Month: August 2014

Full Steam

The other day, my friends and I were discussing a few issues, and a businessman friend remarked “in order to be productive, you must use a lot of energy”. He was talking not only about running a business, but life in general.

This is contrary to the concept that we should be conserving energy because it’s good for us in general.

So that go me into thinking more about it.

Sometimes I have this idea to just go on an RV (recreational vehicle) and just get away from everybody. Park in the woods, or in the mountains or any remote area and “commune with nature” as so many advertisers try to tell when they sell you camping tents.

Wouldn’t life be so much simpler?

Another version would be to buy a farm in a remote location and plant crops and have chicken and sheep and goats to supply food. In a word, be self-sufficient. Wouldn’t it be grand?

The thing that comes to mind though is we are still inter-dependent on each other no matter how isolated we want to be. Being remote may only benefit our own needs and wants but it doesn’t do much else for everybody.

Obviously, even if we are in a farm, we would still need clothes. So we’ll have to buy them too. If we have a stack of fabrics we can sew them into clothes. We are still dependent on the fabric makers to provide the fabrics.

We would still need other things, such as truck parts (hint to spouse: we will need a truck in a farm), equipments and their replacement parts. Housing materials to maintain our home and tools and hardware to fix things and equipments. Not to mention a mountain bike (yes, it’s another hint).

We will not be productive for others unless we sell or give away the vegetables we grow or the eggs from the chicken or the milk from the goats or the meat from the sheep and goats and chickens.

That brings me back to the reality that we still have to work because honestly we don’t have the funds to buy a farm. We would need to spend a lot of energy to produce the funds that would someday provide us with a farm.

That got me into thinking again (maybe I should stop thinking?)

Maybe I could focus on now. Spend a lot of energy into the things that matter. Spend energy not only on my work but on other passions, and then the funds will come – the farm may or may not follow. If it does – it’s great. If it doesn’t – I knew that I spent a full steam of effort and cannot regret anything in my future as I look back in my past.

I read about this sports figure who plays basketball. He went to practice at 5am and goes home from playing at 7pm. This is during his high school playing days. Today he is a professional, yet for one of his practices, he doesn’t quit until he made 400 baskets. That takes hours but the repetition makes him one of the best ever.

We’ve read about start-up companies where the founders worked 120 hours a week initially to set up something. The setting of the stories are normally in their garages (note to self: for my next residence, I may need a garage). Months later, their companies take off. After a few years, they were multi millionaires.

My friend is right: It takes great energy to produce great results.


Aye, Aye Sir!

In the naval parlance, the phrase “aye aye sir” means that an order was received, understood and the receiver will carry out the order immediately. It denotes total obedience without mental reservation or hesitancy. It could also mean complete agreement with a concept or principle.

(I used the word sir for the title but is used with “ma’am” too.)

Obedience without question is necessary to run a tight ship. Can you imagine if a captain gives the order to “full speed ahead” and the Sailor replies “can I get back to you on that Sir?”

Boot camp was culturally shocking for everybody. Here’s a typical day:

Wake up at 3:30 am to the sound of a large metal trash can thrown in the middle of the hallway between beds. Then the company commander yells at everybody to get dressed and get down in a few minutes.

Shivering in the early morning cold climate (even though it was summer time), we hastily lined up. Then we march on to breakfast, where we were given about 10 minutes to finish our meal. The food was not very tasty in the beginning – seemed like someone forgot to put salt in their shopping list.

Then it’s on to marching, or practicing with wooden rifles or some other outdoor activity like running on the track. Then it’s off marching again to the galley or chow hall. Again, we ate at a speedy pace.

Now having loaded ourselves with food, off we went to lectures. We study naval history, shipboard skills, damage control, chain of command and occasionally knot tying. This is while we were fighting to stay awake. We ate too much bread and pasta for lunch and now it’s nap time – except napping is not allowed.

After a few weeks, we had freedom to go around the naval base but mostly on official business. Normally, we have to run from building to building if we are by ourselves. The recruits that carry a white messenger bag were allowed to walk  because they were doing administrative work.

The fifth week was “hell week” because it was our company’s (and a few other too) turn to do a lot of extra work, including preparing food in the galley. That means most of our buddies were all over the base working. That means our watchbill has a lot fewer people to cover our watches.

We had several two-hour security watches not only in our barracks but in the HQ and other administrative places. I did the watch assignment so it wasn’t unusual that someone wakes me up in the middle of the night stating that they can’t stand a watch due to reason a or reason b. Sleepiness is the challenge of standing watches.

Dinner is about 4 pm. Then we march back to the barracks where we do some push ups because some of us can’t get our act together. Then we clean the whole barracks once again using our bare hands to sweep the floor. That room was probably the cleanest room I’ve ever been in my whole life and to this day, nothing beats it.

In the late afternoon right after cleaning, we enjoy our smoke and soda breaks. We lit our cigarettes and smoked while we shined our shoes, belt buckles and stenciled our names in our uniforms.

We fold our newly laundered clothes and prepare our beds and lockers for inspection.

Then it’s letter writing time while the company commander give us a little pep talk about how our company is doing good, and we should strive to get the “J” flag or the cleanest barracks or the best uniform inspection. We snagged a few of those.

By the time the bugle sound for taps, we were very sleepy. We hit the bed and within seconds we were out.

At 4:00 am a metal trash can comes crashing in the middle of the hallway and we knew that it’s another day closer to graduation.  Somewhere during all of these, a company commander yells “are you having fun?”

Aye, aye Sir!



Brief and Intense

Have you heard of Interval workouts? It’s a variation to the regular intensity of working out. It’s several seconds or minutes of almost maximum effort, followed with a few seconds or minutes of less intense effort. Repeat several times.

More than a decade ago, my lunch breaks in the navy consisted of working out. Of course I still eat a quick lunch after workout – but it’s a lot of fun working in the hottest part of the day.

It’s either running inside the naval air base or cycling outside the base under a Pinterest perfect scenery. I always preferred cycling but when I don’t have much time, I go only for a short run (2-3 miles).

Exercising for even 20 minutes can be so monotonous. Thanks to a nightly ritual of reading bicycle magazines (and a few bike catalogs too), I learned about Interval training.

There are differing opinions and tips on how to conduct interval training depending on what you want to accomplish. I wanted to be able to increase my maximum pedaling power and make my sprints faster so I designed my own technique.

I usually start with a slow warm up with 10 minutes, then I do 30 seconds of super fast pedaling in a high gear, followed by 1 to 2 minutes of “rest” by pedaling lightly. I do 6 to ten of them. Then I do an intense effort (90%) for about 1 minute, then I start cooling down. I sometimes do two sets of them but I do it rarely because I’m always short on time (it’s only a lunch break of 1 hour).

That’s how I did my intervals. My leg muscles really improved (and maintained my weight) and I reach a higher level of fitness quicker than if I did regular spinning on my bicycle at the same speed for 45 minutes or so.

The best part is it makes the workout a little more exciting than the mundane pedaling mile after mile at the same speed. In the end, I also felt like I did my best effort for the day.

If you plan to do interval training, it is a must that you consult your doctor first. Also, if you can find a personal trainer, it would be even better.  Just make sure to check the credentials of your trainer first.

By the way, this interval concept can be applied in other facets of our lives. It can be done at work where you go real fast at some tasks, then cruise on the next, then go real fast again – to add mental quickness to your brain.

In hypermiling, people do short steady burst of acceleration then cruise on a flat or slightly downhill to save on gas. Don’t be one of those drivers that drive at 50 miles per hour when everyone is doing 70 mph because you’re being unsafe.

Can you think of other ways where “interval training” concept applies?


Move Forward

In the early 1500s Cortes and his men landed in Vera Cruz, Mexico. They were intent on colonizing the new land, spreading Christianity and sending the spoils back to Spain. But some of his men tried to mutiny. He burned his ships so there is no other alternative for his men but to be obedient and help him colonize.

Oftentimes, life is easier when you only have two choices. Move forward or sink.

As a young kid, I heard a lot of scary supernatural stories. I was only ten years old when I got one of the best scares of my life. From the center of the town to where I lived, I had to pass a road sandwiched between two cemeteries (one side for the rich with their marble tombs and concrete mausoleums, and the other side for the poor with one cross on each grassy tomb.

One day I ran out of money to ride public transportation so I was forced to walk home. My heart started beating loudly as I approached the edge of the cemetery. It was almost dark then. Then without hesitation, I sprinted as fast as I can for about 150 yard to get past the cemetery.

Maybe even a cheetah won’t be able to catch me. At least that’s how I felt.

I had a resolve to get through the “danger zone” and no one’s stopping me.

Sometimes, it’s great when we get into situations when our only choice is to go forward and never look back.

In our daily struggles, encouragement, awards and small victories boosts our ability to move forward. Let’s not talk about that because they’re easier to handle than the opposite.

Let’s talk about the negatives: people talking behind your back. People telling you that “no, you can’t do it”. You may be rejected, slandered, ignored, insulted, abused and even assaulted.

Through it all, it pays to know that you have a goal to reach and these distractions (no matter how hurtful) will just lead you to doing nothing else.

Don’t let your aim waiver.

Reach for that star!

Once you reach it, aim for the next star!

And the next…