Some of What I’ve Been Reading

Articles

I’m always looking for great fitness content and found this from the Forever Alpha Blog: How to Perform Hanging Leg Raises. When gyms reopen where I live, and I again have access to a pull-up bar I will again incorporate these into my routine. I highly recommend them.

Some wise words from Padre on Barbarian Rhetoric: For Successful Growth Conquer Yourself.

“So, what it boils down to is this, if there is a distraction in your life, preventing you from becoming all that you can be, you need to conquer it. You need to attack it and overcome it. Without strength, willpower, and the desire to be something more significant, you will never indeed be anything. Without power, resolve, and willingness to overcome your faults, you will never indeed be anything.”

Modern Warrior Academy with important information and tips for those looking for work. Unemployment Have You Sitting On the Bench? 6 Steps To Get You Back In The Game.

Zac Small with an important primer about Crypto: Keep Control Over Your Money By Getting Into Crypto – Now

Books

Jack Donovan’s Becoming A Barbarian. I love Jack’s writing and diagnosis of what’s wrong with modernity and how to fix it. His term used throughout the book, “The Empire of Nothing,” is perfect to describe modern-day society.

The Attachment Effect: Exploring the Powerful Ways Our Earliest Bond Shapes Our Relationships and Lives. I was not aware of the details of Attachment Theory. This accessible book provides an excellent introduction.

I’m looking forward to diving into Samuel Thorp’s debut collection of poetry, Glimpses, which was just released last week.

Course

Joshua Lisec’s, The Best Way to Say It: How to Write Anything From Tweets to Books with Epic Persuasion is one of the best online courses I have ever completed. If you spend any time writing, you need this course. It changed how I approach the writing and editing process. (Affiliate Link).

Seeing The World More Clearly With Lasik

It was the best $4,000 I ever spent.

I had Lasik surgery in November of 2015, and overnight my 20/600 vision became better than perfect at 20/15.

My terrible vision dragged me down my entire life. I could have let it stay the way it was. That would be the easy and cheaper path, but by November 2015 I was well into my self-improvement journey, and it should encompass all parts of your life that are not optimal – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

My path to Lasik started in the third grade. I remember that day when we were going through slides on an illuminated screen in front of the classroom. The teacher decided to have each student read a slide. Up and down each row she went in order calling on students.  

I sat towards the middle of the classroom and squinted my eyes in a desperate attempt to make out the words while waiting my turn for what felt like an eternity as student after student did their job.  

My heart felt like it was going to beat through my chest as my heart rate increased when it got closer to being my turn. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it because I couldn’t see the small words on the screen. They were a blurry blob and no amount of squinting helped, though I tried.

When it was my turn, the inevitable happened. I couldn’t see the words.  It appeared to my classmates that I couldn’t read, as I struggled and gave up.

The teacher had mercy after a short time and moved on to the person sitting behind me. I was embarrassed and angry at myself.

Soon after this incident, my mother took me to the eye doctor and he said I was near-sighted and needed glasses. My world dropped. Nerds wore glasses and I wasn’t a nerd. I hated those thick glasses we picked out from the rack in the lobby.

When we picked them up, I refused to wear them. I couldn’t face the world looking like that.

After continued struggles and after it became clear to my parents that I would not wear them, I told my parents I wanted to wear contact lenses. I knew a teenaged family member who wore contacts and loved them.

 “You are too young,” was their response.

It became a battle of wills, one I was determined to win. They relented, and we went to see the eye doctor to inquire about contact lenses. The eye doctor, recognizing that I would not wear the glasses no matter what he said, agreed to give them to me. From that day forward, I wore contact lenses.

It was as if a whole new world opened up. I could finally see. 

Even into adulthood I hated wearing glasses, never wearing them out of the house. By my teen years I was wearing disposable contact lenses that could be left in for a few days. I usually extended that, and often wore them for up to a month at a time. I now know how dangerous that was and I’m lucky I didn’t get a serious eye infection.

Even as an adult, people who knew me well had never seen me wearing glasses. I still didn’t feel comfortable wearing them and couldn’t see as well with them as with my contacts.

By my mid-30’s I had become wiser and started wearing daily wear disposable lenses and changing them each day as directed. This was safer but increased my monthly costs.   

I hated the ritual of putting in and taking out contacts. It wasted time. They were also prone to popping out at bad times. My father had to carry an extra pair with him during my football games in case one came out during a game. This happened a few times. Once, as a teenager, one came out in a nightclub and I lost it and had to drive home with one eye.

There were times I traveled for a few days and forgot to bring both my glasses and an extra pair of contacts, which means if one came out I would be almost blind until I got home.

I knew about Lasik, but also knew it wasn’t covered by insurance and was somewhat expensive. 

I didn’t do anything about it, believing I would be wearing contacts my entire life.

The Procedure

That’s me during my procedure on November 15, 2015.

By the summer of 2015, I was lifting weights and lost the extra pounds I had gained through my early 30’s. My “Dad Bod” was gone. At that point, anything seemed possible.

I decided I would explore Lasik.

