Sometimes, the old ways of doing things are still the best – at least to me.
What is it?
A double-edged safety razor (or a “DE razor”). It’s a (comparably) heavy, classic, metal razor that comes in three pieces. Along with it, I use disposable razor blades, a bar of shaving soap and a badger hair shaving brush. Just like your grandfather used to use.
How I use it
For shaving my ugly mug (old-fashioned slang for “face”).
Why I like it
- It’s easier on my skin. I have sensitive skin and curly hair, otherwise known as the “double whammy”. So I need a high-quality blade that will shave efficiently, and I can’t shave a whole lot at one time because my skin will break out in a rash when irritated. So, picture a 5-bladed fancypants razor that every company makes now. Every time I make a pass with that razor, I’m sliding a blade across my skin 5 times. That sucks. And it’s not good for your skin, either. Ask anybody who knows anything about shaving and they will tell you that rule number one is to not shave anywhere without shaving cream on it. By the time that 4th or 5th blade hits your skin, there’s not a drop of shaving cream on your face. With a DE razor, I’m using one blade at a time, and it works so well that I don’t need any extra blades. I don’t have to make more than two passes on my neck. Less passes = less irritation.
- It’s cheap, baby. In my broke college days, I used to come across budget-busting weekends that I affectionately called, “The Perfect Storm”. On these weekends, I was simultaneously out of razor blades (which I had used weeks longer than any sane person would), deodorant, body wash, and shaving cream. So a good $20 or so of my budget was already spent. The vast majority of that cost went to a 3-pack of razor blades, which was usually between $15-20 alone. Often, I’d save a couple bucks by just buying a new razor that came with two blades. While a quality DE razor will cost you $30 or so, it will also likely be the last one you ever buy. And the cost of blades? This week, I went on Amazon and purchased a 30-pack of replacement razor blades for $8.95. That 30-pack will last me around 2 years or so. And shaving cream? Once you buy a good brush for $10-20, you can use a bar of shaving soap and an old coffee mug you have lying around. That shaving soap? About $5 at Target, and the mug was free, since I got it out of my cupboard. Oh, and the shaving soap lasts over a year. And since it doesn’t come out of an aerosol can, I can see exactly how much I have left and prepare for the expense. Even if a Perfect Storm hit me these days, I could spend under $15 on both blades and shaving cream and be set for another year.
- It feels and looks manly. Stupid? Sure! But I don’t care. There’s nothing wrong with a man wanting to look and feel like a man. And instead of getting into stupid and unnecessary fistfights, I’d rather be a more dignified man. This is one way to go about it. Outside of the benefits listed above, the shaving process feels great, and that chrome shaving stand I have on the bathroom counter with my brush and razor looks old-school awesome.
Why people don’t use it
- Marketing. This is the number one reason, hands down. Somewhere along the line, razor companies preyed on the stupid “if one thing is good, then MORE of one thing is better!” attitude that we have, and they said “TWO blades will shave better!” So how do you keep selling to the same market over and over again? Add another blade. Then another. Then another. Then make it vibrate for absolutely no logical reason. We all fell for it, and as a result, we’re blowing a crap-ton of money on shaving supplies every year.
- Nobody sells them in stores, really. This is an important factor, too. Walk into Target, and you’ll see rack after rack of those fancypants razors, but no DEs anywhere. Since nobody sells them, it’s virtually impossible for the average person to find them, except on Amazon.
- They’re scared of the blades. I shared the below link about lifetime cost on my Facebook page the other day, and a friend of mine said he read it, but he was terrified of slicing up his neck with the blade. This is a legitimate concern, but can be addressed pretty easily (see below). Make no mistake: I’ve done some terrible hack jobs with my DE razor. Awful. Painful. Burning. But 99.9% of those times were completely avoidable and a result of my own ignorance or stupidity. Since addressing those concerns, I get the smoothest shave of my life – no exaggeration.
Why you should think about it
- It’s easier on your skin. Yep, see above.
- It’s your cheapest option, outside of letting that neckbeard fly. Just look at this post detailing the average cost comparison of shaving with a DE razor versus shaving with a fancypants razor. And if you have a wife like mine, you’re not allowed to have a neckbeard anyway.
- You can learn the technique pretty easily. There is a slight learning curve when you first get your DE razor, but it’s not complicated. Your three rules of thumb are – #1, shave at the proper angle. You can find this angle by holding the razor perpendicular/flat against your skin, and then gradually tilting the handle down as you pass until the blade is actually shaving the beard. This is generally around a 45 degree angle. It will become second nature to you once you find it. And #2, don’t press on the razor. With the fancypants razors, you have to use your own pressure to cut the hair because the razors are so light and plastic-y. With a DE razor, if you push on it, you’ll just cut the crap out of your face. Don’t be shy with it, but let gravity and the weight of the razor apply the pressure for you. This takes getting used to, but it’s imperative that you just let the razor do the work. And #3, use short strokes. Don’t drag the razor all the way across your face or down your neck. Do a little at a time. Be patient in the beginning.
- You have blade options. The number one reason why I’ve cut myself so much is that I didn’t have the right blade brand for my face. There are dozens of companies that make DE blades, but only one of them will work for your face. I went on Amazon and bought a mixed collection of 50 blades for $10. Then, I kept a spreadsheet and took notes on how each blade felt. The mistake I made was, even after I found a blade that worked perfectly, I kept going through the collection, hacking my face with blade after blade that was no good. Once I went back and used another one of the good blades, I had my best shave in months. So try out different blades, and then commit to one when you notice it works for you.
