What to Look for this Week, and a Reading List


Good morning everyone, I’ve been in Chicago the past few days, enjoying deep dish pizza, dueling piano bars, and the Field Museum. Pictures to come! Ok, 1 picture now.

Cloud Gate aka "The Bean"

Here are the books, sites, and articles that have been speaking to me this week, hope you find something here that speaks to you as well. I’ll be back to regular posting on Wednesday, working on the topic of Jesus and simple living.

For today, here is what I’m reading:

The Thank You Economy: I’ve just started, but am really diving in. How we communicate with our clients and treat them as people is the most important aspect in business today. Even in a down economy, people will pay more for the same product/service if the customer care is better. I know I do. Will keep you updated.

7 Remarkably Simple Ways to Become a Stronger Runner (and maybe even enjoy it)!: I’ve been reading a lot of Matt’s work lately, during my own foray in to vegetarian and quasi-vegan eating habits. I always thought as an athlete, I need large amounts of meat to perform my best. Now, being 90% meat free for a month now, I don’t really miss it. When I do eat meat, I feel pretty bad (though it is delicious). This post isn’t about nutrition, but a good primer in kick-starting your running.

What You Need to Know Before Starting a WordPress Blog: I came across this post because I’ve been researching the transition to a self-hosted WordPress blog. This post is one of the best for quickly covering the basics of your launch.

50 Centuries of Work = 5 Important Lessons: This is really a short book review, but Dan offers us enough meat to tell 1 important fact – “Choose a career for intrinisic rewards, not the financial rewards”. This looks like a book I may be reading in the future.

Is Liberal and Conservative In Our Hard-Wiring?: Richard Rohr is always thought-provoking, and in an election year he serves up this basic question of political nature vs. nurture. A good read that takes a couple minutes.

Failure is an Option: Great advice from Vern, who speaks about failure in the context of athletics, but is applicable across many disciplines. A great quote in the article is “failure sucks but instructs.” If you are an athlete I highly recommend adding Vern to your permanent reading list.

Dating Advice from 1944 – How to Pick Your Right Girl:

Good ol’ Art of Manliness, digging through the archives and coming up with this gem. If you are a guy navigating the world of dating, give this a read, and give a lot of thought to what truly matters to you in the long run.

I’ve already found my right girl, and she’s under Marilyn Monroe’s dress…

Well that’s a good list for the week, what have you guys and gals been reading? I hope that your week is full of blessings and challenges. We need them both to stay sharp!

22 People Who Are Better Than Me (in a good way!)


Today I got down to thinking about what I really want to write about, and more specifically, where I would want the process to take me. I would love to be able to travel, wrote about nature, the outdoors, make short films, coach football, help those in need, go on mission trips, and work with kids. That’s all (sarcastic/hopeful tone).

Then I considered what I’ve been writing about, and my content didn’t match my hope that well. Since I’m starting out as a writer, I do believe it’s best to keep writing, and focus your voice and content as you get better. At least that’s what I’m going for right now. I have been writing a lot about writing and the creative process, and honestly it’s been easy to use that as a topic because it’s a daily part of my life. I’m basically re-packaging my own struggles and sharing them with you. Hopefully though, it helps in a small way.

One of the main challenges I face is the realization that there are so many people and services out right now who are doing what I want to do, and doing it really, really well. I’m becoming less intimidated by them, because I know that I can do great work as well. The challenge is taking the chance and putting forth the years of work necessary to get to where they are now. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are social platforms or the permission to impact people in a busy world. I don’t know how to write great code, use sophisticated SEO tactics, or create beautiful designs. I tell stories.

Presently though, here are a list of people and sites that I read daily, or will read, watch, or listen to anything they release. I haven’t included any company sites or blogs, they’re in a different category than these 22 run by an individual or small team. They certainly have a voice in the work that I produce, and I hope you enjoy them as well!

