Everything You Need to Know about Success Is in the Hunger Games

What does it take to become a huge success? Apparently it takes a whole lot of work – and not just any kind of work, but the tough work of self-examination. To put a finer point on it, it takes something called Double Loop Learning.

Most of us probably think of the path to success in the terms of “try, try again.” Think of an archer facing a target, shooting, falling short of the bulls-eye, making an adjustment and shooting again. This is what Chris Argyris identified “single loop learning,” a simple servomechanism approach to fixing what ain’t working.

The second loop adds a lot of complexity. Here you must explore your values, assumptions and your blind spots.

This is where The Hunger Games comes in. If heroine Katniss approached the gladiator-style teen-on-teen combat using single loop learning she would have used a pretty simple decision block:

IS PEETA DEAD? –> NO –> KILL PEETA

Fortunately Katniss goes for the double loop. The assumption behind the Hunger Games is that only one combatant could emerge as the winner. But if you have to sacrifice your core values to survive, are you really a winner? Maybe there are no winners. Or maybe the State is the only winner. Read the book, it will all make more sense.

And if you want to get ahead, go back and question everything.

[Via Swiss Miss]

Anxious? Why “Stay Calm” Might Be the Worst Thing to Tell Yourself

Anxious woman bites nails

What’s your go-to move when you feel yourself on the verge of a freak-out? Telling yourself to take a deep breath and chill out might be exactly the wrong strategy. PysBlog reports on research by Alison Woods Brooks that suggests that hitting the emotional gas pedal might get you into the clear. Subjects who told themselves “I’m feeling excited” out-performed those who told themselves to “calm down” when faced with anxiety over public speaking.

I don’t know why this would work, I don’t have the $12 to download Brooks’ report. A barely educated guess is that anxiety bathes your neurosystem with cortisol, the “fight or flight” stress hormone that makes you cramp up and totally choke when you step up to a podium. And guess what hormone is also responsible for the rush that comes when you’re totally stoked, bungee jumping or riding down a steep hill on your fixie? Yep, it’s cortisol.

What differentiates cold-sweating fear and jubilation? Seems like the physiology might be the same – it’s how you interpret what’s happening that makes the difference.

[Photo via MaxwellGS]

Reinventing Yourself for 2014 – Will It Be As Don Draper or a Terrorist?

There’s a little bit of Jay Gatsby in each of us. To live in America is to be surrounded on all sides by a narrative that says you can be anything you want to be. You can reinvent yourself, leave your past behind, move out West, reach for the stars, follow your dreams.

But maybe this mythology of reinvention isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Marc Freedman, founder of Encore.org, a nonprofit that supports “second acts” in life, thinks that the whole idea of reinvention is dangerous. Aiming to build a “whole new you” might mean tossing out some valuable resources. Worse yet, by focusing on some kind of idealized self you could easily miss your true potential.

Freedman advocates “reintegration” over reinvention, drawing on a lifetime of knowledge and experience to accomplish new things.

Don Draper or Nicholas Brody?

Mad Men’s Don Draper is a case study in the kind of reinvention that Freedman is concerned about. Draper grew up motherless and in poverty during the depression. Along the way he has the chance to escape his past and he grabs it with both fists. He finds his “sweet spot” distilling desire and selling the American dream.

Draper’s problem is that he has to keep his multiple selves, like the women in his life, from meeting each other. If he ever stopped to explore the complexity of his life and discovered value in telling the truth he could well lose his Midas’ touch in the ad biz.

And this brings us to Sergeant Nicholas Brody, the highly complex central character from the TV series Homeland. In the course of Brody’s three year arc he swings wildly between hero and villain. Where he finally ends up is anybody’s guess.

Like Draper, Brody’s life has become a series of lies plastered on top of each other. A prisoner of war he was “turned” by the enemy and cultivated as a kind of Manchurian candidate. But then he gets “re-turned” by the CIA. Brody’s life eventually becomes a rapid spin-cycle around the Wall of Death.

