Thirty

I figure turning 30 is momentous enough that I should blog about it. I’ve learned so much about life, myself, and others over the past decade that I wanted to take a few minutes to look back and reflect on those things. I’m going to concentrate on the things I’ve experienced over the last decade, as going back any further than that doesn’t seem very meaningful any more. If you decide to continue reading, I promise to try not to ramble so much.

Let’s start with something that I think about every single day of my life.

I am a very, very lucky man

A lot of what happens in life is entirely out of our control. I’m convinced at this point that the best we can do as individuals is put ourselves in the position to maximize the good things that happen to us, minimize the bad things, and take advantage of events or circumstances that can benefit us.

Please don’t misunderstand – I am a huge believer in hard work and planning (if you know me, you’ll know how much personal goals play a part in my life) – those are the things that put you in position to benefit from luck when it comes your way.

Just looking at my business, it is incredibly easy to see the role that luck has played. Consider the following:

  • I just happened to specialize in a very particular CMS / platform that now powers a full 25% of publicly accessible websites on the internet
  • I somehow managed to be one of the first development contractors for an amazing agency / group of people that provided me an astounding amount of meaningful benefits (honestly, it is hard for me to even list the number of ways that Modern Tribe nee Shane & Peter helped me as I was starting my freelance career – if you’re reading this, thank you so much)
  • I was approached to write a book (and did so!) at 23, less than a year into my career, and was mentioned in a “For Dummies” book by an important industry figure – bucket list item complete!

What part did I play in any of these things? The only one I really took action to make happen is the second one, and even that one is kind of up in the air. The studio job ad on FreelanceSwitch (now defunct) was one of many I responded to and I’m sure that I was one of many freelancers they interviewed. That it worked out and we made such a connection was mostly luck (and I’m so happy it did).

Very bad things happen in life and they are not fair

My sister died 4 years ago. It was completely unexpected. One night I was texting her and the next morning my mom called me to tell me Renee was dead.

It took me a while to come to terms with the situation. I’m sure the same is true for anyone who loses a close friend or family member suddenly. I kept thinking “this isn’t fair” and I certainly don’t think I was wrong.

The simple truth of the matter is that life isn’t fair. Bad things happen to good people sometimes. Just like the good luck I mentioned above, these are often things we can’t control at all. We, collectively, have to deal with the situations the best we can and move on from there.

My wife is amazing

I was tempted to make this a general point about stable relationships being important, but I don’t feel qualified to speak in general about the way other people’s relationships work. Instead, I’ll just talk about the one I’m a part of.

Not to belabor the point or anything, but Angela, my wife, is amazing.

On December 18th, we’ll celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. That day will also mark the 11th anniversary of the start of our relationship (when we visited the Museum of Science & Industry and looked at the Christmas trees). This may sound cliche, but I truly love Angela more than the day we got married and my affection for her continues to grow with each passing day.

I think about our relationship and am so happy that I have found a true partner in life. We complement each other in our strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, we are individuals with our own opinions – no person is subservient to the other. I feel like I’m not explaining it adequately, but this is the best I can do.

I look at what we have together and I hope that other couples we know have the same connection because it is truly amazing.

Needing help is not a sign of weakness

I mentioned above how hard it was dealing with my sister dying. After years of battling depression and hiding in my work, I finally went and got help in dealing with it. I didn’t believe I was ever going to be able to be happy again and now I’m happier than I’ve ever been before.

I was afraid of getting help because I thought it made me less of a man. I thought it meant I was broken – damaged goods in need of repair. I wish I had been less stubborn and spent less of my life in the state I was in.

If you need help for whatever reason, asking for it or seeking it out is not a sign of weakness. Please do not be scared like I was – you can most likely get the help you need and there are probably people around you who love you and care about you enough to help you get it if you need it.

Having friends is important

This may seem obvious to some of you, but I was oblivious to this fact until the last few years. I’ve always been an introvert and thought that I didn’t really need anybody else in my life other than my wife to be happy.

For me, this proved to be untrue. I needed people in my life who I can hang out with. People who shared a common interest. I found that through flag football and I’m so happy I did.

The one thing that is most important here is to find people who are truly your friend. We all have Twitter and Facebook friends / acquaintances these days, and that’s awesome. However, make sure that you are loyal to the people in your life and that you involve people in your life that will be loyal to you. People who will be there to help you out when you need it.

