Featured

EMOTION HACKING

Feeling better already? Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

Today’s topic: EMOTIONS, and how to “hack” your own – so you can consistently feel really good.

*Disclaimer before we continue – I’m not a doctor or psychiatrist. Consult a therapist, psychiatrist, or other medical doctor if you suspect you even might have clinical depression, anxiety, or any other psychiatric issues. Consider this article informational in nature and do anything mentioned here at your own risk.*

HEADS UP: This post will NOT cover cognitive techniques such as CBT, DBT, focusing on gratitude, thinking positively, etc.

Instead, this post will focus on the chemicals that create your mood, and physiological interventions that will immediately and significantly adjust those chemicals with minimal effort. In other words, this post will cover anything that acts on your body like a drug to make you feel better, without the need to alter your thinking.

(As a rule of thumb, I figure that about 80% of my mood comes from the physiological factors that follow, and I always start with these when trying to feel better.)

Fundamental Concept:

Every one of your emotions is correlated to specific hormones and neurotransmitters in your brain. Specific interventions can cause your brain to produce more of these “good” hormones and neurotransmitters and make you feel significantly better.

Experiment:

Instead of viewing the world through the lens of “thoughts and feelings,” consider viewing the world through the lens of “hormones and neurotransmitters.” Use relevant interventions.

Key Players:

All of your good emotions basically come down to a few key hormones/neurotransmitters. They are as follows:

SEROTONIN: The overall good-mood neurotransmitter.

Serotonin feels like: a pleasant, relaxed, happy, easy-going, sunny day.

Lack of serotonin feels like: a tense, irritable, depressed, anxious, stressed, grey, overcast day. Not so much “tears” – more “tense, agitated, bleak.”

ENDORPHINS: The natural painkilling “exercise-high” neurotransmitter.

Endorphins feel like: euphoria, a “runner’s high,” a massage, sex, chocolate, a nice buffer against sadness or tears.

Lack of endorphins feels like: Tears, sadness, easily emotional.

CATECHOLAMINES: Including Dopamine, Nor-epinephrine, and Epinephrine – the pure pleasure/motivation neurotransmitters.

Catecholimes feel like: “WIN,” “YES,” “JACKPOT!!!”

Lack of catecholimines feels like: Boredom, lack of drive, lack of sparkle or motivation.

GABA: “Gamma aminobutyric acid” – the calm neurotransmitter.

GABA feels like: absolute, deep, peaceful, relaxed, fearless, utter calm.

Lack of GABA feels like: anxiety, fear, extremely tense, fight-or-flight, terror.

OXYTOCIN: the “love”/ “bonding” hormone.

Oxytocin feels like: Warm, meaningful connection, peaceful, calm, loving, cuddling a kitten.

Lack of oxytocin feels like: empty, lonely, meaningless, unsafe.

Keep in mind, there’s a lot of overlap here, since certain activities usually trigger multiple chemicals. For example, sex and chocolate raise your endorphins, but they also trigger dopamine as well. With this in mind, doing something to trigger even one of the above “happy chemicals” will usually end up triggering some of the others.

Interventions:

Using the list above, identifying whatever you are most lacking – and then getting more of that – will help you the most. There are certain things you can do to specifically elevate certain chemicals.

SEROTONIN:

Serotonin is excellent because it helps, to at least a degree, with just about any bad mood. (For example, raising serotonin is clinically helpful for anxiety, but also depression.) Serotonin is triggered by SUNSHINE and EXERCISE. Getting outside in the morning sun and getting some sort of exercise as frequently as possible – even if the exercise is not that intense – will trigger serotonin.

In addition to exercise and sunshine, one of the most powerful ways to raise serotonin (if you are clinically short in it) is through an SSRI – Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor. SSRIs are antidepressant medications that require a prescription. If you suspect you may benefit from an SSRI, please see a doctor or psychiatrist.

If you don’t have clinically low serotonin, or still want other interventions, try this:

A SEROTONIN LAMP. I use this one. Weirdly enough…they actually do help. I didn’t expect it to work, but I tested it anyway. Sure enough, it does improve my mood. I also have a sunny, beautiful picture as my desktop background – so even if it’s all grey out, and I’m not getting serotonin-triggering sunlight, my mac shows me a retina display of a golden-hour sunset and my serotonin lamp illuminates my room.

I hear that St. John’s Wort can also help boost serotonin levels, and can be easily bought without a prescription, though I haven’t successfully tested it. (Note that St. John’s Wort should not be combined with any prescription SSRI medications.)

ENDORPHINS:

Endorphins are triggered by lots of things, but primarily EXERCISE, TEMPERATURE, and PHYSICAL CONTACT.

While easy or moderate exercise can trigger serotonin, it’s the more intense exercise that’s really good at triggering Endorphins. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) – e.g., short bursts of sprints –  and resistance training are excellent for this. Play around with finding the “minimum effective dose” – you may realize even a very short, fast sprint will give you a huge dose of endorphins. Or just a tiny bit of heavy weight-training work in the gym might do the trick. When you start exercising purely for the emotional benefit, you’ll quickly get addicted.

One of the coolest emotion-hacking tips (no pun-intended) is that temperature can dramatically boost your endorphins. While cold (such as cold water exposure) can certainly do the trick, I personally enjoy brief heat exposure. A hot shower, bath, hot tub, hot spring, or sauna can actually mimic exercise and work wonders for boosting endorphins (it’ll also release serotonin). This is another go-to method I use regularly.

Any type of massage can also help boost endorphins. Getting a loved one to massage you, getting a professional massage, or just using a massage gun on yourself can all work.

Finally, though it won’t do as much as the above interventions, taking a few deep breaths will raise your endorphin levels. While it may not be the most powerful method, it can be done at any time, which makes it pretty useful.

CATECHOLAMINES:

This category of neurotransmitters, which lumps together dopamine, epinephrine, and nor-epinephrine, has to do with excitement, intense pleasure, drive, and winning.

Whereas a sauna might leave your feeling boosted on endorphins and serotonin for hours afterward – maybe even the rest of the day– dopamine spikes tend to be short-lived. Therefore it can be useful to start by focusing on the other neurotransmitters when trying to achieve overall well-being.

That being said, some of the best ways to trigger catecholamines are PLAYING COMPETITIVE GAMES and SOLVING INTERESTING PROBLEMS. These are excellent methods fo boosting dopamine, epinephrine, and nor-epinephrine.

For example, can you remember the last time you were totally immersed in a game of pickup basketball, or your personal favorite video game? (Or iphone app game?) Or perhaps the last time you were achieving some exciting goal? Even just getting immersed in an old-school game or Pictionary, Charades, or Taboo can spike your catecholamines, but so can things like extreme sports, skydiving, doing an escape room, or fighting for your life in virtual reality. Music can also do the trick.

Even sipping my daily cup of black coffee tends to significantly boost my catecholamines, by boosting epinephrine and norepinephrine.

Medically, if necessary, catecholamines can be boosted by certain drugs such as Wellbutrin.

GABA:

Gamma aminobutyric acid is extremely calming. The most direct way to raise GABA that I know of is through prescription medications such as benzodiazapenes.

However, you can significantly raise your GABA through intense exercise, which releases GABA, and helps you experience calm after the exercise is completed.

Try using intense exercise such as sprinting or boxing to release any pent-up fight-or-flight chemicals, and like with endorphins, see if you can find a minimum amount of time that gives you a maximum feeling of calm afterward. Jumping up and down, clenching your muscles, and shaking can all release that “fight-or-flight” energy and trigger GABA. So can laughing.

But one of the other best ways to boost GABA is indirectly, by focusing on oxytocin:

OXYTOCIN:

Like serotonin, oxytocin is one of those chemicals that seems to help with everything. (Though I suspect oxytocin may have an even stronger effect.)

The best way to raise oxytocin is by cuddling a loved one, or cuddling a pet – especially if you’re thinking of how much you love the person (or kitten!) when you do it.

However, you don’t need to have either of those handy to trigger this hormone. You can also boost your oxytocin through any type of close friendship or sense of community.

Spending time with people you really enjoy really does act like a drug, significantly improving your health and mood. Even having a positive, friendly interaction with a stranger – or just wishing someone well – can boost oxytocin, to a degree. If you really want to maximize your oxytocin when interacting with others, try bringing a sense of giving into the interaction – of actively giving love, of helping another, of reassuring your loved one (or pet that) that they’re loved, of caring for the other person.

