Enough is Enough

Last night I laid my head on my pillow and I could feel the weight of my body as it sank into the thick memory foam, padded mattress. As I laid there I could feel my heart beat. It was a strong pulse, then it jumped a few times then back to its regular pace. A few weeks back I visited the doctor to have the old ticker checked out. After a thorough Echo-cardiogram, he deemed me good to go and noted the occasional irregular beat. Though it only happens now and then, he told me that it is time that I lose about 60 pounds and start eating a balanced healthy diet.

None of what he said was new information to me. I wanted his words to be a wake up call. I wanted to put all my excuses to rest and once and for all, take control of my health. And you know what??? That is exactly what I did for about 96 hours. Then my old friend and life long partner, emotional eating, showed back up to comfort me in ways only he understands. Ice cream, pizza, cheese burgers, fries and of course cookies, chicken strips and all the finest sugary sauces you can find to go with them.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and because my mom claims that she hasn’t taken a picture with my sister and I for many years, we were subjected to the obligatory photo in front of the fireplace.  Unfortunately for me, my Dad decided it would be a good idea to take the photo from the other side of the room, thus exposing the extra 60 pounds, which I so desperately attempt to cover up in photos. Later that night, my Mom posted the photo and I was horrified by what I saw!

60176696_10214575359517981_1386667944276131840_nNow please don’t tell me that I am being too hard on myself, I appreciate it when people say nice things to me, but right now what I need is to face the truth. And right now the truth is that it’s time I make new choices or suffer the consequences.

The sad part is, I know I am not alone in my struggle. I know that some of you reading this have the same concern or at least know someone who does. So, it is with that in mind that I have decided to put together a FREE coaching / support group dedicated to help those that are at the end of their rope and ready to fight to get their optimal health back. Though I am not of all the details, I do know that I always show up better for others than I do for myself. So while I may be offer you this program for free, it really is you, that will be helping me.

If you or someone you know are interested in becoming part of this program (details of which I will be releasing later this week) PM me and let me know that you want in! The only requirement is that no matter where you are in your health journey, you simply want to improve and are willing to show up, be involved and take action.

Though I don’t have all the details yet, I can tell you this. The program that I put together will be a safe space full of love, support, truth, and vulnerability lead by someone who is going to be 100% authentic with you.

Take care, I hope you join me.

– Kevin

 

54 Years of Wedded Bliss!

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Today marks my parents 54th wedding anniversary. 54 years, together, with one person? What????? Wait, that’s not even correct. The truth is, as the story goes, my mom saw my dad for the first time when she was 13. She claims that she knew from the very first time she saw him that she was going to marry him. So if you do the math, that means she has been in love with one person 61 years. Seriously, I just don’t understand. 61 years!

According to a story that I found on ABC news, only 6 out of every 100 marriages will last over 50 years. While I can’t speak from experience, since I have dated more girls than the years they have been married, I can speak about their marriage from my perspective.

What does it take to be married 54 years? Let’s start out with the most obvious answer. Love. To stay together this long you must fall in love with not only the person’s looks, personality, hobbies, dreams, goals and desires but you must also fall in love with all their flaws. Such as too many hours in the garage or basement, the non stop smell of coffee in the house, hair in undesired places, fumes that resonate from places I’d rather not mention, honey do lists, stubbornness, hours and hours upon hours of “Gun Smoke” reruns, a plethora of “s.o.b. bombs”, a bit of nagging, neediness and a pinch of codependency.

You must also love the other person so much that you put their needs before your own. Doing so includes such things as spending countless hours of cutting boards, driving nails and laying brick after brick to provide the woman you love with the home of her dreams. And just when you thought you were finally done and could relax, having her inform you that she would now like a new color wall, carpet, a screened in porch to replace the open aired deck that you spent half the summer building, a new deck for the pool, a mantel above the fireplace, a garden with a waterfall and a red convertible and a grandfather’s clock. On the other hand it may also means picking up dirty laundry, being stuck by whiskers each time you kiss, sleeping through snoring that could wake the dead, learning to enjoy “Gun Smoke” (again), halter tops, Harleys, the dust from an ATV and many sleepless nights praying that your man will return home from the sheriff’s department in one piece. Putting the other person’s needs before your own also means that you willingly sleep in a chair or on a couch so that you can spend every day together at the hospital in a time of need.

