When The Award Is More Important Than The Win.

I’ve had one of the most incredibly unique and rewarding OCR experiences that anyone can have for the past six years (honestly, it’s the stuff of dreams). And as my time in OCR comes to an end, I want to talk about the one thing that will remain with me long after I take my leave.

This team raised over $125,000 dollars, which has helped lead to a significant breakthrough this year in Children’s Cancer research.

A dear friend of mine who I met through OCR likened me to Jim Kelly today. And while I can’t stand the thought of being compared to a Buffalo Bill (inter-division rivalry with my Pats!), I knew immediately where he was going with this comparison.

Goodness always comes back to us in the end. Yes, that’s me sprawled out in the middle of the course with a total stranger rubbing my cramped legs on LAP 2 of WTM 2014.

I’ve said for many years that the most important award in Obstacle Course Racing isn’t 1st Place at the OCR World Championships, nor Spartan World Championships, not even Worlds Toughest Mudder. The most important award is the For Those Who Would Award. This award recognizes humanitarians in OCR for their contributions to the various OCR communities. Basically, this exists for people who lead by doing amazing things not with their legs and arms, but with their hearts. Jeff Cain and the For Those Who Would organization are the Award’s driver, and I applaud and support their efforts for carrying this banner.

For those who don’t have context, I am the only two-time nominee finalist for this award in its brief three year history. If you win, you can’t be nominated again. That being said, you can PROBABLY see where my friend was going with his comparison (Jim Kelly infamously led his Bills to four Super Bowl appearances, four losses, and one Scott Norwood “wide right”).

While I love my friend, I ain’t no Jim Kelly. Being a finalist for a humanitarian award isn’t akin to going to the Super Bowl and losing.

This is a situation in which the award is more important than winning it. It’s the ONE AWARD in OCR where you can’t win it simply by beating your competitor. You need to actively help improve people’s lives. You need to make people smile. You need to reach out your hand, armed with the qualities you were blessed with, and offer people assistance in your own unique way.

You need to make people feel. 

And even after all that, you might not be the one holding the trophy at the end.

I will never remember Ryan Atkins for his wins. I will remember him for his heart.

Always consider this: the very idea that someone would take the time to write about how you’ve touched their lives means you’ve won regardless of holding a trophy, being a top 4 finalist, or simply being nominated. In a world full of anger, hate, greed, and oneupsmanship, you all stand as important role models.

Congrats to everyone nominated… not on your victories, but on taking the responsibility to be the best version of you.

And for the record, I was rooting for Norwood to make that kick.

If anyone is interested, check out the other nominee finalists and their contributions to OCR here.

Does US Health Care “Promote The General Welfare?”

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

– the very first line of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution

“…promote the general Welfare.”

There it is, black and white, right there in our U.S. Constitution. It could mean that the sworn duty of the government is to promote health and wellness among our citizens. Or it could simply mean that the government’s role in health care is to intervene in times of crisis.

This MRI was taken when I injured my neck last year and required spinal fusion. It was $500 out of pocket, and covered by top notch insurance.

We’ve seen a battle of ideals for the past 10 years over health care on Capital Hill. Regardless of the final conclusion, there will probably be some upcoming cuts to the Affordable Care Act, removing several million people off of their current health insurance.

I am not making a judgment on this approach, nor am I going to argue that a Single Payer system is better or worse than a non-Single Payer system. There are good reasons for all of us to believe that the entire health care system, as we know it, is headed towards disaster. And we, as a nation, need to rise up, understand the fundamental issues, and ask what we can do to help promote the general Welfare for ourselves and our communities.

I’m hoping you’ll leave this article with a bit more knowledge around the challenges we face as a nation, and an avenue in which you can express ideas for the improvement of health care. You CAN make a difference. First, let’s go over some fun facts and figures.


As a nation, we are riddled with the most expensive health care in the world. Per person, it costs the United States almost $9,900, compared to an average of under $3700.  Breaking down the $9,900, almost half of that cost is publicly funded through our taxes, while the other half is funded through your premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

And yet, here we are… worrying about a Paris Accord commitment of two billion dollars that we no longer have to pay. Our health care bill, annually, is over three trillion dollars. This means that, when we see annual increases of 5 percent, we are paying 75x more than what we saved by exiting the Paris Accord. Yearly.

The entire GDP as a country was 18.46 trillion dollars in 2016. The health care bill is 17% of our GDP. All other countries are between 8 and 11.5%. Almost one out of every five dollars in America is Health Care.

We clearly have a system more expensive than any other country in the world. Why?


Let’s revisit the Preamble to the US Constitution for a second, and note that RIGHT AFTER the part where it says “promote the General Welfare,” it follows up with “…and secure the Blessings of Liberty.” Liberty has incredible breadth of interpretation. Some people believe that Liberty is achieved through freedom from government. Others believe it is achieved through freedom from obligation or hampering conditions. The battle for this definition has raged across our nation’s history, destroying political parties, and rising them up again.

