Discouragement is difficult and very real. It is often the elephant in the room, standing alone and unmentioned for fear that acknowledging its existence might make it rage. While looking away from it might help us feel safe, the fact is that we benefit more by facing it head-on and forcing it out of our space.

This week was painfully discouraging for me. Even while celebrating my son’s 4th birthday and seeing him well over with joy, my heart was suffering from multiple conversations that had shaken my confidence, courage and optimism. My work to grow the Me.Now. Movement was at the core of my discouragement after feeling the movement come under criticism, doubt, and even perceived attack from outside. In addition to my own setbacks, I saw some of my closest friends and peers experience hurdles of their own professionally, personally and with loved ones. From within my turmoil I felt compelled to confront my discouragement openly in this post, in the hopes that others might find comfort in knowing how I deal with discouragement.

In January of 2011, less than six weeks after moving to Thailand with my wife, I contracted Dengue Fever from an infected mosquito. Known as ‘Bone Break Fever’, Dengue Fever infects up to 100 Million people each year and has no known cure. Symptoms vary slightly but share one common factor – extreme pain. Headaches, joint pain and muscle pain are at the core of dengue symptoms along with uncontrollable fevers, rashes and bouts of fatigue. A healthy 30yr old American male, the disease wrecked me physically. I spent 7 consecutive days sleeping in fits, fighting off a 104 degree fever, and rejecting all food. All my wife could do for me was mix water and Gatorade together to keep me from dehydrating while the fever ran its course. My weight dropped rapidly and my confidence went with it. When I finally pulled myself out of bed on day 8, the mirror looked back with hollow cheeks and sunken eyes.

My fear that first day out of bed was that I would never get back to the level of health I had before dengue. Also on my mind was the fact that should I contract Dengue Fever a second time, my chances for survival would drop by about 5% and leave me vulnerable to a hemorrhagic fever – one where the autoimmune system cannot fight off the disease. I was overwhelmed with discouragement. Unlike the United States, Southeast Asia never implemented mosquito control measures to fight off or eliminate the disease. Living and traveling in Thailand would pose a constant threat of repeat infection.

I had two options at this point: give in to the discouragement and live in fear of another infection, or face my discouragement head-on to live the life I wanted. When facing debilitating fear, there can only be one answer – fight. Only fighting gives you the hope of winning. Giving up is a guaranteed loss. So I fought.

My body recovered fairly quickly in terms of energy levels and flexibility. While it took me 2 years to gain back the weight that I had lost, I was able to start running again within just a few months. When I look back at photos before and after my stint with dengue, I see the impact from that one little bite. But when I look back on the story of my life, I am so glad that I did not let discouragement change my course.


One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting in the back seat of a 1970s era Ford Bronco II watching cars on the other side of the highway drive by. I remember realizing on that day that every car had a driver, an individual going to and coming from somewhere different than me. For an instant, our lives were crossing at an unknown mile marker on an unimportant Pennsylvania road, likely never to cross again. It was the first time I connected that I was only one (small) person in a world full of people.

On the way to school the other day, my 4 year old son looked at the traffic outside his window and asked me, “Daddy – is that car going to school also?” His question immediately took me back to that rural highway from my childhood. I will save you the back-and-forth discussion that followed; anyone who has ever had a conversation with a 4 year old likely knows how it went. But what I took away from his question was that every car still has a driver, and every driver is still going to somewhere and coming from somewhere.

I have always hated long road trips. Hours sitting in one place never suited me very well. My youngest sister, on the other hand, wrote the book on cross-country car travel. If you ever meet her, you’ll likely wonder how we could be related… until you hear her talk about the future. Like me, she believes without a doubt that we shape our own lives. Nobody and nothing can hold us back if we want to move forward. My sister is a driver, not a passenger. She goes where she chooses, overcoming risk with total confidence that the road ahead will only end where she decides.

Too often, we find ourselves living like passengers rather than drivers. Whether we sit quietly or complain the whole time, we ultimately let someone or something else do the steering. It is always easier to be a passenger rather than the driver: no need to pay attention to the road, no decisions, no stress from other drivers. For all the ease, however, the cost is significant – you only get to go, see and experience what the driver chooses. Even worse, passengers often don’t realize that the drive is over until the end – when it is too late to drive anymore.

The status quo exists because of passengers. Anything you can think to change can be changed if you become a driver. Passengers look down, away or even choose to sleep during the ride. Drivers look ahead, beyond and around in order to get where they want to go. No matter how hard or uncomfortable the trip may be, always be the one holding the wheel.      


In 2009 I found myself walking the streets of Kyoto. Over 1400 years old, Kyoto is one of the best preserved cities in Japan. In the mid-1800s Kyoto became a fierce battle ground for Japan’s Samurai as the Tokugawa shogunate came to a violent end with the Bakumatsu. As a result, Samurai history is found throughout Kyoto today. Amid the dark wood and smooth cobblestone of this city I learned how the Samurai sword – the Katana – is brought to life.

There are few things in the world that carry the mystery and marvel of the Japanese Katana. Each Katana is made individually, through a special forging process that gives it balance, strength and sharpness. The process to create a Katana involves reworking the same material time and again through heat, pressure, and dedication. Swordsmiths claim that only by committing to the final form can they unlock the power of the blade.

