More Stoic Fitness and a Tour of My Gym


I worked out this morning.  It took me 16 minutes.  It should have taken shorter, but it was a little warm and muggy.  Before I get into the workout, I have to take you on a short tour of my gym.

Yes, my gym is in my garage.  Besides the bicycles, scooters, and storage tubs are a squat rack, with a cable assembly, and some dip bars (they are removable).  My club membership fees are zero, and my commute to the gym is very nice.  But what about all that equipment cost?  Well, did I luck out or what…I found all of it for $450 on Craigslist, except for two extra 45 lb plates that I bought for, I think, $10 at a yard sale.  The plates were rusty so I had to wire brush them and spray paint them black with Rustoleum. Continue reading

You are completely in control of your life…and no one else’s!


In my frantic preparations to produce content this morning I was frenetically reading through some of my favorite writings of philosophy and inspiration.  Finally, I came upon Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People.

I just want you all to know that I LOVE this book.  In dealing with people, I have found no better guide.  I have read it twice fully and have reviewed the principles so many times, I could not even begin to guess the number.  Chapter 1, “Don’t Kick Over the Beehive,” tells us how ineffective criticism and condemnation is.  Essentially, we don’t respond well to it.  So, that got me thinking.

Why is criticism so ineffective?  I will say that my answer is that I don’t respond to it, because I am unwilling to change simply because someone else wants me to.   For me to change the way I think about things, it must be my idea.  “Nobody’s gonna tell me what to do!”  Nobody’s gonna tell me what I should do!  That decision is up to me.  If it’s not my idea, I don’t respond very well.

Don’t tell me what to do! Don’t tell ME I’m wrong!

So, try and ask yourself this question (even if someone else may have brought it to your attention):  If this is the way I should live, why am I not living this way?

For example, I’ve realized that I don’t spend enough quality time with my kids.  I’ve examined why this is so:  I work, I am tired, they are boring, I don’t like what they like, they are busy, etc.  In the end, however, my values tell me that I should spend time with my kids as a father, teaching them what I know, playing with them more, etc.  Somebody can tell me, “You work too much, and your kids need you,” but I am the only one who can change the situation.  So in order to change this I must commit:  from now on, I will spend more time with my kids.  Even better, I can be more specific:

  • I will spend 45 minutes every day learning Spanish with my kids (which, in fact I now do).
  • When my children are speaking to me, I will stop what I am doing and listen, or I will politely tell them, “come back to me in XX minutes when I finish this, OK?” (this one is definitely a challenge for me).

My point today, is not that we should avoid criticizing others (which we probably should), or that we should increase the time we spend teaching our children (which we definitely should).   My point is this (repeat it to yourself if you wish):

  1. If I know I should be living my life a certain way, only I can make that choice to do so.
  2. If this is what I should do, then I must do it.

Steve Sabol: Excellence, Legacy, and Impermanence


On September 18,2012, Steve Sabol, the creative genius behind NFL films, died of inoperable brain cancer.  He was diagnosed with it in March of 2011.  Reading about this event, as well as Steve’s life, and remembering my youth watching NFL films got me thinking about excellence, legacy and of course, the shortness of life.

I will never forget watching NFL films with my buddies back in my high school days.  I played high school football and my two best friends were both sons of high school football coaches (our coaches).  Needless to say, I was barraged with stories of football glory and dreams of NFL stardom growing up through high school.  NOTE:  only one of us played in the NFL…and it wasn’t me.  However, we all played in college, although I did not last the full four years…thank goodness I had realized I needed a backup plan—END OF NOTE.  Anyway, these films more than anything else about the NFL, made me reach to become a real champion.  Initially, I thought about football greatness, but eventually I realized I must strive to be great in whatever I pursue; I should be a champion, a hero, in my own life.  NFL films helped me strive to be someone to be looked up to.  The films themselves have faded from my memory, but the spark remains.

One particular excerpt from NFL films I remember well (at least the basics).  It goes something like this:  The screen is black with the following quotation written on it, which remains in view just long enough for you to read it:  “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”  Then, the screen fades, and a football field appears…the deep-voiced announcer begins, ”In the Midday sun….”  and the story of an NFL star, game, or season proceeds.  This is epic filmmaking!  I looked and looked for that video on the internet, but to no avail.  I am sure it is in the NFL films archives.  Chances are it had something to with “Mad Dog” Mike Curtis of the Baltimore Colts (1965-75 click for a cool youtube video), but like I said, no luck.  Nonetheless, this film and those like it left a lasting impression on me.  It made NFL game day feel like a noble and heroic competition day, complete with a game that must be struggled through to obtain victory!

