May I Know Your Weaknesses Please?

What a crazy article title right? Who wants to focus on their weaknesses? What a drag this would be. But the truth is, don’t we do it all the time? I’m not saying that we actually do anything about it, but we focus on it with a magnifying glass.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law went to see a neighbor who needs help with his business. He runs a hospice office and is great at getting new business and consulting. But do you know what he hates–the details like keeping the books. My sister-in-law is great at numbers; she loves the details.

For a long time in my real estate career, I have always worried about what I am not good at (and there are many things). What I do love is prospecting, meeting with people, signing up new clients and negotiating. What I am not good at are (just like my neighbor) the details. If that part is left up to me, it won’t happen. When I sign up a deal, I am excited for a minute and then back in the car I think, “now I need to order photographs, and a sign, and fill out the MLS input form, and get the home on the MLS, and open title.” It’s enough to make me want to scream. It reminds me of the time right out of college where I got a job staring at an excel spreadsheet all day. To say that I was unexcited, uninspired and unmotivated would be an understatement; more like borderline suicidal.

So what have I learned over the years (although maybe not quick enough) is to delegate. The secretary at my office can do some of these tasks. Others items have been handled by setting up a system. It helps to do something about the work to be done, rather than procrastinating–my old demon.

Now what about things where we are weak but we WANT to get better? As mentioned, some things are just not a fit and never will be. However, we all have those visions or dreams of things we keep telling ourselves that we should do. Months, years and even decades go by. All the while we seek for a calmer time–when the kids are a little older (my current excuse), or when we are financially secure, or when we just simply have more time. I started really investing time in learning to cook when I was 32 . At age 35, I took swimming lessons (INSERT LINK). A couple years into my cooking journey, I had the guts to do something I feared–I started writing about that journey; hence this blog today. Getting in the game has led to some great adventures.

As I look back on some of those early articles and cooking creations, I realize that they weren’t pretty. Some of you may still feel that way as you read this. There is something powerful however, about writing and hitting publish even when you feel like it’s not perfect.

Maybe by taking that one step towards what you fear, it gives it permission to move just a little further away from you.

Happy Learning.

Where did that time go?

In listening to a friend give a talk in church years ago, he shared how it seems that the days are slow but the years are fast. He elaborated on that: we have so many commitments that one 24 hour routine can take a while. But then it’s time for another birthday, another Christmas, another celebration. And often, another reminder that we quite haven’t done what we set out our hearts to do. There is always next year right?

Last evening we were at back to school night for my daughter. She is 5 years old and will be starting kindergarten today. In one hour, I will be helping her get ready. This is an emotional time for me as I have spent so much time with her over the years. I often took her to preschool and picked her up; went shopping with her; wandered the neighborhood; went to visit grandparents and went to the treat store (almost daily on that last one). Often days felt long as I was in my routine with her–get up, do some work, get her up, get her ready, get her to school, do a lot of work, pick her up, feed her lunch, get her some quiet time, do some more work and then get ready for the next day.

Now in a few months she will be 6 and I am saying, “where did those years go.” The last year in particular. As I wrote in the post last fall, “And So I Write,” I loved the opportunity to write my food blog for a number of years. It was especially fun to write for City Weekly where I got paid to write and eat. What a joy. That ended when the publication, like many, decided to cut back. This was last October and actually came at a good time.

My wife was getting ready to make a transition from her firm to opening her own consulting business. It took much time and energy, both physical and mental. I needed to be there for that. My real estate work has been busy. With all the commitments, I really felt pulled in too many different directions. When that happens, you are not doing your best work–on anything.

I kept telling myself that I will write again once I get pass this particular deal, project, fatigue, etc. The days have certainly been long, one phone call can make it longer it seems. And now almost a year has gone by; a year since I was writing regularly. They say that when you let go of something, either it will drop out of your life completely (which for some things is good), or the pull to do it will get stronger. I have ignored the pull to do it.

Can’t do the ignoring any longer. Yesterday, I pulled off the side of road and wrote down what my rocking chair regrets would be. The main one–“not writing.” Maybe it’s not exactly practical, but it’s therapeutic and fun for me. It lifts me up. It gives me energy.

What is the one thing you have been ignoring? The one thing you keep saying you will get to tomorrow? Tomorrow never comes.

