A little bit less of you

As I’ve mentioned here before, I went on a diet for around 10 weeks recently where I dropped 16 lbs., but basically kept (or even improved in some cases) my strength levels.  It was a pretty interesting experience because I have not done anything approximating a formal diet for a very, very long time.  However, I felt sluggish all Fall in soccer and just did not want to go through that for this upcoming Spring.  So, I hired a nutrition coach (the excellent Shelby Starnes) to guide me to a lean, mean and uber-sexy new me.  Now, I plan on writing a longer piece on this and maybe (just maybe) showing the before and after photos, but I cannot say I am super excited at the prospect of dropping my shirtless self on the Internet for all to see… at least not when I have a full-time job for a conservative Fortune 50 company. 🙂

But I did feel like there were a few quick hitter items before the longer piece, mostly because I notice I tend to write rather long and wordy blog pieces. So here are some things I learned along the way on my diet odyssey:

  1. Earn your carbs. This one is just something that makes a lot of sense once you give it a moment of thought.  My diet was one of carb cycling, which meant I would have certain days of high carb intake, certain days of medium carb intake and certain days of low carb intake.  The high or medium days would fall on days I was lifting… in other words, on days I was earning those carbs.  On off-days or pure cardio days?  Low carb all the way.  This is a very simple change to make to your diet, but it works incredibly well.
  2. Carbonated drinks are a godsend when you are hungry. Shelby helped out on this one because he suggested having sparkling water drinks with Splenda because the carbonation made your stomach feel fuller, especially between meals.  If you are concerned about artificial sweeteners, just use some kind of flavored seltzers.  I mean, those taste awful to me and Splenda really doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
  3. Lift weights. This is not so much something new I learned, but I cannot think of how many people I know for whom a diet is cutting way back on food and then doing a ton of cardio.  I can pretty much guarantee they will fall into a yo-yo trap with their diet and their weight will go back up when they finish.  You should be lifting weights regardless for a lot of reasons (strength, bone density, improved lean body mass, better posture, etc.) but you need to maintain the good (lean muscle) while ditching the bad (body fat).  So for the love of God, do some lifting when you diet.  It’s a better long-term route to leanness. funny-pictures-cat-waits-for-bird
  4. Weight loss is not linear. This is pretty much a direct quote from Shelby,  so I am not taking any kind of credit for it.  The point is that you may lose 3 or 4 lbs. one week, 1 the next, stay static and then boom! Lose 3 more in a week.  It’s a rather unpredictable thing, so it’s critical not to lose hope when you are not losing the exact same amount of weight every single week.
  5. Create accountability. This can take on a variety of forms.  For some people, it works well to tell family and friends so they will keep you on point or remind you when you slip.  The idea is that the more public you make it, the worse off you will feel if you slack off.  For me, it was hiring Shelby and it’s something I would strongly recommend to anyone.  First, you have someone who will answer your questions and steer you back into line if you begin to veer off the path of positive progress.  Second, it’s a little hard to claim the diet is “too hard” when you are dealing with someone who is a competitive level bodybuilder and who has eating discipline light years ahead of your own.  Thankfully, Shelby is a reasonable guy and understands his clients have lives, will mess up at times, etc.  I have hired coaches before on a distance consulting basis (for training, not a diet) and they tended to suck because they had such machismo issues, if things did not work as perfectly as they planned for you… well… then clearly you are not worthy of their time or their AWESOME level of knowledge.  Give me a f-ing break. Obviously, this is not Shelby.
  6. It will be hard. Nothing too radical there, eh?  You will be eating less than you are used to and there is little fun about that.  For me, the hardest part tended to be less about my eating plan and more about the mind-numbing boredom of the cardio I was doing.  Towards the end of my plan, I was doing 60 minutes of cardio 6 times per week.  Now, if we are talking about playing basketball or soccer for an hour?  Sweet.  But grinding away on an elliptical machine with your stomach growling and the sick freaks in your gym leaving on a giant TV screen to the Food Network?  Decidedly less than good times.
  7. You don’t need supplements… but they can be helpful. You don’t need to get too crazy.  Fish oil is great for a variety of health reasons and a nice protein powder blend is handy, especially when you are in a bind for a quick meal.

