Negative Nancy New Year

For the past 8 years or so, I’ve been pretty critical of New Year’s. When people ask what my plans are, I’ve been quick to respond:

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s. It’s just not my thing.

In this letter, I write to “the idea of New Year’s”, and explain my position.

Dear New Year,

Welcome back. It’s been 365 days since we last spoke.

I hope you made the best of this past year, as that is what you encourage the rest of us to do, and that’d be pretty hypocritical if you dicked around.

I’m writing you today because I have a few things to get off my chest. And if I don’t do it today, I’ll have to bury my feelings inside for another 365 days. And I just can’t handle that. A little selfish, sure, but we’ve always had an honest relationship, and I’d like to keep it that way.

I may have spread some rumors about you. I know, we’re not in middle school anymore. And they weren’t intentional. Promise. But I think people may have gotten the wrong impression. And the last thing I want to do is make you look bad.

Basically, I’ve told people that you aren’t a big deal. Not in a “you’re nothing like Ron Burgundy” kind of way. But more like, “you’re overrated.”

And that’s not true. The beef I’ve had with you was really not about you. It’s about how people have chosen to interact with you, which isn’t your fault.

  • You’re not the one getting all liquored up & making horrible decisions.
  • You’re not the one who insists on kissing someone’s face off at midnight, even if it happens to be a total stranger.
  • You’re not the one who makes all the non-drinkers of the world feel uncomfortable the entire night because they’re drinking water.
  • You’re not the one driving while intoxicated.
  • You’re not the one who fills the gym with extra bodies. Nor are you the one who quits mid-March.
  • And people use you as their excuse to party, get wasted & make bad decisions. And that’s not your fault at all.

You see, all the rumors out there about you are really about the people who have misunderstood you. Myself included.

You are a necessary & valuable part of this world

The truth is, you give us consistency. In an ever-changing, fast-paced, distraction-filled society, you remind us every so often that change is inevitable.

You don’t bother us every day, week or month (which is great, by the way, because otherwise you’d just be clingy, and no one wants that).

You let us do our own thing throughout the year. After all, we have to learn this on our own. We can’t depend on you to be there every step of the way. So when you do stop by once a year, we listen.

We know that you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t care. If you didn’t matter. Because you are a big deal.

The change you bring is ours to cultivate. To develop. It’s neither good nor bad, but it’s always necessary. It’s up to each of us, as individuals, to decide what to do with it. But if it weren’t for you, we might not even realize it was there at all.

Please accept my apology for spreading false rumors. You really are a good guy, and I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, and the rest of the world.

A Toast

This year, I toast to you, New Year (with water, of course :-). To your consistency. To your discipline. For letting us make our own choices, and never judging. For the good change, and the bad. The misguided, misunderstood & mis-sion critical change that you bring, time and time again.

See ya next year, buddy,
(No Longer) Negative Nancy New Year

Better Half

Dear Better Half,

I love you and all, but I’m really not sure how you got your name.

Sure, we do things together. Live together. Make babies. Raise children. Buy stuff. Even have the same last name. But what part of that makes you better than me?

We also make mistakes. Fail. Help each other out. Cry. Laugh. We both have our ups… and our downs. And we are both there for each other when the other needs it.

Please don’t take offense. You’re awesome. I mean that. That’s why I’m spending the rest of my life with you.

Here’s how I see it. Part of why we go so well together is the fact that we’re both awesome. And neither one of us should take any of that away from ourselves by settling for the lesser half.

Sincerely,
Your lesser other half

My 27th birthday isn’t about me at all

Dear Friends, Family & Human Beings in all walks of life,

Today I turned 27 years old. But that’s the last thing on my mind.

Thanks to a good friend, Danielle Durst, I decided to make my birth day actually mean something this year. It’s not about me turning a day older than I was yesterday. That’s irrelevant. And a “Happy Birthday Dave” on my Facebook wall does nothing to better the world.

Danielle inspired me to ask for donations for my birthday, instead of tangible items for myself. When I saw her campaign to raise money for clean water, I decided to see how much I could raise. What happened next was truly inspiring.

In only 48 hours, 52 people have donated on my behalf, raising $1,032 to help bring clean water to those in need. My original goal was $200, and I was only asking for $2 from each one of my friends. Almost all of them gave more than that, many of whom gave $27, one for each year I’ve been alive.

Beyond obviously thanking all those who donated, it’s important to recognize (and thank) the other things that made this all possible.

