Ep # 20: Chris Gragtmans on setting boundaries in pursuit of your passions

In this episode Chris Gragtmans, a former professional kayaker, life-long adventurer who now works in commercial real estate, talks about setting boundaries and finding balance between family, work and adventure.

Chris shares his philosophy on working smarter, not harder, and why learning how to say no is key to his success in following your passion, and living a life that is important to you.

We also talk about why following your instincts and why walking rapids you’ve run hundreds of times is also a way to set boundaries with yourself, and honor your inner knowing.

If you love river analogies, and want to learn strategies for better boundary setting so you can focus on what’s important to you, don’t miss this episode!

About Chris

Chris Gragtmans, has been blessed to have a multinational upbringing and fantastic parents who put him in position to pursue his dreams. He was born in Canada and lived with his family for a time in Germany before moving to the U.S. He often returns to the expression, to those who much has been given, much is expected. At the age of 11, Chris was introduced to whitewater kayaking and it became all-consuming. He was Canadian Junior National Freestyle Champion and competed in two World Cups and one World Championships. Chris was then drawn to extreme racing and competed in a variety of events throughout North America. His most proud accomplishments are 21 years straight of racing in the Green Race and a sixth overall in the 2011 Whitewater Grand Prix. He’s also been involved in film and media projects, run several 70 plus foot waterfalls, has spoken from the TED stage, and managed the Dagger Kayaks team. Kayaking was a labor of love and passion, but as he and his wife Ashley looked at expanding their family, he decided to diversify his life and identity and mitigate his physical risk. He now works in commercial and investment real estate and has carved out a cool niche. He gets to work with great people and clients, occasionally invest in projects as an equity principle, and surprisingly gets to merge his passion for the outdoors with a growing real estate skill set.

Connect with Chris:

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisgragtmans/

IG: @chrisgragtmans

@earlybluemotel

Anna
My guest today, Chris Gragtmans, has been blessed to have a multinational upbringing and fantastic parents who put him in position to pursue his dreams. He was born in Canada and lived with his family for a time in Germany before moving to the U.S. He often returns to the expression, to those who much has been given, much is expected. At the age of 11, Chris was introduced to whitewater kayaking and it became all-consuming. He was Canadian Junior National Freestyle Champion and competed in two World Cups and one World Championships. Chris was then drawn to extreme racing and competed in a variety of events throughout North America. His most proud accomplishments are 21 years straight of racing in the Green Race and a sixth overall in the 2011 Whitewater Grand Prix. He’s also been involved in film and media projects, run several 70 plus foot waterfalls, has spoken from the TED stage, and managed the Dagger Kayaks team. Kayaking was a labor of love and passion, but as he and his wife Ashley looked at expanding their family, he decided to diversify his life and identity and mitigate his physical risk. He now works in commercial and investment real estate and has carved out a cool niche. He gets to work with great people and clients, occasionally invest in projects as an equity principle, and surprisingly gets to merge his passion for the outdoors with a growing real estate skill set. I’m really excited to have him here. So thanks for being here, Chris.

Chris
Thank you for having me. Very excited to talk about some compelling subject matter. I’m very intrigued.

Anna
So to start us off, what does your discomfort zone feel like?

Chris
Hmm, okay. I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject and have enjoyed texting you about it to try to wrap my head around it a little bit. And this might be a little bit unexpected, but I think that my discomfort zone is not so much related to Class 5 Rivers or intense negotiation situations with…sometimes unstable personalities or big egos or anything like that, I actually seem to get more bogged down and uncomfortable in minutia, in accounting or in logistics, making sure that the critical path has been met in…

the weekly family logistics and I’m being a considerate contributor to our household or making sure that my licensing or other administrative related things are all in order, transactional management. All that unexciting stuff is where I personally seem to be the least comfortable, which is not necessarily what I would have assumed, but reflecting on it, that’s where.

That’s where I struggle more. And when things are more intense and there’s a clear call to action, you just have to accomplish something, you have to get down the river, you have to do something difficult, that’s a lot, feels more comfortable to me. Yeah.

Anna
Hmm. Why do you think that is? Why do you think it feels more comfortable when, well, what I heard you say was that there is a, like when there’s a strong call to action, there’s something that needs to get done now, you have an easier time.

Chris
Yeah, that’s a good question. You know, I imagine that my answer to that may change over time, but my current theory is that perhaps it might be possible that, you know, there’s a lot of interesting research about our, the human brain not necessarily being adapted to the chaos and constant distraction and, you know, unending…

unending ability for many different types of people to invade our lives whenever they want to via our cell phones, you know, and constant stimulation of advertising and everything you can imagine on us. You know, there’s some kind of statistic about how many – I’m taking my dog’s collar off so she can’t be so loud. Her name’s Rosie. So, I’m going to go ahead and start.

Yeah, I think that the short answer is I’m not totally sure. I think that many, I think that the human brain has not evolved for all this sensory overload and distraction and stimulation. And I think that my brain especially, you know, the last maybe six years has been a really interesting journey and personal discovery period.

