Get More Time, Save Money, Eat at Home

I travel a lot, and frequently I’m traveling somewhere that there are friends to see. Inevitably the question of where to meet and what to do with said friends comes up. There are many layers of complexity to that decision, how close are we? When did we meet last? How much time do we all have to spend together? But generally, since I love all my friends, and never have enough time with them I opt for the most time possible.

In the past, meeting at a restaurant was always the go to – in our late 20’s and now early 30’s it’s been fun to choose some fancy restaurant and show off what adults we’d all become (assuming these are friends I’ve known for a while). Picking a great new place to eat was a way of showing how much style and taste we’d developed, or that we don’t have to eat pizza anymore ūüėõ

Lately though, something’s have changed. I realized, there is so little time to see these friends, that while a swanky restaurant is a nice choice, it actually limits our ability to catch up; restaurants are often loud, and at least in the USA, once people have finished eating the check comes, and unless everyone planned to go somewhere else afterwards, that means the catch up time is coming to an end. In a typical US restaurant, that could be anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes of time together. I point out US restaurants because in Europe and other places outside the US there isn’t a rush from the waiter to leave your table so other people can sit down. Once you’re done eating you can sit and talk as long as you want regardless of what you plan to eat or drink.

The other change lately has been my budget. Since I haven’t worked in 6 months, I frequently encourage friends to find lower cost options, and typically the best available in that category is a home cooked meal. Home cooked meals are great because you can to show off your skills and adultness in a whole new way with your cooking abilities and choice of cuisine. Also unless you go all out on chic ingredients, the price can be much more modest compared to a full restaurant bill, especially if you plan to drink some wine.

Additionally, at home we have all the time in the world to catch up. No one is rushing us to leave the table, conversations can run late into the night. You can even offer a place to sleep in your home if guests don’t feel like driving home is a good idea.

You’ve probably dabbled in the art of cooking dinners with friends, so you already know what I mean. But perhaps you didn’t see it quite that way, or didn’t realize the benefit of not having to leave when the meal is over. For me the extra time is the best part of all. Life is short, I can count the past 5 encounters I’ve had will all my friends in the last 10 years, that’s scary. I fear there may only be 10 – 20 more since as life goes on we get more and more tied up, we make more and more friends, and our flexibility to meet up goes from once or twice a year to once or twice every two or three years. Make the time count, give yourselves an extra hour or two and you’ve literally doubled the amount of time you get to have in each others lives!

Simply Aiming for Cash Doesn’t Work

Looking around the landscape of startups and founders around presently, it dawned on me, the aim for many of them is simply to succeed. Their company is not one they dreamt about as little kids. The problem they solve isn’t making the world a better place. Maybe it optimizes¬†some workflow for someone somewhere and is therefor valuable. But if you boil down what the end to those¬†companies are, and the wins along the way they may bring, the plainest take aways are success i.e. proof he can start/operate/grow a company, and¬†cash.

So if the company doesn’t actually fulfill the dream of the founders, and it doesn’t make the world better, why are they doing it? What is the point of earning money simply to have money? It’s an empty goal. The results of it will be empty for all involved. People should avoid taking jobs, or starting new businesses just for the money. There is no greater waste of your¬†life than to look back at 80% of the time you had and feel like it didn’t amount to anything but cash.

Yes there are skills to learn, and perhaps you have to take one for the team so you can get to a point where starting a meaningful company, or doing something meaningful is possible. But at all costs, avoid making that huge investment. Life is beautiful, and short. There isn’t time to waste just so you can have more money.

Every single moment of time is an investment into something, whether it’s sitting in a chair and investing into a bad back and bigger waistline, or talking to someone, and investing your thoughts, and ideas into the exchange of thoughts and ideas with that person as well as your relationship with them. When a employer pays an employee to be in one place doing one thing 40 hours a week, they are investing their cash into having a warm body available to perform a task when they need it.

Try to avoid being the one that is throwing away valuable time investment dollars into someone else’s pot, unless it builds assets for you and can make you happy, it’s a waste of your investment resource of time.

Renee and George

Renee and George met in the most usual of unusual ways. Renee was seeking a baby sitter for a friend, she called the phone number from a flyer for a house painter. She didn’t know she’d made the mix up of course. Coincidentally the house painter flyer was under the baby sitter flyer, but the painter’s phone numbers appeared to be part of the baby sitter flyer. When Renee called, George answered, they had a very silly conversation. Thanks to her openness, propensity for making jokes,¬†and mild caution with strangers; combined with his entertainment from the mistake she’d made, as well as his¬†kindness and aloof yet conversational tone, their initial meeting on the phone felt more like a conversation between long lost friends who didn’t miss a beat. Somehow, through a series of friendly comments, laughter, and awkwardness, she agreed to meet when he asked her to come by his studio.

