Practice Before Inspiration

Yesterday, while listening to the Isaac Morehouse podcast with his perennial guest TK Coleman, I had a “coming to Jesus” moment. In this particular podcast they discussed a one of Isaac’s recent blog posts where he takes issue with people “finding themselves” before knowing how to work hard. This discussion was like a punch in the gut because, in many ways, it defined my attitude. I’m that person who has been to Burning Man several times and spent a couple years biking around the country.

In a sense, I have filled my life with distractions instead of working hard towards my goals of becoming a writer. I think there was value to those distractions and my experiences have served many purposes (particularly in helping me process my PTSD), but they haven’t made me a better writer. Before I can become a “good writer”, I must become a “writer”. I haven’t put in the hard work and discipline necessary to reach my goals. Instead, I put the cart in front of the horse… I went looking for inspiration and life hacks and writing secrets instead of putting words on paper. Right now I am like a painter with all the colors and paintbrushes at my disposal, but I don’t even know how to hold the paintbrush correctly. I have ideas, I have experiences, but I need practice.

It is annoying that man cliche’s are correct. My health and fitness improved when I stopped drinking excessive beer, eliminated caloric drinks, started eating a whole-foods plant based diet, exercised regularly, and got plenty of sleep. For most people, life hacks aren’t like computer hacks, they are like hack writers… low quality and ineffective. You need to have the basics down before you can optimize. I’m laying down the basics with my health, but I haven’t started doing that with my writing.

So, were do I go from here?

Well, I need to write more. My blogging has been okay but it hasn’t been pushing me that much. I’ve allowed myself to slack on it or come up with excuses too often. I need this to be a daily thing. I also need to get back to basics, so I am going to try and take a class or two on writing. I also just need to write and read a lot more. I’m not exactly sure what system I can implement that will reach my goals, but maybe I can use something similar to my health routine.

I’m going to keep pushing forward, because I really do love writing and want to be a writer. I’m really thankful that this podcast episode came around when it did. I find it easy to get complacent and ignore the plank in my own eye (while often pointing out the speck in others – Mathew 7:3). It is always beneficial to try and objectively view yourself and figure out if criticism applies to you, in this circumstance it certainly did.  Hell, according to Isaac he often writes blog posts with a specific person in mind so maybe this one was aimed directly to me… probably not though. It is more likely that I am just lucky collateral damage.

Podcast Link: http://isaacmorehouse.com/2016/08/12/90-fwtk-anger-work-crappy-arguments-and-the-supernatural/
Blog Link: https://discoverpraxis.com/dont-try-to-find-yourself-until-you-know-how-to-work/

Advertisements

Almost There…

In about 42 hours or so we will be on our way to Wilmington, and I am so freaking excited. We’ve had quite a memorable time here in Myrtle Beach living with our friend, but it is time to roll out. We don’t have a house secured in Wilmington yet, but thanks to an amazing friend that we met via Couchsurfing (we live in a wonderful time y’all) we have a place to sleep for a few weeks while we shop around. This is the first time my partner and I are going to truly be living in a house and city of our own choosing, and I feel like a child waiting for Christmas morning. So. Fucking. Excited.

So, what am I excited for? Many things. Here is an incomplete list:

  • A backyard that I can sunbathe nude in, have a fire pit, meditate, put up a swing, and practice fire dancing (maybe poi instead of staff?), compost, and a vegetable garden
  • A kitchen where I can experiment with food
  • Storage space for bulk food items to save money, extra bikes for guests, and to build up some Playa gear for Burning Man and festivals
  • A spare bedroom for our friends to visit and to return the love we received from strangers on Couchsurfing and Warmshowers
  • An office area to work, create art, write, read, and brew beer
  • A master bedroom to sleep in, have foursomes, and get kinky in
  • A living area to host parties in (dinner, MDMA, brunch, board games and/or D&D, New Years, etc)
  • A city where I can get back into yoga (and get into acroyoga), bike to the beach, volunteer with organizations I care about, go to festivals and events, make friends that I won’t need to leave after a year, take classes, get into therapy, and is centrally located to visit Charleston, Savannah, Richmond, and Asheville

What it really comes down to, is this is a new chapter that is so wildly different from the last two years of my life (and my relationship with my partner). It is a new adventure with new challenges and new rewards. I’m just excited. I feel in control of my life in a way that I haven’t really ever felt. Since joining the Army I haven’t really lived in one place for more than a year or two at a time, there was no opportunity for community or the growth that requires deep roots. I wouldn’t change my past at all, it brought me to my present (which is awesome) and opened the door for the future.

