Category Archives: New Year’s Resolution


G’day, Ryan,

Welcome to 2018, which marks your fifth letter from your 2022 self. Similar to the first, second, third, and fourth letters over the past years, this one is going to give you another set of New Year’s Resolutions to serve as your guide for the coming year as you work towards becoming the man I am now. In honor of this being the fifth year, there is a bit of twist, but we will get to that in due time.

First, of course, is a recap of the 2017 New Year’s Resolutions.

This last year was really quite the year for you, and I think it would be easy to say you accomplished your first resolution to live a better story. Let’s see – you peered into a deep canyon, hiked on the Pacific Crest Trail, hiked on the Appalachian Trail, climbed a tower in a castle, walked through a palace, viewed a solar eclipse surrounded by many great people, strolled through groves of giant trees, listened to the waves of the Pacific Ocean, gazed at the waterfalls of Yosemite, explored a lost coast, watched a sunset on Lake Tahoe, cycled the hills of San Francisco, investigated a lava tube cave by flashlight, was hit by a snowball thrown by your mother with the peak of the largest plug dome volcano in the world right behind you, made friends with very nifty people from all over the world, stopped a young, brilliant guy from killing himself, helped start Social Saturday that brought many great people together, repelled down Hutchinson’s First National Bank Building, led bike tours 650 feet underground at Strataca, created and launched, gave a Talk20 about your New Year’s Resolutions, donated blood four times, saved the lives of eight baby opossums, and had many other adventures along the way. It was indeed a fantastic year.

As far as the other resolutions go, you had some great successes, some failures, and some that landed somewhere in between. Overall, you did indeed do rather than only read with your putting into practice self-help ideas that you had encountered in the past as well as share some great sources with others to help them along the way. Many books tempted you, but you resisted the urge after thumbing through them to see, as was pointed out in the last letter, there was nothing new to be learned in them. With that said, Dalio’s Principles was an excellent purchase, and you should set your own principles after you finish it in the next few days.

Other wins would include writing often pieces that were read by others as well as creating and carrying out monthly themes/challenges. Your Personalized Progress Log was updated the majority of the time too.

Although you did work on your drawing skills, that wasn’t quite the success as it should have been. Being in the now rather than in the phone was mixed too, but you are heading in the right direction. The same goes with improving your timeliness (good job turning in your last assignments for your fall classes 24 hours before they were due). The resolution to perform four songs for at least four people this year via a mix of violin and guitar didn’t happen although you did learn some chords on the guitar, and you will continue learn more. It was a bit unfair of me to throw the violin on that list given yours broke during the first few months of the year, and you were not able to get a replacement until a week ago. However, you will get there.

Finally, getting in the best shape of your life definitely did not happen with your probably being in the worst shape in your life right now. That though will also be changing as you head towards a much better direction this year, and this year you will do it. As far what you learned goes, you saw how fad diets don’t work for the long run unless they become lifestyle choices. Therefore, it is much better to alter your ways rather than rely solely on quick fixes.

Introspection was definitely a big thing for you this year. Some of the monthly challenges, particularly the Art of Manliness 30 Day Challenge (Part I and Part II) and No Shame November, greatly helped with that. Then there were the things outside your control that also led to a lot of contemplation, particularly about you and relationships of any kind. You will keep growing, and the key thing is to learn, adjust, and move forward as well as continue to keep Ruiz’s The Four Agreements in mind. There was definitely some hurt that came your way this last year, but you did the right thing of moving forward and trying to handle the situations the best way you could.

That was 2017, and now for the game plan for 2018. The twist this time is in honor of this being the fifth year of seriously tackling New Year’s Resolutions.  You will be revisiting resolutions from the past four years that either are still in need of attention or can help you grow some more. Now, without any further ado, here is your list for 2018.

  1.     From 2014 and 2015, carry on a 15 minute conversation in Spanish
    You made it through this resolution in 2015 technically speaking; however, you can and will do better this time around (basically, the majority of the conversation cannot be “¿Cómo se dice en español?” (How do you say in Spanish)). Being a reader again for the Critical Language Scholarship was inspiring, and everything you need to better improve your skills with the language are around you. You just need to actually use them.
  1.     From 2015, finish a readable second draft of the novel
    You have worked on the infamous novel some since you finished the first draft in September 2014, but seriously, it’s time to get this project completed and ready for the eyes of others to see it. That way you can move onto your next big writing project.
  1.     From both 2015 and 2016, mail at least one physical card/letter/postcard/note each week
    You have tried this two different years, and you haven’t managed to succeed yet, but third time’s a charm, right? Plus, with your not completing a good enough sketch for your Christmas cards, you will be able to start this resolution off strong with the New Year’s cards you will be sending out after the Downtown Hutch business finishes printing them.
  1.     From 2015 and 2016, build and stick to a financial budget
    This is another you have tried two different years and failed both times. This last year was a wake up call when you had pretty much only $47 of money to your name back in September after all of your bills were paid and such. Never again should that happen to you, and things will be easier once you finish your doctorate; however, until then, master your living on a financial budget. Doing so will help you out for the rest of your life in so many different ways and open the doors to many great opportunities.
  1.     2017 – Create and Carry Out Monthly Themes/Challenges
    Without a doubt, this was last year’s fan favorite, and taking on this resolution for another year will lead to some more great adventures to say the least.
  1.     Learn to be able to focus on one thing by taming the wandering mind
    Tim Ferriss calls it the “monkey mind,” and you definitely have it. Your thoughts are all over the place, and your attention, unfortunately, has greatly dwindled with your easily getting distracted and jumping from one thing or thought to another to then another. Modern society doesn’t help with this thanks to placing so many shiny things all over the place to grab one’s attention; however, you will need to rework your mind this year and learn to focus and conquer one thing at time. As science now says after years of growing up hearing otherwise, the majority of people truly do not have the ability to be great multitaskers. Needless to say, you are not part of the minority that can multitask and achieve great things, so don’t kid yourself by thinking otherwise.
  1.     Improve your interactions with others (watch out for shaming people, improve your dating skills, and stop wasting time on people who don’t deserve it)
    As mentioned, No Shame November was a great wake-up call. While you should always hold people accountable, you can definitely work on your delivery. Then to say you are extremely socially awkward when it comes to dating would be an understatement. I know your original plan was to just take a year break from dating, but Bailey is right – you shouldn’t do that. Rather, just work on getting better at this. Then last but definitely not least, remember time is extremely valuable, and you need to use it wisely. If people don’t appreciate the time you are willing to dedicate to a relationship of any kind, they don’t deserve it. Never will they suddenly gain a great appreciation for you and change their ways by your always being there and trying to be the person you would like them to be. Then if they are nonsermitis sufferers, don’t even bother unless you have to because of the situation. Life is too short for that.
  1.     No buying a new book unless two currently owned books have been read
    You could stock a small library with the amount of books you own, and so many of them are fantastic as well as unread by you. Rather than reading them, you usually just end up buying more to add to your collection. To turn this around a bit, you have to read at least two books, although you should try for three, before a new book can be purchased by you to add to your collect (unless, of course, the books are for school, for those do not count).
  1.     Improve Your Follow Through
    During the presentation of the 2017 Patty Carey Star Award at the Cosmosphere’s Everything Under the Stars amazing event, one piece of much praise about this year’s recipient, the late John Neal, was about how if he said was going to do something, he would always see it through. That stuck with you, and it should, for this too is extremely important. Sure, there are certain things that are okay to abandon; however, being a man of your word is vital to who you need to become. You are not too bad at this now, but there is a lot of room for improvement. For an example, there was no reason for you to take over four months to get your sister the photos from your nephew’s birthday party to her, and that only happened because she reminded you about your telling her you were going to send them. We have already addressed how you dropped the ball last year for the campaign for positive campaigns. Don’t do that again with the Hutch Calendar or your other obligations. Regardless of how big or small the task may be, if you say you are going to do it, get it done.
  1.  Get in the best shape of your life
    a. Continue to strive for at least 7 hours of sleep
    b. Meditate at least three times a week
    c. Improve your eating habits
    d. Work towards getting your body fat percentage to 10% or below
    As warned, this is going to be a standard resolution every year with some tweaks happening to it here and there. This time be sure it is on the list of successes when you get the sixth letter from me a year from now.

