Podcast episode: Living my best life at age 44

Training to dunk in my 40s

Your best years aren’t behind you. 18 months ago, I started three quests in hopes of proving I wasn’t “over the hill”. I could be happier and healthier in my 40’s than I was in my 20’s. My best life is still ahead of me.

In this episode, I detail what life was like at the beginning of my questing for the best life now. I share what what I’ve learned in my physical, financial, and relational quests. You’ll learn how I’ve lost weight, gained more energy, gotten closer to my loved ones and gotten by finances in shape.

Episode 36: Living my best life at age 44

Listen, rate, subscribe: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Stitcher / Google Play

Episode Notes:

In this episode I mention several principles and ideas that are explored in much more depth on other parts of this site. I’m mentioning those below:

Fitness for middle-aged men

Tired of not being able to do the physical stuff you used to be able to do? Wanting to ditch the muffin top? Tired of being tired?

Episode Transcript:

  1. This is the Bad-Ass Dad Pod.
    1. The podcast for people of a certain distinction…of a certain length of tooth… people who aren’t necessarily in the spring-chicken phase of life…
      1. Maybe you’ve hit your 40’s
      2. Maybe you’re in your 30’s and feeling a bit rundown.
      3. Maybe you’re 78 years old and still looking to conquer some goals.
    2. Well, my friend, this is your podcast!
    3. Because on the Bad-Ass Dad Pod, we’re striving to live our best lives no matter what age we are.
    4. And you know what?
      1. I’m convinced I’m doing it, right now.
      2. Seriously.
    5. My name is Ryan Dunn.
      1. I’m your 44-year co-questor.
      2. Your fellow traveller on the road to awesome.
      3. My qualifications include being a Level 5 Relationship Ranger
      4. A level 6 Gym Warrior
      5. A level 3 Debt Mage
      6. Your lawful good podmaster
      7. Vanquisher of relationship complacency
      8. Seeker of the dunk
      9. Reducer of the debt dragon
      10. I am Dad. I am Husband. I am your friend.
  2. In this episode, Ryan-palooza continues!
    1. Isn’t that exciting?!
    2. Let me explain what’s going on.
      1. The last two guests I’ve had on the podcast have both been named Ryan.
        1. It was not a deliberate thing… just one of those prompts of serendipity… Maybe it was fate, I don’t know.
        2. Anyways, 2 episodes ago, we spoke with Ryan Lockee.
          1. Ryan and I dove into starting off the new school under less-than-ideal circumstances and that led to a conversation about dealing with difficult or crappy situations and making the best out of them through mindfulness and a sense of purpose.
          2. So stuff that really is applicable all the time.
        3. Last episode, our conversation was with Ryan Stanley.
          1. He walked us through some emotional first aid for dealing with the bumps and bruises of life.
          2. Couldn’t we all use a little self-applied TLC from time to time?
      2. In this episode, it’s just me!
        1. I like to do solo episodes fairly often.
          1. Actually, when I started this podcast, I meant for it to be almost all solo episodes.
          2. BUT, I ran into a big roadblock when I realized two things:
            1. First, I grow tired of talking about myself rather quickly, believe it or not.
            2. And secondly, I need to talk to people who actually know things… more things than me. 
            3. I am not an authority on all things. So I seek out those voices who are authorities on different topics.
        2. This episode comes largely in response to a prompt I had to re-introduce myself and this podcast.
          1. It may not be clear listening to each individual episode exactly what I’m trying to accomplish here
          2. So, I’m taking this opportunity, here in Ryan-palooza part 3, to talk about myself, the history of this podcast, my goals… and why I believe I’ve become my best self at the age of 44… and I’m just getting better.
  3. Let’s take a journey back to late 2018.
    1. It was right around my 43rd birthday–which, actually, was in December of 2018,if you must know.
    2. And at that time, crossing the threshold into my mid-40s, I felt a little reflective.
      1. I looked at my life, which actually looked pretty good.
        1. My marriage had been chugging along for 17 years.
        2. I’d been a parent for 10 of those years.
        3. I held a job that kept me challenged and growing and working with some purpose while paying me fairly well.
      2. Life was good… but I felt discontent.
        1. Ever been in that kind of state? 
          1. Feeling discontent in spite of everything looking OK on paper, so to speak?
          2. Like, you feel like you have enough, but you still want something more?
        2. If so, you’re gelling with what I was feeling at that time.
      3. Really, I reflected on life on the whole and felt like I was just kind of gliding by.
