Turning an Epic adventure Failure Into Absolute Beast Mode

Jeremy Jensen

Monarch Crest Trail, Colorado 2019.

Monarch Crest Trail, Colorado 2019.

This last spring, I was visiting a friend in a small mountain town in Colorado (Frank from Nomad, Inc. - you might know him). Anyway, we were hanging out playing with his daughter and chatting with his wife while she was making enchiladas.

I had just gotten in that day and we decided to do a mountain bike ride before dinner. I for one thought it was a great idea since I’d been in the car a bunch earlier that day and wanted to get my heart rate up a bit and stretch my legs.

We suited up, jumped on our bikes and started pedaling up to the trailhead. Once we got there, we met up with one of Franks buddies and his dog. We exchanged a few jokes and summarized our plans for the evening. Sweet the crew is set, let’s ride.

Before I get too far into the story, let me preface by saying I’m no stranger to a mountain bike. I’ve been riding for decades and like to charge pretty hard, but regardless let’s just say a good slice of humble pie was in order.   

The trail starts off steep, with a couple of hair pin turns that immediately jack your heart rate but that feels great to go hard out of the gate. I’m in the back since these guys are local and know the trail well.

Within a matter of minutes, we’re in some pretty technical rock gardens. Combined with some super steep inclines, I started thinking to myself “Damn okay, let’s do this.”

After about four or five of those tough sections, where frankly my sheer will and competitive personality was the only thing that got me through, I was spent. We’d only been riding about 25 minutes and I was not feeling well.

Red Hill.jpg

The trail just keep getting more and more intense. One step up after another, followed by more super technical rock gardens and steep climbs. Before long, I was toast. I was walking my bike through the trail at this point, feeling pretty defeated and blindsided. “Why was I struggling so hard, WTF?”

Well, for one the trail was hard – a tough black diamond, no two ways about it. What’s more though, is I was out of shape. Plain and simple.

To make matters worse, I was back to what I’d call big boy/big girl riding. Meaning, I had spent a good chunk of the last decade riding the trails of the Mid-Atlantic region near Washington, DC and although it might surprise you that there are actually some pretty good trails out there, they just don’t stack up to what you get in the Mountain West.

On top of that, I was still getting used to the elevation even though I’m from Utah and spend a lot of time in the mountains. I’d only moved back to the West about a month earlier, and in hindsight being at 8 or 9K feet when I first moved back wasn’t easy.

Anyway, long story short the trail continued that way for what seemed liked eternity. Basically, I got a good old-fashioned ass whooping. I mean it was not pretty. Even though I eventually made it to the top and caught up with my friends, my ego was a little bruised. Luckily, we had a great downhill which boosted my spirits a bit, but the experience had a profound effect on me and I’d like to dig into the reason why.

Example of my notation system for non-fiction.

Example of my notation system for non-fiction.

No shame.

Btw quick tip, ladies with purses are your best bet;-)

Anyway, utilizing underlining is a sure fire way to identify what’s important to you and a great way to remember key takeaways when you open the book a year later. 

Column Comments

Summarizing the main concepts of a passage or paragraph in the column of a book is incredibly useful. 

I usually jot down the main gist of an important paragraph in the column just so I can know what that paragraph talks about without actually re-reading it. That’s pretty straight forward.

Finding this article cool or useful… please consider sharing with a friend! 🙏

Something that might be a new concept for you however, is my “letter” system. I used letters outlined in boxes to denote a particular kind passage I might want to reference later. For example, if I read a quote I like or the author defines a key topic (shown in picture above) then I denote those sections with “Q” and “D” respectively. That way I know exactly what I’m looking at when I use the tabs to go back to that page.

My “letter” notation system.

My “letter” notation system.

Post it tabs

This for me has been the biggest game changer, by far. Having labeled tabs is the best way to turn right to the topic or reference you’re looking for. It’s so fast and also helps remind you of other topics that might be relevant to the issue at hand. 

Example of how I utilize tabs for super quick reference.

Example of how I utilize tabs for super quick reference.

I used to use Post it tabs that were small, and that simply marked a page or spot of interest. But I quickly realized that system is not nearly as effective as it could be. 

Seriously, learn from my mistakes and don’t use tabs like this! I actually need to go back and read the books again where I used this system, because finding the topic I’m looking for using this old system is kind of a nightmare. 

Instead, get the Post it tabs you can write on. I like these. You’ll thank me later I promise. 

As I read, if I come across a topic that I know I will want to reference later I’ll immediately make a tab for it. Other times, I won’t know if a topic is worth referencing until the context of the chapter unfolds, in which case I will go back and create a tab with that additional context. 

Aside from the obvious benefits of implementing tabs into your book reading, there’s also perhaps a more vain reward - it looks cool and makes you feel proud. Maybe it’s just me, but when I finished a book where I implemented the above system I feel like “I owned that shit!” It now is part of my artillery. I am armed with quick, useful, and super accessible knowledge at the drop of a hat. Trust me, that is a very satisfying feeling!

Chapter Summaries

Shame alert!! - I’m not quite finished writing this blog post, but I’m a big fan of starting before you’re ready, so I posted anyway! Check back soon to read a little more about how to get through books fast and some of my own stories about the benefits non-fiction has had on my life.

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