George Washington’s farewell address (from 1796)

Last July, my friend Miranda and I had a long conversation about politics in the U.S. I expressed (once again) my frustration with this country’s political parties. I think our current two-party system creates many of our woes and I hate it. It’s the reason that — until 2020 — I’ve always voted for the strongest third-party candidate for President.

Miranda told me something I’d never known: Our first President, George Washington, was also wary of political parties. “He made a point of warning against parties in his farewell adress,” Miranda told me. “Have you read it?”

I had not. But I have now! And today, I’m going to reprint George Washington’s farewell address in full for you folks to read. If this seems like all too much (it’s 6000 words, so I get that it’s overwhelming), I’ll publish an abridged version tomorrow with translations into “modern English”. The language in Washington’s farewell isn’t too intimidating, but it does indeed get boggy here and there.

Anyhow, here’s George Washington writing in 1796, warning the new country about the dangers of partisanship and advocating neutrality with other nations. Continue reading

Stumbling Toward Perfection: An Interview with Leo Babauta

In 2007, Leo Babauta started Zen Habits, a blog where he chronicled the changes he was trying to make in his life. For the past seven years, he’s documented his successes and failures as he’s striven to stop smoking, lose weight, get out of debt, and otherwise improve his world (and the world around him).

Leo’s current project is The Zen Habits Book, which he’s funding entirely through Kickstarter. (As of this writing, his project has 5,691 backers who have pledged $151,450 toward Leo’s goal. That’s three times as much as he’d hoped — and there are still fifteen days left to back the project!)

Recently, Leo and I spent an hour chatting by Skype. I asked him about his background, about coping with the fear of change, and the struggle many folks face with the need to be “perfect”. I’ve edited that conversation down to about thirty minutes and am pleased to present it here as the first episode of the Awesome People project, a new series of interviews with interesting individuals from all walks of life.

Here’s the video of our conversation:

Or, if you’d prefer, here’s a link to the audio version [55mb M4A file].

Finally, for those who’d rather read the written word, the remaining 5000 words of this article contain a transcription of the interview between me and Leo.

Note: Please note that this is not an exact transcription. For one, it’s hurried. I’m the one who transcribed the interview, and I’m not a professional. For another, I edited out irrelevant asides and various tics of speech. Some of these work okay in audio but would be a nuisance in writing. So please accept this a a faithful representation of what was said — but not a word-for-word transcription. Sound fair?

Welcome. This is J.D. Roth, and this is the first of what I hope will be many interviews that I conduct with some of my favorite people.

Today, the very first person I’m talking to is Leo Babauta. Leo writes a blog called Zen Habits. It’s a great site for learning about how to make improvements with your life — how to live a better life. Leo and I came up in the blogging world together, and have been colleagues for a long time. He’s one of my favorite people, so I’m really pleased to have him as the first person I talk to in this series.

Leo, to start, why don’t you give us a little bit of background about yourself and how you came to write Zen Habits.

Continue reading

Announcing the Awesome People Project

I know lots of awesome people. So do you. We all do.

At the start of her excellent writing manual, If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland states her premise: “Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.” That’s my premise too.

The more people I meet, the more I believe that each of us has something unique to share with the world.

I don’t mean unique in a liberal “everyone deserves a gold star” sense. I mean it in an “everybody is the hero of her own life” sense. People are awesome. Despite the occasional evil action from an evil person, most folks are doing the best they can to make life better, both for themselves and others.

Lately I’ve been thinking that it’d be fun to highlight some of the awesome people I know. Not only bloggers — though I certainly know some awesome bloggers — but also teachers and scientists and bakers and retirees. Kim and I already plan to interview people during our future travels, but I want to get a head start on that project. I want to practice.

Starting today I’m going to put my new-found extroversion to good use. I plan to record and share a series of video interviews with the awesome people in my world. Sometimes these will be recorded Skype interviews. Sometimes they’ll be filmed in peson.

And because I’m not a guy who likes to watch video, I’ll provide both audio and written versions of the conversations too.

Note: When I mention this project to folks, they often ask if I’ve seen Humans of New York. Yes, I have. It’s terrific.

