Refuse to Contribute Story 5: Wilma Rudolph

Image result for wilma rudolph family
Wilma and her parents.

She was a premie baby, born lighter than a 5-pound bag of potatoes. It wasn’t for another 30-years or so before premature babies began receiving specialized care – in 1940, such babies were not expected to survive. But Wilma Rudolph did.

By the time she was 4, she had pneumonia, scarlett fever, and polio. Her parents were told she’d never walk again. Treatment options for poor, black kids in Tennessee were limited, and yet by the time she was in high school, she was a basketball and track star. By 1956, she was an Olympic Bronze Medalist.  Entering college in 1958, she was a single mom, and a second time Olympic aspirant. In the 1960 Olympics, and a sophomore in college, she won 3-more medals – all gold – and became known as the fastest woman on earth.

After retiring from competition, she began a career of teaching and coaching – protesting segregation, teaching grade school and coaching track. She was mother to four children and by 1992 she had become an executive in healthcare.  In 1994, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away within 4 months.

She wore braces until she was 8. Her parents were manual laborers without much money, yet they supported each other. And that’s the true story of this refuse to contribute story: family. Wilma became an amazing athlete through sheer determination, and lived an amazing life.  Her family supported her through premature birth, disease, educated her and gave her the supports necessary for a black, single teen mom to go to college in the 1960s.  With so much stacked against her at the time, her family made sure she had the opportunity to thrive. When Wilma was a child, her mom would take her twice weekly – a round trip of 100 miles – for treatment for her legs. Her mom taught her siblings the massage therapy for her legs, and for 5 years she received these 4 times daily. It was her will that drove her to succeed, but it was the foundational supports of her family that put her in position to succeed.

To be sure, Wilma was an inspirational person and amazing athlete – people with more supports and greater hands up do not accomplish what she did, but it’s also clear to me that she would not have had the ability to be the true expression of her ability had she not have the love and caring of her family. One can only imagine what she could have achieved had she had the resources available to her more affluent peers.

Wilma’s story should be an inspiration for everyone pushing their boundaries, and her family should be an inspiration for everyone. There’s no telling where the love you show your family will go. There’s no telling where your achievements will reach.

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Refuse to Contribute Story 4: David Goggins

Although he’s a public person, unless you follow ultramarathoning you’ve probably never heard of him. And even if you do follow ultramarathoning, you may not have heard of him. He is one of those personalities I see from afar, I don’t know him, I don’t know how heavily curated his “story” is nor just how much what he puts into the world is actually his or if it’s what he thinks the world should see.

This matters not one ounce to me. What he puts out to the world is all about striving to be the best you can possibly be. Which is great, but who is he and why should I care?

A quick read of his Wikipedia page answers those questions.  He’s got asthma, has battled obesity, and has had a congenital heart defect repaired. A lot of us have faced these or similar challenges – my weight over the course of my adult life has yo-yoed between 175 and 230.  He tried and failed to get into USAF Pararescue twice before succeeding and eventually becoming a SEAL. The work he’s done since reads like a guidebook of mind over matter.  This is an exceptional person and I want to believe the majority of what he puts out to the world is actually his belief system.  You cannot do what he has done, you cannot overcome what he has overcome without the fortitude and strength of mind he expresses.

His Facebook post of Monday, September 10 struck a nerve for me. It resonates as true and I can see the truth looking back as far as High School: I’ve said for years that I was a mediocre student, but my comparator group was far more high performing than I gave credit for at the time; had I gone to my public high school, I would have been a mediocre student there too…but my comparator group would have been less high performing and I would have set my targets lower.

His message? Be mindful of your comparator group.

If you are always comparing yourself to mediocre people, that’s exactly what you will be! A lot of people think that they are at the top of their game because they are the best amongst a group of people who don’t even [care].