So there ya have just a few quick points to ponder.

Don’t be that guy (or gal): Trans fat RAAAAGE!

Gentle reader (as Dear Abby used to say), there are times in life when we are all going to get upset.  Bad things happen that can be the turd in the punchbowl of an otherwise glorious day of magic, wonder and dancing unicorns.  However, the level of passion you bring to a situation should… well… match the severity of that situation, n’est-ce pas?  Are we all generally on the same page?  Yes?  Glorious!

With that firmly established piece of common ground, I would suggest that if you feel an overwhelming need for your local McDonald’s to provide you with the crispy, heart-stopping deliciousness known as McNuggets at 2:30 AM and they are only serving breakfast… umm… you just may want to refrain from punching the drive through employee in the face.  Hypothetically.  Or punching the drive through window itself.

Or how about this gem caught on video when a McDonald’s patron is less-than-appreciative of her order being scerwed up?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Damn.28_days_later_xl_02--film-A

Those trans fats must have some of that crazy rage virus from 28 Days  Later in them or something because outside of that, there is nothing approximating a rational explanation for these people..  I mean, McDonald’s does have a semi-tasty item or two, but it’s not like we are talking about a Five Guys burger or something.  Now THOSE are worth a first-class freak out and mop bucket throwing for good measure.

Morale of the story: If you ever find yourself feeling any level of anger over the lack of breaded and deep-fried chicken parts at 2:30 AM, you may need to change up your diet… and see a therapist… and wear thickly-padded gloves that do not break either faces or drive through windows.

The most interesting New Year’s resolution of all

The L.A. Times (those nutty left-wing liberal media, Birkenstock wearing, hemp loving, peace and granola eating kooks that they are) had a crazy notion yesterday in the Booster Shots section of their Web site: using 2010 to focus on being… get ready for it… happy.  Yup, good ol’ happiness.

During my drive into work this morning, I was thinking this one over.  My morning drive used to be music or sports talk radio to speed myself along during the drive.  However, over the last month or two of work, I have instituted the “quiet drive” where I don’t put on any music and just use those 20 minutes or so to think.

My thought from this morning was pretty simple: I truly believe that the overarching goal of almost any human being is to seek out happiness.  That’s it.  Numero uno.  The trick is what approach we each take to get there because obviously, not everyone is happy in this world.

So if you work from my assumption that everyone has happiness as their #1 goal in life (whether consciously or unconsciously), why are so many people missing that target?  Are you just out of your mind Kuzia?

The answer to the second question is a clear and emphatic, yes I am.  For the first question, I think it’s because the paths we each choose to attain happiness either cause us an undue amount of distraction from our final goal or they put off present-state happiness for the magical goal of happiness on the horizon.

Think of a high-powered business executive or doctor or lawyer.  Why do they  spend 60, 70 and 80 hours a week in their jobs with all of the stress and pressure?  It could be because they love what they do, but that’s not going to be everyone (and I would assert not even the majority).  So if it’s not for love of the job, it’s for what the job would enable them to do.  The money that allows them to put their kids through private schools or college or save for retirement.  Each of those goals would be some form of happiness.  “If my child goes to a great college, then that’s going to make me happy.”  OK, they might not think of it in such direct terms, but you get the idea.  It’s always a question of sacrifice for some longer term goal on the idea that the present anguish will yield results that will make those sacrifices worth it.

But does that really happen?  Is it really worth it if you are plugging away for years in something you don’t enjoy?  If you are doing all of this to provide for something for your family (big house, nice vacation, expensive college, etc.) but you are miserable to be around all the time, is that really helping your family out?

