September 18, 2012

“tests” are the gateway to a bigger life.

I was in college two times.

The first time was when I was a child. I was there because I was “supposed” to be there. It was what a kid who graduated from my high school did. I went to class (mostly), studied (as little as possible), and passed (barely). Then I almost failed out, dropped out, and started working.

This was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was finally supporting myself, and this was amazing. I felt like my own person for the first time. I also discovered how bad the pay was at the lower end of the pay scale. After a year and a half, I decided that college might not be such a bad idea.

The second time was a different story. I was there because I wanted to be. I was interested in what I was studying, and really put my nose to the grindstone. It was amazing. I learned a ton, and really enjoyed the process. Dean’s list became a regular occurrence, and boy was that fun.

It was during this time that I learned about the joy of taking a test.

In the past, tests were something that I feared. Scratch that. The word fear is no way strong enough to describe what I felt before a test. I felt sick. I felt anguish. I felt looming failure. I felt like the littlest, shittiest thing on the entire planet. I was half way to failing before I even answered the first question.

On the second pass, it was so different, but not in the way I expected. I knew the material backwards and forwards, so doing well was not in question. I thought that after I was done, it was going to feel like crossing a finish line. I thought that I would have these amazing feelings of defeating something that beat me so badly in the past. I expected victory feelings. I expected fireworks.
That’s not how it felt.

It felt much smaller. I knew the material so well that it felt like I was filling out paperwork which asked for the personal information I know off of the top of my head. The 100 questions took me 13 minutes to finish (seriously, I timed it, and yes, I am a geek). There were no fireworks. Why would there be when I was just filling out a “form”. Instead I got a pleasant feeling about the way I prepared. It was not a big feeling, but it was nice. It just wasn’t what I expected.

Upon finishing it, I also realized that I was going to have to do this all over again (and again, and again…). In the past, this thought was the most sickening thing I could imagine. This time it felt different.

It was not sickening. To be honest, it was not even a bad feeling. I started to realize that the next test would be just as ok as the one I just finished. I might even get that nice feeling when I was done. I might not get the fireworks, but I would also avoid the crushing fear/sickness. This was a trade off that I could handle. I started to come to the grips with the thought that I could learn new things, and that doing so would feel ok.

This was so important for me. I always avoided things I did not know about due to the fear of the “test’ at the end. Over time, I started avoiding “tests” of all sorts. This was starting to make my world very small. My breakthrough changed everything.

Fast forward to today. I have been trying new things for years. Mostly I do so without fear, but not always. Sometimes the task is so big, and so complicated, that I feel the old fear/sickness/failure feelings. These feelings can cause me to avoid the big things that really need to be done to keep my life moving forward.

Yesterday, I took a “test” for something that I have been working on for 9 months. It was something that seemed too huge to even tackle when I first got started. It made me sick to work on it, or even think about it. Every time I answered one question about it, I found 9 others that I didn’t understand. It made me feel so dumb.
Guess what?

I fought thru these feelings. I did my best to remind myself that it was ok to not know how to do this yet. That it was ok to learn. That I could learn.

It took so much time, but I did it, and I got there. When it was time for the “test”, it was all that old familiar feeling. No, not the sick to my stomach feeling, but the good, small, easy as filling out a form feeling.

It was so great to feel this. Here I was filling out something that was actually extremely complicated, but to me, it was nothing. I easily did it off of the top of my head like I was filling out my address on a form.

So what is the point of this blog entry?

The point is that it is ok not to know something. The point is that with enough time and effort, you can learn anything. The point is that doing so is one of the most wonderful things you can do for yourself. The point is that “tests” don’t have to be painful. The point is that all tests really are is a way to see that you have truly understood a subject, and are ready to move on to the next subject.

Now I love learning and taking “tests”. If I could travel back in time, and say that to my 18-year-old self, I expect that I would have laughed in my own face. Now I know better. Now I know that learning is a wonderful, special part of life. It is the part of life that lets us make our lives bigger, and better. I will always push myself to keep learning, painful or not. The payoff is to big not to do so.

P.S. If you are curious, my “test” was the creation of the final wire frame and page detail/summary for the website that I am creating. This was the last big “test” for this part of my new business. There will be other tests, but none quite as big as this for a while. It feels good to be ready to start studying for the next one.

September 13, 2012

Sometimes you just got to say “screw my subconcious”

Two years. Scratch that. Over two years.

That’s how long I have been working on the new business that I have been creating. I am finally getting close to the end.

It should be getting easier.

