The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss: Books that will change your life, and how to use them

Tim Ferriss is, by now, well-known for the 4-hour franchise. His first book, The 4-Hour Workweek, was famously rejected by dozens of publishers before becoming an overwhelming hit, having been translated into thirty-something languages (as of this writing) and sending a lot of people into entrepreneurship.

That book was basically a collection of productivity hacks for people with a product to sell, giving them the opportunity to cut down drastically on the amount of work they had to do while keeping their revenue streams up.

The message for me from The 4-Hour Workweek that sticks, though, is not the main message of the book, which is essentially how to get rich while other people handle the tough work for you. It’s that it’s an instruction manual for stuff that Ferriss tried himself, using his own business to experiment on.

And so we pick up Ferriss’ second book, The 4-Hour Body, a 600-page book about changing your body. Ferriss writes about losing fat and gaining muscle, both quickly and over the long term, including doing so while more or less ignoring every dieting “rule” you’ve ever heard. He writes about having better sex. He writes about supplementation (read: drugs). He draws from the experiments he’s performed on himself (and a few other willing subjects).

That brings us to the punchline, about how this book really does change your life.

The takeaway: It’s OK to experiment on yourself.

Sure, it’s nice to have a physician available, especially if you don’t understand the chemistry at play in your body and in certain drugs. And if you are trying new stuff for the first time, having an urgent care or emergency medical facility nearby is a good thing (and maybe you want to have a ride available, just in case). But to be honest, while the body can be a fragile thing, it’s also really resilient, and it lets you know when you’re taking it too far through pain or other reactions (like swelling, for example).

But in general, you should really learn to be comfortable trying new things, and also observing how they affect you. This applies to food, activities, sleep and pretty much any part of life you want to apply it to.

To observe correctly, however, you must measure and document. Ferriss has done pretty much all the work for you. If you want to lose 2% body fat in two weeks, he’ll give you the shortcuts. If you want to put on 18 pounds tomorrow, he’ll let you know. But he also lets you know how to measure and document your progress, so you can see for yourself, and that’s the part of The 4-Hour Body that’s most interesting to me.

Why it’s important: It makes you the expert.

You don’t need a personal trainer, or a dietitian or a scientist. You record what you eat, you record how you feel, how it changes your weight, etc., and you do it again under the same conditions at another time to see if there were any extraneous factors (that is, to see if it’s replicable).

You would be the best expert on you, if you were to pay attention. And, the punchline here, is that you can extrapolate all you learn to other parts of life. The observation, data collection and other skills certainly translate outside of eating and running.

How to use it: Ferriss himself leaves instructions for how to use the book. Pick a couple of chapters that are relevant to you, and read those first. Utilize the tips. Do your experimenting. Then read the rest of the book if it’s interesting to you.

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End-of-summer-to-Thanksgiving fitness challenge Week 8: Finding a groove

2014-weight-loss-008Well, turns out the higher-carb, moderate-fat diet is working for me. I've regained some of the energy I'd lost a couple of weeks ago that eventually led to some declines in my "fitness test" weeks — and, to be honest, this week was tough. We have some stuff going on at home that entirely blew one or more of my workout, eating or sleeping plans at least three times this week. And I still lost some weight.

Onward and upward. I'm looking forward to some chill time this week. I've pre-written some of my other writings, I've planned an afternoon and evening just hanging out in a different town, and I have a bit of a presentation to do tomorrow that I think will be really fun.

And then, charging ahead. Later in the week, I hit high gear. I'm not going to talk about it here, it'd be way off-topic for this series, but WOW, so much spinning in the old noggin. Runs might get longer to give me some time to think and architect.

Until next time...

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014 160.2 13.41 72 30
9/15/2014 159.6 9.5 N/A N/A
9/22/2014 159.4 20.63 79 34
9/29/2014 158.8 4.74 N/A N/A
10/6/2014 158.8 5.24 71 31
10/13/2014 157.6 8.4 N/A N/A
10/20/2014 156.4 9.11 78 35
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014

Can we talk equality for a minute?

I get ambivalent about participating in Blog Action Day most years, because, while I always think it's relevant to the world, the topic isn't typically something I'm passionate about.

But I can say something about equality. It's a topic I've given up on more than once. On the one hand, the fact that you bleed red, I bleed red, whatever, is obvious to me. On the other hand, you just can't change some people's minds.

inequalitywordcloud-smThere's so much to talk about, overall. Some of what's going on in the world...

