Happy Friday! You may have noticed I didn’t post on Wednesday this week as I had planned to. That’s because I haven’t had as much time available as usual, which isn’t much anyway (more on that in a minute), because I spent a few days of this week test driving cars and ultimately buying one. With that fiasco behind me, I will return to regular posting again next week. And I will post about that experience and some new things I learned about car buying in the coming weeks.
That said, going forward, I’m going to be posting twice a week instead of three times. My plan is to do it on Monday every week and then again one other day. I may try out different ones over time and choose a particular one to stick to if I notice it working better than the other possibilities. I am enjoying what I’m doing with this blog and I’m certainly going to follow through on my commitment to see it through for at least one full year. However, my life has gotten significantly busier over the last several months. Please note that I’m not complaining; I choose how I spend my time according to my goals and desires. But I’ve been struggling to keep up lately and finally I’ve had to accept that it’s because of simple math.
My job has evolved and now involves significantly more time and travel than it had earlier this year. I figure I’m putting in 60-70 hours a week now – roughly 10-12 hours per weekday and about that many total over a typical weekend. I’m doing my best to dedicate adequate time to my new hobby of learning to fly, which involves attending ground school once a week, reading every day, watching videos, and of course the flying lessons themselves. That’s about another 10 hours a week. My 10 hours a week in the gym (including time spent in the sauna after some of my workouts) are non-negotiable and I feel that’s the bare minimum I’d like to spend there. I spend about twenty minutes a day working on learning Spanish and at least maintaining my current level in German, which adds roughly 2 hours a week. For those keeping score at home, that’s 82-92 hours per week that are already accounted for on what I consider to be essential activities. Given that it takes me about 9 hours to attain my goal of 7.5 hours of sleep on a good night and that sleep is crucial to health so also non-negotiable, that leaves me with 13 to 23 hours per week to do literally anything I haven’t already mentioned – social activities, writing for this blog, you name it.
Simply put, I’m scraping the upper limits of what is possible for me without making sacrifices I believe would hurt me in the long run. I’m passionate about everything I’m doing and I don’t want to give any of it up. But that only leaves me with two options. One, I can find ways to be more efficient. That pursuit is already a regular part of my life and unfortunately, while I’m obviously not 100% efficient, I don’t think there is a lot to be gained in that area either. Two, I can make some cuts. There are occasionally opportunities to ease back on the work time, although that’s already accounted for in the range I used. Aside from that, any savings has to come from much smaller sources and thus, in much smaller amounts. And to add up to a meaningful difference, there need to be several of those small amounts which means nothing non-essential can be held sacred. Each post I write for this blog takes roughly an hour. And while I’m enjoying doing it, I’ve decided to re-purpose one of those three hours. I will give it a try and see how it goes for a while and adjust as necessary from there.
Is this a lengthy explanation? Sure. But in addition to wanting to explain why I’m doing what I’m doing, I thought tallying up my weekly hours was an interesting exercise that might inspire someone to try something similar and figure out something imporant. Have a great Friday and weekend, Everyone!
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” – Wilkins Micawber in David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
Lately I’ve noticed a new trend in the media that I would
like to address. In most areas of life, it is generally accepted that you have
to walk before you can run. You don’t just walk into the gym one day, throw
four plates on each side of the bar, and start deadlifting it repeatedly. You
have to start with a much more manageable amount of weight and train your body
to handle more and more through sustained effort over time. And 405 is more
than many people will ever deadlift in their lives so there is the crucial
element of being realistic as well.
But with personal finance, there seems to be a backlash
against that concept. If anyone dares to repeat the totally valid, if tired,
advice that people replace $5 coffee drinks with $.10 ones they can make at
home and enjoy just as much, they’re met with ridicule or even the vicious
personal attacks that have sadly become commonplace in a world where so many
people seem to in an ongoing competition to be more outraged by seemingly
innocuous things than anyone else. Chase Bank, a bank I have mixed feelings
about at best, was crucified for posting simple, actionable advice of that sort
– advice that could help a lot of struggling people. And its CEO, again, a man
I have very mixed feelings about, has become a political punching bag for some
people who appear to have made it to adulthood without learning basic economics
at any point along the way.
