Monday, April 25, 2011

Marvelously Minuscule Magnificent Moments

We see it everywhere, from commercials capitalizing on societies most recent medical condition, "beiber fever," advertising the latest-and-greatest 12G network and intellectual phone with multiple apps and built in turn by turn directions to keep you "on the go" and "connected" while getting you where you need to be. It's like a vortex of social commentary, toddler bathroom humor, and Einstein-esq marketing that we are rapidly and all too willingly wrapped into and frankly it's easy to get lost in this sea of megabyte and 1080p filled clutter. I know there is times when I certainly do.


So how do we find a solution, even if it is a temporary one, to what feels like an unavoidable and untreatable information overloaded influenza? Well, as Robert Brault once said (and every parent/teacher/grandparent/coming-of-age-movie in our lives said in one form or another) "Enjoy the little things"


Although wasting away a Sunday evening on facebook may be easy and about as intellectually stimulating as watching Rosie O'Donald and Charlie Sheen debate the particulars of induced pluripotent stem cell research on West Virginian Mosquito populations (now that I think about it, that might actually be a wonderful way to spend a sunday evening...) Instead unplug yourself from the social network grid and enjoy those marvelously minuscule magnificent moments such as closing your eyes and listening to the thunderstorm outside or   going for a walk and wishing everyone you see a good day or making dinner with your roommates or waking up a roommate from a nap with a fog horn. Whatever it is that gets you to take a step back, slow down and really enjoy just how wonderful the little moments can be when we don't have 6,000 different emails, tweets, and itunes updates running through our brains. So until next time go out and enjoy the little moments and remember to always keep your SWAG on.




A little moment I got to enjoy and share with my class recently

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Speculation on a Generation: Millennials & Linear Education

Does high school as it currently exist really prepare those of us in the millennial generation for the rigors of college? I'm not talking about the demanding course load, finesse of balancing one's time, and ultimately striving for a degree (even though I'm not convinced that it does that sufficiently either).

What I'm talking about the is managing of expectations for millennial when they get to college. All the way since Pre-school our generation has been raised on the idea of "participation awards" and with the concept of a linear education: Elementary > Middle > High School > College > Grad School > Career.

We haven't come to this expectation of a linear education or a linear life through witnessing the generations before us live their lives that way, but rather, because we were told we must have this expectation because it is this linear path that "will lead us to that period of utopian happiness in life that is retirement and if you don't follow it well, good luck to you".

Here's a fun fact: Richard Branson (Virgin Mobile), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple and Pixar), Frank Lloyd Wright, Walt Disney, and Mary Kay Ash (Mary Kay Beauty Products), all who are arguably some of the most well known, most innovative and wealthiest of people in the last 100 years either never went to or dropped out of college. Now that doesn't really match up with the idea of a "linear" education/life, but I hardly think you could argue these people are unhappy. That's because these people found what too many kids are sent off to college without and told to find without much support, they found something they were passionate about. They found that thing that every morning when they wake up makes them not only get out of bed but want to. 

So how does this tie back into high school education? We need to ditch the idea of "linear education/life = happiness" because, the greatest advice my Mother has ever given me is "Life is not a straight line" and the sooner we accept that and the sooner we stop telling kids they need to follow this or that system or program to be happy, the sooner they can stop worrying about the system and majors and whatever else it is that was pounded into millennials heads as essentials for happiness and the sooner they can find those things they are truly passionate about. If they find that thing and base their careers around that the chances of finding happiness before retirement, in my opinion, go exponentially up.

Some quotes to reflect on...

"Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration" - Thomas Edison

"Be the change you want to see in the world" - Mahatma Gandhi

"Choose a job you like and you will never have to work a hard day in your life" - Confuscius

"Put your SWAG on." - IB

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Train of Thought: Pre-Race

Nerves are something all athletes experience pre-competition. They can be either aid performance or if left out of control they can prove to be a major hinderance. As one becomes more a more seasoned racer, competitors develop techniques and rituals to focus their nerves and help them perform. For me I have a number of different techniques and little superstitions that help me focus those nerves into a competitive edge and help me to put my SWAG on. Here was my thought process this morning as I woke up and went through the before a race routine.

5:45am Hotel Room... Wake-up to my alarm, "The Entertainer." Terrible sleep last night. Need coffee...


5:48am I really should get out of bed. Okkkkk shower, wait, where are my contacts? Right, on the desk.

5:56am I think it's too early for the whole "a shower will wake you up" concept to work. Oh well, time for the race day checklist

6:00am Coxbox? Yep. SpeedCoach? Got it. Clothing: Trou short and long, racing tank, wool socks, sweatshirt, rain jacket, long sleeve am I going to want more layers? Well I can always throw a pair of gloves in my bag just incase..

6:07am Lobby... There's the coaching staff. Race in 4 hrs; Butterflies in the arms and shoulders. What's that smell? Coffee? Yes please!

6:17am Driving down Route 13... Keep the mood light, a little laughter always helps, we are still 4 hours until go time there is no point in getting nervous yet. Mmmm Ithaca Bakery? Expresso?? Oh hell yea.

6:32am Weigh-ins... These are always such awkwardly funny times... First one on the scale, quick glance around, haha yep all eyes on me; that's alright I'm just as guilty when it comes to eyeing other coxswains weight... I feel like I'm going to be heavy this morning; 127.9lbs ha not too bad...

