Excuses—Free Yourself from Your Own Chains

Self Imposed Chains May Be Looming Over You, and Linking You To Your Own Demise.

Looking back on what I learned as a 25 year old, one thing stands out above everything else. My 25th year was a year in which I actually learned a lot, but my most important lesson is arguably still being absorbed and put into practice. The most important thing I discovered is to confront excuses and the power that they can hold over ones life. I spent 2014 in a huge commitment to a project, 65h weeks were on the low side of average, in a mentally and physically demanding position. In 2014 I was a Sous-Chef in a brand new restaurant. It was easy to let my health, personal desires, love, and sense of a normal life to fall by the wayside. Or at least such a commitment appeared to allow my ego to justify that as an excuse. I think all in all a second valuable lesson was what life can be like in a state of immense commitment. I didn’t practice or study music, write/blog, or develop any of my own business ideas into business plans. Misuse of my “free time” is to blame. Where does the excuse come in? I told myself that the commitment itself justified putting my true desires aside, and that I couldn’t compromise my commitment to someone else’s dreams to pursue my own. That is an excuse to stay complacent, in place, and put others interests over my own. That being said, I did accomplish one of my true desires outside of my major commitment: completing 4 Spartan Races in 11 months. I was able to attain this goal despite maintaining high performance in a role as a key management member of a busy restaurant. Surely if I can do that then I can adjust, restructure and address the excuses I made that held me back from pursuing true personal freedom.

I make excuses, and you do too if you’re being honest. Not all excuses are malevolent, and not all of a grandly deceptive nature, but overall the process of making excuses is subtly eroding away at lives of fulfillment. The human body, spirit, and mind are capable of amazing and incredible feats. The same human body, spirit, and mind will often allow a falsely justified attitude or idea (an excuse) to control itself, robbing the potential of the amazing and incredible. Excuses are created to escape responsibility for giving direction and purpose, to one’s own life. As awe-inspiring as the capabilities of the human being may be, conversely the un-inspiring excuses created by the same human being can be just as astonishing. The mind, or rather the ego takes pride in it’s creations. Subconsciously there is pride in standing by the excuse that has been formulated. Justifying excuses often takes even more effort then to change the behavior or to be accountable. Everybody has met someone standing behind an excuse with bullish stubbornness. “I can’t because… insert self-defeating statement.” When questioned or shown the fallacy of their justifications, they only entrench more, “No, I can’t because…x,y,z.” The x,y,z are reasons that they believe in their inabilities over their abilities, or fear over faith. It’s like solving a math problem, but never double checking it or verifying the validity of the answer, then finding out you got the wrong answer but trying to argue for the miscalculations merit, or that you did get the right answer. It is astounding the level of effort that someone can thrust into their false rationale of why something can’t be done, rather then redirecting that effort into solutions, or changing thoughts and behaviors.

Why Didn’t the Bird Cross the Road? He’s got an excuse just ask him.

What few people will say or realize is that change, and a life with direction require effort, but SO DOES MAKING EXCUSES. Wasting cognitive resources explaining, and defending excuses repeatedly through flawed logic is no way to become successful. I think the root is gratification. Especially in today’s society, people value instant gratification. The work required to affect positive change in life is seen as less gratifying because the reward is at the end, not the beginning. People think that by making an excuse they have avoided the problem, situation or event, thus receiving subconscious gratification immediately. The reverse is in fact true. The gratification that was felt from making and justifying an excuse to not act, grow, or change will ultimately sour into a state of un-fulfillment and fear of change. Putting in the work to change, to plan, to learn, then to become fulfilled through creating a real purposeful life is much more desirable in the long run than its counterpart. Taking the easy way out, avoiding real decisions and work, feeling a small sense of reward from avoidance, only to later have life deteriorate and collapse when the foundation of excuses crumbles, and simply cannot be vindicated any longer.

How do you overcome the propensity for the easy way out? Initially you must recognize and address this in yourself. The capabilities of our species are limitless, and constantly being defied. Latch on to the reasons why you can, versus why you can’t. Other people are pursuing, and achieving their dreams without excuses, or at least crushing the excuses into oblivion along the way. Join them. Don’t let another day, hour, or minute go by without realizing that you have the same potential to achieve as any other, you just choose not to. Choosing to live a real life, or subsisting in a state of non-action, and avoidance. Seems like an easy choice, or should when it’s spelled out in black and white. Evaluate your life as it is currently, why you’re not where you want to be, and take 100% responsibility for where you are and directing yourself towards a future that is desirable.

What has helped me face my excuses? One day in December 2013, I can pinpoint my battle against excuses taking a turn in my favor that fortuitous day. I completed a grueling 15.5 mile Spartan Beast, on 2.5 hours of sleep, and still finished in top 100 in my age group. If I can even complete the race under such circumstances how am I allowing myself to not reach that potential regularly? That day was my first step in taking on excuses head on. One day, and one event is not enough. I still created elaborate excuses throughout 2014 that held me back. Adopting a vigilance against self-defeating thoughts must be maintained daily. That is what I really learned. I am not 100% free of excuses yet, but I continue to challenge any notion that what lies in front of me is beyond my capabilities, and I know there are individuals alive today that overcame this and achieved great things regardless of circumstance.

