6 Wellness Lessons From The Waltons

My favorite show of all time is The Waltons for many reasons. I always love stories that tear at your heartstrings and The Waltons is the penultimate show in that catalog. In its 9 years on Television, it tackled such weighty topics as a death of a beloved Grandpa, the loss of a spouse, the breaking up and then reunion of a family after a fire, and a myriad of other topics that we all deal with daily. Through it all, the Waltons showed the power of kindness and the unconditional love of a family for one another.

That is why this weekend, when I got sick and tired of the current bickering of our national family, I binged watched the Waltons.  I did it initially to improve my mental wellness.  I wanted to remember what good old American values looked like and how people used to be able to focus on their commonalties instead of differences.  After watching a few episodes, I realized that the lessons of the Waltons are not just good for your soul, but for overall wellness.  The Waltons are fit, well (but not overly) fed, love the outdoors, well rested and self-aware.   They are a walking, talking commercial for wellness.  Here are six reasons why:

1.  Love of the Outdoors and respect for Nature.  The Waltons spent a good part of their days outdoors.  Whether they were walking to school, climbing the mountain named after them, or fishing with Yancey Tucker, they had a healthy respect and love for nature.  Breathing the fresh mountain air and enjoying the sunshine, the Waltons were never in need of a Vitamin D shot or a few rounds in the gym. Grandpa perhaps said it best,  “You can’t own a Mountain, any more than you can own an Ocean or a piece of Sky.  You hold it in trust.  You live on it, you take life from it, and once your dead, you rest in it.”  The Waltons drew life and health from the mountain and in so doing held their land in a sacred trust.

2.  Spend time as a family.  Wellness is not all about physical fitness.  It also includes loving someone and having them love you in return.   The Waltons never tired of spending time with one another.  They drew strength from each other.  Picking each other up when they were down.  John Boy was right when he said,  “I’ve done an awful lot of thinking of what makes this family work, and I think it’s because there’s enough love to go around and some to spare.” Let’s all spare some love!

3.  Eat fresh food in moderate portions.  Another key to wellness is eating fresh food and in moderation.  On almost each episode, there is at least one scene with the family gathered around the table eating what they had grown or caught.  Also, with so many people in the family, it was hard not to eat in moderation.  And when you did, you always had Grandma there to make sure you did not eat too much.  Note this conversation between Grandpa and Grandma.  Grandpa:  “I could do another sandwich”  Grandma Walton:  “You’re the one at this table who could do a little starving.” Grandpa  “Esther, we have got to keep our strength up!”  Grandma: “Strength? I think you just get weak carrying all that around”.  We all need that inner Grandma keeping us from eating too much!

4.  Love your work, but find time for rest and play.  The Waltons worked hard and enjoyed their work.  They enjoyed their craft and the satisfaction of creating something with their hands.  As John  Boy Walton said,  “One of the things that I find distressing about life today is that people don’t really seem to enjoy their work anymore. When I was growing up on Waltons Mountain my father and my grandfather loved their work and they instilled a respect for work in each of us.”   

But when the Waltons were done work, they found time for relaxation. As the good Lord ordained, they rested on the seventh day. We should all follow these words from John Boy’s journal: “Sunday afternoon on Walton’s Mountain was a time of quiet contemplation We took it easy or else worked at a slower pace and enjoyed a brief respite from the cares that beset us during the week. After we came home from church and had dinner, we permitted ourselves the luxury of play and relaxation”. Find time for play after working at what you love!

5.  Get plenty of rest after saying goodnight to loved ones.  Everyone who loves The Waltons knows where I am going with this one.  One of the two keys to wellness is to get plenty of rest and never, ever go to bed angry at a loved one.  No matter how much Jim Bob irritated Mary Ellen or John Boy struggled to write his next chapter, they always ended the night with Goodnight Jim Bob, Good Night Mary Ellen, and, of course, Good Night John Boy. 

6.  Listen and be Thankful.  The two greatest keys to wellness is being thankful for what you have and to listen and be mindful of the beauty around you.   It is amazing the lessons that you can learn when you stop and listen to the wonder of nature.  As John Boy wrote in his journal, “ I think if we learned to listen, we could hear all kinds of miracles.”  Truer words have never been written.   You and this whole world that God has wrought is a miracle speaking to our hearts!  Stop and take time to listen.

Be A Good Neighbor: TM

This is the fourth blog of the Be Good, Not Great series.  The initial idea for the blog series came to me in a dream about my Grandpop and resulted in a poem and a blog in less then an hour.  Read it hear. https://weightlossleadership.com/2019/03/16/be-good-not-great/

The series focuses on people that strive for goodness over greatness; who eschew money, wealth and fame to care for other people.

I still remember the first day at the first home my wife and I owned as if it were yesterday.  We moved into an established community in our then sleepy, now rapidly growing town.  The house was 70’s vintage and we were excited but a little daunted. 

We got the home for a good price.  But it did come with some things that we needed to fix.  The most urgent being a large bump in the sidewalk that led to our door.  The bump was due to a tree root that grew under one of the sidewalk panels.  It was a hazard especially for my wife who was pregnant with our second child and our 4-year-old.   I was ready to fulfill my duties as a husband, father and new home owner.

I had managed to lift the sidewalk a bit and was trying my best to cut off a portion with a small axe I had.  I was not making any headway and was sweating buckets.  When out walks a wiry, 60ish year old man with silver hair, from next door.

I stopped my work for a moment and greeted him.  he introduced himself and said, “I am TM your neighbor and son you looked like you could use some help!”  I said, “Hi Tim.  I am doing ok, but it is sure good to meet you”.    Which was wrong on two accounts. 

First because of his Texas twang, I called him Tim instead of TM.  This part was ok because he thought he heard TM due to my Jersey roots. Second, I was not Ok.  I had worked for an hour and made hardly a dent on the root.

After 15 minutes, TM returned with his own axe and said “Don, please let me help you out.  I have been doing this for awhile and we can knock it out together.”  Even though I was embarrassed I relented.  And I was glad I did.  TM immediately made more headway in 10 minutes then I had done in the last hour and a half.  When it was my turn to spell him, he let me use his axe and technique.  We got the root out and sidewalk level in less than 40 minutes together.  It was the start of a great friendship and mentorship.

