Do it Today!

I discovered weightlifter C.T. Fletcher on Youtube and instantly liked his attitude and his, uh, “unique” way of expressing himself (note: if swearing — a lot — offends you, it might be wise to forego watching the following video).

Despite his devotion to fitness, however, Fletcher inherited a condition that led to open heart surgery in 2005, during which, his heart stopped functioning not once, but three times.

“Every time I go to the doctor, they tell me what I shouldn’t be doing and what I should be doing and what I won’t do.” Fletcher told Bodybuilding.com in 2017. “And, after that, I go out the door and do whatever the [expletive] I want to do. And, I’m gonna do that until they throw dirt on top of me. This is my life. And I choose to live it the way I want to.”

Now 59 years old, Fletcher is very aware of the value of time, which is something I very much relate to.

The fact is time is one thing we have very little control over… yet we pretend that we do.

I’ll do it tomorrow!

Someday, I’m going to go to [pick a place].

I’ll work this job for a little while — even though I hate it — and, then, pursue what I really like afterwards.

No, no, no. As is proven every single day, there might not be a tomorrow. There might not be a someday or an afterwards.

Do what you love TODAY. Leave toxic work environments and toxic people TODAY.

Featured photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash.

Goodbye to Horse Racing

This will be my last horse racing column (at least for the foreseeable future) — and it has proven to be one of the most difficult I have ever written.

I went to the racetrack for the first time when I was in junior high, about five years before my mom was diagnosed with cancer for the first time and when my stepdad, Dennis, still had a killer jump shot, which he would demonstrate — often — in family games on our half-dirt, half-weeds backyard “basketball court”.

Longacres Racecourse was located just a few miles from our house in Renton, Washington and, one day, my parents suggested we check it out.

“Why would we want to spend a whole day watching horses run around in a circle?” I asked, drawing nods of agreement from my twin brother and younger sister.

Cheery optimists we were not.

“It’ll be fun,” my mom assured us.

So, with all the enthusiasm of the condemned on their way to the gallows, my siblings and I piled into the family car for our trip to the track.

Little did I know then that I was embarking on the journey of a lifetime.

During my junior and senior years in high school, I spent more time reading the Daily Racing Form (the horseplayer’s Wall Street Journal) than I did my schoolbooks — a reality that my grades clearly reflected.

And I didn’t abandon my childhood love when I became an adult either. If anything, my bond with the Sport of Kings grew stronger with each passing year, particularly since my work career often resembled Ryan Leaf’s stint in the NFL — filled with disappointment and anger, but minus an $11.25 million signing bonus.

In fact, it’s fair to say that the game consumed me, as I began spending more and more of my time learning how to “handicap,” which is sports gambling jargon for the art/science of selecting winners. While many of my friends were doing normal things, like talking quietly in libraries and walking carefully with scissors (I never said my friends were exciting), I was reading books by Andrew Beyer, James Quinn and William L. Scott (not his real name, incidentally, making the inclusion of a middle initial very perplexing).

I even had my first serious relationship hit the skids when, one morning, my soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend accused me of caring more about the first race at Aqueduct than I did about her.

“That’s ridiculous,” I said in astonishment. “I care just as much about the second race. There’s a daily double, you know!”

It was even difficult to distinguish what subject my college notebooks pertained to, as they were often filled with scribbling like this:

Scribbling

But I just knew that one day I would have a career in horse racing; though, as the years went quickly by, I suspect even Anthony Robbins would’ve told me, “Hey, look man, it’s not going to happen. Give it up!”

Eventually, I found success (take that, Robbins!). I started my own horse racing website, hosted a racing podcast and, eventually, got the attention of major players in the industry.

After persistent hounding on my part, I was hired by Youbet — probably to stop me from writing the company letters every week — and, with the help of a great marketing director, I quickly became the most popular writer on the site.

As a result, my contract was picked up by TwinSpires.com when Churchill Downs, Inc. acquired Youbet a few years later and, after it expired, I went to work for US Racing.

