One of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned is to live your life now and not wait till tomorrow. ‘Tomorrow’ meaning sometime in the future as there is always plenty of time… Well, not so much time in reality and you just never know when time is up. Geez, this sounds like a grim blog but hang in there. This is meant to cultivate action in a most positive way. Here I will share the backdrop to what got me to think this way and some things I’m doing to live my life for the Now.
When I was four years old my family moved from Amsterdam, New York to Largo, Florida. Technically it is Largo but we lived near Pinellas Park High School and spent my youth years playing ball in Pinellas Park so I really consider my childhood home as Pinellas Park. Anyway, we lived on two and a half acres of land with the back third if not more consisting of green grass with some trees on the perimeter. It was rectangular shaped and it became my very own football field or that’s what I thought in my head. I could spend hours there practicing by myself, simulating games of many sports and even kicking field goals. My dad used PVC pipe to put two upright posts near one end of the field. I was a fortunate kid to have this type of environment.
Also on the property was a barn from the previous owner in which my dad converted to storage for all of his equipment and tools. When we moved to Florida he started his own business, Graff Trucking. He owned dump trucks, tractors and wheel loaders. We knew them as pay loaders but I see now when I search it is termed a ‘wheel loader.’ With all of this equipment and the growth in Pinellas County and surrounding areas he was a very busy man. Not only that but he gained a great reputation for his work so he was in demand.
That combination was tough on him. He would be up around 5:00 AM on weekdays getting ready for the day and would roll in by 6:00 PM most days. If there was something wrong with equipment he would need to spend additional time getting ready for the next day. Saturdays could also be used to catch up on equipment failures, cleaning them, cleaning our family vehicles and doing work outside if needed. We all pitched in on chores around the house and helping with the equipment. Sunday was his rest day. One vivid recurring memory I have of those Sunday times would be him falling asleep on the couch in the mid-afternoon watching television.
So you get the picture. He was a hard working guy who also struck while the demand was there. That also meant we didn’t have much time with him and exploring different things as a family was limited. He did so well with the business that he was able to retire after turning 50 years old. His plan along with our mom at that point was to retire early after putting in all the years of hard work and enjoy the rest of their lives.
If you look at various sources today the average lifespan of an American is around 78 years and it’s actually declining now for the third straight year. For men it’s a bit lower around 76 years given the source so if I use that number it meant my dad would roughly have 26 years to enjoy his retirement with our mom.
Not so fast… They sold the Pinellas Park property and moved to Citrus County where they owned 15 acres of land. It was a beautiful quiet setting where they could relax and work on projects they wished to do. Well, at 55 years-old he was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer after being misdiagnosed for nine months. He then went through hell for the next three years leaving us at the young age of 58. In my eyes prior to this I thought my dad was invincible. His work ethic was incredible and he was so determined to make things work, whatever he was doing. Maybe the word ‘perseverance’ states it best. But this cancer was too big for him and took him away. He was so tough I really can’t remember him complaining once about the incredible pain he was in. I would hear some comments through our mom but not dad.
I remember reflecting about this many times over the years. He worked so hard and didn’t get to live his life. Or that’s what my perception was of how it played out. I took this to heart when Karen and I had Morgan. Nothing would get in my way of my relationship and time with my daughter. That was number one priority and I have kept that through today and that will never change. Although that was the number one priority I did get caught up with my career at times and lost sight of other things that should have been higher on the priority list.
In 2013, just six years ago now, we lost our mom to various health related issues at 73 years-old and her last several years were not good. She was in some doctor’s office weekly, hospitals periodically, and rehabilitation centers as well. Going through that together as a family once again led me to a point of reflection and made me ask myself, “what am I doing with my life?”
I was unhealthy at that point, work was dominating hours and more importantly my mind too much, and I was going through a divorce with Karen. I share more about this transformation in, My Story, if you want to see what transpired in more detail, but in a nutshell, I had to take control over my life and in the mindset of taking action today, not tomorrow. Learning more about what my mom went through I realized I was accountable for my health, not doctors or what the government shares as what is recommended to consume. As Dr. Kim Williams, President of the American College of Cardiology stated, “I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want it to be my fault.” No way…this was in my hands now.
