I was there during the outrage of Minneapolis

Minneapolis, Franklin Ave Bridge, May 28, 2020

The air smelled of anarchy and new beginnings. We watched the burning smoke from rooftops. Everyone talked about the same thing. Eyes glued to social media. The motorcycles and trucks on the distant highway revved their engines with a guttural roar. The police were on defense. They wouldn’t answer if we called.

George Floyd was killed, and we were at the epicenter of the aftermath.

We were confident in our belief, but unsure about the future. Like a hero sneaking through a thick forest brush, we crept into a different world. Nervous, excited, nauseated. Time moved slowly. We have something rotten inside us, and we were finally burning it out.

I didn’t participate in the protesting. We were hesitant to leave our house.

There were good protesters and good cops, both working together within the confines of our structures. There were also stupid people on both sides, escalating issues and causing unnecessary trouble.

Eventually, we helped clean up the streets during the day while protests continued at night. I didn’t condemn the burning. After all, something had to give. But I mourned the collateral losses of the innocent.

I live in the exhausted majority. I don’t back my full weight behind either wing of the United States socio-political arena. My beliefs are fluid and depend on the situation and the context. I don’t align my beliefs with either of the political poles. Here’s what I know:

I believe that we discriminate unfairly in our culture, especially against people of color through racism. I believe that police have the responsibility to de-escalate tense situations without lethal force. I believe in peaceful protest to demand change.

I believe in the good of people.

I believe that police who protect and serve are pivotal and respectable in our society. I believe that criminals take advantage of police de-escalation tactics to get out of justice. I believe that burning and looting property is not a peaceful protest.

So, on the issue on police brutality, I can’t pick a side. I’m exhausted of thinking that we have to pick one. I hear both sides with valid arguments but not every situation fits the same narrative.

It’s ok to not decide on these types of complex issues. They involve multiple steps that we can rarely agree on by themselves: where we are, where we want to go, and how to get there. All three factors are open to deep debate. We must be flexible to work toward the answer. The effective resolution will be a mix, including the best ideas from a diverse set of perspectives.

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.

Me Against Myself – Reflections on my first triathlon

Photo by Sahyli

I completed my first triathlon on Saturday, July 11th, 2020 with friends. It was an amazing experience. This triathlon is the first of many for me. I am planning to take on longer triathlon distances. So, this was a good test.

Stats

International Distance: 800m Swim, 24.8 mile Bike, 6.2 mile Run

Actual Distances Recorded with Garmin Forerunner 945: 856m Swim, 25.36 mile Bike, 6.25 mile Run

21:42 800m Swim (2:18 per 100m pace)

2:24 T1

1:17:29 Bike (19.6 mph, 331W or 3.7W/kg normalized power)

1:45:19 Overall time at Bike finish

1:54 T2

1:01:28 Run

2:48:41 Overall time at Run finish (5th)

Temperature: Mostly sunny, 74F -> 81F with 60-75% humidity (hot but not scorching)

Summary

For future triathlons, I should switch my mindset from “me against others” to “me against myself.”

Reflections

Swim –> Good! Need to reduce heart-rate.

I did better than expected on the swim. I hadn’t trained for the swim because I stopped in March due to pools closing from COVID-19. I swam once on the course a few days before the event.

I started behind the stronger swimmers. I followed their lines. I tried a new approach of taking a breath on one stroke, and then looking ahead above the waterline on the other stroke. I switched stroking sides only a few times.

I took the pace steady. I was breathing without too much effort. I was mostly relaxed and not tense. However, my heart rate was still high for the duration of the swim–tempo pace rather than base pace.

T1 –> Solid!

The first transition from swim to bike was good. 2-3 minutes is a good transition time. I was a bit dizzy but not delirious. My heart-rate was high throughout the transition, so I didn’t relax too much. I didn’t know where others were. I knew some were ahead but I didn’t look behind to see where I was in the pack.

Bike –> Too excited, too hard!

I’m a stronger at biking than the other areas. I was pushing it hard after a few minutes of eating a Gu, drinking some water, and getting my gloves on. There were a few stops at red-lights. But I was pushing at relatively close to my FTP for the duration (about 90% of FTP). And near the end, with a few miles to go, I got excited. I had excess energy. I ramped up the effort. I realized I could maybe catch up to the leaders. I gapped some other riders who were pacing it more steady. My heart-rate was high for the bike: at tempo pace rather than base pace. I finished strong. I had switched my mindset to trying to win.