6:45am Lane Draw and the last of the weigh-ins... It's kinda funny how we all look each other up and down eyeballing at body fat precentages and comparing size to weight; It's not like the shape or size of us is what drives the boat... Oo my turn for lane draw; Let's see.... Lane 2, Ok good. I can work with that.

7:00am Boat Bay.... Approximately 50 minutes till the guys show up; time to shake these butterflies ok let me check over the boat while it's not crowded down here.

7:40am Changing Area... Boat is all tight. Time to empty my toolbag of everything except the essentials. 2 Empacher Steering tools? Check. 10mm dual wrench? Yup. Extra spacers, washer, nuts and bolts? Good to go. Ok breath a little.

8:20am Ok racing is underway for the day, over an hour till hands on. Close eyes and go through the land marks and the race plan, remember the points we need to focus on.

9:35am-10:20am Hands on. Launch. Warm-Up. Back into stake boat. Go time.




For me focusing my nerves requires me to dial in and make sure I have everything prepped and ready to go. I allows me to focus on the race itself and, hopefully, eliminate any outside distractions caused by mechanical errors. Going through the race plan in my head and the landmarks assures me that when I get to those points I'll be ready. Also I never leave the dock without my white nike hat, which hasn't been washed since my freshmen year, because of my own superstitions concerning washing it. Consider it my own, kind of gross, lucky charm. Enjoy your weekend, thanks for reading, and keep your SWAG on.


Friday, April 15, 2011

An Excerpt from 'Dining with Giants'

I recently started to write my book 'Dining with Giants' a humorously self-depreciating and introspective story about my time in rowing and the greater life lessons it has taught me. Here's a quick excerpt from Chapter 1 for interested readers...

"By the time I was 9 years old I'd spent the majority of my childhood swimming and sailing, both recreationally and competitively. My family owned a small fleet of small sailing vessels that ranged from a competitor of the ever popular Sunfish to a 1970's Sears catalog sailboat called a Snark, to which, my overly zealous eccentric cat loving grandparents had taken the most permenant marker they could find and had drawn cats all over. Needless to say I spent more time in the Sunfish. We spent the better part of our weekends traveling between swim meets and down at Onondaga Lake, where we spent more time with the sail boats upside down in the water then actually sailing because my brothers and I found it a more of rush to try and flip them upright then sailing them. That summer of 1999, my mother recieved a pamphlet in the mail advertising different summer camps for kids to participate in. Knowing her three children who when sent to regular summer camps, you know the camps where kids get to play ultimate frisbee and glue macarroni to a paper plate and take it home for their parents to throw out, didn't really get along. Not because the camps didn't provide wonderful activities, but because her three children spent more time checking their watches for when they would get picked up then they did kicking the ball during a game of kickball.

So when she saw an advertisement for "Syracuse Charger's Learn-To-Row Camp" and knowing that her children already loved playing in and on the water she signed us up.

I don't know if I can say for sure that on day one I was hooked, but since that day there hasn't been a single year since where I haven't been on the water."

Enjoy and keep your SWAG on.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

A lesson in French: Souplesse

This post is dedicated to Chris Lutz who has been a devout follower and whose interest in my writing inspired me to get back to doing it.

While reading a number of different books on cycling a word I have stumbled across (different then stumbleupon) a number of times is the word Souplesse. It's a word that almost inspires a sort of holy reverence in the writing of the authors. Before I make my attempt at explaining souplesse let us look at the origin of the word:


Etymology: souple + -esse

From Latin word supplex meaning supple or yielding

Now as we can infer from this souplesse in its literal meaning is to exude the qualities of suppleness, however, as it relates to cycling that isn't exactly what it means. In cycling it refers to the smoothness and gracefulness of an athletes pedal stroke. We all have that image of someone mashing the pedals as they try to get to the top of a hill, it's rough, painful and usually involves them making movements like they are suffering from extreme constipation. Now to say a cyclist moves with souplesse is to say that when they are in the extreme pain trying to get to the top of the hill rather then making the jerky constipated-esq movements they move their feet in smooth graceful arcs that turn in perfect circles around the center of the crank axle and if you looked at their upper body you could almost mistake them for sitting at a bar or piano enjoying sometime to themselves because of the total relaxation they are able to maintain over the upperbody while suffering in their legs so immensely.

This I think is one of the most beautiful things about sport: The higher level the competition, the more seasoned the athlete and the closer they are to perfecting their stroke the sport almost takes on all the grace, delicacy, poise and beauty to it like that of a ballet. So I suppose in theory you could apply the use of souplesse in cycling to other sports, because, like in rowing when 8 seasoned rowers at what is their peak in a training cycle the art, balance, and rhythm which they move the boat together if slowed down is almost more art then sport. However, as is the differentiator is when it comes down to it these athletes may perform with the grace and beauty of a ballerina but they are also racing with the aggression and power of a raging bull. I think thats what makes someone who can race with souplesse so revered, the beauty and the aggression hang in a wonderful balance, like ying and yang or day and night, and, as rowers know all to well, all it takes is for one to slightly out balance the other and the souplesse is gone.

Keep your SWAG on.