How To Own Your Power

Sundays are a great day for getting perspective, reflecting on your goals, and also just getting things done. Especially on this rainy Sunday in January, I wanted to share three inspirational messages (one podcast & two videos) which I came across recently that you can listen to and infuse more reflection time into your otherwise “mindless tasks” like laundry or cleaning up around the house. On a heavier topic, the two videos are more conceptual, and will hopefully challenge you to become the person you’re meant to be and offer practical tips on developing self confidence.

First up, I’m loving the newly created podcast from my friend/mentor/coach Josh Courage. This is episode 3 of his series, Living With Courage, where he talks about developing true strength and power in your fitness through form and maintenance. For me, I had the awareness that this will be the first year I’m not dancing competitively in ballroom and instead developing myself in other areas staying active through CrossFit and Olympic Lifting. So I’m swapping out training in the International Standard style of five dances (waltz, tango, foxtrot, Viennese waltz, quickstep) and focusing on strength training and improving my form as it relates to the 5 core lifts Josh talks about (dead lift, squat, press, clean and snatch). Hopefully, this inspires you to pick up a barbell too.

Podcast – Why I Think Barbell Training Should Universally Be Used


The idea of creating and becoming the best version yourself is fascinating to me. In this video, McHugh says that the common thread in successful individuals is that they have nothing in common. “These are individuals who’ve managed to figure out the unique gift that the universe gave them when they incarnated. And then put that at the service of their goals. I think that we all come complete. We come complete with one true note we were destined to sing. And these are people that managed to figure that out. And it doesn’t dictate your choice of job; what it dictates is how you do it.” Therfore, the simplest and probably most complicated question you’ll ever ask is “who do you think you are?” She deconstructs this idea further in the eye complex. You can skip ahead about 14 minutes into her talk for this portion and these highlights:

14:07 – Perception – understanding yourself in context and the “approval addiction” we suffer from.
15:32 – Persona – the adaptive part of yourself. This is the part of you that keeps moving and changing.  Your job is to continue becoming better at being who you already are.
17:30 – Ego – the thing/thoughts that might stop you from becoming the person of your dreams. She talks about how developing an inner state of mind that’s impervious to the extremes of your ego; on the good days and the bad, will help you weather the internal storm.
23:06 – Self – your life is your message.

TEDx Talk – The art of being yourself – Caroline McHugh


Finally, this one is fairly quick (TRT 13 minutes), fun and contains a very practical message on how to train yourself to develop self confidence. When we loose the belief in ourselves, we’re lost. There’s no silver bullet, but there are tools and a process to try:

  • repetition, repetition, repetition.
  • squashing negative self talk & reaffirm your self-affirmation.
  • remember who you are – make a list of all the things that make you great.
  • praise the positive behavior – in your kids, in athletes; catch them when they’re good.
  • self confident people interpret feedback the way they want to.

TEDx Talk – The skill of self confidence – Dr. Ivan Joseph

So that’s it. Happy Sunday, everyone! Here’s to getting things done that physically build confidence and mentally feeding your brain so that you really do believe in yourself.

Cut loose

Lately I’ve found that the secret to being able to do something is to mentally not overthink or pre-frame it first.

I’ll give you an example from weightlifting. There are times when I start to mentally psych myself out of executing a lift when I know how much weight is on the bar because I start to think, “oh, that’s heavy, I haven’t done that before.” But other times, when you start at 80% of a weight you know you can hit and gradually build up reps handling the weight from there, it’s surprising what you can do.

Fun fact, I recently did this while doing a 5x back squat and got up to 170 lbs. Five times, down and driving up on 170 pounds! And I currently weigh 125 lbs!

The mental coaching I had stepping up to a loaded iron bar was “Cut loose. And stand up.”

This got me thinking later; what kinds of limitations are we placing on ourselves? In our work, our relationships, especially in the relationship we have with ourselves. If all limits are self imposed, it’s only yourself that’s holding you back.

Remember, if all else fails, the song Footloose by Kenny Loggins will definitely help you cut loose 🙂

The Best Practical Advice

I happened to be listening to the radio while getting ready this morning and I heard a trailer for the Martin Scorsese film ‘Silence’. At the very end, there was this sound bite from Liam Neeson where his character says, “Pray. But with your eyes open.”

That stopped me, mid mascara swipe. I thought, “that’s got to be the most practical advice ever.” It’s the balance between being hopeful but also realistic. Kind of like these quotes which I also love:

Be kind, but not weak.
Be strong, but not rude.
Be bold, but don’t bully.
Be humble, but not timid.
Be proud, but not arrogant.
Be confident, but not cocky.
Trust, but don’t be deceived.

Be content, but never settle.

Though, hands down, the most practical advice of all: acquire a very particular set of skills 😉

How Drinking A Protein Shake Before a Workout Made Me Eat Again

I had gotten into the habit of consuming my protein shake on the drive home from an evening workout. Good, healthy habit, right? Well, lately I noticed that once I got home, I wasn’t hungry for a real meal. This was happening fairly regularly over the past few weeks and for as much as I spend on groceries (and how much I enjoy food!) it wasn’t a good trend.