And so I BBQ

 

Ribs N' Brisket

You know that feeling of not knowing what to do? You get introduced to someone and have no idea what to say. You commit to something and have no plan how you will make it happen. You want to break an old habit–or start a new one–and don’t know where to begin. It’s easy to get lost in the research. We can always wait for the perfect time–when the stars are just aligned. I even hesitate hitting the publish button on this blog at times thinking it’s not quite ready. I heard the story from Dan Miller of a guy he knew who took a job at a bank until he figured out what he really wanted to do with his life. 17 years later, he was still at the bank.

Well, my wife may never accuse me of doing too much research on something to pull the trigger. To take another line from Dan, I am a “ready, fire, aim” kind of guy. It may drive her crazy, yet we now know how to play to each other strengths–she researches and I pull the trigger.

This isn’t a column about the intricacies of how my wife and I communicate. If it were, I’m sure you would have already clicked off the page. It’s about taking a step even if you don’t know where that step will lead.

It has been a relatively short amount of time (29 months) that I have owned a smoker. That very first day I threw on a slab of beef ribs given to us from my in-laws. I don’t even know if I put rub on it. It was turn the heat on, throw them on the smoker, and hope that I would know when they were done. A few hours later they were done alright; and they were nasty! Was it a bad herd of grain-fed cows–sure! Was it also that I had no idea what to do–you bet! Here I had this beautiful smoker and I wasn’t even sure how to really make it sing & dance.

A few months after that first slab of ribs, I joined the Kansas City Barbeque Society; even taking classes on how to judge BBQ competitions. Wait a minute? I was learning how to judge the taste, appearance and tenderness of meat that I didn’t know how to cook myself? Well yes! They say that those who don’t know how–teach; and those who don’t know how to teach–write books for those teachers to use. All these years after college and that line finally makes sense.

Yes I felt hypocritical as I was being trusted with judging people’s competition turn-ins; people who put their whole heart, souls and money into this. But what I was really doing was finding out was fabulous meat looked and tasted like. I was blown away at that first competition. Wow, these BBQ contestants made some stuff that paled in comparison to any restaurant meat that I had ever tasted. From there I knew that I had to learn the fundamentals. It can taste good, but how? I never could have imagined what a process it could be.

From that very first judging class at the Casablanca resort in Mesquite, NV, a door opened. Casinos are built like labryinths to confuse and disorient. That way you spend more money. While looking for the ballroom where the class was to be held, I met a couple who were obviously looking for the same class. We struck up a conversation and ended up sitting next to each other inside. That turned out to be Ira Pupko of Hog Heaven BBQ Co. in Temecula, CA. His help with my ribs and pork shoulder would become invaluable.

The spring after becoming a certified BBQ judge (again, the irony had not left me by this point), I was judging the KCBS Sam’s Club Invitational and heard someone at the table next to me say that Pat from Pat’s BBQ was there. The very next week I was eating lunch at Pat’s, saw him in the hall and 15 minutes into conversation later we had a tentative agreement to BBQ together. He really is an institution around Salt Lake and I learned some valuable insights from him.

For my birthday in summer 2014, my wife got me one of the greatest presents ever–a competition BBQ class. Rub Bagby from Swamp Boys BBQ in Winter Haven, FL was coming to Salt Lake for a competition and he was bringing his Q school with him. Yes it was over 100 degrees (thankfully we were in a covered picnic area) but here was a guy who has won the Jack Daniel’s National–a big deal in the BBQ community. I was the novice there as everyone was part of a team–a team that competed. At first they seemed a little confused as to why I was there; I shared their confusion. By the end of that second day, they were teaching me so much that I could keep up. Now I have standing initiations to come and be part of their BBQ team during competitions. No better way to learn.

I love Rub’s humility. He is a school teacher in Florida and could not buy his way into BBQ like so many try–all the meat, equipment and travel is expensive. If you have loads of money, why not just spend some serious cash and get famous that way? That approach rarely works in life. Rub took a few extra bucks each month, bought meat and practicing cooking. He joined forums–getting involved with like minded individuals. The single best thing he taught me was this: “how bad do you want it?” You can do anything if you want it bad enough. He went to competitions and got his butt kicked for years before his BBQ career really took off.

How many of us are afraid to jump in the ring because we are afraid we will lose or not be perfect? You learn more by getting in the game than you do by researching the same game. I have been guilty of “I’m not quite ready yet” or “I just need more time.” You know what you want, just go for it–you will be delighted at what you will find!

 

I Write for Fun, and for FOOD!

