Category: Motivation

Wins And Losses

It’s been an interesting week. One filled with highs and lows, ups and downs, good and bad. I’m going to steal the slogan from Lance Armstrong’s new group, WEDU and their podcast The Forward – “Always forward, never straight”. Life would be boring if it always went in a straight line. This week definitely had a few turns.

Fitness took a (mental) turn this week for sure in a couple of categories. I felt like I was making some progress and then my trainer introduced some new movements. I’m now so sore I can barely walk. That’s good in the sense that I’m clearly pushing hard. But it’s a bit discouraging because I thought I was past the crippling DOMS stage of working out. Clearly my improving strength isn’t as well-balanced as I thought.

And then there’s the issue of weight. I’ve been avoiding the scale because I know how I feel and what I look like. My diet’s been… well, not good and I know it. At the beginning of the week the trainer asked if I was finally going to be serious and track my intake. Ok, ok, ok, stop yelling at me. I was diligent and tracked everything all week. I bravely stepped on the scale this morning. And now I’m super confused.

Per the app, I’m way under on the number of calories I should be consuming. But per the scale, I’ve gained 2+ pounds. My muscle mass increased, but so did body fat and visceral fat percentages. Something’s not adding up. I know that my calorie intake has to be much higher than I’m tracking. Realistically the app doesn’t account for all the sauces, etc… because the physics doesn’t lie. You can’t be significantly under in calories and gain weight. Regardless, it was enough of a motivational spark to keep me tracking my intake and to start getting my diet in order. I don’t know what that diet will be yet, but I can’t go back to keto. I just can’t.

On the positive side of the ledger, a couple of good things happened. One of them was an unexpected surprise. I have a little YouTube channel that I post to from time to time. Almost no subscribers, and my silly little videos only get a handful of views. That’s ok because I enjoy making them and it’s mostly a learning experience at this point. But as I’ve mentioned before, there’s still a nagging feeling in the back of your head – why am I doing this if nobody watches? Well, out of the blue one of the older videos hit 10,000 views in just a few days. Very strange. That’s miniscule traffic in YouTube terms, massive for me. I’ll admit it’s nice to feel like someone is watching/reading what you create. It’s enough of a spark to motivate you to keep on being creative.

So that’s it. A real mixed bag of events for the week. The weather continues to be crap. I can’t get my sprinklers to work. Diet continues to be off the rails. But some exciting personal stuff happened and then I got a little creator spark/validation.

The path we take wobbles all around and certainly isn’t straight. But all that matters is that the path keeps moving forward.

P.S. In a fit of desperation, I’ve thrown away all food in the pantry and fridge. I’m now staring at empty shelves and unsure of what I should do now. Perhaps I was a bit hasty…

What’s Your Habit, Dude?

So, the other day I stumbled upon a YouTube channel. It’s a middle-aged guy who lost a hundred pounds and now competes in all kinds of running, cycling, and general fitness events. He’s articulate, funny, and doles out some pretty good, motivational advice. I’m not sure why, but I gravitate to those types of channels. Probably because in my head, any day now I’m going to go run an ultramarathon. Never mind that I’m struggling with 3 miles at the moment. The training is really going to kick in soon.

Anyway, in one of his videos he mentioned creating habits. He referenced a book that he says completely changed the way he thinks about this sort of thing. It’s called Atomic Habits by James Clear. Well, if it’s good enough for this guy it’s good enough for me. I jumped on to Amazon’s book site, found the book, and… it said I’d already downloaded it. I checked my Kindle and sure enough, there it was. I’d even read it. And I had absolutely zero memory of it. Clearly it didn’t make much of an impression on me.

But maybe I was taking too much cold medication that week? I decided to give it another go. Sure enough, something jumped out at me several chapters in. Something that further proved, once again, that Mrs. Troutdog is the smarter one in our marriage. She didn’t like my post from the other day, saying she hates when I talk negatively about myself. I agree that I tend to be very self-effacing when I write. Sometimes it’s for brilliant comedic effect. Sometimes it’s authentic voice. The truth is that I’m not much of a self-promoter. Besides, it’s hard to fail if you set the bar ridiculously low to begin with. Right?

