The School of Slice

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it” -Albert Einstein

Pizza is a lifetime sport and so is learning.  During this time of year I always catch the butterflies of an upcoming fall semester.  I’m years out of school, but I try to stay as hungry for knowledge as I do for new and interesting pizza.

Continually reading, learning and seeking new experiences can be half the fun of life.  By consuming new information I’ve always got new ideas flowing and a fresh pizza perspective.  In the last couple years I have fully realized the power of a good book.

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You are what you read. 

I didn’t always read, actually for the longest time I thought it was really boring outside of a classic fiction novel now and again. By progressively getting more into non-fiction I have taken some pretty cool strides in my personal and professional life.

It’s funny to look back when I was young and I participated in the Pizza Hut “Book It” program through my local library.  The basic concept as I recall, was to read a certain number of books and get a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut.  I don’t know if this brainwashed me, but I read more than ever now and treat myself with pizza.

bookit

“Book It” aside, a lot of very successful people believe regular reading and learning can help us excel.  In an article from Business Insider it was said that Bill Gates reads 50 books a year. Warren Buffet, the second wealthiest person in the United States said, “I just sit in my office and read all day”. Tech visionary Elon Musk responded, “I read books” when asked how he learned to build rockets.

Billionaire Mark Cuban (who is said to read 3 hours a day) addresses the importance of continual learning in his book How to Win at the Sport of Business, “The thing you do need to do is learn. Learn accounting. Learn finance.  Learn statistics. Learn as much as you can about business.  Read biographies about businesspeople. You don’t have to focus on one thing, but you have to create a base of knowledge so you are ready when it’s time.”

A Student of Slice.

Making a habit of self-education can seem tedious and boring.  I’ll share ways I’ve found to motivate myself to learn on a daily basis with the help of some delicious pies.

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One slice in front of the other.

“The Clam Pie” at Gates & Brovi in Madison, WI taught me to ease into pushing my pizza envelope.  “The Clam Pie” is basically an awesome cheese pizza that has some clams, fennel and a dash of cream on it. Delicious and an easy first step towards broadening my pizza horizon.

When attempting to get into a book, start by committing to read a page a day.  Usually this will naturally turn into more as the material grabs your attention.  I started with one page a day and now enjoy reading 20 pages a day.

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Listen and learn.

A kind waitress at Brixx Wood Fired Pizza in Charlotte, NC had the brilliant suggestion that I get a half buffalo chicken, half 4 meat/4 cheese pizza.  She saw that I was torn on what to order and gave a much appreciated recommendation.  I got the best of both worlds because I listened to her.

Many books reference and quote other books and authors.  Once you begin reading, a snowball takes effect as you discover one outlet for information leads to another.

You can also swap the radio for podcasts on your commute.  I enjoy the Tim Ferriss and James Altucher podcasts.  I’ve found many of my favorite books this way.

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Go outside your comfort zone.

At White Pie Pizzeria in Denver, CO I went out of my usual comfort zone and tried the “White Pie” which had a runny egg smack dab in the middle of it.  The pie was truly amazing and I’m very pleased I pushed my usual boundaries.

We can also benefit from exploring reading material outside of our normal interests.  You could start reading a magazine/blog that doesn’t really fit in your normal wheelhouse and stumble upon a subject you really enjoy.  For example I started reading Wired magazine (a technology magazine) and have found all sorts of cool things I never would have been exposed to.

What pizza taught me:

Continually learning and discovering makes life so much more exciting.  If we embrace the student mindset slice by slice, book by book we can become even better versions of ourselves.

What I’m eating:  Gates & Brovi, Brixx Wood Fired Pizza, White Pie Pizzeria 

What I’m reading:  How to Win at the Sport of Business -Mark Cuban

 

 

 

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Believe in Pizza

“If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I believe it’s true that there is no such thing as bad pizza. On my never-ending quest for melty cheese, crispy crust and herbaceous sauce I’ve found every pizza is special in its own greasy way. While some pizza may exude more Instagram appeal than others, at the end of the day it’s pizza and therefore awesome.

We are also special in our own right.  When we assert the same unrelenting faith we have for pizza inward towards ourselves, confidence is born.  Can a perfect cheese pizza from Gates and Brovi in Madison WI. help me find more confidence within myself?

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The Sinatra of cheese pizza.

As I gaze upon my Gates and Brovi extra cheese pizza perfectly displayed before me, I can’t help but think this pizza has got it going on.  If this pizza had personality it would be overflowing with confidence.

