Riding a Lion

Owning a business is like being a man riding a lion.
“People look at him and think, This guy’s really got it together! He’s brave!” says Thomas. “And the man riding the lion is thinking, How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?” 
~ Toby Thomas, CEO of EnSite Solutions (No. 188 on the Inc. 500)

I found this quote tucked inside a fantastic article in Inc Magazine,  The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship. When Bite Me Kitchen first began to grow, Adam and I often remarked that owning a business is more like being dragged behind a team of wild horses than riding one, but as we've grown - this analogy is far more apt. Each year in business all the numbers get frighteningly bigger - the sales, the debt, the risk, the potential failure, the possible growth. And one of the most powerful things about that level of fear is that much like skydiving - when fear hits a certain size, it begins to eat itself. Once you go far enough out on the edge, it doesn't matter whether you fall a couple stories or off a cliff because it's going to completely destroy whatever you've been working on up to that point - and somehow, that doesn't matter because now you know how to do it all over again.

When fear is left alone it grows, expanding to fill the spaces between doubt and hope. The more you ignore what you're afraid of, the more it sinks its hold into you until you have no idea of how to live without it. Much like an abusive relationship (and it can be) you learn that fear is a good thing, without it you'd make stupid choices, but fear is there like a good friend to keep you safe. Fear tells you that you don't have the qualifications necessary, that you need more education, that you're not good enough to be a part of whatever you're aiming for, that you aren't from the right circle of friends or weren't born in the right class. And it cuddles you and rocks you back into the lulling boredom of being content with what you have, with a knowing glance back at any of the times you tried and failed.

If I had to pinpoint when I began to pull the holds of fear off, I'd say it came with a random decision to go skydiving years ago. I'd recently come out of a terrifying health issue and made a bold pact to myself that I would begin to say Yes! to anything, after feeling like my mortality was put into question a little too early. Even though I had no interest in skydiving, when the local butcher at the grocery near my mom's house invited me to go (he was in his sixties and had been skydiving since the military), I said yes. It turns out his wife had recently passed away from cancer and skydiving was something they enjoyed together - as a tribute to my recent triumph, he wanted to pass the gift of the sky on to someone else -me! It blew my mind completely. I'd never been so sure I was going to die as I was clinging to that open door staring at the gaping maw of the sky and the vast expanse of the patchwork land below me. I also never felt in such absolute awe as I did that day. The world was suddenly so large, and I (and all my problems) were so miniscule. Fear gave me the gift of perception. What did any of it really matter? The credit card bills, bad dates, self-esteem, what car you drive, what your hair looks like, what job you have - when you've got a few minutes before plastering yourself in the ground? My mind bent, stretched and grew to encompass these new thoughts and I laughed at my pact to say Yes, and kept on saying Yes.

I travelled to the jungle, I rock climbed, I fell pretty bad rock climbing, I fell in love, I fell out of love, I found my true love, I made bad decisions, I made a few good decisions, I contacted my Dad who I hadn't spoken to in about 20 years, I fought for who I wanted to be, I fought against my past crutches, habits and addictions, I did triathlons, and an Ironman, I got married and we started a business. Every single time I've said yes, the world has had many ways of laughing in my face and making me question my willingness to embrace my fear.

Everything else has paled in comparison to the past few years of starting this business with no money, no safety net and no nest egg. We've sunk countless money, time, energy and sanity into what we've created and now we have staff that's counting on us to not only keep it going, but to make it flourish. While on the outside owning this business may look like it's a relatively straightforward process, it's been a constant, never-ending struggle to keep going. You run out of money and you have to either give up or sink more in. You run out of energy and you have to sack up and dig deeper or give in. It's no longer a hobby or a career, and it's no longer just our own livelihoods - we have others who are relying on us to come up with that payroll every two weeks so that they can care for their families and pay their bills too.

With abandoning the little fears have come greater opportunities - some that are clearly not a good move and others that are more in line with our goals. Some that blow your mind entirely and some that with enough regular work and effort may blossom into ongoing streams of business. The lion we're riding clearly, keeps growing and whether we intended to or not, we've become lion-riders and much of our energy goes into not being eaten. More and more I'm reminded that whatever you're currently doing has very little to do with what you're really doing here. And with each passing challenge and triumph, that pledge to say yes tickles the back of my mind and dares me to look past the current struggles and be courageous enough to dream about what else we might create together.


2014: A Look Back

I've sat down to write in limited, scattered moments over the past year. The beginning of this year was so horrendously stressful and exhausting that everything I wrote was depressing and wholly uninspiring. Then I had no time. Then summer came and customers were out of town and business slowed a bit, so we dug in hard to grow. And now, we're here, solidly banging out hard weeks with a steady stream of new and continuing clientele, at the tail end of the holidays.

Without question, this year has been the single most challenging year of my life. I've never doubted myself or the purpose of life as much as I have this year. When your survival is tied to your work, and the hours in the day and the money (or lack thereof) in your wallet are strict limits - there's only sweat, and sleepless nights and the relentless push forward. This entire experience of quitting regular life and starting our own business has challenged our beliefs, our sanity, our relationships, our marriage, our credit and our larger view of who we are and what we want and what kind of world we live in.

We've had strangers help us beyond measure and we've had people we know try to completely kick the world out from under us. We've had family and friends help us by giving us the silent understanding that we're tired, and we can't make it, and that's okay, again. We've built up a little tiny company of staff who truly enjoy spending time together and believe in what we're making. We've joined The Hood and have found solace and solidarity in the company of those that are like us - boldly trying to survive in one of the roughest industries around. And in the past 370-something days, we've learned a few things we'd like to share.

It's Not About Your Dream
Whatever your dream is, your North Star, your brass ring, your end-goal...well.. your journey may not necessarily be about that. I mean, it will, but along the way you might see that you may not even want what you're going for. The last 5 years have been this way for us and I've got a hunch the next years to come will be more of the same. We set out to do an Ironman in November of...uhhh....I don't know....and we set into rigorous, daily training. Everything in our lives was consumed in Ironman, Ironman, Ironman. Wake up and train for Ironman! Eat right for Ironman. Can't travel because of Ironman. Can't stop eating because of Ironman. Can't have a drink, Ironman! Yet, during this craze, we lost half of our income, we started a business, and our priorities shifted entirely. By the time race day came, Ironman didn't mean what it once did. And as we dove into the next year (our first real year of business) we realized the whole thing was not training for Ironman, it was training for the suffering, sleeplessness and dedication that the business would require. Sneaky, Universe. Very sneaky.

