I’m back…and so are you!

 

 

Can’t see anything? Click Here to go to the site for viewing!

Game time!

Here’s some video updates on what’s been going, and what’s to come.

The articles that I’ve read recently (all are excellent calls to action):

I’m glad you’re back

That’s all for now kiddos. I’m glad to be back behind the keyboard, and I’m pumped for all of us learning together. Who’s in?

– JC

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Welcome back!

The wait is over.

Yes, it’s been a while since I last posted.

Much has transpired over the past few months. Updates on what’s been up between then and now will follow in future posts, but I’d like to take a moment to cover perhaps the most profound change that’s taken place recently.

The end of sickness

Saturday, October 22nd, at roughly 9 am, my Dad’s battle with ALS came to an end, and he was ushered into Heaven.

(pause)

After 2 years of battling Lou Gherig’s disease, my Pop breathed his last.

This is not in any way a post about asking for help, prayer, or thoughts. We have a very loving family, circle of friends, and church who have helped us abundantly beyond anything we could ask or dream.

Instead…

Due to the nature of my Dad’s disease, for the past few weeks and months leading up to his death, we were never sure when it would be the last time we would see or talk to him. So every interaction with him was treated like it would be the last.

At first, that seems like a rough way to live, but believe me, it’s not.

The perspective gained from treating every interaction like it was the last helped. I truly feel as though I have no regrets about the time I spent with my Dad in the past few weeks. Every talk, kiss, and “I love you Dad” was from the heart. Each extra one was simply a bonus.

All of this got me thinking…

Am I living my life in a way that’s ready to be ended at any moment?

At the time, I don’t think I was. But now…well now is a different story.

I won’t spill all the beans here, but needless to say, I’m back behind the keyboard and am going to be contributing a whole lot more to this site in the weeks to come.

So for my readers that have stuck by for this long, I welcome you back.

We’ll chat soon.

🙂

– JC

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Scared? I was too.

Two weeks ago I was scared.

“You’re going to Combatives Level 2” was the word that came down the chain. “Ok” was the response, followed by sweating, and a lump in my throat.

Modern Army Combatives was born in the late ‘90s, after the US Army performed an in-depth study on their hand-to-hand and ground fighting combat training. Some serious gaps were found in the training programs, and so special attention was given to finding a solution to this problem.

The solution came in the form of a ground fighting technique known as Brazilian jiu jitsu. What has now been popularized by MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) was the basis for the newly formed Modern Army Combatives program. You can read more details about it here.

After nervously attending MAC Level 1 in Montana last year, I was thoroughly surprised and found that I enjoyed the training. However, I knew that level 2 would be more difficult and would most-likely be more painful. I’ve always considered myself a lover, not a fighter (feel free to laugh at me, now).

Nobody likes to get punched in the face. The less that this has happened to you, inversely, the greater the potential fear of it happening. I’ve been in fights (what boy hasn’t grown up getting in fights?), but that was a long time ago. Not to mention that my 10-year old counterparts couldn’t hit me as hard as my battle-hardened brothers in arms.

Less face it, I was just plain scared to go.

Let’s talk about fear for a second

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” – Mark Twain

Fear has held back many a potential great act from actually taking place. There are quotes left and right from many courageous people that talk about how “courage isn’t the lack of fear, it’s the act of facing it” (or something comparable to that paraphrase). But let’s face it, when you’re scared, you’re scared.

Oftentimes it takes some action to eliminate that fear. The Magic of Thinking Big is an excellent book that talks about this – how action conquers fear. But how do we get to the point where we actually ACT in spite of our fear?

I am no expert on answering this question, but I’ll offer up my thought-process that came about when I didn’t give in to my opportunity to backing out of this school.

My “why”

First, I asked the question “why”? Why would I want to go to a school like this? Why would I want to subject myself to potential pain like this? Why would I leave my great civilian situation at home to willingly get the crap kicked out of me for two weeks?

The answers didn’t all come at once, but they did come.

First, I thought of a large group of people that have gone through things like this and not only come out alive, but they came out thriving. I thought, if they can do it, so can I!

Second, I vaguely remembered the confidence boost I’ve had throughout rough portions of my life that I came through. With no struggle, there’s really no appreciation of victory. This school was a victory that I needed in my life right now.

Third, I thought about the rest of the soldiers that are under my care. How can I stand in front of them, train them, push them, expect them to be the best, if I’m not willing to do the same to myself?

