Consistency And Persistence

The guy you see in the photo is Robert. He’s retired and from noon-1pm every Thursday for the past 8 years he has stood in front of the Federal Building in San Francisco at the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Larkin Street in what he calls a Peace Vigil against the wars that United States are currently involved in. The Peace Vigil actually started right after the attacks on 9/11, so there were others who had been standing there every week even longer than he has. When I saw Robert standing on the corner holding his sign I felt like I had to go talk to him about what he was up to. He was a super nice guy and we ended up chatting for about ten minutes or so while he waved his sign around in the air at both locals and tourists who would roll by on double-decker sightseeing buses.

When I asked him whether or not he felt like his weekly protest was working or not, he said something that I thought was interesting. “You know, there is still a lot of war going on so I’m not sure how much of an effect we’ve had on all that, but personally it helps me feel better knowing that I’m actually out here doing something about it. No matter what, I know that I’m going to be out here every Thursday (he even puts it on his calendar) and making the effort to do something about an issue I care about is important to me. It’s important to me and all of these other people who are out here together.” At the time, there were probably another twenty-five to thirty other people who were also holding signs and letting San Francisco know how they feel about the wars that the United States in currently in.

Here’s how one of the protesters describes why all of the different types of people stand out there in front of the Federal Building on every Thursday:

As some of us have done every week since 2001, we stand here in witness to another way forward: a way of listening, mutual respect and understanding, of reflection, repentance and reconciliation. As people of many organized faiths and none, and as people of the United States, we take this time to focus on our own responsibility and on what we can do to address our complicity in the violent and soul-denying policies our government pursues at home and throughout the world. For some of us it is an opportunity to pray, to examine our lives for the seeds of war and to begin the work of removing them…

Just like Robert said, who knows how much of an impact they’ve had directly on the people who are making decisions in the Federal Building they stand in front of every week. What they’re doing is more of a statement to the people of San Francisco who have seen them every Thursday for the past 10 years over and over again. It shows people that they care about what they’re protesting enough to stick around and to continue to show up. They’re not doing a one-time flash mob and never doing anything about it again. These people care strongly about what they’re protesting and the persistence and consistency that they’ve displayed over the years proves it. I can definitely respect that.

Just being there, showing up, being consistent and persistent — it sounds simple, but it’s really hard to follow-through with. Robert had made it a priority and that’s the only reason it’s worked. I know I need to make a few things more of a priority in my life if I want them to be consistent, what about you?


My First 400/30 Post: Bike Polo

[box type=”info”]I wasn’t really sure what to write about today and I didn’t have a whole lot of time, so I came up with an idea to research and write about a topic I was curious about using two constraints: 1. it has to be under 400 words and 2. researched and posted under 30 minutes. I call it a 400/30 post.[/box]

I ran into this bike polo website the other day and was intrigued with the idea of the sport even though I had no idea what it was. I ended up watching this video of some woman getting their bike polo on and after doing a quick browse of the web I thought that it was worth 400 words and 30 minutes of my time to explain it all to you. Pay attention, I don’t have a lot of time here.

The History of Bike Polo

The original bike polo was invented in Ireland in 1891 by a retired cyclist named Richard J. Mecredy. The sport was first played on grass just like the traditional polo game, but instead of horses they used bikes. In 1908 bike polo was a demonstration sport in the London Olympics, which saw Ireland beating Germany for the gold medal. Nice work, Irishmen!

The man, Richard J. Mecredy. (photo credit)

The winners of the 1908 Olympic demonstration. (photo credit)

During the 1930s France and Great Britain were known for having some pretty hardcore bike polo matches and they used to have several international championships. Sadly World War II completely wiped the sport out of Great Britain, but France kept the sport alive and still has league championships on a regular basis.

In the 1980s bike polo became really popular in both India and the United States, which lead to the first world championships in 1996. They were held in the US, but the gold medal went to India. Man, those guys were good.

