The Magic of Giving a Smile

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In our last article we discussed incredible power of emotional contagion, and how – due to mirror neurons – emotions are extremely contagious. Because of this, with a little self-awareness, you can guide your emotions to positively influence others.

One specific, actionable, and incredibly powerful way to go about doing this is simple: smile at someone.

Or, as I prefer to say, give them a smile.

This simple act may be a bit more powerful than you realize.

What can smiling at someone do?

Well, if you’ve read this post, you probably already realize that it has the power to influence someone else’s mood for the better – actually changing the chemicals in their brain a little bit, to help them be a little bit happier.

But in addition to that, smiling can also make you happier.

According to The As If Principle, a research-backed book about how our outer actions affect our moods and thoughts, simply acting as if you are feeling a certain way tends to make you actually feel that way.

Let’s pause and talk about this for a second:

According to The As If Principle, if you can get someone to act as if they feel a certain way, then they will tend to actually start to feel that way.

  • For example, have you ever heard stories of actors who have played love interests, who have gone on to develop feelings for each other? That’s the “as if” principle at work.
  • Another example mentioned in the book was a sneaky experiment designed to get people to effectively “play footsie” with each other. This was covertly accomplished by having the subjects play poker, but allowing certain pairs to cheat by tapping signals to each other’s feet under the table. (Thus, the cheating pairs more or less went through the physical motions of “playing footsie” – and afterward, they rated their partner as more attractive.)

WHAT’S THAT ALL MEAN?

Basically, even just going through the motions of feeling a certain way – even if it’s for a different *apparent* purpose – (i.e., “to make a movie,” “to cheat at cards”) – causes people to actually feel the related feelings.

In other words, you can basically trick yourself to do something that will, as a side effect, conjure certain emotions.

So, back to smiling:

Do you want to be happier?

Well, you could go through the motions of smiling. According to The As If Principle, simply the act of smiling (ideally for at least 20 seconds) will improve your mood.

But guess what? Just forcing yourself to smile is really weird and hard.

It’s…like…oddly hard to do. Go ahead, try it right now, maybe you’ll have some success:

Relax your face, pull the corners of your lips to the side, squint the edges of your eyes. (People’s eyes crinkle at the corners in genuine smiles). Smile wider. …Wider. Show teeth! Hold it for 20 seconds.

If you can pull it off, it’ll actually make you feel a bit better. (Practicing helps.)

But if this is uncomfortable for you, there’s another option. Sort of like the psychologists did in the sneaky “poker game/footsie” experiment, you may have to “trick” yourself into smiling – and provide yourself a different reason to act the intended way.

And guess what?

It’s actually much eaiser to “give” someone else a smile, to help them feel good, than it is to just smile for yourself.

So try giving someone else a smile. Try using the concept of “emotional contagion” to help improve someone else’s mood.

Instead of focusing on yourself, focus on the other person, on helping them. Really try to “give” good vibes to that person, to wish them well, with a smile.

…And as a pleasant side effect, just the act of smiling at them will make you feel much happier.

And hey, they might just actually catch your good mood.

In fact, who knows, you might just end up making their day.

That’s pretty magical.

Offensive vs. Defensive Thinking

Can you focus on what you’re truly passionate about instead of what scares you?

Here’s a simple mental framework that I find to be incredibly useful:

Offensive vs. Defensive Thinking.

In general, “Offensive Thinking” is thinking about what you want, or things you like, and how to move toward that.

“Defensive Thinking” is considering what you don’t want want, and planning ways to avoid it.

For example, taking some time to go on a vacation, think about what you really want, and set some goals – that’s offensive thinking. Pursuing a passion, trying out learning a new skill, making a commitment to seeing friends you love – all offensive thinking. It’s pleasure-seeking, positive, and not fearful.

If you are thinking about a problem that might occur and trying to keep it from happening, that’s defensive thinking. A reasonable example might be considering how a boss or supervisor might react to an email you’re about to send, and taking some time to craft your phrasing to avoid possible problems. Defensive thinking is pain-avoiding. It’s often fearful.

I propose both types of thinking can be useful, at certain times.

Sometimes, it makes sense to think about what you want, and to go after your passions, and to take time away from worries to actually do what you love.

Sometimes, it makes sense to think and take steps to protect yourself from a negative outcome you wish to avoid.

However, much like with problem anticipation, we all tend to get stuck in “Defensive Thinking Mode” almost all the time.

I think if you take some time to consider it, you’ll agree:

We are CONSTANTLY thinking DEFENSIVELY.

Here’s the thing:

A little defensive thinking goes a long way. We don’t really need much of it.

And there are fundamental limits to what you can achieve via defensive thinking.

Defensive thinking – even at its very best – can still only help you try to minimize a potential downside to something. It won’t really help you grow, and it won’t really help you achieve anything you want.