I did research reading every description of the procedure I could find, every story good and bad, and even studies in medical journals. I researched local providers and compared them. I also talked with people I knew who had the procedure. This was the most important to me since every person I spoke with about it raved about what a good experience it was and how it improved their quality of life.

I worked up the courage to do it and made my initial appointment. When I arrived at the office, it looked like a typical medical waiting room. The Medical Assistant soon called my name and ushered me upstairs. I was in a whole new world up there. This was the area for Lasik patients and it was filled with expensive minimalist modernistic furniture and décor. Knowing that everyone up there for Lasik was paying without insurance, they gave us a different experience than regular patients.

When I asked the doctor about it, he shrugged and said, “Yes, I have a problem with spending money on making it look nice up here.”

He had me put my chin on a chin holder as I looked straight ahead into what looked like binoculars. The device did its job and minutes later, after consulting his computer, my doctor said the words I wanted to hear: “You are a good candidate, when do you want to schedule?”  

I was able to schedule the procedure for two months from then with two initial visits for eye measurements before that day.

He told me that prior to the first visit I would not be able to wear contacts for two weeks. It was ironic that people saw me wearing glasses for the first time several weeks before I wouldn’t have to wear them again. Those few weeks were hard because I remained uncomfortable wearing glasses, and I still couldn’t see right with them.  

The procedure itself was not bad. They handed me a Valium when I arrived. When it was time to walk into the procedure room, I was unsteady on my feet and feeling a drowsy and pleasant intoxication.

My wife was brought into another room that had a large TV and she was told she could watch it.  

They first numbed my eyes with drops, then got to work. It was a few minutes on each eye. I felt no pain, but there was a weird burning smell, as the laser burned my cornea creating the necessary flap and reshaping of my cornea.

That’s one of my eyeballs during the procedure.

When it was over I could see a little clearer. The medical staff gave me two Percocets to take home. My instructions were to take both and take a nap, and when I woke up I would be in a new world.

He wasn’t kidding. When I woke up the world had a sharpness I had never experienced before, even with contacts in my eyes.

It was like going from watching an old TV show in black and white with static and bad reception to seeing the newest science fiction movie in the crispest HD available.

At my follow up appointment a few days later, we did a vision eye test and the doctor said my new vision was 20/15.

Better than perfect.

From 20/600 to 20/15 like magic.

I experienced no side effects, no eye dryness, or no other major issues. Sometimes, if I wake up when it’s still dark outside and drive in that early morning darkness, I do see some tracers coming off the street lights. That’s the extent of any negative effects and it’s not even noticeable any more.  

It’s been a new world since then and even five years later I’m still getting used to it. Despite the $4,000 pricetag, by early 2021 I will start saving money since I calculated how long it would take to pass $4,000 in savings on contact lenses.

For anyone who is thinking about Lasik, my recommendation is to do it. When I did my research, I read some horror stories. They are easy to find. Anyone involved in a service business knows that those who had a bad experience are more likely to leave angry reviews than those who had good experiences. For each of those negative reviews, there are thousands of satisfied patients.

I wish I did it a decade earlier. It would have saved me more money and would have given me an improved quality-of-life when I was younger.

Do your research, find a good doctor, and open up a new world for yourself.

Once you are convinced that this is the path you want to take, don’t save for tomorrow what you can do today. This is true with regard to Lasik, as well as anything else you do that makes you better.

What Wiffleball taught me about cherishing each moment

One of my favorite memories of childhood was playing wiffleball in my backyard.

My brother, some kids in the neighborhood, and I spent hours back there pretending we were Lenny Dykstra, Doc Gooden, and numerous other 1980’s era players.  

We coined it the “Backyard Wiffleball League,” and it was serious business.

To the left of the field was our above-ground pool, there was a large tree in the outfield area, and our deck offered an enticing short porch in left field.

I often practiced my switch-hitting skills and perfected a curveball that, when it caught a bit of air, looked like a young Gooden’s nasty sweeping overhand money pitch.  

I don’t remember the last time I played out there. My parents sold the house around 2000 when I was 23, but we played the last game many years prior.

We weren’t conscious that it was the last game we would play. We grew out it. As we got older and stronger, every time we hit the ball it would clear the fence or deck. Besides, as we entered our teenage years, there were girls to chase and beer to drink, so playing games of wiffleball would no longer feel fun.

I find myself missing those innocent long days, which felt never ending. I know twenty-four hours is twenty-four hours, but now each day feels shorter. In those days, two hours felt like two days. Two hours now feels like two minutes.

There was nothing to do and no real responsibilities to attend to.  As autumn fell and the days got shorter, we would stay out until neither batter nor fielder could even see the ball. That’s when we knew it was time to go in for the night.  

Your last time is inevitable

We often remember the first time we do something, but not the last. The sad reality of life is that at some point there will be a last time we do all things that bring us joy.

Time is merciless. This point became clear a few weeks ago when my son, who will soon be six, was laying on the couch with me, his head buried on my chest. He still loves to cuddle. One day, he won’t want to anymore.

There will be a last time, and when I realized it I got sad.

If you live life right, though, it shouldn’t make you sad.

Living life right, in this context, is slowing down to truly experience each moment.

When I was in my backyard, I was present in each moment, undistracted. I lived each experience, and that’s probably why I still remember snippets of those moments.  

