Meet Richard, A Friend and Inspiration

Thrive vs Survive


I coach a group of amazing individuals, cancer survivors, over the summer. After they join the rowing program, they become “thrivers” instead of “survivors”, which is how they are referred to by the hospital. Coaching rowing to these exceptional people is the most meaningful work I have ever done in my entire life. They are my people. Their bodies have been through hell and back, yet they keep pushing forward.

Huntsman Cancer Institute

I first met Richard Fisher at the introductory meeting at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in April 2017. Richard was the ultimate hardcore thriver. He was practically squirming in his seat he was so excited to set up his first rowing session. His enthusiasm was contagious. If we could have driven out to the Great Salt Lake that moment and had a big group lesson, we would have. Unfortunately, it was April and we don’t get on the water until June.

Richard was an over the top gung-ho athlete. He pretty much lived his life full of passion and dedication to his physical pursuits. Over the course of the past 4 months, I got to learn about Richard’s love of all things fitness related. After 71 years of living life to the fullest, (cyclist, runner, swimmer, grandfather, husband, and father extraordinaire) he was given the opportunity to learn the sport of rowing. As much as it is considered a gentlemen’s sport, rowing is an intense experience, to say the least. We experience its intensity on all levels - physical, mental and spiritual. Let me explain.


The Olympic event and at the elite collegiate level in the Spring the race course is 2,000 meters. All shells are lined up in a row and the countdown begins - 5,4, 3, 2, 1, - Ready all, ROW!! Just typing that gives me the goosebumps and makes me feel emotional. It’s a powerful experience pulling your guts out and letting your cardiovascular output hit its maximum threshold at 40 seconds into the race. The race lasts 7 - 8 minutes. Your entire body begins burning with lactic acid one minute into the race. The pain threshold that is endured to successfully complete a race is not quantifiable in words. Just trust me, it’s intense.

Mental Discipline

The mental discipline of rowing is experienced because of the technical nature of the stroke. The rowing stroke takes a lifetime to master but during our first rowing experience, we can get a taste of what a perfect stroke can and should feel like. We oar people spend the rest of our lives in pursuit of taking the perfect stroke. If you are in a boat with more than just you (doubles, quads, or eights) not only is there your own individual stroke that takes a lifetime to master but you also get to master the art of precision and harmony with another perfection seeking oarsman. The balance and precision that is required to create a harmonious rowing experience for you and your crew take 100% presence. No daydreaming in this sport! The level of mental engagement required to successfully row with a group of people anchors us in the present moment like no other sport I have done. An hour or two row by and you realize that you haven’t thought about anything else except how to move your body in the correct way to achieve rowing stroke nirvana.

Spiritual Discipline

The spiritual discipline of rowing happens effortlessly. It’s what happens when you have nature, beautiful scenery, special people and passion yoked together into one experience. Richard and I didn’t go fast in our double scull together. In fact, one of the reasons I wanted to write about him and our rowing experience together is because he taught me a lot about what really matters to me as a coach- to pass on the LOVE of my sport.

My Inspiration

I spend most of my 9-3 days working with teenagers. I teach at a public charter school full time. I adore my students. They are the light of our future and I have great faith that they will make right of our current troubled climate one day. However, they are the masters, and I mean masters of excuses. Just thinking of all the interesting excuses I have heard over the last 8 years of teaching makes me chuckle.

Richard was the polar opposite of my teens. Medically, Richard could have been full of very legitimate excuses. There were a couple times when he had to sit out because his breathing was so compromised. But nothing could stop Richard! He even inquired about racing in a very strenuous 5,000-meter head race at the end of September. I actually entertained the idea of being his partner so he could do it but his heart condition became a prohibitive factor when it came time to register.

Richard could have very well been the most challenging rowing student I have ever had. Our first four lessons together I didn’t even take strokes while seated behind him because I had to “set up the boat” (this means to press the blades against the water to make sure we didn’t tip). His learning curve for the sport was much less steep than many of the other rowers I have taught over the past 20 years. Richard suffered some side effects from the medications he was on that challenged his balance and retention. I found myself getting frustrated and fearing for our safety several times in the beginning.

Tenacity, passion, and dedication

But Richard kept showing up and pouring his heart and soul into learning the stroke. He would watch videos, take private lessons with other coaches, read manuals, do anything in his power to become an oarsman when we weren’t at the lake.

The last few times we got to row together in the double after an entire summer of rowing together, we both felt IT - the perfection, the harmony, the unity. No excuses for Richard, just pure 100% effort, passion, and SUCCESS! I wept tears of joy and accomplishment while seated behind him as we rowed our final time together in the double.

His example of tenacity, passion, and dedication will forever be an example of why I do what I do and how I want to approach all endeavors in my life. Richard never held back, made excuses or gave up. I want to be like Richard when I grow up.

Rest in Peace, Richard Fisher. You are an oarsman.


