2017: The Crap Sandwich

Mid-December 2017

I am sitting here today with a back and leg that won’t stop hurting. They are the remnants of a bacterial blood infection that put me in the hospital on my usually favorite day of the year, Thanksgiving.

I feel between numb and nauseous most of the day remnants of the medication to treat the pain and to wipe out the remaining bacteria. Not to forget treatment for the side effects of the medication. Then there’s the medication for my usual ailments; anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and heart burn.

My Craptastic Crap Sandwich 2017

It’s been almost a perfect end to 2017. Let’s review how the year started:

  • A reality TV “star” was sworn in as  President of the United States
  • Cold War WW III flashbacks really have messed with my head and sleep habits

Those feelings continue to persist and the thoughts that come to mind are pretty consistently:

  • How do people fail upward?
  • The philosophy that most people get promoted to their highest level of incompetence.

Then the thing that I look forward to almost every year for what past two years turned to crap too. The youth football season was a complete bust. Even though you, son, and all the kids on the team said they had a fun season, which is most important to me, we finished 0-9.

But while the kids had fun, some of the parents on the team were not happy and I got the worst feedback of any coach in the league. I have four rules. Every one of the kids said we met all the criteria for the rules.

  1. Have fun.
  2. Be positive.
  3. Learn something.
  4. Hug your mom.

The parent feedback was that kids didn’t have fun, that I was not a positive coach, that I failed to teach and worst my number four rule was thrown in my face.

That was the feedback that hurt more than any other. As a member of the team was leaving the field with his mom, I yelled to him to ask if his mom was yelling at him for not working on rule number four. He said no, and I said, “you need to work on it finger tackler.” Apparently finger tackler was a bad thing to call him even though the kid was trying to bring kids down by grabbing a handful of jersey and kept hurting himself. The point of hug your mom was two-fold:

  1. Tackling involves wrapping up like a hug.
  2. You should hug your mom, because you never know when her or any of us won’t be there to hug.

I also had to deal with the fact that we live in a new day and age where we need to shelter kids from, among all things,being told they are fat. In the first week of practice one of the kids said to one of our big boys, “Get out of my way fat ass.”

The fat kid was starting to cry when I said, “So what, he has some fat?  That gives him an advantage that you will be thankful for some day. You need all types of body shapes to be successful in football. I have been fat all my life, it paid for a trimester of college. My little brother still to this day calls me by my grade school nickname, fatty.  You are out here exercising, you are doing you best to be in the best shape you can be. Not everyone can be the perfect body shape, be proud of who you are, even if it means being proud that your fat, but you still need to exercise and eat right.”

Three kids became part of the fat kids club and they were proud of it, but a parent overheard that and thought it was just the most awful thing to do to a child. Interestingly enough, the two other parents besides myself that were the parents of two of the three fat kids felt the season was great and for one of them who was having their fourth year of football he had the greatest season he had and for the other who it was his first year, he is coming back for more.  I also know that all of them were in better shape at the end of the season than they were in the beginning.

So what, some kids carry a little extra weight, genes are a funny thing. You work your ass off and strive to be healthier almost every day I am not going to shame that kid for being fat, I’ll celebrate it as an advantage. That is all I care about and I really just want you to be proud of who you are and that is most important.

Then there was other feedback that I showed up to practice late.

Yep. I was unexpectedly putting in extra hours at work due to a merger, but everyday I sent a practice plan to the assistant coaches and made sure someone was there.

Then there was the fact that I used foul language, but with one exception where I was very concerned about player safety I know I apologized and corrected myself.

Then I used the words shut up with my son and sometimes loud. Even though I received permission to use those words with other kids, I never did.

Then I was not using the positive coaching alliance approaches, except for the fact that I almost followed it by the letter of the law and tried incorporating at least one new thing every week. And, although every player said they had fun, they learned something, that the season was a positive experience and they all left with rule number four which I hope they remember for the rest of their lives.

I won’t go into the details of the mud slide incident, but lets just say what qualified as fun in the 1980’s has a smaller fan base in 2017. It also qualifies a coach as an embarrassment to the program versus being the best coach ever.  I did get that feedback as well.

Enough about all that jazz, I knew midway through the season that I was not going to coach next year.  Which some parents took issue with me sharing that with the kids as well. I only shared it so they knew that I was not taking over the offense because of our record, but because I wanted to focus on one facet of the game and utilize my assistant coaches better so I could watch my son play defense.