For me, I strive to be a true friend to the people I care about. So, if you ever need anything, please let me know!

Getting older doesn’t necessarily make you a bad athlete

This will be the last point because its a fun one. As I approached 30 I was a little worried that my skills as an athlete were going to diminish rapidly. I’d be just another workout warrior pumping iron and building my show muscles. Luckily for me, that’s not the case!

I’m so glad I found flag football here in Las Vegas a few years ago and have gotten the chance to compete the last few seasons. It has been unbelievably rewarding to test myself against other men (and a couple women) of varying skill levels as the years have gone by. I believe I have mostly succeeded in acquitting myself well.

Someday I expect my athleticism to fade, but I’m going to fight that battle as long as I can!

On to 40!

I’m excited to begin the next decade of my life and I can only hope it will be as fun and rewarding as the previous one has been. Thank you, sincerely, to all the people who have helped to shape the last 10 years of my life. It wouldn’t have been the same without you :-)

100 Days of Squats, a Retrospective

On June 9th, I finished 100 days of consecutive squatting. I was inspired to take on this challenge by Cory Gregory after an article of his was published in FitnessRX for Men. It promised increased strength, better endurance, and the ability to call yourself a badass and mean it.

I’ve taken the last week or so to really think about what I learned from the program, both about my body and about myself, and to figure out how to share the parts that I think are most important. I’ll get to that later in this post, but I think its important to identify a couple of things first; where I was when I started, and what the workouts that I did over the course of my 100 days actually looked like.

My Starting Condition

Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first. I’m 5’10” tall and weigh around 200 pounds. The weight fluctuates from 195-205 depending on how gluttonous I’m feeling in any particular week. I hesitate to give an exact bodyweight percentage, but I’m definitely under 10% and most likely around 8% most of the time.

I’ve been weight training consistently for about eight years now with very little in the way of breaks. My morning routine is essentially:

  1. Wake up
  2. Prepare for workout
  3. Workout really hard
  4. Get on with my day

It has been that way without exception ever since I started to recover from my busted up shoulders in college. My workouts prior to this program were already heavy on squats, with me squatting at least twice a week with many weeks containing three legs days depending on how I was feeling. I love squatting, especially because it doesn’t put stress on my shoulder joints, which are definitely the weakest parts of my body. I tend to squat like a hybrid powerlifter / bodybuilder, with a mix of high-rep and high-weight workouts.

One important note: I lift raw, meaning I don’t use a weightlifting belt, knee wraps, wrist straps, or any other form of assistance. That’s how it has been for about six years now and I love it. I feel like it protects my body because I’m not able to push myself past the threshold of what I am physically able, and gives me a limit to push against as I drive for new performance.

The Workouts

The article that Cory Gregory published was a little light on details of what you were supposed to do from an actual implementation standpoint. He had listed a typical workout that he would do, but the most important part I gained from his writing was to just do some type of squats every day for the 100 days and you’d fulfill the requirements. As a note, he later published a four week squat everyday workout that I know some people have been following that is much more prescriptive. It might be a good place to start.

I always squatted first before working out whatever other body part I was targeting on a specific day. I felt like it got me in the mood to push myself harder with the other work I was going to be doing. In general, the workouts looked like one of the following two options:

High Rep Workout: Pick one of high-bar back, low-bar back, or front squat and do five sets of 12.

High Weight Workout: Pick one of high-bar back, low-bar-back, or front squat and do (back/front) 135/135 x 8, 225/185 x 8, 315/225 x 8, 405 / 315 x 3, 455 / 365 x 1.

There were times during the 100 day program where I didn’t have access to a barbell for some reason or another. On those days, I did 5 sets of 20 bodyweight squats to keep my streak alive. Reasons for being without a barbell include traveling for business (conferences / consulting) or being out of my house and thus away from my gym because of home repairs.

Without exception, I made sure that I did some form of squat workout every day for 100 days. That includes flag football game days where I’d get up before my games, get my squat workout in, and then go play football. Once, I didn’t have time to do it before my games so I had to do my squats after a doubleheader in the middle of the afternoon. That was probably the toughest single day of the 100 days.

My Impressions and Conclusions

If you check out the #squateveryday hashtag on Twitter, you’ll see tons of testimonials from people about how they’re hitting new PRs and really upping their squat game, doing things that they’ve never done before. That’s awesome! Unfortunately, those things didn’t happen for me.

