Tag Archives: mental health

“Work Harder” – Gary Vanyerchuk

Have you ever heard a speaker, read a line in a book, listened to an interview or a podcast where someone said something that actually hit you square between the eyes?   Yeah, I figured you had.

This past weekend I got to hear Gary Vanyerchuk speak at conference for Beachbody Coaches.  If you don’t know who he is, Google him because his story is awesome but to summarize, he is on the cutting edge of social media branding.  The way he analyzes each platform for its strengths is right up my alley.

Once you know their strengths – play to their strengths.                              

In general his strategy is to make your content work as smart as possible.  It is not just about throwing content out there, it is throwing the right content that is designed to work on that specific platform.

Now with that background out there, what he said that punched me in the face had nothing to do with content, branding or social media.  His message could be boiled down to two words…….

Work Harder!!!!

C’mon??  Really??  I just finished reading 2 of your books and you are going to give me “Work Harder”!?!?.

Then he followed up those two words with this gem;

“It is actually against my best interest for each of you to succeed.  The more of you that put what I tell you into practice, the more expensive my ads become.  So why am I willing to tell you all my secrets?  Because 90% of you will never actually work harder!!”   – Gary Vanyerchuk

The thing is, he’s right.  The vast majority of the 25,000 or so people who heard that message will not put it into place.

“You don’t know how hard I work.  I already work really hard!!  How can I really work any harder?”

I lost track of how many times I heard this over the last 24 hours from conference attendees.

Honestly for me, I knew I could not push back against that line of reasoning.  I can work harder.  Harder on my relationships.  Harder on my fitness.  Harder on my diet.  Harder in my work.  Harder in my business.

I think what most people miss when they hear “Work Harder” is that the message is not necessarily “Work More”.  So what else can it mean?

Work Focused:

Be honest, how many times do you take out your phone to do something specific and end up perusing your Facebook news feed.  Or your Twitter feed?  Or Instagram?  There is a reason I put this one on the top of the list for me, I need to improve here.

Work Efficiently:

I want you to do something for me.  For the next week, keep track of how many times you are distracted from the task you are looking to accomplish and then track what is pulling you away?  Then ask some hard questions:

Am I setting myself up for this?

Is the environment conducive to getting stuff done or distracting?

Am I looking for distractions?

Am I trying to put tasks together that are polar opposites?

Mix it up:

Just like you may use Yoga as a way to practice active recovery on your “rest day” from working out, use things like personal development as a way to “take a break” from work.  I have been in the habit of doing my own personal development in the mornings.  I am going to experiment with splitting it and doing half in the afternoon/evening as a way to recharge.

Work with a sense of priority:

Here is something I am going to try in my daily life – just like I rank tasks A/B/C as to their priority in needing to get done, I am going to rank them in my desire for doing them.  I am not sure what it will look like just yet but my plan is to mix the tasks I like in with those I don’t so I can keep motivation going throughout the day.

So what does your “Work Harder” look like?  What area of your life would you change if you had a magic wand?   Guess what, you do.  It is called effort and it is the only thing you get to control in this life.

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.

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…….

How does your wife deal with it?

I get that question a lot.  Especially from women who learn how much I travel.  So today, on our 20th wedding anniversary, I am asking myself that same question:

How have we done it?  How have we made it work for 20 years when others haven’t?

Our marriage has not been the most conventional (no, not like that).  Since the time we were first married, we have spent significant amounts of it apart.  Even as far back as our first year of marriage, I was working in Los Angeles while she was down in San Diego.  And back then we did not even share the same days off.  We were constantly ships passing in the night as one of us was always driving up or down the California coast to spend time with each other.  Since then, I have basically spent the better part of 3 months each year in hotel rooms away from my family.

So as I have been thinking about what it takes to make a marriage successful among the crazy demands of business travel, I keep coming back to the same six things……..

Take time to understand their Love Language:

If you are not familiar with the concept of the 5 love languages, I suggest you stop reading this and immediately click here.  This was probably the most impactful self-development exercise I did when it comes to the impact on our marriage.  Understanding how Acts of Service speaks to Joy and literally says “I love you” to her changed the way I look at tasks around the house.  Which brings me to….