So, what does this have to do with habits? One of the things that the author said about creating a habit is the importance of creating a positive affirmation. It’s a subtle thing, but one that makes a difference in how you view the habit you’re trying to start. Rather than saying, “I’m going to go for a run because I’d like to be considered a runner one day”, you need to tell yourself that you ARE a runner. It doesn’t matter that you can barely go three blocks… you ARE a runner and therefore you need to train. That subtle shift in mindset makes a huge difference in motivation to continue a habit.

I realized that this is exactly what I’ve been doing to myself, for years, and why it probably drives Mrs. Troutdog crazy. While a pure beginner may not know the difference, someone who’s participated in a sport or activity for a while can recognize the difference between an amateur and someone who’s actually good. For many of my activities I can tell when someone really knows what they’re doing. In my head, those are the people who can call themselves a cyclist, skier, runner, writer, etc… I’ve never viewed myself as one of those people. For anything. In my head I always see myself as a beginner. Not worthy of a higher rank.

I need to go for a run this morning because I’m a runner. That’s what I do. And runners need to train. Boom! Mind blown. It’s weird how such a small change in thinking, can influence your motivation to do something.

The other nugget that was in the book is about quantity vs. quality. I’ve always struggled with habits because when starting out, it’s hard. Your form is bad. You don’t have the coordination. Endurance and strength limits what you can do. You watch videos that tout “do this one exercise for 20 reps to make major changes!”. I can’t even to 10 reps, let alone 20. Guess I won’t be doing that one.

As the old saying goes, perfect is the enemy of good. Habits are formed by repetition, regardless of the quality of what you do. The author suggests that if you want to run every morning, start by getting up every day, lacing up your running shoes, and walk around the block. That’s it. Do just that for three weeks. Every single day. It makes no difference that all you did was go around the block. You’re creating a mental cue. Rewiring your brain to change what your morning routine is. It takes hundreds of repetitions to create a lasting habit. It doesn’t matter what your running form is, if you get better, how far you went, or how fast you go. What matters is a hundred times you reinforced that cue – get up, put your shoes on, and step out the door. It’s a habit.

I am a runner. I am a mountain biker. I am a skier. I am a motorcyclist. I am a fisherman. I am a photographer. I am a writer. Now please excuse me, I need to go train.

I Don’t Care About Weight

Last night Mrs Troutdog told me that she thinks I’m obsessed with my weight and is convinced I’m trying to get back to what I weighed in high school. Ouch. I probably got a little defensive at that, but there is some truth to what she said. Just not in the way she thinks. (Like most males, communication is not my strong point)

I don’t care what I weigh. Honest. What I do care about is body fat percentage and BMI. Healthy numbers are around the low 20’s for both categories. But nobody talks about those numbers. (Hey girl, that BMI is looking mighty fine. wink, wink) We tend to incorrectly use weight as a proxy for “health”. I want to get to a sustainable body fat/BMI level that’s considered to be just barely in the fitness category. Having achieved it before, I know what number on the scale corresponds to a healthy body fat percentage for my body frame and current muscle mass. So therefore, it’s easiest when talking about goals to simply say that I’m trying to get to a certain weight.

If I could put on 20 pounds of muscle, the number on the scale would be much higher when I reached my body fat/BMI goal (but very unrealistic without the aid of HGH, T, and possibly steroids). I don’t care what the number on the scale is – I’d be perfectly happy to walk around at 220 pounds as long as my body fat was 18%. Is there some vanity associated with this? Sure. I’m human. Who doesn’t want to look great strolling down the beach? But at my age that’s a much, much smaller motivation than it was when I was younger. What I do care about is health and longevity. And I’m more and more scared about it.

At my hospital the overwhelming majority of the people I see are there as a result of weight and a lack of strength and balance. People in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s who can’t lift themselves off the toilet. Folks who can’t wipe themselves, trim their toenails, or tie shoelaces due to a lack of flexibility and obesity. They are so deconditioned and weak that navigating steps, reaching for something in the cupboard, or bending down to pick something up is a dangerous minefield. They fall and break hips or suffer brain bleeds when their head hits the floor. And when that happens, more often than not it’s the beginning of the end. They get placed in a rehab facility, then a skilled nursing home. And within six months to a year… they’re done.