Defensive thinking, alone, never produces insane success or deep happiness. All it can lead to is: “well at least that didn’t happen quite as badly as it could’ve.”

Further, defensive thinking begets more, fearful, defensive thinking. If you’re wondering about things that could go wrong and how to stop them, your brain will start to come up with more things that could go wrong – and how to stop them. It’s easy to fall in a defensive thinking trap where you’re just scrambling to protect the status quo, and not actually growing. You’re afraid, protective, and playing defense.

So, I believe it’s important to time constrain defensive thinking. It’s important to be aware and notice when you’re in this mode and ask yourself:

“Is it really that important to be thinking these thoughts right now?”

You may be surprised to find that you can significantly cut down on your own “defensive thinking” with ZERO downside.

So what, do I propose, should you focus on?

OFFENSIVE THINKING.

In its simplest, and broadest form, offensive thinking is really any type of thought that seems to move toward what you want. It feels good.

(While the most obvious example of offensive thinking is daydreaming about things you desire, setting goals, and going after them, I think the definition can be even broader than that.)

I propose: anytime you “set down” your current thinking patterns – taking a break from all the defensive thoughts you’ve been ruminating on – you’re actually thinking offensively.

Anytime you get away from your normal routine – whether it’s a new environment, or a road trip, or a vacation, or a flight – you’re thinking offensively. You’re opening yourself up to new possibilities. Even mentally “setting down” your current goals – to see if you’re actually going after what you truly want – is a form of offensive thinking.

Anytime you ask yourself what you really desire, anytime you listen to your gut – your emotions – and do what feels right and feels good ANYTIME YOU’RE DOING ANYTHING THAT RESONATES WITH THE WORD “PASSION” – you’re thinking offensively.

So do whatever you have to do to get the hell out of “defensive thinking mode.”

Even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Stop thinking about what might go wrong, and how to protect yourself. Stop thinking about all the downsides, problems, risks. Just for a few minutes.

And instead, focus on what you love. Focus on what excites you. Think about what sounds enjoyable, and make that happen. Go towards pleasure, rather than just away from pain.

(What you’ll find is, not only does your life become more enjoyable when you do this, but you’ll realize that often, offense really is the best defense.)

(Sometimes, the best way to protect yourself from all those anticipated downsides, instead of worrying about them, is in fact to simply go after what you ACTUALLY want.)

Focus on what resonates with you, and feels good. Focus on that.

To paraphrase the words of Tim Ferris –

Whatever you think failure is, whatever you’re afraid of – that’s not failure.

True failure is the boredom from not even trying anything that actually excites you.

And true success is the excitement that comes from going after what you love.

So ask yourself – “what excites me?”

That’s offensive thinking.

The Superpower of Emotional Contagion

You have an incredible, awesome power to influence the moods of those around you.

If you wish, you can hurt, upset, anger, or scare others. You can also help others feel peaceful, happy, excited, humorous, loved, or any other emotion you can think of.

And I don’t just mean through your words.

In fact, your most powerful tool for influencing the emotions of those around you is not what you say – it’s what you feel.

That’s because emotional contagion is a real phenomenon. (Yes, I’ve read the scientific book by that same title. Feel free to google around for scholarly articles with the same key-phrase.)

Emotions are incredibly contagious.

In the same way that someone yawning next to you might cause you to yawn – in fact, even thinking about the idea of yawning might cause you to want to yawn right now – the emotions others feel have the habit of creeping up on us as well.

When someone is angry at you, tense, aggressive, and flips you off, in a second you feel your own blood boil as you “catch” their tension.

When you’re around friends who are relaxed, and in a humorous mood – sharing a knowing smile that holds in laughter – you may find yourself unconsciously smiling as well.

By and large, our brains are incredibly adept at noticing the emotions in others faces, or deciphering what others would be feeling given their situation, and our mirror neurons replicate those emotions in ourselves.

Emotional contagion, and mirror neurons, are at the core of just about every interpersonal interaction and phenomenon. People like watching sports because they feel the same thrill that the winning players do; people like watching romance movies to feel the same rush as the principle characters. And every single interpersonal interaction, every conversation, is – at its core – an exchange of emotions.

You see, you can affect others’ emotions, but they can also affect yours. True, some people are less affected by others, while some are more affected. Similarly, some people’s emotions are more contagious, while some people’s are less. (Perhaps you know someone whose tension and irritability can darken a whole room, but whose smile and ease can immediately brighten it back up?)

But the thing is, whether we recognize it or not, we are all, to at least some degree, directly influencing the emotions of others around us, just by osmosis – just by feeling what we’re feeling. We have an incredible power to affect the moods of others. It’s almost like a genuine superpower.

Except, as the saying goes (and is perhaps a little overused, but it fits perfectly here): With great power comes great responsibility.

