I challenged myself to create a series of four videos with myself as host, and to talk about my own creative and personal development journey. I have made fun of people who do this for my entire life...until I started producing Spartan Up podcast and listening and learning from them. There is still a high proportion of blowhards and snake oil salesmen in the self help arena, and yet those reminders, hacks and lessons propel me forward.
As Doug Comstock said - I'm not telling you anything new, I'm just reminding you.
So here is video three of the series. In this video I talk about the two most helpful tactics / principles I have learned.
Social media has a lot wrong, especially now as it heightens divisions and eats up days with “doom scrolling.” But I don’t know that I would have kept up with this without you guys holding me accountable. I’ve run something like 270 miles so far this year, and for the last 100 straight I haven’t missed a day.
Running every day is good for my health, but it’s about more than that. It’s about keeping my word to myself, building productive habits as a baseline, trying my best to be a role model for my kids.
The private messages I get ( “ did you run yet today?”, congratulations”, “have you thought about running farther”?) are such a powerful model of encouragement. Celebrating success while gently nudging for more.
It’s about 7am. I’m getting ready to head out and run 5 miles, and just like every other day - I don’t feel like it.
Surround yourself, even virtually, with people that make you better. It will cross over to every aspect of your life & career.
I challenged myself to make 4 videos about my own personal creative journey. I've been a producer of podcasts and videos for my entire career helping others convey their messages. Now I'm coming out from behind the scenes. This is the second in my self-challenge series and explores the conflict between humility and self expression, and the changes in the video industry.
I'm collecting my "creative Journey" video series here.
When I posted the video about podcasting safely while social distancing a few people asked me about wind noise. I realized that things I've been doing for 30 years are second nature to me, but not everyone knows them. So - here's a quick video about 4 ways to stop wind noise from ruining your shoot when you get to record outside.
Find more technique and "how To" videos for podcasters and YouTubers here.
It started when I heard an interview with James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. He said to establish a habit start with something really small, for example one push up a day. It sounds ridiculous. But when you start with a small commitment you'll be more likely to keep it. Once you start keeping it you begin to see yourself in a new light - as someone who does a push up every day.
So I decided I'd run one mile every day. I've written about that, and it's been going pretty well. And James Clear was right. Success there lead me to take on another challenge. When COVID times started I committed to posting a daily photo journal here on my blog for a month. I did that too. I realized that the simple practice of writing and photographing every day was helping me grow as a creative, whether anyone read it or not.
Now I'm challenging myself to create a video, with me as the on camera host, talking about my own creative journey, every week for the next four weeks. Here is the first:
Next week I'm going to talk about the value of keeping your work to YOURSELF.
How are we podcasting in these complicated times? We managed to pull off an in-person Spartan Up podcasting session this week with Joe De Sena and Sefra the Seedhuntress. Here's how we did it:
I’ve worked from a home office since I took out my first business loan and bought an edit system in 1995. I have always loved the flexibility. Taking calls while pacing around the yard. But equally important have been the trips and adventures that break up the time at home. That’s what I’ve always loved most about my job as a videographer, producer, and photographer. The places I get to go, the people I get to meet and spend time with.
For me, the part of life that happens at home hasn’t changed that much, I cherish that as much as ever, but I do miss the rest!
On January 2nd I wrote in my journal "Run 1 mile every day. More is ok, but always 1 mile."
I hadn't given much thought to that fact that it was January and the days were short and cold. I figured I could do one mile. I had heard an interview with James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, a few days before. He suggested picking something small, like one push up, every day. Through my work at Spartan and the Spartan Up podcast I've come to think of ultras as no big deal. A mile seemed so small. But I started.
For 44 days, usually in the dark and usually in the snow, I ran one mile every day. I never looked forward to it, but I was always glad I had done it. I made it public - told my family and friends. But on day 45 I mixed up time zones coming back from a conference in LA and missed a day. So I started again at one.
I made it through another 25 day streak then one night sat up in the middle of the night and realized I had completely forgotten to run. Today is day 61 of my third streak.
Here's what I've learned:
1. I've heard it takes 30 days to create a habit. I disagree. It's been over 150 days (minus the two I missed) and it's still not a solid habit.
2. That moment of decision - "should I run today or take a day off?" - that is where the greatest challenge lies. Knowing that I will run every day, removes that hurdle.
3. In COVID times I've had the most consistent and predictable schedule I have had in years! Probably ever. I miss unpredictable, but the sameness has made me start look forward to my daily runs.
4. It's about more than running. I'm starting to think of myself as someone who runs every day and that starts driving me to keep doing running, but also to take on new challenges.
5. It's a bare minimum that I always know I've accomplished when my head hits the pillow. That's good.
Ultimately I think of it as practice keeping my word to myself.
So... the home haircut didn't quite turn out as planned. But it provided a few of the best laughs we've shared as a family since COVID times began!
The good news:
1. His beautiful smile is even more visible
2. Hair grows back
3. Mac is a great sport, with a great sense of humor who doesn't let the little things like an unintended shaved head get him down.
