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A Personal Victory in Swimming

Many of you know how much I love mountain biking.  In the warm season, I can be found most days climbing the trails in Draper Utah's Corner Canyon for a couple hours.  If you've never been on those trails, you really need to.  Anyway, during 2011 I was able to lose quite a bit of weight, 28 lbs. to be precise. The problem, is that I gained 18 of those pounds back through the winter.

This year I lost all the weight again, by rigorous mountain biking, and lot's of meals replaced with green smoothies. When the cold weather got near this year, I was determined to keep the weight off, so I got a membership to our local rec center.  In addition to using exercise bikes and the indoor track, I thought it would be fun to take up swimming. What I have now experienced in the last two months is quite surprising.

aquaticscenterLapSwim1I have never really done that much swimming, and it only took a few weeks to add up to more swimming than I had done previously in my entire life.  My first week was a little embarrasing.  I would need to take a break and rest after swimming just one length of the pool.  It's funny how hard it was for me to control my breathing. Let's just say I'm glad no one was there with a video camera, because I must have been quite comical to watch.

A couple weeks into this, and I had a break through, I could swim a full lap (there and back) without stopping to rest.  This improvement, although slight, gave me the encouragement that I needed to keep at it.

For the six weeks that followed, I continued to make slight improvements each day, and began enjoying the swimming more and more. I was quite proud of the the goal I hit last week of swimming 10 lengths (5 full laps) without stopping to rest, but this morning, I really surprised myself. I swam 36 lengths strait, and honestly, I could have kept going.

I have always had a great feeling of gratitude for my body and all that I can do with it, but today, I'm in awe that in a matter of 2 months, I could go from being a non swimmer, to swimming a half mile in 24 minutes, and that after 45 minutes on the exercise bike. Just a personal victory today and I was excited to share it!

Spoke in Church & Fulfilled my Purpose

I was asked to speak in church the other day, and became very excited when I learned that the assigned topic was perfectly in allignment with my purpose. I hope you find it helpful!

In the Priesthood Session of this recent General Conference, the first 3 talks all discuss becoming better, working hard, and doing great things.

Our life's purpose is to become like our Father in heaven... right? I've always had a testimony of this, but I admit, that for a long time growing up, I had this concern about all of us becoming the same. When I thought about everyone becoming like God, there was this fear that would crop up, that we would all lose our uniqueness. I still have a lot to learn, but during the last decade, my understanding of this has changed, quite a bit, and the pursuit of becoming like my Heavenly Father has become quite exciting.

Let's think for a minute on what it means to become like our Father in Heaven? There are lots of angles we could have a discussion about, but the one I felt to talk about here, is becoming perfect. We know and believe that God is perfect. So there's a clue, we need to become perfect. For me, and I think all of us, perfection seems a little overwhelming, so if you don't mind, I'd like to change becoming "perfect," to becoming "the best." I certainly think that Heavenly Father is "the best," and becoming the best sounds easier to me, especially if I just take one thing at a time.

A simple example is: Let's say you are a child in a primary class, and the teacher announces that there will be a treat for the one who is the most reverent throughout the class. The person who does "the best" will get the treat. We can do our "best" in our role as a mother or father. We can be the best employee in the company. We can be the best salesman, the best programmer, or the best at drilling teeth.

I should clarify, that the goal of becoming the best, isn't a quest to become better than someone else, that's my definition of pride. If we get good at something, we need to give credit where credit is due, and not think ourselves better than those around us. Again, we're talking about becoming like our Father in Heaven here.

Knowing what your great at is good. It's a good thing to say "I'm an awesome mountain biker, I'm a great dad, I'm an amazing guitar player, I'm an influential leader." It's quite another thing to say, "I'm better than anyone else at playing the piano," or anything else that makes our greatness, depend on us being better than someone else.

In Elder D. Todd Christofferson's talk, he bluntly declared that "we cannot afford to have boys and men who are drifting. We cannot afford young men who lack self-discipline and live only to be entertained. We cannot afford young adult men who are going nowhere in life, who are not serious about... making a real contribution in this world." He went on further, but I want to talk about that last one..."making a real contribution in the world," because that is something that resonates a lot with me.
If you don't mind, I'm going to share some quotes from someone I have a lot of respect for. He's not a member of the church, and like everyone he has some imperfections, but I think he speaks the gospel truth here, and I'll tell you who it is afterward.

