This Sunday is Father’s Day.

It’ll be the first one without my dad.

I’m not sure how it’s going to go, to be honest. It won’t be the same without him here.

I’ve actually been thinking about him quite a bit lately. I keep seeing people who remind me of him. See, we moved into a new building where I work and they’ve been doing a lot of external renovation and now they’re onto the landscaping, so there are guys all over the place who look like my dad. You know the look.

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My dad worked outside as far back as I can remember. He worked for the city and took care of the parks and public lands. He usually wore a baseball cap and a sleeveless shirt, filthy by the end of the work day. He’d wear shorts and boots or his New Balance cross trainers. And he was always tan. You probably see guys like my dad on your way to work or on your drive home. Not afraid to get dirty. Maybe sucking on a cigarette.

He was a hard worker, my dad. He took pride in what he did, as he should have. He was good at it. “If you’re gonna do it, you might as well do it right the first time,” he’d say. He abhorred the bureaucracy that came with being a city worker, but he always fought for what was right. Whether it was getting financing for the parks, or taking care of his employees, he did all he could to make sure the people he served got what they deserved. Whether it was work or family, everybody else came first. I’ve always admired that about him.

He knew his limitations, too, I think. He wasn’t highly educated, but he always knew what he was talking about. He didn’t read much and writing wasn’t his forte, but he could get the job done. I remember him showing me letters he’d written for something at work a few times, not asking for my approval, but I could tell he was looking for it. Just to make sure it was as good as he thought it was, ya know? Even though writing those letters wasn’t his strong suit, he did it anyway and he did to the best of his ability.

He did everything that way.

Whether as an employee or a boss, a son or a brother or an uncle, a mentor or a coach, a friend or a teammate, a husband or a grandfather or…

A dad.

There is no doubt in my mind that my dad gave it everything he had. He gave his best in every capacity. He wasn’t perfect. He was no saint, that’s for damn sure. But, like a good coach, he got the best out of what he had.

That’s what I’m missing about my dad today.

And one day, I hope my kids will be able to say the same about me.

You left a good legacy, dad.

Love you.

Happy Father’s Day.

dad christmas

Coach.

Coach.

Red Huffy and High Socks.

Red Huffy and High Socks.

Dad looks cool. I look like...I'm wearing sweatpants. #cubscouts

Dad looks cool. I look like…I’m wearing sweatpants. #cubscouts

Remember a few weeks ago when I ran my first 5k in like four years?

That was awesome.

And I need to do it again.

The past week has been a struggle for me, to be honest. We went on vacation last Friday through Sunday and I still haven’t really gotten back on track. I’d say my eating habits have been about 60-70% of where they should be and my exercising has been pitiful. That said, I need to remember one of my favorite mottos:

PROGRESS, not PERFECTION.

That’s the hard thing about this, right? Well, it is for me. Every “slip up” takes its toll on my psyche. I mean, I went to frickin’ McDonald’s the other day for lunch. WHAT WAS I THINKING?? I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking, “I want a frickin’ cheeseburger and some french fries.” So, that’s what I got.

After the deed was done, I had a few choices. I could hate myself and drown my sorrows in…well, ice cream or cheese curds or something. Or, I could own the bad choice, regret it, and then move forward and make a better decision. That’s what I need to do the rest of this week. Each of those little decisions add up. Eat a piece of fruit instead of a cookie. Eat some almonds instead of a bag of chips. Go for a run instead of…not going for a run. Even doing an intense 15-minute workout at home will take me closer to where I want to be.

It’s hard to remember that, though, when you’re tired and annoyed.

Which is why I’m signing up for the Evansville 4th of July Run/Walk 5k tonight.

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That gives me two and a half weeks to train hard and to have fun and feel good doing it. I’d love to beat the time of my last race, but I’m mostly looking forward to being there with my friends Andrew and Sarah and Carolyn. My last race was something I needed to do for myself so it was nice to do it on my own (though, now that I think about it, I got to see Carolyn and her husband Mitchell after the finish of that one, too!), but I’m looking forward to sharing this experience with my friends.

So, while things haven’t been horrible in the last week, I know I could have done better. And I will do better the rest of the week.

And now I have a race to look forward to.

Can’t wait!

What’s helps you get back on track after you slip up?

Yesterday my friend Ryan sent me this text:

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He was on the verge of unfriending me in real life because I hadn’t yet seen Mad Max: Fury Road.

Well, last night I saw it and…holy crap.

First of all, it’s a gorgeous piece of art. It’s not for everyone, for sure, but I spent most of the time in the theater thinking, “How did they do that??” A solid story, interesting characters, amazing scenery and…freaking car chases. Except that doesn’t do justice to what actually happened for two hours. I texted my brother-in-law afterwards and said, “I wish I lived near a desert so I could drive recklessly through it!”

