The Habit That Changed My Life

Posted: December 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

I Acquired A Kindle Unintentionally

It was meant as a Christmas gift for a girl I was dating at the time. She broke up with me right before Christmas and I kept the Kindle. I had no idea the impact it would have on my life.

Reading Has Never Been Easier

The main benefit of the Kindle is that it makes reading hassle free. I find a book on Amazon, one click  to ‘buy now’, and it’s automatically downloaded to my Kindle and the Kindle app on my smart phone. Now I read before I go to bed, in line at Chipotle, or when I sit on the commode. I also use Audible to listen to audio books in the car and while I exercise (anytime I would normally listen to music).

All that time adds up. Over the last five years I’ve completed 20 to 30 thirty books a year through intermittent spurts of reading, far eclipsing my one or two book average in the years prior. Reading has become a daily habit that has taken the place of television. I feel as if I’ve replaced smoking with exercise. Let me explain why I believe that analogy is appropriate.

That Best Scene in One of the Greatest Movies

Good Will Hunting, the Harvard Bar Scene. In case you don’t remember it:

“You dropped 150 grand on a fuckin’ education you could have got for a dollar-fifty in late charges at the public library.”

And that’s what I found the more I read.  There’s a vast wealth of information for little to no cost. How come nobody told me about this sooner? They bribed me with pizza in the third grade (Remember Book-It?). Other than that, I didn’t read growing up. That changed when I got a Kindle. I discovered that this is where all the great ideas had been hiding. All inexpensive and easily accessible.

Thoughts From The Most Successful People

Reading allows me to pick the brains of some of the greatest minds that have ever lived. If Benjamin Franklin offered to stop by for coffee and a chat, would I do it? Of course! That’s not very plausible, because he’s dead and all, but I can read his autobiography. Same for Sam Walton (founder Wal-Mart), Ray Kroc (founder McDonald’s), Malcom X, and many more. It’s unlikely that I’ll become good friends with billionaire Richard Branson, but reading his memoirs I gain insight that would only be had from very deep conversations.

I Can Attribute Major Events In My Life To Reading

Here are a few examples:

The Success Principles – the book that exposed me to the whole “self-improvement” genre, taking 100% responsibility for the outcomes in my life
Born to Run – I signed up for and then ultimately  ran a 100 mile ultramarathon
The 4 Hour Workweek – I quit my job and started a business
Goals: How To Get Everything You Want – Wrote down my list of goals, went after them
I Will Teach You To Be Rich – Paid off all my credit cards, got more aggressive with my savings

Everybody Is Doing It

Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, the Dalai Lama, and Elon Musk  are all prolific readers. Warren Buffet read every book on investing in the Omaha Public Library by age 12. Bill Gates said if he could have one superpower, it would be to read faster. Elon Musk read textbooks about rocket propulsion in order to start SpaceX.

Goal #26: Read 20 Books

I feel as if I’m just scratching the surface with reading. My Kindle is full of purchased, but unread books. My goal for reading this year is 20 books, and I’m behind on that goal. As valuable as I find reading to be, I don’t set aside enough time to do it. That needs to change.

 

29 Before 29 – The Rules

Posted: July 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

The Commitment Contract

I mentioned in my 28 Before 28 Results post how using a commitment contract forced me to develop consistency in achieving my goals. The threat of losing money was motivating enough for me to swim, bike, and run everyday for several weeks in a row. This year, for my 29 list, I will begin implementing the commitment contract right away. Below is a list of every goal along with either a starting date or deadline as well as a penalty for failure.