        1. I was coasting… just doing my things.
          1. I was doing just enough to be an OK husband.
          2. And an OK dad.
          3. And to be OK at work.
          4. And, when my 40’s passed into the 50’s and beyond into my 80s and I left this earthly realm, I think those left behind would reflect and say “Ryan Dunn lived an OK life.”
        2. And that unsettled me because I never planned to live just an OK life.
          1. Right?
          2. When  we’re in our 20s and busting into adulthood, none of us are thinking: “I’m just going to get by in life.”
          3. Or, “I’m going to live to the okay-est of my abilities.”
          4. Nah. We’re planning to conquer! 
            1. We’re planning on growing into fully-formed beings of awesome-ness.
            2. We’re going to blissfully happy marriages (if that’s in our plan)
            3. And kicking careers–doing just what we want…
              1. Maybe even being our own bosses.
              2. Or charting our own career paths.
            4. If kids are in the plan, then we’re going to have healthy, respectful little clones of ourselves.
            5. And, of course, we dream that we’re going to accomplish the dreams that we feel are just a little bit out of reach at the moment. 
      4. And, you know, maybe that’s what was unsettling me the most about life in my 40s.
        1. When I think about 20-something Ryan, he had some big ideas.
        2. But 40-something Ryan dropped the big ideas.
          1. 40-something Ryan became content with just accepting things as they came instead of reaching for the things that felt just a little bit out of reach.
          2. The phrase “It is what it is” became a mantra.
          3. And I applied it to all the facets of my life.
            1. My marriage was what it was. 
            2. My finances scared me, but they were what they were.
            3. My relationship with my son was what it was.
            4. I was tired, physically, but that was what happened when we got older right?
          4. And those other dreams I had… the things I thought about when I was 20-something…
            1. And really, those dreams were more feelings than specific goals:
              1. I dreamt of feeling independent.
              2. And in control of circumstances.
              3. I dreamt of not feeling tied to my bi-weekly paycheck and not living the rest of my life in subservience to that.
            2. Those dreams got lost somewhere between the early 20s and the mid 40s… and it was what it was.
    3. The question that struck me during this time was “Does it have to be this way?”
      1. “Am I at the point of life now–being 43-years old–where the course is set, I am who I am, and this is how life is going to be?”
      2. I wasn’t so sure that needed to be the case.
      3. I wanted to test and see if I could get more proactive about shaping the life I wanted… despite being a little late to the “grab-life-by-the-horns” party.
    4. Really, I wanted to see if I could be better now than I was when I was younger.
      1. Because, honestly, I don’t remember being all that happy in my more youthful days.
      2. I wanted to see if I could be more healthy in life at age 43 than I was at age 23.
  4. So I thought about the pain points of my life… the areas where I felt, wellll, inadequate.
    1. They were kind of my shame points. 
      1. The areas I tended to hide from other people because I felt a little bit of shame of how they really were.
      2. And, after doing a little soul-searching, I identified three areas that were shame triggers for me.
    2. First, was my most important relationships–specifically, my marriage and my parenting relationship.
      1. What triggered the shame response for me in these relationships is that I didn’t feel like we were really united and working towards anything together.
      2. I had no vision for where my marriage was going… the same with being a parent.
      3. I was simply just getting by. I was doing enough to be OK.
        1. OK as a husband.
        2. And OK as being a parent.
      4. The consequence was that my wife and I really didn’t have shared interests.
        1. There was no vision for our family. 
        2. We weren’t working towards anything.
        3. We were just getting by day-to-day.
        4. And I had let my role in the marriage become that of a leveller.
          1. Like, it was simply my responsibility to not rock the boat
          2. And to keep things as even-keeled, as copacetic, as bearable… as possible.
        5. And at this phase we would just kind of keep things together until we were empty-nesters and ready to redefine life when our roles as parents could move the back-burner.
        6. Well, that kind of sucked. 
        7. It sucked because I felt like I was just wasting time.
          1. Where there is no vision, the people wander–or cast off restraint.