And lastly, I thought about some very dear friends of mine that are halfway around the world in much worse situations that I am. I’m sure they’d trade their position for mine any day. I owed it to them to suck it up, grab this bull by the horns, and just do it.

Guess what?

With all of the fear and worrying that I wasted my time on, I actually came out all right. Getting beat didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would, and I actually ended up enjoying this course…a lot!

Funny isn’t it? Just like Mark Twain said above that he had wasted a lot of time worrying about things that never actually happened, so did I. This is something that I want to keep doing, and I’m fairly confident that going through this “tough” experience (can I really call it that?) is going to be a launching pad for bigger and better things.

Not out of the woods just yet

We’ve all gone through various trials throughout our lives, some more than others. This isn’t the first time that I’ve had my doubts about making a decision (and made it anyway), and I’m SURE that it won’t be the last. But by writing it out, and laughing about how silly I was before going does help (and it makes for a good story, yes?).

So here’s Josh signing off, letting you know that nothing that I feared actually happened, and that I’m much better off knowing now that I won’t have to regret turning this opportunity down. I’ll leave with a quote from an unknown author that has led me to some of the best opportunities I’ve experienced in the last 3 years:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Cheers!

–       JC

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It’s all about learning

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend the Get Motivated seminar in Rochester.

Wow!

My mind has been blown

Listening to Rudy Giuliani, Terry Bradshaw, Gen. Colin Powell, Bill Cosby, and others was incredible. Simply incredible!

On my way walking from the car to the arena, I passed by Rochester’s public library and snapped this little pic:

Inscribed to the left of those massive pillars are written these words:

“Education is more than preparation for life. It is life itself.”

Stop and think about that for just a second.

The mark of successful people

I loved the seminar, because there was a speaker for every different walk of life, income leve, personality type. You name it, they had it. Some people loved one speaker, while others couldn’t stand them, and vice-versa.

One common attribute of every speaker however, was that they all talked about continuing to learn, continuing to educate themselves.

What would cause people to want to keep learning if, in the eyes of many that we rub shoulders with, they seem to have already “made it”?

Unless life is more than just “making it”.

What if the above quote is really true? How does that shape the way that you think? That I think?

Maybe a change in direction?

I’ve thought for a while if “Taking Fun Seriously” is really the mantra that I want to have these written thoughts known by. Is that me? Is that you? Short answer, yes. But maybe to take things a little deeper, one thing I have finally realized that I want to be known for (and hopefully you do too), is that at the end of our lives, we could be known as eternal students.

Always learning and teaching, always amazed by the journey.

Now that’s taking fun, and life seriously!

🙂

– JC

(for some blurry Instagram shots of the speakers that I snapped between notes during the conference, click here)

Photo credit: “Books” by henrybloomfield

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My friends, I have not forgotten about you

Greetings(!) from:

California:

NY’s Adirondack Mountains:

NYC:

Florida:

The Bahamas:

(You may not be able to tell, but I’m rocking my sexy NerdFitness shirt in the above pic)

West Point, NY:

The great city of Rochester:

And California (again):

My friends, I have not forgotten about you.

Sometimes life can get a little crazy. I’m not here to give some type of apology for not writing for so long. It’s just been crazy. I have been reading some great books lately, seen some amazing places, and built some great memories.

Memories are made sweeter by sharing them with others.

I’ll be pumping out some videos soon to chronicle the past few months’ adventures. Until then, you can check out my photo stream of random fun here.

Talk to y’all soon. Much love from Cali,

– JC

🙂

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My Four Hour Body Mass Gaining Experiment

It feels so cool to have (finally) cracked the code.

It’s been 7 weeks for me on the Four Hour Body “Occam’s Protocol” eating/lifting plan for me, and I’ve got good news. 🙂

Seven weeks ago, I shared my plans with you guys on what I was going to do next physically. As someone who is known in the weight lifting industry as a “hard gainer”, I was curious to test out Tim Ferriss’ “minimalist mass-building” approaches. I wanted to see if I could do for most men in my family’s genetic background, what is almost impossible – add 10 lbs of lean mass.