The Arrival of Hardcourt Bike Polo

An updated, grass-free version of the sport called hardcourt bike polo started in Seattle in the early 2000s and started spreading across the United States like something that spreads really, really fast. Regional US tournaments have been going on since 2004 and the first European and North American hardcourt bike polo championships were both held in 2009 and the winners qualified for the world championship, which was help in Philadelphia. A team from Seattle named Team Smile won the world title with a Canadian and New York team coming in second and third place, respectively.

photo credit

Since then the sport continues to grow more and more and is popping up in cities everywhere.  If you need evidence of this growth I just saw that there was a Midwest championship last month in Indiana (which is where I’m from), so yeah — it’s now officially everywhere.

If you’re wanting to dig into some more bike polo goodness, check these links out:

  1. An awesome timeline of bike polo
  2. A couple of guys playing bike polo in the early 1940s
  3. New York Times article written about hardcourt bike polo in 2007
  4. The original hardcourt bike polo blog



Jason Smith Cowboys Up And Thinks You Should, Too

[box type=”info”]This is a guest post by one of my friends Jason Smith, who also happens to be one of the most interesting people I know. He’s a triathlon maniac and has some of the best stories when it comes to never giving up and taking a challenge to a ridiculous level. In this story he talks about how he “cowboyed up” and finished a triathlon after breaking his collar bone just two weeks before. Like I said, he’s a manic.[/box]


Being tough in my family has always been a rule of thumb. “Suck it up, boy!”, “Don’t quit, boy!”, “Keep your head up, boy!” my dad would always say. I don’t know where dad got the toughness from but I think it was his job (Head Trainer of the Indiana University Football team) and/or grandpa who molded him into this driven/“no pain”/“Rocky” mentality as he is today. My dad had has had four hip replacements and still is riding his bike like Lance Armstrong — for real. I’ve seen the man slip on the ice and crack his head on the pavement so hard that I felt the vibration through the soles of my shoes but he got right back up, brushed the snow off his pants and acted like nothing happened. NEVER have I EVER seen my dad cry. Well, I take that back, his eyes filled up with enormous amounts of salty liquid when grandpa died (does that count??). But even then, he still stood tall and made sure the rest of the family was okay.

So I guess experiencing all these character building traits of my dad I feel I have to be the tough guy as well. Well, maybe “stupid” is a better choice of words. For example, after getting my wisdom teeth pulled I “had” to do a track workout. I thought if I didn’t get my workout in I was going to lose fitness. Or maybe receiving eighteen stitches in my leg from a mountain bike wreck and then after I was compelled to finish my ride because I didn’t get that last hour in. And most recently, I competed in a triathlon 2 weeks after breaking my clavicle. Swam, biked, and ran with one arm. Hey, if paraplegic can do it, I can do it, right?


So speaking of a broken collar bone, on November 1st, 2010 I moved to Santa Barbara, CA for many reasons. 1) is to start my new life with my girlfriend, 2) start a new job and 3) to compete in triathlons professionally. Unfortunately, within a month of living in California I broke my clavicle (collar bone) in three places from a bike accident. It was a rude awakening to start my new life in California but surprisingly this was my first bone I’ve ever broken so I guess that was pretty cool. Well, kind of.

Smitty’s first broken bone was a doozy and it couldn’t have come at a worse time

It was cool because I could show all my friends the x-ray of the shattered bone on facebook. It was not cool because apparently, as a triathlete, we need our shoulders to swim, bike and run (well running is doable but I’d advise not to if you break any bone in your shoulder). After showing off my broken collar bone the reality started to set in. This actuality of not being able to go 110% is hard to take. The break made me super upset because now it’s going to take me two weeks to get back on my bike, three to four weeks to run again and two months to even think about getting back into the pool. The next day (after sleeping a whole 2 hours in a chair due to the pain) I thought about getting on my bike. Immediately a little voice in my head said, “ya know, riding my bike probably isn’t the best thing to do right now”. So, I decided to skip it – for that day.


The next day, after getting another 2 hours of sleep in a chair, my OCD kicked in and I HAD TO GET ON MY BIKE! I asked myself, “Is it really that bad?” Again I thought of all the stories to where people have sucked it up, kept their head up, and cowboyed up. For example, Tyler Hamilton riding the Tour de France with a broken collar bone. “See it can be done”, I thought to myself. Steve Prefontaine broke and won the American 10k record which lead Oregon to a Track and Field National Championship on a foot that needed twelve stitches. Or (my favorite) when Professional Bull Rider Lane Frost got his balls riverdanced on by a 1,200lb bull and wanted to quit the competition until his best friend David “Tuff” Hedeman told him to COWBOY UP! While all these stories are circling around my head I decided to put my bike on the trainer and began to cowboy up myself, so off I went. As I was riding I thought, “Why in the hell do we do this to ourselves?” I guess it’s the love of the sport that makes us do crazy things. It’s a test within. As a competitor, I guess I was testing the guy inside. I was also hearing my dad say, “A day wasted is a day you can’t make up.” How many times have we heard that?