From an evolutionary standpoint, humans are tribal creatures. Any sense of “tribe,” “companionship,” or “connection,” in virtually any form (as long as it’s with people you enjoy) will significantly elevate your mood. And like I mentioned, it’ll trigger GABA as well.

Priorities Checklist

That’s a lot of different chemicals and interventions to think about. Whenever I get a lot of information like that, I always ask: What’s most important? If I had to forget about everything except for one or two concepts, what would I remember? If you find yourself feeling bad, what do you focus on first?

EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) go through a specific assessment flow when working with new patients – they always check for critical life-threats first. Pilots go through a pre-flight check, following a specific series of steps before they take off.

With this in mind, I propose a basic Emotion-Hacking Priorities Checklist.

Before I lay it out, I want to remind readers that your body naturally produces ALL of the above chemicals on its own – so long as you give it the basic building blocks it needs: food, water, and sleep. The importance of those three basic ingredients cannot be overstated; these three core factors are directly involved with the production of all of the feel-good chemicals.

I also want to re-emphasize that out of all the interventions we’ve gone over, some are going to have a bigger impact than others.

With that in mind, here’s a “pre-flight,” “critical-threats” Emotion Hacking checklist, in order of importance. (It starts with a 3-way tie for first place.)

#1 FOOD/NUTRITION

#1 HYDRATION

#1 SLEEP

#2 RX MEDICATIONS (if applicable)*

#3 CONNECTION/Company/Oxytocin

#4 EXERCISE (for Endorphins and Serotonin)

#5 Natural Sunlight (for Serotonin)

#6 Heat (for Endorphins and Serotonin)

#7 Massage (Endorphins)

#8 Serotonin Lamp Light
#9 Game, challenge, something to “win” (Dopamine)
#10 Deep breathing (Endorphins)

*If you’re addicted to coffee like I am, this goes here :’D

So if you want to feel better, try going through the “Emotion Hacking Checklist” and see if you can improve one of the factors higher up on the list. Then make your way down. Almost invariably, you can significantly improve your mood with just the right nutrition, water, and sleep (or perhaps just a couple other interventions near the top, such as exercise and sunlight).*

*If you really are nailing EVERYTHING on this list and still feel bad, it’s time to move on to cognitive techniques (which is a whole other post).

To regularly feel really good, design a daily routine that triggers these feel good chemicals consistently (for example, exercising in the morning, getting great nutrition and lots of water throughout the day, and seeing people you care about in the evening.) You really can use things like exercise, sunlight, and cuddling, to drug yourself with serotonin, endorphins, GABA, catecholamines, and oxytocin.

It really is possible to hack your emotions and feel good more consistently than you might imagine.

Good luck, and happy Emotion-Hacking. =)

Doing Less to Achieve More – the 80/20 Rule

Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com. Also, huge nod to Tim Ferris and the “Four Hour Workweek” (possibly the best book of all time?) for first introducing me to this principle.

Last post I wrote about optimization, and stepping back carefully select what you’re optimizing for.

As a follow up, today I want to bring up a related question: is it possible to “over-optimize”?

And is it perhaps possible to achieve more by doing less?

To tackle that, let’s discuss something you may or may not have heard of before: the Pareto Principle (or the 80/20 rule).

The Pareto Principle is a helpful, broadly applicable rule of thumb that is simply as follows:

“80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes”

Or, to roughly paraphrase, about 80% of your results often come from 20% of your effort.

(Sometimes, in real life, the actual percentages may very. At times, 90% of your results may come from 10% of your effort. Or 98% of your results might come from 2% of your effort! Anyway.)

The 80/20 principle has many applications.

The 20th-century economist who penned the idea, Vilfredo Pareto, first noticed what we now refer to as a “Pareto Distribution” in his garden, where 80% of his peas came from 20% of his pea pods. He also noted that 80% of the wealth in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

(*In case you were wondering, today in the United States, the top 20% of Americans own 86% of the country’s wealth.)

But in my opinion, the principle is most useful in regard to high-leverage points and diminishing returns.

Let’s talk first about “high-leverage points” –

This is a simple concept. Basically, some things just get better results than others. If you focus more on the 20% of things that get 80% of the results (the “high-leverage points”), you’ll be well on your way to succeeding.

For example, if your goal is to lose weight, high-leverage points would be A) eating as MUCH “fibrous carbs” (plants) as you can, and B) CUTTING out refined (sugary, processed, bready) foods entirely.

Boom. That’s gonna get most of your results, right there.

A NON high-leverage point, by comparison, would be trying to pick the “perfect workout” to “burn the most calories” and trying to exercise your weight off, while still eating the same poor diet.

So, some things work better for weight loss than others.

In any goal, really, some things just work better than others. Always take the time to step back and try to figure out if you’re hitting the few key things – the few “high-leverage” points – and focus on those.

Those 20% of key activities might yield you at least 80% of the results.

But let’s also discuss “diminishing returns.”

Because this is where I think the 80/20 rule gets really interesting.

Say you’re in college, and you’re tasked with writing an essay.

In many classes, just by putting your name on a paper and turning it in, you’ll likely get a 50% score – an “F.”

But think about it – for the minuscule amount of work you put in, you just went from earning 0, to earning 50%, half of the available points.

That’s an ENORMOUS improvement with virtually ZERO effort.

If you continue putting in just a bit more effort, you may be able to fairly easily bring your score up to a solid C. A tad more effort still, you might actually be happy with your grade. On the other hand, going from a 98% to a 99% is going to require a SIGNIFICANT amount of effort and time, for a vanishingly small improvement in actual points earned.

In the bigger picture – looking at your entire GPA – and even broader than that, looking at your entire work-life balance – the extra few percentage points on that one paper might be pretty meaningless.

So yeah, it often makes sense to think about the minimum amount of work you can get away with, and deliberately try to work less hard.

I feel I have to acknowledge what you’re probably thinking: “Isn’t the concept of coldly calculating how to do as little work as possible immoral? Shouldn’t you always work hard and give everything 100%?

Yeah, this concept might bother the Protestant-Work-Ethic* side of a few readers.

(*Which is understandable. After all, the United States was founded by Protestants – at this point, we all have the idea that “hard work” and “morality” are synonyms, religiously socialized into our blood.)

But let’s consider it: As somewhat of a type-A, perfectionist person by nature, I can tell you that I’ve spent the vast majority of my life focusing on that extra one or two percent. I have a long history of always trying to bring that A to an A+, figuratively (and literally) speaking, giving 100% to EVERYTHING.

And I can tell you from firsthand experience that the extra slight improvement you might get from the hours of extra stress is often not worth it. Sometimes it is….but often it’s not. Because, as I like to say (and am often made fun of for saying so frequently!), every action has an opportunity cost. And sometimes, the opportunity cost from putting in extra effort is something important – like time with your family.

Further, that extra effort – usually in the form of worrying, agonizing, and anticipating – is frequently detrimental to actually doing a good job.

(In other words, just “trying harder” doesn’t always make you do better, and sometimes actually makes you do worse.)

So for us perfectionists out there, who really want that A+, and really want to put in a hundred percent on everything, experiment with this: try cutting back your effort a bit. See how it goes. You may be “over-optimizing” and getting diminishing returns from extra stress.

Cool, we good? End of story?

For most of us, maybe. But for the really compulsive over-achievers out there, the advice to “gear-down” and “cut back on effort” is going to be difficult to swallow.

So here’s ONE LAST little tip, for you guys:

(Still keeping in mind the Pareto principle…just sort of in reverse):

The vast majority of the STRESS you relieve may come from removing just a small amount of extra effort.

So if you REALLY FEEL feel you MUST get 100% on a paper – or put 100% effort into something – try just putting in 98%.

You’ll get a huge amount of extra calm, for just removing 2% of your “effort.”

This tactic often works for me personally when I’m struggling not to worry too much about doing something well – I’ll start by negotiating myself down, saying “hey, this doesn’t need to be perfect, just go two percent easier on yourself.” That 2% will give me a lot of relief.

(And sometimes I can even get myself to go a full 20% easier on myself, for a full 80% of relief!)

So in summary: yes, select what you want to optimize for, and sure, put in the effort and hard work.

But keep in mind that in any endeavor, there are going to be certain high-leverage points that are more critical than others, and eventually, extra “work” is going to yield diminishing returns and just stress you out.

You don’t need to kill yourself by putting in “maximum effort” and going 100% with everything.

