Alcohol

I’ve decided to take a week off of drinking.

Drinking hasn’t particularly harmed my life recently or anything, though I could certainly go without the extra calories and drain on my finances. I haven’t made poor decisions while drinking, it isn’t hurting my job or my relationships, I haven’t been drinking in excess. But, I’ve noticed something more subtle going on.

I find myself craving it, which is a new experience for me. I’ve never had much of an addictive personality and I’ve been able to stop everything from meat to tobacco to alcohol to video games to masturbation without really much of a struggle. So, this change in my relationship with alcohol kind of terrifies me, and it has been going on for a while.

I’ve spent the last few months trying to justify it away and pretend it “isn’t that bad” (and, on many level, it isn’t that bad). I compared myself to others and said: “See, they have a problem… they are losing relationships and jobs and have liver failure, who am I to complain about a few unexpected cravings?” But that was just an excuse to put off doing what I knew I needed to do. I realize that we should never compare our own mental health to others as a way to put off taking care of ourselves. My PTSD, trichotillomania, stress, financial difficulties, etc. are always “less bad” than someone else’s, but that doesn’t mean I am unworthy of care or should just shut up about it. Self care is the most important thing.

To be honest, I didn’t really realize how bad things were until I started tracking how many drinks I have each day. It is rarely more than 3-4, but when that happens day after day after day I realized something wasn’t really working. I was drinking to relax, drinking to be productive, drinking to deal with stress, drinking mindlessly while watching a movie or playing video games or reading a book. It was almost never just one beer (which is what I would tell myself in the beginning), but one justified two (because 1-2 is a moderate amount, right?) and two justified three.

So, I’m taking a break. I’m not abstaining forever because I don’t think abstinence is the best path to psychological health. I need a healthy relationship with alcohol, not one that demands perfection. Alcohol is a part of our culture and it can be an incredibly beneficial and healthy part of life, but there is danger there (just like there is danger in all things). I need to build up the strength to drink at more appropriate times (and there are MANY appropriate times) and I need to make sure I am the one in control. Cravings will happen, but I want to prove to myself that I am stronger than the cravings.

I guess we will see how it goes, today is the third day of my 7-day (or maybe longer?) break. So far, it hasn’t been too bad, but I almost slipped yesterday and there is always temptation. Maybe I should actually write down what I think are appropriate times and amounts to drink as a thought experiment and then when my break is over I can work on only drinking during those times. Hmm, yeah, I think that is a good next step.

Different Pursuits

It is so easy to judge people and minimize their accomplishments when those accomplishments are different than the ones we pursue. I have looked upon people who are incredibly fit and had a knee-jerk, judgment that they must be dumb or they are wasting their time at the gym. But why do I feel this way? I looked down upon “jocks” when I was in high school because I thought my intellect made me their superior, but classes came easily to me and my spare time was spent playing Star Trek: The Customizable Card Game and eating pizza, while they were putting in hours at the gym, eating healthy food, and likely studying more for class than I ever did. I was an asshole in high school (and, unfortunately, I still am a subconscious asshole from time to time). Getting up every day for years and working out is incredibly mentally tough. Training the body, whether it is for sport or maximizing human potential is an intellectual pursuit that most people can’t handle, I know I sure can’t.

And then, when people show off the abs that they have worked for and sacrificed for they have done there is a twinge of both jealousy and disgust. But would I feel this way if an artist friend showed off their latest painting or if an author advertised a newly completed book that spent years of daily work to accomplish? No, I probably wouldn’t. But for some reason, certain categories of hard work are judged harshly. When I really break it down, every person on this planet is working to do the best they can with the genetics and social status that they were given.

Should my college degree be praised, even though it came easy? Is it hard work and perseverance that we celebrate and, inversely, laziness and sloth that we shun? Or do we simply celebrate those that choose a path that we can relate to instead of putting ourselves in the shoes of others and recognizing when someone has the dedication to a pursuit that they love, that waking up at 6:00am and doing the work that needs to be done (whether that is going for a run, yoga, writing a novel, building a business, studying philosophy, or raising children) is mentally hard.