The theme of these attacks seems to be that people in
general don’t make enough money, so giving them any financial advice that
doesn’t involve being paid more money (by someone else) is condescending and
insulting. In other words, it’s all someone else’s fault. It’s time for a
reality check. No one on this earth is entitled to anything. And no, this is
not political. I have to say that because the word “entitled” has been infused
with bullshit political implications to such an extent that its mere utterance
has become almost a war cry. In most of the world, people live in a reality
where if they themselves don’t make something happen, it won’t. The fact that
we live in the relative comfort of an incredibly prosperous place where life is
incredibly easy does not change this reality. We’re all adults here. The days
of someone else being responsible for us should have ended long ago.
If you want something, you have to earn it. If you want
someone to pay you a lot of money, you have to give them a reason to do so.
This typically involves using the infrastructure and resources of their
existing business to make them more money, some of which can subsequently be
paid to you. And outside of some very lucky folks, no one is exempt from this.
If the board of directors didn’t think Jamie Dimon was creating more value than
what he is being paid, I can assure you they would not be paying it to him.
If you don’t accept that concept, it’s going to be very
difficult for you to have a successful career. Even if you start your own
business, which is very difficult to do without experience, capital, or both, I
can’t see a path to prosperity for you if you don’t believe everything has to
be earned. It is imperative that many of us stop blaming our problems on others
and start taking an honest look in the mirror and changing the things that are
holding us back. It’s the only way anything is going to improve.
To that end, no, if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you
can’t afford a $5 cup of coffee. Even a few of those per week could cause you
to pay a bill late and fall into a cycle of paying interest, late fees, etc,
that could become very difficult to get out of. And it doesn’t stop with the
paycheck to paycheck crowd. I very rarely buy a $5 cup of coffee. It is simply
too easy to enjoy not just drinking great coffee, but making it, at home – and
at quite literally 2% of the cost. This isn’t to say I never get coffee from a
coffee shop, because I occasionally do. But usually I’m meeting with a
customer, a friend, a date, etc, and the coffee itself isn’t the real reason
I’m there. Buying the coffee is just an expense I have to incur in order to
spend time in a particular place for a particular purpose. I’m already wealthier
than most people and I’m only in my early thirties, but I didn’t get here by
ignoring reality. In fact, I doubt almost anyone who is highly successful got
there by enjoying luxuries before they could afford them. The only way to
change reality is by first accepting it.
This is so much more than just coffee. No one is literally
saying that cutting out a coffee shop habit is going to make you a millionaire.
It is just an example of a very important concept that can be applied to many
different areas. The same applies to a restaurant meal, which if made even a
once a week routine, could easily turn into a $100 per month premium over
equivalent food that could be made and eaten at home. I’ve seen people using
Uber when they could drive to the same places and turning $10 worth of parking
and gas into a $50 round trip in the process. Again, even at once a week, this
costs over $100 a month over and above what it would cost to get the exact same
thing done. It all adds up – and usually pretty quickly.
I think most of the outcry over this very valid and
legitimate advice amounts to some bad actors trying to score points by telling
people they don’t actually have to deal with reality. It’s easy to make people
feel good telling them things like that. But it does them absolutely no favors.
Some people see a $5 cup of coffee, a $15 restaurant bill, etc, and don’t
realize what they represent. These are examples of doing things in wildly
inefficient ways and especially when you’re first starting out, expenses like
these can be the inches that make up the difference between winning and losing.
How important are the inches? Just look at the quote I
opened the post with. If you spend less than you earn over a sustained period of
time, even by just a little, you will build assets and life will get easier. If
you spend more than you earn, you’re doing the exact opposite. The average
person in this country has roughly $10k of credit card debt. Most of them
didn’t rack that up overnight. It usually happens when someone is living at or
close to the edge and gets hit with the inevitable unexpected expenses. If they
can’t cover them with either excess income or savings, then the only option is
to borrow. Too many people turn to credit cards, one of the worst forms of
borrowing. It’s so easy. Almost anyone who can fog a mirror can get a credit
card. And if you just pay a little bit each month towards the ever increasing
balance, you can have pretty much whatever you want.
But there is always a cost. In this case, it is that as the
interest grows, it becomes an expense of its own that does nothing for you and
increases each month unless you pay down the principal. Instead of living on
the edge, you’re now beyond it and gradually burying yourself deeper and deeper.
It doesn’t seem like a big deal at first. But over time, the situation will not
only get more and more difficult to dig out of; it will deprive you of
opportunities you won’t even know you’re missing out on. Those opportunities
come in many different forms, but the theme is the same. If you have money, you
can use it to make more. The more you have, the easier life gets. That, in
essence, is the American Dream – work, save, invest, prosper. What a tragedy
that marketing departments, and another kind of enablers with political
motivations, successfully turn so many people away from it before they even
know what they’re passing on by taking the path of least resistance.