The results

For transparency’s sake, I won’t hold back on the numbers here. Let’s face it, I’m a lightweight. This post is meant to be a pat on the back for my other lightweight brothas (and sistas) out there who are wondering if putting on weight will ever be possible. I’ll let the results speak for themselves 🙂

First, the circumference measurements:

Left arm, mid-bicep:

  • 10 3/4″ (1/17/2011)
  • 11 1/2″ (3/5/2011)

Right arm, mid-bicep:

  • 10 3/4″ (1/17/2011)
  • 11 1/2″ (3/5/2011)

Waist (centered at bellybutton)

  • 32″ (1/17/2011)
  • 33 3/4″ (3/5/2011)

Hips (widest point between navel and thighs)

  • 35 1/4″ (1/17/2011)
  • 37 1/2″ (3/5/2011)

Left leg, mid-thigh

  • 20 1/2″ (1/17/2011)
  • 22″ (3/5/2011)

Right leg, mid-thigh

  • 20″ (1/17/2011)
  • 21 1/2″ (3/5/2011)

Observations from this – I was pretty happy to have gained circumference in every area measured. My thighs surprised me as being different circumferences. Although they did gain the exact same amount (1 1/2″), it’s something I have in mind I may want to get looked at, as left/right imbalances can lead to injury down the road. All in all, I’m pretty happy!

Bodyfat – Good, bad, or ugly?

Rather than giving all of the OCD technical details, I’ll just share some totals here:

Total skinfold measurements (using the Slimguide Skinfold Calipers)

  • 34mm (1/17/2011)
  • 40mm (3/5/2011)

Body fat percentage (Based on the 4-point Durnin/Womersly chart*)

  • 14.3% (1/17/2011)
  • 16.17% (3/5/2011)

*There’s a math chart that comes with the Slimguide calipers, but after week 2 I discovered this VERY helpful online calculator. NOTE: If you’re going to use this, make sure that your measurement algorithms are consistent each time)

Yes, my body fat percentage did go up during this experiment, which I’ll elaborate on in just a moment. I’ll take whatever my body and what I’m eating will give me for this test-run. 🙂

Hitting the big goal (and understanding it too)

My big goal was simple: Gain 10 lbs of lean mass. Not too complex, right? Let’s look at the data:

Body weight

  • 147 lbs (1/17/2011)
  • 163 lbs (3/5/2011)

That’s right baby…16 lbs of meaty man in 7 weeks! Ok, it wasn’t ALL meat, but lemme break it down for you:

Lean body mass (total body weight – body fat in lbs [determined through applying the BF % to my total weight])

  • 126 lbs (1/17/2011)
  • 137 lbs (3/5/2011)

Not only did I gain my 10 lbs, I felt need to add a bonus 1 on there as well! All sarcasm aside, although this 11 lb gain also came with 5 lbs of fat, I’m still very happy. I’ve finally cracked the code on how to put on mass. Here’s the important lesson of how I know I can take those 5 lbs off quickly (and more, to get ready for 6-pack season):

What gets measured gets managed

One thing that became overwhelmingly clear to me during the past 7 weeks was this: It’s important to quantify inputs and results when I’m (or you’re) pursuing change. Because I meticulously measured EVERYTHING (click here to see a sample page from my workout notebook), I can go back and see what changes in diet/sleep/rest helped to add muscle, provide energy, or simply turned to fat.

Thanks once again to DailyBurn (and their sexy iPhone app), I have record of everything that I ate in the past 7 weeks. Because my wife is simultaneously going through the Slow Carb diet from the book, our eating times had to differ (so I wouldn’t tempt her to eat something she shouldn’t). Every Sunday following her Saturday “cheat day”, I was the garbage disposal for all left over goodies that she couldn’t finish the day prior (which is where I think the fat gain came from). Because I have record of that in DailyBurn, I can go back and see when and what I ate to find out how my body metabolized it.

Which got me thinking…

What if we measured the areas where we really wanted to change? I’ll use sleep as my example, because thankfully DailyBurn has a sleep tracker built in also (and I have a cheap app that helps to track sleep also). If I want to get more/better sleep, how will I know when the best time to go to bed or to wake up, or how long I should sleep will be? Many of us have so much going on in our lives that it’s hard to remember what we ate for breakfast sometimes. But if we’re keeping record, it’s not too hard to go back and see.

The next step

So lesson learned, I think I may make every first quarter of the new year my “get big” time, where I seek to add mass. With some looming competitions and more adventures on the way as the snow melts, it’s time to work on strength and endurance (good thing somebody has a guide coming out soon for that).

