I don't know why the crayons bothered me so much. It wasn't the first time I'd realized she had too much stuff, but then it's easy to rationalize the other things, like clothes: she gets dirty often and she grows fast–90th percentile for her height and her weight according some weird standard that I'm convinced exists because parents are desperate for a way to measure their kids' progress and receive logical validation that they're doing everything right.

But fifty crayons? That's enough for fifty kids! It's just too much. She's already influenced by the excessiveness and overabundance that surrounds her every day. Why would I want to teach her that it's okay to have more than she needs all the time by allowing her to always have more than she needs? She doesn't even know what to do with fifty crayons!

So I took them away, all but ten or so, several of which were broken–I couldn't help but think about how some kids would be overjoyed to have even a tiny broken piece of just one crayon, let alone ten.

Going too far in the other direction–to the other extreme–isn't good either. It's a balancing act. She didn't cry when I took them away. I don't think she even noticed. She's still young and doesn't yet understand the concept of enough or not enough. That's my job, to guide her to a healthy understanding that being grateful for what you have is more important than figuring out what's enough.

Exercising Life with Fun and Play

Kids playing football in Pokhara, Nepal

It's one thing to see less fortunate people on the street and have the urge to help them, but it's something else entirely to have almost one hundred children staring at you hoping that you'll do something to improve their future.

It was my second day visiting the schools in Nepal and I had been greeted like a king and given my first-ever public speech a few hours earlier. I was feeling extremely moved and inspired by how I might be able to help so many people.

As I hiked from the first village of Kahule to the even more remote village of Bhalche, the strangest thought came to me: How could I fulfill this urge to dedicate my life to helping improve the world and still justify skydiving?

For that matter, how could I justify doing anything recreational or fun that wasn't directly related to helping others? Continue reading

Why There Is No Secret To Success

Success is one of those things that just about everybody wants, but not nearly as many people do what it takes to achieve. It's the expensive sports car, island home, or supermodel body that never goes any further than the thought that originated the idea.

It's the reason why so many people search for a "secret to success"; they want it, but they're afraid of what it might take to get there. They're looking for an easy path; a magic pill that will solve all their problems along the way and give them what they want with minimal effort. Continue reading

28 Life Lessons That Help Me Balance Life

I spent the first six hours of my 28th birthday in India, on a seven-hour bus ride to the farmhouse in Ujire. A few hours before the bus was scheduled to depart, my stomach became upset and I began mentally preparing myself for a rough, uncomfortable, and sleepless seven hours on the road.

But apparently the universe had other plans.

It decided to make the entire trip peaceful and pleasant, as if it was doing its best to give me an early birthday present. In fact, between the jeeps and the other bus rides I have taken in India, it was the best ride I've experienced since arriving almost a month ago.

I was returning to Ujire from Bangalore, where I attended the wedding of Krishna and Nithya, two awesome people that I met only a few weeks earlier. It was a fun-filled, multi-day, multi-cultural event that I'm very thankful to have been apart of.

While I don't like making my birthday a big deal (after all, depending which world calendar you're looking at, today isn't even my birthday), I want to celebrate today by sharing twenty-eight life changing lessons that I feel have made me the person I am today and helped me balance life. Continue reading

We're not lab rats, damnit. We're humans!

Are you a dreamer? Do you frequently find yourself gazing off into the distance getting lost in a world of "What If"?

Back to work. You can't daydream forever.

But what if you could? What if you had the freedom to daydream when you felt like daydreaming? To work when you felt like working?

Humans aren't supposed to spend their days in office buildings. We're not supposed to spend large amounts of time moving ourselves from one place to another in giant hunks of metal while our bodies slowly deteriorate and our relationships slowly fade.

We're not supposed to spend gargantuan amounts of time plopped down in front of electronic devices moving our fingers and eyelids, absorbing radiation, and spending more waking time in the virtual world than in the real one.

We not supposed to arrive at home and focus our attention on a box that has been pre-programmed to brainwash us while simultaneously allowing our bodies to atrophy. Continue reading

Slow Down and Listen to Life

When was the last time you voluntarily spent lots of time away from technology? When was the last time you laid in the sun and simply enjoyed doing "nothing"? For myself, spending long amounts of time away from technology is extremely relaxing and healing (and by long, I mean more than six hours!).

Technology operates on a timescale much different than that of life. By constantly surrounding ourselves with and using technology we subconsciously expect ourselves to keep up with it (and to operate on the same level). It's like looking at the road directly in front of your car on the highway and expecting yourself to process and react to changes in the road conditions.

We need to slow down and relax our minds. Try taking a 24-hour vacation from all technology (that includes mobile phones). Light some candles. Meditate. Have a conversation. Play a board game. Enjoy the life-giving sunlight. Listen to the wind. Listen to your heartbeat. Listen to silence. Breathe.

