admitting weakness

Weakness. No man likes to be weak, yet we all are. So we just don’t admit to it. We cover it up. And we go to great lengths to do it. At least I do. So I am about as excited writing about it as I am about the case of Shingles on my right butt cheek. But here we go.

About a year ago, I was thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in 2010. The list was long. Finish my first Ironman, kick ass at WONGDOODY, make IdeaMensch famous and have CareerSparx help thousands of recent college graduates start their careers, sell tons of DogPause dog bowls, open a restaurant and write my first book. In addition, it made sense to be a better son, brother, friend and just an all around good and loving human being. Now looking back, I failed at most. And it’s really not all that surprising. One would have to be pretty superhuman to succeed at all of these. Me, I was probably pretty weak and thought that I’ll get strong by trying. That seemed to work out quite ok until about half way through the year. I finished the Ironman, got that jacket I now wear every day, came back to the US and then fell into a deep hole. I was physically injured, wasn’t all that crisp mentally and actually became a bit depressed.

My immediate reaction was that those kind of things happened because I wasn’t doing enough. See when you are training for an Ironman, there is no such thing as a free minute. You go, you go, and then you hit the pillow and you’re out. All the sudden I had free minutes. Free minutes that I didn’t know what to do with. And while I had a long list of ambitions that I could have attended to (see above), my lack of excitement and a slight onset of depression kept me from truly being able to focus on any of them.

My immediate reaction was to just sign up for another Ironman. I probably was just one of those people who needed a million things on his plate in order to function. Unfortunately, I already had 999,999 things on my plate and wasn’t really succeeding at any of them. Hence, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense that adding one more thing would all the sudden turn me into a star performer.

So I did something very uncomfortable. I admitted weakness. Initially not to anyone but myself, which by the way,  is much harder. I talked to my boss and asked if I could work part time. I gave away equity holdings in a number of ventures that I was involved with. For the first time in my life, I turned down opportunities. I make much less money now than I did even five years ago. On a personal level, I started sharing what felt like weakness. I would admit to people close to me when something hurt my feelings. I haven’t cried yet but sometimes I wish I could. Physically, my body fully supported my admission of weakness by completely breaking down.

Long runs turned into crazy fevers, peeing blood, visits to urgent care, severe colds and now Shingles. If I ever had to slow down, it was now. If I ever had to look at what mattered in my life and what didn’t, it was now. If I ever had to admit weakness, it was now. So as the year is coming to an end and as I am contemplating what I want to achieve next year, I am going to attempt to be realistic. Realistic about the energy I have. Realistic about the strength I have. And for the first time ever, realistic about the strength I do not have.

Don’t get me wrong, I can achieve ANYTHING I set my mind to. Just not EVERYTHING at once.

Here’s to saying “no” more often in 2011.


  1. Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 12:12 am

    ‘Adrenaline Hangover’ is a mental and physiological phenomenon that, especially with achievers, might as well be called ‘Major Milestone Hangover’. A big part of it is completing a major goal, meeting a milestone, and experiencing the stresses and thrills of doing so. Once you have reached that goal, you no longer have the hormones in your body that are driving that process, and like sobering up, you suffer from the withdrawal. I have never completed an Ironman, but I have felt the hangover after finishing long wilderness trips and losing a job that was exciting, physical and dangerous. And that feeling wasn’t all too different from trying to figure out what to do after I graduated college.

    Looking back at it all, it makes me re-examine how I set goals in life. For me, most of my goals revolve around skiing. I have gone from wanting to climb and ski all the 10,000 foot mountains in Glacier Park, to just wanting to get quality time on snow as much as possible. I don’t think I have lost my passion for skiing, as much as measuring my achievements in the sport differently. Skiing is my anchor in life, and climbing mountains on skis gives me a chance to reflect, appreciate the world around me, and develop my sense of self worth. The summit needs to be a fringe benefit to the experience. So, instead of setting specific and measurable goals based on achievement, I realize that at some age in life we all hunker down for the long haul, and if we’re persistent the achievements will roll in. I still haven’t skied all those peaks in Glacier Park, but I have taken great pleasure on snow -and built some quality friendships in all of nature’s splendor. This spring I’ll get done with my MBA, and be faced with another Major Milestone Hangover. Hopefully I’ll be able to make this one quick and painless.

  2. Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 2:51 am

    No matter what has happened or will happen, you are an amazing man and you have accomplished so much in your life and yet you still have so much more to contribute. You’re kind, caring and considerate. I knew the minute I met you that you were lightning in a bottle and could not be contained. I have always admired you and every blog entry just makes me admire you even more. And even though you’ve slowed down (just a little), I look forward to seeing what you will accomplish next and can’t wait to read the autobiography you will be writing someday. God’s blessings to you.

  3. Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 2:59 am

    Greg, great to hear from you. It means a lot that you check in here from time to time. Probably thanks to my blatant self promotion on Facebook. I agree on all points. You are very wise.

    I am incredibly lucky person who just needs to figure out how to enjoy what he has rather than consistently shoot for the next big thing. I spent a lot of my twenties trying to figure out what I want. Now I know it, actually I have it – I just need to learn how to live it.

  4. Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Harlan, you’re one of the coolest guys ever. It’s so funny how people randomly meet, and then they play a role in each other’s lives. You were the old dude (relatively speaking) who forced me to clean bathrooms for another semester. And now we’re friends. I really appreciate our friendship.

  5. Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 9:37 am

    As my wise old Chinese parents say, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. (Well, this is my very bad translation of what they say. But you get the idea.)

    Please take care of yourself.

  6. Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Mario, I’ve enjoyed every minute of working with you and have delighted in getting to know you.

    Life is a marathon, not a sprint… And balance will be achieved, whether it’s driven by choice, or by your body forcing it :).

    Take your time to heal, enjoy your time reflecting on what’s important to you, and look for smiles and internal joy as you define and chart your future path. I suspect you have a lot of fans around, and any one of us will do anything we can to help. Just ask. That includes just being an ear to bounce stuff off… No need to take this journey alone…

    Take care my friend,

  7. Anonymous December 21, 2010 at 1:09 am

    Connie, thanks for your comment. Fortunately, I am a quick healer. The key is to just not get sick again right away.

    John, you are the calmest and coolest business guy I have ever met. I have a lot to learn from you, which I am sure I’ll get back to soon.

  8. Anonymous December 24, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Stick in there buddy. You were there for me in a very tough time in my life and I, along with many others, will be there to support you as your get yourself back together. As my good friend Connie once said, 去找一些性。它會使你感覺更好。

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