We all face struggles and we could all use a little more support, and I think it would benefit us all to realize that each person is human and many of the rewards being reaped came from hard work. Whether it is rock hard abs, mastery over a musical instrument, or the creation of a million dollar app. Yes, privilege and genetics and social norms play a part, but so does bunkering down and just doing what needs to be done, and instead of glaring at people who direct their energy in ways we don’t understand we should be rejoicing in the diversity of minds out there. You never know when a bodybuilder or an artist or an entrepreneur is going to inspire a revolution in some other field. Life and knowledge is intertwined, and the best thing we can do is take the gifts we have and pursue what we love.

Wanna hear my thoughts on some random controversial subject like abortion, circumcision, or whether IPAs are good? Got a question for me that is too personal to ask directly? Do you just want to tell me I’m a douchebag? Send me an anonymous message and I’ll respond on my blog! Just fill out this simple form on SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) and if you need inspiration check out the previous questions that I’ve answered  here  and you’ll see that no subject is off limits.

The One Thing

I am currently reading through “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. It isn’t a huge surprise that I’m reading a book like this, I tend to find a lot of value in reading books that try to encourage success and productivity. I’m usually reading something like this in addition to one work of fiction and one work of non-fiction.

Anyway, the basic concept of this book is that you should identify one thing that will make everything else easier or unnecessary and then focus only on accomplishing that one thing. No multi-tasking, no balancing, and no shooting for mediocre targets, instead you focus only on one thing and then move on from that. We each have limited motivation during the day and if we waste it on unimportant things then we won’t accomplish what we want.

Overall, I’ve found it valuable and I’ve cut down my monstrous “to do” list into a few things that must be done. For example, I have three areas of life that I’m focusing on: work, physical health, and mental health. Each area has an activity that I’m focusing on for 66 days (because 66 days is the average time that you must do something daily for it to become a habit), in my case that means going for a run every day, writing a blog post every day, and meditating every day. When I finish the complete 66 days I’ll ask myself what is the next one thing to accomplish my life goals and then focus in on that again. Maybe it’ll be a daily weight lifting or yoga routine for my physical health, or studying a foreign language or musical instrument for my mental health, or writing a novel to advance my work as an author.

Well, in today’s reading I found something the authors said kind of interesting. They said that there is a specific order of life areas that work the best, specifically that focusing on things in this order will maximize results. The order is spiritual life, physical health, personal life, key relationships, job, business, and finances. Basically, if you work on your spiritual life it will make your physical health easier, which will make your personal life easier, etc.

So here are the rough definitions of each life section:

Spiritual Life – How we interact with our community and our relationship with God. I’m an atheist so that last point is moot, but I do find value in the community and certain spiritual practices such as pagan ceremonies.

Physical Health – Exercise, healthy diet, and mental health. My diet and exercise are pretty solid, but there is always room for improvement.

Personal Life – This is personal growth in hobbies and skills and finding time for yourself.

Key Relationships – Pretty self-explanatory, family, friends, partner, etc.

Job – This is the area that focuses on accomplishing what you want to accomplish within your role at work

Business – This is focusing on how to move your business forward

Finances – Increasing net worth, investment cash flow, debt reduction, etc.

I find the order kind of interesting, but it makes sense. I currently don’t break down things in that way, but I think I’m going to next week when I hold a weekly staff meeting with myself and type up the agenda (a tip from “The War of Art”). I’m always looking for new habits and insights and techniques to avoid being stagnant.

Wanna hear my thoughts on some random controversial subject like abortion, circumcision, or whether IPAs are good? Got a question for me that is too personal to ask directly? Do you just want to tell me I’m a douchebag? Send me an anonymous message and I’ll respond on my blog! Just fill out this simple form on SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) and if you need inspiration check out the previous questions that I’ve answered  here  and you’ll see that no subject is off limits.

Thordak

One of my favorite things about Dungeons and Dragons is character creation and seeing how the character develops throughout that adventure. I’m not really into making the most powerful fighter or a wizard that is perfectly true to the archetype. I also don’t like planning out beyond the first level, I’d rather create an interesting character and just see how things go.

