Lessons from a near death experience….

So Facebook was kind enough today to remind me that four years ago on this day, I was testing for my black belt in American Karate.  It was a night that I do not remember and one that I will never forget.  That was the night I discovered I had an Atrial Flutter.  It was a night that started a week long hospital stay that included medically induced comas, CAT scans, EKGs and eventually a cardiac ablation (want the full story?  Read it here).

“You do realize you almost died, right?”    –     Dr. Kevin Wheelan

Even though I had just awoken from a 36 hour medically induced nap, couldn’t remember large sections of the previous 48 hours, had two black eyes and was sore everywhere – the severity of my situation did not really hit me until I heard my cardiologist reinforce those words.

The days are now few and far between when I do not think about how lucky I was to survive.  They are also few and far between that I do not think about the lessons that experience taught me.

Prioritize your health:  If I had not made a specific effort in the 18 months leading up to the test, I firmly believe I would not be here today (did you read the link above?).  The majority of the leading causes of death in America are due to preventable diseases that can be controlled/prevented through diet and exercise……so DIET AND EXERCISE!!!

Listen to your body:  If I had not been so hard headed and determined to do whatever it took to get my black belt, I would not have ended up in the hospital.  I knew early on in my test that something was off.  I think I even knew a couple of weeks before that during one of my training sessions.  If I had really listened to my body, I would have had it checked out.

Pay attention to what you fuel it with:  One of the questions that the medical staff asked me repeatedly was did I fuel up with Monster or Red Bull or place energy drink name here.  They only asked me about drugs once.  That crap puts people in the hospital regularly, I avoid it like the plague.

Prepare for the worst:  I have been fortunate to have good guidance on planning for the inevitable.  If I had not made it, Joy and the boys would have been taken care of.  However, not everyone is in that boat.  If you aren’t, get there.  We are not promised tomorrow but we are promised that those around us will have to carry on.  Take care of them.

Bonus learning – If you are in the Dallas area, immediately go to www.lifefight.org and become a member.  Should you or anyone in your family ever need their services, you will thank me.  We spent months of effort and thousands of dollars avoiding a huge medical bill that is completely avoidable.  Think of it like AAA for your family should they ever need air ambulance service.

Pray like it depends on Him:  Between this event, Joy’s Breast Cancer diagnosis, Tyler’s Papilledema and Charlie’s depression, we have learned to pray in earnest around here.  My prayer life got immensely deeper as I recovered and gave thanks daily.   With it came a deeper peace I had not experienced to that point in my life.  Pray like it depends on Him…….because it does.

Now are those the only things that I learned, of course not, but they are the ones that have stuck with me and I think about almost daily.  Knocking on deaths door will change you.  Hopefully I can have done enough knocking for all of us to learn the lessons.

The things you need to bring to Summit that you might not be thinking about.

So we all know that my day job keeps me on the road about 80% of the time (you didn’t think I named this blog after the movie did you?)  Well over the course of the last 15 years, I have identified a few key things to bring with me on trips like the one upcoming this week to Nashville.  For those of you who are not aware, this week 25,000 or so Team Beachbody coaches will gather for great learning, workouts, company updates and of course FUN!!!

While the lessons/guidance below is specifically targeted for the Beachbody audience, anyone who attends any conference can benefit from the lessons below.  So here we go, here are few things you can do now to make sure your experience this weekend is top notch!!!

Plan Ahead:

I cannot overemphasize the need for this in order to make the most of your time.  Look at your track and commitments.  Think about how you are going to get from place to place, outfit to outfit and get the “extras” like visiting The Core in.  If you have not been before, talk to the other coaches in your organization who have as to what was most impactful to them and prioritize.  Then plan on not only the session times but also the waiting time.  Trust me, you do not want to be showing up to anything last minute this week.

Make Single Servings:

If you are anything like me and Joy, you are not even going to consider making it through this weekend without Energize and Hydrate.  However those tubs take up a lot of room in a suitcase.  That is why I always make individual servings in small zip-lock bags before I head out.  The individual packets let me “dump and shake” without any mess to clean up or tub to lug around.  Anything that is left over just gets put back in the tub when I get home (actually for me, I just take it on my next trip).

