Life Happened for Sean Adams

Photo courtesy of AM 1300 THE ZONE‏ @am1300thezone

Austin media personality Sean Adams passed away yesterday at the age of 46. That could be one of those impersonal headlines that you see and think nothing of. For many people in the Austin area it is very personal. It is for me.

I recently wrote about change. Yesterday things changed for a lot of us.

Sean and I were not close friends, but we knew each other and liked each other. I went to church with him for many years and always admired him. There were many exceptional things about him. He was a great son, husband, father, and friend. He took all of those roles and responsibilities seriously. He was a man of faith, and he had a remarkable breadth and depth about him. He had talent coupled with a terrific work ethic. He and Chip Brown in the mornings were a special team discussing sports. There was true chemistry there, and it was great to listen to. It was a morning staple for many of us. It was about more than just sports – it was sports generously seasoned with wit and wisdom.

I had lunch with Sean a couple of times at his favorite restaurant, Cover 3. We talked about our families, business, and he encouraged me when I was writing my book. He was also an encouragement to our children. When I got the stunning news yesterday about his passing, I looked at my text message history with him. There is nothing profound there, but I will always treasure it.

My heart goes out to Karen, Damon, Alex, and Sean’s mother and siblings. I also grieve for Chip Brown, Mike Hardge, Mike Weigand, Anthony Williams, Thomas Graham, Geoff Ketchum, and all of the other many people who shared a close bond with Sean. He had a lot of true and genuine friends all across the country. You cannot say that about many people.

My lasting memories of Sean will be his faith and his heart for elevating others to higher planes. He was famous for the wisdom in his many sayings. They will stick with me.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “The dream is free, the hustle is sold separately. Go to work.”
  • “Do something good for the world today, because the people who are making it worse aren’t taking the day off.”
  • “Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.”

Photo courtesy of Enrique Garza‏ @goodstuffcvms

He and I also shared a perspective on the value of sports. He spoke often of the huddle. The huddle is sacred, he would say. It is the one place where northerner and southerner, rich and poor, black and white, conservative and liberal, come together, put their arms around each other, and bond for a common goal. They sweat and bleed together, and special things happen.

Sean often said: “Life happens for those who show up.”

Sean showed up.

Life happened for him.

Thanks for showing up for all of us, brother. Rest in Peace.

Changing Seasons

As we approach the end of summer with the autumnal equinox, I find myself appreciating the changing of the seasons. Here in Texas we usually have a hot spring followed by a scorching summer followed by a hot fall. Even here, though, the changing of the seasons is noticeable if you pay attention.

Moving into autumn the daylight is getting shorter. The morning temperatures are a lot cooler. The trees are starting to think about changing colors. The Friday Night Lights start to glow (in this region that is actually part of nature). Until I started gardening I did not pay much attention to the seasons. I now find myself feeling more tied to light, darkness, rain, temperature, planting, and harvesting. Just about the time I am getting tired of the long hot days, they start getting shorter and cooler.

The changing seasons are a metaphor for life as well. I have never met anyone who truly loves change, at least not all change. I tend to get set in my comfortable routines and find that any change or disruption to them is annoying, even if the change is ultimately better (which it often is). Even though most of us don’t love change, we have to make peace with it because things change. It is one of the few constants.

Since change is inevitable, I try to get philosophical about it. Perhaps just as I welcome the changing of the seasons I can also welcome other types of change. There are many seasons of life that people experience. We greatly enjoyed the season of life when our children were small. When they started school that brought many changes to our lives and routines. When they left for college we again faced great change. Now that we are empty nesters and see the gray hair in the mirror, yet more change. When we face changes to the seasons of our lives we try to look for the new and exciting possibilities. It is not always easy.

My practice of writing an annual Forward Story (detailed in my book by the same name) helps with this process of change. It actually empowers me to not only think about what changes are coming, but to take some level of responsibility about how I will handle it and respond to it. It allows me to embrace change as exciting and positive. It is a choice I make.

Sometimes change is thrust on us and is most unwelcome. This is true with the death of a loved one. We did not ask for it, but it happened anyway. Many of my friends have suffered change because of a hurricane and flooding that they did not want. Change is inevitable and comes in many flavors. We are in charge of the way we respond to it.

How do you cope with the changing seasons in your life?(leave a comment)

Are You Stuck in the Doldrums?

4 Steps to Get Unstuck

The word “doldrums” is an interesting one. I have heard the expression “stuck in the doldrums” from the time I was a child, but until now I never bothered to look up what it means.

What are doldrums?

It turns out that this is a nautical term. The doldrums is a region of ocean near the equator that receives very little wind, and thus is difficult to navigate. Both north and south of the doldrums the trade winds blow. These winds allow skilled sailors to coordinate sail and rudder to travel where they wish.

