Friday, August 19, 2016

Dial For Success

     My brain has always liked to use analogies to help me understand new ideas. Finding and using the right analogy has the power to solidify learning, both for yourself and for someone you might be instructing. One of my favorite analogies to use when I talk about training is the idea that we all have a dial from one to ten, and, with practice, that dial can be controlled at will. Conversely, if we don't train our dial, our emotional state will be behind the wheel, controlling where we go.

Why do we want to control our dial?
    Most of the things that happen in the world happen outside our sphere of control. Another driver cuts us off in traffic. A coworker doesn't pull their weight on a project. Your two year old creates a modern art masterpiece on the sofa using chocolate and macaroni and cheese. These things happen. Our response is the only thing we control. Yet it seems most of us respond unconsciously, like a phantom hand is moving our dial for us. We curse out the rude driver, we bad mouth the slacker coworker and we sit down and sob as our two year old finger paints on the furniture. What I advise is a different approach: if we recognize that we can only control our response, we are one step closer to controlling our own dial.
     People that regularly perform complex, high risk jobs have either consciously or unconsciously learned to control their emotional dial to perfection. Watch an Olympian nail a routine or run a race with a straight, determined face, only to let their joy or pain show after the event is over. They know how to control their emotions and get the job done.

How do we train our dial?
     The first step is becoming aware of the range of our dials. I think of my dial as a scale from one to ten, one being very relaxed and ten being on high alert. Every individual spends their time at different levels of emotional arousal, raging from incredibly laid back and carefree (bohemian in a hammock on a beach) to amped (about to jump out a plane) to life and death situations (police or military in a gunfight). Where do you spend most of your time? Are you a laid back person that gets highly agitated behind the wheel? Are you a stay at home parent that keeps your emotions in check all day, only to let loose on your spouse when they get home? Are you an athlete who lets your opponents get into your head with trash talk, affecting your performance?
     Once you take stock of your normal emotional state, you can begin to apply the idea of the dial to your training. Learn what triggers your emotional arousal and have a rehearsed plan for how you will respond. When I get cut off in traffic, I smile and breath. If I have to perform in a high risk environment, I take some deep breaths and focus on the task at hand. When my daughter makes a mess, I laugh. The key is tuning your dial to the appropriate emotional level.
     Whatever arena you choose, be it the classroom, the home, the office, the gym, the gridiron or the battlefield, identify what your emotional dial is doing. Then determine what you want it to do. If I am about to give a big presentation, do I want to be so nervous that I stumble over my words? No. But I also don't want to be so laid back that it looks like I don't care. There is the perfect level of emotional arousal for each scenario you might face. Find that zone and practice getting there.

     I use a combination of mental visualization and rehearsal to prepare for high stress situations. I think through every detail of the event (ie; giving a speech in front of a crowd) and get the emotional response of becoming nervous. Then I practice smiling and breathing to get my nervousness under control.
     Another way you can control your dial is by using a mantra. A mantra is a word or short phrase that you can repeat either aloud or in your head to keep you mind in an even emotional state. Endurance athletes use this technique to grind out long training sessions.

-We all have an emotional dial that controls our emotional state.
-Like a ship's rudder, if we don't control it, something else will
-Evaluate your emotional states as you go about your life. What are your triggers?
-Determine where you want your emotional dial to be in challenging situations.
-Practice controlling your dial on a regular basis.

                                        Image result for Dail crank to 11   


Friday, January 8, 2016

2 minute rule

It's the beginning of a new year and the Internet is flush with ideas for resolutions. Diets, workout plans,  productivity tips abound.  I'm always on the lookout for ways to improve my routine, be it taking out head trash,  working on a weakness or revisiting old or lost habits.  Today I want to talk about an easy habit I'm trying to add; the 2 minute rule.

How many times throughout your day does a little task come your way?  Respond to an email,  clean a spill, fix a problem: these usually get put off until later and they either pile up or get forgotten.  The rule that I am trying to implement is if I can check something off of my to-do list in under 2 minutes,  I do it right away.  If not, I shelve it until later. Simple as that

The idea is that I don't want a bunch of little tasks to tackle at the end of the day. I will knock out quick items immediately,  leaving myself with more time to focus on larger,  usually more important tasks. 

Sometimes, these little tasks can turn into larger, more time consuming projects;  a lengthy email response or a trickier problem to solve. If you find a task taking more than 2 minutes, decide if it needs doing right now.  If not,  save it for later.

I hope this helps you navigate your world more efficiently.  It is working well for me.

Have a great day,


Thursday, December 3, 2015


We all have it. It appears in a variety of forms: getting stuck in traffic, being late to a meeting, messing up a meal, staring at a pile of bills, planning for the future, worrying about the evils of this world coming to our town. Stress can be all consuming. It can affect our health, our relationships and our overall sense of well being. Aside from selling all of our worldly possessions and taking a vow of silence in a Buddhist temple, what are we to do? How do we manage our myriad stress factors?

