Cold Showers: Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable.

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For the last 6 months or so I have been on a self improvement bender and one of my projects has been to listen to every episode of the Tim Ferriss Podcast. I am currently on episode #83, but one of the best tips I have learned from that podcast thus far came from none other than grand master himself, the supreme leader, Mr. Tony Robbins.

In episode 37 Tony describes his various routines and how one of the first things he does is he takes a dip in his plunge pool. This is essentially just a metal tub which contains 57 degree water. He tells Tim about how it “jolts every cell in his body”, and instantly he is fully awake and ready for the day.  I had to try this.

Now, I don’t have a cold tank. But I do have a shower.  And it is winter.

So for the past month or so I have been hopping in the shower as soon as I wake up at 5 a.m. At first I turn the water on hot.  I want to raise my body temp as high as I can so the thermal contrast of the cold water is at it’s greatest.  I get my body temperature nice and elevated, then it’s time for the cold water.

Now, this is where things start to get interesting.

Almost without fail my brain immediately says to me, “I don’t want to do this.  We shouldn’t do this.”  And I find this interesting because I really enjoy this activity, I honestly look forward to it.  Yet there is a loud voice in my head that says “uhhh do we have to?”

To silence this voice I start to psych myself up.  I say things like, “are you committed to this journey? [of becoming a more disciplined individual], are you you afraid of being uncomfortable?  If you are then you should go back to bed like the rest of society.  Or are you willing to become comfortable with being uncomfortable?  If so then turn that fucking water on.”

So I turn the hot water completely off, and crank the cold water full blast. Now, with it being winter the water is COLD, but honestly I would prefer it colder. And in the 2-3 seconds between turning the cold water on and it actually coming out of the shower I say aloud to myself “Alright now, channel your inner Tony.”

And I don’t just stand there passively, I get it everywhere. I turn around, I do my armpits, my legs, my head, face.  No warm part is left unattended.

What I have found with this exercise is that for those 30 seconds my attention becomes laser focused. Your mind goes from foggy to game time instantaneously!  It isn’t allowed to think about what you need to do that day, or about how the guy at work annoys you when he wears plaid, or all that other ceaseless mental chatter.  All it is thinking, all it is allowed to think, is “what the hell is going on?!?  I need to keep this body alive!” And it diverts all cognitive resources to the situation at hand.  It is this silencing of the monkey mind that is one of my favorite aspects of this ritual.

I keep the water running cold for about 30 seconds.  Essentially wait until your brain tells you “ok, ok, ok that’s enough!” and then do an extra 20 seconds for good measure ; )  Seriously, don’t shut it off when that voice tells you to.  The point is not to act reactively to your instincts, but intentional.  Pick a duration and stick with it.  5 seconds, 10 seconds, I don’t care.

Then I turn the hot water back on.  And let me tell you.  It is the definition ecstasy.  Most of the time I just start laughing.  I think it’s just a chemical reaction I have to the relief.  But nothing, and I mean nothing, comes even close to the feeling.  I can’t wait to be able to afford a plunge tank.

Apart from the physical and cognitive benefits of this experience, there are other, deeper running currents.  I feel that this ability to clearly see that voice in your head that tells you to avoid short term pain is like reaching a new plane.  What area’s of our lives are the way they are because of this voice?  Telling us that we don’t want to eat that whole food, calorie restricted meal.  Or that we shouldn’t go to that networking event because we don’t really know anyone there and we might look like a jackass.  Or that we watch Youtube video’s at night instead of working on our start-up because doing the latter kinda sucks and knife making videos are super stimulating.

What heights could we reach if we got a little more control over this urge to do whats comfortable?

Appreciating the Now

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Self improvement is a lot of fun.   But it can also be stressful if we are not careful.

Today I was listening to episode #75 of the Tim Ferriss Podcast which featured Noah Kagan and found myself being drawn thin.  The episode is an all-you-can-eat buffet of tips, tricks, and just all around badassness.  Noah was one of the first employee’s at a little website called Facebook, started AppSumo, and devours books like I devour shitty YouTube video’s if I’m not careful.

