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If you missed the prior posts, they are:

Do you ever put people on a pedestal and think they’ve got it all figured out? Let me tell you, NO ONE has it all figured out.

It doesn’t matter how many millions they have, “successful” people have just as many issues to work on as you do.  I know I do.  Just ask my fiance, heh – she’ll tell you. (By the way, I got engaged on Xmas eve!  A video of the proposal)

So a “BS Meter” you can use with people is if they pretend to be perfect, they’re lying to you and to themselves.

For example, I procrastinated the hell outta finishing this post and health series.  I have been one lazy SOB the past two weeks, and have distracted myself with all the new shiny many iphone games I got for Xmas and my birthday. Whee 🙂

Plus, it didn’t help that I’ve been eating like crap since before Xmas.  But hey, I’m only human too.  I fall down. And I ALWAYS get back up and keep at it…

It’s probably better anyway that I waited to share this post until after the new year, so that your (and my) holiday gorging is done and you (and I) are ready to get back to the basics…

And now’s the “real” post – enjoy!

Aaron

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Food can be a big source of happiness in your life – or stress.  There are a lot of parallels with it and with work, how it as well can be a big source of happiness or stress.  I make a few specific parallels between the two below.

Authentically Enjoy Your Food & Drinkin’ (Whatever It Is)

<= The picture is of a meal from the super-yummy Leaf Organics restaurant in LA.  If you go there, get the mushroom-avocado burger with the onion bread (gluten-free), it is insanely good.  My fiance and I both LOVE it.  I also have a Unique Genius Superhero interview of the founder, Rod Rotondi. He has a fascinating life and business story.

Much of your health and happiness in life comes from your feelings around food and meals: your happiness goes up when you eat food that you appreciate, are grateful for and share with in good company.  So whatever the hell it is you eat – green or junky – do your best to really enjoy it and the whole experience.

(The same with work: As much of your happiness and wealth in life comes from your feelings around work – your happiness goes up when you have work that is fulfilling & satisfying, are grateful for it, and share with in good company.)

I would rather you had fun eating bread and cheese you love with good friends than having a “I don’t enjoy this but it’s good for me” raw salad miserably alone.

(The same with work: I would rather you had fun at a boring job with good friends than doing noble work in conditions – like doing it alone – that make you unhappy.  It can be lonely starting a company, rebuilding and recreating a work community around yourself…it’s not for everyone.)

Enjoyment from a “quick fix” of a candy bar or Frappacino doesn’t count – that’s a fix, not authentic gratitude or happiness that lasts.  (Unless you’re starving after doing a 28 day Utah survival course, and then get a peanut butter and chocolate milkshake – now THAT is gratitude!  Even though it didn’t stay down…)

A small digression…I did mention the hot chocolate exemption for all this, right?  Heh 🙂  While someday I might give up my hot chocolate habit, for now I truly do enjoy my Huckleberry hot chocolate, because 1) it’s “the real stuff” and feels like authentic goodness, and 2) it’s also an entire enjoyable experience beyond just the drink, because I ride my bike there, and/or share it with my fiance.  On the other hand, if I just walk into some cafe and get some crummy powdered hot chocolate, I do feel guilty.  By the way, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf hot chocolate is terrible – avoid it.

Find ways to ENJOY and be GRATEFUL for awesomely healthy food.  There is so much really tasty stuff out there.  And if you’re eating crap food, instead of feeling guilty, find ways to authentically enjoy it and be grateful for it too.

Guys – pounding on your chest about how much meat you can eat doesn’t count – that’s eating just to get attention. Unless you’re Epic Meal Time, the funniest cooking show on the internet, and the only guys I’ve ever seen who have turned fast food into sushi. Hilariously gross!

OK seriously, now on to the…

7 Ways Make It Easier On Yourself To Improve Your Nutrition (Or Find Your Unique Genius)

The easier you can make it on yourself to make progress, the more likely you’ll do it and stick to it, whether it’s around food or work.  In this case, I’m usin’ food examples:

  1. Spend time with people who inspire you / you want to be like / learn from: Studies have shown that your weight and health is affected by your friends.  Want to gain weight?  Spend time with heavy people!   So spend more time with your healthy friends and family, and less time around your unhealthy friends and family.
  2. Be adventurous: just frickin’ try something new, for God’s sake, it won’t kill you.  Many adults I know – are like little kids refusing to try a green food when they’re young, “it looks icky!”
  3. Go for progress, not perfection as you experiment and try new things to learn what works for you: I don’t believe 100% vegetarian/vegan is for everyone.  Some people should eat meat.  You won’t know where you fall until you experiment.  And after you have a holiday gorging feast (or several weeks of them)…forgive yourself, appreciate it and come on back to the good habits!
  4. Learn from people you trust, but don’t depend on one source (what works for them may not work for you).
  5. Everything in moderation.
  6. Buddy up: if your partner eats worse than you want, don’t criticize them and make them feel guilty – that’ll just make things worse.  Educate them, partner with them, find ways TOGETHER to enjoy being healthier – inspire them and you’ll get better results!
  7. Be persistently patient (with yourself and your partner).  Adopting new eating habits that stick change as fast as your mind does – that is, not very fast at all.  It takes 21 days to change a habit, and as long as 9 months to really lay down new neural pathways stick.

Notice that all of these principles apply to finding your optimally fulfilling work (Unique Genius) too!