Since then I have taken control over my life with health and the actions I take. I have an incredible ex-wife who is a great friend and partner as we work together to be the best parents we can be with Morgan. I remained committed to be as active as a dad can be with a high school and now college daughter. I check myself and with her if I am too involved. It’s a tough balance wanting to see your kid but give them their space.
One of the resources I have learned so much from and if you know me you know I love, The Rich Roll Podcast. There is an episode I have listened to or watched (YouTube) several times with guest, Jessie Itzler. Jessie is a super successful entrepreneur and here they have a discussion on ‘Building Your Life Resume & Why Happiness is an Action.’ It’s not rocket science but then again maybe it is if it’s so hard to implement. Like careers, training, relationships and more, if you don’t work at them they can fail before you realize it.
At the time of the discussion last year, Jessie was 50 years old. A few of the concepts and stories Jessie shared included:
- It’s very easy to get caught in a routine and when you are, time can go by really fast. Before you know it your 70 or 80 years old and can’t do x anymore…
- Develop a relationship with time. We often think of relationships with family, friends and colleagues but we don’t think of the relationship of time in brutal reality…brutal reality are my words but what he was getting at…
- Back to the average American lifespan. In Jessie’s case he has 28 summers left (assuming he lives to the average – 78 years) and when in his 70s – his ‘relevant years’ as he describes shrink even more. He says that as he is also an extreme ultra distance runner so he doesn’t think he’ll be doing many 100 mile races in that time period.
- How does he want to spend those 28 summers? What does he want to accomplish in his remaining years in addition to those summers in life? Who does he want to spend his time with? How can he build his biggest Life Resume to really know who he is and how he can grow? Building his Life Resume is what makes him feel most alive, not the countless business and career accomplishments.
- You get in tune with your own mortality and he states this in the most positive way to take action now. Ex. Jessie’s parents are 88 years old living in Florida and he lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He saw them on average two times a year and for this example if they lived to 91 years old he would only see them six more times. He stated, “that’s unacceptable to me.” He changed his frequency in seeing his parents…that was not good enough for him. He made it a priority. Don’t put it off…
- “Think backwards and it creates insane urgency.” He considers it “motivating.” – wow, that sums it up pretty well…
Over the last six years I would say I am doing a better job of this and like anything else…practice, practice, practice. Don’t expect something without effort. Some things I ask myself:
- What can I do to be a better dad?
- What can I do to be a better brother, friend, coach, and colleague?
- Who is in my circle? Am I interacting with them enough and in the right way?
- What do I want to accomplish this year? next year?
- What experiences can I have with Morgan to live life to its fullest? When?
- What experiences do I want to have? When?
- What can I learn to be a better athlete? Who can I learn from?
- How can I share and educate others to live a healthy lifestyle? This gives me so much joy!
I am working on these and spent some considerable time this weekend pondering what’s ahead… I’m not waiting till tomorrow…
I know our mom and dad are looking down at us and hopefully see what an inspiration they were on our lives. My brother Brian changed his actions after our dad passed away by having the mindset of living his life in the present and whom I have bonded with incredibly since. Being nine years apart we had different worlds growing up. He is the smartest and nicest person I know and has the warmth and kindness from our mom.
After our dad passed away, I’m not sure what our mom would have done without my sister Jamie. They were together all the time and talk about bonds…it was a beautiful thing. Jamie has the same thoughtfulness from our mom and always tries to remain positive in trying times…just like our dad.
Together we are a pretty good team and back to the Jessie story to illustrate an example for our lives in taking action now. This coming week Brian is flying in from Erie, Pennsylvania. Jamie, Brian and I are driving to Boca Raton on Thursday to see Morgan and my niece, Grace (from Jamie), who both attend Florida Atlantic University. Grace has an event Friday evening we are attending as she is in her first semester of the Nursing program. We get to celebrate Morgan’s incredible Law School Admissions Test result! On Sunday we will be in Miami as I race the USA Duathlon Long Course National Championship. How cool is this having my family there? I will need every bit of their support to race my ass off!
I am a lucky guy…
– Add Health to Your Life
The featured photo are examples of me living my life now. Here they are in full with a few more.