challenges, Fails, rick barr, ricks4040

4040: The FAILS

It was interesting as I was involved with the 4040 Challenge Project to see the varying reactions and field questions.  A lot of people assumed that I simply had a list of 40 Challenges, and I had to get them all done.  Perhaps that kind of efficiency would have been nice, but the truth is, I put a lot of crazy crap on my list that ended up simply not being possible.  So, lest my ego gets too big after getting 40 really cool things done, let’s review the ones that didn’t work out:

The video tells the story for handful of these, as well as others that didn’t get the video treatment.  I’d also like to give honorable mentions to some of the great Challenges that people recommended that never quite made it on my list.  I started feeling bad about these, because I really wanted to do them all, but I had to set some kind of limits on myself, or I really would have gone nuts.

Mel, a dear old friend from my early consulting days at AirTouch Cellular, gave me a few.  Running the marathon was the first one, and damned if I didn’t try it.  I also spent quite a bit of money on shoes and other weather-related accessories so I could practice running.  Too bad it almost killed me.

He also suggested a weird Skyline Chili Challenge, where he said:

“2 plates of skyline min of 3 way. Think its easy? Not so fast my friend…..must consume a full bottle of TABASCO® brand Habanero Pepper Sauce, must pour half on each plate. Drink must be a beer or cold pop or water only. Scot Maples must be present record it for posterity. Here is your challenge my friend. 😀 “

I actually loved it.  Scot is our other IT buddy, and it would have been good to see him.  Alas, I got involved in the Quarter Pounder and then 12,000 calorie Challenges and after those, I just couldn’t bear to do any more with food.

Mel later Challenged me to prepare full meals of exotic (or at least foreign) dishes.  He was very specific about them, and I was very interested, but I just ran out of time.

My friend Amy Challenged me to thank 40 people who had impacted my life.  I thought this was a really great one, and kind of made some progress on it, but realized that I’m already a pretty gracious guy, and that in-between Challenge Thank-Yous, I’d thanked others for various things, and it became clear that it wasn’t quite Challenging enough.  But still, a great idea.

My mom came up with a cool one about writing a poem about people in my life, and I thought that was nice, but I had kind of forbade myself to get involved with any more long-term Challenges.  The ones that I worked on for weeks or months tended to drive me a bit nuts.

There were plenty of other suggestions, but I’m really pleased with what I was able to accomplish.  I’m already thinking of ideas for something new next year.  It won’t be as extreme for me, but will involve other people, and more charitable donations.  As for Rick’s 4040, we’re just about done with this blog.  It makes me a little sad, it’s been so interesting.  But there are many more adventures to come!

barr26, challenges, rick barr, ricks4040

The Complete Guide To Rick’s 4040 Challenge Project

Fresh off completing my 40th and final Challenge, it’s time to write the Complete, Definitive Guide to Rick’s 4040 Challenge Project.  I’m going to include every detail possible here, from the genesis of the project, to a description of each Challenge, including the charitable donations made (links included), to final thoughts as I ease out of my 40th year.  So, if you’re at all interested in this and want to share with others, this will be the one to bookmark.

While I conceived of the project around November 1 2014, and officially started it with some pushups on November 13, I didn’t start this blog until March 16.  So, some of the early Challenges weren’t documented, and I aim to fix that here.  I did, however, write about the origin of the 4040 Challenge Project, so check that out if you’re new to this whole scene.

Before I list each Challenge, I should talk a little bit about how transformative this has been.  The idea itself was conceived from a silly stunt and, to be sure, many of the Challenges I’ve completed have been silly or even downright dumb (but they only slightly offset the super cool, adventurous, painful ones).

But when I started this thing, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I knew 100,000 pushups would take a long time, but I loved pushups and figured it would just take some patience.  It ended up taking more than just that; after 70,000 or so, I started genuinely not liking pushups at all, my shoulders ached, and forcing myself to drop for 20, 30, or 50 at any random moment got really old.  So I had to fight through a lot of physical and mental discomfort.  Other long-term Challenges like the 5000-piece puzzle (getting down on the floor for an hour or so at a time for six months), writing the numbers 1-26,000 (a few months) and the 10-minute plank (several painful attempts) were done concurrently…..through the spring and summer, my life was consumed with Challenges, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to make progress on anywhere from four to seven different ones in any given day.

I pushed myself out of my comfort zone with many of these.  Jumping out of an airplane was certainly not a “bucket list” item; I’d never really cared for the idea.  But that kind of made it important to do and, of course, I loved the Hell out of it.  I ate cat food (probably the most horrible of them all), got a tattoo, a Brazilian wax, and many more things that I never would have done in my “normal” life.

By pushing myself so hard and staying dedicated, I’ve become much more determined in general.  It’s not a real tangible thing, but I’ve proven to myself that I can get through pretty much anything, no matter how uncomfortable, painful, or embarrassing it may be.  There’s a new mental toughness, I guess, and with that, a huge boost in my overall confidence.

