John Y’s Musings from the Middle: March Madness Mittyism

jyb_musingsCall it pre-spring fever but every year in March (just before the basketball Madness begins), I break out with a serious case of roundball Walter Mittyism (James Thurber’s meek and mild-mannered fictional character with a daring and vivid fantasy life.)

Growing up in Kentucky means the usual childhood dreams of grown-up greatness inevitably include, at some point, imagined greatness as a basketball player. For the vast majority of us, basketball greatness never goes beyond the dreaming phase. But it’s a dream that continues to linger posthumously.

Kentucky basketball in March is a beautiful thing to behold. I suspect I am not alone in experiencing this annual psychological condition as our state’s college basketball teams emerge to dominate college basketball. The fever always passes but rarely before I experience obvious –and occasionally embarrassing – tell-tale symptoms.

This past Monday night I asked my 20 year old son Johnny to join me at a basketball court where we could play some competitive pick up games and he agreed.

As I strode onto the court, I imagined myself becoming transformed from a 5′ 8 1/2 middle-aged man in ” reasonably good health” (My doctors words) into a 51 year old basketball phenom who was about to dominate a new court playing against some unsuspecting innocent bystanders.

The other players on our pick-up team were impressive. In fact, daunting. They were regulars and probably played in high school and maybe even college. Two of them could dunk with little effort. As I took my warm-up shots from the range where Aaron Harrison strokes his tournament game winning 3-pointer jumpers, I imagined myself dishing a thrilling off-the-glass alley-oop pass to my one of my teammates who finishes with a thunderous dunk. My pass would be, I imagined, part John Wall, part Andrew Harrison and part John Y Brown III. After the dunk my teammate would find me on the floor and point as if to say “Nice pass, my man” and I would casually nod back (but without pointing) as if to say, “Nice dunk.”

My son Johnny was warming up with me but seemed more concerned about how successfully we’d match up with our fellow players on the court. After a few minutes, our pick-up game had begun.

And a few more minutes after that, our pick-up game had ended.

Political philosopher Thomas Hobbes would have described the game for our team as “Cruel, nasty, brutish –and short.” Dick Vitale would have simply said “Blowout, baby!”

Mostly, though, I didn’t care about the humiliating loss. I just wanted to steady myself against the court wall before collapsing or having to lie down on the floor to catch my breath.

One pick-up game, it turns out, was all I could handle last Monday. As we drove home, I said to Johnny in an forced upbeat voice (after having caught my breath), “Well…. I guess we did it. We played.”

“Uh, no Dad. We didn’t do anything.” Johnny responded slightly irritated with me trying to put a happy face on our disappointing performance.

“It was our first pick-up game in a long time. We are just rusty. That’s all.” I offered.

“Sure, Dad. If you say so.” Johnny said as be broke into a self-deprecating grin, “You know, even though I missed both my shots I was secretly hoping our teammates thought to themselves, ‘Hey, that guy may have missed his shot but he does have really nice shooting form. I hope he shoots again soon.’” Johnny laughed louder mocking his feeble fantasy.

“I think they probably did think that!” I offered compassionately. “You do have good form. Even great form. In fact, I was thinking that very thought when you missed your first shot.”

“You’re my dad. I can assure you no one else on our team had that thought” Johnny said shaking his head.

“Well, Johnny, when I shot my air ball I was secretly hoping the other players  on our team were thinking ‘Hey, that guy may have just shot an airball but he does have really nice shooting form. He probably just feels nervous right now since it’s his first shot of the game. That happens to all of us including me.  I’m not surprised at all he shot an airball. I hope he shoots again soon.”

I paused “Do you think the other players might have thought that after watching my airball shot?”

We both kept laughing at ourselves as we pulled into the driveway and we pledged for the remainder of March we would only play basketball on our backyard goal.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about that stunning off-the-glass alley-oop pass to a teammate leading to a thunderous dunk? Well, it never happened. But it was a beautiful thing to behold. In my imagination anyway.

