How to overcome lacking creativity

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Yesterday, I was supposed to write a little doo-dad about Sweat Local Columbus, my wife and I’s (<– grammatically correct BTW) fitness journey, and a little more about ourselves for the blog, Columbus Families. The day before, my wife asked me to write it because, well, writing is kind of my thing. This was supposed to be a short piece (not exactly my forte, but not something I should struggled with) and something that would hit home with some of the readers.

So I wrote the piece.

I wrote the piece and it read like a high school essay.

“My name is Ryan Rauch and today I would like to tell you about why I think health is important. Health is important because it gives me the energy I need to accomplish my goals. I also like nutrition. Nutrition, according to wikopedia.com, is the….”

That wasn’t really what I wrote, but it may as well have been. I talked to Kelly on the way home and she told me it was boring and that she’d have to edit it and rewrite it.

It felt like she was spotting me at the gym.

“Here, babe, let me help you pick up that big heavy weight. You just got get a towel and a big drink of water…”

I couldn’t argue with her; I knew it was bad and I know I could do better.

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So I started working through my head as to why I couldn’t come up with anything better than some generic B-copy version of something that, of all things, I really do like and care about. I think it all starts with lacking creativity.

I think most writers probably deal with this on a regular basis. I think that overcoming a lack of creativity has to start with self critiquing oneself (call it soul searching if you want, but don’t allow yourself to excuse anything). It’s basically problem solving, right? The big difference is that I’m not really looking for a solution. Creativity isn’t like math, it’s like science: the solution can always be improved upon and can always be made better.

If I’m honest with myself as a writer, my strength isn’t writing straight forward content. I think the things I like most and I believe that people enjoy about my writing is my ability to write like I think, and to allow my personality to come through in my work. When I try to do something that doesn’t sound like me, it won’t read well to anyone that sees it.

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So here’s my plan.

Step one: write this blog. (Check)

Step two: rewrite the piece for Columbus Families, even if it’s already published (who cares if it doesn’t get published, I am going to write it the way I should have written it the first time)

Step three: celebrate because it’s Friday and I am pouring beer for my favorite brewery at Powell Fest tonight. (because if all else fails, I’ll find a little creativity at the bottom of a double IPA or two)

 

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Humble Brag – Props to my Wife

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I don’t want to steal any thunder from my wife who, today, quit her corporate job and is officially *dramatic music* “self-employed.” In fact, she just texted me that she told her boss (something she’s been dreading for…well, as long as she’s had it in her mind to quit I guess). I hope she will go into more detail in her own blog about her thoughts, struggles, successes, and every emotion in between because it takes a ton of guts to do what she did today.

Kelly has ALWAYS wanted to work for herself. Her parents and her brother all work for themselves and, for as long as I’ve known her, Kelly has been envious and dreamed of doing the same thing. About a year ago, she started doing some freelance social media and event planning for a couple of local businesses in the community. Her first (and probably favorite, but don’t tell anyone) was a restaurant we already liked going to that was near our house. That first day, she just went up to the owner, more-or-less bluntly asked if she needed any marketing help, and was surprised that she did and was happy to pay Kelly (at the time) a good amount of money for her to take over her social media and put on a few events at the restaurant.

It’s exciting for me to see how far she’s come with everything. Since she started with the social and events, she taught herself graphic design and also how to build websites. She can now charge 3x what she did just one year ago, and I think she’s beginning to realize that the work she does is worth more than that even.

I think a lot of people in my position would be scared to have their wife do what Kelly is doing. She and I basically brought home the same amount of money before this, so the security of knowing what the paycheck was going to be 3, 6, 12 months from now was a comfortable way to plan for the things we want to buy and the places we want to go.

The thing is, having seen how far she’s come and having heard how much her clients appreciate her work, I am excited about the prospect of what her working for herself will mean for our income (especially if you give her 40+ more hours to focus on everything). I don’t care if we aren’t bringing home what we did for a few months, because I know she’s the kind of person that won’t sit still until she’s where she wants to be. And the exciting thing is, she’s the kind of person that never settles for things being good enough.

I am extremely proud of my wife for having the courage to do what it is she’s wanted to do for a long time. There are a million reasons she shouldn’t have left a good paying job with benefits, but she is putting her happiness first and I believe with my whole heart that there are much bigger things in our future because she has the courage and vision to bet on herself. There is not a bone in my body that second guesses that this is the right thing to do and that she’s making the right decision.

 

Things I’m Liking Lately – May 2016 Edition

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I’ll admit it from the jump: I’m stealing this idea from my wife who wrote a piece a few months back about the things she’s loving right now. Whatever, it was a good idea and now I want to do it. For legal reasons, I’ll title mine “Things I’m Liking Lately” and not “Things I’m Loving Lately” (you never know, she might sue me if we get into a fight later…).