*Uncle Ben, Spiderman

Once you recognize that you – yes, YOU have great power of the emotions of those around you, you start to think about the kinds of emotions you want to share.

It’s worth asking yourself:

How do you want people to feel?

Really, if you could make people feel however you wanted, how would you want them to feel?

Do you want people around you to feel scared, angry, tense? Because you really do have the power to make that happen if you wish.

But I suspect you don’t truly want that. I suspect you may want the people around you to feel peaceful, loved, humorous, excited, happy. And you have the power to make this happen as well.

Of course, in order to do so, you have to cultivate those emotions in yourself. This can take a little work, especially with the outside world flinging so many contagious emotions at you. But with a little help from physiological emotion hacking, a little mindfulness, and a little directed positive focus, I suspect you could – if you really wanted to – nudge your mood at least somewhat in a positive direction. If not for yourself, then for others, to help those around you feel better.

Because you really do have the power to brighten someone’s day.

You have the power to help someone feel peaceful when they’re scared, or loved when they’re lonely.

You have the power to subtly lift the mood of a room, if you really want to, when people seem upset and angry.

You have the power to help others smile, laugh, and feel good about being alive.

(Along the way, you may find that a simple genuine smile goes a very, very long way.)

Now does it work like magic? Can you just pick however you want to feel, immediately feel that way, and immediately make everyone else feel that way, all the time, starting now? Maybe not quite.

But with a little self awareness, practice, patience, and persistence (definitely patience and persistence, sometimes it takes a while to calm someone down who’s in a bad mood), you may find that you surprise yourself with your ability to affect others for the better.

And damned if there isn’t a cooler superpower than that.

Asymmetric Risk/Reward & Opportunity

Meeting new people is a perfect “non-financial” example of asymmetrical risk/reward. Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Asymmetric Risk/Reward is one of those very cool concepts usually discussed with regard to money, or investing.

(It’s somewhat similar to expected-value decision making, which I cover here, but I think this concept deserves its own post.)

Asymmetric Risk/Reward refers to any situation where the potential benefit is much greater than the potential loss.

It’s anything where you stand to GAIN a lot, and only risk a little.

According to traditional thinking, if you want higher returns, you must take more risk. Sometimes, this is true. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes there are opportunities where only taking a little risk will still expose you to enormous potential reward.

And if you start really looking out for opportunities like this, I guarantee you you’ll find some.

Financially speaking, one possible example of this could be a well placed, inexpensive call option. (Call options are essentially a way to bet that a stock will go up.) If you purchase an inexpensive call option for a stock you think may go up a lot, you could be exposing yourself to the wonders of asymmetric risk/reward. That is because with call options, you have a finite amount of money you can lose, and a potentially unlimited amount of money to gain. (i.e., your losses are capped, but your gains are uncapped.)

*Obviously options trading entails risk. Do not consider this financial advice in any way; it’s simply to illustrate the concept.*

But here’s the bigger point:

Asymmetric Risk/Reward doesn’t just occur in investing. It’s EVERYWHERE.

Once you start looking, asymmetric risk/reward opportunities are everywhere.

Want another example of asymmetric risk/reward opportunity? Go meet new people. For very little risk, you may make a new best friend, meet a new romantic partner, or perhaps meet someone who will be an incredible business partner. Meeting new people is one of the best examples of asymmetric risk/reward, because you stand to lose almost nothing (i.e. – a little time), but you stand to gain possibly everything – romantically, financially, you name it. (And hey, if you don’t like the person, you don’t have to see them again.)

Or another underrated example? Cruise online job boards and look for new jobs – for the cost of zero dollars you just might discover something really interesting, fun, and lucrative. Heck, if you can do it without losing your current source of income, go try a second job – the risk is minimal; you can always just quit if you don’t like it. And you may love it and discover your next passion.

Or go to a bookstore or library. You may learn something incredible that could improve your financial life, your dating life, or your health, all for the price of a book (or for free, if it’s at a library). A single really good, informative read at the right time can literally change the course of your life for the better.

Or travel somewhere new, try a new class, or join some other community. You may discover somewhere, something, or someone you absolutely love, or people that can help you achieve your goals in a massive way. At the very least, you may meet someone that knows someone who could help you achieve your goals.

While all these are just examples, they have something in common: they involve little actual risk – they’re inexpensive, or don’t take much to try – but they expose you to enormous possibilities.

There really are huge, home-run opportunities out there.

By continually exposing yourself to massive upside – even without necessarily taking huge risks – you’re likely to enjoy some incredible successes.

Just keep your eyes open for these opportunities, these asymmetric risk/reward situations that cost very little but could potentially change your life.

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

-Dolan

Geo-Arbitrage and Money Magic

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you really want to sound fancy, just throw in the term “Geo-Arbitrage” into any conversation and let people try to figure out what it means.

Let me break it down for you though:

Geo: As in “geography,” referring to location.

