I’d like to preface this article by reminding everyone of a lifestyle choice/way of thinking that I strongly believe has made me into a strong, fit, healthy young man. I’ve talked about it in the past so I won’t beat it to death here. If you want something, you have to go get it. Make the means to do so because nobody else will do it for you. You can cause change, but you have to be the change.
Today, I’ll be talking about leading a healthy lifestyle. It’s not always about loosing weight or whatever. In fact, very little of what I say today is about losing weight. It’s about becoming healthier. It’s about improving our quality of life. It’s about feeling successful. Sticking with something until we’ve seen it through to the end and becoming a better version of ourselves for it. It’s about general wellness and actually giving a shit about ourselves. About not becoming a stereotype or statistic. Not as a member of the gaming community and certainly not in our regular life. That being said, let's get right to it!
Untap, Upkeep, Draw. Three words that we’ve said over and over in our minds when learning to play the game of Magic. Untap, Upkeep, Draw. Over and over and over. Three words that, as enfranchised Magic players, are as much a part of our way of thinking as getting up and eating breakfast. We know it through and through, right? And after that, Pre-combat Main Phase. Attack Phase. Post-combat Main Phase. We got this!
But what about when we were new? What if you are currently a new player? What if you’re teaching someone the game? How many times did you need or give a reminder? Untap your lands. Or, can you hear yourself saying to your protégé, ‘remember to untap’. During combat, ‘you have tap your creatures to show that they’re attacking’. Then, again on your turn, untap, upkeep, draw as an out-loud demonstration of how to do things. Anyone who's taught anyone the game has done it!
In teaching the game of Magic, one must practice great patience and persistence. And to learn the game, one must be patient and dedicated. There’s lots to learn, lots to do and it can certainly feel overwhelming. The same can be true of any new undertaking you find yourself on. Today, I’d like to delve into that a bit.
With the holiday season fast approaching, we’re all making sure that our last-minute gifts are purchased, sent, wrapped, etc. We are travelling home to see loved ones, celebrating the year that was 2018. That’s all fine and well, but what happens when we head back to our regular lives at the start of 2019? Tons of people flock to gyms and health food stores. People want to ‘get in the best shape of their life’! This is going to be our year, right? Let’s get that new treadmill on boxing day for half off! Maybe we’ll use it for a couple weeks and see some lifestyle improvements. Maybe we’ll shed a few of those Christmas pounds. Then what? Maybe we’ll skip the treadmill today, we’re really tired. What’s another drink or slice of pizza. Our New Years resolution partner won’t know. Before we know it, our new treadmill turns into the most expensive coat hanger we’ve ever owned. The supplements and protein powders we bought in January expire, un-consumed. We revert right back to our old habits, our old ways. Our old lifestyle. Our same old self that we were two months ago. We didn’t anticipate that it would be this hard. That a long-lasting commitment to wellness was required. This is the functional equivalent to showing up to games night as a non-Magic player, expecting to learn. Then, not playing for a year and going back the following January expecting to qualify for the Pro Tour! It doesn’t work like that. Any change you want to see realized is going to take some commitment, some learning and some perseverance. You have to live that Untap, Upkeep, Draw Lifestyle.
Maybe it was because we were overwhelmed. Maybe it was because it’s hard to learn something new. Maybe because it’s hard to stay committed (that’s the hardest part, in my experience as a coach/trainer). Let’s take a closer look with a particular eye for becoming a healthier version of ourselves.
It can be very overwhelming stepping into a fitness facility for the first time. Or, for the first time in a long time, for some of us. The monetary cost alone can be overwhelming! Then there’s all this foreign equipment. And where’s the remote for that TV so it doesn’t look like you’re watching Dr. Phil on the treadmill. And the people! Especially in January. Other New Years resolution’ers. The old naked dudes in the change room! Oh god! What if there’s old naked dudes?! It’s true, there may be some. That’s all part of the gig though. If you’re serious about becoming healthier, those are some things that you might have to deal with. Remember, Untap, Upkeep, Draw. One phase at a time. It gets easier.
