Modern Shoes Are Pretty Terrible For Our Bodies

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There are few things more liberating than kicking off your kicks in the backyard and letting the piggies roam the grass. However, if you look at an old person’s shoes in the developed world, they’re more akin to a medical device. This is odd because when you look to cultures that have maintained connections to their past, they can walk in the most minimalist of sandals, if not barefoot, for miles and miles. What gives? A possible cause: we’ve been babying our feet our entire lives with modern, thick-soled shoes. 

WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436. - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29849183
Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”.

Have you ever seen an x-ray or diagram of the human foot? It’s crazy looking. It just looks like an array of bones no bigger than a knuckle, all crammed into close quarters. According to Arthritis.org, the foot contains 26 bones (a quarter of our body’s bones), 30 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. All of these allow the foot to move and flex in every direction. Crazier still, that fairly compact apparatus is intended to carry hundreds of pounds around, and even allowing it to leap into the air…? This seems like a body part we should be striving to strengthen above all else. Instead, what do we do? 

  • We prop up the arches so they don’t have to hold up themselves.
  • We cram the toes together so they can’t feel the ground beneath.
  • We raise up the heel so the Achilles tendon is disengaged, so then we have to support the ankle to keep the whole thing steady.

What? Why? 

Shoe Heels Have a Purpose, But It’s Super Dumb

Now in the defense of the shoes of the last several hundred years, heels on the shoe a purpose — to KEEP BOOTS IN STIRRUPS. Oh, and to make derrieres appear pronounced. Those are really the only two functions of a heel on the shoe. The rest of their functions are purely aesthetic. However, having this heel has completely changed the way modern humans walk and run. Instead of walking with the ball of the foot doing its job of absorbing the initial impact of walking or running, the pronounced heel has taken that job — a role it was never meant to have. Growing accustomed to making initial contact with each step heel-first, the ball of the foot is bypassed and the additional shock rattles it’s way up in chain reaction through the ankle, knee, hip, and back — all because of this device meant to keep people on horseback. Look at our genius. 

Fortunately, many have begun to question our need for a heel and atrophy-inducing cushioning in our shoes. A whole industry of “barefoot” style shoes has taken off—dozens of companies all vying for who can make the best minimalist shoes that let the foot move and feel as its designed. The results? I’m going to level with you—most look like rubber socks. But you know what? Maybe that’s what we need. At the very least, we all need to spend as much time barefoot as possible.

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For Your Future Self: 4 Attributes of a Sustainable Existence

Reading Time: 5 minutes


“How long can I keep doing this?”

143

In addition to being an accomplished television personality, minister, and musician, “Mister” Fred Rogers was also an immensely disciplined fellow. He was a vegetarian who never drank or smoked. He went to bed every night at 9:30 PM. He rose every morning at 5 AM, and began every day with prayer, answering fan mail, and swimming laps. After swimming, he’d weigh himself. Every time, the scale was the same: 143 pounds—the “I love you” number as he’d call it due to the number of letters in those words. 

Was this routine flashy? Hardly. Was it sustainable? Undoubtedly. 

Inspired by Rogers and my desire to be a friend to the older versions of myself, I’ve grown fixated on cultivating the most sustainable lifestyle possible. This research continues, but this piece contains what I’m presently referring to as “The Four Attributes of a Sustainable Existence.”

Life Sustained

Four touchstones must be present when determining which lifestyle activities, habits, or routines are sustainable—a sustainability test, if you will.  

  1. Positive: The activity has to be something that you won’t need to give up eventually. 
  2. Honest: The activity has to be something you honestly want to pursue with motivations authentic to your character. 
  3. Simple Reasoning: the reason for pursuing this activity needs to be simple.
  4. Enjoyment: you need to enjoy the activity separate from the benefit it brings. 

Throughout this piece, I’ll be using the routine of jumping rope for 25 minutes, six days a week as an example of a sustainable lifestyle habit of mine and why it met all these criteria for me (and maybe you, too, but hey, that’s you...)

1. The activity needs to be good for you…or at least not bad for you.

Starting with the most obvious, any lifestyle activity you hope to pursue into old age shouldn’t be anything that will, at some point, result in negative consequences. Some examples of not-good activities include nightly cigar smoking, a keto diet, or afternoon ice cream. While any of these may begin as harmless niceties or even helpful tools, if you’ll have to give it up eventually, there’s no use in starting it now.

Example: One of the reasons I chose jump rope as my favorite form of exercise as opposed to, say, motocross racing, is due to its sustainable nature. With the proper conditioning, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do jump rope cross-overs and boxer-skips into my 90’s. Ok, maybe not double-unders, but I can take or leave those.

Secondary thought: is it good (or at least not bad) for the world?

This activity should also not be harmful to others. (This is perhaps the most common understanding of modern use of the word sustainable—which many use in an environmental context.)  For instance, if you decide to pursue an activity that requires a product whose manufacturing or disposal is overly destructive to the environment, this activity may not be sustainable. Likewise, if this activity damages a valuable relationship, it’s also likely not sustainable.

2. Do you really want this? Why? 

Despite our ambitions, there is a certain amount of virtue in properly giving up on a goal. To determine which ambitions to pursue or discard, we can simply look at the honesty of our motivations. 

  • Do you want to read all 2,711 pages of the Babylonian Talmud to glean its information, or are you doing so for the bragging rights? 
  • Do you want those six-pack abs to combat dangerous subcutaneous and visceral fat or to flaunt it on your Instagram feed?
  • Do you want to wake up 5:30 AM to get a jump on the day or because you simply want to share that aspect of your daily routine with your favorite influencer? 