Step One: Breath. Breath 4 seconds in, hold 4 seconds, breath our 4 seconds, repeat until you feel better.

Step Two: Get organized. Having a plan written down can make a chaotic series of tasks and problems seem manageable. Break your day/week/month/year down and smaller tasks and start checking them off the list.

Step Three: Be grateful. Gratitude is not just for Thanksgiving anymore. We live in an amazing time and our problems often pale in comparison. If you have a home and family and food, you are doing pretty well. Smile and take stock of good things in your life.

Step Four: Take time for you. Schedule time to do things that you enjoy. Read, exercise, play an instrument, play with your kids, fly a kite. Whatever makes you happy, do that regularly and forget about the bad day you had or the big project looming on the horizon.

Step Five: Relate. We often think of ourselves and our problems as unique. We might be but our problems are not. Everyone alive has problems and most of them are similar.

Only you can choose how you respond to things when they pop up. Stress is your bodies' response to external stimulus; you get to choose whether or not you smile or frown.

Choose to smile.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Life Long Learner

Whether we know it or not, we are all life long learners. We start at birth. The world comes at us full speed and we learn at breakneck speed: Language, culture, food, play, skills, crafts, music, art, sports, etc. All learned behaviors. Yet most adults reach a point where they feel they no longer need to keep learning. They hit a plateau of knowledge and abilities that allow them to go about their daily lives without much struggle, their world view set and their skill set honed. They might be a master craftsman or a successful business person, a school teacher or a law enforcement officer. They have reached a level where active learning is no longer required. They can do their jobs and live their lives with the skills and knowledge they already have. This is a dangerous place to be. If this is you, keep reading.

We are our best selves when we are humbled by our own lack of skills or knowledge. Deluding yourself into thinking you are "good enough" is the same as throwing in the towel. The good enough mentality breeds complacency.  If we stop seeking to improve ourselves, we cease growth. Every day we wake up with an opportunity to learn something new. Even little bits of learning can go a long way.

If you are already an expert at something, it can be highly valuable to start over as a novice at something new. I have spent 7 years improving my professional skills. In the last year, I started taking piano lessons from man who has been playing piano for 60+ years. In the same way a parent teaches their child the English language, he has taught me the language of music. Learning is a skill that must be practiced. We are so used to instant return that often, if we aren't immediately good at something, we write it off as "I'm just no good at blank." In reality, nobody is "just good" at anything. Some skills might come easier to some people, but we all have the capacity to acquire any skill set we desire.

Most successful people in any field are innately good learners. They seek knowledge. They recognize their knowledge gaps and seek to find the remedy, either by filling the gaps or finding experts in that field. Their constant self reflection, honesty and hunger to get better are their secrets to success. We must strive to be life long learners, no matter how rocky the road gets or how successful we become. It will keep us grounded and help us stay true to ourselves. And it will make us better.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Back on the Horse

Hello all.

It has been a minute since my last post. Life gets busy. Babies are born, scenery changes, responsibilities shift. Throughout all of these changes, one thing remains constant: the drive to consistently improve.

Aren't we good enough already? I don't have time to focus on myself. I have too much on my plate. This mentality is how people get stuck on a plateau. We go to school, graduate, get a job, start taking on personal and financial responsibilities and one day we wake up and find that most of our effort is put toward things that don't get us excited. We establish routines and habits and get set in our ways. Parts of our lives get put on autopilot; drive the same routes to work, cook the same meals, do the same workouts, hang out at the same bars, etc. We have now entered the comfort zone.  This might feel good, but eventually we will feel stagnant, like something is missing. The missing element? Learning, growth and improvement.

How do we get better? Where do we start? A good jump off point is to examine your weaknesses. We tend to hide our weaknesses for fear of being exposed. Talk to your friends and family (and coworkers) and ask for an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. They will most likely list some things that are not apparent to you (and some that are). Pick the one you most want to improve and make a conscious effort to work on it daily. For me, it is a compulsion to be on my phone. I find myself browsing a variety of apps for articles, news and other random things any time I find a pause in life.  While a smart phone can be a powerfully enabling tool, it should not be our default activity. The tipping point for me was having my first child. I don't want to think constant device use is the norm.

Another way to grow and improve is by learning something new. There are so many free online learning sites (Khan Academy, Tutor.com, Codecademy, to name a few) that you can learn most anything you want. Have an idea for an app? Learn to build apps for free. Want to brush up on your math, history or sciences? Take class for free at any level. Knowledge is out their just waiting to be had. And often, the process of deciding what to learn will reveal refine other areas you might want to improve. And as always, read read read.

 Challenge your status quo. Get out of your comfort zone. Keep and open mind. Talk to new and different people with different world views. The world is constantly changing around you; adapt, learn, improve and change with it.