As we pursued our dream of cooking for others and we've been barely hanging on to this roller-coaster, there are times I've stopped and reminded myself that all of this....all this WORK...may have nothing to do with Bite Me Kitchen. People often ask us what our goals are or what our plans are for business development in the next 3-5-10 years. They want to know our margins and our profit forecasting and our data. Sure, I studied business. I can give you a spreadsheet, a time-line and a business plan. To be honest, I'm uninspired by that. But we're not really here to build an empire and rake in cash. That's never been the end-game for us. All of this time and work and effort is just another form of training, another journey we're on that may have nothing to do with cooking organic, vegan meals. I don't really know what we're "training" for now (well...okay, we have a little idea....) but we know we're building skills, experience and tools for the next chapter of our lives and that is truly the gift of being here, now. Understanding that you're exactly where you need to be, to get where you're going, in the right time with the right people (okay, person+cats) - that's my compass and I'm happy to stick that in my pocket. I see a lot of people so busy with the blueprints of their supposed future crammed in their faces so tightly that they aren't even here. Be here. Be now. It's all that you have. We wouldn't want to miss a fork in the road, an off-beaten path or a rare opportunity to change our lives completely!

Money, Money, Money
When you start a business with no capital, things are scary. Money must go out, but there's not that much coming in. Out and out and out it goes, frighteningly fast. The only thing guaranteeing a return is a little scrap of faith that if you just keep on pushing a little longer the tide will turn and you'll get a trickle back in. Really, it's as effective as putting a band-aid on a cut artery. What shifted most for us was our concept and understanding of money. The less money you require to live, the less money you have to earn, which means you can do more fun stuff (or work less) to survive. We began to think about what we needed versus what we were just consuming. We could see areas in our spending that were clearly emotional band-aids we needed to perk ourselves up after the drudgery of a boring office day. With our lives as exciting as possible, and our wallets as tight as possible, we began to look at how to trim out unnecessary spending. And you know what? That's a golden lesson. We decided we didn't need hair cuts, we didn't need fancy hair products, we didn't need to go out to dinner, we didn't need new clothes, we didn't need expensive races when we can run for free, we didn't need new bedding (although when our comforter finally exploded we were so grateful my mom replaced it!), we traded for things that are luxuries (massage and personal training) and we became content to spend our free time reading quietly, hiking or riding our bikes.

We save money by making our own food, our own cold-brew, our own morning tea (no over-priced Starbucks here!), mending and hemming our older clothes, Adam changes the oil and maintains the cars himself, fixing things before thinking of replacing them, and walking instead of driving everywhere. Once we have more time, we'd love to work on growing more of our own food - that is a key part of freedom! The more we can make for ourselves, the less we have to buy, the less we need money, the more time we have to be alive. Simplicity and self-sufficiency have brought tremendous (and increasing) happiness.

People always remark at how Adam and I work so well together. Sometimes we laugh and tell them the truth, that we don't have a choice. While it's funny, it's honest - our personal survival, the future of the business and our marriage depend on us getting along. If we attack each other - we cannot make it. If we cannot make it we can't pay the rent. It's that simple. Does that mean we haven't had nights end in tears or senseless yelling? Not one bit. We've had those moments, and we've been so tired and so frustrated that in the process of fighting we've forgotten what we're mad about and simply broken down to basic truths - I'm tired. I'm not having fun. I want to give up. I'm over this. I need a break. I'm scared. 

And the real truth is that it has very, very little to do with each other. And we have built our relationship on the premises that we always come from a place of love with each other and we're never intentionally trying to hurt the other person. It's not always easy to see that, but if we can start with that assumption it's easier to get at the real issue and to finding out what the other person needs to keep coping with the day. We ask each other: Are you hungry? Are you tired? Does your back hurt? Do you need Advil? Want to take a nap? Take a bath?

So that's our secret. We start from a place of love, and we tend to each other. We let each other know when we're feeling exhausted or frustrated or like we live in a world alone. And we let the other person do their best to help us.

The Price
When you start building your dream it's easy to think you'd do anything for your dream! Sacrifice? Happily! Give up sleep? Sure thing! But the true price of a worthy dream is so much higher than you can imagine. It can cost you up to everything you love if you let it. Your beautiful dream can become a monster that eats your life, your sleep, your marriage, your money, your healthy and your sanity. And everyone will say, "Oh you need a vacation!" and you'll show them your teeth in a smile and wonder how you'd miss 25% of your monthly income to take a 1-week vacation (in addition to paying for said vacation). No holidays. No weekends. No time-off. There's a reason why everyone tells you that the first year in business is hard, the second year is the hardest and no one mentions the third year and that's because very few businesses make it there alive.

Granted, if we had started the business with a pile of cash or funding from a rich investor or wealthy parents, our experience would certainly be different. But this little business we've been cobbling together with sweat, tears and hard-work? It's 100% ours. Doing things the hard way has always been our way, and truly being independent is the only reward we have.

But if you're thinking of starting a business or you envy where we're at and our freedom - keep in mind the price. Throughout this year I thought I would lose my marriage, I experienced serious depression (for the first time in my life), both of us experienced crippling anxiety and panic attacks, gained some very unwanted weight, and haven't been able to maintain friendships very well. Every day is a roller-coaster that oscillates between closing the business forever and opening up our own location. We go from intense highs to soul-crushing lows on a random, but consistently changing basis. And somehow, we're coming out of this year - closer to each other, closer to ourselves, maybe closer to paying off our investment, and still alive & cooking.

In Closing
Living with no safety net forces you to be in the present. It's not quite the mental Zen garden I imagined in younger years, but fear, reality, and faith push you onto the very precipice of this moment and nothing else really exists or matters. I can't be upset about what happened yesterday, because today is too big and too in my face. I can't worry about 2-3 years from now, because I never would've guessed we'd be here, now 2-3 years ago. In some ways this year has been heavy on suffering, but that same burden has stripped me of petty things. I now cherish a nice, hot shower. An hour off my feet. Silence. An hour to run. Somewhere in between building a business, living a life and trying not to lose my mind there's a balance - and it's laughably zen-like.


Hope / Training

In my mind, I'm still running those long pre-dawn 20-milers down by the beach with Adam. Euphoria bursting through my veins as the sun rises and the gulls stretch out overhead. In my mind I'm still wicked fast on my bike, able to drop the hammer and push past anything. Oh, and I can still swim too. But reality...reality is a little different than my Ironman days. Starting our own business took a toll on us -our minds, our time, our bodies, our finances, our sleep- everything was heavily taxed in the building of Bite Me Kitchen. Everything. I think the worst was watching that fitness, which was often our salvation, slip out from between our fingers. Watching our overworked, exhausted selves opt for a few beers and a hot bowl of soothing ramen over any kind of additional movement after being on our feet for 15 hours. It's understandable - when you can't afford to get sick, you can't afford to get any more sleep, and you certainly can't afford to ride your bike off a cliff. Mealtimes missed oddly don't mean epic weight loss - it just means a past-bedtime feeding frenzy which tends to pack on more pounds than anything.

We managed to get to San Francisco for Escape From Alcatraz and to Honu 70.3 last year, but before we even started racing in Honu, my body had decided it was done with me. I'd built up a wicked hip/glute issue as a result of jumping back into training way too hard after an illness & pizza induced break post-Ironman Arizona and aggravated it through being on my feet for ridiculous hours and a general lack of basic strength and recovery. We pushed hard at trail running since we had such limited training time. And the trail pushed hard back, demanding functional strength and recovery that we could not give ourselves. And we suffered injuries, setbacks and time off of everything.

