The Hopeless Procrastinator

The worst part is that I’m not even procrastinating. That implies there’s simply a task I’m avoiding starting. How about going one step further? Not even thinking about what that task is.

Leaving the to-do list vague and mysterious. A dark pit of despair that couldn’t possibly be tackled until it’s thought about some more. Just after reading this article, just after refreshing Twitter, just after going to lunch since it’s now 1 Pm. This can go on for weeks.

Usually it’s a hard deadline that suddenly brings clarity, focus and an inhuman capacity for work. If there was a way to be 50% as productive as during that period but over a much longer period of time, I would outperform everyone in my office.

But right now, I’m the hopeless procrastinator.

Everything else is great. I’m getting stronger in the gym, it’s taking longer for the purple belts to tap me in jiu-jitsu and I’m off camping or rock-climbing every other weekend. Yet, it’s all overshadowed by this nagging feeling of not really doing my work, of not embracing the pain now so I can live well later.

I made it 5 days out of 7 for my Creator Challenge. The last two days losing momentum because of the inertia of work. It’s hard to feel good walking away from my desk without having achieved anything. That could be why BJJ and the gym are so important to me currently since it let’s me sleep at least partially satisfied with the day.

This is partly exaggeration. I have high standards of myself and am not currently living up to them in this area. I’ve always been a high performer (as I suspect most guys in this part of the internet are) but right now I’ve lost some momentum.

I’m not writing this to wallow, I’m writing this to change. 

The two things I’m doing to combat this are:

Meditation – I just subscribed to Calm for the year to force me to sit down every morning

Time Blocks – 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. In blocks of 3. I feel as if I’ve destroyed my attention span and this is my mental gym program. I expect my focus to grow as I train it and so either the reps or the sets of these time blocks (or podomoros) can grow.

These are on top of the things I do anyway such as Wim Hof breathing and eating healthily. I’m not going to list a hundred different tips, since I’m not going to DO a hundred different things. I’m a fan of simplicity and getting the most bang for my buck. These two seem like they should give me the best ROI. So it’s these two things I’m going to focus on.

Life is momentum and I want to pick up the pace.

 

PS Shout out to DCL Live who put me to shame on the 7 Day challenge with his posts. Check them out here.

If You Miss a Workout, That Time is Gone

If you don’t already listen to the Jocko Podcast, download episode 27. Skip to 1 hour and 6 minutes in and go for a walk. You do not want to be lazing about when listening to Jocko. He’s an ex- Navy Seal operator, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black-Belt under Dean Lister and a man who tweets out a photo of his watch every day at 4.30 am before going to his home gym to squat.

In this episode he said something that really struck me: “If you miss a workout, you can never make it up. It’s gone. You got weaker, you can’t get it back.” He then expands that it goes as far as any time wasted, “you can’t get it back. So don’t waste it”.

This doesn’t mean you can never rest. It means use your time wisely. There will always be excuses or some reason that you ‘didn’t really feel quite right’ or that you had to wait for the laundry to finish or whatever. Maybe those excuses are legit and you have to make the decision to skip training or to not do the work you should have. If that happens, regardless of the validity of the excuses, realise that you have missed that workout and it’s gone forever. There’s no reason to deny this. You’re reasons may be valid and it may be the right choice, but never lie to yourself or lying becomes a habit.

Good decisions can only be made in the light of ALL of the available information. The major thing preventing your decisions from being the right ones, the reason you make the weak decision or the lazy choice is because you deliberately lie to yourself. You pretend that you don’t know the consequences of being lazy or that you didn’t mean to let the day run away with you and, oh no, now the gym is closed. Do not make a habit of lying to yourself.

You can either choose to sleep in and feel good for those 10 or 20 minutes or you can take control, get out of bed and start your day right. Setting the tone at the start of the day carries through until the end of it. It’s 20 minutes of feeling good for a whole day of being sluggish and off the mark versus 10 seconds of discomfort to get out of bed when you planned to so that the next 16 hours go right. When put like that, it’s not a difficult choice.

Jocko

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is also excellent.

(This post is part of my 7 Day Creator Challenge.)