Put yourself back a few hundred years on a wooden sailing ship with no engine. All you have are sails. You are stuck in the doldrums. There is not enough wind to work with, and your ship is too large to row. All you can do is sit and wait.

Sit and wait.

Sit and wait.

You make no progress. You have no trajectory.

It is not hard to see why we have turned the name for this region of the ocean into a metaphor. Our modern usage of the term means that if you are stuck in the doldrums you are making no progress. For this reason you are sad or depressed.

How do you get out of the doldrums?

  1. Recognize where you are. Step back from the details of your life at the moment and acknowledge: “I am stuck in the doldrums! This environment is not conducive to my going anywhere positive. I am getting nowhere fast.”
  2. Get clear about where you want to go. You are going to get unstuck, so you ought to know where you want to go when the winds blow and you can set your jib. Prepare for what happens when you start moving. Create a vision. Write a Forward Story.
  3. Change your environment. Remember, the trade winds are just above and just below where you are stuck. The fact that you are not moving anywhere does not mean that there are not places you can be where the wind does blow. You likely need to change your current environment to get to those trade winds. Then you can travel toward your desired destination. Unlike the physical doldrums, most of us can greatly control the environment in which we live, learn, and work.
  4. Apply energy (or generate some wind). Once engines were invented and built into ships, the doldrums could be navigated. You may need the equivalent of an engine in your life to get unstuck. What could the engine be? It could be education, meeting people, becoming an apprentice, taking a second job, or any number of other practices that may help you move in a positive direction.

How do you get out of the doldrums when you are stuck there?

How I Lost 50 Pounds (Part Three)

The Role of the Large Intestine

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Colon

In Part Two of this series we examined the structure of the small intestine and how nutrients are absorbed from the food slurry that moves through. The muscular process that keeps the slurry moving through the length of the small intestine is called the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC). This same process continues to move the slurry out of the small intestine and into the large intestine. Before we move on to what happens to the absorbed nutrients, we need to do a brief overview of the large intestine. The large intestine is also known as the colon. It is “large” in that it is larger in diameter than the small intestine. It is much shorter, though, as the colon is a little less than 5 feet in length. Under normal circumstances the process in the colon from entry to exit takes between fifteen and twenty hours.

Creative Commons Deed CC0

Creative Commons Deed CC0

There are two primary functions of the colon that I want to mention.

  1. Microbiome digestion. Your gut is populated by organisms that are not actually part of you in the way that your organs and cells are part of you. These are actually separate organisms that are the “good bacteria” that help with certain nutrients that could not be broken down higher in the tube. The reality of this colony still surprises and amazes me.  When you see advertising for probiotics, it is this colony of bacteria in your gut that they are claiming their product will help you build and nourish. The common terms used for this colony of good bacteria are gut microbiome or gut flora. Certain foods we eat can help nourish and build the microbiome. This includes cultured foods like yogurt, drinks like kombucha and kefir, and fermented foods like sauerkraut. This microbiome breaks down certain nutrients and allows for the production of vitamin K and other vitamins. So, how many of these good bugs live in your colon? Believe it or not, they number in the trillions with a “t.” It is important to note that while most of the good bacteria is found in the colon, there are also beneficial bacteria that live in the small intestine. Many health issues occur when the good bacteria in the gut do not thrive and when bad bacteria do thrive. Here is an outstanding article on bacteria and the small intestine. I hope to write a separate article later with more detail on the microbiome of the nutrition tube.
  2. Removal of liquids and formation of solid waste. While we did not mention it earlier, water has been absorbed already throughout the small intestine. Now as the process continues, the remaining water is absorbed into the body and solid waste is left in the colon to ultimately be eliminated from the body. The removed water ultimately ends up passing through the kidneys, into the bladder, and out as liquid waste.

There are obviously serious disorders and diseases of each component of the nutrition tube that require the expertise of medical professionals to diagnose and treat. The explanation I have provided in this series is my understanding of how a non-diseased gastrointestinal tract should work. Some of the disorders of the digestive system can be treated with a nutritional approach, but some require more aggressive intervention.

Conclusion

With that much too brief treatment of the colon, we have finished tracking the slurry through the complete nutrition tube from top to bottom. In the next article we will go back to the small intestine where we said that most of the nutrients from the slurry make it through the inner walls and are absorbed into the blood stream. Ponder the thought that these nutrients escape the nutrition tube and enter into your blood. Now they become part of you.

My next questions are:

  1. What happens to these nutrients when they enter the blood stream?
  2. How does the body make use of them, and how does that decision you made several hours earlier to eat 1,000 calories of doughnuts or broccoli impact the body’s chemistry and how those nutrients are used?