Some chuckle at my DE razor shaving, but I’m not looking back. It’s old-fashioned, classic, and works like a charm.
Technology is great. It’s awesome, actually. I love living in the world I live in. Tech has enabled me to do a billion different things that you couldn’t do 10 years ago, including allowing me to build a business.
But it’s not all fun and games. Because technology has developed to such an advanced degree, we’ve turned basic human functionality on its ear, relying too much on technology to accomplish things that we, as human beings, need to be doing on our own – at least from time to time.
What’s happened? We’ve become largely out of shape, crabby, stressed, and whiny (i.e., the “we don’t have time to [insert good thing here]” excuse).
So while you don’t have to be old-fashioned about everything – even though I love being old-fashioned – there is merit to dialing back the technology and understanding what our bodies were actually built to do. Because ignoring centuries of functionality is damaging our systems to a dangerous degree.
We were built to run long distances.
Huh? Take off your shoe and your sock. Now look down at your foot (if you can see it). Pay attention to the shape of your foot. Look at all those little bones. Feel under your foot – notice where there is extra “meat” and where you just feel hardness.
Our feet are built to run, just not in the way we’ve been running for the past few decades. In the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall*, he wrestles with a problem: how did humans survive this long? In certain parts of the world, there’s no way we could. Predatory animals are generally much faster than we are, or they are more powerful. So A) how did we get away from them and protect ourselves, and B) how did we hunt them down without weapons to kill them from a distance?
The answer? We ran them down.
As he discovered, and as was displayed in the story of a Russian family that has lived in the forest, away from society, for decades, humans can hunt without weapons by exhausting animals until they collapse. We chase them, because our intricate systems of cooling down our bodies (sweating), along with an advanced cardiovascular system and a pair of feet and legs that are specifically designed to handle it all work together to support long-distance running.
So What? The running shoe has destroyed the way we run. Not only do they empty our wallets, but the cushioning in running shoes forces us to run with our heels hitting the ground first. But remember when you felt your foot meat (that sounded dirty)? Our heels don’t carry a whole lot of meat. But the front part of our feet, including our toes, are surprisingly cushiony. That’s because our bodies were made to run in a way that the front part of our foot hits the ground first. The more you look at the physiology of it, the more it will make sense.
When our heel strikes, the shock of the run shoots up our leg and is absorbed by our knees, which are not meant to take it. That hurts. When the front of our foot strikes, the shock is absorbed by the foot muscles, which are set up to do so.
Plus, it doesn’t matter if you have high arches, flat feet, or anything in between. All of that corrects itself over time as you develop your foot muscles again.
And What If I Don’t? Well, you don’t have to hunt anymore, but you do need to get off your butt and exercise. Humans need that, or our bodies become weak. If you already are running, you’ll blow a lot of money on running shoes and replacing them constantly. Oh, and you’ll stop hurting yourself when you run. Say bye-bye to ankle problems, knee problems, and plantar fasciitis.
How? Read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Then go run barefoot. Take your time, though. This is an ability that takes months to really develop, because you’ll be using muscles you haven’t used in a long time.
Our brains are wired to think and learn.
Huh? I know you probably feel that you think a lot, but you probably don’t. The average person relies a lot on external stimulation – especially children today. There’s a special power that you unlock when you stop to listen to the thoughts in your head, even allowing yourself to be bored. Plus, you can always increase your knowledge with continued learning.
So What? There is a lot of power in your subconscious mind. Problem is, we never listen to it. Sometimes, your brain can wrestle with a problem and figure out the answer on its own. But you have to let it. Along with that is continued learning, which will keep your brain sharper and smarter as you age. Life is rough, and you’re always going to deal with problems. Your problem-solving skills will step up to the task if you keep learning and growing that muscle. You’ll also increase your focus, which will help you out at work and whenever you are working on a big project.
And What If I Don’t? Well, then we become a society that relies on emotional opinions and other people to tell you what to do. Is that what you really want? Because that’s what we’re becoming. We’re making major societal decisions based on slick marketing campaigns, which makes me really uncomfortable.
In your personal life, you’ll be overwhelmed when challenged by life, which will increase your stress levels tenfold, and the frustration could dominate your life and your relationships with the people around you.
How? There are several cool ways you can increase your brain power:
- First, take up meditation. I know that sounds foofy, but hear me out. You don’t have to chant or sit criss-cross-apple-sauce on a cushion. You can do it in any chair. Meditation is just sitting in a quiet space for a little while. You can start with 5-10 minutes. Just close your eyes, sit up straight, and listen to the thoughts and feelings that are in your head. Listen to your environment. Listen to your body. Not only will this let you release stress, it will increase your focus. If you want a more organized/directed way of doing it, check out Headspace. I just finished their free “Take10″ program (10 minutes a day for 10 days), and I signed up for a year’s worth, because I already see how this is helping me work.
- Second, carry a pocket notebook. Sometimes a great idea comes to you while on the run. It really helps to jot it down so that you can act on it later. This is also useful when you are someplace where you can’t be focusing on other stuff, like church, in a meeting, or when you are trying to sleep. Writing it down releases that thought from your conscious mind so you can return to the task at hand, and your subconscious mind will then work on it without you even realizing it. Seriously.