Four months later my clavicle was healed and back to normal. Swimming was finally back up to speed and running and biking were the same. Two weeks till my first competition and I was feeling good and felt like I was ready to rock! This race was important for the fact that it was a professional sanctioned race. You see, in a professional sanctioned race if an amateur athlete places high enough he can advance his status to a professional athlete (receiving his “pro card” as one might call it). To prepare for this triathlon my coach had me signed up for a 10 mile race. I was excited about it, but life had other plans…again.


The night before the race I was riding my bike home and a car pulled out right in front of me. After quickly swerving and barely missing the car I started pedaling as hard as I could to keep up with traffic and my chain snapped. Not good. When this happened thought that the car behind was going to literally run me over, so I closed my eyes and embraced the hit. After hearing the rubber of the car tires drift right inches from my body I felt a wave of relief come over me. I was alive and I was pretty happy about that.

But, when I got up and grabbed my bike I immediately felt this crazy pressure in my shoulder. Oh yeah, the same shoulder I broken before. I’m not really sure what exactly went through my head at that point, but I think it was something like “F&$%! I DID IT AGAIN!” Sure enough, I had broken the same exact bone in the same exact place that I had broken only 4 months ago. Talk about life giving you a nice kick in the balls – well, actually, more like a kick in the head, pelvis, ribs, knee, elbow, and shoulder from drilling the pavement.

After I pulled myself together I was so mad that I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, but I was in so much pain I couldn’t even do that. I was hopeless helpless and walking home like a dog with his tail tucked between his legs. It definitely wasn’t one of my finer moments. Of course the thing that really sucked was that my girlfriend was out of town so when I got home I couldn’t even get undressed and take a shower. So I ended up sleeping on top of my covers with an ice bag that leaked all over me in the bed all night long. Not comfortable.


The next morning (day of the race that prepared me for my big triathlon) I sat in bed not wanting to move, all of a sudden I hear that damn voice in my head again, “Suck it up, boy!”, “Don’t quit, boy!”, “Keep your head up, boy!” and of course, the phrase that I love the most “COWBOY UP, BOY!” was flashing in my head brighter than a neon sign in Vegas! So, I dragged myself out of bed, went straight to the medicine cabinet, popped some Advil and ran the 10 mile race. It wasn’t pretty but I ran it. It was hard but didn’t stop. The entire time I was running I was thinking, “If I quit now, I’m not going to be ready for my triathlon competition in two weeks. KEEP GOING!!” I cowboyed up and that was that.


Two weeks later was the Triathlon. My shoulder still broke as can be and there was no way that I was getting my pro card at this point. Still pissed off, I went to the race anyway to support my girlfriend and the rest my team. The morning of the race I actually packed my racing kit, picked up my number and headed down to transition just to see what it was all about. Since I had already registered for the race I might as well get my free T-shirt, right? Well, subconsciously I knew exactly what was going to happen. My mind was telling me to compete but I told myself I was just going to be more of a cheerleader from the sidelines. Personally, I didn’t really like what my body had to say…so I started to ignore it.

All of a sudden, partly out of habit and partly out of sheer ridiculous determination I noticed myself starting to set up all of my gear. After that I started warming up. After I finished my warm up I started to pin on my race number. Something was happening and it felt like it was almost out of my control at this point. My mind was set on running this race and it was getting my body ready for it.


At this point my good buddy, Craig Spreadbury (an amazing triathlete), saw me and said, “Dude, you already warmed up and your stuff is set up in transition. Don’t be a pussy now, you might as well race.” Feeling the love/pressure from Craig was all I needed to officially push myself over the tipping point to grabbing my chips and going all in. So, I strapped on my brace and sling, pulled on my wet suit and off to the start line I went. Considering the situation I was in and how I was feeling mentally my only real goal now that I was going for it was not to finish last. I thought that seemed like a legitimate goal at the time.