A lasting marriage takes patience as well as learning when to bite your tongue, speak the truth, swallow your pride, apologize, forgive and move on.

Though this list could go on and on, I think the key to staying together 54 years has to be tenacity. Though I don’t know how many times my parents wanted to give up, I do know that they didn’t. Being there, I know that things weren’t always easy but regardless of how bad things got, they decided to stay the course. Part of tenacity is reminding yourself and each other why you fell in love in the first place. Sometimes this means long talks, short walks, a motorcycle ride or a trip to California. Whatever it is, the key is that you find a way to reignite the spark, even when you believe the fire has completely burned out.

Though I will never know what it’s like to be married to someone for over 50 years, I am extremely grateful that both of you do. Words cannot express how much you mean to me. There has never been a time, not even once, where I didn’t feel supported or loved by you both. There has never been one time that I couldn’t call you in a time of need where you wouldn’t have dropped everything to be by my side (although I know better than to try and sleep on your new sofa, Mom). Through all the years, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, you both said, “I do” and meant it.  In a world where marriages fail more often than they succeed, thank you for honoring your commitment. May there be many more anniversaries in your future. Happy anniversary!

I love you

Kevin

Got Faith?

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One thing that I have been questioning lately is the depth of my faith. To understand where I am coming from, it is first important to understand exactly what it means to have faith. Faith is the belief in the unknown. It is to have complete trust or confidence in someone or something. I think it is easy to say that we have faith but proving it through our actions is where we will find the truth, in regards to the depth of our faithfulness.

How often is it that you pray for someone or something to present itself to you as a solution to your problem(s), then even after you recognize it or them as such, you begin to question whether it was truly the answer you were searching for in the first place. One of my all time favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein, he stated that “coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous”. Since it is rumored that Einstein was a fairly intelligent man, I am going to consider his wisdom as truth. Having faith is believing and understanding that there truly are no coincidences. Everything, both big and small, happens for a reason. Unfortunately, since most of us humans are meaning making machines, we can’t just accept our good fortune and take action towards the solution that “coincidentally” presented itself. No, because we are beings of “supreme intelligence”, we have to know why!

Imagine, if you will, a starving ape walking through the jungle who coincidentally stumbles across a bunch of bananas. Would our big hairy friend (most likely a distant relative of mine :/ ) sit down next to the bananas and before quenching his hunger, try to understand why these bananas fell on the ground in the first place? Or better yet, could you see him leave the bananas behind as he continued down the path in search of his much needed next meal because he just wasn’t sure that those bananas were the right ones to solve his hunger problem? Of course not! That giant fella would devourer  every banana on the vine until he was fully satiated.

However, if we were the recipients of the same good fortune, we would go into “survival” mode and question every last detail about those delicious, yellow bananas. God provided us with a “survival mode” to protect us from danger. If used correctly, it is an incredible tool. The problem is that for many of us, including me at times, we don’t know when to turn the survival mode switch off. What often happens is that even when we know the bananas are safe or the risks are limited, we continued to do what I call “disasterbate” and focus our attention on all the possible negative outcomes associated with the bananas. Often times, the longer we “disasterbate” the more outrageously scary and outlandish the outcome of eating the bananas becomes. When we do this, we create so much fear and anxiety that we end up leaving our bunch of bananas behind for reasons like they weren’t ripe enough, organic enough or that they the may give you gas. Whatever your justification, the result is the same, you go hungry.

The crazy part about “disasterbating” is that you are so focused on all the potential problems and risks associated with your bananas, that you forget to consider and be grateful for the wonderful gift that God “coincidentally” provided to you. When we do this, it is most often out of fear. Fear, the complete opposite of faith.

So, the next time you find yourself living in fear or full of anxiety, stop and ask yourself…”Do I have faith?” If the answer is yes, proceed, enjoy and be grateful for your gifts. If your answer leaves you in doubt, instead of asking yourself, “what’s the worst that could happen?” (a survival mode question that most of us have been raised asking) ask “what’s the BEST that could happen?”, then take the appropriate action.

