The Next Chapter

Since posting about my annual “failures” last week I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I want to move forward. By next July do I want to have accomplished the things I didn’t last year? Or are they things that are no longer important to me and I should quit? Are there other things I want to commit to accomplishing? Last year’s failures fell into six basic genres that each require a different response.

  • Author – My book isn’t an audiobook yet, but I can change that. Starting today, I am going to make this my priority. I’m going to record every single day until I have a recorded draft of the book. It may not be a perfect recording, but good now is better than perfect never. Once complete, I’ll listen to it (shudder), make any major changes or re-recordings, and then submit it to Audible. During this process, I will also be able to give my book another look for any potential edits. I will also start working towards “going pro”, which is going to require a shift in mindset as well as some practical changes in my life.
  • Fitness – I’m going to keep running daily and working out regularly. I think implementing a monthly “glutton weekend” can help prevent me from entering major periods of sloth. I’ve got an 8-week workout plan I’m using and this October I’m going to start seeing a personal trainer. I also have some running goals that will get me to the 100-mile run level. Oh, and I’m committed to a mountain climb next year which is motivating me to stay in shape so that I don’t die.
  • Finances – I’m getting into a pretty good groove when it comes to saving money and earning money. For the next year, I’m going to keep working on cutting out waste and increasing passive income to get to the point where I could stop working (I won’t because I love my job and the people I work with) and still maintain my lifestyle.
  • New Practices – I am not sure how to integrate new practices in my life that I know are valuable but I also find difficult. I never regret yoga or meditation or language practice after I accomplish them, but it is difficult to motivate myself to do them. I think part of the problem is that I’ve committed to too much and maybe I need to focus on just one thing to get into and prioritize it above all else. I need to jump into it first thing in the morning when my mental fuel tank is full and I’m less likely to justify skipping it. I don’t need a lot of mental energy for work, the gym, or running because I know I’m going to do those regardless of what other circumstances are going on, but by the end of the day it is difficult to get the mental energy together to do something like meditate, so I need to do it first thing in the morning (well… maybe after a cup of coffee)
  • Facebook – The biggest time and energy suck of them all. I’ve come to accept that I have a bit of an addiction and my use of it is generally unhealthy. I’m going to schedule reasonable time for Facebook (probably 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening) except when I am posting a blog post. I’m also going to only check Facebook Messenger once a day. I need to constantly ask myself “is what you are doing at this moment helping you accomplish your dreams?” and when it comes to Facebook the answer is almost always “No”. Sharing articles of interest and talking with people is great, but scrolling mindlessly or getting in stupid debates with people I’ve never met is a waste. I would be better off reading, writing, cooking, gardening, exercising, working, masturbating, yoga, cleaning, meditating, etc.
  • Vegan – I think I’ve found a workable solution to my temptation problem, at least for the situations in which I can prepare for. I’m going to start eating my largest meal of the day directly before going to places where temptation is going to be and I’m going to carry a bag of almonds with me. Hopefully, this will keep both my physical hunger and my psychological oral fixation at bay to provide support for my ethical strength.

So I guess that is where I stand for the next year. I’m not sure the exact path I’m going down for each of these goals, I imagine it will vary with each one and many of them will have a bunch of sub-goals and reward systems to help move me up the mountain. I wonder if it would be beneficial to break down a proposed system for each of these six sections, maybe I’ll do that tomorrow in another blog post. I find writing things out to be helpful but I don’t want “being busy” to replace “being productive”. Oh well, I guess I’ll burn that bridge when I get there.

I haven’t answered any questions or comments lately and would love to hear from you. So, if you’ve got a thought or question submit it to me anonymously at  www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH and I’ll respond. 

The Rest of the Story

Yesterday, I posted a spontaneous update to Facebook and Instagram. I realized that this week was the one year anniversary of when my partner and I decided to stop our 2-year bike adventure and I wanted to share/celebrate some of my accomplishments. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and I consider the last year of my life to be the best one I’ve ever had. I don’t think there is anything wrong with publicly sharing our successes… people do it all the time in large ways and small, we share graduating college or mastering a new skill or writing a book or how our kids are doing.

