Dreamin’

Big week for Sublimusic.

We met prospects, struck deals and celebrated during an epic business lunch.

We started to pack some music boxes for delivery.

Sublimusic Multi Zone Audio Server

And we networked with a bunch of amazing partners, mad neuroscientists and even madder audio engineers.

I’ve learned a few things about business along the way.

Here’s my top 7 lessons-of-the-week:

1. Do not attempt to pick your kids up from school after a business lunch (or you’ll hear from your better half)

2. Do not drive after a business lunch

3. In some grownups business circles, no also means yes

4. The galaxy seems to spin a bit faster when you have to make a decision

5. Trust the artist

6. There’s nothing sweeter than a successful comeback

7. Our products are fucking amazing (and I’m not the one saying it)

While I won’t comment on me being wasted in the middle of the afternoon, the no-yes stuff remains as puzzling as the part about the galaxy. I thought that, being the dad of two, I had become an expert in negotiation skills, but grownups are a different animal altogether. I’m not really used to the codes of the trade, but I’m learning. I’m also learning to trust the team. It’s quite easy. Everyone has delivered, beyond expectations. Be aware galaxy, the ragtag team is doing his thing.

Huge week, indeed. Even for a CEO.

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October Song

Ever wondered why the title of my posts have very little to do with the content?

Probably not. People tend to focus on what matters and not on my post’s headlines.

Well, here’s the answer anyway. I always write in music. Not any music. Actually quite the opposite. I primarily write to the sound of a single song.

Confused?

Me too…

Being alive is a strange experience. We do things repeatedly without knowing why. As I just mentioned, when I write, I usually play the same song, over and over. Not always my favorite songs, just a song I like.

Over, and over.

Why is that? What kind of evolutionary trait could be responsible for this erratic behavior? There must be something. We humans do most of the things we do for a reason. More importantly, we tend to repeat what works and dismiss what doesn’t.

So what’s the compulsion about? Why the same song?

Why over, and over?

The true answer might lie in nature. Yes, Nature. Nature dot com to be precise.

A recent study on music lifted the veil that surrounded the mystery. I learned that « listening to a favorite song alters the connectivity between auditory brain areas and the hippocampus, a region responsible for memory and social emotion consolidation. »

The authors added : « These findings may explain why comparable emotional and mental states can be experienced by people listening to music that differs as widely as Beethoven and Eminem. »

Suddenly, years and years of erratic behaviors start to make an evolutionary sense, while also explaining why the the title of my posts is practically always the title of the song I listen while I write.

For more information about the study, click here.

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The Miracle (Of Steph Rodrig)

The last time I posted something here, I was a regular human being.

Now, I’m a CEO.

WTF happened?

Well, it’s a long story. How long? A lifetime.

It all started in Geneva, at birth. My dad was an entrepreneur. He had his own businesses up until he retired, which is probably next year. He’s like Brett Favre with the Mets motto. Wait until next year…

Growing up, I knew that one day I’d own a business. I just never figured what I could make or sell. So I settled down as a loyal, transcontinental employee. For 15 years.

Leaving Brooklyn was probably the most heart wrenching decision I’ve ever made. But it was a necessary decision for our family. New York is hard, and even harder when Switzerland is waiting around the corner.

Well, Switzerland wasn’t really waiting. Not for me, anyway. But someone was waiting. A tall pal I knew since forever nicknamed GrandStef, along with an idea.

But ideas are nothing particular. They’re everywhere and most of them are bad. The graveyard is full of them. An idea is like a blob of stem cells. It has potential but nothing else. An idea is nothing until it becomes a product (Capitalism 101). We made a product in our garage (Entrepreneurship 101). A great product that you need but don’t know yet (Apple 101).

So… What’s the big idea?

It’s actually quite simple. In fact, it’s so simple, I won’t tell you.

Yes. It’s a bad joke. CEO stuff humans can’t grasp.

How can I say it in a few words?