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fiamdavidgoggins%2Fvideos%2F460613751092881%2F&show_text=1&width=560

He goes on, much like Bill from yesterday’s post (“it’s supposed to be hard,”) that “mediocrity feels good.” Lower your expectations. He acknowledges that performing at high levels is uncomfortable, and people shy away from people that make them uncomfortable. Comfort is a drug, it becomes addictive.

A week before he said:

The most important conversations you will ever have are the ones you have with yourself. You wake up with them. You walk around with them. You go to bed with them. Eventually you act on them. Rather it be good or bad.

We live in a world full of haters and jealous people. People so [messed] up in their own lives that they can’t move forward so they put their hate for themselves on you. This world is full of distractions- a lot of them are from other people, social media, some are self-imposed. In a world full of distractions, you must learn to live in it undistracted, unphased.

Never let the weakness of this world infiltrate your mind! To do that you must truly know yourself! Don’t allow people to puppet master you from being [flipping] great!

Here he’s speaking the language of refusing to contribute. You’re in control of your own greatness. THAT is a powerful and scary message: it means that if you fail to be great, it’s on you. How many of us want that much power and control? Control your negative self talk, live your best life, conquer your goals, avoid mediocrity.  Don’t allow anyone elses’ mediocrity, no one else’s reasons for not striving for better be your reasons.

We all have our challenges and opportunities. Accept them, but do not excuse them. Compare yourself, your results to those you wish to emulate. We’re the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Choose the right 5 people. If you choose to be angry, you will make certain choices. If you choose to make a difference, you will make different choices. But make no mistake, you’re making the choice.

Refuse to Contribute Story 3: Bill

One of the guys in my running club, someone I consider a friend, is a very good runner.  Earlier this year, he time qualified for the Boston Marathon, demolishing the minimum time by some -minutes or so. Then came out to run 5-miles the following day with the group on our weekly “fun run.”  I’ve seen him decide that he’s going to run home from somewhere, when his home is some 30-miles away, and complete the track with an average mile of 8:18 minutes.

He seems to live his personal life diving into interests and hobbies with more verve than I think most people dive into theirs. He’s into pinball, and computers so of course he’s got a pinball game replicator – load up just about any pinball came onto the console and play it. He bought a 30-year old truck on eBay.

I think it’s good to know and appreciate interesting people, because they’re the people I’ve found enrich my life the most.  And Bill is an interesting guy.

This weekend, he set out the goal of running the length of a local rail trail up and back twice – I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t on a whim, then it wasn’t a long held plan to do so. This is a total of roughly 34 miles, not a short jaunt in the woods.

His commentary?

“I did turn around at mile 29 and started heading back to the start, but I said “NO. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE HARD.” and I turned around and headed to Glenwood. Let things be hard. No matter what happens this week, I can always reflect that I ran 34 miles on Sunday.”

“This is supposed to be hard.” Pushing himself to run another 5 miles AFTER 29 MILES. It’s supposed to be hard to run 20 miles, 26.2 miles. After 29 miles and several hours (this took him 5 hours to complete by the way), he was willing himself to finish another 5-miles because it was hard.  I wasn’t going to run until I read that; afterward I got up and ran 13 miles BECAUSE I didn’t want to.

“Let things be hard.” Life isn’t easy. Life isn’t about taking the easy way to get things done. Life is about adventure, and growth, and pushing the boundaries of what you think you can do.  Let things be hard. If they’re hard, you’re growing. If they’re hard, you’re expanding your horizons. If things are hard, you are becoming your best you.

I spoke with him at one point in the past week and he was reflecting on a recent run. He couldn’t understand why people would run a hill, stop and walk for a half-minute and then run again. “Just keep pushing,” or something to that effect. “I run behind them and keep pushing silently.” I know why they do that, I *DO* that. Or I did. Since that conversation, I’ve had his words in the back of my head at each point I encounter a hill and I imagine him sidling up behind me, staying there, willing me to keep going.  I’ve not stopped since.

Bill is an interesting guy. I’ve never once had a negative conversation with him. He’s a survivor, and he is one of the few people I know who consistently pushes those around him to be better, through both example and word.

