A 2.0 BLOG EXPERIENCE

PHOTOGRAPHY + POETRY + QUOTES + SAYINGS + SONGS

2.0 is a platform.
2.0 is a language.
2.0 is a mindset.
2.0 is a vessel.
2.0 is a fellowship.
2.0 is a mosaic.
2.0 is a movement. 

A place to create. 
A place to curate.
A place to collaborate.
A means to communicate.
A canvas to dream.
A path to pave.
A journey to adventure.
A world to wonder. 

Dream with Desire. 
Travel with Time.
Live with Love.
Create with Curiosity.
Sing with Soul.
Dance with Destiny.
Act with Ambition.
Think with Integrity.
Play with Passion.
Unite with the Universe. 

#ALWAYSBECOMING
"Nothing in this world is constant except change and becoming. Everything flows, nothing stands still. Becoming is the process or state of change and coming about in time and space."

#HERETOCONNECT
"The cosmos is within us. We are made of star stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself." 

#LIVEWHATYOULOVE
"It's ok to reinvent yourself as many times as it takes to live out your most authentic self.” 

#JUSTDOYOU
"Be you. Do you. For you." 

HIGH PERFORMANCE LIVING SOLUTIONS PART 5/5

HIGH PERFORMANCE LIVING SOLUTIONS PART 5/5

MY THOUGHTS ON THINKING

Life is a balance between the forces of yin and yang.  Yin is anabolic, whereby life force energy is nurtured, restored, and built up. Yang is catabolic, whereby life force energy is expended, transformed, and broken down.  Paul Chek, my holistic coaching guru, says these two forces dictate your baseline health and must be managed by 4 doctors: Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, Dr. Happiness, and Dr. Movement. These 4 doctors govern 6 foundation principles of a holistic healthy lifestyle: Sleeping, Nutrition, Hydration, Thinking, Breathing, and Movement.  

The yin force is managed by Dr. Diet and Dr. Quiet who prescribe sleeping, nutrition, and hydration protocols.
The yang force is managed by Dr. Happiness and Dr. Movement who prescribe thinking, breathing, and movement protocols.  

When I was first introduced to the foundation principles, I was curious to why thinking was a yang force. Does thinking take up energy and if so, as much energy as movement? We know that in order to grow stronger, we must stress our bodies through exercise. Does thinking require the same kind of stress but to the mind?

All stress summates: one’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual stressors are all interpreted identically at the cellular level.  
— Paul Chek

The act of thinking can be a gift, a tool, and a curse. As a gift, it can be used to imagine, explore, and philosophize without boundary. As a tool, it can be used to solve problems, innovate, and create without barrier. As a curse, it can inflict anxiety, cause conflict, and be misused without border.

Thinking is defined as the process of using one's mind to consider or reason about something. This blog is going to explore the tool of thinking. I will share how I sharpen it when it becomes dull, how I quiet it when it becomes loud and obnoxious, and how I take care of it when it becomes misused. I’m going to dive into 3 common struggles with thinking and share the strategies I’ve used to manage it as a curse, maintain it as a tool, and appreciate it as a gift.

 

STRUGGLE #1 - MONKEY MIND

My desire for data is insatiable. My appetite for ideas is gluttonous. My mind is animal-like in hunger and endurance, machine like in analysis and processing. I have so many questions. Questions with answers that are questionable. Questions that answer, and questions that pose as answers. It never ends.

I tend to overanalyze situations. I rarely underthink my options. I most often generate an overabundance of solutions. As a result, I end up losing sleep by dwelling on the past, overthinking my future directions, and grappling with my present opportunities.

This ‘monkey-mind’ is a buddhist term for an unsettled, restless, and indecisive mind. It happens to those that have a will like a horse, but an undecided heart of an ape; inconsistent and strong. In the case of monkey mind, the tool of thinking seems to be the problem itself.

As simple as it may sound, when we are faced with indecision or a restless mind, having no tool in hand may be the best solution. When I’m in my head all day long, the only way to get out of it is through my body. My monkey mind quiets when I move. Distractions dissipate. Confusion clears. Calmness flows. Solitude strengthens.
 

STRATEGY #1 - MUSHIN (NO-MINDEDNESS)

The Japanese call it ‘Mushin’, the state of no-mindedness, where a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion is thus open to everything. Mushin is achieved when a person's mind is free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego during combat or everyday life. There is an absence of discursive thought and judgment, so the person is totally free to act and react towards an opponent without hesitation and without disturbance from such thoughts.

To set up Mushin, I first recognize that thinking requires energy, and that energy comes in the form of yin and yang. These two forces must be balanced depending on how I desire to express and experience myself. To enable a state of mind ready for Mushin I check in with the following acknowledgments:   

As much as I yang, I know to yin.

As much as I work-out, I know to work-in.

As much as I am awake, I know to sleep.

As much as I create, I know to absorb.

As much as I get out, I know to put in.

As much as I think, I know to be thoughtless.

When my monkey mind becomes uncontrollable, I resort to what I am best at controlling; physical activity. I acknowledge that I need to move my body in order to settle my mind. I hit the gym and work-out, hit the trails and run, or roll out my yoga mat and stretch. When I’ve finished exercising, my energy rebalances, my monkey mind calms, and I enter a state of Mushin.  No-mindedness takes time, practice, and patience. It is a powerful strategy to combat a powerful struggle.

Takeaway:

  • Use Mushin to quiet the Monkey.
  • Use the body to quiet mind.
  • Use fitness to augment focus.
  • Then use focus to augment fitness.   


 

STRUGGLE #2 - MENTAL CONSTIPATION

I could write an entire blog on the quality and the quantity of the data we absorb daily. I could write another blog on the unlimited access to information we have via the internet. I could write about our relationship to screens as our medium for everything. But I think I’d rather write about constipation! 

Just like we need to eat, digest, absorb, and eliminate our food for biological adaptation, we also need to do the same with our thoughts and feelings.

I find it extremely therapeutic to balance the processes of input and output. I see myself as an intermediary vessel that filters energy and life. In order to achieve what life has to offer, I must listen, adapt and evolve with my surrounding environment. Like a dance, I must be able to send and receive energy to my partner harmoniously in order to create something beautiful. When this ‘dance’ between the self and the environment is acknowledged and respected, opportunities to adapt more effectively and efficiently unveil themselves.  

As beautiful as it is to INTAKE (learn new information, read mind expanding books, and consume delicious food), it is just the same if not more beautiful to RELEASE (be able to share ideas, express our learnings, and take wonderful poops!)

It’s almost impossible to concentrate on anything upstairs when you’re plugged downstairs! 
The release of the mental, emotional, physical can be seen as the highest priority on the hierarchy of needs. Imagine yourself as a glass full of water, in order to take in more of anything, something must come out. Hence why I believe that the inability to release is a priority problem to resolve, e.g., writer’s block, chronic injury, and physical and emotional constipation.

 

STRATEGY #2 - SAMANA VAYU

I came across this yogic term translated in English as “balancing air”. While I am still learning yogic philosophy and its many holistic principles, I take Samana Vayu as the overseeing force of the digestion of everything from food to thoughts. To adapt, evolve, and live well without dis-ease, I am learning that it must start with committing to daily practices that allow me to release. Below are a set of rituals I perform to honour the force of Samana Vayu, a tool of balance for the mind, body, and spirit.
 

  • BREATHING routines combined with flexibility and mobility exercises to release mental, emotional, and physical tightness.

    • To create balance of space for mindfulness, restorative movement, and stability.

  • Blog WRITING / Journaling to release pent up thoughts and shed ideas.  

    • To create space for new ideas and playful imagination.  

  • ENGAGE in deep conversations to vent and let go of harmful thoughts.

    • To create space for clarity and calmness

  • Perform various forms of artistic EXPRESSION to balance the biochemistry and spiritual unease/uncertainty.  

    • To create space for self love, gratitude, and awareness.  

  • Consume a sufficient amount of fluids and dietary fibre to aid in DETOXIFICATION and the release of waste product.  

    • To create space for more effective nutrient absorption and energy production.

  • High intensity EXERCISE to stimulate catabolic metabolism and emotional stress/ tension release.

    • To create space for repair/regeneration and vitality/immunity improvement.           

I look at this list of “best practices”, and can’t help but feel as though they may have lost their value and charm due to the high saturation of their preach. I could Google “Top 10 things to do in order to live a high performance lifestyle”, or “Top 5 activities to improve mental health”, and you’ll most likely find these solutions. We know what to do, we know when we have time to do them, and those times in the year when we feel most motivated to do them, but the true solution lies not in committing to these practices out of duty and obligation; “because they’re good for us”, or “because Julian said so”, but understanding that the “best” in “best practices” come from committing to them for their potential; their potential to make you the best version of yourself.

Committing to these practices are an investment in health because they create space and time. Time for happiness, time for joy, time for fun, time for love. They justify our innate necessity to grow and develop not just with the intention of adding years to our lives, but life to our years. They enable a life of optimal performance. They give us hope and justification to self-actualize. Time is precious and absolute. If you understand where I’m going, you understand that engineering health in your favour is your one option for optimizing the precious time you have on earth. So let’s make the most of it.


Takeaway:

  • Unlearn to learn, decondition to recondition, let go to move on

  • Life is lived well with less weight

  • The digestive system pertains not only to the body  

 

STRUGGLE #3 - PARADOX OF CHOICE

You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.
— Jiddu Krishnamurti

To be human is to be multi-talented.

To be human is to have a mosaic appreciation of different cultures, societies, and beliefs.

To be human is to consume a colourful array of foods, engage in multisensory experiences, and undertake multidisciplinary education, at random, with a variety of people, within a diversity of environments.

To be this kind of human is to also be an idealistic, affluent Westerner.

I understand that abundance is also a luxury. In relation to the rest of the world, it is the luck of the draw, how the cards have been dealt, and a privilege. Which makes the paradox much more pressing. My awareness of this imbalance motivates me to see abundance not as luxury, but as possibility.

We are experiencing a renaissance of the renaissance man. Known for their polymathic abilities, people like Leonardo da Vinci were ‘multi-potentialites’, generalists, jacks of all trades and masters of many. It was the boom of alchemy that enabled these men. People like Albert Einstein were enabled by the boom of physics. And now, it was the boom of technology that enabled Steve Jobs. The access to infinite information via the internet has empowered our evolution from specializing to generalizing. Many of us no longer play one instrument in the orchestra, instead the orchestra is our instrument of play. We are conductors, managers, and directors.

I no longer aim to become the best at one thing, I aim to be great at many things. But this desire for the many is a noble curse, a double standard, and comes with its paralyzing consequences. This confusing bombardment of opportunity leaves us stuck at many forks in the road, with many roads untravelled, many decisions unmade, and much time wasted. Modern abundance dilemmas such as FOMO (fear of missing out), and FOBO (fear of a better option), have been proven to be responsible for many of our anxieties and indecisions. It’s interesting to see that some option is better than none, but it does not follow that more options is not better than some.    

 

STRATEGY #3 - FISHBOWL MENTALITY

What I’ve come to understand through Barry Schwatz’s Ted Talk on the paradox of choice is that boundaries are more liberating than limiting. Being a fish in a fishbowl is in fact not so confining but comforting, and thus confidence building. He says that “if you shatter a fishbowl so that everything is possible, you don’t have freedom, instead you have paralysis.” It seems as though technology has smashed the fishbowl for us and we are all paralyzed with choice. In order to solve for this paralysis, it is our responsibility to pair the realistic with the idealistic, and set the boundaries to our abundance.   

Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz

Everyone needs to develop a fishbowl mentality. I’ve found I work best when I have structure, boundaries, and a framework. It enables confidence and creativity, it sets a realistic range in regards to expectations, and it empowers autonomy. I am able to prioritize, set realistic goals, and accomplish things with a sense of closure. When I have a framework and format to work within, my potential and polymathic tendencies are controlled and curated. I therefore grow and development in concert with the fishbowl, towards larger environments and more complex ecosystems. No longer is the abundance of choice paradoxical or paralyzing, it is actualizing and enlightening.    

Takeaway:

  • Abundance is not luxury, it is possibility.
  • Freedom is found within the framework.
  • Framework provides focused freedom.

 

I end with a principle that inspires me every day to introspect, philosophize, and wonder:  

The health of your consciousness is a result of the consciousness of your health.

Consciousness is the state of being aware of oneself and one’s surroundings. If we wish to control our thinking and focus our mental efforts, it is our responsibility to learn about our minds. Dandapani, a Hindu priest, speaker on self-development and an entrepreneur, speaks on solutions to the struggles of the mind in his Ted Talk called Unwavering Focus.

Dandapani

Dandapani

What I have learned from the 3 struggles of Monkey Mind, Mental Constipation, and the Paradox of Choice is the necessity to devote time, energy, and attention to quiet the mind, release it of its thoughts, and provide it structure.

It is due to my dedication to …

  1. The study of philosophy.

  2. The practice of mindfulness and flow state.

  3. The application of positive psychology.

That have enabled me to cure the curses of thinking by using it as my favorite tool, and seeing it gratefully as a gift.

Thank you for reading. 

#alwaysbecoming #justdoyou #appreciationasfuel #becauseyoureworthit #livewhatyoulove


 

HOW TO KICKSTART A HIGH PERFORMANCE YEAR - CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 5 - ADAPTABILITY IS THE ANSWER TO YOUR FUTURE HEALTH.

Yours truly with Michol Dalcourt - a real life Jedi Master. I am learning that the word 'fitness' is currently under reconstruction and reexamination. Michol is revolutionizing not just fitness, but overall health coaching. I am extremely grateful for people like Michol because he is basically carrying the industry's future on his shoulders by providing us with truth via high impact science, research, and clinical practice. He is equipping us with the tools and platforms to truly make a difference. Here I am star struck to be in his company as it's not often you get to meet your heroes. 

Yours truly with Michol Dalcourt - a real life Jedi Master. I am learning that the word 'fitness' is currently under reconstruction and reexamination. Michol is revolutionizing not just fitness, but overall health coaching. I am extremely grateful for people like Michol because he is basically carrying the industry's future on his shoulders by providing us with truth via high impact science, research, and clinical practice. He is equipping us with the tools and platforms to truly make a difference. Here I am star struck to be in his company as it's not often you get to meet your heroes. 