I loved the program, but I was already a 500 pound squatter at sub-200 pounds when I started my 100 days. I’m not an elite strength athlete by any means, but that’s a lot of weight to move around. Without dedicated strength training, there’s very little room to grow from there for someone at my weight and height.

As such, I didn’t expect to get substantially stronger because I structure my training to ensure a good mix between athleticism (to make sure I continue to be good at flag football), strength (for my ego), and physique (for my vanity).

The reason I did this program was to test my mental fortitude. Could I really do something hard for 100 days without breaking? Could I push myself every single day on something that I enjoyed initially but I knew would turn into a slog after a while? Apparently the answer is a resounding YES. I’m proud of myself for completing the program.

Now, I intend to apply the principles to other facets of my life, especially my business. A lot of what makes a business person successful is the ability to continually do the small things that add up over time to make a big difference. Now that I was able to spend 100 days in a row doing something I really enjoy, I’m looking for the equivalent challenge for my business life.

As for squatting, I love it and will continue to do it. I’d like to hit a high-bar back squat of 405 x 8 and a front squat of 405 x 1 (in the same workout) by the end of the year. I don’t have any doubts that I’ll hit those marks as I push towards them consistently.

101 in 1001 Wrap Up

**Update: I think we did a pretty decent amount of things on our list and I’m proud of us. It was a great way to plan ahead and also to see how our plans changed/evolved over 1001 days. I hope our next 1001 days are just as exciting!

I got inspired by a post my friend Kate made about making a list of 101 tasks to complete in 1001 days. I thought it was interesting to make a goal list with a time frame other than just a year. So Nick and I sat down and made a list of some things we wanted to accomplish in the next 2 3/4 years. Our list ended up being more than 101 items, but then again, we did break down our travel plans to all of the specific places we wanted to visit – vacation planning: complete :) End Date: May 3, 2015

Updates

The List

  1. Go to a MNF Bears game
  2. Go to a BCS Bowl game
  3. Mob Museum
  4. Springs Preserve
  5. Natural History Museum
  6. Neon Museum
  7. Mystere
  8. Absinthe
  9. Jubilee!
  10. Jabbawockeez
  11. See Book of Mormon
  12. Shark Reef Aquarium
  13. Bodies Exhibit
  14. See Wicked @ Smith Center (Aug 29-Oct 2012)
  15. Zarkana
  16. Hike @ Mt Charleston
  17. Do all Red Rock Canyon hikes
  18. Go to the shooting range
  19. Zombie Store
  20. Grand Canyon
  21. Build Warthog airplane model
  22. Build and launch a large scale model rocket with E engine
  23. Go to a Renaissance Faire
  24. Buy Nick a bike
  25. Go bowling
  26. Go to the Polish Deli off of Charleston
  27. Knit a blanket
  28. Buy a house
  29. Build a home gym
  30. New bedding
  31. Print and frame wedding pictures
  32. New dinnerware
  33. New flatware set
  34. Get knives sharpened
  35. Get a stand mixer
  36. Get a grill
  37. Ship Nick’s workshop to new house
  38. Go to a professional conference
  39. Eat at Gordon Ramsay Steak
  40. Eat at 12 restaurants on the Strip/Downtown (12/12)
    1. StripSteak
    2. Mon Ami Gabi
    3. Javier’s
    4. Gordon Ramsay Steak
    5. Lombardi’s Romagna Mia
    6. Olives
    7. Cabo Wabo Cantina
    8. Serendipity
    9. CraftSteak
    10. Mesa Grill
    11. El Segundo Sol (a solid whatevs – check out Javier’s at Aria instead!)
    12. Andre’s
  41. Try sushi
  42. Make pasta from scratch
  43. Try deer or elk
  44. Go to Farmer’s Market
  45. Make a monthly budget
  46. visit Dad in Alabama
  47. Visit Chicago
  48. Visit Mom & Grams
  49. Visit Dad in Indy
  50. Visit James in Washington
  51. Go on a bro-cation
  52. Go to Hawaii
  53. Volcanoes National Park
  54. Coffee plantation and roast our own coffee
  55. Punaluu Black Sand Beach
  56. Akaka Falls State Park
  57. Go to San Diego
  58. USS Midway Museum
  59. Balboa Park
  60. SD Model Railroad Museum
  61. San Diego Zoo
  62. Botanical Building and Lily Pond
  63. SD Bay Walk
  64. Sea World SD
  65. Go to Boston
  66. USS Constitution Museum
  67. Boston Public Garden
  68. Go to New York City in the Fall
  69. Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island
  70. WTC memorial
  71. Times Square
  72. Little Cupcake Bake Shop
  73. Central Park
  74. Lombardi’s Pizza
  75. Empire State Building
  76. Grand Central Terminal
  77. Metropolitan Museum of Art
  78. Metropoitan Opera House
  79. NY Public Library
  80. Rockefeller Center
  81. Radio City Music Hall
  82. Go to Washington, D.C.
  83. All museums of the Smithsonian
  84. Korean War Veterans’ Memorial
  85. Vietnam War Veterans’ Memorial
  86. FDR Memorial
  87. Library of Congress
  88. Jefferson Memorial
  89. Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial
  90. National Portrait Gallery
  91. National Air and Space Museum
  92. National WWII Memorial
  93. Capitol
  94. Lincoln Memorial
  95. Dr. MLK Jr. National Memorial
  96. Ford’s Theater
  97. US Botanic Garden
  98. US National Arboretum
  99. US National Archives
  100. Supreme Court
  101. Washington Monument
  102. Georgetown University
  103. National Zoological Park
  104. National Museum of Crime and Punishment
  105. White House
  106. Albert Einstein Memorial
  107. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
  108. International Spy Museum
  109. Embassy Row
  110. Navy Museum
  111. Theodore Roosevelt Island Park
  112. Get a puppy