But there is a consolation for my annual March Mittyism.  Some Kentucky college basketball player will make a comparable stunning play this month and do so on national television as millions of roundball fans watch in awe. And that makes my delusional fantasies just a little less absurd because I, too, am a Kentuckian in March.

Josh Bowen: 12 Steps to Eating on the Go

joshLife is busy. We live in a world that goes a hundred miles per hour, everyday. Eating healthy can sometimes get put to the back of the line. From day to day travel to business trips to flying on airplanes, learning the best ways to eat better when we are busy can be challenging, but they can be done.  From the appendix of my book 12 Steps to Fitness Freedom here are 12 steps to eating on the go:

Preparation

1. You either prepare to succeed or fail. Preparing your lunch ahead of time would ensure you didn’t stop for fast food on your way back to the office.

2. Knowing what restaurants are on the way on a three hour business trip that serve healthy options would allow you to stay within your healthy eating strategy and not go for convenience. If we prepare, we can succeed.

Know Your Food

3. Anytime I go to a restaurant I know what my choices are going to be. I have either looked at their menu online or I have frequented there before. I know what I am walking into.

4. Use nutrition apps to look at menus and food items before sitting down for dinner. This will help you better understand the food quality.

Bring Healthy Snacks

5. If you are in an airport your choice of healthy options are slim. Bring almonds, nuts, Quest bars or fruit with to curve your appetite an prevent you from making a decision out of convenience.

6. Know the ingredients and how to read the food label on the back to know what your are eating.

Know How to Order Food

7. Different restaurants use different things to cook with. Some use olive oil, some may use butter. Either way, I always ask for my food to be prepared without butter or seasoning.

8. If it is chicken or beef I asked that it be prepared over an open fire and grilled. This cuts down on all the extra calories the cooking process can add.

Drink Water

9. On the go we sometimes forget about hydrating ourselves. Water keeps us hydrated but also decreases the hunger signals and keeps us full.

10. Keep big bottles of water on you at all times and refill as necessary.

Say No to Fast Food

11. If it has a drive through, say no!

12. If you have to stop for something quick choose grilled chicken over beef and baked potato over French fries.

 

Lauren Mayer: Homophobia Is So Last Millenium!

Public approval for marriage equality has skyrocketed, as state after state joins the accelerating trend.  But a few states are holding on to the past, this time by trying a bit of clumsy obfuscation – framing discrimination as ‘religious freedom,’ as though bigoted florists and bakers are the real victims.  They aren’t losing the right to worship the way they want, but when you do business in public, you follow basic laws.  For example, what if my religion disapproved of being Mormon?, or left-handed, or homophobic?  I still couldn’t turn away those clients.  (On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine a homophobic client wanting to hire a liberal musical satirist, but still, you never know!)

Clearly these feeble attempts are the last frantic sputters of dying-out resistence to gay marriage.  (Which always reminds me of the scene in Blazing Saddles where Sheriff Bart tries to keep the put-upon residents of Rock Ridge from leaving town and giving into Hedly Lamarr’s evil plot.  He says, “Can’t you see that’s the last act of a desperate man?,” and Howard Johnson replies, “We don’t care if it’s the first act of Henry V. We’re leaving!”)  So here’s a musical reminder to opponents of marriage equality that we see through their feeble attempts to disguise what they’re doing:

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Reflections from a Bathroom

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A picture of a yellow bird hangs on our bathroom wall. I can’t say I love it but it seems to work. It wasn’t originally intended for our bathroom. I bought it on sale and in a hurry to fill up empty wall space in another room but now it hangs prominently on our bathroom wall instead. It’s part of my life’s daily scenery and will probably stay that way. It’s “good enough” and has grown on me over time and now seems to fit there.

Which made me wonder how many other facets of my daily live are what they are simply because they are “good enough.” Each day we have limited time to make unlimited life decisions –-small, medium and large— and these cumulative daily life decisions add up over time to become the sum total of who we are.

