Trail Runner Magazine Publishes My Article


Great news everyone, my guest article has been published by Trail Runner magazine! I really appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the leading trail running publication, and would be honored if you would go check it out! If you like it, please share on Facebook, Twitter, or leave a comment.

Read the post here

Visiting my site from TrailRunner?

First of all, thank you for clicking through! I appreciate your visit. Please look around and check out some of my earlier posts. My writing covers a lot of great topics, including outdoor adventure, simplicity, running, spirituality, and business productivity.

If you are interested mainly in running, here are a couple posts I’m really proud of. 

Running in the Rain

Running an Ultra Marathon: Technical Aspects of Training, Gear, and Nutrition

At the very least, here’s an awesome video of Ultra Superman Kilian Jornet!

Thanks again for reading, let me know if I can help you with any of your running questions!

You Are A Writer – A Look at Jeff Goins Newest Ebook


Did Jeff write me a personal letter on becoming a writer? The voice he writes in rings with the experience of someone who has been through the fire, and come out with pages of knowledge he wants to share! For all the aspiring writers, bloggers, creatives in the building, let me tell you this is worth the price of admission. A short book, granted, but packed full of useful steps towards being a writer.

The most important message Jeff wants to convey is YOU ARE A WRITER (hence the title). I know have done this before, hesitated in describing myself as a writer and going public. Once you have made a commitment, everything simply comes one step at a time, and Jeff does a great job of laying those steps out.

What I appreciate most about Jeff’s writing is his honesty. I see many of my struggles in his writing, and he’s not afraid to tell the ugly parts of his story, of the self-doubt, distractions, and pain involved in being a writer. But he doesn’t stay there, laying out the steps to being successful. He admits the hard work, long hours, and a chance you may never reach the mountain top you have sighted for yourself.

The trick is though, if you love writing, if you can’t do anything else, each piece, each connection, each opportunity to share with others is your mountain top. Pursuing your passion, treating people with respect, and simply writing is what you were made to do.

Oh you want to know details? Of course, how silly of me…

5 Vitally Important Lessons from You Are A Writer

  1. The Process of Turning Pro
  2. The Secrets of Successful Writing
  3. The 3 Tools Every Writer Needs
  4. The 3 Important Relationships of a Writer
  5. Preparing & Pitching Your Writing (w/ bonus form letters!)

In keeping with his honesty, Jeff wraps up by sharing the pitfalls of success, and to remember your love for the craft. It’s all that will keep you true.

So what are you waiting for? If you are a writer, it’s money well spent.

Buy the book here and start shipping!

Get the Kindle edition

Finding Your Focus


If you’re finding my blog via my guest post on the Buffer blog, welcome and thank you for clicking through! You will notice pretty quickly (and I’m telling you anyway) that my blog has a few recurring themes, but lots of variety. Like many of us, I’m still finding my writing voice, and my focus online. 

If you are reading because you have been with me for the past few weeks or months, thank you for continuing to return and read. This post is for everyone, but I thought it would be nice to give a little context to my blog.

I have been writing steadily for just over 3 months, and in my desire to get off my butt and do the work, I curate a general blog. I write about topics that interest me, and I have a passion for. I’ll write about spirituality, writing, sports, outdoors, business, productivity, personal matters, education, creativity, and more.

When you want to write, the 1st step is to begin writing. 

In the past, I would get bogged down in over-thinking writing, making the process of starting more difficult than it had to be. Simply starting, and hitting publish over and over, is a key part of narrowing your focus. Write about lots of topics, and see what resonates with you, where your passion can meet the needs of others. Just start.

Now, very smart people have written very good pieces on what to do after that, and I encourage you to check them out. CopyBlogger, ProBlogger, Jeff Goins, Chris Guillebeau, and several more are available to you. Just do some digging and don’t be afraid to ask!

Now I’m a little further down the road, and there is an important distinction I need to make to go the next level.

I need to find my focus, my mission, and answer the question of “Why?”

There is certainly flexibility around your mission, but your mission needs to frame your blog and why it exists. People who are arrived from Buffer are probably thinking “This guy wrote  about productivity and organization, but most of what I see here is about spirituality, writing, and running.”

I first thought, “I know people who write general, personal blogs. There’s Leo from Zen Habits, the Minimalists, Tim Ferriss, or Joel Runyon. This is true, but when I thought about it more, I realized that each of these writers has a focus and mission to their sites.

  • Leo – Simplicity and Peace
  • Minimalists – Um, Minimalism
  • Tim Ferriss – Lifestyle Design
  • Joel Runyon – Doing impossible things, telling a story

The other direction to take is to have a very specific focus to your blog, like Fitness Reloaded, The Art of Manliness, No Meat Athlete, or Smart Football. These authors craft their sites around specific content and topics, leaving the generalities to others. They are about the details! Yes, there is flexibility within their topic, but everything points back to their focus.

How did I start to narrow down the topics? Thanks to Jeff Goins’ Intentional Blogging course (free, register here), I was able to visually get down what interested me. There was a lot, as you can see. To read my entire post about the visual & generation process, click here.

As you can see, the focus of my blog and yours is important. If we want to “turn pro” in our minds, as Steven Pressfield talks about, we need to decide what the focus and mission of our work is. It’s fine to have a general blog that shares about your life, and communicates with friends and family.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about doing the work, creating value and connections for others, and being a professional. 

Once you’ve found your focus, get to it. You may need to buy a new domain name, and the process of generating content begins again. Make sure you pick a mission that resonates with you, because without that internal drive, the grinding days will feel that much worse, and your great days will not feel that great.

Do what you love, even if it makes you less money. Passion, flexibility, and simplicity are better. 

Have a great day.