And hearing all this advice of motivating stories is great!  This is why I listen to this Podcast on a daily basis.  It reminds me what my goal is, and doesn’t let me forget that there are people out there already doing it.  But I found myself feeling rushed, dissatisfied, ashamed and generally being pulled in two different directions.  This was a familiar feeling.  A feeling I felt before the beginning of my self improvement journey around 6 months ago.

Noah talked about how cities like San Francisco and New York are the places to be if you are under 30, and how Austin is the place to be if you are in your 30’s.  How in SF there are daily meet-up’s for young entrepreneurs.  How everyone there is crazy driven which results in you pushing yourself more.  How you can randomly find yourself running into tech billionaires while in line at a coffee shop.  It all sounds perfect.

And I am sure this is all true, but these stories left me feeling like I had and am missing out on something great.  My view of myself started to darken.  So I told myself to investigate this feeling more in depth.

Taking A Look Around

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I had to ask myself whether this feeling was productive, or was this just the inner critic looking for some low hanging fruit to complain about?  That part of me doesn’t get to complain as much as it used to and this might just be it relieving some pressure.  I came to realize it was, as it is often, the latter.

While asking myself this question I was driving to my mom’s place to pick up a receipt for a Christmas return, and after heading off on a run along the beach.  I thought, “Adam, you live in San Diego.  You are:

  • In the first quarter of your 30’s
  • Fee as a bird
  • Healthy
  • Making leaps and bounds with personal development

Your situation is not that bad?  In fact it’s pretty fucking good.  As an example you are on your way for a run along the beach in Southern California in the winter.  Are you crazy?

This brought be back to reality and while on my run I stopped, stood in the sand, and looked out at the water and said, “your life is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Appreciating the Now

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So I started thinking about this whole “race to success” that I feel myself running in everyday.  Pretty much everything I do is to get to that point.  I wake up at 5 a.m. because I am committed to structuring my life in a productive way.  Adopting the strategies of those people who are where I want to be.  I map my macro nutrients and customize my diet to have a body like those who have bodies I want.  I meditate everyday because I feel my mind is weak and I wish to make it stronger.

And these are all wonderful activities to adopt.  I have fallen in love with them.  But most of my focus is on future returns and future goals, rather than giving the present moment the respect and attention it deserves.

I realized this morning that I am in a shedding stage.  Like a spider I am tossing aside an exoskeleton of defeatist mentalities and lazy actions.  And let me tell you, that skin is thick, boy is it thick.  But I have to come to realize that this is a once in a lifetime moment.  Only once will I change from what I was to what I am becoming.

And that is something I don’t want to miss out experiencing.  I am making these changes in my life because I am sick to death of missing out on the experiences that life has to offer.  I’ve lived in a cognitive cave of sorts for half my life, too afraid to take chances, too afraid to fail, too afraid to come face to face with the fact that I’ve let my life atrophy.

I don’t want to reach the metrics I’ve set for success:

  • My own home
  • Profitable business I’m excited to work on
  • Fantastic body
  • An amazing fearless woman
  • Circle of friends who support and inspire me
  • P90D
  • Dogs

And realize that I was so focused on arriving in the future that I totally missed out on how I got there.  I want to remember how it feels to listen to Tim Ferriss’s podcast, how excited I get to implement these tips from the best life hackers out there.  How proud I feel when I complete a task I’ve told myself I will.  I want to remember all these little victories.

This Won’t Be The Last Stage

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Here is the thing with life.  There is always a next stage.  Can’t wait to turn 16?  Well, once you do you can’t wait to turn 18.  Then 21, then 25, then 30.  And I think success based stages are ruled by the same universal law.  What stage you want is all relative to the stage you find yourself in.  Us humans are just wired like that.