The donations to charity have also boosted my spirit a bit.  I’d been through really tough times, particularly in my mid-late twenties but since then, have done incrementally better.  A few years ago, I started thinking about charities, how I might be able to help, and this project finally provided a great opportunity to get that done.  I’ve listed the charitable donations below with each Challenge.  My company has matched many of these and as of this writing (September 28), several are still “in process”, so I won’t count them until they’re official.  I also did a few fund raisers where friends generously donated, and those are counted here as well.  I have also provided links to the sites where you can donate, if you are interested.  A handful of these were just giving cash to someone; I didn’t care too much about getting a receipt for every single one.

To celebrate the completion of this project, I held a benefit pot luck at O’Toole’s Pun & Grill on the west side of Columbus.  I host an open MIC there on Wednesdays and turned this one into a full music show featuring a band, other musicians, and an Italian dinner.  We raised $317.05, had a blast, and it was a great way to finish things.

So, as of November 19, the total contributions from the 4040 Challenge Project are $3562.05.  And all I initially wanted to do was pour ice water over my head.  That is beyond my wildest expectations and I certainly won’t stop just because the project is complete.

Not only did I track the donations, but the expenses related to all of these things.  Some, like the Tough Mudder, were very pricey.  Of course, I bought a GoPro camera and lots of accessories, and the registration itself was $150.  But the total amount spent on all completed Challenges was $1240.96.  Good God!

And now, here’s the best part; the Challenges!  Some of these early ones were done before the blog, so they need a description.  For others, I’m simply linking directly to the stories.

CHALLENGE #1: One-Hour Song

Completed: 12/21/14

Personal Donation: $50 to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital + $50 = $100

Despite coming up with the project in early November, the very first Challenge I completed wasn’t until December 21.  I have no idea why.  The Challenge was to write, record, and mix a complete song in one hour.  I knew it would be difficult, even if I kept the song simple.  My daughter Katie, 20 at the time, drew a picture for me to inspire the lyrics.  She had done this a couple times about a decade earlier, and we thought it’d be fun to do it again.

The video shows parts of the whole process and it really was close.  I pushed it to the edge, trying to get just a few minutes of basic mixing done.  The result?  A simple, kind of silly song that has a beginning, middle, and end.  It’s called “The Devil Is Me”, and you can listen to it here!


CHALLENGE #2: Bake A Cake

Completed: 12/21/14

Personal Donation: $40 to Nationwide Children’s Hospital + $40 = $80

Immediately following the one-hour song, I attempted to do something I’d never done before; bake a cake.  Or, bake anything that required actual ingredients.  I can cook basic things, but I’d never done anything from scratch.  Tamara tried her best to help me, offering to go with me to the store to buy supplies, but I insisted that I had do this all by myself.  Now, I did kind of need for her to show me where the lemon zester was (basically because I never knew such a thing existed) but other than that, I was more or less on my own.

It was a lot of fun to do this and I was amazed that the cake tasted as good as it did.  It was a lemon cake with raspberry filling, very similar to our wedding cake.  The only thing I did horribly wrong was buying margarine instead of butter.  I’d stood in the aisle, gazing at hundreds of boxes containing yellow sticks of saturated death, and after a bit of deliberation, determined that one kind was as good as any other, so I picked one at random and moved on with my life.

I guess you bakers out there know what the result was; a very dry cake.  So dry, in fact, by the next day it had become a choking hazard.  Not that I let that stop me from finishing it, or sharing it with my parents and sister.  Each of them tried a bite, proclaimed that it tasted good, then almost choked to death.  I assured them that none of my other Challenges would cause them any harm, and in that, I was right.


CHALLENGE #3: Complete An Expert Crossword

Completed: 1/3/15

Personal Donation: $40 to Project Literacy + $40 = $80

Growing up, my mom was always doing crosswords (she still does).  I got into them as well, usually feeling pretty good if I could complete Easy puzzles, and had fun with CryptoQuotes and other things.  At 40, I’d never even completed a Hard crossword and since I knew a lot of my Challenges would be physical in nature, I felt it was a good idea to exercise my brain instead of my body.  At first, I insisted that I wasn’t going to go online for help.  Then I struggled mightily to not only figure out answers to clues, but even comprehend them.  They get rather cryptic when things get serious.

So I went online looking up synonyms and definitions and even with that help, it took me absolutely forever.  It wasn’t easy at all, and several hours into it, I felt better knowing it wasn’t at all a cop-out.  Plus, I had to get it completely right the first time, meaning that once I checked the back of the book to verify answers, if even one letter had been incorrect, it would nullify everything.  Thank God I got it the first time.


