What the Santa Monica Fire Dept and My 2019 Goals Have in Common

punta de lobos
My holiday surf destination over Christmas. Punta de Lobos, Chile. Dec 2018.

Sunday night, January 27th, 2019. I was recounting the day’s events with a lifelong friend who was moving out of state the next day. We ate ahi tuna burgers on the floor of his packed up Santa Monica apartment.

“I accidentally crossed the wires, and the cables starting melting into my car frame. So I dialed 911…I didn’t want my mother to get the call that her 36 year old son died jumping his car.”


“And they actually sent a fire engine. Four suited up firemen stepped out to greet me. My shame was palpable, and they were gone within minutes…how did I let this happen? I am spiraling.”

“So you f*cked up, big deal. Permission to be human…agree?”

“I want to say yes, but I’d by lying.”


It was nearly a month into the new year, which meant I had completed my annual goal setting exercise.

On paper, it was millennial-righteous: new team hires for my upstart company, international surf getaways, net worth gains, join a climbing gym, new body fat % targets…

It was also maniacally mechanical.

After some friendly prompting and therapist prodding, I gave myself permission to check in with my feelings, aka my “kiddo”. Not an easy feat, since I’ve successfully covered up much of said feelings with productivity algorithms, tactical efficiencies and suppression via momentum.

I found my kiddo unable to answer basic questions.

Do I know what I want? When will I figure this out? Why do I live so far from my brothers? Does it matter?

Just 45 days into the new year, and it’s clear I need a re-do of my 2019 vision and goals exercise. Some WIP excerpts are highlighted below.


My new nephew Braden en route home in Savannah, GA. Twin brother Jon and wife Megan did well. January 2019.

A Sampling of My Updated 2019 Goals


I haven’t consumed alcohol since mid November, and in 2019 I will remain alcohol free. The decision was a result of a worsening physical / mental reaction to any and all alcohol consumption (even just one pint of beer), ramped up fitness goals and a desire to be the most positive influence for my family and loved ones (like my new nephew Braden!). Shout out to an old friend for being the catalyst.

February Update:  Since eliminating alcohol from my diet, I’m sleeping better, feeling more vibrant upon waking up, and am better enjoying social and peer interactions. I’m grateful for the refreshed social programming and community it attracts. I’ve also observed first hand that the negative association with not drinking (e.g. he/she must have a sketchy past) still pervades society, but seemingly less than in decades past…or maybe that’s just health-crazy LA.


One can live without food for 30 days, water for 2 days, and oxygen for 2 minutes. Breath is life. It’s also a powerful refocusing tool, consistently used in meditation to calm the mind. Elite athletes incorporate breath work into their training to significantly improve performance. In big wave surfing, breath control bolsters confidence in the water and regularly saves lives. I believe my daily inhalation and exhalation patterns require a major upgrade. I also desire to prepare myself for more extreme surf conditions. In 2019, I will expand my holistic fitness regimen to include at least three breath work courses.

February Update: Laird Hamilton, a big wave surf trailblazer and fitness savant, is an avid proponent of the Wim Hof breathing method. After just a few sessions employing WH techniques, I held my breath for 3:24, where my previous record was well under a minute. Powerful stuff.


This is the most impactful article I read in 2018. Our modern society is severely damaged from overuse of mobile phones, which were intended to be an incredible tool but have instead become a “life-shortening distraction device”. We’re perpetually distracted, and experience dilution is a pandemic. We’re disconnected and depressed by relational volume vs meaningful community. We endlessly suffer self doubt via comparison culture toxicity. My personal phone habits worsened in 2018, so I re-programmed my phone a couple weeks ago to return it to being a tool. In 2019 I will:

  • Achieve average daily screen time of < 2 hours (excluding calls and audio-listening apps).
  • Achieve average daily screen time of < 30 minutes for non work (same exclusions as above).
  • Check my phone email app no more than 5x per day.
  • Pickup my phone less than 20x per day.

February Update: I made progress against these goals in January, but peak stress periods in February from work and travel set me back. For reference, in the last 7 days I texted for 3:24 hours, emailed for 3:04, was on my Wunderlist to-do app for 2:38 and supposedly calendar’d for 4:34 (though this seems off). My average daily pickup was 54x. In terms of wins, I’m trending much better on social time (1:39). Phone Liberation is one of my priority goals, as I have recently fallen out of love with the Internet.


Delayed at the airport, stuck in a DMV que, customer service calls, paying a parking ticket in person. We dread these moments, and in them we are the worst versions of ourselves. Impatient, angry, insensitive, even cruel. A downward spiraling environment for us and others, often putting the rest of our day on tilt. Instead, could these moments of personal trial become opportunities? Yes. In 2019 I will redefine my modus operandi in misfortune and instead (1) learn how to exert influence and change in distress, (2) more deeply connect with others through shared tribulation, and (3) catalyze new action to offset loss.

February Update: When I went to publish this blog post in January, a WordPress bug resulted in a partial wipe of this essay. News of the permanent deletion by the WordPress CS rep hit me with shock and devastation. The loss of a final draft of my writing was utter agony. Fortunately, I was shaken from my ego-maniac stupor by the memory of this Reversing Fortune passage, and quickly made a vow to exploit this moment for good. How? By elevating this blog post from the depths of the maniacally mechanical, to a humanized personal statement.


I operate out of a to-do list, and feel pangs of guilt when my daily accomplishments come in “under quota”. It’s also difficult for me to remain in a single physical position (e.g. laying on my couch) for more than a few minutes. The likely explanation stems back to longstanding familial dynamics, further fueled by today’s “do” culture. It’s exhausting at best. In 2019 I will give myself permission to relax and the mental space to simply be, and will accept both with gratitude.

February Update: Progress is slow. In January I scheduled a trip every single weekend: Vegas, Big Bear, San Diego, Sundance, Mammoth. I over extended myself, with resultant harm…like crossing the wires while jumping my car because I was racing to a social appointment within an hour of my Park City return. The fire department was called and I had get my neighbor’s car repaired. Lesson learned. Chill the f*ck out. And with my Reversing Fortune goal in mind, I’ve used the opp to become better acquainted with my neighbors, Connor and Ari. We have tentative dinners plans in March, and they are lovely.


I have considered life’s mundane moments simply means to an end and highly inconsequential. Ordering coffee from a barista, standing in a check out line, waiting in an office reception. I have incorrectly framed these activities, of which sentiment was further inspired by a visit to the Manny Farber and Termite Art exhibition at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2019, I will harness these quotidian moments to engage fellow humanity with unadulterated friendliness. I will also re-employ a slogan from my Eagle Scout days…Do a Good Turn Daily, which “is more than simple good manners. It is a special act of kindness.”

February Update: I look forward to my exchanges with Nelson from my Whole Foods 365 each Sunday night. He provides me flower recommendations ($10 white lilies ftw), making me a new fan of a flower-infused aromatic living space…less the yellow pollen shrapnel that explodes upon my apartment after two weeks, including my white marble table top. Turns out stone is porous.

Thanks for reading!

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