Son, I know you will excel in football as you have in hockey with a new voice at the helm. Don’t ever forget the four rules. Especially the fourth rule.

Football is not life and death, for that there is the bad things come in threes country song year-end of 2017:

  • Cheddar (our 16-year-old beagle) died
  • I lost my job
  • I was given a 50/50 chance to live and 30% chance of paralyses

A definite topper to the crap sandwich.

Time to Move Forward – January 2018

The year may have been mostly a crap sandwich, but there were so many things that brought me joy last year. Most of them come from the two of you.

 

Son, you had a great Association Hockey season, the families were a true hockey family and your teammates for the most part helped you grow more than any other teammates you had in the past.  Not to mention you boys took home your fair share of hardware.

The Association season was followed by a great AAA Hockey season and a baseball season that was amazing. You played most of the baseball season with a broken wrist, but you didn’t miss an at bat or any play in the field.  You even hit a home run the first game you played with your cast on.

Then there was  the great part of your football season, I loved to watch you play. You were amazing and my desire to just watch you play was another reason that I will be on the parent sideline next year.

Finally for sports, you ended the year starting another Association season of hockey with a great coach. Your team is truly a team and the hockey family we have is just as amazing as the one you had at the beginning of the year. They have been instrumental in making sure you have had a good season and so generous with their time, money, prayers and love. You also continue to grow as a player and as an individual. When your coach calls you a team leader I light up with pride.

Beyond sports, you continue to perform at a high level academically, you have blown me away with your clarinet playing and you have grown up big time.  You’re maturity scares me at times, because it reminds me how quickly you are growing up. The things you used to need help with that you do on your own make me proud and sad at the same time.

Baby girl, you have grown up so much too. You hit four (going on 40) this year. The world is yours to be ruled by you according to you and if you hit an obstacle you always try to move forward. You began ice skating this year (no hockey plans still) and are skating with kids that are mostly two or three years older than you. You have brought me so many great memories watching you swim, although I am pretty sure by next summer you will not be able to jump off my head as you continue to grow.

As we continue to grow as a family and individuals we have also found a wonderful church. The Well has been a great to us and I hope that we all can continue to grow with our family at the Well to make us better people.

Kids, at the end of the day; you, our family, our hockey family, our church family and our friends and your mom are there for me…and Remi (our new dog) too.  Your mom especially has shown all of her super powers. Your mom is the best role model you can have. Your mom is penultimate professional, nurse, chef, taxi driver, hockey mom, wife, mom and so much more. All of us are lucky to have each other, but without mom, I am not even going to guess.

Family, friends and love will get us through everything, including a crap sandwich of a year.

 

 

Black, White or Gray. Which would you choose?

Throughout my life I have always been worried when I don’t know what’s coming next. However, in raising the two of you I have become more comfortable with that because kids are about the most unpredictable things in the world.

And puppies…puppies are unpredictable too.  Your new puppy Remi has reminded me of that. You go 16 years without a puppy and you completely forget how hard they are to deal with. Thankfully your mom is about as good as they get when it comes to dog whisperers.

People refer to things being black and white when they are clear. People, including me, love clarity. A clear direction, clear steps on how to get where you’re going, clear plans to how to overcome obstacles that might come up and a clear finishing point. However, life only has one ultimate finish, death. Even death to some is just another journey’s beginning.

When things are not black and white, people refer to them being gray. The definition of gray is a color between black and white. While I enjoy black and white I know that things truly move forward and I have been happiest in my life in the gray.

The two of you make me happier than anything else in this world. You are the grayest of the gray. I have no idea what you are going to do next much less in your lives. What I know you have is potential.

Gray while uncomfortable is where all potential lies. This is true in almost every aspect of life. I not only hope for you that you become comfortable with the gray, but learn to embrace it and seek it out. Expand your horizons and never embrace clarity.

Seek adventure. Seek to always be better. Be better than you are today, tomorrow and ever day.


 

 

 

Priorities – Hard Decisions Made Easy

If I were to summarize my priorities they would be:

1. Family
2. Friends
3. Fun
4. Work

It was that simple list that led me down the path to make one of the hardest career decisions I have ever made. Making the decision to leave Mayo Clinic.

