Moving Out

So, on Monday this past week, I happened across the Billy Joel Town Hall on Sirius XM radio. Let me start by saying that as a native New Yorker that lived on Long Island for much of my early life, Billy Joel's music was a huge part of the soundtrack of my life. I went through many phases, but Billy was always there in the background. It was an amazing listen and if you like any of Billy Joel's music (and if you can't find at least ONE Billy Joel song you like, I would question whether you're actually breathing...), I think you need to track down his Town Hall and give it a listen.

It was great hearing him talk about the inspiration and tell the stories behind so many of the songs that I've come to love. "Angry Young Man", "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant", "Just the Way You Are", "Longest Time", "She's Always A Woman", "New York State of Mind"... It was great remembering all of these...

I took note when he started explaining that "Moving Out" was about people who go through life working to be able to acquire the trappings that are seen as signs of success. Billy mentioned it's sad to see someone who never realizes their full potential because they're so focused on working hard to acquire things. They're pressured into working to make a living and they never get the opportunity to truly fulfill themselves.

And it seems such a waste of time If that's what it's all about Mama, if that's movin' up then I'm movin' out.

It struck a chord in me when he talked about fulfilling ourselves because we do get caught up so easily in the daily grind. There are so many demands on our time and it's easy to wake up one day and realize that we haven't really done anything.

You've got to find the things in life that you love; you've got to experience your life; you've got to make your time count for something.

Speaking of finding your potential... Howard Stern was the emcee for the Town Hall. And love him or hate him, the man is constantly evolving and getting better at everything he does.

He has this reputation that he earned from all his hijinks and run-in's with the FCC. I've been listening to him since I found him doing a television show on WWOR in New York, oh so long ago and I'll readily admit he loves to shock. For all that lewd stuff, folks like La Femme Blanquita have misunderstood him and she flat-out refused to listen to him back in the day. But the reality is he's an incredible interviewer and he's at least earned LFB's respect for that. That's saying a lot!

But you'd figure that being the "King of All Media" and arguably the world's greatest interviewer would be enough... Yet, he talks about a lot about hobbies that he's picked up recently like photography and painting. He continues to embody the spirit of Unsteady State by continuing to grow and expand. If someone like that can avoid being complacent and keep challenging himself, it only serves to inspire those of us who have yet to find our niche.

So are you caught in the daily grind? What are you doing to continue your journey? Reach out to me and join the conversation. @ultrasmoov on Twitter and use #unsteadystate. Join the conversation!

Change Takes Time

This one goes out to all the Les Mills instructors out there... At most clubs in the United States, the new releases have been launched and in my opinion, this round of releases was outstanding! It never ceases to amaze me how our Program Directors back in New Zealand manage to re-invent their programs each and every quarter! Being an engineer, I just don't have the creative juices to come up with these brilliant ideas, so I am incredibly appreciative of all that they do.

Take BODYPUMP®, for instance. For the first time in the history of the program, we have a back track that doesn't have a variation of the clean and press! This is an opportunity for our participants to really increase their weight, knowing that they won't have to take the bar overhead. The "pull" muscles are big and capable of doing big things, but too often in back tracks, our members stay light out of concern for having to go overhead. And if you really go big with your weight, you stand to see some serious strength gains.

La Femme Blanquita had resigned herself to the fact that she would never be able to do a proper, unassisted pull-up. I've seen her spontaneously reach for the pull-up bar and try with all her might for years and she just hasn't been able to get there.

This quarter, as any good BODYPUMP® trainer would, she ratcheted up the weight in the back track. Not one or two times. Not for one or two weeks. She did it through several weeks, as she was practicing, doing certification modules, launching, and then teaching the release. As she's prone to doing, she grabbed the pull-up bar this week just for kicks and just about freaked herself out when her chin went over the bar!

By following the focus of the latest BODYPUMP® release, she was able to get the result she's wanted for a very long time. I'm ridiculously proud of the way she keeps trying and trying and finally doing...

Seeing her results got me thinking:

What if she only did the release a couple of times?

What if she kept the same old weight on the bar as she usually lifts for track 4?

It made me think about our participants who come to our classes looking for results. They're not going to get the results they want unless we, as instructors, give them a chance to work through the new release more than a couple of times. And isn't it their results that we should be most concerned with?

