abk: 2082

“You never know what life is like until you have lived it.”-Marilyn Monroe

Imagine you are 93 years old (like my son’s great grandmother that we all visited this week). Or imagine you are 87 (like my son’s great grandfather that we all see a couple of times per month). Or imagine you are 100 or 110 or whatever.

Did you do everything that you wanted with your life? Were your priorities in order according to you, or did you conform? Did you listen to others too much? Were you focused? Were you happy? Did you have regrets?

Now imagine you are 70. Same questions. Maybe you have 30 years left to live. Maybe you have two weeks.

Now imagine you are 37 like me. Same questions. Different context. Instead of “were”, let’s try “are”. Maybe the answers are a resounding “yes”. Maybe the answer is “soon” or “will be”. Maybe you liked my 671 day plan and are a work in progress.

If you passed away tomorrow, would you be pleased with how you spent your last seven days?

“When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is…try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader…you can change it, you can influence it…” -Steve Jobs

What if you could truly design your own lifestyle like the late Mr. Jobs designed his products? What if you could take the two or four or six things in this world that really light your heart on fire and truly design a life around them? Where every waking second, or close enough, you were doing something that was meaningful or that you enjoyed? What if everything else (I call it noise) could simply be ignored? Why isn’t that idea introduced in high school or college? What if I told you that simply DOING those things you are passionate about and SHOWING them to the world is broadening, influencing, and making the world a better place?

If you could do anything you wanted, what would that be? Would you be willing to sacrifice some of the things that the world tells you to care about, but that honestly don’t interest you or interest you anymore? Could you rid yourself of meaningless stuff? Would you be willing to go from living in 3,000 square feet to surviving in 800 square feet? Could you deal with the fact that your life “looks different”? What if you had to walk into a family reunion and tell everyone that you were unemployed while you did the work? What if people didn’t even consider what you were doing “work”?

Could you do it? Would you do it? So that you could do exactly what YOU wanted every single day.

“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama

What if pursuing your dreams, goals, and the process takes your whole life? What if it BECOMES your entire life? What if you never make a dime on it? Is that a failure? Is it a success? Is it noble or foolish, or does it really matter? Is money the compass? Does IT force you to do things you don’t want? What if you could live your dreams, but you had to reprogram yourself? When should you start? Is it even possible?

When I completed my collegiate soccer career, I did not feel like I was done. I felt like I was good enough. I felt like there was more.

I got a tryout with the Columbus Crew of the MLS over a snowy weekend in Cleveland, Ohio, with about 75 other players. DI kids, minor league professionals, and me. All dreamers.

There were four cuts that weekend, and I made it to the final one. But there, the truth became evident. My body couldn’t handle the rigors, and I just wasn’t good enough.

But I did it. I tried. Because I couldn’t have looked myself in the mirror if I hadn’t, and so I did. And I “failed”. And I was proud, and I still am.

“Just Do It.”-Nike

Have a great week. -Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

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The Golfing Chronicles: ⚡️⚡️

“dream big.”-abk

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I wake up between 6:30 and 7am every day now, and it is already about 2,000 degrees outside. As I go outside to walk the dogs, it is not uncommon for one of my six golf shirts to stick to my body.

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Somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30am, I make the ten minute drive to the golf course to begin my day’s work. I am well aware that my day’s work looks very different from most people’s day, but that does not make it any better or worse. It just makes it mine.

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Between 6:30 and 8:30am every day, I am a 37 year old in a 90 year old man’s body, battling my old friend ankylosis spondylitis every. single. day. Because of this, the same heat that keeps most people inside takes me outside. But damn it, soothing or not, it’s still hot.

After a few weeks of trying and tweaking and observing some semblance of a routine (God forbid), I’ve turned my first big corner. And it has me both excited and nervous, which is perfect.

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Most every day, I post a picture or video on Instagram of me golfing, and the amount of unsolicited feedback via DM, text, or otherwise has been quite useful. Words of encouragement, playful jokes, or very valuable tips from people who are actual golfers. It has turned a very solitary activity into something quite different knowing that multiple people care, proving once again that it takes a village to do anything.

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At this point, I am fully immersed in my golf goal. I feel my body changing. I feel my mind changing. I feel my spirit changing. This past week, I literally whispered to myself, “I think I can do this.”

It has been a slow, methodical grind, and it has only been 90+ days. I can only imagine what the next few months are going to look like. More heat. More aches. More aggravation courtesy of this beautiful game.