The reason Ryan wanted me to see it so badly, though, was because of Imperator Furiosa.

Oh, Furiosa.

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We don’t know much about Furiosa, but we do know that she is strong, smart and compassionate. Her mission, unbeknownst to the evil Immortan Joe, is to transport his captive wives to freedom, which she believes will find them at The Green, the place she was born. The story follows this perilous journey, filled with carnage and careful character development.

What struck me, though, as I’m sure it did nearly every amputee who’s seen it, is exactly what my friend Ryan was hoping I’d notice:

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Furiosa’s difference was not a plot point.

In fact, they never addressed her arm throughout the entirety of the movie.

Not once.

Not once while she was driving. Or fighting. Or jumping between vehicles. Or loading weapons. Or shooting said weapons.

And they could have.

We don’t know why she has one hand. We don’t know if she was born that way or if she lost it somehow. We don’t know how her steam punk prosthetic works or where she got it, though we know she doesn’t need it to kick someone’s ass.

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All we know is that she has one hand and…it doesn’t matter.

I’ve actually read that she and George Miller actually do know the back story and, according to them, it’s amazing. So, maybe one day we’ll find out and that’ll be awesome.

But for now, I’m happy to watch a movie that incorporates characters with many differences and doesn’t use them as a device, but rather, allows the people with them to be just that…people.

More broadly, in Mad Max: Fury Road we see that difference doesn’t make a person good or bad. We see characters with differences who are evil and others who are heroes. And even others who just are. I could be off here, but I feel like that’s a rarity in the movies these days. I appreciate the efforts the filmmakers put forth to incorporate actors with differences and not make a big deal about it.

Some have complained that they cast Charlize Theron in the Furiosa role rather than an actual amputee. I understand the sentiment, but it doesn’t bother me. For one, they spent $150 million dollars on the movie, so it makes sense they’d want a well-known actress in the lead role. Second, she’s an amazing actress. My opinion is, whatever the arena, no amputee should expect or want to get the role/job/roster spot/etc. simply because they’re an amputee. While we should never be discounted because of our difference, I also think the best person for the job should get it. In this case, Theron got it and she deserves any award she gets for her performance.

Ultimately, if you can handle intense, violent action movies that feature limb-different heroines, Mad Max: Fury Road is for you.

Did you see the movie? What did you think?

Last night I ran my first 5k in over four years.

The lady in front of me was the focal point, thus the blurriness. Still like this shot.

The lady in front of me was the focal point, thus the blurriness. Still like this shot.

It felt amazing and I surpassed my own expectations! My modest goal was simply to finish (I’m actually still in the midst of my Couch-to-5k training), but I was confident I could do so in under 45 minutes. I felt good pretty much the whole race and toward the end I thought to myself, “I think I can finish this thing under 40 if I push!” So…I pushed.

As I hit the home-stretch and heard the cheering and the announcer say, “Here comes Ryan…Hock!” Then I saw the big digital clock, which showed 39:56. I yelled “CRAP!” as I sprinted to the finish line, passing it at 40:01. Spent and doubled-over, I went to stop my RunKeeper app and noticed that it said 39:52! Oh, yeah! I had forgotten that we started in waves, so I actually finished earlier than that! 39:09 officially, nearly 6 minutes better than my goal!

Running to the finish line!

Running to the finish line!

Back in February I wrote a post about trying to get healthy again and was doing ok, but got consistently disciplined at the beginning of April. In fact, since April 8th, I’m down 17 pounds.

How?

Well, the simple answer is that I’ve been eating much better, tracking what I eat every day, and working out regularly. I also received consistent encouragement from a group of online friends (shoutout to my #fitbyfirst peeps!) and IRL friends. Groundbreaking, right??

So, what made the difference this time?

I believe signing-up for this 5k played a huge role.

While I realize that ultimately I could choose to not run it and just be out $30, that’s not how it worked for me. I knew that if I wanted to run it and finish it, I’d have to eat well and train consistently.

And I did. Because running a 5k is really good for you.

First, running a 5k is doable for anybody. It’s 3.1 miles, so even if you just walked it, you could probably finish it in an hour. With a couple months of consistent training, you could run/walk it, no problem. In fact, I ran my first 5k back in 2009 and documented the whole journey here. It’s pretty hilarious.