All blades are made with one material – steel. The steel is smelted and folded over itself up to 16 times, driving out impurities and distributing organic elements in the metal equally. Intense heat and hammering forge the layers together creating a stronger version of the steel than what existed previously. Finally, the blade is sharpened, mounted on an ornate hilt and fitted for a scabbard. In its final form, the Katana is equally romantic, respected and admired.

The lesson I learned in Kyoto was that life, like a Katana, cannot be built by accident. It takes deliberate commitment and a willingness to suffer the fatigue of refinement before we can reach our fullest potential. The same steel that can rust and crack when left alone can be made powerful when folded together. I no longer fear the fire or the hammer; they are tools to make me stronger and sharper. In my community of steel, the pressure from outside forges one blade that will inspire a world.


My wife refuses to eat white chicken meat without BBQ sauce. For seven years now I’ve made space on her dinner plate for the customary pour of sauce, regardless of what else might be served along with her meat. The smile that stretches across her face every time she dips her bite ensures I’ll be doing this routine well into old age. Our list of tried and yet-to-be-tasted BBQ sauces is long, mostly due to our son’s love for dark chicken meat… no sauce. While our little family does its bit to keep the poultry and BBQ sauce markets humming, I can’t help but wonder about the sauce. Her stubborn sauce.

 What is stubborn sauce? When the extra that is supposed to compliment the main becomes more important than the main itself, that is stubborn sauce. It’s easy to see how silly stubborn sauce is when we witness a child reject their hamburger because it doesn’t have ketchup or toss a piece of toast because it doesn’t have jam. But the truth is that the impact of stubborn sauce goes far beyond our plates and stomachs.

My stubborn sauce is not edible. For me, it is a part of my history; the part that describes how and why relationships and dialogue became so important to me. I have been so concerned about sharing those details that I end up undermining the power of my story as a whole. The more I insist on having my stubborn sauce, the less I get to enjoy sharing my story. It is no different than my wife and her healthy white meat. The photographer who never submits a photo because it isn’t perfect knows stubborn sauce. The blogger who fills their DRAFTs folder but not their live blog knows stubborn sauce also. Anyone who ‘would have’, ‘could have’, ‘should have’ or ‘may have’ has stood in line with me, hungry for our portion of stubborn sauce.

Yet like every good bottle of BBQ sauce, stubborn sauce can run out – if you let it. The only thing standing between white chicken meat and my wife’s digestive system is her. It is her choice. The only thing standing between me and the full potential of my story is the same… me.

Me.Now. is not about what was, but rather what can be. It is about realizing that stubborn sauce does nothing except take away the opportunity for each of us to enjoy something great. One day somebody made a hamburger for dinner and imagined a wonderful quiet evening with a beer, a burger and their favorite TV show. When they opened the fridge, imagine their disappointment when they discovered there was no ketchup. Rather than give up on the night, that person reached across the mayo, mustard and relish to grab a tall red bottle with SRIRACHA on the side. Did they know how it would turn out? Nope. But trying a new sauce is always better than losing a hamburger.


I’ll never understand why I chose to run my first (and only!) ultramarathon at 31 years old in the sweltering heat of Thailand. Maybe it was the result of too many Singha beers and sweaty nights after living 2 years in Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok. Maybe I should blame my triathlete friend who found the race, gave me the idea and promised to run with me. Whatever the reason, I found myself standing at a starting line with 200 runners, one friend and a random Japanese tourist decked in Hello Kitty attire at 5am on a steamy morning in 2012.

An active runner since high-school, I learned early on that my running talent is utterly average. I continued to run through college and my late 20’s mainly as a means to meet girls and prevent the proverbial man-belly. My health history in Thailand had been less than ideal, plagued with instances of food poisoning, foot injuries and a scary stint with Dengue Fever – a mosquito born disease that cost me significant weight loss the previous year. I suppose this race offered me an opportunity to reclaim some of the magic I felt had been lost to a desk job, entering my 30s and suffering a handful of health setbacks.

Victory – that feeling of winning – is an important motivator for all of us. It gives us the sense that our time and effort counted for something. History teaches us that, ‘to the victor go the spoils,’ and we are encouraged to pursue, ‘Victory at all costs!’ With all the pomp and rhetoric, the real value of victory is lost. Thinking that victory is a conclusion diminishes its utility for the future. Rather than treat victory as a single achievement that marks the end of an endeavor, I propose that we consider victory a mile marker on a larger journey for growth.

My first few steps after the starting gun on that humid morning in 2012 were a victory for me. Every morning run, epsom salt bath, healthy dinner and supportive word from my wife gave me hope and encouragement to train another day for a race that was way out of my league. Before the race ever began, the workouts alone had returned me to health, brought me new friendships, inspired others to exercise and given me renewed confidence. All these were victories, too. 

50 kilometers later, after 5 grueling hours running past Buddhist temples, through banana plantations, coconut groves and white sand beaches I crossed the finish line. The race was one of attrition; nearly half of the runners had dropped out of the race by the time I had finished. The heat, distance between support stations and challenging terrain favored tenacity over form. Looking forward to my complimentary Thai massage and chicken fried rice, you can imagine my surprise when I was called to the stage and awarded the 3rd place finisher medal. While my amateur running career started and ended that day, my journey continues and I always remember to celebrate the victories.