Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fighting Stagnancy

For the last few months of 2015 and the first few of 2016 I found myself getting somewhat stagnant. I wasn't doing bad, life was good, but I felt like I wasn't growing at the rate of previous years. That feeling started to gnaw at me. I had to reflect and figure out why this was happening.

Part of it was professional, I've been in my current role for three years and our team remained fully in tact this year. In my field - Student Affairs - there is often turn over at the end of the school year, but we did not experience any this year. So in previous years I had been learning more about my role, supporting others more. That was still happening this year, but not as much as in previous years.  I got very comfortable in my job. Comfort is nice sometimes, but getting too comfortable doesn't work too well for me.

Part of it was personal, I had gotten away from some of the habits I had built up. Time that had previously been spent reading had been diverted to video games and comics. Hobbies are good and I'll continue to read comics and play video games, but when those hobbies are getting in the way, there needs to be some adjustments.

Started Playing "Time Suck" Games on my Phone

While there were a variety of distractions that got in my way of my daily personal development habits, there was one that stood out most - playing games on my phone. This was just my experience, but many of us can have those one or two distractions that really get in the way. What are those distractions for you? Maybe social media? Online shopping? For me it was playing this game on my phone.
I stopped playing a Marvel game, but I can still dig comics
  • I'm sure many people can have games on their phone and it's no big deal. I'm not one of them. I added Marvel's Future Fight to my phone around May/June of last year. As far as phone games go, it's a lot of fun, great graphics, awesome roster of Marvel characters and nice variety of play, but for me it became one of those games where I had to check in multiple times a day to make sure I was leveling up my characters as much as possible, taking advantage of time specific quests or options and it just took up way too much of my time that could have been used more productively. Video games are a ton of fun, but I know that I can get too sucked into them and obsessive about doing as much as I can in video games. Tangentially, one way that I've found to successfully combat the somewhat isolating nature of video gaming has been to seek out games with couch co-op options. My wife and I often play the Lego video games together, it's been a fun way to continue to play video games while also doing something together.
  • To get past this, I deleted the app. Simple as that. I realized it was not serving any real benefit and got rid of it. That was about a month ago, I haven't missed it.  
  • For me it was this Marvel game, but there are lots of things that can serve as a "time suck" - something that you invest time (maybe a lot of time in) that don't provide enough of a return on that investment. It can't be work all the time, but when something is getting in the way of your productivity AND not providing with enough in return, you got to cut it out. So for me it was a silly game on my phone, for you it could be social media, watching too much TV, specific relationships, or anything else. 
  • But seriously, it's a fun game with an awesome roster that just added a Captain America: Civil War storyline, so if you have self control and like Marvel - check this out.
Got Away from Personal Development Reading, Podcasts, etc.

For a few years I had been in a solid personal development routine. Every day I would read and listen to podcasts with my growth in mind. Then something happened that can happen to a lot of us when we get comfortable in a routine - I started skipping days here and there. Then one day turned into few, which turned into a week and before I knew it, my personal development was no longer a habit.