After a couple encounters they were seeing each other regularly, edging closer and forming lives that surrounded around one life together. Both independent thoughtful and self aware, but seemingly in a place to rediscover the world, it was a good dyad of a team to take on the challenges of life. They started making small adventures together. To a coffee shop, then to a market, soon new countries, and life paths all together. Along the way doors opened, as if an orb of universal acceptance in all parts of nature followed them around, making seemingly ridiculous or just impossible feats happen. Together Renee and George felt pulls from curious things around them, and without concern approached, sometimes to silly dead ends, at others, to secret gardens tucked away from society. Their lives together, it seemed, were a bit of a fairy tale, or new age rendition of some self discovery book.

Years passed, and what began as a collection of stories, keep sakes, and photos from their adventures making a life together, making friends, and exploring the world around, slowly evolved into their very own family run business & network. The world was short on positive outlook and edgy yet approachable things to do in life, and the orb that surrounded their interest in life extended to the image it projected out to others hungry for a better side in life, of which Renee and George had no shortage of.

Soon friends from all around would connect by the wheel hub that was R&G. An elaborate web of friends, artists, business people, educators, health specialists, town farmers & laborers kept in touch with the couple and friends they made through the couple, exchanging information, planning gatherings, or bartering goods, one world treasure, or story, or whimsical creation for another. Some trades were simply for food and supplies to nourish, others were to throw parties.

Parties were a central part of their ever growing circle of friends. Starting as a place for meeting and sharing, the parties provided a circle for enjoying each others company and tales of life. Renee and George enjoyed other people and as much as they enjoyed privacy and peace. And for a time the music, food, and community through all the socializing was good. But soon came a time when first George, but soon Renee too felt they were becoming distracted. Spending so much time connecting different people, and preparing for the massive entertainment of the parties, neither of them had much time left for the original spontaneous things that happened to them in the early times, when each day brought a new experience unknown and unexpected.

It seemed even the orb of open doors and interest was gone too. Now instead they had reputation, incredible back stock of creations, food, wine, and land to explore for days. But so much of it required an eye, some schedule or knowledge of the coming weather and events & trades in the upcoming weeks. No more could Renee and George walk out the door and find themselves in a new strangers home learning of the great past in their newly discovered province or state land.

With little time R&D decided to head off, without more than some snacks and light sweaters, they departed for the unknown. A little rough around the edges, and comfortable with the easiness of the friends they’d had left behind, at first it wasn’t smooth going. Meeting new strangers, and trying to agree on a story to tell, both of them were disoriented, but excited at the misadventures they were already finding. Mornings started with sore backs from unfamiliar sleeping places. Odd digestion problems as a result of eating new yet shockingly fresh food. It seems even the wealth of their food supplies had removed them from the joy of eating things as they came, rather than when it was time to eat again.

It wasn’t long before energy was coming back. George smiled easier, expected less. Renee formed new interests bizarre yet cute and adorable to George. And she was making him laugh. He remembered the phone call when he¬†explained to the sweet and friendly voice on the line that he wasn’t sure if she wanted him to paint a child, or the room for the child, he may be able to do both; but she would be nice to offer him a beer while he did it, and he’d enjoy the company too. The laughter the two strangers had on that call, the feeling that despite speaking to a stranger, anything that came to mind would be ok to say. George felt young again. Renee kissed him like they had kissed before too.

Renee quickly made George laugh. The crusty shackles of the amazing little world they’d created was gone. When the time finally came that they couldn’t remember the days of the week anymore. That the list of experiences, surprises, and new friends they made trailed off in their memories. When the places they been couldn’t be spoken in a straight sentence without a scratch of the head, and admittance that there were some details that had been forgotten already. They knew it was time to go home.

Even the idea of home was strange by then. Why not start again? George suggested. Find a new place, a new line of life. Fortunately the joker of the two was also the more level headed. “Because”, Renee explained to her now life partner. “Going home is our next adventure”. She was right, and Geo (as she now called her life partner) knew it. It all made sense to him. As keeping the interests and coincidences of their days together was the new challenge. Before they’d left home, they had gotten lazy and allowed the comforts and convenience around them in their lives and home, to solidify the joints of their thoughts and bones and daily needs with each other and the friends they stayed in touch with. To have to go somewhere to find their way again, was just as much a crusty thought, as it was to fall into a boring habit of seeing the same people and doing the same things day after day.

So they went home, returning to their old friends and acquaintances and indeed found other parties and interesting folks had since come to their old town and taken over the roll of being the center of attention. Sure enough, there were new ways needed to make a new place in the world where their old lives had once been. But they made sure to never get too comfortable, to avoid resigning to laziness too much. Instead treating their days like lottery tickets. Not worried, if say, the phone number for a pet sitter was a house painter or anything else for that matter. Being sure to laugh and speak freely, and to smile and kiss, life was theirs and with every moment was a new chance to fall and get back up together.

