Thursday, November 20, 2014

Are We Still the Best?

By Mike Layne

I consider myself a patriot.  Always have!  I love my country.  I love its vibrant and tumultuous past.  I love its stories, its art, its mythology.   The fabric of our nation was not weaved from black and white thread.  It is an astounding tapestry of shades and colors, imagery and experiences.   Some will tell you we have a great need to cultivate diversity.  I say we've always had diversity.  Our story spans 238 years and our accomplishments far outpace our years; our successes outpace our failures.  I am, and always will be an American.

I've always had a special affinity for the great inspirational quotes from American history.   Nathan Hale’s last words “My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country”, Lincoln’s “Four score and seven years ago” delivered at Gettysburg, and my personal favorite, Patrick Henry’s 1775 “give me liberty or give me death” address to the Virginia Convention.   All three quotes were delivered by men with an unshakable commitment to the concept and continuation of our country, at times when that continuation was not guaranteed -- far from it.  Henry and Hale had few reasons to be confident that a break from Britain would be successful and the Civil War was far from won when Lincoln spoke. Today the battle of Gettysburg is accepted as a turning point in the war.  In November of 1863 that conclusion was still 16 months and a half a million casualties away.   These men inspire me because they believed despite the odds.  Their love of country was not skin deep.  It defined them as men, and as human beings.

Fast forward now, past gold rushes and wagon trains, cowboys, Indians and the page of a century turned, past T.R.’s rough riders, prohibition and two World Wars, "nothing to fear but fear itself, “ask not what your country can do for you”, the cold war, Vietnam, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”, two towers, a five sided building and a lonely field in Pennsylvania.  Since Mr. Lincoln spoke in another Pennsylvania field 151 years ago our country has moved from restless adolescence into a mature and powerful nation.   Loved by some and hated by others, we've known biter failure and tremendous success.  

I've heard it said lately that we are no longer the greatest country on earth.  Really?  I’ve watched videos online and heard disturbing statistics that place us behind other countries in math, science and literacy and ahead of most in obesity and adult incarceration.  I’ve read long lists of comments bemoaning the state of the nation.  There is a rising tide of people who believe our best days are behind us.   Are they right, or are we still the greatest country in the world?

We do have problems.  We give money to those who don’t deserve it and sometimes fail to help those who do.   Health care costs too much.  Our politicians lie to us, our education system is undoubtedly broken and obesity is out of control.  The list is long.  Indeed, we have our share of dumb dumbs, bad politicians, moochers and round-waisted people.  If you are one, I make no apologies.  Read a book, take a class, put down the Ho Hos and run a mile.  This country was built on the ability of the common person to better their situation.  Better yours!  America offers opportunity and assistance in spades.   If you fail in life, that’s on you.

Do you think George Washington ran the numbers before he crossed the Delaware?  Did MacArthur weigh the odds before he said “I came through and I shall return”?  This country was not built on statistics, but in spite of them.  We’ve been the underdog and we’ve been the hometown favorite and we have always prevailed.  Not because we checked the polls, but because we came together and we believed; in God, in family, in freedom, in a moral code and a way of life that set us apart from the rest of the world.  We are a shinning city on a hill.  Let me say unequivocally that I will never stop believing in these things, never!  Because to stop believing is to give in to the darkness and surrender.  And to surrender is to utterly desecrate the memory of the men and women who have died to ensure our way of life survives.  We must never let that happen.  Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and yes, by the way, we are still the greatest country on earth.

 “It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

-       Abraham Lincoln, November 1863

Friday, November 14, 2014

Life is a CrossFit Chipper

My wife Loreal and I jumped feet first (literally) into CrossFit back in the spring and have never looked back.  We love it.  Like the stereotypical CrossFit devotees, we've molded our lives around our addiction.  We arrange our schedules around workouts, we strive for a clean Paleo diet, our social media is dominated by CrossFit related posts and we talk about it at home all the time.  It’s not strange for the last thing we say before “I love you, good night” to be “hey, did they post tomorrow’s WOD yet”?

So we’re CrossFit people, simple as that.  I could devote volumes to telling you how wonderful the culture is.  How the people make the experience and how a community of like-minded people drive each other to be better versions of ourselves.  I could talk about the physical changes we've seen after a short 6 months and how we've abandoned counting pounds on the scale for counting the weight we can lift and the speed of our workouts.  Those are all positive parts of the sport we love.  But if I had to boil the CrossFit experience down to the one element I believe is the most important, it would be the mental focus and commitment it requires.  These workouts are tough.  Tough beyond what most people are prepared to imagine.   They strip away all the comforts of our modern society and pit you against heavy bars of steel and your own body weight.  Ten minutes into a twenty minute workout of constant heavy movement, you’re breathing so hard your lungs burn, your arms and legs feel like they are made of whipped cream, you’re drenched in sweat and everything in you is screaming stop.  What does it take to keep going?  What internal fortitude must a person possess to force them to gut out the second half of the workout, and more importantly, why does it matter?  It matters because life is a Chipper.