Pack a……

Water Bottle (that doubles as a shaker bottle):

shaker bottle

This is probably the most important  thing you can remember.  It is going to be hot.  We are going to be working out.  There will be 25,000 of us running around.  The convention center will do their best to keep up with us but in my experience at large conferences, they rarely do.  If you have your own water bottle with you, you can always run to the fountain or restroom and fill up.  Bonus points if it has a built in filter.

Might I also recommend that it double as a shaker bottle?  That way you are only lugging one around with you and saving space in your luggage.

Dish washing soap

shampoo

This one just got added to the list this year.  Think about it, if you are going to use the same bottle for 4 days, you are probably going to want to wash it out.  There is no really good way to do that in a hotel room unless you bring your own dish washing soap.  Just grab a small travel bottle (the kind intended for shampoo, etc) and fill it on up.

Drawstring Backpack

cinch backpack

This is actually just under water bottle in order of importance for me.  With all the running around we are going to do at Summit, these are so handy.  Yes that Coach purse is beautiful but do you really want to bring it on to the streets of Nashville during the super workout?  Didn’t think so.

And guys, this goes double for you.  This fantastic little bag, that packs to nothing in a suitcase, will enable you to bring your phone, wallet, notebook, room key, etc without worry of them falling out of your pockets.  Something that has happened to me multiple times.

Small Wallet

You are not going to need your full wallet with you.  Especially during events like the Super Work Out.  Get a small wallet that will fit your ID, bank card, medical ID and a small amount of cash.  That way, God forbid, if something does happen, it is not your entire life that is missing.

Multi-plug Charger

multi

As someone who stays as many nights in hotels a year as he does at home, trust me on this one.  There are never enough plugs (at least handy ones) in a hotel room.  Now, if you are sharing a room, divide that under-abundance by at least 2.  This small little device is a life saver.

Bonus tip:  Carry it with you to the sessions.  That way, if you need to charge during the sessions, you can always offer to plug it in so multiple people can charge with you.  It is all about being neighborly!!!

Portable battery chargers

battery charger

These are not just for Pokemon Go!  You already know your phone is your life.  The last thing you want is to be leaving the Billy Idol concert (you did qualify, right?  No, its not too late!!), when you pull out your phone to call Uber just to realize it is dead.  Another example of where the weight and space they take up is totally worth it.

Costumes

SillyIdol

As a first time attendee you may be tempted to just “go check it out” rather than go full throttle in participation (I am referring to the 80’s party) – trust me, go full out.  When else as an adult do you get to play make believe like this anymore?

Large zip-lock storage bag

I am talking the storage bags that go under your bed, not 1 gallon freezer bags here.  Your workout clothes are not going to be smelling the most rosy by the time you pack up to head home.  And believe me, you don’t want your bag to be smelling like your workout clothes (have you tried fitting your suitcase into the washing machine before?).  Pack up all those smelly clothes into the bag, zip it up and then IMMEDIATELY UNPACK THEM WHEN YOU GET HOME.

Bonus Tip: Throw a dryer sheet in your suitcase before you leave home.

So there you go, my tips from a RoadWarrior on what you can pack to help you make the most of Nashville and Summit.  Now, this does not even scratch the surface of the things you should have already thought of (like a notebook for all the great ideas you going to glean) but I hope it will help with the more obscure.

Can’t wait to see you all in Nashville!!!  I will be the one in the Leopard Pants with Team #RisingPhoenix!!

Living (socially) Authentically

So as I write this, I am sitting on a plane heading back to Dallas from Sin City.  My company’s annual user conference is complete and it is time to head home.  Just me and about 200 other coworkers and clients on a late American Airlines flight.

As I look back on 6 years of attending this particular conference, I realized that I have both a higher volume of relationships with clients as well as deeper relationships than ever before.  Now, building relationships is actually something I struggle with and have written about before.  I am great when there is a purpose to a conversation or in front of groups of all sizes but when it comes to really developing a relationship, I suffer from a lack of self-confidence/self-worth that can become paralyzing.  (Want to read more on that?  Here is how I cope).