Belgian Waffle Inn Breakfast

The Title of this article might sound a little arrogant or self-serving. That is far from my intent. When I began this journey in 2011, it was to keep an online journal of recipes. From there it morphed into reviewing restaurants. Not for pay but for fun. I remember the looks the waitresses gave me when I would pull out my camera and snap a picture. One even said, “are you trying to make someone jealous.” My reply: “you have no idea.” I was trying to make everyone jealous. Isn’t that the point of social media?

It was when Siam Orchid first contacted me to come in and review their food that I felt the reach of the platform. When I wouldn’t post for a few days, I would get messages wondering where my next review was. And then came City Weekly. What a great experience to write a column for them almost weekly for 2 years. Not every good thing lasts but every good thing does open new doors, it’s just up to us to walk through them.

What I did love about writing for a well-known newspaper in the Salt Lake area, was that I had near instant credibility. When I would contact a restaurant, it was typically a warm welcome, a chance to eat a few entrees, and to hear the owner’s story–oh how I love this–not just writing about the taste and quality of the food, but the journey. Some restaurants never returned my call–I wrote anyway. Some contacted me and thanked me after the column was published. Some even told me the reaction to the article: how one place sold out of food for the few days following the publication (thank you Charlotte Rose’s Carolina BBQ); another had a noticeable uptick in business for 2 months after the article came out (thank you Alice’s Restaurant); another contacted me and said that I must have a lot of followers because they didn’t know where the business was coming from–until someone showed them the article (thank you Bosna); another offered to have me work there for a few days or weeks if I wanted to write a much more in-depth feature (thank you Fiana Bistro).

The highs in life don’t always stay that way forever. It was sad to me when driving through downtown Salt Lake last week that Good Dog was closed. I loved their gourmet hot dogs and getting to know the owner, Josh. In late summer, another personal favorite closed, Charlotte Rose’s Carolina BBQ. Maybe it was road construction, maybe it was a tough location. Maybe it was part of the large percentage of restaurants that don’t stay open for even a year. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to see Trae not have his place anymore.

I love pulling for them, for the little guy, for the food, for the passion. It’s difficult to watch some not make it. I admire that they tried and hope to see their next place again soon. Until then, it’s always interesting to drive with me–i’m always looking around around saying, “what restaurant is that,” or “hey, that place looks good.”

Smokin Chicken N' Ribs

On that note, time to get the brisket and ribs prepped for my growing infatuation with BBQ.

Happy Eating

 

And So I Swim, and Hurt

During the summer of 2013, I hired a swim coach. Improving my aquatic ability was something that I longed for yet didn’t get around to for a while. I wrote about my experience here. It was a lot of work and led me down the path to my primary form of exercise today.

Swimming is quite enjoyable for me now, especially since fine tuning my form with the  coach. I use to try to jog but found that pure misery. About 4 times a week, I am at the Rec Center to get my exercise. The pool is 25 meters long and when I started with the coach, I couldn’t go 100 meters without a break. At the beginning of the lesson, you were afraid that you would drown; by the end, you were afraid you wouldn’t.

As time has gone on, I have continually pushed myself. I started with taking a break every 100 meters. Then I got up to 200 meters. Then 300, 350 and finally 500 without a break. Now I must interject here, these lengths are nothing for some of you on swim teams or performing triathlons, and I understand that. For me, I am a natural sprinter so I am hitting it hard with each stroke to feel accomplished. Plus I am not training for the Olympics. At 36, I kind of think that ship has sailed. For the first time in my life, I actually like exercise.

Now my workout is 1000 meters in approximately 30 minutes. It was 32 minutes a few weeks back but my last time was 27. Now earlier I mentioned how I push myself. I think that this is good for all of us but we need to know our limits. Two weeks ago I went for a swim. We had all been sick as a family and I was just starting to get better. I had not been in the pool for a week and, knowing that my energy was low, I was really trying to pace myself–for a moment. A few hundred meters in however and the demons of self destruction took over.

At 500 meters (my usual rest time), I thought that I didn’t need a break and would be proud of myself if I went further than before without a rest. At 800 meters, I really was starting to feel the wear. Remember, my body was recovering from illness. At 1000 meters I had the crazy thought of why not swim further than I ever have? A few weeks back, I had swam 1100 meters but 1000 was my usual stopping point. At 1150, I thought that I should go 50 more to make it an even 1200. Finally, at 1200 meters I got out of the pool. Was I awesome or what?

Not quite. You know that “it hurts good” feeling after a workout–the one where you pushed your body and got your endorphins going? Yeah, I didn’t have that! I hurt bad. I knew that it wasn’t good the way my joints and overall body felt. It felt foreign to me and was a little scary.

