The Sydney Siege & Self-Protection

Police Hostage Situation Developing In SydneyNOTE: I originally wrote this up over on Facebook, but a good friend of mine, Jim Cobb, requested that I turn it into a blog post. So here it is.

My newsfeed is filled with a staggering amount of ignorance today in the wake of the Sydney siege. We live in a dangerous world; there are no places that are immune to violence and bad things can happen *anywhere.* Your life is first and foremost YOUR responsibility. To that end, you should – at the very least – have a basic understanding of the following items.

1. Environment: when you enter a new location, take note of entrances and exits. How many avenues of escape do you see if it became suddenly necessary to flee? If you’re in a restaurant, the kitchen likely has a door in the back. Does your office have a freight elevator? Stairs? Are you sitting with your back to a wall so you can observe a wider field of view in your area? Run down a mental checklist in your head; it’s not hard and it doesn’t take that long.

2. Firearms: a lot of people don’t like guns. That’s fine, but you should still have a working knowledge of various types. In the Sydney incident, for example, the gunman reportedly had a shotgun. If you were in that situation, you could ask yourself several questions: what type of load does it potentially have? Slugs or shot? (the difference between a “spray” effect or not) Does he have to pump every time to shoot? If so, there’s a better chance of escape before he can chamber a fresh round and fire again. (compare that to a situation involving a full-auto AK47 where he could spray off a full clip of devastation before needing to swap magazines).

3. Hostage Rescue Tactics: if you find yourself in a situation, you should understand the basics of hostage rescue. This way, you’ll have an idea of what is going on on the outside and that knowledge could well keep your morale up. Ordinarily, this will break down as follows: the assault team arrives and immediately sets up an immediate action plan (this is the plan for what happens if everything goes to shit immediately and the gunman starts killing people; they have to storm the location and do the best with what little info they have). Sniper teams will set up to relay intelligence to the assaulters. Negotiators will be trying to establish first contact and then develop rapport with the offender. All intelligence gathered will be relayed to the assault teams and they will develop and refine the plan for going in. One assault team is usually ready to deploy immediately while another rests. Negotiators will attempt to get the offender to release a few people as a token of good faith, usually in exchange for a small demand from the bad guy. This isn’t always the case, nor will the negotiators promise things they can’t deliver since that jeopardizes any rapport built up. As the hours drag on, both sides will grow weary. In a confined space like an airplane, it will smell like hell. This is a dangerous time, especially at night, so you need to be extremely vigilant. In the event the situation deteriorates and the decision is made to send the assault team in, they will lead with flash/bangs that will shock and disorient you. Lay down as the team comes in – get your head down. Once they have neutralized the threat, you will be roughly manhandled out of the immediate area. This is not the time to be offended at how you are being handled. The team’s concern is twofold: get you out of the danger, and also make sure you are not another threat. Don’t give them a hard time and pretend you’re important – you ain’t. This is a brutally short thumbnail of tactics, research for more comprehensive stuff.

4. Your Priorities: If you’re alone and can escape safely, you need to know what you are willing to risk. Some people simply can’t bring themselves to try to escape. Others jump at the chance. Be honest about what you are prepared to do. If you have children with you, how will you get them out of harm’s way? What will your exit route be? Can you put obstacles between you and the gunman? Can you hide? Are you prepared to fight and potentially kill someone? All of these are hard questions that you need to ask yourself. Are you armed? Have you trained under extreme duress conditions? In low light? Amid screams and confusion? If you haven’t, then don’t make the matter worse by pulling a gun. The team coming through that door has no clue if you’re a good guy or a bad guy. They will see a gun and label you immediately as a threat. And those guys HAVE trained to shoot under the worst possible conditions. In other words, don’t think you’ll go Hollywood if the shit hits the fan. Be smart. Otherwise your ego could make a bad situation catastrophically worse.

5. Practice Being Gray: in the event you become a hostage, don’t try to stand out. Don’t make eye contact – even if you’re the biggest baddest SOB on the planet. In fact, if you stare at the bad guy or if you make him feel intimidated, he may simply use you as an example of his intention even more readily. You want to blend into the background as much as possible and reduce the likelihood that you’ll be noticed. Don’t try to friend the attacker. Instead, keep your wits about you. Practice simple breathing exercises to keep calm. Don’t ask for anything. If the bad guy lets you go to the bathroom, or eat, or drink – take advantage of it, but don’t press the issue. Don’t ask the bad guy questions about why he’s doing this or if he has family. Make a note of anything you can potentially relay to the authorities in the event you’re able to escape. They will interrogate you about what you saw: how many bad guys? weapons? explosives? what is his mental state? what languages are they speaking? etc. etc. All of this will be fed to the intel teams that are developing a picture of the bad guys, which then is fed to the assaulters. The longer the duration of time you are held hostage, the more likely it is that some of your fellow hostages will begin exhibiting signs of Stockholm Syndrome, which is a tendency to start sympathizing with the bad guy. Be aware of this. And make a note of who among the hostages may be aligning themselves with the hostage taker.

