Show yourself first

If you should ever turn your will to things outside your control in order to impress someone, be sure that you have wrecked your whole purpose in life. Be content, then, to be a philosopher in all that you do, and if you wish also to be seen as one, show yourself first that you are and you will succeed.

~ Epictetus

Creating space in the morning for reflection

“The pleasure in thinking and doing things well is…deep-wired.” I think this is absolutely true. Thoreau retreated to Walden Pond, in part, to do nothing — to just observe and live deliberately — but he also wrote a first draft of a book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, while in his cabin. He then left the pond to move in with Emerson, where he wrote another book, this one about his experience at the pond, then another soon after, Civil Disobedience. Thoreau found peace observing nature; but his real pleasure was in producing enduring work.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2020/04/01/on-productivity-and-the-deep-life/

I’ve long ago lost any real sense of which life changes have had the most benefit. But if I were to pick one, it would be making time to reflect. I’m often making adjustments here and there to my life, and those changes are always based on a period of reflection. What have I been doing that has been making me feel well? What have I been doing that has been making me feel unwell? …and so on.

For a while—three years to be specific—I’ve been trying to begin each day with some basic movement/stretching and then some sort of physical activity. I’m talking about first thing each morning. Get out of bed, deal with necessities (eg, coffee :) and then begin with movement and activity. 3 and 2 years ago, that activity was running. For the past year, the physical activity has been a sort-of-like-Olympic-weight-lifting program called Happy Body.

This is not working for me. Sure, when I manage to start with activity then I’m awake and moving and it’s good for my health and I get lots of what I want done each day. But it’s a struggle every. damn. day. blech! What I really want, first thing in the morning, is to NOT be physically active, but rather to be mentally active.

Starting today, I’m overhauling my first-thing-each-day routine to be:

  1. Reflect on the day’s self-assessment reminder
  2. Reflect on the day’s entry from Holiday’s, The Daily Stoic
  3. Read my previous journal entries and write in my current journal
  4. Spend some time in philosophical reading

I encourage you to build a reflection habit. It can be first-thing each morning or whenever works for you. (Many people allocate time for reflection as the last thing each day before going to sleep.) You should intentionally choose what to do as your reflection practice. I’ll go so far as to suggest you perform a few weeks experimentation with each idea you come up with, until you find a reflection practice that works for you. The more you reflect the more you’ll want to iterate and improve creating a virtuous feedback loop.

That’s the plan anyway. It’s certainly the best plan I’ve come up with for me, so far.

ɕ

Movement snacks

I don’t know why I haven’t started this sooner. There’s a little daily practice that some podcasters do where they record something—anything really—simple each day. I’ve been thinking of doing that for movement.

If you’re a Movers Mindset member, I’ve put up a thread for this week and posted a little snack from this morning.

…if you’re not [a member], just go take a few minutes and do some movement.

ɕ

On podcasting

The short version of this story is simply: I have no idea what I’m doing, both on and off the mic. I’m simply curious. I try things. I make mistakes. I ask questions.

My podcasting journey began with the Movers Mindset project, which grew from conversations I started having as part of my personal journey rediscovering movement. Started in 2015, at first it was just a web site that shared others’ writing. But as I travelled, I kept finding myself in cool conversations until one day someone said, “you should have recorded that. I’d listen to that podcast.” Excited, but with no clue how much work it would be, I kicked off the Movers Mindset podcast at the start of 2017. For the first dozen episodes I did far too much of the work myself, until I wised up and started finding a few incredible people to share my new passion.

By this point I was devouring anything I could about interviewing. I smashed through thousands of podcast episodes in the process of wondering, “how does everyone else do it?” Podcasts, books, online courses… Everywhere I turned I found something new to work on in my own journey.

In the fall of 2018 I had about 30 interviews published on the podcast. I was getting comfortable travelling by plane, train and automobile, being invited into people’s lives to capture the Movers Mindset interviews. I was invited to the North American Art of Retreat, a Parkour leadership retreat, in the Cascade mountains outside of Seattle. There I did a series of interviews with the event’s presenters and organizers, and handed those recordings off for Art of Retreat to create their own podcast.

