90 day plan: 11/16-11/30

This is my second update on my 90 day plan to rejuvenate after completing a big project. During that time I had really ignored some important things so I am reclaiming them. Read the first update from 11/1 to 11/15 here.

Here are the goals I started in November:

  • Read one book per week
  • Read the New Testament
  • Complete 30 days of the Insanity workout
  • Run four to five days a week
  • Meditate for ten minutes a day
  • No alcohol
  • Drink pu-erh tea

I’m using Lift to track some of these and that’s been helpful. I also have them printed out on my desk at work.


Read one book per week

The first book was The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, which I didn’t finish because that thing is thick. I’m still working through it. I will complete the next book on my list, How to Read a Book, this weekend. It’s been good so far and will set a good foundation for the rest of the books I want to read. The next book up is The Lean Startup, followed by Zero to One.

Read the New Testament

This is still on! A few days behind, but I adjusted December’s plan to fit this in. It’s a great habit in the mornings.

Complete 30 days of the Insanity workout

Officially abandoned this goal when I started the StrongLifts 5×5 program.

Run four to five days a week

Still on, but at three days a week around StrongLifts.

Meditate for ten minutes a day

Still on! Getting more regular with this one. It’s been good. The effects aren’t immediately noticeable but I can tell during the day that I’m more focused and clear-headed. Hard to tell if it’s just this as I’m doing a few things right now, but this is good.

I’m continuing to use the Headspace app which is $13 a month after the 10 day trial.

No alcohol

Nope. Made it two weeks, but I am only drinking red wine right now. The key here was to stop drinking beer for no reason except it’s delicious. Red wine is growing on me immensely and I prefer it to beer now. Heresy, I know.

Drink pu-erh tea

Every day at work, this is one of the first things I do. I switched from Teavana’s strawberry pu-erh to a vanilla one from rishi tea. (I have no financial incentive to post these).


Goal status:

  • Read one book per week (underway)
  • Read the New Testament (underway)
  • Complete 30 days of the Insanity workout (not completed, changed course)
  • Run four to five days a week (underway, changed course)
  • Meditate for ten minutes a day (underway)
  • No alcohol (not completed)
  • Drink pu-erh tea (underway)

04. December 2014 by Chris Cottrell
Categories: Personal Development | Tags: | Comments Off

My Morning Routine and How to Create Yours

Sunrise from my drive this morning.

Sunrise from my drive this morning.

If you read about many great people, you’ll find that most of them have engrained routines. For example, Steve Jobs’ morning routine:

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Ben Franklin started his days asking, “What good shall I do this day?” Margaret Thatcher started her days at 5:00, listening to a radio show about farming. Routines are important to put critical tasks on auto-pilot so we don’t miss them. Morning routines put you first so you can excel throughout the day.

My days are much better and more productive when I have a morning routine. Here’s what mine looks like right now:

M, W, & F

5:00 – wake up, drink 500ml of ice water with a tbsp of apple cider vinegar

5:30 – breakfast (30 grams of protein) and greens juice

5:45 – read scripture or meditate

6:30 – quick run

7:10 – shower and dress for work


T, Th, & Sa*

5:00 – wake up, drink 500ml of ice water with a tbsp of apple cider vinegar

5:30 – breakfast (30 grams of protein) and greens juice

5:45 – read scripture or meditate

6:15 – gym (StrongLifts 5×5 right now)

7:10 – shower and dress for work


*Everything on Saturday is about an hour and a half later, but it’s the same routine.

Okay, so that’s my routine. It changes depending on what I’m doing or what goals I have. The stuff above reflects my current 90 day goals.


How to create your morning routine:

  1. Identify the areas of focus in your life that your routine should support. Mine is physical health so it includes working out and drinking awesome fresh vegetable juice.
  2. Find the one or two repeatable actions that will support those goals and that you can do easily.
  3. Set up those actions so they’re super easy in the morning and track your success. Make a sheet to go on the fridge or use the Lift app.
  4. At the end of the week (I do this on Sundays) get everything you’ll need for the upcoming week. This could mean planning your workouts, buying your vegetables, hard boiling eggs, etc.

Helpful tips:

  • Have what you need ready. Don’t expect yourself to figure it out in the morning when you’re groggy. Organize your supplements, food, meditation stuff, journal, whatever, to be ready for you. For example, have all the vegetables for my green juice cut and organized in plastic bags.
  • Include something you look forward to. For me this can be a new tea or even just a good breakfast. Anything to help me jump out of bed.
  • Start small. Add one thing a week so you don’t burn out.

