As the majority of the world sits in shock that a reality TV star was actually voted in to be the next President of the United States (happy or not, y’all have to admit only Michael Moore expected this result!), many awoke Wednesday morning trying to make some sense of it all.
You don’t have to be a sports fan to have been intrigued by the biggest story in the National Football League the past month.
Colin Kaepernick, the now back-up quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers made a stand (or a kneel, per se) in support of the imbalance he sees in how African Americans are treated in the United States by refusing to stand for the US national anthem before games.
In my last post I shared a vision for 2015 being a year of growth, exploration and the pursuance of excitement and inspiration.
I invited you all to join me or help me with ideas or opportunities for new or interesting things to try out. And you did! I received all sort of suggestions, ideas and offers and it looks like this is going to be an interesting year, indeed!
So far I took a tennis lesson with Steve Nash Fitness tennis pro Max Brown, started taking a free meditation class in hopes to re-open another door I had closed long ago and took an Israeli folk dance lesson – something I really had absolutely zero interest in. More on the meditation and dancing below.
My biggest adventure outside of my comfort zone in 2015 so far took place last Sunday when I shared my personal story of conquering life’s demons with 120 open-minded people at the Recharge Conference (Ted Talks, here I come!).
Here is a summary of some of those events, which some key points I learned:
The Recharge Conference was a full day of unique, dynamic speakers filling participants’ minds with creative perspectives on the topics of mind, body, spirit, career, relationships and money (or lack thereof).
Founded and organized by Mike Dirks and Justine Levenberg, the event was a ton of fun and kept the participants engaged all day – they even had the energy in the afternoon to dance with DancePlay for a few minutes, which was quite the site to see!
I was essentially the morning warm-up act, sharing what changed when I proved my adult-self wrong, accomplishing things I had personally written off as undo-able for me. To be honest, as a first-timer, I wasn’t entirely sure that anything I had to say would be of value to the audience. It turned out a lot more people than I anticipated related to my personal confrontation with my own potential. Speaking to them was an incredible high and, by the end of the day I had a room full of friends. When some incredibly educated speakers that followed me referenced bits of my story in their own presentations, the validation I received from that was incredible. My warm-up act was a success and a blast! I look forward to staying connected to the Recharge movement.
Here are a few nuggets from the other presentations that day that stood out for me (more detailed posts to come about some of the other speakers):
On productivity: Your time should be considered in 3 equal pieces of the pie. Play, preparation and execution/work time should be pretty close to equal. The key there being that time to play is just as important, even though many of us feel that we are being unproductive just having fun or relaxing. And if you are working more than that, OUTSOURCE!
On debt: Stop wasting time feeling crappy about your debt or waiting for the answer to magically come along. Stop making excuses and own your financial decisions.
On reaching your loftiest long-term goals: Imagine where you’d like to be 10 years from now. Then think backwards about the steps that would likely take place to have you arrive at those goals. Write it all down (that was repeated many times) and focus on each step from the beginning, one at a time. That 10-year goal may seem too daunting on it’s own. But the first step right in front of you may be quite simple. 10 years from now you’ll be glad you started now!
On relationships: Don’t expect to ever have a productive relationship with another human (dogs are always exempt) if you don’t have a good one with yourself. Oh, and Mark Groves (@CreateTheLove) can make love – or lack thereof – funny.
About nutrition and body health: One of the worst things you can eat is worry, if you aren’t in bed before midnight you will pay the price the next day, and if you dream vividly it actually means you didn’t sleep well … making the wish for “sweet dreams” to be kind of harsh, actually.
Quote of the day: “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t go anywhere if you don’t change it.”
To create some context, I’m one of those guys who doesn’t get yoga. I HAVE tried at least 10 different times with 10 different teachers (no, I haven’t tried YOUR teacher, who is simply the best), but I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around the whole namaste, heart-centre mumbo jumbo.
Meditation pretty much fit into that same category. The difference was that I had never really tried meditation. All I knew was that in the yoga classes, when they would ask me to clear my mind and meditate I’d start thinking about all the things I had to do. Or, I’d start to ZZZZzzzzzzzz………
I didn’t imagine I could meditate. I also imagined it wasn’t much more than a bunch of wishy-washy hoopla. Then I met Lloyd Baron. Lloyd, who visits the JCC regularly, is one of those unique people who have “peace” written all over their face. “How are you, Loyd?” “I’m fannnntastic!”
So when Loyd offered a free meditation class at the JCC, I decided it was worth investing my time and trying something new for me.
