So. Many. Choices.

I’ve got a book recommendation for you, but make sure you read through the mind-blowingly massive Words of Wisdom thought. I know I’m biased, but it’s pretty cool. And the link at the end is one of my favorites.

Book Recommendation
I’ve either spoiled you or annoyed you the past few months because I’ve had multiple book recommendations each month.

This month, I only have one.

Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
Annie Duke is a former professional poker player. 
She discusses her career, but she spends most of the book tying lessons she learned through poker back to real-life situations.

One of my favorite takeaways was the idea that, too often, we look at our lives like a chess match. 

In chess, you can trace back moves and find the exact moment that cost you the game. 
Had you done something different, you could’ve won the game.

Well, life doesn’t always work like that. Given her background, she says life is more like a poker hand.

In poker, you can make the correct bets, you can play the correct percentages, you could have all the cards in your favor and do everything right… and still lose. 

You could have a 98% chance of winning against your opponent, but then he or she gets that one card that could save them, and you lose.

I liked this explanation of life, and I enjoyed several other stories she shares in this book.

Astronomical Words of Wisdom

Can we talk about something that just absolutely blows my mind?

I geek out over really big things.
Like space.
Or massive numbers.
Or the odds of totally random things happening all at the same time.

So, there I was, listening to the Game of Thrones books, when two thoughts hit me really, really hard.

First – these books are long! 

Second – I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend these books in this newsletter, and I know they aren’t “real,” but the depiction of life in a dark-ages period makes me realize how grateful I am that I did not live in those times.

Unless reincarnation is a thing, in which case maybe I did live during those times, and I was a tall, skinny squire that was really good at handing lances to the knights on tall horses.

The wars, the disease, the general lack of humanity, the caste systems, the pillaging… I don’t know how anyone survived!

And this is where my epiphany came.

The odds of me even existing, based solely on my ancestors staying alive long enough to have kids seems remarkably low.

Factor in the even more reduced odds of every one of my ancestors finding a suitable mate to continue to the next generation, and the odds get even worse.

I’ve shared in previous newsletters how miraculous it was that I was able to persuade, or coax, or maybe blackmail is the right word… my wife into marrying me, and along both of our genealogical lines, I’m sure there are countless stories of some goofy boy trying to impress a fair maiden, only to make a fool of himself and get lanced through the chest during a jousting tournament.

Game of Thrones makes it sound like this happened All. The. Time.

And what if one, just ONE of my great-great-greats wasn’t suave enough to make it happen with a gal?  

Well… then I wouldn’t be here.

And same goes for you.

Not saying we are related.
More of a general – your ancestors had to deal with all of that, too – kind of thing.

So Many Choices

History, on a large scale – and then our individual lives, on a micro, more personal scale –  are made up of choices. 
Like… a silly amount of choices.

And I like to imagine the culmination of those choices forming a massive mosaic. 
The scene formed from all of these choices is huge, and it’s complex, and it’s beautiful.
It is full of the most vibrant colors you can imagine, and it forms the most astounding, indescribable scene of who you are as a soul.

It’s awesome.

However, now I want you to imagine walking up to this mosaic and getting really, really close.
You pull out a magnifying glass (those still exist, right?) to look even closer at what makes up this beautiful picture.
You hold that magnifying glass up close and you hone in on one of the individual pictures that represents a single choice you made during your life.

And as soon as it comes into focus… you recoil in horror.


Because this particular choice, the one that you just so happened to land on, is dark. 
REALLY dark.

It’s ugly.
It’s painful.
You are embarrassed.

Not just embarrassed, but you are ashamed of having to acknowledge that you, yes YOU, made this decision.

You’ve tried for years to forget this moment. And not only this moment, but the six or seven moments surrounding it, because they are similar colors, and they carry similar, unpleasant feelings.

You throw down the magnifying glass on the floor. It shatters into a thousand pieces, and you turn your back to this beautiful mosaic of your life, and you most definitely do not feel beautiful.

Life can be hard. 

For some, it is hard to lift themselves out of this feeling. 
For some, it feels impossible.

Those things happened. 
Those decisions were made. 
There’s no denying nor forgetting.


I hope that you, and I hope that I, can get up off the floor, ignore the shattered magnifying glass, take a step back, and recognize the miracle that is you.

And not just you, but every one of those millions of people who came before you.

They lived and they loved and they died so that you could exist – against all odds, just like you live and love and sacrifice and teach and fight so that those you care about don’t have to suffer quite as much as you have.

I don’t know how many more choices I’ll have in my life. I hope it’s A LOT more.
And, I know a lot of those choices are going to be wrong, and I’ll find myself sad and discouraged. 
But I also know that there have been so many cool and amazing things that I’ve been able to experience.


For whatever reason, my mind centers on love.
The last monumentally impossible experience.

We have the gift, or the ability, or maybe the cosmic whoopsie that allows us to love.

I have been loved to a degree that I could never understand until I became a parent.
I have found people in my life who I love more than life itself, and I’ve surrendered my heart and soul to them in a way that transcends those dark and disgusting moments of life. I’ve felt brotherly love, romantic love, paternal, and maternal love.

I dunno, hopefully, you are in a place to acknowledge this about yourself as well.

Hopefully, these letters arranged in some semblance of a cohesive thought triggers some pleasant memories of the people and places and animals and foods and songs that give life more meaning. And if you are feeling these things now, try and pass along those feelings to someone else.

If you’re not in that place right now, for any number of intense emotions that have resulted from choices you’ve made, or that have been made by others, or the results of just pure bad luck, please know that you are not alone.

Even the most vibrant pictures have specks of darkness that make the light that much more beautiful.
Don’t let a handful of dark images distract you from the whole scene. 

It’s hard to imagine that I exist at all, and maybe this is all a simulation, but in this relatively short time we all have on this spinning ball, I hope we can all find hope and love in ourselves and in the world around us.

Hey, if you made it this far, have a wonderful day until we can chat again through this blog.

PS – Someone actually did their best to calculate our odds of existing and it’s pretty mind-blowing.

Highly recommend you check this out:
The Odds of You Being Alive

If you liked this thought, consider subscribing to read more random thoughts that are swirling in my head or for that monthly book recommendation.

Girl Games 2023 – A Remarkable Group of Women

We finished Girl Games yesterday.

What better Mother’s Day present for these gals than to let them go play with their friends for a couple days?!

We had 40 women compete. Each event has its own personality, and this one had so many cool moments that you can see on Instagram, but I wanted to share part of our last email to the group because I think someone out there needs to hear this.


My “real job” is in marketing.

I’m supposed to understand the kinds of messaging and trends that will get more eyeballs on someone’s products so more people will buy or vote or allocate time to whatever items or causes are out there.

Look, we live in a world where negativity and fear get more shares, likes, clicks, and action. That’s the sad truth.

What this does is it lowers our optimism. It reduces self-esteem. It makes us feel like we are failing in some way and that things are only going to get worse.

With women, marketing is often more subtle and subversive.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great messages out there promoting positivity, but the subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints around body image, sexuality, expectations, and what makes you a good woman bombards you. I see it being sold to my wife. I see it targeting my daughters.


We just spent two days with a group of 40ish people.

We got to rub shoulders with business owners, professionals, mothers, wives, sisters, and friends. Women who have accomplished unbelievable things in sports, in their professions, in their relationships, and in their homes.

Many of you don’t realize this, but as you are warming up for a silly football-throwing contest or jamming out to the killer Girl Games playlist on Spotify (Caitlin’s doing), one or more of your teammates were talking about you, with me, behind your back.

They are pointing at you, and sharing with me the remarkable talents and abilities you have that have nothing to do with sports. They are telling me about that time you two laughed until you cried, or about that time you were there for her in a dark time when you both cried so long together and neither one of you thought you’d make it out.

I hear about many of your struggles and get a glimpse into some of the things you have overcome. I am in awe of the power and strength that I was fortunate enough to be around these past two days, both your personal resilience, and the strength of your friendships.