T2 –> Fine

I was fast during T2, with less than 2 minutes. By then, I was in race mode. I was ready to hit the run hard and overtake the leaders, wherever they were on course. My feet were wet from the swim in my socks, so I changed my socks. However I could have spent more time drying my feet before changing, because the 2nd socks got wet, too. I had planned to eat another Gu, but my stomach was uncomfortable so I didn’t.

Run –> Overextended

The run started off fine in the first mile, around 8:21 pace. It was a hard first mile though. My legs were wobbly and my arms were weak. My stomach was very uncomfortable from the fluids I chugged during the bike. After 1.5 miles, I wretched after a water stop. The 2nd mile and 3rd miles were slower, in the 9:00s and 10:00s. At that point I had to start walking up some hills. My heart-rate was way too high even while running at the relatively slower pace. I caught up with my wife Sahyli who was just doing the run. We walked & ran together for about 1.5 miles. Then for the last 1.5 miles I ran through the finish, increasing the pace.

For the duration of the run, I hit the wall. My legs were slow and feeling like molasses; my breathing was labored and heavy; my stomach was upset the whole way. At 2 miles in, I switched my mindset from trying to win to trying to finish without dropping out. I passed a few runners and was passed. I had a small sprint in the last half-mile. I was exhausted by the finish line.

For next time

For longer triathlons, I should maintain a new mindset: finish the race against myself. The mindset should not be trying to win. I saw the benefits of racing “me against myself” in the swim. As a result, I mostly ignored other competitors, not worrying about “trying to keep up.” I was in tune with my body and cadence. I finished the swim with energy and clarity and confidence.

The bike was my chance to make up time, so I switched my mindset to trying to race my competitors. I finished the bike ride tense and with a sense of urgency. This caused undue stress. Instead, I should spend more time listening to my body and relaxing for the ride. Since I am stronger biker, I can ease up on the effort and still manage a good time.

For the run, I can start out waaaaaay slower for the first mile. I should practically be at a fast walking pace around 10:00 min/mile. This is to shake up the legs from the bike and get them used to the effort. And especially, I should manage my heart-rate to get it down to a tempo pace rather than a hard anaerobic effort. After steadying the heart-rate to a manageable rate, I can steadily speed up the pace while maintaining that heart-rate.

There is a lot of excitement coming out of transition, but that adrenaline wears off within the first few minutes of the run.

I had one Gu before the swim and one Gu before the bike. After the bike, my stomach was feeling bad so I didn’t have another one. I drank almost 2L of water during the bike. One Liter was mixed with supplement and another Liter was regular water. I chugged the water too fast, causing serious discomfort for the run. I’ve got to take smaller sips during the bike. And I should drink water on the run rather than being a camel and storing the water on the bike. There were a couple of water stops on the run but I only had a couple of sips from paper cups. I didn’t pee for the whole race, nor did I feel the need to.

I should also consider carrying a water bottle for the run because I sweat a lot. And I should take some salt sticks or similar easy-to-consume nutritions for the run.

The run is a hard transition after the bike, and so I should continue to practice bricks to simulate the transition with high fatigue.

Ironman Triathlon, here I come.

George Floyd’s story is different

Source

George Floyd was killed unfairly. Why is this so significant?

Before diving in, please note: I am not black and I live in a position of privilege, and so George Floyd’s death as well as other similar deaths have not affected me as directly as they’ve done my black colleagues. But I see and empathize with this pain and fear, so I must speak out.

Also, police officers have one of the most difficult jobs in the world; often making quick judgment calls in stressful situations. I trust our police force and know that occurrences of unfair brutality are rare; but they must stop.

What’s different about George Floyd?

Why was this event unique? 1. The events moved slowly, and 2. We saw enough on video.

In many videos in which police use excessive force, the situation typically moves fast and thus it’s not clear whether the result was justified. Any small action or movement push the officer to pull the trigger and shoot in a split second. It’s impossible to see that same action or movement in the video that caused the officer to pull the trigger. So, we cannot have full certainty whether the officer acted unjustly.

George Floyd’s death was different. We see the video clearly. Derek Chauvin and the other 3 officers had 9 minutes of slow bleeding while George was handcuffed, face down in the street, and calling for his mom for help. Once the clock started ticking and Derek put his knee on the neck, there was no need for a quick judgment call. George was already apprehended and the officer was in a position of power. Even if Derek felt in danger, Derek had 3 officers as backup to reposition George from a fatal hold into a non-fatal hold. In fact, this is actually how good officers are supposed to apprehend suspects: hand-cuff the suspect and then reposition them.