On the matter of cost – you don’t need an expensive gym membership and super expensive motivational personal trainers to help you become healthier. You could just start by walking. Yes, just walking. The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends thirty minutes of walking per day to help prevent or reverse the onset of heart disease in adults. Seems like a lot, right? But they also say that thirty minutes of walking can be broken down into three, ten to fifteen minute, bouts throughout the day¹. That doesn’t seem too bad. One walk at a time. Your Untap walk, Upkeep walk, Draw walk. You see the point I'm attempting to get through? You can make it part of your every day life. Just like every turn in Magic. Stick with it.
Another option would be to workout from home. You don’t even need equipment when you’re first starting out. A simple Google search of ‘best body weight exercises’ will give you a ton of new things to try. And you can do them from the comfort and safety of your own basement or yard.
If that’s not for you, or like me, you live in The Great White North, maybe walking or working out in your yard isn’t the most enjoyable. It gets dark by 4:30pm in January. And it’s cold. Very cold. Instead, maybe try hit up a couple gyms that give free trial memberships. They’re usually two weeks or so (That’s a way to game the system for a free month of membership). Learn as much as you can. Talk to the attendants. They’re usually quite versed in gym equipment and exercising. They probably work there just so they can work out for free. They can be your mentor for the session. Just ask. It's their job to help you. Just Untap, Upkeep, Draw. Once you break the ice and step through the door, everything else is easier.
Additionally, over the years, I’ve come up with a few pieces of advice that I always like to share with fledgling health/fitness aficionados:
We’ll cover it more in the future but, on the subject of food and beverage consumption, what I’d like to say is this:
Exercise should never be used as a form of punishment for eating. Also, lack of exercise (missing your workout) should never make you skip a meal. Proper nutrition and exercise go hand in hand. They need to exist harmoniously with one another. Never use them against one another. The take home message is simple:
The final bit that I’d like to touch on today is that there are a ton of people like you and I out there. People that might be first starting. People who want to become better. People who are gamers and realize that the lifestyle we lead isn’t the healthiest. I’ve met a ton of people just because I was watching Dragon Ball Z on my phone on the treadmill, for example. Dudes come up to me if I’m wearing a gaming shirt or what have you. That kind of thing happens! See if you can start a brotherhood of gamers at your local gym. It’s not all muscle heads and spandex, I promise you that! Challenge your friends. Make it part of your weekly routine together. The bonds you build with friends and family through the adversity of committing to a healthier life style are like no other.
I’ll save any further specifics for another article entry. Today is about getting out of our chair and starting. I hope that I have encouraged you enough to make change. Please let me know in the comments or on Twitter. I’m always open to talk about Magic, being healthy and becoming better.
I cast Arixmethes, the Slumbering Isle after I played my land for the turn, a Forest. It’s my turn two and I’ve already got a Sol Ring and an Island. Sounds pretty awesome, right? It gets better! I untap on turn three and play my land, another Island. I tap Arixmethes for green/blue to cast a Utopia Sprawl enchanting my forest. With my floating blue mana and the green I got from my forest, I cast Snap. I target my opponent’s only (potential) blocker. Snap resolves and I untap Arixmethes and my enchanted forest. Thus far, I’ve netted a blue mana from my Utopia Sprawl. With said blue mana, I Brainstorm. I know, sorcery speed Brainstorm on turn three is probably bad but just keep reading. I dig three down and find a Cloud of Faeries and a Berserk. I keep both. I tap Arixmethes again to cast the faeries. I tap my forest in response so I can untap both again when Cloud of Faeries resolves. Now, I have a green and a blue in my mana pool. I empty my pool and cast a Blighted Agent. Really, just a random creature in my hand. Count the spells suckers! Sprawl, Snap, Brainstorm, Cloud of Faeries, Blighted Agent. Looks like Arixmethes doesn’t have any more slumber counters on him. I Cast Berserk targeting Arix. Beat wholesale ass for lethal commander damage! Eff you Jesse!
I get it. Pretty Magical Christmas Land. But, this short story highlights a few things that I’ve been thinking about lately. In fact, the game of Magic, and how we as individual players execute in-game strategies has got me thinking quite a bit.