Have a great day!

Kevin

Lessons Learned

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Day 31. Writing about and intentionally “living” Proverbs over the last two months has been quite an eye opening experience that has helped me in so many ways. When I first started this process, I was extremely apprehensive. I had no idea what I was going or write about or even how to begin. All I knew was that I had to do it. Some days the words flowed effortlessly, other days the struggle was real. Some days caused me to take a deep look inside myself and some days it was all I could do just to look outside the covers of my comfy bed. Although there have been many lessons, none have had more impact on me than the importance of setting an intention then committing to follow it through.

There are so many times in our lives, at least in mine, where we have an idea or get a “gut” feeling to do or say something but we don’t. Maybe we get scared, feel like it’s none of our business or just simply tell ourselves that we will do it tomorrow. For whatever reason, when we don’t take action, the results are the same, we rob ourselves of the gifts along the way.

Attempting to read, decipher and act according to Proverbs, turned out to be an extremely difficult task. The teachings in Proverbs aren’t always clear, you truly have to search for understanding. Then, even when you think you “get it”,  you read something else, written by an expert, that makes it pretty clear that you truly have no clue. Though, quite often I felt lost, reading Proverbs daily helped me to clarify who I am, who I was and who I want to be. Through the process I learned that I LOVE waking up at 4:30 (except for the few days after we “spring forward” with daylight savings or that I stay up too late while destroying my son’s confidence with a beat down of NHL 2017 on xBox).Waking up at 4:30 provides me with a tranquility that I find impossible to achieve in the middle of a busy day. I found it to be a great time to “connect” both mentally and spiritually. I found that by starting my day at 4:30, I get more done. I remember eating lunch one day at 12:30 and realizing that I had already put in a full 8 hours of work. It is still so shocking and different than what I was used to, that I literally just counted out the hours on my fingers to make sure that I am doing the math right! I learned that when I wake a up with a set intention, like writing, nothing gets in the way of me completing my task. In addition, when the task is finished, many times before most people even wake up, I feel accomplished. Those feelings of accomplishment then spill over throughout the remainder of my day, providing me with positive energy and a self confidence that I can do what I say I am going to do.

Through this process I also learned that if you want to do something, you should just do it and not worry about what anyone else thinks. Because as Dr. Seuss once said, “those that mind don’t matter and those that matter, don’t mind”. The problem with living your life worried about what other people think is that at the end of the day, the only person who will die with your regrets is you.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to take a break from blogging about Proverbs. Though I will continue to read, do my best to understand and “live” the wisdom daily, I believe that God used Proverbs as a springboard to help me complete a project that has been on my heart for a long time.

I don’t think that it is coincidence that the lessons I learned over the last 60 days through writing about Proverbs, were exactly the things that I needed to learn in order to see my project through to its fruition.

Proverbs 31 are the sayings of King Lemuel. These sayings come directly from his mother. As I read through the verses, I couldn’t help but reflect upon all the amazing women that have been a part of my life. From my mother, one of kindest, most selfless and unconditionally loving people I know, to the powerhouse women business partners in my life, I have been surrounded by incredible women role models.

To all of you, especially you Mom, I am extremely grateful.

Proverbs 31:25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

Have a great day!

Kevin

PS- Should you worry that you won’t be hearing from me (LOL), rest your worried little head because nothing could be further from the truth 😉

 

A Long Way to Go…

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I have read through Proverbs 30 numerous times this morning. After much research and inward reflection, I think that Proverbs 30:3 best sums up how I feel about my journey through consciously attempting to “live” and write about Proverbs over the last two months. Here’s the verse: Proverbs 30:3 “I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.”  What I mean by this is that although the process of the last two months has been extremely impactful for me, in many ways, I still have a long way to go on the path to understanding.

To be clear, I’m not saying this to beat my self up or to belittle my efforts. However the reality is  that no matter how much we read or how hard we try to understand, we will never attain all the knowledge that God has provided us. In addition, remember that wisdom is knowledge in action. So unless you take a piece of knowledge, whether from the Bible or one of numerous other great books, and apply that knowledge each and every time, you haven’t learned wisdom either because it is through the application of the knowledge that we become “wise”.