In my experience, for BODYPUMP®, I found that a 4 week release schedule works best. I tell my participants this every quarter so that they understand what's coming:

  • The first week is their first time seeing the new stuff, so they're going to be tentative. That's perfectly ok! You need to have confidence that you can do the moves before you can make the conscious decision to do the moves all-out.
  • Now that they're familiar with the release, week 2 is all about trying to follow the instructions as closely as possible. That means following the recommended weight selections to really feel the workout intensity.
  • Week 3 is their opportunity to add a little weight in a few tracks where they'd like to increase strength. By now, they're familiar with the movements and they have confidence that they can get through the workout. Adding two 1kg plates in a couple of tracks will give them the high of hitting a new personal best and will challenge them without being unbearable.
  • In week 4, I ask them to try to maintain the new strength that they found in week 3. By matching their best, it creates a new plateau from which they can climb higher.

As an instructor, I can't allow myself to fall into the trap of "being bored" and constantly trying to change things up. It's not about me; it's about the people in my class. I have to give my participants an environment in which they can develop confidence and push harder because that's when they start to see results.

The same rules apply for any change that we want to create in our lives. We need to give ourselves enough time to make the change or we're setting ourselves up for failure. We're not going to learn a new skill or accomplish a new task without having sufficient time to practice, make mistakes, and eventually find that success.

You can't rush the process to find your Unsteady State. Send me a message or comment and let me know what you do to give yourself appropriate time to reach your goals. And instructors, I'd love to hear what you do to make sure your participants reach theirs!

Elixir Vitae

So, I've taken a little bit of time off since my last post. Things got a bit more intense at work as I finished up a project and got prepared to take on a new one. I was running around, facilitating fitness modules on the weekends, during one of the busiest streaks since I became a trainer. It didn't help that some different flu/strep strains were making the rounds and I found myself sick for a good part of the time. Something had to give...

Everything pointed to the fact that I needed to take a break, so take a break I did!

La Femme Blanquita and I packed up and took off for Paris, France.

I've done a fair bit of travel, but I've never been able to find an excuse to spend time in the City of Lights. And it happens to be one of L.F.B.'s favorite places in the world, so it just made sense that we should cross the Atlantic for an extended weekend.

I always marvel at the fact that there is so much history in places. Here in the U.S., we are rightfully proud of our monuments and our buildings and our Disney parks. But the reality is that there are buildings in Europe that have been around longer than our country has existed! I think it would give everyone here a completely different perspective on life if they took the opportunity to travel outside the U.S.!

Highlights included:

  • walking along the Seine at sunset with the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower in the distance

    Sunset on the Seine

  • Walking around, people-watching in Montmartre

    Moulin Galette

  • Seeing all the little shops and enjoying the "cafe mentality" (parking yourself on a stool with a cafe allonge to admire life)

    City Life

  • Seeing the incredible medieval architecture and imagining how awe-inspiring it would be to a serf that had never seen skyscrapers or electricity

    Notre Dame

  • I could have spent days at the Louvre, admiring all of the incredible works of art

    Venus de Milo

It was just the mental, emotional, & physical recharge that I needed. I came back and hit the ground running.

Interestingly enough, the reaction from most folks was amazement at the fact that we chose to escape to France for a long weekend. It was such a common reaction that it made me stop to think why our trip was so unusual.

Some folks would say that a long weekend isn't enough to see Paris and that they would rather wait until they could have at least a week free to go.

Some would say that there are so many easier places around here and that it must have been so difficult to deal with the long flight.

Some couldn't believe that L.F.B. and I would go to a French-speaking locale when neither of us could speak the language.

The fact is there are always reasons why we shouldn't do something, and if we give those reasons any validity, we'll never do anything! L.F.B. and I lead pretty busy lives by choice, and if we waited until we were both free for a week, we'd never take a vacation!

If we were dissuaded by the time difference, long flight, and "hassle", we'd miss out on all the wonders that this world holds. And with a trusty phrasebook, a little patience, and some common courtesy, the world will open up in front of you.

I've been in the position of waiting before. I've missed out on opportunities to do things that I've wanted to do. But you start to realize that those opportunities won't last forever. In keeping with the concept of unsteady state, I've come to realize that we've got to make the most of our time and experience life. And so I consciously take those opportunities when they come now. Fortunately, L.F.B. shares my zest for life, as long as there's good food and a clean bed!

What is holding you back from doing the things you want to do? What steps can we take to experience the life we want to live?

“The key to change... is to let go of fear.” - Rosanne Cash

 

History

Over the weekend, I checked out "Her", the new Spike Jonze movie with Joaquin Phoenix. Great movie! Unusual premise, but it makes sense. In any case, there was a great line in the movie that keeps replaying in my head.

The past is a story we tell ourselves.

Meditate on that one for a bit!

Winston Churchill said "history is written by the victors". So, when we look back at the past, it's always colored by our perspective. No matter how impartial and unbiased we want to be, the past will always take on some of the way we saw things unfold.

