I had to live it to understand it.

A letter from Joel…

Todd –

Hope you are well, and I’m sorry you guys lost some opportunities for fundraising with the Marji not going off. I’m looking forward to next year’s event just like last year w/ a new personal challenge. It’s fitting for the Marji, and if you read this then ‘thank you’ and if you don’t, then I feel good having put it into words anyway.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for your mission to help kids and your community, so that’s first for sure

After 55 years of being bulletproof and leading a life of solo outdoor activities, I had two major seizures and 3 ambulance rides on the same day in mid-March. It happened after being the sickest I’ve ever been for a week and just finishing 6 months of training for a first time 50-mile trail ultra-marathon in Moab, Utah- It was partly for the Marji. No memory of the events until I woke up in the ambulance each time. Not a good problem to have going forward given my lifestyle and the Marji approaching. I was 5 minutes from driving off for my last run before the ultra. The very worst thing was that my wife had to see all of it. She’s tougher than me though.

I was told that if I have another one, the odds are I will not know it’s coming, just like the first 2.  Not good for my outdoor activities.

Couldn’t ride a bike for a month without being w/ someone; couldn’t ride by myself for 3 months; couldn’t drive for 4 months, and lots of seizure med complications.

There’s been a lot of mental hurdles to clear.

The epilepsy stats say 75% chance of another seizure in 6months 50% after a year and 25% after 1 and 1l2 years

Fortunately, because of my weird combination of events, and obsessiveness to stick to the training plan of a younger man, all of the doctors feel that I don’t have epilepsy and this was an anomaly- I hang my hat on this.

8 months later and 15 doctor’s appointments later, I’ve cleared about 95% of them and if I don’t have another seizure between now and the Marji, I’m going to be there, just like I was going to be there if it happened this year.

I’ll land the plane now-

My goal was to finish, now it’s to get there

I thought this saying was a bit harsh when I heard you say it last year, but now I see why you say it. I’ve just had it too easy to have it sink in.

Life isn’t fair. The world isn’t safe. There is no finish line.


Joel and I connected via phone after his email – because and I had to learn more, and wanted to ask why he felt “Life isn’t fair. The world isn’t safe. There is no finish line.” was harsh. Turns out he’s a teacher and a real good guy (like there was a doubt). As for his “harsh” observation, after a short pause he said, “I had to live it to understand it.” Pro-fucking-found words. Bulletin board material.

Allow me to digress for a moment. I’m sitting alone in my office – trying to get done what was supposed to be done Monday (this post). I have a beer (which I am not supposed to be drinking), Mumford & Sons streaming through the speakers, and I can hear the contentious sound of mini-basketball erupting upstairs……….. just as “Winter Winds” hits the crescendo. A beautiful convergence of completely unrelated things to remind me how fucking lucky I am.

Life isn’t fair

It’s not. Ok? And our biggest failure as a society is raising kids to think it should be. It’s not. We keep tripping over trying to make it fair, or arguing over who’s experience has been more unfair. I’m not trying to be insensitive, just realistic. We land here with finite time to do something – don’t fucking waste it arguing about how unfair it is. There is always someone who has it worse. ALWAYS. How bout doing something to help them? How bout going to them a lending a hand? I’m serious. Find a fucking cause and pour yourself into it. Teach a kid how to survive the unfair shit – that’s the life skill they’re lacking these days. What the fuck do I do when things don’t go my way? You know what they do? They hop on Instagram and Tick-Tock and think everyone else has a great life – and they feel shittier about where they’re at. Feeling bad about yourself. SMH. Accepting LIFE ISN’T FAIR sets you free… it doesn’t change the game… you start PLAYING A DIFFERENT GAME.

I’m sorry. I get fired up when I re-read Joel’s letter, and think about all the lucky ass people out there who can’t see how lucky they are. Life isn’t fair. There’s a pandemic. We lose our jobs. We get divorced. A spouse cheats on us. A family member dies. We’re out of shape. We lose a friend. We’re overweight. We don’t get the job. The job probably sucked anyway. Life isn’t fair.

The world isn’t safe

This one gets people fired up – but I’m not going to spend much time on it. I see two worlds: The fake civilized reality we’re carving out within the uncivilized planet we inhabit. Guess what… while I write this and drink a beer, and you read it and drink a beer – there are fucking tornados, wild fires, murders, wars, rapes, hurricanes, disease and and too many more bad things to list. People are dying right now, as I write this. The world isn’t safe – and we are obligated to raise competent individuals capable of navigating the unavoidable reality that is an absolute truth.

Lets review: Life isn’t fair. The world isn’t safe. Are the events making more sense yet? The best thing I can do is present an unfair scenario in an unsafe environment – and dare you to prove me wrong. Dare you to show me you CAN DO IT. Do you understand now? Call me crazy. That’s fine. Give me the finger. It actually sort of encourages me. By the way, what’s with all the middle fingers, right? Because when you could just as well cry, I want you to smile and think “I got this”. Or when someone fucks you over, and someone will most definitely fuck you over, I want you to grin and give em’ the finger. Fuck you very much, sir. I will prevail in spite of this inconvenient act and prosper.

There is no finish line

We’re in such a hurry to succeed or so afraid to fail we either never start or miss the most important part – actually DOING THE WORK. I have a simple suggestion to free yourself of the pressure – stop looking for the goddamn finish line. Winning is simply a form of perfection – how bout just aiming for good with a side of being 1% better every day. How’s that sound? Forget what the hell everyone else is doing. Stop comparing yourself. What the fuck is the difference between top one hundred and 875th place? NOTHING. But our attachment to those results and the acceptance (or potential lack of it) prompts a lot of folks to stay home. You know where there is a big difference? Between 875th place and the couch. What the hell are you ever gonna do if ya don’t try? Get your ass out there and START. Just. Fucking. Start. If ya fail? SMILE. Maybe find the nearest mirror and give yourself the finger. Screw you, sir. You won’t beat me.

About the video: My son ten year-old son completed a 52-mile bike race this summer called “The Crusher”. At approximately mile thirty-two he was seriously contemplating not finishing. I looked at him and asked the following questions:

Me: Are you dying?

Him: No.

Me: Are you bleeding?

Him: No.

Me: Is your leg broken?

Him: No.

Me: Did you break an arm?

Him: No.

Me: Good – looks like you’re gonna finish.

Him: I knew you were gonna say that.

Just like Joel. He had to live it, and through it, to understand he can do it.

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