Sunday, April 2, 2017

Defining My "Why"

Since attending the Team RWB Eagle Leader Academy in Detroit a few months ago, I have been processing, thinking, and trying to define my "why." Why do I volunteer with Team RWB? Why do I CrossFit religiously in my garage gym nearly every day? Why did I sign up with Team Rubicon TODAY? Why even bother with so many external things that I don't have to do and why not just focus on myself? All valid questions.

Allow me to get the CrossFit thing out of the way first: unlike running, CrossFit has the uncanny ability to humble me into a puddle of sweat quite often and without warning. Heck, I think it chuckles at me when I look at a workout and think: "oh, that doesn't look too bad" and then I get crushed. CrossFit is a routine of mine that pushes me. It's not the community of CrossFit, mind you. I'm alone in my garage. It's the difficult and very challenging workouts and since I don't know anything other than giving all I have, it is brutal and challenges me daily...and I love that. If it were easy, then I'd be done with it. The fringe benefits are: 1) best physical condition of my life and 2) more time with my wife than ever before...running robbed that of me for nearly 20 years. OK...so now that CrossFit is out of the way, let's move on to my "why."

Today, we participated in the national Run as One event with Team RWB.  Afterwards, about 10 of us enjoyed some java at Starbucks where some shared why they volunteer with the organization. I didn't speak up but the wheels were turning as they have been since February. On the way home, I think I finally framed it up and told my wife my "why." Let me put it into words...finally.

I have always considered myself selfless and giving. I was raised in a Christian home, joined the Navy at the ripe age of 18, got married at 19 and now as I approach my 44 year point in the very near future, I still consider myself to be pretty selfless and giving...to a certain extent, of course. Through the end of 2011 and 19 years of marriage, I felt pretty good about where I got in life, my home life, accomplishments, etc. Then, through a series of circumstances and humility, my entire focus changed. Intangible vs. tangible. Qualitative vs. quantitative. Relationships vs. accomplishments. Obituary vs. my legacy. Yea, I pondered that last one. Who would show up at my funeral and what would they say? Who would give my eulogy and what is it that I would be remembered for? Would it be for my service to my country? My 60+ marathon/ultra-marathon finishes? How I loved my family? My kids? My wife? Or, would I be remembered as a narcissistic, arrogant, angry man? Or person, for that matter. This inward analysis isn't one of chest-thumping but more a gut check of this question:

What legacy do I want to leave?

As someone who is very Type A, needs a schedule, is a perfectionist at heart, and wears his heart on his sleeve, you'll find the following ironic: I LOVE the unknown of what new and unknown relationships will bring into my life via volunteerism. With Team Red, White and Blue, I meet someone new at almost every new event I plan or attend. To refresh you...Team RWB's mission is to enrich the lives of veterans through social and physical activities. That "enriching" has many forms and often, it can be as simple as listening or putting muscle into action to physically DO something. Couple volunteerism with doing it with my wife and hopefully my kids at some point and not only am I helping to enrich the lives of those to my left and right but those under the roof in which I live. My "why?" That's it. It's been said that no one ever sees a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer behind it. Things are just that...things. Experiences, though, and the interactions we have with others can not only help others but set off a ripple effect that does way more good than we'll ever know. So when I think about what kind of legacy do I want to leave, it's one that most won't be able to just describe in a sentence or a paragraph. I want it to be felt in their gut, in their heart, and I want my wife and kids to feel the same thing in their own way.

Hands and Feet: I mentioned before that I was raised in a Christian home. My faith isn't something I brag about, plaster across billboards or my social media timeline, nor bring up in casual conversation. I truly want people to see something different about me and if that makes them curious and perhaps even ask a probing question about my faith, then so be it. When I think about volunteerism and more specifically relationship building and enriching the lives of others around me, I so often come back to the idea of being the "hands and feet" of "something." As a Christ-follower, I do believe that while we're here on earth, we ARE to be the hands and feet of Christ. Serve and love others, disciple them and be His representation while here. I believe it with all my heart. What's super cool about serving others is that no matter what label you slap on it, serving is ultimately selfless and can fit so many molds. I heard it today around the table at Run as One as friends talked about why they were there! In my gut, I want to make an impact. Sure, it feels good but it's just as spiritual or perhaps even more so. Everyone has their own reason why or why they don't serve others. It often "looks" the same on the outside but understanding the "why" on the inside can really help fuel forward movement and become even more enriching both on the receiving end and personally.