Extra Credit: Continue your work on becoming a Renaissance man (play music, write, investigate the sciences, work with mathematics, draw, etc.)
Your time may be limited thanks to work, community work, and homework, but these different tasks can easily fit into little spots of free time when you have it, and they will be much more rewarding than using all of that free time to scroll through some sort of social media app or shoot messages through a time-sucking dating app

And there you go – your list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2018. Similar to the last four years, these resolutions will serve you well not only this year but for some time to come. Things will happen this year you won’t expect, and I would like to tell you, but, as mentioned before, no spoilers are allowed. However, keep in mind two things:

First, the quotation Ray Dalio used as the opener for Principles:

“Time is like a river that carries us forward into encounters with reality that require us to make decisions. We can’t stop our movement down this river and we can’t avoid those encounters. We can only approach them in the best possible way.”

Second, never forget each second is a second that will not come again. Every interaction and experience that can and does occur will never have the opportunity come around again with the context all being the same. Remember to think about how we have around 100 10-minute blocks in each day at our disposal. Use them wisely as you build your life to how you would like it to become.

With those thoughts in mind and a new list of resolutions to conquer, that wraps up things for now. Remember what you learned from making your mother’s divinity recipe during the past two days. Failure can happen just like it did with your first, second, and third batch; however, persistence can indeed pay off just as it did with the fourth batch of that tasty, sugary goodness. Just like in previous years, failure will come with the resolutions for this year too, but just learn from those times, adapt, and not give up on that goal in mind. You got this! After all, that is how I made it to where I am now, so have fun and continue living one amazing story.

Until next year, cheers!



No Shame November

There really were no photos that go with this post, so instead, you get some of my favorite pictures I took in November.

It all started with a conversation at an October Social Saturday. There I sat with some of my close Hutchinson friends (names will be excluded for this blog entry) with a bowl of popcorn sitting in front of me, attempting to tempt me but failing thanks to the October’s New Year’s Resolution theme of Whole 30. Our conversation eventually shifted to brainstorming my November’s theme.

“You should give up shaming people,” one friend said.
“I shame people?” I genuinely asked.

And just like that, the others started pointing out past experiences. The first was the person who originally made the suggestion with his talking about my many failed attempts to get him to stop smoking and my various methods to try to do so. Then another friend added about my going on about how she killed Santa after she brought to an end a non-profit’s annual Christmas breakfast for youngsters to get to see jolly old St. Nick (It is just fun to say, “You killed Santa,” for I agree it was far from the mission of the non-profit and such, and there are tons of places to see Father Christmas). Then another talked about a guilt trip I gave to him an earlier Saturday night that encouraged him to carry his empty glass from our outside beer garden table to the bar to help out our server that night as we were getting to leave. The stories kept coming until I simply asked, “Why do you still want to hang out with me? Seriously?” They expressed their love, but that evening left me with No Shame November (a title given to the theme from the friend who originally threw out the suggestion).

So the month of November was spent with my doing my best not to shame anyone. Honestly, I don’t do it on purpose. As you can probably guess, I have high expectations for myself. Those tied to my dry sense of humor lead to my sometimes saying things that lead to guilt. Usually, I don’t purposely do it. Usually at least.

There were some successes. The one friend received a pass about my saying anything about his smoking. I worked up a blog post about Target’s upcoming departure from Hutchinson; however, it largely was a shamefest about this is what happens when people don’t shop local and rather drive to Wichita to do shopping they could do here in Hutchinson or, more often, turn to Amazon to pick up things they could have picked up at Target, so that post never saw the light of day. Then there were quite a few failures. Here are just a few of them.


Situation I
November 1 at the Honors Student Council meeting. Some of my students were signing up for events and then either backing out on the last moment or just not showing up. It was a huge problem in my eyes for two events especially, for one was a tour of the Hutchinson Correctional Facility, and the names had to be submitted beforehand for background checks, so those few people not coming wasted time and money by those there. Then another was a trip to a conference where the person backed out a few hours before our early departure for really not a great reason.

What No-Shame Ryan Should Have Said:
Remember to be sure to check your calendars before you sign up for an event. It is important with some of these we have an accurate number.

