All posts by Jeanette

Single: the Rules, the Wait, & Reckless Love

Today, I write this article as an eligible Christian bachelorette dating  joyfully and faithfully – but that wasn’t always the case.  In 2014, I dated, believing that I was ready for marriage and thinking that it was the men who I dated who were the ones responsible for the failed relationships.  I came to realize, however, that I was the common denominator and responsible party when they went on to get married and engaged…lol. Life-Coaching And so, 2015 was all about working on myself in the context of relationships: learning how to be open-minded, empathetic, patient, gentle, slow-to-anger – ideally never-to-anger, and learning, simply, that the world does not revolve around Jeanette and everyone has a valid point-of-view that deserves consideration.  I learned how to be a better counterpart in all of my relationships and I grew by light years.  I owe this progress to my life coach, Patty – I call her my Patty in my pocket – she gave me new eyes and a new life. The Rules The_rulesAnd with those new eyes, I re-entered the dating pool.   I now knew how to be a good girlfriend – a gracious girlfriend.  I was excited.  And I achieved some success, but I still felt somewhat out of control – some guys worked out and some didn’t and I didn’t know why one way or the other.  I needed a game plan – and I was introduced to and read: the Rules.  Or rather, I inhaled the Rules.  I read every edition available, typically over 1-2 days each. I had hour-long discussions about it w/ my girlfriend who introduced them to me and we agreed to be “Rules friends,” reaching out to each other for “Rules support.” I marveled at how differently and wrongly I had been dating.  My entire approach to dating changed.  Time-wasters weeded themselves out as only those who were available, interested, and ready rose to the top.  And for the first time, I was enjoying dating.  I was having a blast, meeting great men, and enjoying fun dates.  Then, I finally met a guy who really rose to the top, making it to date 13.  He was treating me right, taking me out, respecting me, adoring me, and just being a wonderful man that I loved spending my time with.  But…he didn’t love the Lord.  He may have identified with Christianity, but he didn’t live for God – not the way I knew I wanted my future husband to.  What had happened? Reckless Love Reckless-Promo-Slide-01-1032x590In the midst of this dilemma, a friend of mine introduced me to a sermon series called Reckless Love that answered that question for me: I was idolizing marriage.  I was making finding the one more important than being content in God.  As a result, I was casting too wide of a net.  I was casting a net that would capture men who were ready, available, and interested, yes, but not necessarily men of God.  I was making having a relationship more important than having a Godly relationship! My friend divulged to me the difficulties of an unequally yoked relationship and I suddenly saw yield signs that forced me to slow down and pay attention.  After watching the Reckless Love sermon series, I re-prioritized my source of love to be God’s love over a man’s love.  Additionally, I gained a peace with and even an excitement over my singleness.  I saw the opportunity  in my single hood.  I put on the peace of God and the faith that He would bring my man to me in His best timing.  I decided to serve God in my single hood and trust Him with my future mate. And once again, I re-entered the dating scene with new eyes:  I dramatically changed my dating profile to reflect how important God was in my life and my future mate.  Personally, I vetted men with the criteria that they be, yes, ready, available, and interested, but alsomen of God.  As a result, my dating pool shrank dramatically in quantity and rose in quality. The Wait 51h0nPrNVzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_During this time, I picked up Devon Franklin and Megan Good’s book: the Wait.  In them, I saw a couple who was hot and Hollywood and Christian and had found one another and written a book about waiting on sex and waiting in God and I wanted to hear what they had to say.  Reading that book affirmed everything that I had learned from Reckless Love – that our single hood is a wonderful time and we should maximize it to become incredible men and women of God and incredible partners for our future spouses.  The Wait affirmed believing in God’s provision of a mate and honoring God with our single, dating, engaged, and married lives.  Devon and Megan affirmed waiting until after marriage for sex and living together.  They affirmed the importance of a short engagement, getting to marriage, employing pre-marriage counseling, and a host of principles that I believe in.  And most importantly, they affirmed the beauty, joy, and fullness of doing it God’s way, as they believe that they are living God’s Plan A lives for them today as a result of their obedience and faith. With all of these tools, I am more open, more ready, more patient, more joyful, and more sure of what I’m looking for and able to offer than ever.  I marvel at what a journey it has been.  I’ve become an entirely different woman in this game of love and it’s been an evolution like none other.  I’m so grateful for all of these tools – they have all played a part in teaching me and I use parts of all of them as I navigate this adventure we call love. IdRatherChooseGodsBest If you’re struggling, scratching your head, or have even given up in love or life, the best advice that I can give is: keep the faith and don’t give up.  It’s in trying different tools, books, talks that we all aggregate what becomes our approach.  I do recommend all of the above that I mentioned, but it may not be the perfect fit or the full fit for you.  Regardless, keep trying, keep seeking, keep praying…keep the faith…and you’ll find your way! GodsBest

THE FORMULA FOR KINDNESS

Recently, I posted twice about “random acts of kindness” that I had the honor of initiating.  The slew of responses encouraged me to reflect and write about what it takes to be a vessel for compassionate action.  Because here’s what I believe: we all want to have the capacity to act in compassion and to do so is not some elusive talented available only to an elite few.  But here’s what I also believe: we don’t live lives in which we are readily available for these opportunities.  And so, while it isn’t rocket science, there is an art to being available – there is a formula – underlying states-of-being that must pre-exist to make you available for action in compassion. Freedom to Care freedom to care To have the freedom to care requires that you are unencumbered by your own cares.  I had a very distinct experience one weekend in which I was so entrenched in my own burdens that I was completely unavailable to the world around me.  I was like a zombie, going through the motions of the day, getting from place to place, but not taking anything in.  I was jolted to the extremity of this when a group of youth from my church was passionately attempting to garner my attention by franticly waving to me from across the platform.  They were unsuccessful, as I was in my daze, and I only awoke to them by the time it was too late.  In that moment, I became painfully aware of the cost of being a slave to your emotions.  If you find yourself in this state, you have two options, of which you can practice one or both, whatever helps you triumph. 1) Hire a life coach. I can’t stress enough the importance of a life coach to my life.  By hiring someone who is a professional at solving life problems and working through the maze that is our brains sometimes, you gain clarity and power in how to approach difficulties and you keep these skills forever!  You never lose the power that you gain over your life. 2) Surrender it to God Even in our most powerful moments, we are never in complete control.  And so there is always room for surrender.  And truly surrendering requires surrendering the inquiring, worrying, and hand-wringing over it as well. Once you’ve done the above work enough, you will find yourself virtually worry-free and able to walk down the street 110% present and available for who or what needs your attention. Freedom to Express freedom to express Is it more common that we are saying what’s on our minds or is it rather the case that we are biting our tongues or minding our own business?  We bite our tongues because we don’t want to say something that will tick-off someone and we mind our own business because we don’t want to make ourselves too vulnerable to the opinions and possibly even rejection of others.  But what if we expressed ourselves without angering others and without fear or rejection?  And what if, as a result of that, we created genuine conversation, exchange of views, and possibly even laughter and learning?  To accomplish expressing ourselves without angering, however, requires never making people wrong.  It’s a radical idea, but to approach someone’s actions with simply a question or conversation rather than judgement will incite thinking rather than anger.  And to express ourselves without fear of rejection requires that you set aside your ego and privately acknowledge the possibility of a “no” but go in anyway for the possibility of a “yes.” I do a lot of talking.  I almost never shut up.  I just love connecting with people and expressing myself.  When I see someone on the train doing something worth commenting on, I say something.  When I am in the elevator with folks, I make conversation.  When I think someone needs help, I offer it.  And even if someone is talking loud on their phones or playing their music loud on the train, I ask them if it’s possible for them to turn it down or even ask them why they’re using a speaker for their music on a quiet train.  I am the worst at minding my own business.  Because if I did, I’d feel stifled.  And I don’t want to live my life stifled.  And I’m glad I don’t.  Because I’ve met people, had great exchanges, and been inspired and done inspiring just by honoring the expression of me. Time Affluence time affluence This is a great term used by Ariana Huffington in her book Thrive.  I love it because it’s got a great ring to it and also because it’s so true.  When we are rushed and harried, we are overwhelmed and stressed.  And when we are overwhelmed and stressed, we are selfish and curt.  On a normal day, I have the time to be aware of what’s going on around me and will stop to pick something up that someone dropped and will slow down to walk with the old lady down the steps.  But if I’m in a rush, I can’t be bothered and nearly knock over the old lady and everyone just becomes an obstacle on my way to my all-important appointment in my selfish life.  And it’s a terrible feeling.  So if you find yourself in this state more times than not, start to build more time into your commute.  Throw in an extra 10 minutes just so you can walk instead of run and if you’re really feeling ballsy, throw in an extra 20 minutes so you can say you have time affluence.  And with that extra buffer, you will be a more pleasant and loving person, actually and finally fully available to do all of the above: care, express yourself, and be a contribution to the world! Reason To If you don’t feel compelled to change or contribute to the world around you, then you are leading a lukewarm, apathetic way of life.  By taking the time to clarify your purpose, you will find the purpose in being a part of the world around you.  If you don’t have a relationship with God, then that is another pathway to learning your purpose.  For me, my purpose is a conglomeration of creative expression, loving God, and loving people.  And so for me, every interaction is purposeful and a potential possibility for loving people, and in doing so, expressing God’s love to them.  I encourage you, again, to take the time to do this work: get in prayer about your purpose.  Do Franklin Covey’s Mission Statement Developer tool to develop a mission/ purpose statement for yourself.  And head to your local church and/ or read the Purpose-Driven Life, the number one NYTimes best-selling book of all time by Rick Warren that clarifies your life purpose for you. Knowledge of How to Help In a very practical way, it’s important to know how to help as well.  If all we offer people are empty encouraging words and hugs, that is a great start, but is not an end in itself.  For me, personally, volunteering with the homeless has equipped me with tips, resources, and more understanding so that I feel more confident helping a homeless person in my own time.  If you have a heart to help in a certain area, you will only add value to your help by learning more, partnering with like-minded people and causes, etc.  So don’t let a lack of knowledge stop you from being a contribution.  Keep learning, keep growing, and change that so that you’ll be ready for the next opportunity. Well, that’s all I’ve got to say about all that.  In closing, I’ll leave you with the idea that it’s always possible to do something and so the choice lies with you.  To be able to say yes is a powerful thing that we’re all capable of.  I’m grateful to be living in an available state because I came from very different place and I can appreciate the stark difference.  Believe me, it’s worth the effort to get to this place.   Amen! Dalai-Lama-on-Kindness

