The Ad That Lit My Soul on Fire

I’m reading a book called “Follow Your Passion, Find Your Power” that includes talking about the importance of embracing the thoughts that excite and inspire you, because they have power.

Here are some of those thoughts for me, contained in my response to this incredible ad:


If the agency that made this video came to pitch me on a product, I’d say: “Just take my money. Now.”

Here are the splendid details that make the ad exceptional:

  • The elegant, slow arc of Michael Phelp’s  underwater dolphin kicks, one of his most powerful strengths as a swimmer.
  • That song: “The Last Goodbye.” So gloriously fitting for the greatest Olympian of all-time making a run at his mind-blowing 5th Olympics. Including this lyric, “I have no regrets…for the past is behind.” More poignant than words can adequately describe given Phelps’ well chronicled missteps and rehab (more on that emotional tale here).
  • The imagery: the shivering ice bath. The massive plate of food. The grimace of pain working through the PT needed to recover the body during a brutal workout regime.  The repetition. The sweat. The vomit. The shaking on the pool deck in the pre-dawn hours. The repeated scenes of sleep, which the weary body craves amidst peak training. All these are things many an endurance athlete knows well, in some form.
  • The sounds: the splash and swirl the swimmer hears under water. The hand slap of the pool after finishing a set, in moments of either exaltation or anger. The scream of the coach. The silence of the lonely grind. The roar of the crowd as the moment you trained months and years for approaches.
  • That long, lonely black line down the length of the swimming lane. Because no matter how crowded the pool (or any other venue), training for this kind and level of sport becomes about you, your soul, your will, your power, your burning desire.
  • Then the close as the crowd’s roar builds: “It’s what you do in the dark, that puts you in the light.”

You want to know what lights my soul on fire?


That hero of my sport.

That glimpse of unvarnished humanity.

That rawness of the brutal grind of the elite athlete.

The window into the soul of what it takes to be the best.

People. Sport. The Human Spirit.

That’s what lights my soul on fire.

And that, that’s an exceptional video.

So exceptional that Phelps and his fiancee wept when they saw it, eliciting this response from him: “The world is going to see the real Michael Phelps, and that’s what I’m excited for.”

Excited? Me too.

I can’t wait for Rio.


Going with the Flow and Buying a House Sight Unseen


Our new home in New Orleans.

My lovely bride, Stephani, and I bought a house in New Orleans. Sight unseen. We flew down from Seattle for the inspection. Now we’re flying back having bought a totally different home, with a deep sense of gratitude for what happened.

Why are we moving with our beautiful, independent daughter, Sophia, from Seattle to New Orleans? Because we want something different.

Different might sound really cool (and it is!). But, making a declarative statement about making huge changes in your life can create a lot of stress. For all the joy that awaits, there are details that go with moving a family and changing jobs (and careers!) that have the potential to be intensely stressful.

And I’m prone to stress. The stress of worry. The stress of grappling with the unknown. It’s in my nature. It’s part of what I saw from a major adult figure in my formative years. It’s an aspect of my life I’ve had to consciously and mindfully unwind as I’ve transformed physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in the last few years.

So, imagine what’s possible in my pre-transformation head when I agreed to make New Orleans our first choice for re-location before I went there. Even once. Imagine what’s possible in my head when my wife and I fly down for my first visit (and her second), we look at houses, have a less than desirable experience with our first real estate agent, and leave town without finding a home.

Could be just a tad stressful, no?

One thing I’ve been learning in my personal journey the last few years is the value of letting go of preconceived outcomes and going with the flow. From digging deeper in yoga, to unpacking more about the Law of Attraction, to exploring and implementing a greater practice in mindfulness, my learning and experiences have been pointing in an increasingly aligned direction: sent an intention mindfully, then allow it to happen. Don’t force it.

That’s why I’ve been going with the flow. Setting an intention around what I, my wife, and my daughter want in this transition, doing what I can to control it, then rolling with the rest.

After we came back from our house-hunting trip to New Orleans, we found a home that fit the criteria we landed on while searching in person and had our new real estate agent check it out. She toured it, took a video, and gave us a rundown.

We bought it.

Sight unseen.

And about that new real estate agent. We looked at nine homes with our first agent. That didn’t go particularly well, including a bad vibe from her getting tart with other agents. While processing that vibe on our house hunting trip, we took a yoga class at a studio Stephani fell in love with during her first trip to New Orleans with Sophia. We got to talking to the teacher/owner, Tara, after class. Turns out her mom is a real estate agent, who found the funky, charming, old walk-up apartment Tara converted into the combined yoga studio and home in which we were talking.