As I’ve layered complication on my life, I’ve learned where my limitations are, where my talents and strengths are, and where I have real blind spots and weaknesses. My best current answer to that question of why is that I seem better adapted to being a primal survival slash hunt, Chris hunt kill type mode versus like…

keeping everything in order. And that’s okay. You know, those are, I think, I believe that those are superpowers, but they have to be accommodated for through systems and processes and other people in order for me to be a functioning member of society.

Anna
Got it. What does your discomfort zone feel like in your body? How do you know you are in your discomfort zone? What are the cues?

Chris
Yeah, great question. So, I would say that my discomfort zone, and I know that you’re tuned into this stuff through your training and practice in yoga and Ayurveda and holistic thinking, holistic medicine, et cetera. And I think that having an athletic background probably helps both of us to pay more attention to our physiologies than somebody who might not have that same background. And for me personally, I noticed that when I’m in my discomfort zone, and I’m going to also use words like stress or anxiety or other things like that, I carry that in my stomach and in my lower back. And so that is…

by far the most common physiological indicator that I’m in my discomfort zone, which is like I’m feeling overwhelmed by details, you know? And I don’t know where to triage my attention because I, my personal…

Genuine goal and intent is to be fully present in whatever I’m doing in any given moment, whether that’s kayaking with my friends on the river or Or doing some kind of race Paddling or any other type of competition being with my family being at work you know having a spiritual practice or other mental or physical health practice The goal is to be fully present in that moment and it’s very challenging if you’re always being ripped out of that. You don’t know what to be present in and so yeah kind of long-winded answer and I can’t quite remember exactly what the question was but yeah. That’s that yeah.

Anna
Yeah, well, the question was, where do you feel it in your body? And you mentioned your low back and you mentioned your stomach. And I appreciate that because I think that as you said, it is important. Well, not everyone, I mean, there’s times when maybe through trauma, some folks don’t want to associate with their bodies, right? And I do think that in my experience, starting to get a feel for it in my body helps, one helps me cue, okay, I’m getting stressed. I say I’m feeling anxious so that then I can employ a strategy that helps me calm down, you know, regulate my nervous system, find, you know, so that I don’t go off the rails, so to speak, and get overwhelmed by my fear. So, when you start to feel it in your low back or your stomach, what, do you have a strategy that you go to bring yourself to the present or to calm yourself down?

Chris
Yeah, great question. Interestingly enough, it seems to me as though this kind of discussion is becoming more prevalent and not stigmatized and open in our modern society than it really has been before. Maybe we live in Asheville, North Carolina. We have a fantastic community of supportive and progressive thinking folks. So it’s possible that we’re in somewhat of a bubble, and maybe this isn’t quite as common in other areas of the country or the world, but it does seem like these types of conversations and putting coping mechanisms into place to deal with discomfort zones, and that’s probably different for many people or for everybody, it’s becoming more commonplace. And I’ve really appreciated the work of a couple of folks. I listen to a lot of podcasts because I really enjoy stimulating my brain when I’m doing hours of mundane work, like around my house or like washing dishes or bottles or whatever, just the unending pile of stuff.

And so people like Andrew Huberman or other folks who are kind of advocating for these different mechanisms like the breath work, the physiological sigh, even just exercise itself. I know as well as anybody the positive impact that has on me, but I still seem to have to battle with my own brain to say, hey, why don’t you just stop doing this and beating your head against the wall because there’s diminishing returns here? And why don’t you just go and go for a run or do something? Go for a swim, go paddling, go mountain biking, go breathe some fresh air, get some vitamin D, and you’ll be better for it. And it’s like in the toughest times, you don’t want to… Especially for me, I work in real estate and I’m 100% commissioned and there’s a guilt component to taking time for myself because I, you know, if I’m not working, I want to do my best to spend time with my family, but in order for that to be, in order for me to be fully present with them, I need to exercise. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity of life for me personally. It’s just like nobody wants to be around me when I haven’t been working out. You know, just really unpleasant. I’m just super grumpy. And there’s probably a word equivalent to hangry, you know, when you’re when you’re hungry. Like when I haven’t worked out, I’ll think of the word and I’ll follow up with you, Anna. But like, that’s me. I’m just like really, you know, my wife actually doesn’t want to be around me. And like, I have a mentor in real estate who’s very similar. And his wife tells him

Go chase your ball, Jeff. Go chase your ball. Which for him is go mountain biking. And it’s like, you gotta take the dog out in the yard and let them just run around a little bit. And I think, yeah, I seem to be pretty similar.

Anna
I think it’s really interesting that in that you mentioned that you have guilt about taking time for yourself. That is something that I hear from women a whole lot. And I’m not sure that I’ve actually heard it from a lot of men. And so I think that is really interesting. Do you, like, do you and your…

Chris
I’m just so tuned in and I’m just so tuned in with the feminine, you know?

Anna
Yes. Okay. I’m sure you are. I’m just kidding. So, yeah. And I think that, so do you and your like best guy friends, is that something that you hear often from your other guy friends as well? Like that guilt of not wanting to take time for yourselves in order to either work or spend time with your families.

