Superhero Learning: Go Slow

[Note: This post was originally posted as just a draft. Well, it was hardly a draft, it was a sentence that I was going to write about later. Oops. You can now read the full post here]I've been pushing hard with the Superhero Challenge lately. I miss the odd thing here and there but for the most part it's going well.One of the biggest challenges with a new challenge is habits. Habits stand in the way of us now and that bright and shiny, new person at the end of the challenge that has broken all their old, bad habits and is soaked in new, uber-productive ones.Of course that rarely happens when you do a challenge. Big changes are often incremental but they can still add up to big things in the end.One of the ways to adjust these awesome (terrible?) habits is to be mindful about them. It's not a great long term strategy to be mindful about all of your habits in an effort to change them because that would require you to be "on" 100% of the time and alert for signs of habits happening. That's really hard to do. You can do it some of the time though. There is one time in particular I've noticed where it's very difficult to be mindful of your habits and what you're doing.Don't rushThe first thing to go out the window when you rush around is mindfullness about what you are doing. Most of the time when you are rushing around it's because you're late or you want to get on with the next thing you had on your todo list. That's the last time you'll be truly focusing on what you are doing and evaluating it. Slowing down to evaluate is exactly what you need to be doing when you want to change a habit or behaviour.Go slowBeing mindful can happen when you are moving fast but it's tough. I find it easier to move slower when I'm being very mindful about what I'm doing. Just the act of moving slower than I normally would reminds me that I'm doing something different. I'm not moving out of habit. I'm not engaging automatically. I'm moving deliberately. I'm making slow, thoughtful decisions and doing exactly the things I want to do. You wouldn't do this every 100% of the time because it would take your ages to get anything done but in the initial stages of a habit change it might just be the thing that knocks you of your habits and routines and sheds like on the very behaviours  you want to change.Going slow is the last thing you want to do when you are learning something new but it might be the best thing you could do.

Superhero Challenge: Lesson 1 - Sleep and Journaling are Non-Negotiables

These last couple weeks have been a bit of a blur. I'm up to my eyeballs in the Superhero Challenge.Things are going well with it and I'm hitting my goal measurements pretty much every day. I had no idea what my scores were going to be like after things got rolling. Obviously I hoped to blast right through and not even have an issue with any of it but some of the numbers have been challenging to get each day. 2 things popped out right away as the foundation of this challenge. Without them, I'm completely lost.Good SleepNo sleep = no challenge. Simple as that. Without good sleep every night, I feel useless. I feel scattered, have no patience, and haven't got much willpower. If I could sleep in late I'd be fine but I get up at 5 on weekdays. Just getting up at 5 without adequate sleep is an epic task. Trying to do a bunch of writing and a workout just after 5 in the morning without adequate sleep is hopeless.I'm focusing much more on sleep than I was before. I knew it was important but thought it could slide a bit without much harm. I was wrong.JournalingKeeping my journal in front of me throughout the day has been the only reason I've remembered to do some of the things on my list. The CrossFit Challenge with 2014 dips, pushups and pullups is proving to be one of the toughest things. I can't do 70 pushups at once right now so I have to break them up. That means 10 or 15 at a time. Doing 10 pushups is easy. Remembering to do 7 sets of 10 over the course of the day when there's already lots to do is much harder.Focusing on my checklist in my journal has been the only reason I've gotten as far as I have. I've still missed things here and there, inevitably when I haven't looked at my journal for a while.Till next update...CommentsHow do you find sleep affects your big goals?

The 2014 Superhero Challenge

Resolutions? Ick.January is a time for resolutions. I've always hated resolutions, but not because they aren't a challenge or they don't make your life better or they aren't fun. Resolutions just seem to  have such negative connotations for most people. Making a commitment at the beginning of the year to make your life better in one small way could be such a good idea but most people never follow through.  Most resolution talk 1 month into a new year inevitably ends up with "I've already broken mine" or "I'm doomed to fail. Why start?"I've always set resolutions but I've never made a solid commitment to them all year long, until now, I've never made resolutions that were actually doable and I actually really wanted. They are fun for a bit and then it's back to normal, comfortable life.I read a great blog post on resolution tips for entrepreneurs recently and this fits in well with one of the tips: Get uncomfortable.My resolutions this year are going to be uncomfortable. Let's get into it.

What is the Superhero Challenge?

I'm a firm believer in hormesis which is the idea that when you push your body it will adapt to what small stresses you put on it. Lots of stress every day is definitely bad and leads to me freaking out and doing absolutely nothing for a few days while I recover. Little stresses here and there, lead to better adaptation and systems to handle them.All of the things in the challenge I've been working on in one way or another, and this is just a concerted push to the next level for each of them. They aren't brand new to me. Why not do them all at the same time?Time is the huge limiter, but when you want to do something and you don't have enough time, you hack it down to make it fit, right? I like living the multipotentialite or autodidact life and doing a lot of different things so I've come to the conclusion that I'm just going to have to learn how to work faster, not do less.Every part of this challenge is about getting healthier and working more on things I love. Instead of dragging on a slow shift in my life to doing more of what I love, I'd rather just upend the entire system of my life and reset things. What better time to do that than at the beginning of a new year. 

How this Challenge is going to work

All my past resolutions have failed because I forgot about them. They were were never integrated into my life in any way. There were no reminders. There was no incentives to keep going. There were no stakes if I failed. There was no measurement. All the things you are supposed to do to keep proper goals over a long term, I did none of them. No none of them lasted longer than a few weeks.Journaling has changed all that. I've never journaled before in my life but writing almost every day in 2013 changed that completely. I didn't get to journal every single day but I made it to 270 entries. I have a notebook in Evernote that all the entries go into, one for each day, and I can add to it over the day from any device I'm on. This completely changed journaling for me. I regularly write over 2000 words.For this challenge, I keep a list of what I'm measuring on my goals at the top of each journal entry. I add to them over the day when I complete something. Keeping this list in front of my face all day every day is the only way it's all going to get done. Best part of all is that I write down all my ideas for making it work better the next day right there in my journal. I'm bringing out my implementation intentions in force.All the goals have measurements. Each day will have measurements.  Each day I have a number I want to hit for something, or zero for something I'm stopping. I'm trying hard to not make any judgements when I miss a day on something, just write the number for the day and move on. I used to beat myself up for not getting something perfect the first time. Now I realize that's a ridiculous expectation, especially for something this hard. Measuring progress is very important for motivation. If I don't see any numbers, I'd probably stop within a few days. Counting down the days until I'm finished is a huge pull for me.Here's what's in the challenge. 

The List: What's in this crazy challenge?