 

You May Be Too Late To Plan Your Next Trip

It’s almost May. Wait a second, maybe you didn’t really hear that… I’ll say it again….

IT’S ALMOST MAYYYYYY!!!!!

WTF?! Yes that’s right, last time we checked the holidays were sneaking up, and then New Years happened, and then cha ching ching CHING! Suddenly, it’s almost Summer ‚Äď already! How did it happen?

I don’t know, but more importantly, what are we going to do? Don’t we have a trip planned?

For me, up until now, my plans for the Summer have just been a random list of countries, and activities, with little to no structure or real time frames. The more I talk about it the longer the list gets. Between now and October I hope to do a lot of hiking, camping, exploration (hitch hiking), site seeing, and photography in the following places: Germany, Norway, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, and Finland, and that’s just in the north! There is probably not enough time, then again, if hiking, and exploring is all that I’m doing it is completely doable.

What is really the hard part though, is making the plan. Plans take time. They take research, and they are the proverbial onion that just gives layer after layer. The more you peel the more you see, the more you see, the more you want to peel. Pretty soon your head feels like a pitcher full of lemonade about to spill over, and you’ve barely scratched the surface ‚Äď of what to do! AHHHHHHHH

Seriously though, you have to start somewhere, prices are usually a good place to begin. I’m assuming that if this post feels helpful for an upcoming trip, or is motivating you to starting thinking about your vacations this year, that flying is part of that plan. And so buying plane tickets will be a necessary step in your plans. And that’s what I’m going¬†to talk about.

The bedrock of any trip is the budget. And your trip needs to fit into your budget right? What’s that you say? You have limitless money to spend, your budget can be anything? How dare you. I’m supremely jealous. Go away ūüôā Hehehe just kidding, keep reading, but for most of the 99%, there is a limit to what can be spent on a vacation, and knowing the largest costs (e.g. airplane tickets) in that vacation budget ahead of time is a strong determining factor for what said trip will be.

So let’s pretend it wasn’t already the end of April, let’s say it was February, it’s still cold, and even signs of Spring would be a welcomed blessing, let alone the long days of Summer. January and February are the best times to start booking travel for the Summer. Once people start losing their minds sitting inside during the¬†long dark winter months, travel companies begin jacking up their prices for the high season (generally mid June – early September), so the sooner you plan and book, the lower your rates are going to be. The irony of all this planning and price raising stuff is that it’s usually hard to decide when you will want to go anywhere until you’ve seen all the options for what you can do while you’re there.

What that basically means is, while buying a plane ticket is the first actionable step to take in ensuring you have a vacation, before you can do that,¬†you¬†need to have a decent outline for where you’re going, how long you’ll stay, what your starting point and ending point will be, plus any connections in between. Other stuff to consider are what kinds of things you’ll do while you’re there; if you’ll need to rent a car or buy some train tickets, and what are the main sites to visit?¬†You don’t have to go into so much detail, but it should be possible to put a rough estimate on the total cost of your trip, before you put down the plastic.

When I was planning for a trip to Norway last year, this entire process started with the idea of going to Norway, which really just happened because of a conversation at a supper club with some Norwegian guys who were vacationing in Berlin. Up until then, what was happening that Summer was a giant blur with even less ideas than now. But those guys had mentioned how beautiful the Fjords were, and how great it was to visit in the Summer, and that was enough I was sold I like them, I like the image they painted of their country.

I started to research what the airports were and how much a roundtrip flight was to Norway from Berlin. Next I went over to Tripadvisor.com and checked out the top 20 or so attractions people reviewed for the country – to have an idea of what kind of exploring could be done there and how long they take to visit. Along with the reviews on Tripadvisor.com are lots of photos from other travelers – these helped to give me an idea of what sites are worth visiting, and how the country looked from the eyes of a tourist, which¬†provides reassurance¬†when deciding if it’s time to get serious about investing in a trip somewhere.

Then it was time to check out hotel and other costs. I’d heard it was expensive in Norway so I started looking at restaurant menus, and hotel prices. Hotel’s were definitely too pricey in Oslo, but Airbnb’s and some budget places in the next smaller city Bergen seemed affordable. Seeing Bergen was affordable also built my confidence¬†because some of the most talked about Fjords in Norway are near Bergen. So now I was looking into Fjords, and which are the best, and how far they are, if I was gonna get there by car or public transport, what were my options and what would they cost?

As I said, for each question there are ten other questions to follow. It’s daunting, but eventually you start seeing the light at the other side. And soon you know a lot about this place you’re dreaming of going to. All of that research really makes the trip feel more real, it warms up the feeling of committing to it and having an awesome experience. Even if you decide not to do any of the things you found in your research, having an overview is one of the important sub-steps in the process of taking the bigger leap of booking your travel.