My Nightmare

At Girl Games, I shared how the first time Caitlin heard me cry was after 10 years of marriage. I had a terrible nightmare, which I’ll never forget, where I was holding my daughter and watched her die in my arms. I was crying in the dream and so when I woke up, I was also crying.

I don’t feel like this should count though, because how am I supposed to stop that from happening? It was cheating for sure.

Even so, I was embarrassed because I am supposed to be strong, and I didn’t think Caitlin would want a guy who cries. Also, I’m not a pretty crier…

This weekend, there are multiple women who have lived through my nightmare in real life.

There were women at Girl Games who have had to hold their lifeless child in their arms and say goodbye. They have had to deal with the finality of that experience in a way I cannot imagine and would not wish on my worst enemy.

We have women who have children with severe disabilities that will be 100% reliant on them for the rest of that child’s life. They don’t get to experience the same dreams of seeing their son or daughter play sports or ride a bike, or have the goals that most of us have – a career, a family, or a loving, romantic relationship.

We have women who had to say goodbye to a parent too soon because of a horrific accident or cancer or another disease.

We have women who have been through a painful divorce, where the man to whom they gave their whole heart and their whole soul betrayed them and left them to raise their children alone.

We have single moms, who sacrifice themselves to work long hours at a job they hate to provide a life for their kids. They shield their kids from the fiery arrows life rains down on them so their kids don’t have to know about the pressure, fear, and anxiety that the real world brings and that these women suffer through each and every day.

We have women who feel trapped in a marriage where their husband doesn’t show the same love and affection or even kindness to them. They feel trapped because they have a child or several children and are sacrificing their happiness to try and give some semblance of stability to their children.

We have women who are uncomfortable in their own skin, and even though they are stunning, gorgeous, and beautiful, they will never feel or see themselves in that way, and will spend days and weeks and months and years hurting because of this. They don’t feel they are enough. They feel inadequate. They feel scared.

We have women who are battling deep depression and anxiety in its strongest form. Who feel the weight and the cloud of darkness and paralyzing thoughts, and the suffocating fear, and the hopelessness that comes with these feelings.

Every day is a fight to get up and put one more step in front of the other when all you want to do is lay in bed. They force themselves out of their comfort zone because they know that giving up and wallowing alone just cannot be the best option, even though there are moments where our demons try to convince us that it is the only option.

We have women who feel unimaginable, crippling loneliness.

You Are Not Alone

Hopefully Girl Games was fun. We all like to tap into things that are fun again. But Girl Games is supposed to be so much more than just a weekend to get a swag bag, play sports and win prizes.

Girl Games is a chance to get away and forget about the shitty parts of life, and it’s an opportunity to recognize that You. Are. Not. Alone.

You are surrounded by women from all walks of life who are now your friends, your confidants, your shoulders to cry on.

There were competitive moments. There were frustrations and tears and times where you had to stand your ground and push back on certain games, or plays, or calls.

That’s what happens when you care.

You fight. And in sports, there is a definitive end to that fight.

But in life, there isn’t.

Life doesn’t play by the rules.

Life doesn’t care if you deserve it or if you want it more.

You can be doing everything right, and still end up trapped in a pit that feels impossible to climb out of.

The last group of women I want to mention

We have women in this group who are THAT person.

The one who recognizes the above situations in others and who is THAT friend who fights and scratches and claws and refuses to let her friend sink deeper and deeper into sadness and hopelessness. Who takes her friend by the hand and yanks her out of that pit they find themselves in.

They fight others who would try and tear down their friends or family. They defend the smaller or weaker or less self-assured because they know what it’s like and they will not allow others to be bullied.

This is my mom. She is a fighter. She is a defender of what she feels is right. And not just on this Mother’s Day, but every day, that is who I hope to be when I grow up.

As often as you can, be THAT person. Be the force for good that you know you can be. Lift others with positivity. Find empathy for others who act in certain ways you don’t agree with. Chances are, they are dealing with traumas both seen and unseen that are deep-rooted scars from their past as well as stingingly fresh cuts – recent, and raw.

We often judge others by their behavior, ascribing intentions to them. And then we judge ourselves by our intentions, justifying our behaviors.

We can’t fully see or know the intentions of others, and if we could, maybe we’d be a little more forgiving.

Thank you for being who you are.

Thank you for sharing your stories with me as well as the stories of your teammates.

Thank you for the love and support you showed to us and to others.

Erik & Caitlin Soderborg

Bombs, Basketball, Words of Wisdom

Book Recommendation(s)
Alright, I have two recommendations for you again this month. 

  1. The first is the safer of the two. 
    It will likely appeal to a wider array of people, and will be an interesting read for pretty much anyone. 

    Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell. 
    Malcolm Gladwell always does such a good job weaving stories in an interesting way when discussing macro-level ideas. This book is no different. 

    It covers different bombing tactics during WWII. Throughout the war, strategies around how to bomb most effectively changed several times. 

    The standard at the start, was to just bomb anything and everything. Overwhelm the enemy with as many bombs as possible. No real aiming. No real regard for collateral damage and innocent civilians. 

    A group called the Bomber Mafia investigated ways to be more effective, including an attempt to persuade the US and allies to go for a more targeted approach. Take out strategic factories or war production plants rather than bombing anything and everyone. 

    It is a fascinating story, while at the same time, humbling to hear about the conditions of all parties during WWII. 
  2. Okay, now this second recommendation is more of a wild card. 
    This book will not appeal to everyone, but it’s my top read so far this year, and up there with my favorite books of all time. You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. 

    So, if you are the adventurous type, here we go. 

    Basketball and Other Things by Shea Serrano 
    Yes, this is a basketball book. Specifically, NBA basketball.
    I just lost a bunch of you, didn’t I?

    Nevertheless, I have never… EVER… laughed out loud so much while reading a book in my entire life. 

    My wife kept saying things like,
    “You’re a dork, why are you laughing so much.” 
    “You didn’t cry at our wedding and you’re crying while reading a silly basketball book?!” 
    (tears of laughter – mind you)
    “There’s no way it’s THAT funny. You’re just doing this to annoy me, aren’t you?”

    I can’t think of a better review for a book than her words.  

    The author uses colorful language throughout, so heads up there, but this book was amazing. 

    If you are not an NBA fan, and you’re not familiar with names like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Dr. J, Shaq, Kobe, MJ, etc. then just skip this one. 

    If you are a fan of the NBA, or you have a friend/adult child who is, this is the PERFECT gift for a birthday or Christmas or Easter or whatever other holidays your family gifts things. 

    I had my dad read it – he loved it. 
    We went to lunch and giggled about it. 
    I’ve gifted this to 5 other people already. 
    It’s awesome.

Words of Wisdom

On to a more serious note… 
I am writing this newsletter from a hospital room. 

Not the most fun experience of my life, but one that I’m sure many of you have had. 

I’ve told this story before, but when my dad was 7 years old, his mom died of cancer. Discussions with him – and common sense – reveal that losing a parent at that age has lasting implications on the life of a child. 

When I was 7 years old, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

As a 7-year-old kid, I remember going to my mom, and crying hysterically, saying, “Mom, I don’t want to be like dad.”

While the topic of cancer was top of mind for the family at the time, this sudden outburst was random, so my mom, somewhat confused, but also a little relieved said, “Erik, I don’t want you to be like your dad either.” And she listed off 3-4 of his weaknesses as a human being – rather quickly I might add. 

I mean, she didn’t even need to think twice. Just boom – Yeah, don’t be your dad for these reasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a PowerPoint ready and had been waiting for this moment for years. Anyway… 

7-year-old Erik was royally confused, and I said, “No, I don’t want my mom to die when I’m 7 like dad’s mom died when he was 7.” 

It was a tender moment and I imagine she did that whole grimace face where you tug at your shirt collar and look at someone else trying to cover the misunderstanding. 

This conversation between my mom and me became part of family lore. 

Well, my mom’s cancer metastasized and spread to various parts of her body. She was put in a support group of 9 other women who went through the same treatments. Everyone in the group was given 5 years to live. It was looking like I was about to follow in my father’s footsteps. 

