John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Morgan Freeman

jyb_musingsI am at a point in my life when it would really help a lot if I had a voice that sounded like Morgan Freeman’s so people would listen in wonderment when I spoke to them.

Instead I often am asked to repeat myself. And I do. In my non-Morgan Freeman-esque voice.


I sometimes like to tell myself that ice chai tea latte is really a cover for some sort of secret super human jet fuel.

That way I don’t feel as guilty for drinking so much of it.


“You can still say the wrong thing later.”

Food for thought before I blurt out an unneeded opinion in a tense situation.

Julie Rath: How to Pack Like a Pro

The way you pack can either make or break your trip. Hanging around the airport lost baggage office is a drag (I’ve been there), as is opening up a suitcase and finding everything in a crumpled mess. With some foresight and planning, however, you can make the process seamless and worry-free. Read on for 9 tips on how to pack like a pro:

1) If you travel frequently to the same location, say from your east coast office to your west coast office, leave a trunk or suitcase at the hotel. Most good hotels are happy to do this for frequent guests, and often without charge. Lifestyle engineer and frequent traveler Tim Ferriss recommends this, and while you may not keep lentils and whey protein in your trunk like Tim does, his idea is enormously useful for clothes and shoes which can take up a lot of space in your luggage. When the clothes you wore are dirty, simply give them to the hotel laundry and tell them to put them back in your bag when they’re clean. Every so often you can switch things out so you aren’t repeating outfits too much.

Men's Personal Stylist: How to Pack for Travel2) One can tend to accumulate things along the way when traveling, particularly for leisure. In order to make sure everything fits on the way back and/or that you can still fit your bag as a carry-on, bring along 4-5 empty gallon-size Ziploc bags on your trip. When you’re packing to come home, fold and put your dirty clothes inside the bags, then (and this is the key), SIT on the Ziploc to squeeze out all of the air, and then zip it shut. You’re essentially vacuum-sealing your clothes. This works great for dirty t-shirts, underwear and socks, and it saves you a huge amount of space. When you get home, the contents of the Ziplocs go straight into the laundry. No sorting required.

3) Keep a separate travel toilet kit with travel-size versions of all the toiletrees you’ll need for travel. Don’t touch it except for when traveling.

Read the rest of…
Julie Rath: How to Pack Like a Pro

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Kiboshing Klout

jyb_musingsKiboshing Klout

I just got an email update that my Klout score has dropped another point.

I am emailing Klout back to tell them I don’t give a **** anymore and suggesting they make up some new imaginary vanity metric and to please leave me out of it.

Here is my email:

“Dear Klout, I am good enough, I am smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.

So please **** off”

Josh Bowen: The Five Best Snacks

It is astounding to me how many nutrition blogs, books, websites and magazines there are.

In the United States alone, there are 2,500 diet/nutrition books on the market.

2,500? Holy cow! What for?

I digress though.  After training for 11 years, I have found that most people go wayward on their nutritional plan in between meals and at night. People get the munchies and they want things to snack on. Chips, candy, chocolate and a litany of other nutritionally lacking foods become the staple of one’s snacks. This leads us into a false sense of control and snowball’s us off our well planned out nutrition plan.

joshThis can be solved, very easily, by picking more nutritious, easy access foods. 5 of which I consider the best snacks at my training desk. Always ready for when my blood sugar crashes and I need a quick boost of energy but cannot eat because I am training a client (eating while training clients looks awful by the way).

So without further ado, here is my list of the 5 best snacks:

