Why is this so hard?

A red panda sleeping in a tree

Yesterday, I’m quite certain I experienced the effects of sleep deprivation for the first time in my life.

All three nights this weekend, I attended an event that led to me staying up late. Two of those nights I drank alcohol which always fucks with my sleep quality. And according to my tracker, I averaged four and a half hours of time spent asleep Friday through Sunday.

So what was yesterday like?

The Sleep Foundation lists these as the major symptoms of acute sleep deprivation:

  • Slowed thinking
  • Reduced attention span
  • Worsened memory
  • Poor or risky decision-making
  • Lack of energy
  • Mood changes—including feelings of stress, anxiety, or irritability

That sums my day up perfectly.

In the morning, I sat down with my cup of coffee and for the first hour of my day, I had to constantly remind myself of what I was doing. I would start one thing and jump to another, forgetting what I was doing in the first place. The pit of anxiety in my chest was thunderous.

At noon, I hopped on my regular Monday call with my coaching program and I don’t even remember what we did or what I said on it.

When that was over, I began my next three hours of work, made it about ten minutes, threw in the towel, and went and laid in bed.

I can’t remember the last time I started a day of work and then stopped in the middle of it. Unfortunately, this didn’t calm me down because my chest was telling me I should be working harder, not resting.

Ugh.

Why is this blog post called what it’s called?

It’s because it doesn’t matter how much I talk, write, or preach about how vital it is…sleep always seems to be something that’s easy to sacrifice.

Yesterday humbled me. So today, with my rested and refreshed brain, I’m writing down a few rules for myself on my whiteboard:

1) At 10pm, the phone must be on airplane mode.

2) If there are coaching sessions scheduled the next day, no more than two drinks the night before.

3) If an offer or request doesn’t light me up, I have to say No to it.

If we want to prioritize our energy, we have to treat it like a priority. That’s what yesterday taught me.

An extra hour of sleep

Sleeping in is one of my least favorite things to do.

When I wake up—regardless of how tired I am—I prefer to just get out of bed and start my day.

But for some reason, last night I only got about four hours of sleep. At least that’s what my sleep tracker said when I first woke up at 6:30 this morning.

I made the split decision to do something I never do.

I texted my friends to let them know I couldn’t join them on our weekly swim. Then I set a new alarm and went back to sleep.

Thank God I did. I don’t feel amazing right now…but I certainly don’t feel like the zombie I was when I first woke.

The lesson:

Living a productive life is great and all that….but sometimes we just need some extra rest.

30 more visits with Grandpa

A grandpa smiling while sitting on a couch
Not my Grandpa lol.

Vacay

I went on a lovely family vacation this past weekend. Lakehouse, swimming, tubing, laughing.

But the most memorable moment came when I walked down to the boathouse to find my Grandpa standing at the bottom of the walkway. It looked like he was mentally preparing himself to ascend a mountain.

He had just gotten a pacemaker put in days before. I asked him what was up.

He told me he gets out of breath easily and so I held out my hand to help him up the steps. Once we made it up the first section, he thanked me and assured me he could take it from there.

“All good Gramps,” I responded. “We’ll go up together.”

We got to the deck and he took it from there since he had the handrails to balance himself. I walked back down to the dock to grab the beer I wanted and I noticed I was crying.

It wasn’t a sob. My mouth wasn’t moving. But tears streamed out of both eyes.

This was the first time I got a ‘slap in the face’ reminder of the universal truth: Our time is limited here.

A new lens

After that happened, I saw my Grandpa in a different light. I already love talking to him. He’s hilarious and one of the cleverest men I’ve ever known.

But for the rest of the weekend, I didn’t just enjoy my talks with him…I cherished them.

Every joke and story he told, I found myself uncontrollably beaming. I also looked at my calendar to find the best weekends in the coming months to drive down and visit him and my Grandma.

On top of that, I did some math.

My Grandpa turned 80 this year. Assuming he lives to be 90 years old, I have 10 more years left with him. But that’s incorrect.

On average, I see my Grandparents three times per year. Maintaining that trajectory, I don’t have 10 years left with my Grandfather…I have 30 more visits.

After this weekend, I can check off one of those boxes. 29 to go.

