Deception Pass State Park Camping Adventure

Alison and I headed up to Deception Pass State Park for a last-minute overnight camping adventure. We’ve gotten in the habit of going on overnight camping trips through the summer (OK, this is our third one!). Even one night of camping is enough to clear out the cobwebs from a full week of everyday tasks and drama. As soon as I arrive at a campsites I shut off my phone. This time I had Once of Runner with me to pass the time.

Deception Pass is on Whidbey Island, about 100 miles north of Seattle, WA. It was a 90 minute drive. There are two routes to get there, one involving a ferry (shorter by distance and more scenic, but more expensive and time-consuming considering the ferry ticket and wait times) and the other by driving around to the top of the island and down to Deception Pass. We choose the latter route.

There are over 300 campsites, with all the basic toilet amenities you would expect. 2/3 of the sites can be reserved ahead of time, and many of those sites have great peek-a-boo views of the water (one of the straits just north of Puget Sound). The other campsites are decent, they do not have great views, but there is plenty of privacy since the sites are well spaced out with plenty of plant overgrowth between the sites. There is a well-stocked convenience store just before entering the park in case you need provisions.

There are several of beaches nearby (just a few hundred meters) from the campsites with sandy shores, calm water, driftwood to lounge on and also a large lake (Cranberry Lake) where folks were fishing and canoeing. We saw quite a few stand-up paddle-boarders and kayaks. In theory people also swim in the water here, but it was too cold for that when we were there. Trails also meander through the park for those who like to get in some trail running or hiking.

For $31 ($21/night for the campsite and $10 for two bundles of wood) – this is a highly relaxing and fun way to spend the weekend for less than the cost of a trip to the movies. Oh yeah, for dinner we made gluten-free mac & cheese & s’mores.

View from Deception Pass on Whidbey Island, WA. Photo taken with Sony NEX-7 and 16MM wide-angle lens using the built-in panorama feature.

Homeless Billionaire Nicolas Berggruen Prefers the Simple Life

Ran across a refreshing story today about Nicolas Berggruen, a billionaire who sold off his homes, car and many possessions years ago and lives a simpler life than most people with a fraction of his net worth. Granted, it does appear that he isn’t slumming it by any means, preferring to live in 5 star hotels instead of his own homes, but his comments are insightful:

“Everybody is different and I think that we live in a material world. But for  me, possessing things is not that interesting. Living in a grand environment to  show myself and others that I have wealth has zero appeal. Whatever I own is  temporary, since we’re only here for a short period of time. It’s what we do and  produce, it’s our actions, that will last forever. That’s real value.”

On why he doesn’t get that much enjoyment from owning things:

“First, I don’t need it. Secondly, maybe in a bizarre kind of way, I don’t want  to be dependent on it or have the responsibility. I don’t get that much  enjoyment out of saying ‘I own it.’ “

The New Good Life by John Robbins: Book Review

I’ve ready several of John Robbin’s previous books, including Diet for a New America and Healthy at 100. Both were awesome, and his latest book, The New Good Life, is no exception. Robbin’s story is remarkable not just because he eschewed a life of privilege at a young age (he was the heir to the Baskin-Robbins fortune and destined to take over the business, but gave it up to live off the land in a log cabin for 10 years) but because his message is so clear, supported by facts yet engaging to read.

The book states that “The New Good Life” can be had by anyone who is willing to focus on what brings joy in life and not what prevailing market trends and peers dictate as necessary parts of a successful life. Do we need multiple fancy cars? Do we need large expensive houses? Do we need to work long hours in jobs that don’t bring fulfillment? Do we need to spend money we don’t have on food that is destroying our health and the environment? Those are all trappings of the “old good life” and no longer sustainable for the exploding modern world population.

What I like about this book is that it is NOT a book about minimalism. I personally do not believe a minimal lifestyle is inherently better than a highly consumptive one. There are many positive benefits, however, of being happy with less, when the motivation in doing so is appropriate. That is exactly the message in this book. Explore the possibility that you might be happy with less. Challenge yourself to really focus on the things that bring you happy and your family joy, and do more of those things and less of the rest.

I read this book in a single weekend…..it’s that good – though I did skip the chapter on health as it repeats similar messages as covered in his previous books.

Finding Ultra by Rich Roll: Book Review

My last two books were both written by vegan endurance athletes. Eat & Run by Scott Jurek and more recently Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. Both were enjoyable reads and inspiring. What I like about Finding Ultra is the focus on multi-sport athletics (triathlon). Rich also has a very unique background; having been a standout student, lawyer and national-level competitive swimmer…all the while battling alcoholism.

