Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

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As a subscriber to Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic email, I signed up for his New Year, New You 21 day challenge. Each morning I wake up to an email and 2 min video where Ryan explains the challenge for that day and shares some tips and tricks to help us be successful. It’s been fairly easy so far (watch the sunrise/sunset, take a cold plunge). Today’s challenge sounded like hell.

Find a quiet solitary space.

Turn off all electronic devices.

Count to 1000.

Having never counted past like…60… before, I wondered how this might go. I decided to count using the rhythm of my livingroom clock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock Tick. Tock. The challenge was meant to take roughly 15 min but it took me 30min as I counted on the tock (every 2 seconds). Ryan’s advice was, “don’t break it up into manageable chunks, don’t celebrate key milestones (500), don’t celebrate when you finish (1000 baby!!!). Be still. Be in the moment. Take it in.” It was solid advice. 🙂

As I started, I felt the weight of Pascal’s famous quote but was confident I could do it. And I did! Sure, there were moments when my brain auto-piloted the numbers and when I reached 550 I remember thinking, “damn, I’m just over halfway there??” but my meditation training kicked in and I gently brought myself back into the rhythm. In the end, I actually found it relaxing.

We’ve all heard the classic advice, “close your eyes and count to 10.” The wisdom behind this is the pause allows our angry/anxious thoughts to slow down and we can begin to feel the stillness/ peace again. In short, it prevents a potentially negative experience for us and for others we may lash out against. Today’s challenge taught me that sometimes we need more than 10 seconds.

You sleep through your alarm.

A long-time employee announces he is starting his own landscaping company.

World War III is trending on Social Media.

It’s funny how the universe works. These are 3 fairly anxiety-inducing human experiences but because I spent 30 minutes in solitary stillness, I was able to take in all these realities and move forward in confidence knowing that it’s all good. Or at least, it will be. 🙂

It is all good. No matter what you’re going through. Stoicism reminds us that while we can’t control everything we can control something. Our reaction! In this, we are always in control (which is great news for control freaks) 😉

We count to 1000 not because it’s a cool badass challenge but because we never know when a real challenge will hit and we’ll need the stillness training. Resilience is a habit cultivated daily. Practice makes us perfect.

So let’s go!

The clock is ticking.

Cold Water Saves Lives

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If somebody had told me 5 years ago that the most lasting and effective change I would experience in my life was temperature-related, I would have been like… sounds boring. But fine… tell me more.

The first time I heard about The Iceman, I assumed he was a Marvel villain. Turns out, Wim Hof had become a legend for his morning plunges into the frigid cold waters of his local canal. Plus, he hiked mountains shoeless and shirtless -wearing only his shorts. Wim had also developed a breathing method that could scrub your lungs of excess carbon dioxide allowing you to breathe less and withstand all kinds of unpleasant realities. Wim claimed his methods could prevent sickness, boost the immune system and increase longevity.  The journalist, Scott Carney, had flown to Amsterdam to ‘out’ this crackpot and expose his bullshit. Instead, Scott wrote a book with the subtitle:

How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude, and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength

All Scott ended up exposing was his body to Wim’s methods. Scott did the plunges, took the breaths and even hiked Mount Kilimanjaro in his shorts. In the end, Scott proved not only did The Wim Hof Method work, it worked for people not named Wim Hof – perhaps the greatest proof of its truth. Science now agrees too, Wim’s methods actually work.

Note: Scott will be appearing on an upcoming episode 🙂

When I heard in 2017 that Wim was coming to Vancouver, I jumped at the chance to meet him. He is exactly the beautiful maniac I expected. Nearly 60 years old, Wim had the energy of a 20-year-old and inspired us with his story, the science behind his methods and we even took an ice bath together. Near the end of the day, Wim took us through one of his signature breathing sessions. What causes our bodies to cry out for breath is not a lack of oxygen but a build-up of carbon dioxide. Wim’s technique releases the excess Co2 bringing transcendence in thought and eliminating the desire to breathe. I floated through space without taking a breath for a full 4 minutes. It is still one of the more profound experiences I have ever had.