 

Linking Out Some Love

I was slow out of the gate this morning and didn’t get up in time to write a post, so to keep up with my 7 Day Creator Challenge, I’m going to cheat and share out some links to some articles written by other bloggers this week that I’ve enjoyed reading. Starting off with two bloggers who have joined my in the 7 day challenge:

First up is Mark Braivo (you should definitely go and follow him on Twitter if you aren’t already):

IS GROUNDING GOOD FOR HEALTH? WHY WE SHOULD STEP OUTSIDE (BAREFOOT) EACH DAY

HOW TO GET WORK DONE LIKE DAN

Second up is DCL Live (who up until this precise moment I thought was called D Clive):

YOUNG MEN SHOULD WORK IN A PUB

BEING IN CONTACT WITH NATURE

BEING HARD ON YOURSELF

And now for a few other notable posts:

A great post from young Turkish blogger Kemal J. Tenebris on getting out of depression.

How to Manage Your Energy Levels by The Quintessential Man

A short post on how to develop self-discipline by Titus Hauer

That’s plenty of posts for you to be getting on with although if you want to keep up with the latest controversies also check out Mike Cernovich’s journalistic work on Hillary Clinton’s health. The media are still completely unable to see what Mike is doing and fall for it hook, line and sinker every time. It’s beautiful performance art. In the meantime his network of sources grow, some of the outraged masses directed to his site converts to loyal fans and buy books, and a few more people start asking questions about the objectivity and honesty of the mainstream media.

Get Out of Your Head and Into the Room

This is part 3 on Introversion: Part 1 Part 2

You can either talk to yourself or you can talk to other people. 

Introverts are much more prone to letting their internal dialogue run away with it’s self, getting deeply caught up in a train of thought that carries you a long way away from the world around you. This propensity for deep thought is a skill and provided you can also develop your mental discipline and focus can serve you well in intellectual pursuits or strategising.

However, I believe that lack of presence is the single biggest thing preventing the introvert from connecting socially. This isn’t to say it’s a bad thing but simply that introversion often results in a preference for the conversation you’re already having in your head over small talk with someone nowhere near as interesting.

To combat this, the introvert should practice mindfulness.

The easiest way to start with this is to simply give the minutiae of life a little more focus. Simply put: be more deliberate.

A game you can play to do this is to notice when you run on autopilot:

  • Do you always start brushing your teeth in the same place?
  • Do you walk/drive the same way to work? Is there a different route you could try?
  • What’s the first thing you do when you get to your work desk?
  • Do you have any auto-habits when browsing the internet (e.g. Ctrl-T, type “tw”, hit Enter for me)
  • Which way round do you put your phone in your pocket?
  • Is your coffee cup always on the right or left side of the keyboard?

The idea isn’t to change any of the habits but simply to start noticing them.

The next thing with a real pay off is to meditate for 5-10 minutes each morning. Sit, stand or lie somewhere comfortable with your spine straight, set a timer and focus on your breathing (or an external noise if you prefer). Any time you notice yourself thinking, come back to the breath. The point is to notice the thinking and redirect yourself, not to never be distracted.

Another thing introverts do a lot more than most is to walk around the world with headphones on listening to podcasts/music. There is no greater way to distance yourself from people around you than to do this. That doesn’t mean stop listening to Joe Rogan. It means be aware of when you are and don’t just put your headphones in on autopilot. Becoming more social, requires building social momentum. Both in the short term of a single day or social interaction and in the long term of slowly developing that side of yourself. Having headphones in takes away the chance to do that in every day life. Next time you go out to buy steak and eggs, keep the headphones out. Make a conscious effort to make small talk with a couple of strangers. Doesn’t have to be more than a single comment or even just a shared smile.

This ties in to the most important thing which is that you can change your personality. A lot of your personality is simply your nature, some is how you were raised. But a good proportion of your “immutable” personality is based on your perception of the world. It is a road map of behaviours that you have come to believe will help you survive in the world. It isn’t formed consciously but, if you make the effort, can be changed consciously. If you want to be more assertive, you must make choices that reflect that across the board and literally practice being assertive. Speak up if someone cuts the line in front of you. Let the waiter know if something is wrong with your food (not just for the sake of it, don’t be an asshole). Stop letting charity muggers steal your time, tell them no right off the bat.