Chris
It depends. I have certain friends that will happily go down the rabbit hole and have philosophical discussions like this and talk about the beauties and challenges and successes of life in a very candid way. And I have other friends who just don’t have interest and I don’t try. And that doesn’t mean that they’re not… It just means that they communicate… In my opinion, it doesn’t mean that they’re not…

feeling those things, they just communicate them differently or whatever. I try to do enough to where they know that I’m available to them if they ever need it, but I don’t push the matter. So with certain friends, and you’re referring to male friends here, we’ll definitely have discussions about that to a degree that will come up more than that is the desire to, the primal desire to provide, right? And especially when there’s kids involved. There’s like this like switch in the brain that flips where it’s like, okay, my job is to like…

I don’t know, I think there’s some component of the male ego that has a lot of trouble not bringing home something or being a major contributor to that. It’s good that, it’s really cool that our society is supporting, I don’t know if I can swear on this show, awesome female professionals and household role you know, more nebulous household roles and what works well for different people. And I’m totally in support of that. But I also, for myself, feel a very strong, like primal, I mean, I don’t want to call it self-worth, but there is a component of that. It’s like an identity thing. And it’s like, you know, that’s really important. And so that does link to this guilt, because if you’re taking…

energy and time and attention away from going out and making a good living and providing, then there can be a guilt associated with that. But again, I also know in my heart of hearts, though it’s difficult to tell myself that when I’m feeling just kind of bogged down, I know I’m more creative, a better problem solver, and perceived differently by people have a better energy when I’m more balanced, when I’ve been taking the time to do things for myself and like quote unquote put on my own mask first, you know? So yeah.

Anna
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Do you think that it’s, I mean, I think there is an argument to be made that it’s not necessarily biological what you’re feeling. It could also be taught, right? So it’s socialization of how the gender roles have been socialized in our culture for a long time. And so I don’t, I’m not a,
social science researcher, I don’t have research to back this up. I feel like that there is, it’s a good exploration. Is it, you know, just biological or is it socialization? And I love that we’re talking about it, having this conversation. And I love that you feel confident enough to say, yeah, I feel this guilt and to talk about it. This is the…

point of, for me, of this podcast is to have authentic conversations around people’s discomfort zones, you know, and, and that it takes, like, for you to do, you know, you know, that you feel better and you can actually provide for your family better if you do take care of yourself. And so walking through that discomfort zone of, okay, I’ve got a, you know, process the guilt and here’s my strategy. So my next question is, what is your strategy for processing that and taking care of yourself?

Chris
Okay, well, you know, one thing that you were reminding me of with, I totally agree with you, it’s a very interesting question, whether it’s nature or nurture, genetic or, you know, human nature versus cultural. And

It does seem as though there’s this glorification of, you know, the hustle, the grind, workaholism, and just like…

I don’t know. And I don’t even think that’s necessarily gender specific. I think it’s just in general, like maybe we should say in America. I don’t know if this exists as much in European cultures or other cultures, you know, where they take August off. It’s like nobody works in August. You know, that seems like a pretty cool way to do things. But my first strategy would just be asking why.

Why should some, you know, why do you want to work that hard or why do you want to, you know, if you can be strategic and work smart and make a little less money, but have plenty, have your needs net be able to plan for the future, why is it necessary to follow a cultural paradigm that we got to always just, you know, we got to go incredibly hard and…

There’s all these gurus, quote unquote gurus, trying to sell you something that’s gonna, you know, and it’s like, okay, what’s the whole point? You know, is the point to spend time with people that you love and to do work that you like? And to, is that the point? Because we could just do that, you know? It kind of reminds me of the, I’m gonna totally butcher this, but there’s some…

It’s like a parable about a Spanish fisherman, you know, who is hired by a New York City executive to go fishing for a day. And this Spanish fisherman takes the executive out and shares his passion for what he does and you know, they’re hand fishing in the ocean and they catch these beautiful fish and he’s a true artisan. And the executive is like…

goodness, you’re amazing at this. I have loved spending the day with you. Why don’t you expand your operation? You can hire these people and then grow your business and then you can get a processing facility and do this and that. The executive says, I can help you with all that. I’m extremely experienced. The fisherman’s already told him about his life, about how he goes fishing.

He takes a siesta with his wife. They go for a walk on the beach. They have some wine. And they start all over again. And then the fisherman says to the executive, but what happens then? And he says, well, then you can build your company and sell it and make millions of dollars. And then the fisherman said, what then? And he says, well, you can sleep in and go fishing and have a siesta with your wife go walk on the beach and drink wine. It’s like, I don’t know, we’re all kind of like complete in our own way, you know, and it takes time to find that. But yeah, I think that would be the first strategy is like just trying to keep priorities straight and just make sure that I have some North stars. And then I think I’ll think of some more soon, but one very present strategy that I’ll share right now that we can maybe expand on, I’m interested to hear you get me back on track. One very present strategy is saying no to things because the world has many different agendas for us and people tend to take whatever you give them, you know, and they’ll ask for more until you…

present resistance and it’s difficult to say no. I don’t like saying no to people, but that is my current journey, is learning how to be better at respectfully saying no to things that don’t align with how I need to be living, to be the person I need to be, to family, partners, employees, clients, and everybody else I need to be something to.

