Goodbye 12for2012; Hello 12for13

It’s been a fantastic year, as resolutions go. Just 12 months ago, I had no idea I would meet so many great people, have such incredible experiences and grow as much as I did. It seems like just yesterday that I first hopped on a unicycle and I’m already moving on to the next set of challenges.

It’s been quite a journey, but it isn’t over yet. As I write this, my final 12for2012 post, I hope you’ll continue to come along for the ride as I begin 12for13: A Year Without Fear.

Thank You!!!

LR12: Learn How to Conquer Headaches

Ten years ago my daughter began suffering from chronic headaches. That means for the past 10 years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, she has had a headache. This constant state of gnawing pain is only occasionally interrupted by something even worse, a debilitating migraine. When the migraines come, it’s hard for her to function at all. Instead she is relegated to lying down in a silent, dark room until the pain, nausea and heightened sensitivity subsides.

We’ve tried everything including pharmaceuticals, massage therapy, yoga, meditation, Eastern herbal remedies, glasses, TMJ mouth pieces, acupuncture, and even Indian tongue reading. Although her current medications brought the chronic pain down from a 7 to a 3, they don’t come without side effects.

Heal Your HeadacheYears ago one of our neurologists suggested a book called “Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Control of Your Pain” by David Buchholz, M.D. He’d said one of his patients had a similar experience to my daughter’s, where nothing but powerful meds helped, and she hated what they were doing to her. She followed the program and within 8 weeks was experiencing whole days without any pain at all. She was able to wean herself off the meds and although she still gets the occasional headache, she now knows a) what triggered it and b) how to control it. Back then, I read the book and created a one page summary of what it proposes. The problem is, the program requires incredible discipline for anyone to follow it, but particularly for a teenager. My daughter rejected it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when during a business meeting with a local investor, I noticed that she asked the waiter whether a certain dish had aged cheese in it. I’d never heard anyone ask that question, but aged cheeses are a known trigger for migraines according to the Buchholz book. I asked her if she suffered from headaches and for most of the remainder of the meal we spoke about her chronic headaches, how she conquered them, my daughter’s experience, etc. Turns out, she is the woman who had followed the Buchholz program, cured herself and brought the book to our neurologist’s attention.

I ran home to tell my wife and called my daughter at college. She was of course lying in bed in the middle of the day, fighting through yet another powerful migraine. The news was  encouraging and she decided then and there that she was ready to do whatever it took to overcome this. She wanted to take medical leave from college and focus solely on taking control of her life, to get rid of the medications and rediscover the woman hidden beneath them. I flew out immediately to pack her up and bring her home.

My new friend, “the investor”, agreed to meet us for lunch to explain what we should expect from the program and how it changed her life. We left that meeting inspired.

My part in the plan is to learn all I can about the program, the science behind it, set expectations, work with the neurologist to make for a smooth transition and most of all, coach her through this.

WHAT IS THE PROGRAM

Step 1: Avoid Quick Fixes That Cause Rebound. This means she has to stop taking all the medications migraine sufferers turn to at the moment of peak pain. She cannot take decongestants, caffeine, excedrin, fiorinal or tylenol with codeine.

Step 2: Reduce Triggers

Dietary Triggers include caffeine, chocolate, MSG, nuts, vinegar, citrus fruits, dried/preserved fruits, ripened fruits, onions, fresh bread, aspartame, miso and alcohol although white wine and vodka are tolerated in small quantities.

Non-Dietary Triggers include perfumes, smoke, bright lights, dehydration, stress, sleep deprivation and hormonal birth control.

Step 3: Raise Threshold with Preventive Medications (if necessary)

HeadachesThe idea is that headaches are a function of 2 things; the accumulation of triggers relative to the threshold of a particular person. The triggers listed above are triggers for everyone, but for chronic headache and migraine sufferers, the threshold is much lower than for most of us.

Today is Day 1 of the program.