Every time we've queued back up to start officially training some other flaming ball of holy-shit-must-handle-this-now leaps into our lives and we have to start juggling all over again, but this time with one hand only and on a tight-rope. All that soothing scheduling and daily dictating of to-do by Training Peaks? Gone. Again, and again, we start, ever hopeful that finally we may have a rhythm worthy of getting our training bodies (and sanity back).

Tired of feeling failure in training, we're lacing back up. We're shifting our hours. We're trying to get ahead. We're cutting the beer down, we're cutting the eating out, and we're relying on what we do best - our own healthy, nutritious and easy to assimilate plant-based meals. We're running when and where we can, we're riding sometimes at 5pm (who cares!) and I'm hoping we see a pool next week. All we've got is the OC Triathlon and Pac Coast Sprint, and it'd be really, awfully, totally, completely amazing if we could not only SHOW UP and RACE, but not be too half-assed about it.

I feel like there's hope on the horizon. That maybe as we get a little more help in the kitchen there will be shorter days. There will be more energy. There will be training and racing and being a triathlete worth a shit somewhere under this 2-year winter coat I've got. My numbers are depressingly slow, but it's a start, and I'm trusting in the endless chain of days we put in years prior, in the ritualistic beating of one's body into Ironman shape, that my body will remember along with my mind and together we'll be screaming through Santiago Canyon again and pumping up Modjeska like it's not all that bad and running through Peter's Canyon bitching about the heat, but feeling pretty strong after all and maybe even feeling smooth in the water again.


True North

I spent years comfortably ashore waiting for my ship to come in. I wondered what it would look like – would I recognize it if I saw it? Where it would take me when it finally arrived? Each day I slogged through my routine, not knowing where I’d go or how I’d travel when my big moment materialized – no scrawled X on a map and no way to pay the crossing anyway. I spent too many unhappy, adventure-less years on well-trodden paths. My yearning for unexplored lands, my dissent with complacent neighbors, and my unwillingness to breakout of a comfortable rhythm was maddening. I tried to suppress my frustration; to numb it or drown it with distraction, but it always returned, ever louder, as if the incessant crash of waves onto my cozy shore was the laughter of all the gods from today back to unwritten history.

I blamed anything in sight for shackling me to an existence not of my design. I didn't come from money, and no mentor came to show me how to lead a more fulfilling life. I tried to beat the frustration out; to be so tired I wouldn’t care where I was. That worked, surprisingly - for a while. Somehow, it worked so well that I no longer cared about being afraid, unsure, ignorant, or broke.

I’ll never forget the day I decided no ship would come – we had to build a boat or be stranded on the sand forever. Stuck between a comfortable but spiritually fatal reality and an unsettling unknown, I chose fear - the undiscovered had to be an improvement over the endless drudgery of everything I’d known so far. Sure, I made a lot of money, but I hated my job, had no "career path", and didn't save a dime because I was compelled to spend it to justify an eternal 50-hour workweek that was wholly passionless and miserable. Similarly, I'll never forget the day I decided to cut the umbilical from that last bastion of security and leap into the terrifying and wondrous wide-open sky of self-employment. By then, It was a matter of life and death: I could continue working two jobs and wind up having a heart attack or sleepily smashing into a stoplight or I could sack up and ship out. I was out running, heading toward home, when I realized there is no perfect time and place, no one’s coming to show us anything, and certainly no one will be throwing money at our little home-baked idea. It was now or never; all in or bust.

So we built our little ship with no plans, limited knowledge, and a general feeling for direction rather than an actual heading. We truly cast off in the post-Ironman haze of 2013, and before we knew it, time was sand flowing between our fingers and to-do lists changed from swim, bike, run, pizza & beer, feed cats to endlessly changing, must-not-forget-or-the-bills-won’t-get-paid, and it was all a kind of panic-joy. Somehow, we're sailing! We're not even taking on much water, and it IS new territory! The good days are so, so, so good, but the tough days are so, so, so tough, and there's not been enough sleep in the past two years to share between us. People aren't kidding you when they say that owning your own business is back-breakingly tough. They're also not telling you that you’ll be tired to your bones, your hair will hurt from exhaustion, your fear of not paying your bills will occasionally consume you and some days you will want to scream from dealing with the red-tape and ridiculous cost of everything that it takes to actually run a business. They also don't tell you (well, maybe they do) that there's no better feeling than being the captain of your own ship, no matter how small: making your own schedule, working for yourself, and providing for your well-being 100% even if that schedule is 25 hours a day / 8 days a week. No one mentions how the volume of the whole world is turned up because you are living right on the edge. They don’t mention that your customers are vital life-lines to survival, marketing pushes are like giving birth and each hand-crafted, underpriced, painstaking product that someone turns around and not only pays for but enjoys is 100%, awesome sauce that's shot intravenously into your emotional cortex. You learn as you go that you will be forever bound to those brave, daring, mad souls who venture forth into the unknown alongside you, and to those you meet along the way. You cling to each other in moments, and in a single hello, a high five or a shared bag of fresh herbs, you give back that understanding that no one on the other side of the fence truly has – yes, we may be dying here, but we are so very alive.

We've settled on the tide as our compass as we juggle the sharp edges of sleep-deprivation with the I-might-kill-someone-ness of no longer maintaining a regular training schedule while having a marriage and paying bills. It's a daily challenge where every month we get a new ball tossed at us and we're not quite sure how we’ll keep it in the air with the rest. Oh, learn about payroll? Okay! Worker's compensation insurance? Sure! Incorporate, why not?! The legal issues involved with packaging for retail – wait, do we even want to retail?! And never mind anytime we move a foot in any direction some state or local government agent is there cheerily saying,"We'll see you next Tuesday, don’t forget your checkbook!" Fuckyouverymuchtoo! Then, a day like today shines through like the sun cuts through clouds over the ocean, full of promise, and our meals are all perfect and we're done early and the customers who went to Hawaii came back with a gift of caramel macadamia nuts and it all fades to the background and seems like someday there just might be land in sight.

Another week starts and we keep sailing towards the horizon; to some country with no neatly placed thumbtack, no carefully referenced coordinates, at the whim of each gust of wind and eddy of the sea. Sometimes we speed along the waves and other times we row, row, row until our hands are blistered and raw and we can hardly hear our cries above the wind. But if there’s one thing I learned, in life, in training, in working, it’s that forward is the only direction that matters.


2013: Reflection

They say that time flies when you're having fun and that times goes by in the blink of an eye as you get older. Yet, here I am feeling like this year has been stretched to the limits of space-time like an infinite band of taffy. As we hurtled through the end of 2013, I turned for a moment to gaze back at the distance I'd traveled. Much to my surprise, I couldn't even see the start. I simply cannot believe so much has been done in so little time. It reminds me of this study regarding the illusion of time passing quicker as we age and that concept relating to the decline in learning new things as adults. Clearly, this year has been proof of slowing time down by becoming a student of life again! This year, has been so long, I hardly recognize the person that nervously toed the line on January 1st. When this year began I was hopeful, intimidated, lacking confidence but sick and tired enough to start making changes, and being wildly dragged along by the beautiful but wild team of horses that is BMK. As usual, where I thought I was going, and where I ended up going were two different ways, and I've learned over the past 365 days to let go or be dragged.