Unlike Draper though, Brody desperately looks for some kind of thread in his life to pull things together. Is he a war hero? A victim? A family man? A killer? I’ll leave you to judge for yourself how successful Brody is at pulling of a “second act” and redeeming himself but it’s clear that when he does well it is because he finds strength and stability in his past. It’s impossible to imagine Brody pulling off his fait accompli without drawing on all of his previous experiences.

The contrast between these two figures is pretty stark. In their respective stories each has reached the end of the line. But only one will be remembered for who he truly was.

The Day After Christmas and the Psychology of Storage

Credit: Florian Klauer

So here we are. Most of us just shelled out over $700 for Christmas presents – sure, that’s down slightly from previous years but it still means something on the order of five to 75 new objects joining the parade of crap that comes into our lives.

The neat freaks among us manage to prioritize and purge, clearing out their closets and donating stuff to charities where it either goes back on the market locally or gets baled and shipped abroad where our cast-offs compete against local industries in third world countries. The rest of us simply collect more junk until there’s no place else to stash the junk and it goes into storage.

Self-Storage Is Storage for Your “Self”

One of the things that makes it tough to let go of our crap is that we confuse what we own with who we are. As if that’s not bad enough, the brain interprets parting with belongings the same way it interprets physical pain.

For me personally it looks like 2014 is going to be a tough year. I’ve maxed out our closet space and garage storage and now I have my mother’s belongings to deal with. And the cost of storage is quickly going to add up to more than the stuff is worth.

The Trouble with a Cluttered Mind

The problem with clutter is that every time you see a pile of unordered junk your mind wants to start processing it and it saps energy from the task at hand. For me personally it has gotten to the point where it is difficult to navigate my space and find stuff I want. But I think there is another problem – all this clutteration becomes an identity issue – I don’t know who I am or where my focus should be because there are simply too many options.

2014 The Year of Living Dangerously

De-crapification has got to be my next big project if I want to keep my sanity and move ahead with my life. I don’t really have a plan. I accept that it’s going to be painful. And we’ll see how this adventure goes.

[Image: Florian Klauer via Unsplash]

How Now Brown Cow: Chocolate Milk as a Recovery Drink

After hearing for years that water is the best thing to drink after exercise I was surprised to hear that the latest thing in recovery drinks is…chocolate milk!

I don’t know if it’s my imagination – or the placebo effect – but my knees do seem to feel better if I follow a run with a big glass of low fat chocolate milk. One thing I’m sure of, it’s been a great motivator. On days that I’m struggling with an extra helping of “doan wanna” it’s a little easier to get out on the trail knowing that there will be a big frosty mug of chocolate milk waiting at the end.

The Pros

According to WebMD chocolate milk has the following benefits over most sports drinks:

  • 3-to-1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein
  • Easily digested whey protein that can begin rebuilding muscle tissue immediately
  • Casein, a protein that is digested slowly and reduces amount of muscle breakdown well after the workout

Livestrong, a site that seems completely sold on the idea of chocolate milk after working out, cites a number of studies showing that runners recover faster after downing a glass of choco milk than a carbohydrate loaded sports beverage.

The Cons

As awesome as chocolate milk is, it might not be for everyone. Livestrong also posts anti-milk articles that suggest (strongly) that any dairy consumption might be cramping your style. The best way to know whether milk might be causing muscle or joint pain for you is to keep a food diary. Try two or three weeks dairy-free and record your aches and pains. Then re-introduce dairy and see if there is a difference in the way you feel.

All I know is that chocolate milk makes me feel like a kid again.

What about you, what’s your favorite post-workout drink?

[Photo by Alice Birkin]

Come Home Alive – There’s an App for That

Search and rescue team attends to injured caver

Christopher Van Tilburg talks on Outside Blog about a search and rescue operation that went far better than usual because the stranded hikers had a smartphone. Rescuers were able to get detailed coordinates and guide the hikers to a safe pickup location. Maybe smartphones should be basic equipment?

