Chasing an Endorphin Release

I completed a 10-hour Adventure Race last weekend. Looking back, I am still not sure why I expressed interest to my friends who have been doing these for years. Whatever the reason, they offered, I committed, and we completed. It is done!

The race was 10-hours of continuous movement in the form of either jogging, running, trekking, road biking, mountain biking, or paddling. At the end of the 10-hours, myself and my two friends had each traversed close to 48 miles. And this was without completing the whole course!

However, our efforts were enough to earn 3rd in the Coed Premier Division. A standard place for them (the top 2 teams are on another level), and I called it a win for my first Adventure Race.

The question that is on my mind today is, “why did I do this?” I have never been one to get into the long endurance races. I have done some 5k’s and a Warrior Dash (maybe 2), but to go from those, which are completed in under an hour, to this…what was I thinking?

The only answer I can come up with is, “to see if I could.” There is something about extreme effort that fascinates most of humanity. Even if an individual does not complete the effort him or herself, it is probable that in their life they have revered a top athlete. And I am no different.

What is even more curious is how quickly the hardship and pain fade from memory, at least as a concern. My personal timeline was something like:

  • 1.5 hours left in the race: Miserable and rehabbing myself with my friends help to ensure I finished.
  • Post-race: Slightly euphoric that we completed. Box checked, on to the next thing (never again).
  • 2 hours later: Speculating what I would have to do differently if I were to try something like this again, or often.
  • Drive home the next day: Considering who I know in my home city who might be crazy enough to do this.
  • 2 days later: Feeling out one of my friends if he would ever be interested.

In short, it was a rapid progression from “never again” to, “maybe a 4- or 5-hour next time.”

I believe that from an evolutionary timeline, we are still relatively recently removed from the life of a hunter/gatherer (< 15,000 years). That lifestyle necessitated movement, endurance, and physical trials. Therefore, our mind appreciates physical exertion. In fact, the chemicals released from such efforts are our own reward system.

(This thinking is highly influenced by my current read, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.)

One endorphin high completed. Probably the largest hit since I hiked Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands right before the pandemic hit in March 2020. Time to find the next!

Curse of Unresolved Issues

I have recently been contemplating the things that we humans let slide. These could be things that a person does, says, or an unfinished conversation.

To a certain extent it is on each of us to accept the other for who they are. But the question I am pondering is, “at what cost?” If an issue is degrading the quality of one’s own life, then one must address it, right? Otherwise, you are accepting an inferior life.

Of course, in addressing the concern you must be ready to face the consequences. And that is probably what gives most of us pause and forces us to continue a suboptimal life.

Is it fear that holds us back? I can’t imagine what else it could be. Fear of the unknown. Fear of a potential loss. Fear of vulnerability. Or simply some combination thereof.

Of course, there is also the route of not addressing the issue (or issues) by removing that other individual from your life. That will resolve the issue without addressing it, but then you must accept the loss of that person.

This is on my mind as a failure to address issues early-on contributed to the end of my last relationship. And now I am reflecting on what I could do differently next time.

My only answer is to address the issues early since I refuse to accept the suboptimal life. If needed, I can face the fears by writing them out ahead of time. I am sure once I see them in black and white, the consequences of addressing an issue are acceptable compared to the alternative.

Back to this thing we call life!

Travel Reflections

I was fortunate enough last weekend to catch up with a good friend, his wife, and newborn along with another friend who lives in that area. What follows are a few of my musings from that time.

First off, I personally have some conversational awkwardness. While this is always true to a certain extent, it has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Mainly in that my nervous loquaciousness is bursting loose after about a year of hibernation. I have noticed this in interactions with other friends around where I live, but it really came out over the weekend.

Thankfully, after a solid 24 hours of hanging out, we all calmed down some. I say “we” as this awkwardness was not contained to only myself, though it manifested slightly differently for all of us.

Another note is that there is significant travel demand pent up amongst myself and others like me who have friends and family scattered everywhere. We all want to go fun places and see new things, maybe revisit a favorite locale, but at the same time we also need to go see this person who lives hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Accomplishing every trip that we want to do is not feasible. All we can do is prioritize in 2021 and punt the rest to 2022 and beyond. Even if all restrictions are lifted by the end of 2021, I expect the pent-up travel demand to extend into 2023 as we all play catch up.