After 5 years, just two of the original 10 ladies were left. 
My mom, and one other woman. 

A year later, my mom was the only one left. 

Why us?

It has been 28 years since she was diagnosed. 

For some reason, call it a miracle, call it luck, call it whatever you want, she lived. 

I’ve asked myself why on many occasions. 
Why was our family so lucky? 
Those other 9 women were wives, mothers, daughters. They all had the same love and support and prayers headed their way. Why us? Why my mom? Why me? 

She’s lived to see her 7-year-old boy grow into an attempt at an adult. 
She’s lived to see my other siblings grow and raise families, too. 
She’s lived to see her first grandkid, then her second… and my youngest daughter is her 14th grandchild. 

Two months ago, she welcomed her first and second great grandchildren into the world. 

She’s travelled the world, including back to Holland, which is where her family is originally from. From a previous newsletter, you’ll remember that her parents came to America after WWII. 

She’s amazing, and continues to live a great life, helping us kids, and our kids, and now our kids’ kids know how much they are loved by their mom, grandma, and great grandma. 

It’s back.

Six months ago, my mom wasn’t feeling super great. 

After several tests over several months, we found out that cancer has come back, this time in different organs. I won’t go into too many details, but experiencing this as an adult has been so much different. 

Rather than being the young child pushing all the buttons on her hospital room bed and running up and down halls, causing concern for everyone – while I’m still tempted to do some of that – I now can hopefully help a little more. 

She had her first chemo treatment last Wednesday, and Friday she started feeling crummy with difficulty breathing. It got worse and Sunday, I took her into the ER. Her oxygen levels were dangerously low. Fluid was in her lungs. She was feeling miserable. 

She’s been in the hospital for a couple days now, and she has been improving steadily, which is great. 

As she and I went through the healthcare system together, I got a reminder of what that whole experience looks like. 

Once we arrived at the hospital, first of all, she’s not in a great spot physically or mentally, so the insurance questions mixed in with the e-signatures on an iPad that says who-knows-what, mixed with the questions about how she’s feeling and what’s wrong turns into quite the whirlwind. 

After her umpteenth different test, she looked over to me and said, “this is going to be quite the hefty bill, isn’t it?” 

Thank goodness she is covered in a way that won’t ruin her financially. Interesting thoughts to have though, when you feel like you’re going to die. 

The hospital staff have been helpful and kind to her as they figure out what’s going on and how to help. 

The Healthcare System

My real job is in health insurance. More specifically, Medicare.
This most recent experience with my mom gave me a first-hand reminder of the healthcare system and how it works for our seniors.

If you need to use the healthcare system, here are four tips:

  1. Carry your insurance cards with you. 
    Having your insurance cards on your person makes things run a bit more smooth through that whole check in process.
  2. Use in-network facilities.
    In the Medicare world, you’re looking at two main options.
    If you have a supplement plan, make sure your providers and facilities participate with Medicare. 

    If you have an advantage plan, make sure you visit in-network facilities and providers. 

    For those on Advantage plans, remember that if you have an emergency, and you go to an out-of-network facility, those services will be treated as in-network, as long as it is a true emergency. 

    The hospital handles the billing and coding on that, so as long as it is coded and billed as an emergency, you are covered as if it were in-network. 
  3. Use the resources available through your insurance company.
    Your insurance companies have customer service teams that are there to help guide you through your hospital or provider visits. 

    If you have questions around coverage, networks, billing, or anything related to your use of the healthcare system, use this resource. 

    Which leads me to the last tip…
  4. Use the buddy system.
    That first day, my mom had a bunch of tests, and after each one, the doctor would come in and share results and next steps. As my siblings or other family called her to ask what was going on, even though she and I heard the same thing from the doctor, she had no idea what he said. 

    The combination of her not feeling well with her being scared and in a hospital meant that she was not retaining the information being shared with her. 

    Her buddy (me in this case, and my brother later on) could listen to the doctors and nurses, ask questions, and clarify next steps. Once staff left the room, it helped my mom calm down a little and better understand what was happening when my brother or I could repeat what the doctor said. 

    So, take a buddy. 
    A spouse, a sibling, a child, or a friend, having someone there with you will be a nice help.

Alright, if you made it this far, I appreciate you taking the time to read this mini novel-length newsletter. 

Our health is so important. 

Hopefully something buried in there was helpful, and I hope you and your family have an amazing month. 

Thank you for all you do!

Until next month,


First timer here? If you liked it, consider subscribing to read future posts.

March Book Recommendation(s) & Words of Wisdom

Book Recommendations:
For this month, I’ve got 3 books for you.

All three books are in different genres, I guess you could say.
That way, there’s a better chance you’ll see one that is interesting to you. 

  1. The Terminal List, Jack Carr
    This book was turned into a series on Amazon starring Chris Pratt. I haven’t watched it yet, mainly because, for those who have been reading these newsletters a while, you’ll know that it takes me a while to watch movies based on books I like. 

    This book was turned into a series on Amazon starring Chris Pratt. I haven’t watched it yet, mainly because, for those who have been reading these newsletters a while, you’ll know that it takes me a while to watch movies based on books I like. 

    The book was written by a former Navy Seal. It is a fictional story of a Navy Seal who gets wronged because of a conspiracy, and he basically hunts down everyone who caused him pain. 

    If you like Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne, or stories like that, you’ll like this one, too. 
  2. A Rip Through Time, Kelley Armstrong
    This one is for the murder-mystery lovers out there. A present-day detective is ripped through time (hence the title) and finds herself in 1869, living in a housemaid’s body and trying to solve her (the housemaid’s) attempted murder. 

    Kept me guessing and had me thinking, “How would I prove that I was actually from the future if this happened to me?”

    It leaves things open to a 2nd book, which is out there and I’m trying to get my hands on to see what happens next.
  3. The Stranger in the Lifeboat, Mitch Albom
    The premise here is that a group of people shipwrecked on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean pull a strange person from the water. He claims to be “the Lord,” and he tells them that he can save them, but only if they all believe in him at the same time. 

    I’m not trying to push any sort of religion or belief system on anyone. This book – in my opinion – isn’t pushing anything either. Simply bringing perspective around what is and isn’t important as humans interact with other humans, especially in life-threatening situations. 

    I enjoyed this book and think you might, too. 

    That’s all for the book recommendations this month. Moving on…

Words of Wisdom
You know the saying, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” 

Old is relative, and I understand that, but in this case, I think it deals with a mentality that is resistant to change.   

This year, I had a New Year’s Resolution to get my “old” self learning new tricks. 
For a few years, I’ve had the idea of starting a YouTube channel called, “Expert in a Week.” 

The idea is that I would be given a challenge, new topic, or skill, and then I would have 7 days or sessions to become as competent as possible. 

So, I gave myself the first challenge in January:


I’ve never been able to swim. 
Let me clarify that…
I’ve never been able to swim – well

Sure, I can swim for about as far as I can hold my breath, and then just doggy paddle around. My swimming experience has been limited to backyard or hotel pools where I can always touch the ground or grab onto a wall if I’m tired. 

I’ve never been able to really swim. 
You know, like Michael Phelps, powering his way to a bajillion gold medals. 
Or, Katie Ledecky, swimming a mile at a time looking more calm than I do on a casual stroll around the neighborhood. 

So, on January 13th, I got a pass to the local rec. center that had swim lanes, and went about my first attempt at swimming laps. 

I documented the journey in more detail on Facebook, so if you want to see that, I’m happy to friend you on Facebook, but I’ll just give you a quick recap here with session highlights… and keep reading – I promise there’s a lesson here…

Session 1 
10 laps in a 25-yard pool (down and back is 1 lap and 50 yards)
I felt like I would drown if I tried to do a down and back at one time.
Swimming is hard!

Session 2 
20 laps.
18 of them were one, 25-yard swim at a time.
2 of them I did 50 yards at once (nearly dying). 

Session 3 
20 laps.
12 of them were 50 yards at a time.
8 of them were 25 yards at a time.

Session 4 
36 laps.
8 laps (100 yards at a time) with the pool buoy.
2 laps, 25 yards at a time. 
30 laps, 50 yards at a time. 

