“A quick pounce and kill requires no dream. Dreams are the beacons that carry us far ahead into the hunt, into the future, and into the marathon. We have the unique ability to keep in mind what is not before the eye. Visualizing far ahead, we see our quarry, even as it recedes over the hills and into the mists. Those ancient hunters who had the longest vision—the most imagination—were the ones who persisted the longest on the trail and therefore were the ones who left more descendants. The same goes these days: Human beings with the longest vision tend to make the biggest mark. Vision allows us to reach into the future, whether it's to kill a mammoth or an antelope, to write a book, or to achieve the record time in a race.” Bernd Heinrich, Racing the Antelope (Why We Run) or Endurance Predator.
Quick Thoughts on the Big Day:
15 years on either side of 2000. I like that symmetry.
The world is changing fast and will keep changing faster every year. Facebook came out my freshman year of college. Computers are not cool anymore. But smart Phones in every pocket – and I mean every pocket – Particularly in Asia, where small hands hold jumbo screens. I can only imagine what the next 10 years will look like. Virtual Reality? And let alone 50 years from now. Robots - AI? Robots that make other robots using 3D printers and take over the world? A million humans on Mars? Mining Asteroids/Moon? (Which I almost did as my senior thesis (2008) but the funding did not come through from the National Science Foundation. Now private companies (Space X) are making it happen.)
I am alive in the best time in human history? Yes.
I won the life lottery? Yes you did. You’ve travelled enough to realize that. You have been surrounded by good people at every stage of life without doing anything to deserve it. Your job options and choices are spectacular. The hardest part is deciding what to do and feeling like you are wasting an opportunity. Just remember that the worst that can happen is you live in your car down by the river nibbling on a 1 kilo bag of oats you purchased for 99 cents.
Kamchatka. My current wanderlust obsession takes me to far eastern Russia and/or Siberia because I was listened to Travels in Siberia. Or one of the obscure ‘stan countries like Tajikistan. Or maybe I can do an epic trip through Kyrgystan like Kyle did in The Road from Karakol . Basically, I’m interested in an off the beaten path wilderness experience – Maybe I’ll just walk across Tasmania.
I would give my 20 year old self two pieces of advice: Read 50 books per year and Avoid sitting down.
Along with that, I would have studied abroad to become proficient in another language/culture earlier in the game, not made running the focal point, taken a summer to walk the Appalachian trail, maybe not even gone to college or at least got in so much debt to go to college, got a second major or at least minor in something outside the realm of math/science/engineering like geography, taken those random courses I wanted to take like brewing science and wildland fire fighting but was too lazy, talked to more pretty girls during college because they were numerous especially as a track and field athlete and without potential “baggage” that older ones typically have, avoided processed foods, made more bad decisions or not been frozen by fear and thus took no action: meaning its better to do something and regret it than to not do it and regret it later – better to try than not try at all, done more volunteer work, not downloaded facebook or any social media, started a website or blogged more regularly in the longform, tried 3 different jobs in 3 completely different industries by the time I turned 30, dumped more money into the stock market when I started earning a yearly salary, kept a really detailed journal during my college years particularly to capture the obscurities of training on a Division 1 cross country and track team, worked for a smaller company rather than a big, public corporation…But ultimately nothing really matters except family and friends, so I wish I would have focused on that more rather than chase arbitrary athletic goals or pointless wander lusting.
Another Thought – On Enjoying the Process
I have also looked at the last 3 years of posts I have done on my birthday: 27, 28, and 29. I was injured a lot and seemed to be in an erratic state of mind. That trend has continued this past year but I feel more OK with it than ever. It’s the journey of a runner.
My goal for 2015 was to run a 100 mile footrace around Mount Fuji two days before I turned 30. See write up about it in 29 post written September 2014:
“100 miles. I set a goal after running the Old Pueblo 50 miler in 2010 to run 100 mile race before age 30. I figured it would be a relatively easy goal given how well I was training at the time. That was before my downfall of injuries starting with a femoral stress fracture in October of that same year. I just ran my second ultramarathon 4 years later in August (2014) at Mount Rinjani. I now have less than 11 months to do it…”
It was a 5 year-ish goal that I thought was really attainable at the time. I was in the best shape in my life in 2010 but I didn’t foresee the upcoming injury rollercoaster ahead. 2015 would follow the same injury plagued script.
I failed to run 100 miles. I didn’t even make it to Japan in September. Instead, I spent that week gallivanting around Australia’s Coral Coast on a solo road trip contemplating where I’d gone wrong. I wandered around sleeping in my car, peeping at wildflowers, paddling down canyons, and even getting my passport stamped at “The Principality of Hutt River Province”. Despite all this fun stuff, I was sour the entire time about not reaching my goal. I was so confident earlier in the year before the wheels fell off. Here is how it went down:
Feb/Mar – Great, building up nicely after a hiking centric January.