It is the same with being social. You’re not going to be the social guy at the party, if you’re not also a social in the coffee shop. This doesn’t mean you need to be incessantly talking people’s ears off on the train or that you need to make yourself miserable forcing yourself to go against your nature all the time. It means, don’t expect to deadlift 500lbs if you never train your deadlift. You need to literally train yourself to be become more social. Build it up with small wins. If it seems intimidating, all I’m suggesting that you do is as simple as smiling at the shop assistant when they’re scanning your food and saying “how’s it going?”

(It’s easier if you take your headphones out.)

 

An Aggressive Approach to Fixing Social Anxiety

If you’re still blaming social anxiety on being introverted, go read yesterday’s post

BlackandWhiteMMA

There are plenty of other writers talking about the skills side of social anxiety. I want to talk about the fear side and, specifically, I want to talk about one specific way become more assertive, less anxious and more fun to be around.

One way to reduce your social anxiety is to become harder to kill.

This is about altering your mindset through lifting weights and training in martial arts. When I say lifting weights, I mean lifting heavy weights, getting strong and putting on some muscle. When I say martial arts, I mean full contact combat sports: BJJ, boxing, muay thai, judo, wrestling. Read this fantastic post from undefeated heavy weight boxer Ed Latimore on fear. When you read this, understand that this is a man who doesn’t have to take shit from anybody, yet he’s a genuinely nice and friendly guy. His physical dominance allows him to completely let his guard down and be truly himself since even when making himself vulnerable, he knows he can handle himself.

The same can be said of Mike Cernovich.

When you lift weights, before you put on any significant muscle, you ramp up your testosterone and release a lot of endorphins. Both make you feel great and when you feel great, it’s easier to be social. On top of which testosterone will make you feel more assertive, more dominant and this will show in your body language. As you train and start to actually put on some mass, people respond differently to you. As well as your own mind changing through the discipline of training and the knowledge of your own strength, you will find people naturally fuck with you less and you get respect simply for your size. I’m not huge but I already notice the difference compared to when I was 140 lbs.

When you train martial arts, a similar thing happens. You don’t look different but everything starts to feel different. You will become more relaxed since you’re more capable of handling a threat but also your body language shows a natural state of readiness.

You also learn that you’re not as vulnerable as you thought you were. You take a knee to the face and carry on sparring. It hurt but you barely notice it. You realise that everything you thought about fighting is complete bullshit. You also realise that, after a month, you’re at a level far above new people coming to the gym. The biggest change in skill is from complete beginner to six months of training. The number one thing that would instantly improve any man’s confidence is to get hit in the face and smile about it.

One almost paradoxical point that most people find is that they also become much more reticent about fighting outside of the gym. When you learn how to pick someone apart, you learn how vulnerable you yourself are and,  without any referee or even knowledge of the other guy’s skills, how stupid it is to actively pick fights in bars. 

Social anxiety is rooted in the fact that our brains evolved in an environment when physical danger in social interactions with strangers was a much greater threat than it is now. The fear that violence may break out and you end up dead. An irrational fear but unfortunately you can’t change the brain itself. However, you can change your mindset and to do that you must change your self-perception. The easiest, most permanent way to change your self-perception is to change your self, to train your body and to make yourself harder to kill.

How to Get Social as an Introvert

I’m an introvert. But a socially confident introvert so a lot of people mistake that for extroversion. And right there is one of the keys to overcoming your introversion to do well in social situations:

Introversion is not the same as shyness.

Many people equate the two, many people who would benefit much more from admitting that it’s fear not personality that is the problem. The first step to solving any problem is gaining an honest understanding of it. It is much more comfortable to say you’re an introvert than take active steps to become more socially adept (a skill set that involves both comfort in socialising as well as the specific social skills themselves) and push through the discomfort.

