If I Got My Legs Back

omg legs 2 copyI’m not sad about losing my legs anymore. That ended about 10 months after the accident. I’ll explain it in another post, but the undramatic story is, I defeated thems demons and moved on. One thing that has stuck with me though, is the realization that I can’t do a lot of the things I used to do. So much was taken for granted. The thing is, this is reality for everybody…if you didn’t lose your legs yet, you will one day. We all will eventually not be able to do what we can do right now. Old age, death, illness, or even just commitments and priorities, will make this the only time to appreciate things while doing them. There’s a reason I’m making this list, and it’s not to make people with legs feel like they should use theirs, because I haven’t got any. When I pass by the forest sometimes, I get this desire to just grab a backpack and disappear into them for a week or so. Given my limitations onthe mobility fornt, it’s not very feasible. Yet, that urge, that desire, is what feeds this urgency to explore everything I can do.  It’s a big part of the reason I do these endurances races and why I’m pushing for more and more. It’s a big beautiful world and I don’t want to just wish I’d seen it. There is always something you CAN do.  Infinite things, actually. Go find them instead of feeling upset about the relatively few things you can’t do, or worrying about things you can’t do anything about. In this spirit of finding what things I desire, a list of what I’d do if I got my legs back. Here’s a few things I’d do tomorrow: I wake up and realize I have 2 legs again. I’ve got a new hip, two new knees, ankles, feet, and ten toes again.

1) I look at them for a long time, moving them about. I’m fascinated by how they work, that they are mine. No mechanical system comes even close to replicating this functionality.  Prosthetics, by comparison, SUCK – they do not even compare. Trust me I use them – don’t believe the hype.

2) The thought that my feet look ugly, or my ankles = kankly, or my stance bowlegged, doesn’t enter anywhere into my mind. I could give a shit if these legs are the ugliest two on the planet because I know the importance of them just existing.

3) I sprint towards a body of water and jump in. It don’t matter how cold it is; I’d run back out and do some kinda jitterbug slash pee pee dance to warm up. There’s something about running down a beach and into the water that I could do over and over and over again. It’s great.

4) Dance. I didn’t ever dance much, certainly not sober or in public, but I would freakin’ dance my brains out.

5) Go buy socks…the coziest socks ever made. Probably wool and colorful, come up to my thighs – I don’t care. They would go on my feet but not right away. First, I’d go find a lawn or big field. Something natural but soft. After walking around and enjoying that feeling again, I’d clean my feet off and then enjoy those socks =)

I could go on and on but I’m feeling pretty good, some smiling goin’ on.

Maybe I’ll make this list again for things I’d do in the first week/month/year.

Enjoy Today!

-AjK, 11th March 2015

Ultraman Canada coverage on ESPN

WoW! I was not even planning on doing this race, at least not this year. Ultraman Canada ended up being a lot more than I thought it would be. As an event, as a proving ground, as a bonding experience, it exceeded all of my expectations.

I didn’t really have this race on my radar, except as a “one day I’d like to”, until my plans to Run2Boston with Charlie Engle got postponed (as explained in Runner’s World). I needed something on my schedule that was big and new, and this fit the bill.

As I was preparing, some local triathletes that had done the race kept telling me, “Steve Brown [the Race Director] puts on the best event I’ve ever been to.” I didn’t really know what they meant by that, but it sounded good (and it really was several people).

I was faster than I thought (and more daunted by the challenges leading up to it, ie – a 10k swim, making the 12hour cutoff for the 173 mile bike) and my bike time straight blew me away. The exact line I’d been using was “Day 2 is going to be tough, it will take me more than 11 hours and I hope less than 12″. I finished just a few ticks under 9hr30 (09:29:51). It was one of those days that just felt good and more importantly, opened up a new awareness, to something I have and I’m hopeful that I can tap into that again and again and again.

Outside of the performance, which is really not what draws me to these events, the connections with people were unforgettable. Steve fosters this family feel that truly makes you feel like every other athlete, every crew member, the entire circle of staff and ultra Ohana – is much more than just new friends. It is incredible.