- Third, start reading. Anything. Get a Kindle if you need a tech-y way of doing it. Get a library card if you need a free way of doing it. Expand your mind. Find a topic that interests you. I don’t care what that topic is. If you say “reading is boring”, then that’s because you are choosing the wrong things. Write down 5 topics that interest you, then search on Amazon and find books related to that topic with 4 or more stars. It’s that easy.
- Fourth, sign up for a free account with Lumosity. This is how I start every day, and it’s a nice warm-up for the day. Lumosity is a collection of “brain games” designed to help you develop different parts of your brain. It’s fun and easy (except for that stupid Penguin Pursuit maze game – I hate those days).
- Fifth, and finally, take up productive hobbies and activities. Watching TV and playing video games are not hobbies. They’re fine to do, but you need to carve out some time to do something that stimulates you mentally and/or physically, while being productive at the same time. Start whittling. Learn to play the guitar – there are plenty of online sources to help you. Start writing. Instead of sitting on the couch watching shows, turn off the TV, turn on some music, and play a board game with your spouse and/or kids. Or get a cheap deck of cards. Get lost in conversation and enjoy people’s company. These are productive uses of your time. That doesn’t mean you can’t watch TV – I love TV. But draw a line in the sand. Then don’t cross it. Use your brain.
Your body is built to use pain as a warning sign.
Huh? Ever have a headache? Suffer from migraines? Does your back hurt all the time? Are you having problems in the bathroom? Heck, are you just feeling grumpy sometimes? Hey, these are signs of a bigger problem.
So What? We have a medical industry that runs on money. I’m not directly saying that doctors are keeping us sick so that they make money, but it might/could be an underlying factor. There’s money in prescribing things to treat symptoms, not curing the problem.
Pain isn’t just an annoying thing that goes away with a pill. It’s actually your body trying to tell you something – ever listen to it? It means you’re doing something wrong, 90% of the time. It means you’re using your body in ways that is pushing it too far, or you’re putting something into your body that is hurting it.
How often are you popping pills? I don’t mean stuff for chemical imbalances, like bipolar disorder. I mean stuff like aspiring, ibuprofen, or migraine pills? Do you practically live on that stuff? That’s a problem. That means you’re shutting up your body when it is trying to scream something to you. You’re hurting it, and you need to make some changes to your lifestyle.
And What If I Don’t? Again, you’re going to spend way too much money on medications. You’ll spend more money on doctor visits for injuries. Your quality of life is going to tank. Stress will skyrocket. Your health will suffer, and in some cases, you’ll die early.
Get the picture?
How? The best way to improve your mood, health, and quality of life is by paying closer attention to what you are doing. One of the easiest and most effective methods in doing so is by tracking virtually everything you do for a while. By doing this, you’ll be able to pinpoint triggers in your diet and lifestyle that could be causing the problems.
So here’s what you do: start writing down everything you eat and certain other lifestyle choices, like how often you exercise, how much sleep you’re getting, and how much water you are drinking every day. Sounds tedious? Get used to it. Along with it, track those things you are trying to get rid of, like when you get migraines, when you have a bad visit to the bathroom, or when you are feeling grumpy.
Do this for a couple weeks so that you can start looking for patterns. Then, treat your body like a science experiment: test a hypothesis. This is a fancy way of saying “pick one thing to change and see what happens”. Like, spend a week focusing on drinking more water and see how that affects the stuff you’re dealing with. It’s important to only change one thing at a time to test, so that you can be sure that’s the cause.
It sounds like a lot of work, but once you get into the habit of doing it, it’ll be fairly automatic. I’m doing this right now to fix some things about me, and I’m starting to get some great insights. You can fix a lot of your problems naturally – you just have to put the effort into it.
So what have we learned?
Your body, naturally, is a resilient and hard-working machine. It can do a lot, but like anything, it only works properly when you are treating it properly. Keep it running at peak condition, and you can greatly increase the quality of your life.
Got any tips on naturally solving problems with your body and/or your life? Share in the comments!
I can’t focus today.
It’s a problem for those of us that work from home. Sometimes, you get a couple hours… a day… a whole week, even… where you just can’t get your brain to run on the track that you’ve laid out for it.
Why? Couldn’t tell you. But it’s one that many of us struggle with, and I especially do.
When I tell people I work from home, they all say: “I could NEVER do that! I’d just watch TV all day – I can’t focus that much!”
Truth is, I’m just barely focused enough to pull it off some days. At times, I get distracted by anything and everything that is around me.
I’m kinda tired – I should just take a quick nap! That blog post was good – maybe I’ll spend the next two hours reading posts from this site and then the sites that they link to! Boy, this lunch is tasty, and this TV show is great – I can take a long lunch today, can’t I? Oh, those dishes need to get done as soon as possible – I’ll just do that and then clean the rest of the kitchen while I’m at it.
Procrastination is synonymous with breathing for many of us home-workers. It’s probably synonymous for many of you, too. It’s just that the consequences are a little more grave for the self-employed.
One of my favorite parts about my job is that my actions directly affect the end outcome. If I work in an office and I work really stinking hard, I’m still getting paid as much as the girl next to me who spent her entire shift doing her nails, checking her makeup, checking her email, and talking with the guy sitting across the aisle.