Why am I bringing this into a discussion about Health Care? Because I think the control of health care costs are where our citizens (and by proxy, elected officials) take sides. People who don’t believe the US Government should take a big role in controlling health care costs will err on the side of company profits, suggesting that the free market can regulate appropriately. They will point to the Lasik industry as a prime example of this ($11,000 procedure when it was first mainstream now costs $3500 today). Those who do believe that the US Government should step up and force drug and administrative companies to control costs think that this is a major way to reduce the burden on the individual citizen.

The ACA does a great job at bringing health care to the masses, but maintains very little power over price negotiation for health services and products. After all, it’s not Universal Health Care, and there are many factions out there in the health care industry who don’t want costs to be controlled (insurance companies, hospital workers, and labor organizations to name a few).

That being said, there ARE cost cutting incentives that the ACA provide for, and we’ll address that in a minute.


More than any system in the world, the United States relies less on general health practitioners, and more on specialists. We get MRIs, EKGs, and other types of technology services that require specialists to run them. We also rely less on Primary Care Providers than other countries, which has a huge impact.

Lack of transparency of prices contributes a great deal to the health care economy. There is no easy way to compare costs of services, and there is reliance on the health insurance companies and providers to dig into the market to compare similar prices for services.


This chart shows an overall ranking by the Commonwealth Fund, expressing expenditures in USD. You’ll notice that the enormous cost difference we incur as citizens doesn’t necessarily translate into better care.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 75 percent of health care spending in the US goes to treat chronic diseases and conditions, a much greater percentage than other countries. Most of these chronic diseases are preventable, or can be treated using alternative methods.

For five years, my friends and I have concentrated on raising a great deal of money for Veterans’ non-profits. We focus on expanding preventive and alternative health care programs for vets. Acupuncture, physical therapy, yoga, meditation, and cleaner eating vs. swallowing prescription drugs proves to work for many veterans with PTSD and significant injury. Many lifestyle programs have helped veterans go back into their former lives.

While I’ve seen the benefits of preventive care, does it reduce overall health care costs? The Congressional Budget Office doesn’t seem to think so. The CBO, in attempting to analyze the budgetary effects of preventive care, wrote: “when analyzing the effects of preventive care on total spending for health care, it is important to recognize that doctors do not know beforehand which patients are going to develop costly illnesses. To avert one case of acute illness, it is usually necessary to provide preventive care to many patients, most of whom would not have suffered that illness anyway.” Taken by itself, the CBO makes an excellent point. Preventive care COULD just be a net cost to any system, and it’s difficult to measure the impact on the 75 percent of chronic disease treatment I mentioned above. Data is needed, and the CMS Innovation Center(more on them later) must get it to justify continued expansion. Other countries have data, but we must compare the country’s situation as well (for example, the US has a higher percentage of elderly and those with pre-existing conditions).

Preventive and alternative care is not a “one size fits all” approach for everyone, and it doesn’t solve every issue. There are diseases that have to be dealt with on a day to day basis with prescription drugs and hospital visits, and that will not go away. But there is no question that many of these diseases are preventable.


Companies being able to cover full cost of your benefits is slowly going away, and while it’s been argued that the ACA is largely responsible for this, the reality is that this Fortune article shows the trend was happening anyway. Health Care, ACA or not, is too expensive.

There is a great deal of talk to “repeal and replace” the ACA with the prevailing opinion that the ACA is the problem. The opposition for ACA states that, while the Act has brought more people onto health care than any other time in our history, many have been older/sicker than expected, which has increased the cost of health care for healthy Americans and businesses who have shouldered the burden.  The idealogical battle between offering businesses tax incentives and full blown Universal Healthcare in the US rages on, with the pendulum shifting depending on who is in power.

But the root cause of our issues, the costs of health care, keep rising. Is this the ACA’s fault?

The answer is yes, but really, no =). On the “yes” side, if you’re a healthy middle class American, then you are shouldering the costs for many of those folks who now have been given health care.  Through your rising premiums (which are rising faster than the cost of health care), private health insurance companies are making you and your company pay more for your health insurance to share the burden of the unemployed and those with pre-existing conditions.

But the answer is really “no.” The rising OVERALL costs of health care are not the fault of the ACA, and to the contrary, the ACA has done a great job at controlling the rise of costs in comparison to the previous decade. After ACA was enacted, rises in health care have been at an average of 4.2% per year vs. 7.1% the previous seven years before the ACA. This is a record low since 1960.


The effectiveness of those measures can be debated, but we should call out the top four:

1) The ACA mandates that all citizens need to have some form of health care, theoretically driving down the cost for everyone.

