Top Ten Posts of 2011

I checked Google Analytics to see what my most popular posts of ’11 were, and thought I’d put them all on one page for you.

The Paleo posts were by far the most popular this year, accounting for more than half of the top 10.

  • Paleo Flour and Other Sundry Substitutes. I was surprised at the popularity of this post, since it didn’t have a lot of recipes and only a few links…but it’s hard not to want to eat Paleo muffins, so I get it.
  • My Whole30 Recap. I think taking pictures of all my meals increased interests in these posts.

The next most popular type of posts was my BJJ posts, specifically BJJ DVD reviews. Interestingly enough, it was the two beginner DVDs I reviewed which were most popular.

Finally, my next three most popular posts were pretty random.

  • My Vibram Five Fingers. Another surprise, because this piece was written in 2010! I will admit I’ve since moved on to New Balance Minimus–perhaps a different post!
  • 7 Alternatives to Pandora. I don’t typically blog about music, but this one was a hit! Apparently other people were running out of free time on Pandora, too. I’m pretty sure the service is now unlimited…but not positive, since I’ve moved on to Spotify.

Conclusion

It looks like many of you guys reading this are interested in Paleo food, very beginner BJJ, free music and nice footwear…and perhaps even in SEO, though you don’t know what to ask.

That concludes the top ten posts of 2011! Tomorrow, I might dive into some survey results.

UFC 140 in Review: Podcast (Wheee!)

So I got invited to be a guest on this podcast (!!!), Two Couch Potatos, with Kwame, Dino and Cory. We talked MMA and UFC 140, and then I disappeared so they could talk about sports I know nothing about. (David Stern stopping the Lakers from getting Chris Paul, the NFL clamping down on hard hits, Albert Pujols and more.) You can check out the podcast at http://www.2couchpotatos.com/2011/12/episode-011-my-rotten-potato-goes-to.html, or listen below.

Things I Like: Planners That Rock

Every time someone hits me up with a question, I always want to make a blog post or resource guide for other people with similar questions. And this is kind of a challenging phenomenon, because I never really consider myself an expert on anything. And I’m always compelled to include things that I may not have used myself or maybe haven’t worked for me but I’ve heard so many good things about. So then I’d have to write disclaimers or lose a lot of sleep over something like the Ethics of Posting Links Without Reviews or something, and then it isn’t fun anymore. So what I thought I’d do instead of these Official ™ posts is just an informal list of things I like in various categories, as they come up. So! Here are some planners and things I’ve tried and why they rock.