So for the next few weeks (why not say 28 days-ish), I’ll be joining my brothers and sisters on the slow-carb diet, although it’ll only be a half-slow carb – I’m going to save 1 meal out of the day for whatever I’d like. Don’t want to jump from the Occam’s protocol “eat everything in sight” regiment to a more conservative diet….yet. Don’t worry, I’ll share results with that also.

One last bit of odds and ends

Because I really enjoyed the analytical approach that was gleaned from this experiment, I’ll be highlighting some other noteworthy note-takers and methods on how to quantify. Don’t worry, I won’t make it sound that dorky though.

But my question is this:

What would you like to see more of here at TFS?

Leave your suggestions in the comments. I’m always looking for ideas on what to share/teach/discuss next. When I learn and grow, it reciprocates back. Boo-yah!

Talk to y’all soon 🙂

– JC

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Mondays – Dread them? Or Charge Into Them Like a Mad Man (or woman)?

(Quick note: Can’t see the pictures or videos in your email or RSS reader? Click this link here to see the buttery goodness)

What’s your take on Mondays?

When you woke up today, were you dreading going to work? Did you roll out of bed at the last possible second, wishing that the weekend could’ve lasted longer? Thinking of all the things you didn’t want to do today, or wishing for all those phone calls that you didn’t want to make to magically disappear?

Or did you wake up excited, ready to grab this Monday by the gonadulums (may have to add that word to the dictionary) and see what new challenges could be conquered?

Purpose

You can tell a good bit about a person’s ambitions (or lack thereof) by how they view Mondays. The same could be said also about their weekends, but Mondays usually are the best indicator.

If their Sunday nights/Monday mornings are usually filled with doubt, complaints, grumbling, moaning, hellfire and brimstone (maybe a bit of an exaggeration on that one), it’s a good indicator that they really don’t enjoy what they’re doing.

On the flip side, somebody who wakes up on a Monday just as excited as they wake up on a Saturday usually is a mover and a shaker. This isn’t a “you should quit your job and come bask in the sunshine of liberty” type of post, but typically the type of people that take Mondays with this approach are entrepreneurs. If not entrepreneurs, than people that have really gotten involved into a work (notice I didn’t necessarily say “job”) that they enjoy. It’s fulfilling. It’s worth something to them. It’s exciting.

Just a simple question

“Chase your passion, not your pension” – Dennis Waitley

My good home dawg Bruce (remember him from this post? Again, that’s not his real name) uses this quote as his email signature. I like it. It’s a good reminder to be involved in things greater than just a few trinkets.

Again, I’m not trying to be some lame holier-than-thou type and imply that wanting to make money is a bad thing, or that being an employee is a bad thing either. Neither of these are true. But here’s a good question to guage your view on Mondays:

If you weren’t getting paid to do what you do, what would you be doing?

I’m gonna leave it at that. More to come in a few days! Now, some fun videos for your enjoyment 🙂

A little motivation

I don’t know about you guys, but music really helps to fire me up. Sometimes aided with a little  bit of well-timed caffeine, a good song can make the creative juices flow like Niagara Falls. So I’d like to give you a few songs and videos that have helped me get the wheels turning, and help to keep the big picture in mind. Enjoy!

As you may see, I like a little piano music. If you haven’t gotten a Grooveshark account yet (it’s free), check it out and feel free to add these songs to your playlist.

And finally, for some odd reason (maybe the travel-aspect?), I watch this video anytime I need a jump start to plan and do amazing things. It’s kinda like a shot of adrenaline for me. 🙂

Cheers!

– JC

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Lifetime Learning – Why Now is the Time to Start and How You and I can Help Each Other

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Ghandi

Taking Fun Seriously

Over the past 9 years, learning has become an obsession of mine. Maybe it was going to a good college. Maybe it was joining the military. Or maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with the (sometimes not so common) idea that learning is, and can actually be something fun.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately (uh oh…he’s gone crazy!), and one of the big topics that has been on my mind has been Taking Fun Seriously. What is it? Is it a blog? A website? A brand?

And then it hit me…

Thanks to some good “big picture” inspiration from my buddy Joel Runyon, I’ve come to the conclusion that “Taking Fun Seriously” is a living manifesto. It’s me. It’s who and what I am. I love to have fun, and I’m serious about doing it. I’ll elaborate more on this in the coming months, but I’d like to focus for now on one of the aspects that make TFS, well, FUN!