Or on the distraction notion.  This is one I know I fall into all the time.  You want to achieve X goal and think you are doing the right things to get there… except you are busy all the time and get pulled into focusing on a lot of separate things in life which may or may not be important.  Then you lift your head up 6 months later, see you are no closer to your happiness goal, make a few snazzy lists and then put your head down again and go through the same cycle.

All of this would seem to suggest that happiness as a goal is a goofy pursuit… that it’s either far too nebulous or achieving it is more a matter of luck.  Poppycock.  It’s neither of those things.

Happiness is a worthwhile goal, but you need to do more to be happy in the present moment (God forbid) while you are pursuing your goals for long-term happiness.  Believe me – I am not at all the kind of guy who does not see the value in near-term sacrifice for long-term gain.  That’s a big part of my life… but does that really and truly mean you have to be in a murky gray sky limbo until you reach that horizon place?  And even worse, think about how any horizon is… it’s never a reachable spot.  Run at it as hard as you want… it always stays the same distance away.

OK, not a perfect analogy if you have a goal as a fixed thing, but you see my point.  It’s really easy to keep putting off any kind of present joy for a never-ending series of horizon happiness points.  And I should know… I do it too.

Don’t fight the future… ’cause ya ain’t gonna win

Throughout the news these days, it’s become all too common for those who bring us the news to actually be the news.  Traditional print media is taking a complete beating these days because of a fundamental failure to evolve.  Newspapers were killed by free classified sites like Craiglist’s and never figuring out a good way to make money with their web sites, where they typically gave away the same content as their hard copies for free.

But this is interesting to me:

Sports Illustrated really looks like they could be onto something.  I mean, in terms of “WOW!” factor, this has it.  Everything you love in your favorite magazine, automatically updated to a slim device you can bring everywhere?  With video?  And sharp photos and color?  Bring it my way.  I am already ridiculously in love with my Amazon Kindle (which if you know me, you know I can hardly stop talking about it at times).

But here’s why I am talking about this in the blog.  Three reasons really.  First, I am a sucker for ideas that seek to push the envelope from what we commonly accept as “the way it is” and seek to do things bigger, better, cooler and so on.  Great ideas are endlessly fascinating to me.  Second, whether or not this device ends up panning out, it’s those who seek to bring forward these ideas that I give a ton of credit to.  It’s easy to see all the questions that go along with this tablet: What will be the price point for the device?  How about for the magazine subscription?  Will I be able to get other magazines besides Sports Illustrated on it?  What kind of competition will this bring out and will the competitors do it better, cheaper or both?  But to go ahead and push forward with a product that changes the way we understand a commonly-accepted item to take them in entirely un-thought-of directions (iPods with music, the Kindle with books, Google with search, me with dead-sexy bloggers… you get the idea) is the inspirational piece to me… even if done by a gigantic media conglomerate like Time Warner/Apple/Amazon/Google.

The third reason has to do with the subject of the post.  I think we all seek to fight the future in some ways because change can be pretty scary.  I had lunch with a good friend today and we both talked about how we struggle with that at times.  I find change both scary and thrilling… it just depends on the kind of change.  For instance, when I see chances within the workplace to tear down old ways of doing things?  I am all over it.  Love it.  Gets me fired up.  But if you suddenly asked me to do the same, but uproot my life and move far away?  That’s when you would probably hear the longest “Welllll….. seeeee…. the thing is….” ya ever heard in your life.  The change might be great for me, but my appetite for it may be in the small tossed salad with a nice house dressing zone as opposed to the 32 oz. cowboy cut ribeye zone.

The moral of the story for me?  Go for the steak, baby… go for the steak.

Don’t be that guy – 911 as a cab service

Something I used to do at a previous blog was a theme I called “Don’t be that guy” and since I enjoyed doing it so much, I’ve brought it here.  Why?  Because not being “that guy” will 100% fit in with the goals of this site… because this site is against douchebaggery in all of its various incarnations.