Daily JournalingThis is the foundation of the challenge. Not only is it strengthening my journaling habit, it's also how I keep track and remember everything I'm doing each day. The challenge activities aren't hugely time consuming but there are a lot of them.  Without looking at my journal every day, I don't think any of this would happen. This is one of the year long goals. I'm aiming for over 300 journal entries this year.Daily WritingJournaling and writing are a big part of this challenge. Some of it will be in my journal, some will be for sections of one of the websites. I'll be working on at least one article every day. I had the grand vision of publishing an article a day but with my limited amount of time, that's not going to happen. Every few days, I'll be able to put out an article or section of a new Epic Guide I'm working on. This exercise is to help keep organized, get my thoughts out of my head and down on paper, and create digital products and blog post for PureOutside. This will most likely continue at some level all year.Daily MeditationMeditation has slowly grown into something I'm seeing everywhere but haven't had the patience to really put into practice myself. By some accounts, it's the wonder drug, and solves many different problems (usually ones that are mostly in your head). Like all things, the benefits come after regular practice so that's what this will start. This is another goal that will continue all year.Daily ExerciseI'm pretty good at exercising regularly but it can get tough with so much going on sometimes. I stretch and do a basic workout in the mornings and then head to CrossFit after work 2 times a week. I'm at least walking the dog after work most days but sometimes it's a run. A few years back I got sick of doing a ton of exercising over the summer, only to lose it all in the winter plus 10 pounds. I told myself I'd never do that again, and that winter was for continuing my exercise and working out, not reversing it. My goal is to be ahead of where I was last year before summer starts so that I can progress even further.Strict PaleoStrict paleo for 2 months. No gluten, no dairy. Some sweet potatoes to keep up the carbs for working out. My goal is to stay off the rice as well but we'll see how my workouts go. If I'm tanking every workout then I'll have to work something back in. I did a strict paleo challege for 6 weeks last year and it was fantastic... after the first week. Once we got our process and recipes sorted it worked well.No coffeeThis is going to be the hardest thing on the list. I sit in front of a computer all day around a bunch of coffee drinkers. It's excruciating sometimes keeping myself away from it. The caffeine draw goes away but the rest of the habits that go along with coffee drinking are pretty fierce. That combined with every story I read comes from some freelancer or entrepreneur in a coffee shop somewhere with their Macbook Pro, moleskin note book and, you guessed it, a coffee. Apparently the writing world runs on coffee.8 hours sleepGetting up at 5am is great if you can get to bed early enough. Last year I started getting up at 5am but was still up late. That definitely doesn't work. To shift your wake up time you have to shift your bed time. The coffee was making it more difficult so now that that's out, it's much easier to get to sleep at a decent hour. This one takes constant vigilance. If I stop thinking about it, I'm instantly back in my old routine.No procrastinationProcrastination is evil and it can creep into everything stalling projects, killing momentum and preventing anything from moving forward. If you can nip procrastination in the bud and push through before it even can come up, then you're well on your way to getting a ton of stuff done. I'm trying out the Getting Things Done method of doing something right away if it's going to take less than two minutes.Planning the next dayPart of each days journal is a section about the plan for the next day. This helps find problems before they happen and smooth the way for each of the things I'm trying to do in the challenge. When you pre-organize everything, you run into far fewer problems. The times when you're in a rush and things just aren't working are when you are going to say screw it and toss those resolutions in the trash. If you can organize everything before-hand your day will go more smoothly.Book ReadingI read like crazy already, blog posts, books, magazines, anything I can get my hands on. Good ideas have to have a good base and books are the best. I used to think blog posts would take over the world but after trying to seriously learn complex new skills and ideas by blog post I tossed that idea. Blog posts are fragmented ideas. They are great when they are organized into something bigger showing the whole picture but so few people do that. Books are whole ideas. They show the whole picture. They give you the background, all the steps, all the information. The problem with books is they take so long to read. My goal for the challenge is to actually finish a bunch of the books I've started.Slowing down and relaxingRushing all the time doesn't mean you'll be more productive. It really just means you'll be more stressed. I'm learning that now. Moving slowly and intentionally is far better than flailing. You probably get more done in the long run too because you're not redoing all the things you flailed through. Even typing and walking slower than usual reminds me of this idea. I write out stories of times during the day where I catch myself rushing and slowing down in my journal.January CrossFit Challenge2014 pullups, pushups and dips. That's the challenge for January at the CrossFit Nanaimo gym. Our combined total for the month of pullups, puhups and dips should be over 2,014 reps. This is about 70 per day minus a few. I'm front-loading them when I can because I know I'll miss a few here and there. The challenge with this is one is doing them throughout the day. 70 pushups all at once is tough. And when you miss a day you have to do 140 in a day. Even harder. It's totally doable though. 5 here, 5 there. Another great use for implementation intentions. For example, when I get up to get a glass of water, do 5 pushups. When I go to the bathroom, do 5 dips on the bathtub. 

Why is it going to be hard?

Resolutions are a tough cookie to crack. They often get forgotten and missed as the year goes on. What was once a fiery, intense, save-the-world kind of idea and resolution becomes "I'll do it later" 2 months in. I wanted to make sure that didn't happen with mine.So many things to rememberOne of the cardinal rules with resolutions and behaviour change is one thing at a time. Only do one thing at a time, they say. It makes sense. The more things you have on your plate, the less you can focus on each. Changing behaviour requires an enormous amount of thought and willpower and at the end of the a long day the motivation to do that new workout drops sharply. I'm going to use my journal to keep a checklist for each day front and centre. I look at my journal at least 3 times a day writing ideas and completing my checklist. This has worked so far with smaller lists but this one is much larger.PlanningDoing new things requires more planning than those old routines. Routines and habits don't take much thought at all, they just happen. You don't need to think much about them. New activities require a ton of thinking, remembering, reminding, scheduling and figuring out what works and what doesn't for you each day. It would be great if there was one perfect schedule that fit everything fit nicely but there definitely isn't. Journalling helps with all things. Thinking through what went well (or not so well) with today's plans and how to best tackle tomorrow's plans is a perfect thing to jot down in your journal over the course of the day.TimeSome days there's just not enough time to do everything. Making whole Paleo food every day is time-consuming. I'm thankful there is at least one raw food restaurant in town that we can eat while we're doing strict Paleo if we need to. Having enough time for everything is part planning and part shoving other things out of the way for now and saying no. I'm getting better at saying no to new commitments but I'm still finding myself excited about some new commitment only to realize I've said yes to another time consuming activity. Doh. 

What's going to happen after March 1?

The challenge ends March 1. Things will definitely relax but I'll continue some things until the end of 2014 and then reassess.PaleoPaleo eating is going to continue at about 70-80%. I love eating paleo and it's getting easier with every challenge and new recipe we learn but it's fairly expensive and it's nice to branch out for variety once in a while. I don't like being that person in a group of friends that's always the difficult one because of their diet so I'll let it slide sometimes. The more I read about what all these new-fangled foods are doing to our bodies and minds though, I'm letting it slide less and less.CrossFitCrossFit will continue for the rest of my life. Well, maybe not that long but I can't get enough of it lately so it's going to continue at least 2 days a week for the rest of the year. The Open competition is starting in March so that's a big goal for me right now. I'd love to get through the first round of the Open to Regionals but I'm not sure I have the time to devote to training this year to get me to Regionals. I'm going to give it my best shot with the limited time I have but it's not my #1 priority.WritingAs with CrossFit journaling will continue until the end of time. It's proven to be so incredibly helpful for, well, everything. Training in CrossFit, making plans and keeping them, coming up with new ideas, making old ideas stick, "wandering around" ideas I'm thinking of, keeping resolutions, measuring my performance in anything I do. It just has so many uses.Also with all the writing, the more I do, the more products I'll create for PureOutside.com. Essentially, the more I write, the more money I'll make with digital products. That sounds like a good trade-off to me.CoffeeCoffee Rules: 1 bulletproof coffee in the morning and 1 at coffeshops with friends before 2pm. None at work. Sleep is just so essential to performing at a high level and too much coffee screws with my sleep right away.  I like the idea of sitting down with a cup of coffee and writing so I'll keep it around for now but might be turning to a green smoothie or something of that sort soon.

