The Many Versions of You – Comparing Yourself to Others in a Healthier Way

The Many Versions of You – Comparing Yourself to Others in a Healthier Way

“Should you compare yourself to others when attempting self improvement?”

That’s what we debated this morning at the local coffee shop. It started because a young guy said, “I try not to compare myself to other people” – his intention was to imply that you are somehow a better person if you don’t. It was some sort of pop-culture, Buddhist-like reaction. It’s common wisdom right?

When, I heard him say this, I thought silently to myself, that’s interesting, because I don’t even know how to make that delineation anymore. I think comparison is fundamental to self improvement. Whether it’s working out, learning a new subject or just attempting to become a better person (Buddhism anyone?). Here’s why…

A long time ago, I realized that the old me and the current me are not the same person. This sounds completely obvious at first, but a bit crazy when put it into action. It all started when I was documenting things for work early in my career. I would write something down, and then months or years later, I would read it again because the task needed done again. As soon as I’d look at it, I’d say to myself, “Who the heck wrote this? It doesn’t give any of the detail necessary to complete this task, much less modify the task for a new situation with any sort of confidence.” My first reaction was to be annoyed by the utter lack of foresight that “old me” had when he wrote it. I remember thinking, that guy was selfish, lazy, and didn’t write it all down. But, that guy was me, so I only had me to blame.

Then I realized, okay, I have to actually come up with a technique to help the future me who won’t be able to remember all of the things that I remember right now. I need to write to the future me and fill in the gaps so that when he reads it, he says “oh, this is pretty easy to do. I see all the backstory. I see why, I see how. I see how this other piece works that interacts with it.” I wanted future me to say to himself, “old me, you were pretty damn good!” 🙂

This thinking technique gives future you the warm and fuzzy feeling. Future you is very similar to a completely different person because you’re not going to be current you in two years when you read that documentation. This also serves as a good foundation for writing to others – though, I have found it’s always easier to write to future me because I have learned how my own brain forgets things. I have gotten to know future me pretty well, really well.

So, this led to the epiphany this morning while debating, that you’re really only ever you for a moment. The duration of “current you” is seconds at best. Ever forget what you were in the middle of doing? The old you is not the same as the current you. The current you is not the same as the future you. The only real you is the current you, so living in the present, as Buddhists say, is really the only thing that’s real – and also, quite logical.

So when you think about self improvement, you need a frame of reference – current you – you’re really comparing “current you” to a potential “future you.” The goal of self improvement is to ensure “future you” becomes something better. Basically, “current you” and “future you” are two different people. For any self improvement to happen, you’re really always comparing yourself to somebody else.

So, I don’t know how to separate future me, and past me from other people – logically, it’s similar.

Fine, then it’s OK to compare yourself to other people, but we all know there’s a healthy way and an unhealthy way. Well, first off, don’t take it to the extreme – to where you feel bad about how you’re performing now because of how the old person used to perform. Also, don’t feel bad because you want to perform better in the future and you can’t do it now. That’s the same as looking at some other guy at the gym who’s lifting more weight than you, and feeling bad about it. Don’t do that.

Conversely, don’t look over at a guy that’s not picking up as much weight and feel better than him, because that’s an unhealthy comparison because you’re only “current you” for a moment. Today, tomorrow or next month you could be injured, paralyzed, or find out you have cancer. Being competitive to the point of feeling superior will burn you, here’s why…

You’re really a summation of all of those past versions of you – you quite possibly will become the future you when you’re 70 and you won’t be able to do it anymore. Too young, too old, it has happened and will happen to all of us. Period. Let that sink in. Prepare for it. Really, just remember that the present you is composed of all these other yous that are in the past and future.

Now take it to another level, when you look over at the person at the gym next to you. Realize that they are… their past, current and future them. Don’t compare your current you to their current them because both of you are so much more than that. There’s no point taking the comparison to an unhealthy place where you’re thinking you’re better or worse than them. Think about it, they were a past them at some point and they weren’t able to pick up that weight, run as far, and didn’t know as much. Or if you feel better than them, just remember someday they might get better, and they might be able to kick your butt.