I think it is pretty well established the impact that Mayo Clinic has had on me in both my professional and personal life. Starting with Charles Mayo pioneering the pyloric stenosis procedure that saved my life as an infant to bringing me new friends, mentors and an appreciation for life in general that I will never loose.

Ultimately the three hours I was loosing with my family a day were unacceptable and with work being fourth on the list of what is most important, the choice was easy.

I think that this lesson applies in so many ways to so many things. If you are presented with difficult decisions, just ask yourself; “Where does this fall in my list of priorities.”

Doing nothing or making the hard choice may be very easy depending on where things are on your list of priorities.

I have also done this relative to competing in triathlons. While I would love to do much better than I do today in triathlons, I do not want it to take away too much from family in the number of hours I spend training. However, while it might be something that falls lower on the list at first because I find it to be fun, the fact of the matter is that if I do not train and work out my health will suffer impacting my family. That is something I do not want to happen either.

In this case, I was able to find a compromise. I train to finish and to be healthy and focus less on the improvement than I used to. So while it may be easier to make decisions if you have priorities, the answers do not always have to be one over the other. Compromise is healthy too.

You Win When You Begin

As you walked with me into the transition area to pack up my stuff after my first triathlon of the year, the smile across your face filled my heart.

As I was packing up the last of my stuff you asked me, “Dad, did you win?”

My answer was, “I finished, so for me, that is just like winning.”

Before you could say anything someone passed by with their bag and bike and I only caught their back as they walked away, but as they walked away they said, “You won when you started.”

I said, “You’re right.”

At that point you had already moved on to other topics, but it immediately became the next thing I wanted to write to you about.

As I was training for the half marathon, I use a training program from Hal Higdon that played a bunch of motivational snippets from him.  One was, “You became a winner when you started this program.”

It’s a simple but poinant truth, you can’t win or finish anything that you don’t start.

I would also add that anything worth starting is worth starting with a purpose and if there is not a purpose you will rarely finish, so get a purpose first and then start.

 

A Top Ten List: Leadership Direction

One of the things I love about the life I have lived, the jobs I have had, the career path that I have followed and the sports that I have played is that I have been exposed to some great leaders. I have also been exposed to some not so great leaders.

This top ten list is my perspective on the ten pieces of direction that come to mind first when I think about the direction these leaders have given me.

Fail Fast, Fix Faster

  • I go back and forth on how much I buy into this. Failure is not something I really think one should pride themselves on. On the other hand being able to recognize failure and fixing that failure quickly is something I think is respectable. Then there is the fact that fear of failure holds too many people back from execution and doing nothing is not something I think anyone should be proud of or have the guts to accept a paycheck for.

He Who Hesitates, Get’s Ass Kicked

  • Every aspect of life and business seems to move at a faster pace almost every day. Hesitation is dangerous.

Be Patient

  • With everything in life moving so fast patience is becoming a valuable asset, especially when applied in the correct situations. It’s not one of my personal strengths, but something I do desire to have more of.

Execute

  • The greatest plans, ideas and intentions are worthless without execution.

Learn From Your Mistakes

  • I really do believe that this is something that you can use in all walks of life. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life and expect that you will make your own. As long as you learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them you can go a long way. I also feel that if you embrace learning from your mistakes that you will be less fearful of making mistakes in the first place and you will value your mistakes instead of regretting them.

Don’t F**k Up

  • There are levels of failure and mistakes that you just can’t recover from or fix, that would probably be defined as a f**k up. You really want to avoid those if you can.

Decomplexify

  • This concept was first known to me as and probably most commonly known as the kiss principle, keep it simple stupid. Decomplexifying is an art form that seeks to get maximum results with the least amount of effort or planning. The masters of decomplexification are the most valuable assets to any business and just good people to have around when it comes to making the best out of a less than ideal situation.

Trust Your Instincts

  • If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust.

Never Say You’re Sorry

  • ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE ADVICE!!!!! If you f**k up, make a mistake, fail or just do wrong by someone never be afraid to admit that you were wrong and never hesitate to say I am sorry. If you find yourself apologizing too much you might want to exhibit some patience and figure out why that is the case.