And what a fine first example!  Folks, if you were to hear of someone being super drunk and calling up 911 numerous times claiming to either being beaten or shot at… but actually just wanted a ride to another bar… do you think he would look like the eternally classy Cary Grant (pictured here)?  Or maybe… just on an off-chance… he might look a little like this?  Not that I would judge a book by its cover or a super-sketchy dude with greasy hair by his facial tattoos.  Not me.

And really?  You thought you could somehow fool the police into taking you to another bar by saying you were being shot at?  How exactly was that conversation going to play out?  “Officer… these dudes… I think they were ninjas or something… they were all shootin’ at me and I was all like… POW!  BAM!  And totally dodging bullets… and so now if you could just take me to Louie’s Pub, I would be totally stoked.  For reals.”

Life is a right pageant, people.  Never forget it.

Walking away from it all

Could you do it?  Up and walk away from everything in your life that your family and friends may associate with who you are?  Your job, money, status and prestige?  What would it take?

This is what Jonathan Fields, author of the book Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love went and did.  He up and left his huge salary, high prestige job with one of the best law firms in the country to become a personal trainer and entrepreneur.  Pretty scary eh?

Jonathan is someone I have only learned about recently and have not had the chance to read his book, but he has a great post about what caused him to make a leap most would describe as “freakin’ insane” as well as the challenges in doing so. But here is the quote that grabbed me:

I’d realized what makes me happy isn’t money, power and prestige, but rather the opportunity to:

  • Engage in activities that make me come alive,
  • Surround myself with people I can’t get enough of and
  • Earn enough to live well in the world.

Short, sweet and one pretty darn good list, wouldn’t you say?  What’s fascinating about it is I think most people would have a hard time arguing with it.  What’s not to like?  It’s practically motherhood and apple pie.

So then why do so few of us actually do this?

From my own perspective, I would say because I make it waaaay too easyfor myself  to get distracted by 1,001 other things.  Does that make it OK?  Aww hell no.  Every time I stop and reflect, I want to kick my own behind from losing sight of it… again.

One thing to keep in mind with the list above is that you don’t need to up and leave your job, move to some brand new place and make a hugely radical change at all.  While that does work for some people, that kind of sudden shift is not going to work for most.  What we can all do (me too!) is begin to figure out our end point of happiness and begin to redirect towards that goal. Maybe it’s some small changes where you work and how you interact with your boss and then making more time for those activities you love, but just seem to neglect.

But then again, you could just trade in your wingtips for flip-flops  I’m just sayin’.

January 2nd dose of perspective

Perspective
Pronunciation: \pər-ˈspek-tiv\
Function: noun

1 a : the technique or process of representing on a plane or curved surface the spatial relation of objects as they might appear to the eye; specifically : representation in a drawing or painting of parallel lines as converging in order to give the illusion of depth and distance b : a picture in perspective
2 a : the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed <places the issues in proper perspective>; also : point of view b : the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance <urge you to maintain your perspective and to view your own task in a larger framework — W. J. Cohen>

All of us will deal with some troubles in our lives – it’s a fact of life that we all must accept, face and deal with the approach of our own choosing.  What’s interesting is how events that differ wildly in terms of their severity can have identical impacts on different people.  For instance, one person who cannot find their car keys first thing in the morning before work could feel the same level of stress and anxiety as someone who just failed the bar exam and now wonders about getting a job after piling up tens of thousands of dollars of debt.  Which one is really the more severe in terms of life impact?

That’s where perspective comes in.  I could personally be completely stressed out about work or Lord only knows what else.  I am the kind of person who is probably a little too keyed-up for my own good.  But seriously… how bad do I really have it?  I live in a nice town in one one of the most prosperous and free countries in the history of the world, with a good job, my health, great friends and family.  That puts me ahead of 99.9999% of the world’s population and why perspective is so damn important… because otherwise I would miss out on valuing the good and would place undeserved importance on my own “bad”.

