What I learned from watching the Olympics…in person! Part 2


I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match.” — Mia Hamm, American soccer player and 1996 and 2004 gold medalist.

When I was in Rio a couple months ago at the Olympics I had the privilege of meeting several gold medalists.  One of them had medaled in the 2012 London Olympics, a guy by the name of Jason.  He is now in the FBI. I asked him what it was like getting back after accomplishing such a phenomenal goal.  He said the day he got back he stepped onto the ground from the plane and thought to himself:  “What the f@*& do I do now? I didn’t know who I was.” His identity was so based in the sport that he didn’t know how to do life outside of it.  Every day for the 4 years previous (and probably much longer than that), Jason had something he was pursuing.  I was challenged on a couple levels:

  1. Am I taking my life mission as serious as Jason?  Is there something that I am passionate enough to attack with the ferocity that these Olympic athletes do?  If not, why not?
  2. What is my identity based in?  What is it that, if it was taken away or accomplished, would leave me confused and rudderless?  Who am I becoming?

Thoughts about Challenge #1:  Can we think of ourselves as athletes and be committed to our “cause” or our life mission as much as they are?  What are you attempting to do that’s important?  If you are not attempting something important, what needs to change?  Because you have something important you are supposed to do on this earth.  These athletes are attempting to clear a bar or throw a disk or run 100 yards faster than everyone else.  It is exciting but really on September 1, what does it matter?  They have a saying “Gold medal on Monday.  Ebay on Tuesday.”  What impact does it have on the world?  It is a spectacle of sport and competition and a worthy endeavor, but we are dealing with an endeavor just as grand and just as important—changing people’s lives.  And this can be done wherever you are planted—the marketplace, the non-profit sector, the home, the family, traveling, in being an employee or an employer.  So why can’t I even give 1/10 of the commitment that these athletes give?

The key is not the will to win. Everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” — Bobby Knight, American basketball coach of the 1984 gold medal-winning men’s team.


Thoughts about Challenge #2:   Big doors swing on small hinges.  Small things matter. Little things. Like the angle you take off from.  The difference between the gold medal and not even placing is split seconds in the 50 Free and 100 and 200 yard dash. There are small changes that have disproportionate impact.  This power of habit (check out the great book HERE) would say that small things in our life can have big impact.  We are the sum of all of our small decisions.  What are your patterns?  What are your habits?  Where is your identity found? If you don’t like who you are becoming, this is the great news:  YOU CAN CHANGE IT.  TODAY.  It’s never too late to change direction or to start a new path, even if you feel like you’ve failed.  A lot.  One good place to start is Michael Hyatt’s life plan resource.  Another help is this “big rocks” video about the big things in life and then this article that explains it.

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career … I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan, American basketball player and 1984 and 1992 gold medalist.



What I learned from watching the Olympics in person


gold bars

Everyone has gold inside of them.

“The Olympics remain the most compelling search for excellence that exists in sport, and maybe in life itself.”
– Dawn Fraser (Australian swimmer, 4-time gold medalist, 8 medals overall, and 1 of 3 people ever who won the same event in 3 consecutive olympics)

I returned a couple weeks ago from a bucket list trip.  I went to Rio with my best buddy from high school for the Olympics.  It was wild.  It was crazy.  It was educational.  It was inspiring.  The night before I left I was packing with Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA playing at full volume.  I got a retweet from Lee Greenwood himself!

This trip started off right!

This trip started off right!

Over the next few posts I will share some experiences and fun stories and what I learned.  But I want to start with the biggest lesson learned.  Everyone has greatness inside.  Did you see this commercial that played in August?

We all have 0.2mg of gold inside each of us.  The highest concentration is in the heart.  But what is 0.2 mg in real life?  Common household items that weigh approximately one gram include a paperclip, the cap of a ballpoint pen, a stick of gum, a U.S. currency bill, a quarter teaspoon of sugar, a raisin and a thumbtack.  (source:  this article)

But 1 mg = 1/1000th of a gram.  Most things that weigh 1 mg are invisible to the naked eye.  0.2mg is 1/5 of that which is 0.0002 grams.  So 0.2 mg is 0.0002 of the weight of those items mentioned above.  Or 1/5 the weight of a small snowflake.