Below is the full list of “Things to Avoid”

CAFFEINE
Coffee, tea, iced tea and cola. Even decaf coffee and tea which contain other chemical triggers. Try caffeine free herb tea without citrus and other trigger flavors.
CHOCOLATE
White chocolate (no cocoa) is ok
MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE (MSG)
Chinese & other restaurant food;
soups and boullions;
Accent & seasoned salt,
flavored, salty snacks;
croutons and bread crumbs;
ready-to-eat meals;
cheap buffets;
veggie burgers;
protein concentrates;
low fat, low calorie foods.
Look for these words and those that sound like them…
Hydrolyzed protein
(including vegetable/soy/plant/rice protein)
Yeast extract and autolyzed yeast
Natural flavors/flavorings
Broth, stock or bouillon
Soy protein concentrate/isolate
Textured protein
Whey protein
Protein-fortified items
Malt extract
Malted barley
Maltodextrin
Carrageenan
Kombu (seaweed extract)
Sodium or calium caseinate
Glutamic acid
Gelatin
Fermented or cultured items
Ultra-pasteurized items
Enzyme-modified items
Be suspicious of “natural flavors (or flavorings)”
CHEESE AND OTHER DAIRY PRODUCTS
The more aged, the worse.
Beware cheese-containing foods including pizza.
Yogurt (including frozen), sour cream and buttermilk are also triggers.
Cheeses that are ok: ricotta, cream cheese, and good quality American cheese.
NUTS
Avoid all kinds, as well as nut butters. Peanuts and peanut butter. Seeds are okay.
ALCOHOL and VINEGAR
Especially red wine, champagne and dark or heavy drinks. Vodka is best tolerated in limited quantities. Too much alcohol at once leads to accumulation of acetaldehydes, a trigger.
Clear, ideally distilled, vinegar is allowable.
Don’t overdo condiments made with vinegar incl ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.
CERTAIN FRUITS AND JUICES
Citrus fruits incl oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, tangerines, clementines and pineapples & their juices. Bananas, raspberries, red plums, papayas, passion fruit, figs, dates and avocados.
Raisins and other dried fruits if preserved with sulfites.
Fruits in general accumulate tyramine as they ripen, choose young, fresh fruits whenever possible.
CERTAIN VEGETABLES, ESPECIALLY ONIONS
Plus sauerkraut, pea pods, and certain beans (broad Italian, lima, fava, navy and lentils).
Allowed: leeks, scallions, shallots, spring onions and garlic.
FRESH YEAST RISEN BAKED GOODS
Less than one day old; homemade (or restaurant-baked) breads, especially sour dough, as well as bagels, donuts, pizza dough, soft pretzels and coffee cake.
ASPARTAME (NUTRASWEET)
Saccharin (Sweet n Low)
OTHERS
Cultured Soy (Miso)
Fermented Soy (Tempeh)
Soy Sauce containing MSG
Hormonal birth control
Regularity is key: you should sleep, eat and exercise on a regular basis. Get enough sleep each night, seven to eight hours or more, and don’t oversleep sporadically, as on weekends. Skipping meals is a common trigger for migraine. Stay on schedule for three meals a day, no more than six to eight hours apart. Snack in between if you wish—but only on nonrestricted items!
Exercise also enhances endorphin production in the brain and is a natural way to help raise your migraine threshold, which otherwise requires preventive medication. Aim for a half-hour or more of aerobic exercise three to four times a week.

LR11: Learn How to Rope (Lasso)

Riding along Professor Creek (Moab, UT)I like to say that when I moved out to California, I discovered my inner redneck. I prefer Jeeps to Ferraris, t-shirts to labels and there isn’t anything I’d rather do inside than in the great outdoors. A couple of years ago we rode horses in Moab, Utah and from that moment on, I decided the cowboy life was beckoning me. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on getting there eventually.

Learning Resolution #11: Learn How to Rope, will give me a skill I hope to someday apply on a daily basis. Cowboy hat? Check. Lasso? Check. YouTube? Check…BijaPoo Roping

 

LR10: Mindful Endurance

Barefoot HikingLast week one of the analysts at my firm (20 years younger than me) asked if I was doing the Pier to Peak half marathon 5 days later. Now I can’t explain why I respond in this way, but that isn’t the purpose of this post so it’s irrelevant right now. I answered by saying I didn’t realize it was this weekend, but sure, “why not?” So I immediately signed up (after checking “my” schedule with my wife). That was it. Five days later I would be participating in the 5th toughest half-marathon in the world.

Forget that my only exercise over the past several months had been barefoot hiking, so my cardio was even more limited than usual. Not to mention that I am still at the stage where my feet are breaking down so that they can toughen up. Every hike results in the soles of my feet getting a little bruised, the pads getting burned or scraped, and a toe or two getting beaten up. Ultimately, the goal of barefoot hiking is to slow my pace down, to allow me to be more mindful of where I am, not to get in shape. That is great, unless you decide to participate in a grueling endurance race.

