Men at Age 50 – How do you Feel?

I don’t know what it is about the age of 50 that often brings injuries, tough times or dire consequences in regards to the health of a man. It’s probably a combination of things including but not limited to:

a) An unhealthy lifestyle coming back to haunt a man in the form of sickness or death

b) Getting older

c) Trying to live a life of a man 10 or 20 years younger

d) Previous stress that has built up over the years

e) Karma

In some cases, it’s simply bad luck or fortune not smiling on an individual.

I started thinking about this in 2009 when Michael Jackson died at the age of 50 although his problems were plentiful. Within the last month, I’ve heard of several men suffering and/or dying. I know one, met another and the last man I heard of through a family member. Two died rather suddenly while the third man recovered after some very scary moments. All were 50.

As we creep over 40 and sneak up on 50, some of us do push ourselves as if we were back in our collegiate days. Recently, a good friend (age 46) came back from a skiing trip and I inquired about his health as I figured that he might have thrown “caution to the wind”. He admitted that he pushed himself too much and had to go the doctor upon his return. He has had leg problems so he should have been more careful and was fortunate to avoid a serious injury.

I wrote about this subject in a 2009 article called “45 is the new 35 (not 25)”. The link and a quote are below:

A message to all 40 something’s or older – stay within your abilities or comfort zone when competing athletically and don’t try to act as if you are twenty again. I have seen numerous people injured (often with pain for years) simply because they trained or competed as if they were still in college. A woman in my hometown was playing softball and ran the bases as if she was a track star; she never made it to home base and died. If she had run easily and comfortably, she might be on this earth today. Quality of life should be important and as we get older there needs to be a focus of sound judgment in any chosen athletic endeavor or you could have an aching knee or bad back for the rest of your life.

Take it easy men (and women) around middle age. That doesn’t mean that you can’t live life to the fullest - it means that one’s health and the elements (proper nutrition, exercise, “Me Time”, giving, loyalty, etc) that go into keeping one’s body, mind and spirit in top form should be a priority.

As I have said and wrote on more than one occasion, “There is nothing more important than our health”.

Men, we sometimes forget those aforementioned words in our competitive and fast-paced world so consider this a gentle reminder.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede can't wait for summer 2011 in southern Sweden!. (Picture is from summer 2007)

Sorrento, Italy – Beautiful Place (Hope to see more of it next time!)

It’s ironic that I was reading the autobiography of the tennis player, Andrea Agassi during my journey earlier this month to Sorrento, Italy.

While our lives have been and are very different, we do share one thing in common – during his tennis career he visited wonderful places around the world yet never got the chance to truly explore the cities due to the focus and pressure of tennis tournaments. Likewise, my current career takes me to a nice European city twice a year although there is never time to get the true sense of the region because of the diverse information that needs to be absorbed during the conference. Oh well. Could be worse!

I have always enjoyed Italy, having spent numerous weeks in the north - great places like Florence, Rome, Padua, Rimini and Venice. Having never been to the southern part, I was excited to get a small taste of Sorrento (which overlooks the Bay of Naples). It didn’t disappoint.

During the day, we were in full work mode although we did get to venture out to the square at night to enjoy the delicious Italian food. In addition, the temperature was around 12-13 celsius every day which was a pleasant difference from the cold in Sweden! One consistent quality about Italy is the wonderful food. Each time I have been there, the food has been delicious whether I was in a private home or restaurant.

Even though there was no time to explore Sorrento, the beauty of the place was captivating. During the drive to the hotel, there were marvelous scenes of water, mountains and quaint locations. Also, we were fortunate to have a meeting room during the week that had a picturesque view of Sorrento.

I would enjoy going back one day to get a full sense of the region including areas close to Sorrento - Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Amalfi Coast.

For those who have never been to Italy, I encourage you to consider it for your next vacation. In my opinion, it’s one of those countries that is a “must see” in a lifetime.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede during a break in the meeting - Sorrento, Italy

The Beauty of a Small Town

Recently, my family moved from the “Big Apple” of Scandinavia (Stockholm) to a small town in southern Sweden. The reasons were plentiful including my wife’s new job, closer to family, a calmer lifestyle and a more ideal place for our kids to grow up.

As we were settling into our new house, I was casually thinking that one of our neighbors might welcome us with a home baked pie or something similar. I had never experienced it although I saw it plenty of times in the movies. Maybe this is what happens in small communities I thought.