As with every question we have asked so far, these are actually very complicated questions. We will explore them in Part Four.

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How to Nurture a Positive Habit

file1431243434522You and I both understand the power of habit. As humans we are wired to repeat behaviors over and over again. Sometimes those habits are “good” in that they lead to excellent outcomes. Other times those habits are “bad,” leading to poor or even deadly outcomes.

I am assuming you can do a quick survey of your life and pick a few bad habits you would like to kick and a few good habits you would like to establish.

Me, too.

Lately through reading, conversation, and experimentation I have learned some helpful things about nurturing positive habits. I will leave kicking bad habits for another day.

There are two methods I have proven (to myself) to work, and there is one that I am eager to try soon. Here they are:

1. Seinfeld’s Red-X

Some experts disagree on how long a behavior has to be repeated until it becomes a habit, but a good number to shoot for is two weeks. If I can do something for two weeks, I will usually incorporate it into my life. Jerry Seinfeld’s method has really worked for me. It is a simple idea. You print a calendar and draw a red X on each day in which you do the behavior. Then string them together with the goal of “Don’t break the chain.” Doing this small practice can lead to big things. It is how I finished writing my book. It can be the way you finally accomplish that thing you have been wanting to do.

2. Write a Journal

This one requires only that you keep some kind of notebook or journal where you date each day and make an entry related to your desired behavior. If the goal is to excercise thirty minutes each day, the entry for today as I write this might be:

April, 22, 2015

Exercise Journal

Today I walked 35 minutes at 6 a.m.

Keeping a log or journal like this helps keep me accountable. It also provides a record which I can review to draw inspiration from.

3. Clear’s Paper Clip Trick

James Clear writes often (and well) on habits and behavior. While I regularly practice the first two ideas above, I have not yet tried this one. However, I will be trying it soon. The idea is that you start with two jars. One contains paper clips (or push pins or pennies, etc.) and the other is empty. When you complete the desired behavior, you move a paper clip from the starting jar into the empty jar. There is some strategy to choosing how many clips to start with. In my case I will use it to help me stay on track with some of the more mundane aspects of my daily work. If I need to make fifteen phone calls, I will start with fifteen paper clips. For more on this strategy, please read Clear’s excellent article here.

How do you nurture good habits? What works for you?

Prepare the Child for the Path

Train_ChildSeveral years go we bought a little stone tile with a quote etched on it. At that point in our lives our children were still at home, but were nearing high school graduation. We knew the time was short for them to be under our roof and under our control. The aphorism (brief statement of principle) on the tile seemed very relevant to us then, and it still does today. It reads:

Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.

It’s meaning is clear. The path ahead for all of us is uncertain and can be frightening. This includes the path ahead of our children. Our parental instincts are to run interference for them and to smooth the path. When our children are very young, this is normal and required. As our children mature, though, and begin to approach adulthood, it is dangerous to try to prepare the path for them. When Mom and Dad always step in to make things right, fair, and easy, it can give them the false idea that difficulties won’t come. It teaches them that someone else will solve their problems for them. That is irresponsible.

We are at somewhat of a disadvantage culturally when we do not have adolescent puberty rites. In tribal cultures boys and girls did not have the option to remain immature. When their bodies began to change, they were initiated into adulthood through rituals that most of us would find appalling. There was no doubt, though, after the ritual that the boy was to be considered a man and the girl was to be considered a woman. Mom and Dad were not going to run interference any more to keep their children children. I am not arguing that we need to invent puberty rights, but I am arguing that it is the responsibility of parents to grow children who are ready for the path and not afraid of adulthood.

As difficult as it is to do, as parents we must focus our energies on getting our children ready to face life on their own. We should equip them so that they can deal with whatever life throws at them. Sure, if we are still around we can help them and counsel them if they seek such guidance, but they have to learn to deal with life on their own. We will not always be around. Even if we are, we cannot handle their adult problems for them. That is their job.

I have not lived in my parents’ house for over 32 years. They prepared me for the path, and I have functioned as an adult for a long time. I do have to add, though, that while I am no longer under my parents’ control, I am still under their influence. I say this to assure parents that if you adopt the approach I am encouraging, you will raise children that are ready for life’s path, but you will retain your influence. In fact, you will likely have more influence than if you have always tried to control their lives and circumstances. Strangely, children who have been reared in an overprotective way often grow up to resent that level of control and interference.

It is also true that one of the great joys in life is to observe your adult children adapting to life and handling the path they are on. That is when you know you have done your job well and that they will be OK on their own.

In what ways do you prepare your child for the path?