If you’re not convinced that it’s fear as opposed to some immutable characteristic of your personality that makes social situations so draining, think about it this way. Imagine walking along a 30 metre wooden plank a foot off the ground. Easy right? It’s just walking. Now imagine the same 30 metres, but across a canyon with a 200 metre drop. How would you feel after making it to the end? Sweating? Breathing hard? Mentally drained? It’s not the action that’s changed, it’s your perception of it. Now in that scenario there is a very real difference between the two despite the required level of skill being identical. Consequence. In social situations, one of the key factors holding you back is an overestimate of the consequences of ‘failure’. I’m going to go ahead and say that an irrational perspective of the consequences of a situation leading to an emotional response and anxiety towards a situation is pretty close to the definition of fear.

I guarantee that you’ve had times when you’ve been absolutely on form in a social situation. You’ve been funny, entertaining, maybe  a little outrageous and able to bring anyone into the group easily without thinking about it. Sure, it may have been a perfect storm of ideal conditions that allowed you to get there: good friends, a great mood, the right weather and it was probably at least an hour after the start of the social gathering. That last point is key. We warm up before exercise, why not before socialising?

The warm up (a period of low pressure socialising) serves two purposes:

  1. It switches the mind over into a social frame
  2. We experience many ‘mini failures’ that remind the fearful part of our mind that the consequences of those failures are pretty minimal.

As an exercise, think back to times when you’ve really enjoyed yourself in a social situation. Work out what the common factors were. For me, any time I’ve started off one-on-one and really laughed, I’ve been absolutely fine in groups later that day. I’m terrible if I go straight into a group from a standing start. I second guess myself, I make fewer jokes, I’m quieter all round. If I’ve built up some momentum beforehand that carries through into the group setting and I can continue building that momentum into a great time all round. The key from there is just to not let myself get caught up in my own thoughts. There’s a natural flow of energy over the course of a social event, so you don’t need to be bouncing off the wall the whole time but make a conscious effort to be present. If you need to recover briefly, stay gently focused on what’s going on.

DO NOT START THINKING!

I’m prone to over-analysis which is great for my work but terrible for my socialising. Generally speaking, people connect with real people not robots. It’s funny to make mistakes and show your human side. For example, one time while introducing myself to a cute blonde chick in the bar I asked her what her job was and immediately changed my mind since that’s often a route to a boring conversation, I cut myself off saying “Actually, fuck that, that’s such a dull question. What’s your spirit animal?” I hope you realise how borderline retarded I came across in that moment but since I was laughing at myself for it she went with it and I ended up dating that girl for the next 6 months. Mistakes are fun, make them. This will help both overcome the fear and develop the skill set itself.

So to summarise, getting social as an introvert comes down to two things: 1) actually social skills and 2) social fear. It’s not usually your social skills that are the problem, and if you think they are then the only solution is practice. Social fear can be overcome in a number of ways, all of which come down to letting your unconscious mind know that the consequences of ‘failure’ are not as big as you think and often improve the interaction since people actually connect better with imperfect people. Stop pretending to be so fucking cool all the time. You’re not and I’m not. Embrace it and have some fun.

I’ll write some more about overcoming social fear in the future. It can be broken down into overcoming in the short term (warming up/getting loose) and in the long term (practice, progressive overload, developing self-esteem). In the mean time, relax and make some small talk. We’re social animals. You, the product of thousands of generations of humans, are genetically designed to operate in a social environment. Trust yourself.

This is my first post of my 7 Day Creator Challenge. My day zero post is here.

Post Ideas – 7 Day Creator Challenge

I’ve been sat here for 15 minutes with a blank page in front of me. A few different post ideas and stories have bounced into my head but none of them seem right. Since this is an exercise in creating content rather than about the content itself, I’ll just make my first post of the 7 Day Creator Challenge a list of post ideas. After breakfast and the gym, I’ll sit down and crank out one of these posts.

