“Whole Motion” by Derek Beres

I’ve read a couple different places that the most successful people in America read around 60 books per year. It isn’t because they have more free time, it is because they use their time in a way that allows them to consume more. I don’t know if there is a specific direction of causation between success and reading, but I would be willing to bet that they are a feedback loop.

Anyway, I am trying to up my reading and want to read one book per week. That’ll bring me to 52 books, I think the other 8 will come from the Audiobooks I listen to. I may never get caught up on Game of Thrones but maybe I’ll find tools and methods that help create the success I want. As I finish books I plan on writing a brief summary of what I read. Having a blog post in mind helps me really study the material and reviewing it helps me retain the information.

So, my first book is “Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body for Optimal Health” by Derek Beres. I can’t remember if someone recommended this book to me or if it just popped up on my Goodreads feed because it matched my interests, but I’m glad that I got a hold of it. Beres views health and human optimization in a similar way that I do. Our different areas of life cannot be compartmentalized and that healthy practices in one area can positively impact other areas. For example, regular physical exercise can improve cognitive abilities and mental health. Our body is one unit that includes a lot of different parts that depend on each other.

Beres divides his book into three parts: Setting the Stage, Movement, and Mind. In Setting the Stage he runs through his hypothesis, that we are meant to move, change is good, the body and mind are tied together, and that regeneration (rest, stretching, etc) is a necessary and often neglected part of health. To back up his hypothesis, Beres provides just enough scientific research and biology refresher to support his claims without getting overly technical (though he does provide a lot of references for further reading). I actually really appreciated this approach.

In the second section, Movement, Beres starts providing concrete things that we can each do to add more healthy movement to our lives. Nothing in this book requires any special equipment, each physical exercise can be done in the home with body weight. While each of the subsections could be performed in isolation, it is actually beneficial (and one of Beres’ arguments) that health comes from utilizing all the techniques. Nothing in here is magic or a silver bullet. On the contrary, Beres reminds the reader many times that everybody is different, but the variation from each subchapter does work to reinforce healthy habits and provide variety to the workout.

The second section, Mind, moves us into non-exercise related habits. Meditation, healthy eating, flow states, music, community, and technology are all addressed. This section was really beneficial to me and I enjoyed the practical advice that he gave. Some stuff (like eating healthy and meditation) I was familiar with but the benefits of certain types of music and community were kind of new.

Overall, I loved this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in finding some concrete steps to get a little more out of their life. Beres does a great job of providing evidence for his theory and reminding us that we are animals that evolved in a different environment and that by being aware of that and embracing play and nature we can improve our lives. Health isn’t about ripping muscles or fast marathon times, it is about improving the quality and quantity of our time in this beautiful universe.

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Thoughts on “The Dead Zone” – *Minor Spoilers*

I finished reading Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone” today, and holy cow, I really enjoyed it. Reading it reminded me how much I enjoy King’s writing style and really reignited a fire in me to read more of his works. While he is primarily known for his horror stories (many people forget he wrote “Shawshank Redemption”, arguably one of the best films ever made), he has a wide variety of genres that he taps into. King is not a horror writer, he is a character writer. He is skeptical of plots and instead he puts characters into a universe and just lets things play out.

This method feels more real to me, and in a sense more “true”. But, of course, that means that the good guys and bad guys are not always easy to identify and the endings are not always happy or satisfying. King was once asked how he felt about the ending to The Dark Tower series and I think his response sums up most of his work, “it ended the way it should end.” There are sometimes loose ends, sometimes the bad guys win, but that is how life is. Writing like that is what separates entertainment from art. Art is concerned with being true and entertainment is concerned with pleasing an audience.

Anyway, onto “The Dead Zone”. The basic premise of the book is the protagonist gains the ability to see things about the future and the past when he touches someone or certain objects. During one experience he realizes that a rising politician was going to become President someday and would start a nuclear war, killing millions. It is basically a “would you go back in time and kill Hitler” story.

It is basically a “would you go back in time and kill Hitler” story. I am sure we have all thought about this and many people say yes, they would. But I wonder how people would really act. For one, ending a human life is not easy. It is unlikely that a time traveler would be looking down the scope of a gun and see Hitler in the act of hurting someone… acting in self-defense is relatively easy compared to shooting someone while they are playing with their puppy or taking a nap or eating dinner.

Second, most people want to believe they are noble and will sacrifice their own life and safety for “the greater good”, but rarely do people really go through with something to any real degree. How often have we all heard that either Obama or Trump is “Hitler” or a fascist or going to destroy America? If people truly believed that then there would be assassination attempts all the time, but it doesn’t happen because people either don’t believe it or they are not willing to risk their own safety for the greater good. I actually think it is mostly the former… I think people like to bitch and moan on the internet but don’t actually believe what they are saying, or maybe most people are cowards.

