Today, my wife and I are traveling to Norway.  Getting to this point has been quite a long process.

It began with my decision to begin learning Norwegian using Duolingo about a year ago. I have been fascinated with the Scandinavian culture for quite a long time.  Decorah, IA, one of Erin and my favorite places to visit, is steeped in Norwegian culture and is home to the Vesterheim, the Norwegian-American Museum.  Since Duolingo offered Norwegian as an option, I dived in.

An eventual trip to Norway was in the back of my mind. After all, if I’m going to spend my time and effort learning the language, I would like my eventual reward. The reward came much sooner than I expected!

Our trip is centered around two hikes: the Trolltunga (featured photo) and Pulpit Rock (below).


Photo by Samuel Killworth on Unsplash

After we spend Wednesday in Bergen, we will use Thursday to get ourselves inland to a place called Odda, where we will stay two nights at an AirBnB (all of our stays in Norway will be at AirBnB’s).  We will spend all day Thursday hiking to the Trolltunga.  It will take us approximately 6 hours to hike to it, at which point we will probably enjoy the scenery and take pictures for an hour or two, and then a 4 hour hike back.  We will need to pack in our water and food for the day using my trusty backpack. If it isn’t too windy, maybe I can snap a picture like the one featured.

On Saturday, we will spend much of the day traveling to Stavenger, where we will stay three nights. We plan to enjoy the weekend in Stavenger, and then hike Pulpit Rock on Monday so that we can avoid the weekend crowds. Pulpit Rock is much less technical and much more tourist friendly (as you can tell by the picture above).

On Tuesday, we will make our way back to Bergen. Hopefully, this return trip will be by ferry, so that we can enjoy the beautiful fjords of Norway.  We will enjoy three nights in Bergen before we travel home on Friday, May 25.

During our stay in Bergen, I plan to check out the Sentrum Ju Jitsu Klubb and roll with some Norwegians.  By that time, I will be itching to roll!

Upon my return to the states on Friday, May 25th, I will get in late and need a good night’s rest, as I will be riding the Cottonwood 200 over the next three days.  What better way to get acclimated to the time-zone and weather here in Kansas?  Jet lag be damned!

Featured Photo of this post by GEORGE ALEXANDRU NOVAC on Unsplash

The Tribal Element

If an outside observer happened to look into a specific building around 6:25pm on Tuesday, May 1st, this is what they would have seen.

A bunch of individuals wearing different colored Japanese pajamas, with different colored belts, were lined up in two rows.  On a closer inspection, the observer may have noticed all those wearing white belts were lined up in the row against the wall, and the row in front of them had other colored belts (blue, purple, brown).  Standing out front, the leader of the group was wearing a black belt.

On this particular day, the leader called one of the white belts forward, took a piece of athletic tape, and wrapped it around a small black portion of the white belt. A sentiment was shared, others clapped, and the individual returned to the line along the wall.

Then there was running in circles, some sort of interpretive dance, and then quite a lot of very intense cuddling.

So what is this observer supposed to take from this?  What happened?  What does this mean to these individuals?

The Tribe

Within the tribe, this ritual has very specific and special meaning. Each time a teammate gets a stripe or moves up a belt, it is a promotion.  It is a sign of progress.  Although the individual is singled out in this moment and recognized in front of his/her teammates, it is understood on a tribal level, that this was a collective effort.

The tribe must exist before the individual.

In my previous post, Evaluating a New Venture, I introduced a very important and key component of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which is a deep tribal aspect. I became interested enough that I wanted to look more into this instinct that is within us all.  Indeed, this is an evolutionary trait that we all have.

In Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, he describes the early human tribes, and the consequences and rewards of such instinctual behavior.

Junger outlines three basic human needs that keep us all from going crazy:

  • They need to feel competent at what they do.
  • They need to feel authentic in their lives.
  • They need to feel connected to others.

It is that third necessity that he really dives into, observing right away that “modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.”

This necessity is a root cause of PTSD in combat veterans. They go from a situation of intense interdependence within their troop, one in which they serve a crucial and necessary role, to the society just described.

