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I was recently offered boxes of books. Specifically they were boxes of books from my
childhood, teen years, and twenties.
These books have resided in boxes at my parents’ house through a couple
of moves, so not only are the books old, they are well-traveled. My primary concern with taking ownership of
long-abandoned boxes of books hinges largely on the the lack of bookshelf space
for them. Over the past half decade plus
I have built a space for books in my life which centers on the idea that the
vast majority of my books will either live on the Web (which in this case means
almost always Amazon’s Kindle, but increasingly may be also Amazon’s Audible or
even Google Play Books), or they will live in my local library, where I can
retrieve the physical book or the ebook on demand. I have bought physical books for only one
reason in recent years – because I read the ebook or listened to the audiobook
and then decided I wanted to share it with others. My bookshelves have no book more recent than
10+ years ago, and mostly center around a few favorites I find hard to dispose of,
ranging from the sublime (Gibran, Vonnegut) to the ridiculous but sentimental
(Battlefield Earth – ignore the movie, the book is EVERYTHING good about
I personally have a tough time with paper
books because it’s so much more convenient to have them as e-books, AND I have
a library, AND I have no bookshelf space.
I was watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix (yes, I am one of THOSE people). I had read her book but seeing it in practice was much more impactful. Pull all your “stuff” into a pile and then one by one decide if it “brings you joy” and if not, discard it. I thought that sounded quite hokey and new-age-y but then I thought about it and realized that’s probably true, and the reactions of the people on the show just reconfirmed that. It’s much like what I imagine “death cleaning” (another trendy concept recently) to be – a general sloughing off of possessions as if you had died. Now, there is the model where you, as a pharaoh, collect all this stuff and put it in the tomb with you. However, we are not pharaohs (at least I am not, maybe you have higher aspirations than I do) and do not have an endless storage space, so anything that’s not going to improve your life by owning it is probably pointless. Sadly this is 99% of the books I own – most of which I never intend to read again. It is too bad there is no wholesale way to pull your books from paper into digital ownership somehow. Amazon has a program to do so with some books but it is just cut rates, not free.
It’s hard! The yin and yang of “keep it
in case someday because frugal and reduce/reuse/recycle” vs “well,
this is just gathering dust and making my life about the maintenance of THINGS
rather than living” is a hard call. I struggle with it and have no
coherent set of personal rules for it. Sadly.
But I do know that I have seldom regretted moving towards less.
I have kept a journal on an irregular basis
since I was about 10 years old. I don’t
claim any sort of amazing foresight or discipline in doing this. I’d attribute it mainly to the fact that I
talk a lot but can also (sometimes) recognize when I’ve finally worn my
listeners out. I probably turned at age
10 to writing in a journal to spill out the REST of my thoughts. Whether that lessened my verbal output is
doubtful, but on and off I’ve kept it up over the years and that has provided a
lot of insight as I flounder through middle age.
Journalling, along with meditation, appear to
the be the trendy ‘mindfulness’ activities circa 2018-19. It’s clear that taking some time for SELF
reflection in the era of social media has value. I can’t tell you where I heard the idea that
Facebook is everyone’s highlight reel first, but that’s it – it forces an
artificial positivity to writing, which doesn’t allow for examination of
failures and sadnesses. Sure, people
will mention their cat died or that they felt crummy, but typically you won’t
wrestle with purpose or mortality on Facebook.
Journaling and meditation let you do that. If you begin to write with the idea that
no-one – not friends, not family, maybe not even you – will ever read it, it’s
freeing. I am always surprised what ends
up on the page.
I wrote on paper for 10 years. At one point, I was using an Excel
spreadsheet, believe it or not. Now I
use an app, although I wonder if that’s ideal, since it FEELS a lot like
posting on Twitter or Facebook. But the
idea, regardless of the medium, is that each day I try to make a brief summary
of the activities of the day and how I felt about those activities. It’s not that easy. Pick up a piece of paper write now, and write
a few sentences describing your day and how you felt. I find that the overwhelming feeling is usually
“eh, OK” or whatever you’d like to call that emotion. Oscar Wilde says it this way: “To live is the rarest thing in the
world. Most people exist, that is all.”