Anna
Yeah, I love it. That is so powerful. It’s something I coach my clients on a lot. I mean, I run webinars on setting boundaries. It’s part of my mental agility mastery framework for building courage and confidence is definitely learning how to set boundaries. Because whatever you say,
yes to, whenever you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. Vice versa, whenever you’re saying no to something, you’re saying yes to something else. And I think it’s really important in life if we wanna create an empowered life and be able to follow our passions, what’s important to each one of us, then it’s important to get clear on what is important and then what people, what events, what work actually aligns with that. And it does, it takes, you know, that’s a discomfort zone for a lot of folks. Like for you, what I hear you say is that setting boundaries is a discomfort zone for you. But when that pays off, and again, that is the thing is that it is worth stepping into our discomfort zone so that we can follow our passions and create a life that feels empowering.

Chris
Yeah, that’s well said. And one thing that I was thinking of as you were describing that, Anna, is that…

As I’ve grown older and you know, our connection is kayaking and that’s been a central part of my life and still is, but that’s been part of my life for three decades basically. And one area that I was just thinking about where I have learned how to say no and to trust my instinct, that’s another thing that’s

There’s a degree of…

when I think that there’s like a letting go of self doubt practice that comes about as you learn how to trust your instinct in life. And one of the first places where I could really identify that was in paddling where my instinct would be telling me something, I’d be trying to figure out how to differentiate between just kind of butterflies and general nervousness about doing something that was at, you know, close to the edge of my ability level versus

when your body and brain are saying, hey, you shouldn’t do this. This is not a good idea. And those can be difficult to differentiate between. There’s just a general kind of like, ooh, kind of nervousness, and then there’s like ominous, like don’t do this. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to really trust my instinct on the river and in life with what to say yes and what to say no to, and sometimes I don’t even really know why. You know, like, I really enjoy the opportunity to walk a rapid that I’ve run a lot when there’s youngsters around, you know, and trying to be like a good influence on the younger guard of paddling. Because it’ll kind of freak them out. They’ll be like, what? You’ve run this rapid thousands of times. And it’s like, yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know why I don’t want to run it. I’m not…

I’m totally sure, I just don’t feel like I should, so I’m gonna walk around it. And you can kinda see that sink in. And so I think that I’ve personally gotten a lot more woo-woo where I’m just kinda like, yeah, I don’t know, I’m not feeling led to do that, you know? I’m just like, and so there’s not always this like programmatic checklist of advantages and disadvantages to get to every decision in life. But being true to like authentic to my instinct and judgment based on experience, you know, is something, it’s a nice feeling when you just kind of start to let yourself do that. And of course we all, it’s like two steps forward, one step back with stuff like that in life. But yeah, that would be another thing that your prompt made me think about.

Anna
Yeah, I like to talk about, you know, in my webinars and with my clients of, it’s important to set boundaries with others, which is what we were talking about, and then also to set boundaries with ourselves. And setting boundaries around our thoughts is a form of practicing self-control. And sometimes that is, like you said, deciding to walk a rapid that you’re used to running or skipping out on a practice, whatever it is in life, might be skipping out on growing your business because that’s a boundary you’re setting. Like you mentioned, you’ve referenced with the story versus going, going. So I think that, I feel like that’s a theme in this conversation. What’s important to you and then what boundaries can you set around that? And I like to think of boundaries also, as the river banks. So the river exists because of the boundaries of the river banks. The river banks direct the flow of the water in a direction. So boundaries help to direct the flow of our attention and awareness and focus towards something. And hopefully it’s towards what you want to focus on versus what you don’t wanna focus on.

Chris
Love it. Yes.

Don’t get me started on river analogies. I mean, this is like opening a can of worms or beans or something here. I love that, that’s great. I haven’t heard that one before. It made me think about an expression that when you…

I’m sure many, many lines of work are similar, but the business of real estate will eat you up if you let it. And I’ve seen that happen with a lot of people and I was aware of that going into it. And so kind of have paid close attention to it as I’ve been in the business for seven, I think I’m just completing my seventh year in the business of real estate. And one analogy that I’ve heard people say that I’ve loved obviously because of the connection to the river is that You when you plan your year out in advance you put rocks in the river that are non-negotiable It’s it’s time where you’re you know, you’re taking a week or two weeks or you’re you know, you’re dedicating it, you know, you’re You know that things are gonna be You’re prioritizing your own personal time first and time with loved ones and pursuing your passions, and then the water will flow around it. The water will flow around those rocks within the river bank and it’ll work out. I just think that’s a good way to do things and it’s a good habit to model. People will treat you the way that you teach them to treat you whether that’s vendors or clients or employees or partners or whoever else. And those boundaries, you can’t, and I need to improve on this, you can’t assume that people are going to understand your value set and your boundaries without explicitly addressing them, hopefully on the front end. And that kind of comes back to communication, which is always a good idea.

So yeah, thank you for that analogy, Anna.

Anna
Yes. Agreed. No, thank you. I love the… I hadn’t heard the big rocks. Place the big rocks and the water will flow around it. That’s a great one too. Awesome. Look at us with our river analogies today.

Chris
I know, I know. I seem to remember we did something similar where we had two back-to-back presentations at a EMS store. Yep, that’s right. Exactly. I didn’t remember what the full name of the of this store was, but you and I gave back-to-back presentations, maybe 20 minutes each. And there were

Anna
Easter mountain sports. Yeah, back in the day, yep.

Chris
They were laced with river analogies. So, yeah. Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.

