Expanding Horizons: Our First International Romantic FI Adventure Trip & An Introduction To Travel Hacking & Travel Fitness

Perspective. Such a powerful thing. One of the reasons I love to travel so much. And one of the reasons I love to fly my drone so much!

By creating temporary distance from our day-to-day life we are able to examine it from a more macrocosmic perspective, contrast it with our temporarily newfound life while traveling (or flying), and recognize all the awesome things and not so awesome things in our regular occurring life.

This process creates space to ignite healing, cultivate growth & ultimately transform our lives for the better in many ways! From the areas of love & intimacy to our mindset, spirituality, work, career, money, health, fitness & more!

My Phoenix & I recently got back from our first international trip together since we’ve been together formally. In full transparency, it was our first multi-day trip that was just for us. All of the many prior trips were either day-trips or multi-day trips that were for work or for family.

Taking the time, energy & money to invest in our relationship & invest in our lives through a romantic FI* adventure was one of the best things we’ve done all year! So much healing, growth & transformation occurred during our time in Mexico and it came home with us too!

And I’m so grateful that my FI wife empowered us to make it our first international FI adventure trip! We did the whole weeklong trip for less than $750 total—including airfare, accommodations, food, activities & gifts for the both of us!

Here is a a breakdown of our Travel Costs with some additional notes:

The infamous Dragon Bowl Salad made it’s debut in Mexico w/ a delicious fried egg & veggie carne asada topping!

The infamous Dragon Bowl Salad made it’s debut in Mexico w/ a delicious fried egg & veggie carne asada topping!

  • Flights: $170 roundtrip from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta for two using Southwest Points & Companion Pass**. This was airfare taxes & fees ($85 per person).

  • Airbnb: $303 for 7 nights in a large beautiful flat. We actually had the whole floor to ourself and it included a massive kitchen, patio, dining room, reading room, bedroom, bathroom & had a rooftop with an incredible view, a small pool and a BBQ. And it was a 10-minute walk from the center of the city and a grocery store.

  • Uber/Bus: $61 ($76 minus $15 monthly Uber Credit from Amex Platinum).

  • Dining out: $43, we only out twice. One was expensive—$33 for a touristy beach front dining. And one was crazy cheap $10 for dinner for two plus tip in the amazing beach town of Sayulita. The rest of the time the Phoenix cooked her version of the local faire (vegetarian carne asada, tostados, refried beans, etc) and I made my customary massive Dragon Salad Bowls and put her cooking on top of it.

  • Groceries: $100, we shopped at the “Ley” grocery store closest to our Airbnb (it was within walking distance). Grocery shopping while traveling is a key component of my FI/Fitness 2-punch combo.

  • Gifts: $64 for a beautiful Mexican blanket ($14) for our home & some awesome handmade leather shoes for the Phoenix ($50).

  • Grand total: $741 

Further Down The Travel Hacking Tarmac:

Thanks again to our Amex Platinum we had free access to some pretty sweet airport lounges in both Oakland & Puerto Vallarta. Prior to this trip we’d never been in an airport lounge. They are definitely an Oasis in a normally somewhat chaotic place. On both sides of the trip the lounges provided plenty of free food. In the Oakland Escape lounge I even made myself two sandwiches to-go for the flight and ate those in the “free” Uber ride from the Mexican Airpot to our Airbnb. As mentioned above the Amex Platinum comes with A LOT of perks—$15 monthly Uber credit, a priority lounge pass, & more.

What’s even crazier to think about is that with a little more Travel Hacking*** & FI saviness we could have completely erased the Airbnb fee by using points to book a hotel. That would have brought down the total cost to $438 for a weeklong trip to Mexico for two people!! That’s $219 per person!

Dragon & Phoenix enjoying the sunset view from our Airbnb.

Dragon & Phoenix enjoying the sunset view from our Airbnb.

I usually prefer to stay in an Airbnb because I love the infusion into the local community it provides as well as it just feels so much more creative to me so we optimized for that experience during this trip. I also prefer to save my points for airfare because you usually get way more bang for your buck (or points).

For the record, I did just sign up for our first Hotel Points Card just this morning! I chose the World of Hyatt card for its 50K bonus ($850 value) after you spend $6,000 over six months. Here is my referral link (I’ll get more points if you sign up), but feel free to just google it if you don’t want me to benefit.

This Hotel Card Points decision was based on two important factors: (1) the Phoenix loves being treated to a nice hotel room on occasion (and so do I to be honest) and (2) it’s nice to have hotel points on hand just in case we ever need them in a pinch. I also think having at least some hotel points in your Travel Hacking Toolbox is a great way to have more optionality when booking your next trip.

We could have taken it even further and used an additional credit card bonus to wipe out the ancillary travel costs (airfare taxes & fees, uber/taxi) with a card like the Capital One Venture that allows you to erase travel costs from your monthly statement (airfare taxes/fees & taxi/rideshare count). That would have brought our total trip cost down to $201, or $100.50 per person for a freakin week in Mexico! I’m still new to Travel Hacking so I forgive myself for not maximizing savings and instead I continue to be inspired by others who have already done even longer & wilder trips for free or with ridiculously inexpensive travel budgets. I’m definitely motivated to take my Travel Hacking skills to the next level on the next trip!

We still have the Chase Southwest Companion pass until the end of 2019 so our next trip will be planned around one of the many exotic locations that airline flies. Please comment or PM me on social media if you have any great Southwest Airline destination suggestions! Maybe we will even book a hotel with points for that trip!

Now that I’m 1.5+ years into my FI Journey I’m pretty damn stoked that I’m learning the Travel Hacking Life Hack—I’ve always loved travel, but I never loved how much money it cost. Now I can explore the world with my love and do it practically for free!

A big reason I took this Instagram Post and expanded it into an introduction to Travel Hacking is because (a) I firmly believe everyone benefits from travel in the form of rejuvenation, healing, growth, transformation & consciousness expansion and (b) I deeply believe Travel Hacking is a skill everyone can learn and should learn.

I found that I had infinitely more fun planning this trip & living this trip while trying to figure out how to do it as frugally as possible. As I mentioned in the Reshaping My Money Story article when you approach things with a FI/Frugal mindset you end up having waaaaaay more fun AND save tons of money which you can instead invest to create even more freedom in your life. Freedom & fun are my two top personal values & I think everyone benefits from them.


I’ve been a longtime proponent of using travel as an excuse to get even more fit. This is in stark-contrast to what I see most people do when they travel—eat like shit, drink excessively, not exercise & destroy their health. Instead of rejuvenating & encouraging new growth many unfortunate souls do exactly the opposite and come back in worse shape (mentally, emotionally, physically, & spiritually) from their vacation. I stand for the possibility that we can use travel to heal, grow & transform us for the better. When it comes to fitness & travel I take a contrarian approach & combine it with a FI Mindset. Here is how approached my physical training while in Mexico:

Since I was staying in an Airbnb I did consider paying to go to a gym so I could workout daily while on the trip, but ultimately I asked myself these questions:

What will make me grow the most?

What will I remember more?

What will my future self thank me the most for?

My sweet jugs for sumo deadlifts, squats, stair climbing & calf raises on Leg Day in Mexico.

My sweet jugs for sumo deadlifts, squats, stair climbing & calf raises on Leg Day in Mexico.

So instead of taking the easy/convenient route of spending money to go to a gym I made the choice to grow more and I utilized the incredible rooftop our Airbnb had and I used the jump rope & resistance bands I brought for exactly this reason. I doubled down on this FI/Fitness love and got even more creative—using the door frame for pull-ups, the stairs to the rooftop for sprints, and even utilized some giant water jugs for a savage leg day. It was awesome working on my sweet tan and pushing myself to creatively devise 40-60 minutes workouts each day. And I got to do it with an epic view of the city & beaches!

When it came to getting around We optimized walking everywhere whenever possible. Even up the ridiculously steep multi-block hill to get to our Airbnb. This was especially fun when we were carrying lots of groceries. I considered it part of my Spartan Training for the trip. By taking this approach to emphasizing muscle over motor I easily logged 10K-20K+ steps a day.

I also happened to bring Spikeball along for the trip and randomly recruited the first couple we saw on the beach. We taught them to play, enjoying several rounds of Spike, & ultimately having a grand time on the beautiful beach of Puerto Vallarta. They had so much fun they even ended up inviting us on an epic hidden beaches guided group hike the following day (which we went on of course!!).

Colomitos Beach, Puerto Vallarta. A “hidden beach” only accessible by boat or by hiking in (like we did).

Colomitos Beach, Puerto Vallarta. A “hidden beach” only accessible by boat or by hiking in (like we did).

Funny enough, I even got to workout in a hotel gym (for free) on one of the days because by pure chance one of my good friends was also visiting Puerto Vallarta so we linked up and crushed a workout together in his hotel gym. This backs up another one of the interesting features behind approaching life with a FI/Frugal mindset—if instead of just spending money for convenience I choose to wait & open myself up to the infinite opportunities of the Universe what I originally wanted gets delivered to me for free (or at a radically reduced price). Good things really do come to those who wait.