So, because of this, even though the past is a great tool and reference point, it becomes unreliable when dealing with anything that has to do with emotion. When I remember a bad experience that took place running across a pedestrian bridge up above a highway, it makes me deathly afraid of heights today.  The reality is that the bridge and what happened there have absolutely nothing to do with the ladder I need to climb or the plane I'm about to jump into. But my experiences and my past form a convenient story, or excuse, that makes it easier for me to say "no" to things in the present.

We do this all the time: "I can't do that! I had a bad experience way back when." So that story that we tell ourselves can create an insecurity that prevents us from experiencing life today.

What stories are you telling yourself that are keeping you from being all that you can be? Why are you allowing a memory to have power over your present? Can we re-write our history by taking charge of our decisions today? One day perhaps I'll be able to say that historical pedestrian bridge was a funny little moment as I bungee-jump off a present-day bridge. What about you?

Retrospect

As we near the end of another year, it's time for those most controversial of things: the New Year's Resolutions. Most folks fall into one of two camps: 1. I'm going to make my New Year's Resolution and I promise that this year, I'm going to make it happen!

2. New Year's Resolutions is 'da devil, Bobby!

I'm sure that if you're in camp #1, you have the best of intentions in mind and you sincerely intend to make an effort to do whatever you resolve to do. But the reality is that we get carried away sometimes. We come up with the Mount Everest of New Year's Resolutions when we've barely tried climbing the hill in the park down the street!

And if you're in camp #2, you're tired of falling off the wagon (or seeing your family and friends do the same), so you resolve to abstain from resolving! But the reality is that we always need something to work towards. As the old adage goes, "If you're not growing, you're dying."

I've always been partial to finding somewhere in the middle. The coming of a new year is a natural opportunity for change, and here at Unsteady State, we want to leverage that desire for change into tangible action. I usually try a New Year's Retrospection instead.

What's that? I look back at the year that has passed and I think about the good things and bad things. I give thanks for the positive things, people, and events. This gives me a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of appreciation. That is the solid foundation upon which I can build.

Then I look at the things that didn't go quite so well... I don't do it in a defeatist beat-myself-up way or a the-world-sucks way, because that doesn't accomplish anything. I use them like thumbtacks on a map so I can chart my course and see where I'm going. With this perspective and my mission statement, I can tell if I'm heading in the wrong direction. But what can we do with that kind of information?

Have you ever been driving down the road and noticed how a tiny turn of the steering wheel can carry you into the next lane? Ever played the Telephone game where a message gets passed along from one person to the next to the next until the last person gets a message that is drastically different from the original? As a pilot, I was taught that planes rarely have completely catastrophic failures; it's usually a chain of little mistakes, mishaps, and misunderstandings that cause the overwhelming majority of airplane accidents. In all of these cases, we can see that the smallest of changes can lead to completely different results. (Want to read more on the subject? Check out The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell!)

Likewise, if you sense you're heading in the wrong direction in your life, small compensations to your direction can start to get you back on track. So rather than saying "I want to look like Brad Pitt (or Angelina Jolie), so I'm going to spend 3 hours at the gym every day," we can say "I haven't been nearly active enough this year, so I'm going to take the stairs up to my office." Instead of saying "I'm going to starve myself until I drop 10 sizes," we can say "I didn't make the best food choices last year, so I'm going to try adding more protein and vegetables to my lunches." It's that subtle shift in our thinking that will help to keep us from creating unattainable, wishful goals for ourselves and to give us a clearer path to get to where we need to go.

And know that my New Year's Retrospection doesn't happen only on New Year's. It becomes really powerful when we begin looking at our course on a regular basis and continue to make small corrections. After all, if you're flying from Auckland to Paris, you're not going to look at the compass once when you take off and pray that you get there!

So this New Year's Eve, join me in a little New Year's Retrospection. Because you can't know where you're going until you know where you've been...

What will you be doing this New Year's? Tell me how you're planning for 2014 in the comments below and don't forget to follow me on Twitter! Join the conversation...

Consequences

It's that time of year. People getting sick everywhere. The "flu" has been going around, especially in TX. Any of you feeling overcome by affluenza? No, that wasn't a typo: affluenza. In case you haven't seen the news recently, a 16 year old boy was sentenced to just 10 years of probation after stealing beer from a local Wal-Mart, getting drunk to the point that his BAC was three times the legal limit three hours after the crash, driving 30 mph over the speed limit, and causing an accident that killed 4 people and injured others. His defense team did a fantastic job of painting the 16 year old as a victim; he wasn't responsible for his actions because he had wealthy parents that never set limits for him.

