On Education and Physical Activity

Doing some research for a piece on fitness and brain health. Came across this quote in the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain:

In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.


Becoming Numb

I remember the first time Charlotte and I had dinner in Boulder after we moved from Denver. We were sitting at a restaurant down on Pearl Street. The foothills of the Rocky Mountains towered high above us. We were so close it felt like you could reach out and touch the mountains. Coming from Florida, where I had lived my entire life up until moving to Colorado, this was absolutely amazing. We kept on exclaiming how unbelievable the mountains look at sunset and how great it was that we were able to move from flat ol’ Florida to take-your-breath-away Colorado.

A year later, I drive towards those mountains on a daily basis. Unfortunately, they no longer seem that impressive. After having seen them for 365 days in a row, I’ve become numb to their beauty. I realize this every time I show a visitor around. Nearly every time, we find ourselves near Pearl Street perusing the shops and restaurants. They see the same view that I saw not that long ago, and it takes their breath away.

It’s really a shame how quickly we can take something so beautiful for granted. When we originally moved out to Colorado, I promised myself that I would always appreciate the wonderful landscape that surrounded me, but it’s a hard battle to win.

What have you grown numb to over the past year or so? I’m talking about more than just landscape and scenery. It’s possible to grow numb to the amazing friends and family that surround you, taking their encouragement and support for granted. You can grow numb to the lifestyle you lead and the work you do, forgetting that other individuals aren’t nearly as fortunate.

My challenge to you (and to myself) is to take a few minutes out of your day to truly appreciate all that surrounds you. Take a detailed look at what you’re doing, who you’re doing it with, and where you’re doing it. I’ll bet that there are several aspects of your day-to-day life that you’re currently taking for granted. Stop because you never know when those special moments might disappear.

The above photo was my attempt to take in something amazing – the sun rising up on a hike up Gregory Canyon in Boulder, CO. You can see the town of Boulder in the distance. That cluster of red buildings is CU.

Letting Yourself Off the Hook

I was in the gym yesterday on my fourth set of back squats (I won’t embarrass myself by letting you know how much weight I was lifting). Four sets into my intended six, I was just about to call it quits. Due to some knee issues, I hadn’t squatted for two to three weeks prior. I thought to myself, “Being able to squat pain-free was enough of a win for the day. Wasn’t it?” After all, this particular workout represented huge strides from where I was just a few months back when just thinking of squatting made me cringe.

Compounding my lack of desire to continue lifting was the atmosphere of the gym. For starters, I was only one of two folks working out at the time (it was 4pm on a Friday). Normally, I would count that as a blessing, but an empty gym doesn’t exactly work in your favor when you’re lacking motivation and would rather be downing a few beers and relaxing at the end of a week. The radio was unfortunately blaring Miley Cyrus, and I had neglected to wear workout shorts with pockets so using my phone to play music was a bit tricky.

Giving Yourself Slack

We’ve all been in a situation before where we wanted to follow through with a personal promise we made to ourselves. Maybe you promised yourself you would hold off on buying any new clothes until you paid off your credit card. Maybe you told yourself you weren’t going to have that extra drink so you could get up and workout early the next morning.

Then, when it came down to the buzzer, you caved. You had that extra drink. You bought the shirt you’ve were eyeing for months. Looking back, you likely have no idea how you caved so easily. You were so set on not disappointing yourself this time.

A few weeks back, I was listening to an episode of Shawn Blanc’s The Weekly Briefly where he touched on the topic of deep personal integrity. The idea is that when you make promises to yourself, you hold yourself accountable. He used other examples that we’re likely all familiar with like setting your alarm an hour early so you can workout or make breakfast but smashing the snooze button when the alarm goes off or promising yourself that you’re going to workout after you get off from work but heading to the bar with your coworkers instead to celebrate a hard day.

Our natural inclination is to take the easy way out in literally ever circumstance. Our bodies are trained to avoid pain (both emotional and physical). So, we gravitate to doing things that we find unchallenging instead. It’s easy to talk yourself out of doing something difficult. After all, you know all of your own weaknesses.

This is the exact situation I found myself in on Friday, staring down the squat rack and congratulating myself on a job well done so far. I was trying to let myself off the hook.

The problem with letting yourself off the hook is that it breeds failure. After you cave the first time, mentally, it’s easier to give up in the future. In essence, constantly letting yourself down has a snowball effect that eventually makes you your own worst enemy when it comes to accomplishing something down the road. You’re slowly moving towards a quitters mentality. Rather than being someone that pushes through hard times to accomplish a goal, you slowly become someone that gives up. The quitter mentality is a hard one to work yourself out of.