The joy of learning

Notice I did not say “schooling”. I’m not anti-school, but I do know quite a few people who from an early age grew a disdain for formal education. Just so I don’t step on any toes here, let me repeat: I am not anti-school. I had a VERY good public school and college education, and still feel like much of what I learned back in high school is still very relevant and useful to my everyday life (I AM smarter than a 5th grader, thank you very much!). My 11th grade English teacher would be so proud…

The problem with people who have a disdain for formal education is twofold:

  1. They have mistakenly identified formal education with all forms of education. One of my very favorite Mark Twain quotes is, “I never let schooling interfere with my education”, meaning that he was learning all the time, just not in a formal environment.
  2. They have mistakenly associated their disdain for formal education with all available forms of formal education. Why do/did they hate school? Did they have a crappy teacher? Was the curriculum not relevant to what they wanted in life? Neither of those 2 questions mean that there aren’t GOOD teachers just as there isn’t RELEVANT curriculum for their life goals.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it opened up a world of possibility for the human

Having 2 little daughters (both under 3) in my home has caused me to really appreciate the human characteristic of curiosity. Everything is amazing to them. Everything!

Walking outside in the snow, the fact that cold and pretty stuff falls from the sky and settles on the ground is simply amazing to my oldest daughter. My youngest just learned how to walk. Seeing her waddle around the house, you’d think she was a brand-new gold medalist in the olympics.

Their world is so big, and learning new things brings so much joy to them!

Daddy could learn a lot from these two.

Where did it go wrong?

It seems like once a child starts the journey to adulthood, the current cultural mindset is to snuff out this curiosity.

Why? (this is a question I’m constantly trying to answer myself, so don’t expect an immediate answer here 🙂 )

This isn’t going to be a rant about “what’s wrong with our world today”. No, rather let it be a reminder that there are still many fun and new things to be learned in the world, and taking the time to read, listen, study, and DO them brings happiness.

While there are many reasons why I left my job over a year ago, one of the main ones was this: I had stopped learning.

The shiny-ness of the job and the skills required to do it well had been mastered. The opportunities for personal and professional growth had been exhausted. I was in danger of shifting from new and exciting into boring and mundane. So I quit.

(Warning: Like I said, that was just one of MANY reasons why I left. Don’t use just this reason alone to up and leave your job. You still need a plan, and you still need to think things through. Hence the reason for a post on learning)

What’s next?

So back to my buddy Joel real quick. One of the things I really appreciate about him is his “Impossible list“. Joel doesn’t publish anything on his Impossible List unless it’s good-as-gold he’s gonna do it. Integrity baby! That’s both honorable, and scary as a mutha sucka (maybe it’s one of the fears that’s holding me back from publishing my 2011 goals…ahh who cares. They’ll be up soon now)!

One of the big goals I have for this site in 2011 is for it to be a learning-hub. A CPU of sorts for education. I’d like to have it both be a diary of what I’m learning (and how it can help you), and a sort of “yellow pages” for different areas for you to go for different topics you’d like to learn as well.

Some topics that I’d like to learn and discuss on here (yes, discuss, which means you gotta get in on the conversation) are:

  • Skill acquisition
  • Mental performance
  • Language learning (while Joel is going to tackle French, I’d like to knock out Spanish)
  • Critical thinking (don’t worry, it won’t be boring)
  • Writing
  • Reading (faster)
  • Motivation (a favorite of mine!)
  • Being a dad
  • And just plain cool stuff (like travel-hacking, which I’ll be talking about in an upcoming post. Oooo baby I’m excited about this one!)

Finishing with a quesiton

My brotha-from-another-mother, Josh Buisch, likes to say “I don’t know what I don’t know”. So I’ll probe y’all with a similar question: What don’t you know, that you’d like to know better? (and a bonus question) What would you like to see more of here on TFS?

Cheers!

– JC

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Patience has paid off!

I’ve been waiting for over a year for the iPhone to come to Verizon. Finally, the wait is over.

(This is a semi-lengthy post. If you’d rather skip my story, head on down to the portion of the page that’s called “The TFS list of ‘must-have’ iPhone apps”) 🙂

A brief look into history

Last year, I did what every PC owner swears they’ll never do. I converted over to the “dark side” and bought a 13″ MacBook Pro. Wow, I was blinded by my own ignorance!