Is this depressing?

No. Not to me.

Talking about this shit is sad, yes. But I much prefer to be open and candid about the inevitable, rather than bury my head in the sand and pretend like death doesn’t exist.

I know people who do the latter and they tend to be the ones who shut down when the worst occurs. Not productive.

Understanding that we’re all approaching death isn’t morbid. It’s empowering.

It forces us to desire more presentness, listening, and compassion.

It invites us to say “Yes” to the things that matter more often: trips with friends, phone calls with family, playtime with kids or pets.

We can obsess over the number of checkboxes we have left with the people we love…or we can focus on the quality of each of those boxes before we check them off.

Having people we love who are alive is a gift. We get to call them, laugh with them, disagree with them, hug them, learn from them…

Even with someone we don’t particularly like—if we found out they had a month to live, we’d forgive their faults and forget our grievances with them. We’d hear what they had to say and make sure they were comfortable and cared for.

What if we did that more often with more people?

Conclusion

It’s up to us to enjoy the box we’re currently checking.

I’m not dreading the number of boxes I have left with my Grandpa. I’m ecstatic for the next box I get with him in a few months.

How I maintain my energy

A pile of double A batteries

On a coaching mastermind call yesterday, we discussed ways we stay energized.

For me, it’s three things.

1) When I’m in a rut, I check my health trifecta.

• Am I getting at least seven hours of sleep each night?
• Am I eating a lot of processed foods and sugar?
• Have I exercised at least three times this week?

2) I take one weekend off each month.

I happily work on weekends since that’s when many of my clients are available. But once a month, I take a long week or weekend off to travel somewhere (usually on the east coast).

It’s a refreshing break after three weeks of hard work and I always return home feeling amped to get back to my routine and do it all over again.

Since I have no kids or other major responsibilities at this time, I figure I should take advantage of it while I can.

3) I spend a lot of time doing things I enjoy.

Chess, martial arts, exercise, quality time with friends, reading…

I find it vital to our souls to spend a good amount of time away from anything having to do with work or money. Like a vacation, it makes us appreciate our time back even more.

We should all have a thing. Preferably something challenging—a skill or a craft—we can practice and get better at.

For me, these three things are perfect substitutes for any drug or stimulant.

5 hours of sleep

Everything is harder when we’re not well-rested.

Everything.

I swam laps with my friend this morning and could only do about half as much as I normally can.

I didn’t feel like writing this blog.

I don’t feel like working today.

But what I do feel like doing…is getting some fucking sleep tonight.

Sleep masks

A woman sleeping with a sleep mask

I’ve been wearing a sleep mask for about three years now.

At first (for a few days), I hated the sensation of having something wrapped around my face. But that was short-lived.

It didn’t take long for me to start seeing the major benefit—increased melatonin.

Our body’s produce melatonin naturally to help promote sleep. It’s the chemical in our brains that goes, “It’s dark now…must be time for sleep!”

So it’s no wonder that a sleep mask—something that blocks practically all light from our eyes—helps us sleep through the night. It keeps everything dark until we take it off or until it falls off our faces as we toss and turn.

I messed up my mask this weekend and have been without it the past two nights. Holy shit. I’ve woken up several times each morning as the sun peeks through my window.

A new one is in the mail. And I recommend anyone who is hesitant to give it a shot for a week or two.

Sleepy pants

My day is always twice as difficult when I don’t prioritize sleep the night before.

It always blows my mind how easy it is to sacrifice good sleep…since the consequences are heavy and immediate.

After a night of poor-quality sleep, we…

• have less energy
• are less motivated
• have less willpower
• aren’t as creative
• aren’t as kind

But who needs all that?

My bet is: If everyone on the planet got consistently good sleep, there would be fewer deaths and accidents in the world.

Worst case scenario…we’d get more done.

Get some sleep.

The Addict Brain

A female addict drinking wine and smoking a cigarette

Last night, I really wanted to stay up and watch YouTube videos on my phone. I wasn’t tired enough to go to bed at my ideal hour: 10pm.

I recently listened to a podcast where a comedian talked about the Addict Brain. He was using it in the context of cocaine and cigarettes, but said it applies to almost everything we do.