In some ways, I think this makes me a valuable member of a team. I don’t really care if I’m a rogue or fighter or magic user, which means I can fill the needed niche in my team. For example, my group is starting to discuss what they want to do be during the next campaign and it became clear that we are missing a strong fighter character that can take a lot of damage. Basically, we need a tank because the others are “squishy”. So I am filling that role.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I want to play a barbarian type character. Usually, barbarians are big, dumb brutes, but that feels pretty shallow to me so I am going to take a different route. This is my working story for my dwarf barbarian.

Thordak (working name) was born to a noble family of mountain dwarves that specialized in maintaining the written history of their people. They are competent fighters, but their specialization is really in the more intellectual pursuits. Thordak’s family is highly respected among the nobles of their people, but there is a tension between them and the more traditional dwarven craftsmen and fighters.

When Thordak was an adolescent he was deeply in love with a Dwarven princess named Krystara. His position as an apprentice historian allowed him regular access to the noble’s homes and as time went on his infatuation with Krystara grew. Then, one day, he got up the courage to write a love poem to her and he secretly slid it under the door to her room. Unfortunately, the poem was discovered not by Krystara, but by her twin brother Kildrik.

Kildrik, finding the poem humorous, gathered his friends together to confront Thordak. After a short search, they found Thordak in his room writing more poetry and they began to mock him. The sound of the laughter and teasing pushed Thordak over the edge and flew into a blind rage and attacked Kildrik. Despite being smaller and less well trained, Thordak beat Kildrik to the point of near death and it took four other Dwarves to pull him off.

Thordak was put on trial for assaulting a prince, a crime punishable by death. The Dwarven king showed some mercy (in part because of how important Thordak’s family is to the kingdom) and banished him instead of killing him. Thordak was stripped of his family name and told never to return to the kingdom.

Kildrik perceived this a too light of a punishment and followed Thordak as he left the kingdom. One evening, while Thordak was sleeping, Kildrik and his friends attacked him in the middle of the night. They pinned him down and used knives that had been enchanted with cold magic to cut off his beard and burn him with the freezing cold. They left Thordak, assuming he would die from his wounds, his face now covered in magical scars that would never heal and a beard that would never grow.

Thordak survived and continued to wander the land, an outcast among dwarves. Seeing the damage to his face, Thordak crafted a stone mask that he never takes off due to the hideousness of his face. He blames himself for all the harm that came that day and does all he can to keep his rage inside, but it is difficult to control. His dreams are haunted by evil creatures and the only way that he gets a good nights sleep is if he enters a rage and spills blood from time to time.

He has been wandering for over 100 years now. He has primarily been alone, but from time to time teams up with travelers or caravans and acts as a guard when they travel across the desert (his chosen home). He also occasionally goes into small communities to trade for food, water, writing materials, books, and other goods necessary for survival. He doesn’t have a permanent home, but throughout the desert he has many caves that are stocked with supplies and his writing. To date, he has written thousands of pages that are primarily poetry, journal entries about things he has done and seen, and detailed notes about the people he was met. His primary life purpose is to find a way to contain his rage and has spent much time studying religion, magic, meditation, medicine, and anything else that may bring him peace.

Character Sheet Details:
Name: Thordak
Class: Barbarian
Path: TBD (It depends on the story, but Path of Totem Warrior and Path of the Storm Herald are the most interesting to me right now)
Background: Hermit
Alignment: Neutral Good
Race: Dwarf (Mountain)
Sex: Male
Age: 165 years old
Height: 4’3″
Weight: 151 lbs

Strength: 14
Dexterity: 10
Constitution: 16
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 12
Charisma: 9

Proficient Skills
Intimidation
Medicine
Nature
Religion

Languages
Common, Dwarvish, Goblin

Tool Proficiencies
Herbalism Kit, Smith’s Tools

Weapons
Longsword
Handaxe (x2)

Other Items
Explorer’s Pack
Scroll case filled with paper
Herbalism Kit
5 gp

 

All the, small things….

“Well-being is realized by small steps, but it is truly no small thing.”
– Zeno, quoted in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers

It is incredible how our minds are able to see patterns and themes among the incredible amount of sensory information we take in each day. I’m sure we have all had the experience where you learn a new word and suddenly you hear it everywhere, or you notice specific numbers that become “my numbers” because they seem to show up more often than not (I notice 541 and 387 a lot). And I’m sure we’ve all noticed the same with certain insights or subject matters.