This verse reminded me, that no matter how hard we try, we are not going to be perfect. Have you ever made a mistake then mumbled to yourself, “I knew better than that”? Sure you have. I do it all the time and it’s okay. Sometimes we will find ourselves repeating the same patterns over and over again. It is in these moments that you will have the chance to put your knowledge to the test. If you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up for too long, just recognize your error and do better the next time.

As a personal coach, the one thing that really blows my mind is that rarely does one of my clients not already know the answer to the question(s) that they seek. In fact, one of the first things that I share with a potential client is that they most likely already know what they should be doing but they just aren’t doing it. And you know what, after a little reflection, most of them agree.

Stop for a moment and ask yourself this simple question. “What are three things that I know I should be doing, that I’m not?” Don’t try to hard to come up with your answers, keep it simple.

 

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Hopefully you took to the time to complete this simple exercise. If you did, the answers might surprise you. Or should I say, the simplicity of your answers might surprise you. Quite often I  hear things like, quit my job, end a relationship, go back to school, eat better, stop _________, work out, stop overextending myself, take more time for myself…etc. etc. And although the answers may be obvious, for most people, following through by taking action towards what you know you should be doing, is the difficult part.

If you took the time to complete the exercise above and are ready to stop thinking about it and start taking action, I’d like to help by offering you a complimentary coaching session. Since most people have no idea what a personal coach even does, it is likely that you’ve never experienced a coaching session for yourself. Even if you have, more than likely you’ve never worked with me.

If you want to take me up on my offer, simply click the link below and schedule your session now. Don’t put it off, take action and do it right away. Together we can begin to transform your knowledge, into wisdom.

 

https://kevinmesserschmidtschedule.as.me/

 

Have a great day!

Kevin

PS- Even if you have worked with me in the past, feel free to take me up on this offer. It’s my way of saying “thank you” for reading my blog.

Handling Stress…Not!

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Stress, not only is it bad for your health, extreme stress can change how you think, feel and act. Unfortunately for me, I know this all too well. Years ago I owned a small sound and light production company. After I would spend 60+ hours a week in my high stress, 100% commission, role as an account executive in the industry of mortgage banking, I spent my weekends working with local bands. While this was supposed to be the fun, for the most part I allowed it to fill me with the very thing I was trying to escape, stress.

I’ll never forget the first time I walked into Rumors Nightclub at the Brookfield, Marriott. I had recently turned 21 and decided to join a couple friends for a night of live music. Though I can’t remember much about that night, like who I was with or why we decided to go there in the first place, I do remember the band. Their name was This is This, a local cover band. They were a young, talented, fun, high energy rock band that covered a fairly eclectic range of music from the Chili Pepper’s, “suck my kiss”, to Toto’s “Africa”. The thing about This is This, is that they didn’t just play the songs, they WERE the songs. I was in awe. I loved them, their vibe and the atmosphere they created. I enjoyed it so much that from that night on, I became obsessed with live music. I grew my hair out, bought a bass guitar and began fostering my own inner “rock star”.

Because Milwaukee was fairly small, I quickly discovered that the live music scene was alive and well. Each weekend I would travel the local circuit discovering new bands and clubs. Mirage, Rhythm Method, and This is This, quickly became my favorites. Not only were the bands incredible, so were the girls that followed them. It was a single, young man’s dream. I loved it so much that I am certain the bands felt as though I was a stalker, I wasn’t, I was just obsessed!

Over the years my obsession quickly grew and before long I started a band of my own. Though we were no were near as good, it was still a blast. My parents, God bless them, allowed us to take over their basement. We went big! A full PA system, drums, keyboards, guitar rigs and of course the most essential ingredient, a massive bass guitar rig. Unfortunately for my parents, we practiced often. To this day I don’t know how they handled the noise or the shaking of the house. While we shredded down stairs, they sat directly above us and attempted to watch Hill Street Blues. I can’t imagine that they ever heard a word. The crazy part is that no matter how long we rocked out, they never complained, not once. Honestly, I’m not sure how they did it, but I am very grateful they did, it was so much fun.

