The Stairmaster & Integrated Character

I’m halfway through Henry Cloud’s Integrity. It’s been too long since I read it, and I want to get it read before yearend.

Today I read this quote from chapter nine, “Finishing Well”:

The ability to make a move, make the call, face rejection or loss, is a character issue, and if it is missing, results do not happen. Fear of failure, rejection, disapproval, anxiety, unknown outcomes, loss of security, and other fears keep people from achieving the results that they could, if they were not afraid.

People of integrated character do not think of failure that way. They think that if things do not go well, that is another reality that they will deal with and overcome. In a sense, the integrated character never sees failure as an option. These people just see problems to be solved, and they will meet the challenge when it occurs, so “go for it.”

Here’s a simple illustration of this. I’m not running much right now while a left-foot injury heals. So my Planet Fitness craze is the Stairmaster. In response to a couple of challenges and opportunities next year, I’ve decided to push for some new personal records on the Stairmaster. The main record I’m after is time. Until last week, the longest workout I’d done was 35 minutes. Respectable. My new goal is an hour.

I could do it today if I had to. But I’d have to do it at a slower level/pace than I’d like. So my strategy is to add minutes slowly but maintaining high levels. So last Friday night I found a blog post for a 40-minute workout; it was beyond my skill set, so I modified it and went to the gym the next morning with my 36-minute routine ready to “go for it.”

I about died. This is the plan I didn’t succeed:

  • Two minutes starting at level 8 increasing one level every two minutes up to level 13 (12 minutes total). Complete three times.

After the first twelve minutes, I had a pretty clear idea I had overestimated myself. Two more rounds wasn’t going to happen unless I wanted to be the subject of a viral video of what it looks like to be eaten by a Stairmaster. In the end, I ran out of gas at 30 minutes.

I was pretty sure the way to solve my problem was to address my heart rate. I’ve never really concerned myself with it, so I needed to learn about it. According to active.com, it is recommended that you exercise within 55 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate for at least 20 to 30 minutes to get the best results from aerobic exercise. The MHR (roughly calculated as 220 minus your age) is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity.

Good to know. Why? All along, I’ve been pushing my heart rate way over the recommendation. Using this formula, my heart rate should be between 90-145. On Saturday, I mostly stayed between 155-170. No wonder I ran out of gas.

With a better grip on reality, I went back and boarded the machine yesterday with one goal in mind: monitor my heart rate well in order to get to 36 minutes. Here’s what I ended up achieving:

  • Level 7-2 minutes. Level 8-4 minutes. Level 9-6 minutes. Level 10-8 minutes. Level 11-6 minutes. Level 10-4 minutes. Level 9-6 minutes.

I even had a little left in the tank. As my friend told me, I had some experiential learning. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Knowledge about heart rate on this machine is power for meeting my goal.
  2. Getting there alive is certainly better than not at all.
  3. There is a way to accomplish my goal. Adjust and “go for it.”
  4. The Stairmaster can also integrate character.

Embrace God’s Power

(Day 17 in a 28-Day series from First Bradenton)

“Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” – Matt 6:11-13

When I read this section of scripture, where Jesus sets the example for us on how we should pray, I am always amazed by how perfect what He said is for us. Jesus is the Son of God of course, so it would not be any other way. Yet, it still always reminds me of how deep His understanding of our struggles is.

I also realize how much more often I need to remember these words and submit to God’s will over my own. It is not in our human nature to forgive those who have “sin against us.” For that we need the power of the Holy Spirit. We also need the Lord’s help in avoiding giving into temptation. I have found in my own life, as many others have, that if I try and resist temptation on my own the result is always the same. Failure.

I cannot resist the devil in my own power, but that is okay. God is with me. He has promised to always be with us (Hebrews 13), and He is far more powerful than the devil could ever hope to be. Through His power I really can be rescued from the power of the “evil one.” I just have to remember when I am tempted to do what Jesus showed me to-pray.

Sometimes those are the hardest moments to pray-when the temptation is so strong it is hard to think about anything else. And that is not just a coincidence. The devil does not want us to pray, for he knows that God’s power will always be victorious over him if we pray. So embrace that power today, God’s power!

Luke 12:32 tells us:

“Don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

God delights in blessing us and helping us resist evil and embrace His kingdom. So cry out to our loving God today with whatever you are facing in your life. He will embrace you and through His power you will live in victory over sin. This is not a one-time prayer though. Every day, when you face temptation over and over again do not lose heart, but pray! And see the mighty power of God work in and through you.

By Frank Welch

Shortening the Lows 

Today is another big day in the life of Tom Brady. Just so happens, I came across an interview of him from last June on demand this afternoon. Seemed appropriate to check it out.

Regarding the outcomes of championships, he was asked two interesting questions: how high are the highs and how low are the lows. About the highs, he didn’t make any distinction from his different experiences of highs; they last the same. However, he answered differently about the lows. For example, when they lost the Super Bowl in 2007 he said his low lasted about a month. But when they lost last year to the Eagles, it was half the time, about two weeks. His explanation-stage of life. Last year he had his children to pay attention to, to help them understand what failure is and how to deal with it. Eleven years of personal development had shortened his low time (my paraphrase).

