I Might Blow Out a Knee

Although I have skied several times over the last decade, I have always been alone until last week.

We met some friends in Taos, NM to enjoy a week of hiking, New Mexican craft beer, and some fine dining around Taos. I also had to throw some jiu jitsu practice in at 7000 feet (quite a challenge). Of course, with snow on the mountain I’m not passing through Taos without hitting up the Taos Ski Valley.

This year I thought I may be going by myself once again. When my friend Rob showed a little interest, I couldn’t help but talk up the experience he could have. It worked. In the end, he decided to come along even though he would be one of the only people on the mountain skiing in blue jeans.

There are many bad things that could happen to someone when they go skiing. Letting the mind wander freely, it will concoct all kinds of horrendous and gory outcomes from the venture. Rob may have had a few of these preventing thoughts.

One can also just be conscious of the dangers, approach it with caution, and have another life experience. In this particular case it was a top ten experience for both of us. Worth the risks, in other words.

There are risks I take on each and every time I go to a Brazilian jiu jitsu class or competition. If any of these dangers come to fruition, I will pick up the broken pieces and learn whatever I can from the ordeal.

But I won’t regret living.

It helps to have those reminders and encouragements now and then.

Breathe

After reading Aubrey Marcus’s Own the Day, Own Your Life, I became very interested in the science behind a few of his suggestions. In order to own the day, a few of his suggestions were to start the day with a breathing exercise now commonly referred to as the Wim Hof breathing method, and to end each of your regular showers with at least 30 seconds of a cold blast, working your way up to 3 minutes.

Intrigued, I picked up a book by Scott Carney called What Doesn’t Kill Us. Scott set out to debunk Wim Hof and his methods, only to find himself climbing Mount Snezka on the border of Poland and the Czech Republic shirtless with boots and shorts only.

Instead of debunking Wim Hof, Carney found some very interesting things to begin researching. Specifically, how we can hack our bodies and rejuvenate strengths we have lost through our endless technological quest of being more comfortable. This body hack involves building up lost stores of brown adipose tissue, which we had an abundance of when we were infants.

The Quest to be More Comfortable

All of the technological advances that humans have made to be more comfortable have in fact made us weaker. Our early ancestors did not have the luxury of central heat and air, temperature regulated vehicles, and Under Armour cold and heat gear. Yet they still survived brutal winters and summers and cleared mountain passes.

The mere thought of stepping out into subzero temperatures or turning your shower on an ice cold setting is revolting to some.

When author Scott Carney stepped into snow barefoot for the first time, he was able to last an excruciating 5 minutes before going inside. After only a few days of this type of training on the body, he was able to last 45 minutes or more barefoot in the snow, and it was nowhere near as excruciating as the first.

Brown Adipose Tissue

We all have seen the difference in 50-60 degree Spring weather versus Fall weather. At the end of a cold winter, you’ll begin to see people wearing shorts and short-sleeve t-shirts. Conversely, at the end of a summer, people are bundling up.

This was brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, at work. Over the long, cold winter, many people slowly build up those brown fat stores and are able to be dressed down to shorts and a T-shirt on those 50 degree days. Those stores are then depleted and lost over the summer, and the 50 degree day becomes a shock.

It is possible to keep those BAT levels high year round. Why would you want to do this? The health benefits are great. Your body uses BAT to burn white fat to stay warm in colder conditions. This leads to weight loss or easy maintenance of a healthy weight. These techniques can also reverse symptoms of onset diabetes among other diseases.

Over the last several weeks I’ve been practicing the Wim Hof breathing method as well as exposing myself to as many harsh conditions as I can (cold showers being the easiest at this time). I’m very satisfied with the results. Obviously, a cold shock shower in the morning has no problem waking me up and kick starting my day. Perhaps surprising, a cold shock shower in the evening has the amazing ability for my body to go into a deep and restful sleep! (Especially post jiu jitsu class).

I am committing to at least 6 months of using these methods. These methods can be very easy to insert into your daily routine. If you’re interested, check out the Wim Hof Method online or pick up a copy of What Doesn’t Kill Us, by Scott Carney.

I’m Addicted to My Smartphone

My Addiction

Tonight, Erin and I attended a dinner for the Kappa Mu Epsilon inductee ceremony. Before we went to our table, I slipped my phone into my coat pocket and hung my coat at the door instead of taking my coat to the table. During the course of our evening, I reached for my empty pocket at least three times.

In other words, I tried to get a “hit” from my addiction three times in the span of only an hour and 15 minutes.

Last Friday, when we had dinner with friends in Lawrence, I purposefully left my phone in the car before entering the Six Mile Chop House. It was the same story. I reached for that empty pocket at least three times.

