Posts in category "FATHERHOOD"

Guest Post on : Good Men Project

5 Awesome Side Effects of Becoming a Dad

 

Charlie was my Obi-Wan Kenobi before he even had a brain.

Charlie was my Obi-Wan Kenobi before he even had a brain.

Why Dad’s Fitness Matters,
and It’s Not About You

Everywhere I go I can’t shake my favorite thought leaders touting the importance of working out. #STFU it’s like the freaking 80’s all over again. Back then I worked out all the time via Big Wheel, He-Man, running from Freddie Krueger and imaginary Indiana Jones boulders.

When I was in college, fitness was easy. I was a landscaper and stone mason most summers and could spend hours at the gym pumping iron, running laps and going home to watch…Pumping Iron. Shit was easy.

RESPECT and LAX. #MLIB

RESPECT and LAX. #MLIB

I’m a self-employed, business-owning Dad. Do you really think I give two wanks about my physical activity level? I’m a New Yorker, I walk to the train, I walk to work, I schlep crap all over the place. That’s fitness, right?

Well, damn you getaways and the introspection that comes with them. My fitness habits are not just about me, they’re about my two year old son – who’s watching me.

I was a fat kid.

You can’t blame your parents for how they raised you (unless they did some crazy shit, in which case let ‘em have it), but for the average person, parents do their best and back then they didn’t have the internet.

Early life, I was svelte like most 80’s lads, had the platinum blond and alligator polo thing happening and then in third grade my parents got divorced and I got the chicken pox. That equated to months on my ass drinking soda and eating Twinkies, coupled with both parents waving the olive branch in the way of bologna sandwiches and snack cakes.

Long story short, I got real fat. Had some sick moobs, rolls for days and even a mullet to top things off in my Bugle Boy parachute pants. My Dad was in the National Guard for a bit and I remember him doing crunches and taking jogs to pass his PT, but as a Methodist Minister fitness was not in the lexicon. After hanging out with some of his colleagues I even postulated an idea that a pastor’s communion with the Almighty was directly proportional to their gut or “center of power.”

I even had moobs when I got married. #fail

I even had moobs when I got married. #fail

Being overweight can be awkward

For most of my childhood, I attributed most of my social disconnects to being overweight. It became the reason why I didn’t have cool friendships with the childhood crushes I wanted and why I absolutely wouldn’t swim with my family or friends (other than guys). As a young scout, I hated taking the annual swim test and often found reasons to get out of it.

You have to buy husky clothes when you’re a fat kid. Husky is a kind of dog. Why has no one raised the crimes against humanity flag for this?

There was a silver lining

My grandparents were old school, Depression-era, not-a-shit givers. My grandmother straight up told me I was fat and needed to lose weight. Her rudimentary understanding of nutrition and fitness (from a career house wife) was that I was eating too much bread and corn chips. In retrospect she was a “pioneer” in the low-carb movement and per her advice I started to eat more salad…

I picked up soccer and eventually lacrosse and hockey, and descended back into the normal weight spectrum. Still to this day, I don’t think I’ve ever been “where I want to be” but maybe that’s rooted into my general lack of complacency. But I don’t think it always has to be this way.

My fitness example and legacy

When my wife was pregnant with our son I definitely strapped on some pounds, not only from our newlywed weight “let’s go out for drinks” but the stress of having our income cut in half while I was still self-employed. Oh yeah, and we lived in an awesome Polish neighborhood with wonderful beer, kielbasa, pierogis and other treats to help you survive the Soviet Union.

We're both pregnant in this picture.

We’re both pregnant in this picture.

Last March we applied for a health insurance incentive for being healthy, and I almost disqualified us because I was considered overweight. It was a big values decision – is my body reason enough to make my whole family pay a premium for our health insurance? As a self-employed guy scraping by I said absolutely not, it’s time to drop some LB’s.

Goodbye poundage

From June to September’ish, I lost about 30lbs via Tim Ferriss’ Slow-Carb diet. It’s easy and simple and because I don’t need lavish variety in my meals–perfect for me. I went on the PAGG stack for a while, and then in August added Bulletproof Coffee into the diet. I haven’t control group tested it yet, but I have a suspicion that the coffee may have been a huge catalyst in the fat loss.

Cheat day's great when you lose 30 lbs.

Cheat day’s great when you lose 30 lbs.

Unfortunately even though I lost weight to make sure I would save money, none of my clothes fit so I had to start buying a new wardrobe thereby eroding a lot of the savings. Making sure I stay the same size is actually a huge incentive to not regain any weight – I would feel horrible if I gained back any weight and had to buy clothes again, for the “wrong” reason.

