Friday, June 15, 2018

Taking a Summer Break From Blogging to Work on My New Home

On May 3rd I wrote a blog post titled "I Have Arrived... Finally." In that writing I shared that I have purchased a new home, one that will be filled with love and laughter. As my wedding day approaches, I want to do some interior painting and other projects prior to the wedding. I work a full-time job at a law firm and over the next few months I won't have time to do as much reading outside of the office or writing in this blog. With that said, I'm going to be taking a break from posting writings here. It was two years ago that I started writing this blog, and in that time I've made 281 posts. You can use the blog's archive to read through any of those writings. Have a great summer!



Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Social Media and Adventure -- Crowds, Posers, Fakes, and Death

In the past 10 years, social media has become a huge part of our world. There are so many options: Facebook; Instagram; Twitter; Pinterest; Snapchat; and others. I didn't use any of these tools during my big adventure running days between 2006 and 2011. However, many adventurers are using these social media platforms to share details about their endeavors. I know that social media has contributed to the increase in interest of running or walking across America -- with more people taking on the challenge each year.

However, there is a negative effect of providing a social media window into adventures. For instance, Trolltunga is a cliff above Lake Ringedalsvatnet in Norway. The photo accompanying this post is a stock image, but apparently there is a long line of hikers waiting their turn for this iconic 'alone in the wilderness' image. National Geographic published an article about how Instagram is changing travel and in it is written, "Between 2009 and 2014, visitors to Trolltunga increased from 500 to 40,000 in what many consider a wave of social media-fueled tourism." The location has become so popular due to social media that being "alone" there is nearly impossible.

True adventurers have criticized those who post photos on social media of "adventures" that are not actually being done. As an example, a person may post a picture of climbing a mountain just so that others can see them on a mountainside, but did they actually make it to the top? Were they on the side of the mountain for a selfie opportunity or because they were truly engaged in an adventure? Social media is filled with 'posers.'

Unfortunately, it is well documented that there have been many adventurers killed as a result of trying to get an outrageous photo. In 2014, Clif Bar stopped sponsoring five rock climbers known for climbing without ropes or safety gear. Sadly, ordinary people have been enticed by risky adventurous images to try stunts they don’t have the skills for, and have died as a result.

Perhaps the most outrageous part of this is that not everything you see of adventures via social media are true. Case in point -- the "Amanda Smith" Instagram account, which has been discontinued. Marketing agency Mediakix did a test to see if anyone can fake an adventurous Instagram account and build followers to the point of attracting sponsorship dollars. The agency created a fictitious Instagram account for "Amanda Smith" (wanderingggirl). The entire feed was composed of free stock photos of random places across the world and blonde girls, always posing facing away from the camera.

After setting up the fake personality and generating content, the agency started purchasing followers (yes, apparently you can do that). They started with buying 1,000 followers per day and ultimately jumped to purchasing 15,000 followers at a time. The cost? Between $3-$8 per 1,000. Essentially, if the followers don’t like or comment on posts, they’re kind of worthless. So the next step was for the agency to purchase fake engagement -- buying likes and comments. Mediakix paid about 12 cents per comment, and between $4-9 per 1,000 likes. For each photo, they purchased 500 to 2,500 likes and 10 to 50 comments. The entire experiment ended up costing Mediakix about $300 for the "wanderingggirl" Instagram account. After the account reached 10,000 followers (the threshold amount for signing up on most influencer marketing platforms), Mediakix started applying for sponsorship deals -- securing two paid brand deals for the wanderingggirl account. Before the account was closed it had over 64,000 followers... and it was completely fake!

So, don't believe everything you see about "adventurers" on social media. Unfortunately, sometimes they're posers or are not real at all.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Is Keeping a Promise an Unrealistic Goal?