On the morning of the last day I wanted to maximize my fitness & maximize my experience so I took a run through the city with my drone in my running backpack to scope out some parts of the city that I’d only flown over (like the Spire in the title photo). It was so invigorating, fun & a perfect way for me to close out an epic trip.


Heck! I’m still having fun & feeling even more free just reminiscing about how I optimized this trip & thinking about how I’m gonna optimize the next trip even better!

I highly suggest everyone get on the Travel Hacking bandwagon (more guides/resources below)! I implore you to make life an adventure, invest the time/energy into learning an amazing skillset that will serve you for the rest of your precious life & radically increase the freedom & fun in your life while you are at it!

On top of that, I encourage everyone to learn & practice healthful eating & exercise in a diverse array of ways so that no matter what environment or life-situation you are in you can have fun challenging yourself to maintain & even increase your physical fitness! This will also increase your freedom, fun, creativity, and when you do it with a FI mindset it will speed up your path to FI.

Happy Travel/Fitness Hacking Everyone!

Your Life Alchemist,


P.S. Below is a list of the credit cards & sign up bonuses with referral links that I’ve gotten so far (I started this endeavor in December of 2017). Please note that with some of these links I will get additional points if you sign-up using my referral link. You’re welcome to google them if you’d prefer me not to benefit personally from your signup.


  • *FI stands for Financial Independence which is a cultural movement, a money mindset & a life philosophy. Read more about it in my “Reshaping My Money Story” article.

  • **The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to designate one person as your companion and they can fly for free with you on any flight you book with cash or points on Southwest until the end of the following year. You have to earn 110K points in one calendar year to qualify for this, but if you optimize to hit 110K points in the first part of say 2020 then you’ll have the companion pass until the end of 2021—that’s practically 2 years of having your “other person” fly for free with you anywhere you go!! Here is an article that teaches you how to earn the Southwest Companion pass for 2-years (hint: it’s easier than you think).

  • ***Travel Hacking: Using miles & points achieved through credit card signup bonuses & other Financial Independence strategies to travel for radically reduced cost or even for free. Please note that Travel Hacking is NOT for people who don’t pay off their credit cards every month, are in debt, or have messy personal finances. Read my “Facing Financial Shame” article if you are still on the road to financial recovery.

  • Massive thanks to the ChooseFI community for teaching me the savvy ways of Travel Hacking! Here is another great article from ChooseFI to get you started on your own Travel Hacking journey.

Always more empowering content on my Instagram:

My Fall/Winter Morning Homebrew Power Tonic

In the past I’ve had my fair share of anxiety and depression, especially during the darker months of the year.

I’ve also had lots of concerns over my physical fitness & mental health in general.

Over the last several years I feel like I’ve figured out a ton & come up with a systematic approach of proactivity & prevention.

Here is one cup from my Life Happiness Kit:

I’ve been gathering rosemary & lavender from my local neighborhood & adding it to my morning tea which is also infused with ceylon cinnamon & mushroom powder. Talk about a power tonic that lights my mind & body on fire!! 🤓🔥🌱🧬☕️✨💪🏼

There is something super magical about foraging in your own neighborhood. I believe we are deeply connected to Earth & that she is always providing natural medicine in our environment to heal, protect & invigorate us! The more local the more powerful! 

There has been research done that shows that local & self-grown food actually provides the exact micronutrients our bodies are deficient in—simply amazing how connected we are to Gaia! 

When I think about this Earth Connection that is available to us all I always think about the scene in the movie Avatar where they all plug into the Mother Tree & give new life to the main character. Seriously awesome! 🌳🧬

Also, as many are already aware, I’m an energy obsessed mind & body #LifeAlchemist so I like to alchemize my tonic even further by brewing it in a cup of Earl Grey tea along with adding a natural #fatburner & #nootropic stack into the mix! 😅

See notes below for ingredients & benefits:


-antioxidants and anti-inflammatory

-improves digestion

-enhances memory & concentration

-neurological protection. ...

-prevent brain aging

-cancer protection

-protection against macular degeneration


-treats anxiety, stress & depression



-promotes hair growth

-keeps acne at bay

NeuroShroom Mushroom Powder by Primal Herb:

-This super blend of nootropic mushrooms & other powerful herbs has Lions Mane Mushroom, Reishi Spores & more! Further notes on the plethora of benefits in the link below.

-get it on Amazon:

Ceylon Cinnamon:

-supports healthy blood sugar levels

-promotes heart/circulatory health

-helps support fat metabolism

-get it on Amazon: 

Earl Grey Tea by Stash:

-I grew up w/ my mom brewing earl grey everyone morning. The smell of a cup of earl grey just brings me childhood joy & magic.

-black tea has a good shot of caffeine which is an energy & mood booster as well as an appetite suppressant.

-bergamot oil enhances mood, reduces stress, stimulates circulation, improves digestion, & alleviates pain

-get it on Amazon:

Gather Up & Garden The Magic In Your life

I highly encourage everyone to get out in your local neighborhood & forage! This can be done in cities too! Just google “city foraging” & “urban foraging” & learn this magical skill for yourself!

Walking your neighborhood will bring you massive joy & appreciation for your life. I do my best to walk regularly no matter the weather. There is no such thing as inappropriate weather. There is just inappropriate clothing & gear.

On a similar note, growing your own life empowering garden is another super powerful Life Skill—thanks for the awesome upbringing and positive influence Mom & Dad! And major shoutout to my partner Carly for bringing this skill back into my everyday life!

Happy Alchemizing everyone! 


UPDATE: I’ve been rotating my earl grey tea with Chai to enjoy the benefits of cardamom oil—a key ingredient in most Chai.

End Notes:

-The act of foraging was inspired by the awesome book “The Finnish Way” by Katja Pantzar. It’s also where I solidified the concept about getting outside no matter the weather (just wear appropriate clothing/gear). It’s something I was sometimes good about, but not always. Now I have clear understanding & process to follow.

-My walking habit forever fueled by the truly magical book “The Wander Society” by Keri Smith. This book fundamentally changed my life.

Lots more life empowering content on my Instagram:

You Must Do The Thing You Think You Cannot Do: A Ride Along Guide To Doing Challenging Things That Will Change Your Life

“I can’t do that. I’m not ready. That’s not who I am.”

Those were the first thoughts that entered my mind. Filled with fear of the unknown my mind tried to convince me to pass on the opportunity.

Without even giving it a chance, my mind said "No." Avoiding adversity & discomfort was its priority.

Fortunately, something in my heart was stirred. A sleeping giant began to awaken from the request.

The Back Story:

The Four Seasons Silicon Valley in Palo Alto reached out to me on Instagram. They were looking to partner with a local online influencer in the fitness/wellness space to spread awareness about the inaugural RBC Gran Fondo Silicon Valley event they were hosting.

A "Gran Fondo" means "Big Ride" in italian and this event would be composed of 1000+ cyclists covering approximately 75-miles & 7000 feet of elevation gain through the lush land of Northern California. The ride would start at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto and then go up & over the Santa Cruz mountains to the Ocean and back.

I was honored by the invitation, but my mind was screaming "You're not a cyclist! You don't even have a proper bike! And you've never done more than 10-15 miles on a bike and you have no training climbing a massive hill! Don't do this! You will look like a fool! You will fail! And what will people think when you do?!"

During my meeting with the hotel staff in charge of the event I wanted to say "No thanks, I'm not a cyclist" but fortunately I kept my mouth shut and told them I would think about it. I left the meeting doubting myself.

That evening I shared the opportunity with my partner. She quietly listened to me rant about how I wasn't a cyclist and how I should turn this opportunity down because it wasn't who I was and it would be too much effort for not enough reward. My limited mind was winning the battle…

Fortunately, my fiancé is a visionary and pretty much always sees infinite possibility when I'm self-sequestering myself in a dark corner. After I had finished explaining to her how I couldn't do it she pointed out a few things I missed.

  1. It's the Four Seasons--one of the most powerful brands worldwide with immaculate & stunning properties in many of the most amazing places across the globe. I'd be foolish not to work with them.

  2. This was an amazing opportunity to grow my positive influence & create a positive impact upon a greater audience by partnering with an awesome company.

  3. My whole message is about empowering people to transform & self-actualize. Here was an opportunity for me to transform & openly share the process with others.

I wasn't fully convinced, but I did decide to sleep on it.

Something awoke while my mind slept that night. The next morning, first thing upon waking, I emailed the Four Seasons and committed to doing the cycling event.

It wasn’t until after officially committing to the Opportunity that the real magic began to happen.