Michol Dalcourt, inventor, author, founder, speaker, and consultant to Equinox, states that adaptability is the key to optimal health and aging. Humans have evolved over centuries because they have learned to adapt to their surroundings. Here are Michol’s 5 factors that regulate adaptability and my interpretation of them:

  1. Variability - the ability to diverge, distribute, and display multiple skills to cope with changing environments

    • A multi sport athlete

    • An executive

  2. Resiliency - the ability to endure resistance/adversity/stress and quickly recover from it  

    • A trail runner

    • A tradesperson - chef, mechanic

  3. Tolerance - the ability to practice patience and maintain composure during times of stress and discomfort

    • A rock climber

    • A teacher

  4. Versatility - the ability to adapt or be adapted to many different functions or activities

    • A gymnast

    • A salesperson

  5. Flexibility - the ability to bend without breaking

    • A ballerina

    • A manager   

Relatively few people die of old age. Most die because the body loses the capacity to withstand physical or environmental stressors. Making successful aging a priority means increasing the capacity for adaptability in every system of our biology.
— Michol Dalcourt

Are you adaptable? Variable? Resilient? Tolerant? Versatile? Flexible? I believe we obtain each of these 5 factors innately, and have the ability to express them more fully with just a few simple physical activities. Here is how I am improving my adaptability through the 5 factors:

VARIABILITY - Build a 7-day multidisciplinary workout regimen

I have the luxury of exercising in a variety of facilities, hence why I take full advantage of the opportunity to move in so many ways. This forces my mind to be continually stimulated and challenged and never grow stagnant, one that embraces change. Variety is the spice of life! Below are just some physical experiences that display my yearning for variability. 

The following is a peek into my weekly physical activity schedule. I typically spend 30-60 minutes a day being vigorously active, then another 60-90 minutes of moderate activity commuting on bike, teaching classes, or training clients, throughout the span of a day. Some classes I teach and clients I train are strictly coaching, so to dispel the myth, I do not exert myself physically all day everyday.   

  • Monday - Swimming & Stretching

  • Tuesday - Cross Training Circuit: cardio, powerlifting, calisthenics

  • Wednesday - Endurance: Row, Ride, Run

  • Thursday - Proprioception, Coordination, Balance: Bosu ball, Swiss ball, Medicine ball, Kettlebell, Vipr, Jump Rope

  • Friday - Swimming & Shvitz (steam, sauna, intermittent cold/hot shower)    

  • Saturday - Random skill building day: Hip hop, Obstacle Course, Fusion Pilates, Trail run, Soccer, Basketball, Archery Tag, or Hike

  • Sunday - Restorative day: Massage, Myofascial therapy, Cryotherapy, Float Spa, Epsom Salt Bath, Naps, Stretching, Breathing  


RESILIENCY - Suboptimal Conditions Training (aka ‘Just Plain Stupid’ training … not recommended)

Last year, when ramping up for the 125 km Canadian Death Race Ultramarathon (completed in the summer of 2016 in 17 hours), to build resilience, I forced myself to train in suboptimal conditions. Some interesting, ‘just plain stupid’ training sessions included:

  • Barefoot running in the winter

  • Trail running in thunderstorms

  • Fasted long runs (+20km)

  • Full stomach runs

  • Hungover runs

  • No water runs (10km)

  • Underdressed runs in the winter

  • Overdressed runs in the summer

Now time for a run! No puking allowed! 

Now time for a run! No puking allowed! 


TOLERANCE - Once a week, commit to an uncomfortable activity you’re not good at, and don’t stop until it becomes comfortable and something you’re at peace with.  

Swimming was my achilles heel. It was a deeply seeded fear since childhood. I read the book Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh, and recognized that my fear of water and weakness with swimming was based on my inability to let go and relax. So I started to work on my breathing with the Wim Hof Method, I used mindfulness practice more often during the day, and blackmailed myself with accountability by publishing my goal of racing my first ever triathlon. I invested in an expensive wetsuit, got myself a few training partners, and wrote about the experience. Now I am swimming twice a week, 10 laps straight through without breaks which is a phenomenal improvement from not being able to do 1 lap without being gassed! Swimming is now something I look forward to (on a side note: this feels extremely odd and amazing to type out, because I never would have imagined feeling this way! Yay me!)         

Wim Hof aka The Ice Man. Known to be able to withstand extreme cold by controlling his Autonomic Nervous System through a systematic approach to breathing. 

Wim Hof aka The Ice Man. Known to be able to withstand extreme cold by controlling his Autonomic Nervous System through a systematic approach to breathing. 

VERSATILITY - Learn through different vehicles of content on the daily.

Below is a typical day in the life of my learnings. I am in the investment phase of my life where I have the time and determination, but also the discipline to always be learning. (Click the links to learn more)  

Founded by modern day philosopher Alain de Botton. #ideastoliveby #developingemotionalintelligence

Founded by modern day philosopher Alain de Botton.
#ideastoliveby
#developingemotionalintelligence

FLEXIBILITY - Stretch the body daily so that you can expand the mind with more ease and less resistance.

Daily stretching has become a recent ritual in my life. It has allowed me to move with certainty and safety. It keeps my mind sharp and clear by quieting the nagging body tightness, aches, and pains. I get to stretch multiples times in a day because I perform them in the classes I teach, and with the clients I train. Here are some stretches I do religiously at home. (Click the links to see the videos)

Kelly Starrett, author of 'Becoming a Supple Leopard' and 'Ready to Run', known as Crossfit's Physiotherapist, he is the guru that made myofascial self massage, mobility, and flexibility mainstream cool and part of gym culture. 

Kelly Starrett, author of 'Becoming a Supple Leopard' and 'Ready to Run', known as Crossfit's Physiotherapist, he is the guru that made myofascial self massage, mobility, and flexibility mainstream cool and part of gym culture. 

IN A NUTSHELL #5 - Be a detective in your adaptability investigations. You are more variable, resilient, tolerant, versatile, and flexible than you know. From the smallest displays to the largest, you’ve got to celebrate your actions. Acknowledge them and affirm them. Use physical activity as your source of motivation to transcend these transferable skills. Start with creating a weekly routine that is multidisciplinary. Take in information through multiple vehicles of content distribution to stimulate the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. And finally, believe in adaptability as a new religion for aging successfully, devote yourself to ongoing self-development, have faith, because you are not who you are going to be, you are always becoming.   

Michol Dalcourt and I, 5 years ago when I was just starting out! My hero then, my hero now. I will be flying to Solana Beach, California this April to learn intensively with him and his faculty at The Institute of Motion. I am excited to join his brigade of cutting edge, holistic, and forward thinking Health Coaches. Will be a dream come true. 

Michol Dalcourt and I, 5 years ago when I was just starting out! My hero then, my hero now. I will be flying to Solana Beach, California this April to learn intensively with him and his faculty at The Institute of Motion. I am excited to join his brigade of cutting edge, holistic, and forward thinking Health Coaches. Will be a dream come true. 

HOW TO KICKSTART A HIGH PERFORMANCE YEAR - CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 4 - DON’T SET GOALS!!!!  SET THEMES, INTENTIONS, AND MANTRAS TOO!

THEMES
I believe in setting annual themes. If the Ted Talks Conferences does them, I will too, and so should you. This year's themes are “The Future of You”, at the Ted 2017 conference in Vancouver, Canada, and “Builders, Truth-Tellers, Catalysts”, at the Ted Global 2017 conference in Arusha, Tanzania. A theme sets the tone to your pace, it keeps you accountable to the path, and it grounds you to your humble beginnings.

My theme for 2017 is “APPRECIATION AS FUEL”. I will make a conscious effort this year to balance in more slow with the fast. I will view patience above productivity, because being patient is being productive. I will appreciate all that I have done because none of it would be possible if it weren’t for all that has been done for me.    

GOALS

I believe in setting monthly and quarterly goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely). My background in solo and team sport has engrained in me a need to set goals that coincide with a season of competition. Most commonly in a year of sports training, we have 4 cycles: In-Season, Post Season, Off Season, Pre-Season. Periodization is the term used to describe the balance of these cycles. An athlete’s training intensity and volume are dictated by the goals for each cycle, and ultimately aim to maximize the most important one of the 4 cycles; the In-Season performance.

As it relates to my year of running, I am currently in winter pre-season cycle, building up for spring time, where I will be aiming to be at my peak shape for my first race of the year. I am going to be running the Barcelona 100km Ultra in March, so now it is important that I build baseline strength through stability and proprioceptive work, and work on mental plasticity and endurance through training diversity and experiential education via a variety of class participation and instruction. My weekly running mileage will steadily increase from here on out.

I believe in enhancing my external goals with internal intentions. Both goals and intentions are highly dependent on circumstances and context. Goals are not always achieved as we cannot predict the future, but if set right, intentions can always be fulfilled because we have full control over how we think and act in the present moment. Here are some of the differences between goals and intentions.

Examples of intentions vs. goals that I personally use:   

  • Swimming - Goal is to swim 10 laps in 15 minutes. Intention is to swim with calmness and finesse from first lap to last lap.

  • Studying - Goal is to read 1 chapter before bedtime. Intention is to read to absorb and enjoy.

  • Nutrition - Goal is to chew food for at least 20s per mouthful. Intention is to savour every bite as mindfully as possible.

INTENTION

My 2017 theme of ‘appreciation as fuel’ will be actualized with the help of the intention, “patience over progress”. I have been using this intention before each and every one of my classes that I participate in and I am finding it very spiritually soothing and freeing. When we pace ourselves with patience, we are provided with time to reflect, time to regenerate, and time to just be. The importance of creating time and space in our lives provides us with the chance to progress, hence why patience is progress on so many levels.


MANTRA

“I am one with the force and the force is with me”. This mantra was repeated over and over by Donnie Yen’s character Chirrut Imwe in the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Even though his character wasn’t ‘force’ sensitive, meaning he didn’t uphold telepathic and telekinesis abilities, he was the most ‘forceful’ in every other way possible.  First off, he was blind, secondly, he was an incredible martial artist, and thirdly, he had the zen mentality to stay calm and focused under the most treacherous of times. It was easy to see that his abilities manifested from the power of faith and his devotion to the ‘force’ religion as demonstrated through his mantra.       

Mantras are believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers. They deploy the language of spiritual expression.They are considered meaningful linguistic instruments of the mind. Some mantras have ritualistic and literal meanings, and some are just sounds with ambient tone. They exist in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and in Japanese Shingon tradition. Mantras can have philosophical themes, moral principles, and a call to virtuous life.

As mystical as it sounds, I believe we are all ‘force’ sensitive. I believe in the pseudo sciences, the metaphysical, and all iterations of the alternative healing arts. I believe there are many things we do not understand, cannot compute, and most certainly aren’t ready to comprehend. But at the end of it, faith and hope, and the devotion to believing are all we truly have. So why think of life as ‘to be concluded’ when you can think of life as a ‘to be continued’? Set themes, goals, intentions, and mantras for the sake of developing your spiritual self, for it will elevate your physical, mental, and emotional self.   

[As a participatory activity, I’d like you to create your theme, write down your top 3 goals/resolutions from Chapter 1, and put together a mantra for 2017.]
(Please pause your reading, write them down now if you haven’t yet, yes, I’m serious! Go! Now! GO!)

IN A NUTSHELL #4 - It is in you to change, all you must do is be willing. Themes, goals, intentions, and mantras are all tools for self development, they are tried, tested, and true, all you must do is be willing to use them on your journey. Don’t find yourself, create yourself. May the force be with you.  

HOW TO KICKSTART A HIGH PERFORMANCE YEAR - CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 3 - BLACKMAIL YOURSELF WITH ACCOUNTABILITY.

Accountability is what keeps me writing. I adhere to my writing because I presume that people will read and follow up with me. This positive pressure that I comply to puts my integrity in check. The blackmailing comes as a self-regulating feedback mechanism I weaponize in my own head. I make it so that if I were to not write, and write without thoughtfulness and care, I’d force myself to feel as if I’ve let people down. I deploy a sense of shame, disrespect, and disloyalty. I regulate myself by making deals and deadlines. If not delivered in a timely and high quality manner, I punish myself with physical training or limit my rewards. It sounds like harsh psychological warfare, but I find accountability with consequences extremely effective.

My recent surge of blog writing is my way of recounting the Equinox High Performance Living Symposium, and holding myself to revising what I’ve learned. Accountability can be powered by a sense of responsibility. I share because I care about my reputation and the legacy I aim to create. I feel a sense of responsibility to pay it forward. Without the duty of reporting to you, my accountable audience, I’m not confident in saying that I’d still be writing as enthusiastically. As a torch bearer in my industry, I feel responsible for reporting on the valuable information gained at the Symposium, and it would be on my shoulders if the information was not relayed.

Equinox 2017 Marketing campaign ... shock and awe approach. 

Equinox 2017 Marketing campaign ... shock and awe approach. 

Accountability works best in environments where you have control over what you do and how you do it. Group fitness classes are so effective because you have full control over your output. You get out what you put in. And you have the social accountability of the class and the instructor’s guidance. This is also why blog writing to me has been a recent source of positive self-growth. I have full autonomy over it and I have an audience. This blog is my sanctuary of wild expression where I am the king of the castle. But what happens to compliance and adherence when you have less control over the environmental factors? Where you may not be the king of the castle?

Let’s take diet for example. Why are we more susceptible to bending and breaking with our diet? Is it due to the natural bearing on social engagements? If so, I’d suggest that you control what you can, and when you must ‘cheat’, enjoy it to the max and don’t feel guilty about it, just get back on the healthy bandwagon as quickly as possible and don’t look back... easier said than done right??? Well, wasting time ruminating on dietary choices is like standing still in quicksand, no decision is the worst decision, you’ll be submerged in no time! Rumination is putting one’s attention on the symptoms of distress and its causes and consequences without offering solutions. Here are some strategies that use accountability to regulate a high performance lifestyle:

  • Hold yourself accountable to daily thematic diet challenges like ‘Monday vegan day’, ‘Tuesday clean day’, ‘Wednesday no eating out day’, ‘Thursday green day’, ‘Friday water day’, ‘Saturday fun day’, ‘Sunday fast day’. This streamlines focus, it limits rumination, and decreases the paralysis by abundance of choice.