What Ryan Actually Said:
We have had a problem this year of people signing up for events and then backing out at the last minute. I understand if it is an illness, but for some, the reason for backing out was not good, including with some of you already having previous engagements you should have known about before you even signed up. Like class for an example. Your backing out cost the correctional facility time with the background checks, and if the person backing out on the conference almost at the very last minute so he could work on some homework instead led to the program losing money, and if I would have known about it earlier, I could have changed out the large van for something smaller. Remember always your name is as good as your word, and that should always, always be on the forefront when you sign up for something.

Situation II
We were on a phone call with my driving to work. My conversation partner was recounting a situation with frustrating people she had told me the night before. I had arrived at the parking lot and was needing to bring the conversation to the close.

What No-Shame Ryan Would Have Said:
I am so sorry you have to put up with that. Well, I have arrived. I hope your day is as good as it can be. Good luck and love you.

What Ryan Actually Said:
After finishing the story for her, she asked, “Did I already tell you this?”

“Yes. Last night when you called. And we had only a limited time to talk this morning, and rather than discussing something positive or something good, the time we had was spent reliving a bad situation again, and now I have arrived at work, and our conversation has to come to a close.”

I paused, “That was probably shaming, wasn’t it?”

She answered, “It was indeed.”

Situation III
A text message conversation was taking place with a buddy wanting me to drive and visit him. He threw out a passive aggressive guilt trip about my never making the time to grab dinner with him.

What No-Shame Ryan Would Have Said:
Don’t worry. My schedule is a little packed right now, but we will get something worked out over winter break.

What Ryan Actually Said/Texted:
Ryan: Do you even have a clue what has been going on in my life with all of my responsibilities?

His reply: That came out wrong. I know you are busy. I have seen some on Facebook and Instagram.

Ryan: But you don’t ask questions really. Or try to pursue any more about my world.

His reply: I am so sorry that came out so badly. I figured you were really busy and would share if you wanted to.

Ryan: But rather than ask questions, we talked all about your life. Which the assumption that you had makes it seem like you don’t care.

His reply: You always seemed like you would rather leave your life alone. I guess i missed read it. I am very interested in whats been happening in your life. Thats why i look at your fb and instagram.

Ryan’s Major Rant/Shaming: Simply looking at those don’t count. Truly taking an interest would be asking questions to find out more. If you go back and look at our conversations, the majority of the times the focus is on your world. And you do have a lot going on. There is no doubt about that. Now though I need to get to work, but I will catch you later. And sorry by the way. I am working well over 40 hours a week while also taking grad classes for my PhD while also trying to live up to my commitments here while also trying to tackle some personal projects that continue to be thrown to the back burner while also trying to financially survive. But we will get together over winter break. That I promise.

And the situations could continue. Sure, there were times that I should have held my tongue, but November’s month’s theme was much harder than anything before, and it will be something I will need to work on. Even this weekend, I fell to shaming again when someone asked if the bar where Social Saturday takes place takes cards. My answer was that it does, but given it is a local business, he should really grab some cash so the hard-working owner could keep all of the money from his purchases rather than have a percentage go to the credit card company. Guilt instantly came across his face. I added afterwards that she would gladly take a card, for any purchase is better than no purchase; however, the shaming had already happened.

With that said, I did my best to hide my thoughts and great hurt about something else that occurred this weekend, which could have turned into a huge shaming of sorts with guilt likely being felt by the parties involved. Instead, I sat there, as stoic as I could be while trying my best to hold on to Don Miguel Ruiz’s second agreement about not taking things personally (The Four Agreements is a fantastic book by the way for those who have not read it). All of the words that wanted to be said were held back, for the action had already been taken. I just kept thinking perhaps my previous shaming of others had led to that moment right then. That, though, is a story for a time that will never be told, for as I had mentioned to the person in Situation II, we only have a limited time when it comes down to it, and that time we spend should be focused on the good rather than dwelling on the wounds from the past. Rather, we should learn from them and forge ahead with the knowledge gained, and rather than shame, that is what I will do.

When it comes to my problem with shaming others though, where things go from here are up in the air. Ever since that conversation in October, the shaming of others has been a topic on my mind, and No Shame November made it even more apparent. Looking now at this post, I realize it is even a public shaming of myself in a way for my failures with this adventure, but the first step is to admit the problem, right? And that is what is going on now. Now the question is how things will go with that next step. Only time will tell on that one. Needless to say, this month’s theme of sketching on a regular basis has been a cakewalk compared to November.

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October’s Theme: Whole 30 AKA My Plan to Avoid Eating Tons of Halloween Candy

Let me begin this by confessing a simple truth: I love Halloween candy. Every year, I buy tons. Sure, a lot of it is for the tons of Trick or Treaters that hit my neighborhood, but a lot of it is devoured by me. This year, though, I decided to do something about it. Rather than simply be that guy who doesn’t buy candy for Trick or Treaters and hide out that night in a dark house, it seemed like trying out Whole 30 for the month of October was a better option.

I first heard about Whole 30 when a friend of mine, Elizabeth, was singing its praises. It intrigued me, but besides a mental note being made, that was about it. However, last summer, Kari, one of my best friends, took it on and was a champ. In addition to her updates about her progress, I also had the opportunity to see her make it through a lunch meeting where almost everything that was served was not Whole 30 compliant, but she did her best with the fresh fruit that was there and ate afterwards. Her discussing the benefits led to my deciding Whole 30 should be one of my monthly New Year Resolution themes. September was not an option because Kansas State Fair food was a must, and Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, so November wouldn’t work either. Therefore, October had to be it.

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Whole 30 was created by a wife-and-husband team, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. Here is a link to the program’s rules. Basically, one is to avoid having sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy during a 30 day period. Then the dieter is to slowly add these back in to see what effects, if any, the person experiences. Although popular, there are mixed views about how healthy it actually is. Many have found it life changing with their going on about how great they feel. Then places like Health magazine listed it as one of the worst health trends for 2013.

Definitely Not Whole 30 Compliant

No concrete studies have been done about the long-term effects of Whole 30 that I could find, but I figured 30 days, or in the case of October – 31 days, would be fine to give up the list of banned items and test my will power.

