ABWB

As each New Year approaches, I always get asked if I am planning a year in review post.

While that exercise is always valuable for me and the company, not every year deserves its own public recap.

In years past the message has been humorous laced with a heavy dose sarcasm. That said, this year has been very different.

Let’s take a cue from the ghost of Christmas past, turn the page backwards, and see if we can figure out 2018.

2018 started in a bad way for me. Late December, I found out my dad was sick. We basically spent New Year’s sitting around in a small hospital room in Scottsdale, AZ trying to make sense of what was happening. My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer.  It had spread to his organs. Up until a few weeks before, he was seeing a local doctor who told him he had a bad chest cold and an ulcer, gave him a script, and sent him on his way. Turns out, the fluid in his lungs was not from a cold but from his liver pumping out fluid from cirrhosis. The anti-acid he prescribed for my dad’s ulcer did nothing for his stomach cancer.

While sitting with my dad in the hospital room, he said he was weak and didn’t know how much fight he had left. I have always gathered strength from great writers, so I recited a poem that had been a favorite of mine since I was in college, Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I was hoping these words that had given me strength so many times would motivate him to come out swinging hard his final round.

They didn’t.

He was already too far down the path and was not interested in listening to a fucking poem.

He wanted to hear how I was, how the kids were doing, and how Power Athlete was doing.

Mainly, he wanted to know, was I accomplishing my mission to alter the trajectory of millions through greater strength, of body and mind, by never accepting defeat.

As I talked, he listened and nodded, knowing I had my work cut out for me.

My dad lost his fight on February 28th. The cancer had robbed him of almost 80 pounds in 3 months and it is impossible to fight when robbed of your physical strength.

I learned a lot from my dad via his actions. My dad was a hard worker. I used to joke he only viewed life from behind the grindstone. Not so shockingly, one of Power Athlete’s training programs is called Grindstone because that man lived there. He worked right up to the end and never knew a life where work was not at the forefront.

The next few months were foggy until I got some closure at his memorial service. Together with family and childhood friends, we celebrated his life.

2018 has been a brutal year of learning.

1. Life and death are constant.

I have experienced the joy of bringing a child into this world. And I have experienced the sadness of burying a loved one, mentor, and parent.

When a baby is born, we are excited for all the chances they will have, the victories they will claim, and lessons failure will teach. When someone dies, they are not sad, the ones left behind are. You can no longer call them just to say hello, laugh with them when they pour you eggnog with entirely too much alcohol, or go out for dinner, then chastise them on their poor choices.

Every human being that has entered this world will depart. The body of work between those two moments is how we are remembered. They say a person dies twice - the day they die and the day the last person who remembers them passes on.

Sadly for the first one, our fate is written the moment we are born. The second one is up to us – so strive to be eternal.  Do something worth remembering.

2. All You Got is Life time

I like Joe Rogan’s podcast – the first time he sat with Henry Rollins is my favorite as I have always admired Rollins for following his passions and constantly striving to reinvent himself. People might know him from Black Flag or for his spoken word but he is much more: a poet, a writer, traveler, and a modern-day philosopher that will be remembered long after the walls of every CrossFit gym that painted up his “200 pounds, is 200 pounds” crumbles.

“No such thing as spare time, no such thing as free time, no such thing as down time. All you got is life time. Go.”

Don’t waste time doing shit that does not matter.

Worse yet, don’t waste time on people that will never understand or accept what you are doing. Many pursue the affection and admiration of people who will neither matter nor support your cause. No matter how much you try to help, their own lack of self prevents them from seeing your mission. The more you try, the more they suck your energy like a vampire latched onto your jugular.  Convincing people who will never understand or accept your passion in life is an exercise in futility.

Now I’m not telling you to avoid pursuits and hobbies that help you enjoy your time on this earth. Without happiness and joy, why are we here?    Instead, engage a community of likeminded people and set it ablaze.

3. Be That Person Others Can Count On.

This does not mean, be a doormat. Instead, within your circle of influence, friends, and family be resilient and reliable. Be the person you want in your life.

Don’t be a leech who never contributes. I have known people who hounded me for something and the minute I delivered, I never heard from them again. And when I needed something from them, they never returned my call. No big deal, because I did what I was supposed to.  Their shortcomings are theirs alone.

4. I tell my daughters daily, not everyone is going to like you in this world.

Don’t waste time trying to convince everyone of your worth. Do your best, respect yourself, and work hard like your grandfather is watching you, because like me, he expects as much.

Being just OK is not OK. You have the ability to be great. Strive for it.

5. Money cannot buy contentment.

I played in the NFL with guys with endless bankrolls. They’d pour money everywhere, but no matter how many cars, houses, clothes, dinners, or girls they met, nothing filled the void.

Savor the small things like personal achievement and realize money, or even people, cannot make you content.

The old saying goes, “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” I disagree.

How many people flying by private jet without having to get their balls rubbed by TSA seem sad?

Money can buy happiness because happiness is a momentary feeling. What money can’t buy is contentment. No amount of money can help you realize the grass on which you stand is the greenest grass you will ever know.

I am not telling you wanting more is wrong, as we should always be striving to improve, but feeling like you have to have that new car or house to be complete is a rabbit hole.  There will always be a nicer car and better house.

Happiness is feeling content in your place in the world.