You see, everyone always talks about their in-game plan. If you’re an aggro deck, on a grass-roots level, your plan goes something like this – cast creatures as soon as possible. Start attacking. Control, like this – find some way to gain card advantage. Maybe cast a sweeper to deal with that aggro player’s creatures. Set them back all that mana they have already spent. I think we all have a pretty good idea of what our own, ideal, in-game plan looks like for a given deck or strategy. As players of this game, we understand what success looks like and how to achieve it. What that really means is, we have an end goal – winning the game – and we play towards that with the most effective strategy at that time. Essentially, we plan on our decisions panning out in our favor. Dare I be so bold to say, we even assume that we will be successful in our attempts to carry out our plan or strategy. We have to assume we'll be successful. If we didn't, why else would we do anything if we just thought we'd fail ALL THE TIME?
In my Arixmethes story, I saw a means to an end. Cast my five spells all in one turn and crash in for lethal commander damage. With a little bit of forethought, I decided it was worth the risk to go for broke. After all, what was the worst that could happen. It was only turn three. There would have been plenty of time to rebuild or catch back up had my plan gone sour.
You’re probably thinking, ‘get to the point, Ryan’. So here it is. Plan for success! Everywhere you can. All too often we stifle ourselves because we think we’ll fail. We avoid the ideal. We make concessions. We do the opposite of what we really want because we expect to fail. Because we’re scared to fail even. Instead, what if we asked ourselves, ‘what happens if I’m successful’? Or, ‘What if everything goes according to plan’? That’s what we do in Magic. We make our opponent have an answer. We make our opponent play around us. We do what we plan to do because that’s what’s best for us! We crash in for twenty-four! On turn four! That's how we win.
In Magic, we go for it. How many times have you swung in without knowing exactly what was going to happen? Probably a ton of times when it was potentially game-winning. Of course, there’s technical decision making involved that allows you to make the best possible choices. You know, everything else in your life isn't really that different, You can make calculated decisions based on your relationships, your career, your life. You can! It sounds kinda funky, but start making Magic decisions! Imagine all the great opportunities that would unfold in front of you if you approached everything from a place of assumed-success, like you already do in Magic.
That being said, here's a few things to keep in mind that have worked well for me:
- Focus on being kind when making decisions that effect a relationship or the people around you. Kindness is (usually) king.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. That's a great way to make a plan that may involve others. Also, if it makes other people feel good, you've probably already won.
- For your career, be confident and vocal with what your plans for success are!
- Work on developing an idea of where you want your current position to take you. With that info in hand, you'll be able to gauge if you're on the right track to achieving your goal.
- Remember, they gave you that job we're talking about because you interviewed well. You have a great personality (I know this because you're a member of CCONation) and because you were qualified.
Make up your own examples to put your own spin on what I’m saying. The point is, instead of backing down or avoiding challenges, ask yourself, what do you get if you’re successful. We ask ourselves that all the time when we play Magic. We make plans based on that mind set. We're successful a lot of the time as a result. We know how to do it. Lets transfer some of it over into our real life.
Think of it this way; that person in Accounting might say yes to a dinner date. Go ahead, ask what they’re doing next Friday. Or maybe you’d feel pretty good after twenty minutes of exercise this afternoon. Energized instead of exhausted. Especially after a long day at work. Those sound like a couple small steps to start you down that path of planning for success.
And what’s the worst that could happen. You get turned down for that date. You’re tired after being on the treadmill (or whatever) and sleep better that evening. At least you were exhilarated. At least you were doing something healthy. At least you lived. Just like my Arixmethes story. I had a ton of fun that game. I was engaged and excited. Sure, I could have gotten blown out as soon as Arix became a creature. Instead of focusing too much mental energy on that though, I asked myself, ‘What do I get if I’m successful?’ The result was my plan coming to fruition, crushing my opponent’s dreams. Awesome. And, big deal if it didn’t work out. I’d just have to make a new game plan. I’d rebuild over the remainder of the game. It was only turn three, after all. I guess I’d just swing for the fences again on turn seven if I had to!
Hello and welcome to the inaugural article from Commander Cookout! I am so excited to be able to give you all a little more CCO content to consume. And what better way to kick things off than to pull back my curtain a little. Do not Google that! We’ve done this several times on the podcast proper but I feel as though a written article might be a better platform for some of this kind of stuff. That way we don’t slow down the pace of the podcast.