  • Teux Deux is totally my newfavorite. I think I heard about it from one of Chris Guillebeau‘s videos, and so I wanted to love it, but I’m pretty sure that even Chris can be wrong (though not very often). Not this time, though… Teux Deux is a really cool browser-based to-do app. It is simple, well-designed and free. My list of tasks lately has been pretty overwhelming, with a lot of short-term projects and a constantly changing stream of blog posts and articles (up to 20 a week at times), so I was making too many to-do lists on “stickies” or in TextEdit windows, which I’d try to reconcile with my paper planner and then go nuts. But of course I couldn’t just keep crossing things out and adding things to my very full calendar/planner. So this is the perfect alternative. There’s also an app for your iPhone which is not free, but pretty darn cheap at $2.99. And you can either delete or simply cross out “to-do” items, which is really fun because you can make them disappear. Plus, it’s easy to move boxes (with to-do items) to the following day if you can’t get something done, or even a few days away (you can see 5 days at a time, though there’s two settings to play with). This makes me WAY less stressed out–like if I accidentally put 21 items down all in one day and then get to move them around so that I don’t have a heart attack. And if you don’t complete your tasks for the day, they automatically forward to the following day. Cool, huh? Did I mention that it’s beautifully designed and easy to use? The biggest challenge I found with this Teux Deux guy is that it can be easy to lose track of  “someday” items (on the bottom) and that, if you’re like me, you probably still need a monthly calendar to keep track of everything and be able to look at it all at once.
  • Busy Body Books–this is one I’ve really wanted to try because the calendars have columns across the top to divide activities or whatnot. This feature has been marketed to parents who can schedule things for their kids, partners,etc. I don’t know anything about that, but sometimes I like dividing my work into activities–actual articles, professional development, administrative work, research, etc. And if I have to actually physically leave the house to do something (for example), it’s easier if the list is in a different section.
  • Julie Morgenstern Wire-bound Project Notebook. These are totally on sale for 4 bucks. I like them because they have five different sections–so you can see the top of each page and keep track of all your projects at once, sort of. Now, this was really cool back when I had these great wirebound Julie Morgenstern planners, but I don’t think Franklin Covey even carries them anymore, which is just too bad. However, my life got too crazy for paper planners to work anymore (even though I prefer them), and I had to spend a lot of time crossing things out and moving and rewriting them, (I should have seen this day coming when I outgrew the small lines in my Slingshot planner, and then the small boxes in my We’moon planner, but I never thought it would happen to me.) Anyway, I think Franklin Covey has other types of wire-bound planners, but it’s just not the same without the JM quotes IMO.
  • Planner Pads. I’m not sure I should even list these, because I haven’t had that much luck with them…but again, my life is insane. For example, tomorrow I have to do a phone interview, attend a conference call, go to an event, run three different errands, finishd one article and two blog posts, do some website work and start on another small project. Planner Pads are cool in that they let you list weekly activities by categories, and there’s a small calendar on the bottom for appointments…but the daily to-do list only has about 9 slots. So they fill up fast for me. However, if you’re a more normal person than I, it might work really well for you. I was certainly drawn to the format but just wanted extra lines.
  • Productive Flourishing Planners. Last but certainly not least are Charlie Gilkey’s creations. These are really fun and he puts out free ones each month–or you can pay a small amount to be able to download them for the year all at once. The cool thing is that theres a variety to play around with so you can see what you like. There’s a Productivity Heatmap, which helps you plan your day so that you can do work when you’re most productive. Theres the Freelancer Workweek, which is based more on what you need to get done rather than time. There’s a Blog Post Planner and Calendar if you want to figure out your blog posts ahead of time. And Charlie’s always experimenting with more, which is fun.
So there you have it! If I missed anything, feel free to add it in the comments! I almost wrote about Knock Knock, but they’re not as helpful as they seem. Though they do have a cool mouse pad!

Product Review: Athletic Body Care’s Therapeutic Muscle Soak

One of the perks of being a writer is that I can sometimes convince companies to send me product samples in exchange for an honest review. It doesn’t always work–I am still waiting for my MMA action figures–but every once in a while, I get lucky. So I was thrilled when Athletic Body Care agreed to send me their Therapeutic Muscle Soak. Who doesn’t want to sit in the bath after a hard day at the gym? I train often enough that muscle soreness is an issue, and I may or may not have a torn ACL. (I don’t want to talk about it.) I’m already big on Epsom salt baths and essential oils. And I conveniently got my dirty paws on this hot little product right before the Women’s Grappling Camp started, so the timing was perfect.

My boyfriend pointed out that this is the same product that Jason Ellis uses, which I had mixed feelings about….since I have mixed feelings about Jason Ellis. On the one hand, he’s pretty much hysterical and seems like a good guy. On the other hand, I am convinced that listening to his radio show makes you lose brain cells. I guess we all have choices.

Anyway, so here I am with this Therapeutic Muscle Soak. It smells STRONG! Somehow I ripped the seal upon opening, and the bathroom permeated with the scents of eucalyptus and peppermint. Eucalyptus is incredibly germicidal, which is great for us germaphobes who like to get sweaty rolling around with other guys/gals. Refreshing and stimulating, it is great for muscle pain as well as mental sluggishness or emotional overload.

And then there’s the peppermint. Once upon a time, the Greek god Pluto fell in love with a beautiful nymph named Mentha. It’s kind of a long story, but basically, Pluto’s wife Persephone got jealous and pounded Mentha into the earth. Then Pluto turned her into a plant. Peppermint’s refreshing scent is as good for mental fatigue and improving concentration and memory as it is for its antiseptic properties. It is often used for muscle and joint pain, sore muscles and bruising.

Other than essential oils, the muscle soak has Epsom salt, sea salt and Dead Sea salt. Salt is pretty much loaded with minerals (magnesium, calcium, sodium, potassium, etc.) which can be absorbed by the skin to some extent. But mostly it just feels really nice to soak in it. Lastly, the soak has a little bit of tea tree oil (which is anti-bacterial) and aloe (which makes your skin pretty smooth, if you care about that.)

