Tag Archives: mental health

Make the time!!

Every once in a while when I am traveling across the country, I land in a spot that is truly unique and when I do, I always try and dedicate the time to enjoy the uniqueness of the area.  Recently, that trip brought me to Buffalo, New York.  You see, Buffalo is a ‘stone’s throw’ from Niagra Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world.

So as this trip originally got booked, I started the researching where I could fit a visit to this natural wonder in.  The spot was obvious – morning before my appointment in the early afternoon.  Of course between when I first planned the whole thing out and the morning of, all that empty time got filled by all kinds of assignments, calls and follow-ups being scheduled (it is amazing what looks good on a calendar).  By the time I went to bed last night, the only way a visit was going to happen was if I got up early and headed up that way.

That morning was one of those ‘Steinbeck Mornings’ – you know, the kind with the best laid plans of mice and men.  Plans that I immediately wanted to ditch.

When that alarm went off at 6 AM – I immediately turned it off.  I had arrived after midnight the night prior, was tired and idea that I could sleep an extra hour was really enticing.  For whatever reason though, I could not go back to sleep.  I knew that if I did not take this opportunity to see the falls, I probably never would.  So begrudgingly, I arose, got dressed, had coffee and headed out on my 20 minute “stones throw” drive to Niagra, NY.

I am so glad I did!!

The falls are amazing.  To see that much unadulterated power falling over the precipice is simply breath taking.

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Was getting up early worth it, unquestionably, yes.

So much so that it is really questioning one of my “Guardrails”.  When I am on the road, I try and pack as much work in as I can.  The thought process is if I get it done on the road, I am not doing it at home.  But at some point there needs to be a balance of effort vs. spirit.  Seeing something like Niagra Falls did more for my spirit and productivity than the extra hour of sleep (or email) ever would have.  It was awe inspiring, humbling, rejuvenating and uplifting.

It also reminded me we have to make the time to revitalize the spirit.

So make the time to recharge.  Will it always be in the overspray of one of the 8 natural wonders of the world?  Probably not but it is still important.

It also reminded me we have to make the time to revitalize the spirit.

So make the time to recharge.  Will it always be in the overspray of one of the 8 natural wonders of the world?  Probably not but it is still important.

Flip-flops, Jeans and Mickey Mouse – a lesson in wardrobe

I have a confession to make, I am a bit obsessive compulsive when it comes to what I wear on a plane.  I make it my mission in life to make sure I am dressed comfortably before walking down the jet bridge.  I have changed in to “street” clothes in the restrooms of more airports this year than most people will visit in their lifetime and if being able to completely change outfits without any item of clothing or patch of skin hitting the bathroom floor were an Olympic sport, I would have a really good shot at medaling.

You see, I like to travel comfortably.  Really comfortably.

I would say that on 95% of the flights I take, I am in jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops (assuming the weather permits).  It is what I am most comfortable in and actually what I feel most confident in.

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Those who travel with me on a regular basis have gotten used to my obsession but this was not always the case.  When I first started making this a habit, I often felt judged by both my coworkers and fellow travelers.  When you are in sales or service, you are always on.  Just because you left the client’s office does not mean you are ‘off stage’.   One of the women I used to work for was a fabulous leader and was keenly aware of this fact.  She was always put together and on point.  I think my habit of being in t-shirt actually really bothered her for a while – until we unexpectedly sat together with a client on a flight back from a conference.

There I was with two of the most influential personas in my industry, having an in depth conversation about trends in the industry, future advancements and speculating on the next generations of tools to come forth……..

And I am wearing a Mickey Mouse T-Shirt!!

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I literally wanted to crawl out of my skin (or at least that shirt).  Here I was, trying to make a name for myself and I am wearing a cartoon character across my chest.  I was left with a choice, cower and apologize for not being dressed ‘more appropriately’ or be confident in who I was rather than what I was wearing.

Of course the story has a happy ending and I managed to not make a fool of myself and in fact, that shirt spurred on conversations about our families, vacations and my obsession with the company that is Disney.  It also taught me a very important lesson, the clothes do not in fact make the man.  I firmly believe that the man makes the clothes. I was far more confident in jeans, flip-flops and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt on that plane than I had been just 4 hours early in a sports coat and tie.

The clothes do not make the man.  The man makes the clothes!!

