30 Lessons My Parents Didn’t Teach Me

Some things you just have to learn yourself.

I’ve never considered myself “wise,” and I still don’t.  Smart, sure — mainly because my parents constantly told me that I was, and because school was easy for me.  (Probably just a result of believing I was smart. Thanks, Mom and Dad.)

But not wise.  That’s not something parents can really teach, or that you can even be when you’re young.

So to dispense anything resembling wisdom is uncomfortable, and that’s exactly why I’m writing this post.

I was going to write a “normal” NMA post today.  But at the last minute I read this ass-kicking piece of brilliance by my friend Johnny B. Truant, and I decided life was too short for that — I wanted to write something that when I hit “Publish,” and sent out into the world, would put just a few more butterflies in my stomach than usual.

So here goes nothing.  The thirty most important things I’ve learned since I’ve been on my own, most of them in just the past year or two, a period in which I’ve grown more than any other time I can remember.

  1. Do uncomfortable things. If you’re not just a little bit fearful when you decide to do something epic, or when you share your work with the world, then it’s probably boring and it probably sucks.  If you do things where you can’t possibly fail and you won’t be criticized, then believe me, nobody will care about what you’re doing.
  2. Nothing will make you happy for very long except growing.  You can set goals and go get them, but once you do, there’s a void, and you’re back to square one. Embrace the fact that the fun is in the quest, not the achievement itself. Or just kill goals entirely.
  3. Preparing is so much easier and less important than doing.  Things like practicing, reading, and learning quickly become excuses to put off taking a risk. Jump in. And don’t read any book that you’re not going to use right away, unless it’s for pleasure (thanks for this one, Tim Ferriss).
  4. If you’re nice to people, you help them out, and you don’t expect anything in return, they will notice you, like you, and want to help you out.  You’d be shocked at who you can make friends with this way.
  5. Reward yourself when you do something good. If you achieve something great or do something you’re proud of, what message are you sending yourself if you don’t celebrate it?
  6. Experiences are worth so much more than things.  And stopping to take pictures sometimes ruins experiences.
  7. When you do buy things, buy things that are going to give you more time or money, not things that will become liabilities to suck them up.
  8. It’s so much easier to stay in shape than to get in shape.  Same goes for eating well.  Once you’re in a good rhythm, do things that will make it very hard to get out of that rhythm — like getting a partner so that when you’re not feeling it, they are, and vice versa.
  9. If you want people to read your emails, be as brief as possible.  Five sentences is a perfect guideline.  The same goes for talking, if you want people to listen.
  10. Buying something is never the solution to getting yourself to be more disciplined. I learned this when I made my first big credit card purchase, a $500 guitar that I just knew would make me practice. Think it did?
  11. Don’t hold on to things that you “might use someday.” A lack of clutter in your life is worth so much more, in terms of mental clarity, focus, and calm than the cost of buying that thing again, should the need actually arise for it (which it probably won’t).
  12. If you want to have more money, give money away to people and causes that you care about. It makes you view yourself as someone who has abundance, and that helps you see the opportunities that are right in front of you. Nobody listens to this one (including me for the longest time), but it’s true.
  13. You can save so much time and energy by learning from other people who have already mastered what you want to do.
  14. Procrastination is so incredibly dangerous and it will ruin your life if you let it.  I don’t mean waiting until the night before the deadline — I mean putting off things that have no deadline. Telling someone that you love them, getting in shape, starting that business, seeing the world, doing that hobby you’ve always wanted to do. Nobody is going to yell at you for not making these things happen by a certain date. It’s up to you.