This month marks 12 years since I took that first step away from the Pacific Ocean to embark on a 108-day solo journey of 3,260 miles to the Atlantic Ocean -- simply to keep a promise I had made to a group of elementary students. The children shown in the photos accompanying this blog post met a challenge I posed to them of running 3,200 miles as a team during a single school year. I had promised that if they could do it, I would run their virtual coast-to-coast route across the U.S. for real, which I did. Those children are now around the age of 23 and are striding through life on various paths that they've chosen. I do hope that they remember their 2006 running and walking accomplishment, since they became the first recorded students in the United States to virtually run/walk coast to coast within one 9-month school year -- each participating child logging the equivalent of 3 marathons. I am still inspired every time I think about what they achieved!

Yes, I ran 3,260 miles all alone across America through the second hottest summer ever recorded just to keep a promise. Many thought I was nuts for doing so. However, it meant a lot to me to do all that I could to keep my word to those children, to try and show them promise keeping and integrity in action, and to let them know that their running/walking efforts were not in vain.

A few years ago, Psychology Today magazine published an article titled Why We Can't Keep Our Promises. The article states, "There are a number of commonly understood reasons promises are broken, including that our feelings, capacity, or circumstances have changed over time. The fading of romantic love for one’s partner is emblematic of this -- what once was is no more. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the birth of a child, falling in love, and developing illness, to list but a few, are all events that can shift our feelings and consequent behavior -- often monumentally. We may no longer have the capability or willingness to keep a specific promise, or it may no longer benefit those concerned to do so."

The article goes on to say,

"Should We Ever Promise? Trying as best one can to keep promises is crucial. These interpersonal contracts facilitate trust and love. But since so much is out of our awareness, are we all doomed to keep making promises we cannot keep? Well, yes. People will always struggle against themselves. We disregard human complexity when we harshly criticize others -- and ourselves -- for "failing" to feel and behave exactly as promised. But we can make a concerted effort to know ourselves better, to attend to that which we might prefer to ignore. Then, when we make a promise, we can be alert to the possibility of having contradictory feelings."

I know, that probably sounds like a bunch of psychological mumbo jumbo. However, the article is accurate in that sometimes people make promises that they are not able to keep -- either due to a change in circumstances, a change in feelings, a change in awareness, or due to situations beyond control. There were many things that could have happened during the 3,260 mileposts I reached for across America that could have prevented my finishing that endeavor. Fortunately, I was able to keep my promise... although it required absolutely every ounce of strength and perseverance I had. To me, it was worth it and I hope the students who put me on the road during the summer of 2006 will always remember our efforts that year.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Growing Number of Studies on "Juicing" Reveal Concerns

On page 10 of the book, Juicing and Smoothies for Dummies 2nd Edition, it states: "The Dead Sea Scrolls have revealed that mashing pomegranate and figs for “profound strength and subtle form” was practiced from before 150 b.c. This is perhaps the first record of man’s attempt to separate the vital juices from fruits and vegetables for their healing benefits." Juicing has certainly grown in popularity over the years and today I want to share with you an article that I recently read.

QUESTION: Is juicing a good way to eat more fruits and vegetables?

ANSWER: You may have thought about juicing to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Here’s how it works:
1. You put some fruits and vegetables into a highpowered juicing machine.
2. It removes the fiber and pulp.
3. Out comes a nutrient-rich juice.
If you’re not getting enough fruits and vegetables, juicing is a great first step to improve your diet. Stripping out the pulp and fiber makes them easy to gulp down, which might sound better than eating broccoli. But the process isn’t perfect. It can get expensive. And it may not be as healthy as simply eating an apple or leafy-green salad. Some potential problems with juicing include:

High blood sugar

Foods with a lot of fiber and pulp help control blood sugar levels. Juicing can cause a spike in blood sugar. This can increase:

  • Hunger
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue, and
  • Risk for diabetes

A recent study found that juicing on a regular basis, compared to eating fruits and vegetables, increased the risk for diabetes.1

Tummy troubles

Let’s say you set up your juicer and feed it a cucumber, an apple, two celery stalks, two carrots, and three beets. Your juice will have about 40 grams of dietary sugar. That’s almost the same amount as a 12-ounce soda! But this dietary sugar, called sorbitol, isn’t easily digested. Gulp down the drink, and what follows is a bout of gas, bloating, and discomfort. That’s a lot less likely to happen if you eat fruits and vegetables instead of juicing.