TM was the perfect example of seeking goodness over greatness.  Born and bred in Leander, he moved to Cedar Park during its infancy to run one of the Cedar Yards for which the city was named. He was a great mentor, devoted husband for 68 years, loving father and a devout church goer.  You can read more about TM here. https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/austin-tx/thomas-pearson-7060600

There are four lessons from the life of TM to follow as we strive for goodness:

  1. Be a Good Neighbor.  The help with the tree root was just the first example of TM being neighborly. He was always there with a ready hand and a kind smile to help my wife and I with our expanding young family.  With both of us working, we did not always have time to keep the yard up.  When he saw us struggling, TM would take the time to mow the side of our yard closest to him or water some of plants when we did not get to it.  He also helped us with some ideas on landscaping and brought over some vegetables from his garden.  We in return tried to help him out, but never could match his generosity.
  2. Be a Good Family Man. TM was a devoted husband and father.  His only daughter was confined to a wheel chair after she was in an accident.   He and his wife helped care for her.  To make things easier, his daughter and her husband lived with TM.  TM had a specially outfitted van and helped with the medical visits and care.  He was always cheerful and willing to help. I also never saw a harsh word exchanged between the two couples despite the stress of living under the same roof. 
  3. Be a Good Mentor. TM was also always ready to pass the lessons of fatherhood to me.  One conversation stands out.  I was playing soccer with my son in our backyard and we were getting loud.  My son kicked the ball and it sailed into TM’s garden.  Instead of a harsh word, he handed over the soccer ball with a smile.  I told him I was sorry and asked him if we were bothering him by being too rowdy.  TM said, “You do get a bit loud, Don. but I know what you ae doing and you need to play with your son.  It is what they remember and how they learn so have at it!”  I try to remember that lesson when the two boys that are our new neighbors kick a soccer ball against our car.
  4. Take care of your community.  TM also reached out to the larger community.  His yard was an example to the whole community.  He also put on the best Christmas light show for many years.  Showing pride in your home and community inspires the same in your neighbors.   TM also sang and played guitar at his church.  He used his talents to the joy and betterment of those around him and the world is better for it.

We moved to a new home about a mile away in 2007.  Up to the end of our time next door, TM remained a good neighbor and friend.  Even helping us with fixing up the house for sale. Unfortunately, I did not follow his good example.  I got caught up with work and growing family and despite living only a mile or two away from him, we did not go to see him that often.  When he passed in 2016, I did not know until quite a bit later.  This is something I will always regret.

Robert Frost writes in his famous poem “Mending Wall” see full at this link https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44266/mending-wall:

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast…

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself.”

I now know what does not love a wall.  It is not elves, it is God and his love.  Be like TM and not me!  Break down the walls of cell phones, work, and a busy life.  Take a sledgehammer to that wall, much like TM took an axe to that tree root and make time for your neighbor.  And above all, love your neighbor as yourself!

Fitness: A Corporate and Personal Responsibility

Accenture fitness walk to raise money for Vets
Memorial Walk for Veterans

I had the good fortune in my early adult life to be in the Army.  One of the perks in the Army is that you are paid to work-out every day.  It was part of your role description and responsibility.  An unfit soldier will put himself and his platoon at risk.   I therefore had the pleasure and pain both at West Point and later active duty to exercise on a regular basis.  Sometimes, it was exhilarating like singing cadence at the top of your lungs while on a battalion run.  Other times brutal, such as the yearly Obstacle Course administered by the Department with a Heart at West Point. All of it good, necessary and part of your job description!

This all seemed to change when I left the Army and joined the consulting world.  Early morning calls replaced morning PT.  Long hours on planes and in front of a desk slinging code took a toll on my health.  It seemed in my mind at the time that fitness and taking care of myself was no longer part of my job description or even opposed to it.  I and companies at that time did not yet see the impact of wellness on work.   The drive for more billable hours and seemingly higher productivity dominated.   This corporate culture (or my take on it) resulted in weight gain, lost health, and a decline in productivity over time.

Luckily the corporate culture and my thought processes have recently changed.  Corporate wellness programs, such as Accenture’s Truly Human Campaign are now focused on fitness and the human aspects of work.  To read about this campaign, look at my prior blog here: https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/09/04/five-accenture-wellness-programs-that-saved-my-life/

Like the Army, corporations have now come to realize that being fit is a necessary part of the job.  Indeed, wellness is almost as important to the survival and strength of the company as it is to an Army platoon.  Here are three reasons why:

  1.  Improves Decision Making.  The enemy of all good decisions is stress.  Exercise and fitness help relieve stress and keep away fatigue. A simple 20-minute walk will provide a few minutes to clear your mind, allowing you to focus on the problem on hand.  Better yet, get up and walk around the office when taking a phone call meeting when things get heated. The simple step of standing up will shake off the cobwebs that tend to collect during back to back calls. 
  2. Builds Comradery.   The best thing about the Army was the comradery.  One way it was built was through morning PT.  While I am not advocating each company go on a company run each morning, I am recommending a common fitness program like Accenture Active.  This program has really helped me to know my colleagues better through fitness events (MS 150, Annual Veterans Walk, etc.) and programs (active rewards programs, Fitbit competition).  One example was a random competition that I and some colleagues engaged in on one Saturday.  One of my friends started a Fitbit weekend competition and although we were all in different states, we kept apprised with the others’ progress.   We all engaged in friendly and sometimes hilarious banter through the Fitbit app as we each surpassed 10 miles.
  3. Cuts Down on Sick Days.  Staying fit helps to keep you out of the doctor’s office and in yours during working hours.  Research conducted at Brigham Young University, the Center for Health Research at Healthways and the Health Enhancement Research Organization, suggests unhealthy eating is linked with a 66% increased risk of loss of productivity while lack of exercise is associated with a 50% increase risk of low productivity. My experience bears this out.  Before returning to fitness, I was habitually hit with bronchitis and, at least twice a year, pneumonia.  Both resulted in sick days and loss of productivity when I worked through it.  Since returning to my target weight in Nov. 2015, I have had neither bronchitis or pneumonia.  Not sure how many days have been saved but approximate it as at least a week a year.  And, an increase of productivity on those days that I should have been recovering and drove through and worked despite my illness.