 Embrace the ‘Honey-do’ list:

Did you catch that Joy’s love language is Acts of Service?  That means that when I get stuff done around the house, she feels valued and loved.  So if there is a research project that needs done, I will do it on a plane.  I try and get stuff accomplished around the house on the weekends.  I love to check things off of lists and she loves to put things on lists.  It works for us.

When you are home – put them first:

I love to golf.  I don’t play golf.

I would train all day everyday on a martial arts mat.  I limit myself to only classes I do with my boys.

These are things that fuel and refresh me but THEY TAKE TIME!!!  I have pontificated on this before but when I am home, I vehemently protect that time.  I can train on the road.  I can work late on the road.  I can only spend time with my family, specifically my spouse, while I am at home.

Set them up for success:

Part of my weekly weekend ritual is to set my wife and kids up for success for the week.  That means getting meals planned out, buying the groceries, meal prepping, making sure laundry is done, projects are completed and ready to be turned in, schedules are clear for the next week, and so on, and so on and so on.  The weeks that are the most stressful on all of us are the ones where I fail to plan for the week.  My job is to provide and more than just a paycheck.

Hide all evidence of travel:

When I get home I tend to unpack right away.  Not because I am super diligent about processing my laundry but because if I leave my suitcase out all weekend it serves as a constant reminder that I have either been gone all week or will be gone all week.  Unpack quickly and pack at the last minute.

Communicate:

This one was the hardest one for me to learn.  Seems silly but for years I would wait till the last minute to let my wife know I was going to be traveling.  She would consistently get mad when I was leaving so if I left it to the very last minute, I got to enjoy a few more days of ‘happiness’.  This does not work.  Communicate early.  Communicate often.  Communicate regularly.  Call, text, email, skywriting……communicate.

Now please understand, developing these habits was a process.  There have been times when I have been incredibly selfish.  When I didn’t put her and the kids first and inevitably, our largest fights have been centered around those times.  Also, I think this list can be applied to any marriage and approaching what separates you.  For us, it happens to be literal distance.  For others, it may just be time.

So hopefully this list will help you and your spouse survive the pitfalls of business travel, whether you have a short season of travel or whether you become a salty veteran like me.

See you on the road!!

What others won’t tell you about living a life on the road

I always love having conversations with people who do not spend much time on the road, especially when they are on the road themselves.  And having just come off of the largest conference of the year for the apartment industry where literally thousands of folks who never travel have just spent the last week in City by the Bay, I have had a lot of those conversations recently.  Want to guess what the most common question/comment I heard in my various conversations was?

                “How do you do it?”

The answer is simple, one day at a time.  That is all I can do.

These conversations prompted me to write an article this time that I am not sure I have seen out there.  Everyone likes to point out the positives of travel, I would like to point out the challenges that RoadWarrior’s face so the next time you find yourself staring at a calendar with an upcoming road trip, you are ready.

Reality #1 – Staying fit is hard:

Gyms with broken equipment.  Overtaxed schedules.  Tired muscles and minds.  All of these are a normal part of the RoadWarrior life.   Combine that with the ease of finding food that is horrible for you and the scarcity of the food that will really fuel your body well and you have the perfect recipe for allowing your fitness to suffer.

My solution:  Plan ahead (more on this topic here).  You need to schedule your workouts.  You need to research where and when you are going to eat.  Winging it every once in a while is OK.  Winging it every trip is a recipe for obesity.

Reality #2 – Alcohol is everywhere:

Seriously.  Once you get any level of status on an airline or hotel chain, they are constantly making sure that if you want to be liquored up, you can be.  It becomes incredibly simple to have a cocktail in the lounge before your flight, a couple of glasses of wine on the plane and then again at your next hotel.  I lost count a long time ago of the number of people I have seen over served at the hotel bar.  I am far from saying don’t drink but definitely do so with intent and a consciousness about it.  Too much alcohol has done no one any good….ever.

My solution:  Be conscious about your consumption.  Set limits in advance and choose when/if you are going to consume and where.

Reality #3 – People expect you to work constantly:

This may be just my world and my own personal work ethic but if I am going to be away from my family, I am going to make sure I am as productive as possible (I do so with the intention of protecting my time when I am at home).  Here’s the problem, my coworkers now expect me to be available 24/7 when I am on the road.  You have to protect yourself on this one.  You prioritizing your time is different than others demanding your attention.