2014 in review: What a blog looks like when you work 60-80h a week in a kitchen for 50 weeks straight…BAD

I was so consumed with my role last year that my blogging fell by the wayside. Fortunately the quest for Renaissance did not. I was able to do somethings outside of my large work commitment. Blogging however was not able to find it’s place among fitness and photography as my two main primary outlets for stress and creativity last year. 4 Spartan Races in 11 months and many other happenings of 2014 will be summarized in the coming weeks with their lessons distilled into any insights for the reader.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 480 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 8 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My first Spartan Race…the Texas Beast 2013: Part 1

Time has certainly flew by since I last posted about my pre race preparation, fears, and excitement leading up to the 2013 Texas Spartan Beast. I never got around to publishing a follow-up, or any posts whatsoever until last week, due to my new job and the demands required of me (another post on this to come).

All that aside I want to share what it was like that fateful day—December 15th, 2013.

I had my Up band in a plastic bag in my camelbak tracking my steps...might not be 100% accurate, but closer than nothing.

I had my Up band in a plastic bag in my camelbak tracking my steps…might not be 100% accurate, but closer than nothing.

What was it like?
My first Spartan Race really blew me away. These races are large-scale undertakings, and nearly a festival atmosphere. Music, food, merchandise, and ongoing fitness challenges throughout the main event area, along with a great view of the finish line and last few challenges. You see the apprehension and nerves on competitors about to embark onto the course, and you see the look of exhilaration, satisfaction, and exhaustion on those who have already finished. Arrive and pick up your race package…with the warning YOU MAY DIE in loud bold print. The contents includes bib/number, tracking and timing bracelet, headband, and other pertinent race day documents/items. I’ll never forget lining up at the start line and seeing those surrounding me with the mix or excitement and trepidation. A master of ceremonies ignites the crowd with a Spartan speech enticing “Sons and Daughters of Sparta” (racers) with glory. A loud response of “AROO!” is given in reply. A remote control aircraft with GoPro camera captures the action for promotional and social media purposes. The MC then pops the tops on a couple of smoke grenades and throws them directly in what will be the first few steps of a 15.5 mile journey. The signal is then given that the race has begun and the first obstacle is the obstructed vision from the grenades. Once out of the starting gates the strong runners and those who chose to be at the front quickly separate themselves from the pack of average racers. I was advised (and thankfully so) to maintain my own pace, and not get caught up in the foot race aspect of this event. It will be a long day and my energy reserves will be needed for the last miles. I am keeping a decent pace, fueled by adrenaline and the substantial nutrition packed fuel I’ve ingested. Others pass me, I pass others as we enter the first real obstacle. Balancing on small tree trunk sized logs and jumping between them. My shoes are already pretty muddy, and the poor fellow in front of me looks to have the same problem. He makes an awkward attempt to leap from one log to the next and slips out sideways…impacting his ribs on the log as he plummets. Wow, I think to myself…too early in the game to hurt myself like that. Once I’m up on there and noticing traction problems myself I’m quick to jump down and voluntarily take the 30 burpee penalty and not potentially end my race 3/4 of a mile in. Running after those first burpees was tough, but I soon regained my steady pace. The next few miles were some of the toughest in the race when it came to running…about 5 miles of hill climbs and descents over treacherous terrain. To me the hardest obstacle of the day, and what really killed me was at the end of the hill section. The Bucket Brigade: fill a 5 gallon bucket to the top with around 75 lbs of gravel, then ascend a steep muddy hill, and descend another route. I messed up on this, and due to the non honest nature of another racer ended up having to repeat it (30 burpee penalty not an option). At the top of the hill it was common practice to put the buckets down and catch ones breath before the downhill portion. I witnessed some people with less than allowable levels of gravel grabbing dirt and sticks and anything they could find to add to their buckets to reach the permissible level. At the time I thought little of this, due to being quite tired, and aiming to recover. My bucket was then grabbed by one such racer, and I was left with a less than full bucket. I didn’t notice until the bottom when I had to repeat due to a level of gravel that wasn’t acceptable. I was totally pissed off because I knew mine was full when I started. (Pro Tip: Sit on your bucket to avoid this) Repeating this obstacle probably took me 25- 35 minutes and drained plenty of my energy. All I could do was to push onwards. However, the hill section also held one of the coolest obstacles of the day…the memory challenge. Based on the racers bib number they must look up a code on a large board, and then memorize it for later recital. I saw other racers bust out the pen and paper to help them, but I chose a different approach. I would recite the code sequentially the steps I took and my breathing. I ran nearly the next 8 miles expecting to have to recite it, and eventually gave up, annoyed by constantly repeating this code in my head. I figured it would be a few miles after the board, maximum…but it was around 10 miles later. Many miles and obstacles later I came across and open area where people were doing burpees for what looked like no reason. No monkey bars, no gravel buckets, nothing that gave an indication as I approached. “What’s the password?” No way. Really!? I just tried to stop reciting it about 3 miles ago and now I’m prompted to remember. Somehow I remember it and pay no penalty. Great! I did well on most obstacles…failing only 2 entering the home stretch—the first obstacle of the log jumps, and then I failed the rope traverse (next time I’m letting my arms recover after the Hercules Hoist). Another bucket brigade of a less dramatic incline was included in the last few miles and that was a tough one! I ran through a creek bed with water in it and was wondering how much longer this was going on for when suddenly I popped out and could see the finish line…but some of the toughest obstacles remained between me and my medal. The traverse wall, and climbing a rope from a submerged in water starting point. I failed both, the traverse wall—30 burpees!(I just had bad technique as I’d later learn). I also had bad technique on the rope climb and was forced to dyno for a higher knot but failed to grip the rope, so I plummeted into the muddy waters below. Disoriented and exhausted I emerged to do another 30 burpees doubling my previous total in the last 500 feet to the finish. I was dragging and suffering at this point. Then something happened. I heard a faint voice of encouragement from the crowd: “Do it for Canada!” I suddenly spun around to see my friend and race mate standing in the crowd watching me. A few things all flowed through my head “how long has he been waiting for me?” “he certainly must have had an easier time then me.” “How long have I been out here on the course?” but overall the encouragement powered me through the last half of the burpees and then it was on to the finish. Pretty simple obstacles of the slippery wall and the fire jump stood between me and the end of a hard day. As I was climbing the slippery wall a volunteer offered his hand to help me overcome the obstacle…I refused, determined to use my gumption to get to the finish or pay the penalty. I drew up the last of my reserves and beat the wall, jumped the fire and sprinted the rest of the distance to the finish line.