Plus, there is nothing like telling all people, “you can’t do this” to enflame a desire to want to do exactly that. It will be interesting to see how long high travel demand lasts, or if it falls off. I know for my parents, their sense of urgency around trips they want to do has increased from COVID lockdown.

And last, humans are infinitely adaptable. It took a little time for me to get used to grabbing a mask before I left the house, but I adapted. Now I am working my way into a new norm. Namely that I grab the mask, but don’t put it on upon leaving the house as walking outdoors when fully vaccinated has been deemed acceptable.

Two of my friends and their baby, a third friend, and myself grabbed lunch. We chose to sit indoors to avoid the sun on a hot day, and that was an acceptable choice to all of us as we are vaccinated. This is something that none of us would have done back in early April. Yet here we are in mid-May enjoying each other’s company in a familiar environment.

Those moments stand out from this trip. Now I can’t wait for my next trip and see how life has changed in another month.

Escaping Puritan Roots

I remember a book I read for a college elective that discussed how the various waves of English migration to the United States helped shape the culture and norms of regions in America. Basically, when the wealthy landowners had stability in England, the working-class protestants came to America and settled in the north. And when the working-classes gained power in England, the wealthy Catholic landowners came and settled in the south.

The topic was fascinating but not particularly useful in my chosen major. However, I did gain a takeaway that continues to provide me with context on my own heritage. For example, most of my ancestors fall into the “working-class puritans” who settled in the northern states during the 1800’s. They were predominately Welsh/Irish on the paternal side and English/German on the maternal.

There are two stereotypical attributes of these ancestors that I internally rebel against today. First, the idea that hard work is one of the noblest pursuits. I don’t believe this to be true.

Hard work is certainly worthy of respect. However, I think that with some ingenuity, focus, and yes, appropriate hard work, one can set themselves up with sufficient income to not have to grind out 60+ hour weeks to make a living. Especially in the information age!

In addition, hard work alone is not enough. It needs to be focused work on the items that are most effective in accomplishing your goals, and the work must be completed as efficiently as possible. Accomplishing your goals in the minimum amount of time should be the goal. If you complete everything in under a 20-hour week, more power to you!

Again, practically I know this to be true. I have seen it proven in case studies and by testing in my own life. Yet I still struggle with stopping when I reach a defined goal: my natural inclination is to keep doing something, and I must consciously question the value of what I am doing to get myself to stop.

The second stereotypical attribute is the view of sex: namely that it is something for a husband and wife, never to be discussed, and certainly don’t mention enjoying it (else you might be mistaken for a witch). My own beliefs are not that, but there is enough of that structure engrained in me that I am not going to elaborate further here.

And that is what I mean about escaping puritanism. I know that there are healthier ways of viewing and approaching life, but it takes reflection and vigilance to escape the unconscious biases I have on these facets of life and exercise anything close to free will.

Stoicism & EQ

I have been learning about stoicism from William B. Irvine’s lessons on the mindfulness app, Waking Up. The other day I was listening to a lesson that talked about the parts of the brain and how they evolved. It dove into this because part of stoicism, and mindfulness in general, is about working through the first two parts of your brain commonly called the “lizard brain” and “mammal brain” and getting to the “human brain” which allows for rational thinking.

For those of you not familiar with these terms, the lizard brain encompasses the brainstem, cerebellum, and hypothalamus. This is our most basic functions including the fight or flight instinct.

Next up is the mammal brain which includes the limbic system and hippocampus. These parts of the brain include memories, communication, and emotions.

Finally, we have the human part, the cerebral cortex, which governs our rational thought and higher reasoning.

Because the brain evolved with humanity, the older parts are what all new inputs go through first. Which means whenever anything happens to us, we first decide to fight or flight, then we have an emotional response, and then we can think clearly.

(At this point, I find myself questioning whether I am more in awe of the brain itself, or the evolution of the brain. Regardless, sublime.)

Back to the lesson from Dr. Irvine. He discussed how our goal as humans should be to acknowledge that each part has its own role and limits. We shouldn’t make large decisions without consulting all three. Therefore, you must ensure your thought process gets past emotions and engages the rational part of the mind.

Around this point, I started thinking about my study of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), primarily through the work of Dr. Travis Bradberry. And the connections between stoicism, mindfulness, and EQ began to appear.