CHALLENGE #4: Play Video Games For 24 Hours Straight

Completed: 1/17/15

Personal Donation: $50 to Nationwide Children’s Hospital + $185 = $235

What fun!  I’ve been a gamer all my life.  I hadn’t played quite as much the last couple years as I’ve gotten more involved with playing music live, but it’s still a great pastime.  Still, could I keep it up for 24 hours and stay awake (and sane)?  I started a fund raising effort on and a couple of friends generously donated to it, so monetarily, this was a great success.  The playing was certainly fun, and I went ahead and channeling my inner 16 year-old self by ordering a giant pizza and 2-liter of Mountain Dew.  Ah, old times.  I even got the dessert pizza.

I did fine with this, playing a few dozen games randomly.  The last few hours, though, I had a lot of trouble focusing my eyes on the screen…..any screen.  They kept crossing, and that made me fairly inept at anything I was playing, but I pushed through and never fell asleep, until crashing at the end.


CHALLENGE #5: Play A Song On Trumpet

Completed: 1/25/15

Personal Donation: $40 to Teen Cancer America + $40 = $80

I’m a musician, have been for a long time, playing guitar mostly, but also bass, banjo, piano, and some percussion.  But despite the fact that my daughter Katie had played trumpet since 2008, I had never once tried it.  She’d wanted me to for quite a while but the germaphobe in me couldn’t get past the idea of all the spit that must be festering in there (despite the fact that she always cleaned it regularly).

By the time we approached the idea for the project, she hadn’t been playing it very much at all.  It had been sitting around for a while, so I just asked that she clean the mouthpiece, and I told her I’d give it a shot.  She showed me how to purse my lips correctly, and what finger positions made certain sounds, and wrote out how to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.  She didn’t write out notes, because I’m a musical savant, but the actual finger positions I needed to be in.

I should note that I had asthma pretty bad as a kid.  It’s under control now but I still have trouble playing a harmonica very well.  I just don’t have much breath for it.  So, I was skeptical about this one, especially when I first tried it and realized how much force was needed to produce a pure note.  But after a little bit of practice, I got okay enough to make it through and, as the video shows, my head veins made a prominent appearance (wouldn’t be the last Challenge that made <I>that</I> happen).  Considering it was my first time ever trying it, I did pretty well, and it was fun to have Katie involved in it.


CHALLENGE #6: Self-Publish A Book

Completed: 2/5/15

Personal Donation: $40 to Columbus Metropolitan Library + $40 = $80

The title can be a little misleading.  It’s not like I actually wrote a novel.  But I did collect a couple hundred of my favorite Pac-Man doodles and using Amazon.COM’s CreateSpace, put together a real book, with its very own ISBN.  And I didn’t just slap JPGs into a Word document; I added haiku to each one, finally providing some context to some classics that people have loved for years.

The process was actually time consuming and …..well, challenging.  Getting the margins and spacing correct for every page, previewing, adjusting, correcting, sorting… wasn’t the easiest thing to do.  The book is available here to purchase online or, you can get a real copy in your hands.


CHALLENGE #7: Stand On One Foot For 10 Minutes

Completed: 2/20/15

Personal Donation: $40 to People With Disabilities Foundation + $40 = $80

This was a physical Challenge that, along with some others, I had to research a bit before setting my own personal goal.  The official World Record stuff didn’t really apply because, although the record time is many, many hours, this is one that they allow people to take breaks for.  Breaks!  Blasphemy!  Even as a kid, I hated the notion that a record involving something consecutive would still count if breaks were taken.  So, I chose a number that would be challenging, yet doable.

I got it done my first try.  In retrospect, perhaps I should have made it longer, but my foot was aching pretty bad when I got done.  And, my son Nick (19 at the time) did it with me and was eating a bunch of peanuts the whole time, and his peanut breath was really distracting, so I had that going for me.


CHALLENGE #8: Eat 8 Quarter Pounders w/Cheese

Completed: 2/28/15

Personal Donation: $40 to Kids Against Hunger

Those who know me know that I’m a bit of a fitness freak.  I’m very disciplined in my workouts and what I eat.  Sure, I’ll have a beer, maybe a shot at a bar when I’m playing a gig, but not always and never more than two in one night.  I don’t drink much at home and as of this writing, find myself in week 9 of a 12-week program in which I haven’t had one single cheat day.  That’s a bit more extreme than usual but part of it is because this particular Challenge was just the first of a handful of food-related Challenges that led to me slipping a bit in my overall diet and not feeling all that great.  In other words, this Challenge kind of ruined me for a while.

The point of that was to say that I really never eat fast food.  I’ll have McDonald’s maybe once every five years.  I’ve always had a thing for Quarter Pounders, though.  Never cared for Big Macs, but Quarter Pounders are always a winner.  So, eating eight of them would mean I won eight times, right?  I chose eight because technically speaking, the meat added up to exactly two pounds (before cooking, I know), and I’m kind of a numbers freak (or perhaps completely OCD, who knows?), so I liked it.