THE 12 WEEK YEAR: accomplish 1 year goals in 12 weeks

If you’re looking for a game-changing book, this is IT!  This book’s strategy single-handedly made me more productive in 3 months than the previous 6 months.  I was able to put things on that list that had been dragging or seemed like pipe-dreams and knock them out!  It was, and continues to be, amazing!  I learned about it from a date, actually.  (Bonus lesson: dating is productive 😉  On a second date with a suitor 😉 , he mentioned the book and was so clearly taken by it that I took to it and read it and started my personal “12-week year” in mid-January.  Sure enough, by mid-April – just about now – all of those goals have sustained massive progress.  I wanted to wait until my first “12-week-year” was over, however, before making any reports, announcements, or blogs about it.  But here we stand, in the clear for making it public, and I’m so excited to share this tool that you can get started on right away!
The 12 Week Year Book
THE INSPIRATION: You should definitely go borrow or buy the book, but I’ll give you the gist of it so that you’ll even understand what a “12-week year” is.  SO! Are you ready?!  This is exciting stuff!  Sit up straight and put your listening caps on!  Ok, so the problem the “12-week year” is solving (because all great ideas are solving a problem first) is that most people lose steam on their “new year’s resolutions.”  Most people pen a list of lofty new year’s resolutions in January and then fall off within a few months or even weeks and then revisit that goal at the end of the year, “right before the deadline!” So, Brian Moran, the author of “the 12-week year,” took that starting energy and ending energy, if you will, and just cut out all of the messy middle in between.  The authors of this book (Brian Moran and Michael Lennington) discovered that humans generally can remain highly motivated for 3 months on a particular goal.  After that, they want to see results, celebrate, recalibrate, and set another goal.  And so they transferred this information into a system for goal-accomplishing that complements our natural tendencies – genius! (in my humble opinion 😉 ) THE APPLICATION: So, how does this translate?  Ok, are you ready?!  Again, this is exciting stuff and now that you’re on board, you’re about to really get blown away by the application.  So, you start to think in quarters, not unlike a Fortune 500 company – you are now your own successful business and your gameplan begins with designing your first quarter. You lay out about 3 goals for the quarter.  This is not set in stone, but they recommend setting up a small number of goals across any areas of your life.  So i.e.: you could have 3 goals that cover: losing 10 pounds, getting debt free, and having an awesome marriage.  Next, lay out these goals very specifically so that you KNOW when they’re accomplished, list milestones and their prospective dates, and list weekly, daily, or semi-regular actions that have to be taken towards that goal.  Now, you are SET!  You are looking at the next 12-weeks as ridiculously productive and powerful weeks on the way to your goal and you are super excited because you’re about to “get it done!” THE EXECUTION: Now, every day when you wake up, you’re knocking out the relevant actions toward your goals.  Every week, at the end of the week, or beginning of the week (you set your routine), you will look at the list of actions that you intended and then grade yourself on how much of that list you accomplished.  If you had 10 actions toward your goal (using previous example) that included working out 5 times, spending in the form of cash only, having a date night with your spouse, you would grade yourself based on the percentage of the intended actions.  So, if you accomplished 8 out of the 10 goals, you would give yourself an 80% for that week. THE EFFECT: In doing this, you will start to really use your time wisely and more intentionally.  You will feel urgency and motivation throughout the process.  The weekly reviews also begin to tick off the weeks so you see that you have one less week every week to accomplish your goals and  act almost as a barometer for whether or not you’re on track.  You will also find it easier to say “no” to anything that does not contribute to your goals.  You will have a very distinct filter for what should take up your time and what should not.  And THAT is good.  Having uber-focused goals lets you say no to things, at least, for now, until you decide they’ll be a focus, perhaps next quarter, that’s all!  It’s ridiculously freeing. MY EXPERIENCE: I had 3ish goals: To create an app, to lose 10 pounds/ to do a handstand, and to get out of debt.  Did I accomplish all of them?  Nope.  BUT, I made SO much progress that I now have new habits and a different lifestyle because of last quarter’s focus and I call that a success!  I found myself using new strategies as some fell short and I saw that I had only x number of weeks left to accomplish my goals.  Once I had my strategy, I saw myself really hunkering down and doing it consistently because I wanted to celebrate by the end of March.  And when I saw that I was not actually going to accomplish the goal, I saw that because I had learned and done all the intense work I had done, it would eventually happen. And so, at this point, I have accomplished major milestones in my business goal; I have lost 8 pounds and am very happy with my figure; I can do a handstand for a few seconds and a forearmstand for longer; and I have crossed off a couple of thousand in debt and am living in control of my money.  I would not have had a daily, weekly, and quarterly mindset without this strategy and that made all the difference for me.  I wasn’t working in an endless space.  I had 3/31/16 on my calendar and that galvanized me to create the progress that I did.  And I lived life too!  I did everything else that I wanted to do: socialized, enjoyed life, and had “me time,” but I also saw clearly where I had to say “no” to things because they were going to take away from my goals. WHAT NEXT? After you accomplish and celebrate your first quarter, you start all over again!  Make new goals that are either the next step for some of your first quarter goals, or make new goals altogether!  It’s a chance to shake things up again and get excited all over again.  I am in the process of setting my next quarter up now and I’m loving it.  It really does make sense to me and human behavior does reflect this for me and I believe companies use quarterly reviews for this very reason – so why not us?!  So, if you’re a go-getter and/or are looking for a structure to guarantee your goals, go get this book and read it.  I finished it in 1 or 2 days because I wanted to get started asap.  Now, go and get em!

The Planting of the Lord: Are you Getting Enough Son?

