Monday, December 28, 2015

A ten day silent meditation retreat in Argentina, 10.5 hours of meditation a day


Vipassana is a meditation practice. I signed up to take a Vipassana course which is a 10 day course, in which for the first 9 days you do not speak to anyone else nor do you look anyone in the eye. You can talk to the instructor once a day briefly if you have any questions about the practice, that is all. You meditate for just under 11 hours a day in silence, 3 of those hours you are highly encouraged not to move your body at all. For an hour in the evening there is a discourse in which the instructor on the TV explains what you are going through and what to expect in the days to come, and just about philosophy in general in relation to what you are going through (the best talks I have ever experienced). Meals are vegetarian; you get two meals a day, with a piece of fruit and tea in the evenings.

Where we meditated for the 10 days, I was 2nd row down 5 cushions in

Cost: By donation, only being allowed to donate after you have completed the course. The reason it is free is because it is so good for humanity and for people to do it is not required to pay, and you can live off other peoples good will, and trust me after you complete the course you will want to donate.

Why did I sign up:

The dining hall
I have been spending a lot of time over the past 2 years on self-development. Why? After doing so much traveling, when I am back at home, I have a huge hunger to do a lot of things and live a certain lifestyle. The way I have grown up and been taught to live doesn’t provide me with the type of life I want. Therefore I am spending as much time as possible learning from those I want to be like by reading their books, watching them on YouTube, attending there conferences, finding ways to connect with them, etc. A significant number of people I am studying recommend meditation as a requirement to having massive success in anything you do. I would try to mediate for 5-20 minutes at a time, with little direction except for a few different apps I tired on my phone. My friend Jared wrote a blog about this 10 day mediation course he did in Argentina, and it sounded really good, and 8 months later, as part of my South American trip I ended up at the same retreat. I really wanted to go above and beyond anything I have done before on this adventure and be able to take away new skills and learn new things. Sitting quite for 10 days and meditating is something I have never done and I knew it would be a real challenge and a new and interesting experience as most of what I do traveling is adventure based, so I decided to sign up. For those of you who think you could never do it because you can’t sit still I have ADHD and am very hyper, and I did it so you can to.

Quick overview of the 10 days:

Day 1-3: Focus on breathing through your nose and focusing on the feeling of your nose and just below it.

Day 4-7: Focus on your breathing and feeling the outside of your body everywhere, by concentrating on small areas at a time, and then eventually larger portions.

Day 8-10: Focus on outside and inside your body and feeling everything

My experience:

Doing this course was one of the best things I have ever done. It made me aware how miserable I am in my own life. Let me be clear though that I didn’t realize I was miserable, I thought I was pretty happy, and so would a lot of those around me who know me. A brief summary of the realization: During the meditation we were taught to view things like having an itch or a pain in your leg as a sensation, and not to view it as positive or negative, but just as a sensation, and to experience it and let it pass. You can take this into all areas of your life: For example I have always been chasing positive sensations:

-       The feeling I get from volunteering in Zambia with the youth
-       Flying through the air on a ski jump
-       Scoring a goal in hockey
-       Making a sale
-       Good food vs. bad food
-       Positive social interactions v.s negative ones

Chasing these sensations all the time doesn’t allow us to fully live in the present, and be focused and enjoy what is at hand. Meditating and focusing on the sensations in our body allows us to learn to work towards being in the present and really be able to focus on what we are currently doing. I would describe after finishing this meditation course it would be like taking the pill from the movie Limitless, in which Bradley Cooper takes a pill that enables him to use his whole brain vs. a small portion of the brain, which is normal. You are able to be way more present, and it just allows me to be more successful and calm. Furthermore although I don’t view myself as extremely consumerist, it is good practice to realize that doing something like buying a new sports car and the feeling you get from that is temporary, and to chase things is never ending and not a long term solution to happiness (nor is it good for the planet).