Since then, I would like to think that not conforming to the khaki pants and blue blazer uniform of the typical business traveler has become somewhat of a trademark for me.  I even think that some of my clients/coworkers would be disappointed if showed up for a flight in anything but a t-shirt.  The message in all of this?

Confidence is more important than conformity.

I would rather lose a client/deal because I was transparent than win one because I put on a false front.  It really is that simple.

Life is too short to put perception ahead of transparency.  So travel in a t-shirt, or a bow tie, or yoga pants or a 3-piece suit.  Just make sure it reflects who you really are and the skin you are most comfortable in.

Can’t wait to see what you are wearing.

What’s on your Bucket List?

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of catching up with a friend at church.  His wife is currently training for her first full IronMan and was out training in the Texas heat by riding 65 miles.  Like I am sure the spouse of any endurance athlete feels every once in a while if they are being honest, he mentioned he was ready for the race to be done so the training could end and it would no longer be on the bucket list.  So I asked him

“Well, what’s on your bucket list?”

His answer was not what I had expected at all.

“I have pretty much done mine.  Martial arts – check.  Hockey – check.  Bass guitar – check.”

That got me really thinking.  If your bucket list is done, what is left?  Simple – adding more items to the bucket list.

Ok Andrew – what is on your travel bucket list?  What the things you want to accomplish around your fitness goals and keeping sane on the road?  So here are the top 5ons my RoadWarriorFit bucket list.

Swim in both the Atlantic and the Pacific on the same day.

I am never sure whether to cry or get excited every time I think about completing this one.  I am the kind of traveler that if I am in sight of the ocean, I have to get salty.  So much so that I have been known to take the last flight out of Miami just so I can hit the beach for an hour or even squeeze in a 30-minute run next to big blue.  I have had the opportunity to complete this one slip through my fingers on 4 different occasions that I can remember.  The challenge here is it usually means I am getting up way early to swim before meetings and staying up way late to swim after my plane lands.   Throw in a 5+ hour flight and that is one really long day.  Going to have to happen though.

Complete a RunDisney event.

If you are unfamiliar with these events, you need to check them out at rundisney.com.  I have registered and paid for 3 different RunDisney events over the last 5 years, including the Inaugural Star Wars ½ Marathon.  I have even gone so far as to train (including the long runs) to be ready and something has come up to prevent me from going.  EVERY.  SINGLE.  TIME.  I am so into this that I even know what my running costume will be if (when, I mean when) I will be able to check this one off.  For a great read on how to really maximize this goal, check out my friend Jennifer’s blog here.

Visit all 50 States:

Last I checked I think I am at 42 states that I have visited for work (43 in total).  I have the sick desire to visit all 50 on work trips.  I know it is a basic bucket list items but still, I want to make this happen.

Run the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Yep, those steps.  The ones Rocky conquers in Rocky III.  The ones I went to run about 2 years ago and headed the wrong direction out of the hotel and never made it.  I can hear the theme music now and can almost taste the raw eggs.

Train at one of the top MMA gyms in the country:

I make it a habit to research, contact and train at the martial arts gyms in my destination cities.  Just this week I trained at Art of Eight in San Diego during my trip.  There are a few top gyms that I have the goal of training with (assuming they let me).  I am one of those freaks who likes to get kicked in the head and who better to get kicked by than those who train with the best?

Bonus item – Workout aggressively in an airport

This one is just silly and I think it would be fun to have someone video other’s reactions while I was doing it.  I want to plan and complete a workout in the terminal of an airport.  And not some walking lunges, wall sit easily hidden workout, no, I want Shaun T/Insanity, sweat dripping,  “What is that freak doing?” kind of a workout.  The kind that would have to take place in another one of those airports with an Admirals Club with showers in it.

I have been blessed to be able to do a lot of really cool things while on the road, especially around fitness but there are a few that have escaped me thus far.  This was my top 5 list – would love to hear yours.  Let me know in the comments below and I look forward to seeing you on the road.

Styrofoam cups and old magazines

I hate them both.  With a passion.

Not because I am some hyper environmentalist nor am I on a green movement to stop the destruction of our planet’s forestation.  No, I hate them because of what they represent to me.

They are the very image of surgical and treatment centers.

This upcoming Saturday, September 5th will be my wife’s 2 year cancerfreeversary.  Yes – we made up a term for it and yes – we celebrate it.  Over the course of the last 2.5 years, I have spent a lot of time in the waiting rooms of medical centers.