Take A Next Step

  1. Read this book: In Defense Of Food, by Michael Pollen.  His sum philosophy: “Eat food. Not too much.  Mostly plants”.  Michael’s definition of food here is ‘real’ food not the imitation food we have now like energy bars and drinks; if your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, it’s not ‘food’.
  2. Write out an “Ideal Health” vision for yourself. If you had NO LIMITS, what would your body feel like?  How would your family and friends eat, move, practice health?  Your community, the world?  The more you can emotionally connect with an authentic vision, and believe in it, the more likely it will stick as a big enough “why” to inspire you for the next step…
  3. Commit to improving your health and taking baby steps!  Without commitment, it’s not going to happen.  Why is it important to you to do this?  First envision your life 10-20 years out following your current habits.  Then envision what life would be life if you keep improving your habits step by step over those 10-20 years.
  4. A simple first way to start your day off right and add a lot of nutrition: making your own smoothies (not that Jamba Juice crap), especially green smoothies.  I have one almost every day, made from greens (spinach or kale or chard or collard greens), parsley, fuji apples, ginger, mint, a whole lemon with rind, flax/chia seeds, hempseed, maca, goji berries, spirulina, water as the liquid.  I blend it all up in a Vitamix Turbo-blend 4500, which was about $350.   (Also: a blog about Green Smoothies)
  5. Have fun trying new things and exploring – isn’t that the whole point?
  6. Have a quick laugh (or get so grossed out you’ll never eat fast food again) at Epic Meal Time!

So…

What’s Your Next Step?  Or Your 2 Cents?

I’d love to hear what you agree with, disagree with and what works for you – leave a comment below!

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This is the 2nd part of a three part series.  Part 1 was “Baby Steps To Being A Lean, Mean, Optimum Nutrition Machine (Part 1 of 3)”  (It’s no coincidence that I repeat “baby steps” over and over again…)

I still drink hot chocolate every day (you’ll see this come up in my post!), work out just twice a week, am almost 40 years old, but am leaner than I was in college or at any time other than when I was doing Ironman training (at about 10% body fat now)…what’s the deal?  Better and better nutrition habits, made over the years step by step.

For 20 years, I’ve been committed to slowly and surely improving my nutrition & health habits in baby steps.   When I hear about things I’ve mentioned in the past here, like Optimum Health Institute (raw food, wheatgrass ‘n’ enemas, oh my) or the “15-Day Reboot Fruit & Veggie Cleanse”, I’ll often try ‘em out to see what works for me, and what doesn’t.

Why Am I Committed?

What’s interesting too is my motivation for better nutrition.  Originally (in my teens) the purpose was looking good.  In my 30’s, it shifted and it is primarily about feeling good.

You improve your health (or make any lasting changes in any area of your life) not by bouncing from diet to diet, system to system, or making sudden huge changes in eating: you do it baby step by baby step, over time, improving and improving.  And after your setbacks – whether it’s for a moment, week or year – you don’t give up, but come back to what works for you.

Hey, it’s exactly like discovering and living your Unique Genius!

Lifetime Nutrition Changes

Here are the most notable highlights of how I’ve practiced this in life, so that you can see I make changes step by step, over time, that accumulate:

  • High school:  Having few friends and zero dates, this became the original reason I started caring about nutrition – looks.  I started lifting weights and reducing the fat in my diet (back then, “low fat” was the health craze, even though now we know “low fat” doesn’t mean jack in improving your health).
  • College: I stopped drinking soft drinks – one of the most destructive substances you can drink. For example, it’s a leading cause of osteoporosis – which even kids are getting now!
  • End of college: I stopped eating cereal (I learned all commercial cereal is treated like the body as almost pure sugar)
  • Through my mid & late 20’s:  Beyond developing a taste and habit for spinach salads, I don’t remember which changes I made, but I remember I often had coffee (with a bunch of artificial sweetener) and a pastry for breakfast.  Yuck!  I worked a lot during this time, which was a higher priority to me than health.
  • I start drinking 8-10 glasses of water most days. Soda, coffee or alcoholic drinks do not count as water.
  • Early 30’s: I got married and divorced.  This was a lesson in “As your partner goes, so you go: if your partner eats like crap, you’re going to eat like crap.”  In other words, I ate like crap quite a bit during this time.


A Big Shift at 35 Years Old

  • A doctor did some allergy tests, and told me I was allergic to wheat, soy, dairy, eggs.  My first reaction at first what??!  Those are in EVERYTHING!  My second reaction was gratitude: now I have to give up more junk food.
  • The doctor advised I give up alcohol  & coffee (I substituted coffee for hot tea).   Alcohol is a poison in your body.  I realized as a drank less, how – at least at age 35 – the next day, even after one drink, I felt ‘mushy’.  If you’re wondering more about how and why I gave up alcohol, leave a question in the comments.
  • Around that time, in giving up coffee, I also stopped all artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Nutraseet and Sweet N Low (all toxic) and went back to normal sugar, honey or stevia.  Ironically, as unhealthy sugar is, it’s better than that stuff.
  • I also began meditating irregularly.  It took a couple of years to get to a regular daily practice.

Age 36:

  • I started eating regularly at vegan restaurants (like Real Food Daily & Planet Raw)
  • I started making “The Ultimate Meal” for breakfast almost every day, which is some green powder, almond butter and water, mixed up in a Magic Bullet blender.
  • Because I was off the wheat and dairy, I ate very few desserts.  After a few weeks, I lost any cravings for them.

Age 37:

  • I switched from “The Ultimate Meal” to making my own “green smoothie” almost every day for breakfast, which means mixing up some fruit, superfoods and greens (like spinach or kale) into it.  They can be gross or very yummy depending on what you do.
  • I started eating eggs & drinking milk again, in moderation (this year, I picked up a new hot chocolate addiction, and had one almost every day).  I find that I can drink milk fine, but eggs just don’t sit well in my stomach, so I’ve backed off of them.
  • I’m staying away forever from wheat and soy.  Every 3-6 months I would break down and have a piece of bread or a donut, and it doesn’t kill me 🙂  But my face does turn a bit red.