Arbitrage: A fancy word for taking advantage of price differences to make money or benefit in some way.

Example of basic arbitrage:

Imagine you know of two online sites that allow you to buy and sell clothes.

If a certain style of shirt is selling everywhere on Site A for 10$, but you find the exact same style on Site B selling everywhere for $4.50…...

do you think you could take advantage of that in some way to make money?

(Yeah – you could buy it from site B for $4.50 and immediately sell it to someone on site A for $10.)

***Notice that in the arbitrage example, you didn’t really do anything particularly valuable, you simply noticed a difference in prices for the same thing, and benefited off of it. That’s arbitrage.***

That’s the general concept. Price differences can be exploited.

Geo-Arbitrage is really simple.

Essentially, it’s just the idea that some places are much cheaper than others.

(To use fancier terminology, we could say “some currencies are much ‘stronger’ than others.”)

And you can benefit from this.

Want to really understand this concept?

Do what I did. After living in the United States your entire life, go to Mexico on a vacation.

What you’ll notice is that 1 USD buys you, at the time of this writing, about 20 Mexican pesos.

So even a few dollars can go a long way in Mexico.

(For example, if you want to buy three fairly authentic Mexican-Style street tacos in the States, it may cost you about $8.50 USD. I know because I just did it yesterday.)

But, you can buy 3 incredibly delicious street tacos in Mexico for like $3 or $4 USD. (I know because I just did it two days ago.)

The same thing applies to most everything in Mexico. The U.S. Dollar is strong relative to the Mexican Peso, and most things are inexpensive there, at least in terms of U.S. Dollars.

The exact same concept applies to other Central and South American Countries (e.g., Argentina), and Southeast Asia (e.g. Thailand).

Now think – how can you maximally benefit from this?

Well for one, you could go on vacation to these places, for surprisingly inexpensive travel. Oftentimes, in the right countries, you can afford super luxurious experiences for very low prices, just because of currency differences.

Or two, you could retire in one of these places – save up enough money in USD and then bring it over to the cheaper country, to enjoy an easy, early retirement where your USD goes a long way. (Leave all unspent money growing in an investment portfolio in USD, which you pull money from as needed.)

Or three, you could work remotely in these places (especially now that more jobs are available for remote work), and earn money in U.S. Dollars, which you then convert and spend in the local country, where your money will go a long way.

In general, by keeping in mind the principle of Geo-Arbitrage, traveling can often be less expensive than staying in one place and paying rent.

Instead of paying expensive rent in your home country, you could decide to move out, stop paying that high rent, travel long-term and enjoy incredible experiences in countries where your currency goes a long way – and still have a lower cost of living than staying home.

And that, my friends, is geo-arbitrage.

Introversion, Extraversion, & Energy

Today we’re discussing a very simple principle to better know yourself and capitalize on your strengths.

Out of all the different “personality tests” and “personality types” that exist, it’s one basic personality distinction that has ACTUALLY been incredibly helpful to me:

INTROVERSION VS. EXTRAVERSION*

(*I’ve seen this word also spelled “extroversion” but I hear that “extraversion” is technically the more science-y way to spell it.)

Now before we get a little more into the details of what it means to be extraverted or introverted, I’m going to immediately point out that everyone is a bit of both.

No one is purely one or the other – you probably exhibit some characteristics of each type.

That being said, almost everyone leans at least a bit to one side or the other.

More introverted people tend to value time by themselves. They tend to be more quiet, thoughtful, and reserved. They’re often self-aware and insightful. Being out around crowds, in very stimulating environments, or socializing with others is “draining” or “exhausting” to them.

More extraverted people are outgoing, love being out around others, and thrive off of social energy. They’re often friendly, talkative, and can be excellent at meeting and charming others. Being alone for too long is “isolating,” “lonely,” or “boring” to them.

(Do you immediately see yourself relating a little bit to each? Or that you really lean toward one side?)

It’s quite useful to take some time to think about which one you lean towards (and how much you lean toward it), and see if you can optimize your lifestyle to match that tendency.

Matching your lifestyle to your specific level of introversion/extraversion will tend to make you happier, but it will give you something else:

ENERGY.

Possibly more than anything, the introversion/extraversion dichotomy describes how you get your energy.

Remember how being out around others is “exhausting” to introverts?? That’s a perfect example. Introverts get energy from being alone; being out with others requires them to spend energy. They need to get some time alone afterward to “recharge.”

If you’re an introvert, one of the things you can do is schedule and prioritize time alone. Treat it as vital. Make sure that you’re aware, in advance, that being around crowds and engaging in social activities is going to be draining, so try to time-constrain these activities.

If you’re an extravert, on the other hand, one of the most powerful things you can do is start spending more time with more people throughout the day. Seeing more people – even if it requires sort of ‘doing more,’ in a sense – may actually leave you feeling more energized.

