Five Ready-Made Metaphors to Improve Your Storytelling

02.2.2015 | 1:55 pm

Screenshot 2015 02 03 06 24 15A “Hey, Let’s Talk” Note from Fatty: As you no doubt know, I’m a big fan of the Rockwell Relay. It is, in fact, one of the three events I absolutely positively make sure I do every year. 

I’ve done it four times now (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), and I’ve loved it every single time. I love the beauty of the area. I love the friendliness of the competition. I love the way you get a chance to race your brains out, support your other teammates, and eat like there’s no tomorrow.

Over the course of the four times I’ve done this race, I’ve learned a bunch about it. Enough, in fact, that I’m probably a good guy to have a chat with if you’re going to do the race yourself.

Which, this Thursday at 2pm MT, is exactly what we’re going to do: talk live about the Rockwell Relay.

Joining me will be race director Tyler Servoss, as well as other racers with considerable experience in this event: Spencer Storey and Christian Walton.

We’re going to talk about the route, equipment, strategy, rules and rule changes, tips for not bonking at 3am, and what the race is like in general. We’ll make plenty of time for answering questions, too. 

If you’re going to be racing the Rockwell Relay, if you’ve raced it before and want to chat about your experience, or if you’re just considering signing up, you should join us. For reals. (But if you can’t attend live, I will have a recording of the event available later.)

You need to register to attend this event live (but it doesn’t cost anything), so click here to get yourself set up

Ready-Made Metaphors to Improve Your Storytelling

On a near-daily basis, people contact me, asking me to read their brand-new cycling blog, and to link to it. Because it’s going to be the next big thing.

I generally react by employing some combination of these two time-tested techniques:

  1. Ignore: I’ve found that at least in the case of email, if I ignore something it really does go away. Or at least it drifts down my inbox. And out of sight is out of mind.
  2. Reply: Sometimes, like when I have something else I really ought to be doing, I decide to check out the site. At that point, I generally discover that there are a grand total of three posts, the third of which is an appeal to the writer’s (no doubt vast) audience to give them some ideas to write about. I reply to people with these fledgling blogs and good intentions to get back to me once they have fifty or so good posts. They never do.

This problem manifests in other places, too. Like, when people are trying to tell me stories about their bike riding adventures. They start talking, telling me something about turns and sky and tarmac and berms and within seconds my attention has wandered.

This is in stark contrast to my own stories, which I find consistently and endlessly riveting.

As, naturally, do you.

“Why, Fatty?” I hear you ask. “Why is it that your stories are so astonishingly interesting, while mine are so lackluster that I frequently cannot even bear to finish telling them, due to lack of interestingness?”

It’s because of a storytelling secret I employ: colorful metaphors. As well as similes, which are like metaphors (yes, there’s a t-shirt for that gag). 

But do you think I just spout these metaphors off the top of my head in the heat of the moment? Nay. Nay, I reiterate. I instead prepare them in a dark room, my eyes undistracted. 

And then I list and memorize them, so I can use them at appropriate moments as I ride. Or, when push comes to shove, I seek out cycling experiences that will allow me to use these carefully prepared metaphors.

Sadly for you, you are not a famous and beloved blogger with years and years of experience in creating and deploying exquisite cycling metaphors. Luckily for you, however, I am a generous soul and have taken the time to build you a starter list of cycling metaphors, so that you can be at least fractionally as interesting as I am. 

“I was shot out of a cannon.” I list this metaphor first because I consider it to be the most important of all metaphors, due to the fact that I am so fast. You can use it to describe your explosive power in a sprint or attack. You can use it to explain your flight as you went over your handlebars. This metaphor can be intensified with any number of expletives between “a” and “cannon.” But only if you’re really fast.

[Note: This metaphor is copyrighted by Bob Bringhurst. All rights reserved. Used without permission, but he’s pretty cool about me plagiarizing.]