With only 5-days until the event, I didn't even have a bike. At least not one with actual gears that allow you to climb a mountain. I didn't have a helmet or shoes. I definitely didn't have the ever so crucial riding bib--this is the thing you wear to protect your crotch & tailbone from being injured from excessive riding on a hard ass bicycle seat for several hours.

I didn't know how to clip into pedals, change gears, or climb insane hills on a bike.

Yet, the mind is an amazing machine. When you give it clear direction, purpose, a goal & officially make a decision its gears begin to whir and figure it all out.

I started sharing with my work colleagues that I was going to do the event and soon enough I found out that one of my best friends at my company, Henry Edelson, was super interested in doing the event with me as a an avid cyclist. I reached out to the Four Seasons and asked if he could participate with me and they were more than happy to have him join me. Now I had a partner for the journey!

I kept talking about the event with the people in my life and soon discovered that our Head of Culinary at Oh My Green, Deryck, was also a longtime cyclist and one of his favorite things to do was get people into cycling. He also just happened to get back his loaner bike he lends out like a gateway-drug to get people hooked on the sport. He happily let me know I could borrow it and find out if I enjoyed the sport and that if I ended up liking it I could borrow it until I was ready to get my own. He also had extra shoes & a helmet.

On Tuesday, 4 days from the event, Derrick & I linked up and miraculously the bike, shoes & helmet fit perfectly. For those who are unfamiliar with cycling like myself, having the bike fit your body size is absolutely integral to going long distances without ruining your body.

And for the record, the bike wasn't some beater. Nope! It was a few years old Bianchi, the oldest bike company in the world. It wasn't the absolute latest & greatest, but it was the top of the line when it was released. More than good enough for me.

Next up was figuring out my riding uniform. I reached out to the rest of Oh My Green executive team and asked if they would like to sponsor the uniform for me & my colleague so we could represent our company in the event. Our company mission is to "empower people to live healthy & blissful lives" and supporting a local mission-aligned event & two company team members living the mission in real life was right on par with the company's endeavors. Suddenly we were sponsored riders.

I found us super sleek Pedal Mafia riding uniforms at Cognition Cyclery in San Mateo, California through a recommendation of another colleague at another company who was a triathlete. 

While I was working on the gear I would need for the cycling event I also reached out to Braden Torras of Alpine Northwest, a super talented videographer (among many other things) and Avni of Glass Locket Film, a delightfully gifted photographer, to see if they would be willing to cover the event with high fidelity photo & video. They were both thrilled at the opportunity to work with the Four Seasons in Silicon Valley. I'm still amazed they were both available on such short notice in addition to all of the gear lining up so magically, but like Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

Once you make a decision, the Universe conspires to make it happen.

With only a few days left until the 75-mile ride I had everything I would need to fully participate. I even got in two short 6-8 miles rides on my new-to-me bike to learn how to clip in and change gears before the event.

On Friday night I checked my team into the Four Seasons Hotel in East Palo Alto, registered for the ride, signed a liability waiver, got my race number and had an epic team dinner around a fireplace on the patio of The Quattro Restaurant--the extremely elegant italian restaurant nestled in the corner of the hotel. Nothing like fueling up on a divine dinner with friends & family over the fireplace before a big journey. There was something tribal & mystical about the fireside dinner. A throwback to a time when we would gather next to the heat of the fire under the stars, shares stories & fuel up together for an upcoming journey.

The Ride of a Lifetime:

The morning of the event was magic in its own right. During the spring & summer months I tend to naturally wake up very early, usually 3-5am. I also tend to have incredibly high energy in the beginning of the day. So I was up early as usual, around 4am. My energy was flowing at an all-time high. I wasn't bouncing off walls. No, this energy was like a strong pulsating bass-line pumping throughout my being. Not frenetic, but instead a powerful rumble like thunder in the distance.

I had chosen to sleep in my own bed at home and meet my team at the hotel in the morning so that I could get the best sleep possible. I methodically gathered my gear and greeted the day with my fiance’.

Yoga at the rooftop pool of the Four Seasons Palo Alto. [yoga mat by    Apeiron   ]

Yoga at the rooftop pool of the Four Seasons Palo Alto. [yoga mat by Apeiron]

First on the days agenda was a video/photo shoot at the gorgeous rooftop pool of the Four Seasons. The idea was to capture me preparing for this event as I would normally. And that we did!

My typical daily warm-up includes yoga & intentional movement. Avni captured pictures of me in various poses, while Braden caught me rising with the sun on a drone. It was superbly epic and a very powerful way to start the day.

Next up was changing into my actual riding uniform and lining up for the start of ride with my colleague Henry and capturing all of that on film & video. This is when things started to get real wild.

Henry & I lining up for start of the Gran Fondo.

Henry & I lining up for start of the Gran Fondo.

There were 1000+ riders getting ready to go out for this Big Ride. We were being grouped together in waves and there were numerous countdowns as each group got released.

It was loud, crazy & I loved every minute of it! I could literally feel the anticipation of all the other riders washing over me adding to my own.

While waiting for our wave of riders to get released onto the course, Avni snapped shots & Braden filmed while I double checked I had everything for the ride and scarfed down some of Henry's food. Normally, I fast until noon or later but I figured I better have something in my stomach for the long journey ahead.

The starting gun went off and our group started the course. Henry & I rolled out with some celebratory hoots, hollers & goodbyes to our crew (and of course some expressions of love to the ever supportive fiancé).

As we started out I checked in with myself. I felt good on the bike and mentally told myself "I can do this!" During the first 10 minutes of the ride Henry proceeded to share stories about David Goggins--a navy seal & ultra endurance athlete who has an insane story of how he got into endurance sports. I was both inspired & intimidated by these stories. Henry said Goggin’s story reminded me of him in how he didn't train for his first foray into endurance sports.

The first part of the cycling event went fairly well until we hit our first major intersection with cars and a stop light. We were on a hill in a group of about 60 riders and when the light turned green I panicked getting clipped in, my foot slipped, and I slammed my knee into the pedal. Mild bleeding & pain ensued. We were only 20 minutes into the hours long course. Not the best start, but at least I was still able to continue on.

One thing that really hit me right within those first 10-20 minutes of the ride was how friendly and awesome the community of riders were. RBC Gran Fondo definitely built a special culture with their cycling events. We all chatted as we road together getting to know one another. Funny enough, people could hardly believe this was my first cycling event saying that I "looked like professional cyclist." Nothing like a sweet bike & cycling outfit to help me fake it. Being in fairly good shape from my numerous weekly fitness activities didn't hurt either.

Next up was my first major hill climb--something which I had no practice or training with. Fortunately, I spent some of those first 30 minutes chatting through hill climbing strategy with Henry so at least conceptually I had an understanding of how to use the gears and my body together to climb hardcore inclines. It wasn't long until I had to put theory into practice on the infamous Kings Mountain.

Other riders had shared Henry's climbing philosophy saying things like "don't try to be a hero and blast up the mountain, just get into your lowest gear and put in steady & constant work."

Kings Mountain was a total beast. Miles of climbing through lush Redwood forests. It was epically beautiful with ever increasing stunning views as we continued the ascent. 

Honestly, just looking up at the radical grades gave me shivers, but when I focused on just putting in the work for a few grueling miles I realized, "Holy fuck! I can do this! I can climb massive hills on a bike!"

My strategy to get up this beautiful mountain quickly evolved into just picking a rider or two in front of me and keeping pace with them. I didn't try to pass them up. I just followed along as best I could. I really had no idea how to pace myself so I figured it was better to model other riders who were surely more experienced than me.

When things got really hard, and they did, I would chant to myself, "I am strong. I am worthy." Over and over again I would say these empowering words and magically it seemed to draw forth inner strength I didn't know I had. Up the hill I climbed. And climbed.

Ultimately, I conquered Kings Mountain and made it to the first rest stop. And this is where I made my first major mistake.

Normally, I am a super healthy eater. Massive amounts of vegetables and lean proteins make up the majority of my food consumption. Very little processed junky food. However, at the first rest stop there were some not so healthy options (along with some good healthy options) that included M&M's, cookies, and other sweets chalk full of refined sugar and other manmade ingredients I can't even pronounce, much less have any understanding of what they are or where they came from. Most of the time I avoid stuff like this, but after spending a couple hours climbing a ridiculous hill I figured my body could use all the fuel it could get. "Heck, I still got a few more hours in the saddle and I'll be burning massive calories all day long. I can afford to eat some junk," I thought to myself. I proceeded to gobble down a few handfuls of M&M's and other sugary treats. Within minutes I was sky-high on one of the most addictive drugs ever known to mankind--refined sugar.

This first rest stop was also the beginning of my 2nd major mistake. They were handing out gel packs, the ones endurance athletes use to quickly get sodium and calories into their bodies during long grueling races. These ones also happened to contain a 20mg hit of caffeine. I grabbed about 5 of them and put them into my pocket to help me get through the rest of the ride.

