Category Archives: This is me

Posts that have something to do with the way my brain works, or how I’ve come to be the person I am.

Trying to warm up to exercise

Blog post as therapy:

I am lazy. And I can’t stop. Because, you know, that would take energy.

For years — decades now? — I’ve told myself pretty much daily that my life would be so much better if I’d exercise. Run a little, use that elliptical machine I bought, the treadmill desk at work, join a gym, walk the damn dog, anything. And I mentally list the reasons it’ll help:

I’ll feel better. Endorphins released, stress released, time for myself to think.

I’ll look better. The spare tire I’m growing will slow, at least a little.

I’ll sleep better. My body doesn’t need to recover much from sitting in front of a computer or on a couch. Those seven hours could be more productive.

I’ll be healthier. Stronger immune system, fewer colds, and I’d combat the high cholesterol in my genes.

Energy begets energy. What a magnificent cycle to start, to have more energy each day. imagine how much more I could do.

Set an example for those you care about the most. If my kids see me exercising, they’ll just think fitness is a normal thing you do — and perhaps carry these traits with them into their adult life.

Good grief. Any one of these is more than enough to make a life change, right? It’s not even a discussion.

Yet this next list apparently trumps all:

I’m lazy. You see, I… oh, never mind.

My November 18, 2013 blog post about rebooting my life included a plan to start exercising, for me and my own sake. Three days a week, which I immediately scheduled on my calendar and set a recurring appointment in my task reminder app, so I’d always be confronted with it. Since that post, today is the 27th time I’ve been reminded today is exercise day.

Today is the 26th time I’ll have deleted it.

There’s plenty I do well, and I’m smart enough to figure out most problems I face. But seeing as though reminders, pep talks, and self-loathing haven’t done the trick, perhaps this version of public shaming will get me started. I mean, all I have to do is stop typing, head downstairs, and hop on the elliptical machine.

You know, I bet tomorrow will be a great time to start.

The Joy Journal

joyjournalI don’t remember specifically what inspired me in April 2009 to run to a Borders bookstore (!) and purchase this empty black journal. But I know exactly why I bought it — I wanted to capture what moments of joy I had each day.

There must be at least three moments in every day, I thought, that provide me an inner peace or happiness. It would be healthy to watch for those, and maybe a collection would provide inspiration on days when I wasn’t feeling so great.

And so I scribbled:

4/19/09

  • Racing through Sam’s Club with Jacob laughing in cart
  • Jacob sat us down for a “show” — he announced into a microphone we were going trick-or-treating next week, and don’t forget your Easter baskets
  • Lauren asked me to sit with her while she peed. When she finished, she looked up and said, “I goed.”

Nothing earth-shattering. But it’s a little heart-warming to remember then-two-year-old Lauren’s potty training pride, or a simple moment where four-year-old Jacob made me laugh.

And so I captured three things from the next day, and the next. I even lugged the hefty journal with me on my first real work trip a week later.

I kept this up until December 21, 2009, when I instead started typing them into my smartphone’s notepad. And I’ve been doing it ever since. At the end of each month, I email myself the page so I have a backup copy.

That came in handy on December 3, 2013, when some sort of malfunction wiped out December’s notes. No record of joy for those two days. I let myself get immediately caught up in work, figuring I’d go back that night and remember… but I put it off, and it quickly became too late to recall the biggest smiles of those days.

And since then, I’ve wondered — how much does it matter? I’m compulsive enough that ending a several year-long streak makes me a little sad, just for consistency’s sake. But as it turns out, I’ve never gone back and looked at them. Typing in the first entry above is the first time I recall looking back at the hand-written ones… and I just assume the typed ones are saved in my email somewhere. But unfiled, unorganized, and unread.

As I’m typing this, Lauren came into my office and started poking at the book, asking what it was. I explained and then flipped through random pages to read her ones that mentioned her.

12/18/09

Jacob and Lauren each tried a new food. Lauren tried the smallest bite ever taken, but later, a real bite. Jacob saw that she had tried a bite, so eventually he did too.