When 2019 rolled around, on a whim, I jumped into an Akimbo course called The Podcast Fellowship. I wanted to search for unknown-unknowns, to rethink everything I had done so far, and much about the Movers Mindset podcast changed in this period. To my surprise, I was invited back to be part of a small group of alumni who assist the coaches for the 4th, (and then the 5th,) running of the course. It’s mind-bogglingly inspiring and energizing to hang out daily with hundreds of people who share your passion. I even tried to summarize the fun of it in The Journey.

Meanwhile, the Movers Mindset episode numbers kept climbing and I’ve been branching out to interview more challenging guests; challenging for me as I’m forced to converse and discuss topics I know less and less about, but which none the less intrigue me endlessly. In the fall of 2019, this time with help from some of the Movers Mindset team, I was invited back to Art of Retreat. There, we did a second series of interviews for Art of Retreat’s podcast.

Today (circa 2020) I’ve done over 100 interviews… and I’m certain I still have no idea what I’m doing. We’ve started doing video interviews as part of the Movers Mindset project and I have two other, fun little podcasts where I toss up episodes all by myself. They’re both places for me to experiment on different bits of the podcasting universe without having to commit a lot of my resources or time. One podcast is a daily collection of micro-episodes. You can search for “Little Box of Quotes” wherever you normally listen to podcasts, and the related posts here on my blog are tagged, as you might expect, Little Box of Quotes. The other podcast is a collection of things of dubious veracity. It’s called “Apocryphal” and the posts on my blog are tagged—as you’d expect—Apocryphal.

ɕ

It’s really good to be really bad

This is an idea I’ve come across repeatedly during the research I’ve conducted for my various books. There’s something incredibly valuable in the deeply frustrating yet rewarding pursuit of mastering something hard.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2020/03/29/the-deep-benefits-of-learning-hard-things/

This idea comes up all over the place, and for good reason. Nearly 3,000 years ago, people like Marcus Aurelius where writing things about the absolute necessity of continual self-study and self-improvement. Books such as G Leonard’s, Mastery and countless bits on the Internet about self-improvement. My personal, direct efforts applied to myself—find some idea, reflect on it, then figure out how (if! of course) to apply it to myself… My efforts remain ongoing.

( I need a special character, or something, that I can put before these questions, to make it clear that I mean this entirely in a non-judgemental way– I only intend to spur your thinking… )

What are you up to?

ɕ

Nothing fancy

That’s what you and I need right now.

We need the Kiwi virtues.

Nothing fancy. Nothing heroic. Just do our part and be there for our mates in trouble.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2020/03/kiwi-virtues-in-a-time-of-trouble/

I still cannot imagine what the English experienced during the second world war. I’ve long known what, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” was about. But even now that there is a real danger, I still feel zero urge to panic.

Things to do, or not do. Places to go, or not go. Sure. Decisions to be made. People to be helped. Lessons to be learned. Work to be done. Priorities to be reality-checked. Sure.

But, panic? Hoarding? Stigmatizing people? …no thanks.

ɕ

Mr. Burgdorferi

In 2016 I achieved my best physical condition in recorded history. Perhaps that sounds funny—”recorded history”—but I mean simply to disqualify everything before I was 25. Before 25 the degree of difficulty for staying in good condition was somewhere between “easy” and “trivial.” That’s not to say I was always in good physical condition before age 25, far from it. I only mean to imply that affecting change was easy before age 25.

My current downward spiral began in the summer of 2019 when I had the misfortune of meeting Mr. Borrelia Burgdorferi. Turns out he’s a total asshole. A full week apart, I had two fevers over 104°F with associated delusions and trips to the emergency room, before enough time had finally elapsed for a Western blot test to confirm that my immune system was intimately familiar with Mr. Burgdorferi. He is in fact a member of the Spirochaete crime syndicate phylum of bacteria, and he has several nefarious cousins who cause, for example, syphilis and yaws. He, and his cousins, have been kicking we humans’ asses forever. You may have heard of Mr. Burgdorferi’s preferred method of torture: Lyme disease.

(Alas, Lyme disease is named after Lyme Connecticut where it was first described, and actually has no relation whatsoever to yummy lime fruits. My hope had always been that it was actually Lime disease, and the preferred course of treatment was with stiff gin-and-tonics with copious fresh lime.)