Gay marriage
I can't believe we're even still talking about this. Sanctity of marriage? You know what's bad for the sanctity of marriage? Domestic violence. You know what else? Divorce. You know what the rates are among gay couples? I don't either, but I'm betting in both cases, it's substantially lower than straight couples. Look, you have a religious issue? No problem. We have a separation of church and state in this country. How about we just allow marriage to be a church institution, and call the legal bit a civil partnership?

Sexism
Here's another one I can't believe we're still talking about, but sadly, we are. Women on the whole still make less than men for the same work. Women are still notably absent from positions of power. And while there are a growing number of associations to help support female business owners, we still need associations to help support female business owners.

Look, 50.8 percent of the U.S. is female, we should be seeing something like that in terms of female leadership in corporate America and the like. Don't give me anecdotal evidence as "proof" that we're making progress. The fact is, we're really not.

Racism and white privilege
"People think Dr. King gave his speech and racism was over," Chris Rock tells Ice T, continuing on to say that white folks didn't even really start to watch what they said in public until 1978 or so.

Look, there is never going to be a time when we don't look at "other than me" suspiciously. It's hard-wired into us, and it's the same mechanism that keeps us glued to news about murders and robberies even though our mouths say we want to hear good news instead. But we have the ability to make our actions pair with our beliefs (or what we claim as beliefs), and treat everybody with respect.

I'm sure that many of you have read the essay Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, but if not, take 10 minutes to do so, and, particularly if you're white and haven't thought about it before, do think.

Class
I struggle with this more than any other, I think. I grew up in what I think is what is called a high-diversity school system. While I've never spent much time in "up-and-coming" neighborhoods (that means a place where housing is dirt cheap and you may not want your kids out after dusk), I find higher-end suburbs uncomfortable as well.

I've never had to live eight to a home, but there were times my parents worked multiple jobs.

I also happen to think a lot of racism is tied up in poverty, making it really a class issue.

If you need your eyes opened to class inequality in the U.S., listen to Ms. Pat school Marc Maron. Maron's reaction is of genuine surprise.

If you need your eyes opened to class inequality across the globe, check out Kevin Rose's interview with Scott Harrison. Harrison was one of those guys companies used to pay just to be seen in public drinking their products, and then he went on a trip and discovered there are children in this world dying horrible deaths because they can't get clean water. And then you can go give to Charity Water because you will totally feel like a selfish ass after you hear it.

Religion
While Christmas generally makes me uncomfortable (though I don't begrudge anybody their holiday), I'm becoming a little better with ritual.

But we still live in a world where we're killing in the name of (insert whatever you call the deity here). All the time. It's been that way throughout recorded human history.

And in a world where even the NFL has to reclassify its player fines because someone in the organization doesn't understand religious expression if it's not their religious expression.

Come on, people, rise above, eh?

Your comments are appreciated.

End-of-summer-to-Thanksgiving challenge Week 7: Back on track

2014-weight-loss-007OK, so we're halfway through our challenge and nowhere near halfway to our goal. BUT we're back on track losing some weight.

I ran mostly short distances, but more frequently — the farthest I've run since I made it to 20 miles.

We're on the right track, I think, and I'm paying more attention to things like form; I heard Keith Weber and Joe Rogan discuss form, and, especially since I've been wearing my minimalist shoes less (I lean toward Saucony Hattori — which appear to be out of production — and on occasion Vibram FiveFingers).

This week's tracking sheet:

 

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014 160.2 13.41 72 30
9/15/2014 159.6 9.5 N/A N/A
9/22/2014 159.4 20.63 79 34
9/29/2014 158.8 4.74 N/A N/A
10/6/2014 158.8 5.24 71 31
10/13/2014 157.6 8.4 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014

Introducing The Bearded Brain

in-the-earsYou may have seen me, over the past couple of weeks, posting on social media about The Bearded Brain, a new email newsletter I've put together.

Just a little bit about it: It's a collection of some interesting stuff I've seen, listened to, and, sometimes, discussed with friends throughout the week.

It's free, it's weekly (I send it on Tuesday), and I think you'll find it interesting.

You can see an issue here, so you know what to expect.

It's off to a good start, and I'd appreciate you trying it out for a couple of issues. I use a third party tool, so you can do your subscribing through them, and later unsubscribe with them if you wish, so there's no awkward, "Uh, Josh, I think I'm good" moment if you don't like it.