Outdoors

Adventure Journal – Steve Casmiro (former editor of Cycling magazine and top-notch photographer) has built the premier site for all things outdoor. News, advocacy, links, photography, gear, food, they have it all. This is the main outdoor site I visit daily, the content is rich and worthwhile. I would visit simply to drool over the Weekend Cabin (which you should as well). It was also just named Outside Magazine’s #1 Outdoor site.

Check out these posts to get started:

Cold Splinters – Jeff Thrope has made the outdoors feel all 1970’s again, and I love it. The site in itself is beautifully designed and vintage, the photography syncs perfectly with the site with vintage filters, and he writes very well. Cold Splinters is where I can feel like an outdoors hipster. It’s a general outdoor site, but the Trail Mix posts are very enjoyable, along with any of the well-written posts about doing work with your hands.

Check out these posts to get started:

Semi-Rad – I really enjoy Brendan Leonard’s blog, because he is a regular guy trying to live the dream. Also, he shows up and delivers to his tribe, consistency is king! My favorite part of his blog is the About Me.

Check out these posts to get started:

Dirtbag Diaries – This is really more of a podcast, and maybe the best outdoor life podcast going today. The stories take center stage, tales of adventure and brokenness that mirror our own lives. The Diaries popularity is also helped by the music that Fitz puts together for each episode, then make available in the notes.

Check out these posts to get started:

The Gear Junkie – Stephen Regenold has put together one of the best outdoor gear review sites, and my personal favorite. If you’re like me and want to low-down on every piece of outdoor gear you purchase, the Gear Junkie is a great place to look. He’s also active on twitter, and has responded directly to a few of my gear inquiries.

Check out these posts to get started:

Sports

Smart Football – Chris Brown is a lawyer turned football analyst, and his acumen for breaking down plays, techniques, and game plans is undeniable. If I’m following twitter during a game, Smart Football is definitely on the list. I’m also convinced that a smart person with average football knowledge could turn themselves in to a decent high school football coach simply by reading Smart Football.

Check out these posts to get started:

Only Gators – I graduated from Florida, and Adam Silverstein runs the best insider blog on the interwebs right now. I’ll check in with OG on a regular basis to see what’s been happening, and daily during football season. No links to read, if you’re a Gator fan just go ahead and start following.

Dr. Saturday – This is a stretch, since Dr Saturday is the Yahoo Sports College Football blog, thus not independent. But it is the most consistent, well-written source of news and updates in college football. The previous head guy, Matt Hinton, has recently left the building, replaced by the new head lady, Graham Watson. Looking forward to the new season.

Writing, Creativity, and Business

Jeff Goins – I’ve written about Jeff a few times, mainly here. He’s actually probably getting tired of it. Jeff consistently turns out great content and advice for writers, no matter what stage of the craft you’re in. Begin reading and you won’t be disappointed.

Check out these posts to get started:

Michael Hyatt – Michael is the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, but on his blog he focuses on the topic of Intentional Leadership. He writes about other topics, but that is the main focus. I really appreciate the honesty Michael communicates with, and his willingness to share knowledge gleaned from many years in the writing business.

Check out these posts to get started:

Seth Godin – Seth is the first author I read who challenged me to think about how I worked. I am continually inspired by his work, and at the root of my amazement is his consistency! In 2009 he wrote his 3,000 daily post in a row, affirming his commitment to spreading ideas and new ways of thinking. He’s also a master at taking an idea or thought that is on the tip of your tongue, and giving it life. Check him out.

Check out these posts to get started:

Daniel Pink – Dan’s site is extremely interesting, and I’ve mentioned some of his work before. The Pomodoro technique came from Dan’s site, and his book A Whole New Mind was very important for me, especially just after graduating college. You can find a wealth of analytical information, presented in a fascinating manner, along with many other topics. One of my favorite running features is emotionally intelligent signage. Give him a look.

Check out these posts to get started:

Garr Reynolds – I read Garr’s book Presentation Zen 4 years ago, and it made me think differently about the way I speak in front of people, communicate information, and design everything. You wouldn’t think of the design and layout of power point presentations as art, but then you haven’t seen Garr’s slide decks. It changed everything for me in those areas. The design aspect spilled over in to other areas of life as well, to websites, my office, home, and really everything.

