Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When You Want to Quit...Don't! (And Other Lessons)

Last Saturday my journey to 15,000 yards for cancer research came to a phenomenal end. Not only did I meet my goal, but I exceeded it swimming an extra 500 yards and for a total of 15,550 yards (8.8 miles) in 6 days. If I were to total last year's yardage in the first "Swimming with Edgar" experience with this year's yardage than I would have swam 28,000 yards in 12 days.

Some of my family members drove up from Lake Charles (my hometown) to witness me swim the final distance. Also many of my friends came to watch me complete the final laps. I was grateful to have all of them there to support me. I truly enjoyed their company and cheers of support.

As I reflect on the journey that I traveled in order to reach this point of accomplishment, a few lessons come to mind that I was reminded of along the way.

1. When you want to quit...Don't!

Quitting is not worth it. If anything step back from the situation, call "time-out" and evaluate your surroundings. Sometimes you just need to take a break from the situation. Clear your head for awhile and then step up to it.

I took this approach during the week before I began the actual swim and it definitely made a difference for me. To take a break from the pool for a few days before I really began to swim made me miss being in the water. It also helped my body heal and prepare for the workouts ahead. Lastly, it gave me time to strategize how I was going to swim the next week. Making this decision to chill for a few days really made the difference for me when I decided to move forward.

2. Learn to be Comfortable in the Confusion

Many of the workouts I had leading up to the swim involved me tweaking my stroke and working diligently on the details of my swimming. At times those focused workouts were more tiresome than the ones where I just swam long distances one after the other. However, these are also the times when we must talk less and work more.

Too many times when things get difficult we want to talk about it to anyone who will listen to us. Our teammates, co-workers, family members and friends are all examples of people that we want to complain to or ask them to share in our temporary sorrows. We must remember that the workouts we may be going through are only temporary and that they will eventually lead to better endurance and stronger will power.

We must not let ourselves get so caught up in the moment that we say things we will later regret. In these situations we must not let the water get them best of us. Instead we must simply listen to our coach and swim the distance we're asked, the way we're asked to swim it. In the end it will pay off.

3. You Don't Have to Have a Perfect Score to Be a Champion

During the week before the swim my workouts were more difficult than ever before. I was swimming twice a day for long distances and it was taking up a lot of time to complete the prescribed workouts. Each day grew more difficult, but because of my determination I found a way to complete each one until the last day.

The last day I was extremely tired, my shoulders were sore and I was dealing with a lot of responsibilities in other places of my life with very little sleep. It was at that time that I decided to make a choice. It was at that time I decided to "lose the battle, to win the war". In other words, I didn't finish my last days workout.

Instead I chose to begin the resting and healing process. In my opinion this turned out to be one of the best decisions I made during this experience. Giving up on that last day's workout allowed me to take a step back, not continue to aggravate any other parts of my body or make the ones I had already irritated worse and allowed me to most importantly rest my mind. By the time Monday came and the swim was to begin I was ready to go because I was stronger, I had a plan of attack and my body was ready to go.

4. The Most Important Things in Life are the Things that Only We Can Take Care Of

This lesson is the most important one of all. In order for us to reach our full potential in life we must accept this lesson, embrace this lesson and live by its meaning. We can stunt our growth as people or even hurt those we hold most dear if we don't follow through with this one.

I know that as I trained to swim last week that only I could have completed this task. I don't say that from the perspective that only I could have swam 15,000 yards in a week, what I mean is that only I had put in the effort in practice and training, so only I was prepared to finish the end result.

In life we must also realize that each one of us has our own set of responsibilities. Only we have the individual skill set to meet the need we see. We must take responsibility for our actions and do our best to help those around us and to make a difference in our world, no matter how wide our reach is at the time.

In the end we must be the difference maker, we must be the one to make change happen. If we don't, then we'll eventually lose heart and lose out on what life is truly trying to offer us.

Friday, March 30, 2012

It takes a TEAM to Accomplish Victory!

Many times we've heard the phrase "there is to I in team". However, there is a "me" in the word team and I know that I would not be my best me this week if it were not for the people supporting me throughout this challenging journey. 

At the beginning of this week my mother drove up from Lake Charles to support me. She's been here for every session to count my laps and even helped me with a few personal errands and opportunities as I continue to work full time and do everything else that I would typically do during the week. I'm grateful for her and I know that I wouldn't be able to continue to perform at my best without her support. 

