A Word From Coach Matt: Finding Your Bliss

Overall, life has been very good to me. That’s not to say it has been without trials and tribulations, but with perspective I can see it has been very good. Perspective ­ it is what keeps my thoughts positive, clear, and based in reality. Working at the San Diego Velodrome with kids that participate in our San Diego VeloYouth programs, I see great kids who are doing very well and great kids who are struggling. For these kids, the beauty of our VeloYouth programs is that as they fly around the track, all is left behind. If only for a few moments, they shift their position in life, change their perspective, moving from what is, to what can be. In that moment, they pedal and smile. You can see the weight of life and the troubles of the day being lifted off their shoulders and replaced with fun, laughter and learning. Watching kids shift perspective and then anchor that perspective by making new friends who share the unique cycling bond is part of what we offer. During these classes, I have the opportunity to share parts of my life that seem relevant and/or timely to the discussion or topic we are on. One theme that is recurring in our discussions has been finding ways to be happy. This is a tough one; many adults I know still struggle with this daily.

There are many parts to the puzzle of happiness. The two most important pieces are inner happiness and outer happiness. I can say now (after much practice and training) that I have found inner happiness, and all the things I was doing to cultivate outer happiness, while fun, are much less important. The shift from making yourself temporarily happy to feeling true happiness only comes from within. I have learned and share the reality of “Play then pay vs. Pay then play” with the kids, and I have used my own life examples as illustrations.

Another view on happiness comes from a story related by Tony Robbins about changing your picture of happiness. Originally, I thought the story was more for adults than our VeloYouth kids, but as I shared it with them, I realized that it is an ageless example, as is most wisdom. I will paraphrase it here ... Tony met a lady who held an idea for her whole life that being married and having kids would make her happy. Well, this lady is now in her fifties, childless and twice divorced. If she held on to her original picture of happiness, her chance of being happy was dwindling. However, if she makes a few small shifts and allows herself to change her picture of happiness, then she can set a new path toward a new picture.

This leads to my final thought on finding true happiness, and maybe the most important part ­ following a path of honesty and integrity. Over the years, I have struggled with this, too. After years of looking inward, I realized the person I was most dishonest with was myself. This can and will lead to losing focus on what is truly important, as well as taking you farther away from finding your happiness. I found a tool to help me practice honesty and integrity. I find it very powerful to share with our VeloYouth kids. They don’t all act on it immediately, but knowing I have planted the seed and that they will use the tool when they’re ready, is a great feeling.

So here is the tool. Like many great tools, it is inexpensive and simple in theory, but it takes thought and work to create the benefits. It makes you be honest with yourself and leaves a footprint, not to look backwards, but to help you not repeat the past. You need two things to start: 1) a note pad and 2) a pen. On the front of your note pad, write all the things that make you feel good: compliments received, good choices or decisions made that day. Every good interaction, write it all down. Now take your note pad flip it over to the back and write down all the things that made you unhappy: the not­-so-­good choices and decisions, every negative interaction, the things that took you away from the path toward your goals.

After a while of daily entries, you will see your book grow. If you have been honest, you will read all the things that have made you happy and you will also see the things that did not. Now the challenge is to take all the entries from the back of your book and read them, own them, and change them. Take the time to absorb all that you have written and make the positive choice to eliminate them.

Today, for me, the front of my book is filling up and the back is getting smaller and smaller. This alone helps me stay on my path. Even when the path changes, you are still living a life of happiness and integrity.

If you can do that, you will find your bliss; you will find you are surrounded with people who contribute to your well­being and help you grow.

A Word From Coach Matt: Moving Beyond Limits

These days many of my conversations revolve around Race Across America (RAAM). People are interested – “How much are you training?”  “Are you ready?” “How much will you sleep?” And on and on …

Most of my smarter friends wonder what the hell I'm thinking. Most of my cycling friends shrug their shoulders and say, ”Sure, why not?” As my life continues to change, as I learn more and more about myself, things that seemed concrete have now become flexible. Ideas that were important to me are not any longer. This game of life is ever changing; so are the goals and limits I live by.

With the help, love and support of friends and the “big talk” that comes with opening up, I realize that in the past, I placed many limits on myself and accepted the limits that others placed on me, as well. I allowed fear to hold me down and limit my belief in myself. I preferred not to set goals, that way I didn’t fail. This type of thinking allowed me to float – taking small successes as they came, but not making them happen. I pursued the easy wins, knowing there was little risk.

As I have learned more and more about myself, I realize that the only true failure is quitting. Goals and limits are guidelines, not finish lines. I have to reach high, without fear of failure and only with that freedom will I find my true strength. I can remove self-imposed limits and reject the limiting beliefs of others. I am stronger than I believed. I am smarter and can do more then I ever believed possible. I may not do anything in a way that most would call “traditional,” but that's ok since there is only one me and only one right way for me to live. I can go forward setting goals that align with how I want to live, while at the same time, making the world we live in a bit better.

Matt and Andrew (CEO of Equal Earth) are good friends on and off the bike.

With RAAM coming up and Equal Earth helping me move my limits, I look forward to the journey many start and few complete. I believe in myself and am surrounding myself with others who believe in me. When I reach Annapolis, Maryland, I will prove to myself that there are no goals that cannot be achieved, and that we are not bound by limits, unless we are filled with fear of failure.

I am driven by passion and goals. I will tap into my confidence, strength and friendships to move beyond the difficult times. I will be an example to the young adults with San Diego VeloYouth that anything they dream can be achieved with determination and confidence. While roads may go uphill, turn or fork, they never end if we don't quit.