"What would you like to do on Father's Day?" my wife, Gretchen, asked me yesterday morning. In a round-about fashion, in part because I was reading an advanced copy of Joe De Sena's new book The Spartan Way: Train Better. Think Better, I landed on committing to do 20,000 burpees.
So, this is Tuesday, and we were in the chaos of a weekday morning. A kitchen animating chaos theory with the unpredictabilities of two kids, one and four years, bouncing off of walls, floors, chairs, parents, each other, as we tried to get them fed and ready for daycare.
On Father's Day, we will do a lot of family stuff. A hike in the woods. Maybe go to a swimming pool. But I could tack something on to that on Father's Day. Some sort of break.
What sort of break sounded good for Father's Day?
I had some random thoughts. Maybe they weren't random. Images of beer tended to be involved. A common denominator exerting sway. One-to-two-hour escapes, accompanied by beer. A beer and a book. A beer and a sci-fi flick. A beer(s) and a video game. Maybe Pac Man, which, about a month ago, my wife, with whom I never bludgeoned me in while we were in a waiting room (and she was holding a toddler with her left arm). I could practice up. Someday restore my honor. Or maybe a beer while sitting in a blasting sun.
I'll probably will do something like that. But inspired by the recent column from retired USMC officer and leadership expert, Brian Chontosh, about the leadership principles involved in parenting, I felt like doing something bigger. It's Father's Day. Why not use it to raise the bar on being a dad? If, as Chontosh maintains, being a parent has a lot in common with leading in the military or being a leader at a company, why not charge things up a bit?
The Universe weighed in. Later in the morning, while reading The Spartan Way I got hit with this:
Do you know what commitment is? It's a compelling personal promise you make that determines how you will lead your life day to day, moment to moment. The beauty of committing yourself is that it makes the rest of life's decisions easy for you....it's easy to say 'no' to a cocktail offer, a third slice of pizza, or a meeting that will take you away from a scheduled workout.
Being the example came to mind to my Father's Day project. What would I like my kids to see me doing in the coming months? About a half-hour later, I was watching the Spartan Up podcast. SEALFit CEO Mark Divine is the guest. Divine, who served as an officer in the Navy SEALs, is an expert in high-performance training and building leaders. He (like Chontosh) is also heavily involved in helping military veterans who are struggling with the transition to civilian life.
The first thing Divine and De Sena talked about was an ongoing project called Burpees for Vets, a call for people to pitch in toward 22 million burpees to raise funds to help veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress. The 22 in the 22 million is a reference to a 2013 analysis suggesting that 22 veterans in the USA are committing suicide every day. A 2016 study, commissioned by the Department of Veterans affairs, used a more comprehensive analysis and the number wasn't much different: Data collected from 2014 suggested that on average 20 veterans are committing suicide each day. As discussed in the podcast, Burpees for Vets is raising money to support innovative ways to help veterans battle PTS, including immersion-type events that have a lot of the grounding principles and methods—physical, mental, spiritual, community—of Spartan and SEALFit.
So I got myself an early Father's Day present that Jocko Willink would likely call, "The gift of freedom"—as in committing to 20,000 burpees in the remainder of 2018 (203 days) is a commitment to discipline building which (per Jocko) is the path to freedom.
I definitely need the exercise. I have slipped backward with fitness the past year, my excuse being my scramble to adjust from being a parent to one kid to two. That's the magic of burpees: It's an excuse killer. It turns the world into a gym.
Then there's the higher purpose: How do you repay those who have served in combat and are still paying the price?
Another organization with the mission of helping vets with PTS is 22kill. I didn't know about it until I listened to Jocko's podcast with U.S. Marine Jake Schick. "Into the Darkness and Back Out." Near the end of the interview Schick said that he tells people who want to help vets there are simple choices, like with your time. Or if you don't have that, with money.
So in tune with one piece of Joe's advice in The Spartan Way, I wrote down my commitment and tacked it to the wall of my cubicle, about two feet from my face:
"I commit to executing 20,000 burpees in 2018 to help raise money for Burpees For Vets."
(I appreciate any contributions toward the fundraising which you can do right here.)
Another important aspect of setting out toward a new goal is to follow up the commitment with action.
Then, signed up with Burpees for Vets and donated a first $50. Another action I took was on the way home. I stopped at a playground on my way to pick up our kids at daycare and did my first 100 burpees in a patch of grass. Just 19,900 to go. And it's not even Father's Day yet.
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