Journalling can point to the fact that you are, in fact, just
existing. I struggle to write on the
days I simply exist. I would argue this
is the greatest single reason to journal – to separate the transcendent from
the mundane, in an honest fashion, in a way that writing on social media
cannot. This blog post is almost like a
public journal entry in that I could not have told you that’s where I would end
up in a post talking about the benefits of journaling, but here I am. Writing allows you to put a filter on your
experience, and to use that filter to determine when you are alive. But that filter is harder to expose in
public. My advice? Pick up a blank notebook and write down how
you feel right now, and see where that leads.
I read a lot of self-improvement, self-help, whatever you call the body of work that’s specifically about improving the individual (as opposed to something more general, like a book on how to cook). Articles, books, blogs, etc. I listen to podcasts, watch vlogs – I consume a lot of it. Some of this is self-improvement tourism, the idea that you improve yourself simply by learning about ideas and actions that you may or may not put in place. Some is genuine desire to learn about how great achievers managed to do what they did (reading about Benjamin Franklin or Elon Musk). But one of the key things I’ve taken away from all of them is that motivation is worthless in and of itself. This flies in the face of the “pursue your passion” thinking so prevalent on the startup/millenial focused internet.
Discipline equals freedom.
A couple of years ago, I found myself in a mess. Back out of shape (I’ve been through THAT before), struggling with a career that had seemed headed in a good direction (I left a consulting career to pursue the “heights” of corporate America, again) and just a general struggle with daily existence. I read a short article talking about the commencement speech Navy Adm. William H. McCraven gave at his alma mater, the University of Texas, in 2014. You’re probably familiar with it by now, it’s entered the public awareness, but he basically told grads to start the day making their beds. The reason is simple: discipline will MAKE motivation. Motivation is worthless, in the long run.
Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.
This was certainly true for me. I started making the bed every day, but that wasn’t the root habit that really turned things around for me. What did was doing one pushup every morning. I didn’t shoot for anything more than the consistency of doing one. If I was running late, sick, unmotivated (!), whatever… do one pushup. And at first, that one pushup was a struggle. When you’ve hit a skid in life where most of your actions are driven by reaction rather than purpose, anything in the morning feels like an obligation you’d skip if possible. But if you do one pushup a few days in a row, one day you’ll do it without thinking. One day you’ll forget and abashedly drop down to the floor and do one on your way out the door. And miraculously, one day you’ll do a second one.
Discipline is the difference between what you want now and what you want most.
Why do we want anything? I’ve thought about this, as we all do, and I come back to a couple of conclusions. One is grand and theoretical, and the other is simple and practical. The former is that we want the continued existence of the species (I’m not talking about biological necessarily, but just that we want to advance humankind in some form, by reproducing, creating a new vaccine, building a rocket ship, etc. etc.). The latter is simply being happy. Discipline achieves both. By applying discipline in the form of a pushup, I reclaimed my health, focus, and yes, motivation, which is only worthless as a means of starting to do things. I apply this concept of discipline first, motivation second to most of my lifestyle design these days, and it works wonder. Remove the element of requiring motivation and apply the structure of discipline to most aspects of your life and you’ll see results. Do one pushup every morning. See what happens.
I entered accounting for a simple reason. Having spent time in Germany during high school as an exchange student, I wanted to get back. I realized two semesters into my mathematics PhD that getting a PhD in math was clearly not going to help me achieve this goal. I also thought that it wouldn’t achieve another goal, which I believe at the time was critical: making money. So I dropped out my PhD program and spent a long time trying to come up with a list of career paths that would make money and let me live a jet-setting life. Be careful what you wish for.
My MBA helped me achieve one of my goals:I lived the jet-set lifestyle. I traveled for ten years to all corners of the globe – from Siberia to Indonesia to South America to Boston (Boston was colder than Siberia). I made a lot of money. I thought this was what a career was, and by any measure I was quite successful. I zipped right up the corporate ladder and thought the progression up was itself purpose and goal, wrapped into one.
During that time I had one – 1 – boss I liked working for, out of maybe 5 or 6. That’s not a good ratio. A saying I heard once – I wish I remember where – was that the only common element in all of your bad relationships is you, so I’m sure that some of the bosses weren’t bad – I was just a bad employee. That may be. I always had the skills to do the job, and I did my job well (at least that’s what my performance reviews and clients always said). But something was wrong, and it got worse as time went by. That’s when I realized that the net enjoyment I was getting out of my job had turned negative. Long hours, tense relationships with bosses, and a stressful profession started taking their toll. After I got married I knew things had to change.
