We're heading into October. I don't know if you noticed, but the Earth keeps spinning, the sun keeps rising and setting, and time keeps on ticking.
Another week, and the year will be three-quarters over. Take that week, look back at your goals, and charge into Q4 with a renewed zeal for what you wanted to accomplish this year.
I've done pretty well. My goals were largely esoteric; here's a look at what they were. But I've started some new things, seen some stuff through to conclusion, and the final three months of 2015 will include a move from the suburbs into the city, my first half marathon, some visitors from different parts of our lives and settling into some new routines.
You know, this doesn't only apply to running. This is really about getting out of bed and pushing through every day, whatever your challenges are.
Some of you know I'm training for a half marathon in November. I get it. Thousands of people do these every year — maybe it's hundreds of thousands. I have a friend who, after suffering a foot injury in 2014, is looking to complete 15 of them this year. To qualify for the competition division in the Boston Marathon, people need to run a full marathon faster than my projected half marathon time. For many people, a half marathon is no big deal.
But it turns out it kind of is. It's a giant mental challenge. I'm not even to half that distance yet, and I'm already running more hours in a week than I typically drive. You know what else is a giant mental challenge? Life.
Tuesdays are my first run of the week, and a week ago Tuesday, I had five miles on my calendar. I really had to push, especially the last three-quarters of a mile or so. I felt good about getting past the temptation to walk for a bit, but in general I was giving myself a mental beating about it. I had other things to do, though, and I knew I'd need some of that brain power for the evening, so I let it go.
The next day, Wednesday, is typically a day off, but I'd already decided to change up my schedule for the week, so I went back out for another five-mile run. Two and a half miles in, I was feeling good, and I came to the realization that it didn't matter what yesterday's run felt like. It didn't even matter what the first mile of today's run felt like, or even the last step. Once the step had been taken, it was done. I couldn't take it again. I could only worry about the next step, and then the next one after that. I couldn't even worry about what happened in ten steps — I had nine steps to go before then, and I had to take each one of those as they came.
You can only control your next step. Not what you did yesterday, or even what you JUST did. Move forward.
By that point in the week, the podcasts I typically listen to had started to pile up for the week. And they were all about pulling yourself together and doing what's next and not making a big deal out of what you just did. Almost all of them, in fact.
For your listening pleasure (no, really, this all converged in the same week; thanks, universe, for giving me an idea then clobbering me over the head with it a few times):
• Seth Godin tells Brian Koppelman it's easier, sometimes, to keep failing, to not take the steps required for success because if you do succeed, then you'll have to deal with that success. Example: Do you have a manuscript under your arm? Go ahead, don't submit it for publication. You can keep having the excuse that you can't get it published.
• Joe Rogan had Jon Ronson on, discussing some of Ronson's old documentaries, which really required him to do some crazy stuff, like infiltrate "secret societies" (I tend to prefer "societies with secrets" as a term, I guess), and his new book about public shaming. Realize, though, that to be publicly shamed, you have to have really taken a bold step in public.
• Tim Ferriss talked to Ret. Gen. Stan McChrystal and his former aide-de-camp Chris Fussell about the mental toughness required to be a great leader. They also touch on the difference between impressing authority and impressing your peers — McChrystal found himself in considerable amounts of trouble at West Point (where for punishment they basically make you pace to waste time you don't have), but he always got really high peer reviews, and he turned out to be a great military leader and a successful entrepreneur.
• Marc Maron spoke to transwoman Laura Jane Grace, who fronts the punk band Against Me!, about dealing with her identity, transitioning from a man to a woman while maintaining the same role in the same band, and what it means to "sell out" — that is, dealing with your success vs. changing to become successful.
• Duncan Trussell talks to Marc Maron about what it was like to talk to a sitting president in his garage. Maron's garage, not the president's. And Maron's response is basically that it was exciting, but he woke up the next morning and still went back to work.
• Robert Johnson talked to Joseph James about making movies, specifically the start of creating the second film of a planned "The Freemason" trilogy. It doesn't matter what the trilogy is about, though. The first film had a very limited release and made most of its money on screenings, but James is hoping for a wider release for the second film, including getting it into theaters. The discussion is really about following the calling to create, and what it takes to make that happen.
So, what's your next step? I'm not sure what mine is yet, but I know not only that I can control it, but that it's all I can control.