  • Metcalfe’s Law states that the more users in a system, the more valuable the network. So if you come from a family household, include all members on your daily thematic diet challenges. If you are a leader in your office, include all members on your monthly workout challenge. If you have a tight knit group of friends, include all members on your Lent challenge. Inclusivity is vital. The more the merrier.

  • Schedule in ‘fun days’ where you explore new restaurants and mind opening cultural experiences with a foodie group … and make that foodie group your fitness crew!

  • Make an investment out of your “cheat days” so that it becomes something to look forward to and something to learn from. We work well with incentives and here’s an opportunity to be mindful and strategic about it. So if you’re going to cheat, don’t go to McDonald’s, go to Bar Isabel, or Planta, or Union, or Richmond Station, or Byblos. Make it count.

  • Lunch pals: pair up with a coworker and make lunch for your peer one day of the week. It is much more difficult to feed someone junk and unhealthy food. It puts you in the parental place of responsibility for someone else’s wellness. Some positive pressure is always good in friendly doses.         

  • Weekly or monthly challenges: NOBNOM stands for No Booze No Masturbating for 30 days (random I know! But it’s actually becoming viral in the world of lifestyle design!) Another option for those who don’t have a problem with Masturbation is NOBNOC which stands for No Booze No Complaining. Start the challenge by making it public. Put it out on your social media feeds like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, nominate friends to do it with you. I can’t guarantee they’ll join or talk to you ever again, but it’s worth a try!   

Tim is definitely my go-to for inspiration on lifestyle design and optimization. His podcasts deconstruct the habits and routine practices that make high performers who they are. His unique blend of philosophical & utilitarian personality tease out the most relevant of information. His community is responsible for the NOMNOC challenge.  

Tim is definitely my go-to for inspiration on lifestyle design and optimization. His podcasts deconstruct the habits and routine practices that make high performers who they are. His unique blend of philosophical & utilitarian personality tease out the most relevant of information. His community is responsible for the NOMNOC challenge.  

IN A NUTSHELL #3 - Blackmail yourself with accountability. When it comes to your goals, blog about them, post about them on social media, email friends and family about them, make promises to peers in order to stay focused and committed to them. “Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to results”. Put whatever it is you want to accomplish out into the world, because when held in the head, it doesn’t mean anything to anyone. Put your integrity on the line. Hold yourself responsible. Make yourself a missionary. Carry the health, wellbeing, and future of your industry on your shoulders. Create challenges because without challenges, there is no change.     

HOW TO KICKSTART A HIGH PERFORMANCE YEAR - CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 2 - RESOLUTIONS ARE LIES … UNTIL ACTED UPON

“A Timeless Perspective for 2017”, is where I candidly shared my current state of mind by reflecting on my upsides and downsides of 2015 and 2016. As a way to better process what was needed of me to move forward into 2017, I took the blog’s 3 categories (Reflection, Reassess, Reframe), and expanded on them by setting new year resolutions to each. In order to realize my resolutions, I needed to pair them each with a follow up action. All too often we put an idea out but don’t follow up with how to actualize it. Hence why I believe resolutions are empty promises, blank statements, and white lies, until an actionable behavior is attached. Since we know that actions speak louder than words, actions are effective forcing functions that breathe life into resolutions. Below are my resolutions and actions that may act as suggestions to inspire. Please use mine as a template example of how to process yours.    

  1. REFLECTION

    Resolution - Appreciate old experiences and how they’ve served your growth up to this point.

    Action - I will take 10 minutes on the weekend to go through videography and photography of my 2.0 Toronto Holistic Fitness Events, view them with gratitude and appreciation, without judgement or criticism.  

    (Click the links below to view the history of 2.0 Toronto videos)
    2.0 Toronto 2012 (The prequel to it all! Funds raised for Sears Kids Cancer Foundation)
    2.0 Toronto 2013 (Inaugural Annual for Humber River Hospital Foundation)
    2.0 Toronto 2014 (Second Annual @ Mattamy Athletic Centre for Rogers Youth Fund)
    2.0 Toronto 2015 (Third Annual @ 99 Sudbury for The Stop Food Community Centre)  
    2.0 Toronto 2016 (Fourth Annual @ The Extension Room for CAMH)
  2. REASSESS

    Resolution - Be patient with your default patterns, conditioned behaviours, and biases. Provide them time to reset and reprogram and appreciate what they’ve allowed you to accomplish.

    Action - To become inspired and refreshed, I will converse with peers on the weekly with regard to teaching tips, new learnings, and obstacle manoeuvres.
  3. REFRAME

    Resolution - Reorganize the time you spend according to how you spend it and who you spend it with. Listen to those that speak to you with tough love. Learn from those that challenge you. Love those that support you no matter what.

    Action - I will attend two classes a week, not of my own, one that puts me out of my comfort zone and another that allows me to thrive in my comfort zone, for the months of January and February.

As a participatory activity, I’d like you to state your top 3 new year resolutions and attach a follow up action to each. Share them with someone to enhance your adherence.
(Take a pause on reading and give yourself the opportunity to go deeper).

IN A NUTSHELL #2 - Set resolutions that sound as if they came from a parent or a mentor. They are the best teachers because they know you the best and aren’t afraid to tell it to you straight. Pair that resolution with an action and write it out in the first person. Be specific and simple to avoid any chance of not doing them. Once you have your resolutions and actions decided, share them to enhance adherence levels, and schedule them in as they relate to the context of your life. Give them a chance to work with the other priorities in your life. Ideally, these resolutions and actions will complement rather than compete.  

HOW TO KICKSTART A HIGH PERFORMANCE YEAR - CHAPTER 1/5

CHAPTER 1 - BE FASCINATED BY UNCERTAINTY

In Part 3, I promised to provide you more direction, so I apologize if my new year's resolution blog entry didn’t deliver any concrete solutions, the intention was to be honest and vulnerable with my feelings about the unknown future. I wanted readers to know that there can be many ways to look at coping with uncertainty. I am currently investigating this age old art form, a science that escapes even the most intelligent, a philosophy that some of the wisest men forget, but a principle quality that children grasp innately and effortlessly, a coping method called ... FASCINATION.

You can see uncertainty with passive fear and neglect, or you can see it with active fascination and curiosity. Uncertainty can paralyze us. It can prevent us from living what we love. But it can also invigorate by inviting us to be children again. It can encourage us to explore with curiosity rather than consequence. When we have the courage to be fascinated, we explore an optimistic side of ourself that views pain as temporary, sadness as necessary, fear as trivial, and death as a door. With fascination, we employ curiosity as an investigator and detective, not a crippling judge and critic. To cope with uncertainty, here are some thought directions I am currently taking to foster fascination.

Shoshin is a concept in Zen Buddhism and Japanese Martial Arts used to explore without preconceptions. When I use Shoshin, I investigate with a child’s mind, one that is open to many possibilities. I do my best not to use an expert’s mind, because then I narrow my possibilities.

Law of Opposites is the philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, by which “the observation that everything in existence is a combination or unity of opposites”. With Shoshin, I invite myself to be curious with the feeling of uncertainty, just like a child would with a closed door. I question what I am uncertain of - not knowing what’s behind the door, and follow up with the law of opposites strategy; I focus on what I am certain of - knowing that when I open the door, I will have an answer. Behind the door can be another question, it can be an answer I was not expecting, or it could be one that I was hoping for all along, either way, I have fostered a step forward, through the door, by being actively fascinated and curious.

I remind myself to think about what I have control over - the physical ability to open the door and walk through it. I assert that all negative feelings such as uncertainty, fear, and sadness, all have an opposite feeling, and that my feelings can slide back and forth along this continuum of emotion. The Law of Opposites allow me to appreciate my ability to slide back and forth and not see either side as good or bad, but as just laws of nature.

Shoshin allows me to explore without jumping to conclusions. The Law of Opposites allows me to see the truth in Georg Wilhelm Hegel’s quote, "contradiction in nature is the root of all motion and of all life", and how uncertainty is simply a natural part of life, something to be fascinated by. 

My most often used approach in coping with uncertainty is just saying “F**K IT”. A book by John C. Parkin that a friend recommended me beautifully describes this method.  “Saying Fuck It is like massage for the mind - relaxing you, releasing tension, giving up on things that aren't working. This title argues that saying Fuck It is a spiritual act: that it is the perfect western expression of the eastern ideas of letting go, giving up and finding real freedom by realising that things don't matter so much (if at all).” Most often, it’s the time we spend ruminating in anxiety about the uncertainty that kills us. These two little words pack a punch. They are motivation unparallel to any that can be given by a coach, words that will change your life because they were uttered by you to yourself. Go ahead and try it, it’s empowering as F**K.  

IN A NUTSHELL #1 - Just like any relationship worth cultivating, our success with uncertainty requires that we be patient, clearly communicate intentions and expectations, and commit to the process. We must be able to see uncertainty as something to be fascinated by instead of something to be fearful of. Marx’s law of opposites comforts us with the knowing that the uncomfortable sensation of uncertainty will always eventually flow to a sensation of certainty. And finally, when in doubt, just say F**K IT and take action.       

 

A Timeless Perspective for 2017

REFLECTION

As I write this blog on the eve of the new year, I can’t help but look back on my perspectives from years before. As some regard new year’s eve as just another day in the year, I believe it to be a milestone day of celebration, deep reflection, and introspection. At the close of 2015 and welcoming of 2016, I with-held from thinking about the future and pushed myself to think back on the year’s accomplishments, failures, and life influencing events. At the turn of 2014 into 2015, I forced myself to look forward, focus on growth and development, and not look back into the past. I gave each year a theme: 2015 was “ADVERSITY as fuel”, and 2016 was “AUTHENTICITY as fuel”.

Adversity was a word I needed to face and confront, and therefore be vulnerable and open to. The hardships and suffering I endured that year molded the vehicle I transformed myself into. I secretly used hardship, pain, fear, and anger to fuel my progress in education, career, and physical fitness. This machine I became set all time high records of performance across all aspects of my life. Did I feel good about it? YES! Did the good feeling last? Unfortunately no. ‘Adversity as fuel’ was not sustainable.   

As a result of 2015’s unsustainable ‘adversity as fuel’ theme, I made ‘authenticity’ my new word. I needed to reconnect with myself, rekindle faith in my gut instinct, and entrust in those around me. I needed to shift away from using negatives as a motivator, and instead use the positive of self discovery as a guiding light. The oneness and sense of self-awareness I gained from this thematic shift enabled me to scale all of the groundbreaking achievements of 2015 and raise the bar even higher. My sizeable successes brought me to an esoteric state of pride and joy, a place in my career that I never dreamed would be possible. But this exponential growth came with its costs.

To be completely honest and open, my mind currently resides in a place of uncertainty, pressure, and trying times of rumination and self-doubt. I look back at this outstanding breakout year, and rationally examine its costs and benefits. I conquered new heights and milestones for “my brand”, but what did I do for me? I wrote a hero’s journey for the character Julian Ho, but left no ink to acknowledge the real author of the story. I was selfless when I could have been a little more selfish. I was selfish at crucial times when I should have been more selfless. This imbalance has retired me to a place of limbo. Do I feel good about the year’s accomplishments? YES! Has the good feeling lasted? Unfortunately no. The feeling evaporates every day that goes by. ‘Authenticity as fuel’ will continue to serve as a source of motivation, a beautiful theme for a life narrative, just not one for a single year of life.     


REASSESS

What happens now? The surge of questions start to flood my mind...what’s your gameplan for 2017? What do you want to accomplish? What did you learn from 2016? How can you improve? Can you scale your successes and outdo yourself again in 2017?

Looking back, I see 2015 as the answer to the question ‘what are my limits?”. That year I laid the framework for ‘what’ I needed to do to test my limits physically and mentally. In order to become the man I wanted to be, I needed set and conquer goals that would shape the hero I was to become. I essentially created the mountain I needed to set afoot, and climb it at a pace beyond my mere mortal sensibility. I tested myself and explored new frontiers I always imagined.   

Looking back, I see 2016 as an answer to the question of ‘how can I exceed my limits?’. In order to outdo the man I had become in 2015, I needed to set afoot the same mountain but climb with more bravado. I needed to shift more focus on fine tuning my execution. How I achieved things became more important than what I achieved. 2016 brought me to a level above and beyond the framework of 2015, to a place where I could love the man I was becoming. But was I climbing to the top of the mountain to see the world, or be seen by the world? I tested myself and explored new frontiers I never imagined.


REFRAME

Looking forward to 2017, I feel a desperate need to remove myself from this pattern of climbing. This mountain analogy is just getting old. I need to change it up. I’m tired of climbing and believe there’s another way to create an impact that is sustainable. I need to refresh myself in those present moments, and not retreat to the memories of the past.

Over the last two years, I’ve come up with mantra phrases that power my performance. I’ll read these every so often to reset, refuel, and reinvigorate. I add new phrases to the list when an epiphany occurs and the right words come along. Now that I read them with introspective eyes though, they remind me of an idealistic man that wants to be seen by the world.

Direction over destination

Presence over productivity

Calling over competition

Legacy over currency

Purpose over passion

Intention over intensity

Substance over style

Function over form

Giving over receiving

Brain over brawn  

I look back at all that I’ve accomplished and can’t help but look forward and feel more pressure than pride, more self-doubt than self-satisfaction. Is my future bound to “Moore’s Law”, a doubling of growth year to year, perhaps infinitely? Is it reasonable to increase the scale of all of my efforts from 2016? Raise the bar even higher? Run two 125k ultramarathons, run 4 marathons, win two 5k road races, compete in a full Ironman instead of a half, create 8 masterclasses instead of 4, and double my 2.0 Summit guestlist from 100 to 200? It’s tough to warrant another go at it just like it’s tough to climb a mountain that gets steeper and steeper with no end in sight. When is enough, enough?