I hope everyone reading this blog comes and visits us someday. Seriously. Our door is open for you.

St. Louis Routine – Post Mortem

Last Thursday my partner and I took off from Myrtle Beach to visit her family in St. Louis. This was the first real challenge to our health and fitness routine and, overall, things went pretty well. It is always really difficult to keep a food and work-out schedule while travelling, particularly when four out of the seven days we were driving 10ish hours a day. Disrupting the routine also creates opportunities to have a good time (which is kind of the point of increasing our fitness, to have more opportunities to enjoy life), but those opportunities cash in some of the health credits we’ve racked up over the last couple of weeks.

So, here is a rundown of how we did. I don’t have any regrets or anything, though there were areas for improvement next time we travel (probably in mid-September).

Perfect: There were only two areas where I wasn’t disrupted at all… I kept track of my calories and I weighed myself daily (we brought our scale with us).

Pretty Good: We only missed one run day while traveling, which is pretty good. We also only ate out for three meals out of twenty, and we were relatively healthy during those times. My calories were only significantly higher than average on two nights.

Okay: I blogged most days, but missed a couple. My orgasm frequency was also pretty good (which is definitely a challenge when you are staying in other people’s homes). I drank a little bit more beer than I wanted, but it wasn’t anything too crazy and it was only at social occasions.

Needs Improvement: I didn’t do any reading, German practice, meditation, book writing, or working out (except for running). I really don’t have an excuse for this. I was lazy and thrown off by being in a new environment. I also justified slacking because I was “on vacation”, which is kind of true but I need to want to be able to keep some sort of routine even when traveling or on vacation. Life is never ideal.

Overall, I did okay, but I’m excited to get back to Myrtle and into my routine. I am almost a month into our time in Myrtle and it is time for me to re-evaluate my schedule and add more areas for improvement. I’m particularly interested in adding weight-lifting and intermittent fasting into my routine. I also need to really put some thought into things like learning a new language, I don’t seem to have a strong passion or desire for it and I’m not sure if it will provide a good return on investment.

Anyway, life is in flux and we will see what the future brings.

Compliments

Compliments are funny things. We all want compliments (probably), but it depends a lot on the situation. I think we tend to prefer compliments that reinforce our hard work towards some goal. If I work hard and get a good grade a compliment on my hard work means a lot more to me than a compliment about something I have no control over, like my eye color. I think this is why I’m always a little awkward when people compliment my eyes or my dog. These things are completely out of my control, unless what they are really saying is “congrats on not getting your eyes stabbed”. We like to think we are doing the right thing, compliments are often a way to tell someone you agree with them and recognize their hard work.

It gets more complicated in our society when it comes to our bodies. For example, I have a Facebook friend who has been working out more and sharing images of her progress. I will generally like these because I support people doing what they want, but I probably won’t ever give her a specific compliment on her body or progress. As someone who hasn’t met her in person I don’t think I have the social capital to compliment that. In addition, I am a male who is in an openish relationship, which means my interactions with women may be met with increased skepticism.

It sucks. I think it is a shame that all humans can’t openly and honestly compliment each other without any assumptions of ulterior motives, but that is the world we live in and we need to operate in reality. Of course, this would be a much smaller issue if we lived in a culture that wasn’t body-negative or sex-negative, and if friends and family saw each other nude more often to create a realistic view of what bodies look like.

Anyway, the world needs more compliments. We need to support each other as we try to better ourselves. Life is too short to be negative or try to tear each other down.

Empowerment

There is an image that has popped up on my Facebook newsfeed a lot recently that has me thinking. The image is a drawing of two people, one person is naked and the other person is fully dressed and has their head covered. It also says something along the lines of “Nudity empowers some women and modesty empowers other women”*. While this is rightfully targeted at women because women have traditionally been the ones who are classified a certain way by their appearance and had their clothing options chosen for them by patriarchal societies, I think it applies to all humans.