Recently, my partner and I were discussing certain behaviors that lead to long-term growth and improvement, but have an almost imperceptible short-term gain. When I lift weights (okay, I don’t really lift weights often but bear with me) the tears in my muscle tissue are microscopic, but if I lift weights for months or years the microscopic tears build up. Diet is similar, if someone cuts out 100 calories a day (or about two Oreos) they won’t notice the change on the scale but after a year that is over 10 lbs lost (or at least 10 lbs not gained). This pattern is everywhere: compound interest, doing the dishes as you make them dirty, weeding the garden daily, practicing a foreign language, meditation… these are all small things that add up to monumental changes in the long term.

Anyway, so that discussion was on my mind when I started my Daily Stoic morning routine (buy that book!) and the above quote from Diogenes book that maybe Zeno said but maybe Zeno was quoting Socrates (sidenote: hmm, it is almost like books that are 2,000+ years old might not be the most reliable sources for objective facts). The quote and the subsequent discussion in the Daily Stoic fit nicely with my mindset and how small, incremental, daily changes are what great big results. Unfortunately, that is difficult for us humans to deal with, we want to minimize work and maximize pleasure. We want things now and get frustrated when we don’t see instantaneous results. We are natural hedonists who find a way to simultaneously make decisions that only benefit us now but mentally are always trapped in the future and past. That, I think, is why we need philosophy and meditation, in order to make the right decisions for us and society based on reality instead of dreams and carnal desires.

Feedback (Part 11)

This post is a response to anonymous questions and comments I receive via SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) or from private messages. I love responding to these, so if there is something on your mind, good or bad, please send me a message. No subject is off limits and here is a link to previous questions or comments I’ve received and responded to.

Are there ever couples you come upon that you are interested in learning more about their sex lives together and offer advice to them if they are struggling? You seem to be very knowledgeable about pleasuring a person so just wondering!

Sure! I am basically curious about every couple I come across because I find sex to be an incredibly intellectually stimulating subject. One of the major takeaways from my experiences in the Orgy Dome* at Burning Man, my few threesomes, and having same-room sex with other couples is that the interaction between two (or more) people is unique to them. The basics are generally the same, but there is such variation and nuance in the details. What gives us pleasure and how our bodies respond to pleasure can vary widely between individuals and even within the same individual depending on who or what is giving the pleasure. It is so fucking fascinating. I’d say that 85% of my interest in seeing someone naked or watching them have sex is intellectual curiosity and 15% is erotic (with some probable variation depending on the individuals and situation, set and setting matters).

Now, do I offer advice to them if their struggling? I’m willing to but that hasn’t really come up before with couples. I have had lots of individuals privately message me asking for advice on a wide range of sex and relationship issues, everything from how to open a relationship up to pregnancy/STI risk, to how to communicate kinks with a partner. But I haven’t had a complete partnership share their views and ask for my perspective, I would love it that happened though.

One of the few “dream jobs” I have is to be a sex therapist, particularly one that focuses on LGBT, sexually open, polyamorous, and kinky relationships. A driving force behind me trying to pay off my student loans is so that I can investigate that as an actual reality instead of it just being a dream. I guess my “dreamy McDreamy job” is actually being a sex and relationship therapist that uses MDMA to assist people, and who knows, maybe with the help of MAPS that could be a possibility in the relatively near future.

Anyway, as for being knowledgeable about pleasuring people, I would say I’m fairly knowledgeable but that comes with a pretty big caveat. I’ve read more than my fair share of books on sexuality and sex, and I’ve had my fair share of sexual partners (and, more importantly, sexual partners who wanted more than a one-night stand), but every body and mind is different. Certain oral techniques may work for one person but be uncomfortable for others, some people need certain aftercare while others don’t. I can certainly give some general advice for things that seem to work consistently for me, but sometimes there is trial and error involved and a shit ton of communication. Really, communication and experimentation is the key, even experimenting with things that are not particularly appealing in your mind can open you up to experiences that become favorites.

At least that has been my experience 🙂 If you (or anyone) particularly have questions specific to your situation feel free to send me another anonymous message or email me at pjneiger@gmail.com. I certainly will not post a blog post that discusses details if you’d rather that remain private.