It’s been about a year now since I lost the bulk of it, and I feel like things are under control. My son is older though, and he watches me. He sees how I brush my teeth, comb my hair, shave my beard. He understands that I go somewhere everyday to work.

But now I’m nearing a cross-roads. Do I show him only the minimal amount of fitness necessary as pertains to daily life, or do I show him that there is no standard, fitness exists only to optimize our individual humanity?

I’m honestly not at a point yet where I’m ready to adopt a fitness regimen outside of walking, but it’s on the agenda. It’s contrite to say he saw me do some pull-ups at a friend’s house, but I know he’s watching. The other day he insisted that he carry a grocery bag home by himself. In his broken English he told me that he had to carry it because he had so many muscles. He might not get it yet, but he’s totally on the way to “getting it.”

Raising chunks/champions

A few weeks ago I told my wife that I would never allow our son to become overweight. That may sound like an absolute terrible bastard thing to say, but I feel like I know too much about nutrition and fitness to guide him into that condition. My job as his father is to give him the best that I can, and I want to spare him from what I experienced.

I will help this champion stay svelte, as long as he wants to.

I will help this lad stay svelte, as long as he wants to be. Credit: Half Pint Kids

I don’t regret in any way how I’ve turned out. And honestly, becoming a dad really has brought out the best in me, but I do wish that someone had pumped the breaks as I went through a “phase” of being very overweight. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t productive and the only upside was that it taught me to be funny, clever and resourceful because I couldn’t socially acclimate the way other kids could.

Fitness, will soon be foundational in my life. My wife and I want to have another kid soon, and fitness and fertility go together…like protein powder and dead lifts. Our son needs to see that daily fitness is vital to a healthy life, and we want to be around for the long haul. My Dad is retired now, and is actually a gym rat – he texts me his numbers on the leg press. Maybe it will run in the family?

I’m writing a book about my experiences, not only about losing weight but about surviving that big jump into marriage, having kids and launching a business. We crammed them all into 1 year but I will teach you how to stay optimal along the way. As an avid performance-junkie I want it to be a guide to help my fellow top-performers, when and if, their time comes to “domesticate.” You can sign up for updates here.

The iron beckons me.

The iron beckons me.

BUSH SMARTS: Year One in Review

Since I fell off the face of the blog Earth for a year, I want to recap the past year (Bush Smarts‘ Anniversary was actually November 28) and highlight the ups and downs of running an artisanal camping gear business.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

(If you don’t want to read the whole thing)

  1. New businesses often experience a wide marketing mix of opportunities
  2. Business growth comes from saying NO to some things and YES to others
  3. Invest your time and effort into compelling products
  4. Don’t sweat trolls

BUSH SMARTS

We started out 2013 a brand new company, having wrapped a nice holiday season and riding the wave of a new press piece from Inside Hook. Press follows press, so we received several offers to participate in Fab, ScoutMobShoppe and a couple of others. I also sought out blogs we wanted to be in and wrote them…and wrote them…and wrote them. Eventually we would get responses, and very hesitantly send out samples of our (then handfuls) of inventory hoping we’d get it back (we always do).

Landing a feature in Gear Patrol was huge for us. Not only did it yield a huge amount of qualified traffic, but caused the “food chain” effect and we were picked up by UnCrate, and NotCot.org in the same day. That day’s traffic has still never been matched. The only downside to awesome press, is you never know when it’s coming so we sold out of Bear Stars in a matter of hours, and cutting and tumbling small batches of titanium doesn’t happen overnight 🙂

For a fascinating expose on blog food chains and Jedi-mind trick marketing I highly suggest Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me I’m Lying (affiliate link).

Our next big adventure came in early April, when we ran a promotion with Huckberry. Richard is a stand-up, first-rate guy and took the time to chat with us for an hour and a half when planning our event. His attention to detail and thoroughness sold us, and their marketing really delivered. It was a huge boost for us, and again led to more following and further direct sales on our site.

POPULARITY MEANS TROLLS

In mid-January, we received some biased, negative press from the survival section of Outdoor Life. They called us the “The Most Unbearable Camping Gear in the World,” and then basically just wrote that our prices were too high. The author didn’t testing anything, request information or even contact us. He just ran with it.