This year felt different though.  I didn’t have that nagging feeling of worry of having to facilitate small talk.  People I have barely met/know were approaching me with comments like:

“Hey RoadWarrior”

“Oh you’re Andrew Bowen!!  You’re the new hotness!!” (seriously, that happened)

“Your posts inspire me”

“Don’t judge my food choices”

“You and your wife are sickening, in a good way”

And my personal favorite……..

“I love your wife!”

So if you were one of the many who shared your opinion with me,

THANK YOU!!!!

It means the world to me to know that the crazy that is me is speaking to people.  I even appreciate the trolls out there that do nothing on social media except consume.  In fact, I think your comments meant the most to me.  Consume away, it is why I post (but the occasional like, comment or share doesn’t hurt either 😉 )

The comments did get me thinking though……

“Why is it that what Joy and I do on/through social media is able to touch so many?”

The answer came to me through a conversation I had at the pool party last night that went something like this:

Co-worker 1:  I think your Facebook feed is my favorite thing on Facebook.  It’s hilarious.

ME:  Really?  How so?

Co-worker 1:  Well, I know you!  So I love that here you are, this straight laced, smart, asset optimization guy at work but on Facebook you put out this alternate persona with the videos, workouts, crazy pants and all that.  I think it is hilarious that you have this alternate persona on social media.

Co-worker 2:  Seriously?  You think the Facebook Andrew is the persona?   That is totally him.  Actually, they both are.

Age gracefully- Nah!!

And that really is it in a nutshell.  What Joy and I both post and share really is us.  We don’t sugar coat it and I think the authenticity is what people resonate with.  And with me being a ‘friend whore’ – not only are coworkers seeing my posts but so are several clients and their friends  (and their friends and their friends, etc…)

  • We really do prioritize our health (4 major medical scares in 4 years will do that to you)
  • We really do want to help others do the same
  • We really do love sweat dates
  • I do really try and make sure her life is as easy as I can before I travel
  • We do really struggle with living a life where I am on the road 60% (ok – 80%) of the time
  • I really do struggle at social interaction until I am comfortable with those I am interacting with…..Joy? Not so much
  • Our kids do really think we are insane

I think the most beneficial aspect for me in dealing with the social anxiety is that when we are recording, or doing FB live, or posting, I am in my absolute comfort zone.  I am with my best friend and not worried about whether the content of my conversation is engaging or if I bring any likable characteristics to the conversation.  I am simply hanging with Joy and in that I am completely comfortable.  It is authentically me.  I just then put it out for the world to see.

Fortunately for me, it seems to be resonating with all of you.  So again, thank you.  So what do you take away from all of this?

Live authentically – even on social media.  People want to know you not the ‘persona’ of what you wish you were.

Have Gi – Will Travel: Greensboro Combat Sports

So let me start this post by saying the martial arts community in Greensboro, NC is not what I expected it to be.  For the first time on this National journey, I felt really limited by my choices to train at.  A quick Google search came up with 3 options……THREE!!!

Gym A:  Just posted a letter announcing ownership change and that everything will be just fine……nope.

Gym B:  No website.  No reviews.  No Facebook page……..nope.

Gym C:  Greensboro Combat Sports/Royce Gracie Jiu Jitsu……we have a winner!!!

To summarize, the instruction was good and detailed and the instructor made sure to work with all students in the room.  As with most schools I visit, the number of beginning students by far outweighed those with significant experience but the diversity in the room of body styles, gender and age was great to see.  All in all, worth the mat fee and very glad I took the time to go check it out.

Instructor:  

GCS - Blayne

The class (and school) was lead by a purple belt, Blayne Turnmire (pictured above winning double gold at a recent tournament).  Now before you run off saying “The school is run by a purple belt!!”- as near as I could tell, yes, it is.   Based on my research though, he is also one of the highest ranking people in the Triad area and definitely in Greensboro.  His teaching style was a bit laid back compared to other instructors I have had but it did not lack in detail.  We worked several stand up self defenses (loved it – I don’t do this enough) and then worked on knee-on-belly.

After drilling for 30-minutes or so, we rolled.  Good skill level in the room and a few guys were going hard.  Several of them were competing in a sub-only tournament the following weekend so they were getting after it.  From what I could see on Facebook, looks like they did well and that was not surprising based on my experience with them on the mat.

