An Awesome Date Night And Getting To Know My Wife

Tonight I had an awesome dinner with my wife Stephanie — it’s our weekly Friday date night (which I highly suggest all married and crazy busy couples should do). We decided to go to an Afghan restaurant near my office in Burlingame. It’s a little expensive, but the food is tasty and the atmosphere is perfect for our end of the week dinner date. We had a nice seat next to the window and the candle light was flickering off of the table, creating dancing shadows across the bright white tablecloth. I could tell is was going to be a great date night.

We ordered ourselves some drinks and toasted to a work-related accomplishment that I had achieved this past week and after that the conversation just started flowing and things felt right in the world. Date night is there to bring us back together after a hectic week of work along with all of the other things that seem to always sneak their way into Monday through Friday. Some date nights are better than others, but they’re all good in my book. I love my wife in a big way and any time that I can get her attention all to myself in this type of setting is a blessing in my book. With that being said, tonight was good.

Why was tonight so good? It was good because we had some real talk about some real things that matter to both of us. It was good because we can communicate with each other in such an open and honest way (it wasn’t always like that). It was good because Afghan food is so ridiculously tasty. It was good because I was with my wife and nothing else mattered tonight besides the fact that we were together and talking and enjoying each other’s company.

I’ve realized that it’s possible to be married to someone and not really know who they are. In fact, it’s real easy and it’s too easy. Date night helps us find each other again each week so that we can continue getting to know each other. I don’t think that I’ll ever stop learning about my wife and I hope I never do.

Check please — until next Friday.

 

Losing Your Writing Voice

Writing, just like anything else, is something that you need to keep in shape. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. I call this losing your voice. Not losing your voice like the time when you drank too much with your fraternity brothers and kept on screaming “I LOVE YOU GUYS!” every 5 minutes.

I mean like losing your voice in a different way. Losing it in a way that means that the longer you don’t write on a regular basis the weirder and more awkward it feels the next time that you decide to put some thoughts down on paper. You lose your flow and what was once easy slowly becomes more and more difficult. It really sucks and whether most of them know it or not t’s usually the reason why most bloggers end up leaving their blog for dead.

Of course, that also can go the other way and I would have to say that learning your voice and continuing to refine it is one of the most important thing that a writer (and especially a blogger) can do. The bloggers and other writers who can nail this and keep at it until their voice is well known, admired and listened to over and over again will become the one’s who can turn it into a fulltime gig. You gotta love the web for that.

So where is my voice at these days? I would say that between learning to type the right way and being terrible with making time for this blog my voice has a long way to go.But, it’s up to me and for the rest of you to find the voice that we all have inside of us and let it be all that it can be.

Does anyone even care about our voices? If we don’t get to the point to where we really know what our voice is we’ll never know that answer. How about we keep on writing and we’ll figure it out together.

Being Intentional (and how making your bed every day can help)


photo credit: warrengreport.com

I’m sure there’s been a time in your life when you wanted to make a change. Maybe it was a huge change like losing some weight and maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Or, maybe it’ s less personal and more professional like getting more visibility in your company or being able to handle more responsibility so that you get more respect at your job.

Let’s go much simpler — maybe you just want to be able to talk to people easier and not feel so nervous all of the time.

No matter what your hopes and desires may be for your life I think that we can all agree on a couple of things:

  1. There is always something that we would like to improve/change in our lives
  2. We usually suck at actually making any of these things that we want actually happen (although we’re great at talking about them all the time)

Although I can’t say that I’m even close to having all of the right answers when it comes to making change, I have found one simple (but hard) thing that has definitely pushed me in the right direction: Being Intentional.

What Does Being Intentional Mean?

If you’re being intentional you’re moving around in your life with purpose, forethought and focus. You are making certain decisions on purpose, you’re not only taking what it coming to you on a daily basis and you’re actively thinking about where you’re at, what you’re doing and why. This sounds like it’s a lot of work and a little over the top, but honestly it’s not that hard once you figure out (and it’s actually kind of fun once you get used to it).

I know that examples are a lot better than definitions, so let me tell you a story about how I have become more intentional in my life. This is a very simple example, but you’d be surprised how this small act of being intentional has spilled over into other parts of my life that I would have never thought possible.