Check out these posts to get started:

Corbett Barr – Corbett runs ThinkTraffic.com, arguably the best site for bloggers looking to generate more traffic and income. It’s the only site of its kind that is currently in my rss reader, because it’s so detailed and extensive. Corbett has experience with several other successful blogs and websites, which you can find out more about by visiting his personal site.

Check out these posts to get started (on ThinkTraffic):

Christian Spirituality

Donald Miller – Donald is the author of several books, most notably Blue Like Jazz. Another important book in my life, it challenged me in my Christian faith and caused me to think about what my faith really meant to me. He is very human-story focused right now, his latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years covering the subject of the creative process, and being able to tell one’s story. All of this is done against the backdrop of what God has done for us and the life he’s called us to live.

Check out these posts to get started:

Richard Rohr – I almost didn’t put Fr. Rohr here, he can be so controversial. But he has also pointed me down the path of worrying about myself less (and one day not at all), helping the poor & needy, not seeking fame, and being able to embrace both my strengths and weaknesses. He’s also been significant in his writing on male development and rites of passage in the modern world, a topic that is very important in my work with young men.

Check out these posts to get started:

Ryan Taylor – Man, I really like Ryan. Never met the guy, but no worries. Ryan is the Director of Access Denver, plays basketball, and writes a solid blog. He is another leader who is challenging others to look around and see the suffering in our neighborhoods, and be the hands of God in creating change. I’ve written about him a bit more here.

Check out these posts to get started:

General Interest & Fun

The Art of Manliness – Yes, they have fun posts like How to Make a Survival ShotgunThey have informative posts like How to Carve a TurkeyThey also assemble great lists like 100 Must-Read Books: The Man’s Essential Library. But what really made me a full-fledged believer in the AoM was Brett & Sarah McKay’s research and writing about male development and being a man. Not an ultra-masculine no-nonsense man, or a soft, passive man. A Man; forged out of the experience of those before him, ready to do hard things, think of others’ before self, stand up for what’s right, and be a contributor to his community. Love it.

To get started, click on the articles above.

The Oatmeal – My interest in goofy internet comics really peaked during college, and since then I don’t go searching for such hilarity often. The Oatmeal though, really came to me. I saw the Dear Sriracha comic at Sunny Pointe Cafe, and liked it so much that I hunted down the site. Matt Inman does a wonderful job fusing humor, common sense, plain-as-day irony, and grammar checks in to his brand. Go over there and have a laugh. *FYI, not all comics are squeaky-clean, though the ones I linked are fine. 

Check out these posts to get started:

Zen Habits – Leo Babauta has curated one of the most popular blogs on the internet, and one of the most interesting. I’ve only been reading it for a couple weeks myself, but I’m blown away, definitely one that I can read for an hour and not realize it. Highly recommended.

Instead of linking a few articles, Leo has made it easy for us by creating a Start Here page.

The Minimalists – My friend Bryce told me about this site, as I was telling him about my feelings towards having fewer possessions. “You need to read what these guys are writing” he told me. So I did, and stayed up most of the night reading through their entire 21 Day Journey in to Minimalism page. It lit a fire under me, gave some substance to the conversations my wife and I had been having. Within a week, I had given away boxes of clothes, packed up extra household and kitchen products, and put the TV in the attic. I haven’t missed any of those things, because I am more than my possessions.

Check out these posts to get started:

Tim Ferriss – I have a love/hate relationship with Tim Ferriss’ writing and self-promotion. Mainly, I think he comes off as self-promoting and arrogant. I also think he is quite interesting and has many good things to say about creative ways to live and work. I can respect that. I mainly respect the effort and practice that he puts in to his craft of writing, and his personal blog. The blog is a smorgasbord of topics, enjoy picking through them.