We were out on the 5 mile Run as One course this morning in the beautiful Cuyahoga Valley National Park and I looked to my bride and said "you know...we Run as One." She asked, because we were alone at the back of the back where the others had already finished ahead of us, "should we be with the rest of the group?" You see...we were wearing our 20 and 30lb rucks today for the run and we opted for the 5mi vs. the 3mi course so we were lagging behind. I replied: "No, Babe...WE...we run as ONE. We are one." That's what it's all about. It's not about us. It's not about you. It's about the "we" and how we can serve one another but that always starts with the one you took a vow to (if you have). Love hard, serve others, and give life everything you've got without regret...but know your "why."


Thursday, March 9, 2017

AAR: Team RWB Eagle Leader Academy, Detroit MI

This past weekend, I had the awesome fortune of heading 3 hours to my northwest to Detroit, MI for what was known as an Eagle Leader Academy. It is the first step in a 3-part leadership training curriculum with Team Red, White and Blue, one of the most awesome and influential non-profits in our country. If you've done a road race in the past 5 or 6 years, you have most likely seen other runners with red shirts on with an eagle on the front. That's Team RWB. Team RWB's mission is:

To enrich the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.


When Team RWB first began, it focused on wounded veterans but in today's "2.0" version, it's really about relationships, sharing life with each other through social and physical activity, and being a rich and powerful community that takes care of one another. Many have thought that you have to be a veteran to be a part of Team RWB. Absolutely not! I didn't take a poll this past weekend, but a large number were simply civilians with no prior military, family of veterans or active military, spouses of veterans or veterans...current and prior serving. Anyone, quite literally, can be a part of Team RWB and "Wear the Eagle!"

So Team RWB really has two functions: develop leaders and the events part. There are chapters all over the country and most likely in your backyard. If you happen to be local to me and northeast Ohio, we have a large/active chapter right here that spans from Cleveland down to Canton. You can find a chapter easily by clicking here. To join, it's free. Yea...FREE. 2nd step...get involved. So much happens via Facebook now so for now, that's where you'll find Facebook groups where all of the information is put out and often, an e-mail newsletter as well. From coffee socials to yoga to running events/training runs to rucking. There is literally something for everyone. For those in the shadows, it's often hard to step out that first time but I promise you, you won't regret it.

Back to the weekend: The Eagle Leader Academy (ELA) was developed in-house by Team RWB, based out of Tampa, FL Instead of "death by PowerPoint" kind of weekend, it has practical "rich" content that spans some classroom type of training, team-building, planned "white space" to connect with others, and some physical activity as well. It NEVER got boring and if I'm being honest, I didn't want it to end. It began at a restaurant in Detroit where the groundwork was set as far as purpose and mission of Team RWB and the goal of the weekend, we had dinner, then for the next 1-2 hours, people told their "story," their "why" for what brought them to Team RWB. Little did I know going into this weekend, but telling your story is a big part of what it means to connect with others and how Team RWB does it.

But why? Why tell your story? When you are vulnerable and have the courage to tell your story, others can and will relate with you and perhaps, realize they aren't alone. It's a two-way street. Where it's good to flesh out your story and actually know what it is, others can empathize with you, come alongside you, support you...that's the connection point. That human element is so gone in today's society. There is a reason I steer clear of mainstream news. There is so much finger-pointing, complaining, hate, "more for me" attitude (aka: selfishness) where as human beings, we are not meant for that! Sure, we are born selfish out of the womb but it's a choice to remain that way. Our brains are wired in such a way that compassion and love flow freely should we DECIDE to let them. When you consider all of the division in our country and world, for so many strangers to come together in Detroit and become able to connect in such a rich way across gender lines, color lines, age across decades, and a plethora of religious beliefs...well, it gives hope. It's proof that together, through community, life CAN be awesome if we "simply" take care of each other.