“Free” Stuff

I am terrible at making good decisions when things are offered to me without a monetary cost, particularly food. Let’s take, for example, the events of last night. Not only was my favorite bottle shop offering free donuts, but there was free pizza and free deep-fried cookie dough (the south is a magically gluttonous place). I’m not too annoyed with my decision to eat some pizza or one donut because I was prepared for that and adjusted my diet accordingly, but the deep-fried cookie dough was unexpected and I didn’t really resist.

My justification? It was free.

Unfortunately, looking at a decision simply through the lens of a direct monetary cost is kind of a terrible way to make good choices. We live in a world with a ton of free or nearly free things, just look at shows like “Hoarders” where generally low-income people have more than they could ever use. We live in a culture that is overflowing with calories and trinkets, and a common justification for hoarding calories in our bellies or trinkets in our home is the low cost associated with acquiring them.

But what if I were to look at that deep-fried cookie dough from another angle, perhaps time? That food was not nutritionally necessary in any way. It didn’t have any essential vitamins or minerals that I was lacking and it didn’t have calories that I needed. In fact, that food meant I was well over my calorie limit. My guess is that one of those deep-fried cookie dough balls was about 500 calories (and I had two), and it may have been more, but let’s go with the 500 calorie count to make the math easy.

One cookie ball gave me about 10 minutes of pleasure or 50 calories per minute. In order to work off those calories, I would need to run for about 35 minutes at a 7mph pace (8.5 min mile). So, was 10 minutes of pleasure worth 35 minutes of running the next day? For me, no, it wasn’t. At least not in this situation, maybe there are some situations where it would be.

We could also re-monetize that. If we say that one minute of eating pleasure is directly equal to one minute of not running (which is a huge assumption) then after eating that cookie dough ball and running I am currently in a 25 minute pleasure deficit, Given my current pay rate of $30 per hour, that dough-ball cost me $12.50 worth of my time… which makes that “free” snack no longer free.

So, anyway, basically, I make shitty decisions when I am offered “free” food, but hopefully, I can shift my mindset and think about things from a more forward thinking perspective in the future and pass on the extra desert. Particularly when I know that I will probably get just as much pleasure out of one bite as I would out of an entire dough ball.

As always, I’m open for comments and questions on any subject, just submit them anonymously here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH

Feedback (Part 10)

 This post is a response to anonymous questions and comments I receive via SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) or from private messages. I love responding to these, so if there is something on your mind, good or bad, please send me a message. No subject is off limits and here is a link to previous questions or comments I’ve received and responded to, and I plan on responding to each one, regardless of the subject matter.

How do you reconcile (if at all) your personal moral beliefs with the way you view other people who don’t share those beliefs? I’m specifically referring to moral rules that when broken don’t directly harm other people, if you subscribe to any of those. Have ethical differences gotten in the way of personal relationships?

Hmm, I used to have a larger problem with this than I currently do. When I lived in Washington DC and was entrenched in the “liberty movement” I was trapped in an “us vs. them” mentality. Everyone who saw the world differently, had a different ethical code, acted differently than I thought I would in those circumstances became an enemy to be defeated. Even those who were my political allies were seen as immoral if they focused on politics instead of education, national level instead of local level, economics instead of social. I had entrenched my politics into my view of right and wrong, and I was worse off for it.

At some point, I came to realize that almost* all moral codes are very similar and come back to the principles of Bill and Ted, “Be excellent to each other, and party on!” We want to have a good life and be treated well. We want a good life for those we love and for them to be treated well. Peace, love, acceptance, comfort, understanding… these are almost universally pursued. The real conflict doesn’t come from having different ethical foundations but from the appropriate applications of those principles. I think, at our foundation, we all have much more in common than differences.

I do get frustrated when people seem to act in conflict with their own code or seem to hold contradictory positions. The first subject to come to mind for me is how we treat animals in our society. If you ask most people whether they think dog-fighting is immoral they would say yes, but many of these same people will then eat bacon regularly. When you break down the two issues you find that they are very similar. They both involve raising animals in terrible conditions and eventual death for the sole purpose of human pleasure and profit, the only difference is the pleasure comes through the mouth for one and through the eyes for another. Both pleasures, the joy of seeing a fight and the joy of eating food, meet in the brain and release similar chemicals. For all intents and purposes, I see them as basically the same thing. Pigs and dogs have similar cognitive abilities and bacon is in no way a dietary necessity. To find dogfighting immoral and call for the imprisonment of those who participate in it but to find no problem with the consumption of pigs and believe pig farmers should remain free is a contradictory position. Additionally, I think there is potentially a classist/racist element in anti-animal fighting laws because they tend to target a non-White, lower socio-economic class population.