Springs Preserve

Nick and I finally made it to the Springs Preserve. I am so glad we had a voucher for two free admissions because if we had to spend money on it, I would have been even more disappointed. This place was just pretty lame overall. The only neat parts were a couple desert animal exhibits and the Nevada State Museum. We still had a good time cuz we’re awesome like that.

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Nick modeling under a palm tree

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It’s like a little bonsai cactus!

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One of the few things we don’t get to see too often is this type of cactus

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Coolest thing at the Springs Preserve was this tortoise because tortoises ROCK! Side note – this enclosure was pretty small and it was actually kind of sad. Wish he had more room to roam around.

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Channeling my inner mountain lion

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ROSES!

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Ostriches, including scrap metal sculptures, are pretty creepy.

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Whatever this was…

 

Hiking at Mount Charleston

After a great win yesterday at flag football, Angela suggested we head up to Mount Charleston to do some hiking and see what Fitz would do in the snow. After some initial hesitation on my part, due to both tiredness and laziness, I agreed it would be a good idea.

We both knew the hiking trails were close, but we had no idea it would take less than an hour to get to the trailhead we wanted. After lacing up our hiking boots, we headed out.

To our surprise, Fitz was not surprised by the snow at all. I expected a little more caution, but our dog is apparently an all-terrain model:

After seeing that he was comfortable with the compressed snow, we decided to take it up a notch and delve into some deeper drifts:

Finally, we thought we’d try to get Fitz to do some adventure wiener shots – that didn’t work out so well:

He did eventually strike a pose that I reasonably believe you could call majestic:

Our dog likes to flex as much as Nick does

Our dog likes to flex as much as Nick does

I tried to get Fitz to pose with me, but that didn’t work as well:

"C'mon Fitz, just look at the camera"

“C’mon Fitz, just look at the camera”

"Fine, don't look at the camera, I guess"

“Fine, don’t look at the camera, I guess”

We had better luck when decided to take our family picture:

Family hiking picture

Family hiking picture

We had a really great time. We spent about an hour and a half in the hiking area before heading home. It was a little muddy and I was tired so we didn’t hike the entirety of the Mary Jane Falls trails that we stopped at. We’ll definitely be going back, though, especially during the summer months!

Squat Fun!

Angela and I had another great workout today. It consisted primarily of lots and lots of squats, and I thought I’d post a sampling of what we did:

Angela Back Squat – 135 x 10

Nick Back Squat – 225 x 20

Nick Front Squat – 275 x 1

Nick Front Squat – 315 x 1

Deadlift Fun!

Angela and I deadlifted today and it was great. We took some videos and I wanted to share them! I need to work on finishing at the top a little bit better, pushing my hips through, but Angela absolutely killed it!

