Be thankful – we are blessed

It is Thanksgiving weekend. Each year our country devotes a day thanking God for our many blessings. In our case the list is long. We have many reasons to be thankful this year. God has been good to us. We continue to thrive. In case you are not quite sure why I say you are blessed, then here are three reasons.

You are loved

It should go without saying that God loves you. But, I will remind you just in case you ever forget. God loves you and he demonstrated his love for you through the birth, death, and resurrection of his one and only son Jesus Christ. Never forget God’s love. It is there for you now and forever. Both of your parents love you very much. We may not love each other anymore, but we both love you. I hope that you feel that love on a regular basis. Your families love you. All of your great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members love both you boys. I did not really know my grandparents growing up. I am really glad you know your grandparents and get the opportunity to experience their love. It is a blessing that not everyone gets to enjoy.

The boys with Granddaddy Byrd from several years ago.
The boys with Granddaddy Byrd from several years ago.

You are talented

Both of you are blessed with talents. Gavin – I highlighted a few of your talents in my last blog post. Riley – I listed a few of yours last month. I am really glad to see both of you leverage your talents on a regular basis. Continue to develop your talents and abilities as you grow older. They will serve you well and will help make our world a better place. I truly believe that both of you can make a large positive impact in the world. God has gifted you in a special way.  He gives gifts to all of us but not everyone chooses to use them. Make the most of what you have been given. Don’t squander your talent. The world needs your best.

Gavin and Riley in front of the Wies Kirche in Bavaria
Gavin and Riley in front of the Wies Kirche in Bavaria

You are Americans

America is a great country. Sure – we have our problems. It seems like the list of challenges our country faces these days is long. But I think that is true for every country in the world. Both of you have traveled outside the US and know full well that America is a unique country. As Americans, we experience a Western lifestyle that is the envy of many. Our citizens have rights that other countries dream about. None of us get to choose where we are born. The reality is that you were born as Americans. It is a privilege to be an American. Be thankful that you are an American. We are still the greatest country in the entire world – no matter who is in charge of leading it. Don’t let others convince you otherwise. They are wrong.

The American Flag at Nationals Park on Opening Day.
The American Flag at Nationals Park on Opening Day.

I am thankful for you

As your father, I think it is important to let both of you know that I am thankful for you. Every day when I pray, I thank God for each of you by name. Both of you bring me great joy on a regular basis. Sure – we have our struggles and don’t agree on everything. But, that is to be expected. It would be strange if we did not.

Happy Thanksgiving.

One way to control your weight

Thanksgiving is this week. I am a big fan of Thanksgiving. It is a holiday full of traditions and time spent with friends. As Americans, we gather at the family table to give thanks for all that we have. Next, we eat turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, pumpkin pie, and anything else that is offered. I am getting hungry just typing up this list. Then, we watch football, try to hold off the food coma, and finally fall asleep on the couch. After we wake up it is time for turkey sandwiches and more pie. It truly is a gluttonous day – full of family, fun, and lots of food. Lots and lots of food. I am not saying this is a bad thing. In fact, I actively participate in this annual ritual. Rather, this blog post is about the rest of the year. Every day, except Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Dinner is a special event that should be enjoyed.
Thanksgiving Dinner is a special event that should be enjoyed.

My goal to stay under 200 pounds

This year I decided that I needed to lose some weight, about 15 pounds. I was over 200 pounds and did not feel healthy. In the morning when I woke up my joints ached, and I would get strange pains throughout the day. I am sure that old age has something to do with it, but I was convinced my weight was also an issue. During my adult lifetime, my weight typically hovers around 200 pounds. It will spike as high as 210, and go as low as the high 180s. My doctors (one is my primary physician, and the other gives me an annual executive physical) recommended that I get my weight below 200 pounds for a few reasons.

  1. He said I would feel better – he was right. I do.
  2. She said my running would improve – she was right. It has.
  3. They both said I would have more energy – they were both right.

The Keating genes – short and stocky

Losing weight is usually not too difficult for me because I weigh so much, but it has gotten harder the older I get. It seems like every year I lose the same 10 pounds as last year and end up weighing 200 pounds. Also, my family genes do not work in my favor. My mom is skinny and has been her whole life. She can pretty much eat whatever she wants. My father, on the other hand, is heavyset, as are almost all the Keatings. We are a clan known to be short, stocky, and stubborn. My genes seem to come more from my Dad than my Mom.

Picture of Dad and I from several years ago.
Picture of Dad and I from several years ago.