I don’t want that. I want to be active and participating in sports as long as I can. I don’t want someone to have to tie my shoes for me when I’m 80. And I’m scared. This is the first year that I really noticed my balance is diminishing. Strength is less than it was. I became aerobically deconditioned incredibly fast during these last two years of covid-induced inactivity. And yes, the weight poured on faster than it ever has. My body fat percentage increased 6% and my BMI ballooned into the overweight category. That’s why I seem obsessed with weight at the moment.

I am determined to not let sloth get the better of me. I desperately need to develop health habits that are sustainable. But the truth of aging is that you are going to decline no matter what. You have to push harder at my age, just to maintain what you have, than you did in your twenties. The longer you wait to make a change, the harder it’s going to be. Personally, I’ve reached that tipping point of concern. All joking about giving up and just wearing velour tracksuits aside… I’m genuinely worried. It’s time to right this ship before it’s really too late.

I’ve hired personal trainer to help build back strength and mobility. I started running again. And I’m desperately trying to find an eating plan that is sustainable. Sorry to disappoint all the Keto fanatics, but zero carb full time isn’t it. Life is too short to banish tacos for the rest of my life. And by taco, I mean a real taco. Don’t give me one of those weird zero carb tortillas and fake cauliflower-based rice. I don’t know what the right eating plan is yet, but we’re working on it. None of this is easy. I don’t particularly enjoy it. But I want to be mountain biking into my 70’s and there’s only one way to achieve that.

What I care about are my blood pressure, resting heart rate, lactate threshold, A1C, strength, mobility, body fat percentage, and BMI.

I don’t care what I weigh.



	

I’m Sick Of Diet And Food

I’m frustrated. I’m depressed. I’m angry. I’m absolutely sick and tired of thinking about diet and food. Here’s why…

In the last 7 days my activities have been as follows:

  • 3.7 mile run
  • Initial meeting with personal trainer, mobility, and strength assessment
  • A day of alpine skiing, 13 runs, 9.7 miles
  • A day of cross-country skate skiing, hills, 4.2 miles
  • Two 13-hour workdays, on my feet, walking an ungodly number of steps

My diet during this time:

  • Only two meals a day
  • One meal a day on the workdays
  • Out to dinner with friends but had only a salad
  • Had a burger one night but did salad instead of fries
  • Three total beers during the week
  • My only snacks were almonds and parmesan crips

Not bad, right? I jumped on the scale this morning and… I gained a pound and a half. Fuck!

It’s so demoralizing. Don’t get me wrong, I know exactly why. The meals were pretty high calorie. I ate a LOT of the snacks. Salad is not low calorie when you add gobs of blue cheese dressing. Beer is 200+ calories each. I know I ate too many calories. But I thought for sure that amount of activity I did would at least keep me at break-even. It’s a horrible feeling to be thinking about calories non-stop, to worry all week about getting enough activity in – and still gain weight. I’m tired of thinking about and dwelling over the number on the scale. It’s enough to want to just give up and eat whatever the hell I want. I’m getting old. It’s not like I’m trying to be on the cover of Vogue magazine or become a competitive cyclist. Why should I care anymore?

I’m so sick of thinking and stressing over food. I’m tired of keto. I want to be able to have a beer from time to time. Or a burger. Not every day, but once in a while without feeling guilty about it. I want to be active and exercise so I feel good about my long-term health. I want to maintain my balance and mobility so that I’m not afraid to stand on a stepstool when I’m in my 70’s. But constant worrying about exercise in terms of “did I burn enough calories today?”, is making it a chore that I have to do – not something I want to do.

Having to maintain a diet is not enjoyable. Having to move to the XL side of the clothing rack and skipping fun water activities with friends because you’re embarrassed at how you look isn’t fun either. Both things suck. I keep telling myself, a bit of short-term pain to get to someplace I’m comfortable is worth the effort. Then I can work on a maintenance level of calories rather than a constant deficit. But the daily grind and internal analysis just gets old.

At my age it’s clear that the only way to lose weight is extremely strict calorie restriction. There are no “cheat meals” allowed. I need to track every bit of food I consume. I can ramp up my activity a bit more, but not enough to compensate for the calories I ate this week. Every single thing I put in my mouth has to be weighed, measured, and counted against the daily and weekly calorie budget. I know this. And it pisses me off. Like the national debt clock, I need a continually running calorie clock so I can make appropriate decisions about food intake. I need to stop ruining reasonable food choices by tripling the portion sizes.

