JeansOne day, I needed new pants. The jeans I’d been wearing were so torn up I was ashamed to wear them. I went to Macy’s and bought the jeans I thought I should own: Levi’s 501s.

I was so enamored of the label that I didn’t even consider other options, determined to fit into this arbitrary definition of ‘cool’ even if it felt miserable, which it did.

I have weird proportions. I’m tall and lanky with a narrow waist, which is difficult enough (try finding 31×34 pants anywhere). Add to that the fact that my thighs and glutes are big for my size thanks to weightlifting and I’m impossible to fit. I felt like the Tin Man.

But I stubbornly biked around in my Real Jeans, feeling good about my authentic denim and that little red tag.

Until the hip pain started and I had to admit that I couldn’t sacrifice my comfort to fit into a pair of pants.

There was one pair of pants I’ve owned that actually felt and looked really good. They were prAna jeans, which I could get from a local store. They were expensive, had spandex in them, and were so self-consciously stylish, there was no way I could wear them, but I decided to try them on anyway. …Read More

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The Adventure Next Door

January 27, 2015

mundane

I recently visited the Hemingway House in Key West, where I got to see glimpses of the life of a very interesting man. He lived during a period full of historically significant events, but walking through his house, I could imagine the years crawling quietly by, much as they seem to in my own home.

Hemingway, however, didn’t just hang out at home. His walls were full of photos of places he’d been and things he’d done, artifacts from his travels, and all the indicators of a life well-spent.

I imagine that the average person in 1940, when Hemingway published For Whom the Bell Tolls, thought it was a fairly mundane time. There was a world war going on, sure, but we in America have essentially been at war since 2001, and in 1940, mainland America had never been directly threatened.

Looking back, 1940 seems like a romantic era full of heroes and drama, but in reality, it was the individuals, like Hemingway, who brought the heroism and drama to the times. I imagine he would have thought our time was full to the brim with adventure. …Read More

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I came across a study recently looking at the relationship between stress and health. The study uncovered a relationship between high levels of stress and premature death, but only when those suffering the high stress also believed that stress was bad for them.

What I thought interesting is that the group that didn’t believe stress was negative still experienced the same amount of stress. They just didn’t die from it.

You can view the full study here.

In another study, it was shown that children who are praised for “being smart” exhibit less motivation on harder tasks. After a failure, they then became demotivated, giving up more easily and enjoying the task less. These negative effects were not seen among children praised for “working hard.”

Here’s that study.

What you believe about yourself and the world has very real and measurable effects on your health, your performance, and your overall well-being.

It matters.

I’m posting this in relationship to this week’s other post, in which I shared a 10-minute morning routine aimed at altering mindset. Even I called it ‘new agey’ in a derogatory way, and I realized that comment may have trivialized how important it is. I was apologizing for the fact that the exercise is all internal work when in reality I should have emphasized how significant that realm really is.

As the saying from the Upanishads goes:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.

I worry that we tend to get fixated on actions and external results. This can be great because it helps us see when particular thoughts are producing the desired results, but the mindset can also lead us to trivialize the importance of thoughts.

Take some time to think about your beliefs about yourself and your world. Do you think certain categories of people are evil or untrustworthy? Do you consider yourself smart, dumb, a hard worker, or lazy? Do you think of yourself as attractive or awkward? Or both?

KC***

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watchImagine what your life would be like and what you’d accomplish if you started every day full of passion, purpose and drive. Not just a few days a month, or a few hours of each day, but every hour of every day.

You’re probably thinking that’d be great, but it’s not realistic. After all, moods and mindsets are fickle, and people are either born with drive or they’re not, right?

I found myself asking the same question recently, and I decided to see if I could find an answer.

In all my research on high achieving individuals, from the ultra-wealthy to the ultra-accomplished, I noticed that the biggest difference was their mindset. They ask different kinds of questions and see the world in a different way than the majority of people.

For an example of this, check out Sal Khan’s interview of Elon Musk.

It dawned on me that an essential technique for increasing people’s capabilities was to find a way for them to consistently elevate their mindset. Each day spent in a state of openness to possibility compounds on the previous ones.

The problem is, for most of us, our mindset is determined by our mood, which is often determined by the events of the day.

I needed a way to make sure that every day started with an empowered mindset. …Read More

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What a discouraging headline for a blog post, right? Stick with me though, I promise you’ll have something interesting to think about.

When I was transforming my fitness and my body, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I cringe remembering all the things I did wrong and all the ways I could have hurt myself.

But I also remember how determined I was. I was willing to do anything and everything necessary to accomplish my goals. I never hesitated, I never held back, and I never succumbed to paralysis by analysis. I had complete faith that I would achieve my goals, mainly because I didn’t know any better.

Sure, doubts occasionally surfaced. I wondered if I just wasn’t built to be fit, that I simply could never do the things I wanted to, that they were too dangerous, or too hard, or too whatever. But I ignored those thoughts because, even if they were true, I would never know until I tried, and I would get a lot further without them anyway.

The result was that, despite making a lot of mistakes, I actually did accomplish my goals. Eventually, I got to the point where I needed to have better strategies — I actually needed to know what I was doing — but I got a surprisingly long way running on pure passion. I made a fool of myself, I offended others (not intentionally), I injured myself, I inspired others, and I transformed myself.