Second, it gives you a goal to work toward. This was huge for me. It forced me to put my training sessions on the calendar and to go out and run, even when I didn’t feel like it. Each session got me closer to my goal – and continues to! And now that I have this one in the books, I’m excited to improve my time at the next race! I’m self-aware enough to know I’m not going to win the dang thing, but that’s not the point. My only competition at this point is with myself. I’m pushing myself to get a little better, a little faster every time out. I think the 5k is a perfect distance for this, especially for anybody who is working themselves back into shape.

To give some perspective, the bottom left was from December. The top left, from EASTER.

To give some perspective, the bottom left was from December. The top left, from EASTER.

Third, running a race and super fun! Seriously, you guys. Race day is a blast. Actually, for me it starts the day before with packet pick-up. Getting that new race shirt and the other goodies! Then, just like my friend Anthony, I like to have “the perfect setup.” I love setting my gear out the night before, fresh and clean. Pinning my bib to my new race shirt and setting my music playlist for the run. Getting to the race grounds is always a little adventurous and it’s a blast to be with hundreds, even thousands of people all with the same goal…get to the finish line! And have as much fun as you can while doing it! Getting to the homestretch and running down the chute toward the finish line while people cheer for you…such a rush!

Crossing that finish line, the sense of accomplishment is such a rush.

But, it’s not the end. Like I told my brother-in-law, Steven, this 5k was a solid building block.

I can’t wait for the next one.

I’d love to hear why you love running 5k races or any races for that matter! What’s your favorite story?

My wife changes the world every single day.

And she does it just by being her.

She doesn’t spend hours researching how to build a platform online or how to drive traffic to a blog. She doesn’t stand in front of crowds or record a podcast or write ebooks.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things (Um, they’re exactly what I do) and she could do any of them (really well, might I add), but my point is that you can change the world without them.

Almost every day she’s meeting with some young woman over coffee who ends-up spilling her guts, then leaves feeling like she can conquer anything because of the love and wisdom Julie has shared. She puts in countless hours of thankless, behind-the-scenes work for our church, championing our community to anyone and everyone she meets. She’s helping to shape the lives of two little munchkins three days a week as the world’s best nanny. She’s raising our kids to be compassionate, loving young people who care about others more than themselves.

None of these activities are particularly glamorous and I know the daily grind can be frustrating. “Am I really making a difference?” we ask ourselves. I know Julie has felt that way, as I’m sure most of us have.

That’s why it’s nice to hear that you’ve actually made a difference every once in a while.

A couple months ago we volunteered at the Wisconsin State cheerleading meet. It was held at Wilmot Union High School where, over a decade ago, Julie took over as head coach for the fledgling varsity cheerleading team. Julie had never cheered for even one minute in her entire life. She was a drama geek in high school. But, they needed someone and it meant a few more dollars in her paycheck and, most importantly, an opportunity to impact a group of young people she’d otherwise never have the chance to.

The first year meant a lot of long hours basically making sure the girls stayed alive. Julie did a lot of research and relied heavily on the upperclassmen to help her out with the actual cheerleading stuff. And even though she wasn’t technically skilled on how to develop those girls as cheerleaders, she loved them with her whole heart and taught them how to be incredible young women.

Over time, Julie learned more and the team got better. Julie surrounded herself with other coaches who were able to help with the technical aspects of cheer/dance and they even placed at State before we moved away in 2004. But, through it all, Julie was always just herself, loving those girls and developing relationships. Fast forward a decade and Julie and I are standing next to Mandi, one of the coaches Julie brought on to help all those years ago. Mandi coordinated the State meet at Wilmot High School. Over 50 schools competing. I just stood there and watched them as they reminisced and then Mandi turned to Julie and said, “This is because of you, you know. Look around. This was our dream! This wouldn’t be happening…I wouldn’t be here doing this…if it weren’t for you.”

Of course I started crying. Gimme a break.

We saw former cheerleaders of Julie’s at that meet who were volunteering, some providing security, and a few of them even head coaches of their own teams now! In fact, the senior girl who helped Julie that first year is now the head coach of that team. Insane.

The point is, Julie didn’t have some master plan to change the world. The world changed because she loved people. Period.

And that’s just who she is.

Just a regular wife, mom and friend…changing the world every single day.

And I’m so proud of and in love with her.

Do you ever have that feeling, that you’d be able to change the world if only…? Do you believe you can change the world just by loving those around you? Just by being you? Are there people that have changed your life just by being them? How does that inspire you to do the same?

The WHS squad, way back in the day!

The WHS squad, way back in the day!

Julie and Mandi

Julie and Mandi

Julie and Jenni, the senior girl who helped Julie that first year and is now the varsity coach!

Julie and Jenni, the senior girl who helped Julie that first year and is now the varsity coach!