02. December 2014 by Chris Cottrell
Categories: Fitness, Personal Development | Leave a comment

90 day plan: 11/1 to 11/15


In October, I posted that I was taking the next 90 days to take care of some things I had been neglecting and finally had time to add in some things to life. Here are the goals I set out:

  • Read one book per week
  • Read the New Testament
  • Complete 30 days of the Insanity workout
  • Run four to five days a week
  • Meditate for ten minutes a day
  • No alcohol
  • Drink pu-erh tea

None of these are specifically too tough but doing them all together is challenging and I am tracking it all in an app called Lift, which I’ll talk about more later.


Read one book per week

The first book on my list was The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. It is an amazing read about an exceptionally inspiring human. TR is often praised for his manly qualities and he has those in abundance, but his approach to life should be inspiring for both men and women alike. I am about halfway through the book and even though I extended my one week to two weeks, I haven’t finished it. It’s just too long to read in a week with work.

I’m going to keep it in rotation and read when I can. I would highly recommend reading the first few chapters up to the end of TR’s college years. The big thing I took away from reading so far is that the wind of enthusiasm coupled with no fear of failure is more powerful than any obstacle on this earth.

Read the New Testament

I am on track with this one. My goal is three chapters a day, starting with Matthew 1. I fell behind for a few busy days, but caught back up by reading 10+ chapters. I built in a buffer with this by not starting a new chapter if the previous book wasn’t divisible by three. For example, Mark has 16 chapters. I read three a day for the first five days and then the 16th chapter on the sixth day. If I fell behind I was able to catch up that day.

Complete 30 days of the Insanity workout

This one sucks. Arielle and I had already completed Insanity before I stupidly decided to redo month one. I did it poorly for two weeks before just cutting the cord and switching to something more fun for me: Stronglifts 5×5 program.

It’s simple and effective and really easy to follow. I’ll update on how I like it in a few weeks, but so far it’s great. I’m combining this with the Slow-Carb Diet. The nice thing about both plan and diet is they are simple, cheap and repeatable.

Run four to five times per week

I have kept this for the most part. It’s really awful to do Insanity and then run, but the 5×5 workout is perfect for running 4/5 times per week. Working on the Pose Method has been uncomfortable at first because it’s harder but I have gotten better at it and run faster as a result.

Meditate for ten minutes per day

The Headspace app has been great for doing this and guiding me through the process, I just keep forgetting to actually do it after five times of doing it consistently.

No alcohol

Broke this one twice: celebrating something awesome and early Thanksgiving with Arielle’s family. After the rest of the month, I’m going to move to red wine only.

Drink pu-erh tea

I drink four cups a day (I reuse each tea bag twice) and it’s great. It tastes awesome, no milk fat like in coffee, and gives me great focused energy. Pu-erh is known to promote weight-loss, too. Not bad.

This month I’ve been using pu-erh tea mixed with dried strawberries from Teavana, but think I may refill with plain pu-erh to drop the sugar in the strawberries but haven’t decided if it even transmits it…

Update two coming in two weeks. Let me know if you want more info on any of this in the comments.

18. November 2014 by Chris Cottrell
Categories: Fitness, Personal Development | Leave a comment

The Next 90 Days


A lot has happened since my last post, but those updates will have to wait for a few more weeks. I’ve finally finished a few big projects and am able to get back to trying some new things and November is turning out to be a great month for that.

There have been a few areas in life that I’ve pushed off to focus on other more urgent needs. I’m jumping back in all at once. I am a big believer in breaking big goals down to manageable steps and then making those steps visible on a daily level. I’ve written down my plan for November and have it hanging at the office and at home. Here are my goals for the next 90 days and a sample week of steps to those goals.

Read one book per week – I’ve chosen 24 books to read, from business and economics, to personal development. I only chose books that were highly recommended. Most of them were already on my bookshelf, but hadn’t been read.

Read the New Testament – I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever read through the entire New Testament. This should take about 90 days at three chapters a day. I’m using the ESV app on my phone.

Complete 30 days of the Insanity workout – This is one Arielle and I are doing together. It’s a 60 day program split down the middle so I’m just completing the first half.

Run four to five days a week – I’d like to be a more regular runner and I’m working on the Pose Method and using Newton shoes to encourage that method.

Meditate for ten minutes a day – Meditation is something I have never practiced before, but I am using a guided app called Headspace that has been good so far. I’m hoping the practice will help me focus and clear my head.

