In the Spirit of Independence…

My longest race EVER is tomorrow morning at 8am in Santa Barbara! I registered for the Santa Barbara Semana Nautical 15K about three months ago hoping to find a midsummer race to keep me motivated through the season. It’s my last mini-race (and by mini I mean magnitude AND cost) until September…which is pretty much the month when everything will be splitting sideways and not stopping until after Thanksgiving, maybe even Christmas.

Independence Day has always been bittersweet for me. I’ve either spent it alone, coercing people into doing things with me, or being coerced into doing things. This year I’ll be spending it running! (I made plans well in advance to prevent the spending it alone, being coerced, or coercing others.) I’m looking forward to running my first 15K in beautiful Santa Barbara, a gorgeous college town I had not ventured into for almost a year now. There’s a few spots I would love to hit before I skip town since I’m doing a turnaround trip — The Blue Agave for dessert, maybe Pierre Lafonde Wine Bistro for breakfast, that cute little game shop on State Street where I found a pint-sized version of Family Business. For sure I want to spend some time near/on the water. Ideally I’d get some open water swimming but that might not be in my cards this time, unless I can rationalize an ocean swim as some sort of post-run shower!

I think that this run is going to be great — it’s so close to the ocean that I’m positive that I’ll be able to catch a glimpse of an ocean vista sometime during the 9.3 miles. This will be my longest race to date, but not quite my longest run. I’ve ran longer, but I’ve been in cross-training mode and have been tapering off my running so that I could add in more cycling and swimming. I miss running but I guess I’m cutting down so that I can balance my training out a bit. Missing my running time makes me tackle my cycling and swimming with more gusto.

In the spirit of Independence Day I hope everyone finds something to celebrate. I hope that somewhere, deep inside, we can all remain independent of the forces around us that we cannot control. I hope that we all find some sort of inner peace that we can rely on to guide us during hard times. Most of all, I hope that we all find motivation to do things that we *wish* we could do. Most of the things we seek are well within reach if we can recognize the willpower and desire within. For me it’s simultaneously tackling my marathon training with more serious dedication, while focusing and balancing my triathlon training. Why I do it is a completely different story, although freeing in of itself!

My Social Media Day Commitment for 2011

I’ve been lucky to have been able to make quite the career out of social media.

Frankly, I was quite astute when I saw the connection between social media, design, and marketing. Who knew that in due time I’d be running my own shop, working on user experience design for two kick-ass web apps called Glass and Retrollect, volunteering my skills for an awesome (startup-by-situation) non-profit in town (Dress for Success), and going on awesome roadtrips sponsored by Chevy with my SXSWAngels? I even met my boyfriend at Social Media week. Go figure — I hit the jackpot in my twenties with social media.

Last year I hosted Social Media Day here in Los Angeles. This year I opted out of it for personal reasons, as well as time constraints. (I’m a bit overbooked at the moment.) However, after coming back from SXSW I really began to examine my participation in social media. I was Twitter-stalking (as I have a tendency to do) and came across my friend’s really neat bio, which pretty much plucked the thoughts right out of my own brain.

Gabe is absolutely right. THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY. We can’t keep lurking or shouting and expect to communicate. It’s a two way street, and right now it seems like most people are talking at each other and no one is really listening or engaging.

So, me being the type of person I am, I try to find a way to address this solution on a small scale. I believe that change is more effective and sustainable if it’s done in small steps on a personal level. We can’t overhaul a system overnight. It takes time to make it stick.

The first thing I did was give up blogging daily. I had taken the Post a Day 2011 challenge but found it 1) challenging and 2) fruitless. It wasn’t because I had trouble writing — I have plenty to say — but it was because I wasn’t as confident that what I had to say was really all that important. To be consistent is one thing. To be meaningful is another. If I didn’t feel like posting something that day and just forced myself to write something for the sake of pushing it out the door, have I really done the Internet a service? I don’t think so. I’ve actually contributed to the problem.

Secondly, in giving up blogging, I decided to do the opposite — I unplugged (slightly). Instead of blogging everyday, I went for a run. That run always got broadcasted through Twitter and Facebook, and of course I blogged about it quite a bit too, but instead of using social media to talk about social media (completely useless and mostly redundant, a la “preaching to the crowd”) I used social media for what it was truly intended for: to connect with other people.