Focus on the key high leverage points, and instead of going for 100, try going for 80 or 90 (or at the very least, 98).

See what happens – you may be pleasantly surprised.

What Are You Optimizing For?

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

We’re always trying to do everything, achieve everything, all at once – usually not very successfully.

You ever heard the story of the hungry, thirsty donkey, standing midway between a pile and hay and a lake? He wants to go drink from the lake – but also to go eat hay – so he just stands there, being emotionally pulled equally in either direction, until he starves to death.

I think a lot of us tend to do the same kind of things in our own lives, and with our own fitness.

Here’s my theory:

In fitness (and in life), you can only OPTIMIZE for so much at a given time.

You can do a little bit of everything if you choose, but you can only really Optimize for so much at a given time.

For example:

  • You can train to become the fastest marathon runner in the world, but you probably won’t be the world’s strongest man.
  • You can train to have the most muscle mass possible, but you probably won’t be the fastest person in the room.
  • You can train to lose as much fat as possible in a given time, but you probably won’t gain a ton of muscle mass in that period.

Does that make sense? Sound pretty reasonable? People might point out, “well, you can train to have a good balance of things.”

Sure. For example, you can attempt to have a good balance of athletic skills (speed, strength, balance, mobility, general ability in multiple sports).

But then you’re not really optimizing for any particular ability, or any specific sport – you won’t be breaking any world records; you won’t be the fastest, strongest, or best, and you may very well not generate any rapid improvement in any one area. For example, you’ll probably be generally healthy, but you won’t be rapidly gaining a ton of muscle mass, or losing a ton of fat.

In other words, even when optimizing for “overall balance,” you’re still giving up something.

Again, we can only optimize for so much in a given time.

And the truth is, this is an enormous relief.

You don’t have to try to achieve everything, all right now.

(In fact, you couldn’t, even if you tried.)

You can only optimize for so much – so what do you really want, more than anything, right now? And what’s most useful and effective?

Instead of trying to achieve everything all at once, what do you most want for the time being?

In a broader sense, you could be optimizing your life in such a way that you make the most money. Or so that you’re the healthiest and happiest; least stressed. Or so you have the deepest relationships. Or so you can be the most athletic, or the most famous, or so you achieve the most advancement and prestige in your career.

In fitness, you could be optimizing to gain the most muscle mass, lose the most fat, gain the most strength, achieve a specific athletic performance goal, maximize your cardiovascular health, focus on well-being, etc.

So many options, if you think about it. So what to optimize for?

And the real question –

Are some optimizations “better” than others?

Read through those list of options I mentioned. Life-wise, and fitness wise. Now just try picking only one option from each, that you want to prioritize, for the time being (i.e., perhaps the next month, or 3 months.)

(Again, if it’s hard to choose just one, it’s helpful to realize – this is just for now.)

And keep this in mind, too – you’re probably going to have some secondary or tertiary priorities. While you can choose to optimize for maybe just one thing (say, running the fastest mile in your life) you may still have “doing a solid job at work” as a second place priority. Or while you may choose to focus on “gaining the most muscle mass” as your singular optimization, you may have “gain some solid strength” as a secondary priority.

And before you finalize your answer, let me pose this food-for-thought question one more time: are some optimizations generally ‘better’ than others?

You may notice that some of the above options have a lot of overlap, while some don’t. For example, optimizing your life for healthy relationships, and happiness/well-being, have a lot of overlap. Similarly, gaining strength is probably going to facilitate muscle mass gain. (At the very least, it’ll probably make it much easier to add muscle mass later, if you choose to prioritize size next month).

Which leads me to this pro tip:

Some “prioritizations” are unexpectedly useful, having secondary benefits in many other areas of your life.

Some prioritization wear you out, or have diminishing returns. On the other hand, some prioritizations feel wonderful, can be combined with others very well, and may even unexpectedly help you achieve secondary goals.

So maybe ask yourself next – “As long as I’m actually being conscious of what I’m optimizing for, what feels best and is most useful? What will have the most positive ripple effect on my life?” And if you’re torn between equal desires, then try “What comes first?”

(i.e., “I really want X and Y! But which one will actually have a bunch of other useful benefits in my life and make me happiest?” Or, “I really want both Y and Z! But as long as I want them both, and will eventually get them both, which most naturally comes first?“)

So, in summary, instead of just trying to achieve everything you want right now, and being frustrated as nothing really happens, try optimizing for just one or maybe two things, for the time being.

And before you do, maybe ask yourself – are some optimizations going to make me happier (or have bigger positive ripple effects) than others? What comes first?

Best of luck.

(P.S. – By the way, if I had to guess, I’d wager that that people far overestimate the benefits of optimizing for “money” and “prestige” and far underestimate the benefits of optimizing for “exercise” and “relationships.”)

P.P.S. – In addition to prioritizing general well-being/relationships, I’m currently optimizing really highly for……”excellent cardiovascular health.” (Which sounds super boring!!! …but I suspect actually has a ton of spillover into just about everything.)

Tranquilizing the Inner Critic

Ahh, the inner critic! The voice inside your head that worries what other people think of you, tells you everything that might go wrong, reminds you everything you already did wrong, and loves to debate why it’s right!

(My apologies for the delay between posts, by the way – I’ve been experimenting with emotion-hacking for the last two months, which I’ll be very excited to share with you soon!)

Today, we’ll discuss two major types inner-critic talk, and how to tranquilize it in each instance.

But first, let’s start with something a little more cut-and-dry:

Handling the outer critic.

(As we’ll soon find, if you can handle the outer critic effectively, you’ll be much better equipped to handle your own inner critic.)

Now sometimes, when you bring up a new idea to people, they like to jump in and immediately tell you why it won’t work. (Or at the very least, why it will be difficult, and come with a lot of problems.)

Have you ever had this happen to you?

People seem to really like to “do you the favor” of pointing out problems for you.

As Tim Ferris put it in The 4 Hour Workweek: “Everyone has a damn opinion.”

Which brings us to the first of the two types of “critical talk” that we will address here:

1. Problem Anticipation.

e.g.– “Oh, you want to try that??? Well, this might go wrong, and that might go wrong, and, you know, I have a friend who tried it once and he said it was awful, and I’d also be worried about so-and-so if I were you…”

Ugg.

“Problem anticipation” is defined as, well, just what it sounds like: reflexive musings about everything that could go wrong with an idea.

Often, when people “problem anticipate” for you, they’re just trying to be genuinely helpful. If you’re reading this and thinking “that kind of talk doesn’t sound particularly helpful to me” – you’re right! It’s not! But for some reason, by listing things that could go wrong with your idea, people think they’re helping. Why?

Because at very specific times, problem-anticipation can be useful.

When you problem-anticipate, it can lead to very important insights and help protect against risk. Sometimes, when someone “problem-anticipates” for you, they help you discover a valuable point that you hadn’t considered yourself.

ALTHOUGH – and perhaps you can relate to this – the vast majority of the time, I find that when people “problem anticipate” for me, they’re just redundantly point out potential risks I’ve already considered.

Also, I have to say: out of all of the different ways to pitch in ideas and “help,” people seem to gravitate toward “problem anticipation” WAY more than is actually useful.

Here’s the thing about this “problem anticipation”:

To be truly effective, problem anticipation has to be done for a very specific purpose, at a very specific time, during a very specific, constrained phase of a planning process.

(Otherwise it’s just random fearful thoughts about everything that might go wrong, coming in perpetually, from multiple directions.)

In other words, problem anticipation has to be intentional, and somewhat constrained.

And here’s an important point: If it’s coming from others, it has to be solicited.

I’ll just say that again, louder:

IT HAS TO BE SOLICITED.

Otherwise, it’s just unsolicited advice. Actually, it’s unsolicited problem-anticipation, which is worse than unsolicited advice.

And unsolicited problem anticipation is toxic to new ideas.

When coming up with new ideas, it’s important to give them room to breathe. (You don’t want someone immediately pointing out everything “wrong” with them – not while you’re still just brainstorming!) So while problem anticipation can be useful a little bit later on, it has no place in the early brainstorming phase.

So here’s my first tip: if you’re considering helping someone else, by pointing out something that could potentially go wrong with a new idea they have, just respectfully ask permission first. See if the time is right.

(e.g., “May I offer some constructive criticism at this point?”)

And be willing to happily accept a “no.”