Pictured below is my mother and I next to the pool at Centenary College where I am swimming all of my laps. This picture was taken on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012. 

Another person that I must recognize is my best friend, my girlfriend Jess. Despite the commitments she's had this week with working full time and with graduate school (amongst other things) she's been with me at the pool every night this week. She's been counting my laps alongside my mother and when my Mom drove home to Lake Charles this afternoon, Jess took over counting laps for me today. 

Pictured below is Jess and I at my 2nd swim on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 at the Centenary College pool. 

Another person I must mention is my Coach Janet Martin. I would not have been physically ready for this week without her. I am the swimmer that I am today largely because of Janet and her work with me.

There are others who've supported me along the way and have helped to make a positive impact on me throughout this journey as well. Without naming more names, I simply want to say "thank you" to you as well for your support.

As I continue to reach for 15,000 yards I am grateful to report that I am 2,200 yards away from my goal and that in 4 days time I have swam a total of 12,800 yards. With swims totaling 1,500 yards, 1,600 yards, 1,300 yards and 1,400 yards since Tuesday, I am patiently swimming closer to completing my goal.

I am thankful to have come so far and I believe that with determination and unwavering focus that I will reach my goal. In the end I know this wasn't just about me. I know I was the one swimming, but I also know and appreciate the fact that it took a team of people supporting me and encouraging me throughout this process that helped me to reach for my goal. Again, its not over yet, but at least at this point I can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We've Come This Far By FAITH

At the end of the first 2 days of this year's swim challenge I am proud to announce that I have already swam 7,000 yards
  • Day 1 Total: 3400 yards (Session 1 - 1,800 yards, Session 2 - 1,600 yards)
  • Day 2 Total: 3600 yards (Session 1 -1,800 yards, Session 2 - 1,800 yards) 
Also my mother drove up from Lake Charles to support me. She's been here for each of my swimming sessions thus far, helping me to count my laps and cheering me on. My fraternity brother Patrick came by the pool to support me on Monday and 2 more of the my fraternity brothers came to support me today. I'm also proud to say that my best friend/girlfriend came to watch me both nights and to count my laps alongside my mother. I'm grateful for each one of them and welcome others to come by the pool to show their support or to stop by for a few minutes to help me count laps as I swim. 

With my mother in town we've also been collecting and turning in money to the American Cancer Society for the donation portion of my swimming challenge. Despite what the online results may show, a lot of people have been mailing in their donations. I should have a new total for donations on Friday, but for now I've been told that the estimated total for donations thus far is already over $1000.00. To donate to the cause online click here

God is good. That's all I can say. I feel good. I'm excited. I'm thankful. He's making a way just as He said that He would. 

In Hebrews the 4th chapter and the 2nd verse it says, "For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith." I'm here to tell you that the difference is faith. 

If you combine what you already know with hard work, intentional preparation, unrelenting determination and an attitude that's willing to sacrifice for your dreams, than anything is possible
I realize that the fight is far from over, but I also see the victory in sight. I'm focused and I'm not going to stop and until its mine. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Here We Go!


On the night before I begin this swim I turn to you. Ready. Excited. Focused.

After having swam over 35,000 yards in preparation for this week, I trust you Lord to bring me the rest of the way.

I dedicate this opportunity to you as a way to remember one of your fallen soldiers so that your light may shine even brighter in this world.

Keep me dear Lord. Protect me from injury and guide me to the end of this journey in safety and in love.

In your Son Jesus name I claim this victory. Amen.

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." 

-Proverbs 16:3

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Scriptures of the Swim

Before taking on this project I spent months thinking about this opportunity and praying for the Lord's guidance about whether or not I should take on this challenge. I wanted to make sure that He was with me because I know that I can't do anything successfully without Him. 

In turn the Lord sent me affirmation through the people He placed in my life who support me and also through His word. As I continue to move forward along this path these scriptures are the ones that I keep going back to throughout this experience. These scriptures are continuing to make a difference in my life. 

1 Corinthians 15:10

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them - yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me." 

Romans 8:18 

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

Psalm 37: 5 - 9

"Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out they wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land." 

