Building a Better Me

In December of 2014, my efforts to change myself from the inside out began. During that year, I had read a couple of books that really started me down that path — the first was James Altucher’s Choose Yourself, and the second was Seth Godin’s Linchpin. And while these books are generally business/career-oriented, they inspired me to take a good, hard look at my life and where I was in relation to my goals and how I was impacting and being impacted by the people around me.

And I didn’t like what I saw. Things weren’t great. My marriage, despite 12counseling, wasn’t doing too well. My career was floundering. I didn’t like my life much, and when I was honest with myself, I knew that there was one root cause for much of it: me.

You can’t change the world around you. You can only change the world’s response to you.

So I decided last fall that I was going to fix myself, goddammit.  I was going to build a better me.

First Steps

When you’re going to rebuild a house — tearing out the cruft, and adding new floorplan — you start with the foundation. To do that with myself, I needed to start with a therapist. So I found one. Been going weekly since December. The first few weeks, we spent some time going over my history, my issues, etc., discussed my ADD issues, and then we leapt into EMDR, using it to process a lot of traumatic shit that’s happened to me. I leave each session just fucking gutted emotionally. For awhile, I’d hit the gym after every session and work myself into a physical state that matched my emotional one.

I’m still doing weekly therapy. It’s helping. A ton. I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

A few months months ago, I opted to get an ongoing issue resolved — my ADD. I guess I’ve always known that I had it, but my fear of pumping medication into myself kept me from doing anything about it, or maybe the stigma? Something. Whatever the case, after a first month on a light dose, we adjusted things and HOLY WOW, what a difference. I feel ten times sharper on it, than off. And Kate, co-workers, and friends have noticed a difference.

So What’s Next?

I started this whole process because I knew that my issues were having a negative impact on my family, my friendships, and my career. And now that I am resolving my issues, I am trying to find a balance between the development of the things I want to accomplish and the development of relationships with family and friends.  Both of these things are important, both deserve equal weight.

As I’ve laid that groundwork, I need to figure out a complete end-to-end system for running the clunky meatcomputer that my “me software” is installed in, so that I can accomplish the things I want to.  That means figuring out how the core of my operating system works — optimizing my sleep, exercise, work, and home patterns so that my energy levels stay optimal, and I have feedback loops in-place to catch me before I drift too far off plan.

When you look at self-improvement stuff, everyone has a plan.  David Allen’s Getting Things Done has one, and so does every other one I can think of.  You can always break a self-help book down into steps or a plan.  Personally, I’m quite fond of Adams’s How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, but I also know that it’s not the end-all, be-all of books, because what works for one person is definitely not going to work for another, no matter how eloquently they present their anecdata.  So it’s becoming my foundation, and then I’ll build atop it using stuff from other books and stuff I think up on my own, in a way that works best for me.

Is There an End Point to All This?

Honestly?  No.  There’s not.  I don’t think figuring out life is ever a finished product.  We never figure it all out.  The only thing we can do is refine our approach to it.

Two years, five years, decades from now, you’ll be reading similar posts from me as I refine, refine, refine, in pursuit of a better me.

My New Jam

Holy fucking shit what a good song. Seriously. Just discovered this band yesterday and they feel so much like where Queen would have gone were Freddie Mercury were still alive. This is going to be on continuous loop for a few days (or maybe the rest of the summer). Love it.

I’ll live now cause the bad die last
Dodging bullets with your broken past
I can’t hear you, I don’t fear you now
Wrapped in your regret
What a waste of blood and sweat
Oh oh oh…

I wanna taste love and pain
I wanna feel pride and shame
I don’t wanna take my time
I don’t wanna waste one line
I wanna live better days
Never look back and say
It could have been me
It could have been me
Yeah

Homeowner Redux

So if you’re reading this, I’m a homeowner again. Yeah. A homeowner. What the hell, right?

So we bought a little plan in south Minneapolis, not far from the airport. Getting it up to where we want it to be is going to be a 10-year project, easy. (Barring lottery wins or a fuckton of freelance work coming in.) But it’s ours and we got it for about $13K less than it just assessed for. Yard’s great. But it needs work. One of the tasks for this week is to go ahead and list everything we want to do to the house without regard for timeframes or costs, and just make the list. So we have the start of a battle plan.