Let Me Know What You Like


We have been together for a few months now, and my writing has been very general. I’ve written on all kinds of topics, at the beginning I have simply wanted to write and establish a practice. I feel I’m getting in a rhythm, being able to work up 3 good posts a week. However, I am very curious about which topics have spoken to you the most, and you enjoy reading. This way I can be sure I work in at least 1 post a week on that topic.

I would greatly appreciate if you would take a minute to select which topics you enjoy reading on this blog. If there is something you would like to add, please email me at mcragland@gmail.com, or leave in the comments.

Thank You!

Keep Singing


I don’t normally post entertainment videos, I simply don’t run a viral video kind of site. The videos I’ve posted are ones I feel inspire, educate, and kick-start adventure. But this video from Britain’s Got Talent blew me away. Before you play the video, let’s have a quick look at the contestants, shall we? Meet Jonathan and Charlotte.

Yeahhhhh… can’t say I would react any differently than ol’ Simon at the beginning, with snarky skepticism (it’s kinda his thing). They’re both precious and all, but c’mon!

Enough screen grabs (for now), raise the volume to max allowable level, and hit play.

OH.

MY.

GOD.

Of course you figured the big fella was going to be talented, but NOT LIKE THAT. I laughed, I nearly cried, and scared my dog with several exclamations of WOW!

The reactions are equally priceless, here are my favorites:

You can’t miss shocked excited guy and his nearly-sobbing lady friend, classic!

Judge David Walliams is either praying or telling Jonathan “You bring great honor to your family”. Either way, he’s sold half-way through the song.

Even Simon is coming around! The magic of the opera!

The British Seacrests are dumbfounded!

YAY FOR THE OPERA!

At the end, everybody’s loving it. Even Simon, whose expression of happiness looked so strained because he normally doesn’t show these silly emotions. Again, wow. I haven’t seen or heard anything like that since Paul Potts brought down the house.

Oh dear, I might have a musical thing for goofy-looking British amateur opera singers suffering from low self-esteem! Moving on…

There are also great lessons before and after the performance, where Charlotte talks about not judging a person on their appearance, i.e. ” you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, you have to read it and see what’s inside”. It’s obvious her encouragement has meant a lot to Jonathan, in fact he says so on stage. After they finish, Simon actually suggests Jonathan continue on without Charlotte, because she is merely good. He is incredible. But Jonathan affirms her right back, saying “We came as a duo, and we’re going to stay a duo”.

What This Means for Us

At the beginning, Simon is very sarcastic, and gives a dismissive “You think you can really win?” followed by “Ok good luck”. Jonathan has already spoken about his self-esteem and confidence issues, is standing in front of thousands of people, and the man who controls their fate is rude. And then he goes out and puts on an incredible performance!

As you continue to create your art and make your mark on the world, there will be people, like Simon, who dismiss you. Don’t listen to them, follow your passions. There will be people like Charlotte, who are beside you, encouraging you, and watching your back. Did you catch Jonathan actually starting a beat early? Charlotte simply gave him an affirming look, and he re-grouped. Just like that. You cannot underestimate the support of others when pursuing your passions. They are integral!

So keep singing, writing, painting, working, filming, cooking, and contributing. Bit by bit, you’ll build a community of people who expect your contribution in their lives. When the time comes, put on the performance you know you are capable of. The world needs Jonathan to sing. What does the world need you to do?

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!

Using a Tomato for Productivity, and What I’ve Been Reading This Week


Each week I’m going to post a collection of books, blogs, videos, and other sites that I have gotten something meaningful out of that week. First, here are the books…

I know, I need to read some fiction as well. On to the web readings!

  1. Dan Pink’s site is one of the best for finding ways to help stay productive. He has said that his “quest to get more and better work done is endless”, and he is always posting tips for those also on that quest. One post that caught my eye this week was this post, Can a Tomato Make You More Productive? I read on to find out that he is describing the Pomodoro Technique, which is working diligently at a task for 25 minutes, taking a 5 minute break, then repeating the process. After 4 pomodoros, you take a 15 minute power break. I’m using the technique today!
  2. For the writers in the house, here is a letter written by John Steinbeck to his editor and friend, Pat Covici. In this letter, titled A Book is Like a Man, Steinbeck sheds a little light on his writing process. Here is a quote: “A book is like a man—clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.”
  3. One of the creative hobbies I’ve taken up this year is drawing, though it has taken a backseat to all this writing, I’m still on the look out for good resources. Grant Snider was kind enough to release a fun little comic on it, which is brilliant of him. Thanks! 
  4. Blue Like Jazz is coming out soon, April 13th to be exact. Donald Miller’s book on Christianity in today’s society was one of the first I read that really made me begin thinking about what the Gospel of Jesus and his teachings meant to me. It was very important to my ongoing spiritual development. So I am looking forward to the movie, and I hope people go see it and a conversation begins about what it means to follow God. For starters though, here is the trailer:
  5. Forks over Knives, the documentary. I have seen food movies before, and they always leave me thinking about what I eat, where I buy, being local, and on and on. FOK did the same, but I did finish watching it and consider seriously the amount of meat I was consuming. I eat a good amount, not an excessive amount, and it’s normally good meat (not from fast food joints). The science behind a whole food plant based diet is compelling, and I’ve found myself eating less meat since then. Will I become a vegan or even a vegetarian? Probably not, meat is just so delicious and satisfying. At the same time, the benefits of fruits, vegetables, and some grains are undeniable. The change in health for the people in the doc is incredible, and the only variable they changed was their diet. If you have Hulu plus, you can watch the full documentary for free. Here is the trailer:

What have you been readin lately? I would love to hear your personal lists as well.

P.S. additional thanks to Jeff Goins, for the idea of a reading list. Also to Robert Bruce, who  wrote the great post on why creatives need to read fiction.