Recap on 2016

To think I started 2016 in Medellin, Colombia with my friend Chris and girlfriend Vanesa. In that short year there has been a lot of change. I’ve changed jobs, learned to bet on myself, pushed myself to my physical extreme, and felt love more deeply than ever before. This New Years, I spent a long weekend in a cabin in Sonoma County capturing all the memories of major events, accomplishments, lessons learned, and people that affected me. The result? Hopefully to build a proper spring board to tackle 2017 with even more wisdom, direction, and ferocity.

Sprinting a mile in Miami airport to make last-call on our flight to Colombia.

Sprinting a mile in Miami airport to make last-call on our flight to Colombia.

The landing that dropped me off in the worst neighborhood in 

The landing that dropped me off in the worst neighborhood in 

A few lessons 2016 taught me:

  • Enthusiasm is important in everything you do.

  • Always remember to ask “Why?” or some cases “Why not?” - coupled with “What would you have to see to think otherwise?” is a great way to put yourself in others shoes.

  • No one has the owners manual on life, we’re all winging it as best we can.

  • Say “Yes” to adventure. Even better, create the adventure people say “Yes” to.

What I’m Proud of in 2016:

  • I ran two iconic San Francisco races: Bay to Breakers and the SF Marathon
  • I raised over $300 in donations for the homeless
  • I’ve lead classes in technical and spiritual subjects including:Yoga, Meditation, Email technology, SF touring, and Data integration technology.
  • I experienced Burning Man and opened a whole new level of compassion, giving, and inner calm.
  • I pursued my self improvement by having a life coach and taking Landmark classes.
  • I enjoyed way more sunrises and sunsets than any other year to date!

This year I’ve substituted mantras for resolutions. A mantra is a statement repeated frequently. I’ve found mantras helpful for re-centering my mind and refocusing when distractions pull my attention from what I consider important. The difference I find is a resolution feels binary, you either achieve or fail at it. Whereas a mantra is a regular reminder of an opportunity to move toward my goal.

I won’t share my mantras but I will share what I intend to do more of:

Journaling : This helped me immensely when recapping the year. Re-reading entries triggered forgotten memories, reframed situations with a new point of view, and helped me uncover a few patterns and blind-spots.

Saying Yes : As I reflect on some of my best memories, many resulted from me impulsively betting on an adventure panning out rather than declining the offer. A few things I’m glad I said yes to: Trips to Hawaii, Colombia, Burning man. Taking a recruiter call that eventually led me to Autopilot. Accepting Sarika’s invitation to join for an evening at Landmark.

Creating Relationships : What I really mean is creating the environments where relationships flourish. 

Become the kind of person you want to be with.

Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about the changing paradigm I hold for relationships. I’ve become more aware of my emotional and thought-based routines and how I can rewrite them. After all, our brain is a collection of instructions and habits that shape nearly every aspect of our personality. Our habits were first written by our childhood interpretation of reality. It can be unsettling to uncover these habits and recall the reality in which they were first written. However, rewriting them brings me insight, serenity, and optimism. With up-to-date interpretation of reality, a habit can be written to suit current needs. As a side affect, I also notice my memories of events can change from this new perspective. Digging into my habits in romantic relationships has been so fulfilling, I wanted to share.

I believe habits in relationships start at birth and grow and evolve, taking on influence from key players. Early, non-romantic relationships with parents, siblings and friends often shape how one approaches romantic relationships. We see examples come up in literature and society like Oedipus complex, daddy problems, and codependence, to name a few. As I look back on my relationship timeline, I can see repeating habits, which slowly evolved from lessons provided by my parents, brother and college friends.

I now recognize a few influential stories I repeated in my head to reinforce my unintentional habits. First, my idea of a life-long and equal relationship was defined by my parents.They were, and are, a loving couple partnered for life. My childhood memory includes them loving and supporting me. They didn’t fight in front of me or my siblings. They would kiss each other goodbye and goodnight. And they respected each other and pitched in equally on supporting the family. This sounds to me to be overly ideal, but this is the memory that I set in as a child and what I would compare my relationships to.

I know now that I’m really good at avoiding something that I think I will fail at. For a long time, I saw the chances of recreating this ideal relationship in my own life as slim-to-none. For a long time, I proclaimed marriage was not for me, when what I really meant was that I could not obtain this perception of marriage, it seemed out of reach.

I learned another perception of romantic relationships from my male romantic role models: my brother and college friends. When I was twelve, my brother was eighteen and starting college. His most common stories or advice were about the recent ‘conquests’ he’d had in fraternity lifestyle. If I wanted to be like him, and successful romantically, I’d adopt a hyper-masculine mindset. Joining a frat myself reinforced this chauvinistic formula, success was measured by how quickly and frequently I could get a girl in bed. I would second-guess my worth in a relationship if I wasn’t performing as a hyper-masculine man. I placed a lot of importance in the beginnings of relationships in creating sexual desire. As a weird feedback loop, I noticed the ‘me’ I presented may not have attracted the ideal mate for someone holding the ideal of a the life-long partnership I held from my parents. As most times where expectation is not met by reality, this caused stress and ultimately NOT a happy dating life.

I’m writing this now because I became aware of these thought habits, allowing me to reinterpret my reality and re-write them. I’ve realized my parents were human too, they had flaws and their relationship wasn’t the ideal I remembered. Sure, they had disagreements, everyone does. They weren’t perfect, but neither was their youngest and they still loved me. These realizations of forgotten memories shattered my unrealistic ideal. I deserved and could obtain a love worth a lifetime.