After reading Holiday’s book, I realized that this guy gets paid for traffic, so I didn’t take it personally. The funny part is–that article actually brought traffic that made us some sales, so thanks for that surly reporter 😉

A little while after that, a troll bushcraft forum confused the difference between a tumblr blog and sales content. Our tumblr blog feeds into the inspiration section of our site, and some folks accused us of pirating their photos and yada yada. We didn’t take anything that wasn’t on tumblr (shared on 700 other blogs), I happily took their photos off and apologized–and then they continued complaining about our prices and talking about how they could easily replicate our business.

The lesson learned there, is that it’s not worth your time to engage and pander to negativity when running your business. In our case, if the people were offended we obliged them with removing their photos and that settled it. By complaining about our prices, I know they’re not our customers anyway.

SUMMER MEANS CAMPING

Our big product launch last year was the trio of Hammock, Storm Tarp & Trail Tarp. We did a lot of camping to make sure it had the right features, right feel and utility to make it the premier lightweight, American-made Hammock and tarp system on the market.

What ended up becoming one of my favorite camping trips ever, John and I went up to Pine Meadow Lake in Harriman State Park during the cicada invasion. There were so many flying all over the place that it felt like pre-historic time, luckily despite their dull roar they quieted down at night. Also it was the first warm, sunny weekend all year so I saw more snakes on that trip than I’ve ever seen in my entire life. We literally had to watch our footing to not step on snakes during the day and I got to see a Northern Timber Rattler.

The real capstone of that trip was when we were about to hike out, we were still packing up and saw a long party coming down the trail. I said “weird, they’re not wearing shirts…actually, probably not pants either.” By the time we packed up, we had to merge into the middle of International Hike Naked Day (kind of NSFW…plus old balls…blech), and hiked with men & women, young & old for a few hundred yards before they branched off for a swim.

THE WOODS CAN HEAL YOU

My Grandfather passed away on July 31st last year, just a few days before our final testing for the hammocks and tarps. I was very fond of him, and went to Maryland the next day to see my family. In May I was there, and had taken the time to tell him and my Grandmother both, with Whitney and Charlie next to me, that we were grateful for how they lived their life, blessed by their legacy and inspired to build a fruitful marriage. We prayed for them, and I left certain that they knew their life’s work was validated in future generations. For me that was good-bye.

The funeral was scheduled to accommodate out-of-town family, and I had to go back to work. It wasn’t easy, but I’m certain that’s what my grandfather would’ve done–make a hard decision with what’s best for your family. Coincidentally, when my paternal Grandmother had passed away, my Dad, brothers and I also made the trek up to the ‘dacks to get away. I knew that I could rely on their solitude and beauty to restore me–the woods can heal you if you let them.

This was every day in the 'dacks. Untangling life ;)

This was every day in the ‘dacks. Untangling life ;)

At 5am the day after I got back, John and I + 2 dudes took the hammocks and tarps out for their final test, a week-long foray into the Adirondacks–canoeing, photoshooting, swimming and Red Red. We paddled to the back of Little Tupper Lake, and then through the marsh to a spot called Rock Pond. After a bit of scouting around we setup camp in a rooty, wooded spot with an awesome rock–perfect for jumping. The weather stayed perfect, which is not always great if you’re testing hammocks, but on the last night Mother Nature joined the party and dumped a helluva lot of rain on us.

I stayed dry and slept like a baby – using only the Trail Tarp, which we recommend only as a light-weather cover (it was seam-sealed, btw).

OPEN THE FLOOD GATES

Later in August, we were given the opportunity to show at the Capsule Show Donut Shop in Las Vegas. It was our first public exhibition and trade show–very big considerations for a small biz. It’s amazing the first time you approach an event with no empirical data, how many things you overshoot, forget or just don’t think about. Luckily, John is an absolute master of planning and preparation.

We were very well received in Vegas, made tons of connections and made a decent number of sales (Donut Shop is a cash & carry section). The people we met and buzz set the pace for the rest of our year, August-onward. Things got and stayed very busy–press requests, sales, promotions, finishing gear designs and of course prepping for the holidays.

capsule-john

Our debut public event.

SANTA WILL SLAY YOU

In a stroke of genius, John built our holiday campaign in September/October so all of our creative assets were ready to go, saving us a ton of time when the rush came later. We had a huge hiccup printing the hammock stuff sacks (custom ink we bought did not adhere to the fabric as promised but we were able to reconfigure, and launch all three still in time for the fall shoulder season. We also found time to release two new bandanas which took a huge amount of design time, but have definitely been worth it in terms of sales: Ram Bandana, Moose Bandana.

In a previous post I highlighted the value of how crucial the right partner is.