But those people don’t control you. Only one person on this
earth does. You get to choose where you get your information, how you process
it, and how to proceed from there. This is both a privilege and a
responsibility, so take it seriously. The quality of your life depends on it.
If anyone is trying to feed you sugar – something that tastes sweet in the
short term but seems just a little too good to be true, ignore them. The
sweetness is gone as soon as you swallow; but the fat ass you’ll develop over
time is going to be with you much longer than that. Whether we’re talking about
food or finance, you want to be taking advice from the same people: the ones
who give you the tough love that doesn’t feel so good in the moment, but keeps
you on the path of true progress. They’re usually the same people who are
succeeding in their own lives – and these days, sometimes being demonized for
that very success. They can help you get there as well. In fact, paying it forward
is something many of them enjoy doing very much. But in order to benefit, you
have to ignore the yes men (and women) who peddle easy answers that never
deliver results. And then you have to listen to the proper advice and work your
ass off carrying it out.
At the end of the day, it’s about who you want to be. Mr Micawber was a tragic character in David Copperfield. He realized his folly, but not until it was too late. Don’t let that happen to you. You can join the masses of lazy people telling lies, pointing fingers, and bitching because they haven’t been handed the results they want in life. Or, you can admit you don’t know what you don’t know (there is power in that, NOT shame), learn what it takes to actually succeed, and then get to work. The latter will get you results. The former will keep you from getting any further than you already have. Reject that. Learn, grow, and live a better life. It all starts with taking responsibility for yourself.
Happy Friday, folks! As most of you probably know, employers often do their firing on Fridays. Recently, mine followed that same philosophy, firing over twenty percent of our sales force and some office employees as well. We all knew it was coming; or at least we should have. There were ample signals from management in both words and actions. And even if there hadn’t been, it’s common knowledge that revenue in most of our industry collapsed late last year and has not improved ever since and our “numbers” have reflected that. Simply put, it wasn’t if, but when. But here comes the plot twist. In spite of almost certainly having been “on the list” at one time, yours truly not only survived, but wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about whether he would. There are two reasons for this.
First, since being personally warned that attrition was coming, I’ve been able to produce literally the best numbers of my young career in spite of the state of the market. I’ve gone from somewhere in the lower middle of our division to one of the company’s top performers in the entire world. How did I do it? Sure, I started pushing myself a little harder. But mostly, I kept doing exactly the same thing. I had always been working diligently to develop my new territory – even when the results weren’t reflecting it. It takes about two years to do that successfully and my employer is well aware of that. Had management pulled the plug early, they would have been making an extraordinarily expensive mistake. But economic stress often forces companies to make decisions from a very short term perspective. Luckily for all involved, my territory has absolutely exploded with production over the last couple of months to the point where the mere notion of me being fired would be absurd. At this point, it’s all I can do to keep up with the business I have. If the market recovers even a little bit, look out.
But there is another, more important reason for my lack of
trepidation over my job – I don’t need it anymore. The minute my boss broke the
news to me, the wheels in my head were already turning. He did me a solid by
giving me a warning. But nonetheless, before the conversation was even over, I
had mapped out my plan. A key part of it was to replace employment income
altogether in my life. I have always harbored a healthy hatred of authority;
and alliteration aside, I don’t take that word choice lightly. After spending
my life watching reliance on employers result in devastating consequences for
so many people and finally having it threaten me as well, it was time to act.
My real estate business was only in its early stages at the time. But no
matter. I decided it would be paying all of my expenses by the end of the year
and began ramping it up aggressively. And today, it appears that goal is going
to be accomplished ahead of schedule. Admittedly, the fact that I keep my
expenses low means that wasn’t as high a bar to clear as it may sound like. But
still, success is sweet.
Make no mistake, I still want my employment income. I want
to see my real estate business cover the bills and then some for at least a
year or two before I take the plunge. So the plan is to kick ass in both areas
for the time being and see where it takes me. However, to commemorate the
occasion, I must admit I’ve adopted a rather expensive new hobby – flying. This
is the first thing in my life I can think of that I’ve done without any plan or
goal in mind, but instead, simply because I enjoy it. I am taking lessons and
hope to have my private pilot’s license by around the end of this year. From
there, we’ll see what happens. As long as I’m enjoying myself, I’m happy. But
if I can’t keep an awful lot of money flowing in, I won’t be able to afford to
fly as much. So that should keep me hungry for a while.