  • All are about managing your thoughts and emotions
  • They all acknowledge the different parts of the thought process and recognize that each has merits
  • The goal is not to only use one, but rather draw from each where appropriate
  • They all embrace reflecting on one’s actions to improve in the future

I think we all owe ourselves a higher degree of self-awareness; therefore, I would challenge anyone reading this to dig a little deeper into whichever methodology speaks to you.

And if you have tried studying one of these and failed, that is perfectly fine. I think it took me two reads of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 to put anything into action, and my first attempt at a meditation habit was a failure. And who is to say whether stoicism will have a lasting impact on me?

The point is, that something will eventually click, and you will be better off for it. Good luck!

Defending Selfish Behavior

I imagine the title of this post will be polarizing to many. After all, what possible justification can one have for behaving selfishly. All I ask is that you read the rest with an open mind.

I was listening to an interview with a famous actor last week, and in it, the actor stated that many of us would be better off if we behaved a little more selfishly. He admitted that his is a minority view, and even his close friends and family who he talks to about his view equate convincing others of it to pushing a boulder up a mountain. Regardless, his view resonated with me, and I am going to try to make my case.

I believe that happiness must come from within. If you are not innately happy, no external forces can make you happy. This includes money and all the things it can buy or the love of others. The visual I have is that if you are already without happiness, there is a void inside of you that acts as a black hole. And unless you seal up that void, every external bit of happiness gets sucked inside and does nothing to fill the void.

That is why it is important for us as individuals to take time for ourselves. First, we must know ourselves. We need to explore our dreams. Our emotions. What brings joy to us, and what takes it away. We need to make sure that we have goals that we are working towards which align with our values and bring joy.

After that, we need to be intentional about carving out that time for ourselves. This reserving of time and space likely needs to be done with a partner or your family. Outline some windows where you can get this time so you can be the best version of you. This shouldn’t be too big of an ask if these people love you and you articulate your needs. The goal is to give a little and gain a better you in return. (And ideally, the people in your life get their own blocks.)

After that, it is on us as individuals to deliver. Don’t squander those blocks of time with distractions that lack meaning. Be intentional about what you are going to do during your time to further your own goals. Plan it out ahead of time. After all you made the agreement, so honor it for yourself and those in your life.

This is what I mean by being selfish. We all need to recharge ourselves. We need to create the time and space for the activities we need to remain sane. And then jealously (and yes, selfishly) defend those time periods. Only by being a little selfish from time to time can we become the best version of ourselves.

Excerpts from “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry”

This is my second time reading this book by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I have decided I was in a more distracted state during my first pass, as I recall having to reread paragraphs regularly. That is less common during this round two.

And it isn’t that the passages themselves are overtly complex, I think it was my ability to focus. In fact, the author does an incredible job of using analogies and other literary tools to make it understandable.

I finished the chapter 8, “On Being Round”, earlier today and found it so rich in these literary tools, that I had to share some of them. All of these are direct quotes:

  • … Earth, as a cosmic object, is remarkably smooth. If you had a super-duper, jumbo-gigantic finger, and you dragged it across Earth’s surface (oceans and all), Earth would feel as smooth as a cue ball.
  • The stars of the Milky Way galaxy trace a big, flat circle. With a diameter-to-thickness ration of one thousand to one, our galaxy is flatter than the flattest flapjacks ever made.
  • To picture a pulsar, imagine the mass of the Sun packed into a ball the size of Manhattan. If that’s hard to do, then maybe it’s easier if you imagine stuffing about a hundred million elephants into a Chapstick casing.
  • Under such conditions, a neutron star’s mountain range needn’t be any taller than the thickness of a sheet of paper for you to exert more energy climbing it than a rock climber on Earth would exert ascending a three-thousand-mile-high cliff.
  • There’s a variation of the ever-popular multiverse idea in which the multiple universes that comprise it are not separate universes entirely, but isolated, non-interacting pockets of space within one continuous fabric of space-time—like multiple ships at sea, far enough away from one another so that their circular horizons do not intersect.

As I said, that is from one chapter of about 13 pages. Pick up a copy of the book and give it a try. Or if you find visuals helpful, try the show Cosmos.

The universe we live in is endlessly fascinating. Which makes sense, as we don’t know whether the universe has an end, or if the laws of physics merely prevent us from seeing this limit.

Review: 4-Hour Work Week

and other musings

This week, I finished my second pass of “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss. In the novel, the author outlines his story along with the tools and tricks that he used to “Escape the 9-5, live anywhere and join the New Rich.”