Overall, my time as the editorial director of USR has been a lot of fun. The site has experienced tremendous growth and I’m very proud of what my colleagues and I have accomplished. But on June 9, 2018, everything changed for me.

For it was on that day that Justify became the 13th winner of the Triple Crown — consisting of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes — and I felt… nothing. As my fellow racing fans gushed and cried, extolling the virtues of this wonderful horse, I watched without passion, without joy, without any feeling at all. It was just another horse, at just another track, on just another day.

Now, I won’t bore you with what happened next. Suffice it to say that I blamed nearly everything in my life for what is blatantly obvious to me now. It is never easy letting go of a first love, especially one that has endured for the better part of your life, but that is the reality I have come to accept.

I spent over 30 years of my life passionate about watching horses run around in a circle all day. I cherish the memories of Chinook Pass, Belle of Rainier, Gary Henson, Jody Davidson, Frank Best, Gary Stevens (who was twice the leading rider at Longacres before finding greater fame in Southern California), the Baze family, and Clint and Tom Roberts.

If I close my eyes and concentrate hard enough I can still remember being among the infield throng gathered on a beautiful Seattle day to watch local hero Trooper Seven win his second consecutive Longacres Mile.

I can recall taking my mom to the track on a particularly soggy Mother’s Day and how my repeated reminder that it was “Mudder’s Day” soon lost its charm. (In retrospect, I don’t think she wanted to be there, rain or shine, but she went for me.)

I can also remember my many trips to the track with Dennis. Once, we lightly hit a car in front of us in our haste to make first post and Dennis apologized to the other driver by explaining that we had a “hot pick in the first race at Longacres.”

The guy didn’t seem particularly impressed, but, since there was no real damage done, he let us resume our journey without calling the police… oh, it probably goes without saying that the hot pick lost.

Look, I realize that everyone experiences the loss of love at some point. It is as much a part of living as breathing. In many ways, I consider myself lucky to have felt it so profoundly only this once. Sure, I’ve had relationships end, but racing occupied a place in my heart that was special and unique. It was my Field of Dreams — initially, a connection to my stepdad and, later, to my past.

Racing Pull Quote

And, if I’m honest, I think it is for this reason I stayed in the industry as long as I did. I yearn to go back to that poor excuse for a basketball court and play one more game with Dennis; I ache to see my mom again — my real mom, not the one who was sick and in pain for so long. I desperately want my kids to know the people who raised me, so they have someone to blame.

But they are both long gone. And it is clear to me now that not even my memories of racing can bring them back anymore. Too much time has passed.

So, like one of T.S. Eliot’s hollow men, I leave the industry as I entered it: not with a bang, but with a whimper. I am profoundly grateful to have had the opportunity to accomplish my greatest life goal (up to this point) and I hope that, someday, I can find my passion for horse racing again.

Featured photo of Dennis and I watching the races.

Why I Have Decided to Be a Professional Gambler

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”
—Les Brown

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins is fond of saying that our sense of self-worth is based on our expectations, our life’s blueprint.

“Whenever you are happy with something in your life, it is because right now, the conditions of your life match your blueprint, or your belief about how life should be in that particular area,” Robbins says.

Unfortunately, the reverse is also true.

Although I achieved all the goals I set as a senior in high school, ultimately those goals didn’t make me happy, nor did they provide me with any real sense of accomplishment. Not only do I think I pursued the wrong things in life — if I had to do it all over again, there’s no way I’d get involved in horse racing — but I now have this overwhelming desire to “redeem” all the time I wasted. After much soul-searching, I’ve decided how I’m going to do this.

I am going to move to Las Vegas and become a professional gambler.

On the surface, I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve never believed in thinking small or setting goals that don’t excite — or even terrify. As Robbins notes: “Don’t be modest or shy about what you want to do with your life. Dream big. What legacy do you want to leave behind? How do you want people to remember you?”

I want to be remembered as someone who wasn’t afraid to reach for the stars, someone who took the road less traveled by and didn’t get lost (unlike when I’m driving), someone who didn’t let fear dictate his life choices.