That’s just one example though about finding contradictory beliefs frustration. A similar argument could be made for people who want drugs illegal but are okay with alcohol, are pro-life but anti-contraceptive, etc. So, how do I reconcile being friends with people like this? I don’t, and I don’t think I need to. My mind is the only thing I should be concerned with and my own consistency is all that I worry about (which is part of the reason I set up this anonymous submission system, so people can call me on my bullshit). When I have friends who hold positions that

When I have friends who hold positions that contridict my own application of ethics then I can either get rid of them or try to point out their inconsistencies or ignore it. I generally choose one of the latter two. The only time I can think of ethical differences getting in the way of personal relationships is when I’ve lost some old army buddies because of my anarchist views and the struggles with my family when I came out as non-monogamous, sexually fluid, and atheist. I certainly miss my old army buddies and wish we could have found a common ground, but that didn’t happen. Things with my family are much better now.

In the end, I try to head the insight attributed to Abraham Lincoln in “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. When Mrs. Lincoln spoke harshly of the Confederacy, President Lincoln replied, “Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.” It is easy to put ourselves on the moral high ground and believe that we wouldn’t act as others do, but that simply isn’t true. If we lived their lives, read the books they’ve read, experienced the loss they have, grew up in an environment they did, had the genetic code they did, then we would likely be just like them. We should have sympathy and understanding for all people, and try to change hearts and minds with love and discussion.

PS: I just realized that I didn’t fully answer part of the question. I do have some moral rules for myself that directly harm other people, but I fail at them all the time. I believe that I have a moral duty to myself to maintain my health, exercise, eat well, live life to the fullest, live minimally, experience new things,  and take risks. I also feel a sort of duty to minimize the environmental harm I do and spread as much joy and pleasure to other people as I can, as well as a duty to be openly and authentically myself in order to help other people. I’m not sure if any of these are a moral duty in a strict sense, but I am driven to do them.

*Admittadly, there are some moral codes that don’t believe in peace, love, freedom, etc. In my experience, those codes tend to be based on a specific interpretation of religious texts that elevate the members of the religion to a monopoly on truth and what is good, and the executor of those who disagree. Luckily, most people don’t really fall into that category.

Thank you so much for this question, it really got my mind moving. If you have a question or comment please feel free to reach out (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH)

Ice Baths and 100-Mile Runs

After my morning run, I filled the bathtub with the coldest water I could and I laid down in it for about 20 minutes. The initial dip into the water was the worst, but at no time was I very comfortable. In order to keep my mind off the heat draining from my appendages, I tried to be productive. I worked through some lessons on Duolingo and read a little bit, and when that no longer distracted me I sent out a Snapchat of my icy feet to a bunch of friends. The response was what you’d expect, a series of texts that either encouraged me (from fellow extreme wackos) or people asking me “why in the hell would you do that?”

Why would I take an ice bath? Or train to run a 100-mile off-road race? Or cycle across the country with little more than an empty bank account and a bike from Target? Or fast weekly?

I don’t have a good answer, but I think it all comes back to two points: I don’t like being comfortable and I think we humans are capable of some amazing things.

Comfort, to me, isn’t a positive feeling, it is a lack of feeling. When I’m comfortable I don’t write daily, I only do the work that is necessary to return me to comfort, I don’t exercise, and I don’t eat well. We live in the most comfortable time in human history (something that I would never change), but the ability to sit in an air-conditioned home with easy calories and minimal expenses is the death of our bodies and souls. We need the struggle to become stronger, we need discomfort to find out what we are made of and reach our potential. So, I put myself into situations where my body and mind are not comfortable.