No, I did not misspell Son 😉 As offspring of the Lord, we can never stop growing and I’m [hopefully] about to blow you away with this analogy [between us and plants] that our pastor Jim Laffoon blew me away with several Sundays ago.  I took and will relay my notes verbatim, so some of this will read as if Jim is speaking directly to you. YOUR ROOT “Cursed is the one who trusts in man.  Blessed is the one whose confidence is in Him.”  Jeremiah 17:5,7 In order to grow from seedlings to oak trees, our root must be not just in the people of God but in God Himself.  Many of you have a withering because you are looking to the people to give you what God should be giving you. Then there are things that people can do that God can’t…you need both. What I got from this is that many Christians become very dependent on the church for their spiritual walk, but that begins with your relationship with God and the church remains vital to provide community and apparently, the things that even God needs His people to provide for one another! ARE YOU GETTING SONLIGHT? Just like plants need sunlight we need sonlight – the darker your workplace is the more light you need.  Malachi 4:2 SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) applies to spirituality.  Sometimes, you have to just sit in the light.  You can train your soul to experience His presence everywhere. I absolutely adore this analogy.  I imagine that in prayer, we are essentially basking in the Sunlight (sidenote: my auto-correct won’t leave that word alone lol).  Literally with faces upturned and hands open, receiving this essential nourishment to our spirit.  I feel like I can actually feel His Sonlight and I love to bask in it! ARE YOU DRINKING? Jesus is the Living Water. Drinking from the Living Water.  I don’t have any notes for this, but the Living Water ties in very well with the plant analogy and I appreciate this perfect parallel.  To me, this emphasizes the need to bask in the Sonlight and spend time wth Jesus. The SATURATION Rain, river, reservoir – Living Water needs to be drunken once a week. ARE YOU FEEDING? Sustenance: Speaking the Word, listening to the Word – we are in God’s body.  We can feed on God through each other.  “The cool thing about Christian friends, you share gifts with one another.”  -Jim Laffoon Plants need food and we need food and Jesus said, “take my body and partake of it”  The Word of God is also referred to as food.  Give us this day our daily bread, with bread being the Word of God.  And so this emphasizes the importance, to me, of staying in God’s Word. And so, in conclusion, we can think of ourselves as plants.  And as plants of the Lord, we must be rooted in God and His People, we must be receiving Sonlight, we must be drinking Living Water weekly, and we must be feeding on the Word.  Amazing!  God’s messages are everywhere, if we will just have eyes to see His stories, lessons, and miracles!  Thank you Jim, for your incredible gift of speaking God’s Word, through your messages and prophecies.  You are one incredible contribution to our community, this world, and the Kingdom. Let’s go, my fellow seedlings, let’s gooo and Grooow!

WHEN GOD LETS YOU “SKIP THE LINE”

I’ve heard many variations of the assurance uttered: “All in God’s timing.  God’s timing is perfect.  When God annoints it, it will make up for lost time.  God’s favor is a multiplier.”  Various phrases designed to offer the same assurance: that it’s ok if you’re still waiting on something.  Have peace and know that He will work it all out. I never quite understood, however, how exactly that was going to play out in real life – until just recently.  And here’s how it works.  You don’t worry about the timing.  You stay faithful and diligent.  You keep working on your craft and you keep walking with God.  These two principles practiced concurrently ensure that you are happy and at peace no matter where and no matter what.  Years may pass in between dreams that may seem like “lost time” in the natural way of thinking.  However, in the supernatural, God moves mountains for you, essentially “making up” for the lost time – lettin’ you “skip da line!”  At least that’s exactly how it happened for me, clear as day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Several years, ago, I got the comedy itch.  I knew I was funny and I knew I loved standup comedy – so why not do it?!  I took a standup class, performed at a few open mics, performed as part of a paid show, earned  street cred in the comedy circle, and altogether had a great run as a standup comic under my belt! This time also taught me, however, that making it in this world was brutal: hours spent on the open mic circuit night after night, exploiting friends and mailing lists to bring enough guests to “earn” your time on stage, and of course, the tens of hours of constant generating, writing, & perfecting jokes 24/7.  I knew that I was done.  I had scratched the itch and was not about to begin a comedy career.  Sure, I could do it…I just didn’t want to put in all that time.  And so I happily returned to acting and spin instructing, now legitimately adding “comedienne” to my resume! Fast forward 3 years and I’m at church one Sunday hearing that our church is sponsoring a Christian Comedy Show!  I immediately meet the producer and chat with her, leaving her with our shared comedy background because I did it for two months several years ago!  I emailed her the link to said performance, bought tickets to the show, and set out to support the cause!  The day of the show, she calls me and asks that I perform.  I was completely caught off guard – I don’t know if I’ve ever been more surprised, actually – and stammered that I was in absolutely no position to perform.  She proceeded to insist, saying that it was “ordained by God” and lo and behold, I performed that night and HERE is what God did for me!
  • I had an incredible performance, surprising my church (pastors included), when I appeared on stage.
  • A producer of another comedy show scouted me at that show.
  • The headliner’s manager sought me out after the show as well.
  • I was invited to join the the Christmas show lineup for Artistic New Directions, winning over the whole room.
  • I performed and hosted with the same Christian Comedy Show two months later (both times at Comic Strip Live).
  • I performed in the 6th annual Gospel Comedy Show at Long Island University’s Kumble Theatre the day after Christmas, with my sister, niece, & brother-in-law in the audience.
Here is the miracle:  I received 10 minutes of stage time at 3 paid shows at reputable venues without ever having to pound the comedy circuit!  The average comedian starting out gets 5 minutes at an open mic where he has to wait for his turn to perform and then only performs for a lackluster audience comprised of other comedians waiting for their turn.  This average comedian eventually, by working this circuit long enough, gains enough traction, reputation, and networking to begin performing at bringer shows: paid shows with real audiences that you are required to bring a certain number of people to.  Think of those people who “bark” at you on the street: “free comedy!” “do you want to laugh tonight?” – those are bringers.  Then, more traction and time later, this comedian can finally just perform.  Again, more traction and time later, this comedian can finally get paid to perform.  In this industry, like any other, dues must be paid and you should enjoy your craft enough to tough it out for what can be years or decades of working the circuit. Well, if you can tell, I skipped over all the dues-paying as God connected me with the perfect people at the perfect time so that I could simply work on my craft and then showcase my craft – how efficient of God, huh?!  I think I dig God’s style! When it dawned on me, I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude and encouraged beyond measure.  In that moment, I understood that God saved me time!  I am the same comedian that I would have been had I put in all those years, except that I didn’tInstead, I spent that time working on my acting, my modeling, my hosting, my nonprofit, my spin instructing, and all of the other things I was busy doing.  And most importantly, I spent that time growing in God, walking with God, and becoming more steadfast, more righteous, and more of the woman of God that I am now. And the ultimate take-away here, the biggest encouragement – is that this is how God works.  Trust the process – just like any other process – and see it work for you.  I pray to never again be plagued by anxiety, comparison, and worry.
I pray to rest in peace and assurance that my job is to simply work hard and walk hard [with the Lord] and my path can never be wrong.
My path will be intact, my steps will be ordered, and I will always be OK! I want this to encourage you to do the same.  God’s promise in the Bible is that He has good and prosperous plans for you! (Jeremiah 29:11).  Living like this means that you live without worry or anxiety, just like all of God’s other creatures, knowing that worry will not add a single hour to your life. (Matthew 6:25-34).  Living like this means that your priority is putting God first, knowing that this most critical step paves the way for all other things to take care of themselves…ie: all other things will be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).  You will get your dream(s)…and instead of battling for them, they will be gifted to you!  You will get the dream career, the dream man, the dream apartment, the dream french bulldog, the dream body.  You should insert your own dreams here 😉 Here’s the funny way in which it works sometimes: by walking with God, you have insurance that things will work out, that He will work things out for our good  (Romans 8:28).  God will either realize this through granting us our very wish as we envision it or by adjusting our vision so that our wish is closer to where we already are.  The beauty of this?  Contentment, either way.  It’s the only way to live in true contentment and thus, the only way to live for me. Follow God’s lead and believe that there is no better way!