Honest Motivation = Stored Willpower

Any activity we pursue will occasionally depend upon stored motivation and willpower to commence or pursue. If our motivations are frivolous or shallow, that fuel source will be spoiled when we need it most. When our motivations for pursuing a specific goal are constructed on vain or fragile foundations, they are doomed from the start.

To test this, ask yourself: 

“Do I want the result because I want it? Or do I want the result because I’m supposed to want it?”

Example: 

My motivation for jumping rope is pretty straightforward: to maintain my fitness and because it’s fun. Yes, I’m supposed to want to maintain my fitness and pursue fun things, but I also genuinely want to pursue these endeavors for my own sake—thus, this goal has a sustainable motivation.  

Besides, if I was going for cool points, I could have done a lot better than a jump rope

3. Is your motivation simple enough to endure?

If our motivations for pursuing a task are unclear or overly complicated, determining success may be difficult—and thus, the reward illusive. To test your motivations’ simplicity, see if you can express them in a single concise sentence. 

Here are a few examples of my own reasons for pursuing my routines/habits:

  • Why do I practice intermittent fasting? To aid my digestion and boost metabolism. 
  • Why do I jump rope six days a week? To maintain my fitness and because it’s fun.
  • Why do I journal? To process my thoughts and emotions. 
  • Why do I meditate? To train my attention span.
  • Why do I allot eight hours in bed every night? To maintain my health and focus.   

Now, enjoy some examples of my past routines/habits I’ve abandoned due to complicated or misguided motivations: 

  • Why do I practice strength training? Because I’d like to, at least once in my life, see what my abs look like under that gut fat. I mean, wouldn’t it be pretty cool? I guess, though it’s not a huge deal, it seems like something I should want. (Yep, and I ditched it.)
  • Why do I engage in the Daf Yomi (daily reading of Talmud every day, resulting in completion in seven-years-time)? I imagine that studying Talmud and navigating all of the arguments of the sages would give me immense insights into Jewish life. Besides, being able to say “I’ve completed Shas(Daf Yomi)” is something not everyone can say. (And thus, I closed the book.)
  • Why do I get up at 5:30 AM? Some of the most accomplished minds get up at 5:30 AM, if not even earlier. Getting up an hour or more early will give me time to do more throughout my day…right? (I didn’t quite believe this and was tired of cutting sleep short, so I have since abandoned the notion.)

If you have to sell yourself on your motivations, pursuing the associated goal is likely not sustainable.

4. How much fun are you having?

Another sustainability sniff test for a lifestyle activity is how much pleasure you derive from the process…independent of the goal. 

“Because I Want To” Passes the Test…As Long As You Do

To piggyback on clearly defining motivations, one of those motivations may simply be, “because I enjoy doing it.” That was my initial motivation for jumping rope. Though it has transitioned into, “I jump rope to maintain a certain level of fitness,” as well, the process began solely as, “Hey, that looks fun.” Because fun was my original motivation for starting it, I still enjoy the process to this day. Any project or activity we begin must remain pleasurable to remain sustainable. 

Pleasurable Doesn’t Always Mean Non-Stop-Fun

Only pursuing projects I find pleasurable does not mean that I am perpetually laughing like an idiot through every step of a process. During a writing project, I may end up banging my head against the wall regarding what word to use or how to structure a piece. During exercise, I may end up frustratedly tripping over my jump rope. Despite these challenges and disappointments, exasperations eventually give way to breakthroughs, making them an enjoyable part of the process. However, when the highs no longer justify the lows, it may be time to abandon an unsustainable initiative.

In Conclusion: I’m Actually Lazy

While the idea of cultivating sustainable lifestyle activities and projects seems ambitious, it’s actually a process I’ve lovingly dubbed utilitarian laziness. It’s nothing more than buffing out the friction of false-starts, thin motivations, and superfluous fluff from life to get us closer to the good stuff—fewer items on our docket, but each one packing a resonant punch that helps us live a life that truly sticks to our ribs.

In Defense of Suspenders: And, Oh Yeah, Belts Suck

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Reflective Nature of Quarantine

This time of lockdown/quarantine has been one of the most unique times in the lives of my generation. Many of us had been unknowingly living according to schedules and routines set by others. While having your docket cleansed of the plans seems liberating, we were then simultaneously limited in the activities we could place on it due to social distancing guidelines. For many, this paradoxical free-to-do-everything yet not-allowed-to-do-anything forced some to step up to the plate of their own aspirations. For others, it has resulted in a free-fall into the abyss of mindless social media black holes, time sacrifices at the altar of Netflix, and maddening isolation. 

For me, this isolation forced me to carefully inspect my life. My blessings. My curses. My goals. My fears. My habits. It made me take a deep look at the man I want to be for those for whom I care most. 

This time of self-rediscovery has revealed another truth to me: suspenders are way better than belts. In fact, belts suck. That’s right—I said it.

My son in his classic two-tone suspenders.

How the Hell Did I Come to This Conclusion

I know it sounds very random to have such a hot take on trouser accessories. Well, over the course of the last year, I’ve lost roughly 40 pounds. While this has been a life-changing journey into health and fitness, the change left me with a closet full of ill-fitting pants. While I could buy new trousers, I happen to like my pants. They’re otherwise perfect. However, for the past eight or so months, I’ve been cinching up my waistband with a belt as though I’ve been tying off a garbage bag. The result had been flaps of loose fabric and constant adjustments. After a little research, I decided to try out suspenders this week. 

