“It’s the little things that scare us most…”


My daughters are afraid of the second floor in our house.

They are both old enough to go up the stairs by themselves. They carry toys up and down, they play together,  and they harass my wife as she gets ready work, yet, when one of them are asked to go up there on their own, they will hesitate. They will plead…

“I CAN’T go upstairs by myself.”

My wife and I are amused.

Growing Up Scared

I remember at their age that I would be scared if I had to go upstairs or into the basement by myself.

After watching the movie Aliens for the first time, I fully expected one the aliens to attack me when I went downstairs into the basement. My goal then was to get what I needed, and run as fast I could back up the stairs. I would never look back to see what was behind me.

My brother and I shared a bedroom on the second floor of my childhood home. We had bunk beds. I remember being unable to watch Stephen King’s Silver Bullet. My brother and father stayed up to watch it, but I cowered under the covers in my top bunk. I could still hear the television and the screams from the movie downstairs. I was petrified to move.

These are the little things that kids worry about.

The Scariest Place in the World


This is why my children amuse me.

We don’t watch any scary movies at home. However, they still have this fear of going upstairs by themselves. Even in broad daylight!

My oldest daughter and I frequently drive by a deserted barn alongside a road we drive. It is is old, run down, and dangerous looking.  Recently, my daughter asked if we would be able to go into the barn.

ME: “Why?”

DAUGHTER #1: “Because there might be ghosts in it.”

For fun, I decided to play along.

ME: “Yes, the barn could be haunted…aren’t you scared?”

DAUGHTER #1: No. (flat tone)

ME: You can’t even go up the stairs in our own house.”

She started giggling, so I pressed on.

ME: You mean to tell me that you are MORE afraid of going upstairs in our own house, than going into a scary barn that has a sign on it that says ‘NO TRESPASSING?'”

DAUGHTER #1: “Yes.”

ME: “Which is more scary…The barn or the upstairs?”

DAUGHTER#1: “I would go into the barn.”

No hesitation.

We both laughed, and I told her that I would double check with her younger sister. Her sister is three, and  I believed she would provide a more logical answer – scary barn or upstairs in the house? Obviously, she would reply the scary barn, and she had also seen this barn multiple times. I would even add the word “spooky” to lead her there.

ME: Which is more scary…the “spooky barn” or the upstairs?”

DAUGHTER #2: The upstairs…”

No hesitation.


Why are my two daughters afraid of something they know well that is right in front of them?

Moral of the Story


I live my life through metaphors.

When I began brainstorming this week’s blog, I wanted to write about how adults tend to be more afraid and stressed about things we cannot control – the weather, the economy, Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian selfies, etc.

We ignore the little things we can control that are right in front of us, because they get lost in the dramas of society.

Children are more afraid of little things that are right in front of them, like the upstairs. As adults, we dismiss these little things, but maybe our children know more than we do.

Because the real problem is that we are little scared too.

I have written about “patterns of failure” and “accountability“.

Failure patterns are traps that you fall into if you are not confident your control of the little things. Accountability is taking responsibility for these little things and not avoiding them.

You can do this, and you must.

I am writing this week’s blog from hospital bed, because I didn’t ignore the little thing that was right in front of me. I am ready to face it,  whatever it is.

I am not afraid.


On second thought, those stairs are kind of scary…

For more information on Strength and Conditioning for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, AthleteDISC, and the Process Communication Model® follow my blog or follow me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.

“Superman, it’s not easy…” – Cam Newton

I don’t know Cam Newton. I have never played in the NFL. I don’t claim to know about football more than any other sports analyst or beat writer out there.

However, as an athlete and coach, I have spent an enormous amount of time observing athletes going through physical and mental stress.

“I’m only a man in a silly red sheet…”

The visceral reaction of the national media, social media, and my even my wonderful mother-in-law over Cam Newton’s behavior after the Super Bowl really made me think.

Why do we expect athletes to act and behave a certain way?

There are definitely good behaviors and bad behaviors. We are taught to know the difference as children, and we grow and experience them over time. In the moment that Cam Newton had lost the biggest game in the course of his career, everyone expected him to know how to behave.

Losing the Super Bowl is no different than an Olympian falling short of an Olympic medal. Yet, the NBC Olympic coverage will never pan the camera over to the Olympian that finishes in 4th place. The camera will never follow them for the next 4 years as they begin again, or try to move on with their life.

I have watched athletes fail and I have also failed myself. I remember exactly how I felt in that moment when I realized I was not moving on to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

I love and adore my wife. I would never have been upset with her attempts to console me about losing. However, there were definitely people in my life that I would not want to see or speak to at that moment.

There were also a few I may have punched in the face.


“Digging for Kryptonite on this one way street…”

Did anyone see this picture? A smile. I re-watched the entire game to observe Cam Newton’s facial expressions. He was not allowing himself to have fun in the moment. He was playing the Super Bowl against one of the greatest quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen in Peyton Manning. A quarterback who at the potential end of his career realized that he just needed to do what was necessary to win, and not try to win the game all by himself.