Anyway, this is all about the things I’m into and passionate about at the moment. A lot of these are summer things I have coming up, and others are longer-arcing projects that excite me.

I should also say that these things aren’t in any order.

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Sweat Local Columbus

This began as something my wife started as a “wouldn’t it be great if…” and has turned into a pretty big deal. We pretty much laughed at the kiddy-pool idea of starting small, and created an event that will feature a 5k (complete with a police-patrolled route, timing chips, sponsored finish line banner..the works) and an expo that will feature many of Columbus’ local boutique gyms and restaurants. The event is really too big to describe in this blog post, but you should definitely check out the website and come if you’re in town (July 30, 2016). We’ve already received a ton of support from businesses and are excited to put on this event. #SweatLocalCbus

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Obstacle Course Races

So I have this tendency to fall in love with something then go all out for whatever that thing happens to be. My current obsession is Obstacle Course Races (though I’ve only competed in one race). Still, I am looking up every different race that involves mud and a wall, and I’m trying to find ways to justify driving to North Carolina for a race with my wife (Ashville is only 3 hours further south, and it would ONLY be a 12 hour drive home!).

I’m not going to spend more time on this one because I feel like I’ve driven this one into the ground with Facebook pictures, Twitter updates, and two blog posts on here dedicated to my Spartan Race. Long story short — I’m now following just about every OCR account on Twitter and have worn out the Google machine as far as “top ten races” are concerned.

Fun stuff!

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Writing

Kind of an odd thing looking at “writing,” but I’m kind of getting excited about writing again. I recently joined a site called “ClearVoice” and they basically allow you to upload some writing samples you’ve done in the past and set a $/word amount for any potential assignments. They then email you opportunities and if you want to do it and the company wants you to do it, you have an assignment.

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Anyway, it’s fun to be writing again. I still enjoy writing these posts and Sports Monte posts, but sometimes getting real life assignments about things you have to research and learn a thing or two about is fun.

I did get an “opportunity” to write a blog post about “why polyamory isn’t cheating.” I was considering it until my wife steered me clear. I guess after a certain age, the “I’ll write anything for money” mindset has to wear off. Thanks, babe, for saving me from that one!

Style

I’m notorious for “shopping” online, but never making it past putting things in carts. I probably have expired items in so many digital carts. But recently, I had a look I wanted to pull off for a wedding that’s coming up in two weeks. It’s a navy suit with a Kelly green knit silk tie and some kind of a pale blue, minimal-print shirt underneath. I’ll also have the obvious cognac shoes-belt combo working.

I’m also keeping an eye on some other sites like Gustin and JackThreads. I like the idea of stepping my jeans-game up. I’ve gotten away from the Express and American Eagle jeans phase and am currently in a Levis-from-the-department-store phase. I like these jeans, but I’m intrigued by a really quality pair of denim. Haven’t pulled the trigger on the jeans, yet, but I did make the plunge on a Navy suit!

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Travel

2016 is still the #YearofTravel, and I am still really excited about Ireland and the on-again, off-again Vegas vacation in August that is currently a full-go! (We have our plane tickets now so I feel confident). We’re Vegasing to help out my in-laws (Hi, Jim and Kathy!) at a PGA show. So, while I still plan to have plenty of fun this trip, it is a business trip and I think Kelly and I are going to have to keep a young, upstart putter maker in check and make sure he doesn’t get lost in the lights (he’s 26ish, will be going to Vegas for the first time, and kind of has that frat-mentality from having met him just the once).

Of course, the headliner for 2016: The #YearofTravel is Ireland and, again, I’ve written about that enough on this page. If you want to know more about that, check out that article. I think those two trips might be all we can handle, but if a weekend adventure, wedding, or some other opportunity presents itself, I might be hard pressed to say no. Because aside from it being 2016: The #YearofTravel, it’s also 2016: The #YearofYes, so I’m trying to say yes to as many things as I can and see what kind of year it was when I look back at it from 2017.

Anyway, those are the things I’m liking at the moment. If you think there is something I’m missing out on, please comment and I will see if it’s something I might add to my list of likes!

 

 

I Survived my First Spartan Race

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So my first obstacle race is in the books. I am now allowed to officially use terms like “OCR,” “AROO,” “fellow Spartans” and a few other phrases I probably shouldn’t say online for fear of the Spartan Mafia will come after you and I with their shields and spears and we’ll end up in some never-ending pit (or whatever it is they would do with bodies). Point is, I accomplished my fitness goal for this year and it feels great!