“I was a leaf on the surface a rushing stream.” I like this metaphor because it is truly evocative. Use it to describe the turbulent harmony amongst you, your bike, and the terrain. Your audience will be unable to help but think of you as simultaneously fragile, courageous, and unconsciously graceful. They will see you as being at one with your bike and the road/trail, possessing a preternatural sense of flow. Oh yes, do your best to use the word “preternatural” in your story, too. (But learn how to pronounce it first.)

“We tumbled like lovers.” As you know, sex sells, which is why this blog is so sexy. However, this metaphor—while mentioning lovers—turns out to not be about lovers at all! No, it turns out it’s something you say to describe how you crashed, but didn’t manage to clip out of your pedals. The contrast between the language of the metaphor and the action being described is almost too beautiful. Your audience will find itself caught up in the moment, and may not be able to help but weep.

“My tire expelled its breath, forcefully. Its last.” Lungs hold air. Tires hold air. Both are in big trouble if they get punctured. This metaphor is so perfectly apt it’s almost not a metaphor at all. It’s like a metaphor sandwich with extra cheese. Honestly, I’m a little bit in awe of myself that I came up with this.

PS: In this blog post, “five” is a metaphor for “four.” And also I have a meeting I need to get to right now and so had to post this before I wrote my fifth metaphor, which is too bad because it was totally going to be the fifth one. A hint: an electric blanket is used as a metaphor for an oppressively hot, windless day.


Perfect Storm of Leadville-WBR-Fatty Awesomeness

02.2.2015 | 12:55 pm

For your consideration today, I present the following facts:

  1. I am a certified Leadville 100 Fanboy. I have finished it 17 times, have started it 18 times, and am now training for my eighteenth time. 
  2. I am a certified World Bicycle Relief Fanboy. I’ve raised about enough to buy 5,000 Buffalo bikes in the past few years. I’m a true believer in what this organization does and the way it helps people help themselves.
  3. A whole lot of you would like to race Leadville, but it’s really hard to get in. I really wish I knew what the odds of getting in by lottery are. Based on how many email messages, comments, and real-world conversations I’ve had, I’d guess about one person in ten gets in by lottery. Maybe.

So, this post is for those of you who wanted to get into the Leadville 100 (but didn’t), who also think they’d like to help make an actual, measurable difference in the world. 

Because WBR and I are putting together a WBR-Leadville Team. Read the details and apply here, but the essentials are:

  • You tell us why you want to race Leadville
  • You promise to raise $5,000 for WBR 
  • We (the WBR folks and me) pick out the team
  • We all hang out and race and eat bratwurst in Leadville this August.

So, those of you who were all bummed out about not getting into Leadville…here’s your chance to get in after all. Sure, it’s going to take a little more work. A little more commitment. But your money is going to go to something really awesome.

So apply now. And I’ll see you there.

The Beginnings of a Story

01.27.2015 | 4:53 pm

A Note from Fatty: Last week I was interviewed by The Outspoken Cyclist about The Great Fatsby and anything else that came into my head. It was a fun conversation. Listen to it here. And be sure to subscribe to The Outspoken Cyclist’s podcast, while you’re at it. It’s awesome.

I’m a big fan of the short fiction compilations Ride and Ride 2. They’re interesting, diverse, sometimes exciting, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes funny, sometimes serious, and always about bicycles.

I’ve been asked to contribute a story for Ride 3. It’s a huge honor, and I’m really excited to be included.

The only problem is, fiction is not something I normally write. I’ve tried, and tried, and tried. And then I generally give up. The problem isn’t so much that I cannot write fiction. No, the problem is that I seem to be unable to begin fiction. 

But today, I shall begin my story. No, I shall begin three different stories, because I figure I have roughly a 33% chance of actually having an interesting story beginning. 

Please let me know which, if any, of these you’d like to see more of.

Oh, and also, as I write this sentence, I have no idea what any of these three story beginnings will actually be. None. At all. 