Focus on People

  • ABSOLUTELY THE BEST ADVICE!!!! The most complex, simple statement. Very simply I do believe there is no purpose in life without others. Even in individual sports you need to show respect for your coaches and competitors, in team sports you need to have other people. In business, people are the foundation of all organizations and customers are people.

Diets and Excercise are BS

Remember that above all I believe that all people are different, that not everything will work the same for everyone. Also, while I walk the halls today with some of the greatest doctors in the world, I am definitely not one of them.

I do believe however as the topic states that diets and exercise are absolutely without a doubt bullspit.

When I was a junior in high school I was by far in the best shape of my life. At the peak of my physical fitness I weighed 275 pounds, could bench press 525 pounds, squatted over 1,200 pounds, could slam dunk a basketball and ran a 4.89 40-yard dash. However, my progress was stopped in its tracks by a torn ACL, MCL and LCL in my left knee.

By my senior year of football I had got most of my upper body strength back, but my legs were never the same. By the end of my senior year of football I was down under 250 pounds and ran one more 40 under 5 seconds at a recruiting trip at Northern Michigan.

I heard the same from every one of the coaches that recruited me though, I was an offensive lineman and I needed to get my weight to 300 plus. I ultimately got up to 320 by my first day on the field at St. Cloud State University in St Cloud, MN. The third day on the field, before I even got to wear shoulder pads in college I got my knee rolled over, tore my ACL and I was out of football for good. Subsequently I gave up working out for the most part too and would not see under 300 pounds on the scale for over 20 years.

At my worst I weighed somewhere between 450 and 500 pounds, I once saw the scale register 479 and at that point pretty much avoided scales unless I was in a doctor’s office, which eventually became a regular occurrence. I found myself diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, chronic back pain and chronic joint pain. In November of 2008 I was taking 13 pills a day for all my ailments.

It was also in November of 2008 that I started working at Mayo Clinic. When I interviewed I was wearing a size 58 inch waist pants and was somewhere between 350 and 400 pounds. Shortly after starting I took a health assessment and there was something that prompted me to say I wanted help, and that help came in a phone call from a disease management nurse. Her name was Bonnie.

Little by little she helped me make better choices. She encouraged me to go to my doctor on a regular basis. She encouraged me to start eating better breakfasts. She encouraged me to monitor my blood sugars. She encouraged me to see a dietician and then a doctor specializing in diets by the name of Dr Donald Hensrud. Dr Hensrud encouraged me to by a bigger salad bowl.

Bonnie encouraged me to make better choices at lunch and then at dinner. Bonnie got me to take the clothes and boxes off the treadmill and go for a walk. I still remember it like it was yesterday; 0 incline, 3.0 mph, 30 minutes. I was sweating like crazy, my heart was pounding, my feet and my back hurt; but I got back to it two days later and every other day for a while. Eventually it was every day and eventually the treadmill at home couldn’t get to an incline or speed that were challenging for me without feeling like it was going to break.

Eventually salads were more frequently served at the dinner table and I still remember the day you told me at the age of two that your favorite food was a salad. Mine is still vanilla ice cream with almost equal parts crunchy peanut butter, and I know your tastes have evolved past your statement that salads were your favorite food.

Today as I write this I fit in a size 42 inch waist pair of pants and I take two pills a day. I am getting ready to run a half marathon memorial day weekend and will do four triathlons followed by a late fall half marathon this year. You love talking about Buffalo, that’s where I tried and failed at my first triathlon, but I went on to finish two more last year and can’t wait to kick that courses butt in Buffalo, MN this year.

You might have just read that thinking, why does my dad feel diets and exercise are bullspit because they sure seem to have made a difference in his life.

It’s very simple, I failed at diets and exercise, but I finally succeeded when I chose to live life right.

I chose to make better food choices part of what I do, and part of who I am.

It’s not a diet, it’s not a journey, it’s living right.

I chose to make swimming, running and biking part of what I do to take care of myself, to live to see you live your life as long as I possibly can.

I failed at diets, I started and stopped exercising. I will not willingly stop living and I chose to live life right.

To be continued……

A Non-Career in Review

While I sucked at basketball and baseball, I was not a terrible football player.

Before my seventh grade year I attended the summer football camp at St Mary’s Springs. It was the first time i did anything remotely related to organized football. I was 6′ 2″ tall and weighed 300lbs. (I am the exact same height and weight today.)

