See the Finish Line

As Aleck and I hopped into my bed with our hot chocolate, we pulled a blanket over our freezing feet.  I flipped on the television and we began watching an Xterra race.  The competitors were finishing a mountain bike portion of the race and were transitioning into a grueling 10k trail run.  We watched the leaders streaking through the narrow trails like deer running perfectly through the forest.  Each step seemed to be perfect.  They climbed steep hills and leapt over fallen trees.  It looked so easy.  The men’s race was pretty uneventful, except for watching Lance Armstrong come off the bike in 2nd place only to fall to 23rd place during the run.  The women’s race was different.  The 1st place woman, after the bike, had about a 7 minute lead over the next woman.  The 3rd place woman, after the bike, was known to be a strong runner, but being behind  7 minutes made things seem impossible(at least to two guys drinking hot chocolate).  As the race continued, the leader began to fade quickly.  The third place woman zipped past the 2nd place woman with such speed both Aleck and I let out a “Wooow…she’s fast!”  The final stretch of the race was a strip of beach the competitors had to run on before turning up to a grass trail to the finish line.  The 1st place woman had retained her lead and was on the sand.  She was barely jogging and was zig zagging so badly, race fans had to push her back onto the course.  The commentators then began talking about the grueling effects of this kind of race on the mind and body.  Next the broadcast switched to scene after scene of runners and bikers falling, quitting, and collapsing.  The footage showed crumpled bodies being carried off.  It showed muddy wet racers collapsing and crying in defeat.  The coverage flipped back to the 1st place woman struggling as the strong 3rd place woman sprinted past her and through the finish line banner.  The woman who had once held a 7 minute lead now was staggering like an intoxicated person trying to walk a straight line for a police officer.  She was steps from the finish line and collapsed.  Medical crews were on her immediately.  She did not finish.  Aleck asked, “What happened? Why did she quit?”  I explained what happens to the body when pushed to the max and that she didn’t quit.  She definitely did not quit.  Aleck handed me his empty hot chocolate mug and said “I believe I would take a shortcut.”

It is said the majority of runners who drop out of a marathon quit toward the end of the race but before the finish line is in sight.  They don’t quit earlier in the race.  One of the reasons could certainly be due to the physical stress on the body over the many miles.  Dehydration or other physiological factors could also affect a runner’s mental state leading them to quit.  Almost NEVER…NEVER does one quit when one can see the finish line.  There is a mental lift…a surge of adrenaline…extra energy to be found when one can see the finish line…the end.  You can apply the “finish line sight theory” to life.  If people SEE the finish line(the end of a goal…or the the end of a struggle), they should be more likely to push through and succeed.  However…..I think there are plenty of people who don’t have a finish line…they have no goals.  I believe there are MORE people who have a finish line, but have no race course.  And when they finally see their race course spread out before them, they choose Aleck’s method…”I believe I’ll take a shortcut.”  This applies especially to young people today.  I won’t get into all the theories as to why this is the case… like :  It’s the parent’s fault for not saying no…for wanting to live through their children…for being an endless money supply.  It’s the school’s fault for not cutting players from teams…for requiring the whole class to be invited to a private birthday party or you have no party…for not keeping score…for not wanting to offend anyone…and for handing out “made up” awards.  It’s the media’s fault…TV shows like American Idol…athletes making millions of dollars…bonehead 20 year olds in New Jersey making millions of dollars…Youtube making everyone famous…It’s the politician’s fault for making people believe the Government will take care of them…through entitlements, bailouts, and other things people are “owed”.  WHATEVER the reason is…it’s a fact…people want to cross the finish line without running the race…without getting dirty, wet, dehydrated, and crampy…without struggling, fighting, pushing, sweating, and crying.  I had a trainer come into my gym and TELL me he was going to observe and learn from me.  He TOLD me he had the best certification(an online certification that takes 15 minutes and $499 to obtain) and that any other certification, including CSCS(mine), was junk.  I had another trainer apply while cussing every other word he spoke to me.  I had a college student come in and ask me if I needed any help and when I asked him why his thumb was bandaged he answered, “Dude, I was drunk and tried to open my beer bottle with a knife and slit my thumb tendon.”  And I’m not making this up…The same guy came in a few months later with his foot in a cast looking for a job and said, “Dude…I was partying and sledding down a hill  and broke my ankle.”  I had another guy come in and tell me he would work for me if I could give him 30 hours a week of training clients and $50,000 a year…with most Fridays off.  I am not kidding.  Ask a college student what his/her plans are after graduating.  Ask any business owner who has interviewed ANYONE… about the answers to some of their questions and about the interviewees’ expectations.  I’m telling you…It’s crazy.  What happens is when things get hard now, people think they’re impossible.  Now we have a society that never completes anything.  We have a society of shortcut seekers and if they don’t find a shortcut, they sit and whine about it.  In the words of the famous bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman, “Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody want to lift this heavy a#$ weight!”  So what do we do about it?  If you’re a parent, don’t let your child quit.  Teach them they are responsible for their own actions and for their own happiness.  Explain the reality of having to ALWAYS work hard to get anywhere or anything of value.  If you are a teacher or a coach, explain the value of preparation, determination, and perseverance.  The woman Aleck and I saw collapse feet from the finish line in the race we were watching is extremely rare, yet it is exactly what our society needs.  We need children and adults who will NEVER give up…NEVER.  This is the important part :  ALL of those values mentioned above are important whether life is easy or hard…fair or unfair.  I once read about a track coach who would tell his runners “Stay to the left and get back here as quickly as possible.”  Wouldn’t it be great if the race…if life was that easy?  If we only needed to stay to the left and go quickly?  The problem is, the race isn’t that easy.  Life isn’t easy.  There are obstacles and distractions throughout the course, but if we are equipped with the right values, we’ll always SEE the finish line. And if we end up collapsing a few feet from the finish line, we are victorious…..What more could you ask of yourself in life than to give it your everything….Never giving up….Never quitting. 🙂