When I get to the “next stage”, lets call it the “house and long term girlfriend” stage, I will be confronted with a whole new slew of challenges from mortgage, to frustrating neighbors, to having to (read “getting to”) live and sleep along side a entirely separate, and beautifully unique brain.  This will be exiting and trying.  It will also create an awareness of the next stage in my life.  Perhaps that will be the “bigger home for child raising” stage.

If we can’t figure out how to set and reach for goals while simultaneously actively appreciating the present moment, we are destined to spend out lives waiting for the tomorrow that will never come.

On Sharing

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I’ve been reading a lot of productivity books, listening to plenty of TED talks and podcasts, and there is a topic that comes up again and again that I never really thought would apply to my life until recently.  I’m talking about people around you not being “in your corner” when it comes to you making major changes in your life.

I kept the fact that I was seeing a life coach pretty close to my chest at first.  I believe that not talking about certain things is one of the most undervalued strategies to living a good life.  I’m not saying don’t share stuff.  Definitely share stuff.  But be intentional about it.  Run it through your head a few times, and once you are definitely sure you want to tell people, then tell them.  I know sometimes I have shared stuff, and then afterwards I think, “hmm…if I could, I would have taken that back.”  But of course you can’t.

I have told my family about these changes, about how excited it makes me when I look at the progress I have made, about how every night I am pumped for the day to come because that means that I get to take another few steps towards the life I deserve.  I talk to them about how I feel like I had been sleep walking for the last 15 years.  That life is what you make it.  Sit back and let it give you what it wants and you won’t get much.  Or chase it everyday demanding it give you what you want and you’ll have fun.  That at the end of the day life is just an incredibly fun game.

But here is the problem I have found myself running into.  No one around me is doing the work they can’t not do or living the life they can’t not live.  They are all “working for the weekend” or “for the vacation.”  And when you tell them, “Man, this life is just too short to not be excited for Mondays.  We are living in a time when we can do anything we want and make a damn good living doing it!” or “I don’t want to watch other guys getting everything they want all while having fun and helping others while I watch from the sidelines, I want to be that guy helping people!  I can be that guy!, you are essentially pointing out the fact that they are living passively.  They are sleepwalking.  People don’t enjoy looking this truth in the eye.  Especially when they didn’t seek that truth out, you kinda just dropped it in their lap.

So when I talk to my real estate developer/consultant dad about this stuff, who has got dragged through the mud for the last 8 years, who works in real estate because that’s what he chose to do 30 years ago, not because he wants to.  When I talk to him about how we can have anything we want, anything, just as long as we truly believe we can, and to look at failure, as Maria Popva puts it so eloquently (as she always does), “not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”  He looks at me like, “this Utopian optimism makes me sick.”

The answer I have come to is this.  Don’t bring up these topics with people who are not on the same mental wavelength as you.  Instead let them be the ones who bring it up.  And they inevitably will.  Because your life will start to transform so long as you never relent the chase.  This has already started in my life.  My sister has shared with me that she is interested in seeing a life coach because she says the energy with which I talk about the possibilities that life has in store for us is infectious.  The quality of your life will speak volumes more than your words could ever do.

It’s funny.  When your life looks like everyone else’s they all think you’re crazy.  When your life looks exponentially better than everyone else around you they tend to start listening.  Evidence persuades.

 

 

On being intentional with your reading

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I used to read a lot of books at once.  Exclusively non-fiction.  Probably 4-5 at a time.  During that point in my life I would say to myself, “I’m just interested in so many topics.”  But here’s the thing.  I rarely finished them.  I justified it by telling myself that even though I didn’t finish the books, I still absorbed some information from them.  I mean that’s better than nothing right?

But now that I have the elevated vantage point of living 4 more years, I believe I see it more clearly.  I believe the reason I took on so many different books, from so many different subjects, was because anytime my focus waned, anytime I got the slightest bit bored with what I was reading, there was a different book with a completely different topic that I could read in it’s place.  Boom!  Boredom gone.   Until I got bored with that subject and the viscous cycle would repeat.  I also lacked the focus to zero in on one priority.  I lacked the ability to make a decision.  My inner child knew this, knew that it would be a difficult exercise to pick one book and stick with it.  So it avoided doing it.  Plain and simple.