I like to think of myself as a risk-taker when it comes to my career, and yet at the same time I am risk-averse. I abruptly changed career paths in college, going from a mathematics PhD program to an MBA program. I went to live and work in Russia during the chaotic 90s. I have worked on audits and frauds where I had bodyguards to protect me. But I hated taking risks and my risk-taking muscle atrophied over the years – or maybe it just got strained from overwork. I wasn’t ready to leap from paycheck world to entrepreneurial world, so I took a halfway step, going to contract consulting. I just couldn’t imagine going further, even though I wanted to – badly.
In retrospect this was a mistake. The early aughts (whatever we’re going to end up calling this decade) were a good time to take a chance. My wife was still working, we didn’t have kids yet and the market favored individuals, not companies. Most importantly, I needed to do something different. If I learned one thing from my half-hearted shift to consulting, it is this little nugget, oft-repeated and seldom heeded:
THERE WILL NEVER BE A BETTER TIME TO MAKE BIG CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE/CAREER/HEALTH/WEALTH/ETC. THAN RIGHT NOW.
Don’t think that next year will be the year you can finally get fit, or get out of this dead-end job, or start paying down that debt, or get around to skydiving or writing that novel or having kids or…well, whatever. It is time-worn advice, and I know many people (including me) dismiss it – eh, I’ve got the thing coming up with the people and the stuff… maybe tomorrow I’ll get on it.
I knew I was sick of corporate life. I knew I didn’t want to do it anymore. I still don’t. I have not missed it at all. I thought I might be more nervous, or miss the interaction or the environment but I don’t. At all. And I can pinpoint the moment at which I got sick of working in this environment – the moment at which the net enjoyment went from positive to negative for the first time. You want to know the awful answer?
My first week at work after I graduated from college.
As I said, there were points when I was traveling to places I never would have gone (or chosen to go) when I was deeply grateful for my job. But I could have spent my time earning less money and taking more time off as a teacher after getting a math PhD and traveling (on a budget, admittedly) to the same places. Traveling for business took me to some neat places, but some – like Warsaw, for example – I remember in conference rooms and hotel rooms and hotel bars and restaurants. Many nights I ate dinner at 10 pm in the Warsaw Sheraton at the bar after another 16 hour day. The only time I ever got to “see” Warsaw was when I took a day off after three weeks of 16 hour days to spend time with a former colleague of mine and her sister. I saw the city for the first time after working there for three months.
But the big paychecks and the big travel and the big meetings all failed to deliver net enjoyment. I realized that I enjoy being at home most of the time, reading, writing, learning and maybe even playing. I know the pay’s not as good, but the net benefit to me is tremendous. The net benefit to my family is significant. I took risks to leave the US and work in a chaotic and dangerous country (at least, it was then) once before. Should I be scared to leave the corporate world? Yes, but that shouldn’t stop me. I left behind hundreds of colleagues who are OK with that kind of work – the pay makes it worth it, or the sense of self-worth from working on Wall Street or just the opportunity to get away from home a few days a week. Not for me, and if it’s not for you, you shouldn’t wait until the perfect time to make a change either.
What are the best subjects to learn for business – and life – success? If anyone sat down to identify the perfect secondary (and maybe college) education, I doubt they would come up with today’s average American curriculum. While there are plenty of courses in basic skills (reading, writing, mathematics, and so on) many other just as critical basic skills are overlooked (personal finance, homemaking, health/physical education). What are some of the critical components missing from our national curriculum?
From my own personal experience, I can suggest a few, but there are probably many more you can think of easily. I could also bash a few courses I took, but an argument can always be made for “knowledge for knowledge’s sake.” I believe that sincerely. I have never, for example, “used” A Tale of Two Cities in my day-to-day life, but I’m glad I was forced to read it, stuck with it and finished it. Experiences like that created a love of reading for me. Other subjects I guess can be chalked up to “generally good to know although not terribly useful.” For me this included subjects like biology and mythology (one semester of “English” was actually spent studying mythology, which apparently means “Greek mythology” since we didn’t study anything else (not even the excellent D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths). While those subjects were sometimes interesting, I didn’t learn much from either except that I don’t like biology and that you shouldn’t steal fire from the gods.
Here are a few subjects that are very useful, and why:
1. Typing. Out of all of the courses I’ve taken in my life, this one has made the most profound difference in my daily life. I took a typing course in high school, back when it meant learning to pound out “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” 500 times on a MANUAL typewriter. However, the experience taught me how to type, and very, very well, which means I can blaze away typing even while carrying on a conversation or reading something else. I doubt I have to explain to anyone who uses a computer why lightning-fast typing speed is useful.