More recently, I became aware of how my priority on performance was ultimately out of character and always felt like acting. I’ve never been a Don Juan, and nothing drains you more than pretending to be someone else. Especially when the goals held by that archetype are not the ones that motivate you. With my newfound goal of finding a relationship lasting a lifetime, I’ve shifted the way I approach dating. I show my true colors, act as a man with mindfulness tolerance, curiosity, love, creativity, tenderness, and romance. My hope is to both live as one would in a lasting relationship, and to have my actions attract those who share that goal.
With these experiences and new habits, I feel equipped to find someone great. Ultimately a union in sharing our best to make the other better. I love asking questions to experts. To those in a truly amazing partnership I ask: What are the qualities that most struck you when you met your partner? What advice do you have for someone looking? Any mistakes you’d rather others not repeat?

If you would like to share your thoughts, I’d love your feedback.

Vipassana - A 10-day Mind Bender

 

It’s hard to sum everything up from the Vipassana experience, I think because places where your mind goes while meditating for 9hrs per day have no words that can describe them. It also doesn’t help that you’ve taken a vow of silence for those 10 days and promise not to take any notes… so literally you have no words to describe the experience.

 

Things that stood out immediately after:

- Complete confidence in my capabilities to find happiness is a perfectly attainable state of mind.

- Attentiveness to physical reactions due to situational causes. 

- Compassion, empathy, and acceptance of others. It’s hard to get mad in traffic.

- Sitting still in meditation poses for 45+ min, no longer a challenge.

- Agitation in people close (physical/mental) is apparent.

 

Things I’ve maintained:

- Priority on taking time to practice meditation daily.

- Detached observation from things I would have habitually reacted to in the past.

- Heightened physical/emotional awareness.

- Calmness and focus in decision making.

 

Breakdown 10-day retreat:

- Carpool or ride-share to the Vipassana Center

- Check-in before dinner, find your bunk (best to ovoid talking to bunk mates, you can’t talk all week)

- Dinner, orientation, initial evening meditation.

- Following days follow the strict schedule.

- ….

- Partial nirvana

- Break the silence Day 10 with practice in projecting loving-kindness.

- Day 11, breakfast, break down bunks & assist cleanup, leave with your carpool.

 

What happens in those ellipses is strangely both unique and individual for everyone but also similar and shared. A strange zeitgeist emerges in an environment where every shares the same experience physically but shares non of it verbally. After the silence was broken and we began sharing our experiences, turns out a lot of us had similar ups and downs at the same times during the week. 

 

Similar milestones & drop-out points (mostly 1st time students but some experienced students describe the same):

- Day 2: WTF am I doing here? Is it really this same routine every freaking day??? How am I going to stay interested for the 10 days?

- Day 4: Last night’s lecture was all about suffering and today we have to meditate w/o moving. This is depressing… life’s not worth living this way. I should just quit if this is where this practice is taking me.

- Day 5: YES! I get it! I’ve done it! I’ve tackled the pain that creeps up when I sit, turns out it all makes sense!

- Day 6-7: Yesterday was great, but today is much slower…. I long for the momentum I had, maybe I can just leave without finishing since I had that great experience to look back on.

- Day 8-9: You’ve freaking got this, work hard, use every waking minute to squeeze as much out as you can.

- Day 10: Awkward conversations with the people you’ve been around all week but know nothing about. Oh yeah, and you speak with the same language your internal dialogue uses.

 

 

Schedule:

4:00 am Morning wake-up bell

4:30-6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room

6:30-8:00 am Breakfast break

8:00-9:00 am Group meditation in the hall

9:00-11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions

11:00-12:00 noon Lunch break

12noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher

1:00-2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room

2:30-3:30 pm Group meditation in the hall

3:30-5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher's instructions

5:00-6:00 pm Tea break

6:00-7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall

7:00-8:15 pm Teacher's Discourse in the hall

8:15-9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall

9:00-9:30 pm Question time in the hall

9:30 pm Retire to your own room--Lights out

 

Reasons anyone can do this:

- Vipassana centers are litterally all over the world and transportation to them is generally free with ride-sharing.

- Vipassana is FREE, part of the principle is to live as a monk on the kindness of others so no payment necessary. They do accept donations only from those that have completed a 10-day.

- Taking this much time off (2wks) is tough for most jobs, though this will make you much better at your job, or help you put in your notice.

- I can't understate the benefits of emotional intelligence, calmness, focus, and confidence one gains from this course.  It's truly eye opening.

- There's no religious affiliation, principles discussed are buddhist but no conversion necessary to enjoy the practice.

 

Resources

Dhamma

https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

Local Sits

http://www.mahavana.dhamma.org/public/courses/oneday/norcal-sched.shtml

Revisiting 30 by 30

Had some time to reflect while traveling and realized it's time to revisit my 30 by 30.  My goal has been to have 30 things I can look back on in my 29th year that have contributed momentum to my core tenants. Fundamentally, the principle remains however I need to revise the means.

The list is now available for write-ins. I do this after a few opportunities came up that I could not have foreseen and definitely deserve an honorable mention: 
- Traveling to Africa with my sister on her first international trip
- Gogo dancing at SF Pride with Morning Gloryville
- Running the Giants 10k with my coworkers in American Flag Spandex, and destroyed my PR
- Having a few photos snapped for stock photo use on Hired.com and a Physical Therapy website

The main list will still serve as inspiration but things will be added to the "Honorable Mention" list as they are planned or completed.