Wrap-Up

The best part about these challenges is the break after. You've pushed so hard through the challenge, not having to think about all the details and track every single thing once it's done is so freeing. Not everything goes back to normal after the challenges. The focus and things you learn to finish the challenge and get through every day sticks around for a while. Not everything disappears completely. All those habits you build up in the month or 2 of the challenge tend to stay after and help you out, maybe not to the same level as the challenge but better than things were before. I find myself eating much better for long after challenges are done. I've worked so hard to get to that point, it's hard to give it up. I won't be so strict and it feels good to relax but there's no reason to dive into burgers and cake right after a good, clean Challenge.I'll be writing more about how the challenge is going in the coming weeks and what I'm learning. Stay tuned.Comments? Questions?What are you doing for your resolution? How do you remind yourself and track your progress?  

Benson Guide Project Challenge Wrap-Up

February's Challenge didn't go so well. I thought after how hard January's Challenge was, February's Project would be a breeze. The motivation was entirely there but something else was lacking.That something else was time. With how much I'm running right now for the Marathon training, there just wasn't a whole lot of time left for  working on the guide every day for 2 hours and, well, life.The Mount Benson Guide Beta LaunchThe Beta launch for the Guide went well. I ended up putting it out a day later than I wanted it to but that was mostly to do with getting contact information from the beta testers and not whether the guide was ready. Over the 2 weeks of the beta test, the testers ploughed through the guide and gave me tons of good feedback.There was only one problem when I went to launch the guide to the public, I wasn't in town. I planned to launch at the end of February. The weekend before I had planned on ticking off the last few things I had to do on the guide and do a bit more testing before the launch. The only problem was that I wasn't in town that weekend. Friday after work until late Sunday night I would be skiing at a ski hill outside of cell reception. As luck would have it, I had "planned" another ski weekend on the Launch weekend as well. So much for looking ahead!I'm still getting myself organized from those weekends and the payment processor set up for the Guide launch to the public. Once that is set to go we can actually launch this this. It's been so long in the making, I can't wait for it to be released.I feel like I didn't get as much as I had wanted to get done this month but my time was definitely spent elsewhere. I learned a few things along the way.Time ManagementTime management can make or break projects. Any work I was getting done on the guide was crammed in and not very relaxed. I ended up having too many other things on my plate. Saying yes to a Toastmasters speech, a travel article and multiple long runs per week is a large time commitment and fitting in regular blog posts and time to work on a bigger product can push things over the top. I'm going to be very mindful to what I'm committing too over the next few months.My LimitsI came close to what my curent limits are in terms of different things on the go at once. I do like a variety of activities but when there is simply too much going on, I just feel frazzled and nothing gets done. I often resort to reading as a way of doing something but in reality it's not getting much done. I'm learning new things but it's not contributing to my weekly articles or the content for the guide I need to finish. Those things need larger blocks of uninterrupted time and those were very hard to find. Many days it felt like marathon training and blog writing were competing for the same blocks of time. Most of the time marathon training would win and I'd end up writing a small amount for the blog or not at all. I still have a month and a half left of marathon training so I have a bit of time left to work on the balance of my time but I will be glad when the training is over.My PrioritiesWhen there was too much going on, the only thing I could do was to try to find out what my most important item was. The only way I could do some work was to nail down a list of prioritized items, number one to number 4, and then start work on number one. By the next day that list would likely change but at least I had got one thing done. My current focus is completing my current task before something else takes my attention away. At the moment it seems like a dozen tasks are half finished and I can't focus on one long enough to complete it. I'm reducing the number of places I keep lists of tasks and only using ManyMoon for tasks and Google Calendar for scheduling. Nothing else. With everything in one place, either on the todo list or the calendar depending on what it is, things will be simpler.Calendar Your RealityI wanted to put everything I was doing in one place. I tried to put everything I was doing on a calendar but it got too messy and complicated so I gave up and went back to a combination of lists and calendars and other things. I finally realized that the calendar got messy and complicated when I added everything in my life to it because that's how it was. I was trying to add a lot to the calendar because there was a ton of stuff. Just looking at the calendar of what I was trying to do was leaving me overwhelmed. It was simpler just to do what popped into my head and hope for the best.I'm now working towards scheduling everything into Google Calendar and keeping it nice and clean there with the hope that when my schedule is nice and clean, my reality will reflect some of that!Next Challenge?I was going to try and do another challenge this month and take more photos every day but with how much I'm running for the marathon training, it's just not going to happen. After the training is over I may take up the challenges again as I liked the format and it was fun trying new things. I will let you know how that goes. 

Focus on where you're going, not where you've been

Mountain BikeI try to mountain bike as much as I can. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being on the trail, in the flow of things, and not letting anything get in your way.Until you hit a rock or a tree.They're always there. Sometimes you hit them and sometimes you don't. I highly recommend not hitting either of them but how do you do that?Don't look at them. If you look at the rock, you'll hit the rock. If you'll stare at the tree, you'll hit the tree. You must look where you want to go, not where you don't want to go.I've found this incredibly useful in life as well. The more you focus on what you want and where you want to go, the faster you will get there. It's not even an IF you get there, it's a when. Simple as that. Don't think about all the crap other people do in the spare time. Turn off the TV, say goodbye to friends that don't get you stoked about life, and get thinking about what you want.Then think about more. And more. And more. Every single day, think about those things that you want. Start working on how you're going to get those things, achieve those goals and go those places. The more you think about them, the faster you'll get them.Go. Now. Start thinking.----UpdatesI'm using this space to keep everyone updated on what's going on with my projects.Spark Challenge UpdateI thought I would do an easy one this month by making my Spark Challenge working on the hiking guide product I'm launching at the end of the month for PureOutside. Apparently I don't have 2 spare hours each day to do that. Either that or I screw around a lot and I don't know where my time goes. Either reason is plausible. With so much running right now with marathon training, I have a lot less time than usual.Million Dollar Blog Project UpdateMy first product! The Mount Benson Hiking Guide comes out at the end of the month. I still haven't decided on the final name of the product but it will be about hiking Mount Benson in Nanaimo. Again, I can't believe it's taken this long to come out but it's finally going to be here.Traffic has been pretty steady on the site with the odd bump here and there than I can't really explain. I've been posting every week with posts that I schedule once a month so that helps with the traffic. Once the guide is done and I have a bit more time, I'd like to focus on getting a few more mega posts going. I really had fun doing the Biggest List of Ski Films in the World, and I'd like to expand that idea to the other sports I cover. Part of the fun is watching so many awesome film trailers while I'm researching the post!Latest AdventuresI've been out sailing a couple times since the last update. The weather has been off and on and not the greatest for sailing but it was just nice to get on the water. I'm trying to sponge up every tidbit of knowledge about sailing in anticipation of the VanIsle 360 race next summer, a 2 week race around Vancouver Island.I managed to get out this past weekend to do a quick overnight ski tour to Forbidden Plateau. We didn't have much time but we still got out for a nice adventure. Sunday it rained like crazy but we were still outside so it was worth it.Fitness: Marathon UpdateMarathon training is no longer killing me but it's still tough. Running 6 days a week is taking it's toll on my free time. I love running but I would like more free time to do other things. We're up to 26 kilometres for the long run this weekend.That's it for this edition of the updates. Stay tuned for more about the launch of my first product in the next edition!----img

