Houston, we have a problem.

Houston, we have a problem.

For the past year or so, I’ve noticed a disconcerting trend.  Each time I step on the scale, the number gets larger.  Has there been some sort of change in the gravitational pull of the earth or am I putting on weight?

In 2003 I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C.  I weighed about 185 pounds and could run 10 miles without breaking a sweat.  Now I weigh 215 pounds and get winded chasing my daughter around the park.  If that trend continues, in 10 years I’ll weigh 245 pounds and will be pricing mobility scooters.

In life, there are certain problems that are easier to solve sooner rather than later (more on that below).  I turn 40 in December and getting into shape is not getting any easier.  Not only is my body clinging to calories like a tiger clings to its kill, but finding the motivation is getting harder as I get busier and take on more responsibilities.  If I want to be around for another 40 years, however, I need to put the excuses aside and reacquaint myself with physical activity.

Fit by 40

And so, about a month and a half ago I started going to a personal trainer.  I had been lamenting to my boss that I wanted to get in shape, but 1) I needed some accountability and 2) I needed to workout during the day because mornings and evenings were too busy with work and family.

As luck would have it, his son (who plays college football) had gone to a trainer for years.  My boss had recently started going as well and he invited me to come along.  Not only that, but he told me to take off work early three days a week and he would pay for it.  Hard to argue with that.

My first day at the “gym” was pretty humbling.  First off, it was not a gym, but a converted warehouse.  Imagine that barn in the middle of Russia where Rocky trained in Rocky IV and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about.  Lifting rocks—check.  Chopping wood—check.  Pulling Paulie on a sled through a snowstorm—well, you get the idea.

The people training there were serious: Elite high school, college and professional athletes; ultimate fighters (all wearing oxygen depravation masks to simulate altitude); and…me.

So far my time there has been great.  My mantra is “Fit by 40.”  The pounds have started to come off.  I have more energy.  Most of all, I feel good that I’m actually being proactive about a problem that I (and millions of other Americans) struggle with.

Why am I mentioning this?  Two reasons:

First, I don’t want to publicly fail in front of hundreds of readers who I respect and admire.  Thanks for the motivation!  🙂

Second, and more importantly, I wanted to get you thinking about issues or problems in your own life that need some sort of solution.  Too often we sweep our problems under the rug because we’re too busy or scared to deal with them.  Then someday, when we shed the competing tasks and responsibilities that used to drown out our problems (a.k.a. retirement) those problems come bubbling to the surface.

Rather than enjoying a meaningful, rewarding retirement we spend our time trying to salvage our marriage, get in shape, recover from a preventable illness, mend neglected relationships or figure out what we really want out of life.  Don’t ignore your problems.  They’re only going to get worse.

Is there something you need to fix?  Start down that path today.  If I can help, just let me know how.

~Joe

Photo by Laura Gilmore.  Used under Creative Commons License.
The dual processes of an ideal retirement

The dual processes of an ideal retirement

When the Pope asked Michelangelo how he knew what to cut away when he was sculpting the statue of David, Michelangelo reportedly answered “Simple.  I just chipped away everything that didn’t look like David.”

There are two kinds of processes that artists use when making their art.  The first, used by Michelangelo when sculpting David, was a Subtractive Process.  You start with something—a block of marble or a hunk of wood—and you slowly chisel, carve and otherwise remove bits of that something until what you’re left with is the finished product.

The other process is an Additive Process.  There you start with nothing—a blank canvas, a hunk of clay, an empty lot—and then you paint, shape, mold or build until you have the finished product.  Think Van Gogh, Alberto Giacometti or Frank Lloyd Wright.

To create the life you want in retirement you need to use both the Additive and Subtractive Processes.

You need to channel your inner Michelangelo and remove everything that doesn’t look like the life you want.  You need to make the “Stop Doing” list that I’ve talked about here many times before and then begin to chip away, purge, streamline and simplify.

At the same time, you need to figure out what you really want out of this life and start adding, shaping and building.  What will you do?  How will you pay for it?  Who needs to be there?  What skills do you need?  You have a blank canvas.  Paint a Rembrandt.  You have an empty lot.  Build Fallingwater.

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”  ~Michelangelo

Photo by Scott Ableman.  Used under Creative Commons License.