It's good to be back.



Monday, December 2, 2013

Stay Loose on the Go

I fly often. Especially this time of year. Translation: I spend way too much time seated. My hamstrings shorten, my low back and hips tighten and my shoulder blades get pushed forward by the seat. All of these ingredients lead to bad posture, body imbalance and pain. But I have vowed not to simply accept this. There are things I can do to counteract the effects of sitting for hours on end.

For starters, I carry a few mobility tools with me when I travel:
  • The multi-purpose mobility peanut. This tool consists of two hard, tennis ball sized balls in a sleeve. It can be used all over the body as a massage tool. I like to put the peanut on either side of my spine while I'm seated and press into the chair. This helps unlock the tightness in the muscles in between the shoulder blades. I also use the peanut to roll out the fascia in the bottom of my feet, to dig deep into my butt muscles and smash the front of my chest and shoulders. The possibilities are endless.

  • The stretchy therapy band. This simple piece of rubber tubing provides resistance for many easy-to-do exercises and stretches. I like to take the band in both hands and stretch my arms as wide as possible, squeezing my upper back muscles. I do this at my waist, chest and overhead. I also like to wrap the band around my knees and drive my knees outward while sitting. It makes the outside of the hip, which is turned off when seated, activate in a serious way.
  • Golf Ball. I keep one of these in all my travel gear. It is the ultimate tool for smashing knots, especially in the feet.
In addition to these tools, I also have a few travel habits that help keep me loose on the go.
  • I never sit in the terminal chairs. I either stand or sit cross legged on the ground. Anything but more chair sitting.
  • I do forward fold. A lot. It may look weird to touch one's toes in an airport, but I don't care, it's worth it.
  • Hydrate! The air in planes is dry, which sucks more water out of your body when you breath. Dehydrated muscles are tight muscles.
I use this set of tools mainly when I fly, but you can take them on a road trip just as easily. Travelling can wreak havoc on your body, but with a properly stocked toolbox, you can arrive at your destination feeling loose.

Limber travels,


PS - Shout out to the airlines that are allowing small electronic devices throughout the flight, per the new FAA rules. Some airlines are still not playing ball, saying that they need to update the training programs for their flight crews. I call BS. Just stop telling people to turn off their devices for take off and landing. How hard can that be?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Get Strong

When you exercise, what motivates you? Do you want better health; to lose weight; to look good in a bathing suit? Do you have a concrete motivation that you rely on to get you off the couch and out the door? One that will last past beach season?  I think one of the most lasting motivations you can have is to be stronger.

There are myriad reasons to get strong. Most people don't think of themselves as needing strength, but in reality we use our strength every day. We carry groceries, play with kids, and help friends move sofas. You don't think about needing strength until you go to lift something and it doesn't move. Strong people are generally more useful than weak people.

In addition to being more useful, strength helps you avoid injury. If you're strong, you will be able to handle challenging situations that would injure a weaker person. Look at football players. These guys take some serious physical abuse, yet they (usually) get back up and keep playing. If the average person took just one of those hits they might never get back up. They can take so much punishment because they are strong. Their muscles and conditioning protect their organs, joints and the rest of their body from serious damage.

Being strong also facilitates increased confidence and mental toughness. Knowing you have physical abilities that allow you to do things other people can't gives you a confidence that will spread to all aspects of your life. If you regularly improve your strength and physical ability you will reap the benefits of self confidence and a strong mind.

Finally, being strong will ultimately aid you in surviving the zombie apocalypse. When the dead walk the earth, there will undoubtedly be plenty of things to move, lift and carry. The weak will be the first to go.

Seriously though, being strong is always preferable to being weak.  Whether you are a business person, a home maker, a fire fighter or a special forces operator, strength is an essential trait. Here are some of my favorite ways to build raw, useful strength;
  • Farmer's Carry - Pick up something heavy (dumb bell, kettlebell, suitcase full of bricks, etc.) and walk until you can't any more. Rest and repeat.
  • Clean - Find an odd shaped object (sandbag, log, suitcase full of bricks, etc.) and lift it from the ground to your shoulder. Put it down and pick it back up.
  • Pull-up - find anything you can hang from (bar, tree, rafters, etc) and pull your head above your hands. How many can you do?
There are many ways to get strong. Challenge yourself by working on your weak areas. It's better to have strength and not need it than to need strength and not have it.


PS - Today's Gameday Games were a doozy. We watched the afternoon RedZone games (Eagles at Broncos, Jets at Titans, Redskins at Raiders and Cowboys at Chargers). Every point we did one plank V-up with feet on the swiss ball (160 total). Every first down we did 5 sumo deadlift high pulls with a kettlebell (29 total, but we only did the ones showed on the Redzone coverage. There were many more.) Every turnover we did one minute of wall sit (8 minutes total). Every sack we did one minute of bridge (9 minutes total). What were your Gameday Games?