But as I work from home, the harder I work, the more money I make. The more focused I am, the better off my paychecks can be. But on the flip side of that: the more I procrastinate, the less money I make. If I do nothing, I make nothing.
That’s a problem.
So what am I going to do?
I’ll try out a variety of different approached to kill my procrastination and get back in the swing of things. I’ve done these over and over to pretty good success:
- Change my scenery. I’ll go out to Starbucks or something. Even moving into a different room for a little bit can get me out of a creative and productive funk.
- Get some little victories. If I find that my brain won’t charge forward on some bigger projects, I’ll line up a bunch of piddly little accomplishments to get myself back into the routine of crossing things off. This works quite often.
- Let it go. Not much I can do about the past. In fact, there’s nothing I can do about the past. So I can’t spend the entire afternoon beating myself up over not getting things done this morning. Instead, I need to just move forward and make my afternoon productive.
- Plan for tomorrow. Get a solid schedule in place for tomorrow, and then be sure I attack it. Knowing that some of the stuff I put off is on a hard schedule for tomorrow can help me relax and forgive myself.
Procrastination is a real pain in the ol’ keester. So that’s what I do about it. What do you do? Do you suffer from it, too?
I bought new pants last week.
And the award for the most exciting opening line to a blog post is…
Jeans are a big deal to me. I’ve never associated jeans with comfort. When I was younger, I was a sweatpants kid (and I looked as awesome as I felt). Being fidgety on a near-constant basis to this day, tight jeans scared the crap out of me.
I want room to breathe and sit comfortably. So I’ve always erred on the side of baggy jeans. This isn’t for styles’ sake – it’s for comfort.
But an experience changed my mind and finally brought me into the era of well-fitting jeans. As I thought about it, there were a lot of parallels between going through the jeans-buying experience and life.
Yup, I’m going for it…
1. Notice the warning signs.
I bought jeans last year, and after one trip to Europe that included a crap-ton of walking, the bottoms of all three pairs of jeans were shredded and full of holes. Because they were longer, and I was wearing low shoes, the bottoms would slip over my heel and I would walk on them.
So not only did this damage and completely ruin the pants, but it also made walking incredibly uncomfortable. I spent most of the trip tugging at my pant legs to pull the jeans off my heels, which I’m sure made me look like a normal American tourist.
Hey, that’s a warning sign, isn’t it? Pants aren’t supposed to fit like that. So I already knew that something was wrong.
Is there something going on in your life that has more warning signs than you care to admit? Maybe it’s a relationship, or your job, or something you’re working on. Whatever it is, pay attention. These aren’t just random things that are happening – they’re the direct result of something. So whether you need to listen to your significant other a little more, or you just need to listen to your body, open your ears.
2. Stop settling for the garbage quick-fix.
Prior to last week, my jeans-buying experience would go like this: I’m getting things at Target. I need jeans. I buy jeans at Target based on the price tag and whether or not they feel comfortable. Two trips to the dressing room – max. I have places to be.
It was no coincidence that my jeans fit improperly. I was buying them based on convenience. My problem was having pants that weren’t lasting or fitting right. My solution was to find the quickest, cheapest route out of there.
A lot of times, when we have problems, we settle for a crappy solution just because it’s there. But that’s not the way to do it, at all. You’re going to leave yourself less-than-happy, and you will most likely spend more money in the process. Hey, if I had bought good jeans, they could last me a couple years at least. Instead, I was buying cheap jeans every year at $18.99 a pair, which was much more expensive.
3. Sometimes, it takes a fresh perspective.
I was never really all that oblivious to my jeans problem, but I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it. I just figured it was something I just had to deal with.
Then, there was the photo shoot.
Our good friend Andy (who was our wedding photographer and has done nearly every photo shoot I’ve been in because he’s awesome) gave my wife and I a very fun photo shoot before we left for Europe. We went to a park on a blustery fall day in October. We ran around, played tag, looked lovingly in each others’ eyes, and had a great time.
When we got the photos, one stood out in particular. It was a full-body shot of the two of us standing at the top of a hill, with the wind blowing us around. My jeans were flapping in the wind like the American flag atop a flagpole. You can literally see the outlines of my legs on one side and the wrinkled flaps of the pants on the other side.
I was embarrassed, and I’m not really a vain guy. I knew my jeans didn’t fit right, but I had no idea just how bad they were!
Even if you don’t think you have a problem, it would do you well to find a different perspective. Look at it through someone else’s eyes, and you might be surprised at the severity of your problem, even if you don’t think you have one.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Finding new jeans was going to be a challenge for me, so I reached out to the Art of Manliness community for guidance – where they bought their jeans, etc. I got some great feedback on the Levi 501 brand, which I had heard were a solid pair of jeans.
There are people around you who can help you, if you let them. Whether it’s family, friends, or even an online community, there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little guidance. It can save you a lot of time.
5. Prioritize your time to find new solutions.
One problem in my jeans-buying process was my approach – the “I’m at Target, so I should buy jeans while I’m here” thinking process. Instead, I needed to go to different stores, try on different jeans, and make the trip about that singular goal.