The heavy lifting is mostly done. I have read everything I can read on the subject, and incorporated that knowledge into my creation. I have created the best design I know how to make. I have shot, and re-shot, and re-reshot the videos more times than I can count.

It should be getting easier.

I have re edited material that I thought was complete. I have taken suggestions for change, even after something was totally done.

Why isn’t this getting easier?

The heck with that, why is it actively getting harder?

It seems like each piece of work is twice as hard as it used to be. It feels like the writing I am doing is actually fighting with me. The work makes me feel sick to my stomach when I sit down to get started. What’s this all about?

Then it hit me. I am near the end. Pretty soon I have to take my “great” idea, and put it to the test. No longer will it be an idea. Soon it will be real. This is why this is getting so hard.

Real is scary.

Real can fail.

Real can hurt.

I’m scared. I have put two years of my life into something, and I have no idea if it will work. Many of my friends and family have put their support (emotional and financial) behind me and my idea. This is such a tough thing to deal with. I guess my body realized this before my mind, and that is why things are getting so hard to do. My subconscious is trying to protect me for a fall. It’s doing this by trying to get me to stop, or stall.

You know what… …screw my subconscious.

I am going to trust the people who believed in me. They didn’t have to invest in my idea. They did it because they believed in me. They thought my idea had merit, and that I could pull it off. These are the people that I most trust in my life. These are the smartest people I know. Why would I doubt their opinion on me if I trust their opinion on everything else?
This may be scary, and this may be getting harder, but I am up to the task.

I can do this.

September 11, 2012

For my Mom, it was 11/22/1963. For me it is 9/11/2001

Ever look at the calendar, and have the date instantly make you forget about all your petty problems? It just happened to me.

The second I saw the date, I thought about a friend we called Candy.

Candy was a New York City Fireperson named Martin McWilliams, the brother of one of my very good friends. We called him Candy because he could never remember my wife’s name when he had a few drinks in him, and one night, he started to call her Candy. He really thought it was her name, and we were tickled pink. The next time we saw him, my wife started calling him Candy to return the favor, and it just stuck.

I will spare you the long story of who he was. Suffice to say that he was a lovely person, and a devoted father. Many, many people miss him.

I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks to each and every person who makes the decision to care for others as their life’s work. They know that it is dangerous. They know they may die before their time. They do it anyway. I cannot imagine what it is like to do this, but I do know that having people like this in the world gives me faith in my fellow-man. They allow us to go on with our happy lives, knowing that we are protected from so many awful things. For that, I will always be thankful.

If you know someone who has taken this path, why not send a little love their way. Recognize their selfless choice, and thank them. They deserve it.

As for Candy’s family, as well as the families of the other firefighters, policeman, and civilians who lost their life on that fateful day, my thoughts are with you today and always.

September 10, 2012

The beauty of a blog is that you can start fresh anytime you want.

After almost a year away, I have decided to dip my toe back in the water, and give my blog another try. If you have ever written one of these, and taken time away, you know how difficult this can be. Writing an honest blog is both a joy, and a burden. Sharing the “real” stuff is almost never easy. That being said, it is almost always worth the effort.

As for where I have been, lets just say I was lost in a complicated world of pain, progress, happiness, sadness, joy, boredom, excitement… …you get the idea, Life. Over the coming posts, I plan to share what has happened to me, and how it has changed me. If I was asked to cut the end of the story (and up to today), I would have to say that there was a great deal of progress made, and mostly in the right direction. I would also say that the ground I covered was the toughest I have ever encountered.

As for what this blog will be about going forward, I guess that there are two principal subjects you will hear from me on. The first will be my personal journey to finding happiness in the life I am lucky enough to have. This does not always come naturally to me, but I think there are good stories to be shared about the attempts, failures, and occasional successes. If you are looking to hear about an imperfect man, looking to better himself, you might find what I have to say to be interesting.

The second subject I will be spending time on is the creation of my new business. This is a business that is focused on helping first timers learn how to run, ride, and lose weight. I have been creating this for a number of years, and am in the home stretch of finally opening it. Some of you may remember the beginnings of this business from my 5K in 100 days program. This was a free program which taught non runners how to run 5K in about 15 weeks. Teaching this program for free was one of the most wonderful things I have ever done, and it was the spark that ignited the business I am creating. Just so you know, I am not writing about this to advertise this business. Instead, I will be sharing the process to let you know what it is like to do something like this (hint, very hard😉, as well as what I have learned about myself in the process.

Thats all I have for today. It is hard writing with so much rust from lack of working at my blog. I expect it will get easier (and the posts will get better). Thanks for reading.