I’m not sure exactly how to define empowerment, but in this case it seems to be actions we take that give us confidence when dealing with the outside world. It gives us the strength to face the day and challenge anyone who would try to usurp our ownership of our own bodies. Empowerment is the choice we freely make with our own body, mind, and labor.

I don’t think it always comes easily though and empowerment, like many things in life, requires practice and discomfort. You can find the idea of being nude or modest to be empowering but lack the strength to exercise it yourself. Instead, it becomes easy to dress the way you are expected. If the concept of modesty is empowering to you that may be difficult if you feel that society and your social group expects you to show your skin. If the concept of being nude empowers you it may be difficult if you have friends or a culture that shames or imprisons people who show certain portions of their skin.

Thus, it requires practice and work to get to the point where you can freely do what empowers you. You must take babysteps… maybe you dress more modestly or nude at home first, then you take pictures alone, then you dress that way among close friends or send pictures to friends via Snapchat or Tumblr, then you go out in public where that dress is accepted, then places it isn’t accepted, etc etc etc. As you take steps towards your goal through areas that are uncomfortable because of societal norms you will push the boundaries. And, through some hard work, you will get to the point where you are comfortable in situations you never thought you would be.

Not only will you find out if a certain thing actually empowers you (it might not, but that’s okay, at least you tried it out instead of spending your life wondering “what if?”), but you will inspire your friends, family, and strangers. People will become more comfortable wearing clothes or not wearing clothes because of the example you set. They will see the humanity in your actions. Your body and clothing will show others that they can do what you do, they can be empowered, they can have strength when they pursue things outside of the norm.

 

* I don’t think there is one side of this coin that is better than the other. Nudity and modesty are up to the individual. I do think it is universally healthy to be comfortable with your own naked body when you are alone. Our bodies are the most amazing gift we have and we should try and love them. Personal body positivity is important and helps with increased self-confidence in other situations, even if you decide to keep your awesome body out of the public eye.

Towards Physical Potential

During the last couple of days I’ve been giving a lot of thought towards my post from Saturday. One thing I’ve been thinking about is how I was slightly dishonest in my original post. I talked a lot about wanting to be healthy and seeing what my body’s potential is at this time in life. Those things are true, as someone who thinks science will allow us to conquer death I need to be healthy enough to get to that point, and someday I won’t have an unaltered body and I think it’d be cool to see what she can do before robotics and computers start fusing with my biological shell.

Those two reasons aren’t the full truth, part of it is my desire to be considered more conventionally attractive and sexy. It is superficial, but it is true. I also realize my own discomfort with my body plays a part in that. I think that is partly why I will be taking and sharing nude photos during this experiment, hopefully seeing some photographic changes will encourage me to keep going and continue down my path to accept and love my body. And maybe it will also help someone else. When I share these photos on my blog I will put a content warning at the top and they will be at the very bottom of the post, just in case someone wants to read my updates but do not want to see me naked.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is how this would work and when I will start. It is tempting to wait until after the bike ride to start. To have a fresh point in which it begins without other things going on in my life. That is really a pipe dream, there will always be a reason to push it off another day, week, month, or year. The time will never be perfect to get things moving. So, I’m leaning towards starting this sooner rather than later, now I just got to figure out how I’m going to go about this experiment.

Measuring inputs and outputs to gather data (because gathering data makes me happy) is gong to be one of the major challenges when I do this from the road. Taking photos and doing measurements at least once a week is easy enough. Weighing myself on a scale is pretty difficult, but weight isn’t a measurement anyway. Internal vitals (blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc) are nearly impossible to do right now. I hate to start off without a baseline or any system in place to measure these things along the way, but maybe that type of in depth analysis will need to wait. It is also easy enough to get some measurements for how my physical strength has improved by taking an Army APFT every month or two to see how my push-ups, sit-ups, and 2-mile run has improved. I’ll probably throw pull-up in there for good measure.

The inputs are easier to track. It just takes some discipline to record what I do each hour, how much time I spend sitting, biking, meditating, exercising, what foods I eat, how much water I drink, etc. Ideally I’d record it all on my computer as I do it, but that could get cumbersome so I’ll probably use a notepad and enter it later into Cronometer.com and a shared excel document.