These are just the top three reasons why you should consider staying fit as part of your role description as a consultant.  Increased productivity, esprit de corps and better decisions are just three reasons exercise is an imperative in the working world.  Let me close with a cadence I wrote for my team as we run from one project to another:

Everywhere we go,

people want to know,

who we are,

where we come from,

so, we tell them,

we are Accenture,

Pivot Wise Accenture,

Future forward Accenture,

focus on the human Accenture.

Hooah!

Pivot to the Future You!

I recently read Pivot to the Future, a new book by Accenture’s Omar Abbosh, Paul Nunes and Larry Downes. I highly recommend it for all IT professionals and, less expected, for individuals seeking weight loss. The concepts in the book can help those striving for a happier, healthier life!

Pivot to the Future highlights the key elements of Accenture and its client’s recent success.  The key point of the book is to show how Accenture and other top tier companies are releasing trapped value by continuously conducting a Wise Pivot.  A Wise Pivot is leveraging the lessons of the old and applying them with the tools of new in releasing trapped value.   

As I thought about it, I applied this concept in my weight loss journey to build a better, more fit and engaged me!    The new tools that I applied were the research and technology provided by WW and others to drive into new habits, new thoughts, and new ideas while leveraging the old!

1. A New Take on Habits – In every bad habit, there is the seed of a good habit.  Charles Duhigg explains this in his phenomenal book, The Power of Habit.  Each habit consists of a trigger, a method to get a reward, and a reward.  The key concept is it is sometimes hard to change the trigger or reward, but you can achieve it in a different way.  All you need to do is pivot to a new method of achieving the reward and its manifestation.

One example of how I did this was my addiction to Diet Coke.  Even though it is called Diet Coke, it is not good for diets (although somewhat better then leaded coke).   I used to drink 4 – 6, 16 ounces of Diet Coke’s a day, which was not good for my heart condition and weight at the time (358 lbs.).   After studying this habit, I realized the reward I was getting from drinking Diet Coke was an energy boost to momentarily take away fatigue and satisfying my craving for carbonation.  I soon realized my fatigue was attributable to a lack of hydration.  I therefore switched out Diet Coke with sparkling water that better reduced my fatigue and hydrated me! Now instead of consuming double or triple my daily allowance of sodium and caffeine, I am satisfying my fatigue and carbonation fix while hydrating!  I Pivoted to the New through my examination of the old (read more on this here https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/04/13/fat-to-fit-again-the-power-of-habit/).

2. A New Way of Thinking – Another key element where you can seize on the old to achieve the new is thoughts.   We often focus on negative memories when we are dealing with a problem.  But likely there is an equally compelling positive experience to counter the negative one.  The key is finding the positive and discarding the negative. Two ways to emphasize the positive and disregard the negative is mindfulness and keeping a gratitude journal.  These two new practices have often helped me to find a positive example to counter the negative ones racing though my head.  Also, it is important to remember that each failure is a lesson to propel you forward!  Here is added insights on how to change your thoughts and change your life. https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/07/01/stop-the-negative-talk-and-take-a-walk/

3.  New Ideas from the Old Each old idea holds the root of the new!  This is as true in wellness as it is in business.  Here is an example of an old idea turned new idea in health. 

Calorie counting has been an element of weight loss ever since people have sought to lose weight. However, we have subsequently learned that not all calories are created equal. A calorie of protein satisfies more than a calorie of saturated fat. Likewise, it once was thought that a good dose of fiber could counter the ill effects of sugar (not true).

The way I blend the old idea of calorie counting with the newest research on wellness is to use WW’s Smart Points. Since I began, 4 years ago, WW has changed their point system three times; each time incorporating the new research of weight loss with the old discipline of watching what you eat. Each change built on the former one and research to build a better path to wellness. Instead of chasing fads, I believe mixing the new with the proven tenets of the past to build a better future!

You too can change the old you into the future healthier you.  Use these three concepts to create a healthier you and a better world.

Change Your Environment, Change Your Life!

The key to improving your health and losing weight is your environment.  We in the 21st century live in a toxic environment.  Artificial food, false friends, and feelings of discontent lead to stress, weight gain and self-medication.  To embark on a journey toward health, we need to put away the fast food, vitriol and anxiety of everyday living to embrace real food, real experiences, mindfulness and thankfulness.

Man in field of bluebonnets
55 Bday Picture

I know I lived in that environment up until a few years back and experienced its negative consequences.   With ready access to Quarter Pounders, Diet Cokes, and M&Ms, I doubled my size and diminished my disposition.  These unhealthy eating practices were exacerbated by too much face time at work and Facebook for leisure.   The result was an unhealthy, grumpy middle-aged man who could not walk around the block.  Something had to change!  Only when I started to change my environment did I change my life!

There were three aspects to my environment that I decided to change in January 2015.  Weighing more than all but three of the heaviest players in the NFL with a goods deal less muscle tone and height, I had to take the following actions to change my environment and restore my hearth:

  1. Changed my food environment.  The first aspect that I set out to change was my pantry.  There were several nemeses that I had to swap out.  The first was Ice Cream.  I was an absolute ice cream fanatic.  So much so that I created an acronym for my Ice Cream addiction – ICR.  This is how it is used.  Once my kids could drive, I would call out – “Hey, Kyle can you go on an ICR.  Get me a large M&M blizzard and get something for everyone else.”   ICR if you have not figured out yet is Ice Cream Run and it supplemented the ice cream I already had in the freezer.  In addition to Ice Cream, I kept a pantry well stocked of chips, peanut M&Ms, and a big 1-gallon plastic container of mixed nuts.  All available for ready access whenever I became stressed.  This had to change so I sought out alternatives. 

I initially replaced my DQ Blizzard with Skinny Cow Ice Cream sandwiches and eventually Non-Fat Greek yogurt with Banana’s (I still stay away from Ice Cream totally since it is a trigger food). I replaced peanut M&M’s overtime with WW Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie flavored bars that are individually wrapped, the same calories of a two peanut M&M’s and less likely to gouge on by the cupful! I replaced chips with a crunchy, healthy alternative that absorbs Salsa just as well – Broccoli. I dealt with my Mixed Nut affliction in a similar way that I did Peanut M&Ms. I swapped out the tub full of Mixed Nuts from Costco with individual packets of smaller size that are less likely to gouge on in fits of stress eating. These and other food changes got me one third of the way to a better environment.