It was really hard during many of the days, especially during the sessions where we are not allowed to move for an hour straight, as it was a real mind game to realize that the pains I feel are just sensations that will pass, vs. a discomfort that I must get out of right away. Especially the first time we were not allowed to move, I only got it through sheer will power and being stubborn, it was very painful and I was not able to view the pain as sensations. I will tell you though I was really happy when the session was over and I was actually able to get through that, I almost cried with joy silently ;)

Another big realization I had after only being in my own thoughts for 10 days straight is that once we were able to talk to those around us (70 students), within a few minutes I was being told by others the way the course was and what we learned from it etc. I realized that this was not my experience, and I had very different views. It showed me how important it is to really listen to myself more than anyone else when making decisions as only you have your experience and know what is best for you, although getting advice from others who have been successful in what you want to do is a good idea to use as a map. This is not a new idea, and have heard this over and over again, but it was the best real life example I have ever had.

Life after meditation:

 I still practice mediation for two hours a day, or a minimum of 1 hour a day if I am traveling and I absolutely can’t realistically meditate due to not having my own space. I don’t eat as much meat, and most of my meals I eat at home won’t be cooked with meat. I constantly ask myself when I find myself upset with something, what would I do if I had just finished meditating, or if I have just finished meditating handling everything with a more clear and focused mind. I have already in the last month of being done the course such positive results in my personal life and professional life.

Would I recommend it?

I would highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to learn and develop themselves, is hungry for success, and isn’t afraid of hard work. I wish I could recommend it to everyone as if everyone in the world went through this I personally couldn’t even imagine all the good that would come of it, but it is a very hard thing to do, sitting for 11 hours a day silently for 10 days with no communication of any kind or reading materials etc. Unless you really want to do the course, you will put yourself through pain and either not get much out of the course or you will end up running away part way through the session which could be even worst then just not doing this course as you will get confused. But if you do want to become a higher functioning and happier version of yourself (even for all you already happy campers and Elon Musk’s) I would say that this mediation is as important to your mind as physical exercise is to the body.

How to sign up for a course:
Go to the website: if you don’t want to do the one in BC, google the centres around the world, I think there are 120 different centres.

Sign up for a sitting, and wait to be accepted.

Video of the head of Vipassana giving a speech to the United Nations (He was in the midst of getting nominated for a Nobel peace prize until he died), worth watching:

Documentary about Vipassana and how it is helping to heal serious offenders in a US Prison, great and really interesting documentary:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My first year in my first business- the funnest adventure yet

This is not a post on travel, but it is a tale of a great adventure and how it relates to travel
These are the Day 1 Boys, they are the original 6 who came out everyday all summer and put their blood sweat and tears, and  face to shield overspray to make this business a success. Behind us is a house we turned from red to blue. We had just finished watching the stanley cup final, and wanted a team picture.

For the past 9 months since getting back from Zambia, I signed up to run a College Pro Painter Franchisee in West Vancouver. College Pro is a company that takes entry level entrepenurs and teaches them how to run a painting business. I decided to become an entrepreneur after traveling completely by myself for three months to South East Asia back in 2014, and gaining a better understanding of my own personality. Things like hitch hiking, couch surfing, sleeping with Tigers, wandering off into the Jungle on my own, and really enjoying all of it made me realize that I need to really live a life where I can at least have the goal of creating my vision/ visions. The 9-5 lifestyle which I had tried in many different situations always ended the same: I got really excited about starting a new job, but after the first 2 months, I would get bored, try to change things up, fail at some level, and end up leaving the organization, except my job working in the wilderness with young offenders, which I did for two years, and still look back with fond memories daily upon and wish I was there. I didn't like quitting, but I have a policy of listening to my heart in all areas of my life, and deep down I would always find the job not what I was put on this planet for.

