Week 7: January Challenge Success!

I am a few weeks late with this post, but I am proud to say I successfully completed my January challenge of closing all the Activity Rings on my Apple Watch everyday throughout the month. It is also a point of pride that I completed the Apple January Challenge of accumulating 300 exercise minutes! So, one personal challenge and one Apple Challenge completed in the same month to start the year. It’s a great feeling to have achieved success so early in 2019.

Since the close of January, I have continued on at the same level (750 calories per day) without missing a day. This puts me on track for a second perfect month in a row. In addition to this potential challenge success, I have already achieved the Heart Month Challenge which consisted of closing my exercise ring for 7-days in a row from February 7th to February 14th. Also, I am on track to achieve the February Challenge of 113.9 miles in movement throughout the month.

Success appears to stack as quickly as you can set realistic goals.

My continuing goal (measured on a monthly basis) is to close all my Activity Rings at their current levels (750 calories) through July 15th. This will result in my longest streak for closing my Move Ring – my previous record was 191 days. Barring illness or crazy travel schedules, I should be able to accomplish this ambitious challenge.

Things aren’t looking so good for my February Challenge of completing the CAPM certification from PMI by the end of the month. More to come on that in my next post.

How are you doing on your 2019 challenges? Any hurdles to share with the world? Leave your experience in the comments!

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Week 3, 2019: Staying on target

Week 3, 2019 and I'm staying on target!
Week 3, 2019 and I’m staying on target!

It’s the end of yet another week and I am happy to report that I am still fulfilling my January Challenge of closing all my activity rings on my Apple Watch! I’ve accomplished this through lunchtime walks, weekend excursions with the dog, and treadmill runs (because it’s flipping cold outside). That’s the good news.

The bad news is I have found myself slipping into some of my familiar bad habits this week. Including an abundance of television watching (boo!), an increase in my nicotine intake (yup, still a smoker in 2019), and less activity between the events in the paragraph above. I feel the worst part is I haven’t been writing as much this week as I have in the past month.

Of all the therapeutic activities I have participated in throughout my life (admittedly, it hasn’t been as much as it should be), writing has always been my saving grace. It’s the ability to take an errant thought, bad decision, or fantastically wild idea and bring it into the physical world that amazes me about writing.

Holding on to negative emotions? Cool, write it down and I’ll bet you money you will feel better instantly.

Got a crazy idea for a new business? Outstanding, put it on paper, type it into Evernote, or drop it in an email to yourself, make it real!

Having a hard time figuring out a solution to a problem? Write it out on a dry erase board or draw pictures of it on a blank piece of paper and a solution will come to you.

Throughout my life, when I have gone long periods of time without writing down my thoughts (privately or publicly) my emotional stability deteriorates, my concentration suffers, and the grey hairs on my head multiply like rabbits in a box. Plucking the best, mundane, and worst out of my head brings stability and calm to an otherwise rocky ride. Surely, I am not the only one who experiences this phenomenon.

Unfortunately, there is always an excuse:

  • I have no time!
  • I’m too busy!
  • I have too much going on!
  • I don’t feel like it!
  • I don’t want to!
  • I’m tired!

Any of those sound familiar? I tell myself at least one of those everyday. The fact is, we all have more time than we admit to having. How many hours a day/week do you watch non-educational/non-developmental TV? How many hours do you spend drinking alcohol (and recovering from it)? How many hours do you spend commuting (don’t write a journal while driving, but you could do a stream-of-consciousness voice memo)? How many hours do you waste not helping yourself?

I am an advocate for taking time off, lounging about for short bursts of time, and (every now and then) just shutting down for a few days. However, it can’t be every weekend or everyday when you get home from work. There is a point when relaxation becomes sedation and that doesn’t help anyone.

Take 15-minutes, set a timer, and start writing about your day – the events that happened, your feelings about those events, your plans for the future, what you want to accomplish tomorrow, and so on. Fifteen minutes. That’s all it takes to start something.

I have achieved middle age

Hanging out before my flight.
Pre-security hangout.

Today is my 35th birthday. I am writing this post in the Albuquerque International Airport (Sunport for locals) waiting to board a plane to Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport with a final destination of Missoula International Airport (that’s in Montana for those who had to look it up on a map like I did). This is a work trip, not a self-funded birthday vacation.

Having been through 34 birthdays before (none of which garnered much attention or celebration), I’m not sad or displeased with traveling for work on the 35th iteration of this event. However, it is a sobering sensation to know I am halfway through my life. This is not a macabre realization, it’s just a simple fact given my current bad health habits and stressful lifestyle.

In my teens and twenties, I never thought I would make it to 23 let alone still be alive and kicking 12 years after that lifespan estimate. Most people attribute my low expectations of an extended life with the army, but I have always harbored a sense of not living to old age.

As a teenager I was fully aware of my reckless, adrenaline seeking lifestyle and knew the potential consequences of those actions. Between fighting, fast driving, and generally bad decisions about my physical wellbeing I was astonished to see my 18th birthday.

Once I joined the army at 18, it was natural to think I wouldn’t make it out alive. With two active wars in progress, my young-man-pride in joining the infantry, and my willingness to ignore obvious signs of danger all contributed to a fatalist view of life. I am sure some would say I actively pursued an ultimate end while deployed to Iraq on several occasions, but I always felt it was in line with the job description.

In my mid-20s I started in government security contracting which, low and behold, could be a very dangerous job. I sought it out to fill the void the army left after my premature expulsion from the organization under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). I needed something to make up for what appeared to be a dull day-to-day grind as a civilian. I never made it on to one of those truly high-risk contracts which may have been a better outcome for me in the long run.