IF you don’t like peppermint and eucalyptus, or are allergic to essential oils, this product may not be for you. But I personally like the Therapeutic Muscle Soak a lot because of the combination of ingredients, and because it seems effective for somewhat alleviating muscle soreness and fatigue. A little goes a long way, though–one handful is enough at times, and don’t use more than two! I like that about it, though, because it means a $15 bag of salts will last longer than those Epsom salt cartons you can just dump right in.

 

WDS Recap Series: Danielle LaPorte

So I started recapping the World Domination Summit about a month ago, and then I went on a bunch of trips and started writing about all these other things and got off track, but wanted to get back to it. One of the highlights of the WDS for me was getting to meet Danielle LaPorte. I’ve been a long-time fan of her website, White Hot Truth: because self-realization rocks, and so much of what she spoke about really struck a chord with me.

The focus was about pushing more, about being on your edge. She spoke of impeccability–not about being without fault, since we all have our chinks and our cracks, not about being perfect, but about engaging in the messy and unpredictable art of innovation with an unsullied, unbridled version of who we are.

“When do you not go the extra mile?” Danielle asked. When do you rise above fatigue and push through it? When are you truly present rather than just showing up? Certainly demanding nothing but the best leads to nothing but burnout, and yet it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing just enough to scrape by rather than giving our full effort.

Danielle spoke about taking radical responsibility for our own choices, and owning our own decisions. This includes claiming your decision to accept other people’s wisdom as your own and to act on it. Owning your choices is a sign of leadership, and LaPorte spoke about softening into the roots you came in with; letting the efficiency of that pull you forward. For me this applies to giving full effort. If I choose to accept a job that is not ideal because it doesn’t pay as well as I’d like or has a tighter deadline than I’d like or whatever, I have to own that decision–and if I decide to do the bare minimum for that assignment, I have to own that as well.

She spoke about articulating how you want to feel in order to get some clarity around that, divided loosely into different categories. One was rest/relaxation/body/wellness. One was job/vocation/money/entrepreneurship. And one was fashion/art/car/home/things you own. Narrowing down what you want in each category to three to five sensations, motions, values or specific feelings and then figuring out what you must do each day to generate that. I’ll admit that this seems impractical to me, having spent a lot of time dreaming of ideals which rarely come into fruition. But listening to Danielle speak makes it hard to not reignite that fire and start thinking about those dreams again…

Danielle, who is great at posing questions that really push the envelope, asked this: If you trusted that your art was going to support your life, how would you live? She promised that the universe is an ever-expanding bubble, that the stuff of life, the mesh of our cosmic order is designed for you to make progress. And so we innovate and lead, on the edge, focusing on our strengths and our openness.

Much of what LaPorte shared had to do with paying attention to the spirit of what you bring into the work you do, no matter what container it’s in. This could be giving away work for free (“charge a lot or give it away for free” was the mantra–doing gigs for free is not a risk, she said, but is essential) or about NOT doing less. Stop undercharging, stop taking red eye flights, and value yourself and your work enough to hire a real web designer rather than getting your cousin to do your website.

She spoke about art as a desire to be of service or a desire to self-express. Your self-expression is divine just because you show up, she said. There’s an interesting juxtaposition between just showing up and constantly working to push the envelope that I’m working to wrap my head around. Anyway, I’m not sure this quick summary does Danielle LaPorte justice, but I don’t think any summary really could.

Resource List

  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
  • The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin
  • The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A. J. Jacobs
  • Transformational Speaking by Gail Larsen
  • StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath
  • Marie Forleo
  • And, of course… Danielle’s website, http://whitehottruth.com/.

 

Review: Short Attention Span Guides’ Finding A Good Idea

If you’re anything like me, you’re completely inundated with training material. I’ve got two e-books sitting on my desktop that I’ve been really meaning to get to, and a whole stack of material under my desk. This doesn’t even include the audio interviews I have queued up. Professional development rocks. And sometimes it’s completely overwhelming and impossible to get to.

Enter the Short Attention Span Guides. They’re short. They’re easy-to-follow. Everything is incredibly easy on the eyes, so you can pick up on new ideas and techniques quickly–without wallowing in a comprehensive tome to extract bits of insight.

I received a guide on (drumroll please)…. Finding A Good Idea. Will intuition lead you down the wrong path? How do you know if your idea is actually any good? This guide helped me figure out how to delve through various concepts in what I think might be a Good Idea to make sure it’s not just intuition leading me down the wrong track. Or fear/self-doubt stopping me. It is divided into 5 modules. And you can finish going through them in an afternoon. It’s probably concepts you’re already familiar with, but that doesn’t make it any less effective!