One of the beautiful things about the world we currently live in is technology allows us to celebrate with each other and be inspired by each other. Those magic moments allow us to live and experience a taste of thousands of lives, but lives aren’t always happy and successful and it is important to be realistic about our struggles.

So, this blog post is complete the story of my last year a bit by sharing some of my struggles and failures.

  • I expected to have converted my book into an Audiobook and consider myself a professional writer. Neither of those things has happened. The audio recording has stalled out because I keep procrastinating and letting the perfect defeat the good. Instead of making the time to create I look at that microphone and come up with excuses. I don’t view myself as an author and there is an internal dialogue that tells me my book isn’t good, that it doesn’t count because it is a memoir, that all my ideas are unoriginal, that self-publishing is cheating. I often blog to put off my creative writing.
  • While I’m happy with my current fitness level I have had a lot of struggles staying motivated and consistent. This is particularly true for a four-month period when I basically didn’t exercise, ate too much, and drank too much. Looking back, I think this was a period of mild depression for me.
  • Financially, I haven’t been as wise as I should have been. I’ve blown money on stupid video games, I have purchased books that I didn’t need and probably will never read, I bought pizza and beer in moments of weakness, etc. I wanted to be approaching debt free at this point but each month I still seem to rely on my credit card for that final week or so and have only been making minimum student loan payments. Part of this is that I’m torn, it seems wiser to invest in Bitcoin and Ethereum than pay off my student loans because the growth is larger than the interest rates but that sword is still dangling over my head. On a positive note, I seem to have replaced frivolous spending with more spending on investments, which is probably a good thing.
  • I have been unable to get a yoga, meditation, or new language practice going. On a good week I meditate and practice a language 7 days and go to yoga once, but I rarely have a good week. Most weeks are 2-3 times for the meditation or language and no yoga. I see the value in these practices, I read the articles and understand the logic, but when the time comes for me to do them I make excuses or distract myself with stupid stuff.
  • I still spend WAY too much time on Facebook. I haven’t found a great way to deal with that yet. My life is so short and valuable and it hurts my soul to know that I waste it scrolling and liking and sharing articles unnecessarily. I could get so much more accomplished if I could trim this deadtime.
  • My self-control fails when I’m offered free, non-vegan pizza. I’ve identified as a vegan for several years now but recently I have had a very difficult time saying no to temptation (forgive me father, for I have sinned). I am working on coming up with a strategy to address this, but I’m disappointed in myself. I don’t have a lot of ethical standards but “minimize harm” is one of them and consuming animal products increases the market for harm.

So… those are my big failures in the last year. I know that no year will be perfect. I’m excited to see where I am in June 2018, I know it’ll be a hell of an adventure. I don’t have any real particular goals but maybe I can get this debt down, climb Mount Adams, have saved enough for eye surgery, and finish another book or three. Blargh. I keep thinking about actually writing down some actual goals. I just finished reading “The ONE Thing” and I’m currently reading “The 10X Rule” and one of the threads that runs through both books is setting awesome, specific goals and shooting for the stars or else you will be wandering without direction or fall below your potential. Maybe I will do that… I think Tim Ferris recommends it too in his book (but I might be mistaken).

Anway, I’m still in search of the system that really works well for me long-term. I’ve found one for my body, but not yet for my productivity. I feel like I’m on the verge of one though that melds the valuable insight from The 10X Rule, The ONE Thing, The 4-Hour Workweek, On Writing, and The War of Art. The journey continues…

Want to hear my thoughts on something? Wanna help me out by providing me inspiration for a post or story? Think I’m wrong and want to yell at me about it anonymously? Send me a message!  www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH 

The Brain is a Body Part

The following post is about mental health. These are my experiences and are in no way meant to be prescriptive for other people. I realize that the issues we each deal with are complex and varied, and that my experiences are likely very different than others. This is not a post about how to solve mental health problems, it is simply a post about things that seem to have worked for me and how my body seems to function.