Some of you know I recently started podcast. It's a medium I was vaguely aware of until a couple of years ago, and I am now a...let's call it avid consumer of the medium.
In addition to my own, here is a list of the podcasts I'm currently enjoying (in alphabetical order). I encourage your recommendations in the comments section.
• The Art of Manliness — Brett McKay interviews experts and authors on things that make us better employees, entrepreneurs, parents and healthy adults. Usually around 40 minutes, sometimes longer, and always an interesting listen.
• Astonishing Legends — In-depth storytelling about myths, legends and secret societies. Sometimes publishes irregularly as research requires; these guys really knock it out of the park, sometimes in multi-part series.
• Bertcast — Comedian Bert Kreischer was once called the top partier in America. The movie "Van Wilder" is (loosely) based on his college "career." He's a good guy with a great laugh, and he invites other comics into his man cave for conversations. Running times are anywhere from one to three hours.
• Brew/Drink/Run — Still one of my favorites. They talk about beer, running and homebrewing. And sometimes books. Sort of.
• The Church of What's Happening Now — Before he was an actor and comedian, Joey Diaz was a felon. No, really. Drugs, kidnapping, burglary...he's also a big music fan and he enjoys taking advantage of California's medical marijuana laws. Not for everybody (language, sexuality), but I really enjoy it.
• The Creative Coast — A short (10 minutes or so) conversation with a Savannah-area entrepreneur every week. The audio quality is often poor, but I've learned a lot.
• The Drunken Metaphysical — Curt and Ginny drink and talk about stuff like ghosts and ghouls. Lots of fun.
• The Drunken Taoist — Daniele Bolleli and Rich Evirs discuss...well, everything, sometimes with a guest. Two guys talking history, politics, pop culture and martial arts. Plus, Bolleli's accent is adorable.
• Duncan Trussell Family Hour — Again, not for everybody, but Trussell is a comedian, believer in the singularity and spiritual believer in meditation, float tanks and psychedelics. Typically converses with like-minded people of all stripes, from comedians to sculptors to priests.
• History on Fire — Daniele Bolleli (of The Drunken Taoist) gives us his take on history. This is not a competitor to Hardcore History, but is a reasonable replacement for those of us who can't stick with topics for the 16 hours Dan Carlin often gives them.
• Intensely Positive — My friend Kelvin Ringold has a motivational podcast. Go check it out.
• It's All Happening — Zach Leary (son of Timothy) is a filmmaker, spiritualist and kirtan musician. He has one of the most soothing voices in the medium and converses with like-minded people. Usually comes in around an hour.
• The Joe Rogan Experience — Joe Rogan is a standup comic who was host of "Fear Factor" and before that was on "Newsradio." He is a hunter, evangelist for psychedelics, a UFC commentator and generally curious guy. He has conversations with all kinds of people, from fellow comedians to former crooked cops to geologists to Olympic marathoners. Episodes range up to three hours and are available on video as well.
• Ku and the Gang — Esther Ku is a comedian who chats with other comedians. Definitely not for everybody; in fact, I only listen to the first half. She starts pretty much every show with a discussion about bowel movements, and after the conversation ends masturbates to orgasm.
• The Masonic Roundtable — Five U.S. Freemasons discuss the Craft, sometimes with guests. The show is run live each Tuesday night via Google Hangout, and the guys take questions and comments via social media. Open to the public, but topics are typically only going to be of interest to Masons or the Masonically curious.
• The Moment — Writer and director Brian Koppelman interviews his favorite musicians, actors and writers. Episodes are usually around an hour long.
• Shotclog — Comedian Doug Stanhope and a barrage of colorful characters hang out, mostly drunk, on Stanhope's property in Bisbee, Arizona. They're a bunch of rabble-rousers and frequently the podcasts are just a bunch of people being ridiculous. It's highly entertaining.
• Snap Judgment — An independently produced public radio show, Snap is stories set to music, sometimes live and improvised, sometimes recorded and produced. Always fun. About 56 minutes, it's also broadcast on many NPR affiliates across the country.
• This Won't Hurt a Bit — A medical show featuring two actual doctors. They have fun with common questions about stuff like exercise, smoking and such.
• The Tim Ferriss Show — Tim Ferriss is an author and self-experimenter. He shoots for efficiency and fast learning/assimilation. He interviews a wide variety of people from all walks of life.