And they’re off! A one-armed Smitty is in there somewhere

As Craig and I were standing in the endless swarm of swimmers (talk about feeling like David taking on Goliath) the gun went off and we were heading for the water to start the swim. For some reason I found myself caught in the middle of a bunch of crazy guys who were serious about getting after the swim and I had to keep up with the pack. I really didn’t have a choice at the time, but in hind sight I can confidently say that starting in the very front was a bad choice on my part. Quickly I figured out that I’d rather run with the bulls in Spain on any given day than try and swim with humans only using one arm. Seriously, it was really that bad.


Be that as it may, I swam as hard as I could with one arm at my side and the one other doing all the work. After getting kicked in the face about fifty times I thought about quitting but then thought to myself, “COWBOY UP and Keep Going!” Rounding the last buoy in the lake I thought this had to be the longest 26 minutes of my life. Wait, I swam that in 26 minutes?? As I quickly did the math in my head I thought to myself, “I actually might have a shot at not getting last!” Granted, clocking in at 26 minutes for a 1500 meter swim is VERY slow but if I knocked out a fast bike and run then I would be able to catch up to the rest of the pack and then some.


After the swim I stripped off my wetsuit and hopped on my bike. Starting thirty minutes behind the first wave of swimmers I was thinking to myself “Just do what I can and have fun.” And by the time I was finishing up the 25 miles on the bike I noticed that I was passing some of the athletes in the first wave! “WHAT?? REALLY? You mean I’m not going to get last?” I had caught up with most of the guys and I couldn’t believe it.

Biking with one arm and still killing it

Caught up and ready for the run


Knowing that I had caught up at that point I ran as hard as I could for the last leg of the triathlon, which was a 6 mile run. I crossed the finish line exactly at 38 minutes (a 6:09 minutes/mile average) and received 11th place. Again, not an unbelievable accomplishment but it was okay – especially for a guy with only one arm. Getting 11th place was great and all, but I was more proud of the fact that I put myself through a ridiculously tough test and pushed my way through it to the end. I think dad would have been proud, that’s for sure.

Smitty finishes the triathlon in an incredible 11th place


In any situation, when the chips are down, we have to ask ourselves if can we can cowboy up, get back on the saddle and have the drive to follow through? In this situation, I think I did and I feel pretty good about it. Call me crazy, but I hate excuses. If someone asked me about my race, there are two ways I could answer the question. “Yes, I challenged myself and finished!” or I could say “no” and whine about how my shoulder held me back, blah, blah, blah. No one wants to hear a person give excuses. I believe in life there are no second chances. Every moment is a test you can take and you can only take it one time (ie. a job, a relationship, a race etc..). If you have a shot at victory make damn sure you take it and don’t be afraid to fail.

Even with one arm I knew that I wasn’t going to win, but I was going to get after it and give it my all. In other words, I cowboyed up and I’m sure I’ll do it again. Will you cowboy up when the time comes? I sure hope so.

Amber Demure Draws the Awkward Moments in Life and That’s Why She’s So Awesome

I guess you could say that I meet a lot of awesome people. At least I like to think that’s the case. I meet them online, I meet them on a bus I meet them because they’re sleeping on the stairs outside of the building that’s across the street. Why do I do it? That’s a great question. I just seem to genuinely have an interest in all different types of people. I love their quirks, their interests and the stories that they have to tell. I love to listen to everything they have to say and just soak it all in. Sometimes I’m meeting them one minute and leaving their lives the next, but other times they stick around in my life a little bit longer. You never know and that’s all part of the fun.

Like I said, the stories that these people have are awesome and I’m going to start sharing them here on my blog so that more people can hear their stories, too. These stories will be completely different from one person to the next, but I think you’ll realize just like I did that they’re all worth hearing about.

Meet Amber Demure

The first of many awesome people I’m going to introduce you to is Amber Demure who I met through my job at isocket. She has an awesome blog that she uses to display some of the more interesting and inappropriate stories of her life and she does it all through drawings that she scribbles on everything from Post-It notes to napkins (more on that later). When I first visited her blog I was instantly sucked into her storytelling and the amount of transparency that she lets us all see through her daily drawings. From the bad drunk decisions she makes to her lack of junk in her trunk – it’s all out there and there’s no holding back.

