Think nothing of it

Posted June 28, 2015 by davidgoad
Categories: General

chair_river2I was waiting for Evan to arrive for our father and son hiking trip in beautiful Big Sur. I stuck my bare feet back into the chilly water flowing around my weathered Adirondack chair. The hotel puts these chairs right in the middle of the stream for its visitors, and I was wonderfully wedged among the smooth river rocks.

I sipped my Sam Adams and leaned back on the steep angle of the chair back, taking in the leafy branches, tiny white butterflies and slender slice of blue sky. I looked down between my knees at the stack of stones someone had left behind. They were beautifully balanced in a small improbable tower. I reached into the cold water to select one more rock, and summoned my Jenga expertise to carefully place it on top.

I had the frustration and blessing of no cell phone signal at the Big Sur River Inn. I was trusting Evan would make it far enough north before they closed PCH for construction, but I had no way to reach him. Cell phones have made us lazy in preparing Plan A’s and Plan B’s, haven’t they?

I had no connection to the internet, but I strangely did not feel that disconnected. I was being forced to slow down and relax my body and mind. The sound of the water and the gentle breeze rustling through the leaves did not make white noise, it was more like atmospheric music. After swirling through a round of thoughts about family, career and personal goals, I thought about one extraordinary thing that rose above all the rest.

Nothing.

That’s right. I was thinking about nothing. I had heard about this legendary “nothing box,” but I don’t think I had ever really been there before. It was a special place of peace that contained no real thoughts, other than thinking about the fact that I had no thoughts. I was simply thinking about thinking.

As I gazed down the babbling stream, hearing, seeing, speaking no evil, I smiled. This must be what meditation is all about. With my typical daily dose of digital stimulation and verbal gymnastics, it is a state that is not easy for me to reach. But I’ll tell you this… Afterwards I felt refreshed, recharged and recommitted to living my life to its fullest. So I am going to seek out more of these peaceful moments of contentment. And I will think nothing of it.

Where do you find the best nothing in your life?

We’ve got each other

Posted June 11, 2015 by davidgoad
Categories: General

Kathleen_Hector_2I was aggravated by the truck that blocked my way in the Prime Nutrition parking lot, and had to go around the long way to get out. Then I recognized the old couple under the shady tree on this hot June day.

We had delivered thanksgiving meals to Kathleen and her companion Hector back in Thanksgiving, and she had delivered a message to me too… that even the drug addicts around town needed food and love too.

I pulled over my car and hopped out. “Hey, do you remember me?”

Kathleen smiled from ear to ear. “Of course I do! Who are you?”

“I’m David. We met last November. Are you two getting plenty of cold water and food today?”

Hector leaned up on his elbow and said, “Every little bit helps.”

I always seem to have only big bills in my wallet when I’m feeling compelled to give, so I gave them each a twenty and said “Keep yourself hydrated, it’s hot out here.”

Kathleen asked if she could hug me and I reached out to hug her first. She was thanking me and thanking God in my ear.

Hector reached out to shake my hand and said “Tell me a story.”

I chuckled. “You’re talking to someone with hundreds of stories my friend. Can you narrow it down?”

“Tell me the story of how you found God.”

“Well, how do you know I found God?”

“Because you wouldn’t be here right now if you didn’t.”

I pulled up a patch of grass and told them the story of my first deep spiritual experience at church camp as a teenager. They shared their favorite bible verses and I shared a few of mine. Kathleen shared how she broke her arm falling on some steps, and how frustrating it was not to be able to do everything she wanted to do. Hector comforted her with a hand on her knee as she started to cry.

My tears also started to flow, but I wiped them away so I could be an encourager to her too. “Hang in there Kathleen. Every day brings opportunity.”

She smiled a wide smile at Hector. “Yeah… we don’t have a lot, but we have each other.”

I asked if I could take a picture so I could remember them, and they were thrilled to pose for me. Kathleen touched my arm and told me to come visit anytime.

What an amazing couple of human beings I just spent some quality time with. I believe God put that truck in my way so I would drive by them at a time when they needed it. They reminded me that even if you lose everything you own, you don’t lose your humanity.

And you can still be at peace.

Another lesson re-learned

Posted April 12, 2015 by davidgoad
Categories: General

HalfFinishFirst of all, I am happy that I was able to finish the 70.3 Half Ironman in Napa yesterday. I thank God for having the strength to get through every mile. That being said, I re-learned a lesson I have learned before. To get your goal, you have to put in the work.

I did this same race in 2013 and finished in 7 hours 30 minutes. With the confidence of completing a full Ironman in 2014, I set an aggressive goal to complete the Half in 6 hours 30 minutes this year.

Then I unexpectedly started a new and challenging job within Cisco in November. That and other things made it difficult to fit in all the training I needed to accomplish my time goal. I got in roughly 70% of the miles needed, but I figured that mental fortitude could make up the other 30%.