Those early days, were magical. I can remember how fun it was to play “Plush” by The Stone Temple Pilots. I’m pretty sure that it was the first song I learned on my new, bright green bass. I was a long hair flowing, work boots wearing, rock star want a be caught between prep and grunge. 22461_313184852150_1767204_nThere was no stress, only fun. Unfortunately, that didn’t last for long. Not long after we had just played our first gig, the drama associated with being in a band, started to unfold. My best friend, our drummer, had an opportunity to join a more established and quit honestly, much more talented band. Our singer moved away and just like that, my fantasies came to a screeching halt. Not to be discouraged, I called several friends and before you knew it, one thing lead to another and we were back to the grind, running down our dream.

Why I couldn’t just enjoy it and have fun, I’ll never know. Being in a band seemed to be a constant clash of egos, personalities, schedules and ideas. It was an on going search for places to play and gear to buy. Nothing was ever good enough. I became so addicted to the idea of replicating the bands I admired, that I stopped having fun.I even stopped listening to music! While my rock star fantasies would continued for many years, it would never again be as pure or as fun as playing “Plush”, for the first time, in my parent’s basement.

Though it wasn’t always fun, it did change my life. It was through playing a couple songs one night in Whitewater, WI with my friend Craig’s band, Live Bait, that I met my now ex wife and mother of my child. As fate would have it, not only was she out of my league in every way, she was also a very talented singer. Before you knew it, we were in a band together, married and living the dream.

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Behind the scenes, bands aren’t always a good time. There is a lot of stress that comes with managing all the moving parts. You have to juggle schedules, handle personalities, replace members, buy equipment, fix equipment, find places to playIMG_6310 that are willing to pay you enough to make all the band members happy, market so that the places that are playing you also make money, make posters, deliver posters, create mailing lists, choose songs, buy clothes and oh yeah, after that, when you have time, practice.

When you’re in a band it seems like you are always looking over your shoulder trying to stay ahead of the new band that is trying to “take your gig”. Though it shouldn’t be, it is a very competitive industry. At least that’s how I saw it.

 

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After many years, bars, festivals, musicians, bands and songs, it was finally time to hang up my bass for good. As one of the leaders of the band, I was simply tired of trying to keep everyone happy and all the parts in motion. It was at this point that I decided to “reduce” my stress, leave playing behind and move to the other side, production.

Interestingly, I repeated the exact same pattern. What started off as one of the most fun, fulfilling and rewarding things I had ever done, turned into, “If I ever hear “Jessie’s Girl” again, I am going to stick a knife in my eye!

Dealing with bands, the club or festival’s schedule for load in and load out, gear maintenance, booking, personalities, deadlines, opinions, a failing marriage, and time away from my son, became too much for me to take and I quit. Cold turkey. To this day, may years later, I haven’t looked back. Although there have been opportunities, the scars and stress of those days run too deep.

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Today’s verse is Proverbs 29:11 “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end”. What I learned about myself, over the many years I spent chasing down my rock and roll fantasies, was that I am no good under stress. When I am stressed or feel overwhelmed, my alter ego comes out and that guy is a dumb, overly perfectionistic,opinionated,scary, big mean bully. The crazy part is that when I allow him out of the box, I know the damage he is going to create, yet I struggle to put him away. It’s like watching a car accident from the distance. You know it’s going to happen but you’re helpless to stop it. Though some people have the ability to calmly manage difficult situations, I’m a work in progress.

If you are anything like me and stress turns you into somebody that even you don’t like, I invite you to join me in the wisdom of this verse. Next time you feel as though you’re ready to explode, stop, breathe, step outside of yourself and seek the perspective of the other people involved. Instead of reacting to the situation (like a nuclear explosion) calmly and maturely, respond or walk away until “cooler heads prevail”.

Lastly, I just want to add that when you love something, like I did live music, sometimes that’s enough. Try to resist the temptation to make it bigger than it has to be. And if you want to push yourself and go for that dream, do yourself a favor and enjoy the ride.

Thanks for taking this journey with me down memory lane and thanks for accepting me as I am with all my flaws exposed.

Have a great day!

Kevin

 

PS- If you are a musician in the Menomonee Falls area, give me a call, I may be open to a few bars of “Plush”.

What Does it Mean to be a Man?

