Picking a Finish Line- Setting Goals

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors!

When you’re down as low as you can go, there’s nowhere else to go but up, right?

It’s not that going “up” is never possible EXCEPT when you’re face-down in a gutter- it just becomes the best of very few other options, and less distraction… or that your survival depends on your ability NOT to be distracted.

In the last few months, I went to some REALLY low places in my mind. Not “rock bottom” in any real sense- I still had a home, I still had food, my wife still loves me- but in my mind, none of that made a lick of difference. In some ways, it even made it worse- “Who am I to deserve all this? I’m an idiot, and I’ll lose it all eventually.”
“Why did I get out of bed today?”
“I’m disappointed in myself for going to work.”
“When did I give up dreaming? When did I stop wanting more?”

A job change, a slight mental break, and a new routine later, things are thankfully starting to balance out. My new job has me working evenings, so that means my mornings- and my best energies- can be spent on doing what makes me happy: exercising, reading, cuddling Miss Cleo, and of course, writing.

It’s a new kind of routine, so now is as good a time as any for me to start thinking again-

I feel more free than I used too… so what am I going to do with it?”

Sign post in tropical background, naming world cities

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pexels

It’s kind of weird for me to actually be writing about goals or goalsetting simply because, while I’ve absolutely HAD goals before… I never really thought of them as “goals,” or at least not structured as such.

I always saw them as “objectives,” or “missions,” or some other semantic dodge to make it feel less “self-help-bookish” and more “I’m doing this thing because I want to do it-”

 Get down to 165 lbs, what I was told is the heaviest I could be in the “healthy range” I could be.
What I Told Myself:  “Lose weight because otherwise you’ll die fat, sad, and in pain. 165 lbs sounds about right.”

Goal: Graduate culinary school, find a job baking, and eventually become a pastry chef.
What I Told Myself:  “I like baking. This is what I’d have to do to make that my job.” *cue years of hard work, saying “yes” or “no” as felt appropriate, and letting things happen.*

Goal: Write a blog, make it popular, and make it a career.
What I Told Myself: “I like writing, and people seem to like to read what I write. I should do that more often. Once a week sounds good… maybe more later.”

 Obviously, there was a little more to it than that- finding resources for how to lose weight, for example. Working hard in my vocations, and keep my eye open for opportunities. I never really laid anything out on PAPER though, or really thought “How will this help achieve ___ ends?” I can only imagine what it would be like if I had any kind of plan worked out.

That said, it’s not like I NEVER thought about what I wanted in life or how to get it.

Portrait of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

“No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”- General Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
Ever since I first found a quote by him in comic form on ZenPencils.com, I’ve been a pretty big fan of writer, traveler, and entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau. His website, “The Art of Non-Conformity” and his manifesto “A Brief Guide to World Domination” (which you can download for free through that link) got me thinking very hard about what kind of life I actually wanted to live, and how I wanted to live it. I strongly recommend everyone reading the whole thing, but I’ll sum it up with three big points Chris makes:

1. You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.


2. What can you offer the world that no one else can?

Ultimately, doing what you want is just fine. Living your life and accomplish your goals is great- but eventually, it’ll feel empty. You can rule the world- but that means you need to think about the world, and what you can give back.

In the manifesto, Guillebeau also linked to an interesting Goals Brainstorming exercise and workbook by Paul Myers, also available for free. It’s a pretty extensive exercise, and if you sit down and just decide to knock it out, it’ll probably take you a couple hours to do completely.

It’s absolutely worth the time though- consider it an investment in yourself. When was the last time you did that?
The beauty of the exercise is that it asks you first to visualize what your ideal life would be like- in gratuitous detail. Do you work? Doing what? Where do you live? How do you spend your day? What do you do with your downtime? And so on and so on…

Then it makes you write down what you have going for you now– and not just material and financial matters, though those are absolutely included. It makes you write down all of your skills and interests- ANYTHING you have knowledge in. All the people that you know, what they do, and if they can help you (seriously, I’d forgotten how many friends I actually have until I did this exercise.) Then with all of this in mind, you pull apart the elements of what you want:

What do you actually NEED to make this happen?
What steps do you need to take?
Is this something you actually want? Or is it a symbol of something else?

The last time I sat down and did it, I was living in New Jersey, burning myself out in the medical field and culinary school. I was miserable in life, and felt rudderless.

After the exercise, I made a few VERY strong insights about myself:
1. I already had everything I needed to do what I wanted.
2. I had people around that would help me if I needed it.
3. I needed to start making MYSELF more of a priority than I had.

Soon after, I decided to start up the original Black Hat Bakery. I started to lose weight, get healthier, and save money.

Seriously, give this a shot. You’re worth it.
While you’re at it, I strongly recommend Chris’s books as well:

The $100 Startup : This is the first book of his I picked up, shortly before being fired for the first time. It inspired me to relaunch as The Black Hat Baker here in Portland, and to try actually making a living out of this crazy thing I love.

Born For This:  Even if entrepreneurship isn’t for you (and it’s not for everyone!) that’s no reason you can’t have a life you love AND work for someone else. This book describes how you can mold your life and work to be something that excites you, rather than exhausts you.

Side Hustle- From Idea to Income in 27 Days: His most recent book, and one I’m currently reading. Because there’s nothing wrong with figuring out how to earn a little scratch on the side.

That’s all from me for now- I’ve got a worksheet to do, a beer to drink, and some emails to write.

What do you think? Are you gonna give this a try?
What kind of goals do you want to reach?

Stay Classy,

The BHB’s Top 5 Motivationals- Because Life Can Suck

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors.

I’m not going to lie- the last couple months have been more than a little rough.

Between letting my side work get away from me, leaving one job, trying to make something of this whole blogging thing, and now starting another day job with a different schedule, it all takes a toll.