When people say “the journey IS the destination”, I completely agree, but I find it doesn’t justify the value of the destination. In order to fully understand something’s value, it must be taken away or somehow forgotten. In the case of life’s journey, a vast amount of effort must be placed on traversing the journey and experiencing it to the fullest, but what I’m getting at is the appreciation of the journey. “The sweet ain’t as sweet without the sour.” The journey wouldn’t be as sweet if we didn’t go off track sometimes, if we didn’t feel the pain and sorrows from the struggles, and if we didn’t lose our sense of direction and purpose once in awhile. What joy does the destination bring when we journey without appreciating each and every step?  

I feel a new beginning is about to arrive just beyond the horizon. Instead of recreating the steps and reconquering the mountain of that idealistic man, I will not climb to be seen, I will climb to see again. This journey will be fueled by APPRECIATION and it will be guided by the mantra “Patience over Progress”. Appreciation requires that we be patient with progress. Progress requires pacing. When we pace ourselves with patience, we are provided with time to reflect, time to regenerate, and time to just be.

Though it may sound like I am in a state of limbo; lost, dazed and confused, the arrival to this realization is one that may save me from enduring another race up the mountain I may never come back from. As I enter my 30s, one thing I could never have predicted was my ability to self reflect, self monitor, and self love. Part of me really wants to take off up the mountain and never look back, but another part of me knows that the mountain will always be there. I love who I have become, someone who is self aware and satisfied, but also someone who is fascinated by being unaware and uncertain, unsettled with what is yet to come.    

HIGH PERFORMANCE LIVING SOLUTIONS PART 3/5

HIGH PERFORMANCE LIVING SOLUTIONS - PART 3/5

This part 3 blog entry is inspired by Terrence Malik’s film “Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey”. Two versions, one longer version narrated by Cate Blanchette and a shorter version by Brad Pitt, both rewarding cinematic experiences celebrating the profound forces of creation and love. Shot for the IMAX theatre, the film has an incredible cinematographic Planet Earth feel, paired with a poetic and philosophical tone. It describes the journey of the earth’s creation and how it has developed over time. The stunning visuals set the stage for the life-changing narrative. It truly puts the audience in a deep trance of wonderment. The journey elevates our justification of existence by putting it in question. Where did the metaphysical meet the mystical? When did creation converse with causation? How is the technological computing the ethical? And why is the logical in dialogue with the philosophical? You know when a movie is impactful when these kind of questions come to mind weeks after.

This film hit me hard. It was among a few events this season that have helped me focus my state of consciousness, and was the momentum force for what has been a month spent in a stream of consciousness. I remember a time in my youth where deep thinking was something I yearned for, but couldn’t achieve. The capacity to compute complex topics was practically unattainable but extremely desirable. As a Star Wars reference, the inability to deep think felt just like the inability to harness ‘the force’. I knew it was there, I knew of it, but just couldn’t quite embody it and use it. I boil this incapacity down to just not having lived enough life. I was young and inexperienced, but hopeful and hungry. The most inspiring fact of the matter is the state of aspiration.        

WITHOUT ASPIRATION, INSPIRATION HAS AN EXPIRATION DATE.

WITHOUT ASPIRATION, INSPIRATION HAS AN EXPIRATION DATE.

As odd as it may sound, I am grateful for the existential crisis. The state in which we ponder our existence is one that requires a higher level of comprehension and curiosity. Being without the drag of baggage thoughts and draining responsibilities enable a certain luxurious freedom. A freedom to think open-endedly and open-heartedly. My ability to read, watch, absorb, and write are freedoms that I do not take for granted. I understand the circumstances I have been blessed with and wish it upon all beings. Hence why I put in the effort to write with thoughtfulness and sincerity, in hopes to trigger altruistic action and spark existential appreciation to those around me.    

For 2017, my aim is to provide you all with more direction.

Direction is knowing which way to go. But knowing which way to go is just knowing which way to point the compass and how to orient the map. To provide ‘direction’ a true sense of purpose, direction requires a destination, and that my friends, to me, is an arrival to a deeper sense of awareness.

 

[To enhance your reading experience, please listen to the following audio track.] 
Audio Accompaniment: On the Nature of Daylight - Max Richter

Why does sunlight beam?
Why does darkness fall?
Why does water flow?
Why does the wind blow?
Why do we question these laws of nature?

Nature, it seems, is in constant motion. Life perpetuates along the forces of time, gravity, and love. The source of all things may be beyond our knowing, but the resource of all things are all around us and within us. We may not know the answer to ‘why’ yet, but there are things around us and within us to figure it out. We just have to focus our eyes, fine tune our ears, be one with our environment, and be ready to welcome those opportunities that bring us closer to knowing. To understand where the start of the beginning is, or where the founding of the foundation is, there must be a strong power of will, and a deep curiosity for why.
 

DO YOU SEE OR DO YOU SEEK?

DO YOU SEE OR DO YOU SEEK?

Why do we desire?
Why do we wonder?
Why do we long?
Why do we hope?
Why do we ask why and not just accept things as they are?

Nurture, it seems, is in constant flux. Ebbing and flowing, rising and falling, but always holding on, never ceasing to exist in humanity. The optimistic reality of our growth as a connected communion forces us to realize how special it is that there is something rather than nothing. But why is there something rather than nothing? This question can be seen as the crisis, the crux, the condemnation to existence. But it can also be seen as the chance, the opportunity, the destiny to life as we know it. Let us nurture the optimism that resides in each and every one of us, for it is our nature to look onwards and upwards.  

We are a way for the cosmos to know itself
— Carl Sagan

My fascination with ‘why’ is one that fuels my fire. It sets momentum to my movement and it gives meaning to what, when, where, and how. Without why, my desire to run races, teach classes, read books, watch movies, write blogs, and experience life would be greatly challenged. ‘Why’ is a constant reminder. It is the energy source for what activities I choose to engage, when I choose to speed up and slow down, where I choose to travel and where to call my home, how I choose to connect with people and things. Why is the breath that inspiration breathes. Only within the last 100 years of human history has our life expectancy exceeded 50 years. But what of those extra years?

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.
— Abraham Lincoln

Although this quantum leap in the length of our lives is something to celebrate, it also comes with a cost. Jeffrey Iliff, neuroscientist, PhD, and Ted Talker, shared some new terms and principles to the Equinox health and fitness community at the NYC Fall High Performance Living Symposium back in early November.

His lecture “forward thinking: maintaining cognitive reserve now and in the decades to come”, was one of my top takeaway solutions to high performance living. In order to live what you love at length, and investigate the almighty ‘why’, we must employ strategies and tactics to empower our mind’s resistance to damage of the brain, also known as ‘Cognitive Reserve’. The way he quickly explained it was a reference to the movie Mad Max: Fury Road. Imagine your brain is the war rig truck that Charlize Theron’s character “Imperator Furiosa” fiercely drove down Fury Road. Cognitive Reserve is the condition of the truck; it’s function, it’s physique, it’s strength, it’s vitality, it’s health. 

Cognitive reserve will degrade and weaken over time based on a few factors:

  • Degradation occurs at differing rates depending on ‘how bumpy the road is’, aka how many obstacles and traumas one faces through the journey of life (concussions, head trauma, falls, blows to the head, etc.)
     
  • Daily lifestyle practices and habits can strongly influence the nutrient delivery, blood flow, and toxicity within the brain (smoking, stress management, physical activity, learning).
     
  • Sleep quality and quantity can affect memory consolidation (retention), synaptic scaling (ability to focus and clear the fog), and brain washing/cleansing (ability to detoxify).
    • Jeffrey’s team discovered the ‘Glymphatic System’, the brain’s cleansing system. It is one of the most crucial arguments behind the importance of sleep, which enable cellular repair, reset, and regeneration.
       
  • Other secondary factors that correspond with a delayed onset of mental disease and cognitive reserve degradation include: Higher levels of education, occupational attainment, a variety in leisure and prescribed physical activity, and frequent sociability.

‘Cognitive Sustainability’ is the principle Jeffrey concluded with as a message to take care of your brain now, not later, not when signs and symptoms start to show, but when you have the awareness. Strong points to take home:

  • The brain’s resistance to degradation is in large part determined by lifestyle practices.

  • The brain you build now is the brain you’ll have later on in life.

  • Mental health is behavioral health.

snoopy kiss.jpg

 

Here are some of my current practices I perform that can assist with repair, reset, and regeneration:

  1. Elevation (Legs up the wall pose)

  2. Decompression (Hanging, Spinal Segmentation Folding)

  3. Reflexology (Lacrosse Ball Foot Massage, cobblestone mat)

  4. Daily Stretching  

  5. Breathing:

    1. Crocodile breathing

    2. 4-7-8 breath

  6. Mindfulness cooking

  7. Daily Yoga

  8. Steam & Sauna

  9. Contrast shower (1 minute hot: 1 minute cold: 6 minutes total)

  10. Compression tights for enhanced circulation and blood pressure

CRYOTHERAPY! 

CRYOTHERAPY! 

As you can tell with my latest writings, my current investigations are not quite ‘Fitness’ based, but more so among the architecture of lifestyle design through behavioural study and inquiry. The term Lifestyle Medicine is one that is gaining traction in the health and fitness community and I am definitely a proponent of it. I have been defining my career as Fitness-centric, but I am only now coming to terms with the fact that ‘Fitness’ is just one small aspect of what I aspire to center my life’s work. The way I see it, Lifestyle Medicine is an umbrella that includes categories such as Physical Activity and Fitness, Diet and Nutrition, Rest and Regeneration, Mental Wellness, Behavioural Health, and Spirituality. My mission for 2017 is to broaden my scope not only as a Fitness Professional, but as a Health and Lifestyle Practitioner. I hope to share the fruits of this holistic enlightenment with you, and provide you more direction toward your destination.

To conclude, the justification and validation for upholding best health practices such as maintaining cognitive reserve, conducting daily introspection, and performing regeneration rituals, come from our curiosity for ‘WHY’, and our aspiration to grow from it.
 

Allow awareness to be your destination.
Let destination guide your direction.
And share your direction with connection, compassion, and appreciation.  

Thank you for reading.

With love,

Julian

[To enhance your meditative experience, take a listen to this beautiful track below]
Audio accompaniment: D92 8:50PM - Jim Perkins

LIFE IS THE JOURNEY ... JUST TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME. 

LIFE IS THE JOURNEY ... JUST TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME. 

HIGH PERFORMANCE LIVING SOLUTIONS - PART 2/5

Welcome to Part 2 of my report on my learnings and ideas sparked by the Equinox High Performance Living Symposium I attended in NYC in November. I covered the work of Gray Cook in Part 1 and now I am going to somewhat cover Brandon Marcello's exciting and entertaining lecture called “Recovery and Regeneration. What is it, why we need it, and how to implement it”.

Brandon Marcello - PhD - Sport Nutrition, MS & BS - Exercise Science, US Olympic Coach - Softball, Stanford University Director - Sports Performance

Brandon Marcello - PhD - Sport Nutrition, MS & BS - Exercise Science, US Olympic Coach - Softball, Stanford University Director - Sports Performance

Although Brandon’s talk was chocked full of helpful tips and great takeaways, when I say somewhat cover, I actually mean I will not be expanding upon his list of best practices for Recovery and Regeneration (R&R) in this blog entry (sorry Brandon, not that he'll read this anyways). Instead, I will be expanding on the psychosocial factors that influence the value of R&R. 

I believe it is my responsibility to take from my Part 1 blog entry on Gray Cook’s screening protocols, and assess the influencing factors to an industry’s shift towards more R&R. I hope to speak on why I believe we at Equinox are so gung-ho about R&R. Why now? And to what value can R&R provide you beyond just stating the what-to-do’s, why-to do's, and how-to-do's.
My thoughts and opinions are my own, they are a mashup of my influences from all aspects of life, and this blog entry is aimed at curious ‘Lifestyle as Medicine’ ambassadors, and holistic health and fitness advocates. Those that enjoy a unique creative writing style, filled with poetic inclinations, philosophical undertones, well-intentioned life-enhancing information, and pop cultural references will be most entertained.

My blog will first evaluate the source of our imbalanced exercise approach. The mere fact that R&R is a trendy topic of discussion is a sign that we are working out too frequently and too intensely without much regard for restorative practices. Secondly, we need to adopt a continuum-based diagnostic approach to objectively map our motivations, and manage our actions. All things in life can scale and change, therefore I believe a continuum lense is vital to gaining a healthy perspective. And lastly, we need to forge a platform for context-driven decision making, and by that I believe we need to ask the right questions in a manner that allows our perspectives to be free of bias and dogma. From these three investigative strategies can we truly benefit from Brandon Marcello or any health professional’s Recovery & Regeneration recommendations.     

Recovery and Regeneration Protocol - Ice bath for decreasing inflammation

Recovery and Regeneration Protocol - Ice bath for decreasing inflammation

We are walking contradictions. We are big talking indecision makers. We are our own self driving slave drivers. A climate of ambivalence in an ecosystem of overabundance has weathered us down into a thunderous existential crisis. Two roads diverged in a wood, we somehow know to take the road less traveled. Being that the journey was the destination all along, we end up finding ourselves, but frighteningly realize we were never lost, just dazed and confused. What use is motion without a compass? What use is a target without a map? And what good is direction without a destination? 

Rowing harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction
— Kenichi Ohmae

I find my life so fascinatingly contradictory at times. I run before I crawl. I act before I think. I expect the unexpected. I want what I can’t have. I say what’s not on my mind. I strike when the iron’s cold. I always know when I never try. I’m afraid of what I can’t control. I have a bad habit of closing doors when they’re open. I hate myself for loving too honestly. I’m constantly torn between ‘if it’s meant to be it will be’ and ‘if you want it go and get it’.   

The contradictions we all experience are created by our desire to do more with less. We consistently go beyond our means and expect to gain without loss. Our meritocratic free world has morphed the sadistic work-life balance into a masochistic world of life-work balance. Instead of working 9-5, people brag of the 5-9 workday. “Being busy” is like wearing a badge of honour in today’s societal cult of productivity. This seductive results-driven high performance lifestyle has got me thinking why and to what end? Why high performance? Is the alluring lifestyle sustainable? As a fitness coach with high standards, high expectations, and high aims, I teach towards high performance. But the human in me begs the questions: am I liberating or limiting my students when I push them to their maximal threshold, to the point just before collapse, and to the place where the uncomfortable becomes comfortable. I’m either a hero that helps people fulfill their dreams or I’m a villain that walks the fine line between sociopath and health coach vigilante. 