Mom & Dad

I think it goes without saying, without mom & dad, none of us would even be here. What is worth mentioning, however, is the amazing job they’ve done for 26 years — and continue to do every day. (Special shoutout to Mom for the extra 9 months… I don’t know how you guys do it.)

Thanks for the card, by the way. You guys are, and have always been, the most influential people in my life.

mycharity: water

They created a platform with one simple goal. And they’ve made it super-easy to donate, as well as share people’s efforts. Thanks to private donors, all transaction fees are covered so 100% of all donations goes directly to the cause.

Facebook

Love it or hate, we have only scratched the surface of the power of social media. I ran this entire campaign using nothing but Facebook. Without their platform, sharing tools, tagging abilities, etc., I would have been lucky to raise 50 bucks.

A Simple Thank You, Facebook Style

I took a minute to thank each & every person individually, but I did so in a way that all their friends could see what they contributed. Fact: People love to give. Fact: People love to be recognized for their gifts.

Enjoy It While You’re Young

Dear Middle-Aged Man. I’ll enjoy this for as long as I live.

I was running the trails of Deep Run Park this afternoon as I passed a middle-aged man walking his dog. He had some gray in his beard, but I consider 60 to still be middle-aged. If you live to be 100, 60 is closer to the middle than the end.

This man smiles at me & says,

Enjoy it while you’re young because your knees won’t be able to handle it when you get old.

Dear Middle-Aged Man,

Your smile tells me that you didn’t mean anything by it. You were just being friendly… making conversation. Perhaps you were trying to give me a heads up for what’s to come.

While I do appreciate your kindness, as well as your concern for my running future, I say to you:

Sir, as long as I’m able to stand on these two feet, and use them to propel myself forward, I’ll enjoy this for as long as I live.

I can only hope one day you come to the same realization.

Running Wild,
Dave

Life as a young alumni – Defining success

A letter I wrote for Elon’s student newspaper, The Pendulum. It’s targeted at young alumni who are wondering how to define success now that they are no longer receiving As & Bs in the classroom.

I was asked by Elon University’s student newspaper, The Pendulum, to write a few articles about life as a young alumni. This letter is about defining success, especially when you’re not getting As & Bs anymore.

Dear Alum,

Right now, I get a grade for everything I do. Either I do well enough to pass, and I get to shake Leo’s hand at graduation, or I don’t, and my parents strangle me for wasting $100k on an education I apparently never received. If jobs don’t give out grades, how do I know if I’ve passed or failed?

Sincerely,
Straight A Student

Dear Straight A Student,

I wouldn’t go repeating this to your parents (or your professors), but grades are overrated. Many of you would do better without them.

With grades, everyone is on the same playing field. They give us a standard way to define success and failure. However, there are two problems with this:

  1. Everyone is not on the same playing field. Life just doesn’t work that way.
  2. There is no standard definition for success and failure. They are defined by you, the individual, not the dictionary.

This is a new way of thinking for most of you. You’ve lived your entire life up to this point being graded on a common scale – the same scale that everyone around you was using.

Now, the grades are gone, the scale has been lifted, and you are free. Free to study whatever topic is of interest to you. Free to work as hard as you’d like, toward whatever goal you are trying to achieve. And free to be your own judge of success and failure.

But let me warn you. While it’s a liberating experience, it’s not easy. There’s a reason why grades have existed for as long as they have. So how do you know if you’re working too hard, or not hard enough? How can you tell if you’ve succeeded in making a difference? Or perhaps failed miserably?

I can’t answer those questions for you. But here’s a fundamental difference between grade school and the rest of your life:

You get an F in grade school, it’s always looked down upon. You encounter a failure in life, and it might just be the single best thing that ever happened to you.

Sincerely,
The Alum ’06

Life as a young alumni – The job search

A letter I wrote for Elon’s student newspaper, The Pendulum. It’s targeted at young alumni who are beginning their job search. I’ve included several tips on how to approach the process.

I was asked by Elon University’s student newspaper, The Pendulum, to write a few articles about life as a young alumni. My first letter is about the job search.

Dear Alum,

I’ve done a few of these things called internships, but ya know, they don’t pay much. And my parents keep warning me that pretty soon I’ll actually have to pay someone to use my phone, watch TV and even use Facebook. I think they’re called bills. Where do you get the money to pay for all this stuff?

Sincerely,
All About The Benjamins

Dear All About The Benjamins,

Contrary to popular belief, life after college is nothing like the movie Office Space. Money is not only an important part of life, it’s an essential one. For most of us, a job is a good place to start.

I was fortunate enough to work several part-time jobs, one full-time job for over 2 years, and now work for myself. With these experiences I learned a few things about the job search.