We tend to separate the brain from the body. At best, we see the two as having a symbiotic relationship but we also treat them as independent and operating in a vacuum. When I first realized that I had some mental health issues that needed professional help I saw a therapist and started my own research. There was a lot of information about medication and therapeutic techniques to help both the foundation of my problems and some of the ways it has manifested itself (trichotillomania, suicidal thoughts, depression, etc) but I can’t recall ever having a discussion about overall health practices.

Eating right, drinking water, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly was never mentioned by my therapist as something that I should be doing. Looking back, I feel like that is a huge gap. My brain is a body part and the practices that keep my heart and lungs healthy, strengthen my muscles, maintain a healthy level of body fat, and provide vital nutrients to my organs are also beneficial to my brain health (which is the physical location of mental health).

Looking back, there appears to be a clear correlation between my mental health improving and adopting healthier habits (even though I adopted those healthier habits for other reasons… mostly to get laid). While I think I have a fairly healthy lifestyle now (see below for details), it started very incrementally. Adopting little practices like going for a morning walk for 15 minutes outside before breakfast or replacing soda with carbonated water or turning off computer screens an hour before bed started a snowball effect towards better body health (which includes the brain). I’d guess that it has taken five years or so for me to get to the point I am now, and that journey has had many struggles, but the difference between my mental health now and in 2012 is night and day.

I guess I just think it is a shame that I’ve never had a therapist sit down with me and go over my diet or exercise routine. I know that therapists aren’t dietitians or nutritionists or personal trainers, but having a base knowledge in these subjects (or partnering with professionals in those fields) could be incredibly beneficial to the parents. Medication helps, therapy helps, meditation helps… but other things help as well. Cutting out bad food helps, drinking water helps, getting outside helps, running helps. At least that is my experience.

So, what are my health practices like now? Every day is imperfect, but here is what an ideal day would look like. Looking at the list of daily practices it seems like I do a ton of stuff, but when I cut out Facebook and shitty TV I actually end up with downtime at the end of the day for more reading or an evening walk.

Daily Practices
Outside exercise in the morning (anything from a 10-minute walk to a 7-mile run)
Stoic reading – a short, daily exercise
Write (journaling, blogging, fiction writing, anything at all)
Meditation
Work on a new skill (foreign language, musical instrument, coding, etc)
Sleep from 10pm-6am (8 solid hours, though I’ve been waking up early recently and I’m not sure why)
Weight lifting or yoga
Read daily
Cold shower or bath – sometimes 60 seconds, sometimes 15-minutes
1-2 additional daily walks, usually during lunch and after work

Diet – ~1,800 calories (No, I’m not hungry all day. Yes, I get plenty of protein for health and muscle growth) – Carb/Fat/Protein = 55%/25%/20% (~Grams 260/55/95)
8 cups of water
2-3 cups of coffee
5 cups of green tea
3 servings of nuts/seeds
3 servings of fruit
3 servings of non-leafy vegetables
3 servings of leafy vegetables
2 servings of legumes
2 servings of whole grains
1 serving of nut milk
1 serving of plant-based protein powder
1 serving of nutritional yeast*
B-12 supplement*
Choline supplement*
8/16 intermittent fast (I have an 8-hour window to eat, usually 10am-6pm

So, that’s where I am right now and I feel like my body (including my brain) is the healthiest it has ever been. If you have any practices that you have worked for you I’d love to hear about them, I’m always looking to improve and experiment. Leave me a message on SurveyMonkey.

*These are due to my vegan diet and may not be necessary for others. Though, I highly recommend running your daily diet through a program like www.cronometer.com to discover any nutrients that may be lacking. I was shocked at some of my deficiencies and some of the nutrients I was getting too much of. For me, focusing on calories or the fat/carb/protein distribution was not the best way to find a healthy diet. Instead, I started with the needed vitamins and minerals and build a diet that met all my needs, the rest just fell into place and I ended up with around ~1,800 calories that was 55% carb, 25% fat, and 20% protein (260 grams, 55 grams, 95 grams)

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)