During the climb of Kings Mountain Henry had went ahead at his own pace. As a regular cyclist my beginner pace was a bit slow for him, plus he wanted to see what he had so he pushed on ahead. He waited for me at first rest stop so we could start the next leg of the journey together.

After fueling up our bodies, using the restrooms and doing a little bit of stretching we hit the road again. This is where my 3rd major mistake began. 

At least half of the next leg was downhill. Similar to climbing massive hills on bikes, I haven't ever gone down miles long stretches of downhill road on a bike.

Irregardless of my inexperience, I bombed down the hills on my bike with Henry. We took turns leading. It was goddamn exhilarating! And despite it being fairly scary as a beginner, my adrenaline was pumping so high that it wasn't too hard to overcome the fear and just hyper-focus on scanning the road ahead for upcoming turns and objects on the road that could end my ride (or my life).

There is something about having to be so focused on the task at hand that pushes you into a state of flow. One where time ceases to exist, your Spirit comes alive, and life just feels so grand. Flying down a road on a human-powered mechanical machine at speeds up to 50+ mph definitely did that for me.

I ended up surviving & thriving through my first major downhill traverse on the bike, but when it was time to climb the next hill I hit my first massive roadblock. Within 10-15 seconds of beginning the next hill climb both my quads completely cramped up and my knees locked out. In other words, both my legs were stuck completely straight and I couldn't even bend my knees.

Somehow I managed to get myself to the side of the road without crashing and I laid down. Without having to worry about not crashing my bike I put all my mental energy into attempting to bed my knees. I couldn't do it. My legs were stuck straight. Henry hadn’t even noticed I had fallen behind and was already out of sight.

Amazingly, I didn't panic. Instead I told myself I would be patient and think this through & evaluate my options.

Within moments of analysis I realized why my legs had cramped up so bad. The entire 20-30 minute downhill ride I had ridden in a crouched position with my pedals parallel to one another and both my legs holding up my entire body weight. Essentially, I had held a staggered squat for close to half an hour. Pumped full of adrenaline & overly focused on making it down the hill safely I had managed to do this, but now that the adrenaline had left me and it was time to get back to the slow & steady work of climbing a hill my legs were completely toast.

I later learned that when you are bombing down hills you have to keep your legs moving and take time sitting down on the seat to allow your legs to recover. Otherwise if you hold a sustained staggered squat you will ruin yourself for the next climb.

As I laid there on the side of the road weighing my options I crushed all the water I had on me. I figured at least part of the cramping was due to dehydration. 

Other cyclists who passed me asked if I was okay and if I needed water. This concern & looking out for other cyclists is something that I soon learned is very common among the cycling community.

I explained to them that I had cramped up and was just taking a break waiting for my legs to un-cramp. They half-jokingly said that at least I looked really good lying down on the side of the road--thank you again Oh My Green for the Pedal Mafia uniform! We all laughed as they proceeded on.

As I laid there on the side of the road I thought through things. I definitely wanted to continue the journey so the only thing I could do was to see if my legs would actually un-cramp so that I could actually physically continue on. I told myself I would be patient and focus my mind on encouraging my quads to release. Shortly after making this decision one of the first responders who roam around the cycling course was driving by and saw me. He stopped to see if I was okay. Pat was his name and he was part of the RBC Gran Fondo crew. I told him what had happened and he offered me a ride home or some water. I chose the water and told him I really wanted to continue on.

As we were chatting my legs finally let go. My ability to bend my knees returned! I wasn't done yet! I told Pat I was good to go and asked for an additional bottle of water to refill my own.

Then I got back on the saddle and started climbing again.

Gratefully, my legs stayed unstuck. I got back to putting in the diligent work of grinding the mountain out. My will against the hill. Eventually, I caught up to another rider and just used him to set my pace against until I reached the next rest stop. By this time I was just trying survive the journey, all thoughts of being a hero were gone.

At the next rest stop I continued to double down on my previous mistakes--junk food & caffeinated gels. Nonetheless, I was extremely happy with my progress. I had made it over the Santa Cruz Mountains’ punishing 7,000 feet of elevation gain and road down the other side at breakneck speeds and lived to tell the story. Again, this was done with almost no training so the fact that I made it the Ocean from Palo Alto on a bike was a massive personal win already. I truly was surprised that I actually made it this far, especially after almost having to tap out with my legs locking up.

Henry had waited at this rest stop for me. It was at this halfway point that we decided it was best for him to continue on at his own pace and for me to continue on at my own. I was okay with this and definitely wanted to Henry to finish.

After a brief respite which included scarfing down delicious cookies and using the restroom I was back on the horse and headed back to Kings Mountain for another test of my body & willpower.

The next leg of the journey took me through rolling hills out near the Ocean. It was magical cycling through the fields, a tunnel of trees & other serenely beautiful open landscapes. It was a long way to the next rest stop but the number of intense hills was minimal and it was more about cruising along at a good clip. After probably the most peaceful portion of my ride I made it to the next rest stop.

I crushed more food, healthy & junk, refilled my water bottles, grabbed some more caffeinated gel packs, used the restroom and got back on the road yet again.

It was shortly after the third rest stop while I was diligently working my way up yet another hill that I hit a new level in the Quest. As I was methodically pedaling away in the never-ending circular motion of cycling I felt decades long held emotions deep in the wells of my body break open & release. It was raw unprocessed emotions that I had failed to work through and instead stored in my body. As I cycled through these long-forgotten & mysterious emotions I felt waves of energy cascading out from my lower chakras to the edges of all points of my body--head, hands & feet. Tears burst from my eyes while I was wracked by deep sighs & sobs, yet at the same time I was experiencing massive euphoria.

In order to move to each next level of life we must face & embrace the darkness…

In order to move to each next level of life we must face & embrace the darkness…

It was transcendental. One of those rare peak life experiences that remain so vividly burned into your psyche forevermore.

I couldn't tell you how long it lasted, but whatever came up I cycled through it until it was done releasing. One of the deepest emotional, psychological & spiritual cleanses I’ve been through.

Without stopping, I continued to cycle onto & up Kings Mountain. Again.

Going up the other side of Kings Mountain seemed infinitely harder than the first trek up the Mountain. This is likely because I'd already been on my bike for 5+ hours and already climbed so much hill it was hard to even mentally conceptualize adding more the journey. I'd already come so far.

Nonetheless, I told myself I would continue for as long as possible while listening to my body. At the last rest stop the RBC Gran Fondo team had offered me a ride up the infamous Kings Mountain, but wanting to truly test my limits I passed.

I pedaled & pushed my way back up the mountain. Slowly. Methodically. Soaking in the magical Redwoods. Asking them for help. Digging deep into myself. Exploring new terrain internally & externally.

A little bit more. A little further. It was slow going. I was well past any physical exertion threshold I'd approached in this lifetime. Yet, I was still curious where the limit & boundary was. I felt I was finally nearing it. Nearing the place in which I would need to take on help, stop or injure myself.

I probably spent close to two hours trying to tackle the backside of Kings Mountain before I finally gave in. When I reached that point I could tell my knees were at risk of being seriously injured if I kept pushing. I had already been on my bike & pedaling for over 7 hours.

Instead of pushing myself to literal breakdown I decided it was time to take the help offered. I would indeed take a ride up the rest of the Kings Mountain to the last & final rest stop and then cruise down the other side of the mountain back to the Four Seasons in Palo Alto. Heck, I still wanted to finish the Big Ride even if that meant doing it with some assistance.

By this point my videographer, Braden, had become a first-responder. Interestingly enough, he had just taken a course a few weeks prior to do exactly that. Pure coincidence. Or maybe just more magic. I shot him a message and let him know I needed a ride up the mountain.

When he picked me up he informed me that there was another rider somewhere up the road that he had to get to so off we went. Quickly.

Racing up winding roads in a car turned out to be the piece of straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. Before we even got to the next rider I had to ask to pull over so I could throw up.

The previous mistakes of inhaling junk food & caffeinated gels combined with pushing my body far beyond any previous physical thresholds all mixed together into a very unstable vessel. My whole self was primed to ignite. A rollercoaster-like car ride pushed me over the edge.

Out it all came. Over the next 3-hours or so. I was throwing up so much & feeling so nauseous that there was no way that I could even ride down the other side of Kings Mountain and cruise on back to the Four Seasons. Instead I had to head back to the hotel in the car with several stops along the way.

My ego died. I would not finish this Big Ride.

On a spiritual side note, one of the stops included me throwing up right next to a Coyote carcass. Coyote is known as the trickster God and he's known for tricking people into healing, growth & transformation. He definitely played me like a puppet. Despite normally abhorring the process of purging by way of vomiting there was something cleansing about this time.

It was like I was releasing all that deeply buried emotional junk that was crystalized into my body that I had just recently broken up through seemingly endless cycling. Now that it was no longer lodged like an icecap deep within my body it was time to fully get rid of the waste. It had been processed and it was time to cleanse the system.

