Free Your Happiness: the only thing you need to live a happy life

What I learned from the happiest person I ever knew.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been dealt a pretty damn good hand—loving parents, an inspiring sister and brother-in-law, an incredible girlfriend, delightful childhood memories, lifelong friends, decent athletic abilities, solid genes (at least I like to think so), and unmatched life experiences. On top of already having more than enough to be happy, I was also given one of the most special gifts of all—a best friend—a mentor—a cheerleader—an evangelist—and an eternal soul mate—my Grandma.

Yet—with a life I couldn’t have drawn up any better, there are days I’m still not happy.

But thanks to her, those days don’t happen often.

She showed me the only thing I’ll ever need to be one of the happiest—if not—the happiest person on earth.

It’s not about what you want, it’s about what you got.

And it’s not all about what you got either.

It’s much more than that.

It’s about what you’ve built. It’s about standing when you don’t have to sit. It’s about giving your time and energy back to the planet and the people on it. It’s about being selfless and a seasoned listener. It’s about taking deep breaths. It’s about working hard to give your loved ones a greater life. It’s about being captivated by the lives of others. It’s about clearing your mind of all negative judgment. It’s about jumping out of your chair with uncontrollable joy when a loved one just shows up to say hi. It’s about positively energizing everything you touch. It’s about dancing the night away. It’s about being a better friend—a better mother—and a better Grandma. And it’s about seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, and hearing what life has to offer while you still have it.

You’d think I was describing the Dalai Lama, but I’m talking about my Grandma and how she lived her life.

I wish I could truly describe the type of women she was, but no words other than perfection come even remotely close.

She was just… beyond remarkable.

In order to truly appreciate the highs, you need some lows.

She wasn’t dealt the best hand. She grew up a poor farmer in Wisconsin, didn’t have many toys to play with, had to go to the bathroom in a pot in the winter because the pipes to her house would freeze, and her husband died in her 40s leaving her with 3 children—no driver’s license—and no good means to make a great life for her family.

Yet—with a life many would trade away, she found a way to live a legendary one.

Even though she didn’t have much to many, to her she had the world.

She had love, food, a roof over her head, 3 beautiful children, her health, and her faith.

What more could one need to be happy?

There was one thing.

Appreciation.

And she had every letter of it.

My Grandma was able to achieve such an abundantly rich, happy, and long life (95 years) because of her mentality. She showed me that the root of all our happiness stems from one very thing—appreciating the things we have. Because at the end of the day, a lot of us have already won the lottery.

Picasso once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

Well, World Wide Web, Marcella Geneva Swiggum found life—and then she gave it all away.

Because of her, I have the only card I need to live a happy life.

Keep flying and thanks for reading!

~Swiggum

What do you got?

Clothes on your back?

Shoes on your feet?

A book? A bike? A phone? A car? A vacation? A job? A friend? A family?

The ability to…

Walk?

Talk?

Smile?

Choose?

Think?

Remember?

Taste?

Touch?

See?

Smell?

Hear?

The ability to…

Breathe?

For just a moment, slow down your busy day and really think about everything you have—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Think. about. every. little. thing…

Got them?

Good.

Now think about how those little things came to be…

Got it?

Even better.

Now figure out how you can appreciate every tiny molecule of every little thing you have—more.

Because if you can do that…

I’d bet…

You’re already smiling.

Help others fly higher.

If this post brought a little more positivity or perspective to your life, please pass it on to someone you know who’d benefit from it as well:

  • Share this post using the social buttons below
  • Click here to ‘like’ FLYGHT on Facebook
  • Click here to ‘follow’ FLYGHT on Twitter
  • Get my blog posts delivered to your inbox by following FLYGHT (see here)
    Please note that I’m a believer in quality—not quantity. Plan on only hearing from me every once in a while. But when you do, expect something that’ll help you lead a happier, wiser, or more entrepreneurial life. 

Add to the conversation.