The biggest lessons I've learned this year?

1.) Dream BIGGER
Our biggest goal for 2014 was to either find our own space or find space in a newer/better kitchen. December 30th we received an offer, December 31st at 9am we had a meeting to finalize the details and by 10:30 am we were at U-Haul renting a truck and with the help of our amazing guys moved our entire kitchen by 7pm New Year's Eve.

That left us sitting at home laughing at ourselves and stretching tired backs wondering, "What now, 2014?!" Clearly, we need to level up our dream content! Like any habit, it strengthens with practice and one thing we've practiced a LOT this year is growing and doing what scares us. In the beginning of the year, claiming my independence from my office job was absolutely terrifying. Now, it's small potatoes compared to what's next. And the best part is that we've done so much that we didn't know how to do, that making big leaps is no longer that scary. Last year, it would have taken a lot of deliberation and stress to decide which road to take - this year, we are so firmly rooted in our path that we made the decision simultaneously and immediately. Yes, this is the way to go!

Not used to seeing your dreams come true? Commit to them. Sail to a new land, burn your boat. Take the safety net away. Take steps forward. Take bigger steps. Watch the creation of your new world!

2.) Build a community
Don't know how to do something? Ask someone who does, or who might know someone who does. There is only so much time in a day, and only so much energy you have before you fall flat on your face. I'm used to working alone and doing all the work, so I've learned to delegate and share and pass things off to those who are better at them than I am. An honest evaluation of yourself and your community can yield tremendous results. Many things that I'm not good at, Adam excels at, and vice versa. There's still a handful of things that we both are decent at, but take too much of our time, and we've tapped into our community to find people who really shine at public relations, web design (coming soon!), business advice, and more!

Recruiting your community to be an active part of building your dream makes sense and spreads out the excitement & experience of a new venture to reach more people. It's exciting to work on a new project, and the more involved people are, the more they want to share their pride in what they do. And then we have more time to do what we're really good at!

3.) Start NOW
There is no someday. You may never make enough for your nest-egg. You may not reach retirement. There may never be a "right time". How long are you going to wait? How long before the frustration of living a life that doesn't satisfy you outweighs the fear of starting something new?! Don't know how to do something? Think you're not qualified? Don't have a savings? So what!?

If you are passionate enough, and if you are driven enough and if you are sick and tired of the same-old routine enough, and if you're willing to work hard will succeed. And you don't need a fancy certificate or years of experience to begin building your new path. The #1 thing it took for us to get here? A mixture of faith & balls. That's it. Dreams aren't always built on a careful collection of dollars, details, degrees and time. I think at the heart of successful entrepreneurs there's a daredevil spark that wills one to step off the edge and trust that a bridge will appear and to take grand leaps laughing into the starlight, merely praying that you'll reach the next branch.

The only way you will ever reach your goals is to start now. Thinking about it, what-iffing about it, worrying about it and talking about it will get you nowhere.

4.) Get on Track

"I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright." ~ Thoreau

Throughout my life there have been times where I felt lost, like I was skittering all over the road map of my life wildly careening about searching for something. As I've grown older & wiser, I've realized that there are things that pull me into those wild spins - addictions, not sleeping enough, poor eating, alcohol, emotional vampires, unhappy relationships, debt, not exercising enough. Those activities and people that create excessive emotions and exhaustion only serve as one thing - a distraction. The first thing I did when I realized I was truly, honestly, fully sick of being on the hamster wheel of life was to quit drinking entirely, change my diet, get rest, start triathlon training, and withdraw from all relationships that either weren't happy, inspiring or were full of chaos and arguments. I recall waking up each morning, feeling fresh, clear and at peace. I realized that I could handle anything that came my way and slowly started to realize the possibilities in my life. 

As time went by, both Adam and I noticed a pattern in our lives. As we changed the circumstances in our lives to make the living easy (just by taking care of our basic needs - eating right, sleeping enough, consuming very limited alcohol, exercising plenty, and surrounding ourselves with positive, uplifting people), the right opportunities kept showing up. Each time we stood up in life, faced the unknown and said, "Okay, Universe! We're going to go THIS WAY!" a few things would happen that made the process easier. Like a tiny red carpet being rolled out to say, "Yes, you're right! This is the way!" The more we yield to the "subtle magnetism in Nature", the more people we meet who exponentially rock our world, the more ideas come to fruit, the more opportunity knocks until we are no longer straining to hear a single whisper of knuckles on our door, but we've grown accustomed to the steady drum beat of choices and chances we can take at any time. 

Now, I'm not saying that everyone needs to try it this way, but we spent a lot of time mulling our lives over having wonderful conversations over a glass (or three) of wine and we woke up feeling even worse and going nowhere. Alcohol, high-drama relationships, television, lack of sleep - these are all things that will take precious energy away from actually being able to do something.

5.) Edge-work
I wrote about this here, but it is an underlying principle of our lives. You are a complicated piece of work - all the atoms and molecules and nuerons and tendons and bones and fibers that make up your single human body, all of the memories, thoughts, dreams and ideas that shape your mind, and all of the stardust from the very creation of the universe that make up YOU. Don't be one of the average Americans who spends 3 1/2 hours a day parked on the couch watching TV. Go out and DO! BE! Make! Create! Inspire! Move!

Living a life petrified by what-if, or the pending struggle, or fear of failure when guaranteed with certain death anyways just doesn't seem like a good time. You're going to die. Might as well have a good time first! The more you live on the edge of your life, the more you take on what scares you, the easier it becomes.

Questions? Thoughts? What were the biggest things you learned last year???


Let Go, or Be Dragged.


What a year this has been. Never in my wildest daydreams did I think I would be here, now, doing what I'm doing. Growing up my mom instilled the knowledge that nothing in life is free and while that certainly applies to a monetary cost, there's also a lot to be said for goals and personal costs. When we set out to start our own businesses and take charge of our own destiny, it was easy to see the clear trajectory towards independence and self-sustainability. Some of the greatest risks in life are taken without knowing the full cost, and sometimes as you pay the price - in sleep lost, in aches and pains, in endless work, you laugh and say, yes, yes I would pay this too. 

I always laugh when someone says, "Ohmygosh! You cook for a living! How fuuuuuun!" and I recall the days I thought I would work in a kitchen. Hmph. The idea of being a chef is like...100,000 lightyears from the truth.A chef in a shared kitchen? 500,000 lightyears away from anything you see on TV. Yet, when we started this, and people who'd been in the industry cautioned that it was so much work, I wasn't scared. And I'm not scared now, I just fully agree with them. 