For the uninitiated, the Chipper is a CrossFit workout that is long and grueling.  It typically consists of a high number of repetitions of a high number of exercises.  For example, it might include 50 reps of 12 different exercises ranging from push ups and pull ups to jump rope and Olympic lifts.   Chippers hurt.  Chippers can be demoralizing if you let them.  Chippers drain you of every ounce of energy you can muster and you’ll finish on fumes, and sometimes tears.  Luckily there is a secret to completing a Chipper…  Are you ready?  You do them one exercise at a time, one rep at a time.  That’s it.  Like any other enormous problem in life, if you force your mind to take it in all at once it will overwhelm you.  If you spend your time worrying about the exercise that’s coming up, you may talk yourself out of doing the one you’re on now.  Learning to tough through Chippers teaches us a lot about who we are and about living life in an unpredictable world full of big problems.
  •  Eat the elephant one bite at a time.  Big problems are only big if you let them be big.  Chunk them down into pieces you can manage and tackle them one bite at a time.
  •  Tackle every problem with a positive can do attitude.  If you tell yourself from the start that you can’t do something, the odds are very good that you’ll be right.  Believe in yourself.  You’re capable of way more than you know.
  • It’s normal to want to quit something that is causing you enormous discomfort.  It’s extraordinary to be able to set your mind to something and complete it despite the pain.  You can be normal or extraordinary.  You choose, but choose wisely.  The decision you make will dictate the trajectory of your entire life!

And that’s why we’re CrossFit people.  Not just because our ‘Box’, Ronnin Fitness, is full of great people with great attitudes, and iron sharpens iron.  Not just because a healthy lifestyle gives us our best chance of living a long active life with our children.  We’re CrossFit people because the basics of CrossFit are the basics of life.  If you have what it takes to be good at CrossFit, then you have what it takes to be good at life, and who doesn't want to be good at life?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Stuff of Life

Let me start by saying I totally ripped this post off.  I didn't write this.  It's from an email a friend sent, but it does reflect my core belief in the importance of slowing down and smelling the roses.  The truth is I haven't hiked or posted nearly as much as I've wanted to.  It's been a busy summer.  I discovered Spencer hates hiking in his carrier in the heat, so we didn't get out much in the hot months.  I didn't do any of the camping trips I had planned.  Our intention was to hike more in the fall and now the fall is slipping away to winter.  When I read this email it reminded me of a previous post of mine titled Finding the Beautiful and I felt compelled to share this thought -- Time will fly by you if you let it.  Don't let it go by without wringing it for every ounce of beauty and happiness you can, and sharing it with others.

How much do we notice as we go through a day? 

Lisa Beamer is the wife of Todd Beamer who said 'Let's Roll!' and helped take down the plane over Pennsylvania that was heading for Washington, DC back on 9/11.  On Good Morning America recently she said it's the little things that she misses most about Todd, such as hearing the garage door open as he came home, and her children running to meet him.  Lisa recalled this story:

"I had a very special teacher in high school many years ago whose husband died suddenly of a heart attack. About a week after his death, she shared some of her insight with a classroom of students. As the late afternoon sunlight came streaming in through the
classroom windows and the class was nearly over, she moved a few things aside on the edge of her desk and sat down there. With a gentle look of reflection on her face, she paused and said, 'Class is over; I would like to share with all of you, a thought that is unrelated to class, but which I feel Is very important. Each of us is put here on earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves. None of us knows when this fantastic experience will end. It can be taken away at any moment.

Perhaps this is God's way of telling us that we must make the most out of every single day. Her eyes beginning to water, she went on, So I would like you all to 
make me a promise. From now on, on your way to school, or on your way home, find something beautiful to notice. It doesn't have to be something you see, it could be a scent, perhaps of freshly baked bread wafting out of someone's house, or it could be the sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees, or the way the morning light catches one autumn leaf as it falls gently to the ground. Please look for these things, and cherish them. For, although it may sound trite to some, these things are the "stuff" of life. The little things we are put here on earth to enjoy. The things we often take for granted.

The class was completely quiet. We all picked up our books and filed out of the room silently. That afternoon, I noticed more things on my way home from school than I had that whole semester. Every once in a while, I think of that teacher and remember what an impression she made on all of us, and I try to appreciate all of those things that sometimes we all overlook.  

Take notice of something special you see on your lunch hour today. Go barefoot. Walk on the beach at sunset. Stop off on the way home tonight to get a double dip ice cream cone. For as we get older, it is not the things we did that we often regret, but the things we didn't do.

If you like this, please pass it on to a friend. If not, just delete it and go on with your life! Life is measured many ways.  None are as important as the number of moments that leave us in absolute awe of our universe and it's creator.  Make a point to seek these moments out.

Have a wonderful day!