I am not a big fan of complicated plans, especially when it comes to eating. I read several health magazines and they tend to recommend eating a lot of small meals, measuring your food, recording your calories, and exercising a lot. This approach works for many but is a challenge for me to follow. I spend a majority of the day at work and don’t have time for a high maintenance approach. Food plans are another option, but all that costs money and requires constant attention. I decided to keep it simple and implement one major change to see if it would work. It did. The change I put in place is intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting is a simple solution

Intermittent fasting is not complicated. It is becoming more popular these days and I can see why. It does not take a lot of effort. I read several articles about it, and there are two basic approaches. Either you limit the number of hours you eat during the day, or you choose a few days a week to skip food altogether. The former approach is the one I prefer. No food all day would make me grumpy. An eight-hour window is what I aim for. I eat foord from Noon to 8 pm during the day. Basically, I do not eat a real breakfast anymore. Instead, I drink two cups of coffee in the morning. One is bulletproof coffee (recipe below) which includes butter and an oil-based compound. The second one is black – no cream or sugar. I get the calories I need to start the day without eating any food. Drinking coffee black was a big change for me. I have drunk coffee for decades always with cream and sugar, or a sugar substitute in it. Luckily my taste buds adjusted to drinking black coffee after only a few weeks. Added benefit – black coffee is the fastest way to get through the line in Starbucks. It also prevents the barrister from messing up your order or misspelling your name.

Brewing Bulletproof coffee is not difficult. It provides the calories you need in the morning.
Brewing Bulletproof coffee is not difficult. It provides the calories you need in the morning.

Hungry by lunch? Yes!!!

Starting at lunch I eat a regular meal. Am I hungry by the time lunch rolls around? You bet your ass I am. I usually enjoy a small snack when drinking another cup of coffee in the afternoon (I have done this for years also), and eat a normal sized dinner. If all goes well, I stop eating anything by 8, or 9 o’clock at the latest. That way I do not go to bed feeling bloated. It goes without saying that not every day follows this plan. Some nights I have business dinners, and the weekends tend to be somewhat different. But, in general, I have stuck to this plan, and it seems to be working. I lost the weight I was hoping to lose and have kept it off without too much pain and agony.

Intermittent fasting means eating within an 8 hour window.
Intermittent fasting means eating within an 8-hour window. Not hard to remember.

Is intermittent fasting suitable for everyone?

I doubt it. I am not a doctor, a nurse, a nutritionist, or a personal trainer. I am not offering professional advice. Rather I am sharing my own personal experience. I like intermittent fasting because it is pretty simple to implement and produces the results I want.

Boys – just so it is clear neither one of you need to lose weight. In fact, both of you are tall and skinny. I guess you got Oma’s genes. Perhaps they skip a generation. For your sake, I hope the baldness genes also skip a generation. But I wanted to share this information with you at a young age in case you need it for later in life.

 

 

Three steps to making your new approach stick

If your approach is not working, then you may need to change it. I am doing a short series of blog posts about this topic. Last week, I described a process for changing your approach. Two weeks ago I described three indicators that your current approach is not working. In this post, I will share three steps for making your new approach stick. The steps are easy, but as we all know making a change stick is not. I hope you learn from my experience and do not make the same mistakes.

1. Implement it – get moving

Don’t expect anything to be different until you implement your new approach. This step is actually the easiest to complete – all you have to do is start. But, it can also be the most difficult. I cannot count on my fingers and toes how many times I decided to make a change but never implemented a new approach. Several times I even spent a lot of time and energy crafting a new approach, but never got around to making it happen. The main reason I think implementing a new approach is difficult is fear of failure. What if it doesn’t solve the problem? What if your new approach does not work better? What if it actually makes things worse? Many times these fears are unfounded. Bottom line is that you will not know how well your new approach works until you try it.

Don't get stuck in the starting blocks
Don’t get stuck in the starting block

2. Measure your progress

It will be hard to tell if your new approach is working, or not unless you measure your progress. Come up with the metrics you will use to determine if you are actually solving the problem. For example, I have been in debt numerous times. One time the amount of debt I had accumulated troubled me greatly, so I decided to change my approach. The approach was somewhat radical. I implemented several changes that wiped out the debt quickly. I was not confident that this approach actually addressed the root cause of the problem – more money going out than coming in. I decided to measure both the amount of debt I carried and how quickly it grew each month. After only two months, the same problem started to surface. I knew my solution worked in the short term, but would not suffice for the long term. After this analysis, I implemented a different approach – I changed jobs to make more money. I continued to measure my progress using the same metrics. This time the change worked. The problem was finally solved. More income than expenses equals no debt.

Measure your progress to determine if your approach is working
Measure your progress to determine if your approach is working

3. Stick with it and make tweaks

Sometimes you will make progress after implementing your new approach, but improvements are not happening fast enough. You may ask yourself what do I do now. Should I stick with my new approach, or stop it and try something else. I recommend making tweaks rather than abandoning your new approach. Tweaks are different than major changes. They are small adjustments you make to your new approach. For example, one time I changed my approach to eating in order to lose some weight. As I measured my progress I recognized that I was losing weight, but not as quickly as I hoped. In fact, I would lose five pounds and then regain five pounds, and then lose the same five pounds. My weight was going up and down like a yo-yo. Overall my approach was working but I had to make some tweaks. One tweak I implemented was to start drinking black coffee rather than put cream and sugar in it. This one change made a positive impact and helped me achieve the result I was looking for. Make tweaks to get to the finish line. Don’t abandon your new approach to quickly. Give yourself some time. On the other hand, if your new approach is not working at all, then it is time try something different. You may end up trying several approaches until you find the one that works.