Our days often start at sunrise. We wake up, grab coffee or tea and within the hour begin the monstrous paperwork shuffle. Email replies, new customer inquiries, shopping lists, contacting distributors, looking for a new source for whatever, creating the to-do list for the day, invoicing people, checking in payments, accounting, setting up marketing emails, tidying the website, handwriting Thank You cards for first-time customers, you name it - we do it all. As soon as the mandatory work is done, we check and see if we have any time for a workout  - half hour goes to yoga, if we have an hour, maybe 30 min bike and some yoga, maybe some strength training, maybe we have zero time and are already behind. 

We head to the kitchen for somewhere between 8-14 hours. Ten is standard, but last Sunday, we were working at home from 6am-10am then at the kitchen from 10am-midnight. On our feet all day, with maybe (if we're lucky) enough time for a 10 minute break to sit down, shove food in our faces and then back at it. At the end of the day, my hands are dry and weak and it sucks to open a bottle of Advil. If I'm lucky, my hip flexors ache, if I'm not, there are ice picks stabbing through them. If it was a stressful day where we barely made evening pickup cutoff, my upper back is a wreck. If it went well, I'm still tight, but functional. Some days we only have enough time to sleep for 6 hours, and after a day that long, it's not enough, but it has to do. 

At the end of the day, I strip down and sit on the couch, hands curled around an ice cold beer. I'm not hungry, but I eat dinner because I should. Adam and I are kind to each other, as we are all day long, but in the evening, we are particularly gentle. The moment I lay down in bed is the best part of the day - after hours of work- there is no better reward than the soft cushion, the weightlessness of being off my feet. Usually I dream of cooking. I'm rolling dough, I'm plating dishes, I'm building 100 servings of lasagna. It's rhythmic and routine and comforting and clearly my brain retreats to cooking to sort out the simplest parts of the day. Through it all there is the overwhelming knowledge that we are 100% on a high-line with no safety net, making it up as we go. There's an icy cold panic and a overwhelming freedom.

Coming from over a decade in the corporate world, having our own business is 90% enthralling & amazing & inspiring and 10% completely fucking terrifying. Failure is an exceptionally real possibility in our industry. Success without selling out is very small, but that little gap is the needle we are threading. We want to be a company who does right by ourselves, our standards, our customers and our employees. It's beautifully rewarding so much of the time - in watching our employees pick up new skills and make stuff they never knew they could do, to talking to our customers about how much better they feel or how much more time they have in their lives, to hearing how much people like our food!

Today was a day off, which means we only worked until 4pm - hah! It's been a long, stressful day relating to figuring out finances and dealing with the scarier part of owning a business. It takes money to grow and as you know, it doesn't grow on trees. By the time I got home, I needed to decompress. And there's only one thing that really works for me - cooking. Funny how I retreat to the one thing I do most. I always feared that if I cooked for a living I would grow to dread it. Yet, I rushed in and stuffed my things aside, and got into the kitchen with a floured work surface and began to roll the hell out of my chilled puff pastry dough for it's final turns. As I rolled, and floured, and chopped and sautéed, I eased up. I returned to my roots, my love, my passion for cooking. On hard days, it's the only way I can improve the world - I can make something satisfying, with my two hands. I can't make the workday shorter, but I can whip up a wicked strawberry pie in a homemade crust with a few leftover remnants and if that doesn't make you feel loved, I'm not sure what will.

People ask me all day long, "How are things going!?" the kitchen, at the store, at the market, in my neighborhood...all these wonderful people want to know how it's going for us! It's incredibly involved - that so many people really care. Yet, there's no word for it. It feels like we're doing an Ironman day to day back to back up and over and round and round. It's wonderful and empowering and terrifying and gratifying and exhausting and sometimes Adam and I high five each other and give each other a knowing smile, we're really going to make it now! and sometimes I flip out and start crying and in an effort to make me stop Adam picks up our smallest cat and smashes her into my face like a calico-fur tissue - which does make me laugh. 

So here we are, and I have no idea where we're going, and we have no real plan, but like a sculptor looking at a giant piece of marble, I can see that there's a shape forming and it's revealing itself to us, and we can see where the flaws in the stone are and the natural way the stone wants to be cut. Most importantly, there's a growing force of amazing folks who truly support what we're doing at Bite Me Kitchen - and every time I begin to question what we're doing, we get a message, an email, a text, a comment, some kind of encouragement from a customer reassuring us that we're on the right track. It's not easy, but few things worth truly having come easily. And the heading down the road less traveled requires a LOT of bushwhacking to blaze a travel-worthy trail. Nevertheless, if your heart is set on being in charge of your own life, and  you have a bright passion for something, working for yourself will be the most interesting and rewarding and exhausting experience of your life!

An End | A Beginning

This year, more than any other, my life has changed completely. There's been so much work that nights slip to mornings slip to days slip to weeks slip to seasons slip to oh hello, November! I'm not complaining, I'm absolutely grateful for the life we have now - but it's been like we've both been pregnant and gave birth to Bite Me Kitchen. Starting a company is so much like having a child - it's so much work, it's so much reward, it changes you in ways you never saw coming and you don't have time for things like you used to!

It's been a year of resetting expectations and redefining what's possible - both in exceeding what was previously within my grasp, and failing at what used to be easily within reach (note multiple DNS, DNF and injuries this year). As a living being - I know I'm on the right track. I know this is the way. I recall wondering in February? March? if we were even doing the right thing by leaving our office jobs - and now I know, beyond a doubt, i'd never go back to working for someone else. Never, ever, ever. But I didn't know that it would cost me so much in the one area that really helped forge this new life - triathlon. 

With all the hours on our feet, all the shuffling around of 25-50# sacks of oats, all the 12+ hour days back to back, all of the surmounting stress of running a business when you're not quite sure what you're doing - well....they took a toll. My body and mind were beyond exhausted. And I've been shoving them along, trying to cajole them into cooperating with my race schedule. My wants. My wishes. And at 32 years of age, I should know that life doesn't go according to my plan. 

My leg started hurting me in the beginning of the year. I've always had tight hip flexors and weak hamstrings, and years of an office job didn't help. I thought, surely, being on my feet would be great! Wrong. Endless hours back to back after intense workouts mean no recovery, no legs up, no decompression, no decreased swelling. Pains grew and sprouted unnaturally from my hip flexors into my back, down my hamstrings, into my calves, up my shoulder blades, into my neck and behind my eyes. What. The. Fuck.

My right hamstring insertion developed a chronic ache that has since dulled down into a crampy tightness. Enough pain to cramp up hard during the Honu swim. Enough pain to stop me every few miles on runs and make me stretch. But my mind is just crazy enough that I thought it would go away, and in my mind, I'm running the TNFE 50K and the Avalon 50 miler after. In my mind I can do everything, really well, at once, without fail. In my mind, I'm super strong, balanced, flexible and healthy.

Reality came knocking the other day. I went out for a trail run and all the trails were closed because of the rains. I headed home and set out around the bay to get 16-18 miles in. But for the past few weeks, nothing's felt right. I'm tired despite 8-9 hours of sleep, I'm dehydrated, I've felt like I'm fighting off a cold, I've had a wee (get it) problem with bladder infections since I don't hydrate enough when I'm working, I'm stressed, I'm snappy and every run feels like it's harder than before. I checked my Garmin and thought, "Huh. 4 miles? It feels like fucking 10." I texted Adam that my bladder was killing me and that maybe I'd be cutting it short today. I stopped and stretched and felt like my legs were locking up. I kept running, not willing to be a bitch. By the time I got to the little overlook area at Eastbluff & Back Bay my hamstring had been tight, had been hurting and was now creeping down into my calf to pull what muscles it could there too. 

