The Scout Law Project

In my last article I wrote about procrastination. I promised to share my way of thinking about how I am going to get out of my current writing morass. Here it is:

I am going to revisit the first framework that ever meant anything to me; the Boy Scout Law.

neuschwanstien castle

The Boy Scout Law

In case you need a refresher, this is the Boy Scout Law

“A Scout is ”

  1. Trustworthy
  2. Loyal
  3. Helpful
  4. Friendly
  5. Courteous
  6. Kind
  7. Obedient
  8. Cheerful
  9. Thrifty
  10. Brave
  11. Clean
  12. Reverent

That’s it. A simple 12 points to help me get back on track. I realize this plan may not exactly be self-apparent. Allow me to explain.

As discussed last time, the reasons I stopped writing was my lack of belief that what I was doing – NaNoWriMo – would lead to anything of value. NaNoWriMo had a framework, write 50,000 words in some 30 days. The part of me that lets me write shut down not because I wasn’t producing. It shut down because I was producing crap. I was producing crap not because I didn’t have a framework – 50,000 words in a month is a framework. The issue was that I was building on a poor foundation. In the end it doesn’t matter if you are trying to build a house over a sinkhole, raise a child without a moral backing, or write. If you don’t have a good foundation, your project will fail.

Lucky for me, fixing foundation errors in writing is much easier than those in brick and mortar or flesh and blood. I want to take a little time over the next few weeks to explore each of those laws – memories of reciting them as a boy and the lessons of how they apply to me now. The writing practice will certainly help me but it is really the exploration of the total sum of ideas these words reflect that rather than the values ascribed to them by Boy Scouts that appeals to me.

Of course, as with many things I do there are a few other reasons why I am exploring these 12 notions – I’ll explain those along the way, too.

Can’t wait to get started! Hope you’ll join me!

My Great American Novel

It’s been too long. I think I’m ready for a new challenge. Swimming and travelling have been fun (and I don’t plan on getting married again!) Perhaps now it is time for a more academic endeavor. Enter NaNoWriMo.

ruta-de-don-quijote-toledo

What is NaNoWriMo?

I first heard of this crazy acronym reading Leo’s blog. NaNoWriMo stands for National November Write More Month. Basically, you sign up, you write your heart out every day in the month of November with the goal of dumping 50,000 words on paper to create a work of fiction. There is no editing and there is little consideration for anything other than raw content. It’s perfect for me!

Basic Rules

Here are the rules I got from the contest as soon as I signed up:

1) It’s okay to not know what you’re doing. Really. You’ve read a lot of novels, so you’re completely up to the challenge of writing one. If you feel more comfortable outlining your story ahead of time, do so. But it’s also fine to just wing it. Write every day, and a book-worthy story will appear, even if you’re not sure what that story might be right now.

2) Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December. Think of November as an experiment in pure output. Even if it’s hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages on the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. It isn’t. Every book you’ve ever loved started out as a beautifully flawed first draft. In November, embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.

3) Tell everyone you know that you’re writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who’ve had to hear about your novel for the past month. Seriously. Email them now about your awesome new book. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.

3.5) There will be times you’ll want to quit during November. This is okay. Everyone who wins NaNoWriMo wanted to quit at some point in November. Stick it out. See it through. Week Two can be hard. Week Three is much better. Week Four will make you want to yodel.

Why it Rocks

Like many other dreamers you may know I harbor the secret hope of one day completing the Great American Novel. My friends know this all too well. I’ve been threatening to write a lengthy piece of fiction (or two) for years now. But I haven’t ever finished. Most would say that a couple hundred pages here on a dozen or so stories doesn’t even constitute a start. But that’s what this contest should fix. NaNoWriMo allows you, in fact encourages you to just get words on paper without worrying about how pretty they are. For me this will cure a multitude of woes.

Woe 1: Procrastination

In the past, the times I’ve budgeted for writing by and large have been usurped by such worthy activities like tweeting, Facebook, laundry, mindless Internet surfing, and college football. Not the most productive of pursuits. The simple and necessary tasks of budgeting my time, eliminating distractions and marshaling my efforts into a creative productivity should work wonders.