What the medical team won’t tell you when a loved one is diagnosed with any disease that involves long term care is the amount of exposure you are going to receive to Styrofoam cups and old magazines.  They won’t tell you that you are going to spend days in waiting rooms.  Waiting for diagnoses.  Waiting for consultations.  Waiting for treatments to complete.  Waiting for recovery.

Waiting.

Helplessly waiting.

Waiting where the only refreshment is either coffee or water – served in Styrofoam cups.

Waiting in rooms where there are old magazines everywhere.

For the loved one of someone going through something like cancer, you will wait a lot and it is the hardest part!!!  Yes, you will be a shoulder to cry on.  You will be a punching bag to work out aggressions.  You will be the encourager when they think they can’t keep going.  You will be a nursemaid as they recover from chemo/radiation/surgery.  You will be all of those things at once but in all of those times, you are doing something.  You can take action.

Once they go back with the medical professionals, you are left to just wait and pray.

Wait with a Styrofoam cup full of coffee and an old magazine to distract you.

I hate Styrofoam cups and old magazines.

But back to something more positive – celebrating the gift that is the cancerfreeversary.

This year we are celebrating by having what we hope to be the final procedure in her reconstruction journey.  In fact, they just rolled her back to administer the anesthesia and begin the procedure.  So I am sitting in yet another waiting room, with my cup of luke warm coffee in a Styrofoam Cup leafing through old magazines deciding between an issue of Seventeen from 2014 or Sports Illustrated from 4 months ago (at least it is featuring Ronda Rousey but with my passion for all things MMA, I guarantee there is nothing new in there for me).

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I hate Styrofoam cups and old magazines but I am so thankful for another opportunity to be here.  I am so thankful for the wonderful health care professionals who provide them and for their dedication to both their patients and their family.

I am so thankful to be celebrating her cancerfreeversary

You can take the boy out of Cali but you can’t take the Cali out of the boy

I travel all over the country for a living.  I have literally seen every corner of the country in the last 4 weeks and am always grateful to get back to Texas.  Sleep in my own bed, kiss my boys and my wife goodnight and wrestle with the dogs.  However, back to back trips to California and New York have definitively proved for me that Texas is not home and it probably never will be.

You can take the boy out of Cali but you can never take the Cali out of the boy

I am currently on a plane from New York City back to DFW.  Over the last 10 days I have spent time in San Diego for a convention, Orange County for nearly a week with my family visiting my in-laws and the last few days in New York City.  I may own a house in Texas but it is clear that home is on the Pacific.  How can I tell?  Simple:

Your heart literally aches when you get off the plane:

When I first landed in San Diego, one of the first things I saw was the apartment community where I was first a leasing manager at some 20 years ago.  I immediately had memories of late night dinners with my wife, surfing the California coast on Dog Beach before I even thought about owning a dog and commuting back and forth past Sea World every day for next to nothing in pay…and desperately longing to go back to those days.  Even though I have lived in Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and now Dallas, nowhere else makes me feel like this.

You are willing to drive an hour for 90 minutes on the beach:

On my family’s last day in Orange County, we had an afternoon flight.  After breakfast with GiGi (Great-grandma) it was a unanimous decision to drive an hour to spend the last 90 minutes of our vacation on Laguna Beach.  Truth be told, it was not even a decision with my crazy family.  If we can get sand between our toes, sun on our back and the taste of salt on our lips, we are in.  To do this on the beach where my wife and I were maried, no brainer.

You are not willing to do the same anywhere else:

I routinely find myself in Florida on the beautiful East Coast and I even routinely take late even flights after morning meetings to spend time running on either Fort Lauderdale or South Beach.  However if I only have 90 minutes, I am probably heading to the Admiral’s Club.  90 minutes is not enough time for it to be worth it for me to deal with the sand and the salt if I am on the East Coast.  Same 90 minutes in SoCal?  I am researching where I can rent a surfboard by the hour before I arrive.

The final proverbial nail in the coffin for this self-realization that California will always be home was the last two days in New York City.  I found myself in the heart of Manhattan, the City that never sleeps.  A place where people from all around the world mingle in a beautiful melting pot.  I spent time visiting Rockefeller Center, running through Times Square and Central Park enjoying the city but all I really wanted to do was head back to Texas.  When we were getting ready to leave California, all I could do was think of ways to stay.