***that’s a crucial little detail: you have to be perfectly willing to happily accept “no” for an answer***

(And if you lend others this respectful courtesy, it’s reasonable to request they do the same for you.)

Now this whole time, we’ve been talking about problem anticipation and other people.

But that’s not even the real point.

Who’s the worst perpetrator when it comes to unsolicited problem anticipation?

You are.

Your own mind loves to problem-anticipate endlessly.

If you thought it was irritating when someone else jumped in to point out everything that could go wrong with your idea, realize that you do the same thing.

You problem-anticipate, for yourself, WAY more than is actually useful. Your mind will pop up with unsolicited advice – unsolicited problem-anticipation – in much the same way that an irritating colleague might.

So here’s what I want you to do, when you’re tempted to problem anticipate for yourself:

Politely ask permission first.

Treat yourself with the same respect that you treat others.

And practice happily accepting “no, not right now” for an answer.

If it sounds like your inner critic may not be able to accept “no” for an answer, try saying it like this:

Thank you. I see you’re trying to help, by pointing out risks I might not have considered. You’re trying to keep me safe. When we’re in a time-constrained problem-anticipation stage, I’m going to really appreciate that, because I’ll actually write down everything – and I mean Everything – you can think of that might go wrong. Then I’ll be coming up with strategies to both A) reduce the likelihood of those things happening, and B) handle them effectively if they Do happen. Right now we’re in the brainstorming phase – thinking about what could go Right – so could you offer me some ideas on that?

And that is how you tranquilize the inner critic when it’s problem-anticipating.

But there’s one more type of critical talk I want to address today:

2. Debating to be “Right.”

Oh boy. People love to be right. And they sure hate to be wrong.

This really only becomes an issue when your own inner critic (or someone else’s) fights to be “right” at the expense of being useful.

Unfortunately, that tends to happen quite frequently.

Let’s give an example (of course, starting with an “outer critic” for illustration):

Not too long ago, I wrote an article about fat loss. I pointed out some very effective strategies to lose a ton of weight. It got a lot of positive feedback! (Well – it felt like a lot to me. I’m happy if even one person reads anything I write, so the bar is low.)

But someone felt the need to quickly push back on the article, saying this:

“I have to point out, you are basing most of your conclusions on a study with a sample size of one: A healthy, motivated, young male (you). So others following your methods may not have the same fantastic results as you. Even a healthy, young female may not get the same results, just because of her gender. Not to mention genetic traits re metabolism, body type, etc.”

Hmm. Surely insightful and constructive? Valid and useful?

I’m not convinced.

Underneath the intelligent skepticism, it sounds a lot like fixed-mindset talk* to me. It’s a pretty intelligent response – if you’re trying to justify not actually doing what I suggest.

*(“Fixed mindset” as opposed to “growth mindset,” which I will be happy to discuss in a future article!)

If you really don’t want lose weight, then by all means, just blame your genetics, age, sex. Argue that biological determinism is real and omnipotent, and that you’re totally helpless to your genes. And whatever you do, don’t try the tactics I suggest.

Speaking of which, I wondered – had this person actually tested the tactics?

So I asked him.

No, he had not.

Ahh.

Let’s go back to what my article actually said:

In the article, “6 Tactics I Used for Incredibly Rapid Fat Loss,” I made a bold claim that the tactics provided could help anyone (who so desired) lose ten pounds in a month – and if for any reason the tactics didn’t work, I would PERSONALLY reach out to that individual to help them.

Now, while it’s a bold claim, I absolutely stand by it 100%. I invite you to ACTUALLY TRY (not speculate on, but test) these techniques for 30 days, and you will lose weight. And if you don’t, I really am personally willing to come talk to you. (A guarantee!)

But instead of actually testing the tactics, and giving it a shot (and, in doing so, increasing the sample size!), the critical impulse was just to debate that the article was wrong, and do nothing. “That worked for YOU, but it might not work for everyone!” And that fearful possibility of it not working was enough to discourage even an attempt.

(So, as is often the case with critical talk, maybe it wasn’t as useful as it initially appeared.)

But what’s really going on here, behind the pushback?

Why the reflexive challenging of a new idea, without even trying it out? (Understanding that will help us with our own inner critic.)

I have a theory.

I believe it stems from the desire to be “right.”

I think my article – a guidebook for losing 10 pounds in 30 days – didn’t quite square with this particularly person’s view of the world. It (understandably) seemed “too good to be true.”

Therefore, to defend this person’s view of the world, he had to push back against it. He had to argue why I was wrong, and prove himself right – “fat loss really is difficult!”

(Now I don’t know if this was the case in this particular example. This is just my guess.)

But I will say this:

I do think that often, people get a perverse satisfaction out of being “right” – even when they would be happier if they were wrong.

Each of us has struggled with certain problems before, which we weren’t able to overcome effectively. (For example, we’ve struggled to lose weight. Or we know someone who has.) So when someone else says, “No, you really can lose weight, here’s a better way!!!” – we want defend our previous failures.

(In doing so, we justify ourselves and protect our ego. We remain right.)

Whenever we’re introduced to a better way of doing something, the knee-jerk inner-critic response is: “It was hard for me. It was hard for this person that I know. So it should be hard for you too. I didn’t succeed, so you shouldn’t. That’s just the way it goes – you’re being unrealistic. You’re wrong, I’m right.”

“…and, well, sure – even if that worked for you – on the whole, I’m still right. No, I won’t do it.”

Ahh, the need to be “right” is so exhausting.

So here’s my tip: just put down your need to be “right.”

Just put it down. Really. Being “right” all the time isn’t that important.

And to the skeptics: just try the approach. Just try it.

You have very little to lose. (It doesn’t cost any money.)

There is actually one risk: if you try it (something new!), you risk being wrong.

(Because, in fact, you may actually lose more weight than you ever thought possible. Which would mean that you were wrong about your own weight-loss abilities. Oh no!)

But by not trying it, you’re risking being unhappy.

(Put me to the test, and check out the article here.)

I get it. Nobody wants to be wrong. (Mostly because nobody wants to look stupid.)

But my philosophy is, I’m not afraid to look stupid. (At least, I try my best not to be.) Ultimately, I think that’s a pretty useful trait to cultivate.

So when an “outer critic” insists on being “right” about something at the expense of being useful, don’t argue or debate, just walk away.

But when your own inner critic wants to argue to be “right” at the expense of being useful, remind yourself: “Who cares about being right!?”

“If I have to drop previously held notions to do this, but it in fact works better, let’s do it!”

“Let’s give this a shot and actually lose some serious weight this month.

Relinquish the need to be right. It’s so liberating. You’ll thank me later.

And if your internal critic wants to continue to argue in favor of a previous, ineffective way of doing something, by all means, challenge it with some hard-hitting questions. Because honestly, when you truly cross-examine it, you’ll probably find that your inner critic is mistaken about a great many things.

But meanwhile, be sure to provide it some comfort, by reminding it: being “right” isn’t the highest goal – being happy is.

Inner critic, tranquilized.

6 Tactics I Used for Incredibly Rapid Fat Loss

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

*Disclaimer – this post has some pretty insane nutrition advice, and should be considered informational in nature. While I never recommend anything I haven’t personally tried myself, you should consult your doctor before doing anything mentioned below.*

Recently, I had a friend start drilling me about the specific tactics I used to lose so much weight (a little over 10 pounds) over the past month.

So I thought maybe I should make a post on it; teach you how to do the same thing.

Before I get into the specifics, I feel like there’s one thing I should mention to you first – my “secret strategy,” if you will, that made this all possible:

For my overarching approach, I highly recommend checking out my post “Meta-Improvement (or: How I Lost 10 Pounds in 30 Days).” I would not have been able to lose the weight without this big-picture way of thinking.

OK, after reading that, you still want the tactics?

Really, if all you did was just read that post, you’d probably be well on your way to just figuring out the specifics for yourself…

…you sure you still want me to tell you?

Ok, here we go.

My promise to you is simple: if you can finish this article and do what I say, you’ll be able to lose at least 10 pounds in 30 days.

Strap the fuck in.

Tactic 1: Focus Exclusively on Fat Loss.

Apparently, some people can mix in all kinds of different types of training – including resistance training – while losing fat.

This is extremely difficult for me.

Now supposedly, strength training is great for fat loss. Almost all the fitness experts say to incorporate it, in order to lose weight. And there’s good reason for this: the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns, even at rest.

So if you want to lose a lot fat, you should incorporate some resistance training, right?

In a word: No.

