Embrace The Suck: What Jiu-Jitsu, Learning Guitar, And Exam IFM Has Taught Me About Life

“Wow! I suck.”

This statement is both thought and uttered often. Those with a growth mindset, who understand what it takes to continuously improve, embrace the idea. The moment that we think or believe “Wow! I’m awesome,” is when we stop improving. Our mindset becomes fixed, and we lose all forward momentum.

Exam IFM: Investment and Financial Markets, is one of many exams given by the Society of Actuaries that provide a path to becoming an Associate in the Society of Actuaries (ASA).  I’m taking this on November 20th and in the final stretch of my intense study.

Finishing a third mock exam through Coaching Actuaries, I found out I had did a little worse than the first two. This could potentially be defeating. However, I understood that the first mock exam was at an easier level, the second at a level higher, and the third even higher still. They keep increasing the difficulty, which makes it seem that you’re making no progress.

Jiu-Jitsu is very similar. Although the classes and the technique we learn is not getting any more difficult, each of my teammates are getting better and better at their technique, and stronger and stronger with each class.  When you roll with these teammates and they roll with you, it can really seem like we’re not getting any better.  The truth is we’re all getting better incrementally.

Embrace the suck.

What I mean by that is to embrace the illusion of your suckiness, because you are getting better.

In early August I began learning how to play the guitar using Justin Guitar. It has been going well. Earlier last week, however, was the lesson on the F chord. It felt like I had just picked up the guitar for the first time.

I embraced the suck, and persisted in getting my fingers in the right place. After several days, I’m still nowhere near being able to play the full F chord with the bass string. I’m playing the simpler version with 5 strings which is challenge enough.

What usually happens when I learn something new with the guitar each day, is that I learn about at least two things that I need to learn and practice.  To get a little mathematical now, that means that if we take that bare minimum value of only learning two new things that we don’t know each time we learn one new thing, then the amount of “things” we know that we don’t know will always be one greater than the amount of “things” we do know.

This, too, can be defeating. It can be even more defeating when we try and think about all the things that we don’t even know we don’t know.  Oh, my!

The same is true in jiu-jitsu. Each time I learn and begin practicing a technique, I learn about a few others that I will need to practice in the future. It never ends.

Embrace the suck.

In this case, I mean the illusion that you suck even more than you did previously since the quantity that you know you don’t know increases faster than the quantity that you do know.

Life in general is a series of these moments. Wow! We all really suck. You can let it stop you in your tracks, or you can embrace it and let it propel you to the next level.

I say we all embrace the suck, and level up.

Think Stoically on Election Day

A Daily Stoic email arrived in my inbox within the last week that stuck with me. You can browse the Daily Stoic website here, and even sign up for their daily emails if you might find joy and meaning in them. The one of which I’m speaking was a shortened version of the larger interview with Robert Greene, the author of The Laws of Human Nature among several other books you can find listed on that link.

In the short email that I received, it challenged me to look at the entire human species from a biological perspective at the beginning of our lives, and understand how we all started out the same. We all started with a clean slate, no experiences, and no memories. We all start out experiencing the world as we have been since our prehistoric ancestors.

So, what is it that makes some of us go into the voting booth today and select one way, and others select another way? What is it that brings that anger of the other side’s opinions and beliefs to the forefront? All of us have experienced life and have held onto memories of those experiences differently.

It is not because someone is stupid, irrational, or weak minded.  Their unique experiences have led them to this moment in their life much differently than yours have. Should we be angry at them for it?  A stoic would suggest not.

Think stoically on this election day.

The Power of a Daily Affirmation

Each of my mornings include a small amount of time to write down a daily affirmation three times. I wrote about this in my post An Example of Productivity. For convenience, I will write what once was my daily affirmation here again.

 I will become fluent in Norwegian, German, and Spanish, be able to play the guitar really well, and obtain a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu as well as ASA and ACAS certifications.

After writing this down three times each morning, I can’t help myself but reflect on my progress toward these goals. When you reflect each morning on your long term goals, you are more likely to make them a part of your day as much as you can.

I updated my affirmation a few weeks ago because I noticed a deficiency. It was July when I last made a batch of home brew.

Now, each morning, I write the following.

 I will become fluent in Norwegian, German, and Spanish, be able to play the guitar really well, make award winning beer, and obtain a black belt in BJJ as well as an ASA certification.

Upon writing that for several days in a row, and reflecting on how poorly I was doing on reaching the goal of making award winning beer, I brewed a porter on Sunday. I also learned something new about yeast re-hydration. Apparently, re-hydrating yeast more than 30 minutes before you’re going to pitch will cause some of the yeast to starve, so timing it so that you can pitch the yeast into your wort 20-30 minutes after you re-hydrate is best.

I’m thinking of yet another update to my affirmation! Each week, I sometimes struggle on what I want to write in this blog. By including it in a daily affirmation, I’ll be reflecting on it a little each morning!

Questions from Tim, Part II

Fall break was yesterday and today, giving my wife and me a 4 day weekend in which to celebrate our 8th anniversary (which was on 10/16).  Since we are traveling, I prepared some answers to Tim Ferriss’s questions he poses to many world class performers, millionaires and billionaires in his book, Tribe of Mentors.