You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
— Two-Face

I ask them and myself, how hard is hard enough? How fast is fast enough? How smart is smart enough? How excellent is excellent enough? What is enough? What is the limit? Why do we try to outsmart Newton and disprove his 3rd law of motion, when we know “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. Don’t we know that this behavior of too much yang without enough yin will lead to acute/chronic injury and adrenal fatigue. Why do we spend so much time working-out when we should be balancing it with more working-in?

Finding Traction is a documentary about Nikki Kimball, one of the world’s most successful female ultramarathon runners. (I have a point that I’m making that conveniently uses this recent Netflix doc, so sit tight.) The movie documented her rollercoaster of a journey through the 273 mile Long Trail in Vermont, the longest hiking trail in the world. I deduced her purpose for running into three main reasons: legacy, physiology, and psychology. (I will get back to Nikki.)

Freudian psychoanalysis says that in order for humans to satisfy biological and psychological needs, they are motivated by two things and two things only: pain avoidance and pleasure seeking. To find traction and clarity on our quest for a healthy balanced lifestyle, I envision these two motivations put on opposite ends of a continuum spectrum; pain avoidance on the left side, pleasure seeking on the opposite right side. I envision Nikki’s three purposes for running plotted along this continuum; legacy closer to pleasure seeking, physiology off center more to the left, and psychology a little further to the left for Nikki since she suffers from intermittent depression. From this plot, I am then able to scale her three running purposes more objectively rather than define them as either pain avoidance or pleasure seeking absolutes, because after all, one’s purpose can shift and change relative to many confounding factors.

The continuum-based thinking puts dualities like hero and villain, black and white, strong and weak, on even playing ground fielded by opportunities to scale. In reality, we are both the hero and the villain, we see in shades of gray, and we fluctuate between strength and weakness and elicit value from both.      

Set on a continuum, Nikki’s three reasons for running plotted along Freud's two motivational forces, is a method to measure any and all actions. Let us use this method to release our obsession with absolutes and encourage a more rational and relative approach to what we endeavor. It’s just like weighing the pros and cons of our actions. Before jumping into a decision, take a second to assess whether your action is pleasure seeking or pain avoiding. Am I foam rolling because it feels fantastic or am I doing it because I want to avoid potential injury. This will validate your reason for foam rolling, and thus will encourage you to do it more often with more meaning. When we know why we do things, what we do becomes much clearer.   

Another strategy to add to our arsenal on decision making when implementing more R&R in our lives is to ask the famous 5W questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, (+How). They are the questions we are taught to ask regarding anything and everything. They are the pillars to finding answers. I enjoy personifying words because I believe they bring more meaning and relatability to my life. I am particularly excited by Will Smith’s new upcoming movie Collateral Beauty. His character personifies words and he writes letters to them. They are time, love, and death, and they respond to him in the form of people who are other characters in the movie. I think this concept is wonderfully imaginative and a bit cheesy, but I love Will Smith cheesy!  

Below are my (cheesy) personifications of the 5Ws and how they may help provide you direction. Here’s some of their advice (take your time absorbing these, read it over a few times, and visualize a famous actor to personify each of these words):

    • Mr. Why: "Be clear about your purpose and intentions, communicate them with confidence, and in return the path will be bright and enlightening".   

    • Ms. What: "Be strategic about your best practices, organize them accordingly, and in return the stepping stones become firm and uplifting."

    • Mrs. Who: "Be vulnerable to your guides, show humility, and in return people will catch you when you fall, and will be the wind at your back when you least expect it."

    • Mr. How: "Be unrelenting about effort and execution, be bold and consistent, and in return your tools will widen your range of ability and accelerate your pace."

    • Ms. Where: "Be open-minded about uncontrollable climate, storms will come and go, be proactive and adaptable, in return your perspective will shift and thus reveal a deeper sense of self."

    • Mr. When: "Be brave about uncertainty and doubt, befriend fear and embrace the unknowing, and in return you will know why this was all meant to be."

Hopefully this Part 2 blog entry has provided you with insight on how to think about R&R, not just as a means to an end, but a justification to reach a higher purpose and deeper meaning. I hope the continuum approach and the personification of the 5Ws are two strategies that can help you make better decisions. They are methods that can help you screen for, regulate, and determine the most effective course of action regarding your journey to optimal health. It may help you decipher movement as use or abuse, nutrition as utility or futility, and R&R as gain or pain.

Just remember, when you are clear with Mr. Why, Ms. What teaches you efficiency, Mrs. Who reveals opportunity, Mr. How coaches you effectiveness, Ms. Where steers discipline, and Mr. When reminds you of patience and appreciation. 

Thank you for reading my blog.
All the best on your R&R endeavors, and next week, I’ll be posting my Part 3.

Always a pleasure,
Keep well,

Julian

ps. 

- Hippocrates

- Hippocrates

HIGH PERFORMANCE LIVING SOLUTIONS - PART 1/5

INTRODUCTION

- The Equinox High Performance Living Symposium -

Two weekends ago, I flew to NYC to attend a fitness and health care symposium hosted by Equinox Fitness Clubs, the leader in high-end fitness, health and lifestyle. The aim of the gathering was to solve for and release research on high performance living. Top minds in the fields of fitness, kinesiology, physical therapy, neuroscience, psychology, chiropody, medicine, cognitive behavioral science, and regenerative wellness came together to share their recent workings through lectures and practical sessions. These creative scientists presented on their current and future initiatives, and offered opinions and constructive solutions to movement, psychosocial, and overall health and wellbeing. Here is a report on my learnings and thoughts from the presentations that intrigued me the most. This blog entry will consist of 5 parts in no particular order. My intention for sharing this valuable information is to provide you with the latest trends and insights to help open you to new perspectives, practices, and principles.  

PART 1 - “HACKING MOVEMENT”

- Gray Cook -
Physical Therapist, Orthopedic Specialist,
Strength and Conditioning Coach, 
Founder of Functional Movement Systems
Developer of the
Functional Movement Screen
Author of the book "Movement"

Gray Cook is a Yoda in orthopedics, physical therapy, and fitness. He is one of the top minds in the world because he can take principles in kinesiology and physiology, and integrate them with modern sociology and psychology, in a manner that inspires us to take action, relevant to our daily lives. 

Gray defines ‘hacking’ as a strategy to manage one’s time, activities, and obstacles in a more effective manner as efficiently as possible. His opening thoughts on physical competency and literacy struck a chord with most professionals in the audience. As high level fitness professionals and athletes, we have already hacked movement. We are highly conditioned to move without consideration. We guiltily move effortlessly and flawlessly. We hold the highest and most blinding standards of performance with no regard for sub-par. We move gracefully and full of finesse without thinking. Our autopilot ability to move with perfection has ironically become our crutch. 

The problem with most movement specialists is that we take our abilities for granted. We have come to under appreciate the complexity of functional movement systems. Many of us have trouble empathizing with our clientele and class participants because movement has always come relatively easy to us since childhood. In order to hack our client’s movement, first we need to establish a baseline examination process that provides us with data from which to further investigate.

Gray briefly outlined his game-changing "Functional Movement Screen", a test developed to target problems and track progress. The screen is based on primitive movement patterns available to all human bodies. Bottomline, a screening process is an integral tool that should be administered by all movement practitioners. It can prevent injuries from happening, it can establish priorities for movement programming, and it can highlight strengths and limitations.  

Gray says that the screen not only enables practitioners, but it empowers them with information on their clients. One major problem our industry continually battles with is physical literacy. We get overly excited and anxious to perform movement that we overlook its fundamentals and our own flaws. We want to perform movement poetry before we even know the movement alphabet.

Even before administering the Functional Movement Screen, I believe there should be a pre-screening that includes communicating intentions, prioritizing realistic goals, screening for cognitive biases, counselling psycho-social concerns, and examining pre-existing conditioning and compensatory issues. If all fitness professionals and movement specialists were to screen and pre-screen with such depth and detail, we'd all be prepared to succeed.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail
— Benjamin Franklin

An intriguing observation was Gray’s use of computing terminology to speak on movement coaching. Perhaps his recent lecture to Google altered his vocabulary, but curiously, he used computer science words such as download, upload, plug-and-play, software, hardware, bandwidth, data storage, disk drive full, default setting, compute, and operating system, to better communicate his coaching principles and philosophies. I believe we were witness to a reshaping and paradigm shift of our current state of movement linguistics, not with the intention to complicate, but to better relate to our ever growing tech-savvy culture. For example, I ask my clientele what their default settings are when it comes to times of stress. Alcohol, sugar, smoking, fatty foods, simple carbs? How can you better manage your default settings? Why have these defaults been set? Can new defaults be downloaded or is your disk drive too full for new data? I think you get the point. Of all things, I didn't see an upgrade in movement language and vocabulary as the novel game changing approach to coaching. But hey, maybe it'll catch on with the millennials!

Gray's allusion to the concept of ‘movement as a language’ opened my mind to the necessity for movement interpreters and translators, not just trainers and instructors. I get the impression that trainers and instructors get too caught up in the ‘what to do’s’ and ‘how-to’s’, they under-coach the ‘when’ and ‘why’. As Simon Sinek says, "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it". 

I just recently watched the film Arrival with Amy Adams and am completely intrigued by Gray's lecture and its correlation to the film's message. If we were faced with aliens that could only communicate with movement, Gray Cook would be the North American interpreter, i.e., Amy Adams' character. To me, he would be the most creative and scientific mind we have to represent mankind, responsible for uniting not only humans with aliens, but uniting ourselves with each other.   

I believe what Gray has offered to the health and fitness industry can also be seen as metaphors for our daily lives beyond the gym. Screening ourselves before we tackle a challenge is in essence developing a strong sense of self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-monitoring.

Seek a qualitative minimum before considering quantities
— Gray Cook

Since one's relationship with movement can determine the bond between mind, body, and spirit, physical literacy needs to be taught at an early age. As integral as learning the linguistic ABC’s is to a child's growth and development, we must put in the same efforts towards learning the physical ABC’s. We must learn to interpret and compute movement through a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis. And it can start with hacking the movement language. After all, actions speak louder than words.     

Since actions speak louder than words, perhaps movement will be mankind's secret weapon of the future. Thoughts?

Thank you for reading,

Sincerely,

Julian

New perspectives to finish out 2016

Asia reflections, lessons, and meditations

It’s been a week and a half since being back from my amazing trip to Hong Kong and Taipei. I can confidently say that this trip was the most well balanced trip out east to date. I attribute this great balance to management. I believe that travel success boils down to one’s ability to manage expectations and energy. Control your focus to control your physiology, and vice versa.

Hong Kong Cityscape from Victoria Peak

Hong Kong Cityscape from Victoria Peak

I made sure to do only one big thing a day and not cram. I maintained hydration at all times (water bottle on me 24/7). I ate delicious food throughout the day but made sure I had raw greens daily (in the form of salads, smoothies, or juices). I kept up with my health supplements (pre-packed from home - probiotic, tumeric, fish oil, holy basil, ashwagandha, primrose oil). I slept a minimum of 8 hours daily in a comfy bed (no compromise, but black out blinds were difficult to achieve). I exercised daily in the form of hiking, yoga, gym, running, or in-home core and calisthenics (here is where I worked on things that allowed me to be a better vacationer; mobility, flexibility, breathing, flow movements, and detoxifying movements like running and light plyometrics to stimulate enhanced circulation, immunity, lymphatic drainage, and waste removal). I remained consistent with my morning and evening rituals from home. I didn’t forfeit these daily rituals because I was on vacation (which I used to do).

New perspective: I wasn’t on vacation from my daily rituals, I was on vacation with them. I came to the realization that they are my life companions; they are a part of me, and I am very proud of them.

I clearly communicated these healthy habits with my hosts (brother, family members, and friends), and that opened up exciting conversations I always hoped of having with my loved ones abroad. You could say the only thing I didn’t expect was how much I took away from the trip!  

Twin Brother Nathan (right) and I (left)??? Story....I bought Nathan a matching Adidas hat for our birthday and wanted us to wear it together so that we could match (not often do we get to be identical), to my surprise (and maybe not so much), he and I ended up bringing along the same swim trunks! What a creepy and cute coincidence!

Twin Brother Nathan (right) and I (left)??? Story....I bought Nathan a matching Adidas hat for our birthday and wanted us to wear it together so that we could match (not often do we get to be identical), to my surprise (and maybe not so much), he and I ended up bringing along the same swim trunks! What a creepy and cute coincidence!

Traveling is a unique form of education that teaches life skills and abilities. Organizing, planning, and executing are skills that can make or break a travel experience. Flexibility, open-mindedness, and endurance are abilities that can make a trip a dream vacation or a nightmare. To truly reap the benefits and make traveling a life changing learning experience, it takes two to tango. I realized that the trip wasn’t going to teach me unless I was willing and proactive about learning. What you put in is what you get out...and then some.  

 

Below are a few more lessons I learned from this short but impactful trip.  

LESSON #1 - DON'T SET GOALS, SET INTENTIONS.  

Now that I'm back in the swing of things, I surprisingly haven't set any goals in the conventional sense. People first ask how my trip was, then they ask when's my next race, when's the date for the next 2.0 workshop, then comes OMG, YOU HAVE A TWIN!?!?!?, then what's in store for the rest of 2016? What are your goals?

Well, to answer that truthfully, I don't have any goals. Wait, I'm lying ... sorry...

My final goal for 2016 is ...

TO NOT SET ANY GOALS! No big races, no 2.0 events, no pursuits to conquer. I just intend on being present and appreciative.

Setting goals can sometimes lead to disappointment, anxiety, unnecessary pressure, competition over calling, and a shackling to a limiting world of black and white. Instead of setting goals, I'm setting intentions. We live in a colorful world filled with unlimited shades of possibilities. As of right now, I don’t feel like limiting myself to the road of goal attainment after goal attainment where there is no end in sight but another goal to attain. Instead, my mind is exploring for the sake of exploring. I’m on a mission to liberate my goal-oriented mind by setting intentions to fulfill my purpose, and live by the mantra of 'calling over competition'.

LESSON #2 - WE ARE NOT HUMAN DOINGS, WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS.