Pressure’s on.

OK, for reals I’m going to start now. Right after I go get a snack and use the restroom.

And make a few calls.

Two hours later…

Evidently, this thing isn’t going to write itself. Let’s get started. Now.

Idea 1: “Kokopelli”

Daniel was one of those people who never stops talking. Which explains why, right this second, he is saying, out loud, “Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no.” Even though there’s nobody around him. 

For miles.

Daniel, you see, thinks he’s probably going to die. And for once, Daniel is probably right.

Let’s back up a little for a moment. Not very far—this isn’t going to be some Tarantinesque flash-forward-flash-back story—but just a few minutes.

Daniel had been riding his mountain bike on The Kokopelli Trail, from Moab, Utah to Mack, Colorado. All 142 miles of it, in one push. By himself. In June. On a clear, windless day. 

Which is to say that, about three minutes ago, the temperature outside was 102 degrees. (Fahrenheit.) 

This was foolhardy, but not out of character.

But it wasn’t the heat that was likely to kill Daniel. At least not directly. In fact, right at this moment, Daniel isn’t really even thinking about the heat. Although he is sweating profusely.

He’s not even thinking about his broken collarbone, although I guarantee you that in about twenty minutes he’ll be giving it a considerable amount of attention.

Right now, Daniel is thinking about what caused him to endo and break his collarbone three minutes ago. Which was his friend Eric—very recently deceased—lying on the trail, facedown in what at first looked like a pretty good-sized anthill, but which in fact was an astonishing large pile of heroin.

Daniel doesn’t know what Eric is doing there. But he’s going to find out. Soon. Real soon.

As soon, in fact, as he stops wailing so I can step out from behind this rock and introduce myself.

And then we’re going to have a conversation. 

Idea 2: Podium

I am 43 years old. I am a professional. I am a parent, a husband. I am a philanthropist, a sports commentator, and an orthodontist, licensed to practice in every state west of the Mississippi.  

I am also the most successful professional cyclist that has ever lived. 

And I am not talking about the past, either. I mean I’m the fastest cyclist who has ever lived, and I’m the fastest cyclist there is, right now

I just won the Tour de France, for the twelfth time. Consecutively. Also, I just broke the hour record, which I already held. But this time, I broke it during the evening after the hardest climbing stage of the Tour de France (which I won). 

If you and I were to meet at a party and, by way of getting to know me, you were to ask me to list three interesting facts about me, here is the list I would give:

  1. I have won three of the most recent Tours de France solo. Which is to say, I did not have a team. Which is to say, I raced by myself to give the other racers a chance. 
  2. I do not have many friends.
  3. My name is Larry Armstrong. No relation.

I would not mention that I am not precisely human. I think I’d wait ’til we knew each other better before I told you that.

Idea 3: The Hunger

Nolan was being punished. He had done wrong, been bad. He had, in short, ruined everything

And now he was going to have to ride this bike. For the rest of his life.

Which would be OK, he supposed, except that he hated riding his bike. No, not just his bike. Any bike. But this bike in particular, for certain.

But he was going to ride this bike anyway. He was going to figure out how to ride without his butt hurting. How to keep his knees from hitting his stomach. How to make that damned chain stop making that noise.

He was going to figure all this out because it was important. Because he wanted to stay alive. 

Get Motivated: Pay Yourself (A Message from My Mentor)

01.26.2015 | 11:02 am

A Note from Fatty: I’ve known David Lazar for more than a decade, starting with when I worked at programming magazines, and later with when I worked at Microsoft. He has an incredibly sharp and insightful mind and is one of those people who gets things done.

So when I started at Microsoft several years ago, I asked if he’d be my mentor there. Most of that mentoring happened during road rides—the best possible way to have a business meeting, if you ask me.

And even after I left Microsoft, David and I have stayed in touch. He contributes to my fundraisers; I contribute to his. 