Since being introduced to Wim and his methods, I have taken a 1 min freezing cold shower every day. Andrew has too. At first, I screamed like a small child and hyperventilated my way to the finish line. I no longer do either but instead breathe and take it in. The key is to turn the faucet all the way to cold and let the water hit back of your head, right at your spine. It’ll take you places 🙂 Then I slowly turn my body and allow the cold water to do it’s work everywhere else. The result is a follows:

  • Anxiety and Anger Away – Any anxiety/strong emotion I had before the shower is gone by the time I get out and less likely to return later in the day.
  • Mental Reset – I step out refreshed and focused with renewed courage and vigor
  • Muscle Soreness – It is greatly reduced, along with any stiffness.
  • Skin – My skin is glowing (if I do say so myself ) 😉
  • Increased Resilience – Resilience is a habit we must cultivate daily. When we infuse our day with exercise (I jog in the mountains) followed by a cold shower, we remind the brain that although life can be a grind, we are stronger than we think and can endure any challenge that comes our way. This simple act allows us to live more peacefully in the moment.

The best part? It’s free. And super convenient. If you’re looking for genuine change in your mind and body, stop being a wimp and crank it to cold. You’ll thank us (eventually). 🙂

3 Questions to Save Your Life

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If we’re lucky, we’ll wake up to a new day tomorrow. A new year. Hell, a new decade! 2020 is here yall. Woo! It’s no longer a distant year in the future or a year referenced in some 80’s science fiction film. It’s real and it’s here. Ready or not.

I prefer the ready to the not.

While I don’t recommend New Year’s resolutions per se (who doesn’t want to be fitter, healthier, richer and more adventurous) I recommend we ask ourselves 3 questions instead. If 2020 is going to be the year of perfect vision, I believe these questions can help us see our life more clearly.

I first heard these questions while recording an episode for the podcast. Andrew and I had reached out to two of the wisest women we know to speak on matters of life and death. Linda and Shauna are experts on grief, death and dying and how to help people navigate these turbulent waters. Our conversation did not disappoint and I highly recommend you give it a careful listen.

At one point, Linda mentioned the 3 questions. These are THE questions Linda and her family have asked each other for decades in order to bring focus, clarity and to keep things real. I offer them to you as a way for you to look into 2020 and be more resolute. The beauty of these questions is they can be used in the moment, to plan a future moment or reflect on a moment gone by. Just change the tense in how you ask them. They are a mirror to our true selves. If we’re courageous enough to take a look.

What am I afraid of?

What would love do here?

What is the best possible thing that could happen?

As you contemplate where things are at in your life, may these questions bring you clarity, hope, and perhaps even provide an explanation for why you feel the way you do. We’ve never lived at a better time in history and despite what you might believe, life on earth has never been better. This is your time. Our time. And we haven’t a second to lose.

It turns out, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Happy New Year everyone.  Thanks for listening.

A Shocking Study

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In his excellent and thought-provoking book, ‘Stumbling on Happiness,’ Daniel Gilbert challenges our traditionally held beliefs on happiness. There are several key takeaways, not the least of which is, “anxiety is unhelpful because our brains are notoriously unreliable when it comes to predicting the future.” The experiences that we believe will bring us happiness, seldom do. But even more surprising, the experiences we dread and often try to avoid, fail to deliver the level of doom and gloom expected.

To illustrate his point, Gilbert references dozens of scientific studies -most of which go against conventional wisdom. One experiment, in particular, invited volunteers to receive three electric shocks. The fact that anyone signed up for this study is perhaps confirmation of the book’s central thesis. One group received moderate level shocks and the others received severe (painful) shocks. Upon completion, the participants were interviewed by psychologists. The participants who received the painful shocks were more grateful and appreciative of the experience than those who received less intense shocks. How is this possible? Gilbert explains, “if you managed to forgive your spouse (or anyone) for some egregious transgression but still find yourself miffed about the dent in the garage door or the trail of dirty socks on the staircase, then you have experienced this paradox.” It turns out, the answer lies in something called the Psychological Immune System.