At the end of the day, this isn’t paranoia; it’s self-protection. The world is a dangerous place and you have choices: you can be active and embrace life, knowledgable about a wide variety of topics that could help lengthen your lifespan. Or you can live lazily among the sheep, given to hysteria and panic when things go bad.

Eyes up, head on a swivel. Stay alive.

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GHOST IN THE MACHINE: A FREE Lawson Vampire Story by Jon F. Merz

Yesterday was my birthday and to celebrate, I’m giving away a brand NEW Lawson Vampire story called GHOST IN THE MACHINE. It’s absolutely FREE for a limited time so grab your copy below in one of three file formats: .pdf, .epub, or .mobi

In this story, it’s 1992 and Lawson owes a friend a favor. It sounds simple enough, but nothing ever is for Lawson. The story runs 7700+ words and will hopefully tide all you Lawson fans over until the release of the next Lawson novel, THE CRUCIBLE.

Have at it & thanks again for being such awesome fans!


GHOST IN THE MACHINE PDF FILE (right click “save as”)

GHOST IN THE MACHINE EPUB FILE (right click “save as”)

GHOST IN THE MACHINE MOBI FILE (right click “save as”)

Exorcising Demons: GORUCK Challenge Class #973 Boston AAR

Y'know, one ruck wasn't enough, so why not carry two? Plus, some water cans and a team weight? It could always be worse! (photo credit: Khoa Nguyen)

Y’know, one ruck wasn’t enough, so why not carry two? Plus, some water cans and a team weight? It could always be worse! (photo credit: Khoa Nguyen)

In October of 2012, I attempted my first GORUCK Challenge. I’d purchased the event back over the summer as a “gift” for myself and had been looking forward to the opportunity. I love challenging myself and hearing about GORUCK made signing up pretty easy – they were doing what I wanted to do. And since it had been around 20 years since I’d been in the US Air Force and done some other crazy stuff, I figured the time was right to see how I’d fare.

Unfortunately, earlier in 2012, I’d had back-to-back injuries to my right foot. Martial arts training can do that to you. Thirty years of locks, takedowns, impacts, rolled feet, and stomps to the top of your foot can leave it in some interesting shape. As I started traiing for GORUCK in 2012, I noticed that it was giving me some issues. But I’m stubborn. I pressed on and showed up at the October 2012 Challenge ready to hopefully crush it.

Instead, I got crushed. As we moved from the Start Point to the Welcome Party area, my foot started really acting up. By the time we’d gone a measly mile, my head was already in a bad place. I hadn’t gotten the foot checked out – was it broken? Was I making it worse? These are not ideal thoughts to have cruising through your noggin right before the Cadre starts the Welcome Party. I pressed on, but by that point, I’d already beaten myself. I withdrew at the tail end of the Welcome Party and took myself home. I felt like shit mentally. Quitting isn’t something I do. I don’t run from adversity. And I was pissed off that I hadn’t checked my foot out enough beforehand to be able to quiet the nagging doubts about it. Pain, after all, is one thing. A legit injury is something else entirely.

What made it worse was the email from GORUCK HQ I received the next day congratulating me on finishing and welcoming me to the GRT Family. But I wasn’t GORUCK Tough. Not yet. I knew I wouldn’t rest until I’d gone back and earned the Tough Patch.

I did my own internal AAR in the wake of October’s failed event. I came to the realization that my mental game was off, and yet, so was my physical game. Yeah, I’d done some rucking before the event, but not enough. And my overall level of general physical preparedness was sorely lacking. I resolved to do two things: make sure my foot was in good shape and set about improving myself physically to the point that I would return and get through the Challenge.

Throughout my CrossFit experience, GORUCK was never far from my mind. In the meantime, another friend of mine from the dojo made it through his own GORUCK Challenge. The desire to get back to my own Challenge grew stronger with every passing day.

Finally in early March, I was on the GORUCK site checking out the latest news and I somehow wound back up on the Challenge page and upcoming events. April 11th. Boston. It hit me like a wall. And I knew that the time had come to once more put myself “unto the breach.”

I was feeling good. My foot was in good shape and I wasn’t having any pain from the exhaustive workouts we do at CrossFit. I was running (as much as I loathe running) and making steady, solid gains in my strength program. And I still had a credit to use leftover from my failed October 2012 event. Before I could second guess myself, I registered.

April 11th.

I immediately drew up a training plan. The Welcome Party at October 2012’s event had smoked me but good and I was determined not to repeat that. I got the bricks from my previous attempt and dusted off the duct tape they’d been wrapped in. I still had pretty much everything I needed. For the next month, I would do the daily WOD in the morning, and then return when my wife was taking the 5:30pm class to do my GORUCK conditioning.

I did ruck marches with weight interspersed with a lot of PT. Push-ups, flutter kicks, mountain climbers, ruck presses, squats, hip extensions, GHD sit-ups, shoulder-to-shoulders, and more. Sometimes I used the ruck. Sometimes, I used a 40# weight vest. And sometimes I wore both. I would ruck 2-3 times each week and on off days, I would run. My rucks got longer and the weight got heavier.

Finally, April 6th, I strapped on the full weight ruck and set off on a 10-miler all over the town I live in. Mother Nature gifted me with a gorgeous warm, sunny day and I spent nearly four hours moving under weight. By the time I came home, I had only one blister, and felt good. Really good. Yeah my traps were sore and my feet were sore, but I’d detected no real concerns. Moreover, bagging ten miles under weight with no stops felt amazing. I felt ready for the Challenge.

I worked out Monday-Wednesday, tapering my GORUCK conditioning. Tuesday was the last time I strapped on the full weight ruck and did 1 mile circuits interspersed with PT. Three miles in total only, though. Wednesday, I did a 1000m run. Thursday, I took a nice leisurely stroll and foam rolled my muscles, trying to make sure nothing was too tight. I did not do the CrossFit WODs on Thursday or Friday.

Nervousness built up, as it always does, but this time I felt different. My head was on straight. My spirit was resolved. My body felt ready. I wasn’t coming home without that patch.

I said good-bye to my wife and boys at the train station and rode into Boston. The elderly Chinese woman on the train kept eyeballing me like I was some sort of terrorist, but I was too deep into my own head visualizing myself moving from one evolution to the next to care. At Back Bay Station, I got off the train and hefted the ruck (full weight was just under 45 pounds) and set off for the Starting Point at Boston Common. The walk did me some real good, giving my body a chance to get reacquainted with the weight. As I walked, I developed my mantra for the Challenge: Every Rep, Every Step.

That was it. I knew that every rep I did and every step I took would bring me closer and closer to finishing. That was what I kept saying to myself (and a few other folks throughout the event) and it really helped.

At the Common, I met up with a few other folks waiting. We’re pretty easy to spot, after all. A few GRTs were there along with some newbies. I knew I didn’t qualify as a GRT, but I wasn’t totally a newbie, either. When people started asking if I’d done a Challenge before I answered, “Kinda.”

At 9pm sharp, Cadre Logan sauntered into the midst of us with zero fanfare. (Side note: I think it’s a prerequisite for Cadre to be able to appear seemingly out of nowhere and suddenly be right in the middle of the group without anyone noticing. This happened at my first Challenge, too and it’s pretty damned cool.)

I liked Logan’s vibe immediately. I respect the hell out of people who don’t think they’re better than others just because they have expertise in one area. As Logan put it, “I know things that you don’t, and you know things that I don’t. Tonight, I’m hoping to impart some of my knowledge to you guys.”

With that, he gave us a few warnings. One, he was going to be doing things tonight he hadn’t done before (gulp). And two, he cautioned us not to quit. Because, “You’ll feel like shit tomorrow.” I could only stand there and nod my head. I knew that feeling all too well. And it made me strengthen my resolve even more to finish this thing.

At one point, Logan took roll call and mine was the first name he read off. It was time to do this.

Logan immediately assigned our first leader of the night, the youngest in our group at 21. Then he gave her and us our first task: locate his truck on a certain level in the Boston Common Garage and retrieve 13 water and gas jugs from the back of it.

We had fifteen minutes to complete the task.

We managed to find Logan’s truck and the delightfully heavy water jugs. Together, we got them all back to the SP, whereupon we learned that we’d missed the time hack. But instead of starting the Welcome Party, Logan immediately gave us the order to move to a location at Castle Island in South Boston. We loaded up and moved out. I partnered with a dude named Shane to carry the team weight while others grabbed water jugs.

As expected, our group attracted a lot of attention. Most folks aren’t used to seeing 35 people hauling rucks and water jugs and dressed in a variety of workout gear go streaming past them on a Friday night. A few drunks tried to make sense of what they were seeing, which was amusing. My spirits were up and I felt real good about getting underway. I talked to Shane and we kept up the pace of a ruck jog between traffic lights. Down at the Seaport Convention Center, PAX EAST was happening and we were far from the only “weirdos” out that night. We kept moving into South Boston, navigating our way down sidewalks badly in need of repair, over crushed glass from beer bottles, and between other obstacles. While we moved, people would call out “obstacle right” or “bike left” to alert everyone else further back down the line. It was a good indication that we were already thinking as a team. I found myself being grateful that the group I was with seemed really switched on.

At last Castle Island loomed out of the darkness and we scrambled up the embankment. We had to all touch one of the walls, together. We drew to a halt about two feet in front, waited while everyone drew abreast of each other and then took one step forward, touching the wall as one team.

Logan promptly informed us that we had missed our time hack. By 21 minutes. He then directed us to line up the water cans and the team weight and then fall into three lines. This was the Welcome Party.

I grew apprehensive. I’d been smoked silly on my first Welcome Party, no doubt aided by the pain in my foot messing about with my head. But I’d also been doing a lot of training and my foot felt fine now. So I pushed the fear out of my head and concentrated on what Logan was saying. He broke down the exercises, how they would be called, and what he expected us to do in return.

The first thing we did was what I call “Squatting with Logan,” an insidious little game that tests your attention to detail. Since we were over time by twenty-one minutes, we owed him twenty-one squats. Logan would squat – we would squat. Logan would rise and say “up.” We would rise and count the rep, “One!”

Except it didn’t always go that way. Logan would squat. We would squat. Then we would rise before Logan did anything (if at all).

“Nope, that’s not it, Class 973. We start back at zero.”

And so on. It took us about fifteen minutes to get 21 perfect squats executed without screwing it up by not paying attention to detail. Every time we screwed up, Logan would simply say, “Attention to detail,” to which we would respond, “Teamwork is key!”

After the squats, he lined us up and we executed push-ups with our rucks on. Then we moved to flutter kicks. A LOT of flutter kicks. I think there were some bear crawls in there and some mountain climbers as well. Then he broke us up into two teams and made us form two lines for inchworm push-ups.

Ah, inchworm push-ups. Nasty things those. Basically, you lay down and put your head between the legs of the person in front of you. Close. As in, “Hey, I can smell how old your underwear is.” Their legs then rest on your shoulder and you do push-ups in that way.

Or you try to.

The dude in front of me was huge. Seriously, he looked like a Nordic giant. I named him Thor. He had legs like a giant redwood tree and when he put them on my shoulders, I suddenly realized I was about to go into my deep, dark place. There was absolutely no way I could get that dude’s legs up. They weighed too much. So as Logan started calling out the reps for inchworm push-ups, I had to adapt. First get up on my elbows and then drive up to get into the top of the push-up position. Then crash back down to the ground and repeat. I was screaming at every exertion. I could hear other people screaming too. It was impossible. I was gasping for air while my head was surrounded by legs and ass. Fear gripped me. It started to claw at my resolve. I kept heaving Thor up as much as I could manage, which wasn’t much.

Every rep, every step.

But then it was over.


Logan told us to remain in position and work as a group moving forward in the inchworm crawl to reach the sidewalk at the bottom of the hill. Whoever touched the sidewalk with their forehead first would win. So we started inching forward, heads still up each other’s asses. I felt bad for the poor woman behind me who (sorry to be indelicate here) had my ball sack on her head. But she was awesome, laughed it off and we kept moving forward.


I looked up. The State Police had arrived. No doubt someone had called them and told them about the two lines of sickos potentially rim-jobbing each other in the darkness of Castle Island. From a distance, that’s probably exactly how it looked. The State Cop used his loud speaker to tell us to move. Logan quickly formed us up, gave the Team Leader the task to move us across the sand to the other end where the Vietnam Memorial was located while he went to talk to the cop.

I think we were all happy the cops showed up. Happy, that is, until at the other end of the beach, Logan informed us that we could stay and play on the beach. Since Team Two had lost the inchworm crawl, Logan immediately had them drop and start flutter kicks. Someone on Team One immediately said “Team One drop!” and we did, doing those flutter kicks with Team Two.

Logan then pointed at a tree that looked about 100 meters away and told us to run there and back carrying everything. We made it in about 47 seconds.

“That’s your time limit. If you can keep that up, you can lose one of the water cans per lap.”

That sounded good to us. We quickly rotated water cans and with each lap, we managed to meet or beat our time. We started dropping cans, but the toll of the sprints was also beginning to wear on us. Fortunately, we were permitted to catch our breath for about a minute between sprints. We only screwed up once and had to pick one of the cans back up. But in the end, we managed to come together and finish without any cans at all.

The night air had turned cool and rain had spit on us throughout the course of the event so far. Logan marched up and down the line and I think we all sensed what was coming next.

“Headlamps on so I can identify the bodies that don’t make it. Turn around and walk out into the water.”

We waded out into the ocean and the bite of the cold water was horrendous. But that’s what we were here for: to test ourselves. Logan had us turn around and then put us through the ringer of PT. Push-ups in the water that made you gasp at the cold. Flutter kicks. Mountain climbers. Bear crawls.

As we stood there, shivering, he asked us about D-Day and a few of us shouted out some answers. Logan calmly informed us that the water those brave men had ventured into was colder than what we stood in. That we didn’t have machine gun fire coming at us, or artillery shells exploding around us. It can always be worse.

To honor those brave men, we had to get down into the water and crawl out of it. Once we reached the beach we had to low crawl across the sand and all touch the wall at the same time.