The results? Wow, why did we ever give these up for something as terrible as a belt? 

Why I Prefer Suspenders Over Belts

1. Suspenders make sense from a physics perspective.

Your biggest obstacle to keeping your pants up is gravity. To consistently oppose gravity, your best bet is to restrict any downward movement of the pants. Suspenders do this in the most sensical way possible—by distributing the opposing downward force across your shoulders, which are more than capable of supporting the weight of pants and anything in your pockets. Belts, on the other hand, will always fail eventually. 

Either they (a) will require that you cinch them tight enough for the friction of the waistband to support the weight of the pants or they will (b) sit too loose to be of any reliable good. The result is a losing battle. 

2. Suspenders make sense from a biological perspective. 

The human body is a marvelous machine—perfectly calibrated to transform water, air, and organic matter into fuel…as well as poop and pee. The use of belts over the years literally changes our bodies. They frequently disrupt the more even distribution of fat throughout the torso, resulting in the “dunlop” belly for those carrying more weight on their frame.

The extended wearing of tight belts also isn’t great for your digestive system. One medical study carried out by Professor Kenneth McColl of the University of Glasgow discovered links between wearing tight belts and some forms of throat cancer due to increased instances of acid reflux. The same study found associations between tight belts and an increased risk of hernia. 

So, yeah, belts are tourniquets for your guts. Suspenders, on the other hand, like…aren’t. 

3. Utilitarian suspenders are immensely unfashionable…and are therefore sustainably fashionable.

Once upon a time, if you wanted help keeping your trousers up, suspenders were your go-to method. Belts were primarily used to keep robes closed or to hold tools and weapons handy. It wasn’t until pants were designed with lower waistbands that suspenders started to take a backseat to belts—and even then, it was purely a choice of fashion, not function.

These days, skinny, sleek, or rustically weathered leather suspenders are a popular look among hipster mixologists and baristas. However, when it comes to utilitarian “fashion,” suspenders have been mostly been relegated to improv comedy performers, seventh-grade geography teachers, retirees, skinheads (both racist and non-racist), and the Amish. 

That being said, there’s something sustainably fashionable about something as classically sensical as suspenders. My personal fashion must endure decades of functional style. That’s the reason why my glasses, hats, pants, and shoes likely could have been fashionable in most decades while at the same time not turning heads in any decade. Whenever my fashion choices can be simultaneously functional and timeless, that’s usually the route I will take.

All of this being said, I only wear shorts when exercising or swimming. For those who choose to wear suspenders with shorts…I guess I’ll see you at Oktoberfest?

4. Suspenders are functionally superior to belts. 

  • Suspenders don’t ever cut you through the middle after a large meal or sitting for an extended period of time.
  • Suspenders allow you to have your pants completely unbuttoned and unzipped without having to simultaneously hold them up—which is especially not fun if you have heavier objects in your pockets.
  • Sayonara, plumber’s crack.

But Mostly, Belts Suck

I could have very well titled this piece “Belts Suck: What Other Options Exist?” However, I chose to take the high road and support my favorite means of support: suspenders. Feel free to give them a shot. I don’t know what you have to lose, but its definitely not your pants.

In my own suspenders.

Helping Relieve Anxiety & Depression With God’s First Question

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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Disclaimer: This piece is not meant to treat those experiencing clinical depression and anxiety—which should be addressed by a medical professional. However, for those with the occasional episodes of anxiety and depression, to quote one of my favorite writers, Patrick Rhone, this could help. 

A great deal of anxiety and depression stem from our own broken emotional time machines. 

These time machines can trigger a spiral of depression when we replay moments of anguish or regret—whether these are accurate depictions or warped perceptions of said events. In other instances, these malfunctioning flux capacitors can spark bouts of anxiety by painting worst-case projections of the future. Whether we’re reeling over a past disappointment or spinning rotisserie-style in our beds over what the future may bring, there’s a question we need to ask ourselves—the same question God asked of “us” in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 3, Verse 9. 

איכה

Ay’yehkah?” — “Where are you?”

This is the question God articulated as the first two humans scurried into the bushes to hide their newly-realized nakedness.

This one-word question seems odd. Surely, if we can determine our friends’ precise coordinates using a device we keep in our slacks, the Creator of the universe can locate two fig-leaf-bikini-sporting folks in a garden. The simple explanation is that God knew precisely where they were, but that the man and woman, themselves, did not. Their emotional compasses were shattered. They were blinded by the realization of their wrongdoing and trembling over the imagined consequences as they heard God’s footsteps in the garden tiptoeing closer and closer. 

The question God put forth was not was in order to obtain an answer but to inspire them to ask the question of themselves. And us. 

One of the devastating impacts of depression and anxiety is that they sap the pleasure from the present moment. In most instances, we’re too wrapped up in the past or the future to look at where we are. We’re emotionally time traveling in our backfiring machines, gasping on its exhaust, incapable of simply taking a breath to shelf any time that isn’t right now.

How do we shelf the past and future? Well, with three steps. 

Step 1: Realize that you’re not your thoughts and emotions…with practice. 

One of the biggest lies that we tend to believe is that we are our thoughts and emotions. 

When we’re feeling depressed, we remove the word “feeling” and believe, “I am depressed.” Likewise, when we’re feeling anxious, we remove the word “feeling” and believe, “I am anxious.” 