It is this connectedness, camaraderie, and closeness that ignites the passion for Jiu Jitsu. This tribal feeling is powerful.  It is why combat veterans feel compelled to go back. It is why some teammates have turned down great offers elsewhere in their careers or lives.

We are born with a sense of the pleasantness of friendship just as other things. In the same way as there exists in man a distaste for solitude and a craving for society, natural instinct drawing one human being to another, so too with this there is something inherent in it that stimulates us into seeking friendships.



Grappling With The Nerves

With Victory Grappling Championships this weekend, my second Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament, there is a certain level of nervousness to which I feel many of you can all probably relate.

This often happens before a big event, whether it is an important presentation, interview, performance, or athletic competition.  The nerves strike, and sometimes they strike pretty hard.

As an academic, I’ve had countless presentations that I’ve given, which include each and every lecture in my statistics and math courses. I have also competed in many races in my adult life, including several triathlons. These BJJ tournaments are new to me, and because of this newness, their is a new set of nerves to deal with.

Since a high level of nervousness can hinder your performance, it is probably a good idea to find some ways to cope.

Embrace the Nervousness

For someone to not be nervous about a big event approaching is unusual, and can actually be a sign of apathy.  As soon as these new set of nerves arrived at my doorstep, I invited them in for dinner.

If you are going to be in the game of presenting, performing, and/or competing, you will need to accept the fact that you will get nervous.  The best way to accept this fact, is to embrace and get to know that nervousness like an odd family member or neighbor (like Kramer on Seinfeld).

They are much easier to manage if you just let them in, and sit at the table.  When you try and combat them, they begin to argue with you, mess with you in all kinds of inventive ways, and make the situation awkward and even more unsettling.  You can try your best to kick them out on the street, but they sneak around the back door and end up at the dinner table anyway for a very unpleasant evening.

It is best not to fight them.  Get to know them well enough that you can laugh at their ridiculous antics.

Embrace the Now

Your thoughts will inevitably shift toward the presentation/event itself.  You will think about how things could go wrong. What if you fail?

If you think about all the presentations (performances/events) that you’ve given (competed in), and try and remember your frame of mind during the presentation (performance/event) itself, I bet you will arrive at a simple answer. Your mind was focused on the moment.  It wasn’t wondering and worrying about the end, or the post presentation (performance/event) praise or fallout.

It was embracing the now.

That’s what your mind should also be doing as it leads up to the big event.  It should focus on your preparation, the down-time, and the much needed sleep that your body desperately needs in situations like these.

Keep your mind in check.  It will drift back to the future and cause worry.  It takes practice in getting it back to the present.

Sometimes, when it does drift to the future, I like to fast forward it a bit more to after the event is over.  Remember all those feelings you’ve had post presentation and/or post performance/competition?  Whether you bombed your presentation or performance, or lost miserably in your competition, did you ever think, “hey, all those nerves were completely justified”?

Regardless of the outcome, you most likely wondered why you were so nervous in the first place?

Embrace Your Best

Since all that you can give is your best, embrace that idea.  You are going to go and do your best.

If your mind drifts to the future, you can quickly think of this inevitable outcome before returning your thoughts to the now: you will have done your best.  That is all that is important.

Embrace Your Insignificance

Put yourself in the other’s shoes, who will be watching your presentation/performance/event.  How would you react to a failure?

You move on, and eventually, you forget it. You also wonder what did that dude have to be nervous about?

2 Hobbies, 1 Day

Saturday, April 28th will be a busy day.

Parkville Microbrew Festival

A few months ago, Erin and I committed to attending the Parkville Microbrew Festival in Parkville, MO. It takes place at English Landing Park in Parkville, with tasting going from 1-5pm this year.

The Greater Topeka Hall of Foamers will be serving 17 of the club’s beers, two of which will be mine.  One is called Sgt. Gerry Boyle Irish Ale, named after a character in one of my favorite movies: The Guard.  The other is called Kaw Valley Singletrack, which is an American Red Ale in the spirit of Lakefront Brewery’s Fixed Gear.

Tickets are $35 in advance (through the link I provided above) or $45 at the gate while space and supplies last.

Victory Grappling Championships

The day before my first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament in Kansas City, my coach posted an event beginning at 9:30 AM on Saturday, April 28th.  It is the Victory Grappling Championships that will be at the Parkville Athletic Complex.

What are the chances?  My two passions in life converge on the same small town in Missouri, separated in time just enough that I could make both happen if I want to.

Last night, I decided to do just that and registered for the tournament.  It will be over a month since my first tournament, and I’m itching for some more competitive experience.

There is a little information about the event on Facebook, and a place to register here.  It costs $50 for a single division or you can do both Gi and No Gi for only $10 more.

Interested in one and curious about the other?  Come check either or both out!

An Experiment with Caffeine

Two weeks ago, I took a little less than 6 hours and listened to Daniel Pink’s new book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. He wrote this book to fill a void in the How To world that has come to dominate the self help and self improvement landscape: when do we do these things that we have learned how to do?

Not too surprisingly, many of us operate on a U curve.  We begin the day at a high level of thinking and functioning, hit a midday trough filled with yawning and a lapse in your analytical abilities, followed by a little rejuvenation at the end of the day.

Last week, I decided to experiment with some of the wisdom that his research suggested. He brought up coffee in his book and as a connoisseur of the beverage, I perked up when he began speaking about this (bonus: Dan Pink reads his audio book).

There are a few times during the day that your cup of java will be most effective.  On the flip side, there is a time in which it might feel effective, but it is actually not doing the body good.  This time, oddly enough, was when I was drinking coffee.  As such, I wanted to see if there was any truth to this.

The Best Part of Waking Up

When you first awake, our bodies begin producing cortisol.  Cortisol is a hormone that wakes up the body and gets us ready for our day.  According to the research, drinking coffee immediately upon waking up interferes with the body’s natural production of cortisol.

So, it is best to wait 60-90 minutes after you wake up for that first cup of coffee.  This is when the body takes a nose dive in the production of cortisol.

The first few days of waiting 60-90 minutes for that first cup was NOT FUN.  However, it did get easier, and I do feel great after a week of experimentation.  Good enough, in fact, to continue the habit.

In my mind, my body is responding with, “What is this?? You’re finally letting me do my job in producing cortisol for you?  HOORAY! I’m glad you finally got the memo!”

Nap Time!

Sometime in the 2-3 PM time slot (this differs from person to person) is when most of us hit a serious trough. Unfortunately, the majority of us do not have the luxury of scheduling a siesta during this time.

What may be in your power, is to never schedule anything that will take analytical thought during this time. If you can, schedule a break.  Optimally, you have a zero gravity chair that can fold up and stow away in your office like mine.


Which brings me to what Daniel Pink calls the nappuccino.  It takes about 25 minutes for the caffeine from a cup of coffee to kick in. So, sometime in that 2-3 PM range, down a cup of coffee, and kick back for a snooze. It generally takes about 7 minutes for us to fall asleep, and then 15-18 minutes later, the caffeine kicks in to wake you up, and you have the most productive afternoon and evening that you’ve had in years.

I’ve been experimenting with the nappuccino for a lot longer than a week, as I heard about this a while ago, but I took it up a notch and tried my best to incorporate it into every day last week.

You can bet that next semester, I will not be scheduling anything between 2 and 3 PM if I can help it.

From personal experience, I am still amazed at how focused and energized I am after successfully pulling a nappuccino off.  The 25-30 minutes it takes to get this done is minuscule in comparison with the amount of work you accomplish after the fact.

For some of you, it will take training. You are not nappers, you tell yourself. Neither was Daniel Pink. He hated napping. In his book, he describes how he eventually embraced the nap and how it has changed his life.

For a quick, 115 second video of Daniel Pink describing the ideas above, check out his Pinkcast 2.15.  He also provides links to further research on the science behind these ideas.

-This blog was written after a nappuccino.