2. Speech. I took a public speaking class that changed my life. Before that class, like everyone, I was nervous about speaking. After it, I was still nervous, but I learned that it was a temporary nervousness and that anything was possible. We had to give speeches to groups, recite monologues, debate, take questions and almost any type of “speaking in front of a crowd” activity you can think of. To this day I am relaxed and confident speaking to any group; I have addressed 2000 people or 10 board directors or 1 interviewer with equal calm.
3. Personal finance. I didn’t ever take a personal finance course, and I wish I had. Everything I learned about finance before college came from my parents, my grandparents about money, part 1 | brip blap or my own reading. A course that taught me things they weren’t as familiar with or not as proficient with – real estate dealings come to mind – would have been a great learning experience for me. That having been said, I’m sure personal finance would use textbooks sponsored by Capital One and tout the benefit of home equity loans to consolidate credit card debt.
4. Physical education. As a varsity athlete I was exempt from physical education, but I wish I hadn’t been. Learning to do some very basic “normal” training would have been helpful. I focused all of my energy on preparation for one sport (tennis) rather than general fitness. This had disastrous results later in life.
5. Homemaking. Don’t laugh. I think learning how to cook could save this country billions in health care costs. Imagine if people could actually prepare healthy food at home. My mother is a terrific cook, and I never had any motivation throughout high school to learn how to cook. I went straight from there to a fraternity house where meals were provided. When I finally started living on my own, my gourmet best was frozen pizza…
6. Civics. I took a civics course, but it was ridiculous. My wife, who is an immigrant, was required to undergo detailed testing before she obtained US citizenship on the Constitution, US history and civic life. Now, it may not be necessary for everyone in this country to know how many Congressmen there are or how many Supreme Court justices there are (although they should) but everyone should know the Bill of Rights and their civic duties (jury duty and so on).
Optional Bonus #7:A foreign language. Now, many people might disagree with me on this suggestion, and of course many people feel a certain nationalistic need to defend English as “America’s language” or French as “Belgium’s language” or whatever. I don’t really think most people need to become fluent in a foreign language, and I’ve been a great proponent of the world agreeing on a true lingua franca – a second language everyone would learn. As of today, that language might be English – it’s fairly easy to learn and already quite widespread. But 100 years from now it might be Portuguese, or Spanish. Who knows, who cares. The point is that foreign languages open up your mind. Studying a foreign language helps you understand that different people think differently. That’s invaluable, in my opinion. My life so far has taken a vastly different direction than it might have thanks to my study of foreign languages – especially Russian. You can see why by reading an old post of mine, “boosting your career with an overseas stint“.
You could go on, but these are some basic courses that would make a big difference in the US population. They are not taught often enough, and it’s a shame they aren’t. I am amazed to this day when I see people hunt-and-peck on the keyboard – not because I blame them, but because that’s not a basic required course for graduation from high school today. The same goes for the other 5 subjects up there. It’s hard to say when they will be required – or if they ever will be – but we can hope.
Owning your own business can be both challenging and rewarding. There are some things that you will want to consider before taking the plunge and opening your own business, especially if you are new to working for yourself. Here are some of the basic rewards and concerns that most new business owners have experienced.
Becoming the Boss
Working as your own boss is one of the pros of owning your own business. You may find that you like going to work every day when you are the one in charge of running the operation. Being the boss is also challenging, no matter what the size or type of business you are working in. You will be the person that has to deal with any problems and will need to multi-task throughout the day to ensure all of the details are taken care of. It does take a lot of commitment to become the owner of a small business.
Business owners are among the busiest of all employees. You are the person that deals with customers, employees, production, and may be in charge or hiring and firing employees. If you are just beginning a small business, it does take a little time to adjust to all of the demands of owning a business. Of course, being your own boss and making all the decisions are also very rewarding, as well.
Owning your own business can be very time consuming. As the boss, you may find that you need to spend more hours at work than ever before. being able to make most of the decisions does mean that you are responsible for the outcome, but it also means that you are able to enjoy the rewards, too. If you think that owning a business will allow you to just hire someone to do your work, the truth is that you will be disappointed. Working hard is the key to making your business successful.
Once you business has become successful, however, you may find you get to work less and enjoy more time away from work. Having a business that runs smoothly is the ultimate reward, since you have less to worry about and more time to enjoy the profits of your business.Since you are in charge, however, you also get to determine your earnings.