  1. Quest Bars You can define whether a food is good for you or not by the amount of ingredients it has in it (most of the time). Quest bars are the only protein bars I have seen that have fewer than 100 ingredients in them (joke). All joking aside, they come in a variety of flavors and are made up of all gluten free ingredients. For more information check them out here
  2. Almonds I love almonds! There are a staple for me when I need something to get me through a couple of hours of training before I eat a meal. A handful of almonds can supply a sufficient amount of calories but also nutrients to get you through to your next meal or get your through a hard workout. Loaded with healthy fats, almonds can help in decreasing bodyfat (Omega 3s), decrease the chance for heart disease (Omega 3s) and decrease inflammation (ta da Omega 3s). Also, very versatile with almond butter and almond milk being a great substitute for peanut butter and milk.
  3. PB2 and Protein Powder A great combination to snack on to get your through the day. PB2 is a powder peanut butter that has 85% less calories than regular peanut butter. Add in a good protein powder (UMP by Beverly International is my go-to) and you have a great snack that has a lot of protein and a little bit of fat to keep you full for a few hours. Have a sweet tooth? Add some cinnamon and it tastes great!
  4. Rice Cakes You laugh but I love rice cakes. Especially when I need something quick and need something that has a crunch. This usually keeps my cravings to a minimum (I love crunchy foods) and goes best post workout when I need some carbs. You can add almond butter or some PB2 to make it more a meal, if you chose.
  5. Suja Those unfamiliar with Suja it is a brand of juice that is cold pressured. Via their website here is how they describe the process: Cold Pressure, also known as High Pressure Processing retains food quality, maintains natural freshness, and extends microbiological shelf life without heating to high temperatures. After our juice is bottled, a high level of cold pressure is applied evenly to destroy pathogens and ensure the juice is safe to drink while preserving vitamins, enzymes and nutrients. These make great snacks that you can drink and pack all your nutritious fruits and vegetables into one drink.  In my line of work where I sometimes preform 6-8 sessions in a row, I need quick and easy snacks to keep me going. I also need food ready so that I do not go without food and/or make the wrong choice on what to eat. These work great for me and hopefully they work great for you.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: WWE

wweWWE superstar Damien Sandow pitches me on a unique idea.

“I can see it now, John. Imagine the marquee.. Champion Damien Sandow vs challenger John ‘The Body’ Brown in an epic wrestling match at the Louisville YUM Center.

It has all the classic elements of a great athletic drama. Youth versus Age; Strength versus Weakness; Speed versus Slowness; Agility versus Clumsiness; Exciting versus Dull; and Height versus Width.
It could be a wrestling match for the ages.”

As you can tell from my expression, I’m intrigued but still need some convincing before I accept this seemingly sensible –yet bold — proposal.


Lauren Mayer: ElevatorGate

There are fewer & fewer of us who actually remember the first scandal whose name ended in ‘gate,’ thus inspiring every other controversy to adopt a similar suffix, whether somewhat comparable (“BridgeGate,” about Chris Christie & the GW Bridge closure), unwieldy (the Mark Sanford “AppalachainTrailGate” sex scandal) or downright silly (criticism of the President’s summer wardrobe became “TanSuitGate”).  But part of why the -gate naming continues to this day is that the original Watergate scandal was a huge historic moment.

I was in jr. high when the hearings started (and thank you to those of you thinking, Gee, she doesn’t look THAT old! . . . . but I digress), and even then my die-hard liberal father knew that they would be important.  He allowed me to stay home from school to watch key testimony, and made sure I was aware of the whole story as it unfolded.

If you look up ‘scandals ending in -gate’ you will get a list of over 100 in various categories (anyone remember “toiletgate” or “squidgygate”?), but ironically, so far no one has tried to ‘gate-ize’ what may turn out to be an equally historic moment – recent revelations about domestic and child abuse by professional athletes.  Every day it seems new details emerge, another athlete is found to have beaten a child or girlfriend, and like in Watergate, it may turn out that the coverup is the worst part.

Who knows how historic this story may turn out to be with a few decades’ perspective?  But in the meantime, here’s my musical take on it . . .

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Diet Update

jyb_musingsWeighing in. One last time.

8 months and 4 days ago I weighed 205.4 lbs and set goal for myself to get down to 178.5 lbs.

Today I weighed in at 177.1 lbs.

I did it.

But only for today. The point of this post isn’t to declare victory but to recommit to maintain this new way of eating and exercising. Daily.

Somehow posting about my diet on Facebook and providing updates helped keep me accountable and the encouragement I received from so many Facebook friends was a wonderful motivator.

Thank you. Very much.

And now….not the end of a diet but merely the continuation of a new lifestyle.

No secrets to this diet. Just eating a little less and exercising a little more. And doing it every day and being patient. Going slower to go farther was my motto.