Philippians 4:13

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Pressure is a Privilege because Pressure Makes Diamonds

Over the past 4 weeks I've been training to swim 15,000 yards in a week starting on Monday, March 26, 2012. As I train to take on this challenge I've been swimming in a pool measured in meters that has an end that is 12 feet deep. The pool I'm planning to complete the actual swim in is a pool measured in yards that has an end that is about 7 feet deep. Now for those of us who aren't big fans of math, the meter pool is longer than the yard pool and therefore is easier to swim in for long periods of time.

This week my coach suggested that I begin to swim "2 a days" because the week of the swim I'll have to swim twice a day to reach my goal. I knew this time would come but when she told me I honestly didn't expect it to be now. However, I didn't complain, nor did I make any excuses. I simply said, "yes ma'am" and "How long (distance) do you want me to swim?"

Sometimes in life (and in leadership) we forget the fact that its not about us. Many times the situation calls us to just be obedient and do what we're told. In this case all I needed to do was to trust my coach. She knows what to do. I know she has my best intentions at heart and she wants to see me succeed. My job in this situation is simply to swim.

After 4 weeks of training in a longer, deeper and more difficult pool I went back to the pool where it all began. As I began to swim in this "new" pool I began to realize some of the deeper meanings behind training in a more challenging pool.

1. Preparation

Because I've completed longer, more difficult workouts in a deeper pool, I know that when the time comes for me to swim in the other pool I should have less issues to contend with. Many times life is the same way.

Its easy for us to complain and make excuses when its hard. However if we'd just swallow our pride (or our fear) and move forward, we would realize that the challenge we're facing today is ensuring our success for tomorrow.

2. Cool Factor

Swimming in a deeper pool can be a challenge. The depth can be difficult to block out when you're constantly looking down at it. The length of the pool and the patience it takes to swim back and forth can be hard to deal with at times too. Being cool in the midst of a difficult situation can be easier said than done.

However, the more you do it the more comfortable you can become with it. The majority of the crowd wants to have that ability, but very few people are willing to work through hard times to attain it. It takes courage to go after your dreams and it takes determination not to give up along the way. In the end, the results are worth it especially when the task is completed the right way.

3. Confidence

Confidence makes all the difference. It can be the difference between winning and losing. It can also be the difference between failure and success. Knowing that you can attain success in challenging times can make all the difference in achieving it in less difficult times. If I can swim successfully in a longer and deeper pool than I know I can swim in a shorter and shallower one.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From the Water

Over the past two days I've worked really hard to improve my swimming stroke, tighten up my form and build up my endurance. Now that I've finished my training for this week and reflect on my experiences there are some important lessons that I learned from the water. From my perspective these lessons translate into leadership lessons that could possibly help me in other areas of my life.

Before I started these two workouts I had no idea that from these experiences these lessons would be produced. However, do we ever really know all of the lessons we'll pick up on the journey before we begin walking? In my mind, the answer is "no" and that's why the journey is so special.

Workout 1 

When waking up at 3:45am on Friday morning I really did not know if I had the energy to truly fight through another swimming practice at the end of a long week. However, with the grace of God in hand and the lyrics of a few old school Jay-Z songs in my mind I drove to the pool to meet my teammates and coach.

When I got there we swam a few laps to warm up and then my coach placed us in specific lanes to do a drill that I had never done before. We were about to complete what I later called "the circle drill". If you've ever trained with a team that plays a running focused sport (like soccer or basketball) than you may know a running version of this drill.

  • Teammate 1 (usually the fastest swimmer in that lane) leads the group by swimming down the right side of the assigned lane. 
  • Teammate 2 then counts to 5 and swims after them. 
  • Teammate 3 then counts to 5 and swims in the same lane after Teammate 2. 
  • Teammate 1 has the responsibility to lead the line by staying fast, focused and in rhythm. This will set the pace for the swimmers coming behind them. 
  • Once Teammate 1 touches the other wall they then swim back to the wall where they started by swimming down the opposite side of the same lane and Teammates 2 and 3 follow them.
I was assigned to be the 1st swimmer in my lane which forced me into a peculiar situation. Our assignment was to swim 4, 100 meter sets, 4 times or 1200 meters worth of circles. My teammates were depending on me for setting the tone for the drill. The responsibility to set the example was squarely on my shoulders. I had no room to complain about having little energy. I had no room for holding back. Instead I took off swimming to be an example that complaining is not a option and that it was going to take all three of us in our lane in order to finish the work that had been given to us.

