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!

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.