In Questions from Tim, Part 1, I answered

  • What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
  • In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

For Part 2, I will tackle the following.

  • What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
  • How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
  • What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? 

Purchases to commit to something or try something out for a while have been very rewarding!  I started jiu jitsu in late December of 2017, and was fortunately given the rest of December to see how it went before my coach began collecting monthly dues. Those monthly dues (under $100) have positively impacted my life for all of 2018.

Along those same lines, I have been using an app called Justin Guitar to learn guitar.  Once I got past Stage 2, there was an $8.99/month charge to continue through the stages of learning.  I did not balk at that and paid it immediately.  The value that this monthly fee will provide is far more than that price tag.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours? 

I can’t think of a favorite failure of mine, but the collection of all the failures I’ve made since I have identified the growth mindset (vs. the fixed mindset) described in detail in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, and since I’ve identified the idea of investment in loss described in Josh Waitzkin’s book, The Art of Learning. I’ve written about this in my previous blog post Seeking Failure.

Now, my failures are all very good learning tools, each failure presenting new techniques to learn and bad habits to avoid.  So, it is the collection of failures that all lead to further and further improvement, and therefore, success.

Failing Exam MLC through the Society of Actuaries the first time was a hard but important hit.  It really sucked to find out that I had not attained a level of mastery with the material in order to pass it.  Learning from this failure, and using the strong foundation I had already laid out for myself, I rebounded and passed on the next time around.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

Investing my time in the constant pursuit of personal improvement and growth is definitely up there. We all know what it takes to be successful professionally and personally. However, we are not all good at actually doing those things we know to do. Recognizing this, admitting it to myself, and then investing my time and energy into finding out ways I can motivate myself to get things done has been extremely worthwhile.

I now invest my time into very selective reading. I invest time into scheduling my time, which at first glance may seem like a waste, but will in fact produce more time, amazingly.  This investment was slow at first, and, like a freight train, gained momentum and is speeding along nicely.

Omelet Perfection

Ever since starting the Primal Blueprint/Paleo type diet and lifestyle over 2 years ago, I’ve been making an omelet almost every morning.  I estimate this goes into my belly 4.5-5 days a week on average.

In 10,000 Hours of Purposeful Practice, I brought up the theory that one can become an expert in about anything by giving it 10000 hours of deliberate, purposeful practice.  Making omelets has taken up a lot of my time (maybe not 10000 hours yet), and I feel like I’m becoming an expert at making this satiating, and healthy breakfast.

It starts with putting a small frying pan on the stove on medium to medium-high heat, and throwing in a little less than a tablespoon of butter from a pasture raised cow.  While this is heating up and melting the butter, I gather the necessary utensils and ingredients.

  • Plate, bowl, and fork.
  • Frozen veggies (usually Mirepoix or Broccoli cuts)
  • Guacamole (fresh made, or in the single serving size pictured next)
  • Two large or three medium to small eggs
  • Salsa or Organic Sriracha
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These 120 calorie fat bombs are just delightful.

Once the butter has melted and begins to bubble, I throw in enough frozen veggies to cover the bottom of my small frying pan.  While the veggies warm and cook, I crack the eggs in a bowl and whip those bad boys up.

Once those veggies are warm and begin to brown only slightly, I turn the burner down to medium and dump in the eggs, using a spatula to craftily mold my amazing omelet into a nice little pancake shape.

When it begins to set, I loosen the omelet to be flipped, turn the burner off, and then flip it over on the other side, setting the pan off the burner.  This took many, many months to perfect.  So many times, the flip was a failure, and it became difficult to discern whether I was making scrambled eggs or an omelet.

The single serving guacamole is opened and spread over the omelet.  Then, it is slid off the pan and folded neatly in half.  It is then covered in salsa or some organic Sriracha.

This whole process takes me about 10 minutes and it is part of my daily routine.  If you checked out my schedule that I posted last week in An Example of Productivity, you’ll understand why I schedule 30 minutes for Breakfast/Coffee.  Making a pour-over coffee each morning from freshly roasted and ground beans is another story.

Since I have such a short memory when it comes to food, I end up having the best cup of coffee and the most fantastic omelet of my life every morning.  It never gets old.

This keeps me satiated until lunch without the need to snack. There sometimes is a desire to snack, but after a glass of water, I’m fine until lunchtime. By skipping toast (and any other type of grain), my body begins burning fat for fuel and providing me energy and mental focus to stay on task all morning.

The featured photo was my omelet on Saturday.  That version involved Sriracha and the individual guacamole cup.  The version below required that I mash my own avocado mixed with spices for the delightful spread, along with red jalapeno salsa on top.  This was last Tuesday morning’s meal:

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It was tough to fit a full avocado into this fold!

If you find yourself hanging out with me one morning and you remember, ask for one of my masterpieces, and I’ll happily oblige.


Fun fact: this ode to the omelet is my 200th blog post, and today is Erin and my 8th anniversary!