Monday, August 15, 2011

It's Never Too Late to Start Doing

The Internet is a magical thing. We can use it to connect with people we already know, but we can also use it to form bonds with people we've never met.

Sometimes, we can actually meet those people and become real-life friends. That's not weird at all, right?

OK, so "weird" is relative.

I've mentioned Ben Davis a few times here before — I posted his 120-pound weight loss video, wrote about his visit to Seattle in March and recently mentioned his inspiring take on what the word "can't" really means.

He's also demonstrated sub-par Catch Phrase skills at my house, but let's not hold that against him.

Anyway, Aaron and I met up with Ben and his girlfriend Brooke while we were in Vancouver. Ben just moved there from Arkansas, and they invited us out for poutine and drinks on a lovely Canadian evening.

Well, hello, delicious treat of all that is good in the world.

Ben just completed an Iron-distance triathlon right after finishing a two-month tour of the country, during which he, along with his Pa, held unofficial, non-competitive 5K runs for anyone who wanted to "Do Life."

It's been a busy summer.

But the next year will be even busier. Ben and Pa plan to run 52 marathons and 52 5Ks in 52 weeks — that's two events per week for the entire year.

They'll run the marathons at a manageable pace so that anyone who wants to join in can, and the 5Ks will be non-competitive and casual. It's not about racing, or even about running — it's about getting out to do something that you might not normally do because you'll be surrounded by supportive people who believe you can do it.

Regardless of their pace, even if Ben and Pa don't do any running on top of that, they'll still cover more than 1,500 miles in 2012. That's quite a feat for someone who, not long ago, weighed 360 pounds and had only a world ranking in Mario Kart to be proud of — that was Ben. Not to mention for someone who was once deep in the throes of addiction and would-be drug smuggling — that was Pa.

On top of the runs and meet-ups and countless folks they'll inspire to get moving, Ben and Pa are determined to do some good by raising money for one charity or cause each week. Nominations for these beneficiaries are open at Ben Does Life.

It's amazing how people can overcome some of the darkest, most depressing life circumstances and not only find health and happiness, but also go on to inspire countless others to do the same.

What I like most, I think, about Ben's "Do Life" movement is that it's an unmistakable call to action — a reminder that you can't just sit around and wait for someone or something else to come along and improve your life.

I remember waiting for something exciting to happen to my life when I felt like this in early 2010:

"I was always tired. I didn't see my friends very much. I had no hobbies. I didn't exercise. I didn't really watch what I ate. None of these individual elements was particularly alarming to me, but the combination left me in a sort of quiet desperation. For lack of a better way to describe the feeling, I was just kinda bummed about life."

I bet that description is alarming to anyone who's read a few posts on this blog, and that's because I'm not that person anymore. What changed? Well, I stopped waiting and started doing.

I identified the things that I thought would make me happy in life and I did them. I went skydiving. I started running races. I took up photography. I got rid of soul-crushing debt.

Doing is simple. Delaying, whining, making excuses — that's the hard part. Trust me, I know! That stuff requires creativity and a deep commitment to staying rooted in place.

It's never too late to take the first step and start doing. Whether you're in your twenties, like Ben, or in your fifties, like Pa, the only thing that's required is the will to start. Forward motion, once begun, becomes effortless, enjoyable, scenic. And what you want to do in life is only impossible if you never believe in yourself enough to try.

I'll just go ahead and throw out the fact that I want to become an Ironman. There, I said it! And I said it because I believe I can do it.

OK, so I can't become an Ironman tomorrow — I don't currently have the endurance or skills to complete a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in succession — but I'm going to do something about all that and make it happen.

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

I dedicated this blog to answering Mary Oliver's question because, like Ben's mission, it demands action. Ben has committed the entire next year to action, and I've just committed in writing to doing one of the most demanding endurance events out there. (Eek!)

So, tell me, even if it scares you — especially if it scares you: Big or small, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


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  1. Completely agree! I enjoy using the internet to make new connections and meet people with shared interests. Some people just don't "get" that though. Always glad to hear others have the same perspective.

  2. 1. Get rid of soul crushing debt.
    2. Expatriate and spend the next 10 years exploring Europe with my wife and dogs. Meet people, have adventures.
    3. Between now and then - bench press 200Kg.

  3. You stated this all so beautifully and perfectly. Ben was the one who proved to me that my being able to run was up to me. His video made me believe that I was just making up excuses and I could fulfill my lifelong dream of being able to run and now I'm 87 pounds lighter with more to come and I'm never looking back. I am so happy I decided to finally start living. There was so much I was missing out on. Love your summary of it!


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