Tag Archives: strength

Spinning Strong

Jody Spin InstructorMy wife is now a certified indoor cycling instructor and I am on notice that I will soon attend one of her first classes. She is amazing, and I am slightly terrified.

I remember the first “spin” class she ever attended quite well. We were new to California and she was new to working out, but she had a celebrity crush on Bob Harper from The Biggest Loser television show and could not pass up the opportunity to attend one of his classes. On arrival, she soon determined that she was in over her head since it was a ninety-minute class for experienced spinners, which is not the bunny slope approach to this particular workout. However, shortly after the class started and she concluded that this wasn’t for her, she tried to get off the bike only to discover that her legs did not work. So, out of options, she decided to just keep spinning and finished the class.

Bob left as the class wrapped up that fateful day for a speaking engagement at another L.A. gym, and Jody and her friend, Jeneen, planned to attend that as well so that Jody could get her picture made with him. They thought that the gym was two blocks away and decided to walk, but it turned out that their math was a little off and the gym was actually twenty blocks away. This important fact came to light a little late in the walk over. At one point, Jody actually collapsed in a crosswalk when her jelly legs gave way. But again, out of available options, she kept walking and got that picture.

At the time we lived on the third floor of a college dormitory—a college dormitory that had no elevator—and when she made it home I showed no mercy since the self-inflicted pain came as a result of pursuing a celebrity crush! The pain was such that she had to pull herself up and down the stairs each day. And after relaxing on the couch, she had to roll off the couch simply to pull herself back into a standing position. It was funny (for me) for quite some time until she really started to wonder if there was some sort of permanent damage. But she recovered and lived to work out another day.

In fact, she has worked out a lot of other days since that memorable introduction to spinning and the results are stunning. Did I mention that she is now certified to teach these sorts of classes?

My wife is the strongest person I know, and I am the luckiest. She will be an amazing teacher and inspiration to others as an indoor cycling instructor. But she has me pretty scared.

Jody

JodyToday is my wife’s birthday, and the specific number is none of your business (or, apparently, mine!).  Jody’s parents both worked as tax preparers back in 19-whenever when she made her grand entrance on April 14—talk about demanding attention from the very start!  She deserves a lot of attention.  Jody is, hands down, the most impressive person that I know.

I could list a thousand beautiful words that describe my wife, but let’s try a story instead.

Less than two years after we married, Jody was hired as a full-time houseparent at Children’s Homes, Inc., and I got to tag along for the ride.  Imagine the situation: a young married couple in their mid-twenties living with and “parenting” teenagers from a wide variety of challenging backgrounds.  Not sure who was more crazy–us or the people who hired us.  One evening early in our three years there, we were walking with several of the teenage girls at dusk when Jody and one of the girls got into it, and a battle of two very strong wills was on.  Given the body language of the two, my fear was that the battle would soon move beyond wills, and I should mention that the other combatant was about a foot taller and appeared to be twice as strong.  But there Jody stood in the growing darkness, eye-to-navel, looking up at the girl she was responsible for and yet somehow communicating that she would take her out in a second if anyone flinched.  None of us flinched.  There was never a question who would win.

Our daughters never really stood a chance with a mother like Jody who loves with such courage and ferocity.  She will stand up to anyone, anytime, anywhere for what is right, and particularly for (and if necessary, to) someone that she loves.  She is strength and beauty and goodness all wrapped up in one amazing person.

I can’t even imagine how many people are better because Jody decided to care for them.  I just know that I am at the top of the list.

Adversity

My youngest daughter gave me a LARGE PRINT (appreciated!) book of David Foster Wallace essays titled, “Both Flesh and Not.” She knows that I may have developed a reader crush on Wallace. Among other admirable qualities, Wallace’s conventional knowledge is astounding, but his unconventional approach is stunning. For instance, one of the essays included in the book is composed entirely of bullet points. Twenty-five pages’ worth of bullet points (well, LARGE PRINT, so maybe two pages, but still).

So if the imitation/flattery cliché is true, then consider the following as feeble-yet-genuine praise.