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Most days when I am in town, I now do a couple of hours on the range and then walk 9 holes. Walking 18 holes every day made my feet feel like I was walking on hot lava at night, so that was enough of that. Interestingly, the practice and repetition on the range provide the real value, although seeing my scores get lower and lower and lower is indeed very rewarding.

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I shot 79 the other night in Iowa over 18 holes and then shot a crisp 37 over 9 just a few days later back in Mississippi. Those are still outliers, but every single facet of my game is getting better, tighter, and crisper, and the scores are getting consistently lower.

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Most days, I have an internal conflict that combats increasing confidence with a “don’t get ahead of myself” mentality. Because the game, just like life, has a way of jumping up and biting me the moment I think I have it figured out. But on the other hand, if I don’t have the confidence, I am dead.

When I started this journey in April, I just wanted to get better. “Get really good” is what I told most people. Some of them laughed. I was not joking.  Now, in July, I have an attainable goal of having a single digit handicap by the end of the month (getting much, much better). I’ve found myself getting really serious. As I approach each shot, I find my heartbeat slowing, my focus sharpening, and my breath steadying. That’s a lot different from me walking up to my ball and wondering what’s for dinner that night.

I am the one who has done the work, but I am so appreciative of everyone that has taken an interest in this portion of the journey. The person who suggested a swing change. The person who suggested a grip change. The pros at the club who are willing to help in any way possible.

I don’t know that many people have heard something quite like my story, where a 37 year old just quits “work” to “play” golf every day. Except work is exactly what I do, not ordering beers until after I am done, when I am ready to pour a cold 12 pack over my head.

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I started as an unofficial 14-ish handicap, went to 13.2, then 12.5, now 11.2, and trending towards a 9.7. Even now, the probability of getting to a 0 in my situation is less likely than getting struck by lightning TWICE, I’ve heard. But last week I thought to myself, “You know what, I bet a 37 year old dude with active ankylosing spondylitis running two New York City Marathons was also highly improbable.”

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And that’s when I told myself for likely not the last time, “Keep your focus son. There’s a lot of noise out there.  Own your life story.”

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .

Roads Scholar: From Mississippi to Minnesota

“North Dakota is going to be the outlier. I just know it. I’m going to have make a special trip. Maybe Fargo for ESPN GameDay? Yes, that sounds promising.”-abk

After my trek through the heart of the country last week, I have now explored roughly 80% of this great nation. As a statistic, it is pointless, but as an activity, it has been life-changing.

This particular trip started out as an idea. An ambitious idea. It always does. And it ended with me driving almost 3,000 miles over a week across 10 states, some familiar and some brand new.

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What did you do?

I golfed in Iowa and South Dakota with my friend Jay; visited an exotic cat refuge in Arkansas; explored Jackson, Mississippi; ate BBQ pork spaghetti in Memphis, Tennessee; watched a Cardinals game in St. Louis, Missouri; watched the Women’s PGA Championship in Chaska, Minnesota; explored Omaha, Nebraska; witnessed first hand the devastating floods in Missouri and Iowa; drove Route 66 in Miami, Oklahoma; and explored the coolest town you’ve never heard of called Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

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I love the Midwest. The people are nice, normal, helpful, community-oriented, and just downright good. It doesn’t matter if it is Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Kansas City, St, Louis, or somewhere in Iowa. I have had that same good experience everywhere. The Midwest represents everything that I sometimes wish I was.

So you’ve explored 40 of the 50 states? What should we know?

Everyone is exactly the same. Everywhere. Everyone wants health and happiness and purpose and “success”, and it just gets a little twisted along the way. On this trip, I met newspaper publishers from Iowa, farmers from Illinois, Native Americans from Oklahoma, a historian from Arkansas, and a tourist from Utah. In their own way, everyone wanted the same damn thing.

So why is everyone still so afraid, or shall I say timid, around each other?

Because we are all completely different, obviously, and I think we are wired to be scared of what we don’t understand. The 40 states might as well be 40 different planets, probably more.

So we are exactly the same but completely different?

Pay attention, please. In different countries, states, cities, towns, and neighborhoods, our wanting of the same things is masked by very different qualities. Cultures, traditions, religions, behaviors, attitudes, personalities, ego, bravado, insecurities, money, power, lack of education or experience, cowboy hats, fancy clothes, and so on. But for me, that’s what makes real exploration so interesting. If you peel back all the layers, you should be able to have a drink with anybody.