Finding the Synergy Between Control and Chaos

For Thea's (my future brother-in-law) bachelor party, we went to F1 in Boston. F1 is an indoor, high-powered go-cart track. Two tracks actually, but we only raced on one (track 2). The track allows for 10 racers at a time. There were 15 of us, so we raced in two groups. There were two initial races, and the top ten with the best lap times raced in a final championship round. We were told we would have four races, with the fourth race being the championship race, so at least some of us felt cheated out of a possible win.

It was an incredible experience. I've always understood how professional racers constantly search for the balance between losing control and pushing the machine to its limit. If you're afraid to lose control, then you'll never find where that limit is and therefore never be as good as you could be. This fact holds true in many aspects of life as well. But passing the limit is one thing, you must also find a synergy between control and chaos. I grasped hold of that synergy several times tonight.

Life is fragile. We live on the edge every day without even knowing it. It's only when we get really close to losing control that we realize how out of control something can become; when we just barely avoid a car accident or feel the pit in our stomach as we almost fall off a ladder.

This is an interesting realization for me, in that I've never understood why I do well in certain things and yet with others I feel something inside myself holding back. For example, I compared my racing at F1 with the Mazda Rev-It-Up racing a few years ago, in which we raced actual full size Mazda6 cars. There was no speed limit, you wouldn't have to pay for the car if you flipped it over and the most that could happen to you if you knock over a cone, or even drive entirely out of the course area, is that you'd be penalized or not allowed to compete in the final round. Why then, should I hold back? I shouldn't have, but I did. I held back because I knew with enough speed and just the right turning, it was possible to flip the car. Was it instinct? Was it an intelligent risk assessment? Or was I just being chicken shit?

During the F1 racing, I knew the limits, the maximum speed, the track, and I knew I couldn't flip over. So I pushed the limits, over and over. Tires screeching, I drifted around the corners at maximum speed, spinning out only once in 55 laps. I averaged the best lap time out of everyone during the first two races, so my cart started in first place during the last round. Life must have been teaching me to be humble because in 55 laps the one time I spun out happened to be during the championship round. It cost me the round entirely (I ended with 7th place).

This realization also made me understand why I enjoy change and why, as monotonous as it can become, I enjoy driving. It's mental challenge I crave, visual and physical stimulation to challenge my senses. When I'm driving, I know at any moment an accident could happen. This causes me to be alert and take driving very seriously. I cannot settle into a little rut and enjoy it. I'm not satisfied when something is complete or when everyone else wants to sit back and admire their work. Movement. That's what I crave. Whether physical or mental, movement is vital to our growth as a human race.

Music. If you actually listen to and analyze every beat in your head, you begin to create a mental work of art, which, for me at least, seems to instantly transform into emotion. Movement. Always stay moving.

Mistakes are limits. They are dead end roads. When you discover a dead end road you don't park your car and wait for the road to suddenly lead somewhere interesting. You turn around and find another route! Life teaches us lessons. We have the choice to learn from those lessons and use them to make more educated decisions, or to forget the lesson and make our journey that more difficult. If you're lost, you don't throw away a map that has been handed to you, right? So why would you want to throw away anything that will help you live a better life? (If you don't know how to read a map, learn.)

So how does F1 racing have anything to do with learning lessons in life? Well the single time I spun out in 55 laps shows me how even though you think you've got life figured out, even though you were handed the first place position at the start of the race, there is always something new around the corner. Maybe a new lesson, maybe a new idea. The point is this: don't settle for anything. The moment we begin to accept things for the way they are, we age -- we become old and rigid. Finding that synergy, that balance, in life is what keeps us forever young.

Build a Strong Foundation for your Body

Most bodybuilders that you see will have a big strong upper body, but a smaller, disproportionate lower body. Lower body muscles are probably the second hardest muscle to work, second only to abs. A strong lower body is very important though. It's the foundation on which you build your strong upper body.

Those who do physical labor for their daily job generally have a naturally build lower body. Lifting objects and moving around on your feet all day constantly tax the lower body muscles, causing them to grow. I salute those who hold jobs which require large amounts of physical labor (construction workers, the military, etc). Sure, I'm a computer guy and my job generally requires that I sit on my ass all day in front of the computer. Not very healthy for lower body muscles. However, I don't see this as a misfortune, but rather as one of many challenges I must face.

I had another thought today with regards to lower body exercises. Those who actually do work their lower body on a regular basis probably don't see the gains they'd expect because the muscles are so tight. The muscles can't grow if they are not relaxed enough to stretch. With this in mind, I'm going to start doing 20 minutes of yoga and stretching twice a day, morning and evening, concentrating on lower body and hip stretches.

As promised, here is the second workout in my new routine. You'll notice there are a lot of lower body exercises. While doing exercises, it's extremely important that you keep perfect form through each rep. If the weight feels too easy, then slow down each rep and keep perfect form. If after a whole set of going slow they still feel light, then, and only then, increase the weight.

(workout moved here)