As I grew into adulthood and life responsibilities became real, I stopped experiencing many moments. If you’re doing something, even something you enjoy, and thinking about five other things, you aren’t present. You might be there in the flesh and going through the motions, but your mind and heart are not there.

I’ve been trying to work on being present more often, though I admit it takes a lot of effort.

I try to always remember that whatever I’m doing could be the last time. Do I want to be present the last time I do something I enjoy?

Yes!

If I’m not conscious about being present, I’m often not. I have to remind myself to slow down and focus all my attention on what I’m doing.

When my son was laying on me and I slowed down and became present, I noticed the way he would sneak a glance over to my face a few times to smile, though I think he was making sure I was still awake. If I wasn’t present, I would have missed that detail. Lack of presence means the loss of many details.  

My mantra I find myself repeating in my head when I’m engaged in something I enjoy is:

  • Slow Down
  • Cherish
  • Anything else can wait

When I follow my own advice, I’m able to experience a moment. When I don’t, I miss the experience.

The next time you’re doing something you enjoy, try to notice how many times your attention turns elsewhere.

It’s probably more than you think.

It reminds me of a portion of the Zen Evening Gatha, which is often chanted by Zen practitioners:

“Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. . . . . . awaken, Take heed. Do not squander your life.” 

I don’t want to squander my life or lose opportunities. Do you?

When you live life in this way, you know that you left nothing on the field and that you sucked as much joy and presence out of each moment you could. There will be no what ifs or regrets, which are the true tragedies.  

Slow down. Cherish. Anything else can wait. Actualize this during your special experiences because, like me on the wiffleball field in my backyard, one day will be the last time.   

Control Your Fears, Control Your Life

In recent weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of fear. There are few emotions that affect our ability to reason more than fear, particularly the fear of death.

As a nation, indeed as a world, we’ve been grappling with this kind of existential fear for the past several months.

There is fear of the unknown, fear of getting sick, fear of dying, fear of our way of life evaporating before our eyes, fear of going broke.

We seem to have broken down into two camps. The first are those who are allowing their fears to overwhelm their ability to reason and, as a result, are living in a state of suspended animation, somewhere between fully and halfway living. The second are those who are controlling their fear, transcending it, and using it to make their lives better.     

Fear is a natural part of life. Anyone who tells you they never feel it is lying, crazy, or both.  

On its own, the feeling of fear doesn’t equal weakness; but how we react to it determines whether it is a positive or a negative in our lives.  

Definition

Let’s define the word. The Cambridge Dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen.”

The key to the definition is the last three words – “or might happen.” The things we fear might happen, but they also might not, and this uncertainty debilitates us and causes anxiety for many.   

My Fears

I have many fears, including losing my ability to support my family, not being able to defend them if called upon to do so, and dying young suddenly so I can’t grow old with my wife and see my kids grow up.

Those fears are a part of my life, but they don’t control me. If I let them control me, I would never take any risks and would live a safe, antiseptic, and ultimately unhappy life.

Life is unpredictable. Bad things do happen to good people. How we react to these possibilities tells us a lot about ourselves.

Control Your Fears

To me, Mike Tyson is one of the baddest men who has ever lived. People of my generation remember when, before the shocking Buster Douglas fight, Tyson seemed to be invincible. He exuded a cocky confidence every time he went into the ring that drew people to him. He seemed fearless and unbeatable. Yet, despite this façade, even Tyson felt fear every time he fought.

Tyson wrote: 

“Fear is the greatest obstacle to learning. But fear is your best friend. Fear is like fire. If you learn to control it, you let it work for you. If you don’t learn to control it, it’ll destroy you and everything around you…So one must never allow fear to develop and build up without having control over it, because if you don’t you won’t be able to achieve your objective or save your life.”

I love the analogy of fear to fire. Flames, on their own, are not something to be feared; in fact, fire is life-sustaining and necessary to life. It becomes dangerous and deadly when it is allowed to spread uncontrollably. The key to staying safe around fire is to control it and use it for your purposes. 

Tyson notes, contradictorily, that fear is both an obstacle to our learning and also our best friend. How can it be both an obstacle and our best friend? Think of the fire analogy again. When fire is used to cook our food and sustain us, it can be thought of as our “best friend.” When it’s burning down our homes, it’s an obstacle. It can be both sustainer and destroyer.

If we remain irrationally afraid of fire even when it’s controlled, we won’t be able to live very long. I’m thinking of my furnace that burns in my basement. Those flames heat my house, provide me with hot water, and ensure I can cook my food. It’s fire under control. If I let a fear of fire control me, I would be cold during the winter, hungry, and taking only cold showers.

I respect the fact that my furnace is potentially dangerous, and I would call a trained professional if I had major, potentially dangerous, issues with it.

The fact is without feeling fear, we would be completely reckless, so it acts as a mechanism to provide us with good judgment. It’s our best friend because it prevents us from acting stupidly to our detriment. We allow it to become an obstacle when don’t control it.  

Think of the rare genetic disorder Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis (CIPA), which makes people unable to feel physical pain.