'I must say, that was quite a tweak you came up with.'
Tweaks can make a big impact

In this series, I have attempted to pass along my advice on how to implement positive changes in your life. Talking about it is easy. Making it happen is difficult. Enough talking – get out there and make it happen.

Process to change your approach

If your approach is not working, then you may need to change it. I am doing a short series of blog posts on this topic. Last week, I discussed three indicators that your current approach is not working. If any or all of these are true, then you should seriously consider making a change. In this post, I will describe how you do it – the process to change your approach. The process is easy and described below. I hope you learn from my experience and do not make the same mistakes.

Determine where you are

The first step in changing your approach is figuring out where you are. When I was in US Army Ranger School we would navigate through various terrain to include mountains, swamps, and deserts. If you were in charge of the patrol it was important to always know where you are. At some point during the patrol, the Ranger Instructor would ask the patrol leader to point out where you were on the map usually with a pine needle. You were not allowed to use your fat finger and fake it. Pinpoint accuracy is what they expected. If you were wrong, you were in trouble, and you knew it. They drilled this expectation into us because it is really easy to get lost if you have no clue where you are. Any path will work. I think the same can be true in life. If you have no idea where you are on the map of life, then how will you know if you are lost.

Determine where you are on the map
Determine where you are on the map

This step sounds simple, but it can be a real struggle. The reason why is that many of us are overly optimistic when it comes to evaluating where we are on the map. Are you ahead of schedule, or behind? Are you on a mountaintop, or in the valley? Have you crossed a bridge, or not? For example, if you have changed jobs, then you have already crossed the bridge. If you determine that the new job is not working out, and a change is needed, then you need to decide what to do next. Walk back across the same bridge (assuming that you did not burn that one), or find a new bridge to cross by finding another new job.

Have you crossed a bridge, or not?
Have you crossed a bridge, or not?

Based on my own experience, I tend to overestimate my current situation. In my head, I picture that things are not as bad as they seem, and will work out in the end. What I have learned is that I need to be honest with myself when determining where I am. You may need help determining where you are. Friends, family, and colleagues can provide perspective. When in doubt, ask you heavenly father for help in determining where you are. He sees all and may open your eyes to see a bigger picture than what is right in front of you.

Seek guidance from others

After you determine where you are, next you should think about what you will do next to change your approach. When I was younger I tended to try and figure out most things myself. A stupid mistake that really limited my options. Nowadays, I am a big fan of getting help from others. I have learned over the years that I do not know much. Others possess wisdom, knowledge, and experience that can benefit me. Why not take advantage of their life lessons. Don’t be afraid to talk with your friends, family, and mentors about your situation. They may have dealt with what you are going through, and have ideas for a better approach. In addition to seeking guidance from people you know, you can also learn a lot from experts. The number of resources available to you from experts in all fields is staggering. You can read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts, and research on the internet. Remember everything you find on the internet may not be true, or helpful, but there is plenty of great content available to you. Take advantage of all these resources when trying to figure out how to change your approach.

Seeking guidance from others can help
Seeking guidance from others can help

A simple example from my life

In the last blog post, I mentioned that my approach to running was not working. I trained hard, probably too hard, to maintain the same pace and race times as I got older. But, it came at a price. My body suffered. I experienced multiple injuries and did not feel well almost every morning. Just getting out of bed was a painful event. Something needed to change. I spoke with several of my friends who also run, and they noticed the same thing. They were experiencing more pain and suffering than normal. I listen to a podcast called Fitness over 40. During one broadcast the guest was two college professors who created a training plan for runners to keep running into their later years. I read their book, and it really opened my eyes. The research they conducted shows that too much running is bad for you, and results in injuries. Duh – exactly what I was doing to my body. The book contained the training plan, that I implemented earlier this year, and I can already tell the difference. I feel better physically, and have a much better approach than the one I was using the past decade of my life. I can only imagine how much damage I would have done to my body if I kept to my old approach. I am avoiding all that pain in misery because I was smart enough to seek the guidance from others. BTW – I let all my friends know about the book. It is shown below.

Train smart to run forever
Train smart to run forever

Craft your plan

The last step in changing your approach is to craft your plan. Don’t spend too much time thinking about what changes you are going to make. Go ahead and craft your plan with all the details you will need for success. I am a big fan of actually writing down your plan. Writing it down forces you to really think through the details. I tend to get more clarity when I commit my plans to paper. In fact, I write down my goals for each year. Last year, I read Michael Hyatt’s book Living Forward. Michael recommends that you create a life plan, and offers other life planning tools that I used for the first time this year. The tools really helped me craft my plan for the year. I highly recommend both the book and tools to others. It is one thing to craft a plan for a new approach- that is the easy part. It is another thing to implement the new approach. Next week I will cover that topic.