April is Limb Loss Awareness month.

The Amputee Coalition started the party and it was officially recognized by the President in 2012.

I didn’t lose a limb, though.

I also don’t use a prosthetic, so I can’t “show my mettle.”

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So, since it obviously doesn’t apply to me, I’m going to get angry and cry about it.

GOTCHA! HAPPY APRIL FOOL’S DAY!

Seriously, though, it seems like every year this becomes a bit of an issue. Instead of a month to celebrate and unify, it becomes a month of defining even further our differences. I’m not down with that. Jen at Born Just Right wrote a great post about this, too, and I totally agree with one of the folks she quoted who said that despite our differences, “We all understand each other to some degree.” And that’s exactly it. Whether we’re missing fingers or toes or whole arms or legs, and whether we were born that way or lost them somehow…there are so many similarities in our experiences.

Here’s something interesting to consider: All of us who are “missing something,” are amputees by definition. Even those of us born this way. “Congenital amputation is when a person is born without a limb or limbs, or without a part of a limb or limbs.” Want to know how many years it took me to realize I’m an amputee? Over 30. I remember when I broke my short arm and the ER doctor was explaining that I needed to see the orthopedist to discuss my options and I asked, “Are they going to have to…amputate it…more?” My understanding at that time was that the only definition of amputation was that of cutting something off. The truth is, though, I’m an amputee, by definition, because I was born like this.

Now, do I ever call myself an amputee? Not really.

But I also don’t feel excluded when I see Barack Obama officially recognize Limb Loss Awareness Month just because I technically didn’t lose a limb.

And here’s why…I refuse to miss the forest for the tress.

I refuse to get lost in semantics.

Rather, I choose to engage with the heart of the matter. And that is support and encouragement and celebration.

Our community – those affected by congenital amputation, amputation, limb loss, limb difference, disability, however the heck you refer to yourself – while global and not insignificant, is too small to splinter. We need each other.

Which is why I’m going to celebrate and smile and encourage those in our community to embrace the similarities we all share. And take pride in all of the amazing and inspiring people who happen to share some physical characteristics with me that most people don’t.

Now, maybe more than ever before, our uniqueness is being noticed.

And celebrated.

And I am down with that.

The other night I took my son to dinner. He was excited because he had a $20 gift card and he was going to pay. We stood and looked at the menu and he said we should get whatever we wanted, his treat. He ended-up getting two corn dogs with his kids meal. He handed his gift card to the cashier and when the young man ran it through…one dollar came off the total.

Sam’s brows furrowed and he snapped his head in my direction. I could see in his eyes the surprise, confusion, embarrassment and anger. I probably didn’t hide those feeling especially well myself, but jokingly said, “I guess it’s actually dad’s treat tonight.”

We tried to figure out what happened, when he’d actually already used it, but it was no use. And it was fine. “It happens,” I told him. We ate our dinner and had a nice time, just the two of us.

Today I was remembering when we used to go out as a family with my dad and step-mom. I was always prepared to pay, but was rarely ever afforded the opportunity. It got to the point where I’d do the dance of saying, “What? Really? C’mon, dad…you don’t have to pay for us…” all the while knowing full well that he wasn’t going to let me. One time he grabbed my card as I was handing it to the cashier and tossed it behind us. He was stubborn like that. And generous.

That’s what I’m remembering about my dad today. He was generous. He took care of everybody around him. And today I’m inspired to be more like him. To provide for my son, for my family, without a second thought. That my default reaction would be to say, “Oh, don’t spend that on me, Sam. Save it for a fun night with your friends!” To be stubbornly generous, like my dad was.

Mostly, though, I wish he was here to thwart my attempt to pay for dinner.

I’d point out the window and yell, “Dad! Look!” and hand the cashier my card.

I’m sure my dad would act mad, but I know he’d be proud inside.

Miss you, dad.

Is it ok to admit that we have weaknesses?

And if we do admit that we have weaknesses, is it ok to take it a step further and embrace them?

Last year at the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR, I had a conversation with my friend Chad wherein we explored the inherent strengths that present themselves in our perceived weaknesses. Personally, I think it’s smart to acknowledge the weak areas in your life so that you can at the very least be aware of them, but also, so that you can ask for help or partner with those who are strong in those areas. That said, I’m a huge proponent of focusing the majority of your energy on making your strengths even stronger, while minimizing the “damage” of your weaknesses.