Woe 2: Simplification

All great accomplishments can be broken down into small, essential tasks. NaNoWriMo does that. There’s no worrying about whether the prose is good enough – it won’t be. There is little worry about grammar, word choice, awkwardness of phrasings or anything else that my inner voice uses to derail me when I’ve sat down to write in the past.

Woe 3: Tangible Progress

I’m a sucker for physical, tangible proof of progress. I am a list maker and a list crosser-off-er. Watching my word count increase day by day will fuel me to continue the next day and the next after that until completion.

What NaNoWriMo Will Not Do

Completing NaNoWriMo will not guarantee me a novel. It will, however, guarantee me a lump of clay which I will be very inclined to shape into something worthwhile. At the end of the process I’ll have a 50,000 word lump of fiction and serious momentum. While that doesn’t constitute a novel, I think it will put me past the critical tipping point.

What’s Next?

Well, my criteria for setting a goal have been met. Let’s review. We have a clearly delineated measure of success: 50,000 new words towards a novel. We have a time box the achievement needs to be set in: between November 1st, 2010 and November 30th 2010. I have a plan – average 2,500 words a day (I like incorporating a buffer as it allows for life to be life in all it’s unpredictable madness.)

Only one component is missing; a support group. But we’ll get into that one next time.

For now, what about you? Do you have a novel banging around in your head? Ever see yourself putting it down on paper? Maybe writing a novel is not for you. I bet you’re working on something else completely awesome! Share with us below.

Alternately if you’ve already written your novel or competed in NaNoWriMo tell us below how you did it! Any advice for someone trying for the first time? Help a cubicle warrior out by leaving a comment below!

Operation Spare Tire

The other week I wrote about goals. Specifically, I wrote about how the goals I had listed for all the world to see on the right hand navigation bar just kinda sucked. I knew it was time for a change. Time for me to declare a real and viable mission. And that time is now.

Welcome to Operation Spare Tire

My new mission, and yes, I’ve chosen to accept it, is to lose exactly 10 lbs of body fat by the time of my brother’s bachelor party over July 4th weekend. And if you’re interested, you get to follow along. If you’re not, don’t worry. The cubicle warrior website will not be turning wholly over to become a fitness site. I will still be writing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Just instead of, or perhaps in addition to, my regular Friday Clip humor videos I will be updating you on my progress of all of my goals (yes, there are more.) For more on why I am choosing this goal, keep reading. If you want to skip down to the bottom of the article, where I put the specifics down, I won’t blame you. After all, a goal is nothing without some kind of measurement system.

Why Operation Spare Tire

Well, first I believe that success in a physical goals follows the same pattern all other success in all other kinds of goals. What you learn by pursuing things like Kung Fu or distance swimming can be translated to every other goal you have. So, if you want to establish a culture of success in your life, completing a physical goal is a good way to start.

Secondly, it feels like the universe is conspiring to motivate me to do this. Everywhere I turn fitness and goals keep popping up!

For example:

My Small Business

A few people know that I run a small web design business. Well, I was recently contracted to build this local personal trainer site. Spend a bunch of nights and weekends building a personal trainer website and see if you don’t feel like you should be treating your body better!

Kung Fu

I started taking Kung Fu over the end of February and it’s been a lot of fun. I have made dramatic improvements in my technique and understanding of the art. However, martial arts is something that I used to be reasonably competent at. In my heart of hearts I know that in order to progress further in that study, I need to achieve a better level of conditioning.

Summer

It’s the and that means it’s time for lakes and pools and beaches. And, sadly, ubiquitous camera phones piloted by Facebook paparazzi willing to post every picture of every second of your life on every social media avenue. My brother’s wedding is also being held on a beach. Wunderbar.

Brother’s Bachelor Party

Like I mentioned in the goal description, my brother is having his bachelor party over 4th of July. It will be a great time to reunite with a bunch of old friends partying on the lake. Those same friends happen to be in great shape. After looking at my own bachelor party photos, I know I want to look better in these.