I’m addicted.

I’ve taken many steps to curb this addiction.

  • Notifications have all been turned off on nearly everything. My phone rings when someone calls, and it buzzes when specific people text (but no lights blink).
  • Blue light filter is always on.
  • Do not disturb is set for 11pm-6am.
  • I leave my phone behind or hide it when I’m going to be engaging in conversation with people.

But, alas, these have been futile attempts. The addiction remains.

Managing the Addiction

If I were to get rid of the smartphone entirely, I would eventually get rid of that constant twitch of reaching for my pocket. But for what gain? This seems like a drastic move for this day and age.

I’ve been listening to Robert Greene’s The Laws of Human Nature on my walks to and from work. Although he doesn’t talk specifically about smart phone use, he does bring up an important point about human nature.

Fighting human nature is a futile effort. Instead, you need to work with it, and use it to your advantage. Even when our nature seems to be working against us.

Instead of getting myself worked up about my addiction, I own it and not let it bother me. So what if I reach for my empty pocket three or more times at dinner. The phone wasn’t there, and the conversation survived. Even without knowing instantly the place we visited in Grand Rapids that one time, or the name of the actress that starred in that old TV series we loved so much, or getting to see that picture we took of those waterfalls in North Carolina.

How can I use this addiction to my advantage, though? First step is to manage it as best you can with the pointers I gave above. Here are some ideas to try once you can establish the last bullet point above. Each time I reach for my empty pocket, pick any of the following:

  • I must complement someone at the table, and have a few complements ready to go for the inevitable.
  • I must ask an engaging question, or purposefully and actively listen to those around me instead of simply waiting to speak.
  • Dig deep in my mind for clues and descriptions of what it was I was trying to look up on my phone, and give them to those around me to see if you can’t come up with the information on your own (only if it is actually important to the conversation).
  • Take a long, slow, inhalation of breath. Smile. Look around and be mindful of how amazing life is in this moment of deprivation.

Understand your nature. Manage it. Own it.

Then, use it to your advantage.




I Am Nobody Special

The things I write about, post on Facebook, or talk to people the most about are all those things that make me look like I’ve got it together. The photos make it look like I’m having lots of fun and accomplishing so much in life. The blog posts I write usually entail many self improvement and growth hacks that I’ve tested.

Life isn’t all that. It is easy to feel like we’re not living life like we should be. All these posts we see are of people having more fun then we are having, or are succeeding at life more than we are. We need to kick ourselves in the face sometimes and remember that we aren’t seeing all the posts about the boring, mundane, and sometimes bad shit that is happening in people’s lives.

Let’s just look at my day today for example. It started pretty well, I got my usual wake up and morning routine in before walking to work. I had my calendar set for the day which included weight training and walking home at 4:30.

It got to be a mess today, and I fell way behind at work. Pretty soon, the weight training had to be thrown out. The alarm at 4:30 came and went. When I did finally get ready to walk home, I had to pack up the backpack with grading and work.

When I got home, the stack of grading that I brought with me was the stack I had already graded. I left the stack that needed graded at the office. The time I set aside for leisure had to be thrown out. My blog writing had to be pushed back an hour.

Needless to say, I didn’t own this day. Maybe not as apparent, I fail to truly own many days.

I tend to really like to write about the ones I do own, though. I just thought I’d let you know that I’m not all that. I’m not anyone special. We’re all in the same boat and suck it up just as much as the next person.

Remember this. You have just as much awesomeness and suck as the next person. When the suck hits, take a deep breath and own what you can of the rest of the day.

Successful People’s Secret

It is not a secret at all. We’ve heard it several times, but we have a hard time believing it. Those that are successful, wealthy, and seem to have it all will tell you a different story. They will tell you it isn’t all that it was cracked up to be. They will tell us that it doesn’t make you any happier.

They totally give up the secret. Yet we don’t take it to heart. For some reason, we think it would be different for us. We think that we can and would be happy with more money and success.

So the real secret here is to believe it and not cast the idea aside.

Remember when you were a kid, and you were eyeballing a cool toy at the store (one you would eventually get)? Really try and be in that moment, where you really, really, coveted that toy. Somewhere in your mind you believed it would bring you a lot of happiness.

I recall the original, brief moments of joy. Of actually having the toy!! I remember opening it up, going through any kind of necessary setup, and then playing with it for a while. Oh, what joy!

Not much time would pass before a small feeling of disappointment would set in. The toy was no longer doing its job and making me happy. I wonder where that toy is now. It certainly isn’t doing its job today.

Such is life.

There is happy place for you, and it is most likely right where you are.