Improvement Comes Before Accomplishment

Last Sunday I competed in my second triathlon. My two goals were to cut a few minutes off of my time, and to run/jog the entire 5k portion of the course. During my first triathlon,I just wanted to finish the race, so walking the last portion of the race, the 5k run, was totally acceptable. I was excited about the improvements that I had made in both swimming and running and I really thought that I could do better. If you follow this blog very long you’re going to find a common theme as I approach my 50th birthday on Sept 5th, 2013. That theme is improvement.

You can’t have accomplishment without improvement.

Many times we are discouraged because we didn’t hit the goal—or in some cases we may have even gone backwards. However, the question you need to ask yourself when pursuing a worthwhile goal is this: “Am I improving?” For that reason we need both long term and short term measurable goals.
If right now I could ask you face to face “What is your worthy goal?” My next question, once you had answered, would be “What is the first thing you need to improve in?” “What is the first thing you need to get better at?” You will need to make a plan to work on improvement that week, that month, and that year.
Lets say you’re worthy goal is to go back to college and get your degree. What do you need to improve in to accomplish that goal? It might be that you need to improve in saving money so that you can register in six months. It might be that you need to improve in identifying your clear objective and need to spend one to two hours a week researching schools and careers. If you’re doing nothing now, and your still doing nothing in a month, then you have not improved—and “improvement always comes before accomplishment.” Even if you spent 30 minutes during the first week researching and asking questions, guess what? You are improving! You are getting better, and most importantly, you are one step closer to the accomplishment of your worthy goal.
My worthy goal is to lose weight, write a book, and get closer to God before I turn 50. The path which I’ve chosen to help me improve, move toward better health, and eventually lose my extra weight is by competing in triathlons and other events which challenge me to train and improve results. During my last triathlon, I had a goal of completing the 1/4 mile swim, 16 mile bike ride and 5k run in under 3 hours. I did better than that; I actually did it in 2:30 hours, or a half hour faster than my first goal. In my second triathlon last Sunday, at the exact same location and course on Amelia Island, I had my two goals: to run the complete 5k portion and to cut at least 15 minutes off of my first time.
The day of the triathlon came, and we were told that because the weather was so bad they would have to cancel the swim portion of the race. They were going start us on the bike and then we would transition to the 5k run. It was raining and it was windy, but those who remained to compete were eager to get started. There was a lot of concern that, because the road was so wet, many would wipe out on the pavement and risk injury or the destruction of their expensive bikes. My bike was probably one of the least expensive bikes there, and because I was riding a mountain bike with a fat tire, I would probably be ok. My daughter Brittnee was also riding her mountain bike with fat tires, so despite the rain and wind, we took off from the start line.
I completed the bike portion and started my 5k run. I felt, despite the stiff wind, that I had done better on the bike than i did in my last race. THis helped motivate me to work toward my next goal, to run the whole portion of the 5k. On a side note, it would be easy to think that because we had skipped the swim that I would have had more strength for the ride and the run. The wind that we had to ride in made up for anything that the swim would have taken out of me.
When I started to run my legs were dead. I remember the first time when I transitioned from the ride to the run, my legs were tired, but this time they really had it. I was motivated to at least try to improve, and accomplish my goal of running the whole 5k. It was nothing more than sheer determination and will as I jogged one step after another. I went the whole 5k without walking. I only stopped once—to stretch, because my legs were cramping up. When I got to the finish line and I saw 1:54.15 on the clock, I knew that I had beat my last time because the clock had started at least 5 to 10 minutes before my official time had started. My jog turned to a sprint and I crossed the line before it turned to 2 hours.  When I calculated my final time, I added in my swim time from the last race, and a generous transition time. I found that I would had beaten my last time by almost 20 minutes if I completed the swim at the exact same pace of the first triathlon. I had improved on the bike by at least 12 minutes and I had improved on the run by at least 8 minutes.

In this triathlon, I came in 5th place for the Clydesdale division. Most importantly, in my second month since I started the 365to50 campaign, I have continued to improve.