Age 38:

  • My main sweetener now: “Truvia” (a mix of birch sugar and stevia) or raw honey
  • My partner Jessica’s a vegetarian, so I naturally began eating less meat (and didn’t miss it).
  • I started eating regularly at raw restaurants, like Leaf Organics near Venice and Planet Raw in Santa Monica.
  • I attend some raw “uncooking” classes and learned more about the benefit of raw food, and the hazards of meat and animal-based foods.
  • I’m shopping almost exclusively at Whole Foods Market and local farmers markets.
  • By the way – I still eat and plan on eating cooked foods, I’m just making sure I do eat plenty of raw & living foods.
  • November 2010: I attend Optimum Health Institute (As described in part 1 of this series, “Baby Steps To Being A Lean, Mean, Optimum Nutrition Machine”)

.

I Ain’t No Saint

I love hot chocolate (in fact, if you’re ever in Santa Monica, you MUST try Huckleberry’s hot chocolate – it’s like crack cocaine).  I eat junk food, I backslide, I feel guilty.  But I keep making progress, step by step, and don’t give up.  Or at least two steps forward, one step back 🙂

My Simple Take On…

1) ORGANIC FOOD vs. CONVENTIONAL FOOD

The Bottom Line: Before pesticides, everything was organic – that was conventional!  Somehow we got turned around so that “conventional = sprayed with chemicals” and “organic = unconventional”.   This is simple – you are what you eat.  Chemicals can’t just be washed off, they also get absorbed by plants when they grow.  The more organic food you eat, the less pesticides you take in (which are linked to, it seems, every kind of health problem & cancer you can imagine).

Why I didn’t do it in the past:  Choices of organic food is hard to find in standard American supermarkets like Vons & Albertsons. Some organic foods (like almonds) are a lot more expensive than conventional.

Why I’m going to do more of it in the future: There are more and more choices now at all markets, and Whole Foods especially has lots of options for organic, and it’s not always more expensive.  Also, I’d rather pay more now and save on the pain, cancer and hospital bills later.  The best source: local farmers markets (LocalHarvest.org) and I’ll make them my main source of food when possible.

2) RAW FOOD vs. COOKED FOOD

The Bottom Line: When you cook food above 118 degrees (some say 105 degrees), it destroys a big chunk of the nutrients and enzymes in the food that makes it healthy in the first place.

Why I didn’t do it in the past: I didn’t really appreciate the benefits.  Also, some people advocate eating 100% raw, which feels extreme to me (no moderation).

Why I’m going to do more of it in the future: There are lots of cookbooks out there now on simple and easy ways to eat raw, like Rod Rotundi’s “Raw Food For Real People”.  In 2009 I’m already eating 50-80% raw most days, as I’ve been inching up the past couple of years.  I’m planning on eating 80% raw / 20% cooked food.

3) MEAT & DAIRY vs. VEGETARIAN & PLANT-BASED DIETS

The Bottom Line: Too much meat & dairy is bad for your health, causing all kinds of long-term health issues.  ( “The China Project”).  [Update: Celeste below shares a link of a neutral party who questions some of The China Study’s findings: click here for it]

To me, eating meat and dairy is healthy when people are moving from eating soda to milk, or candy bars to turkey – then that is better, it is progress.  But the best is moving from meat and dairy (and all animal-based products) to plants, fruits, nuts and seeds, for at least 80-90% of your diet.  In other words, if you’re going to eat animal-based foods, eat 80% plants and 20% meat/dairy, rather than 80% meat/dairy and 20% plants!

“Bread and cheese” vegetarianism (eating no meat, just junk food) isn’t healthy either – you must eat plants.

Why I didn’t do it in the past: Like most of you, I grew up eating meat & drinking milk.  I was trained at young age that “Milk does a body good”, and that I need lots of protein which I can only get through meat.  It can also be challenging, especially when traveling, to eat mostly vegetarian when I’m also allergic to wheat.

Why I’m going to do more of it in the future:  From everything I’ve learned – both about health and the environment – I feel better and am healthier when I minimize animal-based food.  And yet, I haven’t gotten to the point where I believe that I can or will give them up entirely (yet)…I am only human and I do love my hot chocolate!  The stuff at that frickin’ Huckleberry place really is like crack.

The “Know Thyself” Exception To Everything

Everybody & every body is different, and what works for others may not work for you.  Some people physically need to eat meat.  Some people should never eat meat at all.

You gotta experiment to see what works for you – don’t just blindly follow what someone tells you to do.  (Again, another lesson you can apply to anything in life…)

Stay tuned for the last part, part 3, in which I talk about the emotional connections to food, my lessons learned & suggested next steps for YOU to take.

Think I’m Full Of It?  What Do You Believe?

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img_4838The first five days of this 15-Day 100% Fruits & Veggies Cleanse were surprisingly easy – mostly because I and my amazing girlfriend Jessica are committed to supporting each other with the shopping, cooking and eating. It takes a lot of time to buy make all this food on your own! After the first couple days of no hunger cravings at all, I started to get a little hungrier – perhaps my body was getting used to the food shift.

How I’m Feeling: My Skin & Energy & Stuff

My girlfriend says the skin on my face is much clearer.  My body feels good –  about the same as before I began.  My energy is consistently high through the day, though I have noticed a few times when I got tired or yawned, which might be because I’m eating fewer calories.

It is partially because I’m running low on sleep the past couple of weeks, as I’m trying to do too much every day (both fun stuff and work stuff…our “Learn How To Create & Launch A Business In A Weekend Fun Immersion” is this coming Friday & weekend).

Exercise

I  worked out a couple of times (weights or yoga) in the first few days of the cleanse, and after a workout I would be starving. On the fifth day, after a weights workout, I cheated a bit and made my chocolate protein smoothie, which is pretty close to the cleanse diet (cacoa, flaxseed, banana, chia seeds, water, rice protein powder).