If you like Eat & Run, you will definitely enjoy Finding Ultra. However, I did think Eat & Run was a better book overall. It interleaved more plant-based nutritional guidance throughout the book. Finding Ultra, while it did have nutritional advice, seemed to be pitching supplementation using products from a company Rich Roll is involved with. Eat & Run focused on recipes you can cook at home – I like that. I also just think Eat & Run was better written and overall more inspiring a story (Scott Jurek has done some pretty gnarly races and has a much longer endurance race history!).

So do read both books if you can. If you need to pick one, go with Eat & Run.

Eat & Run by Scott Jurek

Read Scott Jurek‘s book Eat & Run last week. It is an awesome read, and it doesn’t matter if you are vegan or into running long distances.

I thought I knew Scott’s story, but there is a lot in this book that was totally new to me. He had a tough upbringing and surprising stories about his races. For example, I knew he raced the Hardrock 100, but I had no idea he did it on a nearly broken ankle! I also knew he raced (and won) the Spartathlon, a 150 mile race in Greece, but I didn’t he won it twice!

The book also introduces a few dozen vegan recipes….that are quite good. I made his recipe for mushroom-lentil veggie burgers and they turned out amazingly well. Nice to read a story about someone who is performing at a world-class athletic level on a plant-based diet.

The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho

I just finished reading The Pilgrimage, A Contemporary Quest for Ancient Wisdom, by Paulo Coelho. The novel follows Paulo as he goes on pilgrimage across Spain in search of a miraculous sword. It’s a story of  a man in search of spiritual development and mastery. The pilgrim’s path is a sacred one used by millions of pilgrims in the Christian faith, one that leads from the mountains near France to the coast of Spain. The path is also known as “The Way of St. James.”

Along the way, he is guided by a wise man, and learns a number of important lessons. I particularly like how the book introduces a number of interesting meditations (8-10, can’t remember exactly) that you can apply in your own life. It’s both a story and a personal development manual.

While this book is not nearly as profound as The Alchemist (perhaps my favorite book of all-time, also by Coelho) it is a worthwhile and fast read. I got through it in a long weekend of lazy reading.

The Value of Building Things Yourself

I just built a little raised bed in my yard.

I needed more space to plant greens (I eat a TON of them!) and this part of my lawn was already destroyed from overgrowth and pine needles that killed off the grass.

It was a simple little project, just arranging some rocks, adding soil and planting seeds (all organic!) – but it feels good having done it. Building things with your hands isn’t about doing something cheaper or better, it’s about the sense of accomplishment and pride that can only come from creating something from scratch – by yourself.

What are you building?

Three Simple Meditation Tips

Meditation is something that anyone can do. It doesn’t require any type of special certification or training in a certain meditation technique. It just requires consistent practice. Here are three helpful tips to help you in your own meditation practice:

  1. Sit every day, no matter how long or short. Frequency matters more than length. Like any habit, doing it often and with regularity – even if you can only sit for 60 seconds a day – is better than a multi-hour marathon meditation session once a week.

  2. Sit in a dark and quiet place. Less distractions the better, especially if your mind wanders easily. When in a small apartment that was brightly lit, even in the morning, I would cover my entire head with a shawl.

  3. Sit early morning. Before your coffee. Before getting dressed. Make your meditation the first thing you do.

 

How will you measure your life? Another post.

I just finished reading Clayton Christensen’s new book, How Will You Measure Your Life. As i posted before, when I joined Microsoft as an intern over 12 years ago my manager handed me a copy of his then breakthrough best-seller “The Innovators Dilemma” (it’s still a best seller). I liked it for the way it used historical examples and simple theory to explain complex business situations.

What I like about his most recent book, is that it provides more of these theories, but applies them to personal life situations. Finding a job that is fulfilling. Finding meaningful relationships. Finding a life purpose. Things like that.

The biggest insight I got from the book is to not settle until you find your purpose, and find a career and lifestyle that supports it. I was surprised to learn that Christensen (a Harvard Business School professor) didn’t decide to teach until he was in his late 30’s, after two other careers.

It’s never too late to make a change. When it comes to your profession, you will spend a large portion of the waking hours in your prime years doing what you do. Pick something great and don’t settle until you find it.

How will you measure your life?

One of the first business books I read (not counting college textbooks) was The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. I was an intern at Microsoft 12 years ago and my boss had just read it. He handed it to me (along with a stack of printed revenue reports to review) and recommend I take a look. The book is a classic now, easy to read and simple in its theory but very applicable then and now to the problem of sustained innovation for any business.