2. Changed my social and work environment. The next thing I needed to do was change up how I spent my time. During the day and into the early evening I was spending time locked to a desk in conference calls or directing my team. At night, I read the latest political debates late into the night on Facebook. Both resulted in too much work time and not enough downtime. Additionally, the constant diatribe of uncivility on social media was stressing me out. I could feel the cortisol racing through my veins as I dealt with the next work issue or latest political debate.

I decided to take two measures to change my social and work environment.  First, I vowed to get up and move for 10 minutes each hour and to block out 1 hour for working out in the morning.   Additionally, I vowed to leave no later than 7 PM unless the world was ending.  At first, I thought these actions would detract from my work effort, but I was wrong.  Instead, it fostered communication between my team and I and provided me with the respite to come up with better actions.

The second thing I did was make a determined effort to spend less time on social media and to spend that time on positive feeds. I accomplished this in two ways. I monitored and reduced my time reading social media. When I could not reduce it as much as I hoped, I decided to change my feeds and to listen to mindful podcasts. I actively sought out positive Facebook groups such as Spreading Positivity and liked their content. Over time, my Facebook feeds have changed because of this determined effort from politics to positive messages. Many of these serve as inspirations to my blogs! I have switched my environment from Trump to Tranquility!

3. Changed my internal environment. The most important environment to change to get healthy is the internal dialogue running through your head. The change in the social and work environment helped a lot in this endeavor, but I was still having negative thoughts. To counter them, I took up meditation and mindfulness. I have used the Headspace application as well as the Christian Meditation blog to get mind off the problems running in my head to the progress I am making in my heart!

Changing your environment is the first step to changing to the new you!  I did it and so can you!

Five Accenture Wellness Programs that Saved My Life

Last Thursday I had the pleasure to attend the Austin Chamber of Commerce Business Awards with some of my Accenture colleagues from the Austin office.  We were finalists for two awards – the Employee Wellness and Environment award for large offices.  Here is the group at our table.

Table Celebration
Austin Chamber of Commerce Business Awards

Smiles abounded at the table even though we did not win.  Why were the smiles so broad?  I can’t speak for my friends, but I can speak for myself.  I was smiling because Accenture’s wellness programs helped save my life!

This may sound like an overstatement.  I promise you it is not.  Before I became an active participant in Accenture’s wellness program I was on a downward trajectory.   Too much stress and not taking care of myself drove up my weight and ruined my fitness.

The bottom hit at halftime at my son’s senior homecoming game.  My son was nominated as Homecoming King and I and my wife were to escort him on the football field.   Carrying over 300 lbs. on a hot Texas evening, my calves became so tight I could barely move.  I had to momentarily move behind the bench and stretch out my legs.  Luckily, just before I took the field my legs stretched out enough so that I could hobble onto the field.

Homecoming picture
Nearly missed homecoming

My wife and son were kind but that was a close call with my health and only one of many.  I had to do something.  So, I explored Accenture’s wellness programs and they came to the rescue.  Specifically, these five programs helped me to lose over 170 pounds, restored my health, and improved my outlook on life and ability to handle stress.

  1. Wellness check-up – Each year our company provides for a free wellness checkup for employees and their spouses.  The wellness checkup is followed up by recommendations and assistance as well as a discount on your insurance.  The wellness checkup indicated that I had a health issue.  I was contacted and followed up with a more complete physical (also discounted through the company) that verified the issue and provided the proper diagnosis.  With the treatment prescribed, my shoe size shrunk back down two sizes.  It also helped provide me with enough energy to seriously attack my weight problem.
  2. Employee Discount Program for Weight loss program – I now had the immediate health issue under control, so I looked around for a weight loss program.  I was toying around with a liquid-based diet since it worked in the short term in the past when an email appeared in my email box offering half off on Weight Watchers for a year.  With that single email and discount, my life was forever changed.  Those who regularly follow my blog know the impact Weight Watcher’s has had on my life; leading me to lose over 170 pounds in a year and a half. The Why’s of Weight Watchers!  I still attend every week.  But the first step to this life changing program was the Accenture discount email that I received on January 1, 2015 (Yes, I kept the email as a memory!).
  3. Accenture Active – Another program that was key to my transformation was Accenture Active.  I was one of three leadership journeyers during the first year of the program.  In this role, I was afforded weekly sessions with the other journeyers and a fitness coach.  In addition, I had the opportunity to blog on a weekly basis as a means of encouragement to me and to others.  Also, the program provides a Fitbit to each employee and their spouses as well as a program called JIFF that allows you to get prizes for meeting wellness goals and tasks.  With the Fitbit and the encouragement of JIFF rewards, I went from being able to walk 1000 steps a day to 10,000 steps or more daily.
  4. Mindfulness Training – With my fitness on the right trajectory, I had to tackle the underlying problem for my health issues in the first place – my reaction to stress. Accenture again came through with a program.  My boss worked with a local company to provide mindfulness training for leaders.  In the class, I learned the practice of meditation and mindfulness that I use daily.  I may still have some moments, but this program has really helped me in focusing on the now and not worrying unnecessarily about the future.
  5. Truly Human Campaign – I had my head and body half way in order, so I now had to turn to my heart. Accenture has a program for that also called “Truly Human”.  It provides programs and advice on how to leverage the unique talents of individuals.  It provides exercises and  tips on how to be kind to both yourself and your colleagues.  I wrote about the importance of taking care of your heart as well as your body in this previous blog.  Feed your soul, heal your body The Truly Human campaign helped reinforce my daily practice of thankfulness journaling and capturing positive events in a happiness journal.

I want to thank Accenture for my new lease on life.  To end, I will close with a catchphrase from my time at Accenture Active – Life’s Attractive When Your Accenture Active!

Getting the Iron Out Door – Lessons from Big D for Developers

This is the first of a series of Father’s day blogs.  The leader that I learned the most from (which is probably similar to a lot of you) was my Dad – Big D.  Yes believe it or not I am Little D or Donnie, Jr. to my family . Here is a picture of Big D and Little D.

big-d

One of my Dad’s favorite sayings was you have to “Get the Iron Out the Door”.  Coincidentally, that is the root of the title of the Quarterly Professional Services newsletter, “Getting the Iron Out the Door”.  Two of the lesson I learned from Big D relates to getting the iron the door.