Gold.  It’s in us all.  Do you have the strength to dig it out?  Out of yourself?  And out of others?  Everyone has it inside of them.

One of my mentors Pat always says we hold a crown above people’s heads and let them grow into it.  Hold that crown above them and draw that gold out.  Gold.  It’s in us all. We need to have a vision for who they could be.  Gold.  It’s in us all.  Do you have the courage to call greatness out of others?  And out of yourself.  Do you have a vision for who you could become?

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”Wilma Rudolph, American runner and three-time gold medalist.



How to make beauty out of trash

shadow art -- dirty white trash bigger

Have you ever turned trash into gold?  OK me neither.  Have you ever seen someone take something bad in their life and turn it around for good?  Yes, me too.  What someone meant for evil, someone turns for good.

A couple weeks ago my friend Romesh sent me the picture shown above.  He said “the light reveals beauty in what at first appears to be a pile of waste.”  He went on to say “this is the story of my life!”  Can you relate?  This incredible project called “Dirty white trash” is by the 2 provocative artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster.  They took their own trash for 6 months (how long it took to make the piece) and transformed it.  Noble and Webster have also used dead animals for their art (189 to be exact):

shadow art -- dark stuff 188 mummified animals

trash from the Thames, ordinary household items:

shadow art -- real life is rubbish

and even aluminum cans shot with pellet guns.  QUITE EXTRAORDINARY!

shadow art -- manhattan skyline

In the right hands, chaos, confusion, and brokenness become beauty.  What was someone else’s careless abandon became a treasure.  This is a lot like real life.

Everyone has greatness inside.

Everyone has potential inside.

But often it’s hidden or covered by a rough exterior.  Shine the light in the right place and this potential is unlocked.  God does extraordinary things through ordinary people.  Broken people.  Confused people.  God loves to take a scar and make it a beauty mark.  He loves to take things that were meant for evil and turn them for good.  But it takes some time.  And it takes some work.  Some of those sculptures took months and even years.  How to make beauty out of trash?  Find the desired parts.  Wait if necessary.  Move the light around into all kinds of new places.  Have a vision for the way things could be.  Look for the beauty within.  This is the same with us.  It takes a while to make brokenness and confusion beautiful.  But God is in the business of making beauty out of broken.  Beauty takes time.

“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. … Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. … The marble not yet carved can hold the form of every thought the greatest artist has.” – Michelangelo

This is the potential that each of us have inside.  Greatness waiting to be discovered and unleashed.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” –Michelangelo

Some questions to end on:

  1. Where do you get your self-worth from?  Do you believe you have potential and beauty inside?
  2. Do you have eyes to see greatness in other people?  Are you helping to unlock and unleash it?
  3. Is there a situation in your life that looks like trash?  Are you willing to take the time it needs to turn it for good?

What other lessons do you see in this art?


The most complete vacation packing list in the galaxy

vacation repost pool

Have you ever arrived to your vacation spot only to be missing a crucial item?  It is more than a hassle.  It’s a distraction, annoyance, and frustration.  I am a frequent culprit of forgetting things for trips, especially toiletries.  One time I led a cabin of guys at a camp through an obstacle course wearing Tretorns and yoga pants.  But that’s a story for another time.  Don’t be unprepared.  Onward.


  1. Passport/ID/license/credit cards
  2. Electronic devices AND chargers
    1. Ipad charger, car phone charger
    2. I have one of those little mophies that will charge my cell phone 2 whole charges. Just in case I am stranded somewhere and the phone is dead.
  3. Marpac noise machine (I like white noise, especially when rooming with someone—more often than not you will get someone who snores like a banshee)
  4. Toiletries – check or carry-on (I have 2 different pre-prepared toiletry kits—one for check and one for carry-on)
    1. If you are really responsible all liquids in ziplocks in case of breakage or spillage.
  5. Medication
  6. House key
  7. Trash bag for dirty clothes
  8. Water bottle
  9. Travel Alarm clock (I don’t like to sleep next to my phone because I will surf aimlessly instead of going to bed).
  10. iPod (Yes I am one of the few who still use an iPod for exercise.  You might want it for running—especially if you are going to the beach, you may not want to run with your phone and get it all sandy)


