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…
Before 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
For 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).
I 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
It’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.
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.
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:
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:
EdHat submission by Aquaholic (Fantastic pics!)
Jenn Kennedy wrote about it and posted this video too
I hadn’t planned on blogging about this, but I’ve been told by more than a few people that I should be 100% open and honest, sharing everything along the way, not just the positive milestones. Fair enough.
Last Wednesday, I arrived at the Valhalla Elite Training Center in Santa Barbara, pumped up and ready to go for my 2nd lesson. My abs were still sore from the 2.5 hour parkour marathon the week before, but I’m used to pushing through things with pure tenacity. (Aside: As proof of my high tolerance for pain, my wife often points out that I have had 2 root canals without any anesthetic. Truth is, I don’t have a high tolerance for it, I simply view mentally controlling pain as the ultimate challenge. Don’t judge me.)
Joel took us through a brief set of stretches and then set up an assortment of warm up exercises around the gym. I chose to begin with a simple exercise whereby I would jump over two obstacles (gym mats that were folded in a v-shape), each approximately 2 feet high, with my feet together. Simple, right? I compressed down, bending my knees, lowering my chest down to them and coiling my arms back. I took a deep breath and sprang up with a burst of energy. As soon as my arms stretched above my head, I felt a tear in my lower abdomen, and a searing pain radiate throughout my core. My legs hadn’t even left the mat and already I knew I was done for the night.
I’ve read dozens of books on how the brain works, in fact, it’s become one of my favorite topics, thanks to Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself. Numerous studies have been done through the years which prove that simply visualizing an activity can produce a physical result that mimics up to 1/3 of the actual physical activity. So rather than go home with my torn abdominal muscle and fall behind, I stayed and learned. I watched intently, focused on understanding the intricacies of each move and helped the other students. It was frustrating to be sidelined, and I unsuccessfully attempted more than once to give it a go, but I think I got something out of it nonetheless.
I’ve spent a week simply allowing my abs to rest, and it’s been a successful rehab, except for the occasional sneeze. Luckily, thanks to the July 4th holiday, I have an extra week to recuperate before my next lesson. Joel has already taken note of my early injury and will spend more time on stretching next time. Lesson learned.
I was a little late to the party on that Mission: Small Business contest, so I won’t be too hard on my ability to mobilize the troops, but clearly I need to learn how to better utilize social media if I am going to have any success in launching the League of Professional Educators.
My contempt for all these quotes camouflaged as images that go around Facebook, begging people to “share” and “like” is well telegraphed. However, I can’t deny how effective they are for rallying people behind a cause. If you get the right message, they get passed around like a hot potato. So, I’m going to try a few for the LPE, beginning with these and see how it goes.
Click here to share this one with your friends on Facebook if you’re so inclined.
Click here to share this one with your friends on Facebook too.
If you have any suggestions, please share them with me. If you’d like to make one of your own to help the cause, please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2007, I decided I wanted to do more than simply run a successful business and enjoy my life in Santa Barbara. I wanted to see if I could apply what I do for a living, to solve a major social problem. After a year researching everything including poverty, crime, health, the environment rights issues, and so much more, I found that when I drilled deeper and deeper down, at the core of all of these issues, is education. Solve the education problem, and we solve so many other social ills.
I spent three years focused on the task of boiling the issue down to its essence and then developing a solution. The result is the League of Professional Educators (LPE).
Initially, the plan was to launch the LPE as a non-profit, but after fighting with the IRS for 501c3 status for a year, with the only beneficiary being our lawyers, we reorganized as a for-profit. No other aspect of the entity changed. It was always intended to be a commercially viable entity, for I believe that’s the only way you can ensure long term sustainability.
I will provide far more details as this resolution develops, but step one for GR6 is to ask my followers to vote for the LEAGUE OF PROFESSIONAL EDUCATORS to win a $250,000 grant in Chase’s Mission: Small Business program. Click here, log in via Facebook and enter League of Professional Educators in the box marked “business name”. Then spread the word….PLEASE! With this grant, the LPE can build out the operations necessary for triggering real improvement in America’s education system.
In this video, I describe the key issue facing our education system and how the LPE will solve it.
Although I’ve seen all the YouTube videos, including the fails, I really had no idea what to expect from a Parkour lesson. Rather than try to describe it, here is a brief video of everything we did over the course of 2.5 hours at the Valhalla Elite Training Center in Santa Barbara. (As an aside, what I got out of this video is a visual of just how much weight I’ve lost since going vegan and that I probably need to buy some new clothes.)