Health Challenge Wrap-Up and February's Challenge

January was hard. I didn't think I was going to make it through this challenge for the first week. I remember thinking that if only I could only do what I wanted to do, then things would be fine. But that's not how it works. Once a habit like eating certain things at certain times engrain themselves, it's very hard to get rid of them.January's challenge of no gluten, sugar, or coffee was the hardest one I've done so far. And yet, at the same time, I think it might have been one of the easiest. By the end anyways, I didn't even have to think about it. I had made a new habit thinking about what I was eating so much that it wasn't really conscious any more. Healthy eating just happened. It didn't start out that way though.The first week was really tough. I remember running up against my first piece of chocolate during the challenge. I tried. I really did. And then I ate it. Instead of focusing on why I shouldn't and all the benefits with sticking with my challenge my brain short-circuted, told me that I wouldn't last through the challenge anyways, and then put my hand on the chocolate. There's no way to resist after that. After a couple of instances like that I was wondering if I really could do this. I wasn't sure. I had to try. Just focus on one day at a time. One day at a time.The second and third week took a little bit of work as well but they got easier. The turning point was one day at work. Normally, I'm a huge sucker for free food. If it's tasty and free there is 0% chance I will turn it down. It's usually in my stomach before I've had a chance to think about it and possibly decline the offer.So there they were, sandwiches on fresh buns and cookies. A bunch of them. They were just sitting on the lunch room table, leftovers from someones meeting. I felt it. "Free Food!!!" my brain was saying and before I knew it I was opening up the plastic cover. Then the little angel on my shoulder kicked in (for the first time this month it felt like)."What are you doing?""But...""What is your amazing, fancy challenge about this month.""Right."And away I went. The interruption actually happened between trigger and response. It seems like if you can groom this break in the chain to happen, you have a chance to actually do what you want to do after a trigger happens. If the interruption doesn't happen, you're toast. There's no way you can resist. You'll just keep going the same as you did before. No change. So much for a challenge.Think about what you want your actual reaction to be and you'll have a chance. Your brain will do what you want if you tell it over and over. And over. And over. And over. And then a few more.Since that day, things went smoothly. Sure there were terrible food, coffee and donuts around but I held off. It was tough when I was hungry and the food of some delicious donuts came wafting through the office but I held one.Then I had a binge day at the end of the month. What a great idea! I think I made myself sick by eating too much. Chocolate, pizza, cheesecake, a burger, milkshake. Wow. Put that all together in a sentence and it sounds terrible. I may have gone a little overboard but it was sure tasty.What did I learn from all this?Focus on what you can do, not what you can't doIf you sit there and think of what you can't eat all day, then you'll go out and eat it. If you've ever ridden a mountain bike you'll know this idea quite well. If you look at the  tree while you're riding, you'll hit the tree. If you look at the rock, you'll hit the rock. If you focus on the trail, you'll ride on the trail.I forced myself to focus on what I could eat and made that as delicious as possible. I also made sure I had enough to eat all the time. Being hungry with no proper food is a guaranteed ticket to the vending machine full of crap. This is where the habits come in. Making all the meals you normally make are habits. You'll need to adjust to remake these habits if you want to make new healthier things. Force yourself to find new recipes and make them a lot. Keep the good ones and toss the rest. Eventually you'll replace all your standard meals with awesome food.Make good habits easyThis one is dead simple but it can be so hard. It was in front of me the whole time but it took Brian from PhilosophersNotes to point it out in one of his notes. If your good habits are hard to accomplish, you probably won't do them. It doesn't matter how much you want to, if it's too much work, you'll bomb. Make it super easy. He puts his toothbrush within easy reach so when he's done eating in the evening, teeth are brushed and that's the end of eating for the night.For healthy eating, make sure there are tons of healthy snacks and food around. Make big lists of easy healthy recipes and make them ahead of time. Make large batches so you have leftovers if you feel a lazy day coming on. If something about eating healthy is hard, make it easier. If a bunch of friends eat out a lot and you don't want to, make them come over for a potluck, or just don't hang out with them during the initial stages of your eating challenge.Make bad habits hardIf something is very difficult to do, you probably won't do it. For example, if you smoke, only keep one package  in the house and keep it in a safe under a pile of books in the back of your closet. You need to have lots of time between the trigger or the initial craving and actually smoking. The longer the better. It gives you time to think about what you're doing (And the little angel on your shoulder to react. She's a little slow.)Do not buy unhealthy food. Get rid of every single unhealthy thing in your house. If it's there, it will get eating. Don't go grocery shopping hungry. Always grocery shop with a list. Only buy what's on the list. If you haven't to drive half an hour and pay money for something that's unhealthy, chances are it won't happen. If the chips are two feet away from the TV, they're going to be gone in 5 minutes. Tell everyone about your challenge. Everyone at work knew what I was doing. Those donuts looked incredible but everyone would have said something about why I was eating a donut during my challenge.PatienceChange can only come so fast. When something is deeply engrained, it's going to take a while to change. Take things one moment at a time. Even a day can be overwhelming when you think of the whole thing. One minute at a time. Am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing this minute? Yes? Awesome. Next!Deal with each craving as it comes. You can beat them! Once that one is dealt with, give yourself a pat on the back and then move one. There will be more but don't think about that right now.Get to the end of the daySimilar to the idea above. Just get to the end of the day. That's easy right. It's only ever a few hours away. Just get to the end of the day and then the next will be easier. And the next even easier.Healthy Eating: Find awesome recipesThis one is specific to healthy eating. Find good recipes. If you don't have good healthy recipes, how do you expect to eat healthy. Healthy food just doesn't fall out of the sky. Read everything you can on healthy food and healthy living and then go get that healthy food. Stock your fridge and pantry with the healthiest food you can find and only eat that. Once healthy food is your only option, it's easy to make a choice between snacks or meals. Healthy or Healthy? Easy choice.February's Project Launch ChallengeI had a few ideas for what I wanted February's challenge to be. The clincher was that I finally decided to set a date for the launch of the PureOutside Adventure Kit for Mount Benson. It's a hiking guide for the trails on Mount Benson in Nanaimo. I've been pushing it around for the last 8 months and nothing's really happened with it. So as much as I hate deadlines, I put one on it. Guess what, it's happening. I'm working like crazy on it to get it to a launch-ready state and it's coming out March 2, whether I like it or not.That meant I won't have much time to work on another challenge this month. Finding time to work on the guide is hard enough as it is. If I had another fun challenge to compete with my attention, I know which would get done first. I decided that since this will be my first product launch, I'm going to use it as a challenge.The challenge has a couple different parts. The first is to actually launch this thing. It's been a long time in the making and I'm scared to put it out there it must happen. Nothing better than a 30 day challenge to kick it into high gear and launch the crap out of it. The second is to learn how to launch well. I'm sure things are going to be haywire right from the start and I know it's going to take a few launches to really get it right but I'll be devouring everything I can find on launching products. Conveniently, Tyler Tervooren's Bootstrapper's Guild is all about launching a product right now. I'm in the middle of that info so I'll be putting into practice what I learn right away!That's about it for me right now. Back to working on the hiking guide. If you have any tips on launching digital products, let me know! I need to know everything I can! 

