Rogue One: An (Average) Star Wars Story

Sans a droid and the closing moments, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ is an average movie.

Entertaining?  Absolutely.

Worth the price of the admission?  Yes.

Best Star Wars movie ever – f*ck no.

Force choke yourself if you exited the movie believing this idea.  Simply not having (mild spoiler alert) Jar-Jar Binks (I know Jar-Jar’s 12 fans are disappointed by his absence – again) ensures that Rogue One is better than Episode I & II.  Better than III, IV, V, VI, or VII?!  No.

Rogue One’s (R1’s) short comings come in the form of a rushed plot, simple script and dialogue, and bland presentation.  The only instances in which I sensed any emotional investment or gravitational pull towards a character was with thd entertaining drone (his witty one liners become stale by movie’s end) and nostalgic characters from other episodes.  Simply plugging an average script into the Star Wars universe does not make for a compelling movie.

You’re left wanting more.  Rogue One feels like Disney knew they needed to deliver ice cream but they gave us vanilla.  I like ice cream, however, it’s really hard to f*ck up ice cream.

Rogue One will satisfy your Star Wars appetite until Episode VIII – but, nothing more.

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Fatty to Fifty: The Path to 50 Miles

This is a brief tale of why the hell I decided to run 50 miles.  Yeah, in one day.  With my feet.

Running 50 miles for me was/is a journey and to understand how/why I decided to do something so irrational, we need to rewind a bit.

FAT SHAMING

By early 2010 I had lived in Baltimore City for nearly 3 years and had never had the need to see a personal physician.  However, a bad cold forced me to google ‘family doctor: Baltimore, MD’ and I found Vincenzo Grippo, MD.  During my first physical with my new eastern European Doctor, I had a very simple interaction – he diagnosed my illness and prescribed meducation.  He then glanced at my charts and asked me a series of questions:
‘Mr. Gowen do you smoke?’
Occasionally.
‘Mr. Gowen do you drink?’
Yes, socially (that’s an aggressive socially between you and me).
‘Mr. Gowen do you exercise?’
When I can (never)
‘Mr. Gowen how old are you?’
25
‘Mr. Gowen you are kind of fat.  A young guy like you should be more healthy.  You need to exercise, ok?’

And there it was – my new eastern European  Doctor, who I had just met, told me I was fat.  It wasn’t great to hear, but the reality was accurate – I was fat.  I had seen pictures of myself over the last year and thought ‘man, those cameras make me look puffy.’  Turns out it wasn’t the camera but the amount of things I was shoving into my face while doing little to no exercise.  I mean, I was working for a food distributor and part of the job is tasting the food, and tasting the food, and tasting the food (French fries are so damn delicious but do we need to try all 30 kinds Jon?).  As I left the exam room that day I caught a glimpse of myself in the full length mirror and immediately made a decision to change my lifestyle forever.

So what was I going to do to get in shape? Well anyone that knows my family knows that running is a way of life.  Both of my parents are accomplished ultrarunners and distance-running evets have been part of my life since I was a kid in the mid-90’s.  So, diet and running, the answers to my problems.

RUNNING
Lets be honest, running isn’t that much fun especially at the beginning.  Starting out I could only make it to Henderson’s Wharf (about .5 miles) from my house in Fells Point before I had to stop and rest.  Along my waterfront runs I would pick a lamppost just a little farther away each day to run to started setting daily and weekly mileage goal.  Pretty soon I was skipping happy hour to get my runs in (ok, just going to the bar a little later) and was knocking out 5-6 miles pretty easily.

DIET
The act of alone running didn’t get me to my goals –  it was a combo of diet and exercise (imagine that!).  Around this same point in time I came across an article on Deadspin.com written by Drew Magary about his recent battle with weight gain.

If anyone needs motivation to make a diet change in your life, give that a read.  The style of humor and personal humiliation resonated with me and maybe it will with you too. Really its just basic stuff.  Instead of chips –  yogurt.  Instead of french fries – grapes.  Instead of a sandwich – salad.  It wasn’t hard and by October 2010 I ran my first half marathon and my second came soon thereafter.

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Blog proof that Pat Jones ran a half marathon more than once.  Richmond, 2010

50 MILES?

Fast forward to 2014.

My running had progressed. I was coming off a good year in 2013, running my first marathon in October in a respectable 3:20. I began to realize something about running: it made me feel good. The physical act of running certainly didn’t, but the sense of accomplishment that came with achieving goals gave me an undeniable rush. I had completed my goal of running a marathon, so that was next?