This is how an athlete matures over time. No doubt after Peyton Manning lost his previous two Super Bowls we all sympathized because he was still ‘classy’ enough to stand up in front of the world and talk about what just happened. But remember, he didn’t shake hands after losing the Super Bowl to New Orleans. Peyton Manning eventually learned to come to terms with his declining abilities, just as he learned to swallow his pride and be a good loser.

Peyton Manning is not Cam Newton. Cam Newton is not Peyton Manning.

If Cam Newton were to take the AthleteDISC behavior profile, I would guess that he was a high “I” for Influence and a high “D” for Dominance. Being able to enjoy the sport of football with his teammates and be super competitive is what has shaped him as a young man, and what he continues to live for. If you take those things away from him, then you are left with an athlete struggling to be something he is not.


“Only a man in a funny red sheet, looking for special things inside of me…”

Cam Newton must now spend the entire NFL off-season trying not to read and listen to the national media, social media, and fans who believe they know what a football should be and how they should behave. Younger athletes are different.

Our parents and their parents’ generation were extremely hard workers; they endured to provide us with the best things in life. Now I have begun my dual career as a parent and coach, and I realize that the next generation is different.

People are calling Cam Newton a 26-year-old child.

He is a child. He is 26 years old. I can say that now because I am close to 40. I remember how I behaved when I was 26. All of us should remember how we were when we were 26. We thought we knew everything. We learned from those mistakes. If we want the next generation to trust us then we need to stop following the script of:

“Why can’t you be like me when I was your age?”

I struggle with that right now with my own daughters. I try to impose some of the values that I learned as a child on them, but I need to realize that they are not me. I hope that one day they will see the best in me.

We model good behavior for our children through our own behavior. Not by shoving it down their throats…

If we call a person ‘classless,’ a ‘punk,’ ‘petulant,’ and ‘a baby’ then we are just reinforcing the behavior.

We are not helping. We are judging.

If we believe we are better than everyone else then maybe we should start using that knowledge to start teaching instead of sitting back pretending that we know exactly what the person is going through.

Oops. I’m judging.


“I’m only a man in a funny red sheet, I’m only a man looking for a dream…”

Dec 13, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers celebrate going 13-0 during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at Bank of America Stadium. Panthers win 38-0. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

We cannot blame his teammates, even if they blame themselves. Each of them perceived that they had to behave a certain way during the Super Bowl. The difference is that the national media does not care and will not analyze what was going through the mind of his teammates. They will only focus on Cam Newton’s behavior.

Each of his teammates will still have to look at themselves in the mirror and try to understand what they were missing during that game. Two NFL teams were playing at the highest level. Both teams came ready to play, and the game was always within reach. Only one team could win.

Did the Carolina Panthers fail? Yes, but finishing second is not the worst thing in the world.

Our “mature” American society made “winning” the most important thing.



“I’m only a man in a silly red sheet, And it’s not easy…

Photo Credit: www.bleacherreport.com and Getty Images

Photo Credit: http://www.bleacherreport.com and Getty Images

At this point, now, I am invested. I want to see him succeed. I am tired of watching athletes fail because I already know what it feels like. When I watch my athletes and others fail, I am reliving my own athletic failures with them.

The process of recovering from that takes a very long time. Someday, I will share that journey with everyone, but my focus now is to help athletes move passed and overcome that.

Cam Newton, I’m ready to believe. I know you did the absolute best that you could. You will learn from your mistakes and become a better athlete; a better person. You have already come forth and admitted that your choice of behavior might not have been the best one. It wasn’t. Do not let people change or sway you from who you are.


Superman will rise again…

“…It’s not easy to be me…”

For more information on Strength and Conditioning for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, AthleteDISC, and the Process Communication Model® follow my blog or like me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.



“Brad Alan Lewis, 1984 US Olympic M1x Trials” – Photo Steve Fontanini, LA Times


Welcome to a new year. As you wake up this morning you begin to reflect on the past year and what you accomplished and what you did not. 2016 will be a new start. You may have even scribbled your goals last night on a cocktail napkin.

New Year’s resolutions are goals. Even if the goals are lofty they are still an indicator that you want to improve.

You want to be better.

It is great to want to be a better person, a better parent, a better friend. It is great to want to be healthier, stronger, and happier. It is great to want to have more financial stability, more status in your career, more success.

2016 is also an Olympic year. It is great to have dreams and aspirations of representing your country and winning an Olympic medal.

Is it possible that you will fail?

Many people and athletes are afraid of failure and will choose one of two paths:

They will not attempt to accomplish the goal.

They will overextend themselves to accomplish the goal.

Choosing either option is taking an extreme. If we are static in pursuing our goal, we will never know if our goal is possible. If failure is not an option, the pursuit may not leave much room for anything else.

Are we afraid of failure? Is failing so awful that it is not worth just trying to improve ourselves?

For 2016, be aware of certain traps that may prevent you from achieving your goals. These traps are failure “patterns” that you should address and attempt to avoid:

1. “Until I”

“I cannot exercise…I cannot eat healthy…I cannot get up early…UNTIL I…”

It can be very easy to not start something because you need to organize everything else before you begin. You believe that everything else is more important. Household Chores, work emails, and other STUFF are still going to be there whether you begin or not.