I’m now halfway rough his latest book How Will You Measure Your Life in which he applies business theory to the problem of finding a career and life purpose that will be fulfilling.

The Innovators Dilemma theory states that businesses that are successful are often and eventually disrupted by emergent strategies by companies in their industry, with products that are initially deemed inferior in some way, but superior in other meaningful ways. In the same way that people initially dismissed autos as inferior to horses and buggies (they were noisy, broke down and were limited to level roads), the autos slowly improved and redefined transportation. The same thing has happened to the steel business, retail stores, tech industry, books, restaurants and almost every other industry.

I like this book because it challenges the reader to think hard about the patterns they are running in their lives and the assumptions and motivations driving their decisions. Christensen himself decided to get a PhD at the age of 37 and change careers to become a professor at 39, after years as a consultant and business owner. He disrupted himself before he found himself trapped in a career and lifestyle he didn’t truly love. That takes courage no book can in itself give to a reader, but the theories he lays out do help.

The Happiness Project

Just starting to read “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.

I do truly believe that happiness is a choice, even in the most dire of situations. In the book, Gretchen accounts of her year of test-driving wisdom from various traditions and popular culture regarding how to be happier. I’m not expecting any breakthrough insights from this book but do expect it to be a fun read.

Have you read this book? What do you think about it?

 

 

Oprah’s Lifeclass

I have always been a fan of Oprah.

I never really liked her show (the topics didn’t resonate with what I cared about), but I did like how she acted as a person. In a TV world full of fear-mongers and drama-queens she held court during her afternoon talk show hour in a more upbeat manner. Now that her Oprah show is over, she’s been spending more time doing other things, and talking about topics that I do care about.

Her Lifeclass is really great. She’s had Tony on several times, Deepak Chopra and others. Worth tuning in to online. They have posted the full episodes along with notes for each class.

Growing My Own Food (some of it at least!)

I grew up in a rural community (the cows outnumbered the humans) and we had an acre of land, a large portion of which was planted with rose bushes, fruit trees or vegetables. I spent a large portion of my weekends growing up tending to the gardens. Tilling the soil, weeding, watering, planting, harvesting and eating gooseberries until I exploded when the time was right.

I took care of the garden and at times, resented having to spend so much time doing it. I always loved eating the fresh produce, but the whole gardening thing started to get old after a number of years. I preferred to spend my free time horsing around with my friends, playing games, reading or doing anything but getting dirty!

This mentality stuck around for years, as I went to college and moved into a series of rental houses and apartments. I loved eating fresh produce, but could care less about growing it myself.

Fast forward 15 years later, and I am now the proud owner of my first home. While my property is not that big (1/5th of an acre!) and mostly shaded, I now have a new-found appreciation for doing things on my own, and that includes growing stuff. I’ve surprised myself with how much my own mindset of owning land has made me want to take care of it, and do something useful with it. There is also something more freeing now that gardening is something I want to do, not something I have to do.

So far, I’ve planted carrots, several types of kale, red cabbage, collards and a planter box full of snap peas. It’s not much but a start. Eventually I’ll get some more planter boxes going in the sunny spots in my back yard with tomatoes, hot peppers, squash and more salad greens.

Collards, carrots and kale
Red cabbage, two kinds of kale, carrots
Snap peas in an Earth Box

One Powerful Technique for Improving Your Diet and Health

Add in the good stuff. As much of it as you can. Whenever you can. 

There it is, you can skip the rest of this post! Most diets are defined by what you CAN’T eat not what you CAN eat. Vegans are all about not eating meat or dairy or eggs. Paleo’s are about not eating grains or dairy or processed stuff. Raw foodists are all about not eating cooked stuff.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it fundamental goes against our psychology and what motivates us over the long-term. No doubt, excluding things from your diet can work very well for a while (e.g. not eating fried food, or cutting out all dairy products) – but the mental model that is FAR MORE POWERFUL and SUSTAINABLE over the long-term is one of inclusion not exclusion.

Exclusion is what I’ve already stated: defining a new way of eating based on cutting something out of your diet (meat, dairy, sugar, alcohol, etc.).

Inclusion is focused on adding in the good stuff. Eat more salad. Eat more fresh fruits. Drink more clean water. Don’t worry so much about cutting stuff out. It will happen on its own if you focus on adding in the good stuff.

Here is an example:

Suppose you are trying to lose 10 pounds over the next two months and decide that you want to overhaul your diet. Instead of saying to yourself “I am going to eliminate all the bad food from my diet”…why don’t you say “I am going to eat a big salad at every meal, no matter what.”

