Swim Every River

It happened just before midnight.

There was no moon, and the night sky was so clear you could see thick clots of stars in the Milky Way, as though earth’s atmosphere had been peeled back, exposing raw, unveiled space.

I stood on the high dive at some nameless lake near Blue River, British Columbia, the still water of the lake below so perfectly reflecting the stars above that it felt as though the leap I was about to make would be not into water, but outer space.

I took a moment to breathe in the cold air, to savor this exquisite moment, to marvel with gratitude that life was capable of creating these moments of utter magic… and leapt.

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The #1 Lie About Hustle And Grind (Or, Why Po Is The Dragon Warrior)

Yesterday I watched Kung Fu Panda 2 for the second time with my boys.

(If you haven’t seen it, it’s the ongoing story of Po, a fat, lovable panda who must fight the greatest villains in China, despite his glaring lack of training and talent)

As the credits rolled, my oldest son pointed out that Tigress was a better Kung Fu fighter than Po.

And he’s right: Tigress, Crane, Viper, Mantis, Monkey… they’re ALL better at Kung Fu than Po is. In fact, throughout the movie, they’re constantly saving Po’s ass… using their superior skills to fix his mistakes, clear a path, and save him from his own endearing idiocy.

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The Power Of Hell No

I was clipping my toenails on the porch when my 7-year-old son announced he couldn’t find his shoes.

“They’re there somewhere,” I said over my shoulder. “Keep looking.”

A few seconds later: “Dad, I can’t find them.”

“Keep looking!”

More scuffling. Then: “Dad, I checked my room and the shoe closet and the hallway! I don’t see them anywhere!”

“Son, if they aren’t where you think they’ll be, you have to look where you DON’T think they’ll be.”

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How To Give Your Soul An Italian Tune-Up

Woke up feeling like shit yesterday.

After drinking my morning coffee, I proceeded to stare at the wall for the next hour and a half in a slack-jawed, sponge-eyed fog.

Whatever the cause, whether business setbacks or something I ate or having stumbled upon Laird Hamilton’s Instagram account and suddenly wondering why the hell we moved to Texas instead of Hawaii… I was in a bad place.

Everything was wrong, everything was broken, everything was unfixable.

Finally, as the doves sang the sun up, I had the wherewithal to grasp at self-correction:

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Man’s Favorite (And Most Destructive) Waiting Game

I’ll never forget the phone call I thought was going to make me famous.

“Is this Bryan Ward?”

I was in high school. No adult ever called for me.

“Yes,” I said, my heart beating a little faster.

“Well, we’ve heard your guitar playing, Bryan, and I’m telling you, you’re good. VERY good. We’d like you to sign with our label. We’d like to offer you a record deal.”

My mind went to a place of instant, solemn acceptance.

Finally, my time had come. My great gift had been discovered. My life was about to change forever.

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The 7 Deadliest Forms Of Male Procrastination

I was 15 years old, blasting pig shit off a wall with a pressure washer.

Every inch of my body was covered in protective plastic, my goggles smeared and flecked with various shades of brown.

It was easily one of the nastiest jobs I’d ever had.

But I sprayed away happily anyway.

Why?

I was obsessed. Consumed with desire for what seemed then the ultimate purchase: a new stereo system.

I thought of nothing else.

To make the money, I worked any job I could find, including taking over a friend’s shifts at a pig farm while he was on vacation.

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The Man, The Roach, And The Fatal Flaw

Before moving to Texas, I’d rarely encountered cockroaches.

Here, they are common. And although I have no love for the creatures, I do have a grudging respect for their tenacity.

Any observer will tell you they are built to survive: lightning fast, adept hiders… their bodies protected by a thick exoskeleton.

A quick Google search tells me cockroaches can withstand ice burial, radiation, and even (for a time) decapitation.

They can go up to 45 minutes without air, can survive prolonged submersion in water, and are able to live on nothing more than hair, soap, glue.

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The Most Poisonous Story Men Tell Themselves

When I was a boy, I stumbled upon the body of a rabbit in the woods behind our farm.

Though dead, it looked peaceful, like it was only sleeping: its fur unblemished, eye glassy yet intact.

But when I flipped it over with a stick, as boys will invariably do, its underside was seething with maggots, wriggling and chewing in a mad pulse of decomposition.

I leapt back in repugnance, shocked at how infested the flesh was beneath the serene exterior.

On the surface, your life looks a series of events and milestones:

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The Magic Of Unconditional Commitment

You thought you’d never have to hold this club over her.

Just as she thought she’d never had to hold hers over you.

For when you were first married, your love and service came easy, like champagne overflowing the bottle at the slightest shake.

But then came the grind: then came the failed startup, the chronic illness, the long years of raising children together.

In time, the love and service did not come so easily. To your dismay, and to hers, you stopped “meeting each other’s needs.”

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What Happens When Dads Sacrifice Their Dreams For Their Children

It’s 2033.

Your firstborn is visiting, and as you sit full-bellied at the dinner table, you begin to reminisce.

You recount with laughter that campout when the tent leaked, that Florida trip when the minivan broke down, that old lawnmower you had to yank on a hundred times before it would finally start in a cloud of blue smoke.

And then comes a moment of silence as you’re both reminded of the underlying cause, of the story beneath these stories: that money was always tight. That the only camping gear you could afford was that shitty $49 department store tent. That all you could afford to drive was that fifteen-year-old minivan that always smelled like gym socks.

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