Make a list

Make a list of 2 or 3 things that you have to accomplish today, tomorrow, and even next week. Make your goal one of top things on the list. The “day to day” items will still be on your list, but will not be on the top of your list.

Shift your priorities

Remind yourself that your goal is now one of the most important items on your list. Shift your focus on the goal rather than something that is not as important. Post, create or carry a reminder with you to keep your priorities on your mind (i.e. a photo of your children to remind you of health, or a slogan on your wall to motivate you)

2. “However”

 “I know that I lost 5 lbs…I know that I ran my best 5k…I know I got the promotion…HOWEVER…”

It can be very easy to focus on the negative rather than positive. Negative self-talk seems to creep up when things are going well.

Feel Good

There is nothing wrong with feeling good about what you have achieved. Allow yourself to enjoy your accomplishments. Surround yourself with people who support you. Avoid people who are not as positive about your success.

3. “Never”

“I NEVER seem to have time…I NEVER seem to have the energy…I NEVER seem to be motivated…”

It can be very easy to stall. You may finding your mind wandering and wondering how you are going to reach your goal, instead of going out and accomplishing your goal.

Be Direct

Reflection is okay, however set a time limit. Follow direct guidelines that you or someone you trust create for you. You need space and freedom to go at your own pace, however make sure the path leads directly to your goal.

4. “If…Then”

“IF I go to the gym, THEN I won’t have time to cook a healthy meal…IF I cook a healthy meal, THEN I won’t exercise…”

 It can be very easy to make excuses, and you may abandon one goal for the other. Everyday we  have to make choices. If we are unable to check items off our list, then we may give up.

Life is short

Remind yourself that life is short. You will not always have time to accomplish the things you want. Yet, it is not the end of the world. Spend your energy thinking of creative ways you can squeeze things in, or prioritize things  later in the week.

Accept the Challenge

Getting everything done is a challenge. No one every said that things would be easy. Draw upon your past experiences in which you were a rock star and were able to get everything done. Be confident.

5. “But Maybe”

“I am on track with my nutrition…I got that bonus…I won my competition…BUT MAYBE…”

It can be easy to forget that you are on track to achieving your goals. Just because everything is going well does not mean it will not continue to go that way.

Remind Yourself

Remind yourself that it is okay to feel good. Having support in the process reaffirms that you are doing great, and you should continue to do so. You have to focus on yourself, even if others are not achieving their goals. Your success is not contingent upon their success.

Laugh it off

Laugh off the stress you accumulate in achieving your goals. The pressure can be overwhelming, and therefore the only choice is to balance it with something that is fun and easy. Take a break!

6. “Now what?”

“I achieved my goal of saving money for our wedding…NOW WHAT?”

Congratulations, you achieved the goal. With nothing else to focus on it can be very easy to fall back into the pattern of self-doubt, over analyzing, and not trusting in your next goal.

Begin Again

I believe that that we as humans were born to be resilient, to stretch our limits, and to achieve remarkable things. Free will is a gift that allows us to choose our own path. When our goal is accomplished it is time to celebrate with the ones who care about us and support us. It is time to check that goal off our list, and believe in ourselves.

It is time to begin again.

Moral of the Story

“Because if you never try, you’ll never know, just what you are worth.” – Fix You, Cold Play

My father received a partial bone-marrow transplant over 10 years ago. He is now beginning to experience the complications from that. Over the holidays my wife and children were able to visit with him and my family. As he and I drove to pick up the take-out meal, we talked about life and how lately things have seemed bleak with the world with all the fighting and “offended masses.”

He started to cry.

I really have only seen my father cry two other times in my life, therefore I was listening.

He told me that everyone spends too much time and energy on what they cannot do or what others are not doing for them.

Meanwhile we are not spending the time and energy we have on the one thing we can control. Ourselves.

“We have to try.”

2016 Olympics

In 1984, Brad Alan Lewis failed to qualify for the Olympics in the Men’s 1x.

However, he did win the US Olympic Trials in the Men’s 2x, and go on to win the Olympic Gold Medal on Lake Casitas, in California.

For my future Olympians, the traps above apply to you as well. Just because you are an elite athlete does not mean you do not succumb to the stresses of competition and doubting yourself. In 2008, I believe I had all my mental demons under control. Therefore, when I did not make the US Olympic Team it was a shock.

In my own mind, I could not fail.

Reality has seeped in over the last 8 years, and I know now that I really had no chance of making it.

However, I did try.

You have to try, because in failing you learn so much.

I am always proud of that fact, and I will take comfort in that the rest of my life.

"Patrick Hoffman Rufo, 2008 US Olympic M2x Trials" - Photo by Jenna Rufo, Wonderful/Supportive Spouse

“Patrick Hoffman Rufo, 2008 US Olympic M2x Trials -10th place” – Photo by Jenna M Rufo, Wonderful/Supportive Spouse

For more information on training programs for rowing, rowing technique, Kettlebells, Clubbells, DISC, and the Process Communication Model® like me on Facebook at RUFO OPTIMAL WORKOUTS.