Early episodes of Awesome People will be imperfect. I know this. Quality will improve as I gain experience as an interviewer and learn to use my equipment. If you have constructive feedback, by all means share it! Do the interviews need to be shorter? Longer? Better edited? What parts were boring? Most interesting? What topics should I have pursued?

I promise that these productions will improve in time if you agree to provide feedback so that we can make this series something of lasting value.

What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua…that’s the only name I can think of for it…like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America, this America, the one that we are now in, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer.


In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated. “What’s new?” is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question “What is best?,” a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream.

— Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

A Conversation about Travel, Aging, and Happiness

Last night, we had our neighbors over for drinks. For three hours, we sat around sipping wine while chatting about life with Jan and Sheila. (Jan is pronounced “yawn”.)

Jan and Sheila are both in their early seventies, about thirty years older than Kim and I are. But whereas some folks their age seem to have resigned themselves to silently fading away, our neighbors are still active and engaged with life.

The couple met about fifteen years ago, soon after Jan’s first wife died. Sheila was recently divorced and happy to find a man who, for once, was a kindred spirit. For a few years, they traveled the world, teaching English in China, exploring Costa Rica, and so on. They still travel regularly. Last summer, for instance, they spent several months in eastern Europe, including a lot of time in rural Poland.

A couple of years ago, Jan and Sheila towed a pop-up camper across the United States, from Oregon to Montana to New Mexico to Texas to Arkansas to North Carolina. They visited seventeen states in three months. In each state, they stopped at a nursing home to interview the residents.

“We asked people to tell us their stories,” Sheila said. “At first, our recordings weren’t very good. In time, we figured out what we were doing. We got better with the equipment and we learned what questions to ask.”

“Interesting,” I said. “Kim and I want to do something similar. In fact, we’re shopping for a used RV right now. We want to use it to make forays across the U.S. and Canada. We plan to interview the folks we meet along the way. But we’re not sure what we’ll talk about.”

“You should have a plan,” Sheila said. “Otherwise the conversations will just wander. We found that the StoryCorps method was a fantastic way to spark discussion. Their website has a list of great interview questions. You should check it out.”

Jan recommended that we try to keep an open mind when we travel, to not set a fixed agenda. “You should eavesdrop,” he said. “You learn a lot about a place when you eavesdrop. You learn what’s important to the people there. You learn about the things going on in the town.”

By eavesdropping in Taos, New Mexico, Jan and Sheila found out about a jam session at a local bar. Because they’re both musicians, they stopped in. They got to hear some amazing performers that they might have otherwise missed. “You haven’t heard of the best musicians in this country,” Jan explained. “Often the best musicians don’t have recording contracts. They’re not pretty enough for the stage. Or they never wanted to be famous. You find them in out-of-the-way places like Taos.”

“I’m happy that you two are traveling now while you’re young,” Sheila said. “Travel isn’t as easy as it used to be. For whatever reason, this last trip to Poland was especially hard. The language barrier was hard. Airport transfers were hard. It’s the first time I’ve really felt old while traveling.”

Note: Sheila’s advice echoes something I’ve heard time and again. Most people wait to travel. They wait until they’ve quit work, the kids have moved out, and they’ve saved everything they need for retirement. At 60 or 65 or 70, they begin exploring the world around them — but find it’s tougher than anticipated. Without exception, the older travelers I’ve met wish they had started in their thirties and forties.

We spent a long time talking about aging, about intergenerational connections. Kim noted that although she’s in her mid-forties, she loves learning from both people who are younger and people who are older than she is. “I feel like there’s something to learn from everyone if we’re willing to listen,” she said.

“That’s true,” Jan said. “I wish more people felt the same way. Mostly folks seem too busy to connect with anyone else. That’s one of the reasons we did our nursing-home trip.”

“Tomorrow night at our wisdom circle, we’re going to talk about stuff like this,” Sheila said. “We’re going to talk about the things you lose as you get older.”

“You mean like family and friends?” asked Kim.

“Like family and friends, but other things too,” Sheila said, motioning to Jan, who wears a hearing aid. “Like hearing. Like flexibility and mobility. Like health, in general.”

“What about connection to culture?” I asked. “It seems to me that as you get older, you might become more and more disconnected from popular culture. The movies and music you loved as a child get buried under a flood of changing taste and fashion.”