Here are a few readily accessible personal development opportunities that I turned to to get my habits back on track -
  • Minute with Maxwell - This is a great starter - it's literally 1 to 2 minutes - it helps get me on track for more personal development. You can sign up to get these videos E-mailed to you daily. It's a great way to start a habit.
  • Spartan Up! Podcast - The Spartan Up! podcast might be my legit favorite. Perfect length (generally 20 - 35 minutes) - Joe De Sena has put together a really impressive list of people to interview and usually does a good job at kind of getting out of the way and letting the show be about the guest. I enjoy Spartan Races, but they don't define me, my fitness, whatever, but these podcasts are a great addition to the Spartan brand. I usually plan to listen to one and end up listening to 2 or 3 or re-listening one if I get interrupted during the first listen. De Sena has also done a nice job at bringing people with competing perspectives in and not trying to tell the listener what to think. They are trying to discover what "success" is and they are finding how different people have defined and arrived at success.
  • The Tim Ferriss Show - Ferriss is probably best known for his book the 4-Hour Work Week, but his podcast has been getting a lot of attention of late. This show is much longer than the Spartan Up! podcast with a recent episode I listened to being over 3 hours. I don't have the time to hang on every word of a podcast like this, but like to play them in the background while taking care of other tasks. They play out like a more free flowing conversation than a strict interview which has it's strengths and weaknesses. Ferriss has put together a great and varied lineup of guests so there isn't the risk of the shows getting repetitive. One show he may be talking to a photographer, the next it's a famed gymnastics coach and fitness expert, then the next it's Mike Rowe from the show Dirty Jobs.
My Morning was a Mess
  • My wife had a much longer commute in the morning so she would wake up earlier than I would to get to work on time, but I like my wife so I'd try to wake up so we can chat a bit and hang out before she has to leave. I would then kind of sit around and do nothing for an hour before I'd start getting ready for work. I hated that feeling of wasting an hour of my day. I'd fart around on the internet, maybe read an article if I was especially productive, but mostly it'd be watching a local sports show before dragging myself out of bed.
  • I determined I wanted to make more out of that morning and fortunately around this time a colleague recommended Hal Elrod's The Miracle Morning. Elrod talks about the value of a deliberately used morning and the power his "miracle morning" can have on the rest of the day. I started reading in bed late on a Sunday night. I figured I'd give it a go, pulled myself out of bed, reset my alarm for an hour earlier with a plan to get up and get an early morning yoga workout in along with exploring some of the other parts of his miracle morning routine.
  • I have yet to completely follow the Miracle Morning, but it's been helpful to deliberately think about my morning. I wake up at 6:30am, wash up, brush my teeth, start up my computer, drink a glass of water, select a yoga workout to do (I generally aim for 25-40 minutes), after the workout I'll make breakfast and a cup of coffee along with my morning shake, and then put together a draft of my to do list for the day, highlighting any "main event" items for the day.
  • To create my To-Do list I use the Keep App from Google. It's a simple, straight forward app. I've tried using fancier apps with more features, but this one has worked for me and has been the only one I could stick to. I can create to-do lists, write notes, post pictures, create voice memos and store them all in one place. I primarily just create lists and color code them -
    • Green is my daily list (I work at a school, their color is green)
    • Red is my shopping lists (I do like 80% of my shopping at Target, their color is red)
    • Blue is personal (the blue color looked nice)
  • There are cooler apps out there. Apps with reminders, fun colors, etc, but this one works for me. I like using Google for my E-mail and calendar so it's helpful to have all of this on the same service.  One nice feature is that you can search in the app, so if I'm trying to remember a podcast I listened to an remember some of the key words, I can easily pull it up. 
Taking care of my morning had the biggest impact in getting out of this stagnant period, but all of these worked together to get me into a better spot.

How about you? What do you do to kick start your productivity?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Making My Morning and Making My Day

For a while I've been pretty obsessive about mornings. This started because I started feeling more and more like I was wasting my morning. I wasn't using my time wisely, wasn't making the most out of my day, and wasn't putting myself in the best position possible to have a successful day.

So for the last 6 months or so, I've been reading and listening to everything I can about successful people's morning routines. If I come across an article titled "SOMEONE SUCCESSFUL's Morning Routine" - I stop what I'm doing and either read or bookmark that article.

I read the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, listened to podcasts with Tony Robbins, read articles regarding successful people from a variety of walks of life, fitness people, business people, educators, all to figure out what people do with their mornings.

My big discovery - which should have been expected - is that there's no one way to do it.
While I'm still early in my research and expect to be fine tuning this routine until the day I die, I've come up with a routine that has worked well for me and I've been more productive and happier because of my morning routine.

This is what I do -
P90X3 Yoga is a common morning workout to fit this routine
  • Wake Up at 6:30am (an hour prior to when I used to wake up to work out - took this from the Miracle Morning)
  • Brush teeth and drink some water (also taken from Miracle Morning - this helps morning me from talking myself out of just getting back in bed)
  • Do an approximately half hour workout (this is taken from a lot of people) - I do a yoga workout almost every morning. I choose yoga for a couple of reasons -
    • It seems safer to do while I'm still waking up than a plyo workout or something with weights (I usually begin approximately 5 - 10 minutes after my alarm)
    • My flexibility is a weakness, so I'm working on this area of weakness first thing
    • Lots of the materials I've come across talk about the value of meditation - which sounds awesome and I'd like to get there, so while I'm not meditating yet - yoga has a certain meditative quality for me. I can drift away, empty my head and prepare for the day to come.
    • While I'm my least flexible when I first wake up, my thoughts (based on no research whatsoever) is that pushing myself when I'm my least flexible will help my overall flexibility. Instead of spending the early part of the day walking around like the tin man, 10 minutes after my alarm sounds my flexibility is improving. Then later in the day during my evening workout, I'm even more flexible.
    • We live in an apartment in an old, fairly rickety house. Yoga is the workout least likely to disrupt our neighbors
  • Make a cup of coffee and a light breakfast
  • Write or fine tune my day's To Do List
    • Ideally, I write my first draft of the list the night before, but sometimes I forget/it doesn't happen
  • Have my morning shake
    • Most often this will be Shakeology, maybe with some fruit
  • Shower and get ready for work
  • Head to work
Previously, I had found that I could really drag during the first hour of the work day. Getting up an hour earlier might not sound like the best idea if you're feeling tired in the morning, but these steps helped me feel a lot more with it when I got to the office so I could hit the ground running and not be so irritable in the morning. Now, my first hour of the work day tends to be my most productive. As everyone else is easing into the day, I'm plowing through my to-do list.