During the cleanse, I’ll continue to exercise, but will take it easier in each workout.  I’ll wait to push myself until at least after the 100% juice portion is done.

100% Juice For Five Days

Day 6 is the first day that is 100% juice, and we stick to this all week, Monday-Friday.  Here’s an example day:

  • Morning: Green Lemonade: Kale, Cucumber, Celery, Green Apple, Lemon, Ginger
  • Mid morning: Celery Cucumber Parsley Apple
  • Early Afternoon: Carrot Romaine Hearts/OR Spinach (and Apple, when needed)
  • Mid Afternoon: Coconut Water, fresh if possible
  • Evening: Green Lemonade: Kale, Cucumber, Celery, Green Apple, Lemon, Ginger

On the first day, I’m surprised I’m not hungry or getting hunger cravings.  I’m not sure if this is because of the juicing itself, or because of the shift from eating to juicing, and in a few days my body / hunger will go back to what it was.

Juicing this much takes a LOT of time. Luckily, Jessica had a fancy-shmancy juicer already. We need about a gallon of juice per day per person – so for two people, if we did all the juicing ourselves, would be two gallons of juice per day. That would be hours of work in shopping, prep and juicing.  We just don’t have the time to do it all at home, so we’re buying about half of it fresh from the local Santa Monica co-op juice bar.

PebbleStorm “Learn How To Create & Launch A Business In A Weekend” Fun Immersion

I’m preparing this week for our upcoming PebbleStorm “Learn How To Create & Launch A Business In A Weekend” event, starting Friday (Jan 15). It’s actually two events: the first day is an open “learn how to do it”, and then for a smaller group of people, we’ll actually hold their hands in creating and launching businesses that weekend.  We still have a few open spots for the first day; the full 3-day event is sold out.

It’ll be interesting to see how the juicing affects, or doesn’t, my energy with the added work and mental load. Is this the optimal time to switch diet?  No, but when is anything ever the ‘perfect’ time?

[UPDATED] Some Questions & Answers

Q: What juicer do you use?

For this cleanse, we are using the Omega 8006.  I know nothing about juicers; it’s my girlfriend’s.  If I bought a new one for myself, I’ve heard Green Star is hard to beat.

If you’re going to buy either a blender or a juicer, I’d get a blender like a Vita-Mix or Blendtec.  I own a Vita-Mix TurboBlend 4500 (now they sell a VitaMix 5200), which I use to make my regular daily morning green smoothie (see point #10 on “My 10-Step Personal Success Routine“).  Juicing is much more labor intensive (in prep and cleanup) then just blending, so juicers often sit unused on the shelf.  I use my Vita-Mix every day.

Q: Where do you purchase your produce?

From the local, convenient grocery stores: Santa Monica Co-op, Whole Foods, and Albertsons.  We would/will purchase from farmers markets, but the timing hasn’t worked out yet.  We have been buying big batches of food at one time, and running into one big store is more convenient for long lists.

Q: Do you ever use  frozen fruit?

We aren’t using now during the current 15-day fruit and veggie cleanse, though I wouldn’t be opposed to it. I do use it frequently in my daily morning green smoothie (point #10 on “My 10-Step Personal Success Routine“).

Your Advice, Suggestions, Results, Questions?

Please leave a comment below on the post!

Coaching, Health & Making Money

Sustainable health is essential to your success and enjoyment.  While my business coaching focuses mostly on combining your passions with work to make money in ways that are meaningful to you, health always becomes a part of the conversation. You can get on my schedule for a no-cost trial coaching session at http://www.PebbleStorm.com/coaching.

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I just started a 15-day 100% fruit and vegetables cleanse with a group of friends. It’s not a pure juice cleanse – we eat the veggies ‘n’ froots as food for 10 out of the 15 days, and only five days in the middle of the program are all juice.

Why do it? Really, it’s just because they asked me to and it sounded interesting! I’ve often been a “eap and the net will appear” person, jumping into things because they sounded interesting before I fully understood what was required (like the Ironman and the 28-day surival course…)

I’ve always wanted to try something like this program, so when my friend emailed me about it I thought “Why not?” (Prior post: “The Power Of Why Not”)  How often do you avoid trying something adventurous – in work, love or eating – just because it’s different, unknown or outside your comfort zone?

Get The Junk Outta The Trunk!

I’ll use this program to clean up some junky eating habits of mine. Mainly, letting go of sugar and dairy (I love hot chocolate).

Why do I want to stop eating (almost all) dairy, as much as I love it? I’m not allergic to dairy, according to an allergy blood test, but when I have dairy I often get a bit of a runny nose – so something in my system reacts against it. But it tastes sooo good 🙂

The Big Difference I Felt On The First Day

Healthwise, I’ve been feeling really good the past couple of weeks. I’m also mostly vegetarian already, so it’s not a huge shift for me to spend 15 days just eating fruits and veggies.  I wasn’t expecting to feel any differences quickly.

However, I noticed one big difference today, this first day of the program: I wasn’t hungry between meals, and I didn’t have any sugar/junk food cravings at all.

We’ll see if this program keeps the hunger and junk food cravings away even as my body adapts to the regimen.

I’m Already Pretty Clean – No Alcohol, Coffee or Caffeine

I haven’t always been a healthy eater. But ever since my teens, I keep getting a littler better with my eating habits every year, and over the years it’s added up.

I had one single dramatic shift in my eating habits, which happened in late 2007. After working with an ayurvedic nutritionist, I learned that I am allergic to wheat gluten and soy. I also learned that while I’m not allergic to alcohol, coffee or caffeine, I should give them up because they aren’t good for my body type, my system. I immediately gave them up and felt MUCH better afterwards!

