In the Fun Zone with Gillian Young Barkalow

I met up with the great Gillian Young Barkalow and we shot some looks for Xandra Swimwear in the Capitola Village

Summer is here, Capitola is alive with tourism and the fun energy of people on vacation. This dress really expresses that fun vibrant feeling you get when you go on vacation.

Work is fine, work is good, but you should never underestimate the power of the Fun Zone.

Always fun to work with Gillian. Stay tuned for more looks!

Kicking Ass, Sustainably

Growth comes with pain. It can be a challenge to separate your feelings from the results. Having some objective measure of your progress can help to stabilize your work. Feeling great or feeling horrible are beside the point. You are trying to build something, working to make something happen.

Managing our resources matters more now than ever. As we rebuild our economy and enter back into an active social and work life, we are sure to experience some growing pains. The question is: how do we create a system for measuring our progress in this new world? Do we measure our results in Bitcoin?

Slow growth is the most reliable growth. As something you are working on becomes bigger it exerts more pressure on the system that supports it. That pressure can reveal any flaws in the design, which can then be addressed and improved. Too much pressure on a system that has weaknesses will cause the system to fail at those points. Growing slowly allows you to identify and address the weaknesses in the system.

Why does separating your feelings from the results matter so much in this process? Because there is going to be pain, your success depends upon a willingness to push through the discomfort that is a natural consequence of the work, but you also need to be able to withstand the criticism that is necessary to improve the process. You deal with the pain without it affecting your motivation. Easier said than done.

This is the real battle, the bigger challenge. It is wrestling with the negative feelings that are intrinsic to the process of growth and improvement. How do feelings impact growth? In immeasurable ways. Motivation itself is a mindset that has an emotional register. Being depressed is the same as having a lack of motivation, it is an emotional deficit. If we can intellectually understand the value of achieving our goal, then we can work through the pain much more easily. 

The trap is to try to use positive emotions to motivate the process. That is how we end up chasing dragons. If we are motivated by the emotional rewards of our work, then we get caught up in the same logic that can immobilize you when things don’t go well. If you don’t have that emotional carrot, what happens to the system?

The real goal is to see the work as a necessary part of the process that is paid for in pain. Exercise is important to physical fitness and working out makes you sore and tired. If you understand the value of it, you will do it. It really is as simple as that.

How do you make that shift so that you can decide to do the work and follow through on it instead of constantly reacting to pain or pleasure as motivations? When does this go too far? If we are too focused on achieving an objective, do we miss out on the process? Everything is a slider: too light or too dark and it’s up to you to find the happy middle.

The point is not to ignore emotions but to have trained yourself to be able to withstand temptation, to resist the will to quit. Like a dog with a treat balanced on its head, you are in this strange position of commanding yourself to wait. This is the secret of discipline. It doesn’t make feeling go away. If anything, it gives you occasion to experience emotions more deeply. Not only does the treat taste better after waiting, but the waiting itself is the sweetest taste. The feeling of being in control of your own actions is better than any baked good.

What do we do with those emotions? A big part of mental health is having a way of dealing with intense emotions. Everyone has some form of trauma they are dealing with and with algorithms hunting for our deepest emotional triggers we are sure to confront some things that provoke strong emotional reactions. Having a therapeutic practice helps to keep a healthy relationship with your own emotions.

Most of our physical sensations are a result of our lifestyle, particularly our diet and our exercise. We can choose to consume and to do things that make us feel good in the short term or the long run. Eating cake and watching movies in bed might be a spike of positive pleasure but it comes at a price. The same is true emotionally. We can choose things that will provide a sense of escape, or we can design a system that helps us to find constructive methods of coping that will improve our situation.

The era of trolling is coming to an end. We need engineers and builders to redesign our infrastructure. We are here to construct new bridges, not to sit underneath them. The task is much bigger and so cooperation with others is mandatory. This cooperation and collaboration will work better when we decide that the results of our work matter more than feelings. Neither shame nor pride will get us where we need to go. Instead, we need courage, hope and curiosity. When we lead with a desire to build and to do better, we turn down the volume on our emotions to a reasonable level. 

What kinds of practices help you to process your emotions? Do you keep a journal? Have you tried talking to a therapist? What kinds of activities are therapeutic to you? Spending time in the great outdoors, being by the water, getting exercise in a natural setting and laughing with friends helps me to reset my emotional clock, to process my feelings and to return to the work refreshed. 

The Politics of Positivity and Self-Improvement

We are in this together. The power of our combined forces is strong enough to transform the world. When we truly unite, we can make miracles happen. When we find synergy, we make light work of heavy tasks.

We have every reason to work as a team. The purpose of coming together is clear as spring water. We can build a better future for our kids. Every part of our culture and of our economy has changed and this is our chance to reimagine it. 