When we break out of our comfort zones we can accomplish unbelievable things. That is why I get so inspired when I read books like “What Doesn’t Kill Us” and “Born to Run”. They are about common people doing extraordinary things because we evolved to be capable of those things. There is nothing genetically special about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro without a shirt on or running 100-miles through the forest, we all have the capability to accomplish those things by tapping into our past. We descend from tribes of people who traveled basically barefoot across continents. That capability is still inside of us, and I want to let out that capability. When I read about the benefits and possibilities of pushing the human body to the limits (limits that were commonly approached in the past) I can’t help but be inspired.

Maybe this type of mindset is why some people excel at entrepreneurship or are motivated to play sports. I don’t seem to be as interested in competition or making money, but I am interested in seeing what I’m capable of and experiencing all sensations (including the negative ones). Some of my greatest memories from my two cross-country bike rides are the trials we endured, the climbs over the Rocky Mountains and camping in the torrential downpours in the Gulf region and the 100+ degree rides through the eastern Washington desert. Yes, those experiences sucked ass, but they also came with a sense of accomplishment. The view from the top of the mountain is more satisfying when you are drenched in sweat and breathing heavily than if I saw it through the windshield of an air conditioned car. Drinking an ice cold corona on the side of a desert lake after nearly succumbing to heat stroke is more satisfying than any craft beer that I purchased after a quick drive to the local brewery.

The greatest highs come from overcoming the greatest lows, and in some ways I want to see how low I can go. What torture can I endure? What obstacles can I overcome? What camaraderie I can feel with those who went through the same struggles, not as a competitor but as a colleague. Now that I think about it, I wonder if this mindset is what attracted me to the Army in the first place, or maybe what draws me to blockchain investments and anarchism and nootropics. Hell, maybe this desire for new experiences and complications is part of why I embrace my non-monogamy and sexual fluidity (or maybe not, I’m just spitballing here).

It is a pursuit of my own potential through unconventional means that drives me to embrace my evolutionary roots. It is looking at the well-tread path of successful people in the modern world and thinking “nah, that looks boring”. I prefer a life of Tough Mudder, mountain climbing, cross ocean sailing, and all the scars, misery, and injuries that comes with it.

Feedback (Part 9)

This post is a response to anonymous questions and comments I receive via SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) or from private messages. I love responding to these, so if there is something on your mind, good or bad, please send me a message. No subject is off limits and here is a link to previous questions or comments I’ve received and responded to, and I plan on responding to every single one I receive (unless I somehow become a super famous advice columnist on accident).

1. Hi! I read your most recent blog post where you mention keeping a checklist. I have difficulty getting almost anything done and tend to leave things for the last minute. I’ve tried dozens of times to start a checklist system such as yours, but it never seems to work. Even when I check off every box on my list, I don’t get much/any satisfaction or pride from the completion. This makes it very difficult to develop good habits. Do you have any recommendations for different systems, or know how to develop happiness from accomplishment?

It is a little ironic that this question came to me when it did because I’m coming off of a pretty bad non-productive relapse. Since Thursday my productivity has fallen pretty sharply and I fell back into bad habits like eating junk, drinking too much, slacking on my exercise, not meditating or reading or writing, etc. Basically, my checklist system failed me and I failed my checklist system.

I don’t know in particular how to develop more happiness from checklists and accomplishments, but I wonder if there is a biological reason for you lacking this motivation (clearly I’m not a doctor, I’m just spitballing here). Accomplishing things releases dopamine into our brains, which feels good and encourages us to keep accomplishing things. It could be possible that you have a dietary deficiency of L-DOPA, which is the precursor to dopamine. L-DOPA is synthesized from two amino acids (phenylalanine and tyrosine) which are found in nearly every protein. I don’t know what your diet or health is like, but it seems plausible that your body isn’t getting enough of those amino acids or they aren’t being synthesized properly for some reason.

Okay, onto my non-medical thoughts… is there anything in your life that does trigger that reward pleasure system? Would it be possible to reward yourself more directly when you check everything off your list with a warm bath, a nice craft beer, a piece of chocolate, or some time playing video games? Maybe if you reward yourself directly it will increase the strength of the neuro paths that connect accomplishing something and dopamine release to the point where you don’t need the reward. I’m pretty sure it was in “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin that a similar technique was used to increase productivity and reduce stress before important meetings or competitions.