You can sign up here.

Thanks for checking it out!

End-of-summer-to-Thanksgiving fitness challenge Week 6

2014-weight-loss-006My diet was a gajillion kinds of awful, but I at least changed up my workouts to include speed and explosiveness, and that balanced out my eating.

I'm preparing for a little better success this week. My workouts are going to be shorter and more intense (I've already started with my workout today), and I have some much better meals planned, as well.

One of the things "Dilbert" creator Scott Adams writes in his new book about success is that diet and fitness are important to success in other parts of your life. He says a lot of people said it was obvious, and a lot of other people said, essentially, that he was full of it. But I think it's worth mentioning, and I think I need to focus on it for personal success. So, at just about the halfway point, consider my drive renewed.

You can see my strength tests went the wrong direction, as well, so it's time to redouble efforts.

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014 160.2 13.41 72 30
9/15/2014 159.6 9.5 N/A N/A
9/22/2014 159.4 20.63 79 34
9/29/2014 158.8 4.74 N/A N/A
10/6/2014 158.8 5.24 71 31
10/13/2014 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014

If you listen to one thing this week…

I've written about Chris Guillebeau (website) and James Altucher (website) before. But this time, they got together. See Episode 46 (and then listen to it).

Rather than tell you what they say, I'll give you of the topics they hit, and my thoughts on them.

The benefits of a quest

A quest, Guillebeau and Altucher say, requires a destination (goal), includes a journey, and probably is going to take you a long time. While I have certainly set goals for myself, I can't say I've ever set a quest. I'm not sure my attention span is long enough. We'll see.

Following your gut

Sometimes your pro-con lists don't help. Sometimes the math is wrong, even if the numbers appear to add up. A lot of times, if you listen to what your gut (or the voices in your head) are telling you, they'll be right. See my post on intuition for more.

Following your calling, following your passion

Does everyone have a calling? Maybe. Does everyone have a passion? More likely. I'm not convinced your passion will always earn you a living, but you should still take the time to follow yours. It helps a lot with the next bit.

Self-inspiration/motivation

This is always hard. If it were easy, we wouldn't have self-help sections in bookstores or bestseller lists. We wouldn't have life coaches. We wouldn't have business coaches.

If you can't ever be self-motivated, though, your life is probably pretty hard. You probably work a job you hate, don't have a relationship worth getting out of bed for, and certainly don't have a 70-pound black Lab telling you to get your ass out of the chair and go outside (OK, Rufus, we're almost done here).

Baby steps

Specifically, they discuss the need, even on a 10-year project, to check something off your to-do list today and something else tomorrow. But take into consideration everything lots of parts of your life. Trying to lose weight? Lose between a tenth of a pound and two-tenths of a pound each day, you'll lose a pound a week, over 50 pounds in a year. Baby steps. Looking to save some money? Put away $2 a day, and you've saved over $700 for the year. On a 10-year quest, saving $2 a day gets you over $7,000, and that's assuming you're not picking up any interest.

Every little bit helps. There's no need to get everything done tomorrow.

I'd love to hear from you on this. They tackle some pretty big things. What are your takeaways?




 

End-of-summer-to-Thanksgiving challenge Week 5: Feelin’ good

2014-weight-loss-005OK, so I only lost another 0.6 pounds, which means I'm way off track, but I feel better this week than I have in almost a month. I didn't run very much after my 20-plus-mile week, opting for lower-impact cardio. That might have been part of it: no aches and my upper legs weren't fatigued to hell by Wednesday.

But what I think did a lot of it was a change from my normal diet for weight loss (a high-fat, low-carb diet, which studies seem to show is the way to go) to a moderate-fat, moderate carb diet more along the lines of an intuitive eating plan.

I'm lucky in that I work from home, so I'm not bound by a workplace structure that discourages eating except before, smack in the middle of and after work. While I take a "lunch" break at my job, I typically just take the three minutes to run to the kitchen if I'm hungry.

I've been eating more oatmeal, rice, beans, and occasionally an apple or banana (actually, I normally eat a lot of bananas, primarily pre-workout). Whereas my diet before was something along the lines of 150g protein, 100g fat and 50g of carbohydrates (~1700 calories), I'm now closer to 200g protein, 100g carbs, 50g fat (~1650 calories).

I'll probably try to maintain something like that for the next month or so, maybe even increasing the protein, perhaps slightly decreasing the fat.