The moral of the story? Believe in yourself. If someone
doubts you, be thankful. It’s just more fuel for your fire. If you know you
have a good hand and someone bets against you, be happy. The size of your
payday just increased. And if times get tough in your life, get excited. This
rough patch may be exactly what you needed to convince you to take things to
the next level. Happy Friday, folks! Have a wonderful weekend!
About two months ago, I mentioned that I’m in some career trouble. Simply put, the increasingly difficult economic conditions have put my employer in a precarious position and as a result, only the bona fide superstars are truly safe. And even they are only safe because they are marketable; no one who relies on my employer is because the company itself isn’t certain to survive. While I have been squarely in the rising star category for a while, I haven’t made the next leap yet and my status isn’t good enough in a situation like this. I could be let go any day and I don’t have a big enough name in my industry to ensure I’d be snapped up quickly if that came to pass. Since I found this out, I’ve addressed the situation with maximum effort in three different areas. While there hasn’t been an outright victorious moment yet, there are very encouraging signs in all three areas.
It seems only logical to hedge one’s bets in a situation like this and to that end, I’ve done what I can to find a new job. Unfortunately, I’ve found myself in a position that, while highly valued, is not terribly common. It is perfectly normal for someone in my position to cover a large territory – sometimes a whole state or even several. And there are only a handful of companies that do what my employer does – and some are only regional. So while I could try to get into something a little different, there are not many “smooth transition” options available. I’ve applied for two opportunities over the last two months. Of those, I quickly withdrew from one when I learned some disconcerting things about the company as I did my due diligence and narrowly missed getting an offer from the other (this was the major positive development I was hinting at for a while in some of my posts). I will continue to keep my eye on the market, but given the economic reality of this moment in time, very few people are leaving positions of this kind and very few employers are creating new ones.
My second area of effort is also obvious – I’m trying to put
out the fire in my current house in case I can’t escape it. This has actually
been enormously successful. The last two months have averaged out to be more
than double any other two I’ve had with the company and have included a fair
number of deals the company cares a lot about because they are crucial to the
bottom line. If I can continue at this pace, there is almost no chance I will
be fired. However, there is no guarantee that will happen. In fact, my recent
success has been wildly improbable given market conditions. For months, almost
all of my peers have been doing significantly worse than they typically do, just
as I had been until I suddenly caught fire. And even if I can keep the magic
going, there is still no guarantee the company will survive.
Enter my third area of effort: my side business. A deal just concluded very successfully, I see more opportunity, and I’m ready to push in more chips. I’ve pulled some money from other investments, which was easy to do given my views on where stocks are headed in the short to medium term, and I’m plowing it into the business. I’m not going all in, but I’m betting enough that the possibilities of enough income to cover all my annual expenses and significant pain are both on the table. This project has proven it CAN work. Whether it can be scaled up efficiently or not remains to be seen. But I’ve decided it’s time to have some balls and give it a shot.
There is one other thing I’m focused on: enjoying my life
and not worrying too much. I’ve gone to great lengths to set up my finances to
withstand even an economic catastrophe. And whatever happens, I’m still going
to be the same person who accomplished all I have up to this point. I am
confident that even in a worst case scenario, I would eventually find success
again. Besides, it’s kind of invigorating to be taking big swings at things
that are suddenly very important. Yes, there is a chance I’ll hit the canvas
before this is over. But there is also a chance I will be more successful than
ever before. Either way, I will almost definitely grow for having tried. And at
the end of the day, I think that’s the most important thing.
Another Friday is upon us! It’s been a long time since I’ve
spent my weeks lusting for Friday and the weekend that follows it quite like
this. That probably means something…
I don’t always just write about finance. I’m also big on
self improvement. It seems like most of the world has already discovered this
app but for anyone who hasn’t, I highly recommend that you check it out. Learning
a language is a very rewarding way to spend a little time. In addition to the
positive feelings that result from building a new skill or improving an
existing one, language learning forces your brain to exert itself in ways that
everyday life often doesn’t. Brain science is still so young but we already
know that doing things just a little differently makes lasting changes that
will benefit just about anyone in any stage of life.