          2. We didn’t have vision… and that meant we didn’t feel much unity.
          3. Our marriage felt aimless. 
        8. I wanted to feel united in marriage… not just, like, together.
          1. I wanted to feel like we were moving towards something together.
          2. I wanted to show how our marriage had purpose beyond the societal expectation that we were supposed to be married…. And my wife and I could fill that role for each other.
      5.  So, I wanted healthier family relationships. I was shamed by the unhealthiness of my current relationships.
    3. My second pain point was our family’s finances.
      1. They were pretty dang bad.
      2. In 2017, I accepted a job that paid me more than I ever really expected to get paid.
        1. I am a minister by trade.
        2. And MOST ministers do not make a lot of money.
        3. Especially those of us who don’t have our sights set on being pastors of big mega-churches–which is never where I felt my calling.
        4. In 2017, I moved from being a youth pastor to being a content creator for a major Christian denomination.
        5. That sounds like a hefty job–and it is–and it came with a little more heft in the paycheck.
      3. BUT, by the end of 2018, I found that despite seeing a bigger dollar number on my paycheck, my family’s finances hadn’t changed.
        1. We were still heavily in debt on our credit cards, personal loans, and car loan.
        2. And we still didn’t have any savings to speak of.
      4. And, often times, we were going paycheck to paycheck.
      5. It made zero sense to me.
        1. And I was frustrated.
        2. Because I felt like we should feel more secure financially.
        3. We wanted to buy a house and I felt that should be accessible to us.
        4. I was ashamed of the amount of debt we had.
        5. And I was ashamed that every time I felt like being generous there was this nagging voice telling me “you can’t afford to be generous.”
      6. I’d lived this way my entire adult life… 
        1. Well, you know what? Actually, I hadn’t.
        2. When I was in my 20’s, I made crap for a paycheck.
          1. I mean, we’re talking about having a full-time job that paid $14000 a year. 
            1. Now, I know that was 20 years ago.
            2. But still, even adjusting for inflation, it ain’t much. 
          2. But I lived debt-free and felt somewhat content.
            1. I had a livable apartment.
            2. A working car.
            3. And found ways to have fun without breaking the bank.
      7. And that struck me: I needed to get our finances to be healthier.
        1. But I needed an attitude adjustment in regards to money.
        2. I needed a healthier view of money than what I currently had at age 43.
        3. What if I could have my age 43 paycheck with my age 23 attitudes about spending and contentment?
        4. I think some big things would be possible.
      8. So healthier relationships and healthier finances were in order.
    4. The third pain point I know a lot of people my age can relate too: my pants were too tight.
      1. Actually, it was more that I felt physically tired.
      2. I remember one day coming home from work, and my son asked me to go play in the yard with him.
        1. And I just didn’t have the energy.
        2. I was physically burned by a job where I sat at a desk and typed on a computer most of the day.
      3. That was freakin’ bogus.
      4. AND, selfishly, I was not at all pleased with the dad bod I was rockin–complete with muffin top and back fat… and all that.
      5. And here was the crazy part: I still regularly exercised.
        1. For years, I’d been a semi-serious runner.
        2. I coached cross country running for several years which kept me active.
        3. When I took my new job, I left the cross country gig.
        4. And I watched my running times fall and fall.
        5. I was constantly running harder in order to run slower.
        6. And so I was getting a bit bored of the running.
        7. Probably just because I was frustrated by it.
      6. So when I felt too tired to pal around with my boy… and I was limited to like 2 pairs of pants that still fit… I decided I could use to get physically healthier.
    5. And after doing all that review around my 43rd birthday, I decided that was enough to work on.
      1. I was going to relationally, financially, and physically healthy.
      2. So I set out to do those things.
        1. I declared my intent to become more proactive as a spouse and parent.
        2. I declared my intent to shape up our finances.
        3. And I declared my intent to get into shape.
      3. And several months after having declared my intent, nothing was different.
      4. It was all the same: anxiety about the bank account, low energy, aimless relationships.
    6. At that time I was reading a book by Viktor Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning
      1. Frankl depicts life in a Nazi concentration camp.