Lastly, my crew was the best. It couldn’t have been better from my perspective. I’ll only single out my mom, purely to leave the others off my public website. I couldn’t really understand why I ended up with my mom as a crew member. It is a bit of a risk, let’s say ;) It was the best choice I could have made. She was massively helpful and I’m so glad to have this memory of us together – forever. Thanks Ma!
29th August 2014

Substantial Abuse

I’ve almost killed myself, twice.

Almost killed myself as in hospital bed, “He might not make it”, family by my side, the entire production. For nothing other than luck and heroic medical professionals am I still here today.

Both were unintentional, but both my own doing.

The first time I was in University and it was because I drank too much. Not because I was drunk which then caused a part B, but because I literally almost drank myself to death.

It wasn’t even an atypical night, at least not until the end. We started watching football and I had a couple bottles of “wine”, the cheap gas station variety. Then, after going to different parties and drinking for the next however-many hours, I ended up at another house where I don’t recall a whole lot. What did happen was that somebody handed me a half-gallon of vodka and, with or without encouragement, I chugged everything that was left.

Probably not long after, I passed out and would have certainly died if it wasn’t for an accident of extreme luck. Two friends where deliverying my limp body home, which was nearby. If they had made it there, I would have been placed in my bed to never wake up again. But in the spirit of the night, on the way down the fire escape stairs, they dropped me. The person carrying me by my arms was horrified as I slipped through their hands and my head smacked metal, splitting open.

An ambulance was summoned and I was taken to the hospital where they soon realized this wasn’t just a head trauma but alchohol poisoning, so they pumped my stomach and got an IV flowing fluids back in. My stability was uncertain so they called and my mother came in, a 5 hour drive away.

I lived.

What I didn’t do was learn.

That night, the highest reading of my blood alchohol content was 0.465%

People have died from less. That same week, at another University, a guy my age died from a lower BAC.
I would have been done at 18 years old. It was just luck.

The next party I went to, I got drunk.

When I was 23 it was much, much worse. The story isn’t all that different, alchohol, destruction, nearly died, but this time with massive injuries and a long horrible trip for my parents: 15 hours flying halfway around the world this time.

I won’t go into the entire story now, but the price I paid was big. I use prosthetics and a wheelchair because of it. There’s still no way I should be alive. More shocking than that, though, it was another 9 years before I stopped drinking.

If you’re involved in substance abuse, then I don’t have good advice for you. All I can really say from my experience is that, if you think you can manage it, you are wrong. It isn’t going to stop being a problem, it isn’t going to get better and it isn’t because you are a bad person. It is just a crazy beast. For it to stop, , but to get whatever help it will take. I had probably the lightest form of it, I simply drank as much as I could get my hands on after a certain point. Otherwise, I had no dependency. Look what it still managed to do to me, and look how long it took me to figure it out.

Why are we so good at destruction? There are big dumb ways we go about it, that any outsider could see. That’s not all though, we do a lot of little things, daily things that are destructive. They don’t bring us joy, they bring us unhappiness.

From eating unhealthy, to not working out. From half-assing it at work to hours playing _____ (enter the mobile phone game of the season here). From clicking the next link, the next video, the next app… well, I will make my own list. These things make us miserable. Not so much because of the activities themselves, but because we are doing them instead of doing something better, something productive.

This isn’t how I work though. I just take the easy way out, cave to my instant desire, do what everybody else is doing, mentally turn off, take the passive entertainment over the engaging and active kind, and then I feel like a total failure because I gave in or because I didn’t make things happen for myself.

I’ve made some good progress. Caffeine is the only substance I’m currently abusing, working on that a bit. There are things that I’m currently working on that have me popping out of bed before my alarm (no matter how early I set it), and I’m addressing things by thinking about them, writing about them, and simply working on them.

In no way am I aiming for perfection. That would be a fools pursuit… and probably a boring result. I’m just interested in getting better, in finding more joy.