I was so intrigued with Amber’s life I wanted to do an interview with her so see what’s really going on in that head of hers. Here’s what I found out.

When I sent Amber an email asking her what she was doing, this is how she responded.

[box]1. So I just realized I’m interviewing you and I don’t really know anything about you besides the fact that you a blog with awesome cartoons on it. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?[/box]I got nervous about the interview and decided to get drunk at Whole Foods (I do that a lot). My co-worker Josh is sitting next to me and he says I’m a cross between Lucille Ball and Holly Golightly. I think I’m a pudgy drunk with a fear of commitment.

In all seriousness…

I’m a closet-Cajun that grew up in Southeast Texas and never looked back. I don’t have much of a family but my whole host of misfit friends gets me by. I practically live at Whole Foods and bike everywhere. I regret choosing so colorful a bike because when I fake-sick at work they know it’s me parked outside of whatever bar I’m at. I really enjoy characters like Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development, Patsy Stone from Absolutely Fabulous, and Bernard Black from Black Books. I relate to pompous, alcoholic villains. I like to see myself as one, but friends always correct me that my intentions are all good. They’re playing into my plan.

[box]2. OK, enough of that — back to the important stuff. Holy crap your cartoons are awesome. I mean, like really awesome. What made you first start drawing these things and how long have you been posting them to your blog?[/box]It’s been about a year…

I was always the kid getting in trouble for drawing all the time (and also distributing my own version of the school newspaper) and wow. It’s weird to think that I’ve been doing this all along, my entire life – I just didn’t have the internet.

A lot of what I make is born out of frustration. I’m really hard on myself which is a terrible thing when you consider just how much I get drunk and make absolutely painful mistakes, but in drawing down the hilarious parts of the situation I put myself as a sort of 3rd party and laugh at my own antics. I didn’t realize so many other people would jump on board and relate to my life, but that’s best part. The lighter side of that frustration I mention has to do with my desk job. It get’s really boring at times and it’s nice to have a place to make a really good joke about a co-worker and share the link with everyone, “Look what Taylor said! She used the term ‘tenurecy.’ WTF does that even mean? I’m going to draw the scene in the meeting when she busts out with that stuff trying to sound impressive to our manager.”

[box]3. Do you have some history with artsy stuff? Meaning, did you go for school for art or have any other type of training or experience?[/box]In all seriousness, people growing up called me, “the girl that draws.” My Granny made me swear to her I’d study art in college before she died. I swore it. She died. I didn’t. I thought that maybe I wasn’t good enough and the corporate world was the only way to survive.

The fun thing is: I find the more I accept myself, the more other people do. It’s like I’m publicly learning how to be comfortable in my own skin.

[box]4. You live in Austin and I’ve been there for a few SXSW adventures. I eat a lot of meat when I’m there and then usually end up drinking way too much. Is this pretty much what everyone does in Austin or is there more to the city than what my light-weight self has experienced?[/box]You’re way off man, we have vegans. But yeah… We got #1 drinking city in America by Forbes a few years back, and just recently we were named 1 of the top 10 cities to go bar-hopping in. I know that everything pretty much involves drinking and you can’t expect people to show up to anything unless there’s a bar. As my friend from Toronto put it, “People there think mimosas are breakfast smoothies!” And they are.

We have the music scene which is world famous and a lot of fun, but people miss out on the natural beauty of my town. We have a spring just minutes from downtown that’s cold year-round. Some of the best days of my life have been spent laying on blankets with friends playing acoustic guitars and harmonizing. There’s the always something to do, and there’s always someone to do it with; there is never a dull moment in Austin.

On a lighter note, everything revolves around breakfast tacos, food trucks, bicycle rides, shopping locally, and everyone has dated everyone else. It is the most incestuous of places, and for such a large city, we all know each other’s dirty secrets. I like how one friend put it, “Austin is the world’s slowest moving orgy.” It’s not uncommon to find your best friend is now dating your ex from 2 years ago, and people here are okay with that.