We are all humans- not robots, not beasts of burden, not machines. No, not even professional cooks and chefs. EVERYONE has periods where they feel overextended. Exhausted. Burned out.

There’s no shame in that. No shame in needing help, time, or advice to put yourself back together. As the Tao Te Ching says,

“If you wish to be made whole, you must first allow yourself to be broken.”

Picture of Anthony Bourdain with the quote You tell ’em, Uncle Tony.





That’s where the true strength of will and character is- not in never cracking or failing, but stepping up and trying it all again.

Easier said than done, of course- but here are some of the quotes and wisdom I have been reminding myself of when things feel a bit too deep. No particular order, and I have many more- but here are some of my favorites, and why.

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The BHB’s Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

After last week… I suppose I should give the opposition equal time.

Realistically speaking, I’ve spent more years of my life (so far) NOT drinking alcohol, so you’d think I’d have more experience and opinions regarding sober solutions as opposed to potent potables.

Yes, “sober solutions” was a stretch. Sorry about that.

Anyway, here’s my list in no particular order, and reasons why.

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The BHB’s Christmas Music List (UPDATED FOR 2018!)

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

I had an excellent idea for something important to write about tonight, but then this whole freaking holiday thing happened….

So as a meanwhile, I figured I’d talk about music. While I myself am not Christian, I have been subjected to enough Christmas music in my life to have a small list of favorites that managed to somehow weasel their way into my grinchy, bitter little heart.

So here we go, in no particular order, with

The BHB’s Favorite Christmas Tunes

1. Bruce Springsteen- Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town
Now that I live out here in Portland, OR, I find myself enjoying stuff that reminds me of home a lot more often- and you can’t get much more Jersey than the Boss. All I need to hear is those opening notes and Bruce talking about snow on the beach and wind on the boardwalk, and I’ve gotta smile.“It’s all cold down on the beach… wind whipping down the boardwalk… Hey Dan! You know what time a’year it is?!”
2. Barenaked Ladies w/ Sarah McLaughlin- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/ We Three KingsI’ve been a big fan of BNL for quite a while, and the jazzy thumping upright bass is exactly what these old standards need.“Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain/ Gold I bring to crown him again…”

3. Dan Fogelberg- Same Old Lang Syne
This one is one of my sappy favorites. This is the time of year for looking back and reflecting on everything we were and everything we want to be. Old loves, old lives, old haunts… this is a song that brings it all up.”Met my old lover in a grocery store/ the snow was falling Christmas Eve….”
4. The Royal Guardsmen- Snoopy vs. The Red Baron (Snoopy’s Christmas)
Not only a great song about everyone’s famous World War I Flying Ace, but a splendid reminder of the very real story of the Christmas Ceasefires, and that despite how bleak and dark things can seem, there’s always a light of hope.”Christmas bells, those Christmas bells, ring out through the land/ bringing peace to all the world and goodwill to man!”
5. The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl- Fairytale of New York
A bit of an odd choice after the last song, but a good one. My love of Celtic rock/punk aside, this song is excellent as a reminder that Christmas isn’t always a good time everywhere, and not everyone has good memories about it. This song is a beautiful and sad bit of sobriety among all the saccharin sweetness of Christmas music.“An the boys of the NYPD choir was all signin’ “Galway Bay,” and the bells were ringin’ out fer Christmas Day…”
6. The Goo Goo Dolls- Better Days
Another lovely hopeful song, reminding us that whatever last year held, we have a chance at midnight on January 1rst to make things better.“So take these words/ and sing out loud/ because everyone/ is forgiven now/ cause tonight’s the night the world begins again.”
7. Wendy & Lisa- The Closing of the Year
Besides being an awesome part of the Robin Williams movie “Toys”, it’s another lovely bouncy song to round out the year with a lift.”If I cannot bring you comfort, then at least I bring you hope…”
8. Guster- Carol of the Meows
Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow.“Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow…”
9. Jimmy Buffett- Boat Drinks
Not STRICTLY a Christmas song, but when bitter winter weather has you under house arrest and you get to the point where you’d gladly kill to see some sun and sea, here’s Jimmy’s solution:“20 Degrees and a hockey games on!/ Nobody cares, they are way too far gone/ Screamin’ “Boat Drinks! Something to keep us all warm!”
10. Gregorian- O Come All Ye Faithful
I may be Jewish, but this is one of my favorite hymns, especially when sung in Latin (Adeste Fideles.) Sung by the German group Gregorian in the form of a Gregorian chant, it’s absolutely exquisite.”Adeste fideles, laeti triumphantes…”Edit 2018!Since it’s been a while, and I’ve found some more Christmas songs that don’t make me ill, I figured I’d give them their proper credit.
NOT “Christmas Shoes” though. Seriously, screw that song.
11. Little Drummer Boy, by For KING and COUNTRY
One of my ongoing gripes about praise music is how so much feels like it should be sung with joy and energy, but comes out sounding like a dirge. Growing up in the synagogue, it always felt weird to me that the happiest, most inspiring prayers were sung like we were doing chores.
So hearing a song like Little Drummer Boy getting belted out with some friggin rapid-fire percussion? Sign me the hell up.
12. Mary, Did You Know?, as sung by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd
Religions and faith don’t spring up from nowhere. Neither do the stories around them.
Obviously, it’s a bit harder to see stories as… well, stories, when believing in them is a matter of faith and doctrine. I guess the reason this song really gets me is that it seems to talk to Mary as what she was at the time of Jesus’s birth, rather than what she became. Not as mother of a messiah… but a scared, poor, teenage mother far from home wrapped up in things she might not have understood, but accepted.
That’s about all for tonight folks. Merry Christmas, or whatever you might happen to celebrate, have a good one and I’ll see you next week. Till then…Stay Classy,