Living Forward by MIchael Hyatt
Living Forward by Michael Hyatt

If your approach is not working – change it

There will be points in your life when you have to decide if your approach is working or not. You may ask yourself the question am I making progress, or am I just spinning my wheels going nowhere? It can be really hard to tell if a change is needed. Oddly enough, the easy path is usually to continue down the path you are on. The older I get the more I recognize that staying on the same path may not be the best choice. Changing your approach may be difficult, but it is worth considering. Over the next few weeks I am going to share my perspective on this topic – how do you change your approach. In this post, I will discuss three indicators that your current approach is not working. If any or all of these are true, then you should consider making a change. I hope you learn something from my experience.

You are not making suitable progress

Measuring your progress can be challenging. In some scenarios calculating your progress is pretty straightforward. Let’s say you are trying to lose weight. Clearly, you can calculate your weight using a scale, body weight composition test, or other methods. The good news is that the scale does not lie. As many of us have learned, the bad news is that the scale does not lie. I actually weigh myself just about every morning. I am not obsessed with my weight. Rather studies have shown that weighing yourself every morning is an effective way to prevent putting on extra weight which is a challenge I face at my age. It will not appear overnight. This article explains more details about why weighing yourself every day is not a bad idea. Remember – it is just one data point. Don’t panic.

Weighing yourself everyday
Weighing yourself every day

In other situations, it can be difficult to accurately measure your progress. Some goals may take years to achieve, such as earning a college degree. In this case, I would monitor your progress against the graduation requirements for your degree. If you are off track, then you will likely need to change your approach. For example, I changed majors during my undergraduate years. As a result of this change, I was not on track to graduate in four years. Rather than stay in college longer I decided to take several classes during the summer so that I would still graduate on time. If I had not changed my approach, then I would have required more time and money to graduate. When it comes to professional goals, measuring your progress can be even more tricky. You are several years from that, so I will not cover that topic right now. Suffice it to say that if you are not making suitable progress then you may need to change your approach.

You are causing more harm than good

Achieving your goals will take time, energy, and effort. In a previous post, I talked about the fact that some days you have to grind it out. I am a big fan of putting in your best effort, even when times get tough. Having said that I also think it is important to make sure that you are not causing more harm than good. You need to monitor the impact you are causing to yourself and others. The ends do not justify the means. You should not sacrifice everything to achieve your goals. This point is especially true when it comes to relationships and your health. If you are causing more harm than good in any of your personal relationships, then you need to reevaluate your approach. You may need to make changes to include ending a relationship. No one deserves to be miserable. Also, if your approach is causing health issues, then you need may need to change it. I am not saying that some pain is not needed for physical progress. Rather I am saying don’t be foolish when it comes to your health. Learn from my mistakes in this category. Many times I ran when I should have rested while training for an upcoming race. In my mind, I was doing the right thing. But, what I was really doing was tearing up my body. It seems like every time I took this approach I paid the price later with either poor performance on race day or an injury. Don’t’ be stupid like me. Listen to your body, and take care of yourself. Trust me – if you don’t you will pay the price later.

Take care of your body or pay the price
Take care of your body or pay the price

You lose your why

When things get hard I often ask myself “why am I doing this”. I think most people do. A strong reason why makes it easier for me to keep going. If I cannot answer that question clearly, then I may be in trouble. Sometimes you may lose your why. It does not happen all the time, but this question will show up in your life at some point. I remember being in Graduate School. At the time I was working a full-time job, trying to be a decent husband to your mother, and a good dad to you boys. Needless to say, I had a lot going on at this time. When I asked myself why I was getting a graduate degree the answer was clear. I was preparing for the future. I was getting ready to leave the Army and needed current skills to enter the civilian workforce. That why helped me get through some late nights and tough times. If you do not have a good answer to that question, and you have lost you why then it is time to consider changing your approach. I am not saying just quit. I am saying that you may need to come up with a new approach which is what I plan to talk about in the next post.

People lose their way when they lose their why
People lose their way when they lose their why

Paratroopers bleed the same color – red, white and blue

This year the 82nd Airborne Division is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The 82nd is a great unit, and I learned a lot while serving there. Lessons that have served me well over the years. For a three-week period, I am sharing the top three life lessons I learned while serving as an All-American paratrooper in the 82d Airborne Division. Two weeks ago I wrote about the first lesson – leaders go out the door first. Last week I wrote about the second lesson – train until it hurts. Below you will find the third lesson.

