Intentional Living

On optimization

“Money is not the only way to improve life. Instead of widening your margin of profit, widen your margin of leisure. Instead of optimizing for money, optimize for time. Instead of seeking efficiency, seek recovery.”

– James Clear
Intentional Living

Let’s Talk

So the annual day of awareness has once again come and gone and we did our post thing and shared the hashtag and…… what do we do next? We’ve come a long way in talking about it as an important issue, and raising awareness of how many it impacts. But there’s still work to be done. The important work.

As someone who has been in a dark place in the past, here are three things you can do next to make a huge difference:

1) Normalize talking about your emotion and struggles (especially us dudes). Many view vulnerability as a weakness. But it’s actually a super power. Talking openly about your challenges and struggles shows a level of confidence and self-awareness that many don’t have. Most importantly it shows others that they aren’t alone in feeling the way they do.

2) Rather than relaying on our “open door”, actively reach out to friends, especially if you sense something. When I’ve been in a bad place, it’s been hard as F*** to reach out and admit the demons are winning. I know I should but I can’t or just don’t wanna. It’s been times when people have reached out the proverbial hand to me to lift me up that’s made all the difference. “Hey man, you’ve been pretty quiet on social lately, whats been on your mind lately?” To adapt the work place safety phrase: “If you sense something, say something.”

3) Ask better questions. Its easy for someone to blow off “how are things going?” With “fine”. But by combing the above steps, we can show our vulnerability and start a conversation: “This new business has really been a struggle lately, whats going on in your world?”

If you want more practical approaches on how to reach out as a person (on either side of the equation), has lots of great resources.

Did I miss anything? What actions are you going to take this week to make a difference to your own or someone else’s mental health?

Intentional Living


Both of these are important. Sometimes it’s easy to cast the academic approach as a waste of time. Wasting time looking at something that is already a fact. But in analyzing the decision process of an existing fact, we get better at future decisions when we don’t yet have all the answers.

Intentional Living

Different to a fault

There are some of us that are conformists, trying as best as we can to fit in and jumping on every trend. Then there are who are the rebels, who want nothing to do with whats considered “mainstream”

I’m one of the non-conformists. To an extreme.

The last thing I wanted to be was one of the “cool”

In junior high and high school, I was a bit of an outlier. I wore sweat pants every day while all the other kids wore jeans. It’s not that I didn’t like jeans, but I simply didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing. The other day I was describing my high school experience to a friend and I said “Its not like I was an outcast for lack of trying, it was that the last thing I wanted to be was one of the cool kids”

This has carried into my personality years later where when I’m doing activities, or choosing places to go, I pick the ones that are the least “popular”. And in many cases I take this to an extreme. For example I came up with a plan this summer to do a 350km bike trip that involved paddling in the middle of it by putting my bike on top of a packraft. Of course this was pretty complex and daunting for many reasons and it never really got done. I think maybe if I had aimed a bit lower, I would have done it in separate parts which is better than zero parts

This carries over to who I choose to associate with too. I find myself being much more particular with who spend time with. And while at a basic level, tis ins’t a bad thing, I might take it too far. For example if I have a running friend but they don’t share the same values as me on recycling or the environment, I might feel myself not wanting to hang out with them as much. Or if they aren’t as adventurous and want to turn around just as we reach the summit because they have to head to Home Depot later, I might find myself getting annoyed with them and less likely to want to hang out with them in the future.

So I’ve kind of found myself in this spot where I don’t have a huge group of people that I do adventures with. I think I’ve only recently discovered that it’s because I’m maybe overly critical of inconsequential things. And looking for this perfect adventure buddy with the same “weird and different” matching worldviews and value and traits as me.

People meeting these “exact specifications” are either rare or don’t exists and I think its affects me more than I previously admitted to. While I like my solo adventures, I enjoy sharing time outdoors with others that enjoy it just as much as I do, so I think there is a bit of a gap here. So maybe that isn’t an issue with me finding the “exact” right people, but perhaps being a little more open to people being different and unique in other ways.

Intentional Living


A lot of people think a brand as your logo, your Instagram handle, or the tone you use posting on social media.

Your brand is not your business cards, your swag, or even the things that you sell.

These tangible pieces are only a small part of it. Flashy public things, the trim and the decoration. The bling.

What your brand really is at the core is your values, your behaviours, and how you treat business partners, colleagues, and customers.

And most importantly: your brand is how you conduct yourself when nobody’s watching.

Intentional Living

Who ruined New Years Resolutions?

London Marathon, Malcom Murdoch

It’s getting to that time of year where we start thinking about them.

And like everything else in the world, marketers have pretty much ruined them (kidding.. sort of)

To marketers, and companies, this is the perfect time to capitalize on making you feel inadequate and offering the PERFECT thing to get you on the right path.

Don’t listen to them. Ignore it all (well most of it anyway). Most appeal of them appeal to short-term thinking and are setting you up for failure. There’s a reason gym usage peaks in January and then drops back down in February

You need to dig deep. Find out what it is you want to change and more importantly why. You should dedicate a solid block of time to this. I know, it’s not as fun as clicking “buy now” on a thing.

It’s far too easy for us to get our ideas from ads, or Instagram followers or even from our friends and neighbours are doing.

These things can be the start of a reflection and though exercises, but don’t let them be the guiding force.

Want to lose weight? Think about how you can change your lifestyle to be more active in general. Incorporate more walking and movement in your life and add other things in gradually. Try a few things out and see what works for you. Forming life-long habits will pay off in so many more ways than just your body weight and physical appearance.