Have a short story about someone who’s positively changed your life? Please feel free to share it in the comments because I’m sure someone out there will be able to benefit from it too.

My race against time and how you can help me cross the finish line—faster

[Updated: 2/18/17]

A new day, a new opportunity.

A new opportunity to do something you never thought you’d do in your lifetime.

While taking a spin class a few weeks back, the instructor was talking about New Year’s resolutions and how “it’s not about the size of your waist, but rather, it’s about the size of your heart!” Not going to lie, the guy had me in my zone. But then, something punched me in my gut. I sat there on my bike (peddling my ass off of course) and I thought to myself… why does it take so many people nearly an entire year to all of a sudden get inspired to take control of their life again?

I decided right then that this year is going to be different—that I’m not going to wait around anymore “to get back on the bike”.

Life’s too short to wait for your waistline to get smaller. Life’s too short to wait for the things you want in your life. And it’s definitely too short to wait around for your dreams to come true.

Because if you wait, they’ll likely never happen. And the last thing I want in my life is, well, nothing to happen.

We only get one shot and it’s why I’m going to work on treating every day I have—for the rest of my life—like a New Year.

And it’s part of the reason I’ve decided to sign up for my first major run ever—the Ojai Marathon on May 29th, 2016!

I mean, I’ve always wanted to test how much gas I got in my tank, but 26.2 miles!

Are you f’in kidding me?

Nope.

It’s real people and I’m going to give it every little ounce of Swiggum energy I got.

For context, my dad used to run a mile in 4 minutes 27 seconds. I’ve played competitive sports my entire life, and I ran my last half-marathon in 1 hour 35 minutes—so I can compete. But 26.2 miles is a whole different beast.

And now that my entry is in, my AirBnB is booked, and I’ve tricked my mind into enduring a never-ending run of torture, I’ve decided to raise the bar even higher.

To run it in under 3 hours and 30 minutes—that’s an 8 minute mile pace.

Furthermore, with a feat much taller than me, I’ve decided I need more to hold me accountable so I keep training.

That’s why I’m dedicating this run to my Uncle Jimbo (James Rack) who’s been battling Parkinson’s for nearly 20 years of his life, to my mom and dad who’ve given me the world, and to my family, friends and anyone else out there who’s fighting against a life-altering disease.

At this very moment, I’m aware of how fortunate I am and how fragile life really is. And that the kind of pain I’m going to experience during the race will never even come close to the hardship one faces when fighting for his or her life.

That’s why this race against time is going to be for them.

And for me—it’s not, as you may think, going to be a race against time. But rather, each step is going to be a constant reminder that we need to make the most of every moment we have.

That’s why I’m treating every day like a New Year.

“A puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king.” – Sinatra

theartist

That’s my Uncle Jimbo and he’s been an integral part in painting the man I’ve become.

I grew up building things with him: bird houses, ponds, zen gardens, kit sailboats, kayaks, forts, CO2-powered pinewood derby cars, and many other creative projects.

He’s taught me how to paint (well kind of); how to love adventure and the great outdoors; how to not f*ck things up when they’re good; how to be kind to even the littlest creatures on this planet; how to keep my inner-child alive; how to let my imagination fly wild; how to laugh louder than yesterday, and arguably the most important lesson of all—to be able to see and create things when it appears to many—that there’s nothing.

He’s the ultimate spiritual warrior.

And I owe him a lot.

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” – Ali

golf

Unfortunately, my Uncle Jimbo was diagnosed with Parkinson’s many years back and I’ve watched it try to knock him out over and over again. Yet—he continues to show the world he’s a champion. When I was little, he used to pick me up by his bicep and tell me that he was tough as steel.

He wasn’t lying.

Last March, I was fortunate enough to be able stay with Jim on the island of Kauai for 10 days. He went to school there some 50 years ago with his two brothers and that led to him escaping the frozen winters of Wisconsin ever since. (I don’t blame him!)