At Sublimusic, we pick the music of your day. Not the music in your phone, or your ipod, if you still own something as useless as an ipod. No. We pick the music you listen to when you don’t listen to music, when you order a delicious fire-roasted coffee, when you drink the coldest, freshest panaché, when you eat real sushi or when you hammer shots at a fancy underground artsy lounge.

At Sublimusic, we make the perfect soundtrack for your lives. We make coffee taste fire-roasted, beer taste good, sushi taste real and a squat look like a fancy underground lounge. Even better, you don’t even know it. Subliminal stuff. Can’t grasp…

How we do? Call it magic…

MAGIC

You heard that. I’m the CEO of a fucking magically awesome music company. I’m so powerful, I picked the title of C.E.O. over G.O.D. because I’m humble (note: Obi-wan Kenobi wasn’t available). Prince of Darkness was. I passed. Too much baggage.

So, what does a CEO do (other than walk on water, look for funding, rule the world) for a living?

Listen well, human: We CEO do WTF we want to.

Let me show you how it works. Now, I feel like writing a blog post. So I’m doing it. I could write about my business, about launching a tech startup in the midst of an economic crisis, about the benefits of being LEAN when you are penniless, about the connection between music and mood, about sensory branding, about welding RCA connectors.

About the Sublibox, our audiophile multizone music server.

Or about our great website: http://www.sublimusic.com

Or even about our fantastic customers.

I could but I won’t. I’m the CEO, ain’t I?

Great to be back.

Stéphane

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I Run for Pearl

Pearl c’est la petite fille d’un bon ami à moi. Pearl c’est une petite fille comme les autres. Elle tient une place spéciale dans mon coeur. Elle et moi on a beaucoup couru ensemble. Au cours des kilomètres, elle est devenue une partenaire loyale, une présence constante, dans les montées comme dans les descentes ; les hauts et les bas.

Pearl et moi on court ensemble, mais on ne s’est jamais rencontré. Elle est inscrite au stylo indélébile sur mes chaussures de course. J’ai appris à la connaître grâce à son papa, mon pote Malcolm, un grand homme.

Pearl m’accompagne dans mes randonnées urbaines par la force de son esprit, par son courage, sa détermination à dépasser une donne que certains considéreraient comme injuste ; des traits qu’elle tient certainement de son papa.

Pearl est autiste. Elle est née dans un coquillage qui peine à s’ouvrir. Elle est aussi née dans une famille qui est prête à plonger jusqu’au fin fond des abysses pour elle.

Pearl vient d’être acceptée dans l’école de ses rêves (et celle de ses parents). Malheureusement, le coût de cet enseignement excède le budget de sa famille. D’environ 2’000 euros. 200 fois 10 euros. Le prix de rêve.

I Run for Pearl. Do you ?

Donations: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/education-for-pearl

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These Are Not Advices For Aspiring Authors

Thirteen months ago, I started to write again. I wanted to finish a second novel. At the time, it seemed like an impossible task. It took over three years to write Les 7 Sages, and two more years to get it published (Leo Scheer, 2010). Was I ready for another of these long-term projects with no guarantee of success, now that on top of it I was handed two young children who magically appeared out of love and thin air?

Well, I wasn’t. Didn’t need to. I finished the second book in a little over a year.

Is it better or worst than the first one? It’s not for me to judge, but I know that I’m a better writer today than I was yesterday. But the main point here is that I wrote a book three times faster with much less free time on hand. How? Thanks to some precious lessons I learned along the way.

Please note: these are not advices for aspiring authors but the thoughts of an eternal one.

A) Write. Every day. A lot. On the (rare) days you don’t write, read. If you happen to do neither, do at least feel guilty.

B) There’s no writers block. If you don’t feel like writing great stuff, write some garbage for a change.

C) Never rewrite before you are done… writing.

D) Inspiration is a superpower only dead writers possess. Don’t count on it while you’re alive.

E) Perfectionism is your best friend, procrastination your worst enemy.

F) Never leave an idea, good or bad, unattended.

