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Meaningful Moments 2018

A Semi-Rad Reflection Exercise

"Has it ever struck you that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going?"

~Tennessee Williams

I like Brendan from Semi-Rad. I relate with him. He hates running a lot more than me, but I can see where he's coming from. We both like to meditate not sitting down, and we both think complaining is useless. He ran 100 miles, but since he's just a normal guy, it makes me feel like I can run 100 miles one day too. So when he gives suggestions on how to add a little bit of rad-ness into my life, I'm inclined to put it to action.

Brendan has an end-of-year ritual he likes to do. I'll let him explain it...

"It’s not complicated, it’s not hippy-dippy, and it only takes a half-hour (or two and a half hours if you really milk it). I am terrible at being present, being in the moment, consciously noticing when I’m happy, whatever you call it, and this is something I’ve done for the past few years to remedy that. The whole thing (but especially Step 3 and/or 4) is a very simple way to remember more of the meaningful things in your life, because between being busy and looking at glowing screens when we feel less busy, life can seem like a blur.

Step 1: Get a piece of paper and a pen (or use the notes app on your phone) and go sit somewhere for a half-hour or an hour where you can reasonably concentrate without interruption.

Step 2: Write down your five favorite moments of the past 12 months. For better results, write down ten moments. These can be meals, conversations, sunsets, hikes, trail runs, beers, cups of coffee, joy experienced vicariously through a friend or relative, whatever. And they don’t have to all be “good” moments—they can just be meaningful. I find it useful to scroll through all the photos on my phone to jog my memory about all the things I did in the past year (I’m sure you’ve noticed that you take photos when you’re having meaningful experiences).

Step 3: Take a few minutes and reflect on those moments. This doesn’t have to be a solemn thing, just give each item on the list a few second. Try to remember a few more details from each one, or just say to yourself, “Shit yeah, that night camping on the coast was great,” or “I was so tired at work the next day but that show was fantastic,” or “I can’t believe we didn’t get food poisoning from that.”

Step 4 (optional): If you can get this organized, try enlisting a partner for the whole thing. Spouse, good friend, sibling, whoever—meet up for an hour over coffee or beer or burritos and go through your lists one item at a time with each other. This is just a slightly more fun version of Step 3, if you have the right person to do it with.

That’s it. Hopefully over the next couple weeks, you can find some gratitude, and hang onto it a little better too.

—Brendan

My Favorite Moments of 2018

1. Getting so pitted in HB

I've been surfing since I was 14 years old. In almost 19 years of surfing, I've never really gotten barreled. Sure, I've gotten kinda barreled, a little cover ups here and there, but never a proper one. But that changed one a late October morning. I never surf Brookhurst St, but there was a grom contest at HB Pier so me and my brother surfed Brookhurst for 3 days straight. It was good for 3 days, really really good. On the 3rd day, a perfect looking peak came my way, and I was in perfect position to go right. I paddled, dropped in, bottom turned, tucked, was locked, was in it, I didn't think I was going to come out... and I came out. I paddled back out to the line-up to where Jordan and Lance were sitting, trying to play it cool but my smile was ear to ear. I was so fucking STOKED. Later that day, some shit happened at work, but I couldn't even get upset, because I had gotten barreled that morning. I've replayed that wave over and over in my head, and I can see it and feel it vividly still.