Health

  1. Eat Four Servings Vegetables for 200 Days | Everyday Starting  9/11/17
  2. Drink 10 Cups of Water for 200 Days | Everyday Starting 10/2/17
  3. Eat Four Servings Fruit for 200 Days | Everyday Starting 9/25/17
  4. Meditate for 200 Days | Everyday Starting 10/16/17

I will complete goals 1 through 4 everyday after their respective starting dates. Each missed day will be a $50 fine

Triathlon

  1. Bike 5,000 Miles | Starting 7/17/2017
  2. Run 1,000 Miles | Starting 7/31/2017
  3. Swim 500,000 Yards \ Starting 8/14/2017
  4. Weight Training 50 times | Starting 11/4/17
  5. Flexibility: Be Able To Touch Toes | Deadline: 5/1/2018
  6. Learn To Do All Bike Maintenance | Deadline: 6/1/2018

For goals 5 through 8, I will have to complete the average number of remaining yards, mile, or workouts everyday (or week in the case of #8). The penalty will be $50 for each day missed after the starting date. Days can be skipped if I am ahead of goal pace.  The penalty for missing the deadline for goals 9 and 10 will be $100

Lethal Engineering / Lethal Tri

  1. Ultimate Computer Setup Video | Deadline 9/1/17
  2. Solar Death Ray Video | Deadline 10/1/17
  3. Halloween Video | Deadline 11/1/17
  4. Quadcopter Build Video | Deadline 5/1/18
  5. 20 Blog Posts | Deadline: 10 By 1/1/18, 20 by 6/25/18
  6. One LethalTri Video | Deadline: 4/1/18
  7. Finish Workshop | Deadline: 8/1/17

Any missed deadline in this category will be a one-time $250 fine

Business

  1. Produce 250 ‘Units’ of Work. | Starting 7/24/16
  2. Pursue Two Railroads For Additional Business \ Deadline: 1st Railroad by 1/1/18, 2nd by 6/25/18
  3. 30 Hours of Studying To Increase Railroad Knowledge | Deadline: 15 hours by 1/1/18, 30 by 6/25/18
  4. Train One Other Person for Checking Responsibilities | Deadline 6/25/18

Any missed deadline for goals 19-21 will carry a one-time $250 fine.  Goal number 18 will be on the same everyday penalty system as my triathlon goals, where I will be required to complete the average amount of work daily unless I’m ahead of schedule

Adventure

  1. Bike The Entire Cowboy Trail or Wabash Trace | Deadline: 11/1/17
  2. Learn Song On Piano and Play In Public | Deadline 6/1/18
  3. See a Rocket Launch in Person | Deadline 6/25/18

$200 fine for any missed deadline in this category.

Other

  1. One MIT Open Courseware Course | Deadline: 2/1/18
  2. Read 20 Books | Deadline: 10 by 1/1/18, 20 by 6/25/18
  3. Net Worth > $100,000 | Deadline 6/25/18
  4. Track Goals Daily for 200 Days | Everyday Starting  12/11/17
  5. Review Goals Daily for 200 Days | Everyday Starting 12/4/17

$100 fine for missing the deadlines for goals 25 to 27 and a $25 per day fine for missing a day tracking or review goals after the start date.

The Reward

I’m not a fancy dresser by any means, but have an affinity for flashy shoes. If I accomplish at least 20 of the 29 goals, then I will purchase myself these:

JS WINGS 3

They are called Jeremy Scott Wings 3.0 Gold, but that’s only because J.K. Rowling would claim copyright violations if they were called ‘Golden Snitch’ shoes. They have no utilitarian value but have an astronomical price tag. I can’t find a pair in my size online and the other sizes carry a price tag equivalent to our mortgage payment.

That’s why they are the reward if I accomplish 20 of these tasks. I’ve got some inexplicable yearning for these shoes, but would never purchase them otherwise. Since I’ve started making these lists, I’ve never accomplished more than seven goals in a single year. This ostentatious footwear will serve as the proverbial carrot.

The Taskmaster

This is my friend Matt:

The One and Only Matt Brand.jpg

I’ve recruited Matt to hold me accountable to my commitment contract. He will be responsible for verifying my progress, settling any grey areas, and will also be the beneficiary of all the monetary fines. He has a good ratio of supportive and dickish qualities to provide not only encouragement but enforcement.  He also does a great dragon pose.

Two Options

This will either be an extremely successful or extremely expensive year. Creating the goals and contract is the easy part, obtaining them will be far more difficult but worthwhile.

 

29 Before I Turn 29

Posted: July 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

Goals setting day is here! A day where I disregard the lackluster success ratio of the previous four years and assume I can make numerous radical changes in 365 days.