I know myself. I struggle with choice. When forced to choose, I often make bad decisions. I’m the type of person that needs to eat the same thing every day. The same breakfast, the same snacks, the same dinner. A known set of calories that doesn’t waver. And once in a while when out with friends, have a burger. But eat only half. I don’t need to consume the entire two pounds of burger, bun, and condiments. Eat enough to satisfy the taste craving and be done. And yes, I can up the activity intensity a bit. I know I’m capable of more than I actually do.

I know what the answer is. I know how this week happened. I know what to do. I just needed to vent a bit. To have a bit of a pity party. Now I need to pick myself up off the floor, dust myself off, and get back after it. I will keep the XXL velour track suit with the elastic waistband and the “all you can eat” buffet at bay.

Say No To The Sequel

Honest question – has there ever been a movie sequel that was better than the original? I’ve been wracking my limited brain cells and can’t think of a single one. There’s certainly a few that at least equaled the original, but you wouldn’t say they were “better”… Godfather part II, Mad Max part II, Kill Bill Volume II, The Empire Strikes Back, Toy Story 2, Aliens. There’s something about those original films that made them unique. Different film styles or special effects we hadn’t seen before. A screenplay with plot twists nobody had thought of before. Something that made you walk out of the theater and say, wow!

Naturally every movie studio and actor on the planet wants to cash in on the success of a blockbuster film, so they immediately begin planning the sequel. But at that point it’s no longer new. While it may be a great continuation of the story and characters, sequels just don’t have the wow factor the original had. Quite often it feels like the approach is, “well we made a truckload of money on the first one. if we just quadruple the special effects budget for the next one, we’ll really wow ’em!” Those films tend to feel like they filmed a bunch of cool special effects first and then tried to write a story to match the effects.

Which brings me to Christmas Eve. We’d planned on going out to an actual movie, but that fell apart for various reasons. No problem, we implemented plan B. Binge watching the Matrix trilogy, capped off by seeing the new Matrix release (Resurrections). With new movie releases being streamed immediately at home, will we ever go to a theater again? Anyway, on with the hours of Matrix immersion.

The first Matrix is one of those mind blowing films that had me walking out of the theater saying “wow”. How did someone come up with concept? Truely unique. The second one was pretty good, but started drifting towards the “hey, look at our effects budget!” problem. The third, while entertaining felt a bit like, “how are we going to wrap this up?”

I knew nothing about the fourth one, other than I’d seen a few comments on social media that it wasn’t very impressive. Oh well, we were hours invested in this movie binge. Too late to pull out now. We refreshed our drinks, snacks, and settled (back) into the couch and pressed play.

Within the first ten minutes, both Mrs Troutdog and I were looking at each other and asking, what is this? We made it through about 30ish minutes and turned it off. It was an incomprehensible mess. Dialog you couldn’t follow. Redos of story lines from the first Matrix that made no sense. Maybe they tied it all together towards the end, but the first 30 minutes was so bad I’ll never justify spending the time to find out. Had it been in a theater I probably would have walked out (which I’ve never done before). A truly awful film.

The lesson of Matrix 4 should be applied to life as we drift towards the last days of 2021. Recreating the magic of an original experience in a sequel is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do and more often than not ends in disappointment. The experiences of the past should remain in the past.

Do not attempt to re-create, fix, analyze, or otherwise dwell on the past. It’s the past. Any attempts to replicate or repair something from the past will fail. Don’t be that sad guy or gal trying to re-live high school or college glory. Mistakes made or relationships that dwindled… let ’em go. It’s the past.

Like a classic movie, it’s ok to look back fondly at it and remember how you felt when you first saw it. Just remember they’re in the rear-view mirror. Glance at the past from time to time to have a sense of where you came from, but you need to spend your time looking forward. Sequels are never as good as the original. Make yourself a new, original movie.

The In-Between Doldrums

doldrums [ˈdōldrəmz, ˈdäldrəmz]
NOUN
(the doldrums) a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression.