We all have an immune system and its job is to fight off viruses so our body can run smoothly and stay safe from disease. It turns out, there is a psychological component to this. When we suffer a large scale attack on our psyche (Job loss, divorce, business failure, cancer diagnosis, bankruptcy etc.) our brain begins its job of protecting us by offering a more positive view of the experience. “That job wasn’t aligned with your values anyways. “He never really loved you for you who are etc.” This mental shift allows us to learn from the experience and most importantly, try again. While some might call this denial, others point to this as a key to resilience.

This particular immune system isn’t activated for every-day sadness, anger or anxiety but is reserved for those full-scale shocks to our psyche. Its primary concern is we don’t stay face down, in permanent rock bottom or experiencing night after night dark in our soul. We must eventually get up, dust ourselves off and continue to push through those obstacles.

It’s easy to feel anxious or angry, pre-suffering future shocks to our system. What this and many other studies have proven is although these shocks are inevitable, when they come, we have a built-in resilience to handle them. Upon realizing this, we can move forward with renewed confidence knowing we are stronger than we think. And perhaps, most importantly, we can enjoy the moment we are in.

Rising Up

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One month ago today, I dislocated my shoulder at the top of Mount Prevost. It was pouring at the time but I had Saucony Trail running shoes so what could go wrong? Two hours later I was in emergency trying to explain my badass actions to the unimpressed doctors and nurses. They knocked me out, popped my shoulder back in and within an hour I was sent home to reflect on my life choices. 

The recovery time is 6 weeks. Then another 6 weeks to get strength and flexibility back. Three months is a long time to not kick it with my Monkey Bar Gym crew. Stand on top of Mount Prevost. Fight in the UFC. The first week was the worst. At night, I struggled to sleep. During the day, I struggled to stay positive. When it first happened, my friends and family had said with concern in their eyes, “You can’t do anything for 6 weeks? You’re going to go insane.” I laughed. Said I’d be fine. 

Waking up early this morning, I brewed my coffee and sat down ready to launch into my morning ritual of TSN and Social Media. But something stopped me. I picked up Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong instead. If you’ve listened to even one episode of the podcast, you’ve probably heard us talk about Brene. She is Ms. Invulnerable. Ms. Get Your Shit Together. Ms. Stop Making Excuses.

Within minutes of reading familiar passages, the tears began to come. Son of a…! This is why I choose TSN. But this morning I stayed with Brene.. Here’s what she said:

“You may not have signed up for a hero’s journey, but the second you fell down, got your butt kicked, suffered a disappointment (or dislocation?), screwed up or felt your heart break, it started. It doesn’t matter if we are ready for an emotional adventure  – hurt happens. And it happens to every single one of us, without exception.” – Rising Strong

In my experience, tears flow from a place of truth. Of a deep knowing. In an instant, I knew I had opted out this month. Became a victim. Chose the sidelines instead of the race. A slow creep had become a fast habit and I had abandoned the obstacle course. This is not who I am.

Shouldn’t the host of Obstacle Course Podcast know better? Brene and Andrew would say, “you do know better, you just forgot.” I blame Propofol. Sigh, no… I blame myself. So what, now?

I Rise Up. 

No more Social Media and TSN to start the day. No more avoiding exercise because I can’t do it to the level I want. No more binging on crap to dull the pain. No more anger and anxiety towards a slow healing process. No more hurting my family with my hurt. No more opting out and lame excuses.

So I stand. One arm raised. 😉 And begin again.