I’m rolling several of the goals over from last year, convinced that things will be different this time.

Health

  1. Eat Four Servings Vegetables for 200 Days
  2. Drink 10 Cups of Water for 200 Days
  3. Eat Four Servings Fruit for 200 Days
  4. Meditate for 200 Days

Sleep, exercise, and diet are the foundation of a healthy life (or so I’m told). I’m a champion of sleep, exercise like it’s a part time job, and diet like I can’t wait to be obese. There’s monumental room for improvement on the gluttony front. I’ve also heard good things about meditating so we’re going to try and make that a habit.

Asparagus

Triathlon

  1. Bike 5,000 Miles
  2. Run 1,000 Miles
  3. Swim 500,000 Yards
  4. Weight Training 50 times
  5. Flexibility: Be Able To Touch Toes
  6. Learn To Do All Bike Maintenance

There’s all these cool triathlons/ultramarathons/endurance events that I’d like to compete in, but I don’t have the fitness to do so. This year, I’ll worry less about the quality of the workouts and more about the quantity (which is horrible training advice)

Cycling.jpg

Lethal Engineering / Lethal Tri

  1. Ultimate Computer Setup Video
  2. Solar Death Ray Video
  3. Halloween Video
  4. Quadcopter Build Video
  5. 20 Blog Posts
  6. One LethalTri Video
  7. Finish Workshop

I’ve got several half-finished projects that I’ll wrap up and make videos for.

Computer Setup

Tank

 

Business

  1. Produce 250 ‘Units’ of Work.
  2. Pursue Two Railroads For Additional Business
  3. 30 Hours of Studying To Increase Railroad Knowledge
  4. Train One Other Person for Checking Responsibilities

All of those things will help to grow the business.

Railroad

Adventure

  1. Bike The Entire Cowboy Trail or Wabash Trace
  2. Learn Song On Piano and Play In Public
  3. See a Rocket Launch in Person

Have you seen pictures of the Cowboy Trail? Who knew such a majestic place existed in Nebraska.

I’m a big Elon Musk fanboy and would like to see a SpaceX launch in person.

I really dig this song and want to learn to play it.

Cowboy Up.jpg

Other

  1. One MIT Open Courseware Course
  2. Read 20 Books
  3. Net Worth > $100,000
  4. Track Goals Daily for 200 Days
  5. Review Goals Daily for 200 Days

I was more concerned with getting passing grades than actually learning in college. I would cram for tests only to write over that section of memory when the next exam came along. I value learning much more now than when I was in school and would like to study more math, physics, and computer programming.

What’s Going To Be Different This Year?

The commitment contract worked well last year so I’ll be using it from the beginning this year. Basically, there will be deadlines for each goal and a punishment if they are not reached. That’s where you come in. I need ideas for punishment. The classic example is to donate to a organization you hate, whether that be the NRA or Planned Parenthood. A majority of the punishments will be financial, but others can just be embarrassing, like having a temporary Mike Tyson face tattoo for a day. Leave a comment if you have any ridiculous ideas.

28 Before 28 – Results

Posted: July 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

I celebrated my birthday a week ago marking the end of my 28 Before 28 list. As I get older, I’ve noticed that my receding hairline is making rapid progress at colonizing the top of my head while my nose hair has grown long enough to require monthly trimming.

On to the results!

Diet

  1. Eat Four Servings Vegetables for 200 Days: 38 Days
  2. Drink 12 Cups of Water for 200 Days: 77 Days
  3. Eat Four Servings Fruit for 200 Days: 79 Days
  4. Cook / Eat at home for 500 meals: 236 meals (Didn’t track well)

The thought with these goals was that if I didn’t manage to cut off junk food, I could at least ensure I was eating the healthy stuff. It’s amazing how many days I would go with out eating ANY vegetables. Twelve cups of water a day was too much as I would chug water before bed to meet the goal only to wake up three or four times in the middle of the night to empty the tanks.