How did I get the franchisee:

During university, I had friends who had signed up to run a College Pro Painting business. Both of them seemed to have a lot of success with it, and would talk about it all the time, literally one of them would be in a big social setting with no other business people around and talk about painting. Jared actually has his own travel blog and I read it and think its truely inspiring, feel free I was offered to get into the business three years ago, but I was good with not watching paint dry and thought I would be better sticking to my degree (I look back on this and laugh). 3 years later, I move back to Vancouver after working in the arctic, northern BC, and traveling to many different places. My expenses for what I would define as a reasonable lifestyle in Vancouver are about $3000 a month. There are virtually no jobs in Vancouver that would allow you to travel when you want, that I would be passionate about doing that could pay that right away. I really wanted to live in Vancouver as its my home town, I have been gone a long time, and just wanted to be home. I decided I was going to start my own business and find a way to make it work. I looked at network marketing businesses, and other business. I decided to go with College Pro because:
1- It is a straight forward business: You put paint on a house, you get paid
2- It is full of other young entrepreneurs, giving it the potential to be a lot of fun
3- I thought it would be a good business to learn as it would give me a taste in a lot of different areas:
* sales
* Production
* Financials
*book keeping
* Human Resources
 4- I could focus the business in a small area, stay in Vancouver, and stay active

The college pro team really helped out and painted my van and many others blue. A tradgedy occured in June and my van broke down for good and I had to scrap it, eventually we moved on. 
After 5 long and intense interviews, aptitude tests and criticism from people I don't ask advice from, I signed a 30 something page contract, and legally and officially registered my business name:

Ciaran Olsen Boss Painting

(why did I choose this name? Because I want to smile every time a customer asks me who to write the cheque out to; and on a more serious note, making a claim like this I would have to step up to the plate or I would tarnish my name again)

The first day of training for this new business was in mid January, the morning after I arrived back from a plane from Cape Town South Africa the night before. I took a 40 minute bus ride to get to the conference center, and for the next two days I learned how to sell paint jobs.

Ready to go for the season, open for business

We left the conference with the direction to start knocking on doors in are turf, to sign people up for estimates to then book them in to paint there houses for the upcoming season. I was temporarily living at my parents house in the suburbs, so I planned on driving my dodge caravan 1991 back and fourth everyday for door knocking.Why did I have a dodge Caravan from 1991? Ill let you enter the joke here.

Celebrating the summer often, we were blessed to have one of are painters be the bouncer at a local club
The first night of door knocking in my turf, I went alone. It was dark out and raining. The first door I knocked on was not interested. The next three signed up for estimates!!!! I couldn't believe my luck (later I realized I had picked the hottest street in my turf to start marketing)! I recruited a friend through an accidental text to a wrong number to come market with me, as well as other marketers. I didn't mind knocking on peoples doors in the dark and pouring rain, as many times throughout my travels I had been out in the dark hitch hiking or stranded and needed to ask strangers for help. I actually found it quite enjoyable, as its like you get to meet every person in a neighborhood and try to convince them to paint there house, what a rush!!!!
My first sale:
One of my marketers knocked on a door and booked an estimate with a Taiwanese family. I did the estimate a few days later, quoting this huge mansion on over 10k to paint there house. The owner had to leave during the estimate so after getting the price and writing up the contract I showed it to the daughters (Remember at this point I didn't know how to paint a house). The daughters said that there mom would probably be happy with this quote and would let me know. I felt defeated as I was leaving the house without a sale, and thought that I hadn't even been able to talk to the decision maker about the contract, and that when she saw it she would think the price is way to high and go with someone else. Two days later I am driving around Vancouver doing estimates and I get a phone call: Me: "Ciaran Speaking".  Customer:"hello Ciaran this is -----". Me: "hi ----- how are you?" Customer: "I am great, we would like you to do the painting! When can you do it?" Me: "One second let me check" I put down the phone and cover the reciever and yell a full hearten: "YYYYEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!" I pick up the phone again and say "Hi -----, we have one slot available in June, does that work?". I went and collected the deposit two days later, all the time sweating bullets hoping that they don't back out. And finally the first cheque written out to "Ciaran Olsen Boss Painting" is written. I realized that I really enjoy sales, as its a game to try and convince someone to take positive action, and I love it, its like showing up to the poker table at the casino and playing highstakes, trying to convince everyone you got a good hand or a crappy hand, and of course in the case of painting, only the best from us.

