This Year I Will…

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In 2016, I resolved to, well, not resolve.  A totally effective resolution with a 100% success rate!  Problem is, I didn’t like not having resolutions.  I missed checking in on my progress as a human seeking improvements.  I wanted a dashboard telling me how I’m doing on life and resolution tracking has traditionally offered that dashboard for me.  So, aside from realizing how much of a dork this might make me, I’ve decided to bring it back!  Hold your excitement please.

Before I just dive in listing resolutions willy nilly, there have been some changes to my old resolution ways.  Change is good, right?  No more categorization.  I used to plop my resolutions into categories such as “family” and “work” and “fitness.”  Gone.  I’ve also decided that fewer is better.  Gone are the days of having 15-20 resolutions.  Less than 10 shall do nicely in 2017.  While changing some parts of my process, there are other parts that I will be keeping intact.  Namely, making the resolutions measurable.  None of these soft goals for 2017 – something tells me the political scene and current news media will have plenty of soft content, lacking context and depth to keep us plenty distracted from real issues and meaning.  I will do my best not to add to that dumpster fire with my resolutions.

And without further adieu, here are my 2017 resolutions (in no particular order).

  1. Invest fully in personal relationships. (full disclosure:  I stole this from my friend Tom.  Thanks TK.).  I will measure my relationships in the quality of interactions.  Keeping in touch with people via text or Twitter, while convenient at times, can’t count as an investment.  Don’t worry friends, this doesn’t mean I’ll Skype you each time I need to talk.  The goal will be to be more connected, balanced, more present during these connections and more thoughtful with my connections.  Hopefully it means more live interactions too.  This one scares me because my natural tendency is to pull into my garage, put the garage door down and stay inside until something required (e.g. job, exercise, personal commitment, etc.) forces me back outside again.   This tendency has grown with age.  Oddly, I am always energized and uplifted after spending time directly with others.  It is exactly this incongruity that drives me to this resolution.  Human nature can be a funny thing, right?
  2. Dedicate 40 hours to community service.  Existing commitments on board committees or work projects won’t count here either.  If I setup or participate in a project via work I’ll count it, but if work is developing how we can help others on a greater scale, the time spent doing this will not count.  This needs to be true service to other humans or organizations in need.  A la Meals on Wheels/Friendship Trays, Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, Fort Mill Care Center, The Urban Ministry of Charlotte, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Interview Skills Training, etc.  I’d like to also strengthen my personal stance on finding service areas that focus on lifting others up vs. those of the donation/queue/handout types.  Both serve but I’d like to align more with helping enable others while doing so with maximum dignity.
  3. Activate in politics.  Does this mean I’m staging for a run at office?  Nope, although at times it seems strangely tempting. But I can’t sit by and complain about the ineffectiveness of our legislative representation without participating beyond a simple cast vote.  This means attending 6-8 local DNC and RNC meetings.  This means attending all local town halls held by my representatives.  This means canvassing when necessary.  This means continuing to voice my opinion with my local, state and federal representatives.