7/29/09

Realize how much I look forward to seeing Lauren when I come home from work because she always has an announcement. Generally, it’s the highlight of the day. Today was, “I had a sucker today.”

9/1/09

After Jacob’s soccer practice, we all ended up playing soccer in our front yard. At one point, I kicked Lauren’s ball far away. She smiled and said, “Go get it, Kurt!” which even she realized was funny. We all busted up laughing.

9/21/09

Overheard in next room: J: “Are you my best friend?” L: “I’ll always be your best friend.”

Watching her reaction to these, maybe I’ve just found the real reason I’ve been doing this all this time.

Do you do anything like this? What do you do with your collection? Any suggestions on what I should do with mine?

Too much time on my hands

“You spend too much time on your phone.” My wife doesn’t say this often because she gets paid to. (Which is too bad, because she says it quite a bit.)

If I’m going to have more productive habits, I have to find the time to work on productive tasks. Currently, that time is likely spent gazing into my iPhone.

I wouldn’t be shocked to find out just how much time I spend with my phone glued to my hand. But I am just starting to recognize why that’s the case: Addressing each little task gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes, it’s a worthwhile thing — replying to a work email, catching up on industry news, adding a reminder to a task list.

But other times, not so much — a Words With Friends game, an adjustment to my fantasy football roster, looking at Timehop to see what I did on this date four years ago.

Worthwhile or not, it’s the completion of the task that causes a mini-endorphin rush: I read through all my news stories and get the check mark that “all stories are read.” Games end with a win or loss. A finished email leads to deleting another item from my inbox. The more apps, the more there is to be done, and the more I can complete.

Cumulatively, these add up to where my brain thinks I’m actually accomplishing something. Which is a sick, sick addiction — this isn’t time well spent. It would be much more fruitful to exercise, or read and nourish my mind, or even just to totally immerse myself in family time or a hobby.

But each app provides a recognition that I’ve completed something, I have finished it, I have succeeded.

I think it’s time for me to be the judge of that.

 

Rebooting

Yesterday, my friend Mike completed the Ironman Arizona.

“Completed” is the wrong word. “Decimated” is more like it. To swim, bike, and run more than 130 miles non-stop is a remarkable achievement. To set a goal to finish your first-ever Ironman in twelve hours seems crazy. To have done it in a hair more than eleven hours is just…

Well, yesterday I found myself using the word “inspiring.” Because it is, right? An incredibly lofty goal that took months of pure dedication, a rigorous daily plan, and a commitment to seeing it through — is inspiring the right word? When I was watching the livestream of runners crossing the finish line, waiting to see Mike’s smiling face, I thought it was inspiring that so many people were involved — the runners, but the support they’d received, everyone there rooting for the accomplishment of goals. How is that not inspiring?

It’s no accident Mike accomplished a most remarkable physical feat. His daily training regimen was ridiculously challenging. He brought anyone interested along for the ride, through social media, through his blog (he’s a gifted writer), even through pictures of all the scrumptious things he ate along the way (gotta replenish those calories somehow).

And just like the training, I followed along the Ironman online, taking special note of this tweet from our play-by-play correspondent, Mike’s wife Evelyn:

Dedication. Commitment. Inspiring, right?

While Mike was out beating the world, I was home coughing and shivering, taking medication for what I’m told is “bacterial bronchitis.” I may have even napped during part of his bike ride. Given my dietary and physical regimen, it’s probably no coincidence I’m fighting a bug. Without a plan, without being dedicated to a course of action, I’m going to wander aimlessly and be susceptible to occurrences like that.

Again, words are important here: Instead of “occurrences,” I nearly wrote “misfortunes.” But there’s nothing unlucky about me being sick, any more than Mike was lucky to have completed the Ironman.

Inspire (according to Mirriam-Webster):

  1. to make (someone) want to do something : to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create
  2. to cause (something) to happen or be created
  3. to cause someone to have (a feeling or emotion)

I’ve explained how Mike’s achievement fits the third definition of the word. But even more than that, he’s giving me reason to go after the first two. The last few months, I’ve wandered without an individual mission, outside of 1) caring for my family and 2) helping create a positive atmosphere and product at work. Those are fine and all, but they haven’t given me purpose.