When I got back to the Four Seasons I was so grateful for a super plush bed. Riding for 7+ hours had taken its toll and laying down on a giant cushy mattress with my fiancé was pure heaven. 

After a couple more visits to the bathroom & a couple hours of rest I was ready to eat. The hotel room service was to die for! It was also from the Quattro kitchen. So good in fact that I ordered it twice that night! After all the purging and wild amount of calories I burnt it was time for a serious refuel and the Four Seasons did me right! 

I spent the evening refueling, resting & integrating the powerful journey with my fiancé. It was by far the most epic adventure I’d had in years. And definitely one of the most life-changing. Second only to my Vision Quest I did for my birthday in 2017.

Surprisingly, the next day I felt amazing! To the point of getting on a stationary bike on the rooftop pool of the hotel, doing yoga, then later doing a CrossFit style workout with Henry and even playing 1-2 hours of Spikeball. I felt strong & incredibly alive!

And even though I didn’t finish the Gran Fondo it ended up being even better. It was the start of my life as a Cyclist. Since the Big Ride I’ve ridden all over Bay Area, Tahoe, Monterey, Pebble Beach, Joshua Tree and the territory I cover & explore on bike continues to expand.

I would say still to this day as I am writing this memoir of the experience I am still processing & integrating the lessons and undergoing the unfoldment that was catalyzed by it. Such a powerful quest! One thing is for certain, Eleanor Roosevelt was really onto something when she said:

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

In addition to that enlightening quote that I finally really understand at a fundamental level, here are some key take-aways galvanized by my Big Ride:

How To Approach Hard Things That Will Change Your Life:

  1. Look for the hidden jewels that can be mined from the challenge (hard thing). In just about any challenge (opportunity) there are numerous prizes to be won if you take the time to look and make the conscious effort to uncover them.

  2. Ask empowering questions. Ask yourself the question "What is one thing I could do at this time in my life that would change my life for the better forever (whether I feel ready or not)?" Answering a powerful question like that will always move you forward in life.

  3. Leverage the empowering people in your life. Share the challenge (opportunity) with a trusted other who will empower you to say "Yes!" even when your mind wants to say, "No." Then keep sharing with others who respond with excitement. They may just have exactly what you need to make it all come together.

  4. Just say, "YES!" and figure out the details along the way. This means officially committing. Accept the invitation. Pay the admittance fee. Purchase the ticket. Apply for the job, sign up for the class, competition, workshop, etc.

Things That Really Move The Needle Of Your Life Forward Tend To Be Hard & Challenging:

  1. If they were easy everyone would do them all the time and we would all be humming along at a good clip all the time. It is the Quests we accept & take on, the ones filled with adversity & adventure, that challenge our entire being & remake us anew.

  2. They will often come in disguise. Something you've never done before. Something you think you could never do. Something that scares the shit out of you.

  3. They will push you outside of your comfort zone. Often times, way outside your comfort zone.

  4. They will induce fear. This is a good thing. It means it will change your life whether you are ready or not.

  5. You will likely fail the first time. Maybe the first several times. Again, if it were easy it probably wouldn’t catalyze much healing, growth & transformation.

  6. Release yourself from the outcome. Choose the adventure. Go all in. Play full out. And allow the experience (whatever it is) to transform you.

  7. Trust the unfolding of the journey AND take massive action at the same.

  8. It's not always about finishing. Often times it's much more about beginning a new chapter in one's life.

My New Chapter:

It’s taken me nearly 3 months, an entire season, to process this Epic Journey and get it down on virtual paper (this blog). However, I definitely haven’t been idle.

Not too long after the Gran Fondo I realized that my next chapter of life included more outdoor physical quests. Never had I felt so alive, so focused, so excited and so god damn happy & grateful! Both leading up to the Gran Fondo, during it, and a lasting effervescent glow has stuck with me ever since. I wanted more of this!

So, I went searching for my next Quest. And I found it—The Super Bowl of obstacle course racing. 13-15 miles with 30-35 obstacles & 4000+ elevation gain in Squaw Valley, California where they held the 1960 Winter Olympics.

I signed up, spent 2.5 months preparing & training for it. And just last weekend I completed my very first Obstacle Course Race. It was yet another life-changing event. So much so that a day after the Race I signed up for my next one at the end of the month.

There is so much gold to mine from these epic outdoor quests and I may have to write a few more blog posts about it, but for now…

I just want to send out a massive shoutout filled with love & immense gratitude to The Four Seasons Palo Alto & RBC Gran Fondo for this grand opportunity in disguise!

Ya’ll literally changed the trajectory of my entire life and acted as a major catalyst & demarkation for A WHOLE NEW ME!

I look forward to seeing you next year and actually finishing the Big Ride you got me started on. And who knows, maybe I’ll even train for it! ;)

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl

P.S. For the READER — What’s your next Quest?

Where it all started… The entrance to the Four Seasons Palo Alto & the start of the RBC Gran Fondo Silicon Valley 75-mile ride.

Where it all started… The entrance to the Four Seasons Palo Alto & the start of the RBC Gran Fondo Silicon Valley 75-mile ride.

Related Micro-Blogs on Instagram: 

An Interview covering the experience on Paula Pant's Afford Anything Podcast:

Optimizing Life: A Foolproof System For Continuous Improvement

At some level, everyone wants a better & more optimized life. Yet, it is so easy to get lost in the hustle & bustle. Many of us find ourselves just trying to survive the work-week (traditional or entrepreneurial). I know this has often been the case for me.

Instead of overly worrying about my life improvement process I focus on a simple system that consistently moves me in the direction of a life that is continuously improving. 

My life optimization system is composed of three related principles:

  1. You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
  2. You are a product of your environment.
  3. You are what you consume.


1. You Are The Average Of The 5 People You Spend The Most Time With

This is a quote by Jim Rohn, a pioneer in the field of personal development. Tony Robbins got his start working under him as well.

They've done studies that show our fitness level & net worth is highly correlated to those we spend the most time with. If we take a deep look at our own life we will realize that this principle applies to just about every area of our life. Regular weekly activities are highly informed by those we spend the most time with. We tend to pick up all sorts of behaviors of those we spend time with. Ultimately, good & bad habits are built & reinforced by those we are around.

This is awesome & scary at the same time. 

How many of the life-enhancing activities & habits that you regularly participate in are related to those you hang out with often?

On the flip side, how many of the destructive things you do are accepted & encouraged by the people you spend the most time with?

Seriously, take a few minutes and deeply think about this.


2. You Are A Product Of Your Environment

Again, massive research has been done on this. Our environments are a huge influence on our product of being. 

Different environments attract & produce different types of people. The environments in which we spend the most time almost always include the people that we actually spend the most time with (work, home, community, extracurricular activities, etc).

Our environments also dictate our activity & behavior. People who spend time at the gym tend to exercise, those who attend church pray, those who go to the library read, those who go to the bar drink, so on & so forth.

Take a moment and think about what kind of behavior your regular environments encourage.


3. You Are What You Consume

This one is really powerful. And can be really disturbing when we look at it in a detailed manner. 

Our consumption includes food & information. This includes all types of media--books, blogs, news, television, movies, music, auditory programs, video games, etc. Furthermore, information is picked up through conversations, environments & all types of experiences.

At some level, everything we ingest into our body and mind is programming us for better or worse. This holds true no matter which of our physical senses it enters into our domain of existence. Taste, touch, sight, sound & smell are all viable access points for consumption programming.

Think about this. What are you consuming on a regular basis?

Now that we've taken a moment to analyze these three related fundamentals let's look at...


How To Implement These Life Optimization Principles

  1. Self-checking: Regularly ask yourself how you are doing in each area.
    • Are the people I am spending the most time with calling forth the highest best version of myself?
    • Do the places I spend the most time encourage continuous growth & improvement?
    • Does the food & information I consume naturally lead me to grow in positive ways or am I slowly poisoning my body & mind?
  2. Work: Optimize your income generating field of endeavor.
    • Typically we spend the most time with the people we work with. We spend the largest majority of our time in our work environment. And we consume a majority of our weekly intake of food & information at and around work. 
  3. People: Pick your life-partner & friends wisely.
    • Tons of ultra-successful people credit their good fortune to picking an amazing significant other.
    • Same goes for friends. Successful, smart, happy, inspired & growth-minded people choose to spend time with people who facilitate these qualities naturally.
  4. Communities, Environments, Personal Interests & Hobbies: Choose groups, people, places & activities that foster growth.
    • Humans are built for connection & community. A lot of what we think, say & do come from the communities, personal interests & hobbies we are involved in (both online & in real life).


How To Hack The System

What if you're reading this and you realize that the 5 people you spend the most time with are showing a strong indication of actually being detrimental to your personal growth, health & fitness, personal finances, etc? In other words, what if the people you spend the most time with are ensuring a shitty life?!

Or what if after pondering these related principles you realize that your work environment & other environments you regularly frequent are contributing to a path to nowhere? Or worse, are leading to a steady decline?!