I always get really nervous before any event (5K, 1/2 marathon, and now, Spartan Race). I think all of the excitement of the day just makes my stomach uneasy. We left our house around 6:00 a.m. and headed out to the Wilds where the event was taking place. For those who aren’t familiar, the Wilds is (general terms) a private zoo that has African animals people can come out to see. While the race was held in a different area, I’ve committed to the story that I saw three lions, two giraffes, a few volunteers battling a giant gorilla, and I was chased by a rhino for most of the middle of the race.

Check out this hard-to-stomach shot of that scene.

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It’s a good thing I’m so fast.

When Kelly and I got there, we parked and had to walk up a hill to get to the main entrance area. From our car, we could see the tops of some of the obstacles, but nothing was very clear. Once we got through registration, we walked over to what appeared to be a spectator-friendly area that let you watch one of the obstacles up close. Just about as soon as we get up to it (kind of a monkey-bars on steroids obstacle), a dude who looked like his chest and biceps weighed about 90 pounds alone was holding his arm and talking to someone in the crowd. While we couldn’t hear everything, the long and short of it was that his arm bone was basically broken and poking into his bicep…this guy who was probably 6’2, 375 threw in the towel because this race made his arm bone break and puncture his bicep…

“OK, babe! Let’s do this! Nothing to worry about with me!”

She handled that whole thing better than I thought she would have. Anyway, we wandered around a bit until is was about my time to start. The racers go off in waves of about 100 people every 15 minutes to prevent too much build up at any one obstacle. There was about a five-foot wall you had to scale in order to get into the starting corral. I was surprised to see a few people struggle (I mean, if you are going to struggle getting over this, good luck with the real obstacles, right?). But I guess the spirit of the Spartan Race is to help everyone and to this point, I haven’t heard of anyone lost on the course. And if they are, well hopefully they find their way back before they let the lions back out.

The race began and I worked my way up toward the front of my heat. We hit a few obstacles (high wood posts we had to get over, a series of three over-under-through walls, etc.). There was more running at the beginning, which is my strength, so I was leading my heat going into the first of three obstacles I would fail at and have to do burpees (you have to do 30 burpees for every obstacle you can’t complete and generally lose a lot of ground to other racers while you’re cursing under your breath… #buckfurpees). The obstacle was another monkey bar obstacle and I recognize that my weakness in this type of race is grip strength… I probably need to join a crossfit gym if I want to improve, but save that for another day.

The weather was perfect for the race, but it had rained a bit the day before and so the ground was muddier than I would have preferred. I know on some obstacles they water to force you to get muddy and lose traction and grip, but it was wet and muddy for most of the course in a lot of the straightaway portions between obstacles. I’m not complaining. I ran a trail race in January during a soggy snowstorm, and yesterday was 1000x better than that was. At least it was warm and I was in a t-shirt!

So anyway, do my burpees, and I am starting to make up ground on some people when we get to one of the obstacles right in front of where all the spectators stand and where I knew I’d see Kelly. This one was an angled wall with little 2×4 blocks you had to traverse. Basically, they wanted you to pancake against this wall and make your way to the end and ring a bell. I made it about two blocks, but the 2×4’s were so muddy I slipped and fell. See yourself to the burpee area. After that, you are immediately at the next obstacle which is where we saw homeboy with the muscle-bone situation going on. Despite my burpees, I was faring better than he was to this point in the race. But still, got up to the monkey bars on steroids obstacle (MBOS obstacle), got about 1/4 the way through, and fell.

As you can imagine, the thought of more burpees wasn’t exactly super high on my to-do list, so I thought, “screw this, I am going back and doing this obstacle again!” Well, I fell sooner than I had the first time and hid my face and ran over to the next burpee station. Glad Kelly got to see me at my best, right?

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Luckily for me, that was the end of what I’d consider the “grip strength” portion of the race. Unluckily for me, the next obstacle totally submerged the racers in muddy malaria water and then had us go through two 50-yard barbed wire crawls. So before my feet and hands were a little muddy, and now I looked like I just lost a fight with a porta-potty.

Got through that, did a little more running (and to this point, I was pretty thankful that my legs were still feeling good as the burpees have a way of knocking you down a few pegs in terms of muscle fatigue), and came up on one of the two obstacles I really wanted to get right…the spear throw.

So there were about eight targets and maybe five of them were empty. I took a minute to drop my heart rate so I’d give myself the best chance to hit it (and the best chance not to do any more burpees in the immediate future). As I was walking up, a guy to my left was making his attempt. He threw the spear and it kind of brushed off the side of the hay bale. The idea is, the spear has to stick in or else you didn’t “complete” the obstacle. So I hear this guy kind of debating with his buddy whether or not it counted with his buddy.

“Does that count?”

“I don’t know. You’re not in the competitive division, right?”

“No.”

“F*ck it. I’d say you’re good!”