I look at another wall in our bathroom and see two pictures of our family hanging there. The top picture is slightly crooked and probably has been since we put it up nearly 5 years ago when we moved in. But you can barely notice the slant and they are good enough just how they are and will stay there.

I look at our shower curtain and it is pleasant looking and adequate, as shower curtains go. I can’t remember who decided on the shower curtain. But it, too, is good enough and seems here to stay.

On our bathtub rim is the same brand of soap we have used for over 20 years. Buying soap hasn’t been a conscious decision in our lives for two decades. I figure either my mother or my wife’s mother recommended this brand of soap many years ago and it has been a fixture in our home ever since. That brand of soap didn’t have to become a fixture, of course. But it did because, like so many other things in our lives, it is good enough.

jyb_musingsAs I continue my observational journey I catch my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I stop and see myself and ask if I am who I am because the habits, personal qualities and attitudes I have chosen for myself were chosen because they were “good enough.” And have these habits, personal qualities and attitudes that make me who I am today somehow managed to grow on me over time and now just seem to fit, like the picture of the yellow bird seems to fit on our bathroom wall?

I stare deeper into the mirror looking at myself looking at myself and don’t want to answer that question. The question of whether or not I am an accumulation of life decisions that just seemed “good enough” at the time but were never given adequate thought  — decisions made too quickly, too often and in too many areas of my life.

Instead of answering that question I choose to look back at the picture of the yellow bird to distract myself. And decide, for the moment, that I regret not trying harder to pick out a better wall hanging to fill up the empty space on our bathroom wall.

And hope my deflective response to the more poignant question I asked my reflection in the mirror is good enough.

Matt Ranen: Who gets to decide what a “smart” life looks like?

Matt RanenThere has been a lot of hype lately about the coming wave of capabilities enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT). Through products as diverse as the Apple Watch, Google Nest, and any number of “connected-car” features offered by major auto makers, we are beginning to link together our most valuable possessions—our homes, our vehicles and even our own bodies. Each product comes with a new wave of “smart” applications designed to study our habits and get to know us better than ourselves; each will help us offload the complications of daily life.

The promise of a “smart” life, an IoT life, is usually couched in broad language about a utopian future where everything works “optimally” and “in balance.” But as any reader of Orwell might point out, these are subjective terms. What is optimal?

Defining how things are “supposed” to work

When did we decide exactly how things are supposed to work? Whose values and needs will be most represented in an optimized world? Those of the engineers who are coding it? The product manager who is defining the features? Certainly, for the moment, it’s not the end user.

smart traffic management system, for example, will make decisions for drivers: prioritizing lanes, setting speeds, timing light changes, etc. These decisions will make traffic more efficient, in theory. But the traffic management system will also have to decide whether right of way goes to the parent with screaming kids in the back who is running late for school, or to the trucker with perishables in back.

In an ideal traffic system, is the goal that everyone move at the same speed? Should decision-making algorithms try to optimize fuel efficiency by speeding up slow movers? Or should they limit pollution by letting electric cars use the fastest lanes? One possible tradeoff of efficiency will play straight into the classic US tension between fairness and an individual’s right to take risks for higher rewards: in this case, to drive faster and get there sooner.

Smart systems are stumbling on values and policy questions

In Jan. 2015, the city of Los Angeles stepped in to ban parking apps like MonkeyParking and Haystack, which allow drivers to auction off the parking spots they occupy, creating an optimized market for parking supply and demand that put drivers who most wanted certain parking spots (and could pay) directly in touch with those who had them. But many in the Los Angeles City Council objected to what Councilman Mike Bonin described as “pimping out a parking spot in the city of LA—taking something which is a public good, something that all of us own, and privatizing for a period of time.”

Within the next three to five years, a similar tension is likely to play out in home delivery services. As a key piece in fulfilling the promise of online commerce, delivery growth rates are expected to rise and include more food delivery and other types of services. Amazon, Google, and Wal-Mart are already competing with UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service, as well as crowdsourced-based startups such as Deliv and Postmates.