April- Good (running 140 km/week) by mid April, ran and won Mount Tambora Race in remote northern Sumbawa, then got heat sickness after race and lost another 8 pounds travelling that week through Indonesia.
May – Back in Australia and returned to normal weight and strength, then plantar fasciitis kicked in on right foot, 6 weeks of rehabbing and xtraining.
June – 95% recovered from Plantar then banged knee on rock while hiking the Hinchinbrook trail in Queensland. I could not walk normally for 5 days. No running for two weeks.
July- Good, gaining momentum and did some epic hikes/runs in the Stirling Range
August – Plantar came back in right foot moderately but ran through it anyway. Overcompensation led to odd twinge in left lower shin. Saw physio and suspected stress reaction . I ran every other day trying to work through it, jogged half marathon at City 2 Surf in Perth, then took two weeks completely off.
September – Pain still there after two weeks off running. Finally pulled the plug on Fuji after pain did not subside.
That has been the story of my running life the last 5 years. I still haven’t cracked the code as to why my training and health has suffered so much. There are four or so areas to investigate: Mechanical, Diet, Hormonal, and Mental.
Much of my rehab has been more mechanically focused. It’s logical to me that if you have weak muscles or imbalances, you have to fix them via strength training. I can understand that part of the equation.
Diet is another aspect I can somewhat grasp although with so many opinions out there it’s hard to say which is the best approach. What every diet agrees on though is to not eat processed foods. If I do that, I’m 85% of the way there.
Unlike machines, humans have other intangibles besides the moving parts. The hormonal and mental aspects are more unclear and harder to diagnose. The body can only handle so much stress. Stress from the physical exertion, from work, life circumstances, from lifestyle choices…etc Too much stress overtime leads to adrenal fatigue or jacked up hormones. The same can lead to mental breakdown. Are you happy? Do you have purpose in your life? When your personal life isn’t going well, your running will suffer too.
I suspect my break down is in that hormonal/mental zone although I don’t know for sure. Maybe I am just getting old? The entire thing is a complex issue. It’s hard to figure out.
What I do know is that I love the process. I have never been one who chased the quick high or the easy road. Maybe that’s why I make some things harder just for the sake of making them hard - like living out of my car for years. The truth is everything I have enjoyed in life took a lot of work whether that be running fast marathons, hiking the John Muir Trail, or getting an engineering degree. Be in love with the process. Chase the process, not the outcome.
Milestones have come and gone during my 20s: Graduate College, Get First Job, pay off student Loans, build emergency cash fund in case you quit/lose your job, have an adventurous overseas work assignment. None of these destinations ever solved all my life’s problems. Now what? If I buy that house, maybe I can finally have a normal routine and settle down? If I run 100 mile race, maybe I will finally fill that void of adventure inside me? If I get married and have kids, maybe I won’t be lonely ever again and maybe they would help me make important life decisions. I used to feel this way that accomplishing crucial goals would suddenly make life better. They are merely notable check points in the game of life. If you are waiting for a solution to your problems, if you are waiting for that one moment, it will never come. Most people realize this by the time they are 30. You never arrive so stop thinking you will arrive at some magical end point.
Enjoy the days, enjoy the process.
I often have doubts on whether or not the work I do is changing the world or noble. The reality is that if you are alive you change the world. Your attitude affects everyone around you. You can build them up or bring them down. You can build yourself up or bring yourself down. Stop trying to arrive at some magical end point.
Memorable Content Consumed in the Last Year:
There is a lot of good content on the web. Part of me feels this is a huge distraction. It is hard to focus when two clicks takes you to stuff a lot more interesting than your daily life (see Malaysian/Indonesia airline security workers). Add in that need to keep up with Facebook and Instagram feeds then you’re done. It is impossible to keep up with everything and I am starting to wonder if it is even worth keeping up at all.
On the other hand, these tools are really incredible. And imagination, the thing that separates us from other creatures, is sometimes captured. Here are some off memory that inspired me or in some way made me think about how to live my life:
The Dawn Wall and the Idea of Wasting Time“I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall.”
Gunhild Swanson Interview Western States70 years young finished the western states 100 mile footrace 6 seconds prior to the cut-off time of 30 hours. Ridiculous.
Pete Sampras Letter to My Younger Self. The introspective tennis star reflects back on the mistakes he made. I grew up watching the Sampras-Agassi rivalry and this sheds new perspective about the mind of this tennis star. Sports like tennis or boxing where you go one on one with the competition intrigue me.
The Moral Bucket List (David Brooks, NY Times)Remember to work on the “eulogy” virtues rather than focus all energy on resume virtues.
How to Live Wisely (Richard Light, NY Times)This would have been a good read before starting university. It provides an outline and list of questions to ponder before launching into life.
Remembering Johanna Nilsson. Another interesting free spirited runner but with a sad ending to her life. Almost a Christopher McCandless like story. She was nearly my age and from Northern Arizona so I feel like I have connection. I just remembered the article when I went to look up the one above.