The micro-matter details of a trip go far deeper than these high level steps; to choose a place, know the budget, find the sites, book the flight, is just the tip of the iceberg. But it’s the starting point, and at this time of year it’s still possible to figure it out and lock in some good prices. You know how much time you have, and you know your budget. Keep in mind, you want to give yourself plenty of time at your destination (I’ve talked about this in my Thailand post) if your trip is 5 days long, don’t spend 2 days on an¬†airplane just sayin.

But most importantly, think of all the vacations you’ve wanted to do, but still haven’t done, don’t slouch back and simply go to the same place again, the world is huge, and if you have a desire to see as much of it as possible, like me, there isn’t much time for going to the same place twice (I don’t plan on doing the same things in Norway this year FYI ;)). ¬†Start looking deeper into those ideas feel free to message me if you want some suggestions.

 

Figure out a way to make it happen!

Happy Tripping!

 

 

How To Just Do Things – Ex: Working Out

One of my favorite books of all time is “Willpower – Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength“. This book is full of studies, and practical information relating to focus, productivity, motivation, and the science behind them, with very clear solutions for avoiding all the usually-simple pit falls that get in our way and prevent the satisfaction of being more effective, successful, and productive.

I expect to delve very deep into all of the great gems within it until every last person I know has read the book twice, but for now I’d just touch on one of the many great examples in daily life that it breaks down. That moment, where you think about something you’ve been meaning to do, perhaps an item on a written todo list, and then the moment after where you pass it off for something else, or just get distracted and move on without completing that thought.

Roy F. Baumeister breaks down from a psychological perspective what’s happening in that moment, and backs it up with studies. Essentially, when that moment happens, and we pass off the action required to pursue and execute the said todo task, it’s most likely because there is an unclear amount of sub-steps between the desired action and the current state we are in.

For example, perhaps a door in the house is squeaking, you know it needs something to make the squeaking go away, probably some general lubricant oil. Or perhaps even this basic solution isn’t known. Either way we can all agree on the desire¬†to make it go away. Every time the door¬†swings open, it squeaks and for that split second, the thought occurs “I want to fix that”. Just like looking in the mirror and thinking “I want to go¬†workout today”. So what happens the next moment after that? Why does that motivation die?

Usually, Baumeister explains, there is another thought following the “I want to do X” thought, in which the very first sub-step to achieve and finish the over arching goal is identified, or attempted to be identified. And usually that sub-step actually has a subsequent step, in fact there probably several. Like, “to fix the squeak, I’ll have to find the oil” and then “I don’t know where the oil is”, or even “I know I don’t have oil, so I’ll go to the store”. That’s where the problem really lays. Because, this chain of mysterious steps, leads to even more steps, like “what kind of oil do I need?” and “is this the best price for the oil?”. It can go on an on, and usually the time, effort, and costs involved with each of these steps is much less minimal than my given example. It’s exhausting to think about, and as you probably already can relate, is too much to just do on the fly.

It’s these sub-steps that trip us up, unless we begin at the first sub-step, and focus on what comes after, we get lost in that moment, thinking about fixing the squeak, thinking about other things it requires, which make this tiny task seem like too much to deal with right now.

The solution to this problem, as outlined in Willpower, is to stop at that moment when you are focused on the issue, break down all the sub-steps, and write them down. This way,¬†you outline a clear path to solving the problem. With this simple method, instead of thinking “I need to fix that squeak” each time you hear it, you will remember the list of steps to fixing the squeak, and if you haven’t already executed each one from #1 to completion, you’ll make a point to take the next sub-step – instead of getting lost in the indecision and fatigue that comes from having too many unknown variables packed into a tiny action. In most cases, just committing to doing the next sub-step, is an easy thing to do, and getting it done creates a feeling of satisfaction, now, there is just the next simple step, and then it’s finished, more feeling of accomplishment, and less things to think about doing. It works, try it.

Now – to make this oh so more relatable for everyone, let’s transfer this to working out. Unless you’re a personal trainer, someone who already loves exercising and has broken down all those sub-steps to make exercise a part of your life, or you’re one of the genetic-jackpot few who can eat anything and remain slim, and whose body becomes jacked after climbing a set of stairs; more likely you are one of the 75% of all humans (with an ectomorph or endomorph body type) who see’s their body in the mirror and thinks, I need to stay in shape or “man I have really let myself go these last weeks”.

I should mention that a new wave of lifestyle is on the rise where everything you do is essentially a work out, i.e. “movement”, but that is a topic for another time. And way too big of a leap for most people if they are even still following along with me in this post.