G) Dream big. Care about what you do. Tell everyone about it. Set yourself up for either success or failure. The gray, empty space between these two poles is also called creative death.

H) Don’t be mean to others or hold grudges, it eats up bandwidth. If you must, then sleep a lot, it will make you smarter.

Happy holidays. See you next year.

PS: Thanks for reading, whoever you are…

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Devil in Mind

I run. 3-4 times a week since I came back. I’m training for la Course de L’Escalade, on December 1st.

I’ve been running for a while now. Almost 5 years. At first I ran a little, then more, and then a lot. And then a mountain marathon, for which I trained for months. That’s a lot of running.

I tell everyone I love running. It’s true. I must love it a lot in order to run that much. But really, what do I love about it?

Euh…

Training? Racing? Buying shoes? Reading TrailRunnerMag? Watching Rickey and Kilian on youtube?

Or perhaps the sens of accomplishment that comes with every jog? Running for hours, until it becomes so hard, it feels almost easy? Waking up before dawn and following the sun’s path? Feeling alive and free (and out of breath) at the same time?

None of the above?

***

I had a shitty week. It peaked yesterday at 3PM, staring at a blank screen, both literally and figuratively, feeling hopelessly empty and desperately static. The kids were out, the place was quiet, and yet, I felt stranded. I was stuck in a thick mess of my own creation.

What the fuck was I going to do to get out of it?

Booze? Can’t do the hangover part. Pot? Doesn’t help with a free fall. Liver cancer-inducing Xanax? LOL. Heroine? LMAO. JunkFood? Tried already (burp). Go for a run? no way, too late, I just ate (see above), I ran yesterday, don’t want to over train, bla-bla-bla…

So I sat back in my tense stillness and stared at the screen even harder, as If I was going to squeeze the damn words out of the LEDs if they kept resiting me. The screen stared back at me, and blinked. Fuck you too, I said.

***

Why do I run after all? To train for races I will never win. To wear tights and neon without being judged? To shed toe nails?

I run because I once loved it. I didn’t love the health benefits, the camaraderie of a race, the sweet agony of a marathon, the brooks pure series or anything like that. I ran 2 slow miles around the neighborhood with basketball shorts and tennis shoes and after I felt better than I did before the run. I didn’t care about the pace, the heart beat, the form, and I definitely wasn’t Born to Run at first sight. But I kept going because it made me feel better. Or may be because I naively thought that somehow, it made me a better person.

So yesterday, at around 3PM, a bitter minus two outside (but slightly sunny), the belly fool of junk food, the head full of crap, I put on my tights and my neon NYC Marathon t-shirt (and my underarmour heatgear shirt underneath, at minus two you better), and I went for a run. Not any run. A senseless run. A not necessary run. Unplanned. Unwanted. I’ve been on those before. Quick and short, like a bad excuse. But yesterday was different. I took off. I crossed the Arve river and ran along it’s banks, for miles and miles, farther than ever before, just me and the frozen trail, and the breathlessness and the pain, the beautiful pain. I ran until I got lost.

I got lost and I found myself. By simply running in a peaceful place for no other reason than to move forward, I found the love again. I turned back and limped home, cold and thirsty (they turn off the water fountains when the temperature drops under 0). And feeling fucking great too… Call it a Frosty moment.

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Sirens

Obsolète ?
Telle est la question, car un mot est un mot et tous me sont précieux.
Egoïste ?
Je remplissais ces pages pour me distraire.
Une distraction ?
Peut-être. Mais pour qui ?
Pourquoi ?
Pour 500 mots. Par-ci, par-là.

Oublié ?
[silence]
Égaré ?
[silence]
Ressuscité ?
Par le chant des sirènes.

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Go With The Flow

Is there a competitive advantage in the sport of trail racing?

Yes.

Heart and VOMax. And stubbornness. And love.

How do you master love?

What is love? Love is a mountain.

How do you conquer a mountain? Definitely not by reaching the summit. No, you conquer the mountain by aiming beyond it. Remember, the summit is always only half way to the finish line.