THE MORNING ROUTINE

This New Year’s, I heard about the “morning routine” on three different levels, a one-two-three punch, if you will, that helped me to re-engineer it in a way that today, 14 days, two weeks, into the new year of 2016, I’m feeling like if I did this for 351 more days, I’d be pretty damn unstoppable! Firstly, I read “the School of Greatness” which I blogged about in my last post – please feel free to read.  In it, Howes emphasizes the importance of setting up a routine, no matter what it is, and advises that it include certain key components.  I chose from his list of recommended components and came up with the following commitment to my morning routine: journaling/free-writing/ setting up day, prayer/ visualization, yoga/forearm work.  Let me further break these down: journaling/ free-writing/ setting up day:  This is simply opening up a journal, old school or new school (I personally use the DayOne free e-journal) and writing what’s on your mind for a few minutes.  I find it cathartic to write my thoughts and emotions out and find that it gets my head cleared out and my shoulders unweighted.  After I do that for anywhere for 5-20 minutes, I write out my day’s main to-do’s and plug them in on my calendar. yoga/forearm work: Many people build their workout right into their morning, but since I teach classes, I enjoy pairing another workout with my classes later on in the day.  However, I do have a goal to be able to do a forearm stand and I heard that I should do a few minutes of practice every day, so I decided to guarantee it gets done by building it in to the morning.  I have a nice amount of space when I fold my murphy bed that becomes my insta-yoga-studio!.  I lay my mat out and do a few vinyasas, poses, stretches, etc and when I feel warm enough, I’ll start kicking up into inversions.  I was scared at first that I would fall over, smash into the walls, etc, but I’m more comfortable now and doing it in my apartment it actually the best way to guarantee it gets done. visualization/prayer: By the time I’m done trying inversions, I’m usually warm and a bit sweaty, so it’s the perfect time to go into a child’s pose and then a little meditation.  I relax in a sitting position, close my eyes, and start some visualization.  If visualization is a practice shared between Olympic athletes and business greats alike, I’m sold.  In the School of Greatness, they talk about imagining the feel, the sound, the taste and smell, even, of your achieved goal.  It’s mandated HD daydreaming!  After this very enjoyable exercise, I get into prayer, praying over others, giving thanks, seeking answers, and simply having time with God.  It’s the perfect end to the perfect start to a new day. Around the same time that I was reading the School of Greatness, I came across Michael Hyatt’s podcast on “How to Become a Morning Person.” He was talking about what it takes to really get up early and take charge your day with the first step being “throw away the ‘I’m not a morning person’ story.”  He’s got some great tips so listen to it here: but what stuck out for me was the importance of protecting your evening in order to ensure your morning.  So, for example, if I want to be up at 7am with 7 hours of sleep under my belt, then I should be asleep by midnight and so I start getting ready for bed at 11pm.  11pm is the mark for shutting everything down and saying, “no more, I will pick it up tomorrow. ” Sounds practical, but up until this point, I was traveling down a slippery slope of allowing that “bed time” to creep later and later for no good reasons: watching silly videos, doing work, watching silly videos, etc.  Michael Hyatt breathed a very realistic reminder into my brain and I’ve been sticking with it. Finally, I went to church service on the first Sunday of the New Year and their message was about “Giving God the first part of your:______”  The blanks were filled in with “my day, my week, my relationships, & my energy”  The way these translate are:
  • my day: quiet time in the mornings
  • my week: church attendance on Sundays
  • my relationships: sharing God in your relationships
  • my energy: serving God
Again, this theme of starting the day properly with a morning routine that protects everything that’s important to you to “self-care” and “put your mask on first” was just another great reminder. Btw, I did not do this perfectly for the past 14 days.  I certainly had mornings where I mussed up or had to leave so early I didn’t get it in, and all that showed me was the cost.  Those days, in particular, were not as peaceful, not as fruitful as the days in which the morning routine was paid time and attention.  On the days when I implemented my routine, literal miracles were allowed to occur in my day – those days were not only peaceful and effective, they were miraculous.  And the correlation is uncanny.  I am so sure that when I leave the house having written, prayed, moved, & doing what I deemed important for me, all things go better. And so, I hope that if you’re in need of a morning routine, that you’ll pull something out of my experience.   The first step is designing (or re-designing) your routine, the next step is protecting it to ensure it takes place, and the third step is doing it consistently.  Go ahead and bon voyage!

CLIFF NOTES: THE SCHOOL OF GREATNESS

A great read to kick off the New Year!  I first heard Lewis Howes on Michael Hyatt‘s podcast and was turned on by  his very enlightened and empowered perspective in their conversation.  After reading his book, I can see a lot of Landmark influence and how his time alongside many speakers and coaches have played a part.  There are some great takeaways and reminders here, so these are a few of my favorite cliff notes from each of his Chapters! CREATE A VISION We all know the power of vision but I enjoyed the addition of having a “Personal Principles Declaration” (PPD).  You are declaring to yourself that this list of five principles is what you stand for and live by.  I think this is great – it’s just like a mission statement for a company that they use as a guidepost for their actions.  Create your PPD of 5 Statements that you want to be true about you for yourself and your world and draw from them, especially when in a pickle! TURN ADVERSITY INTO ADVANTAGE In times of adversity, embrace the challenge and move TOWARD the adversity, making it part of your success story.  Prepare yourself for these moments – they will happen!  First you have your vision, then you run into obstacles. We all know that perseverance o’er adversity is all-important – but this book goes so far as to suggest a “Hidden Advantage to Adversity.”  And so, you should embrace adversity.  The hardships you face in life can be seen as opportunities.  Marcus Aurelius says “the impediment to action advances action.  What stands in the way becomes the way.”  Ryan Holiday, the author of a book “The Obstacle is the Way” writes that there is “one thing that all great men and women have in common.  Like oxygen to a fire, obstacles became fuel for that which was their ambition.  Nothing could stop them, they were impossible to discourage or contain.  Every impediment served to make the inferno within them burn with greater ferocity.”  The real greats don’t worry about the adversity – it’s inevitable, it’s not the end.  This dose of reality is simply used as as challenge: to learn a new “language,” to channel their energy into their true path, to adjust their vision from fantasy into plan. EXERCISE: HOW TO EMBRACE THE ADVERSITY Adversity naturally feels like failure, but in reality, failure is simply feedback.  And feedback gives you the opportunity to look at what’s not working and figure out how to make it work.  Everyone fails.  Highly successful people fail at even greater scales.  Understand this and fall in love with failure.  Thomas Edison endured 10,000 failures before he made the lightbulb.  And so, the next time you encounter external or internal adversity, do the following:
  1. Be Aware of the Adversity
  2. Write it Down or Share It
  3. Acknowledge Yourself
  4. Express Your Gratitude
  5. Reconnect To Your Vision and Take Action
CULTIVATE A CHAMPION’S MINDSET Champions have an unwavering belief and visualization practice.  The purpose of visualization is to see the results you want to create before they actually happen.  Lewis talks about how he practiced it in his professional football career by walking the field and visualizing in the locker room.  He then carried it into writing this book and visualized himself at book signings, etc. VISUALIZATION EXERCISE: Create a clear space w/ zero distraction.  Allow yourself to be relaxed and calm, breathing (2 counts in, 1 count hold, 3 counts out).  Visualize whatever you want to see as complete.  If your vision is to have a relationship with your soul mate, visualize yourself holding that person, both of you smiling, and being whole and complete in that moment.  Dive completely into it: the smells, tastes, sounds, and feels.  The key is to see it as complete and feel the energy of the achievement.  Do this every morning and before tackling a big opportunity. DEVELOP HUSTLE MASTER YOUR BODY PRACTICE POSITIVE HABITS We all know that positive habits practiced over long periods are where it’s at.  There is a reward for positive habits and a price for bad habits.  Figure out the habits that serve you. I loved the 28-Day Morning Routine Challenge he listed in the exercises of this Chapter.  I agree with the power of the morning routine and I accepted this challenge.  The idea is simply that before checking email or phone or doing any work, that you do something that is for you to set the tone for your day:
  • Spend time free-writing/ journaling
  • Make a to-do list for the day, creating top priorities
  • Workout, stretch, do yoga
  • Pray, practice visualization
These are mine, but your routine is made up of your habits that will propel you forward in achieving your dreams. BUILD A WINNING TEAM No one gets there alone.  We all know that having a team of positive mentors, peers, and relationships is everything.  We can draw from our mentors and peers, we can leverage our teams, and we can network from our relationships.  What I learned from what he said about team is that as a leader of a team, you are actually there to serve your team.  Ask yourself, “How can I be of service to every member of my team and set them up to win as best as possible?”  This doesn’t translate to coddling, but means that if anyone needs to talk about anything, you’re there to listen, and that they are set up with what they need to be successful in their position and their role. I can relate to Lewis saying that he used to try to do everything on his own when people would “let him down” and he thought he’d go through life solo proving others wrong.  This ended up emotionally  draining, stressful, and lonely.  It wasn’t until he began allowing others to support his dreams and him that his life started to come to him with ease.  If you’re struggling in this area, you might need to adjust your mindset or find a whole new team altogether.  Surround yourself with greatness: you will never outperform your inner circle.  If you want to achieve outer success, improve your inner circle. A valuable exercise to me from this Chapter was the Three Lists to Freedom, gleaned from Chris Ducker, the author of Virtual Freedom, a book that teaches people how to work with virtual staff. The exercise goes like this: Create 3 columns headlined:
  • Things you don’t like doing (things you procrastinate on: replying to social media messages, emailing, bookkeeping)
  • Things you can’t do (a lack of experience or skill deems that this be passed off to someone else)
  • Things you shouldn’t do (things that are a waste of time and take you away from what you should be doing) Fill in all the things that fit in these categories relating to your business or your lifestyle.  Prepare these lists every 90 days.  This becomes a roadmap to working with your team.  Think of all the things in your personal life that you can add to this as well.
I bought this book for my brother and am glad I finished it up before it was too long overdue at the library haha!  If you enjoyed these snippets, I encourage you to grab a copy because there is a lot that I didn’t include – these are just the parts that spoke to me at this time in my life.  I’m excited for the Personal Principles Declaration, Morning Routine, & Winning Team!