For now, let’s say, you consider a couple hours of playing some sports as your exercise, or going for a run with a friend. Maybe in your mind going to the gym is how to best get into shape for your preference. Are you doing this regularly? Maybe you realize it’s not enough, or something’s changed, you moved and you don’t know the nearest gym. Perhaps, your friends who you play sports with have all been too busy to play recently. Your work schedule could have¬†changed and the time that you used to workout is gone, early morning is all you have and that is painful ‚Äď trust me I’ve been there. I have a lot of friends who prefer to work out with a partner, and I hear frequently about said workout partner being unavailable, and this becomes an interruption for both peoples’ schedule. In any case, it’s easy to understand that once a routine is broken, making a new one doesn’t just happen while we sleep, and once again the door is squeaking…

Suddenly, the sub-steps to your workout are gone; you’re starting from square one. My biggest pet-peeve sub-step is needing to go to the gym. Most of the time, the hours in my day required to get to the gym, check in, change, use equipment that is shared with other gym members, then shower, and go home ‚Äď is a huge whopping put down, it seems like a massive¬†hassle for what may amount to be 30-60 minutes of exercise total. I just can’t deal with that much time wasted, at least in the past when free time was short, it was too much time to give up to be an acceptable option.

To make working out easier I started running. Running is great, for me the sub-steps are: free time, and running shoes. What changed in my life that made it hard was first A) having a full time job where suddenly I had to get used to running at the end of the day instead of lunch time, as I used to do when I worked from home, and then B) having a serious running related knee injury. My condition made it painful to even walk until I got through physical therapy and rehabilitated my knee back to a point where any kind of exercise, let alone walking, was possible without a shooting pain in my meniscus. Once again, I was back to square one. How could¬†I exercise without injuring my knee again? I was terrified for years to even go for more than a short sprint, the pain from my knee injury, even after it was gone, had me convinced I may never run again (I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true) I just couldn’t imagine a life where I had to go through that again.

Initially, I was living in a building with a gym, so I started lifting weights, learned workout routines, and the use of machines which didn’t have impact on my knees (elliptical, stationary bikes, etc), but after I moved out of that building, for the next 16 months, I had no weights or machines, or nearby gyms to use. To make matters more complicated I was working at a new startup where as co-founder, exercising was not a planned part of my typically 12-14 hour days. Now I was sitting at a desk, for long periods of time, usually eating lunch at my desk, the only exercise was my walk to work in the morning, and back again at night. I gained a lot of weight.

Eventually I came to my senses and realized all those hours at work were no good if I felt like shit. Without energy, though I might have been very excited about the company we were building, over time the effects of my crappy physical lifestyle would catchup and take a toll on my ability to be effective at work too. Sleep, diet, mind, body, work. They are all connected, you cannot just deep dive into work and have a crappy diet, little sleep, and still expect your mind or body to keep up. Even in a start up, where things move super fast, you need to have a marathon mind. Sleep under your desk all you want, the best ideas come to those who have had a good nights sleep, I promise.

So, I’m 15 pounds over my “good weight”, still need to work from 10am – 9pm or 10pm daily, what was I to do? Weekend Warrior might come to mind, the type that just hits the gym hard on the weekends. But I’ve read enough fitness studies to know this is a fast road to sports injury, that was off the list. Going to the gym or running were not an option, didn’t want the injury, didn’t want a gym membership. That’s when I got creative, I found that for the price of one months gym membership, I could have a full set of weights to work out with at home. A bar bell, two dumbbells, a little creativity in use of my home space, and suddenly there were dozens of different ways to build muscle. It wasn’t cardiovascular, but it was something. And now the sub-steps to working out were make time to work out, go to livingroom, assemble weights, workout.

I ordered the weights, they came within a week. I started waking up 2.5 hours before I had to be at work, which gave me enough time to assemble the weights, work out for 30-40 minutes, then make breakfast, then shower and walk to work. It wasn’t totally ideal, but actually the results came fast. I started building muscle. Building muscle actually helps your body burn fat instead of storing it, so my waistline started to shrink and there was even a hint of muscles in my torso, which had been gone for a long time. I started feeling stronger and better about myself. I’ve always slept well so I can’t say this improved, though I’m sure my sleep cycles had a net improvement. I started getting into the habit of waking up early which seems impossible to many, I know, unless you’ve had children (or so I’m told) getting up early unless you have to be somewhere, is not fun, or seemingly unachievable. I started to be motivated to do other physical things that improved my condition including eating healthier, where before it seemed pointless to have some sort of a fitness oriented diet, seeing signs of improvement in my condition, helped edge me further to apply that healthy mindset to other parts of my life. The absolute most important thing though was I had lots more energy, my mood was improved, and I woke up with a positive feeling, which typically didn’t emerge out of my usual grumpy self until 10 or 11. Now it took a few minutes to open my eyes, decide to get up, start lifting weights and already I wanted to take on the world.