Swimming session #4 had two major breakthroughs.  
I can finally breathe!
I sort of figured out the flip turn.

Session 5 
36 laps. 
2 swims of 300 yards (6 laps, no stopping, no swim aids)
4 swims of 200 yards (4 laps)

Session 6 
40 laps. 
First 21 laps were a struggle. Couldn’t find any rhythm.
Swam 9 laps in a row with a pool buoy.
Swam the last 10 laps in a row with no help.
My longest swim so far with no stopping! 

Session 7 
40 laps including 2 sets of 6 laps, 1 set of 8 laps, and 1 set of 10 laps.

The Results
I’ve always HATED cardio exercise.  

I’m like a dog – if I’m not chasing a ball or a frisbee, I get bored and don’t like exercise. Not to mention the fact that years of basketball and tennis cause my joints to scream at me if I try to do any distance running.

Biking rubs me wrong in all the wrong places, and by avoiding these cardio exercised, I could feel my heart and breathing getting worse and worse. 

Over the last 3 months, swimming has changed my life. 

If someone had told me after swimming session 1 – where I struggled to swim 25 yards – that I would be able to swim 20x that distance by my 6th session, I would’ve called them bonkers. 

I stopped documenting each session for the Facebook world after session 7, but during session 8, I swam 20 laps without stopping and have since swam a mile without stopping. 

I continue to swim 3 times a week. My heart rate is better. My lung capacity is better. My physical appearance is visibly different. All of this is because I started with something difficult, but small, and worked my way up from nothing to something.

Here’s the point, I guess. 
Humans are incredible.

There are countless stories, much more impressive than mine, where people of all ages, including seniors, have had a goal in mind and, through baby steps, have learned new talents and expanded their world. 

If you’ve had something you’ve always wanted to do or learn, why not start now?Start small. Take baby steps. 

We live in a time where it has never been easier to find quality advice on YouTube or other sources. 

One of the biggest catalysts to improving my swimming technique was talking with my co-worker Chandler. He was a stellar swimmer in high school, and he has been a great instructor through this process, giving me tips and showing me drills that have enabled me to swim better. 

Unless it’s something highly illegal or immoral, find someone you know who has experience doing what you’d like to learn and ask for help.  

Along those same lines, one thing I hope to bring to the front of your mind is that there are people in your life who look at YOU and think, “I wish I could do [insert talent here] as well as [insert your name here].” 

You are someone’s hero.
You are someone’s definition of Expert.
You are someone’s role model. 

And I think that’s pretty cool. 

So, that leaves two questions:
What are you going to do to improve yourself?
And, who can you help along the way?

That’s all I got for this one.

PS – If you have any suggestions around what my next “Expert in a Week” skill should be, I’d love to hear them. 

February Book Recommendation & Words of Wisdom

Book Recommendation 
I try to read a diverse collection of books. Last month had to do with YouTube, previous months have been biographies or sci-fi novels. 

This month – it is a novel called, The Oneby John Marrs.

Here’s the teaser… imagine a DNA test, much like the DNA tests that actually exist and show your ancestry, that will tell you, with 100% accuracy, the one person on Earth who is your soulmate. The one person, with whom genetically guaranteed to fall madly in love.

Would you take it? 

The book follows several characters who take the test with surprising results, and what happens to their lives and relationships. The book kept me interested the entire time. 

One subtle thing I appreciated with this book was that each chapter is pretty short, which I enjoy, because it’s easier for me to sit down, quickly knock out a few pages, and find an easy stopping point to pick up later. It also makes the story feel like it is moving quickly.

This has been adapted to a TV series that I will start watching tonight. I’ve said it in previous posts that sometimes it’s hard for me to watch film adaptations, but we’ll give this a go.

You should give the book a try. 

The One

Words of Wisdom

I know that in this day and age, exaggerated statements have become the norm. Commercials, YouTube titles, email subject lines… the grandiose has become commonplace. 

So, with that preface, and with all sincerity I possess, I can say that this most recent project was one of THE most incredible experiences of my life. 

I got the chance to spend time with a real-life wonder – Kay Croen. 
Kay is 105 years young – soon-to-be 106 in a couple months. 

She was born in 1917, in the middle of World War… I!

She let me sit down and interview her on a variety of topics including life in the early 1900s, The Great Depression, World War II, Pearl Harbor, and her secrets to living to 105.

She exercises every day (wait until you see her do her exercises on camera!).
She still drives.
She is, quite simply, an amazing human being. 

We spent more than 5 hours with her over the course of 2 days, so condensing all of that wisdom into 20 minutes was difficult, but we did the best we could. 

I have one favor to ask in this post for the handful that read this, if you’ll allow.

Please watch her story and, if you are able, please share it. 

Not necessarily this blog post (unless you’re feeling generous). More the video.
Whether that is on social media or to your friends/family via text or email, please pass her story along. 

Her friends asked us several times if we were with the local news, and they couldn’t understand why news channels haven’t picked up on such an amazing story here in our own backyard. So, we thought we’d try and spread her story as far as we could. 

Instead of me sharing my silly Words of Wisdom, allow me to introduce you to Kay. 

The Remarkable Story of Kay Croen

Hey, if you enjoyed the book recommendation and words of wisdom, consider subscribing to get notified when I post a similar recommendation next month.

January Book Recommendation & Words of Wisdom

Book Recommendation:

YouTube Formula– Derral Eves

This past year, we got serious about a YouTube channel at work.

It started as a way to make in-depth videos about topics that our clients frequently bring up. It turns out, thousands of people across the country have the same questions, so I am always looking at ways to make our videos more effective in communicating the intricacies of Medicare and Social Security. 

After reading this book, I got plenty of ideas of how to help our YouTube channel grow by improving how our videos are made. 

Maybe someone reading this is passionate about some particular topic, which could be anything. There is a massive number of people throughout the world who are passionate about the same topics that interest you. Maybe it’s travel, sports, cooking, quilting, book reviews, fishing, pins, taxes… you name it – there are people out there looking for similar information. 

So, the reason I recommend this book is because maybe one of you has felt the desire to teach a skill or discuss topics, and making a YouTube channel is an option. There are thousands of channels that do not record their face or say anything, just show people how to do neat things. 

One of the most fulfilling activities I’ve done this year is the 90 Days YouTube channel because I get to meet people all across the country who reach out with Medicare questions, and we are able to help. 

If that sounds appealing to you, grab this book for yourself. 

“Erik… I would never, ever record myself and put it out there for the world to see. Nope. No way.” 

If that sounds like what you’re thinking in this moment, then this book might make an excellent gift for that person in your family who is interested in teaching, recording, entertaining, or streaming their video games online. 

YouTube Formula– Derral Eves

My kids want to grow up to be “YouTubers,” which is funny and scary at the same time. I’m sure they will be digging through this book in a couple years. This will all tie together here in the Words of Wisdom…

Words of WisdomMy Greatest Accomplishment

One of the best days of my life happened two weeks ago. Allow me to tell you the story with some colorful details. 

About a week and a half ago, a friend of mine interviewed me on a podcast
One of the questions he asked was, “What is your greatest accomplishment in life so far?”

My answer at the time felt like it was cliché, because a part of me wants to sound unique or like I’m a deeper thinker than I really am.

I said what I think a lot of people would probably say, which was:
“Convincing my wife to marry me, and our kids.”

As I worked my way through that answer, and as I’ve thought about it since, I don’t know how I could answer any other way. 

You already got to experience me gushing about my wife in last month’s newsletter (for those new here, let me know and I can send you that one), so this one will focus more on my kids and one of the best days of my life that happened in the last month. 

YouTube… Again?!

Back to the whole YouTube thing… my kids watch YouTube A LOT. They are only allowed to watch YouTube Kids, which is made to only show content appropriate for kids, so it is mostly toy unboxing videos, video gamers who show how to play certain games, and families that record their adventures. 

They also stumble upon the videos I do here for work as well as some videos I’ve made outside of work – and the kids think their dad is famous (don’t tell them the truth). 