No, I don’t think you should. Not if your goal, right now, is to lose as much fat as possible over the next 30 days.

In my experience, any type of resistance training makes me hungry, which makes me eat more, which makes me gain weight – or at least, it makes it difficult for me to actually lose weight. It’s a confounding variable.

While it is really good to do muscle work – and certain months, I do focus on that – I found I couldn’t do it during this month of rapid fat loss.

To really lose weight quickly, I had to focus purely on fat loss and NOTHING else.

That meant NO strength training AT ALL, during this time.

No Cross-Fit. No dumbbells. No pushups. No dips.

I understand. This flies in the face of most fat-loss advice.

(For exercise during this month, instead of doing anything hard or heavy, just go on walks. Seriously. If you already do go on walks, try some real gentle walk/jogs.)

Tactic 2: Focus on Fibers/Vegetables.

I used to think of nutrition in terms of the three macro-nutrients (aka “macros”). If you don’t already know, the 3 macros are Proteins, Fats, and Carbs. Broadly speaking, everything you eat falls into one of these 3 categories. In the past, I used to try to eat more protein, and fewer carbs.

I was missing the point.

I now view it as follows. Here’s what I want you to tell yourself, if you want to lose weight:

There are 4 Macros.

Protein, fats, carbs, and fiber.

(Technically, fibers fall under the category of “carbs.” But just try this framework out.)

The last “macro” – fibers – refers to crunchy veggies: bell peppers, carrots, kale, cabbage, sugar snap peas, green beans, chard, turnips, lettuce, radishes, brussels sprouts, etc. etc.

Now here’s the secret: About this “fourth macro,” fiber…

Eat as MUCH of it as possible.

That’s it. That’s all I want you to do.

Don’t worry about anything else.

Don’t worry about the other “macros.”

Don’t worry about moderation, measuring food, or counting calories.

Just simply eat as much fiber as you possibly can.

Pick just a few veggies you like to start, and then eat a METRIC FUCKTON of them. Seriously, at least TRIPLE the amount of crunchy, fibrous veggies you’re getting. Like, eat more than you think you should. View every meal as a precious opportunity to get more crunchy fiber into your body. (No, you are not going to eat “too much” veggies, no matter how hard you try.)

If you just had ONE thing to focus on, forget about everything else and focus on this.

Now maybe you appreciate the simplicity of this approach, and are excited to give it a try.

But maybe you’re like meand you think vegetables sound boring.

Do vegetables sound boring to you?

Hahaha…I thought you might say that.

If that’s the case, then I have a very fun experiment for you to try. Know that I attempted this myself:

Do not eat ANY fiber or ANY vegetables for a week. Eat only highly processed fast food.

(Don’t even eat brown rice, oatmeal, nuts, or whole wheat bread. They have some fiber too.)

JUST eat Domino’s, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Carl’s Jr., and any other fast food you can think of, as well as Oreos, ice cream, white bread, and whatever “treats” you want. (Low-fiber foods. Refined, processed foods. Fast foods.)

NO salads, that’s cheating.

Check the ingredients – if it has more than a tiny amount of fiber in it, avoid it.

You may want to have piles of some of your favorite veggies ready for later, because by the end of the week, you will be CRAVING VEGETABLES LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER.

And from then on out, you’re never going to think of vegetables the same way again.

And this is how you train yourself to not only like, but CRAVE, veggies.

This week could change your life. The lasting benefits will far outweigh the short-term pain.

I did this experiment myself, and started craving veggies after 3 days. I had to stop the experiment and go eat two salads.

I have never been the same since, and it only took 3 days.

Honestly, you’re probably not going to last the whole week either. And it’s going to profoundly change how you view food.

I love veggies now (and anything high-fiber). I’m literally wolfing down a bowl of cruciferous salad as I type this. I have experienced permanent, lasting changes in my desire for veggies after those three days.

So yeah, in summary, get yourself to crave veggies, then eat a bunch of them.

(Oh, and as long as I’m talking about stuff that you should eat, I’ll say this, too: You can also eat as much lean meat and fish as you want. You don’t necessarily have to go crazy, like with fiber, but feel free to eat as much protein as you want.)

But yeah: when it comes to fibrous veggies, for the next 30 days, you should basically go crazy.

Tactic 3: CUT refined, added sugar.

Your body needs some fat. It needs some carbs. It needs protein. It needs some sugar – the naturally occurring kind that comes paired with fiber, in various plants.

Your body literally has no need for refined, added sugar.*

(“Refined sugar” refers to…well… the stuff you’d probably just call “sugar.” Table sugar. Sugar that’s not found naturally occurring in something else.)

You don’t need it. At all. It’s pure extra energy, that is very readily available, almost never gets fully used, and then gets stored as fat.

(*I should say, if you’re breaking Tactic 1 and doing ‘real’ exercise, you get pass: you can have some sugar. But right now, we’re focusing on losing weight as quickly as possible, and just walking. So we’re not doing that.)

Refined sugar also affects your gut biome, literally changing the makeup of the bacteria in your gut, in a way that makes you gain weight. Go check out Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s website FoundMyFitness to learn more about this.

I’ll clarify, in case it’s not already obvious: anything that has “added sugar” in the nutrition facts definitely has refined sugar.

So, stop eating ANYTHING that lists “added sugar” in the nutrition facts.

(Big Hint: This is going to include almost ALL breads)

(Except for sprouted wheat bread, like Ezekial bread, which is fine.)

You should know – cereal, pasta, and tortillas are all refined carbs (just like sugar is). They hit your body in more or less the same way as sugar.

For the next 30 days, for incredibly rapid fat loss, avoid them.

Fill up a TON on all kinds of vegetables, and just remove these refined carbs and sugars. If it sounds hard, just try it. It’s only 30 days and it may change your life.

Tactic 4: Cut Dairy.

I don’t know what else to say about this, other than this: You’ve been led to believe you need dairy, but you don’t.

You know what dairy is really good for? Weight gain. If you’re trying to literally add fat to your frame, milk is an excellent tool. If you’re a bodybuilder lifting heavy weights and trying to add muscle mass, milk could prove useful. If you’re a growing baby who’s still nursing, by all means, have milk.

If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t drink milk, and don’t eat dairy.

Exception: Grass-fed butter is okay. (And is actually probably good for you.)

But for the love of god – don’t drink cow’s milk or eat lots of yogurt and expect to lose serious weight.

Not convinced?

I have a friend who lost 5 pounds in two weeks by doing ONLY ONE THING. Can you guess what that was? Cutting out his morning yogurt.

Seriously, if you don’t believe me on this dairy thing, just test it out on yourself before you debate it.

*Side note on Tactics 3 and 4:

If you know me, you know I do have occasional cheat meals, so while I say “cut,” I never truly 100% cut sugar or dairy – because come on, you’ve got to have ice cream every once in a while.

But as a default for fat loss, it is good to shoot for zero dairy or refined sugar the vast majority of the time. Particularly during a rapid, 30-day experiment.

A couple times during the month, you’ll probably end up breaking one of these rules. That’s totally okay. Just make sure your habitual way of eating follows the guidelines.

Tactic 5: Employ Time-Restricted Feeding and Intermittent Fasting.

I’m going to have to make a whole other post just on this; it’s too powerful a concept to really do it justice here.

Suffice it to say: try to eat your food within a 12 hour window or less each day. That means you’ll be “fasted” for at least 12 hours every night. (This isn’t actually that hard, because for most of that fasted time, you’ll be asleep.) Just don’t eat quite so close to bedtime.

A 12 hour window is a pretty gentle TRF schedule. (“TRF”= “time-restricted feeding.”) It should work for just about everyone. Even for individuals on poor diets, you’ll get significant health benefits from doing this. (I don’t have time here to go into all of the health benefits here, but just know that the list is really long.) Basically, no matter who you are, you should do this.

Now here’s where things get interesting:

If you really want to accelerate your fat loss, try more restrictive eating windows – i.e., limiting your eating to only 8 hours, or even just 6 hours, most days. In addition, occasionally (“intermittently”) try longer fasts (going for a full 24-72 hours without food). Not only will this help you lose incredible amounts of fat, but studies suggest it may be extremely beneficial to your overall health and longevity.

Here’s my caution, though:

If you are going to try longer fasts, make sure you’re already eating a lot of veggies, getting great sleep, and have minimal stress levels. Read that sentence again. I mean it. Also, I wouldn’t recommend long fasts or restrictive feeding windows if you’re concurrently doing any type of intense training.