  4. Fix my calves.  In 2016, I ran fewer miles than I have ever run since starting running in the early 90s.  I entered three marathons and ran one.  Regular calf strains have caused me to take to exercising by videos, tabatas, cycling and even walking for exercise.  Walking by myself in the dark of the morning is not exercising.  It is stalking.  Creeping.  Utterly ridiculous.  Since early December I’ve been seeing a rehab specialist.  His first request:  stop running completely.  Shut. It. Down.  That was easy considering I was not running.  He’s stuck hundreds of dry needles into both calves, tested me using the Functional Movement System multiple times, given me hours of flexibility and mobility homework (ankle torsion, planks, slow plank mountain climbers, tons of stick rolling and foam rolling, etc.) and deep (painful) massaging.  He believes much of my calf strain woes are due to weak and inflexible ankles.  At this point he could tell me my bad calves are a result of not walking around on my hands enough and I’d assume the headstand position for all future travel.  I miss running.  I miss my running buddies.  I miss that feeling you get right after the run is over.  I miss seeing my running routes.  I miss having a personal a target or goal.  At this point, I’m not altogether sure spending hundreds of dollars on rehab will result in fixed calves, but I’m desperate enough to do just that.  In the event it does not, see resolution #5.
  5. Cycle more.  Commute to work 40 times (roughly 20% of my working days).  Sign up for a cycling-only race that takes me completely out of my comfort zone.  Ride in some Saturday group rides.  Just find ways to ride.  I love riding.  Riding in the Charlotte area requires extra focus on committing to the rules of the road.  The drivers aren’t that supportive of sharing their roads around here.  I’ll do what it takes to make this work.  Maybe we cyclists here in the Fort Mill/Rock Hill area even get a closed criterium course in 2017.
  6. Find Solo Kid Time.  Ideally take one solo weekend trip with each kid.  Big commitment to be gone for three weekends away from Cindy but worth it.  Stewart still talks about our overnight trip to NYC a few years back.  While focusing on a three trips, I don’t want to lose focus on the meaning of a quiet game with them or shooting baskets,  riding to Starbucks or throwing the football.  I feel like such a better parent when I take the time to do these things.  Charlie and me shopping for gifts locally and on foot this holiday season was a great example of what I’d like to do a whole lot more of in 2017.
  7. Make Torrent Cash Strong. I work at this great company, Torrent Consulting. I’m living out a great role of being able to strongly influence the delivery aspect of our consulting team while helping influence and manage the company’s financial position. This company has been built from the ground up with incredible focus, hiring and execution from the two founders.  The next level for the company comes with cash.  A position that can be attained with strong execution on both the sales and delivery side.  Fingertips stuff…the benefits are real to all parties (clients, partners and our company team) involved.
  8. Support Cindy More.  To me this means sharing more of the burden in keeping our kids on course – some may refer to this as the just-out-of-reach “default parent” status (no names, Cindy).  This means helping her excel in her career – a career that has been breaking out strongly for the past several years.  Giving her the space to succeed while having the confidence that our home life is under control is something I can do much more of in 2017.  I need to lead our home life the way she has been doing this for the past 10-15 years. Of this list, this item has the biggest learning curve for me.  My goal is to take over the reigns for managing our kid’s activities which should free her up greatly.  If I can mix in helping with a few dinners a week, I might be stretching my shirt apart to reveal the big ‘S’ on my small chest.
  9. Find more zen.  For me zen can come in many forms.  Meditating in the mornings, sitting in church, practicing my Spanish on Duolingo (friend me on this great app!), reading (15 book goal is in effect again in 2017) or out on the trail hiking on overnights or simply a day hike.  Rarely is it found on my phone, in my car or in places where large swaths of humanity have convened.  The metrics here are wide open.  Probably the easiest way to tell whether I’m getting this is via my Fitbit of all things.  Resting heart rate when I have more zen is in the mid to high 40s.  Less zen, it can be found pounding around the high 50s.

