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The Right Ratio

Adelaide Heinen Youngblood 1913 - 2009

Adelaide Heinen Youngblood 1913 - 2009


July 20th, 2009

A beautiful and wise woman died today.  She was my wife’s great Aunt, and to us she was truly great.  She taught without knowing she taught.  Her lessons were simple.  She didn’t teach by pontificating, she taught by living with a gentle style and strength that lifted everyone who knew her.  She led by example.

I will never forget my last visit with her.  I had been pulled to Houston by the need to visit a friend having surgery at MD Anderson.  Sadly or wonderfully, his problem drew me there, and on the way out of town my wife prevailed upon me to visit Adie.

At 96 she was still living at home with the help of her son. Frail and tottering she met me at the back door. There was a small sign there. It said that back door friends are best.   That sign had been my first impression of her 16 years ago when she was a youngster of 80.

She opened that back door and greeted me with a hug, saying that she was so glad to see me and wasn’t I wonderful to take time out of my day to visit with her.  She mentioned that she was now fully blind, that her hearing was failing, and would I please sit right beside her on the couch so that she could hear me.  She paused for a moment after we sat down as she realized what she was doing.  It was an awkward pause… and there was never an awkward pause in her presence.  She said, “Ah, there I go complaining, silly me,” as if she was disgusted with herself.

In that moment she took my hand, seemingly hungry for human touch. I hugged her thin shoulders and told her, “Hey Adie, I understand. My mother went through this. You can talk to me.  Go ahead and complain a bit.  It’s ok.”

And so she did.  For the first time in the 16 years that I had known her, she complained. She told me  what it was like to be 96. Many of her dearest friends were long gone. Her health was failing. Her blindness meant she could no longer see those she loved, and hearing loss left her in fear of an increasing isolation. For three minutes she held forth without a pause and without interruption or comment from me.  The pain of being  in love with life yet feeling it slip away was palpable.

Then she stopped.  It was sudden.  After a short pause, she looked up with a mischievous smile and said, “Enough of my grumps, let’s talk about the good stuff.”

For the next three hours we talked about life, and work, and kids, and growing up.  I told story after story from our children’s lives; the five year old in-your-face girl athlete who has never met a stranger, and the ten year old precociously intellectual boy. She asked question after question, pulling information and stories from me that I had thought long forgotten. And still she gave better than she got. She told stories of her life, and her years, and her world.  Story after story tumbled out, hers and mine and ours.  They are faded a bit now, blended together. But what I remember clearly is the laughter.

It had been a brutal few years for our family; we had lost a beautiful home betting on a business, and then had lost the business.  We had given everything and now must re-build from almost nothing.  She knew all of this and more.  She understood the pain and the need to heal and grow and re-build.  She understood and helped me understand that a woman and a man would face this differently.  She didn’t lecture or analyze, but  she taught… and I listened.  Closely.

For three hours I took a Master’s class on living, and loving, and moving forward.  And laughing in the face of the pain and helping others to laugh.

For three hours, I sat beside her frail, failing body and let her lead us down a path of life and love and laughter. It was non-stop, no breaks, no pauses, just one story tumbling after the other.  Sometimes interrupting each other as close friends or family will with a completed sentence or thought.

Later as I drove away, I looked back in wonder.  At 96 she had been more alive in those three hours than most of us ever achieve. I also remember thinking:  That’s about the right ratio—three minutes of complaining, and three hours of love and laughter.


Posted in Soul, Character, Personal Development.

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3 Rules for the Perfect Workout


At the end of the day most workouts work if you do. This weight set or that machine. This run or that bike ride. You can argue the relative merits all you want, but if you work at it, they pretty much all work.

That brings us to my 3 rules for the perfect workout.  Do it! Do it! Do it! And a bonus rule, Love it!

Do it is pretty simple, just go out and do it. Choose something easy for your age and fitness level. Yes, I will say that again very slowly.  Choose. Something. Easy. Choose to do it regularly. Choose a time that works for your life, your family, and your schedule.

Now pretend you’re Nike, kick your butt in gear and go do it.  Motivation is much easier if you know the task will be easy.  Much easier.  The immediate goal is simple.  It is not weight loss, nor fitness, nor even health.  The immediate goal is to create a new habit. A solid life-changing habit.

Perhaps you can barely jog to the corner.  Then go half way.  Make it easy. Do it again tomorrow. Are you sore on that second or third day?  That means you did too much.  Tomorrow, sit your butt down and for the exactly the same amount of time that it takes to do the workout, sit and visualize it fully and completely. (I will go through this process in detail in another article.) Then go out again on day 3 and do your workout.

Translate Do It, Do It, Do It into Habit, Habit, Habit.

