I’m not the kind of guy that makes a big deal out of his birthday, but turning 40 seems like the kind of thing to celebrate. So, in early 2019 before I was even 39 I began making plans for my birthday celebration.
The first thing to get canceled this year was taking my dad to the Final Four. Some of my favorite childhood memories center around watching college basketball with him, so this was going to be a special event.
The next thing to get canceled was a trip to Los Angeles I had planned with my mom. She’s always wanted to be on the Price is Right, so we were going to go.
Then I had planned surprise weekend trips with each of my closest friends from college scheduled throughout the year. All canceled.
And for the grand finale I had planned a weekend’s worth of activities here in Atlanta for a group of my close Atlanta friends. Also, canceled.
I have made peace with the fact that my plans to celebrate my 40th birthday are not going to happen. But, I’ve been struggling to find a way to do something big, something momentous to mark this birthday.
As my mentor Michael Hyatt taught me to ask, “What does this experience make possible?” It’s the ultimate get out of the funk question.
I chewed on this question with no good answers for several months. I couldn’t comprehend a way to celebrate my 40th birthday in a way that felt big enough, daring enough, or challenging enough. Until I met Jesse Itzler.
How Jesse Itzler Saved my 40th Birthday Celebration
Jesse is an entrepreneur here in Atlanta who has a crazy list of accomplishments. These accomplishments are both personal and professional.
I started following him on Instagram and this Calendar Club was insane. Here’s how it works. Everyday for a month you run the number of miles of the day.
For example, Jesse did February. So on February 1 he ran 1 mile. On February 2 he ran 2 miles and so on until that last 7 days he ran 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29 miles for February 23-29.
I got hooked, so I looked him up. Here are a few of his accomplishments:
Minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks
Founded Marquis Jets without owning any airplanes and then sold it to Netjets,
He only eats fruit before noon (which he has followed for over 25 years)
Founded Zico coconut water company and sold it to Coca-Cola
Invented “Everesting” where participants walk up a mountain all weekend until they climb 29,029 feet. (The heigh of Mt. Everest.)
He even invited a Navy Seal to come and live with him for 30 days to learn as much as he could.
The guy is my kind of crazy. Naturally, I sent him a DM and said, “Hey I quit my job last week and I have 2 months off, can I come live with you this summer?”
He sent me back a DM.. He didn’t say, “No”. He didn’t ignore me. He actually said he wasn’t sure if his wife would be on board. (His wife is one of my favorite Atlantans; Sara Blakely who founded Spanx.) That got me curious.
I signed up for one of his courses and became immersed in Jesse’s world. It was then that Jesse saved my 40th birthday celebration.
What is a Misogi?
I first heard about this concept in Outside Magazine in late 2014 when there was an article about then Hawks guard, Kyle Korver, was profiled for his off season “Misogi” exercises.
For whatever reason it didn’t grab me then, but when I heard Jesse put his spin on it, I knew he had saved my 40th birthday without a minute to spare.
In his course, Build Your Life Resume, Jesse talked about Misogi this way: “Put one big thing on your calendar that will define this year.”
Marcus Elliot talks about it this way: “This is about testing your abilities in a foreign environment. The more blind, the more bold and adventurous the effort. There’s no entry fee. No spectators. It’s not a ride at Disneyland or a Tough Mudder. It’s a personal quest designed by you…You have a 50 percent chance of success, at best.”
Because this concept doesn’t seem to have any hard and fast rules, I made my own:
1. The Misogi is disruptive to my normal flow of life.
2. The Misogi has a 50/50 potential for failure.
3. The Misogi is something I do not have expertise in.
My 40th Birthday Misogi
For the next 40 nights I will be sleeping outside. Yes, you read that correctly. I am going to sleep outside for the last 40 nights before I turn 40.
Rule 1 – The Misogi is distruptive to my normal flow of life
Obviously sleeping outside is disruptive. I’ll climb the stairs to my roof everynight at bedtime no matter how cold it is, how wet it is, or where I happen to be.
If we go somewhere for Thanksgiving, I’ll be outside. If I have a work trip, I’ll have to book a campsite somewhere.
Rule 2 – The Misogi has a 50/50 potential for failure
40 nights sleeping outside has so many potential failure points, not to mention the mental fortitude it will take to spend so many nights sleeping outside when my bed is a couple of flights of stairs away.
The number of things that could go wrong are staggering.
Rule 3 – The Misogi is something I do not have expertise in
The most consecutive nights I have spent sleeping outside is 7. That was 21 years ago. Since then a handful of 2 night campouts, but all but one of them has been in the spring or summer.
The one winter camping experience was in the 20s with no rain, so I know I can handle the cold. Over 40 days I am certain to deal with camping in rain at least a couple of nights.
I’ve never done that before and it will be interesting to see how well my tent handles it.
I wanted to do something this year that was challenging for me and that would benefit someone else. The logistics of the trips, the planning, and execution would be challenging, but the joy I was planning to bring to my friends and family was the icing on the cake.
When I wake up on December 2, 2020 I will be 40 years old. I will have slept outside for 40 consecutive nights. Challenge completed. That night a small group of friends will join me in the warehouse at The Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta to spend a couple of hours building furniture for folks in our area who are coming out of homelessness.
There are so few opportunities that adults have to learn about themselves. I am interested to see what happens. How will I handle a cold rainy night? What if my tent leaks? After the “newness” wears off will I embrace the experience?
Here is what I know for sure. On December 2, 2020 after we are done building furniture, I’ll go home, crawl into my nice warm bed, and start looking for the next adventure.