Also for your viewing pleasure, here is The Office’s take on the parkour phenomenon.
My son, Jackson, has brought to my attention that you can actually take classes in parkour, which is something I’ve been dying to learn for a long time. I’ll be joining him and his friends for an introductory lesson tomorrow.
For the uninitiated, here’s a video clip of some kids doing parkour at UC Santa Barbara.
Just three people were waiting for Barbara, Jackson and I to help us defuse the yarn bomb yesterday. Dennis Moran joined the crew to see it for himself. Will Wallin and Peter Biava, have been the unsung heroes on this project. As Peter put it, they were the offensive linemen, doing the heavy lifting with little adoration in return. While the others who had lugged the 14′ ladder up were understandably “unavailable” to bring it down, these guys were in it for the long haul. I will forever be grateful for their totally selfless, back-breaking work.
Just three days from Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, the heat made the 2.6 hike up the mountain much harder than usual. What took over 60 man hours to put up, took just 6 to completely remove. It had to be carefully done because all the material would be donated to Warm Up America in North Carolina where it will become blankets and scarves for those in need.
With all the material removed, the tree looked like a sepia version of a bright color photo. As we took some final pictures before heading back down, I breathed a sigh of relief. No more worrying that I wouldn’t pull it off. No more pleading for help. No more sleepless nights worrying that my yarn would somehow be the cause of a forest fire. No more pressure to get the word out so that others might experience the whimsy for themselves. No more panic over how I’d get the ladder back down. As much as I loved every stage of the project, I was happy for it to be coming to a successful conclusion. All that’s left now are the friendships I’ve forged, the photos and memories, and the pride that comes with having pulled off what seemed an impossible task just three months ago. No stress in that.
My wife, Barbara and I have been taking classes at Arthur Murray for nearly a month now, and I’m loving every minute of it. We signed up for the “Bronze” program which is a total of 30 lessons (10 private, 10 group and 10 party). Our primary dance instructor is Cassia and she has been fantastic. First of all, Barbara likes her, and that’s vital. Second of all, she is incredibly patient, clear with her instructions and very complimentary. In fact, she’s so complimentary, for a while we were beginning to question her sincerity, until we got to the Cha Cha. We had some trouble with it for a while and no compliments were forthcoming. So while I was disappointed we weren’t getting the Cha Cha so quickly, it actually made me feel better about all the accomplishments up to that point.
We have decided to learn a choreographed dance to perform for an audience as a way to mark this resolution as complete. Next week the instructors will be demoing a wide assortment of styles so we can pick those we’d like to include.
Aside: This is a first for me in terms of resolutions, because in the five years I’ve been doing them like this, never have I had to rely on the determination of anyone but myself to pull it off. That’s not an insignificant fact. As we were scheduling our next lessons, Barb wanted just one per week, while I was hoping for at least three. I know from experience that the deeper you immerse yourself in the learning process, the steeper the learning curve and with 12 big things to learn, I need that curve to be extremely steep. We compromised and settled on two per week.
I hiked to the yarn bomb for the seventh time in 8 days. I spent so much time on this project and in 3 days it will disappear forever. These pictures will be all I have to look back on, so I keep searching for the perfect one that captures it all. The problem is, there are so many facets, so many stories, so many people attached to it, and so many nooks and crannies in the tree, that no single image can possibly capture everything on its own. Between John Wiley’s aerial shots, Kolya Hicker’s artistic interpretations, pics sent to me by visitors and friends plus my own pics and video, hopefully even those who can’t make it out there to see it in person can get a good feel for it. Click on a pic and you can quickly go through all the new ones. I think they give a pretty good feel for what it’s like to be out there on the trail, witnessing it for yourself.
As an aside, each day I have run into people who were shocked as they turned the corner to see this explosion of color suddenly rise up from 2.5 miles of desert scrub, and those who were excitedly anticipating what friends had described to them in texts and emails. Only 2 people had read about it on EdHat or The Independent. Most heard about it via word of mouth. (This is a real source of frustration for me. I just don’t understand why the papers, radio and TV have ignored it. As a hiker and Santa Barbara resident, I’d be pissed if this were up there on the trails and no one brought it to my attention. But I digress.) A couple of them had heard about this guy “Steve” who put it together and when they realized I am Steve, they actually asked to take a picture with me. How cool is that?!?!