Although I haven’t read them, my intuition tells me that the actual technical guides (on everything from Etsy to marketing to blogging to SEO, even web planning basics) might be even better. At $8 each they provide a lot of bang for your buck, giving you enough information to get started without being completely saturated in overwhelming and overpriced training materials I’m always getting inundated with ads for.

 

The Shadow Side of the World Domination Summit: Starf*cking

I’ve started to recap the World Domination Summit by writing short excerpts of each guest speaker, with take-home points for people who could not attend. My goal was to write a recap that would help people feel included, not excluded–I truly believe nobody ever has to be at ANY event to get something of value from concepts presented, which reverberate across the internet and more often than not have a positive ripple effect which touches many more people than just the attendees.

There’s definitely something magical about being at an event–soaking in the good vibes, being surrounded by amazing people, experiencing the same thing at the same time. The crowd is electric, energizing. And at the same time, I feel that I can’t honestly recap the WDS without at least touching on the shadow side of the event for me.

Chris Guillebeau did an amazing job of bringing together wonderful, inspiring speakers. And because he is such a genuinely cool person himself, his tribe is the same way–enthusiastic, creative people with great energy and big dreams. Chris himself mentioned many times during the event, as he does on his book tour, that one of the biggest benefits of bringing people together is that they (we) can learn from one another.

It’s a great point, but not one that many people (myself included) always take to heart. This creates a weird imbalance in the power dynamic of any big event. Specifically, it means that certain people (speakers, workshop presenters, etc.) are surrounded by people who want to talk to them. That’s understandable. Who wouldn’t want to meet people who are rock stars? I myself was all about it. Many of them are people whose blogs I’ve read for years, or I’ve bought their products or participated in their online communities or courses. Or we’ve communicated via e-mail and I’m totally jazzed about meeting them in person. I lined up for my photos with many high-profile people, just like many others did, which of course I don’t regret.

The imbalance it creates is with the rest of us. I found myself talking to many people who I felt somewhat of a connection with, until they’d literally step away mid-sentence when their favorite internet guru walked by. I’m a huge extrovert and definitely energized by interactions with others, but talking to people who I find out seconds later were just killing time while waiting to talk to someone else–that’s exhausting.

As someone with a background in sociology and philosophy, I am constantly analyzing/deconstructing various social interactions, and I found myself wondering if I’d done the same thing to others. Did I inadvertently ignore a new friend so that I could spend a few moments talking to [insert name of internet celebrity here]? And I found that I had done that on more than one occasion. What made me think what Internet Celebrity X had to say was more valuable than New Friend X? We all have our areas of expertise and our own experiences to draw from. Any time I’ve ever taught a class or given a presentation myself, I’ve felt that I learned more from the students or participants than they could ever learn from me. Aside from familiarity (as I was just as enamored with lower-profile peeps who I’ve “met” online), was there anything that drew me away from new friends and towards other people?

Part of it was that I felt a lot of conversation with strangers was stilted, rehashed. One conversation I’d had multiple times over the course of the event was when someone would ask me what I did for a living, and I’d tell them I was a writer. They’d instantly ask me about the size of my mailing list (it’s small) and then tell me I should spend more time on twitter to build up my social media presence. This oft-repeated (rehashed) advice hasn’t worked for me–I’ve analyzed my traffic AND my most energizing interactions and very few are Twitter-related. In fact, I’ve had much more luck with Facebook, unpopular with certain groups of people as it is. Anyone doing an actual consult would want to look at some data first, but strangers often don’t. Another example is when people who are unfamiliar with my business model would tell me that what I really need to do is create information products (which I’ve tried multiple times and has never, ever worked for various reasons).

Unsolicited advice is exhausting.Trying to explain to strangers why you don’t want to follow their unsolicited advice is even more exhausting. (And I can say with a straight face that if one of my favorite internet celebrity rock star people told me to spend more time on twitter or that I should write e-books instead of selling articles to editors (which I’ve been doing successfully), I’d explain to them why that doesn’t work for me as well. I’d like to think that anyone doling out advice for a living would have some level of discernment to discuss the nuances, rather than shooting disapproving glances my way or resorting to some kind of argument from authority (e.g. “Seth Godin says you should use permission marketing; I’d look into that.”) And yet I noticed that time and again–judgement from strangers; rehashed (and unsolicited) suggestions. There is a brilliant diversity of tactics one can use for any given business (or situation). And not all of them are always well-represented by one’s favorite group of internet celebs. In essence, what works for you or for them might not work for me–and vice versa. This is not a one-size-fits-all world.

