How My Bike Freed My Brain

Saturday night, my mind just wouldn’t quiet down. Work was running through my head. I had just watched a show that ended in a depressing moment. The combination of the two was not doing me any favors for getting to sleep.

Then I thought, “What if I rode the Ride for the Arts tomorrow morning? I could do the 45 mile route.

Moments later, I texted my friend, Jeff, and he was all in.

Was I ready for a 45 mile ride? If it was nice and easy, Yes I was.  And I knew it would get my mind off all the thoughts running through it.

Sunday morning, Jeff and I take off. Right off the start, we have to ride up the Hoan Bridge (along Lake Michigan and high up) into the wind. We were both saying, “Once we get through this, the rest is going to be easy.” We had ridden this ride 2 years ago, but this portion was new …and exhausting.

Something happened as we came off the Hoan Bridge. I didn’t want to slow down. It felt good to ride fast (well what is fast for me – not hard core cyclists). Suddenly, we had hit the 10 mile mark well ahead of the goal of when I needed to be done (my son is graduating high school later in the day). That got me pumped up to maintain the pace. My legs were already started to burn.

“So what, Mike, keep it going” – that was me talking to myself.

27 miles in, legs burning and still feeling good with the burn.

35 miles in and 10 miles to go. Now I’m feeling a little more mental exhaustion while still thinking, “Come on. Keep it going.”

The last 3 miles felt like they took forever. We get done and our average speed over the race was  actually faster than 2 years ago when we did this ride. Why did that surprise me? 2 years ago, Jeff and I were riding quite a bit before we did this ride. Plus, this year’s course was tougher and longer by 7 miles.

Mike and Jeff Ride for the Arts

What was the difference? I was in a zone. I needed the mental getaway. Sometimes physical activity is the greatest gift we can give our brain and emotions.

A huge shout out to Jeff for being such an awesome riding partner and friend. A huge THANKS to my personal trainers. While I wasn’t riding much this year, the conditioning they had me in for my overall vibrancy paid off.

What do you do physically to give your brain and emotions the break they need?

My MOM and why last night was AMAZING.

Jon, my nephew, and his teammates on state championship relay.

Jon, my nephew, and his teammates on the State Championship 200 Medley Relay.

Seeing my nephew, Jon, and his teammates win the first event of the Wisconsin State High School Boys Swimming Championships and then continuing to have sensational swims throughout the meet last night was incredible.

The boys’ dedication to their training and each other paid off – including bringing their school their first ever state champion (and doing so in 2 events)! Especially wonderful was knowing my Mom got to experience the joy of one of her swimmers (4 in this case) becoming a state champion.

Thanks to an amazing group of high school swimmers 17 years ago, I got to experience the joy of coaching a team that won the WI State Championships. AND thanks to my Mom.

Everything I knew about swimming, especially coaching swimming was from my Mom. She taught me about training, challenging athletes, leading with integrity, goal setting, visualization, and soo much more. In many ways, my Mom had a massive influence on our team winning back in 1998. Throughout that season, I could always ask myself, “What would my Mom do?”. She was and has been a constant role model throughout my life.

Mom-2015-WIAA-StateWhile last night was her first state titles as a high school coach, she was partly responsible for helping a team in 1998 win their first state title too. For that very reason, the emotion that hit me last night when the 200 Medley Relay she coaches touched in 1st Place is a moment I will never forget. To feel the fulfillment of seeing your Mom succeed at her life’s greatest passion is priceless. To know that her passion and dedication has and continues to help impact the lives of countless swimmers brings tears of joy to me as I type these words.

And in all this, she is our MOM!!!

Life is Short And So Is This Book: Brief thoughts on making the most of your life by Peter Atkins

LifeIsShortAndSoIsThisBookGreat title that perfectly fits this quick read. Since I started reading this book on my Kindle while riding my bike in our basement, I hadn’t paid any attention to the title beyond “Life Is Short And.” I had no idea how short the book was. That fact does not takeaway from the value of the book. Each chapter gives you just the right amount of material to implement the belief or concept being shared into your own life.

To help open discussion and sometimes to further strengthen a lesson being shared, Peter weaves quotes from well-known writers, thinkers, and business professionals throughout the book.

The lesson that most stuck with me was “Small Steps” – focus on the small steps. Doing so will keep you focused on the action that is needed now right in front of you.

Additional favorite quotes included:

  • “Focusing on what matters means saying no to things that don’t matter. Otherwise, your life becomes cultured with distractions.”
    This quote reminded me to say “No” to engaging on FaceBook more than three times a day.
  • “It’s not that I’m smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein
    Brilliant insight by Einstein. What would happen if each of us was willing to stay on a challenge until we could solve the situation?
  • “To make the most of your life, say no to things that don’t matter, work hard at what you love, and occasionally take time away from your core focus to rest so that your mind can be quiet for great insights to come.”
    For me, this quote had perfect timing. 2015 is going to include significant traveling, speaking, and writing. This week, I’m stepping away from my work to rest, rejuvenate, and expand my mind, body, and spirit. History has told me that the rewards of doing so are immeasurable.
  • “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” Mark Twain
    Is each of us living fully? If not, what would it take for you to do so? Take Step #1 toward doing so in the next 30 minutes. Remember the lesson from earlier? One step at a time. The key is taking the step.
  • “Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” Oliver Wendall Holmes
    Once again reminding us to TAKE THE FIRST STEP.
  • “If you have close friendships and love your work, the odds are quite high that you’ll be happy most of the time.”
    Love is a great way to express how I feel about my work and my friends. A week ago, I was in Utah spending time with close friends in a Mastermind (6 friends and colleagues come together to discuss your companies, the future, and ask for input you are seeking in any area of your life). The 3 days wrapped up with skiing in the beautiful mountains outside Salt Lake City with a separate group of friends.