The individual mandate has its roots in the Republican Party, introduced by Mitt Romney on the state level in Massachusetts, later adopted by Obama for the ACA. This is one of the most controversial aspects of the ACA. It mandates that all citizens must have a form of health care, OR must pay a tax penalty based upon their  Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) Every year, the fee has been steadily increasing. But if the cheapest health care plan in your state is 8% of your MAGI, you are exempt from having to pay the fee. There is cost assistance, Medicaid, and other options available for folks to be able to get some sort of affordable health care, including bare bones catastrophic plans for younger folks. Much of this depends on your state marketplace.

2) Rate Review & The 80/20 Rule

The Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight, established under the ACA, has helped to implement two very important cost measures. The first is the Rate Review, a process which brings scrutiny and transparency to health insurance rate increases for Americans. The second, the 80/20 rule, regulates the percentage of premiums that go to administration of health insurance (20%), and require Health Insurance companies to spend 80% of their premiums on Health Care.

3) The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation

The Rate Review and 80/20 Rule do a great job at helping lower costs for Health Insurance companies, but do NOTHING for Health Care provider costs (hospitals, etc), the real root of the issue. This is where the CMS Innovation Center comes in. Among other ideas, they have created a financial incentive program for issuers to participate in if they focus on cost reduction for their services.


This is the core of the debate that pits both parties in Congress against each other. On the one side, having federal or even state government force a person or entity to own insurance can be seen as an attempt to obstruct liberty that the Constitution provides us.  After all, the VERY NEXT LINE after “promote the General Welfare” in the US Constitution is “…secure the Blessings of Liberty…”

This is an argument echoed by some judges. Judge Roger Vinson was the first to rule this in the affirmative, and in citing the original Boston Tea Party, stated that “it was difficult to imagine” that the Founding Fathers meant to create a government “with the power to force people to buy tea.”

But does evidence for government involvement in Health Care exist at the time of the Founding Fathers? The answer is yes. In 1799, the Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen was supported in a bipartisan manner by Federalists and Democratic Republicans. Many of these people were part of the Constitution’s writing and adoption. The act authorized 20 cents a month out of the paychecks of seamen, marines, and the officers of the United States Navy in exchange for health care services from the established Marine Hospital Service, an organization of Hospitals set up to care for them.  Because yellow fever and other diseases were rampant at the time, the 5th Congress felt the need to step in and start driving better health care for seaports.

This one action DOES suggest that the US Government in the 1700s didn’t see itself as independent of health care. But it also doesn’t go so far as to suggest that they supported individual mandate and non-profit health care. At least with this act, it is safe to say that certain aspects of the ACA are not without Constitutional merit.


Alexis de Tocqueville is misquoted sometimes as saying something very insightful about America’s moral values in the early 1800s. “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” While he DIDN’T say that, and while he never touched upon the subject of health care, he did make this observation of our citizens:

“Men attend to the interests of the public, first by necessity, afterwards by choice: what was intentional becomes an instinct; and by dint of working for the good of one’s fellow citizens, the habit and the taste for serving them is at length acquired.”

Excerpt From: Alexis de Tocqueville. “Democracy in America — Volume 2.”

200 years later, we, as a nation, are working towards those instincts specifically in Health Care. In 1989, during a defense of the individual mandate, politically conservative Heritage Foundation member Stuart Butler drew an important distinction: “If a young man wrecks his Porsche and has not had the foresight to obtain insurance, we may commiserate, but society feels no obligation to repair his car. But health care is different. If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street, Americans will care for him whether or not he has insurance.” Health care should be qualified and judged on a different level than any other type of shortfall.

The “right thing to do” simply can’t be a financial, constitutional, or even moral discussion in isolation. All aspects must be researched, examined, and concluded TOGETHER to create the right way to move forward.


Because you made it this far, I wanted to thank you. I know that health care has a tendency to politicize people and opinions, and it was my genuine hope that we keep this topic to facts. Health care is the difference between living or dying, and quality of life. This article was written with honesty, research, and the motive to get people involved.

In my view, the general health of Americans is more important than caring about whether an approach is “big government” or not.  If better health care is enacted through state governments, or even through the private industry, so be it. The goal of ANY approach, whether enacted through privatization or socialization methods, should be to reduce costs to MAKE HEALTH INSURANCE AFFORDABLE for as many citizens as possible. My conclusion is less of an answer to the problems of health care, and more of a call to action for you, the reader. I encourage you to design methods that will bring down our costs, and post your ideas in the comments. I also invite you to submit your ideas to the CMS Innovation Center. They want to hear from you, and they WILL listen.

The lives and those of our loved ones hang in the balance. Let’s promote our General Welfare together. It’s the first three words of the Preamble, “We The People,” who will ultimately solve this puzzle.

Want to fix education in the United States? Create a tool that focuses on learning.

Many of you don’t know me, or what I stand for, but I’m a Product Manager by trade. My perspective is that you can build tools to solve big issues, provided you do enough research on what the problem is. I’ve built many tools over the course of my career to solve large and complex issues for the biggest company in the world, from communication, to training, even including critical operations. And now, running for public office in the US in the future, I want to do the same.