Anna
Because they’re good stuff. So what do you, what would you say you’ve learned about yourself from stepping into and through your discomfort zone over the years?

Chris
I think that when we…

When we are uncomfortable and when we are thrown out of stasis and challenged…

It’s kind of a reckoning where we have to rise to the occasion and we might surprise ourselves and we…

ultimately can build on that moving forward in our lives. And each discomfort zone or challenge or each experience in life is kind of iterative and it gives you fodder and information and wisdom often from the school of hard knocks that you can kind of build on in your next day whatever the next phase is.

And it almost reminds me of like…

you know, when we go into space, we don’t use our muscles anymore. The human body atrophies, it’s like not healthy to be for astronauts to be in space for too long because they don’t have to support the weight of their own body. They don’t have to, you know, we’re just not designed to do that. We’re designed for a degree of toil and stress and de-stress, you know, can’t be all stress all the time, of course, but, we need to be challenged to grow.

And the goal is not comfort and laziness. Like that’s not what we were, it doesn’t feel to me as though that’s what we were meant for. And there’s plenty of things in our modern day that seek to remove all kinds of different discomforts. But it seems to me as though whether, from any perspective, whether it’s physical or…even in relationships or something, it’s like we can grow from those periods of tension and discomfort and ultimately improve. Yeah, I think that’s my answer.

Anna
Nice. I heard what I heard you say in there, which I thought was really cool is that what you’ve learned about yourself through stepping into your discomfort zone is that you discover things about yourself that you didn’t think you could do. Like you surprise yourself and that really pumps you up and it gives you confidence to then

do more or like take on things, more challenges and then surprise yourself again. So there was, I got kind of this, yeah, this really almost wondrous. I know, not sure if that’s the right word, but that’s the word that comes to mind. Like a wondrous, like, yeah, like I can do this. Here we go, let’s keep going. I think that’s cool because it is stepping into our discomfort zone is a way to build confidence, like you said, and grow. It’s our growth zone. So do you have, oh, go ahead.

Chris (37:34.67)
I love it.

I totally agree. Just to expand on that really quickly, kayaking for me, having that as a mechanism of the discomfort zone early in life and being able to accomplish things that I maybe wouldn’t have guessed that I could do when I first started out. My personal experience was that that…

That gave me a confidence in every area of life that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. So I’m eternally grateful for that. It’s a really special thing and it’s not about kayaking. It’s like any pursuit that somebody feels that they were to a degree put on this earth to do. That might be playing an instrument. It might be any number of things, mental or physical.

And those things can really kind of, they can teach us that perhaps the preconceived limitations aren’t necessarily there. And there’s something you can carry from that into other areas of life.

Anna
Right?

Yes, exactly. We can strip away those preconceived ideas, like you said, surprise ourselves.

Chris
Totally. Yeah.

Anna
Do you have a first memory of stepping into your discomfort zone?

Chris
I saw that you very graciously prepped me with some questions. That one was quite intriguing to me and I’m having trouble coming up with my first discomfort zone moment.

I’m gonna just share, I’m gonna share an early one, but not my first one, but I will share with you a major discomfort zone moment from early in my life that I still joke and talk about.

but that was a pretty big hurdle for me. So I’ve always had an obsessive personality and I’ve thrown myself headlong into everything that I’ve really become interested in. And that’s included quite a few things before kayaking. That included sailing and hockey.

Anna
Like a good Canadian, hockey.

Chris
Like a good Canadian, exactly. And those are, I mean, such beautiful sports in their own regard, but kayaking kind of replaced sailing for me very quickly because of one single event. So my dad, before I was born, he bought a place, he bought a three acre property on Lake Ontario in the Bay of Quinty.

He had just graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and he found this little piece of paradise for not very much money, and he bought this property. And it’s been a real touch point for myself and my family through our whole lives. And I used to love going there. I mean, I still do. But-

When I was a kid, it was like this all-consuming thing. Like I just could not wait. And I grew up learning how to sail these small sailboats there on Lake Ontario and was just so enthralled by the power of the wind and nature. And it’s very similar to kayaking in that regard because you can’t fight the power of the wind or the river or nature. You have to work with it. And I was able to progress quickly and compete in sailing and was kind of on this renegade course and just was totally super interested in this. What used to happen was that I was so small, I couldn’t flip the boats that I was sailing back over if I capsized them because I just didn’t have the weight or strength. I was probably nine or ten years old and I was sailing a Hobie 14.

Hobie Cap 14, it’s a catamaran, single-handed boat, and I used to love it. My dad and my uncle were watching Formula One racing, and they said they were keeping an eye on me in front of the house and that they would help me if I needed it, but I never needed it because I never capsized because they taught me well. Well, on this particular day, I did capsize.

I was afraid of the wrath of my dad and my uncle. And I had swam all the way across that stretch of water, maybe a mile wide. But I was scared to do that because I didn’t want to leave the boat. And you know, I just was, I was the captain staying with the ship, you know, and I was sitting on this upside, we call it turtle when the boat goes upside down, it’s turtle. And this

This boat was upside down completely as opposed to just on its side with the mast in the water. And I was out there in the cold wind for a while, longer than a little kid should be in that situation. And I was yelling to try to get the attention of my family. And finally I saw my grandmother, my Oma. My dad’s Dutch, so I’ve got an Oma. And then my Opa passed before I was born.