This morning I was admiring my recent weight loss in the bathroom mirror as my wife and I were getting ready to go out for coffee. After my proud moment of self-satisfaction, I threw on a pair of jeans and wet my hair before combing it and began looking for a shirt.”

My wife walked in the bathroom to explain how our dog Macy was just showing off to her by proudly holding a spider in her mouth before it dropped out and ran away.

Wanting to change the topic back to my proud weight loss, I pointed to myself and said, “Well, what do you think?”

“What?” Rebecca answered quizzically.

“This.” I responded smugly pointing in a circular motion to my torso area.

“What? You got water on you?”

“No!” I said flustered. “I’ve lost 28 lbs.”

“Oh.” Rebecca responded laughing. “You are acting like Macy showing off having a spider in her mouth.”

“No I’m not.” I said defensively. “I don’t think it’s the same thing at all. First off Macy didn’t lose 28 lbs and, second off, I am not holding anything in my mouth.”

“OK.” Rebecca said laughing to herself.

“Do you have water on you?” I repeated to myself under my breath. “Really?”

“Well, I’m proud of both you and Macy this morning.” Rebecca offered in a consoling voice.

Erica and Matt Chua: He Said/She Said: Best Wine Regions in the World

After a few bottles of wine it’s hard to determine, which wine and region are the best.  But we do our best in a sober moment to discern the best wine regions we have visited and where we are most looking forward to imbibing.


Why is the sun so bright today?  Why does my head hurt so much?  Why is my mouth so dry?  Man, I need water…  Groggily opening my eyes to the noonday sun must mean one thing: I’ve enjoyed a wine region a little too much.  As the staunch environmentalist I am, I just can’t spit out the wine I taste, no, I, for the sake of not wasting, swallow every taste I have.  It’s easy to judge wine regions by the experience, the sommeliers, or the views, but let’s look at it another way: where do you look back, head hurting, and say “I love this place!”

Mendoza, Argentina is hard to beat.  It sits at the base of Aconcagua, the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas, and many of the towering Andean peaks.  The wines are tasty and can be taken home for less than $10 a bottle.  Those things may be nice, but what makes it great?  All-you-can-eat steak.  Sure, you could go visit wineries, but why not enjoy wine the way the Argentines do?  Paired with meat, lots of meat. For less than $20 you can get all-you-can eat steak and all-you-can-drink wine.

Time for bed.  A young me after enjoying a night of Mendoza.

This isn’t a Sizzler special, it’s Porterhouse and other quality cuts, delicious sausages, and just about every piece of meat you can imagine, barbecued up for your indulging.  Yep, you’ll wake the next day wondering why you ate and drank so much, but then you’ll head out for more…


After a few wine tastings any wine region can become your favorite, however a few places stand out as areas I would love to return to.  Wine is a beverage that breaks down language barriers, brings people together and has been a highlight of our travels from Australia to Japan and back to the U.S. While I have enjoyed wine from each of these places there are also a few wine regions that have reputations that precede themselves.

Did I say that wine breaks down barriers?  It also helps to create new friendships, me, my Mom and Matt from Ekhidna winery in Adelaide, Australia.

The bold reds of Australia’s Coonawara wine region, the fruity wines of New Zealand, the rice wines of Japan and the spicy zinfandels of the Russian River Valley in the U.S. all stand out as excellent wine regions.  But, if I had to pick just one wine region as a front runner it would be the Sonoma Valley in Northern California.  The friendly tasting room staff, no tasting fees, bike-ability of the area and the wonderful restaurants and accommodation in nearby Healdsburg make this the region I would return to again and again.

While Sonoma has held the top spot on my list of favorite wine regions for quite awhile I am really looking forward to exploring the wines of South America.  We fly to Buenos Aires at the end of December 2012 and Mendoza is a high priority.  Not only am I looking forward to the array of reds in Argentina, but they should be the perfect pairing for the great steak.  We’ll keep you updated as our favorites list grows with our travels.

Do you have a favorite wine region or a specific wine that you love?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments.


John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Circling the Drain

jyb_musingsThat feeling you are “circling the drain.”