P2P StartThe day before the race I was feeling antsy and needed to get out for a hike, so I did a 5 mile barefoot hike to the site of the yarn bomb. It was a nice cool day, so my soles didn’t burn, but I did manage to find lots of small, sharp pebbles to poke into the soft parts of my feet and create tiny polka dots of bruising. I would come to regret that hike less than 24 hours later.

Saturday morning at 6:30am, I lined up along side 371 other nut jobs to run 13.15 miles from the Santa Barbara pier to the lookout tower atop La Cumbre Peak, roughly 5,000 feet higher than the start. The course is rated a Cat 1 Climb, the steepest grade on a scale of 1 to 5, only to be outdone by what is called the “Hors Categorie”.

By mile 6, I was already questioning the intelligence of the decision to participate without any preparation. I hadn’t even thought through the right shoes to wear and the hot spots were beginning to develop.

P2P Mile 8By mile 8 my feet were in agony. Every step was pressing on the bruises and the thick padding that’s been developing across the balls of my feet felt like they were beginning to separate from my foot. I feared they would break away, leaving a very large, raw, open wound in a most crucial spot.

P2P Mile 11At mile 10.5, Gibraltar Road finally meets Camino Cielo, where I had expected the trail would turn left, leaving the majority of the remaining distance to be somewhat flat. I was wrong. They turned us right for a grueling half mile psych out that climbs up and around several blind corners. You know that every step you take will at some point need to be retraced, but you can’t see how far it is to the turnaround. Every runner coming back assures you “it’s just another 200 yards,” but only one of them is correct. My hamstrings are so tight, I can imagine just the slightest misstep will cause one or both to snap. My feet are on fire and I can no longer feel the three smallest toes on my left foot.

Finally, I reach the turnaround and head downhill for the first time since we started. I thought it would be a relief, but it made it even worse on my feet as they were mashed into the front of my shoe with ever step. The three little piggies on my right foot mentally disappeared as well. My mind was clear, I felt great cardio-wise, but my legs were shot and my feet, well, I don’t know how to describe the anguish they were causing me in those shoes. Uphill, downhill, it didn’t really matter. I just needed to get off of them and out of those shoes.

P2P Mile 11.5As I faced the final 1.65 miles, I recalled why I was there in the first place. It wasn’t a moment to escape, but a moment to revel in. This was the moment to become mindful of the anguish, to breath in the fresh air, to appreciate when my feet feel good and my legs are powerful. This was a highlight in my life, not a lowpoint. I wanted to experience every ounce of pain, for it was the extremity of the pain and anguish itself that made that moment stand out from all the mindless, petty stuff that takes up the majority of our lives. This, was a break from the mundane. This, was living and I wanted to wring every drop out of it. While I heard others complaining about the heat, I was mindful of even the slightest breeze and felt cool. I saw the steep climb that lie ahead and wished it were steeper. I knew that physically I was tapped out, but mentally I was gassed up and ready to go. In my head I was running at full speed, but to anyone witnessing my actions in the real world, I was barely giving the tortoise a run for his money.

P2P FinishAt the finish, I just wanted to grab my shirt, get on the bus and take off my shoes. During the party bus ride back down, it dawned on me that this was my first endurance event since becoming a vegan. I felt better aerobically than ever before, probably a result of the 13 pounds I’ve lost and the reduction of body fat by 33%. What I found most interesting is that normally after completing an event like that I have a mad craving for steak, but this time I simply craved calories. I thought it odd, because cravings are not a conscious choice. The fact that I had absolutely no interest in ingesting meat after this race, tells me I have accomplished Learning Resolution 7: Eat Right (Vegan).

LR10: Drilling for Mindfulness

Nothing, and I mean nothing, brings you into the moment like extreme pain. Actually the moment you realize with absolute certainty that its arrival is impending, now that is the moment of maximum mindfulness.

BeforeAt the risk of losing those of you who were on the fence about my sanity, I share this experience. A few weeks ago a piece of my tooth broke off. It’s a tooth with a very large old mercury filling. Today I went to the dentist to have the old filling removed and prep work (drilling) done for a new crown.

The dental hygienist led me to the chair saying, “I’ll take care of numbing you first.” Her jaw dropped when I told her I don’t get numbed for dental work. Just then, the dental assistant walked in and said, “Oh, right, Stephen doesn’t get numbed.”

I started getting dental work without any anesthesia or novacaine about 10 years ago. You see I hate that annoying numb feeling that stays with you long after visiting the dentist and even more, I hate all the shots in the gums. One visit, it dawned on me that I didn’t have to be numbed. It’s my right to do without it. That first time, when I had a cavity filled without any anesthetic, my senses were heightened beyond belief. I think the dentist was as nervous as me, too. He was worried I would flinch if he touched a nerve, which would have created a real problem for both of us. He gave me the warnings, then set up a signal I should use if I couldn’t take it any more.