After searching around, I found that Kohl’s was carrying the Levi 501 jeans. So, when I finished work a little early one day, I took about half an hour or so to go up to Kohl’s and try on jeans. I tried on 6-8 different pairs until I found the right fit and look.
I made finding the right solution a priority. It took a little bit of a time investment, but by making 3 trips to the dressing room, I knew that me just guessing was going to turn out poorly.
How often do we fly blind when working on our problems? We just assume we know what the answer is, and we do ourselves a disservice in the process. Devote a little time to trying out different solutions. Don’t give up until you find one that works. And when you do…
6. Evaluate your options.
So that’s it, right? I found jeans at Kohl’s that I like, and the end?
I looked at the price tag: $58.99. Now, I understand I have to pay for quality, but I was really shooting for the $40ish range. Sixty bucks for jeans was a little richer than I was comfortable with.
But wouldn’t you know it, Amazon has Levi 501 jeans, and they’re Prime eligible. That means I could order them online (in almost any color I want), in my size, and have them at my doorstep in two days! And the price on Amazon? $42.99. Now that’s a little more like it! Just by looking around at my options, I saved $16. And, now when I want more jeans, I can just buy them at my desk.
Once you’ve found a solution that works, make sure that it’s the most efficient way of doing it. You never know when you can find a better way to get the same result.
7. Spend a few bucks already.
At the core of my problem with jeans was money. As a broke guy, I was always looking for the cheap or free solutions. A few years ago, I’d never spend $40 on a pair of jeans. But now, I don’t think I’ll ever spend less, unless this brand goes on sale.
Buy the app. Get a copy of that book. Grab the gadget that will help. Whatever your goal is, don’t be afraid to invest a little into it. The added bonus is that investing in something strengthens your commitment to it. You’ll prioritize a quality solution when you have put a few dollars into it.
“Life goes on no matter what the hell you do.” - Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense
We are creatures that like to talk. We like to be right. We like to have control and tell other people what to do.
And yet, we’re surprisingly inept at listening. Communication is a two-way street: you can’t speak effectively if you’re not listening intently.
But, out of habit, we only like to listen to messages that affirm what we already think, or messages that entertain us. In other words, this is why the majority of us are fat, unhealthy, broke, and divorced.
The idea of listening is something that I’ve been thinking about all morning – the importance of listening and paying attention to our actions in different aspects of our lives. But the one I kept coming back to is the importance of listening to our bodies.
Our bodies are packed with information. We are vehicles with elite reporting systems that we all-too-often ignore. Nerves are jammed into almost every part of our body. Our organs can send messages to the brain almost instantly. We’re always getting feedback. And yet, we ignore it out of convenience and/or laziness.
I have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I’ve had it for over 5 years now. And while many people close to me poke fun at me for it, saying I have the “poopies”, it’s actually a legitimate condition that has a serious, painful impact on the quality of my life.
See, the human body’s digestion system is a very tightly-calibrated machine. It’s a sophisticated work of art, and when it’s firing on all cylinders, it can handle just about anything. However, when one thing goes wrong, the whole system collapses.
Think of the cliche of your plumbing system. A good water pipe needs to be angled properly, glued together, and vented the right way so that air can get behind the water. If these things aren’t done, you have blockages, leaks, and thousands of dollars in damage.
With IBS, it’s not that I have the “poopies”. It’s not that I spend a lot of time in the bathroom all the time. It’s more that the timing of contraction in the muscles of my intestines can get thrown off at the drop of a hat. As a result, some stuff gets moved through my system too quickly, and some stuff gets caught up in traffic.
I tried pills to control it, but the GI doctor has specifically banned those substances from ever being ingested, because he said it will completely throw off my system (which it has).
So why am I talking so much about my digestive system? The moment I started figuring out how to deal with IBS was a watershed moment for me – I had to start listening closely to my body. I needed to learn what foods and activities and lifestyle choices were aggravating the condition, and what things I can do in my daily life to keep my body running properly.
As a result, I have fairly good control over my IBS without needing to take medication. I do have fiber pills that I can take, but I do not even rely on them anymore. I learned regular exercise, controlled portions of food, healthy dietary choices, and stress reduction were all crucial in keeping me from stabbing pains in my abdomen that kept me from sleeping and functioning productively.
Different Ways You Should Be Listening
Your body is talking. You need to be quiet and listen.
- Sleep. Few activities give you more feedback than sleeping. Your body should be waking up refreshed. You should be able to make it through the day without relying on 18 cups of coffee. Your body should get tired at around the same time every night. If it’s not doing these things, it’s not running properly.
- Eating. Digestion is not an uncomfortable process. If going to the bathroom is unpleasant for you, something’s not right. If you are lacking in energy, it could also be the result of the food you’re eating. Food is fuel.
- Exercising. If running down the mailbox or climbing a set of stairs leaves you winded, your body is talking again. You should be able to do moderate exercise without problems. The same goes for muscle pains and cramps. That means you’re either not doing it properly or you’re not moving in a way that your body is designed to. Back it off.
- Doing stupid stuff. Drink too much and you’ll feel like crap the next day. That’s your body saying, “Knock it off! I don’t like that!”
Think long-term, not short-term
Those beers are flowing steadily, and you feel great! But that’s not going to help you tomorrow morning. Think beyond the moment.