To be clear, I have friends and clients who have been to rehab and have been sober for years because of their addictions. By no means have I experienced an archetypal, debilitating addiction to drugs or alcohol.

But the Addict Brain is at play whenever we are faced with something we know is no good for us but our mind tells us: “Don’t worry, it makes sense for you to do this!”

Logically, I’m 100% certain I will regret these things if I do them:

• DoorDashing a large Wawa sub with mac and cheese instead of cooking a decent meal.
• Staying up watching YouTube on my phone until 12:30 at night.
• Skipping my meditation, the gym, or jiujitsu.
• Watching porn.
• Playing video games instead of going to class (when I was in high school and college).

When I have been faced with these decisions, logic is never at play. The Addict Brain throws rationality out the window. I say I’m certain I’ll regret these things because I have mountains of evidence which prove that to be true. I’m never happy or fulfilled after doing any of these things.

So last night, when I had all the energy in the world to stay up later and watch my favorite chess streamers…I turned my phone off and tried to sleep. After 20 or 30 minutes of tossing and turning, I woke up this morning, slid my sleep mask off, and began my morning routine feeling refreshed and grateful.

Thus is the age-old battle between instant gratification and long-term fulfillment.

I’m fulfilled when I’m:

• Eating well.
• Getting great, consistent sleep.
• Active and mindful.
• Present.
• Productive.

The thing is, all this stuff takes time. It’s a slow burn. It compounds, meaning it takes a while to feel the effects but the longer we do it the stronger those effects are.

Example: I’m not just working out this afternoon so I can feel accomplished today. I’m working out this afternoon and then consistently after so I can look good with my shirt off, do fun and athletic things in the future, and be in great shape for my partner and family down the road.

But it all starts today.

It begins with our next meal, with tonight’s bedtime routine, with the next workout. And then the next one. Then the next. And so on…

The Addict Brain wants to keep us from being healthy and fulfilled. But fuck that.

Swimming is hard

A happy man riding a bike during a triathlon
(Not me.)

I completed a sprint triathlon yesterday morning with my best friend.

A quarter-mile swim. A 12-mile bike. Then a 5k run.

I didn’t prepare for it nearly as much as I should have. Prior to the event, I only swam three times and ran two. Not ideal.

The swim was the toughest part by far. My arms were exhausted during the last few laps. Once I got out of the pool, it felt like I won the entire event…despite being like 200 people behind.

We went into the pool one by one, swimming through each lane down and back, then under the rope and into the next lane. We went in based on our swim times. Naturally, I went in with the last group because I assumed I would need to take a few breaks. I made friends in line and we bonded over our lack of ability.

My buddy went in way ahead of me….He had prepared properly. I got into the pool 15 minutes after he got out. Our plan to complete the triathlon together went out the window.

I was feeling insecure coming in because of my lack of training. I feared being surrounded by a bunch of super-athletes judging me for not taking this as seriously as I should’ve. But I learned something powerful yesterday.

There were folks of all kinds of shapes, sizes, ages, and capabilities competing. Here’s the lesson I gathered from seeing all these wonderful people do their thang:

There will always be a shit ton of people who are way better than we are at something. There will always be a shit ton of people who are way worse than we are at that same thing. It doesn’t make sense for us to compare ourselves to either group.

We should learn from and be inspired by those ahead of us and help and teach those behind us. We need only compare ourselves to who we were in the past. Am I better than I was last month? Last week? Yesterday?

When I was in line for the swim, I met an 82-year old who has done a ton of these events. I’ll leave you the advice he left me.

If you’re not having fun, you might as well stay home.

82-year old badass

Triathlon prep

I’m doing a triathlon tomorrow.

I’m woefully unprepared for the swim portion, but I’ll make it happen.

The date seemed to pop up out of nowhere.

It was a lovely example of the importance of being proactive so our future selves can be happier. There were several days where I decided not to go swim laps because I simply didn’t feel like it. It truly felt like I had all the time in the world to prepare.

“Not today. Next week though…I’ll definitely do the work later.”

But later never comes.

The best time to do the work is always right now.

First day back

The past month has been the best month I’ve ever had financially. It’s also been the worst month I’ve had mentally in 2021.