Bucket List Item “Triathlon” Crossed Off

We all have things that either are officially written down or unofficially stored in our minds as “bucket list” items!  These bucket list items can range in variety from extreme sports (sky diving) to DIY skills (woodworking) to physical disciplines (martial arts) to cooking (make a three layer cake) to travel (visit all 50 states) goals.  It’s normal to have a range and variety of bucket list items and mine have always included completing a marathon and a triathlon.  (I think an Ironman might be on there as well…shhhh).  So, these bucket list items float around in our minds and we sometimes work intentionally toward them or a series of events might ignite them or perhaps they are spontaneously achieved – this is the story of how I achieved bucket list item: Triathlon! BREAKUP THERAPY = BUCKET LIST CHECK LIST I’ll have to take you back to this time last year.  I was in the aftermath of a breakup and was looking for productive engagement.  I was heartbroken and hungry for healthy distractions.  So, I lost myself in capoiera classes, summer movies in the park, boat rides on the Hudsoncookinglots. of. cooking., and then I thought to myself – triathlon!  I threw a post on Facebook inquiring as to the process of engaging in the famous NYC Triathlon and immediately learned that it was a  week away and that volunteering for it would guarantee my entry for the following year.  I signed up to volunteer and one week later found me ringing a cowbell and cheering on triathletes in the rain – it was a glorious time!  Soon after, I paid my $300+ to secure my guaranteed entry (volunteering essentially exempts you from having to win the lottery process for entry) and soon after that, began training with my gym’s triathlon team, Full Throttle!  Suddenly, I was rising at 5am to run, swim, and bike and it was quite brutal (the getting up part, mostly!)  And so, it looked like I was on my way to this triathlon goal. TRIATHLON TRAINING: NOT SO MUCH Well, there’s more…there’s always more…haha!  So, triathlon training took a break with plans to resume in the beginning of the year.  Finances shifted – for the worse – and for budgetary reasons, I decided to pay for the luxury of training with a team when the race grew closer.  Months passed and I hadn’t really trained on my own as I should have been doing – I was dawdling – I’ll admit it!  I was comfortable teaching my fitness classes and felt that the race was far away enough to relieve me of any urgency.  In the back of my mind, I also had the security that I had purchased insurance and could always, if absolutely necessary, be back out and be refunded.  Well, with the triathlon three weeks away and without so much as a decent bike ride or swim under my belt, I decided to look into this little refund policy.  I was aghast upon learning that the refund of $300+ required filing a claim that would only be assessed after the triathlon date.  And so, there lurked the very uncomfortable possibility that I could file a claim, the triathlon would pass, I would not compete, my claim would be rejected, and my registration fee would simply be a nice tip to NYC.  And so, in true Chinese fashion, to not waste that hard-earned registration fee, I finally committed to making good on my place in the 2015 NYC Triathlon! IT’S REAL: THIS IS REALLY GOING TO HAPPEN And so it began – I had to get serious about training!  Luckily, I have some triathletes in my church and I consulted with them, confessing that I was desperately unprepared and had three weeks to change that.  The notable pieces of advice that I received were to swim in open water, to ride outside, not to worry if I didn’t have biking shoes, not to introduce anything brand new into my regimen at this point, and not to worry. With my mind more at ease, that week, I began swimming and biking outside.  I was not concerned with the running as I regularly run and have run many a race in the past.  I was not, however, familiar with open water swimming, biking for long distances, or outdoor biking.  I will skip ahead to the race, but first, I want to share some anecdotes from my Triathlon learning curve!
OPEN WATER SWIMMING I’ve always been a decent swimmer.  I come from a past where I swam on the high school swim team, lifeguarded during summer breaks, and taught swim lessons for extra cash.  Open water swimming, on the other hand – and open water swimming in a wetsuit, at that, are veery different!  I was instructed by the triathlete in my church (We shall refer to him as “the Ironman” from here on out) to be sure to take a trip(s) out to Coney Island and swim in Brighton Beach.  So, the next Sunday, I donned my swimsuit underneath my church clothes and headed straight to the beach after service.  I disliked open-water swimming immediately because 1) you can’t see anything in the murky water so it’s disorienting and actually frightening!  2) there is no touching the ground or resting and so you are committed to swimming to your destination 3) the sensation of not touching any ground, having zero ability see your surroundings, and knowing that creatures could be nearby is truly unsettling and uncomfortable.  I swam a second time with my wetsuit on and felt more comfortable snug in a suit, but the lesson here was that open-water swimming in NYC still certainly is not my preference! LEARNING MY BIKE’S GEARS An angel gave me a bicycle – a Specialized Sequoia bicycle
(a very good brand) – allowing me to have a major component of competing in a triathlon and essentially making such even a consideration for me.  The challenge then became: understanding this new bike.  I had no recollection of gear shifting.  And so, here I was with a gorgeous 21 speed bike and no confidence in the operation of it.  I was told by the Ironman to take a ride and be sure to use all my gears, to practice shifting up and down on a flat road and going uphill and downhill.  And so, I made it a point to take a 27 mile bike ride for the first time in my life during which I would 1) get the entire mileage of the race (25miles) under my belt and 2) become proficient in gear-shifting.  Let me give you an example of how far I was from gear-shift proficiency!  In the months that I had had that bike, I never shifted the gears from the state they were given to me in – I simply did not know where to begin!  And so, whenever I had to go up a hill, I would actually get off and walk the bike up when I had a bicycle perfectly capable of handling the hill!  I truly did not understand how to shift the gears up and down and which hand to shift with.  Even when I took my long ride and finally figured out how to shift to the small gear for uphill riding, I then didn’t know how to shift back up to the larger gear.  And so, I actually stopped by a bike shop and asked the guy, “How do I shift my gear back up?”  He looked at me like I was an alien [understandably] and used his hand to push the gear shifter on my left handlebar very far in (farther than I naturally pushed it) and took the chain to the larger gear.  And I was off to complete my 27 mile ride!  I had a blast and it was positively exhilarating to ride all those miles.  I have gained the joy of outdoor riding from this experience, for sure. TRIATHLON MENTAL FLOSS One of the advantages of training with a team for events such as a triathlon is the comfort of thoroughly understanding everything.  A coach’s job is to ensure your complete preparation, from physical to mental, filling in every blank and checking for gaps in your preparedness.  When prepping as an individual, your information comes from a combination of research, official race information, and then the advice of everyone and anyone that you talk with about it – everyone will have advice and opinions if they’ve done it before.  As you can imagine, I certainly felt lacking in this area and one of the biggest helps to me was when the Ironman took me out to the race course one-on-one and toured me through the race, event by event, doling out relevant advice along the way.  With knowledge of the lay of the land, I was so much more at ease.  One piece of advice I embraced: carb-loading!  I made a pizza date at my favorite joint: BSide Pizza and chowed down the night before.
Then I put myself to bed at 9pm, setting the alarm for 4am and popping a sleep aid chewable for good measure.  The next morning, I rose right on time, had my breakfast, and I was out off to the races!  The hushed activity on triathlon morning is like none other – crowds and cars walking quietly, hurriedly in the dark, at 4:30am, is something you don’t often see.  72nd street near the River, where everyone was setting up their bicycle stations, was flooded with lights, activity, and music, setting the stage for what was about to take place!  I had my bags meticulously packed with every item I believed that I needed for my race and checked against the athlete’s packet checklist.  I set up my bike exactly how I needed it for my biking, my clothes for changing, my nutrition in my bike satchel and inside my tri-top pockets, and everything else I left in a bag right next to my bike.  I kissed my bike good-bye and headed off to walk the mile up to the swim start, carrying my wetsuit, goggles, and cap.  I walked with the crowd up to swim start and quietly, as the sun rose, the army of 4,000 triathletes made its way to 99th street, where an MC would entertain us with live ongoing commentary and cue our starts. FRIEND/ FAMILY SUPPORT Another advantage of racing with a team is the built in cheering squad and support system.  When competing as an individual, you may know some other competitors, but not necessarily.  I did not make a big hoopla around this event because I truly was not sure what my performance would be and approached this as more of an individual goal rather than a public affair.  I wanted to compete privately and announce my completion publicly.  However, just by chance, in chatting with one of my mentors from church, she asked to cheer me on.  I was certainly open to that and started setting her up with the Ironman’s advice on spectating.  I equipped her with a sign with my name on it and my volunteer’s cowbell from last year and she was all set to cheer me on!  At this point, I was genuinely excited about the race.  I had gone from truly being terrified to truly being excited.  After some solid, albeit brief preparation and now with even a support in the crowds for me, I was ready to be proud of my endeavor.  There is true joy that bubbles over when you see familiar faces in the crowd.  I gave Betty a big ole hug and was absolutely elated and humbled by her rising at such an early hour just to support me.
You can tell how happy I was to see my friend!
You can tell how happy I was to see my friend!