My next goals are focused on the month of November. First I want to train for a 30 mile bike race that is to be held in November. Secondly I want to have at least 5,000 words written for my new book by Thanksgiving weekend. Lastly I want to have written in my prayer journal at least twenty entries between now and Thanksgiving.These entries should all be connected to a deepening conversation with God. Pray, Write and Train. As long as I am improving, I am becoming better and I will accomplish my worthy goals.
Have fun and start improving this week!
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One Weekend Can Change Everything!

It’s amazing how one weekend can change everything.

Last weekend I saw both my favorite college football team, Florida State, and my favorite Nascar driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., fall out of the top 10 for each sport. This was supposed to be the year that FSU competed for a national championship again. This was also beginning to look like the best opportunity for Dale Jr to take home the coveted Sprint Championship. Incredibly, after one mind-numbing wreck at Talladega and a devastating loss for FSU to North Carolina State, it seemed that all of the time, the effort, and the dream was gone. In essence, both FSU and Dale Jr. have now lost their chance at winning their championships.

Everything changed. In one. short. weekend.

Yes, one weekend can change everything! As I thought about how that weekend had changed my hopes of national championships, my daughter Brittnee reminded me how one weekend in August had changed everything for me personally. She was referring to the weekend that we competed in our first sprint triathlon. Here I am, 2 months later, getting ready to compete in my second triathlon tomorrow. I have already scheduled a 30 mile bike race in November and another 5k after that. All of this change occurred because of one weekend. Because I committed to and competed in my first triathlon, I have found my whole life has totally been changed for the better.

Many times we fail to realize how just one weekend—or even just one day—can change a whole year or more of our life.

What are you planning to do this weekend? Maybe this is the first weekend that you go back to church. Maybe this is the first weekend that you go online and look at going back to college or a trade school. For someone else, this might be the weekend that they spend all their time focusing on their spouse and family. Me, I am going to go to Amelia Island and competing in my second triathlon. I hope to get a better time than the first time I got in August. I hope to be closer to my goal weight. I’m excited because I know that this weekend is going to change me.

Its true-a weekend can change everything!

Finding My Swing Again

As I approach my second triathlon, and continue this journey to change my life before I turn 50, I am reminded of several scenes in one of my favorite movies: The Legend of Bagger Vance. In  the movie, Rannulph Junuh (played by Matt Damon) is a former amateur golf star who goes off to fight in War War I while in the prime of his young career. He finally returns home, beaten up and traumatized from everything he saw in the war. He fades away and loses himself and his incredible golf swing. The only thing that brings him out of hiding is a golf tournament scheduled to be held at a course in his hometown of Savannah, Georgia. The townspeople consider him a local legend, and desperately want him to play in it and return to his former glory. His opponents? None other than the legendary Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen.  To top it off, the winner of the tournament will get $10,000. No pressure, right?
The heart of the movie is found in the struggle—the struggle that Rannulph has getting his golf swing back. Getting his fire back. Getting his edge back. Getting himself  back.
To assist with this, Rannulph hires a caddy named Bagger Vance, played by Will Smith. While coaching him on his swing, Bagger hits Rannulph with this doozy of a truth:
“Inside each and every one of us is one true authentic swing… Somethin’ we was born with. Somethin’ that’s ours and ours alone. Somethin’ that can’t be taught to ya or learned. Somethin’ that got to be remembered. Over time the world can rob us of that swing. It gets buried inside us, under all our wouldas and couldas and shouldas. Some folk even forget what their swing was like… “
That is exactly what I am doing during this focused time of 356to50. I am finding my swing again.
So who is the authentic me?
The authentic me is a triathlete.
The authentic me is an author.
The authentic me is a coach.

What is your authentic self? How do you find it?

1. Refuse to believe the lie that you can never change. Finding your swing, or becoming the person you want to become, begins with the idea that you can change.

2. Don’t focus on what you don’t want to be; focus instead on what you want to become. To find your swing you have to be looking for it. That means you’re not looking at your current circumstances. As Bagger Vance told Captain Junuuh: “You’ve lost it, but now we have to go and find it. You can look at your circumstances or your current conditions, or you can go looking…go looking for your swing.”

3. Embrace change. To keep from getting what you’ve always gotten, you have to do something different.

So find out who your authentic self is. Go looking for that swing. You may just be one challenge away from glory.