Not only has my MacBook given me ZERO problems (it’s pretty much the Lamborghini of computers), but it’s allowed me to do some pretty sweet things as far as in-house technology goes. We have an HD projector at home, an iPod touch 64g, and a 1TB Apple Time Capsule wireless hard drive. For you non-techies, this means a potentially gigantic “tv screen”, a fun toy, and a HUGE library of movies, pictures, music, and files.

After learning how a few iPod apps and some careful tweaking of the relationship between hard drive/laptop/iPod/projector, I’d created a pretty sweet setup for our home. I was amazed at how well the iPod touch worked with my laptop, and it seemed like there was an app for just about anything I wanted to do.

If only I could take this show on the road…

Frustrated

When I picked up my Blackberry Curve, I couldn’t have been more happy. It was my first smart phone, and it was pure magic. I mean, I could get the INTERNET on my PHONE! I was George Jetson, and I was living in the future.

However, after I picked up my MacBook Pro, I wanted to be able to have something that worked between my phone and the daily apps/sites I used on my computer. The iPod touch had all that I wanted, but it didn’t have a 3G connection. This is when the iPhone/Verizon rumors started.

I was told by “reliable” sources that it would arrive in January of 2010. I began setting aside a little dough for this magical device, and I couldn’t wait!

January came, no iPhone.

Then the rumors shifted to June/July 2010.

Guess what? Still no iPhone.

The rumors went away for a few months, but then started to resurface in late fall/early winter 2010. This time, they were for real.

My frustrations would soon be over.

Magic

I was one of the crazies that woke up at 3 AM ET to pre-order an iPhone for me and my wife. And although I had a temporary setback with some food poisoning on the day that the blessed Brown Messenger (aka the UPS man) brought it to my home, I couldn’t hold back my happiness.

Phone love (I'm kidding Mom) 🙂

So far, so good

Now, before I continue, I have to say this. I know that it’s just a silly piece of equipment, and it doesn’t bring me TRUE happiness. However, it is still pretty cool, and will be making things a lot easier for me.

Many of you have probably already read reviews about this phone, or have heard your friends (like me) ranting and raving about it. I’m not going to offer a review, because the device can speak for itself. What I am going to offer however, is a few of the apps that help me out in my day to day that I think can help you out as well.

The TFS list of “must have” iPhone apps

These little babies make life very easy and help with some serious productivity (except for the obvious one, which is a game). I’m not some kind of affiliate for the App store, and won’t make any money off of this, in fact most of them are free. I’m just a fan (maybe borderline obsessed at this point) who wants to share the love. Also, these apps will also work on your iPod Touch if wifi is available. Enjoy my friends!

DailyBurn

Cost – Free

My love for the website DailyBurn is no secret. From being able to track workouts, nutrition, bodyweight and bodyfat % goals, to even sleep tracking, DailyBurn is the place to go for measuring and achieving fitness goals. For those who have just picked up a copy of the Four Hour Body, this app is a great tool to help quantify results and progress.

I have used (and still do) the iGoogle DailyBurn app for tracking nutrition and workouts. Now I can load my favorite meals into it, and have everything tracked in a matter of seconds. For those who have ever tried keeping a food journal (but inevitably failed), this is a crucial app to have to stick with it and hit your goals! If you’re willing to spend a few bucks, they also have a built-in FoodScanner add on that uses your iPhone’s camera to scan the barcode of the food you’re eating to making tracking easier. Cool!

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock

Cost – $0.99

Keeping in our theme of quantifying results, the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock uses a cool piece of iPhone/iPod Touch technology. Utilizing your device’s accelerometer (the small piece inside that senses motion), Sleep Cycle analyzes your sleep patterns throughout the night. It bases how “deep” you’re sleeping on how much you toss and turn. No tossing and turning = deep sleep.

By scanning your movement patterns throughout the night, Sleep Cycle can determine what the best “window” of time to wake you up (based upon what time you’ve already told it you want to wake up) will be, and it will start 30 minutes (default settings, which can be changed) prior to your preferred wakeup time to wake you up. When it senses that you’re in a light/almost awake moment of sleep, it will softly start playing music to wake you up. The advantage to this, is that it eliminates the groggy feeling you get when you’re jarred awake by a traditional alarm clock. Nice!