Now my dad is Opa to my children, which is really nice. I saw my Oma with her wheelbarrow walking across the property doing stuff. She was always super busy. And I just yelled at her from pretty far away. And she turned and I could tell she heard me and I yelled again and she saw me. And I could tell that even though I wasn’t very close to her, I could tell that she was aware. And then she went scurrying into the house and like just gave the my dad my uncle hell and then they came we’re very purist family and we didn’t have any motorized boats and so they came out on this rowboat like a snail’s pace you know with like these creaking oars like right and I was like oh thank goodness I’m going to be saved and then they’re on their way out and then the Glenora Ferry, which you may or may not have experience with Anna, diverted pretty far away from its normal course and came over to see if I needed to be rescued. So there were all these tourists. There were probably like…

Anna
Wow.

Chris
40 cars on this ferry and all these people are just staring at me. And the ferry has like come in front of our house and they’re like talking to me. And I was just like, that’s my dad and my uncle right there. I’m okay. Thank you. And then they came out and rescued me. And it was like definitely a traumatic experience. But fortunately, I just was like…

kind of stoked about it. I was really cold and I just went and got in bed and just like warmed up, you know, and but I did not sail for probably five or six years. And it was, you know, you hear about that people having that kind of experience where they’re a kid and they have a scary experience and they either totally give it up or they, you know, but it definitely redirected my life where I was very much on the track that my

Chris
And the cool thing to kind of bring it full circle is that I didn’t touch the sailboat for a long time and then I was probably 16 years old and one day I just was like, all right, I’m going to take that same boat and I’m going to go sailing like I miss sailing. And so yeah, probably six years later, I took the Hobie 14 out and I was about…

the same build that I am now, I probably put 40 pounds or 50 pounds of weight on from when I last flipped the boat and was stronger. I was an athlete at that point and I went out and I was having a blast so I went out way further than I would have as a kid into the best sailing area and then I flipped the boat again.

because I was going pretty hard, so I pitch pulled it. I basically did like a front flip with it, like over the handlebars. And it was like this visceral flashback reaction where I was just like, I had to just control my human emotions and have a logical discussion with my lizard brain and just say, Chris it’s time to let go of this and you’re strong enough and you’re just gonna pull this boat up. And I like did what I knew how to do because I had seen it done many times and just like slowly but surely the boat came up, you know, came back upright, I jumped back on it and like shrugged off this like, you know, this scary discomfort zone trauma that I had kind of shouldered for a little while, a couple years, and was able to move on. You know, it’s an interesting experience.

Anna
Yeah, that’s great that you, I mean, it’s not great that you experienced that. I could just see like your little kid self with the ferry and everyone’s staring at you, you know. That’s, yeah, I’m glad that you got back on the boat and went back out and yeah, worked through that. Yeah.

Chris
Totally. It’s a yeah, it’s kind of like a cool analogy. And ultimately, I don’t know, I feel like when somebody says things happen for a reason in the face of some of the really awful things that life can throw at us, it’s not appropriate or appreciated. So I don’t really say it to other people, but I do say it to myself, you know, like, um,

For some reason I was being redirected for a period, you know, and I was on this this, you know, very driven track with that sport and I Wouldn’t have met my wife. I wouldn’t have moved to Asheville I wouldn’t have done any of these things if I continued on that path, you know and been redirected and so Yeah, it’s like no regrets. It’s all I for me personally. I you know

I choose to believe that things have happened for a reason in my life.

Anna
Hmm. Yeah. And then you had an opportunity to face your fear again. So.

Chris
Yeah, totally. And not to belabor this, but sailing has actually re-entered my life in a big way. And I’ve been really enjoying spending time with my dad, who’s now retired. And he and his brother bought a larger sailboat, like a 30 plus foot sailboat that I’ve been really enjoying getting to know. And there’s something extremely romantic and cool and uplifting in our world of, you know, we’re barraged with a lot of negative stuff and there’s something very uplifting about the idea that you can just get on a boat with the power of the wind and use very little hydrocarbons and go explore anywhere on planet Earth pretty much. That’s like a fun thought. So yeah.

Anna
Yeah.

Yeah, that is cool.

Do you have any questions for me?

Chris
Oh my goodness, Anne, I have so many questions for you.

Anna
Okay, you get one.

Chris
Ah, man. Okay.

So much pressure! Alright Anna.

Anna
I’m just kidding.

Chris )
What is your number one takeaway from discussing this very interesting concept of a discomfort zone with your other guests who are probably not as illustrious as I am? What have you learned from these guests?

Anna
I have learned that discomfort zones are unique. So different folks have different places that they feel it in their body or not, different strategies that they use to calm themselves down. Although one thing that has been, and I don’t know why I think it’s surprising considering that I’ve studied yoga and meditation so much, but the one thread is breath work. Almost everyone has mentioned that the breath is key. And I think that is, it gives me, I’m really stoked because I’ve always said that the breath is the cheapest, always available stress reducer. And I don’t know, for some reason, I think I had it in my head that people were still skeptical about that. And maybe it’s because, you know, I started practicing yoga so long ago, about the same time I started practicing, you know, paddling 30 years ago. And definitely at that time, you know, you used the word woo in our conversation earlier. I mean, for a long time, if you talked about breath work, it was like, oh, you’re woo woo.