And what if your consumption (food, information, & otherwise) is killing your life?!

Here are a few ways to quickly hack the system:


Lifehack #1

Focus on what you are consuming. The easiest hack for this system is to immediately up the quality of content you are ingesting on a regular basis. It is a crucial step you can take & the first key to transforming your life at any time.

When you are commuting to & from work what are you doing? Are you listening to the fear-inducing news? Or maybe radio & music that is telling you to spend money to achieve happiness, buy more shit, do more drugs, sleep around, etc?

Instead of poisoning your mind you can listen to life-empowering audiobooks, audio programs & podcasts during your work commute.

This same thought-thread can be applied to all types of commutes and mindless activities where you can add in auditory learning/programming without negatively affecting your performance. This includes things like chores (cleaning, laundry, yard work, going to the grocery store, etc) and certain types of repetitive activities & exercise where you don't require music for motivation or have to keep track of performance metrics (reps, sets, times, etc).

During your free time you should definitely be reading books & blogs that empower & transform your life. Additionally, it pays to think this through with your viewing habits. What you regularly view informs your programming just as much as what you read & listen to. TV, movies, internet videos, public performances, etc.

Wise-minds actively curate their social media feeds so the content actually enhances their life. [here are my socials in case you need some instant reprogramming: Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter]

Even the experiences we consume program us.

Seriously! Think hard about what you are putting into your consciousness at all times.

Life-enhancing curated reading, listening, viewing, & experiencing is one of the most powerful habits you can cultivate in your life!

In disguise, this is a radical hack to create a virtual powerhouse group of people you spend the most time with. Want better friends to hang out with? Find the people you admire (or envy) and consume their content. Get inside their head & hang out with them virtually every day. Go to their workshops in person & consume experiences that can literally transform your life.

You can consciously & proactively manufacture a virtual group of friends that truly empower you to live a life worth living on your own terms.

This hack can be done quickly & easily without suddenly cutting people out of your life, quitting your job, or doing any major re-hauling of your day-to-day life.

This habit will then lead you to naturally seek out and connect with other people in your physical environment that are on similar growth paths.


Lifehack #2

Proactively manage how, where & with whom you spend your free time. After you have consciously redirected what you are regularly consuming the next step is to take a deep look at what exactly you do in your free time.

Even at work we have free time. What do you during your lunch break or other downtime periods at work? Are you having life-enhancing conversations, starting a personal finance interest group, learning from a colleague who is further along in a particular area of life, sharing articles that act as catalysts for positive transformation?

Or are you staying comfortable?

Proactively seek out interactions & experiences with people at work who will encourage you to grow. Even the worst workplaces have diamonds to be mined. Career development programs, training programs, etc. In the least there are at leas few colleagues who are kick-ass in some endeavor if you dig. Explore the edges at work. 

Outside of work how do you spend your time? If you're not consuming empowering content you better be spending the time doing something that is actually improving your life. This means getting involved in activities and communities that are aligned with your goals & values (current or aspirational). Proactively seek out experiences that will force you to grow whether you are ready to or not.

Find people who are interested in or working on things that you know you're into. Having trouble finding those people? Join a local Meetup group that is aligned with a life-enhancing interest. Other ideas include a local yoga studio, Crossfit community, dance crew, book club or any group that fosters growth. This can include a place of worship or anything else that brings together people with common interests, goals & aspirations.

Want to really supercharge your transformation? Do something wild like a weeklong Vision Quest or attend a weekend workshop like the Landmark Forum. Both of those can be pretty intense, but there are loads of workshops out there covering all avenues of life. 1440 Multiversity has a ton of them throughout the year and it can be just the personal investment you need to make a major shift in your life.

When you consciously spend your free time doing life-enhancing activities & hanging with empowering groups your life will optimize itself. And when you program these into your daily/weekly/monthly/yearly life you will naturally develop friends that reinforce the habits & behavior you want to build, hypergrowth your learning & you will be consistently challenged to grow in positive ways.


Lifehack #3

Change your everyday environment. This can include where you live and/or where you work. This can seem dramatic and challenging but it works.

When I was stuck in life & lost working in Hollywood Nightlife I had no idea what to do next but I knew if I went back to Stanford University I would be in a place that would force me to figure it out.

Was the transition easy? Hell no! It was godawful scary! Not to mention I was addicted to the money, social power, & the lifestyle of a career in nightlife. However, when I got honest with myself I knew it was not leading me towards the life I wanted. It was fun while it lasted, but deep down I felt I had more to give to this world. So, I took action in the face of fear. This is the definition of courage. And wow! Did it pay-off!

This major leap of faith led to my current career in wellness/tech and a work environment that has countless benefits such as a strong emphasis on all aspects of wellness--healthy eating, regular meditation, exercise, learning & personal development, and more.

Again, most of us spend more of our life energy with the people at work than with anyone else in our life, including our family. We also consume a majority of our daily life's food, information & experiences at and around work. This is why I cannot emphasize enough just how paramount it is to consciously choose the best possible place to live & work. Then double-down and proactively lobby & take action to make your community & company culture as life-enhancing as possible.


Conclusion: Build The System & Then Let It Do Heavy Lifting

In the beginning, it can take a bit of effort to redesign your life to optimize your growth. You may need to change daily habits, discover new activities, find new friends, find another career/company or even move to a new home. Nonetheless, I guarantee you it will be worth it! I know from personal experience.

Once you've proactively designed your life to automatically create positive change, transformation & ongoing growth it becomes a simple matter of minor maintenance. It's like you have this mini magical optimization machine tucked into your pocket & it's constantly pulling forth your highest best most authentic Self. And all it needs is the occasional winding to stay on track.

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl 🌒

P.S. This article encompasses one of the major systems of my personal life optimization program, but as a lifelong Seeker I am always looking for additional tools, systems, ideas, etc. Got anything to add? Please shoot me a message or leave me a comment below (at the very bottom)!

Related: Books That Have Radically Transformed My Life

Top Posts Of 2017

It's pretty wild how fast a year can whip on by. 2018 is here!

Many friends & audience members have been asking me where the hell I've been lately. I more or less disappeared from all online platforms since July.

Truth is I've been doing some deep inner work that I plan on sharing at some point, but not quite just yet...

Nonetheless, to close out the year I figured I'd do a highlight reel of some of my best pieces I've composed over the last year. I figure it's a good reminder to myself that I'm just getting started as a blogger/writer.

Plus, I am sure new and old readers alike will discover something new that they can benefit from as all of my creative work is done with the guiding principle of "empowering people to transform & self-actualize."

Some of these are personal favorites and some just got a lot of traction online (and some are both favorites & popular). I've broken them into categories to make it easier for readers to get to a topic they want to read about.

All of these are good articles to use in planning & executing upon your best year yet!

Alchemize Life Top Posts Of 2017:

FitnessHow To Be An Ultra Fit Entrepreneur

This is my overarching philosophy & daily/weekly strategies for being in incredible shape year round.

Meditation: The Four Universal Forms of Meditation

A guide that shows that there are more ways to meditate than just sitting.

Self Knowledge: Rebel With A Cause

I believe that self-knowledge is one of the premier aspects of living an awesome & empowered life. Here is a framework that empowers you to discover how you respond to inner & outer expectations. Super powerful.

Relationships: How To Find Your Twin Flame

We are all looking for love. Here is how I found mine.

Habits: Habit Stacking

We are defined by our habits. Here is how to get more out of the good ones (and the bad ones too).

Life Hack: Physical Alchemy

The body is powerful & wise. Use it to alchemize your life.

Books: Books That Radically Transformed My Life

These are books covering creativity, human potential, money, healing, spirituality & more that have had a huge impact on my life.

Wishing everyone an incredible New Year bursting with love, laughter, family, friends, success, abundance, health, healing, growth, transformation & magic!

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl 🌒

Run Free: The Paradox of Cultivating True Freedom

Run free.

I've been thinking about freedom & liberation a lot lately.

It's a dense & complex subject. In yogic philosophy it is referred to as Moksha, or freedom from ignorance.

Freedom is one of my highest personal values. In all its infinite forms. Freedom to choose the people we spend our time & energy with. Freedom to choose our work -- what we put our physical, mental, emotional & spiritual energy into. Freedom to express ourselves with power & authenticity.

Ultimately, what I want & choose daily is freedom to live a life that has heart & meaning.

But how can we have this freedom & liberation if we do not know ourselves?

Self-knowledge is the key to liberation. Without it we are lost to ourselves and lost to the world.

And in both cases we are left useless. Useless to ourselves because we are chained to a life that doesn't reflect our true inner desires & values. And in turn we are useless to others because if we cannot serve & lead our Self then how can we ever do that with lasting impact for others?

The answer is we cannot.

Nonetheless, self-knowledge is an ever unfolding lifelong process. It is not something you achieve and then you never have to work on it again. It is an integral part of our daily quest.

