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"Sustain Yourself With 5Q's"

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Written by Pat Curran

Posted on 17 January 2018

Last Updated 17 January 2018



“This is a test of selective attention.”


--Video from Research by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabrias

Before reading this week’s note, watch video by clicking here



This week, I want to share with you what I do to sustain myself during this “build” period in my training. In short, I go through a brief but powerful mental exercise each morning before I start my day.


Lately, it starts when I hear my youngest daughter (~11 months) wake up around 5:30am. After downing a cup of coffee like a shot glass, I place a mug of water into the microwave for 2 minutes to heat it up. Next, I put her bottle of milk inside the cup to allow the milk to warm up evenly. Then, I open her bedroom door. From that point, the crying transforms into “giggles” and “cheers.” I can’t help to laugh a lot too as I change her diaper. After I put a bib around her neck, I sit with her in my reclining chair, talk with her for a little bit, and then give her the bottle.


At this point, it’s quiet. It’s the ideal time to quietly reflect and go through my 5Q’s. These are a set of questions taught to me by Father McIntyre for how to best bring peace, focus, and a call to action into one’s life. I’ve modified the questions a bit so they resonate with my own personality. You can do the same. Here they are:

  1. Where’s the hidden message that I need to see?
  2. What do I have to be thankful for?
  3. Thinking through yesterday’s activities, what are the key events that stick out?
  4. Which event is the most important one to resolve? Pick it, and pray about it.
  5. Finally, clear your head. Ask yourself, “What actions will you take today? Make an action plan and go!! The world ain’t saving itself… J


By answering these 5 questions daily, I’ve experienced a profound change in my thinking and outlook. The instinctual and thinking parts of my brain team up to uncover what is missing. My spirit beomes centered from reminding myself that what I am thankful is right here in my hands and resting peacefully in their beds. Finally, after taking inventory of some of my past decisions, I humbly ask God for help and decide on some key tasks to take on immediately in order to make the most of my upcoming day.


Take a few moments and try it yourself. See if it works for you. It should help you stay grounded during the weeks ahead. And perhaps, it may also help you see that 300 lbs. gorilla in the room that could be causing havoc in your life.


Make it a good week! Take care and…


God Bless,





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Letters From Your Father – “West Point & The Logical Song”


When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,

A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.

And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,

Joyfully, playfully, watching me.


But they sent me a way to teach me how to be sensible,

Logical, responsible, practical.

And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,

Clinical, intellectual, cynical.


There are times when all the world’s asleep,

The questions run so deep,

For such a simple man.


Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned

I know it sounds absurd

But please tell me who I am…



Super Tramp singing, “The Logical Song”

To watch video, click here


Dear Girls:


This week’s story coincides with my previous week’s entry in terms of timing. I’ve chosen to write about them separately because I think about them as two different parts of my life that have a portion of overlap.


Yes, working to maintain a long distance relationship with your Mom was by far the most important priority in my heart and mind. With that stated, the choice to exit the normal route of going to a civilian college and instead take a leap of faith by going to West Point through the Army’s USMA Prep School (USMAPS) was no picnic either. It turned my entire life upside down for about 3 years.


What do I mean by that? Well, during my first year at USMAPS, I went from being president of my high school class, a 3 sport varsity athlete, and National Honor Society student to being equally as worthless as all of the other Cadet Candidates in the eyes of Drill Sergeant Thompson, Master Sergeant Bauman, Captain Sanderson, and of course Dean Beal. Actually, that’s being nice since I remember references like “garden slug” and “pond scum” to name a few. J


During the summer, we went through an accelerated version of basic training, which in itself was an extreme culture shock compared to home cooked meals and Grandma Curran doing my laundry. USMAPS also had a football team that I played for. I earned a starting position for the first game and dislocated my knee cap which ended any hopes of playing at the academy.


About a week later and in a long knee brace, I was called down to Captain Sanderson’s office to discuss my GPA and “weight problem.” I remember the conversation well. “So, here’s the bottom line Cadet Candidate Curran: It’s perform or perish. Since you are no longer likely to play football, you’re too fat and your 2.2 GPA is not going to cut it here.”


Two weeks later, we took another round of exams. Ironically, English Composition (even with my love of writing) was my weakest area. I was seated at my desk in class when Dean Beal got on the intercom. “Attention all Cadet Candidates: Will the following CCs who flunked the English Comp Exam please report to my office immediately: CC Akiva, CC Bently, CC Doyle…” Instantly I quietly thought, “He skipped over Curran and went to the next letter of the alphabet. I made it another day! Thank God...” And, as the weeks went on, I improved and finished the year with over 3.4 GPA, under 12% body fat, and an opportunity to join the West Point Corps of Cadets the following summer.