These other areas of concern, like sleeping and your diet, are all dangerous in the long-term as well. They have lots of negative effects on your health and your body is going to wear down a lot more quickly.
Ways to Help You Listen
In order to listen to our bodies, we need to get quiet and pay closer attention. This can take some effort, but some things can make it easier for you:
- Meditation. I’m not talking about “ommmmmmm…” type of stuff. I’m talking about just sitting down in a quiet place for 5-10 minutes and listening, both to your body and your mind (remember, your brain is a muscle and part of your body too!). You can learn how to do this for free for 10 days at Headspace, which I’m currently doing. Ten minutes a day for 10 days. I’m already more in tune with my body than I used to be.
- Logs. Take a cheap notebook or a piece of paper and keep track of whatever it is you’re keeping track of. But pay attention to lots of things: like your energy levels, your mood, and your environment. I did this when changing my sleep schedule, and the data was easy to track and invaluable when I had to make tough decisions.
- Keeping it simple (stupid). The ol’ KISS method. Do things one at a time and don’t overcomplicate it. You’d be surprised how much insight you can get just by paying simple attention to a few things.
At the end of the day, your body is a great barometer for how you’re living. If you’re relying on medications and other substances to get through your day-to-day life, that means something’s out of whack. Look at natural solutions – not all of them are going to work, obviously, but there’s some merit to what they’re trying to promote.
Pay attention. Listen. Fix.
“Without entering into the discussion, he took occasion to talk to me about the manner of my writing; observed that, though I had the advantage of my antagonist in correct spelling and pointing (which I ow’d to the printing-house), I fell far short in elegance of expression, in method and in perspicuity, of which he convinced me by several instances. I saw the justice of his remark, and thence grew more attentive to the manner in writing, and determined to endeavor at improvement.” - Ben Franklin
One goal on my list this year is to write a book, and the year ain’t getting any younger. So I’ve pulled the trigger on working towards this goal this month. I thought it would be useful to share that process with you for a few reasons.
One, it will hold me accountable a bit. Making goals public is a great way to keep you consistent, because psychologically, you want to be consistent with the image that you portray in public. So, if I’m somebody who wants to be consistent with the image of a writer, I need to share my writing publicly at times. This, in my opinion, is one of those times.
Two, writing about something helps me learn a little more about it. So, then, writing about the book writing process will help me “talk my way through it”, learning a little more about myself and my book along the way.
I have also decided that certain aspects of the book will be kept private. I won’t necessarily discuss details about the plot or the characters, because that’s a personal thing that I’d rather not reveal. Plus, I am expecting the writing of this book to be a fluid process, and things could change along the way.
So, let’s get started!
I installed Scrivener.
Looking around, Scrivener seemed to be the tool for the job. Now, it’s easy to say that all you need is a pen and paper, which I agree with, but I wanted to have a comprehensive tool to use, and I have the ability to go out and get it. Nothing wrong with that.
Lots of writers use Scrivener, and as an Ubuntu man, I was very happy to see that Scrivener is actively being developed for Linux. I was even happier to see that, while it is still in beta (or “testing mode”), Scrivener for Linux is free. So not only do I get to use a really powerful tool to write my book, but I also don’t have to pay for it right now. Sweetness!
After I started using Scrivener, working through the tutorial and starting to pop in little details about my book, I’m seeing why people use it. It’s insanely flexible. I can see how I can use Scrivener within my own personal workflow, and adapt the program to meet my needs. It gives me lots of brainstorming tools and organizational features, like documents, sub-documents, folders, and even a pinboard of notecards to sort. Add footnotes, sticky notes, and just about everything else you can do with a paper workflow, and you can see why Scrivener is such a popular tool. Highly recommended.
Why not just use a Word document? Well, you certainly can. I chose to use Scrivener because I’m a visual guy at times, and this turns the book development process into a visual process.
How did I choose a topic for my book?
This was the biggest initial roadblock for me, because I don’t read a whole lot of fiction (yet). I wanted to write something fictional, but what am I interested in reading?
I knew that I like history, particularly war history. So I figured early on that I would want to write a war story of some kind.
Taking a page out of the Accidental Genius handbook (affiliate link), I decided to get some freewriting out of my head so that I could see what kinds of ideas were lurking around in there (one of my favorite brainstorming methods).
There were two side effects to this – one, I found some pretty cool ideas, and two, I have a really weird brain when it is left to its own devices.
Here are some of the more, ahem, interesting book ideas that my brain came up with after freewriting 50 book ideas without stopping:
- Bears overtake Manhattan
- Fantasy world where midgets rule the earth
- Bankrupt prize fighter bumfights for money
- Society crumbles over bad TV show
- Pack of wild dogs take over Manhattan
- Mozart fights zombies
- The Beer Wars
- A man’s desperate attempt to take off a straightjacket
- Woman breaks up with man over his hairstyle
- A talking banjo saves Manhattan
- A blind man has a knack for shooting darts
So, yeah, they’re not all winners (though I like the challenge of trying to write an entire book about the straightjacket one).
I then went through the list, bolded the useful/possible ones, and cross-checked them with what I was interested in. The result? A pretty good idea that took concepts from a few different ideas that dovetailed together.
I haven’t started writing yet.
The last couple weeks have been about getting the idea on paper and workable, so the next thing I did was grab a marker, stand next to my whiteboard, and diagram out the most basic and vague of all story timelines. All I needed to get down was the “bones” of a plotline.