During our time together, we stayed in a little beach hut, woke up with the warmth of the sun and the songs of Kauai, started our day with some stretching and meditation, and then moved on to our favorite little cafe to keep the day rolling.

After a nice cup of hot joe, some sweets (you’ll always find some in his pocket), a little work on the interwebs, and a few casual conversations with some beautiful wahines (the ladies love him), we’d head out to explore the inspiration of the island.

We’d snorkel, kayak, beachcomb, eat Papaya off the trees, visit friends, smell the plumerias, play the Uke, paint, laugh, joke, talk life, golf, and drink beers sitting out in the Taro fields amongst one of the most beautiful backdrops my eyes have ever seen.

They are days I’ll never forget and I still dream about how I can make them happen more often.

They were just so… full of life.

One more wave.

hanalei

One day, as we were sitting on the beach in Hanalei bay, Jim says “Let’s go for a bodysurf”. I replied, “Jim, you sure?” He looked at me as if I was crazy. I was in Hawaii nearly 10 years earlier surfing waves with him and here we are at it again.

Before you know it, Jim is diving through the waves like a torpedo. We ride a few party waves together, and after about 20 minutes, I say, “Alright Jim, we should probably go take a rest”. As we start to head back to the shore, he turns around to me with a smile and says…”Just one more wave”. So we go back out for another ride. And another. And another.

I had to pretty much pull him out of the ocean that day.

It was one of those moments I’ll cherish forever.

Never give up.

keepexploring

Ever since he’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he’s had this intensely competitive mentality to never give up on living his life of adventure and fun—and he really hasn’t.

But the disease is starting to slow him down.

There are times you can tell he’s not really with you. His short-term memory is starting to fade away. And his legs have been burning like hell.

Yet, this last Christmas he still continued to be—the zen master, the explorer, the jokester, the laugher, the captain, the raconteur, the ladies’ man, and the artist—he’s always been.

I may never truly know what it’s like to battle against such a horrible disease. But if I do, my Uncle Jimmy has showed me the mentality I need to ride just one more wave. If he can battle Parkinson’s, beat cancer, and make it through the Vietnam War, I have no choice but to embrace the good pain my body can endure while it still can.

Like Sinatra says and Jimbo often likes to sing…

“That’s life (that’s life), I tell you I can’t deny it

I thought of quitting, baby, but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it

And if I didn’t think it was worth one single try

I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king

I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing

Each time I find myself layin’ flat on my face

I just pick myself up and get back in the race

That’s life.”

I’m running this marathon for my Uncle Jimbo and anyone else out there who’s fighting against Parkinson’s or any life-altering disease.

Again, they’re the ones fighting for their life.

I’m just the one running for it.

***

How you can help me cross the finish line faster.

On top of running my first marathon ever, I’ve decided to do my first fundraising campaign to hold me even more accountable. The donations will be made in my Uncle Jimmy’s name and 100% of the proceeds will go directly to the National Parkinson Foundation. The money will help the foundation continue to provide support and education to people with Parkinson’s and to further research for a potential cure.

My goal is to raise $500 and it comes with a catch. The more money raised, the faster I’m going to run on race day!

Here’s two simple ways you can help people with Parkinson’s disease and me run faster:

  • Click here to donate whatever amount you can afford (link expired)
  • Share this fundraiser link with anyone who may want to help (link expired)

Consider it your good deed for the day :).

Furthermore, I’m going to constantly update my training log below every week so you know I’m not cheating!

Thanks for all your love and support in advance, and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me here.

Marathon Results.

Final Marathon Time

  • 5/29/16: 26.2 miles in 3 hrs and 36 minutes (8:15 pace)

Money Raised for the National Parkinson’s Foundation

  • $650!

Again, thanks to everyone who donated to my fundraiser! It means the world to me and to anyone who is fighting against Parkinson’s disease.

My training updates.