Diversity and Division

In our country right now, there is a lot of discussion about diversity and division. Racial tensions are high. We are having a debate about our history. Who should we honor? How should our shared past be remembered? What about the Confederacy, and its leaders? What about the founding fathers? Can we have monuments to those who built our country without erasing the ugly parts of US history? How do we move forward without tearing the country apart? Great questions that do not have easy answers. Diversity is a tough and complicated topic. I do not pretend to have all the answers. I do understand diversity because I have seen a successful model before while serving in the 82d Airborne Division which is also known as the All American Division. It was constituted, originally as the 82nd Division 100 years ago, shortly after the US entered into World War I. Since its initial members came from all 48 states, the division acquired the nickname All-American, which is the basis for its famed “AA” shoulder patch that is pictured below.

82d Airborne Division patch
82d Airborne Division patch – the AA on the patch stands for All-American

When I arrived in 1991 it was still known as the All-American division because its members came from all parts of the US. We had paratroopers from every state, every US territory, various education levels, economic backgrounds, race, gender, creed, and religion. You name it and there was probably someone in the 82d that came from that background. You saw diversity in all parts of the division. I am not going to pretend that everything was perfect. Nostalgic perspectives are not helpful. We had our challenges, but somehow our diversity was not a stumbling block. Rather it was a strength. Everyone brought their best to accomplish the mission. It was an important phase of my life when I learned that people of very different backgrounds can work together successfully. When I reflect on that time I think there are three reasons why diversity was and is a force multiplier in the All-American division.

Leadership can be learned

The leaders in the 82d Airborne division come from all walks of life. The first battalion I served in, 1st Battalion of the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, had officers from several sources. There were numerous West Point graduates, many ROTC officers, and prior enlisted soldiers who were commissioned through the Officer Candidate School. The diversity of our Non-Commissioned Officers was even greater. It did not matter much where you came from because leadership is not an inherent trait that only a few possess. There is not an elite segment of American society that provides leaders for the rest of us. No, our leaders come from all over the country. Leadership can be learned. I saw this first-hand in the 82d. I learned about leadership from numerous mentors and watched others learn and grow during their time in the division. We were taught important lessons like leaders set the example, and leaders go out the door first. Leadership lessons that stayed with me over the years. The good news is that any of us can learn to be an effective leader – no matter what you background. If you don’t believe me, then watch this short video.

Standards are standards

All US Army paratroopers are expected to meet stringent standards. No one gets any slack. When I say no one, I mean no one. Does not matter if you are enlisted, an NCO, or an officer. Does not matter if you are black, white, yellow, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Wiccan, male, or female. You either meet the standard, or you don’t. If you don’t, then you are sent away. It starts in Airborne school, continues with Jumpmaster school, and various other airborne training events you are required to complete in order to be a member of the All-American Division. These demanding standards cause an interesting effect. It builds trust. You trust everyone else on the plane during a jump because you know that they have what it takes to be a paratrooper. In case you are not familiar with what it takes to become a paratrooper – this video explains the training. It is old but still accurate.

Nowadays it seems like some people are always looking for shortcuts to success – hacks for life. I am a big fan of trying to figure out ways to improve my performance by working smart versus just working hard. Many experts can help teach you better ways of doing things. But, make sure you are not cutting corners to get around standards. They exist for a reason – to make sure you are proficient. You build trust with your team members and demonstrate that you have what it takes.

Paratroopers bleed the same color – red, white and blue

I have served in other US Army units, and they just don’t have the same camaraderie as the All-American Division. It is a special place. My observation is that paratroopers understand that we all wear green uniforms, maroon berets, and bleed the same color. When I was at Fort Bragg, the community experienced several tragic events to include two planes colliding that resulted in the untimely death of numerous paratroopers in the 82d. I recall the sadness of that event and the heroic deeds of many during and after the accident. It was difficult days for the Division. Everyone came together in a special way to make it through. Nothing new for paratroopers – we have been doing this for over 100 years. The current Division Commander recently gave a speech about the unit that is well worth watching. It sums up what I said above. Paratroopers bleed the same color – red, white and blue. Airborne, All the Way!!

Train until it hurts

This year the 82nd Airborne Division is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The 82nd is a great unit, and I learned a lot while serving there. Lessons that have served me well over the years. For a three week period, I plan to share the top three life lessons I learned while serving as an All-American paratrooper in the 82d Airborne Division. Last week I wrote about the first lesson – leaders go out the door first. Below you will find the second lesson.

Lesson two – train until it hurts. The mission of the 82nd Airborne Division is to, within 18 hours of notification, strategically deploy, conduct forcible entry parachute assault and secure key objectives for follow-on military operations in support of U.S. national interests. In other words, the division goes wherever it is needed to deal with the enemies of our country. Simply put – you have to be prepared to deploy anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. You are constantly preparing for war. It is what you do day in, and day out. This short video shows what the 82d does.