Triathlon

  1. Bike 5,000 Miles – 1941.46 Miles (27Before27: 1935.53 Miles, 26Before26: 2042.82 Miles)
  2. Run 1,000 Miles – 732.71 Miles (27B27: 589.57 Miles, 26B26: 654.60 Miles)
  3. Swim 500,000 Yards – 162,913 Yards (27B27: 69,311 Yards, 26B26: 154,868 yards)
  4. Weight Training 50 times – 24 Times, all in the second half of the year

‘Twas a decent year across all triathlon disciplines, with in increase in mileage from last year for every sport. At one point, I was completing a ‘workout’ in each of the sports every single day. I ran at least one mile for 200 consecutive days, biked at least three miles for 197 days out of a 198 day stretch, and swam at least 100 yards for 55 days out of a 56 day period. Those streaks were all a result of my ‘commitment contract’ which I’ll discuss later.

Alexis and John Cycling

YouTube – Lethal Engineering

  1. Create Patreon Account – Yep!
  2. Solar Death Ray Video – Nada
  3. Halloween Video – Zilch
  4. Three Thermite Videos – Yes! Destroying Peeps, WD-40, and AXE Body Spray
  5. Call to Action at end of Videos – Yes! A little awkward, need some work
  6. Build Workshop – Partial, need to finish up lights and shelving. Also, get more organized

I posted three videos this year which was a significant increase from the one video from last year. I also learned a little bit of Photoshop in order to make interesting thumbnails.

Lethal Tri

  1. Track Goals Daily – Probably 50% of the days
  2. 20 Blog Posts – 7 Posts, with my favorites being the Mother’s and Father’s Day posts
  3. Reread 10 Favorite Books and Summarize – None! (But read 10 other books)
  4. Two Courses MIT Open CourseWare – Bought a Calculus Book, watched one lecture

I created an Excel spreadsheet with 16 sheets that I used to track each goal. It’s effective, but I didn’t fill it out everyday.

SPREADSHEET

Personal / Miscellaneous

  1. Train Dog Sit, Down, Stay, Come, Heel, Fetch, Potty Train – All but heel!
  2. Be More Positive / Smile More – Stayed the same
  3. Help Alexis – Definitely! I do 99% of the chores around the house
  4. Net Worth (Alexis Debt Excluded) $100,000 – $60,154.11

Surgery residency is all consuming. Alexis consistently works 80+ hours works, and as a result, I do do all household chores, take care of the dog, and pay the bills.

Zucc is considerably better trained, but still has an insatiable amount of energy. We’ve taught him all the basic commands using advice from YouTube videos, while our friends and family taught him to shake and roll over (thanks Chris and Ben!)

I logged all of our expenses for the year. Having two incomes is a fantastic change, but we spent a lot of money. Net worth increased about $16k. That doesn’t factor in the additional bathroom we are putting in, which has so far cost approximately $8k, and should add an equivalent amount to the value of our house. Spending is one are we can certainly improve on.

Family Photo

BANFF

Stop Doing

  1. Facebook – 72 Days
  2. Watching YouTube Videos – 60 Days
  3. Junk food / Soda – 9 Days
  4. Distraction When Working – 5 Days
  5. SECRET – 27 Days
  6. Complaining / Getting Angry – 16 Days

These were all haphazardly tracked as well, specifically ‘distractions when working’ and ‘complaining / getting angry’.

Tracking these actions made me aware of what triggered them. Any minor anxiety from work and I reflexively reach for my cellphone to escape it. The best solution I found was to remove the Facebook and YouTube apps from my phone and then place my phone out of reach.

The Secret Weapon

I mentioned under the ‘Triathlon’ section all the different streaks I maintained. Those were the result of the commitment contract I made with my sister. Here’s how it worked.  I first committed to running everyday, then over the course of a couple months I added biking, swimming, eating fruits/vegetables, drinking water, and giving up Facebook and YouTube. If I missed a day doing any of those things, then I owed my sister $100. In total, I payed her $200. The commitment contract worked great, until a got stress fracture running the Los Angeles Marathon. I didn’t run for six weeks and also stopped swimming and biking, which snowballed into canceling the commitment contract all together.