At first blush, this sounds like a good thing. After all, who wants to feel physical pain. Yet, it is extraordinarily dangerous because that pain acts as a mechanism that regulates our actions. We generally fear pain and without that fear we are more likely to put ourselves into dangerous situations.

Fear acts like our pain response. It regulates how we act so we don’t do reckless things without considering the consequences and taking precautions.

Tyson, importantly, focuses on that fact that we have to control our fears. Returning to the previous section where I discussed the things I fear, if I didn’t have those fears I might act in an incredibly reckless way. I might take actions that could harm my ability to support my family or that would cause me to die very young.

My fears, thus, force me to exercise good judgment. Yet, they don’t paralyze me or make me indecisive. In fact, they do the opposite. I’ve learned to control them by thinking through and preparing so I know how to react if I find myself in one of those fearful situations. Think of it like soldiers drilling and training for war. They train so much to ensure their actions become automatic in chaotic situations.

I don’t want to lose the ability to provide for my family, but if something were to happen I’ve built a network of people, learned skills, and would take any job, no matter how menial, to provide. I also take steps to not do stupid things that could lead to a loss of my job.  

Sure, I fear not being able to provide, but it’s under control because I take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening AND I know what I would do if it were to happen.  

I don’t want to die young, but I’ve ensured I have sufficient life insurance to continue providing and have given my family many good memories so that when remembering me they would smile and know that I loved them.

I also obsess over keeping myself healthy by physical training, eating right, and taking the proper supplements. These are steps I can take to keep myself in the best health to hopefully prevent that fear from coming true.

Sure, I fear leaving them too early, but I’m taking to steps to make it less likely to happen, and I’ve prepared so if it does happen things would be as easy as possible for my loved ones considering the circumstances.

Jeff Putnam in his book Setting Yourself On Fire discussed some of the darkest and most defining times of his life to show how he overcame his fears and rose from the ashes to create the kind of life he wants. I highly recommend this book to all, particularly to those going through difficult circumstances.

What is to be done?

The key actions to control your fears and turn them into your best friend are:

  • Search your mind and heart and name your fears
  • Acknowledge those fears and don’t ignore them
  • Take reasonable actions to prevent them from happening in the first place
  • Prepare your response and make plans if they were to come to fruition. This includes running through different scenarios in your head, in a sense drilling your response so it becomes automatic

By taking these steps, you will eliminate the uncertainty and better control your fears.

Life is never a perfectly safe endeavor. There is always some risk inherent in it. Don’t let that risk prevent you from living life on your own terms. Fear can be an impediment to action or it could provide us with the tools and motivation to act. The choice is each of ours.

We are living in a particularly fearful time. You can see it in people’s faces. Fear, however, doesn’t have to be an obstacle. It could and should make us stronger, more resilient, and more prepared to deal with anything life throws at us.  

Forging The Married Intimacy You Want

“My wife won’t have sex with me.”

“My wife is cold to me.”

“My wife has changed, she’s no longer the same person she was when we started dating.” 

If these scenarios describe your marriage, guess what?

It might be your fault.

That’s right. It’s probably on you.

That’s the bad news. 

The good news is that you can also take steps to fix yourself and improve your sex life.   

As humans it is our natural tendency to want to blame everyone else whenever something is not going right in our lives.

“She’s a bitch.”

“She’s cold.”

“She’s distant.”

“She doesn’t respect me.”

Facts

If you aren’t getting the sex you want – and I don’t mean the mechanical starfish duty sex that you may be getting on rare occasions – it’s because there is probably something you’re doing or not doing that makes her not want you.   

She might not respect you.

She might not believe you can lead and protect her.

She might not desire you because you have made yourself physically undesirable.

She might view you as a child she has to mother.

These are facts to face.

You are in some way not the high-quality man she wants to desire.  

She wants to want you, but you have to play your part too.

Saying “I do” just doesn’t automatically equal a lifetime of passionate on-demand sex. It doesn’t work that way.  

You have to earn it through your attitude, your appearance, and your leadership. When you get these things right, you will barely be able to contain her passion. You will know it.

Here’s some questions to ask yourself

What kind of shape are you in?

Do you have a beer belly? A “Dad Bod?”

Would you rather spend all your time watching other men play sports, instead of time spent exciting her?

Do you prefer watching porn on your phone instead of pursuing and challenging her?

Do you get drunk and embarrass her every time you go out?

Are you fun and unpredictable?

Do you keep her guessing?

Do you plan nights out and make the decisions on what you will do?  

When you do get your duty sex, do you make it fun for her?

Do have an independent self-identity and a mission separate from her that she can support?

These are all questions all married men who don’t get the sex they want need to ask themselves.

Be honest.

The Good News

It’s within your power to change all of this. You can turn the ship around.

You can excite her again.

You can be the man she desires again.

But, it is up to you.

The easiest one is your appearance. Getting in good enough shape to be better than 95% of the slobs out there is remarkably easy. Just think of how low the bar is set. Gain a little muscle and lose some body fat and bam, you are doing better than most American men.

If you don’t know what you are doing, invest in yourself and spend some money on a professional to help you dial in your training and your nutrition.

This is seriously so easy, but not simple. You know what you have to do. Just do it.

How do you dress?