While we’re on the topic of definitions, here’s another one that’s often misunderstood/misused:
Inertia
a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

My default state of inertia can best be described as… sloth. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m usually a pretty active guy. Once I start doing stuff, that feeds on itself and the next thing I know there isn’t enough time in the week to do everything I want. Once enough force is applied and I get going, my inertia is a healthy level of continuous movement.

The problem is that if anything derails that inertia, I default back to sloth mode. This is where I introduce you to the doldrums. In my part of the world, this happens twice a year. Right now, we’re in the winter doldrums. Fall is over. It’s cold. It’s rained enough that the trails are a muddy, torn up mess. You can’t run on ’em or mountain bike. Did I mention the cold? This makes a motorcycle ride an extremely unpleasant experience. There’s no snow yet, so my standard winter activities haven’t started yet. Finding outdoor activities this time of year, while not impossible, are exponentially harder.

Day by day my motivation and inertia wanes. Adding to that, it’s the holidays which means food. There’s just food everywhere. At the hospital, well-meaning families of patients are constantly bringing cookies, cakes, and candy. The staff break room is a never-ending cornucopia of calories.

It doesn’t take many days of this, and I get into a bit of a funk. I didn’t go completely stationary… I managed to play golf a few times and did a couple of home repairs. But my default state the last few weeks has been couch-bound. And the more I sit the more my inertia starts resetting to sloth mode. It gets harder and harder to want to get up and do anything.

It needs to snow soon so I can resume my skiing activities. Otherwise, I might bust out the video games that have been in a closet for the last five or so years. If that happens, you probably won’t hear from me until spring. Unfortunately, what happens in spring? Doldrums part deux. The snow melts and we have a long period known as “the mud season”. You can see that this is a dangerous cycle.

Overcoming the moment of inertia – the force required to overpower the current mass and velocity of an object can be a complicated mathematical formula. The longer I stay still the greater the mass and friction coefficients become, and the required force becomes exponentially greater.

As Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to talk of many things: of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings.’ The time has come to apply some force and bust out of the funk of the doldrums.

With Discipline Comes Friction

I read a short article this morning about Tom Brady and other various GOAT contenders that made a great point. Brady said that he’s not the most gifted athlete on the field… just the most disciplined. Someone told a story about him playing in a celebrity golf tournament in early spring. He was spotted running wind sprints in the parking lot before the tourney. When asked what the hell he was doing, his reply was “trying to win a super bowl”.

That attitude is what 90% of the population lacks. There isn’t a person on this planet that doesn’t know what needs to be done to lose weight and/or get in shape. We simply lack the discipline to do it. It’s hard. When everyone else at the table is having a cocktail, it’s hard to ask for iced tea. It’s hard to order just a salad without that creamy dressing when everyone else is ordering burgers and pasta. When you’re sore and everything hurts from yesterday’s workout, it’s hard to go back to the gym. That’s the friction that bombards us daily.

Friction is the enemy of progress. Friction is why my weight ballooned up. I couldn’t say no. Working out sucks when you can no longer do a pull up or run a mile, so why bother? I know I could change it, but it’s going to take a long time. It’s hard to picture six, eight, or ten weeks out before being able to get that pull up. You picture the discipline it will take to get the workout in every day for all that time… and it just seems like too much. And suddenly you’ve skipped a day. and then three. And we’re right back where we started. I already blew my diet today, so I may as well order pizza and start again tomorrow. I’ve been starting again tomorrow since August. Friction is a killer.

Tom Brady’s throwing coach Tom House has observed, “What separates these elite athletes, the Hall of Famers, is that they try to get better every day not by 20 percent but just 1 percent.”

“When you’re disciplined, with it also comes friction, because you’re not just doing what everyone else is doing. But if you’re willing to pile enough of those 1 percents together over 20 years, they can turn into seven super bowl rings”.

We’re on day five of the great reset. Down four pounds. Solidly in ketosis. Last night provided some serious friction. I had an event that I’d scheduled way before the reset that was all about good (non diet) food, wine, and desert. Skipping wasn’t an option. Normally this would derail me completely, but I’m determined this go-around to find a sustainable way forward. I worked out hard prior to dinner. I limited my calories pretty significantly during the day. And then I enjoyed the evening. I ate the food (and desert) and drank the wine. I fully expected to pay for this setback.