With Social Media Day 2011 I’ve come to take a long hard look at how it plays a role in my daily life.

My social media resolutions are as such:

  • I plan to participate when I have something of value to say.
  • I vow to keep my personal safety an absolute priority, therefore going on a Foursquare diet effective as of last week.
  • I plan on speaking my mind with as much conviction in person as I would online.
  • I vow to bridge the gap between my sometimes online life and my mostly offline life.
  • I will not allow the web to get in the way of honest communication.
  • I will follow/friend only people that I find valuable in my life and defriend people who I don’t want to actually keep up with.
  • I will not allow online connections to replace the face-to-face experience.

How about you? What are your thoughts on Social Media Day and my resolutions? Do you have any of your own?

Recent Read: Born To Run

I started this book today waiting for the Metro to take me home from my just-completed 13 mile point-to-point run from my apartment to the ocean. It came highly recommended by a client who also happens to be a triathlete.

I’m about halfway through it so far and I’m impressed — it’s linear insomuch that it reconstructs the chronology of particular chance encounters but also spins off into sub-chapters explaining the characteristics that each of the ultrarunners bring to the game. I’ve excerpted a few of my favorite passages below.

(Update: I’ve finished the book and it was great! I loved the storytelling aspect as the writer follows many different runners on their journey. The only part I didn’t like was that there was one small portion where the author was hypocritical: he makes a mention of an unsaid runners code of ethics, but then manages to slam another professional runner a few pages later. I wonder why the editor let that one slide by!)

Pick it up! My rating: 8/10

* * *

“Lesson two….think easy, light, smooth, and fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooth. You don’t have to worry about the last one — you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

* * *

Was Zatopek a great man who happen to run, or a great man because he ran? Vigil couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but his gut kept telling him that there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love running. The engineering was certainly the same: both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you got, being patient and forgiving and undemanding. Sex and speed — haven’t they been symbiotic for most of our existence, as intertwined as the strands of DNA? We wouldn’t be alive without love; we wouldn’t have survived without running; maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that getting better at one could make you better at the other.”

* * *

That fall, a photo appeared in UltraRunning Magazine. It shows Jenn finishing a 30-mile race somewhere in the backwoods of Virginia. There’s nothing amazing about her performance (third place), or her getup (basic black shorts, basic black sports bra), or even the camera work (dimly let, crudely cropped). Jenn isn’t battling a rival to the bitter end, or striding across a mountaintop with the steel-jawed majesty of a Nike model, or gasping toward glory with a grimace of heartbreaking determination. All she’s doing is…running. Running, and smiling. But that smile is strangely stirring. You can tell she’s having an absolute blast, as if there’s nothing on earth she’d rather be doing and nowhere on earth she’d rather be doing it than here, on this lost trail in the middle of the Appalachian wilderness. Even though she’s just run four miles further than a marathon, she looks light-footed and carefree, her eyes twinkling, her ponytail swinging around her head like a shirt in the fist of a triumphant Brazilian soccer player. Her naked delight is unmistakable; it forces a smile to her lips that’s so honest and unguarded, you feel she’s lost in the grip of artistic inspiration.

* * *

Ann liked to tell her friends that running huge miles in the mountains was “very romantic.” But yeah, Ann insisted, running was romantic; and no, of course her friends didn’t get it because they’d never broken through. For them, running was a miserable two miles motivated solely by size 6 jeans: get on the scale, get depressed, get your headphones on, and get it over with. But you can’t muscle through a five-hour run that way; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it.

Relax enough, and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget that you’re moving. And once you break through that soft, half-levitating flow, that’s when the moonlight and champagne show up.

* * *

 

A Few Observations From Today

 

On my run:

  • I ran the Miles for Melanoma 5K this morning in Fullerton. Along the run route they had volunteers hold signs of people whom have passed from cancer. It was also very nice to see families and teams working together to fundraise for a cause that was so close to them.
  • The run route was pretty — a short trail to a small fishing lake. It looped around and on the run back I felt like I was going to either trip and fall over rocks or walkers. Both would have been equally painful in my opinion.

Regarding my timing:

  • I really do need to leave a bit earlier. I have a tendency to drill everything down until the last minute. I had the map to the race venue months in advance and still didn’t bother routing my drive there since I knew where the city was. I arrived with just enough time to check-in late and head to the start line!
  • In regards to actual timing of my run, I did pretty well compared to my last 5K. I ran a 9:23 mile compared to my 10:20 mile at the LA Big5K at the end of March.