I’ve read Willpower nearly three times, I love to dive back in and reference things in it. That being said, the act of breaking down the arduous problem of being out of shape didn’t happen with pen and paper, but in my head, as I identified the problem and had too many mornings of looking in the mirror and seeing how unhealthy my body looked, I finally did what seemed ridiculous.

I never thought of myself as a weightlifter. I don’t want to have a huge neck, or big arms. But I knew there were health, work, and life benefits to come from being in shape, not to mention being happy about how I looked in the mirror. So I thought deeper¬†into the over-arching goal of being in shape, and realized my sub steps. Here they are as I believe they came together:

  • Step 1: I’m out of shape, I have to have a way to work out at home.
  • Step 2: I have to identify something that allows me to work out at home.
  • Step 3: I can buy a set of weights, and workout at home with those.
  • Step 4: I should shop online for a affordable weights set that I could fit in my closet or somewhere that its presence isn’t¬†a nuisance.
  • Step 5: Wait for the weights to arrive, and assemble them.
  • Step 6: Create a routine for using the weights, ideally 2 groups of muscles to workout, alternating 2 days a week.
  • Step 7: Search on Youtube for some weight lifting routines I can do.
  • Step 8: Look up the workouts I’m going to do and make sure I can do them without hurting myself. (Seriously consider meeting with a personal trainer before doing these things on your own folks)
  • Step 9: Wake up an hour earlier twice a week, and work out.
  • Step 10: Repeat step 9.

So, that’s it, as you can see, the thought “I need to work out” can easily break down into many smaller steps, and usually it’s step 2 or 3 where we get lost, distracted, and allow something else in our lives to become the new focus of the moment. But this is how you break the cycle of incomplete todos. It works. If you don’t believe me, read Willpower and start on the chapter about this phenomenon, the studies should be proof enough.

In summary, I want to go on and talk about all the other great things that came to my life. As a direct or indirect result of finding a new way to stay in shape (so many seriously wonderful things), most obvious of all though not least important, is that the muscles I built lifting weights at home, re-enabled me to go running again within a few months! The most important and only take away from this post I hope you have if it’s just one, is the extremely effective art of avoiding your own self destructive habits, and decision fatigue, by separating out the many unexpected steps within that one todo item on your list which keeps getting put off. It will change your life I promise. People who can get things done stand out from the others, since so many suffer from the problems associated with not getting things done. If you show of this simple skill at work, with friends, and other settings, you will be recognized and rewarded. It’s just too valuable to not to be.

 

An Homage to Garlic

Simply put garlic is great. I don’t think it gets enough love so I’m putting it out there. The “allium sativum” as an ingredient for food preparation is inexpensive, easy to grow, easy to find, and adds a great flavor to nearly anything it’s added to. Allium_sativum_Woodwill_1793Sure it takes a beating¬†for giving bad breath, but that’s actually a very rare complaint to hear.

When preparing some food and no ideas of the end result, without even thinking, I usually turn on a burner, get some onions saut√©ing in olive oil, and before long I am adding garlic. Anywhere from 2-4 cloves sliced, chopped, or even halved will add a great flavor, make your kitchen smell amazing, and the remaining pieces in the final food your serve have a huge punch packed to liven up that dish. It’s so simple, fresh garlic doesn’t rot if it’s sat around too long, and the word on the streets is it fends off vampires too, just saying.

Even if you’re¬†kind of “meh” about the flavor of garlic or having it in your food,¬†its¬†health benefits are like a never ending sunset, the more time passes the more we see.

  • As an ingested food, fresh garlic offers a whole gambit of cancer prevention qualities, it decreases cholesterol and blood pressure, and should be considered as a method for preventing heart attacks.
  • I’ve never tried it, but apparently as a topical gel containing¬†ajoene (a chemical found in garlic) can fight off ring worm, jock itch and athlete’s foot.

The former uses & effects are a result of the organic chemicals sulfur, cysteine, and selenium which are found in garlic. All worth reading up on, too.

Another very interesting quality of garlic is it’s relationship to Glutathione. You don’t need to know what that is right now, but make a note to look it up later, as it’s a very important antioxidant in your body of which you should be keeping replete quantities. Glutathione literally escorts¬†toxins from the body (and out through urine & bile); it improves the immune system, fights off free radicals, and detoxifies the liver. It’s the mother of all antioxidants. If you’ve been experiencing some fatigue, muscle pain, brain fog, or just¬†feeling vulnerable¬†to next common cold that sweeps through town, chances are your¬†body has a glutathione deficiency. Normally the body produces glutathione naturally, but somewhere in our 40’s we stop producing as much. Regardless of how old you are if your body has been cleaning out toxins, from junk food, air pollution, pesticides in your vegetables or fruit, alcohol, tobacco, etc. you have to help produce more or you’re going to start feeling the pain.