Making a decision was hard.  Especially when you have so many viable candidates.

You have to look all the books in the eye, and to 4 out of 5 of them you have to say, “you guys are great.  Really, you are.  But I can’t hang out with you right now.  I’m gonna spend the next month with this guy over here, and only him, but don’t worry,  I might come back to you.”

We live in a period of time where all subjects are accessible.  Want to learn about astronomy?  There are thousands of great books to choose from.  Interested in the influences Genghis Khan had on the medieval European economy?  Yea, there is probably books on that too.  And with all this choice comes the debilitating reality that we can’t have it all.  Even in a hundred life times we wouldn’t have the ability to read all the books out there.  I will absolutely write more on this “information buffet” we currently find ourselves living in, but that will be for a later date.

I felt that while reading multiple books at once my attention was spread so thin.  Sure I was reading the books, but I wasn’t absorbing the information.  I could recall the information sure, but when I read one book at a time I feel the information crystallizes much harder.  I think of it like this.  You can hang out with 5 friends at once, and there is nothing wrong with hanging out with five friends at once.  But compare your level of engagement with those five people verses if you were to be hanging out with just one friend.  Your ability to engage with that person, to soak up when they are saying, is heightened.  And at the end of the day that is why I read.  To soak up the information and carry it with me as long as I can.

To combat the paralysis that is brought on by the overwhelming number of great books that are out there just waiting to be read I have started creating book schedules.  I decided to start with a schedule of 6 books.  Switching back and forth from fiction to non-fiction.  Like a Kanban Board, when I complete one a new one is added.  And when the time comes to add a new book to the schedule I can go to a “potential read” list.  This list is where I can write down a book when I hear about it on a blog or just through random internet strolling.  It’s where I can add everything and anything I want.  The schedule is where I have to have discipline, the “potential reads” is where I can go wild.

So far this has worked wonders for me.  Anytime I am feeling lost or overwhelmed by where I need to “go” next, or anytime I hear about a fucking great book (i.e. Tony Robbins book on money) and that inner child in me wants to read it NOW!  I can just open the list, reassure myself that I have structure, and that if I really want to read it, to put it on the list, and either wait patiently for it’s turn to come, or kick it in gear and read the books ahead of it as fast as I can (while still absorbing the information.)

 

Done is better than perfect.

beautiful-modern-round-dining-room-table-wood-table-topSo we’v all wanted to do something at one point or another.  Before my personal development journey I wanted to start a blog.  A blog scratches that itch of “importance” in my opionion and is one of the ways it differeentiates from a journal.  A journal is for thoughts only you see.  A blog is a place to put thoughts down that others get to see.  So I made a few attempts at writing, but never even got as far as a first post.  Sure, I made a profile, but I couldn’t decide on what is the “best” first post.

And there is our problem folks.  We put so much importance on the “best” or the most “perfect” outcome that we freeze up.

The best way I have found to combat this paralysis, what I have heard referred to as the “analysis paralysis”, is to close your eyes, not care about the outcome, and as Nike says, just do it.

Which is how we find outselves here.  I am not thinking about the structure of the post, I am not thinking about whether or not my ideas are in order, I am just writing.  I can always go back and edit.  What is important is that the post is done, even thought it certainly is not perfect.

My life has been a mess for a while now.  For pretty much my entire life.  I’ve had a great life.  Great parents, grew up in a great city, had great friends, but my life was a mess!  No organization skills at all.  I think my last “to-do” list was in Jr. High, and even then I didn’t really use them.  So about a year ago I started doing more and more projects in my garage.  Now, the thing with working in the garage is that you need work space.  If you are taking apart a carburator you need a table to put the damn thing on, and a clean table at that so you can spread the parts out and keep everything organized.

Well I didn’t have a table.  I didn’t have really anything other than tools, and a small tool chest.  So I would work on the ground.  Since I didn’t have a vise to hold things in, I had to kinda hold them down with a foot or something.  It wasn’t pretty.