I made it through this Challenge, but there were two things I hadn’t counted on.  The first was the cost of these stupid things.  I think I spent over $30 on them, which was nuts and ultimately ironic because I donated $40 to Kids Against Hunger and I suppose it would have been more useful if I’d dropped off my eight Sandwiches-O-Death to a shelter or food bank.  But, this was more fun.  For a while.

It took a couple hours to eat them and the other thing I hadn’t realized was how much sodium was in those things.  Or at least, how the sodium would affect me.  I was horribly full after six of them, but kept plugging away.  But my mouth got terribly dry, and it was hard to swallow, so I chugged a bunch of water to get them down.  And even afterward, feeling more full than ever before, I downed an entire bottle of water.  The 32-ounce big ones.  My stomach hurt for three days afterward.  It was rough!


CHALLENGE #9: The Sub-Freezing Ice Bucket Challenge

Completed: 3/7/15

Personal Donation: $40 to American Red Cross + $40 = $80

This was the one that started it all!  The very inklings of the beginnings started soon after completing the summertime ice bucket challenge, and the idea of doing one in frigid temps stayed with me until November.  I started thinking about when I would get it done, and the 4040 concept came crashing down on me, changing my life forever.

Originally, this was Sub-Zero Challenge.  We’d had arctic temps the year before and were promised more this past winter.  While we did get a few nights under 0 degrees, there were never any weekend opportunities for me, so I relented and allowed it to simply be Sub-Freezing.  And even with that, it took a while before I actually had time and the weather cooperated.  This was March and if I remember correctly, was one of the very last weekends where the temperature stayed below freezing through morning.  So, I almost missed out on it completely.

The video tells the story; it was brutal.  More because I was barefoot in the snow, but the whole thing was pretty crazy.  Several people had been genuinely worried that I’d have a heart attack or something, but that never worried me.  Mainly because I’m a healthy guy and should be able to withstand everything.  It’s possible that this thinking will get me killed at some point, but for the time being, I like taking my chances.


CHALLENGE #10: Eat 12,000 Calories In One Day

Completed: 3/28/15

Personal Donation: $50 to FeedingAmerica.ORG + $50 = $100

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #11: Hold Breath for 2 ½ Minutes

Completed: 4/11/15

Personal Donation: $40 to Colon Cancer Coalition + $40 = $80

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #12: Perform A Song In A Foreign Language

Completed: 4/17/15

Personal Donation: $50 to Fender Music Foundation + $50 = $100

I came up with this Challenge for myself but had a lot of trouble figuring out exactly what I wanted to do. My good friend Joe came up with “Io Che Non Vivo”, a popular Italian song that Dusty Springfield covered (in English) as “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”. It’s a great, short song and while the chords were easy enough, the language was obviously the hard part. I managed it pretty well, and it was really cool to share a Challenge with everyone, especially at one of my shows.


CHALLENGE #13: Read 10 Classic Novels

Completed: 4/24/15

Personal Donation: $50 to World Literacy Foundation

I’ve always been a reader, but rarely stray from Stephen King or rock biographies. Tamara and my mom came up with this one, and it was a great one. I got plenty of suggestions and found some myself. I had never read any of these before.

Some, like “Catcher In The Rye”, “Slaughterhouse Five”, and “To Kill A Mockingbird”, became instant favorites. A few others, written in the nineteenth century, were a bit tougher, with “Wuthering Heights” taking the cake. It took me longer to read it just because I needed to slow down to comprehend parts of it. That, and it was just a very strange tale, where the villain is the hero, and everyone seems to die before they hit 35.

The one book I tried and couldn’t finish, perhaps the first time I’ve ever done that, was “Les Miserables”. I hadn’t realized when I ordered it that it was 1500 pages but I could have handled it if the content hadn’t been so mind-numbingly dull. I’d read literally two pages before realizing I’d made a huge mistake. I shelved it forever, rather than being “miserable” myself. The full list:

1984 – George Orwell 

Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain 

Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger 

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley 

The Complete Tales of GRIMM – The Brothers Grimm

Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut 

Strange case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson 

The Time Machine – H.G. Wells 

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee 

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte


CHALLENGE #14: Skydiving

Completed: 4/26/15

Personal Donation: $40 to American Veterans Center

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #15: Tough Mudder

Completed: 5/9/15

Personal Donation: $50 to Wounded Warrior

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #16: Drink Around The World At Epcot

Completed: 5/21/15

Personal Donation: $50 to Water.ORG

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #17: 30 Pictures In 30 Days

Completed: 5/26/15

Personal Donation: $40 to NationalBreastCancer.ORG + $40 = $80

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #18: 40 Post-It Notes

Completed: 6/4/15

Personal Donation: $50 to FirstBook.ORG

The post-it notes were Tamara’s idea. All I had to do was create 40 nice little notes and put them in random places. But I wanted to make sure each one was a bit different, so I wrote a unique message on each one, accompanied by a happy face. I left a couple for Tamara, one for each of my parents, but most were left at work. In cubicles, under tables, mailboxes and other spots.