John's hard work paid off – everyone loved this image

John’s hard work paid off – everyone loved this image

By early November, we had “settled” on a holiday marketing and event plan. At Capsule we had made friends with Gene Han of Hatchet Outdoor Supply Co, and scheduled weekly shop-in-shops and an event to highlight our cooking products, namely our awesome $4 Sweet Potato Pancakes.

Another great move for the holidays was signing up (and getting admitted) into the Renegade Craft Fair. It was held in downtown Brooklyn the week before Black Friday so we were absolutely crushed with traffic and sales. They definitely hooked us up with a great spot, right in front and a cool space to lay out the goods. It was so much busier than we expected I had to resupply overnight to bring more the next day.

What a blast - Charlie got to hang out with us on Saturday. He was our #1 salesman.

What a blast – Charlie got to hang out with us on Saturday. He was our #1 salesman.

Gizmodo also picked up our “poo” shovel the day before Black Friday…

Realizing the potential for holiday markets, we jumped on board with BK Bazaar and spent Black Friday weekend there. It was overall a pretty good venture for the holidays. The only downside to it though (all holiday markets not BK Bazaar), is when the holidays are your first frame of reference for what to expect at a market, the rest of the year can leave you pretty jaded (but hey we’re New Yorkers). We really enjoyed meeting great people, making friends and developing new business relationships with cool people (e.g. Throne Watches and Awesome Boxes).

BK Bazaar is such a fun event, we've gone back just to say hi!

BK Bazaar is such a fun event, we’ve gone back just to say hi!

Coinciding with the holiday markets, we also bought our first paid ad, which was a sponsored blog post in Brooklyn Based. In terms of ROI it was definitely worth our while–I always recommend if you’re leery of when to start paid advertising, do it at the holidays when you’ll have a higher probability of success. The only downside is you won’t learn as much about your audience targeting because holiday shoppers are in the heavy buying zone (not a great control group).

BrooklynBased also promoted our cooking event at Hatchet Outdoor Supply Co. and several other local event blogs did too. We ran our tickets through Eventbrite, sold out in no time and had a waiting list. Unfortunately rain cut back on the attendance a bit, but lots of people came out–we cooked a ton of pancakes, Red Red and damper.

The last major component to our holiday mix, sprouted from the ether in November. Capsule Market Square is a retail shopping event planned by the Capsule team to offer direct-to-customer access to all the brands in their trade show circle. It was held in SoHo a week and a half before the holidays, and again was a huge success. In addition to a high volume of direct sales, we picked up a few wholesale clients and met some press contacts that have paid off since.

Tying all of the holidays together: We started off thinking we’d do weekend installations at Hatchet and the Renegade. By staying flexible and attacking opportunities we still had weekly appearances at Hatchet, entered two new markets and spent infinitely more time selling to and learning about our customers. BE FLEXIBLE

THREE’s…or FOUR’s COMPANY

Through the holidays, while I was running and recovering from weekend markets, John was plowing through online orders and making things alongside our first intern from the Pratt Institute–Grace Kwok. Having an additional team member adds an interesting dynamic to the shop, in terms of staying on-task and also keeping the products flowing out. Since Grace finished the semester we hired a winter intern and now are working with Alex for the spring. He’s a camper and outdoorsman so that’s also an interesting mix–how hiring “on brand” can line up with talents and experience.

John, making custom suspenders for my very tall friend Chad.

John, making custom suspenders for my very tall friend Chad.

To help with the markets and shows, Whitney joined the team and is now the “official” go-to person when we’re running events out and about. That was hugely beneficial for us, as my work days got longer she was able to be a part of it all and in many cases bring Charlie. In times when he couldn’t be with us, we were and are blessed with a huge community of family and friends from our church and Williamsburg Community Group to stay at our home and watch him.

WHAT IT ALL MEANS AS A DAD

2013 was a great year–a long, hard year, but really a great one and maybe my best year ever. It started so cold and dreary, and really accelerated so rapidly and furiously that 2014 has started with incredible momentum. I learned a lot about work-life balance, and about how being better at my work was not for the sake of doing more work, but for the sake of living a better life. It’s easy to forget sometimes that starting a business is ultimately for the purpose of living a life on your own terms. In 2013, I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted with Charlie and Whitney, but looking back on it my best and most-treasured memories where with them–and that’s incredibly reassuring to me. It’s given me huge inspiration to be better at Bush Smarts, better at Creative Consulting and better at everything else so that I can have more time with them and more meaningful quality time.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  1. New businesses often experience a wide marketing mix of opportunities
  2. Business growth comes from saying NO to some things and YES to others
  3. Invest your time and effort into compelling products
  4. Don’t sweat trolls