First house painted:

The first house ever painted by Boss Painting by Boss painters
Our first house we painted was a big one. I arranged a ex employee to train my employees and myself on how to paint. It took us two weeks to paint it, with the final day staying until 9pm painting with flashlights during the customers back yard house party. But we got er done, and were off to the races, and suprisingly all the jobs ended well with a lot of happy customers and employees.

It was a great summer for everyone, we often went out for good times.
How much work is required to run a business like this?
An average week I am working about 80 hours on the business, which I don't mind at all, as I love being able to have no limits on how much I can make, how I can run my business, and making it a great place to work and be a part of.
Paintball day at the end of the season, Jack this hilarious guy who is amazing at door knocking and another friend and temp worker came out for a day of paintball with other College Pro as well
Sometimes the views from the tops of houses were world class
Would I recommend it?

I spent $30,000 of my own money on marketing, equipment, employees wages etc before I had even collected my first pay check. I had no guarantee of making any $$, and only if I was able to sell and produce paint jobs and get paid by customers, and manage the business in a way that would be profitable would I make anything from it. Imagine it is January, its pouring rain and dark out, your spending thousands of dollars a month investing into this business you know very little about, and hopefully by the summer you will break even. That being said I would recommend this business or any business with a proven track record of success to anyone who wants to be a boss, in charge of there own destiny, and refuses to live in a life of mediocrity. I was okay if I had lost all of my money as atleast I was working towards my dreams.
This is how many color samples were needed for are best customer, literally he brought us baked goods everyday, and at the end had us all over for amazing sushi.
It resulted in Chimney of the year
To get this sale, I had done the quote for him. He had gotten three quotes. He invited me to stay for dinner. He was a great cook. So the next day I baked a three cheese lazanga, sent him a picture and asked him if he wanted some. After that the deal was sealed
What kept me going during the hard times?

-My vision: I want to build a farm where people can come and visit/ live on with a healthy lifestyle and a safe haven from where ever they are coming from. Furthermore I want to continue to go on great adventures around the world and visit and help my friends in Zambia so I need to learn how to be the creator and designer of my own life.

I know that this painting business will not take me directly to these goals, but it would be a training ground to move me towards these goals escpecially in leadership and sales.

I am now at the end of my first year in the painting business and I am closed down and am writing this from Peru. I am so glad I signed up for the College Pro Experience. I met so many great people, worked together with amazing people, and laughed a lot. That being said I also got a lot of critisim from a lot of people, as I learned that when ever you want to do somthing big not everyone is gonna want to marry you. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, meaning I learned something. I did not get rich as its not a get rich quick scheme, but feel I got out what I put in, and that is all I can ask for. I was also blessed with winning the rookie of the year award, I think the biggest award I have ever gotten on a plaque in my life.

"It is the number of hours worked for free that separates an entrepreneur from an employee".

Some of the franchisee organized by a franchisee named Kit allowed us to paint the boys and girls club.

Wanted to give a special shout out to the whole team including all the painters, marketers, the whole College Pro team who put up with literall thousands of questions and time you put in to help me make are business a success, the customers for taking a chance on us. I can never repay you all for the selfless help you have given.

I am back in January for my second season in the business, its gonna be tough to beat this years good times, but we will find a way.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Livingston, Zambia- Big White Water and Rhinos up close

Victoria Falls

Swimming at the top of the falls (Devils Pool), you can only do this for three weeks of the year in November when the water is low enough, otherwise your ass is going over!