SIDEBAR: In November of 1996 my dad competed in a little race called the John F. Kennedy Memorial 50 Mile Race, or JFK. Turns out JFK this is America’s oldest and largest ultramarathon, dating back to 1963. Since then he has finished JFK 16 times and my mom has 7 finishes under her belt.  JFK is held annually the Saturday before Thanksgiving and has been a large part of my family’s fall tradition for two decades now.  It’s a pretty great event.

JFK 50 finish with my Dad, November 2014
At this point I had found myself spending the past few years of JFK Saturdays ‘pacing’ my dad along the 26 mile section of race still with no desire to complete the race on my own (‘pacing’ is just running along with a competing runner to help them stay motivated and on pace to the finish). However, 2014 was going to be my father’s 15th JFK which would put him in the 750 mile club (50 miles x 15 years, you can do the math) which is a hell of an achievement.

For my old man, his running had recently been plagued by personal health issues and I knew that if I ever wanted to run JFK and finish alongside my father, this would be the year to do it.

SOOO, fast forward to November 22, 2014 at 7:00am in Boonsboro, MD yours truly crosses the start line in the cold (I mean really fucking cold) with my mom, sister, and pregnant wife cheering me on. The race climbs quickly to the Appalachian trail and 14 miles later descends to the C&O Canal where you get the pleasure of running 26.4 miles along the flat and seemingly endless towpath. About 8 miles before the finish the race moves to the road, winding past farms and fields until eventually ending in Williamsport, MD. I won’t bore you with the details of the day, but I will say two things: 1) It was not easy. It was actually really, really hard and I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to quit at times. It’s a long, agonizing struggle to get your body to keep moving for 50 miles and the pain starts to take a toll. 2) I will never forget it.

I shared a ‘passing of the JFK torch’ moment with my dad on the towpath section (he started the race at 5am instead of 7 so he was ahead from the beginning). I had the Gowen-family cheering section at the aid stations motivating me to the finish. And I spent hours alone on the trail wondering why I had decided to attempt this shit.

Seriously, somewhere past 35 miles going to the DMV sounds enticing.  However, NOTHING in the world has given me the feeling of accomplishment like cresting the hill on Clifton Drive in Williamsport and seeing that finish line.

I had really fucking done it – I ran 50 miles.

I ended up finishing 155 place out of 906 starters in 8 hours and 45 minutes. Now if you’re still reading I need to wrap this up somehow so…… what did I learn from all this? Well, as cliché as this is (and its really cliché but that’s why I’m a sales rep not a writer) running 50 miles taught me that through setting goals, anything is possible (if you read Greg’s post last week about powerlifting you’d see a very similar theme. Wonder why we are friends?). When people hear I ran 50 miles (maybe even you right now), they most often react with ‘you’re crazy, I could never do that’. Well, the crazy part may be partially true but the reality is that most of you/them could, it’s just about motivation and what goals you set out to achieve. Running taught me that goals are a huge driver for my personality and in turn goal setting has helped me succeed in my work and personal life as well.

So here I am in December of 2016 as the proud expectant dad of a second child and reveling in the glory of my 3rd JFK 50 finish 3 weeks ago. Do I love running now? Short answer: no. But it changed my life and there’s nothing else in the world I’d rather be doing on the Saturday before Thanksgiving than slogging through the woods of Washington county chasing another JFK finish line.

The image of the blog is the 2016 JFK finish.  It was sleeting with temperatures in the 30s.  I’m just that tough.

Living Single Part 2: Seeking Solace in Solitude

Living Single is a 4-part series outlining my encounters and revelations as a newly-single, aspiring Renaissance Nerd.  If you missed the first post, check it out by clicking here.

Single Living is a dark, scary place.

For extroverts, solitude can be terrifying.  We are a needy bunch, often relying on the company and approval of others for personal fulfillment (ask me how I know).  Alternatively, introverts may savor alone-time, but fail to utilize the opportunity for reflection and self-improvement, often finding themselves squandering months or years of their lives in a lateral pattern.

A common intersection between both personality types is our collective struggle to take advantage of isolation as an opportunity for reflection and enhancement. The path to loving oneself requires utilization of this valuable time to identify personal flaws, set life goals, and address general areas of personal development that are essential to being comfortable in your own skin.  Six months ago:

I hated being alone.  

I hated being newly single in my early 30’s.

