Category Archives: About Me

“Just tell your story.”

Over the course of the last couple of years, I have had several people tell me that they think Joy and I need to tour the country and speak to people.  Tell our story to the world.  Inspire others.

Well this morning I got the privilege of doing something I have always wanted to do, deliver a motivational speech to a group of folks who have no idea who I am.  Now, I am not in the public speaking business and don’t really have any intention of getting in it but I do know how to speak in front of people.  I do it all the time and I can assure you that unlike the majority of Americans, speaking in front of people is not my greatest fear.  In fact, I might be more comfortable with that type of conversation than a 1 on 1 with a new acquaintance.

So the question you should be asking right now is:

“How did this happen?  How did a group of sane individuals think of you to deliver a motivational message?” 

I know I have asked it a hundred times since I was first asked.

Well, from what I understand, it involved a lot of wine, someone who has an over inflated view of my ability to inspire, a low budget and the need to send some serious love to a group of leasing professional who have been working their tails off for the last year or so.

Enter:  Andrew Bowen – Motivational Speaker

So being dedicated to my craft, I was sure to have a couple of calls with the leaders of this group to find out what message they needed delivered to this team.   Through a lot of dialog that resembled a ping pong match:

Me:  “What message would you like me to deliver?”

Them: “I don’t know, what do you normally deliver?”

Me: “I normally deliver a sales pitch but I doubt that is the message you want.  I can put together anything for you.”

Them: “We just need them to be recharged.   Why don’t you just relate your story?”

And there it was….”your story”.

Those words came up time and time again over the course of the week or so we discussed the message we needed to delivery.  Just tell my story.

Do you have any idea how exposed you feel when the inspirational message is your own story?

What if they are not inspired?  Well it is your story so obviously you are un-inspirational.

What if they find no value in it?  Well obviously you are worthless.

What if they find it a waste of time?  That speaks for itself, you are a waste of time.

So for the last several weeks I have been going through “my story” in my head.  Rehashing it all over and over again so the delivery would be smooth this morning.   Rehashing it until I developed a theme.  “Life on the Line”

This morning came and I drove to the event, ready to share my story.

I shared stories about getting started in student housing

I shared stories about feeling overweight and listless

I shared about a black belt test gone wrong

I shared about breast cancer

I shared about learning from all of it and focusing our efforts on empowering others to live their healthiest lives

Was I inspirational?  I don’t know, you would have to ask the audience but I will say this, it felt great to own my own story.  So go ahead, go tell your story.

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.

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.

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.

The Art of Aging Gracefully……Screw That!!!

I am going kicking and screaming all the way……just being real.

I agree with Tony Horton who recently proclaimed to CNBC that Aging is for Idiots .  I see no reason to allow Father Time to have his way without the fight of his life.

Now with that said, I have had some recent reminders that I am not the young guy I used to be anymore.  For example, just a couple of weeks ago I heard the following statement while visiting a BJJ gym in LA:

IMG_2457

“Yeah, you’ve got that ‘Old Man Strength’”

What!?!?!  Old Man Strength!?!??!!  How about just ‘strength’? Then I took a long hard look around the mat and realized, I was the oldest on the mat by at least 5 years (OK, maybe 10).  That lead to the realization that I could count on two hands how many folks I had rolled with this year that have me beat in age.  How did this happen?  How am I suddenly the ‘old guy’?

Oh, and then there is work……

family

“I can’t believe you have a child that is driving!”

Not quite sure how to react to this one.  Is it because you can’t believe I could be old enough to have a 16 year old child?  Or is it because you cannot believe that my gene pool would be able to produce an offspring with the mental capacity to control a motor vehicle effectively?  I really hope it is the prior although the later certainly is in question.

And then there is Facebook….

wife

“When I grow up I want to be like you and your wife!”

This coming from a thirty-something fitness enthusiast.  You see, Joy and were both presented with the opportunity to audition for the next Beachbody Infomercial for The 21 Day Fix Extreme program by Autumn Calabrese, an opportunity we both jumped at.  So just us and 11,000 other Beachbody super fans are a part of a Facebook group where we regularly post specific assignments and encouragement.   Looking at the feed in this group is inspiring, motivational and humbling as well as a gut check.  You see in this group, I am definitely raising the median age (my wife however is ageless so she is having no affect ).

Why am I sharing all of this?  Because while aging chronologically is inevitable, how you age physically is absolutely a choice.  Not much is within our control any more; politics, economics, job stability, Brexit and the thoughts of others affect us daily but we have zero control over them.  What do you have control over?

  • What you feed your body – are you giving it whole foods in the right portions?
  • What you feed your mind – are you reading regularly? Does the subject matter challenge you?
  • Moving your body – You know the First Law of motion…..a body at rest tends to stay at rest, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Be in motion – whatever that looks like for you.
  • Effort – Are you giving it everything you can?
  • Consistency – see that whole First Law of Motion thing above

So yeah, we all grow older but how we grow older is a choice.  I choose to embrace Old Man Strength and to control what I can and not place undue worry on what I can’t.  Now if I can just find someone to help me with my old man wardrobe…….

Body Image – What’s your standard?

The holiday season is officially upon us, summer is officially over and for some, this comes as a relief.  For others (like me) it marks the end of our favorite season.  The kids are out of the house and back in school.  Football is back in full swing and the temps are starting to come back down which means there is no need to worry about how the bathing suit fits for another 7 months or so.  Somebody cue up the Kool & The Gang!!