My intention is that this kick-off article will set the tone for a portion of the future content on CommanderCookout.com. We aim to fill the gap in Magic content that causes general wellness, to be missed. The goal is to create an identity online that radiates good vibes and leaves a lasting impression in your mind and body. We want to make you think or challenge you to better yourself.
Everything will be rooted in Magic but not always about Magic. More than anything else though, we’d like you to be entertained and engaged. You'll find that Brando and I write in a very similar style that we speak in. If the podcast entertains you, this should too. When you leave the website, like finishing an episode of the podcast, we’d like it to feel as though you had a thoughtful and fun time. Most of this type of content will be focused on things that we already enjoy talking about. Good times with friends, hanging out, drinking beer and funny stories. Additionally, instead of talking about Magic: the Gathering specifically, a lot of the time we’ll be addressing the Magic players directly. It might be in a challenge that we throw out there for the week. Maybe it will be a fun new way to approach the game. Whatever it is, the goal is to be engaging and entertaining.
If you’re into any of that kind of thing, let’s get onto the main article!
As of this writing, it’s been five hundred and fifty-six days since the first episode of Commander Cookout Podcast went live. In that time, the podcast, and the CCO brand in general, have seen some great successes. For those successes, Brando and I are very grateful. We’ve expanded our broadcasting platforms to include multiple websites, mobile platforms, YouTube and others. We couldn’t ask for a better audience, either. The positive support was far more than we ever expected! The constant communications. The offerings of ideas, inspiration and kudos. The tweets and re-tweets. Facebook shares and follows. I could go on and on but I’m not an ass kisser.
In short, CCONation: Thank you very much! We wouldn't be here without you.
However, in that time, it wasn’t all songs and dances and kumbayas. There were some real life struggles. I had lost my career job. The job that I had thought I was going to work at for many years to come. Essentially, my plan to get me to the end game. As a result, there were late nights laying in bed wondering if we’d be OK - my wife and I, that is. Not Brando and I. That would be weird. Arguments, stress, lack of sleep, I could go on and on here too but then I’d sound like a complainer. I want to keep this as positive as possible. Let me summarize by saying that I was getting very depressed. I was the opposite person than I was only months prior. A confident and successful professional in many walks of life reduced to a jobless, insecure new dad with no idea what the hell I was going to do. It was like I just over-extended and walked straight into a well-timed sweeper.
When I lost my job, all of the sudden, it was like I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t really like the line of work I was in and wanted to do something else. However, all my experience was in the line of work I was just doing. Would I find work doing something else? I'd never been laid off before. Where would I go from here? I wasn’t good at finding a job. I was good at doing work! I was good at holding a job. And what if I failed? What then? Money. House. Four-month-old baby. Wife not working because she’s on maternity leave. Pressure from extended family. It felt like I was at the center of the highest stakes game of all time (insert game of Life pun). Shit seemed bad. I was slipping downhill. The game was sliding away from me. I wasn’t doing anything to advance my board state because I didn’t know what to do. I felt like a life noob.
Looking back, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all, sort of, been there. For anyone currently in that scenario, let me encourage you to fight through it. Be the change that you’d like to realize. Make a plan and execute to your plan. Even if it’s a small plan just to get you through the day. It’s OK to take it day by day. Step by step. Whatever end goal you have in mind, work towards it. And never scoop!
I was reminded of that kind of thinking one night while I was having a conversation with my brother-in-law. A burly, bearded, lumberjack of a man who’s made his living as a business owner and a singer in a band. Two things that don’t usually mix. We were chatting about what our wives thought about our atypical lines of work. Him being in a band and myself altering Magic cards in between jobs. We were an odd couple to be talking shop, I'd say. Either way, there we were, a hard-working self starter type, and a hard working, card painting, just-got-laid-off type. Yes, I’ll call myself a hard worker. We were just drinking beer and hanging out as friends.
I said, “What did Rebecca and Sarah’s (our wives) family think when you started singing? What does anyone think?”
Him, “I don’t know. I don’t care what anyone thinks. Not any more. My stress level went way down when I stopped giving a shit what people thought of me.”
I though that was an excellent way to put it. That was exactly what I needed to hear at that point in time. It was inspiring and made me feel good. We hung out some more and drank a few more beers. Eventually we came back around to our conversation from earlier.