There are other goals that are less resolutions and more of hopes.  I want to continue to find ways to spend time with my mom over lunches or watching plays or just hanging at her place.  I want to continue to get out and do things with my dad.  It is a treat to have them in the same town and we need to keep up a strong routine of activities as they are presented.  I want to play a good amount of golf in 2017.  This feels like 20-30 rounds or so with the majority of them played via walking, ideally with a kid of mine.  I’d like to see the play “Hamilton.”  I’d like to raise bees.  I’d like to drive more purpose into my life story.  While I’m not having anything quite as dramatic sounding as a mid-life crisis, I do spend lots of time wondering what my days on this Earth will represent.  Tim Urban’s somewhat morose description of our being in a display of your life in weeks keeps popping in my head.  While nothing is guaranteed, I want to avoid squandering too many days.  While doing this, I also want to maximize the return and impact.  My story seems clearer now than it did a year ago working at a large corporation, it still is quite opaque.  If I’m hoping for things, maybe I’m hoping 2017 brings a little more clarity here.

Happy New Year.  Here’s to making it the best one yet, even if there are a few obvious distractions taking our focus away from what is real and meaningful.

Day 2 Antigua, Guatemala

Our first full day was even more eye-opening.  The agenda:

  • Visit the Impact Hub – this is a co-working facility where our folks would potentially work from similar to the WeWork model in the US.
  • Meet with Myra and Benecio from Kairos – a K-9 education center.
  • Meet with Mark and Gina from Centro Educativo Deepstream in Buena Vista.
  • Birthday party for Brian’s middle child – 4 YO today.

Walking about Antigua isn’t far from walking around certain parts of Charleston.  Historic, cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, pedestrians galore.  Antigua is quite a nice place with a much higher safety factor than the surrounding areas.  The impact hub is a great facility, lots of wifi, lots of nooks and crannies to work from and well-populated with a high variety of knowledge workers.  Positioned near universities and some of the nicer hotels it provides a great home base for future visits.  Apparently the Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, the nicest hotel in Antigua hosted Bill Clinton during his presidency.  This hotel is a former convent and is built directly into the ruins from many centuries past.

After the hub visit, we moved on to visit with Myra and Benecio from Kairos.  This is an amazing school located in Cuidad Vieja just outside of Antigua.  Established in 2009 and accredited in 2010, this school is one of the few schools devoted to raising children in education from K-9th grade.  Upon graduation at 9th grade this school intends to push their graduates to high school where they can prepare for university.  We found out some astounding facts:

  • Less than 1% of children in Guatemala attend university.  Far fewer complete it.
  • Kids typically need to be sponsored to get their high school education.  This can cost between $1,000 and $2,000 per student per year (typically 2 years).
  • Many parents are NOT supportive of their children being educated past 6th grade – the typical year where kids can start working alongside of their family (usually the father).
  • Clearly the barriers to getting an education are vast yet somehow, Myra and Benecio found a way to graduate 29 students last year with 28 proceeding to complete their high school education.

Our meeting was remarkable.  The connection for Torrent is real and viable yet not based in the offshoring principles. While a benefit, it is quickly overshadowed by the concept in investing in people. Hopefully we can hire graduates as interns until university educated and then as full-time resources for the longer haul.  This school realized that attracting kids at the youngest age (kindergarten) makes for better students and better graduation rates. Myra and Benecio believe strongly in the model requiring payment which invests their parents in the value of an education (a Poverty, inc value). 

At the end of the meeting Myra called a friend who supplied us with beans and rice and corn tortillas for all of us for 60Q or about $8. The food was spectacular and made even better by picking it up from a random corner in Antigua less than five minutes after the call was placed. 

Our next stop was to El Centro Educativo Deepstream, a school in Bueno Vista started by Daniel’s friends Mark and Gina. Bueno Vista is an extremely poverty-stricken village located 30 minutes and 1500 meters above Antigua. This school is an Oasis of hope. The school contains a public and private school in a three story building and part of the mission of two people called to serve the people of Guatemala. The conversation reconfirmed many of the same themes we heard in the 1.5 days of meetings.  Their energy eclipsed any we have seen so far. 

Tomorrow we visit Ecofiltre, a school, hold an interview with a marketing firm we may partner with in the future and our impact hub contact. Another full day. 

Guatemala Antigua Day 1

Let’s get this out of the way up front:  there’s a volcano, scratch that, 3 volcanoes within 10-12 miles of where we are staying and this grainy zoomed in shot shows you one that is currently spilling lava daily. Occasionally it thunders and shoots magma into the air. Baby eruptions. But eruptions and mind blowing nonetheless. 

Yesterday a co-founder of  Torrent Consulting (and my boss although he’d hate me calling him this) and also a friend and I traveled down to Guatemala City to explore the region and understand how we and/or Torrent can make a difference to a region where 63% of the people live in extreme poverty. A region where people are hungry to learn and hungrier to work but there are not enough good paying jobs even if they self-teach themselves the trade. Torrent has the people with the passion to help but not just through food, medical and clothing drives but by finding ways to raise people up with new good paying jobs that can also help Torrent and our clients. This would be a great time for me to plug a documentary called Poverty Inc. it explains this much better than I ever could. If we crack this nut, great things will happen. This trip is all about cracking that nut. 

