The Book That Could Have Changed My Life

It was only a few weeks into my collegiate wrestling career. I remember shooting for my training partner’s leg. Then, nothing.

I woke up on my back in the wrestling room with my coach and trainer standing over me.

How many concussions I had had leading up to that one, I honestly couldn’t tell you. It must have been double digits, though.

I’d always felt I was a better football player than wrestler. But after several concussions, taking a wrestling scholarship seemed like the safer bet. My previous head injuries had almost all come from football.

All my life I had been an athlete. In high school, I played every sport I could. If I wasn’t moving, I wasn’t happy. It was all I’d really known.

But on that day, just weeks before my 18th birthday, it was all taken away from me.

With my history of head injuries, the doctors told me it was in my best interest to retire. And at that point, it was hard to argue. I had constant headaches. I struggled to pay attention in class. Words floated and danced around on pages when I tried to read. How I was supposed to succeed in university like this was beyond me.

I didn’t know who I was anymore. I had no identity. And suddenly I had nothing but time on my hands as I couldn’t practice or workout.

I filled that time by doing what everyone else did – drinking alcohol. A lot of it.

The next three years of my life were tough. I did a lot of stupid things I wish I could take back. I went from the quiet, polite kid with good grades, to a complete ass.

I became an aggressive, selfish jerk.

Oddly enough, people seemed to enjoy hanging out with me more during this phase. It used to be interceptions and gold medals that had people cheering. Now it was the ridiculous stunts I’d pull while under the influence. Go figure.

Thankfully I had a couple of great friends who kept me under control as best they could. My friend Billy, in particular, wouldn’t hesitate to tell me when I was crossing the line.

If it wasn’t for meeting my wife when I did, though, it’s hard to say if I’d have ever turned my life around.

Samira liked me for me. I didn’t have to put on a show or pretend to be someone else. I didn’t have to do crazy, ridiculous things to get her attention. As our relationship grew, I felt comfortable being quiet and polite again. She fixed me.

To this day, when I’m with her, I don’t have to be anything but me.

And I love her for that.

I’m telling you this because there’s no doubt in my mind that my wife changed my life and made me a better person. She did for me what I believe Pound The Stone can do for a lot of other young men.

Pound The Stone is not a “great book”. It’s not going to win any literary awards. And due to the number of pop culture references, it may be irrelevant in ten years. Which is unfortunate. But it is the book I absolutely needed as a seventeen-year-old kid looking for his place in the world.

It’s a story about a high-school basketball player named Jason. It’s a very easy read with short chapters, making it something a teenager may actually dive in to.

Jason sees many highs and lows through high school. He always feels sorry for himself and thinks he deserves better.

Despite his natural talent, Jason gets kicked off the basketball team due to character issues. He learns that he must earn his way back on to the court. This sets off a chain of events that changes who he is, his outlook on life, and what he thinks it means to be a man.

Through different mentors, Jason learns many valuable lessons. In most of the chapters, Jason is taught basic concepts and values from other popular books. For example, there are chapters on “Grit“, “Extreme Ownership“, “Sweeping the Sheds“, and “You, Inc.“.

Jason learns what it takes to be great, how to earn respect, how to lead, and that there is more to life than basketball. Important lessons for all men.

Reading Pound The Stone is almost as valuable as reading a dozen other books. Especially for young men. The key messages are shared in a way that makes it easy for Jason, and us as the reader, to relate and understand.

I listened to this audiobook while rucking the past couple of weeks. And even though the story is a bit jumbled at times, I actually found myself choking up on a few occasions. I wasn’t exactly emotionally invested in the story, but I couldn’t help thinking, “I wish someone would have told me that,” more than once.

This book would have been invaluable during my most difficult years.

My experiences are far from unique. Details will vary, but nearly everyone I know has gone through difficult times. Some much more difficult than mine. While I was fortunate to find people to steer me back on track, others are not so lucky.

It’s tough as parents.

When I was a teenager my parents couldn’t tell me anything. I knew it all.

We want to be there for our kids and help guide them. I try to share my experiences, and lessons I’ve learned the hard way, as much as possible. But sometimes the message means more when it comes from someone, or something, else.

The lessons in Pound The Stone are extremely valuable. They’re presented in a way that is understandable and relatable. It’s everything we want our teenage sons to know, coming from something much cooler than us.

This book belongs on the bookshelves of young men everywhere.

You Have To (Choose To) Earn It

I never thought I’d be doing burpees until my fingers bled, but there I was – living the dream.

It was 6:00 pm on Friday, February 26th, 2016.

There were dozens of garbage bags packed in our garage. Each bag filled with clothing donations for Community Living.