The guy who threw it apparently felt that was sound enough logic and took off. Whatever, It’s my first Spartan Race and I’m not going to play playground tattle tail, not did I really even care. I was focused on sticking the spear.

It was so perfect. If it were darts, it may have well been a bullseye. I threw that thing cleanly, had a perfect pace and little arc, and it stuck straight in the center. I can’t even explain to you how perfect it was. The spear was pointing right back at me from it’s perch in the hay, as if it were giving me the “you da man” point. As I was rounding the corner, half-glancing at the poor souls doing burpees, the volunteer gave me a “nice throw man,” and said that I was in the ten percent of people who actually got the spear to stick. It definitely felt good and gave me a little extra confidence and energy as I made my way to one of the most challenging parts of the course.

That being….the hills portion.

—INTERLUDE—

I understand that this is a long winded recap of a Spartan Race. If you’ve made it this far, hopefully you enjoy my writing and getting an inside look at how my mind was working during the race. I completely understand if you’re getting bored, are worried your boss might be wandering why you’re doing more scrolling than typing, and just want to wrap things up. If so, scroll to the bottom and see my conclusion for any meaningful dialog.

Otherwise, enjoy Act 2…

So the hills portion. I told it it had rained the day before, so these hills were already pretty wet. But you pretty much climbed up the side of a hill that was at least, google-searching a protractor to get a good angle estimate, 60-70 degrees of incline. You’re basically on your hands and knees and trying to find some tree limbs, roots, basically whatever you can grab on to to pull yourself up. Some areas weren’t as steep as others, but it was equally difficult going up the hills as it was going down. We did this for a good mile or so. Basically every time you thought it might be the last one, you’d see another incline. And at the bottom, you usually had to wade through waist-deep water so your traction was always bad.

While the hills were pretty difficult, the obstacles (mostly high wood walls [9′ high] and net walls) were pretty spaced out and this leg was all about endurance and not upper body strength. This played to my strengths as a racer and I was able to make up a lot of time and pass a lot of people. I was surprised at how well I was able to get over the high walls. There was one in particular that was at the top of a long, more gradual than the norm by this point, hill. As I was getting to the top, this older guy was running up to the wall and jumping into it, trying to get some footing that would allow him to reach the top of the wall with some momentum. Another guy (who will come back into the story later) asked the volunteer if he could use a couple of wood steps on the left side of the wall since he was “in the open heat and not the elite heat (Elite Heat also the name of my Latin pop band).”

Volunteer shrugged; guy took that as “yea no problem.”

I wanted to do it right, so I asked the guy what the best strategy was to get over the wall. He said, “the best way I’ve seen is to just get up close, jump up and grab the top, and chicken-wing your way over.” I loved this explanation and it’s exactly what I did. At this point, I was tired, but my arms and strength was still there since we hadn’t used much upper body since those damn MBOS’. Anyway, first try, chicken-winged over, and I’m off again.

There were a few more hills, trudges through water, a net wall with a hard metal wire strung at the top that almost castrated me when the guy behind me jumped on the wall and I scissor-teetered up there for a second. Wasn’t happy about that one, but pain is part of the game I guess. Few more runs through mud and high water mud pools. I passed a lot of people during this stretch of mostly flat, mostly open runs. The two obstacles that broke up these long runs were the bucket carry and the sandbag carry (I don’t remember which one came first, but they were pretty similar). The bucket carry was on a flatter, BMX dirt track series of up-and-downs. In total, it was only about 50 yards of carry, so no big  deal (I actually jogged a lot of it, which I never saw anyone do on the Spartan Race programs on NBC Sports). The sandbag was more down-a-hill, up-a-hill. On the way up, I caught up to someone who had the sandbag resting on top of his head like an Indian woman getting water from the stream. As I was catching up to him, a course photographer said he looked like he was wearing a sombrero, which made me laugh and I’m hoping to get a good candid shot of me laughing as I’m hoisting 40 pounds of sand up a hill.

Another wall or two, and a few more long straight aways later, I’m coming up on what I am hoping is the end of the race.

–SIDE NOTE– I was led to believe this was going to be a 3-ish mile race. I think mentally, I was looking for the finish line from about mile three until mile five. Luckily, I race well at the end of races so I never lost any steam, even if I was a little miffed that there was still a lot of race left.

On one of the last straightaways, I see a guy ahead of me I recognized from my starting heat. I’m the competitive type where I immediately put a target on his back and made sure I was going to beat him no matter what. As I was passing him (he was a bigger guy, had me on strength but wouldn’t be able to keep up with me on running and speed obstacles), he said to me, “hey when did you start?”

“8:30,” I said as I passed him without giving the answer much thought. A few seconds pass, and I am making some distance between us, and I hear “me too. How old are you?”

Come on, man. I don’t know if this is some mind game or what, but I’m having a good time… I mean, I nailed that spear throw so the rest was gravy, right?

