The list 1.1 - 1-2% Better Every Day, Guaranteed
The list 1.1
To be honest, it never really had a name, it is saved on my computer as ‘routine’ but numerous people have caught it in the background in my snapchat stories. Time and time again I have been asked, “What’s that list?” - so going forward we will refer to it as the list but before we talk about what’s in the list, I will tell you how it began.
My first year professionally was a combination of luck and a lot of hard work (but that’s a story for another time). I found myself in Raisio, Finland as a member of Rasion Loimu. I was thrilled, grateful but most of all determined to give everything I had, each and everyday knowing a bad or average season would hinder me from continuing my professional career. Everyday I woke up with this sense of determination, running in the snow to our gym where I lifted and conditioned for 2-4 hours. It got to the point where the coach and the captain had to schedule a meeting with me to tell me I needed to stay away from the gym as they were worried about my well being but of course this didn’t stop me. The season ended with our team finishing 6th, I received 3 of the 5 All-Star monthly selections and ultimately being honored as the ‘Best Libero’ of the League.
I was very happy with how the season went, I took advantage of everyday, worked hard and competed well enough to be voted as one of the best foreigners in the league. (2nd to Kawika Shoji) Things were looking up and I was ready to take the next step and move up in leagues. I signed with an agent who was ready to push and help me move up to a stronger league. "France? Germany?" I didn’t know what the next season would hold for me but I absolutely destroyed my first season in the Finnish league and I knew big things were around the corner.
… except none of this happened.
I said my goodbyes to all my Finnish teammates in April but it wasn’t a goodbye after all. As July approached, I was still without a contract and I had no other option than to sign another year with the club as they extended an open door for me to return.
Before I took off that summer from the USA training center, I remember speaking with Alan Knipe (The USA coach at the time) that my one goal for my return to Finland, which was to win the Finnish League. Of course looking back this was incredibly naive as my goal was something I had some but not complete control over. We had a great team on paper but the results showed otherwise and I started to suffer, due to my attachment of how the results should of been - resulting in loosing my temper, taking bad risks, and at times my joy for the game I love.
I didn’t know what to do, until I finally hit a huge low. With no where left to go, I realized that no matter how hard I tried or wanted it to be so, I didn’t have compete control over the results. What I did have complete control? My first conclusion was that I had complete control over to play the match to the best of my ability.
I then took it a step further, asking myself
"what was I doing Monday-Friday"
"How was I spending my time outside of training?"
‘What could I do prepare myself to the best of my ability so when I stepped on the court I was confident and ready to play to the best of my ability?”
This is where the list began.
By internalizing my goals, I was able to take back my tranquillity and I found out I would be much more prepared to deal with the things over (which I only had partial control over) By putting more time and effort into different areas that I knew I had complete control over, I would be more prepared and more confident on Saturday, when I would step on the court.
Even though this is one of the smallest categories it was the foundation of the list’s creation as foreigners living inside Finland often find themselves in front of the computer/ TV all day long if not bed ridden for most of the day. For me to take back my tranquility I needed to take back the control and not succumb to my surroundings whether it was the team’s lack of success, the weather and the most debilitating part of living in Finland, the darkness.
One of the first values on my original list, I knew that if I read a little each day I would be more informed, a little wiser and much more confident with how I wanted to live my life. Each year the reading material has morphed into a new topic but I’ve worked hard to stay consistent with taking time out of each day to read.
Sports psychology, plant based diets, stoicism, meditation, Buddhism and minimalism have been the most recent topics of interest for me. Taking time out of my day to read goes hand in hand with my philosophy on life that we grow step by step and it has to be a conscious effort and consistent with how your view your values.
This is something I have always fought against but I become a big believer that with a clean house you gain peace and tranquility from whatever trouble or stress from the outside world.
When I enter my house I am able to leave the noise, confusion and chaos outside, while at the same token, a sense of clarity and calm to begin my day with.
(Bed) The first thing I do to start my day is by making my bed every morning. By completing this, I’ve already accomplished the first task of the day and with it a sense of pride and momentum to continue working and completing task after task.
(TY) as in Thank You. With gratitude, I know I am a happier person and when I am happier I am more prepared to take on the challenges of the day with the best attitude possible. It’s an easy way to begin the day with abundance and it’s how I set the foundation for a great day.
Meditate 1, 2, 3
Before starting my day, I make a morning tea and spend 10-20 meditating, similar to the morning I conclude the day the same way.
The goal is to create moments throughout the day where I can take a step back from the outside world and build upon the space I hope to take back into the world in between stimulus and response.Mediation has been pivotal for me, in life and in competition but I will expand on this on the upcoming blogs.
This is the category I’ve expanded the most on throughout my career as I believe it is the single most important thing I can work on inside and outside of volleyball. How I can take care of myself is the single most important thing I can do to have the biggest impact on the world around me. As the cliché goes, “take care of yourself first or you will have nothing left to give others.”
I am absolutely committed to giving myself the love, nutrition and care my body needs so that I can therefore give to others. I feel I have grown a ton in this area, as you will see in the list but I also believe it is something where I will never stop seeking to learn more.
As focused as I’ve had throughout my youth dedicated to the gym and getting bigger and stronger, I never invested in stretching. That was until my second season in Finland, where my Russian coach pushed down on my back as I was fake stretching and verbalized that if I ever wanted to be a great libero I would have to commit to becoming more flexible.
As the list began, stretching along with reading was key for me taking back control as I would spend 20 minutes after practice slowly stretching and another 30 minutes back at my house before I would go to bed.
This has truly been a process, from working with Eric Vance in Orange, France pushing on each other’s back in vain, to when I was in Ajaccio, France watching YouTube videos meant for aspiring young gymnast. I’ve loved the day by day focus and commitment needed to push my body and to find flexibility and strength needed to endure long seasons.