A guy next to me was having a pretty hard time as we started crawling toward shore. His backpack (not a GORUCK product) looked like it was falling apart and he was dragging ass badly. I told the line to slow progress and reached back to try to pull him along. He drew abreast of us and we proceeded again, finally all touching the wall as a team.

Immediately, Logan had us up and fired the previous TL and appointed a new one. With our next location in-hand: the Bunker Hill monument in Charlestown, we set off. I’d thought that maybe we would have left the water cans behind for the Light class that was due to start the next afternoon, but no such luck. We were carrying those cans everywhere.

We took a short break outside of a 7/11 for anyone that needed to buy something to eat or water. I had a few handfuls of the Reese’s Pieces, I’d brought along and sucked down some more water that I’d put a few electrolyte tablets into earlier. I was feeling good. Tired, but good. My feet seemed to be in great shape and the shoes I’d chosen were holding up incredibly well. Logan emerged from the store with a nice glazed cinnamon bun that looked awesome and a hot coffee. I don’t drink coffee, but seeing the steam wafting out of the cup made it look all the more appealing. Oh well, I could indulge after this was all over. With several drunks loitering, Logan got us moving again.

The journey to Charlestown thinned our herd by two. One of the guys started showing signs of dehydration and exhaustion and was only somewhat responsive to direct questions. Close to the North End, it was time to say good-bye to him so we tucked him into a cab along with his buddy who agreed to accompany him to make sure he was safe and said farewell.

A short time later, we lost someone else due to injury. Mark had hyperextended his back back at Castle Island and was in agony. Yet, he’d stuck it out through the beach PT and the walk since. Since he’d already done 34 other Challenges, he decided to pull out and get some rest for his back. Definitely the smart thing to do. But I know it sucked for him to have to withdraw. I’d met Mark back at my first Challenge and seeing him before the start of tonight’s event had been great. A few times throughout the course of the night, he asked how I was doing and I really appreciated that. I was bummed to see him leave, and hope he has a speedy recovery.

Charlestown loomed ahead with its narrow sidewalks and one big ass hill. We made it up to the Bunker Hill monument and lined the water cans up before falling into ranks. Logan paced around us and informed us that we’d again missed our time hack by 22 minutes. He wanted to know how we were going to repay it, which meant what form of grueling PT would we choose as punishment.

We were all gassed at this point, but that didn’t stop a few folks from calling out crazy amounts of PT. A few us requested new negotiators – no sense PT’ing ourselves into the ground when there was still plenty of time left in the Challenge. Finally, we settled on buddy carries. Logan initially was going to make us carry from just before the monument all the way down the steps and back, but since it had been raining and the stairs were pretty slick, we were allowed to go to the stairs and then turn around. When we asked if we could do the carries without rucks, he agreed, but that would cost us. So we opted for a whole lot of mountain climbers in exchange for not having to have our rucks on.

I partnered up with a cool dude who told me he weighed only 165 pounds. He either weighed more than that or else my legs were badly shot. I did the proper fireman carry a few times and then switched over to piggy backing him back and forth.

While this was going on, we lost a husband and wife. I heard the early morning birds that meant dawn was close, so I figured we were somewhere around 0400. That meant they had lasted over seven hours – why quit then? I don’t know if there was a medical issue or what, but it seemed like a waste to get all that way only to drop.

Logan chose a new TL and gave us our next destination: Copley Square. We negotiated for time and got a good chunk of it. Our new TL felt confident he could get us there well within the time hack and we set off. By now, the streets of Boston were fairly deserted. We were hustling and humping the cans, but we had a good system down. You manage quick rests when you can get them, which usually happened at traffic lights. We had to wait to cross, so for me, it was put the water can down and bend over to relieve the weight on my back. As soon as we had the light, it was up and go.

We chose to burn time by maneuvering around Beacon Hill instead of the more direct climb over Beacon Hill. There were still a few drunk bar goers out, including the guy on Charles Street who was clearly trying to get one of two women to go home with him as we streamed past and totally upset his mojo. Guess you can’t buy rugged machismo at Brooks Brothers, lol…

Cruising into Copley Square by the Trinity Church and Library, we again arranged the water cans. But we felt good. We’d crushed the time to get there. Logan took the opportunity to have some fun. If we could guess within the minute how long it had taken us to arrive at Copley, we’d get a reward. But if we didn’t guess right within three tries, Logan would get a reward (which meant we’d get PT).

A few people got into it, but I think the rest of us knew it wasn’t going to really matter. We blew two tries and then I could see the TL sweating the third guess. He looked like the weight of the world was on his shoulders and he didn’t want to let anyone down by guessing wrong. I called out to him. “Don’t worry about it. We either lose together or win together.”

We lost.