Without a doubt, it was a fascinating month, and here are a few takeaways.

  1. Sugar Is in Everything

Thankfully, I could eat fruits and other items containing natural sugars; however, white and brown sugar had to be avoided. The same went for anything containing them as ingredients. I was prepared to give up desserts and the such; however, I was shocked when I started reading labels and finding sugar as a listed ingredient time and again. My healthy organic low sodium chicken broth – sugar. My tasty meat tenderizer – sugar. Dried fruit – sugar. Bacon – sugar. Most things tasty – sugar. One thing after another, I would find it listed and be shocked repeatedly of wondering the simple question, “Why?” I still don’t know the answer to that besides the fact that sugar is delicious.

Seriously, why is there cane sugar in chicken broth?
Mmmm Bacon Containing Sugar That Tempted During Two Different Breakfast Meetings
  1. Eating Out Is Rough

Several times during the month, I attempted to go out to eat, and it was indeed rough. There was a date at a Mexican food restaurant (I will get to that in a bit). There were several lunch meetings. My mother came to visit for a weekend and we attempted to find places that would have something Whole 30 compliant. Looking back, there were a lot of not-so-great salads that were devoured (Hutchinson needs some great salad places on a side note). Even my go-to healthy place to eat in town had little on its menu that was Whole 30 friendly (the salad there was good though). In fact, it was harder to go out to eat and follow the Whole 30 rules than it was during February when I was playing vegetarian.

  1. Eating In Was Easy

Most of the meals (after I found a no-sugar-added-for-no-reason low-sodium vegetable broth) I make at home are Whole 30 compliant. Sure, bread was missed to go with the soup, and a tortilla shell to have tacos instead of taco salads (no tasty tortilla bowl for that either) would have been nice, but overall, I didn’t have to adjust too many of my usual recipes except for breakfast. For that meal, my cereal was replaced by eggs either in the form of scrambled, hard boiled, or omelet. They were tasty, and they have continued to start off my day.

  1. My Will Power Was Stronger Than I Thought It Would Be

I was really concerned some of the banned foods would greatly tempt me. For sugar, it was sweets of any kind. For grains, it were popcorn, tortilla chips, and fried chicken. For legumes, it was peanut butter. For soy, it was Asian food, and for dairy, it was cheese. For alcohol, well, I gave up drinking again back in May and I have no plans to restart anytime soon.

To my surprise, none of the banned foods actually were tempting at all. Early on in October, I went on a date, and he was craving Mexican food. In addition to being that guy who first struggled finding something on the menu and then finally locating a salad to only make some special requests while also trying to explain to the very nice server that I really am not that crazy diet person despite my currently being that crazy diet person, I had to resist the urge of the unlimited tortilla chips that were sitting in front of me. Usually, I will eat a basket by myself and then some. A desire to eat even one wasn’t even there.

These tempting foods continued to appear. Fried chicken tried to tempt me three different times, and each time I admired it and was okay with not eating it (even at the Volunteer Center’s Appreciation Dinner where I served as their volunteer photographer for the evening).

Fried chicken, cheesy potatoes, green beans  with ham that likely has sugar in it, and a roll = No food for Ryan at the Volunteer Center’s Appreciation Dinner

Requests two different times at work had me popping popcorn for others, and I also had to throw all of the extra away at the end of the day. Not once did I want to eat even a single piece (okay, there may have been a little bit of desire here, but I stayed strong). Cheese is everywhere, and going without was fine with me. Then on the last day, a former student of mine went over the top by sending me a gift box from Henry & David that was complete with chocolate-covered cherries, tasty looking chocolate truffles, a chocolate-covered popcorn mix, and a whole bunch of other things that were not Whole 30 compliant. Plus, there was all of the Halloween candy too. For both, I was fine with letting everything stay in their wrappers.

  1. I Lost Weight Despite Eating Tons

For the first couple of weeks, I was hungry all of the time. This is supposedly caused by the body turning to other sources of energy in our bodies rather than relying on carbs and sugar as the main energy sources. Following the guidance from the Whole 30 site, I ate more Whole 30 compliant food. Not really following the advice on the Whole 30 site, those cravings were often satisfied by more fruit, nuts, and these super tasty homemade Larabars that consisted of dates and nuts (seriously, that is it – dates and nuts and a blender or a food processor). Another part of Whole 30 is that the dieter is not allowed to weigh oneself during the 30 days, so I stayed away from the scales. Given my eating tons (although my constant hunger did go away after those first two weeks), I just figured there is no way I could have lost any weight. However, to my surprise, I was 7 pounds lighter at the end of the month with my dropping a percentage of body fat in the process. Plus, a great friend of mine commented about how I appeared to be in much better shape with my face seeming much slimmer. That actually made my day.

  1. Sugar Does Odd Things to My Mind

So after the 30 days are complete (or 31 in my case), one can slowly introduce the banned foods back into one’s life. Well, November 1 led to my experimenting with sugar. Overlooking the recommendation regarding the “slowly” part, I ate some tasty Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and found out first-hand the Henry and David chocolate truffles were indeed delicious. Soon after, my mind felt extremely fuzzy and a desire to sleep came not too long after that. Just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke thing (aka following to the temptation of the chocolate-covered popcorn and more Halloween candy), November 2 led to my experimenting some more with sugar. The outcome of a fuzzy mind was the same. Lesson was learned for sure. All of the left-over Halloween candy was placed in the candy drawer in the Honors Lounge where it quickly disappeared soon after. While some sugar will be coming back into my life (like the sugar in the Airborne I just had or in food when eating out), the plan is to limit most refined sugar going forward.


As I continue to reflect on the Whole 30 experiment, more takeaways will surely come. It did introduce me to some tasty recipes (this one for pork carnitas especially), and the Whole 30 book has many more I am planning on trying. However, the will power found to resist the tempting foods was easily the biggest takeaway. How that will come in use in the future is yet to be seen, but like with the other months, October’s theme is sure to have some residual effects.

