Are weak people humble?

Is humility weakness? Are weak people humble?

If you’re great, shouldn’t you be proud of that? So, are great people not humble?

It’s not quite that.

Humility is a respect, trust, faith, and admiration for the future. Humility is the force that lifts up bricks and places them higher. Humility is a deep understanding that my current self is not as good as my future self could be. Tomorrow could be better.

Non-humble people are as great as they’ll ever be.

But humble people only get greater.

Photo by Igor Kyryliuk on Unsplash

On a mountaintop, I see my future self

Each time I hike to the top of a mountain, I get a strange but familiar feeling. I wake up. I feel like the last months were all a dream. Standing there, looking out over the wilderness, I feel real.

Something is going on here. Maybe mountaintops bring us closer to heaven; summiting is an accomplishment that brings us purpose; the beautiful landscape is awe-inspiring. But that’s not quite everything.

On top of a mountain, I feel connected to my previous selves that also summitted mountains. Spacetime creases, bends, and folds inward on itself. Suddenly, my life is a continuous moment: just those mountaintops. Everything else between those moments falls away.

Then, my future self looks back at me from the next mountaintop. And I know there’s more climbing to do.

Grant at the top of Zugspitze (Sep, 2017) – Notice the look of excitement but with terror

I’ve been training a lot for this Zumbro 50 Mile Race in early April, 2022. The full course boasts 6,750 feet (2,057 meters) of elevation across 50 miles (80.5 kilometers). The elevation gain is about the distance of the Kentucky Derby. Thinking of the elevation gain in these terms makes it more manageable. But by the last lap of this race, I will dread every gentle rise like a mountain to summit.

That’s the point of Ultramarathons: to push yourself beyond your perceived capacity. In that sense, mountaintops are like finish lines. At the finish line of my previous race, I saw my future self looking back at me from the next finish line. And I knew there was more to come.

New-trition in 2022

I recently realized that I need to prioritize my nutrition. I have reached a weight of about 210 lbs. while exercising. At 6’0″, I am technically obese or overweight. So far, my BMI is 28.3, which is high but not very high. However, my fat percentage is 24.5% which is normal. And my muscle mass is extremely high. So all things considered, my health metrics are fine. But that’s no reason to ignore my health.

But the more I can slim down, the better I can reach my goals; the more my muscles can propel me over the same distance. So, I consulted an expert nutritionist from Allina Health, a clinic local to my area, to learn more,

Here’s what I learned: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” This means that just because part of something is bad, doesn’t mean that I should remove it completely. Because I may be losing something valuable by throwing it out. For example, eating meat often causes higher health risks. But, this case isn’t a universal reason to stop eating meat, because meat has other benefits that would be lost.

Nutrition is highly personal. Don’t take the advice for me as advice for you. You, the reader, have your own body and goals and quirks. Here are my lessons:

  1. I need to consume about 150 grams of protein per day. That means keeping meat in my diet to make this easier. I can increase the percentage of legumes I eat, but I cannot lose the protein that I need to maintain my lifestyle and goals. The best practice calculation is 1.4-2 grams of protein per weight in kilograms.
  2. I should add lentils, beans, or similar protein- and fiber-rich legumes to every meal. Recently, I have been adding a salad to nearly every meal as an add-on. I should do the same thing with lentils and beans to boost my protein and fiber intake. Protein gets me to my goal of 150 grams per day. And fiber fills me up quicker, so I can eat less and get full quicker.
  3. I can eat all kinds of legumes. Different vegetables contain different nutrients depending on whether they are raw, cooked, or roasted. I thought raw veggies always have more nutrients. However, sometimes cooking veggies can bring in new nutrients! I should eat a variety of colors of veggies, prepared in different styles.
  4. I should continue reducing sweetened foods with added sugar. But, I don’t need to throw out all sugar completely. I get benefits from the other nutrients in sugary foods.
  5. Soy milk is generally better than almond milk because it has more protein.
  6. I should buy more frozen fruit when we run out of fresh fruit. Typically, we go shopping every three weeks or so. But our fresh fruit goes bad by the second week. So, we should get frozen fruit to eat after the second week.
  7. I should eat without distraction: focus on eating the meal rather than multi-tasking. This gives me a better indicator of how much to eat until I’m done. So, I am less likely to overeat.
  8. I should eat when I’m hungry. Intermittent fasting has some benefits, such as maintaining stable blood sugar levels. However, it’s not a universal solution to weight loss or health. I lose valuable opportunities to take in nutrients while fasting.
  9. Below is a visual I can follow for each meal. Then depending on my goals, I can adjust the portions and sizes from this starting point. For example, in the morning, I should take in more protein. Whereas in the evening, I should take in more carbohydrates.
Source from Allina Health

The next thing…

I’m onto my next adventure. I realize now that physical races are something special for me. They incorporate body, mind, and spirit in a way that is engaging and empowering. I rise to the occasion because I have to. These challenges force me to be better.