My solution – Create and stick to reasonable boundaries.  I turn off my instant chat function on my computer around 9:00.  I stop responding to emails about that time as well.  I don’t send out new emails after that point.  It is when I shut it down (or at least give that impression – truth is I am often working later but scheduling my correspondence to be sent the following morning).

Reality #4 – Reentry is hard:

You just got home from a long trip, your plane was late and it is actually tomorrow when you arrive home.  To top it off, you have been burning the candle at both ends all week and you are both physically and mentally spent.  All you want to do is climb in to bed and never get out.  Unfortunately, your spouse has had the same type of week shuttling around kids, making sure everyone is fed, doing their own professional job and trying to stay fit.  They have been burning the candle at both ends and all they want is to climb into bed and never get out…but thank God you are home to take over, right?

My solution – Suck it up cupcake, especially if you are a regular RoadWarrior!!  Your travel schedule created this dynamic and you need to do everything you can to make the reentry as smooth as possible.  Sorry I don’t have any additional sage wisdom here but sometimes it is what it is.  This is also why I tend to bring gifts…..like San Francisco sourdough bread!!

bread

Reality #5 – A life on the road is a lonely one:

I have written on this topic previously but it is very had to develop relationships on the road and very easy to hide among the masses.  There is a reason fish school to avoid predators, they can become an indistinguishable part of a larger massive organism.  Great for fish…..terrible for humans.

My solution – Be intentional about maintaining the relationships you have that are most important.  If I am not intentionally reaching out to my wife, my kids, my parents, it is easy for me to go days without communicating.  This may just be a me thing but I like to fade into the background (ironically, I am doing so right now in the Admirals Club as literally dozens of industry coworkers buzz around).  Below are some recent shots from a run I made across the Golden Gate with a couple of co-workers.  An hour of intentional interaction.

Reality #6 – It is really easy to get depressed:

Everything above can easily culminate in a feeling of depression.  You stop being active, you feed your body with a depressant, you are working constantly, you know when you get home there is going to be tension and you feel alone.  How could you not get depressed, right?  I would be lying if I did not admit that about once a quarter, I have a trip where it all bears down on me……and I don’t think I am alone in that feeling.  I am always amazed at how utterly alone you can feel in a sea of people.

My solution – Beat the depression out of me physically.  Seriously, this is why I work out the way I do on the road.  I will do double workouts – if for no other reason than it keeps me off of the computer.  I will start a blog just to vent about it into the abyss.  For others it may be reading their favorite book, knitting, researching menu plans.  Could be any number of activities but do something you love to focus your energy and attention elsewhere.

So there you go, the 6 realities that no one really wants to talk about a life lived on the road.   If you can be intentional about heading those 6 off before they start, you are in for a good trip.  See you on the road!

So you are thinking about starting martial arts? 10 things I wish I had known earlier in my journey.

So you (or maybe your spouse) are considering studying a martial art, congratulations!!  I can honestly say that the first day I bowed on to a mat legitimately changed my life and put me on a path I never expected to embark upon.

After more than a decade of training in multiple martial arts,  there are a few lessons that I’ve learned that would have been good to know before going all in.   If you are just getting started or considering a martial art, here are my top 10 things to expect that might not be so obvious.  If you are an experienced martial artist, I hope you agree and feel free to add-on in the comments.

Soap

1) This is not Fight Club.

The first rule of Fight Club may have been to never talk about Fight Club but if you really get bit by the martial arts bug, you will not be able to shut up about it.  My poor wife has heard more stories about spinning hook kicks, slip step-under counter hooks and triangle chokes than she knows what to do with.  Be sure to keep that in mind before you jump headlong into another story about how so and so did what and what.

do you want to do a workout

2) You will want to train – all the time.

I would train or teach all day every day if I could.  Perfection is impossible but the pursuit of perfection is available to all.  You’ll find yourself looking to attend multiple classes each week, participating in ‘open mat’ and looking for others to help you improve.   Trust me, it is completely addicting in all the right ways.

CT BB

3) Martial arts is a small, tight knit and supportive family.

