2013, like other years before it, was filled with ups and downs. It also remained flat in many places, which caused no end of frustration. Still, I remain grateful for all the good in my life for the year.
The highlight of the year was my trip to Japan in winter with my wife. Although we saw beautiful places like Shirakawa-go and Kusatsu, some of the best moments came from the hours just being together on the long train rides.
I restarted my novel writing efforts, which put this blog on hiatus. The more I learn about how to actually write one however, the less I realise I know.
The book which had the most impact on me this year was The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL by former Navy SEAL officer Eric Greitens. Greitens recounts his journey not only as a warrior, but the years as a humanitarian volunteer before that, where he saw that to be a humanitarian you need strength, and to be a warrior you need heart:
One day I stood outside a health care clinic in Rwanda as a volunteer pointed to a young girl with a deep machete scar that ran from behind her right ear across the back of her neck. We look at a scar like that—we reflect on the evil that human beings are capable of—and we are tempted to walk away from humanity altogether. But when that same child smiles at us, when that same child lets us know that she has survived and she has grown, then we have no choice. We have no choice but to go forward in the knowledge that it is within our power, and that the world requires of us—of every one of us—that we be both good and strong in order to love and protect. Eric Greitens, The Heart and the Fist
Greitens’ book deeply affected me because I saw a man who lived fully in the world, expressing his values with courage and integrity. It made me think about how much more I could do in my own life to grow and serve the world.
Even though I bought it last year, the foam roller has become my favourite gear of the year. It’s helped my wife and I recover from muscle tightness and soreness, making us feel better in our daily lives. I’d easily recommend everyone I know to learn how to use one.
Without a doubt, the best thing I did for myself this year was to continue the weekly workouts I started late last year. I’ve never been physically strong, and building my strength has improved my vitality, humility and spirit more than anything I’ve done. Special thanks goes to my trainer Douglas, who’s helped me realise the 20x principle (“you are capable of 20x what you think you’re capable of”) by pushing me beyond where I thought my limits were.
If there was one big lesson I learned this year, it’s that real strength comes from real experiences. I can read about push-ups, I can watch videos about push-ups, I can listen to people talk about push-ups. But until I fall on the floor and do a push-up, my muscles will never grow.
It’s easy to hide behind inactivity and confuse non-participance for knowing better. But unless I get into the ring and do, I’ll never really know. That veneer only gives me smugness, but leaves me empty for the world. As Theodore Roosevelt said:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Theodore Roosevelt
Happy new year, my friends. I pray that 2014 brings you and I health, happiness, and worthy challenges to help us dare greatly.