Each year, just past the first quarter of the year, I celebrate my birthday. This one happens to be 27–the first number I wore on my football jersey in college. I wasn’t fond of having that number–I didn’t pick it–and I changed to number 40 for my sophomore season to honor Pat Tillman.
I also grew my hair out, to my mother’s chagrin.
Nine years later, the number 27 is again attached to me–for 365 days rather than four months. This time, though, I’m not disappointed to see the number. (Last time I was hoping for number 2). Hopefully I don’t carry it’s curse like Jimi Hendrix, Curt Kobain or Janis Joplin. But, then again, I teach people to lift. I don’t write music that changes the world.
Like Pat Tillman, though, I do my best to take actions that impact the world and match my world view. I do my best each day to make other people better. That’s my goal for this article–to push you to keep getting better for the rest of this year. Or, in the very least, have a great final 3/4 of 2013.
I like to speak from experience–so rather than offer you a bunch of theoretical and conjectural action items that could potentially make your life better, I’ll tell you about a few things I’ve done thus far this year so that they might be applicable to you.
It’s not a long list–I haven’t done that much cool shit this year. But here they are, a few things I recommend you do before December 31st.
1) Save a Life: One night in early February I was sitting at my computer, doing a bit of writing, when I got a Facebook message from Lindsey Galloway–a client at BSP NOVA. She had heard about a red nosed pitbull named Pepsi at shelter in Manhattan that was scheduled to be put down in 48 hours. The report stated only that Pepsi had a minor health problem–it wasn’t clear about the disease (it ended up being kennel cough, the equivalent of a cold). Lindsey messaged me because she knew how much I liked Chris Merritt’s red nosed pit, Lola. She thought, just maybe, my love for Lola would push me to save Pepsi.
At this point my car was in the shop–it had been there for two weeks. I had no way of getting to NYC to get a dog–I told Lindsey I didn’t know if I could help. She offered to drive both of us to NYC that night to make sure Pepsi made it. A lightbulb went off and I had a better idea.
In January, while I was in Manhattan on business, I met Dr. Kiersten Lindelef–a lovely chiropractor with a big heart. I texted Kiersten and asked her if she’d like to help me rescue a dog, and, via text, I told her Pepsi’s story. While we planned our rescue via text, Kiersten was at a Mumford and Sons concert–another testament to her big heart. She checked Pepsi’s file online when she got home, called me at 2 A.M. and told me she’d be at the shelter in the morning. Kiersten picked Pepsi up from the shelter on the morning that she was scheduled to be euthanized.
Pepsi’s name is now Stella–a name recommended by Kiersten’s soon-to-be sister-in-law. She left the shelter with Kiersten and was promptly delievered to me in State College.
I was more of a coordinator, and less of an action taker, in Stella’s rescue; but I know if I hadn’t sent the text to Dr. Lindelef that night, and made the attempt to save Stella, I’d have had a hard time living with myself.
Now Stella is my favorite reason to come home every day.
2) Live by the Four Agreements: At the end of 2012 I was an angry dude. Several things over the course of the year didn’t shake out the way I expected and it left me a bit overwhelmed. I turned to the iron, like I have since I was twelve years old, but it wasn’t cutting it. I needed to make a change.
Someone recommended the book The Four Agreements to me. I’m not much of a self-help reader, so I was a bit skeptical; but who was I to judge. I was the one in search of a new viewpoint.
I downloaded the book on iTunes and got to work; I ended up reading the entire book in one sitting. Don’t be impressed–it’s not long. Over the course of a week I ended up reading it four times.
The message is simple–it’s something we already know–we just fail to act on it. The author, Don Miguel Ruiz, asks us to commit to doing only four, simple things that overhaul our mindset. They are as follows:
1) Be impeccable with your word.
2) Don’t take things personally.
3) Don’t assume.
4) Always do your best.
Simple, right? I’ll be honest; I still have to work hard at all of them. But I think that’s the point–we are all a fucking mess and we all need work. These four agreements, however, provide an excellent framework.
3) Take Epsom Salt Baths: When I played junior high football every night when I came home from practice my mom would have tub full of water and epsom salts waiting for me. I’d walk through the door, smelling like vinegar and an Italian hoagie, and dash upstairs to the tub. Dinner would be on the table when I was done. She’s awesome.
Somehow, between then and now, I forgot about the powerful combination of magnesium and water. I’ve been taking at least one epsom salt bath per week and it’s helped me recover. (Keep in mind that I’m a meathead and I constantly push the boundaries of overtraining.)
Time to do nothing but sit in water is also a great escape–I use it as a reset. I think about all the shit that has happened over the past few days and then I let it go.
Make ready the muscles for another days’ battle and settle the mind to thrive through the turmoil.
4) Make Checklists: My buddy Dr. Justin Rabinowitz gave me the book The Checklist Manifesto in January. It was penned by Atul Gawande, a surgeon; someone that has to make sure he doesn’t miss steps in a process. Otherwise someone might end up losing the wrong kidney.
The book made me evaluate how I handle my day to day operations of awesome. Well, other than starting the day off by looking in the mirror and saying, ‘Hey there sexy. Yooouuuu are a goddamn pack of dynamite. Blow up all over this day.’ I’m like Stuart Smalley with testosterone.
After the affirmation, I check the checklist I made at the beginning of the week. It’s called DYDTS–short for Did You Do This Shit? It contains all the little things I need to get done for work each week. It’s hard to be awesome if you’re screwing up the process.
5) Spend More Time with Your Parents: Over the past few years I’ve been all over the place. I’ve lived in Upstate New York and in Washington D.C. I’ve travelled to quite a few different cities, and spent a lot of time learning about my craft. During this process I too often forgot the reason I’ve had these opportunities. My mom–the lady that drew my epsom salt baths and cooked me dinner–popped me out of her downstairs twenty-seven years ago in a Naval hospital in Virginia. (Quick aside: She’s a very sweet, and meek, woman. Most of the time when people meet me first, and then meet her, they ask her what the hell happened.)
Since I’ve come to my senses, my mom and I spend time together every Sunday. I have the luxury of living only thirty miles away from her. We either spend the morning having breakfast and then going for coffee or we meet up for dinner. I’ve never taken my mom’s love for granted, but it’s been great to find out that the lady that’s always taken care of me is also great to hang out with.
Life’s funny, and we don’t know what will happen, so don’t fuck this up. In fact, go call your mom right now.
The Last Quarter
The old timers don’t lie when they tell you the older you get the faster the time goes. It sucks, but it’s true. It will be December soon and the year will be gone. Make the rest of it better. Save a life. Call your mom. Train like you’re going to have to lift a car off of a child. And, goddamn it, take the time to forget about yourself and make someone else better.