Thoughts on Quantity and Quality

In this post, I’m going to try something new. I’d like to challenge a point of view that I see as main stream and I encourage you to take a new perspective on how you approach life. I want this to be thought provoking without being preachy in hope that you will share your comments and challenges below. 

MY OPINION

Most agree that Quality outweighs Quantity in principle. In practice however, it is often easier to let quantity win out in our decisions and actions. Breaking the decision habit and evaluating based on Quality will make you happier and more fulfilled than allowing Quantity to win out. 

THE "QUANTIFICATION" AGE

We live in an amazing time of sharing data almost limitlessly. People are connected with multiple devices to the internet full time generating and consuming massive amounts of information. This information that you generate is quantified, transmitted, stored, analyzed and reproduced in a new form for you to consume again. That's amazing! The deluge* of 1s and 0s includes quantified data ranging from the mundane like your age and location to the highly analyzed like shopping history and social interactions. Numbers are the language of computers to make objective decisions. I've noticed recently it is becoming more and more of a shared language among people too. Think about it, how often are these quantities considered in your life?

  • Social media: Number of followers, retweets, YouTube views, Facebook Friends, Instagram Hearts, Yelp rating and number of reviews. 
  • Health: Your weight, calories consumed or expended, blood pressure, glucose levels, grams of protein in a nutrition bar, time at the gym.
  • Wealth: Your salary, how much is saved for retirement, rent, car payments, grocery prices.

Whole industries have emerged from this quantification revolution such as Big Data, Quantified Self, and the Internet of Things to name a few. As humans, we've evolved to optimize and make life easier. As it pertains to decision making, quantifying is easier in most cases to qualifying. I argue that this outlook does not result in better decisions and will get into how to use these in tandem to make the best result. But first, let's step back.

WHERE QUANTITY ORIGINATED

My opinion on this was formed from what I've learned on the subjects of human prehistory, neuroscience, and human consciousness. I draw from the experts** to stand on the shoulders of giants since I am not one.

Both quantity and quality are forms of comparison though they have a distinction. Quality is experienced differently by each individual and is inherently subjective while quantity describes a characteristic based on measurement technique that's is agreed upon by the individuals using the quantity to communicate the characteristic. The use of quantity to communicate is important, I'll get back to that. 

But first, from an evolutionary perspective, comparison on quality is a survival skill. Our brains are highly advanced pattern recognition and decision-making devices and they use comparison to predict which outcomes will result in us living long enough to pass on our genes. As humans emerged in Africa, we used comparison to find the best quality of life. Examples: Finding shelter is better than exposure, eating red berries makes me sick but blue ones are OK, living in a tribe is better than being alone, cooking with fire helps me eat more varieties of food. Prior to the invention of numbers, quality is the basis of our comparison and quantity only means "more" or "less" of something.

It kind of blew my mind to think of something as ubiquitous as numbers being something that had to be invented. It first hit me reading The Joy of X that numbers were invented. Imagine if you were asked the attendance of a party, you may state everyones name or you might just give the total number of people. It's a description of a characteristic with an agreed way to measure the characteristic (each person present is quantified as 1 in attendance). We can easily abstract their name and simply put a number representation.

Quantities really took off in human history around the time agriculture and civilization started getting cool too. This was because people had surplus resources they could trade with other groups and simplifying to a quantity made communication easier. A property of numbers being abstract also means math can be applied to them which is also really useful for describing relationships between real world objects.

WHERE LIFE BY QUANTITY ALONE GOES WRONG

Now things are really coming along, we've got sentient humans that make decisions based on comparisons using quality and quantity. Quality can be harder to describe than a solid number so quantity used  more to make these comparisons. Of course, quantities don't tell the whole story. It allows for a quick assessment between separate groups of things being compared. Quantity is cold, objective, and emotionless. They focus our thoughts and decisions to only what has been measured.

A few places where one might rely too heavily on quantities alone:

  • "I've been exercising regularly and I feel better but my weight hasn't gone down."
  • "If my salary goes up, I'll be able to buy more."
  • "I have tons of friends, but I feel very lonely."

The thing to be cautious of with quantities is the quality that lives behind them. How valuable is the characteristic being measured on making the decision, how good is the method of measurement, and what are the qualifications of who's doing the measuring? If you heard "9 out of 10 dentists agree on Colgate" then their qualifications have merit because they're experts int he field of dental hygiene. Take them out of their field of expertise and their judgement may be less important to you. There's a saying that 90% of statistics are made up to poke fun at the fact that so often we use numbers to justify opinion when they have poor methods of measurement.

A place that I see quantities misused is diet and exercise. Calories are a mainstream example of oversimplifying complex microbiology and nutrition into a number. If you're currently following a "Calorie-In/Calorie-Out" approach to your diet, I highly encourage you to listen to Shawn Stevenson's podcast interviewing the writer of The Calorie Myth. To put it short, calories are heralded as the energy metric. But there is so much beyond the the way a food is used by the body than this measurement lets on. To put it way too simply, 100 calories of table sugar are vastly different than 100 calories of spinach. What biologists, athletes, and nutritionists are finding is that an optimized diet and exercise regime is may orders of magnitude more complex than the quantities contained within the Nutrition Facts labels on packaged food.

But thats really cool! Think about it, we evolved these amazingly creative brains that thrive on learning and problem solving to help us scrape through survival. Now days, we still have these awesome brains but in an environment where we're (usually) not scraping for survival and we get to turn them toward new interesting things to learn! So, how do we do that?