It has taken nearly 2 weeks to feel decent again. It was as if the oil warning light went off in my car and I said, “well, let’s get to our destination quicker and then I will look at the problem.” Bad choice. My wife says that I have a sickness of never feeling like I have done enough. Because of this I run at super high octane and then burn out. And when I am burned out, I can barely get the basics done. There are things to embrace about this cycle, but it can be limiting.

I don’t just do it with swimming, but with work, with writing and with projects. Going at full speed and checking things off my task list is a rush that I love. The problem is that I rush the rush and leave many things out; things that I need to go back and fix later. So many times I have pushed the PUBLISH button on this blog and then read it–oops, should have proofread that sooner.

It’s so foreign to me to actually take things at a decent pace. But for the first time in my life, it feels like I am getting things done right. There are less items being checked off my list and I am also realizing that it’s better to have less on the list, and to make those things remaining count. If you juggle six things, you will do them all poorly.

When on a particular day a couple weeks after my 1200 meter death sprint, I told my wife that I was deciding whether to go swimming or not because my body ached, she replied with this: “If it were anyone but you, I would tell them to go and enjoy, it would be good for them. But since you aren’t capable of that, I would tell you not to go.” Oh I went, maybe to spite her and maybe not (I’ll never say publicly) and I took 8 minutes longer to swim my normal distance. Did I feel like a failure because I took longer? Well yes, at first. But surrendering what doesn’t work, even if it is a lifelong habit, is incredibly relieving.

It’s kind of exhausting rushing through everything. Hopefully a little lesson about pacing myself and enjoying what I do–from an exercise session in the pool–can be applied to all aspects of life.

 

 

And So I Write

The funny thing in life is that we all crave security. We desire everything to progress but with little difficulty. Ironically, the place that has the most security, and that has all your needs taken care of is prison. We all want that dream job but want it to come to us. We want to make a change in some aspect of our life but will start tomorrow. And then many tomorrows later we are still waiting for the right time.

Back in 2011 & 2012 I wrote for Hometown Slop and I mean that I really wrote–3 times a week consistently. There was a lot of reaction as people were noticing the platform. I really loved it and felt in the zone. Restaurant invites came; as did invitations to food shows and cateing events. Never could I have dreamed that simply getting in the game would lead to so much.

And then in February, 2013 something wonderful happened. City Weekly, a local publication in the Salt Lake area, invited me to write for them. The stars did align because a friend of mine, who is a freelance sports writer, had done some work for them and introduced me to the editors. My friend only did that after following my blog  He didn’t just do it because he felt like it. There was a natural show of confidence there and one that I appreciated very much. The editor asked me to pitch some ideas and the pattern of being a regular contributor was born.

Dan Miller, famous Life & Career coach, says that we interview for our jobs everyday whether we realize it or not. There is a joke in the real estate industry that you wake up everyday unemployed. 11 years in that field and I know exactly what that means. The same thing as a contributor–I was not an employee and therefore had no guarantee of consistent work. I had to Pitch them ideas and then was given the green light to write. It would have been great for me for them to say, “here is your column, just write what you want and have it submitted each Thursday at Noon.” But that didn’t happen, I had to prove my value.

When I became a contributor to the Second Helping Column, it started taking a lot of my focus. The 325 word column wasn’t just about sitting down and spending an hour writing. I would research restaurants, write a compelling pitch and if accepted, I would reach out to the restaurant and hope to sit down with the Chef, Owner or both. From there it was getting a draft to my proofer, make the recommended changes and then submit to the editor. Often I was a little worn out by the time I got the final draft submitted at Noon on a Thursday.

I got use to being a contributor and honestly most of the pitches I sent to my editor were approved. It was fun. As life had more demands on it I dropped the regular blog writing and just focused on the column. It wasn’t as regular but I was busy. I missed the consistency of 3 times a week.

We all want change but want it to happen to someone else. Our change should be gradual and when we feel like it so that there is no discomfort right? Not always! Late last week I received an e-mail from City Weekly that as a result of their page count dropping, they will be publishing the Second Helping Column only sporadically; maybe once a month.

What? But I was in the zone. There is the saying, “don’t cry because it’s over, be grateful that it happened. In 2011 I set a goal of becoming a Food Writer. It took a lot of work regularly writing on my blog and in early 2013 I was published; and continued to be so. This has opened the door to many opportunities and will continue to do so.