Well, here is to making things better for both for ourselves and others.  Enjoy today.

-AjK, 21 February 2015

andre@willgodo.com

post

Where’d I Go Wrong?

Last March I was going to run from LA to Boston. There’s two pretty well known marathons in those cities and an idea Charlie Engle and I hatched, was to run them both, including all the ground between. The idea was to break the running and wheelchair records by going 3,100 miles in just 44 days, which is what it would take to make the start in Boston. We road some blog posts on Runner’s World.

If you go to those posts, you’ll see it starts with a post from each of us explaining that it wasn’t going to happen. It was devastating and no fun at all.

Right now is a good time to review the mistakes, that I feel we made, so they don’t screw up my current plans – to be the first Handcycle to solo RAAM. I’ll be leaving from Oceanside, CA and traveling 3,000 miles by bike in 12 days. In reaching Annapolis, MD by then, I’ll do 700 more miles than an average Tour de France in half the time. SO, it is going to be a special race, and even more so because my sister, Bianca Kajlich, is going to produce a documentary film based on it!

I think it’s crucially important for me to revisit what wen wrong last year so 1) I don’t hate myself if I repeat them 2) because I want to save myself the heartbreak of losing another opportunity, and 3) to learn. I don’t want to be overly critical, we tried hard and the timeframe was very short. Still, I’m determined to make it work this time and feel this is a worthwhile exercise.

Mistakes we made:

Not asking enough people for the money. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to ask for, how to ask it, how to present, what our message was, what we could offer, and many other details. I think we needed all of that stuff, but not at the cost of not seeking funding which is the number one thing we needed. In the end we didn’t have the funding and we didn’t go.

Taking too long to figure out what we were doing. I think it would have been better to commit and adjust if necessary, rather than being indecisive and changing our minds every week. There wasn’t going to be a film and then there was. We were going for sponsors and then investors and finally crowd sourcing was a last option, but there wasn’t time to launch a campaign.

Being Afraid to Pick up the Phone. After some time of launching off emails, I realized that nobody is going to respond to a random email, if they even look at it. I figured that the best thing to do was just call. It is very hard to get up the nerve to call and the first few lines are the worst. However, if you are passionate about something, you need to try to communicate this to them. Even after a few good calls with people in companies as big as Volkswagen, I didn’t just have a change in mindset that would have enabled me to make hundreds of phone calls. I should have been doing it every day. Chances are it would have led to something.

post

I’m Weaker than You Think

It was 4:36am ten minutes ago when I checked my phone in the living room. It’s becoming a habit to beat my alarm, which is here instead of the bedroom because that solved my “snooze” problem. This is all a big deal to me – because I’m weaker than you think.

Well, I don’t really know what you think – or that you’ve thought of me at all. About a year ago, I was chatting with some people from an audience I had just addressed at a business association, when I realized that they all seemed to think I was this A-type personality that just gets stuff done (I’m referring to my Train Accidents, Speaking, and Ultra Endurance Racing). It is nowhere near the truth.

I didn’t lie to them, but I was definitely holding back. I’ve found it has much more impact to shared the real struggle that it is for me to accomplish the things I’ve wanted to do. It helps because it is hard for all of us to become just that little bit better. One quick example I have, on my phone I have a task list, one of the tasks I’ve assigned myself is to “Write out weaknesses”. That has been on there for at least 3 weeks, maybe more than 5.

Okay then, let’s do this:

My Weaknesses:

  • daily bouts of laziness
  • procrastinate more than I don’t
  • of the people I know, I’m easily in the bottom 10% for being organized
  • atrociously bad with money
  • king of “big plans” without a good plan
  • races might just be a copout as a way to at least finish something
  • I leave things undone – which I hate and yet do more than most hobbies
  • I always try to paint the best picture of myself
  • for some reason, I’m not very thoughtful -I don’t think of nice ways to show people I care
  • a knack for tuning out that voice in my head – mental discipline is often something I avoid
  • distracted with great ease – and I like it

So, this is really not fun to share, even though spam bots outnumber my readers. Hopefully, I have some time to become better before this finds its way to you.