Angela Deadlift – 185 x 6

Nick Deadlift – 225 x 15

Nick Deadlift – 315 x 15

For this one, the first rep got cut off somehow so you only see 14. I swear I did 15, though.

Model Rocketry as a Family

One of the things that has been on our to do list for a while is to build and launch a large model rocket. We finally assembled a kit towards the end of last year, but it languished unlaunched in my office for the past few months as we prepared for our big move.

I used to launch model rockets as a kid, but the biggest engines I ever sent into the sky were C level engines from Estes. I wanted to do something bigger now that I’m an adult, so Angela and I built a bigger rocket that holds an E engine.

Today, the wind was finally right for a launch and we headed out to a nearby empty area to blast it off. Here’s our bright blue rocket (in retrospect, not a great color for tracking, but whatever):

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After checking the launch controller a final time and hooking up the ignition wires, Angela and Fitz were ready to launch:

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The rocket went really, really high. It got to the point where we couldn’t really track it anymore, although I did see it turn over at the apex.

Unfortunately, there was a malfunction and the nose cone didn’t pop so the rocket dived nose first straight into the ground about 200 yards from where it was launched.

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A cursory investigation revealed that the engine tube decoupled from its attachment points and allowed the engine to push itself up into the rocket. This caused the second “pop” to not fire on the engine, so the wadding and parachute were not ejected. Oh well – we know what to do better next time!

East Coast Trip 2014

In late September, Angela and I journeyed to the east coast of the United States, visiting Boston, Rhode Island (Newport and Narraganset), and New York City. We had a ton of fun and did a lot of cool stuff. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, however, I’ll just let them tell the story:

Boston

Rhode Island

Also, a wedding happened here, but I’m not about to steal someone else’s thunder by posting wedding pictures.

New York City

Had a blast in NYC. Loved everything.

Delmonico Steakhouse at The Palazzo

Angela and I had the pleasure of dining at Delmonico Steakhouse tonight at The Palazzo here in Las Vegas. We didn’t manage to snag any pictures, but I wanted to give a brief review of the food and our dining experience.

We arrived around 5:15 PM to find we were one of only three parties dining at the time. We were seated as soon as we checked in and promptly greeted by our server who quickly fetched us ice water and menus. Bread (which was actually deliciously buttery popovers) arrived shortly thereafter. We decided on our meal quickly, having looked at the menu prior to leaving home, and our waiter was present to take our order as soon as we put our menus down.

We ordered the Caesar salad for 2 (prepared table side) and the Chateaubriand for 2 (cut table side), which comes with sides of asparagus and mashed potatoes. After nibbling on our popovers for a few minutes, we noticed our waiter roll a mobile preparation station up to our table. Then, to my amazement, he started to make Caesar salad dressing from the ingredients right in front of us. It was a delightful little experience, and he chatted with us for a little bit as he finished things up. The salad tasted great – super fresh and flavorful, but not too heavy. It came with thin Parmesan toast, which was super tasty.

After we finished our salads, up rolls another mobile prep station, this time with a lit burner. Our waiter appears with a pan containing our steak and asparagus, as well as a bowl of freshly prepared mashed potatoes. He moved the steak from the burner to the cutting board and sliced it in half to allow us to check the temperature. It was perfectly medium rare, so he moved the asparagus to marinate in steak juices while cutting our meat into six approximately equal pieces. Our food was then distributed evenly on to two plates and served to us simultaneously (another waiter appeared out of nowhere just when he was needed).

Everything was delicious. The steak had a wonderful char that sealed the juices in and made every bite a delight. The seasoning was bold but not overwhelming. The asparagus was cooked perfectly and tasted great and the mashed potatoes were out of this world tasty. It was a wonderful entree, and the portion was just right for me.

Because we were already splurging, Angela and I each decided to get desert. She chose the key lime pie and I selected a chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. As an accompaniment, we ordered a French press full of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. My cake was everything I love in a desert – chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate with just a hint of fruit. Angela’s key lime pie was “delicious.” The coffee was worth the ridiculous amount they were charging for it – I drank it black so as not to spoil the delightful aroma and full flavor of the brew.

The service was top notch throughout our meal, and we were wholly impressed by the experience as a whole. I can’t say we’ll definitely go back (too many awesome restaurants in this city to choose from) but I would never hesitate to recommend it as a place to splurge on a bunch of amazing food and a great overall experience.