I’m actually kind of thrilled that, over four months after I put one on a corkboard in a kitchen, it’s still there. Just a little note saying “Be Happy!” or something like that, and nobody has taken it down. That’s really cool.


CHALLENGE #19: Stay Awake for 48 Hours

Completed: 6/7/15

Personal Donation: $40 to Civitan (Special Olympics)

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #20: Complete a 5000-Piece Puzzle

Completed: 6/7/15

Personal Donation: $40 to Make-A-Wish + $40 = $80

Read about it here!!

CHALLENGE #21: Complete Rubik’s Cube

Completed: 6/12/15

Personal Donation: $50 to 10000Degrees.ORG

The Rubik’s Cube is, of course, a Challenge. Hardly anybody can do it, but the ones who can are really good at it. There are certain algorithms you can follow to get to your goal in a reasonable amount of time. But when I first posted this Challenge online, my friend Stevie replied back with a video of him solving it in less than two minutes. I felt overwhelmed and afraid.

The actual Rubik’s web site says that trying to solve the cube randomly is a waste of time; it won’t happen. So, I tried several algorithms and seemed to get kind of okay at them, but I kept getting stuck on one particular spot. Then my friend Greg helped me out by giving me specific instructions, but I was still mired in hopelessness. Then he actually showed me how to do it, and as I watched, it hit me that I’d been doing that particular step on one side only, when it needed to be done on all four.

So, that helped quite a bit, then I figured out the rest myself, and after many, many hours of trying, I got it done. I haven’t touched it since.


CHALLENGE #22: Create A Pict-O-Gram

Completed: 6/15/15

Personal Donation: $40 to Children’s Save Our Sight

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #23: Publish An Essay On

Completed: 6/17/15

Personal Donation: $40 to + $40 = $80

Read the essay here

My new cousin-in-law Cara suggested this one to me. I write a lot, but this was going to be somewhat personal. I’m a pretty closed-off person with my opinions, so it took a while to figure out what to write about and how to express it. It took a couple months to hear back from the site, but it got published, and I was satisfied with this very unique Challenge.


CHALLENGE #24: Vegetarian For One Month

Completed: 6/24/15

Personal Donation: $50 to American Eagle Foundation

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #25: Eat Cat Food

Completed: 6/28/15

Personal Donation: $40 to ASPCA + $40 = $80

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #26: 48-Hour Fast

Completed: 6/30/15

Personal Donation: $50 to Action Against Hunger

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #27: 1000 Pushups In One Hour

Completed: 7/10/15

Personal Donation: $50 to SaveTheChildren.ORG

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #28: 100,000 Pushups

Completed: 7/18/15

Personal Donation: $50 to Children’s Hospital (Opthamology)

Read about it here …..then go do some pushups!!


CHALLENGE #29: Perform Music In A Dress

Completed: 7/21/15

Personal Donation: $50 to NationalBreastCancer.ORG

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #30: Get A Tattoo

Completed: 7/27/15

Personal Donation: $50 to SkinCancer.ORG + $50 = $100

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #31: Do Nothing For 15 Minutes 40 Times

Completed: 8/7/15

Personal Donation: $50 to Children’s Hospital

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #32: Chest & Brazilian Wax

Completed: 8/15/15

Personal Donation: $50 to Children’s Cancer Association

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #33: Write The Numbers 1-26,000

Completed: 8/15/15

Personal Donation: $40 to help Blanche Baker beat breast cancer

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #34: Create A Flipbook

Completed: 8/21/15

Personal Donation: $50 to Circle P Sanctuary

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #35: Inspect A Bee Hive

Completed: 8/22/15

Personal Donation: Volunteering at Weinland Park Community Garden Service October 8

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #36: Brew Beer

Completed: 8/22/15

Personal Donation: $40 to M.A.D.D.

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #37: Play Guitar For 24 Hours Straight

Completed: 8/24/15

Personal Donation: $50 to Columbus Symphony Orchetra

Read about it here …..after you’ve watched all 24 hours of me playing!!


CHALLENGE #38: Listen To The 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Completed: 8/24/15

Personal Donation: $50 to Ammado (Migration Crisis)

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #39: Hold A 10-Minute Plank

Completed: 9/20/15

Personal Donation: $50 to Children’s Hospital

Read about it here!!


CHALLENGE #40: Play Tandem Guitar

Completed: 9/24/15

Personal Donation: $50 to National Young Arts Foundation

Read about it here!!


As I mentioned before, this project, this series of Challenges, has really been a life-changer.  I did more new things in one year than the last decade.  Part of the reason this was so great was the support and encouragement from my friends and family.  I started posting about this, and figured a few people might think it was cute, somewhat interesting, then forget about it.