Of course, what the motivational gurus don’t often discuss is the effect of one’s decisions on others.

I don’t mind starving for a chance at greatness, I don’t care if people mock or make fun of me; heck, I’m even OK with failure (as long as the effort is there). But I’m not comfortable asking others to make similar sacrifices or face comparable hardship as a result of a decision I, and I alone, have made.

At this point, I’m not sure how to resolve this dilemma, but I know that my life cannot continue along the same trajectory. And Newton’s first law of motion teaches us that, minus an unbalanced force, nothing changes — so I must be that unbalanced force.

Somehow, some way, I have to implement my plan. I recently ran across a passage from Factotum, written by Charles Bukowski, that sums up my feelings beautifully:

If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery — isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it.

I know, to many, this probably seems selfish — and it is. But, in some ways, I feel it is destiny. Outside of my devastating charm, irrepressible wit and incredible modesty, analyzing numbers is my one great talent in life, yet I’ve done practically nothing with it.

Sure, I’ve maintained websites pertaining to my passion for analysis — the latest is Databasebetting.com — but I learned a long time ago that, in the gambling world, nobody really cares whether one is any good or not. In Beat the Book, author Dan Gordon notes that bettors “don’t like to hear that realistic long-term win percentages will be in the 55 to 60 percent range.”

Instead, they “want someone who claims to win 75 or 80 percent against the point spread,” Gordon writes.

Worse, as I have personally experienced — over… and over… and over… and over again — most gamblers simply will not accept an approach that is radically, or even marginally, different than their own, even if they are consistent losers. I have actually done studies on various gambling factors only to have people argue with me about the results because a friend of a friend of a horse trainer or coach says it’s not so.

This is why I think becoming a professional gambler is perfect for me. Personally, I prefer to live in a more objective world, where facts are facts and opinions are those things we share on Facebook and Twitter every 15 minutes.

I don’t fear failure, but I do fear looking back on my life one day and asking “what if?” To me, the most poignant thing on a tombstone is something that others scarcely notice — the dash between the year one was born and the year one died. That tiny line encompasses all the living we did.

I want mine to mean something.

Featured photo by Katrina on Unsplash.

How to Succeed by Limiting Your Options

“You should be afraid of taking risks and pursuing something meaningful, but you should be more afraid of staying where you are if it’s making you miserable.”
—Jordan Peterson

One of the things Tony Robbins preaches is that, if you really want to succeed, you need to “burn your [colorful adjective] boats.”

It’s a great statement, rooted in the notion that success is born of commitment.

Most believe the idea came from Cortes, the Spanish explorer who supposedly burned his entire fleet of ships upon reaching Mexico in 1519. And while scholars dispute the details of this incendiary tale — they claim Cortes didn’t burn his boats at all, but, instead, ran all but one aground and physically stripped them of their ability to sail — the intent was clear. Cortes didn’t want his men to have any means of retreat in their impending battle against the Aztecs.

“We’re all in and there’s no turning back” Cortes wrote in his journal, adding that his men had “nothing to rely on, apart from his own hands, and the assurance that they would conquer and win the land, or die in the attempt.”

I think there’s a lot to be said for this “no surrender” attitude.

Comedian, actor and television host Steve Harvey puts it another way. While he might not be well-suited for a career as a crisis team member, Harvey urges everybody seeking success to “jump.”

It’s an idea that is both appealing and terrifying at the same time, but it is something that I think is necessary.

Featured photo by Web Agency on Unsplash.

What Going to the Gym Has Taught Me About Life

“You have to build calluses on your brain just like how you build calluses on your hands. Callus your mind through pain and suffering.”
—David Goggins

There’s an old gym adage that I’ve always believed in: no pain, no gain.

No, this doesn’t mean you should crush your fingers between two weights and lose a fingertip, like I did a few years ago. It refers to lactic acidosis, or the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles, which can cause a burning sensation that is often very painful.