    As helpful as the life and business advice was from my Mastermind and as incredible as the views were, the invigorating mountain air was to breath in, and the joy of moving through the Utah snow was while skiing, it was the friends I was with that brought the deepest fulfillment. When I left Utah, I had been refreshed through relationships. Consider the possibility to take more time for friends in 2015.

At the end of my bike ride this afternoon, I suddenly realized I was in the last chapter of this powerful, quick read. Take 45 to 90 minutes to treat yourself to this inspiring read by Peter Atkins. Click here to find the book on

What do you do when a book shares a lesson or strategy you strongly disagree with?

I just finished listening to the best-seller book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie via While not typically considered controversial, the title of the book can provoke varying responses in people.

Do you want to “win” friends? Most people say, “I do not want to win friends. I do want to build wonderful friendships.” Other people may wonder, “Does ‘Influence People’ actually mean you are going to learn how manipulate others?

When I first heard of the book two decades ago, I had similar reactions and questions. Then, I stop and ask myself, “Why am I creating unnecessary drama over a title or certain lessons in a book?” Unfortunately if someone wants to, a person can take the lessons from many books labeled as classics and misuse the concepts. If we never read a book that has aspects we don’t like, we’d miss the opportunity to question and grow from differing outlooks.

I try to find the golden nuggets in each book I read (assuming the book is well-written and I can at least enjoy the reading process). If the current lesson I’m reading in a book doesn’t fit my personal beliefs and/or approach, I stop and ask myself, “Why does this disagree with me? Am I being close-minded or is there a valid logic to why this specific lesson or message isn’t sitting well with me?

For example: in How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale shares how to use competition to motivate employees. While in the past I may agreed with that approach, my viewpoint has changed over the years. Competition can often lead to people continuously comparing themselves to the “other” team instead of focusing on the joy of their work. Long-term, competition can turn into a “us vs them” mentality.

By asking myself, “Do I believe competition is a good strategy for motivating my team?” I was able to have this discovery for myself. The result of reading that section of the book was a reinforcement in the belief that I want each member of The DATE SAFE Project excelling and thriving for the love of their own growth and discovery – for the individual to receive deep fulfillment from their efforts in helping spread our mission.

Sometimes we need disruption to help ourselves grow. Other times, your inner self is sending you an uncomfortable message because it wants you to avoid using a certain approach that is incongruent with your authentic self. The key is being open to that discovery and then making the choice that sits best with you

“Essentialism” is an Essential Read

EssentialismI’m back with one a book recommendation – this book is a new addition to my list of All-Time Favorites. Had I read this book back in March (my last post), you wouldn’t have seen such a long break between blogging. Here goes:

Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed or making excuses for why you are not getting something done? If so, Greg Mckeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less is an essential read. Yes, I couldn’t resist the play on words. Wait. That comment was not essential. Move on.

As you may know from reading my blog, I love books that inspire you to dig deep into yourself AND provide you with skills and strategies for moving forward in the most positive direction possible.

Essentialism delivers at every level. As I dove into the book, I found myself writing more notes than ever before.  With the pages I was filling in my journal, you would have thought I was going to be tested on the material. My brain was spinning in multiple directions – full of excitement of how I would implement each specific lesson.

As I read further in the book, I had an epiphany! “Stop taking sooo many notes. Simply TAKE IN THE BOOK. Be present in its lessons.”

After all, this book is about “What is ESSENTIAL?” For the rest of the book, I took much less notes and found myself thinking more deeply. The results have been wonderful.

How has the book impacted me?

Right after reading the book, I was attending my favorite convention, PLATFORM (formerly known as the National Speakers Association). My history at the convention is to come home with pages of notes and ideas – only to implement a handful that truly stood out. By the end of this year’s convention, my notes were 1/5 their normal volume. Yes, I still attended as many sessions as possible. Ironically, the keynote speakers and breakout sessions were the best combination of experts, presenters, and content in all my years in the organization (a shout out to Dan Thurmon and Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman for organizing and running a sensational event). The greatly reduced note taking was a result of my asking the following question before writing something down, “Is this essential?”

Now imagine applying the same question to your personal life or slightly adapted question of “Based on my life priorities, is what I’m doing right now essential?”

For those who may be thinking, “That is a simple concept. Why read the book?” Essentialism opens our vision to how the failure to live by the essential question is currently impacting us – often in ways we are not aware and that are not positive. Then you are given specific tools to help you live by this philosophy and do so with less. The opportunity for profound transformation.

Treat yourself to this fantastic book!