And here is the kicker:

If we truly want to cultivate self-knowledge & self-actualization. If we truly want to be free. Then we must create & hold ourselves to empowering boundaries & restraints. This is the paradox of true freedom.


It seems so paradoxical that we must have boundaries & restraints to achieve true freedom & liberation. But that is the lay of life. It is constantly brimming with paradox.

We must choose physical activity & emotional development over sloth & hatred. Laziness & unchecked darker emotions are easy. Choosing & cultivating physical & emotional fitness requires restraint from the easy path & boundaries that call forth our highest selves.

How easy is it to lash back in anger when someone says or does something that doesn't sit well with us?

How much easier is it so sit on the couch and watch some TV versus getting out of the house to take a hike, hit the gym or even take a walk around the neighborhood?

Furthermore, it takes powerful boundaries to choose health-affirming substances to put into our bodies & minds in a world that is constantly programming & encouraging us through all media channels to poison ourselves with information, food, alcohol & drugs.

Over-consuming is not freedom when you are left with a body that is too heavy & lacking energy, a mind that is screaming in anxiety, a fearful heart & a dwindling spirit.

We must actively pursue self-study, meditation & prayer. For these to occur we must create containers in which they can flourish. This takes vigilant effort in a world addicted to information & convenience.

It requires a powerful stand to turn within when we live in a world that is constantly pulling for our outward focus. Yet we must do it if we are to grow our mental & spiritual capacity.

Powerful boundaries & restraints that are consciously & proactively built into our life to foster ever deepening self-knowledge will set us free.

Self-dominion is the true path to freedom, liberation & self-actualization.

As we find our Self. We find our place in the world. As we serve our Self. We serve the world & its people.

And that is freedom running at full speed.

Some of my current constraints, restraints & boundaries that empower my true freedom:

  • Food Journaling: I log my food every day for everything I consume and have been doing so since September of 2013. How it empowers my freedom:

    • It encourages me to be mindful of what and how much I am eating while still allowing me to enjoy all foods (including ice cream, cookies, pizza, etc.)

    • This practice has lead me to be in the best shape of my life year-round. Being able to take my shirt off and feel good in body is one of the most liberating feelings.

    • This constraint frees me from using food like a drug (which I did for most of my life) and it keeps me from abusing my body with over-consumption.

    • Feel free to add me as a friend on MyFitnessPal if you want to see what I eat (my food diary is public).

  • Meditation: I have been meditating every day and have been since April of 2015 without missing single a day. How it empowers my freedom:

    • Meditation has been used throughout all time and all civilizations to cultivate self-knowledge. It is one of the tried & true paths to Self liberation. More on meditation here.

    • My meditation practice is the foundation & platform upon which I build my entire life. Each day of meditation makes the foundation a little wider and a little deeper.  You can't build a skyscraper that reaches the stars without an incredibly strong foundation. In truth, you can't even build a solid & reliable 1-story house without a foundation.

  • Sobriety: I have been sober from marijuana & other harder drugs since February of 2013 and sober from alcohol since September of 2014. How it empowers my freedom:

    • For over a decade I was a slave to alcohol. My entire life revolved around the consumption of it. This led to even deeper enslavement to marijuana, adderrall & worse for over 5-years. During my addiction I thought I was free, but in truth I was chained to a life that required substances for me to be even be remotely happy or excited about life.

    • It took me a few years to remember how to have fun without drugs & alcohol but I finally woke up! And I feel like a kid again! As a child everything was magical and I had so much fun living life with a sense of wonder and I didn't need any drugs to get into that blissful state. I've rediscovered that super-power and I'm literally constantly high on life! This is ultimate freedom to me!

    • Vibing with my sobriety & high on life existence...? Here's a live video I filmed recently about it!

  • Physical Training: I am predominantly a bodybuilder & yogi but I also walk, hike, bike, rollerblade & trampoline weekly along with other forms of movement (swimming, frisbee, fitness classes, massage, etc.). How this empowers my freedom:

    • This is self-knowledge at the primal level. Knowing your body is knowing your Self. This daily practice removes ignorance & encourages connection to Self.

    • Training my body trains my mind, emotions and even my spirit. Being fit in all major life areas is a high form of liberation.

  • Reading/Listening: Every day I read & listen to empowering knowledge. How this empowers my freedom:

    • You are what you consume. If you consume empowering material you become empowered. If you consume garbage your life becomes garbage.

    • This practice is one of my major keys that keeps me constantly healing, growing & transforming.

  • Creating/Sharing In Service: Everyday I try to create something that will empower another life. Whether it's a blog post, a video, Facebook update, Instagram or creating an experience in-person with someone I always try to live from the guiding question: "Is what I am doing empowering & of service to others?" How this empowers my freedom:

    • Being of service in a way that I am authentically & personally passionate about is easily one of the best ways to get high on life for me. Each time I do it I am filled with an incredible energy & sense of satisfaction that I cannot seem to get any other way.

Alchemical Opportunity For The Reader:

What are the constraints, restraints & boundaries that you can proactively create & cultivate in your life now to truly give you the life of freedom you desire & deserve?

Leave me a comment below, send me an email or tweet me with your answer!

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl 🌒


  1. Originally this was an Instagram post that ended up being too long so I only posted part of it. It was inspired by one of my amazing yoga teachers, Hana Raftery, after receiving her class/teaching focused on Moksha on Independence Day (July 4th).
  2. Photos by Noelle Johnson.


    How To Be An Ultra Fit Entrepreneur

    I am in the best shape of my life and for the past few years I have worked in the heart of startup-land (Silicon Valley).

    When I first jumped into this wild world of fast-paced entrepreneurism I promised myself that I would stand for the possibility of being in incredible shape while also being an awesome entrepreneur & businessman.

    What follows is my real-life approach, practice & strategies that empower me to stay in incredible shape year-round while building a successful business.

    A few notes before we begin:

    * All of these strategies work no matter your profession, career, or place in life. In other words: you do not need to be an entrepreneur.

    * I am all natural - NO steroids, drugs, crazy supplements, or extreme diet.

    * I am NOT a professional athlete or a competitive bodybuilder. I do occasionally model for fun, but it is NOT how I make my living.

    TLDR: skip to the bottom & read the "Key-Takeaway"

     + + +

    My secret strategies for being in incredible shape while working as an Entrepreneur in Silicon Valley:

    Get a fitness coach. There are many reasons the top entrepreneurs, athletes & artists have coaches for various areas of life. Two main reasons: accountability & modeling. Accountability is key to follow-through. Modeling what has already been proven successful leads to rapid learning & growth. It wasn't until I got a fitness coach that I finally learned the last missing piece (my eating strategy) that unleashed the body I have now. Special note: if your fitness coach isn't personally demonstrating the level of fitness you desire or does not have clients demonstrating it you are wasting your time & money.

    Do as much work, work-email & work-chat as possible on a cardio machine or while walking outside. This is low-intensity and should be at a speed that allows you to easily read, type & work. Walk outside or on a treadmill with the incline cranked up, master the stairmaster, gyrate on an elliptical machine, or pedal along on a stationary bike while you work away on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. It may seem difficult at first, but stick with it for a few days and it will become second nature.

    Take as many phone calls as possible while walking. Invest in a headset and you can take notes on your phone as you walk. I can't stand people who talk on the phone at the gym on the cardio machines so unless you have home equipment be kind and do this outside. It's an easy way to make sure you get some actual daylight too.

    Take as many in-person meetings as possible while walking. Most people meet & eat (or drink). I meet & move. Ideas and solutions to problems seem to flow much better this way as well. Plus it's a great excuse to get outside of the office and get some fresh air with colleagues, friends, family & mentors.

    My trusty  steed , always ready-to-ride & get work done!

    My trusty steed, always ready-to-ride & get work done!

    Optimize your work-space environment for movement. Invest in a FitDesk with the desk extensions. This transformed my home-office. Once you get used to it you can literally crush work and crush your daily calorie burn. I even find I think and work much more optimally while using this amazing machine. Something about moving your body moves your mind. It looks nerdy as hell, but your body & health will thank you (your intimate partner will likely thank your FitDesk as well 😜). Also, doing video conferences on this is hilarious. Fellow participants will wonder why you are bobbing away as you're speaking & listening.

    Get your office (home & professional) a pull-up bar. It's an awesome break to rep out a few of these and charge up your body/mind. Or go crazy and see how many you can do in a workday (my current record is 400 pull-ups in a day--done during a 2-3 hour work conference call). Pull-up challenges with colleagues are fun too! [Get some fitness bands if you need assistance doing pull-ups.]

