As Seth Godin wrote recently, “My most popular blog posts this year weren’t my best ones. … ‘best’ is rarely the same as ‘popular.'” It’s a worthwhile reminder, even though most of us intuitively sense the disconnect between popularity and quality. The problem is, the fast-flowing social Internet buoys up catchy, controversial, or otherwise, “sharable” content, while everything else sifts to the murky bottom. On the other hand, this means that for those hardy souls willing to dive for it, there is a fortune in buried treasure to be had.
For this reason, today I’m sharing not only The Stone Mind’s 10 most-viewed posts of 2013, but also a more personal list, comprised of posts that I’m particularly fond of. In keeping with Godin’s quote, only a few of the posts on the first list would have made the second.
If your favorite post didn’t make either list, consider posting a link in the comments. I’d love to hear what you enjoy reading (and why) and to make this post more valuable to others.
The life that appeals to your average American can seem hopelessly bland and sedentary to climbers. On the other hand, most folks probably view our best vacations as their worst nightmares, as the bumper sticker says. Same goes for Valentine’s Day gifts. If this sappy, saccharine holiday appeals at all to you and your chalk-dusted paramour, it’s likely you won’t be going the roses and chocolates route. To help the vertically inclined find a fitting token of affection for that special someone, I’ve compiled a list of 10 items that, while thoughtful, do their thinking just outside of the lace-embroidered box.
1. Heart-emblazoned crash pad – Bouldering pad maker ORGANIC is known for their custom fabric tops. For a very reasonable $25 additional charge, ORGANIC is happy to create a pad with a heart form (or other shape of your choosing) sewn on top. Now, every time she takes a digger from the top of some hairy highball, she’ll remember that she is loved, and the pain will recede that much more quickly.organicclimbing.com
2. Elite nail clippers – If you’ve ever experienced the feeling of untrimmed fingernails scraping against stone, snagging, tearing, bending backwards, etc., then you understand viscerally the importance of a good nail clipper. What better way to say, “I love you and I want you never to feel the discomfort of nails grown too long again,” than with a pair of the most badass clippers on the market. Klhip engineers their snazzy snippers from 440C surgical stainless steel to offer the most even, easy, and comfortable trimming experience possible. (Pro tip: take it to the next level and offer to trim your love dumpling’s nails for him. Hawt.) Just $89 with leather case. klhip.com
3. Beanie of the Month Club – If your bouldering partner (OK, probably a dude in this case) is the sort to always have a knit beanie (or toque, as they say north of the border) on his head, then this service is for you. Every month, HotHedz will deliver a new cap — wool, fleece, polyester-cotton blend, what have you — straight to his door… or P.O. box, in likely case that he lives out of his car. Not only will the Beanie of the Month Club keep him looking rico suave, but it will also reduce the particular odor that builds up when you combine frequent physical exertion with a bi-weekly shower schedule with his habit of sleeping with his hat on. HotHedz Beanie of the Month Club
4. Deluxe brushes – Sometimes, a clean hold makes all the difference. Discerning rock jocks grok all brushes are not created equal. When you’re looking for the best, only natural bristles like boar’s hair will do, the most popular brand being Lapis, a Slovenian hold company. Hair-care professionals and auto enthusiasts alike prize boar’s hair brushes for their softness and durability. Climbers know boar’s hair lifts more chalk and oil off of a climbing hold than nylon bristles, allowing for better grip, more success on the rock, and, by extension, a happier significant other. Lapis brushes via Liberty Mountain.
5. Couple’s sleeping bag – A good night’s rest is crucial for performance, but when sleeping two to a tent, those mummy-style bags can leave lovers feeling isolated. Why not double the fun with a tandem sleeping bag like the Big Agnes Cabin Creek Double or The North Face Twin Peaks?
6. Sexy clothes – Flatlanders head to Victoria’s Secret when it’s time to spice things up. For climbers, it’s Verve all the way. Founded and still run by Christian Griffith (who has climbed in at least one bouldering competition wearing little more than a thong and climbing shoes), Verve clothing is functional, stylish, and artfully accentuates the climber’s natural form [wink wink]. verveclimbing.com
7. Deep-tissue massage – Climbing is sort of like weightlifting, but instead of dumbbells, we throw ourselves around. No surprise then that many climbers suffer from muscle soreness, stiffness, and imbalance. A couple’s deep-tissue massage is just the thing to loosen those cranky fibers and unlock your and your partner’s climbing potential. Bonus: the sometimes-painful deep-tissue massage has been known to release not only physical tension, but also long-dormant pockets of emotional energy as well, which can deepen a relationship.