I’ve never been a very high-profile person, doing most of my work from a small home office or behind a computer screen. So I can’t exactly speak for anyone else. But I imagine that it must get exhausting to have more than a few people who are seeking your attention so that you can make decisions for them–especially when these people have WAY more knowledge than you do, and when you’ve put time and effort into trying to inspire them to step into their own power. There have been several times when I’ve asked people I look up to some questions and realized afterwards that I’d already known the answer. So why did I ask? It could be to seek confirmation of what I already know to be true. Or, perhaps more likely, something about the setting makes these interactions more common. As much as we like to think we are nonconformists or are unconventional, simply giving someone a podium (due in no small part to their own brilliance and accomplishments) creates a social dynamic that can easily become inequitable, and it’s hard sometimes to distinguish between seeking someone out for their expertise or for their seemingly infallible wisdom.

Does that make sense? Here’s an example from my own life. One of my favorite people of all time, who I’ve paid for business coaching, recommended I use an electronic calendar rather than a paper calendar. Various books have said the same thing. But when I tried it, I hated it. Did I continue to try using a system that wasn’t working for me? No. I went back to the paper calendar.

I know there’s a gap between their experience of experts and my experience–and that any expert worth their salt is still learning. I also know that I’m on a journey, an ongoing process. Subscribing to a course, reading a book, following a blog, getting coaching, following suggestions from those I’ve sought out for guidance–those things alone will not get me to where I’m going. Constant trial and error, probably over many years, will help me discover my path for myself. I can’t count on both hands the amount of information products I’ve purchased and worked through that didn’t get me any closer to building my business. This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with the products, per se, or that I don’t love the people I’ve bought things from. It’s saying there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, and that I can trust my own experience and thought process rather than blindly following the advice of others (no matter how successful these people may be.)

The Buddha is quoted in some places as saying, “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

I am not a Buddhist. But this idea really speaks to me. I’d like to be able to speak to strangers at conferences about areas where we disagree with the common wisdom; where we’re truly in dialogue.

I am a Shimer College alum. At this amazing Great Books school, we worked on “education for active citizenship in the world,” using small, seminar-style classes (Socratic method) in a process that the mission statement describes as “more than the acquisition of factual knowledge or the mastery of vocational skills,” but rather “the process leading away from passivity, beyond either unquestioning acceptance of authority or its automatic mistrust, and towards informed, responsible action.”

My version of informed, responsible action sometimes completely breaks the rules, sometimes flies in the face of common wisdom. Sometimes it is surprisingly traditional. It is a scientific approach–with plenty of trial and error. And a big part of it is sitting with myself and recognizing my own inherent wisdom. Someone may be very high profile. They may have accomplished many great things. They might give the greatest speech I’ve ever heard. They may have even blown goals similar to mine out of the water. I respect their hard work and experience. And at the same time, I don’t feel the need to follow their every example. If I line up to speak to them, it’s not because I think they are better than any other person I come in contact with. And I certainly don’t think they’re better than me. They are simply further along on a path–a path which may or may not look like the journey on which I myself wish to embark.

One of the hardest parts about the World Domination Summit for me was when one of my internet celebrities completely blew me off. There could be a million reasons for this and most of them have nothing to do with me. But, as they say, the higher the pedestal, the harder the fall. Luckily, I was staying with a dear friend in Portland so when I had a near-meltdown (“I am really sad. And I’m really annoyed at myself for being so sad. Why I am reacting so strongly about something which is probably so trivial to everyone else?”), she was there to help me pick up the pieces.

I titled this post “The Shadow Side of the WDS: Starf*cking”–and that’s exactly what it boils down to. We all lose when we give our power away to others, no matter how bright and shiny they may be. In a crowd, it’s easy to get caught up in groupthink. It’s easy to idealize others just a touch too much, to seek their approval and opinion when neither is necessary.

