life, Spirituality

Sunsets and Spokes

I noticed a shift in myself recently.

I’ve always been drawn to the beauty of a sunset. My mom and I frequently text to make the other aware of the truly amazing ones. Sunrises too. If I happened to be outside to see one, I’d gaze, smile, and think about life a little bit.

Until about a month ago, I began going out of my way to ensure I got in a “sunset ride.” In the past, I thought it was neat if I happened upon one. Still do. Except now, I prefer it daily and have found for the first time in my life, I anticipate it greatly. On the car ride home from work, I start thinking about it.

In a very short period of time, these rides on my mountain bike have become a sort of sacred ritual. For a few minutes while riding, I can empty my mind and just be.

This all started with a story my dad told me. He and a friend ran into each other on an evening walk with the dogs. They were talking about everything and nothing I’m sure, as men in their late 60’s do. During their conversation, as the sun was setting, they agreed on this: “He who experiences the most sunsets, wins.”

I thought nothing of this story at the time. Little did I know a seed was planted, and a few days later I went out for that first evening cruise — with no agenda other than to be in nature and let the colors and the wonder of the sunset set in to my soul.

In the third week of these evening rides, I bumped in to my dad’s friend. He was out walking his dog of course. I shared with him that my dad informed me about the “sunsets & winning” thing. He smiled and said, “Well you know, at your age you don’t think about it much but at my age you realize you don’t have too many sunsets left, so you seek them out.”

Except I am seeking them out. There are certainly many things in life I am naive to and don’t think about (and surely I could busy myself with many of these things), but in regards to well-being, family, following a passion, and serving — I think about these things all the time.

Morning inspirational reading, midday outdoor swims, sunset rides…these are just a few of examples of activities I find extremely rejuvenating and spiritually uplifting.

The trap I fall into sometimes is thinking I can trade in these sacred rituals temporarily while I chase a goal that requires the totality of my time, energy and focus. This almost always ends poorly.

The key I’ve found is to keep my aliveness intact. Today, I’m grateful I’ve found another way to do that, at least until daylight savings time ends next month 🙂

Keep feeling and experiencing all the mysteries and unfoldings around you, including a sunset or two perhaps.

Keep learning; the outdoors can teach you a lot.

Keep loving.

Keep leading.

Keep livin’.

I’ll do the same.

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leadership, life, Spirituality

Clarity from Stillness

Stillness. There is beauty in it. I thrive in the complete silence the beginning of the day offers. I become fully aware of choices – ones I’ve made, ones currently available to me, and ones I will make in the future. I am in awe of the simplicity of the realization that I am a product of all my past decisions, which have been influenced by the people I’ve met and the books I’ve read.

I am grateful to not feel the need to blame anyone for anything. Peace that accompanies this feeling. And for a moment, just for a moment, there is nothing to prove or accomplish. For a moment, there is no list of to-do’s or expectations. For a moment, I can just be. In this moment, I sense the radical renewal of my mind and energy. I feel an unstoppable force with undisputed clarity guiding my breath and my thoughts. I dread nothing. I look forward to nothing (except the next sip of coffee). I just fully enjoy myself and this moment to no end. I am present.

I am grateful and keenly aware of the activities in my life that constantly seem to pull me away from the tranquility and magic of the mindfulness I am experiencing. I begin to smile as I fantasize being able to maintain this state throughout my day. What if I could? I know I can and have confidence that with more practice and regularity of entering this state, I can live being more in tune with my inner world, moment by moment.

I am reminded of a self-defeating, sabotaging thought from the previous night and can immediately recognize the foolishness and insanity of the thought – a critical judgment of myself for not being as fit or in as peak of shape as I was in the past. Where does this absurd thinking come from? It’s clear to me that when these subtle thoughts tug at me (sometimes unconsciously) during random times throughout the day, they are not uplifting or helpful. I consciously transfer these thoughts to ones of acceptance and love, and rest in the true reality of my healthy state.

I then remind myself of my choices and what truly brings me joy – my family and friends, my work, the outdoors – and let go of the harsh treatment I often subconsciously subject myself to. I am deeply grateful for the awareness of this inner critic as many are not and again, I peacefully bring my internal conversations back to ones that support loving David and the great possibilities ahead of me.

I realize these moments are opportunities to imprint upon my consciousness the freedom and peace of being in an anxiety-free state. I think back to the past five years of my life and the decisions I have made to de-clutter some overcrowded aspects of my life, and I am thankful for trusting myself to make hard decisions — even though at the time I was hesitant due to caring too much about what others thought of me.