I’ve felt unorganized, my habits have slipped, and I’ve just been uncharacteristically not taking care of myself as well as I tend to.

But this week, I feel like myself again. I’ve had several ‘first day back’s. What the hell does that mean? (And is that grammatically correct? Probably not.)

Well, when we step away from something—a habit or routine—coming back to it, getting back on the horse, is always uncomfortable and full of Resistance.

When I skip the gym for a week, my first day back is always a sluggish, difficult workout. The same is true for my morning routine, reading, running, jiujitsu, chess, and any other activity that’s important to me.

The problem many of us face on our first day back? We forget that there’s something beautiful on the other side of Resistance. Better skills. More confidence. Improved health.

The crazy thing is that we once knew what these things felt like, but now they feel like distant memories.

When I was in high school, I could dribble and juggle a soccer ball with ease. I could shoot on goal for hours and place the ball where I wanted at times. Now, when I shoot a soccer ball almost a decade later, I have no idea where the ball will go. I’ve lost my touch.

There was a thing I once knew but have lost because I’m out of practice. Now, I’m not saying I’m going to start training to be a soccer player again…but if I truly wanted to, I could get it all back.

I’d just have to show up on my first day back, deal with the fact that I have to earn back my skills and flow, and keep practicing.

Quitting coffee (part 2)

Holy fuck.

Turns out I have a caffeine addiction. Three mornings into quitting coffee cold turkey and I feel like I’m genuinely drained and slightly depressed.

I’m stealing some of my roommate’s coffee today because I simply have too much work to do to be feeling this way. I was clearly over-ambitious and seriously underestimated how physically attached my brain was to drinking a cup during my morning routine.

Slow and steady.

Today is bittersweet because I feel like a person again, but it sucks to know that that’s only true because I’ve sipped on a substance.

It is what it is.

Quitting coffee

A few days ago, I noticed that my coffee was about to run out. So I did something I haven’t done since I started drinking coffee…I didn’t buy anymore.

This is the first morning I have willingly not drank the morning brown. And I’m fucking tired.

It’s crazy to think about caffeine addiction. We often don’t realize we have one because we never actually cut it out of our routine and therefore are unaware of the effects of its absence.

My goal is to be just as energetic and motivated in the mornings by simply drinking cold water. Hydration seems like a much more sustainable method for getting the engine moving.

But like all meaningful changes, it won’t happen on the first day. I imagine this being a gradual process.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

Nothing’s wrong

One plus one equals three
A real photo of my senior thesis.

I got coached by a friend yesterday. I came into the session with the past two weeks containing more stress and anxiety than I’ve felt in years. Here’s what happened.

It went well. She’s a great coach. But often times we go into a coaching session thinking we’ll leave with total relief and clarity. We believe if we come in with negative emotions, we’ll talk out our feelings and reach the insight that we don’t need to feel them at all.

But that’s not always true.

When she asked what was going on, I told her that in the past two weeks:

• my biggest possible client pulled out
• I have a big presentation coming up, and
• I’ve been falling off with my habits

Talking this shit out is always powerful. Talking it out with a coach who knows what she’s doing is always 50 times more powerful. These were my three biggest takeaways:

1) Nothing’s wrong.

Feeling discomfort—stress, anxiety, uncertainty, doubt, fear—is a natural part of the human condition. Why then do alarms go off when we feel these ever-occurring emotions? Our fight or flight response is activated and our bodies tell us in one way or another that something’s wrong.

I had to remind myself that I’m constantly stepping out of my comfort zone, I’m running my own business, I’m new at it. Rather than thinking I don’t need to feel stressed, I came to the realization: Of course I feel stress! And that’s okay. Who wouldn’t?

In other words, nothing’s wrong.

2) Three magic questions.

Be it with my coaching, my hobbies, or anything else I want to pursue in life…I basically boiled down my life purpose into three questions:

• Am I having fun?
• Are other people having fun?
• Is this helpful?

The answers to those three questions tell me whether or not I’m in the right space.

3) I always figure it out.

I have flunked out of college, tried to kill myself, and been in $80,000 worth of debt with no job. And I’m still here…typing out this blog.

We often feel like if we don’t “figure it out” (whatever the hell ‘it’ is), we’ll fall into a black hole. But no, we just wake up the next morning. We adapt. We figure it out.