“Thirty,” I yelled back.

“Good job, man!”

Fine. I mean, it made me feel good. I remember hearing him say at the beginning of the race that he had done the longer race the day before, so I can only assume he did this sort of thing a lot and, even if he was tired from that day before, it felt good to pass someone I already decided was a vet Spartan Racer.

I didn’t think about him again. I broke out of the woods and looked up the hill that had a few more obstacles, but the finish line in the deep background. I was almost done.

Spartan Run Woods

The first obstacle was like a giant triangle. You had to jump into muddy water (again) to get your grip and traction slick, then pull yourself up a rope to the top. A lot of people were having trouble with this, but I went slow and kept my balance. Once I got to the apex of the structure, I slipped a little, but managed to grab the top of the pyramid and pull myself over. Down the other side and I was off to the next one.

“The next one” was the second obstacle I really wanted to do right… the rope climb. It’s basically what the cool kids got to do in gym class when they were young, but I never got to try. Kelly and I took a crossfit class one time that had a rope in the gym, and I didn’t have the courage to ask if I could just give it a run once class had ended. Before the Spartan Race, I watched some Youtube videos on rope climbing strategy. I saw the Marine style and the J-Hook strategy. I felt like, although I never tried to do any of these climbs, I was ready to do so.

I should also mention that this was the point where Kelly found me. I saw her before I went to the rope climb, and she got some good snaps of the whole thing. I jump up, grab on, and start to juggle the rope in between my feet.

Looking back, it shouldn’t surprise me that everything I watched online didn’t work in the slightest bit. I hung there for a few seconds trying to get it, but it just wasn’t happening. “OK,” I thought, “just get up there and ring that bell.”

I started pulling myself up, and to my surprise (especially given my failures on the strength and grip obstacles earlier in the race), I was actually moving up the rope. It was as hard as anything else I’d done that day, but I managed my way near the top of the rope. The problem was, I needed both hands to hold on to the rope, and to take a hand off and reach up to the bell might be an issue. I made an attempt at it, and in the same vein as a batter getting hit in the jersey by a pitch, I brushed the bell with my finger tip. I looked down at the volunteers.

“Did you see it? I hit the bell!”

Nothing…just blank stares.

“He hit it,” I heard Kelly yelling.

Still, nothing from the volunteers. Not even a “nope.” At least give me a “nope.”

I look back up, and pull myself a half pull up again toward the bell. By this point, my hands are hurting and I am low on gas. For the first time this whole race, I heard more people than just my wife rooting for me to do it. I was hanging there trying to figure out when the right moment was to make my last attempt at ringing the bell.

I pulled myself up hard and reached for the bell. Keep in mind, I was probably 20 feet off the ground. Still, I hit the bell just hard enough to have it make a faint ring and I slid-fell down the rope and landed in the hay. Luckily, no injuries (my biggest fear was a sprained ankle during this race). Two more obstacles and we’re home.

Spartan Wall

There was another big triangle obstacle that was a shorter wall I had to chicken-wing onto, then make my way over what was essentially a wood plank ladder. Once I got up on the wall, it was more about not slipping and it was pretty easy to get past. The last obstacle (before the trademark fire jump) was a sand bag hoist (basically, a rope and pully system with a sand bag tied to the long end of a rope). I had about 20 feet of hoist and I was home free. I locked my feet into the gate and gave it everything I had. The bag moved about three feet off the ground and I was stuck.

“I’ll help you, you help me?” I heard from over my shoulder. My first thought was this was some volunteer who was taking pity on me this close to the end. In reality, it was that guy who I passed that wanted to know my starting time and age. Despite the fact that he was my target earlier in the race, not an ounce of me had any doubt that I needed the help and I gladly accepted. We both pulled on the rope (him 90%, me 10%) until it got to the top.

Spartan Help

“You’ll help me?” he confirmed. “Absolutely,” I said. He stayed on the ground and I grabbed the rope above him. We (again, 90/10) pulled the bag up until it reached the top and we both made our way toward the fire. He ran ahead of me, and I wasn’t even chasing him at this point. I saw the end goal and I was looking around for Kelly (who told me she was Spartan’ing her way through the crowd to try to get to the finish line for a photo-op) but couldn’t see her. I jumped the fire and probably made some stupid “hey guy” wink-snap-point thing everybody does when they don’t know what to do, and made it across the finish line.

I had done it. I finished my first Spartan Race.

A few volunteers handed me some bananas, protein bars, a medal (that is really cool), and maybe a water. I found Kelly and had just about enough energy to talk about the #BuckFurpees she saw me do and maybe my spear throw (it was epic, I’m telling you).