Take care of your paratroopers

I mentioned in my last blog post that my father served in the 82d as an Infantry Lieutenant. When I arrived at Fort Bragg, I did know what I was supposed to do. I was school trained but lacked experience. I had completed the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Ranger School, and Airborne School at Fort Benning and was Jumpmaster certified. I was as prepared as you could be as a young officer but lacked confidence, so I called my dad seeking advice about how to be successful at Fort Bragg. My father emphasized above all else that “if you take care of your paratroopers they will take care of you”. I asked him what is the best thing you can do to take care of troops. His answer was clear – don’t coddle them. Train them hard so that they are prepared for war. You must learn to train until it hurts, and then keep going.

Train your body

Training became a major emphasis for me. First, I increased my physical training. Paratroopers have to be in shape. Jumping from an airplane can be physically demanding. You must be able to jump with your equipment (which weighs well over 50 pounds with a full combat load) and carry it with you wherever you go after landing. My unit conducted physical training every single morning. We did lots of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, other calisthenics and ran. We ran a lot – miles and miles every week. I worked for one company commander who had the officers perform physical training separate from our troops. At first, I thought it was odd. Shouldn’t we train with our platoons to make sure they were in top physical condition? He said the NCOs would take care of that – he was right. What I learned is that he trained us even harder than the troops. Many mornings we would start a run without knowing how far we would go. He didn’t know either. We simply ran until he got tired…which felt like never. All this physical training worked. I ended up being in the best shape of my life, fully prepared for the physical demands of airborne operations. I did not enjoy the pain of all that physical training, but it was necessary. As this video shows, running is a tradition for everyone in the 82d Airborne Division.

Train all the time

Next, I focused on operational training. We spent a lot of time in the field and performed many airborne operations. It is difficult to simulate what it is like to jump out of a plane fully loaded with equipment, so we practiced on a regular basis. When I served as the Division Assault CP Commo Platoon Leader my platoon jumped a lot – much more than most units. And when we jumped – it was almost always with our combat equipment. Sometimes a unit will jump with only their parachutes, not their field gear. These jumps are referred to as “Hollywood” jumps. They are worthwhile since you are still performing an airborne operation. But, as you would imagine, they are much easier than combat equipment jumps. My platoon jumped with our equipment because I wanted to make sure they could handle the heavy loads we had to carry. The more practice the better was my approach. Occasionally I would hear grumbles from my platoon, but all that training paid big dividends when we performed full-scale airborne operations. My platoon was always prepared and performed magnificently when it counted. As an added bonus I was able to earn my master parachutist wings in less than four years.

Push yourself and the envelope

I also pushed the envelope when it came to the equipment we used. We would experiment with our gear to try and get the best performance possible. Once I remember that we were having trouble getting a strong connection with our satellite radios on the drop zone, so we decided to jump in a much larger antenna than normal. The larger antenna would not fit into a normal rucksack or equipment bag. We had to pack it inside a Dragon Missile Jump Pack (DMJP). That meant somebody had to jump the DMJP, so several of us went through the special training required to jump this piece of equipment. In case you are not familiar with what the DMJP looks like – there is a picture below. It is a big piece of equipment, and awkward to jump.

Dragon Missile Jump Pack
Dragon Missile Jump Pack

The dreaded dragon missile jump pack

Well, it came time for our next airborne operation and it was decided we would jump the larger antenna. I volunteered to jump the DMJP since leaders go out the door first. Man was that jump an adventure. I immediately went into a rapid spin after exiting the aircraft door. My risers were twisted all the way down to my neck. I bicycle kicked and pulled at my risers to clear the twists. That step seemed to take forever. It was hard for me to tell how high off the ground I was. I decided to go ahead and lower my ruck and then the DMJP to avoid landing with it which would have been painful. When the DMJP reached the end of my lowering line I started oscillating more than normal. Swinging back and forth like a pendulum – not good for landing. I heard my equipment hit the ground and I hit next. Ugly landing – hit like a ton of bricks. Damn that hurt. I stowed my chute, and then humped my way over to our assembly point. The antenna worked well and the operation was successful.

Afterwards several of my troops asked me about the jump. How did it go? I lied and told them that it went fine and the landing did not hurt much. Why would I stretch the truth…because I had been taught to train until it hurts, and then keep going. What can you learn from this lesson? Training counts and makes a big difference. Figure out what kind of training you need to be successful, and then get after it. One final thought – don’t jump the DMJP. It sucks – trust me. All the Way!

Why go to college?

Nowadays some people question whether or not it is worth it to go to college. Let’s face it – college is not cheap, and it typically takes at least four years to earn a degree. In fact, it is expensive to attend college, especially if you go out of state, or to a private school. For both of you, I am estimating that it will cost close to $100K for your four-year degree. As you would expect, I have thought about this topic, completed some research, conducted my own analysis, and reached the conclusion that college is worth the investment of time and resources. Here are three compelling reasons why you should go to college.

