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GU'D LIFE: FULL CIRCLE

In the theatre world, saying “good luck” is actually considered bad luck, so they created the phrase “break a leg” to wish an actor well before a performance, the common thinking being that if you were in the leg line - the front stage performers - you were getting paid. As you all well know, just a year ago I took this phrase literally and broke my leg while back country skiing, which definitely didn’t bring me any good luck at the time, nor did it mean I got paid. But now, a year later, I’m able to reflect upon this experience and the unexpected positive impacts it did have on my life. Now don’t worry, this won’t be some end of the year review with my favorite IG photos or STRAVA year in sport metrics, nor will it be some deep, reflective advice column, because I’m not the first person to experience a minor set back like a broken leg nor am I smart enough to give you advice. With this post, I aim to share some learnings that helped get me through the dark times, a few bits of wisdom that I gleaned from others, and some thoughts on how to approach the new year. You ready for this?

Yuri hiking in Scotland

Before I go anywhere, I need to give a shoutout to the Kaiser doctors who helped devise a plan for recovery from my injury, as well as my acupuncturist and body worker, who I paid out of pocket to help work their magic on my broken leg. I have no doubt that without this team of experts I would not have healed as quickly as I did. I also need to give a heartfelt thank you to the friends, family, and, most importantly, my wife Vanessa, who rallied around me with food drops, gypsy remedies, personal attention, porch visits, love and care, impromptu field trips, check in phone calls and messages, all of which helped boost my spirits and keep me on a more positive path towards recovery.

This support was a great reminder that I have an amazingly vibrant and supportive friend and family network, which I’m very grateful for and further underscores the importance of nurturing community connections.

I already spent an inordinate amount of time on social media prior to my injury because it’s part of my job, so what do you think I did when I was laid up for 13 weeks staring at my ceiling? Yup, I doom-scrolled too much and even though I knew it was really bad for my mental state, I had a hard time ridding myself of this reflexive habit. And while I didn’t completely shake the social media monkey off my back this past year, I did implement two new habits in my life that helped me tap the brakes on my social media addiction: 1) reading more, particularly in the morning when I’m starting my day, and 2) teaching myself the ukulele. Yes, I know, there’s nothing earth shatteringly imaginative about either of these undertakings but they were two things that I could put into practice, every day, that helped temper my social media use. I will be the first to admit that this is still a work in progress, but I do try to start or end as many days as possible with an hour of reading instead of an hour of filling my brain with the latest Twitter banter and political news. And you know what I do when I find myself getting stressed or agitated now? I pick up the ukulele and within a few chords the musical notes distract me from my stress, lift my mood, and put me in a more positive mental state, all of which makes me a much happier person.

Yuri teaching himself the ukulele

Yuri teaching himself ukulele. Much better than doom-scolling the socials.

You know what else I tried to make peace with while being injured? A slower pace of life, which seems quite obvious since I wasn’t able to move, but if you’re familiar with my prior life patterns then you would know that I was pretty much lit at both ends at all times, going from event to event and living out of a suitcase that was always in some stage of packing or unpacking. It was fun, don’t get me wrong, and I loved every moment of it, but my injury forced me to slow down and realize that I didn’t always need to be somewhere else and that there were valuable learnings by being in the moment with my injury and recovery journey. Speaking of journeys, in Brad Stulberg's “The Practice of Groundedness,” a book I highly recommend, he says: “Acceptance is about being with your reality, whatever it may be. By doing so, you lessen the distress caused by wanting things to be different and judging yourself when they are not.” So next time you start getting caught up thinking too much about the future or stressing about things that are not in your immediate control, take a deep breath, focus on the here and now, and be sure to give yourself plenty of grace if things don’t go exactly how you hoped.

Yuri learning to take it slower

Slow it down bro. A broken leg forces acceptance of things beyond our control.

There was a time in my racing career when I worked with a coach and was laser focused on my performances, so training plans and goals would be created to help me be my best athletic self, the ultimate test being how I finished at certain events. While this was rewarding at that time, in hindsight I can now see some flaws with this approach. In Steve Magness’ excellent book “Do Hard Things”, he writes, “when you judge yourself solely by what place you came across the finish line, it provides zero actionable information on how to improve in the future.”

Yuri tells it like it is

Preach! Yuri's 2022 gives him a new perspective on 2023 goals.

Speaking of the future, and this New Year, now seems like a good time to talk about how you approach setting your yearly goals, intentions, resolutions, whatever you want to call them, so here are some thoughts on that: 1) Set realistic, appropriate, and manageable goals; 2) Make sure that these goals are intrinsically motivating and authentic to who you are; 3) Focus more on the process of reaching your goals more than the final outcome. Think of it like climbing a mountain. Your goal is the peak, obviously, but remember that 90% of your time will be spent on the journey, the process of getting there, so be sure to focus on all the little steps that you are taking to reach the summit; 4) On this journey you’re inevitably going to hit some obstacles, have some challenges, and suffer some setbacks, so remember to give yourself grace, to be kind to yourself, and don't get too disappointed if you’re not where you think you need to be; 5) Practice gratitude. Being thankful for what we have and are able to do has been scientifically proven to make us happier; 6) Have FUN!! At the end of the day, if we’re chasing goals that aren’t fun, we will lose motivation to pursue them, so be sure to choose something that brings you joy.

Well, there you have it, my year end wrap up of sorts. Told you I was no Dr. Phil, but hopefully some of my experiences, life lessons, and words resonate with you as you look at the year ahead.