Yesterday we met with a great man and entrepreneur named Alejandro. He’s started a few businesses with strong ties to Guatemala and was a wealth of information. He shared the do’s and dont’s of business in this country. I took two scrolls of notes in Evernote. His passion for helping a country he loves was evident. 

After this meetingswe had lunch at a touristy restaurant called CaCow in district 10 of Guatemala. I was reminded that we eat meals way to fast in the US and that outside of the US the bill will not just be presented. We paid 700 ‘Q’ for the meal which I think is around $85-90 feet for 6 people including our cool driver Felix. I can’t stop thinking the ‘Q’ stands for Quan. Thanks Cuba Gooding Jr in Jerry McGuire.  Have I mentioned how insanely kind the people here are?

After lunch we took the 40-45K drive to Antigua. I think we passed 15 Taco Bell restaurants. This strikes me as odd. But it isn’t the biggest nor the national fast food chain. Pollo Cabenos is. Apparently the KFC of Guatemala. We passed maybe 30 of these. We are staying we a co-worker at an unreal home in a gated community in Antigua. Floral. Courtyards. Nice flow. Quiet area. Volcanoes in the background. Lava. Brian and his wife are such gracious hosts to have us. I’m looking forward to what the week ahead brings. 

A few things are clearer in only one day:

  • Guatemalans LOVE their country. Pride for their land and people oozes from them. 
  • Poverty is a tough, tough problem to solve. Cyclical. The obvious answers like donations and money will not solve the problem. 
  • Jobs are only part of the answer. Supportive families, education and setting a vision play big roles too. 
  • But jobs are a big part of the answer. 
  • US roads are smooth. No matter how rough we think they are. 
  • US school buses go to Guatemala when we are done with them. They become private city buses. 
  • Metallica plays Guatemala City on Nov 3rd – or at least every city bus tells me so.

Until tomorrow. 

2016 PCT Hike – Southbounders from Mt. Etna to Castle Crags

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Welp…I suppose I should explain my lack of a post.  Largely no real posting in 2016.  I don’t have a great excuse and yes, I missed being here.  Writing.  It’s been a good many months.  Months full of lots of changes.  New religion, new job and new car.  Those of you who have come to know me largely know how big the latter item was for me.  May this new one last at least 16 years.  Not to discount the other two items as they were pretty big as well.

Anywhooo.  We are here for hiking.  Yes, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) again.  I’ve grown quite fond of the left coast hiking routine.  Primarily the nice temps, low humidity and next to zero percent chance of rain in August.  Oddly on day 3 we ran into these weird wet droplets falling from the sky.  Before I could inquire they stopped.  Strange.  My good friend Tom and I have been hiking together for over 20 years with this trip.  We’ve kept up an every other year hiking routine largely since 1998 when he moved out west.  In this time we’ve hiked all of the John Muir Trail, the entire high Sierra section of the PCT including the side trail to the tippy top of the continental United States of America (Mt. Whitney – 14.5K feet) and through the Tahoe region.  This trip we skipped up closer to the Oregon border and headed south to I-5 and Castle Crags where we left Tom’s car for the week.  Full transparency I had little idea where we were going this trip until the morning of – I had wrongly mapped us out on the section south of this area.  An area that had many miles well below 3,000 feet which out west means much warmer temperatures.  Candidly I was worried the hike route was going to stink it up a bit.  A la the 20 mile section crossing farm fields in Pennsylvania on the Appalachian Trail.

Yep.  I was wrong.  While we weren’t hovering around the 10K foot line like we did in the High Sierras, we did manage to hang out around 7-8K feet for the majority of this trip, had incredible views of the surrounding areas inclusive of the 14,200 foot snow capped Mount Shasta (massive mountain both wide and tall), Mt. Lassen, the Trinity Alps and Castle Crags.  All pretty spectacular in their own rights.  The hiking was more aggressive in the early days of our trip (when pack weights were at their most) and smoothed into longer but more gradual ascents and descents in the later days.  The over 3,000 foot descent in the final miles of the trip wasn’t nearly as bad as feared either.