Plus, Duolingo isn’t anything like your high school or
college foreign language classes. Believe me, I despised those! I’m decidedly
ungifted in this particular area for some reason. But this app actually makes
it a reasonably enjoyable process and it teaches pretty effectively as well. I’ve
been rapidly improving in both German and Spanish and it just doesn’t suck as
much as I would have expected, for lack of a better way to describe it. I’ve
only used the cell phone app version but I’m told it has a great web based one
as well. I will also note that recently, a new feature appeared – the leaderboard.
It has added a fun element by getting my competitive juices flowing. And
judging by watching other people on the app, I’m not the only one who feels
As always, I’m not getting anything from this. I haven’t
even added a link. I just think this is an awesome app that can really enrich
one’s life and I wanted to recommend it to anyone who hasn’t already given it a
I’ve been reading a book about sleep lately (review coming
soon) and mostly it has solidified what I already knew; sleeping affects damn
near everything about your body, mind, and life. It’s a little mind blowing how
many of the issues I’ve struggled with could potentially be affected, if not
completely caused, by this one problem. As a lifelong insomnia sufferer, this
is both good news and bad news. The bad news, of course, is that I’ve probably
done an incalculable amount of damage to myself by not getting this taken care
of much sooner. But the good news is that everything I’ve accomplished in my
life has been accomplished in a severely handicapped state; and now that I know
this, I can remove the handicap and see what happens!
Over the last couple of months, I’ve been very focused on
getting more sleep in general and I have definitely accomplished that. I’ve
been averaging well over seven hours per night, as measured by a Fitbit, for
most of that time. That’s around an hour more than I’ve ever averaged with the
same Fitbit previously and probably even more of an increase over what I’ve
done over most of my life. So that’s good and it has definitely been reflected
in how I feel. But I’ve noticed that even post improvement, my deep sleep is
consistently near the bottom of the range and my REM sleep never even touches
the bottom of the range at all. So there is still something left to fix.
Based on my research, I’ve purchased a mouth guard on
Amazon. Yes, one of the $30 ones the dentist I only went to one time assured me
wouldn’t help me one bit as she attempted to sell me a $600 version of the same
thing. But there were several reasons I didn’t go back to that dentist for a
second appointment, the reviews on this mouth guard are excellent, and I have an
easy way to measure my results against plenty of my past data. Worst case
scenario, I’ve wasted $30. Best case scenario, I’ve moved closer to fixing a
lifelong problem that has been much more serious than I wanted to believe all
along. I’m always willing to try an experiment with that kind of risk/reward proposition.
I’ll give ya’ll an update on how it works out in a couple of weeks or so.
It’s not enough to be good at something today. You have to keep evolving over time. Imagine if you were the best reader in your fifth grade class in school but never got any better from that point on. Or more relevant to today’s post, imagine how far behind you’d be if you were still operating according to the best available health knowledge from twenty years ago – or even five years ago for that matter. I’m always reevaluating what I’m doing and trying new ways to make improve myself. I’m no science expert, but I read what I can and rely on very intelligent people in that area whose opinions I respect to help point me in the right direction. That’s why I recently started my ultimately very successful experiment with time restricted eating. And that’s why I am trying two more new things now.
First, I’ve been working on growing some organic broccoli sprouts. I’ve become convinced that sulphoraphane is a substance I very much want in my body and broccoli sprouts have it in almost incomparably high levels. I understand they don’t taste great but I’m going to toss them in the Vitamix along with everything else I put in my twice daily smoothies and hope the fruit will mask the taste, just as it does with all the other green crap I want to consume but not experience in too much detail as it goes down. I’m growing my own because it is much cheaper than buying the sprouts at a grocery store, because it is supposedly an easy process (and so far I can concur on that point), and because I thought I would enjoy the novelty of a new project. I’m loosely following these instructions, which seem to be producing good results thus far.
The sprouts in the picture are roughly three and a half days old and according to my research, they will be ready to eat in one to three more days. It has been very easy to get them to this point. I bought some organic broccoli seeds, soaked some of them in filtered water overnight, spread them in the device you see in the picture, and have rinsed them (again with the filtered water) twice a day. The seeds cost me about $50 for 2.5 pounds (I’m pretty convinced this is something I’m going to adopt long term) and the sprouting device was less than $20 (actually it was just about free because of this little trick). I believe I should be good to go for well over a year with those items purchased. I’ve invested no more than a half hour total in the project so far, not counting my initial research. Once these sprouts are ready, I’ll put them in a container in the refrigerator and start adding them to my smoothies. Then I’ll wash the sprouting device, start another batch, and keep the process going indefinitely. I’m very excited to see if I notice any results – whether in the way I feel day to day or in medical assessments/testing down the line.