There's been plenty of response to the verdict. I've seen and heard plenty of outrage over the fairness of a judicial system where four lives can be cut short and the person responsible essentially walks away with a slap on the wrist. Whatever your opinion on the case, you have to admit it raises significant controversy for our justice system and points to how it is skewed to those who can afford a brilliant team of lawyers.

I'm not going to talk about the verdict or the judicial system today. Instead, I'm going to use this as an opportunity to talk about consequences.

Back in the day (when I was growing up), we were taught that every action had consequences. If we did something good, we were rewarded: medals for winning a race, trophies for winning a tournament, an allowance for doing chores, or maybe even a toy or gift for just behaving. If we did something bad (or performed poorly), we were punished: time in your room to "think about what you've done", watching others win, loss of privileges, getting grounded, or if we really pushed the boundaries, there might be a strap or belt involved. We got positive reinforcement to make us want to do better and punishment to discourage us from not acting properly. We were instilled with the concept of societal norms and what is expected of us. In spite of that, we weren't always angels and we tried to get away with things, but more often than not, we found that it was better to work hard and do the right thing.

But somewhere along the way, parents got scared of disciplining their kids, teachers lost the ability to do the same, someone decided it was better for all the kids to get trophies so they all feel like winners, and kids realized that they could get away with more. Why work hard? Why act like society expects us to act? You can do whatever you want if you have no sense of consequences and very often, these individuals do, to varying degrees.

The problem is that by not providing them with boundaries, we've stunted their growth. They act out of a selfish desire to fulfill whatever instantaneous desires they have. It's instinctive action driven by their baser needs.

What does this have to do with Unsteady State? The idea behind Unsteady State is that we are always looking to grow and learn; that we are not satisfied with our current condition. Change is hard and the only thing that gets us through difficult change is our faith and belief in the consequences of our action, either good or bad. But when you don't understand consequences, that doesn't exist.

Think about this: as the story goes, the world's greatest basketball player, Michael Jordan, was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore. He was so distraught over being cut that he went home, locked himself in his room, and cried. In his words:

"It was good because it made me know what disappointment felt like," he said. "And I knew that I didn`t want to have that feeling ever again." [Greene, Bob. "When Jordan Cried Behind Closed Doors." Chicago Tribune, 15 May 1991. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.]

If he had floated through without this disappointment, it's possible that he never would have developed the killer instinct that drove him to be the greatest of all time. Consequences are opportunities for learning more about ourselves and growing beyond ourselves. Without consequences, there's no catalyst for change.

Join the conversation! What do you think?

Getting to the root cause

I'm an engineer. I've been tinkering as long as I can remember. It's taught me to think differently. When something is broken, I trace things back to find the root cause. I remember traveling to a remote location for work to help troubleshoot a piece of equipment. I was waiting for some technicians to resolve a problem with a huge motor before I could do my part. The motor wasn't running the way it was supposed to run; it kept turning on and off abruptly. And as I'm sure you can imagine, you don't want a brand new $100k motor starting and stopping on its own every few seconds! They had checked everything and had all but given up. The plan was to replace the motor, but even worse than that, I would have to fly back home and schedule another trip because I couldn't finish the work.

I asked them to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. Let's assume the brand new motor isn't the problem, but rather a symptom. We began to look at the motor starter and the control system that told the motor to start and stop. We looked at all the sensors that monitor and protect the motor, and started to trace the wires from each of them. Lo and behold, we found a loose wire leading to a $50 relay in a control panel in another room. The wire would sometimes make contact and sometimes not, causing the motor to get the signal to turn on and off. A little wire almost cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars and several months' delay.

I'm glad that engineers are taught to find the root cause of a problem rather than addressing the symptoms. It's a philosophy that isn't as prevalent in our medical industry. It sometimes seems that doctors are more apt to prescribe a pill or recommend surgery to address the symptoms before figuring out the real problem. (Don't believe me? Read Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Dr. Atul Gawande!)

A few years ago I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. If you don't know what it is, it's essentially an inflammation of the fascia (connective tissue) on the bottom of your feet. It was excruciating! You wake up in the morning and you don't want to put your feet on the ground because you know how badly it's going to hurt. My doctor told me I was going to have to get used to the condition and work to mitigate the pain. He recommended that I stretch my feet every morning before I get out of bed. If the pain got really bad, the next step would be a big cumbersome brace that I would have to wear while I sleep to keep my foot flexed. I would have to cut back on the fitness classes I was teaching because he thought the impact was causing the problem. I was facing a lifetime of pain and limited mobility.