Harmful bacteria

Toss your favorite mix of fruits and veggies into a juicer. That might sound fast and easy. But there’s a critical step you need to complete before that. Wash the fruits and vegetables. A recent study checked freshly squeezed juice for bacteria.2 It found unhealthy levels in 43 percent of the samples. If you don’t thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables, your juice could be contaminated. Freshly-squeezed juice can also develop harmful bacteria in a short amount of time, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If this happens, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headache, and other symptoms of food poisoning may occur.

Weight gain

Most people who juice do it as a way to lose weight. And if you follow a low-calorie diet and only drink juice from fruits and vegetables, you will lose weight at first. However, this approach to dieting often backfires. Research shows that it’s common for people who lose weight rapidly to gain all the weight back.3 The better approach to weight loss is a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Eat the whole thing

Juicing fruits and vegetables may seem like an easy way to improve your diet and lose weight. It’s certainly a better option than burgers, fries, and sugary drinks. But eating whole fruits and vegetables is better for you. Aim to eat 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day, and 11/2 to 2 cups of fruit per day. If that’s hard for you to do, get the extra servings you need from juice
____________________________________

References

1. Muraki, I., et al. (2013). Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: Results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies. British Medical Journal, 347:f5001. doi:10.1136/bmj.f5001

2. Sospedra, I., et al. (2011). Incidence of microorganisms from fresh orange juice processed by squeezing machines. Food Control, 23(1):282. doi: 10.1016/j.foodcont.2011.06.025

3. Nackers, L.M., et al. (2010). The association between rate of initial weight loss and longterm success in obesity treatment: Does slow and steady win the race? International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 17(3):161-167. doi: 10.1007/s12529-010-9092-y

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Monday, June 11, 2018

Have You Ever Had The Words "Get a Job" Yelled at You?

In 2016, Pete Kostelnick established the new world record for running across America. Today, he is 30 years old, married, and on May 22, 2018, announced that he is quitting his job as a financial analyst in order to embark on a solo run from Kenai, Alaska to Key West, Florida -- a run that he feels compelled to take on because it has never been accomplished before. He begins his 5,000+ mile run on the first day of August and will be apart from his wife during the undertaking. He recently wrote that he's taking a big risk to try and accomplish his planned adventure, stating: "...leaving a great job behind permanently, and no guarantee that another will be waiting for me when I finish."

When I ran across America solo in 2006, I was the father of four children (ages 6 to 13) and operated my own business. Included in the gear on my support stroller was a laptop computer, which I used at the end of each day to communicate with subcontractors and to keep my business operating. Most people just saw a guy along the edge of the road with a stroller -- and I think some believed I was homeless. I remember being only a few hundred miles into that USA run when a guy, younger than I, yelled across the roadway "Get a job!" I glanced at him, and kept running... thinking to myself that he has no idea that I'm running over 3,200 miles just to keep a promise to some school children, that I am the father of four kids, and that I'm operating a business from the edge of the road as I cross the country. To that young guy, I just looked like some sort of athletic apparel wearing drifter.

Over the past 12 years since I completed that coast-to-coast run, I've heard of many people who have left their jobs to attempt a run across America. Some have fallen into financial ruin and didn't even get the joy of experiencing the finish line. Some go into their adventure with little or no money, relying on the kindness and generosity of strangers to provide all that they need. Others ask for money online through a number of different fundraising websites, such as "Go Fund Me." My solo run across America had a price tag of around $7,000. I had to put in a large majority of that money, while some was donated by people who wanted to support the purpose of the run. I was never unemployed and matters regarding my business were dealt with timely and professionally.