To them, just being on YouTube means that person is famous. So they asked me if I’d be willing to make a channel for them, and a video with them. 

And we did! My 10-year-old made a product review of a camera she got for Christmas and my 7-year-old made a video where he ranks his 5 favorite video game YouTubers, and I threw them on YouTube. 

When the videos were ready, they ran over to the computer, jostled for the best position on my lap to watch, and had me play their videos for the family. 

As each video was playing, both of the kids reacted to their sibling’s video like it was the coolest thing ever made in the history of humanity. They were complimenting each other. They were giving each other high fives and hugging each other. They were positive that they would each get a million subscribers today and they started planning the blueprints to their future mansion with Olympic swimming pools and rock walls and theaters from the money they’d earn on YouTube…

We shared these videos with family members and friends, and they got a handful of views – as in 30-ish views, but even with that, my kids were pumped. And this made me deliriously happy. 

Payday (not the candy)

The next day was payday for them. 

They have a little business where they go around to “their customers” (our neighbors) and take out garbage cans the night before garbage day and bring the cans back in after the garbage truck does its thing. 

I pay them once a year, which I know could be considered cruel, but keep reading. 

They had payday the day after their YouTube videos were done, and each of the older kids got $240. 


That’s a lot of money for anyone, let alone a 10-year-old and 7-year-old! To them, it’s like… more money than has ever existed! They’ve never seen what that looks like, so they are jumping up and down, they are screaming, they are showing each other the dollar bills… the whole 9 yards. 

After a few minutes of ecstasy, they both come over and give me the biggest squeeze hugs of all squeeze hugs. 

And then, the promises begin…

“Dad, I promise I’ll save this. I really want to go buy a bunch of candy, but I promise I’ll save this.” 

“Dad, I don’t know how much a phone costs, but I REALLY want a phone and maybe this could buy it, but you said to save my money, so I promise I’ll save this.” 

“Dad, can I buy a car with this? How much do cars cost? Oh, and I promise I’ll never complain about doing garbage cans again.”

Several other promises involving perfect behavior for the rest of their lives were scattered in there. It was awesome. And that series of events included some of the happiest moments of my life. Seeing my kids do hard things, get rewarded, treat each other nice, and massive squeeze hugs. What else could I ever need?

Little Moments are the Big Moments

As I “grow up,” little moments become much more impactful to me than big, grandiose extravaganzas. Fancy vacations, get-togethers with friends, professional sporting events, and others… while fun, just don’t seem to hit as hard as my kids tackling me, telling me they love me, and watching them grow up into kind-hearted humans. 

I acknowledge that several of you may not have the opportunity to have children for various reasons. Additionally, several of you have likely lost children in a variety of tragic ways. I do not mean to cause pain. I have deep empathy based on close family members and friends who have similar experiences. 

The attempt at words of wisdom revolves around the importance of the human condition and relationships that bring joy. I am in pursuit of as many deep, human relationships as reasonably possible with people who bring joy into my life, and I haven’t yet found relationships that bring this feeling more often and as strong as my family. 

That’s all I have for this one. Thank you for making it this far.  

PS – If you want to see the videos my kids made, they are here:
Noel Product Review

Jared’s Favorite YouTubers

PPS – Here is the podcast interview if you want to learn more about the weirdo writing these posts:
Man Games Podcast

If you liked this post, or you’re just looking for an account to troll, feel free to subscribe!

2022 Book List

I’ll add up the total pages read when the year ends and I’ll update this list as more are finished.

My ranking system is personal.
5’s usually mean that it got me to see the world in a new way, it entertained me in an unexpected way, or it offered what I needed to hear at this point in my life.

I’ve found that when you read books – meaning the timing and circumstances of your life – impacts your feelings about that book.

So, if I rate a book lower than you would, can we still be friends?

2022 List

NumberDateTitleAuthorRating (1-5)
11/17The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and DisappearedJonas Jonasson 5
21/20Thinking, Fast and SlowDaniel Kahneman3
32/11Zero to OnePeter Thiel, Blake Masters4
42/17The Price of EverythingEduardo Porter4
53/30Principles for Dealing with the Changing World OrderRay Dalio4
65/18The Silent PatientAlex Michaelides3
75/27The BodyBill Bryson5
86/2How to be GoodGary Cox4
96/10Empire of PainPatrick Radden Keefe5
106/16Sleights of MindSandra Blakeslee4
116/22Red NoticeBill Browder4
126/27Project Hail MaryAndy Weir5
137/4Astrophysics for People in a HurryNeil DeGrasse Tyson3
147/9Dare to LeadBrené Brown4
157/15Dopamine NationDr. Anna Lembke4
167/22Keep SharpSanjay Gupta3
178/11The 48 Laws of PowerRobert Greene2
188/25Killing FloorLee Child3
199/14Rise and Kill FirstRonen Bergman3
209/15Good to GoChristie Aschwanden3
219/29Kings of Infinite SpaceJames Hynes3
2210/8QAnon and OnVan Badham3
2310/10The SandmanNeil Gaiman4
2411/16American GodsNeil Gaiman4
2512/5The Book of MormonMany3
2612/10Play HungryPete Rose4
2712/26Under the Banner of HeavenJon Krakauer3
2812/31You Can’t Be SeriousKal Penn3
2022 Book List

What books need to go on my 2023 list?

Want even more book recommendations?
Check out my 2021 list

Want to subscribe and get notified when I publish more stuff?

That’s a wrap 2022

We’re all caught up!
I have been posting my musings from a different newsletter on this site, so those reading have been getting book recommendations and stories from months in the past. This is the first post in a while that is current, and moving forward, they should all be current thoughts, recommendations, and stories.

Let’s start this off with a couple book recommendations and then my attempt at words of wisdom are after the books.

Book Recommendation:
Play Hungry– Pete Rose
My amazing coworker – Matt Gibson – turned me onto this book and I found it very enjoyable. Granted, it is probably best that you know a bit about baseball to really enjoy this one, so this could be alienating some of you based on the sports topic, but it was interesting to get Pete’s perspective on his historical life and meteoric fall from grace. 

I gained a lot of respect for him after reading this and who knows, maybe you will too. 
If you’re not into sports, I have a recommendation for you as well:
The Body, by Bill Bryson. 
I’m a nerd when it comes to anatomy and physiology. Back in college, I was studying to go to Medical School. All I had to do was take the MCAT and apply before some other things in life moved me to where I am today. This book’s full title is The Body: A Guide for Occupants and it is one of my favorite reads for this year. Bill Bryson has several books like this where he breaks down each system in great detail including functions and interesting facts about our bodies and how they work. 
Words of Wisdom 
I’m actually writing this in a hotel room. 
My wife and I are on our annual birthday/anniversary trip.  

We got married 2 days after her birthday because we were determined to get married as soon as possible, and the earliest reasonable date was THE day after my last college final for that semester.  

My goofy man-brain thought, “this is a great idea! Now her birthday, our anniversary, and Christmas are all within 2 weeks of each other! Think of how efficient this will be and… I will be much less likely to forget one or both of those important dates.” 

12 years later, we both concluded yesterday that we should’ve waited until the spring.  

Given that we live in Utah, it is usually freezing cold and snowing during her birthday and our anniversary. But… 12 years ago… she just couldn’t keep her hands off me and wanted to get married as quickly as possible, so… it is what it is.  

Can you really blame her, though? I mean… have you seen my writing? She’s a sucker for a good read.  

We tend to take a big trip every 5 years to Hawaii or somewhere cool (really just Hawaii) and then the other years are more localized trips around our state or neighboring states. This year, Park City is the destination and there is a lot of ice, snow, and cold temperatures here.  

She is currently exercising down in the hotel gym while I stacked a paper plate as tall as I could, deftly balanced it all on the way back up to our room, and am now typing away in between bites from the “Complimentary Hot Breakfast” that was neither complimentary – our room rates more than paid for it – nor hot, but the lukewarm omelet and bacon did their job and I am no longer hungry.

Maybe the fact that I am here eating while she is exercising explains why she is in remarkable shape, and I am, well, not in shape.  

