End of March Goals Check

Wow, so another month as flown by! Before long it will be Christmas again (my least favorite holiday actually) and I’ll look back on these posts and think… well, I have no Idea what I’ll think.  Hopefully I won’t look back and say “man I kicked ass!”  but rather I’m hoping I’ll look to the month of March with a twinge of regret and realize “I should have been kicking more ass by that point.”

For now, I’m pretty happy with how March turned out. So let’s take a look at my progress and I hope you’ll take a look at yours.  If you haven’t started yet, make sure you build your goal list today and start taking tiny steps to making them happen.

First, the thing I’m most proud of is that none of my goals were left completely stagnate this month.  The goal that got the least direct attention was my travel around the world goal.  Of course the next immediate sentence wants to start with the word “but that’s because,” so I’ll try to fight that excuse as best I can.  I didn’t focus on that goal directly because 1) I cannot book my ticket until late April to May, and 2) my other goals are preparing me for it indirectly (controlling my spending and saving for the trip, as well as preparing for my survival/leadership training expedition).  Luckily, it looks like my weakest area this month wasn’t too bad since I made indirect positive movement towards achieving it.

So let’s take a gander at my individual goals and steps taken this month:

Read More

I’ve mostly finished my first book of the year, The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem.  Though truth be told, I haven’t picked it up in the last week of March.  I generally read a little here and there when I ride the train to work, but it’s such a short ride that I found myself not getting very far unless I happen to just barely miss the train.  It also doesn’t help that I completed the stories that I was looking most forward to, so I lost a bit of motivation there.  Also I kind of broke out the NES emulator this week and am now on level 3 of the Japanese version of Zelda (The Hyrule Fantasy).

… I know what your thinking.  DON’T JUDGE ME!  It falls under the Learn Japanese goal! Right? 😛

Win a game of Go

Damnit.  I’ve been playing a lot of go when I get bored.  And I feel no closer to winning my first game against the computer.  I went to the library the other day and looked for a book on go strategy but apparently timeless games that require of cunning and genius to win are of no interest to my local community.  Bleh. I may finally just give in and buy Go for Beginners by Mr. Iwamoto.  This damn computer is so hard to beat! But what fun would it be if I was winning right away, right?

Who am I kidding, it would be a lot of fun to win a game already!!

Take 30 cold showers

This month I missed a few cold showers unfortunately.  But each time I do, a strange feeling creeps up more and more.  When I finally cave to the excuses and nagging of my brain for a hot shower, I initially LOVE it! Until I climb out.  When I get out of the boiling hot shower, I become cold, and suddenly regretful when I look in the mirror.  Because to me, in that mirror is someone that doesn’t have control over his life. Someone who takes the easy route so that he can be comfortable.  Someone who will cling to comfort so that he can arrive at death safely.

My first attempt at snowshoeing in the rockies.  Not quite as dangerous as the quote would have you believe, but most people would think a weekend trip to snow shoe to not be worth it.  It is!

Snowshoeing in the rockies, Feb. 2014. Not quite as dangerous as the quote would have you believe, but most people would think a weekend trip to Colorado wouldn’t be worth it. It is!  Also that’s a lake we’re standing on.  Us Georgians find this terrifying!

When I get out of a cold shower however, I’m actually much more warm and confident.  When I stand there and look in the mirror I see someone who is better than they were the day before.  Someone who can do whatever he wants, and doesn’t succumb to the allure of comfort.  Did I quit my job and chase my passion? No. Did I wake up and walk into the wilderness with just a pocket knife? No.  But these small wins empower me to see life differently.  To be more confident in my decisions.  And to be more comfortable not being comfortable.

Bike to and from work

As I posted last week, I made huge progress in my goal to ride to the nearest MARTA train station!  The ride home was a surprise however as I realized the majority of it was uphill followed by plateaus! My first 24mile day was a great feeling, but this week due to the sudden return of winter I haven’t ridden since Sunday’s ride to the grocery store.

I think I may be finishing up at this current client office soon, so I might miss my chance to bike all the way (32 miles) from house to office, but we’ll see.  I already feel like I accomplished so much of this goal that I’m not to worried about it.

Don’t come in last in two 5k’s

Next Saturday marks my first 5k this year, and they just announced a doozy of an obstacle!  The sweeper looks a little intimidating but a lot of fun!  Unfortunately I haven’t started running yet in preparation due to a pain in my foot that I think may be tendinitis.  I’m trying to stay off it as much as possible, and luckily cycling doesn’t hurt at all.  But a month ago a light run nearly brought me to my knees.  If I have too, I might just walk through this first 5k.  Hopefully the sweeper will set someones grandmother back a few yards, leaving me to claim second to last!

Learn to read and write basic Japanese

This month marked my 100th kanji! And sense then I’ve taken one commenters advice to heart and have been picking up a few more opportunities of exposure.  And a few nights ago my wife went on a Lion King nostalgia ride by pulling up youtube clips of her favorite songs.  Accidentally, she pulled up the Japanese version of Can You Feel the Love Tonight, and I was surprised at how much I understood (albeit I kind of knew a lot of it before hand, but still!).  I also attended a Japanese meetup last week with plans for another tomorrow, both of which focus on playing fun studying games like a Japanese spin off of ‘Never have I ever” where we practice our past perfective sentence forming and pretending to drink if you haven’t done it before!

トトロドールは買ったごとがある。東京からだ! It's nice being the only one to have such an awesome toy! (FYI, I bought it as a gift for my kid one day :P)

トトロドールは買ったごとがある。東京からだ! It’s nice being the only one to have such an awesome toy! (FYI, I bought it as a gift for my kid one day :P)

Learn to lead Alaskan glacier expeditions

Finally got all of my paperwork, medical requirements, and down payment out of the way! It’s much more official than it was at the beginning of the month, but I won’t say it’s a sure thing until I land on that glacier!  But as far as I can tell, this is definitely happening, and I CAN’T WAIT!

I’ve been working out 6 days a week now, and each time I catch myself trying to sneak by on some excuse to be lazy, I remember that in just 3 months I’ll be carrying a 60lb pack over snowy mountains, and if I don’t want to die then, I better get off my ass now :).

Increase social opportunities

This goal was the one I was most worried wouldn’t happen, but I have actually made the most progress in!  Since setting this goal I’ve become an admin over at the Reddit Atlanta Facebook Group and we are up to 400 members as of today!  I also helped plan and orchestrate our first official meetup (will post about soon) where we played Mario Kart in real life in the park and had beers at a kind redditors nearby home!

We had a huge turnout, with lots of bystanders stopping by just to watch!

We had a huge turnout, with lots of bystanders stopping by just to watch!

I’ve also established an Anime night for this Friday at my place, and attended 3 other meetups this month! On top of that I’m working to increase my exposure with coworkers closer to my age group do things that closer friends would do.  Being more sociable has turned out to be the easiest goal yet so long as I’m not afraid of a little initial chance of rejection!

Lose weight/save money for RTW

In an effort to save money for the RTW trip, I’ve really hit the home made food plan hard! I’ve also decided to shrink my portion size so that it won’t be such as surprise to my system when I start traveling longer term (or say, live on a glacier for 2 weeks) and won’t have access to the typical American portion sizes I’m so accustom to.  As a result of not eating out every day (I’m down to about 2-3 times a week) and the smaller portions, I’ve both saved money and according to my wife lost a lot of weight.  I also find myself becoming OK with being a little hungry now and then, and I think this will be a huge benefit when I’m traveling and have to wait a little longer than expected to my next meal.

Here’s a look at my current meal plan.  I spend about 25-35 dollars a week when shopping at the international farmers market (which is WAY cheaper than Walmart and Kroger for fresh food):

  •   A 5$ pack of ground beef. This has yielded a ton of hamburgers that I pre-patty out with salt, pepper, and garlic and then freeze.  Cook the night before for lunches to take to work (the trick is to pack the meat, bread, and salad separately and assemble at lunch time)
  • For $3.99 I get a box of beef or pork bugolgi and cook all of it and portion out with a side of jasime rice (12$ for 3 months worth) for 3 meals to either take to work or eat for dinner
  • 7$ get’s me 3 medium size ribeye’s (I’m telling you, MUCH cheaper than Kroger!) that I can cut in half and for other dishes like steak and egg burritos and steak and cheese fajita’s
  • Tomato’s, apples, onions, lettuce, eggs, milk, bread (good bread, like fresh uncut rolls for hamburgers), tortilla shells etc usually make up the rest of the costs.  I’ve also been trying different sweets for snacks like granola and honey.

Remember, my portions are purposefully smaller than usual.  I’ll typically eat a hamburger for lunch very slowly with an apple a few hours before or after.  Then have half a steak or some bugolgi for dinner with rice and a green of some sort.  It’s not for everyone, but I’ve both saved money and lost weight doing it :).

Travel around the world for 2 months

As mentioned above, I’m working on this- just indirectly :).

Have more Weekend vacations

I pulled off another weekend vacation this month!  I had some residual points built up on my Chase credit card so I transferred them over to Southwest and paid for only half my airfare  by scheduling two one way tickets: one to Boston and one from.  This allowed me to get up to see some friends for only $177 + the cost of beer and eats (and one Uber ride since I paid for more beer than expected).  I left friday after work and got home mid day sunday, and never once felt rushed!  It was great seeing old friends, having a TON of fun, and not using up any vacation days.

During a trip to the loo in downtown Boston, I came across a bit of pub stall motivation!

During a trip to the loo in downtown Boston, I came across a bit of pub stall motivation!

Next month is my 2 year anniversary, so my wife and I are off to Florida for another weekend vacation in the sun!

Learn Mindfulness Meditation

I haven’t posted much anything about it yet, since I’m still trying to figure out where I stand on the topic.  But every few days I take a couple of moments to stop and practice.  Sometimes its only for 5 minutes, other times it’s closer to 20.  I think I’ve learned a lot, but I’ll need more practice before I feel like I have anything to offer on the subject.

One thing I can say is that my mind is a very strange place.  When practicing I find the oddest memories surfacing just to give me something to think/worry/stress about.  Practicing pushing these aside has helped in a lot of area’s already :).

Phew! So that’s March 2014 from my point of view! How was yours?

Learning to Play and Lose at Go

Go is Hard!

This may sound obvious to experienced players, but it’s difficulty caught me by surprise.. I’m talking NES hard. I was visiting some good friends in Boston a two weeks ago when I was introduced to the game. I challenged my friend to a game of chess and scoffed at the idea that some of them didn’t even know how to play. From my handmade pedestal I laughed as he told me that chess couldn’t compare to Go, an ancient Chinese board game with only 2 or 3 rules. Intrigued, I had him teach me this seemingly simple game, and planned to beat him before the nights end. On move 3 of my 4th or 5th game with him, he said the words I’d heard 100 times in one night.

“Bad move!”

He mopped the floor with me, over and over and over. After he finally went to bed, I watched videos and read some articles, and in the morning I was rewarded with a new phrase.

 “Oh, that was good… but still a bad move.”

 I then lost again. Since then I’ve been playing SmartGo on my iPhone, practicing and reading, and still losing. I’ve yet to win a single game, even on the simple 9×9 board (the full board in 19×19). So if you’re looking to sink your teeth into a real challenge without a lot of commitment, pick up the game of Go. It has kept me busy for at least 2 weeks, and it looks like I have a long way to go before I’ve even scrapped the surface of the content available on it.

But, among the frustrations (very vocal frustration at that) I have learned a lot in the last two weeks:

  • I’m impatient
  • I don’t know how to build a proper architecture for long-lasting growth
  • I’m easily enticed by quick wins (often at the detriment of the long game).

But I’m working on those!

My First Partial Bike Commute: Trial and Error

My alarm is awful. I’ve worked to slowly get used to waking up as peacefully as possible, and I now wake up to one of my favorite Bach pieces, Aria by Simone Dinnerstein on almost minimum volume. But at 5:45am, even an angles song would piss me off.

This was the first morning I would try bike (partially) to work! The night before I planned everything. I was already wearing my base later (a merino wool long sleeve, some long johns, and the best travel underwear ever!), the water was measured and ready to start some great local coffee, my tire pressure was perfect, and my lunch was ready to be thrown in the bag with my neatly folded office clothes!

That smile wouldn't last to long though :(

That smile wouldn’t last to long though 😦

Coffee down, banana ate, and layers applied, I stepped out into the 42ºF morning. It was drizzling, and my hands were cold (I lost my gloves camping a few weeks ago >:8), and I had developed a sore throat, cough, and the sniffles during the night, but I wasn’t going to let any of these excuses stop me! I put the rubber to the metal and began my first ever commute!

3 miles later I was just about to exit town. I was alread a quarter of the way there and ready for anything. Traffic was light at 6:15am, and the rain wasn’t so bad either. The street lamps had lit my way for a time, but soon they would become few and far between. Then it happened: my head light went out…

I forgot to charge the damn headlight.

I had faced down every obstacle that morning. The cold. A cold. The rain. The early morning. Everything. But I couldn’t ride in the dark.  Even if I could see (which I couldn’t) cars entering the highway couldn’t see me. Irritated, I turned around. Pulling in I scared my wife half to death as she wondered from the shower what the noises were as I dragged my bike into the house, defeated, and slightly peeved. My first commute had dissolved to mere 6 mile workout.

But today was different. Still fighting a cold, I got up, made another pot of coffee, packed another lunch, and made a quick steak and eggs breakfast. As I tied my shoes, my pups wished me luck in a variety of ways. Zoey licked my shoes and pawed at my knee; Java, rubbed her butt on the floor. I am truly loved.

Java left, Zoey Right.  The best cheerleaders a guy could ask for!

Java left, Zoey Right. The best cheerleaders a guy could ask for!

When I stepped outside today the weather was a great 48ºF !  That’s not sarcasm, only 6 degrees difference and suddenly my hands aren’t cold anymore. There were only a few clouds in the sky and the moon shined bright. Compared to yesterday, these were perfect conditions!

I had to tackle 3 large hills on my way, but I was rewarded on the last one with a speed I’ve never experienced on a bike before. As I raced the sun to the Buckhead MARTA station, I abandoned my workout playlist (a J-Pop album that is both upbeat and allows me to practice listening to Japanese!) to enjoy the wind, occasional bird song, and the sound of panting progress!

Arriving in Buckhead via Bike

Goooooood morning Buckhead!

Just short of 12 miles and a tad over an hour later, I rode into the station sweaty and alive. I wanted to talk to everyone I passed, but most were still asleep; they had barely made it this far, better to not disturb them. That’s OK, don’t mind the crazy person smiling to himself, he’s going to be just fine.  He’s going to be better!

Learn Japanese, My 100th Kanji

The fact that people can communicate in multiple languages has always left me with a sense of awe.  But once I started traveling internationally, I felt quite lazy when I realized how many other people had taken on the huge challenge or learning English as a second language, while I was just sat around butchering it; much less learning any other language. 

To top it off where I’m from (southern US), our culture resists language learning of any kind, and immigrants are expected to “learn the language before they come here.”  Often times these comments go so far as to imply that someone who doesn’t speak perfect English must be unintelligent.  Needless to say I was never a part of this camp, but now that I’ve learned some Japanese I realize just how bright and dedicated a person has to be in order to convey any thought, no matter how small or broken, in another language.

Unfortunately for myself however, I choose the language that interested me most, but was also ranked 5th hardest language to learn for native English speakers.  I would be venturing into a realm where neither letters nor spaces between words existed.  A place where I would have to learn not just another alphabet, but two plus a pictorial one with thousands of unique characters and conjugations. 

And that third one is pretty scary.  Take for instance the word for “today”, “kyou” pronounce “key-yo” and looks like 今日.  You can write this word correctly in 2 different ways, one with kanji as shown, and one with hiragana as such きょう.  In kanji form however, the word is the summation of two separate characters that when used separately sound neither like “key” or “yo” but instead are “ima” 今 and “nichi” 日 (“nichi” can also be pronouced “hee”).  To illustrate, imagine if the word “homeland” when split apart was pronounced “origin place” but was still spelled as “home land.” Yeah, this goal is going to be a hard one, but arn’t they all?

But I’m making progress.  I started getting pretty serious with Rosetta Stone in January of last year, while I prepared for my trip to Tokyo.  I studied using RS and made friends online to practice language exchange as well.  This got my through Tokyo with ease (but wasn’t actually needed to be honest), and after just three months, and armed with a dictonary app on my phone, I was conversing over dinner with a friends cousin who didn’t speak English short of a few words.  Upon returning home however, I promptly abandoned my studies.

Then several months later, I decided to finally tackle what I had been avoiding: kanji, the pictorial alphabet that has thousands of symbols and at least two different ways to read/say each one.  So I bought a book on November 11th, 2013 entitled “Reading Japanese,” and published by Yale back in the 70’s.  Since then every day I’ve been making slow progress through the book, and now, over 3 months later I hit a big milestone.  I can not only fluently read and write both syllabic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) but also 100 kanji! 

As of 3/13/14 I've copied by hand about 168 pages of 546 page text book!

As of 3/13/14 I’ve copied by hand about 168 pages of 546 page text book! Also, if you notice, there’s another goal lurking in the background 😀

Yes, this is only a small, miniscule step in the process.  I have a very long way to go (1900 more to be specific).  But with 100 kanji under my belt, I’m immensely excited, and have a huge boost in confidence that I can actually achieve this goal.  My newly formed routine is practically set in stone at this point.  Every morning I arrive at work an hour early and copy new kanji, example sentences and reading drills.  I haven’t missed a day where I don’t write something or read something in Japanese and as such, I look very forward to it each morning.  I doubt I’d ever be successful if I didn’t.

In the next few weeks I’ll start posting entries of my individual study sessions, realizations, and milestones!  Any motivation or words of wisdom will be greatly appreciated :D.

Bike to work, the 7 mile mark!

Psshh, the source for this said this is a girls only poster! Well too bad :P

I want to be able to bike to work.  But as a consultant, it’s rare that I’m ever actually in my home office (5 miles from home), and instead find myself at a client site much further away.  But that won’t stop me this time.  However, the distance may slow me down just a bit… It’s 16 miles each way!

So I’ve broken this seemingly impossible goal (to go from 0 miles a year to 32 miles a day via bicycle) down into stages.  I’ll ride each day, and little by little increase the distance until I hit the numbers I’m aiming for.  And this week I hit a great mile stone, 7 miles in 40 minutes!  At this rate I’ll be at work in an hour and about 2 hrs… Still, it’s progress. 

My new bike, with only 8 miles on it at time of photo!

My new bike, with only 8 miles on it at time of photo!

At 26, I’ve never walked, ran, or biked a distance of 7 miles in my life.  In fact, since owning it I’ve riden 4 times.  I’m slowly trying to gauge where max distance is over time, hopefully minimizing the chance for injury by easing into it as well as learning the bike itself.  So far each ride has left me pretty tired, and my legs feeling like half set jello, but there has yet to be any intense soreness the day after.  I am however aware of the strain I’m putting on my body, and have no intention of jumping up several miles each run.  Which leads me to my first biking tip ever: creating a distance menu!

The Menu

First I started with a chart with 2 columns, one labeled ‘Miles’ and the other ‘Route’.  I then added rows from 1 to 16 with half mile increments starting after 9 miles (since I’m guessing I’ll have to slow my progression about that distance).  Each route starts and ends at my home, and the chart was emailed to my phone for quick reference.  When I’m walking out the door, I can decide how I feel that day and have a quick route planned out to match.  So if the Sun is going down and I only want a brief ride in I can follow the route for 2 miles and be all set!  In a few days I’ll try my 8 mile route when I think I’m ready.

Building Your Routes

Using routebuilder.org  I was able to easily click my way across a google map and get a great estimate on the distance.  It took me about an hour or two to map everything out (I have over 16 routes mapped after all), but now that I have them all mapped out it’s a peice of cake.  Each route starts and ends at my house, and some share the same first few starting streets to speed up the route mapping process as well as give me  some options should I change my mind early on.  The site offers a saving feature, but if you don’t start over each time it will overwrite the last one, so I just gave up and built a simple route reference system.

Route Shorthand

I used the following format for jotting down my routes so that I could easily read it on my iPhone:

(L)COBB-(R)PEACHTREE SE-(R)XMPLSTRT…

Since all my routes start at home, I skip the first road most times to save space.  In this example I turn left onto Cobb Parkway, then right onto Peachtree St SE, and finally right on to Example Street.  The first time you try a longer route, you may need to check half way through, but after a while you’ll easily remember the path you plan to follow with a quick glance.  I usually try to leave out vowels or use nicknames for really popular streets with long names. Like PTREE for Peachtree.

Mix it up!

I decided to try and get each route to take me somewhere new.  If I want to do 3 miles, I’m not planning on riding the 1 mile route 3 times, which would be far too boring.  Instead, I want to ride the 3 mile route, and if I’m in the mood can ride the 1 mile route to top it off at the end.

Let’s Ride!

After that it’s back to peddlin’.  For now I’m focusing on slowly working my way up to that magic 16 number.  But first on my list is mile 11, because that’s the distance to the closest train station from my house.  Thus allowing me to bike there, and ride the last few miles on the train, which should be a great sub goal!  Wish me luck!

My Goal List: 2014-2015

Below is a list of everything I am currently working on, with the longest running goal extending through May 2015.  Many are very easy, and it is my belief that by sprinkling many easy and attainable goals that compliment your bigger ones, you’ll keep a steady stream of success flowing that builds your confidence to the bigger, seemingly impossible ones. 

In order to motivate you, and keep myself accountable, this list will become the table of contents for the next several months of my life.  I’ll be updating the blog often with statuses and lessons learned for each goal and then linking to them here.

Building the List

This list started with 1 goal.  And it was a big one: to travel around the world with my wife on a RTW ticket.  I accomplished this goal last year by raising the total number of points necessary for 2 tickets to travel 35,000 miles around the globe.  But, we can’t leave until March or April of 2015, so I have lots of time to prepare as well as become increasingly impatient.  This list was built around preparing for that goal, and while it may seem like a stretch at times, each one plays a small part in it.  Also, all them work together to make sure I’m not obsessing over the RTW ticket every day J.  So what do you want to do in a year or two from now? Solidify that goal by setting smaller ones that build up to it.

My Daily Baseline

26 years old as of this year.  Married for 2 years, so all the same responsibilities that come with that.  I own 2 dogs, have a mortgage, and am a consultant from 9-5 Mon-Fri and almost never get to work from home.  For the first 2 years of my career I was so exhausted after work I literally added 20+ pounds as I became addicted to eating out and watching TV every day for 2 years.  Over the course of 13 months, my wife (also a consultant) and I might have cooked 15 meals at home.  This horrible lifestyle lead to two very unmotivated people, so tired from being tired that we spent most weekends laying around the house as well.  Then I decided to change that! And thus the list was born.  So no, I’m not a full time blogger, free to roam the world and get paid to gloat about it.  I’ve just decided that I’m not going to let 40+ hours a week define my whole life!

The List

  • Read More
    • Finish The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem
    • Find a read a good stategy book about Go
  • Win a game of Go against ‘sensei’ (buddy who taught me how to play)
  • Take 30 cold showers
  • Bike to and from work (32 miles round trip)
    • 11 mile circle route
    • Bike to closest train station (11.3 miles)
    • Bike to and from closest train station (22.6 miles)
    • Bike to work (16 miles)
    • Bike to work and from train station (27.3 miles)
    • Bike to and from work (32 miles)
  • Don’t come in last in two 5k’s
    • Atlanta Ridiculous Obstacle Course 5k
    • Atlanta Color Vibe Run 5k
  • Learn to read and write basic Japanese
    • 46 Hiragana
    • 46 Katakana
    • 425 kanji
  • Learn to lead Alaskan glacier expeditions
    • Reduce daily food consumption
    • Leverage bike commute to increase endurance
    • Complete paperwork/payments/medical
    • Procure equipment
    • Arrange flights
  • Increase social opportunities
    • Increase SABG Meetup group activity
    • Cultivate Reddit Atlanta FB group
    • Checkout backpacking meetup group
  • Lose weight/save money for RTW
    • Eat more homemade food
    • Drink homebrew or free beer only
    • Save $10k
  • Travel around the world for 2 months
    • Visit friends in Germany
    • Visit Thailand, Istanbul, Norway, etc
    • Go on a safari
    • Sleep in an ocean hut in Maldives
    • Live in Japan for 3+ weeks
    • Camp in other countries
  • Have more Weekend vacations
  • Learn Mindfulness Meditation