The treatment—well, actually, there is no definitive treatment for Lyme disease… shit, we’d be happy to have a definitive test for diagnosing Lyme disease. The best intervention is to carpet bomb the entire host organism… that’s me. My physician soon introduced me to my new frenmy Doxycycline, which is a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Basically it kills every bacteria via chemical attack. You see, Mr. Burgdorferi and his cousins have a clever trick whereby they can completely change the protein markers on their outer layer—they can simply swap out their skeevy track suits on Thursday and completely evade the human immune system. Which is exactly why they are still around: They’ve evolved this trick of biologic track-suit-swapping; new suit, no more immune system response and the battle restarts. And now you know why syphilis goes through distinct stages, wins the war and kills your ass in horrible fashion. So the hope with Lyme disease and Doxycycline is that you caught Mr. Burgdorferi early enough and can obliterate all the bacteria via carpet bombing, since your immune system is unlikely to do the job on its own.

Geez, Craig! Where is this going?

Mr. Burgdorferi and a bunch of [mostly] self-induced stress (which I’m completely omitting the explanation thereof herein forthwith etc) were a wicked, one-two punch to my weight. Cue sound of plane going into a dive, and my downward spiral. “…and cut! That’s a wrap!”

Doxycycline wipes out your gut flora too. Each of us is simply a big meat-spaceship created to protect and transport the tiny things living in our digestive track. (I’ll wait here while you think about that.) Doxycycline kills almost all of the passengers in the meat-ship, leaving the ship, (that’d be me you recall,) mostly unscathed, but kicking off a recolonization race among the ship’s passengers. And of course the passengers you’d like to have aboard are the slow ones to regrow. In fact, if enough the of sleazy passengers move back in first, the good one can’t even get on board.

Doxycycline pro-tip: Your doctor will say “take this on an empty stomach, and drink plenty of water.” I call bullshit. Doxycycline comes in these standard pill capsules. And it floats. So it’s difficult to swallow. And the capsules are extremely sticky when you first get them wet. You absolutely will get at least one stuck way back in your throat. If it dissolves there, you literally get a chemical burn, in your throat. Here, I’ll save your life: Contrary to ALL pill swallowing advice, keep the damn thing in your mouth until it just starts to get gooey, and more importantly, slippery. That’s the capsule starting to dissolve after it has soaked up a bit of water. THEN, swallow it with water and it’ll go right down. Next, drink a big glass of water. And then drink another big glass of water.

Doxycycline pro-tip #2: And then it will make you vomit about 20 to sometimes as much as 40 minutes later. I’m talking about those sudden-onset waves of nausea giving you, perhaps, 2 seconds from I’m-fine-and-happy to barfing. I learned to plan ahead. Taking my daily Doxy was an hour-long planned affair.

Doxycycline pro-tip #3: When your doctor, who is normally pretty quick with discussion and decisions, pauses and seriously considers whether to prescribe you 14 days or 21 days of Doxy, ask why. It turns out that recent research has shown that 14 days is just as effective as 21 days. My doctor was weighing the fun of taking Doxy against the efficacy. On day 15, when my script ran out, I wanted to buy him dinner.

Meanwhile, I gained 10 pounds in 15 days. Afterwards, my physician—why do we say “my” physician? I’m certainly not responsible for him… Afterwards, my physician goes, “Yeah, sorry, that’s a known side effect, but I don’t tell people that up front because it just stresses them out further.” Thanks Doc. (Tangent for the reader: Go research why they give antibiotics to, for example, cows. Yes, it prevents infection, but—you guessed it—it has the unexplained side effect of fattening them up.)

Anyway, it’s now been several moths of working on what I’m eating as a way to re-reinvent my gut flora as I did 10 years ago when I last started changing my life to pull out of a downward spiral.

ɕ

Finding the balance

Too warm: Solve all the problems. Do all the things. Turn every idea into an action or object in the real world. And do it perfectly.

Too cold: Relax. Talk to people, occasionally. Read great books. Savor the moments between. How you do this one thing is how you do everything.

Just right:

…nope sorry I got nothing no way in the world I can possibly figure out what’s between these two extremes there’s nothing in the middle warm is perfect until it’s not cold is perfect until it’s not gee if only there was some way that one could find something that was hunh I don’t know maybe a little bit of both meh no warm is perfect oh wait no cold is perfect.

Right. It’s so patently obvious where the balance would lie. And yet, when I’m polarized one way or the other… now, where is that damn forest?! All these trees are blocking my view!

ɕ