“It’s not as bad as you might think,” Jan said. “You don’t care as much anymore. Plus, the things you love are always there. You just have to know where to look for them.”

The conversation moved to money and happiness. Sheila asked me something she’s brought up before: “Why do you think so many people believe money will bring them happiness? Is it what the money represents? Is it something else?”

We talked about people we know and how they handle money. Jan mentioned a friend who’s afraid to spend anything at all. He has plenty of money but can’t bring himself to buy even things that might make him happier. “He could easily afford a new car, but he won’t let himself have it. I think that’s too bad. His money won’t do him any good once he’s gone.”

I noted that some people have the opposite problem: “In my line of work, I’ve heard plenty of stories about folks who have squandered windfalls. Inheritances, the lottery, that sort of thing. A person can be broke, win $100,000 in the lottery, and then be broke again a year later. I think people like this mistakenly believe that money will solve all their problems. But money can’t solve problems. You have to solve them. Happiness comes from inside.”

“That’s true,” Kim said, “but money certainly makes things easier. For me, I feel a whole lot better knowing that I have so much money in savings. If something goes wrong, I have a safety net. Money may not buy happiness but I think that not having money can make people pretty unhappy.”

I described how my pursuit of happiness has changed over time. When I was deep in debt, I thought money was the answer. After I’d repaid my debt, I thought I’d be happy if I had more money. Eventually I realized that money wouldn’t make me happy. I made other changes to my life. Some increased my happiness but most didn’t. In time, I came to understand that in order to be happy, I had to just be myself. I had to be comfortable with who I am, warts and all. And I had to surround myself with friends who were happy with who I am too.

Sheila nodded. “That’s smart,” she said. “A lot of people never realize that. You’re lucky to have figured it out while you’re young.”

I laughed. “I don’t have it all figured out,” I said. “Sometimes I forget everything I’ve learned. Sometimes I find myself doing things to please others or buying things because I think they’ll make me happy. It’s a process.”

“You know what?” Kim said as the night came to a close. “Before our trip, we need to practice our interview skills. Can we interview you two sometime? We’d love to hear your stories.”

“Sure,” said Sheila. “We’d be happy to help.”

“You’ll want to have a good microphone,” Jan said. “Sound is at least fifty percent of the puzzle.”

“Everyone keeps telling us that,” Kim said. “That’s why J.D. bought a fancy microphone.” I went back to my office to retrieve the gear I bought after asking for advice from my friend Tess Vigeland, a long-time reporter for NPR.

“That should do the trick,” Jan said. “You want to be able to record the person you’re talking too without getting the clatter of dishes or the din of the television in the background.”

And so, Kim and I have started the next phase of our adventure together. Last Friday, we spent several hours browsing the Portland RV show. Today we took our first steps toward conducting interviews. Next up? I need to use our new gear — the camera, the lenses, the lights, the microphone — to make some test recordings. Be warned: Over the next few weeks, you might see some more silly videos around here! (If you have requests, let me know.)

Backstage at World Domination Summit 2013

Yes, I know I haven’t updated this site in almost a month. To be honest, I haven’t done much of anything for the past few weeks — except work on this year’s World Domination Summit.

Last weekend, we brought nearly 3000 people to Portland to talk about community, service, and adventure. A million-dollar production like this takes a lot of work. More than you can possibly imagine. And so, I’ve been too busy to do anything else.

The hard work is now finished, though, and the conference is over. Our last official meeting about WDS 2013 will take place this evening. From what we can tell, it was a wild success. Beyond our wildest dreams, in fact. (Yes, there were some glitches. But the good stuff far outweighed the glitches.)

There are lost of attendee photos floating around the interwebs, but few from backstage. As I do every year, I carried my camera with me constantly so that I could document things from behind the scenes. Here are a few of my favorite moments from WDS 2013.

Let's get this party started! #wds2013
World Domination Summit…on the marquee of Portland’s best theater for almost a week!

Let's get this party started! #wds2013
Loading the trucks to take stuff to the venues.

Preparing to kick off the World Float, the first official event of WDS 2013.

We set a world record by creating a 620-person floating human chain.

Our media crew was on hand to document the event. So was the local news.

Meanwhile, our volunteers were working hard to prepare for registration at Director Park.

At the main venue, the tech crew was building the set and working with speakers and their slides.