What is the Iron?  Where is the Door?  The iron refers to large turbines that reside in dams to generate electricity.   Big D was a steelworker/machinist and later the manager of Turbocare in Houston, Texas.  These turbines would come in the “door” of Turbocare from all over the world (Columbia, US, India, etc.) for maintenance or emergency repair.    As soon as the turbine came in the door, it was Big D’s responsibility to drive his team to get the repair done as quickly as possible while fixing the root problem and maintaining quality.  You can imagine the pressure to get these turbines back repaired.  They powered cities like Detroit or Bogota.  Every day that the turbine spent being repaired, part of the electrical capacity powering the city was out.  A brownout could occur or even a blackout.  In addition, they could only be carried by a train or ship and for some of these places the ship or train schedules where tight.

Now “Getting the Iron Out the Door” did not mean rushing around and slapping a fix in, as Big D explained to me.   It was too costly to send a half repaired turbine out the door.  The shipping costs alone are enormous.  You first needed to physically and electronically inspect the turbine to determine the root cause of the problem which was usually a blade bent a fraction of an inch. Then and only then you could precision machine or weld the blade or rotor with the problem.  Lastly and most importantly, you needed to test the balance of the turbine to precise specification.  The whole while the clock was ticking and the ship or train was waiting.  If you made the right decisions on balancing speed with quality, the Iron went Out the Door and did not come back.  See the picture of a turbine going out the door of Turbocare below.

turbine 1

How do I take Big D’s lesson in leadership to my life as in Accenture overseeing IT engagements?  Maybe our systems in Public Service do not power cities but they help feed hungry children (SNAP), keep a family afloat in an emergency (TANF), and help care for people with urgent medical conditions (Medicaid).  Our job each day is to “Get the Program Checked In”, so we can meet the deadlines of our client.  In so doing, we cannot sacrifice quality for speed.  The “shipping costs” using our analogy are families not being served.  How do IT developers like Big D see the clock ticking but not hear it, “Get the Iron Out the Door” without it coming back in.

  1.  Do a careful analysis to find the root cause of the code problem or a careful impact analysis to perform a comprehensive design.  This is analogous to finding the blade bent by a hair or the hair line fracture in the Turbine.
  2. Next follow the design and analysis precisely.  Use precision code and tools to fix the root cause of the problem or make the new functionality first time right!
  3. Lastly, test your application to specification.  A program not to specification will be subject to warranty (come back in the door) or worst yet cause a family to miss the benefits for which they are eligible.

I miss Big D each and every day.  Let us heed his words of leadership well and Get the Iron Out the Door and not allow it back in!

Fat to Fit Again! The Power of Habit

My last blog told the story of how I went from a fit Army officer to a 358 lbs. behemoth sprawled faced down after tripping leaving work at 3 AM with broken glasses and bruised pride.  You can read it hear. Fit to Fat: Lessons Learned While Doubling My Weight

At basically the nadir of my 50+ years, I decided to turn my health and my life around somehow, someway.  I did not get all the way at once.  I still had the bout with my colleague when I was gasping for breath after climbing a set of two sets of stairs. Read it here.  But at least at that point I decided to do something, somehow.  This is the story of how I went from Fat to Fit Again by killing the 7 deadly habits that explained in my most recent previous blog.

Before I discuss that let me talk to you a bit about Habits. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg linked here  The Power of Habit is a must read for anyone that is seeking to change the habits that caused them to gain weight (or any other nefarious thing).  I listened to the audiobook half way through my 178 lbs. weight loss journey (wish I read it earlier).

If you are struggling with any bad behavior DROP EVERYTHING AND READ IT NOW!  The proposition from the book is we are creatures of habit.  The book can be summed up by this quote “There is nothing you cannot do if you get the habits right!”   On any given day, you do at least 40% of anything by habit.  For example, you get up, your breath is sour, and you smell so you brush your teeth and take a shower.   Depending on what is more important to you (I brush my teeth first), your habit is consistently the same.  Every habit is triggered by an event (halitosis from sleeping with your mouth closed), followed by the habit (brushing my teeth for 45.7 seconds followed by mouth wash) to gain a reward (the ability to hopefully kiss my wife without her turning away!).

First you must realize your trigger, then the habit to give your reward.  If you can realize the trigger (sometimes it is deceptive so use root cause analysis) and the resulting reward, you can change the intervening habit to get a similar award.  We are not Pavlov’s dog, but we are sure close.  The key things with humans is you can discern the trigger, change the habit, and earn the same or similar award.  So now I will tell you how I dealt with the 7 deadly habits that changed me from Fit to Fat again.  In all seven, I list the bad habits I had, the trigger that caused it, the habit that I changed and the reward that I still got even though the habit was changed.