As for those sets of squats, I ended up finishing out all six of them. It was rough. Today, my legs were so sore that I could hardly walk when I got out of bed. Still, I promised myself I would go out on a hike with the dogs, which I did. Don’t let yourself fall short. Be your own biggest champion when it comes to sticking to your guns.

Ramifications of Quantified Self

I’ve written before about why I don’t quite buy into the tracking movement just yet. In that piece, I mentioned Exist, which is a cool new software being built that seeks to help users understand and utilize their fitness tracking data. Usability is one main issue that I highlighted in my blog post so I was really happy to chat with Belle Beth Cooper, one of the two founders of Exist.

She wrote up a fantastic piece detailing the ramifications of the quantified self movement. This quote sums up many of my thoughts:

As the Quantified Self movement heats up, it seems that the novelty factor is drawing people in to track their lives for the sake of it. At least until they realise they don’t benefit from it at all.

You can read the entire post with a few quotes from me here.

10 ½ Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said

Author: Charles Wheelan
Title: 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said
Published: May 7, 2012

I have no recollection of the commencement speech at my graduation. Heck, for all I know, there wasn’t one. If there was one, I’m relatively positive it wasn’t given by a celebrity like Ellen DeGeneres (give that one a watch). What I can say for sure is that I wish someone would have told me these 10 pieces of advice before I left college or graduate school. The premise of this book, which was based off a commencement speech that the author gave to the graduating class of Dartmouth, was for Wheelan to convey the 10 (and a half) pieces of knowledge he wish someone had told him long ago when he graduated from college (he happened to go to Dartmouth). The knowledge that he shares is incredibly valuable.

My favorite piece of advice in particular was related to delayed gratification. To quote the book:

“To be able to delay immediate satisfaction for the sake of future consequences has long been considered an essential achievement of human development.”

Wheelan argues that we’ve largely lost that ability as a nation. I agree.

Continue reading “10 ½ Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said”

Show Your Work

Show Your WorkAuthor: Austin Kleon
Title: Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
Published: Mar 6, 2014

Similar to Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work is meant to inspire creative professionals to action, encouraging them to worry less about perfection and connect with their intended audience through showcasing the rough drafts of their work. I know personally I’ve suffered from the fear of clicking “Publish” several times in the past. Putting your work out there for everyone to see is difficult. Austin breaks down “a new way of operating” and 10 steps or pieces of advice to encourage both new and seasoned artists to get over the “Publish” hump and get their work out there. Just like Steal Like an Artist, I came away from reading this book with a renewed energy to publish more content both in the form of blog posts and ebooks than ever before. If you’re struggling to find the energy or courage to pursue your creative passion or get your work into the hands of other individuals, this is a fantastic book for you.

Continue reading “Show Your Work”

Steal Like an Artist

kleon-steal-like-an-artist-coverAuthor: Austin Kleon
Title: Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
Published: Feb 28, 2012

I’ve been following Austin Kleon for quite awhile. I love the Newspaper Blackout series he posts on his blog and on Twitter. I also really appreciate his blog posts related to creativity. For one reason or another, I had never found time to read his book. That changed when I was in Powell’s bookstore in Portland, OR for an Automattic meetup. I grabbed Austin’s book off the shelf and started reading (it was in the suggested reading section). Within 45 minutes or so, I was 3/4 of the way through Steal Like an Artist and recording every third sentence out of the book as a memorable quote. Needless to say, I purchased the book on the spot along with his next book, Show Your Work.

Austin writes in a straight-to-the-point type of style only including the necessary information and leaving out all of the fluff. He draws from numerous sources for support and communicates his ideas in a way that is both informative and inspiring. I put down the book with a desire to start writing more and the urge to write an e-book, which I’m in the process of sketching out. Both Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work are two must-reads for creative individuals. Together, they’ll help you get out of your shell, think up your next project/idea, and show it to the world.

Continue reading “Steal Like an Artist”

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our StarsAuthor: John Green
Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Published: May 3, 2012

After reading several nonfiction books in a row, my mind was desperate to read something for pleasure without feeling like I needed to be paying attention and taking notes the entire time. I scanned the Amazon “Most Recommended” section and stumbled upon The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The book was pretty incredible. The story centers around two young adults, Hazel and Augustus, who are each in an intense battle with cancer while also falling in love. I’m not going to cover much more of the story, but I will say that I could hardly put it down. If you’re looking for a fiction book, I’d highly recommend it.