No alcohol – this is only for 30 days in November. I may do this again after December, but there are just too many parties and events around Christmas.

Pu-erh tea – The coffee at the office is crappy and I’d rather drink tea anyway. Pu-erh was recommended via Tim Ferriss’ blog and I picked some up at Teavana.

How I’m Tracking It All

In addition to the printed monthly chart, I’m tracking it on my phone in an app called Lift. The app can send me daily reminders (I set them for the morning) to remind me of what I need to do. Once I do it, I can mark it as done and track my progress. The most useful feature I think will be the daily reminders on my phone, which I use constantly.

03. November 2014 by Chris Cottrell
Categories: Personal Development | Leave a comment

A Book a Week for 24 Weeks


For the next few months, I’m committed to reading a book a week. The books I’ve chosen are ones that have all been highly recommended or that I’ve had for awhile but haven’t read yet.

  1. Change Your Voice, Change Your Life
  2. The Lean Startup
  3. The Charisma Myth
  4. The Triple Package
  5. Freedom and Capitalism
  6. Four Hour Chef
  7. Four Hour Work Week
  8. The Innovator’s Dilemma
  9. Personal MBA
  10. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
  11. Leadership and Self-Deception
  12. How to Speak How to Listen
  13. Outliers
  14. Zero to One
  15. Good to Great
  16. Leadership Presence
  17. The Way of the Seal
  18. Wealth and Poverty
  19. Collapse
  20. Guns, Germs and Steel
  21. The Art of Learning
  22. Zero to One
  23. How to Read a Book
  24. How to Win Friends and Influence People

What books am I missing?

03. November 2014 by Chris Cottrell
Categories: Personal Development | Leave a comment

Three Things I’ve Learned as a Manager

Sometimes you get really lucky.

It’s uncommon to work at a company that has incredible growth and extremely competent colleagues and executives. I’ve been luckiest to have great managers.

At the time, I took it for granted. That’s quickly changed in the past few months since I myself became a manager. Everything that goes into being a great manager has become abundantly clear. Here are three things I’ve learned so far (subject to change):


Really, Really Give a Damn

Managers have more direct impact on their employees and their daily lives than the federal government. If you’re going to take that kind of responsibility on, you have to care deeply and passionately. You should feel a spiritual, moral drive to be a great manager.

Great managers have to understand what their employees want in their careers, finances and their lives and help get them there. You benefit because your employees will follow you for this care.


Manage Yourself

It’s important to work well in the organization and keep a strong relationship with my manager. My ability to build a network and work within the politics of an office will have a direct impact on how my team is treated and if we get what we need. The real issue here is trust. If your people view you as powerless, they won’t trust you.


Have, Follow, and Change a Plan

When I came into the role, I wrote out a 90 day plan of action. Many of the items I completed, but many were changed within weeks of the transition as circumstances dictated. It was really important for me to have an agenda of what I would focus on and it allowed me to track it with my manager and show the progress I was making in each area.


One of my favorite quotes about management is from former Brigadier General, now professor Tom Kolditz.

Leadership, in many respects, is exercising a moral obligation. When you put yourself at the head of an organization, or you put yourself in a group of individuals and work to influence them in a certain direction, there are consequences that affect people’s lives.

If you do it right, you help people make their mortgages. You help them send their kids to college. And the organization is stronger because of it. For those willing to take that on, I think there is a reward and satisfaction that comes with the responsibility.

20. July 2014 by Chris Cottrell
Categories: Personal Development | Leave a comment

George Washington’s Rules of Civility

It was well-written of Washington when it was said, “no wonder every body honoured him who honoured every body.”