As for other systems, I just started reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and I’m thinking about directly implementing the approach he sets out. The basic premise is to figure out what one task you should focus on to maximize your productivity. This technique feels like the opposite of what I do with my checklist of 35 daily goals and inputs that I monitor, but given my recent relapse, it might be time to change things up and try a new system. I have found that a few of the things that I try to do regularly have become strong habits… my daily stoic readings, morning runs, and taking my nootropic supplements all come really naturally to me right now, but some of my habits like practicing Spanish, meditating, and writing daily I still struggle with. Though, now that I think about it, the month when I wrote my book I was pretty singularly focused on that. The only thing I demanded that I accomplish each day was sitting down and writing a few chapters. When that was my priority I knocked it out pretty quickly and each day became a little easier.

Oh, additionally, I’ve heard the book “The Power of Habit” is really good. It is sitting on my shelf but I haven’t read it yet. I’ll report back when I finally do.

I feel like this wasn’t really much help. Sorry 🙁

2. Where you at on the topic of incest?

Ahh, incest. One of those uncomfortable topics where people tend to get really emotional about because of the disgust they feel (zoophilia is another similar topic). I guess my thoughts on incest come from three different directions: personal, ethical, and legal. Note: I am assuming all parties are consenting adults. If that isn’t the case then my views change, but that isn’t necessarily because of incest but because someone involved can’t consent.

The first two ways are pretty simple. Personally, it doesn’t appeal to me. I have no sexual attraction to any direct relatives. I will admit that one of my first feelings of sexual curiosity was towards a non-biological cousin of mine when I was young (maybe six or seven?). She was visiting my family and getting dressed for a wedding or something and I snuck outside to try and peek into the bedroom window while she changed. I don’t think this was really an incestuous thing, it was more my first opportunity to see a girl naked that I didn’t live with. I was curious.

Anyway, incest isn’t something that appeals to me, but I think it appeals to more people than they’d like to admit. Porn sites are filled with “incest adjacent” scenes with stepsiblings hooking up or stepparents hooking up with their stepchildren. This seems like a cover for people who are turned on by the incest taboo. I don’t know exactly how popular this style of porn is, but a quick search of the winners of the sex stories categoria at watchersweb.com finds that all but four winners of the “true sex story” since 2016 mentioned a family member in the title (two moms, two aunts, one brother, one step sister, two sisters, two sister-in-laws, one step-daughter, one step brother). So, while people may say they are disgusted by incest there is sort of a revealed preference that says otherwise because these stories are both being written and voted on to the point where people earn money for writing them.

As for my ethical views, I see nothing wrong with it ethically as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult. It doesn’t harm anyone.

Legally, I don’t think it should be illegal. Filling our prisons with people who have consensual sex is a waste of resources and it is not going to deter people from the actions. We have no control over our sexual desires or who we are attracted to and to criminalize thoughts or sexual behavior will only push the behavior underground, making things worse.

Second, I know people will say that maybe it should be legal as long as children aren’t created. This view is problematic. The likelihood of serious birth defects because one generation of siblings have a child is incredibly low, but even if it wasn’t low I think it is problematic to restrict people’s rights based on genetic probability. Should we do this for every couple who wants a child? If certain diseases have a high genetic component should we stop people from breeding if they are carriers? I think one of the largest misuse of the justice system is using it to punish people for potential harm instead of actual harm. You see this in the war on drugs a lot, we put people in prison for using a drug because we think that there is a possibility that they will harm someone, not because that individual actually has. Both liberals and conservatives support this type of legislative power, though the subjects differ… some say we shouldn’t be able to have guns because we might hurt someone and others say we shouldn’t be able to have drugs because we might hurt someone. It is a pre-crime philosophy of laws that I find pretty terrifying and one of the core reasons that our system is so jacked up.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on incest. If you’re interested, check out the Wikipedia page about the Westermarck effect which is a theory about reverse sexual imprinting that prevents sexual attraction to people we live with during key developmental years. It is well documented that people tend to be attracted to others who look similar and the Westermarck effect seems to be an evolved trait to minimize incest.

That’s it for today if you have a question or comment for me feel free to fill out the SurveyMonkey form and I’ll get to it soon.