The important thing is to continue to be vigilant about figuring it out. Ask questions. Get a coach. Share thoughts and feelings.

When we do all of these things consistently, we come to understand that no matter how we’re feeling…nothing’s wrong.

2nd vaccine

I got my second vaccine yesterday. I slept in an extra hour and a half this morning—something I never do.

My body aches and I’m exhausted. But I have a long day of work today so I won’t be taking it super easy.

As shitty as it feel physically, it feels nice to have habits and systems in place which help me take care of the things I want to get done.

One of my favorite phrases comes to mind today:

No hurry; no pause.

Meaning, I don’t have to rush anything, so long as I show up every day and do the work.

Why people don’t exercise

A pug laying down on the sidewalk

Last year, I made a vlog every day for two months straight. I was certain I’d be the next Casey Neistat. I had cheesy dreams of having thousands of subscribers and making a living off YouTube. I was ready to die chasing this dream.

Until I wasn’t.

After about 60 days of waking up at 5am, editing for three or four hours a day, and trying to film my life and make it seem more interesting than it actually was….I quit.

Why?

The same reason that:

• people don’t exercise even though they would love to look and feel better.
• we stay constantly stimulated even though we know we’re addicted to our phones and apps.
• folks are passive aggressive and mean even though they know everything is better when they are patient and respectful…

Because we so often love the idea of something more than we enjoy the process of actually making it happen.

I loved the image of being a successful YouTuber. But when it came to actually doing the work necessary to step in that direction, my mind and body said fuck that.

I’ve said in the past that we can never force or make anybody do, think, or believe anything; they have to get there on their own.

In other words, we have no control over peoples’ (or even our own) priorities. If someone is overweight, but doesn’t truly care to work it off, they won’t do anything about it until something shifts in their mind. The same is true for anyone who wants to pursue anything.

If someone can talk us out of a dream then it was never really a dream to begin with.

What’s something you’ve been talked out of in the past? What’s something no one can talk you out of now?

Slipping up

Today is one of those days where I wake up and realize that my habits have been off track.

I’m looking at my phone past 10pm.

I haven’t been doing my weekly review on Mondays.

I haven’t even been working out as much as I normally do.

Perhaps it’s because of stress. Whatever it is, the shitty feeling of not taking care of myself as well as I normally do packs on even more stress.

This is natural. It happens every so often. No need to freak out. Just have to readjust and get back on the horse.

Funny enough, I’m riding horses today with my mom for the first time. Pretty perfect.

The first day back at the gym after taking a break always sucks. But it’s a necessary suck. It’s like paying my dues for slacking. That’s okay.

“Too often, we fall into an all-or-nothing cycle with our habits. The problem is not slipping up; the problem is thinking that if you can’t do something perfectly, then you shouldn’t do it at all.”

James Clear

Remembering

We know how to live better lives.

We know that:

• being fitter will make us look and feel better
• more time on social media will make us more anxious
• staying up super late will make us exhausted the next day
• more time with loved ones and with our passions will make us more fulfilled
• expanding our comfort zones will provide us more opportunities….

So why do we struggle with all these things we know to be true?

Because in a sense, the day to day hustle and bustle of life clouds our vision. We get distracted. We forget.

When I’ve had a long ass day, my brain’s not thinking about how to optimize my wellbeing before bed; it’s craving the dopamine of watching another YouTube video as I slide under the covers.

I’m thinking: Yes, I know that in the past staying up late watching YouTube makes me more tired when I wake up and it makes the day harder…but this time, I really need to stay up and watch YouTube.

I forget.

Then, like clockwork, I wake up the next day and remember…usually with some self-loathing.

But what if I was able to remember before suffering the consequences?

One strategy I use to remember is by reinforcing the fact that I tell myself lies.

“I won’t regret: staying up late…eating a sixth donut…skipping the gym…blowing my friend off…”

Lies. All of them.

One of my best friends once said:

“Resistance always comes in reasonable forms.”

Our forgetting what is good for us always seems rational in the moment. It’s only after the fact that we see what’s really going on.

Let’s get in the habit of remembering what we already know.