  1. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
  2. When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.
  3. Show Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.
  4. In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
  5. If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkerchief or Hand before your face and turn aside.
  6. Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
  7. Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dressed.
  8. At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.
  9. Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.
  10. When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.
  11. Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.
  12. Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs roll not the Eyes lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.
  13. Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexterously upon it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.
  14. Turn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.
  15. Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Showing any great Concern for them.
  16. Do not Puff up the Cheeks, Loll not out the tongue rub the Hands, or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them or keep the Lips too open or too Close.
  17. Be no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be Play’d Withal.
  18. Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the Books or Writings of Another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unasked also look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.
  19. Let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.
  20. The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon.
  21. Reproach none for the Infirmities of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.
  22. Show not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
  23. When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always show Pity to the Suffering Offender.
  24. Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Public Spectacle.
  25. Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremony are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.
  26. In Pulling off your Hat to Persons of Distinction, as Noblemen, Justices, Churchmen &c make a Reverence, bowing more or less according to the Custom of the Better Bred, and Quality of the Person. Amongst your equals expect not always that they Should begin with you first, but to Pull off the Hat when there is no need is Affectation, in the Manner of Saluting and resaluting in words keep to the most usual Custom.
  27. Tis ill manners to bid one more eminent than yourself be covered as well as not to do it to whom it’s due Likewise he that makes too much haste to Put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to Put it on at the first, or at most the Second time of being asked; now what is herein Spoken, of Qualification in behavior in Saluting, ought also to be observed in taking of Place, and Sitting down for ceremonies without Bounds is troublesome.
  28. If any one come to Speak to you while you are are Sitting Stand up though he be your Inferior, and when you Present Seats let it be to every one according to his Degree.
  29. When you meet with one of Greater Quality than yourself, Stop, and retire especially if it be at a Door or any Straight place to give way for him to Pass.
  30. In walking the highest Place in most Countries Seems to be on the right hand therefore Place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to Honor: but if three walk together the middest Place is the most Honorable the wall is usually given to the most worthy if two walk together.
  31. If any one far Surpasses others, either in age, Estate, or Merit yet would give Place to a meaner than himself in his own lodging or elsewhere the one ought not to except it, So he on the other part should not use much earnestness nor offer it above once or twice.
  32. To one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give the chief Place in your Lodging and he to who ‘is offered ought at the first to refuse it but at the Second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.
  33. They that are in Dignity or in office have in all places Precedency but whilst they are Young they ought to respect those that are their equals in Birth or other Qualities, though they have no Public charge.
  34. It is good Manners to prefer them to whom we Speak before ourselves especially if they be above us with whom in no Sort we ought to begin.
  35. Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.
  36. Artificers & Persons of low Degree ought not to use many ceremonies to Lords, or Others of high Degree but Respect and highly Honor them, and those of high Degree ought to treat them with affability & Courtesy, without Arrogance.
  37. In speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor Look them full in the Face, nor approach too near them at lest Keep a full Pace from them.
  38. In visiting the Sick, do not Presently play the Physician if you be not Knowing therein.
  39. In writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.
  40. Strive not with your Superiors in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.
  41. Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Professes; it Savours of arrogance.
  42. Let thy ceremonies in Courtesy be proper to the Dignity of his place with whom thou converses for it is absurd to act the same with a Clown and a Prince.
  43. Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.
  44. When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.
  45. Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in public or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Show no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness.
  46. Take all Admonitions thankfully in what Time or Place Soever given but afterwards not being culpable take a Time & Place convenient to let him him know it that gave them.
  47. Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break [n]o Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasant abstain from Laughing thereat yourself.
  48. Wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.
  49. Use no Reproachful Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.
  50. Be not hasty to believe flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.
  51. Wear not your Cloths, foul, ripped or Dusty but See they be Brushed once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any Uncleaness.
  52. In your Apparel be Modest and endeavor to accommodate Nature, rather than to procure Admiration keep to the Fashion of your equals Such as are Civil and orderly with respect to Times and Places.
  53. Run not in the Streets, neither go too slowly nor with Mouth open go not Shaking your Arms kick not the earth with R feet, go not upon the Toes, nor in a Dancing fashion.
  54. Play not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be well Decked, if your Shoes fit well if your Stockings sit neatly, and Cloths handsomely.
  55. Eat not in the Streets, nor in the House, out of Season.