(As a dorky dad would say, “Nice to meet you, anxious—I’m dad.”) 

Ugh, what terrible identity, right? But it’s not who you are. You’re not depressed—you’re Anthony, and you’re feeling depressed. You’re not anxious—you’re Jessica, and you’re feeling anxious. This understanding is necessary when appraising your thoughts and emotions. 

How can we do this? With practice.

  • Sit with your thoughts. 
  • Watch as they approach like a meteorologist watches clouds in the sky. 
  • Become mindful of when the storm clouds of negative thoughts and emotions arrive.
  • Monitor and appraise these thoughts and emotions—not like someone in the path of the storm, but as a meteorologist tracking it from another place. 
  • Practice this and grow accustomed to the sensation of these thoughts and emotions. 

Step 2: Ask yourself, “Ay’yehkah?” — “Where are you?”

Indulging a negative thought or emotion can make you feel downright stuck. Much like trying to floor the gas pedal to free a vehicle from a muddy ditch, attempting to not think about a thought causing anxiety or depression can wear an even deeper rut. How can you rock yourself free from this emotional thicket? By taking a shotgun to our time machine. 

When you realize that you’re experiencing a moment of anxiety or depression, audibly ask yourself: “Ay’yehkah?” — “Where are you?” (You don’t have to say the Hebrew, but I find it keeps people from wondering if I’m talking to them and instead makes them think I’m just clearing my throat. 😉 ) 

What’s the point of asking ourselves this question? It forces us to put our feet on the ground and wake up to the present moment. Why the present moment? Well, because it’s probably not that bad. In fact, it’s probably pretty great

Just think about where you are when you’re experiencing anxiety or depression. If you’re “trapped” in your home, you’re home—likely your favorite place. If you’re near a window, you can see the sky, may be able to hear birds singing, or have the ability to open it and feel a breeze. You may be close to your family—the people you cherish and who cherish you. Even if you’re anxiously tossing and turning as you try to sleep, you’re snuggled up in your warm, safe bed. What could be better? 

Asking “ay’yehkah—where are you?” can help you realize that you’re not in the present and motivate you to return. If you were to regain consciousness in that precise moment and look immediately at what lay before you, it would likely be pretty awesome. 

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca

Step 3: Attempt to live 60 seconds at a time. 

After nuking your broken emotional time machine by recentering your focus with  a full-throated or even whispered “ay’yehkah,” strive to live in 60-second increments. The past is already over. The future is anyone’s guess. What is certain? Only that which lays before you in this 60-second increment. Not 24/7 political news. Not sinking in the contrived infinity pool of social media. All that exists are these 60 seconds. Live within that time like a dolphin in the aquarium inhabits its tank. 

My prayer is that you come to realize that you aren’t thoughts, that you sledgehammer your dysfunctional emotional time machine with a robust “ay’yehkah,” and cannon-ball into the pool that is the right now

The water feels fine. 

3 Ways of Quelling Hypochondria-Induced Anxiety

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Disclaimer: I’m by no means a medical professional. I’m just a guy who has lost many nights of sleep due to nervous anxiety. The following are a few ways I manage my thoughts.

Hi, I’m Ken, and I’m a hypochondriac. About once a year for a span running either a few weeks to as much as over a month, I’m convinced that I have some malady that will take me down—either kill me or forever change my life. 

If he knows he’s a hypochondriac, shouldn’t that be enough to remind him that he’s acting irrationally? 

Well, not exactly. You see, I’m also a cancer survivor. In 2017, I was diagnosed with stage 1 testicular cancer. Though primarily treated with one surgery where my right testicle was removed, I’ve been in remission and under surveillance ever since. Still worse, I experienced one of the most significant setbacks for a hypochondriac—I was right

Fast forward to 2019. I began feeling a recurring dull pain in my grown. 

Oh great. Not this again.

While a second pass of testicular cancer in remaining testicle was possible (it’s happened to others before), it was highly unlikely. I consulted my urologist. The verdict? The testicle was completely normal. I had also just started a strenuous jump rope workout routine from having never really exercised regularly in my life. He deemed that the likely culprit for the inner groin pain and told me to contact him again if it persisted. It didn’t. After a few weeks, I didn’t experience any groin pain or further associated anxiety. 

Fast forward to 2020. Not one, not two, but three of my friends have been battling lymphoma—successfully, but not easily. Needless to say, it’s on my mind. 

Later, during the covid pandemic, I read Beastie Boys Book. If you’re unfamiliar, one of the founding members of Beastie Boys, Adam “MCA” Yauch, died from cancer of the salivary gland. Between my friends battling lymphoma to reading about Adam, I started to swear that I felt something happening in my own throat. Swallowing began to feel strange. I began checking my own lymph nodes multiple times a day (by the way, this is a great way to agitate your lymph nodes—just sayin’). 

Weeks went by. Lymph node checks on the couch while watching TV or reading books became a common twitch. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, wondering if something was going on. Still, one situation continued that most every hypochondriac can attest to: I felt like something should be wrong, but there wasn’t enough wrong to justify a doctor’s visit. 

At this time, I also discovered one fascinating thing about the throat: it’s incredibly responsive to…wait for it…anxiety. There’s even a name for it—globus pharygenus. It’s the harmless nervous lump you’ve likely felt in your throat during an intense or traumatic event—ranging from a job interview to a funeral. It doesn’t help that the more anxious you become about it, the worse it can become. It’s almost like your body is trolling your emotions. 

