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Monday, October 27, 2014

Having Kids is a Reason to Follow Your Dreams

This topic was originally planned as one of the chapters in my new book.  We had to cut some chapters to fit the publisher's guidelines for length, but I still want to share it with you.  The book draft material comes first; keep reading for some inspiring commentary from two newsletter readers who are also parents chasing their dreams.

Do you want to be the parent who looks his or her child in the eye and admits, “Well, I had this big dream that was and is very important to making the most of the short life I have here, but you came along and messed it all up”?

Do you really want to tell your kids that?

“Well,” that voice inside says, “I could just not say anything--my kids won’t know I’m scrapping my dreams and using them as an excuse.”  Kids pay attention.  They will know.  And thinking of them learning to give up and to settle for mediocrity by watching their own parents almost brings tears to my eyes.

Personally, I want to be able to say, and to do so honestly, “I have dreams, Wyatt and Lila, and I am pursuing them wholeheartedly because of you.  Because I want to show you how important it is to go for something big, and to show you just how to do it.  I want you to see that I fail all the time, at least as often as I succeed, and I want you to see that I keep on hammering even when I fail, looking constantly for new and creative solutions, knowing that I will eventually win, even if only through perseverance and grit and outlasting the competition.  I want you to see that, as proven by my example, the only real failure is passing through life on cruise control while spending a lot of your time doing something you don’t really care about.  I want you to know that the crazyness and weirdness in our lives and my racing and my work all has a purpose, and that striving to be the best and achieve a dream is more than worth the sacrifice.”

In their excellent text, Raising Resilient Children, Robert Brooks, Ph.D., and Sam Goldstein, Ph.D. identify resilience as the key trait we should be intentionally working to develop in our children.  They describe resilience in children as “the inner strength to deal completely and successfully, day after day, with the challenges and demands they encounter” (1).  And here’s the best part: YOU can play a monumental role by acting as a “charismatic adult,” or someone from whom a child pulls in strength.  “Never underestimate the power of one person to redirect a child toward a more productive, successful, satisfying life,” they write (11).  Any parent or teacher knows that kids are always watching us, and the ultra mindset application of the charismatic adult concept is simple: the best way to teach your kids to follow their own dreams and to give them the strength to make it happen is to show (not just tell) them that you are doing just that, each and every day.

My dad and I got to chase our dreams together early in the month at the US Skyrunning Championships, where I won the Vertical Kilometer event.  Also, if you're interested in some audio on the Ultra Mindset, my interview with Rewire Your Brain to Think Thin is available today and tomorrow only.

Guest Contribution #1

Amy Hatch is a parent and Founder of Garage Grown Gear.  I really like what she has to say:

When Travis asked me to write a few words for this newsletter, I initially thought I might write something about how I’m a better, more present mom when pursuing my own professional and athletic passions. This is definitely true, but really only half of the story.

I’m also a better entrepreneur and outdoor adventurer because of my daughter. To explain why, I present the 3 Ps. (C’mon, who doesn’t love a good a mnemonic?).

Perspective: I picked my daughter up after one particularly stressful day this week. (Launching an online store, as it turns out, is no small feat). On the way home, she asked to stop by the playground. So we did. Before long, I was careening superman-style down the slide. And, later that night, I found myself in a full-fledged contest to see who could sing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes the fastest. The moral? It’s hard to take life too seriously when you have a kid around to help keep things in perspective.

Purpose: There’s no two ways about it, following your dreams while being a parent is tough. But I’m pretty certain following your dreams while not being a parent is also tough. Inevitably, there will be tremendous obstacles and moments of self-doubt. Being a mom has given me a deep sense of purpose that has seen me through those dark hours. When I boil it all down, the purpose of Garage Grown Gear is to connect people to the outdoors. But when I really boil it all down, I’m building my business so that I have more financial and time freedom to be with my family and play outside.

Passion: One of the things I love most about kids is that they lead with their heart and live in the moment. They don’t run to get exercise; they run because it’s fun. They don’t create an image to get a higher click-through rate; they create an image because it’s fun. Being a parent helps remind me to let passion be my guide. 

About Garage Grown Gear: We connect you to independent outdoor brands making innovative, high-performing and wildly cool gear. We scout for the innovators of today and the icons of tomorrow. We tell stories of individuals with ideas. We do this through an online store and magazine.