Smart delivery platforms will have to prioritize. With food delivery, will it be the customers who pay the most or those in most need of better nutrition who get the first drop-off? Is it okay for UberFresh to optimize profits over need? In another part of its business, the recent furor over Uber’s surge pricing is a good example of the public demanding a voice in what, on the surface, is simply an automatically optimizing mechanism.

Who gets to have a say?

We have already seen one optimization battle play out in the net neutrality debate. In Feb. 2015, the United States’ Federal Communications Commission ruled that all Internet traffic is equal. This is not the most efficient approach; some applications don’t really need the same speed as others, just like an Instagram photo needs less than a realtime, remote surgery protocol. But we’ve decided to sacrifice priorities like need and profit for the sake of protecting other values: an “open” internet, unrestricted access, and unrestricted speech. The same decisions will need to be made when it comes to the IoT.

As automated systems mechanisms control more of our everyday lives, governments and markets want to know—and influence—decision-making algorithms, even if those algorithms belong to privately-run businesses. In an Oct. 2013 paper published in the Boston College Law Review, Kate Crawford (Microsoft Research) and Jason Schultz (NYU School of Law) argue that consumers deserve to understand the data and decision-making processes used by analytics systems to make recommendations and perform other types of optimization.

Public intervention in optimization practices is not new. We have always had to make choices and trade-offs in community or national policy decisions. What is different this time, however, is the specificity of choice that is exposed by the technology: day-to-day choices that have historically remained hidden, embedded in social norms, like letting the hurried guy pass you. Other choices have been historically been made by experts and regulatory bodies specifically tasked with designing and running things on our behalf, like public utilities commissions.

What this means for developers

“Code is never found; it is only ever made, and only ever made by us,” once wrote Lawrence Lessig, law professor and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Although he was discussing the structure of digital space (such as virtual worlds), the same is true of our integrated physical and digital platforms. With this in mind, the companies currently developing, deploying and using smart, big data, and algorithmic platforms would be wise to do a few things:

  1. Be explicit about the values that are being optimized in these solutions during development and regularly test these against the market or societal sentiment.
  1. Build in the flexibility today that will allow for substantial revision of the core algorithms in the future, as society changes. Yes, even if this does cost more; optionality comes at real time and resource cost.
  1. Take pride in the shared values embedded in the code. It’s what defines and differentiates a community and keeps society together for the long haul.

Just as we now have very specific parameters for building codes, it should not surprise us to eventually demand oversight on smart software code. And when we do, we will have to agree, as human stakeholders, on what we mean by “optimized” lives.

Josh Bowen: You Over There — Stop Weighing Yourself!

joshShe gets out of bed and feels the soreness in her muscles from her workout the day before. Her workouts have been hard and she loves them and loves the momentum she is on. Her goals were to lose 15 lbs before Spring Break. She walks down stairs to fix breakfast before she starts her day. Her confidence is high, she isn’t dodging her appearance in the mirror and she feels so much more energy than the month before. Before she eats, she wants to weigh herself. She thinks to herself, “surely I have dropped 5 lbs after the past two weeks of hard workouts and stringent eating.” All of sudden you hear a loud bang, as if something was thrown up against the wall. It was the scale.

How could this happen? How can you workout so hard, eat so well and not lose enough or any weight? Let me let you in a secret. It doesn’t matter what your scale says. It will never tell you what you want it too. No matter how hard you try. It is very much the Bermuda Triangle of all things fitness. The scale does not define you. It does not state your worth. It does not state your beauty And an added caveat it does not mean your fitness program is not working and you are not putting enough effort in. It simply is a measurement of physical weight on planet Earth ( hey on the moon you way nothing). The worry and anguish that goes into worrying about what the scale says is enormous. I am begging you to stop worrying about it. Here is why:

It is out of your control…mostly

Yes, you can watch what you eat and exercise but outside of that, you cannot control what the scale says. Your body will reduce body weight when it wants too. You have zero control over when this happens. Some people lose weight quickly, for a variety of reasons, some don’t. Some lose body fat and retain or gain muscle, creating an exchange effect thus causing them to not lose any weight. It runs the gamut but you have to remember it is out of your control.