Suffice it to say that I didn't like the assessment. My engineering brain couldn't wrap itself around the fact that the stretching and boot were dealing with the symptom; but what was causing the problem? I started doing research and realized that everyone in the medical industry says the same thing. You can find boots and sleeves and wraps and splints... There are books and creams and lotions... Everyone has something to sell you, but everyone will tell you up front: plantar fasciitis can't be cured.

A month or so later, I happened across The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Claire Davies. He believes that the overwhelming majority of musculoskeletal conditions are caused by myofascial trigger points (in its simplest form, it's a knot in the middle of a muscle where the muscle fibers have bound themselves up and will not release) and are mis-diagnosed. At the same time, I was speaking with a non-medical colleague who told me that the inflammation was just a symptom that was masking the root cause; in order to find the cause, I would have to slow the inflammation down for a little bit by taking some anti-inflammatories. When the inflammation dissipated, I paid close attention to my body and felt a dull but constant twinge in my calf. I started to perform self-myofascial release on my calf and within two days, the twinge was gone. With it, the excruciating pain disappeared...

That was almost exactly 4 years ago and I have never had a problem with plantar fasciitis since. I have continued to teach group fitness and continued to do all the physical things I love.

What does this have to do with Unsteady State? My takeaway from this was that it's easy to get caught up in the symptoms of a problem. Whether it's a mechanical system, a piece of software, or the human body, those symptoms can sometimes call a lot of attention to themselves. But more often than not, they're just hiding that little loose wire or that trigger point in your calf, and it's up to us to find the cause. It's a way of thinking that is not taught in this world of instantaneous gratification. We're always looking for the magic button and we immediately gravitate towards the big, flashy symptoms.

In case you were wondering, Claire Davies' book actually says that trigger points can cause "referred pain" in places in the body far away from where the actual trigger point lies. The body is an incredible system and everything is inter-related. And trigger points aren't really part of the typical med school curriculum, although they've been documented for about 150 years. That's why doctors commonly mis-diagnose musculoskeletal problems.

Ever had a similar experience? What do you think? Sound off. Join the conversation and let me know what's on your mind...

Cut the Cord

I've been thinking about this for a long time. I've been wracking my brain over this for a while now. It's far from an easy decision, but one that makes a lot of sense. I think I'm going to give up... my cable subscription. "What??" "You can't be serious!"

I can hear the responses in my head. We've all become so incredibly addicted to having our myriad of cable channels that to some, the thought of giving it all up is bordering on obscene. But along with that addiction comes a hefty price. If I could pay only for the channels & shows that I actually watch (like NBC's The Blacklist, Comedy Central's South Park, and Discovery's Shark Week) rather than the stuff that takes up space on my tuner (like HSN, QVC, or CMT), I would gladly maintain my subscription.

This weekend, my TiVo kicked the bucket and precipitated a long philosophical debate: to cut the cord or maintain the status quo. Cutting the cord would definitely push my unsteady state...

On which side of the debate do you land? Any ideas that would make either option more palatable? Sound off and I'll let you know how I fare... And don't forget to follow me on Twitter: @ultrasmoov

A sandwich and some advice...

I was at my favorite sub shop over the weekend grabbing a healthy snack. For those of you that aren't already familiar with Jimmy John's, they absolutely rock! The whole premise is that they get you your food fast. Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily encourage folks to go Cookie Monster all over the plain subs there; the fitness professional in me wouldn't condone that. But earlier this summer, I discovered the UN-WICH! They take all of the great meats and fillings from their regular subs and throw it in a lettuce wrap. Now we're talking!

Anyway, I was waiting for my sub to come down the assembly line and I happened to notice one of the multitude of posters that they have with all kinds of advice and humor. They borrowed from Warren Buffet's "10 Ways to Get Rich". (You can read the full text here.)

While getting rich isn't necessarily the end-all, a lot of the stuff on the list is good, common sense advice.

My favs?

1. Reinvest your Profits: It doesn't have to be money. If you gain some knowledge about yourself, your environment, or anything, apply it! Don't be satisfied with the status quo. Take your experience and use it to create a new plateau from which you can climb to the next level.

2. Be Willing to be Different: There's only one you. Relish your individuality. Keep being; keep learning; keep growing.

5. Watch Small Expenses: Whether it's time or money, the little details count. Why spend either unnecessarily only to not have enough for the things that matter later on?

10. Know What Success Really Means: He nails it on the head here.

What do you think? Sound off. Join the conversation!

Appreciating Value

I enjoy shopping at Target. OK, I've admitted it. It's great to be able to make one stop and get everything you could possibly need. I can get milk, bacon, protein powder, a laminating machine, an HDMI cable, and a new set of towels all under one roof! If that's not convenient, I don't know what is... Even more important is that all Targets have a similar layout and similar offerings. This means that no matter if you're in Tuscaloosa, AL or Bozeman, MO, when you walk into Target, it feels like you're in your local store. Trust me when I say that my fellow trainers and road warriors appreciate and take full advantage of this!