I’ve only attended two of Lloyd’s classes so far. In class #1 the comfortable position I assumed was laying on my back. After playing a late night hockey game the night before this was the perfect position for me to sleep. And sleep I did. In and out between mantras. When I was awake I really struggled to focus, or not focus, as was suggested at times. My mind wandered. Which is apparently normal.
In class #2 I sat in a chair right next to Lloyd. I was determined to stay awake and really follow his lead. My mind still full of day-to-day garbage, I discovered that following sounds was my closest path to zoning in or out on one thing. I’m going to work on that, play to my strengths as Lloyd suggested, and keep trying. Making an effort to spend a few minutes practicing each day. This is going to be a long haul effort for me!
Lloyd’s classes take place Tuesday mornings at 11:30am and 10am Thursday mornings. New participants are always welcome.
Israeli folk dancing:
I had posted on Facebook that I had a free night and wanted to fill it with something new. I had a few interesting responses – most of which included things that can’t be repeated on this website. But I was challenged by a friend to try out Israeli folk dancing. She was half joking, offering me money to try it, knowing full well that this was not something anyone would expect Kyle to do. Which was exactly why I felt compelled to do it!
I joined the beginners class of the Vancouver Israeli Folk Dance Society taught by Naomi Taussig. It was probably the most mentally challenging hour and a half I have had in a long time – this being what happens when you join a class half way through the year and they all know the dance steps. By the time I caught on to each dance we moved on to the next. I had the opportunity to feel like the bumbling idiot in a room full of strangers, which was a lesson in humility. But, I learned what the Yeminite Step is, that folk dancing can be as much of a workout as it is a social event and that I have more balance on skates than I do on my dancing feet. All in, a good night!
Israeli folk dancing was probably a one-time event for myself given my schedule, but I’m glad I Yeminite-stepped in when I did. Watching the intermediate dancers was quite impressive as well!
Check it out Wednesday nights, 6:30-10pm at the JCC. They provide free cookies and candy!
Quick! One a scale of 1-10, how tired are you RIGHT NOW? Is anyone’s answer ever lower than 5???
Most of us know we probably don’t get enough sleep – working long hours, investing a lot into our families or extra-curricular activities.
But how many of us ever consider how much our diet plays a role in our daily level of fatigue?
According to Dr. Jennifer Doan, a naturopathic doctor who spoke about fatigue at the JCC last week, diet management is one of the most significant factors in controlling fatigue. Never mind the fact that is also has a significant affect on how well we sleep those few hours of shut-eye we actually get in!
Brief science lesson: our adrenal glands – located right above the kidneys – produce life-saving, stress-managing hormones like cortisol, testosterone and estrogen in order to battle all of the grief, physical or mental load we experience. Whether it be from working too hard, emotional stress, illness or many other avenues, the adrenal glands have to keep up with the demand we put on our bodies. When they can’t keep the pace we suffer from what’s called Adrenal Fatigue. This causes our bodies to do many bad things including the break down of tissue or muscle to convert to energy, crave more bad foods (seeking the cortisol reaction to insulin), lose focus, become short-tempered, struggle to sleep, suffer from pre-menopausal symptoms (hopefully only for women), have weaker immune systems, lower libidos and many other symptoms. But let’s be honest; I had you at lower libidos, didn’t I?
Needless to say, these symptoms lead to more stress, which makes us crave the cortisol stimuli brought on by carb-filled foods and the vicious cycles goes on while our bodies plummet and waste away.
However, while lifestyle may make it difficult to get the sleep we need on a regular basis (really, who gets 8+ hours of sleep every night?), the key, Doan explained, is keeping our blood-sugar or glycogen levels in a good place as often as possible. This, in turn, prevents a high demand of insulin, which saves our adrenal glands from needing to produce an overdose of cortisol to “catch” the insulin. Controlling blood-sugar levels actually reduces stress and sets our bodies up to crave less unhealthy food as well. Now we will be ready to do stressful things like watching the Canucks play!
When we do feel stressed or exhausted, sitting down with that bag of chips or crying into that bucket of ice cream isn’t actually going to make us feel better. It’s more likely to eventually make us feel worse. And not just in the belly!
When you do hit that craving, find something that is filled with protein or healthy fats. Not only will they fill you up better and longer but, because they take more time and energy to digest, they will prevent an insulin spike and keep your blood-sugar levels in order, sparing your adrenal glands.
You will also be one step closer to a better night’s sleep and a better day when the sun rises once again!
Henry David Thoreau once offered this now-famous quote; “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
I’m pretty sure we were all sold that line by one of our high school teachers on graduation day as they proudly sent us off into life’s vast wilderness.