8. Climbing jewelry – Diamonds are great, but they stink for climbing (too slick!). Instead, adorn your lover’s ears and neck with sterling silver cams, carabiners, ice tools, and more. rockclimbingjewelry.com
9. Backpack-able wine bag – Long known as a “social lubricant,” vino can also loosen the tongues of those speaking the language of love. For those oenophiles among us, the PlatyPreserve Wine Preservation System is an excellent gift. These BPA-free plastic bags allow you to eek all the corrupting air out of your wine stash. Store it and a cool, dark place, and you’ll have the freshest tasting 2010 Climber Wine (limited release) in the Valley. Plus, the PlatyPreserve is lightweight, flexible, and won’t shatter in your pack. platypreserve.com
10. Chocolate – Look, everyone loves chocolate, even if they choose to pretend otherwise. But climbers are a socially conscious bunch, so not any old Hershey bar will do. To ensure Cupid’s arrow hits its mark, try for something more sustainable, like a heart-shaped box of organic, fair-trade chocolates from San Louis Obispo-based Mama Ganache artisan chocolates. Such sumptuousness is only to be indulged in after your love sends his or her project, of course — motivation plus deliciousness equals the perfect climber cadeau.
What about you? Have you come up with any ingenious gifts for your on-and-off-the-rock partner?
I started The Stone Mind less than a year ago, in February 2012. In some ways, it feels like I just started. In other ways, it’s like I’ve been writing it forever. At first it was just a way to keep me working with words after I left my job as a magazine editor. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted the blog to be about. I posted product reviews, photo galleries, an interview or two, personal essays, even a short story. As the months passed, things came into their own focus, and now most of my posts deal with climbing, nature (human and otherwise), and Eastern philosophy, and the many ways in which these topics connect, overlap, and inform each other.
In 2013, I plan to explore these topics further, while at the same time reserving the right to strike out in new directions — this blog, after all, is nothing if not an experiment and an act of personal passion.
Before moving ahead, however, I thought it might be nice to take a quick look back at the most popular posts of the past year. Here are the Top 10 (out of more than 100), ranked by page views. For various reasons, these are the ones that have garnered the most eyeballs. There are many other posts that are dear to me on this blog that have received only a fraction of the views. I know time and attention are the Internet’s most precious commodities, but if you like any of the posts listed below, you might consider taking a moment to poke around in the archives, too. Either way, I hope you find something that interests you.
This blog has only been around for a month and has been publicized almost entirely via my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but it already has over four thousand hits. I have no frame of reference, but I’m going to go ahead and tell myself that’s pretty good anyway. A few of the thirty-odd posts I’ve made thus far have had a lot more traffic that the others, so I figured I’d make a post dedicated to them. Kind of an “in case you missed it” for my own blog. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the most popular ones weren’t always my personal favorites. So if you like the Top 10 listed below, be sure to scan through some of the other posts, too — hopefully, you’ll find something else that strikes your fancy.
Working from home can be valuable for employee and employer alike. Employers should consider extending this benefit to their employees where possible, and employees should consider requesting it where reasonable. However, it’s important to keep in mind the potential pitfalls. Some people don’t work well from home, as they see their domicile as an escape from work. Know thyself, as the saying goes. Also important is the need to treat working from home the same way you would working from the office. If you take advantage of your employer’s flexibility and slack, you’ll likely find the privilege rescinded. (Or, worse, you could even get yourself canned.) So if you do get the chance to work from home, make a list of tasks as big or bigger than you would for a day in the office, and then get it all done by the end of the day. With fewer interruptions, this should be no problem. It will allevate any fears your boss might have about the concept and help open the door for others who might want to try it. Personally, I enjoy and appreciate being able to work from home every once in a while. Below, ten big reasons why. (And if you have any reasons for or against, leave ‘em in the comments!)
10. Access quality coffee, snacks - Most offices brew up crap coffee like Folgers in crappy coffee makers that burn the coffee within ten minutes of brewing. (Call me a snob — it’s OK, I can take it.) Then they give you free powdered creamer and bleached sugar, with which you can almost mask the bitter, acrid taste. Yum! For sensitive liberals who can’t stomach swill, access to a good drip system or French press and a fresh bag of specialty coffee is like a little ray of black, caffeine-rich sunshine. Plus, you can access on all manner of foods you love when the ol’ rumble-stomach starts to distract you from the tasks at hand. Chips and hummus with sriracha sauce is my snack of choice.
9. Get some exercise – I work for an outdoor company that understands the importance of an active lifestyle. We have a workout area and a bouldering wall on the premises. Pretty sweet. But most people don’t have this luxury, and busting a cross-fit routine in your cubicle will probably get you strange looks or worse. At home, however, you can take ten minutes here and there to do some highly effective exercises. Push-ups, sit-ups, squats, some light weights, or even a run around the ‘hood at lunch — all of these can help make the long day in a chair a little less destructive to your physical and mental health.