Now that I’ve had two days to digest everything (and recover from just general #bodysore), I can reflect on the things I did well, the things I didn’t, and how I feel about my future as a Spartan Racer. In terms of the race itself, I absolutely loved it. I got dirty, got to play on giant jungle gyms, and got to act like a kid again for an hour an a half. I would say it was the most fun I have ever had in any race. I do think the feeling I had after completing a marathon was more fulfilling since it had been a bucket list thing for me, but I would do 1000 Spartan Races before I ever do another marathon.

I also know what I need to work on before next Spartan Race. While my endurance was fine and my leg strength was great, my upper body strength needs some work, and my grip strength is completely lacking. The three obstacles I failed on were two MBOS’ and one slippery agility wall that most people were failing at so NBD. I also probably would have failed on the sand bag hoist if not for my Spartan foe-turned-teammate at the end.

The Spartan Race was every bit as fulfilling and exciting as I’d hoped it would be. I love that I can compete at a sport like this and compare myself to other athletes. I love that I got to do something I’d never done before and I love that I was pretty good at it. I will be back next year and I will complete the two longer “Super” and “Beast” distances to complete the trifecta.

If there is anyone who is thinking about training and competing in a Spartan Race, I say do it. Make sure you sign up well ahead of time to get the earliest possible starting time so you aren’t log-jammed at obstacles, and make sure your strength and endurance are up to par. Or, make sure you get really comfortable doing burpees.

Next year, I plan on not having to do any burpees and improve on my finish!

Spartan Results

 

Five ways to create balance in your life

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In order to find balance, everybody should devote a certain amount of time to a certain number of things. If you work 80 hours every week, then come home and neglect your wife and children, you’re doing it wrong. Likewise, if you devote your weekends to sitting on the couch and watching football until the sun goes down, you aren’t filling your cup with anything of substance.

There are philosophies about finding happiness through anything from tiny homes to positive affirmation (I’ve even listened to some podcasts before big meetings that tell you to say things out loud like “people respect what you have to say; your words are meaningful.” All I could think of was that SNL skit where Stewart and Michael Jordan tell themselves, “gosh darn it, people like me!”).

I am the kind of person who understands something best if it is broken down in front of me. There are things in our lives that change week by week, but if we break it down, we find that our lives can be summed into six core areas: Sleep, Work, Family, Hobbies, Exercise and Religion/Meditation.

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Each area requires a different focus and a different amount of effort. Sleep, while requiring the least amount of effort, should be made a priority if you are devoting too much time to another area. If you put more effort into one area and forget another, you will suffer in all areas. For instance, if you are training for a marathon and neglecting sleep in order to keep up with work and maintaining something of a family life, you will suffer across the board. Below is a basic breakdown of how much time in a given week you should devote to each area.

  • 30% Sleep
  • 25% Work
  • 20% Family
  • 15% Hobby
  • 5% Exercise
  • 5% Religion/Meditation

Now, everybody works differently, and it’s up to you to determine how to adjust the above list in order to work for your life, but if you stray too far from one area for too long, you will not be performing at your best. Life balance requires a certain amount from each area, and maximizing each area will allow you to excel in all aspects of your life.

With that in mind, here are five ways to create balance in your life.

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Make Sleep a Priority

Force yourself to get seven hours of sleep every night. One of my best friends is one of those guys that stays up until 3:00 a.m. He is also someone who can’t get up in the morning, can’t find the drive to move up in his company because he’s exhausted all the time. (It also wouldn’t be a bad thing to leave the phone on the dresser when you go to bed).

Purge Unnecessary Things from your Life

It’s a natural tendency for humans to hoard things. Sometimes, we can’t control ourselves and end up on A&E. We assign value and meaning to meaningless things. We save birthday cards in drawers, or shove more hangers into closets that are full of clothes we barely wear. If you need an excuse, donate things to Good Will or the Salvation Army. Unneccasary things aren’t always physical things, either. Get rid of cable if you can’t make yourself get off the couch on Saturdays. Whatever it is that you don’t need, consider how important they really are to your overall well being and make a hard decision.

Eat Right

A healthy diet gives you more energy during the day, and allows your body to properly shut down at night. A healthy body allows you to operate at 100% at your job, with your family, and gives you better focus when it comes to meditating or exercising. If you don’t have the self control to cook food on a Wednesday instead of ordering a pizza (again!), then you are enabling yourself to short change yourself in all aspects of your life. Practice some discipline, make a game plan, and make it a priority to make the kitchen the most important room in the house.

Break your Routine

It seems counterintuitive to think that you can find balance by breaking your routine, but by doing things a little bit differently, you will find yourself paying more attention to those things you do over and over when you come back to them. Breaking your routine can be anything from trying a new recipe to going on a vacation to somewhere you’ve never been. Introduce “new” into your life and allow yourself to experience something in a different light.