Attitude towards outsiders:

From what I could gather from Mindy (she really runs the place), the gym regularly has RoadWarriors like myself dropping in for training.  She was quick to respond to my inquiry (and I inquired very much last minute) and commented a couple of times of how she is always surprised how often it happens.  In fact, I was not the only traveling visitor that day.  They had another regular who comes down from Columbus, OH on a regular basis.

As I mentioned before, the class felt less formal than some that I have experienced but when I think back on it, there was definite structure to it.  We bowed in and then went straight into warm ups.  There were no pleasantries between the students (lots between the instructor and the students), it was pretty much straight to work.   Nothing rude or exclusionary mind you, just not a lot of chit chat and welcoming (go back up and see that diversity comment again).

I want to make sure I am painting this picture correctly, I never felt unwanted, shunned, second class or any other form of being boxed out as an outsider.  However unlike other gyms I have dropped in on, I think I would have to reintroduce myself to everyone there.

Facilities:

Located just West of downtown Greensboro, the gym is in a converted warehouse building, it has a HUGE mat space that is separate from an additional mat for stand-up training.  It also boasted full weight training equipment scattered around the gym.

One warning, it is not the CrossFit gym……the one that happens to be next door.  You can guess how I know they are separate facilities.

Overall Experience:

IMG_2996

I really enjoyed my time at Greensboro Combat Sports.  I actually took part in a fight fit class before rolling so got to experience a couple of different types of training.  The technique instruction was exactly what I have been trying to work on so it fit with my training perfectly.  And while the atmosphere was a bit more lax than what I have experienced elsewhere, the jujitsu was on point.

So if you find yourself in the Greensboro area and are looking for a place to train, look no further than Greensboro Combat Sports.  It is proof that just because you don’t have much of a selection doesn’t mean that you don’t have the opportunity to get some great training in!!

See you on the road!!

 

Get the most out of your RealWorld Experience!!

realworld

Yep, it is that time again already, the annual RealPage User Conference aka REALWORLD 2016!!!

Now this is going to be my 6th RealWorld Conference (how can that possibly be?).  For those not in the know, RealWorld is the conference specifically dedicated to RealPage and their partners where we showcase the latest developments in the industry, the product improvements being delivered/developed and most important, thank our partners for their continued partnership.  It is 3 days of networking, learning, previews and fun but let’s face it, it is also long days, longer evenings and tight schedules.  In order to make the most of the sessions and travel fit, you have to have a strategy to thrive.

This is also my 3rd year of providing a few of my tips and tricks to not just surviving the conference but really making the most of it for both education and fintess.  So here are my RealWorld rules to live by:

Tip #1: Plan ahead:

I know I say this every year but I cannot over emphasize this one enough; Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.  If your plan is showing up at the conference and “figure it out” you are in for a rough time.……not going to happen.  There are just too many great options of sessions to attend and fellow RealPage users to meet.  If you don’t plan ahead you are guaranteed to miss a ‘can’t miss’ session and for sure your workout is not going to get done.

Realworldapp

So if you haven’t already, go download the RealWorld App right now.  Seriously, I’ll wait.

Now, immediately start adding your must attend sessions to your calendar.  Might I suggest ‘Stack the Deck with Business Intelligence’ on Tuesday morning as a starting point?  I hear the speaker for that one is sub-par but the material should be great!!

Once you know when your ‘Can’t miss’ sessions are, you can fill in the rest of the time slots for meetings, networking, product demos and down time.

Tip #2: Stay hydrated:

water bottle refill

You know you should normally be drinking 8 glasses of water a day.  Well , this year we are at the beautiful Wynn hotel.  If you have never been to a conference at this hotel, I will give you fair warning, it is a long way from the rooms to the conference center.  A LONG WAY!!  So you are going to be walking more than you normally do and potentially imbibing on an alcoholic drink or two in the evening, and oh yeah, this is all happening in the middle of the dessert.  I am going to recommend you up your water intake from the standard 8 glasses.  Trust me, you will thank me when you are waking up on days 2 & 3 of the conference.  Now this is where planning comes in again.  I find that it is a very rare thing to find a conference center that keeps the water pitchers/bottles full throughout the conference.

SO BRING YOUR OWN!!