“I firmly believe any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” – Vince Lombardi

 

This Week

A good friend of mine sent me the following quote : “Tears are words that need to be written.” -Paulo Coelho, when I told her I would not be blogging today.  The truth is, my heart has been heavy and I don’t have it in me.  As I’m writing right now, I’m looking out the window at the pouring rain.  I think if I counted every single raindrop falling, the number would come nowhere close to the tears shed by human beings over the recent tragedy that has occurred.  I had planned on writing a post early today, but could not stop holding my children.  I couldn’t get up from holding them while watching an old old Christmas movie.  So that’s what I’m going to go do right now.  You do the same.  Love on and hold your family.  So this week…please catch up on the other posts I have written…They are certainly relevent today…Also read some of the comments…People have shared inspiring, touching, and also funny stories through this blog.  Love you all – Anthony

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won.  There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they will always fall.  Think of it–always.” – Mahatma Gandhi 

Be The Bean

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming it.”

                                                                                                                                                                                              -Helen Keller

One of my favorite stories about adversity :

Adversity always changes us at our very core.  A daughter complained to her father about being tired of always struggling with problem after problem.  Her father took her to the kitchen and filled three pots with water.  In one pot he placed carrots, in another, eggs, and in the last, ground coffee beans.  He let them sit and boil.

After a while, he put the carrots, eggs, and coffee in separate bowls.  Turning to her, he asked, “Darling, what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

     He explained that each of the items had faced the same adversity – boiling water – but each had reacted differently.  The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but after being subjected to the boiling water, it became soft and weak.  The egg went into the water fragile-its thin outer shell protecting the liquid interior.  But after sitting in the boiling water, its insides hardened.  The ground coffee beans were different from the other two, however.  Instead of being changed by the boiling water, they changed the water.
     The man then asked his daughter, “When adversity knocks on your door, which are you?”  So the question to all of us is – How does adversity affect you?  Does it cause you to become soft and weak?  Does it make you hard and immovable?  Or do YOU change the adversity?
“Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them.  The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater their power to harm us.” -Voltaire
     So exactly how should we be when we face adversity?  When I think about my own life and times I have faced adversity, I realize this : Sometimes I was like the carrot…Sometimes like the egg…BUT I ALWAYS ended up like the coffee beans.  The truth is…we don’t know how we’ll react to adversity, especially when it blindsides us…when it hits us and stops us dead in our tracks…we don’t know.  I’m telling you…It’s OK.  You can be hard and immovable…you can be weak and soft.  It really just depends on what adversity is before you at the time. You’re allowed to be what you need to be…But NEVER NEVER NEVER lose hope…NEVER GIVE UP.  It is amazing the strength God gives us to overcome adversity.  I have a favorite saying that is often up on the walls of my gym : “I’m never down…I’m either up…or getting up.”  So if you’re a carrot right now…or an egg…it doesn’t matter…As long as you realize you are not alone and adversity is on your path to make you stronger…Now get up…get up…get up…and MAKE yourself be…a coffee bean 🙂
“When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life you have a thousand reasons to smile.” – Unknown
“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me” – Philippians 4:13

 

Be the Bean…

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming it.”