Making The Bed

Do you make your bed? I’m guessing that you don’t, but if you do then you deserve a high-five for taking care of business. Back in the day I never used to make my bed. EVER. I mean, what was the point? I never had the time to deal with it and even if I did I was just going to get back into that bed the very same night and mess it all up again. Then why, I ask you, would I take the time to make it look all pretty every single day? Seemed kind of stupid to me.

Fast forward to just a few months ago and I have a whole new perspective. A made bed looks nice, it’s a great first step to getting other things done and it makes me feel good to know that I can consistently keep up at least one (simple) process on a daily basis. One of the main challenges in making a change in your life is the feeling of not knowing where to start. I took this feeling head on by choosing to do something that I knew I could make time for every day as long as I stuck with it. Making my bed every day isn’t a complex task and it’s not something that I have to physically prepare for, which is why it’s a great goal to start with. It’s all about making time for it and making it a priority, which makes it easy to take on but still requires requires effort and attention to complete.

Also, after looking around the web for some more info on making the bed I found this great post from Gretchen Rubin (who is best-selling of  The Happiness Project) about how making your bed every day can lead to being a happier person. Here’s what she says:

…sticking to any resolution – no matter what it is – brings satisfaction. You’ve decided to make some change, and you’ve stuck to it. Because making my bed is one of the first things I do in the morning, I start the day feeling efficient, productive, and disciplined.

I would have to say that I agree.

What Else Does Being Intentional Mean?

Being intentional goes way beyond making a bed. It’s being present in what you are doing, knowing what you want an outcome to be (or at least making a decision either way) and then taking the steps and making the effort to see it through. Being intentional means not just shrugging something off because it’s going to take time and focus to get something done. Being intentional is making the time for the things you really want to have in your life. Being intentional is not just floating around throughout your day hoping that things are going to happen the way that you want them to. Being intentional is a constant reminder of who you are, what situation you’re in and how you would like the situation to play out. Being intentional is hard work and just like with anything else that’s meaningful and worthwhile, it takes time.

What Now?

If you’re someone who feels like you want to achieve something you’ve always wanted, but never did or if you have something you’ve always wanted to change, but have never been able to do it then being a little more intentional with your day to day life can help you get there. To be honest, it’s something that I’m just now learning to do and I am far from an expert, but I do know one thing — being more intentional doesn’t just happen It’s a long-term process that needs to start off somewhere small and work it’s way into your life. I started with making my bed and that got me started in the right direction. What’s going to get you headed to where you need to go?

Getting On A Training Schedule And Enjoying My Long Runs


Long runs in San Francisco are kinda like the bomb

As you’ve probably noticed, I have been running a lot lately. It’s been getting me up early in the morning and it’s something that I really look forward to. Since college I’ve always enjoyed runs but for some reason I’m now liking them more than ever and I think that’s pretty cool.

When I first started to get more serious about running (which wasn’t very long ago) one thing that I made sure to do was to get on a set training schedule so that I knew what I was supposed to run and when. Just like with anything else you’re going to participate in and manage over time getting yourself on a schedule and into some sort of routine is a big part of sticking with it and eventually seeing the results you’re expecting.

I say this because it’s nearly impossible to make any real progress and to feel like you have any control over what you’re trying to accomplish if you don’t set up some type of schedule. Without one you’re just making guesses and going by your own feelings and circumstance, which might seem like it works for a while, but in the long run is never a good way to achieve any type of goal.

I’ve mentioned this name before in other posts, but a great example of a training schedule to use when thinking about running a 5-K, 10-K, 15-K, half or full marathon or any other race you can think of is what you’ll find over at Hal Higdon’s website. He’s put together all kinds of training schedules that will get you ready for the race you’re wanting to run and he even goes as far to break up the training schedules into novice, intermediate and expert levels so that you can find the training level that’s right for your specific situation. If you ever plan to run a race and you don’t know where to start, Hal Higdon is always a great place to start.

No matter what you use, the one common thing among most training schedules for running is that during the week you will do shorter, but progressively longer runs as you get closer to the day of your race and on the weekend you’ll do a long run. For example, when I was using Hal Higdon’s training schedule for a half marathon (novice), the most that I would run during the week would be 5 miles, but I would get up to a 10 mile long run on the weekend.