That all being said, though…if you ARE taking care of your body, and really limiting stress….and you DO try some longer fasts…

you will lose INCREDIBLE amounts of fat, at rates you would not currently believe are possible.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself losing over a pound a day of scale weight during fasting periods. It’s insane.

No matter what you chose to try – easy, nightly 12 hour fasts, or more extreme TRF windows – here’s a huge tip: When fasting, drink as much water as you can. Seriously, drink a ton of fluids. A ridiculous amount.

(Actually, even when you’re not fasting, drink as much water as you can. This is really, really important. Drink more water than you think you should.)

Although – be careful to not get too low on electrolytes when guzzling water while fasting. You can always sprinkle in a small pinch of salt to your water, as needed, to remedy this.

Oh, here’s one more bonus tip:

Legend has it, any exercise you do end up doing while fasted will basically burn pure fat. (It has to be done at least 12 hours after your last meal though, to have this effect.) This is because after 12 hours, your body has used up its food stores, gone through a lot of its muscle glycogen stores, and is forced to start resorting to fat reserves for energy.

In other words, even if you just WALK while fasted, you’re burning pure fat.

That’s pretty exciting.

Tactic 6: Supplement.

These are the four most effective supplements I used during my 30-day experiment. They are all optional, but pretty useful.

1.) Green juice.

The number one all-around supplement I discovered, hands down, is green juice.

You get it in powdered form, and mix it in with water, and it basically allows you to drink the micro-nutrients from tons of extra vegetables quickly and effortlessly.

The most famous brand of this type of supplement is Athletic Greens, but I used a slightly cheaper (but also truly excellent) option called Green Vibrance.

Having some of this green juice almost every day made me feel great, made fasting easier, and overall made everything work better. (Note: I would generally have it before and after – but not during – fasts.) It served as an excellent “insurance policy,” making sure I always got some high quality nutrients no matter what.

If you’re going to add ONE supplement while trying to lose weight, I highly recommend it be this one. It’s expensive, but worth the investment.

With the amount of micro-nutrients in this stuff, it covers all your bases.

I have no financial interest in either Athletic Greens or Green Vibrance. All I know is that it really helped me during my 30 day experiment. In fact, I’m gonna go drink some right now.

…Ok I’m back. Sipping this, I feel better already. Again, this supplement is optional, but recommended.

2.) Fiber.

What’s that? You thought you were getting enough fiber from all those vegetables I told you to eat? HA!

Get even more. It’ll help you.

Supplement with additional pre-biotic fiber. (I sneak it into protein shakes. And no, in case you’re wondering, my shakes do not contain dairy – they have almond milk or water as a base.)

3.) Coffee

Ah, my personal favorite tip in the entire article. Coffee – black coffee – is an appetite suppressant which also boosts your metabolism and perks you up enough to get out and exercise (or at least go on a walk.) It contains polyphenols which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetes properties. So does tea.

My general strategy (when I was really crushing it) was to follow a time-restricted feeding window, fast for 12-14 hours, then “break” the fast with coffee. (Since it has no calories, while you’re technically “breaking” the fast, you’re still in a fat-burning mode). I’d use the extra perk from the coffee to go on a fasted, fat-burning walk, or an easy run. Then I’d eat afterward. Overall, I really love coffee.

4.) Branch-Chain Amino Acids + Electrolytes

Branch-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) help with muscle recovery and make you feel less “fuzzy” when fasting or eating less. (I would usually drink BCAAs as needed during my “semi-fasted” state when I still wasn’t eating food but was having coffee.) Also, BCAAs may help with fat loss. Plus, the brand of BCAAs I used had electrolytes mixed in, which is helpful while fasting and hydrating. Overall, they really helped me, and are not very expensive, so they’re at least worth a shot.

Whew, that was a long article.

TL;DR: Eat as much fiber/veggies as you possibly can, drink as much water as you can, eat as much lean protein as you want, ease up on the exercise intensity (as well as all stressors) for a month, just go on frequent walks (or gentle jogs), use intermittent fasting/ time-restricted feeding, and drink green juice as well as maybe coffee, supplemental prebiotic fiber, and BCAAs. If you do all of this, and you’re still not getting the results you want, I will personally drive (or fly) to your city, take out you out to coffee, and help you figure out what’s going on.

Compassion for Other Human Beings

A certain human being reminded us recently to “see each other again, listen to each other again…”

In a word, he reminded us: “Let’s give each other a chance.”

Maybe I should give people a chance.

Maybe….even people I really disagree with.

Which sounds really hard. Because often, I feel – I know – deep down, that someone is in the wrong.

But that person is still a human being.

(And maybe if I had lived through everything that person had lived through, I would think the kinds of things that person thinks.)

So maybe I could go easy on them, and not judge too harshly.

I could have some compassion.

That human being – like me – has pain in their life. (Maybe, that person has a lot of pain, that I don’t even know about). And that human being – like me – wants to alleviate that pain.

We at least have that in common.

Why am I posting this on a self-improvement blog? This idea of “compassion”…well, maybe it’ll help you be a happier, more peaceful person.

Do I need to spend all my time with people I really disagree with? Nah, that sounds stressful. In fact, I try to spend minimal time with people who stress me out.

But when you are dealing with someone like that, a little compassion – realizing that yes, that other person is suffering in many ways, too, and we’re all just doing our best in our own way – might help you feel a bit more peaceful.

And speaking of enjoying some peace, I’ll leave you with a short video:

Cheating Your Way to Fat Loss

I am literally eating a Taco Bell Chicken Burrito Supreme as I write this. In front of me is a steaming cup of coffee and a glass of ice water. To my right, an open pint of Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream that I’m working on.

Today, in addition to a bunch of chicken and salad, I’ve consumed an ENORMOUS burrito from a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place here in town (that’s actually really delicious; Guy Fieri’s been there), 2 donuts, coffee, a serving of Hershey’s dark chocolate, about 1/3 pint of this coffee ice cream (so far – I’m not done yet), and I’m almost done with this burrito that – yes – I got from Taco Bell.

(My conversation with the taco bell teller:

“What’s the biggest burrito you have here?”

….she responds…

–”Yeah, I’ll have that.”)

Update – I’m now down to about a half pint of this ice cream. The carton says there are 1060 calories in here total.

I know what you’re thinking – is something wrong with me?

Well yes, many things. But not this – the eating is actually intentional.

Let’s talk about cheat meals.

(Or sometimes “cheat days,” “high-carb meals,” “re-feeds”; whatever you want to call it.)

Disclaimer: First of all – whatever you do – don’t do what I do. You’ll get yourself killed.

But do hear me out.

There are actually a few physiological benefits to what we commonly refer to as “cheat meals.” (On top of the very potent psychological benefits, which also shouldn’t be overlooked.)

I was first introduced to this radical idea by Tim Ferriss in his book The 4-Hour-Body. Tim suggests that one cheat day a week could actually be beneficial for fat loss by ensuring that “your metabolic rate (thyroid function and conversion of T4 to T3, etc.) doesn’t downshift from extended caloric restriction.”

Intrigued, I’ve looked into it a little further, and my reading seems to indicate – and honestly, it makes sense – that occasional higher-carb cheat meals reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), increase thyroid hormones (which are crucial for optimal metabolism), and decrease ghrelin (the pesky hunger hormone).

We know that on caloric-restriction diets, cortisol and ghrelin tend to elevate, and thyroid hormones can be negatively affected. Anything that can combat that is probably a good thing, and may help reduce plateaus associated with extended dieting.

Additionally, “cheat meals” boost leptin (source, source), a satiety hormone associated with diminished hunger and reduced fat.

Now, I’m not a doctor, I’d still like to do more research into the subject, and I don’t recommend you cheat like I do (I’m also experimenting with all kinds of fasting and fasted running, and in general, I do eat an extremely healthy diet).

But I think we can safely say that when done consciously, and in a somewhat restricted way, occasional “cheat” meals certainly may have some benefits.

A final, important reason that I point this out is that a friend of mine texted me recently, guiltily confessing to downing a serving of pasta (“Italian comfort food,” as she called it, alluding to her familial roots), worried that she had completely derailed her fat loss plan. She seemed genuinely concerned.

I think the guilt and fear many people associate with eating a high-carb meal probably lead to worse effects than the meal itself ever could. (Especially since the “bad” meal might have some benefits.) That guilt and shame could lead you to really beat yourself up, or even spiral downward emotionally and nutritionally.