But not this time. Every second that Derek held his knee on George’s neck was a second he chose to actively continue murdering George. Officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.

George did not face a fair trial for his alleged crime. He was arrested, which we trust our police force to decide when to do. But George was not treated according to just practices given the opportunity to face a trial. Instead, the officer carried out a slow murder on the street in full awareness while others in power watched. Maybe George was guilty. But our country has a justice system that is promised as “innocent until proven guilty” to all. With countless evidence showing how black people are treated over-proportionately as criminals, the justice that is promised is not provided to all.

I identify as someone that has not felt the pain of black issues from systemic racism; however today I woke up to see this as a human issue. No human deserves a knee to the neck in the street by anyone for 9 minutes until they suffocate on their own blood.

A whole lot of Maybes

It’s currently unknown why Derek and the officers carried out the execution for 9 minutes. The reason could occur at any level. Maybe the ethical imbalance of how to treat certain humans was in Derek as an individual. Maybe as a group of 4 officers, their morality was off. Maybe it was racism in the police precinct, or maybe institutionalized systemic racism. Maybe none of that. Maybe a bit of everything.

Maybe the result of how the officers face charges will expose systemic racism, institutional racism, or some other form of injustice. Maybe they were all having a bad day and George was really unlucky.

What’s clear is that this cannot happen again to any human being.

So, we need something to police the police. We design similar systems for other groups with power and privilege like banks and government branches. We need a review board of how law & order treats crimes and criminals.

We’ve seen this too many times before

This was not the first time that an unarmed black civilian has been killed. Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. Philando Castille. Tamir Rice. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.

In the past, I would defer to authority. I didn’t know the whole story, so I’d let the experts and the system carry out justice. But the evidence in this case is undeniable that Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. Now, this makes me question whether past events were judged fairly and why police trials for civilian killings are so rare.

There is something going on and it is not new. Minorities and underprivileged people, but especially African-Americans, have been treated unfairly for centuries in this country from the very beginning. And there is still imbalance of treatment today. We thought we solved it before. But we are seeing the unresolved injustice more often now, because people are filming and sharing events. I was in willful ignorance a few years ago.

Those on the receiving end of imbalance are used to feeling this pain and fear from systems meant to protect or support us. But those who have rarely experienced this imbalance of opportunity need to wake up and see how fairness that is promised does not always equal fairness given.

What do we do?

The right thing to do is to identify areas of imbalance of opportunity; why a drug crime in one neighborhood is a sickness, while the same crime in another neighborhood is a felony. Why? If the crime is the same, then why is our justice given out differently? Why are unarmed black people killed at higher rates? Then we address them. Then we change them.

We as people with privilege have a responsibility to make change, share our opinion, and address these issues. Let’s educate ourselves to have wisdom and empathy for those experiencing systemic imbalance.

Where as a country have promised one thing, but practiced another? Suppose that George Floyd was killed because he was black or poor or suspicious within a country that accepts institutionalized racism. Then we can talk and think about why other unfair imbalances occur, like why the iPhone facial recognition has more trouble recognizing black faces than white. The product designers didn’t intend to be racist, but nevertheless we see an unfair imbalance. A black person spends the same money on the same product but receives different value. This is not fair. Then we can talk about how we would design the next iPhone differently to enable a fairer result.

I believe in good. I believe hierarchies are good. Institutions are good. Change is good. Let’s use what we have.

George Floyd’s death is a universal issue. His life mattered because all lives matter. If you are in the hospital for a broken leg, your broken leg matters because, of course, your whole body matters. But the issue here is that your broken leg needs the treatment. Black lives have not mattered enough in the US, and we must finally follow through to make “fair and balanced” in policy to be “fair and balanced” in practice.

Praying intentionally as a way to gain patience, oneness, and optimism

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Photo by Billy Pasco on Unsplash

In April 2018, I began to pray. I had never really tried that hard to pray before. I had learned to pray before meals and pray before bed. Both of which are important. But the words I was reciting felt empty and meaningless. Inspired by Pastor David Platt and my renewed interest in spirituality, I began praying more intentionally. I tried a different approach.