He's said this: "I have a great time with my life, and I want to share it. I love living, I think that's infectious. It's something that you can't fake. Greatness is not this wonderful, esoteric, illusive, god like feature, that only the special among us will ever taste. It's something that truly exists in all of us. It's very simple. This is what I believe, and I'm willing to die for it. Period! It's that simple. We make the situation more complex than it has to be.

We didn't grow up, with the sense that, where we were, was where we were going to be. We grew up with the sense that where we were, almost didn't matter, because we were becoming something greater.

The separation of Talent and Skill, is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts, for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, (and who) want to do things. Talents you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of 'working' on your craft. I've never really viewed myself as particularly talented. Where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic. While the other guy is sleeping, I'm working. While the other guy is eating, I'm working.

There is no easy way around it, no matter how talented you are, your talent is going to fail you if you are not skilled. If you don't study, if you don't work really hard, if you don't dedicate yourself to being better every single day, you'll never be... where you want.

The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me, is I'm not afraid to die on a treadmill. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, but if we get on a treadmill together, there's two things, you're getting off first, or I'm gonna die. It's really that simple.

You don't set out to build a wall. You don't say, "I'm going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall, that's ever been built." You don't start there. You say, "I'm gonna lay this brick, as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day, and soon you have a wall.

I want to do good. I want the world to be better because I was here. I want my life, I want my work, my family, I want it to mean something. I mean, if you are not making someone else's life better, then you're wasting your time. Your life will become better, by making others lives better.

I believe that I can create whatever I want to create. The first step before anyone else in the world believes it, is you have to believe it. There is no reason to have a plan B because it distracts from plan A.

There is a redemptive power that making a choice has. Rather than feeling that you're at effect to all the things that are happening. Make a choice. You just decide, what it's gonna be, who you're gonna be, how you're gonna do it. Just decide.

Ok, I'm done with his quotes. For those of you wondering, those were all by Will Smith.

Back to Elder Christofferson's talk, he went on to say, "In whatever you choose, it is essential that you become proficient so that you can support a family and make a contribution for good in your community and your country."

Another area that I've learned is important in becoming like our Father in Heaven, is that it's critical that we each assume 100% responsibility for ourselves, our experiences, and our lives. The opposite to that, is to make an excuse and put blame on something, or someone, other than ourself.

A quote that's become a favorite of mine from Spencer W. Kimball says, "Any excuse for non-performance, no matter how valid, weakens character." If I relate that to our conversation today, then when we make excuses, we are becoming less like our Father in Heaven.

In Bishop Gary E. Stevenson's talk, he reminded us of the story of the 2000 stripling soldiers of Helaman. "They were exceedingly vailiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all--they were men who were true at all times." He went on to say "There will be times when you... will have to demonstrate your righteous courage in plain view of your peers, the consequence of which may be ridicule and embarrassment." end of quote.

I think in my life, one of satan's greatest tools has been the fear of what others will think of me. How many times will we do something that we shouldn't, because other are doing it. And how many times do we chicken out from doing something good and right, because we wonder what others will be thinking.

Quoting Bishop Stevenson again, he said, "I promise the Lord will empower you. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power. He will reward you for your courage and righteous behavior--with happiness and joy. Such courage will be a byproduct of your faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, your prayers, and your obedience to commandments.

President N. Eldon Tanner stated: "One young boy on the school ground can wield a mighty influence for good. One young man on the football team, or the campus, or among his fellow workers can, by living the gospel, honoring his priesthood, and taking a stand for the right, do untold good. Often you will experience much criticism and ridicule even by those who believe as you do, even though they may respect you for doing right... Do we want to be quitters, or do we want to be valiant servants in spite of all the opposition and evil in the world? Let us have the courage to stand up and be counted as true, devoted followers of Christ." end of quote.

With everything I've shared, I would feel regret if I didn't mention here, my feelings about the importance of goal setting. Studies have shown that you are 8 times more likely to achieve something you want, if you physically write your goals down, and do something to keep your focus on them.