I understand clearly now that the cumulative effect of these decisions have allowed me to regain something very precious: more frequent access to quiet, still moments of thought and reflection. Stillness. The result is that I feel more connected to my truest desires, most sincere intentions, and highest aspirations. It reinforces my devotion to spend my mornings reading, learning, and listening. And it renews my dedication to living a life on purpose.

I have never been as clear as I am in this moment, that happiness cannot be gained from anything outside of me – whether it be accumulating trinkets, winning the approval of others, or mindlessly following my inner critic – rather it comes from within…it’s a simple choice.

“There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

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Family, life, Pain

Thoughts from Throwing my Back Out

About 10 days ago I threw my back out and have been largely immobile since. OK well maybe that’s a stretch as I have been able to get around, but very slowly and painfully. Accepting this injury was difficult at first. I had trouble coming to terms that this could happen to a young, 36-year-old guy! Of course, when I was around 8 years old I chipped a huge chunk of my permanent front tooth in a skateboarding incident and asked my dad, “Why me?” I guess I still haven’t grown up.

But I eventually did face it head on, my lower back issue. The pain of lower back spasms, at the intensity I was having them, surprised me. At times it was excruciating and in regards to sleep, forget about it. I will say, behind the complaining and disbelief, is a yearning to get moving again.

I miss walking normally, without pain. I miss picking up my kids. I miss helping Nikki bring the groceries in. I miss taking the trash out. And boy do I miss working out. When I am able to return to my daily activities, I will certainly have a renewed appreciation for just the opportunity and privilege to move around freely, expressing myself. But for now, I am choosing my situation and making the most out of it, learning as much as I can.

Despite my old man woes, I was still able to hobble around the kitchen in the mornings to fix Nikki’s coffee. We wouldn’t want to find out what might happen if she had to start a day without caffeine.

The lesson for me is next time on a run, when the dissatisfaction creeps in that my pace is slower than I think it should be that day, or whatever, I will smile and look around at nature, and enjoy the actual movement of running and the fact that I get to run for another day.

Be well,

David

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life, Training

Memorable Faces at White Rock Lake

I’ve lived near the lake most of my life. But it wasn’t until the last 12 years that I could call myself a “regular” in regards to cycling or running around Lawther or the lake path.

This post is dedicated to the people I’ve seen the most during that time frame (and that are memorable). I don’t know any of their names, but maybe you do.

THE WAVER – This man must be the happiest of all lake rats. He usually rides a hybrid bike, perfect for taking one hand off the handle bars and using it to wave to every human he sees. One time I saw him wave to 10 people individually in less than 5 seconds it seemed! He will wave at you regardless if you are facing him or not. Just smiling away and waving, determined to not allow any walker, runner, cyclist, or stroller, to go by him without receiving a wave. Although I’ve never seen him standing, he seems tall and usually wears a white sleeveless tee. Parks near Boy Scout Hill I think. Friendly dude!

THE FREE ADVICE GUY – How can you not see this guy and his entourage? He bring chairs and a big sign that reads “Free Advice”. When heading south on West Lawther from Mockingbird, you’ll see him near a parking lot on your left before you reach Branchfield. Only weekends I believe. Sometimes he is alone when no one wants free advice, but most of the time there are several people sitting with him. I’m still not sure if it’s the same people every time or if he’s attracting new customers. At any rate, this man is helping people with what he knows I suppose! A staple at the lake.

THE MAYOR – The runner (or shuffler) gets his nickname because I’ve never seen him running too long without stopping to chat it up with folks. He also usually has a small group running with him. I imagine if he’s looping the lake it must take him 3 hours or so, given his pace and inclination for wanting to be mayor-like and all. For some reason I want to say his name is David but I’m really not sure. I really like this guy because he sports the calf-high, white tube socks!! It looks cool; at least I think so. Haven’t seen him as much lately, so I almost omitted him but due to past consistency and the tube socks he made the cut. Must be nice to be the “mayor” of the WR hike and bike trail.

THE ASIAN ULTRA-RUNNER – Not much to say here. He is light as a feather. Always running. I’m sure multiple loops. Always there! Did I mention grasshopper, light as a feather? Not very fast but I get the impression he might do 50 and 100-milers. Just a hunch. Parks at TP Hill. If you run at the lake then you’ve definitely seen this guy at some point.

THE CYCLIST – Since I live very near the lake, I am fortunate to use it a lot and there are times when I feel like I have it all to myself…it could be super early, or just about to rain, or a little on the cold side, whatever the case you get the point. Just as soon as I’ve have the thought “It’s nice to be here all alone,” this cyclist turns up! He is most always wearing a Dallas Bike Works kit and glasses. Not sunglasses. Glasses. He is always usually traveling against the grain. Either he rides all the time and nets 400 miles a week or is a cyclist brother from a different mother and prefers the unusual times to utilize the lake like me.

THE INDIAN KoM – This endurance athlete usually wears a full-zip jersey but always leaves it unzipped. Even in cold weather (if my memory serves me right), he will layer up but will still wear the jersey like this. It’s his flair I suppose! He is KoM for “King of the Mountains” in the Tour de France – on the hard climbing stages, it’s not uncommon for the riders to unzip their jerseys. I see this athlete running occasionally too, but he seems more in his element on the bike. Always training and usually traveling against the grain (counterclockwise).

Who am I missing?

See you out there!

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Family, life, Pain

What I Learned about FTP in HypnoBirthing class

It’s possible that you found this post hoping to learn something about “Functional Threshold Power”. While that’s not the FTP I’m referring to, in a roundabout way I’m confident you just might learn something about that too.

Nikki and I are expecting our third child in August. As a change-up, we decided to not find out the gender and to use the HypnoBirthing method to deliver the baby.

What exactly is Hypnobirthing?

Nikki was really intrigued by the idea of placing herself in an ultra-calm state using visualizations, music, self-hypnosis, and relaxation techniques, to give birth. She liked the thought of going through the process in a gentle and relaxing way. And without an epidural.

So she asked for my support and got it. Then we dove into a comprehensive training course. The course was designed around “The Mongan Method”.

Nikki was never under the illusion that childbirth won’t hurt; she’s gone through this twice and knows the reality! But, what if it was up to her to choose how she wants her body to handle the pain?

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There have been a lot of funny moments in the class. For example, I learned from the HypnoBirthing instructor (aka “doula”) that the doctor doesn’t deliver the baby; he receives the baby. The mother delivers the baby.

I immediately liked the approach of empowering the mother by using language. At the same time I couldn’t help but chuckle! Why?

Because my dad is an OB/GYN and has been practicing medicine for about 36 years. It makes me smile when I think about correcting him in a future conversation, saying “No dad, you didn’t deliver five babies last night…you received them.” Haha!

FTP

The most memorable class was when we learned about the FTP syndrome.

It suggests that when a woman is in “Fear” this causes “Tension” in her body, which then results in “Pain”.

But that’s not all. It’s a vicious cycle as the pain then triggers more fear.

Interestingly, the abbreviation is the same as “failure to progress” – words used by the medical profession regarding labor.

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I think it takes a lot of guts to approach a pregnancy this way.

I’m proud of Nikki and all the women in the class that have risen to this challenge – to face the “fear” head on and to equip themselves with techniques to use when the time is right. It’s been a great experience so far.

A takeaway: your fears (hidden or obvious) may be sabotaging your capacity to access your full potential.

Look within.

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leadership, life

The Best Advice I Ever Received

Surely we have all gotten some good tips along the way from our parents, guardians, mentors, etc. All of it has helped to inform our choices in life and make us who we are.

But if you had to pick the one single piece of advice that has made the biggest difference for you in life, what would that be?

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This didn’t come to me easily at first, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Clear as day.

2008 was a pretty busy year for me with a lot on my mind. My chocolate labrador Mandy passed away, I completed my first Ironman triathlon, Nikki and I got married, I coached my first community triathlon training program, and I was positioning myself to leave academia to be a full-time coach. I’m sure there was more but you get the idea.

With everything going on that year, one question loomed largest: How do I know if it’s the right call to leave SMU and pursue coaching full-time?

Certainly there were many things to consider in a transition like this. Ultimately I mulled over it for a couple of years before pulling the trigger.

I want to share with you one thing I learned along the way.

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In 2010 I took on a personal development exercise with career/transitions guru David Zelman in which I was asked to pick five people to interview. They could be family members, friends, former coaches or teachers, current supervisors, etc. The only criteria is that they needed to be a huge fan (a supporter, a backer) of me and someone who was fully committed to my success and not afraid to tell me the truth.

In thinking back to why I engaged in this exercise, I think I was searching for clues about myself that would help give me the confidence to jump out on my own as an entrepreneur. I thought that increasing my self-awareness through the activity would bolster my confidence enough to get me off the fence I’d been on for 3 years.

Needless to say, I was pretty focused on listening for the right nuggets of information from my interviewees that would empower me for my goal.

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In my case, the best advice I ever received was completely unexpected. Perhaps that’s why it made such as impression on me. It seemed out of left field, and yet something was so refreshing about it too. I now know the reason for that is because it connected with me on a deeper level, in regards to what I truly value in life.

So I’ll cut to the chase. The questionnaire had questions like…

  • “What do you see as my key strengths?”
  • “What is a major weakness of mine?”
  • “When am I most powerful?”
  • “In what situations am I least powerful?”

One of the five people I chose to interview was the late Peter Gifford, a very special man who spent 41 years as department chair at SMU. Here is a tribute that The Daily Campus published in his honor. I greatly respected Peter and his no-nonsense, positive style.

The last question on the list was “If you could wish one thing for me in the next year, what would it be?”

I’ll never forget how Peter answered this. Partly because there was no hesitation. But also because of the passion that accompanied his response.

He said, “I wish for you a family of your own.”

And then he went on to describe his love for Diane, his wife, and his five children, and how much he enjoys life with them. He went on to give examples of how they congregate at his house, outside on the patio, and talk for hours into the night. His face lit up and you could sense that he couldn’t wait to get home that day to be with his family.

Here I was, ready for the pearls of wisdom related to career, and Peter shared his heart with me about what mattered most to him and how he wanted that for me too.

When he shared this with me, I was a little surprised and taken aback because my brain was in a completely different realm. It took me a little bit of time to actually absorb what he said.

The result was that in a way, it provided “permission” for me to move in a direction that I was already committed to deep down. Before the conversation, I’m sure I was like many in thinking “I’ll get around to that (starting a family). I’ve got goals for now!”

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An hour later after the interview, I called Nikki and told her she needed to come by my office…that there was something I just had to tell her.

Upon sharing with her what Peter said, I added that I was moved by his words and that I was indeed ready to go down this path and start a family. Nikki’s response: “I’ve been trying to tell you that for over a year!”

We cried together, right there in my office. Immediately followed by lots of laughter as we dreamed about the great possibilities that lay ahead.

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So, I didn’t get the answers that I was expecting or looking for, in regards to career.

But I got the answer to a much greater one: I’m a family man.

Thank you, Peter.

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leadership, life

Getting Paid for Doing What You Love

Yes, perhaps a clichĂ© title. But hang with me…

What others have found most interesting about my professional life thus far:

  1. I left corporate America after 1 year and to completely re-career and pursue coaching and education.
  2. After 7 years of teaching at the high school and college level, I left the academic realm to make my part-time triathlon coaching business into a full-time venture.

Once the ship set sail on each of these choices, I never looked back at the shore. I was totally focused on the task at hand and on learning as much as I possibly could in order to succeed.

Because of where my focus was directed, it was hard to empathize or even unpack my decision points to others that also were considering career changes. People were interested in WHY I did what I did. Some were even inspired.

So I answered their questions to the best of my ability and then moved on. (Remember: tunnel-vision focus!)

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So, I came across a book the other day my mother handed me.

She said, “David, your childhood friend Dustin wrote a book – you should check it out.” I remembered Dustin of course, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that he had published a book. Out of curiosity and affection for an old pal, I dove in.

Very quickly in to the first few chapters, I thought, “YES! FINALLY! THIS IS AMAZING!!”

The reason for the excitement was because I finally have an incredible resource to share with people who need a step-by-step approach to guide them from “I hate my job” to “I can’t believe I get paid to do this!”

My advice was usually “Just do it. Jump off the cliff. It’s exhilarating (and humbling) and you’ll figure it out along the way.”

Where Dustin is gifted is in guiding you to dive into critical questions and in the perfect sequencing, too. I think he is able to do this so powerfully because 1) he’s lived it, and 2) he’s helped hundreds do the same through a decade of career and leadership coaching.

I got so into the book that I found myself loving the end-of-chapter exercises, as I was validating (and strengthening…it’s like a muscle) what I’ve already learned through experience, but I was also learning new things about myself — for a lifelong learner, the practice is always ongoing. I’m grateful for Dustin for being my teacher!

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There was one exercise that was particularly meaningful to me. He took me through a reflection exercise where I had to look back at when I felt the most energized over the past 7 days. The ironic part is that one of those times was in the actual “doing” and participating in the activities he was suggesting (this is largely due to the fact that one of my top 3 values is PERSONAL GROWTH).

After coming up with some memorable and invigorating occurrences, Dustin then asked me to summarize “the thing(s) I was doing that gave me the energy”. Writing this down was somehow exciting and wonderful. Might sound weird but it’s true.

The last part of the exercise he challenged me to write a statement that would capture the energy of what I’d just written (see above sentence) but to be general enough to be widely applicable.

The result, my personal mission statement:

I love to empower others (through leadership, coaching, teaching, and speaking) to be true to themselves, to believe in themselves, and to take actions that are consistent with being or becoming their BEST possible selves.

If you like the idea of having your work be energizing and life-giving (i.e., not life-sucking and draining), then this book can really help you organize your thoughts to help you take meaningful actions towards “loving what you do”.

My favorite quote from the book: “There is always room at the top for those who love what they do.”

Reset: How to Get Paid and Love What You Do, by Dustin Peterson

For your success,

David

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