I started to speak from my heart with meaning. I did not ask for things I want, rather I asked for guidance. And before asking for anything, I submitted myself to gratitude. I said, “Thank you, God. I am so grateful for the blessings you’ve given me. I don’t deserve any of this, and yet you’ve chosen me.” When I pray, I hear an echo in reply. I don’t know from where the echo responds. But the voice guides me when I submit my weakness and ask for help. It gives me answers and hard truths.

God is many things to many people. I changed from asking for things I don’t have, to thankfulness for what I already have. This is because I realized who I was talking to: God. Jordan Peterson put it best in his conversation with Sam Harris. I understand the gravity and magnificence of God in these terms:

God is how we imaginatively and collectively represent the existence of an action of consciousness across time; as the most real aspects of existence manifest themselves across the longest of time-frames but are not necessarily apprehensible as objects in the here and now…

So God is that which eternally dies and is reborn in the pursuit of higher being and truth. That’s a fundamental element of the hero mythology.

God is the highest value in the hierarchy of values; that’s another way of looking at it.

God is what calls and what responds in the eternal call to adventure.

God is the voice of conscience.

God is the source of judgment, mercy, and guilt.

God is the future to which we make sacrifices and something akin to the transcendental repository of reputation.

Here’s a cool one if you’re an evolutionary biologist. God is that which selects among men in the eternal hierarchy of men.

-Jordan Peterson, https://youtu.be/jey_CzIOfYE

Since I’m still early on in my spiritual journey, I am interested in my own relationship with God through prayer. I’m not interested in telling everyone else what to do. In my personal experience, my prayer resulted in newfound patience, self-integration, and optimism.

I became more patient because I stopped asking for things that I wasn’t getting. Instead, I asked for guidance and strength in the face of difficulty. And even then, I knew that the world could crash down on my family and me in an instant. Through it all, I would get what I need, not what I want. This meant that I learned patience. Usually, I demanded results and progress. But I soon discovered that I often don’t know what’s best for me. And I receive what’s best slowly.

I became more self-integrated. As I spoke from my heart, I said whatever came naturally. That is genuinely what we care about – not what we want ourselves to care about. I began to notice the things that bubble up to my thoughts, but I don’t flesh out. Maybe because I’m embarrassed about them. Instead, I give them to God through prayer. And when I put them into words, God accepts them and replies with an answer. In this way, I accept myself as speaking these words, because God accepts me. I could say what I think is the worst thing, but if God responds and accepts me regardless, then I can own this part of me without ignoring or suppressing it. In this way, I can integrate the not-so-good parts of me and control them, instead of suppressing them and risking that they overcome me.

Lastly, I have a newfound optimism. So far, I’ve shared the deepest thoughts of my heart to God, and he still calls me forward. In this way, I know that there’s nothing that I can do that will separate us. Of course, I’ll make mistakes as I search for the best path toward the good life. Calamity will happen and test or break my will. But I can rest assured that I will not be alone through the adventure.

I should pray about the things that I don’t understand because I need help in those areas. If I pray the same way every time, and I ask questions that I know the answer to, I don’t gain anything. By digging deep and intentionally building a relationship to God through prayer, I have more patience, self-integration, and optimism.

That Awkward Elephant in the Room

Flight of Man – Jackson Pollock – from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Serious post covering some sensitive topics here.

I needed to reset. Pornography had slowly taken control of my life. In January 2018, I finally decided to fight back.

Initially, my relationship with pornography was exciting. It energized me to get up in the morning. It empowered me to tap into deep desires. It distracted me from pain and worry. It relieved my stress. And it taught me things about myself and the world.

As I grew up, my old habits stayed the same. My relationship with porn habituated. We kept secrets to ourselves. I longed for it whenever I had a few minutes. Fantasies of blue-lit screens stung me and swarmed my attention. I planned my days around when we could spend time together.

But it was hindering me from the rest of my life. I often regretted surrendering control so willingly. I was fiending for a release instead of tapping into my desires. I was prioritizing porn over loved ones and ambitions. The spark of excitement had gone out.

The World is our Audience

When I would decide to watch porn, there was usually one point of “no return,” during which I decided to go all-in. At that point, I would ask myself:

"Do I want to be the person who did what I'm about to do?"

I thought that I only answered for myself. So, each time I answered, “sure, it’s fine.” If I chose it and approved of it, then my actions were good. I wasn’t hurting anyone. No one else was watching.

But my friends, the world is our audience. The habits, thoughts, and desires that we cultivate in private are those that emerge in public. Our private and public lives take place in the same story. No one else might know what I did in private, but they would soon interact with the person who did. They did not participate in the act, but they would see the direct effects on my mind, body, and soul.