My morning routine might not be perfect for you, but my life is better off because I've made these small changes and made my morning deliberately planned. That's probably the biggest thing - taking a step back and deciding to be deliberate and intentional with my morning routine. Instead of rolling around in bed until the last possible second to get ready for work, I'm starting my day off with a plan. A plan that benefits me.

Monday, August 22, 2016

What We're Reading: #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur's Take on Leadership, Social Media and Self-Awareness

What We're Reading: #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur's Take on Leadership, Social Media and Self-Awareness
Author: Gary Vaynerchuk

He brings a humor like that of your funniest friend. He brings a positivity that is real and authentic. He tells stories that get into the nitty gritty while illuminating a BIG picture idea. He's Gary Vaynerchuk.

In July we went to Beachbody Coach Summit. We had been running around a lot the months leading up to Summit and weren't sure we were going to be able to make it, then about a month before our schedules came together and we realized we could make it. Then we decided to look into what was on the agenda for Summit and the advertised key note speaker was Gary Vaynerchuk.

I did not know who Gary Vaynerchuk was. Then I kept  throwing a "d" in his name so quick searches of "Gary Vanderchuk" did not answer many of my questions.

So, long story short, when we saw Gary talk, I had no idea who he was and what he was about.

Longer story, shorter. I dug his stuff.

When you start getting into personal development you come across a lot of these big names in that space. While everyone has their unique slant, there are some traits that a lot of them have. I dig personal development, but sometimes there's a whole lot of fluff and not much stuff. Sometimes it's about making the reader feel warm and fuzzy.

Gary Vaynerchuk will not make you feel warm and fuzzy. Someone can feel free to put that on his next book jacket.

However, he will make you want to get up, get moving and get going. There's an aggressiveness to his approach. One of his previous books is called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook and it makes perfect sense. He's a fighter and looks at business like a fight. He's in a battle and he plans to win.

Gary's story is that of an eastern European immigrant whose family settled in the northeast. His story is centered around hard work and its necessity for success. After hearing him talk, I've been reading some of his works, listening to some of his key notes, following him on social media and "get shit done" comes up quite a bit.

There is a practicality, a realness and an authenticity that really clicked with me right away. I'm from the Northeast, I believe that hard work is essential for success, and I think that sometimes you need some grit and some grime to get through the tough stuff.

So after I got home from Summit, I did what I always seem to do after Summit, I get the book from the keynote because I needed more.

Gary Vaynerchuk currently has four books available and his most recent is #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur's Take on Leadership, Social Media and Self-Awareness. The book is in some ways a companion piece and an extension to his popular #AskGaryVee YouTube Show. Because it was the most recent book, I went with this one.

There is a TON of material here. Gary answers question after question and provides an in-depth response for each one. The structure of the book is so easy to read with questions serving as section headings for the different topics that he covers. This way of organizing the book works so well for the way that I read as I often read before bed or read in short bursts. Instead of feeling like I have to read an entire chapter to cover an idea, I can read half a page to get some valuable information.

As a reader, you can decided to plow through the book in short order or you could read a question and response each day. This can be a great way to do daily, short bursts of personal development. This works well for me as I'm a momentum worker where once I get going, I really get going so doing personal development like this that could take just a minute or two helps me get moving. This half page or so of reading can help me get moving in the right direction for the rest of the day.

Gary's voice is accessible, real and makes it feel like you're talking to a friend. There's not a lot of vague "you just need to believe in yourself and you can do anything" feedback that can often fill up the pages of personal development reading. #AskGaryVee has the specific, actionable advice that is lacking in many of the books filling up the personal development section of the book store.

If personal development reading is not part of your regular routine, #AskGaryVee could be a great starter book. With it's short sections making up chapters, it's a very easy read that can be taken on in a variety of different ways. I HIGHLY recommend #AskGaryVee and this has proved as a great way to get into more of his work. It can also serve as a gateway to the treasure trove of material that Gary Vaynerchuk has already put out there.

Follow Gary Vaynerchuk at -

Facebook - Gary Vaynerchuk
Instagram - GaryVee
Twitter - GaryVee

Monday, August 1, 2016

22 Minute Hard Corps Program Review

I JUST finished 22 Minute Hard Corps.

Two months. 6 days a week. 22 minutes a day.

As I talked about in my review for the first workout - Cardio 1 - I came into 22 Minute Hard Corps thinking "22 minutes sounds super easy, I'm not sure it'll be enough." Immediately, I was reminded that I was an idiot. 22 minutes is plenty when it's an efficient and intense 22 minutes. Instead of going to the gym, doing a set and wandering around a bit until your next set, this is an essentially non-stop 22 minutes with limited, short breaks and lots of opportunity to push yourself further as you progress throughout the program.