1. The Perspective-Correcting Question

Most days, any perceived “symptoms” would only flare up when I would think about them. Noticing this stimulus was key to a question I would later use to largely quell my anxiety. 

“If you had woken up today with your complete memory of the last six months erased, anxieties and all, would the symptoms you’re feeling at this moment justify a doctor’s visit?”

Once I asked myself, I knew the answer: no. I probably wouldn’t even register them as “symptoms.” Suddenly, I felt a great weight lifted from my shoulders. But why? 

For most of us with irrational anxieties about our health, the severity of these delusions are intensified by the weight we give them. We’re not anxious about the supposed “symptom” we’re presently feeling this moment, but we’re instead recalling all of the anxieties we’ve logged away in regard this feeling before. Every time our minds shift to the worst-case scenarios in regard to this feeling, we’re essentially picking the scab on an emotional wound that our minds are trying to heal every day.

So, what is the answer? When assessing how you feel, keep your assessment to that specific moment—not the anxieties of the past. Ask yourself, if this moment was the first time I felt this perceived “symptom,” would it justify a doctor’s visit? Almost every time, the answer will be “no.” Every day that this is the case, the more the wound of your own anxiety can heal until you can successfully leave it behind. 

So, what if it does justify a doctor’s visit?

For many of us hypochondriacs, we fear making that doctor’s appointment because of what it may reveal. When this is the case, simply make an appointment for a routine checkup. Though you’d feel silly about making an appointment about what may just be an anxious sensation, making an appointment for the exam will feel less ominous. During the appointment, you should probably tell your doctor about the symptom that is worrying you, but also definitely acknowledge the anxiety you’re feeling regarding such sensations. Either way, the doctor will be able to assist you to relieve your anxiety—whether via treatment of your body, your mind, or just a friendly pep talk. 

2. Journal Daily

In addition to asking yourself the magic mind-erasing question and seeing your doctor when necessary, my next recommendation is among the easiest—journaling. Every day, write down how you’re feeling, physically and mentally. In most instances, the simple act of putting your thoughts and emotions into words will help you process them. Don’t hold back. Feel free to write down your worst fears, your highest hopes, and everything in between. Your mind will thank you. 

3. This Too Shall Pass

And my last bit of advice: when you’re wracked with anxiety, whether from hypochondria or other stress, utter and embody these four words: “this too shall pass.” Anxiety has a way of suffocating our perceptions of the future. We feel like we’re going to feel this way forever. Guess what? You’re not. This too shall pass. 

You’ve got this. 

The Greatest Piece of Financial Advice I’ve Ever Received

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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So many of us struggle to live within our means. Part of the reason for this is that our checking account balance is lying to us. No, you actually do have that amount in your account, but many of us forget how or more specifically when it got there. 

I used to wonder why I was so slammed up against the wall as I neared the end of a pay period. I would find myself at the grocery store the day before payday, wondering whether or not I should use my credit card or move money from savings into my checking account. 

 How the heck did this happen? Well, it turns out that I was misreading my checking account balance. This was causing me to spend beyond my means quite comfortably the first week or so after being paid—a false assurance. It wasn’t until I received one tip from a financial advisor through my Native American tribe that helped me look at my checking account differently, to live within my means, and start putting savings away. 

The first thing you should do when you get paid is to move everything that had existed in your checking account before payday into savings and act as though it never existed. That will force you to truly live on your salary and not feel like you have more because of what remained from your last pay cycle. 

She was right—I hadn’t been seeing a realistic picture of my means due to the remnants of my last paycheck artificially inflating my checking account balance.

Her advice sounds ridiculously simple, but it worked. If my paycheck hit my account on top of, say, $300 that was in there before, that $300 got thrown into savings. Now, every time I look at my checking account, the only info looking back at me is only what my most recent paycheck had left and the spending since then. This little behavior has forced me to more diligently stick to my budget but also to truly live within my means. No matter how much is left over, it goes to savings. As far as I’m concerned, that money is stowed behind a rock on the moon.

Anyway, I hope this helps someone as much as it helped me. 

The Rich Poor Man: Insatiable Affluence vs Contented Poverty

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What is wealth or richness? These terms vary depending to whom they are referring. To one person, someone rich has a six-figure income. To someone else, six figures are just the beginning. Putting the actual income level aside, what even makes this income appealing? Surely, a briefcase full of cash makes for a decent footrest under your desk, but most would say that the appeal of abundant monetary wealth is the afforded luxury of freedom—of time, actions, resources. They can do whatever they desire. 

Then there is the person that typically makes less than six figures—the office clerk, the teacher, the janitor, the bus driver, the grocery store attendant. Do they have the same desire for freedom as the CEO, the doctor, or lawyer? Undoubtedly. 

Now, let us distill why freedom equals happiness. More often than not, this freedom-thus-happiness comes with a steep cost. For some, many weeks going over evidence and preparing their client for a court case may result in some of that freedom-thus-happiness. For others, bathing an elderly person one morning can result in a bit of that freedom-thus-happiness. 

What if that person bathing the elderly felt indeed contented in their pursuit of freedom-thus-happiness, though the defense attorney utterly hated every moment of their job? What if the fast-food worker sang while cooking food in the back of a hot kitchen while the CEO stared at the ceiling fan all night, wondering what kind of people her children would grow up to be? What is the cost of affluence if someone is routinely required to slowly and systematically crush their own soul in the process?  