 

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014 160.2 13.41 72 30
9/15/2014 159.6 9.5 N/A N/A
9/22/2014 159.4 20.63 79 34
9/29/2014 158.8 4.74 N/A N/A
10/6/2014
10/13/2014 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014

On ritual

We said our farewells to Fritz over the weekend. I don't expect you'll go read through his obituary, so I'll give you the gist.

Fred Mills, "Father Fritz" to his flock, was a reverend, a weightlifter, a hiker, and a Red Sox fan (a die-hard fan — literally — there was a Red Sox logo on the shroud covering his coffin at calling hours).

His family relationship to me is kind of tenuous on the surface. He is my wife's first cousins' stepfather — my wife's uncle and Fritz's widow raised a couple of women. Fritz had his own children coming into that marriage as well.

While Fritz's family stayed in New England (primarily Cape Cod), he lived in Central New York, and he was always at family gatherings. I met him first in 2010, five years after the stroke that ended his power-lifting days and his ability to hike on his own two legs. The three things I remembered from that first meeting were still true when I last saw him a couple of months ago:

• He had a crushing handshake. If you weren't ready for it, you risked taping up a couple of fingers for a week. And he held on for a lot longer than is generally deemed a social norm. One of his daughters inherited that grip and the hold, and I thought to mention it when we met.
• He looked you in the eye, not in a challenging way, but in a gentle, respectful way.
• He wanted to talk baseball. It was common ground, and since I grew up a Red Sox fan in Massachusetts, it was a good way for us to connect.

His funeral was at an Episcopal church. I don't really understand the inner workings, but strictly from a standpoint of observation, it's almost Anglican (Church of England), I guess. They take communion (so it's in a Catholic tradition), but priests can marry, they have female priests, and I didn't see any crucifixes (a cross being a cross, a crucifix having a crucified Jesus on the cross).

There were some rituals that were curious to me, an outsider (I'm Jewish). One was something they called in the program The Peace. It's a stopping point in the service during which you look around and wish those around you peace. The priest later explained the communion ritual (which I'm guessing changes a bit from church to church), but it was almost another half hour before the communion ceremony. Some of the readings began and ended with the priest elevating the bible above her head and making a declaration.

As I mentioned, these were curious to me, but they probably felt perfectly normal to someone else.

As some of you know, I'm a Freemason. One of the things that connects the fraternity to its past is its ritual, which can vary from place to place, but remains integral to every meeting and every degree ceremony.

The ritual is certainly unusual to an outsider, and was to me when I first saw it, but is now a mark of comfort that, no matter what else happens before, during or after the meeting, the meeting will open and close with ritual.

It's the same in many other organizations, including religious gatherings, fraternities, business, etc. People look to ritual to emulate others — do a search for morning ritual or rituals of successful people, and you'll get millions of options, some of them downright scary (like, say, Hunter S. Thompson's daily routine.

Watch some baseball players as they step up to bat. Some of them have elaborate rituals before they get in the batter's box, including touching different parts of their bodies, adjusting their uniforms or batting gloves, touching the bat to a specific point on home plate, etc.

Ritual guides us in practice, connects us to our past, and brings us a comfort of familiarity in unfamiliar situations.

What are your rituals?

End-of-summer-to-Thanksgiving Challenge Week 4: Stagnation

2014-weight-loss-004This was a weird week, and I've had to do some research.

I ran 20-plus miles, the first time I've ever done that (this week will be significantly less – probably in the six-to-seven-mile range). Historically, I metabolize proteins and fats well, but the body really wants carbohydrates, especially for cardiovascular exercises, like, say, running. So, I didn't eat enough carbs and tried to stop being hungry with more protein and more fat and I pretty much lost no weight (but you can see from my pushups and pull-ups in the chart below I'm still gaining strength).

We're running the Insane Inflatable 5k on Saturday, which is not so much a 5k for time as it is a sprint then playing on a bounce house then another sprint and climbing up an inflatable slide then a sprint and playing in an inflatable maze...you get the idea. But I'll make sure my legs are in good shape for it; looking at my splits for the week, things go to hell pretty quickly.

Anyway, here's our tracking chart for this week. Hoping for a kickstart over the next 7 days.

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014 160.2 13.41 72 30
9/15/2014 159.6 9.5 N/A N/A
9/22/2014 159.4 20.63 79 34
9/29/2014 N/A N/A
10/6/2014
10/13/2014 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014