There were also times when I had been experiencing some nausea post-workout which also caused me to not eat a sufficient dinner. I think the upset stomach had more to do with the level of exertion during the workout. Still, it’s not a good sign to consistently have your body be unwilling to replenish its nutrients. Not eating dinner also meant I was missing out on hitting my macro nutrient goals; these are the “big three” I learned to keep a close eye on if you really want to impact your weight loss or weight gain – protein, carbs, and fats. In a way it felt good to put in the hard work that’s often required for a CrossFit workout but I also felt like I was robbing my body of the fuel it needed to sustain me in my desired level of activity.

I really dislike feeling sick in any capacity. I’m one of those people who has those giant bottles of Tums from Costco that you gradually chip away at. And while this sometimes helped to subside the nausea, as an athlete, you look forward to eating 😛

I decided to change things up today and performed a little test on myself. An hour before heading to the workout, I had my protein shake. I’m happy to report it worked! I was hungry afterward. And! The workout was definitely a good test of my exertion too.


All of this…took me roughly 27 minutes to complete.

50 push ups
30 pull ups (I did them with a band)
50 bench hop over’s
30 alternating dumbbell snatches (25 lbs)
50 wall balls (14 lbs)
30 slam balls (15 lbs)
50 lateral ball throws (14 lb)
30 burpee broad jumps

So, after finishing that little whopper, for dinner I enjoyed a modified version of home-made chicken noodle soup (I love improving upon the classics). Instead of noodles, I added different kinds of carbs in the form of vegetable pot stickers and diced red potatoes. I didn’t have carrots so I substituted with a larger helping of celery. For an extra bit of taste, I added a dash of balsamic vinegar.


I ❤ dumplings 🙂

So there you have it. My hope is that if you’re experiencing something similar, don’t be afraid to switch things up on yourself. Eating right and being active are important ingredients to living a balanced life. Sometimes you need to keep yourself on our own toes.


Want more for yourself? Expect more from yourself first.

I found it a bit ironic that the top organic search result on “new years resolution statistics” shows we’re just as apprehensive about making them as we are about not making them. The data surveyed roughly 1,200 respondents (#grainofsalt) showed there are just as many people unwilling to create goals for themselves as there are people who refuse to even try.

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So yeah, 2017 is off to a great start 😉   No matter where or when you choose to dip your toe in, I’ve found, the point at which you do so largely depends on why you’re doing it. In my experience, the point at which you’re in enough “pain” about something is the tipping point.

I wonder if the reason people are divided about making resolutions is because they inherently know they won’t follow through. Yet, human beings are inherently aspirational; we always want more for ourselves and our loved ones. But to get those kind of gains, we have to want more from ourselves.

focus on gains.png

When you think about what you stand to gain, you get excited because it’s what you want!

I spent most of last year life-hacking my own schedule and routines figuring out how to make 1% shifts to be more consistent and become more aligned with what makes me happy. This year, I’m keeping it simple and building upon the things I put into place (trust me, it’s not always easy to keep yourself in line :P) Here’s a peek at what I’m going to focus on asking of myself in order to continue building a life I love:

  1. Read or write ever day.
  2. Focus on completing three high-value tasks each day.
  3. Planning the next day the evening before.
  4. Making health a priority – actively move or stretch and nourish my body.
  5. Learn from people I admire.
  6. Keep goals in a visible place and set check-points for myself ever three months or so.
  7. Have a powerful and inspiring ‘why’ for where I choose to invest my time.
  8. Insert more random dance breaks…maybe at work…maybe during my workout. You never know. All I know is, if I’m dancing join me 🙂

African Safari – Flying back over the Serengeti -eyes closed!

African Safari Day 6
Location: Morning Serengeti drive and flight back to Arusha

On our final day, we journeyed back to Arusha by flying back across the vast expanse of the Serengeti which we had crossed in the days before. Normally, I do just fine in planes but on this particular day, I sat in the very back of this small aircraft. Let me just say it was not my best attempt at sitting back and enjoying the ride.

Thankfully, I have since proven to myself that I can fly in smaller, private planes. Still, this was truly an incredible way to end our unique and unforgettable adventure.

One of the most practical takeaways I wrote down from the evening lectures had been about (The Real) 10 Essentials for a grab-and-go bag. These are:

  1. something to make shelter (i.e. large orange trash bag)
  2. something to start a fire
  3. 25 feet of cordage
  4. leather gloves
  5. fixed blade knife with a 4″ blade
  6. Insulation
  7. paper & pencil
  8. Tooth brush & paste (luxury item)
  9. Head light
  10. Duct tape (plus a few additions like food, rum, or aspirin)

I remember it poured that morning and we were able to get some great shots of the animals and landscape during and after the rain let up.

Photos from my Canon Rebel T5 lenses rented from Borrow Lenses.

As a final takeaway, if you’re ever planning a trip like this for yourself, I’ve compiled a helpful list of items that were either helpful or superfluous to have along on the safari. (Shout out to April for the great questions).

  • What are you SO glad you packed?
  • What do you wish you had packed, but didn’t?
  • What did you pack that was unnecessary?