The measure of a rich person should not be the digits on their bank statement, but the measure of the void between longing and contentment. By this definition, an elementary school teacher who must purchase her own school supplies may live a life of existential opulence while the gold-cufflinked stockbroker may indeed be spiritually destitute and emotionally famished. 

More often than not, the pursuit of wealth is far more costly and far less gratifying than the pursuit of contentment. 

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. … Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth? It is, first, to have what is necessary, and, second, to have what is enough.” – Seneca

How to Intentionally Waste Time More Efficiently

Reading Time: 3 minutes

If there’s a concept most of us wrangle with the most, it’s time. There doesn’t seem to be enough of it in a day. No time to work, pursue your dreams, spend time with loved ones, take care of yourself, and fart around. There is one simple tool I’ve found to be the most helpful for what I call “time dieting”—your basic timer. 

Yes, a timer. It could be a timer app or asking Siri, Alexa, or Google to let you know when a certain amount of time has passed. It could even be an egg timer or a simple watch timer that beeps or buzzes.

How to Use a Timer to Manage Your Life

Yes, not your day—your LIFE. Why so dramatic? Because…

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.” – Annie Dilliard

 Anyway, back to the timer. 

What the timer allows you to do is to section off periods of the day and dedicate them to specific activities. Why is this necessary? Because we’re abysmal at doing so without assistance.

Setting Intentions

 How many times has, “I’m just going to scroll (enter social media platform here) real quick and then get back to work,” turned into two completely soul-draining, utterly unproductive hours? Not to say that there’s anything wrong with two unproductive hours—as long as that was your intention for those two hours. But was that your intention? Likely not. You probably intended to scroll the infinity pool of social media for 10 minutes and then regained consciousness 110 minutes later. 

Now, if you’ve been dutifully working for an hour and would like some intellectual novocaine, you should be allowed to imbibe now and again. However, if you down the whole bottle (or vial…I don’t know what receptacle novocaine comes in) on TikTok, you may not return to the productive world for the rest of the day. That is why a timer is the perfect measuring spoon. 

A timer is a leash that permits you to “wander off” for 10 minutes, only to bring you back once you’ve run out of chronological slack. It is your ankle tether keeping you from straying from your board of intention. 

Time Dieting: Nourish & Imbibe

I use a simple wrist timer to measure out my doses of hyperfocus and intellectual novocaine throughout the day. Sometimes, I turn to my timer and go… 

“Ok, I’m going to read with an immense focus for 30 minutes.”

Ready. Set timer. READ. For the next 30 minutes, I pour my focus into reading. 

Other times, I allow myself to unabashedly go down the rabbit hole of news, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube videos for 15 minutes as a reward for or motivation to conduct more productive behavior.

Ready. Set timer. IMBIBE. Until that timer goes off, it’s off to White House Press Conference coverage, trending hashtags, Instagram Stories, and life hack videos on YouTube. 

I repeat this process for meditation, exercise, vegging on the porch, and even work via the Pomodoro Technique. Each watch buzz on my wrist is a tug on my time leash, drawing me out of said intentional activity, no matter how productive or juvenile it is. 

“Ya Can’t Have One Without the Other.”

I find that occasional shots of mental novocaine straight to my prefrontal cortex are as necessary as the rest of my meaningful pursuits. Giving yourself the occasional cheat day from all-out productivity helps one stave off burnout and can even increase drive…when used in moderation, of course. In many instances, I use the promise of upcoming mental downtime as a reward for focused work or other productive accomplishments. Frequently, dangling carrots of sloth on the end of long sticks of productivity can pull my donkey out of the ditch of procrastination. There are instances when I will work my arse off for the chance to do absolutely nothing. Sometimes, I will burn the midnight oil if it means I get to sleep in (though, being an early bird, it usually means I will greet the dawn if it means I get to turn in early). 

How do I regulate my bouts of intentional neural lethargy? Again, a simple timer. 

“Ok, you’re allowed 10 minutes of watching video reviews of products you already own in return for 45 minutes of productive work.”

“You got it, boss. I’m going to knock out deep cleaning up my office. Then…I’m going to watch strangers share their thoughts about a jump rope I already own.” 

Dessert First?

There are instances when, no matter the size of the dangled carrot, my donkey ain’t moving. For those instances, I find it helpful to give the donkey a down payment—a tiny nibble on the reward. Perhaps five minutes of stand-up comedy on YouTube will remind my inner do-nothing the bliss of earned inertia.

Ready. Set timer. Cue 5-minutes of jokes about garage sales.

(5-minutes later.)

Buzz…buzz…buzz…

Ok, that was delightful. I’m coming back to that…in 45 minutes.

(Sets timer for 45 minutes of focused work to earn additional listlessness.)

Rinse and repeat.

5 Things I Really Like About the Pomodoro Technique

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I recently started using the Pomodoro Technique. This technique is a work/break scheduling tool used initially by medical school students to foster focused “deep work.” “Pomodoro” simply means “tomato” in Italian — which was the shape of the kitchen timer used by its Italian developer, Francesco Cirillo, in the late ’80s. Here’s how it works: 

Step 1: Choose a task you’d like to execute. This task can be anything from making space for a hand-me-down fridge in your garage to writing a novel. The more daunting, the better— though simple tasks will work great as well. 