Post Ideas

  • Trust and Fear – What I Love About Rock Climbing
  • The Ballet Dancer in New York
  • C-Dog and Shaggy – Irresponsible Choices in Baton Rouge
  • Book Reviews – Gates of Fire, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, Illusions/Reluctant Messiah, The Religion War, Waking Up, Gorilla Mindset, A Sky Without Eagles, The Way of Men, Shadow Men, The War of Art, Control (Aedonis Bravo), The Martian, God’s Debris, Essays on Masculinity, Seneca On the Shortness of Life, The Art of the Deal, The Warrior’s Way, No More Mr Nice Guy
  • The Culver City Schizo and meeting Mike Cernovich
  • How to Study
  • My Hot and Cold Relationship with the Wim Hof Method
  • On Alcohol
  • Camp Fires and Meditation
  • Identity Crisis – Do Pseudonyms Create Mental Divides
  • Impostor Syndrome
  • Trust your Gut? – Rational Choice in an Irrational World
  • Trust your Gut? Part 2 – Is irrationality a false perception
  • Attachment, Ego and the Return of Man
  • Dropping the E: Turning Ego into Action
  • How to Make Friends When Travelling
  • How to Make Enemies When Travelling
  • Why Read?
  • Stop Living On Autopilot
  • How to be Social as an Introvert
  • Part 2 – An Aggressive Approach to Social Anxiety

Some bloggers have expressed an interest in doing the challenge as well, I’ll be linking to all of their posts. If I miss any, let me know on Twitter.

Time to eat, I’m starving.

 

7 Day Creator Challenge

LLMBThis is a great idea from my friend, Mark Braivo.

Every morning we wake up after what is effectively a 6-8 hour meditation. Our minds are clear, if groggy, and not yet filled with the accumulated loose threads that develop over the course of the day.

And what is the first thing many of us do with that clear mind?

We start clogging it right back up. Whether that be morning news (which is just last night’s Twitter at best, or propaganda at worst) or with audiobooks and podcasts. This may seems productive since you’re cramming new information and using the time to expand your mind. But what if we used that clear mind to create rather than consume?

Now that I’m writing again, I’ve been very undisciplined with it. Getting 1 blog post and 1 draft typed out in two weeks. Having not written in a year but still having been working on myself, I reckon I have more to say than that! (I fucking hope so or I’ve become a right boring bastard.)

To combine these two thoughts, for the next 7 days I will write and publish a blog post first thing in the morning. I will probably make some notes throughout the day to help get me going and make use of any sparks of inspiration that come at other times of the day but that’s when I’m going to write.

If the content is gibberish, well I’ve learned that it might be a better idea to allow other people’s coherent thoughts to guide me from sleep into proper wakefulness and will go back to my usual routine. However, I’m expecting that the truism that your morning sets the tone for the day to expand to this as well. That tone being that of creation rather than consumption.

We all know the importance of that mindset shift (see also here) from consumer to creator. For the next 7 days, I’m going to start my morning practising exactly that.

Anyone joining me?

 

 

 

ADHD and How to Fix It

*This is not medical advice and I am not using the clinical definition of ADHD*

 

Life flows from action

Action flows from thought

If you lose control of thought, you lose control of life.

I have given myself ADHD and I’d bet you have too. Not true ADHD (if it even exists) but my attention span has disappeared into the infinite loop of cheap dopamine hits: Twitter to Email to Facebook and back again. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the loop, just insert your social media of choice. Around and around through this loop all day until it’s 5 pm and I’ve achieved maybe half an hour of truly productive work out of 8 hours sat at my desk. As I’m working towards my PhD this means I may end up spending an extra year of life at that desk. That’s unacceptable to me and so I’m writing this to outline a battle plan to combat my self-diagnosed and self-inflicted deficit of attention. There is a war for our attention and it’s about time we fought back. 

The deadly trio of lost productivity

The deadly trio of lost productivity

  1. No single player video games. The perfectly crafted dopamine hits may just feel like a way to relax in my spare time but I’m 100% certain it is psychologically unhealthy to expose myself to hours of supernormal stimulus. This may be just me but I find it far easier to say no completely than to try and limit my time.
  2. Leave my phone at home during work hours. This isn’t practical for most people but the only thing I ever use my phone for during the day is distraction. I have no need to make phone calls during the day, all my communications are through email.
  3. Time chunk/ Pomodoro’s. Set a timer and for those 20-50 minutes I do my work. If I can’t focus I’m not allowed to do anything else so the boredom will at least force something to happen. Outside of the Podomoro, I can have 5-10 minutes of mindless browsing but only within set time limits.
  4. Meditation/ Wim Hof breathing. I’ve been slowly working on adding better habits to my morning routine. Currently, I wake up and drowsily go have a cold shower as the first thing I do every day. It feels great, it wakes me up and it forces me to overcome my own resistance to set the tone for the day. After my cold shower, I will now get dressed and do at least one set of Wim Hof breathing followed by a 5 minute meditation.