Someone told me long ago that running for office required me to stand for stuff. So I want to stand for learning.

How does one practically stand for learning? By standing for Education? I don’t know that the Education issue can be solved by throwing more resources to charter schools and less to public education (and vice versa). So let’s back up and identify the real problem.

What’s the problem?

I posted a comment on LinkedIn and Facebook two months ago that started with a problem statement and question:

“68 percent of Americans 25 and older do not have college degrees. Is this failure?”

There were a lot of keyed-in responses (especially some from friends I didn’t expect to hear from).  I especially enjoyed the TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson, as well as an article written on LinkedIn by Matt Fowler, opening the discussion of alternatives to college learning.

There are many options for college, but the fundamental problem of learning still resonates as part of its DNA: K-12 education exists so that you take advantage of 13-16 and beyond. And with only 32 percent of people finishing their 16th year, it might be time to think up a solution that’s COMPLETELY different.

So… how do we fix education when it is failing people at a worse rate than marriages in the US? Easy. We use a small amount of taxpayer dollars to create something that focuses on learning, introducing a self-service to you as an American citizen.  This system should SUPPORT the Education system, and all of our working industries as well.

What would we make?

We need something that can support the actual way people learn… real learning vs. simple institutional support and assessment. CREDIT: Brazil Scientific Electronic Library Online

It would behoove me to have a system that would allow me the following:

  1. Store my interests and skills to share at my choosing to schools and industries
  2. Show me those who have the same interests and skills (and are willingly sharing this information) in order to hone my craft
  3. Provide me a method for peer-based assessment on those interests and skills so that those interests can EVENTUALLY become skills. Those assessments are there for me to share as I see fit.
  4. I want something like this from the very beginning of my life, where my parents are fumbling through putting stuff in there (interests and skills), and at a certain age, this gets turned over to me to start updating. Then I own it till the day I die. I put interests and skills in from my early days in education, all the way to the end of my days in my nursing home (going to the bathroom might be my top skill at that point, but hey, it’s still a skill).

That’s it. That’s pretty much all this would do.

Great. This sounds cool. So… how would we build it? What would we need? Who should own it long term?

In order to make a case for what we need and who should own it, I need to point out that this needs to fill all four requirements above. I’m willing to change my theory on the case I make below in order to make a better system. But nothing like this exists today in the scope I’m talking about (especially point 4). And so we start from scratch!

Without further ado, let’s make the case for something helpful and real.

We need the greatest minds in ontologies, word associations, and contextual learning to determine the guts of this system.

I expect many people reading my last sentence to start glazing over with boredom. But I suppose that’s part of the point. Do you think most people would argue with an ontologist about the algorithm that comprises the association of words? No. It’s boring. Most politicians don’t care. And if they DO care, they’ll get involved to help question issues at a level where they would have to hire an ontologist. That’s a win in and of itself.

It turns out that the way we teach machines (i.e., Machine Learning) would actually be the way that we would keep track of our own goals, interests, and skills throughout our lives. I want a system like this for myself that could point me in a direction by connecting dots I might have forgotten about, like a skill I used to utilize but no longer do.

It could help to solve the general welfare of our country by encouraging small businesses. Lots of small businesses.

The premise of this point is not based on real data, because nobody can do research on something that doesn’t exist. But imagination is at a shorter supply than it has to be because kids are being told at a young age that there are only certain paths in which they will succeed. Enough is enough.

Sir Ken Robinson, between all of his hilarious colloquialisms, relevant experiences and insight, says the following: “We’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.  And the result is that we’re educating people out of their creative capacities.”  We need to open up the creativity that our democracy affords us, take advantage of the best of humanity, and start dreaming. The tech industry does this (and is encouraged to do this), and so should the rest of the country.

It doesn’t cost a whole lot of money to make. It requires brains.

The system I’m talking about is a roadmap that needs to continuously be refined. While it doesn’t take a whole lot of money upfront to build, it will require some of the leaders in the industry to gather together to create an agreed upon ontology that will be the basis for identifying subject matter experts in any given field. And it requires constant refinement and different perspectives. Some of these leaders could be Michael C. Jensen from Harvard, Tom Gruber from Apple/Siri, leaders within Korn Ferry, or some of the greatest minds in Corporate and Educational Competency Based Learning and Assessment, like Shelley Harwayne, founder of the Manhattan New School.

It seems to me that, something that could have a profound impact on education that doesn’t cost a whole lot of money would be fiscally appealing to Republicans, and the public service that it offers would appeal to Democrats. I would LOVE to engage anyone from either party to debate the value of this type of system.  But I’m pretty sure that the only group that would hate this is Libertarians because “fight the man.”


The US Government should maintain this. But a person’s data should be privately owned by that person.