Most of my closest friends were chugging along on Breeder Boulevard (Breeder: my pejorative term for those choosing to live the “normal” life and settling down, getting married, and procreating), and I no longer had the luxury of leaning on others to fill every free moment of my time. I had reached a fork in my road, and was faced with the decision to simply skim along life’s waters, or to carve an entirely new path, exploiting my free time to focus on cultivating my inner Renaissance Nerd.  

Below are five essential principles that I have discovered during my “alone-time”:

  1. Work Your Ass Off

My apologies Tim Ferriss, but the 4-Hour Workweek just isn’t for me (quite yet…).  Working your ass off provides a plethora of benefits to goal-oriented singles. Focusing on your work not only fills time in your day, but has the added benefit of career enhancement, sense of accomplishment, and MAKING MONEY, which is an essential factor to a successful life.  The key to managing this goal is that you work hard while maintaining a healthy work/life balance during your journey.  Additionally, making money is KEY, but keep it in perspective and don’t let the Green own you…. Remember that whole thing about stuffing a camel through the eye of a needle? (that was a Bible reference heathens…)

  1. Stop Being a Fatso
sp

Typical Wal~Mart

Holy f*ck.  Body Shaming Alert. Someone call the PC Police.

Listen – I’m a big dude.  

I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life.  If you are able to live a happy life with a spare tire around your midsection, more power to you.  However, if most of us are honest with ourselves, losing weight must be among our highest priorities in seeking positive physical and mental health.  We are a culture of fatsos, sheltered by social media warriors and political correctness.  Hit the brakes, remove the Twinkie from your gullet, and start working on a plan to address the elephant in the room. Being in shape feels good, looks good, and is more attractive to the opposite sex.  Oh, and as a bonus, you will actually live longer!

  1. Dump The Drinks

Here’s a factoid:  alcohol (in volume) is a DEPRESSANT… as in, it DEPRESSES you.  

Sure, it feels good to drink away your sorrows, opens up your vibrant personality, etc… But overall, it is unhealthy and contains all kinds of calories that you do not need right now while focusing on your physical and mental health.  

Looking for a compromise?  

Contain your drinking to once per week, typically Friday or Saturday night.  Try it out.  You can do it.  I’m willing to bet that after a few months, you will thank me for the pointer.  Freeing yourself from booze is rewarding, and will help you to focus on accomplishing your goals on a much more rapid trajectory.  I promise.

  1. Stop Giving a Shit What People Think

This concept is more challenging for some than others.  For me, this step (more like “leap”) was huge factor in my personal growth.  Just. Be. You.  

To aid with this exercise, pick up a copy of “Code of the Extraordinary Mind” by Vishen Lakhiani.  In this New York Times Bestseller, the author discusses “Brules” (Bullshit Rules) of life, and how to free oneself from falling into a pattern of complacency and conforming to the norm.  

There is only one “you”, and nobody knows “you” better than YOU.  Stop being a vanilla pile of mush.

Just. Be. You. 

  1. Stop Playing in the Dark

6 months in to this exercise and I have learned to love and cherish “alone-time”.

There will be lows.  There will be highs.

But… Stay the course, you’ve got this!

Work on a strategy that utilizes your moments of solitude for reflection and personal advancement, and implement the strategy to improve your life.  You do not (I repeat DO NOT) need anyone else in your life to “complete you”.  Only when you are capable of total fulfillment on your own should you consider bringing someone else into your crazy life. Chill out on dating and focus on you.

fun

F*ck.  Yes.

Our time here is short.  Stop playing (with yourself) in the dark.  There is a giant world around you waiting to be conquered.  Soak up some books.  Listen to music which inspires you.  Step out of your comfort zone and try new and exciting things. Live out the life of a “Renaissance” man/woman.  

Continuously set new goals and chase them CONSTANTLY.

Once you find the light, others will find you…

When you think all is forsaken
Listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness can show you the light

Next in our 4 part series of Living Single – Getting Your Shit Straight.  

Stay tuned!

 

Cheers,

Rick

5 Ways to Dump a Friend: WWE Style

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

-Jim Rohn

This quote, or some variant of, makes its way around social media – ALL THE F*CKING TIME.  Yeah, me and my friends are the coolest.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  Well, but that one guy though…

Now, what do you do about that one guy who is no longer up to par?

Do you have a friend who needs to get lost?