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Last night I picked my son up from lacrosse practice. It was his second practice and until recently, neither him or I had given much thought to the sport. Everything from the equipment required to the basic stuff like rules of the game or how to catch and throw the ball, was new to us. Because many of Ethan’s friends were joining the team, he decided that he wanted to as well. However, picking him up last night proved to be one of those moments where as a parent you feel a bit helpless.

To provide a bit of background, Ethan is a very athletic 15 year, old in great shape, who is rapidly becoming a man. Unlike his dad, his body is comprised of lean, ripped muscles and a set of six pack abs. Although Ethan is not a big kid, he is in great shape! Ethan grew up and still is, extremely active. In the winter you will find him snowboarding, while in the summer he will be outside doing tricks on his mountain bike, riding BMX at the skate park or in the woods riding his motocross bike or ATV. When it comes to sports that have wheels, Ethan is VERY proficient. Give him a bike and in no time he will be riding wheelies for miles (no exaggeration). Because of his intense love for X-sports, we rarely played catch, basketball, soccer or any of the other common sports that many kids and parents played growing up.

Last night when he got in the car, I could tell something was wrong. Ethan, normally a carefree happy kid was feeling pretty down. When I probed into the issue, it turned out that he was struggling with lacrosse. He was feeling left behind and a bit isolated. Instead of performing drills with his teammates, the coach had him off to the side learning how to catch and throw, lacrosse style. In lacrosse, catching and throwing is a necessity of the game. You simply have no choice but to learn how to do it well. In addition, though I think he is perfect, he feels as though he is too small and wants to “get bigger”. In other words, he wants to add muscle mass.

As a father who deeply loves his kid, it’s hard to see him so down on himself. My first instincts were to protect and shield him from his pain, tell him it’s alright to quit and allow him to go back to the things that he is good at. Although that’s what I wanted to do, I knew that doing so would not be serving him in the long run. I knew immediately that this was going to be one of those times where God was going to test him and help him grow. The best I could do would be to offer him my wisdom, guidance, love and support.

After a brief conversation on our drive home, Ethan immediately went to bed. Feeling a bit helpless, I said a prayer, closed my eyes and fell asleep myself. When I awoke this morning to write my blog (at 4:30 AM-it’s becoming a habit now) I heard the question God had placed in my head while I slept. “What does it mean to be a man?” Immediately, I knew that the answer to this question was going to be the subject of today’s blog. I can’t wait to hear the answer.

What does it mean to be a man?

Dear Ethan-

It’s hard to believe that you’re almost 16. Time has gone by so quickly. From the first time our eyes connected I knew that my life would never be the same. I remember waking up early that morning to discover that your mother was having contractions. Because you were our first, the birthing classes that we attended prior to your arrival, informed us that once contractions start it may take a long time for you to come out. With that in mind, your mother made the decision to take her time. She showered, packed, then finally decided that it was time for us to make our way to the hospital. When we arrived, we were shocked to discover that she was already too far along to receive an epidural (oops). The best they could do was offer her basic pain medication. I don’t think it really worked too well, which brings me to my first point.

Sometimes being a man means knowing when to be quiet, this includes chewing gum in your wife’s ear during labor, even if you are simply trying to be supportive. Also, under no circumstances should you ever try to compare the pain that they are going through to the time that you, __________________. Because no matter what you fill that blank with, it simply doesn’t compare to the pain she is experiencing in that moment and she WILL let you know as much.

Back to the story. As it turns out, although we’ll never know for sure, it’s very possible that not having an epidural that morning saved your life. I’ll never forget how quickly the scene changed in the delivery room the day of your arrival. Throughout the morning, there were only a few of us in the room. Your Mother, myself and a nurse. Once it was time for your mom to push, the doctor came in to assist in the delivery. I knew something was wrong when, with little notice, the room was suddenly full of medical professionals working frantically to get you out. You had stopped breathing and though they weren’t sure how long it had been since your last breath, they knew the situation was getting critical. It was then that the doctor took out a scalpel and without warning or time for anesthesia, performed an episiotomy. (Which brings me to my next point. Being a man means admitting that women are absolutely the tougher sex!)