    Have a physical training practice or hobby that you LOVE & invest in it 3-5 times per week. Seriously. Do something physical that you actually love that fills you with joy. This is the key to sustainability. If you hate your physical training its only a matter of time before your willpower wears out & you quit. Play a favorite sport, partake in fun group exercise classes that excite you, workout with a partner who motivates you, etc. Whatever genuiniely empowers YOU! I happen to love bodybuilding & yoga. Those are my main two go-to weekly physical disciplines. I also do a fair amount of hiking and rollerblading. But anything that moves your body & lights you up works.

    If you don't get a big goofy grin on your face because you love your go-to form of physical training then you are doing the wrong thing...

    If you don't get a big goofy grin on your face because you love your go-to form of physical training then you are doing the wrong thing...

    Always prioritize your physical practice. Do it first thing in the day or schedule it in your calendar like a meeting you cannot miss. It doesn't matter your preferred form of exercise. What matters is doing it regularly. Most entrepreneurs (and most people in general) have an endless amount of work that will continue to pile up. Don't kid yourself into thinking that you will have energy or time to exercise when you "finish" your work.

    Logging my calories, body-weight & body-fat daily has empowered me to stay well under 10% body-fat (i.e. six-pack) year round.

    Logging my calories, body-weight & body-fat daily has empowered me to stay well under 10% body-fat (i.e. six-pack) year round.

    Weigh yourself daily & log it. First thing upon rising immediately after using the restroom. Just like in business: "What gets measured, gets managed." Whether it's revenue targets or your fitness just by the simple act of monitoring you will stay fit. I log my weight in MyFitnessPal (MFP) along with my body-fat every single day (here is my weight scale & fat-monitor which syncs with MFP wirelessly). Over time this simple daily habit will empower you to intimately know what behavior increases your fitness & what behavior doesn't.

    Mindful eating practice. Log what you eat. Also known as food journaling. Do this every day. Every meal. Every snack & beverage. I use MyFitnessPal to log all my food--follow my profile here if you want to know what I eat every day. I estimate when eating out and measure on a food scale at home. Same principle as above. What gets measured gets attention. Most people over-eat. And it does not matter how healthy you are eating if you are eating too much.  When you are working in a fast-paced environment it is easy to not even notice how much you are actually eating. Overeating is the number one reason people don't look they way they want to. If you are out of shape your eating strategy should be your main focus. Many people foolishly believe they can outwork their eating. This is not possible. For over a decade I thought I could out-exercise my eating (and I ate pretty damn healthy). Then when I finally started tracking my food I lost ~30lbs, got a six-pack, and have stayed in epic shape for over 3.5 years to date. This sounds more difficult than it is. At first it's annoying, then it becomes easy like brushing your teeth. If I could only recommend one fitness strategy this is it. It's the master-key to my personal fitness. I have one other master-key to fitness, but most people aren't ready for it.

    Eat your calories. Do not drink anything with calories in it. Calorie dense beverage consumption is one of the most common forms of over-eating, but most people aren't even aware of it. Many beverages have the equivalent calories of an entire meal. Only drink beverages that are calorie free. Don't take protein powder or have protein drinks unless you actually have trouble eating enough real food to get your protein. Your hunger levels will vastly decrease by only eating (chewing) your calories.

    Eat at home as much as possible and bring your own food to work. This is a tough one for most people. Like many Silicon Valley companies I get free meals and snacks at work. When I empower myself to eat food I've brought or personally prepared the chances of over-eating & over-snacking go down dramatically. I also get invited to eat out frequently. I almost always counter-offer with a walk & talk or hike. I do my best to save my eating out for rare & special events (this also saves a ton of money).

    Do whatever you can to make sure your company has the healthiest snacks, beverages & catering (this is what my company actually does as a business service). If the strategy above is unrealistic for you this is the next best approach. We are all products of our environment. You will eat what is around you. This same principle applies to the food you have at home. Design your spaces for optimal wellness. Save your willpower for your work & other worthy endeavors.

    Follow the 80/20 food rule. 80% or more of your food (calories) should be as healthy as possible (organic, lots of veggies, etc.). Consciously design each plate this way. My favorite way is to load the entire surface of the plate with greens and then put meats/grains/starch/etc. on top. This empowers me to eat a lot of volume without overeating. A basket-ball size worth of salad is literally only ~100 calories. 20% of your food-calories can be whatever your little heart desires. I personally believe in sweets & desserts in moderation to avoid binging.

    Watch the sauce & dressings. Most sauces & salad dressings are packed full of an incredible amount of calories. You're only fooling yourself and your fitness if you are eating a ton of veggies, salad, lean meats, etc and then drenching it in a high calorie sauce. I make my own dressing with stevia & apple cider vinegar. I also use reduced sugar ketchup and/or mustard, both only have ~5kcal/serving. Also, most grocery stores now have an amazing selection of ultra low calorie & incredible tasting sauces & dressings if you take the time to look.

    Fill up on fiber. Both soluble & insoluble. I aim to get 45g/day or more. This keeps me feeling full and is great for your intestinal health. Easy sources include most greens, bran (if you are not gluten-free), oatmeal, & more.

    Drink plenty of water. Keeps you feeling full which minimizes overeating. Plus good hydration does wonders for your overall health & feelings of well-being.

    Give up the cheat-day. For years I followed the cheat-day paradigm thinking that if I ate super healthy 6 out 7 days then on day 7 I could go wild. If you are anything like me you can completely destroy all your good eating for the week and negate any exercise with one cheat day. I can easily eat 5,000-10,000+ calories in one day. I didn't discover this until I started logging my food and then I instantly knew why I could never seem to get those elusive abs despite literally eating chicken & vegetables only for 85%+ of my weekly meals. Unless you are severely dieting & restricting your calories it's probably better to forego a weekly cheat-day. My experience is that these food binges naturally happen without any planning (Thanksgiving & other holidays, birthdays, emotional-breakdowns, etc.). The less overall times food-binges happen per year the more fit you will be year-round.

    Be a fitness food nomad. If you drive & travel a lot for business meetings like I do invest in some ice-packs and a cooler tote and bring your food, snacks & drinks with you. This minimizes the chances of having to stop someplace to eat/drink unhealthy stuff and reduces the possibility of over-eating because you got too hungry.

    Get proper sleep. This is different for everyone, but you will know when you are well-slept versus under-slept. Well-slept equals stable moods, solid energy to work & exercise, good health, etc. Under-slept equals emotional roller-coaster, constant tiredness, regular over-eating, sickness, etc. Know how many hours you personally need & make sure you get it.

    Make your social media & app addiction feed your fitness. I have a rule that I have to spend at least 80% of my social media & app time while moving (stationary cardio machine or walking). Most of us are addicted to social media & our apps--it's designed to be; so why not use the leverage of a bad habit to empower your fitness?

    The app I am addicted to,  MyFitnessPal , displaying body-weight log since September 2013 & body-fat log since June 2015.

    The app I am addicted to, MyFitnessPal, displaying body-weight log since September 2013 & body-fat log since June 2015.

    + + +


    Abs are made in the kitchen. In other words, 80% or more of your aesthetic physical fitness (aka how your body “looks”) is based on how you eat. 

    On the left is me 30lbs heavier working out 7-days a week 2-3 hours per day . . . Then I learned how to use food to empower my fitness & the guy on the right finally appeared.

    On the left is me 30lbs heavier working out 7-days a week 2-3 hours per day . . . Then I learned how to use food to empower my fitness & the guy on the right finally appeared.

    I am somewhat beating a dead horse here as I eluded to this above under mindful eating. Nonetheless, I’ve found I cannot harp on this enough. 

    I am most often asked what my exercise routine is (especially what I do for abs/core).

    Or I am asked what supplements (magic pills) I take to get ripped & shredded. 

    Up until about 3.5 years ago I used to be one of the people who thought they could just workout a ton & take some supplements and achieve the body I always dreamed of. 

    For over 10 years I worked out 7-days a week for 2–3 hours a day. I tried taking every workout supplement known to man. And still I never achieved the body I wanted . . .


    Then I learned how to optimize my eating and by god I got the body I always wished for!

    Even more awesome, it only took ~3-months once I learned how to eat! 

    Now I spend way less time working out and way less money on supplements. 

    Truly looking like you are in amazing shape is almost always & predominantly due to one’s overall eating habits. 

    Having a 6-pack & visible abs is a function of having low body-fat. 

    It doesn’t matter how awesome your ab muscles are if you can’t see them under the belly-fat. 

    Managing body-fat levels is something you do through food, not exercise. 

    You don’t have to be on a crazy extreme diet but you do need to have an eating strategy that actually works for you personally (meaning you enjoy it) & gives you the body you desire.

    + + +

    I truly believe everybody & every "body" can be in amazing physical shape year-round. It is just a matter of strategically designing your daily life & work habits to support & empower this possibility.

    These are my fitness strategies. Give them a shot and see which ones work well for you!

    If you have any other awesome fitness strategies & habits that others could benefit from please leave them in the comments! I love learning from my brilliant readers & will add them here after vetting them personally!

    In alchemy & service,

    Justin David Carl 🌒