Does she pick out your clothes for you? If you answered “yes.” Stop it right now. She’s not your mother and you aren’t a child. She will never respect you if you can’t even accomplish the simplest tasks on your own.

Do you wear pajamas or ill-fitting Costco sweatpants when you go anywhere?

Do you really want to be like the mass of men out there who look like shit and have zero respect for themselves?

Your wife wants someone she can respect and admire. That guy is not the schlub who lets her pick out his clothes like he’s her son, and who doesn’t give a second thought as to how he looks.

This is so easy, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are numerous free resources out there to start with.

How is your attitude?

Do you complain about everything? Your boss. The weather. The fact that the store ran out of Coors Light.

She doesn’t want to hear your complaints about things she can’t control. She wants to view you as someone solidly in control of his emotions and every situation.

Do blame everyone else for your problems?

Do you shy away from difficult tasks because you want your life to be a comfortable one?

Do you have goals, know yourself, and know where you are heading?

Do you have friends who challenge you and make you better or friends who bring you down a few notches because they still act like middle school students?

Are you boring? Here’s a secret, no one has fun with a boring person. Predictability leads to boredom.  

By making yourself higher value, you can once again get the intimacy and passion you may have once had but lost.

Make a plan and execute

It won’t pay dividends overnight, but with enough work it probably will.

This is what men do. We plan and execute.  

If it doesn’t work, and the relationship is too far gone to make right, then by taking these steps you have already put in the work to make yourself higher value for your future time as a single man.

It’s a win-win situation. Either she will get to enjoy the fruits of the work you’ve put in or someone else will.

Get to work.

Teach your kids at all times. When necessary, use words.

It’s easy to forget sometimes that our kids see and hear everything we do and say as parents.

While their faces might be glued to their iPads, it doesn’t mean they don’t notice everything.

One of the most important things we can do as parents is to model for them positive behaviors.

They are watching, and they will imitate.

My kids see me lifting weights daily, they see me reading and writing, they see me working from home, and they know where my meditation cushion is.

Just the other day, my five-year-old ran over to me to tell me that he wants to have muscles like me and wants to start working out with me.

He sees me every day toiling in the basement with weights and knows that’s a positive thing he wants to imitate. That made me happy when he said it.

He also often asks me to read to him, usually when he sees me reading. I’m happy to oblige him and we’ve been reading Jocko Willink’s Way of the Warrior Kid. The book is too advanced for him to read on his own, but I make him point out his sight words on every page to reinforce what he is learning in school.

I want my kids to value physical fitness and discover the joy of learning and questioning, so I make it a point to ensure they see me when I do those things.

I encourage them to not accept everything at face value and to not be afraid to question me or authority figures. If they disagree with something I’ve asked them to do, I give them the opportunity to make a logical argument to me. This is to ensure they don’t grow up to be automatons who are afraid to question future teachers, professors, bosses, or perceived elders. As Socrates said, “To find yourself, think for yourself.”   They are still finding themselves and must be allowed to think for themselves.

Zac Small, in his instructive book, Fatherhood for Modern Times, wrote: “Your children are going to follow your example, not your advice.” This book was helpful for me in internalizing the fact that our kids are always watching and imitating, and I’ve been consciously trying to parent with this constantly in mind. This extremely valuable book is currently on sale for only $9.25 using the code 4THEDADS. I encourage all fathers to read and apply it.

Be that example by showing them and modeling behavior for them. Don’t just lecture them and expect it to get through.

It won’t.

Just as our kids see and imitate the positives we do, they also see clearly the negatives.

Imagine my surprise when my son called his sister an “asshole.” When I asked him what he said he repeated the word (I’m kind of proud he stood his ground). He said he heard me saying it about someone. 

Though he doesn’t always appear to be listening, the fact is he does listen.

It made my wife and me more careful with our language around the kids.

Likewise, if your kids feel constant tension between Mom and Dad at home, they will internalize that this is what a marriage is like.

If your kids see you come home from work and immediately retreat into your “Man Cave” to drink beer all night alone, they will think this is what fathers do.

If your kids see you let the negative news on TV affect your behavior, they will more likely let external events they have no control over affect their emotions and actions.

They see our positive and negative behaviors and they strive to emulate us. This is a remarkable gift since we as parents have the power to model the types of behaviors that will make our kids more successful, happy, healthy, and well-adjusted as adults, and they are a captive audience.  

We must all take this responsibility seriously. It’s easy to see their heads buried in their electronic devices or in schoolwork and assume they aren’t paying attention or listening.

This is false.

I’ve also begun self-censoring what I listen to in the car when they are in the back seat. When my daughter pointed out a “Fuck” in a song I was listening to, I knew I couldn’t continue to listen to everything I might want to.      

The behaviors we model will be different for each parent depending on your own values and interests.

That’s perfectly ok. What works for me and my family doesn’t work for everyone.

But, understand that they are watching, and we have the opportunity to help them every day as they grow into adulthood. A famous quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi says, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

This is how I view parenting. To change it slightly into a parenting and non-religious context: “Teach your kids at all times. When necessary, use words.”

Our daily actions repeated and visible to them count more than our words. Let’s make those actions positive and helpful to them as they develop into adults and future leaders of families and communities.