I’ve skated — for months, and possibly much longer — without consciously trying to better myself. A half-hearted attempt to exercise, purchasing books to read and never cracking the cover, even starting up (and paying to renew!) this blog which has laid dormant forever… it’s just weakness.

And so I hereby declare my plan. I am creating a structure so I have a path to follow. It’s my challenge to myself to see what kind of commitment I have to self-improvement, the way that I want to do it. So for half an hour every day, from here forward, my brain’s training plan is:

  • Monday: Reading day. A chance to catch up from all the online posts from over the weekend, and to whet my appetite for whatever books comes next.
  • Tuesday: Connections day + exercise. Each week, I want to spend a little time using social networks for good — making sure I’m in touch with people I haven’t talked with in a while, or inviting connections I haven’t actually made.
  • Wednesday: Blog day. I want to commit to writing here on a regular basis. When I started this, it was because I thought I was clever, and honing my writing skills would lead to something. I now see that this can be my form of therapy, getting thoughts out of my head and organized. But that only happens if, you know, I actually do it.
  • Thursday: Puzzle day + exercise. To fill what feels like a growing void in my creative side. I used to make time for things like Games Magazine and such, so that I could feel neurons connecting. I miss that.
  • Friday: TED Talk day. There are so many great videos out there. To make sure I see 52 in a year should almost feel limiting.
  • Saturday: Reading day + exercise. Reading takes time. Reading may also take place in other parts of the week, but it gets dedicated time on Mondays and Saturdays.
  • Sunday: Blog day. I mentioned the therapeutic part of writing, right? Twice a week, mister.

(I don’t exercise. At all. And I’m 98% sure that’s why I’ve become The Blerch. So I’m making sure to add that, too.)

I recognize this plan doesn’t have an Ironman — the specific moment where all that training pays off. And that’s fine by me. I thought about adding a reward for keeping this up for x number of months, but I can tell you, putting even this little structure around my day-to-day already feels like a step in the right direction.

In summary: Yes, watching Mike was inspiring. Truly. Congratulations, good luck, and thank you.

The way I are

I am a cornball.

Chances are, you know this already. Everyone I’ve ever known pretty much knows it. It’s part of my DNA to look for the pun no matter the circumstance. And I long to make people smile, if not laugh.

Which can be annoying at times, especially if you don’t know me. Which is one reason I’d like to know everyone, because the idea of being annoying makes me crazy.

. . .

As a part of my job at SocialMedia.org, I serve as moderator at our BlogWell conferences, afternoon events featuring social media case studies from really sharp people at big brands. I’ll give the welcome speech to an audience of up to 400 people, and I’ll introduce speakers throughout the day.

A good chunk of the audience is made up of SocialMedia.org members, who already know my presentational style through our day-to-day work.

 

 

A larger part of the audience is made up of people seeing me for the first time. Their reaction means a lot: on a personal level, of course, but especially for professional reasons — we’d like them to join our group. This event is intended to convince them to do that. And I’m the sometimes-silly mouthpiece that holds the day together.

Deep down, I believe I’m helping. But sometimes, I can’t help but wonder if I’m the right guy for the job. Does “shades of cornball” fit?

 

 

We just held our 20th of these conferences, and if my style or skills weren’t appropriate, I know my boss would pull me aside and tell me to straighten it out. But would I? Could I? When you’re presenting, I think you need to be you — or at least, I need to be me. I have a hard enough time doing that, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to be someone else.

. . .

At one of my radio jobs, a new co-worker immediately established himself as either someone you liked or someone who disgusted you. He could be funny and generous and thoughtful; and he would go out of his way to crash through long-standing boundaries, say and do things that were disrespectful of his colleagues, and sabotage the work that everyone else had put in to create a great atmosphere.

I was in the latter group.

We’d talk, sometimes specifically about what the heck he was doing. He was fully aware of how he was being perceived by Group Two — radio is an ego business, after all — but he wasn’t going to change. As much as it may have seemed like an act, he was just being himself. And if Group Two didn’t like it, well, screw ’em.