Check out these posts to get started:

Wow, that took much longer than I had planned. When I said “today” at the beginning of the post, it was Monday. I’m publishing on Friday. I went through many temptations to cut the list, not include Get Started links, and leave out the descriptions. In other words, obey the path of least resistance. I’m glad I didn’t, and hope you agree.

Finally, this is simply my list, and it won’t be the last. People are doing incredible, creative work, and I would love to hear about the writers, bloggers, and creatives that inspire you. Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Just Start


Creative Commons via Jake & Lindsey Sherbert

Hello everyone, it has been a few days since I posted. I’ve been running, travelling, and visiting family. I’m actually writing this in my old bedroom of my parents house. Yes, everything is wonderful between me and my wife, that’s not why I’m in my old room. I’m on the road giving presentations for Camp Rockmont, and have been able to spend a couple days here. I know you were all dying to know those details, why would I even think you would? Well, let’s start there.

Writing has become enough of a practice for me over the past several weeks that when I don’t do it for a few days, I miss it. I get antsy, thinking about essays and topics to present. That feeling is also present when I don’t exercise or read for a few days. So that’s a good sign. The problem is that right now it’s 12:48 am, I’m tired, and want to go to bed. But that’s how I felt last night, and will probably feel the next 3-4 nights. Trying to come up with a good topic or inspiration in that frame of mind is difficult. But that’s ok, because it’s not always flowing prose and witty dialogue when any of us sit down to write. I even when over to my list of idea drafts, ready to remember and be inspired. That didn’t happen. I stared at them, trying to remember what the heck I was talking about in that idea. Then I felt a brief peace, and had the thought “Matt, just start, and see where it goes”.

So here I am, seeing where this goes. That’s why I started with a few details from the past few days. I needed a starting point. I can tell this is going to be one of those terrible essays about nothing that make people cancel their email subscription. I apologize, but I needed to write. We will all have these days and nights where the work isn’t happening, it’s just not our day or simply our moment (because in fact, I’ve had a great day). I planned on writing this evening, on sitting down and taking my time with an essay. But then I ended up talking with my parents for 2 hours about all kinds of things. That was important, I needed to do that and it was great to talk with them for that long. We don’t get the chance to do that very much anymore. A lesson in that is, maybe you don’t always get to do what you planned on, even if it’s good and important work. Because there can be just as important work, even more so, waiting in a good conversation.

Regardless of that, I still felt I needed to write today. Because on top of all that goodness I experienced throughout the day, I wasn’t quite done. I hope you can all keep that in mind too, that if you feel that you still have work or writing to do in a day, especially an intentional hobby like writing, that you make the commitment to making that part of your day. Because there is a cumulative effect to putting it off another day. The act of writing, or drawing, or woodworking, or exercising, becomes easier to say no to when you’ve practiced saying no for multiple days. You don’t have to do any of these things, but if it’s important you, if you love it, you will be compelled to sit down, and just start.

Let’s see what happens when you do.

Visual Example of Generating Blog Topics


Before you is a visual example of a 30 minute process on generating subjects, themes, topics, and intentions for your blog. A big thanks to Jeff Goins for putting these lessons together (if you didn’t get on his Intentional Blogging program, bummer).

What matters to you and why are you sharing it through an online presence? There are many things for me, as you see in the subject field. This process helped me narrow the subject down to actionable steps and topics, generating a flurry of ideas for posts. I hope that seeing how I went about it helps you guys do the same. If you would like the original photo file, just let me know in the comments, but you should just be able to right click and ‘save as’. Enjoy!

Blogging Lesson #1 - Focus

Working through the Dip


To begin, I want to thank everyone for reading my essays. Since Christmas, I have gone from 1 follower to 21! I appreciate and value the trust you’ve put in me to write some things that have spoken to you. I hope it continues to do so.

Also, I’m going to start referring to my blogs as essays or posts, as you may have noticed above. Personally, blog doesn’t roll of the tongue for me, and blogging is even worse. I’ll be writing, and that lends itself more to writing essays. Moving on.