All of the sudden I woke up. What the fuck am I doing!? Clearly, my body (and my mind) need a break. I need rest. I need to heal. I need to strengthen and stretch and rebuild. I felt tears welling up - frustration, disappointment, anger. I sat down and let the full weight of everything wash in. I'm not taking care of myself, and that's crazy. I can't be good at anything if I don't have a solid foundation. I can't be a good business owner, I can't be a good wife, I can't be a good friend, I can't be a good athlete, you name it - it has to begin with a well-cared for self.

Today on my bike ride I was thinking about life and how much easier it is to go with the natural flow of my life instead of forcing my hand. I thought about how I've been trying to force this thread I've been on, this "I'm a competitive athlete" yarn, so hard into one direction, despite my body's protests that I've missed seeing the whole fabric. I'm more than just a triathlete, I'm more than just a business owner, I'm more than just a wife, I'm more than just a chef. I can be all of those things, and more, at once, with balance. And I've been lacking balance. I need to take a little from here and put it there, a little from this and put it on that, until the scales are even and I am a human being again.

Starting a business is hard. Changing your life is hard. My best friend and her fiancee just had a baby - that's hard! It's vital to remember that nothing is final, everything is a work in progress, and that forward IS the only direction that matters. Somewhere in the process of breaking down, I found myself with little tears in my eyes snuffling into Adam's shirt that I "wasn't having any fun". Even as I said it I had to laugh. We're always having fun, but he knew what I meant. I meant that life wasn't going according to MY plan and it was frustrating to me in the same way it's frustrating when your parents won't let you go out on a school night or won't let you have all the halloween candy. *Foot-stomp*

So TNFE 50K may not be in the cards this year for me. And neither is the Avalon 50 miler. But I'm getting back on my bike, and working on strength training (finally) and we've been starting our mornings with yoga - which is fantastic. Every time I'm unhappy or unsatisfied with life it's because I'm standing in my own way, trying to wrest the reigns from the overwhelming force of the universe, 


Creating Your Own World

When I reflect on my life, a few key moments stand out in particular -times when significant shifts or thought evolutions occurred. The earliest moment I can recall like that was when I realized I could reach the knob on the front door. The possibility that I could open the door and head outside without permission was mind-blowing. I would have been young - three? four? I could just barely reach and turn it. My tiny little ego-mind understood that while I should always wait for an adult, I didn't have to, and that I probably shouldn't let the adults know that I had this amazing realization. I instantly leveled up in independence. Today during my run, I was thinking about our finances and how we've made some significant investments into the business and watching all the Newport/Costa Mesa morning-traffic folks zip along Irvine Avenue in their fancy cars. I thought about how our goals are continually pushing towards buying less, consuming less, needing less, wanting less in a world of more-more-more. I remembered the moment I realized that the flip-side to the "I need more / I don't have enough" is to "need less / make do with what you have".

It's such a simple concept, but it dawned on me that what if instead of needing to make more money to pay for more things, I could make less money and buy less things. If I needed less things, I wouldn't have to earn so much money, thereby changing the entire scope of what I can do for a living. You see, for over a decade I made more and more money. I made so much money that I should have piles of it stacked around, or sagely invested into little piggy banks, or own a home. But, making money had this other side - I wasn't happy. My daily life was meaningless, my job brought me zero satisfaction, I worked for someone who was unstable, volatile, and generally unpleasant. So I spent money. I bought lots of things I didn't need because they made me feel temporarily better. I went out to eat and treated myself to nice food, expensive drinks, and wound up with a stomach-ache and a hangover (for years).

This concept has led to a life-changing revolution for me. What if instead of throwing things away, I had them fixed (or better yet, learned how to fix them)? What if instead of buying something, I made something? What if instead of acting on urges or impulse, I dug down into what the issue really is - am I sad? Angry? Hungry? Lonely? Unloved? Need to Sleep? Workout? What if instead of taking offense to things, I realized that sometimes people act out because they're unhappy? What if I made my world not revolve around myself? What if I gave people things/time/money/help/love instead of wished for them for myself? What if instead of judging someone, I complimented them?

What if I STOPPED participating in a world I do not believe in? 

Wait, what?! There's something I've noticed in the past 32 years and it's that everyone is playing this stupid game, yet, every once in awhile something happens - a film comes out with a poignant scene, a catastrophe occurs that pulls people together who usually wouldn't speak, a video goes viral that shows kangaroos raising guinea pigs and everyone says, "YES! This is the world I want! YES! I believe in this!" And then they go back to their lives and nothing changes. Two scenes come to mind. One, this clip from Say Anything where John Cusack pretty much nails how so many of us feel as we emerge from our dewy-eyed young adulthood into careers: "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that." And two, this scene from Fight Club (although there are many gems in that movie) where Brad Pitt says, "You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis."

So why do we struggle with actually giving the middle finger to all of this? Why do we tuck those feelings of independence (and in some ways, insubordinance) away instead of saying, "You know what?! Fuck this! I'm tired of getting up every day to an alarm and getting in my car that I pay an arm and a leg for every month and driving in traffic to go to a job to work for someone else doing a repetitive, piece-meal task to make someone else money and then have that money taxed to pay it to a government who's investing my money in things I don't support and then I have to be advertised at all day and buy things to make myself feel better and justify needing to be in the career that I'm in so I can keep up with my neighbors and show the world that I've really come up to a higher level in life and that my college education was totally a worthy investment even though I could have possibly learned more and still consumed a fair share of beer pursuing the passion I gave up on when I was twenty!"

It's a cycle, a vicious cycle that we're raised to believe in and that demands participation from every individual. Go to school, get a degree, earn more money, buy more things, upgrade to nicer, bigger, things, reproduce, insist your children do the same as you did, climb that ladder, don't question things, follow the rules, pay your taxes, get rich, get fat, play golf, take a cruise and die.

I think we're better than that - all of us. I think we have dreams, goals, skills, talents, wishes, hopes, magic and well-forgotten longings. Maybe you can't quit your job today (or maybe you are already in a career you love!) but you can allow yourself the freedom to daydream, to what-if, and to find a way to make that your reality. Our time is limited, my biggest fear is living a life half-assed. I have a world that I want to live in - it's a world where random acts of kindness are commonplace, where anyone can be anything, where dreams are taken seriously, gifts are given freely, and people create things, care for things and imagine things for a living. What would your world look like? What would it take to achieve it? How can you start living in your own world today by simply acting like it?

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." 
~Henry David Thoreau 

I want a world:

Of people who encourage and support each other, instead of using each other as stepping stones or rungs of a ladder. I want to see people bring each other UP, elevating everyone as a consequence of interacting.