2. The final 7 miles of the Kodiak 50 Miler

Seven Oaks is a 1700 ft climb from mile 44-47. There was carnage, runners crying, throwing up in the bushes, laying down on the side of the trail. I ran out of water about a quarter the way up, thinking I was almost there, but the trail kept going up and up and up. And maybe it was a good thing that I ran out of water, because my brain shifted in to survival mode. I NEEDED to get to that next aid station at the top of the trail. I passed many people, many of the same ones that passed me miles ago. At some points, the trail was so steep, that my steps forward would be best measured in inches. But I never stopped. I got to the top of the trail at mile 47, and realized for the first time that the course was 51 miles, not 50. One mile might seem insignificant, but after 47 miles, one extra mile thrown at me was disheartening. The next 4 miles were a combo of running and limping. My feet hurt bad, sharp pains. The trail finally turned to road as I got into downtown Big Bear. A hundred yards away from the finish line I saw my Wednesday Night Run Crew friends, and it felt so good to see familiar faces and and get some cheers and high fives from the guys. I came through the finish line as Mr. Jones by the Counting Crows was playing, a little gift from the Universe, a sign that I finished when and how I was meant to. The look on my face in the picture above says it all - the wave of emotion, relief, pride, exhaustion, gratitude. Then I got to hang out at the finish line, with all my buddies that were there running their own race or supporting us, and hearing their stories from the day.

3. Fresh tracks at Snowbird

It had snowed all night. The backside of Snowbird was closed for the morning due to avalanche control. By a random stroke of luck, Derek, Jordan and I happened to get off the chair lift at the top of the backside right when they opened it for the first time around 11am. It was perfect, unridden powder. It was face shot after face shot after face shot. And then more face shots. You know in snowboard videos, the guys get dropped off by the helicopter in Alaska and they float down the mountain doing long, slow, beautiful, perfect powder turns? It was like that. It was the perfect steepness, and the fluffiest powder, and an unbelievable surprise. There was a chorus of hoots, strangers were high-five-ing, everyone sharing in the stoke. Then we went for round 2. Those are the 2 best snowboarding runs of my life to date, the kind of runs that only seem to exist in the movies.

4. Standing at the foot of the Ritter Range as the sun dropped behind the mountains

It was my first backpacking trip, and we were hiking on the John Muir Trail from Tuolomne Meadows in Yosemite to Agnew Meadows in Mammoth. It was day 3. We woke up that morning at Thousand Islands Lake, one of the most beautiful alpine lakes I had ever seen. Then we walked past Emerald Lake, and then Ruby Lake, and then Garnet Lake, and it was like every lake I saw was the most beautiful lake I had ever seen. And then we arrived at our destination for the night, Lake Ediza, which was of course, the most beautiful lake I had ever seen. We set up camp and I took a dip in the freezing cold lake, and then laid on the grass and basked in the sun to dry off, which then turned into a short nap. Upon waking, we debated if we still wanted to hike up to Banner Pass. We were comfortable and tired, but finally decided to make the short trek and the thought of regretting the decision not to later. Derek, Rob and I traversed to the other side of the lake, climbed up past a glowing waterfall, and kept going up until we stood directly under the biggest peaks of the Ritter Range. Mount Ridder stands at 13,150' and Banner Peak right next to it stands at 12,936', and there we were, staring up at them, up close, as the sun was setting behind them. It was AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL, and in my opinion, maybe the best scenic highlight of the 4 day trek, which is saying a lot for the Eastern Sierras. We ran back down to camp before dark, and after dinner, we drank the rest of our booze as we sat in the freezing cold staring up at the stars with a lot to laugh about and be grateful for.

5. Visiting the pain cave in my first ultra

My first attempt to run over 26.2 miles was at the Whoo's in El Moro 50k at El Moro Canyon in Newport Beach. I showed up scared of the distance but ready to race, and my goal time was sub-5 hours. It was raining, and muddy on the trails. The first half of the race went pretty well, probably too well as I was in 7th place. At mile 20, things started to hurt pretty bad, but I was still on pace for sub-5 and pushing through. Around mile 22 things got worse, but I was pushing through, still holding on to the possibility of finishing in 7th or 8th. And then things completely fell apart. It was no longer about pushing through the pain, it was more that I just physically couldn't get my legs to run. My whole body had tingles. I was so tired that even the muscles in my face felt like they were melting off. I would walk for a few minutes, and then try and run again, but would fail over and over. I would see a bush 20 yards away, and I would try and run to it, but I couldn't make it. I wanted to run, but I couldn't. This went on for the next several miles. I thought that I might not make it to the finish. I thought that I was for sure, not ever doing another ultra ever again. I thought about pancakes. I got passed by my buddy Travis, and I didn't even care. All I could focus on was putting one foot in front of the other so I could get myself out of this misery. I finally made it to an aid station around mile 28, and I stayed there for a while, slowly eating, and breathing, and dreading the thought of leaving. I got passed by another runner, and I couldn't do anything about it. I left that aid station in no better shape, walking, but as soon as I got to the final downhill of the course, I tried running and all of a sudden I had legs again. I ran faster and faster down the hill. It felt like I was smashing at like a 7 minute pace (it was actually more like a 10 min pace haha). It was like a miracle that I was running, I could hardly believe it. I thought maybe that I could catch the runner that passed me at the aid station. I never did, but I crossed the finish line looking surprisingly strong, in 9th place overall. I had officially been to the pain cave and made it out. I was officially an ultra runner.