The exceptionally cheesy pie sits mounted on a chrome pizza stand that invites you to admire its appeal.  It’s poised and nonchalant, not looking for attention, but making it difficult for onlookers not to notice its excellence.

The pizza’s crispy crust is dusted with floor and sturdy enough to support a generous portion of mozzarella. Like my all-time favorite Gus’ pizza in Whitewater WI, the sauce and cheese bake together and meld into one; leaving a perfectly greasy blanket covering the pie.

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How to be smooth as fresh mozzarella. 

Eliud Kipchoge an Olympic gold medalist in marathon running recently was quoted in Wired magazine  “It’s not your legs that run” “It’s your heart and mind”.  He said this in reference to self belief and tackling seemingly unattainable goals (running a sub 2-hour marathon for Nike)

Though I’m not taking on super-human feats, I do have to consciously remind myself to have confidence.  I’ve always wished confidence was something I was naturally graced with, but it’s an ongoing effort. I’ll share several lessons from family, friends, and favorite readings that have helped me out along the way.

  1.  Take baby steps – Do something little everyday to build confidence in yourself.  Reach out to an old friend or family member and feel good about it.
  2.  Develop a mantra – Remind yourself that you’re a pretty awesome dude or dudette.  Simply affirming you believe in yourself goes a long way over time. 
  3.  Watch your posture – Sit up straight, take deep breaths and try not to fidget (very difficult for me).
  4. Make yourself uncomfortable – Spark up a conversation with a stranger when you don’t feel like it.  Ask someone about their favorite pizza (everybody loves pizza).

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What a great cheese pizza taught me:

The first step toward achieving confidence is believing in our abilities. When we have faith in ourselves we can easily snag a slice of life’s abundant opportunities.  Tried-and-true lessons in self belief can help us reach Gates and Brovi cheese pizza magnificence.

What I’m eating: Gates and Brovi extra cheese pizza

What I’m reading: “Snap Selling” Jill Konrath

 

Piecing Together the Pie

“The path to success is taking massive determined action”- Tony Robbins

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Whether it’s New York style, Chicago deep-dish, or my favorite Midwestern tavern cut; the crust, sauce and cheese are the fundamental building blocks of all great pizza. All the ingredients must compliment each other and meld together before the true masterpiece, that is pizza, comes to life.

Like all good pizza needs a solid foundation, we too can benefit from a solid base of constructive habits and behaviors.  Equally important to having that base is implementing it.  With the help of a large greasy slice of New York style pizza I will take an important step towards forming my foundation.

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Practicing what I preach about pizza.

It’s 6:30 pm on a Friday night, I’m ready to be home and ready to relax.  All day I’ve looked forward to putting my feet up and enjoying some Pizza Di Roma delivered to my door.

That’s right Madison friends, Pizza Di Roma the New York style slice joint just opened a westside location that shows promise in delivering slices the size of my head to my house.  I tried to order last weekend and was assured this week the slice delivering would commence.

So, I’m at home, sweatpants on, ready to beach out and binge on some huge slices of New York style pizza.  I excitedly dial their number as i sink into my easy chair.  That’s when I hear the most dreaded phrase in the known pizza universe (besides “we’re out of cheese”):

We’re not delivering, would you like an order for pick up?

Sniffle….

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Are slices the size of my head delivered to my door too much to ask for? 

Can I suck it up and put into action the core pizza principles I go on about?  Here goes…

  1. Learn from the failure:  I could have called beforehand to make sure they delivered, next time I will do that.
  2. Detach from the situation and remain positive with some supportive self-talk “It’s Friday and it’s pizza time, the world is at my finger tips”.
  3. Give thanks and be grateful:  I remind myself I’m fortunate to have this day to eat delicious pizza.  This is a brand new business, give em a break.  Thanks Pizza Di Roma for opening a westside location!
  4. Take action: I’m putting on real pants and driving there to pick up some huge slices of pizza!

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The road to Pizza Di Roma is paved with insights and BBQ chicken slices.

None of the ideas I’ve discussed so far mean anything unless I put them into action in my day to day.  So far, I’ve recognized that detaching from thoughts, learning from failures, practicing gratitude, giving to others and always operating with enthusiasm are the building blocks to living a happier life and seeing some personal growth.  What is more important than me sharing these principles, is that I must practice them.

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What pizza taught me:

Just like a pizza needs it’s crust, sauce, and cheese to make it complete, we too must have a solid framework to rely on.  Learning and growing everyday is fundamental, but putting our thoughts into action is where the magic happens.