We've probably all done that to some level, but it can be hard right? Well, you know what helps me? I've created an 18 minute audio recording of myself, stating my goals as if I've already achieved them. I mixed it with Mozart music, and I listen to it all the time. It makes it real easy to keep my goals in front of my mind.

Earlier I mentioned that I no longer feared that becoming like my Heavenly Father would take away my uniqueness. As I have listened to my heart when I pray, and as I've listened to my heart when I set goals, I have caught glimpses of the person my Father in Heaven wants me to become, and there is no one else like that on the entire planet, and that fires me up!

I have one last example I'd like to share, of another man I have a lot of respect for. Now, let me be clear, that some of his morals are not in line with mine whatsoever, but he has taken self mastery to a whole new level, and I feel the spirit telling me that God is pleased with many of the things he's doing. Many of you may have heard of Tim Ferriss. This guy believes and teaches, that you can become a master at 2 new huge things, every year. He decides he wants to learn something, or become something, and then does it. To give a few examples, he has become fluent in several foreign languages, he's competed in the top levels in international dance competitions, he's won martial arts tournaments, he's known as a master chef, he's a bestselling author, and many more things.

Whenever I see God's children do something great, who go above and beyond, I feel the spirit. I think that's why I love watching the gold medal performances in the olympics.
I want to bear you my testimony that I know deep in my soul, that this life is about growth, learning, and becoming our best self, and as we do, we become more like our Father in Heaven.

Personal Responsibility and Optimism

I'm a big believer in optimism.  I'm not perfect at it, but I've come a long way. I, like many of you, grew up is a world of skepticism an pessimism. To be optimistic is just a matter of developing new habits of thought.  We've all heard the saying that attitude is a choice, but it takes time to really internalize that.  I used to get upset when the BYU football team lost a game. Now, I enjoy watching a game whether they win or lose. I want them to win, but when I really thought about it, was it worth it to watch a game if there was a possibility of a negative outcome to myself?

 

The made the same decision as we approached the presedential election.  I really wanted to have Mitt Romney as the President of this wonderful country. I wanted it for many reasons, but when I learned that Obama would be president for another 4 years, it was a goodrealization that it really didn't impact my attitude, and I went on to have a wonderful day.  I admit I don't have a secret strategy that allowed this to happen, but I think it really just comes down to choice and perpsective.  I made the choice that I would still be happy if Obama won the election, and I also make an effort to keep negative things in perspective will the abundance of positive things in my life.

 

I learned many years ago from a great man named Rich Thawley about the importance of assuming 100% responsiblity in life.  This wise councel is also taught by Steven Covey in the 7 Habits.  The idea of assuming 100% responsibilty is a great contrast to the commonly taught 'virtue' of compromise and of a 50/50 relationship, and it's taken a lot of time to change my thought habits in this regard too.  I'm certainly still deveoping it, but I now know without question that great personal power comes by being 100% responsible, and by eliminating all excuses, no matter how valid they are.

I Met One of My Hero's Today

dallin-h-oaks-10Today I met one of my hero's.  My family arrived at church about 20 minutes early.  As my wife and children went in the chapel to find our seats, I took all of our coats back to the coat rack at the back of the building.  While there I was joined by a man who I have incredible respect for, who I seek to emulate in my life, and who is one of my Hero's.  His name is Dallin H. Oaks.  For those of you who don't know.  Elder Oaks is an Apostle for Jesus Christ.  Just as when Jesus Christ walked the earth roughly 2000 years ago, he called 12 Apostles to lead his church, the Church of Jesus Christ today also has 12 Apostles on the earth.

Ok, back to my experience.  As soon as I saw him, I recognized him and greeted him, and extended my hand.  We talked briefly, and he mentioned that he was going to be visiting our ward today.  The visit was also a welcome surprise for our Bishop.  He attended all three hours of our meetings, even participating for 10 or 15 minutes with my Elders Quorum. 

He did not come to make any big announcements, or provide any lengthy training or teaching, but his visit today has had a very big impact on me.  I know that he is just a man, but I also know, that he truly is an Apostle of Jesus Christ, and someone who's example of service I want to follow.

Here is a page with a brief bio about Dallin H. Oaks, and here is a video of a talk he gave about Desire last April that I really like.