Chris G. and Don Miller conferring on stage during rehearsal.

On Friday evening, we held our opening party at the Oregon Zoo.

Entertainment was provided by March Fourth, a combination marching band and circus act.

As always, my role on the planning team this year was to recruit and co-ordinate speakers. It’s a job I enjoy. It’s fun to create a cohesive arc from ten different presenters.

Every year, I work with a secret sub-theme as we put together the line-up. Last year, the secret them was: “Change yourself, change the world.” This year’s secret them was: “Live your life as a story.” As event organizer Chris Guillebeau and I chose speakers, I looked for folks like Nancy Duarte, people whose messages are clearly about story. I also looked for people with compelling stories to tell. And, when our line-up was set, I asked speakers to consider how their talks might be integrated into this unofficial theme.

The doors open at WDS 2013
On Saturday morning, doors opened for the main event. It took 48 minutes to fill the house.

WDS 2013 Attendees listen intently to a speaker
The audience was completely engaged with the speakers.

Jolie Guillebeau helps Superman (aka Darren Rowse) prepare for his entrance at WDS 2013
Problogger Darren Rowse shared his childhood dream to become Superman.
Backstage, Jolie Guillebeau helped him make that dream come true.

Bob from Bob’s Red Mill spoke about putting people before profit. [photo by Amrosa Studios]

Backstage at WDS 2013 during Jia Jiang's talk
At the tech station stage-right as Jia Jiang talks about learning from rejection.

Improv performer Gary Hirsch turned the audience into a rock band.

Journalist Tess Vigeland told her raw, personal story on stage. Here, she steels herself for her talk.

Tess took to the audience to ask some questions. Here she’s surprised by Carol Wain.

Steve Schalchlin was joined on-stage by the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus.

We wanted to end the weekend with a champagne sendoff. We settled for sparkling cider instead.

Among the glitches this year was the fact we underestimated demand for workshops. Our attendees put together a lot of amazing unofficial events over the course of the weekend, and we thought they’d draw more folks. We were wrong. As a result, workshops were overcrowded and we had to turn people away.

This year, I partnered with Leo from Zen Habits to create a workshop on overcoming fear and building confidence. We had a great time planning it, and thought we were well-prepared for our 150-person venue. We printed 200 handouts just to be safe. But when far more than 200 folks showed up to hear us (we think there were about 250), we had to improvise on the spot. We did the best we could given the situation, but we had to scrap much of our planned presentation.

Here I am improvising (literally!) during our workshop. [photo by Amrosa Studios]

After the conference was over, we held a massive dance party in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. As he has every year, DJ Prashant taught attendees Bollywood dancing.

See the guy on the ground in front of the stage? That’s me… [photo by Amrosa Studios]

…the photo I was snapping in the scene above. DJ Prashant teaching the crowd to dance.

Toni Anderson and Andrea Deckard have smooth moves.

My favorite story from backstage this weekend: When the event was over, as the after-party started, I hosted a dinner for the speakers. I was joined by WDS planning team member (and friend) Tyler Tervooren. After dinner, we walked to the dance party. Unfortunately, Tyler had lost his nametag, which was required to enter the square.

“But I’m one of the organizers,” Tyler said.

“It doesn’t matter,” the woman guarding the entry said.

“Really?” I said. “I can vouch for him. He’s been planning this for months.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

Tyler seemed stumped for a moment, but I could see the gears working in his head. “How about this?” he said at last, as he fished in his pocket. “This piece of paper is the event-use permit for this party. It’s the document I had to sign with the city to rent this park. That’s my signature. Here’s my driver license to verify it.”

The woman laughed. “Okay,” she said. “You can go in.”

Tyler, producing the party permit in order to get in…

The best part of World Domination Summit is meeting the attendees. The people who come to this event are amazing. Unfortunately, I have less time to do that each year. This year, I managed to have dinner with attendees on Saturday night. I also spent most of Monday and Tuesday meeting with folks too. (I particularly enjoyed dinner on Monday night. Kim and I joined speakers Tess Vigeland and Jia Jiang as well as some close blogging colleagues. We had a great meal and a great conversation.)