September’s Theme: A Month Free of Social Media Apps AKA the Quest to Reclaim My Thoughts and Time

My #3 New Year’s Resolution for 2017 is “Be in the Now Rather Than In the Phone,” and definitely there has been progress made, but as noted with the following photo, the habit wasn’t completely broken:
Although in a weak defense, I was trying to be a good Downtown Hutch board member by posting Third Thursday photos to Downtown Hutch’s Facebook page during a very short window I had before having to return to work for a different board meeting to attend. Still, the world was going on around me, and rather than being part of it, my screen had my attention. To try to break this, I decided to take all social media apps off my phone for the month of September. Near midnight on August 31, one by one Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Instagram, and a variety of dating apps disappeared (Facebook messenger was kept thanks to that being the main way of communication with some of my good friends).

To say it was an interesting monthly experiment would be an understatement. I really thought it would be easy, and when I was consciously thinking, it was. However, what was fascinating were the number of times I would find myself pulling out my phone for really no reason besides being on autopilot and my finger reaching for the nonexistent Facebook app. The notification for updates in the App Store would catch my attention, and, almost like a robot, I was opening it instead. That was when I realized checking Facebook had definitely become a habit.

Eventually, though, that habit did eventually die; however, there continued to be some interesting times throughout the month that made me realize how much social media has entered into our lives. There was the time at the Kansas State Fair when Jason asked me to go Facebook Live as he was showing a cow for the Legislative Showmanship Contest. My phone was out as an option (although I tried but failed, thanks to the Verizon system being overloaded with people and our being in a metal building, to download the Facebook app just to help him out), and that led me to try to figure out his phone with no little success. I did get some nice photos though I sent to him later.

Then there were the number of times I would be talking to someone and I would say, “Oh, she posted something about that the other day on Facebook” or “We can just check out the business’s Facebook page.” The phone would be pulled out automatically when it would hit me as I looked at its screen that access to that said Facebook profile was no longer a possibility with that device in my hand.

The disconnection with Facebook and other social media apps on my phone also led to my checking Facebook on my computer less and less as the month progressed to the point I might be on there once or twice a day (usually once in the morning to wish people a happy birthday and then once at night to check to see if any life-changing information was missed – the answer has been usually no.).

When September came to a close and I could add the apps back, I ultimately decided only Instagram would return. For the rest, it was actually quite nice not to have access to them everywhere and anywhere I was, and it seemed like a great thing after taking the month off not to develop that habit again.

Because I am the guy who has an extra-credit New Year’s Resolution added to already a list of ten of them, simply taking social media apps off my phone didn’t seem like a good enough theme for September, so a few more things were added.

First, I started leaving my phone in another room at night rather than on my night stand after being inspired to do so thanks to a talk by Mel Robbins. This too has been great for multiple reasons. First, there is no more late-night scrolling through the different apps, checking my email, or reading the news way past my bedtime. Second, hitting the snooze button also become extremely inconvenient. With the exception of when I have a guest in the guest bedroom, this practice has continued on long past September 30.

The one other item I added, or really actually took away, was having music or anything playing while I took a shower. I also opted for silence during other times as well (putting away laundry, washing the dishes, some times when I am driving, etc.). Making the most of every minute is a favorite thing of mine to do, and listening to music and podcasts would be another. In fact, there is some sort of (extremely cheap) speaker system in every room in my house. However, letting the mind just flow rather than constantly having something pumped into it has been a fantastic way for my thoughts to take on so many different things during those times of being unplugged. The jury is still out on whether it has led to better ideas being formed; however, I do know many more thoughts have been pondered thanks to this change in my life happening.

All while these experiments were going on, I kept running across Manoush Zomorodi discussing the importance of boredom. Her TED Talk was being referenced repeatedly, and she kept appearing on podcast right and left it seemed. Plus, one of my good friends brought Zomorodi’s newly-released book, Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self, to my attention. While my definition of what it means when someone says, “I’m bored” and her definition of that same statement may differ some, she is indeed right about how so many of us today have come to a point where we seem to need to be entertained almost all of the time, and so often that entertainment comes in the form of our smart phones rather than simply sitting and letting our thoughts take charge as we enjoy our environment around us instead of turning to that shiny beckoning screen that can so often tempt us away from the world and our thoughts.

Although it seemed at first the goals for September were about being on my phone less, now looking at them afterward, they were really all about reclaiming my thoughts and my time. Now that they have been reclaimed in some ways, I really cannot imagine giving them up again. Perhaps, I will be missing out on all sorts of things by not instantly getting that Facebook notification the moment it is sent in my way; however, at the same time, I think of the other day when I paused in a place I had so often checked by phone before to take that moment to glance up at some autumn yellow leaves be caught in the wind and perform almost a dance of sorts as they traveled gracefully towards the ground. Times like that seem more what life is about rather than missing such naturally-stunning sights by looking at a screen instead.

My Time as a Talk20 Presenter

The eighth edition of Talk20 Hutch is going to be on July 21 at 7:00 PM at the Hutchinson Public Library. The line up looks like it will be another stellar night as 9 Reno County residents share their stories by presenting 20 images and talking for 20 second about each one. There will also be a tribute to Patsy too.

What Kari Mailloux and Patsy Terrell created with the help of Gregg Wamsley is something truly magical. The powerful energy that forms is unreal and leads long into the night. If you haven’t been to one and will be in the Hutchinson area that evening, definitely don’t miss it, but be sure to get there early for over 300 people usually attend with even a line forming before the library doors open.


Talk20 is, without a doubt, one of my favorite things that takes place in Hutchinson (and was the subject of one of my first entries for this blog too). Ever since the first Talk20 back in 2014, I have been in awe of it, and each one after has been amazing. Happening twice a year (January and July), the Talk20 talks have ranged all over the place from autographed handkerchiefs (one of my all-time favorites) to extrovert problems (by the great Bailey!) to an adventure as a male model to writing an editorial that went viral (a shout out to the great writing of Jason Probst) to so many other fascinating topics.