A few teammates were coming over for an all-nighter. The plan was to go through the donations and have someone do 15 burpees as a thank-you for every item donated.

Fifteen burpees for a pair of pants. Fifteen burpees for a t-shirt. Fifteen burpees for each and every unmentionable donated… And, oh, were there some unmentionables.

I had no idea what I’d gotten myself, and my team, into. We had a ton of items to count and a ton of burpees to get through. And the donations were being picked up in just 24 hours.

With an enormous task ahead of us, we didn’t have time to strategize. The only thing we could do was grab an item, do our burpees, place the item in the “done” pile, put a check on the board, and repeat.

This was not a pleasurable experience.

Pleasure vs Satisfaction

In his book, Off Balance, author Matthew Kelly touches on the difference between pleasure and satisfaction. He says that pleasure comes quick but doesn’t last. And satisfaction lasts, but it takes effort.

For example, eating a cookie is pleasurable. We enjoy the cookie as we eat it, but as soon as it’s gone, so is the pleasure. Rather than having a lasting beneficial effect, we’re simply left wanting more.

Studying for a final exam, conversely, may not be very pleasurable. However, we’re satisfied once we’ve passed the test. We have a sense of accomplishment and are happy with our decision to study.

I see it this way.

Pleasure is tricking myself into feeling good for the moment. For example:

  • Eating a cookie
  • Laying on the couch watching TV
  • Buying things I want but don’t need

Satisfaction comes from doing something I don’t necessarily want to do now but will pay off later. Things like:

  • Eating broccoli
  • Doing laundry
  • Investing in my retirement

The pleasurable activities are easy. They give us a quick shot of dopamine and make us think we’re happy. The activities that lead to long-lasting satisfaction, though, are difficult. They require effort and are often uncomfortable while we do them.

Pleasure comes quick and easy, but it leaves just the same.

Satisfaction must be earned, but can last a lifetime.

I think deep down we know this. We know the “right” thing to do in most situations, yet we struggle to make that choice.

Because it’s hard.

It’s hard to choose broccoli over pizza. It’s hard to get up off the couch and do the dishes. It’s hard to invest in our retirement rather than buy a new phone.

But more often than not, making that hard choice pays off.

Hard Choices Easy Life

Jerzy Gregorek went from an alcoholic to a world weightlifting champion. He is the co-author of The Happy Body, and is famous for his line, “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”

Another way to think of this is – choose satisfaction now, and life will be better in the future.

By making the hard choice to do the right thing, to choose satisfaction over pleasure, our future selves will benefit. Looking back at our options above (choosing broccoli over pizza, getting up to do the dishes, and investing in our retirement), we see that making the hard choices will leave us healthier, wealthier, and with a kitchen full of clean dishes. Life will be better.

Even though, deep down, we know this, it’s still difficult to make the hard choice.

It’s too easy to find instantaneous pleasure these days. Junk food is available everywhere. And we all walk around with a constant source of immediate gratification in our pockets. Whenever we get bored or come across a challenge, we can just scroll through social media and ignore it.

Choosing pleasure over satisfaction has become an almost unconscious decision. A bad habit we aren’t even aware of.

Putting the phone down is hard. Avoiding donuts in the office is hard. Turning the TV off when Netflix has already started the next episode is hard. But, like Gregorek suggests, making these hard choices will lead to an easier life.

To have the best life we can tomorrow, we need to deliberately make these hard choices today.

24 Hours of Burpees are Hard

After the first hour or so, every single burpee was painful. Agonizing, really.

Picking up a t-shirt and committing to another 15 burpees was a consistently hard choice to make. Taking a break to stretch or eat was always an attractive option, but we had a job to do.

As time went on, we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Most of the donations were in the “done” pile, and it looked like we would pull this thing off. Our commitment to acting instead of resting was paying off.

Because we kept making the hard choice to do another 15 burpees, we were able to finish on time.

Twenty-four hours, and just shy of 34,000 burpees later, we were very satisfied with what we had accomplished.

Sure, we could have spent our Friday night and Saturday doing something else. We could have gone to the bar or movies and enjoyed ourselves. But that’s not something we’d be looking back on with pride. Going out that night instead of doing burpees wouldn’t have brought us satisfaction.

As Kelly wrote in Off Balance, “Satisfaction comes from emptying ourselves into things”.

Well, we truly emptied ourselves into those burpees that day and learned what it meant to make the hard choice and earn our satisfaction.

By fighting the urge to do what was comfortable or seek pleasure, we did something pretty cool. The payoff, the satisfaction, will now last a lifetime.

 

Interested in Becoming Better?

If you’re interested in becoming a better human through learning, creating, and fitness, please subscribe so we can keep in touch.