So I would have friends come over, friends that also work on stuff, and they would say, “man, your garage is messy.”  And I would give some automatic response of “Oh yea I know, actually I am looking into building a really cool woodworking table.  Something I can move around from spot to spot, something that has areas for vise’s.  Its gonna be really nice.”  And so I would say that a few times, do nothing to make it happen because that was the habit that I was in. Talking about a dream, getting the small dopamine hit that talking about it, that visualizing it for a split second, for visualizing your life with said thing, but without doing anything about it.  Then I looked into said tables.  And man, they looked complicated and expensive.  See the thing with wood working tables is that they are very custom to the work area and the person working on them.  This is why you will see most wood workers tables have been homemade.  Because they know what their work flow is, they know how they make stuff, and they know what they want.

So what happened?  I got discouraged.  “Eh, I dont have the money to invest in something like that right now.” “eh, I don’t have the skill to make something like that, and even if I did attempt it I can see messing something up.”  So the table never got built and the garage stayed in a messy, disorganized state.

I don’t know what did it.  I don’t think life always gives you an “ah-hah” moment, instead its more like how water carves through stone.  One day, after lots of water has passed over it, you have an indentation. So one day, I said, “In order for me to know what kind of table I want to build I ned to know what my workspace looks like.  Without a table I can’t answer that question.  So the first thing is I need a table.  I need to get stuff off the floor so I can get a birds eye view of this all.  What is the cheapest way I can get a table in here?”  So I went to home depot, bought some 2×4’s, bought some particle board, came home, framed up a square, added some legs in the corners and in the center, flipped it up on its legs, cut the particle board to size, and BAM! I had a table.  I went from not havnig one, to having one, simply by saying “I’m doing it.  I dont care if its perfect. In fact I know it wont be.  But done is better than perfect.”  What I didn’t realize was that by saying “I need to get stuff off the floor in order to get an understanding of what is going on here.” I was implementing David Allen’s “psychic bandwidth philosophy which is essentially “write everything you need to do in your life down on a piece of paper.  Once it is on the piece of paper you then no longer need to spend brain power on keeping the ideas, and spending the brain power on making those ideas happen.  Your head is for having ideas, not holding them.”  I needed to get everything off the floor in order for me to even start to think about what to do with it all.

But this is not the way we are taught to do things.  In this country we put huge importance on “efficiency” and so we mistakingly think that putting in work, only to “re-do” it all, or to make a table, only to make another table, means that the first table we made was waste!  Hardly.  The first table was required in order to know what you wanted the second table to be.  “Well, you should be able to make the best table right out the gate.  You should just think more about what you want” people will say.  Yea, well in a perfect world I suppose you are right, but we do not live in a perfect world.  We live in the real world.  And in the real world sometimes we need to be creative and sometimes we need to have “sacrificial work.”

Margret Thatcher said it best when she said, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

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I will end with this for today, because my goal was to get some writing in and I still have some stuff to do on my to-do list.  A few hours ago I came online to find iPhone buy sites, and I havent even typed it in.  Now how is that for procrastination for you?  See I am FAR from perfect, but I am getting it done!

The guy who says, “yea well you should have known the best table to build right out the gate because the way you are doing it is not very efficient!” is a friend of mine.  He is also a craftsman and he also has an unorganized garage.  Well, my garage has been in a decent state of organization for about a year now and his is still in the exact stage of disorganization that is has been for quite some time.  Now, he is working at his mom’s place remodeling it, but even then I walk into that work space and it is disorganized.  He says, “I want to do it once, and I want to do it right.”  Well,m I hope that works out for him, and knowing him it very well might, but put a price on spending a year of your life with a garage that hurts you inside.  Is it worth more than $100?  Because thats what it would cost for him to build a few tables and some shelves.  $100 and a weekend or two.  And I’ll tell you what, building that stuff is fun, getting things off the floor is fun.

 

As another example, I like to invent things.

Now that I am chugging full tilt in personal development I figured I would start writing.