With the exception of one thanks to a previously planned trip to see my bucket-list destination of Banff National Park, I have attended all of them. Last January, I even had the chance to go from attendee to presenter. I have been meaning to write about my Talk20 experience for quite some time, but time managed to get away from me last spring, so in honor of the next one coming up, let’s jump back to December when Kari and I had the following text conversation that started it all:

Kari: Are you in for Talk20 on Jan. 27 to tell the story about your resolutions? Or to use resolutions to tell your story?
Ryan: About being a failure with my resolutions?
Kari: About setting resolutions and the process of keeping them or not.
Ryan: One year of success and two years of failure?
Kari: Yes
Ryan: And presenting myself to 300 people as a failure. Yay for self-deprecation.
Kari: You’re not a failure! You set the resolutions for yourself!
Ryan: How was the rest of your day? True. I only failed myself.
Kari: The fact is you set these high expectations for yourself. Not just in resolutions but in everything. The process around that is the story, I think.
Ryan: And I do need a story for my life. A new story. Reading all about it now.
Kari: You said so just today. 😊

And it was true. I had thanks to my reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story. The end of the year was also nearing, and all I could think about was all of the resolutions that never happened, so I did what I guess I may normally do as I sent the next text:

Ryan: So the rest of your day?
Kari: You’re so good at deflecting from questions about you. How was your vacation day?
Ryan: There seems to be deflection taking place there too.

For the next fourteen days, the thought of giving a Talk20 bounced around my head as I did my best with a few resolutions from 2016 that were yet to be accomplished like learning how to draw. Then finally, I sent a text to Kari letting her know I would do it unless, of course, she had found someone else; she hadn’t, and just like that, my fate was sealed. Soon after the beginning of the year, an email arrived with a welcome to Talk20 Hutch that included a few notes and deadlines, thus making it official.

Over the next couple of weeks, I hunted through photos and read through previous blog posts to try to find a way to assemble a story out of the New Year’s Resolutions all while constantly looking back at the email Kari had sent me and reading over Tim Urban’s take on doing a TED Talk for pointers. Photos were found and then discarded. Then there were repeated practice run-throughs again and again to make sure I was keeping everything within 20 seconds.

The night of the Talk20 was a blur, and I remember taking in a deep breath while listening to Patsy’s introduction, looking out into the audience to see my proud mother who had driven several hours just to be there to hear me, and then walking up to the podium extremely nervous about what was about to happen. Through it all, my hands shook as they held onto my notes, and they were still shaking long after I had finished and worked my way back to my seat in the audience. Then came the really nifty part after the final presentation had been given when others shared with me resolutions they had set through the years. There was a neat passion that lit up their eyes, and I saw a passion even brighter at the after-party at Carl’s Bar in the eyes of Patsy as we talked for quite some time about her first experiences as a legislator. That night was filled with so many memories that I will continue to hold very close to my heart.

Now as a way to wrap this up, let’s go with five take-aways from my Talk20 Experience:

1. Reflection Is Important
As you likely caught through the text message exchanges, my view about my New Year’s Resolutions at the end of 2016 was not a positive one. All I could think about were my failed attempts with time management and my not carrying on Positive Campaigns for really no reason besides bad time management and follow through. Post-election, that haunted me greatly, and my focus were solely on those failed resolutions. Everything else vanished from my mind until I started to revisit the other resolutions. The draft of the novel sure enough was finished, and the second readable draft is well on its way. The 15 minute (phone) conversation in Spanish with John on a late night drive to Lincoln brought a smile to my face, another check in a box and a good memory. The 10% body fat goal has continued to evade me, but the Million Meter t-shirt from that accomplishment gives me an extra boost of confidence whenever I wear it. There ultimately have been more wins than losses, but before reflecting upon it, my mind focused more on the latter.

I also realized the first year’s theme was unconsciously tackling past relationship hang ups/issues. That probably should have been noticeable as I sat alone on that New Year’s Eve and crafting the first set of resolutions, but it wasn’t. However, as I was putting together the Talk20 slides, it became clear the origin of many of the resolutions were my exes and complaints they had made about me at one time or another, and the 2014 New Year’s Resolutions were all about my heart recovering while also trying my best to become a better man so my bad habits wouldn’t sabotage future relationships.

2. The More Measurable the Resolution, the More Likely for Its Success
Without a doubt, Bloom’s Taxonomy is a person’s best friend when setting New Year’s Resolutions. Some of the hardest of the resolutions were the ones that didn’t really lead to something tangible.

3. A Lot Can Happen in 20 Seconds
Sure, a couple of the previous Talk20 presenters said, “Wow! 20 seconds is much longer than I thought.” For me, I had trouble staying within that boundary, but it was also eye-opening about how much can actually be packed into a 20 second segment. Sure, we often think about hours or days, but truly, we should not underestimate the power of a series of seconds and what can be done during them.

4. New Year’s Resolutions Changed My Life and Continue to Do So
Sure, I figured the resolutions had some impact on my life, but the Talk20 actually led to my realizing the great power they had. The eye-opening moment was when I was showing Bailey my slides and mentioned one of the photos with some of the OKC crew was on my birthday at a Dolly Parton concert. She, whose love for Dolly Parton is so great that her adorable puppy is named Dolly Parton Stiggins, had no idea I had gone to the concert, and that was when I realized it was because of the resolutions she and I really became such great friends thanks to my forcing myself to move away from island mode. I had been so nervous to ask her if she would be willing to take on dance lessons with me. Now, she is one of my best friends, and I cannot imagine my life without her in it.

So many other life changes have come from the annual New Year’s Resolutions. New friends, new things I have learned, even this blog are all results of them, and it was actually the Talk20 presentation that led to my starting to appreciate them on a whole other level. This realization also has helped give another boost of motivation to keep them going.

5. The Dreams and Actions of a Few Can Impact the Lives of So Many
When Kari and Patsy first came together and discussed the idea of Talk20 and when Gregg jumped on board by offering the library as its home, I don’t think the trio had any idea about the far-reaching impact it would have. The sharing of the stories through each presentation is just the start too for the magic of each night. Another thing I love most about the Talk20s is how it brings together people from all different backgrounds and ages to one place. It is extremely nifty to see the interaction before, during intermission, and afterwards as new connections are made and even more stories are shared thanks to those presentations created a shared space to help build a stronger community.

This coming Friday is going to be extremely strange not having Patsy there. I already know it’s going to be another time of my eyes looking all over the place for her because her no longer being here still hasn’t sunk in and I don’t know if it ever will. I also know the magic that she, Kari, and Gregg have created through the Talk20’s will once again fill the library as the presenters share their stories and a community comes together to laugh, cry, be inspired in so many ways, and continue the conversation long after the night itself has come to a close.