  56. Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ‘is better to be alone than in bad Company.
  57. In walking up and Down in a House, only with One in Company if he be Greater than yourself, at the first give him the Right hand and Stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him, if he be a Man of Great Quality, walk not with him Cheek by Joul but Somewhat behind him; but yet in Such a Manner that he may easily Speak to you.
  58. Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for ‘is a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern.
  59. Never express anything unbecoming, nor Act against the Rules Moral before your inferiors.
  60. Be not immodest in urging your Friends to Discover a Secret.
  61. Utter not base and frivolous things amongst grave and Learned Men nor very Difficult Questions or Subjects, among the Ignorant or things hard to be believed, Stuff not your Discourse with Sentences amongst your Betters nor Equals.
  62. Speak not of doleful Things in a Time of Mirth or at the Table; Speak not of Melancholy Things as Death and Wounds, and if others Mention them Change if you can the Discourse tell not your Dreams, but to your intimate Friend.
  63. A Man ought not to value himself of his Achievements, or rare Qualities of wit; much less of his riches Virtue or Kindred.
  64. Break not a Jest where none take pleasure in mirth Laugh not aloud, nor at all without Occasion, deride no mans Misfortune, though there Seem to be Some cause.
  65. Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.
  66. Be not froward but friendly and Courteous; the first to Salute hear and answer & be not Pensive when it’s a time to Converse.
  67. Detract not from others neither be excessive in Commanding.
  68. Go not thither, where you know not, whether you Shall be Welcome or not. Give not Advice without being Asked & when desired do it briefly.
  69. If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrained; and be not obstinate in your own Opinion, in Things indifferent be of the Major Side.
  70. Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belongs to Parents Masters and Superiors.
  71. Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of Others and ask not how they came. What you may Speak in Secret to your Friend deliver not before others.
  72. Speak not in an unknown Tongue in Company but in your own Language and that as those of Quality do and not as the Vulgar; Sublime matters treat Seriously.
  73. Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.
  74. When Another Speaks be attentive your Self and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speech be ended.
  75. In the midst of Discourse ask not of what one treateth but if you Perceive any Stop because of your coming you may well intreat him gently to Proceed: If a Person of Quality comes in while your Conversing it’s handsome to Repeat what was said before.
  76. While you are talking, Point not with your Finger at him of Whom you Discourse nor Approach too near him to whom you talk especially to his face.
  77. Treat with men at fit Times about Business & Whisper not in the Company of Others.
  78. Make no Comparisons and if any of the Company be Commended for any brave act of Virtue, commend not another for the Same.
  79. Be not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof. In Discoursing of things you Have heard Name not your Author always A Secret Discover not.
  80. Be not Tedious in Discourse or in reading unless you find the Company pleased therewith.
  81. Be not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others neither approach those that Speak in Private.
  82. Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful to keep your Promise.
  83. When you deliver a matter do it without Passion & with Discretion, however mean the Person be you do it too.
  84. When your Superiors talk to any Body hearken not neither Speak nor Laugh.
  85. In Company of these of Higher Quality than yourself Speak not til you are asked a Question then Stand upright put of your Hat & Answer in few words.
  86. In Disputes, be not So Desirous to Overcome as not to give Liberty to each one to deliver his Opinion and Submit to the Judgment of the Major Part especially if they are Judges of the Dispute.
  87. Let thy carriage be such as becomes a Man Grave Settled and attentive to that which is spoken. Contradict not at every turn what others Say.
  88. Be not tedious in Discourse, make not many Digressions, nor repeat often the Same manner of Discourse.
  89. Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.
  90. Being Set at meat Scratch not neither Spit Cough or blow your Nose except there’s a Necessity for it.
  91. Make no Show of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat.
  92. Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.
  93. Entertaining any one at the table, it is decent to present him with meat; Undertake not to help others undesired by the Master.
  94. If you Soak bread in the Sauce let it be no more than what you put in your Mouth at a time and blow not your broth at Table but Stay till Cools of it Self.
  95. Put not your meat to your Mouth with your Knife in your hand neither Spit forth the Stones of any fruit Pie upon a Dish nor Cast anything under the table.
  96. It’s unbecoming to Stoop much to ones Meat Keep your Fingers clean & when foul wipe them on a Corner of your Table Napkin.
  97. Put not another bit into your mouth till the former be swallowed. Let not your morsels be too big for the jowls.
  98. Drink not nor talk with your mouth full; neither gaze about you while you are drinking.
  99. Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily. Before and after drinking, wipe your lips; breath not then or ever with too great a noise, for its uncivil.
  100. Cleanse not your teeth with the table cloth napkin, fork, or knife; but if others do it, let it be done without a peep to them.
  101. Rinse not your mouth in the presence of others.
  102. It is out of use to call upon the company often to eat; nor need you drink to others every time you drink.
  103. In the company of your betters, be not longer in eating than they are; lay not your arm but only your hand upon the table.
  104. It belongs to the chiefest in company to unfold his napkin and fall to meat first, but he ought then to begin in time & to dispatch with dexterity that the slowest may have time allowed him.
  105. Be not angry at the table whatever happens & if you have reason to be so, show it not; put on a cheerful countenance especially if there be strangers, for good humor makes one dish of meat a feast.
  106. Set not yourself at the upper of the table; but if it be your due or that the master of the house will have it so, contend not, least you should trouble the company.
  107. If others talk at the table, be attentive but talk not with meat in your mouth.
  108. When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously & with reverence. Honor & obey your natural parents although they be poor.
  109. Let your recreations be manful not sinful.
  110. Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.


