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 bookby 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 someoneyawning 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 subconsciously mirroring them, triggering the same emotions in ourselves.
This “emotional contagion” is at the core of just about every interpersonal interaction. 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, weare 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 of course goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
-Uncle Ben, Spiderman
Once you recognize that you – yes, YOU –have great power over 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.
Now does it work perfectly and instantaneously? 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 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 trya 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 thatknows 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.
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-Arbitrageis 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 inexpensivethere, 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 fact, by keeping in mind the principle of Geo-Arbitrage, traveling can 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.
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 helpfulto 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 eachtype.
That being said, almost everyone leans at least a bit to one side or the other.
More introvertedpeople 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:
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 –
Okay, this is a little bit complicated, but here goes: You may be somewhat of an introvert, but you may be spending too much time alone for your specificlevel of introversion. Similarly, you may be somewhat extraverted, but actually spending a bit too much time with others for your specific extraversion level. (A lot of extroverts who constantly work around people seem to experience this social burnout, and a lot of introverts who keep to themselves don’t get quite enough social time). 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.
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, burning, or 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. Frequencyover 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 is important to just relax, get some deep sleep, take some time to just totally unwind, and completely indulge in some hard-earned lazy do-nothingness.)
BUT, if you can introduce a little active recovery between workouts, you WILL FEELSO 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 YOUthat 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 level – and still feel great.
I find it helps to keep in mind these words when approaching active recovery:
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.) (Optional) 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.
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.
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 losethan 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 slightlymore 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 somemoney 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.
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 adventuresvery 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.
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 wayto 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.”
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?
(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 =
(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.
This Thursday, weather permitting, I’m going skydiving.
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???
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.
“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’tfun. 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.
My goal (which I achieved), was to do it in 24 hours.
The recipe for that included:
Already eating a healthy, fairly low carb diet.
During transition day, chugging coffee and tea, and fasting throughout the day.
Adding MCT oil(or MCT powder) to my morning coffee to help boost ketones.
Chugging water like you would not believe, constantly, all day.
Constantly moving & aerobically exercising during transition day.
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.
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.
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.
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,caliperswould have been a good call. Meanwhile, low-tech photos did the trick as a means of tracking changes.
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.)
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, and before doing anything mentioned below. Consider this article informational in nature and do anything mentioned here at your own risk. None of this is medical advice*
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 always start with these when trying to feel better.)
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.
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.
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. It feels like “enough,” “plenty.”
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, Norepinephrine, and Epinephrine – the pleasure/ motivation neurotransmitters.
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.
Using the list above, identifying whatever you are most lacking – and then getting more of that– will help you the most. While good nutrition, hydration, and sleep will help with ALL of the following, there are certain things you can do to specifically elevate certain chemicals.
Serotonin is excellent because – to my knowledge – it helps, to at least a degree, withjust about any bad mood. (For example, raising serotonin is clinically helpful for anxiety, but also depression.) Because of this, we’ll take a little extra time to focus on it.
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. Ideally, you want to get some amount of daylight – NOT filtered through ANY glass but through being outside – during early morning and around sunset, because it’s not only good for your mood but is excellent for your circadian rhythm.
(*Tip – if it’s overcast outside, it becomes even more critical to get daylight. Instead of, say, 3-5 minutes of outdoor light, aim for 10-20*)
Serotonin is ultimately derived from the amino acid tryptophan, so eating HIGH-PROTEIN, TRYPTOPHAN RICH FOODS – like turkey, chicken, and tuna – can be very helpful in raising tryptophan levels. If you’re ever feeling sad and you’re not sure why, consider (in addition to drinking some water), eating some protein – it may help significantly.
Another intervention that boosts serotonin, which we will mention again in connection with other neurotransmitters, is PHYSICAL TOUCH. Getting a hug from someone you care about – or cuddling your pet – are, in fact, serotonergic(they release serotonin).
In addition to DAYLIGHT, EXERCISE, PROTEIN, and PHYSICAL TOUCH, 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.
These are the most powerful serotonin boosting methods I know. If you still want other interventions, try this:
A SEROTONIN LAMP. I use this one. Weirdly enough…it actually does help. A bit. I didn’t expect it to work, but I tested it anyway. Sure enough, it does improve my mood – somewhat, but noticeably. 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 5-HTP, TRYPTOPHAN, ST. JOHN’S WORT and CISSUS QUADRANGULARIS are all different supplements that can also help boost serotonin levels — and can be easily bought without a prescription — though I would need to test them more before I could confidently recommend them. The gist of the mechanisms involved here are that tryptophan is an amino acid that converts to 5-HTP, which then converts to serotonin (so tryptophan supplementation would be less direct than 5-HTP supplementation, since 5-HTP is an immediate precursor to the neurotransmitter). There are scholarly articles showing that 5-HTP seems to reduce appetite (possibly be reducing emotional eating?). I’m currently unsure of the mechanisms behind St. John’s Wort and Cissus Quadrangularis, but I do believe there are articles in quality journals showing they have significant, robust effects on serotonin levels. I’m not making any recommendations to try any of these, but if someone were to look into and try these, you’d want to to try one of the above at a time, and not combine it with an SSRI.