Often, we refuse to believe that we can do something until we are absolutely sure that we know the right way to do it.

The result is endless research and ultimately, hesitation.

Classic example: never starting an exercise program because you can’t settle on the perfect one.

Believing you can do something, or at least that you can learn as you go, is the essential ingredient. And if you do 90% wrong with enough determination and a willingness to change course as you grow, you will make a lot more progress than the other guy who refuses to take the first step until he’s figured out the perfect way to do it.

This technique applies in the large scale, not the small scale. The best way to win at chess is to think carefully about your moves. The best way to get good at thinking about your moves is to play a lot of games, make mistakes, and decide you’re going to do the work to get good, whether or not you “have a head for chess.” Study all the books you want, but you’ll still get farther with mediocre strategies and a lot of practice than you will with excellent strategies and zero game time.

Remember, when I started training, I was a scrawny, asthmatic, pasty, 145 lb kid. I learned from fitness magazines. Fitness magazines! I hate fitness magazines! I wrote an entire book on why fitness magazines are a terrible place to get fitness advice. But that’s how I started. I would have been stuck if I settled for what I was getting, but I had my eye on a bigger goal. But I know I got better because I cared, not because I found awesome advice.

And yes, I know the saying, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” But to learn what perfect practice looks like, you have to get through the imperfect.

Being able to work through the imperfect requires an obsession with your goal, a willingness to try, to test, to adjust, and to constantly pursue excellence. It is constant pursuit of an ever-moving target.

Which is why it is hard. Until it becomes your normal.

This is starting to sound like a Nike commercial, so I’m done. Leave a comment.

KC (***

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Elevate Your Normal

January 14, 2015

normal

I’m…a guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down. – Psy, Gangnam Style

I recently began running in the snow wearing only a t-shirt, light pants, and my minimalist shoes. Air temperatures here in Boulder have been 34 degrees at the warmest, and down around 23 this morning.

Every morning, I look wistfully at my warm hoodie and gloves as I pull on my thin shirt and head out the door.

But when I step outside, I’m always surprised at how bearable the cold is. And when I start running, I heat up really fast. In fact, by wearing so little clothing, I heat up even more than I would otherwise as my body works to combat the cold. I find I’m actually quite comfortable.

Everyone else is bundled up (if they’re running at all) while I’m out for a refreshing morning jog in a t-shirt. I pass runners who look at me like I’m crazy.

But for me, this has become normal.

The message I’m sending myself: I’m not the kind of person who is intimidated, or even slowed down, by small discomforts. That’s my normal. That’s just how I operate now (at least in terms of bad weather).

Normal is what’s expected. It is unsurprising, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to believe that normal is what you’re going to get.

What is normal for you? What’s your baseline, standard operating procedure?

For some people, normal is another day at the office. For others, normal is two flights and three countries in a week. For others, normal is sitting on the side of the road holding a cardboard sign. It’s not frustrating or scary. It’s not hard to believe in. It’s just normal.

Personally, for some, normal is keeping their mouth shut, playing it safe, avoiding the gym, and staying in the lines. For other people, normal is facing fears, taking on new challenges, pushing themselves, surprising themselves, and that’s just…normal.

Most people take normal at face value. They don’t think that “normal” can change, even though it probably has several times in their lives.

How can you elevate your normal?

  • Learn to solve those wicked Rubix cubes that have more than 3×3 blocks.
  • Become a nationally ranked chess player.
  • Memorize a Shakespeare play, or any other piece of classical literature.
  • Learn how to tell amazing stories to kids at the local library.
  • Commit to cooking a five course meal every night.
  • Hike up a mountain once a week.
  • Learn gymnastics or Parkour (when your normal includes the ability to do a standing backflip, you’ll gain a very different perspective on life).

None of these are that hard. They just sound hard. But with the right planning, and maybe a few lessons and a bit of practice, they become your normal.

But when you start to do them, and you find that your reality now includes a weekly hike up a mountain, or hosting a get together for your friends that becomes the cornerstone of their week, it starts to shift your perception of who you are and what you consider normal for yourself.

And when your idea of Normal is someone else’s idea of extraordinary, you inspire, you start to shift what’s possible, and you elevate the kind of person you are, and thus the kind of life you are going to lead.

And when your Normal is extraordinary, just imagine what your Exceptional could be.

Where can you shift your reality? How can you elevate your normal?

KC***

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My 2015 Strategy Part 3: Specific, Measurable, Actions

January 9, 2015

The last part of the new year planning series. Create actions you can visualize and that you control.

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My 2015 Strategy Part 2: The Logistics of Being Awesome

January 6, 2015

Excellent world-shattering dreams are all well and good, but do you have the energy and time to support them? Logistics. Matter.

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My 2015 Strategy Part 1: Dreams and Aspirations

January 1, 2015

Setting a course for 2015, I started with focusing on my life mission and setting goals to move me there.

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Strategies for Success in 2015

December 30, 2014

The keys to good resolutions: a clear mission/purpose, solid strategy, and actionable goals. Make 2015 a year to remember.

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