This morning I did not want to step on the scale or check my ketones. I guessed I’d be plus a pound and be knocked out of ketosis. But… ignoring reality is what got me here in the first place. I closed my eyes and stepped on the scale. And… down another pound! I checked my ketones and low and behold, still in ketosis! I’m not sure how that happened, but I’ll take the win.

Is it a 20% win? Nope. More like a 0.25% win. But it’s progress. It’s motivating. Ten weeks of work to get that pull up feels slightly closer. Definitely not skipping the workout today. Somebody needs to figure out how to bottle that feeling. Because that feeling, that glimmer of hope is what makes a diet and exercise plan successful. It’s not eating a magic combination of foods or buying the fancy piece of exercise equipment or gym membership. It’s the continued, small incremental wins against friction that make or break your march towards the goal.

I’m not on the downhill slope yet. In two weeks we have Thanksgiving. Travel. Family. Food. Lots and lots of food and drink for multiple days. I’m worried. I’ve clawed out some tiny improvements… I don’t want to go backwards. The next two weeks will be a hard core push to keep the discipline and make gains as a hedge against T-day.

Friction is a cold hearted bitch.

The Secret Is To Be Still

I’ve made a decision to play more golf. As I’ve mentioned before, golf has been the one sport I simply can’t seem to get comfortable with. So, I’m going to make the commitment and put in the effort to become average. While becoming “average” doesn’t seem like much of a goal, it is when you’re struggling to get past awful. I’m not looking to shoot par, or join the senior tour. My desire is to be able to be paired up with any group and feel comfortable that I’m not going to embarrass myself.

So with this new plan to get better at golf, I made a little resolution to challenge myself and play golf three days in a row. What’s the big deal with that? Well, it meant going out as a single and probably being placed with a group of strangers. No only does that challenge my awkward social skills, it means embarrassing myself in front of strangers with my lack of golf skills. For you extroverts maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal. For us introverts, trust me it is.

Day one and I forced myself to go to the course. I thought about just going to the driving range, but made myself go into the pro shop and say the dreaded words… “do you have any slots open for a single?” Oh, happy days – not only did they have room, the course wasn’t busy and I was able to go out by myself! It worked out perfectly. I forced myself to overcome social anxiety and got to relax and play without anyone watching. It was a very enjoyable experience and I actually played ok. Probably because I wasn’t in my head and simply enjoyed the course.

Day two and I was much less anxious. I drove to the course and… the parking lot was packed. I nearly turned around and left. But to my credit, I forced myself to head to the pro shop and say the magic words. There wasn’t going to be any solo golf this time. I was paired with a couple of young guys. They were laughing and joking around. The pro clearly knew them. He said, “I know these two look like knuckleheads, but they’re good guys”.

As we went out to the first tee, they certainly didn’t look like golfers. Late twenties, early thirties maybe. Both looked like ratty skater dudes. Flat billed ball caps. T-shirts. Baggy shorts. Lots of tattoos. I thought to myself that they couldn’t be very serious about golf, so at least I won’t be too embarrassed. As we were waiting to tee off I noticed they were both wearing flip-flops. How committed a player could you be in flip-flops? The group in front of us moved on to the green so I stepped up to tee off. I actually managed to hit a decent shot. Not terribly far but dead center in the fairway. One of the guys yells “Steady Eddy, that what I want to see all day!” I was quite pleased with myself.

Now this first hole was a par 4, slight dog leg to the right, 300 some odd yards. I’m waiting for my two partners to tee off, but they’re just chatting away. I’m waiting. And waiting. Finally the group ahead clears the green. Skater guy number one steps up in his flip-flops and crushes a massive drive that lands on the green. Skater guy number two steps up in his flip-flops and also crushes his drive, landing just a few feet short of the green. I was speechless. Whatever stereotype I had of what a golfer looks like was blown away. I’ve never seen, in person, someone hit a golf ball like that. It’s one thing to see a massive drive from the pros on TV. But you have no appreciation for how far 300+ yards is until you see it in person. And these freaking guys did it in flip-flops. Why am I so obsessed over the footwear? Because I just bought a pair of fancy new golf shoes. Nothing like feeling foolish standing there in my shiny, brand new, fancy shoes while these guys crush it looking like they’re on their way to a beach party.