The obvious perceived weakness for me is the fact that I have one hand. I’ve never personally viewed it as a weakness, but I know others do and are inspired by my ability to succeed in life despite my weakness. That should pretty much all be in quotes, but I think you get what I’m saying. In my case, I’ve embraced my “weakness” and have turned it into a strength. Because I’ve embraced it, I’ve been afforded innumerable opportunities to help others in similar situations via speaking and this blog and videos. I’ve been able to travel and interview amazing people, including my childhood hero! It’s opened the door to a lifetime of purpose and opportunity that I would never have had if I relegated myself to viewing my difference only as a weakness and choosing not to embrace it.

So, what’s your weakness? And how can you embrace it? How can you make it a strength? You might be thinking, “Ryan, my weakness is overeating. You want me to embrace that? How is that a strength?” Great question. I have the same weakness. And I think this is where it’s fun to get creative. Making unhealthy choices isn’t a weakness I want to embrace. But, it’s a weakness I can admit and ask for help with and as I develop healthier habits I can then use my experience as a strength, right? I can help other people by sharing my story, which also happens to be fantastic motivation in my quest to develop healthier habits! This is just one example and I know there are a million of them.

Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying to give in to your addictions or unhealthy habits. I’m not saying to slump into your couch and mope about how weak you are. I’m saying to embrace your weaknesses so that you can become strong; so that you can use them to your advantage. So you can partner with others, honestly and vulnerably, and strengthen each other. So you can exert more control over your life and determine to live a better story than you’re telling now.

That’s what I want to do.

I’m still fleshing out this idea and would love to hear your thoughts about it. Please share them in the comments below!

It’s all about creating healthy habits.

A little over two weeks ago I wrote a post about being determined to get healthy again. The next week and a half was awesome! I ate well and tracked everything. I went to the gym several times and even restarted my Couch-to-5k program. I could feel the results and was even told my face had thinned out!

And then this last week happened. I ate things I shouldn’t have and then got frustrated when the scale showed the results of my lack of discipline. Instead of redoubling my efforts, I decided to just eat out for every lunch last week. I haven’t worked out all week. I haven’t weighed myself all week. I haven’t tracked anything I’ve eaten.

So…and pardon my French, but…what the hell happened?

51Ml+jD9l3LThanks to a confluence of “completely coincidental” circumstances, I started listening to Ben Dempsey’s Defy The Plateau podcast this week, then received an email that my Habit Journal was ready AND started reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit again yesterday. Simply put, my current habits suck. So, when I weighed myself last Monday and Tuesday and saw the numbers go up, I fell back into my already established habits and quit putting in the effort to develop the new, healthier ones. Duhigg says, “This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.”

Those dang inflection points are usually my undoing. I’m sure you can relate.

I’ve seen this pattern in my own life now several times, where I’ll go a week or so and do really well, then “fall off the wagon” because I “screw-up” or see the number on the scale go back up. It’s great that I notice it and now I feel like I even know why it happens, but it’s time to buckle down and do the work of developing the new, healthier habits. And I know I can do it.

The benefits of developing healthier habits are exponential, also. That’s what’s so cool about it! Study after study has shown that “once willpower became strong, it touched everything” (Duhigg). Even in studies where they only focused on one habit – study habits, for instance – participants also “smoked less, drank less, watched less television, exercised more, and ate healthier, even though all those things were never mentioned in the program. Again, as their willpower muscles strengthened, good habits seemed to spill over into other parts of their lives” (Duhigg).

Tomorrow morning I’m going to weigh myself to re-establish my starting point and start again. I’m going to begin my 4-week Habit Journal session and focus on my physical health. I will be prepared for the inflection points that will inevitably rise up against me and I will power through and ask friends for help when I need it.

This is a journey and I refuse to quit.

Have you ever developed new habits? How did that go for you? Share your story in the comments below!

UPDATE: For as horribly as I thought I did this last week, I ended-up only gaining .2 pounds. .2. Talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill!

“And people keep asking how I dropped all this weight

More work and less food on the plate

Man, just a simple plan with a little bit of self discipline

To keep writing, keep spitting, keep em listening

To keep on doing what I do to get a salary

My number one mission is to make my son proud of me”

– From Ordinary Guys by Blue Scholars

 

I just got back from the gym.

It wasn’t any easier than when I went on Monday.

Sure, my expectations might be a tad unrealistic, but still.

Last month Julie and I went through Michael Hyatt‘s Five Days To Your Best Year Ever course, which is essentially a goal-setting system to help you, well, have your best year ever. One of my goals for this year is weight-related; namely, losing a lot of it. See, I’ve gotten really big. And that needs to change. More than just losing weight, though, it’s really about getting physically healthy.

This is from 2010. I do not look like this right now. Neither does Claire, for that matter.

This is from 2010. I do not look like this right now. Neither does Claire, as long as we’re clarifying.

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