The past 6-years have been filled with the stressful life of the startup world. Whether it’s traveling with little notice, or devising a means of accomplishing an initiative without money or personnel, or simply working the forever long days, stress builds up in short order. However, there is an adrenaline/endorphin kick to this kind of work and the risk of failure appeals to my still rebellious inner teenager.

My hair is speckled with grey; the lines under my eyes are getting deeper; I can’t run as fast; I can’t pull all-nighters without consequences anymore; I find myself more contemplative than ever before. It’s not all bad, having reached middle age I am astonished by the experiences I have had in my life. I see the future as a true prospect now and am living in the present while allowing myself to secure a better future for myself and my husband.

Getting older isn’t all bad – I laugh more, I know how to smile now, and I have learned a lot along the way. We are all marching towards the same grim end, but we should all take a moment to acknowledge that our lives are unique, each experience is our own. Go out and take a risk, it’s usually worth it!

Time to board the plane 🙂

Week 2, 2019: Still On Target

Two weeks complete in Apple Activity.

I am happy to report that I am still on target for accomplishing my January Challenge. Thirteen days in a row my Activity Rings on my Apple Watch have been fully closed. I’d be lying if I said it has been easy – yesterday, I had to do a semi-intense 45-minute workout throughout my house at 10:45 at night to close them all. Lazy days lounging around the house don’t contribute to success in this Challenge.

My energy levels continue to be higher than what I have become accustomed to over the years. I still don’t know if this is attributable to the increased activity related to the Challenge or the increase in water consumption or decrease in fast food/restaurant food or a combination of all three. On the one hand, I am a bit disappointed that I have made so many changes at the same time that it is impossible to narrow down which of the changes have had the greatest impact. On the other hand, I am happy that I have made the changes because I haven’t felt this good in years.

With nearly half the month in the past, I am keeping my focus on finishing this Challenge but not losing sight of what’s coming up next month. In preparation for a 28-day sprint to becoming a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), I ordered the hardcopy Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) today. I already have the kindle version, but for this Challenge, I think a physical copy will be much better for me. I have always retained information and generally learned better in the real world.

Becoming a CAPM is important for my professional development but will also have positive effects on my personal life. Learning new ways to look at, evaluate, and solve problems will always be a universally applicable skill. I wish more people would take different approaches to the same old problems, but that is a post for another time.

As a disclaimer, I have read most of the PMBOK already, but not in a way designed to set me up for success to take the CAPM exam. My focus on the first read through was immediate application of certain principles and process into my day-to-day work. February’s Challenge is to end the month with a passing score on the CAPM exam. This will not be easy, some people study for months in order to pass the CAPM exam – I will be relying on in-depth study sessions on my own as well as with my husband to achieve success in the shortest month of the year.

I look forward to completing my January Challenge successfully and determining how I will maintain my gains throughout the year. Check back regularly to see how it’s going!

How are you doing with your Challenges? Any unexpected benefits? Use the comments to share your own experience in 2019 so far!

A Letter To My 15-Year-Old Self

Meteor Crater Selfie
The standard couple selfie at Meteor Crater east of Flagstaff, AZ.
High School Freshman Me

Lucas,

Believe it or not, I am you in 20 years. Congratulations! You made it to 35! It hasn’t been the easiest road to travel, but I am happy with how things have turned out so far. If time is set to occur (let’s ignore the infinite universe theory for the moment) then you will make the same decisions I made and end up right here as me.

However, life doesn’t need to be as hard as your decisions will likely make it out to be. I don’t want to cheat the system here, but I do want to improve your chances of improving yourself a bit more ahead of the curve than I did. Sorry to say, this letter isn’t about how to make a billion dollars or to make you famous – it is about being a better version of yourself.

First, your life is going to change within the next year. At the moment, you’re starting to hang out with a particular group of people from Sonic that you shouldn’t be around. Trust me when I say, they are not the cool people and you don’t want to follow in their footsteps. The actions you are invited to participate in with them are not worth the consequences. Turn to the exceptional kids your own age for inspiration and motivation – you’ll be thankful for it later.

Second, give your parents a break. Your mother is doing the best she can (as she always has) and will continue to do so for as long as you live. As for your stepfather, take a moment to calm your adolescent hormones whenever you think you are getting mad or frustrated with him. He is a good man and you can learn a lot from him if you allow yourself to do so. Without going into details, this is another situation wherein rash decisions made in the heat of the moment are not worth the consequences.

Third, despite your current mental state, the future does matter. There is no guarantee you will live to be 100 years old, or even 35 for that matter, but don’t waste your future by throwing everything you earn away in the present. Yes, you will always find a way to earn money and, yes, you will find ways of living comfortably at times, but you don’t have to make it so difficult for yourself. Save your money, avoid using credit cards, and start investing early. I’d be in a much better place in life if I had slowed down and taken the time to use my money to better my position rather than spending it on impulsive decisions.

Fourth, learn something new everyday. Learn about people; learn about money and how it can generate more money without any actions on your part; learn to be a better friend; learn to trust; learn to love. If you ever feel like you don’t need to learn anything new then you need to reevaluate yourself. I did a pretty good job on this front, but a bit more effort would have helped me out exponentially.

Finally, make a point to find yourself in Albuquerque sometime in 2008 – specifically the Home Depot on Renaissance Boulevard. You’ll meet a young man there named Bud (yup, that’s his actual name, no nickname), it would behoove you to make his acquaintance and see what develops. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

I know, you’re probably disappointed that I didn’t tell you the stocks to buy or the sports team to bet on to make you rich overnight. Too bad. Those are things you will figure out on your own.

Your a good kid, stop beating yourself up so much and trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations. You’ll make it through the hard times and should try to enjoy the good times a bit more. Take care of yourself, our lives depend on it!

Your friend and benefactor – Lucas