  15. Being criticized or failing will always sting, but they will sting exponentially less every time they happen. So get those initial ones over with. Eventually, you will stop caring and view failure and criticism as a signs that you’re doing something that matters.
  16. Being shy (which I am, and will probably always be at the core) is not a valid excuse for choosing not to help someone who needs it.
  17. You are terrible at estimating how long a project will take you, and you will almost always underestimate it.  Realize this and adjust the estimate you give people (rest assured, it’ll still be too short).
  18. This is your life. It’s not a rehearsal. Having kids helps you to see this, when you realize that they’re seeing you the way you saw your parents, and seeing their house and life the way you saw yours when you were little.  That time is gone for you, and one day it will be for them, and they’ll be thinking this about their own kids.
  19. Gatekeepers have no power anymore.  If you have something to share with the world, you can now get people to see it, completely for free, without having to first get the stamp of approval from anyone. Nobody has any idea what’s good until you put it out there anyway.
  20. Don’t let little decisions take up time and create stress in your brain.  Trusting your gut is one of the most reliable ways to know what’s right.  Make the decision and be done with it.  Sure, you can ask someone else what they think, but will that really help, or just give you an excuse to put off deciding?
  21. Have a single place where you can write down every idea you have, and every last thing you have to do and want to do.  Even if it never gets done, it’s a tremendous reliever of stress to know it’s all in one place.
  22. The first time you try to quit something or make a big change is the easiest. You have the optimism and naive certainty that “this is it,” which you can never get back once you’ve failed. Before you give up that first time, keep in mind that it will always be harder to change than it is right now.
  23. Being talented isn’t very important, nor is it fulfilling.  Lack of talent is nothing but a very convenient excuse.  People achieve things by working hard at them, taking lots of small risks, and learning from the results.  And that’s way more interesting than just being “gifted.”
  24. Everything you do becomes part of you forever, even if nobody is watching.
  25. In those rare times when you are extremely motivated to make a change, put systems in place that will make it difficult for you NOT to change, because there will be times (soon!) when you aren’t nearly so motivated.
  26. You can learn to not need TV, talk radio, or other noise in the background while you do things. It’s hard at first, but it doesn’t take long to start seeing it as the distraction it is.
  27. We have a need to work and move, but technology makes it so that we don’t have to do these things anymore.  In the moment, it’s easier to microwave a dinner than to cook it yourself.  It’s easier to sit on the couch than to go for a walk or run.  And it’s easier to be passively entertained than to engage your mind.  And this is why people in other parts of the world, who seemingly have nothing and have to work so hard, are happier than we are.
  28. People fallaciously believe they will have far more time in the future than they do today. The perfect time to start isn’t going to come. In fact, it was probably yesterday.
  29. Life is way too short to finish any book you’re not enjoying.  Let go.  You don’t get points for finishing books.
  30. No matter how you resist or deny it, you are getting older. Time will go by at a faster and faster pace (at least from your perspective), and soon you’ll wake up and be 80 years old, if you’re very lucky.  And then one day you’ll die, and the world will go on.  Every minute you spend doing anything is a minute you will never, ever get back.  So spend it like you mean it.