Back to Garlic, our bodies use the cysteine¬†in¬†garlic in combination with¬†glutamic acid and glycine to produce Glutathione. I’m aware this got very scientific very fast, but just take a moment, think about how much you eat garlic, think about how interested you are in avoiding cancels, and common illnesses, think about how much better it is to start your day¬†with a fresh head. Now, if you aren’t eating enough garlic, let this be your calling to start. We’ll talk about the other things that will help with Glutathione production another time.

Taking it back a notch, before I wrap up this personal homage. I’d just like to say that garlic doesn’t taste good raw, and there is strong evidence that taking garlic pills offer the same benefits (disclosure I have tried that the body odor alone isn’t worth it). To have some garlic, you have to cook some garlic, and cooking is great. It’s a way to destress, to prepare something healthy to eat, and save a few bucks (or not if you’re eating out). Garlic is at the heart of all that. So next time you’re grocery shopping, think to yourself – “Where’s the garlic?”.

Small Businesses Should Barter

A really useful service for small businesses would be a platform for exchanging services in a barter style system. This could enable a computer programmer in South America to travel to wine country in France, and enjoy a vacation there without having to shell out tons of money for bed & breakfasts. All he’d have to do is find a local accommodation that needs help with their website.

  • A writer could probably earn a a huge discount if not free pass aboard a cruise ship if she agreed to re-do the ship crew’s bios.
  • Foreign language speakers can add value simply by providing translations of web content to anyone that needs it.
  • All those DSLR totting travel lusts could earn their meals by doing new interior photos of the places they ate at.

The possibilities go way beyond these examples, and to make things more interesting, imagine if said exchange platform offered a central currency, where perhaps one small business could earn credits instead of a direct goods for goods exchange. Now this company is able to charge a small percentage for the currency transaction. And what’s better now, businesses don’t need to directly interact to get one kind of goods for the value of theirs. Now a Social Media Manager could work 140hrs for company X, and then cash out the value earned on that job for plane tickets with company Y.

I love this idea, I used to only imagine it as being an incremental improvement of WOOF’ing a way for young people to learn new skills and travel the world before they have earned the money to do so. Which in itself is still great, because it solves the problem of people getting jobs to travel, and then getting stuck in that job and never actually traveling (instead just taking their 2 week vacation allotted by the employer). Anyways as a general services exchange network, it seems much more useful and dynamic to support a freelancer economy of similar attributes.

 

Price Increases – Determining Quality vs Poor Quality Compenisation

When shopping for a new product or service (P/S) and unfamiliar with the various brands offering them, a higher price can mean higher quality, or it can represent a compensation for having a bad P/S.

By offering a bad P/S a company must stay in business by relying on customers willing to tolerate the poor quality and higher prices, which makes up for a lower volume of sales overall, yet nets to the same income a good quality company with lower prices can earn.

As a consumer, unless quality is obvious from first glance, the only way to determine which you’re dealing with is find feedback from previously existing customers.

Planning Your Trip to Thailand, How Long?

I recently finished a 7 week trip around Thailand and Vietnam. The experience was phenomenal; something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was in my early twenties. I wish I’d gone, back then, so I’d have some history to compare to, as Thailand and Southeast Asia are¬†clearly a tourist destination that becomes more and more popular every year, and with that growth in tourism, the cultural experiences, adventures in a far off land, and super inexpensive travel, all diminish a little more. Still even as of 2015, I can say there’s plenty of all of those to enjoy.

While I can’t claim to be an expert, that is, I’m not nearly as well informed as some folks I met there, or those I know generally who have spent months if not more than a year living in and hopping around the area. I say with confidence, even a few weeks is enough to see a lot of Thailand, and get a pretty good idea of how to have a great time, and also to discover the pitfalls others should avoid.

Since in my own circle of friends, I have some knowledge to share, I have started to get asked about others’ plans to go there. The question I’ve heard the most is, “where should I go?”. And my first response is no different from any travel blogger’s. That is – how much time do you have?

Unfortunately, most people only plan for a couple weeks, or less. And that’s where I’m lost.

Here’s why:

Whether traveling from the east coast or west coast of the US, or Europe (sorry I’m assuming my readers are from one of the two, if you’re from Australia you probably don’t care too much for a post like this!), flying to Thailand is a long journey and no matter where you arrive, you’re going to need a decompression chamber.

Even though the adventure really starts the moment you leave home, once your plane lands, you should really have a 24 hour period to drop off your stuff and become acclimated. A period to take it easy with some walks in the area around your hotel/guesthouse/or hostel, and be able to shower or take a nap as needed.

Food isn’t hard to find, but searching for it for your first time is a little over whelming, no one wants to get sick during their trip let alone the first day of it! Also prices are new upon just arriving – and unless money isn’t an object, you’ll want to look around a little before you start spending your baht, you should because while most of the food is good in Thailand, sometimes the most expensive is also the worst!