I tend to reach this lactate threshold fairly quickly and, while the science isn’t altogether clear on the role that lactate plays in muscle growth, I have always found it useful. Yeah, I know that’s “bro science” at its worst, but Dr. George Brooks, a professor of integrative biology of the University of California at Berkeley, backs me up — well, kind of.

“Lactate is not a waste product, and in fact, it is the most important [new glucose generator] in the body.”

In other words, Dr. Brooks is saying: “Dude, you gotta feel the burn to get the gainz [always with a ‘z’, my friends].”

But, on a serious note, if this notion of “no pain, no gain” works in the gym, why don’t more of us utilize it in our everyday lives? I asked myself this question recently after watching a video featuring David Goggins.

For those who don’t know who Goggins is, suffice it to say that he is the biggest badass on the planet. And he has a saying: “Embrace the suck.”

david-goggins-quotes-sucks
Photo from fearlessmotivation.com

Goggins believes that, just like in the gym, our greatest growth comes from welcoming pain into our lives. Rather than playing to our strengths, we should focus on our weaknesses, Goggins says.

“We’re not gonna triple down on our strengths. We’re not gonna do that crap. We’re gonna work on our weaknesses so we grow. We need friction to do that. Without friction, there’s no growth. Without friction, there’s confusion.”

I realize — and I can’t pinpoint why or when it first began — that I’ve spent too much time in my life seeking comfort. I don’t have a lot of real close friends, but the ones that I do have I’ve leaned on too heavily for support… only, recently, it hasn’t been working.

In retrospect, I think this is due to the fact that I know in my heart that only I can make the changes necessary for me to find happiness again — if, in fact, that’s even the goal. I’m not really sure it is for me.

John Greenleaf Whittier once wrote, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.”

I love that quote. And, in the same video I referenced earlier, Goggins gives his own unique take on it — which I found incredibly moving.

WARNING: Strong language.

Look, I’m not a religious guy, but I do believe that we should all strive to maximize our potential… and I know I haven’t. Being happy is not going to change that; family and friends are not going to change that.

Only I can.

Why Silent Dreams Are Destined to Remain That Way

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
­—Walt Disney

I really like this clip (for the full video, go to MotivationGrid). I know a lot people don’t like publicly sharing their dreams for a variety of reasons, but I can’t help but think the biggest reason is fear — fear of being laughed at, fear of being told they can’t do it, fear of not really believing themselves that they can do it.

Connor MacGregor’s dreams were ridiculous. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dreams were ridiculous. The Wright brothers’ dreams were ridiculous.

We should all strive to have ridiculous dreams.

Featured photo by Denys Nevozhai in Unsplash.

Where Does Happiness Come From?

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Given that it’s been a while since I posted anything here, my intent was to write something eloquent and meaningful — in other words, something completely different from my previous posts.

But as I was doing some other work — work that actually pays the bills — a video came on that grabbed my attention (often, when I’m in my office, I’ll play YouTube videos, sometimes for motivation and sometimes just for background music or sound).

Before I discuss the video, though, a little background information is in order.

Contrary to the view of Charles Barkley in the famous — or infamous, depending on your point of view — 1993 Nike commercial, I’ve always wanted to be a role model and to help people if/when I could. In fact, this desire in me is so strong that psychologists even have a name for it — the “savior complex”.

According to the People Skills Decoded website, “The savior complex is a psychological construct which makes a person feel the need to save other people. This person has a strong tendency to seek people who desperately need help and to assist them, often sacrificing their own needs for these people.”

Now, lest you think I believe this is a good thing and that I start each day with a smile on my face for being such a great person — I don’t. In truth, I think my need to make people happy is often counterproductive and even destructive… which brings me back to the video.

It’s three and a half minutes long and features Will Smith discussing the difference between fault and responsibility. The whole thing is worth listening to, but the part that really got me was when Smith said: “Your heart, your life, your happiness is your responsibility and your responsibility alone.”

One day, I’m going to accept that.

 

Featured photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash.