'Where one person sees a crisis, another can see opportunity'
"The things which hurt, instruct" - Benjamin Franklin
'What stands in the way becomes the way'
'Nothing makes us feel a certain way, we choose to give in to such feelings, or choose not to.'
'Ignore what disturbs or limits others'
These are tough times for many in terms of health, finance and emotionally as well. It's times like this to practice selflessness and reach out to others whether it be a phone call or a letter. Many elderly are currently being quarantined and we are unable to see them so it's important to stay in contact, and call often. Others are struggling in different ways, so think beyond yourself and reach out. Just being there to listen and talk to can be extremely helpful in times like these.
Some Thoughts on Growth-
- The extra material stuff is just stuff. When we get caught up in material items like video games, phones, cars or other items, life slaps us in the face and reminds us of what really matters. Life is about the relationships we build.
- Can we commit without a coach watching? I've said from the start, if our team wants to be our best it has to come from each of you. Holding yourself accountable to loving the journey, and holding each other accountable to high standards and expectations. Here's time for you to take charge and really love the process.
- This gives us a reminder that our journey isn't linear. When we have a great finish to a season or a great race, don't forget the struggles necessary to bring you to that elevated performance. In the midst of struggle, recognize it and know that with it will come growth.
- Running is important because of the connection it brings and the lifestyle it promotes. We strive to be great and do the work necessary, but understand that our efforts toward being our collective best are what matter. The togetherness and family of the sport along with the health benefits are not to be taken for granted or forgotten. When moments are tough, look around at the teammates that are there for you.
- Family and friends are everything. This situation is a reminder to reach out and think of others. Can you help someone close to you or in your community? A simple phone call and listening can open that opportunity.
- Avoid social media and the news as often as possible. While social media is great for connecting and can be used wisely to learn, in times like this there is a lot of junk and uneducated posts that will only create anxiety. Stay away for a while and instead go outdoors or pick up a good book.
What does this time give us?
- Time to be creative! I know guys who were creating a comic book, set time each day to work on that. Write or diary daily, become a better person. Read a book. I can suggest many, one of my favorites for high school runners is 'The Animal Keepers'. Play an instrument, learn something new from YouTube, help out around the house. This is a time to do those things that linger in the back of your mind and build a lasting commitment to them when life resumes as normal.
- Build accountability. When we can appreciate the excitement of daily training on our own merit, we will have an unstoppable team. We are definitely building toward that, and now is a great time to exercise your love for running and each other.
- Time outdoors. Trees, nature and fresh air are all known to promote a healthy mind and body. I plan to take time to go hiking as there are plenty of amazing trails and Ice Age Trail segments nearby within 30-40 minute drive! A run or hike on a new trail can greatly boost your mood and energy. For any recommendations on trails, feel free to ask but a few of my nearby favorites are,
- Lapham Peak (run or hike) - My favorite place in Wisconsin.
- Scuppernong (run or hike)
- Scuppernong Ice Age Trail segment (hiking)
- Bugline Trail (Run)
- Northern and Southern Kettle Moraine units are amazing for a hike or run, with many trails and park options. Northern Kettle Moraine is a bit longer drive but offers awesome hikes.
- Milwaukee lakefront - hop on the island by Summerfest and run along the lake shore
Feel free to share how you will spend time or what you are learning from this experience!
This distance squad has been incredible. Heck, it's not just the distance squad, it's this entire roster of track and field. You are all pursuing no limits and the counterculture. With the veterans picking up where cross country ended, all while bringing brand new athletes to their high standards right away. The young men and women on this team are staying after to add strength work, adding miles, adding reps and building each other up. Even athletes that have been on the team for just two days are stepping into lead and share! The power of this group is insane, I just want to be at practice with you all 24/7. You teach me so much.
With any successful group comes moments of adversity, and we are all now faced with real life adversity. You see the cancellations and changes being made around the state and country. There may be disruptions ahead for us, and it's up to each of us to control what we can. We can control our emotions and response to any situation. For many of us, this event may be the biggest adversity we have yet faced in our young lives. Our lifestyles will be affected, but with any obstacle, we can be better from it.
Honestly, my first reaction to recent events was frustration. I thought, ‘why does this have to happen to us?’ We have trained hard and built so much, things are going so well. But, I have come to realize that I was letting my emotions go, and didn’t realize that this group doesn’t change at all. Nothing is at an end. It just is what it is, and we are going to experience adversity together. Nothing changes, and you’re still the amazing young men and women I have gotten to know so well. Good will come from whatever happens. Everything that happens to us is in our best interest. If there are any disruptions, it's in our best interest and we will overcome them together. Will I be crushed if there is a disruption in the season? Absolutely. This will be extremely hard taking out the best part of the day.
On December 10th, 1914, a massive explosion erupted at the site of Thomas Edison’s factory. The fire totally destroyed his factory. As his son Charles was watching his dad’s work be destroyed, what was his dad’s reaction? He excitedly told his son. “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.” His son didn’t get how he could be so relaxed, and Thomas said, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.” The next day, Thomas Edison began rebuilding immediately.
Edison chose his response. He could have chosen pity and asked “Why me?” but instead, moved forward with a smile, and kept a positive outlook. By controlling his emotion and response, he was able to build back what he lost. There will be good and bad in everything, including the things we enjoy the most. How we respond matters. Does it get us anywhere to sulk and give up? Never. We grow from adversity, but we have to recognize the opportunity that the adversity creates for us to get better. The obstacles, although undesired, are always what make us better.
Our sport is beautiful in so many ways, with one of those ways being our ability to do it anywhere at any time. Events may be cancelled, that’s out of your control. But you have control over your running and life. Moving daily is essential to our health, and no matter what, we must continue to do this in the beautiful space provided by being outdoors in nature. Whatever disruption may occur, know that you still control your ability to move and stay active and healthy.
Running is therapeutic. It can alleviate any stress that could arise from the possibility of not being able to be together as a group. Running calms, soothes and cures. Ignore the things you can’t control, and focus on what you can! Don't let fear take over. It's not real, it's emotions being let loose. Take control of them. Adjust to any changes in life and be willing to learn, whether it's with running, school or other normal activities. It will be short term, make it worthwhile.
As Coach Dewitt said at practice, you cherish every day, and cherish time together. While I hope to have no disruptions, much of that will be out of our control. I’m going to do what I always do no matter what transpires. I will keep loving this team with everything I have. That is in my control, always.
I hope you all can see the control you have in situations like this. It isn’t unfair, it just is. Being in the moment means facing reality and ignoring that which you have no control over. Take ownership of your emotion and actions, and turn this situation into something that helps build you as a person and builds us as a team.
Let's keep things rolling. See you all at practice!
Sports are about life and can teach us valuable lessons. And so can the movie Mean Girls. If you haven't seen Mean Girls, well you should. Spoiler alert ahead.
I'm not here to recap the movie, but here's a brief background to get you caught up if you haven't seen it.
After growing up being home-schooled in Africa by her parents, Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan, who should have won an Oscar) and her family move to Illinois where she is introduced to public school for the first time. Cady comes to the school as a caring and smart high school student, excelling particularly in math where she easily picks up calculus concepts. Throughout the movie, Cady faces the conflict of conforming to different groups of people, as she looks to fit in and make friends in her new environment. While seeking popularity, she ends up distancing herself more and more from the person she truly is. The movie shows a typical conflict that teenagers can face when they idealize unhealthy and self-destructing behavior as being 'cool' and helping you make 'friends'. What Cady came to realize was that all these groups she was trying to fit into were fake, with the 'popular' girls clique even being referred to as 'plastics'. It wasn't until she was true to herself that she was finally able to be comfortable, and form the most beneficial and positive friendships, those people that accepted her for being true.
One of the sub plots is Cady's interest in Aaron Samuels (played by a guy who IMDB reports last gig was hosting Cake Wars), who happens to be dating Regina George (Rachel McAdams, The Notebook!), the most popular of the 'plastics'. Cady's interest in Aaron isn't built from getting to know him on a personal level. She liked him purely on looks and status. Regardless, she wants for him to like her, thinking that it will somehow build her reputation among others.
Early on, Cady molds a strong relationship with her math teacher Ms. Norbury (played by Tina Fey, who should have won an Oscar). Cady is acing her exams and showing interest in being on the math team which of course the movie depicts as a bunch of 'nerds' that are considered 'unpopular' (a lot of quotes, because popularity is the dumbest concept).