STRESS FRACTURE

Summary

I accomplished 5 of the 28 goals that I set a year ago which is a low completion rate. Looking back, there was nothing extreme or notable that occurred on the ‘goals’ front. That said, I’m very happy day to day and feel fortunate for the opportunities I have. Maybe I’m just growing complacent. The commitment contract looks to be an effective tool which I’ll need to reuse next year. Stay tuned for the 29 Before 29 List!

Crazy Ideas

Posted: June 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

I Don’t Know Why He Even Bothered To Ask

My bad procrastination habit meant the answer was always ‘it’s due tomorrow’… except for this time. ‘It’s due in two days’, I told my father, referring to the Huck Finn project I’d been assigned for my 11th grade English class. I had chosen to make a model of the raft Huck used to float down the Mississippi, except instead of building a miniature replica, I wanted to make a full-size raft and float it down the Papio Creek. Most parents would have told their children that wasn’t feasible and that they needed to assemble a reproduction from Elmer’s glue and Popsicle sticks, but not my father. He helped me design and build a four foot floating pontoon made from concrete form tubes, plywood, plastic sheeting, and 2’x4’s. We then took that raft over to the local pond and captured video of me paddling away to freedom. We stayed up all night editing together a video that garnered an A+, despite the fact that I never read the book!

He Always Supports My Crazy Ideas

My love of engineering is most certainly a result of my father. In the 6th grade, he taught our class about rockets, explaining the basics of aerodynamics, Newtonian physics, and why golf balls have dimples.

In middle school he helped our Destination Imagination team build a crane with a 20 foot boom and electromagnet on the end, and then the following year a robot with a moving arm and  ‘claw’. I learned so much about gears, motors, pulleys, and electricity from those builds.

The projects got really crazy in high school. How about the time my father had to convince the cops that my spud gun was really for an Algebra project? Or when he scoured the web to find a design for a solar death ray for my Calculus project?

SPUD GUN

SOLAR DEATH RAY

My father’s support has continued into adulthood. He Drove with me to Arizona for an Ironman triathlon and then returned three months later to crew for my ultramarathon. I was in rough shape after 60 miles and don’t think I would have finished without his encouragement.

IMAX

 

They Say A Parent’s Job Is To Support Their Children’s Dreams and Ambitions

No matter how outlandish or extreme, ridiculous or ill-conceived. I remember three years ago, walking in to work to tell my boss that I was quitting to try to start my own business. It was a decision I was extremely nervous about, quitting a great job to pursue something I had no idea would work out. On that walk into work, I got a text message from you, Dad, that read ‘Follow Your Dreams’. Those words meant a lot to me, knowing that if this new venture didn’t work out, I would still have your love and support to fall back on. That’s why I wanted to write this post, to express my gratitude for the decades of caring and encouragement you’ve provided.

Love,
John

 

I Meant To Send A Card

Posted: May 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

I Never Know What Gift To Buy My Mom

With my Dad it’s easy. He sends me a list of Amazon links in priority order. Two clicks and everyone is happy.

I think my Mom considers this thoughtless (mostly because it is) and forces me to come up with ideas of my own. That’s a fruitless effort, so instead I let my sister find a gift and we split the cost. Steph said she was game for that plan again this Mother’s Day, but insisted that I should also send a card. That’s a great idea and all, but…

I Hate Looking At Greeting Cards

I don’t have the patience for it. I have very happy memories of time spent with my mother, but nightmares of being dragged along to look at greeting cards. Thirty minutes in the Hallmark Store is what it must feel like to spend an eternity in purgatory.

To skip the monotony, I’ve developed a game called ‘Greeting Card Roulette’. Here’s how it works. Close your eyes and purchase the first card you lay hands on. Hopefully, you’ll at least land in the correct genre. Worst case, it’s not too difficult to spin a bereavement card into a birthday card.

I ended up with this gem, and began filling it out only to realize my handwriting has become illegible and my thoughts too sporadic to not be properly edited with a word processor.

MOTHERS DAY CARD

Here’s What I Would Have Written In That Greeting Card

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

I wanted to let you know how fortunate I am to have a mother as caring and loving as you!

A mother who coached our Destination Imagination team, wrangling a group of seven teenage boys and developing ‘instant challenges’ every week. Who knew you could build so many structures with marshmallows and toothpicks?