A few nights later, as our kids were eating a snack, we heard a knock on the door. To our pleasant surprise it was a neighbour holding a “fresh from the oven” cake that smelled absolutely divine. It brought smiles to all of our faces! What a beautiful gesture.

By the way, the cake tasted just as heavenly as it smelled with Gswede devouring most of it fortunately (taste) or unfortunately (calories and sugar).

Since I have never lived in a small town other than my hometown (doesn’t count), I’m hoping this is one of many beauties that will occur.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

The beauty surrounding a small community (picture by Peter while fishing)

A Star Athlete’s "Giving" Inspiration

While reading the paragraph below, I couldn’t help but get a bit emotional. That this athlete would sit at the side of Aiden (who was dying) until he woke up was powerful.

They became texting buddies and, one day, Sanchez surprised Aiden’s parents by asking, “Can I come over?” When Sanchez arrived, the boy was sleeping. Sanchez sat at Aiden’s feet, waiting until he woke up.

“He opened his eyes and there was Mark, sitting on the couch,” Lisa said. “He was so sweet.”

They ended up having a long conversation, like a couple of old friends. Aiden took Sanchez to his bedroom and showed him his sports stuff, including his hockey stick. He gave Sanchez a camouflage bracelet with the inscription “Binkley’s Battle.” Sanchez and Keller were wearing the bracelets Wednesday in the Jets’ locker room.

Rather than attempting to wax poetic about the New York Jets quarterback, Mark Sanchez and his inspiration for a dying boy, I’ll let the story speak for itself.

Suffice it to say that this star athlete went above and beyond in order to make a very sick boy happy – if only for a few special moments.

I encourage you to read this article from ESPN as it may inspire you to improve your giving or helping of others.

You will find the story below in its entirety.

Happy Gswede Sunday!
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez went to work Tuesday, preparing for a big football game. Some 40 miles away, a little boy from Queens, N.Y., was buried -- a friend of the New York Jets quarterback.

Sanchez and Aiden Binkley, 11, met each other only a few weeks ago, but they became fast friends. Binkley was suffering from a rare form of cancer, and he had only two wishes -- he wanted his two brothers to stay healthy and he wanted to meet Sanchez.

And so he did.

Aiden visited the Jets' training facility Dec. 15, and he received the VIP treatment, as if he were a big-name player making a free-agent visit. He watched practice and was escorted to owner Woody Johnson's second-floor office, where he met Antonio Cromartie, Dustin Keller, Mike Devito and others.

And, finally, Sanchez. The people who were there say Aiden's face lit up like Broadway at night.

"He sat there, beaming and smiling," said Aiden's mother, Lisa Binkley, who initially wasn't sure if it was a good idea to make the trip because Aiden was in such pain.

"Nothing meant more to him than coming here and meeting Mark and meeting the Jets," Keller said quietly Wednesday in the Jets' locker room. "Great kid ... a tough situation."

The 24-year-old quarterback was immediately taken by Aiden and his upbeat personality and his love of the Jets. A few days later, Sanchez & Co. beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh -- the biggest win of the season -- and Sanchez sent his new friend a game ball.

Sanchez was deeply touched by Aiden, who battled rhabdomyosarcoma, according to a 2008 New York Daily News article. There was a lemon-sized tumor that spread from his pelvis to his lungs, and he required 60 weeks of chemotherapy.

They became texting buddies and, one day, Sanchez surprised Aiden's parents by asking, "Can I come over?" When Sanchez arrived, the boy was sleeping. Sanchez sat at Aiden's feet, waiting until he woke up.

He opened his eyes and there was Mark, sitting on the couch," Lisa said. "He was so sweet."

They ended up having a long conversation, like a couple of old friends. Aiden took Sanchez to his bedroom and showed him his sports stuff, including his hockey stick. He gave Sanchez a camouflage bracelet with the inscription "Binkley's Battle."

Sanchez and Keller were wearing the bracelets Wednesday in the Jets' locker room.

"My man, Aiden ... breaks my heart," Sanchez said Tuesday during his weekly spot on "The Michael Kay Show" on 1050 ESPN Radio. "He's so tough."