Along with being your own boss, you also get to decide how important profits are. While you may not get a traditional salary when you own your own business, you do get to determine how much money you make. With a successful business, the profits can quickly become surprisingly high. If you are committed to making your business successful, you can easily meet your goals to earn more profits than you have ever imagined. With the right business plan and some hard work, you can see a small business blossom into a booming enterprise.
The more profits that you earn, the more you have to enjoy. While you do have to pay the overhead for your business establishment and your employees, the profits are all yours to keep. You can decide where your profits go, too, whether you choose to expand your business or you want to begin saving for retirement. All of the responsibility are yours when you own your own business, but so are all the profits. You may decide that running a small business is something that pay off well in long-term rewards, despite the many challenges that you face.
Your Personal Beliefs
Another benefit of owning your own business is that you can meet and exceed your personal expectations for running a business. For example, if you are concerned about the environment you can begin selling eco-friendly alternatives to products that are popular on the market today or you can use Earth friendly manufacturing practices. Owning your own business is a wonderful way to ensure your personal expectations for quality and customer service are met. You also get to decide the type of business you own, with choices that range from service based to manufacturing.
Making all of the decisions takes some time to become accustomed to, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t own your own business. After a few weeks of running your own business, you will find that it becomes much simpler and less time consuming than you may have expected. There are many benefits to owning your own business, so don’t be intimidated by the challenges that you will face along the way. You will eventually be able to relax and enjoy more profits for much less work than you could have ever anticipated.
A credit check is a major obstacle that so many borrowers never manage to overcome. So many lenders have impossibly high standards for lending, and that’s one of the reasons why getting credit has never been more difficult. But do all lenders perform credit checks for their loans?
You might be surprised at the answer.
Why Do Lenders Have an Obsession with Credit Checks
It seems that every lender has an obsession with the credit score. This arbitrary number on the screen is influenced by a number of factors but is supposed to symbolize whether someone presents a lending risk. Low credit scores can indicate that someone has failed to pay back money in the past. But someone can also have a low credit score simply because they haven’t borrowed often enough. Lenders like to use credit checks because they require no effort on their part. They don’t need to investigate into an applicant’s history, which saves them a lot of time.
Do All Lenders Use Credit Checks?
Not all lenders use credit checks. You can find some online loans with no credit check. Some lenders have determined that credit checks aren’t an accurate reflection of someone’s ability to pay the money back. If someone entered bankruptcy eight or nine years ago, it could be the case that they’ve completely changed their behaviors. They aren’t the same person as before. These lenders realize people change and use alternate means to assess someone’s credit worthiness:
Salary – The more you make the more you can repay every month, in theory. It’s one of the main alternate factors used by lenders.
Stability – Lenders want to see that borrowers have a stable career. Someone who switches jobs constantly may find themselves without an income for a certain length of time, and that could impact their ability to pay.
Age – Age is a direct link to stability. The young are less likely to have a stable career and so are considered to present more of a risk, for example.
What’s the Catch with a No Credit Check Loan
No credit check loans work in exactly the same way as a conventional loan. You borrow the money for a specific period of time and then pay the money back. The difference is with a no credit check loan interest rates may be slightly higher or there may be other conditions attached. Some lenders may require you to put up collateral. Other lenders may want you to have a guarantor. But in general the interest rates will be higher and you may be able to borrow less.
Are No Credit Check Loans Better
It depends on what someone means when they refer to them as ‘better’. It’s true that if you have a poor credit score your options are always going to be limited. But no credit check loans fill a gap in the market. They provide funding to those who wouldn’t otherwise stand a chance of getting a loan. Loans like the payday loan can even provide borrowers with the money they need within 24 hours. However, they’re far more dangerous if you miss out on the repayments because the interest rates are so high.
What Would We Recommend
You can always use no credit check loans if you have a poor credit score and you need the money fast. However, you should always be looking to improve your credit score. Borrowers with better credit scores have access to lower interest rates, larger amounts, and lower repayments.
No credit check loans do exist and they’re an excellent tool if you don’t have a good credit score at your disposal. But you should still be looking to improve your credit score at the same time.
This is more an attempt to write at least once in 2016, if nothing else. I said in one of my “recent” posts that much of my writing had gone on to other mediums, such as Facebook, but increasingly I’ve found that’s inauthentic writing. When I write for Facebook, or other social media, my writing is more of a random offloading of “I read this article 8 seconds ago and want to express an opinion” type of writing. The genuine type of writing I used to do here seems – to me as a stranger reading my own posts from 10-ish years ago – more authentic.
