Living with a Child-Like Passion

One of the greatest struggles of my life is figuring out how to motivate myself to exercise. I don’t. I am in my late thirties and I have gained 75 pounds from when I was a fit 18 year old just graduating from high school. Back then, I played all the time. It came easy to me for two reasons: 1. I played on the high school football team; 2. I simply loved playing sports. I was often out running around and playing with friends. Whether it was basketball, riding my bike, volleyball, or whatever other physical activity I could find, I didn’t tell myself to exercise, I simply naturally was active all the time. As a child, it was common for me to spend hours playing backyard football with my friends. I recall being totally exhausted and barely able to breath, and then lining up for the next play to try to score the next big touchdown. It was a regular part of my life. Children have a natural ability to play hard and love life that adults seem to completely lack.

We live in Michigan, where there is snow in the winter. This year, we did not get our first accumulation of snowfall until late January. It was kind of strange but, as an adult, very pleasant to not have to deal with snow until this late into the winter. My children, however, felt differently. They lamented the lack of snow and couldn’t wait for it to come. They wanted to go outside in it and make a snow fort and go sledding.

The snow finally came on Saturday. Just like clockwork the kids wanted to go outside and play in it. And the onslaught of requests to take them sledding commenced. Given that the snow came on a Saturday, I had a lot of discretionary time and could have easily taken the kids sledding. It’s what a good dad would do right? The problem is, I absolutely did not feel like going out in the cold and taking them sledding. My oldest son kept asking me. I kept giving the answer that all adults use when they don’t want to do something for their children but have no good reason for it except they are being lazy…”I’ll think about it.” The problem with “I’ll think about it” is that the kids see that as a weakness which they can exploit. And so the requests from the children intensified.

As the day went on, it became apparent that my kids really did want to go sledding as their requests turned into pleas. We only have one sled, so with 4 children they even devised a plan that included me driving them to the dollar store, and the two older boys using their money to buy their own sleds on the way to the sledding hill. It obviously meant a lot to them that I take them sledding. But I DID NOT FEEL LIKE IT AT ALL.

Suddenly something hit me.

I have an opportunity to be a blessing to my children and take them sledding. They are asking me to go out and have fun with them. And I am selfishly rejecting their requests. I began realizing that my laziness and selfishness was depriving them of the opportunity to express their natural child-like wonder, but also depriving me of that same thing as well. If I didn’t take them, I was going to deeply regret it later. What is it about adults that we completely lose the ability to know how to have fun and love life to the fullest? I decided to die to myself and take them sledding. Dread it as I did, I had to do it. They are kids. They deserved the chance to express their kid-ness after 2 snow-less months in Michigan winter.

Once I gave in to their requests and died to my own laziness and selfishness, I was able to remember. I remembered the wonder and love of life with which kids live naturally. As we arrived at the sledding hill near our house, the three oldest immediately began sledding down the hill on their sleds like it was as natural as eating or breathing. I remembered how often I loved going sledding as a kid and how naturally it came to me. I remembered what life was like before I became a boring adult that lazily sits inside when it snows instead of going out to build snow forts and endure the cold for the fun of being out in the snow.

sledding
Sledding January 19th, 2019

Ironically, as this life lesson hit me, I was scheduled to begin volunteering at my church youth group the next day for the Sunday evening youth group meetings. The boys in attendance spent their free time running around the church building playing tag. As I discussed the evening with one of the regular youth group volunteers I told them I was surprised that the kids didn’t utilize the fuse ball table, the air hockey table, and the pool table more. And she told me the boys generally just like to run around, and around, and around. Of course that is what it looks like to adults. But to those boys they are probably actually playing a game with rules imperceptible to us adults. It is as if once you get a mortgage and car payments you lose the ability to have fun. Again I was faced with how much I have changed since becoming a bill-burdened adult, and was reminded what life was like when I was just a kid who loved to run and play with my friends.

There is a huge life lesson in all of this. Maybe we struggle to motivate ourselves to exercise because we are doing it for the wrong reason. Maybe we shouldn’t even think of it as exercise. My doctor, when talking to me about my need to exercise more, told me that instead of getting a gym membership and never using it, I should think of an activity I like to do such as soccer, basketball, swimming, or whatever, and find a local club that I can sign up to join to do that activity with other adults. I think he is on to something. Kids are typically more fit. I think one of the reasons for this is because they don’t tell themselves they need to go to the gym to exercise, but instead just run after life with all their might. They love life. They play and they play hard. They remember what fun it is to fly down a hill with snow spraying in their face. They remember the joy of running around with their friends and trying to win whatever game it is they are playing. Maybe we need to stop thinking that we should exercise because it is healthy, and just live life more fully, having fun because we still can.