Sanchez, choked with emotion, paused several times as he talked about Aiden, whom he met through the Teddy Atlas Foundation. Atlas, the boxing trainer and ESPN analyst, was a Jets special assistant under former coach Eric Mangini.

"He brought me so much inspiration. ... It's hard to talk about him," Sanchez said. "He meant the world to me. I felt like I've known him forever. ... I saw his personality. I saw his competitive spirit. I saw him fighting every day.

"I'm complaining about a shoulder. Are you kidding me? ... I think he was 11 years old, and he has cancer eating away at his body," Sanchez continued. "This kid is fighting every day. He's smiling every time I talk to him. I visited him at his home. I mean, he has to get carried up the stairs because he's so weak and all he wants to talk about is LT [LaDainian Tomlinson] and Darrelle Revis and Rex Ryan and me.

"Oh, man, it kills you, just thinking about it. I love him to death."

Mark Sanchez and Aiden Binkely. (Photo from Binkely family)

Take your Life Up (or down) a Notch in 2011!

My first article for this blog in 2008 was called, “Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago”. 4 years is a good time to reflect and look back to see if your life has improved, is simmering in mediocrity or has gone down hill. Here’s the link:

My kick-off article in 2009 dealt with the benefits of life and how we need to focus on them. The link is below:

My first article in 2010 was titled, “A Voice of Reason”. The main theme centered on the need for having one or more voices in order to help us live the life we desire. The link:

Since I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions (most don’t stick to them), I embrace the beginning of each year with the intention of finding ways in which I can improve the benefits in my life.

“Taking it UP (or down) a Notch” is my focus in 2011.

Everyone has parts of their life that they adore or enjoy whether it be hobbies, family, work, playing with your kids, sports, “Me Time”, cooking, getting a massage, networking or simply relaxing. Whatever your particular passion may be, I encourage you to embrace it even more in 2011. Or if you have not started that book you want to write or begun the exercise you desire, there is no time like the present to move forward! Take it up a notch.

Life should be about getting as much FUN out of it as you can so why not increase the level of pleasure with those things you most enjoy. I enjoy running and have made it a priority to improve my jogging consistency in 2011. In addition, I want to take my “helping of others” to a new level.

This year, I’ve added a new twist to my goals - including lessening or getting rid of elements that don’t add value to my life or I don’t enjoy. Thankfully, there aren’t many although there are a few that will be firmly decreased as they are counter-productive and often waste my time.

I understand that certain elements of our life must be dealt with whether we enjoy them or not. In my opinion, most things we don’t like or are not pleasant for us are BY CHOICE. Can you or people you know relate to any of these?

 In a relationship or marriage that should have ended years ago

 Keeping a friend in your life who is negative or doesn’t add value

 Family members who don’t have your best interests in mind

 Drama at work because you don’t enjoy it or are only in it for the money

 Keeping people in your life because you have known them a long time and not because you enjoy them

 Being irresponsible with your choices by throwing caution to the wind

 Needlessly wasting money on things you don’t need

 Eating in abundance or being addicted to a certain type of food

 “Making money” being one’s sole focus

 Having quality mentors yet not listening to their advice

If you can relate to any of the aforementioned, I implore you to do something about it while you still have the chance. Don’t be afraid to tackle the problem head on because if you have a person, action or job that is bringing you down or adding negativity to your life, where is the benefit for you? Take it down a notch!

This paragraph from my benefits article in 2009 sums up my philosophy on taking care of YOU first in order to be at full strength for maximizing the enjoyment of life:

M) You are # 1 – If you are not, how can you live a good life or benefit others? People tend to forget that taking care of YOU FIRST is the most important thing in life. Living life for others or through others is a sure way to experience a HO HUM existence. There are many ways to achieve this no matter how busy you are in life. One is to act on a passion you have and make sure to do it every week if only for an hour. Surely you can spare an hour? You will be surprised how that one hour enhances your life. I have been thinking about starting a blog for years but never acted on it. I finally began it last year during one of the busiest times in my life and the benefits have been amazing!

Things that don’t add joy and/or value to your life are “time wasters” and I don’t think anyone reading this wants to waste the precious and often short time we have.

Take Your Life up (or down) a Notch, depending on where your life is right now.

The best thing is to always be searching for ways to do this whether it is January, June or November. Positive change is never easy although those bold enough to do it often experience joy and/or peace of mind that they never thought possible.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede looks forward to every year including 2011!