Foot is healing

For those who didn’t know, I collapse a foot arch 4 years ago. I also broke a few bones that never healed and would never heal. That led me to stop doing things I enjoyed like playing pick up sports but also indirectly led to me tearing a rotator cuff and then, later, destroying my other foot enough so that last year I had to have major surgery. As you might guess, I haven’t really had a lot of movement these past few years that did not involve swimming or kayaking. All that said, I have been healing and training up as best as I can. I have a theory that progress on my feet healing would be sped up considerably if I weighed less. Especially if I have a possible future goal of running around again.

Everybody Else is Doing It!

I can’t go to any part of my Google Reader page without seeing that authors of other blogs that I subscribe to fulfill their own goals. (Shameless plug moment, wouldn’t you love to add this RSS feed to your reader or sign up to get the posts delivered via email?)

Here’s a brief recap of some of the authors I have been reading and what they have accomplished:

 

Friends & Family

Most of my friends have a fitness-oriented lifestyle but some are pushing the bounds. DevilDog is doing a bodybuilding show and progressing well. Even in my office colleagues are completing goals with one finishing a couch to 5k challenge while some of them just got done doing P90x and have moved on to Insanity.

There’s also the guy who lost 50lbs hiking and then there are Kim and Kyle who lost the equivalent of a first grade class between them when they moved to Korea. There’s also my friend’s dad who is having heart problems (motivating said friend to be a bit healthier) and a variety of my own family’s medical history.

Just Is

There truly is no end to the examples I could come up with. In the end it all boils down to me. And I am just happier living a healthier lifestyle. So why not make a game of it and publish it here for all the world to see (and to hold me accountable for)?

Operation Spare Tire’s (OST’s) definition of Success

Now that you’ve seen why, let’s see how.

All good goals have several qualities:

  1. A clear and defined end state (How will I know if OST was a success?)
  2. A time period. (What’s the deadline for OST?)
  3. A way to be measured. (How do you tell if I’m progressing on OST>?)
  4. Constraints / Rules.

So let me address these now.

End State

This one is simple; lose 10 lbs. That’s a little over 6 weeks to lose 10lbs in!

Time Period

Lose 10 lbs by 4th of July (actually, June 30th.)

Measurement

I will be using my personal trainer’s bodyfat test done with calipers to chart my progress. My first measurement on 5/6/2010: I weighed 196 lbs @ 18.6 % body fat. This amounts to 36.45 lbs of fat and only 159.55 lbs lean body mass! Certainly we all need some amount of fat but I certainly don’t need to be at 18.whatever percent!

My end state will be to lose 10lbs of fat without sacrificing any amount of muscle by the time of my brother’s bachelor party starting 6/30/2010.

That means that my desired measurements will be: 186 lbs @ 14.22% (Which equals 26.45 lbs body fat, 160lbs lean mass)

This would put me past 2 important psychological barriers: 1) Below the 190 level – I haven’t been there since a year before hurting my feet (2005). 2) Below the 15% bodyfat level. That won’t give me romance cover abs but it will put me in a much healthier situation. In terms of classification, it would move me from “acceptable” on the chart to the top end of “fitness.'”

So, now I have a viable and explicit goal with a deadline and a way to measure it.

Constraints

While these goals are written in specifics and with dates, I want to keep an eye to being able to sustain these levels for all time. My goal is not only to achieve a certain level of fitness – I’ve been there and done that in a natural bodybuilding competition. My true goal is to be able to develop habits that will keep me in line with these numbers so I can maintain them for the rest of my life. That means no trick diets, minimal impact on my current way of life, and sustainable development.

So there will be no special pills, no fad diets, no marathon workout sessions. I still have to go to work. I still have to run my side hustle, keep on my other goals, do the hundreds of mundane things I do every day and every week while being a good friend and husband. This will be summer and there are a thousand of little things pulling me all over the place like martial arts, invitations to party on the lake, poker nights, and after work happy hours. The Coca Cola 600 here in Charlotte. Summer is my busy travel season and I’ll be on the road quite a bit (New York, Maryland, the Bachelor party, New Hampshire, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Boston, Blacksburg… and I’m sure a few other places.)

Not only that but I have a epic trip to Korea later this fall in the planning stages. It’s tricky, but I’ll save that goal for another post. In short, we want to go visit Kim & Kyle and we don’t want to go into debt to do it!