Okay that was a lot on serotonin, moving on –
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” of exercise “pain” to trigger your body to release these natural “painkiller” hormones.*
In fact 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. (Side note – 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 thattemperaturecan 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 release endorphins. So can sex.
Finally, though I suspect it won’t do as much as the above interventions, taking a few deep breaths (rhythmically and slowly) will raise your endorphin levels. While I would assume this may not be the most powerful method, it can be done at any time, which makes it pretty useful. Consider using this physiological sighmethod (or double inhale, extended exhale), as explained by Andrew Huberman, to help relax.
This category of neurotransmitters, which lumps together dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, has to do with drive, excitement, anticipated intense pleasure, and seeking more.
These neurotransmitters are fascinating because they are associated with getting things done, accomplishment, and success – being “on it” – but also with addiction; with continually wanting more of something (like TikTok) that triggers dopamine release.
After a very long time, I’ve finally found one supplement that is extraordinarily helpful with naturally boosting catecholamines in a healthy way:
Tyrosine, or L-Tyrosine, is an amino acid that is an essential component in the production of dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. I had very low expectations when experimenting with this supplement – but, to my surprise, tyrosine actually made quite a noticeable difference in my mood. (And seemed to reduce my need for coffee as well.)
To use tyrosine: Try ONE to THREE 500-mg capsules, ONCE to TWICE daily, morning and midday, so as not to interfere with sleep. Start with one capsule and add more as needed if you don’t notice anything after 10-30 minutes. Take before coffee, because you may not need much caffeine after. Stop taking as needed. *Again: I’m not a doctor, these are just ideas, consult your physician before changing anything.*
Also, BLACK COFFEE and tea can help trigger catecholamine release as well. Interestingly, regular ingestion of caffeine increases upregulation of certain dopamine receptors, making you more sensitive to anything with a dopaminergic effect.
Another one of the other best ways to trigger catecholamines are COLD SHOWERS – which continue to steadily increase dopamine for hours after the initial exposure.
PLAYING COMPETITIVE GAMES, solving interesting problems, and SETTING OR ACHIEVING ANY TYPE OF (EVEN SMALL) GOAL are all dopaminergic.
So is MUSIC. And EXERCISE – but only if you like it.
Medically, if necessary, catecholamines can be boosted by certain drugs such as Wellbutrin.
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, or just a little bit of good-form heavy lifting, to release any pent-up fight-or-flight chemicals, and just 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 VIGOROUSLY for 20 second intervals – and then relaxing — can all release that pent up stressful energy, and trigger GABA. So can LAUGHING.
I would be remiss to touch on calming GABA without briefly mentioning Cortisol. Cortisol is widely known as the “evil stress” hormone. In fact, the full story behind cortisol is much more complex – cortisol is an absolutely critical hormone. But to paint with a broad brush: chronically elevated cortisol can have detrimental effects, including elevated stress levels. Reducing cortisol may have a similar, calming effect to increasing GABA. One supplement shown in experiments to reduce cortisol is ASHWAGANDHA. I have not experimented with ashwagandha yet myself, but I intend to.
Alternatively, one of the other best ways to boost your feelings of calm is indirectly, by focusing on oxytocin:
Like serotonin, oxytocin is one of those chemicals that seems to help with everything.
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 reassuringyour loved one (or pet that) that they’re loved, of caringfor the other person. Keep in mind, all of the above recommendations will also trigger serotonin as well.
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. In fact, studies show that having a strong social support network is one of – if not the – most powerful way to reduce overall stress levels.
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, generally speaking, 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 factors cannot be overstated; these three core factors are critically 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.)
#2 RX MEDICATIONS (if applicable)
#4 EXERCISE (Endorphins/Serotonin/GABA)
#5 NATURAL SUNLIGHT (for Serotonin)
#6 Tyrosine (for Catecholomines)
#7 Heat (for Endorphins & Serotonin)
#8 Massage (for Endorphins)
#9 Serotonin lamp light
#10 Deep breathing (Endorphins)
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, getting outside for some daylight in the morning and during sunset, exercising in a way you really enjoy, getting great nutrition and lots of water throughout the day, and spending the vast majority of your time surrounded by people you care about.)You really can use things like exercise, sunlight, and cuddling, to effectively 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.
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 entireGPA – 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.