My next long-term goal, as of now, will be an ultramarathon running race. Or a running/hiking/walking race. It feels right. I ran the marathon slowly during my Ironman marathon, and I want to know that I can run longer. So, I’m looking into 50K and 50M races next year. I bought a new pair of shoes. I’m seeing a chiropractor. I’m changing my walking and running gait. I got a book. I’m listening to experienced ultra runners.

The odds are stacked against me: I’m heavy (more than 200 lbs / 94 kg). I am stocky and not built like a runner. I don’t have a coach. I hate the 3 Hs: Heat, Humidity, and Hills. I never really learned how to run: I just ran.

So, it’s a perfect challenge.

There’s something special about an Ultra that has a time cut-off. For a first-timer like me, I’m just hoping to finish. I don’t care what position I finish. I’ll be happy to arrive in last place, as long as I’m within the time limit. There’s something special about showing up to a race and not knowing whether you can finish it. Either I’m within the time cut-off or they drag me out on a stretcher.

So, my next challenge will be finishing a long distance within a certain time limit; but it’s not finishing under a specific time or pace (other than the time limit). Ultra time limits have some buffer. You don’t have to run fast to finish within the time limit. Some Ultras can be finished at the pace of a fast walk. But they’re so damn long and difficult that some races have more DNFs than finishers. So to me, the challenge is making the distance, not the time. I actually don’t know if I can physically make that distance at all.

There’s another thing I looked for in this next challenge. I want to do something big in an area in which I can do something smaller. For example, I can run a mile. So, why not run 30 miles? 50? 100? Maybe the next challenge after this will be an entirely new sport. Who knows.

I have to train more to get there. Specifically, I need to train my mind to invest all-in on this challenge. I need to prove some things to myself. I’ve run two full marathons already. Both times, I’ve hit the wall that broke me and I slowed to a walk. My best time is more than 4 hours. My next goal is training to run a sub-4 hour marathon. That pace is exactly 9:09 minute per mile pace for 26.2 miles including rest stops. I’m aiming to run under 9:00 minutes per mile to buy myself time for rest stops.

After a couple weeks of training in October, I spontaneously tried to do it. But I failed after 19 miles. I analyzed what went wrong and set a new date. Below is my After Action Report.

Anyway, I’m going to spend the winter running either way.

Now I’ve just got to decide for which race to sign up.

19 miles out of 26.2 Miler: After Action Report on 2021-10-10

The Final Tweaks before Game Day

These past few weeks after the half Ironman Triathlon, I have been making some final tweaks to my training. I addressed the issues that came up during the half Ironman triathlon a few weeks ago.

To boost my swim confidence, I swam 3,000m at Ironman pace for 1:15 hrs. It felt long and a bit tedious, but I made it. It was my longest swim ever. And this is about 3/4 of the distance of the Ironman swim. If I can do 3/4, I can do the last 1/4.

To reinforce my confidence on long bike rides, I finished a group century 100 mile ride, two weeks after the triathlon. We went faster than I would while solo and took longer breaks. But this gave me confidence that my body can handle 100+ miles.

To address my gastrointestinal issues on the bike, I fed myself on a long ride by eating first and drinking my performance mix later. I think drinking the performance mix first gave me those issues during the triathlon. I got my body used to eating solid foods on the ride before drinking that energy mix. And ultimately I felt better by ordering the nutrition in this way. I’m sure there’s a science to this, but I’m going off of my own experience and what works best for me.

On that same solo ride and other longer rides, I forced myself to sit without standing in the saddle. That put a lot of pressure onto my butt bones. This seat discomfort was another big issue from my previous race. I began seeking out more pain in the saddle. Hopefully I have raised my pain tolerance as a result. For a long 112 mile ride, I’ll need to stand up to rest my seat muscles and take longer breaks. But now I’ll be able to stay locked in position for longer as a baseline.

To increase my leg strength, I incorporated hill workouts into my runs. I even did hill repeats as the singular focus of that run.

I also added some mile-long pick-ups in other runs to jolt the legs. During those, I would keep my heartrate at threshold or tempo pace, which means I’m not overexerting myself. Then for the last repetition, I would go all-out since I’m competitive and like to go fast. Doing this helped me adapt to the higher active heart rate during the Ironman triathlon, because my heart will be tired from the swim and bike before.

Lastly, I have visualized every step of race day. I see myself waking up, preparing well, swimming, transitioning, biking, and running. I see myself grinding across the finish line, no matter how late I arrive, and hearing my name over the loudspeaker.

All in all, I’m ready. I know what gear I need and how to use it. I have a better race day nutrition plan. I know my body can finish each individual discipline. On race day, I’ll have all the support from family, friends, aid stations, and fellow competitors.