Of dreamers - people who truly aren't afraid to imagine possibilities and explore them, instead of just pursuing the most profitable widget.

Of equality - where regardless of gender, race, age, status, class, crazy, sane, homeless, royalty, disabled - everyone is treated with respect. Working in a kitchen has made me realize how many people we see in our daily lives that are completely invisible to us (and how inept most middle-class Americans are at raising their kids, cleaning their homes, tending their lawns and cooking their own food). Those people have stories, lives, needs and dreams of their own - and they deserve recognition.

Where you can be alive for a living. Living constitutes taking care of all your basic needs (shelter, food, water, clothing and companionship). And with time left over, I want to watch the sunset, the sunrise, do yoga, run, take care of animals, make people delicious food, curl up with Adam and watch shooting stars, hug friends, build things and play music.

That encourages children (and adults) to learn in ways that are natural and exciting to them instead of forcing them through a standardized system that places more emphasis on the administration than on the minds they're responsible for.

That rehabilitates and cares for the sick, mentally ill, addicted, troubled, abused and abandoned instead of institutionalizing them.

That cares about the environment. It's simple, really, we live here - we're responsible for it. That means consuming less, recycling more, upcycling things, sharing things (instead of everyone having one or two of their own super-awesome-mega-widget), farming responsibly, creating less trash, less mess and less junk.

Being kind to living things. People, plants, animals, birds, fish, bugs, ourselves - everyone has a right to live. The stronger should care for the weaker beings, as it helps the world as a whole evolve to higher levels of existence. Senseless violence, sport-hunting, mindless violence - none of it has a place in my world.

Making this a reality:

Granted, living off in the middle of nowhere and having an organic farm / bed & breakfast / cat ranch / acres of awesome is totally in the cards for us sometime in life. And while I'm just one person, and I can't change the whole world, I can change how I interact with it. What if I live by my own rules? What if I treat people the ways I think they should be treated, and ask others to treat me the same? What if I value my time and belongings and priorities differently so that they're more in line with what I really believe in? What if every single person I interact with gets a tiny spark from my world, and what if they like being treated that way, what if they're inspired to be kinder, what if they decide to buy less stuff, what if they decide to take responsibility for their world and their lives? Wouldn't that be something!

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
~Mahatma Gandhi


Pacific Coast Triathlon - 9/2013 - Race Recap

Photo credit: Oliver Bohlman
This is always a fun race - it was my very first triathlon and every year it gives me the opportunity to reflect on how much my life has changed and how unique this sport (and community) is. From the first year, where I knew two other people to this year where there's our teammates, friends, my husband racing, and many of our customers racing - it's crazy! Team FC turned out in huge numbers which is fun.
Photo credit: Anna Gnegy <3
Our weekends happen on Thursday-Friday. Saturday-Sunday are BIG work days for us which mean long hours on the feet at best. While we planned on Saturday being an early day in the kitchen - the kitchen gods decided to screw us and things snowballed a bit out of control and we wound up rushing to packet pickup then back to the kitchen to wrap things up. Home late, super stressed out and exhausted we threw the rest of our things together, caught a few restless hours of sleep and barely woke up since the alarm was set for PM instead of AM. Surprise!

We've been doing a lot of trail running and no real consistent tri training - well - not enough to podium this year, plus I knew a handful of the girls in my age group and knew I wasn't physically up to par. The nice thing is that the pressure was off and I was free to just race hard and have fun. So much of the weekend involved repeated, brutal lessons in patience, I was happy to blow off steam via racing hard.
Photo credit: Anna Gnegy <3
Swim: 21:05 @ 1:39/100yd pace for about .72 miles
I noted (along with everyone else) that the buoys were super out of wack and really far. The swim course bowed out towards the sea and it was clear this swim was not going to be 1/2 mi. I set myself near the front as I like clear water to start. I started swimming as soon as I could and just got to it. It took a ridiculously long time and I felt like I was going nowhere. But, who cares, right? It's a stunning morning, a little cold, and it's a good day to race. I actually caught a little wave to shore (that never happens!) and headed up the sand to T1. It was nice seeing my sis cheering and as always, seeing Martha's big smile at the swim finish. In hindsight - I'm pretty pleased with my pace - I've been a relatively slower swimmer, so that pace is great for me! Fortunately I'm finally getting some good coaching in the pool (Thanks Tracy!!) and it's going to be amazing soon!
Photo credit: Anna Gnegy <3
T1: 3:57 (including run up big hill)
I spotted Joby & Team folks on the big hill and tried to walk/jog it. I know it's useless to jog the hill, but the minute someone else jogs past you it's hard to not pick up the pace. Felt pretty good in T1, and then time slowed to a crawl as I pulled a rookie move and dicked around with my ponytail for a lifetime. I'm not used to having long hair, so I had my hair in a high ponytail, which my aero helmet won't fit over... blah blah...curly hair, knots, hair bands, stupid! 

Bike: 40:24 / 12 miles / 17.82 mph
I love riding my bike, and I love this course! It's hard not having trained too much on the bike lately, but I was determined to go out and have fun. I got a good glimpse on the first lap at how far ahead Ashley & Diana were. I kept trying to push harder to close the gap with Diana, but I threw my chain like it was my first ride ever and then got stuck behind some dudes dilly-dallying on their beach cruisers aaaalllll the wayyyy back in and then behind some guy who was just casually zig zagging all over the walk into T2 until I just relaxed, gave up and calmly asked him to stay to the right so I could rack my bike. I love seeing so many people of varying levels out there, but in some ways, I wish they'd have separate lanes or something for people who were racing and people who are out for some fun.

T2: 1:03
Not much to it, felt pretty quick, got to high five Ryan Pearson who'd showed up to cheer his dad on - always nice to see friendly faces out of T2.

Run: 25:35
No surprises here - I dumped it all on the bike and had lead for legs on the run. Who cares, right!? I'm here to have a good time. I gave it what I had and enjoyed seeing folks on the course. It's kind of funny, since we've been running so much and I've been getting faster, to see my pace slugging along with dead legs. Goes to show how much those transition runs really DO make a difference (when you actually do them.. hah!). It was great to see so many Team FC people and my sis in the finishers chute and I ran as fast as I could from the last hill to the finish.
Team FC Photo (the guys are already swimming!)
Overall: 1:32:06 / 7th place AG / 31st woman / 164th overall
It's pretty hard to top last year's 1st place podium! Yet, it's nice to go out, have a good time, and cheer on friends and teammates who are racing hard and in wicked Ironman shape! Pac Coast is one of those races that depending on your year's training you can smash to pieces, go out and have a fun morning or can smash you a bit back. We haven't had many opportunities to race this year and I really enjoyed it! A huge congratulations to teammate Diana Sjol for her 3rd place in a hard field, to Ashley Casas for her 1st place - always kicking ass and keeping everyone pushing, Natalie Barrad for her 1st place - about time and well-deserved!