It’s very likely you’ll begin your trip in Bangkok, this just seems to be how most people do it, which is quite ironic because it is the most demanding from a sensory perspective of any destination in Thailand (it’s a huge loud, crazy city much crazier than any in the US or Europe easily), and that simply makes the whole first part of your trip more crazy.

So back to the original point, you don’t need a week or anything in your arrival city, but definitely a day, I suggest two as a bare minimum. So you can get your head back on (and your sleep schedule working for you, instead of against you). Then you can move along to the next spot in your journey, chances are you wont desire to stay in Bangkok for very long, if that’s where you do begin. All that said, your flight is a minimum of 16 hours, and you need 1-2 days to adjust. Since you’ll probably want to spend the night in your departing city at the end of your flight, the day before your return home is also a travel day. Which means there is a day and a half on both sides of your trip (3 days) that you will be just in transit. Now add back in your flight time, 16 x 2, or 32 hours, we’re up to 4.5 days flight, decompression, and travel in your trip. Which means, you’ll have 9.5 days to do other stuff. Since you’ll probably want to hop around from island to island, do a slow boat on the Mehkong (2-3 days long), or a ferry to / from mainland in the Andaman Sea area (which typically take 3-6 hours). Now you have less than a week of actual time to just chill. How did two weeks vacation just become one? WTF?!? That’s what I’m saying… Don’t get me wrong, those ferry rides are fun and beautiful, a great chance to have a beer and watch the islands pass by. It’s all part of the adventure which is very much in the spirit of the backpacker experience of Southeast Asia. But when nearly half of your trip is spent connecting from various places, you begin to realize, it’s not actually so cheap, because traveling from one town to another is just as expensive as paying for one night in a guest house. And you realize you’re not getting enough time to just stay in any one place.

If I was you, and two weeks was all I had, I’d choose a different destination. Somewhere that doesn’t offset my head so much with time zone differences. Something that requires <10 hours of flights, instead of 16. And the destination should have 1 – 2 places to stay, not 4-6 as Thailand travelers tend to aim for. This way, you only lose maximum 2 days getting in and leaving, and 1 day of connecting between places in your destination country. Now you still have 11 days to relax and forget about everything except when to go back in the sea for a swim, or where to go for a hike next. And thats how travel should be.

If you are really serious about going to Thailand or Southeast Asia, consider taking more time off. If that’s not a possibility, just try to limit the number of places you go while in Thailand, and realize you’re not planning a trip for relaxation, you’re planning a trip that will take a lot of energy, and likely leave you needing a more relaxing trip shortly after the one where you run around a crazy third world country for two weeks straight.

And for your planning – one site I highly recommend to do¬†research is Travelfish.org. They have great one page write ups on all the best destinations and make a point to help you understand which will be a waste of time, pricey, touristy, or super relaxed and totally new experience. I’m sure more thoughts and tips will bubble up as time passes and I think back on all the great food, and fun I had there. But this is definitely my number one suggestion to start with.

Countries Are Businesses

When a popular shop changes something about their business unfavorably, its customers have a choice: either 1) be complacent, 2) complain, or 3) find a new shop to go to with more favorable conditions.

In a free world, countries should act the same as businesses. When they start to mismanage, change hours, increase prices, or fall short on the upkeep (i.e. sanitation); some patrons¬†will complain, and some¬†will leave. Citizens of a country are (usually) tax payers, they rely on the services provided by their government, and when the cost of living in that government becomes too great, or the service quality provided by their country goes down too much; the citizens can ignore their frustrations which only allows the problems to fester, they can complain and try to stand up for their right to better services (considering how difficult it is to move… this is perfectly fair), or they can leave and take their tax dollars elsewhere.

In some countries moving to another city, state, or province can solve the problem. Which is good news for those who aren’t allowed to leave their country, or don’t have skills, or other qualifications needed to become welcomed as a citizen of another country.

Some people are not fortunate enough to pack up and move, when they grow tired of conditions in their current homeland they can protest, work with policy makers, and hope things improve, or ignore the problem and learn to deal with it.

But someone¬†who speaks english and has valuable skills such as today with engineering software, mobile, or web applications, this person is literally free to go anywhere in the world. That is how badly engineers are needed in today’s economy. It’s only a matter of time before countries get the message and pay more attention to the customer suggestion box entries. Sadly, these organizations are so big, they tend to get the feedback after the proverbial ship has sailed.

I think the trend of demand for engineers will continue for at least a couple more decades, and with it, countries will be forced to see how they are losing valuable, talented citizens because the country didn’t offer a sweet enough package. Unlike the wealthy elite, engineers can make a good living, but not quite enough to freely do anything they want. They don’t have the luxury of living on a yacht and lobbying politicians, but they do have the luxury to take a job in a another country with better work life balance, culture, and cost of living.