How do we look past the summit? How do we aim at something invisible? Something beyond reach?

With imagination.

Imagination isn’t a competitive advantage in trail racing.

Well, it might very well be.

A trail race is an obstacle race in which most o the obstacles lay within. A single obstacle is rarely the end. What matters in trail racing is the succession of obstacles, whether it’s a tough climb, a nasty blister, a bad stomach or just plain fear.

The only competitive advantage in trail running is the ability to overcome obstacles.

Plenty of obstacles.

Remember the Olympic steeplechasers, how they push on the hurdles to get over the water jump? To them, the obstacle is a launching pad.

Making use of the obstacles in order to overcome them.

In my book, it’s a personality trait called Grit. The ability to stick to a long-term plan, whatever life, or the race, throws at you. A trait often shared by writers and runners alike.

If I’m going to teach my kids one single life skill, Grit it will be. And if one day they decide to take on trail running, they will be armed with the best competitive advantage of all.

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Used To Be

Someone awesome I met while trail running?
Met?
Because one day, a couple of years ago, while roaming Prospect Park’s mini trail system, a bearded dude in split shorts and minimus literally FLEW by me. He winked and disappeared in the bushes. He looked like a hipster version of Tony Krupicka. I thought he was awesome.
How about that one? During my first trail race, a half marathon in Bear Mountain, I really struggled at the end. A nimble, almost ethereal young lady with a North Brooklyn running club shirt picked me up with 2 miles to go and said something like “come on dude, hang on”.
And I did. She paced me to a 2:13 finish. She was awesome!
Recently, I ran a tough trail race. It was harder than anything I’ve ever experienced, even child birth (I had two, naturally… well, my wife had two… but they’re still mine). At times, I wished a rattlesnake would bite me and end it. But there are no rattlesnake in NY state. It was a long race and it took me almost 6 hours to cross the line, battered and bloodied. A buddy of mine crewed me. Without him, I’m not sure I’d have finished.
Awesome.
You know, I could go on and on. Awesomeness is a fundamental part of trail running, whether it’s the act of running under a canopy of tree, or past it, or just the people, the shared love and mutual respect. It’s there. You can feel it.
Sometimes, it’s even contagious.

Let me tell you about this guy I know whose awesomeness was born on the trail.
He was a guy who used to cut corners. Diretto, as Rickey Gates was told many times. Except the guy I know didn’t cut corners to get faster to point B. He cut corners because it made the course shorter. The nuance matters.
The guy I’m talking about didn’t race. He didn’t even run. He only chased.
He was like mankind, sitting on a rock, falling fast. But the air flowing in his face led him to believe that, instead of falling, he was flying.
The horizon remained far away, but the ground was fast approaching.
The French, they say: “jusqu’ici tout va bien, jusqu’ici tout va bien, jusqu’ici tout va bien. Mais l’important c’est pas la chute, c’est l’atterrissage.”
The crash was unavoidable. Everyone knew it would happen.

[sound of a man crashing]

The guy survived. Barely. Got to go back to his wife and kids after all. But it took some serious work to stitch him back to life. The surgeons repaired the body. That was the easy part. The guy had something else to repair.
His mind.
The body is NOTHING if the mind is broken.

How many time one is given a real second chance? A chance to do it all over again, to do it right.

The guy went from walking backwards to running forward. Trails. Mostly Hills.
He saw the horizon, beyond. Sometimes, he would stop mid-run and stare at the thin line between the earth and the universe.

Stare at the limitlessness. At the possibilities…

The guy took the longest path. He got lost. But he stayed true to himself. Stayed on course. He reached within, tapped into a new sense of awesomeness. The thing with trail running, it’s an action / reaction game. The trail dictates. The runner reacts. It’s a good therapy for overblown egos.

Running along the spinning globe requires balance.

On the trail, he felt the earth beneath his feet.

Funny how nature has a way to teach you how to run… your life. It’s the great equalizer. It makes everyone awesome.