Tonight I got a jolt of perspective when the youth group I work with served dinner for the Immaculate Conception Shelter in Hartford, a homeless men’s shelter.  I have been to this same shelter several times before, but on this chilly New England night, the shelter was as full as I have ever seen it.  More than 100 men this particular night.  I am always moved and humbled by how appreciative the clients of the shelter are of the efforts of volunteers.  I’m just glad they had an option for a meal and a warm place to stay.

Perspective… it’s not the reason I went to the shelter, but it’s certainly what I received as a gift.

Politics, religion and resolutions

Politics. Religion. Beef-lovers vs. vegans. The notion that anyone is a better James Bond than Sean Connery.  In my life, I’ve found certain topics to always engender impassioned debate and are considered taboo in some polite circles.  The other topic?

New Year’s resolutions.

People are all over the map on these and whether they are of value.  Some love them and look forward to mapping out all of the ways they will scrub their life clean of past disappointments and be born again in a shiny new year.

A common argument against them (which I think makes a lot of sense) is that why must you pick something as arbitrary as the start of the year to make positive changes?  Isn’t any moment of any day just as good?  Why wait?

Fair points.  I’ve long liked New Year’s resolutions for myself (more on this in a moment) because it’s very easy for me to get rolling along and not find particular moments to stop and take stock of what direction I am even rolling in.  Don’t we all get like that?  Don’t we all get sucked up in work, family, friends and the general fast-pace of life in 2010 and forget to stop and ask “Why a second… is this even where I want to be headed?”  I am trying to work more of these stop-and-think moments into my life this year, but it’s always good to know that one time per year, EVERYONE seems to be talking about what they should be changing or doing better.

The reason I emphasize why I like the New Year’s resolution for myself is that I usually do a half-decent job of keeping some of my resolutions in mind.  Sure, I don’t nail all of them, but I have cleaned out old drawers and found resolution lists and was pleasantly surprised that I got about half of my resolutions taken care of.  Allow me a moment to bask in my own complete and utter awesomeness…. Ahhhh!  Refreshing!

But go to any commercial gym in America in the month of January and you will see the inevitable mob scene of people looking to start off their resolutions to get in shape and lose weight.  What happens in February?  Probably 9 out of 10 of those people give it all up.  So clearly this approach is not working for everyone out there.  Let’s just all get on the same page and collectively hope that Lindsay Lohan can meet her resolution for 2010.  I think that is a cause we can all believe in.

So my own resolutions?  This is not a completely finalized list just yet, but this is the general scope:

  1. At least one posting for Fierceandmighty.com a day.  So far, I am en fuego.
  2. Finally go snowboarding for the first time.  My GF got me a really nice full-on boarding outfit from Burton.
  3. Attend a seminar on entrepreneurship.  I just find this topic endlessly fascinating and would love to learn more, irrespective of whether I decide to up and take the plunge into my own business at some point.
  4. Attend a strength/conditioning seminar.  I went to one about 4 years ago, had a lot of fun and have been meaning to go to another ever since.
  5. Trying to figure out my weight training goals right now.  I have some general ideas on lifting figures (315 bench, 500 deadlift and 500 squat), but those need to be balanced against all of the soccer and other sports I plan on taking part in.
  6. Finally stake my rightful claim as lost heir to the Polish monarchy and begin my inevitable march towards world domination through the power of kielbasa and pierogies.  This one almost feels like a foregone conclusion.

For a nice top 10 list of suggestions on how to get your resolutions to stick, go on over to this post at Lifehacker (numbers 1, 2 and 5 are my faves).

Now go out there and get cracking on your lists… and if you hate resolutions? At least take a pause moment and assess your life’s direction. 5 minutes of honest reflection is a precious, precious thing.

Stuff I like

The world is full of cool stuff – really and truly.  As I find said stuff, I plan on sharing with you, gentle readers, because that’s just the kind of incredibly awesome guy I am.  Read on and hopefully something here will be of value to you.