  • What I’m eating: Pizza Di Roma 18″ pepperoni and extra cheese pizza.  Slice of BBQ chicken and bacon.
  • What I’m reading: “Extreme Ownership” Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Catching Up With a Slice

“Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.”

grilling-pizza-e1499625290913.pngThere’s nothing like grilling pizza over open flames with friends on the 4th of July. That’s right, to celebrate this great nation’s independence Tess and I joined a couple of our dearest friends Adam and Micki to grill homemade pizzas. Enjoying some pizza on a beautiful summer evening feels like the perfect way to catch up with good friends

We’ve also come together to give cheers to a milestone in the girls growing essential oil empire (They sell and lead teams for Young Living essential oil products, good stuff).  After a lot of hard work Tess hit the silver rank within the company and Micki hit gold, which is pretty darn cool in the essential oil business.  I’m very proud and happy for them both.

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Celebrating my own pizza milestone. 

Along with the girls I too feel I’m about to a experience a benchmark moment in life as I’m about to grill my first pizza. I stand back and watch in wonder as the first crust hits the grill. Dancing flames kiss the bottom of our hand stretched oil-ladened dough.

Adam is the pizza-grilling veteran among us, he is also a pizza-lover extraordinaire (like me) and director of corporate operations for Toppers Pizza (he loves pizza so much he made it a career, respect).  I grow excited as I listen to him explain his plan to execute three delicious pizzas over the open flame.

“It’s all about the olive oil” he insists as he applies a coating to a pizza crust awaiting its turn to hit the heat.  He also reveals that cooking both sides of the crust is the real secret to crispy homemade grill fired pizza.

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Gathering for some grilled pizza.

I was blessed with a lot of quality friends and family time over the long holiday weekend and such interactions felt long overdue.  As the years go on, hangouts seem to happen less and are more challenging to organize as schedules quickly fill up.

Pizza is a great way to connect with our favorite people.  Pizza can provide the perfect motivation and excuse for us to get together.  Pizza offers a great way to maintain our relationships, build new ones, and celebrate life’s victories.

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Use pizza to connect.

It’s as simple as inviting your best friend to a new pizza place or throwing a pizza party for your whole crew. Pizza is the perfect food to cheer us up or celebrate our accomplishments.

With some quality social time all the effort and hard work we put in all week feels worth it.  At the end of the day, it’s all about the people we share our pizza with.

What pizza taught me:

Staying physically and mentally healthy is very important, but equally important is keeping healthy relationships. Everyone loves pizza, so use it as a tool to connect you with those you cherish the most.

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What I’m eating: Grilled homemade pizzas:

  • Pepperoni and sausage with fresh mozzarella.
  • Buffalo chicken pizza with fresh mozzarella, blue cheese crumbles and diced buffalo chicken pieces on a ranch base.
  • Mushroom and fresh mozzarella on a white sauce base, topped with pesto drizzle.

What I’m reading: Deepok Chopra “Creating Affluence”

Photo Credit: Micki Oldenburg

To get more info on essential oils contact: tessrad@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Look on the Bright Side of the Pizza Buffet.

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them”-Epictetus

IMG_6255As I’m stuck at the back of a long line at Ian’s Pizza in Madison WI. I reflect on the importance of maintaining pizza optimism.  It takes consistent practice to look at my little white paper plate as half full.

Neglecting pizza with negative self-talk. 

“I bet they’ll run out of Mac and Cheese” I whisper to myself as I squeeze through the entrance into a completely packed Ian’s Pizza by the Slice on State Street.  A long line of shuffling customers snake around dividers at a pace that’s a little to sluggish for my liking.  Some antsy patrons stand on tippy toes and crane their necks to catch a glimpse of the glowing showcase of eclectic pizza on display up ahead.

Here I am at the tail end of the line, butterflies beginning to swirl as I start to ponder the slices I want being rapidly plucked off the line.  The eager crowd in front of me dismantling my hopes and dreams of Mac N Cheese pizza and Buffalo Chicken pizza and Quesadilla pizza.

“They’ll probably just have some veggie slice left” I whimper to Tess.

“I bet they don’t even have plain cheese anymore.”

Pull it together dude, you’re a pizza optimist. 

I need to flip the script. Luckily, I’ve been working on my positive outlook.  I’m learning I just have to rephrase the negative chatter that enters my mind and spin it in a positive direction.  I have to switch my gears from slice scarcity to slice abundance (easier said than done, I know).

It starts like this:

“I bet they’ll run out of Mac n’ Cheese.”

translation:

“If they run out of Mac n’ Cheese, I can try some other slice with pasta on it, I think they have a Penne Alfredo slice!”