Nah… must be genetics. 

Lessons from marriage 
12 years of marriage means I’ve got to come up with 12 lessons I’ve learned over the past dozen years. This should be easy, right?
(My wife helped me come up with these and has read all of them, so know that this is a joint effort) 

1. Never – and I mean NEVER – flush a toilet, or start laundry, or turn on any faucet in the house while your wife is showering. 

The shriek and screaming that follows, while it can be hilarious, usually isn’t worth the moment of panic that you experience after you have just flipped the handle and can’t take it back, along with the dirty looks from your spouse all day as she plots her revenge. 

I accidentally did this 12 years ago and have never made that mistake again. 
She “accidentally” does this to me almost weekly. No joke, she’s done it twice this week. Which leads me to…

2. There is a clear double standard.
I’ll admit, I’m not the tidiest person on the planet, but my untidiness is harmless. It is not uncleanliness, I just sometimes leave my shoes on the floor by my side of the bed, or I don’t hang up all my shirts because my hangers mysteriously get stolen – and I get some heat for this. 

But take one look into her car vs my car and there is a CLEAR double standard happening here. It’s like she is one person outside the car – put together, tidy, aware of any object out of place – and a complete lunatic once she enters a car. 

And I know, the response is going to be, “Erik, she has kids to worry about in her car and it’s impossible to keep a van clean with 3 kids.” 

Okay, I’ll give you that. I agree. So, let’s move over to my car and notice the difference between the driver’s and back seats vs the passenger seat (where she sits). 

There is a cup holder/storage compartment in the passenger-side door that I can’t see into from the driver’s seat, but any time I open that passenger door from her side and look into that door compartment, it’s like a wrapper hoarder lives in my car. 

I don’t even remember her eating while we were driving! I legitimately think she sleepwalks out into the garage at nights and puts random wrappers and junk in my passenger car door. 

3. Just Make the Bed
Efficiency is important. Over the past 12 years, I have never agreed with making the bed. Allow me to explain…

I don’t believe that we should just leave the bed and covers thrown amok without any regard for order. That’s not my style. 
I do think straightening the bed covers up, putting the pillows at the top of the bed, and folding over the blankets on my side, sort of like a triangle fold over, so that when it is time to go to bed, I can just slide into bed, fold the covers back over me, and settle into the cozy comfort of sleep – this seems reasonable. 

Or… OR… we can make the entire bed every day while singlehandedly keeping the pillow industry afloat by covering our entire bed in decorative pillows of all sizes. Then, when we are exhausted after a long day, or cold and wanting to get warm under covers as quickly as possible, we can spend a solid 2 minutes shoveling a mountain of pillows off the bed and into a corner of the room. 

After 12 years of marriage, I have learned that making the bed because it looks better for my wife – who is the only other human who will see it decorated other than myself – is the right thing to do, no matter how impractical it is. 

I’m hoping this effort on my part eventually pays off. 

4. Selective hearing is a real thing.
I can’t claim to understand it. The explanation must lie somewhere buried in the subatomic structure of the space-time continuum or something, but whenever we’ve had kids that wake up in the middle of the night, I can sleep through it without even an inkling that the whole family was up all night. 

This was more of a thing when the kids were little babies, and they would wake up with little squeaks. My wife could hear a mouse squeak from 13 miles away, so she would instantly hear a squeaking baby and be ready to help. 

On more than one occasion, I would wake up after an AMAZING night’s sleep, lean over to her and say, “Hey, the kids did it! They finally slept through the night!” 
Only to hear her groan, “No… no they didn’t.” 

I have learned that a midnight elbow to the side is okay and, while I am awake, trying to put a little more effort into listening and helping out is probably a good idea. However…

5. We have VERY different timelines.
I have learned that when my wife asks if I would be able to do something, she means now… not 20 minutes from now, or a couple of days from now… Now. 

Hanging pictures is what immediately comes to mind. It must be buried in my evolutionary DNA of the hunter needing to go find food, build shelters, and protect the clan, so when he is being asked to decorate the teepee to look nice, it just doesn’t make it anywhere near the top of the “need to do this immediately” priority list. 

So, when I get home from work, set the keys in their place and my bag on the ground, if I am asked to hang a picture in the basement bathroom that hasn’t seen a visitor in 2 years, my answer is usually, “sure… eventually. Not now. But I’ll totally get to it.”

I have learned that this is the incorrect answer. 

6. When I say I don’t care, I genuinely don’t care. But I should.
This happens fairly frequently. I don’t have a great eye for interior design nor am I good at making things cute. When it comes time to decorate for Christmas and I am asked which of the 12 different stockings I like best, I can acknowledge, to you reading, that they are in fact 12 unique stockings, but they look like 12 identical stockings to me, and I genuinely don’t have a preference. I will be happy with any one of the stockings. Or no stocking. 

When I do have an opinion, I’ll share it. That opinion is often wrong, but if I have an opinion, I’ll share it. 

I have learned to share certain opinions to help my wife choose the opposite, better choice. 

7. When she says she doesn’t care, she most definitely cares. 
I know the classic example is, “where would you like to eat?”
Haha, Erik, funny joke. 
No. No joke. It legitimately happens All. The. Time. 

That question is always met with, “I don’t care, wherever you’d like.” 
Then the whack-a-mole commences where I rattle off 10 different restaurants ranging the globe in their cuisines, and each is expertly crunched with a mallet. 

I have learned not to ask that question anymore. Instead, I throw out a place I know we both like and say something like, “I’m feeling like Red Robin, do you have anything against going to Red Robin?”

This seems to have worked better. It’s not perfect, but it works better than the open-ended question that has every possibility on the planet as an option and then a guessing game that I always lose.  

8. There’s no avoiding the In-laws
We spend A LOT more time with my wife’s family than we do my family. After she had me locked down, I was informed of this phenomenon that couples tend to spend more time with the wife’s family, and we fit that stereotype to a T. 

I am fortunate to have incredible in-laws who are kind, generous, and helpful, all without trying to tell my wife and I how to live or raise our kids. Sure, their cooky, but I love them to death and have learned to accept this new family as my own. 

Life seems much easier with two families working together. 

9. Life is WAY simpler without kids
I look back at the days when it was just me and my wife, hanging out, two incomes and no kids. Life was simple. 

There’s actually an acronym for this, as it has apparently become more common for younger couples to forego having children. The acronym is DINK – Dual Income, No Kids. Many young couples substitute a dog instead of having kids, adding the WAD (With A Dog) acronym, meaning we have a lot of DINK WADs running around out there. 

But just like walking is simpler than driving a car, simpler does not get you to the same places. 

My wife and I are fortunate to have 3 healthy children who have changed the dynamics of our relationship. We have a lot less time to hang out as a couple, but more time to grow and play and teach and sometimes lose our minds and give up a piece of ourselves to our children. Being a dad is amazing. Having my wife as the mother of my children is wonderful. Wouldn’t want it any other way. 

We have several friends and family members who have tried having children but have been unable. We have several friends and family members who have experienced tragedies in their attempt to have children. 

In moments where our kids are acting up, or I feel bad about not having more “me-time,” I am learning to step back and appreciate how miraculous my situation really is and I feel incredibly fortunate. 

10. Don’t be too stubborn to apologize
You may be different, but our experience has been that when you live with someone and go through life together every day for an extended period of time, there will be moments where someone messes up, does something silly, hurts someone’s feelings, and a variety of other difficult situations arise. 

When I get sad or upset, I tend to go quiet, shrinking into my protective shell for a few days, and stew. It has never been easy for me to express certain feelings like disappointment or frustration. The consequences of this are that it leaves my wife in a state of confusion because she doesn’t know what’s wrong. 

After a few days, I tend to snap out of it, apologize for disappearing mentally for a bit, and we work things out. 

So… don’t be stubborn. Communicate. Apologize. Move forward. 

11. Different isn’t a bad thing.
My wife and I are very different in a lot of ways. 
When you first see us, it is immediately apparent. 
I am 6’4”
She is 5’3” 

She loves to ski. 
I have never been skiing in my life and have no desire to. 