I struggled a bit in the swim due to the cold water, but still beat my 2014 swim time by 5 minutes. I got on my bike feeling close to hypothermic, but charged ahead anyway. I passed 33 riders in the first half of the bike segment. That’s the game I used to motivate myself… catch the next rider!

This Napa Valley course is beautiful, but has very few flat spots. It’s almost entirely uphill or downhill and I was pushing myself to attack the hills. Just after the halfway point I felt it… a strain in my left calf. I knew it. You see, this is where conditioning makes a difference. I could “will” myself only so much, before my body said “Uh uh, no way!”

So I backed off and went into cruise control to make sure I would be able to finish. I remembered talking to my friend Steve Bertjes when I passed him earlier on the bike. (He was #26.) He said, “This is a beautiful day and I am grateful to be out here. I am just grateful.”

So I decided I would be grateful and have a magnificent day too. I mugged for the photographers, thanked all the volunteers for helping out, and took pictures during my walk breaks. I took a wrong turn on the bike course that added 12 minutes to my time and I just laughed at myself. I even had to outrun a swarm of bees, which I’m sure had formed a giant arrow pointed at my butt just like in the cartoons. I had a great day, and I finished in 8 hours 13 minutes.

Superman gets his powers from the yellow sun. The rest of us need to work at it. I’ll pick another Half Ironman in the future and renew my 6:30 challenge. And I know I will reach the goal… if I put in the miles.

Lessons from one specific little dog

Posted March 16, 2015 by davidgoad
Categories: General

zoe_window2There’s a dog who has brought joy to our family for over 8 years. Some of you will remember Zoe as the creative wake-up artist in the early musings on my Facebook wall. We’ve learned several lessons from this fluffy white princess:

  • It’s more fun if you hang around where people are.
  • You can get away with a lot if you know how to make a cute face.
  • When you do something good, you deserve a treat.
  • If you stick your head out the window, you’ll take in a lot more of the scenery and smells.
  • Laying out in the sun and doing nothing is a fine use of time.
  • In-N-Out burgers are tasty but you shouldn’t eat them all the time.
  • Running around naked after a bath is fun and dries you off faster.
  • Don’t eat weird stuff.
  • If your house is being approached by a stranger, you have a right to defend yourself.
  • If you want someone to wake up and play, it’s OK to poke their arm.
  • Even if you are fully capable of walking, it’s nice to be carried sometimes.

Why share this now? Our sweet little Zoe just left this world for the next. She went peacefully, without pain, and is now smiling and wagging her tail in a grassy park filled with endless treats, chin scratches and tummy rubs. We are grateful for what we learned from her, and celebrate the legacy she left behind. We love you too, Zoe.

Want to share what you’ve learned from your animals?

Oh geez did I just say that out loud?

Posted December 31, 2014 by davidgoad
Categories: Motivation

2015bWhy should you care about my goals for 2015? You could just scroll on by and dismiss me as another loud-mouthed, middle-aged bucket list chaser. Or you could read between the lines and follow the formula that has worked so well for me for over 6 years now… Make a decision. Make it public. Make it happen.

This is the public part. I post my measurable goals on social media and it does two things for me. 1) I feel accountable because others are watching. 2) I get help and advice from all you natural coaches and good friends who care.

Quick recap:  In 2014 I accomplished 2 of my 3 major goals.

  1. I completed the 140.6 mile Lake Placid Ironman in 15:41 and raised over $6000 for MMRF.
  2. I developed not one but 2 speeches for the annual Toastmasters contest.
  3. My third goal was to write a new book, but I did not.  That’s right, a big failure to start. I also skated up a mountain and few other crazy things that were not on my list, but that’s the way life goes. You roll with the waves and make adjustments. So I’m rolling this goal over to next year.

So here we go for 2015, in no particular order:

  1. Complete my second book. Title and content to be announced.
  2. Complete an Ironman 70.3 in under 6:30. (Last time I finished this same Napa race in 7:30, and my only goal was survival. This time I’m training for faster speed and transitions.)
  3. Complete the Death Ride on July 11. It’s 5 mountains. 129 miles. 15,000 feet of climbing. The goal is survival. Nuff said.
  4. Maintain an excellent rating in my job at Cisco.
  5. Develop two speeches worth hearing for the Toastmasters contest. I just can’t not do this :)

I’ve already started training for the athletic goals, and I even think I have the concept for the book already. No time like the present to pursue what you want. Now comes step #3 of my formula. Make it happen.

I appreciate you following my journey and throwing advice at me, whether I ask for it or not. Nothing I have ever achieved was accomplished alone. Have an awesome 2015, my friends!

Can we just stop?

Posted December 5, 2014 by davidgoad
Categories: General

timesquareI wasn’t watching news, I was suddenly in the middle of it. Walking to the subway in the cold with my colleague after a work day in Manhattan, we were stopped by an unexpected show after dinner.