Side track: A lot of media, shows and movie culture try to bring down people that seek knowledge. (See Ross in Friends, Lisa in The Simpsons, and other characters that get made fun of or tuned out for saying something smart). And unfortunately, this depiction too often gets translated into real life relationships and interactions. The movie definitely plays into that stigma, but maybe a bit more intentionally as it does exaggerate quite a bit.
Cady initially has interest in the math competition and in succeeding in school. But relationships can be powerful, and quickly these good opportunities become pushed aside as she falls trap to chasing acceptance. Cady begins to lower her own standards in order to gain popularity and to be liked by Aaron. She starts doing poorly in math, even though she is gifted at the subject. She asks questions to Aaron, even when she knows the answer. She even blames Ms. Norbury for her poor grade by saying she's only failing her because she won't join the 'stupid mathlete competition'. Instead of being true to herself and striving to be her best, she sacrifices her identity and ability in order to try and please someone else and build on her own ego.
At first, this helps her connect with Aaron and she gets some time to spend studying with him and getting to know him. However, it was ruining her positive relationships with Ms. Norbury and the original friends she had made. And eventually, Aaron also finds out that she was intentionally lowering her effort and hiding her abilities in order to be with him.
Now, Aaron didn't have all the best qualities in this movie, but he did respond well here when she told him she was intentionally failing for him to like her. He was not amused by the tactic and told her, "That's stupid." It is totally stupid, but it happens all the time and we can all be victims of it. We can get caught up in acceptance or seeking admiration from others. This is true not just for teenagers, but throughout life as we chase job titles, material items and status. Chasing acceptance is simply fulfilling our ego, and does no good for ourselves or those around us. Aaron would not put up with Cady lowering her standards for his acceptance. He liked her for being Cady, and didn't like when she tried being like his ex-girlfriend Regina, who had also faked her way into being someone she wasn't. Be true to yourself.
Be True to Who You Are
We try to change who we are to be something we think we want, but when we end up there we realize it isn't what we expected. Ego can drive us to think poorly and treat those around us unfairly. Sometimes, we need to just pause and reflect. Make sure we are being true to ourselves and our good friends. Let go of our own ego to listen to others and be willing to be accepting of them as well.
Cady ends up doing the 'stupid mathlete competition' and forgives all the people she hurt while trying to chase being someone she truly never wanted to be. She regains her old friends, and Aaron gains respect for her as the person she is. And she helps her team win the math competition by answering correctly that, "The limit does not exist." It's a pretty "fetch" ending.
A few takeaways...
- Seek out the right friendships. Whether we like it or not, we do conform in many ways to the people we see most of. Make sure you have the right people in your life. Be willing to remove any toxic relationships that limit you or make you unhealthy. And be mindful of your impact on those closest to you. Be sure you model kindness and understanding to your friends.
- Popularity is not a thing. There is no 'cool'. In most cases, any groups labeled as the 'cool' kids are the groups to be most avoided. You shouldn't seek approval and acceptance from others by changing who you truly are. The right friends are the ones that like you for who you are. The fake friends don't last and will never be there for you because they themselves are all faking their way to fit in as well. Instagram is a liar.
- Don't lower your standards in an effort to make friends. People will eventually see through this.
- Be willing to hold teammates (friends) and yourself accountable. As the great North Central Coach Al Carius says, we have to strive for personal bests. When you aren't striving to be your best, you're limiting yourself and those closest to you. Don't ever lower your standards and be sure to bring max effort to all things that you do whether it be running, academics or another venture. Holding friends accountable may at times bring conflict, but you should expect the best out of them as well. In the long run, this will build stronger friendships.
- Comfortable is easy. Humans tend toward it. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Change in the world has never come with comfort.
- Own it. Don't look to blame others for decisions you make. Being honest and owning up to your actions allows you to truly be open to listening and deciding between what is right and wrong. We will all do dumb things and we will hurt others at times. But, we have the power of learning from mistakes and being able to honestly apologize when we hurt someone. Sometimes it just takes slowing down and having honest reflection.
- To excel in running and academics it takes commitment and purpose that most teenagers are afraid of. If others ever criticize you for doing well or for trying, take that as a compliment that you are doing something that they don't have the discipline to even attempt because of their fear of failure or losing acceptance of being 'cool'. Striving to be better is cool in my book of what's cool.
- The limit does not exist.