On my bike ride:

  • It is easier to maintain momentum than it is to fight inertia. (I think that applies to a lot of areas of life.)
  • I’m having a difficult time turning and braking…pretty much anything that deviates from riding in a straight line. And even that I don’t do very well yet.
  • I get skittish with people around. I get especially nervous when there are cars around.
  • Nonetheless I’ve somewhat mastered staying on for continuous blocks and dips in the road.

In my personal relationships:

  • It’s easier to just speak your mind than it is to wallow in doubt.
  • Time spent with friends is time well spent.

In my work:

  • Spent the better part of the afternoon working on a visual overhaul for a friend’s website. It’s always difficult removing myself from the equation and making sure I design for someone else’s preference and their audience than for my own taste. I think that’s a challenge all designers face whether or not they choose to own up to that responsibility.
  • When working on weekends it is best to apply the law of diminishing marginal returns.

The Victim vs. Survivor Mentality

Depending on how closely you stalk me on the interwebs, you have have gathered that I’ve been running a lot lately. I’ve been consistently running at least 5 days a week since the first week of February. In late March I ran my first 5K and this Sunday I will be running my first 10K. I’m crazy excited about it… not to mention sore.

My first 10K holds a near and dear place to my heart for a few reasons. One, it’s my first 10K (duh!). Second, it’s a fundraiser for sexual assault victims — specifically the Center for Assault Treatment Services. (CATS) at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. This center is the only 24/7 program for victims of sexual assault and abuse in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys. CATS provides medical evidentiary exams, forensic interviews, case management and referrals to victims of all ages.

The race was aptly named “Victory for Victims.” While I appreciate the sentiment, the label “victim” wrongly shines a negative light on the person’s disposition. From someone who has fallen prey to sexual assault, I find that the label “survivor” is much more fitting — you’ve lived through it, you’ve experienced it, and it’s time to pick up the pieces and move on.

 

Throughout my childhood and into my young adult years I oscillated between positivity and negativity. I received a lot of love and care from friends and family but the most important part of my recovery was the self-healing process: learning to be comfortable with myself again, being able to look in the mirror without being hypercritical, knowing that it wasn’t my fault, and understanding that I was a thousand times a survivor than I was a victim.

I truly believe that the victim vs. survivor mentality can be applied to a host of mental and physical conditions, but whether or not you choose to heal actually comes from within. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research on the psychology of change and healing and the consensus is out — it seems like if you can visualize yourself healed from whatever ails you, it’s possible to make it a reality.

How have you managed to turn your life around? When have you changed the paradigm and manifested your own version of reality?

4 Steps For Positive Change: Saying, Seeing, Feeling, Believing

This morning I sat down to a meeting in downtown LA with one of my most interesting clients. As a spiritual psychologist, she helps people recognize and reconcile the emotional underpinnings that keep them from achieving their full potential. With my recent “completion” of my 21-day health challenge, the SXSWAngels campaign, and with my personal and work life looking up, I definitely had some fodder for conversation. Whenever we meet she always manages to coach me for a bit but today we focused more so on the differences between saying, seeing, feeling, and believing.

What is the difference between saying, seeing, feeling, and believing something?


Let’s take a concept I’m sure we’re all familiar with: LOVE. (You can change this out for pretty much anything you are trying to achieve — better grades, working more efficiently, exercising more, etc.)

Saying it– We are capable of the physical act of saying it — “I love you” — but what happens when we don’t see it, feel it, or believe it? They are beautiful words that have absolutely no meaning behind them. At this point it is worse to say it than not. Just because you say it, it doesn’t make it true since you are not actually convinced of it. Some people believe that you can “fake it ’til you make it.” That doesn’t work. What does work is saying, seeing, feeling, and believing it.

Seeing it – This is harder for some people. Sometimes perspectives get in the way. How can they see themselves in love if they are unhappy with themselves? How do you love someone else if you don’t love yourself? By “seeing” yourself at that personal mile marker, you might be able to actualize it. But, seeing yourself in love and just saying “I love you” doesn’t make it love, does it?