The concept of Heaven holds the image of perfection and unity for me, much like my beloved sport of rowing. I sure hope Richard has found his own single scull to glide around Heaven. I wanted to write this over the summer when Richard was still alive, but he sadly passed away October 7, 2017 in Salt Lake City after a two-year battle with cancer and some heart complications that finally took him. He was a 71-year-old who, after reading The Boys in The Boat (an excellent read, btw!) was DETERMINED and SUCCEEDED to learn how to row.


Dream Big! Lessons from Toddlers...

Make Room for Your Dreams

One of my mentors gave me a framed quotation that got me excited about my own dreams. It said, "Dreams are the book that your soul is writing about you." I don’t know who said it, but it got me thinking! I have a short cheerleader list of a few mindset shifts that might make some mental space for your dreams, goals, endeavors to blossom and more importantly to empower your soul to publish that dream book!

What do we want to accomplish in life? How big are our dreams, our goals, our endeavors?

Do you have any dreams, goals or even short-term pursuits? I do. I have a lot. It’s overwhelming sometimes. It’s not my intention to share my “bucket list” with you, but rather share a perspective that might make it easier to get to of bed in the morning. Can I be your cheerleader? If you have an insurmountable mountain of achievement ahead of you. Or maybe, you are one of those people that haven't even consciously acknowledged that you have a goal because it’s too crowded in your mind to go there. Guess what? It’s okay either way. I believe that we are all here to accomplish GREAT things.

Clear the slate. Clear your mind.

Acknowledge that you have a higher purpose in your life than where you currently are. Let’s face it; most people sadly do not realize their full potential. We hit the snooze button (metaphoric and literal) or turn the other way or dismiss thoughts of greatness and replace them with insecurity and doubt.

Fake it until you make it.

What is on your goal list that you want to do that seems impossible? Can you start small and fake it? Even if it’s just daydreaming about what it would be like to be a successful restaurant owner? BTW, that’s on my list! 

When my siblings and I were little, we used to play make believe a lot. Our parents were ahead of their time and banned us from watching television. However, the ban really didn't work! When we went to our friend’s houses, that’s all we wanted to do. As parents, they took control of our environment and got rid of television. Although I didn’t think this at the time, I will be forever grateful for my parent’s foresight. Instead of wasting our time sitting in front of the “idiot box” (my mom’s name for it) we would play restaurant, teacher, business office, race car drivers, house, and doctor (not that kind!). I remember LOVING playing teacher. Well, I still love teaching and it's my profession today. The seed was planted, the plant was grown, and I harvest and reap the rewards every school year. I can honestly say, I love my job.

Take baby steps.

Baby steps

Observing a child learn how to walk is a great example of tenacity. I share it with my yoga students regularly when we are embarking on mastering a challenging pose. Many will fall out of a challenging pose and exclaim “I can’t do it!”.What would have happened if my son decided that he couldn’t get up after the 100th time he had fallen on his face as a wobbling one year old? They don’t make child carriers big enough for him now at 6 years, 50 pounds, so so I’m sure glad he kept standing up, putting one foot in front of the other everyday, all day long until he got it. Phew! Toddlers are masters of determination and consistency. Whether they are learning how to walk, speak, or open the Nutella jar, they show us what it means to take those baby steps in the direction of your dreams/goals/endeavors.

Keep the dream alive; don’t give up!

I prefer positive statements which is why “don’t give up” is after “keeping the dream alive”. Instead of focusing on NOT giving up,think about how to keep the dream alive. There are so many fun ways to do this.

  • Make a Vision Board
    If you are a visual person, making a vision board by cutting out images from magazines that align you with your dreams/endeavors can be powerful as long as you look at with a hopeful, positive, “this is happening” feeling in your heart.
  • Write a Story
    .If writing is your forte, than try creating a “what if” story. Write about the day in the life of“ You,the choose your own title here. “ Go really big and share your writing with a close friend! A little creative writing is so much fun and really inspires the vision to get grand and exciting. 
  • Talk About Your Dreams
    Talk about your vision, dream, endeavor! This one is hard because we become vulnerable. If we can share our vision, dream and endeavor with other people, the energy around it multiplies.I think this one might be the easiest in terms of physical effort (talk is cheap and easy) but mentally we put ourselves on the line.This brings me the next one…
  • Get Uncomfortable! 
    One of my favorite motivational speakers (Mel Robbins - do your soul a favor and watch her TED talk, 'How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over') talks about our inner snooze button. She humorously and metaphorically explains that we are inherently lazy and need to choose discomfort and stop hitting the snooze button; GET OUTTA BED! It’s cold, dark and uncomfortable. What if we could use our physical bodies to experience discomfort? Would it mentally prepare us for discomfort? One of my favorite (okay, least favorite but most effective!) ways to get uncomfortable is simple….but not easy. Your skin and hair will love it and you will get uncomfortable, I promise. Simple but not easy…turn the shower on cold for as long as you can. That’s it .Try it...your mind will be blown!
  • Practice Yoga
    As a practitioner of yoga I would be doing yoga an injustice if I didn’t hail Yoga as an extremely effective practice of getting uncomfortable. Yogis are known for their ability to endure extreme conditions. It didn’t happen overnight. Pose after pose prepares us to welcome the exploration of discomfort that Yoga invites into our bodies and minds.