In a sense, that’s the unfortunate thing about the social media age. Facebook and Twitter are places to express thoughts in the moment. My personal journal is the place to be truly authentic with thoughts in the long span of a lifetime. Blogging was somewhere in the middle – thoughtful, considered, perhaps more personal although not deeply personal. I miss reading individual blogs. Most of the financial bloggers I interacted with in the post-financial-crisis days seem to have moved on, and I can’t blame them. I did. But there’s still something to reading an online journal from a single person. If you can identify people whose writing speaks to you, it’s enjoyable to get that direct, personal writing. It’s why we follow authors – blogs just feel a bit more intimate, I guess.
So I left Facebook, and other than “publish out” with Twitter I’m not really into social media. The enjoyment I got out of it for a few years has definitely faded, so I will look for other outlets. This old, old blog has been dead for a few years, but I still like to kick the tires once in a while. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving – there’s much to be thankful for in this life!
I’ve been lucky during my career to have had several role models. The first senior auditor and manager I worked for were great boosters. Early in my career I was lucky to be dropped into a large assembly of focused, driven professionals who had been drawn to the challenge of working in the former Soviet Union. I was lucky to briefly work for a genuinely awe-inspiring visionary who reshaped my views on how to approach work (it’s not the work, it’s how you approach the work). But here in the third decade of my career, who do I look to? My anti-heroes.
I don’t hate my anti-heroes. But I do look to the people who’ve achieved a lot in their careers who I may not like, or understand. I try to see why they succeeded despite what I perceive. And it’s always enlightening. It’s easy to fall into the self-confirmation trap, where you assume what got you to point X will automatically get you to point Y. It took me a while after I left the corporate world and moved into consulting to understand that the tools and skills that made me a successful manager in the multinational corporation world were not the same tools and skills that would serve me as a mid-career consultant. Anti-heroes helped me understand that people I didn’t understand could succeed, and I could learn from them.
We all like to think we’ve figured it out. It’s unsettling to think you haven’t. It’s even more unsettling to think that not only haven’t you figured it out, you are actually wrong. “Everyone at my company who gets ahead had an Ivy degree” may sound like a good identification of success, but suddenly you may realize it has nothing to do with the Ivy League education and everything to do with efforts in networking. Or that so-and-so was simply watching for opportunities, and seized them by spending time having lunch with the right person.
As you move on in your career, it’s just always important to make a careful balance between developing skills, relationships and … well, for lack of a better word, vlast. It’s a Russian word – “power” – that has undertones of influence, control, intimidation, and so on. Some of my anti-heroes have been great at using their influence to succeed, and I’ve tried to learn from that. We’d all like to think we succeed solely on the merits, but we don’t.
So while I’ve genuinely enjoyed my true mentors and my peers who lifted me up, it’s my anti-heroes who inspire me to reexamine how I work and what I do today that motivate me now. Thanks to those unnamed, recent colleagues. You annoyed me and taught me – I owe you.
As I’ve obviously fallen silent on this site over the past few years, one thing has not changed. I have the need to express myself and I’ve just shifted that to other mediums. I’ve drifted to Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads…you name it, I’ve tried it. But one of the things I’ve always felt is that solely existing as a consumer of information rather than a creator of information is a failure.
I’ve learned a lot in the past couple of years. I used to speak passionately about the benefits of being a consultant – now, in two years, I’ve gone from consulting to an executive in an international healthcare company. It’s odd. The focus shifts, but in the end, I find it’s all really simple – do good work. Competence is all we can truly control. We can attempt to play politics and do all those other things, but in the end, you can’t control much except the breadth of your own knowledge.
I still pay attention to personal finance. It’s very easy, despite what every site says. For every $1 you make, save $.01 or more… that’s basically it. I know I famously said that spend less than you earn was incorrect. That was 10 years ago…times were different. I think in the new age, you have to focus on what you spend. It’s like eating – if you eat cake three meals a day, you can never in all eternity jog it off. If you spend money like that, you will never earn enough.
This post was simply my attempt at restarting writing. It may, in fact, never be done. But if I can write one post today, I may write another tomorrow. For those of you still reading, thanks. This blog was always for me to attempt to connect with you… and to be happy that you connected with me.