And a few days ago, he posted, in his blog, a really intriguing way to motivate yourself to stay on track with your objectives. I think it’s worth sharing.

Get Motivated: Pay Yourself 

Tis’ the season for resolutions. Perhaps you’ve already been through a cycle of resolving to change, trying, failing and giving up.

I’ve been reading a ton about how people can achieve their goals, especially fitness-related goals. Real change is hard, witness the industries that are vying for your attention and money – TV shows, books, gyms, diets, new phones, fitness bands and apps.

I have a simple system that will help you succeed with your fitness goals, change your behavior for the long term, and the price is a one-time fee of whatever you want.

Before I tell you how to meet your goals, a little about me. I’m a fitness success story. I took up triathlon at age 40 after being relatively sedentary in my 20’s and 30’s. I’ve competed in at least one race or long-distance endurance event every year since. At age 50, I completed the half-Ironman in under 6 hours. I’ve been bike commuting year-round since 2008, my longest daily commute was 27 miles each way. And I still work out 5 or more hours a week, every week.

I’m also a student of human behavior, having been a marketer at Microsoft for 20 years. I’ve studied how customers respond to pricing, messaging, incentives, coupons, free offers, etc.

So I think I’m pretty well qualified to suggest a system for behavior change. My system is based on my experience and the latest research.

The key insight that experts have observed is that behavioral change is nothing more than establishing a new habit. In general, it takes people just a few weeks or months of successful performance to establish a habit. Once the habit is established, it’s very hard to change. Meaning, if you do this successfully, you may be able to sustain your goal for years to come.

The next insight is that financial rewards work. A cash prize of $10 per visit is enough to convince most people to go to the gym. Cash penalties of equal magnitude for non-performance increase the success rate.

Finally, people perform best when goals are clear and attainable, and they are externally observed. This last bit is important. Have you ever noticed when you’re running or biking and you approach or pass someone, your form improves and you speed up? That’s because we all like to be observed doing well.

Here’s my method:

  1. Set an attainable goal, for example: “I will ride my bike or go to the gym 3 times per week, 60 minutes each time, for 5 weeks. I will start this Saturday.”
  2. Write your goal and post it in a spot you see every morning. (Morning works well because you have time to make plans. If you have to go home to get your gear after work, chances are better you’ll fail that day.)
  3. Put 3 glass jars near the goal placard. Put your chosen sum of cash in the middle jar. I recommend $100 in this case, 5 weeks x $20 for each week. You decide exactly what amount works for you.
  4. The right-hand jar is for successful performance. Move $20 one jar to the right each Saturday if you made your goal of 3 gym visits. Congrats!
  5. The left-hand jar is for non-performance. Move $20 one jar to the left if you missed.
  6. You can cut yourself some slack. If it’s Saturday, and you only went twice, count today’s workout toward the previous week and start your next week on Sunday (tomorrow).
  7. When all the money is in the right-hand jar, congrats, you have attained your goal and probably established a healthy habit. Spend the money on something nice – an evening out with your S.O., new gear – something you wouldn’t normally buy. But do not take a break, keep going! If you feel any hesitation, cough up another $100.
  8. If all the money ends up in the left-hand jar, get ready to do something really distasteful, like giving the money to the NRA or some cause you personally detest. You will have selected this organization at the beginning so you will be working throughout to avoid it.

By the way, there are apps that use this methodology, I prefer the low-tech approach, but feel free to use one if you like.

Leave me a comment and tell me about your biggest fitness challenge and whether my idea works for you!

I’ll Be Back Next Week

01.21.2015 | 11:05 am

Hi there.

While I’d love for this blog to be the thing that pays the bills, it’s not. Which means that when the thing that does pay the bills—my day job—gets hectic, I need to deprioritize this blog for a bit.

Usually, I know when that’s going to happen, but not always. Like right now. I want to post and even have some fun things to post about, but right now I need to take care of my day job.

See you next week,

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