For some it signifies the end. For others it signifies being on the brink of a new beginning. And for others still it means the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning or, for extreme pessimists, the end of the end.

For me, though, it feels more like an extreme sport. Hangin’ 10. From near the drain. At least some days. Like today.


Some days I feel like I am hitting on all cyclinders and am a masterfully mindful multi-tasking maniac.

Other days I feel like my brain is operating aduquately for a 1963 model.

And every now and again it seems concerningly quiet and uneventful up there –like I am mentally moving at the speed of the video game Pong. And my side forgot to show up.


“I’m way deep into nothing special”

How I feel today (quoting Steely Dan, West of Hollywood)


Look, I get it. It’s not my post. You just aren’t in the mood to “like” something right now.


“It’s not personal; it’s just business.”

Really means for the person hearing this that it is no longer “business” and just became “just personal.”


Groups, ironically, seem to be the best place for us to learn how to be better individuals

–Leaving my men’s accountability group this morning

Saul Kaplan: A Simply Better Way

My dream for the future is that we can come together as a connected community with a shared purpose for a simply better way.

It is both a blessing and a curse to always think that there is a simply better way.   It is part of our human heritage and culture.  It is our DNA. It is who we are.  There is always a better way.

Our whole lives we incessantly design a better way in our heads.  We redesign the process while we are standing in a long line at the supermarket.  We redesign the way we receive information when we are stuck in traffic that we could have avoided.  And we redesign entire companies when we are experiencing infuriatingly bad customer service.  If you are like me it bothers you that the screens on your phone, computer, and TV aren’t connected and that one company department or government agency has no clue about your experience with the one right next to it just three days ago.  Please tell me that there is a simply better way.

Now that I have entered my fifties, admittedly entered a profound mid-life crisis, and finished my stint as an accidental bureaucrat, I ruminate over some of the more important issues of our day, little things like healthcare, education, and energy independence.  Don’t you wonder, like I do, with so much new technology available to us why we haven’t made more progress in the areas that matter the most.

I can’t help but wonder why our doctor isn’t connected with the entire healthcare system and the best information available in the world to keep our children healthy.  It is hard to believe that in a world where we can get a real time sports score, stock quote, or IM from our children, emergency responders are unable to communicate with each other during tragedies like nine-eleven and hurricane Katrina.  And the one that actually makes me cry is to see first hand what has happened to our urban public school systems.  A simply better way is not a matter of consumer convenience our future depends on it.

photo-saulIt is not the technology that is getting in our way.  It is us, we humans, and the institutions we are part of that are both stubbornly resistant to change.   We are vested in the way things work today.  Change is not easy and it is only possible when we are open to trying new ways and when we are willing to collaborate across boundaries, disciplines and organizations.  We all intuitively know there is a simply better way and yet we have real difficulty doing more then admiring the problem.  From the comfort of our own silos we point at other silos both public and private as the reason more progress isn’t made.  The big “aha” for me from my time in a public leadership role is that community matters.  Progress on the issues that really count will only happen if the community collaborates to make them happen.  It is not someone else’s fault that we don’t have better healthcare, education and public safety systems.  It is our fault.  Community matters.

I came to this realization late.  Throughout my career in the private sector I watched the importance of community decline in the board room.   It happened quickly as companies repositioned themselves to compete globally.  I just never thought about it from the perspective of the community.  I think about it a lot now.

Globalization has affected board rooms everywhere and communities continue to feel the impact of declining resources and engagement.  The question for community leaders is how to make the community strategically relevant in a global economy.   It has become easier to connect via the internet with someone on the other side of the world then it is to connect with the rich diversity of citizens and institutions in our own backyard. Despite all of the networking technology we have become surprisingly disconnected from our own neighbors.  We must become a more connected community.  Reconnecting the dots into purposeful networks focused on healthcare, education, and energy independence is the path towards prosperity and a simply better way.  Community really does matter.

I believe in the value of stewardship.  The simple but powerful idea that any community we are fortunate enough to be a part of is stronger when we leave it then when we found it.    My dream for the future is that we can come together as a connected community with a shared purpose for a simply better way.  If we fulfill our stewardship responsibility we will leave behind a better community for our children and grandchildren.

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