You Don’t Need Permission To Celebrate

Our son is graduating kindergarten next week. He’s our third and final child and, I’ll be honest, we’ve been savoring all the moments in his life since we know we won’t get to experience them again.

When schools were closed back in March and there was still uncertainty about how long the COVID crisis would last, I told my wife that the kids would not be returning to school this year, no matter what the City government was saying at the time. It was obvious it wouldn’t be going away in a few weeks.  

When I said that, we both realized that this would mean we would miss out on the end of year kindergarten festivities, including his graduation ceremony.

I know it’s only kindergarten and he will have many much more important graduation ceremonies in his future. There is something, though, about the joy that a small child demonstrates during special moments.  

We grieved a bit that we would miss seeing him sing songs with his friends, walk across the stage to accept his diploma, take pictures with his teachers, and take him out to a meal of his choice.

We grieved for a very short time and then got to work.

The fact is we don’t need a school ceremony to make him feel special. We decided we would create our own special day for him to replace what he (and we) would be missing. I recognize that the way we were feeling was probably more about what we would be missing – i.e., watching our baby get lauded – rather than what he would be missing since knowing him he’d rather not get dressed to go to a long ceremony at school.  

The graduation day is next week, and we are prepared. We bought him his own cap and gown, we’re having family over, we’re getting cake, the choice of dinner is up to him, and Mom is making him special items.

We’re making his day special. We know how hard he’s worked this year, particularly since as a December baby he’s in school with some kids who are almost a full year older than he is.

The key is we don’t need to wait for permission to celebrate or rely on the State to create out joy. We’re going to make the day even more special for him than a long-drawn-out ceremony in a hot auditorium could ever be.

To me, this shift in thinking from what could have been to what we will create was key. We could have chosen to focus on the negatives, but instead we turned the situation around and turned it into a positive.

Kids throughout America have been through a traumatic time. They’ve been thrown out of their routines, not been allowed to play in playgrounds, and missed their friends.

Those parents who have done it right have minimized the disruption as much as possible and turned what could have been a bad into a good. I’m inspired when I hear of what some fathers I admire have been doing with their kids.

That has been our goal these last three months. I think we have succeeded. We are closer as a family than ever before. With the normal activities not available to us, we’ve had to get creative. This broke whatever moribund routines we were in and broadened our horizons.  

We’ve created new family traditions. One of the things I most admire about my wife is her ability to create new family traditions seemingly out of thin air. She seems to will new ways of celebrating into existence.

I am grateful for these last few months and, I’ll be honest, I’m dreading the world getting back to normal. We’ll probably never have an opportunity to spend such a sustained period of time together as a family like we’ve had, and I know I will eventually miss it.

Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned once again as we’ve designed my son’s graduation celebration:

  • Don’t rely on school or anyone else to celebrate your children;
  • Get creative;
  • Never stop creating new family traditions; and
  • Find ways to turn negatives into positives.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy 101

Studies continue to show that men’s average testosterone levels continue to dramatically decline. A well-cited 2007 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism demonstrated that between 1980 and 2004 the average testosterone levels of American men dropped 1% each year.

There are many explanations for this drop, which has many negative effects on men, including the increased levels of obesity, the effects of the standard American diet, and increased exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and environmental toxins.

As study of Danish men showed similar declines.

Other studies showing rapidly declining sperm counts, as well as decreases in strength amongst young men. Decreased grip strength is associated with increased risks of heart attack and stroke.

Whatever the reasons for these declines, their implications are profound.

One of my best friends happens to be a men’s health expert who owns a clinic that specializes in Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT).

I’ve learned a lot from Gil on this topic, and instead of writing about it here, I decided to share his hour+ long video where he dropped much knowledge on the basics of this important topic for all men .

I encourage all men, particularly those over thirty to watch the video and become educated on this issue with the kind of factual and non-sensationalistic information Gil provides.

While the topic of men’s health is often demonized, sub-optimal hormone levels can lead to a variety of health problems for men.

No, being on hormone replacement therapy to treat hypogonadism isn’t steroid abuse, no matter what the media tries to tell you.

Gil’s clinic, Elevate Men’s Clinic, is available for telemedicine for those who don’t live near one of their locations. To work with them, you can go to their telemedicine site and fill in your information. Note: this is NOT an affiliate link, and I will not get anything for any referrals. I’m sharing this video and his contact information because he’s an expert and he’s helped countless men get back to optimal hormone levels.

Unfortunately, primary care doctors are generally not informed about best practices, and often do more harm than good when men go to them for help with their hormones.

An Important Marriage Hack For Those With Children

My wife, Patty, and I didn’t get to go away alone together until the week of my 40th birthday. Sure, through the years we’ve had a few one-off nights when the kids slept out and we were home alone, or spent a night at a local hotel, but we had never made it a regular part of our lives to spend intentional time away alone.

About six months before my 40th, Patty asked me what I wanted for my birthday.

“Nothing,” was my response, “except a trip alone with you that lasts more than one night.”

I had recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who, from the day his kids were born, had taken a vacation alone with his wife each year. They had just returned from a trip to Costa Rica.