Feeling it – This step is usually the hardest for people to overcome. Being able to see themselves in love and being able to say it is no match for being able to feel it within themselves and feel it for other people. This is usually the most crucial and defining step for positive change: being able to physically feel what the change will do for you. How does it make you feel?

Believing it – Once you say it, see it, and feel it…you might actually start to believe it. And, when you believe it, it becomes true — not in some cheesy esoteric way but when something is true to YOU, it becomes engrained into your version of reality…so, it becomes true. In this case, when you believe in the power of love to bring people together, push people apart, wage wars, solve problems, and show compassion, you embrace it and it becomes a part of your reality.

What will you say, see, feel, and believe today?

The Power of Persuasion and Friendship…Starring YOU. Yeah, You.

All day today I had the pleasure of spending some 1-on-1 quality time with a few good friends. Over the past year I’d been more keen on widening this circle to include a multitude of my interests. I find that there is something very special about friendship — you can never have too much of it. If you are genuine in your intent, you can never run out of the desire to be a better friend. To me, friendship is a special kind of love, one that exists without expectation and commitment. You’re there because you want to be, you’re absent when you need to be, but when they beckon you, you are unequivocally present. This isn’t some BS/backdoor conversation about something as lame and phony as “social capital.” It’s about being a decent human being, bringing value to and enriching someone else’s life, and vice versa.

An interesting theme of discussion today was the power of persuasion — specifically, the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell other people. Being entangled in a web of lies and self-created fantasies makes it harder for us to be free. It makes it more difficult for us to be cognizant of the realities and context of our lives. But, then again, reality is relative to perception and situation. Who really knows the truth? What about parallel universes where every decision is made, every impulse is acted upon, and every stone is turned? What happens when we persuade ourselves to believe in a disillusioned reality? I don’t know, but that is where the power of persuasion comes into place.

The power of persuasion can also be applied internally since the human mind is easy to trick. By internalizing our thoughts and repeating the same cycles, we reproduce the same result. That same result, unfortunately, is usually confounding and circular. It tends to be uninformed, skewed, biased, and based on irrationality. By persuading yourself of a false reality, you do a great disservice to yourself and your journey. By taking away the ability for someone to weigh in and provide perspective, you’ve strategically chosen to eliminate them from your version of reality, even if only temporarily. And, since the power of persuasion is rather gripping, it can become so emotionally consuming that eventually there is no room for anything else to frame your version of reality, therefore closing you off from a wellspring of opportunity for companionship.

It’s definitely something to think about.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” –Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

Find The Best Enabler Within Yourself

Let me tell you, everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from helping other people.

The Answer Within

I’ve been noticing a very interesting (and welcomed!) pattern emerging from my #postaday2011 habit — I’ve been receiving more offline comments about my blog than online, via text messages, emails, phone calls, dinners, in person, private Twitter conversations, etc. Whenever someone reaches out to me for help I do my very best to put out, whether that means I temporarily set aside my own priorities or shove off a responsibility. After all, it takes a lot of guts to admit that you need help with something and I am always honored to help when I’m somehow magically targeted.

From my experience I’ve realized that when people seek help, they are often looking for:

  • Someone to actively listen without passing judgment
  • Someone to help them organize their thoughts
  • Someone to help them formulate an action plan

If nobody has told you this yet, know that you hold the most salient, pertinent, and relevant answers to your life’s biggest problems. Somewhere, deep inside, you control your level of happiness and satisfaction. You are able to achieve anything it is you seek because you have the human capability to create your own destiny. You don’t have to rely on someone else’s validations and opinions to affirm what you already know to be true. Your friends, your family, perhaps even your religion, won’t be able to hold a candle to what you know to be inherently true to your world. Don’t let anyone else ever tell you otherwise. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason: whether it’s adversity, loss, love, virtue, violence, or divinity, everything that happens to us has a simultaneously cumulative latent/instantaneous effect on us. Somewhere, in a parallel universe, lies your “what if” moment, your long lost love, your hopes and dreams — all you have to do is switch your frame of mind and it can be yours.

The next time you seek help, look within yourself first. You are your own best enabler. You know what’s best for you. If and when do you seek help or solace in others, choose wisely. Look for help from people who bring out the best in you. You are whatever you put out into the universe, and strangely enough you will manifest your own destiny with every action you do (or do not) take. The keys to the kingdom are in your hands — you just need to learn to slow down, focus on yourself a bit, and trust your gut instinct. And, if you need some validation, sit back and watch this short film…I am sure you will find it inspiring.

