How to Love Yourself (Part 1)

lucille-ball-quotes-1I’ve talked a lot about uncovering faults, vices, and problems within ourselves. Self-critique is indeed a vital skill if you hope to elevate yourself and evolve as a human being.

But what if you don’t have any problems with finding faults in yourself? What if you’re coming at this from the opposite extreme – where it’s nearly impossible for you to find anything good about yourself to celebrate? What if you have a real problem seeing yourself as a wonderful human being worthy of being more than you are right now?

First, you have to understand something about energy. Specifically, the difference between positive energy and negative energy. Negative energy is infinitely easier to generate within ourselves. It takes very little effort to demean, criticize, insult, or bring ourselves down. This happens externally as well. Had a bad experience at a restaurant? I guarantee you that more people will spread that news than will the news that you just had a great experience at another shop. This is also why most newscasts lead with bad stories first: negative energy is powerful and plays on all of our primal receptors of fear and insecurity.

Positive energy conversely, is much tougher to generate unless you work very hard at doing so. It’s also much tougher to maintain positive momentum than negative. In some respects, positive energy could be seen as trying to push a heavy boulder up a huge mountain, whereas negative energy is like rolling a stone down that same mountain.

If you are someone who has no trouble finding faults within yourself, then this post is about how you uncover the good and how to love yourself and your virtues. Because what good is elevating yourself if you don’t even love who you are at the start?

Bear in mind, this isn’t easy work. Self-improvement never is. And some of the suggestions that follow will make you snort derisively, shudder, and shake your head at the discomfort they will no doubt generate.

Do them anyway.

If you’ve lived your life without self-esteem or ever giving yourself a pat on the back, then you owe it to yourself to do these things to better your life. No one should have to go through this life beating themselves up constantly. You are worth more than that; you are someone worth giving a damn about.

So let’s go…

1. Take a shower.

What? Easy day, right? Good, I’m glad you think so. Take the shower. Turn off the water. Dry off using your favorite Downy-soft towel, put some moisturizer on real quick. Then hang your towel up or throw it in the hamper.

Are you naked? Good.

2. Look at yourself in the mirror

Stand in front of a mirror, preferably a full-length one. Just stand there. Now pay attention to what you do next. Where does your mind go? What sort of internal dialogue starts up?

If you have problems with self-esteem, I’m almost going to guarantee that you started critiquing your body in some way. Thoughts like this, “My hips are too wide. My bald spot is growing. God, look at the crows feet around my eyes.”

So now you’re ready to start, because steps 1 & 2 aren’t really steps at all. They were just to prime you for what happens next.

3. Shut off your internal voice.

Your goal is to be able to look at yourself in the mirror without immediately launching into a mental beat-down of your body. This will be hard – for some it will seem nearly impossible – but it is critical that you accomplish this. Start out small; the greatest victories come from small, steady advances rather than giant unsupported leaps forward.

Your first goal is ten seconds.

Every single time you step out of the shower, stand in front of that mirror and do not berate yourself. If your internal voice cranks up, simply count your breaths as you stand there. Inhale, exhale, and say “One.” Continue up to ten and then start back at one. This is a form of simple meditation, but by focusing on your breathing instead of the thoughts that scamper about your head, you are achieving both the goal of being able to look at yourself without self-loathing and you are starting to reign in your inner voice – another important skill.

Once you can do this for ten seconds, your next goal is 30 seconds. Use the same procedure as above if you reach ten seconds and then your voice starts barking at you. Remember to take it slow and steady. If 30 seconds seems unattainable, scale it back to twenty seconds for a week or so.

The importance here is on continuity and achievability. Excellence isn’t simply discovered; it’s a repeatable process that you use again and again to elevate yourself. The same thing applies here. Do this every single day without fail. Do it in the morning or do it before bed. But do it. Reach ten seconds. Then twenty. Or thirty.

Then shoot for a single minute.

At some point, this will become hard. Like, really hard. In fact, it may be the toughest thing you’ve ever really done. You may think it’s impossible to look at your own body without hating every inch of it; that it’s silly to love something that you despise so much; or even that it’s stupid to even try this because you already know you’re going to fail at it.

I’m not asking you to suddenly overnight fall in love with your body. I’m simply asking you to stop critiquing it for a certain amount of time. Remember: slow and steady, gradual increments is what we are after. Change isn’t something that you simply flick a switch and do (although some people can actually do that. My late father quit cigarettes cold turkey after his first heart attack, so it *is* possible…). Think of it instead as small steps that will eventually produce lasting change.

And lasting change is what we want.

The self-help industry is full of books and seminars and courses and gurus who will sell you all sorts of expensive gimmicks and complex steps to hopefully uncover self-love. And maybe some of that works. But I’ve always believed that the simplest stuff works best. No bullshit.

I suffered from massive insecurity when I was younger. I had no clue what self-esteem was. I’ve had body issues for a great part of my life. But when I started studying martial arts – Ninjutsu in particular – and moving on to the higher lessons that that study entails, it became absolutely vital that I learn how to love myself. You can’t hope to touch higher levels of self if you are still mired in insecurity and a lack of self-esteem. So I started doing exactly what I’ve written above.

Stand naked in front of mirror without finding fault with my body.

That’s it.

Don’t do anything else yet. Don’t mask your critiques by trying to pump yourself up with praise. Don’t do anything other than simply stand naked in front of a mirror without critiquing your body for one single minute.

One thing.

And it works.

Not overnight. Not in a week or two. But gradually, the more you force yourself to do this, the easier it will get.

Start here and the rest will follow. I’ll be back in a few weeks with the next steps you can take to truly love who you are.

Best of luck. Never Quit.

Who Dares Lives.

How to Be a BadAss

badassThis isn’t a “feel good” post where I tell you how wonderful you are for just being you. It’s a kick in the ass to get your shit straight and do something more than you ever have before. It’s your wake-up call to become a badass. But it’s going to take work and dedication. Here’s how you start:

1. Get Over Yourself: Realize your problems are only as big as you make them. This is not to belittle anyone’s issues, because certainly some problems, are in fact, bigger than others. But there’s one thing you can always control about problems: how you react to them. Some people think their world is going to explode over the littlest things and some other people can have a debilitating accident and come back stronger than ever. The one constant? They chose how to react.

2. Learn Some Shit: Seriously. Pick up a book and read. Put down the TV remote. Play Quiz Up on your phone and play in categories you know nothing about. Ask someone about their job and what they do even if you have no desire to do it. Learn about how other people live. The world is much, much bigger than the little box most of us live in. In order to have a greater perspective you need to know more about a whole lot of stuff.

3. Challenge Yourself Everyday: Don’t shy away from a chance to be better or to take a chance. You only grow by challenging yourself and what you did yesterday. Get out of your comfort zone and get comfortable being uncomfortable. And I’m not just talking about challenging yourself in, say, the gym. That’s great. But you’ve got to challenge yourself every single day in all aspects of your life. Why did you react that way to that idiotic driver? Why did you get mad? Sure, sometimes it’s justifiable, but for the most part, it’s probably not. (This is something I happen to struggle with, so I figured I’d use it as an illustration of how I try to deal with it…) Also, note that I am not talking about having an inner monologue where you constantly destroy yourself with thoughts like, “I’m stupid, I suck, I’m an idiot.” But I *am* talking about constantly checking yourself. Challenge your thought process and you’ll start to understand a whole lot more about who you are as a person. And knowing yourself is pretty damned important.

4. Exercise: You’ve got one body, don’t let it fall apart on you. I’ve lost count of how many Facebook updates I see where people who should know better just let themselves go to shit. Writers especially. I can count on one hand the number of writers I know who are active about their fitness. The rest sit around all day and eventually find their bodies are a mess. Clean your diet up as well. You don’t have to become a vega-nazi, but if you’re eating fast food every day then you’re pretty much poisoning yourself. Try to eat better five days each week and give yourself two days to cheat and eat bad stuff and drink if you wish. It’ll keep you somewhat sane and at the same time, clean up your system.

5. Give Back: Other people aren’t as fortunate as you – no matter where you are in life – so make a point to help someone. Even if it’s just a smile or a few minutes listening to them. You’d be amazed how few people actually know how to listen. Give someone a hand and help them reach the next rung on the ladder. Generate some good karma. Don’t be a selfish jerk. And fer cryin’ out loud, don’t be a cheap prick. There are few things worse than a cheap tightwad who has convinced himself he’s somehow wise about money because he scored a coupon and saved a few bucks. Cheap people aren’t just cheap financially, they’re cheap emotionally. Don’t be like that. I’m pretty sure no one on their death bed ever said, “thank god I got the two-for-one special instead of splurging that night.” Life is about experiences; not about waiting until the day after Halloween to buy all your candy for next year at 90% off.

6. Dream Big. Aspire to something. Get crazy and realize a dream that you’ve been chasing for years or have backburnered because you’re a certain age and think you shouldn’t want that anymore. What? Fuck that. Get after it.

7. Create a Legacy: Make something that will endure after you’re gone. Write a book. Paint a picture. Sing a song and record it. None of these have to be published or hang in a gallery on play on a radio station, but make them anyway so that future generations will have the chance to know you and what you were passionate about. You are not defined by your children; you are defined by who you are and how you live.

8. Stop Complaining: seriously. Just stop. Too hard? Then try going 24 hours without bitching about anything. Build up from there. You’d be utterly and completely amazed how much your perspective changes when you stop wasting energy on complaining. After all, complaining does absolutely nothing except make you feel momentarily better by giving it voice. Imagine how much better you’d feel if you actually changed something instead of simply complaining about it.

9. Dare: Dare to live. Dare to go against the flow. Dare to be an individual and not a sheep. Dare to laugh in the face of adversity. Dare to ignore what others will say about you. Dare to go off on some wild adventure. Dare to flirt. Dare to feel passion within your chest again. Dare to imagine a different life than the one you have and see if you want to make some changes for real. Dare to be outrageous. Dare to laugh more. Dare to open yourself up and let others into your world. Dare to be vulnerable. Dare to change your hairstyle. Dare to dance in the rain. Dare to be the full embodiment of a true human being. Dare to be YOU.


Look, your life comes down to this: you can either stay where you are, complain endlessly about useless shit, spew negative energy out into the universe every time you complain about something in your life you don’t like OR you can change your life into what you used to dream it would be. You can’t sit there and read this and think, “yeah but…” and give yourself an out by creating an excuse. Fuck that shit. Fuck your excuses. Fuck settling for what you don’t truly want.

Change is hard, but so is anything worthwhile. So what? You’d rather live a life full of misery and negative energy? Guess what? That shit catches up with you and manifests itself in your physical, mental, and spiritual health. You can literally create your own death by being awash in negativity.

What you have to stop doing is the same old shit, over and over again and expecting things to somehow change miraculously. If you’re some place in your life where you find yourself complaining on a daily basis, being jealous of others who don’t struggle like you do, or are resentful of something, then you need to change and you need to do it now. The old way ain’t working. Change it up. Change your perspective. Change how you react to stuff.

“Yeah, but…”


“Easier said than done.”

No shit. I never said it would be easy anyway. In some ways, this will be the absolute toughest stuff you’ve ever attempted before.

“It’s just that…”

No, it fucking isn’t.

Those are excuses you’re generating to save yourself from doing the hard work of change. And if you keep making excuses, you will never, ever change. You’ll just continue to wallow in the cesspool of your unhappy existence, complaining to anyone who has the patience to listen to your whining. Being a badass isn’t something you “sorta” do; you either do it all the way, or you don’t. You either make the changes needed or you stay the same. And if you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to do it. Or you’ll just find another excuse to remain the same.

Climb out of the cesspool and start taking charge of your life. People are pissing you off? Deep-six them. You hate your job? Put some money away and then quit it and find a new one. Your relationship sucks? Bin it and find someone new. There are six billion people on this planet – chances are good there’s someone better out there for you. Is your progress stalled at the gym? Change up your training and start making gains again.

You can be a badass – an honest-to-god badass – but you’ve got to be honest with yourself, do the hard work, and not settle for anything less than your dreams. The vast majority of people on this planet do not possess the perseverance to do this. The vast majority of people on this planet are either miserable or have conned themselves into thinking that mediocrity is acceptable and safe and as close to happiness as they will ever come.

Not you.

If you’ve read this far, then there is a part of you (and it doesn’t matter how tiny) that wants to do something more, to aspire to greater heights, to not settle for mediocrity, to live with passion and hope and happiness, and to see your dreams come true.

You can do it. I know you can. Others have already done it. Others with far less than you have.

Believe in yourself. Don’t make excuses. Get your head down and do the work.

You want it? Go get it.

Never Quit.

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.


By Jon F. Merz

Over this past weekend at the 15th and final New England Warrior Camp, I had the chance to talk to a lot of folks. Some of them I’ve known for many years and some are recent acquaintances. During one of the conversations with a more recent acquaintance, the subject of me doing the GORUCK Challenge came up. In one breath, this person said to me, “Dude, that’s very badass that you’re doing it.” And in the next breath, he asked, “Why?”

When I pressed him a little further, he said he understood that it was cool and everything, but given that I’ll be 43 years old this month (three days prior to GORUCK), he wanted to know why I am doing the Challenge now.

I get it.

Society has a tendency to condition you if you let it. Each and every day, we’re bombarded by sights, sounds, and ideals of how most people think we ought to live. And at 43, according to society, I should probably be approaching middle age with some degree of slowing down as my body gets older and my hair lightens a bit more. My boys aren’t babies anymore. I should be enjoying the middle stage of my life, with its somewhat relaxed pace, and possibly even start preparing myself for later life.

To hell with that.

My father passed when he was 48 years old. That’s five years from now. His father died at about the same age. To say that doesn’t weigh on my mind would be lying as badly as Romney. I think about it all the time. Now granted, both my father and grandfather were lifelong smokers (my father eventually quit after his first heart attack) and that no doubt played a major role in their deaths. I don’t smoke. And I exercise and try to take care of myself, within reason.

A lot of my contemporaries in the writing industry are within a few years of my age. In recent weeks, one of them has been operated on for an advanced brain tumor; two others have had heart attacks; and several others have pretty much openly stated that their forties are a real drag and added some incessant whining about various life factors that pretty much make me want to puke.

My view on life has always been that it shouldn’t be this bubble you live in, trying your damnedest to get to the end with an immaculate body. You need scars. You need danger. You need adrenaline. Why? Because those things – those instances when you push the envelope and put yourself into the crucible – they make you appreciate the treasures that you do have in your life. It’s in those moments – those spaces of time when you stand at the brink and literally stare down death, or injury, or your own previous preconceptions about what you could and could not do – that you see the flow of life as no one else does. In the blink of an eye, it’s over. But in the wake, you feel that pulse – that genuine flux of life and death twisting together, melting, melding into the vortex where your reality – your life – shines through without any distraction. In that instance, you see your soul naked and exposed in the brilliance of truth.

When my time comes – and there have been many times already when I thought I might be checking out – I don’t want to look back and think, “Well, that was safe.” I want to go out laughing at all the fun I had, all the love I experienced, all the pain, all the sadness, all the risk, all the failure, all the reward – everything. I want to do things – anything that piques my interest – at whatever age of life I happen to come across them. I don’t want to be hampered by what society thinks I should be doing. I want to do what I want to do.

Those who know me well, know that my general philosophy on life is this: train hard, fight hard, party hard.

The notion of “safe” for me is a death sentence. I tried “safe” up until I was about fifteen years old. Safe didn’t work for me. Safe didn’t prepare me for bullies or love or anything else it supposedly promised.

Risky, on the other hand, that was some serious fun. I’m not talking stupid (although I did enough of that as well – turns out Stupid is the delinquent step-brother of Risky – who knew?) but risk undertaken with intelligence.

That’s where I live.

So yes, I’ll be a 43 year old man doing the GORUCK Challenge. I’m sure there will be folks on the team half my age. I hope they have a blast. I did things like GORUCK back then as well and I enjoyed the suck. For me, doing the Challenge isn’t about having some midlife crisis; if I didn’t do the Challenge and resigned myself to some lazy ideal of a gradually slowing down lifestyle, THAT would be a midlife crisis for me.

Let others allow the onslaught of time to wear them down and pigeonhole them into some lackadaisical shuffleboard experience. For me, the future isn’t about scaling back – it’s about warp speed toward more challenges, more excitement, more fun.

Is that badassery? It might be. I don’t really care.

To me, it’s life.

Marketing & The Indie Author

By Jon F. Merz

I’m extraordinarily fortunate to do what I love for a living. After spending ten years in the traditional publishing world where I wrote lots of novels for many houses, I’ve pretty much made the conversion to only going indie. The money’s better, the control is yours, and the readership is there if you know how to find it. Best of all, if you keep control of your rights, the ebooks you write will earn money for you forever. And forever can be a mighty long time – even with the current copyright laws.

I get contacted by a lot of writers. Lately, I’ve seen a trend in the messages I receive. They generally read like this: “Hi Jon, I’ve written a novel and I’m thinking about bringing it out myself. Can you tell me every one of your secrets for selling as well as you do. And by the way, I’m too lazy to do any real research on you and see how many posts you’ve written on your blog about this very thing, so kindly write back to me and take more time out of your schedule to only help me when you could be writing more.” Actually, that last line isn’t in any of the messages, but it’s frankly how I feel when I get one of these things. The author is about to embark on a huge undertaking and yet they’ve done no research on how to sell their work or market it. Instead, it’s easier to drop me a line and hope I’ll respond.