And in case you are interested, here is my Talk20 on Resolving to Resolve:

June’s Theme: Morning (and Evening) Routines Revisited

Pretty much the majority, if not all, sources on productivity will at some time or another praise morning routines as being crucial to a productive day. So many books, podcasts, articles, blog posts, and videos have gone on about how that time before the working day begins can change one’s life depending on how the minutes are used. Hal Elrod alone has made a huge career with The Miracle Morning. Given my addiction to self-help sources, I have read about morning routines over and over. One of my favorites pieces done on them would be this recent video by Thomas Frank, who is the man behind of one of my favorite YouTube channels/websites, College Info Geek:

Despite my love for mornings, my routine definitely does stray, so it seemed like a good idea after ending the month of May with a birthday, to bring the morning routine back into focus to help accomplish my goals for not only the rest of the year but also my life. Mornings alone didn’t seem like enough for a monthly theme given this was a New Year’s Resolution last year, so an evening routine was thrown into the mix too (in part inspired by Frank’s point about them and in other part because it made sense).

I sat down on the evening of May 31, tried to listen to Thomas Frank’s advice to start small, and set my desired schedule for a morning. The four essential pieces I set to begin the day were jogging (or a cardio workout of some sort), a weight workout, yoga, and meditation (breakfast and the other morning prep work were just a given).

My Morning Yoga Routine (along with my personal mission statement and some of my general resolves for life)

Then for the evening, they were updating my Personalized Progress Log, going over my schedule and goals for the next day, and getting my work clothes ready for the morning. Additional parts thrown into the different routines as the month progressed (that were also some of the first to be cut out too) were writing, reading, playing the guitar, and drawing.

Looking back on the month of June, I cannot quite say it was a success; however, it wasn’t quite a failure either. Rather, it was more the start of some good habits although some days were indeed missed with only one or sometimes unfortunately none of the essentials happening. Also, now likely making excuses, the month of June wasn’t exactly filled with my most typical days. Two different weeks had me going into work at 6:45 AM to open the office thanks to a colleague being on vacation. Although I told myself I could wake up earlier to accomplish everything, I didn’t listen well to that advice. Then another week had me in Topeka for a couple of days for work, and the one other week entailed my taking my mother to visit one of her high school classmates in Colorado with our then taking the long way home to check out some national parks (the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is amazing!) I had yet to visit and see some other nifty places in the state that continues to steal my heart.

Even with the failures, there were some great takeaways though. When I accomplished at least my set of four morning routine essentials, I felt great. Plus, ironing my clothes the night before will now for sure become a habit thanks to its eliminating my previous habit of triple-checking and sometimes quadruple-checking to make sure my iron was unplugged before I left for work (and sometimes even driving back to my house after I had left to be sure about that). Then the stretching from the yoga routine always felt wonderful, and updating my Personalized Progress Log each night led to great reflection about the day as well as helped me accomplish another one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017.

The regular jogging, although never very long, was also a good addition to my life too with my still imagining those daily steps are being done with my imaginary mentor created back in April. There were also some fantastic sunrises spotted during those early morning outings. Although most places where we stayed during the Colorado adventure were not necessarily outdoor-jogging friendly, I did have a great run in Buena Vista and another after we left Pagosa Springs that led me to the bridge view of Treasure Falls.

Treasure Falls, Colorado – A great place to prove I was definitely not in shape for jogging at a higher elevation

Without a doubt, it’s going to take much longer than a month for my morning and evening routines to become a constant in my life, but some good steps were taken in June by bringing both into focus. With July’s theme involving at least fifteen minutes of reading for pleasure and at least fifteen minutes of writing for pleasure being part of each day, I have a feeling those routines starting and ending each day are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Tips for Setting Up Morning and Evening Routines

  • Start small and slowly add to them if you so desire.
  • Know the reason why you want to make each part of the routine a habit and have a good reason. This will increase motivation.
  • Track each day (a checklist works well. I put each of the tasks in my Personalized Progress Log which is in an Excel document, so I am able to keep track of them there. Also, marking off each day you stay with your routines on a paper calendar would work too).
  • Give yourself plenty of time in the morning and evening to accomplish your routines. If your schedule is thrown off, try for at least one of the tasks you have as an essential.
  • Make things easy for you by having the morning and evening routines complement each other. There is power in synergy.
  • If you should miss a day, simply start again after reflecting upon why you missed them.
  • Reflect upon how the routines have changed your life for the better. Doing so will help with your motivation to keep them going.


Post Script
Starting at the beginning of June, I also gave up drinking alcohol. More on that later though.

Going Over the Edge for Reno County’s United Way

There I was dangling from a rope. My feet had lost their footing for a second, and adrenaline pumped through my system as I tried my best to get them back to the stone wall. The sound of music and voice of Lisa Gleason, Executive Director of the United Way of Reno County, echoed from down below on Main Street while the shade of the First National Bank building protected me from the sweltering late afternoon summer heat. It was my first time to rappel, and I could not think of a better place to do it than from off one of the tallest buildings in Downtown Hutchinson. Still, the thought of how I ended up where I was kept running through my mind.

I first learned about the idea of United Way of Reno County’s Over the Edge last August when I was picking up t-shirts for my honors students who were taking part in our annual clean up of Carey Park for the United Way’s Day of Service. Tona Turner, the former executive director, asked me my thoughts of a fundraiser that involved people like me rappelling off the First National Bank building on at the next summer’s Third Thursday. As she described the event to me, thoughts of previous events throughout Downtown’s history ran through my mind. There was, of course, Spot the horse and his rider on top of the Wiley Building in 1941 as well as all sorts of other images and memories of events that have taken place on Main Street both in my life and before.

Without a doubt, I could see what Tona described as becoming a part of Hutch’s history. The First National Bank of Hutchinson alone has played a large role in the history of both the city of Hutchinson and my life. For Hutchinson itself, First National Bank came to that location back in 1876. It transformed into Hutchinson’s first skyscraper in 1911 based upon designs by Daniel Burnham, the same Chicago architect who designed New York City’s Flatiron Building and Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, and many other iconic buildings throughout the country. The building was then expanded in 1957 and again in 1972-1974 to its current state.