The take home message for me? No matter how amazing someone appears, they’re not better than me. They may be better at certain things, but even that is hard to determine. And there’s areas where I may have more knowledge and they could use my expertise, whether they realize it or not. If we base my self-worth on what others think, even for a second, we all lose. Let’s find ways to interact that make us bigger, not smaller. Let’s keep stoking the fire of our own dreams rather than trying to fit into a mold created by others. And let’s look, really look, at our internet heroes–with all of their strengths and weaknesses, complexities and contradictions. Let’s see them for who they really are–people.

WDS Recap Series: Leo Babauta

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” -Lao Tzu

The World Domination Summit was filled with rock star internet celebrities, and Leo Babauta was probably chief among them. He has an amazing blog, Zen Habits, which is about “finding simplicity in the daily chaos of our lives.” And he’s the author of The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential… In Business and in Life.

Babauta spoke about the path of simplicity. He began by showing pictures of himself in 2005 when he was overworked, lazy, stressed, overweight, chain smoking and deeply in debt.  He slowly worked on changing his habits. He quit smoking, started running, ate healthier, woke up earlier, started decluttering and became more organized and productive, all while finding more time for his family.

His strategy? First he replaced his triggers with positive habits. For example, if waking up in the morning is a trigger to smoke a cigarette, replace that trigger with a healthier habit, like going out for a run or drinking a glass of water. Babauta also recommended changing just one habit at a time, ideally the one that is the easiest. Second, Babauta focused on simplicity and simplifying. And last, he’s been playing with the idea of living without goals.

Living without goals, he believes, frees you from the mental energy of managing all of those goals or dealing with failure. Setting goals, he says, makes you lose motivation to accomplish those goals. And it’s hard to get away from or actually enjoy any progress, because the next goal is always looming in the distance.

If you can’t manage to live without goals, Babauta said, just have one goal.

I struggled with the idea of not having goals. I always list out several goals I am working on simultaneously, and feel that the act of setting them keeps me on track. And I don’t necessarily have a problem with looking at the next goal in site after accomplishing one, so long as I take a deep breath and a moment to celebrate. Although striving to accomplish goals may cause stress, I think floating around without any (or with vague, undefined ones) would take me off track. But this is an idea I’ve been sitting with. Ideally my goals become lifestyle changes, but I’m not sure just trying to do what I feel like in each given moment will get me where I want to go.

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts.

WDS Recap Series: Pam Slim & The Power Within

I was one of 500 people who descended upon Portland to attend the World Domination Summit. I have a lot of friends who really wanted to be there, but couldn’t make it, and promised them that I’d provide a recap of the weekend that would help impart the lessons I’d learned without making them feel excluded since they couldn’t make it or chose not to be there for whatever reason.

I’m not really sure what the best way to do this is, but I decided it might be useful to write a short recap of each of the speakers’ presentation and what I got out of it; how I’m going to try to apply it to my work. I’m hoping that you will find parallels into your own work, or some greater insight into specific aspects of it. One of the biggest positives I drew away from the weekend was the awareness that others are struggling with the same issues I am. (There were some drawbacks to the event as well, which I’ll delve into a bit too later in the series.)

The first WDS speaker was Pam Slim, who runs an awesome blog and membership site called Escape From Cubicle Nation. Pam spoke about tapping into the root of your power in your work, drawing examples from mothers and avatars. Slim’s husband is Diné (Navajo), and she explained the meaning of the traditional greeting Ya’at’eeh, which I believe is loosely translated to mean that everything in the world or in the person one is greeting is beautiful. She spoke about the power of the elements (air, water, earth and fire) as anchors, and described specific people who she felt were good examples of embodying those specific elements. Lastly, she spoke about ways to protect ourselves when we’re sitting behind our computer screens and dealing with those crazy blog comments or other challenging situations. This culminated in a very funny martial arts demonstration against BJJ purple belt Masa (he’s @mma323 on twitter).

Recommended Reading: Now Discover Your Strengths, Good to Great by Jim Collins, Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton.

Take-home point: You can protect yourself in ways as simple as changing your posture or reminding yourself that you are safe. Never forget the true power within you.

My thoughts: I think about this a lot since I’ve seen people I respect working in the same industries as me not only subject to criticism in the form of anonymous reader comments to blog posts, but also all-out thrashings from high-profile people with a lot of influence. How do I get in touch with my true power, and protect myself from people whose actions I have absolutely no control over?