TRIATHLON PLAY-BY-PLAY So there I am, standing in my corral, with my 35-40 year old cohorts and I’m just taking it all in.  I’m watching the other swimmers head down the Hudson.  I’m chatting with a few people that I know who are competing.  I’m scanning the crowds for my friend and before long, we are on our way! I’M NOT CRAZY ABOUT SWIMMING We are ushered onto a barge on 99th St about a dozen at time.  Suddenly, it’s our turn.  The feeling as you sit on the edge of the barge is not unlike that of sitting inside a seat on a roller coaster.  You wait in line for a while, the line moves you closer and closer until you are next, you sit in position and ready yourself for takeoff, the emotions felt are a mixture of excitement and anxiety and surrealism.  That’s exactly how I felt sitting on the edge of the barge, feet dangling over the Hudson.  I thought to myself, “This is really happening, we’re going to jump in in a matter of seconds and our race will have begun!  And they counted us down and just like that, I pushed myself into that water and into the Hudson!  I can say that overall, I did not enjoy the swimming.  I was not scared or panicked, but I did feel that it took a long time, I felt people pawing at me, I was also guilty of pawing at others, and it was difficult to swim straight!  I ended up completing the swim in 25 minutes, but certainly wasn’t swimming straight and nonstop, so I know I could have done better.  It just felt like it was taking forever!  You know that feeling when you’re waiting for something to be over and you’re either counting down the distance or the time?  That’s what I was doing and it doesn’t help to make things pass any faster!  Finally, I made it to the exit barge and grabbed the hand of a volunteer/lifeguard and was done with it! I’M A TERRIBLE TRANSITIONER At least when it comes to transitioning barefoot on rocky pavement!  They told us that the pavement would be swept and vacuumed and that we wouldn’t experience issues traveling barefoot on it.  However, for 1.15 miles – yes, that’s how far we had to transition for – I was wincing and walking gingerly over what felt like glass to the bottom of my feet.  What a nightmare!  Virtually follow T1 here and imagine it being filled with rocks – these people must honestly have feet made of steel.  And so, the deal is that I took 19 minutes to transition.  That is a record long time…haha!  Folks were literally baffled by how long I took.  I got questions such as, “What were you doing, hanging out?!”  “What did you do, crawl through transition?!”  One friend was frightened for me, thinking that something had happened, an accident of some sort; because the only other time he had seen someone take that long to transition, that person had suffered hypothermia and was forced to sit under a heat lamp for over 10 minutes before they allowed him to move on.  Unfortunately, I could boast no such story other than, “The pavement was rocky!”  haha!  Now I know that these transitions are supposed to happen quick, quick, quick!  And apparently, you must turn off the nerve-endings in your feet to make that happen.  Now I know. I LOVE BIKING Alas, we move on to my new favorite sport: biking! I absolutely killed it on the bike, keeping up an 18mph pace and making up for what I had lost in transition.  This huge grin on my face is real:
A shot of me biking that I'm too cheap to purchase
A shot of me biking that I’m too cheap to purchase
I was absolutely flying the entire time and the magical moment for me was when a dude turned around on his bike, pointed at me and revealed, “You’re my pacer!”  I was pacing after him, but we took turns passing each other and let’s just say that I was the last one to pass him. 😉  That was definitely a moment of validation right there.  For the first 5 miles on my bike, I was moving at 18mph, a speed that I had never even reached previously.  My legs were already experiencing a subtle burn and I thought to myself that there was no way that I could keep this  up for 20 more miles.  But at the same time, I could not allow myself to slow down.  I needed to know that I was pushing myself.  That was important to me.  And so I kept booking it and gradually 5 miles become 10 became 15 became 20 and I had never dropped under 17 mph!  I must say, I was impressed with myself!  Mentally and physically, I was fresh during the entire bike ride.  I was passing people consistently, cheerily chanting variations of “left,” “on your left,,” and “passing” (bike etiquette for passing on someone’s left).   I even made light conversation and cheered on those I passed, I was feeling so good!  I honestly have fond memories of this bike ride and will remember it forevermore! I RUN WELL…UNLESS I’M RUNNING AFTER 2 OTHER EVENTS
the Running Event of the 2015 NYC Tri
the Running Event of the 2015 NYC Tri
On the other hand…haha…the run…haha!  Yes, the run…was. brutal.  I am a runner.  I enjoy running.  I take 8 miles run for my personal workouts.  I love to join the Nike Run Club anytime I’m available for an even longer run – say 12 miles.  I am a runner and when I race – I am even moreso!  But, when I hit that pavement after hopping off my bike, my butt felt funny, sort of tight, my body felt heavy, and I was just tired!  I saw the Ironman and his daughter within the first 1/4 mile and they cheered me on heartily and I desperately embraced each of them, unabashedly confessing “I don’t want to do this anymore!”  They laughed at me and shoo’ed me onward.  But I was telling the truth!  I really couldn’t fathom how I would move my legs for 6 miles – I felt like I was moving in slow motion – it was worse than jogging – this felt like the slowest I had ever run – I can’t even respectfully refer to what I was doing as running – it was like I was just moving my legs in place – no exaggeration.  Luckily, I had my iPhone strapped to my arm and it spoke realtime metrics to me, citing my pace as 9:45ish to begin with and I committed to staying within the 9:00 minute range.  This would typically be a shameful race pace for me, but running after 2 other events was a whole other ballgame that I quickly adjusted my expectations for.  Gradually, the miles ticked themselves off: 1 mile down and a water/gatorade station, 2 miles down and another hydration station…and so it went, with the occasional sprinkler to break up the heat – which by the way, at that point was a sweltering 80+ degrees with a potent humidity.  I will tell you that the cheering fans were my saving grace during this run.  I made eye contact, I cheered back, I got them to say my name – these volunteers and friends and family collectively gave me enough bursts of energy to carry me over that finish.  I imagined that they were all there for me – playing [favourable] mind games with myself! “I’M NEVER DOING THIS” AGAIN BECOMES “WHAT NEXT?” At some point in the marathon and it happened again here with the triathlon, I asked myself the question:
Exhausted as I finished up my run
Exhausted as I finished up my run
“Why did I ever get myself into this?!” and then swore to myself that I would never do it again.  I remember it very clearly from the Brooklyn Marathon a few years ago.  Around mile 20, at my breaking point, I was both unsure whether or not I would finish the race and committed to never doing this to myself again.  That moment came back during mile 3 of the triathlon run when I was utterly exhausted, unsure of my capacity, and swearing to never ever ever do such a thing to myself again.  I’m not gonna lie: expletives were definitely a  part of my inner script at that point and I was just dying from the inside out, outside in.
Finished with the 2015 NYCTri
Finishing the 2015 NYCTri
Fast forward 3 miles: The spectators are thick at the last 1/2 mile and the cheers are loud.  I push myself across the finish line, arms up, grin wide and pose for the camera.  A few steps later, they knight me with a medal.  A few steps after that, someone is taking my timing chip off of my ankle for me.  A few steps after that, I’m offered a buffet of fruit, bagels, chips, drinks, etc.  And it is a GOOD time!  The pain is gone, the suffering is over, the insane feeling of accomplishment wells up within me and this little thought creeps into all the hubbub, asking, “What’re you going to do next?!” Auggggh!  How dare I even bring such a thing up!  My friend Betty likened it to birth and I imagine it’s a perfect analogy.  She said that while you are in labor, in the midst of the most excruciating pain of your life [cuz you are pushing a watermelon out of your vagina], you swear that you will never ever entertain another child.  Yet, as soon as that child is in your arms, you are in the equivalent amount of bliss and yes, ready to do it all over again.  Well, I cannot promise anything, but I am 100% glad that I went forth with competing in the NYC Triathlon and I’m happy with the turnout and everything that I learned along the way.  If there is another in my future, it will certainly be even better and if there is not, then there will certainly be more experiences to be had!  Btw, here are my final results: I finished in a total of 3 hrs, 12 mins, and 42 secs.  I took 25 mins to swim, 19 mins to transition (haha!), 1 hr, 26 mins to bike, 4 min, 33 sec to transition, and 55 mins, 43 secs to run.  It wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t the best, but it was decent.  I will debrief and talk about what I learned and would do differently, but this is what my final numbers were!
LESSONS LEARNED The importance of Nutrition: I had never been concerned with nutrition in the past.  I would accept the occassional electrolyte packed gel or gummy from the Nike Club because they were complimentary and absolutely yum!  But never have I ever purchased them because I was really never working out for long enough that I needed to have sustenance on-person.  I was always working out for 1-2 hours at a time and then close enough to a gym or home that I would be able to simply eat afterward!  In a triathlon, however, (competing for 3 hours) and in triathlon training (riding for 2+ hours), that shot of nutrition staves hunger pangs and injects you with energy.  It is necessary.  And so I started to use nutrition in the form of nuun tablets, gels, and gummies during my training, during the race itself, and afterward, when I continued riding for exercise. Biking & Gear Shifting: As I mentioned, I had no idea how to shift between my three front gears.  I received my bike in the middle gear and rode it in that gear for the better part of a year.  Once I started actually training for the tri, I knew that I had to maximize my bike and started learning all the gears.  It took one ride for me to understand how to operate my back derailer to fully use my front middle gear.  It took another ride for me to solidify that.  It took a third ride for me to start to shift the front derailer and I had to stop off for a real-time demonstration to shift it back once I had shifted it to the smaller gear.  By the end of that ride I had used all of the back gears and two of the front gears and I felt ready.  Add to that one gear adjustment at my local bike shop set and I felt like I was ready.  And indeed, while I was on the road during the tri, I was a master shifter!  I was shifting however I needed to keep my cadence high high high; I took every uphill like a champ in my smallest gear; and I took every downhill like a speed racer in my largest gear.  I shifted gears to gain traction when passing and finally felt “at one” with my bike and it’s mechanisms! WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY Swim harder: I was swimming crooked and into people and not pushing myself the way that I was on the bike event.  I finished with a decent time, but I could have shaved some time off with a little more focus and intention. Transition Faster: I took 19 minutes during T1.  That is just unacceptable.  People go through full hair and makeup in 19 minutes.  People warm up from hypothermia in less than 19 minutes.  I definitely need to suck up the running on rocks aspect of the race or really have some water shoes waiting for me to run in.  Probably both! Run Faster: I was lethargic during my run.  When I think about it, I didn’t train very hard for my run, so I probably would have done better had I done that.  So, I would train in running and I would simply run faster, pushing harder. Listen to Music: One thing that really really really helps me and I understand it to be illegal, but I’ve done it during other races and I know that it injects me with so much energy….is music!  When I run w/ my music, I am literally dancing and pumping my arms.  And this is supported by the fact that during the tri, anytime I passed a live DJ, I was able to break into dance, but the music always passed quickly since you were running and it was right back to mundane soundtrack-less running.  sigh.  So next time, I would stow headphones on myself and pop ’em in for that boost. Rally a Crowd: I really competed in this race very privately.  I didn’t want to have folks come out and then perhaps do poorly, perhaps not even finishing.  It was a possibility in my head!  And so, rather than risk public humiliation, I kept the entire endeavor under wraps until I could no longer contain myself: I ended up posting two days prior to the race.  But if there’s a next time, I’m gettin’ a party together! So, that’s all folks,  if you want to compete in a tri, go ahead and give it a tri…haha!  get it?!  I hope that you learned from my experience and I look forward to hearing about yours!