      2. And how those who defined their lives by a search for something… or with a strong goal or quest… dealt with those really shitty circumstances far better than those who just sought to survive.
      3. The quest was what provided people with meaning.
      4. That opened my eyes to the need to transform my very non-specific goals of getting healthy into very specific quests.
        1. “Being healthy” is a fine goal–but it’s very non-specific and not very motivating.
        2. I needed to get hyper-specific about what I was trying to accomplish.
        3. I was craving clear vision.
        4. I needed something concrete to hit.
  5. I reacted to the revelation by setting out some quests for myself:
    1. Specific, defined quests for getting healthy.
    2. And let me start describing these by pointing towards my physical quest… because it’s the most concrete of my three specific quests.
    3. Physically, I decided I am going to dunk a basketball.
      1. Originally, the goal was to dunk before my 44th birthday.
        1. That didn’t happen.
        2. I had more work in store for me than I realized.
        3. So, my revised goal is to dunk before my 45th.
          1. I think I’m going to make it.
      2. So that was my quest.
        1. There are several steps to completing that quest.
        2. First, I needed to lose weight.
        3. I’m 6-foot 3 and a half. When I started this quest, I weighed about 225–and it was not all muscle, I’ll offer.
        4. So I needed to drop weight while I got stronger and re-learned how to jump.
        5. I’m down about 22 pounds. I haven’t reached my goal weight, yet. (more on that in a bit.)
        6. I lost weight simply by making sure I was consuming less calories than I used up.
          1. And that worked for the first 20 pounds… and then it didn’t
          2. I dropped 20 pounds in a matter of a few months.
          3. And then I didn’t couldn’t seemingly lose any more.
          4. So I started tracking calories and macros–making sure I was consuming enough protein.
          5. And I felt good while doing that… but I didn’t lose any weight.
          6. It wasn’t until recently when I set a daily calorie-limit and started cycling carbs that I’ve started to lose weight again.
          7. It’s slower going than the early days… but it’s finally coming off again. I hope to get to just below 200.
          8. For me, the diet looks like limiting my calorie intake to under 2500 calories each day.
          9. 2 days a week I eat carbs–those are the high carb days–which usually match up with my toughest workout days.
          10. The other days of the week I avoid carbs.
          11. That’s how this dog is rolling.
        7. So I talked about needing to lose weight, Another thing I needed to do in order to dunk was get stronger… especially in my legs.
          1. I’ve added about 7 inches to my vertical jump–and I’ve got about 4 more to go, I think.
          2. My goal is to get my entire hand above the rim when I jump. (I’ve got about half of it up there now.)
          3. I work with a personal trainer two days a week.
          4. I do plyometrics one day a week.
          5. And the other days I play ball and do cardio and yoga.
        8. The third thing I need to do to dunk is learn how to jump well.
          1. I videoed myself taking a stab at the rim when I first started, and it’s a bit comical to look at now.
          2. We forget how to do simple actions as we get older. And I had forgotten how to jump.
          3. I think as kids we naturally figure out how to do certain activities fluidly and efficiently. But our bodies forget those movements without practice.
          4. I had lost all fluidity in my jumping.
          5. So part of my training is to simply practice how to jump.
          6. I practice stepping into my jump.
          7. I practice getting my feet down and then off of them quickly.
          8. And I practice extending my whole body into the movement. 
      3. And, as I detail each of my quests, I’m going to offer my key learnings from each area. So this learning to jump idea leads me into my first key learning from my physical quest.
        1. And it’s this: Work on what you want to achieve every day.
          1. A couple months ago, I did a 30-day pull up challenge. 
            1. When I started I could do one single, solitary pull up.
            2. In accepting a 30-day challenge, I was wary. Because it’s wise to have some rest time built into your training.
            3. But people seem to do these challenges often without injury, so I went for it.
            4. After the first week, I could do 3 pull-ups. 
            5. After the month, I could do 6 pull-ups.
            6. That’s not a ton. But it’s a huge improvement.
            7. Some days, I was too fatigued to do more pull-ups, so I modified and worked on it other ways–like door pulls or rows.
            8. The point is, I worked my goal every day.