Work and play

A little boy playing in a pile of leaves

After a week-long vacation, I’m back in my home office itching to get back to work.

I’m grateful to love what I do.

People talk about work/life balance. I have no idea what the perfect formula for that is or if it even exists.

My typical process is this:

Spend a few weeks working → Crave a vacation → Take a vacation → Crave getting back to work → Get back to work → Repeat

It works for me (get it?).

What I love about this process is how much better I get at my work by taking intentional breaks. Like letting our muscles recover after a workout, we counterintuitively get better results the more we set aside time for fun and relaxation.

I can’t stand when people say they sleep less so they can get more done in a day. That’s ludicrous.

You get more done in a day when you’re well-rested and full of mental energy. If that weren’t the case, insomniacs would be the most successful people on earth.

Sleep. Rest. Fun. Play time.

These are essential to our productivity and our well-being.

Take that trip. Go on vacation.

Then get the fuck back to work.

This is progress

This morning will be the first organized public event I attend since everything shut down in March of 2020.

I’m pumped.

My sister cheers for her local high school. Their football team is playing the high school I went to.

Not only am I grateful to get to see her compete and do something she’s interested in…but going to an event makes me smile.

Progress is insuing.

People are getting vaccinated.

Things are opening up.

There’s much work to be done and people have certainly suffered unnecessarily, but we are taking steps to get back to “normal.”

At some point, you’ll be able to walk into a crowded concert hall and no one will be wearing masks and it’ll be totally natural.

That’s called progress (or Florida). And it should be celebrated.

Super simple sleep hacks

A cat getting some sleep

I preach on and on about the importance of sleep. And it’s still the thing that most gets me in trouble.

Good or bad quality sleep is the difference between all other habits or tasks being much easier or much harder.

Here are some actionable tips.

Falling asleep:

• As it gets closer to bed time, make your environment darker. Turn the big lights off. Light some candles. This activates melatonin, the chemical in your brain which tells you it’s time for bed, making you more sleepy.

• For the love of God, set boundaries on screen time. Blue light is damaging to your eyes and it diminishes sleep quality. Turn the TV off before bed. Put the phone away. Read or listen to an audiobook or a podcast. My rule: No matter what, my phone goes on airplane mode at 10pm. I listen to an audiobook until I’m bored to death and then fall asleep.

• Get an eye mask. I didn’t like having something on my face at first; it felt claustrophobic. But I quickly got used to it. Like the first bullet, this keeps everything dark which helps you sleep through the night without waking as the sun rises and lights up the room.

Waking up:

• Before you do anything, drink cold water. A glass or two is ideal. Coffee is lovely, but the first thing your body needs is hydration. It just went seven to ten hours without water and is totally dehydrated. I’m stunned every time I feel like death in the morning and then feel instantly better after chugging half my water bottle.

• An inverse of the “Falling asleep” tip—Make your environment bright. This lets the brain know that it’s time to be awake and alert. Keeping things dark confuses the mind and makes it think we should still be asleep.

• If you have time (and most people do), do something you enjoy right when you wake up. Listen to upbeat music. Go for a walk. Do some stretches. Having a productive morning is necessary for setting the stage for the day, but you can make things easier on yourself by throwing in some fun, too.

• Avoid passive activities like scrolling on your phone or watching TV until after you’ve pursued some active activities. Things like: Reading, cooking, walking, stretching, exercise of some kind, writing, etc. Wake your brain up first and take charge. You’ll also find you probably won’t feel like doing something passive after being more active.

Conclusion

Of course, getting consistently high-quality sleep takes a bit of time and intention. Going to bed and waking up at the same times every day is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

It takes discipline, which makes it difficult.

Things come up. We want to have fun. Some nights we simply can’t fall asleep.

There will be ups and downs and that’s okay. So long as you keep being mindful of the importance sleep has on the things you care about in life, you’ll be able to keep making adjustments.

Hope this was helpful in some way.

Get some sleep.

From strangers to family

Carlos Catania Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Last night was my first day back to the jiujitsu gym in four months.

I took time off because I had a bunch of family events for the holidays and trips and flights I didn’t want to miss out on. I didn’t want to increase my chances of getting COVID.

Spoiler alert: I got it anyway.