It Only Sucks If You Think It Does

Did you know you can be allergic to the cold?

I didn’t either, until I showed up for school one day covered in hives.

It was ninth grade, it was freezing out, and I was walking to school. After I arrived, took off my coat, and settled into my first class, something felt… weird. Like the skin was tightening all over my face. And, judging by the horrified looks from my classmates, my skin looked weird, too.

I went to the washroom and saw that my face was covered in hives. I looked like the Elephant Man. I stayed at school but was extremely uncomfortable.

By second period the hives had gone away – the only remaining growths on my face were those typical of a 15-year-old boy. The experience left me confused and embarrassed, though.

After walking back through the cold home for lunch, the hives returned. Now I was freaking out. I called my parents at work so they could come home and take me to the doctor.


Cold urticaria is what they called it.

It’s a skin condition where coldness causes the release of histamine into the blood. Essentially an allergic reaction to the cold. Cold weather or cold water can cause it, and it results in the breakout of hives.

I’d never heard of it. And I’m still not entirely sure how to pronounce it. But I had it, and I didn’t like it. High School was tough enough without being the kid that’s allergic to the cold.

Looking cool didn’t matter anymore. Wearing a big winter coat and neck warmer was fine with me. Anything to stay warm. Anything to keep the hives away.

Thankfully I grew out of it. In fact, don’t recall having another reaction after that winter. But the experience taught me to hate the cold.

For years I avoided cold weather. As best I could while living in -40°C Saskatchewan, anyway. The cold didn’t like me. I didn’t like it. We had an understanding, and it worked.

Everything was fine, until my early twenties.

I was volunteering for a business plan competition. Each participant had to describe their business idea and sell us on it before moving on to the next round.

The participant I was interviewing was a kiteboarder. His business was kiteboarding related and he wanted to get more people in Saskatchewan kiteboarding.

Kiteboarding is kind of like wakeboarding or snowboarding. Only, instead of being pulled by a boat or sliding down a mountain, you use a giant kite to propel you. So wind is important.

During his pitch, he said something along the lines of: “Why would you live in the windiest place on earth if you can’t get out and enjoy it?”

That’s right… Not only is Saskatchewan one of the coldest places on earth, but it’s also one of the windiest. No wonder real estate is so expensive here.

We shared a laugh over his comment. But the guy had a point. Why would anyone live somewhere where they can’t enjoy being outside?

Damn.

Obviously I had to ask. Why did I choose to live somewhere where I can’t enjoy being outside nearly half the year?

Suddenly, my “understanding” with the cold no longer made sense. It felt more like a punishment than an agreement. I realized I either had to move somewhere warm or learn to get out and enjoy the cold.

And seeing as moving wasn’t an option, it looked like the cold and I were going to get to know each other a bit better.

R.I.P. Buck

While hesitant at first, I eventually eased my way into being outside in the winter. I started with cold weather walks with our shepherd cross, Buck.

Walking Buck when the weather was nice was no problem. But I always told myself it was “too cold for him” when the weather dropped. After my conversation with the kiteboarder, I realized I was lying to myself.

Though they were cold, I began enjoying our hikes through the snow. We started going for longer, more frequent walks together.

The crisp, cool air actually felt good and I liked the sound of snow crunching under our feet. We were having fun, and my face wasn’t covered in hives.

This was good.

Buck and I learned that we were able to head out in basically any weather. As long as we dressed for it and kept moving, we were fine. It turned out that all that time spent avoiding the cold weather was wasted. We could have been outside, enjoying ourselves.

I learned that the cold only sucked because I thought it did.

After finding a way to enjoy it, my perspective changed. The cold, actually, was pretty nice.

When I look back, I see I’ve made the same mistake more than once. I’ve let preconceived notions prevent me from success, happiness, and reaching my best.

Reading sucked, because I thought it did.

Aerobic training sucked, because I thought it did.

Eating vegetables sucked, because I thought it did.

I was wrong. And I’m happy to admit that.

As I’ve grown as an athlete, being able to enjoy the cold has become invaluable. For years now, I’ve spent time outdoors training in all types of weather.

These days, I refuse to let something like cold weather prevent me from reaching my goals or living my life.

Our new dog, Benji, and I have shared hundreds of miles in the cold this winter. We’ve had a few adventures and have bonded like a dog and his owner should.

I can’t even imagine being cooped up indoors all winter anymore. The cold weather I used to hate now makes me feel alive.

The beautiful feeling of a heavy ruck on my back and cold, crisp winter air in my face is one I’d never had experienced had I not pushed myself past my ignorant preconception.

The cold never sucked. I did.


Want More?

If you’re interested in becoming a better human through learning, creating, and fitness, please subscribe so we can keep in touch.