Edge-work: Truly Being Alive

“If you're not living on the edge you're taking up too much space.” - Stephen Hunt

I read this quote a few months ago on the interwebs and it struck a chord with me. I kept mulling it over in my mind day after day after day. At first read, I connected the meaning to dangerous activities and extreme sports. Like living on the edge doing CRAZY things (see past history of skydiving, rock climbing, and questionable use of mind-and-mood-altering substances), but there was something deeper in this quote that kept tickling the back of my brain.

What does it mean to live on the edge? What does it mean to take up space? 

The concept of edge-work isn't new, but it still fascinates me. Edge-work explores why people partake in risky enterprises, and it isn't just for excitement. Choosing an activity that forces you to face a fear and overcome it creates a sense of confidence, control, mastery and expands your capability universe. We're groomed to be complacent with our lives; told,"Be grateful for what you have", "don't to ask for too much", and "you can't always get what you want" [Jagger]. I feel like we lose something as we settle into our 8-5 jobs, with our steady, dependable paychecks, our benefits packages, our M-W-F gym routine, our regular Friday night dates at The Burrito King (give yourself 1000 points if you caught that reference), and blowing off steam in Vegas every few months. You get your thrills from the new coffee place down the street, watching a scary movie, and you feel emotionally upset about who did or didn't get chosen on The Bachelor et. al.. Here's the thing: Despite what we may think, your world is subjective, and you have loads of control over it! Your world is whatever size you choose, based on how far you regularly roam. It's however safe or exciting you want; It's all about where you call the edge.

I get it. Living away from the edge keeps you comfortable, like having the lights on all the time. Everyone knows that monsters only come out at night, so as long as the light's on, you're safe and sound. Here's the problem: if you always leave the lights on, you never get a chance to really dream - you're in a perpetual half-slumber. More engaged in the fictitious (or highly dramatized) lives of people on TV than your own. You hear other people's stories and think, "No way! I couldn't do that! Too scary!" Guess what? You just limited yourself.

Take a second and ask yourself this important question: Why are you alive? Really. To go to work? To climb the corporate ladder and ascend from a Middle-Level Product Advisory Analyst Specialist Grade B to a Senior Marketing Project Advisory Team Leading II? To buy a house and feather the shit out of your nest with the nicest and most enviable shiny objects in town? To make more humans? Why are you here? 

That's a scary question for most people. It's haunted me my whole life, and I ran from it for decades. Time is hurtling you towards your inevitable death and there's nothing you can do to slow that process. That is even scarier, and it makes me want to hide, but the secret is realizing that this is the moment you've been waiting for - not in 5 years when you've saved up a nest egg, not in 15 years when your retirement package is due. Not in 25 more years after the kids are grown and gone. Now. Your time to live is today.

5 short years ago I was an overweight pack-a-day smoker who could barely run 3 miles, in a miserable job that paid me a 6-figure salary. I jumped in and out of unsatisfying relationships, had a daily bottle-and-then-some of wine problem, and was frustrated beyond belief at my complete inability to do anything meaningful and worthwhile with my life, but too cowardly to take any step forward. There were so many things that I could not ever do, and in the past 5 years, I've done them all.

  • I decided to date a friend
  • I talked to my estranged Dad (who I hadn't spoken to in over 15 years)
  • I quit smoking
  • I quit drinking, except on rare occasions
  • I moved into a house with my partner
  • We lived through some frightening up & down financial / employment situations
  • I paid off all my debt
  • I conquered my life long fear of swimming in the ocean
  • I did a sprint distance triathlon
  • I ran a half-marathon
  • I did an Olympic distance triathlon
  • I swam from Alcatraz Island across freezing cold shark-infested waters to San Francisco
  • I stood up for myself
  • I saw a counselor
  • I married my best friend
  • I did a Half-Iron distance triathlon
  • I let friendships dwindle that were negative or weren't encouraging growth
  • Despite never having been a 'group person', I joined a triathlon team
  • I won my age group in a triathlon
  • We started our own business, with no savings or safety net
  • I worked two jobs while training for an Ironman
  • I completed an Ironman triathlon
  • Which was also my first marathon
  • I quit my job (and we still have no savings)
  • I have no detailed future plan

I've learned that fear is a signal to the little spark inside of you - calling you to come back alive, to not just exist and take up space, but to put your talents to use. To get out of the "I'm doing fine, you know, just busy" rut into the "HOLY-CRAP-THE-SUN-ROSE-AGAIN-AND-IT'S-AMAZING" side of living. You might have to miss your favorite shows (trust me, after a while, you won't!). You might have to figure out how to make your money go further. You might have to put down the magazines, ignore the advertisements, do away with some social networking, set down the martini glass and move your ass - just might find why you are here, or at least, truly enjoy the process (Spoiler Alert - that's why you're here!)

They say that "Time flies as you get older!" and for most of us, time seems to pickup velocity with each passing year. But what if it didn't have to? In a recent study, subjects demonstrated that our emotions had a direct impact on our perception of time. Feeling fear and learning new skills slow the passage of time. Which makes sense when you think about it - when was the last time you learned something new? Did something really hard? Attempted a skill you'd never tried? Were in a completely new situation? As children we frequently experience new things, so in some ways, we are always on the edge. Our days are endless, time stretches with boundless elasticity as we learn reading and writing, building forts, catching frogs (Hi Z&Q!), dreaming up wild invisible games, and learning that it hurts really, really, really bad when you jump from the roof of the house into the bushes, or fall from a tree, or fail at that crazy stupid skateboarding trick you saw that guy do on YouTube. Many adults, by contrast, are sedentary, lazy, and complacent. We set our race-clocks on Monday morning and speed through five days to a weekend in which we try to drink-golf-shop-off the stress accumulated during our work-week. The weekends slip out of our grasp and WHAM! We've got a case of the Mondays, again

The biggest truth is that we are dying. All of us. No one will be spared. And it's not going to matter one bit on our last day on Earth what we did for jobs, or how much money is in our bank accounts, or how many friends we have on Facebook, or how young we look or how much our shoes cost. It's going to matter WHO WE ARE, what kind of friend/father/sister/mother/child/neighbor we were. It's going to matter what kind of magic we left behind, what kind of spark we passed on to others once our sack of flesh and bones is no longer taking up space. 

I have no idea where Adam & I are going and I don't know how we're going to get there, and I'm not sure when we'll figure the next step out, but I'm having a really good time and I'm excited to be so simultaneously lost and found. I'd like to find some land somewhere quiet. Somewhere we can grow our own food. Build a little Bed & Breakfast. A retreat for writers. Painters. Divorcees. Musicians. Grievers. Dreamers. Loners. Cycling Camps. Triathlon Teams. I'd like to have chickens, a few more cats, and be able to take in any animals we find and give them a safe haven. I'd like to go out and work on being alive for a living. I'd like to write a book. I'd like to hike and run and bike and swim. I'd like to be 50 years old and 70 years old and 100 years old and still look at Adam next to me, holding hands, and ask each other, "What now!?" 

Step out onto the edge, the view is freaking amazing.

Recommended Reading:
Fast Time and the Aging Mind

Time - Pink Floyd
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
When I come home cold and tired
It's good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away, across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spell