So, today, I tell you to break two Buddhist rules – live in the past, present, and future as well as feel free to compare yourself to other people – just do it in a healthy way. Think with more dimensions, this is a gift that, as far as we know, only Homo Sapiens has – use it. You will go through periods in your own life when you can and can’t do certain things, whether it’s learning, strength training, running or just walking. Accept that and live in the current you. Once you start thinking about it dimensionally, thinking about all the versions of you and them, the comparisons become a lot more healthy.

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Body Hacking – Most Business Travelers Are Body Builders, They Just Don’t Know it

Body Hacking – Most Business Travelers Are Body Builders, They Just Don’t Know it

If you are a road warrior, you have probably never thought of yourself as a body builder. But, if you have ever wanted loose weight, you probably are body builder and just don’t know it. For a long, long time, I hated the idea. I loathed it . Eventually, I I learned to embrace it because body builders know how to loose weight better than anyone. Here’s why. Physical fitness and looks are two separate things. One is mostly governed by how hard you work out, the other by diet. One is mostly governed by training program, the other by social perception. Mostly….

Sure, they are related statistically, but any individual can have a completely different physical relationship between the two. You could be the big guy with a belly roll, and still out sprint a smaller guy. You could have better cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, strength, explosive power, and speed – and, still have a deposit of fat around your midsection. Statistically, high body fat relates to health problems and lower performance, but specific individuals, who train really hard, but still eat like crazy, can crush performance and be healthy. On the other hand, you could have a very good diet, look very healthy, barely work out, be weak, slow, and have barely any endurance. That’s because fitness and looks are two completely different aspects to general health and general fitness.

They are related, but not 100%..

To get to the elite levels of fitness (competitive sport level) or elite levels of body shape (body building) you absolutely have to do both. But, as a regular business person with a sedentary job, you can surely have a decent, healthy combination of both. So, if you weigh 260 lbs and want to weigh 180 lbs or weigh 160 lbs and want to weigh 130 lbs, you will have to adopt the methods of a bodybuilder. You will have to count calories, you will have to “cut” as they say in body building. Trust me, they know how to do this, they have been doing it since the 1950s. If your goal is to lose weight, you have to cut. Cutting is a technique which focuses on reducing body fat. The goal of reducing body fat is primarily to change how you look and feel, not how you perform. Your performance may increase, it may not. You might lose strength, but you might get faster because you’re lighter. It will all depend.

Decide what your goals are. Do you want to look “better” (your perception, or the world’s perception?) or do you want to perform better? Embrace your goals, don’t feel bad about yourself. Don’t underestimate yourself. If you do let yourself feel bad or underestimate yourself, you will just waste precious time in life – waffling. So, grab your belly roll if you got one and and tell yourself, “this is just for looks” – if you care about looks, adopt the art of the body builder. If you don’t care, embrace it. If you want to build muscle and have fun, lift weights. If you want to run faster, practice sprinting. If you want to run further, build up distance in practice If your goal is medical health, it will take a combination of nutrition and exercise.

Fitness, looks, and health are all different things. They are different physical goals. At he elite levels, they are particularly related, but at normal human levels there is a lot of leeway. So, the next time you look at some bigger guy or girl walking down the street, try not to judge them, they just might kick your butt in a sprint or out run you in a distance race. Never judge physical fitness by their physique.

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Body Hacking – While Being a Road Warrior

Body Hacking – While Being a Road Warrior

I recently read Road Warriors – Healthy Tips for Staying ‘On Plan’ by Steve Katasi and thought it was really good. We have developed a lot of the same strategies. I wanted to point people towards it and add a few additions:

  • 1.1: Snacks: there are a TON of good options for protein bars, and powders. Also, many gas stations have Muscle Milk or other protein drinks. Just pay attention to nutrition labels. A lot of them are more junk than food. Remember macros, macros, macros.
  • 2.2: Make Hotel Gym a Must Have Criteria: Calisthenics can be done at any gym. There are progressive overload techniques for calisthenics, so for a day or two trip, this can work.
  • 2.3: Better Still – Access to Commercial Gym: I would go a step further than Steve does. Not only are external gyms better equipped, they can be destinations in and of themselves. I love working out in other countries. Japan, Belgium, and Czech Republic have all been extremely interesting – each country has it’s own gym culture. Also, many major cities have amazing old school gyms. In Dallas once, I went to Doug’s Gym (see picture) – it was an old gym opened in the 70s after the owner won the lottery. It reminded me of Rocky I. Find an awesome gym, it’s totally motivational.
  • 2.4: Lower Workout Expectations: I don’t completely agree on this one. Generally, I find having a keel to your workout programming helps keep you on track. For me, that is Wendler 5/3/1. I also have days for conditioning, Yoga, running, and other accessory work. I prefer to program the flexibility into my routine. Then, when traveling it makes it easier to stay on the program. Even a 20-30 minute run mixed in can help, bu that’s part of my program. I don’t recommend lowering your expectation, I recommend having harder and lighter days. Count the travel days as lighter days in the program.
  • 5.4 Avoid Crappy Sandwiches: I COMPLETELY disagree with this point. Food is Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat. While, I can absolutely feel it when I eat high glycemic index foods (I can feel the hunger strike harder), this is nothing more than an optimization. Also, when you eat a sandwich, just drink a protein shake, and maybe a high fiber bar (there are plenty). As long as you mix a high protein source and some fiber (which is a carb), you will feel fine and be totally fine. Also, there is NO evidence that Gluten is universally inflammatory. In fact, it’s recommended that you should eat gluten, unless you are sensitive to it. Read more here and here.
  • 5.4: Good Protein – Rich Breakfast: Again, a mix of science and fact. I absolutely agree that breakfast is the meal to get things going in the right direction and in fact, it’s the best one to start with a strong protein macro count. That said, there is NO factual evidence that skipping it matters for calorie control. That is a myth. In fact, the latest science basically says that meal timing is irrelevant. Three medium sized meals, five, small meals, 47 tiny snacks. It all works. See more here and here.

My few disagreements aside, I think his article has some really great tips and tricks…. Good luck, and keep hacking…

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Netflix – Technology Wizards or Good Content?

I love the content they produce like Orange is the New Black, Narcos, Stranger Things, and House of Cards. But, remember back to before Netflix produced this content? They were struggling with subscribers, under attack from cable companies, and their future looked very, very uncertain. So, how did they turn the ship around?

They started producing their own content. And, let’s be clear – software engineering at Netflix did not make that decision. This is a quintessential “business decision.” This was a decision to create value for their market – people who watch content through the Internet. They were a content distributor and they decided to enter an adjacent market – content creation.

Yet, time and time again Netflix is referenced as some kind of technology wizards, contributing the OSS Stack, moving to the cloud for almost everything, hiring only the best and the brightest.

They are held in high regard for “disrupting” the cable industry – but, for the wrong reasons. It’s not their technology that is their differentiated value proposition to the market. It is their cunning move to create content akin to HBO. At the same time, this places them in a stronger position to negotiate better contracts for their distribution business.

I would argue that they have succeeded, not because of their technology, but despite it. Their end user experience is rather lacking, yet they keep attracting and retaining subscribers. Here’s a few examples.

1. They finally, just recently added the ability to download movies and watch them offline. Even now, not all content can be downloaded, even some they produced, which makes no sense to me. Google Play and Amazon Prime have had this since almost the beginning of their service, yet nobody hails them as some great innovators.

2. It takes forever when you rewind or fast-forward. Again, Google Play and Amazon Prime both have smoother, better experiences.

3. Subtitles get blocked when the video is paused. Something thst is just really annoying when the reason that you paused it is so that you can read it slower.

So, the next time you hear somebody call Netflix a technology company, just quote their own CEO:

We spend money more like a media company than a tech company

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Wisdom in Primates – The Four Branches

Wisdom in Primates – The Four Branches

Have you ever looked over at someone and seen them doing some fairly impressive physical or mental feat? You might day to yourself, wow, I don’t know if I can do that?