Those teachers would no doubt be proud to know that we have ALL done exactly that! We’re all living the dream, right? Going confidently? As we imagined? Right?
I mean, it’s not as if anything has ever stopped us! Life, societal norms, expectations, responsibility, height restrictions, the law….these things don’t get in the way of going in the direction of our dreams! Nahhhhh.
I’ll spare you from hashtagging the word ‘sarcasm’ because that would be #painfullyobvious. But somehow I don’t imagine many of us have reached adulthood without feeling, in some way, like there is a dream, goal or aspiration we have left behind for one reason or another. Something that maybe just feels missing.
So what is stopping you?
Cue the 2014 Recharge Conference, Oct 26 at the JCC of Greater Vancouver!
Recharge is a one-day (full day) event that offers participants a unique opportunity to open their minds, consider the possibilities and walk away with tools to help take whatever plunge toward positive change they aspire to take. Whether it be mind, body, career, relationship or financial issues one wishes to tackle, Recharge offers a unique opportunity for that under-appreciated first step.
The day will flow with experienced speakers, special presentations, educational wisdom, and hands-on opportunities to consider how to open the right doors to go whichever direction a person might choose.
Experts on a wide range of life-changing topics will be on hand to educate and inspire while participants will have the chance to wander the conference checking out information booths feeding opportunity and ideas.
Founded by Justine Levenberg and Mike Dirks, Recharge was born last year out of a passion to help adults maximize their potential and live their ultimate life, Levenberg explained.
“The conference allows delegates to take a step back from the daily routine and devote a day to themselves to get ‘recharged,'” she said. “The goal of the conference is for delegates to leave with new ideas that have sparked an energized attitude towards their life and the empowered perspective to maximize their potential.”
What makes Recharge different than other self-help sessions? Levenberg said it’s about action, not just inspiration.
“The Recharge conference is different as delegates will leave the with an action plan to implement changes into their daily lives as soon as they walk through the door. Delegates will also have an opportunity to connect with the speakers as all presenters are local leaders in their fields.”
Highlighting a long list of speakers and topics, Recharge will conclude with a final presentation by well-known Lifestyle Designer Matt Corker.
Corker, who authored the book “Getting Over the Rainbow: my journey from self-doubt to self-love,” is also a yoga instructor, ideas retreat facilitator, relationship adviser, blogger and, of course, public speaker.
While that all might sound well and good, the best reason to check out the Recharge conference is to see me speak and heckle me from the crowd.
Tickets and more information on Recharge can be found here.
On that note, I will leave you with this final quote from John Green:
“One day, you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life.”
I recently returned from Detroit, Mich., where I was the Team Vancouver-Galil Delegation Head at the JCC Maccabi Games (shameless plug: www.jccmaccabigames.org).
While there with my 22 teen athletes and artist, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was growing momentum faster than a rumored Robert Downey Jr. sighting at Comic Con.
To clarify for those living in the dark ages, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge asks nominees to chose between donating $100 to ALS research or dump a bucket of ice water over their head. Each participant then nominates someone(people) else to accept the same challenge – with 24 hours to act.
The more dumping I saw around Maccabi Land – and the more I saw posted online – the more criticism I began to hear that challenged the validity and purpose of dumping ice on one’s head in the name of a good deed.
I admit, when I first came across the challenge on Facebook I commented, “It is great to see exactly what lengths folks will go to avoid donating money to charity.”
However, as I saw it pop up again and again, growing in epidemic numbers, I started to see the value in the endeavor. Awareness was growing and ALSA.org was receiving more donations in a week than they had previously collected in a year.
By the time the JCC Maccabi Games came along it was rampant. Everyone and their dog (literally) was being challenged and the kitchen at the JCC in West Bloomfield was struggling to make ice fast enough.
By the time I returned home Facebook became flooded with articles like THIS ONE by Scott Gilmore in Maclean’s Magazine suggesting that the cute marketing gimmick (which actually didn’t get initiated for that purpose) was a “horrible reason to donate.”
Gilmore presents a several valid points about ALS research not meeting the top standards of the three factors one should consider when choosing where to send their limited charitable dollars. It is argued ALS doesn’t present the largest need – it is classified a rare disease, ALS research wont offer your dollars the greatest influence and ALS is hardly the most urgent problem in the world today.
Another post on iflscience.com provides an info-graphic on which diseases cause the most deaths in the USA vs where Americans focus their donations. These posts are no-doubt littered with wise words and offer a valid sense of awareness on their own.
However, this is nothing new. iflscience.com‘s info-graphic is not based on facts that have come out just since the Ice Bucket Challenge kicked off. For various reasons – the largest of which is simply due to marketing successes and failures – rare and unique diseases have pulled in a larger piece of the philanthropic pie than the actual leading causes of death, like heart disease or diabetes.