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

I recently got turned on to Essentialism, a book by Greg McKeown, by way of a podcast  interview conducted by one of my favorites, Michael Hyatt.  Upon first listen while working out, I found it disruptively clarifying and enlightening.  I remember nodding while walking around the gym floor in agreement with so much that was being offered.  Weeks later, I was in Barnes and Noble, reading the book.  And just a few weeks ago, I listened to the podcast all over again in order to apply one of its most important principles.   I will build up to this biggest principle after first sharing a few other valuable takeaways that I’ve gained from Greg’s teaching.  Here it goes – enjoy and prepare to say “Ah ha!” MAKE YOUR LIFE A CLOSET OF YOUR MOST LOVED PIECES The first lesson is important to get clear on.  Do what is most Essential to you.  Do what you would LOVE to do.  Imagine your life as a closet.  You have a finite amount of space.  So when you have pieces of clothing that you want to add in, unless you want a crammed, unusable closet, you have to take items out.  Likewise, in your life, make sure to trade things out before you take things on.  Now comes the next important step: Editing your wardrobe.  How do you decide what items you are going to keep vs toss?  Do you keep things because you “might wear them again one day,” because “you might fit them again one day,” or God forbid, because you “just already own them?!”  Well, here’s a concept: only keep the things that you LOVE.  Ask yourself, “Do I absolutely LOVE this piece?” or even better, “Would I buy this piece all over again?” In the same way, set up strong filters for what takes up your life.  Do the things that you LOVE to do, not merely the things that already exist.  Ownership of a piece of clothing or of things in your life can be very tricky.  If something has real estate in your life by virtue of simply being owned, then it doesn’t deserve your time.  Only if you LOVE it and would DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN should you consider continuing to do it.  And THAT is one of the biggest distinctions from Essentialism! GIVING YOURSELF THE SPACE TO MAKE A SOUND DECISION Our next challenge is giving ourselves space in which to apply this distinction before making decisions.  Oftentimes, we make decisions hastily or under pressure.  And oftentimes, we are quick to say “Yes” because we want to help, because it’s uncomfortable to say “No” and because we want to be accepted.  But there is a trade-off and the trade-off is being in this position of having a crammed closet full of non-essentials.  So, how do we give ourselves space to get to clarity before saying “Yes” or “No” to something?   Simply say this instead:  “Let me get back to you,” “Let me think about it,” and then take the time that you need to  confidently decide, based on what YOU want to do. If you really want to be radical, practice saying “No” and then only change your mind if you find yourself wistful over it!  Here’s what it comes down to: If YOU prioritize your life, OTHERS will prioritize it FOR you! OPPORTUNITIES EVENTUALLY BECOME STUMBLING BLOCKS: This sounds so wild, but if opportunities remain unchanged in your life, they are actually stumbling blocks preventing you from advancing.  Opportunities should be continually evolving, growing, and expanding.  If you are saying “Yes” to the same opportunities today that you were saying “Yes” to several years ago, those are now stumbling blocks.  You will have to say “No” for a little while in order to create space for different opportunities to develop.  Understandably, this is scary and is probably the reason why most people stay in the same place: because it’s more comfortable to stay busy than to be still during inactivity.  But again, there’s a tradeoff: Saying “Yes” to the same opportunities and not advancing. SCHEDULE A QUARTERLY OFFSITE TO “GET ESSENTIAL” Now that you know some important practices, here is the Headliner Practice that you’ll want to really hone in on and that ties everything together.  Use the power of 3: Every 3 months, take 3 hours, and figure out the next 3 most important goals for your life.  This is how you get clear on that million-dollar question: What’s Essential? and then use the rest of these tools to protect that! Any bonafide business is taking time to get off-site to ensure clarity on their vision and their business.  We, as individuals, can benefit from this same practice.  So, start setting aside a quarterly offsite during which you do the following: Look back on the last 90 days of your life.  Be a journalist and investigate your life.  Read over your journal entries looking for the news.  Look for the trends.  Look for the essentials.  Look for the nonessentials.  And then, be the editor and decide what needs to be edited and write your new plan.  Ask yourself “What are my new goals?” and plan the next 90 days of your life. Every 90 Days, dedicate an OffSite Day to: Thinking, Reading your Journal, and Evaluating in order to  “Get Essential!” BONUS: MAKE TIME TO READ, THINK, & DREAM: This is often seen as a luxury or worse, even as a waste of time.  Well, rebrand it as a priority and use this as your affirmation: Bill Gates, one of the richest, most successful men in the world, sets aside time to think and read FOR 2 WEEKS out of every year!  He actually schedules one week twice a year during which he goes away with tons of articles and books and does nothing but read and think.  He has been doing this for decades so that means that even at the height of Microsoft’s life, he was taking time off to do this.  Now, if that isn’t proof that reading and thinking is time spent wisely, I don’t know what is! BONUS: MAKE TIME FOR: Sleep (7 hours) – It will promote productivity Play – It will promote Brain Elasticity Think – It will promote Essentialism BONUS: BOUNDARIES, BUFFERS, RULES & HABITS Sometimes, creating little rules helps preserve or even create your Essentials.  For example, Greg offered the following examples that he’s implemented in his life:
  • One or even two days designated as date night for himself and his wife where nothing else can compete
  • A day dedicated as a “Give back” day during which he will entertain requests to “grab coffee” and such
I really love this habit and have consciously begun setting up rules for myself within my schedule, in regards to what jobs I take, etc and I find that simply clarifying these things for yourself frees you from the deliberation involved every time if you were to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.  It’s so powerful and nobody has to know what “rules” you’re applying – they’re just for you, based on what’s Essential for You! Check out the full podcast that inspired this whole post and my slew of new habits and I wish you a Life transformed from the UnDisciplined Pursuit of More to the Disciplined Pursuit of Less!