Breaking Records

The Importance of crossing lines, breaking old records and doing things that you’ve never done before.

 

 

Yesterday I did something that I have never done before. I actually swam one mile in the pool that I train at each week. The pool is 25 meters long so one mile is 33 laps or 66 lengths in the pool. The most that I had ever done before Saturday was 18 laps or just over a ½ mile.

 

Saturday morning I was training with my good friend Jayson Keener when he said that he was going to try and swim a mile. I thought “Man you are crazy” “There is no way that I could do a mile in the pool” “That would take at least an hour”. I am sure that there are some of you that have swam a mile before and it might not seem like such a big deal, but I can still remember the first time I got in the pool and only after 4 laps I was out of breath.

 

I started by saying “I will just do 18 laps” ‘That’s a good workout”. Then at 18 laps I thought why not 20 laps. Once I did 20, I thought lets do 23 and then I will only be 10 laps away from a mile. Well after swimming for 55 minutes straight, I had not only finished my first mile long swim but I had also done something that seemed way past my ability.

 

In my 356to50 challenge I have to accept and embrace that there are going to be things that I will do that I have never done before. You may have heard the saying that “If you want to keep getting what you’re getting; then keep doing what you’ve been doing”. In other words if we are going to get different results then we have gotten in the past then we are going to have to cross some lines, break some old records and do things that we’ve never done before.

Believe Again!

Believe Again!

 
I am just two weeks into a 52-week journey to change my life. I feel like I am really learning a lot, and I think that is because I am living intentionally. Living intentionally is simply living life “on purpose”, or the type of lifestyle which I like to call “Planning to Live”. We plan trips, we plan for our retirement, and we plan what we are going to watch by setting up the DVR. (Right now, I am setting mine up to watch Florida State play Clemson on Saturday night!) No doubt about it, we usually plan the important stuff in life. Truly living on purpose, and-taking it one step further-living to win, is pretty important.
 
During week two, I faced and overcame the struggle to “Believe Again”. In the past, I have tried to lose weight and I have tried to write a book, but since I have failed in the past in both of these areas, there was a small reluctance to fully charge that mountain once again. In essence, there is a reluctance to experience failure again.
 
The first time you charge the mountain, you bring out the band and the fanfare, and off you ride to defeat all of your enemies. If you failed the first time, and you’re trying to conquer that same mountain again, chances are that you’re probably not bringing out the band again. In fact, you might decide to sneak out to the mountain at night when no one is watching! I’m not saying that we should just go for our goals and never talk about them or make a big deal about them.
 

My point is this: if we are going to succeed in charging and overcoming our mountains, then our resolve and belief on the second, third, or even the fourth attempt has to be stronger than the initial resolve and belief which we possessed the very first time we tried.

You can’t go all the way with a halfway commitment. My very good friend Jason Keener likes to describe it this way: “All In”. Just as in poker, sometimes you must be all in.

In life, we are going to experience failure and defeat. What we must decide is whether the mountain is worth the effort. Ask yourself today: do you still want to conquer that same mountain? Do you still have that desire? Despite your feelings of frustration, do you know that deep down inside of you, you still want it? If that is still true, then you are going to have to be “all in” to get it done. Some things are just worth believing in more than once!

 
Progress Report:
 
I have lost three pounds!
 
I swam my best time in the 1/4 mile at the pool on Thursday. Only three weeks until my next triathlon. 
 
I have written more down—just  writing this blog—than I have written in last several years. In past two weeks, I have learned that I can not only write, but I can make progress in my writing. Having the goal and the deadline to get this blog of my journey together each week has taught me that I can write.
 

Let’s Get Specific!

It’s the first week of my 365to50 challenge, and I have already had to battle some challenges and setbacks. When I examine the obstacles which keep me from pursuing my goals, I usually don’t see Mt. Everest-sized giants blocking my vision and making my goal impossible. Instead, I see the normal, and sometimes necessary, day-to-day distractions and obligations which tend to my drain my inspiration and sap my energy. Things like my commitments at work and at home. Little things, like having to wait on hold for an hour to get a billing error corrected. It’s not the inconvenience of the call which keeps me from working out, or from working on my manuscript, it’s just that somehow obstacles like these derail you and bring you back to that place of decision again.

