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

Quitting Isn’t Just For Losers

I drew this back and college, and it sold for more than any other piece I ever made, $800:

About a semester or so later, I quit drawing.  It was time for something new.

Too often we’re told to that we should figure out what we want to do with our lives early, and then do it forever.  According to the last generation, we should leave school, take a job, and stay there for 40 years or more.  According to this one, if you want to start a blog the typical advice is to find a niche and only write about that one topic for a long as possible.  For the most part anywhere you look, the average word of wisdom is to choose one thing and never look back.  But I disagree.

Let’s explore the idea of focusing on one thing for a bit.  Professional sports and rock stars are a good example.  You can’t really expect to become either if you spread your focus across too many things.  It’s not often that you become a pro basketball player and cure a disease at the same time.  So if your goal is stardom, to be the best of the best, then yes, set your path early, and never look back.

But how likely is it that you will become a professional athlete?  Cure cancer? Win a Nobel Prize? I’m not trying to discourage you, I’m simply asking:

Is your goal to earn one really big gold medal? 

For the average person, I don’t think it is. So why is it that the average person heads the advice that best suits someone with such a specific goal? 

I’m a quitter– not because I fear difficult things or failure, but because I have no desire to win a gold medal in any particular field.  I love the rush of starting something new, difficult, and exciting.  I love that feeling of learning, stumbling, and then eventually succeeding.    But eventually, I get to a point where I have to make a decision.  Do I continue onward, honing this particular craft to perfection?  Do I spend thousands of hours perfecting the subtleties involved, things that only other professionals would notice and appreciate?  Do I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to this one thing, or do I go find another mountain to climb?  One that will teach me a little bit more about who I am, and what the world has to offer?

Each time I become pretty good at something, a magical thing happens.  I receive an all access pass to a whole new room of people to meet.  I spent years learning to draw, filling exhibitions with my work, and earning spots in highly competitive gallery shows.  I now have a lifetime pass to the art community, and whenever I stumble across a charcoal or pencil artist I can connect with them in a way only another artists can.  Same goes for anyone having gone through business school, or learned a second language.  Am I a world famous artist? No, but would I have become one if I stayed the course? Probably not, if we’re being honest.  Instead, I decided to follow another path.  One that would allow me to me more people.  And when I get to that all import crossroad again, I’ll likely change direction again.

Hopefully I’ll stumble across your profession one day, and we can chat at length about it.

How To Identify and Remove 3 Types of Toxic People in Life

Define Your Future Today

If you’re a fan of Tim Ferris, then you’ve definitely come across the 80/20 rule.  He didn’t originate it of course, but he applied it to something I hadn’t realized before: that 20% of the people in your life, cause 80% of your unhappiness and stress.  Once I realized this, I took immediate steps to remove them from my life.  Below are some of the types of people I discovered, very slowly, were in fact toxic.  Much of these traits were only obvious to me in hindsight, and I’m positive that as I meet more people, more red flags will go unnoticed for far too long.  But the time spent with those people, good and bad, is gone; it’s a sunk cost.  Having spent a lot of time with them does not justify spending more time with them.  So if any of the below descriptions remind you of someone in your life (no mater how close you may be with them), explore them thoroughly.  Then, when the time comes, be decisive.  Make a commitment to being a better person today. 

The False Dreamer

False Dreamers are a lot like alcohol.  Each time to you get together, they build your confidence, make a lot of promises for tomorrow, and justify the inaction of yesterday as not the right time.  You feel great when you’re together, and as a result, you get together almost daily.  But somehow, none of those promises come true.  None of the feats attempted.  None of the plans planned, much less executed.  There’s always an excuse for doing it later.  They’ll always convince you that you simply can’t start until months into the future, just long enough for you to forget.  Once you’ve forgotten, or just before, you’ll be set down another path of false hope, and the cycle continues.  Until you wake up one day an alcoholic; drinking the same thing every day, riding the high that ‘someday’ you will be better. 

