April 18, 2022

I learned something about myself over the weekend: I’m carrying way too much of me around, and it’s caused me to feel lazy. Feeling lazy then equates into acting lazy. Not a good cycle to perpetuate. Then I heard the voice.

No, it wasn’t the words of the Gods who you normally worry about incurring that wrath of, that sit high atop The Thing. It was the voice of a man that I considered a father figure for many, many years. The father of one of my oldest and best friends, Mr. Esposito (I just called him “Mr. Espo”) was a man that could have been pulled right out of a Scorcese screenplay. With broad shoulders, a thick handebar mustache and an accent that came from more than 50 years living in The Bronx, Mr. Espo was 100% alpha dog – a man that had a masters degree in street smarts. He was a guy whose words were uttered with complete confidence and commanding authority, wrapped in a thick accent.

(I have a point – just give me a minute or two to get there…)

One afternoon when I was about 10 years old, I was walking home from little league practice when a kid from my class – let’s call him Chris – joined me. For some odd reason, he began to tease me relentlessly, saying things like “you look like Alfred E Newman” and “you look like Ralph Mouth” (both are negative references – and if you don’t know why, Google is your friend). Comments like these were thrown out there using a whiny voice that added to the insults. Even at that age, I had a hot temper – so I dropped my Louisville Slugger and my dirty baseball glove, and squared off with him. Here’s the problem: I wasn’t the greatest pugilist on the little island I called home, so we both gave each other a couple of cuts and bruises. After the dust had settled and both of us looked at each other with a bit more respect than we had 5 minutes earlier, I continued my slow walk home…dreading the heat I’d get from my mother. About three blocks from my house, a white Chevy van pulled up to the curb, with All-Tone Painting painted on the sides of it in gold lettering. The passenger’s side window rolled down, and the driver bellowed: “HEY KING KONG!”

The voice.

Mr. Espo.

(“King Kong” was the nickname he gave me when I moved across the street from him.)

“King Kong – get in the truck. We’ll ride home.” Still slightly bloodied, I quickly tossed my stuff into the van and hopped into the seat. When Mr. Espo told you to do something, you just did it. No questions.

Once the door shut, the following conversation occurred…more or less:

“OK King Kong – I saw the whole thing.”

“Saw what?”

“Come on – smarten’ up.”

Now, for the uninitiated, the term “smarten’ up” can mean several things….

  • If you did something wrong and got caught – “smarten’ up or I give ya abatz” (abatz is slang for the Italian word battere, which means a beating)
  • If you bet on the weekly football slips and picked the Jets to either win or cover the spread – “You better smarten’ up with those Jets, they can’t even cover their mouths when they cough, stupido.”
  • If you got caught sipping on a can of crappy beer (aka Piels or PBR) – “Hey! You better smarten’ up with that crappy beer, and go get some mints before you go home.”

There are plenty of other ways to use the phrase…but you get the idea. Now where was I? Oh yeah: Mr. Espo just told me to smarten’ up, and I was right in the middle of trying to figure out in what way he meant this extremely important phrase, when he did me the favor of clearing that right up for me….

“Look here, Kong: when some faccia bruta (a simple derogatory term that means “ugly face”, but we tossed it around to mean someone that was just a jerk) tries to pick a fight with ya, ya gotta remember one thing.”

“I know, I know, Mr. Espo. Try to work it out. Fightin’ is no good.”

“…..No. Hooks to the body. Knocks the wind out of ’em, and ya don’t mark up his face. So that way, no proof of the fight. Think, Kong. Think. Smarten’ up and use your head for something more than a hat rack.”

And here I thought I was about to get abatz right in the head for fighting. I don’t know if I won the fight that day – but I remember Mr. Espo making me laugh on the way home. That make the hell I caught that night from my mom a bit easier to handle.

That was the voice I heard over the weekend. Mr. Espo. Smarten’ the hell up. Smarten’ up and get your crap together. Go get some focus. Make a plan and get to work.

The Answer Is…..42.

I need to work on several aspects of my life right now, as I feel completely lethargic and haven’t “moved the needle” much recently.  I have tons of personals goals I’ve set for myself in my mind, and I can honestly disclose that I’ve done next to nothing to forward the cause.  Being candid: I cannot stand to look at myself in the mirror, because I’m beginning to become disappointed in what I see. COVID isn’t to blame…I’ve simply become quite comfortable with being lazy.

As the saying goes, “the first step in resolving a problem is admitting that you have one…”. Knowing that something needed to be done to shake myself out of this rut, a few months ago I began reading a couple of books on goal-setting and mental toughness, drew up calendars and schedules, checklists and to-do lists, and downloaded apps that are designed to help people attain their goals – physical, professional….goals of all sorts. For some reason, I thought that the answer to my issue could be attained through a volume effort.

I thought wrong.

By attacking this issue of laziness through accumulation of data, I became even more unfocused than I already was. “This book says to focus on this…but the app I downloaded recommended I do that…” After banging my head against the wall in frustration (because isn’t that the best way to figure out an answer to an issue), I took a step back and decided to look at the forest – not just a couple of trees. When I did this, I came to realize a single thing: no one app, book, or motivational speech contains the all-encompassing answer I require to right this ship. Instead, I needed to combine a number of the things that I gleamed from the books I’ve read, the videos I’ve watched, and the apps I’ve checked out, and just extract the best ideas from the lot.