My food plan is pretty basic. I’m going to use the information from The Blue Zones solution to plot my meals. I am also limited to being vegan because of my ethics and being on the bike ride means I don’t have access to cooking or refrigeration. I’m basically stuck with produce, bread products, and canned goods. Luckily, that is all fairly healthy as long as I avoid junk food. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so that won’t be a huge problem. I’m not going to stick to a strict calorie limit, instead I will eat when I’m hungry and try to be aware of portions. Portioning is difficult for me, particularly on the bike ride. I end up being ravenous after biking and devour more food than my body needs. I like the idea of meditative eating where you focus on the act of eating and eat slowly, in my experience I enjoy food more when I do it this way and I don’t mindlessly snack or eat.

Here is a rough idea what my ideal daily schedule will look like, based on how I generally live on the bike ride:

  • 0700 hours: Wake, eat first meal (Bowl of oatmeal, piece of fruit, handful of almonds, coffee), 10 minutes of Sun Salutations, 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation, write blog post, pack up camp
  • 0900 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1000 hours: Hummus wrap with lots of veggies, piece of fruit
  • 1045 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1145 hours: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, 30 minutes exercise
  • 1245 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1345 hours:  Handful of almonds or energy bar, work for a couple hours, coffee
  • 1600 hours: Hummus wrap with lots of veggies
  • 1615 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1715 hours: Handful of almonds, 30 minutes of exercise
  • 1800 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1900 hours: Half a can of beans, lentils, or soup, hummus wrap with lots of veggies, set up camp, 10 minutes of yoga, push ups, plank

Now, I have the challenge of setting up an excel document to track everything. The big worry here is becoming a slave to the system and feeling like a failure if I miss a day or make a mistake or whatever. We will see how it goes, but I’m excited. I figure even if I only reach 50% of my input goals I will be moving in the right direction and that the project will be a success.

My photos will be shared here: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B-wiz3LAg756THI2dEs5S1BQQW8&usp=sharing

The excel document tracking everything is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-wiz3LAg756RnBCN1RrRUpERU0/view?usp=sharing

Too Many Paths

I am sometimes obsessed with finding ways to “hack” my life and make the most of it. I listen to podcasts like Tim Ferriss that have successful people who talk about ways they made their lives fulfilling. I listen to audiobooks that discuss nutrition, happiness, productivity, and sex. I research nootropics and fitness routines and the writing routines of successful authors. But, the more I research the less I tend to do. My wheel’s spin as I am overwhelmed with all the information available.

I think I have a problem with just “doing” in this area of my life. Most of the time I pick a plan that is “good enough” but for some reason I never actually commit to trying any of the plans others lay out. I realize that none of their plans will be perfect for me, but adopting a good plan and tweaking it over time is a better option than researching and reading and listening to plans until I die. I know this, but I still have a hard time sticking to something.

I’m not sure what the solution is. I know that if I pick some sort of plan (writing, fitness, meditation, life philosophy, etc) and try it out the odds are pretty good I will see some of the improvement that I want. If I don’t see any real improvement, then I can tweak the plan or abandon it for something else. I think the simplest plan is one mentioned by Isaac Morehouse with a Tim Ferriss tweak. I’m going to put simple systems in place that can train habits (Morehouse) and pick one bad habit every six months to work on removing (Ferriss). Instead of goals (do 50 push-ups a day) I’m going to have something broad like “do exercise daily”. Even if I only do one push-up right before bed that is considered a successful day. Hopefully, as the systems become habits I will become the person who can knock out 100 push-ups a day.

Here are the systems I’ve come up with. I am not going to start them all at once, instead just a couple at first and add more as the systems solidify.

  • Yoga or stretching daily
  • Meditation daily
  • Write daily
  • Exercise daily (does not include cycling)
  • Foreign language work daily
  • Bad Habit: Eliminate frivolous alcohol consumption within six months

I’ve made a handy excel document to track my daily progress on the two I’m choosing to start with (Yoga or stretching daily and writing daily). I don’t have an official goal, but I think I’d be happy with 80% success. Though, I don’t want to beat myself up or feel disappointed if I don’t reach an arbitrary number. The real goal is to improve myself, not try and perfect myself (which is impossible).