I'm starting to see a different side to my favourite Batman quote, "It's not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you". Instead of being defined by my actions and accomplishments, perhaps more of who I am are the things that I don't do or haven’t done yet but want to do. The things I procrastinate on, the things I fear, the things I push aside, the things I deny, the things I am shameful of, and the things I hide. We all present a biased side of ourselves to mask our deepest and darkest secrets. In fact, we may be more like Two-Face than Batman. Perhaps leaving things to chance may help bring us a little more peace than trying to control every moment of life. Instead of living a life in pursuit of happiness, in pursuit of love, in pursuit of productivity, instead, living a life with no expectations, no set plans, no agenda, no pursuit other than living a life full of good will, might be how happiness and love ensue.

Another thought path along this idea is how we need to take more responsibility for our actions. Being aware of what we decide to share publicly and privately, what we decide not to share at all, these are choices that come with consequences whichever way you play it. It’s just a matter of how we play the cards we have not only been dealt, but the cards we have dealt ourselves. Let’s take responsibility on how we influence others, and by less ‘doing’, we allow ourselves time to clean up shop, reorganize, and rejuvenate by just ‘being’. We thus give ourselves time to explore better options and therefore make better decisions.

Don't do, just be. I have not stopped and given up, I am simply giving myself time to marinate in the year’s accomplishments. I am taking responsibility of all the things I neglected. And I am investing my energy for the in-season by being extremely present in the off-season.   

Being present. 

Being present. 

 

LESSON #3 - PRESENCE AND PRODUCTIVITY?

did my best to focus on practicing mindfulness on my trip so that I could be that much more immersed and engaged in my experiences. Tasting, feeling, smelling, hearing, seeing, and being are naturally elevated by the external stimulations of food, people, fragrances, sounds, sites, and ambiance. Overtime, we somehow become dependent on using and abusing these external stimuli to excite us, that we just sit back and relax, and outsource our means for living life to the fullest. We become lost and consumed by the things that happen to us. Instead, we should focus on the things that happen for us and by us. I’m talking about using ‘mindfulness’ as a tool to elevate our human experience. It is our intrinsic systems that need to step up and produce sincere and genuine means of excitement and joy. Presence is like a muscle that needs to be flexed, worked, conditioned, sharpened, and honed for maximum effectiveness.  

Maria Popova of Brainpickings says, presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living.”  I agree that productivity is also a muscle that requires conditioning too. It is a cult that our society knows all too well. Yes, it has its benefits and values that are undeniably rewarding, but perhaps we can further explore the cult of presence and discover its benefits and values not only as its own ‘religion’, but how we can benefit from being both present and productive. I believe we can have the best of both worlds. I believe when one practices presence through mindfulness, one can be extremely productive afterwards, and when one is productive, it lays the groundwork for a clear mind that can be stress-free, baggage-less, and confidently present.    

Victoria Peak Hidden Garden

Victoria Peak Hidden Garden

 

LESSON #4 - 'THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE'

Some have told me how cool it is that my trip has influenced my physical appearance in the form of my hair color and fashion change. As superficial and materialistic as that sounds, I don’t care, I am definitely one for expressing my inner self with my outer self. Change is self expression. Change is a choice. Change is growth. Change is a mindset. Change is an experience. I see change as a force of nature. I see it’s manifestation as a force of nurture. I am changing, therefore I am change, and because I am change, I am a force of life. Change is also a tool and can be/should be scaled relative to one’s priorities, context and circumstances. I am learning that the takeaway message is not what I am changing into, or what I hope to change into, but just the simple fact that I am embracing and embodying change. Don’t just talk the talk or walk the walk, be the talk and the walk.
Be the message you hope to share with the world.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my 4 lessons from my Asia trip reflections. I love sharing my mind’s eye and provoking thought with my writing. Please leave your comments on these lessons. Would love to hear from you.

With much love, life force, and laughter,

Sincerely,

Julian

 

MY 2.0 SUMMIT 2016 FOLLOW UP

#JUSTDOYOU #AREYOUNEXTLEVEL #GETAUTHENTIC 

2.0 SUMMIT 2016 PRESENTERS

2.0 SUMMIT 2016 PRESENTERS

Dearest readers,

I am writing to you as midnight strikes on the day that marks another stepping stone milestone in my life. My 2.0 Summit, a holistic fitness event, humbly referred to as the Ted Talks of Group Fitness in Toronto, wrapped up and is now in a meditative state. The low hum buzz fills the cool autumn air with fresh fascination for the future. I had the pleasure of hosting 100 beautiful participants that I now warmly refer to as my newest 2.0 tribe members, along with 9 of the most talented, courageous, and influential presenters Toronto has to offer. We danced, touched, pushed, pulled, played, crawled, flowed, squatted, jumped, sprawled, laughed, cried, smiled, and hugged for a full 3 hours. With strangers, lovers, friends, and family, we came together to connect, learn, listen, and support elevated fitness, movement, and mindfulness, holism, in honour of mental health and charity.

Below are 3 things, a Q&A, my closing words “21 Questions”, and a Survey Monkey. I look forward to hearing reflections and feedback on your 2.0 experience, and feeling your excitement for the next 2.0 event.

With love,

Julian



Q&A with www.welltodo.ca

1. Why was it important to you to organize an event like this in Toronto? What inspired you to launch this event last year?

Toronto is home to multiculturalism, mosaic diversity, and open-mindedness. Hence, Toronto is the perfect breeding ground for a collaborative and interconnected fitness community. My inspiration came from The Macy Conferences in the 1940’s. Their goal was to promote meaningful communication across scientific disciplines, and restore unity to science.  My motivation was to break the mold of industry, where people compete out of ego, and instead, build a better platform for people to connect in the name of altruism.  It is this ethos that inspired 2.0’s birth 4 years ago. I am extremely grateful to those that have believed in my vision and passion ever since.

2. There are so many fitness events around the city, but 2.0 sets itself apart in part because of the concepts of fitness experts not only leading a workout but a talk (work-in) as well. What was the impetus behind creating a more holistic event?

In my first ever experience with Yoga, I was told that Asana (poses) act as preparation for meditation. In order to achieve a peaceful mind, one must first achieve a peaceful body. The aim is to release any stress and anxiety, untangle and unwind so that the mind can deeply focus. In my studies with Paul Chek (holistic health guru), ‘working-in’ can be just as if not more important than ‘working-out’. It is the balance of Yin and Yang that must be more deeply investigated in the western world. To the majority, fitness is seen as a vehicle for aesthetic and physical improvement, but I see the word ‘fitness’ as a vehicle for the integration of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual development. We are greater than the sum of our parts, which speaks to 'holism' as the philosophy we could be investing in, and a proactive, holistic health approach we could all be adhering to ... should we endeavor to enlighten and evolve.    

3. Tell me a bit about the theme of Authenticity. Why did you choose it for this year’s theme and what does it mean to you? What does it mean in terms of the fitness and wellness community?

To be completely honest, last year I separated from my girlfriend of 4 years. It was and will remain one of the deepest wounds to my heart. From that breakup, I made ‘Adversity as fuel’ my personal mantra for 2015. It helped me climb to new heights in education and career I never would have imagined. Thus I cannot be anything else but grateful. 

To this day, I am tremendously curious and fascinated by the concept and power of love. Instead of using negative to fuel positive, instead of sourcing motivation from external love, I paradigm shifted to self-love. ‘Authenticity as fuel’ is my personal mantra for 2016. “Just do you” is the tagline that my inner circle of friends use with each other when faced with adversity and indecision. Journeying to authenticity is about loving thyself first. When fitness and wellness can be used as vehicles for self-betterment, new definitions of love are birthed.

4. On the website, you ask the questions we need to ask ourselves to “authenticate your legacy”. Can you share your answers to the same questions?

- What is your one love?

Connecting with people, nature, and things.

- Who can you love becoming?

A curator of experiences for connection. A content creator for the future of fitness. An empathetic father. A loving and supportive son and brother.

- What drives you?

Hope for a kinder and more conscious future.

- What do you dream about?

A world that works together to create, discover, and explore new frontiers in the sciences, arts, and humanities. Collaborating with like-minded individuals on projects that push the boundaries of the human spirit.   

- What do you want to be remembered for?

I would like to be remembered for connecting people with others and connecting with themselves. I would like to be remembered more for my questions and questioning, than my answers. I would also like to be remembered for my creative leadership, my loyalty, and my kinship.

5. How do you choose the Masters for your events?

The presenters are first and foremost my mentors and friends. I look up to them because of their courage, leadership, and open-mindedness. I trust in their integrity, ability, and devotion to their craft. They are people that see fitness, wellness, and movement as an opportunity to coach to higher principles of life and lifestyle.

6. You refer to the industry as “divided” on the 2.0 website. We know what you mean: a huge part of the mission behind Well TO Do is to bring together all of the amazing events, places, and people in the Toronto wellness community. Can you talk a bit more about why the community is so divided as well as how we can bring it together?

I mentioned at the 2.0 Summit that we are in the middle of a paradigm shift. The specialists gave us invention and innovation, but now is the time to honour the specialists by listening to the generalists. These generalists are not the best at one thing, they are simply good at many things. Because of this diversity of expertise, they can empathize with many disciplines, see patterns and connections, and bring a level of interbeing like never before. We can only go so far alone, we must surrender the ego, entrust in others, and work together to create a community out of an industry. By working together, we can push the boundaries towards new frontiers in fitness.

7. Why did you decide to dedicate this year’s event to CMH and why is that cause important? How will the event benefit CMH (i.e. all proceeds, portion of proceeds, etc)?

2.0’s journey to authenticity is a mission to improve mental health awareness. CAMH is a leader in research, development, and fundraising for a brighter and stronger future in mental health. 2.0’s efforts throughout the year via its monthly workshops and this past weekend's summit are multi-purpose. We aimed to coach virtues and values through holistic fitness experiences that not only raise money, but raise holistic intelligence, and the overall mental health of those involved. A win-win-win situation for 2.0 organizers and presenters, 2.0 tribe members and participants, and CAMH.   

At the Summit, I didn’t approach the topic of mental health conventionally. I didn’t use technical terms, nor did I really tap into the verbiage that most expect when speaking about ‘mental health’. My approach with 2.0 today was to move away from the heaviness, the clinical, the textbook, and the sterility, and make mental health conversational through anecdotes, positivity, and tangible teachings via fitness. I believe mental health needs to be approached multi-sensory: kinesthetic, auditorily, and visually.          

8. With so much fitness and wellness advice and “expertise” available all over social media from experts and “experts”, why is it important for you to bring the community together in person?

I believe my generation is the bridge between those that were born without the internet and those that were born with it. My generation knows what it’s like to climb trees, read books, research via encyclopedias, use a paper map, and be lost in nature. My generation also knows how to hashtag, screenshot, snap, google, and tweet. Bringing the community together in person is the best way humans have connected authentically throughout history. I encouraged the use of tech and social media to share the 2.0 celebration because the world needs to see these magical moments. We have still yet so much to learn about online vs. offline pros and cons, for now, we must experiment and leverage both worlds as vividly as possible.     

9. What is exciting to you right now about the Toronto wellness community?

The word wellness can be so broad and expansive if you choose to think about it that way. We are liberated by our means and methods to expose wellness for what it can be. We just need the courage to do so, and it starts with vulnerability. I am excited by people’s perspectives on wellness and how they are playing off of history’s best practices. In Toronto, I am excited by the cross-pollination of experts, brands, companies, teachers, institutes, genres, disciplines, industries, and communities. 2.0 is just one tiny example of this. I am glad to be part of this excitement.

Beyond Toronto, I am excited by Ido Portal, Kelly Starrett, Andreo Spina, Tom Myers, John Berardi, Michael Pollan, Paul Chek, Tim Ferriss, and many more as they relate directly or indirectly to wellness.


 

21 QUESTIONS

  1. You hear, but do you listen?

  2. You see, but do you seek?

  3. You touch, but do you feel?

  4. You taste, but do you savour?

  5. You smile, but are you happy?

  6. We hug, but do we embrace?

  7. We caress, but do we care?

  8. We move, but are we moved?

  9. We think, but are we thoughtful?

  10. We listen, but do we learn?

  11. You act, but do you take action?

  12. We are active, but are we activists?

  13. You learn movement, but do you know of THE movement?

  14. We produce movement, but can we become THE movement?

  15. I am different, but am I making a difference?

  16. Have you stopped playing because you've grown old, or are you growing old because you've stopped playing?

  17. Why do we strive for greatness before gratefulness?

  18. Do we summit the mountain to see, or do we summit the mountain to be seen?

  19. Do we give to receive, or is giving receiving?

  20. We love, but are we in-love?

  21. We live, but are we full of life?


 

#crewlove

#crewlove

CANADIAN DEATH RACE 2016 INSTAGRAM RECAP

Over the course of my Canadian Death Race 125KM Ultramarathon, I shared my experiences via Instagram, which is my current main platform for sharing ideas, thoughts, and experiences. Here is a conglomerate of my Instagram posts for those who do not partake in a frequent schedule of social media. I hope you enjoy my heartfelt words from my most vulnerable, emotional, and reflective states. I am working on a follow up blog that will cover what I ate, what I drank, what I listened to, what I thought about, and more.   

 

JULY 30 - 1 MORE SLEEP

Mind is calm. Body is relaxed. Emotions are high. Spirits are bright. Before sleep, I knew in my mind that I was going to finish without a doubt. It was the most confident I've ever felt in my life about anything so challenging. 

Mind is calm. Body is relaxed. Emotions are high. Spirits are bright. Before sleep, I knew in my mind that I was going to finish without a doubt. It was the most confident I've ever felt in my life about anything so challenging. 

SELF-TIPS...SELF-TALK...

  • Start slow finish strong
  • Celebration over examination
  • Steady pace happy race
  • Don't be a nut listen to your gut
  • Underpromise overdeliver
  • Be cool not a fool 

JULY 31 - I'M READY...TO DIE TRYING

READY TO ROCK!!!! 125k of Canada's #rockies Nervous and excited. Anxious and exhilarated. Afraid and loving it. Sometimes the start of the race is overlooked compared to the end of the race. I love pre-race sensations. It's the uncomfortable uncertainty that makes you feel truly alive.  Pre-race jitters makes the end-race glitter.    