But to my surprise, as I began discussing some of the long-term Challenges (100,000 pushups, 5000-piece puzzle, etc) and completing some of the more audacious ones (eating cat food, performing in a dress, etc), the more I found people approaching me at gigs and open mics, laughing as they asked me about these things.  I think folks were most interested in the pushups, as I continued to get asked about my progress.  But when I ate the cat food, and then got waxed, I really found out how many people I was reaching.

It blew me away, and also gave me a lot of inspiration.  If I’d been doing this alone, I may very well have given up.  But thanks to Tamara, my parents, sister, kids (especially Nick, who gave me some of my craziest Challenges (CAT FOOD)) and so many friends out there, I stayed dedicated and got everything done that I set out to do.

….well…..not EVERYthing.  At some point soon, I’ll write about some of the failed Challenges.  Oh yes, there were some things I tried and simply couldn’t do.  I may even have a few videos of some of these.  Stay tuned.


barr26, challenges, Family, Guitar, rick barr, ricks4040

Challenge Complete: Tandem Guitar

What is a “tandem guitar”, you ask?  Simply having multiple people play a song on a single guitar.  It’s been done before, and I was inspired by a video I saw where five guys were doing it.  So, for my 40th and final Challenge of the Rick’s 4040 Challenge Project, I got the whole family involved:

Here, we have my dad making chords and singing, my wife Tamara beside me making beats, and my mom and sister, Kelli, kind of off camera, also making beats.  We had some fun trying to figure out positions and exactly who would be doing what, and actually got it done on our first take.  It was great to get everybody involved in the final Challenge!

This is definitely not the end of the story, though.  Soon, there will be a gigantic mega-post containing every possible detail of Rick’s 4040.  But for now, I am very satisfied that I got 40 of these crazy things done, and can reclaim some of my regular life back.  More soon!

challenges, Charity, Exercise, Plank, Pushups, ricks4040, Strength, Working Out

Challenge Complete: The 10-Minute Plank!

I can’t even say how excited I am to have completed this Challenge.  Mainly because I’m not sure exactly why I’m excited.  It was a Challenge that I came up with around the same time as the 100,000 Pushups.  Like many Challenges, I had to research this one a bit.  I had been doing planks in many of my workouts, so I felt like I was at least marginally okay at the move.  But I had never actually tried to see how long I could last.

I found that apparently, a five-minute challenge was being done, something people trained for.  I read blogs, looked into training techniques, and ultimately decided that five minutes seemed tough, but doable.  So naturally, I needed to do more.

I doubled it, and in my first attempt, managed five minutes.  How cool!  I was glad I’d made my Challenge longer than that, otherwise it would have seemed ….well, too easy.  So, I figured I’d keep practicing and get it done fairly soon.

My mistake was that I simply didn’t realize how much the 100,000 Pushup Challenge would neuter my shoulders.  I started these right around the same time, and after just a couple weeks of doing 300 or more pushups a day, I found I could barely do a three-minute plank.  So, I basically took a long break from the Challenge.

In July, about a week after completing the pushups, I tried it again.  I immediately nailed six minutes.  I was very happy with that and again figured I could keep increasing my time, and it wouldn’t take long to make it happen.

But, it kind of did.  Around that same time, I started a brand new workout regimen, “Body Beast”, by Beachbody.  After five years of doing P90X workouts and maintaining a lean, somewhat muscular physique, I wanted to finally try to gain some mass.  So, my workouts started really pounding my muscles like the old days and as a result, the planks were once again tougher to do.

I do my workouts at 5am, but as early as that is, whatever muscle group I worked would stay fatigued through most of the day.  If I’d done legs, then my thighs would give out.  Shoulders?  Well, come on.  I found out soon enough that if I’d worked on them, there would be no planking that day.

But I kept at it and finally, on Sunday, September 20, I nailed it.  Sunday was always going to be my best chance because it’s my only non-workout day.  I get up early for a round of golf, but that’s it.  It was nice and cool outside, in the low 60s, and I think that helped.  My shoulders and arms started aching around the three-minute mark, as usual, but somehow I was able to keep my mind off it.

What actually helped later on, absurdly, was around the seven-minute mark. I was looking down at the deck planks and imagining ants weaving in and out of the boards, working, carrying things.  I started doing that and found that 30-second blocks of time were passing quickly.  It was good to have distractions, even if they were imaginary.

So, I finished, and writhed in pain for a couple of minutes.  I think that 10-minute activity hurt worse than the 3 1/2 hour Tough Mudder.  Crazy.  But I’m thrilled to have gotten it done and that was #39……just one to go!

I do need to give props to a guy named George Hood who, in June, set a world record with a plank that lasted more than five hours.  Watch it here.  It puts me to shame, I know, but apparently he trained full-time for it.  Maybe someday!