So if all this post accomplishes is to help people stop and question their “eating guilt” before they start to negatively spiral, I’ll consider it a success.

My recommendation, overall, would be to try to dial in a healthy, nutritious way of eating, that you do consistently, habitually – and then very consciously, fairly occasionally, and very shamelessly, “cheat”– in a highly intuitive way that feels good to you. (I make a point of eating plenty of lean meat and veggies – like I did this morning – before indulging, and then I drink lots of water while eating high carb meals. Then, I go back to eating my more standard diet.) As a final note, I believe that the more weight you have to lose, the less benefit you get from cheating, and the smaller your cheat meals can be.

In summary, though, not only does it feel good to treat yourself to a cheat meal, but the act of occasionally indulging might be have a few research-based benefits as well.

Oh, and my final bit of evidence: You know how a few posts ago I mentioned losing 10 pounds in 30 days? Last I checked (yesterday) I’m down an additional 5 pounds in the 2 weeks since then.

Reduce. Your. Exposure. To. Ads.

Picture this – you’re going about your day.

Impulsively, completely without thinking – just like how you breathe – you pull out your phone.

You glance through your Instagram feed. Every four posts, there’s an advertisement. You watch some “stories” your friends have posted. Story. Story. Ad.

The television’s on in the background. You’re trying to watch something, but it’s mostly ads.

Multitasking between your show and your phone, you check out what’s happening on Snapchat, because you don’t want to miss out on those stories. Story. Story. Ad.

You pull up Facebook. Scroll. Ad. Scroll. Ad.

The advertisements are starting to drive you you crazy. They’re making you stressed. Stressed about the upcoming election, about different ballot propositions, about things you didn’t even know you needed (but now will have trouble living without).

No matter. You shut off the T.V., and exit out of social media.

You go over to YouTube, to pull up some relaxing background sounds to help you calm down.

You open the YouTube app.

AD.

DONALD TRUMP.

You quickly type in and pull up something soothing to watch.

AD.

“Vote YES on prop 22!”

You go to skip it –

“Your video will play after this ad ends.”

Goddamit. Whatever. You try to ignore it. It finally ends.

SECOND AD.

“Vote YES On prop 22!!!”

(AGAIN! Twice in a row???)

You run out of the house; decide to go for a drive to clear your head. Fvck, your gas light is on. No matter. Turn on the radio. AD. Turn to Spotify. Fvck, you haven’t paid for premium. “WATCH THIS SHORT VIDEO TO RECEIVE 30 MINUTES OF AD-FREE MUSIC!”

You shut it off, race to the gas station, car running on fumes. You attempt to stifle your fight-or-flight response as you navigate traffic. You barely avoid a near-collision with another driver on their phone who was distracted while skipping past an ad.

You pull up at the gas station, and grab pump.

You go to select your gas grade.

SUDDENLY, the television that’s screen built in right above blasts an ad at you at FULL VOLUME, startling you half to death:

AD – VOTE YES ON PROP 22!

YOU SMASH YOUR NOZZLE INTO THE SCREEN AND SHATTER IT.

It stops.

Peace.

Quiet.

Sh%t, did you really just do that?

Now…I have no idea if this story is anything like how it really went down.

But when I was getting gas today (yes, they have televisions above every pump, playing ads on loop), I noticed the screen next to me.

It was smashed; totally cracked.

And I couldn’t help but fantasize that someone – after a stressful day, and lots of traffic, just sick and tired of being continuously bombarded by ads finally snapped.

And not only snapped, but decided to put their foot down.

I have to admit, the thought makes me smile.

Because ads are fricking everywhere in America. It’s too much; it makes you want to break something. And yes, the worst of it happens on social media.

If you haven’t seen The Social Dilemma already (a documentary about the dangers of social networks) I’ll tell you what my takeaway was – at least, from the bit of the movie that I saw.

It’s nothing I didn’t already know.

It’s probably nothing YOU don’t already know.

But here it is, more or less:

1.) Social media sites are using deep-learning AI technology to tailor an experience just for YOU, which uses just about every bit of human psychology there is to manipulate your emotions and keep you engaged.

(That is, your news feed – even if you have all the same friends as someone else – looks different than theirs. Because the site is learning what makes you tick, and giving it to you.)

2.) This is done solely to be able to sell ad space – that organizations are willing to buy, to get ads in front of your face – in order to generate profit.

Yes, companies are all bidding to get their ads in front of your eyeballs.

3.) The organizations bidding for that ad space don’t have your best interests at heart. They, too, are trying to spike your emotions as much as possible, to either persuade you of something or to get you to buy a product.

This is happening on YouTube. Instagram. Facebook. TIKTOK.

Many of the social media sites are not only monitoring what you look at, but how long you look at it and even where your cursor goes.

Alright, that’s my summary of the documentary.

Admittedly, some types of media can’t do all of this. Television can’t get that much specific data on you – yet – but that doesn’t stop them from trying. Turn on the TV and you’ll be bombarded by ads based on the channel you’re watching and where you live.

And it’s not just social media or television, it’s everywhere. Google. Amazon.

The ads are everywhere.

We are essentially living in the Black Mirror episode “Fifteen Million Merits.”

And you know as well as I do:

The ads are making you miserable.

They’re stressing you out. They’re manipulating your opinions. They’re making you want more things. They’re hooking your attention, and sucking away your valuable time on this earth.

So after all that doom and gloom, I’ll end with a simple piece of advice:

Get away from the damn ads.

(You’ll be safe on a walk. A book won’t spam you with popups, or hit you with tailored targeting.)

And if you want to veg (vege?) out on social media (again, ground zero for advertisements), do it – but make sure it’s conscious. Make sure it’s intentional.

Because when it’s an unconscious, totally oblivious reflex – and every few minutes of your day, without even knowing how you got there, you find yourself being bombarded by ads – you’re asking for trouble.

So, just as an experiment – here’s a recommendation:

Reduce your exposure to anything that shoves ads in your face.

Do NOT Take NO for an Answer.

“NO”.

“NO, that just won’t work.”

“NO, that’s impossible.”

“NO, we CAN’T do that.”

“NO, you’ll NEVER be able to do that.”

“NO, you can’t get into that class, succeed with that business, change the country for the better, achieve what you desire. AND HERE ARE ALL THE REASONS WHY YOU CAN’T.” (Insert lengthy, depressing, weighty, soul-sucking, and apparently airtight argument here.)

In other words: “SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, AND ACCEPT THE WAY IT IS.”

Refuse to accept that.

Do not just come quietly.

Take a stand for what you believe in, and fight for what you want.

I can tell you that whatever it is you want to achieve or do, there will come a point – possibly multiple points – where you hit a hard “no.” Where the facts are overwhelming, depressing. Where someone who knows much more than you talks to you for a half hour about why it can’t be done (and makes a smart argument, too).

In particular, I’m thinking of an excerpt from the book Undaunted by the Kara Goldin, founder of Hint water, who – when seeking advice from an experienced, big-time player at Coca Cola – was told very clearly that her goal could not be achieved.

Reading about the incident, you can practically feel the weight of this Coke executive’s arguments pulling her down, as he drones on and on, using technical jargon and careful reasoning to tell her that her goal of a natural, unsweetened, flavored water with a reasonable shelf-life could not be successful, and that people would not want it.

The way Goldin recounts it, you can practically feel the spark being drained out of her, the color and optimism from her outlook being grayed and extinguished, the weight pulling her down, as this highly respected gentleman drones on and on, relentlessly… logically… pessimistically… thoughtfully… about why her idea won’t work.

On and on….until she gives up.

She gives in, and says he can just HAVE her company. He can just take it. For free.

She’s so discouraged, depressed. She’s beaten, demoralized. The facts are just that it won’t work.

He doesn’t even accept the offer. He doesn’t want it.

NO.

That’s what a a “no” feels like. When you’re faced with someone telling you that it “won’t work,” and their pessimism and logic is so strong, that you yourself feel it completely drain your mood, as you realize….”this just won’t work. It’s impossible.”

At least, you think you realize that.

Because in fact, Kara Goldin went on to do EXACTLY what she was told was impossible, and create a wildly successful multi-million-dollar company.

But she almost had given up. In fact, for a moment there, she had given up…for a few seconds. Somehow later, she convinced herself not to back down. And it’s a good thing, too, because she went on to enjoy some insane success.