READY TO ROCK!!!! 125k of Canada's #rockies
Nervous and excited. Anxious and exhilarated. Afraid and loving it. Sometimes the start of the race is overlooked compared to the end of the race. I love pre-race sensations. It's the uncomfortable uncertainty that makes you feel truly alive. 
Pre-race jitters makes the end-race glitter.  

 

What we become – what we are – ultimately consists of what we have been doing.
— Gandhi

JULY 31 - HOW HIGH. HOW DEEP. HOW FAR.

Midway through the race. I hit some major low points. I realized I was looking down and hunched over for these tough times. So I changed my posture and gaze, I started looking around and kept my head up. 'Keep your head up' can be used figuratively, but also literally. It took much of my energy to stay positive, but I know there is always light within me when I think of my family. I used them as a continual source of motivation. I kept moving one foot in front of the other, onwards and upwards.

Midway through the race. I hit some major low points. I realized I was looking down and hunched over for these tough times. So I changed my posture and gaze, I started looking around and kept my head up. 'Keep your head up' can be used figuratively, but also literally. It took much of my energy to stay positive, but I know there is always light within me when I think of my family. I used them as a continual source of motivation. I kept moving one foot in front of the other, onwards and upwards.

If you travel far enough, you will find yourself.

— David Mitchell

 

AUGUST 1 - I CHEATED DEATH.

Race finish. No words except my signature peace signs up.

Race finish. No words except my signature peace signs up.

This morning at 1am, I finished the most difficult challenge of my life to date. I successfully completed the 125 KM Canadian Death Race in Grande Cache, Alberta. I ran for just over 17 hours, from 8am Saturday to 1am Sunday. I experienced the toughest and most technical terrain; 3 mountain summits of approximately 2000m, unforgiving mud, swamp, small rocks, little rocks, giant rocks, trenches, rivers, heavy bush, and my newest love to hate obstacle; never-ending, death-wish, dreadful downhills. Results aren't official but I believe I came in 22nd. 
I am extremely happy to have conquered this extreme Ultramarathon (probably the hardest in Canada; known for its over 50% DNF statistic). It took me to places I am grateful for and fearful of. Places within my psyche and spirit that are capable of anything. It is this capability that I am afraid of. I am realizing it is the fear of my unknown potential that exhilarates me. This FEAR AS FUEL mantra has been a consistent theme throughout my journey of 2016. Compared to last year's ADVERSITY AS FUEL mantra theme, this fear one is extremely powerful, powerful beyond measure. I believe we all have the potential to do amazing things, conquer crazy feats, and inspire others to follow suit. Over the course of my run I had the opportunity to deep-think on the subject of human potential, it boiled down to 3 questions: 

1. Am I worth it? (Think along the lines of your self-esteem, self-regard, self-respect, and self-integrity)
2. Do I love myself? (Think about your willingness, meaning, and purpose to challenge oneself for a change to occur)
3. How will I be remembered? (Think about your legacy, integrity, influence, and altruistic actions)

Lastly, I wanted to dedicate this accomplishment to my dad. I ran in honour of his birthday. I ran for him. And I'll keep running for him, because without him, I would not be here. (It's so beautifully ironic how I ran the 'death' race on his 'birth' day.)


AUGUST 2 - FINISHER

You know you're running a race in a category of its own when people don't ask you your finishing time, but just ask whether you finished or not. Grateful to have finished safe and sound. #completionovercompetition #integrityoverintensity #purposeoverpassion  #tenacityovertalent  #attitudeoveraltitude  #legacyovercurrency

You know you're running a race in a category of its own when people don't ask you your finishing time, but just ask whether you finished or not. Grateful to have finished safe and sound.

#completionovercompetition
#integrityoverintensity
#purposeoverpassion 
#tenacityovertalent 
#attitudeoveraltitude 

#legacyovercurrency

Challenges make life interesting, however, overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.
— Mark Twain

AUGUST 3 - EXTRA DEATH RACE FOOTAGE

Still on a high from my positively traumatic experience conquering the Canadian Death Race in Alberta. Here's some intimate footage and shots of my journey.  Thanks for all of the support and well wishes. It means so much to have a community of people that celebrates accomplishment with praise and admiration. #couldnotaskformore  #feelingblessed #feelingloved  #heretocreate #commitment  #pushittothelimit #murphyslaw  #rockedit

Still on a high from my positively traumatic experience conquering the Canadian Death Race in Alberta. Here's some intimate footage and shots of my journey. 
Thanks for all of the support and well wishes. It means so much to have a community of people that celebrates accomplishment with praise and admiration.

#couldnotaskformore 
#feelingblessed
#feelingloved 
#heretocreate
#commitment 
#pushittothelimit
#murphyslaw 
#rockedit

What can happen will happen.
— Murphy's Law

Check out my IG video here.


AUGUST 5 - MAKE A MOLEHILL OUT OF A MOUNTAIN

Humanize to empathize with others (and yourself).
Alain de Botton says to overcome the imposter syndrome, when you are faking it to make it and don't feel worthy, you've got to humanize those that seem like they've made it and are of a perceived high self worth. Make a molehill out of a mountain to gain a realistic perspective. Know that people who may project their superhero, super positive, super powered lives also have super real problems, super sucking kryptonites, and are not super all the time. 

When we make this tiny but powerful interpretation it allows us to connect more deeply with others and ourselves, thus seeing that the imposter effect is a self deprecating mechanism that can level the playing field because successes and failures happen to us all.

"Kings and philosophers shit ... and so do ladies" - Michel de Montaigne

I am receiving such beautiful support and praise from friends and family for my recent 125km Ultramarathon finish. I am grateful for it all and wish to send this message above as a way to humanize myself. I am no superhero, I am not better than anyone, I am a man who deals with adversity too. I am just doing what I love and sharing it with the world. 

Ambivalence

2.0 Toronto Master Workshop #2 @ Misfitstudio with Amber Joliat (Fusion) and Garnet Suidy (Bodyart), fueled by The Goods. 

2.0 Toronto Master Workshop #2 @ Misfitstudio with Amber Joliat (Fusion) and Garnet Suidy (Bodyart), fueled by The Goods. 

I am pleasantly buzzing on a high but ruminating on the afterthought of my second ‘2.0 Toronto’ Master Workshop that happened this past Sunday, May 29th, at Misfitstudio. I am experiencing ambivalent sensations of happiness and helplessness, satisfaction and self-doubt, gratitude and discontent.

Why can’t I just bask in the enjoyment without any critical thoughts?

Why am I already thinking about the next 2.0 workshop?  

Why is my brain not letting me feel 100% satisfied?

 

This ambivalent state of mind has always been a part of me. After each of my achievements, I am pleased with my efforts and performance, but that feeling never lingers for long…. “on to the next one” repeats and repeats.  

 

Ironically though, to give this feeling some credit, it is responsible for all of my accolades and successes, and the rate at which I am currently achieving them. The feeling of never being quite fully satisfied pushes me to get better and better, to the point of mastery beyond my competition, and beyond expectation. Without this underlying perfectionism, this unrelenting yearning for mastery, I would not be writing this blog, nor would I have this unique ability to deeply self-reflect. Although I am grateful for this habit in my psyche, I can’t stop there. I am intrigued and curious about this phenomenon, and am excited to explore it with you.    

 

To understand my ambivalent feelings, I did some research on the subject. To paraphrase clinical psychotherapist Joseph Burgo's article called "Ambivalence and the perfect answer", [to be ambivalent is to be in conflict with opposing feelings. It is a fear of choosing one feeling and renouncing all other feelings. Choosing a reality and living with its imperfections seems far less ideal compared to not choosing and living in the fantasy of what may come to pass], which may be a chance at perfection (aka waiting for the next best thing). Ambivalence leaves us at a crossroads, debilitating our ability to decide, take action, and move on. [Ambivalence seems to be the bi-product of two things: perfectionism and idealized expectations.]

 

As a product of a stereotypical asian upbringing, where the culture prides and plagues itself with overachievement, an unrelenting pursuit of perfection, a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ competitive attitude, and a ‘100% is still not good enough’ mindset, I realize that my inability to feel deep satisfaction from my successes can be deeply rooted from childhood. It is not my parent’s, or their parents’ doing, it is perhaps the expectation of the generation. It is a defining attribute that makes my generation as unique as it is. As much as it may be indebting now, it is an investment for years to come.  


This optimistic awareness gives me hope. When we acknowledge our shortcomings, setbacks, and resistors, we become vulnerable to growth beyond measure. We break free from unreachable standards, the idealized pursuit of perfection, and thus enable divergent thinking, creative leadership, and begin to value imperfection and alternative standards of excellence.  

I newly discovered two ancient art forms that honor imperfection. ‘Kintsugi’ is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Not only is imperfection accepted, it is honoured.

Kintsugi

Kintsugi

The ‘Deliberate Imperfection’ is when the Navajo deliberately weave and draw imperfections into their textiles and ceramics. They are called “spirit lines/paths” because it allows spirits to weave in and out of their art. If there is no deliberately imperfect spirit line, if the lines are perfectly enclosed, they believe the spirit will be trapped within the art, and therefore the spirit of the art will be lost for generations to come. These imperfections give these artists reason to therefore continue creating beautiful art.

Navajo Spirit Line

Navajo Spirit Line

As you may know from my work, I am a big Ted Talk fan. It is an integral part of my continuing education. These ‘ideas worth spreading’ have made me a better person. I seem to always find my answers with Ted Talks. After all, these talks are host to the brightest ideas and innovations of our time. So it is not surprising that my unsettling sensation of ambivalence has found its Kintsugi and Spirit Line. My unease is what Ted Talker Sarah Lewis calls “the near win”.

My ‘2.0 Toronto’ efforts have been met with much positive critical acclaim. You could say they are grassroots successes in the fitness community. These events raise money for charity, teach people how to move and eat, grow the holistic fitness community in Toronto, and help people develop a deeper sense of awareness and mindfulness. But as each event concludes, socially they are seen as successes, momentous occasions, a well-deserved stopping point. But to me, I see them as stepping stones, a constant pursuit, that urge to do more, that feeling of never feeling completely satisfied, where 100% never really is 100% ... a “near win”.  

Sarah Lewis on the Ted stage in Vancouver 2015

Sarah Lewis on the Ted stage in Vancouver 2015

Sarah Lewis says that “success is hitting the bullseye, but mastery is knowing that it means nothing if you can’t hit it again and again.”

She inspires by explaining that “the near win” is the driving force that turns success into mastery.

We thrive not when we have done it all, we thrive when we know we still have more to do.

But what does it take to stay encouraged? To not lose hope. To not get upset when things don’t go the way you want them. To not give up when there is still so much more to do. 

Success is your ability to go from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.
— Winston Churchill

With this investigation into ambivalence, I have come across many strategies that help with decision making, goal attainment, and preventing a loss of enthusiasm:

  • Set realistic goals and share them

  • Clearly define goals and prioritize them

  • Shrink the challenge into timely, attainable, and measurable checkpoints

  • Seek and follow the bright spots

  • Create daily rituals to actualize goals

  • Create daily routines to prevent stagnation

  • Implement healthy distraction activities to prevent negative rumination (dwelling)

  • Condition positive habits and behaviors to stay on course

In conclusion, my ambivalence, unease, or “near win” phenomenon seems to be a natural coping tactic I’ve had all this time, a gift if you will. I feel assured that I am now able to explain it. Beyond this closure, and to new beginnings, I am now completely aware of what I seek from curating these workshops and events.

I have a vision... 

“I HAVE A DREAM!”

Sarah Lewis concludes elegantly with my new favorite quote:

Completion is a goal, but we hope it is never the end.
My first of many...

My first of many...

The Joy of Sadness

It starts with a lip quiver. Then faster blinking. Breathing deepens. Throat chokes up. Eyes swell.      

I start to cry.

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before—more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.
— Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Hands clammy. Heart heavy. Spirit shaken. My crying deepens. I get into it. I try holding back but it hurts when I fight it. I give into it. A voice inside says, “just let go.”
I'm sniffling now with hiccups in my breathing. I get worked up. I feel slightly out of control. So I snap out of it for a second. Judgement ensues. Another voice inside teases, "wait a sec, are you crying?!?! OMG, I can't believe you're CRYING!!! The voice thickens with insult. Shame slithers in for a nasty hello. I feel vulnerable. Completely wide open. Ready for the low blow of public humiliation. But then I look around and remember that I am alone. Safe at home. I smile in relief.

The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.
— Henry Maudsley

I refocus. (TSN turning point). I resume crying with more enthusiasm. I do my best to transport myself back to that exact moment that did me in (when Bing Bong sacrifices himself and says "take her to the moon for me okay?"). I then strangely bask in the manliness of my tears. I let the tears stream down without wiping on purpose so that I can see how much liquid I can produce. I embrace my tears. It feels incredibly refreshing. A weight has been lifted from my soul.

Admittedly, crying over a children's movie is not the most stoic, may be more embarrassing than anything, but I'm proud to say that I owned it. I didn’t hold back on one single tear.

Do not apologize for crying, without this emotion we are robots.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
Another home run from the brilliant minds of Pixar & Disney

Another home run from the brilliant minds of Pixar & Disney

The movie “Inside Out” by Pixar is about the emotional rollercoaster of childhood and the transition into adolescence. Brilliantly, the emotions of joy, sadness, fear, disgust, and anger are embodied as characters within the mind of a girl named Riley. The interactions between these characters are charming, comedic, and thoughtful. I loved this movie because it addresses our relationship with those uncomfortable emotions. It teaches us that sadness is not a bad thing and that crying is not something to be ashamed of. The movie “Inside Out” demonstrates that sadness is a vital emotion that connects us, and can act as the catalyst for happiness.  

Unfortunately, there is a negative stigma behind the act of crying and the emotion of sadness in our society. Likewise, vulnerability is seen as a state of weakness. Or how we go out of our way to avoid suffering, numb pain, and fight fear, when most often they are simply feelings that are misunderstood.