Let’s be frank: this system and data needs to exist long term, and unless you’re the Shirley Plantation or the Zildjian company, a private company probably won’t last as long as our Federal Government. This system should be around for the next 200 years, allowing humans to outpace artificial intelligence by deeply exploring innovative waves in STEM and beyond.

Philosophically speaking: why shouldn’t our Government own this system? The government is supposed to be the group looking after our infrastructure. The government funds the building of public roads, but it doesn’t tell people where to drive. The government funds public libraries, but it doesn’t tell people what to read.  This philosophy is very important, and we must do our very best to protect the data from Deep State. Your data is yours. You share what data you want, and when you want.

Isn’t it in our best national interest to have the smartest, most passionate people, well-versed on their domains of knowledge, always having a guiding light into learning more things that are interesting to them?

Now… we just have to trust that the minds in our government are qualitative enough to be able to create and improve this type of system. We’ll need an infrastructure for this. Quite frankly, we need a Secretary of Education, fancying themselves as a technologist, who also thinks outside the box.

Why can’t a private company own this?

We have a Federal Reserve and National financial system. Why don’t we have that for Education? One theory is because Hamilton became the Secretary of the Treasury while building the Federal Government in the late 1700s. The first Secretary of Education (Shirley Hufstedler) was sworn in almost 200 years later under Jimmy Carter, long after the Federal Government had been established. CREDIT: Associated Press

There are two reasons why I’m not sure this can be owned by a small business:

  1. Businesses don’t last for hundreds of years, typically. They change with the times and market drivers. This needs to last about as long as Hamilton’s financial system, perhaps longer.
  2. The driver behind this system should be the desire to further the human race in education.  There isn’t a great deal of money that can be made from this as a core business. Sure, you can attach other business models to this to make money off of the premise (recruiting services, talent partnerships, etc). But we need an entity who is able to garner resources to continuously improve this, much like our public roads and schools.

Rise Up.

I’ve been slowly turning over Roshi operations to others, and as well, retiring from World’s Toughest Mudder as of next year. Other than turning my attention towards innovative stuff at Apple, why am I doing these things?

Stripping away all of my faults, I know what I’m good at. I am very good at bringing large groups of experts together to agree on and solve complex issues. That’s how I’ve survived and thrived at a certain fruit company for so long. And at my core, while cheesy to say, I really love seeing people achieve their dreams.

So… I’ve decided that I want to fulfill my childhood dream, and run for elected office.

Whoa, slow down. It’s not going to happen right away.  I have a vision of how I’d like to do it, and will reveal more as time goes on.

In the meantime, I’m reaching out to my friends and communities to support me if they think I’ll be any good.  My stances are on that page, and my analysis for solutions of the problems outlined in the stances will be highlighted on this blog.

I’m pretty excited.

I won’t tell you which one I am. But standing to my immediate left is Endicott Peabody, former Democratic Governor of Massachusetts and a mentor to me as a child.  There is also a Republican in this photo.

Worlds Toughest Mudder 2017: One last time.

To the World’s Toughest Community.  The greatest feeling in the world is when you are physically and emotionally drained, and you still feel like you got more than you gave. Thank you.

No offense to Atkins and Albon, but THIS is the team that won WTM this year.
No offense to Atkins and Albon, but THIS is the team that won WTM this year.

“Like the scripture says:
Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree,
And no one shall make them afraid.
They’ll be safe in the nation we’ve made.
I wanna sit under my own vine and fig tree.
A moment alone in the shade,
At home in this nation we’ve made.
One last time.” – George Washington, Hamilton: The Musical

In May this year, my crazy workout and run exploits finally caught up with me, along with years of sitting at computers with bad posture. I became partially paralyzed while enduring a pain I had never thought imaginable.   To fix the issue, I needed emergency surgery to fuse two bones in my neck and remove a disc. Not pretty, but the surgery went relatively smooth due to my kickass surgeon. Cassie Harris flew in to help me through it. Ehsan Farkondeh, Erik Panu, Brianne Kuchera and Adam Nagle (my original Pit Crew person and best friend since 2012)  were also present while Heather Heaton and Jared Quance both offered their amazing expertise through a distance.  I had an entire community of support to help put me back together.

Life, and the setbacks associated with it, will always be a reason to laugh at yourself.
Life, and the setbacks associated with it, will always be a reason to laugh at yourself.

The next two months were fraught with setbacks, things I never shared with anyone. The pain would come back at very inopportune times while in rehab. I don’t know how many people have experienced nerve pain, but if you haven’t, please keep it that way. Crying in my bed at night seemed completely acceptable. And I developed serious headaches.