                                                                      -Helen Keller

One of my favorite stories about adversity :

     Adversity always changes us at our very core.  A daughter complained to her father about being tired of always struggling with problem after problem.  Her father took her to the kitchen and filled three pots with water.  In one pot he placed carrots, in another, eggs, and in the last, ground coffee beans.  He let them sit and boil.

     After a while, he put the carrots, eggs, and coffee in separate bowls.  Turning to her, he asked, “Darling, what do you see?”

  “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

     He explained that each of the items had faced the same adversity – boiling water – but each had reacted differently.  The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but after being subjected to the boiling water, it became soft and weak.  The egg went into the water fragile-its thin outer shell protecting the liquid interior.  But after sitting in the boiling water, its insides hardened.  The ground coffee beans were different from the other two, however.  Instead of being changed by the boiling water, they changed the water.
    
     The man then asked his daughter, “When adversity knocks on your door, which are you?”  So the question to all of us is – How does adversity affect you?  Does it cause you to become soft and weak?  Does it make you hard and immovable?  Or do YOU change the adversity?
“Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them.  The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater their power to harm us.” -Voltaire
 
     So exactly how should we be when we face adversity?  When I think about my own life and times I have faced adversity, I realize this : Sometimes I was like the carrot…Sometimes like the egg…BUT I ALWAYS ended up like the coffee beans.  The truth is…we don’t know how we’ll react to adversity, especially when it blindsides us…when it hits us and stops us dead in our tracks…we don’t know.  I’m telling you…It’s OK.  You can be hard and immovable…you can be weak and soft.  It really just depends on what adversity is before you at the time. You’re allowed to be what you need to be…But NEVER NEVER NEVER lose hope…NEVER GIVE UP.  It is amazing the strength God gives us to overcome adversity.  I have a favorite saying that is often up on the walls of my gym : “I’m never down…I’m either up…or getting up.”  So if you’re a carrot right now…or an egg…it doesn’t matter…As long as you realize you are not alone and adversity is on your path to make you stronger…Now get up…get up…get up…and MAKE yourself be…a coffee bean 🙂 
“When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life you have a thousand reasons to smile.” – Unknown
“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me” – Philippians 4:13
 

 

Let Them Be Great

“It is one thing to show your child the way, and a harder thing to then stand out of it.” -Robert Brault