Notice that the second statement DOES NOT imply that you can’t eat other stuff. You can still eat your bacon and eggs for breakfast, but you also get to eat your salad. You can have the burger with lunch, but you also get to eat your big salad. You can go out for dinner and have pasta…but you better start the meal with a monster sized healthy salad.

You see…when you add in the good stuff….you slowly – but inevitably – cut out any room for bad stuff to creep in. If you are eating a salad with every meal, how much space are you going to have for sugary/fatty desserts? How much space are you going to have for bacon and eggs! Not much! Over time, you’ll start making the salad the priority and treat everything else as secondary.

Likewise, if you are trying to eliminate coffee. Instead of trying to just go cold turkey, focus on adding in TONS of clean water every day. Keep a log with how much you drink. Make sure you are hydrating over and over. You’ll find that when you are more hydrated you will sleep better, and wake up feeling better. You might even find you need that cup of coffee in the morning anymore. You can also experiment with adding in herbal teas every morning.

So next time you want to make a change in your diet…focus on adding in the good stuff, not just cutting out the bad. It will be more likely you’ll stick with whatever you are trying to do and the long-term progress will be far greater than just relying on excluding things from your diet by sheer force of will.

 

 

 

 

How to Get Along With People

I’ve had my fair share of challenging conversations over the years. It can be tough to deliver a challenging message at work, take critical feedback, deal with an emotional family situation or stand up for what you believe – even when it means going against the views of someone else.

How do you deal with such situations and the people involved?

One option is to get angry, frustrated and label the other party as wrong and maybe even totally psycho! Put the blame on the other person, protect your own ego and make it a story of “me vs them”. This option might feel good initially, but will inevitably lead to more frustration, anger and rarely will solve the issue at hand. It is far more likely that you will enrage the other party, cause more resentment and ill will between everyone. Not to mention the sleepless nights spent tossing and turning worrying about the issue.

Another option is to assume the best and highest intentions for the other person involved. Don’t cast them off as psycho. Don’t belittle their ideas. Don’t make them evil. Don’t create a story of “me vs we” or “us vs them”. Instead, assume that they are behaving the way they are because at some level, deep down, they truly believe it and it serves some higher purpose for them. Assume that in their view of the world, they are right and doing the right thing.

You do NOT need to agree with their point of view. You only need to assume that they have a reason for it, and that their intention is good. You may need to really do some soul-searching to find that good intention – but it will be there if you look hard enough.

This applies even in extreme cases – where lives (or entire ways of life) are at risk or big sums of money are at stake. Even for people the public might condemn as murderers and felons, there is some seed of intention and higher purpose for what they have done. Even if that purpose serves only the individual and not the other person (or people/community) involved. It is still there.

For less  extreme cases – this is also true. Let’s take the example of a disagreement at work with a co-worker. You might not agree on an issue, but if you start a conversation by assuming their best intention (they are trying to help, build a stronger team, solve a hard problem, etc.) then you immediately have common ground and can move forward to find a resolution. You don’t have to agree with their actions, but how can you doubt their intentions? How do you know what is going on in their head? You don’t, so take the “high road” and assume the best.

At some level everyone is right in their own mind and any dialogue needs to start with acknowledging that in your own mind and internal dialogue. The alternative is to assume they are out to get you in some way…and that way of thinking just leads to stress and despair.

I prefer the way of thinking that lets me sleep well at night.

Organic Food is Worth the Cost

Yesterday I watched a great documentary called FRESH about the merits of organic farming and the issues with the modern industrial food complex. You can stream it on Netflix. I highly recommend that you do so before you eat your next meal.

Organic food is worth the cost. Organic produce has 40% more nutrition (on average) than conventionally grown stuff. There are studies that demonstrate how medium-sized organic farms can out-produce large-scale industrial farms over the long-term – with higher profitability for farmers and healthier customers in the process. The health and environmental issues with conventional industrial farming practices are too big to ignore. The animal welfare is another thing…..I’ll save that for another post.

Before I paid attention to what I ate (college days!), I would cringe at the notion of paying $0.50 extra per pound for organic bananas or $4+ for a dozen organic eggs. Now, it is a no-brainer. Even better, buy local AND organic.

I order my groceries through SPUD. They make it easy for people in the Seattle area to buy fresh, local, organic products – with the added convenience of home delivery and the gas savings of not having to drive to the store all the time (they deliver ~100 orders at a time via their trucks which is far more efficient).

Every dollar you spend is a vote in favor or against sustainable food production. Vote wisely!

Don’t Manage Your Time Manage Your Energy

Managing your energy is far more important than just managing your time.

