Capability Over Achievement

Brilliant Friends,

Training on a regular basis is difficult. Always has been, still is, will be. It’s also overrated.

I used to think it was hard because of work. I don’t have a job anymore, and I’m still barely getting to the gym once a week. But I don’t know that I need to train more than that.

At approximately one training session per week, I am able to build strength. Nutrition plays a big role. Brazilian jiu jitsu lessons, on occasion, help with mobility and stamina. Still, I rarely train in any respect more than twice a week. To do this, I needed something more effective than exhausting maximal output sessions.

I found the Faleev Method. It’s an offbeat program using 5×5 powerlifting but limiting the output of effort. The idea is to do enough work but leave at least one rep in the tank every set. So when I can do a maximum of five solid reps, I stop at four. Starting weight for the program is one at which you can do at least two sets of five. Then, you keep going with that weight until you’re able to do five solid reps with another in the tank, five times.

It was arbitrary at first. How do I know if I can only do one more rep? It was a lot harder to figure out than I had expected. But after several tries, I found the point where going any further would be excessive exertion. It’s a weird concept, but it makes sense in application.

Over the long run I actually seem to be getting stronger. I haven’t tested this against my maximum yet, but I am pretty positive that it is working. I can tell that my movements are more solid.

I don’t leave the gym feeling completely exhausted either, which is awesome. That doesn’t mean the training doesn’t take its toll. I’ve been recovering from deadlifts and squats this week and I needed a lot more sleep than I expected. Thankfully I was able to get it.

The Faleev method is kind of funny. I’ve been at the same weights for a few months now. This has the effect of making me very “well-versed” in each exercise. It also makes me look a bit insane at the gym, because I never seem to do anything else. Just like with the 5×5 progression strength training philosophy that I first used, the magic is in the itty bitty details. The incremental improvements.

I’ve become ever more conscious of precise form and technique on every rep. I keep myself in the mindset of sober process instead of adrenaline. Meditation helps. The long term goal is to get to the next level of strength. The immediate focus is to make sure that every squat is done with precise form, balance, airtight torque, good speed, and preservation of myself. No going crazy just to tally an extra rep.

Paying attention to what’s working is hard when it takes time to see if it’s working. Staying sober and ironing out the details in the meantime is even tougher. It’s certainly not the norm. At the gym, everyone’s cranking out 300% today and getting nowhere tomorrow.

The purpose shapes the behavior, of course. The gym can be a venue for expression. A place for meditation in the repeated movements and breathing. A hub to socialize, bonds formed in the common struggles under the bar.

Pushing to the absolute limits reaps major endorphin release and a sense of accomplishment. It’s amazing. Doing so without form, though, and throwing technique to the winds stretches beyond the effective bounds of training.

Training is about preparation. It’s not about theater. It’s about learning.

And self-awareness. Aiming not for a number, but for a relative output. Getting better. Paying tons of attention to what’s going on. “How many can I do well this time?” instead of “I gotta hit five”. Calibrating each set to today’s strength, energy, and ability.

We can’t assume that we’re stronger than last time. We acknowledge all factors of life affecting us since. The rest comes down to recovery and responsible self care.

The best part is when it’s much easier to do the reps. To notice, rather than force. That is strength training. Capability over achievement.

To powerful living!

Steve

Be one with the Monkey

As a kid, I was fascinated by the adventures of the Monkey King.

He was fierce, mischievous, and bold. He crouched on ledges of mountainsides and measured the plans of his enemies. The Monkey King wielded the powerful cudgel. With it he struck dark lords and scheming villains to their deaths. Bold lines of red and blue decorated his white face. Humor glinted from his dark eyes. His fearless smile never ceased. It shone through moments of compassion as well as justice.

Monkey King Uproar in Heaven

NL 29 Monkey King Havoc in Heaven The Brilliant Beast Blog

You may be a Monkey by birth (in the lunar years of 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, and this year, 2016). Mythology presents the Monkey as smart, quick-witted, and irritable. The Monkey can be optimistic and adventurous, as well as stubborn and haughty.

Not everyone considered a Monkey by birth year is singularly defined by these Monkey tendencies. And many who are not born in the Monkey years do exude such personality traits. The point is that these things exist within all humans. We can learn from ourselves, recognize who we are and who we can be, and embrace our nature.