As for my chance to tell my story, I stumbled through it. I need to work on it better. That's a work in progress and maybe one day, I'll type it down and share it. For now, I'll continue to craft it and bring some fluency to it. I did have the honor of hearing many others' stories, though. Time and time again, I was thankful to hear it, was impacted by it, and often could relate. The simple sharing of our "why" drew us closer together.

Day 2 brought us back to the "classroom" for more along with a fun team-building exercise. We had the chance to work together as teams, got thrown challenges in communication, and even got a little bit cozy at one point under some cardboard. It was a great time! One thing that really stood out to me was a discussion on: Empathy vs. Sympathy. First, watch the video below.

Powerful stuff, eh?! I "dumb" it down to this: Sympathy is one way. It's your reaction to someone and your effort to throw a bandaid on it, aka: silver lining, and move on. It doesn't really help the other person in any way. Empathy: requires heart. It's letting the other person's story (whatever that may be) touch you and allow yourself to "feel." Another way: sympathy is just "matter of fact" and empathy stops and absorbs. Sympathy fixes....empathy listens. I continue to chew on this and am hoping it impacts my roles as a husband, father, and leader in every role I hold in life. Put down the phone, look them in the eye...and just listen.

The Eagles from Ohio
This discussion on empathy spilled into just about every facet of the remaining weekend and honestly, it continues today as our class continues to communicate amongst ourselves privately. I have led marriage retreats and small group Bible studies before. One of my chief complaints about those is not the content. I always strive to deliver quality content but it's the follow-through afterwards. As a leader, it's extremely deflating to lead 20-30 couples over a marriage retreat weekend, deliver awesome life-changing content, but then have no vehicle to continue the discussion forward. It's so easy to get home, throw the handbook on the bookshelf and return to status quo. Because of how the ELA was crafted, it sent those in attendance away with real "meat" to chew on and apply immediately in their lives but also the means to continue the conversation with other "Eagles." It did what most training events do not.

Day 2 semi-wrapped up with a few games of bowling at a local bowling alley. It was not just fun with each other but also time to engage with region leadership one-on-one outside of the classroom's formal setting. Again...planned "white space" that encourages relationship-building, connecting, and a whole lot of laughter/smiles mixed in. I say semi-wrapped up because the night was still young and many commandeered the majority of the hotel's lobby furniture for more conversation into the night. For me, it was time to mentally unplug and crash. It was a very mentally-stimulating weekend! The early call to bed was awesome and needed.

The final day brought it all full circle and allowed some time for the state-specific chapters to collect together and put some action points down on paper and talk. It also allowed a chance for anyone to give shout-outs, praises, etc. to others publicly in our group. Again...so foreign to a "corporate" training event but sooooo good! Finally, we joined together in a Yoga Nidra session. I'm very, very new to yoga and still have my reservations about it but I continue to tip my toe into it. Nidra is unlike so many other yoga practices. Heck, you don't even move, open your eyes...nothing. It is fully led by the instructor and some DO and WILL fall asleep!

After a great Panera lunch, we said our goodbyes and headed in all directions back to where we came from. Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and even Kansas. On the way back, I listened to Joe Quinn as a guest on the awesome Eagle Nation podcast. He is the former Regional Director in NY but now the Director of Leadership Development for Team RWB. The podcast was recorded back in December 2016 before the new Eagle Leadership Academy was rolled out. It was refreshing to hear his and Team RWB's vision after being a part of the first ELA. They totally nailed it! If you don't listen to the Eagle Nation podcast, there is a new one every Monday morning. I can't recommend it enough! (listen to Joe's podcast here)


To the leaders at Team RWB, our local leadership here in the Midwest and my fellow Eagles at ELA Detroit 2017, THANK YOU! I look forward to many more experiences and bringing the "Eagle Fire" to my local chapter and communities. Remember be real...be AUTHENTIC! "EAGLE UP!!!"