My second new thing is regular sauna use. I recently read
about a study that showed measurably better long term health outcomes for
people who use saunas. And the more they did it, the better their results were.
So that was already in the back of my mind. And I decided to give it a try when
I moved to a new area and discovered that the gym here has a sauna. So far, I
must say, it feels wonderful. Since I’m at the gym four or five mornings per
week, I simply go sit in the sauna for about fifteen minutes after my workout.
Aside from feeling refreshed and more energetic afterwards, I’ve been
pleasantly surprised at just how relaxing it is. When no one else is in the
sauna with me, I’ve noticed my mind clears almost automatically and it easily
becomes a meditative experience – something that is very difficult for me to
achieve under normal circumstances. I don’t know exactly what is going on there
or why it feels that way, but I like it. And as long as the research is showing
that I’m doing a great thing for my health in the process, I’m going to keep it
Not only is it fun (ok, so maybe I’m a little unusual) and
mentally stimulating to stay on top of new research and use it to improve your
life, it is also crucial. Far too many people spend the last several years of
their lives suffering and reliant on others and not keeping themselves up to
date is a huge part of the reason. For example, middle aged people grew up in
an era where resistance training (weightlifting) wasn’t something normal people
did. If they haven’t since picked it up, they are virtually guaranteed an awful
aging process including rapidly atrophying muscular capabilities and very
strong odds of developing numerous age related diseases like Alzheimer’s. One
of my favorite goals in life is to have a workout I’m proud of on the morning
of my last day on this earth; in other words, I want to function at a high
level until the very end. Through experiments like these, combined with a
strong emphasis on physical and mental health in almost every element of my
daily routine, I hope to feel great both now and in the long term, thus
accomplishing my goal. I highly recommend that everyone do the same.
Investing is one of my favorite activities and I look forward to writing plenty about it on this blog. But I’d be doing you a terrible disservice if I didn’t start with the most important investment: your health. The quote “health is wealth” and permutations of it are so common that there is no single known source and many of the quotes date back well over a thousand years. And it is universally true in every way possible.
There is certainly an economic argument. Health care is
expensive. I don’t need to tell you it’s already expensive today at whatever
age you are and the cost is only going to go up. The current estimate is that
the average person will spend roughly $250k from traditional retirement age to
death on health care and of course inflation will increase that number if you
aren’t there yet. But in this case, the best defense is a good offense. If you
are in good health, you can reduce your exposure to the health care system or
even eliminate it for anything beyond your annual preventative care visits and
the occasional issue that pops up. $250k is a huge figure to chip away at and
you can start saving money in this area every year before you get to retirement
age as well.
But this is even bigger than economics. After all, even a
billionaire can’t buy back his good health once it’s gone. His vast fortune
will get him the best care available and make him as comfortable as possible
while he dies but it can’t get back what has been lost. Most of us will never
be billionaires but this is one rare example of something we can have that some
of them can’t.
And this is so much more than simply putting off death. By
investing in your health, you will improve the quality of your life every
single day. See those people all over the place who are so fat they can barely
move much less live the kind of active lifestyle a fit person does? Now take a
look at the attractive people the obese masses try so hard to convince you
represent an unrealistic standard. Which group do you want to be a part of? How
much money do you think the people in the first group would pay to be part of
the second instead? That’s right; this investment yields a return you can’t
even quantify. And it is much easier to stay part of the second group from day
one on than it is to renounce your membership in group one and join group two.
As in most areas of life, preventative maintenance is much, much easier and
cheaper than repairing damage.
And please, ignore the naysayers. You do not want the
bitter, resentful life they are living. You can’t change your genetics but you
can certainly change lifestyle factors. Anyone could potentially get lung
cancer but it is far less likely to happen to someone who doesn’t smoke.
Everyone has heard of the occasional fitness fanatic who had a heart attack and
died at fifty. But the only reason those stories are even noteworthy enough to
get your attention is that the scenario is extremely unlikely and therefore
shocking. Lifetime smokers, obese people, etc, die young every day so no one is
even going to bat an eyelash when they do. You can’t outwork the possibility of
all negative outcomes but you can most definitely put the odds in your favor
and win most of the time.