Regardless, I enjoyed the book. It is a true work of art that makes you wonder what you would do in a fictional situation and how you will live your life in the real world with the knowledge we have. Is there a point where any of us would risk our safety to stop someone from doing harm? Would we stand by and watch an assault? A rape? A murder? Do we cut back on unnecessary purchases to donate money to refugees? Blood to the Red Cross? Hours to a homeless shelter? What is our comfort, our time, or life worth, when others reap the benefits? How comfortable should we be with the way we live our lives (and in some ways waste our lives) when others are living in discomfort? Art raises questions, art makes us uncomfortable, art puts a mirror in front of us, art uses a story to show us truth, art inspires us to play in that universe and write our own truth, and King is a damn good artist.

Forward Tilt: An Almanac for Personal Growth

Isaac Morehouse and Hannah Franklin have completed a new book that I desperately needed, something I didn’t realize that until I purchased it. “Forward Tilt: An Almanac for Personal Growth” is a battle plan for every artist, entrepreneur, life student, or individual who needs a kick in the butt occasionally to create and grow.

The book is broken down into 52 posts and each post has a brief explanation and an action item. The action item is my favorite part, it provides an actual outline for how to get more out of each day or week. I’m notoriously terrible at sticking to long-term plans (as all humans are) and having weekly benchmarks is perfect for me. You can just read one a week but the sections are so short that I’m going to read it straight through this week.

As part of my dive into this book, I will be posting weekly updates about each chapter and my own action plan. I have a Google Calendar alert set up for 1400hrs every Sunday for “Tilt”. When that alarm goes off I am going to look back on my accomplishments over the previous week, print out the new week’s section and pin it next to my, and then blog about it all.

For anyone who follows Isaac’s blog (and everyone should) you will recognize some of the advice in this book. His casual and inspiring tone comes through clearly and this book is easily worth the $0.99 for the Kindle edition (yes, that’s ninety-nine cents). Hell, the fact the book inspired this blog posts means I’ve already gotten my money’s worth.

This book is a mixture of Steven Pressfield, Tim Ferriss, and Ryan Holiday, and provides a blueprint and inspiration for success. So, go out and grab this book. Even if you don’t follow the plan to the letter, there are bound to be some pearls of wisdom in this short book that will make the path towards your goals a little bit clearer.

“Buddhism: Plain & Simple” – A Review

Title: Buddhism: Plain & Simple
Author: Steve Hagen
Pages: 159 (including Appendix)
Rating: 5/5 Highly Recommended

It is hard to me to pinpoint exactly when I started to have an interest in Buddhism. I remember learning about it in a high school religion class, but that introduction was little more than “it isn’t really a religion but it kind of is”. I was a hardcore Christian at that time and I have no doubt that I saw Buddhism as simply another Satanic ruse to steal souls from Heaven.

In the decade and a half since high school, my interest in Buddhism has bubbled in my subconscious. I’ve purchased several books about it but rarely finish them. As much as I am interested in Buddhism the works I’ve read seemed unnecessarily vague and complex, I felt like the authors were playing tricks with words instead of just coming out and saying what Buddhism is.

Buddhism: Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen is the opposite of that.

Hagen does a fantastic job of stripping away the ceremony and tradition and supernatural side of Buddhism and gets to the core. He does a great job explaining what the foundation of Buddhism, to simply see the world as it is and to live in the moment. After finishing this book I couldn’t help but see incredible similarities between Buddhism and the Stoic philosophy that I know and love. I can’t help but wonder if followers of Buddha somehow interacted with the Ancient Greeks and helped influence Stoic thought. It seems plausible that in the 200ish years between the life of Buddha and Zeno’s teaching at the Stoa Poikile someone would have made it from India to Greece.

Buddhism and Stoicism are both tools that work to find the truth about the world and encourage rational action in response to the truth. They are about helping individuals live better, happier, more satisfying and authentic lives. This is unlike the faith that I grew up in that demanded obedience to rules and discouraged intellectual inquiry. Buddhism explicitly rejects any hard rules and recognizes that the world is fluid and nuanced and diverse circumstances can easily turn rules into tools of injustice.

Mostly, I enjoy that Buddhism does not need to conflict with scientific discovery. As the Dalai Lama said in the foreword to Destructive Emotions:

I have often said that if science proves facts that conflict with Buddhist understading, Buddhism must change accordingly. We should always adopt a view that accords with the facts. If upon investigation we find that there is reason and proof for a point, then we should accept it.

Here was a system of spirituality that didn’t conflict with the natural world, and I believe that is why Buddhism will end up outlasting many of the religions of today. I am still far from an expert on Buddhism, but Buddhism: Plain & Simple laid the groundwork for me to continue my pursuit of knowledge in that direction. It is an easy, quick read that is made up of relatively short and succinct chapters. I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in understanding this life philosophy.