Thank you for your support. I may be thrown out of my comfort zone some but that is where we grow. If anything, this has shown me what is possible when you get in the game.

Happy Eating and Writing.

I’m Doing What I’m Fearing and The Fearing is Disappearing

Since I was a little kid I have been able to Swim; at least a loose definition of the word. I could tread water, play in lakes, rivers, the ocean and swimming pools with little difficulty. Racing across a pool was fun because I often won and didn’t have to worry much about technique during short bursts.

However, There is one aspect of swimming that has bothered me for a while; That is the inability to swim any distance of note. I would kick my way, breath my way (which entailed bringing my whole head out of the water). It was all thrown together with how I have done things for a long time-I was on the cow path.

For a while I have been desperate to improve my swimming but I thought that since I was in my mid-30’s, then what was the point? I intended to improve but it was one of those goals that I would get to when I had time.

In early July of 2013 I took my daughter swimming at a local recreation center. I picked up a flyer for “Swimming Lessons for All Ages.” The next day I called the number. Someone called me back in a couple days and I signed up for 3 lessons; the first one being that Saturday.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement. My teacher was 13 years younger than me and was a State High School Swim Champion. He didn’t want to know much about me. Just told me to jump in the pool and show him what I got.

I practiced hard for each one of those lessons. Here I was paying $25 per half hour to have him coach me. I prayed that the 30 minutes would go by fast. I was usually exhausted after 10 minutes but found the strength to continue. After a few minutes in the pool with him giving instructions, you were afraid that you would drown. Towards the end of the lesson, you were afraid you wouldn’t drown.

Now it is 1 year later and swimming is what I often do for exercise. I love it! All those years of wanting to do this and nothing happened until I pick up the phone and took the first step.

There are some beautiful opportunities in life if we take the first step.

Unplugged

Camping

For years now, when my wife has inquired about going camping, I told her that we didn’t develop and progress in society so that we could return to living like cavemen. We all grow up and mature however and now that I am 36, I hope she has forgiven me and that a recent camping trip renewed her faith in me.

In April we went on a trip to Southern California; this was the first trip with 2 kids. The planning, packing, organizing, getting to the airport, getting through security, getting on the plane, finding the rental car, driving to the condo, unpacking, shopping, trying to relax and turning around and doing it all again 6 days later was exhausting. My wife even said, “now I know why my Parents hated vacations.” Still fielding calls and e-mails during the trip made us feel like we weren’t even away.

Still wanting to travel more but not exactly knowing what to do, our prayers were answered when my brother-in-law and his family asked us if we wanted to go camping in late June. We were excited, and relied on them heavily. They are expert campers and without their equipment, we could not have done it. There was still packing and organizing to do but overall, much less details to handle.

From our home in Salt Lake City to the campsite it was only 55 miles. The last 11 miles was dirt road. While driving on that dirt road I illegally checked my cell phone (new law) and saw something that I had not seen in years. In the top left hand corner of the screen it read, “NO SERVICE.” What? how will I manage my life? We always recognize what we cling to as comfort when it is no longer there.

It was an enjoyable 3 days of small hikes, food, kayaking and overall relaxing. The cool summer air was refreshing. Not checking my phone every few minutes also became refreshing. There was nothing to do but let go; so I did just that.

When I was back in cell phone range on Monday, a bunch of texts appeared, a few voicemails, lots of e-mails-most of them junk and my calendar of appointments. But you know what was weird? The world was still turning; it did not end. Somehow I was still me; and I was HAPPY, actually rejuvenated. I haven’t felt that in a long time.

A friend of mine runs an insulation company. One day he inadvertently disabled his e-mail on his smartphone around 10:00am. He didn’t realize the problem until 3:00pm. When he was able to reconnect, he found out that there was a crisis, and that someone else had taken care of it.

We, or I should say I, have an addiction to being overstimulated. I feel like something is wrong if I don’t have 6 things screaming at me at once. We get smartphones to be more connected and then we become our own monsters when we condition everyone that we will be accessible 24/7. Why can’t people leave me alone? Because I taught them that I am always there.

On any other vacation, works just rolls right into it. Every few minutes, I would still check my phone. This camping trip taught me that we need boundaries. You can be accessible all the time but should you be? When we do 6 things at once, we fail at all of them. It took me living like a caveman to come to peace with myself, and only a few minutes back in cell service to let the insanity return.

Here’s to Unplugging often.

Happy Living

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