I did ok on the second hole, and then the nerves of playing with these guys got to me and the wheels came off. They were super nice and very supportive. I realized they would normally play back on the pro tees, but were playing up on the closer tees for me. They gave plenty of encouragement, but it was clear I was holding them back from their normal pace of play. Eventually they asked if I would mind if they jumped ahead a hole to play a bit faster. Of course I didn’t mind as it worked out well for me and them.

Before they left we shook hands and said the standard pleasantries. But one of the skater dudes did leave me with a bit of advice. He was quiet for a bit and then said, “You know, I think most problems with the golf swing can be fixed by just being more still”. And off they went.

I don’t know if that’s good golf advice or not… but it certainly felt right. It was an interesting experience. A wise, tatted up skater dude who crushes 300 yard drives in flip-flops. The next day I got rained out, so we’ll have to wait to see what the next round brings and if stillness is the secret. One thing is certain. I’m clearly trying too hard. Maybe I’ll put the new shoes on eBay.

Performance Anxiety

I have performance anxiety. Wait, that sounded bad. Not that kind of performance anxiety… I mean with sports. I could never be an Olympian or compete in some sort of professional sport. Aside from having to be talented, coordinated, and possessing athletic skill, those folks tend not to choke when it matters. I don’t have that ability.

Take golf for example. Golf seems to be my nemesis for some reason. I have a weird golf dyslexia that I can’t seem to get past. Despite a frightening amount of money spent on the driving range, lessons, and clubs, I still just don’t get it. I have zero confidence that when I step up to the tee, I’ll be able to hit the ball. As a result I hate the first hole. As in, I actually get butterflies in my stomach walking up to tee off. It makes no difference if I’ve warmed up on the range or not. All I can think of in my head is “don’t screw up, don’t screw up”. It happened just the other day. Mrs Troutdog and I were playing and got partnered with a 12 year old kid. He hit a beautiful drive that went a country mile. I stepped up and… chunked it about 10 feet. I set up to hit another… and chunked it about 10 feet. Sigh.

I know that half the problem is that I’ve gotten into my own head over this. I know I’m creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by obsessing over it. I just don’t know how to get past it. Mrs Troutdog laughs at me and says I shouldn’t care. We’re just out to have fun, it’s not like we’re trying to turn pro or impress anyone. She’s right. But I hate being bad at things, especially in front of strangers.

Maybe it’s a guy thing? I’m ok being bad when I’m a complete beginner. I’ve never been waterskiing. I would be really bad at it initially and that would be expected. But at some point you want to move up to being at least average. Especially if you’ve purchased all the expensive gear. Nobody wants to be a poser. Maybe that’s where my issues started? When I was young I did a lot of surfing. In the surfing tribe it was critical to fit in (or maybe it was just a teenage thing). You could always spot a poser. They’d have brand new expensive wetsuits and boards, yet were complete kooks in the water. As kids are prone to do, we mercilessly made fun of those guys.

That desire to fit in with the tribe as a kid probably left an indelible imprint that’s lingered into middle age. I desperately don’t want to be that guy who has all the expensive gear but not be able to walk the walk. Reminds me of a great old movie, “Man’s Favorite Sport?” staring Rock Hudson. The main character is a famous fishing guide who’s written books on the subject. Turns out he’s never actually been fishing. His boss enters him in a fishing contest and hilarity ensues.

With things like skiing and mountain biking, I’m comfortably average. I can reasonably ride most any terrain and know exactly what my fitness and skill limitations are. Even if I don’t know you, I’d happily go for a ride if you ask and be confident that I won’t embarrass myself. Ask me to play golf and I’ll spend twenty minutes making excuses. I hurt my back. Haven’t played since last year. I used to play years ago, but am just now taking it up again. Anything to cover for the inevitable flubbing on the first tee.

It’s silly, isn’t it? I’m a grown-ass man. Am I really so vain at this point in my life that I’d care about what you think of my golf ability? Apparently so. And I hate myself for even caring about it. I should strive to be Rodney Dangerfield’s Al Czervik character in the movie Caddyshack. Loud, flamboyant, every golf gadget available, yet was hopeless at golf. He didn’t care what anyone thought because he was having fun.