In the ChairI won’t lie, it hurt like hell. The endorphins started to flow and that’s when it happened. I recalled a story about Dale Earnhardt, when during a race, he began snoring over his radio and his pit crew had to verbally wake him up. His ability to maintain calm to the point of sleep, even under the most extreme duress, earned him the nickname, The Intimidator. Some people are challenged by marathons. I am challenged to maintain calm under extreme physical duress. This was my Ironman triathlon.

I close my eyes and focus on every breath. I try to get a fix on my heartbeat and then physically slow it down with my mind. I visualize the instruments being used, how the tooth is being transformed and most of all, I create a mental image of the nerves. As they are sparked, I imagine something like a laser being shot from the end that was triggered up to my brain. By visualizing what is happening, I feel a sense of control over it. It’s difficult to describe, but it converts the pain from a feeling into something tangible, which is observed rather than experienced. (Is any of this making sense?)

AfterAnyway, since that time, I have had a tooth pulled, two root canals and many old fillings replaced, all without anesthesia and today was no different. At one point, the dentist used some kind of water/laser gadget that works like a drill but instead of spinning, it pounds away at the target. It turns out I have a cavity in the tooth next to where he was working and while trying to take care of it too, he bore through a good chunk of my gums as well (see picture). I saw colors and felt the pain radiate from every nerve in my body, but I never flinched. The assistants both even commented on how they were watching my hands to see if I was clenching my fists, but they saw no sign of anguish. I was focused on my heartbeat and breathing. I was aware of the pain, but I was merely witnessing it. It can’t be ignored and you can’t avoid it. I felt every bit of it, but it didn’t matter.

When he was finished, I was good as new. No numbness or pain. I said to the dentist and his assistants, “I can’t be the only patient who comes to you who does without anesthesia.” They all thought and looked at each other before answering, “Actually, you are.”

LR7: Silly Carnivores

Vegan SurpriseI have to remark on some things I find odd about the whole vegan thing. The first is how few people actually know what is included in a vegan diet. Everyone, without exclusion, attempts to define it by what a vegan “can’t” eat. As they begin to ask questions like, “so no fish either,” I try to simplify it for them. It is a plant based diet. I only eat things that come from plants. Inevitably, every adult asks, “what about alcohol”? It’s funny, they seem to think they could be a vegan, but cutting out alcohol would be a deal breaker. When I tell them that alcohol is from plants, they relax a bit.

One question I am asked repeatedly is, “how long are you going to do this vegan thing?” I used to answer with, “who knows”, but then I really thought it through. I became a vegan because it’s a healthier choice, not unlike quitting smoking. So in reality, their question is not dissimilar to asking a former smoker how long he plans on staying away from cigarettes.

“Do you take any supplements?” This is one of the funniest questions of all. The implication is that my diet must be deficient in supplying me with some essential vitamins, minerals or, most likely, protein. Here’s why the question is so funny to me. Almost every single supplement in the world is derived from plants.

Cherry Garcia for Vegans

“Cherry Garcia” for Vegans

Think about this. Only 2% of the American public is vegan and 5% is vegetarian. That means 93% are not. It’s hard for me to believe that the supplement and pharmaceutical businesses have grown so large, by supplying all the vegans that are nutritionally deficient.

Finally, I am often asked if I am a “strict” vegan and someone recently remarked that their daughter is “not as strict as I am.” I must admit, this word “strict” totally confuses me. A vegan only ingests things derived from plants. If you eat chicken, fish, or anything else from an animal, then you are simply someone who eats more vegetables than most or someone who eats meat only occasionally. Oh, and it doesn’t matter if the meat is organic. That has absolutely nothing to do with defining your diet as vegan. So either you are a vegan, or you’re not. There is no more granularity in the definition than that.

LR8: Parkour Lesson 5

Parkour InjuryThis week we attempted to learn how to vault over higher walls, about 5 feet high. I pulled off a Kong vault and even a few 180’s, walking on my hands in mid flight. The biggest accomplishment of the night was my first cartwheel and the beginnings of a handstand (always wanted to do those). I said in the previous Parkour blog entry that every week I’ve gone home with a different injury and my record still stands. This week I rip my big toe nail back on itself. Not to worry though. I wrapped it in some paper towel, taped it up and was good to continue. Enjoy the video.