  1. Bad Habit: Binge Eating of Peanut M&Ms. New Habit: Eating filling fruit.  I told in the last blog how I would drink cup full of Peanut M&M’s to sustain me from long nights of driving my team to create software.  I changed this habit in three ways.  First, I tracked the number of Weight Watcher points associated with a cup of peanut M&M’s (27 WW Smart Points per cup– more than 4/5 my daily allowance).  Then I figured out the trigger.  It was at approximately 3 hours after lunch when I felt tired and needed to get out of the chair.  The habit was to walk to the front desk and fill a coffee cup with Peanut M&Ms and the reward was a burst of energy from sugar.   What I did once I realized the trigger and the reward, I just changed the habit to get a similar award.  An Apple has natural sugar but is zero points.  So, I walked a similar distance to the break room and grabbed an apple.
  2. Bad Habit: Overworking New Habit: Delegating and mentoring. One of the main reasons that I gained weight is I tried to do everything myself and ended up working 16+ days.  The trigger was an overwhelming sense of responsibility to my job and the satisfaction of a successful project.  Beyond the ancillary consequence of gaining weight since I put my health secondary, I was not fully utilizing my team or giving them a sense of accomplishment on their own.  So chiefly for selfish reasons, I realized I could no longer be an iron man and started to delegate.  I adopted an approach of Mentoring and not Mangling with dictates and proclamations.  This not only gave me time to focus on my health, it also allowed us to accomplish the mission, thus fulfilling my sense of responsibility.
  3. Bad Habit: Not Sleeping New Habit:  Sleeping more (but still not enough!).  Delegating helped me to get more sleep.  But I also took other measures.  Instead of working or listening to books on one of the many plane trips that I took, I did a mindfulness exercise (in my case as a Catholic I said a Rosary), then calmed I went to sleep on the plane.  Also, exercise helped to induce me to get more sleep.  I also monitored my sleep habits with a Fitbit.  Despite all these efforts (and another effort I will mention later), I was only able to up my average sleep to 6.2 hours from a paltry 5.1.   But it is progress.  Sleep by the way is one of the most important factors to weight loss.  Almost every week I failed to lose weight on my weight loss journey it was due to a lack of sleep.
  4. Bad Habit: Stressing out New Habit: Working out.   Stress was one of the triggers to so many of my bad habits.  Depression and binge eating are too in particular.  There are two ways I countered the trigger of stress.  When I felt it coming on, I made sure I planned a Beer Walk after work.  That is where I would make a 2-3-mile trek to the Banger’s Bar that is just off trail in Austin Town lake.  I would have a beer and then walk back.  Here is a picture of me returning from my most recent beer walk and enjoying an Austin sunset!   IMG_3391The other thing I do is I sing Karaoke with an app called Sing Smule.  I don’t do it in the office (well at least not normally).  But singing a few tunes is a great way to get the stress and the fat invoking Cortisol down!
  5. Bad Habit: Not going to the doctors New Habit: Doing exactly what the doctor told me.  In my previous blog, I talked about how I skipped going to the doctors because of work and paid for it.  I paid for it in two ways.  I had Sleep Apnea and an undiagnosed condition that caused me to retain 25+ lbs. of fluid.  Once I finally went to the doctors, I kept going.  And I did what they told me.  That meant living with a CPAP for a year and taking it to all my favorite Midwest states for work (don’t try to get distilled water at midnight in Topeka).  I also took my meds.  These two simple things took off 25+ lbs. in water weight and reduced my shoes size by 21/2 sizes.
  6. Problem: Depression Antidote: Being Thankful and Grieving. I had a lot of things go wrong in 2012 most importantly losing my Mother – my last parent.  I drove on and tried to work myself out of the grief.  Bad idea.  After a year of trying that, I pulled myself out of my funk by taking time to grieve and being thankful for all the good things that were coming my way (Kid’s graduation, daughter’s wedding).  When you are sad, look for something for which to be thankful but more importantly take time to remember the person you lost!  Here is the blog I wrote about the thankfulness I felt on another sad moment. Life’s Game Changers – The Power of Thanksgiving
  7. Bad Habit: Not drinking water and drinking Coke. New Habit: Drinking flavored Sparkling Water.  This sounds weird, I do not like drinking water.  But I love carbonated drinks.  Once I realized I was drinking a lot of calories, I decided to try zero calorie, sparkling water.  To save money, I got a soda stream machine and I buy flavor pods available in the store.  Water along with sleep.

And there you have it.  I changed my habits and transformed my life.  178 lbs. gained and then lost and never, ever coming back again.  You can go from Fat to Fit like me with the Power of Habit.

March Back to Fitness!

Back in my Army and West Point days, I never thought of marching and carrying a ruck in fitness terms.  It was a necessity.  What you carried on your back is what you brought into combat.   The more you put in, the more you were weighed down.  The less you put in, the more you ran the risk of being ill-prepared.  

Recently, however, I realized the fitness benefits of rucking for civilians.  I started carrying a weighted ruck in preparation for the Shadow West Point March back that happened last week.  The March Back coincides with the annual 13-mile march back of the United States Military Academy’s Plebe Class at the conclusion of summer Cadet Basic Training.  I and about 15  fellow members of the West Point Society of Central Texas finished the march last week. The March included loaded Rucksacks and the Texas Heat!   See the picture below.  The Weather Channel even filmed a piece about us! I will let you know when it comes out. 

Vets  Marching for Fitness

Rucking has many benefits and is my latest fitness obsession.  There is even a community of Veterans that go on rucking events.  It is called GoRuck and raises money for Veterans dealing with PTSD.  I am currently training for the next major event near Austin.

Here are the five major benefits of Rucking:

  1.  Low Impact.  Unlike running that puts stress on your joints, rucking is low impact especially if you pack your ruck correctly.
  2. Burns Calories.  It burns 3 times the calories that walking does (even more in Texas heat).
  3. Carry your Hydration.  A ruck provides a convenient compartment to store water and remain hydrate.  I fill up the bladder from my Camelback in my ruck.  It adds weight and prevents me from passing out int the Texas heat!
  4. Low Cost.  I bought my rucksack for less than 40 dollars on Amazon.  There is no need to get a specialized rucksack unless you want to.  To weight it down, I just evenly distributed 5 lbs. weights that I already had in pouches. 
  5. Fun and social.  I loved marching with fellow members of the Long Grey Line and being out in nature. 

Marching with a ruck is not just for the military.  Pick up your ruck, lace up your shoes and march back to health!

Coffee Cups Are Not Just for Coffee, Anymore!

I have a secret weight loss weapon when traveling on the road – coffee cups.  This wonderful tool is ubiquitous at hotels.  Here are three simple weight loss hacks related to coffee cups:

  1.  The first is the obvious one – use it for coffee.  Nothing gets the constitution working better than coffee.  I drink one cup and you are ready for the rest room.  But stop at one or two or you will have the opposite result since coffee is a diuretic.  Also, if you are older like me and walking to the office you may not make it to the office a second time!
  2. The perfect hard-boiled egg container.  Almost as ubiquitous as coffee cups at the hotel breakfast counter are hard boiled eggs.  They are a perfect source of protein and a great way to satisfy mid-morning snack or for lunch.  A standard coffee cup can hold 3 large hard-boiled eggs.  Place a lid on it and label it and now you have a ready-made free lunch to stick in the office refrigerator!  See picture below of my friend  adopting this new craze. Coffee cups can also serve as containers for the fresh fruit that is often set up on the breakfast buffet (don’t forget bananas and apples in your backpack).  You could also use coffee cups for oatmeal.  All three serve as wholesome snacks and lunch on the run.  You also can save money if not on an expense account (or save your expense account to splurge on dinner!)
  3. Larger cups for infused water.  I love that a lot of hotels are now providing fruit infused water at the hotel.  But I do not love the little dinky plastic cups with no lids.  Answer – use coffee cups with lids and get 16 ounces of delicious water (to wipe away the effects of the second coffee).

There you have it.  Coffee cups are not just for coffee anymore.  Instead, they are a secret weight loss weapon for people on the go!