8. Spend quality time with your pet(s) – It has been shown that interacting with dogs is good for your health. A recent study even found that playing with your dog helps your body release oxytocin. Plus, there’s the matter of being a good pet owner. I have a blue heeler named Bodhisattva (Bodhi for short). He is representative of his breed in that he’s smart, hyper, and a real pain in the ass. Because my fiancée and I both work desk jobs, he sits at home all day. I feel less like a bad parent when I work from home, as I can give him attention and a little play time. On winter days, I can watch him “get the zoomies” in the fresh snow out back. Priceless.
7. Spend quality time with the house/apartment - If you hate where you live, this isn’t a good reason for you. But I quite like the little bungalow we rent in Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood. I pay a fair chunk of my income in rent, so it’s nice to spend a little extra time in this space. The sun shines in the window behind my desk. My fiancée’s new painting lies half-finished on the floor. The sounds of the heater blowing and the fish tank filter trickling are preferable to the fluorescent-light buzz of the office.
6. Listen to the sounds of silence - If you have small children, this might not be a good reason for you. But for the rest of us, real quiet time is often enough to increase productivity significantly. The “open office” design of most of today’s workplaces, mine included, is conducive to information exchange with co-workers, but it’s also highly frustrating when you’re on a short deadline and concentration is required. At that point, the best thing to do is don your headphones. But for some reason this always leads to co-workers coming up and pantomiming their requests, or that universal signal for “take off your headphones”, which is even more annoying than their chatter when you’re not wearing headphones. Of course, if you want to listen to music, you can do so with impunity when you work at home, sans headphones. There’s something so nice about not having a big pair of cans strapped to your earholes when you’re jammin’ out to Skrillex or Llana Del Rey. More comfortable and easier to hear the phone ringing, the ice cream truck jingling, and yourself thinking.
5. Save the planet - My commute is thirty-five miles each way. Every single day I don’t have to make that drive is a win for my wallet and the air quality in the already obscenely polluted Salt Lake City Valley.
4. Save time- Commuters, again, win out when working from home. Thirty, forty-five, fifty minutes each way every day? It’s rough. If you drive alone, you can do what I do and dictate ideas for stories and blogs into your phone’s voice recorder like a nerd. But then you’re burning all that gas just to haul one body to the office. If you carpool, you’re pretty well resigned to doing nothing for over an hour each day. If you ride public transportation, you might get something done, or you might get someone’s coffee spilled on your laptop. A better option is to work from home and spend zero minutes commuting. Then you can use your precious hour saved to exercise, call your mother, or finish that diorama you’ve been working on.
3. Get “other stuff” done - At home, you can accomplish a variety of household tasks without interrupting your work flow too much. In the office, everyone takes periodic breaks to use the restroom, talk to co-workers, get coffee, or eat a snack. At home, with the same amount of break time, you can get all the laundry done, do the dishes, or pick up your messy living room. It doesn’t take long and it saves you from having to do it over your two precious days of weekend.
2. Increase productivity – In my workplace there are two common reasons that things don’t get done as quickly as they should. One is the constant flow of email requests. Working from home won’t change that. But the other big work killer is the drop-ins that happen throughout the day. “The modern workplace is structured completely wrong. It’s really optimized for interruptions,” says Jason Fried, founder of 37 Signals. “And interruptions are the enemy of work. They are the enemy of productivity, they are the enemy of creativity, they are the enemy of everything.” (Watch a video of Fried’s very interesting talk on this topic here.) Granted, some of these drop-ins are important — hot items that need attention ASAP — but most of the time, they’re not, and the main thing they accomplish is a twenty-minute disruption that can take even longer to recover from. Assuming you don’t have screaming kids at home, you should be able to clear out a few of those attention-intensive projects that have been dragging on for days or weeks.
1. Maintain morale – According to a study by Jessica Pryce-Jones, author of Happiness at Work, “The happiest employees are 180% more energized than their less content colleagues, 155% happier with their jobs, 150% happier with life, 108% more engaged and 50% more motivated. Most staggeringly, they are 50% more productive too.” (Source: Forbes online.) Most of this probably seems redundant (happy workers are happier with their jobs? Who could’ve guessed?!), but the productivity thing is a major point. And working from home, for most of us, increases happiness with one’s job. It is a benefit, like good health care or a public transportation stipend. Employers should considering offering work-from-home days to employees who don’t need to be in the office every single day in order to do their jobs. It’s one of those things business people like to call a “win/win.”