LR10: Barefoot Hiking

Sandstone

The goal for LR10: Mindfulness is to learn to live more in the moment, to strip life down to its essence. To get rid of the nonsense, and truly experience what I normally take for granted.

Becoming a vegan is perhaps the purest, most consistent way for me to be more mindful for it forces me to think about everything I take in. There is no drive thru for a vegan. When you’re at a party you can’t just grab a handful of whatever is put in front of you. You have conversations with the creators of your food, the chef. I think through the menu before making a reservation. I call days in advance to chat with the chef about possible dishes. It has made me more mindful of the chef’s part in my meal. Every meal has become more intimate for me.

Spiked Oak Leaves, Sticks and RocksLast year, I broke with my long held tradition of not running unless someone was chasing me. After reading Born to Run (my favorite book from a previous resolution to read 50 books in a year), I developed an interest in running. It started with weekly 5k’s, then a half marathon, a sprint triathlon and finally an ultramarathon. I bought a GPS watch, started tracking my trail runs and competing against my best times. Instead of enjoying my time in the mountains, just Stella and me, taking in the scenery, breathing in the air and sorting through my thoughts, I was focused and concentrated. It took all the joy out of hiking.

Sharp, annoying little rocksI wanted to return to my old ways, but it’s hard to break a habit. In fact, it requires extreme measures at times to break a habit, even one as simple as not running when you go for a hike. My solution? Go barefoot.

You see, running barefoot hurts. These aren’t asphalt surfaces, they are trails of spiked oak leaves, lined with poison oak, populated by rattlesnakes, with lots of sticks, sharp Atop Saddlerock Trailrocks, hot sand and tons of sandstone, which is like walking on sandpaper, not to mention the occasional dog poop. When you hike in big hiking boots or even trail runners, nothing fazes you. Water, rocks, poison oak, even snakes are of little concern. Hiking barefoot, on the other hand, requires you to be aware of every hazard including the threat of a stubbed toe. Essentially, it forces you to be mindful of your environment, to be aware of everything directly in front of you. Everything else is a distraction.

LR6: Ballroom Dancing Lesson 12

Barb and I have been taking lessons with Cassia at Arthur Murray in Santa Barbara for 2 months now. We’ve settled into a 2-3 times per week schedule lately and really enjoying it.  I’m beginning to understand what it means to lead on the dance floor a bit more, but it’s a process.

Couple of observations I’ve made, whether they are true or not, it’s at least accurate from my perspective. First, the ballroom is one of the few places left in this world where it’s ok to think of the male/female relationship in the traditional sense. It means the man calls the shots there and the woman takes her cue from him. He makes decisions and she simply follows. No discussions, no arguments. However, with power comes responsibility. I’ve come to understand that the man’s role is one of stability and determination. The woman’s role is that of the risk taker. She spins, she follows, she turns, etc. all at the man’s discretion. The man is effectively showing his woman off on the dance floor. His job is to make sure she actually looks good when the spotlight shines on her and then give her a safe, secure place to return to when the move is finished.

One other thing before you get to the video. I’ve discovered some great new music since beginning these lessons. One of my favorites, Dark Waltz by Hayley Westenra, can be heard beginning at 1:32 in the video when we are dancing the waltz. I play it every single day at home. The other favorite is a rhumba tune by Enrique Iglesias called Ring My Bells. I think it’s a pretty sexy tune and love dancing to it, but Enrique gets on Barb’s nerves so it’s a point of contention. Anyway, I play it all the time at home and occasionally we dance to it at the studio.

I know many of you have been dying to see video of our ballroom dancing experience, so here it is. I must warn you however, I’m not very graceful and it may be painful to watch at times. Tonight’s lesson was solely about learning a new move for use on the rhumba and waltz.

LR8: Parkour Lesson 4

Jackson returned from UCLA Film School to rejoin the parkour class with Joel at the new Valhalla Elite Training Center. I had to rush over immediately following my third ballroom dancing class of the week. I’m really packing it in these days.

We focused mainly on what are essentially vaults over short walls. We started by reviewing the vaults each of us had learned in previous lessons. I warmed up with the Butterfly, then learned the Shoulder Roll (gotta tuck more at the end), Kong (loved this one) and then we really pushed it by attempting the Panther. The panther is similar to the Kong, but you build a lot more momentum by almost diving over the first barrier. Success at all of this essentially comes down to simply letting go of the fear and going for it. Although it may look easy when you’re watching these videos, I can tell you it’s much harder than it looks. I’m encouraged by the fact that I go home with a different sore part each time. I think that means I’m pushing myself in a new way every week. This week it’s my left shoulder.