Eventually, I made adjustments to my diet and started losing weight at an accelerated rate. My muscles around the neck and back became stronger, and were able to support all of the rehab I was doing. It was doubly important for me to get stronger because Rocky Horror was around the corner.  A dozen setbacks from nerve pain led to 13 steps forward in my progress. Eventually, with the help of a focused personal trainer, CJ Nguyen, and waking up at 3:45 every morning to slowly rehab, I was able to declare myself completely ready for Rocky Horror. And Worlds Toughest Mudder.

Rocky Horror was an amazing success. Worlds? It was a partial victory.  Life wasn’t going to let me out of 2016 without my declaration of one final emotional “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.” Don’t get me wrong: goals were reached all over the place (a really fun Thursday night event, over $100,000 raised by our beautiful fundraising team and 65 miles, a new PR). Most importantly: My spine wasn’t screaming anymore and my body wasn’t shit-tacular. But my headaches were not going away.

Fast forward. Two weeks after World’s Toughest Mudder, I went to New York City to see what the fuss was all about with Hamilton.  It just so happened to be immediately following the show Mike Pence attended.  It took me about two songs to really start to warm up to it, as it felt more like a revue than an actual musical.

While I gradually increased my love for the show throughout its progression, “One Last Time” was the point in which I fell for Hamilton. The song speaks to George Washington’s final decision to step away from the Office, which, in historical context, set a precedence for future presidents (oooo alliteration!) to step down after limited amounts of terms.

The lyrics I posted at the top will never leave me. As they were sung from the lips of Nicholas Christopher (the actor who created the illusion he was actually George Washington), something started to click in my mind. The final realization came into being when Christopher sang the following line:

“History has its eyes on you.”

2012. 100% Complete Newbie Contender coming through.

History. Legacy. The words had never been important to me. My job at work has always been focused on innovation, and I’ve always left it up to “historians” to write the life I’ve lived.

I’m ready to bookend my WTM history. And I’m ready to say good bye.

Forgetting about the bastardization of Alexander Hamilton’s actual history in the musical for a second, I would like to at least write down my 5 favorite moments at Worlds Toughest Mudder, one from each year:

The first pair of Worlds Toughest Mudder socks ever created.
The first pair of Worlds Toughest Mudder socks ever created.

2012. Absolutely freezing at 12AM, I duck into a med tent (as they used to be on course those days).  “Anyone have anything hot?” I ask as I pass some folks who are struggling under emergency blankets. The medic says “well, we have some freshly boiled soup!” “Thanks,” I said as I grab the cup and pour it on my foot. The look on her face was absolutely priceless. “That was just boiling less than 60 seconds ago,” she said, eyes wide open.  I look down at my foot, look back at her, shrug, and run out.

2013. Running at 2AM, I am going at a decent pace, in the middle of my 8th lap, right before Leap of Faith.  I hear a set of footsteps coming up right behind me, to which I shout out “Great job, man.” Passing me is Deanna Blegg, hauling ass and smoking my pace with ease.  “Thanks,” she said without looking back. “And it’s ‘Lady!'”

This was the first Orphan Tent purchase made in 2014. Obviously, it was fueled by logical and sound racing practices.
This was the first Orphan Tent purchase made. Obviously, it was fueled by logical and sound racing practices from the beginning.

2014. Ken Jacobus, the godfather of the Community, had set up his tent next to our first Orphan Tent. When he was taking a break from laps, he was helping us as people came through. Around 11PM, I started to leave for my next lap, noticing that the winds were really picking up. Before I left Tent City, the winds had swelled to hurricane speeds, so I went back to check on the Orphan Tent to make sure that everything was okay.  When I got back, I will never forget seeing Ken holding down our canopy and my orange VW Tent, which was massive.  “GOOOOOOO!!! JUST GOOOOO!!!!” he yells. It was a scene from a movie; better than Swingers at 4am.

2014 Honorable Mention. My final lap. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t pass on it and decided to run it.

2015. The entire event was a much different one, getting the privilege to run with Team Four Eyes(check them out on CBS Sports!). Late into the evening, we were all exceptionally tired.  Kara, our amazing Pit Crew said to us that we weren’t allowed to have alcohol till after the event was over.  Kc Hereth, one of our esteemed team members blurts out “DON’T TELL ME… WHAT TO DO WITH MAH LIFE!!!!”  While this was one of those moments where you had to be there, it was probably the funniest moment in my WTM history.

Sam and Karen, my extended family.
Sam and Karen, my extended family.

2016. Crossing the finish line and seeing Samantha and Karen Mahan smiling. I remembered what it was like to attend Carter’s funeral in 2014, Samantha’s son who passed away 21 months into his life.  Seeing her smile triggered my emotions to flood completely out of my soul, a release I’ve needed for years.  This release was the beginning of clearing my head, which has led to this eventual decision to say goodbye.