It was this building that grabbed my attention when I first moved here back in 2007 and was looking for a local bank. It was also here I spent a summer as an intern for the Hutchinson Community Foundation when I cleaned their storage room to transform it into my summer office where I would arrive each morning to look out their fifth-floor windows towards the east side of Main Street and all of the land beyond, including the grain elevator that once had the claim of fame of being the world’s longest (it’s second now). A few years later, I then began spending many more hours on that floor as a board member for that same amazing organization and eventually the chair of their grants committee. Plus, there were many memories of breakfasts and lunches at Downtown Sampler, the tasty restaurant on the second floor, and then there were the times meeting John on top of the parking garage to bring him something or another when he was working evenings there when he was going back to school. Plus, it is on Main Street, and to say I have a great love for Downtown Hutchinson would be an understatement.

On top of the location, the event also had the pull of being a fundraiser for the United Way of Reno County, which has changed the lives of so many through the money they raise during their annual campaign that goes to support many of the fantastic non-profits here in the area including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Reno County, Boys & Girls Club, Hospice of Reno County, Interfaith Housing Services, New Beginnings, Salvation Army, Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Center, The Volunteer Center of Reno County, and many more working hard to improve living conditions for our local population. Then they also have greatly helped with early childhood education here in the community too, something that is very dear to my heart, and have partnered with Hutchinson Recreation Commission, Reno County Health Department, and the City of Hutchinson with the Southwest Bricktown Neighborhood Initiative which has led to many wonderful things as well.

So thanks to the history of the building, the great work the United Way does, and my New Year’s Resolution #1 for this year to live a better story, I couldn’t resist signing up back in February to be one of the people to rappel down the side of the building. Each person though was to meet a financial goal of $1000 in order to go over the edge of the First National Bank building. This is where once again I was reminded I am horrible at fundraising. I would craft Facebook posts and emails to share with others, but then not hit either the submit or send button at the last moment. I was going to write a blog post back in March about the upcoming event, but well, you can see that didn’t happen. My plan, though, was to fund, as I tend to try to do with fundraisers, most of it myself, but a $1600 vet bill for Callie in April and another extremely large sum of money for summer graduate courses led to that plan failing too. By the end of May, I had given up on reaching the goal and getting a chance to be part of this piece of Hutchinson history.

However, the kind hearts of those at the United Way decided to let those who had signed up but had not reach the financial goal still rappel and let us still try to raise money throughout the rest of the month of June (if you would like to donate, please do so by going here) as well as have us be able to talk about the amazing experience that it was so even more people will want to sign up the next time they do this. When I received this email on Tuesday, I was thrilled to say the least, and soon I had one of the last scheduled times so I wouldn’t miss out on meeting with new honors students at the Enrollment Day at work.

After changing out my dress shoes into hiking boots (I figured they had the best traction out of anything I owned), I drove quickly downtown yesterday afternoon still wearing a pair of dress pants and my standard white button-up shirt (the tie and jacket were left behind though) to experience something new. Throughout the day, I had caught a few pics, videos, and Snapchats of some of my other friends going down the building, and with each, I became both a little more excited and a little more nervous. I won’t lie and say there was not a brief moment of hesitation when I climbed out of my car and saw the building before me. Stopping for a second, I looked up at its top, took in a huge breath, told myself all will be well, and then walked forward to find the always amazing and wonderful Bailey to capture a few shots of my rappel on the camera I had brought. Then it was to the Downtown Sampler area on the second floor to get geared up before going to the top of the building.

My group that traveled to the roof together.

My arrival was at the same time as a few others as well, and we chatted as we were decked out in our harnesses and gloves with everything being checked time and again. Then a friendly face of a friend of mine, Adam, greeted us in the hallway to take us up to the roof where we went through a thorough training session to go over the gear and how to rappel down the side of a building. I tried to pay as much attention as possible to the lever that would ease us down and all of the safety mechanisms as my mind raced in many different directions especially towards the recurring thought of what if I am the first one that day to get stuck going down and would need to be saved somehow. Then afterwards, it was waiting for our turn to go. Jon, another guy getting ready to go through this experience, and I took in the sights from the top of the building. The sky was unbelievable clear as we looked out upon the tree-filled city we call home. To say the view was stunning would be an understatement. I took in another deep breath and then went towards my destination.

The first step is a doozy was what I was told earlier, and as I stood there on the ledge, I could easily see why. Here were these two ropes that were keeping me from fall seven stories to the land below. I made small talk with the guy helping me take that first step, which I may or may not have been delaying. He was from Chattanooga and was very nice. I smiled at my friends, Cory, Chelsea, and Adam, who were also on top of the building and then took that doozy of a step.

The first step

The feeling was indescribable. It was this sort of mix of fear, excitement, happiness, and awe with each step I took down the side of the building. I could hear Lisa down below being a fantastic emcee as she talked about different things I had done in the community while getting the crowd to cheer me on. I could see so much as my eyes would shift from the wall in front of me where I tried to slowly take each step to the world around me. The windows on both sides of me were the biggest surprise, for they provided this great reflection of the city of Hutchinson. I was also trying to count each floor so I could stop and wave at my Hutchinson Community Foundation friends (It turns out I waved tons at the sixth floor instead of the fifth though). Even when I would lose my footing, it would only be for a second as my thoughts went right back to the detailed training Mike had shared with us. Mainly, though, I was smiling because it was an experience like nothing I had ever had before and may never have again.

Although it seemed like it took me quite some time to get down, I had made it back to the second level landing spot to be helped by some local volunteers. My heart was still racing a bit as I thanked everyone for letting me have this truly amazing experience before I found my way to next to Bailey on the street. More friends were soon by my side, and text messages were coming with photos and videos taken by many from all different places and heights. Everything was both a blur and clear at the same time. And I just kept looking up at the tall building before me, thinking how grateful I was to the United Way for giving me this experience that will be relived every time I see this skyscraper in the heart of Hutchinson, Kansas.

As always, thank you for reading this post. If you would like to help the United Way of Reno County with the great work they do, please do not hesitate to make a donation by using this link that will help me get closer to my financial goal.