27. January 2014 by Chris Cottrell
Categories: Leadership, Personal Development | Leave a comment

Read the first pages of Elon Musk’s Hyperloop plan



* * *


The first several pages will attempt to describe the design in everyday language, keeping numbers to a minimum and avoiding formulas and jargon. I apologize in advance for my loose use of language and imperfect analogies.

The second section is for those with a technical background. There are no doubt errors of various kinds and superior optimizations for elements of the system. Feedback would be most welcome – please send to hyperloop@spacex.com or hyperloop@teslamotors.com. I would like to thank my excellent compadres at both companies for their help in putting this together.


When the California “high speed” rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL – doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world? Note, I am

hedging my statement slightly by saying “one of”. The head of the California high speed rail project called me to complain that it wasn’t the very slowest bullet train nor the very most expensive per mile.

The underlying motive for a statewide mass transit system is a good one. It would be great to have an alternative to flying or driving, but obviously only if it is actually better than flying or driving. The train in question would be both slower, more expensive to operate (if unsubsidized) and less safe by two orders of magnitude than flying, so why would anyone use it?

If we are to make a massive investment in a new transportation system, then the return should by rights be equally massive. Compared to the alternatives, it should ideally be:

  • Safer
  • Faster
  • Lower cost
  • More convenient
  • Immune to weather
  • Sustainably self-powering
  • Resistant to Earthquakes
  • Not disruptive to those along the route

Is there truly a new mode of transport – a fifth mode after planes, trains, cars and boats – that meets those criteria and is practical to implement? Many ideas for a system with most of those properties have been proposed and should be acknowledged, reaching as far back as Robert Goddard’s to proposals in recent decades by the Rand Corporation and ET3.

Unfortunately, none of these have panned out. As things stand today, there is not even a short distance demonstration system operating in test pilot mode anywhere in the world, let alone something that is robust enough for public transit. They all possess, it would seem, one or more fatal flaws that prevent them from coming to fruition.

Constraining the Problem

The Hyperloop (or something similar) is, in my opinion, the right solution for the specific case of high traffic city pairs that are less than about 1500 km or 900 miles apart. Around that inflection point, I suspect that supersonic air travel ends up being faster and cheaper. With a high enough altitude and the right geometry, the sonic boom noise on the ground would be no louder than current airliners, so that isn’t a showstopper. Also, a quiet supersonic plane immediately solves every long distance city pair without the need for a vast new worldwide infrastructure.

However, for a sub several hundred mile journey, having a supersonic plane is rather pointless, as you would spend almost all your time slowly ascending and descending and very little time at cruise speed. In order to go fast, you need to be at high altitude where the air density drops exponentially, as air at sea level becomes as thick as molasses (not literally, but you get the picture) as you approach sonic velocity.

So What is Hyperloop Anyway?

Short of figuring out real teleportation, which would of course be awesome (someone please do this), the only option for super fast travel is to build a tube over or under the ground that contains a special environment. This is where things get tricky.

At one extreme of the potential solutions is some enlarged version of the old pneumatic tubes used to send mail and packages within and between buildings. You could, in principle, use very powerful fans to push air at high speed through a tube and propel people-sized pods all the way from LA to San Francisco. However, the friction of a 350 mile long column of air moving at anywhere near sonic velocity against the inside of the tube is so stupendously high that this is impossible for all practical purposes.

Another extreme is the approach, advocated by Rand and ET3, of drawing a hard or near hard vacuum in the tube and then using an electromagnetic suspension. The problem with this approach is that it is incredibly hard to maintain a near vacuum in a room, let alone 700 miles (round trip) of large tube with dozens of station gateways and thousands of pods entering and exiting every day. All it takes is one leaky seal or a small crack somewhere in the hundreds of miles of tube and the whole system stops working.

However, a low pressure (vs. almost no pressure) system set to a level where standard commercial pumps could easily overcome an air leak and the transport pods could handle variable air density would be inherently robust. Unfortunately, this means that there is a non-trivial amount of air in the tube and leads us straight into another problem.

Overcoming the Kantrowitz Limit

Whenever you have a capsule or pod (I am using the words interchangeably) moving at high speed through a tube containing air, there is a minimum tube to pod area ratio below which you will choke the flow. What this means is that if the walls of the tube and the capsule are too close together, the capsule will behave like a syringe and eventually be forced to push the entire column of air in the system. Not good.

Nature’s top speed law for a given tube to pod area ratio is known as the Kantrowitz limit. This is highly problematic, as it forces you to either go slowly

or have a super huge diameter tube. Interestingly, there are usually two solutions to the Kantrowitz limit – one where you go slowly and one where you go really, really fast.