(This works in almost the same way as active recovery, where doing certain activities more frequently is also counterintuitively energizing.)

If you think you might be more the extraverted type, experiment with packing your schedule more with seeing friends, getting out of the house, or at the very least getting work done with other people around – in a coffee shop, for example.

(I’m typing this in a coffee shop right now, by the way.)

If you’re an introvert, and you find yourself stuck with others the majority of the day, try scheduling some sacred time to yourself to journal, do something you enjoy, or just be alone with your thoughts. Does that sound like it would be lonely or boring to some? It’s likely very energizing to you. Protect that time.

If you’re an extravert, and you find yourself plopping down on the couch after work to flip on the TV, try using that time to go see people you enjoy instead. Does that sound too exhausting to some, after a long day of work?

You may find that you actually do have the energy to do it, because seeing them will energize you and leave you feeling better. Try it out and see.

Take some time to get familiar with how introverted or extraverted you are. And – while of course always prioritizing basic emotional self-care match your lifestyle to your introversion/extraversion level.

IMPORTANT NOTE

You may be somewhat of an introvert, but you may be spending too much time alone for your specific level of introversion. Similarly, you may be somewhat extraverted, but actually spending a bit too much time with others for your specific extraversion level. Find the golden amount for you. Be sure to experiment. Try being around people more.* (Or maybe less, if necessary.) Find the perfect amount to maximally energize you.

*Especially people you like.

You may be surprised with the incredible amounts of energy you gain by getting this right.

Best of luck, as always.

-Dolan.

Always. Be. Active. Recovering.

ACTIVE RECOVERY – that’s a hot phrase.

The definition: “Low intensity exercise that a person performs after higher intensity exercise to improve their recovery and performance” (1)

(Basically, some easy exercise you throw in to the mix, to help you feel better.)

Now I’ve heard the phrase before, but I’ve always just dismissed it.

It always just sounded like a sneaky way of trying to get me to do more work.

“I’ve already done my exercise,” would be the thought, “I’ve paid my price, can’t I just relax now? I’m not about to go do more. Sounds miserable.”

I was so wrong.

Active recovery is the exact opposite of “miserable.” It feels amazing. And it helps you, in general, feel so much better, and so much happier.

The gist is simple – sometime after you’ve done some more intense exercise (maybe later that day, or maybe the next day), throw in some active recovery – a gentle swim in a pool is a perfect option, but so is yoga, gentle hiking, easy walking, brisk walking, or doing a walk-jog (just go on a walk, and while you’re out, jog whenever you feel up to it). Even using a sauna counts, in my book. (Really.) If your fitness level is high enough, going on an easy run may actually count as active recovery for you.

(But you have to get it right so it’s not too hard. I think for most people, a nice walk, or a gentle swim in a pool, are just the right amount of intensity.)

Now here’s a crucial perspective change:

Active recovery is not about calorie-burn.

It’s not about going hard, getting cut, and it’s not about trying to “sneak in” more exercise.

It’s about taking care of your body in a way that feels really good – helping your muscles and cardiovascular system recover, and releasing all kinds of feel-good hormones. It’s about self-care. (Self-love, even?)

Which is a really big shift from the way most people view exercise (i.e., “I’m gonna go as hard as I can and punish my body because the harder I go, the more calories I burn, and the more fat I lose!!! No pain, no gain!!”)

For active-recovery, you have to shift your mindset. You gotta think “I’m doing this gently, I’m taking care of myself. Frequency over intensity, a little sweat and slightly harder breathing, over intense calorie burn.”

Oh, and yes – it really does help you recover better and faster.

Which is kind of counter-intuitive.

You’d think that after some intense exercise, just resting as much as possible would be the best thing to do.

(And YES, it is CRITICAL to rest deeply after workouts. It’s so important to just relax, to get some deep sleep, to take some time to just totally unwind and completely indulge in some hard-earned lazy do-nothingness.)

BUT, if you can sneak in a little active recovery between workouts, you WILL FEEL SO MUCH BETTER. Your body will love you for it. And you’ll know. Those feel-good chemicals will flood your system. You’ll recover faster. Your overall energy levels will improve.

You may just feel like Superman.

(Or Superwoman). (Or Superthey.)

And if you haven’t done any intense exercise yet?

If you have nothing to active-recover from?

Just start active-recovering anyway.

Just start getting out there with this sort of mindset. Aim for feeling good, for finding just the right amount of intensity FOR YOU that doesn’t feel painful, just helps you breathe a little harder, and gently pushes you. Get out and go on a walk, or treat yourself to a sauna.

Just start taking care of your body and active-recovering. Do it as much as you can.

(You can throw in some more intense exercise later.)

What you’ll notice, though, by throwing in very gentle active recovery as much as possible, is that not only will you feel better, but you’ll start to be able to do things you never thought possible.