Logan then told us he would have PT’d us anyway, and marched us over to the fountain. Mercifully, the water wasn’t on. But we got into the bottom and then were told to put our feet up on the blocks so our feet were elevated. We then had to hold the top of the push-up position until someone told Logan a joke that made him laugh.

Shoulders screaming, we all tried to come up with jokes. I was pissed off at myself, because I’ve usually got several. They had vanished under pressure of needing one. I don’t know how long we held that position, but it was brutal. Logan finally cracked a grin and allowed us to recover. He gave the TL a new destination: the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge, and we set off.

From our location, the distance should have been easy to cover. Shoot up Boylston Street and then hit Mass. Ave. Twenty minutes tops for all of us. Unfortunately, Logan told us that we had to use the path by Storrow Drive to get there. And the distance was about a mile and a half.

We set off as the first rays of light started breaking in the eastern sky. The fact that the sun was rising lifted my spirits immensely. We trudged on, but failed to meet our time hack.

“Go back to Copley Square and we’ll try it again,” said Logan. We all groaned, but turned around and started heading back.

Along the way, Logan asked if anyone knew yoga. One guy raised his hand, but Logan said he didn’t trust that the guy was serious.

And then people started dying.

Not literally, of course, but our ranks thinned out too much with gaps and Logan promptly killed six people that had to be buddy carried. That meant a lot of weight distribution. As the bigger, stronger guys stepped up to do the buddy carrying, the rest of us took on additional rucks and water cans. As the morning progressed, we were all carrying far more weight than we’d started with.

At the Commonwealth Mall greenway, Logan redirected us. No Copley Square. Instead, we were heading toward the Public Gardens. I wondered if we were getting close to the end. But it didn’t matter. He gave us a small time hack that we had to reach and it seemed nearly impossible to meet. But we hustled (trudged is the more accurate work, but we trudged faster). Every block we’d redistribute weight. People really stepped up and took on some heavy loads. The sun was fully up and I think we all knew the longest part was now over. We just had to keep going a little bit longer.

We streamed into the Public Gardens with seconds to spare and Logan had us assemble in front of the pond where the swan boats ply their trade. I was worried we were going to have to get wet again, but instead, Logan called the dude up who’d told him he knew yoga.

“Okay, this guy says he knows yoga, so you’re all going to do some yoga now.”

We stood there as the guy who said he knew yoga looked at us and let a huge smile blossom on his face. “Does everyone know the Child’s Pose?” We all sort of murmured that we did, so he nodded. “Let’s do the Child’s Pose.”

We got down on our knees and leaned forward, taking several minutes to simply lay on the ground and relieve the weight of the rucks from our backs. It felt absolutely incredible.

He moved us into the Pigeon Pose next, which was a nice stretch on both sides. I have no idea if it was legitimate yoga or not, but it was the best yoga class I’ve ever taken!

Finally, Logan called a halt to it and told us to stand up. With the bright sunshine streaming down through the trees and glistening off the water, the morning was truly a beautiful one. Logan looked at us all and smiled. “Congratulations, your GORUCK Challenge is now over.”

Amid the whoops and hollers and smiles, Logan gave us our AAR. He praised us for a lot of what we did and how we came together as a team pretty fast and well. Obviously we had some issues as all classes do, but overall, we did really well with some nasty stuff thrown at us. There’s a good video of Logan’s ENDEX AAR, so I won’t rehash it here. But needless to say, it felt awesome.

He handed out the patches and we dropped rucks. A few guys had beer and I took a lukewarm can of Budweiser, cracked it, and sucked down the brew. Best beer ever. Full of sand and salty grime from the beach and I didn’t give a crap. I drained it just after 0700 and looked up into the clear, blue sky of a gorgeous Boston day, knowing I had completed my first GORUCK Challenge.

In the wake of the event, we hung out, grabbed some obligatory pix, then helped Logan get the water cans back to his truck in the garage. Funny how they seemed to weigh less now that the Challenge was over. I picked up a couple of awesome T-shirts from some of my new pals and then walked back outside to wait for my wife and sons to pick me up. I couldn’t stop looking at the patch I’d just earned. I’m pretty sure anyone who saw me must have thought I was some deranged lunatic out of his noggin given the smile I had plastered all over my face.

Here’s the thing about the Challenge: when you’re doing it, you think to yourself, “There’s no way I’m doing this ever again.” And then, within about twelve hours of finishing it, you start replaying it and how awesome it was. And yep, you want to do another one. Mine was already nearly a week ago, and I can’t stop thinking about which one I will do next.

There’s a certain glory in shared sacrifice; a bonding that can only occur when people come together amid strife and challenge, when they put forth excellence and stop thinking of themselves for the sake of the team. The GORUCK Challenge is more than just a team building exercise; it’s more than just another event to pass the time on a weekend. The Challenge allows you to find and conquer your demons in the darkest depths of the night, then emerge alongside others who have battled the same, to become part of a powerful team capable of blasting through whatever is thrown at them in order to succeed.

I am proud and honored to call my teammates my new friends. We covered fifteen miles in ten hours lugging some heavy ass shit all the way. And I am thrilled to be a new member of the GORUCK Tough Family.

Class 973…thank you for the privilege of being alongside you last week. Cadre Logan…thank you for an amazing Challenge. And to Jason & the entire GORUCK family…thank you for being.

Burpees for Breakfast: 50 Burpees Every Single Day in 2014

If you read my post on 10 Ways to Make Your 2014 Better, you know that helping others is always a big part of any new year plans. It’s something I firmly believe in; you generate all sorts of good karma and the positivity of helping really goes far beyond the act itself.

This year, I resolved to do something a bit crazy: 50 burpees every single day for the entire year – all to raise money for NO KID HUNGRY, a great charity that provides meals and education to children in need. The fact is, 1-in-5 kids in the United States is considered hungry. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around that fact; no child should ever want for food, especially in this country! But they do, and so, I’m hoping to do something about it.


My goal is to raise $50,000 over the course of 2014. If I reach that goal, the money will provide 500,000 meals. Half a million meals for kids who are hungry! That’s substantial.

Here’s a short information video I shot talking about my plans:

I started this on January 1st and I’m thirteen days into it. We’ve already raised $1,290 dollars – enough to provide 12,900 meals – but I’m going to keep going until we blast through that $50,000 goal.

Obviously, I need your help. Donations are the best way to help – even a small amount helps. One $10 donation provides 100 meals. Please give what you can.

But I’m also trying to spread the word about this campaign. Let your newspapers, news stations, magazines, websites – everyone – know what I’m doing. It is possible to change the world in only five minutes each day – that’s about the amount of time it takes me to do the burpees – but I need your help to make this goal a reality.

You can donate by going to this page. The donations go directly to the charity itself.

The official website for Burpees for Breakfast is here and I videotape myself doing the 50 burpees every single day and post it there. Scan back for some interesting episodes! There is also a Facebook page here.

Thank you for your donations & help!

10 Ways to Make Your 2014 Better Than 2013

So, yes, I know we’re almost a week into the New Year. And yes, I know everyone has pretty much already come out with their suggestions on how to be better. I’m late, what can I say?

Seriously, though, with 2014 firmly locked in, here are my tips for making the most of it. I hope you like them, or at least they give you some ideas to think about.

1. Set Boundaries

There’s a lot of overlap in our lives – a lot more than when I was growing up. Technology has enabled parts of our lives to bleed into other areas. Out to dinner with your family? Your smart phone dings and lets you know there’s a work email waiting to be read. Getting ready to work out? Hang on, I have to check in on Facebook. Look at that! I have to Instagram that joint!

For 2014, try setting up boundaries. When you’re engaged in one activity, give it your full focus. If you’re at work, resist the urge to be distracted by emails, Facebook, Pinterest, or even the latest game app. Likewise, when you’re away from work, don’t work – play! You’ll find your focus improves and you’ll probably get more done. While splitting your attention may be necessary some times, try working on your focus when it’s not.

2. Leave the Drama Behind

We’ve all got people in our lives that we’d rather not have there. Negative Nancys, Passive Aggressive idiots. For 2014, resolve to get those people out of your life. Surround yourself with a better caliber of human beings. A rising tide floats all boats and if you are with positive and fun people, you will naturally find your attitude and outlook improving. Dump anyone who affects you negatively. This may sound harsh, but if you are interested in making your life better than last year, then you’ll need to make some cuts.

This is not to say that you should surround yourself with “yes people” who will tell you anything you want to hear. They’re actually a negative influence as well. You should find a circle of friends who are happy, positive, and accomplished – but who will also call you on your BS if need be. These people get things done and know how to have fun.

And by the way, family doesn’t get special treatment here. If you have family members who are always unsupportive of your dreams and goals, who are always negative, pessimistic, passive aggressive, or who drag you down in any way, consider parting ways with them. I’ve never understood why so many people sacrifice their happiness and put up with idiotic behavior simply because they share blood with someone. If anything, family should be held to even higher standards than your friends.

3. Do One Thing Everyday That Scares You

Eleanor Roosevelt said this and I happen to love it. And no, this does not mean you have to go tightrope walking across the Grand Canyon. It simply means that you find something everyday that challenges you in some fashion. Through continuous challenge we grow and expand our thinking. If you only ever do the same things that feel comfortable to you, you will never grow as a human being and you’ll never appreciate the richness that life has to offer. Get out of your comfort zone and explore the world around you. Try something that the old you would shake your head at.

4. Change The World In 5 Minutes Each Day

I know what you’re thinking, “that’s impossible. You can’t change the world in 5 minutes a day.”