Learn new Things

Learn new things to teach your kids. Learn new things in the bedroom. Learn new things at work to make yourself a bigger asset (hello, job security). Whatever the reason, learning new things is something you can do across the board to keep things fresh and interesting, and allow yourself to always be improving.

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Balance is something that allows us to always be at our best. If you find yourself to be overly stressed at work, unable to lose weight, fed up with whatever your family life is, or just in a rut and you aren’t sure how to make left from right, challenge yourself to adopt balance in your life. Remind yourself what it is you want and understand that the best way to get that isn’t to run a million miles per hour at it, but to focus on the end goals and make the necessary steps toward them.

How to build an online presence that will pay off in the real world

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A mistake I make all too often is that I write about things that have no substance — they’re fun for me to write, but don’t give you, the reader, anything solid to consider after you finish reading. I can write about what I would do if I could relive an hour of my childhood or what kind of a story a certain image might provoke, but the truth is that outside of expressing some personal creativity, the bus stops at that last period.

I recognize that blogging posts like these doesn’t build my personal brand and doesn’t represent me in the way that I would like to be perceived online.

This is the issue with a lot of the content that gets posted to the internet. We live in a generation of picture-swipers that have a hard enough time deciding which filter to use on Instagram, let alone reading to the end of a 1,000 word blog post.

But building an online presence is more than just writing good blog posts or saying all the right things on Twitter. If your medium of choice is Instagram or Snapchat, you can still follow some key considerations that will help you build a strong and successful brand. The big things that need to be considered are:

  • Authenticity
  • Value
  • Inspiration
  • Specificity
  • Plausibility

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Authenticity

Being authentic in your blog or social media is paramount in establishing a good online presence. If someone is hilarious in real life, but blogs like a robot I am not going to be all too interested in what they have to say. That’s not to say funny people HAVE to be funny online, but you have to be true to who you are. If the real you and the person you’re portraying don’t add up, people will see through you. As sad as it is for me to say, the reason the Kardashians are as successful as they are is because they are as vain in real life as they are on social media (I say this as someone who has never kept up with any of the Kardashians, but I don’t think my saying they’re a little full of themselves is too far off base).

Value

Value begins and ends with letting go of ego and having a genuine desire to improve what it is you’re doing. In order to make something more valuable, you have to continue learning, improving, and challenging yourself to make a better product. Being derogatory to your friends was great in college, but there is no place for it if you are trying to establish an online brand. Unless you’re Rob Delaney, save the fart jokes for the bar and make an effort to put out a consistent voice through social media that makes your brand appear world-class to other users.

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Inspiration

If you just want to post pictures of your dog and fill out those “which animal cracker best defines your childhood” surveys on Facebook, more power to you. I’m going to block you from my feed, but by all means, Nilla-penguin, live your life. However, if you want to have people pay attention to you, you have to add some value to someone’s life. Tell stories with a purpose, comment on people’s blogs ONLY IF YOU’VE READ THEM. Inspiring people come from all walks of life, and you don’t have to be a revolutionary to be inspiring. Start with being yourself and be kind to others, and you’ll be surprised at how people will pay attention to you.

Specificity

When I first began blogging, I was all over the place. I wrote about poker, running, my dog (who still might make an appearance here or there)… I did some “creative fiction,” talked about my marriage, and about how poor my golf game gets in the winter time. The point is, I was lost and just reaching in every direction trying to get views. Specificity doesn’t mean you have to talk about one subject only for the rest of your life, but have some direction and stick to it. If ESPN started showing election coverage, they wouldn’t be true to their audience. Think of your online presence in the same way. Decide who you are and focus your content on that across all social platforms.

Plausibility

Plausibility means how likely is it that what you represent or have to say is realistic or applicable to the real world? Building a powerful brand online means what you say have to have real meaning to a wide audience on the other side of the screen. I could tell you why Israel is the next hotbed for rare diamonds, but how many people would be able to fly out to Jerusalem and start asking around for some buyers? Probably not many. But, if I tell you that waking up five minutes early and doing 50 push ups will jump start your metabolism and give you more energy throughout the day, that is something you could actually do. (For the record, doing 50 push ups will jump start your metabolism and I really couldn’t tell you left from right about diamonds in Jerusalem.)

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So once you have figured out how to be online, the trick is making the most of it. The simple truth is, you have to be diligent and keep your eyes open for opportunity. The best way to do this is to connect with as many other influencers as your can by reaching out and doing your best to network online. Explore every open door that might lead to another opportunity, and never be afraid to say “yes.”

The process is not a fast moving one, but little by little, you’ll see that by being authentic to who you are and having a consistent message will open doors and lead to real opportunities in the real world.