Thankfully, WWE has given us timeless examples of how to dump that friend of yours who is (only) a B+ (at best) player.  You’re moving up.  You’re moving on.

Here are 5 Ways to Dump a Friend:  WWE Style.

1. Put them through a barbershop window

Everyone has a friend like Marty Jannety.  He’s just, well, boring. You pity him (especially if he has a sweet mullet, too).  His vanilla does not mix with your rocky road.

Well, you and your friend just may find yourselves in a barbershop and when you do, it is time to cut bait, and ditch your friend.  “Sorry, bro – it’s not me.  It’s you”  (He’ll leave in such shame and disgrace, that he’ll find his way out through the window.  Sidenote:  never get your hair cut from a barber if he looks like this or this.  Run.).

2.  A chair to the back of the spine

You’re the chosen one.  You’re the rightful heir to the future and present.  You find yourself in the predicament that you need to eliminate two friends at the same time.  The weaponry simply acts to neutralize the numbers advantage.

3.  Your Title/Trophy to their Face

Is your friend jealous and envious of you and your standing with your significant other?

Is your friend jealous of well – you.

Don’t take their two-face, prayer saying, vitamin eating, hard training  ways.  They’ll attempt to move-in and steal your thunder (and your girl).  Thankfully, your (Madness) ways will take matters into your own hands and your championship will find a new home -their face.

4.  Tear apart their belongings

Is your friend avoiding you at all costs?  Do they like to ghost your invitations?  “Hey man, I want a shot at the title.”  Friend:  (silence).  Bring in a new friend (his replacement) to serve as a manager and talking piece.  When you’re the 8th Wonder of the World, you do not need to talk any more than you are required.  After your new friend says what he needs, just rip off their shirt.  Your sheer intensity will cause their respective religious medallion to rip off in the process, too.  Sorry man – you should have just texted me back.

5.  Put Their Face on TV

Does your friend blatantly lie?  Do not tolerate their poor morals and character.  You can do better.  Once their head goes through a television, your message will come across loud and clear:  you are moving on.

 

The Great Offense of Mastery

The need to develop mastery is buried deep within the human spirit.  It creeps up in our myths, movies, songs, and dreams.  Even though we often can not express why, we feel something intensely satisfying about the idea of ‘leveling up’ – progressing through stages from Padawan to Jedi Master.

It’s what I like about Pat’s approach:  this blog is about becoming a better person.  It’s about solving specific problems by combining expertise across diverse fields.  It’s about achieving mastery, a dying art in a modern world that celebrates shallow engagement.

In many ways, “expert” has become a dirty word.  Technology, globalization, and W.E.I.R.D (Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic) culture have all worked to flatten the distinction between expert opinion and common knowledge:

  • The internet has lowered the bar of entry for the global conversation on complex issues (issues most of the people arguing don’t understand).
  • The rapid growth of the world’s population and the expanding horizons of the STEM fields forces some academics to become increasingly specialized in order to stand out, the lay person getting farther and farther from understanding as the ivory tower gets taller and taller.
  • Ideas of egalitarianism that simmered during the early Enlightenment exploded into public life during the American and French Revolutions and spread like a virus, adapting to each new intellectual trend: Romanticism, Marxism, Postmodernism, and their modern counterparts.  If everyone is ‘equal,’ people who are kinder, more charismatic, wealthier, or more skilled are viewed with either awe or skepticism.

These thoughts are so deeply embedded into the fabric of our lives that  we rarely notice them.  When an elite basketball player sets an NBA record, commentators talk about how he was “born with a jump shot.”  When a skilled woman (or man) gets a coveted position before people with seniority, the grumbling inevitably begins: “Who did they f*ck (or f*ck over) to get that job?”  During a recent exchange, someone tossed in this particular gem:

“Well you have evidence, I have evidence.  Who’s to say mine or yours is more accurate?  Study bias is rampant online.”

Most incredibly, no one else on his side of the argument seemed to see a problem with this! 

On a practical level, anyone who is willing to do deep work, to dig into a task until they are unmistakably, undeniably better at it than their peers, should be encouraged.  The global challenges of today will be solved by the hard work of master craftsmen, thinkers, and communicators – not by retweets and hashtag activism.

On a personal level, though, are you content being another ‘Like’ on the Facebook wall of someone else’s life?  The things that require discipline and self-control, the ones that develop mastery, are the ones that bring us the most satisfaction and last the longest.  That may mean different things to different people:  crafting a masterful work of music, closing all the loopholes in a legal document, really listening to your kids or spouse when they come to you with a problem (against every instinct to run away or just-fix-it-now).