Alcohol was really easy to give up. Coffee has the been hardest to stay away from – I love it! But, it’s highly acidic. I never appreciated how hard it was on my body until I stopped drinking it and then went back and had it again. If I have some now, my whole body feels crappy and I’ll often get a light skin rash on my face.

Interestingly, after I gave up drinking I started to notice how omnipresent alcohol is in our lives, how many people depend on it in small and large ways in relationships, work, having fun and coping. You don’t notice it much because it’s so embedded into our culture.

The eating vices I still have had: excessive sugar, chocolate and dairy.

Why No Caffeine?

With diet (as with everything in life), there are no one-size-fits-all answers. Alcohol, wheat, soy, etc. don’t work for me and don’t work for many of you, but for some of you it might be an excellent and valuable part of your diet.

Why no caffeine? I’m an inherently energetic person, so stimulants like caffeine unbalance me, make me anxious, and I just don’t feel good.

When I used to drink coffee every day in the morning, I needed it to wake up (or feel like I was waking up). Coffee and caffeine became a crutch.

After I stopped drinking it, I stopped feeling like I needed it in the morning to wake up. My energy actually felt more even throughout the whole day, rather than spiky.

Are caffeine or coffee a crutch for you, or do they really enhance your performance? Do they make you feel better or worse? The only way to find out if it’s something that is good for you, or isn’t, is by experimenting. Try going without it for two weeks (or change what you drink or how much), and journal about the changes in your energy and how you feel.

Why Diets And Magic Business Solutions Don’t Work

Eating and health is a perfect analogy to business – there is no magic bullet or diet, and the only way to learn what works for you is to try different things and practice self-awareness. It doesn’t matter if a diet or business worked for your best friend – that’s them, not you. You have to figure out your system for yourself. You have to learn discernment and how to determine what works for you.

It’s worthwhile to try someone’s diet or business system, but don’t blindly follow it (even PebbleStorm’s upcoming “Learn, Build & Launch A Business In 3 Days Fun Immersion” in Los Angeles). Realize that you’ll need to tweak, customize and tailor anything to your own personality.

Should You Go Vegetarian, Vegan, Give Up Alchohol, or…?

Sure, go ahead and try something, such as giving up coffee, because someone you respect has done it.  But don’t blindly stick to it – pay attention to if it actually works for you or it doesn’t.  Only through your own personal experimentation and observation will you learn what works for you. This is true both in health and in business. This is why the second step of PebbleStorm is “Play”, which has two meanings: 1) to literally play and have fun and 2) to experiment.

The Power Of Community / If You Can Only Do One Thing…

Doing most anything is easier and more fun with other like-minded people. I know this cleanse will be much easier as part of a supportive group!

Likewise, designing, starting and evolving a business is much more enjoyable – and easier – with the support of others. That is the essence of PebbleStorm – a community of people having fun helping each other succeed.

Are the people around you supporting or draining you?  The best thing you can do for yourself is to stop spending time around energy vampires and dream killers, and spend as much time around people who accept, support and inspire you.

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One my essential entrepreneurial practices is a morning Personal Success Routine (“PSR”), that is my foundation for the day.  If you don’t have one or you never consciously designed it – you need one.  If you have one, I’d love to hear about yours in the comments.  I’ve found that when I don’t follow some kind of morning Personal Success Routine that includes some or all of various meditation, writing, exercise or happiness activities, I feel less healthy, less happy and less productive – both in the ways I have fun and in work.

Why I had to figure this out

When I left salesforce.com in late 2006, “my plan was to have no plan” –  I was “committed to being uncommitted”!  I wanted to have a bunch of different work and life adventures, for at least six months, before settling into a long-term direction. In work terms, that meant doing consulting projects for awhile rather than trying to start my own company right away.  I’ve seen that when I or others jump from one job/career to another, it’s impossible to get the mental space and clarity that helps you actually consciously know “is this really the right path/step for me, or am I doing it just because it’s the next rung on the ladder or it’s convenient?”   (Not unlike relationships.)

Whenever I was in a 9-to-5 job, it automatically forced me to create a morning routine – wakeup at 7a, eat oatmeal, shower, get dressed in a collared shirt, get coffee, read the paper, take the bus to work…etc.  (As I’m writing this, I’m noticing how much my morning consumptions changed – no coffee, oatmeal or newspapers.  I’m a little allergic/sensitive to coffee and oats, and I don’t read news anymore – online or offline.)

No daily structure can be as bad as too much structure

After I left the 9-to-5 world, I had to figure out a whole new morning routine for myself. I mean sure, it’s fun waking up to nothing for awhile…but it gets old.  When you have no morning or daily structure, it can be as irritating as having too much structure.  And even though I’d been an entrepreneur before, it was different because I was the CEO of a company…and thus had another 9-to-5 job.

  • Side note for everyone who thinks being a CEO is automatically fun, enlivening and easy – it’s not. It can be the loneliest, most stressed role in a company, if you aren’t conscious in your design of your company or role.  It’s why I’m also doing CEOFlow: “Turn Your Employees Into Mini-CEOs”.