The smiles people have when they see it; the anticipatory excitement on their faces and in their voices as they push further on our trails than they’ve ever pushed before; the endless curiosity about who, what, where, when and especially, why; the joy they feel when they hear the stories of Yancey and his knitters in Alabama, Dany & Ivo in London, Marcy, the Crochet Grenade, in San Diego, Michele, the former editor of Crochet Magazine, Lara and her tiny flower, etc, etc, etc, has made this one of the best weeks of my life. It’s so rare to share so many moments with so many strangers filled nothing but pure, unadulterated joy. No ego, no envy, no selfishness, no anger. Just a shared moment of “Wow!”
If you haven’t seen Kolya Hicker‘s work, please check it out on his blog and website. He’s an up and coming photographer/artist studying at the Brook’s Institute in Santa Barbara and specializes in nature and wildlife. I’m a big fan of his and he was kind enough to hike up to the Yarn Bomb with me today to help me capture it in a way only Kolya could. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. If you like his work, please let him, and others, know.
Check out John’s website for more great aerial pics of Santa Barbara.
Unicycling, slack lining, jumping stilts, yarn bombing, and drumming have now been checked off, with ballroom dancing and eating right being works in progress on the learning side. That leaves 5 more to be accomplished. (Paragliding has been tentatively scheduled to begin at the end of July.)
On the giving side, I’ve built homes, fostered a puppy, volunteered to donate bone marrow, did graphic design work for a mitzvah and next Sunday will donate 400 square feet of knitting to Warm Up America, while having my blood, sperm and hair rejected. That leaves 7 more to be accomplished. (I become eligible again to donate blood on December 25th so that will likely be GR12.)
This is where you come in. I need suggestions for the remaining 12. Is there something you have been wanting to learn, but aren’t ready to take the leap? Is there something you would like to try, but worried it will be too difficult or time consuming? Use me as your guinea pig. Let me pave the way. Is there something you’ve learned that you think others should try too? Is there a charity you know of that could use a hand? Tell me how I can help.
Send me your suggestions. Share your thoughts.
The last 81 days have taken me on an incredible journey, beginning with the mundane decision to learn how to knit and ending with the whimsical explosion of a yarn bomb 2.6 miles from and 2,500 feet above civilization. Along the way, I have met numerous incredibly generous and supportive people from around the world. I will never again doubt the benefits of social media. To all of you who knitted/crocheted contributions and sent them at your own expense, who gave me a pep talk when I felt overwhelmed and in over my head, who helped me carry a ladder up a mountain in the scorching heat, who documented the journey with photographs, who promoted my goal with friends and family, who sewed pieces to the tree, who kept us company with wine and music, who offered to carpool… I say “Thank you!!!!” I hoped to reach a goal. I dreamed of hitting a home run. I fantasized about a grand slam. Thanks to all that you did to help, WE pulled off a once-in-a-lifetime, tell-your-grandchildren-about-it, what-legends-are-made-of, knocked-it-outta-the-park dream, that I will forever be trying to match. Thank you for coming this far with me on this journey. I sincerely hope you will continue to come along for the ride.
Enjoy the pics and share them with pride. It is your accomplishment as much as mine. (For those in the area, get up there and witness it for yourself before it comes down on June 16th. Click here for details of the hike, complete with a map, pictures and turn-by-turn directions.)
I’ll add more pics as I collect them from others who bore witness.
I’m exhausted and will post details of the bombing tomorrow, but wanted to post some pics I have from tonight’s work (lots more to follow). It’s not 100% complete so I’ll be heading back up in the morning to finish it off. Huge thanks to Will, Peter, Grace, Curtis, Sean, Mackenzie, Hugh, Ian, Laina, Christine, Kevin, Diane, Chase and most of all, my son, Jackson for coming out to help me pull this off. It looks freakin’ amazing!!!!!!!
I rented a 14′ A-frame ladder and recruited 3 friends to help me carry it up the 2.6 miles and 2,500 feet along the Cold Spring Trail to the yarn bomb target. Unfortunately, we had just a 3 hour window to get it from the rental place up to the tree. That window coincided with high noon, the hottest part of the hottest day in a very long time. Oh, and that ladder is not just really freakin’ heavy, it’s also very cumbersome. So instead, we took it just past the catway (fire road) or roughly 1.5 miles up today and will finish bringing it up the rest of the way tomorrow when it isn’t quite so hot. All along the way, as I emptied my water bottle and squeezed the sweat out of my shirt, I thought to myself, “What the hell was I thinking,” closely followed by the mantra, “It’s gonna look so cool when it’s done,” repeated over and over again.