She loves exercise – running marathons, doing a bunch of pushups, sit-ups, burpees, cycling, and the workouts that make me want to curl into the fetal position and cry. 

I, on the other hand, am like a dog. I need a ball or a frisbee to chase. I love sports of all kinds that involve throwing, catching, racquets, paddles, dribbling, passing, you know… “real” sports 😊 
My wife is not a fan of these. 

I’m a spender. 
She’s a saver. 

We are different in so many ways, and somehow, it all works. And I may be overconfident, but I think it works really well. 

We love spending time together on the things we have in common. Going on hikes, traveling, eating good food, playing games as a family, driving around and talking, watching good movies and shows, and playing with our kids. And it’s nice to know that she can pursue her passions with other adults and friends without forcing me to do things I don’t want to do and vice versa. 
12. I thought I loved her then.
One of my favorite artists is Brad Paisley and he has a song called “Then.” 
It is a beautiful song about how his love for his wife keeps growing, even when he didn’t think he could ever love her more. 

I have learned that the more experiences, challenges, successes, laughs, and memories we make, the more and more I fall deeper and deeper in love with my wife. And it’s different than the infatuation we had as newlyweds. I still think she is smokin’ hot, but we have seen each other at our best, at our worst, and everything in between that you can only experience after years of living with someone. 

To quote Mr. Brad Paisley, 
“What I can’t see is how I’m ever gonna love you more 
But I’ve said that before.

And now you’re my whole life
Now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you, girl
We’ll look back someday, at this moment that we’re in
And I’ll look at you and say
And I thought I loved you then.” 

There are the 12 lessons I’ve learned in 12 years of marriage. 

Here are 2 pictures for you:
The first is our engagements taken back in 2010 where my hair style was questionable at best. The second is our most recent family photos with me looking a little goofy and part of my head cut off (probably to hide the lack of progress towards a decent haircut) and my family looking adorable. 
­If you’ve made it this far, you are amazing and I appreciate you reading these posts.
I would love to hear any marriage or life lessons that you may have and are willing to share.

For my “real” job, I run a YouTube channel and we are closing in on a major milestone of 10,000 subscribers. Our goal is to hit that before 2023.

If you are feeling super generous and would like to give me a Christmas present that won’t cost you anything, consider subscribing to that channel here: 
YouTube Channel

It’s a channel about Medicare, and given that 11,000 people turn 65 every day in America, chances are you or someone you know needs to learn what on earth is going on with Medicare.

Alright, that’s all I got for this one.
Have a wonderful holiday season!

If you found this post fun, exciting, beautiful, helpful, or any other positive adjective and would like to see more of these, feel free to subscribe!

November Book Recommendation and Newsletter

This is taken from the November 2022 Newsletter.

Book Recommendation & Words of Wisdom (2 for 1 Special)

I have a real love-hate relationship with books that are adapted into movies or a television series.

I love them because it is interesting to see how the pictures made in my imagination compare to what directors are able to produce on film.

I hate them because of the impossible task directors face of turning a several hundred page book into a short movie, without cutting and changing important details.

My wife doesn’t read quite like I do, but she does like watching the show-versions of the books I read.

She gets to deal with me regularly talking to the TV (and her) saying things like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa… that is NOT how it happened in the book!”

Or “Why would they change that?! Come on! That ruins everything!”

So, that is the preamble for my book recommendation because you can read this book, watch it as a movie, or do both and we can compare notes on what details were left out.

The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz

This book has woven its way through my life on a number of occasions. Allow me to explain…

Books about War

This book is a true story, written by the author in 1956, recounting his experience of being taken to a Soviet prison camp during WWII, his attempted escape, and his journey to find freedom.

I have a soft spot for those who have lived through the perils of war and any book that covers WWII somehow finds its way into my reading list.

My grandparents
My mother’s parents are Dutch, born and raised in the Netherlands. They survived WWII while many of their friends and family members did not. In 1949, they made their way to America to build a new life. My mom was born in America, but her oldest brother was born in the Netherlands. She was raised in a home where her parents spoke Dutch and her siblings spoke English. Her dad would tell her fantastical tales of him saving the world through his heroic deeds in Holland during WWII. They were fictional, bedtime stories that turned my grandpa into a hero in his daughter’s eyes, and my mom would tell the same bedtime stories to me when I was little.

Well, travel with me ALL the way back to my sophomore year in high school.

One of my older brothers – who was a high school English teacher at the time – recommended The Long Walk.

Now, I wasn’t raised with this particular older brother, and this is important, because if the recommendation came from the brother I was raised with, my punk, 16-year-old self would’ve probably ignored the recommendation.

See, I come from two parents who each had kids from prior marriages.

About 35 years ago, my parents met at a dance, enjoyed each other’s company (maybe a little too much), and a little while later got the surprise of their lives when I came knocking.

Let’s just say that yours truly was the reason my parents were… encouraged… to get married. Maybe compelled is a better word?

I was an accident.

Erik! You can’t talk like that! What would your parents think?!

We speak pretty openly about it. They get these newsletters too, so everything is okay.

Even though I was an accident, they both (I think) will admit that I could’ve turned out a lot worse.

The point is, I grew up with a brother and sister from my mom’s previous marriage while I had another brother and sister who were raised in Ohio by their mom and other dad.

Since I only knew this other brother – the one making the book recommendation – through the occasional visits and because he and I were eerily similar considering we were 10 years apart and raised 1,700 miles away from each other… I really valued his opinion. I liked impressing him. And if he recommended a book, that meant I should read it.

So, I checked out The Long Walk from the library and read it.

The story is remarkable.

The pain and suffering that the human mind and body can endure is literally not able to be believed. The depths of human cruelty can be unfathomable. The book is crazy interesting.

It quickly became my favorite book of my then-16-year-old life.

In one of my high school classes, I had a teacher that was a no-nonsense kind of guy and had a reputation of being strict.

Naturally, I was a little intimidated. I haven’t always been the bubbly personality you see in the videos and am quite shy.

At the beginning of the semester, he sent around a getting-to-know-you questionnaire. One of the questions was, “What is your favorite book?”

You already know my answer.

After class, he called me to his desk.

“Hey, is your favorite book really The Long Walk?!” he asked.

“Uh… yeah. I really like it,” I said nervously.

“The Slavomir Rawicz one? About the guy who attempted an escape from a Russian prison camp?” he asked.

“Uh… yeah. That’s the one,” I said.

From that point, me and this teacher had a cool bond.

We only spoke about it for probably 5 minutes because I had to get to my next class, but just that connection meant he was no longer the big, bad, scary teacher, and was instead – a pretty cool dude.

The story doesn’t end here.

Growing up in Utah, and I imagine many of you reading this are familiar with this concept, I spent two years of my young-adult life in a foreign country.

Loyal readers already know where I went, but leading up to the moment when I would find out where I would be going, people always asked, “where do you WANT to go?”

My best friend in the whole wide world growing up, from 3rd grade all the way to the present day, is Tongan.

I’ve been to countless Tongan weddings, celebrations, luaus, you name it. I love the Polynesian cultures so I WANTED to go to Tonga, Fiji, Hawaii would be cool.

If not a Polynesian island chain, maybe Italy or Switzerland? Those seemed cool.

I told everyone, “I just HATE the cold, so I really don’t care as long as it isn’t Russia.”

If you guessed that I went to Tonga where I’d always dreamed of going because of the island life, beautiful weather, and happy people, you would be incorrect.

By like 100%.

I gave it away though, didn’t I?

My favorite book talks all about the terrible conditions the hero had to endure in Russia.

I hate being cold more than anything.

I said – OUT LOUD – the one place I did NOT want to go.

So… where did I get to spend 2 years?


Those two years shaped who I am today when it comes to seeing people for who they are, not for what television or schools or the news tells me they are. I made friends there who I will never forget and who I love like family. I got to walk on some sacred ground where the absolute lowest of lows took place when it comes to the human condition. Bloody battles where countless lives were taken. Homes were obliterated. And all hope was lost. The scars of these events are still evident and unmistakable these 80-years later.