So while you can live anywhere, I think we all really do have a home.  Mine will always be Southern California.

Starting over….but not from the same spot.

These last couple of months have been really rough travel months for me.  I have spent more days on the road than I can count, been to all four corners of the country and in looking towards the end of the month, there is no letup in sight.  I’m not going to lie; it has been difficult to keep my physical, emotional and especially my mental health in a good place through this season.

I find when I go on streaks like this, it is my mental health that seems to suffer the most, especially due to the central role my martial arts training contributes to keeping me centered.  You see when you are on a mat with someone who is either trying to kick you in the head or stop you from breathing, you tend hyper focus on the moment and not worry about anything else.  I no longer think about that project that is due, the deal I am trying to get closed or even the next blog post.  I am completely in the moment.  It really is cathartic for me.

The problem is, you have to be on the mat to really train and you can’t be on the mat if you are constantly on the road!!

I remember when I first started training in American Karate I started with a clear goal in mind, I wanted to earn my black belt before I turned 40.  I knew the minimum time requirement spent at each belt level per the curriculum and knew that as long as I did not miss training sessions and always passed my belt tests, I could do it but just barely.  Fast forward 5 years and I received my black belt 3 months before my 40th birthday in dramatic fashion (read about that experience here).  If I had had a section of travel like the season has been, it would have been devastating to me and put me way off on my goals, my training and my attitude.  Training was about rank advancement not necessarily personal improvement at that point.

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A forced break like this would have destroyed me.

In addition to training in karate, I also recently started training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.  This forced break has made me realize that I have taken a completely different approach to training and my mindset.  The different approach was not an intentional one but one that is a probably healthier.  Maybe it is because I have lower expectations due to my schedule or maybe it is because I have matured as a martial artist but I have no expectations around rank advancement in BJJ.   No goals around when I will advance, tournaments to win or techniques to master.  I just roll and learn…..and get lost in my own head.

I am a no-stripe white belt and I am OK with that.

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During my forced hiatus, I have continued to see my training partners and friends tweet, post, Instagram and Periscope their ongoing training sessions.  I can literally see them progress past my skill level, and I am ok with that.  This new journey has become much more than a color on a belt for me and their journey is not mine.  I have also found that there is so much I can do off the mat to be ready to be on the mat and in seasons like this, it is where my training has focused.

So why share all of this?  Because as RoadWarriors, it is easy to lose track of getting centered.  We are trying to be productive, to utilize our time to the greatest of our ability and to simply survive the gauntlet that is living life on the road but even with all of that, you have to make time for the activities that center you.  So what do you do to keep yourself centered and how do you make it a part of your daily routine?  For me it is train, pray and read.  I am not sure what it is for you but you have to make sure you do it.

Let me know and I will see you on the road.

Bad travel hobbies and Harper Lee

What you should be asking yourself right now is “What does the beloved author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and travel hobbies have anything to do with each other?” – I am so glad you asked.

No matter how productive you are on the road, there is still significant downtime you have to fill somehow.  You are always going to run into the situation where you can’t make a call, not enough time to make powering up the laptop worthwhile or quite frankly, you are just done with it and need to do something else.  This is the time that most folks fall back on their hobbies.  Those time fillers that also help to sooth the soul and restore the mind.  For my son it is streaming game play on Twitch, for my wife – streaming TED talks and fitness advice, for my Mother-in-Law it is knitting.  I on the other hand have some bad travel hobbies.

When I really analyze it, I have four hobbies – and none of them are conducive to the travel lifestyle:

Bad Travel Hobby #1 – Martial Arts: 

I actively practice American Karate and have just started my study of Brazilian Jui Jitsu.   Now I will actively admit that there are times when I can get out and roll as I travel but for the most part, it is a hobby (lifestyle) that I  practice only when I am at home.  I watch videos and study the arts while I am on the road but the reality is the only way for me to get better is to get out and participate.  As I am writing this, it has been nearly 3 weeks since I stepped on a mat and I am Jonesing for my return.

Bad Travel Hobby #2 – Aquariums:

Way back in the day I wanted to be a Marine Biologist, so much so that I actually have degree in Aquatic Biology.  Well life happened along the way and I took an alternative direction but I have never lost my love for the water and aquariums. I have a reef tank in my house that about once a month looks great.  The reason it is only once a month?  You have to be present to take care of a tank the right way.  It takes time, attention, detailed monitoring and basically good old TLC to have a salt water reef tank really thrive.  That is really hard to do from 1000 miles away…even if you are staring at the ocean (osmosis is not that strong).