These long runs can be pretty scary sometimes and even though the goal isn’t to push yourself to the max when you’re doing a long run, most of the time you’re running farther than you even have in your life. No matter what kind of shape you’re in, going on for a run that lasts longer than an hour (or more) can be intimidating at times, but once you knock one out you feel great about knocking it out. You’re usually exhausted, but you still fee great about knocking it out.

I bring all of this up because I’m now getting some training help from one of my best friends of all time, Jason Smith (who I’ll call ‘Smitty’ from here on out), who is what I like to call a freak of nature when it comes to running, biking and pretty much anything else that has to do with being in shape. He’s done so many races it would blow your mind and some of the stories he has about them are literally some of the most amazing things I’ve ever heard. He’s a freakin’ maniac and one of these days I’m going to write up a post about him so that you can better understand why.

As I have gotten more into running these past few months it only made sense for me to go to Smitty for some training advice. I figure that if I’m going to get more serious about it then I should probably talk to someone who knows what they’re talking about and since Smitty knows his stuff I asked him to write me up a little somethin’ somethin’ so that I can get on a set routine that will continually help me run better, faster and farther.

After I asked him to hook me up with a training schedule it literally took him about an hour to have something sent back to me that was amazing. It had a running schedule and a few paragraphs of notes that helped me better understand what he was thinking and how I should go about training at the stage that I’m in. Yeah, like I said, he’s a freak.

I’ve been following the workout now for over a week and it’s been great. I even cranked out my first long run on Saturday. I ended up running right around 9 miles and I did it in about an hour, which was actually faster than I thought I was going. When I first took off for the run I was a little intimidated by the fact that I was about to run, by myself, for an hour, but it ended up being one of the best long runs I’ve ever had. There were a few killer hills, some unexpected stairs and a lot of trails on the route that I ran, but it was so much fun I didn’t even care.

I think that I’m finally getting to that magical point when my body has finally gotten used to the wear and tear that comes along with getting into shape. It’s the point when your body goes from “What are you doing to me? STOP!” to “Bring it on — is that all you got?” and it’s a great milestone whenever you’re training. Now that I’m at this point in my training I can actually start to enjoy my long runs instead of just simply making it through them, which makes running a lot more fun. Without a training schedule I would have never made it to this point and now that I have I’m really excited to see where I can go from here.

If you want to check out the long run that I ran this past weekend, you can check it out over here on MapMyRun or you can watch the cool Google Earth 3-D fly-through below. Also, speaking of enjoying the run I even stopped a few times along the way and snapped some photos so that you can see some of what I saw along the way. As you can see, San Francisco is a great place for a long run.


a nice view from Lands End Trail


some of the super-expensive houses on Lake Street


running down a trail in the median of Park Presidio Blvd.


check out my last long run

If you or someone you know would like some advice on how to get a training schedule together, let me know and I’ll be sure to help you out. Leave me a comment below and we’ll connect up so that we can talk about it.

Don’t Be Afraid To Stand Out


Can you find me? (hint: I’m wearing orange)

In life you’re usually taught to keep to yourself and never to do anything that might potentially disturb others or catch them off guard. This is a very safe way to go through life and it usually results in you hanging out somewhere in the gray area when it comes to having fun and getting to experience awesome stuff. Having this mindset means that you’ll never get in too much trouble for pushing the limits and you won’t have to deal with any majorly uncomfortable moments, but you also won’t do things that people will get excited about or that they’ll always remember.

It’s a trade-off and believe me, for every time you take the risk to stand out and do something that turns out great you’re probably have three or four other times that end up failing completely or being much harder/turning out much differently than what you initially wanted or expected.

From my experience, the people who can keep on cranking through the three or four tough ones to finally get to that one, awesome experience are the ones who get noticed and who continue to push themselves to new levels.

With me, it’s kind of funny how I now almost look forward to the tough times. The times that things don’t work out how I want them to or that require me to put more thought into making them better. That’s when I learn the most about whatever I’m trying to do and that’s definitely when I learn the most about myself.