Help!!!!!!!!!!

Well, I can’t do this alone. I mean, if I could, I wouldn’t be in this position anyway. And if you got this far through the article, you’re probably pretty interested in the outcome!

How You Can Help

Several people have probably been in this situation before. Maybe you’re in a similar situation now. Perhaps you have a new goal (fitness or otherwise) you committed to? Maybe something I said in the long, rambling, semi-coherent discourse listed above resonated with you even a little bit. Please share your experiences below. Tell the world. Teach the rest of us. It’s ok if you don’t know the answers, we’ll figure them out along the way together. Maybe you’d prefer to be anonymous and just read along– that’s cool, too.

For my part, I’ll keep on writing as per normal. Goal updates will come on Fridays, everything else on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The Map Project

Welcome to my Map Project. Sometimes when I’m bored I update the map with my travels. Places I’ve been for an appreciable amount of time (as defined by enough to have a real and *remembered memory) go on the board.

It serves many purposes:

  • A reminder of how fortunate I am.
  • A condensed Notebook Project.
  • Visual reinforcement. Working hard = me playing hard. And vice versa.
  • Offers suggestions of where to go next.
  • Reminds me how big the world really is.
  • Helps me remember Why I Travel

Some places I get to chose to go to. Other places get chosen for me. Where have you been? Where do you want to go? How do you keep track?


View My Travels in a larger map
*Note: There are such things as unreal memories and forgotten memories. Trust me.

The Notebook Project

Wondering why I persist in posting notes about vacations long past? Me too, sorta. It’s because of The Notebook Project. The notebook project is my way of making memories last by making blog posts about recent vacation trips. Perhaps it is more artfully put this way:

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.
The Sunscreen song

OK, so there Mary Schmich is talking about advice. The part I am interested in is concerning nostalgia. Reminiscing about those past trips provides a way for me to share my experiences, give advice to those seeking similar adventures, and trying to see what I can learn about the whole deal. In short I am “fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

Why the Notebook Project

When I was a kid all I wanted to do was go camping. I was crazy for exploring and camping with the Boy Scouts was an outlet for it. I would go camping every month with the troop. Some summers I would attend one, two, or even three week-long trips in the woods learning, adventuring, and getting away from it all. Early on my Dad told me to keep a journal of my activities. “You’ll appreciate it later on” he told me.

He was right. I didn’t keep a journal (for very long.) And now I wish I did.

What is the Notebook Project?

Well, it has nothing to do with notebooks. Well, except for the fact that my first ill-fated camping journal was in one of those black and white speckled deals. Today the interwebs give me a much better way of stapling my notes, links to other sites, photos, etc than a notebook ever could so that’s what I’m doing. This explains why I keep writing about my Israel trip, or crossbay swim, or anything else even though it’s long since done.

Incremental Improvement

True to my cubicle roots I am using the Six Sigma technique of incremental improvement to get my blogging project done. There is no end to the amount of photos, links, thoughts, etc that I want to include in these posts. The trouble is, accumulating all of that plus a after-the-fact write up is really difficult. In the end, I decided that the first step on my critical path of building the Notebook Project was to get ‘something’ written. Sometimes the writing will be good. Sometimes it will be bad. Rarely will it be complete the first time or include photos. Photo editing and uploading is the bane of my blogging experience. But eventually photos will be added, summaries will be left, and questions will be answered.

How to help!

Just leave comments on the posts as they come out. Questions, comments, requests. Ex. I’m a lot more likely to finish a series more quickly if there is a comment similar to ‘Can’t wait to read what’s next!’ or ‘Would love to see the photos!’, etc.

What’s in the Pipeline?

I just got back from a non-honeymoon honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro after vacationing / getting married in Mexico so I should write about that soon. There is a ton left to write about in the my Mt Zion biblical archaeology trip playing Indiana Jones in Jerusalem and Palestine. I haven’t even touched my week trip in Germany’s Rhineland or the week of bachelor parties in Munich for Oktoberfest including side trips to Andechs, Zugspitze, Fusen and more. Spain, London, Italy… Man I have work to do!