I remarked, “I think I know what you’re going to say, but I’ll say this anyways. I think I’ll feel dumb when I tell people that I just paint Magic cards and that’s what my job is. Like, that's not a real job. What would people think of that? What if...”
He cut off my next sentence, “Fuck what people think, dude! It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you and the people around you are safe and happy.”
While somewhat abrupt, this comment was also inspiring. We drank more beer and then went our separate ways. It was like leaving the tavern in an RPG. I was given that tid-bit of information that would be instrumental for my character later in the game. The info that would boost my stats and rekindle my confidence.
Over the next little while, I couldn’t help but compare my brother-in-law's line of thinking to how Brando approaches content creation and ideas for CCOPodcast. He wants to do his own thing. He was determined to do something different when we started the show all those five-hundred-and-some days ago. 'Let's NOT be like everyone else' he'd say. Brando owns the hell out of whatever he lays his hands on. When he creates something, it’s all his. He doesn’t give two licks what anyone else thinks. It’s always refreshing to hear his ideas. And inspiring. They’re genuine and unfiltered because he doesn’t care if I think the ideas are good or bad. He’s putting ideas out there because he’s a creator. Then, when I expanded that personality trait, I realized that was just how Brando operated. Not just as a creator, but as a person. I thought it sounded like a very healthy way to approach many of the problems I was facing. I was stuck between trying to find a ‘real job’ and wanting a Magic job. To produce content and do alterations on Magic cards, specifically. I started to think, I should just do what I love instead of trying to make people think that I’m ‘normal’. I could be successful doing whatever I want. I'll just have to work hard. Like at a 'real job'. I believe this was the point that things started to turn for me. Something clicked. It felt as though the tiniest of sparks inside of me was kindled. And there it stayed, stewing. Awaiting fuel.
Fast forward a couple months, I was sitting with my wife and told her what my brother-in-law said some months back. To my delight, she agreed! She wanted me to be happy. What wife doesn’t, right? She added that as long as I can help take care of our new son and was the best father I could be, that she didn’t care what I did for work. She didn't care what people thought of her husband. As long as I was doing the best I knew how to. Regardless of what job I was doing. According to her, as long as we had a safe place to live and we could be together, then she had everything she needed. She encouraged me to go after what I wanted. Because she wanted me to be happy! That was the final piece of confidence boosting inspiration that I required. Like top decking Bolt when the bad guy is at three. Straight gas for that little spark of mine! I instantly knew what I was going to do.
I poured myself into altering Magic cards. I started selling them again. I saw some success. It felt great! I dove into producing a high-quality podcast and preparing to launch additional content for CommanderCookout.com. I was encouraged by members of the community. I started to feel a sense of pride and purpose and contribution again. Not just for my family but for this community that I was working for. And most importantly, for myself. It really felt – and continues to feel like – I’m on the correct path now. Not stuck in some job that I didn't even like in the first place. Just to feel 'normal'. It now feels like I am ready to charge forward and expand CCONation. To make it the best damn version of itself. All I had to do is let go of what everyone else thought.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll get to the moral of the story. If you want something, go get it. If you don’t have the means to get what you want, make the means. Get educated on how to get what you want. The resources are out there. Literally everything is a Google search away. After that, set goals and make a plan to accomplish them. Then you grind. Take some time to reflect on your plan and goals, then grind some more. Even if it’s day by day, step by step. It’s possible. Make change happen. Be the change. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you want it, no more excuses. Find reasons to DO things instead of reasons NOT to do things. I promise, you’ll be happier for it. Shift your focus onto what you want instead of what's holding you back. All you have to do is stop giving a crap what people are going to think of you and start doing what is best for you.
I was caught in a job that I really didn’t like because that’s what I thought people needed to do to be normal. I cared too much about what people thought. My boss, my extended family, my friends, the bank. As soon as I started to let it all go, I was no longer blocked off from doing what I love. Letting go allowed me to focus on the things that actually mattered. My own well being, and my family.
It can be the same for you. You want to lose weight? You want to get a new job? Qualify for the Pro Tour? Become and astronaut? It doesn’t matter what it is that you want. Go get it. And Eff what people think who are standing in your way. Even if that person is you. Put away doubt and insecurity and go after what you want.