Marathon Training: It Begins

This post of the ongoing Goal Journal here on rcThink. Follow along with the progress on big goals I'm tackling right now.Spark Challenge Update - Health MonthSo far I've had 3 challenges and I'm currently in the middle of the 4th. It's been a very interesting experience having a goal a month of something new and it's the reason I've been doing so much of the activities from the challenges. October was writing, November was meditation, December was playing guitar and January is eating very healthy. I haven't set a goal for the end of the month yet because some of things I've been doing don't fit well with having an end goal. Writing was just an hour a day. Meditation was 15 minutes a day. Playing guitar was supposed to be 30 minutes per day until I found out I couldn't work my fingers after playing that long so I scaled it back a bit. January's healthy eating challenge is something that happens all day long.Coming off December's food binge it took a few days of struggle to get control over what I was eating. We still had a lot of treats from Christmas laying around and I failed at stopping myself. A little chocolate here, a couple cookies here. Being off gluten has probably been the hardest part. A lot of food from restaurants or that friends bring has gluten in it. I've had to say no to a lot of things. We have donuts once a week at work and pizza once a month and those were hard to turn down but as soon as I did it once, I found it easier after that. That and the fact that I told people at work what I was doing and they would be watching.The first Saturday after the end of the month is going to be a binge day. I'm going to eat pretty much everything, then I think it will be back to very healthy eating for the rest of February. This will be a challenge I'd like to keep going.PureOutsideBetween Corbett's Million Dollar Blog Project and Tyler's Bootstrapper's Guild, I've had my hands full for the last 2 months keeping up with blog posts and getting the new guide and newsletter sorted out. The first newsletter will be out at the end of January and the first trail guide will be out at the end of February. I'm very excited for both these things will update you more when they come out. A few things have helped get a lot more done in the past 2 months than I think I've ever got done in that time frame.Batch tasks - Instead of writing a blog post once per week on some topic for PureOutside, I've started to group the writing of a few posts together. I'll focus for a week or 2 on writing 6-8 blog posts and scheduling them. I've found this method much easier than switching back and forth from the guide to blog post writing every week. With all the blog posts scheduled for the next 6 weeks I can focus on working on the guide and not switch back and forth.Chunk time - I often get overwhelmed when I'm trying to think about too many things at once. If I can chunk down tasks to 20-30 minutes then it's much easier to handle those. I can see exactly what needs to be done and that's motivation to start it. Hat tip to Tyler (LINK) for that one.Schedule Work Time - Up until recently, I've just tried to work on PureOutside stuff whenever I can. I'll sit down here and there and do a bit of work. The problem has been that I can't get much done because I'm constantly trying to remember what I was working on and by the time I've figured it out, I'm off doing something else. Now, I schedule 1 hour a day every day of the week to sit down and work on PureOutside blog posts, technical issues or social media. This has worked very well because it's not a long period of time. I know I can sit for an hour to work on it so I'm more likely to start. Working on it every day keeps everything fresh in my mind.Monotask - The opposite of multi-tasking. I used to think it was fun and interesting to work on 20 different things in a given week. Now it stresses me out. When I saw how little I was actually getting done on each project I knew something had to change. Anything I start now has to be finished before I start anything else. Batching things like blog posts helps do this. I'll work on only blog posts for 2 weeks and then go back to working on only the blog. I have tons of things I would like to do but I'm trying to push them all into a cleanup project scheduled for later this year.Fitness: Marathon TrainingMy major fitness goal right now is to do well in the Vancouver Marathon on May 6th. I've got 4 months to train for that. It seems like a long time but with 13km runs feeling fairly long right now I've got a long way to go. I'm going to be documenting my fitness work here to give a bit of accountability to myself and to let everyone see what I'm doing.Last Week:Sunday: RestMonday: 5km easy runTuesday 6km speed workoutWednesday: 1 hour of floor hockeyThursday: 6km easy runFriday: Night skiingSaturday: 13km long run WritingIt seems like I'm writing more and more every week. And it feels good. I've never been much of a writer but it's flowing easier now. I used to be held up or not even start because I didn't have an amazing idea or know exactly what to say for my whole article. Now freewriting, an article framework or a intentionally terrible first draft are great ways to get going and it's easier to start. Starting is the tough part.Recent Articles:The Vancouver Christmas Market on Aviawest.com http://www.aviawest.com/blog/2011/12/vancouver-christmas-market.htmlPaddling, Hiking and Climbing Marble Meadows on PureOutside http://pureoutside.com/blog/2011/12/1338/Mount Elma Ski Tour on PureOutside http://pureoutside.com/blog/2012/01/mount-elma-ski-tour/Osprey Talon 33 Backpack Review on PureOutside http://pureoutside.com/blog/2012/01/osprey-talon-33-backpack-review/Good TunesDeadmau5 - 4x4=12I've been rocking out to this the past couple weeks. It's my goto music for working right now. Very few lyrics and wicked bass. Raise Your Weapon and Some Chords are my favorites. Great ReadsI've read a lot lately but some of these will be catch up from the last few months.UncertaintyJonathan Fields latest book is all about being courageous and creative in the face of uncertainty. A fantastic read that I'm about to start again to full get what he has to say about this incredibly deep topic.UnMarketingScott Stratten is the president of UnMarketing and spends way too much time online. Or that's what his website says. His book is about common sense strategies to get marketing online. So many people get all confused and stressed about marketing online and end up screwing it up big time. Scott sets you straight with his no BS approach and hilarious stories.Anything You WantA fun little read from Derek Sivers about how he set up his business and got to where his is now. There are some gems of unconventional business advice in there and is great if you're looking for a quick read about online business.Do the WorkAnother one from the Seth Godin's Domino Project, Do the Work was written by Steven Pressfield and is about the demon's inside us. It's specifically about the Resistance, a hidden force, demon or whatever you want to call it that prevents us from sitting down and doing the work. It's pretty much a manifesto of putting on your hard hat and doing what you need to do . If you're lacking in any sort of motivation I would highly recommend reading this.End MalariaA book of many essays by online influential, End Malaria has a bit to say about everything. If you are online running a business, you'll probably want to read this book. There is something for everyone in it. The best part is that most of the price is donated to help buy mosquito nets to stop the spread of malaria.The FlinchJulien Smith's latest book. He talks about everything you flinch at. Everything in this world that you shy away from because you think it might hurt you. Most of that stuff won't hurt you though so you're just wasting your time and you're life worried about what isn't going to happen. Another good kick in the pants if you want to get some work done.How to Travel Full TimeA great little book from Colin Wright. It's only $.99 and worth every penny. If you ever thought about travelling the world full time or are just curious abut the idea, I highly recommend getting it. If you sign up for Colin's paid Exile's letter you get his books for free.Poke The BoxA great one from Seth Godin about asking questions and doing great work. Along the lines of Do the Work and The Flinch, he asks us to poke the box more to see what happens. Be a rebel, a shit disturber, a nuisance. You might do something incredible.Cool SitesPhilospher's NotesI'm working my way through the first set of 100 Philospher's Notes right now. Brian Johnson has filtered through tons of philosophy books and brings you the main points from the best of them. There are awesome business and life lessons in there. Brian's chill demeanor and the amazingly good info that comes out of all these books gets me so stoked to live after reading or listening to them. You can get them in PDF or mp3 format. I've been listening to all the mp3's as I work out or clean the house. Some of the notes are so good I had to go by the actual books to by more.Hope you guys liked the new updates. I'll be posting about more as they come up as a bit of an accountability journal for myself.