I know that I’m ready because if you told me that the Ironman was suddenly scheduled for tomorrow morning, I would be excited, not scared.

My Ironman Triathlon Journey (T-minus 3 months)

There’s a lot I’ve been doing for myself recently. I’ve been focusing on consuming positive content. I’ve been reading more. But I’ve been writing less.

Over the past two years, I have been spending much more time building an obsession on completing an Ironman Triathlon: 2.4 Mile Swim, 112 Mile Bike, 26.2 Mile Run.

Grant, circa 2020

I’ll post more about this in the upcoming weeks. But today is simply an announcement of accountability. To practice, I have a half distance Ironman triathlon on July 25, 2021 in Delaware, Ohio. Then I have the full Ironman distance triathlon on September 12, 2021 in Madison, Wisconsin.

This has been a challenge I’ve been obsessing over since August, 2019. At that time, I decided I would complete an Ironman as a way of challenging and guiding my life. In September, 2019, I began training. But by March, 2020, everything was closing and events were canceled that summer. It was brutal to wait another year due to COVID restrictions. I’m sure many people gave up on their dreams after what 2020 dealt to them.

But I’m back, and I began training again in January, 2021.

Yesterday, I went for a 45-minute bike ride at Ironman race pace. Then I ran for 1.5 hours at Ironman race pace (maybe a little faster). On Tuesday, I have my 2nd swim lesson to refine my technique for endurance. Yesterday was the first day when I knew that I could do it.

I will complete the Ironman on September 12, 2021; there are no “unlesses.” I’m asking you to hold me accountable. Blogging, social media, and producing something into the world is as good for the producer as it is for the consumers. They are accountability tools.

Until then, I will continue the grinding.

Network Effects and Virality are not the same – Re: Platforms

I’m reading the book Platform Revolution to better understand how platforms change markets. For the longest time, I thought that network effects and virality were the same thing. However, according to the authors:

“Virality is about attracting people who are off the platform and enticing them to join it, while network effects are about increasing value among people on-platform.” (23)

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash
Listen to this blog post here! Network Effects and Virality

I had assumed that what attracts people into a network is the value they get from the network. But in fact, this oversimplifies the interaction between user and platform. The reason for joining could be the same as sticking around. But often, it isn’t.

Suppose a marketing initiative gives users $10 to refer a friend to join. Or, registering could require the user to input their contact list to the platform, to be used for more invites. These examples show virality to grow a network, but not value creation within a network. Just because a platform has a network and goes viral, does not mean that it adds value to users upon joining. Virality used to get more hype, with value coming from how fast you could grow. But now, the value of platforms comes from how they retain users just as much as obtaining users.

Network effects depend a lot on the platform itself. For YouTube, virality could be sharing a video link. But network effect benefits would be the improvement to the video recommendation algorithm coming from more behavioral data from more users. This recommendation keeps users coming back.

It’s possible that a platform has both virality and network effects, such as Facebook: people joined Facebook because of the viral effect of “Fear of Missing Out.” Our friends were connected, so we wanted in as well. Once online, people stayed on for additional features like Facebook Groups and Facebook Marketplace, which grew more valuable as more people joined. Now, the long-term value of Facebook is “active” users, not just “new” users. And activity comes from those valuing the service and going back for the network effects.

As I continue learning about platforms, I’ll pay more attention to the difference between why to join a network vs. why to stay on it.

The four people riding with us on this Gamestop rollercoaster

There’s something happening in the markets.

Note: these are my views and not anyone else’s: not my employer nor future employers nor past employers nor anyone else other than myself. And these names are made-up.

Click here to listen to this post!

We are in the middle of something big. There’s been a lot of volatility around Gamestop and other stocks. Sometime soon, movies and blog posts and open letters will emerge summarizing this cultural movement and institutional reactions and the yet unknown end result.

We’re all struggling to explain it. But maybe we just need to not jump to conclusions too quickly. Pay attention to the details. What are the human ambitions behind each action? What connections are bursting at the seams- indicating their fragility to begin with? As we spiral down Poe’s maelstrom, let’s ride it out together and pick the most important things to carry forward and what to leave behind.

I grouped some reactions from the public into a few types for fun.

