I Got Glasses

Posted: October 20, 2018 in Uncategorized

I’ve got a queue of 32 blog posts that I’ve started but haven’t finished/published. This was one of them. This little preamble is to tell you that I don’t think this post will be very good, but I’m trying to get 25 posts out to accomplish Goal #14 on my 30 Before 30 List.

I’ve needed glasses my entire life. As a teenager, I’d wear them for two months, only to lose them and go a couple of years without them. My vision is bad, but manageable.

Last year, I finally grew tired of squinting at my computer monitors and set up an appointment with an optometrist. What an improvement! I feel like I have a super power. It’s such a minor change but has had a noticeable impact in my work. I can see my monitors! No longer do I need to lean in to read spreadsheets or small text. Two hours of effort for the appointment and I fixed a problem that had plagued me for years.

What other simple changes could I make that would have a noticeable impact on my quality of life?


This will be a quick one…I registered for the Sioux Falls Half Marathon with my friends  Barb and Matt.

I had amassed a total of 18 mile of running between completion of Washington Island Ultra on July 28th and the start of this half marathon on September 9th. No bueno.

It was a great race. Starts and ends in the Denny Samford PREMIER center. Parking was simple, the bag check was quick, and starting a race in a heated arena is great.

I ran very close to an evenly split race, even without a watch. 1200 people ran the half, course was not too crowded.


My finish time was 1:50:15, that’s an 8:25 min/mile pace. Races are a great benchmark of current fitness and my current fitness is bad. It will be a long road if I want to accomplish Goal #8 of qualifying for the Boston Marathon



Goal #29 on my 30 Before 30 List wast to go a month without news, social media, YouTube, and Netflix. The purpose of this goal was to eliminate distractions and to focus on behaviors that are more fulfilling. I knew this goal would be difficult because all of those distracting activities have become ingrained habits. Downtime in the day? Check Google News. Feeling anxiety with work? There’s an hour of YouTube videos to ease that discomfort!

You Need To Be Well Informed

At what point does information become entertainment? I grew up being told that it’s my civic duty to be a well informed citizen, but well informed about what? When is the news not worthy of my attention?

I’d argue that news is worthwhile if I’ll take present or future action with information received. I’d estimate upwards of 95% of the news I consume is not actionable, it’s entertainment. Should I tune in to around the clock coverage of some boys trapped in a cave half way around the world? Of course not, but I did. It was the perfect kind of news: drama filled! My caveman brain loves that shit. Are the lives of 12 Thai boys important? Of course, but I wasn’t going to do anything to save them.

I want to make informed decisions based on trends, aggregates, and long term studies, not daily anecdotes.

It’s Meant To Be Addictive

Prior to this month of abstaining, I would spend several hours each day perusing the News, Social Media, Netflix, and YouTube, even when I had more important things to do. Why?

The brightest computer scientists in Silicon Valley spend hundreds of thousands of hours to make these platforms as addictive as possible. The more I consume, the more ads they can show, and the more money they make. The stories that get the clicks bring in the money. Outrage sells. Manufactured conflict and drama are all crack cocaine to my pathetic brain.


I should have mentioned in my previous ‘Wake Up Before 4:30 AM‘ post that I pursued that goal simultaneously with this one, making it difficult to tease out cause and effect. The overall results were very promising as it was a productive and invigorating month. I accomplished five of my thirty goals in addition to posting two Lethal Engineering videos, publishing three blog posts, and completing a record number of ‘units’ of work.

It was a very quiet month, as if the volume was turned down on the outside world. Everyday became similar to the one before and the one after. There was no drama in my day. Anxiety of the world coming to an end evaporated. It was kind of boring, but extremely relaxing at the same time.

The extra free time allowed me to focus on the items that affect me and that I can have an effect on. I spent an increased amount of time on activities that I find gratifying including writing on this blog, creating Lethal Engineering projects and videos, exercising, and reading. All those activities are more difficult than watching television or scrolling social media, but are undertakings that I know bring greater happiness.

I didn’t perfectly abstain from the distractions. There was a 95% reduction, giving in to watch Netflix with my wife on a couple occasions.

What Did I Miss?

Nothing. There was not a single piece of news that I wish I hadn’t missed.

I visited my parents shortly after wrapping up this goal and watched the nightly news with my dad. My goodness! What an entertaining 30 minutes! I felt fear, happiness, and sadness, all sandwiched between five expertly placed commercial breaks.

It is so easy to slip back into the old habits and that’s exactly what I did in the weeks following the completion of this goal. The contrast between the months of abstaining and consuming has been stark. This is a goal that I need to implement long term.