May

  • 5/23/16: 2.15 miles (10:00 pace)
  • 5/21/16: 9.2 miles (8:06 pace)
  • 5/14/16: 19.2 miles (8:40 pace)
  • 5/12/16: 6 miles (6:55 pace)
  • 5/10/16: 1 hr basketball
  • 5/8/16: 3 mile hike
  • 5/7/16: 12 mile hike
  • 5/3/16: 1 hr basketball

April

  • 4/30/16: 16.5 miles (9:33 pace)
  • 4/26/16: 1 hr basketball
  • 4/23/16: 15.25 miles (8:48 pace)
  • 4/21/16: 6.1 miles (7:11 pace)
  • 4/19/16: 1 hr basketball
  • 4/17/16: 3 mile hike
  • 4/16/16: 14.13 miles (9:39 pace)
  • 4/12/16: 1 hr basketball
  • 4/9/16: Skied Mammoth Mountain
  • 4/7/16: 3.3 miles (6:42 pace)
  • 4/5/16: 1 hr basketball
  • 4/3/16: 10.01 miles (7:42 pace)
  • 4/2/16: 1 hr SUP

March

  • 3/30/16: 1 hr basketball
  • 3/29/16: 2.64 miles (6:46 pace)
  • 3/26/16: 1.5 hrs basketball
  • 3/18/16: Skied Copper Mountain
  • 3/12/16: 4.5 mile hike
  • 3/10/16: 5.25 miles (8:20 pace)
  • 3/8/16: 2.62 miles (6:38 pace)
  • 3/6/16: 8.17 miles (7:34 pace)
  • 3/4/16: 4.55 mile trail run (8:58 pace)
  • 3/2/16: 4.12 miles (6:52 pace)

February

  • 2/28/16: 9.7 miles (8:00 pace)
  • 2/27/16: 1.5 hour surf sesh
  • 2/24/16: 3.2 miles (6:37 pace)
  • 2/23/16: 2.62 miles (7:04 pace)
  • 2/21/16: 3.38 miles (7:42 pace)
  • 2/18/16: 3.2 miles (7:22 pace)
  • 2/16/16: 3.03 miles (7:41 pace)
  • 2/13/16: 8.29 miles (7:25 pace)
  • 2/11/16: SaMo stairs (5 times)
  • 2/9/16: 5.08 miles (7:20 pace)
  • 2/6/16: 8.2 miles (7:20 pace)
  • 2/5/16: 3 miles (watch died)
  • 2/3/16: 2.59 miles (7:00 pace)

January

  • 1/31/16: 5.9 miles (7:44 pace)
  • 1/30/16: 3.5 miles (7:20 pace)
  • 1/26/16: 2.5 miles (6:46 pace)
  • 1/25/16: 4 miles
  • 1/24:16: 3 mile hike + 5 mile run
  • 1/23/16: Santa Monica stairs (6 times)
  • 1/22/16: 3 miles
  • 1/20/16: Santa Monica stairs (5 times)
  • 1/18/16: 2 miles
  • 1/17/16: 2 mile trail run
  • 1/16/16: 4 miles
  • 1/15/16: 3 miles
  • 1/13/16: 3 miles
  • 1/12/16: 200 situps—100 pushups
  • 1/11/16: Santa Monica stairs (5 times)
  • 1/10/16: 3 mile trail run
  • 1/9/16: 18 mile mountain bike ride
  • 1/7/16: 1 hr spin class
  • 1/5/16: 1 hr spin class
  • 1/3/16: 2 mile trail run

Help others fly higher.

If this positively impacted your day, please share it with someone you know who would benefit from it too:

  • Share this post using the social buttons below
  • Click here to ‘like’ FLYGHT on Facebook
  • Click here to ‘follow’ FLYGHT on Twitter
  • Get my blog posts delivered to your inbox by following FLYGHT (see here)
    Please note that I’m a believer in quality—not quantity. Plan on only hearing from me every once in a while. But when you do, expect something that’ll help you lead a happier, wiser, or more entrepreneurial life. 

Add to the conversation.

Please share your thoughts or feedback to heighten the conversation.