Your fitness level will improve sneakily, to the point where you find yourself actually being able to pull off exercise you didn’t think you could do.

You may find yourself out on a walk for the first time ever thinking “you know what, I feel pretty good, I’m gonna jog for a brief stretch.”

Or you may find yourself going on runs, or cycling, for the first time in your life, finally feeling like it’s an achievable (and actually somewhat enjoyable!) activity.

And if you’re already at a high fitness level, you may start to find that you can recover, run, train, at an entirely new leveland still feel great.

I find it helps to keep in mind these words when approaching active recovery:

Self-care. Gentle. Enjoyable. Breathing. Sweating. Low-effort. Endorphins. Frequency. Feel-good. Self-love.

My last two tips when it comes to implementing a philosophy of frequent active recovery into your lifestyle:

1.) Drink a lot of water.

Water is incredible and underrated. It helps with just about everything. For various reasons, drinking lots of water helps you lose weight, build muscle, feel good, and recover incredibly well. Ever since I started carrying a hydro-flask around with me wherever I go (and thus having frequent access to lots of water), I’ve experienced a noticeable improvement in my recovery time from workouts.

2.) Try bone broth.

“Bone broth? The hell is that? Sounds creepy. And difficult to come by.”

^That was my first reaction to hearing about this nutritional game-changer. Bone broth is actually very similar in taste to chicken broth, and you can easily buy it at Costco or really any grocery store. (It tastes a little…”bonier”…that chicken broth, but if you add a little salt and pepper – maybe some garlic powder – it tastes great.) I now sip some out of a mug most mornings for breakfast, or whenever I feel like it, as a snack.

Bone broth is actually sort of a miracle food because it’s hydrating, low calorie, and incredibly high in protein (including collagen protein, which has anti-aging properties and is great for joints and skin. This is critical because your body stops producing collagen as it ages, leading to joint deterioration, but radio-labeled studies show that consumed collagen actually goes directly do your joints and other places where it’s needed in an almost comically convenient manner.)

Bone broth is so satiating that it’s extremely useful for fat loss, its protein content is good for muscle maintenance, and its collagen content keeps your connective tissue healthy. It even helps you sleep better.

In other words, it’s a great health/ recovery food.

Try having a hot mug of it with some spices for breakfast, or as a go-to snack. Anyway.

THERE YOU HAVE IT.

In short – yes, get deep rest. Get good sleep, take full days off.

But also consider throwing in some gentle, loving, easy exercise for active recovery – and keep it so gentle and enjoyable that you can really up the frequency of it.

Test it out, and watch what happens. I think you’ll be very happy.

Expected-Value: Blackjack Tactics for Smarter Decisions

Expected Value (EV) is a concept I first picked up from Blackjack. Photo by Drew Rae on Pexels.com

Alright, today we’re discussing a mental model that can can be useful in helping you make decisions: Expected Value.

Expected Value, often abbreviated “EV,” is a term I first learned about from blackjack, and it encapsulates the amount you would “expect” to make from a certain number of hours of play.

But it is an extremely useful model for decision making elsewhere – in investments, and in life.

To explain the concept, I’ll start with a simple money example.

Say I’m flipping a coin.

If I flip heads, you win a dollar. If I flip tails, you lose a dollar.

Question: How do you feel about that game? And, importantly, do you overall expect to make money at that game?

No. If you were to play it over and over again, you’d probably break even. Sure, you might get lucky, or unlucky, given just one coin toss. But in the long run, flipping that coin a hundred times – you’d win the same amount that you’d lose.

Now consider this:

Say I offer you a game where tails, you lose a dollar, but heads, you win two dollars.

How do you feel about playing that game?

That’s a great game to play. Overall, you’d expect to make money from a game like that. Sure, you might flip tails the first time and lose, but if you kept flipping it, you’d win more money than you’d lose. (It’s a positive EV game.)

At it’s core, that’s the ENTIRE concept of “Expected Value” right there.

Now make sure you understand that, because things are gonna get real interesting real fast.

Say I offer you a dice. (Or “die” I guess, is singular).

If you roll a 1 through 5, you lose one dollar. But if you roll a 6, you gain six dollars.

You can play as much as you want.

How do you like that game?

Think it through for a second.

That’s actually a positive EV game. (Don’t worry if you didn’t catch it.) Your wins, though rare, will eventually more than make up for your losses.

What’s funny is – and this is key – if I just hand you that die for one roll, you’re more likely to lose than win.

After all, you have a 5/6 chance of losing, and a 1/6 chance of winning.

But, with repeated play, the wins from that 1/6 chance will slightly more than make up for all the losses.

To make this concept super obvious, let’s change the payouts:

Roll a 1 through 5, you lose a penny… but roll a 6, you win $1000.