Why did you go to Iowa of all places?

I like to see people in their natural habitat, and I have a friend there. The concept of vacation as an escape left me years ago. That’s why I went to Mexico City instead of Cancun. That’s why I preferred Bologna to Milan or Venice. And that’s why I went to Iowa, amongst others.

It’s a major theme of our now infamous annual golf buddy trip (coming again in September). Sure, we hit up some touristy stuff, but at least one day is dedicated to local everything. What’s your life like? Let us see and feel how you live.  People have immense pride in what is “theirs”.

So what’s the point of all of this?

Other than the obvious, there are a few things.

Selfishly, I think it would be very cool to have friends in all 50 states and all 195 countries. Like a big, global family.

But truthfully, once I started really exploring, I realized how narrow-minded my worldview was. I was embarrassed, but I knew it was something I could fix. So off I went, and once I felt both my heart expanding and breaking (depending on the circumstance), I knew I was on to something. And quite honestly, I became obsessed with seeing, doing, and feeling everything. I don’t see this changing any time soon.

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195 countries, huh?

Yeah.  I’m just getting started. Stay tuned.

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .

The Comfort Zone Chronicles

Last night, in rural Iowa, I slept in a camper for the first time. Interestingly, I have not slept in my own bed for 133 days now. I honestly don’t even know what that feels like anymore.

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Sure, I like my 8 hours of sleep each night, but it’s the other 16 hours every day that now have my full and undivided attention.

When I wrote the piece Finding True Freedom  right before I left North Carolina, maybe you wondered what I meant by “true freedom”. It’s a valid question, and one that has many answers.

Two of the main categories that I was referencing were freedom to go see the world and freedom to live outside.

As I publish this piece, I am just leaving Chaska, Minnesota. I am roughly 1,031 miles away from the current bed that I sleep in that, you guessed it, isn’t mine.

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I am also smack in the middle of a weeklong walkabout through the heart of the country, seeing people and places both familiar and brand new.

This is what I love to do. It takes a fair amount to get me truly excited these days, but when it is travel week, I get butterflies deep down reminiscent of piano recital night when I was a kid.

At some point, I had to listen to the butterflies. They were telling me something. “You love the road, Benj. Go.”

That’s all well and good, except I’m not 18 years old with no responsibilities, so I can’t just be gone all the time. If I can do one solid exploration or two smaller ones each month, my tank (and wallet to some extent) remain full.

During the non-travel weeks, I must play outside. Gone are the days of staring out a window on a perfect spring or fall day, wishing and wanting and wondering.

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Do you know who my new best friend is in Biloxi?  The weatherman aka the weather, man (shout out Jay-Z).

I take a peek a couple of times per day to see what the day and week is looking like, and assuming I see sunshine, I start to feel the butterflies again.

Now that Banks is back in school, I can easily spend 4-6 hours at the golf course each day, take a quick break, then spend another couple of hours with he and Christy fishing, crabbing, or God knows what. It just has to be outside. And as you can imagine, most every bar and restaurant down here has ample outdoor seating (and cheap, cold beer).

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Isn’t it hot outside?

Yes, but the heat relieves my aches.

Isn’t it hard to be away sometimes?

Absolutely, but it’s also extremely healthy. Plus, I have to be who I am. Plus, I have a dream (shout out MLK, Jr.).

Every morning I walk the 30 seconds down to the water and watch the sunrise. Every night I walk the 30 seconds down to the water and watch the sunset. Every few weeks I hit the road. I always have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, and we are even starting to catch our own food. It ain’t fancy, but it’s exactly what I CONSCIOUSLY signed up for. Because after some real self-reflection, my life priorities shifted, and it would have been foolish to just sit there and stay the same.

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Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .

Owning My Life Story (and not much else)

“It’s my life, not yours. It’s your life, not theirs.”-abk

(To me)-So, what do you do?

(Me)-A lot, but so there is no confusion, I am, by society’s definition, unemployed.

I’m sorry.

No worries. It’s by choice.

Oh. Where do you live?

Currently, I split time between my in-laws’ Mississippi family farm and a small cabin on the Gulf Coast. Neither are mine.

Sounds tricky.

Everyone does their part. I mow large swaths of grass to pay rent. I am extremely grateful.