Father and Son Take Some Photo for 29 Years. This is Cute.
The Thousand Year Journey: Oregon to Patagonia. A guy named Jedidiah Jenkins (great name) quit his job and set off to on a long bike ride at age 30. Again, I can connect with that since I am the same age. He explains how 16 months on the road felt like a lifetime because he packed so much in. It seems his goal is to do epic stuff so by the time he is an old man he would have accumulated numerous stories.
DoraisAn touching peek inside the lives of the best backcountry skiing brothers in the world. They are also ER doctors and dealing with a wife with stage 4 cancer.
Hiking and packrafting the wilderness of Southern Greenland. An inspiring 25 day off trail journey in pure wilderness. I am more and more interested in wilderness travel without trail and without 800 trip reports and articles written about them.
Denali. A creative look at our relationships with good friends (dog).
Obama Beau Biden Eulogy. I didn’t know who Beau Biden was but I like him after reading/hearing this eulogy. Obama is a really good speech giver and this one seems very thoughtful. You can watch it if you want and have 25 minutes here.
Pico Iyer Commencement Speech. Along the same lines as working on eulogy criteria rather than resume criteria. Pico calls them real and secret (inside the mind).
Bernd Heinrich - Why We Run Salomon VideoI love Bernd Heinrich (see quote at top). Racing the Antelope may be my favourite book. I read it in college. Most of my favourite books were read in those formative years. He doesn’t get out much on the inner webs instead choosing to live the simple life in his cabin in unassertive Maine. The only other content I found about him recently was this podcast interview he did here:
There are just too many now. I remember liking these for various reasons I cannot remember now:
PICO IYER — The art of stillness - On Being Podcast. A really smart guy who has travelled a lot now finds solace in exploring the inner landscapes. He lives in Japan which is cool.
RRP 73 CASEY NEISTAT. Basically, this guy has a great outlook life. He is a filmmaker who seems to pack a lot into life. There are many podcasts with him but this is the first one I listened too.
The Moment Podcast: Brian Koppelman and Seth Godin. Two wizards on the creative process.
Chris Hadfield - Making the Impossible Possible - James Altucher Show. I should have been an astronaut. These guys are really jacks of all trades.
Maria Popova Q&A - Tim Ferriss Show. A very introspective look from the creator of Brain Pickings work and life. A wealth of knowledge and book recommendations about how to live.
Dr. Wayne Dyer - A Test To See If You Are Ordinary. A spiritual guide to life.
Sarah Kaye - Way With Words. I like her performances and this podcast gives some insight into her creative process.
The Leap - This American Life. Take the Leap.
Blue Zones and How to Live to be 100- Dan Buettner. I have shifted my diet to match that of the blue zones. 95% plant based. Dan Buettner is a journalist and has led an awesome life. It makes me think I should have gone into journalism. But I suck at telling stories.
That’s a lot of content and only the stuff I remember liking the past 12 months or so. And the amazing thing is it is all free. Again, maybe I am wasting too much time consuming?
Here is a list of some good books I read. Honestly, if I finished a book, it was good. There is something to take away from every book. Books are the best value for money. The hardest part is actually making the time to read them. Hopefully, I can read more books than articles in the upcoming year.
Quotes on My Mind
“The very desire to find shortcuts makes you eminently unsuited for any kind of mastery. There is no possible reversal to this process.” Robert Greene
“You would be allowed to submit an application only after having travelled, alone and on foot, let’s say from Madrid to Kiev, a distance of nearly two thousand miles. While walking, write about your experiences, and then give me your notebooks. I would immediately be able to tell who had really walked and who had not. You would learn more about filmmaking during your journey than if you spent five years at film school. Your experiences would be the very opposite of academic knowledge, for academia is the death of cinema. Somebody who has been a boxer in Africa would be better trained as a filmmaker than if he had graduated from one of the “best” film schools in the world. All that counts is real life.” Werner Herzog, on the entry requirement to his imaginary film school.
“If there is something I wanted to do, I would have already done it.” Casey Neistat, when asked what was on his bucket list.
“If you don’t know what you are passionate about, surround yourself around passionate people.” Tony Robbins
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." Ghandi
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver
“Pursue poverty in your 20s.” Tom Scott
“The greatest challenge is not to travel abroad but to travel within. Not to conquer unclimbed routes on remote walls of shear stone, but to seek out seldom visited terrain in one’s heart, mind, and soul. To push oneself to improve when improving seems most tyring. Our inner landscapes are just as intimidating, just as breathtaking and without a doubt, just as rewarding to behold.” Chris Calman
“The only gap between you and your dreams are your excuses.” James Altucher
“I’ve never met a happy man who did not have some level of risk in their past.” Robert Kurson
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Joseph Cambell
“Most men die at 25 and are buried at 75.” Ben Franklin