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Love Is Hard

Everyone told me that it would change me forever, that at the end I would be a different person. A new man. But for the transformation to happen, I would have to finish the race. Conquer the marathon.

Not your grandfather marathon. Not even your great-great grandads… The North Face Endurance Challenge marathon at Bear Mountain is a battle for survival. A trail race against hunger and thirst, against the heat, the humidity, the freezing streams that numb your feet, the thick bushes that scratch your skin raw, the blood-sucking mosquitoes, the hidden roots, sharp rocks, gigantic boulders.

Based on my half-marathon experience from the previous year, I knew that the full 42k would suck. Last year I fell hard on the course. Just once, but enough to puncture my knee and force me into a limp for most o the race. I completed the 21k slower than I wanted, dehydrated and starving, literally stumbling on the finish line in a little over two hours and thirteen minutes. In order to prepare the best I could, I visualized the upcoming inferno. I anticipated the worst. I internalized pain as a temporary part of the deal. I thought I could handle everything. And if not, I could always wing it. “Wing It” is who I am, what I do. I was so f-ing wrong.

There’s no winging a mountain.

I’ve been running for a few years now. Mostly on man made surfaces. The minimalist movement has notably influenced me. I transitioned from the 11oz Asics Kayano to the 7oz Saucony A-serie. I settled in the middle with the Brooks PureConnect, in which I ran over 1000 miles since they are on the market. The Connect has a 4mm heel-toe ratio, and the sole is slightly curved, propelling you forward. Running in these, I developed a fast cadence, low shuffle gait that, I feel, reduces the pounding on the legs. The low shuffle works wonders on a flat surface, like a road or a pavement. Or even Prospect Park’s manicured trails. It doesn’t work at all on a technical trail, where rocks and roots stick out of the path like Earth’s claws. Add extreme fatigue and you’ll start to understand why I crashed so many times. And why it hurt so much.

Pain is a strange thing. Really misunderstood. To me, it’s a defense mechanism. It protects us from ourselves.
I should have listened better.
I had a terrible week going into the race, struggling with injuries and deep emotional distress. My daughter fifth birthday on May 1st, and my subsequent 40th, left me mentally broken.
Subconsciously, I must have felt an impending sense of mortality.
I tried to glue myself together the last two days before the race. I toed the line feeling better. But quick fixes don’t last. The damage had been done and I was about to pay a steep price. Steeper than the mountain I was trying to climb.

I started ok, just a bit faster than anticipated. I had decent legs early on. I reached the first aid station at 3.9 mile in 43 minutes. I met a couple of decently fast cats, including Jean-Michel de Quebec, and hung with them for a while. One of the guys wanted to break 5:00:00. That was my goal too. I thought I’d try to stick with him. He seemed happy to pace as long as he had company. We formed a functional partnership and move along pretty well. I was still within reach at the second aid station (mile 9). Jean-Michel and my new buddy had taken a small lead, but I caught up with them while Jean-Michel was bandaging a nasty blister under his foot. At that very moment, I made my first strategic mistake: somewhat hungry, I swallowed a fistful of salty potato chips.
My stomach started to feel dodgy right after the potato chips episode. I should have known better than to ingest something I wasn’t used to. The junk food turned my stomach upside down. I gagged, spitting acidic saliva. It was bad, but pretty much nothing compared to what was coming next. Hunger wasn’t much of a factor during the second part of the race. I was too spent to even register it. Too spent and bloody…

The first fall, at around mile 8, didn’t really hurt. I bumped my toe on a rock, flew in the air, crashed on the trail. Scratched knee and pebble-encrusted elbow. No biggie. Last year, I fell once, but I really hurt my knee. If I could keep from falling again, I’d be fine. What I didn’t know is that more crash would follow. Many more.