Trying to avoid the lows is like trying to avoid raindrops. Impossible. Failure happens. Disappointments come, some expected, some not. The opportunity we have is to choose how we respond to them.

I’ve noticed this myself. My lows have gotten shorter. The low in my 30s was almost twice as long as a low in my 40s. After that one, I determined to be more proactive in addressing my lows. I leaned into the verse about the sun not going down on your wrath (Ephesians 4:26) and looked at how that could apply to my lows. Interestingly, the lows continue to be shortened.

So what changed? What did I stop doing? What did I start doing? Here are a few things:

  • I stopped being too concerned about what people wanted from me or could do for me..I started being more concerned about what God wanted for me and what I could do for people.
  • I stopped allowing the decisions of others to determine my steps…I started listening more to the Holy Spirit to determine my steps.
  • I stopped giving self talk free reign…I started admonishing myself based on what truth God had for me.

And my lows continue to shorten. 

Want to shorten yours? Take some time and answer these two questions: 1)What do you need to stop? 2)What do you need to start? 

Hitters: Even the Best Fail More Than They Succeed

(This is the seventh in a series on wisdom from baseball. In this article, Mark Stanifer continues to mine his playing experience for insights into how to better play the game of life.)

One thing that has always fascinated me about baseball is the best hitters still fail to get a hit about 7 times out of 10. Think about that for a minute. Only 3 in 10 appearances at the plate result in a hit. The all-time MLB leader, Ty Cobb, finished with a career average of .3664. This season, José Altuve leads all players with a .350 average. There aren’t too many professions where a 65% failure rate would be tolerated, let alone celebrated as hall of fame worthy.

Learning to live with failure is a must to be successful in baseball. It cannot be avoided. It is a key part of why success requires winning the mental game first. Interestingly, being successful in life also involves dealing with failure. I’m using “successful” here in a very broad context — parenting, running a business, balancing career and family, living fulfilled, following Jesus. Regardless of what you are pursuing, you are bound to make some mistakes along the way. The key is how you look at those mistakes.

Defining Failure

My Mac dictionary says the verb fail is defined as “being unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal.” This has long been my only understanding of failure — an unsuccessful attempt to do something right. In fact, and I admit this with some embarrassment, there have been times I avoided even making an attempt at something for fear of experiencing failure. I realize some of this is my personality wiring, but more often I have not appreciated the benefit that comes with failure.

There is another way to look at failure — neglect to make an attempt. Thomas Edison famously stated that he didn’t fail in his many attempts to make a light bulb, he simply discovered 10,000 ways not to. He also said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Do you think his perspective on failure had anything to do with his success?

Learning From Mistakes

For the successful batter, there is a balance between expectations and reality. If you don’t first expect to succeed then the likelihood of success is diminished. But regardless of your level of expectation, it does not guarantee a hit. I have always believed that making mistakes are rich experiences for learning, for others. But I have not always been so understanding for myself. Maybe you know what I mean.

What do you do when you swing and miss? For some it is a helmet toss or slamming the bat. But after the emotion passes, the successful batter will reflect on the at bat — “What did I do well?” “What could I do better?” “What pitch did I miss?” He analyzes what he can in preparation for the next time. It would be foolish for the player to say “I didn’t get a hit so I’m not even going to bat next time.” Is it not also foolish for us to take the same approach?

Keep Looking For At Bats

Professional hitters are really good. We often say things like “this guy is horrible” or “I can’t believe how bad he is” but that is a relative comparison. And while natural ability has a lot to do with it, much of what makes them so good is they had a lot of practice, a lot of at bats. It’s not always true that the more you play the better you get, but the more at bats you have the more chances there are to get better. I think that’s why so many successful people emphasize the importance of failure as part of growth. They recognize that with each attempt there is an opportunity to get better, to get a hit.

There are no stats per se to measure our life’s batting average. Even if there were, I’m pretty certain that none of us would bat 1.000. Maybe you struck out in your last at bat. Or maybe it has been a while since you’ve even been to the plate. Whatever your game, your previous at bat doesn’t have to be your last. Consider your attitude towards failure. Use failure as an opportunity to learn. Don’t let it keep you from trying again. You can stay in the game and continue to get better, but the next move is up to you.

First-Step Paralysis

I had a two-hour conversation today with a friend. We identified big problems, discussed big projects, dreamed big ideas. Of course the tag lines of where to start eating the elephant and taking the first steps were spoken.

So what exactly keeps us in a state of inaction, never moving from identifying/discussing/dreaming, in essence a state of paralysis?

  • We think we have to have all the answers?
  • We think all the details have to be worked out prior?
  • We think since we aren’t the experts then we are disqualified?
  • We think someone else can solve/accomplish/tackle/produce/promote better than we can?
  • We think failure is more likely the outcome than success?
  • We think too much?

Is it possible that the answer to our inaction and paralysis is found in the ridiculous pressure of the pronoun “we”? To be more personal, “me”?

Is it possible that all we need to do is take the obvious first step, which may be the only one God has given us right now, and just trust He also has the next step?

Is it possible that we’ll forever be paralyzed without knowing more than the first step?

If only we could talk with Abraham or Noah or Nehemiah or Esther or Daniel or Mary or Paul.

Or better yet, if only we could follow their example and just start walking, just give up accepting paralysis, just take the first step.