So now in my PebbleStormy (yes, that’s a word) world of “work on what I want, when I want, with whom I want, from where I want…” I’ve been experimenting for a long time on how to start my days off on the right foot.  Trust me, either lying in bed or doing nothing in the morning gets old fast – well, if I do it more than 1-2 days per week…

My routine that helps me feel healthier, happier and more focused and productive each day

  1. Get enough sleep.  I’m actually working on getting more sleep. I’m only getting about 6 hours per night (last night I got 5).  I want 7 – 7.5 hours per night, which is perfect for me.  The whole “sleep when I’m dead” mentality is bullshizz.  What good is not sleeping if you don’t enjoy your days as much?  I feel like crap when I don’t get enough sleep after a few days, and am much less clear and productive.   Right now I set my alarm for 7am.
  2. Drink water. 1-2 cups. I get dehydrated at night. It’s the best thing to have before anything else in the morning.
  3. Get moving, I do either some jumping jacks, push ups and/or sit ups. This is both for the exercise and to wake up and get my blood moving.
  4. Meditation. I do 10-30 minutes almost every morning.  It would be nice if I was more regular about meditating for 5 minutes before bed, too.  I did a blog post about my practice: A lifetime happiness and focus enhancer: Vipassana meditation. If you’ve never meditated before, you can start with 1-2 minutes: Meditation 101: How To Start.
  5. The Artist Way “Morning Pages”. The essence of this: just write three pages of anything, even gibberish, every morning, and it will help you unlock your creativity.  I really like these as a way to do a brain chatter dump, and get some advice from myself. Sometimes I just do half a page, sometimes the full three pages.
  6. 1-2 happiness/centering exercises. These days I’ll do some exercises from either the Hoffman Institute retreat I did or from the Abraham-Hicks book “Ask And It Is Given” (I love their Focus Wheel Process).  I HIGHLY recommend that book for both the content and all the great tools in the back!
  7. A “3 goals” process. I ask myself the question, “if I can only get 3-5 things done today, what should they be?”  What are my top priorities?
  8. Exercise: 4-5 days a week I do either running (20-45 min down to the Santa Monica beach) or yoga in the morning (I love Rudy at 9am at Power Yoga in Santa Monica).  If I run, I do it early – after I drink water, but before all the other stuff (before meditation, etc).  When I do yoga, it comes after my writing/meditation.
  9. Skin brushing: I had a couple of trusted experts tell me about this, and now I do it most days before showering.  There are plenty of articles about skin brushing and why it’s good for you, but I’ll tell you the main reason I like it – it stimulates my skin and nerves and body like I’m getting a caffeine charge.  Very cool.
  10. Good food: Almost every morning, I have a green smoothie (picture on Facebook).  I have a Vita-Mix blender, and dump in spinach (a lot!), an apple, berries, and all kinds of superfoods and goodies like ginger, lemon, mesquite, rice protein, flaxseed, hempseed, maca, goji berries and spirulina.  You can google “green smoothie” online for all kinds of suggestions.  I became religious about this after taking an amazing ‘uncooking’ class from June Louks in Malibu, who wrote a great book called  “Rawumptious Recipes: A Family’s Adventure to Healthy, Happy, Harmonious Living”.  I’m not a raw foodie, but can appreciate all the information and recipes.

I’m always experimenting with these steps, adding, subtracting, playing.  The order of steps often changes depending on the day and whether I’m running, doing yoga, am time-limited, etc.  I’m not too anal about it.

This might seem like a lot – and it is.  I set aside a couple of hours for all of this, not including the exercise.  That’s how important it is to me. I didn’t start here, I evolved this over the past three years, building on it step-by-step, then starting from scratch and trying other things. My travel still plays havoc with my PSR!

Take babysteps rather than jumping in too fast

You don’t need a lot of steps in the morning, or some complex routine.  Start with something simple, such as a green smoothie.  Or 1-2 minutes of meditation.  Create a plan to have a more exensive PSR over time, including good food, exercise, meditation, happiness awareness/practice and goal-setting.  If you try to do too much too quickly, you’ll be more likely to fall off track at some point and get discouraged.  Start with one thing at a time – take babysteps, and keep at them.   Keep it simple and add one new practice per month.  If you fall off track, just get back on when you can.

[Updated] Being kind to myself

I woke up Monday morning feeling run-down (it started Sunday night), and I needed a rest day. So my PSR for Monday was staying in bed sleeping and/or reading a fiction book until 11am 🙂   Being successful includes being kind/easy to myself in addition to pushing myself.  Too much of one or the other unbalances me.

How I Design My Week For Success

A follow up post about designing my week:
http://pebblestorm.com/2010/03/12/how-i-design-my-week-for-success/

“Productive Flourishing” Charley Gilkey’s PSR

If you really want to take this thinking to the next level, check out Charlie Gilkey:
How Heatmapping Your Productivity Can Make You More Productive

What’s your PSR?   Please share in the comments!

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It’s good to be back ‘online’ here!  I just returned from an amazing 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in North Fork, CA (near Yosemite).

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There were 120+ other people there, evenly split between men and women and ages from 20s-60s.  Dhamma.org, describes Vipassana as: “This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. Healing, not merely the curing of diseases, but the essential healing of human suffering, is its purpose.”

And a booklet from the retreat continues:

What Vipassana is not:

  • It is not a rite or ritual based on blind faith.
  • It is neither intellectual nor a philosophical entertainment.
  • It is not a rest cure, a holiday, or an opportunity for socializing.
  • It is not an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

What Vipassana is:

  • It is a technique that will eradicate suffering.
  • It is a method of mental purification which allows one to face life’s tensions and problems in a calm, balanced way.
  • It is an art of living that one can use to make positive contributions to society.

How I benefit from regular meditation

Even before this retreat, I’d been meditating for about a year (simple observation of my breathing, not Vipassana) because:

  1. Meditation enhances my ability to focus. It creates mental ‘space’, helping me distinguish “activity” versus “productivity”. Ever feel like you’re so busy doing ‘stuff’, but when you look back, none of it felt like it mattered?   It doesn’t matter how hard you’re working to climb that mountain…if you’re climbing the wrong mountain.
  2. It opens up my creativity – I’ve had some great ideas come through!
  3. It enhances my happiness and contentment
  4. It’s enjoyable – calming and relaxing, like a mental massage 🙂  

How I got started with meditation – slowly; babysteps!