So what I’m saying is don’t be afraid to stand out and never completely avoid things due to  fear of them not working out the way you initially expect them to. Regardless of how things end up when you take the chance to stand out you’ll surprised with how good it can feel and what all you can learn from an experience that might not turn out the way you wanted it to.

Here’s a small example of me standing out during the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon that I ran a few weeks ago. See if you can find me among the rest of the crowd. Yeah, I’m sure some people thought I was crazy at the time, but I also made a lot of people laugh and feel better during a tough part of the race and I now get to watch this over and over whenever I want (which makes me crack up every, single time). Enjoy.

Don’t Ever Be Miss An Opportunity To Create A New Story

The goal of this post is to remind you to always be looking to create new stories with the people you care about. Stories are what you’re always going to remember and talk about when you’re together and they are what help build new relationships and keep old ones connected. Don’t ever miss an opportunity to create a story, especially if it’s with someone you care a lot about. Quick confession, I actually re-wrote this entire post after working on it for several days straight. I still don’t think it’s perfect, but if I waited for perfect I’d never get anything done.

A couple of weeks ago I was planning on making a trip back to Indiana with my wife Stephanie. We were heading back because Stephanie was the Matron of Honor for her best friend’s wedding (her name’s Megan) the first weekend that we were home and my sister was getting married on the second weekend. My sister actually planned it to work out that way — yeah, she’s cool like that.

While we were home we were also planning to run in the Indianapolis half marathon, otherwise known as the “Indy Mini”, that kicks off all of the Indy 500 festival stuff that goes on in Indianapolis during the month of May. The race was running the morning of my sister’s wedding, but we would have plenty of time to run it and make it back for all of the planned festivities. Of course, we were also planning on running around Indiana hanging with our friends and family while we were home, too but that’s always pretty much a given.

It was shaping up to be quite the trip home, but it was about to get just a little more complicated (in a good way).

I ended up calling one of my good friends Ryan Mollenkopf who loves in Nashville, TN and as I was telling him about my plans for going home with the weddings, running and what-not he tells me that he’s running a half marathon in Nashville the first Saturday that I’m home and that he could probably get me a free entry. Interesting.

After thinking about the logistics of the whole thing I tell him that I’ll make the five hour drive down to Nashville to run with him because it’s crazy and I haven’t seen him in forever. It just felt right and it felt exciting. Yeah, it’s a lot of driving. Yeah, I might end up being late coming back to Stephanie’s best friend’s wedding. But, it will also be an amazing trip, will create an awesome story and will give me the chance to hang out with one of my best friends who now just happens to have a 9 month old son. I was in and it was going to be epic. The stories we have with each other are what keep us close together and it had been way too long since we made one.


Mollenkopf and the best thing he’s ever made, Ryder

Now that I was going to Nashville I needed to invite some more friends. No one likes to roll solo on road trips.

Me: Yo, JD! You won’t believe what I’m doing in a couple weeks.
JD: Yes, I probably will believe you — what’s up?
Me: I’m driving down to Nashville and running a half marathon with Mellonhead.
JD: WHAAAT?!?
Me: Yep, I’m flying in on a red eye, going to a rehearsal dinner then taking off straight down to Nashville. After the race I’ll have to drive straight back to Indy so that I can make it to Megan’s wedding in time. It’s going to be awesome and I wanted to see if you were up for going with me.
JD: Duh, I’m in. Let me know the details once it gets closer.
Me: Niiiiice. You need to get a hold or Marc, too and see if he wants to go. He never calls or texts me back, but that’s how Marc does things.
JD: Yep, I’ll make sure that Marc knows about it and we should invite Arone (our other buddy Aaron), too — we could pick him up on the way down.

When an idea gets created with this much energy everything else  just seems to come together — and that’s exactly what happened. I flew in, went to the rehearsal stuff, met up with JD and Marc and drove down towards Nashville. Everyone at the rehearsal thought I was nuts, but I can understand why. We picked up Aaron on the way and road tripped it the rest of the way down while cracking jokes, making fun of each other and catching up with what’s going on in our way-too-busy lives.

We made it to Mollenkopf’s around 1am and we had a couple of beers before we all fell asleep so that we could get at least a couple of hours in before getting up and running 13.1 miles. Mollenkopf and I both had an actual entry and bib for the race, JD was going to drink the whole time and Marc and Aaron were going to sneak in so that they could run with us. Sounded like a good plan to us.