Chin up:

“They’ll probably just have some veggie slice left”

translation:

“I bet a veggie slice with a bunch of feta on it would be delicious.”

The future is bright:

“I bet they don’t even have plain cheese anymore.”

translation:

“I’m at Ian’s Pizza, the slice possibilities are endless, who cares about a slice of plain cheese!”

Pizza perspective; you can choose optimism. 

To adopt a positive pizza outlook I try to acknowledge my negative thoughts and challenge myself to reframe them.  Then I attempt to creatively find the upside in my situation.

If some kid grabs the last slice of Quesadilla, it’s perfect timing for a Spicy Chicken Taco.  No matter what, I’m walking away from Ian’s pizza with some delicious slices and I can’t complain about that.

What pizza taught me:

Choosing optimism is not always easy, but if we consciously remind ourselves to practice positive thinking the pizza buffet always looks bright. By recognizing our negative self-talk and applying a positive spin we’re not left at the mercy of our emotions and we can enjoy whatever slice comes our way.

  • What I’m eating:  Ian’s Pizza by the Slice, State Street Madison WI. Mac and Cheese slice, Buffalo Chicken slice, Pepperoni slice.
  • What I’m reading: “The Daily Stoic”-Ryan Holiday

 

 

Pizza at the End of the Tunnel.

“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced everyday.”-Jim Rohn

IMG_6318Life’s not always extra cheese and pepperoni.  If you’ve followed me thus far you probably think I’m an obsessive pizza freak, just eating pizza all day and always seeking more.

You may wonder how did this pizza loving weirdo lose 70 pounds in the last year and a half?  I’ll address the elephant in the pictures of me from 2012 right now.

It’s true that I am a little crazed over pizza and do frequently daydream about it, and write about it, and take pictures of it.  What I haven’t revealed is that strict routines and daily practices have helped me become a healthier individual and pizza is only a piece of the pie.

Pizza is the prize I win at the end of a good week.  Pizza is my reward.  I’ll share how I earn it.  Hopefully I can offer some helpful takeaways for others as well.

Disclaimer:  If my personal routines outside of devouring pizza do not interest you (which I totally get), do not read on. 

Discipline.  

The strategy I’ve followed has yielded an average of 1-2 pounds lost per week for the last 18 months.  I’ve done this while eating massive amounts of pizza on Fridays and cheating most Saturdays too.

Many of the healthy habits I’ve adopted come from what Tim Ferriss recommends in his podcast, blog and books, specifically his book “The Four Hour Body”.  My diet when I’m not eating pizza is similar to the Slow Carb diet he offers.

Basically, Monday-Thursday I’m very strict and try to limit my carb consumption to 50-70 grams a day and I don’t eat any white carbs (bread, pasta, rice etc).  Sunday is kind of an in-between day where I avoid carbs, but still wanna enjoy the weekend, so I may nibble on some naughty things a little more than I would during the week (like cheese).  Friday night-Saturday I pretty much eat whatever I want.

Here is my current Monday-Thursday diet, exercise, supplement and mindfulness regimen: 

6:20 am:  Wake up and eat breakfast:

  • Eat half an apple.
  • Take supplements:
    • One scoop Athletic Greens: 75 ingredient super-food/supplement cocktail (it’s like the ultimate multi-vitamin, with antioxidants and probiotics).
    • Vectomega: DHA/EPA, Phospholipids and Peptides (basically the good stuff you want from an Omega-3 supplement),
    • D3 2000 mcg
    • B12 Methylcobalamin 1000 mcg (sublingual)
    • One scoop Jarrow collagen bone broth dissolved in hot water.

7:05 am: 25 push ups, drink 24 ounces of water.

8:00 am-Noon:  Attempt to stand at my desk roughly 50% of the time (while I’m on the phone usually). Drink 48 ounces of water.

12 pm: Lunch:

  • 10 baby carrots
  • Half grilled chicken breat or 2 slices of deli turkey.
  • 7-10 almonds or mixed nuts
  • piece of cheese (sometimes two, I have a hard time with cheese portioning).
  • Another scoop of Athletic Greens.

1 pm-5pm: Again, attempt to stand at my desk at work 50% of the afternoon.  Drink 48 ounces of water.

5:15pm: Snack time; usually another 10 almonds or mixed nuts, couple pieces of beef jerky.  Stretch for workout.

5:45-7:10 pm: Exercise:

  • Ride exercise bike 30 minutes while reading a book (Two birds, one stone! and more importantly I don’t get bored).
  • Walk on treadmill for 20 minutes while listening to music (Ipod on shuffle, it’s eclectic and again saves me from boredom).
  • Monday and Wednesday three sets of 20 burpees. Tuesday and Thursday three sets of 50 kettle bell swings followed by 25 pushups.  On kettle bell swing days I drink a protein shake afterwards.