I started about a year ago, after beginning to work with an Ayurvedic nutritionist (which is also when I stopped drinking coffee and alcohol). I started with just a few minutes at a time in the morning, and slowly built from there.  Even now I don’t meditate every day.  For the past six months, it’s been about 3-5x per week, for 10-30min, and slowly getting more consistent over time.  I am increasing that now after the retreat.

Attitude makes all the difference

I’ve found my attitude makes a huge difference.  When I started a year ago, meditation felt like more of a chore, as if my conscious was a mom saying “eat your peas, dear”.  OK ok…grumble, grumble.  However, once I got the hang of it and stopped resisting, I began to look forward to it as an enjoyable, relaxing mental space, like a mental spa break ☺ Do you look at going to the spa as a chore?  The kid grew up and realizes they not only like peas, but even looks forward to meals full of them!  (Please ignore this analogy if you don’t like peas as an adult.)

I heard about Vipassana from a friend about three years ago, and even though I wasn’t meditating at the time and had no idea what Vipassana was, I immediately had a feeling of “I want to do that!” (someday).

The retreat: 10 days of silence to calm the mind and enable the study

It’s called “Noble Silence” – no communication during retreat with other students or the outside world, either by voice, glance or gesture.  The purpose is to calm the mind, to enable one to really learn and apply the technique. You can see ask the teachers questions, and their is instruction, so it’s not totally silent.  I found the silence actually very easy, and it did make the practice easier to learn.

Walking into the retreat, and leaving behind iPhone, camera, etc., and knowing I wouldn’t have access to email or my phone for 10 days, my mind immediately calmed down…

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How it went & what I got (including an unintended addiction)

We had a suprisingly busy schedule, beginning at 4am, of meditation, breakfast, meditation, lunch, meditation, evening tea break, meditation, and then evening discourses. I was asleep by 9:30p each night. During the long meal breaks, I’d nap or take walks on the walking paths.  The food was amazing!  I became addicted to Celestial Seasoning’s “Bengal Spice tea“, a form of chai without black tea or caffeine. Yum!!  Don’t worry, caffeine addicts – they had instant coffee there too.

Although some people had a really tough time in the first couple of days with the silence and hours of meditation, I found it was surprisingly easy; a piece of cake.  I had some tough days (Day 8 was a low one for me), but it was all worth it.  I was surprised that it was harder physically than mentally for me, because I wasn’t used to sitting like that for so long.  Many other experienced meditators brought their own cushions and backrests. For novices like me, the Center had a ton of cushions and benches there for people to try out and use. It took 3-4 days to figure out my ‘seating system’.

Here are some of the specific things I got from the retreat:

  • A practice that will increase my happiness, calmness and awareness in all situations in my life
  • Clarity/confirmation that what I’m doing with PebbleStorm is exactly what I should be doing with my life
  • A GREAT image for PebbleStorm, using a tree to illustrate four levels of happiness, and how PebbleStorm helps people tap into the most enduring, meaningful forms of happiness.  It’s only sketched in pen now, I’ll have to play with it before I’m ready to post it here.  First a Sun, now a tree…I sense a trend here in using natural images in addition to my circles…
  • A shift in my thinking of the balance of buddhism/happiness thinking and capitalism in PebbleStorm (a topic for another day).  I used to think it was 50/50, but really the mix is more like 80% buddhism/happiness and 20% capitalism. By the way – if you’re unfamiliar with buddhism, its core isn’t religious at all, though sects have added rites and rituals. It is simply a system to help people achieve lasting happiness (“enlightenment”).

Did I mention the 10-day retreat was free?  It’s 100% donation-supported.

And by the way, the course is free.  Yes, lodging and TASTY meals for 10 days.  They do ask for a donation at the end, “to pay for others”, but it’s by no means required and there is really no pressure at all.  The entire worldwide organization, in 120 countries, runs on a donation and volunteer basis.  This is how strongly people feel about how Vipassana has impacted their lives!

A worldwide non-profit driven by genuine, passionate commitment

Both the practice itself and the non-profit organization teaching it at more than 120 centers around the world are fascinating.  Run by volunteers (even teachers aren’t paid), it’s a worldwide, well-oiled machine. The retreat ran like The reason the organization works so well is because of people’s passion for the benefits they receive from Vipassana…and they want to help others receive the same benefits.

Now: integrating it to my (daily) life

They recommend, as a minimum, an hour of meditation in the morning, and an hour in the evening.  Rather than start out strongly and probably have some discouraging breakdowns in the practice, personally I know I’ll be more successful with a gradually building practice (this is me – what you need to be successful might be very different). It’ll take me some time to figure out my routine and to really make it a part of my daily life. For the next three months, I’m going to do it as much as possible, at least once a day, but realize that I have some experimentation to do.  Especially since I’ll be traveling and moving quite a bit between San Francisco, Los Angeles and Buenos Aires…and any kind of travel plays hell with my routine.

“I could never meditate, my mind is too busy/I have ADD…”

I’ve heard this from so many people.  If your mind is so agitated, isn’t that exactly why you should work to tame it, to put it to work for you rather than being at its mercy?  Jumping into a 10 day silent retreat might be too much at first, but there are plenty of ways to try it out in smaller steps.

A 3-minute practice and simple steps you can try

Please Leave A Comment!

Do you practice?  What works for you?  Leave any suggestions in the comments!  And I’ll share updates on my practice monthly as it builds.

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For about the past two weeks I’ve been feeling funky.  You know that feeling of unspecific, background anxiety that you can have, but that doesn’t have a clear source or cause? That’s what I mean by funky. Sort of an ongoing buzz of low-level anxiety and reduced motivation.

I don’t have anything particularly evident to point to as a cause.  Even the economic junk hasn’t directly personally affected me as much as many other people; it affects me more through family and friends.  Perhaps I’m absorbing it from the environment?