The latter solution sounds mighty appealing at first, until you realize that going several thousand miles per hour means that you can’t tolerate even wide turns without painful g loads. For a journey from San Francisco to LA, you will also experience a rather intense speed up and slow down. And, when you get right down to it, going through transonic buffet in a tube is just fundamentally a dodgy prospect.

Both for trip comfort and safety, it would be best to travel at high subsonic speeds for a 350 mile journey. For much longer journeys, such as LA to NY, it would be worth exploring super high speeds and this is probably technically feasible, but, as mentioned above, I believe the economics would probably favor a supersonic plane.

The approach that I believe would overcome the Kantrowitz limit is to mount an electric compressor fan on the nose of the pod that actively transfers high pressure air from the front to the rear of the vessel. This is like having a pump in the head of the syringe actively relieving pressure.

It would also simultaneously solve another problem, which is how to create a low friction suspension system when traveling at over 700 mph. Wheels don’t work very well at that sort of speed, but a cushion of air does. Air bearings, which use the same basic principle as an air hockey table, have been demonstrated to work at speeds of Mach 1.1 with very low friction. In this case, however, it is the pod that is producing the air cushion, rather than the tube, as it is important to make the tube as low cost and simple as possible.

That then begs the next question of whether a battery can store enough energy to power a fan for the length of the journey with room to spare. Based on our calculations, this is no problem, so long as the energy used to accelerate the pod is not drawn from the battery pack.

This is where the external linear electric motor comes in, which is simply a round induction motor (like the one in the Tesla Model S) rolled flat. This would accelerate the pod to high subsonic velocity and provide a periodic reboost roughly every 70 miles. The linear electric motor is needed for as little as ~1% of the tube length, so is not particularly costly.

Making the Economics Work

The pods and linear motors are relatively minor expenses compared to the tube itself – several hundred million dollars at most, compared with several billion dollars for the tube. Even several billion is a low number when compared with several tens of billion proposed for the track of the California rail project.

The key advantages of a tube vs. a railway track are that it can be built above the ground on pylons and it can be built in prefabricated sections that are dropped in place and joined with an orbital seam welder. By building it on pylons, you can almost entirely avoid the need to buy land by following alongside the mostly very straight California Interstate 5 highway, with only minor deviations when the highway makes a sharp turn.

Even when the Hyperloop path deviates from the highway, it will cause minimal disruption to farmland roughly comparable to a tree or telephone pole, which farmers deal with all the time. A ground based high speed rail system by comparison needs up to a 100 ft wide swath of dedicated land to build up foundations for both directions, forcing people to travel for several miles just to get to the other side of their property. It is also noisy, with nothing to contain the sound, and needs unsightly protective fencing to prevent animals, people or vehicles from getting on to the track. Risk of derailment is also not to be taken lightly, as demonstrated by several recent fatal train accidents.

Earthquakes and Expansion Joints

A ground based high speed rail system is susceptible to Earthquakes and needs frequent expansion joints to deal with thermal expansion/contraction and subtle, large scale land movement.

By building a system on pylons, where the tube is not rigidly fixed at any point, you can dramatically mitigate Earthquake risk and avoid the need for expansion joints. Tucked away inside each pylon, you could place two adjustable lateral (XY) dampers and one vertical (Z) damper.

These would absorb the small length changes between pylons due to thermal changes, as well as long form subtle height changes. As land slowly settles to a new position over time, the damper neutral position can be adjusted accordingly. A telescoping tube, similar to the boxy ones used to access airplanes at airports would be needed at the end stations to address the cumulative length change of the tube.

Can it Really be Self-Powering?

For the full explanation, please see the technical section, but the short answer is that by placing solar panels on top of the tube, the Hyperloop can generate far in excess of the energy needed to operate. This takes into account storing enough energy in battery packs to operate at night and for periods of extended cloudy weather. The energy could also be stored in the form of compressed air that then runs an electric fan in reverse to generate energy, as demonstrated by LightSail.

* * *

The full Hyperloop PDF can be found here.

23. August 2013 by Chris Cottrell
Categories: Entrepreneurship | Leave a comment

What Daddy Read a Book is Teaching Me Pt 2

It’s been almost ten months since my first post on what I’m learning by starting Daddy Read a Book. Since then I’ve learned a lot from successes and failure. Here we go…



As we’re growing, I’m learning how to build processes and workflows out of nothing. Start at A, end up at B. Since I’m naturally inclined to focus on the big picture and see the end goal, this area takes intentional thought for me. I can see the end product as if I’m holding it my hand. Reverse engineering and thinking of all the steps required to realize the vision just takes more effort.