What frustrated me with the timing of these articles is that, at least in the case of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it is about much more than just targeting American donor dollars. Watching people all over the world connect, bond, laugh and share in the name of something good was a blessing that, quite frankly, we don’t see enough of. Watching my kids – and all of my friends’ kids – get in on the action felt like humanity took a deep breath of fresh air amid a time in which the globe has been filled with muck and tragedy.
Maybe ALS research got lucky that a clever gimmick came along and helped their cause. And maybe ALS isn’t the charity most in need today. But in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge humanity got a win! Stop finding ways to take that away from us.
Last Sunday, I took my two daughters to the Vancouver Pride Parade.
Though I was certain my four- and seven-year-olds would enjoy every ounce of the many colors and sounds, and the energy of the parade itself (few events produce the same level of spirit as a Pride Parade) a day of fun wasn’t my prime motivator.
I had seen a posting on Facebook from Yad b’Yad, a community-based group that rallies local members of all sexual preferences each year to represent the Jews of Vancouver in the parade.
I decided that with everything going on in Israel at the time, combined with the dramatic presence of antisemitism spreading across the globe, never was there a better time for me to teach my children about tolerance, acceptance, diversity and pride.
Yes, there were a few questions I had to be prepared to answer – like when one of the participants handing out freebies to the crowd placed a couple packs of Trojans in my seven-year-old’s hands. I responded to the expected, “What’s this, Daddy?” with an abbreviated version of how she wouldn’t be enjoying this parade if Daddy had those eight years ago. A quick shrug of the shoulders and she was back to watching “princesses” roller skate down the street to roaring cheers.
The value gained in that experience, led by the conversations I had explaining the importance of the parade, was what made me most proud. That’s because one of the scariest things I see when I look closely at Israel’s Middle East problem is the amount of education-themed hatred being passed on to children in the region. Cartoon characters who preach killing Jews and manipulated curricula that offer false truths about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict all but guarantee this crisis is not likely to end until well beyond my days.
Outside of the Middle East, the Hamas propaganda machine – which has clearly become their most powerful weapon – has helped spread hatred and bigotry around the world and, in some cases, just down the street from our own homes.
Like many other people I know, I have found myself walking around my country, my city, wondering how many people around me would like to shame me and my family because of something they once saw on TV or read on Facebook.
I’ll always do all that I can debating with and educating folks via various social media outlets. But the most important thing I can do for the future is teach my kids. Teach them to love. Teach them to accept. Teach them to continuously open their minds to the many choices free people have in this world.
It’s entirely possible that watching half-naked men and women prancing up Robson Street is not for everyone (say, what!?). But I encourage parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends everywhere to do something unique, outside of the box, and, especially, meaningful to provide your youth every chance to identify the difference between right and wrong. They will see it all on Facebook one day. Better they are prepared to figure it out for themselves when they do.
Pursuing more of my “Love to Win” side at the 2014 Spartan Sprint obstacle race.
Call it ironic, but in my less-than-fit days I was a regular subscriber to Men’s Health magazine.
As I looked upon the cover of each fresh edition I sincerely believed (read: hoped) that this just might be the edition that unveils the ground-breaking discovery that Maple Walnut ice cream contained a fat-burning ingredient that could give me “six-pack abs by summer!”
I eventually decided to take a different route to improved fitness. While I can’t say I would credit Men’s Health for my success, there was one posting that left a long-lasting impression on me.
This specific article effectively split humanity into two simple groups.
Group 1: Those who love to win.
Group 2: Those who hate to lose.
Of course everyone prefers winning and, thus, would rather not lose. But most people, if they really think it through, can probably identify what fuels them more; the rush of victory or resentment toward loss.
It didn’t take me long to realize I was a hate-to-lose kind of dude. If my team, in any sport, was winning life seemed in order and under control. There was balance in the Force. But if we were losing my emotions would take over in an effort to avoid failure. I would walk away from any loss feeling frustrated, unsettled and pondering what I could have done to avoid it. I didn’t need to celebrate the wins as much as I needed to avoid the feeling of loss.
I embraced that discovery and used it to make me better. In hockey I became a defensive, shut-down centre, eventually turning to a pure defenseman where my emotional drive to avoid getting beat could feed my game. It proved to be a good move for my career (boy, do I use the word career lightly).