There’s been some good, I don’t want to be pointlessly hard on myself. Yet, I think it’s fair to say that I could be doing a lot better in life. Due to that list right there, and it could quite easily be extended, I almost killed myself twice with alcohol. Once at 18 and once when I was 23. It’s not just that I skirted death, I should have died -people are gone because of less. The second time I didn’t get off all that easy, I lost both of my legs as well. Skipping over the accidents and details, for now, I didn’t learn my lessons, or even about alcohol with either of these. That took 9 more years and it was largely because it was either the wife or “the drink”, as they say.

All along, I wanted to do better. There was a sense of what I was capable of and plenty that I dreamed to achieve. There was no sudden change though.

The truth is, I don’t want to look bad here – nor am I trying to look good (that should be evident). I’m writing this because it’s true and because, in my life, momentum is building towards what I want and I have to get there. My gut is saying this is the best thing I can do to keep it going.

There are always reasons to be optimistic. For starters, I finally wrote that damn weakness list. AND, that list right there has 11 items and I was just going to write 10. Not the most exciting achievement but I did it which lead to this post. I am trying to do just a little bit more – every single time.

A lot of things have come together. My racing has really helped me improve in many areas. Training brings outs the best in me. You experience the drive when you’re out there and it makes me want to do more. I have to do things like schedule my day just to fit it in. Along the way people, books, and podcasts (more recently) have helped me. I really want to improve and I still have the chance to do everything I set out for. This is motivating and helps me see inspiration all over. I’ve sprinkled some of the things that help in past posts and will continue.

Yeah, it is getting better. There is still so much to work on though -that list is real, I wrote it an hour ago.

So, this is my call to keep fighting. If you can relate to any of this, I’d say discuss these things with yourself, your blog, your family, neighbor, cat (last resort), social network of choice (might be behind the cat option). Wherever and to whomever you can bring yourself to discuss this with, speak about your dreams and the struggle to get there. The more personal you make this, the better it is going to feel. I’m totally guessing bc I literally slept through the only Psychology class I’ve ever taken (AND I missed the final, which is a fun/pathetic college story), but I am typing this right now and it feels really good.

If you can’t think of anyone better to share it with, email me: andre@willgodo.com

Good luck to us both =)

AjK – 1oth February 2015th

How to Make Motivation

Imagine you’re in the audience of a powerful speaker. You hear:
“You all ready to make some motivation? How bad do you want it!? As bad as you want to breathe!???”

Have you heard something like that before? Did it work? Did it last?

Motivation doesn’t come in one giant wave that we can ride endlessly to our goals.

In reality, motivation is a far more fickle beast. It varies in strength. It can come and go. To have any impact on our own motivation we need to see it as a process, something to work at daily. As great as it feels to get all fired-up, we need to ensure the desire will be continuous.

Most of us don’t think about how to create, rejuvenate or hold onto our motivation. My personal experiences, ups and downs, including life altering trauma and some extreme physical and mental endurance races, have required sustained focus and effort. I want to share the following tools that I’ve made a part of my daily life. They help me get to each next level and they ultimately make me both happier and more driven.

Seek and Build – Because it doesn’t spontaneously generate itself, here are a couple of simple ways to create thoughts that increase motivation, every single day:

Just Ask - “Am I motivated?” Initialize an internal dialogue. It can be about your work day, about a project, your overall determination in life, or any specific goal you have. I strengthen my resolve because I set out to do just that. It will stay present in your thoughts, helping you recognize more ideas and opportunities that get you motivated.

Grab Some Inspiration – We’re exposed to endless amounts of inspiration these days, but are you actually using any of it? If I don’t capture it somehow, my attention moves right on to the next thing. I will scratch notes here and there if I can, or at least allow some time to reflect before moving on to the next thing. What works better is when I come up with at least one thing I will do, on the spot, and then add it to my tasks list or calendar with a deadline.