So I think that, and now that I think about it, I mean, there’s so many podcasts, there’s so much research about the breath. And it’s, so it’s wonderful, cause it’s no longer woo woo. It’s something that across the board folks use. And yes, I think they’ve been taught it. And also I think that folks are tuning into themselves more. And it is a tuning into, oh yes, if I take a deep breath, like their own responses that are beneficial.

Chris
Very cool. That’s interesting. Do any other common themes stand out or threads? Other than breath work?

Anna
Definitely that discomfort zone is the growth area and to build confidence, which we all know. So that’s not surprising to me. I think what I am pumped about this podcast again is it is really helpful and inspiring to hear of people’s experience. And we say, yes, growth is, we know that stepping into the discomfort zone helps us grow.

It’s like, oh, but how does this person do it? How does this person do it? What’s this person’s experience? And I’ve really been grateful to have, conversations with folks from diverse backgrounds. And that’s been really, I think, exciting for me. And that’s what I wanted to bring to the table. That’s why I call this like, it’s paddling adjacent. It’s not about paddling.

Obviously a lot of folks that I’m interviewing, most of them I’ve met through paddling in the outdoors and at the same time, they’re not just talking about discomfort zone in that context. And I think that that’s really powerful. For instance, in our conversation today, the focus was a lot around boundaries, which I think almost everyone can relate to. So that’s what I’m pumped about.

Chris
Very cool, very cool. Alright, here’s one more question for you. What is your amazing dog, Ceiba’s, discomfort zone?

Anna
And, oh my gosh, unfortunately we can hear the shooting range from the Biltmore down at the Biltmore and it’s not like it’s huge, but she has tuned into that. And so if there, if there is a lot of activity at the shooting range, she will not go for a walk. That is her discomfort. We have to lately as she’s gotten older, hope, you know, eventually she might lose her hearing, but she can still hear. So her discomfort zone is getting past the end of the driveway sometimes, which is hilarious for a dog that goes mountain biking and stand up paddle boarding and does all kinds of traveling. So yeah, it’s funny.

Okay, we’re at the rapid fire round. Are you ready? Okay, so rapid fire meant to be succinct answers.

Chris
Yeah

Aww.

Poor girl.

yeah oh poor dog yeah

No kidding. Yeah. Cool.

Oh yeah, okay, yes.

Anna
Okay, here we go with rapid fire. What’s your morning ritual that sets you up for success?

Chris
I have room for improvement on this, but I do well with analog, a notepad, not my phone, where I can be distracted at any second, and writing down my core things that I’m trying to accomplish for the day. And I separate it into three categories, personal, and then I have two businesses that I’m… paying attention to every day. So it’s personal and my brokerage business and my hotel business. And that’s kind of like my North Star where I’m trying to really accomplish a couple things across the scope of those different areas of my life. And I’ve tried the phone, you know, some kind of phone organizer and it just does not work. So I’m old school yellow notepad and just carry that thing around with me and try to get it done.

Anna
Yeah, great. What’s your non-negotiable self-care practice?

Chris
I’ve come to really enjoy and appreciate giving myself time to have a cup of coffee. And this may not all be in the beginning of the day, but every day I do try to savor a cup of coffee because there’s just something about it. Read, and I count reading as like at least two pages of a book, and a lot of times that’s self help, but I try to not do that too much. Like actually, like right now I’m reading a book about John Wesley Powell, who was the first person to go through the Grand Canyon with his team. So coffee, read something cool that’s not work related, and journal. And the journal thing is a relatively recent addition to my life in the last four years. And I really, really appreciate that of pretty much more so than the other one. So I’m just gonna go ahead and say the journal is really powerful. Yeah.

Anna
Cool. That’s great. Your favorite motivational book or talk? If you have one, just one.

Chris
Ah, how can I pick one?
Okay, I think that the many things in life, everybody’s always trying to sell you some new method, but it all comes back to like some principles. And if I had to pick one, my favorite principle related.

Information Source is a book called The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. Unfortunately, it’s a little old school. It does have male pronouns in it. I give that book away a lot and I usually caveat it with that apology because I give it to women as well. It’s about the best distillation of how to live life as well as you can that I’ve ever come across. So I’m going to say that. Followed in a close second by Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, which I absolutely love. It’s a YouTube video. That’s way up there.

Anna
Yeah, that’s a great, and it’s a great book, yeah. Yeah. Okay, what do people get wrong about you?

Chris
Gosh, you know, Anna, I don’t think I dwell on it too much these days because I just don’t have the luxury of like worrying about it too much. Partially because I’ve just been so humbled by many of the things in my life. But I think maybe sometimes people snap judge me as like a. Frat boy, pretty boy, silver spoon type person.

and um

Hopefully they don’t do that. Because I got my own unique stories and my own, certainly acknowledge all the benefits and privileges and advantages that I have in life and I don’t claim to be self-made or whatever. I got a thousand wins at my back, but I really enjoy when I can break through with rural real estate clients who give me a chance and they talk differently than I do and the goal is to not be too fancy for anybody. Sometimes I will be concerned about that, but I don’t worry too much about other people the way I used to it.