I Woke Up At 4:30 AM For A Month

Posted: September 24, 2018 in Uncategorized

I love sleep and don’t function well when deprived of it. As an intern, I once fell asleep during a meeting sitting three feet away from my boss. I had stayed up the entire previous night finishing my presentation for that meeting and was incapable of keeping my eyes open. The only thing that woke me up was the other intern kicking me under the table (several times, as I fell asleep again a couple minutes later).

Goal 27: Wake Up Before 4:30 AM For A Month

This goal was inspired by Jocko Willink, a former Navy SEAL who wakes up at 4:30 am every morning. I know he wakes up at 4:30 am because he posts a picture of his watch on Instagram along with some terrifying inspirational message like, “THE ENEMY NEVER SLEEPS”.


This was the last goal added to my list. I thought it would be a pointless month of sleep deprivation, but a 29 Before I turn 30 List just wasn’t going to cut it.

The Status Quo

For the past three years I’ve been self-employed, working from home, and waking up without an alarm. If you think that sounds glorious, you’re right. I’ve become very particular about getting 9+ hours of sleep a night which has resulted in receiving the nickname ‘Princess’ from my wife. “Do princesses do ultra endurance events?”, I ask her. “No, but they do wear sleep masks”, she says.

My Experience

The first couple days were rough. A very accurate description would be jet lag, as a four hour shift in my schedule is exactly what happened. An afternoon nap was quickly implemented. The rules of the nap were that it could be no greater than one hour in length and had to begin at least eight hours after waking. I utilized that nap every day.


On Day 9, I woke up before my alarm. My body was appreciating the regular sleep schedule compared to the haphazard one it had dealt with previously.

On Day 11, I started to enjoy waking up early and found an increased sense of motivation for my daily tasks.


The entire month, I always fell asleep instantly. When I shut off the lights and lay my head down, I was asleep in a couple of minutes.


I thought this would be a stupid goal, but I was surprised to find that I felt motivated the entire month. I accomplished five of my thirty goals in addition to posting two Lethal Engineering videos, publishing three blog posts, and completing a record number of ‘units’ of work.

It could just be a placebo, but I felt like I was ‘ahead’ of the day all month. It’s only 7 am and I already accomplished X, Y, and Z. I’m usually not even awake by 7!


The purpose of these month long goals is to experiment with a habit and see how it affects my life. Waking up early was something I assumed would be pointless but ended up enjoying. Three weeks into the next month and I’ve already relapsed into my old sleep habits. I’ve found that high sense of motivation has evaporated as well.

Starting today, I’m going to re-implement a consistent wake up time of 4:30 am. I’ll modify the habit to ensure a full 8+ hours of sleep every day by increasing the length of the nap if I”m out late the previous night.


How I Saved A Life For $5,000

Posted: August 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

The title of this post is a little misleading. I sat at my computer one morning, and with a couple of clicks, donated $5,000 to a charity based in Cambridge, England. Statistically, however, that $5,000 will save someone’s life.

Let’s Start From The Beginning…

I was peer pressured into charitable giving my friend Matt Brand. He and his wife have donated over $100,000 to charity, aiming to donate 10% of their income each year. He told me about an anonymous poll he took of his former computer science classmates (a lucrative field) and found that very few were making charitable donations, despite a majority working for big tech companies with high salaries.

I was embarrassed. I too had a good job, living in a low cost city, with no dependents, and was donating almost nothing to charity. What was my excuse? Naturally, I did nothing to ease this guilt until…

Goal #25: Donate $5,000 To Charity

These lists of goals are a great way to do things I know I should do, but don’t want to. I chose an amount that felt significant but would not induce so much financial stress that I’d be permanently turned off from donating again. Baby steps.

But Which Charity To Donate To?

I stumbled upon an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast where he interviewed Will MacAskill, a pioneer in the field of Effective Altruism. MacAskill approaches donating to charities like investing in a business. Which one has the best return on investment?

The best known charity ranking website is Charity Navigator, which compiles its ratings based largely on what percentage of donations are spent on fundraising/salaries/operations. MacAskill argues this is a poor way to rate charities. A much better way would be to see how effective the charity is with each dollar donated, rather than how efficient the charity is. We should care about the results a charity produces rather than how much they spend on executive pay and fundraising. MacAskill points out that the most effective charities are hundreds or even thousands of times more effective than merely ‘good’ charities.

Why I Chose The Against Malaria Foundation

The Against Malaria Foundation is the highest rated charity by Give Well, an organization that rates charities based on their effectiveness. On average, the Against Malaria Foundation saves a life for $3,500 by providing long lasting insecticide treated bed nets across the world. Deaths from malaria numbered over 400,000 last year, largely children under the age of 5. The analogy used is two 747 airplanes fully loaded with children crashing everyday. Tragic, right?