[box]5. You seem to draw on random stuff with different pencils, pens, crayons and who knows what else. I’m curious to hear about how you go from figuring out what you’re going to draw, to drawing something and then to posting the drawings up on your blog. Can you give me a quick run down of how you do all of that?[/box]I get a bit miserable at day job and whatever is sitting next to me gets used. I’m a messy, sloppy person and it shows. Recently I spilled marinara sauce in my purse (hence coating my sketchbook) and those comics still went up. As my friend Jillian puts it, “First draft = final draft.”

I mostly use legal pads and “discreet stuff” so my corporate overlords don’t catch on to the fact that what I’m writing is not even remotely work-related, but now and then I bust out my Japanese stationary. Writing letters has been a hobby of mine for years and I go all out. I actually spent Thanksgiving this past year with a girl from Nashville that got to know me as a pen pal. We met for the first time the day before Thanksgiving! She stayed here and I don’t even have a couch. I was like, “Hey Maggie. You’ll be sharing my bed with me, nice to meet you. This is not awkward at all.”

[box]6. If you had the chance to hang out with one person who’s alive at this very moment, who would it be and what would you do if you had a weekend together?[/box]Is Hunter S. Thompson still kicking, because I think we’d fuck some shit up. I can only imagine…

Who has the most impressive Champagne cellar? That’s what I’m asking, because 90% of my answer is based on that alone.

Yeah, she likes champagne (just a little bit).

[box]7. Name an awesome person who you would you recommend me to interview and why (preferably someone who you know personally and would actually answer my random questions).[/box]I think Tolly Mosely would be fantastic. She’s so engaging, and I mean that in the real way; not in the twitter/CRM/social media/whatever-they-call-it-now way.

Or The Glitoris. He has no filter; he is hilarious.

[box]8. Anything else you want to add? Now’s your chance — do it.[/box]

I think I went on a date with a high schooler the other day. That’s weirding me out. My frieds sussed it out, “That guy does NOT seem 24.” Also? A homeless transvestite that regularly wears a cheerleader skirt and thong was almost the mayor of Austin. This city is cool in ways you can’t even imagine despite my constant attempts to escape it and live in Stockholm.

Yep, that’s me and the homeless transvestite that Amber is talking about. Awesome.


Suit And High Tops

Even the lawyers have style in San Francisco. This was taken in the Hall of Justice while I was checking in for jury duty. This guys kicks caught my eye, so I had to snap a quick pic. It’s not every day you see high tops teamed up with a suit. Personally, I felt like the guy pulled it off well.

Editing on the photo was done in Picnik.

How Taking The Sticks Out Of Kebabs Equals Good Product Development

Something hit me today when Stephanie and I went and had dinner at a place called Mediterranean Kebab near my office in Burlingame, CA. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but it’s the type of thing that I notice and appreciate as a customer. I’m guessing that most people who stop in to grab some kebabs don’t think about it, but I sure did.

After we ordered Stephanie and I took our number, sat down and chatted for a bit about our days at work while we munched on some pita bread and hummus (one of my all-time favs). A few minutes later our food was brought to our table and we were ready to get our grub on. Once our food was on the table I noticed something that was a little different than I’ve seen at other Mediterranean restaurants — the kebabs didn’t have any sticks in them. For the first time in my life I was looking at a stickless kebab!

So why did I notice this little detail? Mostly because I’m a dork like that. But other than that I noticed because instead of taking the time to pull off the pieces of chicken, peppers and onions off of the kebab, getting my hands all messy and pushing half of the meal off my plate in the process I went straight to eating. The cooks had taken out a simple, yet sometimes complicated step out of my meal, had saved me time and effort and had still gotten me to the point to where I could get straight to business (aka ‘getting my grub on’).

If you think about it 100% of people have to pull all of the delicious goodies off of a stick before they can get to eating their kebab. It’s what I would call an unnecessary step to get to what I really want, which is eating the meat and veggies that are cooked so perfectly together.

Of course, there are always exceptions and apparently Stephanie is one of them. When she saw that I was writing about this she quickly said “I actually like to pull the stuff off of the kebab…”, which I guess I can understand, but can’t agree with. This got me wondering how many people would actually prefer to have the sticks vs. would rather just have it without them. If I were to guess I would say that most people like not having to deal with the sticks and that the Stephanie’s of the kebab world are the minority. But, just like with any educated guess doing some type of survey or stats on what people really want and what they don’t would be the only way to know the real truth.