Great game, right? With just one roll, odds are, you’ll lose. You’ll lose a whole a penny. But if you can play as much as you want, you’ll make great money, because the wins more than make up for it.

There it is, you’re an expert in Expected Value.

The mathematical formula for expected value is:

(%odds winning)x(amount you’d win) – (%odds of losing)x(amount you’d lose)

How do we apply this to life?

Well, in investing, if you have some possible investment that has a somewhat decent chance of working out – but the payout in the case of a win is significantly higher than the amount lost in the case of a loss– it may be a good idea to invest some money in it, since the Expected Value might be very high.

Repeated, positive EV investments will ultimately payout – as long as the odds of winning are decent enough, and the payout for winning is high enough.

(Of course, since you can’t guarantee any specific investment will work out, it is critical that when EV investing, you make small enough investments that you can in fact do them repeatedly, even if you incur losses. In blackjack, that’s called bankroll management.)

But perhaps my favorite application of this way of thinking is applying it to trying new things – exploring new hobbies and passions; going new places.

Considering trying a new hobby you’ve always thought about?

Or going somewhere new?

There’s always a possibility you’ll love it and it’ll be life-changing.

What are those odds of that? No idea, probably slim. Maybe 10, 20%?

But if you think about it, the expected value on that is actually really high.

10%x(LIFE CHANGING)–90%(tiny money/time investment) =

HUGE POSITIVE EV.

So if you’re considering going somewhere new, trying something new, or picking up a new hobby you’ve always thought might be fun: the sheer possibility of loving something in a way that is life-changing makes most new adventures very high in expected value.

^I feel like this is pretty insightful, so I’m just gonna take a second to pat myself on the back for that.

Of course, odds are, you won’t fall in love with the first new thing you try.

But that’s okay. If you explore, adventure, travel, and trial enough, the positive EV from trying new things will absolutely eventually pay off.

So get out, learn new skills, go new places, and try new things.

[Especially if you can do it inexpensively], the expected value is enormous.

Dream Lifestyle Without $1,000,000?

Photo taken by my good friend Christina @christinaachristou on her phone as we strolled around Catalina Island.

People don’t want to be millionaires. They want to experience what they think only millions can buy.

Tim Ferris, The 4 Hour Workweek, 2007

What do you think millions would buy for you? Peace of mind? The funds, and permission, to finally do all the things you’ve always dreamed of doing?

Is there any way to experience any of those things now?

My previous internal dialogue used to be something like, One day, when I’m a millionaire, I’ll finally be free to travel – maybe go to Hawaii!– and do bucket-list activities like go scuba diving in crystal clear waters, or maybe even try jumping out of a plane. Oh well. One day. Better work and save up for it. Can’t afford it now.”

Faulty logic and poor math.

Last summer, I flew to Kona International Airport in Hawaii using google flights to find a killer deal on roundtrip airfare – it was around $400, round trip. I worked at a hotel at the time, and using the worker discount, booked this hotel in Hapuna beach:

I shot this off a shitty iPhone SE, excuse the quality.

The hotel cost?

$142.22/night

(For a world-class Hawaii hotel.)

I recently got back from Catalina Island (shown below).

Thanks again @christinaachristou for snapping these pics as we explored!

Here, I got to experience my bucket-list dream of scuba diving (on a beautiful day, in clear water, alongside some adorable, bright orange Garibaldi fish and a 300 lb seabass.) Tempted to try scuba too? Want to know how much it’ll cost you?

$105.

(For Scuba diving once you’re in Catalina.)

I shit you not. You can throw in a tip to your instructor if you want, which we did.

Of course, you have to pay to get there first – surely that would make it impossibly expensive?

Nope. Boating to the island costs 44$ round trip with a Groupon, and my friend and I payed $149 to stay for a night at a cute little hotel on an off-day (but we split the cost, bringing it down to $74.50). Leaving a car on the mainland by the port, and splitting parking, cost another $20.

So, not including food (and some $5 happy-hour margaritas!), that’s a total of 105 + 74.50 +44 + 20 =

$243.50.

(For an entire bucket-list scuba-diving vacation.)

Again, that’s for a lifelong-dream activity of scuba diving off a beautiful island, including travel and lodging.

(A hard-earned beer after facing my fears and breathing 30 feet underwater in the ocean.)

This Thursday, weather permitting, I’m going skydiving.

Living the millionaire adventure lifestyle without one million in the bank.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com. (Sorry, this is the one photo in the whole article not taken by myself or a friend! I’m going in two days!)

Again, using a Groupon, and then adding in all fees and gear expenses, how much is it running me? To jump out of a plane and freefall over gorgeous coastal views???

$188.

(To skydive.)

What’s my point?

If I can use workarounds to book a $700-something Hawaii hotel for $149, get a gorgeous trip to Catalina and back (including a hotel stay, boat rides, and scuba diving) for $243.50, and go skydiving for $188, maybe you don’t really need millions to do the things you’ve always dreamed of doing.