Foodie Finds

I love food – I mean, who doesn’t?  I love myself a great slice of brick oven pizza, a great brick of chocolate cake, a few good fries, haha – the varieties of foods that please my palette are countless and varied!  Here are some of my latest dining experiences that I’ve checked off my list (I have a literal running Evernote list of restaurants on my phone that I consult and cross off from!)  Enjoy! SRO Pizza Speakeasy: This place is just a cool experience, as all speakeasies are!  There are no “walk-ins” to this place because in order to enter, you have to go to the back of an existing restaurant where someone will press a button for you and leave you standing outside of a nondescript door.  Once someone opens, you are then ushered into an intimate candlelit restaurant where the brick oven is visible and roaring.  Aren’t you enticed already? Of course, the food must hold up in order for you to make the leap.  Well, it does – I won’t say it’s mind-blowing, but it’s good and paired with the experience, worth a visit!  I kicked things off with the Burrata appetizer.  Burrata AppetizerI had always wanted to try burrata, only understanding it to be a creamy cheese, but not knowing much else. Well, it certainly was creamy and light and perfectly paired with the basil and cherry tomatoes served alongside it.  The combination reminded me of a Caprese salad, but taken to the next level! For our pizzas, I dug into a Houston Street Pizza which isn’t exactly the picture below, but the closest I could find…haha!  It was very good coming straight out of the oven.
Houston Street Pizza: Bufala Mozzarella, Sheep Ricota, Thin Sliced Pancetta, Mushrooms, Truffle Oil
Houston Street Pizza: Bufala Mozzarella, Sheep Ricota, Thin Sliced Pancetta, Mushrooms, Truffle Oil
My friend ordered the Montanara and it was his first time trying fried pizza dough and brick oven pizza at that and he really enjoyed it!  He finished his entire pie, so that counts for something – although being from Ohio might offset that….anyways…
Montanara: the original NYC fried pizza
the original NYC fried pizza
Dessert was Nutella Pizza, which was delicious straight outta the oven, but in my opinion has to be eaten quickly as it doesn’t stay that way.  I took half of it home and heated it for a delicious bite that night!
Nutella Pizza straight outta the oven
Nutella Pizza straight outta the oven
The verdict for SRO Pizza Speakeasy is to definitely go and get the pre-fixe if you want the best value.  Be sure to go hungry and don’t hesitate to take something home.  It’s a delicious, leisurely, & unique dining experience! the Mermaid Inn:  This place is most famous for it’s daily happy hour.  That is: daily, including weekends, and from 5-7pm without fail.  In turn, without fail, a line begins to build around 4:30 as people await the Inn’s opening.  They open at Happy Hour and then usher in the line, promptly filling the restaurant – ti’s fascinating!  I had only planned on ordering a dozen oysters for $12 and calling it a day, but
the Mermaid Inn full experience picstitch
the Mermaid Inn full experience picstitch
that also came with these delicious flatbreads and the sign of a restaurant after my own heart – a complimentary chocolate pudding dessert!  It was the perfect end to a perfect casual outdoor upper west side dining experience.  Definitely go here during happy hour and you might run into me like I ran into my friends – regulars at this spot (who recommend the fried clam sliders, btw) Good Enough to Eat: This place is always packed and seems to be one of the most happening brunch spots on the UWS.  I remember turning down a 40-minute wait once and finally had the excuse and motivation to try again during an out-of-town friend’s visit.  It was a rainy day and that seemed to thin out the crowd so we jumped on line with only 3 parties ahead of us.  After a painless 15 minutes, we were the “next two” and promptly scurried to our tables! I ordered the Provencal Omelette which came with some very exciting biscuits (biscuits are exiting by nature, no?!) and had about one refill of coffee.
Provencal Omelette: roasted red and green peppers, Spanish onion, goat cheese
Provencal Omelette: roasted red and green peppers, Spanish onion, goat cheese
The experience was great and I’m glad that I finally got to try this place out.  They have a pretty famous dessert case, so that might be a fun adventure one night as well – although I’d probably opt for Peace Food’s all-vegan dessert case just for my peace of mind – haha! The Verdict:  I wouldn’t wait 40 minutes for this food, but if the wait is short, jump in line, you won’t be disappointed. B Side Pizza Bar:  This is an incredible gem of a pizza place that had my jaw dropping as soon as I walked by one day.  I just needed an excuse to go – well, I’ve since gone three times and every time, it’s been fulfilling.  The first time, I got the Oscar the Grouch – I had already been drooling over it via Yelp pictures, so I sat down and promptly ordered one for myself and a girlfriend – it was ah-mah-zing – the crunch of the kale, the greens and the cheese – just all very very good.
Oscar the Grouch: spinach, black kale, garlic, mozzarella fonduta
Oscar the Grouch: spinach, black kale, garlic, mozzarella fonduta
The second time, I went for my favorite style of pizza – white cheese, no sauce, the closest that I could get to that.  They pulled together a Carbonara combination for me and it also was very very good.  I love the slicing of the pizza – they cut it up into squares for really easy eating – the open kitchen allows you to follow your food from assembly to baking straight to your plate.  I am ready to go again and try their avocado salad and another type of pizza!
Carbonara: fontina, mozzarella, pancetta, panna, parmesan, black pepper, egg
Carbonara: fontina, mozzarella, pancetta, panna, parmesan, black pepper, egg
The verdict: You can’t go wrong with this spot, so just roll up and order a pie to split if you’re not so hungry or get a personal pie if you’re eating with a  hungry man or just want more variety.  They’ve got nice take-out containers (plastic lidded) so you that’s not a problem! Don Antonio’s Pizza:  This is another spot where you can get the famous “fried pizza” and it really does look pretty amazing, I mean, look!
Don Antonio's Fried Pizza
Don Antonio’s Fried Pizza
I have been here twice and have enjoyed the pizza, the sophisticated decor, and the reasonable prices.  They actually have a hard-to-believe lunch special where you can get an 8 inch pie for under $10 – now THAT is worth checking out!  This is another winning pizza joint – head over! Tenth Ave CookShop: So, I have been hearing about this place over and over again as well.  The wait is typically extensive, so it’s probably a great idea that it’s near the Highline for time-killing.  Luckily, I went for an early dinner one night and  there was zero wait so expectations were eased up right off the bat!  Well, the bread basket was varied (always judge a restaurant by its bread basket!), the food was delicious and the decor was amazing!  I want to go back for brunch and brave those lines (for oatmeal brûlée, I would!)  I heard that their biscuits are amazing and their pumpkin monkey bread looks out of this world.  This place is definitely sophisticated and eclectic, yet approachable with its menu – I love what they’re doing.  So, I’ll be back, as you should  as well!