I was also relatively fast and agile given my size, but growing up in Eden there wasn’t a football team for me to play on.

One of the coaches from the camp just happened to be the coach for Saint Mary’s grade school in Fond du Lac and my mom’s next door neighbor. Somehow I ended up on his team even though I didn’t go to school there.

The team went undefeated both years I played there. In fact I never started a game one of my teams lost ever.

Now there were losses I was part of, but my team my junior and senior year of high school team went undefeated as well.

I dreamed from the first time I put on a helmet that I would play pro ball and even when I knew the NFL was out of the question I still felt I could find a professional level I could succeed in.

That all changed though in one game in Two Rivers Wisconsin in my junior year.

Right before that season I was in the best shape of my life. I broke the 4.8 second 40 yard dash mark, benched a max 520 pounds and squatted a max of just under 1200 pounds. I also could do a seven mile run once a week just for the hell of it, but the coolest thing I could do was slam dunk a basketball.

At the game in Two Rivers I tore my ACL, MCL, LCL and a bit of meniscus to boot in my left knee. I was never able to dunk a basketball again and spent the next two years in and out of surgeries and on a mix of painkillers of various strengths and types.

I eventually did get a football scholarship to St Cloud State in Minnesota and even got a visit in my home from the Wisconsin Badgers head coach, Barry Alvarez, during the recruiting process.

It was cool to be recruited and cool to get the scholarship, but three days into practice before we even had pads on someone rolled my knee and I never wore pads as a college player with the exception of picture day.

It wasn’t easy for me to decide to quit playing football. In the letter giving up my scholarship; I summed it up as I didn’t feel I was quitting football, but accepting a new path and challenge in life.

I had no idea what I was going to do in reality, but it sounded good on paper.

I eventually ended up where I’m at today, but I definitely did not take the shortest distance between two points. I actually ended up taking several paths and accepting numerous challenges.

Life does not come with a roadmap, so you do need to be willing to navigate a bit in the dark when detours come up. It gets easier though because every experience you have and person you meet will help light the paths a bit more.

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Next Chapter: Let the Games Begin….

I personally believe that life is very much like a book if done right. I never forget about the previous chapters because they help make the rest of the story easier to understand and I believe strongly that the earlier chapters contribute significantly to character development.

Sports definitely have contributed to my character development over the years, but sports for me officially started in fourth grade with basketball and baseball, because it was the first time I actually felt I had a snowball’s chance in hell of competing.

As I mentioned earlier I had a stint in wrestling when I was five and six, but it was pretty much a lesson in getting my ass kicked in a defined circle.  Also as you may remember I expanded my horizons by getting my ass kicked all around town until my little brother stepped in to go for the groin kick.  If they were handing out medals though I would have got an ass kicking medal when all the girls in the grade ahead of mine bloodied me on the playground.

But I expanded my horizons beyond getting my ass kicked when I started playing basketball and baseball.  The punishment was no longer physical ass kickings because it was a forum that I could use my size to my advantage without getting into trouble, however the mental punishment was just about to begin.  I sucked!!!!!

I could score a lot of points in basketball, but it was only because I was so much taller than everyone else and could rebound my own misses.  Thankfully I had a partner in crime though and there were games where we would sit under the basket one of us on each side and literally pass the ball back and forth over the basket.

I finally gave up basketball for good in eighth grade, but only after creating the memory of our team losing by six in a tournament game where I missed twenty of twenty-one free throws and in our league championship I watched my last second game winning shot spin out of the rim and fall to the ground.

As for baseball, my last year was in sixth grade where I had one hit the whole season but not for lack of chances because I played the whole game every game. I was the only person on the team that could throw from the catchers position to second base.

I would have played when I was in seventh grade too, but on my way to the first full practice of the season I flew over the handlebars of my bike when I hit a curb and broke a finger on my catching hand.  This was after my first batting practice where I literally hit a home run every at bat, I was in the zone that never saw the actual playing field.

So what did I learn besides I was never meant to be a home run king or the next Magic Johnson?  I learned a lot.  I learned everyone has a role on a team.  I learned discipline. I learned perseverance. I learned to never give up. I started to learn what friendship meant.

Above all, I learned at the end of the day that success or failure in sports does not necessarily translate to success or failure in life.   While I sucked at basketball and baseball, life went on and I actually feel pretty good about how the book has continued to develop.

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