There are so many things that go into a life and we only get to do this once. When I was in my early 20’s I was focused on having a fun life, regardless of how long it lasted. It was all about how many different experiences I could have, places I could go and accomplishments I could achieve. It was very centered on me and while I had a lot of fun, it was a decade that was hampered by many personal struggles.
Eventually this brought me to a point when I hit my version of rock bottom. I was 31 years old and it felt like the world was crashing down around me. I was a man without a compass who was desperately trying to find his “true north”. A man named Bill Crawford had been speaking into my life for about a year and finally I came to a place where I was truly ready to listen. He spoke to me like a man and didn’t coddle me. It was the black and white, yes and no, crap or get off the pot type speak. It’s what I needed.
Putting others before me
That summer I made the decision to get water baptized. On August 21, 2005 I stepped into Campbell Lake which is located near Kalamazoo, MI. This is where my focus changed. I went from a man who put himself first, to one who put Jesus Christ in the forefront. I wanted to be more like him so that my heart would change, and others would see him inside me. I now became second.
About 9 months later, I met the person who would become my wife. It was 18 months after we exchanged our vows that our first son was born. I was now in my mid-30’s and this was the point where my life focus shifted again. I realized how selfish of a person I was. No longer could I watch whatever I wanted or go out with my buddies last minute. My priorities changed and now I had to place myself fourth: Jesus, wife, child, me.
Our second son was born two years later, and it became very evident. I no longer wanted to live just a fun life. I wanted to live a full, long life so I could see the boys grow up. I desire to watch them when they are playing sports and be there when they need advice or a helping hand. I wanted to see their kids grow up and God willing, their kid’s kids. Why put a number on our days here on earth? My great grandma lived to 102. Let’s see if I can top her!
Finding time for myself
As the boys grew older, I started to notice something. I took this “I am fourth attitude” almost to a place that was unhealthy. I was so focused on doing what was best for the family that I started to neglect some needed “me time”. Sometimes we can be so other’s focused that we neglect ourselves. A friend of mine, Tim Elmore, wrote a series of books entitled “Habitudes”,and one of the stories he tells is about the starving baker. The person in the story is so focused on feeding others that he doesn’t take time to nourish himself. It really resonated with me and I realized that life is short, and I better take advantage of the time I have.
My job as a minor league coach with the San Francisco Giants gives me the benefit of a long off-season. Typically, I have anywhere from 2 to 4 months where I am on call and have no major job responsibilities. Last year I made the decision that I would learn or experience something new every offseason. So, in 2017 I learned kung fu. I would meet once a week with my friend Ryan Smith and he helped teach me better balance and focus. Learning all of the moves was difficult, but when they were combined with rhythm it was a blend of beauty and power.
This year I decided to take a two-month course with the City of Scottsdale Fire Department. I was able to tour different locations, go on the trucks and get into full gear. I went into a smoke-filled building, rescued a child (ok it was a dummy) and even put out a fire. That was really cool. It was also fascinating to learn about everything they do for our city and all of the different divisions they have within the department. We learned from firefighters who specialized in EMT, desert rescue and watched a couple of them rip open some cars with the jaws of life. It was an awesome experience.
So this kind of brings me full circle to this week’s topic- Be the best version of yourself. I first learned about this from John Wooden. I heard him speak back in 2005 at Western Michigan University and it was life altering. Because of all of the outside noise in my life, it didn’t completely resonate with me at the time, but I walked out of that auditorium knowing that I needed to make a career change and focus on teaching baseball again. That lead me to moving back to AZ and start our baseball business, Cactus Athletics.
Over the years I would study John Wooden’s teachings periodically and recently I have read two of his books, most notably his “Pyramid of Success”. He is most well-known for his achievements on the basketball court, but I believe he is proudest of what he has done off of it. He lived a life of service to others and was a teacher in everything he did. John Wooded left this earth better than when he arrived on it. I continually teach my kids to focus on being the best Connor they can be and the best Bryce they can be. This shifts the focus inward when dealing with a situation. Now instead of blaming someone else for what happened, the focus turns to what I could have done differently.
A wake up call
Wanting to live a full, long life and being the best version of myself all came into hyper-focus this summer. On a night in the middle of May, I could not fall asleep. I was having shooting pain in my left side and it was hard to catch my breath. I did not want to wake up my wife, so I drove to the emergency room. I found out that I had lobar pneumonia. About 2 weeks later I was still having complications and after a blood test I was diagnosed with Valley Fever. Essentially, I had fungus in my lungs and the fluid was not going away. A couple of weeks later my joints were affected with soreness and swelling. For the first time in my life I was truly sick and the only way to get better was to rest.
For those of you who know me, rest is not programmed in my DNA. Anything more than 6 hours of sleep seemed like a waste to me. That only gave me 18 hours to do stuff and I had a lot to do! I already ate a clean diet, but I had to improve it. Now I was forced to rest more and do less. My body began to shrivel from a lack of exercise and I was getting frustrated. I didn’t understand what I was going through and I felt distant from God. Something was wrong. I had sin in my life and it needed to get dealt with. Here was the problem: I had no idea what it was.
I got on my face and prayed. That night God revealed to me what my issues were. I lacked compassion. Months earlier my wife was dealing with some medical issues and I just shrugged it off. She’s a strong person and she will get through it. I was not there for her. I was vain. Part of me being upset about not working out was that my identity was still wrapped in my physical self. For years people would talk about my personal strength and how I looked. I was a 210 pound ripped specimen that strutted around the weight room. Now I was a skinny puke who couldn’t stop coughing.
That night I prayed for forgiveness. I repented from my ways and dedicated myself to be a more compassionate, loving husband. I would give more grace to my boys when disciplining them. I would be more humble and stare at the face of the man in the mirror, not his body. Then within 2 days a miracle happened. The swelling in my joints subsided and the pain left me. My lungs cleared and I breathed better. The doctors said if I didn’t show improvement soon that I would be put on anti-fungal medicine, but now I avoided it. What could have been a 6 month sickness, was now gone in 10 weeks. God had compassion on me and I was healed.
So, I have some advice for you to consider while you are contemplating your New Year’s resolutions.
- Get right with God- Begin to pray and get plugged into a local church
- Seek out people who are like minded- In a perfect world these are men who will speak into your life and hold you accountable.
- Read more- Seek out authors that have topics that interest you and will help you better yourself.
- Put others first- If you focus on helping them, they will return the favor.
- Carve out time for yourself- Do something you have always wanted to do, but have not made the time for it.
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