You may not always be able to find a nice chilled bottle of FIJI but you can usually find a water fountain to fill up your own bottle.  And if you are anything like me, you find an empty water bottle strangely motivational.

Tip #3: Recharge:

weary traveler

This will look different for each of us but I find I need a point in my day to recharge more than just my phone.  For me, it is time in the gym.   I can get my head on straight and work all the kinks out that I am feeling from standing all day.  For others it is a power nap in the room, others it is 15 minutes in the sun out by the pool.  Whatever it is that recharges and helps your re-center your mindset, make sure you have time built in each day to accomplish it.

Now we also need to think about that phone, so don’t forget your mobile charger!  We want to hear your thoughts throughout the day (follow the hashtag #RWconf2016 to join the conversation).

Tip #4: Eat well & Eat often:

image

Make sure you take the time to eat like you should.  Do not sacrifice the quality of your diet because you need to rush somewhere.  Stop by the store on the way to the hotel and grab some snacks for the room (don’t get me started on the mini-bar options for $10 bucks each).  Put a bar in your purse.  Throw an apple in your bag for later in the day.  Your body needs fuel to thrive vs. survive.  Give it what it needs.

Bonus Tip:  Most hotels that host conferences have pretty good gyms.  Gyms where they actual stock fruit for the taking.

Tip #5: Have fun:

If this is your first RealWorld Conference, you are in for a treat.  It is a blast, especially the party on Monday night.  Although not themed this year, in the past we have celebrated the lives of people like Dr. Seuss or given our best superhero impersonation.

wolverine ABDr. Seuss

The party is a celebration of our partnership with all of you and we pull out all of the stops.  This year promises to be a lavish affair….even if Wolverine will not be showing up.

Bonus Tip #6:

For those of you who are runners (or are even thinking about running), I cannot recommend skipping the treadmill in the morning enough.  Running the Las Vegas strip in the early morning is in my top 5 runs in the country.

Seriously, the people watching is unbelievable!!!

In fact, even if you don’t run, wake up a bit early on Monday or Tuesday and head out for a walk.  I promise that not only will you feel better but you will have conversation topics for the rest of the day!!

Time for me to go pack and finish my presentations but hopefully I will see you at RealWorld!!

How does a pescetarian survive a backyard cookout?

This is the question my wife and I have to answer every time we head to a community event.  The most recent example?  UFC 200 watch party at our gym.

Great event.  Great group of people.  Great socializing.  Nothing for someone who is basically a vegetarian to sustain themselves on.  To complicate matters, all of the sides were potluck which invariably ends up producing a smorgasbord of carb laden options such as chips, potato salad, candies of all types and more deserts than my 14 year old could even consume.

We learned a long time ago that if we are going to be able to stick to our dietary guns, we need to bring a couple dishes on the side to sustain us, especially Joy.  Enter…..

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail!!!

Not sure why this was the dish we both had a craving for but we both did.  We get this dish all the time as an appetizer at one of our favorite local restaurants and I have been trying to emulate it for months now.  I think I have finally gotten it where it needs to be!!

It is great because it easily keeps in a cooler, tastes great cold, you can make it ahead of time and you can make it in relative bulk with easy to find and prep ingredients.  In fact, this version is basically no prep at all!!

So the next time you are invited to an event but are not necessarily excited about hot dogs and brats, consider taking this instead.

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail (serves 4 as an entree, 8 as an appetizer)

DSC_0327

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Shelled, de-veined, boiled or steamed shrimp (I use 31/40 and previously fozen works just fine)
  • 1/2 of English cucumber (diced)
  • 1/4 cup of diced jicama (don’t skip this one!!!  The crunch it provides is crucial!!)
  • 1 cup pico de gallo (you can either make your own or use store bought)
  • 2 Tbsps cocktail sauce (I prefer the hot cocktail sauce)
  • 1.5 oz tequila
  • 1/2 medium avocado (diced)
  • 1 Tbsp minced cilantro

DSC_0329

Directions:

  1. Place pico, cocktail sauce and tequila in a medium mixing bowl and mix well.
  2. To the mixture add the cucumber, jicama and shrimp.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (it can go longer and the flavors tend to marry more but expect more fluid if longer).
  4. Immediately prior to serving add diced avocado and mix.
  5. Top with cilantro.
  6. Enjoy over chips, tortillas or just out of the bowl!!