Guitar Challenge Wrap-Up and January's Challenge

About time I get this thing posted, it's almost half-way through January!The months go by so fast when you're super busy ( and having fun ). I feel like I just post a wrap-up and I have to start writing another one.December was an especially busy and fast-paced month. I even had a week off from my day job and it still felt like it was packed to the brim with awesome stuff to do.December's challenge was one of the reasons that it went so fast. I was trying to play guitar every day. I certainly didn't end up playing every single day, I did improve quite a bit from where I started. I'm still playing almost every day and love every minute of it.What can you really learn in 30 daysI wasn't sure where to start with guitar. The first day in December, I was so hopelessly slow and uncoordinated at doing any of the chords. I didn't think anything would change as I went through the month. Watching videos and thinking about guitarists in bands and how fast they move through their picking and chords on the guitar, I had to wonder if they were superhuman, or just born with some special skills that I just didn't possess.As I played day after day, I would get a little faster. Each time I sat down it was easier to hold the strings. I could hold them for a little longer. It was tiny amounts sure, but I could feel myself getting better and better after a few days would go by.I know 30 days isn't going to be long enough to be playing tough songs by the end of it but I was hopeful that I would at least improve.Unfortunately because of how much I had already planned for December, travelling, Christmas, skiing, New Years, hanging out with people, I found it extremely hard to keep up the guitar every day. I ended up only doing about half the days after missing a big chunk around christmas and it was very noticeable. Most of the time it's nice to take a break from what you're doing for a little while and then come back to it refreshed and re-motivated. Taking a break from guitar, thought, meant sore fingers.Playing guitar isn't like learning a language or some other act of willpower. You can sit down and learn things on the mental side for hours if you really want to. On the physical side of things  you have a limit. You can only play guitar for so long before your fingers start to hurt so much you can't play.The nice part about this natural limit was that it was forced. I could not play longer than my fingers could hold out. It was easier to sit down and play because I knew there was a natural time limit for playing that day. Initially I could only play for 5 or 10 minutes. It got longer near the end. Accidentally taking time off meant that I was decreasing my time limit instead of increasing it. For every day that I didn't play, I would be able to stand the rough strings on my fingers for a slightly shorter amount of time. Many people say that the best way to learn is little by little every single day. Guitar forces this. It's the only way to learn it.What I learned playing guitar for 30 daysTime LimitsAs I said above, when you start off, you won't be able to play guitar for long periods of time. I couldn't at least. Someone with much more callused hands would be able to play for longer sessions right off the bat. I don't do much that would strengthen them naturally. Climbers would probably be able to play for hours!On the plus side, it forced a time limit on each session. This made them more relaxing. I feel like when I don't go for more than an hour or so doing something, I'm just making excuses and I should go for longer. I know this sounds silly. Most people can't concentrate on one thing for much more than 90 minutes. The little voice inside my head natters at me to keep going, even when I know I've had enough and it's time for a break. I've been experimenting with hard time limits on things. Much like in the pomodoro technique. It's nice to know that I only have to work for 30 minutes or 1 hour no matter what I'm doing. Sometimes I do get lost in something if I'm really into but I end up doing less of other things. I don't want to get sick of what I'm working on right now so time limits are a good way to keep things fresh.Best PracticesEverything in the world has best practices. There may not be one best way for doing something but there are always tips and tricks for getting the most out of your experience. You don't want to learn something the wrong way and keep those bad habits for the rest of your life. Learning on your own can be a fantastic way to try things out but finding good resources like websites, books or teachers to help you out can save you a lot of time down the road. The book I'm using to learn guitar comes with a DVD with videos and other resources to use while you're learning. You can watch the videos as you're playing to learn how to get the fingering correct and how exactly to do things. Words are amazing tools for teaching but often a picture or a video just makes learning so much faster.Nail the BasicsYou can't play guitar without learning the basic chords and ways to pick the strings. It's impossible. Also impossible is thinking that you can skip to the awesome part at the end of years of playing and be a rockstar guitar player. It doesn't work that way. If you practice every day for a couple years, you could actually get to be a very good guitar player. Playing for 30 days is not the same thing. I never liked things that simply required repetition to learn them. While it's not exactly the same every time, each chord is still the same chord. What I didn't know before was that it wasn't just mindlessly strumming the guitar over and over and over with the same chords to learn how to play. Actually learning something required deliberate practice. In this case, thinking about where your fingers are for each chord and moving them from chord to chord faster every time requires concentration. If you never increase your speed, you'll never become a better play. Sometimes it doesn't work and the note sounds terrible but you don't get faster unless you push.January's ChallengeI loved playing guitar every day and have continued to practice these first few days of January while I dive into my next challenge.I almost did this challenge for December but thought that I might fail before I'd even started. It would have been very tough and not a lot of fun. January is going to be month of eating extremely healthy. I'll be trying to follow the Paleo diet strictly for 30 days. The main idea is that I'll be eating lots of veggies, meat and fruit with very little sugar, coffee or gluten. I'm already entirely gluten free with what I've got in my cupboards and fridge at home but eating out is tough. It's rare to find a place that has a gluten-free menu and beer is right out the window.If you've gone Paleo, or are thinking about it, I'd love to hear from you. Let me know what your thoughts are about it. Maybe you could do a Paleo challenge for January as well?