Evernote

Evernote is a cross-platform program used for taking all kinds of notes.  Sounds simple, right?  Here is where it gets good: you can take the notes on:

  • the Evernote web site;
  • on a Windows or Mac version you download to your computer; or
  • on your iPhone, Blackberry or Android phone.

Then, your notes are synchronized across all of these platforms so you can access them wherever you are.

I have the Android version (and so I am guessing the iPhone version is about the same) and since I always have my Droid with me, I can pop in notes any time a moment of inspiration strikes.  These include text notes, voice notes or even taking pictures to create new notes.  The notes can then be tagged, places into a variety of notebooks and so on.  You can even upload handwritten documents or PDFs to keep everything you have all in one handy spot.

And guess what?  It’s free.  There is a premium version that gives you more storage and uploads, but a lot of people can make a ton of use of the free version (like I am doing, although I am giving a lot of thought to going premium).

Lifehacker

I’ve been reading Lifehacker for a little while now and it’s one of the better sites that focuses on a variety of “lifehacks” such as better ways to organize yourself, great computer/tech tips and basically anything else that will help make your life run a little more smoothly.  It does have a bit of a techie and computer leaning to it, but not to the point of it being so nerdy that you feel like you need “Linux rulez!” tattooed on your backside.

The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why

I recommend this book by Jonny Bowden to everyone I know.  It’s a very easy read, well-organized by food type and with a clear explanation for why each of the 150 foods were picked for the list.  What refreshing about this book is that it’s not something with the typical agenda you find with some nutritionists (i.e. “All red meat is bad!  Just eat whole grains!”).  Also, it’s useful regardless of your eating style (vegetarian, vegan, high protein, etc.).

Absolutely Everything About This Photo:

Well, almost everything about this photo… just not the eventual tongue-lashing my girlfriend will dish out after seeing this.  Love ya honey!

The value of crazy

Looks comfy, eh?I firmly believe in the value and power of crazy.  Maybe not so much in the wearing hair shirts in public while declaring Fred Savage to be the antichrist kind of bat guano crazy… but more the kind of crazy that causes people to stop and stare a little bit while walking away shaking their heads.  The value really lies in the idea of doing something others either do not want to do or will not do because it looks hard or might be a little embarrassing.

More often than not, I have found these are exactly the kinds of activities that have a more beneficial aspect than not for your life.  Whether it’s dancing in public, acting like a complete idiot in a toy store to make your kids laugh or (in my case) doing some kind of really weird exercise… as shown in the video below.

Before I got this contraption (The Prowler in case you were wondering), I used to go out into this same parking lot and push/pull my SUV for exercise.  It’s an absolutely fantastic way to combine strength and conditioning into one efficient activity… but you need to accept the fact that (a) people will stop and stare at you; (b) people will without fail ask you if your car needs a jump (which is actually a very nice confirmation of the inherent goodness in humanity); or (c) the local police will slowly cruise by and stop to say “Look… just don’t get yourself run over.”  All 3 of these things have happened to me and I love it.

If I let the potential for embarrassment get in the way, I would have missed out on a really great exercise. Now that I have my Prowler, I am still going to get the looks… just no instances of people asking if my car needs a jump.  No police encounters yet, but give it time.  I have only gotten to use it 4 times so far.  Those will come… I just know it.

The same with this blog.  If I was worried about any negative comment someone might write on my posts, I would miss out on doing something I enjoy thoroughly and get a lot out of.  So on I write and keep hoping that each post is better than the last.  And Lord only knows I wouldn’t put up videos like the one in this post on YouTube if I was going to mire myself in what everyone else thinks because I know some people out there like or appreciate it, and that’s good enough for me.

So get out there. Be a little more wild than mild.  I’m trying to do so, although some areas are easier than others.  I feel no hesitation in doing certain athletic things that may cause an occasional raised-eyebrow, but believe me… in other areas?  I’ve got a lot of work.  And anyone who wants to join me for some Prowler pushes in the snow, just let me know…

Relentlessly push yourself forward