Actually, you can. Right now, I’m doing a fundraising drive for the folks at NO KID HUNGRY, a wonderful charity that provides meals to disadvantaged children in the US. To help raise money, I’m doing 50 burpees every single day in 2014 for my BURPEES FOR BREAKFAST campaign. That works out to 18,250 burpees over the course of the year, but it also only takes me about 5 minutes (sometimes more) to do them. 5 minutes of my day devoted to helping children who don’t get enough to eat. Check out the website for more info and please be sure to donate!

And you know what? You can do something like this yourself! Imagine doing something tangible that will have a real, lasting positive effect on the world at large over the course of 2014. When you break it down into a manageable bit of time, like 5 minutes each day, then over the long run, you build up a substantial impact.

And this doesn’t work with just charity; you can set up any goal you have in this fashion. Want to write a book? Devote five minutes each day to writing and watch how fast the words add up. Want to get better at anything? Give yourself five minutes each day to practice and your skill level will improve dramatically.

5. Doodle

Buy yourself a big pad of paper with no lines. Write “2014” on the cover. Open it up to the very first page and draw something.


Why do this? We live in a world with rules, laws, and expectations about what our behavior “should” be. The simple act of drawing whatever you want to draw is incredibly liberating. You can go in any direction. You can draw whatever you want. Cartoon away. Sketch out an invention you’ve always wanted to try to build. There are no lines on the paper and there are no limits to what you could draw. Let your mind enjoy this blank canvas and play. It doesn’t matter if you think you have zero artistic ability; it only matters that you free your mind and give it permission to go anywhere.

6. Once Each Day Find Your Hara

Your “hara,” as it’s called in Japanese, is the area about two inches below your belly button. It’s also the place where babies breathe from. As we grow older, many people tend to breathe from their chests rather than their lower abdomen. But the benefits of “belly breathing” are immense. You bring more oxygen into your body this way and better fill your lungs, plus it’s incredibly relaxing. Once each day, practice taking ten deep belly breaths. Do it before you go to sleep and you may drop off sooner than you usually do. Deep belly breathing is also an excellent way to calm down if you find yourself getting tense.

Simply lie on your back, place your hands over your lower abdomen, and take a deep breath in through your nose feeling your hands lift as your abdomen expands. Bring your awareness down to where your hands are. Exhale smoothly through your nose and repeat for at least ten breaths.

7. Help Two People Every Week

Make a conscious effort to help more people this year. It can be as simple as helping them spread the word about a new project they’re working on. You might offer to pick up a friend’s child at daycare.

Why two people? Because it’s pretty easy to help one person each week, but helping two means you actually have to look for the opportunity to help someone, rather than just cruising through knowing that the universe will inevitably throw someone your way who needs a helping hand. Putting effort into finding someone who needs help – no matter how small – means you are being active about helping and doing good, rather than just passively accepting. Two people each week means you’re helping over 100 people throughout the course of the year. That’s some pretty good karma you’re generating!

8. Be A Beacon of Positive Energy

Being negative is easy. It takes very little energy to bitch about life, to complain when things don’t go your way, or even moan about the weather. Resolve to avoid doing those things. There are more than enough people out there complaining and bitching and woe-is-me’ing about life. The universe doesn’t need you joining them.

Instead, focus on the good in your life. Share something inspirational. Compliment someone in your Facebook friends list. Put forth something positive and watch the effects. This isn’t to say you need to become all rainbows and unicorns – let’s be real, here. But by consciously trying to limit the amount of negative energy you put out, you’ll be doing everyone a favor. It’s not easy being positive all the time and it does take a lot of energy, but the rewards are a lot better than just dishing out the bad juju.

9. Exercise

You need to. There’s no excuse for not doing something. You don’t have time? Everyone is busy. You don’t have the money? You don’t need to join a gym. You don’t have the willpower? Connect with friends and make it a group effort.

The simple truth is that exercise will make you feel better in so many ways, it would be impossible to list them all. Is it hard? Sometimes. But the struggle is worth it. Go for a walk. Skip rope. Do push-ups. Crank out some crunches. Think of your body like a car. If you simply leave it in the garage and never drive it anywhere, it will fall apart. The same is true of your body. Get the juices flowing. Get that engine churning. Work the pistons. Soon you’ll have a sports car instead of a broken-down jalopy.

10. Write This Stuff Down

Buy a journal, make a Google doc, video tape, or make an audio recording of all of this stuff. Especially the people you help over the course of 2014. No, you’re not jockeying to win sainthood, but having a concrete reminder of what you’ve done this year next December 31st is going to be rewarding on a number of levels. People and experiences tend to vanish from our memories and if you’re out there doing good, it’s always nice to remember what you’ve done for others – especially if the year doesn’t go quite to plan. Next December, when you’re reflecting on the previous twelve months, pull that journal out and look at everything you’ve done, and everyone you’ve helped. It may make you smile more than once!