Guest Contribution #2

Kathleen Allen is a mother of four, competitive athlete for over 20 years, trainer, Girls on the Run Coach, and all-around "go-getter" here in Evergreen, Colorado.  She shared some compelling ideas about why female endurance athletes often become stronger, more competitive athletes after having children.  For the record, I think some of these apply to guys as well.
  • Forced time off.  We typically push ourselves—and often TOO hard.  A good break from training does wonders!
  • New pain threshold.  Athletes know pain, but pregnancy teaches a woman to differentiate between "bad pain" and "productive pain."
  • Learn to trust the body.  Athletes often feel we are in control of all aspects of our bodies, but pregnancy (and the body becoming a "baby house") reminds us that we need to listen and trust more than simply dictating.
  • Having kids makes you “hungry.”  Before kids, training sometimes felt like “I have to.”  Now, it’s “I GET to!”  I’m too busy to over-analyze things, and having fun makes me faster.

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Thanks for reading,

PS- Here's a great TED Talk on this topic.  

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Got Grit?

The grit bus is on a roll, and I’m grabbing a seat.

Defined by Webster’s as “stubborn courage, pluck, determination,” grit has become a hot topic in academia and education. Angela Lee Duckworth, Ph.D., of the Positive Psychology Center and The Duckworth Lab at the University of Pennsylvania studies grit and self-control, and her research suggests that these are two critical personality traits in terms of success. Dr. Duckworth (who has an excellent Ted Talk) has found that grit predicts a dizzying array of achievements, including surviving the first summer of training at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, reaching the final rounds of the National Spelling Bee, retention in both the U.S. Special Forces and among novice teachers, graduation from Chicago public high schools, performance in standardized test scores, and physical fitness. In other studies, she notes, “grit correlates with lifetime educational attainment and, inversely, lifetime career changes and divorce.”

Well, that’s great. But how do you build something as intangible as “grit” (other than by not washing your three-year-old for a couple of days)? I hope to give you some good answers in The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion’s 8 Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life, which comes out March 24 and can be pre-ordered here.

Until then, here’s a great story that explains how America’s best XTERRA off-road triathlete, Josiah Middaugh, built some of his grit as a kid.

In 1988, Josiah Middaugh was sleeping in a tent on a remote Canadian island in Lake Huron. The ten-year-old’s grandparents rested in their cabin at the other end of the island, and little Josiah was out in the woods by himself. He was a little bit scared, but he slept well because he was so tired.

Josiah had spent the day, you see, deeply engrossed in a lengthy exercise of mental training. A week ago, he had ridden the bus, alone, from the small, rural, Bohemian community near East Jordan, Michigan where he lived with his parents and siblings in a home he now proudly refers to as “simple,” recalling that the floor was dirt for awhile until his hard-working parents built one out of wood. Josiah met his grandfather at the bus station, and they canoed two miles to the island, where the only mark of man was one small cabin.

As they paddled together, the old man explained the boy’s schedule for the trip. Sleep in the tent and wake up early. Paddle to the mainland. Run two miles. Paddle back to the island. Work for four hours, managing the land and mending the cabin. Play in the afternoon. Eat dinner. Sleep in the tent.

Josiah stuck to the schedule, and he worked hard. He was happy when, at the end of the trip, his grandfather paid him $1 for every hour of work he had done. And he didn't whine when his grandfather explained that he needed to give half of that back to pay for the temporary health insurance that had been purchased for his time in Canada. Josiah Middaugh didn't complain or give in to fear or worry about being alone or seek out daily comforts then, and he doesn’t now.

Training hard is part of the reason Josiah is the best, but when push comes to shove, it’s his mental toughness, day in and day out, that sets him apart.

Food for thought:

What does grit mean to you?

In what areas of life are you gritty?

In what areas of life aren’t you gritty?

What will you do to build grit this week?

What stories can you tell yourself to become grittier?

Grit played a big role for me at Ultra Race of Champions: The Ultrarunning World Championship in September. The 100k course climbed about 10,000 feet and occurred between 9,800 and 12,400 feet in elevation. It was a pretty good day at the office and I finished 3rd.

I also enjoyed doing an expert interview with Marna Thall as part of her Rewire Your Brain to Think Thin summit. We discussed Ultra Mindset principles, and the interview will be played here on October 25.

Thanks for reading,


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