If I crave lustfully in private, I am likely to crave lustfully in public. This is not the person I wanted to be.

I had two options: Whine about the world and pity myself as a victim. Or, change my behavior.

"You reap what you sow."
-Galatians (paraphrased)

Deciding to Stop

I decided to stop watching porn for six months. Six months turned into 14 months, to this day. The fight is not over, and I must stay vigilant. But I have regained control of my addiction.

I also did not masturbate for those 6 months. From January until July 2018, I reset my brain. I ripped apart its reliance on these habits so I could rebuild from the ground up.

For month five of six, my girlfriend (now fiancee) and I abstained from all sexual activity to reconnect with our faith. Even though I was with a partner when I decided to stop watching porn, “porn-induced masturbation” and “sex with a partner” are in different categories to me. The desire for porn is a unique and powerful category of addiction with many dangerous side effects.

My friends, removing pornography from my life was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

Results

I accomplished my goal and more. I am no longer a person who watches porn. And I was able to reestablish a healthy relationship with masturbation that does not rely on porn.

This was one of the hardest things that I’ve done. I faced severe cravings and flashbacks, especially in the first month. I doubted and second-guessed and lied to myself and struggled with moving forward. But after that first intense month, things started to balance out. The intensity of cravings and the frequency of flashbacks steadily decreased.

After six months, my body and mind stopped relying on pornography as a release. I completely transformed. Chemical imbalances evened out. I increased testosterone, energy, ambition, focus, sex drive, and stamina. God opened up to me spiritually, and my heart was ready to listen.

That inner voice now speaks clearly: “Do I want to be the person who did what I’m about to do?” I now answer, “No.”

I think porn is dangerous and addicting. Some people can handle it. But for many people who struggle with addiction, the first step is admitting that it’s a problem.

Need help? Send me a note and we can chat about my experience.

"You should be able to do things that you wouldn't do."
-Jordan Peterson

What traveling teaches

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Day one in Vietnam, 2018-11-18

Walk in a straight line at a consistent pace and do not hesitate. Eat eat eat. Smile a lot. Show respect. Be aware. Explore side streets. Ask questions.

Most importantly, take responsibility for yourself and conduct yourself appropriately, no matter the surroundings.

But my favorite: do something new and uncomfortable each day.

These are some things that traveling teaches. Lest we forget that every day is an adventure, no matter the surroundings.

In the unknown, I also have Time.

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Ergometer, 11/5/2018

I push a bit harder every day.

If I multiply myself by 1.01 of discomfort tomorrow, I’ll be fine.

If I do it again two days from now, same thing.

If I multiply yourself by 1.01 of discomfort every day for a year, I’ll be almost 3,700% further along in my hero’s journey than if I had floated along passively. So I start with small improvements and love the improvement process. Doing this enables me to move more effectively through the unknown.

I live my life as a journey into the unknown parts of the Great Narrative

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Grant and Sahyli in Koh Samui, Thailand

My narrative is the reality I know. The Great Narrative is the reality I know and the unknown I don’t know. The moment I incorporate unknown bits into my experience, those bits become known in relation to things I already know.
The best humans incorporate the most unknown bits from the Great Narrative into their known personal narrative. They speak fresh truths, combine disparate concepts, and discover connections.
I live my life as a journey into the unknown parts of the Great Narrative.
To accept the hero’s journey is to make a choice to leave the safety of comforts. To journey into unknown chaos. Where I don’t know where the fuck I am. Where demons rip me to tears but treasures glisten around corners. Keep on taking in the unknown.

A Hero’s Journey

wind

Me, somewhere in Ireland

You’ve lost touch with your hero’s journey.

But I haven’t.

We have ripped away the structures that were sustaining important belief systems without replacing them. How do we live while relying on only ourselves as the guide?

I do it as a hero. I see my life as a coherent narrative story. As the main actor, I can connect past to present. Because things tend to repeat in similar ways, I can better prepare for future unknowns with knowledge of the past.

  • Salmon swim upstream.
  • Winter gets cold.

I live my life as a narrative. I can explain my actions under a unified self through time. This enables me to negotiate in the present with the future, because my future self will be there.

  • Sacrifice time now for money later.
  • Sacrifice junk for health later.

You’ve lost touch with your hero’s journey.

But I haven’t.

And I’m not the only one in the story.