I spent about 6 months in the city of Volgograd – formerly known as Stalingrad.

There is a building kept as a monument as the only one left standing after the Battle of Stalingrad.

By only building left standing, that’s a bit of a stretch… it looks like a building that has been blown up – it just happens to still have 4 semi-erect walls with bullet holes, blown out windows, and a destroyed roof with entire sections of the building missing.

This is the building that was left. The gray building behind it is an incredible memorial museum.

If you’ve ever read the book, Enemy at the Gates or you’ve seen the movie with the same name starring Jude Law as a Russian sniper, that book and story happened in this city.

Very interesting movie, that covers one chapter in this book. Very heavy book to read. Read at your own risk… but that is NOT the book recommendation this month. 

Now, you and I will read things, we will see things, we will hear things that will attempt to compartmentalize entire groups of people into one bucket so that we can immediately judge them and compare this group of people to us in a way that encourages us to side with them, or turn against them. 

I had been in Russia for about 5 months before I came to this city and didn’t feel like I understood or could empathize with Russians much.

Living in this city was a game-changer for me.

It wasn’t until I saw and felt what they had lived through, specifically through the 80 year old scars of this city, that I started feeling differently.

Every Russian I spoke with who was above the age of about 50 at the time, had an immediate family member who was lost in either WWII or during the Stalinist purges.

I’m not talking a distant cousin or even an uncle. I’m talking a grandmother, a grandfather, a mother, a father, a sister or a brother who was there one day and gone the next.

It gets really hard to hate people when you know what they’ve been through.

Erik, I have no idea how any of this applies to your book recommendation.

Yeah, I don’t really either.

The book is amazing. It takes place in Russia during WWII. Now you know I went to Russia – even though I feared Russia because of the book – but because I lived in similar places as the book, I actually grew to love parts of Russia and appreciate the book in a different way.

Crazy. All of that comes from a book I read in high school.

So, go check out the book The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz, or, as I mentioned ALL the way at the beginning, you can watch the movie they made about it.

I’m not going to lie to you though, I’m not the biggest fan of the movie. Lots of interesting director choices, but it does have Colin Farrell and Ed Harris in it so… that’s nice.

The movie is called The Way Back and you can watch that on Amazon Prime Video.

So, that is your book recommendation as well as your words of wisdom for this month.

Wait a minute! Erik, where on earth were the words of wisdom?!

Valid question. They are buried in there somewhere I think.

  • Accidents happen, what are you going to do with them?
  • Life sends you places you never wanted to be, what do you do about it?
  • Sometimes awesome, meaningful, life-changing (in a good way) things come from where you least expect them.
  • Humans can be awful and amazing.
  • Reading is pretty cool.

I appreciate you and thank you for reading!

October Book Recommendation and Words of Wisdom

This is taken from the October 2022 Newsletter.

Book Recommendation

I am a former tennis player of sorts – and HUGE tennis fan. 
A couple weeks ago, my sports idol – Roger Federer – announced his retirement. It was a major moment in the tennis world, and in my own world. 

Another favorite among tennis players is Andre Agassi, and his autobiography: Open was a great read. 

His life has been quite the roller coaster of failure and success – happiness and misery – rebellion and conformity. He outlines his love and hate for tennis as well as the importance of surrounding yourself with quality people to guide you through life’s decisions. 

If you enjoy tennis, I think you’ll love this book. Even if you don’t enjoy tennis or sports in particular, it is a pretty unfiltered look at what kinds of things go on in the lives of professional athletes. Highly recommend it. 

Words of Wisdom
Speaking of sports…

My 7-year-old boy made it to the championship game in his little league baseball tournament last week. His team was undefeated and all of us parents were very excited about it (probably more so than the kids). My son’s team was going against another undefeated team in this championship game. 

Now, you need to understand that these are 5-7 year olds. It’s machine pitch. Most of the kids are just learning the game and trying to have fun. Some are rolling around in the outfield and several times a game the coaches will need to remind two of our little guys to stop wrestling in the outfield, or drawing designs in the dirt, or any number of distracting activities that have us holding on for dear life as a baseball goes screaming past their head. 

It’s actually quite entertaining to watch. If you’re a baseball purist, you might be pulling your hair out during most of the game… but every once in a while… something magical happens. One of the kids rolls over in the dirt. Stands up. Fields a ball and hucks it to first base where his little friend holds out his glove, closes his eyes, and mutters, “please catch it… please catch it” and makes the play. And usually, the parents of both teams are cheering wildly for every good play, including players on the other team. 

… until you get to the championship game.

I don’t know what it is about youth sports, but it can turn otherwise calm, peaceful, loving human beings into absolute lunatics. 

I’ve been around a lot of athletic events. A LOT. And I have never seen a coach manipulate the rules of a sporting event quite like the coach of this opposing team. He and his players seemed to know every little, dirty trick in the book that would trip one of our runners while they ran the bases or hit one of our kids with a hard tag while they were standing on a base in hopes of knocking them off or any number of deceptive and downright dirty plays. The coach would move his best fielder to various positions during the inning so that this player was wherever our kids were most likely to hit. So in one single inning, the kid would play 1st, then go to 2nd, then move over to short, then, for one of our better hitters, he’d move to right field where our guy liked to hit. 

Now, I like to sit in the outfield, away from everyone else and observe. So I’m out there behind the outfield fence listening to the roars of our parents yelling at the opposing coach and at the other parents and at each other. It was quite the scene. 

Again… these are 5-7 year old kids!

League commissioners were called to observe and mediate. Birth certificates were called into question. It was chaos. 

But, going into the last inning, my son’s team had a 4-run lead! However, the other team got last at-bats. All we needed was to keep them from scoring 5 runs. 

One of the parents on our team, who happens to be a good friend, has a son who is just learning the game. This is his first season and he is, by quite a bit, the least experienced and least skilled player on the team. Catching, throwing, and hitting just aren’t easy for him – again, because it is his first year. All of our kids were the same way one or two years ago. 

Well, this dad goes up to our coaches, in the heat of this emotionally-charged game and tells them, “Look, I’m not blind. I know my son is a liability. Please, hide him somewhere in the outfield so he doesn’t cause the team to lose. I’m his dad. It’s cool. I understand. Just hide him.”

One of the coaches helping out, whose son is BY FAR the best player on our team, looks at the dad and says, “Dude, our kids are here to learn and have fun. If we lose, we lose, but your son has been important to our team all year and we’ll keep treating him that way.” 

Our coaches didn’t hide him. 

The kid was slated to play 2nd base and that is where he played. 

Well, the other team comes up and, after a couple of errors at 2nd, they had pulled to within 1 run of tying the game. 

It was just like the movies – they are down one, bases loaded, two outs. 

Their next batter hits a ball to where? You guessed it. 2nd base.

The ball goes right by our little friend there on 2nd base.

Two runners score. 

Other team wins.

Their coach goes nuts. 

He lifts the kid who made the last hit on his shoulders and parades him around the field. 

The kid was loving it. It was a fun scene for their team.

Most of our kids took it quite well. There were a couple that cried. A couple who were just there for the treats. And a couple that got distracted by the 2nd place medals and forgot about everything else (my son). 

That 2nd baseman was congratulated and hugged. The coach told him how important he was to the team the entire year and that next time, he’ll make the play, no doubt. 

On the drive home, my son and I discussed the season and the game. My son loved it. He loved the season. He loved his teammates and his coaches. He learned a lot and grew as a baseball player. I am so proud of him and the fact that he is always willing to do his best. 

I am grateful that he is surrounded by people like his coach who understand the bigger picture of youth sports. 

I think what the coach said applies to life in general. We will never grow if we lurk in the shadows, shrink away from the limelight, and refuse to face opportunities to fail and succeed. We don’t learn by hiding. We learn and grow by doing. This applies to a 7-year-old baseball player as much as it does to me and as much as it does to you. 

Don’t hide. Step out of your comfort zone. Surround yourself with people who are there to support you when you are doing wild, and crazy, and scary things.