But back to this one anecdote:

What was really dangerous about this conversation wasn’t the factual content, but the fact that on an emotional level, she was so discouraged and demoralized.

It might sound sort of touchy-feely to say this, but I truly believe that the most dangerous aspect of this conversation was that it negatively affected her EMOTIONS so much that she almost gave up permanently.

So my advice?

Do WHATEVER you have to do to not let a “No” affect you on an emotional level.

Expect that generally, your first reaction to new or ambitious ideas will be a vocalized or situational “no,” but don’t let it touch you, emotionally.

As Chris Voss – negotiation expert for the FBI, who’s had decades of experience with literal terrorists and hostage scenarios – puts it, “‘No’ marks the beginning of the negotiation, not the end.”

(By the way, Chris Voss has a surprisingly excellent book on negotiating called Never Split the Difference which I highly recommend.)

So look – you’re going to hear “no”s. Small ones, and sometimes big ones, to the point where you almost give in permanently.

And “no”s come in many forms. Maybe it’s someone literally telling you “No, your idea won’t work.” Maybe it’s a class that you want to get into, which is full – with a wait-list. (That’s basically a “no.”) Maybe you tried to do a run – or really, achieve any goal – and you didn’t get the results you wanted, and it made you want to quit. (Again, no one’s actually telling you “no” here, but it’s basically a “no.”)

And it’s okay to back off, to readjust your strategy, to consider alternatives.

But what I NEVER want to hear ANYONE reading this blog do is take that “no” on an internal, emotional level to the point of being demoralized into submission. Definitely not permanently.

As Kara Goldin makes a point of saying in her book, when it comes to your goals, and you hear a “no” – interpret it as “maybe.”

But on an internal, emotional level – do NOT take “NO” for an answer.

The Case for Investing NOW

Okay, I will make a few predictions in this post.

I try to avoid making public predictions as much as possible, because it’s so difficult to do. Also, I admit RIGHT NOW, that I may be wrong on any number of these predictions – or on ALL of them.

I will be very clearly separating the FACTS from the OPINIONS & PREDICTIONS, going forward.

Opinion:

You should invest some money in stocks right now.

Fact:

The stock market overall, historically, has actually ALWAYS gone up in the long term.

Despite market crashes, the S&P 500 (top 500 stocks) has always provided positive returns for EVERY 10 year period.

Here it is, over its entire lifespan:

S&P 500 historical performance.
S&P 500 performance over time, not inflation-adjusted.

Opinion:

You should NOT invest money that you will need in the next 5 years – but if it’s a small enough amount that you could do without it for 5 years, you should invest at least some.

The reason I say that is that the market COULD crash – notice those dips, above – and if you need to withdraw cash soon during a recession, you would need to sell your stocks and take a loss. However, if you can wait it out over time (5 years is a pretty good amount of time) it’s very, very likely that the stock market will have more than recovered by that time.

Fact:

There are totally free ways to invest, today, that you could do in minutes, if not seconds, if you so desired.

The app Robinhood, for example allows you to invest – from your phone – in a manner some would even describe as “very easily.” (Notice by my phrasing – we’re still in the “fact” section). In addition, it now allows you to invest in portions of stocks without buying the whole thing. So if you wanted to risk a total of exactly $5, then you could do that.

You can invest in the market as a whole (through use of what are called “index funds” which allow you to buy a tiny bit of a lot of different stocks, all from typing in a single ticker symbol – e.g., “SPY.” There are people do this in order to help achieve something called “diversification.”)

On the app I mentioned, you could invest in a partial share of an index fund. So you could risk $5 on the market as a whole, and if you wished, leave it in for a long time.

^Ok wow, I took pains phrasing every sentence of that to make sure it was all incontrovertibly true…

Here are some predictions


Do not trust me on this.

Do you know why I say that? Because predicting shit is really hard.

Even for top-notch experts, predictions are really hard to make.

All predictions presented are opinions.


So think about them for yourself, and see if you agree.

(Also, keep in mind, the remainder of this article was written solely with the intent of helping you create as much investment return as possible, NOT with the intent of making any political or ethical arguments.)

Got that? Ok.

Prediction:

Biden will probably win the general election.


(He’s up by 11 points nationally, we’re down to the wire, a lot of people are already voting, people didn’t like Trump’s last debate, people are sick of Covid, most people feel Trump mishandled it, Trump even contracted Covid, Biden doesn’t have nearly the same low popularity that Hillary had in 2016.)

I could very, very well be wrong here. He could lose. Just trying to leave emotions at the door and help you make money.

Prediction:

A Biden win will be good for the economy as a whole, AND the stock market specifically.


Stocks like stability, and Trump is anything but stable. While Trump’s corporate tax cuts were probably good for the stock market (but not necessarily for individuals, or the economy as a whole), the Covid pandemic certainly has not been good for stocks (with a few notable exceptions – think Amazon). Neither have his foreign policy blunders. (Think – the market volatility that occurred when we found ourselves worried about the possibility of being on the brink of a new war simply because of some tweets).


A Biden presidency will likely provide more stability, and less fear of the entire world shifting rapidly over a single tweet. That basic stability is good for stocks. It is likely that with more Democratic leadership, we will see continued stimulus spending, which is also generally very good for the stock market and the general economy.


A Biden presidency will likely lead to better handling of the Covid pandemic, also good for the stock market.

And even if Biden doesn’t win, American stocks are incredibly resilient. Again, Amazon is doing just fine.

In summary, not only are stocks are almost always good to invest in (if you’re willing to be without the money for a long time time – to buy and hold), but NOW could be a particularly good buying opportunity, because the next 4 years may turn out to be better much than the last 4 years.

(And, even if neither of those near-term predictions happen, stock tend to go up in the long run. You gotta be willing to buy and hold though. I’m talking 5 years at least.)

Prediction:

Amazon (AMZN) is a good buy.

I’ve never publicly given specific stock picking advice, and generally try to avoid it. Especially because it’s very easy to look like an idiot if you end up being wrong.

But here’s why I like Amazon.

It’s, overall, THE place to shop online for anything.

It’s EXTREMELY easy to return anything at any Amazon locker or Whole Foods (Have you ever tried it? It’s unbelievably easy.)


which makes you feel safer buying from them.

In fact, why buy anywhere else, when you can effortlessly return anything you don’t like bought on Amazon?

And during this pandemic, you’ve learned a lot of things. For example, you’ve learned that more work than you thought can in fact be done from home, virtually. This may be a sticky habit.

You’ve also learned that a lot more of your in-store purchases can be made online – for example, on Amazon.

Also, Amazon has a high quality streaming service with really good content (eg, “The Boys,” super well-done show, check it out).

Also, a ton of people pay for subscriptions to Amazon Prime.

Amazon ALSO has a really nice in-person grocery shopping at Whole Foods (a store which is not only intelligently targeted toward high-wealth people – where most of the money is in America – but is also very health conscious and organic, a trend I think will only continue to grow.)

AND, because one can just about buy everything from Amazon, it’s a no-brainer to sign up for an Amazon credit card: zero monthly fees and gives you an immediate $100 of store credit with 5% cashback on all Amazon purchases, keeping you coming back – as if there wasn’t enough reason to by everything on Amazon already.

So, Amazon has a very user-friendly ecosystem for its customers which creates a ton of value and keeps people involved.

Amazon also has an average 94% buy rating according to Robinhood, from 48 analysts

It’s a very profitable company.

And it’s resilient in the face of a pandemic.

NOTE and DISCLAIMER: I put my money where my mouth is, and have invested in Amazon.

Risks I see: Possible government intervention if they get too big could spook investors in the short term, or could even be significantly damaging long-term. Don’t invest money you can’t lose.

Message me if you have any other thoughts on any of this!

In summary….

THESIS:

It’s a good idea to get involved (with a small amount of money you could afford to be without for a long time) in stocks, right now.


You can buy a partial share of the S&P 500 (ticker symbol: SPY) right now on Robinhood.


Amazon is also a good buy. (Ticker symbol AMZN).

If you want more help on any of this, I have an excellent online course on the topic. I’m not gonna link it here because I don’t want this post to just be a big advertisement for it, but you can message me if you’re interested! (Yes, go over and use the Contact page, I’ve made it easy!)

If you do actually go to the effort of reaching out to hit me up, I’ll personally message you a ridiculous discount.

*not entirely sure how long that offer will stand

Go make money.

Peace.

-Dolan