Sold. We contacted her mom shortly thereafter.

Fast forward to us flying into town for the inspection on the house we bought with our new, soon-to-prove-herself-in-ways-we-couldn’t-imagine agent.

I coordinated with the inspector and agent, and a Louisiana-based lender, to set-up the inspection at 8:30 on a Monday morning. We arrive that day, were greeted by the listing agent, and shortly thereafter our agent and the inspector. Pleasantries ensued. The inspection begins.

Minutes later, the inspector called me over.

Termites. One side of the home has a big problem. An active infestation, so bad part of one of the walls bent like rubber when you gave it a good push.

And, we’re done. Right there. The inspection, and the deal to buy the house, is over just like that because an entire wall (if not more) will have to come down before the place can be sold.

So, the entire reason we flew down to New Orleans for several days has been quashed in a manner of minutes.

Imagine the ball of worry and stress in my soul I described in my pre-transformation self. I can, and it’s not pretty.

My stress level would have soared. Stephani would have become agitated. I would have become irritable. And the downward spiral would have been bad, bad, bad.

Instead it was chill. No emotions running high. Just going with the flow.

We re-grouped on the front lawn of the home we’d no longer be buying. We started looking for more options to check out while we were still in town before our flight the next afternoon and agreed on a game plan, balancing our agent’s other commitments in that time window. She eventually scurried back to her office to look up options. We went to grab something to eat and do the same on our phones.

A little while later texts with fresh options came rolling in. We soon agreed to meet at one of those, with plans to hit a couple more after that before our agent’s existing afternoon appointments. By a little before 11:30 am we’re in the first of our new options.

And by noon we agreed to make an offer. Minutes after that we had an updated pre-approval letter from our lender. And later that evening we reached an agreement to buy that house.

That house that has:

  • The fully fenced back yard we had been looking for but couldn’t quite find just right, including space for the tiny home Sophia will use.
  • The historic charms we had found were otherwise out of our price range, like glass door knobs and a brick-filled fireplace to add character.
  • The front porch Stephani and I both dream of, gazing out at palm trees next door and across the street.
  • Antique hardwood floors and beams through part of the house that weren’t part of any other home we saw in our price range.
  • Renovated bathrooms (a must for us…and something it was clear in the inspection that the owner of the previous home we almost bought had fudged about).
  • Modern, energy-efficient, double pane windows – a rare thing in even many pricey New Orleans homes – that I prefer.
  • And, the list could go on.

The point isn’t even the exact features we wanted. The point is this house that came to us unexpectedly had what we wanted, but hadn’t yet found. That’s because the house wasn’t yet even on the market when we booked the trip for the original inspection, but is was there when we were supposed to find it. Because we let it happen, rather than force it.

The final sign it was meant to be: there are engravings of the fleur-de-lis in the inside frame of the front door. Yes, those are common symbols in the French-infused culture of New Orleans. It’s also a symbol in the corresponding tattoos Stephani and I have on our left forearms. Tattoos we got well before the idea of moving to New Orleans was anything more than a glimmer in our eyes.


The fleur-de-lis, a final sign we’re home

That day was an exercise of going with the flow. Adapting on the fly. Taking, then seizing, what the universe gave us. Start the day inspecting one house for purchase, finish it having agreed to buy another, that wasn’t remotely on our radar screen.

We obviously found that real estate agent via fortuitous means. The rest was going with the flow. The lender who responded on a dime to our new need for an offer? He was the first of our agent’s recommendations who called back . The inspector? That’s who our agent had inspect both of her homes, and he didn’t charge us a dime for the time he spent inspecting the house that fell through (and you can bet we’ll be using him for this next inspection!).

All of it was things that happened because we sent an intention for what we wanted to do. Did our part. Then allowed it to happen…without trying to impose our expectations on it.

I’ve played the game in reverse. Wanting instead of setting an intention. Imposing my worry on the situation. And trying to force things into my expectations.

I recommend that approach a lot less.

Was buying a house sight unseen the most prudent thing ever? Maybe not. But it wasn’t unwise, because of how we did things, and allowed them to work out in a way that served us way better than anything we could have hoped.

That’s why the return trip on which I’m typing this post is filled with gratitude. Deep, abiding gratitude. And anticipation for what is to come, including finding my next professional path, which is a post for the future.

For now, here’s to saying “no, thanks” to forcing things and “yes” to going with the flow!