There are a number of life lessons I could write about (and have written about) from my short time doing jiujitsu. But today, I want to talk about something you can apply to any type of practice or community.

Being a n00b

Last winter, I remember hopping into class for the first time. It was fucking terrifying.

The thing was, I wasn’t really scared to get my ass beat—though that would happen each and every night. I was aware that that was simply part of the process going in.

No, what intimidated me was jumping into something with a group of people who already knew each other for years.

My thoughts: They are a family. I am an outsider.

I felt the same way when I started acting in the theatre program in college. They are a family. I am an outsider.

It’s tough when everyone:

• tells stories you were never a part of
• knows everyone’s names and facts about them
• is constantly talking and laughing with everyone else besides you

How to change things

To be clear, by no means was I ever excluded or belittled at my gym. There’s just a noticeable difference between feeling truly close with the people you practice with and not.

The lesson here: That closeness doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s analogous to building trust with someone. It’s an organic and slow process.

Slowly but surely, I would talk more, tell more jokes, and get enough time in with my gym peoples to tell stories of my own.

One day, I was talking to a classmate before class, and I said something like, “People should feel lucky to come in and join your guys’ gym.”

She raised an eyebrow and unironically retorted, “You mean, join our gym.”

Holy fuck. I’m in.

Conclusion

I got lucky to become closer with an amazing group of people. Not every group of coworkers, athletes, or neighbors will come together in such a way and that’s okay.

The point here is: When you enter a new community, the feeling of being the outsider can be daunting and often discouraging.

You may think, They already have their group. They don’t need me.

But if you keep showing up, keep listening, keep caring, and the group is a good bunch…then after a bit of patience and consistency, you’ll find you have another family.

My old thoughts: They are a family. I am an outsider.

My thoughts now: We are a family. Outsiders welcome.

The PERMAH Wheel

A plant growing out of a dead tree

One exercise I do with my coaching clients is work through the PERMAH Wheel.

Simply write down each letter and declare, on a scale from 1-10, how satisfied you are with each category. Then, explain why you gave that answer.

P: Positive emotions

How positive or optimistic are you with your environment or routines?

How often do you approach things with excitement, gratitude, or light-heartedness?

Do you feel like life is happening to you or for you?

E: Engagement

How engaged do you feel with the world around you: your relationships, your work, your free time?

How are you utilizing your strengths?

How present and focused are you in your day to day?

R: Relationships

What are the quality of your connections with your friends and family?

How much value are you getting from them? How much value are you giving in return?

How strong is your support system and how much energy does it provide you?

M: Meaning

Do you know why you do what you do? How strongly do your actions align with your deeply-seeded values?

Do you have a sense of being connected to something larger than yourself? (This doesn’t have to be anything religious.)

A: Achievement

How strongly do you feel you can say you’re going to do something and then do it? How often do you take action toward the things that matter to you?

This is less about, “How much money do you have,” and more about, “How consistently do you pursue things?”

H: Health

How are your eating habits? How consistently are you getting 7-9 hours of sleep? How often are you exercising?

Also, how much time do you spend being intentionally mindful: meditating, spending time in nature, taking a pause?

Your answers to these questions can unpack areas you may want to direct more of your energy. I hope you find it helpful in some way.

Corpse

Two nights ago, I celebrated a birthday with a small group of close friends.

It was absolutely lovely.

The only issue? My buddy and I stayed up crazy late after everyone else left to continue drinking and play chess.

I spent the night on the bathroom floor.

My college self came out and I spent the whole day yesterday in bed as a breathing corpse.

Did it suck?

Yes.

Was it worth it?

Yes.

Zzz

I’ve written and erased these words about four times.

The truth is, I didn’t sleep well at all and I’m exhausted.

Good sleep is the keystone to everything else in your life.

Prioritize it.

It’s free energy, creativity, and clarity.

Even typing out these simple words feels strenuous.

A nap is in order.

Embarrassing moment at the gym

Yesterday at the gym, this guy was benching without a spotter.

I was on the elliptical when I heard a loud boom as his weights came crashing to the floor.

Someone rushed to help him and he looked violently embarrassed.

I’ve been there. We all have.

I could only imagine what was going through his head. I tried to put myself in his shoes.