Getting through the dip, also known as hitting the wall. I have been writing pretty regularly here since December 23. It has been fun, healthy, and a discipline for me. I have always thought I wanted to write, and something that I have enjoyed throughout the years. I know it is more than a passing fancy because I keep returning to it. I simply allow myself to be distracted by too many things. When I write for myself and others, it is usually done when distractions are at a minimum. I wrote when I was camping, when the power was out at home, on the road, or away from the TV. That sounds terrible, but true. Even as I began to write this post, I spent 15 minutes checking my site stats, seeing if I got hit up on twitter (yes) and then responding. I can get distracted. That’s natural.

But what I really want to talk about is the dip. Because while I was putting off writing, I had the nagging voice in my head, the pushy little guy who wants to work and speak his mind, telling me “You need to sit down and write, not do all this other stuff.” One of the reasons I was allowing my weak side to take control was because I felt like I didn’t want to do it. Writing wasn’t coming as easily the past couple of days. I was tired, busy, and wanted to let my mind rest. This is also natural. The initial high and excitement of writing, coming up with ideas, and unleashing them on the world, that was wearing off. The process was a bit of a struggle, and I didn’t want to push through it.

In sports, we call this hitting the wall. the part in a race or game where the early game energy has worn off, your pace has slowed, and you’re wondering if you can keep up through the end. Two things happen here:

  1. You realize how much this whatever means to you. So you suck it up, and keep going. You keep showing up, working hard, publishing, and turning out your art.
  2. You realize this whatever isn’t you. So you cut your losses, count your experience, and go find what makes you want to climb the mountain. Do this immediately.

I was also worrying to much about becoming famous, looking for places to submit articles, and dreaming about being that guy who gets to make short films of National Parks. All of this time looking for ways to be famous takes away from the actual writing. Which is ironic, because I’m certainly not going to make an impact by looking around for ways to be famous.

There you go. You may have to bear with me for a little while, because I may be turning out some pretty average essays in order to push through the wall. Of course, during any of that I could break through. Anything that you or I put out there for others can be used for good. It’s not up to us any way. The words will come, our job is to put them out there.

A few references for you good folks:

Writing Down the Bones – A book on writing by Natalie Goldberg, and I’m still reading it. Best lesson so far is to keep writing, some of it will be trash and some will be gold, but you have to wade through a lot of trash to find it.

The Dip – Written by Seth Godin, and the inspiration for the headline of this essay. I haven’t read the entire book, just bits while at Barnes & Noble. But a good lesson of pushing through your dips, or turning away. Update: Good news! I found a preview copy of the book on the Change This! website. Download here.

Bird by Bird – Another writing book, by Anne Lamott. I am thoroughly enjoying this one, Lamott gives great advice, some of which I’ll be sure and post later on. Plus she’s quite funny.

Writing and Rambling through Creation: An e-book release


I have enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember, and I have enjoyed thinking about writing just as much! In September 2010, my wife Morgan and I took a trip to Yosemite National Park, and I did some serious writing there. When you get in the tent at 8:00 pm for the night, it leaves a couple hours for reflection and writing. I thought about how often I would like to write and end up watching TV, because it demands less of me. So I made a commitment to write more, and also to let others see it. In March, I read Seth Godin’s Poke the Box, and it inspired me to actually set a date and “ship”. I’m a day late for the shipping, but I did finish yesterday and am ready to release. It’s a short book, with essays, poems, and photographs from the past couple of years. I have some more ideas to write on, but I wasn’t going to let that push me back from what I said I was going to do. So here’s the first book, enjoy it!

Writing and Rambling through Creation (full version 51 mb)

Writing and Rambling through Creation (lo-res 1.5 mb)

Thanks to: My wife Morgan, my family, Camp Rockmont, National Parks Service, Patagonia and Mountain Hardwear (apparel), Gregory Packs (backpack), Vibram Five Fingers and Chaco (footwear), Seth Godin, John Muir, CS Lewis, and God.