Bad Travel Hobby #3 – Gardening:

See everything above except think above the water line.  Every year I plant a garden on the side of the house.  Every year it starts off strong (before the TX heat really kicks in) and every year about this time, I watch it begin to wither away in 5 day increments when I get home.  I love getting my hands dirty and cooking with fruits of my labor but it really is a bad travel hobby.

Bad Travel Hobby #4 – Home Improvement:

I really do love working around the house and am pretty good with my hands but again, you actually have to be home to be able to work on the house. Watching DIY videos of the closet organization system you want to put in will not ever really get you any closer to actually putting in that closet organization system.

So how does Harper Lee fit in to your self-realization Mr. RoadWarriorFit?

Again – so glad you asked.  I recently saw that a publisher is releasing her little known manuscript that preceded To Kill A Mockingbird and it made me realize that I used to read.  A lot.

Before we had iPads that had every movie I have ever owned available and/or a Wikipedia page on anything I could ever want to know, I traveled with a book….or three.  I devoured Presidential biographies.  Read extensively on the Revolutionary War era and would consume business books like they were a part of the breakfast buffet at the hotel restaurant.

Somewhere a long the way my time filler shifted.

I am not even sure how or when it happened other than the introduction of the iPad.

I could now carry ALL of my books with me at once!!!

It was a wonderful theory but the application sucked.  I was distracted by games, email, movies and YouTube.  I lost my way and now time fillers are no longer productive they are actually destructive.

So here is my commitment, I am going to rekindle at least one good RoadWarrior habit – Reading.  The first book to put back on the list, the High School required reading list favorite, Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.  I remember liking it well enough back then (unlike Catcher in the Rye) and maybe, just maybe, the southern tale of Atticus and Scout Finch will rekindle my friendship with my long lost friend, the book.

So what are your good RoadWarrior hobbies?  How do you fill time productively?

Can’t wait to hear and look forward to seeing you on the road.  I will be the one with the iPad actually reading.  If I’m not, you have full permission to call me out on it.

Pressing the Reset Button

Do you ever get to the point where you feel you just need to press the reset button on life?  I do and I am there right now.

One of the dangers we all face as RoadWarriors is the anonymity we have.  If your travels are like mine, you end up in a different city every night, seeing different people along the way.  For me this means being alone in a sea of people.  Constantly making acquaintances but never really developing relationships is one potential pitfall of the RoadWarrior life.  We were designed for connection not seclusion.

It is amazing how social you can be without making any real connection with anyone. 

This is not a good place for me mentally and it reflects in my choices.  It becomes easy to stop being disciplined about diet (“Sure, I’ll have the fries with that”).  It becomes easy to skip a work out (“One missed workout is not going to kill me”).  It becomes easy to have that extra glass of wine (“I’m not driving anywhere”).  It becomes easy to sink away.

Put that cycle on repeat and then ‘suddenly’ you have a set of choices that have become habits that are hard to break.  That’s when it is time to hit the reset button.  No one ever said you had to wait for either New Year’s Day or the start of Lent to evaluate and change some things in your life after all.

Here is what my reset button looks like.  It is spending the next 30-days being hyper focused on ensuring that my daily actions reflect the lifestyle I am preaching and desire.  So for the month of April (no this is not an April Fools’ joke) I am going to be eating clean, working out daily, increasing my average sleep time, abstaining from alcohol and sharing the journey with all of you.  I know myself well enough to realize that I need to fill my time alone with healthy activities otherwise it is all too easy to fill it with those that degrade my health.  Scarily enough, I consider blogging on the healthy list and I also know I need the accountability that making something public creates.

So I am choosing to bring you along for the journey by blogging daily on how the journey is progressing.  I’ll be tweeting meal choices and the work out of the day.  I will share with you where the wins were, where the stumbling blocks arose, the pitfalls you should avoid if you choose to follow along and (hopefully) the results in mental and physical health.

Will I feel better?  I can’t imagine any other outcome.

Will I reinforce good habits?  I better, that is the whole point of this exercise.

Will I end up over sharing?  You can almost certainly bet on it.

So let’s get this trip started and I am looking forward to seeing you on the road.