A Different Kind of Motivational Music


I love motivation-porn.  Give me 100 pictures of something epic (mountain peak, ocean, etc) with a bolded font overlaid on each one and I’ll consume them faster than I normally read anything.  And it’s probably because of this rapid consumption that none of them truly stick with me.  Sure I’ll get that surge of inspiration, but like any other junkie, I immediately just start looking for my next fix.  The next one liner that will make me feel invincible!

But there are a few ‘one liners’ that do stick with me, and they didn’t come wrapped up in a thick black border or on top of an Instagram photo.  No, these come from some new-to-me songs that have become cherished favorites, songs that on first listen don’t sound like your typical source of motivation, and defintily not the kind for prepping to run in a 5K.  So I thought I’d share them with you, sans the Instagram photos.  Warning, you won’t find anything below that will get you pumped for your fastest run, but hopefully these will help you get up and decide a run today is worth it!

“I guess you are afraid of what everyone is made of”
      –St. Vincent, The Apocalypse Song

It should be noted that this song is actually not motivational at all.  In fact, it’s pretty widely understood that this song is about sex.  But hey, what’s wrong with distorting a little bit of art to get what you want out of it?  This line resonates with me because I’ve recently become much more aware of the fear that shadows so many peoples’ actions, including my own

Until recently I hadn’t noticed just how ubiquitous these fears are: the fear of failure, the fear of what awaits outside the comfort zone, and the fear that something will change.  No one admits to these fears at first.  But they’re there, that’s why they decided to change their major again, or to buy new shoes instead of the passport they’ve been meaning to get, or that their’s no point in networking with people.  But the fear of change, that’s the hardest one to overcome.  It’s the one that fuels the excuse generator and churns out disgusting muck such as “what’s the point?” or “definitly someday!”  These are the excuses that bubble up just before success, just as it peaks over the horizon and the only action needed is one of initiation, but then convince you to back down. On the surface, you turn away because you’ve rationalized its futility, ironically telling yourself that “‘nothing will change either way,” but in reality, you’re backing down because you fear that this little bit of success will change something.  And it will; it will show you what you’re made of.

“Damn you always treat me like a mountain, stranger.
Though I have never seen your shadows or fading lights.
I’m just a rock that you’ll be picking up through all your ages,
Always believing there’s a canyon for every blind…”
      -The Tallest Man on Earth, Bright Lanterns

Much like all of his songs, Bright Lanterns requires several plays to get everything out of it.  This song paints its own epic picture of the cycle that is mountain becoming a mole hill.  The protagonist essentially wakes up, having forgotten that his previous challenge/mountain has led him the current one.  He is unaware that this mountain, like the others, will also be climbed, becoming nothing more than another rock below his feet.  “A vision of a mountain you say? So where did it go?” illustrates that the last challenge is effectively non-existent, especially compared to this one.  It’s much more complex than that, and told beautifully, but my motivation comes from the mountain in this song.

Having taken it a bit literally, I always picture a never ending mountain with a series of plateaus looking like a stairway for a giant.  The next plateau being so high up, that it appears to be its own separate mountain peak, but once you summit, you find yourself faced with yet another.  What truly motivates me about this are the camps that I imagine at each plateau.  A large field filled with tents, and houses, where others have settled in.  This is where people build their comfort zones, staking their claim in a splendid meadow with a glorious view to remind them of how far they’ve climbed.  From here, they too can see the top of the next mountain, and convince themselves there is nothing beyond it, so “what’s the point,” of climbing further.  When I hear this song, I imagine myself standing at the base of the next ‘mountain,’ bags packed and ready to go.  I’ve left a lot of friends in their respective plateaus, but I’m really excited about the fiends I’ll make further up.

What songs/movies/art gets you going?  Are you tired of the meadow you’ve chosen?  Of find yourself turning a blind eye to what you could be?

Managing My Impatience: Waiting for My Trip Around the World

I am not a patient person.  While I say this with confidence, I certainly don’t say it with pride.  It has cost me on numerous occasions money, sleep, and of probably a measurable amount of sanity.  Thus, I’ve developed a few coping mechanisms to alleviate the pressure brought on by the seemingly impossible wait.  The most effective method I’ve found thus far is to litter the time between now and then with buildup events.  Basically, I try to find as many things as possible to keep my mind off of what I’m really excited for, while making sure they are relevant to the whatever event I’m obsessing about.  The specific event this time is one I’ve been dreaming of for years, and actively working towards for one: the day that I start using my first Round the World (RTW) ticket. 

I’ll link to a future post that goes more in depth soon, but basically I managed to secure enough points for a $12,000 RTW flight for my wife and me for only $3,500.  The only problem is that we have to wait for her to earn her sabbatical, which won’t come until March/April of 2015.  Luckily you can buy your ticket up to 11months in advance, and leave the dates open up to 12 months from departure.  Unluckily, 2 years seems like an eternity to someone with the patience of a 9 year old.

So I’ve decided to kill several birds with a couple of stones.  I need to keep my mind focused on something else, in order to not lose it entirely.  I need to prepare for the end half of my trip which will be a solo voyage for at least a month (my wife will return to work while I continue solo).  And it has become evident that I have put on quite a bit of weight, and need to get physically prepared for such a journey.  So last night, despite all the well-crafted excuses my brain generated, I purchased a few increasingly major commitments.  I’ve made an internal (and financial pledge) to the next 6 months that will test me in several ways… ok mostly physically.

Commitment 1: From today, I now only have 5.3 weeks to prepare for the Atlanta Color Vibe 5k run! I generally don’t enjoy running, but I’ve always wanted to see what the Indian Holi Day is like, so I’m absolutely stoked for preparing for something so fun and moderately intensive. Getting ready for this 5K should be relatively easy, but afterward, I’ll only have 8 additional weeks to prepare for my next challenge.

3 Miles of Color!

Commitment 2: The Ridiculous Obstacle Course 5K (ROC Race).  This 3 mile run will be complete with a ropes course, swinging balls of doom, and much more.  I can’t to finally see just how hard those Japanese game show contestants really have it! After that, things get serious, and I will only have another 5 weeks to prepare.

3 Miles of Awesome!

Commitment 3: It hasn’t been accepted yet, but if all goes well I’ve appllied up for a 12 day Alaskan glacier expedition

12 EPIC days!

 That’s right, I’ve submitted my application for my very first NOLS course, and a big part of me is scared to death!  They don’t tell you in advance about the current availability however, so I’m not 100% sure if it will be Alaska yet, since I’ve also selected a 14 day Rocky Mountain expedition as a backup.  In my current state, I’m definitely not ready to hike 50-100 miles into the mountains, or live on a glacier, so the two previous 5K runs will be used as check points to gauge my improvement between now and then.  What I’m most excited about however is applying what I learn at NOLS to the RTW trip.  Since I plan to explore Japan (or some part of Asia) for at least a month solo, I need to be open to the idea of camping alone if I intend to stretch my dollars out as far as possible.

So there you have it. Rather than spend more money of eating out, I’ve dedicated ~200$ of next months budget to commitments that will serve a variety of purposes, but ultimatly distract me whilst I await the best trip in the world. The next 6 months should be so much fun that my RTW trip (hopefully) won’t feel so far away. Plus I’m definitly going to Dragon*Con in August so, I’m pretty much occupied until September.  As for what I will do next… we’ll just have to wait and see :D!

You Don’t Have Any Problems.


I’m a consultant.  Basically, I work with clients to make their work easier.  It’s pretty technical, but at a high level I simply solve problems.  Except in consulting, you’re not allowed to use the word ‘problem.’

Each firm has its preference.  Some prefer ‘opportunities for improvement’ others sub-out the word with ‘challenge.’  It sounds corny, but you will be corrected each time you slip up and say the p-word, until you find yourself auto-correcting new hires.  And the strange thing is, after a couple of years this language-washing begins to seep in and change the way you look at the world outside of work.

So when I came across one of today’s top post over at /r/meditation, I was surprised to find a new way of looking at defining problems.  /u/thebeachboys posted an interesting quote, which surmises that problems in fact do not exist.  Allegedly, there is only reality and our expectations of it.  What we perceive as a ‘problem’ is merely a moment when the two contradict one another.  For example: I may say that a dead car battery is a problem, but according to this quote it’s merely a contradiction between my expectation (to go to work) and reality (I can’t leave the house).

What a soothing thought.  I enjoyed this quote because it always helps to identify ways to step back, and see that while something could be a source of stress, it doesn’t have to be.  Instead the consultant in me starts to identify paths that will sync back up reality with our expectations.  Luckily, I’ve gotten a lot of practice doing this for others, which makes doing it for myself a little easier.  But despite this advantage, I am neither immune to problems, nor the stress that follows suit. 

One thing that I find in my work is that every client thinks their challenges are unique and unsolvable (this is why consultants are hired after all).  But after a few years, usually the only thing unique about them is the arrangement; I’ve likely solved all the individual pieces several times before.  So you can imagine my surprise when encounter my own challenges, but low and behold insist to myself that they too are unique and unsolvable. 

My biggest challenge right now?  I want to travel.  I don’t want to take a vacation.  I mean I want to travel for months at a time.  I want to climb mountains, to sleep in huts, to speak new languages, to eat food that scares me, to set my destination with whim and circumstance rather than compass and PTO days.  I want to have so many stories to tell that my kids and grandkids hear new ones every day.  I also want children, and to offer them opportunity and stability.  Things I never got.  So I went to school, got a great job, and then got a better one.  And now my reality is one of stability and comfort, despite my wanderlust– despite my expectations of how my life should be.

So when I found myself using the excuse of ‘uniqueness’ to justify its inability to be solved, I was reminded of the clients I’ve helped throughout the years.  I was reminded that if it were anyone else giving me this excuse, I’d be able to see through it and identify a path that syncs up the two as best as possible.  So I’ve started taking steps to break free of my excuses, (the CST challenge being the first big one) and see the opportunity behind them.  I’ve yet to really solve it, but I’m getting there.  For now I’m saving, and will soon have enough to cash in my RTW ticket next year that will give me a taste of the reality I expect for myself.  For now I’ll practice patience, excuse control, and budgeting. And more importantly, I’ll stop letting this (and other ‘problems’) become a source of stress.

What challenges are you trying to solve right now?  If ‘none’ is your answer, then you likely still consider them to be problems, and they’re only weighing you down.  Get rid of them.

[100 strangers project] Strangers #4 and #5

A fantastic project to systematically and purposefully break out of your comfort zone! I’ll likely pick this up aft completing the cold shower challenge! 🙂

My Footprints In Time

Stranger #4

The ever-smiling nurse from Italy

I was entering our home-stay after a blissful walk along the Pangong lake when a loud and cheerful voice greeted me saying she knew who I was and that she was happy to meet me! I was taken aback. I’d neither seen this smiling stranger before, nor was I a world-famous personality! Perplexed as I was, I greeted her back and tried not to sound thoroughly surprised and asked her how she knew me. For a while she kept me waiting and then she revealed that it was VJ who had met her earlier and told her about me! She knew that I was a doctor. And for the next couple of hours we chatted endlessly. She told me of the health-care system back at her place in Italy and that she was a nurse in a psychiatric care unit. It’s indeed a…

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How 5 Cold Showers Can Change Your Mindset

Excuses take away your future, so that you can still have something to day dream about today.

Last week, I started the Cold Shower Therapy (#CST) challenge.  When you accept the #CST challenge, you agree to spend the next 30 showers without hot water.  For 30 mornings you climb into the shower, take a deep breath, and try to stand under an icy stream for 5 minutes (or just long enough to speed wash yourself).

While I’ve read all about the great benefits of CST, there are also a few of unforeseen dangers that I didn’t realize come with it.  Within just one week of starting the challenge the following had plagued my life:

  • Loss of Appetite
  • Loss of Interest in things I once enjoyed
  • Poison Ivy
  • Walking with a limp 

Prior to starting this challenge, I could eat huge portions of my favorite foods, often until I became ill.  I could browse Reddit nearly all weekend, and feel completely fine with the few accomplishments I mustered before bed on Sunday night.  I also sure as hell didn’t have itchy skin or trouble walking.  But now all of that has changed, and it’s all because of something so simple: the act of choosing a cold shower over a hot one.

After my first cold shower, I stepped out and immediately felt a rush of pride.  ‘I did it!  I can do anything!’  And I thought that was the point, and went about my day. But it wasn’t until the subsequent showers that I realized where the true motivation comes from.  It’s not so much the act of surviving a cold shower– put me in a shower where my hot water heater is broken, and rather than motivation, I’d emerge with a new form of malice to unleash upon the world.  Rather, it’s the act of hearing yourself come up with such a vast variety of excuses, and making the conscience decision to ignore them all.  It’s amazing just how creative your brain can be.  From the time the alarm goes off, it starts telling you why today would be a GREAT day not to take a cold shower.  Why yesterday (whether amazing or terrible) justifies cranking up the heat.  How there really isn’t any benefit that a hot shower can’t offer.  And my personal favorite: that there just isn’t any point in not being comfortable. 

What I didn’t realize was how much control the excuse generating portion of my brain had over my life.  After all, it generates them in such volume that I never noticed they were the same ones recycled with different words.  I started to catch on when I considered ordering healthier options for lunch:

‘You might get hungry later, so you should go ahead and order the foot long combo.’

Or when I thought it would be a good workout to camp on top of Yonah Mountain this weekend:

‘There’s no point (in not being comfortable this weekend).  What benefit can camping at 3,100ft give that a day hike to 1,800 can’t provide?’

Suddenly, I realized that not only had I heard these excuses before, but just that morning I had successfully ignored them. But there I was, the day of my hike, and I had decided to lie back in bed.  I had decided to do a number of other things that day, and realized all of them could wait a little longer while I watched some TV and relaxed.  That’s right.  I had come up with excuses not to go camping, and then came up with excuses to procrastinate starting my excuses.   That’s when I took a deep breath, got up, and packed my bag.  Just like turning on the cold water, in the end I was much happier.

Except for the poison ivy and sore muscles.  Those really suck. But I’d do it again!

Did you make any excuses today?  If the answer is “no,” perhaps like me you don’t notice them yet.  And that’s a much bigger problem.

The truth about travelers

A great look at the source of the positivity seen in so many travelers!

infinite satori

Press play first.

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We have been called many things. Travelers, by default. But we like to be called nomads. Explorers. Vagabonds. Adventurers. Wayfarers. Modern gypsies. Wanderers. We’ve adopted them all. A growing breed of humans with restless feet and the inability to stay still, the inability to stay in one place.

That is who we are. And that’s just the gist of it.

We come from all walks of life, from bustling gray colored cities, sleepy beach towns, snow-covered metropolises, small villages nestled in between lush green mountains, we come from everywhere. But our inner gravity always brings us to the same place… the road.

We deem courage weighs more than money when it comes to travel. We’re not rich, not financially well-off and we don’t travel for luxury. Our money does not come from rich parents, trust funds, or whatever privileges you think we have in order to maintain…

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