• Adversity: Simple definition: “a difficult situation or condition.”
• Synonyms: misfortune; mishap; tragedy.
• First known use: 13th century.
• Probability that you (and me, but I’m writing here, so you) will encounter adversity: 100%.
• Leading responses to adversity: Popularly (and boring-ly), fight or flight. More descriptively, nausea; all versions of weeping, from softly into a dark pillow to convulsive wailing; bitterness; rage; blaming, from self to upbringing to society to presidents/candidates to God to karma to your stupid ex-whatever; prayer; tubs of ice cream; throwing things; liquid courage; television binge; a life of crime; join the circus.
• Approximate amount of fun in any of these responses at least by the next day: Zero. (Except possibly the circus, which depends so much on your new job description.)
• Common themes from an “adversity” search on Google Images: Mountains; tightropes; Martin Luther King, Jr., loneliness.
• Strangest return item from an “adversity” search on Amazon: Adversity Board Game.
• Opening line of product description for Adversity Board Game: “Become the greatest advertising mogul the world has ever seen!” (Oh, it is AD-versity. Clever.)
• Most fun line of opening customer description of Ad-versity Board Game: “We tried this game both while drinking and while sober, and both times it sort of stank.”
• Why I’m thinking/writing about adversity: Life, lately. Some personal, some observational, from many corners of life.
• What to do when the tendency to criticize how others handle adversity rears its ugly head: Slip on their moccasins. (Figuratively of course, although a literal situation is conceivable, like if maybe someone gets bad news from the doctor and runs screaming on to a sizzling hot highway, and if you’re barefoot and their moccasins are right there anyway… This all seems highly unlikely.)
• How I want to handle inevitable adversity: With love; head on; with courage and strength; at peace.
• Probability that I will do so: Unknown, but greatly increased with resolve, preparation, practice, and reflection.

Decide, Then Do

“Workouts are like brushing my teeth. I don’t think about them. I just do them. The decision has already been made.” – Patti Sue Plumer

I love resolutions and make them at any time of year, so yes, I have a new set for 2016. Three of them involve running:

#1: Set a half-marathon PR (under 1:37:10). I will go for it on Super Bowl Sunday alongside seventeen thousand new friends on a reportedly flat and spectacular course at Surf City in Huntington Beach.

#2: Enter the lottery for a chance to run the New York City Marathon. I have never entered a marathon, and if it is going to happen, it might as well be in the world’s largest marathon (fifty thousand runners!). (Running Resolution 2b: If I actually get in, complete the NYC Marathon without a corresponding hospital stay.)

#3: Run in Kenya with Kenyans. This is so incredibly awesome. My wife and I are part of a team headed to Kenya in June to work alongside a beautiful ministry that rescues children from the slums, and the chance to run with Kenyans in Kenya will be the highlight of the year. And if we are chased by a lion, then my ultimate fantasy of actually outrunning a Kenyan will also come true.

Resolutions are famously easy to make—and even keep for the first three days of the year give or take. Resolutions are famously difficult to keep past January, which is why this essay’s epigraph from Olympic distance runner, Patti Sue Plumer, is so curious in its simplicity. You simply decide and then just do? If it was only that easy . . .

What if it is that easy?

We give ourselves far too little credit. Listen closely: You (yes, you) and I (yes, me, too) possess the power to have true resolve. We really do. That resolutions are standing jokes is scandalous.

Marianne Williamson (often mis-attributed to Nelson Mandela, but I know it better from the movie, Coach Carter) famously wrote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Do not miscalculate your strength: You are stronger than you think. Do not be afraid of failure: Your battle is the fear, not the failure.

Decide.

Then, do. Simply because the decision has already been made.

End of discussion.

Measuring Strength

At Riverside

I am loving the opportunity to tag along with Pepperdine’s cross country program this season as the Waves race toward the conference and regional championship meets. For those unfamiliar, although cross country appears on the surface to be an individual sport, a team’s score depends on the finish place of the top five runners on the team.¹ Therefore, a great finish by four runners can be wasted without a solid finish from runner number five.

Hang on to that thought.

I preferred to study alone in law school, but more often than not law students form study groups to help process the complex material encountered in class. The advice I remember (and now deliver) is to be careful when forming a study group because the group will proceed at the pace of the slowest student.

You are following along nicely, aren’t you? An organization is only as strong as its weakest member.

The analogy to any department, team, group, business, class, family, etc. is pretty obvious—as are the choices of what to do with this information. One option is to replace the weak with someone strong,² but often times such drastic measures are not possible, like, oh, say, a family for instance. The other option is not to be so enamored with the superstar strengths in your organization and focus on improving the weakest unit(s). That just makes sense.

What isn’t so obvious is taking this same concept and looking into the mirror, mirror on the wall.

It is hard to consider a more complex organization than an individual human being. Setting aside the astonishingly complex biology and considering only the complex amalgamation of traits, skills, interests, passions, and experiences of each person, it is interesting to consider that we as individuals are also only as strong as our weakest part.

The same lesson and same options remain for a stronger future: If possible, eject the weakness, but more likely than not, focus on making the weakest part stronger.

Locate your fifth runner and pay special attention to its training. It will determine where you finish.

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¹ Wave student-athlete, Trevor Sytsma, explains this well in his excellent blog post at http://www.pepperdinesports.com/blog/2015/10/cross-country-update-trevor-sytsma-1.html.

² Jim Collins says it this way: “[L]eaders of companies that go from good to great start not with ‘where’ but with ‘who.’ They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/good-to-great.html