6. Eating pizza naked in Whistler

Sorry for the picture, but this truly was one of the best moments of 2018. For the last 2 hours, I had fantasized about this moment. For the last 2 hours, I was running slowly, as fast as I could, in 95 degree heat, after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56 miles. It's funny how endurance racing brings you back to your most basic needs. During training, I'm driven by the idea of completing an Ironman 70.3. In the beginning of the race, I'm driven by my sub-6 hour goal. By the end of the race, my motivation is just to be able to sit down, somewhere comfortable, out of the heat, and maybe eat something, while my girlfriend takes care of me. This was the real finish line. And yes, I made it sub-6 hours in my first ever Ironman 70.3 triathlon, an accomplishment that felt so good. But mostly, I was proud that I gave it my all, I left it all out there in the heat, and I was so grateful to be back in my hotel room now. And huge thanks to Ashley for cheering me on and taking care of me, and being the best crew that I could ever ask for!

7. Birthday, avalanche, stranded, and rockin' out in Mammoth.

Birthday trip to Mammoth with all my friends. It DUMPED. There was a crazy amount of snow. The first few runs of the day were DEEP. We rode right past an avalanche and didn't even realize it. Multiple people were buried in the avalanche. Mammoth shut the mountain down and it was all hands on deck. We were at the Mill, and the bus lines back to Canyon Lodge were super long. It was me, Ashley, Jordan, Derek, Chris and Lauren, and we went up to main lodge instead to have a few beers while we wait for the lines to die down. There was a band playing, and they were playing all my favorite songs - Rolling Stones covers, and they busted out the mandolin and played Going to California and Maggie May. We had more beers. And then shots. The band kept rockin' and we kept drinking. And then the band and the entire bar sang happy birthday to me. And then we danced. We didn't get much riding in that day, we were stranded with no way back to our condo, and we ended up missing our dinner reservations that night. But it ended up being the best birthday ever, stranded right where we were meant to be, with my girlfriend and closest buds. This is the kind of magic that you can never plan, the shit that only happens when you go with the flow.

8. Realizing that the Rad Gallery business had officially failed

I was on a family trip in Joshua tree when I saw the $400 storage fee for the first time. I was trying to sell gallery style picture frame sets on Amazon, and I had recently launched my first product. There had already been many setbacks leading up to this moment - unforeseen shipping costs, customers receiving broken glass, very slow sales, frustratingly poor seller support, losing the Buy Box - but the storage fees were the kill shot. How did I not know there was going to be oversize storage fees? I remember sitting in Joshua Tree, which was supposed to be a nice, relaxing weekend, but instead feeling stress and anxiety, anger and embarrassment. I did the math, and with the storage fees, on top of all the other issues, the was no way to make money. It was over. I had made so many bad business decisions, and I was going to pay for it. The best decision at that point was to cut my losses, and shut the business down. I ended up losing about $18k on this failed business. I knew the risks going in, and this is just part of the game. It was a great learning experience, and probably a better learning experience than if I spent that $18k on a semester in an MBA classroom because I learn best the hard way. That was my justification as I tried to calm myself down.