Better get started.

P.S. I owe you a ChiRunning DVD winner.  That winner is Bess, who is running her first ultra in a few weeks!  Congratulations, and thanks to ChiRunning for doing the giveaway!



The Best Stuff I’ve Read this Month (plus, NMA Stickers)

“The Best Stuff I Read Last Week” was supposed to be a weekly chance to link out to the awesome stuff other people are doing on the web as it pertains to vegetarian/veganism, fitness, and general ass-kickery.

Except this month, I haven’t been reading all that much.  But that’s because I’ve been busy doing, so it’s cool.

So today I’ve got not just the best stuff from the past week, but rather the best stuff I’ve found over the entire month.  And trust, me these four articles are worth the wait.  But first…

NMA stickers!


After many, many requests and “they’re coming soon”-‘s, No Meat Athlete stickers are finally here.

I think they’re great.  I’m really pumped to get these out on the roads, where many more people can be exposed to this crazy idea we all share that you don’t need meat to be an athlete.

The stickers are five-inch, glossy, durable bumper-sticker types, and you can get them by scrolling down to the bottom of the shirts page.

Get yours now, because you know we suck and keeping things in stock.

Four must-reads for your Monday

Alrighty, here we go.

An epic post from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits, whom I had the great pleasure of having a few beers with at the World Domination Summit earlier this month.  In this very well-researched article, Leo challenges the ubiquitous “soy is terrible” doctrine by pointing out that all the negative soy-talk stems from one place on the internet, the Weston A. Price Foundation.  I know it’s not fashionable to be pro-soy, but this is worth a read.

If you don’t know Matt Ruscigno yet, you should.  Matt’s a friend of mine and a vegan registered dietitian, and I suspect he’ll become a superstar in this field, both for the amount of knowledge he has and the enthusiasm and clarity with which he conveys it.  (Matt contributed an interview to the Marathon Roadmap which has been one of the most popular of the bunch.)

Anyway, Matt put together a new video series called “A Day in the Life,” in which he spends a day with a vegan athlete picking his or her brain to find out how they eat, exercise, and think.  The first in the series features endurance athlete Brian Davidson, who also shares a bunch of recipes in this post.  I hope you check this one out and subscribe to Matt’s blog so you can catch the rest of the series.

A short but powerful article emphasizing the point that while buying and eating only “humane” meat might feel good and distract us from what’s really going on (“…buying humanely-raised animal products unwittingly encourages us to consume more animals with a lighter conscience”), it won’t do anything to bring about large-scale change in the way animals or the environment are treated by human beings.

I have no idea why they chose this title, because it’s not a debate, it’s an interview.  But it’s a fascinating one, with a vegan paleotologist who writes a blog called PaleoVeganology.

I really like this guy’s point of view.  I love that he doesn’t just say “veganism is good for everyone,” and he even admits that for some, maybe there are better diets out there.  And yet at the same time, he has a more pro-vegan take on evolution than any other I’ve yet read.

For the longest time I’ve considered dietary approaches that look to the past to determine how we should eat today to be mostly incompatible with vegetarianism.  This article gives you the ammunition to rethink that.




Be Proud to Come Up Short Again (and Again)

Post written by Susan Lacke.

I’m headed to the Deuces Wild Triathlon tomorrow. I really, really, don’t want to do this <bleep>ing race: it’s at elevation, with 60-degree water, monster hills, and now, 20-mph winds. <Bleep>. <Bleep>. <Bleep>ity<bleepbleepbleep>. I DNF’ed last year, and said I was going to come back and make it my bitch. <Bleep>.

If I die, please write a very nice memorial on the site. Lie if you have to.

Matt saved this little gem of an e-mail I sent him a few weeks ago. As you can see, I was really looking forward to that race.

Walk out or be carried out

When I wrote about the experience of my first DNF (“did not finish”) at the Deuces Wild Triathlon 2010, I conjectured that almost every triathlete has taken a DNF at one of their races, whether they chose to walk off the course or had to be carried out on a stretcher.

Read more »



ChiRunning DVD Review and Giveaway

When I first tried to read the ChiRunning book after a friend recommended it to help me qualify for Boston, I couldn’t get through it.

I really wanted to like it — the friend who recommended it to me is the same one who ran Badwater (135 miles) and Western States (100 miles) within two weeks of each other last summer, so he knows his stuff.

But while I picked up a few tips from the ChiRunning book that I still think about when I run today, I found the book itself mind-numbingly boring and ineffective at getting me to really understand the feeling and movements it described.

Enter the DVD

The ChiRunning people got in touch a few weeks ago to see if I’d like to review the ChiRunning DVD, and I agreed, with the caveat that I had found the book less than stellar.

When I turned it on, I remained skeptical.

First, the production and music were cheesy.  Chi-sy, perhaps? (Sorry.  Now that is cheesy.)

Read more »



The First Test: 50K with No Long-Run Training

In the first eight miles of the Laurel Highlands 50K — for which I trained almost entirely on the track, with precisely zero runs longer than seven miles — there was a 700-foot climb followed by a 500-footer followed by a 1200-footer.  And all of it on rocky, technical terrain like I’ve never run before.

I sure can pick ’em.

Those eight miles took me an hour and 44 minutes, thanks in no small part to a 20-minute mile, a 17-minute mile, and several 15’s.  By the end of that stretch, I was ready to call it a day.  And a career.