LR9: Klout

I was out for dinner the other night with one of my hedge fund’s investors and the topic ofBijaPoo on Klout Klout came up. I’d heard the word mentioned earlier in the week while on a business trip to NYC as well. Two unrelated mentions in one week perked my ears and piqued my interest, so I had to find out more.

First, both conversations focused on the fact that Justin Bieber has the most influence of anyone on the Internet and that companies are actually paying him to essentially do product placements on his Twitter, Facebook, et al accounts. How do they know he’s the most influential person in cyberspace? Well, he’s the only person in the world with a Klout score of 100 out of 100.

According to their website,

The Klout Score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage you influence others.

The Klout Score uses data from social networks in order to measure:

    • True Reach: How many people you influence
    • Amplification: How much you influence them
    • Network Impact: The influence of your network

I’m a pretty heavy user of the Internet, so when I first signed up and received a score of just 13, it was pretty shocking. It made me wonder how low my less Internet friendly friends must be and also what it takes to boost it up. Then I saw a friend who isn’t social media savvy with a score of 17! I had to understand the score better.

Again, according to Klout’s website, “influence is relative so it depends on your goal and peers. The average Klout Score is not 50; instead, it is around 20. The Score becomes exponentially harder to increase as you move up the scale. For instance, it is much harder to move from a 70 to a 75 than from a 20 to a 25.” Wow, 20 is average and I’m a 13?! I wondered what it would take to improve my score to a more respectable level. Klout says, “the best way to increase your Score is to consistently create great content that people want to share and respond to. For the most accurate Score, we also recommend connecting all of your social networks.”

Turns out, it takes a couple of days for your networks to update on Klout. The 13 represented just my Twitter account. Once it added my Facebook page my score jumped to 23. It still hasn’t fully registered all of my networks, like YouTube, Instagram, 12for2012.com, LinkedIn, FourSquare and Blogger, but my score is already a very respectable 51. Pinterest, ravelry and many others are not yet incorporated.

Why should my Klout score matter to me? Power and influence is a good thing to have, whether in the real world or cyberspace. If I am going to be successful at launching LPE, it will certainly come in handy. (LPE’s Klout score is 23, but for some reason it’s only registering the LPE’s Twitter account. Since it’s influence is much greater on Facebook, that score should be much higher when it does register.)

Besides, even as it affects this blog, it’s much more fun writing for an audience.

GR6: LPE’s “IF” Campaign

I met with an amplification consultant, which is essentially a business designed to help get a message out via the full array of social media outlets. Amplification, Inc has come on board to help us do just that. This is an iterative process, that will require us trying things, assessing their success and making adjustments. What I learned from our 1st discussion is that in the world of social media, a picture is worth 1,000 words and video is worth exponentially more, especially short videos. Children and animals are a huge plus. Nothing new in any of this, but if we are going to be successful at getting our message out, it’s important for us to be cognizant of what works. Here are the first 5 images from the new “IF” campaign for the League of Professional Educators. I would greatly appreciate it if you would share them via Facebook and/or Twitter. Every “Share” and “Like” helps get us closer to fixing education.

Click here to share “If children…” on Facebook

If children are your concern, then so is education

Click here to share “If poverty…” on Facebook

If poverty is your concern, then so is education

Click here to share “If crime…” on Facebook

If crime is your concern, then so is education

Click here to share “If women’s rights…” on Facebook

Women's Rights

Click here to share “If terrorism…” on Facebook

If terrorism is your concern, then so is education.

LR8: 2nd Parkour Lesson

Abs felt better at the beginning, but by the end I was really favoring my right side and was trying not to stretch out too far. That’s enough with the excuses, on with the show…

LR10: Mindfulness

Featured

Random Karmic DroppingsBefore I explain what this Learning Resolution is about, it may be helpful for you to know a few things about me, particularly as it relates to this topic. I am contemplative and introspective by nature. Well, the term “by nature” is really a cop out, so I’ll go a bit deeper. These character traits are driven by the combination of an insatiable curiosity and my absolute disdain for hypocrisy.

That hatred for hypocrisy forces me to always question my own motives, perspectives, tendencies and biases, before passing judgment on those of others. It demands contemplation and introspection, but they must be balanced and unbiased in order to offer true value. I am constantly working to improve my process. In fact, these resolutions are themselves part of that effort. But there is a problem.