If you are an adventuresome smartphone user, by all means check out survival apps such as the one from Mammut, a free survival app geared to skiers and snowboarders. BuddyGuard is another offering, one that automatically phones home if you become incapacitated. However, with a price of $120 you’re edging into personal beacon territory.

One thing to consider is how often you will be traveling outside of cellular range. If you’re out of bars, your smartphone might seem a little stupid. WoodsMonkey has some tips on how to use a smartphone as a survival tool even when you’re out of range.

If you want the Search and Rescue to find you when you’re really out in the wild you’ll need something more like the Spot Personal Tracker. This device actually sends your coordinates to a satellite which then communicates to a server and sends an email to prearranged parties. These beacons require a subscription service and they are limited in their ability to send messages. But you can work out a prearranged deal with friends or family to start a search in your last marked location if you fail to check-in.

None of these devices replace good old fashioned common sense but they do promise to shave hours off your own personal 127 Hours ordeal.

German Hotel for People Who Want to Pretend They Are Camping

Huttenpalast Camper

Do you love camping but hate mosquitos and…well, everything that has to do with the outdoors? Welcome to Hüttenpalast, an affordable (30 euros per person, roughly $43), hotel near Berlin that brings the outdoors inside. Here you can sleep in a tiny hut or canned-ham style trailer, sing campfire songs with total strangers, and stumble through the trees to the bathroom in darkness…all the things you love about camping without the fear of getting eaten by bears.

If the idea of sleeping in a tiny hut thrills you but you aren’t planning a trip outside the US any time soon you might try renting a yurt in Big Sur, staying in an Airstream in the Catskill Mountains, New York at Kate’s Lazy Meadow (owned by Kate Pierson of the B-52s), or sleeping where the bough doesn’t break at the Treesort treehouse bed & breakfast in Cave Junction, Oregon.

Via Treehugger

How to Avoid Blood-Sucking Vermin (Ticks, Not Lawyers)

If you hike then sooner or later you will have to deal with ticks. These cunning relatives of the spider wait on the ends of leaves and grasses for an unsuspecting mammal to brush past and then climb aboard for a free lunch.

Alicia MacKleay provides a comprehensive guide to dealing with ticks on and off the trail, including ways to tick-proof your clothing.

There are also a number of natural tick repellents you might try, although the most promising, nootkatone, won’t be commercially available for a few years.

A careful tick-survey of your clothing and body is your best bet after each hike. Otherwise you could wind up bringing them into your house where they can sneak-attack your family and friends.

I’ve never had a tick on myself, but my dogs and my sister have. Folklore states that the best way to remove a tick is to encourage it to leave voluntarily, either smothering it with oil or burning it with a match. Both these methods, it turns out, are terrible. They don’t work and they can cause the critter to “barf” its stomach contents into your bloodstream. Ick.

We also were once instructed to remove a tick by twisting it in a counterclockwise direction. It worked like magic. Or was that clockwise?

Twisting might work but it also might leave the tick’s head embedded in the skin where it can fester. The recommended way to remove a tick is to grab it very close to the skin and pull straight back. See Bug Girl’s suggestions for the correct approach to removing a tick. It’s a good idea to carry tweezers or a tick remover every time you hit the trail.

Image By André Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bear-Proof Expedition Quality Kitchen

Kanz Field Kitchen

One of the dreariest chores that goes along with car camping is stashing your cookware and supplies in the bear-proof cupboard at each campsite. You’ll never have to do that again with these expedition-tough purpose-built field kitchens from Kanz Outdoors. Built from marine-grade aluminum with polished birch plywood interiors, Kanz certifies that their rugged boxes are bear-proof. But before shelling out six bills for one of these high grade boxes, you might want to check local regulations regarding bear canisters.

Unfortunately I think the Kanz boxes are a little too pricey for the typical Suburban Frontiersman. But they look well worth the attention of outfitters, trail guides and yurt-dwellers.