 

TO REFOCUS ON QUALITY

What helped me come to this conclusion was an abundance of time available for self evaluation coupled with a long reading list and a drive to improve my quality of life. Recently I spent three months aboard a boat in the Caribbean. During this time cut off from from the flood of data, I started practicing mindfulness and meditation. This led to me digging into consideration of the quality of the world I was choosing to surround myself with. This month, I'm kicking off 30 days of meditation for my 30 by 30 challenge, culminating in a 10 day Vipassana retreat. 

A big thing that meditation has taught me has been to notice habit and triggers. Our brains evolved to find efficiencies, even in the way that they work. Consider how much energy it can seem to take to maintain focus on a single task, that's your brain working hard. It uses 20% of your body's energy and only takes up 3% of it's mass, that's higher than any other organ in the body. If it didn't find ways to optimize itself, you'd either need to eat more, rest more, or pull energy use from other organs. So, the brain creates habits and triggers to send you on autopilot. Think of your morning routine, or driving through your commute, you're probably not using 100% of your focus because your brain has simplified and optimized your actions. The same thing happens when we simplify our decisions and world view by only using quantities. I'm not saying it's wrong, but I am saying, the mechanism that optimized it was from a time that when we were fighting to survive. That fight pretty far of for many of us so you have some extra time and energy to take a step back and compare the quality behind the quantity.

The next time your faced with a decision and you have some quantities available, try asking yourself a few questions:

  • Do I agree that of the characteristics that could be measured, these are the best ones for making my decision?
  • Is there merit in the method of measurement?
  • Who is doing the measuring and what qualifications do they have to assure it's accuracy?

Let me know how it goes.

Reflections in a Pint Glass

Tomorrow will end the second of week eliminating alcohol from my diet for thirty days. Starting May 14th, on my 29th birthday, I set out to accomplish 30 goals by 30 and carefully decided to set this as my first despite the objection and criticism of a few friends. Don’t get me wrong, most responses I got were positive but tinged with the rebuttal of “… so you’re not going to drink on your birthday? Why don’t you just start that goal the next day?” That type of “why not start it the next day/week/year” thinking is exactly what inspired me to accomplish what I’ve previously put off.

With my personal values as guide points, I’m setting off on this experiment to change my perspective. As I look at life through a new lens, I’m excited to grow from asking myself new questions. Why is alcohol associated with celebration and comradery in our society? How are my routines altered by removing alcohol from the equation? Do my personal values gain or lose from this experience? What reactions does my temporary abstinence get from others? What can I take away from this to improve myself?

Reasons I decided to go for 30 days without alcohol.

  • Financially, alcohol value vs. cost ratio for me.
  • My relationships and experiences find a stronger foundation with less alcohol.
  • Alcohol serves as a force multiplier in the negative direction of my overall health.

After reading Your Money or Your Life  (YMoYL), I took a value vs. cost evaluation of all things in my life that were costing me money or time. After looking through my Mint.com spending history, I noticed a couple hundred bucks* I had been spending each month in the “Alcohol/Bars” category, not accounting for the beverages that might be hidden in the “Grocery” or “Restaurant” sections. As YMoYL instructs, I took a month’s bills, finely categorized them, then evaluated each on a basis of “Does this bring me happiness and is it something I want to spend more or less money/time on?” The answer was emphatically "NO!” I found that adding more money to this monthly expense subtracted progress from my goals. 

In college, in the Midwest, in a fraternity, some of friendships in early adulthood had a strong basis on the parties we went to. Being out of that scene for six years, I had evolved to building my friendships on shared values and interests. But the easy social enablement of “let’s go for a drink” not only detracted from the variety and intensity of experiences that I shared with friends but also hit my wallet harder than sharing a walk or going for a sail. Sometimes a few drinks act as a social lubricant to lower inhibitions for dance or karaoke. If you’re convinced that alcohol plays a key and irreplaceable role in your nightlife and party scene, I urge you to try out Day Breakers,  a morning dance party where the only substance available is coffee and great music! I’ve never had as good of a time at a club than dancing my face off among tons of great people at 8 a.m. before work.

Alcohol not only costs me money, it costs me time. The human body takes over one hour optimally to process a drink**. For me, that tends to mean after I crack a beer, I’m not doing any exercise for at least an hour afterward. So not only am I taking in extra calories, I’m blocking myself from burning them off too. It’s a force multiplier against one of my core values: Living a healthy and responsible lifestyle. There are times, of course, when after a dinner with some wine I have still safely ridden my bike home, or I’ve welcomed the summit on a long hike with a quick nip of whiskey before beginning the descent. To say alcohol is equal to sloth is an overstatement, but I would like to spend my time on things that make me more efficient and productive, rather than less.

So, how has it been going? I have not ostracized myself by adopting this goal, at least not to my knowledge. In the past week, I’ve found ways to substitute the drink on the couch for an evening run or deep dive into a book. My social life has been altered to sharing bike ride and cooking instead of sharing a drink.  I attended a wine tasting party equipped with a wine glass filled with my alcohol alternative. I met with friends at bars and beer gardens, and I opted for water instead of hops. When I tell people what I’m doing and why, I'm sharing with them not only my commitment to my values, but also my drive to build relationships deeper than a pint glass

* A "couple hundred bucks per month" - if you do the math is about two $5 beers, five nights per week in CA. It doesn't take much to add up to real $$ down the tubes.
** Supporting this claim is a page on Brown University's website detailing the affects of alcohol and many other drugs.

Week 1 Progress

Welcome back! It’s been just over a week since I set out on my 30by30 challenge and the reactions I’ve gotten have helped kick things off on the right foot. Many thanks to those that have reached out with advice, support, and reading suggestions. 