4 Steps To Making Your Goals More Achievable

In my last post, I went at great lengths to detail exactly HOW to set goals. It might seem a bit self-explanatory but I’ve worked with a lot of people who are just plain overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. If you are one of those people, hopefully my suggestions helped!

So, we’ve established that having goals are great. However, goals that are too far out of reach become more discouraging than encouraging. How do you deal? You make them more achievable!

Here are four steps to consider when refining your goals to make them achievable.

  1. Realize that the only thing standing in the way of your goals is yourself. If you really want to achieve a goal, find out what your barriers to entry are. Work on breaking those down first so that you can freely proceed with your plans.
  2. Don’t sabotage your goals before you get started by making them too far out of reach. Remember, the higher the expectation, the greater the disappointment. By putting your goals too far out of reach you give yourself a reason to fail later.
  3. Hold yourself accountable with milestones. Break down your goals into manageable mini-goals. Most importantly, give yourself enough time to meet those milestones.
  4. If you slip and don’t achieve your goals by the anticipated date, forgive yourself. Learn from the obstacles that were in your way, remedy them, and keep going!

Did I leave anything off? How do you make your goals more achievable?

The Only True Wealth Is Health

Steve Jobs is on indefinite medical leave again — in an email to his staff on MLK Day he cited health reasons. As a quintessential icon of our contemporary culture — to encompass business, technology, and influence — it saddens me greatly to see someone as hardworking as he to have to struggle through so many health issues.

Steve Jobs On Medical Leave

Update: On October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs passed away due to complications from advanced pancreatic cancer at the age of 56.

That brings me to the point that a freelance client once brought to my attention — “The only true health is wealth.”

In between trying to keep up with my business, my startup (one actualized, one conceptualized, and a few on paper), and grad school, I try to have a life outside of that. Most of that “life” is spent thinking about my work, planning how I’ll go about my work, about new projects I want to work on…you get the point. Every once in awhile I’ll turn on my Netflix or crack open a book that is not related to school, business, or marketing. I have an overflowing box of periodicals dying to keep my perspective contemporary. But alas…my brain wanders right back to where it began.

I’ve seen how hard my parents have worked. Their business not only required brains but, to some extent, brawn. They came back emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted from their work daily. My father always urged that I studied hard so that I could get a good job — one that required me to use my brain more than my brawn (as if I had any). Unfortunately I think somewhere along the line I had equated a job that required more thinking to be less physically laborious. I have been proven wrong a number of times in my life, and most severely in the last four. I have fallen ill with reemergent PTSD, strep throat, mono, bronchitis, and pharyngitis. I figure that I’m in my twenties and that it’s not a big deal, but honestly it’s a bit excessive for one human being.

I enjoy what I do. I freakishly enjoy what I do. So, I use it as an excuse to work whenever I want, where ever I want, for as long as I want. I jam pack my schedule to a point where I can’t even view my schedule in its entirety in the month view. I am one of the lucky ones with a full plate, an agenda, and the opportunity to do what I want to do, so I try not to waste it. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at the end of the day, the tunnel is really all in my head and every day I get better at placing that light just a little further out of reach. It’s as if I’m playing mind tricks on myself and continually rearranging the pieces on the game board to make things more challenging for myself…which I suppose really begs the idea of motivation theory.

Because of my fanatic work schedule, a lot of people ask me where I get my motivation. My family makes the assumption that I’m pulling in boatloads of cash. (Not true!) Don’t get me wrong — money is nice and it has the potential to provide me with comforts. The key word in that phrase is potential. However, my work — right now — provides me with that emotional and mental comfort. It challenges me. It makes me want to find better solutions to problems my clients (and my own projects) are facing. The thrill of challenging myself and finding those solutions are my primary motivations. I figure that the rest of it is just gravy and that somewhere on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs I’m just picking at the top level.

So, since I am not really in the right headspace to even be seriously blogging, I’ll leave you with a great video @SuYo and @maestroism both sent to me on the same day. It’s a great piece on motivation theory. For the best impact, watch it all of the way through. I had learned most of the information they brought to life via my own working experience but it is a great piece for entrepreneurs and business owners.