Overall the trip was fantastic.  It’s great to jump right back on the trail with Tom and pick right up where we left off on the last hike.  Standard fare for us after 20 years of doing this is to set a healthy agenda of topics (this year we actually wrote it down – good for my older memory), during times while hiking together (typically late morning or afternoons) we pick a topic and drain it.  We saw some wildlife like yellow jackets (apparently they LOVE salami – mental note for Tom – drop the salami for the next trip), deer, birds, fish and bear.  The food on the trip was our best ever.  Aged gouda cheese, Whole Foods GORP, salmon jerky and the traditional chocolate covered almonds mixed with walnuts were notables.  A healthy variety of bars plus freeze-dried meals for dinner as well.  Best freeze-dried for me:  Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai.  Somehow I walked out with 7 more bars than Tom – no idea how this happens year after year.  Another mental note:  bring 1 bar per day less than Tom on the next hike (saves almost 2lbs in my pack!).  In addition, there’s something amazing about having hours each day to walk and think in nature.  If you haven’t given it a try I highly recommend it.

As always – a big thanks to Cindy (and Debbie) for making it possible for me to get this reset via the woods every other year.  I know I joke about it being in our marriage contract but I think she fully agrees I need this reset.  I’m also grateful that my Dad introduced me to hiking at a young age.  It worked – he now has 2 kids who really enjoy hiking.  Hopefully this Fall we can find a weekend to get out with the kids and Dad.

Click here for a slideshow of the 2016 PCT Hike.

Click here to see what us Sutton’s have been up to in 2016.

WLC Journal #5 – Exercise

Exercise on the WLC is not that tricky. Move for 10 minutes and count it as done. When I’m in a non-running mode as I have been the past several weeks (calf strain), I’m forced to get creative. Cindy has introduced to me the power of the exercise video. At first I might have poked some fun at the exerciser-by-video type. Yet I’m hear to publicly confess that I’m now that type. Would I prefer to be running outdoors over watching and following a tape indoors?  Absolutely. 

As a convert, I’m here to say the exercise video space is a good alternative.  Warning, it is also a space filled with many, many alternatives. I fear we may own most of the alternatives. So why do I share this?  Partially to set the truth free. But partially as an opportunity to…to…BUILD A ‘BEST OF’ LIST!!  In order of almost great to great:

  • Piyo – there’s a lady with a name I can’t spell or pronounce and she’s stretch-goodbody flexible. The video will make you work and parts will make you sore. It would be higher on the list if you believed her co-stars of exercise really liked each other. Unfortunately, there’s this creepy feeling that they don’t. 
  • T25 with Sean T –These are good but there are maybe too many videos. You’ll get sore but also wonder how good of a workout it really was. 
  • P90X – old school video that will kick your arse. Truthfully I can only do about 25% of the stuff in these videos but I feel good about nearly master the ‘Ab Ripper X’ video. If this list were based on the best quotes on the videos this on would have easily won. “You love it, but you hate it.”  Plus one of his exercise compadres is named Jason which makes it sound like he’s yelling at me. Personalized torture. 
  • Insanity – if you get through the 60 days, you can be proud of the distance you will have come. I saw the most difference from any of the videos with this one. Unfortunately the high impact nature of these workouts have me thinking they are geared for a generation or two south of mine. And the winner of greatest exercise video we own is (drumroll please!)…
  • T30 Max – another Sean T special. This one hits the sweet spot for time, will make you sore, has a strong mix of cardio plus a few folks scattered about the video taking a break here and there (this always makes me feel better). The goal is to increase your max over the 60 day video program.  

There you have it. My personal ranking complete with my offer for any local readers to borrow all except the last mentioned video.   The last is spoken for at least for the next 40 days. 