  • Love + Money. You should always try to do something you love. Just don’t do it for free. Make sure you get paid for your time.
  • Be remarkable. Don’t be afraid to do something the Career Center told you not to. There are thousands of career centers out there preaching the same ideas. But there’s only one of you, and you have ideas of your own.
  • Interview them. You should be interviewing them just as much (if not more) than they’re interviewing you. After all, you’ll be spending ~40% of your waking hours with them each week.
  • Submit a video résumé. They won’t throw that into a stack with all the others. I promise.
  • Be selective, not picky. Create opportunities for yourself by applying & interviewing at many places. Then you’ll have choices, in which you can be selective. But remember, you do need a job to make money, so don’t get too picky. You’ve got 3/4 of your life left to score the perfect job. It doesn’t have to happen right away.
  • Understand yourself. If you love working with other people, make sure you find a job which allows you to do so. And be sure you like the people you’re going to be working with.
  • Health insurance & benefits. A great health insurance & benefits package with your employer will save you lots of money in the long-term, not to mention keep you healthy. And most companies that offer a great plan care about their employees—a good indication it’s a solid place to work.
  • You’re a rockstar. You will graduate Elon better prepared than at least 75% of your competition (and your co-workers). Just because you’re 22 and companies will tell you you have no “real” job experience, doesn’t mean you aren’t a rockstar. You’re much more valuable than you think.
  • Be confident. You’re a better leader, harder worker, more of a team player and a superior problem-solver to most everyone else out there. Be confident in yourself, and your future employer will see the value you can bring to their organization.

Sincerely,
The Alum ’06

Grandmothers of Endurance Video – Ultrarunning into your 80s

A letter to all the nay-sayers & non-believers who tell me that ultrarunning is breaking apart my body. Those who think I’ll need knee replacements by age 35. This video of 2 ultrarunning Grandmothers (age 76 & 67) clearly proves that running ultras only enriches your mind, body & spirit.

To all the nay-sayers, non-believers, critics & the doubtful,

I always knew you were wrong. But now I have proof.

An ultrarunning buddy of mine, Peter, now provides proof (by way of 2 grandmother endurance junkies) that ultrarunning is not destroying my body. It only enriches my mind, body & spirit, and adds energy & excitement to my life.

Barb Macklow (age 76) of Bellingham, WA completed the Umstead 100-mile run at age 74. Her running partner, Vicki Griffiths (age 67), recently completed the Rocky Raccoon 100-mile run in just under 30 hours. Yeah. That’s why they call them the “Grandmothers of Endurance.”

Some of you (especially the personal trainers & physical therapists among you) have told me that my running habits will lead to health problems down the road. More specifically, knee, hip, ankle and other joint issues.

I usually reply, “Well, maybe I will, but I enjoy it now, and I’ll worry about that when I get there.” While this remains true, I now have 2 young ladies I can use as an example. If Barb can complete a 100-mile race on 74-year-old joints, I think I’ve got quite a few miles left on these legs before I need to worry.

Watch this video, and then try to tell me that ultrarunning is bad for my body. I’ll just say, “Look at what it has done for them.”

Grandmothers of Endurance Video

Barb is exactly 50 years older than I am today. Here’s to another 50 years of pure ultrarunning bliss… whether you want to believe it or not.

Running Wild,
Dave

P.S. – I know there are more ultrarunning grandmothers (and grandfathers) out there, and when I find them, you’ll be the first to know.

Keeping in touch with old friends

Why do I struggle keeping in touch with old friends? There are so many great people I’ve built incredible relationships with, and yet we go years without talking. What’s the excuse?

That should read “losing touch with old friends,” because if I kept in touch with them, they wouldn’t be old friends.

Dear Dave,

Why is it so hard for you to keep in touch with old friends?

I know you don’t like to make excuses, so it can’t be…

…because you don’t value our relationship. We’ve spent some quality time together in the past. Had a lot of great moments where you’ve helped me & I’ve helped you. We’ve drank, laughed, danced, spun around in circles, talked, ate and partied together. We’re definitely best friends.

…because I live far away. I’ve had the same cellphone for years. The number hasn’t changed, and I know you have it. You’ve got my email address too, and I know you send at least 30 of those every day. We’re friends on Facebook, following each other on Twitter.

…because you don’t have the time. I know you’re a busy guy, but you never just have time. You make time. And I know you make time for other things that are probably not as important.

So what’s your excuse?

Me: I think you just answered it for me… There isn’t one.

Sincerely,
Me