Meditation Challenge Wrap-Up and December's Challenge

I've just wrapped up a month of meditating almost every day. My intention was to do it every day of the month but between other work and long days, I didn't feel up to it some sessions. The goal was to learn as much as I could and see what it was like. I've read so much about meditation and the benefits to anyone doing anything so I decided to give it a try.One of the biggest encouragements to try was through Jonathon Fields book Uncertainty. After reading through the examples of people using meditation as an anchor in their hectic lives to keep them grounded and live a creative life, I was convinced. I had to try it.Initially I had a few questions, I'll answer them here as best I can but I don't claim to be any sort of expert on meditation. I did it for 30 days and that's about it. I will say right now that I like the practice very much if for nothing else than the relaxing few minutes of the day I could look forward too.What do I think about?I'm not sure which style I was focused more on while I was meditating. Vipassana or "insight meditation" is about just sitting, there is no thinking or focus involved just sitting. I read a bit about Zazen as well or the focus on the breath. I found this to be the easiest to do because it gave me something to focus on. I count to 10 and then start back at one. When you reach 20 or 30 you know you've been thinking about something else and can restart your count.What time of day should I meditate?I tended to sit and meditate when I got home after work. That was the time that worked best for me. Sometimes I would have too much coffee or my brain would be spinning from everything that happened that day and it was hard to slow everything down. I guess that's one of the benefits of meditation is it can help you relax and organize your thoughts from the day. I've heard many good things about meditating early in the morning soon after you wake up. This helps you be present and mindful for the rest of the day instead of focusing on it near the end of the day. Early morning can be a peaceful and quiet time to sit as well.How long do I sit for?I used a recording from Blissitations and sat for 15 minutes each day. I found some days I couldn't go a second longer than that, and some I took my time and ended up doing 25 or 30 minutes. I've read that anything more than 5 minutes can give you some benefit in terms of relaxation and starting to organize your mind but many say that 15 minutes would be he bare minimum you'd need to actually meditate.Do I listen to anything?I didn't plan to listen to anything while meditating but sometimes it's helpful to screen out sounds from around me. I'd get listening to something in my house and start thinking about the things I had to do around the house. I've read that listening to soothing sounds and counting at the same time splits your attention and that's not really the point of the exercise. I found that I'd either be actively listening to the Blissitation or I'd be counting and not really both anyways.Did I listen to music? I didn't listen to any music while I was doing it. The Blissitation I was using was 15 minutes long and a relaxing recording of the rain. I find that sound very relaxing to begin with so it worked well.  A lot of what I read said that music can be very distracting although there can be times where just listening to the music and only the music can be meditative.What's a Binaural Beat?I ran across these things called Binaural Beats during my research. Apparently certain sounds can induce your brain into certain states. When you are meditating you want to get your brain to slow down and get into the states where the brain waves move slower. Delta is the slowest. Some people that have been meditating for a long time can get into that state from meditating but most can't. Binaural Beats can help you get into that state by just listening to them and experience the benefits without having to meditate for years and years. One I came across was called Holosync and I saw a few different recommendations for it.  I did see some information about it causing "upheaval" periods so I decided not to try it now until I got more information about it. It was on the expensive side of the available products as well so it will have to wait.Should I sit or lay down?I tried laying down at first because I thought it would be a great time to catch up on my napping and that's exactly what happened. I would fall asleep. I have read about people doing "napitations" which start as meditating and end up being a short nap. They can be beneficial if you need to catch up on your sleep at the same time. I ended up sitting for most of my sessions. I had troubles sitting in the lotus position or even cross-legged for 15 minutes. The indian position worked well or just sitting on the edge of a chair or couch. Sounds like whatever position that is comfortable to sit in for 15 minutes is ok.Should I close my eyes?I closed my eyes for most of my sessions. That lead to falling asleep when I was laying down but it was fine when I was sitting up. The traditional way to do it is to have your eyes slightly open and focused a few meters in front of you. This prevents you from falling asleep. The whole idea is that you are awake and present the entire time. You don't want to have to close your eyes every time you want to relax during the day!Meditating before or after exercise?I ran a few times before and after meditating and both orders felt great. When I ran and then meditated I had to be careful to stretch and then get into my position for meditation or else I would stiffen up while sitting. Running is almost meditative for me anyways so the two went along well. I found I would be a lot more present on my run if I meditated first. I want to experiment with this more and see if there is more of a difference I missed the first few times I did it.What's the next Spark Challenge for December?I've been kicking around the idea of doing a Guitar challenge but wasn't sure if I should just start on my own and see what happens or go take some lessons. I feel like guitar is one of those things that you can get some pretty bad habits engrained if you start practicing in earnest without having had some formal lessons.I've got a marathon training clinic coming up in January so I didn't want to start any lessons that I'd only take for a few weeks. I am still doing the guitar challenge but it will be with a book and DVD set I have called "Learn Guitar in 24 Hours". It sure sounds hokey but so far it's been really good.I think almost any learning methods would work for guitar as long as I practice a ton. I've been doing about 15 -20 minutes a day so far and I'm sure feeling it in my fingers. Each day I go to practice, I feel it less though. I'm not sure how long it's going to be before I can play as long as I want but I hope to keep up the practice as long as I can and get to a point where I can at least play a couple songs before having to take a finger rest!I've got a couple easy songs in my head that I'd like to learn how to play so the first couple weeks of December are going to be practicing chords and getting the basics down and then the last week, I'll be trying to get a song or 2 learned.Anyone else doing a Challenge for December? If you are let me know so I can check out your progress!  