The basic 22 Minute Hard Corps program includes 3 cardio workouts, 3 resistance workouts and 2 core workouts. The cardio and resistance workouts are all 22 minutes each. The core workouts range from 10 - 15-ish minutes and are paired as a suggested follow-up each day you do a cardio workout. The schedule is pretty simple, you have 6 days on, one day off/for meal prep. Each week has 3 cardio/core days and 3 resistance days with the types of workout alternating daily.

While the 22 minute workouts are by no means easy, it's a lot easier to get yourself going when you're dragging a bit to start a 22 minute workout at home than an hour or longer workout. Another benefit of these workouts is that with all the extra time you can either add in other workouts, have extra time for other activities, go for a run, or whatever else. Sometimes it can be really tough to work in those other active habits when in the middle of a routine that regularly takes up an hour or more each day. For me, I started doing yoga each morning, a habit I had been looking to develop for a long time. Knowing that I had a shorter workout in the evening made this the perfect time to work this into my daily routine. So each morning I'd wake up and then do something from DDP Yoga, a PiYo workout, or a yoga routine with Tony Horton on Beachbody on Demand.

The schedule and routine is pretty straight forward. Days alternate between cardio days and resistance (weight) days. Then when you feel like you have some extra to give, it is pretty easy to double up workouts since they're only 22 minutes. "Hard Corps" comes from the military-inspired motif for the workout with cast members being former and active military personnel and shot on locations on battleships, bases and hangers. There is a great variety of the moves throughout the different workouts and a focus towards functional fitness. This is the Beachbody program I would direct someone to if they were looking to use a home workout program to train for an obstacle course race (OCR). Many of the moves felt well suited for training for obstacle course racing and with the short workout length, it would be easier to also work running into your training schedule.

Equipment Needed
  • Weights (either dumbbells or fill up the sandbag that comes with the program)
    • For what it's worth, I only have a set of select tech dumbbells that have a max of 20 pounds, while I'm by no means a big muscle guy, I never maxed out over the course of the program since you're doing so many reps and there's an element of cardio even for the resistance days
  • Pull Up Bar
    • Our apartment is in a weird old house so we cannot set up our pull up bar, to get around this I did rows using my barbell and plates. Is it the same? Not at all, but it allowed me to do something similar-ish rather than just sit and watch the screen. Generally, I'd add an additional 15 reps of rows to the number of pull ups the cast was doing. 
  • Yoga Mat/Carpeted floor
    • For the core stuff and some of the resistance work, you'll want a cushioned surface to work with 
I've written before about how I got into home fitness through Tony Horton's P90X program and through the years I've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Horton. His routines have helped me a lot as they've pushed me to work on all areas of fitness and not just do a bunch of curls in front of the mirror. I would have probably never done a yoga workout and never seen it's incredible value had it not been for P90X. But after doing a couple of rounds of P90X, I kind of got sick of Horton for a while. In the last few years, I've come back into the fold and really appreciate his perspective and his workouts. Now, when Horton comes out with something it's a "must try" for me. P90X2 is one of the most demanding and well-rounded programs I've ever done. P90X3 was a perfect addition to my library to work everything without wasting any time. His book "The Big Picture" was a valuable personal development read that moved and I'll read again soon. 22 Minute Hard Corps has been another great routine from the guy who really changed my life through his programs, talks and written work.

While only 22 minutes, you have the opportunity to push yourself more and more each workout. You can up your weights, try to hit 100% of the workout or even add in reps if you're really getting ahead. There are very limited breaks so it's on you to push yourself and get everything done.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Protein French Toast

Decided to have some fun with breakfast this and made some seriously tasty protein French toast. Usually this kind of breakfast lacks any redeeming value, but I used some of my favorite ingredients to load up on fiber, protein and healthy fats. They turned out so good!! Yummy and even moderately healthy. 


Whole grain bread, 6 slices
4 eggs, lightly whisked
1 scoop Chocolate Shakeology
3 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp each of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (for cooking)
Raw unfiltered honey (topping)
Sliced mango and banana (or other fruit)


1. Thoroughly mix eggs, Shakeology, ACV, seasonings. Be sure to get the powder fully mixed in!
2. Warm pan until EVCO easily coats pan, keep on medium heat.
3. Dip bread to coat well, place in pan and cook on medium for about 3min per side. Egg should be pretty set and not raw.
4. Top with 2-3 tsp honey and sliced fruit.
5. Enjoy!

Feel free to swap out your favorite protein powder if you don't have Shakeology, though I highly recommend connecting with us and at least getting yourself an inexpensive trial pack to try out. Shoot us an email at!

Can't go wrong with a superfood-packed breakfast that tastes like dessert!