Removing a False Dreamer

The easiest way of course is to be upfront and honest.  Break off ties with them when you realize what they are doing.  If you need a bit of a push, let them do it for you.  Decide what your goal is, let them boost your confidence and raise a toast, but don’t drink to it.  Instead, right then and there, start writing down what you will do today and tomorrow.  Maybe pull out your phone and sign up for a gym membership, or apply to that culinary program on the spot.  They’ll applaud you, all the way until it’s time to go.  The first time you try to go to the gym or study instead of going out to dinner/getting drinks/party/just hangout there will be resistance, expect it.  They’ll tell you that you can do it tomorrow, or next week.  This is the hardest part.  This is when you decide to be better.  And the next time will be harder, and harder. Until finally, you have to be straight forward and honest with them.  You’re going to be better, and stop talking about being better.

The Alternative to the False Dreamer

There are real dreamers out there.  When you find one, you’ll notice the difference.  You’ll gather and talk about being better, but instead of raising a toast they pull out a journal to write down steps to take.  The next few days they aren’t available, because they are taking the most immediate steps possible.  They may not succeed.  In fact, there are many failures along the way.  But their biggest differentiator is that they try.  They continue to strive.

The Villainizer

The Villainizer will build you up by tearing down everyone else.  Rather than work on improving your flaws or shortcoming, they are masters at shifting the blame to anyone else involved, no matter how far removed from the situation they may be.  It is the professors whose at fault for your failed exam, the doctor for your bad eating habits, and your boss for your car trouble.  You’ll leave their company feeling much better about yourself, without having to waste time putting effort into actually becoming better.  Rather than work to the top, they dig out the ground all around their feet, in order to create the illusion of being on top.  Once you step back, you’ll realize that they’ve only succeeded in isolating the two of you from reality, carving out your very own island.

Removing the Villainizer

2011-07-07-LogicalDeduction

Removing a Villainizer will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done in your life.  At one time, you basked in the euphoria that was shifting blame, but during that time they were collecting all of your fears, self-doubt, and the parts of you and your life that made you self-conscious.  Each one will come back to you in a flurry of rage and tears.  There’s no way around it, you’ll have to face all of them, and in doing so, you will already be a better person.  These are things you should have dealt with at the time, but they were swept under the rug.  My advice is that you be direct.  Make known of your intention to leave the island that you helped create, and never look back.  Don’t read the text messages, don’t listen to the voicemails, and don’t read the Facebook chats.  Practice ignoring them first, then slowly block the channels abused most.   Understand that you are now the villain in their eyes, as well as anyone else that may actually be good for you.  Be open with those people around you about whats going on, and let them know that they may be confronted by them in the aftermath.  Your spouse, your friends, or anyone else may be pulled in.  This will be hard.  But it will be worth it.

The Alternative to a Villainizer

The alternative is someone who helps you face your shortcomings head on, in the moment and honestly.  They would rather risk your relationship, than see you blinded by shifted blame and false encouragement.  Rather than feel great after being together, you may feel frustrated.  Growing pangs can be frustrating.  Of course, if you’re always being criticized, that’s a problem as well.  What you’re looking for is someone who encourages you to try, and then helps you to try better when you fail.   

The Habitual Victim

The Habitual Victim will build you up, by tearing themselves down.  You’ll leave much of your gatherings with a subtle sense of guilt and pity.  They will always go with you part of the way, wanting you both to be better, only to fall behind, having tripped and sprained their ankle.  Then they guilt and beg you to come back and help them.  They hold you back, under the guise of pushing you forward.  They’ll initiate something with you, and always seemingly fail just before they actually start.  You’ll continue forward but your guilt slows you to a crawl.  You don’t want to leave them behind, so you comfort them.  You slow down.  And eventually, you stop moving forward all together.

Removing the Habitual Victim

 Removing an Habitual Victim is much easier than removing a Villainizer.  What you’ll deal with most is guilt.  Don’t let this guilt become anger, subsequently cause you to lash out.  Afterwards, you’ll find yourself justifying further that the HV truly is a victim, and your guilt will be increased even further.  The steps are simple, be direct.  But again, if you need to ease into it, give them the chance once more to come with you, but when they fall prey to some self-imposed failure, keep going.  Don’t stop because they didn’t get accepted to the program also; don’t stop because they got injured and couldn’t train for the race with you; don’t stop because their distant relatives-friend-spouse passed away, and they need you to cancel your first solo trip abroad to be comfort them.  You have your own fears to overcome, and theirs shouldn’t increase the height to your own hurdles.  Keep moving forward.  Keep being better.

The Alternative to the Habitual Victim

The person you want to find instead is someone with their own goals, their own motivation, and their own fears.  People who go with you part of the way, before taking their own path for a while.  Someone who encourages you with tales of their own success and failures (which should always include work arounds to eventual success).  This person won’t hold your hand, and won’t expect you to hold theirs.  They will make you better by showing you that they themselves can be better (not be confused with being better than you).  The only guilt you’ll encounter with these types of people stem from the feeling that you may not be trying hard enough.  It should be small, and just enough to push you just a little more in the right direction, and not a demoralizer.  The right person won’t make you feel like a failure, but won’t stand idle and wait for you to get up either.

Summary

Please keep in mind that, as with all lists of this nature, these are generalizations.  People are very complicated, but are brains want to tack on stereotypes to make them simpler.  You may have people in your life that are a mix of the generalizations above.  The whole point of this article is to help you pinpoint the people in your life that are keeping you from becoming better than you are now.  Keeping them around is much easier, and obviously much more comfortable.  If one or more of these people turn out to be a family member,  stepping away from them is going to be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done.  There will be tears, heartache, and a lot of other emotions.  And years from now, you will consider coming back, to try and mend those burnt bridges.  But when you arrive, and look across to the other side, you’ll see very quickly why you left.   I’ve stood there before, and every so often I visit that spot to remind myself of how far I’ve come, and far I can go. How far I will go.

The One Phrase That Prevents You From Reaching Your Goals.

I meet people all the time who say they wish they could travel as much as me.  I used to want to help them reach that goal, offering tips and advice on how to get started, but would quickly run into the “I can’t” road block.  After countless attempts at clearing it, pushing for a real answer, or helping them explore their excuses, it was clear.  They really don’t want to travel.  Or learn a second language. Or do anything that won’t come about as a result of their currently formed habits.  They want to day-dream a little, and then go back to what they were doing yesterday, so that they can do it again tomorrow.  And that’s fine.  But don’t lie about it. And if you’re not lying, and you really do want to do something more, then the first step is to let go of “I can’t.”

QCHX7

The worst part about “I can’t,” isn’t that it’s an excuse, admission of defeat, or just plain negative.  The true danger is that it’s habit forming.  You start off slowly.  Maybe just one or two a week, when you feel a little extra stressed from work.  Then you start using it when you’re happy too, and can’t be bothered with anything that’s not relaxing to you.  Before too long, you’re a full on addict.  You can’t walk to the store. You can’t learn a new language. You can’t understand politics. You can’t. So you won’t. Ever.

So what do you do? Quit cold turkey?  Try to emulate Jim Carrey from Yes Man?  Well, not exactly.  Bouncing from one extreme to the other isn’t going to do you any good.  Instead, you should first learn to balance out the “can’t” with “cans”.  Because your ability to find an alternative will show you just how important it really is to you.  Each time you can’t find an alternative solution, you’re in fact saying “It’s not that I can’t, I don’t want to.”

But what if you physically cannot do something? It happens.  A few weeks ago I went camping.  On the hike back (3 miles or so) I got a pretty bad pain in both my feet.  Since they were both hurting in the same place (outside edge, near my heel and ankle), I assumed they were just sore from being out of shape.  As the pain increase and lasted over a week however, I realized it was something more.  It was likely that I developed a form of tendonitis in both feet.  When I attempted a jog a few days later, the pain became much worse, and I found myself limping for several days.

So no, I can’t run, which is quite a predicament for someone preparing for multiple 5k’s.  But immediately after hearing the “can’t” on my breath, I decided I needed a “can” to balance it out.  It didn’t come to my right away, but I kept searching for a few days.  Then, I picked up spinning and bicycling.  Neither required weight to be placed on my heel, and thus I found a way to train, without further injuring myself.  And that’s a big indicator that what I have is a goal, and not a wish.  A wish is very easily pushed to the side, tagged with labels such as “I can’t” and “Someday.”  But a goal can’t be bothered with such puny roadblocks, there holes to be dug, ladders to be raised, or roundabouts to be found.

 GGXWM0B

So if you catch a whiff of “I can’t” on your breath, realize that you have only a few moments to balance it out.  Wait too long and you just be one step closer to never doing any of the things you truly want to do.  And as you get used to not saying those dreaded words, you’ll suddenly realize just how often those around you do.  Try not to breath in that second hand smoke!

How I Got Out of the Puddle

Monday

It just wouldn’t be a proper Monday morning if your first sip of office coffee didn’t come from the last pot made on Friday.  Happy Monday everyone.

Recently, I’ve been trying to be more mindful of my emotions, and more specifically, my attitude.  I didn’t notice it for a long time, but a few weeks ago I suddenly realized that I had become very short tempered.  My attitude would take a stark turn anytime I was interrupted, despite what I may have been doing at the time. Whatever the task, no matter how menial, I would get surprisingly frustrated when my attention was required elsewhere.

But why?  Why would this suddenly be the case?  A few months ago, I don’t recall it being a problem.  So what changed?  My current hypothesis: nothing changed.  Nothing changed for a long time.  And as my life settled, and became very stagnant, my attitude was getting worse and worse.

My life had become a puddle. And as it settled, I became much more sensitive to the individual ripples that disturbed it.  Each one causing intense frustration.  And after enough time, it became the perfect environment for parasites; feelings like that suck the life out of you such as loneliness, lethargy, and worse of all, anger.  As fewer things changed, the less I wanted them to.  This started to evolve into excuses to avoid gathers, reasons to skip grocery shopping, and the importance of silly television shows.  It was a horrible, but boring cycle.

To clarify, I don’t mean to say I was depressed.  Depression is such a serious illness that one doesn’t just bounce back from it as simply as I describe below.  I think a good word for what I was going through would be “rut.”  What I hadn’t realized however, despite having been in multiple ruts in the past, was just how negatively it affected my attitude.  It’s not as if I had locked myself in a dark room for days at a time.  I was going to work, studying, and going to dinners with my wife every day.  But I was doing those things over, and over again.  Without deviation.  And come the weekend, I would be so “tired”, that I would just lie in bed until noon or later watching TV, playing on reddit, and overall ignoring life until Monday, when I would start over.

So how did I bounce back?  I wish I could say I just woke up one day and was granted a sudden natural spike in dopamine that fixed everything.  But the truth is, had I continued to wait for that gift, it would have never come.  Instead, I had to take every bit of will power I had left, and consciously change course.  Nothing drastic, simply purposeful.  The first act?  I was walking towards the train station, which I usually ride 3 stops up to my wife’s office where we carpool home together, and I realized I had a choice.  I could continue down the escalator, wait for my train, and do what I always do, or I could walk measly 1.7 miles.  I stared at the train station entrance for a long time.  Then I chose to walk. 

This simple act led to a lot of other simple acts.  And this past weekend I watched as the snowball got even bigger.  I woke up wondering what kind of exercise I would do each day (to prepare for my a 2 5k’s I have coming up) and ended up biking 5.6 miles for the first time ever, took a friend all over town to some new great Asian spots,  and took my 10th cold shower.  As my wife and I went shopping Sunday, and I realized that I was very happy, but for no apparent reason.  It’s not as if I was overly busy, so much so that I didn’t have time for my rut.  Instead I was very relaxed, knowing that I had full control over my life.  I could essentially choose to be in a rut or not, simply by choosing how much change I allowed in my life.

And it turns out that the more I embrace and foster change in my life, the more that things like accidentally sipping weekend old coffee on Monday morning don’t bother me as much.  That’s because a pebble can cause a lot more trouble for a puddle, than a stream.

A Different Kind of Motivational Music

SunnyMountainDesktop

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?