          2. I’m now taking that to my dunking and trying to work on jumping every day.
          3. Work on what you want to achieve every day.
        2. Second key takeaway from the physical quest: What you eat matters… a ton!
          1. Maybe this becomes more true as one ages, but I’m learning that food affects everything else. What I eat determines how well everything else goes.
            1. Food affects sleep. It affects mindset. It affects my physical ability to recover and grow muscle.
            2. It definitely affects energy level.
            3. Food and food make-up is a big hairy deal.
            4. So it can’t be ignored.
          2. So I pay really close attention to the make-up of my food.
            1. I avoid foods that are known testosterone inhibitors–like vegetable oil, processed baked goods, fat-free dairy products (especially yogurt).
              1. I’ll put a list of t-inhibiting foods in the notes for this episode.
            2. While I avoid those, I make sure I’m getting enough protein.
              1. I try to eat my weight in grams. So, that’s roughly 205 grams of protein per day I’m shooting for… on average.
        3. That’s what I’m doing with food.
          1. Third key learning from my physical quest to dunk a basketball is this: training is way better when I’m having fun.
          2. And, actually, I’ve had this echoed by some other mature athletes I’ve been able to talk with.
          3. They keep doing what they’re doing because they are seeking after goals that are fun for them.
          4. And I’ve encountered this myself.
            1. Shoot, I’ve been on the dunk quest for near a year and half.
            2. And I’m still after it!
            3. I’m going to keep after it because I’m having a good time doing it.
            4. I enjoy the goal.
            5. I work hard… but it feels fun to me.
          5. So, if you’re one of those folks who says, “I hate working out.”
            1. I challenge you to consider what you want to achieve through working out.
            2. If it’s just to lose weight… well, that’s good, but it’s not fun.
            3. Shoot for a fun goal… like being able to do a handstand, or completing a 10-mile hike with your family… and I’ll bet you’ll lose weight, too.
    4. Alright, enough physical stuff, let’s talk finances.
      1. Talk about fun, right?!
      2. I’ve noted that my finances are a source of shame. Particularly, the amount of debt my family incurred. All in all, we had like $32000 in debt when we started.
        1. The goal… the quest we are on… is to erase the debt.
        2. To do that, I’ve had to build a family that allows for some controlled spending while making added debt payments.
        3. So the first thing I did was audit our expenses:
          1. And I eliminated places where we threw money away:
          2. Like extra Spotify subscriptions.
          3. I mean, man, the little random subscriptions really were piling up: an online newspaper here, a premium Amazon channel there…
          4. We were mindlessly spending way too much money.
        4. So our challenge became to not mindlessly spend anything… we need to practice mindful spending.
        5. In my religious tradition, we toss around a question that asks: do you pray about the money you spend?
          1. That is one challenging question.
          2. Because asking if we pray about our expenditures convicts us through considering the ultimate purpose of our purchase…. Doesn’t it?
          3. Like, can I in good conscience say I prayed about the $5 I spent on a frozen latte?
          4. Not likely… because if I did I’d have to recognize that there were better uses for that cash.
        6. So, we’re seeking to eliminate mindless spending and sticking to a budget. 
          1. At our current rate of payment, we will be out of debt no later than November of 2021.
          2. I can hardly wait.
          3. In the meantime, we limit mindless spending (I’m not saying it never happens, but it’s limited)
            1. We have a budgeted monthly amount we use to pay extra on our debts–so there are no minimum payments here.
            2. AND, we stick to the principles of frugality… which means we look for things for free… then for cheap… then for lasting quality.
              1. OH, and I don’t pay other people to do what I can do myself.
              2. Which can be a bit adventurous at times. But that’s probably a whole other episode of stories.
      3. Here’s what I’ve learned from my financial quest to get out of debt
        1. First, impulse buys don’t actually make me happy.
          1. In fact, more often I experience regret as opposed to ecstasy.
          2. Impulse buys simply aren’t worth it.
            1. How could something that just found out existed a few moments ago bring deep meaning into my life?
            2. It likely can’t. There’s little value in getting that item outside of the rush of dopamine I get from making the purchase.