Special note for those who are on eating per the 21 Day Fix & 21 Day Fix Extreme, you can also make this recipe without the tequila and the avocado and it is great.  This brings your container count to 1 red and 1/2 green depending on your serving size.

Stop calling it Mixed Martial Arts…..

This week was supposed to be the biggest fight card in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s history.  UFC 200 was stacked with an unbelievable level of talent and 3 championship belts were to be awarded.  And for the first time in a very long time, no one was hurt and pulling out of their bout at the last minute.

But wait….we are not there yet!!

Enter the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and their pesky out of competition drug testing.  Seems that the preeminent favorite to reunite in the Light Heavyweight Division Title, Jon “Bones” Jones, tested positive for two different banned substances (as of the time of this writing those substances had not been publicly disclosed).   Three weeks before the bout of his life and he is caught (presumably) taking PEDs.  Unbelievable.

jon jones

Philippians 4:13 “For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

                Well, evidently that and the right “supplement” regimen.

Oh, and it gets better.  The fighter they replaced Jon Jones with?  Anderson “the Spider” Silva.  Former Middleweight Champion and the fighter who many believe to be the GOAT.  Oh yeah, and also a proven PED user.  Could we not have found another fighter who has not also popped for PEDs?  Perhaps they should have chosen Belfort instead (nope), Machida (PED), Sonnen (still suspended for PED)…….well crap!!

Stop calling it MMA – It’s Cage Fighting!!

The problem is that this has become common place in Cage Fighting.  Yes, I called it cage fighting.  That is what it is.  I don’t mean it derogatorily but rather descriptively.  I completely understand why Dana White and the Fertitas have fought hard to move away from that description and the connotation it carries.

However nothing about the current state of UFC or other cage fighting organizations reflects anything I have ever learned about the “Art” in martial art. 

And until it does, I won’t use it as a describer for what I watch on a regular basis.

Honesty     Humility     Integrity    Perseverance    Self-Control

image

In every martial art I am aware of, there are a set of Black Belt Principles that are taught along with the physical skills of the fighting style.  My black belt is in American Karate and the principals that guide us are Honest, Humility, Integrity, Perseverance and Self-Control.

Are they pervasive and common through every marital art?   No.

Does every martial art have some sort of code of conduct/honor surrounding it?  Yes.

If there are no principals, your are not studying a martial art, you are studying a fighting style.  There is nothing wrong with that but let’s stop calling anyone who is willing to walk into a cage a martial artist.  Fighters who are looking to illegal pharmaceuticals to improve their performance are not martial artists.  You cannot exhibit honesty, integrity or self-control if you knowingly and willingly looking to gain an unfair advantage against your opponent.

Helio Gracie

Helio Gracie suggested that you immediately drink a glass of water upon waking because you are dehydrated and should always be ready.  He did not suggest that water should be washing down the latest compound to crank your metabolism.

Guchin

Gichin Funakoshi said to “Be constantly mindful, diligent and resourceful in your pursuit of the Way.”  Not “find the best doctor who will prescribe or acquire HGH for you”

Now I give a great deal of credit to the UFC for bringing in USADA and attempting to clean up the sport.  I think Jeff Novitski has one of the hardest jobs in the organization (he looked absolutely defeated as he was announcing the Jones’ removal from the card).  They realized that removing doping from their sport is way more important than in any other.  A pharmaceutical advantage in fighting can literally lead to the death of your opponent.  These men and women are going into a cage with bad intentions towards each other.  The mat has to be a level playing field.  Fighter’s lives depend on it.

So fighters, I am calling on you to bring the Martial Arts back into cage fighting.  Bring the honor, honesty and integrity back into the competition.  You are the only ones who can actually do it.

Coaches can’t make it happen.

Fans can’t make it happen.

The UFC organization can’t make it happen.

Dana can’t make it happen.

Will I continue to watch UFC, Belator, Glory and others?  Yes.

Will I continue to support fighters?  Yes.

Will I continue to make it a family affair with my boys?  Yes.

But until we see consistency in fighters at all levels testing clean, it will not be mixed martial arts to me, it is cage fighting.  I have two boys who need to understand the difference between winning and honor.