Anchoring the ship: guiding principles for securing my life

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

I actually made some goals this year.  From an outsiders perspective 2011 looked great, I suppose. I got back to racing a lot, an activity that most people assume makes me happy. I actually lived out a few dreams, getting to race in places like Disney and Boulder, CO. That was great. Looking back on the year as it came to a conclusion though it occurred to me that I had survived 2011, but hadn’t gone after it with any sort of direction. I’d done well in a few races and poorly in a few, but as much as I wanted it to matter it just didn’t in either case. I was drifting.

When I was a kid I used to write out my goals. In fact, tucked away in my dresser drawer at Nana and Papaw’s house you’ll still find a folded up piece of notebook paper with the goals I wrote for myself in 1989. They all related to wrestling and I accomplished almost all of them. As a kid, it was good for me to have goals. As an adult though, I’d gotten away from it.

Call it the year of the untethered ship for me. I drifted through 2011.

I felt like I should change that in 2012 – like it would make me more fulfilled, or at least more responsible,  if I checked the items off of my list throughout the year. It felt like something that I “should” do. I even recruited a group of guys to hold me accountable to those goals. So here we are a little past the first quarter of the year and I’m considering my success and whether or not the goals are making a difference.

Before I wrote out the specific goals I wanted to determine what my guiding principles were for the year as goals were related. I came up with these:

  1. Do what scares me or what I feel inadequate at
  2. Learn to be content and grateful for what I have now
  3. Own less stuff…shed some of my baggage
  4. Focus on others first

Those sounded brave, even altruistic, and certainly Christian. I was happy with these and felt more grown up just writing them. I kind of just wanted to stop there and say “hey, look at these. I thought this stuff. Is that good enough?”

Having determined that these were my guiding principles for goals I came up with a more concrete set of measurable goals. I’ll share those in another letter.

For now, let’s review my success on the big principle stuff.

1. Do what scares me or what I feel inadequate at

I’m certainly trying on this one. I’ve started to write again, obviously. It was a leap for me to admit that being a writer has always and still is one of my dreams. I was afraid to put that out there. It doesn’t jive with how my current circle of friends sees me or what I do for a living, but it’s the truth. Its who I told your mommy I was going to be someday. It’s part of what made us both hopeful about the future when we were young.

There are a lot of things in this category. I’m trying to throw caution to the wind a little more. A friend or two call me “the safety inspector” because I can sometimes be overly cautious.

A speaker I heard recently helped me with the issue of fear: I’m trying to think “what if I succeed?” more often than “What if I fail?”

2. Learn to be content and grateful for what I have now

This is a tough one. We’re the most marketed to civilization in the history of the world. Billboards and ads everywhere. I’ve unsubscribed from most magazines because they’re essentially catalogs of stuff I need. I don’t like our house. I don’t like our cars. I don’t like my clothes. Why is the key. And I’m trying to change my perception. Occasionally I get reminders of how well off we are. We have a 2600sq ft. house that we can easily afford, we have paid for cars to drive, and I have more clothes than I could ever wear. My heart’s grateful, but I don’t think I’m succeeding at this one yet.

Related to this somewhat: we bought a new Whirlpool stainless steel fridge and oven yesterday at a major home improvement store. Mommy wrote a check for it. They had to call a manager over to make sure it was okay to accept a check, because people “usually use a credit card for that sort of purchase.” I was grateful that we had the option of paying cash.

3. Own less stuff…shed some of my baggage

I’ve started the process of getting rid of things: clothes, books, movies, cds, etc. The funny and maddening thing is that you find out when you do this that you’re precious valuables are worthless to everyone but you. I’ve hardly been able to give away most it. Still, I want to feel less weighed down by my stuff. When I actually do what scares me, I want it to be unhindered by the mass of things I’ve collected.

Part of this also means shedding some stress. I want to learn to be mindful about being still.

4. Focus on others first

I’m failing at this most of the time. I do a good job of focusing on you  kids and I’m trying to be better about praising mommy and appreciating her. As humans, though, we’re fallen and tend to think “me first” or “look at me” most of the time. I wish I could tell you that your dad always thought of others first, but that’d be a lie. I always tried to be good and kind to people, but “focusing on them first”? That’s different. That’s hard. I have a good friend who lost his job recently. He texted me late at night about it and it kept me up for awhile wondering how he must be feeling. So maybe, just maybe, I’m learning to care about other people more.

So, that’s that. I’ll tell you about my specific measurable goals another time.

Max, you had a bad nose bleed last night just before bed time. You got scared and cried alot. Your mommy calmly scooped you up and started fixing the problem while talking softly to you. My heart was pounding. Your sisters were frantic. There was alot of blood.  It’s was just a minor thing really, you get them alot, but I’ve learned that one of my weaknesses is that I panic when one of you kids are hurt. Maybe it’s a “fight” instinct. My adrenaline and heart rate spikes, but not mommy’s. She fixed you up and sent you to bed with your John Deere equipment catalog you’ve been carrying around. She’s a good mom to you kids. We need her.

I love you kids,

–  Daddy


Mon: rested

Tues: Swam 2000 yards / Biked 25 miles at 19.6mph avg.

Wed: Ran 4.5 miles at 8:19 avg pace

Thurs: Swam 2000 yards / Biked 20 miles at 20.5mph avg.

Fri: Ran 4.5 miles