As I was waiting in line to pay for the spoils of my latest trip, I saw a little boy try to sneak a toy into his mom's shopping cart. Busted! Mom picked up the toy and asked: "Don't you already have one of these?" In a very matter-of-fact way, the little boy said, "I broke it." I started shaking my head. Dude, don't you know that's not how you ask for toys?? You don't lead by saying you broke it; that's the kiss of death!

I brace myself for the tantrum that's about to start. I overhear mom say, "Oh, ok." EXCUSE ME?? She put the toy on the belt and proceeded to pay for the purchases. WHAT?? I can't believe what I'm seeing. That's not the way it's supposed to go down... Or have I become so out of touch with the world?

Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of extra money. If we broke a toy, we didn't get to buy a replacement. As a result, we tried to make everything last. To this day, I still take good care of everything and it bothers me when something is broken or in disrepair.

As I thought more about the kid and his mom, I started to think about the culture that we have. With technology, better manufacturing, and globalization, we're able to make things more cheaply than ever before. Big box stores like Wal-Mart, Amazon, and even my favorite, Target, have streamlined distribution so that those cheap goods are readily available to consumers. As a result of cheap manufacturing and sometimes, planned obsolescence, these goods don't last long and aren't easy to repair. All of this means it's easier to buy a new item when something goes wrong. And if we're going to end up buying something new anyway, what's the point of taking care of what we have? "Use it, abuse it, and throw it away" is the mantra that's sprouted from our convenience.

It's not just the obvious environmental issues that I'm concerned about. I'm more worried about the pervasive mentality that starts with this culture. When we are used to throwing things away, where do we draw the line? Is it ok to throw away a dirty shower curtain? How about an older-model flat-screen tv? A car that we haven't maintained properly? Do we get rid of a pet that doesn't behave? How about an aging family member? I'm not literally saying that I'm seeing Fluffy or someone's grandparents in a dumpster, but the mentality is there to easily drop a pet off at the pound or a grandparent at a nursing home and never worry about it. When you get into the habit of throwing things away, habits become awfully hard to break. But when do we take responsibility and make the effort to take better care of things? When do we realize that there's a price to be paid for our convenience? We can easily replace anything, so we value nothing.

As I stood in line at Target, I started to question whether I really needed that new laminating machine and new towels. My old towels work just fine and as cool as it would be to laminate some sheets that I regularly use at trainings, I could just as easily do it at Kinko's or Staples. I guess if I want to change the culture, I have to be more proactive about my own behaviors. Change starts with each of us.

What do you think? Sound off. Join the conversation.

Weekend lessons

Just got back from another weekend module. I am a national trainer for a couple of fitness companies and I spend weekends showing people how to be group fitness instructors. To some, it's just another job and to others, they wonder why I would want to "squander" my weekends. For me, it's worth the time that I'm giving up. It's something that means something to me and it's no different than anyone else passionate about their weekend hobby... The cool thing is I get to meet a lot of people doing this. You'd be surprised by the wide range of people who decide they want to be group fitness instructors! Young, old, fitness junkies, and fitness newbies... Worked with 'em all... And I've been really fortunate because I've learned just as much from all of the folks in trainings as I've taught them.

This weekend I did a Les Mills training and had the opportunity to meet several new instructors who had either quit their careers to pursue a passion in fitness or who were putting themselves through this as a way to break out of their routine. It is so inspiring to see people who recognize the need for change and who do something about it. Too often, we're paralyzed by fear: fear of inadequacy, fear of failure, or fear of change. It takes some big brass ones to hand in your resignation with just the thought that you might try a career in fitness. Or to put yourself in a completely foreign situation because you recognize that you want to grow. It's the ultimate embodiment of unsteady state. And it's why I travel after work on Fridays and get up at the crack of dawn on weekends. I love what I do...

The right direction

So since I had a post about getting lost, I think it's appropriate that we  should talk about how to get back on track. When we're physically lost, we look for  landmarks that we may recognize, like a tree or a particular road sign or a familiar store, depending on where you are. The best landmarks are up in the sky. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. The stars can provide cues to get us back on track as well.

In much the same way, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of our hectic lives and lose our way. It's helpful to have a landmark that we can rely on when we get lost. For me, that is my personal mission statement. Who am I? What am I doing? How do I deal with others? When I'm in the middle of a confusing situation, an ambiguous moment, or an opportunity to try something new, I go back to my mission statement to get my bearings.

