My teammates on the United States Disabled Ski Team used to tease me about the size of my chest, joking that my greatest handicap wasn't my missing leg but my missing cleavage. Little did they know how true that would become. This past year, I found out that for the second time in my life I had cancer, this time in both breasts. I had bilateral mastectomies.


When I heard I'd need the surgery, I didn't think it would be a big deal. I even told my friends playfully, "I'll keep you abreast of the situation." After all, I had lost my leg to my first go-round with cancer at age 12, then gone on to become a world champion ski racer. All of us on the Disabled Ski Team were missing one set of body parts or another.

I saw that a man in a wheelchair can be utterly sexy. That a woman who has no hands can appear not to be missing anything. That wholeness has nothing to do with missing parts and everything to do with spirit. Yet although I knew this, I was surprised to discover how difficult it was to adjust to my new scars.

When they brought me back to consciousness after the surgery, I started to sob and hyperventilate.

Suddenly I found that I didn't want to face the loss of more of my body. I didn't want chemotherapy again. I didn't want to be brave and tough and put on a perpetual smiling face. I didn't ever want to wake up again. My breathing grew so shaky that the anesthesiologist gave me oxygen and then, thankfully, put me back to sleep.

When I was doing hill sprints to prepare for my ski racing - my heart and lungs and leg muscles all on fire - I'd often be hit by the sensation that there were no resources left inside me with which to keep going.

Then I'd think about the races ahead - my dream of pushing my potential as far as it could go, the satisfaction of breaking through my own barriers - and that would get me through the sprints. The same tenacity that served me so well in ski racing helped me survive my second bout with cancer.

After the mastectomies, I knew that one way to get myself going would be to start exercising again, so I headed for the local pool.

In the communal shower, I found myself noticing other women's breasts for the first time in my life. Size-D breasts and size-A breasts, sagging breasts and perky breasts. Suddenly and for the first time, after all these years of missing a leg, I felt acutely self-conscious. I couldn't bring myself to undress.

I decided it was time to confront myself. That night at home, I took off all my clothes and had a long look at the woman in the mirror. She was androgynous.

Take my face - without makeup, it was a cute young boy's face. My shoulder muscles, arms and hands were powerful and muscular from the crutches. I had no breasts; instead, there were two prominent scars on my chest. I had a sexy flat stomach, a bubble butt and a well-developed thigh from years of ski racing. My right leg ended in another long scar just above the knee.

I discovered that I liked my androgynous body.

It fit my personality - my aggressive male side that loves getting dressed in a helmet, arm guards and shin protectors to do battle with the slalom gates, and my gentle female side that longs to have children one day and wants to dress up in a beautiful silk dress, go out to dinner with a lover and then lie back and be slowly undressed by him.

I found that the scars on my chest and my leg were a big deal. All of us are scarred by life; it's just that some of those scars show more clearly than others. Our scars do matter. They tell us that we have lived, that we haven't hidden from life. When we see our scars plainly, we can find in them, as I did that day, our own unique beauty.

The next time I went to the pool I showered naked.



Our brain is like muscles. The more you use and exercise it, the stronger it becomes. But, if you want to get maximum results, you should do more than just practice. What you need is deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is the kind of practice that stretches the boundaries of your capabilities. While in normal practice you just do the same activity again and again, in deliberate practice you push yourself to the limit. It’s not easy, but deliberate practice makes the difference between an expert and everyone else.

The principle of deliberate practice can be applied in whatever field you want to excel in, but here I will focus on mind development. Below are 8 ways to challenge and exercise your mind. Choose some of them you haven’t done and take your mind to the next level:

1. Read challenging articles

You can measure the difficulty level of an article by using Google Docs. Here is how to do it:

Create a new document

Paste the content of the article to the new document

Open the Tools -Word Count menu item. It will show you three metrics: Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kindcaid Grade Level, and Automated Readability Index. The higher it is, the more difficult the article is.

Of course, it’s not necessary to measure the difficulty level of every article you read. Simply take some samples from a blog or web site and you will have good idea about the difficulty level of the articles there.

2. Read challenging books

Classic books are good candidates since they are usually more difficult to read than new books. You could start with my list of classic books. You can also read the Pulitzer-winning books.

3. Read academic journals

One form of challenging reading we often overlook is academic journals. There are a lot of free journal articles you can read from Open science Directory. Some of the journal articles There\'s already in the market, , aka herbal concentrates! Its full ceramic body and metal seal makes it healthier and leak proof. The cartridges are easier to re-fill as well! in Google Scholar are also free. Go there, pick a topic of your interest and read a journal article.

4. Play mind games

Choose a free mind game to play and you can have fun while exercising your mind. I started playing Sudoku last week and it was more difficult than I expected. But over time my mind got used to it and I can now solve the puzzles faster.

5. Aim to produce certain number of ideas everyday

The ideas can be in whatever fields you are working on. In my case, I try to write certain number of words everyday. Q10 - which I first learned from Dale - is an excellent tool you can use if you are a writer. One of its features is global target with which you can set the target number of words you want to write.

6. Brainstorm using thinking tools

There are many thinking tools you can use. The book Thinkertoys has many of them in one book and the web site Exploratree has a collection of tools you can use.

7. Do ultradian sprint

Doing ultradian sprint is a good way to train your focus and concentration. One trait of a well-trained brain is the ability to concentrate for long time and ultradian sprint can help you increase your ability to concentrate.

8. Set a project

Is there a project that has been in the back of your mind for some time? Perhaps you postpone it because you think it’s too difficult. Well, that’s a good candidate for deliberate practice. Often we are afraid Business Video Conferencing of failure, but a mantra to quick progress is to make mistakes and make them quick. This way you will have a short feedback loop that will help you adjust your performance faster.

As I wrote in the beginning of this article, a key of deliberate practice is to push your current limit of ability. These challenges will stretch your boundary when you first do them, but after some time, you will get comfortable with it and it will no longer be deliberate practice. Here are some things you can do to keep making them deliberate practice:

1. For reading, try reading something in an unfamiliar field or read more challenging materials in the same field.

2. For playing mind games, increase the level of difficulty or try a new game you are not familiar with.

3. For producing certain number of ideas everyday, increase the target number or the quality of the ideas.

4. For doing ultradian sprint, increase the duration of the session.

5. For thinking challenge, try more difficult challenges.

6. For setting project, increase the scope of the project or do similar projects with stricter deadline.

Do you have tips or thoughts on mind exercise? I would love to hear them.