Audiophile, barr26, challenges, Headphones, Listening, Music, rick barr, ricks4040

Challenge Complete: Listen To The 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die!

This fun, sometimes grueling Challenge was given to me by a Arie, a musical friend of mine.  Actually, a month earlier, she had Challenged me to listen to the 1001 Albums collection but even if I had had a full year, that might have been impossible.  As it was, I had only 80 days to complete this one…..and I did it in 25 days.

The list is pretty subjective, and the book is available here.  It’s certainly not meant to include all the hits from the past, it’s more about being exposed to virtually all kinds of music.  It’s listed in chronological order, which I love.  We went from “O Sole Mio” by Enrico Caruso to “Stylo” by Gorillaz.  The stuff in between ranged from great (Fats Domino, Johnny Cash, Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin) to the weird (Frank Zappa, Nick Cave, and a song by the Jackson 5 featuring Mick Jagger) to the cringe-worthy (lots of reggae, 80s synth-pop, Soulja Boy, and “Hotel California”, a song that violates my senses in the worst way).

I used Xbox Music (now known as “Groove”) to play the vast majority of the songs but there were cases where they don’t have the rights to certain artists’ music.  Led Zeppelin was one but fortunately, I have all their CDs, so that was easy enough.  For most of the other missing ones, I hit YouTube.  Sometimes, a song was so obscure that it was difficult to even get a playable version anywhere on the internet.  I tried as hard as I could to always play the original and avoid live performances, but in a few cases, it was impossible.

Some of the songs were obvious choices but in Zeppelin’s case, where you would surely find “Stairway To Heaven”, you got “When The Levee Breaks”.  Totally worthy, of course, but that just showed how unpredictable the list could be.

I listened to a lot at work on my headphones, and at home on my JBL Powerup bluetooth speaker.  This was a nice Challenge, once again taking me out of my comfort zone.  I was forced to listen to a lot of things I never would have otherwise.  This was #38…..only two to go!

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Challenge Complete: 24-Hour Guitar Playing Marathon

Why do I keep underestimating some of these Challenges?!?  Eating cat food, getting my nuts waxed, and a couple others were so much worse than my expectations that you’d think I’d have grown a layer of caution, or a way to anticipate pain and discomfort.  But, staying up for 24 hours in itself hadn’t been a problem before; I’d done the 24-hour Video Game Challenge, and even stayed up for 48 hours.  So, I was ready for this.

Kind of.

I took Monday off, as I was unwilling to give up my Sunday morning round of golf for….well, anything.  So, while the Challenge itself simply indicates that I was up for 24 hours, I had actually gotten up at 5:30am, played a round, and rushed back home to get ready for my 11am start time.

A few technical difficulties with the live webcast aside, I got started on time, playing “Justin Climbed A Tree”, which was the first song my friend John Biggs and I ever wrote, back in 1991.  From there, I went through more of our old songs, then my old solo stuff, and surprisingly, had no problem filling the time with my songs.  Of course, I noodled quite a bit, but I was glad I didn’t have to repeat myself too much.

I was allowed to take bathroom breaks, but other than that, no official time-outs.  Like I said, I had a little bit of difficulty with my laptop early on and at one point, decided to move everything outside to play, since it was such a beautiful day.  But, I limited the time spent in those transitions as much as possible and, any time I couldn’t play an actual song I was at least strumming the guitar, making noise with it.  Just to help ensure the legitimacy of the whole thing.

Here are the videos we got of the whole thing……there’s a lot of video, obviously.  I’m not sure what I could highlight, though maybe toward the end, the last couple hours are important because, despite being out of my mind with exhaustion and finger pain, I was still belting out songs and playing well.  I’m kind of proud of that.

I managed to get enough calories in me for that not to be an issue.  Tamara made me a very nice steak dinner and even cut up my food for me (people had joked beforehand that she should actually feed me).  I supplemented that with a couple simple things.  It really got tough around the 18-hour mark, maybe around 4am.  The exhaustion started setting in, my fingers were getting very tender, and it just felt like forever until 11am.  In fact, eight hours later, I really don’t care to ever play guitar again.  Ugh!

This was one great Challenge to complete!  This is the 37th, so I’m really in the home stretch now.  I have a lot of my list that I can attack and maybe even get this whole thing done before September.  Wow!

barr26, beekeeping, Bees, challenge, hives, honey, rick barr, Ricks400

Challenge Complete: Complete A Hive Inspection

A lot of these Challenges were things I came up with, or if someone else thought of, they kind of made sense.  This one threw me for a complete loop, and was so different, so unheard of, that my immediate response was, “YES, PLEASE!”  My friend Mark Fellure is in the process of becoming a beekeeper (if that’s the right term), right in his own backyard.  He has a complete hive set up and offered to let me assist in completing a hive inspection.  This is a fully matured hive with at least 30,000 bees making their residence.