Actually, writing this post helped me clarify where I feel it comes from, a light form of burnout…keep readin’…

The irritation of trying to fix it & traditional self-help wisdom

As a good ol’ American problem solver, I’ve been trying to fix this “problem” (in parentheses, because it might not be a problem). I’ve been doing yoga, running, prioritizing, meditating, sharing with people, blah blah blah blah…and I’m still feeling funky.  In fact, it I just get more irritated because although those activities do help for a few minutes, or an hour…nothing’s really changed!

Also, traditional wisdom in the self-help/empowerment world is that you need to “get into action!  Live life every day! If you’re not living powerfully today then you suck!”  (Gah, sounds exhausting.)  Anyway, that traditional thinking just adds to my irritation. Also, I do now have a theory about my funkiness, including why, ironically, the harder I try to “do stuff to fix it” the more it persists (heard the phrase “what you resist, persists”?)

Overdoing it as a well-trained capitalist; a natural action-recovery cycle

I also went through a similar funky anxious/demotivated period early in the summer, and now realize it’s happened regularly in the past, although I wasn’t paying as much attention at the time to myself and my moods, so I wasn’t as aware of it.

Now, I feel that it’s part of a regular action-recovery cycle.  I, as a good as-yet-unreformed American capitalist, overdo my ‘action’ for long periods of time without enough mental or physical rest, and I always pay for it at some point with periods of that background anxiety and lower motivation.  Like now. Theoretically, if I could perfectly tune my daily action and rest, I’d never have the funky downtime, but perfection’s a journey, not a destination.

The low energy, funkiness, was a way for my body and unconscious mind to try to slow myself down and force myself to rest, recover and re-energize.

Weekly/monthly cycles

My natural inclination, i.e. cultural training, is to be ‘in action’ for months or years without enough daily or weekly rest.  I remember days that I’d work 8-12 hours straight through (by choice, including when working for myself), forgetting even to take a lunch break, leaving me “brain-fried” at the end of the day.  Nights or weekends often became more about dead-rest (uncreative, just plain tired) than active-rest (being creative, ‘nice tired’ or going out & having fun).

At some point the intense exertion at work over several months catches up with me, and I’d get tired or funky for a couple of weeks as a recovery period (if I let myself recover).  I didn’t notice it at the time, but now it’s clearer, looking back.

A clue from Ironman training

Another clue that led me to my current thinking comes from my time training for an Ironman triathlon in 2002, during which we’d sometimes swim/bike/run for 15-20 hours per week.  About every six weeks, I’d wake up to some day totally physically exhausted.  I’d stay in bed for a day, and then would feel ok again – so I thought – and would keep going. Until six weeks later.  And after the Ironman race, I was wiped out for a month+, as the year of training and the race all caught up with me.

Yearly cycles

At an even higher level, I used to work intensely for 2-3 years and then would need to take a year off before I was ready and excited to commit to a full-time, long-term career move again. I think there’s something to that ratio. Maybe I need to spend about as much time recovering as I do working (including during each day, week, month, year, decade…)  That’d imply several hours of space-creating time per day, meditating, drawing, napping, seeing friends and the like, which is a routine I’m working on now.

It’s like fractals. I’d bet people with enough decades could see a decade-ish cycle too.

“Healthy Hyperproductivity

I have been paying attention to this in more carefully in a rough way for more than a year, and keep sporadic notes on my pebblestorm wiki at “Healthy Hyperproductivity“. It’s a search for a sustainable (as in decades, not years) productivity-health-energy pace and routine.  I’m not anal enough to measure my daily or weekly activity levels, energy and moods, to see if there’s some sort of regularity or seasonality to my periodic funk cycle, but it’d be an interesting experiment I’d volunteer for if someone else ran it!

Meditation Retreat

I’m testing out a rest routine to see if it fits within a yearly cycle. On November 12 I head out for a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat in North Fork, CA, which will be an interesting adventure! No talking for 10 days“Noble Silence means silence of body, speech, and mind. Any form of communication with fellow students, whether by gestures, sign language, written notes, etc., is prohibited.” Now that they have cel and internet even in the small towns of Africa, It’ll be the first time in years that I’ll be totally without phone/email, since I did a 28 day survival trip in the Utah desert with the Boulder Outdoor Survival School.  Cool.

Just be with it – sometimes there’s nothing to fix

So, sometimes when you’re feeling down or low energy, it’s actually a sign to pay attention to that you should slow down and rest.  Do less. And it’s not just resting for an hour, it might be for two weeks.  Or a year 🙂  Everyone’s different, but fundamentally, the more intense and longer your work, the longer the recovery you’ll need.

There’s a judgment call here as to whether you need to be active or rest during these periods. I do agree that smiling, getting into action, taking charge, etc. can be very valuable when you’re in a rut.  But getting into action all the time can distract you from being aware of what you really need – such as rest!

How do you know what to do?  There’s no ‘answer’ – start with awareness

Practice awareness.  Pay attention to yourself, listen.  First let go of what you “should” be doing, so that you can get a better sense of what you need to be doing – or not.  What’s your intuition say?  Also, activities like meditation, writing, play or sketching could help your discernment.

Three lessons in avoiding burnout

1. SLOW DOWN: it’s impossible to be self-aware if you’re rushing around all the time.

2. CREATE SPACE: Before immediately reacting to a feeling or state of energy such as tiredness, sit with it first.  Do you feel like it’s something to move through, or something to be with?  Create some room for this in time and space, either through meditation, play, creative activities, travel…

3. FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY: Pay attention to the longer cycles of your energy and productivity / lack thereof.  What is a sustainable pace or routine you can establish keep up your energy and creativity?  Which will be different for your than for others.

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