WLC Journal #3 – C is for Challenge (Not Cookie)

I have said it before, the WLC is no lay-up but it does get easier over time. The Challenge is real and comes in many forms. For me, the most challenging of the challenges is eating. It isn’t hard to eat compliant but it can be hard to eat compliant and do so with flavor (note: if I were talking to you from the Food Network I would have said ‘flavor profile’ instead. You’re welcome.). Creams, milks, cheeses and breads really do have a hold of me when it comes to my favorite foods. Not to mention my nemesis, that evil dude sugar. Then there’s the part about not eating meat and the choice/taste curve heads to the bottom right quadrant fast. 

So what does one do to help bring taste back in the WLC?  Plan. That’s what. Here are a few tips and then the best tip of all at the end. 

  • Pesto – pine nuts (pecans or almonds can also work), garlic, salt and olive oil in a food processor
  • Mrs (or is she single?) Dash – there’s a chipotle version of this that’s quite fine
  • Butter – beans and greens are always better sautéed in butter with a pinch of seasoning
  • Texas Pete – goes on almost everything
  • Cinnamon – chopped apples, pecans, butter, dried fruit (no sugar added) and cinnamon sautéed is something special.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes – these make everything better
  • Fresh olives – chop finely with olive oil, salt to make a nice a tapenade 
  • Dates – chop these finely and use where sugar was needed; insane fiber here too. DON’T DISCOUNT THE DATE!
  • Cocoa – add to chopped dates, pecans, vanilla then ball up and roll in coconut; high energy snack and/or dessert
  • Sweet potatoes – purée for pancakes (with coconut flour), add to smoothies or bake and eat with butter and cinnamon

The best tip of all (and no, I’m not too skeert to admit it)?  Pinterest. Search on ‘Whole Life Challenge’ or ‘Whole 30’ to get a good sample of the possibilities. Or you can take a peek at our board here. That’s right, I like Pinterest. Loud and proud baby!

What’s your favorite WLC recipes or kitchen hacks?

Words That Inspire Me to Act

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Just Do It.  Challenge.  Top that.  Help me.  All words that make me want to do something, better, more.  Two 56-day challenges ago a good friend of mine inspired me to act.  He may not know it but his introduction to me of the Whole Life Challenge (WLC) hit two words near and dear to my action sensors:  Challenge and Accountability.  Both words inspire me want to do something but for differing reasons.

One word hits my inner ego.  The part of my mind that says “don’t lose.”  The part of my mind that says you can’t do anything unless you try it.  This is the part of my mind that competes wildly with self doubt and doesn’t always win.  Such a loss means I stay dormant on the thought, inactive.  Almost hiding from the very thing that inspires me to act.

The other word hits the part of me that gets me moving.  Not exactly peer pressure but maybe a cousin of it.  When I think of always striving to do good I find I sometimes do good.  When I SAY I want to always do good I find it is harder to veer from that goal.  That’s the power of another set of eyes.  I find nothing inspires action in me more.  I’ll admit, there’s probably some first-childism surfacing here that only a therapist could explain.

As I embark on another 56-day journey I find myself more excited about this challenge than the previous two.  Maybe a part of the excitement is a lack of fear.  This time, I know I can do it.  Maybe not the challenge it once was but still a long ways from being a lay-up.  Some of the excitement is in the accountability.  It is the difference between eating 1/2 pound of M&Ms in the nights before the WLC started and eating raisins and cashews for “dessert” the night after the WLC started.  But primarily my excitement stems from the camaraderie with the other folks on the team.  It is fun to see the struggles, surprises and frankly learn more about people you thought you already knew everything (or at least a lot) from simple daily statements shared across the team.  From the challenge I know Alex has an odd affection for the cracker product.  My brother has a wit in writing I never knew existed.  Cindy fears meditating.  Tracy finds sneaky good meals that are compliant.  I look forward to learning what I’ll learn about others this round.

Lastly, a few parting thoughts for those on their first round of the WLC.  The first week is the hardest.  Getting food right takes time, effort and discovery.  Pinterest is your friend (yep, said it publicly).  If you need ideas on compliant meals, snacks, etc. let those who have done this help.  If you find things you like to eat, share it as most of us are still looking for the elusive joy in eating known as variety.  It is alright to fall off the wagon.  In fact, it is inevitable.  Wagons by nature move slow.  Just get back up and jump back on it.