As you can see, we got quite an education on the topic.  It was really fascinating to watch as Mark did his thing, explaining the hows and whys.  Then, it was a bit nervewracking as I got to step in and try it.  Not real scary, but I obviously went a little slower, being extra careful not to touch, squish, or maim any bees.

I think my favorite part was taking the hive pieces out and making sure honey was being made, also looking for the Queen.  Some of the pieces were quite heavy, and in some cases had a few hundred bees all over them.

Tamara even got into the action, taking one of the hive pieces out and helping inspect.  It was really quite manageable, but our natural instincts are to be afraid of bees, because they can sting us.  It seems we were never in danger of that, and it was really cool to be able to stand there amongst so many of these creatures and feel totally safe.

We never did find the Queen, but all in all, this was one of the most interesting Challenges I’ve done.

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Challenge Complete: Brew Beer

Thanks to Mr. Beer, I’ve just completed the Challenge of brewing my own beer.  And, shockingly, it’s good!  My buddy Mark was able to test it with me and he approved.  It took just about a month total to get done from start to finish, and you can see some of the process here:

It’s a Diablo IPA, but I call it Barr’s Brew:


See how the momma ghost is feeding it to baby Paccy?  That means this stuff can be given to babies and children everywhere.  It’s that good.  This was a cool thing to get done, and I will definitely continue to brew, experimenting with different flavors.  I don’t have much else to say about it, this was a fun Challenge that didn’t hurt or make me nauseous, so it’s a winner!

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Challenge Complete: The Flipbook!

Here’s one of the artsy Challenges I gave myself: Create a working flipbook!  I’ve been working on this for a couple months, and now this 300-page post-it pack contains a little movie:

It was really hard to do this well.  I’ve been an artist all my life, and have a lot of patience for the craft, but I can’t see how anyone could create “real” animation at 30 frames per second and have it look good.  Of course, I was hampered by the size of the post-its, it was quite awkward and I couldn’t really rest my hands or get them into an ideal position most of the time.  I also had no real clear idea of where I was going with this.  As one scene would finish, I’d start on another transition, and on and on.

I also had to make sure I could flip it, and while the video isn’t ideal, it works well enough.  The only alternative would have been to take a picture or scan all 300 pages, then create an animation in Vegas Pro, and my God, that would have taken many, many hours.  I just couldn’t make myself do all that.

Of course, I had to go ahead and make Pac-Man the star of the show.  Why not?  He’s been a part of some many Challenges so far.  So, you’ll see he and the ghosts have quite a bit of fun with each other.  And they die.  A lot.

This was kind of an homage to my 11 year-old self, and a nod to my mom.  When I was in 5th grade, I used to make flip books with stick figures killing each other, and my mom was seriously worried about me, didn’t like that at all.  I dearly wish I had some of those now to look at.  Mom has seen me grow up to be a fairly normal adult, and take all my weirdness in stride, and as an artist herself, she should enjoy this.

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Challenge Complete: 1 – 26,000

This was certainly one of my more inane, boring Challenges, but that’s okay, it was certainly worthy.  Basically, I put it upon myself to write the numbers 1 through 26,000 in a notebook, all sequentially.  Who would do that?!?  Well, probably a lot of people, and that may be kind of scary, but most of us are harmless.  I’m guessing.

When I was 14 or so, I used to count every single number in random issues of MAD Magazine and add them up.  I still have the old notebooks, and here is a page from one of them:


Yes, on January 17, 1989, my 14 year-old self went through MAD #285 and added every single number, including the UPC code and page numbers.  I suppose that 20 years later, I’d be diagnosed with OCD, perhaps ADHD, and slapped with some pretty hefty medications.  Thank God I escaped all that.  This is weird stuff, but certainly not harmful to anyone.

If you have the tolerance for it, you can watch this fascinating video.  It really doesn’t take long, I promise.

So, 26 years later, I revisited the past, and upped the stakes a bit.  When I first conceived of this, 1 million was my first goal, but I quickly realized that would be impossible.  26,000 was perfect, as it would be doable, yet test my patience.  Sure, I love numbers, but this was going to be tedious.

I should also explain the 26 thing a little.  It’s a big, important number in our family, and while there are many instances of it sprinkled throughout our history, it basically starts with my grandfather, born February 26, my dad on June 26, myself on October 26, and my son on November 26.  That’s cool enough all by itself.

I started writing the numbers on May 13 and finished August 15.  It took 95 days to write 26,000 numbers, which is 273.68 per day.  My goal had been 300 per day, so I wasn’t too far off.  I found I was most productive with this on lunch breaks at work, and didn’t do too much of it on weekends.  I only wrote in 100-number increments.  Sadly, since I don’t do much handwriting any more (who does?), my puny hands wear out quickly.

It took 13 1/2 pages to get it done.  I write pretty small.  Nearly 2000 numbers on each page!  So exciting…..