Before doing that, I consulted my book on plot development (affiliate link) to determine what kind of plot I wanted this story to be. Then, I jotted down the basic structural components of that type of plot and detailed what parts of my plot idea would coincide with those parts.
Then, I slapped it all up on a timeline. To give you an idea of how vague this timeline is, the character names used are “#1″ and “#2″.
But what this means is I now have a basic start. I’m not starting from scratch when I eventually sit down to write the story (which I’m not doing yet).
The Next Steps
Okay, so I have a basic plot in place. Now, I’m going to work through some character development. Like, you know, giving them names and stuff.
But it will go beyond that. If I want this (possible) book series to be memorable and lasting, it can’t be entirely plot-driven. I need a cast of characters that people will be interested in reading about.
So I will spend next week really hammering out who these characters are, what they’re doing in the story, and the different traits that will define who they are.
There’s an app for everything – you know that.
But the more disturbing and – to be honest – useless trend I’m seeing in apps is the type that “force” self control on you.
You can automate anything you want in the world, and that’s great news for people who struggle with self-control. You can automatically have savings deducted from your bank account, so that you force yourself to save money. Simple, a new type of online bank, can “hide” money from you, which is exciting a lot of consumers, based on what I’m reading. They think that’s the “killer” feature that’s going to make Simple successful.
I like the concept and design of Simple. I’m a huge believer in online-only banks. But this feature, to me, addresses a symptom, not a problem.
Apps Put Band-Aids on Bigger Issues
Lifehacker recently ran an interesting post on different apps that force you to do things. For example:
- You can get an app that will force you to check-in at the gym with your GPS. If you don’t do so, it will take money from you.
- You can get an app that will force you to achieve the goals that you set, or it will publicly post an embarrassing picture of you.
- You can get alarm clock apps that make you do certain things, like scan barcodes in your kitchen.
And so on. But have we reached a point in our society where we need to rely on technology to force us to reach our goals?
It continues – there are browser extensions that you can use to block time wasting websites during times where you want to be productive. You can literally force yourself off of Facebook and Twitter, etc.
The same goes for porn. If you are trying to stop looking at porn all day and night, you can install setups that block it for you.
But are these things getting to the core of the problem? What happens when you are in an environment where these things aren’t going to be used?
The Real Problem: Lack of Self-Control
I’ll be honest: these types of scenarios are for wimps. Gutless cowards who can’t see the bigger picture in their lives.
And I’ve been one of them, don’t get me wrong! I’ve tried many of these. But I found ways to work around them anyway. They don’t slow me down for too long. So not only do they not work all that effectively, they’re not fixing anything.
It’s like having a broken arm and your doctor gives you a painkiller. Sure, you can function now because your arm doesn’t hurt anymore, but it’s not fixing the problem.
You can’t control yourself.
You refuse to accept that you are your own worst enemy. That you’re being lazy and irresponsible. That you’re screwing up.
You refuse to accept that you’re fat because you’re not taking care of yourself. You refuse to accept that you don’t have enough time in the day because you waste hours and hours of it. You refuse to accept that you don’t have any money because you don’t pay attention to where it’s going.
Running the Race Backwards
Having an app to force you towards your goals is a completely backwards way of trying to achieve anything.
When you stand at the starting line of a race and you hear the pistol, you start running, right? Which way are you facing? Forwards. Why? Because that’s where the finish line is. That’s your goal.
You don’t reach the finish line by accident because you’re running away from the starting line. That makes no sense. So you don’t get anywhere in life by setting up ways to make missing your goal more painful. There’s plenty of pain already there!
Being fat means looking unpleasant, possibly a quiet dating life, difficulty performing certain activities, a breakdown of your body over time, probably an early death, and jeopardizing the health of your children by passing on bad habits.
Being broke means carrying more debt, living in crappy homes, denying yourself fun stuff, eating garbage, being unhealthy, and not being able to provide for your children.
If you ask me, these consequences are crazy-worse than losing $10 to an app, or an embarrassing photo going public. This isn’t a game – this is life, baby.
And another thing – go read an interview with or the works of any great achiever in history:
- Richard Branson
- Thomas Edison
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Mark Zuckerberg
- Steve Jobs
- Chris Guillebeau
- Arthur Boorman
Et cetera. There’s one thing you’ll see in common with all of them: they didn’t succeed because they had some system of punishment in place when they didn’t reach their goals. They knew that life would punish them.
They were able to zoom back and think, Hey, what I do in this life is important, so I better take my time, talents, and money seriously!
In other words, nobody got rich by hiding money from themselves. Nobody got in shape by being forced to check-in at the gym with their phones. They achieved goals because they knew, at their core, what their motivations were – and they recognized how important those goals were.
So, Now What?
Ditch your apps. Ditch your goal punishments. Keep it simple.
Like I wrote a couple days ago, finding a deeper motivation than external things is what is going to spur you on towards your goals.
“And what if I fail?” Well, go after it again. Dust yourself off and try again. Maybe you can go just a little bit further next time. Everybody who’s achieved anything has failed a bunch of times. That’s how you learn what you’re made of. That’s how you develop your talents. You screw up. You fall short. You fail. But then, you get up and try again.