Try New Things – There must be new sources of inspiration in our daily routine. Try doing something more demanding, try a sport you’ve never considered, seek out better books and content, just mix it up somehow. Taking cues from different walks of life, unrelated industries, or other fields of study will change your perspective and that is what inspiration is all about.

Retain It – Many things can zap our motivation. These will help you preserve it.

Planning – Accuracy in your planning will help. Motivation is an emotion. The better you mentally prepare for the task ahead, the more able you are to handle it. Consider finding out as you are about to leave, at 5pm, that you have to work late. Compare this to showing up to work that day ready to work late into the night. It’s much like preparing for a long run or your maximum bench press. Clearly lay out the path to the goal ahead as well as your willingness to do what it takes.

Finishing – No matter how small the task, finish what you start. At least make a deliberate choice to change course or end the pursuit, rather than leave things undone. We are much more motivated to do things that have meaning. If our efforts don’t amount to anything, it will be difficult to  convince ourselves to work hard for what’s next.

Sleeping – This one is obvious but constantly overlooked. It’s importance ranges from refreshing us and cleansing our brain of toxins, to boosting performance and overall health. Sleep will help fight off one of the biggest threats to our motivation- being tired. A common thought during a late night is, “I’ll just have to battle through tomorrow.” It isn’t always simple to get the sleep you need, but the higher a priority you make it, the easier it becomes.

AjK1-3 (1)Remember, building and maintaining motivation is an ongoing process. Motivation is made by seeking daily doses, building new sources, and retaining what you’ve got. By simply putting in a small amount of effort each day, even the biggest challenges become a whole lot easier.

Btw - Eric Thomas is awesome - it’s just that it ultimately needs to come from within.

Next UP!

RAAM_logocolor(1)

My next race is official, not because I’ve qualified but because I’ve broken the news to my wife.    =)

That is the same  as seeking approval, I more or less go it. Still, there is a TON to figure out: crew, planning, training, moneys to find, and also a little 400 mile, 32 hour race in order to qualify, the SoCal 400. At least, I know what’s next in my sights – it’s a little ditty called RAAM (Race Across America)

It’sa gonna be hard.

A 3,000 mile cycling race from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD. We will ride about 700 miles further than an average Tour de France, in half the time. Only two teams of handcyclists have completed RAAM before and they were complete stud cyclists. In 2009, Carlos Moleda and his 4-man team made in and last year, Thomas Fruworth and Manfred Putz (of Austria and Germany) took it to the next level. In each case the teams worked in a relay format, spending 4-8 hours riding and then rotating to catch an equivalent amount of rest. This will very much be the next level = no breaks. By the stroke of the 12th day, I’ll need to be across the finish line to become the first solo handcyclist RAAM finisher. I have no clue what’s going to happen.

Therein lies my desire to do this. I’m turned-on by the fear in the sense that the “alive switch” on me gets flipped to “ON” and I’m all go. There’s so much to figure out and I love solving problems. I also love the unknown because there’s a massive internal buzz of worry, nerves, excitement, and hope that gets churning in the lead up. I can feel it already. It is good.

-AjK, 2nd February 2015

Brands: I’m a Brand?

Don’t know if I denied it, but this website is just a promotional tool for myself. An unsuccessful one, which is even more sorrowful. I’d much rather JUST do what I do because I love the chase of the next challenge, but in order to continue taking on bigger and grander endeavors, I need it to be sustainable. That’s really all I’ve been trying to do, so no apologies there. Not that I’ve faced temptations, but I wouldn’t say my principles have been jeopardized ;)

What I will apologize for (to myself) is such a lame attempt at sharing what I do and who I am. Really, it is pathetic not just in terms of effectiveness but for lack of effort, creativity, or even personal touch. I’ve simply done a few things here and there and, yeah, it shows.