I think part of it is about doing your  homework, working responsibly and, in my case, getting both sides of a story whenever possibly. It involves constantly working on improving one’s craft, whether this is through professional development, business coaching or hands-on experience. And it also involves putting your heart and soul in your work, which will hopefully shine through to the people whose opinions you care about. I think there’s something about being honest and open, admitting when you’re wrong and ideally being somewhat vulnerable when it’s least expected that can cut through some of these issues when they arise.

Any other ideas?

BodyTribe’s Brutal Recess Clinic: A Review

When I learned that BodyTribe Fitness was on tour, I quickly contacted Chip Conrad to ask him to squeeze a Minneapolis stop on their drive. And so it was that a small group of us gathered at the Athlete Lab for a Brutal Recess Clinic taught by Chip Conrad and Tyler Welch.

I’m not gonna lie. I walked into BodyTribe’s Brutal Recess Clinic and exhausted and jumbled mess of sore muscles and near-injuries from weeks of overtraining in BJJ. Going to seminars is always slightly out of my comfort zone regardless. It’s sort of like visiting a gym in a different city or state. You walk in not knowing what the coaching will be like or how people will respond to you. Add in some residual concern about not stacking up skill-wise to others in attendance to that, and it is a wonder that anyone shows up to anything at all. (This is a sad state of affairs. In a world of desk jobs, long hours and a rising obesity epidemic, one would hope that those seeking to rediscover movement would be welcomed with open arms.)

All of my concerns were quickly assauged by the Bodytribe vibe, which emphasized play, mobility and improving movement to build ourselves and each other up–rather than the shallow, narcissistic version of “working out” that sometimes creeps into even the most well-intentioned gyms.

This isn’t to say there wasn’t intensity. Although movements ranged from the seemingly simple (such as push-ups) to the more complex (adding multiple steps to common moves, or incorporating moves resembling yoga or capoiera), it would be an understatement to say that the emphasis was on quality of movement rather than quantity. Instead of slopping out repetitions of poorly performed exercises, the goal was to do less repetitions with perfect form (and I mean perfect). This often requires you to S-L-O-W down, and pay attention to the subtle nuances of the movement. Not easy. However, I was impressed by what one might call an evolution in instruction–each exercise selected, coaching cue used and modification explained had a lot of thought behind it, and it was obvious it had been adapted over time. That’s the X-factor in coaching which is impossible to teach but I believe crucial for continued improvement/evolution in everything from teaching proper body mechanics to improving clients’ mobility. Most people won’t leave a seminar while retaining a whole slieu of information (that’s what DVDs are for), but having several new ideas and knowing some key movements really well can be invaluable.

It would be hard to delve into the nitty gritty details of each movement demonstrated. I’ll leave that to future seminars and the BodyTribe DVDs. In general, though, I noticed that a lot of emphasis was placed on activating the lats before beginning a movement, and activating the glutes (a.k.a. thinking about your sphincter) at opportune moments. (Um, I swear this is about fitness.) We worked on animal movements (such as the bear crawl), remembering to channel our inner Tiggers; to be loose and springy and trying to remember what it felt like to move when we were children–before we succumbed to inactivity or perhaps lost some of our playfulness with too much of an emphasis on competition; on winning-at-all-costs. (Movement is supposed to be fun, remember?) And we tried things from multiple directions, something I often completely forget about. Chip and Tyler also walked us through some unconventional variations of planks, bodyweight squats, lunges and burpees. Range of motion was huge, and one could begin to see how many of these complexes could begin to flow–making it easy to incorporate mobility throughout a workout rather than just at the beginning.

Although I walked into the seminar feeling like one of the walking wounded, I left with several new exercises I had been struggling with that I’m eager to incorporate into my life every day. I’m often pretty hard on my body, so learning strategies for balancing out movements I overemphasize…is a great strategy.

I get kind of tunnel-visioned when thinking about my sport, actually, and of course was pleased to learn that some of the squat variations I had the most difficulty with would improve my grappling game. Tyler wisely pointed out that increased health and longevity would increase the amount of years I was able to train and would thus improve my game. Nice long-term emphasis which is admittedly foreign to me, but I dig.

The workshop I attended was just a small sampler. Add my name to the list of those craving ways to incorporate expanded movement and intense play to improve strength, speed, balance and well-being. Taking away the pressure of stacking up and replacing it with a playful, community-oriented vibe where we all try to bring each other up…creates fertile ground for movement magic to grow and thrive. I intend to keep playing.

For more information on BodyTribe Fitness, check out their website.