Eight Things I Learned about Marriage after Two Years

 

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For those that didn’t see, this blog was published in “The Good Men Project” and can be seen (with different pictures) here: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/eight-things-learned-marriage-two-years-dg/

My wife and I just had our second wedding anniversary, and while I haven’t learned the secret to 60 years of coexistence like my grandparents might be able to teach, there are some things I’ve gotten out of the last 730 days that I think are valuable in their own right. After all, if you can’t make it past two years, you aren’t going to be celebrating a 60th anytime soon.

1 – Learn what your partner’s favorite thing is about themselves

It’s one thing to compliment your partner when they look good or get promoted at work. It’s another thing to compliment your wife on her ability to get shit done (if that’s what she’s into).

If you can’t make each other laugh just being who you are, you are going to have a hard time enjoying each other for the rest of your lives.

My wife loves being a trailblazer — as I write this she is planning a community 5K and health and wellness expo from scratch. Telling her that she’s killing it and that I am proud of how well she’s handling such a big project means more to her than telling her she looks good in a bathing suit or how perfect her hair looks after she gets it cut. Figure out what your wife loves most about herself and make a point to let her know you love it too.

2- Find the humor in ordinary situations

Dating was great. You stay out late, have one too many drinks, and usually have sex — a lot of sex. When you get married (and I can only imagine after kids), things slow down and nights out with friends are all to often swapped for nights on the couch being smothered by your dog who doesn’t know the meaning of personal space. It’s in these situations that marriages can be made or broken because this is real life and these moments will be what 80% of your non-working lives will be together. If you can’t make each other laugh just being who you are, you are going to have a hard time enjoying each other for the rest of your lives.

3- It’s still OK to celebrate little moments

My wife and I still celebrate our “date-iversary.” It’s a stupid thing, but it shows that we still remember the day we decided to become exclusive (even if we have some trouble remembering that WHOLE night). You’re expected to do things for her birthday or anniversary, but showing her that those little moments still mean something to you shows her that you value your relationship.

4- Take your health seriously

Another great thing about dating was you probably splurged on some late night eats, a few too many late night drinks, and probably found yourselves eating out more than your budget would have preferred.

I love our together time, but I also appreciate some time to myself.

When you get married, the kitchen becomes more important in many ways than the bedroom. Everything in life starts with your health, including not only your happiness and satisfaction with your partner, but with yourself as well. Cook together, and make sure you both carve out time to exercise. Healthy relationships begin with healthy people, so make sure you are doing your part.

5- Pay attention to your appearance

I know how easy it can be to go another day without shaving or rock the same sweatpants three or four nights in a row after you get home from work. There is a fine line between being comfortable in your home and letting yourself go. Looking good for your partner is an important way to remind them that you want to be your best for them. I have found that the more I shave my face, the more she will shave her legs. Looking your best leads to feeling your best, which leads to confidence in and out of the home, and confidence is something everyone finds attractive.

6- Understand each other’s needs for space and togetherness

My wife doesn’t need much “me time.” She loves spending time together and hates it when I have to go away for a night or two for work (for the record, so do I). I love our together time, but I also appreciate some time to myself. I love to get outside and run. My wife has never questioned me when I say I need to go run and I love her that much more for allowing me to do what I need to do to be me. I also recognize her needs to be together and I will gladly trade “guy time” for time spent just watching bad TV with her and our dog.

7- Have an opinion

It all boils down to listening to each other, respecting each other, and having fun with each other.

Ninety-nine times out of 100, my wife seems to disagree with my opinion when it comes to option A and option B, but she respects the fact that I weigh the options and tell her how I feel. Playing the “I don’t care” card shows a lack of interest in the issue at hand. You don’t have to be stern about why you want to go for sushi instead of Mexican, but she’ll appreciate that you put down your phone long enough to tell her how you’re craving spicy tuna, even if you end up having margaritas at El Vaquero.

8- Ego has no place in relationships

It’s easy to stand up for your wife if she is being mistreated in public. It’s more difficult when it’s just the two of you having an argument, but the latter can diffuse a huge fight waiting to happen. Putting your ego aside doesn’t always mean admitting you’re wrong (though that does go a long way sometimes), rather it means honestly putting yourself in her position and trying to understand where she’s coming from. Those “where did that come from” fights usually don’t start because someone is picking a fight, but because they don’t feel the other person is putting in the effort to see things from the other perspective.

There are plenty of other things I am learning about myself, my wife, and our relationship as we go along. It’s hard to narrow down the list sometimes, but I think that my wife and I are on a good path and I believe that we are destined for 60 years together some day. It all boils down to listening to each other, respecting each other, and having fun with each other. If you have that, the first two years will fly by faster than you realize.

– See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/eight-things-learned-marriage-two-years-dg/#sthash.Llwag0e6.dpuf