Against Malaria Foundation

The Most Tax Efficient Method To Donate

This $5,000 donation runs counter to my net worth goals. It’s well known that donating to charity is tax deductible. That will save us approximately $1,500 this year in taxes, reducing the actual cost of my donation to $3,500. But wait there’s more…

I donated $5,000 worth of appreciated stocks from my taxable investments through my investment company Betterment. When you donate stocks that have increased in value, you don’t pay capital gains tax, and the charity doesn’t pay capital gains tax either. Seems like a loophole, but it saved us an additional $200. Betterment makes this process extremely simple and has a great explanation of the whole process.

Donated Shares

I Clicked Submit, and Felt…Nothing

Logically, I know this is a significant impact, but it didn’t seem like it. I felt a sense of accomplishment since I finished one my goals, but little else.

I asked my buddy Matt Brand about this, and he said he feels the same way, but that he believes it’s his responsibility to donate. That’s a good way of looking at it.

I live in a country with tremendous prosperity, and with a couple of clicks on my computer, can significantly impact the life of someone halfway around the world. No heroics needed. What an extraordinary opportunity, right?

Goal #5 on my 30 Before 30 list was to complete an ultra endurance event. ‘Ultra endurance’ was loosely defined in my head as something taking longer than 8 hours. I added this goal since it had been over two years since I completed an event of that magnitude.

I stumbled upon the Washington Island Ultra, a ‘choose your own adventure’ of any combination of (8, 12, 24, 36 hour)  and (solo or team) and (triathlon, duathlon, or cycling). I thought it was an interesting event, as well as cheap and nearby, so I registered for the 24 Hour Solo Triathlon.


0.25 Miles swim loop in Lake Michigan, 10 mile bike loop around Washington Island. and 2 mile run loop out and back from the campsite. Complete as many loops as you could, in whatever order you want.

Race reports are boring to write and exhausting to read, even if you’re into this kind of stuff. So instead, I”ll give you a brief overview of the thoughts going through my head throughout the event.

Swim #1 – 2.5 Miles

It’s a 24 hour race so I should take it really easy to start. But I should catch that guy ahead of me first! I am going to destroy this race. I’m the juggernaut!

Run #1 – 10 Miles

If I run more miles in a day than I have in any week in the last year, does that guarantee an injury? Is it socially awkward to cheer on other runners if you just saw them 5 minutes ago, and will see them again in 10 minutes (it was a two mile looped course)? How many permutations of good/great/excellent and job/work/form are there?

Bike #1 – 50 Miles

First 30 miles: When Alexis is making boo koo bucks, we should definitely get a house out here. These rolling hills are far better than my basement trainer. 12 hours on the bike is going to be no problem.

Last 20 miles: If I’m four hours into the race and ready for it to be over, how am I going to feel 20 hours in?

Run #2 – 12 Miles

What happened to the speed of the first run? Is it still considered running if I walk/hobble along for 12 miles? Why doesn’t anyone cheer you on when you’re walking? Why is there a guy in a bear suit doing the floss on the side of the road? It’s too early to be hallucinating…

Bike #2 – 50 Miles

Fuck running! I’m superman on this bike, but why is everyone passing me? They must be on relay teams…

Run #3 – 12 Miles


Just jog to that tree, then you can walk again. Your reward for finishing the next loop will be using the restroom.

Mmmm….Skittles! Changing the green Skittle from lime to apple was one of the greatest achievements of the last decade. If only they could fix yellow and orange.

Bike #3 – 70 Miles

Deer…Deer…Deer. Where were all you guys hiding during the daylight? I’m going to invent a sport where you ride a bike and shoot at deer. We’ll call it biathlon. I’m moving slow, but a 15 MPH collision with a 150 pound deer might kill me.


These Pop-Tarts are delicious. Why didn’t I buy more Pop-Tarts!

Swim #2 – 1.75 Miles

I’m just going to pee here in my wetsuit. Why did I think an hour of swimming would be a ‘victory lap’? Just don’t drown, that would be embarrassing. Nobody can see you cry when you’re swimming.

Wrap It Up!

Overall, I swam 4.25 miles, biked 170 miles, ran (maybe traveled by foot would be a better description) 34 miles, and slept 0 hours. I got smoked by the first place guy. He did 240 miles!

I was pleased with how this race went. I wasn’t in great shape, but finished without any injuries, and suffered for the good part of 16 hours. The post race beer from the guys in the tent next to me hit the spot.

Next Year

Running, biking, and swimming for 24 hours sucks, but the race itself was fantastic. It had a super relaxed, ultra-marathon type vibe, with a majority of competitors camping on site. I plan on doing it again next year, aiming for a longer distance. A double Ironman (4.8 mile swim, 224 mile bike, 52.4 mile run) would be possible if I was in good shape and an Ultraman (6.2 mile swim, 261.4 mile bike, 52.4 mile run) would be feasible if I was in elite level shape.