I was checking out some Under Armour commercials online yesterday and came across this Cam Newton series (NFL quarterback, of some team) that has a few brilliant lines. I’m going to simply paraphrase one of them: “You can’t expect to play Division 1 ball if you don’t do Division 1 things. I can’t expect to take my team to the Superbowl if I don’t prepare like a Superbowl winning quarterback.”

You/Me/We have a big goal, I know it. A really big dream-like goal. Are you doing what THAT will take??? I asked myself: Andre, what are you trying to be? Are you acting in a way that you think is anywhere close to how you need to act to get there? Answer: No. I’m not. But I want to! Let’s start. I can do it.

So, this blog is officially for me. I’ve moved a website over to AndreKajlich.com that holds information about speaking engagements and presents who I am and what I do. There will be a lot of work going into it. Not just the presentation, but also a lot of work into who I am… and what I do. I’m excited about it and will be writing here, hopefully a lot. It’s for me, to keep on track and repeat what I learn along the way. Not just how, but what I am trying to make better about me and, yes, about my brand. I’m not gonna be ashamed of that.

Here is… a Quickkkk Tip:

This may not be a terribly insightful tip on website improvement. Really, it’s more of a push to surround yourself with good, inspirational, and actionable content. If you don’t know what to do right now, next, or ever – reach out and grab some motivation. There is so much out there. Whether it’s a book, podcast, or whatever - find some good stuff to get you going. I’ll have more on that. What I learned today is that brands are powerful. I’m not arguing for myself as a brand here, but the ability to elevate the impact of my work simply by finding a better way to bring in the brands I’ve been involved with. Before this idea left me, I added it to my phone (good mobile widget – Tasks Free). I was listening to Lewis Howes’ podcast and his guest, Dan Schawbel, talked about his old resume. At interviews they were paying all this attention to his marketing intern position at Reebok, even though he didn’t do diddly in that job, especially compared to internships at tiny companies where he learned a ton. He used this to show the illustrious power of brands. His suggestion was super simple, it was the first thing I did when I got home. Over on my other site, I had a tab for media links. I’ve been covered by some extremely recognizable companies. So, why was I burying that fact over under a media tab with, for example, “Runner’s World” in simple type and a hyperlink? My front page now has a full screen shot of me, and along my menu there are logos for ESPN, Wall Street Journal, and Runner’s World. That all adds up to a much greater impact, don’t you think?

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.39.00 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.37.57 PM

I know it’s not as if my website is pulling in huge numbers, but if someone is taking a look at me as a potential speaker, then this is my resume.

Next, I’m going to change the Media links page with logos in place of all the type. Small things that will, if nothing else, keep this all moving forward. That’s something.

-AjK, 25th January 2015

Rage Against Futility

One day I’ll be no more. I don’t believe there is anything more to it than that, I just don’t.

The people close to me will know of me and maybe a few consequences of my life will linger, even if indirect, insignificant. But that too, and any sign of it will one day be no more.

My children and theirs, a big long chain of humankind will go on as long as we can. Even if it happened to be a billion years or as long as it takes for the last sun to burn through, they will only go so far.

So what is the point, if it all goes black? Who should care if there is actually nothing to care about?

We do get some things. We get to create the meaning, if there is no creator. We get to make use of our moments, even if they disappear. Most importantly, we get to answer our own questions about this finite existence, making it a simple choice- do  we  care? In the end, when the panic and confusion falls down, we get to decide how we respond.

We are strong, proud, and beautiful minds that want to make it matter. We want to make it count, whatever the situation. Amongst our choices we find the only fearless option, the two-fingered salute, as we spit in the face of our end. We will make the most of this life, the most of our world. We have this time and then, with a perfect lack of evidence, it will seem to have never happened. Yet, this will have happened, we will have been. That is the fight. We don’t consider what wins, we act in the truest defiance – a rage against futility – because we still get to choose.

That is Free Will.

(alt ending: ‘I choose to live.’  Still toying with this ;)

 

-AjK, 2nd December 2014