(Aside: If it were me, I would include the Oxford Comma in that tagline, but that is another post. However, enjoy this graphic related to it.)

There are a few questions that I believe one must face upon finishing the book:

  1. Do you believe that the New Rich lifestyle is possible given the model that the author puts forward?
  2. If you believe it is possible, is your own personality a match for the level of uncertainty you might have to experience to get there?
  3. Assuming the first two are a yes, what is your muse that you can turn into profit?

Number three is what I am working on. I have a couple of possibilities that I am actively pursuing, and one that is in my back pocket.

The author outlines several ways to find your muse which I have used. In addition, he talks about niching down. After all, the goal is to not necessarily be a millionaire, but rather to decouple yourself from the norms of modern society to allow you to take advantage of the benefits that come from going left when others go right.

There are two additional notes I would offer for those who are trying to discover their muse. The first comes from Tim Ferriss himself through a recent LinkedIn post. I have linked that here.

The second, related idea comes from James Altucher. He talks about the concept of “idea sex” in some of his work. In short, take two (or more) great ideas that have been done, and combine them. An example of this is the iPhone. iPod + cell phone + camera = iPhone.

For my brief review of the 4-Hour Work Week, see my goodreads post. And the same for James Altucher’s recent book, Skip the Line.

And finally, I will say that even if your answer to the 2nd question about uncertainty is a resounding “no”, I would still recommend the 4-Hour Work Week. The author outlines tips for those who never want to leave corporate America, but still live like the New Rich.

Enjoy!

Moderation

I am a fan of Star Wars. Not a convention going fan, but whatever is one step below that. I enjoy sci-fi in general, so the combination of the Force, lightsabers, and the wild west nature of many settings is spectacular. Oh, and space travel.

What does this have to do with moderation? The light and dark side of the force obviously.

It struck me that many of the Jedi struggle to maintain this pure mindset. They struggle with the teachings of their chosen Order, and who can blame them when one of the requirements is essentially no outside attachments outside. That is not natural for social beings.

To overcome their struggles, they focus so much on being all the way light, that a single chink in their armor is like a crack in the dam that releases the flood. I think they would be better off if they tried moderation and stopped trying to be holier than the masses. As would we all.

I know that moderation is hard. Because moderation allows for vices in your life, you must continuously manage them. Therefore, one must constantly reflect on their choices to ensure that they align with their goals and morals.

The good news for Moderation is that because it is all about the gray area, it allows for mistakes. When one starts to lean in a direction they don’t like, there isn’t some fallout. Instead, the individual can merely make a slight course correction and continue: no large collapse and no permanent harm.

The alternative is all or nothing. Completely removing something from your life can also be challenging but is typically easier to maintain once you have extracted the problem. After all, once whatever the concern and all associated triggers have been removed for a sufficient period, then it is no longer a habit, so the maintenance is easier.

However, the potential downside is also significant. This is where you hear about someone going on a low sugar diet for years, and then they turn 40, have some cake, finish the cake, and then the next day they are so disappointed, that they keep right on eating sweets.

That is why I am a proponent of practicing moderation. Have your cake and eat it too! (But not too frequently or in too large of quantity.)

Work to Live

“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it…please!”

Jim Carrey, 2014 commencement address.

The quote above ties directly into what I have been pondering. The bulleted version of my current musings is below:

  • 65% of people are satisfied with their jobs per a study from HR Daily Advisor; therefore, about 1/3 of people are dissatisfied. Benefits are a key factor per the same study.
  • The system, at least in America, incentivizes one to join the corporate world. College leads to job/career which provides benefits including healthcare and a 401k (with a contribution amount 3x that of an IRA).
  • The healthcare is nice because many jobs will also degrade your health in some manner (stress or sedentary lifestyle).
  • Most jobs will take 40+ hours of your week.
  • Many of the wealthiest individuals have multiple streams of income (job, interest, dividends, rental properties, business ownership, etc.). Seven sources of income is mentioned a lot.
  • People frequently define who they are by what they do, which is great if you are pursuing your passion, but what percentage of the 65% who are satisfied is that true for? I assume that the remaining 35% aren’t passionate.

I am working on is my own alternative. I have the investments. I have done the job and might again, but for now, I am exploring all others. Work to live, don’t live to work.

If anyone wants to share their own story or point me towards a relevant post, I would love to hear your thoughts.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

George Bernard Shaw
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