  1. Boxers
  2. Undershirts
  3. Socks-athletic and dress
  4. Pijamas
  5. Jeans
  6. Shirts
  7. Pants
  8. Shorts
  9. Sweater
  10. Dressy outfit? Church or meeting?
  11. Belt(s)
  12. Running or workout gear/shoes
  13. Sweatshirt
  14. Swimsuit?
  15. Jacket?/Rain coat?
  16. Dress shoes/Flip flops

For Flights:

  1. Eyemask
  2. Ambien (or Jack Daniels minis)
  3. Earplugs
  4. Travel pillow

Maybe?/Other miscellaneous stuff

  1. Aux cord
  2. Retainer (don’t laugh, it’s a mouth guard for grinding)
  3. Tickets (airline, concert, sporting event, etc.)
  4. Contacts/solution
  5. Extra pair of glasses
  6. Night light or small flash light
  7. Cigars (you should try them–they are celebratory and relaxing)
  8. Snacks/Protein bars
  9. Sunglasses
  10. Sunscreen
  11. Kan Jam, Corn Hole, or other lawn games
  12. Aerobed/air mattress
  13. Towel
  14. Golf clubs
  15. Ravens/Orioles (your favorite team paraphernalia)

Check out this list from another site.  It’s almost as good and even has detailed toiletries.

What would you add?  What did I miss?

Happy Vacationing!  I hope it is the best one yet.



How to prepare to have the best vacation ever

vacation repost overlook

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you’re just trying to make it to your vacation.  This affects your preparation and remembering to do things to make your vacation the best it can be.  Check out Michael Hyatt’s podcast How to vacation like a pro.  He and one of my friends Michele Cushatt (an incredible person!) give a 40,000 foot view.  Let’s get down on the runway and help you prepare to take the trip of a lifetime.  Here’s all the practical stuff to bring/do to make your vacation the best it can be.


  1. Start a list! Make your list of things to do and also things to pack (will be next week’s post!).  This will take the guessing game out of vacation/going away.  Keep it in your phone or somewhere easily accessible as you think of things.

1-2 weeks out:

6 Things to do the week before vacation or longer travel:

  1. Email your itinerary and travel plans to a trusted friend. (my parents always send my sister and I this when they travel)
  2. Let a trusted neighbor know you will be gone and to keep an eye out.
  3. Put a hold on your mail and newspaper (do people still get those?). You can do it online with the USPS.
  4. Check any bill due dates and pay them. Getting a late fee after a great vacation is like a punch in the throat.
  5. I have a rule where I don’t pack the day I’m leaving. This makes me pack the night before and gives me some time to remember things that aren’t on the list.
  6. Get ahead on work.  Look over the next 2 weeks and see what might need to get done.  Be crazy efficient the last couple of days.

If going international:

  1. Make copies of important documents (passport if going international, or drivers license) and stash them in your carryon.
  2. Call your cell phone company and find out what the dealio is. (I got home from the Middle East once and had a phone bill that was 10x my monthly bill!)
  3. Call your credit card companies and let them know you will be traveling. Don’t want to get caught in the middle of Australia and not be able to rent a snorkel.
  4. Find out the electric where you are going and get adapters

Day before or day of:

  1. Adjust the thermostat
  2. Unplug heavy electronics
  3. Empty fridge of perishables and remove trash from your house
  4. Start automatic timers for your lights if you have them
  5. Set your security system if you have one
  6. Lock all windows and doors
  7. Check the weather forecast and add a couple items of clothing accordingly
  8. Set vacation responders—email and phone message (and extend it to the day after you get back—this will allow you to get caught up).
  9. Move your spare key (maybe under the mat or in the flower pot are not great spots)
  10. Close your curtains. (helps with the utilities and with creepers)

What did I miss?  Please leave it in the comments.

Next week:  The most helpful (complete) packing list ever!