Disconnecting is The First Step to Living with Inspired Resolve

The first step I am taking in my resolve to live an inspired life is to do a little disconnecting. But it is not without good reason. Before I go any further, let me explain what I mean by “disconnecting”. While I would love to be able to completely and totally disconnect (get rid of my home wifi, all digital devices, my mobile phone, all social media accounts) my job requires me to be connected. However, there is one very important area in which I have taken the step to disconnect, and will chronicle how that is going throughout the next 30 days.

As a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, I am very excited my team has finally made the playoffs and have a good chance to make it to the Super Bowl this year. This is due in large part to their new coach, Matt Nagy. The more I learn about this guy, the more I am inspired by him. You see, Matt Nagy’s path is very non-conventional. After playing football in the now-shuttered Arena Football League, he decided to give up his dreams of football and get a regular job in the business world. He started selling new homes. However, when unpaid and low-paid opportunities popped up with the Philadelphia Eagles, he pursued them. Most people would not have taken the risk. (He had to start out with a pay cut of more than 50%). But he did. And now he is on track to possibly become the NFL Coach of the Year, turning around a Bears team with 5 wins, 11 losses last year to 12-4 this year, divisional champions, and a playoff berth. Matt Nagy chose to buck conventional wisdom and take a chance. He lived with inspired resolve.

Nagy’s example caused me to stop and ask the question: Is there some lifelong dream or passion in my life which I have put to death long ago because I believed the lie that I could never do it? As I pondered this question, I came across another interesting man who lives his life with inspired resolve. Daron K Roberts was a student at Harvard Law School. He was set to start a promising and lucrative law career. One day a friend invited him to work at a football camp for a few weeks. He fell in love with coaching football and the opportunity coaching could provide to inspire young men. He abandoned his law career and set out to become an NFL Coach. I couldn’t believe it! He resolved to pursue what inspired him. I had to learn more about this man.

After working long hard hours for little or no pay as an NFL coaching intern, Daron K Roberts eventually landed a position as an assistant NFL coach. After coaching in the NFL for several years, he now lectures at the University of Texas and is the founding director of The Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation and the author of a book called Call an Audible: Let My Pivot from Harvard Law to NFL Coach Inspire Your Transition. As I learned more about Daron K Roberts, I watched a talk he gave to a room of young college students about living with purpose. His first point in that talk was “Script don’t Scroll.” He emphasized the importance of not wasting your days away every day being closely connected to your phone scrolling through all the latest social media platforms to see what interesting thing the platform thinks you need to know next.

This got me thinking about my own social media usage throughout each day. My social media platform of choice is was facebook. I would look at it so often throughout the day that I got to a point where if I was bored, I would check fb. I am not sure but I would guess that I checked facebook probably more than 50 times per day. I would check it everywhere-in the bathroom, at my office, in line at the grocery store, in my living room after dinner when my kids were all around me and longed for my full attention, and everywhere else. The most concerning thing about this as I thought about it was (1) that I often was mindlessly scrolling through my feed while in the presence of others who need and wanted my full attention, and (2) that I was constantly connected to it. I would typically check facebook (for no good reason) within 15-30 minutes of waking up in the morning.

You may have seen this video, which has gone viral on social media, in which Simon Sinek discusses the way social media is damaging us and our whole culture. If you haven’t seen it, it is very much worth 15 minutes to watch. In it he discusses the importance of putting down our phones, not keeping them by our bed as an alarm clock, and keeping our social media usage limited. The video is enlightening and inspiring. I have seen it 3 or 4 times over the past year or two. And every time I see it, I decide I am going to delete my facebook account. And I never do.

However, after learning about Matt Nagy’s and Daron K Roberts’ intentionality, purpose, and resolve to live inspired, and being challenged by Roberts to stop scrolling and instead live a daily life of purpose, I have decided to delete my facebook account. Last night, I went into my fb settings and selected the button to create a temporary file which catalogued all my previous fb usage so that I have a record of my past posts, photos, and videos. Then I downloaded the file and clicked to delete my account. Facebook has it set up to have my information active and visible on facebook for 30 days to give me a chance to change my mind. This time facebook will not be getting me back though. I am choosing to stop scrolling and instead to script my life. I am resolving to live inspired. Facebook, by its very nature, builds into you a mindset of reacting to life instead of scripting your life. You have very little control as fb leaves you addicted to more of the same. The scrolling action invites a hunger for more scrolling. No longer will that be part of my life. I choose to be more present with the people around me and to live intentionally.

The most interesting thing about deleting my fb account is that I have had these urges to pick up my phone and check fb or to post an interesting article I found on it. At least twice in the 12 hours since I have deleted my fb account, I have come across an interesting article and began the steps of copying the url so I could share it on fb. It is amazing how much facebook has built itself its own little cozy place in my head. I have now kicked it out and it has no home with me now.

Tomorrow I will write about what other steps I am taking this month to live with inspired resolve and disconnect more from the chains of technology that occupy too much of my time. I hope you will join me and you too will live your life in 2019 with inspired resolve.

Please leave your comments. I would love to hear from you.