6. Time is life’s greatest currency

In my dad’s final hours, his Rolex did not come to visit. His Porsche didn’t stop in to say good bye. As your mortal coil winds down, all the money in the world, all the possessions, can’t buy you a few more hours with those that matter.

Understand we all get a set amount of time on this earth. How you choose to spend it determines the mark you make.

As Cat Stevens lamented in 1974, if you are too busy to do the small things with your kids, they will be too busy to do the small things with you as they get older. I am thankful for the time I get to spend with my kids. While it is rarely perfect, I would not trade it.

Time is expensive and is our greatest commodity, so spend it wisely with people that value it.

7. “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” - Lao Tzu

Live in the here and now.

My dad did not ask me to mourn him or feel sorry for him. He asked me to honor him by being successful. Be admirable. Be a good father and good husband. Take responsibility for my family and provide them the foundation he had laid. Build Power Athlete into something that will alter lives.

He said, crying at a funeral or posting bullshit on “the Facebook thing” (his words) is not honoring your parents; this is disingenuous. Honor them by being of service to your family and community, by being a mentor, teacher, and father to those that look up to you. Raise your sons to carry on your name in a manner that makes you proud. Raise your daughters to be strong, adventurous, and carry your dreams.

8. Take responsibility

Own your mistakes and shortcomings. Work constantly to improve; you will grow if you believe today - not yesterday - is your best day. If your best days are behind you, then every day thereafter is depressing. If you wake up knowing today is my best and tomorrow will be better, it is easier to accept small defeats.

Knowing each morning I awake is my chance for greatness; that drives me.

9. Stop being an asshole

This constant cycle of use, binge, and purge extends everywhere.

I am writing this at the time of the year when everyone is launching a “New Year. New Me” plan - get in shape, get strong, be the best version, don’t be toxic, eat better so I can stay healthy, accomplish more, be a better father and husband by not getting smashed 5 days a week on the couch, blah blah blah… you get the idea.

For many, this plan launches January 1 and fades early February.

This year, seek accountability. Buy a training program for a full year. Pay a nutrition coaching for a year. Take a before picture and put it on your bathroom mirror. Go buy 52 books to read – one per week for the year. Find a mentor who will help you own your bullshit. Do something to improve yourself in a way so the people around can get the best you.

Basil King said, “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

Be bold.

And don’t think you can use social media for accountability. Instagram stories of you crushing a whole chocolate pie with the hashtag #NewMeSameBullshit just lets people know you are exactly who they knew you to be. Regardless of what they write, they are just placating you.

10. ABWB (Always Be a White Belt)

I am sure I stole this from Mike O’Hearn but I could be wrong.

The ABWB mentality is a growth mindset. Everything around us, everything that happens to us is an opportunity to learn and improve at the task at hand.

I have lifted weights for many years but am always excited for some coaching. Moreover, I am not nearly the welder and fabricator I want to be. To get better, I need be coached by those better than me. Iron sharpens iron (see what I did there?).

Growing Power Athlete into the space it deserves will require mentorship and coaching from those that have been successful. To become a better father and husband I have to listen, read, and take lessons from those I respect and trust.

All this forges a powerful blade which sharpens the strongest steel so when my opportunity comes to mentor and teach, I can repay those that took the time to mentor and teach me.

A Buddhist proverb says, “When the student is ready the master will appear.”

If you are always a white belt, you will find yourself surrounded by many masters.

And that is where the fire starts.

Finally, another Dylan Thomas poem was equally impactful: “And Death Shall Have No Dominion.”

Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

To me, these words mean death cannot conquer the human soul. The human spirit can transcend death because, “strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break”. It can, “Lift its head to the blows of the rain” and “Split all ends up they shan’t crack” because the human spirit transcends to a place where death shall have no dominion.

How can this be? To quote William Wallace, “Every man dies, but not every man really lives.”

Living a life that influences those around us well past our dying day allows us to live on long after death has claimed us. For death to have no dominion, a person must influence those well past his days on earth.

How will you be remembered?

Posted in Talk to Me Johnnie | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

6 Responses to ABWB

  1. Andrew Kieffer

    John,

    Thank you. I took a break in my New Year’s Day of cleaning and reorganizing my apartment (trying to start off 2019 better than I was in 2018) to sit down and read this, mind clear and present. There’s a lot here that speaks to me; I’ve learned a lot about myself in 2018 through much introspection and reflection and this post continues to remind me of some of the things I’ve learned.

    I knew when I found Power Athlete a few years ago that I found something greater than just a few guys that liked to train. There was a mindset, philosophy, purpose (or whatever “buzzword” you’d like to use) behind it that was different. I just wish I would have found PAHQ and CFFB (Damn, what a bad name for marketing to non-football players) earlier.

    Going forward with 2019 and beyond, I’ve got a lot of big things planned in which I’m trying to be great and not just OK. I’m excited to get back to the Ranch, earn my Block, and continue improving myself and hopefully have an impact upon people near to me.

    Thanks,
    Andrew

  2. Dave Vass

    Thank you John.Amazing review and so personal but inspiring.With respect ,your Father would be proud.Thanos again and best wishes.
    Dave

  3. Gavin Christensen

    Great words, thanks. . We can’t take it with us. Be the person you want to be and the person that you want others to remember. Both in body, mind, and spirit.

  4. Pingback: 01.03.19 « Southern Maryland CrossFit's Blog

  5. Bill Pain

    Thanks for sharing John – I know these take time to write, but they light the fire for us to become better humans.

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