It Fluctuates

Females can fluctuate as much as 7 lbs in a week. Males can fluctuate as much as 5 lbs in a week. If you weight yourself in the morning you will weight differently at night. So why weigh yourself?

Less Weight Doesn’t Mean Less Body Fat

Or vice versa. If you chose losing weight as your goal, your behaviors will different from someone trying to lose body fat. Strength training provides increased muscle tissue and with dietary help, lowering body fat. This does not always equate to lowering physical body weight. You can actually look different but weight the same. Would it matter if you had your dream body but you weight 10 more lbs than you want? Doubtful. Look at this chart:


Doesn’t Mean You are Not Working Hard
The scale, again, is measurement of physical weight on Earth. Not a judgment of how hard you have or haven’t worked. Do not let it get you down, define you or put you down. Find other ways of measuring progress, like how your clothes feel or how much energy you have OR how you look in the mirror. For women especially, this is an important lesson to learn and hold onto.

Control what you can control. Everything else should not be worried and obsessed about. You are putting in great work and doing all you can, do not let the scale make you feel like you aren’t. Throw the scale away and be free.

Julie Rath: Your Guide to Stylish Ski Attire

You want the latest when it comes to skis and other equipment, but do you look the part when it comes to your ski clothes?

Man's style: what to wear skiingEven if you’re not arriving via helicopter (à la Fiat Group founder Gianni Agnelli), there are plenty of ways to stay stylish on the slopes.

If you look like the Michelin Man when you ski, it’s likely you haven’t rethought your attire since the late 90′s. Fortunately, along with advancements in skis, poles and other gear, there’s a lot new in the style department with plenty of excellent options that serve both form and function. Ski-wear designers have been heavily influenced by the more fitted cuts on the runways. And new fabric technologies allow for close fits that still provide warmth and flexibility. Bottom line: you can project a flattering physique on the slopes while staying warm and maintaining mobility.

When dressing for the slopes, you should wear a baselayer, midlayer, insulating layer, and coat or shell. Below are my suggestions within each category, plus accessories.

Baselayer
A baselayer is skin tight (or close to), thin- to medium-weight, and synthetic or wool. For wool, try brands like Ibex and Icebreaker. And for a high-performance synthetic, check out X-Bionic products, which are moisture-wicking, anti-bacterial, and designed to optimize circulation. All three brands even make boxer shorts. (Better safe than sorry.)

Men's image consultant: what to wear skiingMidlayer
A midlayer is a sweater, fleece or thicker base layer like a turtleneck. Dale Norway (above left) makes very sharp-looking ski sweaters. And for something sportier, check out the half-zip options from Kjus (above right).

Insulating Layer
This is a thin, light down jacket worn beneath your shell (note: this layer is not always needed in non-frigid temps and/or if your winter jacket is very warm; it can also be a vest as opposed to having full sleeves). I like Kjus for this, along with Peak Performance.

Men's Personal Shopper: Ski Clothes

Pants
For heavy-duty insulated pants, try Peak Performance’s Supreme Aosta. They’re highly wind- and waterproof and also have ankle guards, which is good if you ski with your ankles together (most intermediate or advanced skiers do). A good-looking lighter-weight option with more stretch and ankle reinforcement is Frauenschuh’s Alex pant.

Men's Personal Shopper: what to wear skiing

Parka
For your outermost top layer, you can’t go wrong with a Canada Goose duck-down parka (above left). If you’re not a fan of logos, Moorer (above right) makes absolutely gorgeous, luxurious (and splurgy) parkas that sacrifice nothing in terms of protection from the elements.