Do something today BECAUSE it’s hard. Not EVEN THOUGH it’s hard. BECAUSE it’s hard. Don’t give yourself an excuse not to do it, because it’s supposed to be hard. When it’s done, no matter what else happens, you’ll be able to look back and know you’ve accomplished it.

Refuse to Contribute Story 2: Charlene

Going back almost 35 years to 1984, I met some of the people who have been the most important in my life – if not consistently, certainly in intervals, and absolutely over the course of time. The boys I met September 1984 were and have remained some of the most important people in my life since.

The important people in their lives have also become important in mine. We’ve been their for the births of our children, the deaths of our parents, the weddings, the divorces. There have been times of strain in our friendships, and there have been revivals. Guys I have reconnected with as a middle aged adult whom I could not have imagined having considered my friend all those years ago.

And then there is one mom. The mother of  of my classmates, and another schoolmate. Dave and I were close in school – good friends up to and through college – but as things go, we’ve gone through ebbs and flows in our friendship. As time goes on, we exchange text messages, but have gone years between actually seeing each other. It’s just time and laziness coming between us, nothing more, but it’s that inertia – the same inertia that has gotten in my way of accomplishing of my fitness goals. He’s not on social media, but his brother and his mom are, and they and I are connected.

His mom was always pretty cool. Younger than most of the moms of our classmates, so of course the object of some consideration: she was (and frankly still is) very pretty. But she’s also, as I’ve come to find, a good soul.

Quietly, over the course of time, she has captioned a series of beautiful pictures with a hashtag, #RefusetoContribute. At one point I asked her about it – perhaps even teasing about the origin, because a quick Google search suggests that no such hashtag has trended. Actually, that same search yields results almost the opposite of the intention:

“What about those who refuse to contribute…”

Dec 5, 2016 – I began to reply and quickly realized that my response was spinning out of control, far beyond the bounds of a socially acceptable Facebook …

“Fin Aid: What if No Help from Parents”
http://www.finaid.org/otheraid/parentsrefuse.phtml
The US Department of Education has published guidance to financial aid administrators indicating that neither parent refusal to contribute to the student’s …

“My wife doesn’t want to contribute to any bills/mortgage payments …”
https://www.quora.com/My-wife-doesnt-want-to-contribute-to-any-bills-mortgage-paym…Makes you wonder, if she isnt willing to contribute anything when things are good, … Then again, if she continues to refuse your request, you’ll have to decide …

Donate – Refuse Fascism
donate.refusefascism.org/
Only the people taking to the streets in mass, nonviolent, sustained political mobilization can stop this nightmare!

So, what is the intention? Months before I got fed up with the Manufactured Outrage, she was simply posting pictures of paradise, simple tableaus of treasured scenes. She works that hashtag like a boss, and truly her whole feed is family and love.

Here are a few of her #refusetocontribute pictures

Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor

Image may contain: 1 person

Image may contain: ocean, table, outdoor and indoor

Usually captioned only with the hashtag. A small, silent protest against an increasingly polarized world. Cherishing the small, beautiful moments. One voice in the vast interwebs calling for beauty and peace.

No commentary. No judgement.

Let’s all take some time and refuse to contribute.

Manufactured Outrage

About a month before the last Presidential election, I decided to opt out of the nonsense, opt out of the manufactured outrage, opt out of the negativity and use the remaining days through election day to instead demonstrate reasons why we should be inspired by each other. As you can see from the history of this blog, I’m not always the most inspirational person, not always the happiest, not always the sun-shiniest. I am, however, hardheaded. I refuse to succumb to the manufactured outrage I see everywhere from Sports Illustrated, to the Wall Street Journal, to my Twitter feed.

We’re all angry with each other because we live in our own little echo chambers, we consume the news that confirms our world views. We’re angry with all the things that should be and aren’t; we’re angry with all the things that are that shouldn’t be.