Dinner with speaker Jia Jiang and some of my friends who attended WDS 2013

Now, I’m tired. Producing WDS 2013 took a lot out of me this year, physically and mentally and emotionally. I’m drained. It’s been two or three months since I’ve had time to work on my own projects. (As I mentioned already, it’s been an entire month since I had time to even update this site.) I love World Domination Summit, and I’d love to be a part of it in the future. But I’m not sure it’s worth the sacrifices I’ve had to make. After all, you have to dominate your own life before you can dominate the world.

The Gift Economy and Social Capital

On Friday, Kim and I had dinner with Jason and Kyra Bussanich. Jason is a chiropractor in Lake Oswego and his wife Kyra owns a popular gluten-free bakery. (Kyra also won an episode of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”.)

Over dinner, we touched briefly on the notion of a gift economy. Wikipedia has a great definition of this concept:

A gift economy is a mode of exchange where valuables are given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards. In contrast to a barter economy or a market economy, social norms and custom govern gift exchange, rather than an explicit exchange of goods or services for money or some other commodity. Gift exchange is frequently “embedded” in political, kin, or religious institutions.

The next day, Kim and I joined Kyra and her mother to see the Dalai Lama speak at an environmental summit here in Portland. At one point, the moderator posed this question to the panelists: “On some level, the human experience is all about consumption. Life lives by consuming life. But how do we moderate our consumption to reasonable levels?” All of the answers seemed very similar:

  • Oregon governor John Kitzhaber said the challenge is to build an economic system that is not built on the assumption of unlimited growth and unlimited consumption. He pointed out (as I often have) that beyond a certain level, increased income does not increase happiness. Kitzhaber also stressed the importance of social capital, the mutual goodwill we create when we interact with our friends and neighbors.
  • Environmental activist David Suzuki said that because of the effects of the Great Depression, “The engine of our economy runs on consumption, and we don’t focus on the things that truly make us happy. We think of prosperity in a weird way. It’s not our things that make us wealthy — it’s our family and it’s our friends.” [For the record, studies show that health and the quality of personal relationships are the best predictors of personal happiness.]
  • Andrea Durbin, executive director of the Oregon Environmental Council, joined the chorus. “We need to make better choices every day so that our economy isn’t driving by our consumption habits,” she said. “Consuming less will not only help our environment but improve our quality of life.”
  • And, of course, the Dalai Lama took a very buddhist approach to the question of happiness: “Inner wealth is most important,” he said, “and that comes from human relationships. The ultimate source of a happy life and a peaceful life is within ourselves, not money.”
The Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama actually has a great sense of humor. I like him.

A supplemental economy

As I listened to the panelists respond to this question, I was again reminded of the gift economy. This is a concept I first discovered while reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s science-fiction trilogy about the colonization of Mars. In the second book, Green Mars, the colonists grapple with constructing a new economy, one that’s neither capitalist nor socialist, but something more sustainable. As part of that, a sort of background gift economy emerges where individual outposts share their surplus with others. It’s an important part of a larger economic model.

There are some obvious pragmatic problems to the gift economy. It’s a utopian ideal that operates best in the rarified air of argument and hypothesis, and is less likely to succeed (let alone be implemented) in the real world.

But while such a system might not be practical for an actual global (or national or municipal) economy, a culture of gift-giving can be an excellent supplemental economy, a voluntary means of building mutual goodwill among family, friends, and neighbors. A gift economy builds social capital, bringing communities closer together.

Some examples:

  • If I have things that I do not use (as is often the case), and I pass these things on to people who will use them, I’m increasing their wealth and happiness at no cost to myself. This isn’t necessarily an altruistic action, but it is an action that improves the overall wealth of the community.
  • When I give, whether time or material goods, to another person, I’m not just improving her physical life. I’m also creating, for lack of a better term, positive mental energy. I’m fostering mutual goodwill.
  • When a group of people give together — especially when they give time — the result is often greater than the sum of the parts. Just as a group mentality can feed negative emotions and lead to negative consequences, the same group mentality can have positive results. After the Boston Marathon bombing, media outlets trumpeted the actions of the folks who rushed toward danger in order to help the wounded. My colleagues Nate St. Pierre and J. Money founded a group called Love Drop, a “a micro-giving network of people who unite as a community to help one person or family a month”. Etcetera.