This is why setting goals is so important…

A goal is a target toward which you can direct your efforts.

Without a goal, we all are liable to start moving in the wrong direction and lose focus, thus wasting time and effort.  One of the most important elements of a goal is that it is specific. Many times when we make goals, we make them too general; at times they can even be vague or unclear.

The Important Stuff:

1. Be Specific.

2. Write Them Down.

3. Create Start Dates and Deadlines.

4. Make Your Goals Achievable but Also Challenging.

5. Measure and Track Your Progress.

6. Reward Yourself Along the Way.

So that you can follow my progress, I will be sharing my starting goals with you today, as well as my results each week during this process. I will continue to unveil my step-by-step plan over the next weeks and months, but I do know two specific things about my journey right now: where I am starting, and where I want to end.

When you consider your own goals, where are you starting? Where do you want to end up? In the popular board game “Monopoly”, everyone starts at GO. It’s your time to GO! It’s your time to move forward and make changes. God gives us the ability to be the captains of our destiny. We can’t do it without His wind, His guidance, and His protection, but we have to choose to raise our sails when the wind is blowing and we have to chart a course.

 My Starting Place.

 I am 49 years old.

I am currently 276lbs and overweight.

I currently have two book ideas which I have harbored for years, but I have never written more than a page or two.

I have a very good relationship with God, but there is more, much more.

I have a great career that I enjoy as the manager of a sales department for a growing, successful company, and as a pastor. I know that I can become better at both.

 

My Ending Place.

I will be 50 years old

I will weigh a healthy 205lbs. I will have competed in several triathlons and bike races.

I will have one manuscript complete, ready to be published and available for Christmas.

I will have developed a deeper and more satisfying friendship and relationship with God.

I will have completed some form of intensive and professional training to become a better manager, coach, and leader.

I will be walking and living out the call of God on my life as a pastor and His servant.

The 365to50 Story

As my 49th birthday quickly approached, it hit me that I had many goals for my life which I had done nothing with—other than to talk a lot about them. The more I thought about reaching 50 and only having a handful of rhetoric to show for myself, the more it bothered me. I had to do something to change now or I would soon find myself at 60 or 70 years old, laden with the regrets of things I should or could have done when I was younger. A friend, Chad Nykamp, had challenged me to run a marathon or even a half marathon. He mentioned how cool it would be for my grandchildren to know that their grandfather had completed a marathon before his 50th birthday. While I was enticed by the thrill of the challenge, I was not so enticed by the thought of running. Being 75 pounds overweight and—in case you missed it—almost 50, I didn’t see that happening.

But it hit home with two things that are very important to me: leaving a legacy and inspiring others. I live to inspire others. And when I’m not living my best life, or I feel defeated, I am unable to encourage or inspire anyone. I don’t want to live that way. I want to win so I can help others win!

My daughter Brittnee suggested that we both enter a triathlon instead. I like biking, I like swimming, and the running part, well, that was do-able. 3.1 compared to 26.2? Thank God. Chad had already informed me that the biggest key was to pay the entry fee, so I pulled out my debit card and we both signed up. Now there was no turning back…

We worked out almost every day for nine long weeks. I lost 20 pounds and all of my old excuses. On August 4, 2012, we competed in our first sprint triathlon. A quarter mile swim, a 16 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run later, I had finished what I’d started. And what a feeling that was!

But it still wasn’t enough. I wanted to feel that same feeling in other areas of my life.  I wanted to finish other goals. Thus, the 365to50 plan came about. Starting on September 5th, 2012, I would use the next 365 days to:

  1. Lose weight. Complete two more triathlons and a 30-mile bike race.
  2. Write a book.
  3. Deepen my friendship with God.

Pray. Train. Write. 365 days to go.

Follow me on this blog, and start your own journey alongside me. I’ll be updating weekly as I push myself past the limits of what I’m comfortable with. Past the limits of what I think is possible. I’m going to spend the next 365 days living my life as if it were on purpose. Let’s do it together!