Destined for NFL stardom? Uhh, no!

So, Steve Sabol was an innovator of excellence, the guy behind the camera and the production, portraying the NFL as something more than it was (a monopolized league playing sports games with athletes for hire).  He inspired me, and I am sure he inspired others.  Surely, he put in long hours preparing, editing, and creating.  He lived his life dedicated to the production of an excellent product.  For this product and for his dedication, I admire him.  Indeed, he has left quite a legacy for many to follow.  I will pass this legacy on to my children:  that “spark” of competition, that dream of excellence or even the “perfect game.”  Maybe even the perfect product (like a blog, for instance)!

In time, Steve Sabol’s legacy will fade.  Chances are, in 100 years nobody will know his name.  All things considered, his life of less than 70 years…not terribly short nor impressively long, will be nothing more than a blip in history.  He is slightly famous today, and honored by news stories, but in 200 years, one might not even be able to find him in the historical archives.

Thus, is the duality in which we live; striving for excellence, making an impression, a legacy, while existing in but a blink of time.  In Zen, we acknowledge our impermanence, in fact the impermanence of all things.  As a Stoic, I know that my impermanence is my destiny.

An old graveyard…even those who used to visit are gone.

Which reminds me of something Stoic that Marcus Aurelius wrote:  “Think continually that all kinds of men and of all kinds of pursuits and of all nations are dead, so that thy thoughts come down even to Philistion and Phoebus and Origanion. Now turn thy thoughts to the other kinds of men. To that place then we must remove, where there are so many great orators, and so many noble philosophers, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Socrates; so many heroes of former days, and so many generals after them, and tyrants; besides these, Eudoxus, Hipparchus, Archimedes, and other men of acute natural talents, great minds, lovers of labour, versatile, confident, mockers even of the perishable and ephemeral life of man, as Menippus and such as are like him. As to all these consider that they have long been in the dust. What harm then is this to them; and what to those whose names are altogether unknown? One thing here is worth a great deal, to pass thy life in truth and justice, with a benevolent disposition even to liars and unjust men.”

A final thought:  Do any of you know who Philistion, Phoebus, Origanion, Heraclitus, Eudoxus, Hipparchus, Archimedes, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Menippus were?  Heck, what about Marcus Aurelius?

Winning the Competition – On Being Your Own NFL Champ (or the next American Idol)!


Let’s face it, life is a great competition.  Most of us thrive on it.  Why else would NFL football, America’s Got Talent, American Idol or any of these reality TV shows like Big Brother or Survivor be so popular (my quick survey shows that 13 of 30 prime time shows on CBS have to do with some type of competition/winning)?  The releases of new game consoles like the upcoming Wii U, Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 are always big news and they are hot commodities.  Why?  They allow us to compete against cyber opponents and others.  Our desire to compete and win fuels the marketplace!

We love to watch, participate, and win competitions!  If we can’t win, we pick a pony like our favorite NFL team or player (RG III) or American Idol star and they win for us.  If we can’t kick a football, or run a 4.9 40-yard dash, we might pick up a game console, and compete against our friends or maybe even some unknown rival over the internet.

Competition is healthy.  It motivates us to be better, but it can be discouraging.  Why?   Because so much of what is involved in competitions is out of our control.    We can’t control the quality of our opponent…they might actually be better, or they might just be having the “game of their life.”  In team sports, we can’t control the actions of our teammates.  On top of all of that, are external factors like weather, wind, a bad controller (on that Wii U you’re going to buy).  Sometimes, you just have plain dumb luck, like a bad bounce or an untied shoe.

In real life, our competition may involve our standard of living, or the future for our family.  If we perform our job better than others, we hope that we will get a raise, a promotion, a sale, etc.  Of course, that does require that somebody actually notice our excellence.  There certainly are ways to get noticed, but much of that is indeed out of our control…just like in friendly competition.  It really is no different.  The employee you are next to might be well-connected (or even the boss’ daughter).  The boss might be watching right when you make the worst error you’ve had in months.  That new product you are trying to sell just might not be what people want.  These obstacles are all things to learn from, and improve upon…and maybe they make us work even harder.

The Boss’s Daughter!

So, if so much is out of my control, what am I to do?   Here is what I try to do:  I strive to produce the very best result I can under the conditions given.  My goal is to be the very best I can be.  When I am not doing so, I know it.  In essence, I determine whether I’ve succeeded in everything I do.  I am my own judge and jury, and if I honestly examine my inner self, there is no cheating.  At the end of the day, I must look myself in the mirror and judge my actions.

Ha, I just snuck in some Stoicism 101…and you thought it was about football or that silly America’s Got Talent show, hee hee!