Keep a log of how you feel during the day based on your energy level.

Over time see how hydration, nutrition, sleep, training and work schedules impact your energy.

Then, make adjustments to maximize your overall energy level, and make sure that your key activities during the day are aligned during the times when you have the most energy to give.

For example, I know that hydration has a HUGE impact on my energy level. I also know I tend to have the most energy between 9-Noon. After noon (and until 3-4pm or so), I’m essentially useless 🙂 . Later in the evening, I get a second wind around 9-10pm but if I take advantage of that I will pay the price by feeling awful the next day.

Knowing this I focus on getting creative tasks at work done in the morning before lunch, and do my training in the evening around 5-7pm. I carry a water bottle with me and hydrate constantly during the day – especially when teaching lots of yoga or training more in hot weather.

I don’t believe that it is necessary or even possible to feel awesome ALL of the time. Instead, strive to do your best to feel good MOST of the time, and focus on making use of that productive time to do something worthwhile.

A typical lunch during the week, a super large salad with grilled tofu and peanuts at the cafe at work. Yes, we have an awesome cafe!

Your Stories Define You

The stories you tell yourself repeatedly will eventually define who you are and what you become.

It is up to you tell stories that are either empowering or dis-empowering.

Empowering stories give you the confidence and the energy to follow through – even in the face of adversity.

Dis-empowering stories perpetuate fear and worry.

If you find yourself caught up in making excuses for why things aren’t going your way or blaming and resenting others for your own unhappiness, chances are you are stuck in a dis-empowering story. Re-writing the story to be empowering might not be easy but it is in your control to do so.

Here’s a short video from Tony Robbins on stories, using Steve Jobs as an example:

For another example of someone who has chosen to write the story of her life as an empowering tale, see my previous post on 108 year-old Nazi concentration camp survivor Alice Summer.

 

U2 and Sticking with Unconventional Ideas You Believe In

Artwork from U2's "Joshua Tree" album. Source and copyright: U2.

I’m a big U2 fan and enjoyed watching “Classic Albums: U2, The Joshua Tree.” This one hour documentary from 1999 has interviews with the band members as they join their producers in listening to tracks from the album and reliving their creative process. It’s a pretty amazing thing to watch as Bono, The Edge and others re-live classic tracks and tell the stories around how they were created.

I particularly like the part where Bono talks about “Still haven’t found what I’m looking for” and “With or without you” and how unconventional the songs were at the time to perform. They were really new sounds and out of step with everything else that was around. Very unconventional and ecstatic music that was alive in a new kind of way.  Now, of course, we’ve all heard the songs a million times and they sounds like they totally just “fit,” but when they were being created this was not the case.

It struck me how so many new ideas at first seem foreign but later seem familiar. It takes confidence to stick with new ideas that you believe in, even if they at fist don’t seem to fit. I’m glad U2 did.

2012 Race Calendar

Just posted my race calendar for 2012 on the right hand side of the site —>

6/15 2.4mi Friday Night Swim Race : This race is just a tune-up and a motivating force to get me in the pool during the spring. I’d like to swim 1:10 or so for 2.4 miles, which will be faster than my time last year.

6/23 Pacific Crest Half-Ironman : I’ll be racing at a pace above my Ironman race pace, and testing out all the planned nutrition and gear I plan to use during Ironman Canada. My goal is to beat my time (5 hrs 9 mins) from 2002 when I did this race (and IM Canada) in the same year. I was a much faster runner and swimmer then but I am a faster cyclist now (and generally more experienced racer) so I have a shot at achieving the goal.

7/26: RAMROD (152mi Bike) : OK, this isn’t a race, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and after volunteering last year I’ve guaranteed myself a spot. The 152 mile bike route circles Mt. Rainer and features 10,000 feet of climbing and some of the most beautiful scenery the world has to offer. My goal for this is to finish, and eat a TON of pizza afterwards.

8/17 2.4mi Friday Night Swim Race : My only goal for this race is to swim faster than my time in June and do a great job drafting off others. Targeting a sub 1:10 swim.

8/26 Ironman Canada : This is my “A” race for the year, my big goal. 10 years I raced here in 12 hours 09 minutes, and my goal is to beat that time and go under 12 hours. Back then…I was a much faster swimmer/runner…but poor fueling strategy left me crippled during the last half of the run. This time around, with proper pacing and fueling I have a good shot at going sub 12.

In the fall I will do at least one more triathlon and then transition to running races. Depending on how healthy I feel, I’d like to do a 50K in October/November and give The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler a go.

Me finishing Ironman Canada in 2002, age 22.