Whatever it is – GO FOR IT.  Grind through the challenges and ‘level up’ in life until you can only faintly remember the old you.  Most importantly, encourage others to do the same.  Do not be the one who tells others they’re doomed to fail in order to feel better about your own struggles – be a Renaissance Nerd.

Busy? You’re Not Busy – You’re Lazy

“Hey – how are you doing today?”

“Busy.”

Holy.  Sh*t.  If the next person responds to the question, “How are you doing today?” with, “Busy” I will lose my mind.

Last week within just a few hours, nearly a dozen people mindlessly recited to me that they were busy.  The hell does this even mean anymore?

Everyone is ‘busy.’  Congratulations, you’re just like everyone else in the world.

Everyone has 34,003 things on their plate.  Some more ‘important’ than others.  However, when has this word becomes a badge of honor, who is really ‘busy’ and who is just really ‘lazy?’

We’re not busy.  We are distracted.  Distracted by the notifications, the bells, and the whistles of modern conveniences and autonomy.  Thanks group text message notification, you’re killing me.

Anyways, here are four tips to become less ‘busy:’

  1. Establish the day’s priority.

Competing priorities?  Once everything becomes the priority, nothing is the priority.  When something is essential, it is a thing (not several or multiple things) that is absolutely necessary.  You can rob Peter to pay Paul, or you can tell Paul to f*ck off until you are able to pay him in full.  Congratulations Peter, you have been spared on this day.

2. No one cares.

Spare another the tale your tale of woe with your ‘busy’ day.  No one cares about your ‘Lifetime Story’ where you are you nominated for Best Actor/Actress in the leading role of the victim.  When someone asks if you are busy – smile, and say your day is going well.  More importantly, ask how their day is going.  95% chance their day is ‘busy.’

3.  Own your ‘To-Do’ List

Yeah – your boss, your sister, your blah blah blah just dumped stuff on you.  Own it.  Figure out how to get the sh*t done and don’t place the onerous on another – place it on yourself.

4.  Get off social media, email, television, and turn off notifications.

Simply detox from these’outlets’ which do not serve your purpose of No. 1.  If you’re REALLY busy but you have plenty of time to tell someone about the latest viral video from YouTube or you take endless ‘Personality’ quizzes on Facebook – this just in you’re not f*cking busy.  Also, it is quite okay to cheat on your iPhone or Galaxy with a book.  Also, turn off ALL notifications on your phone.  No one, yourself included, needs to be tethered to your device every 73 seconds in which a ‘bing’ goes off.

If you’d like to turn in your badge of honor called ‘busy,’ the world will thank you for it.  At the least, the person who asks how your day is going will be grateful.

 

 

Stoic Sunday – All In

 

Every hour of the day give vigorous attention, as a Roman and as a man, to the performance of the task in hand with precise analysis with unaffected dignity, with human sympathy, with dispassionate justice — and to vacating your mind from all its other thoughts.  And you will achieve this vacation if you perform each action as if it were the last of your life:  free, that is, from all lack of aim, from all passion-led deviation from the ordinance of reason, from pretense, from love to self, from dissatisfaction with what fate has dealt you.

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book Two, Five

F*ck.  I love this passage – a favorite of mine.  This section in ‘Meditations’ is bracketed, underlined, and bracketed again.  Each segment and thought deserves a reciting with bold intensity and careful analysis.  F*ck it, here it is again (but, this time, allow the words and their meaning to marinate):

Every hour of the day give vigorous attention, as a Roman and as a man, to the performance of the task in hand with precise analysis with unaffected dignity, with human sympathy, with dispassionate justice — and to vacating your mind from all its other thoughts.  And you will achieve this vacation if you perform each action as if it were the last of your life:  free, that is, from all lack of aim, from all passion-led deviation from the ordinance of reason, from pretense, from love to self, from dissatisfaction with what fate has dealt you.

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book Two, Five

Every hour of the day…

All the f*cking time.  Not some of time time.  All of the time.  “Pat, I like to sleep 6-8 hours a day.”  Even when you sleep.

…give vigorous attention…

None of this weak a*s, kind of attention.  We’re talking ‘all in.’

…as a Roman and as a man…

I prefer ‘as a Warrior’ but the title is irrelevant.  Principled.  Convicted.  These values are indifferent to sex.

…to the performance of the task at hand…