Many people who have had a heart attack, follow their doctor’s orders immediately after, but as time goes by, revert back to their old ways. We all know, or perhaps we are, those people who swore to the porcelain god that they would never drink that much again, only to one up themselves a week later. The point is, there are moments where we achieve clarity, or what I define as “right mindedness”. The problem I eluded to is that those moments are fleeting. Life tends to interfere.

We get caught up in firefighting. Our ego takes over. Anger clouds our judgment. Fear consumes us. Whatever it is at a given moment, we tend to gravitate away from the right state of mind. Occasionally, something beyond our control snaps us out of that funk and brings us back to right mindedness. It’s always a life altering event like a child moving away, tying the knot, divorce, a new baby, but the most jarring events involve someone’s health. You hear things like, “it really puts things in perspective” or “at a time like this, you really appreciate what you have.”

This resolution is an attempt to learn how to maintain that kind of clarity at all times, to always appreciate what I have, who I have, and where I am, but also appreciate what affect my actions have on my clarity, and on the world around me.

P.S. I had been considering “mindfulness” as a resolution for some time, but a recent event got  me to pull the trigger today. I eluded to it on Facebook today.

“This week I had a pretty traumatic health scare, which had me contemplating my imminent death. Two things became crystal clear to me. 1) No matter what we think, we don’t actually live everyday like it’s our last. 2) If we are about to die, what’s the point in jumping out of an airplane, reading the great American novel or anything else that heaps on a new experience, since the memory of it will die with us. Instead, every last second should be intended to improve the lives of those who will continue on in our absence. So next time you think, “screw it, I’m going to live like it’s my last day on earth,” don’t spend lavishly on yourself or drink yourself into oblivion, instead do something nice for someone else. Be absolutely and completely selfless.”

LR 10: Mindfulness Posts

LR9: Social Media

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Cell PhoneFor a guy almost in his mid-forties, I consider myself to be fairly computer and internet savvy. I’ve always been an early adopter of technology. I was one of the first users of yahoo, converted to Apple in the 90’s, had a cell phone as big as a briefcase (and a monthly bill that was just as large), and even left my career in 2000 to launch my own Internet startup (think Facebook meets Match meets Yelp, which was ready for launch just as the Internet bubble popped).

TwitterI have pages on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and so many others that have either disappeared or faded into obscurity. The reason I do all this is that I have an insatiable curiousity. I want to experience everything for myself and most of all, I have a deep seeded desire to understand people. That curiosity about the way people (I) think and why they (I) do what they (I) do is so powerful for me. Behavior, including my own, but especially that of the herd, fascinates me. One look at my reading list will serve as testament to that statement.

While my interest in social media began as mere curiosity, it has turned a corner. I’ve gotten a taste of its power as a result of the yarn bomb. I’ve been writing a blog about my resolutions since 2007 but until the yarn bomb, noone ever read them. It never bothered me though, because the point in the blog was really just to keep a formal record, a diary of sorts, of my journey, and a blog is the perfect tool for that.

Then I began blogging on WordPress, which provides tools for analyzing traffic, seeing where people click, where they come from, what search terms they use to find you, etc. It’s all anonymous of course, so don’t worry, I’m not watching you in particular, just the flow of visitors. It peaked my curiousity. I began to wonder, how could I alter that flow with better content, better organization, use of relevant tags and categories, linking Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media tools together to drive traffic, etc. I have no expertise, don’t know anyone with expertise and have no interest in reading books on the topic, but I do love me an iterative process. So I got the bug.

Enter the League of Professional Educators. The LPE is, at its core, an idea that was developed for maximum leverage, so that one man, with limited resources could effect systemic change. It is a grass roots based idea, that will require me to connect with an audience that will itself take the ball and run with it. Yeah, I know, every business has a plan to “go viral”. I don’t know if I can pull it off, but this resolution is simply about learning how social media is used to “amplify” a message and drive traffic, so that I can do some good in this world.

I’ll be posting what I have learned and will learn along the way so that others may benefit from my successes and failures. As always, I’ll keep it short and to the point.

LR 9: Social Media Posts

LR4: Yarn Bomb Epiblogue

TextIt’s been a few weeks since the yarn bomb was packed and shipped off to Warm Up America, but it continues to live on in the hearts and minds of those who witnessed it for themselves. This weekend, Will Wallin, who participated in every aspect of the installation, including mapping the tree, ladder lugging and tear-down, went for a hike to the tree. Along the way, a couple stopped him to tell him about this magical yarn bomb he missed, just weeks earlier. When he informed them that he’d been a part of its installation, the woman surprised him with an impromptu hug and they both thanked him for it.