Every year when we transition in and out of summer I am always fascinated with the obsession around the bathing suit.  With people across the nation fretting over the concept of the ideal body I want to ask you, What’s your ideal body?

Who do you spend your time looking at?  For some it is the models on the cover of the magazines.  Others, it is the folks that they see in the gym every day, you know the ones that seem to literally live there.  For me, it is the fighters who train their body to sustain an abuse that I hope you and I never know that I look at the most.  It is an image that I probably should not be so focused on but we are all friends here so I’ll put it out there.

UFC

I spend A LOT of time paying attention to the fighters.  Their training techniques.  Fight results and the news reports around the fights.  These athletes are fittest of the fit.  They have a body fat % that can be measured in the single digits, they train up to 4 times a day and have positioned their bodies to withstand the most abusive physical demands you can imagine.  And yet somehow they are my benchmark.

I have a problem….

When it comes to body image, I have always said I have one particular goal.  I simply want to fill out a T-Shirt well.  I don’t want to be huge but I want to be fit……and then I watch a UFC fight.  These guys are in the prime shape of their lives.  Other than the heavyweights, I would guess that the average body fat % is about 7%.  Tack on 2 – 4 weeks of weight cutting (read: losing up to 25 lbs and dehydrating themselves to the brink of death) and these modern day gladiators present a statute that is completely impossible to keep, even for them.  Doesn’t mean that I still don’t have that mental image in my head every time I run, lift, roll or step on the mat…and it is not healthy.

The reality is I am a 43 year old man who will never step foot inside an Octagon.

Sure, I spar.  I roll.  I train but I am never going to test myself the way these athletes do.  I am also not on the variety of performance enhancing drugs/supplements that these athletes are.  There is literally no way I can achieve the standard they set.  However I still regularly find myself trying to.

  • I don’t have the testosterone level they do.
  • I don’t have the time to train multiple sessions a day
  • I am not dedicated to that purpose
  • It is not my profession…………but yet I still compare myself to these professional athletes who train for a living.

I think I finally know what girls and women around the world have been dealing with for decades.  How can we possibly achieve the standards we see in the media (even without the prolific airbrushing)?  We can’t.  The standards are not realistic and we are picturing the top .001% of the population (probably even more remote than that but still…..) as the ‘standard’.  So give yourself a new standard to measure yourself against.

Measure your future self against your current self.  The only one you are in competition with is yourself.  Simply be better tomorrow than you are today.  That is the gold standard.

The best dates are Sweat Dates

Over the last 4 years, my family and I have dealt with a lot on the health front.  Four years ago, my son was diagnosed with a papilledema, a condition normally associated with a brain or spinal tumor (he did not have one).   I had a near death experience due to a heart condition (I made it obviously but if you want the full story you can read it here) and we topped it all off  with my wife’s battle with breast cancer, including the treatment, double mastectomy and reconstruction that comes with it (she has been cancer free for 2 years now and you can read her story here).  And that is just with those who live under our roof.

When you are confronted with these types of health crises you are forced to look at your health so to say healthy living is a priority with us would be putting it mildly.  It is woven through everything we do, everything we eat and in just about every conversation we have – my sons just love that part.

It also has led to a phenomenon we refer to as:

The Sweat Date!!

As we have traveled this road to health, we have begun working out together on a regular basis.  My wife and I are both BeachBody Coaches so often these workouts are conducted in our living room our outside on the deck but whatever the workout, we are spending between 30 – 60 minutes with each other pushing, motivating, teasing and sweating together.  They have become my favorite part of the week and when I really stop to examine the benefits of the sweat date, there are 5 key benefits that stand out to me in regards to working out with your significant other.

Feel better:

I know, obvious but true.  There is all kind of research out there about the effect of exercise on mood, mental health and of course, overall health.  More than all of that though, doing something with your partner for the long term benefit of you both is uniquely rewarding.  There is something to simply sharing the fight.

More Relationship Security:

In our BeachBody business, it is amazing to me how many men are insecure about their wife getting in shape.  Quite candidly, it blows me away.  Why would a spouse ever be against their significant other getting in better health?  But I can assure you, it is a real occurrence and happens way more often than you would expect.  However a shared journey to being fit builds bonds of security in a relationship as couples travel the road together.

Time spent together:

My wife and I have a blast when we work out together.  It is between 30-60 minutes where we are sharing an experience, working towards a common goal and in many cases, have a common enemy (yes, I am talking about you Autumn Calabrese!!!)

Autumn

Healthier eating:

When you focus on health together rather than just exercise, you have to spend time on your diet.  This is so much easier when you are attacking it as a team.   Meals can be prepared for the family and not for an individual who is ‘dieting” (I hate how we use that word) and if you are going through the effort of putting in the exercise you are way less likely to want to compromise those gains by letting your diet go to pieces.

Side benefit of the Sweat Date:

Couples that play together……..well, play together.  Let me spell this out for you, you are exercising, building confidence and connection together.  When you exercise, endorphins are released improving mood as well as health.  You are sharing experiences together.  All of these contribute to a heightened sense of connection in all kinds of ways.  Yeah, we call them dates for a reason.

So there are my top 5 reasons to make time for Sweat Dates in your relationship.  I promise you, if you make your family’s health a priority together your relationship will grow in all of the right ways.