You will learn about yourself

College offers the opportunity to figure out who you are…really. At college you get exposed to a lot of new things – new people, new places, and new ideas, to name a few. All these new experiences will help you learn more about yourself. I think it is critically important to take the time to learn more about yourself before entering the working world. You can do this through classroom experiences, social interactions, as well as self-reflection. While in college, it is likely that you will have more free time than any other point in your life. Take advantage of that time to learn about how you are wired, identify your strengths, your weaknesses, your passions, etc. Recently I had both of you complete the Myers-Briggs personality profile assessment. You learned about your personality – what you are like. In college, you can take this data and learn even more about who you are. It is worth it to know about yourself before venturing out into the world.

Personality types
Personality types

You will learn about the world

The academic experience in college is much different than in high school. You finally get the opportunity to take classes in subjects that interest you and learn more about the world. The working world offers many choices. Most colleges offer a plethora of choices when it comes to classes, majors, and research topics. College degrees range from technical subjects like computer science to the liberal arts like English, and everything in between. Some students will be preparing for the business world by studying marketing and finance, while others will focus on becoming an expert in playing a musical instrument. The choices seem endless at some colleges. It is easy to get overwhelmed. My advice is to take a diverse set of classes the first year, or two to figure out what interests you. Then, declare your major, and focus your studies on the topic that will become your job afterward. Don’t lock into a major too early like I did, and definitely don’t take forever to figure it out.

You will position yourself for the future

Let’s get practical for a moment. The research shows that on average college graduates make more money than those without college degrees. Simply put – employers pay more money for college degrees than for high school diplomas. Some will argue that some of the richest men in the world didn’t complete college (e.g., Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg). Yes – that is true, and there are others. But, they are the exception, not the rule. See the graphic below for more data about earnings potential.

Earnings potential based on education
Earnings potential based on education

I am not saying that money is the primary driving factor for getting a degree. I am saying that it may be challenging to earn a decent living in the United States without a college degree. I would not enter the workforce without one if offered the opportunity. There are counter-arguments to everything I have written. I looked for a video about this topic with a perspective from someone more your age. The Youtube video below discusses this question. I actually agree with what they say regarding reasons why you would not go to college. If you know exactly what you want to do in life and getting a degree is not required, then it is worth considering skipping college. But, I would not make that decision lightly. A good college education has been a critical success factor for many in our family.

I am putting a warning here about the video. It does contain some profanity, so if that upsets you do not watch it.

Follow the 10-10-80 rule

Gavin finished his first summer job recently. He earned a fair amount of money and asked me about the process I use for managing my money. Gavin is just learning about money. I recommended that he keep it simple, and follow the 10-10-80 rule. This formula represents how you should allocate the money you earn – save 10%, give 10% (some call this tithing), and spend the remaining 80%. I cannot remember when I learned this rule, but I have tried to use it over the years. It seems to work well, although it can be tempting to spend more than 80%, especially if you experience a windfall.

Save 10% for yourself

There are multiple reasons to save 10% of your paycheck. First, it is helpful to have an emergency fund to deal with surprise situations that may arise. Opinions vary about how much money you should have in an emergency fund. One month salary is a good starting point. Second, you may want to save money for a specific purchase so that you don’t have to borrow money and pay interest. In general, I like to stay out of debt as much as possible, but I think it is okay to borrow money for some purchases. For example, you will likely need a loan if you decide to buy a house. Third, you will need money for retirement. In fact, you will likely need a lot of money. Start saving early for retirement, so that you don’t have to play catch-up later on. I did not save nearly enough early on in my career and am paying the price now. Avoid this mistake if you can. Most companies offer employees ways to save for retirement. Take advantage of these savings opportunities. Here is a video that talks about various ways to save for retirement.

Give 10% for a worthy cause

Giving honors God and helps those in need. I would love to say that tithing is easy, but it can be a challenge to give away 10% of your money. I recommend starting early so that it becomes a habit. Don’t tell yourself that you will give money away when you earn more and can “afford it”. I think it actually becomes more challenging the more you make. Once again, keep it simple. If you are a member of a church then you should tithe to that church. The tithe is intended for the church to operate and support the local community. If you are not a member of a church then look for a worthy cause to support. Plenty of them exist. I have taken different approaches when it comes to charities. One year I decided to support as many as possible – even with only a small amount. More recently, I decided to focus my donations to a few specific charities that I am passionate about. For example, this year I am focused on the Lead the Way Fund. They do great work. Lastly, some charities are not worth supporting. They spend too many resources fundraising, or other events, rather than making sure the money gets to those who need it. For example, I used to send money to the Wounded Warrior Program but stopped due to a recent scandal about how they were wasting donor’s money.

Spend 80% to live your life

This part covers the rest of your expenses like housing, food, utilities, clothes, and other bills. 80% sounds like a lot. Not spending more than that seems easy, but I will warn you that it is not easy. What is easy is spending more than you earn by using credit cards and other methods for borrowing money that you do not really need. Trust me, it is really easy to buy stuff, especially nowadays. You don’t even have to leave your house to shop and they will deliver many things straight to your front door. I am a big fan of online shopping, but it can be a slippery slope when it comes to spending money.