I’m excited to be back in our own place again, but also am a little terrified.

At least I have a new topic to blog about, right?

Second Half of 2015, To-Do

1. Not every day can be legs/cardio day.

Been looking at myself in the mirror lately, and while the biking and focused training on that has paid off with more-defined legs, stronger heart, and greater speed, the rest of me is approaching “dad-bod” faster than I’d like. The rest of this year is going to involve getting flatter abs, and working on rebuilding my shoulders, arms, and chest to my Army standards.

Abs work is going to largely be my 25-pound kettlebell and an ab roller (those things look funny but are no joke), so that I can avoid the lower back and neck issues that come with sit-ups and crunches. Concrete goals: no pinchable flab in midsection, be able to hold a plank for 5 minutes.

I’m going to do the 100 Push-Up program a few times (with varying styles — wide-arm, normal, and diamond), and probably going to put a pull-up bar in the basement or garage. The goal is to bulk up a bit in the chest/arms/shoulders — I need the mass for cyclocross season (and possibly track racing in 2016). Now that my upper back/neck issues are largely resolved, this should be much easier to tackle. Concrete goals: 100 push-ups, 25 pull-ups.

Still going to be doing a ton of bike/leg work, of course. Got to if I’m going to be competitive in 2016 (and I want to be). Goals: TBD.

2. Help small businesses.

I’m going to start freelancing again, with a focus on working with smaller Minneapolis businesses. Think single-location owner/operator stuff like small retail shops, and so on. The goal is to provide the level of service I provide to clients at work to these businesses at prices that are palatable to them. Websites are going to be my primary focus, with a whole layer of additional services (SEO, SEM, etc.) that I will be able to provide. Concrete goals: establish two clients with recurrent monthly billing.

3. Establish my system.

A few months ago, I read How to Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. Great read. Got me fired up about how I want to move forward and achieve some of the stuff I’ve been talking about and daydreaming about for awhile now. I’m in the process of gathering metrics on myself, and I am going to use it to shape the system I use to approach my days…more on that later. And a review of the book forthcoming, too. Concrete goals: Have a system in-place that allows me to apply time as-needed on a daily/weekly basis to accomplishing my goals, using metrics to back up my planning. Continue keeping metrics and refine system based on long-term trends and new findings.

Image Credits: Pexels.

Saying Goodbye to Alex

About the time this post hits the Internet, I will be airborne on my way to Detroit. There I will get in a rental car, drive to Flint, and check in to my hotel. I don’t see my older brother very often — every few years — and this will be the first time since November of 2011. The mood will be more somber than usual. People are coming in from around the globe to say goodbye to his wife, Alex, who passed away on the morning of June 20th, of metastatic breast cancer.

I never met her, pre-diagnosis. I had hoped to meet her at my wedding, but that didn’t happen — her cancer had spread to her brain by then, and travel was a bit of an unknown as they started throwing around words like “gamma knife” and other obscure medical terms. The first time we talked face-to-face was in February of 2011, when I was passing through Detroit on my way home from my grandmother’s funeral, and I could see immediately why she and Reed clicked as well as they did. We stayed in-touch via Facebook and when she would routinely slaughter me at Words with Friends, and she and Reed stayed with us when they came to visit for Thanksgiving. We didn’t know it then, but that would be the last time we’d see her.

Life got in the way of death. But not in the way you’d hope it would.

So now, I’m winging my way across the Midwest, headed for Detroit, to say goodbye to a sister I wish I’d known better, and wish my boys had gotten to know (I think they would have loved her). I need to find a way to support my brother, and I don’t have the words. What do you say to a man in his 40’s who just lost his wife? How to tell a brother I’ve always looked up to, that I am here for him, even though I cannot even remotely fathom the loss he is enduring?

I don’t have answers to these questions. Nothing I can say will take away any of his pain — words are so feeble and meaningless at a time like this. All I have to offer is my time — whether that’s a ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. And even that doesn’t seem like it’s enough.