“Everyone thinks I’m an idiot or I’m weak or I’m a loser…”

But my immediate reaction to seeing this:

Oh shit, that guy dropped the bar. Hope he’s all good.

Then I went right back to focusing on my cardio.

That’s when I was reminded that when something embarrassing happens to you, it’s highly likely that no one else really cares. They definitely don’t care as much as you do in the moment.

Don’t believe me?

What are some cringe memories you have? You know, the ones that make you contort your face or audibly groan.

Now, think about an embarrassing memory someone else has.

Much harder, right? That’s because we’re almost always focused on ourselves and what others think about us.

I spent half a second thinking about that dude who dropped his weights. Then I went right back to looking at myself in the mirror to make sure I looked okay.

Rules are good

Not too many, of course, but we all need structure.

Principles. Boundaries. Limits.

Play around with them.

I did the keto diet for two years. Quite restrictive. In the end, it wasn’t what I wanted. But I still need rules. I can’t just eat whatever the fuck I want whenever I want.

You don’t have to shame yourself if you break the rules you set. Just readjust them until you find a harmony between healthy and doable.

Two cheat meals in a week? Sure.

Seven cheat meals? No.

You have to know where the line is by trying to draw it.

Whatever pulls you away from the life you want to live: porn, procrastination, social media…

Set some rules, stick to them, and see how you respond to following them.

It sounds restricting (and it is, by definition), but just like a budget is a rule for your money, rules for anything else are designed to give you the freedom to live healthily.

And freedom rules (get it?).

Way more

You don’t appreciate having both arms work until you break one.

You don’t fully appreciate someone until they are gone.

You don’t appreciate your health until you’re laying in bed sick for days.

Take intentional time to reflect all the things you have going for you.

It’s way more than you think.

Working through the fog

A field full of fog in the morning

I found out this weekend that I have Covid.
(Ever heard of it?)

To start, my symptoms are mild(ish) and I’m fine. By no means am I suffering at the level of others I have known. I’m lucky and grateful.

Having said that, everything is harder.

It is taking significantly more effort and to do the things I want to do: read, play chess, have conversations, get work done…

Naturally, I’m going easy on myself. I’m not holding myself to the same productivity standards as usual. I’m taking breaks and resting.

BUT…it still comes back to one simple mindset:

I am a professional.

According to Steven Pressfield, an amateur is someone who does the work when they feel like it; a professional is someone who puts in the time no matter what.

Working out when you don’t feel like it. Getting things done when you’re sick. Practicing your passion/hobby when you don’t feel motivated.

This is all very familiar to the professional.

An amateur would hear this and go, It’s okay to take days off.

Yes and no.

Yes in the fact that rest is necessary to refresh your mind and body.

No in the fact that most amateurs say this and really mean, It’s okay to take a lot of days off.

The people who tell me it’s okay to skip the gym are usually people who aren’t in great shape.

The people who tell me I don’t have to worry about being productive are typically people who don’t run their own businesses.

The people who tell me I don’t need to spend so much time on the things that interest me tend to have no real passions of their own.

I’m aware that this is sounding a little mean. I don’t mean to insult anyone. I’m just pointing out the patterns I’ve noticed over the years.

My point is: Being a professional is not about killing yourself to optimize every second of every day. It’s about working on the things that are important to you even when you don’t feel like it.

I’m sick. Everything is foggy, but I can still see.

I’m grateful to not be in a hospital. I’m grateful to have access to food and internet. I’m grateful to have a bed to take naps in.

I’ll take advantage of all of that when I need to. But until then…

It’s back to work.

Rest up

For the last two years, I have scheduled nearly every hour of every day.

To some, this might sound robotic and insane. To me, it has provided a structure that allows me to get everything done that’s important to me.

I’ve been pretty sick the past few days, so I’ve said fuck it to my usual scheduling routine.

At first, this made me feel insecure and uneasy. The uncertainty of how I would spend my time was not fun.

Then, when I didn’t die, I realized everything would be okay.

When I recover, I’ll continue with my normal system. But this is teaching me the value of unstructured days off. It’s actually more fun to get things done on free days—because I don’t have to do anything. Everything I do is simply because I want to.

Rest up.