Before taking the sticks out of the kebabs I would hope that the cooks would have done a little bit of research, but who knows. Sometimes going with your gut and natural instincts can work pretty well, too. But, the good thing is that even if 30-40% of people really liked the sticks, removing them is making the process more efficient and no matter what this change to the product flow isn’t making the end result any better or worse. Once they give enough people exposure to the stickless kebabs no one will ever even remember what they used to be like anyways.

Do you remember what Facebook was like before the newsfeed that so many people initially complained about? I didn’t think so.

Thinking about this type of thing might not seem that important, but it’s small details like this and decisions that are made around customer experiences that make a product the best possible thing that it can be. I might not deal with kebabs on a daily basis at isocket, but I do make decisions all of the time that have an impact on the product that our customers use on a daily basis. Add a button here, remove a step there — it’s all about getting the product down to the things that are necessary and adding real value (even if some of your customers might disagree).

Taking out steps that don’t matter and making it easier for people to get to what they want is the name of the game when it comes to good product development and taking the sticks out of the kebabs is just another way to do it. It might not be that sexy, but hey — it works.



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.

I’ve Been A Runner All Along

To be honest, I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to figure it out. It’s been there all along and I just chose to ignore it for some reason. All those times when I was the fastest person on my college basketball team whenever we ran our yearly two mile endurance test and the fact that I actually liked training for it on my own time. The runs during the warm Indiana Summer nights when I felt like I could go on forever. All of the miles and miles I used to run on treadmills after my daily workouts at the gym. The races that Stephanie and I have ran together since moving to California (like this one). I mean, hello — how have I not noticed this before?

I’ve been a runner all along.

Did you just hear what I just said? I’m a runner.

This might not sound that mind-blowing to you, but for me it’s something that I would have never thought I’d say. I’m a basketball player, not a runner. The only times I used to run is when I had to and I never liked it at all. But somehow, someway it’s slowly become apparent that I’m more of a runner than I ever realized and now that I know that about myself I think it’s pretty awesome.

So what finally made me realize all of this?

It all started a month or so ago when Stephanie and I decided that we were going to run the Indianapolis Mini Marathon while we were home in Indiana. That’s when I started training and running consistently for the first time since my shoulder surgery. Stephanie and I followed the wise words of Hal Higdon and were feeling good about running the half marathon in Indianapolis. The key to improvement and working towards a goal is to have a set strategy that you can go by and running a half marathon is no different. After a few weeks of getting on Hal Higdon’s training schedule I was ready to take on a half marathon and was getting excited about running it.

Then, like with most things in my life, something randomly awesome happens and I end up telling my friend Ryan Mollenkopf that I would run a half marathon with him in Nashville the week before the one I was running in Indianapolis. so I had booked two half marathons on back-to-back weekends and was all about it. Some other people though that I was a little crazy, but I was excited to take on both of the races.

I ran both of those half marathons while back in Indiana and I liked them so much that I felt like I needed to run another race the next weekend so I bought a bib for Bay to Breakers, which is part 12k and part walking Mardi Gras here in San Francisco. It was the 100th running on the race, which was cool, and over 55,000 people had already registered for it. Stephanie and all of our friends were going to walk it and party with thousands of other people in costume, but I had my mind set on running it so that’s exactly what I did.

Running Bay to Breakers was even more fun that the half marathons even though I about died during the race (more on that soon) and being able to run straight through the streets of San Francisco is super cool (even if there are some serious hills involved). After Bay to Breakers I realized even more how much I really love running and these types of competitive races so I guess at this point I’m sold — I”m now officially a runner. How awesome is that?

Oh, and it’s probably worth mentioning that I’m getting pretty good at this whole running thing, too. For Bay to Breakers I ended finishing right at 53 minutes for the 12k, which is about right at a 7 minutes per mile pace. Not bad for a guy who was coming off two straight half marathons and who has never really thought of himself as a runner. I can’t wait to see what I end up running next and don’t worry I’ll be sure to keep you all updated.

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.
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.