7:20 pm: Drink 24 ounces water.  Meditate using Headspace app (work-out my mental muscles).

8 pm: Dinner:

  • Salad: Spinach, shredded carrots, I’m a sucker for Olive Garden dressing, but it’s probably not good for you.
  • Protein: Chicken or steak usually.  I give most things some Mexican flare with salsa, onions, cheese, avocado and hot sauce.
  • 1/2 cup of Black beans or Pinto beans.

8:30 pm:  De-stress and relax with the help of some essential oils: I apply Frankincense, Australian Blue, Acceptance, and Myrrh.  Tess got me hooked on these, they are great for chilling out.

9:40 pm: Before bed supplements that knock me out and keep me asleep throughout the night.

  • One Tablespoon apple cider vinegar.
  • One capsule Nature’s Purest Garlic 6000 Allicin mcg.
  • One Tablespoon Naturally Calm Magnesium with Calcium.
  • Two Capsules Nature’s Purest “Rest Factors”.

9:50 pm: Turn on Dohm white noise machine, apply Dreamcatcher essential oil for sleep.  I sleep like a baby for 8 hours and repeat.

Holy cow that’s boring.

Nothing too fancy here, I’m just eating minimal carbs, no sweets, no starches, working out a lot, and drinking plenty of water.  I also keep mentally healthy and energized with good sleep and meditation.

So, that’s how I lost a whole bunch of weight, while still eating pizza and enjoying myself every week.  I gotta admit I feel pretty darn good and the pizza is more enjoyable when I don’t regret it afterwards.

What pizza taught me:

Pizza is my prize at the end of the tunnel. It tastes better when I feel I’ve earned it. Now, I deserve some pizza.

  • What I’m eating:  Tess’s homemade pizza-bake (pepperoni, mozzarella, onion, mushroom, egg, fresh basil, Di Salvos pizza sauce).  No carbs, so I can have a piece given I have a pizza withdrawal/breakdown mid-week.
  • What I’m reading: “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”-Angela Duckworth

 

 

 

 

 

Practice Pizza Gratitude.

“Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.”-Seneca

lucilleSometimes we need to stop and count our pepperoni.  It can be very challenging to stop and appreciate what we have in life.  Michelangelo put it best in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze “Please, please. A moment to reflect.”

Lucille in the rain. 

My wife and I go out on a date night once a week and I believe it has been instrumental to keeping our relationship so strong.  Our last date night we strolled downtown Madison to a new pizza restaurant called Lucille.

A trickling pitter patter provided a cozy soundtrack as we skipped to our reservation in the rain.  A gutted out, revamped and ready for pizza ex-Isthmus newspaper building laid the scene.  Tall windows lined the towering two-story, open-space layout.  Natural light illuminated the aged brick walls and dark wood hue of the interior.

Soaking it in.

Tess looked beautiful and the aroma of pizza baking filled the sky-high ceiling.  A mixture of flourishing restaurant noise and Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” offered the perfect score.   Was I in pizza restaurant dreamland?

It was great to slow down and appreciate my wife, some new pizza and a pretty righteous ambiance.  Taking the time to mentally note all of the elements of the night I was grateful for created a deep level of joy for me.  It also reminded me I wasn’t always good at taking the time to feel thankful for the wonderful things in my life.

Gratification and Gratitude.

With the rapid pace in our lives it can be difficult to savor the most basic things.  I often find myself striving for gratification and getting my fill at all costs, when I should be practicing gratitude. Being thankful is much more satisfying and also healthier for us mentally. We can excel by swapping our gratification with gratefulness.

I try to stop and remind myself of how appreciative I am to have each bite of pizza in my life.  I remind myself to cherish the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of each occasion just like that night at Lucille.

What pizza taught me:

Life moves fast, it’s easy to let it pass us by and miss the best parts. Taking a moment to appreciate what we have can make everything much more enjoyable.  By giving thanks we fully savor the moment, our loved ones and of course our pizza.  Follow Michelangelo’s advice and take “a moment to reflect.”

  • What I’m eating: Lucille, Madison WI. Steel pan pizza: “New Glarus Spotted Cow fermented crust, house-milled tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella, with a caramelized cheddar crust”, pepperoni and onion..
  • What I’m reading: “Unshakable”-Tony Robbins
  • What I’m listening to: Lou Reed “Take a Walk on the Wild Side”