I have a lot of ideas that I’d like to try out as I continue documenting and blogging the journey through these goals. I’m going to set the goal to write a weekly update but accept that biweekly may become more realistic if things become repetitive. To keep content fresh and try some new things, I look forward to including some of these ideas in my posts:

  • Documenting goals accomplished through stories and photos.
  • Journaling and reflections on current goals, general realizations I’ve made that reshape my perspective.
  • Reading lists or resources that accompany me through the journey.
  • Progress updates on goal planning and completion.

Progress Updates:

  • Currently 1 week deep in “30 days giving up alcohol”.
  • Scheduled a Vipassana for July 10th to 21st in Kelseyville, CA.
  • Joining fellow Kansas Transplants: Mark & Adam, for a hike to the top of Mt Shasta.
  • Coordinating with Bogdan to volunteer at 18 Reasons.
  • Making plans with Yusuf to sail his Catalina for a few day trip.
  • Bouncing product ideas around with friends. 

30 by 30: Kickoff

“Better get busy living or get busy dying” - Red

I’m a believer that our personalities, the “who” we are to ourselves and that we extend to others, is a collection of stories that our internal dialogue repeats in our head. Our interpretation of those stories, our mood at the time that we recall them, and even the way our memory distorts the details of them all add to how we perceive our character. These stories and their tone come from our childhood, events in our lives, the people we keep around us and they shape how we interact with the world around us. Over the past six months traveling South America and Sailing in the Caribbean, I’ve added many pages, tales, lessons, and characters to the stories repeating in my mind. These experiences strengthened my resolve on what I want to get out of life and built momentum in my strive to constantly improve through accomplishing worthy goals.

I decided somewhere between visiting my brother in Anguilla and landing in Oklahoma City that I would spend the next year setting goals for myself that align with my personal missions: To foster stronger bonds with my close friends and family, contributing to the world at large through charity and creativity, striving to live physically and emotionally healthy, and to find adventure with a high fun to cost ratio.

May 14th, 2015 marks my 29th year on the planet and the countdown to when I can no longer be called a “twenty-something”. I think mental age is more important, but turning thirty made for a convenient book-end and way to market this idea to friends to elicit feedback on my 30 by 30. Before I set out writing these goals, I posted on Facebook a call for ideas. Combining those responses with my own ideas and inspiration I got from talking to close friends and family, I nailed down 30 items I would resolve to accomplish in the next 365 days. It should definitely be noted that the point of this list was a now or never mentality. There were many suggestions that struck me as things I already have on my lifetime bucket list, for example seeing the Northern Lights or running a marathon. This list is comprised of the fringe goals that normally I may not get to but as a part of my personal growth, I’ve resolved to complete them all in one year.

What I found when starting this list was that goals bucketed into one-off events that I could accomplish almost any time, and others were complete lifestyle changes that would need to be sustained for a few weeks before the habits and results would really sink in. For the longer goals, I resolved I would spend thirty days accomplishing them each day and the longer one-off goals could be accomplished concurrently. I have intentionally left open when I will accomplish each month long event to maintain a bit of flexibility.

What all of these goals were meant to have in common was that they share a few of the following traits:

  • They align with my personal missions listed above.
  • After accomplishing them, they have something I have created that I can look back on.
  • I can accomplish them alone but the results tend to be much better when accompanied by a friend.
  • The cost little to accomplish.

I plan on blogging and photo journalling these goals as I accomplish them. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to join or can help me accomplish any of them.

The list will be updated on the 30 by 30 link in the banner, here it is as a reference point of this kick off. 


The List

Thirty days ___ each day.

  1. Giving up alcohol
  2. Meditating 30 minutes
  3. Drawing a picture
  4. Running a mile
  5. Taking a photo
  6. Eating vegetarian
  7. Practicing an instrument
  8. Not buying anything new
  9. Writing a full page
  10. Giving up eating at restaurants
  11. Giving what I can to those that ask
  12.  Stretching or practicing yoga for 30 minutes

By 30 I want to...

    13. Build a piece of furniture
    14. Paint a self portrait
    15. Volunteer 30 hours
    16. Take a discovery flight
    17. Take a trip by a train
    18. Summit a Fourteener
    19. Teach a public yoga class
    20. Take a vipassana retreat 
    21. Write a letter to my government representative
    22. Publish a book
    23. Create a product
    24. Drive a taxi/pedicab
    25. Give a speech in Spanish
    26. Sail off shore California and and stay a night on the boat
    27. Take a course at a local college
    28. Send 30 postcards
    29. Take a weekend trip by showing up to the airport and buying the cheapest ticket
    30. Take a week long trek

Photo Journal: Cuba

After a long stay in the Exumas Islands of the Bahamas, Bueller set sail south to the forbidden island of Cuba. After reading that Obama and Raul Castro met to reinitiate diplomatic relations yesterday I felt it timely to share a few shots taken on my recent trip. While travel has been restricted from the US for the past fifty years, enforcement has been decreasing in recent years and the Cuban government has no restrictions to US citizens entering the country. In fact thousands of US citizens without direct relatives in Cuba visit each year for US Bureaucratically acceptable reasons such as charity and education.

Volumes could be written on the culture, government, and lessons learned in Cuba, this post is meant to graphically highlight just a few chapters in the trip.


After arrival, we travelled by car around the southeast portion of Cuba visiting Holguin, Bayamo, Pico Torquino, Santiago, and Baracoa on a two week road trip. Our four door sedan's modern look was no where near as impressive as the quintessential Cuban 1950's cars that shared the roads.

IMG_8197.JPG

A few steps off of the beaten (and expensive) tourist path and we found the Cuba of the people. Markets with fresh meat and vegetables were found in most towns and usually make a weekly party with bands and beer trucks. One quick lesson we learned was to always bring your own bags. If you request a pound of bacon, they'll cut it fresh and hand it to you unpackaged. I found myself carrying a spare gallon ziplock everywhere just in case we happened upon a must have item or the fabled beer 24 peso per liter beer truck.


Natural beauty was abound. What follows are a few shots that I took throughout the trip. As relationships between the US and Cuba increase, I'm looking forward to revisiting this soon-to-change landscape and revisit some of the friends met along the way.

Photo Journal: Exumas

The past ten days have been spent anchored on Sailing Vessel Bueller between Great Exuma and Stocking Island. With excellent coverage from the sea waves and wind, this area has become a haven for a few hundred boats. We've stopped here while we wait for a crucial part for the engine on Bueller before heading south to the Ragged Islands. 

Interesting things happen with such a large community of boats around. Each morning an interactive radio broadcast called "The Net" comes across the short wave hosted by volunteer Net Controller Sue. The schedule includes announcements and requests for:Weather, Local Businesses, Community Announcements, Buy/Sell/Trade, New Arrivals, Departures, and of course the Regatta Report with "DEEE-HARR-LOW".

We've been fairly active on The Net, requesting help from other sailors on everything from sewing a bimini, buying  a guitar, the location of the elusive Pump-Out Boat, offering up quad-copter flyover footage for other boats. This leg of the journey has been a long acclimation to sailing life but we're all ready to move on and get to sailing hopefully early this week once our engine is repaired. 

Each day is accompanied by amazing sunrises and sunsets, clear view of the stars, turquoise waters, and sugar white beaches. Here's a few shots I took over the past few days.

Photo Journal: "Road" Trip from Berkeley, CA to Exumas, Bahamas

This winter I decided to meet up with some friends to crew a boat through the Caribbean before they set off for the Mediterranean, an adventure that I planned on extending over a few months.  To kick things off, I set off to mark a few things off the bucket list on a road trip from my home in Berkeley, CA through Austin, Texas and eventually to Exumas, Bahamas to meet up with Sailing Vessel Bueller. Collected here are a few photos and recaps of the two week trip.

The trip that I had planned had stops for: Camping in Big Sur, Sailing in Los Angeles, Camping in Joshua Tree, reuniting in Flagstaff, crashing in a hostel in Santa Fe, visiting family in Stillwater, and finally making it to my former home of Austin before boarding a plane to Nassau and ferrying to meet the crew. A few exciting turn offs met me along the way I wanted to recap here.

Catching a day sail in San Francisco Bay on the Snap Dragon with Mark and Terra on MLK Jr. Day. The waves and the music were great and we made it back before sunset after catching this great view of Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge, and Downtown San Francisco.

One last shot of the Golden Gate Bridge from the end of the Berkeley Pier before I hit the road for Austin.

Stopping along Hwy 1 south of Monterey, CA to enjoy a quick hike with a view of the beautiful Pacific Coast.

It's hard to imagine a sunset more amazing than this captured outside of the redwood lined campground in Big Sur. If only the photo could do it justice.

Meeting the locals, a beach filled with Elephant Seals basking in the sun. Luckily my early wake up got me in before the tour buses from LA.

Every time I mention travel in California to my dad he asks if I have visited Hearst Castle. I can now say "yes". This huge estate was one of many mansions owned by the newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst and is now donated to the state of California.  

Enjoying tasty breakfast burritos on Venice Beach in LA with Yusuf and Gulsah and watching a few surfers catch some waves.

Meeting Sailing Vessel Nefes, Yusuf's Catalina and our transport for whale watching today. One of the cleanest and well kept boats I've seen. Everything on the inside has a place and a function and no clutter. These two know how to sail with a purpose!

While we were sailing the Santa Ana winds off the coast of LA, we spotted a pod of dolphins that wanted to say hello. I caught this great video off the bow of Nefes of a small group with a young dolphin looking to play.

One night camping in Joshua Tree was great. I parked just in time to catch the sunset from Jumbo Rocks but didn't have a chance to capture it before the temperature dropped. Slept well under the stars in my mesh-roofed REI tent until 6AM when a light shower woke me up.  Snapped this photo later in the day on the drive to remember the bizarre looking Joshua Trees.

A glamor shot of my car Vivian to commemorate her goodbye trip back to Austin where I'm going to get her sold. For four years she's been a great convertible, road office, road trip companion, surf board transport, money pit, and mobile dance party.

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After spending the night in Flagstaff and enjoying some local beer with some Arizona natives, I hit the road. With time to spare on my short drive to Santa Fe I stopped off the highway to see the world's best preserved crater and take an hour hike around the rim. That night I stayed in a hostel in Santa Fe and met some very friendly travelers for breakfast and dinner provided by donations to the hostel from Whole Foods and Panera. 

Driving through one of the largest air turbine fields in the United States stretching across Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Spent some time visiting my family in Stillwater, OK and joined my mom for my first Zumba class taught by her at the local fitness center.

After a week's journey, I stopped in Austin, Texas for a few days to catch up with old friends and a couple of playful dogs. Like any good Austin trip, there was BBQ, tacos, cheap craft bear, Bar-Chi Sushi and concerts. Joined Alex and Lexie for T Bird and the Breaks record release party in the Red River district.

After catching an early flight to Nassau via Houston, I landed long enough to catch a taxi ride to Potter's Cay and a Conch lunch before boarding the over night ferry to Exumas.

Finally landed in Exumas to meet with Captains Lars & Travis aboard Sea Vessel Bueller. Marti and Patrick were leaving so we made the most of the day by motoring out to Stocking Island for some adventure, dancing, tight rope, and beer.

Not our only method of navigation but a very classic one. We'll be in Exumas for a few days while we wait for a heat exchanger for the motor. After that we'll head off in the direction of one of these arrows.

Lesson from Cruising

First and foremost I should say that I do not consider myself an Expert in sailing or long term cruising. In fact I would place myself on the Dreyfus Model between an Advanced Beginner and Competent with a personality for self-reflection. I use this blog as an outlet for that self-reflection and to share my thoughts, ideas and lessons learned. Bare with me on this first post as it may be longer than later Lessons from Cruising as I give some back story.

I'm setting out on a few months in the Caribbean with Captains Lars & Travis on Sea Vessel Bueller. These awesome guys dropped their corporate jobs and bought a boat they plan on traveling in from Miami to the Mediterranean. I’m joining for a few months of their year long trip to cut my teeth on long term cruising, practice my Spanish, explore islands, practice mindfulness, and of course kick it with the guys. After five days aboard, a few things have shaken me out of my routine and these experiences can be distilled down to useful thought nuggets.

At a high level, a boat is a small place, everything aboard needs a purpose & the crew must do their part to keep things in their place doing their task efficiently.

Moreover, this 38ft Beneteau is our home, vehicle, storm shelter, playground, power generator, fishing deck and storage unit all rolled into one. With so many jobs, systems interlock and interconnect in very creative ways to make room for each other. For that reason, there’s little room for waste on a boat. Of course, supplies and creature comforts make it on board, a few considerations come to mind when it comes to buying, using, and disposing:

Before Buying

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Can it get to the boat? In a world of with Amazon Prime and fast internet downloads, we don’t need to think of all the magic involved in getting things to our doorstep or downloaded in one click. But, like any Miata driver shopping at Ikea can tell you, sometimes what you’re looking for just won’t fit in the trunk! Pulling the boat up to a dock is usually the easiest for large or hard to transport items like engine parts or filling up a full tank of diesel but it can be expensive being charged by the foot to sit at a plank of wood extending into the water. More often, we are anchored off shore with only a dingy or our own swimming strength to bring us ashore. If we’re on the dingy, items need to fit in a raft and be capable of getting a little wet or be stored in a dry bag. If I’m swimming, the most I can bring with me is a dry bag tied by a rope around my chest or ankle that’s a bit more at risk of water damage.

The digital age has made shopping habits even more on-demand. A whole world’s worth of goods are at your finger tips in the United States and even international companies are happy to ship across the ocean to fulfill your need for cat posters or vintage Bollywood VHS tapes. Not true for being on a boat in the Island Nation of the Bahamas where things are taxed 45% of their value to enter the country and everything comes in via small plane or freighter. So the terabyte hard drive I’m wishing I had brought for the go pro videos and the Sriracha sauce i’m craving will have to wait for now.

Even digital subscriptions change when overseas. The most obvious being that my cell phone is limping on a few megabytes of international roaming data or the occasional WiFi traded for the price of a beer at the Exumas Yacht Club. I cancelled most of my other subscriptions like Netflix, Hulu, and Audible since international copywrite laws change what content is available. One thing I didn’t expect was that my downloaded content from Spotify will expire after a month of not checking in with the app after one month from the US.

The big lesson learned here is considering where something is coming from, how it’s getting to where you need it, and once aboard assuring it has a place to do it’s designed task efficiently and has a safe storage place when not in use.

When Using

Now that I’m in a more utilitarian environment, I think of the tools around me as having an efficient way to use them and keep them working happy longer. The kitchen comes to mind as an example. Knives should stay sharp and clean since more injuries are caused by overworking a dull knife. Also they need to be stowed with a sheath on, there are enough places to get hurt while sailing and one of the lamest ones is cutting yourself while digging for a spoon for your cereal.

This concentration on details comes more from the complex systems on the boat such as the diesel motor, water and plumbing, sailing lines and sheets, and the electronics/radio which can need periodic supervision to assure they are in tip top shape.

Another thing I find myself thinking is “in what way can I use this item that will cause less waste”. Using battery powered electronics with rechargeable batteries is better than disposable, using the free sun baking our solar panels to recharge the power plant is better than firing up the motor or generator which use costly diesel. Use cloth towels to clean up rather than paper since they have less waste and can be reused. All these little things can add up to more self sufficiency on the water.

At a Point of Failure or Disposal

Creativity really soars when items are repurposed or repaired on board rather than throwing them out. Detaching from the disposable life style on land opens all sorts of imaginative juices when everyday items are viewed on what they could be instead of what that currently are.

Inevitably, some things can’t be repurposed and will need to be thrown out. Is there a low cost (or even beneficial) way to dispose of the waste that accumulates on the boat? Some places charge you to throw out a bag of trash, costing by weight or by size. containers and cans should be crushed down to pack more into less space. And food scraps can be used to chum the water for smaller fish to draw in larger and tastier predator fish which we can catch and eat!

Environmental impact of our waste is also considered. Releasing your sewage storage tanks is against the rules in most places unless miles off shore. We take careful consideration to limit any littering by securing our garbage until we are at port and can dispose of it. And if other people’s trash is in reach, we might as well pay it forward and collect it to keep the environment clean.