Maybe you can do them now.

Good luck, find workarounds, and go adventure.

10 Days of Nutritional Ketosis

Not perfectly scientific but it’ll do. Oh, and trust me, I’m sucking in as hard as I can in both pics.

“Try Keto!” they said. “It’ll be fun!” they said. “You can have bacon!” they said.

They weren’t wrong.

Well, not about the bacon.

But that’s how they get ya. It certainly wasn’t fun. The ketogenic diet is a high fat, medium protein, extremely low carb diet that trains your body to burn stored fat by basically forcing it to – by starving it of carbohydrates.

In keto world, a lot of things are upside-down. Fat is good. Sure: olive oil, avocado, nuts, healthy fats are all good – but we knew that already. In keto, so is red meat, bacon, mayonnaise, and skin-on chicken.

And protein? The pillar of health and fat loss? Eat it with care when you’re in keto-world – you certainly need it, but too much will knock you out of ketosis.

Fruit? Absolutely not.

Even having too much of certain particularly sugary veggies is a no-no on this diet.

What really is “ketosis”? Well, usually, your body loves to burn carbohydrates for fuel. When it runs out of them, it eventually – kicking and screaming – has to turn to stored fat. In doing so, your body starts releasing “ketones.” (That’s where the name of this infamous diet comes from.) When you have testable levels of ketones in your blood (or urine), you know for sure that your body is in high-gear fat-burning mode.

Which is cool, right?

Well, yeah, except for that it sucks. Here’s my experience.

Experiment: Rapid Ketosis for Aggressive Fat Loss

You can enter ketosis by just following the prescribed keto diet – fats, meats, veggies, and absolutely minimal carbs – and let your body slowly suffer its way there. (The transition is, hands down, the hardest part. Once you’re in ketosis it gets just a bit easier.)

The thing is, this approach can take three or four days, or even up to a week or longer, to shift your body into full nutritional ketosis.

Boring.

My goal (which I achieved), was to do it in 24 hours.

The recipe for that included:

  1. Already eating a healthy, fairly low carb diet.
  2. During transition day, chugging coffee and tea, and fasting throughout the day.
  3. Adding MCT oil (or MCT powder) to my morning coffee to help boost ketones.
  4. Chugging water like you would not believe, constantly, all day.
  5. Constantly moving & aerobically exercising during transition day.
  6. Adding exogenous ketones – supplementing with KetoCaNa.

Wait, what’s that last point? “Exogenous Ketones” and “KetoCaNa”?? It’s basically just drinking ketones, the stuff of ketosis. When you’re transitioning into a ketogenic state, this is very helpful.

Anyway, the rapid transition worked: I woke up the next day in nutritional ketosis with a blood ketone level of about 1.5 mmol/liter.

How did I know?

I tested it.

Urine test strips allow you to pretty accurately see exactly what’s going on in your body, and they are an absolute must for any keto-adventurer. They’re like $7, too.

Anyway, the tests were clear – success: zero to ketosis in 24 hours.

Getting into ketosis is hard enough, but actually adjusting to it was another thing altogether.

The next day or two were pretty rough. Plus, at first, even eating “keto foods” would briefly pull me out of ketosis. Soon things got a bit easier as I transitioned into a deeper, more consistent state of ketosis – at which point yes, I could eat red meat and bacon, and still stay in fat-burning mode. But damn, it still wasn’t fun.

Results:

I lost fat while doing the experiment.

While my scale weight fluctuated wildly, my body fat percentage – the important factor – did seem to improve.

Solely in terms of results, considering it was just ten days, I’d say: not bad.

However, the process? Out of every diet I’ve experimented with, this was the hardest. Keto is the worst. It beats out paleo, slow-carb, and intermittent fasting to take first prize as “most miserable diet out there.” It works, though.

Ultimately, for most people, I wouldn’t recommend it. I eventually had to stop, because it was interfering with my sleep too much. It was…a lot.

Experimental Weakness:

The biggest experimental weakness with this little ten-day test is that I didn’t do it longer.

Rumor has it, your body eventually adjusts to being “fat adapted,” and the keto diet eventually gets easier …or so they say. I couldn’t stick around long enough to find out.

Further, I wasn’t using any great body-fat percentage calculator. In retrospect, calipers would have been a good call. Meanwhile, low-tech photos did the trick as a means of tracking changes.

Conclusion:

The rapid ketosis transition worked, and Keto can certainly help you lose fat, but damn is it rough. (If you’ve had better luck making this diet tolerable, let me know.)

Meanwhile, for anyone looking to lose fat, I’d recommend the “Incredible Fat-Loss” approach detailed in this article which I believe can be just as effective but much more enjoyable.

That’s the approach I’ll be going with moving forward.

I bet I can even top Keto with it.