Gloves or Mittens
Black Diamond is by the far the highest-ranking winter company for accessories by outdoor enthusiasts. These mittens are warm in sub-zero temps, are fully waterproof, and have removal liners, which is great because you can use them on warmer days without the liners. Liners are key also if you’re skiing multiple days because you can dry and/or wash them more easily. For gloves, if you’re really popular, these are integrated with Bluetooth technology and a vibration alarm for incoming calls.

Socks
A single layer is best because it preserves the “micro climate” between your foot and boot, circulating air and keeping your feet warm. Go with 100% wool. DarnTough is great quality and has a lifetime guarantee.

Scarf
You can’t go wrong with one of these in a color that coordinates with the rest of your gear.

Men's Personal Shopper: what to wear skiingHat
Wear a beanie like this one above under your helmet.

Face Mask
In very cold weather, it’s nice to have something that goes over your face, like this face mask or buff. If you wear one of these, you may not need a scarf.

Goggles
Smith I/O Recon goggles have a micro-optics display where you can view your speed, real-time jump analytics, weather and buddy tracking, GPS mapping, and even a music playlist mode.

A note on combining: don’t go nuts mixing too many colors. If you wear a pop of color like bright red or orange, have it be on either top or bottom, with the remaining colors in the look neutral and coordinating with one another.

PSA: make sure to wear sunblock when skiing. The sun reflects off the snow onto your face, so you need to take extra precaution. I like Armada Sport 70 for all outdoor activities.

Are you ready to hit the slopes in style? I’d love to hear what you’ll be wearing – let me know in the comments below. And if you’re more about hot chocolate than black diamonds, stay tuned for an upcoming post on one of my favorite activities to style: après-ski.

Josh Bowen: Keeping Kids Active

joshA friend of mine, who is an elementary school teacher, told me that her kids are only alloted 15 minutes of recess a day. Often times the teachers are under such scrutiny to hit certain test scores that PE and recess are both put on the back burner. If the school systems would only take a look at several studies that show the more active a child (or adult for that matter) is the better their mind works to absorb vital information. So by limiting and abolishing recess and PE we are doing a disservice to our youth. We have to take matters into our own hands to keep our kids moving and active. These strategies are not revolutionary but they are helpful. Here we go!

Promote Activity

Not exercise- Huh? Yeah! Promotion of exercise and workouts are going to get your kids hyped up to go to the gym or even ride their bikes. They may not be ready for “exercise” but they will more than enjoy activity. This keeps the young mind that loses interest quickly, on task and having fun. I suggest the following:

Active Play

Ditch the video games and play catch, hide and go seek, Simon says and twister. Go old school, take it back to when you were a kid and you played hide and go seek for hours. Remember how much fun that was? I can’t tell you the last time I heard a kid talking about hide and seek, they would rather play Halo. Halo ain’t got nothing on hide and go seek (forgive me, I am from Kentucky)!

Try an Active Party

In the summer time throw a party for your kids at the batting cages or in the winter a bowling party would fit the bill. Old school mentality but activity nonetheless. This may inspire your young ones to pick a sport or find a hobby, all of which is great!

Give them a Choice

Yes, they should be consulted with these decisions. A ten year old is not going to do something they do not want to do. So back door them, get them to pretend it was their idea and watch what happens!

Limit Screen Time

A surefire way to increase your child’s activity level is to limit the number of hours he or she spends in front of a screen — including television, video games and online activities. For example, you might consider a limit of one or two hours a day and, for a better night’s sleep, no screen time in the hour before bed. To make it easier, don’t put a television in your child’s bedroom, don’t watch television while you’re eating dinner, and restrict computers and other electronic gadgets to a family area. Also consider limiting other sedentary activities, such as text messaging or chatting on the phone.

If your child plays video games, opt for those that require movement. Activity-oriented video games — such as dance video games and video games that use a player’s physical movements to control what happens on the screen — boost a child’s calorie-burning power. In a Mayo Clinic study, kids who traded sedentary screen time for active screen time more than doubled their energy expenditure.