Via The Kitchn

Finding the Ultimate Road Trip Mix

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Road trips need music. Some songs are better for the long open road than others and if you can string together a playlist that harmonizes with the emotional tenor of your adventure then you’ve got a winner. To this day I can’t think of Mendocino without hearing Van Morrison’s No Guru, No Master.

Amanda Arnold at the How Stuff Works blog posts reader’s picks for the 25 Travel Tunes for Your Next Trip. Some of he picks are obvious – John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.” Other’s not so much, like Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” All in all a great list for starting a new mix.

Two songs I’d add to the mix, Jerry Garcia Band’s “Lonsome and a Long Way From Home” or Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting Here in Limbo” – both great tunes for the long drive to Tonopah Nevada.

Turbo-Tune Your Gas Grill

Chevy V-8 Grill

Our gas grill recently reached the point where it was more blowtorch than barbecue. We figured it was time to pony up for a new outdoor cooker. But face it, a barbecue is a pretty simple machine. Not much more than a bucket with fire inside. So why not fix the old one?

The first thing to go on most barbecues is the vaporizer, the tent-shaped piece of steel that protects the burners from drippings and keeps the heat flowing evenly. If you’re handy with sheet metal cutters you can replace a worn vaporizer with a piece of galvanized flashing. Personally I always worried about the possibility of zinc toxicity from using galvanized metal while barbecuing. Apparently zinc poisoning is a matter of debate amongst grilling gurus. While zinc toxicity is unlikely unless your food is in direct contact with galvanized metal, you can put your mind at rest by using a food grade stainless steel replacement vaporizer. The benefit is that the heavy duty stainless steel will outlast galvanized flashing by a long shot.

Other things you can do to restore a perfectly good BBQ are to replace the burners as well as the piezo igniter. You can also get replacement cooking grids for most grills.

If your old grill suited your outdoor cooking needs you can save a bundle by giving it a tune-up instead of pitching it into the landfill.

Image from Wired Blog | Gadget Lab via Mega BBQ, Great BBQ Food, Grills & More

Hone Your Knife Skills

Rules for a Knife Fight

There are no rules in a knife fight

Recently I tried cutting a crusty baguette with a sharp, serrated bread knife. Instead of placing the bread on a cutting board like a reasonable person, I simply held the loaf in one hand and the knife in the other while thinking “this is a bad idea.” Which it was. Ouch.

Make: Online has a great set of tips for using and maintaining knives in your kitchen, including tips for using a sharpening steel, that metal rod that you so often see coyotes and wolves using as they prepare a helpless bunny for dinner.

Hike of the Week – Peter Strauss Ranch

Peter Strauss Ranch

Ranch House at Peter Strauss Ranch

Peter Strauss Ranch is a great place to explore, picnic and introduce kids to hiking. The 0.6 mile Peter Strauss Trail is one of the best places in the Santa Monica Mountains to hike with children who are at that awkward age – too big to lug in a backpack carrier but not quite ready for a march to Bataan. The trail is shady, well maintained and an easy hike. There is ample evidence of wildlife on the property but a peacock is the fiercest animal you’re likely to encounter. The grounds are peaceful but on a nice day you’ll have to put up with the constant thrum of motorcycles on Mulholland.

For more ambitious hikers and explorers there is a connector to Malibu Lake and from there you can head over to Paramount Ranch or to the Malibu Creek area.

One of the nice things about using Strauss ranch as your trailhead is that the parking lot is a mere stumble from The Old Place, a colorful and historic watering hole. Boutique prices but the food is good and the atmosphere is intriguing.

Directions:

30000 Mulholland Highway, Agoura Hills, CA, 91301

Take the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) to Kanan Road exit. South on Kanan Road 2.8 miles. Turn left on Troutdale Drive to Mulholland Highway. Left on Mulholland Highway 400 feet then right into the parking lot.

More photos of the area at Geek Hiker.

Peter Strauss Trail

Peter Strauss Trail is shady, well-kept