Determined to finish!

Determined to finish!

5 hours flat was my time.

My results

My results

My friend placed 6th overall in the open category beating me by 2 hours with a time of 3 hours flat. A medal and a banana were pressed in my hand as I crossed, and I couldn’t help, but think of the branding Spartan Race has used—“You’ll know at the finish line.” That is the most apt description of how I felt. I definitely knew. I realized I had much more capabilities than previously known, and I also knew that this wouldn’t be the last time I finished a spartan race. And it hasn’t been…

A Foray Into Photography

These are some shot’s I’ve taken throughout the year of 2014. Some are Spring time, Summer, or now Autumn. I bought a DSLR camera for myself on my 25th birthday back in January. Making time to learn and improve in this field has been a challenge, but also lots of fun. It’s nice to take the time to learn something completely outside of the usual realm of my main work. I love photography, and hope to continue to improve and study this craft.

Essentially this is a small part of my path towards renaissance this year. Personally I think there’s some good shots, but I’m curious if that’s just self-flattery. Any feedback is welcome and appreciated.

Thank you 🙂

 

 

 

 

yes14 yes13 yes12 yes11 yes4 yes5 yes6 yes7 yes1 yes2 yes3 yes10 yes8 yes15 yes16

Resuming Discipline

RESUMING DISCIPLINE

It’s been a long time since I’ve made room in my life for this blog. Clearly I have a lot of varied interests and that can have both good and bad consequences. An example of a bad consequence is time utilization issues. Being disciplined enough with my time to fit continual blogging into my schedule is an adjustment I haven’t fully made yet, but progress is again underway. That is a certainty. I’m realizing that many desires can lead to many distractions. Managing or rather utilizing time to maximize my success in many fields is an ongoing endeavor, and everything is based on decisions. . Creating, and maintaining beneficial habits while eliminating the bad, or just unproductive habits that don’t align with my ultimate goals and ambitions: that’s what I’m working on mostly at the moment. A great tool that I’ve used for the better part of 2013 is a website and app called Lift. Check it out here

A few things I love about Lift are:

  • The data I can see and utilize for self-accountability. In simplicity I can see visually how I’m doing in many fields and where progress or consistencies lie and therefore where stagnation and inconsistency can be found.
  • I can create new habits and pioneer new paths for others to see and join. I can create a habit for anything, and I’ve currently got over 60. Moving forward I can create habits and hold myself accountable while building data and analyzing the effects of my decisions on my goals and ambitions in any area.

I’m becoming part of the Quantified Self movement. Recently I’ve begun tracking my sleep, activity, diet and workouts through a cool and convenient device…the Jawbone UP band. The data I’m getting from consistently using Lift and the UP band is helping me make better decisions.

I’ll be publicizing more data at the end of the year and doing a 52 item gratitude post from this year as the year wraps up in the next few months.

I’m also getting involved in a couple other projects and am still maintaining a few part time jobs presently. So I’m going to be “busy” but aim to maintain overall productivity and stop avoiding the important. I know the most important things that I should be doing and just need to execute. Self-discipline and delaying gratification are two of my motivators as I move on to my next post…a discipline in and of itself—keeping my knives sharp.