12 Things We Learned from Starting the Obstacle Course Podcast

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With over 700,000 shows and 30 million unique episodes, Podcasts are fast becoming the preferred new media.The first podcast appeared in 2004 but it’s only in the past few years that they have experienced significant growth -nearly 30% in 2019 alone! Consumers love their accessibility, variety, convenience, and the price (nearly always free) is right. The ability to listen to what they want, when they want is key for the modern listener and the reason why Podcasts are likely to be a growing interest for many years to com….. 

SCREEEEEEECH. 

Ok, so our smart media guys told us to write a blog on Podcasting. “It’ll help you get found. Backlinks are the bomb.” So, instead of writing the usual online drivel we decided to let you into our process and share a dozen things we’ve learned in our first year. Hope you find them useful.

  1. Focused Topic: Like this article, people’s biggest critique about podcasters is they are unfocused and just trying to be funny. Know what you’re about and stick to it. It’s going to take some time to hit your stride and get comfortable, and a good topic helps keep a centrepoint in place. You must know why you’re starting this in the first place. If you’re serious about it, take the time to plan, treat it like a business, and understand your target demographics. If you’re free-wheeling, listeners will know it. Remember, you’re competing in the attention market. You’re battling against Netflix and Facebook. It takes a lot to win attention and followers. Be ready to put in the effort. 
  2. Good Gear: We spared no expense and spent about $1500 on great mics and recording equipment. Nothing else will matter if the sound quality is crap. (We’re not going to bore you with gear talk here, but if you’re interested, fire us a message and we’ll give you the details)
  3. Space: Find a permanent location. We record at Andrew’s Mom’s house and Judy makes us cookies. Setting up every recording will get old fast. You don’t need a perfect studio to create quality audio, but limit background noise and smaller rooms are better.
  4. Training: We recommend Seth Godin’s Podcast Fellowship. You’ll learn the ABC’s of podcasting in a community of podcasters. It was super helpful. 
  5. Two Hosts: Andrew and I bring different skills to the table and the result is a more balanced, well-rounded conversation. It’s also nice to have the support and help. This style works for us, as even when we don’t have a guest, we still have each other! But the most important thing is BE YOURSELF. Once we stopped trying to play a role, or be a certain way, the content improved dramatically. 
  6. Weekly Episodes: We started bi-weekly but found we lost momentum quickly and our downloads stagnated. If you care about the work (and you better, or why else are you even reading this), prioritize it – check out Tim Ferriss’ original wisdom from The 4 Hour Work Week for more on this. Focus on your “why”. 
  7. Interview-Based: As much as people might prefer we read the phone book or sound off on things we know nothing about, by interviewing interesting people, we have great content every week. 
  8. Editing: Andrew spends roughly 6-8 hrs editing each 90-120min episode. It’s a lot of work although Audacity makes it a lot easier. Audacity is a free program that’s reasonably easy to learn, and recent updates have helped make it less buggy. 
  9. Social Media: Instagram and Facebook are essential. We merely exist on Twitter. Engage with your listeners. It’s everything.
  10. Website: It’s worth the investment. SEO and all that. If you want to be a professional and polished in your field, your website better reflect that. This is best left to the professionals. We’re super happy with our website and thankful to Stikky for their great work.
  11. Community: See your podcast as building a community around your shared idea. We do LIVE events and an end of year party for the 50+ guests who’ve been on our podcast that year. The conversation and relationship extends far beyond the airwaves.
  12. Money: We saved this for last. Don’t even think about making money in the first year. The fact is, you’ll lose money. Focus on creating quality content and doing something you’re passionate about and believe in. Once that’s in place, approach sponsors like we are right now. Anyone? Anyone? 

If you’ve found this blog helpful, please share and re-post. Other than that, please give us a Like and Follow on Instagram, Facebook and sure why not, Twitter.  You can also email us at obstaclecoursepodcast@gmail.com. Definitely check out our fancy website. Obstacle Course can currently be found wherever you listen to podcasts.