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.


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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?


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.

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GORUCK 50 Mile #ResolutionRuck – Was It Worth It?

I never had a Nintendo growing up. At times, I felt like the only kid in the world without one. I wanted to play Tecmo Bowl so badly. But it wasn’t meant to be.

After enduring fifteen long years of video gameless nights, my suffering finally came to an end. When I began working as an umpire, I bought myself a PlayStation. For the first time, I could play some real video games! Madden NFL and I became new best friends.

I loved my PlayStation. I played it a lot. I played it so much, in fact, that the unthinkable happened. I became bored with it.

So I bought an Xbox.

Wow! What a machine! The graphics were (by 2002 standards) unbelievable! I could sit there for hours on end playing the new and improved Madden, in awe the whole time.

One day, while browsing the menus, I noticed there was a way to view my statistics from the game. I don’t recall all the statics it kept track of, but I know that “Time Played” was one of them.

Besides how many games I’d won, the screen was telling me that I had played this game for more than 48 hours.

I had spent over two entire days of my life sitting there playing virtual football. As a teenager, I wasn’t necessarily shocked or appalled, but a switch went off in my head… That was a lot of time to spend on something like a video game.

Fast forward a decade.

I’m no longer playing video games in my parent’s basement. Instead, I’m listening to The Obstacle Is The Way on audiobook while driving my van.

Side note: cool cars aren’t very functional when you have four kids.

Specifically, I was listening to the chapter titled “Meditate on Your Mortality”, when I heard this:

It doesn’t matter who you are or how many things you have left to be done, somewhere there is someone who would kill you for a thousand dollars or for a vile of crack or for getting in their way. A car can hit you in an intersection and drive your teeth back into your skull. That’s it. It will all be over. Today, tomorrow, someday soon.

It’s a cliche question to ask, What would I change about my life if the doctor told me I had cancer? After our answer, we inevitably comfort ourselves with the same insidious lie: Well, thank God I don’t have cancer.

But we do. The diagnosis is terminal for all of us. A death sentence has been decreed. Each second, probability is eating away at the chances that we’ll be alive tomorrow; something is coming and you’ll never be able to stop it. Be ready for when that day comes.

This passage hit me like the paint cans hit the Wet Bandits.

I’m not sure I’d ever heard anything so profound. Those three simple paragraphs changed my life. Out of nowhere, “time” wasn’t something to waste or to kill anymore. Time was now my most valuable scarce resource.

Since that day, I’ve played that passage in my head countless times. I’m constantly asking myself – Is this a good use of time? Because, after all, we never get time back.

So when I see something like the GORUCK Resolution Ruck, I take the decision of whether to commit or not very seriously.

Before I committed to rucking 50 miles in 15 days, I first had to see what I was getting myself into. I needed to ask:

  • Does this actually fit with my training?
  • How many hours will this take to complete?
  • Do I have that time? And, most importantly;
  • Is this how I want to spend that time?

After careful consideration, my answer was yes – I’d commit to the 50-mile challenge. It fit with my training. I was confident I could pull it off. And I was comfortable with investing my time in walking around with a backpack on.

I was so comfortable because I knew that spending 12-14 hours rucking was going to afford me other opportunities.

Because this was a rucking challenge, I would be able to spend quality time with my friends and dog. I’d also get some reading done through audiobooks. With this in mind, I was more than comfortable committing to the challenge.

My plan was to find a couple of books to listen to and take on a few miles each day. Having to rely on rucking big chunks of 8-10 miles at once didn’t seem like a good idea. I knew I’d become overwhelmed and the challenge would lose its luster. My recipe for success was to just keep chipping away.

When all was said and done, I completed the 50-mile Resolution Ruck in around 13 hours over the course of 10 days. It was never my goal to finish so quickly. It just sort of happened.

This worked out to an average of rucking 5 miles in 1:18 each day. And, on the surface, that’s not that bad. Spending an hour and twenty minutes a day exercising isn’t the worst thing in the world.

But besides that, I spent over eleven hours reading, learning about writing and sports psychology. I also spent two hours rucking with friends, and nine and a half hours with my dog at my side.

When I add it all up, the GORUCK 50 Mile challenge was absolutely worth it. And, really, it only emphasized why I find rucking so enjoyable.

Never once did it feel like something I “had to do”. It was always an opportunity to improve my fitness, knowledge, and relationships. An opportunity to be a better human. Earning a patch at the end was just the icing on the cake.

And while there may have been times where staying home and playing Madden sounded appealing, that’s not the person I want to be. “The diagnosis is terminal for all of us,” after all. I can’t wait to be better tomorrow. I need to be better today.

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