Before training, after training, at home when we have free days, I am constantly on my foam-roller working to break up scar tissue and using it like stretching to improve mobility and flexibility.
In 2011 I gave up meat and dairy to pursue a more plant based diet and with the benefits I have felt, I’ve continued to read and search for other edges foods can hold for the body. One of things I ended up experimenting in Ajaccio, France was eating a raw diet until dinner. (Food that has not been cooked or food that has not been heated above 40 °C (104 °F). I didn’t feel any huge affects until the days where I would forgo a raw lunch and cook myself a hardy, warm meal. Time after time I would catch myself at practice feeling a little slow, a little tired and it was always after a day I had a cooked lunch.
That summer, lethargy creep into my afternoon practices for USA Volleyball after eating the provided cooked food at our training center. To combat this, I decided I would pack another smoothie along with my post workout smoothie for lunch and would pick off the fruit platter and the low I had previously felt going into our afternoon practice slowly dissipated. This is another topic where I will expand greatly on in the next blog.
One of the original values on my first list, as simple as it sounds where I would take time out of my day and do core exercises at my house. The simple but powerful act of moving and strengthening my core a little each day, rather than just sitting in my house all day until training.
Making sure I add 3-10g of creatine in my morning smoothie everyday.
Something I began last year, which I have really found positive results from and another topic where I will expand on. I’ll usually start the day with 1-2 cups of coffee and going into the 2nd training I will forgo the afternoon coffee for a homemade cold-pressed juice. My typical juice contains carrots, beets, tumeric, ginger and an apple or a stalk of celery, a cucumber and tons of kale.
A blue-green algae freshwater plant that I will add in my morning smoothie, it has a plethora of benefits but the one I believe is key is it’s ability to detox heavy metals (especially Arsenic) I’ll get into the other benefits when I expand on the list.
This is checked off, if and only if I stop my caffeine consumption before 2:00PM, to say the least this isn’t often completed on game days but having a caffeine curfew is something that is pivotal to getting a good nights sleep as caffeine. Caffeine's effect on the brain causes increased neuron firing. The pituitary gland senses this activity and thinks some sort of emergency must be occurring, so it releases hormones that tell the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, while also binding to our adenosine receptor. Adenosine inhibits arousal and causes sleepiness, however, caffeine doesn't slow down the cell's activity like adenosine would.
Magnesium has been found to help decrease cortisol, (the stress hormone) that can keep you up at night. It also has been found to help muscles relax and is absorbed best by the skin, before I go to bed I will use a magnesium spray on and rub into my skin.
Something that I first learned about in Finland was the glaring impact a lack of vitamin D can have on the body and mind mostly with regards to serotonin.
Serotonin is the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, it rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure. Unless you are in Italy or on an island, Vitamin D isn’t to be found naturally in the winter and therefore needs to be substituted in pill form.
The Normatec is a machine that USA Volleyball travels with that uses pulsing compression to contract and relax your legs with the goal of improving the circulation and helping speed up recovery.
During my year playing in Ajaccio (an island in France) I started to feel inflammation creep up more and more after our road trips as we had to fly to every away match. I ended up putting my money where my mouth and bought a machine for myself.
As in processed food. After I went plant based I became more sensitive to how my body reacts to different types of food, especially processed food like chips, certain breads or other transformation of raw ingredients, by physical or chemical means into food.
I usually will have one day a week where I will let myself have some type of processed food as I know I will find myself in odd situations where I will have nothing else but processed food and I need my body to be able to accept these moments. Other than that I am very conscious in that my body works best when I consume a plant based diet where the food is as close to it’s original form.
As a vegan you can get this in fortified foods or in pill form, for me it is very easy, simple and cheap in the pill form as I take it each day with my morning smoothie.
Extra as in extra work before or after practice. This has not been a problem this year with my Polish team as an average day consists of 2-3 trainings and we are constantly working on our ball control and reception.
In past years I’ve had a lot of experiences where I felt I wasn’t improving how I wanted to and would make sure I would either arrive early for practice or stay late and focus on one area of my game where I could improve on.
Journaling represents a major foundation of mindfulness and intention for me. It has helped me so much through my journey that I took the time to build a daily journal, along with 21 articles on mindfulness and how the themes can benefits athletes on and off the court. Get it here.
3 things I am I grateful for today?
What do I want to improve today?
3 things that are completely in my control
3 things that I am most proud of?
Todays greatest test was?
What did I learn from it?
What do I want to improve tomorrow?
What can I do differently tomorrow?
[1-10] How strong was my solution mindset when problems occurred
Watching video has been pivotal in helping me outwork other players and making sure I’m as prepared as possible so when the match starts I’m one step ahead everyone else.
I’ve now worked myself into 3 categories for watching video.
1. Watching other athletes in my position who’s style, technique or play I admire and would like to learn from.
2. Watching video on myself to see what I’m doing well and what I can do better in my upcoming week of training.
3. Watching matches of the upcoming opponent.
There it is, the “list” - my daily routine, the secret to how I live and push with purpose. I make sure this is in plain sight in my house so everyday I can make sure I am actually walking the walk and living each day with purpose.
I will expand on each value in the next 3 blogs but I felt it was important to lay the ground work on how the list came about and a little bit of information on each value I’ve included over time.
Step by step.. with intentional, consistent, incremental improvements, this is my rock and my foundation as I have never been the best athlete or the most technical player. But with each day, I am more prepared, more confident and am filled with more abundance to live my life how I want to, with purpose and passion.
With this blog I will continue to share what has helped me throughout my journey in hopes that younger players can pick and choose values that I have listed and steps that have helped me to help them become their best possible self, leap frogging the roadblocks that I have run into along this wild ride that has taken me from Finland to Poland.