You are not Michael Jordan or Serena Williams or Lance Armstrong.  Professional atheletes, especially the elite ones, long ago made the habit of working out. They do it smart and hard. If you are a pro athelete, you are not reading this article.  You are out there earning your paycheck.  You already have the discipline that comes from a deep long term habit. AND you have the  best coachs, trainers and nutritionists in the world to make sure you that you don’t do too little, nor too much.

Get over it, guys.  We are not pro atheletes.  The pros will smoke us at 20 and 30 and often at 40, but if you keep at it and if they get lazy after they retire, you can smoke them at 50, 60, 70 and beyond.

If you want to be a “Lifer” in fitness start at the habit level.  Otherwise, every plan and commitment you make will fall apart and eventually you will quit. Most people avoid pain when they can.  This “no pain, no gain’ thing is for the pros who get a paycheck for painfully pushing the ragged edge.  The rest of us need to focus on starting and NEVER stopping.

Your first job is to start the habit.  Your second job is to keep the habit. Forget that nonsense about it taking 21 days or one month to create a lifetime habit.  Bull.  It takes what it takes. Each kind of habit, and each person is different.

Focus on creating a LONG term habit, and to do that you must make it a habit that you enjoy.  Don’t batter your body; and don’t destroy your will and your self respect.  Take one step at a time and keep stepping.

Studies have shown that most people over-estimate what they can do in a day or a week or a month.   BUT the same studies show that most people radically under-estimate what they can do in a number of years.

Schedule it.  Then Do It. Congratulate yourself and then Do It again.  Sore?  Back off the work, but stay on the schedule.  Build the habit and the habit will build you.


Posted in Body, Character, Personal Development, Workouts.

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Pinky Promise


Did you ever “pinky promise” when you were a kid? Do you remember what that is?  That’s when two friends link pinkie fingers, and promise.  In my school it was the girls who did the “pinky promise,” while most of us boys did some kind of pretend “blood oath.”  The specifics don’t matter now, but that promise was a serious thing.  

My point is that kids “get it.”  

 A promise is a promise; my 6 year old reminds me. Children know that a promise is something special, and they remember it.  (They remember it especially well when you make the promise to them.)

What then is a promise? Does it have value in the modern world?  What if you can’t trust the person making the promise?  What if that person is you?

 Let’s take that one at a time. A promise is a personal commitment to take, or to refrain from taking a specific action. It has value only if you have reason to believe the person making the promise.  Do you have reason to believe in yourself?  

 There it is bald and ugly.

 Do you break your promises? Most especially, do you break the promises you make to yourself? Did you make a promise to yourself to be frugal, to workout, to drink less, to quit smoking, or not to buy and eat junk on the way home?  How did you do?

My martial art teacher says that will power grows arithmetically, and falls apart geometrically.  What does that mean?  It means that it grows slowly, and if you screw up it  falls apart quickly.

 The tough part is that we often trap ourselves. 

 We set up situations where we can’t NOT break our self promises.  We promise to workout 7 days a week, at this or that huge intensity.  Guess what happens?  The body falls apart and can’t sustain the work, or handle the discomfort.  Or maybe we promise a child to take them to a movie on Satuday, when we know darn good and well that our boss controls our schedule on that day. We make it a promise, rather than a conditional because it is easier in the moment.

 I have done this in the past trying to be a “nice guy.”

When it comes to a promise, too often we try too hard to be nice and not hard enough to be sure and certain. It seems easier (read that  as nicer!) to make it a  promise.  A promise is stronger than a conditional.  We are saying, “yes I can and will do that.”  We are not saying “I’ll do it if I can, or I’ll do it if I don’t have to work.”  A promise makes the other person happier, and we are off the hook for the moment.  But what if it doesn’t work out, what if we have been hasty and we were wrong? What if we can’t make it happen?

Something that stinks usually hits the fan doesn’t it? And, sometimes that’s one fast spinning fan.

Get in the habit of promising only those things you can deliver. As Tony Robbins says, write the rules so that you can win. 

I have a commitment to workout 7 days a week for at least an hour.  That’s a big big commitment, and I have failed at it dozens of times over the last two decades. BUT, now I can do it. My record so far is something over 500 days.  Why does it work now?   It works because I have refined the concept of  “daily workout.” I know there will be emergencies. I know the kids will get sick.  I know a critical project will appear at the worst time.  So, I allow myself to log-up hours ahead, and to use meditation as a part of it . Guess what?  Now its do-able, and I feel much better about my ability to meet my self-made promises.  

Learn to “pinky promise” and be serious about it. Start today.  Design a small, but useful self-promise or commitment.  Make it something that you KNOW you can do.  Write it down and make it happen. Live the rest of your life normally.  Later when that promise has become a habit, pick another.  Build the habits that build your personal power.



Yup, commercial message time.

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Posted in Soul, Character, Personal Development.

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