We’re angry that Colin Kaepernick disrespects the flag and military, we’re angry that Colin Kaepernick is out of football because he was protesting racial injustice.  We’re angry that Nike has made Kaepernick part of their ad campaign. We’re angry because “they’re” cutting off the Nike Swoosh off the socks that have already been purchased in protest.

We don’t stop to listen and really consider the transformation of the protest: it evolved from sitting during the anthem to kneeling – because it wasn’t about disrespecting the military, it was protesting police violence against minorities. Has there been an increase in violence? Are minorities disproportionately targeted? We don’t get that far into the conversation before we start yelling at each other. Even more than that, though, Kapernick wasn’t going to be the starting Quarterback.

He was going to be benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert; he wasn’t going to be released – the cap hit to the 49ers payroll would have been prohibitive – and he wasn’t going to play. A reasonable person could conclude this could be a  ploy to be released more than a social justice statement. As it turned out, he would replace Gabbert 4-weeks into the season, a season in which his team went 1-10 behind him and he sported a 49.5 QB rating…which was actually a slight improvement over his 2015 play.  Should he have a place on a roster? Perhaps, but then again there are plenty of second string quarterbacks that don’t ask for the same money – CBS reported before the 2016 season that he was looking for $9-10 Million and a chance to start. Not too many backup QBs make that kind of money and no wonder he didn’t get too many calls. So conspiracy to keep him out of the league, or over-reaching for salary?  Perhaps a bit of both – no one side is the carrier of truth here. Sports Illustrated suggested that should his asking price come down and still not get a contract, then there would be questions. Note the if/then: if he lowered his salary expectations, based on his mediocre play the previous couple seasons, THEN the questions about other than football considerations would be valid.

That is a lot to read and process. It doesn’t make for a quick read, or ad slogan.

Of course, Nike has come down on the side of “Social Justice,” by portraying Kaepernick as the warrior truth teller, knowing this would again manufacture outrage on the right. This is a $30-Billion company. This move has been vetted at the highest ranks of the company.  The folks most likely to be outraged would be the golfing demographic…a group that had pretty much abandoned the brand by the time Nike Golf got out of the equipment business. The folks most likely to stand behind the company are the people the brand wants to sell to. There’s no fear from losing their NFL exclusivity – they’re locked in for the next 10 years. It’s not rocket science – its pure naked capitalism.

Then there’s Fear, a forthcoming book on the Trump Presidency where the President is reportedly described as unhinged from reality. We’re angry Bob Woodward says Jim Mattis claims the President has the comprehension of a sixth grader; We’re angry Jim Mattis says that’s fake. Just one more cog in the attack on the press, or is it really fiction driven by an agenda driven puppet of the #fakenews? For the record, I believe Woodward’s account: well documented, multiple sources, and no apparent need to bolster his reputation – he could have done nothing more than “All the President’s Men” (1974) and he would be relevant. Mattis? An honorable man, a warrior, and American hero, but a member of the Trump administration – with loyalty to that President. He has reasons to refute the characterization.  The book hasn’t even been released and we’re outraged.

So here we are. Figuratively at war with each other. Unmoored from facts and understanding even though we’ve never had greater ability to get information. Having the “facts” and “truth” spun around, warped for us. Unable to hear each other over the competing voices. We’re more interested in being pissed off, than actually listening to each other. So I’m unplugging from the noise.

I’m going to make the effort to find inspiration in the every day. To find exemplars of people who have made a difference, who have overcome, who have contributed to our understanding of the world. I’m opting out of the manufactured outrage, and instead I’m hoping to manufacture a little inspiration and perhaps a little humor or love…or something, anything positive that can push back.  Everything does not have to be struggle, Some things do and I’m opting out of the fake ones.

I won’t hold myself to a schedule as I did with my original 28-Days, and I can’t completely opt out and still be a well-informed person. I can, however, call BS when I see it and counter it with something I consider not-BS. I can contribute to a positive conversation.  Wouldn’t it be great if we all spent a little less time focused on why we should be outraged, and a little more time focused on how we can make the world a little better place.