I Unfollowed Everyone On Facebook

Posted: December 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Ever since I started my business three years ago, I’ve worked from home. The convenience and flexibility are so enjoyable that I get nightmares about having to go to work in an office.  Working from home does have one major drawback: distractions. They pop up not so much from boredom, but minor anxiety. Worry creeps in when I don’t know how to do something, and to cope with it, I instinctively reach for my phone and login into Facebook. Rather than facing the issue head on, I retreat, looking for an outlet for reprieve. I’ve noticed it as I’ve been writing this post. I don’t know the exact words to use and worry that it’ll be perceived negatively, so I shy away and look for something else to fill my time. Maybe that’s the root cause I should address. That’s for another post…

I Was  Addicted To Facebook

Social media sites are meant to be addictive. They are a constant dopamine drip of information and methodically timed notifications. Since you don’t pay for use, these platforms make money from advertisements. The longer you use the service, the more advertisements you see, the more money they make. This isn’t unique to Facebook – Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Reddit all rely on similar models. They had me hooked. A quick browse of Facebook could turn into a 30 minute internet excursion, with little or no value returned at the end.

How I Quit My Facebook Addiction

It was a multi-tiered approach, each step designed to fix the problem, but ultimately requiring further action. First, I removed the Facebook app from my phone. This worked initially, but then I started going to the mobile website. Next, I unfollowed people who posted frequently. That didn’t work either, as Facebook just fills the feed with things people liked, were tagged in, or commented on. Finally, I unfollowed everyone. What I’m left with is a dated version of Facebook, what it was like before the news feed feature was introduced.

facebook

Let Me Tell You, It’s Far Less Addictive

The blank new feed means I have to actively search information out, instead of passively absorbing it. Facebook is now just a directory of people and events rather than a sea of mindless entertainment. It’s worked out great. For the first couple of weeks, I still instinctively went to Facebook, even when there was nothing to see. I had built up a Pavlovian response to the feeling of anxiety. That reaction has since subsided. Now I only use Facebook to catch up on specific people’s lives. It’s a much more targeted use, and has saved me a significant amount of time. Unfollowing everyone has turned out to be the cure for my Facebook addiction.

Goal #17: Finished My Workshop

Posted: December 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

Why?

I take immense gratification from making things. Taking an idea from my mind and creating it with my hands brings me a lot of joy. When we were searching for a house, my one stipulation was that it had an area for my workshop. The house we settled on fit the bill with a partially unfinished basement (plus, it was the only basement I could stand up in).

Let Me Give You A Tour

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Workbenches

My father and I created these workbenches from 2×4’s and MDF.  The floor isn’t level and the walls aren’t square, which made building these difficult. The second level of the workbenches is 3 inches off the ground, good for cleaning underneath and in case of water in the basement.

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Bike Stand

One of my goals is to learn to do all my bike maintenance. A bike stand is a necessity for for most cleaning and repair as it brings the bike to a workable height and allows spinning the gears to verify proper operation.

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Video Background & Lighting

I projected, traced, and painted the below image to serve as a background for Lethal Engineering videos. I also installed fluorescent light fixtures to improve video quality. Despite having a degree in Electronics Engineering, I’d never wired up 120VAC before. I only shocked myself once!

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Tools

I have almost all the tools I could want including drills, a table saw, drill press, miter saw, jig saw, circular saw, reciprocating saw (sawzall), metal chop saw, air compressor, nail guns, dremel tool, power sander, plus a myriad of hand tools. I also recently got a 3D printer and have been working on the Kylo Ren helmet pictured below.

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Storage Racks / Tool Chests / Wood Racks

I’m committed to keeping my shop organized and functional. I added two wire racks to fill the dead space behind the water heater and furnace. Clear plastic bins fit on those racks perfectly and are great for storage of seldom used supplies. The wood racks were easy to install and keep all the lumber out of the way. The toolboxes house all the hand tools.

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Get Building

I’m really pleased with how my workshop turned out. It’s the perfect size right now, assuming I don’t acquire any more tools. Now it’s time to make things! I’ve got a host of ideas that I hope to turn into videos in the next six months.

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:

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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)

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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.

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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