Absolutely amazing memories. They allow me to write my final chapter with a smile as I recite my personal WTM lifetime statistics, if for no other reason than to remind my 60-year-old self what I actually did:

  1. $150,000 money personally raised in three years for Wounded Warrior and St. Baldrick’s with the help of some incredible donors.
  2. Organized a team of fundracers who raised over $125,000 in 2016.
  3. Created deeply personal relationships.
  4. 3 Thursday night dinners
  5. Made it possible for 23 people to have experiences at Worlds Toughest Mudder.
  6. Co-created and co-funded the Orphan Tent with Melissa Dugan.
  7. Shared way too many laughs with Keith Allen… but not nearly enough.
  8. I suppose 245 lifetime miles should be on this list.
Yeah, I’ll miss WTM. But I kinda lead a very unique life.

And now, with one year left, I am setting my 2017 goals upfront, and the actual reason why I’m writing this so early. There is lots of work to do, and I will need the Community’s help to do it:

  1. There was a time when TMHQ gave an award to the person who raised the most money for charity.  None of us who actually raise money ever care about the accolades.  But TMHQ needs to reevaluate their removal of this special award and make it important again.  There are lots of donors who are completely in awe when I tell them about the event, and the 24 hour experience has motivated some of them to change their lives.  This event offers an incredible opportunity for people to fundraise and inspire others, and recognizing fundraisers furthers TMHQ’s mission of recognizing leaders.  In my opinion, fundraising is tougher than training for this event. #itsAllBeenFundraising
  2. The establishment of a Tough Mudder Hall of Fame is something I will continue to fight for. This isn’t something necessarily related to WTM.  The Friday night dinner that TMHQ puts on should be the TMHQ Hall of Fame induction event. And I think our first nominee should be Jim Campbell.
  3. I want one chance to represent my country at Worlds by singing the National Anthem.
  4. Less organizing and more spending time with the community on Thursday, Friday, and event leadup.
  5. 75 miles. What the hell, let’s go out with a bang.

I’ll never be too far away from WTM as a concept, but my days of organizing events and training specifically for WTM are coming to a close after 2017.  Thank you, WTM Community. I am blessed to always be a part of you.

Running towards my own vine and fig tree.
A way to live.

The Principles of “Fundracing”

12 years ago, I did my first fundraiser for Beyond The 11th.  It was founded by two American women, Susan Retik and Patti Quigley, who were widowed on 9/11. I thought it important to say they were “American” because Beyond The 11th’s mission is to aid widows in Afghanistan, one of the places I’ve heard several of my friends refer to as “the enemy.”  Both Susan and Patti had the courage and foresight to see beyond the rhetoric surrounding the deaths of their husbands, and focus on a hard truth; Afghan women were byproducts of a horrible war-torn land, and amongst the poorest and most oppressed in the entire world.

Beyond The 11th’s big push every year is to ride bikes from NYC to Boston in honor of the flights and fallen victims of 9/11.  I was moderately in shape, but I had never signed up for anything more than a lacrosse game at the time.  So, I agreed to join them for the last 100 miles of their bike ride.

It was the best choice I had ever made, because it helped me discover one of my favorite passions in life: Fundracing.

Fundracing /ˈfʌndˌreɪ.sɪŋ/
noun – marrying the decision to do a fundraising project with an upcoming race or event.

Over the past three years, I’ve been able to fundraise over $150,000 for various charities with the support of amazing people and communities.  Couple that with the exceptionally horrible mistakes I’ve made, and I have a few tips to stop you from making a complete fundracing ass out of yourself.

Fundracing is about personal connection, not money.

Making fundracing solely about the moolah is the biggest mistake we all make, yet is also the “Never feed them after midnight” rule from Gremlins.

I’m supporting St. Baldrick’s Foundation this year. Here’s why.

When I attended college, I became very close with a surrogate family after I lost my grandmother, the love of my life. I ate dinner with them most nights, slept over their house, told absolutely horrible jokes that they put up with, and became an unofficial member of their family. We were very close then, and even now, 20 years later and living on opposite coasts, we make it a point to keep in touch over all major events.

Such a major event started four years ago which would alter the course of the family’s history forever. His name was Carter Lolax… a beautiful son born on April 16, 2012. He loved doing things that most toddlers loved to do: riding on Dad’s tractor, run outside, dance to music (better than most humans, actually), and smile profusely in wonder of the world that he saw in front of him. The family’s joy of having him in the world was something you could feel when you were around them.

That joy always came with a very real fear that eventually turned to a living nightmare; Carter battled acute myeloid leukemia his entire life, eventually succumbing to it on January 21, 2014.

I’ll never forget the following week for as long as I live.  There’s no other way to describe it other than a feeling of total sadness.  Onto my point…

If you make a personal connection with your donors through your fundracing work, you have succeeded. Giving someone access to what’s in your heart is the key to many things in life, and fundracing is no different.  More interesting than the cause you represent, people want to know who you are and what makes you tick. Oblige them, and you’ll find yourself to be happier and more successful in fundracing than you ever imagined.