We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.
— Brene Brown

Sadness, fear, vulnerability, shame, and despair are feelings that give true meaning to the positive emotions of happiness, optimism, courage, joy, and hope. Together, all of these emotions provide us with perspective, balance, and purpose. Together, this beautiful spectrum of emotions make the experience of life so incredibly special.

To use this enlightening movie experience with sadness and crying and shift it to a place of inquiry and deeper investigation, I wanted to open the floor to questions I’ve been pondering for some time:

  • Does one have to experience sadness in order to experience happiness?
  • Does one have to experience tragedy to experience triumph?
  • Does one require pain and suffering to experience growth and gratitude?

In my previous blog entry, I explored my personal experiences with adversity and discomfort. I argued that these terms are consistently misunderstood and undervalued. I concluded by encouraging the use of discomfort as a tool, as fuel to authenticity, and as something to honor.
I am living proof that ‘adversarial growth’ is a powerful phenomenon that works incredibly well.
 

Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
— Saint Paul

Why does the human condition seem bound to this rule of achieving growth through adversity? 

  • Does Carl Jung’s quote hold true, whereby, "the word 'happiness' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness."?

What degree of adversity does one have to experience in order to achieve a certain degree of happiness?

  • Does Newton’s 3rd law apply in this investigation, whereby, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”?

To provide further context on my investigation, you could ironically say that up to this point, I have lived a very imbalanced life, in dominating favor of happiness, protected from trauma, tragedy, and sadness. For this, I am grateful to my amazing parents. It is from them that I have a set of core values that enable me to empower others. It is this life free of fear that I am able to think as openly and existentially as I do. It is through this reflection on my imbalance, in favor of happiness, that I am enthusiastically curious to solve for a universal unknown.

To churn this argument through, based on my own experiences, I would argue that the degree of my happiness, comfort, and success outweigh the degree of my sadness, discomfort, and adversity. I've grown much more than I've suffered. I value the positive much more than the negative. I believe that on the absolute, my life is more happy than sad. 

So what now? What are you alluding to Julian?!?!

Perhaps there is no quantifiable answer to this phenomenon. Perhaps there is no objective answer to a subjective question. It may be that I am just sharing my process of thought with no aim to solve for x, or to answer the unanswerable, or to reach a destination. 

I realize that our hypotheses and questions are bound by what we know, how we think, and why we think. And those factors are valid based on what others know, how others think, and why others think. 
This philosophical reasoning  takes me to my conclusion.

"IT'S ALL RELATIVE!"

My first ever serious girlfriend had always used this phrase when we would argue. I didn't quite understand it at the time, but I realize now that we each have our own eyes, ears, thoughts, opinions, upbringing, and relative context to which we receive and perceive the world we live in.   

RELATIVISM is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity within themselves, but rather only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration.

Hence emotions like sadness and happiness have no truth or validity within themselves, but only relative to differences in perception and consideration. The perceptions of our emotions hold value when things like moral standards, beliefs, culture, societal norms, and values, are taken into consideration.

At the moment, I believe that feelings and emotions can be experienced to varying depths and degrees. I believe that they are bound to the rate at which we achieve universal understanding. And that understanding is itself constrained by science and progress.

Feelings should be considered neither good or bad, they just are. They should guide us to curiosity, logic, and awareness. They should encourage, create, and inspire beliefs and behaviors that provide learning opportunities to evolve.

With my investigation on:

  1. Adversarial growth

  2. Exploration into the depths of emotion

  3. Relativism

I am thankfully more aware, appreciative, and altruistic. 
I hope my thoughts have made you more aware of your own emotional well-being. 
I hope I have inspired you to be more open with communicating your feelings.
Because at the end of it all, it is the only way we can truly grow together.

Cheers to tears,

Sincerely,

Julian



 

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/06/13/413980258/science-of-sadness-and-joy-inside-out-gets-childhood-emotions-right

http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/why-we-cry-the-truth-about-tearing-up?page=4

http://www.edutopia.org/lead-dont-lecture

https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/learn/growth

https://helix.northwestern.edu/article/einsteins-theory-relativity-implications-beyond-science

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Lane_Craig

Discomfort

Dear reader,

As an introduction to this piece, I have to publically slap myself on the wrist and admit how ashamed I feel for the gigantic lapse of time since my previous blog post....4 months!!! Ahhh! Horrible! And also because this blog covers a similar topic I've opened up about before. Ahhh! So nothing really new here. TWO STRIKES!!! Ouch. 

But I have a warm feeling this prose passage I've written can make up for time lost.

My friend Madeleine is gunning for her first ultramarathon in Iceland this summer and has created a blog about her journey. She asked me to write a guest piece for her and I accepted. Below is a heartfelt revelation about 'discomfort', a pillar to my relationship with the sport of ultramarathon running ... and the sport of life. This is the first of a series of written prose.

(For a more enjoyable reading experience, please simultaneously listen to https://soundcloud.com/max-richter/5m20)


“He or she that holds the highest capacity for discomfort will rise fastest.”
- Brene Brown

Discomfort has and always will be my most impactful teacher. Discomfort has taught me more than any teacher, professor, friend, or family member.

Discomfort can enslave. It can bring out the weakest in all of us. But if used as a tool, if it can be understood and seen as an opportunity, it can bring out the strongest in all of us. Discomfort can therefore empower. 

My relationship with discomfort is rooted deeply with a disease that afflicts 15% of Canadians and over 30 million Americans. Atopic Dermatitis, also known as Eczema, is an incurable skin disease that torments the physical body with painful rashes, cuts, and wounds, uncontrollable itchiness, and embarrassing redness, dryness, and flaking. Throughout my childhood I was enslaved by eczema. Throughout my young adulthood, I endured eczema. But now in my adulthood, I am learning to embrace it.   

My relationship with eczema was a never-ending battle. Whenever I fought with it, it fought back harder. Every day it brought me discomfort not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. It challenged my self-esteem. It questioned my confidence. I faced embarrassment daily. I experienced learned helplessness. At the lowest of times, I questioned my self-worth. 

It is in these moments of despair that we discover discomfort as more than just a feeling. We realize that discomfort is in fact a mindset. When our values, morals, and beliefs are challenged so intensely, when our authentic selves are put in question, as a result, new perspectives, attitude, and actions ensue. It is simply our responsibility to listen, engage, and respond accordingly and carefully. 

Martin Seligman says “the skills of becoming happy turn out to be entirely different from the skills of not being sad, not being anxious, and not being angry.”

This quote exemplifies my paradigm shift on the discomfort of eczema. Instead of not being sad about the incurable fate of eczema, instead of not being anxious when facing social situations, instead of not being angry at something I couldn’t change, I shifted to acceptance, management, and opportunity.
 

The change is in the challenge.

The sweet ain’t as sweet without the sour.  

The negatives fuel our positives. 

Adversity paves way for authenticity.
 

Today, I look at discomfort in a profoundly different way. I no longer fight with it. I no longer endure it. I now manage it. I use it as a tool. I embrace it. And now I need to share it.

To me, ultra marathon running is so much more than just extreme endurance running, it is a reflection of a life lived honouring discomfort and the unrelenting passion for self-empowerment. 

Cypress Mountain, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Cypress Mountain, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

DEAR 2016

By letting go of 2015 you empower 2016. 

Cypress Mountain overlooking Vancouver Skyline

Cypress Mountain overlooking Vancouver Skyline

Here are some beautiful resolutions that I am pondering:

  1. Cultivate honorable relationships
  2. Resist absentminded busyness
  3. Make room for "fruitful monotony"
  4. Refuse to play the perfection game
  5. Master the art of loving
  6. Choose understanding over judgment 
  7. Make use of your suffering
  8. Use discipline to catalyze creative magic
  9. Walk your own path
  10. Celebrate enoughness

(Above list is from my favourite source of writing and reading inspiration, Brainpickings' Maria Popova) 
Which ones resonate with you? Why do these speak to you? How will you approach resolving them?   

As most of you know, I have broadcasted my winter holidays on social media with the intention of broadening while deepening my connection to all of those I interact. 

I am learning that the leader I can love becoming is someone that is down-to-earth, courageously vulnerable, and a man of action. 

3 quotes that are nurturing my growth:

  1. "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love." - Marcus Aurelius
    - Being down-to-earth is being rational, balanced, and appreciative. While on vacation, I rose every morning feeling privileged. That allowed me to appreciate each breath, each thought, each event, and each person that generously spent time with me.
     
  2. "To love at all is to be vulnerable." - C.S. Lewis
    - Loving things, loving places, and loving people is having the courage to let go, to surrender, and to risk. I have difficulty showing weakness, I judge myself for it, but I am beginning to feel this less and less when I surround myself with others that embrace imperfection, exude patience, and exemplify courage without words.  
     
  3. "Opportunities multiply as they are seized." - Sun Tzu
    - Last year, my actions expressed my priorities. As a result of this, opportunities have multiplied. This year, I want my actions to express my authenticity. I want to live this year not for the opportunities, but in honor of opportunity.  

I am excited and energized for the year ahead. With my trips to Northern Ontario and British Columbia under my belt, I am fueled with inspiration and aspiration. 

For 2016, I will be driven by ...

  • AUTHENTICITY as fuel, not Adversity as fuel
  • CONTRIBUTION, not Career
  • FAITH, not Hope
  • SINCERITY, not Success
  • PASSION, not Power
  • ATTITUDE, not Altitude or Fortitude 
  • LEGACY building, not Dream chasing

May you find some comfort, insightfulness, and encouragement in my words. 

Thank you for reading. 

Sincerely,

Julian

The ABCDE's of Decision Making

CONTEXT IS KING.

Contextual Intelligence is a new term I discovered while reading this article from HBR (Harvard Business Review). My experience with contextual intelligence is one that has sprouted this acronym I came up with while diving deeper in meditation about decision-making and choices.

Awareness

Beliefs

Circumstance

Destination

Environment

Here’s how the ABCDE’s were born...
On Saturday afternoon, after a morning chalk full of high energy classes at Ferris 360 and Equinox Yorkville, I was on a mellow high; a state of mind that was sharp and calm. I took the escalator down to the main floor of Whole Foods and went about grocery shopping, but had a frozen moment when I went to pick up the grocery basket.

I thought twice about spending my time, energy, and money at Whole Foods.

While everyone was busy ticking off checklists and cashing in and out, I was lost in a daydream.

I went through my mental checklist of groceries, I calibrated my time allotment for shopping, I took stock of my other errands, and produced an idea that would birth this blog post and inspire my teachings for the week.

 

I WENT ON AN ADVENTURE.

 

Instead of taking the easy and convenient action of shopping at Whole Foods, I decided to shake things up and discover what else Toronto had to offer regarding organic health food shopping options.

 

First stop, I had the urge to go for authentic Kim Chi, my go-to for daily probiotics, so I checked out Korea Town’s PAT MARKET for all things Korean! Not only did I pick up a 3L tub of Kim Chi, but I also got some great tasting JapChae (cold sweet potato noodles), seaweed salad, and Gimbap (the Korean version of the Japanese Norimaki sushi rolls). I was pleasantly surprised to see just as many non-Korean’s in the supermarket as that showcases Toronto’s impressive cultural mosaic.

Second stop, I checked out Strictly Bulk on Bloor West, known for organic bulk foods without the high cost of packaging. You can smell the blend of coffee beans, spices, and soaps. Again, the place was filled with Toronto’s signature multiculturalism, and a knowledgeable staff. I loaded up on my nuts and seeds and snack foods, along with a few eco-friendly cleaning products.

My last stop was Fiesta Farms, a place that was highly recommended by friends from the west end. This place is wonderful, thoughtful, family-run, socially-responsible, environmentally aware, eco-friendly, locally supportive, community-driven, and organically authentic. I felt like a real cool food nerd walking up and down each aisle in slow motion, picking up every other product, admiring the label, reading the ingredient list from top to bottom. As a kid feels when he is in a toy store, I felt the same way as a holistic fitness professional. This was my wonderland!

Why am I recalling my boring grocery shopping adventure? Well, with nothing against Whole Foods, I thought I’d take that one moment of redirection with the grocery basket, and propel myself into a place I’ve never gone. Instead of making the thoughtless, time-saving, robotic, convenient decision of providing Whole Foods with my business, I chose to revel in my moment and make a memorable experience out of the afternoon.

I became aware of a similar shopping situation while at H&M, and remembered the documentary TRUE COST. What’s the true cost of every dollar you spend? How much money will satisfy a multi-million dollar Fortune 500 company? What are you supporting with each purchase you make? What effect does it have on manufacturing countries and communities? I love Whole Foods and shop there more frequently than any other grocery store, but that Saturday afternoon was one that made me think of the David Mitchell quote, “My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?” Each dollar I spend at Whole Foods could be a dollar spent to help strengthen the food community and local sustainable food system of my beloved home town.

My thoughts preceded my actions. My actions speak the words of this piece.  I am proud of this weekend’s grocery shop decision and wanted to share how it came to be. Here are the ABCDE's that brought life and context to my blue sky thoughts: 


AWARENESS - Exercise in the morning made my mind sharp and clear. Enough so that I could recall the True Cost documentary that opened my mind to social responsibility and sustainability.

BELIEFS - Who I am aligns with my beliefs and values. I believe in this city and I value the diversity and thoughtfulness it breeds. I believe the food I purchase must positively impact me nutritionally first and foremost, but also must positively impact our society and community as a whole.

CIRCUMSTANCE - My car, my freedom, my free time, my healthy food budget, and my time management all paved the path to this journey.

DESTINATION - Every journey must have a destination. This influences the pace, the intensity, and the type of activity. I knew before heading out of Whole Foods that I wanted to discover the west end. My goal was set.

ENVIRONMENT - Weather was beautiful. No rain or snow to divert me. No obstacles in the way. All signs were green.

Although simple and almost insignificant, it is in these moments that life chooses to teach its lessons. The next time I won’t necessarily check mark each of the ABCDE’s, but I will refer to them when something doesn’t feel right. Trusting in our instincts is one thing, but embracing CONTEXTUAL INTELLIGENCE is a skill worth spreading.  

What if people were more conscious of their decisions? How do you make your decisions? You may not naturally think so analytically about them, but what if you did? What if it only took an extra 2-minutes to change the course of your day, maybe your life? 
You never know if you never try...