I am 77 years old and I have always been physically active. I box and lift weights 3 times a week. I go on walks with friends. I also make sure that I eat well. I enjoy taking care of myself, but more importantly, I enjoy what being fit gives me the freedom to do.
At my age, many of my friends who are close in age are starting to experience some health issues. Back pain, hip pain, cancers, heart issues, dementia, and even death. I want to acknowledge that I feel blessed and lucky that I haven’t had many of these issues, but I strongly believe a big part reason is, how diligently I have worked to stay fit.
When you invest money, you make deposits so that the money can grow and compound. It’s the same thing with your health and fitness. Each time I exercise and choose to eat healthy, I am making a deposit in my current and future “health account”. Over time, all those individual choices (deposits) will hopefully compound into a life of better health.
Life is busy and if you do not prioritize your physical activity, it will fall behind other things. So, I make sure to protect the time I need for my workouts. Some people might think this sounds selfish, but it goes on the calendar and I make sure to keep that time for the exercise.
I create a structure in my life that encourages accountability and makes the workouts more enjoyable. I work out with a trainer. He pushes me and keeps me accountable. Prior to having a trainer, I would still exercise but I would maybe do half of the work I do with him. If I felt tired or bored, instead of doing 50 reps, maybe I would only do 20.
I also have young friends that I walk with regularly. Without them, I most likely would not do it as often as I should. Also spending time with these young men, keeps me mentally sharp and curious.
Most people think that as you get older, you should slow down. Since 50, I have ramped up my workouts. I know that as we age, it’s harder to maintain muscle mass and stay fit. So I know that I just have to work that much harder.
I genuinely believe that has been a secret to my life and I cannot stress the importance of this enough to young people. If you want to stay active and healthy so you can enjoy your older years, regularly make “deposits” into your health.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to travel all over the world. I recognize how lucky I am to be able to have done this, but it has greatly deepened my appreciation for humanity and taught me more about life than almost anything else.
New cultures, new customs, food, clothing…ect. All of it has opened my eyes to the ways people are different and perhaps more importantly how we are all are the same in many of the aspects that matter the most.
When I’m mentoring young people, I always try to encourage them to travel if they have the opportunity.
The very first sentence of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life is “It’s Not About You.” If you read this line and nothing else, that would be enough to change your life. Since reading that, it’s been a resounding theme throughout my life.
Everyone should re-read that line and remind themselves of this every day. So many people feel lost. Many of them young men chasing their careers and money. If we think about others, help others, and put the needs of others first we will have a life full of purpose and full of meaning.
At the end of each month, I spend time grading myself on 5 key pillars of my life. Faith, Family, Fitness, Finances, and Fun. I call them my 5 F’s. A long time ago I identified these 5 F’s as the most important things to my own best life.
1. Faith- Am I putting God first as a priority? Am I making the time to practice my spirituality daily.
2. Family- I talk to each of my adult children every day. I cherish those relationships and need to make sure that I continue put the time and energy into the people I care about.
3. Fitness- I work out everyday and have for almost my entire life. First of all, I enjoy it. Also staying fit, gives me the energy and health to continue to support the rest of my life.
4. Finances- Controlling my finances gives me the capability to help others. I don’t feel the need to acquire wealth, money is just a tool that enables me to do so, and therefore I must be mindful of it.
5. Fun-Life should be enjoyed. Laugh. Eat with friends. Go on adventures. Travel. Fun needs to be a part of our daily lives.
Grading myself each month on these 5 pillars gives me a sense of accountability and balance. If I look on the month and come to the realization that I am neglecting one of my core pillars, I know that I’m not living my life that way I want and I need to strive to do better. This requires me to be honest with myself, which is not always easy for a person to do. But if I’m serious about continuing to be better, it’s an essential part of my journey.
I once heard the famous Olympic hurdler, Edwin Moses say something like, “The hurdles are just something I go over on my way to the finish line.”
This is a good mental framework for life. During my own life, I’ve encountered so many people who simply could not make a decision and move forward. They get fixated on the hurdle and lose sight of the finish line. They would overthink, over evaluate, and get caught in this emotional tug of war that ended with them stuck in a state of over-analysis paralysis. I would imagine this was exhausting for them mentally, physically, and probably spiritually. I would also guess a big part of their hesitancy is they didn’t want to make a mistake.
Imagine Edwin Moses, racing down the track and stopping at each hurdle, unable to commit or move forward because of the risk of falling. Instead, he was assessing, timing his steps, and moving forward with his eyes on the finish line. He didn’t allow himself to get fixated on each hurdle.
I think the ability to make decisions has been a big contributing factor to whatever success I’ve had. I decide yes or no, then I move forward.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I did my best to think through my decisions and move forward committed. Particularly when it came to my business life, I’ve always found that looking backwards didn’t serve me well at all. I’d gather all the information that I could, then I’d make the decision to move forward or not. With every decision I know that there is a possibility it doesn’t work out, but being to able to humble myself and accept the possibility of embarrassment or failure lets me move forward.
I had a comfortable job and life in Milwaukee when I had the chance to buy my first company in San Antonio. My father and I flew down to look at it and I then moved my family from Milwaukee to San Antonio. It was a huge change for all of us. We didn’t know anyone, we were leaving all our family and relatives behind, and there was always a chance it might not work out. But the opportunity came and I thought it was the right thing to do. I’m grateful because it gave me personal opportunities with my family that we would never have had in Milwaukee.
I’ve made mistakes and will probably make more, but I try not to let fear of making mistakes or indecision get in the way. “The hurdles were just something to step over”.
Whenever I give a speech to young people at a school or event. I always hand out this poem written by Nadine Stair when she was 85 years old.
“If I Had My Life to Live Over
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d
have fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly
and sanely hour after hour, day after day.
Oh, I’ve had my moments and if I had it to do over
again, I’d have more of them. In fact,
I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments.
One after another, instead of living so many
years ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot
earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.
If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.”
By Nadine Stair (age 85)
This poem hangs in a very important place in my house. It serves as a daily reminder to me that we should be intentional about our lives. Not live with regrets about things we didn’t do, chances we didn’t take, or things that we were too afraid to say. Laugh. Play. Enjoy your life. Tell your loved ones that you love them.
I always give it to young people, because no matter where they come from or where they are currently in their life; they still have the time to go shape their own lives. At 76, I still have time. So we shouldn’t wait until we’re 85 like the poet and come to realization about a life unlived.
We all know how being structured helps with daily life. Offering gratitude for each sunrise, breath, and moment , gives us a sense of stability. I awake, turn on my steam shower(yes, lucky me) and have my breakfast. By the time I return, the steam is nice and hot, and I begin my time in there by saying a decade of the rosary, asking God to bring young people into my day that I can help.
This simple routine sets my day off in a positive, grateful manner.