Honestly, I would not quit my job in order to attempt an adventure. Of course, that's just me. A decent job in today's economy is something worth hanging on to, and I don't understand the perspective of those who are married and/or have children and choose to quit a job and let go of the security and benefits of that in order to reach for the horizon through countless miles. Throughout all of my running adventures (USA, Germany, Alaska, Mojave Desert), I operated my business. It was not uncommon for me to complete my miles for the day, sit in an ice bath, and answer business e-mails or provide direction to subcontractors over the phone. That's the part of my endeavors that people didn't see. To those who saw me on the road, I just looked like some guy who only possessed what was in the stroller I pushed. If they had only been able to see behind the initial appearance, they would have learned that I was juggling many different balls while running down the road -- athlete, father, business owner.

To all who quit their jobs in order to take on an "adventure" that they feel prompted to do, I wish you well. In today's ever-increasing competitive professional world, it is indeed a risk. Believe me, not all future employers will understand your exiting the job market in order to embark on a multi-month undertaking. Some will question whether you'll be content to work in a 9 to 5 environment, thinking that you might head for the door when the next adventure bug bites you. For me, I would not have taken on any of the adventures I did unless I was able to generate an income concurrently. I'm now 53 years of age and eventually retirement will come. When that day arrives, I'll go into it knowing that I generated an income steadily throughout my adult life -- which, I believe, will be a feeling of satisfaction equal to, if not greater than, crossing any of the finish lines of my adventures.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Proud Dad Alert! -- My Youngest Son Graduated From High School

Last week, I had the joy of traveling to Montana with my fiancé, Kelley, to see my youngest child, Brian, graduate from high school. His graduation was held in the Adams Center on the University of Montana campus -- because it can accommodate the large audience for the 300 graduates. In fact, it was nearly 30 years ago that I graduated from the University of Montana in the same room that Brian's high school ceremony was held. As I sat there watching the graduation, I couldn't help but to have my eyes well up as I thought about the 25-year road of fatherhood that I've been blessed with so far. I now have four adult children and am so proud of each of them.

It was Kelley's first trip to Montana and she really enjoyed seeing my children and experiencing a little time in the mountains. Montana is the fourth largest state in the USA and the population is slightly over one million people. There are actually more cows in Montana than people! The number one industry in Montana is agriculture, and livestock makes up approximately two-thirds of the agriculture industry. Of the livestock portion, cattle make up the largest fraction. In fact, there are 2.6 million head of beef cattle in Montana.

Prior to relocating to Indiana several years ago, I resided in Missoula, Montana, for 30 years -- first showing up in "Big Sky Country" in January 1984 to attend the University of Montana at the age of 18. Back then, the town was much smaller and less bustling as it is today. Just in the few years that I've been away from Montana, I returned to find many new commercial construction projects underway, bumper to bumper traffic, and less of a 'laid back feeling' and more of an 'on the run' feeling. Missoula has been named everything from one of the most livable cities in America, to one of the worst-designed cities in the world. In 2015, Missoula was named the most "fitness-friendly city" in the United States.

As beautiful as Montana is, from the clear rivers and lakes to the snow-capped mountains, it is also a state that has its fair share of health concerns. According to Montana public health statistics, of the one million people that call it home, 15 percent live in poverty, 10 percent have diabetes, and 24 percent of adults are considered obese. Hypertension affects 29 percent of Montanans and 19 percent use tobacco. Nearly 20 percent of Montana residents do not have health insurance and approximately 21,000 are unemployed. Also, 14 percent of Montana high schoolers do not graduate. I'm proud that my son, Brian, is one of the 86 percent of Montana young people who graduated from high school this year.

Montana is a state that spans over 145,000 square miles and during the 30 years that I lived there I saw a lot of that state -- particularly when I ran solo across it both ways (2006 and 2008)! It is a state of beauty, but also a state that has some ongoing health and economic concerns. It was wonderful to return to Montana in order to see my son graduate and now it is time for him to blaze his path in life. As always, I look forward to seeing all that he will accomplish.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso
www.paulstaso.com