Boy, oh boy! That’s a lot to add to your “to do list”. As you read this, know that I truly believe that everyone has the ability to dream and achieve greatness, joy and success. I also truly believe that we need mentors and what I call “potentiators” in our lives to keep us on track. Know that your maximum potential awaits you and even acting upon it in the seemingly most insignificant way, is a step in the right direction.

Now, on to writing your dream book!

Choosing the Present Moment

I have a theory…

We have to choose the present moment. The wording is important here. We are already in the present moment, but our minds are constantly leaping forwards and backward like out of control monkeys. I can hear them now… How much do we actually spend right HERE, right NOW? Unless you are having a riveting experience, it’s a challenge to keep your mind present.

Our bodies are amazing. We have so many powerful symbiotic functions that keep us alive, keep us safe, heal daily DNA damage AND give us the opportunity to engage in the present moment - if we choose. The most powerful function that we have is our breath. Let’s face it; we don’t live without this one. However, for whatever reason, when we are breathing autonomously (without thinking about it) we are only using 10-20% of our lungs. What happened there!!??

Enter the breath. It’s simple; it’s on auto-pilot but, BUT, it’s one of those few bodily functions that we have the option of controlling. Blinking our eyes and swallowing are also similar in that we can opt in to control them but is blinking our eyes and swallowing a do or die function? Dry eyes and a mouth full of saliva aren't comfortable, but they aren’t doing or die functions. So, newsflash, people...WE HAVE CONTROL over a life-altering function!

Breath Control

The Yogis and Martial Artists have known this wonderful news and have founded their superhuman abilities on the premise of breath control. We can bypass the pretzel leg twists and cement block breaking with our foreheads and just tap into the source - the BREATH.

I have been practicing yoga for the past 20 years and teaching it for the past 14 years. I am not sure where my mind would be if it weren’t for the practice of yoga. My mind still loves to take me on wild adventures into the past and future but it’s comforting to know that I can ground myself in the present moment by engaging with some super simple breathing exercises. I’ll share one with you that I do regularly with teenagers. If it can work for them (teens win the prize for the most overactive minds these days), it can work for you too!

5 Square Breathing

Sit comfortably, close your eyes and focus on your cute nostrils (they are cute, btw). Visualize the fullness of your lungs at 100% lung capacity for a few rounds of breath. Also, visualize and practice what 0% lung capacity feels like on the exhale. It is helpful to create an imagery of fullness and emptiness. I like to imagine a balloon, choose your favorite kind and colors and join along.

It’s called 5 Square Breathing because we are going to take one breath and make it last 20 seconds. We will divide the breath into four segments (square) so each segment will last 5 seconds.

count it out in your minD

  1. Inhale to 100% lung capacity for 5,4,3,2,1.
  2. Hold it full for 5,4,3,2,1.
  3. Exhale to 0% lung capacity for 5,4,3,2,1.
  4. Hold yourself empty for 5,4,3,2,1.
  5. Repeat this for at least 3 minutes.

It takes several rounds for your mind to trust that the next inhale is coming, but that’s where the magic happens. This process turns on the relaxation response in our minds. After 3-4 rounds, the power of observation begins to intensify. Our subtle surroundings become more visceral. The still small voice becomes louder. Our powerful intuition becomes a major player in our decisions. The benefits are real and the ripple effect is endless. Bless your mind with a journey into the present moment. It’s definitely worth the trip!

Macadamia Nut Whipped Cream

Strawberry Shortcake Pie that's vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free...need I say more?

Strawberry shortcake is a decadent dessert, but you can make it a healthier option with whipped cream from our beautiful friend, Ms. Mac Nut. The Macadamia Nut Whipped Cream recipe is for all the whipped cream lovers out there.

On a nutritional level, macadamia nuts are manganese powerhouses. Manganese has some beauty-causing reactions on a cellular level for our bodies. It helps initiate the production of our skin and joint loving friend, collagen. It also helps our mitochondria (powerhouse of the cells) work better - hello, metabolism.  


  • 1 cup of Macadamia Nuts (chopped or halved)
  • 1 cup of Coconut Milk (creamier the better)
  • 3 tablespoons of Sweetener (your choice - honey, agave nectar or sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon of Lemon Juice
  • 1 tablespoon of Pure Vanilla Extract (or a scraping from the inside of a vanilla bean pod...divinity!)
  • Pinch of salt


Combine all above in a high-speed blender until homogenized (fully incorporated ingredients). Add 1/2 cup of melted coconut oil. Blend again until smooth and dollop away!  

Please note: this is an extremely high-calorie food, so you can't eat the whole bowl, but at least you won't have a tummy ache if you are sensitive to dairy. 

Props to Carmella's Sunny Raw Kitchen ( for inspiring us to make our own modified version of her genius recipe and thank you, Linus Pauling Institute ( for the wealth of information on manganese.