Just as I started to build some of my confidence back, I got totally blown away from my first 2 years at the academy. Sure, at first, I was doing well at Cadet Basic Training given my year at Prep School. But, when we started the academic year, it got rough. During the first year as a Plebe, we started our days at 5:20am doing hallway duties, memorizing the front page of the NY Times, and the meals of the day. Most notably during meals, we performed table duties where, if you or your fellow Plebes made one mistake serving the upperclassmen, you would get screamed at for your lack of attention to detail. Of course preparing uniforms, polishing shoes, and cleaning for room inspections were all woven into the daily routine. It got a little better during our summer of military training at Camp Buckner and returning as Team Leaders during our Yearling Year (sophomore year) where our primary task was to train 1 or 2 Plebes.


Academically, we were exposed to (2) 18 credit semesters our first year, followed by a second year of 21 and 23 credit semesters! This was the weeding out period. To be a leader, you needed to be able to think critically across a broad range of disciplines from Physics to Philosophy. Calculus, Statistics, World History, Political Science, Foreign Language, Behavioral Science & Leadership, Chemistry, even a full semester of Poetry were all part of the experience. Outside the academic course load, mandatory athletic courses and physical fitness exams were squeezed in, which included boxing, swimming, gymnastics, wrestling, close quarters combat, fitness tests, indoor obstacle courses, and our Master Fitness Trainer certification course load. Drill (parade practice) and intramural sports rotated everyday, Monday-Thursday from 4:30pm – 6:00pm.


Clearly our days were very structured and busy! However, I can tell you that there was still time for some very sleepless nights. “God, why me? Are you sure I even belong here?” I often asked these and many other questions. I was not thriving as a West Point Cadet. There were some very serious high’s and low’s. But, I was certainly doing far more than just surviving. What had me worried was a growing feeling that with all of this knowledge came a huge amount of responsibility. I was not just being fed a curriculum and being told at the end of 4 years, “Good luck. I hope you make a lot of money. Please remember to donate some back to us someday.” I was being asked to be part of a Long Gray Line of individuals, specially selected from all 50 states, who would serve as a military officer and promised to provide a lifetime of service to the nation. That’s what Thomas Jefferson’s vision was when he started the Academy in 1802. But that certainly was not my vision when I first started this journey! I just wanted to play Division I Football and get the best education possible. President Jefferson and Colonel Sylvanias Thayer wanted to establish a representative body of individuals whose character was beyond reproach and could be depended upon to preserve the republic, if called upon. I just wanted to do my part honorably without losing your Mom in the process. Sounds corny, but that was exactly the mindset I had and is why I lost a lot of sleep when things slowed down.


So at this point of the story, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to handle the future. The way West Point worked was that we could go without owing a penny up until our first class of our Cow (Junior) year. That gave me a little more time figure things out. What I did learn by this point that I do want to pass on to you includes:


  1. Starting something new is always a humbling experience. You’re going to think and say some silly things. There is no shame in that. Talk with people you trust.
  2. In the real world, if you are not failing once in awhile, then you are not challenging yourself. Give fully toward something you love and learn as you go.
  3. The world is not changing anytime soon to fit your preferences. Save time and accept that fact now. Be ready to adapt your plans as needed.
  4. There is nothing wrong with asking for help as long as you dedicate yourself to becoming better and returning the favor.
  5. Every leader has weaknesses. Most of them are workable. Laziness can be addressed with discipline. Lack of intelligence can be overcome by hard work. But, guard against inflexibility of the mind. For that, there is no cure.
  6. When you go away to school, you will learn new things that will challenge your current beliefs structure. Ask questions and seek advice. However, own this dilemma completely and independently! Your decisions about what you believe should be a continuous conversation between you and God only.


As you father, I want to emphasize this last point. Sure as your Dad, I hope to earn your trust and influence you with my advice. However, not even I should tell you what to believe. As I write, I can think of a lot of people I’ve met over the years who repeat back what they learned from others but have limited ability to think for themselves. If you become one of these people, then at some level I will feel like I’ve failed as your Dad. Learn to analyze things from multiple perspectives and make your own judgments. Form your own beliefs based on your experiences, your faith, and your personal relationship with God. Guard against influences outside these sources. This is a concept I will expand upon more in the years to come. It’s absolutely vital for your spiritual development as a person and a leader.


Sorry this went a bit long. Will continue next week… Hope I gave you a few things to think about.


With Love,





This Week in Training:

I have made it through the first “Build” portion of the 16-week training plan. This week is a recovery week where the distance is pulled back in the areas of running and biking while increased significantly in swim.


With work and family being a higher priority than training, I am testing my ability to adapt and squeeze in these workouts. Good news is that I am working out all 6 days with a completion rate of over 90% of volume. In previous years, I would have an injury by now where I would have to take a few days off. Where I can stand to improve this week is in the areas of stretching before bed and keeping up with my journal to monitor my nutrition plan, hips, and knees.


Here’s the plan for this week:


Monday: Bike 60 min, Run 30 min, Strength Training: Knees, Hips, & Legs

Tuesday: Swim 5-10 x 100m

Wednesday: Swim 10 x 40m; 300 Workout

Thursday: Swim 2000m; Bike 1.25 hrs

Friday: Run 60 min

Saturday: Bike 1.5 hrs

Sunday: Stretch (Sports w/Girls)



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