"Aren't mission statements something that companies have?" you ask. Sure. Companies have turnover and new people come in. The mission statement is the company's way of ensuring continuity.

As people, we don't have to worry about continuity, but it's easy to get pulled in different directions nowadays. It's easy to forget where you want to go, what you want to do, and who you are. That's where having a personal mission statement comes in handy. It's a roadmap that you create for yourself.

And it's an interesting exercise on its own. How often do we take the time to really meditate on what we want to accomplish? Without knowing this, we're just fluttering around aimlessly from situation to situation. Without a long-term vision, you don't know if you're going to get where you want to go. It's like trying to hit a bulls-eye without seeing the target!

Try it out. The next time you lose your way, you'll be glad that you left yourself a trail of breadcrumbs...

New language

dukeSo, we've been fostering a sick kitten from the animal shelter. We found him roaming around the parking lot and took him in to get looked at. He's an incredibly curious little guy who has made it his mission to get into as much as he can. I'm finding kitten hair on everything. And nothing beats the way he chases his favorite Yoda toy around the living room! Heck, he's even learning to use the toilet! Take that, Mr. Jinx! About a week-and-a-half with our new 6-month old roommate and his youthful energy started to pose some problems. We started to find out that he loves getting up at 5am. I get up early for work as it is, but 5am is a bit before my alarm clock goes off. We tried keeping him in the spare bathroom overnight, but he just decided to start yelling at us... The most pathetic, whiny, "please come save me from my miserable existence" meow that you can't sleep through.

We started out by coming over and playing with him for a while, then putting him back and going back to sleep. But multiple 5am mornings takes its toll on you. It turned into a quick pop into the bathroom, a "what's wrong?", a little petting, and then back to bed. Then it became "be quiet", play a little bit, and back to bed. Then it devolved into throwing some food in the bowl, telling him to "shut up" and back to sleep. Through it all, he was nothing  if not consistent.

I thought I was a smart guy. But here I was in my sleep-depraved stupor, wondering how this sly kitten was getting the best of me. And it clicked... He's just a cat... We had gotten used to him and we had started talking to him as if he knew what we were saying. Pet owners do that. And for his part, he followed around and acted like he understood us. So, when we got out of bed to pet him and tell him to stop meowing, we thought we were doing the right thing by comforting him and getting him to quiet down. But the moment we left the bathroom, he's be back at it.

The obvious thing I realized is he doesn't speak English! But more importantly, our actions didn't line up with our intentions; we were sending him mixed signals. We wanted him to stop waking us up at the crack of dawn, but every time he meowed, we responded with a visit. Even though we would pet him and say "No", in his mind, all he needed to do to get some attention was meow for a bit and we'd come running. Without the benefit of language, all he had was our actions, which told him that if he cried long enough, we'd be there to reassure him.

It occurred to me that we humans are a pretty crazy lot. We do this even with other people, who DO speak the same language. How often do we say one thing, but our body language contradicts what we say? Or worse, we actually take actions that betray what we say. Like a bad tell in poker, our actions are giving us away. No wonder we have such a tough time communicating with one another.

As I strive to find my unsteady state, I commit to trying to consciously line up my actions with my words. Consistency in words and deeds removes confusion and makes it easier for people to understand my message.

Will this help my 5am problem? I'll let you know...

Let me know what you think. Join the conversation...

Re-calculating

I have a navigation system in my car. When I first got it, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. With a few quick keystrokes, I can have the dulcet sounds of Charlize (yeah, that's what I call her...) guiding me to my destination.

At first, it was a lifesaver. I travel a lot and frequently find myself in unfamiliar locations. Nothing gives me confidence in a strange town like Charlize telling me where to go.

I got so accustomed to it that I started using her EVERYWHERE - even when I was traveling around my own neighborhood. If I was in a hurry - Charlize! If I was heading to a strange part of town - Charlize!

Pretty soon, I started to realize that I was having trouble with basic navigation. It turns out, I am not alone.

I did some research.  I learned that GPS use can actually reduce the size and functionality of the part of the brain (the posterior hippocampus) responsible for memory and navigation. This area of the brain is also one of the first parts affected at the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. [Edwards (2010, November 18). Study suggests reliance on GPS may reduce hippocampus function as we age. PhysOrg.com. Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://phys.org/news/2010-11-reliance-gps-hippocampus-function-age.html]

Another study shows that cab drivers in London have larger hippocampi. They have to go through extensive training in one of the world's most complex cities in order to be licensed. Navigating the crazy streets of London appears to create more brain cells in the very same areas that the GPS is shrinking. [Woollett K and Maguire EA. Acquiring 'the Knowledge' of London's layout drives structural brain changes. Curr Biol 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/News/Media-office/Press-releases/2011/WTVM053658.htm]

This is a perfect example of "use it or lose it". Relying on technology means we aren't exercising portions of our brains. It's making us stupid and possibly putting us at risk for truly debilitating disease.