My 1st leadership lesson is leaders lead by example. 

As leaders we must learn to set the example by our actions. Words are wonderful and they should be used genuinely and tailored to each team member specifically. However if we really want to lead and get the most out of those following us we must lead them by the example that we set. We must be willing to answer the questions that we ask them and we must be willing to get in the trenches and work alongside them whenever appropriate and necessary. Many times this means we must set the pace.  

About half way through out 1st set of 400 I had forgotten about myself and I was focused on my team. I was focused on their energy levels and I was focused on how they were feeling. I was focused on keeping up with the time that our coach gave us to finish each set. I was also focused on the details around us, like keeping up with the time that we were given to rest in between each set so we remained within the boundaries that our coach set for us. 

This brings me to the 2nd leadership lesson, leaders must remain focused. 

As leaders that is what we are called to do. We must think outside of ourselves. We must trust that if we lead to the best of our abilities and with good intentions for everyone around us that those behind us will see that leadership in action and follow us. We must understand that leadership is bigger than ourselves. Its bigger than our individual feelings and that its an inclusive process that requires the leader of the moment to protect and prepare a way for their team members. 

In between sets I found myself encouraging my teammates by giving them "high-fives" and telling them encouraging words. My team got to know each other and once we got comfortable with each other we all got into a rhythm with each other. We shared our strengths and knew how to encourage one another and before we knew it we were more than half way done with the drill. 

This is my 3rd leadership lesson, leaders support their team members

Encouragement goes a long way. In leadership we must correct situations before we see them go wrong, but we must also be just as quick to encourage and show support for our teammates too. The most important resource we have on our team is not money, not time and not our organization's mission. Our most important resource is the individual people that make up our team. 

Without our teammates we have no team. There is no "I" in team. Therefore teams are more than just about us as individual leaders. I realize there is a "me" in team, but even then leaders need their team members to always be at their individual best. Each team member must be fully invested in each situation in order to see the leader's vision come to life. 

Workout 2 

After completing 3 difficult workouts already this week I went to the pool with the mindset to fine tune and make little improvements to my stroke in order to swim more efficiently and to get better in the future and that is exactly what I got from that workout. As leaders we must realize that there are "coaches" out there to help us. Each one of us needs a leadership mentor and we must check in with them consistently in order to make sure we're on a successful path. 

This is my 4th leadership lesson, leaders must remain open to suggestions

Just because we made it to the top of our careers or we've been in our leadership position so long that we think we can do it all on our own, doesn't mean that we should isolate ourselves from learning more. There are always opportunities out there for us to get better. There is always someone out there who's sat where we sit now and who will give us feedback and tips to improve our performance. We only need to be humble enough to listen and consider their feedback. 

Our goals won't accomplish themselves on their own. As leaders we know we must work everyday, consistently towards making our vision the reality that we want to live personally and professionally. However, in this age of seemingly fast results (culture change is temporary, cultural transformation is permanent) and quick communication (constant emails and text messages from technology we can't turn off) we must learn that sometimes we have to push and sometimes we have to rest, but we can't forget to rest

This is my last leadership lesson, leaders must push 
but we can't make pushing a lifestyle. 

In order for me to get up and swim Friday morning and then go in for a full day of work I had to push, especially because it was the end of what had been a long work week. I also knew though that I had to get a decent amount of sleep that night in order to get up and swim again on Saturday morning. However, once I was through with my 2nd workout I knew that I had to schedule in sometime to rest which I did Saturday afternoon.

Rest is essential to life. If we don't rest we will wear ourselves out. If we don't rest we will wear down our immune systems. If we don't rest than our muscles will never recover. All these issues add up to inefficiency, mental fatigue (more prone to making mistakes) and ineffective use of resources which can then equate to larger losses of revenue and resources. 

We must rest. Rest must be a consistent part of our lives. 

When we don't rest we slow down our progress towards reaching success and when we slow down our ability to reach for success we open ourselves up to a greater chance of failure. No leader I know wants to fail. 

As I move forward with this journey I look forward to next week. I look forward to another week of training. I also look forward to another week of sacrifice and hard work. After swimming a total of 7,700 meters this week I have a long way still to go to reach my goal of 15,000 yards in the same amount of time. However, with workouts like these under my belt and lessons like these to carry with me, I know I'm well on my way to reaching my mark.