“Chris,” he said, “trust me, there are few things better for a relationship than going away together without the kids. It helps bring you back to when you first met, and you could just focus on each other for a short time. Do everything you can to do it.”

I was sold.

The idea of a relaxing vacation alone with Patty was highly appealing, especially after a variety of Disneyworld and cruise vacations with the kids that are exhausting. After these trips, I feel like I need a vacation to relax from the vacation.

At first, Patty was hesitant. She’s a wonderful hands-on mom who genuinely enjoys our children. But, she was easily convinced. We have trusted family members who are ready, willing, and able to babysit our kids for a few nights, which makes it easier.

We picked three nights in St. Lucia. I wanted five nights. Patty thought that was too long. We compromised. I didn’t complain.  

For our first trip alone without the kids we picked a place that was a five-hour flight with limited daily flights, which would have made it difficult to get home quickly in the event of an emergency. Go hard or go home I guess. The kids would be in good hands, so we knew we had nothing to worry about.

I won’t go into details but spending my 40th birthday in paradise took the sting out of that milestone a little. We relaxed. We went to the beach. We spent time in the pool and had drinks from the bar in the pool. We laughed. We enjoyed each other. We ate well.

The kids missed us, but they were absolutely fine.

That trip opened the floodgates. It proved it could be done. Now, we try to sneak away for a big trip alone together each year.

In 2018, we spent 4 nights in Barbados where we renewed our wedding vows in a private ceremony. In 2019, we spent 4 nights in the Bahamas. In 2020, we spent 2 nights at the Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida as part of a bigger trip with the kids to visit family in Florida. The kids stayed with family while we got away for 2 nights.

In addition, until this current COVID-19 crisis, we’ve been able to do 1- or 2-night trips about every other month, mostly to Atlantic City, NJ, which is nearby.  

Last weekend we had plans for something different. We had an Airbnb booked, a house secluded in the woods, for two nights. We had to postpone that trip until the world returns to some semblance of normal.

I believe that going away with your wife is one of the most important things you can do to supercharge your marriage.

Notice I said “away.” That’s important. It doesn’t have to mean something elaborate. It could mean a Holiday Inn one town over that you can drive to.

Being somewhere outside of your own home is important because the natural tendency when we are home is to fall into normal housework routines. This has happened to us in the past when the kids were out for a night and we stayed home. Our elaborate romantic plans tended to turn into something different when we realized that we had the opportunity to get things done in the house without distractions.

These nights together should not be spent deep-cleaning the house or washing dishes, and that’s what tends to happen when we are home and we realize we can do these things quickly and efficiently.  

Getting away into a different environment is so important and has improved our marriage in many positive ways.

There are at least four reasons to take such trips alone with your wife.  

New Adventures Together

We should never allow our marriages to get into a rut or routine. It’s so easy to allow familiarity to kill intimacy and adventure. As men, it’s important to never be boring since boredom kills both. Our wives want to be surprised. They want to be excited. They want to have fun and experience new adventures with us.

This doesn’t mean you have to climb mountains or go scuba-diving or some other high energy activity. Some people just aren’t wired that way. For me, the adventure starts on the Uber ride to the airport or as soon as we get in the car for the drive to wherever our local destination is.

There is always a sense of anticipation, and I try to have some kind of surprise planned for our time away.

I don’t want to be boring, and I want to experience adventures with Patty. I asked her to marry me again and renew our vows a few weeks before we left for the Barbados trip. That wasn’t the purpose of the trip, but when I realized that we would be there on our anniversary it just made sense to do it. The planning of our little private ceremony became an adventure on its own. The “wedding” day was an adventure. Patty got her hair and makeup done. We had our own wedding planner and got to plan every detail of the day. That day was fun. It felt like we were getting married for the first time.

Take your wife on adventures. She will appreciate it. You’ll both remember and reminisce about them frequently.

The Modern World Keeps Us More Connected Than Ever

We live at a time when we can, not only speak with our kids even when we are thousands of miles away but can speak to them face to face on FaceTime. When we are away, we make sure we schedule a time each day to talk with them on face-to-face. We’ll typically do this while we are getting ready for dinner.  

It alleviates any guilt we might feel about being away from them and gives them a chance to see us.

We have an international plan on our cell phones so, even if the WiFi at the resort is bad, we have cell service that allows us to stay connected.

Technology makes it simple to stay in contact with your kids. Take advantage of it.   

You’ll Be Better Parents In The Long Run

It is better for children when Mom and Dad truly love and like each other and enjoy each other’s company. That sense of togetherness is noticeable and helps bring the entire family closer. The connections we forge on our trips carry over when we return and make us better parents.

Increased Intimacy

So often we hear stories where married couples end up more as co-parents or roommates than lovers. When we are engaged in the struggles of everyday life. it’s easy to forget that we should be lovers first above all else. How often do we hear of marriages that fall apart after the kids are grown and out of the house? That happens because for far too many married couples the only thing holding them together is their status as co-parents. Their children become their only commonality.  

Going on regular trips together gives you the privacy you need to be lovers once again. You are freed of responsibilities for a short time and can spend the time totally focused on one another.

If your marriage is in a sexual rut, it could help reignite the flame that may be petering out. While I won’t go into specific details here, I always have well-thought out surprises for Patty to increase our intimacy, and I will never allow this part of our lives to be boring.

It’s important, though, to walk a fine line. We jokingly have used the term “sexcation,” and these trips could easily turn into that. While that could fun if that’s what you both want, there are a lot of other things to also do during the few days away.

Conclusion

I’m not wealthy. I willingly give things up to save the money to go on these trips, as well as a family vacation we plan each year. I am disciplined about saving because these trips are important to me.

I typically spend all year putting money away to pay for each trip and rack up airline miles on a credit card for free flights.

The old cliché is that it’s better to spend money on experiences than on things. I buy that to an extent. The fact is that if Patty had bought something for me for my 40th birthday instead of agreeing to our St. Lucia trip, I might not even use or own what she bought for me today. The memories of that trip, however, will never fade. They are now a part of our story.

Each trip becomes a separate chapter in our story. We reconnect, we increase our intimacy, we experience a sense of adventure, and reenact the thrills and excitement that were present when we first started dating.

The next trip is already booked for August 2021, the week of our 20th wedding anniversary. This is, admittedly, an elaborate trip, bigger than usual.  I booked it last year to give me two years to pay for it, and my saving is right on target. I’m just happy it’s not booked for this summer since I imagine many trips will be canceled due to the ongoing virus situation. I am hopeful by next summer we will be good to go.

I look forward to writing that new chapter in our story, as well as other chapters on shorter trips we might take before then. They are important chapters to write, and I encourage husbands to make the effort to plan them. They could help change the trajectory of your marriage for the better.   

Why You Should Not Always Listen To Your Elders

Growing up I was often given the admonition to “listen to your elders.”

The underlying assumption was that by virtue of one’s age alone, a person had accrued sufficient wisdom to guide those of younger generations.

While the passage of years does presumably give a person certain life experiences, a blanket “listen to your elders” statement does not take into account the kind and type of experiences that “elder” has accrued.

As my teens turned into my twenties, then into my thirties, and now into my forties, I have learned the valuable lesson that someone’s age on its own is not sufficient for me to allow that person to speak into my life.

Age is simply not a barometer of the quantity or quality of wisdom a person has.

I was duped.  

I would argue that when a young person is told to “listen to your elders,” the one saying it is trying to mold the younger person into one who is pliable and compliant to those in positions of authority.

This command is, thus, used as a bludgeon to keep younger people in line and unquestioningly obedient to authority. Respect must be earned – and being alive for a large number of earth rotations around the sun is not nearly enough to earn it.

Our Children Learn From Us

This is the lesson I try to impart to my children. Those who wish to speak into their life must earn that right, and they should never blindly trust or submit to anyone. When kids are taught to unreservedly “listen to your elders” it leads to unthinking, passive, complacent, and submissive adults.   

As my friend, The Polite Savage, said:

“As a parent if we instill obedience, submission to authority, and reinforce complacency as opposed to encouragement, curiosity, and self worth, we are subconsciously setting the stage for bullying.”

I have found that some of the wisest people I know are younger than I am. Conversely, some of the most unwise people I’ve come across are older than me and thus, technically, my elder. If I allowed such people to speak into my life, I would be doing myself and my family a disservice.  

Instead of “listen to your elders,” young people should be taught to respect those of all ages, but only follow those who have demonstrated through their actions and experiences that they are worthy to speak into their life.

I can give numerous examples of people in their twenties who are crushing it and who I listen to when they speak on matters of entrepreneurship.

I know men in their thirties who, while they have been a father for shorter than I have, bring so much wisdom to the topic that I would be stupid to not listen to them merely because I am older than they are.

I also know men who are older than I am and who have given me profound guidance on marital issues that have helped improve my life.

All of them walk the walk and have demonstrated to me their knowledge and wisdom. They have earned the right to speak into my life.   

Ultimately, it’s about swallowing your pride and understanding that the answers can, and do, come from people of all ages and backgrounds. There is no monopoly on wisdom and truth, and it can come from unexpected places.

If we are lazy and simply pay attention to those older because they are an “elder,” we don’t serve ourselves well, and we will miss out on many other sources of wisdom. This way of thinking closes off our minds to new knowledge.

At this point in my life, I have developed the quality of discernment and can spot from a mile away who is full of shit and bloviates about topics they know nothing about. While I show such people respect, I would never follow their counsel.  

Discernment and humility are the keys to the puzzle. Take the time to recognize who is worth listening to and be humble enough to consider their advice no matter their age or perceived experience level.

The right experience and true wisdom are much more important than age or outward expressions of confidence.

Fathers should encourage their children’s innate curiosity and help guide them towards the ability to discern who is worth allowing to speak into their lives and who isn’t.

If we do this, we will create children with critical thinking skills, humility, a healthy skepticism for unworthy authority, and greater self-respect.  

Hunter Drew is one of the examples I cited above of a person younger than I am who has proven himself to be wise and who speaks into my life. In his wonderful resource, Fatherhood For Modern Times, he goes into detail on many of these issues that are so important for raising children into critically thinking adults. I encourage all fathers and all who aspire to be one to pick up a copy.