Step 2: Download or obtain a simple timer. This timer can be a mobile application or a simple kitchen timer. There are also many great web-based timers designed explicitly for use with the Pomodoro Technique

Step 3: Have a means of notetaking immediately at hand. This method of taking notes can be an app like Google Keep (my favorite), or a physical note pad with a writing tool.

Step 4: Prep your environment for focus. Use the bathroom. Ready your coffee. Put your phone “do not disturb” mode. Obtain the necessary books, materials, or tools to complete the task. Log out of all social media platforms. Yes, actually log out.

Step 4: Set the timer for 25 minutes and work with as much focus as you can muster. Place your full attention on attacking this task for the full 25-minutes. If you suddenly have a great unrelated idea, realize another task you remember that you need to do, or the cure for COVID-19, use the notepad or notetaking application to jot it down. Once jotted down, immediately return to the original task. 

Helpful tips for Step 4: A. Remember that you’re only committing to 25 minutes. B. Depending on your level of distractability, you may want your timer visible. Sometimes seeing how much time you have left until you can quit helps you focus. 

Step 5: Take a break. Once the 25 minutes is up, set the timer again for 5-minutes and take a break. Get up. Walk around. Check your phone. Use the bathroom. Top off your coffee. Whatever you need to do—you’ve earned it. 

Step 6: Get back to work. Once the five minutes is complete, reset the timer for 25 minutes and get back to work just like you were doing in Step 4. 

Step 7: After four cycles, take a longer break. Once you’ve done FOUR 25-minute work sessions, take a 15-minute break. You’ve earned it. 

Step 8: Start the whole process over again. Once that 15-minute break is over, start back at Step 4. 

If done correctly, a two-hour cycle of “deep work” should look like this:

  • 25 minutes of deep work
  • 5-minute break
  • 25 minutes of deep work
  • 5-minute break
  • 25 minutes of deep work
  • 5-minute break
  • 25 minutes of deep work
  • 15-minute break 

If you find yourself immensely focused and you don’t want to take a break, simply set the timer for another 25 minutes and continue working. Still, I wouldn’t recommend doing this more the two or three times. You need a break to stay sharp! 

The Pomodoro Technique sounds way too simple to be useful, but it absolutely is useful for me—for reasons that may go unconsidered by someone who hasn’t tried it.  

What I Like About the Pomodoro Technique #1: It immediately scales down forboding work. 

Before, the idea of turning an information-packed 30-minute interview into a respectable article was reasonably daunting. I knew I’d be committing to hours of reading, writing, rephrasing, and potential premature burnout. Now, I only really have to commit to 25 minutes of work. Who can’t commit to 25 minutes? Pffssshhh. 

What I Like About the Pomodoro Technique #2: Physically hitting a “start” button. 

I already hit a timer on most of my paid work to track the time spent on it for clients. Even though this is the case, these timers also include breaks, trips to the bathrooms, water bottle refills, and everything else included within the “process” of writing. My Pomodoro clock, however, is purely for work. Once I hit that “start” button, it’s like throwing the lever on a rollercoaster—you gotta go where the tracks take you. Need to fasten your safety belt? You should have thought about that earlier. 

What I Like About the Pomodoro Technique #3: I don’t feel guilty about taking frequent breaks. 

Usually, when I take a break from working, they’re rarely planned. I may need one. I may accidentally take a break because I got distracted. With the Pomodoro Technique, I don’t feel bad about taking five minutes to stretch, jump rope a dozen times, refill my water, peruse the news, message a friend, or the like. Not only did I “earn” the break by being immensely productive during the past 25 minutes (typically as productive as I’d otherwise be in a distracted hour), but my break also has its own timer. Whereas other breaks may have wound up being much longer due to distractions, I’m quickly back to work as soon as those five minutes are up. 

What I Like About the Pomodoro Technique #4: Distractions don’t linger in my mind as much. 

One of the reasons I’d indulge my distractions in the past was fear of forgetting that thing I needed to do. “Oh, I need to block out some time on my calendar to budget out my tax return.” Just doing that little act would usually derail me while I remembered the other items I needed to time-block in my calendar. With the Pomodoro Method, I can either (a) quickly jot this down in a Google Keep “to do/remember” specifically for that day or (b) can feel confident that I won’t forget to do this in the next 25-minutes max. 

What I Like About the Pomodoro Technique #5: It’s so damn simple.

Whether its time-blocking, jumping rope, meditating, journaling, or using the Pomodoro Technique, all of my favorite self-management techniques are also some of the simplest tasks one can perform. If you’ve made it this far in the article, you’re an expert in the Pomodoro Technique. While there are a few books on the subject, it’s effectiveness is in its simplicity.

If you read this entire article, that’s about 6-minutes, which means you need to get back to work! 

 

Giving Up is Immensely Underrated

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Last year, I cultivated four incredibly beneficial lifestyle habits (and wrote a free book about the experience) that I continue to utilize in my daily life. As 2020 rolled around, I was incredibly inspired to see what other habits I could develop. As I began to look into my spiritual life, though prayer was now a regular morning staple, my religious study was in need of some strengthening. Fortunately for me, there was Daf Yomi. 

If you don’t know what Daf Yomi is, don’t worry—even a lot of Jewish folks don’t, much less the general public. “Daf Yomi” literally means “a page a day.” A page of what? Talmud. What is Talmud? The Talmud (specifically the Babylonian Talmud) is over 300 years of conversations between Jewish religious authorities extrapolating, debating, and exploring every nook and cranny of Jewish law. Discussions are filled with great wisdom, table-pounding arguments across centuries, a dash of old-timey folklore, and even jokes. It’s words fill 63 books known as “tractates” and 2,711 double-sided folio pages—each called a “daf.” One side/half of a “daf,” when translated into English, is roughly 1,000-1,300 words. When read in English at a conversational pace, each “daf” takes about 30 minutes. 