On top of this, I intend to get this blog going again and read a lot more. I’ve just started Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life which is excellent and has reminded me of the importance of taking control of our lives.

If any of you have any tips or have tried mine and had some success, please share. As I said, there is a war for our attention and it’s about time we fought back.

We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful.

BJJ and the Bond of Brotherhood

bjj-COMPETITION-burton-on-trent

This post is inspired by my friend McMurphy, who I fought on a tile floor in Louisiana within half an hour of meeting. I got the first tap (kimura) and then he showed me how lucky I’d been by tapping me out every round after.

I train Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu. I have done for a year and a half. I’m still a white belt and, until I compete some more, I don’t want to be promoted to blue until I’ve earned it. The gym is full of warriors and animals and I’m not yet ready to be considered an equal. But in the mean time I’ll put up a fucking good fight.

Triangle-Mount-bjj

There are few things I would recommend unreservedly. Lifting weights is one. Meditation is another. BJJ is a third. The list of benefits from training are huge:

  • Learn how to deal with being under the REAL stress of combat
  • Learn how to defend yourself
  • Get physically fit
  • Train your mind in a new way of thinking
  • Become more in touch with your body and how you move
  • Become disciplined
  • Free your mind of stress (maybe counterintuitive that getting beaten up can do that, but honestly it works)
  • Boost your testosterone

And the one I want to expand on:

  • Experience a bond of brotherhood I’ve never felt anywhere else

There is something primal about fighting with someone (called rolling in the sport). During a good roll, nothing else matters. The demands of defending submissions while trying to obtain a dominant position means there is no space in your head to worry about your rent, or your boss, or that girl who hasn’t texted you back or any of the million other worries that prevent you from being present. Making BJJ possibly the most physically exhausting form of meditation there is.

Your body reverts to it’s primal programming and, especially in the early days, all you are focussed on is one thought: SURVIVE.

ROBERTO_CYBORG_ABREU_2009_BJJ_Championships

When you experience this with someone of the same mindset, it’s a bonding experience different to any other and it’s a different type of bond as well. You get to know a very real side of the person you’re rolling with. You see how they respond under pressure. You see their tenacity when they grind their way out of a choke. You see their discipline when they stick to using technique rather than trying to brute-force their way on top. You see that they care about you as a training partner when they control the arm lock and don’t wrench you’re elbow apart.

You put yourself in an incredibly vulnerable position when you roll with a higher ranked training partner (or really with anyone since I still get tapped by the lower ranks as well). You have to trust them a hell of a lot and often they can be relative strangers.

All of this is pretty much unspoken. No one breaks it down in the gym but as you pass down the line shaking hands at the end of class and come to the guy you had a particularly good roll with, both of you laugh and hug with the mutual understanding that something awesome happened.

You know this man would have your back in a fight and you would have his. Not only that but this tribe you’re part of would have a pretty good chance of winning against most challengers. Simultaneously, you have nothing to prove; you’ve already proven it. The sweat left behind on the mat is evidence enough. There’s less room for ego and boasting when anyone can call you out and test you for real.

I’m not a particularly big guy, I train hard and I’m fairly strong but nothing compared to some of the beasts I roll with. In any other world, me and the huge Polish guy with tribal tattoos would never have met. But because of Jiu-Jitsu, every time we see each other we grin in anticipation of the next time we fight. We both recognise in each other, a playful aggressiveness that we bring to the mat. When we fight, it’s about the sport. We both want to win and won’t tap easily. But we both want to win fair. So as competitive as it gets, we trust each other that we’re not in any danger even in the moments both of us are going full force using every bit of strength and every drop of energy we have, dripping sweat on to the mat.

Then the coach calls time and the battle is over and we walk back to the line as brothers.

[Image credits:  Morcegao BJJ, John Lamonica, KitDale BJJ]