Though I haven’t used it myself, I hear that FreeCycle is a great example of the gift economy. Here’s the group’s mission statement: “Our mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.”

Note: Here’s a short essay on how gift culture builds reputation among computer programmers.)

The extraordinary power of compound kindness

We don’t need to sacrifice our own interests to participate in the gift culture or to generate social capital. It’s not a zero-sum game. Often, we can create win-win situations that allow everyone involved to profit.

The older I get, the more I’m convinced of the importance of social capital.

Social capital comes from building a broad network of relationships, a network that you can draw upon to help yourself and help others. This isn’t networking in the smarmy, slimy sense, but in the authentic “I’m your neighbor and your friend” sense. A complex network of people will have thousands (millions!) of connections, creating a powerful web of support. (You can see great examples of this in Ben Franklin’s autobiography and in Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone.)

These networks are usually built through everyday kindnesses. These actions compound (just like compound interest) to yield larger returns in the future.

The broader your circle of friends, the bigger your family, the better you know your neighbors, and the more involved you are in your community, the more social capital you have. (And the more social capital you contribute to others — it’s a reciprocal thing!)

“Building community is the adhesiveness that holds us together as a society. Without community, we break down into individual consumers.” — John Kitzhaber

Video: Random Acts of Kindness in Russia

A couple of years ago, during that period in which I thought I wanted to have dozens of sites devoted to dozens of topics, I started a blog called Awesome People.

Awesome People was designed as an antidote to all of the negative news on the web (and elsewhere). Every day, we’re bombarded by stories that highlight the worst of human nature. People can’t get enough of watching the misfortune of others.

Well, I don’t like it.

In response, I started a site that highlighted the good things people accomplish, the amazing things they do with their bodies and hearts and minds. Of all the blogs I’ve ever created, Awesome People is still my favorite. It’s the one that comes closest to capturing the way I see the world.

Last year, I gave up on the “dozens of sites” idea. Instead, everything I write lives here, at More Than Money. That means I should be sharing stuff about awesome people.

Here, for example, is a YouTube compilation that’s gone viral, a collection of videos from dashboard cameras in Russian cars that show people doing positive things:

This is truly great stuff.

Have you seen a story about awesome people? Drop me a line so that I can share it with readers.

Olga Kotelko and Aging Well

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times:

  • Yesterday at the gym, I was able to back squat my body weight, 175 pounds. That’s 40 pounds more than my previous best. Plus, I did 195 sit-ups and 198 box jumps, nearly keeping pace with Dan and Dana. It was a good day.
  • Today at the gym, we spent twenty minutes alternating between: run 400 meters, do as many pull-ups as possible. When we last did this in early September, I managed to do seven rounds with 24 pull-ups. I did seven rounds again today, but I only managed 11 pull-ups. It was a bad day.

Sometimes, days like today can get me down. Two weeks ago, I let a bad day put me in a deep, dark place and had to take a break from the gym. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to remind myself why I’m doing this.

Why am I doing this? Why am I getting fit? Since returning from France, I’ve taken the long-term view. I’m doing this because I want to be healthy for the rest of my life, not because I want to do 25 pull-ups on the 21st of December 2010. I want to be an athlete when I’m eighty. And seventy. And sixty. And fifty.

A few weeks ago, The New York Times magazine (which I still wish I could receive separate from the paper) published a story about Olga Kotelko, “the incredible flying nonagenarian“. Kotelko is a 91-year-old Canadian who is still competing in track-and-field events. Well, “still competes” is misleading. She didn’t start competing until she was 77. Now, “she is considered one of the world’s greatest athletes, holding 23 world records, 17 in her current age category, 90 to 95.”

If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is. Reading about her accomplishments, I realized something. Although I was never an athlete when I was in high school, or college, or a young man, or even now — maybe I could become an athlete in middle age, and on into my sixties, seventies, and eighties. I’m not joking. I love physical activity, and I love competition. Where is it written that I can’t say, “To hell with the past, I’m going to live for the future.”?

So, that’s what I aim to do. Sure, I wish I’d done more than eleven pull-ups today, but I’m not going to let that faster. In February or March when we do this workout again, I’m going to do 25 pull-ups. Or more. And when I’m an old man? I hope to be setting — and meeting — similar physical goals.