I wrote that post in 2007. I had actually started losing weight in 2000, but by 2006 had really hit my stride. I was eating well, exercising constantly (running and weight lifting), and was in tip top health. The post seemed to resonate simply because most of it was anecdotal – it’s almost like one of those “Chicken Soup” types of books, where you can jump in, read a few points, then move on. But it was quite popular – it generated hundreds of thousands of views and I was quite proud of it. It was an odd topic for a personal finance blog (which was what I was concentrating on at the time) but it got people interested.
So why am I writing about this?
I gained it all back (practically).
Last time I basically went from 300+ down to 185. So in all actuality it was more than 100 pounds. Some of it was fat being replaced by muscle, too, so there was a lot to lose. And once your metabolism is operating so well that you can slip up with a pizza once in a while and still lose weight (due to exercise, muscle mass, etc.) it becomes easy to make excuses.
I had kids – sleep went out the window.
I hurt my foot running; took an “extra” few months to “make sure” before running again.
I got bored and started eating worse.
I took in a lot of empty calories from snacks and alcohol.
I ate out for convenience all the time.
I had a long commute – a bagel and cream cheese on the ferry was easier than a light breakfast at home.
[Insert random excuse here]
And so on and so on, ad nauseum. The thing is, if you are in good shape, you can go a year or two eating worse, exercising less, before you really see results. I thought I had just permanently fixed my metabolism. Nope. The weight crept up. I thought “tomorrow” every evening. I quit running. I stopped biking. I lifted weights intermittently, which does no good. I basically did everything I could to get back OUT of shape.
And it worked.
By 2012, I was back up to (probably) 270 pounds. I say probably because I wouldn’t get on a scale. I was demotivated and giving up. Doritos were back in the rotation. I’d pass on salad for fish and chips or burgers and fries. I tried, here and there: there was a vegan phase (tofu pizza!) and a calorie restriction phase (works for me for about two days, then…pizza). I lifted weights (wow, what a workout…let’s have a pizza). But despite some bounces back and forth, I slowly increased.
Most studies show that dieters will have life-long yo-yo struggles with weight. You can’t diet and then alter your lifestyle…being healthy is a lifestyle that simply means certain foods can’t ever be consumed on a semi-regular basis. You can have a 1400 calorie mongo burger once a year on your birthday…but you can’t just drop in and grab one because you are out running errands. The lifestyle has to revolve around making healthy choices on an almost constant basis, and by almost constant I mean “default to healthy” all the time.
So why am I writing this?
I realized a few months ago that following other people’s advice was pointless. I had written a guide as to what worked for me 7 years ago. Why was I chasing other diets? I had a quantified, proven system that had worked brilliantly for me before.
So I took my own advice, and it is working.
I’m down from the 270s. My chosen form of exercise this time has been biking (seems easier on the joints) and soon I plan to begin weight training. I have read a lot about the ketogenic diet; reviewed Atkins and various nutrition sites. I’m not happy about eating so much meat; philosophically I’d rather be vegan. But I had to recognize what worked for me. I drink bulletproof coffee (coffee with butter), lots of eggs and egg whites, grilled chicken and beef, and drink seltzer instead of alcohol unless I’m going out. I have gotten lazy and let diet sodas creep back in, but I’m quitting that. When I go out I have salads with ranch dressing, so I get vegetables. I am monitoring my sleep (using sleep apps on my phone), too, which seems to be important.
Result so far? Down to 225 (45 pounds down).
I’m not done, far from it. I have several actor role models for physical fitness – Daniel Craig, Jason Statham, Christian Bale, Matt Damon and Tom Hardy. I don’t see any of them, other than Statham, as being any more of an athlete than I am – they were actors who needed to get super fit for roles. So healthy eating, targeted exercise and discipline could give me similar results. It won’t be easy – their JOBS are to get fit like that, and they have time-saving resources I could only dream of (chefs spring to mind). But it’s doable. Take a look at Chris Pratt, from Guardians of the Galaxy: before and after. Or this guy from a thread on Reddit: progress pics. Both pics are slightly NSFW (nothing too bad, just guys posing shirtless).
What have I learned? It’s a lot easier to get fat than to get fit. But you can recover from your mistakes, and the recovery can make you even stronger. You have to be vigilant in all aspects of self-improvement, and if you are not improving, you are declining. And no one can do it for you. You can certainly have support and encouragement and motivation, but at the end of the day YOU have to put down the slice.
And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.