What do we do about this? First off, it should be pretty clear that we need to ween ourselves off the GPS! If we're not lost and we don't need to use it, we shouldn't.

More importantly, we have to realize that our bodies are made to be used in certain ways. The brain needs stimulation as much as your muscles need exercise. When we rely on the comfortable and avoid challenging ourselves, our bodies begin to shrink and atrophy.

I've made the conscious decision to distance myself from Charlize. I try to use her only when necessary and I've even gone back to printing directions from Google maps so I can plot the course in my head. It's a much lonelier trip nowadays, but the company wasn't worth the price I would have to pay.

Have similar experiences? Join the conversation!

Motivation

For those of you who have been following me on Facebook for a while, you're probably used to seeing the daily quote on my page. I've always found it valuable in my own life to read some of these things. It's not so much about who says these things, but the message that's conveyed. There's wisdom to be gleaned from others' words, experiences, and philosophies. After all, we're all sharing this experience and if someone can offer some insight that can make our time better and more fulfilling, by all means, we should take it! When a particular quote resonates with us, it connects us to the human experience and makes us feel a bit less like we're on our own. One quote that I revisit often is attributed to Jack London, though it may not necessarily be his entirely:

I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.

This is really the perfect visual that comes to my mind for my philosophy of the Unsteady State.

  • Imagine an athlete that has all the skills and raw talent to be the best, but plays it safe on the field of play, never realizes his/her potential, and never leaves an impression on his sport...
  • Imagine a glorious (and expensive!) vintage of red wine sitting in your wine rack for the perfect occasion. It sits there so long that it turns to vinegar and you never get the opportunity to enjoy it...

It's so easy to get caught in the steady state, a situation that is comfortable, safe, and doesn't change. Nobody likes change! But life is not about merely existing. And in order to live, we have to introduce and accept change.

Change doesn't have to mean running off and becoming a hermit or completely changing your life as you currently know it... Change can be as simple as taking a class, starting a new hobby, saying "hi" to that person down the hall that you never really bothered to meet.

There is even evidence that leading a more active cognitive lifestyle (i.e. - doing things that make you think rather than hanging out on autopilot) has physically measurable benefits on your brain! [Elsevier (2012, April 25). Protecting your brain: 'Use it or lose it'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/04/120425094358.htm]

We have to make the effort to expand our horizons. The old adage "if you're not living, you're dying" couldn't be any simpler or more true.

How do we move towards finding our Unsteady State? I've got some key things we can do that I'll be sharing in future blogs...

What do you think? Join the conversation.

Gravitas & Gravity

Over the weekend, I indulged in a little Me-time... I went down to the local IMAX theater and got lost in space with Sandra Bullock for an hour-and-a-half. Alfonso Cuaron's new movie "Gravity" was something to behold. I can't even begin to express how gorgeous the cinematography was. True, there were some inaccuracies as Neil DeGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) has pointed out. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful picture with a compelling story. After having some time to digest it, I keep getting drawn back to just how fragile life is. A spacesuit is all that separates an astronaut from the vacuum of space. Life exists in that spacesuit and it is pushing out the lifelessness that surrounds it.

In much the same way, we are all living in this atmospheric bubble around a big rock. Life as we know it exists on this side of the tropopause and doesn't on the other. It's such an amazing thing that we take for granted as we get caught up in our daily routine.

There is so much to experience here inside our bubble... And there aren't any rainchecks... Are you going to explore your world? What have you always wanted to do, but were afraid to try? Be a terranaut! Get out there and discover what this world has to offer!

Beginnings

There's an ancient Chinese proverb by Lao Tzu that says "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” And so it begins for me... With some not-so-gentle nudging, I embrace my own unsteady state and take my first step to enter the blog-o-sphere. It's not without some kicking and screaming and a bit of trepidation. For many reasons, it's been my desire to avoid being in any headlines! So this first step has been a hard one.

But it's what happens when your significant other is a successful Internet entrepreneur... It's what happens when friends look to you for advice... It's what happens when you come to the conclusion that playing it safe isn't always the right thing to do...

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” - Anais Nin

This time, I took everyone else's advice and left my comfortable existence off the grid. I'm looking forward to sharing thoughts and starting new conversations with you. My plan is to start by trying to update weekly, but who knows where we'll end up. If you have any questions about Unsteady State or things you'd like to see, drop me a line.

Cheers!