However, the only downside to this is, if you’ve got somebody else in your bed (as in my case), their movements affect the Sleep Cycle’s measurements throughout the night. I’ve only had one occasion when it woke me up at the wrong time based upon this, but the rest of the time it’s been smooth sailing. If I had this baby in college, I would’ve slept a lot better and probably would’ve performed better on tests (Hint* Hint* College students).

Evernote

Cost – Free

Note-taking has never been easier! Evernote (pretty much available for every operating system imaginable) is simply the very best “snapshot” note taking program I’ve encountered. I’ve been an Evernote user on my HP laptop, Blackberry, MacBook, and now iPod Touch, and now iPhone for over a year and a half.

Borrowing a book from the library and want to copy down a good section to quote later? No problem, snap a pic and upload it to Evernote. Out at a favorite mom & pop restaurant and want to have a digital copy of the menu? Ditto. Want to recall something you entered into Evernote over a year ago? Easy, just start typing in some text (like you would for Google’s Instant Search) and Evernote will find it. Their text-recognition software is simply incredible. It can even recognize my chicken scratch, which not even most of my relatives can do anymore (which is why I type them emails instead of send them letters).

There’s a certain amount of data usage that’s free per month, and if you want more, Evernote has tiered payment plans that go up from there. For those who encounter a lot of data (which who doesn’t count themselves in that crowd anymore?), Evernote is the perfect pal to help you recall it back to the front of your mind.

Kindle for iPhone/iPod Touch

Cost – Free

Even before I owned the real Amazon Kindle, I downloaded this app. Why? Because I knew that I’d eventually want to own a Kindle, and even if I never did own one, I could still read the books comfortably (yes, comfortably, even on a small screen) on my iPod Touch.

The books still cost the same, and the process for purchasing is still the same. But where the iPhone version of the Kindle may lack in size of words on the screen, it more than makes up for some convenient features: such as a smoother ability to highlight and take notes on book sections, and the ability to change font/background colors (I prefer a black background with white text).

For those who do own a Kindle, the Whispersync technology is in play here, and it helps also. Even if I don’t have my Kindle on me, I can still pick up where I left off in my current book if I have a few minutes to read. When I get back to where my Kindle is, it’s automatically synced back up to where I left off on my iPhone. It’s the perfect marriage of 2 technologies.

Mint.com

Cost – Free

There’s a lot of superlatives going on around this post. Here’s another one: Mint.com is the best (free) financial app/site there is. I used to manually enter transactions into our Microsoft Money program, which would take me about 6 hours/month. I now spend about 10 minutes TOPS per month checking into our personal finances using Mint’s free tools.

The reason I recommend this app is simply so you can have your financial dashboard with you on the go. Even if you have the wifi only iPod Touch, I still recommend this app.

Remember, what gets measured gets managed. 🙂

Angry Birds

Cost – Lite version: Free – Full version: $0.99

Ok, some may say that games aren’t essential, and I’d probably agree with them in most cases. This isn’t one of them.

It’s no surprise why Angry Birds is the highest grossing app in the App Store, it’s a ton of fun and incredibly addicting! Even people who don’t own any Apple or Android products are talking about Angry Birds. My daughter knows the song and starts dancing every time she hears it (side note: I have Angry Birds dance parties with her. One of the many joys of being a tech-nerd dad).

The lite version is fun, the full version is more fun. And if you’ve conquered the full version, there’s also a holiday edition (which covers Halloween, Christmas, and now Valentine’s Day). Down with the evil pigs!

That’s all for now folks!

I’m sure I’ll come up with more apps in the future, and I crossed a lot off the list that I didn’t think were “essential”. Enjoy this list my friends, and if you think I’ve missed some that are note-worthy, add ’em to the comments.

Cheers!

– JC

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How to Leave Your Job, Free Up Your Time, and Embrace Location Independence

This post has potential to break out into a multi-post plethora of information that will (hopefully) lead you to ACTION. What you and I will need to make this happen is some interaction.

I’m not an expert on this subject matter by any stretch of the imagination! I’m walking in the footsteps of professionals and sitting on the shoulders of giants when it comes to what I’m going to write about today. I’ll be referencing a lot of them today and in the days to come, so be ready to make some new connections. 🙂
That said…it’s time to buckle up, sharpen your pencil, and get ready to make a big time change in your life. If you’ve ever dreamed of doing big things, 2011 is YOUR year to do it!

WHY?