The other day, I was taking a yoga class, and I noticed a new student next to me bending all the way down until her elbows were touching the ground. I thought to myself, she doesn’t seem to have a lot of experience doing yoga. In fact, she seemed somewhat uncoordinated. I was kind of impressed. I thought to myself, ahh to be young again.

When you’re young, you just “do” stuff. You are either able to do it or you’re not, but you have the urge to try it. Let’s do backflips off the 20ft bridge into the water below. Let’s ride 50 miles. Let’s hike 20 miles. No problem, when you’re young, life just kinda happens.

As you age, you might become more sophisticated in your analysis. When you see something cool that you want to try, you might come to any of the following conclusions:

  1. I have never been able to do that and will most likely never be able to do it in the future either.
  2. I used to be able to that when I was younger, but I can’t do that anymore. I will probably never be able to do it that again.
  3. I used to be able to do that when I was younger, but I can’t do that anymore. I might be able to do that again, if I focus, and move like a plant.
  4. I can do that now and execute it like a tiger.

So, the next time you see somebody doing something cool and you kinda want to try it, put it in one of the four branches. Move like a plant, or move like a tiger, but may you never confuse the two. Bring clarity to your mind and consciously choose the path of the plant or the tiger. Pluck the strawberry and eat it…

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The Tiger and The Bonsai

The Tiger and The Bonsai

Your body has two ways that it can move. Like a tiger and like a bonsai plant. Tigers move quickly, striking their prey. Bonsai plants move slowly, over time, growing towards the Sun.

Humans do both. We run, jump, try new things, sing, and play music we already know. We enact these movements from instinct and muscle memory like a tiger. We are most comfortable with the satisfaction of these quick movements – we understand their outcomes better and can see the results immediately.

We also go into a calorie deficit to lose weight, we lift weights to stimulate muscle growth. We do Yoga to increase our flexibility. But, each of these changes is slow like a plant.

These movements are inextricably connected. If you run a mile, 50 times, over six months, you will, over time, slowly get faster. Same with weights – you will get stronger. Same with diet – your body composition will change. Same with education.

The fast actions influence the slow actions, and the slow actions affect the fast actions. Over and over and over until we grow towards the Sun, or we are eaten by the tiger….

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Three Unexpected Benefits of Losing 35 lbs

Three Unexpected Benefits of Losing 35 lbs

About a year and a half ago, I started on a journey to loose 35 pounds. When I started, like many people, I just had this nagging feeling that I needed to loose some weight and do more for my health. I had no idea how far this would go to changing my life forever. I want to quickly share a few unexpected thing that happened:

1. Everything is more fun. I am way more flexible. Bending down doesn’t bother me anymore. Getting up off the ground is way easier. Walking for an hour in the mall doesn’t hurt my back anymore. Pull-ups are way easier. Squats are easier. When I am snowboarding, it’s so much easier to do jumps, etc. I just have more fun doing anything physical, even workouts.

2. It’s changed my view on aging. I feel younger. I am less scared to try new things. My posture is better. My gait when I walk is better. I look better – and my clothes actually fit me. I noticed that I am more playful during physical activity – watch young people, they trip their friends, they make unnecessary moves when walking, they throw rocks and bang sticks – that’s back. People tell me I look younger. I rather like that part 🙂

3. I have a renewed sense of being able to change things in my life. It’s difficult to admit, but I remember looking down at my stomach as it slowly grew year after year, thinking to myself, I guess this is just part of getting older – I guess I will just never look and feel like I did when I was younger. I was resigned to it. Sure, I had seen “before & after” photos of people loosing weight, but that seemed distant and unreal. About a year into my journey, I had lost 4″ off my waist and 30+ lbs. I realized I needed new shirts, pants, and suits – which startled me. I hadn’t planned for that. Let that sink in. I hadn’t planned for it because, when I started, I didn’t really believe I could loose the weight. That hurt when I realized it. I don’t know what new goals I will set in the coming years, but I have a stoic feeling I can achieve unknown things.

All of these little things add up. Together, they have made me feel a lot happier day to day. So, if you felt like I did and you are sick of it, here’s how I started my journey. For me, it started as an experiment – now I know I will do this for the rest of my life. I never want to gain the weight back – ever.

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