In the last couple of years, however, I considered if perhaps my friendship with the hate-to-lose side of me had led to complacency and, in some cases, boredom! (we’ll get to that nasty word in a later post)
Generally speaking, of course, hate-to-lose people might play the game of life a little on the safe side. They could miss out on hidden opportunities while choosing to avoid opportunities to test their limits. They are less likely to take risks or seek adventure. Their theory being, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The love-to-win type is ready to take those risks and fly by the seat of their pants for the possible thrill of success. On the flip side, they might take unnecessary risks, act without calculated consideration of consequence, risk losing a lot for the sake of winning a little. Their theory being, “Let’s break it ‘cause maybe we can rebuild it better.”
So which one is better? I could give you all sorts of analogies of how either approach has a proven track record of success.
But the key is to find out who you are and challenge yourself to bring the other element into your life a little more. I’ll use a hockey analogy (get used to it) to show you what I mean. It is commonly preached that “defense wins championships.” But it is also a fact that you can’t win the Stanley Cup without scoring goals. Even the defensemen need to contribute to the offense for a team to be a serious contender. More specifically, the great players who lead their teams to the big games are the ones who find the right balance of defense and offense. Those players aren’t born playing like that. They all enter the league with one style of play that has gotten them to where they are. Then they develop that balance over seasons of growth, experience and hard work. The most successful players develop their weaknesses to complement their strengths.
This is a concept we should all adopt for the sake of growth, inspiration and diversity. Whether you are more of a hate-to-lose or a love-to-win type, heighten your awareness to that and consider the areas of your life where a lack of balance has possibly challenged your growth or development. Then make the effort to approach the opposite way of thinking from time to time.
It worked for George Costanza!
A couple of years ago, somewhere between the family-sized bag of Miss Vickies chips (190 lb Kyle) and the Trader Joe’s Edamame Crackers (165 lb Kyle), something triggered inside of me that led me to one of the most profound personal discoveries of my adult life.
It had little to do with the weight loss itself. Losing 25 lbs in two months wasn’t the result of some magic pill, any as-seen-on-Dr. Oz diets, or by bathing in ice water 20 minutes each day (though you could actually lose weight that way). I simply learned how calories worked and decided to see how it would apply to my life. That basic exercise led to a fast education, a welcome (and still developing) change in some key areas of my regular diet, a commitment to fitness and voila: a fitter, healthier me.
I didn’t see that weight loss as anything more than an isolated, solitary accomplishment. Until I stood in front of a mirror and stared into the eyes of a man who, long before then, believed and accepted that he would never have the will power, focus or determination to drop that extra 20-30 lbs of fat. I had proved that S.O.B. wrong! And that changed the game for me.
That kick to the groin of the demon I now refer to as “Complacency” opened my mind to a whole realm of possibilities I had previously written off or accepted as limitations in my world. I suddenly became aware of the many walls I had subconsciously erected around me as safety mechanisms.
With the gusto of Ronald Reagan, I began to tear down those walls. Within the next year I set my mind on accomplishing more fitness goals, kicked off my life-long desire to learn to speak Hebrew, created the Berger With Fries blog just so I could write the way I wanted again, revitalized my approach to my home life, parenting and my job, learned to juggle a soccer ball and do a handstand (in no particular order). Every single aspect of my life had become open for re-interpretation, re-evaluation and re-definition.
Why? Why the heck not!?
I used to joke (kind of) that my life – married with two beautiful young daughters – was pretty much locked in for the foreseeable future. Meaning that, other than a few more grey sprouts, 35-55 didn’t have much wiggle room for me in terms of possible major life changes. I had kids to love, job stability to focus on and I was very busy following the cookie-cutter society in which I had been raised.
Today I realize how absolutely absurd and limiting that line of thinking was. It doesn’t matter where you are in life, what you are doing or what your status is. Show me a life filled with the pursuit of excitement and inspiration and I will show you a life without regret or any sense of time wasted.
That hunt is what this Berger Time blog is about. It is about challenging ourselves to look beyond the narrow path that’s laid out directly in front of us as life wizzes by. To ask the question: what if we could re-shape that cookie-cutter to whatever we want it to be that day? To boldly go where no one…… Ok, I’ll stop there. But that Star Trek way of thinking isn’t so bad!
We are going to have some fun, meet some interesting people, share some interesting stories, try out new things (permit me to be your guinea pig!) open our minds and step outside of our comfort zones in search of inspiration and excitement.
Some of you may be familiar with my work as a former regular and current freelance writer at the Jewish Independent (shout out to my fans at the Louis Brier Home and Hospital!). Being part of this publication will always be important to me as I appreciate the vital role it plays in the community.
I am excited to be back on a regular basis, on this beautiful new website, with this incredible opportunity to once again connect with the community and to boldly go where…