Monday, February 6, 2017

About Transformations

This past Sunday was Scout Recognition Day at our church. Our church sponsors a boy scout troop that has a particularly high turnout rate of Eagle Scouts. Also, I've been meditating for a while around the concept of transformation, more specifically this quote:

During the regular church service the scoutmaster gets up to talk about the troop and the ideals of the boy scouts, and how they align with the goals of the church. Then all of the current and former scout leaders, as well as any Eagle Scouts in the congregation, stand for recognition. Something really clicked for me then, and I want to explain it here.

I distinctly remember waking up on my 17th birthday (almost 25 years ago), rolling over in bed and staring down my boy scout handbook. My first thought was "I have one year left to finish this and if I don't do it now it will never happen". I knew what I had to do.

Telling people that you are an Eagle Scout sets - well "expectation" is the wrong word. There is a reputation that precedes you at that point, but that's a good thing. Eagle scouts know the value of honesty, are trustworthy, and have a natural leadership ability. The keyword is that you "achieve the rank of Eagle Scout" because it's not something that you can just step into or pay for. It takes more work than most people realize.

Everyone knows there are a large list of merit badges that you have to complete. Those are checklists, things where everyone has to put together the same accomplishments like riflery (shooting a .22 5 times inside of the diameter of a quarter on a gun range). Some people know there has to be an Eagle Scout Project where you have to build and lead a team through ideas, funding, materials, and project completion. My project involved remodeling part of a house for an elderly couple taking care of an adult son with disabilities. Very few people know that you then have to defend your accomplishments to a council of scoutmasters. I had my council meeting about 10 days before my 18th birthday.

12 year old me who joined the scouts just wanted to go camping with my childhood best friend. I learned the value of honesty, and standing up for what's right. I became a trustworthy person and then led my peers and kept the younger scouts in line just like the older scouts kept me in line. At the time I didn't realize how distinct that transformation was, but from age 12 to 18 I did transform myself to achieve the rank. It certainly still has a lasting affect on me to this day.

Lots of people add "finish an Ironman" to their bucket list. I wasn't necessarily one of them. I was a pack a day smoker for 15 years. I was an obese, heavy drinker. When I finished my first sprint triathlon I had two thoughts: First, I knew I had beaten my tobacco addiction. It's been 9 years, still happy about that. Second, I thought those people who did Ironmans were idiots - certifiably insane.

The Ironman brand's mantra is "anything is possible", and you learn what that means during Ironman training. As humans, we don't have limits. Our mind sets up what we can and cannot do. If you can change your mind, you can alter your entire reality.

To get ready for Ironman training I lost the rest of the weight. I established a solid aerobic base during the weight loss phase by running 5 miles on the treadmill 5 days a week for several months straight. Then I increased my endurance steadily over time, joined a US Masters swim team, and started increasing my time on the bike. The training plan for a full iron takes about 9 months working out twice a day, 6 days a week. Ideally, you want to ride 5 times, run 5 times, swim 2 or 3 times, and still work in some yoga/stretching and strength training every week too.

Your body turns iron long before race day. On 11/5/2011 I finished Ironman Florida in 13:06:24 and became an Ironman. The day of the race was a magical celebration, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, riding through a breezy flat course, then running my way to hear an announcer say "John Flynn You Are An Ironman" - and all of those hours of sweat paid off in exponential ways that were better than I had imagined.

I had transformed myself from smoker to triathlete, then from triathlete to Ironman. The registration anxiety was crazy the day I signed up. I wasn't that guy who actually thought I could finish the race I had just dropped $700 on. I had to change myself into someone who could do that. I learned discipline, confidence, and where my limits were (hint: I don't have any)

Since the Scout Recognition Day happened in Church, it got me thinking about the transformation that happens when you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. It gives me a sense of peace. The unending love that God has for us is the same love that we should show for our fellow man.

Muslims pray 5 times a day which seems absurd to so many Americans. But if we ask a blessing before each meal, start the day with some prayer and meditation time, and finish each day by thanking God for what happened that day, we're there as well. And if you establish a new pattern of prayer, do you think God will transform something in your life if you keep praying often enough?

When you learn how to love yourself, you then learn how to love others. If I can grow so many different ways above, then I can help others grow in their own way. Being a Christian has determined how I lead my family, what I teach my kids, and how I build my social circles. Currently I sing in the sanctuary choir and truly love sharing my gift of song.

Your goals don't have to be my goals. It took me 6 years to transform myself into an Eagle Scout. It took 4 years to go from smoker to Ironman. I was baptized at age 12, and I bet eventually I'll become a decent church member. What has transformed you in the past? How do you want to transform in the future? Any good, big goals ahead?

Postlude: Goals don't have to be physical. Now at 41, I've been fighting foot pain long enough that I'm starting to abandon my race schedule and start swimming more. I just can't run yet and I miss it so much. Actually, I've noticed that every time I do what I love I complain about it. Get in the pool? no flip turns today, my back hurts. Running? foot pain. can't get enough miles to properly train for the upcoming marathons. Also I have no idea what I'm going to do about that. Goals might also instill setting priorities. I still want to finish a full marathon or longer in all 50 states so this years new states have to be the priority. But am I too old for this? Some days I feel too old for a lot of things. Age is another form of transformation, I guess.


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Love this post! I did not realize you are an Eagle Scout. I do not know much about what it takes to be an Eagle Scout, but I know it's a huge commitment and an impressive accomplishment! Some of the transformative things I've done were study abroad in Australia (and going by myself - I didn't know a single person from my school that was going), getting my MBA while working full time, moving to Charlotte by myself and getting through what was an incredibly challenging time, being my sister-in-law's sponsor when she joined the Catholic church, training for and running 4 marathons, and getting my CFA designation. All of them took a lot of work, dedication and perseverance. They taught me how to not get overwhelmed by a daunting task and to take things a week at a time.

I definitely have an opportunity to work on my faith development, though, so that is going to be my focus for March and the season of Lent. Usually I give something up but this year I am going to try to do something extra instead, like more prayer and I'm going to attend a weekly book group that will discuss a spiritual book.

Neil Westbrook said...

This is great. Thanks for sharing John.

G. H. Spell said...

Thanks for sharing. Letting us into your world. Keep on keepin' on!!