It was a hot day in the middle of the summer and I was tired.  I know it isn’t uncommon to be hot or tired on a normal summer day, but this wasn’t a normal summer day.  There is “normal summer hot and tired”….and then there is…”feet are numb, clothes are covered in ketchup, ice cream, dirt, kettle corn crumbs, and sweat…been walking around with 10,000 other people…amusement park hot and tired”.  You know what I’m talking about right?  After riding rides, eating “food”(stuff you can feel giving you an insulin spike, an artery clog, and an extra roll of fat…all at the same time), watching shows, and buying “souvenirs”(stuff you know will end up in the corner of your kid’s room and eventually on a yard sale table with a $1 sticker on it), everyone(including you) walks around with that blank, eyes unfocused, mouth half-open, zombie daze.  That was the scene one day this past summer as I walked hand in hand with my 7-year-old son Aleck at Dollywood.  We were in the game area looking for the girls.  The park was to close in about an hour so a lot of the other drooling, sweaty, dirty zombies…I mean people… had left to make the march to their cars.  Aleck and I weren’t having much luck finding Amy, Ella, and Emma Grace when he spotted a game with a stuffed Spiderman as a prize.  He pointed to Spiderman and looked up at me.  “That’s cool”, I said continuing to scan and look for the girls.  He didn’t say anything else.  I looked back down at him and asked him if he wanted to play.  His eyes lit up as if the real Spiderman had asked him for help in fighting crime.  We walked over and asked the young worker if we could still play.  “Sure. Three throws for $5 .  Two footballs through the hole wins the prize”, he said.  I paid the money and the worker handed us three footballs.  Aleck told me to throw first.  I threw it straight through the hole.  Aleck threw the next two and missed.  I looked around and saw people had stopped to watch us.  There were three elderly ladies eating ice cream sitting on a bench behind us.  A couple had stopped to adjust their baby in his/her stroller and were watching us.  Another father and son sat on a bench with a middle-aged couple standing next to them.  I looked at Aleck who had his chin tucked and eyes fixed on the ground.  I looked at the young man working and then at the stuffed Spiderman.  “He wants the Spiderman.” the worker said.  I nodded yes.  “Two more throws for two more dollars.  Make one and win the prize.” he said.  Aleck looked up and smiled.  I paid the man.  He gave Aleck two footballs.  Aleck handed one of the footballs to me and told me to throw first.  I thought to myself  how I was about to be my son’s hero.  I put my fingers on the laces and threw the ball in a perfect spiral…and it came bouncing back at my face like a flying wounded duck.  I heard a loud “Awwwwww”.  I looked at Aleck as he took a deep breath.  I expected him to toss me the next ball.  Instead, he rolled up his sleeves, took another deep breath, and whispered ” I can do this.”  And this is important : I almost told him to stop.  I was so close to telling him to hand me the ball if he wanted the Spiderman.  But I didn’t.  I have no idea why the words didn’t leave my heart and mouth, but I thank God they weren’t spoken.  Aleck gripped the football, closed his eyes for two seconds, opened them, and threw the ball straight through the hole.  The young worker’s eyes opened wide as if he had seen a ghost and he started to laugh.  I heard a loud “Yaaay!!!” and clapping behind us.  Aleck high-fived me and jumped up and down before gripping me in a bear hug.  The worker handed Aleck Spiderman and shook his hand.  We walked through the congratulating crowd.  “We have to find Mom and tell her.” Aleck said.  “Aleck that was so awesome.  Bro, you made three old women put their ice cream down to clap for you…that’s big!  I’m so proud of you.” I said.  “I know Dad.  I know.” Aleck answered.

“What you must accept as a parent is that you cannot always be there for your child without sometimes ruining everything.” – Robert Brault

It was one of the perfect days of my life.  Please know that it happened exactly the way I wrote it.  I made a promise to be truthful, genuine, and transparent when I started this blog.  The words you read in my posts are true and from my heart.  Having said that, do you realize how close I came to ruining that perfect day?  I came within a second of changing that day.  I was so concerned about being a hero to my son, I almost took away the chance for him to be a hero.  That is the lesson my friends :  Lighten up.  Take a breather as parents.  We don’t have to be heroes.  It isn’t our job to keep our children away from life’s mistakes.  It isn’t our job to protect them from the consequences of bad decisions.  It isn’t our job to shield them from things in life that are not fair…things that hurt their feelings…things that are hard.  It is a great disservice to never let them feel struggle, taste defeat, or hear honest criticism.   It isn’t our job to protect them from failure.  And it is wrong to try to make our children into what we did not become.  This quote says it best: “Do not ask that your kids live up to your expectations. Let your kids be who they are, and your expectations will be in breathless pursuit.”-Robert Brault 

 IT IS OUR JOB to PREPARE them for life’s struggles, mistakes, and failures.  IT IS OUR JOB to keep them SAFE.  IT IS OUR JOB to blanket them with LOVE.  If we teach the value of honesty, grace, integrity, hard work, love, faith, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, and responsibility…we will be fine…and our children will be fine.  We need to treat them now like the people we think they have the potential of becoming.  If we do our best to instill the values needed to cope with the things our children will face in this world, we’ve accomplished something great.  We cannot do everything for them though or we will surely take away their chance to be great.  I learned an important lesson one hot summer day at Dollywood :  Be quiet and let them throw the ball.  And however the throw turns out…make or miss…a simple hug, kiss, “I love you”, smile, nod, “It’s OK”, and/or high five…is perfect…perfect.  And with that… Mom…Dad…you’ve done your job.  🙂