These life-long habits are never solved by one single product or service, no mater how convincing they may be. In many cases the opposite rings true. Only 8% of people end up keeping their resolution, which means there are 92% of people feeling like they failed (and possibly feeling even worse).

Spend some time really digging into the why. Think about times in your life where you have made change and how it has worked. When you catch yourself thinking about a certain product or service stop yourself and think about why that would help. Try doing the five whys to get back to the root change you want to make. Imagine that there was no easy solution via a product, what would your plan be then?

Get to the why first and then start thinking about potential solutions.

Intentional Living

Morning People vs Night People

Morning People: you know that feeling you get after completing a task before everyone else has woken up? Night people get that too after everyone has gone to bed.

Night people: That aversion you have to setting your alarm to 6am? Morning people get that when invited to a dinner party starting at 8pm

Different flows for different people. It can even change for people as they move through life.

Ignore those “10 things all successful people do” lists. It’s just noise.

Sunrise on the Camino in Portugal. Especially ironic, since this was taken after running overnight (starting at 8pm) as part of the UCMT Ultramarathon
Intentional Living

Unapologetically unfollow

Don’t be afraid to unfollow people who no longer bring you value. This not only applies to social media, but to all aspects in life. I don’t view this as being “disloyal.” In fact I think it actually means being more loyal to those who you do include in your life. It gives you more time and attention to focus on those who matter most.

So less guilt-follows and more genuine follows.

Image courtesy of oliverdb
Intentional Living


Remember the scene from Wall-E with all the overweight peopl watching screens and drinking/eating while being moved along in chairs on a conveyor ? And how we laughed and thought it was a funny prediction of how lazy people really could be?

But then how many of us after the movie or in the days or weeks after, got back into our cars for a short ride home? Its almost the same thing, but slightly less futuristic in that we actually have to press pedals and turn the steering wheel.

When I first moved into my place in Vernon, I was driving the 1.8km trip to and from work. The thought of walking or biking didn’t even occur to me, because I was so used to driving everywhere.But then I started walking and biking, initially as a way to get more exercise. But now for short trips, especially to work, I feel like it would be _crazy_ to get in my car

When I drop my vehicle off for servicing, and decline the shuttle because I say I’m walking or taking the bus, I’m met with a look of surprise. In fact, its almost disbelief, and I’m usually askied “are you sure” several times. I realize some of this is just them trying maintain a high level of helpfulness and service but its an echo of our society that walking or getting somewhere without hoping into a car is just a CRAZY idea.

And then you stop and think about it and realize. Is it really that crazy to have to spend 10 minutes to walk somewhere?

Intentional Living

Breaking free from the Guilt-Distraction Feedback loop

It comes up gradually. You are trying to work through something, and face some distractions. Then there are more distractions. Instagram, email and oh look, I should really clean up the kitchen.

It gets to the point where you are hours behind in your progress. What should have been done today stretched into tomorrow. Then, oh look, its next week and you really should have had that all wrapped up last week.

Then Guilt shows up. Its Saturday but you didn’t get the thing finished so instead of going out with friends or to the ski hill, you stay at home to “work.” But you never do, distractions and lack of motivation hits again, and oh, there’s more guilt coming on top of it. And it cycles like this until you are feeling worse and worse and getting less and less done.

But how do you break free from it?

Start small

The worst thing you can do is try and hit the entire task head on. i.e “tonight is definitely the night I finish “. At best you’ll get through 1/3 of it (and still feel crappy about yourself when it’s not done). But lesser outcomes are much more likely.

So instead break something off that is both short in duration and easy to complete. The motivation is much easier to overcome when you know it will just take a few minutes.

Some examples:

  • Write one page of a book (instead of trying for multiple chapters)
  • Commit to running for 1km instead of going for the full 10km
  • Write one function of code in a module (instead of trying to write an entire feature)

When you break down the larger effort, the motivation hill gets smaller and easier to get over. And once you gain some traction and have a tiny win, the momentum often builds. You will end up writing much more code than just the single function. You will probably power through the entire chapter. And once you’ve run 1km, well, you’re already sweating so you might as well keep going.

One other mistake to avoid is starting off by breaking the task up into a complex bunch of parts or map it all out (over-planning is just a “meta” version distraction. You need less distractions, not more.) Have you ever been planning a project and find yourself hours into selecting the best project management tool? (I have.)

Make a deal with yourself

If you’ve broken the task own into a small piece but still can’t seem to get through it without finding something else to do, make a deal with yourself. “I can’t go get another coffee until I write a page of the book.” “I’ve been avoiding that proposal all day, but if I proofread it one last time and send it, I can meet up with my friends for a beer.” It doesn’t take much, bu t like the above tip once you get some movement, the momentum builds. This is a version of Habit Stacking that James Clear talks about in Atomic Habits which I highly recommend.

Just do the fun thing

Keep your routine. Don’t keep putting off the other things in your life to spend time on the task (I.e. outside your work day, etc.) Don’t work in the evenings or on a Saturday if you don’t normally do. If you have a trip or fun event planned, GO! (And be as guilt free as possible.) These are the things that will fill you back up with energy to make over the motivation hump. This doesn’t mean you should take off in the middle of your work day or fit in distractions that are out of place. But if the depression and self-loathing is starting to pile on, this is a great way to break free of it.

There you have it. What techniques do you use when you’re stuck? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Additional reading: Related to “start small” is a motivation technique called No More Zero Days ( read about it here ).

*Note. In the middle of writing this post, I got sidetracked on Flickr for half an hour trying to find the perfect photo 🙂 Cover photo (c) David Fulmer