8 years ago the small town of Pittsfield was struck hard by the remnants of Hurricane Irene. In a town of fewer than 500 people more than 10 homes were completely destroyed. The town, with little official infrastructure, was completely cut off from the outside world. Pittsfield did not have it's own police force, ambulance, hospital or school. What it had was strong resilient community.
Our house was among those hit hard, but still in many ways it was a glorious time. Days filled with sunshine and community. The roads were closed so everyone walked, the pace slowed down and everyone was looking for ways to help their neighbors.
That first Sunday when the storm hit was frightening, we saw the river rise higher than we'd ever seen it rise. Friends had to be rescued by volunteer fire fighters and neighbors just minutes before their house collapsed, my husband was stuck for the night in the car in the driveway. Unable to get back to our house as it was slammed by 8 feet of raging water, and unable to cross the bridge from our road into town. Meanwhile I had taken our two young kids and my mother to the Swiss Farm Inn for refuge.
By 7am the first morning the town gathered at the town hall to start coming up with a plan. Already neighbors were feeding each other, taking each other in, and sorting through debris for prized possessions. Soon after families with heavy machinery started building roads, the two general stores in town set up a massive BBQ on the town green with the food from their quickly thawing freezers, medical facilities were set up in the library, and an outdoor school was set up on the green.
I did what I knew how to do. I started to capture the story. It was awkward at first. I wanted to be part of the story, part of the effort to rebuild, but eventually I realized this was my best way to contribute.
The film aired on PBS 4 or 5 times, now I'd like to get the word out - community resilience comes from strong community bonds. Here is the complete documentary.
I do feel a little heartbreak on their behalf - at a time in life when they should be spreading their wings they are pushed back into the nest. But it's just a speed bump in the story of their lives.
And - they are learning a set of skills that will set them up for life. The skills of the "digital nomad." If you can work independently, digitally, you can work wherever and whenever you want. You need to have work that can be done virtually, you need the ability to manage your own time and deadlines interspersed with scheduled meetings and phone calls, and you need a sufficient self drive.
Their school right now is very much like 80% of my work.
Of course I look forward to the day when we are all able to be more human and social again, but it the meantime I'm focusing on what can be learned. What we learn is not always in the classes we take or the books we read, but in the way we live.
I knew the day would come. After a month of these posts my kids have had enough. I can't say I blame them. We're all home all day, so when I committed to taking photos every day that meant a lot of photos of them. I'm going to give them a break.
Today I want to share this Bukowski poem I just discovered called "The Laughing Heart."
your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
“The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski from Betting on the Muse
When a small pebble lands in a pond it makes a splash. At first, only that one point in the water is affected. But with time the ripples expand. Soon every part of the pond has been altered.
If you are feeling a pause, then take this time to steady yourself. To strengthen and ground yourself firmly. This is just the beginning.
I'm an optimist. We will find new ways to thrive, but here are some of the ripples I think are coming our way, followed by some of the true wisdom our moms have divined from this experience so far.
Some are feeling comfortable right now. Maybe you work in eCommerce or software design and you are busier than ever. The ripples are coming. If your business is still going strong that's great. But how are your customers doing? And their customers ... and their's? When this many people are jobless, and this many businesses are closed, the eventual impacts are inevitable. It may take years for the ripples to reach every shore.
The Value of Local
With disruptions in the supply chain, people have a greater recognition for the value of local. Local produce, local dairy, local take out, and local innovation will be prized.
Virtual work is a Double-Edged Sword
Right now the world is discovering the value of virtual. You can work from anywhere in the world. That also means employers can get the services you provide from anywhere in the world. Soon you will be competing against a much wider and deeper pool of workers for your job.
If you've found a way to move your services, courses, or coaching online and you're excited about the possibility of scale, be ready. You will soon be competing head to head against the biggest players in the world. Without local, what will set you apart?
Hunger for In-Person Connection
A lot of people have learned they can do more than they ever dreamed of from home - zoom family reunions, virtual work, even the news anchors are reporting from their living rooms. But I believe this experience will also awaken a recognition of the true value of in-person connection. I have been working from home for most of my career and cherish my in-person time with friends and colleagues. I'm intentional about planning in-person coffee meetings, yoga classes, and walks. This way of thinking is becoming more widespread. I've heard predictions that this will be the end of movie theaters. Maybe it will. But going to the movie theater hasn't been just about the movie for a very long time.
What the Wisest Moms Can Teach:
We host a daily Spartan Up Podcast Zoom call with some of our podcast hosts and featured guests. Today, through a series of mistakes and coincidences, Johnny Waite, Sefra Alexandra and I found ourselves on the call with our moms! Michael Aspinall showed up and after a little catching up he asked the 3 moms - with all of your wisdom, what have you learned from the pandemic?
* The importance of family and of recognizing the good moments.
* That being alone is Ok, in fact, it can be good for creativity and self-development
* That people are more intentional than they've ever been and are paying attention to what is most important.
The refrain - we are staggered by the blessings.
“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security" ~John Allen Paulos
This moment is an opportunity. The opportunity is deeper than time to take a class, or reassess your career. This is a time for us to all to get more comfortable with uncertainty.