We ran most of the race and talked about as much as we could during the two hours and thirty-five minutes that we were heading for the finish line. I got updated on pregnant wives, kids, jobs and stories that I unfortunately don’t get to hear enough of these days. We all lived to see the finish line and we had some valuable conversations along the way.


The road trip crew — Mollenkopf, me, Aaron and Marc

When we were done I cleaned up as fast as I could, we all said our goodbyes to Mollenkopf, his girlfriend Stephanie and their son Ryder and then hit the road back to Indianapolis. We dropped off Aaron and said our hellos to his wife Joey and then merged back on I-65 North like we stole somethin’. Time was moving fast and I needed to be back as soon as possible. During the drive we had some more great conversations that I won’t ever forget. It’s funny what you can find out about someone when you’re stuck in a car with them for over ten hours in over a day and a half. It was a haul and I loved every second if it.

Once I got back I dropped of JD and Marc, threw on my shirt and tie and headed to the wedding. I missed the entire ceremony (it was bound to happen), but I made it there in time for cocktail hour and the reception which Stephanie was OK with. The reception was rowdy how I like it and we all tore up the dance floor. It was a fantastic wedding and all of the people we met were super cool.


I was fashionably late to the wedding, but I made it

What a trip and what a story. I can’t wait to create some more.

Making Changes and Changing Up Routines


artwork credit

I’m Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

– Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror

For most of us, the older we get the more of a routine we seem to get into. You get up, you get ready, you go to work, you say hi to the same people once you get to the office, you work, you drive home, you ask the same questions to your husband/wife, you eat dinner, you watch TV, you get ready for bed and then you wake up the next day and do it all over again. I think that there’s a direct relationship between the amount of responsibility you have in your life vs. the degree to which your life has become routine. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing — a routine can build discipline, keep you on task and potentially even help you achieve a goal. These, of course, are all good things.

But, falling into routines has its downsides, too. Routines can create boredom, anxiety and probably the worst of all, complacency. Being comfortable in a routine can have it’s benefits, but if you’re not careful letting a routine get the best of you or your relationships can result in some bad, if not devastating situations.

I’m not saying that you need to remove all routine from your life, but I am suggesting that you should take a look at some of the things that have been neglected due to the fact that it’s just how you’ve always done it. Personally, I know that I allow myself time and time again to get into routines that end up losing their value over time. Whenever I notice this happening I try to mix it up a bit so that the played out routine feels more refreshed.

One routine that I’ve felt like I needed to change lately was the fact that I can literally sit in front of my computer all day cranking out emails and other work without ever getting up, moving around the office or going outside for a walk. It was easy for me to get into this routine because there’s always something else that I can be working on and after a while I feel like I’m in the zone and don’t want to stop what I’m doing. Getting more work done is obviously a good thing, but taking care of myself so that I don’t turn into a zombie after staring at my monitor for 8 hours is something that’s become even more important to me. I can tell you one thing that’s for sure — wives don’t like zombies.

To break this particular routine for the past few weeks I’ve been taking taking Frank out for a one mile walk around Burlingame every day around 11am so that I get some time to let my brain rest and Frank gets a little bit of exercise (which is always a good thing for a Pug). It’s been great for both of us and eventually I would like to find one more time towards the end of the day to do the same type of walk again.

One other great thing about the time that I’m taking to walk during the day is that I’ve also been using that time to call friends and family that I haven’t talked to for a long time. In the world of status updates and text messages it’s great to get them on the phone for a few minutes so that we can catch up. Breaking my old routine of sitting in front of the computer all day and making some time for myself to recharge has been an awesome and something that I would highly suggest for all of you other computer geeks out there. Do it, I dare you.

This is a simple example of a routine that I changed for the better and believe me, I could list out a hundred others that I would like to change as well, but it’s hard. To make these changes it takes being intentional and aware of what you’re wanting to change and the desired end result needs to be in order to make the change stick around for good.

So what routine do you feel like changing?

p.s. As I was looking for an image to use for this post I found this awesome blog post from Eoin McKeown that includes a piece of artwork he made called “Routine”. I don’t think that I could have found anything better. Thanks, Eoin.