screaming as we try to get the tangles out of their curly hair after every bath, of Amy and I passing like two trains in the night sometimes, of my 15 hour days, or of anxiety I have about being good enough of a father.  That’s how it is in life right?  We don’t always share the “stuff”.  We don’t take pictures of the tears, temper tantrums, or pain.  We don’t write about the hectic school mornings, struggles with business, or finances.  We don’t share troubles with reading and math, sick parents, and broken down cars.  We don’t tell about our fears, addictions, or failures.  We don’t talk about learning disabilities, bullying, or depression.  Just because it isn’t on Facebook, on a Blog, on a person’s face, or in a person’s words, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Believe me it’s there…for every person in this world…I promise.  So my advice is : 1. Understand that NO ONE…NO LIFE is perfect.  2. Take in anything positive people have to offer(pictures, stories, experiences, accomplishments, etc.). 3. Realize comparison leads to NOTHING but bitterness.  4. Learn from the imperfections and the struggles in your life.  5. Accept and appreciate the blessings you have.  6. Share

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything,

That’s how the light gets in.”

-Leonard Cohen

Where’s the Ball?

As I walked across the second of three soccer fields, I squinted my eyes trying to pick out my little Ella.  I stopped to make sure I was heading toward the right field.  I raised my hand to my forehead to shield the sun and searched for a curly blond pony tail and a pair of little legs wearing pink shin-guards(yes pink…we absolutely had to buy the pink shin-guards at the soccer store in an effort to keep Ella’s world from crumbling all around her…you know black shin-guards will do that to a little girl…and yes…shin-guards are worn under uniform socks…black…uniform socks). Annnyyywwwaaaay, I could not find my little soccer superstar in the mass of 4 year olds huddled around the ball on the field.  I shifted my search to the sidelines looking for Amy.  Just like a sailor looking for land, I scanned the sideline until I saw my twins, Amy, Amy’s mother, and Ella.  I walked up to Ella, who was sitting in her Gran Gran’s lap, and asked her if she was hurt.  “Nope.”, she answered.  “She wouldn’t go out there and play.”, Amy said.  I said, “Ella, how are you supposed to help your team from here?  How are you going to even kick the ball?”  Ella’s answer became the inspiration for this week’s Blog post.  She answered in all seriousness, ” Oh I’ll help them.  I’ll kick the ball toward the goal when it rolls over here to me.”

Do you think most people wander through life?  I do.  Why?  I guess there could be lots of reasons.  I think one of them is…it’s easy.  It’s easy to wander through life.  It’s easy to do juuussst enough to get by in a job.  It’s easy to do the same in school. It’s easy to blame others for our own shortcomings.  It’s easy to blame circumstances for  lost opportunities.  It’s easy to play the lottery.  It’s easy to wander through the chaos of a crazy schedule with kids, pets, dance, sports, music, gymnastics, chess club…whatever…it’s easy.  We say it’s hard, but that’s a lie.  The truth is we’re used to it.  We’re used to not eating together as a family.  We’re used to splitting our family up on the weekends because one child has a baseball tournament in the east and the other child has soccer in the west.  We’re used to clocking in and clocking out of our job and collecting a check on Friday.  We’re used to putting our own dreams on the back-burner.  We’re used to keeping our God-given gifts in a box, our talents on a shelf, our purpose in the attic. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and wait for the ball to come to us. When it does, we’ll kick and score!  So what’s the problem?

The problem is : It’s not going to happen.  The fact is, most people wouldn’t be ready to kick the ball if it did come to them.  There is no such thing as a prize without a price.  And there are heavy consequences for expecting a prize without paying a price.  If you asked 1000 successful people to make a list of the requirements to become successful, I guarantee the same word would be on 1000 lists….SACRIFICE.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “For everything you gain, you lose something.”  We have to look at what we want to get out of this life.  We have to discover and focus on the prize.  Most importantly, we must be willing to pay the price to get it.  That’s why I think we wander through life…It’s too hard to take a look at our options.  It’s too hard to go eye to eye with the choices we know would make our lives better.  We know we’ll have to make some sort of sacrifice with every choice and that’s a hard thing to do.  It means saying no.  It means facing our children’s tears.  It means doing things we absolutely don’t want to do.  It means being uncomfortable and uncertain.  It means eating our own words.  It means swallowing pride.  However, the alternative should cease to exist right now.  We can’t just sit on the sideline anymore. The ball is not coming.  Go get the ball.  You can’t help yourself, your family, friends, team…or the world when you’re on the sideline. The game is going to go on with or without you anyway.  Why not score a few important goals yourself ?  If you know what you want…if you have a dream…a vision…a clear idea of how and what your life is meant to be…be willing to PAY THE PRICE!!!   It will always beat the price of staying the same.  🙂