“The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who knows why will always be his boss.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
As I shared this past weekend, you must have a reason why you’re doing what you’re doing. Many of you reading this post may be looking for a magic method to help you quit your job, become an entrepreneur, and ____________ (jet set, go shark diving, skydiving, cave diving, and any other wild kind of diving you can think of. Insert your favorite “dream” activity here).
I hate to break it to you, but there isn’t any magic method to doing this. There’s no formula or wand that will help you get moving on this. There’s only what’s already been laid on your own mind – your “why”.

Starting the engine with a little “ether”

If anyone has ever had an older lawnmower or snowblower (I live in Western NY, where it snows 10,000 feet every year), sometimes it can be just like an old dog trying to get it moving. You’ve got to give it a little “kick” to get it moving.
Engine starting fluid is made of an essential accelerant, known as “ether”. It’s a highly explosive substance, used to jump start the piston(s) inside an internal combustion engine (it’s also a ton of fun for young boys to toss into a bonfire and run away quickly. This is being said by someone who has experienced it first hand. Ahh the memories!).
After being sprayed in the carburetor, the ether quickly takes spark. The pistons begin moving fast enough for the natural momentum and mechanical cycle of the gas and air mix to take over, and the engine starts running on gasoline. But the engine CANNOT continue to run on ether alone. It needs to have a fuel mixture that helps to sustain it and keep it running.

Negative can get things moving, positive can keep them moving

Much like the above example with the engine, ether, and gasoline, your ideas need to have some fuel and spark to get them off the ground.

The “ether” in this case can be any type of negative influence: I hate my job. I hate my boss. I hate this commute. I hate the “office politics”. I’VE GOTTA GET OUTTA HERE!!!

But just like the above example, the engine of your idea CANNOT run on negative “ether” alone. It requires a positive “gasoline” to keep things moving. In my own personal example, it was the goal of being able to be home with my family to raise my girls and be with my wife. For you, it may be working for charity, getting more involved in the lives of your friends, family, or even those less fortunate than you. Coaching, teaching, helping, whatever. Things you would do in your free time that aren’t just “time killers”.

Speaking from experience, when you first leave your job, the immense wave of relief is incredible. It really is! Being able to wake up when you want, and do what you want is amazing!

However, I can relate to why most retirees end up going nuts after their first few weeks and months into retirement. All of a sudden, the vacation mindset wears off, and they’re left being bored doing the “relaxing” things they dreamt about for so many years. They’ve removed their distress, and now are left with a gaping void. A gaping void that can only be satisfied with eustress.

I should say that if you haven’t picked up a copy of the 4HWW by now, please click here and get it. It’s required reading for the rest of this to make sense.

Starting the fire

Just because negative emotion isn’t enough to sustain your goal (or dream), that doesn’t mean that we still can’t use it to our advantage. Look at this stack of books that I read over a year ago that helped lead me to my decision. At least 3 of them and their accompanying subtitles appeal to someone who hates what they’re currently doing:

Why would the authors choose a title like “Why WORK SUCKS (and how to fix it)”, “ESCAPE from Cubicle Nation“, and the first subtitle of the 4HWW, “Escape 9-5“? Easy – Because it appeals to an audience looking to get out! It’s not a bad thing.

Many people are dissatisfied (yeah right, that’s maybe the most sterile way of putting it) with their current job. The difference between THEM and YOU however, is that you’re prone to actually ACT upon this motivation. Anybody can complain. Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich (shown above) says “people love to debate and talk about minutiae”. It’s easy to complain, and it’s easy to find people that will complain along with you.

However, if you’ve read this far, you’re not the simple complainer. You’re somebody who is actually looking, planning (and soon will be DOING) to make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you.

Keeping the fire going

I’m going to wrap up today’s post with just some simple questions, and based on your feedback, It’ll help to see where we head next.

What is the bigger-than-yourself idea or goal that you have that can sustain this wild idea of you embarking away from your comfort zone and keep the fire burning hot? If you KNEW you could not fail, what would you be doing?

And finally, maybe the one that breaks it down into the most simple and easiest to process: What does your dream day look like? (Josh Buisch asked me this recently, and actually answering this question with someone else listening had quite a profound effect on my motivation and vision. Give it a try!)

You don’t have to answer any of these questions publicly, but if you do, know that you’ll have a big group of people helping to keep you accountable.

Talk to y’all soon!

– JC

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