On my fourth or fifth plunge, I hurt my wrist. I tripped, flew, face planted on a huge rock. Hands first. The rock cut through the skin like an unsharpened butter knife. While anfractuosities shredded (one more time) the palms of my hands, I heard a pop in my left wrist and felt a bolt of pain run up my arm straight into my left ear. As I rolled on the dusty trail, my entire right leg started cramping. Underfoot, calf, quad. Unable to reach my foot to stretch the leg, I was forced to wait the cramps out. I laid on the course, bloody, bleeding from my hands, unable to stand. I stayed there for a few minutes, hoping someone will pass and help me up. But no one came.

In fact, the cramping started at mile 11. First the toes, then the arches of the feet. The muscle distress crept up the claves. Slowly. Up to the quads, the hips and the lower back. By mile 15, both my legs where either stiff like hardwood, or shaken by spasms. Moving forward without enduring a severe cramp became a solo game of twister. I was kind of ok on the flat, but the damn course was never flat. Unable to use my calves, I walked uphill with an exaggerated penguin stance, feet wide open and arm stretched on the side. I walked downhill either on the side, crab-like, or simply backward when it wasn’t too steep. I looked like a freaking idiot and I was very conscious of it.

I felt angry and frustrated. Angry at the world, frustrated at my legs. Not being able to run or to quit, I was forced to endure the humiliation is walking slowly on the trail, stepping humbly aside to let everyone and the kitchen sink fly past me. I really didn’t care for encouragement or slaps in the back.

In times of deep crisis, raw emotions come to the surface. Unwarranted fear, anger, rage. At times I felt lonely. Lonely.

The thing is… I love being alone. It’s hard in a large city. Harder in a narrow Brooklyn brownstone, surrounded by two restless kidos, a spouse, an uncatchable mouse and the haunted spirit of Nemo, the now dead betta fish. Might even be one of the reasons I love running, just to be on my own for a while.

And at that time, I felt lonely. And it terrified me. Gladly, I was still conscious enough to sort out the good from the bad. I tried to be mindful. It was fucking hard.

The Bear Mountain course is notoriously difficult. It’s hilly, with almost 10’000 feet of elevation change, and incredibly technical. I mean, rock climbing and tree hugging technical. I trained on the trail, but Prospect Park’s manicured trail is no teaching ground for Bear Mountain. Using a brand new set of stabilizing muscles for the first time killed my legs. Using them for 42 kilometers of ups and downs killed me.

After mile 15, I had zero legs. I was running on toothpicks. The constant bumping of the toes against rocks and roots became a nightmare. Not only it caused me to stumble and fall dozens of times, but I also bruised three of my toes, including the big left one. Running downhill, with the toes pounding inside the shoes, became some sort of sick torture. Toward the end, the only thing I could do to mitigate the pain caused by the friction was to stand for a minute in each the freezing streams that I crossed. My feet got colder. And wet. And blistered.

I was a hot day. Felt hotter in the forest. I kind of stop sweating half way through the race. I felt my face dry up, a layer of salt and dust covering my skin. My t-shirt dried up to. It felt itchy. I mismanaged my water intake. My handheld bottle was too small (8oz) and the distance between each aid station too big. I’d finish my bottle in 10 minutes and agonize for the next hour. I also made the mistake to suck on the deep cut in my hand, leaving me for hours with nothing but the taste of blood and dirt in my mouth.

Why didn’t I quit? I don’t know. Combination of many things, I guess. I certainly thought of it. Every second for the last 11 miles, or three and half hours. Up until mile 25. The last half-mile was easier. Flat. The crowed cheered. I even managed a smile. I steeped on the line and stopped running. I swore to myself I’d never run again.

What happened when I finally crossed the line? Nothing. I felt absolutely nothing. Just pain. Did I expect enlightenment? Nop. Did I expect nothingness? Neither.

People say I accomplished something by running a marathon. I agree. I accomplished running a marathon. Nothing else. And it accounts to pretty much nothing.

I went through this shit because I wanted to. No one forced me to sign up, or continue when my soul was begging me to stop. I did it because I wanted to.

Running always gets you what you want… even when you don’t need it.

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