Even before this massive world shift brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the speed of change in our lives was stunning. Rapid shifts in technology, culture and work-life inevitably bring uncertainty. What if the greatest skill we can learn, and the greatest skill we can teach our children, is a tolerance for uncertainty?
On today's run I listened to James Altucher's interview with Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, here's a one minute clip:
I don't love uncertainty, but as someone who has been self employed for almost all of my life I've learned to live with it. In fact - there's a buzz of excitement that chaos brings.
Comfort with uncertainty doesn't negate the need to plan. In fact it heightens it. I think about it this way: when I go on a shoot I never know what it will bring. Locations we've never scouted, opportunities we never anticipated, technical difficulties. I spend hours before each trip planning, packing, testing, trying to anticipate every possible scenario. I never do. And then I leave the monopod in the uber, or my client decides to interview 3 people instead of the one we have a mic and lights for, there are 100s of scenarios.
But even for me the current level of uncertainty is daunting.
You've heard the Mike Tyson quote "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth," Col. Nye says "It's not the plan, it's the planning." The process you go through in researching and creating the plan prepares you for the inevitable uncertainty.
All this time I've been trying to provide my kids with continuity & routine, but now we all have the opportunity to deepen our tolerance for uncertainty.
Today - true simple pleasures. There is nothing that makes me happier than our family working together on a project. Especially when I know my husband is passing on a little of his practical knowledge to the boys. In this case about winches, come-alongs and pump jacks. But also about solving mechanical problems. About being innovative, self reliant, and safe with machines and heavy weights.
We're starting our first spring in the new house, and they are building me a raised bed ... which means I'll be trying to grow a few things.
Trooper was on hand to supervise.
The Spartan VP of content and I were talking (by talking I mean we exchanged abbreviated text messages.) We noted that teens, and parents of teens, seem to be invisible in the media right now. Here's the letter I wrote for publication on the Spartan site. ( Spartan published the article 4/23)
Spartan teens and moms, dads and mentors of teens - YOU ARE NOT INVISIBLE! In fact you may be the world’s most powerful resource. And here’s the question - how do we empower the vision, energy and innovation of our teens? I'm not going to give advice because I'm pretty sure I'm doing it wrong, but here's what being a parent of a teen in “captivity” has been like for me.
My kids have lived on a steady diet of the Spartan ethos since early childhood, even if we didn't call it that then. In our tiny Vermont town, our neighbors were the DeSenas. Even then Joe was leading pre-schoolers in jumping jacks and push-ups at birthday parties.
Around 2007 we started shooting videos for what would become Spartan, and as soon as the kids could manage they started tagging along as my assistants.
“These circumstances reveal the pretenders & reveal us to ourselves." ~Bruce Babashan on Spartan Up
Fast forward to today. My husband and I find ourselves in isolation with two teen boys. Teens who seem invisible to the media these days. In addition to the uncertainty we all feel in the face of a pandemic, they are experiencing the flip-flop of hormones, eddies of energy, the usual stresses of life, and a deep yearning for both the social interaction and structure that school and sports provide. They don't complain, they know there are a lot of people who have things a whole lot worse than us. Sometimes I wish they knew it was Ok to admit that this is hard, at the same time I admire their fortitude.
“Ultimate success is how I felt about myself in those quiet moments when no one is around” ~ Tom Bilyeu on Spartan Up Podcast
When school closed and track practice shut down the boys started running every day. I think today is day 37. I’m convinced the time alone, the outlet for energy, and the fresh air are essential for all of our mental health.
On school days we insist they get up and make their beds at a set time, other than that and a few chores, they manage their own school schedules and responsibilities. My 8th grader is usually finished with school in a few hours, then he's left to fill his days without much direction. He used to tell me he was lonely, he doesn't anymore.
My high school junior feels the stress of adapting to virtual school. I regret all the times I told him junior spring was the one time he needed to worry about grades. He spends a lot of time in his room.
There are so many resources for activities with young kids, I haven't seen anything for parents of teens. It's a time when they should be spreading their wings, becoming independent - how do you guide them through that when they are stuck at home with mom and dad for company? It’s not the natural state for a teen. A teen is a doer by nature. An inventor. An explorer.
We try to model resilience. The moments we spend together, without the separation of headphones and devices, come into crisp focus. The long facetime calls with their grandmother. The unconditional love of our dog Trooper. Watching them learn to cook dinner for the family. Those are bright lights.
We're all learning how to live together and learning together how to live. What I know I’m doing right is letting them know I love them, focusing on the positive, and continuing to adapt and learn as we walk into the future. What I need to do better - help them find their purpose.
Teens, what can we do to help you live - body, mind and spirit - during a pandemic? Moms, Dads, mentors - how are you helping shepherd this essential resource for our future?
"If I’m not failing, then I’m not reaching high enough…." ~Kevin Flike on Spartan Up Podcast
On March 27th I was envious of the "pause" to reassess and learn I kept hearing about. I was fortunate enough to still be working, so I committed to a more active blog. This is my chance to think out loud about podcasting, messaging, story, nature, family and life.
~ Marion Abrams