The Real Art of Racing in the Rain

The other day I went to see “The Art of Racing in the Rain”.  At first, I was not sure why I wanted to see it.  I hate driving cars, especially in the rain.  Just ask anyone who has had the misfortune of driving with me.  I am also not overly fond of Dogs.  I despise being headbutted and sniffed by my daughter’s overly affectionate Pitbull or any dog not named Boots (he is OK). 

So why did I absolutely love this movie about a racing car driver, his family, and his Dog Enzo?  And why did I cry a river of tears when (spoiler alert) both the driver’s dog and his wife died?  A bit because I am the ultimate sap!  I punch my fist in the air when Mr. Smith saves the boy scout camp and weep at every Walton episode.  But this was something more.  Then I realized.  The movie reminded me of my Brother David, his love of cars,  his recently departed wife Debra, and their dogs – Alvin, Jasmine, Zooey.

Three dogs ready to race!

David has loved cars ever since he was a little kid.  One of the most memorable events of my childhood (and one that haunts my dreams) is when David, I, and Gary were waiting for my parents in the station wagon to go on a trip.  David all of 4 years old sat in the front seat. Suddenly, he switched into the driver’s seat, shifted the car in neutral and started steering the car like a crazy man.  My brother and I were helpless as the car backed down our sloped driveway.  We drifted down the hill across a major road (safely thank God) and ended up in the neighbor’s front yard across the street. My parents rushed out to get us and I will never forget the joy in David’s face or terror in the eyes of my brother and me! 

Terror was also in my eyes every time I drove with David.  He treats the Houston highway like the Daytona 500. My heart races as he passes cars, barely missing the bumper.  I in contrast drive like the future Grandpop I aspire to be.  He has translated his love for cars into a career as a truck driver.   He can drive the biggest rig with speed and precision.  He was a lot like Denny, the movie’s lead, except he drove trucks instead of cars.

Also, like Denny, David loves dogs.  In this, he is like his namesake, Uncle David.  Both love Dogs with a passion I cannot fathom.  Uncle David currently has 8 and David 4.  They bring them both joy and I never realized why.   The dogs yap and yip.  Not my cup of tea.  Until the movie showed me why – Dogs are more empathetic than people.  They can realize when you are hurting and give you just what you need to race through the rain and not crash into the wall of life.

In the movie, Enzo the dog helps Denny deal with the premature parting of his wife Eve.  Enzo realizes the signs of Eve’s impending death and helps Denny and Eve deal with her illness and eventual passing.  Eve is like my Sister-In-Law Debra who was afflicted with various neurological  and eventually led to her passing two weeks ago.  You can read more about Debra’s passing in this link. http://obituaries.acremation.com/o/grier/44141/?fbclid=IwAR13i5PLQAHaRBC57t9KCHuu0ZcY4DzbH95BjYpVd7iZS7ql-umZeC3nu6I

Enzo kept Denny whole by driving with him as the rain pulsed down.  Likewise, David and Debra shared the latest antics of Alvin, Jasmine, Zooey, and Cuddles.  David would make Debra’s eyes twinkle with his imitation of the dog’s barking for Debra’s return.  The  dogs also helped my brother to be strong for his wife through unconditional love.    

In closing, there are two quotes from the book/movie that really resonate with me. This one is a quote from the movie.  “If a driver controls his own conditions, then the rain is only rain”.  David through his dog imitations and frequent Facebook posts worked to control the uncontrollable.  In so doing, my younger brother taught me a lesson of how to keep strong through the storm. 

The last quote is from the mind of Enzo the dog.   It is so poignant and meaningful I cannot do it justice.   To me it will always mark the moment that Debra passed and reveals  the true nature of her kind soul. 

“I saw her soul leave her body as she exhaled, and then she had no more needs, no more reason; she was released from her body, and, being released, she continued her journey elsewhere, high in the firmament where soul material gathers and plays out all the dreams and joys of which we temporal beings can barely conceive, all the things that are beyond our comprehension, but even so, are not beyond our attainment if we choose…”

Tonight, before you go to bed be like Enzo, David, Debra and their dogs.  Race on through the rain and love unconditionally.  Turn away from the wall and toward new life through love!

Be Good, Not Great!

Be good not great,

For the time is late,

And we have but a day,

To show God’s way!

Seek kindness, not power,

Make Love a tower,

Your heart the leaven,

To seek out heaven.

Take time don’t wait,

For eternity is our fate,

If we do what he asks,

And complete His task.

Seek the Cross not fame,

As your temptations you tame,

For the time is late!,

So be good, not great.

Love’s Everlasting Kiss

Love does not come easy,

it’s often built in trials,

minute by minute,

day by day.

It is built on sorrow,

As much as hope,

Tears and hardship,

As much as laughter.

It does not flit,

It does not float,

It is SOLID,

and it ENDURES!

Why love then?

It is our purpose and mission,

What we were built for,

What God designed!

Because love does not last,

for a minute or an hour.

It lasts a lifetime,

and through eternity.

So, drive on through the pain,

And strive through the sorrow,

And with one last kiss,

Reach for the tomorrow.

And, remember in waiting,

Not the words left spoken or tears,

But the smile and loving eyes,

That resound through the years.

Listen to Learn and Lose!

Photo by jonas mohamadi from Pexels

Listen to Lose
Photo by jonas mohamadi from Pexels
Listen to Lose!

When people start on a weight-loss journey,  they talk too much.  They talk about the latest diet they are trying or the latest fitness craze that they are meaning to get to tomorrow.  But talk is cheap.  You need to listen to lose! Listen to your heart, listen to your body, and  listen to others.

  1. Listen to your heart. The you that you are meant to be is one heart beat away.  So, listen what your heart is telling you to do.  Do not turn to things that stress you out.  The latest fitness craze does nothing if your heart is not in it.  It just stresses you out and will cause you to stop when you are discouraged.  Instead, do what you love.  Also, be thankful for what you have.  A thankful heart is a stress free, restful heart.  Stress is often the reason for losing sleep and gaining weight.  Lastly, strive for a goal that inspires you.  Your heart needs to be in it to win it!
  2. Listen to Your Body.  Your body knows what it wants.  That is the reason too many hamburgers and fries give you indigestion.    Feed your body with the good stuff.  Choose vegetables and fruit over candy and sugar.  Remember, just like listening to someone, you must listen to your body closely to understand what it is saying.  You may think is  saying I need sleep when in  reality your body is saying I need to exercise and get energy, or I am dehydrated, and I need water. 
  3. Listen to Others. Some people are struggling as you are and may have caught on to something new that you have yet to discover.  Others may have won their battle with weight and have inspiring stories and important teachings to tell.  Also, when you have met your target, listen to others to pass on your lessons and to provide you with a reason to stay on track. 