So how do you start investing? You don’t need a dollar to do
it although gym memberships are very cheap these days (I’ve seen as low as $10
a month) and that’s the most effective route for most people. Your main
investments are time and effort but you also need knowledge and discipline –
both of which can be acquired and increased with time and effort.
How much time? Your government overlords tell you 150
minutes per week is the minimum. I don’t like mediocrity so my minimum is 300
minutes. That’s 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio every day with 30
minutes of serious resistance training three days a week. And again, that’s a
minimum. That’s what you do if you’re sick or maybe rehabbing an injury. That
also doesn’t include walking. It is very important to walk around at regular
intervals throughout the day. You should avoid sitting for more than a half
hour of uninterrupted time at all costs. Get a Fitbit or another fitness watch
that incorporates a pedometer if it helps you. The science is very clear on the
devastating impact of long periods of sitting – even if you get enough exercise
Again, that’s the minimum. What do I do under normal
circumstances? 570-750 minutes per week is a rough estimate. That is comprised
of: 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio every day, 60 minutes of serious
resistance training 4-5 days a week, and 2-4 hours of participating in sports
in a typical week (in my case, lately that has been mostly tennis, basketball,
or hitting a heavy bag – no, I don’t count golf as a sport although I enjoy
that too). Some weeks I’m a little below that and many weeks I’m above. The
latest and greatest studies show there really is no reasonable upper limit to
the amount of exercise people can benefit from. I actually consciously moderate
mine as my body is very prone to overtraining and injuries in general so your
numbers could go higher if you are more genetically blessed in that area.
Another facet is exercise intensity level. As a general
rule, start slow/light and gradually work your way up. Don’t try to go from
zero to hero overnight. The lost time spent dealing with injuries will easily
destroy any additional benefits whereas the long term progress of ramping up
gradually, but consistently, will be an incredibly rewarding experience.
Another huge aspect is diet/nutrition. This is easily an
entire series of posts all by itself but here are some of the basics. In
general, American portion sizes are much too big. You need a lot less food than
you think. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re eating at a restaurant, you
should be taking home at least half of what is served in a to-go box; this is a
financially friendly practice as well. Eat lots of vegetables – at least five
servings a day. You almost can’t overdo this. And no, potatoes and corn don’t
count. Eat some fruit but in moderation as there can be a lot of sugar in it.
Go high protein; .5-1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day is a good range for
most people. Eat a moderate amount of high quality carbohydrates. So whole
grain bread instead of white, brown rice instead of white, complex versus
simple. These are items you should eat.
But you also need to minimize eating garbage or eliminate it
altogether if you struggle with the minimal concept like I do. And yes, soda
falls into the garbage category along with anything else that is highly
processed or made of primarily sugar, fat (chips, fries, etc), or both (ice
cream). And no, diet soda isn’t better. Soda in all of its forms is pretty
close to cigarette status as far as your health is concerned; you simply
shouldn’t ever consume it unless you really hate being alive and want to get it
over with ASAP. Avoid soy as much as possible, especially if you’re a man. It’s
horrifying how much of this poison has worked its way into our food supply. It
requires tons of processing just to make it consumable by humans but even
worse, it messes with your hormones. Anything in that category should be
setting off a bright, flashing, go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not
collect $200 alarm in your head. While we’re on the subject of avoidance,
minimize dairy consumption. Studies are still somewhat conflicting but are
starting to trend towards anti-dairy conclusions, particularly when you factor
in how many of them are funded by the powerful dairy industry. I treat dairy as
a garnish item and an occasional treat and even that policy is probably pushing
The most important thing with investing in your health is to
get started. If you’re currently leading a sedentary lifestyle, I have good
news for you. Just by getting started, you are likely to see benefits much more
rapidly than the average person. That’s not to say that it isn’t worthwhile to
work on improvements if you’re in that average camp or even if you are a
fitness veteran. The further up the fitness ladder you can get without it
becoming psychologically unhealthy, the better. Too much of anything can be
problematic – even something good. But in modern society, we have precious few
people who are in any danger of reaching that level in the area of fitness and
nearly all of us could benefit from some ramping up. You will notice the
differences all over your life – feeling better both physically and
psychologically, people responding more positively to you, clothes fitting
better, sleeping better, looking better, and on and on. Simply put, I can’t
overstate the value of investing in your health and if you start doing it more,
I almost guarantee you will agree.