If studying Talmud sounds quite daunting and difficult to navigate, that’s because it absolutely is. That being said, many find its study immensely fulfilling. It is said to sharpen the mind of its students—teaching them how to carefully examine life’s most and least significant questions with an analytical mind. To manage the process of studying the entire Talmud, some authorities on the matter established Daf Yomi— a “one page a day” cyclical and communal study of the Babylonian Talmud. This seven-year(and some change) study sought to make Talmud study like eating the metaphorical elephant one bite at a time in lock-step with the community. Because everyone partaking in the study is on the same page every day, they could discuss the same material. Sidenote: If you plan on eating a non-metaphorical elephant, they are technically kosher, but their size and strength make appropriately and humanely slaughtering them virtually impossible. That, and they’re largely endangered, so you’d end up looking like a real jerk. Anyway, back to the article. 

Though one need not to wait for the Daf Yomi merry-go-round to end before hopping on, around the turn of the new year, the previous cycle had just finished with a new one slated to begin again just a week or so after the beginning of 2020. I was determined to hop on. What happened next was mostly my own fault. 

Accountability Man

I approached studying Daf Yomi like I did my other habits. 

Identity: Instead of telling myself “I’m a guy who studies Daf Yomi,” I started saying, “I’m a committed Daf Yomi student.” Check. 

Environment: I had found the perfect nook at my kitchen table that I would utilize for my study. As soon as my son was asleep, I’d go to my Daf Yomi nook and get started. 

Accountability: Boy, oh, boy did I lean into accountability. I knew I couldn’t be trusted to start studying Daf Yomi on my own and keep with it. 

Because of this, firstly, I set up a group text with a handful of buddies from my synagogue (most of whom never expressed an interest in being in such a group—sorry, fellas) with the idea that each of us could share what we gleaned from the daily daf. 

Secondly, I actually set up a website blog where I would share my daily daf insights. 

My third accountability step took it to the next level; I made a Daf Yomi podcast using Anchor. I read the daily daf in English into my phone for the benefit of one of the dyslexic group text members who prefers audiobooks. 

I planned on being one daf ahead of the group so that the podcast episode would drop the morning of its accompanying daf. 

So, off I went.

I started at a gentle pace. I got a free Sunday afternoon, so I preloaded my week by studying and recording several pages of Daf Yomi. Once that surplus was published, I went back to daily…then back to preloading. 

I checked in with the group every so often. At first, everyone was immensely responsive to the daily insights. Some were sharing their own. My dyslexic friend thanked me immensely for my efforts with the podcast.

The blog was…well, a brand-new blog. It can take months or years for a blog to get traction. I essentially treated it as a repository for my notes. 

As I went along, the group text response began to fizzle. I asked my dyslexic friend if he had been enjoying the podcast. He said he had gotten around to “this week’s” episodes.  

After a few weeks of reading into my phone for 30 minutes a day followed by writing summaries and scheduling posts, the weight of Daf Yomi went from a giggling baby on my shoulders to an impatient, squirmy toddler. While the insights were fascinating, the break-neck schedule didn’t allow me to spend time with the content. This isn’t the fault of Daf Yomi, but rather the lack of bandwidth my daily schedule allowed. I was beginning to feel burnout from what now seemed like a daily homework assignment on top of daily prayer, meditation, exercise, spending time with my son, my wife, my job, my friends, books I wanted to read, etc. I had to be truly honest with myself—Daf Yomi was not currently how I wanted to spend my time. 

Before I got through the first tractate, I decided to quit. 

The Freedom of Being Honest With One’s Self

Though I truly wanted to be a student of Daf Yomi, it turns out that I didn’t want it as bad as I had initially thought. While it seemed like a nice idea, it was never really a passion. Don’t get me wrong—I love being a student of my faith, but a tractate of Talmud isn’t what my hand naturally gravitates to when approaching my bookshelf. I’m much more of a Mishneh Torah, Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Nachman, or Mussar type of guy. 

But this extends further than which books I want to read. This extends into being honest with who I am. Should I want to be a Talmud student? Sure—Talmud has shaped the faith, practice, and minds of my people for generations. Am a Talmud student? Eh, not really. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And I’m not saying that I shouldn’t give up on religious study altogether just because Talmud study isn’t my cup of tea, but rather that being honest with myself allows me the freedom to explore what is my cup of tea and give it more of my time. Why? Sometimes someone’s cup of tea isn’t tea at all. Sometimes it’s black coffee. 

As soon as I decided, “I quit, but I feel OK about quitting,” that squirming toddler on my shoulders of the responsibilities associated with Daf Yomi stopped fluttering and hopped down. I pointed my existing podcast listeners to an alternative podcast with a passionate host. I completely took down the blog (not that it really had any traction) and reallocated that slot in my day towards things that truly resonated with who I am. I increased my journaling. I tightened the bolts on my daily exercise and meditation routine. I made a conscious effort to be more present with my wife and son. I started to interact with friends, setting up hang outs mostly free of digital distractions. I did things that I would look forward to with great anticipation.

I learned a lot from my short time studying Daf Yomi, but the biggest lesson I learned is that an intentional, well-executed “OK, I give up” is immensely underrated.