Anna
Okay. Throughout the course of your life have you felt like the underdog or the favored to win?

Chris
Thank you, that’s a great question.

It depends, but the state of mind that I like to be in, because I like to play psychological games, and I’m very competitive, is the favorite to win. I think there’s something to acting the way that you, like manifesting through your attitude and the way that you speak to yourself, to…

get the things, you know, to accomplish the things that you want to accomplish. So I’ll go with that one.

Anna
Yeah. Okay, good. Hard moves in easy water or flooding?

Chris
Both, because it’s really fun to practice the basics. But if you can’t put them into action and demonstrate to yourself how that deliberate practice is gonna help, then what’s the point? That’s one thing that I’ve struggled with martial arts is like you’re learning things, like I think martial arts are awesome, but you’re like learning things that you hope never to use.

That’s a problem, you know, it’s like you want to, you want to like use your skills and so, it’s really fun, I found it in my life, I look back very fondly on the times when I have really, really just brushed up against the limit of my own abilities. Like, I’m mostly thinking about kayaking right now, but there’s other aspects of life too, but like,

When I think about my paddling and I still love kayaking and I still intend to do some cool stuff, but obviously never push as hard as I did. But like those times when you really put practice into action, that’s special. Yeah, and when there’s a lot of pressure as well. So, yeah.

Anna
Got it. One word that describes your comfort zone.

Chris
Chaos is not the right word. But like…

Anna
You would be unique in describing your comfort zone as chaos. Maybe not. I feel like maybe someone else I’ve interviewed has said that too. It’s interesting. Okay. Yeah. It’s your comfort zone.

Chris
How about intensity?

I find that, yeah, I find that like, intensity helps me to focus. And it’s really nice when things are just simplified. And it’s like, obviously I need to do this, you know?

Anna
Intense yet simple.

Chris
Quick tangent, yes, exactly. Quick tangent, this Thursday, so not tomorrow, but the next day, I’m gonna do a second annual personal tradition of running the Art Loeb Trail on the Winter Solstice, which is a difficult trail. It’s 31 miles and it’s…

Anna
Nice. Yeah. Didn’t you freeze your butt off? You and I can’t remember who you were with. You guys froze your butts off and had to call for help. Wasn’t that the run? Yes, that’s right.

Chris
That’s exactly right. Yeah. And it was it was hard. And so this year going to go for it again. I don’t I don’t think Brett’s I don’t think Brett wants to do it again. But but anyways, I really look forward to the intensity but simplicity of like running and like walking hiking groveling whatever I have to do probably for every daylight hour there is with like a single goal and mission in mind. Like that’s kind of fun to me. So yeah. Yeah.

Anna
Great, okay.

Freedom through discipline or I do what I want.

Chris
I would have given a different answer at an early stage of my life, but definitely freedom through discipline. It does free us. I know many people who are very creative and brilliant, but if they can’t create routine and harness that, they end up just spinning their wheels in a million directions. They bounce between idea and idea and never get real traction real momentum and traction. So, yeah. Freedom through discipline.

Anna
Okay, last rapid fire question in one word, what do you hope your legacy will be?

Chris
I’ll give you one word and then explain it a little bit because I can’t really think of a good one word. I’m gonna say positivity. And yeah, and what I mean by that is like, yeah, okay, be positive. But also like, it makes me think about net, being net positive, like giving back to the world more than I’m taking from it. And that was something that I realize was skewed the wrong way at a certain point in my life and started to kind of get deliberate about trying to change that. And so, yeah.

Anna
Okay. Is there anything else you want to say to our listeners?

Chris
I don’t think so. Thank you for the opportunity for some philosophical discussion. I really appreciate it, Anna.

Anna
Yeah, you’re welcome. Thanks for agreeing to have this conversation, Chris. Do you want to tell us about any upcoming projects or where folks can find you?

Chris
You know, I’m not the best at technological stuff in social media. I ebb and flow a little bit, but it doesn’t necessarily currently reach very high on my priority list. But I am on Instagram and I’m on LinkedIn and I’m always happy to have a discussion about real estate. And here’s a funny…

little anecdote. Just found out yesterday, my business partner, Nathan Silsby and I, we own a small hotel overlooking the Green River. It’s a motel. It’s like an old motor lodge that we’re trying to breathe life back into. It’s got a beautiful view and we are going on a TV show with the Magnolia Network called Motel Rescue. It’s going to be crazy.

Anna
Nice! Wow, that’s cool.

Chris
They’re going to come out to our property probably March or April of 2024. And we’re going to figure out how to wrangle this fucking bronco of a business. So, yeah, it’s going to be interesting. So, yeah. Sorry, go ahead. It’s called Motel Rescue. Yep. And so, yeah, I would say just hopefully…

Anna
Okay, so what’s the show called?

Okay. Motel rescue. Yeah. You said that. Yeah.

Chris
If anybody, hopefully I’ll run into some of your audience on the river or on the trail, on the ski slopes or otherwise, and would love to engage in some stimulating conversation about discomfort zones or stoke or real estate or all of the above. No problem. Thank you.

Anna
Nice. Thanks so much, Chris. I really appreciate you.