• #WeThePeople Live — A political roundtable done, most frequently, live in a bar. Host Josh Zepps used to do this for Huffington Post and took the show out on its own.
• Whence Came You? — A Masonic podcast detailing history, esoterics, famous Freemasons and Masonic anecdotes. About a half hour most weeks, closer to an hour when the conversation moves to the esoteric. Open to the public and has a wider target audience, especially if you have a wish to explore the mystical. Host Robert Johnson is one of the hosts of The Masonic Roundtable
• The Winding Stairs — A podcast by Juan Sepulveda, one of the hosts of The Masonic Roundtable. Sepulveda takes the lessons of Freemasonry and applies them to everyday life. Open to the public and probably good for anyone who wishes to be a better human.
• WTF — Marc Maron's podcast is a twice-weekly interview show that for years was the standard-bearer of the medium. He only keeps the latest 50 free, so get in there early. He's interviewed hundreds of interesting people (he's recently passed Episode #700), almost all of them in his Los Angeles-area garage, including President Obama. He also re-releases interviews when someone dies, so even though I've only been listening for a couple of years, I was treated to his interviews with Robin Williams and Garry Shandling, among others.
I know we did a bunch on Joe Rogan's podcast with Mike Baker in the problem with US politics post last week, but there was another thing they touched on a for a while that I wanted to discuss.
Around 56 minutes, Baker transitions the conversation to changes coming to Monopoly, then the two move into a discussion of youth sports — the first few years of organized sports, they don't keep score. The kids all kept score in their heads, but the adults wouldn't want them to experience losing.
"We're getting to a weird point," Rogan says, "where we're trying to coddle people, to not let them feel defeat." Those people are now in college, and, adds Baker, "they think that being contradicted means they're being persecuted."
Losing, feeling uncomfortable, Rogan points out, is how we grow.
And he's right, I think. If you're never uncomfortable as a child, you won't deal with it well as an adult — and there are plenty of opportunities to feel uncomfortable as an adult, whether you want to or not.
This goes way beyond being politically correct, but let's start there.
I think I'm part of the generation somewhat at fault for political correctness. In high school, we demanded recognition for everybody. We changed language. In the religious services we performed, we either took out masculine language or anywhere Biblical men were listed in prayers, we added their female counterparts. We rebelled against our parents' feminism, which we found to be a search for female privilege, favoring instead "equalism."
Sometime after the mid-1990s, though, things went off the rails, and today, it seems that if people disagree with you, you think you're being bullied. And if someone doesn't learn 30 new pronouns and ask you each day which one applies to you, you're being marginalized.
Colleges and universities are offering "safe zones" and telling professors to watch themselves under threat of firings and lawsuits. It used to be you'd learn activism via liberalism or conservatism from professors. Now if an educator holds an opinion that's contrary to anyone, the biggest worry is being labeled a bully.
It seems mental or emotional discomfort is equated with a feeling of being unsafe.
Look, if you're always comfortable, you're never going to grow.
And while you should certainly spend as many years of your life as possible living in such a way that allows you to feel physically safe, we need to understand that not getting your way all the time is not a physical threat. Remember hearing, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? Now actually take a look at what those words mean.
I'm totally good with the notion that new words crop up and that words that didn't used to be offensive become that way. But in the same way you don't want to learn the names of 30 types of trees that are new to you, I don't want to learn 30 new words that each describe two dozen people in the world. I'd rather just not have those 600 people in my life. And if that's the sort of thing you want your educators worrying about, you're contributing to the fact that more college grads than ever are finding themselves unemployed.
But let's move on from political correctness.
Let's talk about discomfort.
Let's start with "moving outside your comfort zone." This is entirely valid. It's a great way to start to grow. It's being critical of others with your real name on your social media accounts and comment profiles. It's running your first mile. It's quitting the Propecia and shaving your head.
After you've had a taste of the growth that comes from stepping outside your comfort zone, you can actually start getting uncomfortable. Lift some weights. Run your first 5k. Or your first half-marathon — take the chance of getting hurt, or actually get hurt. See that it's not that bad.
Are you doing pretty well on your side gig? Maybe it's time to take that jump and go off on your own. What's the worst that can happen? You need to find another day job?
Eliminating competition as a child and taking out emotional discomfort as a young adult makes for adults who are scared to play with fire, scared of failure, afraid to lose.