Marketing and sales techniques are not something I think I’m particularly good at. So I make it a point to study the tactics of several people I respect who have their finger on the pulse of new ideas much more than I do. And they’re not authors, either, which I think makes them even more valuable. What I’ve managed to learn from them and apply to my own sales and marketing efforts is something any author should be doing: study what works and then experiment with it to see if it will work for you as well.

I read a blog post earlier today about scheduling and one of the commenters dismissed marketing as unworthy of her time. “A book will sell moderately on its own merit,” she stated proudly.

I think that’s a pretty stupid assertion to make. Whether or not an author likes marketing, they’d sure as hell better be willing to do some. The indie author movement is a great thing in many respects, but it also means a LOT more ebooks are out there clamoring for readers’ attentions. If you don’t have a brand or a platform or some other way to get your work noticed, then chances are your sales may not be as good as they could be.

A little over a year ago, some well-know schmoe wrote a book about how he’d managed to sell a million ebooks. I, like many others, immediately went and downloaded his book and read it – anxious for any tidbits he might have sprinkled throughout the pages. The book was a massive waste of time. In fact, it so infuriated me that he’d written something so clearly designed to only give him a boost and not help others, that I immediately wrote my own book and packed it full of hardcore advice on what I use to sell ebooks. The book has gotten some great reviews and I still hear from people thanking me for writing it, which is nice. Some folks don’t like the fact that I push a particular piece of software in the book for managing Twitter (and I am an affiliate of this software because it works so incredibly well) but that’s what I use every day to help increase my audience. You can still get the book for the Kindle or for the Nook.

So for those who are new to this or for those who are looking to increase their sales, here’s a quick list of marketing techniques I engage in every day.

1. Facebook Page: Get a Facebook Page! I don’t know how else to put this – your personal profile is not enough and it’s limited by Facebook. Your page is not. Need help building one? I wrote a two-part guide to doing it – HERE and HERE

2. Twitter: If you read my ebook HOW TO REALLY SELL EBOOKS, you know I recommend Tweetadder as the single best Twitter management software you can buy. I still recommend using it (use it wisely, however!) in my ebook and the techniques I use are in there.

3. Blog: Start blogging. You don’t have to do it every day, but it helps. Make sure you sign up for Authorship at Google and you’ll see your blog posts start to score better in search rankings.

4. Interact: Are there fans on your page asking questions or commenting? Interact with them. Same goes for Twitter. I astounds me when I see bestselling authors ignoring fans. It’s stupid and it hurts your bottom line.

5. Study: Find sales and marketing gurus and study what they do. Read business articles, tech articles, publishing industry articles and ferret out the things that can help you sell more.

6. Write: You might think this is at the wrong end of the list, but it’s here for a reason: to stress how important it is to make sure your sales & marketing systems are firing on all cylinders. Yes, you absolutely need to write as much as possible, but you also need to make sure you SELL what you’ve written so that writing new stuff makes sense in the first place.

Here’s what I DON’T do:

1. Hang on out Kindleboards. I used to. But it’s a massive time suck. And while there are some great people out there enjoying incredible success (which is awesome) there’s also a lot of what I affectionately call “groupthink.” And groupthink is dangerous. You need to chart your own course, not follow in the path of others.

2. Hang out on Goodreads: Pretty much the same reason as above.

3. Pay attention to reviews: the simple fact is some people will love your work and others will hate it. This is the price of admission to being a writer. If you bask in the glow of a good review, that means you also have to wallow in the stain of a bad one. The best course? Ignore reviews. Sure you can post about them when you get a 5-star (as I often do) but don’t place any real value on them. They’re valuable to readers who want to know what they’re getting into when they click buy, but for you as the author, try to ignore them.

I’ve written many other posts on promotion and publicity for indie authors. Use the keyword categories to the right of this page to search for posts. It’s always been my philosophy that a rising tide floats all boats. That’s why I write these posts – I want you to be successful, too! As I said at the start of this post, I’m very fortunate to do what I love for work and earn a very good living doing so. If you want to be a writer, the dream can be yours as well. But don’t look for shortcuts. Study and work hard!


Entering the 3rd week of Insanity for cardio endurance. Morning runs are being transitioned over to night runs. And I’m doing many, many push-ups with the weighted vest on to build muscle endurance for the event. Good livin’!