Once I did that, I utilized the services of a life coach through a program offered by the a university here in California to organize my priorities according to what fired me up the most. As I began this prioritization exercise, I began to realize that in order for bad habits to be replaced by more productive ones, I also needed to challenge myself. I couldn’t just put things on a calendar and say “there ya go – all fixed”. Instead, I needed to a) list out the positive things I wanted to add to my routine (thereby removing the laziness from the overall equation), and b) set some parameters up with regard to implementation, thereby making it an internal competition – me versus myself. (I know me – my recommendation is bet the under.)

Flipping through Facebook, I noticed a BUNCH of these challenges. Do this for a month. Follow this schedule for 21 days. So I gave a few of them a shot, and none of them seemed to get me where I needed to go. So I finally said “screw it – I’ll draw up my own.”

This one won’t be some scientifically-designed elixir. It’s not for everyone, since quite honestly I’ve designed it for myself. However, I figured I’d share it with the universe. Who knows – maybe someone else may benefit from it as well.

I figure that the first thing I’d add to this “challenge” is a very simple one: every day, the first thing I’ll do is make my bed. I got this one from a U.S. Navy Admiral’s speech at the University of Texas. Let me share it with you here, because it’s fantastic.

OK – so making my bed starts my day on a positive note. It gives me some forward momentum.

While completing a MasterClass recorded by Bob Iger, the CEO of the Walt Disney Corporation, he mentioned that he gets up early – 4am or so – and the first thing he does is go to the gym and get his workout in. The room is usually dark , aside from a TV being turned on and the volume set to zero. This is his alone time. He doesn’t check his emails or turn on his computer or look at his phone. I think these are brilliant ideas too. Let’s add them to the list: get up early, don’t check your email or phone, and get your workout in. By the time the workout ends, the endorphins will begin flowing and I’m off and running for the day in a very good mood (or at least, that’s the plan).

So now I’m seemingly ready to start my day. I’m feeling good. I’ve just burnt some calories by working out. The next item I’ll throw in here is focused on nutrition. If I want this good feeling to carry forward through the day, I need to fuel myself properly. I absolutely SUCK at this – so I’m going to CONSISTENTLY write down (or use MyFitnessPal) what I eat in order to feel a level of responsibility surrounding what I decide to chow down on. Water is a big key here – so I’ll get a proper amount of water into my system as well, and for me that’s probably at least 96 ounces a day or a bit more. (Everyone has different needs, of course.)

The next item I’m going to use is a concept taken from David Goggins and Jacko Winnick – to extreme badasses. Their message is simple: every day, you have to defeat the enemy within by doing something that absolutely sucks. For me, the something that sucks primarily revolves around nutrition. Namely, saying no to things that don’t provide nutritional value but taste AWESOME. So let’s add to this challenge a requirement to give up two things that you know aren’t good for you – but are enjoyed routinely. For me: that’s sweets and fried food / fast food. So…adios french fries. Hasta la vista, Oreos.

Here’s one I need to add to this challenge, that simply comes out of COVID: get outside and get a workout in. Walk, run, bike, whatever. Just get out in the fresh air at some point each day. I’m training for a few events this year – so I need to get an extra workout in.

The next item on the list is simple to plan, but hard to consistently execute: reserve an hour for yourself every night to “move the needle”. You want to learn a new language? Learn to play the ukelele? Write a book? Learn anything new? Well you need some dedicated time for yourself to do it. So before you go to bed, reserve that last hour for something you are passionate about. The ones I just listed are the ones on my hit list. This last hour I’m calling my Move the Needle Hour.

Last item for the list: get your sleep in. I know I need at least 6 hours to operate well the next day. Make sure you plan your day so that you get enough sleep to be just as awesome tomorrow.

So that’s a list of 9 things. I like the number 9 – Craig Nettles wore it for the Yankees, so that’s some good juju right there. Now I need to make it a real “challenge” – so I need to require that these 9 things are done daily, without failure, for a set period of time.

Hmmmm…..

From what I’ve read, it supposedly takes 21 days to build a good habit. So what if I double that number? 42 days. 42….an excellent number. Jackie Robinson. Mariano “Enter The Sandman” Rivera. And, according to my favorite author (Douglas Adams), the answer to life, the universe and everything.

PERFECT. So, 42 days it is. (See the science behind this?!?!?)

Now it needs a cool, catchy name. Hmmmm………

42: My Answer To Training, Diet, and Gettin’ Stuff Done

(I told you – I’m not that creative)

So…in summary….

  • Set the alarm for the butt-crack of dawn…and get up. No hitting the snooze.
  • Make your bed
  • Get your morning workout in before you check your IPrecious or your computer
  • Eat healthy during the day and log it so that you can track it
  • Drink enough water (in my case – 96 ounces at least)
  • Do something that sucks every day – in this case, I’m saying NO to any sweets as well as all fried food and fast food. (this can be anything you eat that you know isn’t good for you)
  • Get outside and get an afternoon / evening workout in (or get outside and get some fresh air each day, if you aren’t training for anything).
  • Reserve your Move the Needle Hour every night – and USE IT WISELY.
  • Get your sleep in (for me – that means I’m crashing no later than 10pm).

September 16, 2020

This is going to start sounding repetitive, but the day started early a la Jocko Willink (if you haven’t checked him out on Instagram, please do so – that dude is a badass that’s up and training at ungodly hours). Got the strength training in and the work on the bike before punching the clock and starting the workday. Then the 4 miler and some yoga.

By working harder, the work becomes easier.

You vs. The Road. You vs. The Water. You vs. The Weights. You vs. The Clock.