As part of finding that personal connection, it’s always good to ask of a potential donor if they’ve been affected by the horrible effects of your cause. It starts off the conversation in a very personal way without asking for details that could make a donor uncomfortable.

Sometimes people will simply want to support a cause you’re supporting, and that’s completely wonderful. But never forget that by giving money to you, they’re supporting you and your fundraising efforts.

Also, a sub rule that I firmly believe in: if you can’t come up with at least three reasons that this fundracer is important to you, then consider supporting another cause. I have given a ton of advice to folks, and the first thing I ask: “Why are you supporting this group?” If they don’t have their answers ready, I usually suggest that they look elsewhere to put their efforts.

Set a realistic goal. And if you don’t hit your goal, it’s okay.

A good fundracing strategy takes years to develop. My first Beyond The 11th fundrace I viewed as a total disaster, attempting to hit $10,000.00, and only raising $1300. I vowed that my goals would be more realistic, and that I would change my approach. The next year, I set $3,000 as my benchmark, and I reached $3,500. Many of the people who gave money to me were people from the year before. That’s when the cow bell in my primitive brain went off; time is an important factor in developing a fundracing relationship with friends, family, and co-workers.

Matching gifts are a Fundracer’s best friend.

The secret to my success is finding donors who work for corporations with a matching gifts program. There are lots of companies that will match the amount of money donated by your donor. Every dollar you get from them nets $2 for the cause. You can find a search engine for companies with matching gifts here: https://www.matchinggifts.com/rit/

Giveaways and raffles make for better fundracing than asking for straight money.

You might know someone who knows someone who knows someone who’s famous or has something really cool or priceless that they’re willing to part with.  Set up a raffle scenario in which you give away that thing in exchange for a donation to your cause. It’s a great way to generate interest, and rewards people to be good with an incentive.

It’s much more fun with a team of people.

This is the first time I’ve focused my efforts on asking others to help fundrace. It was the best decision I ever made; I don’t feel as if I’m working alone. I share stories with the folks on our team from a daily basis on how to better approach fundraising. As well, I have made new friends and have learned things about people I would never have known. Plus, I see our totals going up almost on a daily basis, and I’m not pushing as hard as I have in the past to achieve my personal goals.

Almost everything is better with a team of people. This year, we have almost 30 participants on our team shaving their head for St. Baldrick’s at World’s Toughest Mudder. And they are all amazing people, from a financial advisor in New York, to a multiple year winner of World’s Toughest Mudder.

It is absolutely rewarding for me to see a diverse group of people get together to raise money to end children’s cancer.

Carter would be flattered. I know his family is.

St. Baldrick’s and Beyond the 11th are both really amazing groups.  Please support our fundracing efforts to $100,000 this year for World’s Toughest Mudder, and check out Beyond The 11th.

Next: Talent.

Hello. Again.

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”  –Steve Jobs

For the past two weeks, I’ve stared straight up at the ceiling, watching the fan slowly turn.

Don’t get me wrong: the restlessness has always been there.  The difference now is that I can’t actually move my neck to look elsewhere.  I’m in a neck brace, fresh off of spinal fusion surgery… and I’ve never been… happier?

You see: it’s been well over 10 years since I’ve written any part of a blog, always leading with the idea that I’m not a good writer, or have nothing of value to add. But I now realize how lucky I am to have lived my life this past decade. I’ve seen the world change, and have been actively part of the movement that has changed it.

Sooooo here goes nothing: the introductory, somewhat masturbatory post of who I am.

I am a 37 year old man who is still “connecting dots” of what makes me a happy human. I had a successful career at 23, gave it up to move to New York City to write a musical at 24, almost bankrupt at 25, married and beginning my journey at Apple at 26, stable at 30, divorced at 32, and starting all over again at 37, at a different place in my life.

Roller. Coaster. Ride.

But even as dizzying as it has been (wanting to vomit at times), I wouldn’t trade my life for the world.

There are two reasons I started writing again. First, like any blog, I want to share my personal experiences in the hopes that I can resonate with folks to continue reading. “The Road To 2036” is a big step towards opening a heart that’s been closed on some levels for many years.  Consider this first entry my M4AnySex Craigslist post.  I promise that the rest of my entries will have some sort of cosmic wisdom, backed by evidence of personal observation.  Or something.

The second reason is about hope.  My observations of the world these days are concerning.  We hear that cancer rates are on the rise, global warming is destroying the world, resources are becoming extremely scarce, blah blah blah.  Fear and uncertainty is driving a lot of our conversations these days. I want to cut through the hyperbole, and do my best to provide a fair and accurate representation of what’s going on in each of these topics.  Simplicity of understanding the fundamental problems, and providing hope, are the goals of this blog.

I will reveal the meaning of the title in a future blog post.  It’s pretty cool, and I hope I provide you enough value to read the words on this page till then.

OK, enough me. Hello. Again.

NEXT POST: The Principles of “Fundracing”