My family and I were watching Olympic swimming and gymnastics last night. I was definitely impressed with the daring and speed that some of these athletes have in the water and flying over some gymnastics equipment, pulling moves that made me feel they were doing something truly impossible. I don’t know what all the moves they were doing but I did know one thing. It wasn’t easy. These young men and women obviously put in hundreds of hours of practice to be able to do what they are able to do, and they aren’t getting paid like some of the professional athletes who now perform in the Olympics these days.

What struck me though while watching this was the question. What had they given up to be there?

Just follow the story of one athlete, you’ll find that she gave up her first year at Stanford–delaying enrollment because COVID changed the schedule on her. Another gave up her senior prom, parties, friendships, all to represent herself and the USA for a chance to do what she wanted to do. I think we could go on and on through all the sacrifices that these athletes, their parents, their coaches, and all the other supportive people in their lives made to get them to the Olympics, and we only hear the stories of the ones who are medal contenders or champions.

Would you trade your first year to attend Stanford to swim in the Olympics only to miss the finals by 1 second and come home empty-handed? Of course, you wouldn’t. Especially if you knew that was going to be the outcome. Yes, we’d all trade it for a gold medal and our chance to be written in the history books. But medals aren’t a sure thing, there are no guarantees when it comes to the experiences we choose.

What’s exceptional about these athletes is that they know it’s not a sure thing, but they are going to try their absolute best and give up everything and anything to achieve the goal of standing on a podium and hearing their country’s anthem being played in the background. From the interviews we watch, that’s all that it seems they care about. They aren’t guaranteed to become the hot gold medalist that ends up on a Wheaties box; I’ve never heard that as being the goal for any of these people. What I have heard is a ton of respect and care given to the other athletes they’ve competed against when they’ve both won and lost. What I have observed is that these people are working at a higher level of attention and focus.

I want to perform at a higher level. I want to be the best Dan I can be. I want to be the best husband, the best father, the best friend, the best colleague, the best co-worker, the best writer that I could be. To do that, I also have had to and am still figuring what I need to give up to become the best version of myself. My goal isn’t to be better than anyone else. I do believe that I have God-given talents and intend to spend the rest of my life figuring how to use them at a world-class level.

Over the last few months, I’ve made a lot of changes in my life. It’s been both easy and difficult to navigate the forces of change and my desire to slip back into old habits and patterns. Easy because I’m inspired by my daily progress, and hard because some of my habits had been carefully nurtured for years–and are like giant oak trees in my yard, very hard to remove. So let’s start with that today. Let’s do a quick accounting of the things that I’ve decided to give up recently.

What I’ve given up to be a better ME.

  1. Staying up late–I used to think that I was so productive late at night. I wasn’t. My nights would start with me finishing up some work and then diving into videos, movies, and shows. I’d have a nightcap that was supposed to put me asleep, but then I’d get stuck doing something like online poker, reading some trash articles, random shopping, then I’d be “seasoning” some awesome new drama–3 episodes and 3 drinks later… I was overstimulated, hazy, and half-drunk, and I’d wake up late, grouchy, and already behind.
  2. Random TV/Videos–Ending my late nights effectively ended this as well. It’s so easy to open YouTube and, poof! I’m off in the matrix. Now, if I’m going to watch a show or video I plan ahead to watch it (like the Olympics) and make it an experience. Last night it was the three of us on the couch rooting loudly for the athletes–it was fun and I enjoyed myself. I also try to carefully curate what I do watch and schedule it specifically as downtime.
  3. News/Social Media/Howard Stern–This was hard. I can honestly say I have no idea what’s going on in Congress, with Kim Kardashian, or if we are on the brink of nuclear war. I know that if any of these things went critical, I’d find out in time. I’ve also decided that I’m going to give myself one day a week to check out the news, it’s Sunday. But, I don’t really care anymore, this last Sunday I didn’t even check any media/news. Now, I know I might be a little uninformed, but, ignorance is bliss, right? I feel better, and that’s all that matters. I’m not stressed or even thinking about what’s happening. That’s not to say I don’t know what’s going in cryptocurrency markets or with my mining operations, sure, I read some industry news in those areas. But I’m not locked on Twitter when I’m in the bathroom anymore. I’ve given up listening to Howard Stern–he was a great distraction in the car, but now I listen to audiobooks, the occasional favorite songs from my playlist, or I just have a conversation with the person or people in the car with me if I’m with someone.
  4. Getting Angry–I spent a lot of my life angry about one thing or another. I didn’t always know why, but I’ve had to spend a lot of time doing work unraveling the anger that was in my life. I was angry about a lot of things, being abandoned as a young child, global racism, my failures, not living up to my promises to myself and others. Yes, anger was something I used to cope with these things, mainly because I didn’t take the time to understand and educate my emotions so that I could understand them in a way that would help me. I still get angry now and then, I’m not cured! But, now I recognize more and more of the things that do bother or trigger me, and I try to change my frustration into fascination. When someone says something to me that triggers me, I look at them and say to myself, “How did you get to this point in your life?”, “What kind of person are you?”, “What experiences did you have that would cause you to do or say such a thing?”, “Why am I feeling this way about this interaction?” I try to let curiosity sneak itself into my perspective and take over slowly. Try this sometime when you feel the urge to just go ballistic on someone. Try to figure them out. This one change has already helped my relationships and my mental state. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect and I still slip up, but I’m learning to get better at channeling my anger into other things. (like writing!)

Let me make a point here. This is my list. This isn’t a suggestive list of what you should give up or try to give up. I’m just telling you exactly what I’m doing now. What I can tell you is that I’m making progress. My relationship with my family is better than ever. I spend more time with them, I’m more present and I’m seeing the fruits of these efforts come to life, I’m happier and healthier–I have more hope for the future than I’ve ever had. I don’t hate anyone or any group. I’m not wrapped over a barrel on any personal/social/political/financial issue and my conscience is clear. I do know that giving up the things I’ve listed has made me feel lighter and more alive. I’m on my way to becoming the best husband, father, friend, and person I can be. ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ

So, let me ask you the question you know I was going to end with. Are there things in your life that are holding you back that you need to give up so that you have time to get the things you really want?

Love is being sent to you all! Have a great day! Be the best.

Featured Photo by Karim Ben Van on Unsplash