I’m so glad I packed…

  1. A pocket knife & small flashlight. I pretty much carried both on me at all times.
  2. Extra can of DEET bug spray for ankles and wrists (we had also sprayed our clothes with the anti-parasite, Permethrin)
  3. Bush hat (which I randomly acquired at Bed Bath and Beyond)
  4. light rain jacket (the ones from Mountain Hardwear are light and durable).
  5. Bandana to wipe or cover my camera (both from weather or prying eyes)
  6. Selfie stick (I know it’s ridiculous but it was fun and helpful for group shots)
  7. iPhone cable charger, US adapter (the outlets in the Land Cruisers actually had US ports) and a small, portable external battery. Battery saving Tip: Put your mobile on “airplane mode” to save power.
  8. Lightweight but durable bush walking shoes (found a great pair from Columbia Sportswear)
  9. A lot of my clothing and gear was from Mountain Hardware. I also wore a number of great athletic tops & pants from Athleta which held up well during our travels.
  10. An extra duffle bag (Mountain Hardwear) for leaving behind extra clothes and having as an alternate carry-on.
  11. Camera gear: I rented two lenses (70-200mm and a 2x tele-extender) from a great vendor, Borrow Lenses.  Absolutely no hassle and a great rental price.
  12. Our guides provided lots of bottled water but I also had a water bottle in my backpack that had a built in purification filter.
  13. Snacks (trail mix, protein bars etc.). Even though we were well fed, I always pack snacks.

I wish I had packed (but didn’t)…

  1. US currency ($1 bills handy for tips). Effectively, there is no universal currency for Africa and based on our route through Tanzania, the Shilling was the local currency. I had been misinformed and brought a bit of South African Rand but everyone from the merchants we engaged with to the porters we tipped for transporting our bags preferred US dollars.
  2. One more change of clean clothes. Girl’s gotta have options 😉
  3. baby wipes; it was pretty dusty out there at times.

Items I did not need on the safari…

  1. tri-pod. You never get out of the vehicle to set up a shot. The best idea I heard was using a sock, sand and duck-tape to make a make-shift beanbag for your camera to rest on since you’re shooting from inside the vehicle bracing against the window or top railing.
  2. Incorrect power adapter. I had purchased some on Amazon but they turned out to be incorrect for what was needed so I’ve provided a picture below of the outlets that were in our hotels so that future travelers can see the prong shape and outlets to avoid making the same mistake.


African Safari – Exploring the Serengeti

African Safari – Day 4 & 5
Location: The Serengeti
Lodge: Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge

Monday in the Serengeti is unlike any Monday I have spent anywhere else in the world. It’s calm and there’s no real sense of time. It reminded me that there’s always more to life than just our own geographic bubble. And yet, somehow, over time, we tend to forget this. But we’re pack animals so it’s hard to feel otherwise.

Speaking of packs. As we drove, one of the guides imparted some of that interesting, random, useless forms of knowledge about what different packs of animals are called.  I took note in case I’m ever on Jeopardy some day because the group names might surprise you.

What is the name given to a group of..:

  • Chattering of starlings
  • Coalition of cheetahs
  • Leap of leopards
  • Tower of giraffes
  • Parliament of owls
  • Murder of crows
  • Cackle of hyenas
  • Crash of rhinos
  • Mustering of storks
  • Flamboyance of flamingos
  • Implausibility of Gnus (wildebeest)

For me, Africa was like a combination of being in two movies at any given time. These two films, as you might imagine, were “Jurassic Park” and “The Hunger Games.” At times when we were on a game drive and would spot a giraffe, I wanted to get out of the vehicle to walk up to this graceful, statuesque creature like they did in Jurassic Park upon first seeing the brontosaurus. But it’s not a good idea to exit the Land Rover in the middle of the Serengeti to approach any animal. In fact, because visitors remain in the vehicles the animals are more accepting of your presence than you might imagine. So we continued to observe each other, animal and human.

Throughout our travels, I had the sense that this corner of the world operates based on two mindsets. Approach #1: I make my reality. Approach #2: my reality makes me. It’s the difference between relying on and cultivating the entrepreneurial spirit that’s inside versus the idea that outside influences (in this case tourists) bring money and resources to me so that I can live.

Personally, I find the former to be much more empowering. But I also recognize that that’s largely because I come from a first world country. So my head understands that without any significant way to improve one’s immediate situation, my heart remains unsettled knowing the conditions of the collective community are unlikely to improve.

I don’t have answers. Just observations. Maybe one day through writing a book, public speaking, or my photographs I’ll be able to offer more of a contribution.

Photos captured on my Canon Rebel T5 lenses rented from Borrow Lenses.

Photos taken on my iPhone.

Hand’s down, the most random mammal we encountered on our safrai was the one you see pictured below: a Rock Hyrax. It’s like a combination of a giant mouse or rat without a tail. It’s really cute and kinda creepy at the same time because they were hovering just above the women’s restroom at a rest stop. I learned later they are (apparently) an ancient cousin to the elephant because they have small tusks. And, plot twist, they can jump.