A long line of NYPD officers was forming in front of their well-lit station in Times Square. As we walked further, we saw a few hundred chanting protestors gathered in the middle of the intersection and surrounding sidewalks. The police had formed lines with bodies and vehicles to contain the crowd, and I’d say the officers easily outnumbered the civil disobedients.

My friend and I were fifteen feet away from a potential moshpit that I did not want to get swept up in, but we didn’t want to walk away. It was a very different perspective than the aerial view we usually get from news crews. The tight formation of police in riot gear was unusually calm in the face of a horde of citizen reporters holding camera phones and fists high in the air.

The most brazen protestors wore bandit kerchiefs and got as close as they could to the cops. Make no mistake, they wanted to provoke a confrontation to feed the cameras and fuel the fire. It was scary, but riveting to watch.

The mob began to sway as the police began to remove seated protestors from the street to let the stranded buses and cab drivers through to do their jobs. We backed up another few feet and snapped a few photos of our own. And that’s when I began to listen in to those around us.

Many young protestors were angrily shouting slogans about police states and justice, but there were also real conversations going on. Right next to us, an elderly African-American gentleman approached an officer standing near the end of the police line. “I’m a paratrooper, dammit… a paratrooper! Come on man, can we stop all this boooolshit?! Can we just stop?!”

I expected the officer to react, but they were obviously trained not to engage in verbal battles in situations like this. Instead, he smiled. And then he extended his hand to the old paratrooper. They shook hands and shared a moment of mutual respect. Then I couldn’t help myself. I said “Hey paratrooper!”  I shook his hand too, and thanked both him and the police officer for their service.

I couldn’t get the old soldier’s words out of my head. “Can we just stop?” It reminded me of Rodney King’s “Can we all get along?” which, for those too young remember, was a plea to BOTH sides to return to sanity.

I am merely one more citizen reporter with a camera phone, and you may dismiss my opinion based on my skin color, gender or age. But I want you to know that I saw something in both men’s eyes in that moment… a combination of pride and sadness. Both were proud of the country they served, but sad that we can’t seem to get our act together on cultural unity.

Maybe “Can we just stop?” is too tall of an order for both sides in the heat of battle right now, but I suspect the key to a constructive answer may not lie in our ability to shout, but to listen.

Feeding Friends

Posted November 30, 2014 by davidgoad
Categories: General

thanksgiving2We were not only serving Thanksgiving meals to the homeless, we were serving the hungry and alone. I observed and learned a few things volunteering at the Great Plate on Thursday. It was a heart opening experience for me.

First… people who volunteer do it out of passion, not obligation. Theresa, Iwa and the rest of the team worked very hard to make it a welcoming experience for those who showed up. It was not just about serving hot food, it was about serving respect for fellow humans and showing them kindness.

After cutting up 210 pieces of pumpkin pie, I was looking for something to do… and decided to make it my job to talk to anyone who was eating alone. Each person was happy for me to pull up a chair, and share their thoughts on a day devoted to gratitude.

There was Frank, born in the Middle East but living in the US the last 20 years. I asked him about the differences between the two worlds in his experience. He cautioned me against generalizing about anyone. Then he offered that he thinks Americans are very outgoing and caring on the weekends, but care mostly about themselves Monday through Friday. I thought that was a worthy observation, and wondered if I get too caught up in my work week sometimes to help others in need.

Then there was Mike, proudly sporting his blue and yellow Viet Nam Veteran hat. I was about to thank him for his service to our country when another guy interrupted just to thank him for his service to our country. He seemed happy for my company, and I asked him about his job in the army. His eyes teared up as he described what it was like being a medic on a helicopter picking up the wounded and transporting them to a MASH unit. He had to cradle the heads of 19 year old soldiers in his lap as they lost blood and deliriously asked if their girlfriends were still waiting for them back in the states.

I shook his hand and held on a few extra seconds as I thanked him again. I said, “Mike, you made a difference for every one of those soldiers, whether they survived or not. I’m honored to meet you, sir.”

As the service hours were winding down, my wife Carol packed up a dozen to-go dinners in white Styrofoam and we set out in the car to find any homeless friends in Tracy who didn’t make it to the restaurant. It didn’t take long to discover the loaded shopping carts and makeshift camping sites, and how the homeless look out for each other as well. With each delivery, we got a recommendation for another location where their friends would also appreciate a hot meal.

A grey-haired woman named Kathleen summed it up best. She told us about several spots where homeless folks could typically be found. “And if you go out by Wal-mart, that’s where the drug addicts always hang out.” She saw my facial reaction to the drug comment, then smiled a warm, wrinkled smile and added, “But just because they’re drug addicts doesn’t mean they don’t need food and love.”

There are plenty of people in need around our planet, and giving money to international relief causes is a wonderful thing. But if you think about it, the easiest people to reach are the needy in our own local communities. I highly recommend keeping your eyes open and helping when you can. And it’s not just about money or food. They will remember the gift of your kindness, so serve it up in big helpings.


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