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Where’s your stuff?

In these bags.

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All of it?

I have my golf clubs too. And some hats.

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So what do you do to make money?

Nothing currently.

Is your family independently wealthy?

No. Just saved a few bucks over the years and have very little to pay for right now. I have confidence that if I ever desperately need a dollar or two I have the skills to go find a job.

Interesting mindset.

I’m simply fully betting on myself. I’ve got some massive dreams I finally got the courage to pursue.

So what do you do all day?

Whatever I want. But to be specific, play with my son. Read, write, and take photographs. Play golf. Have big family dinners like many cultures do.

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Every day?

Yep. I try to grind, get better, and celebrate every day.

Does that get old?

Silly question.

Do you have a car?

I need it to travel.

Where to?

Anywhere and as often as possible. The more real, the better.

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The more real?

Yeah. I went to Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina last week. Next week I am headed to Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota. Real places.

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You know there are a lot of real problems out there that could use addressing while you are out gallivanting?

I am quite aware of what’s going on out there.  Actually, more aware than ever.  Your perspective changes when you see it with your own two eyes and feel it deep down. Also, I’m not gallivanting.

Okay then smarty pants, what’s the biggest problem that you see?

That people don’t pay enough attention to themselves and what they individually really want and need, not realizing then that their capacity to fulfill their life’s purpose will shoot through the roof. Been there myself, and I see it all the time. So bringing that to light is part of my life’s work, and that’s basically what I focus on all day.

I’ve already got a regular audience of a few hundred people, whom I appreciate very much. I understand that it may take a while for  more people to find me (my fault not theirs) and truly understand what it is I am trying to do.

Audience?

Yeah, anythingbutkhakis.com.

Well I’ll be damned. You ARE doing some work.

I told you. I’m not just gallivanting. I am trying to do something no one has ever done before and help as many people as I can pursue their own dreams along the way.

Anything I can do to encourage open mindedness and free thinking and making your own path to happiness, I am more than willing to do.

Would you wear khakis?

anything but that.

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Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .

 

The Mississippi Chronicles: Daring to Dream

“Played any golf lately?”-normal conversation starter

There is something inside of me that just wants to play. Until I was 23, that was what I knew, albeit in a different sport. Then it was time to become an adult, when continuing to play was deemed unlikely and borderline irresponsible.

That’s when most people (myself included) become bankers or insurance agents or real estate brokers to the players, or better yet, simply spectators.

As much as I love watching sports, my drive to play is still there. Last year, I (correctly) gave up competitive soccer. The last two years, I ran two marathons more as a symbol of humanity and hope than anything. And my arthritis is still ever present, but the blistering Mississippi heat gives me hours of reprieve each day.

So…during those hours, I golf. Or more simply put, at 37 years old, I gave myself permission to play again.

I have never been much of a self-doubter, but as my personal goals have gotten loftier, sometimes even I wonder what the hell I am doing. I didn’t grow up with the game, I am not getting any professional advice just yet, and golf is a massively complex problem with pitfalls around every corner.

But…I love to solve problems. And damn it, I love the game.

First, though, I had to come off of the 15 day disabled list, nursing a tender back riddled with wonderful memories. On April 17, 2019, the official start of the golfing journey, I was back in business.

Since then (45 days), I have played 23 rounds and hit the range on 12 other days. Many days, I do both.  Most rounds I walk, which is a roughly 6 mile stroll in 95 degree heat (heat index 110).  It is a solitary exercise, with at least 75 percent of my time spent alone. I’ve hit thousands of balls. I use foam rollers and exercise bands and stretch and do core exercises like most people watch Netflix. Equally as important, I do mental exercises to keep my mind sharp and engaged.

Did I mention that I completely revamped my swing? Do you have any idea how annoying it is to take 9 steps backwards before taking that first little step forward? Do you have any idea how much energy it takes to simply breathe in the Mississippi heat, much less focus?  Some days, I don’t want to do the work, but I do. Some days I ask, “Is this really possible?”, and I have to have a brief word with myself. “Do the work. It’s an honest reflection of who you are and who you want to be.”

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For those of you wondering, there is no “prize”. No money. No trophy. No nothing. When I finally allowed myself to go beat hundreds of balls in the immense summer heat day after day with no cash or press clippings or Gucci watch looming, I discovered the real reward.

Have a great week.-Benj

Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis and @abkgolf.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com .