And yet, I’m still not ready to give up on this low-mileage, no-long-run training plan.  Here’s why.

The idea in a nutshell

In case you missed my post on low-mileage training, the approach I’ve been experimenting with is this: Optimize your workout time by focusing on building your anaerobic system, mainly through speedwork and tempo runs, with nothing that could be considered long, slow distance.

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Protein for Vegans: A Fresh Approach to Getting Enough

A few weeks ago, I was in a major food rut.  The problem was one of boredom.

Barley makes risotto more than just a pile of carbs.

You see, for the past two years, I’d had the same mindset when it came to getting protein as a vegetarian, and it had served me well: add something relatively high in protein to every meal or snack, and you’ll be fine.

I’m not talking huge amounts here.  Small additions like lentils to pasta sauce, tofu to stir fry, or almond butter and ground hemp seeds to smoothies make it pretty easy to get 12 to 15% of your calories from protein.  And that’s about what I aim for, based on how I feel, how I recover from workouts, and what I’ve gathered from talking to vegan endurance superstars like Scott Jurek and Brendan Brazier.

But there was a problem here.  It was subtle, but over time, it started to eat away at the love for cooking I once enjoyed.  The problem was the word “add” — the idea that to get what the protein you need as a vegetarian athlete, you need to supplement your meals with foods that don’t quite belong.

Read more »



Don’t Miss Out On Special Bonuses When You Download the Half Marathon Roadmap Now through Monday

Alright, it’s finally here!

If you’re planning to run your first half marathon this fall — or simply your first as a vegetarian or vegan — then you’ll want to check out my latest project, and one that I’m extremely proud of, the Half Marathon Roadmap: The Vegetarian Guide to Conquering Your First 13.1.

If you decide you want to use the Roadmap to train for your first half, it’s best not to wait on it.  I put together a really great bonus package full of cool stuff that comes along with it, but after Monday, those bonuses go away.

Thanks for checking it out, and for your support with all the great comments on the “15 Mistakes” PDF report and the head-game video.  Those mini-projects added considerably to the work of getting this thing out there, but I’m really happy with how it all turned out, and I’m glad it helped you so much.

And now, I’m relieved to finally be able to relax a bit (at least, after I run a 50K this Saturday) and get back to creating fun, exciting content for No Meat Athlete.  I’ve got more posts and ideas lined up for this summer than ever before, so it’ll be a good one. 🙂

That’s all for now!  And don’t forget, the sweet bonus package on Half Marathon Roadmap expires on Monday — click here to learn more.



The Psychological Strategy I Used to Take 100 Minutes Off My Marathon Time

Hey there! I just flew home from Portland, Oregon yesterday, after an energizing-yet-completely-exhausting weekend at Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit.  I hung out with 499 amazing people for the weekend, talking about doing awesome work and about changing (okay, dominating) the world. 

(And enjoying really good vegan food truck options everywhere I went.  Yay, Portland!)

While I was there, I put together a video that’s part of the lead-up to Half Marathon Roadmap, which launches tomorrow.  I sent the video out to people who are interested in half marathon training, but then I realized something — this video is about much more than that.

It’s the exact psychological strategy — the headgame, if you will — that I used when I was training to qualify for Boston, which for me meant taking 100 minutes off my first marathon time.  So if you’re trying to get yourself to Boston, you’ll like it.

But even if not, I think it’s a great approach to any goal that seems really far off right now, or simply crazy or impossible or otherwise ridiculous.

So that’s why I’m posting it on the blog.  The only disclaimer is that the sound is REALLY quiet.  I’m not sure how I screwed that up or how to fix it, so the best I can do is suggest that you use headphones.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The video is 15 minutes long, because I really didn’t want to leave anything out. If you find it easier to watch a little bit at a time, here’s where each section begins:

  • 0:00 — Intro
  • 3:00 — Step 1
  • 5:05 — Step 2
  • 8:25 — Step 3
  • 13:30 — Putting it All Together

See you tomorrow with details about the Half Marathon Roadmap!