The biggest takeaway is realizing how much the process matters. To grow, you have to build a good process and continuously improve it.


Sustainability: Moving on from the Chief Everything Officer

In part one, I talked about being responsible for everything. In the beginning stages, if you don’t do it, it doesn’t happen. You are the organization/business/start-up.

While that phase is necessary, it won’t last. I found that out firsthand as I reached pretty near 150% of my personal bandwidth.

To do anything well for a long period of time takes support. That’s the key to personal sustainability and, when you’re leading anything (organization, life, business, marriage), your personal sustainability is foundational to your leadership.



The most crucial partnership Daddy Read a Book has is with Luke Air Force Base. The dads we’re working with now are all service members affiliated with LAFB and we rely on them to connect and work with these dads.

When we started, we depended on The James Agency for all of our website, branding and PR. We depended on Yodle to sponsor our kickoff fundraiser, on our board members for our first connections, and donors for our budget.

I’m profoundly grateful to these organizations. With an entrepreneurial spirit, it’s too easy to take on challenges alone. I learned more deeply the importance of your partners.


Read What Daddy Read a Book is Teaching Me Pt 1

14. July 2013 by Chris Cottrell
Categories: Leadership, Personal Development, Thoughts | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

How Yodle Helped Build a Local Nonprofit

This is a piece Yodle asked me to write about Daddy Read a Book. This original post is here.

* * *

It was on a flight back to Phoenix from the Yodle headquarters in New York almost a year ago when I decided to start a nonprofit with a simple mission: connect children to their dad in his absence through videos of him reading their favorite children’s books out loud.

Many children spend months apart from their fathers at a young age through military deployment, hospitalization, incarceration or other separations. My idea was to connect these children to their fathers by giving them a video of him reading their favorite children’s books out loud. I envisioned siblings gathered before bedtime, watching their father read, just as if he’s right there with them. I imagined a little girl watching on an iPad, returning a good-night kiss to her daddy on the screen.

Today the idea is now a nonprofit called Daddy Read a Book and we’ve raised more than $60,000 in the past six months.

Much of the credit for this success goes to Yodle. The offices in Scottsdale and Charlotte recently came together to sponsor the Daddy Read a Book Kickoff Fundraiser. Seven employees from the Scottsdale office volunteered at the event and helped make it a huge success. Former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman joined more than 100 other guests on May 30 at the Tempe Center for the Arts and helped us raise over $8,500 that night alone.


Yodle employees at the recent fundraising event in Arizona.

Long before that night and before I started Daddy Read a Book, Yodle was teaching me how to build an organization. In my two years here, I’ve been watching the exceptional leadership very closely. What I’ve learned helped me build Daddy Read a Book from just an idea into an organization that is changing lives.

Here are the three most important things I’ve learned from Yodle that have helped me grow Daddy Read a Book:

1. Plan for the long-term. On my second day at Yodle, the ProfitFuel acquisition was announced. In the two years since, the integration has been completed and it’s been done very efficiently. This tremendous task took years of significant planning to accomplish and, perhaps more importantly, a long-term vision of the value in that acquisition. For Daddy Read a Book that showed me the importance of focusing on our greater vision first and building what it would take to get there.

2. Focus. In CEO Court Cunningham’s most recent town hall, he talked about the sticky note he had on his desk for the past few years. On it, he wrote his primary focus for Yodle. He shared how he looked at it every day for years and pursued the goals he had written down. That focus is what took Yodle from a startup to an industry leader. For Daddy Read a Book, that meant focusing on one goal and reminding ourselves of that goal every day to help keep us on track.

3. Truly believe “It can be done.” One of Yodle’s six core values is “It can be done – Just do it.” This is absolutely the most important belief I’ve gained from working here. Eight years ago Yodle was little more than an idea. Today, the company has over 1000 employees and more than 30,000 customers. Yodle’s success is proof that anything is possible. This belief spurred me to start Daddy Read a Book and gave me confidence that it would succeed.

On my first day at Yodle, I brought in a replica of the plaque that sat on President Reagan’s desk in the Oval Office that reads, “It CAN be done”. Two years later, that plaque is still on my desk and that belief is stronger than ever.

It CAN be done.

07. June 2013 by Chris Cottrell
Categories: Entrepreneurship | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

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