Maybe that’s the ticket to busting through this weird anxiety I have? A form of de-sensitivity training. Perhaps I should go buy the most outrageous plaid golf pants I can find and wear an obnoxious Hawaiian shirt. Add some sort of ridiculous hat, tee up a bright pink ball on a naked lady tee and let’r rip. Maybe by going over the top and pretending I really don’t care what you think, I’ll convince myself that people actually really don’t care if I can hit the ball or not. Maybe. I’m just not sure Mrs Troutdog will still play golf with me dressed like that.

Discipline Equals Freedom

If you’re not familiar with Jocko Willink, he’s worth following. He’s a very frightening former navy seal commander who’s written a number of books, has a very popular podcast, and famously posts a picture of his watch on Instagram at 0430 every morning as he starts his daily workout. His mantra is discipline equals freedom. The more disciplined you are at getting your shit done, the more freedom you’ll have at the end of day. Admiral William H McRaven gave a very popular speech saying something similar – “Want to change world? Start by making your bed”. Life coach Jordon Peterson says to clean up your life, start by cleaning your room. They’re all advocating for some derivative of adding structure to your life.

Exactly seven months ago we made the decision to begin divesting from work and starting the move towards retirement. And exactly seven months ago I wrote a post lamenting that I needed more structure in my life. And how has that gone? Well, I, uhm, errr, ahem… haven’t done anything different. I wake up every day with exactly zero plan for the day. Of course there’s always the random appointment you need to keep, or a trip that was set up, or a social get-together. But my plan for the week is never anything more than a vague thought in the back of my head. I know it’s going to get hot later in the week so I’ll mountain bike Monday and Tuesday. I should probably mow the lawn before the weekend. It looks like Wednesday is going to be a powder day, so I’ll go cross country skiing today. We’re out of salad dressing, so maybe I’ll go to the store on the way home. Or maybe tomorrow. That’s it. That’s the sum total of my structure and planning, week in and week out.

It’s pretty hard to complain about that. I truly have a blessed life. It feels like I’ve been pretty damn busy the last seven months. I certainly haven’t had any shortage of things to fill my days. I think it’s clear I won’t be one of those guys who retires and then has no idea what to do with himself every day. But what have I actually done? I’m not actually sure what I’ve been doing all this time. There’s been some focus around the new ginormous motorcycle, but the rest of my time has been a bit of a blur. I know I’ve kept myself occupied, but doing what?

I had grand visions of making gourmet meals most nights and being on top of all the shopping and various household errands. There’s a number of household repair and yard maintenance things that need to be done. Getting back in the swing of a regular workout routine was high on the list of things to do. Being more focused on hobbies was also something I wrote about seven months ago. None of that has happened.

With a complete lack of structure, I’ve drifted along with whatever random thought came into my head on any given day. And like a spoiled child, most of my thoughts have been about playing and not necessarily taking care of business first. While it seems idyllic, I think the edges are starting to fray a bit. My weight has gone out of control without any sense of routine. Free feeding is not a recipe for success. The less I take care of business (home repair, cooking, yard work, etc…) the harder it is to be motivated to do those things. It’s hard to think about long term plans, like travel for Mrs Troutdog and I or even the next trip on the ginormous motorcycle when I don’t even have a plan for tomorrow. Even my copious playtime is starting to simply repeat the same things over and over. What happened to rediscovering some of my other hobbies that have been back-shelved for a while?

This is an incredibly fortunate and first world problem to have. But nonetheless, one I suspect I need to sort out before too long. As Jack Torrance said in The Shining, “all play and no work makes Jack a dull boy”. Ok, maybe that wasn’t exactly what he wrote but you get the gist. I still don’t see myself restarting a bullet journal or getting up at 0430 each day. But adding some level of structure to my week is looking more and more important. Maybe it’s just committing tasks to the calendar at the beginning of each week? Wait, that’s sort of the bullet journal isn’t it? Sigh… I don’t know. It’s terribly hard to become disciplined if that hasn’t been your nature. Maybe I’ll invent a new planning/tracking/goal setting methodology for newly retired folks. Become a retirement life-coach. This blog has been searching for a focus ever since I started writing it, maybe that’s what it should be? Can I practice what I’d preach? Hmm. Check back in six months and see if my new best selling “Life goals for retirement” book is underway. Meanwhile, I’m going mountain biking today. I’ll look at the calendar later. I promise.