I can’t fathom that.

I’m sure life is much easier for him, focusing just on the people he cares about and who care about him.

But what a missed opportunity. So many fun, interesting, helpful people in the world. Keeping them at arm’s length seems the wrong kind of selfish.

I’d much rather learn what they have to offer. See what I can learn from them. Willingly share what I know and see if they respond.

And if I’m sincere and genuine in that, yep, it involves a little bit of cornball. It is who I am. And I really dig when people get that.

 

Yoda had it wrong

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

I get it, Jedi Master, but I’m not so sure I believe it.

There are times when I work my tail off, goal in mind, with a clear path to succeed. But sometimes, I’ve set unreasonable expectations, or not enough time, or maybe just unexpected stuff gets in the way.

For most of my life, I’d beat myself up over falling short like that. “The effort doesn’t matter,” I’d think, “only the end result.” A stern lecture from my inner Yoda.

But when it came time for my latest personal test, I thought I’d go a little easier on myself. If you’ve ever met me, it’s been in one of these three situations: I had a can of pop in my hand; I had a can waiting on my desk or table; or I was on my way to get some pop. I don’t drink coffee, but I drink enough soda that a friend once told me that when I said I was drinking water, she assumed I really meant I was having a Coke. I used to drink so much Vault, it looked like they sponsored me.

Four months of pop tops.

Flipping my lids from February-May.

For four months this year, I kept tabs (literally) on how much I was drinking. And on Memorial Day, I decided I would — not quit, entirely, but scale way back. I would try. I would not go cold turkey.

I went five headache-filled days before cracking open a can. And then another four after that. A little more than a month into this test, I’ve had a total of nine. Yoda wouldn’t call this a victory, but I sure do. Here’s why:

This week, as an early morning conference call was kicking off, a co-worker in a remote office mentioned he hadn’t had his coffee yet, and asked if I’d had my Coke. When I told him I was cutting back, he said something like, “Oh, I tried that once. I made it one day, and then I cracked.” And he’s back to however much coffee he was drinking before.

He viewed it as a failure. Isn’t there enough pressure, enough imperfection in our lives that we can allow ourselves some gray area? This is exactly why I’m on the “cut way back” plan instead of  going cold turkey. It’s an occasional treat — or, yes, a relief — to pop open a can. But I can say I’m having about two cans a week instead of two a day, and that feels like a giant win. My glass (of water) is half-full. That helps keep me motivated.

I understand I’ll never make it as a Jedi, but I think I’ll be happy just the same.

This is where the time goes

When I was a teenager, some of my favorite moments involved my family gathering around the table to play a game. Scattergories, Pictionary, any number of card games — but the times that really stood out were when we played Rummikub.

If you’ve never played: It’s a lot like a card game where you collect sets of the same number or suit. Only in Rummikub, you use tiles, and instead of starting with five or seven cards, you start with 14 tiles. And that’s just to start — you can wind up with many more tiles in your hand, leaving you with countless options for a play.

When it’s your turn, your brain spins like mad, trying to explore all the different possibilities, analyzing and predicting potential outcomes, determining which result would provide the best . . .

“This is where the time goes.”

Until Dad interrupts. You’re not paying attention to time; you’re paying attention to the game. We respect each other a bunch, and we know there’s a healthy amount of brainpower around the table. The game is fun, but we’re here to win, so the consequences of each move are crucial. Of course it’s taking a while — one errant move could cost me the game! What’s more important than winning the game?

“This is where the time goes.”

To this day, it’s a phrase that invokes immediate laughter in our house. It’s a good-natured ribbing to get a move on, that whatever it is you’re working on may need thought, but it also needs action. Prepare all you want, but even the best plan doesn’t mean anything if you never set it in motion.

And so that’s why this blog is now part of my life. Enough sitting around thinking, “I wonder if anybody’s ever thought of things this way,” only to let the idea bounce around in my own head because I figure I didn’t have a place to express it.

Well, the outlet is here. It’s time to act.

Now, this is where my time goes.