For a long time I had the picture above from my son’s black belt test as the wallpaper on my computer.  He is landing a beautiful spinning hook kick and stopping his partner cold.  Now with my job, I am all over the country doing presentations and projecting my computer on big screens in multiple offices every week.  As soon as any martial artist saw the picture, there was an immediate connection.  Questions would immediately turn to his training, my training, rank, passion, training methods and goals.  Heck, I have even spared with some of my clients as I have traveled to their offices.

4) Your Laundry will never be in balance again.

Seriously people, this is an issue I was not anticipating and one my wife hates.   Think about it.  Gis are made from really thick cotton to avoid rips, tears, etc.  It is like having 3 towels in the wash that have to be on the same side of the washer.  Now imagine that in our house with 3 of us (14, 16 & 43) all actively training multiple sessions a week.  It just never stops and the washing machine continually sounds like a jackhammer.

5) There is a reason that martial artists say they “study” and “train”.

If you come across someone who says they  ‘do’ Jujitsu or karate or whatever, you have come across someone who really hasn’t evolved into a martial artist yet (and your belt rank has nothing to do with whether or not you are a martial artist).  To be successful in the martial arts, you really do have to study and train.  You have to study the techniques to understand their effectiveness and when to apply them.  You have to train your body to react to the opportunity without thinking.  I have spent hours on YouTube learning the principals of a technique (study) followed by hours on a mat applying them in an actual situation (train).  I stopped ‘doing’ karate a long time ago.

6) You will always be ‘hurt’.

I don’t remember the last day I was not sore somewhere.  Now please understand, I am not talking about being injured.  That happens pretty rarely in a well-run school environment – there is a difference between martial arts and fighting.  However being sore is routine and an important part of the martial arts lifestyle.  In fact, I have never been as sore as I was the day after my first Jujitsu session.  Soreness indicated weakness and weaknesses can be strengthened through studying and training.

triangle

7) You learn to embrace the suck.

Real progress is made when you put yourself in positions that are challenging to you and you work to improve.  I refer to this process as “suck training”.  As a beginner that may be continually letting your partner jab at you until you can slip the jab.  On the ground, let someone take your back and sink a choke in and then work your way out (this is not for your first day however).  You will fail a lot in these situations but that is the point.  Fail less tomorrow than you did today and fail in different ways than you failed previously.

black eye.jpg

8) People love black eyes – just not receiving them.

I get a black eye or two every year.  Even as a black belt, I occasionally forget to keep my hands up and my partner slips in a great technique or I simply fall the wrong way.  It is simply a part of the beautiful dance we are performing.  What cracks me up is how people outside of martial arts react.  They either want to know every detail and are fascinated by my participation or they are scared to death to ask anything and assume I have some type of sorted past or had a run in with the wrong kind of crowd.  I find both reactions hilarious.

9) Higher level belts practice offense by destroying lower level belts – just slowly.

A really good black belt can execute her techniques at full speed without hurting her partner.  She can also slow it down so that their partner can learn to feel what is going on without losing technique.  As a black belt, when I am sparing a lower belt, I am typically picking a single technique to focus on and do so in a way that will also teach them something (like keep your hands up!!)  Lesson here for beginners – you want to spar the black belts!!!

10) Lower level belts learn defense (aka survival) by being destroyed by higher level belts.

I will never forget the first time I countered a superman punch effectively.  I had been getting caught for weeks with the technique and it was driving me nuts.  In the round it happened in, I was clearly ‘losing’ the round but in my mind, I had won because my goal was to slip the superman punch and I had accomplished it.  If I had been sparing another brown belt at the time, they would not even be throwing that technique.  Lesson here for beginners – you want to spar the black belts!!

smell.jpg

11) Bonus for families that train together – what happens on the mat does not stay on the mat.

Nothing makes my wife more frustrated than when random grappling matches break out in the living room.  Or when someone ends up in a kimura on the couch.  Or when turning a corner someone eats a round kick to the face.  Our house is a virtual mine field of martial arts techniques and I absolutely love it.

I hope the list above gives you a little more insight into the journey you are embarking upon and welcome to the martial arts family.  The destination is absolutely worth the journey.  Oss!!