January 30, 2022
I’ve circled the sun one more year with you, welcoming another chance to reflect on the time that’s passed and what it has meant to me. I had decided on the theme of this year’s letter many, many months ago, but as per usual, hadn’t started composing it in my mind until this morning.
We’ve all been through so much this past year, I feel this year’s theme of Endurance is a rallying call for all of us. But in the spirit of finding the one thing that was most salient to me in the year that’s past, for this moment, I’ll do my best to do it justice.
Endurance is the ability to withstand hardship or adversity. To me, endurance is most often associated with athletes and physical activities, but that doesn’t do justice to how important it is in every one of our lives on a daily basis. In truth, hardship and adversity manifest constantly.
Endurance is most often measured over time, but I think it is unwise to over-index on the length of time and more so the intensity over time. Almost anyone can do something with intensity in a short burst, but sustaining it is the hard part. I’d better define endurance as mustering the energy and determination to continue. I think there are three critical things necessary to truly endure:
- Strength — the physical energy to function
- Motivation — the mental energy to continue
- Perspective — the existential energy to track your progress
Strength measures all of the physicality of doing something. This may be an act of actual physical strength or simply the strength to rise every morning. Not only do athletes need strength, but we all must also build a healthy lifestyle to support our ability to function at the levels we need.
Motivation is the mental focus and drive required at the moment to push forward. Motivation is the passion and energy we bring into everything we’re doing. Without motivation, we’ll quickly fall dormant — the exact opposite of endurance.
Perspective is the ability to see outside of the moment towards a larger goal or pursuit. It is also what gives us the ability to refactor our larger goal or mission into smaller breakpoints, wins, and rewards. Perspective is the most critical part of endurance in my opinion. Without it, everything else falls apart quickly.
This year was full of moments. Looking back, I can’t believe I did some of them myself. I’ll share some to illustrate how endurance was my theme this year.
As you already know by now, I committed to this bodybuilder path for another few years. It’s been a trying year for me, largely due to a lack of motivation.
This year, I was supposed to do a show on June 9th. I started cutting for the show in April and never poured my heart into it. I had bulked up to my heaviest weight ever, 171lbs, but that also meant I had A LOT to lose before the show. Not knowing what weight I was going to be (perspective) was a big part of the problem.
At the same time, we were coming out of COVID, the summer was here, we had friends in the real world again, and I just could not get my mind into it. Eventually, I decided that I wouldn’t do the show and punted to the August 13th show. So settled was I, that we bought plane tickets for Grandma Patsy to come back to see me for the first time.
But something happened. I still couldn’t muster the motivation. The part of me that knew I made this commitment couldn’t win out over the moment. I did make a better effort, but it wasn’t enough. As I readied to go to NYC to surprise your grandma for her 80th birthday, I came to a hard but important realization — traveling to sit and watch others eat and drink from the sidelines and missing out on the reason I was going entirely, while also being totally not show-ready made absolutely no sense. I skipped again.
At this point, I had only 1 choice left. The November 12th show, the hardest one of the year, as my show (remember I promised to do 1 per year). Labor day came and I settled into the proper work required. I moved my weight from the 150s down to 135lbs eventually on show day. I didn’t do well, by any meaningful standard, but I showed up.
It’s no small feat to get on stage, I don’t care what condition you’re in. It’s another thing to set yourself up when you know you almost certainly can’t win. And yet, I did it again. It took 300+ workouts, hours of cardio, careful planning of food, and even a few dozen hours practicing posing for a few minutes on stage. But I wasn’t on stage to win the show, just to win more time here with you and our family. I train to live, not win.
Two years ago, I bought a bike shortly after you got your first real bike for your birthday. I was the only one without a bike at the time and didn’t want to miss out. Who knew what it would turn into.
Last year, I competed in my first official race — The Denver Century. If you haven’t figured it out, that means riding 100 miles straight. Prior to this race, the longest I had ever biked was 75 miles or so — all in the training to get ready.
Along this journey, I have gotten to make some new friends and connect with existing friends on a shared activity. That’s been a big win. It’s also been a great motivator. From my morning rides with Nate, Alex, and David to the more challenging ones with Stuck and the crew, it’s been a way to connect with folks while also chasing goals.
I biked 1931 miles in 2021 (up 181 miles from 2020). 110 of those were for this race and we climbed 7K+ feet in elevation across the day. It took from 10 hours all in to complete this race and I was completed depleted when it was over. It was one of the rare times where I’ve said I am not sure I’ll ever do that again.
You see, to get good at cycling you need a lot of time and motivation. Nothing prepares you for longer rides than riding further and further. Building up more speed and strength helps you shorten the time to do the same distance. Unfortunately, my other training goals are often at odds with this and my schedule just doesn’t afford me much time to put more into it.
The physical part here is grueling, but the mental part is so overwhelming that you can easily give us. Knowing where you are going, that perspective, helps tremendously — just 10 more miles was the all too common mantra in my head all day long.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an entrepreneur. The majority of that time, and still very much so today, I have had no idea what I am doing. I’ve been driven by a fundamental belief that the world is ripe for improvement and I can help.
This year, the startup I have been trying to get off the ground for the past 3 years almost finally took. After 9 months of juggling consulting and building, we finally got to the place where we were committed to it full time. I ended all my consulting work, started talking to investors, and prepared to dive in.
It’s been a trial by fire for sure. 4 different ideas with countless iterations and hand-wringing in the middle. I wasn’t sure we would get here, especially considering how sure I was about all the other versions that were now on the cutting room floor.
In November, though, we got accepted into a program called Techstars here in Boulder. It’s one of the best accelerators for startups like us. It was a strong vote of confidence in us. We raised some more money and now we’re off to the races.
The funny thing is, though, that we changed everything once again since all of those things happened — a pivot. We’re building something completely new. We’re both excited and scared about what’s to come. But the time has told me a few things. First, I have the strength to do this due to the investments made along the way. Second, I have the motivation to do it — I can’t imagine life any other way than building the future. Lastly, I have the renewed perspective that certainty is a cancer that holds us back, so let go of it.
These stories aren’t meant to prop up some kind of superhuman strength. In fact, I hope they show you just the opposite. It’s taken me a lifetime to get to where I understand a few really important things:
- Strength comes from within AND without
- Motivation is like a gas tank you must constantly refill
- Perspective means finding your way and not being afraid to ask for directions
- You’re as alone as you choose to be
- Some asshole is always gonna have some shit to say
I’m grateful at the end of this year to have the strength, motivation, and perspective to try to be the best at everything others might say I can’t be. I’m proud to succeed at my potential, even if it’s not the best or better than everyone else.
I hope you find this fortune early in life, son.