October Writing Wrap-up and November's Challenge

The first every Spark Challenge is done. I spent October writing every day. Well, make that trying to write every day.Every day was a battle of time. What do I spend my time on? I could spend 2 or 3 hours of time on whatever I wanted before I left for work and after I came home. In between cooking, cleaning and hanging out with my girlfriend there was some time that I was free to do what I like. That's when the priority battle started. What should I work on? Should I be configuring the new section for PureOutside? Should I be writing more guides to sell there? Should I be writing on rcThink trying to expand my horizons and conquer fears? Should I be reading about what other people are trying to do and chatting with them about it?Even with a full-time job, I still find the time to do the things I love to do. The only problem is that the full-time job takes so many of my waking hours that I'm left with only a few for the awesome stuff.With that said, I think I did pretty well. I wrote 22 or 23 days of October. That's more than I've ever written in my life. Some of what I wrote got published. Some of it didn't. My rules for the challenge was that it had to be at least journalling. I spent the majority of it working on articles for PureOutside, which worked out well. That site is a priority for me and I also get to work on the challenge. I'm finding more and more these days, that I need to work on things that accomplish a few goals, not just one. Something that I write that can be used for multiple things, or I'm working on a mental goal and a physical one at the same time. Adventuring is always like that for me. Exploring outside is a great workout, I get some time away from work and machinery to relax and think, and it's great material for photography and writing guides. There are many beneficial byproducts from adventuring. That's my case for needing to do it and I'm stickin' with it.I'm proud of the fact that I wrote most days in October but I still think I could do better. To be honest, some of the days I forgot that I was doing a writing challenge. I was quite busy for a couple of the weeks travelling, with sports and other commitments that by the time I got home, writing wouldn't even enter my mind. When I remembered, though, I was all over it, totally immersed in Wordpress or Evernote on my laptop and typing away like mad. That leads to a couple of things I learned from the first Spark Challenge.Teh Learnings1. It gets easierThe Resistance was telling me writing every day was going to be like pulling teeth every single day. It was going to be like wringing a dry towel to get more water from it. It was going to be terrible. It wasn't like that at all.Every day I wrote more and more and while I was focused on writing because I was doing a challenge for the first couple days, I would flow into just writing to write after doing it for a few days straight. Doing it every single day and creating a routine is a huge part of being able to do it all the time. I couldn't get the same time every day to write but if I could wake up and remind myself I had to write at some point that day, it would usually get done. Days that I forgot to remind myself or were just to crazy to get an extra relaxed thought in edgewise were the ones where I dropped the ball and forgot about it. I can't think of a single day where I remembered but intentionally did not write. My mind was just elsewhere sometimes.2. You have to make timeThese new challenges I'm doing are things I don't do normally. There would be no point to making a challenge for going to work every day. I already do that (minus weekends). They are things that are tough to do every day because I already have commitments pulling me in every direction and other projects on the go that are splitting my time even thinner.I started just adding to do list items to my lists for writing but that wasn't working. It was hard to relate a to do list to the actual amount of time I had. The to do list didn't display things as a schedule or calendar. Oh wait, I have one of those. It's called a calendar and I use it for other things. I ended up sitting down with my to do list and my calendar on as many days as I could, at least once a week, and scheduling out some writing time. Surprising things happen when you look at tasks scheduled on a calendar.I always thought I had tons of time during the day to do extra things. I would give myself 10 tasks to do each day but wonder why I wasn't getting anything done. I had lots of time right? Wrong. I didn't have a lot of time. After putting all the little random tasks around the house and my full-time job, that left me with minimal amount of time to spend writing. What did I typically do with half that precious free time? I'd lolligag around on email, Facebook and all sorts of blogs. By the time I got around to writing, my time was up and I needed to move on to other things.If I was going to write then it was going to happen first. I had to schedule time to work on things and when that time came around I would sit down and write, nothing else. I wouldn't "warm up" by checking email or reading blogs because they just turned into time sucks. They're required yes but they can happen in little slivers of time I have here and there. Writing deserves a  nice big uninterrupted chunk of time. Once I gave that time the respect it deserved, wonderful things happened. I got so much more done, and even though there was tons of email and Facebook messages around I felt much better about what I had accomplished.3. Nothing is perfect the first timeI get stuck in a rut sometimes with my writing. I start thinking more and more about what other people think about it and me, the writer. I worry about what other people are writing, how they're doing it and why it sounds so much better than what I write. As it is it every creative endeavor and really anything you start doing in life, I had to get over the fact that I'm not a top-notch writer yet. I like to think it makes sense and is relatively interesting to read but it's not quite a literary classic. I'm coming to grips with the fact that I'll never be writing classics. I just like too many things to spend the time to learn to write that way. If I wanted, I could devote all my time to becoming an amazing writer but then I wouldn't have as much time to adventure, take photos and experiment with new things I haven't even tried yet. That fact still stresses me out a little but I'm getting closer to fully accepting it. A question for you: Do you specialize or go shallow into meany different endeavors? Which is better?4. One at a time is bestAt least to start. Leo Babauta from Zen Habits has been pushing this idea for as long as he's written. One thing at a time. As soon as you introduce more stuff to the mix, things get diluted, forgotten, pushed back, lost. If you want to learn something, and learn it well, you have to focus on it. I feel like having at least an hour a day to do something could get you some traction in it. More would obviously be better. You don't want to burn yourself out right away but the more you can pick up in a short time span the more you'll recall later on. I remember learning to snowboard and only going to the hill once or twice a year. It took forever to get to a certain level. When I finally took a family trip to another ski hill and boarded for 4 days straight, I improved much faster than I had riding so sporadically. It was exactly the same thing learning wakeboarding, skiing, ultimate frisbee and sailing. The more time you can spend in it when you're first learning the better.There seems to be a critical point you get to along your path that you're no longer a newbie. You've got things figured out, you're no longer one of those brand new people trying to figure out what's going on. You certainly don't know everything there is to to know but you know enough to get you started and you know about what you don't know. Realizing there is a lot you don't know goes a long way to keeping you humble and hungry for more. No one wants to spend a huge amount of time learning something only to realize that's all there is, the learning is over.5. Let the squirrel do itI read an awesome article recently about writing or really doing anything in general. I can't for the life of me remember where it was though. They were talking about letting your squirrel brain do the writing. Often when you've learned what you need to know and you've thought about it enough, you can just let go and let your subconscious or squirrel-brain do the work. At this point it's less about conscious thought and just about letting go and allowing your brain to do it's work. You don't have to force it. If you've done your prep, research, thinking, interviewing and checking, it's all there there already. Just let it flow.I'm sure there were a bunch more insights that I had writing for a month but my brain's already turned to the next Spark Challenge.A month of meditationI've been hearing more and more about meditation as a daily practice for creatives. Brian Johnson from Philosopher's Notes talks about it a lot and Jonathon Fields mentioned it in Uncertainty as an anchor to clear thinking in the seas of crazy life. I made up that terrible metaphor, don't think Jonathon would write something like that. In his book, Jonathon talked about it as a great way to relax, clear your mind, organize your thoughts, and allow your brain to do some heavy, creative thinking all at the same time.I've always seen meditation as some weird fluffy thing that guys on mountain tops do because they have nothing else to do with their time but the more I read, the more it sounds like something that would benefit my life in many ways.I've started with the free sample Blissitation from Brian Johnson. It's 15 minutes long which I think is a perfect time to start off at. I know some start at 5 minutes but I found 15 minutes very easy to do. I'm almost falling asleep after that amount of time though, which I'm not sure is supposed to be happening. Along with the practice of meditating every day, I'll be looking into exactly how it works and the different types. In a couple weeks I should have another post up about what I've learned and how I'm doing with the challenge.Post YoursI hear about challenges going on all over the place and I'd love to hear about them. What are your rules? Is it 30 days long? What have you tried and what are you going to try next?I'll be tweeting every day about how things are going with the hash tags #sparkmonth #day1. If you're doing any monthly challenges, I'd love to see your tweets too.

Spark Challenge #1: Writing

I sit here thinking about what to write about a challenge on writing. Nothing is coming to me. I was just about to start putting the words on the screen about how to start and how to keep going but nothing came.In the back of my mind I know the solution is to just start. Ready. Fire. Aim.And then... here comes the lizard.Like so many other things in life, there is absolutely no way to think through each piece. It's impossible to see something perfect in your mind, put it on paper and be done. There will always be revisions, rewrites, filled recycle baskets (not sure how when so much is digital these days...the digital recycle bin?).I think of all the things I've learned over the years and not one thing has come in one fell swoop. I've learned a bit, played with it, tested it, got the basics down. Then when I'm ready to move on, I learn some more. Those next stages of learning can't come first. There is always the basics, the fundamentals, the newbie stuff, to go through first.With what you learn in the first stages of something, you can start to take in more advanced things. You have the basics now and that is used as a base for more complicated things. There is nothing like realizing you've moved the next stage. It feels good to level up. But you get nowhere without starting.That's where the Spark Challenges come in. There's a certain lure to challenging yourself with things you've never done before. That's what I plan to do with these challenges. Things I've always wanted to learn, or just simply to get better at, will be my focus. I'll assign a challenge for 30 days. And then every single day during that month, I'll work on that challenge. Rain or shine, through thick and thin, I'll be working on that challenge.Part of the wonders of challenges like this is that it's every day. There is no time to forget what you learned the last time you did it. You learn something every day and you can apply it the very next day. There is no week, month or year in between to forget. Do, learn, do, learn, do learn.WritingWriting is going to be the first challenge.I've always been an ok writer. I'm definitely not the next Hemingway and that's not what I aspire to be after this challenge. I do want to be a better writer though. It's always fascinated me when something I've read gives me goose bumps, or inspired me to do something or just feels good to read. I want to be able to do that. And this Spark Challenge is going to get me closer to doing that.For the month of October, I'll be writing at least 500 words a day. All those words are going to be scattered around. Some of them are going to end up here as articles, or PureOutside, or Aviawest, or even my journal. Chat messages and emails don't count. That's cheating. Those are just like talking through a keyboard. I want to use the words in this challenge to motivate people to live better lives and get outside and do amazing things. That, in essence is what these challenges are about; finding the fastest ways to learn new things to enrich my life and others. Isn't that what life is about?I'll do a couple of updates along the way, either as entire posts or tidbits tacked on to the end of other stuff this month. At the end I'll do an update about this challenge and announce the next.Let me know what you think. Have you done anything like this before? How did it go? What did you like? What sucked about it?I may need some suggestions for new challenges as well. Post your ideas and your challenges!