Today in the market we have:

  1. Rip-it Rocky
  2. Break-it Brad
  3. New-world Ned
  4. Cautious Cameron
Photo by Matt Bowden on Unsplash
  1. Rip-it Rocky: “I fucking love it.” Let’s stick it to the billionaires who do this every day. I’m YOLOing it all. I’m aping it to the moon for my bananas and tendies. This is the first real opportunity to beat the house that always wins. Props to the heroes who donated to charity, bought their parents a home, and paid off student debt. Let’s ride the wave, pump the dip, dump the rip.
  2. Break-it Brad: “They deserve it.” This is a ground-breaking momentum change in our markets, and there’s no going back. The financial and government world were too slow to react, and now the retail investor has broken the system. Already, we’ve seen hedge funds lose significant capital. Institutional investors are running scared. And they should be, because they’ve been able to game the system unhindered for a long time. And now when the tables have turned against them, now they want to change the rules? No way. This is going to be a complete catastrophe for the markets. And it’s about time. It’s time to move forward toward regulation for big investors and decentralization of financial institutions.
  3. New-world Ned: “It’s odd that this hasn’t happened before.” This seems like the first time that retail investors have banded together with so much volume and focus. No longer do fundamentals play a role in the valuation of stocks. In this new environment, the dynamics have changed. The fact that a stock is overly shorted could be the reason to run up the value. Or, some other reason could cause people to buy. With endless information at their disposal, the smartest retail investors predicted the rally. With lightning-fast communication over the internet, investors grouped around a common purpose and became powerful. Now, who can predict the next time this could happen. The group may appear in a different place with a different focus. It seems that big investors can be outsmarted by non-big investors. They’ll need to respect this risk much more now.
  4. Cautious Cameron: “I’m worried about the bubble bursting.” Desperate retail investors are the most at-risk to put more money in than they can afford to lose. Hawkish investors will take advantage of them like prey. And the desperate investor will lose. I’m afraid for my family and friends who bought GME stock just because there was a speculative run-up on the value. The stock price is bound to go back down because the inherent value of Gamestop hasn’t changed even thought the stock price has. As a result of this, there will be loss. And there will be regulation, but I’m not sure that will accomplish anything about what people are looking for since there are already many regulations in place. If anything, we need to prevent this bubble from happening again and affecting so many unknowing people.

We’ve seen holders holding and buyers buying and sellers selling. Who knows what the price of GME will be in two weeks. And who knows what we’ll be talking about then.

One thing is clear: no one can predict what happens next.

The Cavalry: the values of serving

If you’re interested in occasionally volunteering in a group for those in need in the Twin Cities while staying safe from COVID-19, then contact me.


If you built an army of volunteers, what values would you instill in them to keep the culture together? Kevin asked just that. How would we answer Kevin?

  1. Humble Service
  2. Community
  3. Reality
  4. Respect For Others

Humble Service: This is the meaning of life for us. It is in our blood. It gives us energy. It aligns how we view ourselves and the world. We don’t get so full of ourselves to think that we are above any other person. We know that giving creates more giving, which creates a better world for all. Humility gives us a hunger to always be open and learning. We serve others because that’s how we orient our lives toward good in the world and away from distractions.

Community: We build a community of doers. We volunteer and serve with each other. We create bonds through shared experiences. We lean on each other for support. We empower each other to try new things. We push each other to increase our service impact. It’s a group of individuals formed by a common goal and purpose. It’s about We.

Reality: Do you feel out of touch? Come see what the real world is like. Your daily life is nothing like what others experience. Come see what real people are living through. In particular, let’s expose ourselves to others going through difficult situations. They could be just like you. The reality is, this could be you. So, the ones who have it easier are responsible to help others who need help. Understanding the full breadth of human experience will enrich your life and give gratitude for the little blessings.

Respect For Others: This dose of reality gives us respect for others, no matter who they are. Understanding how difficult circumstances affect normal people enables us to see that people are just people. But some are going through harder circumstances than others, and they need our help. They deserve our respect. We do not believe that any people are less deserving of respect because of their lifestyle, choices, or circumstances.

The cavalry’s mission to serve is clear.

What I tell new graduates now that I’ve been working for six years

My brother just graduated from university to join the working world. As a typical older brother does, I decided to offer my unsolicited advice.

No, we don’t know what’s going on with COVID-19. No, we don’t know exactly how companies should address social issues. But we are figuring it out. It’s a work in progress. Companies, like people, are always changing.

Employment is a transaction. The company treats it as such. Look at the job description and pay. Your employment is an exchange of value: delivering the stated items on the job description in return for value.

In response to their expectations, you can prepare. Be clear about what you want to get out of your employment. List out three things that you’ve learned at every stage in your life. Then come up with three things during this transaction (thank you to Dave Kerwar for this suggestion!).

For example, at your previous employment you learned:

  1. Work-life balance
  2. How to work as an individual contributor as a team
  3. Technical knowledge of data integration

Then at your next stage in life, you can learn through:

  1. Ownership of projects, work-streams, projects, or services
  2. Experience of how different business units work together
  3. Management of a team of people

The company will pay you for the value you give them. But state a few non-monetary things you want out of the experience, and the smart company will be happy to give you more of it. You work more on the things you enjoy, which gives the smart company more value. It’s a win-win.

To do this, you’ve got to be honest about what three things you want out of the employment transaction. The smart company will be doing the same.