Remaining respectful during times of crisis will earn us respect. Finding ways to resolve our own internal conflicts in order to show up in a way that is productive to dialogue will create trust. Making time to communicate will keep the conversation moving forward. The better we become at these things through practice, the more powerful our collaborations will be.

Setting a positive tone is a radical gesture in a world where the default mode is fighting. Taking the more challenging path of optimism in the face of daunting odds displays more courage and attracts our admiration. Rising above the instinct to argue by passionately pursuing an activity, a relationship, a way of living opens up another important space in our culture. The confidence that comes from practice will reinforce our choice and over time the habit of being radically positive will create a space. All the things that fill this space of radical positivity will become the new lifestyle.

Practices that promote fitness and mental health, like eating foods with nutritional value, exercising regularly, reading and researching to educate yourself about best practices, all of these things will improve our collective situation. By improving yourself, you improve the collective. The more disciplined we can be in taking care of our own business, the more influential we stand to become in the long run.

Self-improvement is closely related to and different than self-promotion. The desire to improve your product, your service or how you communicate about your business leads to better outcomes for everyone. When we encourage and incentivize the desire to be better, to self-improve, then we nurture a culture of progress. The stronger that tendency to desire education, to study and practice a craft, the greater the learning curve will be. 

Presidential Fitness and Lifestyle Marketing

I have a theory about obesity. Why is it on the rise? Is it because our marketing has improved? Or is it because we have not taken marketing seriously enough?

Marketing is a debate. It is an argument made by an organization in favor of a product or service. People are influenced by marketing. That is undeniable. The rise in obesity has coincided with the popularity of social media. Are people so distracted and seduced by what they are seeing on their phones, that they are unable to resist temptation? 

How have people been convinced that the pleasure they get from eating junk food is better than the pleasure they would feel from being physically fit? If we believe that marketing works then why don’t we market back harder? At least that would be a plan of action. Why don’t we offer products that are better, that have nutritional value, and market the absolute hell out of them? 

It’s time for the health-conscious industry to start breaking out the big guns. We can wait till people start demanding better options, or we can create them and provide tremendous value to a public with a lot of problems. Obesity is an entirely preventable condition, and it will only take a decision to aggressively market a healthy relationship to food and body size. 

One of the problems we have had so far is that some of the people who work in the fitness industry in one way or another have been effective at marketing to people who are already actively trying to get fit, but they have been heavy handed and flat footed when it comes to recruiting people to join their movement. Arnold Schwarzenegger made presidential fitness cool in the early 90s for a minute, but it was ultimately a flop.

Fitness has been on the agenda for the U.S. since the 1950s. According to the official U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website, the council “began in 1956, when President Eisenhower established the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. After more than 6 decades, we are now the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition, and we strive to engage, educate, and empower all Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition.”

One of the key words that keeps coming up in my research of this topic is lifestyle. As someone who does content marketing, lifestyle photography is a big part of what I think about and practice. Lifestyle marketing is a massive part of how social media marketing works and it only makes sense for people who care about health to promote their message, to market their lifestyle, on those channels. Unfortunately, they are not living up to their own mission statement: to engage, educate, and empower. At best, they are doing some good in the second category, but without channels on all the relevant social media platforms how do they imagine they will create engagement?

We must not continue to fail in the competition for the public’s attention. Brands selling junk food understand the power of marketing and are winning the day. So-called health food is still a niche market. Organic is becoming more and more mainstream, but too slowly. If we truly want to promote healthy lifestyles to prevent disease and to create competitive advantage, then we need to market the lifestyle. 

Imagine if the U.S. Department of Health took an aggressive approach and invested heavily in social media and content marketing. Nolan Ryan and Arnold Schwarzenegger are the two famous influencers they have used in the past and they did have an impact. They were influential. Imagine if the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition were able to recruit thousands or hundreds of thousands of influencers to promote their message. What if brands who want to produce health-conscious food products were given loans or grants to develop and market those products?

We are losing the health wars. Michelle Obama started an initiative called “Let’s Move” that had a strong ambition. Their website states that they are “dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation.” Their methodology on how to achieve that was not and is not robust enough to even move the needle in the right direction. Indeed, rates of obesity are increasing with no sign of moving in the opposite direction. We can’t imagine that simply providing people with education about fitness is going to motivate them to make the lifestyle changes necessary. Lifestyle marketing is the answer to the lifestyle problem that is linked to obesity. If we want people to eat better and to exercise more, then we need to develop those products and market the lifestyle. It is a contest for the attention of the U.S. public’s attention and the side selling junk food and sedentary entertainment sure are not waiting around to see if people will choose them. They are aggressively marketing a lifestyle based around their products, and it is working.