9. Under my bike in the intersection of Irvine Ave and Santiago

It was my first time riding a bike with the clipless pedals. I had finally bought a proper road bike, a 10 year old Cervelo for $500 on Craigslist, about a month before my first Ironman 70.3 triathlon. I practiced clipping in and out a few times in my house while holding onto the counter, and it seemed easy enough. I took the bike outside and clipped-in in the driveway, and didn't make it 10 ft before I fell over! But no one saw, so it was all good, and I got up and forged ahead. I made it about 2 miles before I hit my first red light, at the intersection of Irvine Ave. and Santiago. I unclipped just fine, and was waiting at the red light, still upright. As soon as the light turned green, I tried to get going, but lost my balance and tipped towards the side of the leg that was still clipped in. Bye bye. There I was, in the middle of a busy 4-way intersection, stuck underneath by bike, holding up all traffic. I was FRANTIC. It probably took me 10 seconds to unclip and get up from under my bike, and another 20 seconds to get out of the intersection so cars could pass. That 30 seconds that felt like an eternity. So embarrassed! But as I look back and laugh at myself and think of how stupid I looked, I also think about how meaningful this moment was - accomplishing big goals is all about stepping out of your comfort zone, trying to do things that you aren't ready or prepared for yet. This was a right of passage. I was paying my dues.

10. Closing my 4th deal with TheLions

2018 has been a string of career failures. I left College Works, where I had thrived for 10 years, and embarked on a career adventure which started with a failed an Amazon business, then a failed a solar business, and then doing final round interviews with 2 awesome companies and not getting hired. This meant going several months making no income and going back into debt. In July, I started at TheLions doing sales recruiting for tech startups. I'm a fully remote, commission-based contractor, which has its pros and cons. I manage myself, and no one tells me what to do, but I only make money when I close deals. This is perfect for me, but I just needed to figure out how to make it work. I closed 2 deals right off the bat, and felt a ton of excitement and a bit of relief, as if the struggle was over and everything was going to work out. But I soon came to learn that it was beginners luck, and I went the next 3 months without another deal closed. I felt a lot of pressure to close my next deal. Finally, I closed a big one right before Thanksgiving, and felt more relieved than excited. But it's my 4th deal that came through just last week that really felt good. It was 4pm on Friday when the call came in, and I was heading up to Mammoth with Ashley for our first snowboard trip of the season and already in a good mood. Then the call came in, and I was so PUMPED! Fist pumps in my car! Maybe it's just fresh in my head, but I'm still buzzing off this deal. Now, if I project out my Q4 earnings to next year, I should be able to get back out of debt by end of 2019. And most importantly, I love the actual job and I'm super encouraged that I am going to be able to make it work financially. After a long year of career struggle, I feel like this 4th deal closed means ending on a high note.

Shit ya, it was a crazy year - my first barrel, my first ultra, my first Ironman, my first multi-day backpacking trip, my best powder runs, some embarrassing moments, lots of failure, and a new career. What was most fun about this exercise was getting beneath the surface level of these accomplishments and failures, deep down into the memorable moments, remembering how I felt in those moments, and being able to close my eyes and completely relive those moments. The most meaningful moments are usually the most vivid, and most enjoyable to reflect on.

And in trying to compile this list, it brings to light what's important to me. I love my hobbies. I love the progression involved with surfing, snowboard, and endurance racing, trying to push myself to be better. And I love the serendipity of those sports, the chance to catch the perfect wave, or score the perfect powder day, or run that perfect race. I love my friends, and many of these best moments were not solo moments, but moments that were only special because of who I shared them with. Failure is meaningful, because it usually means I'm pushing myself to reach big goals. Embarrassment is meaningful because it usually means I'm out of my element, out of my comfort zone. And many of the best moments are not planned, nor obvious. They are hidden and require discovery. They are like gifts, and only receivable if I have the gratitude and awareness to accept them. The more I am able to live in the present moment, I'm able to see when a moment is special, and pause to enjoy it, and soak it in, and remember it. And when I write these moments down at the end of each year, I know I'll have them forever.

Thanks Brendan for the rad exercise.

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