            3. That’s it. Impulse buys are like cigarettes–the only reward they bring is a rush and a want for more.
        2. The second thing I’ve learned: credit cards crush dreams.
          1. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “I’m so glad I ran up my credit card.” Have you?
          2. Credit cards mean that you keep paying for a one-time purchase.
          3. And, because of compounding interest, we’re going to pay a heck of lot more for that product as we continually pay for it. 
          4. I used a credit card to finance a vacation once… or twice.. Or… nevermind…
            1. ANYWAYS, the vacation is over. It’s long gone.
            2. I remember bits of it.
            3. But, honestly, the joy of it is long gone.
            4. On the other hand, the regret I encounter every time I open my credit card statement… that’s still with me.
            5. Let’s look at it this way: Credit Cards are regret machines.
              1. They taint your happy memories with regret.
              2. And then, you can’t afford certain things because you have to keep making your credit payments… thereby causing more debt by missed opportunities.
          5. So my advice: shred those credit cards.
            1. OR, at LEAST, make them really tough for you to use.
            2. I’ll be honest. I still have an open credit card. 
              1. I haven’t charged anything to it in a couple years.
              2. But I keep it as a security blanket.
              3. I think once I get that thing paid off and a little more into savings, that bad boy is getting shredded.
              4. Little regret machine that it is.
    5. Sorry, I got a little judgy and preachy there. So let’s move to the happy topic of relationships.
      1. Relationships are tough to measure. Like, how do you measure if you have truly happy or mutually rewarding relationships?
        1. I don’t think you can.
        2. That’s why I started gamifying my quests.
          1. What that means is that identified certain behaviors that would, for example, lend value to my relationships.
          2. Then  assigned fairly arbitrary point values to those behaviors.
            1. Like, I get 10 points for doing some fun with my family.
            2. I get a point for spending time with them to listen about what’s going on in their lives…
            3. That kind of thing.
            4. And then, essentially, I bribe myself by presenting myself with rewards when I get enough points.
            5. That sounds shallow… but if the desired is altruistic does that make it acceptable?
            6. I’ll let you decide for yourself… but I’m a def “yes” on my end.
      2. So that’s how I put some definition to my quest to stop taking my important relationships for granted.
        1. I’m seeking to get to the next level according to my gamification system.
      3. And here’s what I learned… besides that I am highly susceptible to bribes–from myself…
        1. I learned that lavishing positive attention on my loved ones isn’t always easy, but it’s always good. 
          1. And I’ve gotten to a point where I attempt to live according to a certain rule:
          2. It’s this: act like the person you want to hang out with.
          3. So be the easy-going, empathetic person you wish you to have your life.
        2. Now I gotta admit, as soon as I wrote that, I realized all the instances today where I messed that up.
        3. It doesn’t come naturally to me.
        4. I’m a work in progress for sure.
        5. So it helps to keep pushing that idea out there where I can see it… be the person I want to hang with…
  6. You, I think part of being a cool guy is through not overstaying a welcome.
    1. So I’m going to end this podcast episode.
    2. I’ve enjoyed the time, though.
      1. And, as you have, please show the appreciation through a rating and review on your podcast listening platform.
    3. The music you hear is by eyoelin.
    4. And my name is Ryan Dunn.
    5. You can find out way, way more about the Bad-Ass Dad quest and how one becomes a Bad-Ass person physically, financially and relationally over at theBADPod.com.
    6. Check it out… new content every week.
    7. That includes, in part, new podcast episodes every other week.
    8. So I’ll talk to you in a couple!
    9. In the meantime… keep questing!
    10. OK Bye.

Published by RyanDunn

Ryan Dunn has a bunch of certificates on his desk. A few are awards for content production and marketing. Another marks his ordination as a minister. One says he’s earned a BA in English from the University of Iowa. The certificate next to that says he earned an MA in Christian Practice from Duke (with honors!). Ryan is most proud, though, of the things he’s created: The Compass Podcast, some deep content on RethinkChurch.org, a series of practical spiritual advice videos, a long-lasting marriage, and fantastic little boy. (He enjoyed A LOT of help on all of those projects, especially the last two.)

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