Beware of credit cards

Lastly, I have warned you before about the dangers of credit cards and will reiterate to be careful. At one point in my life, I wracked up over $10K in credit card debt and had to refinance our house to pay off the debt. Really big mistake on my part. You should not be shocked to learn that the credit card company never called me to ask why I was spending so much money. The reality is that we had just moved and it cost a lot more money getting the new house set-up than I anticipated. The credit card company did not care because they make money out of the deal. The more I borrow, the more they make.

Managing your money can be tricky. I recommend keeping it simple, following the 10-10-80 rule, and avoiding debt as much as possible.

Here is another video in which Dave Ramsey and Chris Hogan answer a question about retirement from someone who is 23 years old.

Be picky about being picky

In America, we have a lot of choices when it comes to the things we buy. Think about it. When is the last time you bought something and there were no options – only one item for purchase. If you go to a restaurant you will usually receive a multi-page menu describing all the various options. The Cheese Cake Factory menu is thick as a book. It can be overwhelming. Visit an American grocery store and you see how many different kinds of Ketchup there is. I like hot sauce. It is amazing the number of options you have when it comes to buying hot sauce. Let’s talk about Starbucks – the options seem unlimited. It is a pet peeve of mine to stand in line behind someone who takes forever to order their drink. It is not like you are making a life-changing decision, but you would think so based on how difficult it is for some patrons to make a selection. Even after you order the barista may ask you more questions about what you want – whip or no whip? Really.

Don’t overthink the problem set

I am a big fan of not overthinking things when possible. With that in mind, I recommend that you not waste your mental capacity on trying to figure out what to buy. Look at your options, determine what you like, calculate what you can afford, and then buy it. Don’t spend too much of your brain power trying to buy just the right thing. You can drive yourself nuts if you do. If you get it wrong, it probably will not be a big deal. There are three exceptions to this approach that I want to share with you so that you can be picky about being picky.

Quality vs. quantity

You will buy many items in large quantities. Don’t waste too much time picking these items. For example, I run a fair amount and like to drink Gatorade afterward. Gatorade comes in many types and flavors. I like G2 because it is low calorie, and am not that picky about the flavor. When shopping for Gatorade I buy whatever G2 flavor is on sale. If none of it is on sale, then I buy one of my favorite flavors. Problem solved. Wristwatches are another matter. It is unlikely that you are going to buy multiple watches at the same time. In fact, you will probably only buy a few over your lifetime. In this case, do some research so that you make an informed purchase. I don’t have a lot of money, so really expensive watches are out of the question. I own two watches – one informal, and one formal. I wear a Timex weekender watch that I really like. It costs less than $100. You can change the straps on the watch to match the clothes you are wearing. For work, I wear an Invictus watch. It is stylish and only cost a few hundred dollars. Nothing fancy for me.

I wear a Timex Weekender - great watch at a reasonable price.
I wear a Timex Weekender – great watch at a reasonable price.

Premium purchases

You will buy a few things that cost a lot of money. Cars, houses, and college tuition are top of the list for me. When spending a lot of money like hundreds of thousands for a house, you should spend a lot of time looking, researching, analyzing, and comparing before making a decision. Work with a good real estate agent who can help find you the right house, at the right price, in the right neighborhood. Some shows on HGTV make it seem like you can find a house quickly. I prefer to take my time and spend a lot of time thinking before buying. Bottom line – you should love the house you buy. If you don’t love it, then hold off until you find one you do. When it comes to cars I never buy the first day I visit a dealer. I don’t want to make an impulse buy. It is an easy mistake to make when buying a car. I prefer to visit multiple dealers, do a lot of research, and spend some time thinking about the purchase. Three car purchases I made were good – the Accord, Tacoma, and my Jeep. The Lexus I bought was a mistake. I should never have spent that much money on a car. Choosing a college is similar – do lots of research to include visiting each school before making a selection. The good news is that researching cars and colleges is much easier these days with all of the online tools. These did not exist back when I was your age.

Jeep wrangler
Jeep Wrangler

Money makers

You should save and invest some of your money with each paycheck so that you can retire one day. When it comes to investments there is an overwhelming number of options. Be picky about who you allow to invest your money. Many financial institutions will promise high returns and low risk. They use this marketing lingo to justify charging you high fees for managing your money. Don’t fall for it. Every dollar you spend on management fees is one less dollar that gets invested. It is really hard for money managers to “beat the market”, and they know it. I have done a fair amount of research on this topic and decided to keep things simple. I invest in index mutual funds with low management fees. Several reputable companies offer these type nowadays. I would never attempt to invest my own money in individual stocks. It takes time and energy, and expertise that I don’t have.

In most cases, I don’t think there is much value in being picky about what you buy. There is a time and place to be picky. I recommend the three listed here. In case you are wondering why we have all of these choices, the video below explains why: