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.

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

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!