The supreme rafting crew: Aussies, Dutch, British and a Canadian

Check out the youtube link to the video I made of this epic rafting trip (make sure to watch the end to see a local Zambian man shake his booty ;)
One of the coolest wildlife experiences I have ever had
Victoria Falls in Zambia, a destination you really should go to if you want to love life even more for everyone who has an interest in adventure or nature. It has one of the biggest volumes of water in the world (more than Niagra Falls), all the big wildlife animals, the biggest and best white water rafting in the world (or one of the best), and you can walk with lions and wild rhinos! This place can be expensive, but price is what you pay, value is what you get. I spent just under a week here, on a break from teaching as my kids had exams all week, so I would have just been sitting around, so I made a deal with the principle/ one of two other volunteers that we would keep the school open a week later into Christmas holidays so we would have more time to "party" (learn, play soccer, dance, plays games, field trips, etc). I took a bus from Lusaka to Livingstone: pact, loud music, hot weather. truly Zambian :p I stayed at Jollyboys backpackers, owned by a Canadian from Vancouver Island, a well run and reasonably priced hostel, and super social, and the best part there was a pool!!!

Everyday I planned some type of adventure. Met some other travelers who I spent time checking stuff out with, here are some pictures:
At the top of the falls (Devils Pool)
Part of the hike to the top of the falls
Hired a taxi and a driver to take us into a village outside of Livingstone to see what life for locals living in the village is like (This is a house for goats)

Chicken house

Caterpillars, I love finding weird things to eat then getting others to eat them :p

Transporting Charcoal across the farm

A lady I spoke with said that on this bridge the river floods every year, and at least someone dies every year (They have to walk over the bridge even when water flows over the top. She also said a child had died here within the last month from a crocodile in the water. This made me think about what safety, and how relative it can be. Imagine the high school I went to wouldn't let us play floor hockey because the stick could be used as weapon........

Any time I see a big fire I got to check it out, because I love fire! This was burning garbage on the side of the road.

Mosi-oa-Tunya National park- We hired a taxi driver to take us around here- cost: $15 each for park entrance, and $20 each for cab driver service for 4 hours, a good deal ;)

Hanging out with the Bamboons.

Elephants twice the size of those in Thailand


If you ask the guard at the park to go show you the rhinos, he will. Suggested donation about $20 USD, to do this on a guided tour it is over $100 USD.

In china they pay $50,000 per ounce of Rhino horn, and it is causing the population of Rhinos to be wiped out in Africa. These three Rhino's are constantly guarded by Ak47 carrying wild life officers

The girls got way closer then me- Anke (on the left) was the first European I have ever met who knew how to properly use an English pun: I sarcastically said when I saw a sign that said not to feed the wild life: I can't believe they even have this sign, here, like who would ever even think about feed the wild life (we feed the baboon's peanuts), and Anke says "yeah, you would have to be "nuts"" Mehehehe
Tessa and Anke are two student doctors from the Nethlands who were helping at a hospital in Malawi
Zebra butt
Giraffes run with the two legs on the same side moving in the same direction at the same time, causing them to be the klutz's of the wild!
Seen from the boat of our booze cruise

The Zambezi above the falls

The booze crusie crew, we were the kids of the ship, everyone else was 40+

Titanic Zambia style, with Hippos and Croc instead of cold water to fall into :p
The best bartender in Zambia

Big boy, 500 KG, has killed 15 people in one village, the scariest most evil look creature I have ever seen: Check out the link to this youtube video I posted of him:

You can feed these things- The best crocodile farm I have ever been to

This is true

I tried to organize a motor bike rental with a local. He drove me and two others to his "Friends" where we found this bike laying out in the open. My friend suspected this to be a stolen bike and a chop shop because: This is a very expensive bike, it was sitting out in the open (not normal unless people are afraid to of this place, because stuff unfortunately gets stolen a lot....) The people were not at the house. Then a van roles up with three big dudes, one looking like Lil Wayne. They ask us what we want for bikes. Then they said they can arrange the bikes tonight (how they were not there?....), and then we leave.... I turn my phone off the next day, don't want to do business with these guys in case the bikes are stolen, and then we ride them, the cops pull us over, etc.... Good little side adventure though, and got to see what Zambian gangsters look like :p 

There was a mango tree at the hostel where we could pick as we pleased, I would eat at least four a day :)

Livingstone is a world class destination, with lots to do. Make the trip and have one of the greatest adventures of your life!