A mother who was always willing to proofread (i.e. rewrite) my English essays and didn’t get upset when I got caught forging her signature to go on the Physics field trip to Worlds of Fun.

A mother who is kind to everyone and whose sense of humor I believe I’ve inherited. Alexis calls my puns ‘Sheila Wrobel Jokes’ which I take as the highest form of compliment.

A mother who’s wiling to brave the frigid waters of Lake Michigan for the Big Shoulders swim and thinks a Turkey Trot is the best way to spend a Thanksgiving morning

Mom and John Swimming

A mother who picked me up at the bus stop when I tried living without a car and who let me move back home at the age of 26 (rent free!)

A mother who thinks Jello is the perfect dessert for any holiday and believes her children are never to old for Easter baskets and Christmas stockings.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized how lucky I am to have a mother like you. This blog post does not do justice to the gratitude I feel.

Mom and John Wedding

I hope you have a fantastic day enjoy whatever gift Steph picked out (it’s from both of us!).

Love,
John

It Started With A Text Message

Through endurance sports you meet some interesting folks, like my friend Matt Brand, who one time paid someone to shove a tube up his butt and flush all the poop out of his colon. Seriously.

Matt recommended a podcast by this vegan-hippie-ultrarunner Rich Roll (not to be confused with his arch nemesis Rick). In this episode, Rich interviewed former Navy SEAL David Goggins. The story is nucking futs. You should really check it out, but if not…

Here’s The Cliff Notes Version

Goggins is bullied growing up, a black kid in an all white school. Post high school, he joins the Air Force and a couple years later applies to join Navy SEALs, but weighs too much. Goggins drops 100 pounds in 2 months and is admitted to the SEAL’s BUD/S training. Due to injury and illness, he has to repeat ‘Hell Week’ three times but eventually passes BUD/S and becomes a Navy SEAL.

A couple years later, Goggins learns of a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in which six of his fellow SEALs are killed. Goggins decides he’s going to raise money for the families of the fallen soldiers by completing the 10 toughest endurance events on the planet. First on the list is the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135 mile foot race starting in Death Valley and ending at Mt. Whitney. Goggins calls up the race director, who says Goggins must complete a 100 mile ultramarathon to even sign up for Badwater.

Four days later, with zero training, Goggins is at the start line of a 24 hour ultramarathon. 70 miles in, he’s in bad shape. He’s broken all the small bones in his feet and is pissing blood from kidney failure. He guts out the last 30 miles to finish the race. Goggins goes on to complete the Badwater 135 along with numerous other ultra endurance events including the Hurt 100, Ultraman, Western States 100, and Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc. He also set the world record for most pull-ups in 24 hours.

I Was Blown Away By This Story

The mindset and attitude Goggins possesses is incredible. He decides to do something and then does whatever it takes to accomplish it. No excuses, no quitting. That insane grit and mental toughness are attributes I’d like to develop for myself

I Did Something Stupid

Three years ago, I completed a GORUCK challenge with my friend Matt Brand (the one flushing his poop out from earlier in this blog post). The event was 12 hours long, but my muscles burned from all the lunges and pushups for the next two weeks. I swore I’d never do an event like that again, until I listened to that David Goggins Podcast.

I signed up for GORUCK Selection, a 48 hour endurance test covering 80+ miles with endless amounts of PT. They tout it as the hardest endurance event in the world with an abysmal finish rate of less than 5%.

It starts with a PT Test with a minimum standard of 55 pushups in less than 2 minutes, 65 situps in less than 2 minutes, a 5 Mile Run in less than 40 minutes, and a 12 Mile Ruck (with your 45 pound backpack) in less than 3.5 hours. Fail any of those and you’re immediately dropped. And that’s just the beginning. Selection is meant to simulate ‘hell week’ and is run by former special operations guys who are trying to get you to quit. Ultimately it’s not a fitness contest. It’s mental. Very few people are pulled from the event for performance. A majority decide to quit.

So Why Would You Do It?

I’ve been growing soft and complacent, lacking discipline and consistency. I hope that by training for an event like this, which is far outside of my current capabilities, I will develop those traits.