Yarn Bomb in the Independent

 

Just yesterday, the Santa Barbara Independent included a blurb about it in their print edition, almost a month after it went up. I’ve received lots of pics via email from people who visited it and found many more that have been going viral thanks to being pinned and repinned on Pinterest, posted on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and more.

Between all that and WordPress featuring the LR1: Unicycling post on FreshlyPressed, traffic to 12for2012.com exploded.

 

12for2012I received lots of nice notes via email, most of which came with pics attached, but here are two notes I especially liked reading:

From Sharon… “I am the older Japanese woman you ran into on the trail yesterday (Friday). I was walking down, only having made it to the fire road on my hike to the yarn tree. I didn’t know you were the creator when we briefly spoke. I would have told you that I have been percolating a guerrilla knitting project for a couple years now. I wanted to touch your yarn tree and be there in person. Alas, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it before it disappears. I just want to thank you for your creative spirit, your energy, and your determination to make it happen. The group of kids who were coming down after me were still excited about it as they ran down the hill. (color me and my hiking poles jealous). You’ve done a beautiful thing, along with hundreds of knitting and crocheting fingers across the land and sea. I am happy knowing it is now and sad it won’t be after Sunday. Thank you.”

From a woman named Barbara… “Yesterday, two friends (Carol and Simone), my husband and I hiked up Cold Spring Trail to see your Yarn Bombed Tree. What an experience! I did take some photos which I will share later. I just had to initiate this communication. Your tree and your year of goals is amazing. Thank you for your inspiration, Barbara”

Here are some of the pics I received via email:

Wilderness Youth Project

Thanks for the reason to get up the hill. Wilderness Youth Project had a blast 6/15/12.
Andrew Lindsey (click on the photo for the Wilderness Youth Project’s website)

Galina Brouwer

Yes, we made it up there…grueling, as you described. Just when we thought we were there, the hardest uphill climb was yet to come. We made it back in the pitch dark. Thank God for flashlights.
It was just glorious seeing this work of art. We thank everyone involved.
P.S. The photo shows an “orb”…..My friend swears it’s a spirit of sorts.
Peace, Galina

Shaun Beardsmore

Did a trail run up to the tree this week and snagged a cool shot as the sun set, awesome work. I recently starting making beanies so I’ve been working with Yarn a lot too. Great to see creative projects like this around town and beyond. (Visit Shaun’s website thewavesofnature.com for some more cool pics of the bomb)

Alek and Tyler

Heres a photo, theres more on my camera I’ll edit tonight. If u credit me, can u use my website notestomom on tumblr? My mom was killed by a drunk driver last May and I use the site to write to her and raise funds on behalf of her memory for MADD. We’re close to $3000.
It was nice to meet you today. My stepbrother Alek and I were so inspired by your ideas.
Take care,
Tyler (click on the photo to go to Tyler’s Tumblr tribute to her mother)

Jonah Blossom and Amanda Grandfield

Great to run into you on the trail today! I’ve attached some pictures to this email of the yarn tree from today 6/16/12
Thanks again for making this happen– it was such a delight to visit the tree.
Best, Amanda

Amanda Grandfield

Amanda Grandfield took some photos and offered them for sale at her booth along East Beach the following week. (She gave me this one for free!)

John Wiley

FYI we flew past today, snapped more aerials. Thanks again for the fun you’ve brought to our whole community with all your work on this. 🙂
ciao -j (John Wiley)

Pamela and Craig Penner

Steve, thanks for your creativity. Pamela and Craig

Amanda Bailey

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is inspiring and refreshing to hear. I had a little fun with ColorSplash on the last one. Good luck on your future endeavors. Take care!

We met you on the trail, thanking you for doing this community art. We soooo appreciate the hard work, and enjoyed it tree-mendously!
Thanks again,
Karen and Rick Heimberg

This one was posted on the Multi-Use Trails Coalition’s website (click on the pic to see more there)

Then I discovered pictures posted, pinned, repined and stories being told about the yarn bomb all over the Internet…

A selection of some of the places I found pics, postings and conversations about the yarn bomb:

crochetconcupiscence.com

Imgur

Reddit

EdHat submission by Aquaholic (Fantastic pics!)

Jenn Kennedy wrote about it and posted this video too

CrowdKnitting

Pinterest

Stitches and Purls

Wattlebird

Babukatorium

Elastic Camel Space

Twitter

Alex Moore

365 ThingsJackieMackie