Walk the Walk

Here is the most important one. If this is not in play, the rest do not matter. You must back up what you preach. Children with active parents are far and away to be more active. It is that simple. You can’t go tell your child to go play outside and be active, if you are sitting on your rear end doing nothing. The facts hurt but they are true. We are at fault for the lack of activity our youth gets. Not technology, not our school system (well maybe they get some blame) but us.

I do not have children so many of you can point that out and say I have no idea what I am talking about. And your argument may be valid. However I have trained children as young as 11. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my career. I sought out to spark a young mind to value activity, not just exercise. Exercise is just the tool.

Wonder how much physical activity is enough? Consider these guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services:

Children and adolescents age 6 and older need at least an hour a day of physical activity. Most of the hour should be either moderate or vigorous aerobic activity. In addition, children should participate in muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week. Many classic activities — such as playing on playground equipment and jumping rope — cover all the bases at once.

So there you have it, a game plan for establishing activity and play in our youth. This is important, more important than most realize. The quality of life of the next generation depends on the current generation. Let’s do our jobs and inspire, motivate and build a healthier future for our kids.

Here is a young, active kid from Lexington, KY (with hair!) Just a kid with a dream of being a personal trainer!

Lauren Mayer: Everything Old Is New Again

Retro is in!  The fun of nostalgia is that we can romanticize the aspects we liked (e.g. Downton Abbey’s fabulous costumes and Maggie Smith’s great lines) while ignoring those we wouldn’t really want to resume (servants with no lives of their own, no antibiotics or disposable diapers, etc.).  So it was only fitting that the controversy around Bill O’Reilly’s exaggerations erupted the week before Downton Abbey’s Season 5 finale.   Here’s my tribute to the 1920s/commentary on O’Reilly’s reaction (which was, shall we say, just a tad different from Brian Williams’), and it’s up to you if you want to consider it as also being a commentary on the age of O’Reilly’s target audience.

Erica and Matt Chua: March Forth!

March fourth is a very important day, not only because it’s my birthday, but it is the only day that is a command.  It is the calendar issuing you a challenge to march forth, step out of your comfort zone and try something new. As I get older the more I take this advice to heart as it is important to remember how frustrating and rewarding it is to learn something new.

When is the last time you learned something completely new? Below is my account of attempting to surf in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka.  A short story to remind my aging self that “old dogs can learn new tricks.”  And, hopefully inspires you to never lose that urge to try something new.

Fighting tears of pain and frustration after yet another wipe out on my surf board, I scanned the water to see if anyone had noticed my attempt at catching the wave.  Exhausted and uninterested in paddling out to try and catch the next wave, I struggled to shore with my surfboard.  Sitting on the beach surveying other beginners attempting to stand up on their boards I felt a little bit better about my efforts.  However, it didn’t change the fact that learning something new is as tough as it is rewarding.

This was just the beginning of the learning something new epiphany that  I had in Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka.   Each morning when we woke up and headed to the beach to surf I was excited to attempt to walk on water.  Even after many failed attempts, bumps and bruises I was filled with hope that tomorrow would be my day.  Each break through and little triumph made me smile, while each setback taught me something new about my technique.

As I struggled to carry the surf board effortlessly under my arm, like so many of the seasoned boarders walking on the beach I fully realized how much harder it was than it looks.  The reality is that I’m not going to become a surfer dude (or in this case dudette) overnight, or possibly ever. But the benefit of learning to surf went far beyond clearing my sinuses with plenty of salt water, acquiring a new skill builds confidence, creativity and to put it nicely is a very humbling experience.

Do you want to be more confident, inspiring and adaptable?   Do you wish you could surf, cook gourmet meals or speak another language?  Well, what if I told you all of these things are possible by simply putting your energy into learning new things.  Why did this post turn into an infomercial?  Because I really believe in the power of getting out of your comfort zone and gaining a new skill, so I want to sell you on the idea.  The benefits are endless.

So, today, on the only day of the year that is a command I dare you to move beyond the things you know and learn something new. Be open to the possibilities in your life and explore new opportunities.  Take the calendar’s challenge and March Forth!

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