In my yoga workouts, crazy ex-wrestler and current yoga guru Diamond Dallas Page repeats over and over again,
“Hey, if you fall down – guess what? Get back up again! Over time, you’ll build strength.”
When you take the easy method of some of the yoga positions, he encourages you to do it, but as you get comfortable in those positions, start to challenge yourself just a little bit at a time. Because again – that’s how you build strength.
You won’t get anywhere without self-control, and no app will help you build that. Only you can. And the only way to do it is by using it.
You build strength in your legs by using them. You build strength in your lungs by exerting them. You build strength in your heart by pushing it to pump just a little harder.
You build your self-control by using it. Keep using it, and it will start to become habit. That’s the only way to be successful in this world.
Do you disagree? Agree? Share in the comments!
This morning, I was reading a book called Early to Rise by Andy Traub (now available on Amazon!*). As you may or may not know, I’ve dedicated myself this year to becoming an early riser – getting up at 5am every morning. In the past week, I have successfully made the transition to regularly getting up that early. And while some mornings have been harder than others, the increased time has led to insane levels of productivity that I’ve only dreamed about.
But that’s not exactly what this is going to be about. In today’s daily reading of the book (out of 30 days of motivational texts), Traub focuses on the roles in life that we each have responsibility for:
“You are choosing who you are going to be today. You are not a victim. You are not the economy. You are not an employee or even a citizen. Choose the role you want to fulfill, then fill it. If you believe you are a writer then write. If you believe you are a composer then create music. If you believe you are handy with a saw then let sawdust fly.”
The exercise for the day then included jotting down all the different roles you have in your life, then circling a couple that you intend to excel at today. So I busted out my pocket notebook and began writing:
- Husband. Fairly obvious. I’m a married guy, which means I’m part of a very special team with my wife. Our team name is The Bobcats (just kidding, it’s The Meitners – but how cool would that be?).
- Christian. I’m a firm believer that your faith (or lack thereof) is a responsibility in and of itself. You have the responsibility to live out your moral life. In my case, I have a responsibility as a Christian to make decisions that honor my God.
- Church member. Not the same thing as “Christian”. As a member of my church, I also have the responsibility to honor God, but I also have the added responsibility of helping to serve and benefit my fellow members of the church community. Those are different.
- Future father. I’m putting it on the list because, while I do not have children yet, the decisions I make now are going to directly impact their lives. That includes how I treat my health, my appearance, and our finances. Or how we build our home life and environment. Those are things that I’m paying attention to now so that I have a firm base to build upon with my sons and/or daughters someday, Lord-willing.
- Son. While I am an adult and do not take orders from my parents anymore, I do have the duty to both honor them in how I live my life as a representation of how they raised me, and I also have the responsibility to bring them joy by spending time with them and paying attention to how I treat my relationship with them.
- Business owner. I’m a freelance copywriter. That means I have a duty to bring my clients excellent service. I also have a duty to my business to do the best job I can to bring in more business in the future, as well as marketing myself and building relationships with prospective clients for long-term success.
- Friend. I have a great core group of loving friends who bring my joy in my life. As someone who grew up with a rather limited social life (small school, nerdy kid), I certainly do not take for granted to friendships that have been built in recent years.
- Cat owner. One of my cats walked past me as I was making this list at the kitchen table, and I realized that this too is a role that I should take seriously. Our cats rely on me for their feeding and sanitary needs (fancy way of saying “I clean their poop boxes”), and I also make sure they get to the vet every year to check on their health. I also have to spend some time with them every day to keep them happy. It’s a role that I took on when I decided to get a pet.
- Citizen. I have a responsibility to pay taxes (though I disagree with how much and where it’s spent, it’s the law). I have a responsibility to vote for a leader. I have a responsibility to follow that leader, even if I disagree with certain policies. Laws are laws. In exchange, I get to live in what is still the greatest nation around.
- Brother. I have three older brothers, and three sisters-in-law. While my relationships with them can be strained at times, I have the responsibility to protect and develop those relationships, because I love my family and I want to be a good little brother to all of them.
- Writer. Last but certainly not least, I have the duty as a writer to write. This is non-negotiable.
- Renter. I have the duty, per the contract with my landlord, to keep my house in good working order. I have the responsibility to pay rent, as well as clear the driveway of snow buildup and cut the grass in the summer.
See how quickly that list can build? It’s amazing.
What’s the point?
While it’s easy to let that list become daunting to look at (like, “Holy crap, I have so much to do!”), it fills me with a certain sense of responsibility. It’s a warm feeling, and it’s an honor to serve in those different capacities – many in my everyday life.
It also is incredibly motivating to take my time seriously. That’s what becoming an early riser is all about for me – creating a schedule where I can work effectively and be the best user of my time, talents, and treasures (which, in my line of faith, we call “stewardship”).
Try it – take out a pen and paper, or open a notepad on your computer, and think of the different roles you have. Get creative with your thinking.
Then, instead of being intimidated by that list, use it as motivation to take your life seriously. That doesn’t mean don’t have fun – it just means that you ought to eliminate wastefulness where you can. Life is not meant to be a lazy affair – it’s work. But when you recognize and respect the different roles that you have, you can work on it without misery or frustration. You have the freedom to put a smile on your face while you serve in your roles.
What roles do you serve? Any creative or fun ones that you want to share? Do so in the comments!