Like all things, you learn more through listening than talking.  So close your mouth, open your ears to Listen, Learn and Lose!

The Fab Four of Fitness and Football

This is the third in my blog series Heroes in Health.  The first two in this series (linked below) examined two recent heroes who have helped me and others on our path to health. https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/06/10/heroes-of-health-series-episode-2-corey-the-cycling-king/ https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/05/13/heroes-in-health-episode-1-mother-of-weight-loss-and-a-freestyle-life/

On this one I reach back almost 40 years to examine the lessons learned from four men who were then as they are now on the cutting edge of fitness and health: the four football coaches of Northern Burlington Regional High School in the late seventies – Coaches Charlie Pirrello, Hank Kearns, Carmen Pastore, and Gary Smith.  Beyond football, these four men taught me more than fitness.  They taught me and others how to be men, to put team before self, and to judge on merit not title, race, or creed.

Coach Charlie Pirrello, the head coach of the fab four is a legend in NJ High School Football.  The 2018 inductee to the NJ Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame he has led 7 teams to the State Championship in his 50 years of coaching.  The first of these was led by my 1981 class that won on the last play of the game.  Unfortunately, I had moved to Texas after my Junior season and missed it.  But I still felt part of the team and loved seeing my quarterback (I was a Center), Chris Warrington throwing the winning pass! 

Hank the Tank Kearns, the Defensive Coordinator and JV Coach, was equally a big influence in my life.  His nickname Tank was an understatement; he was more like the Hulk.  I still remember when the linebackers were not deploying correct tackling form, he jumped in there without pads and flattened the running back!  Hank is still a fitness inspiration to me.  I follow he, Coach Pirrello and Pastore on Facebook and Hank is either biking or doing some other fitness activity. 

Carmen Pastore was the Offensive Coordinator. A former college football quarterback Coach Pastore helped orchestrate our vaunted Veer Option Offense that first came into vogue in 1975.  It was cutting edge then as it is now. 

Last was Coach Smith who taught the backs.  My brother’s coach, I remember him for his humor.  One day I went up to look at the depth chart.  Instead of seeing Donnie and Gary Grier the names on the list where Abnormal and Normal Grier.  He gave me the nickname Abnormal because of my intensity, the fact that I was on the line, and the way I yelled at the top of my lungs “Huddle” when gathering the team.  I wore that name like a badge of honor since I was a gruff lineman and linebacker while my brother was a defensive and offensive back.

The Fab Four are great coaches and leaders of men for these four and many other reasons:

  1. Constantly striving for excellence through learning and adapting.   The coaches of NBC were constantly looking for new ways and techniques to get better.  I looked forward to each summer training sessions when the coaches would return with the latest fitness techniques.  Two I remember distinctly are the Total Fatigue Weightlifting Circuit and interval running with proper technique.  Total Fatigue included completing a circuit of weightlifting that went from largest muscles (legs) to smallest muscles (triceps).  I still do the regime today since it has become one of the key approaches to gain muscle mass and endurance.  Back then it was new.  They also emphasized negative training (2 seconds up and at least 4 seconds down).  Next was interval training where we first practiced our running form (I still attempt to run like Hank the Tank taught me to this day) before completing sprint intervals.  One last thing that sticks in my mind is there willingness to adapt when something did not work. One year our football camp included three a days and we really worked hard – overly hard.  The coaches realized that we worked out too much resulting in a few injuries.  The next year they adapted when they added a rest period in Coach Pastore’s pool which resulted in a better record. 
  2.  Inspiration is as important as perspiration.  Each year the coaches made a playbook that we needed to memorize from cover to cover and guard with our lives.  The secret sauce of the playbook was not just the cutting-edge plays from the Veer Option, it also contained fitness and nutrition tips and life lessons.  I wish I still had that playbook because the quotes were so inspiring.  But you can get a good feel for them by reading Coach Pirrello’s Twitter feed.  Here is one recent one.  “I am your coach. When you get discouraged, I will encourage you. When you come up short, I want to help you come up big next time. And I will never give up on you even if you give up on yourself.” Charlie Pirrello.  He never gave up on us and today I still draw inspiration from these four great men. 
  3. Judge each man by his merit.  The late Seventies and early Eighties was a difficult time to coach.  The drug culture was in vogue.  In addition, there was sometimes difficulties in race relations.  NBC had one of the most diverse teams in the state having McGuire Air Force base in our school.  Also because of McGuire Air Force Base, we had new people coming into team each year.  I remember distinctly the day Willie Drewery joined my class in my Sophomore year.  Unknown to the program at the time, he was welcomed in with open arms and became a linchpin. He later went on to a Professional Career.   The coaches never differentiated on race, creed or color. All that matter was your football ability and the content of your character.  One way they enforced this is making the team hold hands in the huddle and by teaming up weight training partners from different races and cultures.  Lastly, our pre-game ritual included listening to equal doses of Bruce Springsteen and Chic that had a big hit at that time.  In this way, we avoided the fighting that went on in some of our rival schools.
  4. Care for Each Player.  The coaches spent time with each player if they gave a 100% and strove to be a team player.  My brother was a football talent, playing Varsity his sophomore year.  I was less of a talent playing second team Varsity and first team JV.  Even so the coaches never neglected me and worked with me to make me the best player I could be.  ,They also were always there for you.  I still have the note from Coach Pirrello to my new football coach when I had to leave for Texas for my Senior Year.   I still choke up reading it and the care Coach P gave.  I was never going to break Franco Harris’s Freshman Rushing record like my brother, but he and his coaching staff still treated me with the same respect and care.  To this day, one of my greatest awards is winning MVP for the Junior Varsity team my Junior Year.  To me, winning that award for NBC was the highlight of my high school athletic career and one of the highlights of my life. 

One last thing to say.  Charlie was not only my coach.  He was more importantly my World History teacher and one of the best teachers I ever had.  He was just as inspirational and engaging in class as he was on the field. 

40 years is a long time and a blink of the eye.  Whatever the years, the fab four still shape the man I am today!