Wrapping Things Up

In contrast, a year ago, my life on land seems much less cognizant of the functionality of the possessions. I can remember a moment of clarity on my first night setting out on a two month trip in South America. I threw my pack down on my Bogata hostel bunk and realized that everything I needed for the next sixty days was contained within those 60 liters of space. Many of the extra possessions I had been dragging along with me along every move from Stillwater, OK to Austin, TX, to Mountain View, San Jose, then Berkeley, CA had mostly been a waste of space and money.

Living on a boat presents a special, and very fun, challenge of keeping only the necessary and discarding responsibly the useless. A lesson that can be applied to other areas such as finances, diet, and even daily distractions.

Podcast Roundup

As I prepare for a few months island hopping in the Caribbean aboard Bueller, I'm feverishly collecting media while I have a reliable internet connection.  Later I plan on covering a books, movies, and music I have amassed, but for now I'd like to focus on three of my favorite podcasts.


What is a podcast?
If you have never heard the term "podcast", it was trademarked in 2005 as any "online prerecorded radio program over the internet". Today, the use of the term also extends to any regularly published pdf or epub as well as audio file published regularly. Think of it like on-demand radio shows combined with online reference material.

I started listening to podcasts regularly while I was working as a field sales rep in Northern California to make long car rides stuck in traffic feel a bit more productive. Since a podcast is a passive medium like TV or Radio, it's easy to absorb the information while completing other benign tasks like doing household chores, exercising, or even relaxing before bed. Check out one of theses podcasts next time you find yourself with a few minutes to spare:


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99% Invisible
"99PI" is a design podcast that uncovers the commonly overlooked designs of every day objects. Host, and Oakland resident, Roman Mars has left no stone unturned covering subjects like the origins of the computer mouse (and it's lesser known side-kick), why a "#" is called a Pound Sign, and even the man who designed the (xxx) xxx-xxxx format we in the US use for our phone numbers.

Listening to a few of these podcasts will have you looking at the world around you very differently. Your eyes hone in on the careful considerations that (most of the time) intelligent people put into manufacturing the modern world around you. Since 99PI is produced in "beautiful down-town Oakland" many of the episodes cover SF Bay Area topics like the Transamerica Pyramid, Sutro Baths, and a batch of hidden public staircases scattered around the Bay Area. 


Planet Money
Brought to you by the trusty folks at NPR, Planet Money takes an entertaining look at the material value of the world around us. Some episodes dive deep into a single topic, others drive home economic principles using many examples.  Mostly I find the objective look at business practices and the way law and government try to regulate free markets to be a comical explanation of the "why" behind a lot of the things we take for granted or complain about everyday. For example, loop holes in tax laws may have made In-n-Out burger initially successful by helping them dodge restaurant taxes by only offering drive by window service. Another favorite episode retraces the steps of early electronic stock trading in it's infancy. Planet money doesn't limit itself to large markets, they have also covered the opening economies in Myanmar/Burma in one episode and followed a T-shirt from cotton fields all the way through the manufacturing processes in another.


Welcome to Night Vale
This podcast was recommended to me by friends in Oregon while I was road tripping up the Pacific Coast. After long hours on the road at night I flipped my dial to this quirky radio station. To set the scene, Welcome to Night Vale is a staged broadcast from a fictitious town in the desert with all sorts of odd characters. The host gives news updates on the normal activities mixed with bizarre oddities around the town. Nearly all episodes will have you saying "what the hell" or "who came up with this". The nonchalance of the announcer almost makes you feel like cursed dog parks guarded by hooded specters or neon covered clouds dropping dead birds is completely normal.

Welcome to Night Vale is a new take on story telling and doesn't presuppose the listener needs everything explained to them at face value.


In conclusion, the availability of high quality recording devices and editing software puts the power in the hands of many people to create great works of entertainment like these. I hope if you're not at least curious to try your own podcast, that you'll at least download and enjoy a few of these episodes.

 

The First Step

As I sit at a coffee shop on South Congress St in Austin, TX, I consider the words of Matthew McConaughey in Dazed & Confused: "Alright, alright, alright!" Few people know that this line was actually ad libbed, inspired by Matthew's contemplation of his character's primary motivations in life: Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll. When he concluded that at this moment in the movie his character was standing on the precious of all three, he dropped the now infamous line almost to check each off a list of life goals.

Over the past few months, I've considered my own check list of interests of healthy living, experiencing cultures, and creating adventure daily. I decided to blog this journey as a way to both catalog and and share my experiences. I have no doubt that this project will grow and evolve as most things do with time, as a first post I ask you to offer your comments and criticisms in the spirit of constantly improving.

Thanks to those who inspired me to start this blog, including:
Laura Arnold - Austinite Tips - An Insider's Guide to the Best, Worst, and Weirdest in Austin
Lars Lindstrom & Travis Jones - No Land in Sight - A travel blog for Bueller's Year Off
Topher Evans - Been Jammin Project - From the School Bus With Love, A Volunteering Mission Throughout the Americas
Chris L Smith - ChristopherLSmith.com - A personal blog for projects and nerdin' out
Brenda Scanzillo - Don't Lose the Trail - Ultramarathoner and trail runner digging deep, climbing high, and just trying not to get lost

You can expect posts in the weeks to come to cover:
- Travel experiences, tips, and photos
- Reviews of products, books, and local businesses
- Occasional rants
- Philosophy and lessons learned

I look forward to this opportunity to grow creatively. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do!

LNH