You can't win if no one loses, and winning never feels good if you don't know what losing feels like. Success might feel good, but it feels so much better if you have previously failed.
And if you have previously failed, or lost, or been hurt, the corresponding success or victory or survival is leaps and bounds stronger than it would be without having first been down.
Remember your U.S. history? America was started by people who were so uncomfortable they got up, left, then fought with guns against their oppressors. They could be killed for practicing their religion. They were subject to high taxes without having a say in their government. They were locked up for being who they are. Now, we just want the people who want us to think to be fired and bankrupt.
Let's all raise our bars. Let's all get uncomfortable, then let's all grow and conquer. Don't let's all meet in the middle. Let's meet at the top or not at all.
I've just wrapped up my (own) #100plus100plus1 fitness challenge. There were several purposes here, but mainly they were getting stronger, kick-starting my stalled weight loss, and sticking to a routine. Most goals are arbitrary anyway, so I set these for October: each day, do 100 pushups and 100 situps, and run a mile.
Here's the round-up:
Weight lost: 6.0 pounds Pushups done: 3,100, plus a few dozen here and there Situps done: 3,100, and not a single one more Distance run: 51.07 miles Time spent running: 8.32 hours Other exercises: Mostly recovery; some very light lat pull-downs (typically in the 70-pound range, where I would normally be in the 120-pound range), kettle bell swings, that sort of thing.
What I expected: I love pushups, mostly because you can just drop and do them anywhere; it really doesn't even matter what you're wearing for clothes because the range of motion isn't anything different from what you need standing up in most cases. I expected by the end of the month I'd be rattling out sets of 50 or more.
The reality: Every day turned out to be too much of a good thing. I definitely got stronger (you can see my second two-minute for max pushups yielded more than my first), but the fatigue was so bad in the last week that I had to do sets of 10 and 15 for a couple of days. At the end, I was still able to do sets of 35, but with a day's rest thrown in every 10 days or so, I probably would have made some actual advances. We'll see as my workouts progress.
What I expected: I hate situps. I expected to continue to hate them. Mostly I know that in real life you'd never isolate your abs like you do with situps, but supposedly it's a basic exercise, so I should be able to do them.
The reality: Yep, still hate them. But I went from struggling to do 10 to 15 of them at a time to not really struggling until I was doing 25 and 30. I was actually worried early on that I wasn't going to be able to handle the situps when my back was closer to that bad injured sore than to that well-worked muscle sore, but I never quite let it get that bad.
What I expected: Big suckage. I play sprint sports like tennis, racquetball and softball. I pretty much never have to run more than 120 feet at a time, and what's that take, six or eight seconds? I did try a compressed couch to 5K program over the summer and was able to run 2.25 miles and it was all painful, even with the intervals. So I expected that I'd run about 1.02 miles every day except maybe a run to failure on the last day for perhaps 33 miles on the month.
The reality: I'm fatigued at the end of the month, but I wound up running a smidge over 51 miles, with the only two-steps-past-a-mile day on the last day, and that was about a minute faster than I was running at the beginning of the month. I did 5K distance twice, and I actually enjoyed it most days. Some days I didn't even get into it until I was two-thirds of a mile in – which I guess is dangerous because it means a lot of bargaining at the beginning, instead of striving at the end, but it made a mile a much less daunting distance.
Would you do it again? I would do a run streak again. Holy endorphins, Batman, and let's be honest, my pre-workout includes a dopamine modulator, so I'm just a happy guy after a while. But one weight-bearing (even body weight) exercise every day is too much. I will definitely balance my workouts better as I move forward, even if I include something like pushups three or four times a week.
Were you happy with the weight loss? Yeah. I ate like crap most of the month, so the fact that I could still lose almost a pound and a half a week means that if I make up my mind to eat better, the weight will just fall off. I've lost 18 pounds since early July of this year; I'm hoping another 20 will get me to a good show-offy body composition for the wedding next July, and even if I slow down to 4 pounds a month, that gives me plenty of time; the trick is to continue to lose fat and not muscle, which is what happens to a lot of people when they lose weight quickly.
I know some of you tried it with me much of the month (one person dropped out so he could run a marathon and this would have derailed him; totally a reasonable excuse), and some of you were thinking about it. Stop thinking. Just get off the couch and give it a try.