Moving on… At that point your Mom was instructed to push, she had to get you out quickly so that the team of doctors and nurses could get you breathing again. I want you to know that your Mother, with nothing to dull the pain, was brave and fearless as she pushed you out. If she had been sedated, the doctors said that she may have not been able to push so hard and get you out in time to save your life. It’s true that everything happens for a reason.

The second you arrived, the nurse cut your umbilical cord, put you in a cart and placed an identification band on your leg. After doing so, she grabbed my arm and did the same. (well, not my umbilical cord, that had already been cut years ago) Next, she rushed us both into the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) so that the doctors could connect you to all sorts of machines that would monitor your very existence.

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Confused, I was told that since you hadn’t been breathing for such a long period of time, there was a very good chance that you may have suffered brain or other organ damage. The next 24 hours would be critical. If you peed, it would serve as a sign that your kidneys were functioning properly. If the kidneys worked, it was likely that everything else would work too. I don’t think it’s possible to have been more excited than we were that day to see a tiny little diaper full of yellow pee. Which brings me to my third point. Being a man means to have faith. Faith means to have complete trust in the unknown. To believe that everything that happens to us is part of God’s plan. Having faith means believing that even when things seem to be at their worst, when everything seems to be falling apart, its not, it’s just part of a grander plan that God hasn’t revealed to you yet.

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In life, bad and scary things are going to happen. There will be moments that don’t seem fair and moments where you feel like you’ve lost all control. It is in these moments where you get to decide what kind of man you want to be. You can either play victim by focusing all your attention on what is “happening” to you and ask, “why me?” or you can choose to immediately shift your attention and focus to the lessons you can take away from that experience. If you remember to identify, learn from and offer gratitude to your negative experiences, you WILL become a stronger person. Remember that the quality of your life will not be determined by “what” happens to you but rather by “how” you perceive what happens to you.

I learned so much that week. I learned about functions of the human body, hospital protocol, the kindness of strangers, and unconditional love. I learned that your Mom is a bad ass and that you are a fighter. I learned that life is a gift and while it is easy to forget, the fact that any of us are here at all, is a miracle. Part of being a man is recognizing this fact and identifying your individual gifts, given to you by God. It is important that you identify them early so that you can spend your life using YOUR unique talents, in the service of others. When searching for your gifts, it’s important that you don’t compare yourself to others. Your talents are as unique to you as theirs are to them. Remember, there will always be someone that is bigger, faster or stronger. Someone with a nicer house, a faster car or more money. There will always be someone smarter, better in school or better looking. Rather than comparing yourself and creating feelings of anxiety, jealousy, anger and overwhelm, celebrate your friend’s unique talents as much as you do your own. While you do so, search for the gratitude in who you are as well. For while it is true that there will always be someone that is better or has more than you, it is also true that there is always someone who would do just about anything, to trade places with you!

 

Though we had a rough start, I am extremely grateful for the lessons that I learned that week. In many ways, God used your birth as a wake up call for me to become a better man. Notice that I said “better” and not “perfect”? Life isn’t about being perfect, its about continually learning from your mistakes and trying to improve. As a man, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. In fact, the last several years of my life have been devoted to learning from my mistakes in an effort to improve myself and the life we share. As a result, here are some of the things that I learned, through the mistakes I’ve made, in my pursuit of becoming a man. Since we are not given an instructional manual at birth, I hope that you can avoid the need to experience my mistakes for yourself and rather accept this advice to be true.

A Real Man:

  1. A Real Man: Admits when they are wrong, then apologizes and makes things right. If you find yourself in this position, don’t wait to make amends, as my first mentor John Lindsey (RJ’s Dad and owner of Midwest Action Cycle) once told me, DO IT NOW!
  2. A Real Man: Never gives up. No matter how hard it gets, don’t walk away, don’t quit, there is always a lesson to be learned. And while it is true that sometimes you have no choice but to move on, make sure you do it in a way that leaves you with no regrets over “what could have been”.
  3. A Real Man: Knows it’s okay to be the first to say, “I’m sorry”. Not only will it make the other person feel better, you will as well.
  4. A Real Man: Loves fiercely. If you choose to love, do it with so much passion that she can’t help but know that you have chosen her and that you are going no where. Along the way you may hear that girls like men that are “bad boys” or that they want a guy that challenges them. While this may be true, the girl that deserves your heart won’t need to play games, she will be as into you as you are to her. When you find her, hold onto her and give her what she needs, love, attention, truth, presence and for goodness sake, make sure that you lift the toilet seat!
  5. A Real Man: Seeks perspective. He understands that his way of “seeing” the world is only his point of view. When conflict arises, remind yourself of this and instead of immediately flying off the handle, a mistake I’ve made plenty of times, pause, stay calm and attempt to see things from the other person’s point of view BEFORE you respond. Doing so will help keep the peace and clear up many misunderstandings BEFORE they escalate.
  6. A Real Man: Takes calculated risks. There are no sure things but nothing great ever happened by playing it safe.
  7. A Real Man: Goes all in. When you make a decision, your answer either has to be HELL YES! or HELL NO! There is no such thing as HELL Maybe. Indecisiveness will drive you and the people that you surround yourself with crazy! All you have to do is make decisions based on what is best for you and those you love, then stick to it and go all out in its pursuit. Remember, “God didn’t give you the ability to always make the right decision but he did give you the ability to make the wrong decision right!” – Andy Andrews
  8. A Real Man: Stands up for what he knows is right. It may not always be the popular thing to do but if you know in your heart that something isn’t fair, right or just or if you see someone being bullied or picked on, it is your obligation to speak up, step in or find someone who can help.
  9. A Real Man: Dreams BIG! It’s your duty to believe in the power of your dreams. If God didn’t believe you are capable, he wouldn’t have planted the idea in your head in the first place. Believe that you can do anything you set your mind to. The world is waiting for someone like you to step up. Be bold and take action. Don’t just think about it, do it!
  10. A Real Man: Laughs. Don’t take yourself or for that matter, life so seriously. This may be one of my greatest regrets. Laugh more, play more, enjoy more.
  11. A Real Man: Works hard AND plays hard. Play and Work are NOT the enemies of each other, they are companions, it’s important that you strike a balance and live a life filled with both.
  12. A Real Man: Eats Ice Cream. Honestly, I’m not sure if this one is true or not but the fact is, that you are never to old to act like a kid or enjoy a cold treat.
  13. A Real Man: Dances. Nothing will make your wife happier than to share a dance with her man. While the other guys may be too cool for school or worried about what other people think, you make her laugh, feel loved and proud to be with you. If you ever find yourself forgetting how to dance, refer to the movie “Hitch” and let Will Smith teach you how!
  14. A Real Man: Respects others. You don’t always have to agree but you do have to always respect someone else’s choice, opinions and decisions. (Even when you KNOW they are wrong 😉 )
  15. A Real Man: Is spiritual. Seek a relationship with God. Read, understand and “live” the Bible. If you don’t know where to start, ask someone who does.
  16. A Real Man: Has a mentor. You are not expected to know everything. The fastest way to learn is by modeling the behavior of those that have already accomplished what it is that you want to do. By nature, most people are good and they will be more than willing to help or at minimum point you to a resource that can get you started.
  17. A Real Man: Reads. There are so many incredible books in this world that are filled with centuries and centuries of wisdom. Do yourself a favor and develop a love and passion for reading. Audio books count too!
  18. A Real Man: Surrounds himself with people he loves and respects. You will become the sum of the five people who you spend the most time with in life. Make sure that the people you surround yourself with are taking you closer to where you want to go and the man you want to become.
  19. A Real Man: Asks for help. Don’t have so much pride or be so stubborn that you are afraid to ask for help. Most people are more than willing to lend a hand, providing you would be willing to do the same for them.
  20. A Real Man: Expresses his feelings and communicates his thoughts clearly. Excuse my French but whoever said that real men don’t cry, is full of S–T! Expressing your feelings doesn’t make you less of a man it makes you human. Speak your truth and if it hurts, a good cry never killed anyone. Expressing your feelings won’t only make you feel better, it will help those you love understand, respect, connect and love you more.

 

While this is certainly not a comprehensive list, it is a good start. As you continue your journey to becoming a man, I want you to know that I am always here for you, no matter what.

Love Dad

 

Proverbs 28:26- “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.”