In the Year of the Monkey, the Fire Monkey to be precise, let’s hold dear the qualities of being ambitious, adventurous, and irritable. Yes, all tendencies should be seen with acceptance. There are many times we feel irritated with people, including ourselves. How we behave in the presence of this feeling is up to each of us.

We can build mindfulness of these instances of emotion through meditation and practice. By creating stronger actions for each time we feel, we are being responsible to ourselves and to our world. We are committing to be better and make our world more amazing.

When I feel adventurous, there’s a tendency for me to want to shrink back from it. If I talk with this stranger, what will my wife think? If I learn a new martial art, what if I get hurt? If I dance in public, what if I get embarrassed? By acknowledging that fear I can then grasp the adventure and bring the world with me to a new place.

Each of us comes to these moments. You can’t foresee them. You’ll suddenly step into the frame when it just pops into your hands. You can catch it and run, not knowing exactly what will come next. Or you fumble it because you’re scared of getting hit.

We all have experienced both. This year is a good time to explore that mischievous side. Have fun. Be bold. You may lose, you may get hurt, you could be really embarrassed. But so was the Monkey King.

NL 29 Monkey King Blue Background The Brilliant Beast Blog

Be one with the Monkey this year. Here’s how I’ve been monkeying around recently:

  • Start sharing with people who have a common passion with you. See if MailChimp is right for you.
  • Celebrate openness to discovery and the courage to try something new. Throwback to Curious George. New Valentine’s Day episode!
  • Watch Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven (English Subtitled) It’s free with Amazon Prime!
  • Practice moving on your hands and feet with the “gorilla walk“. I know, not a monkey, but let’s do ape.

To powerful living!

Steve

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

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Meditation Helps Me Sleep

Meditating helps me sleep better.

Sometimes I have a lot on my mind, and can’t fall asleep. I’m tired, but I can’t get into that sleepy feeling. When I’m like this, I meditate.

I usually start by paying attention to my breathing. I don’t even sit up sometimes, just stay lying on my back, and focus on my breaths. In, out.

Sometimes I control my breaths, taking in as much air as possible through my nose, letting my chest open, and slowly hissing it out through my lips. Other times I just let myself breathe normally, and simply focus on the breath as it leaves me.

When I’m really distracted and lose focus on my breathing, I count my breaths on my fingers. I like to go up to thirty, a number I got from the Wim Hoff method in a Tim Ferriss podcast.

But yesterday I went to one hundred, because I was extra awake.

If there are a lot of thoughts swimming around in my head, I’ll start to say the word “Thinking” every time one of them fills my head. Then I’ll let the thought pass. Saying “Thinking”, either out loud or quietly or just in my mind, is a good way to label the thought as a thought. It lets me release the thought and whatever feelings are attached.

Sometimes meditation starts with a game of Tetris. Or reading some of my fiction novel. It’s like warm up exercises before getting into the breathing and thought processing.

The best warm up, and sometimes I don’t even need the breathing and counting when I do this, is journaling. Getting some important thoughts down on paper, reflecting on the day, and writing it out in pen.

It really helps to see things leave my head and stay somewhere else. It’s like therapy. When I’m feeling like I got nothing done, it’s good to see things on paper that I did.

I find that I’m better rested after sleep following meditation. I heard somewhere that when we have a lot on our mind, the first part of sleep is just used by the brain to process it all. So once that’s done, the brain starts to really rest, which doesn’t leave enough time for the resting part.

I couldn’t find the source of that, but here’s something of substance. It’s a study that showed mindfulness meditation significantly helped people with insomnia, fatigue, and depression by improving their measured sleep quality.

To powerful living,

Steve

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Squat with Fear

Meditation And Powerlifting

Brilliant Friends,

No matter how many times I’ve done the squat, I feel fear and hesitation as I step up to the loaded bar.

I used to try to pump myself up and shake it out of my head. Beast mode blinded me to the fear most of the time. But when I just didn’t feel psyched, I would get stuck in my fear of heavy weights.

I’ve found the most beneficial way to deal with fear is to acknowledge it.

“It is so. It cannot be otherwise.”

Dale Carnegie recalls this 15th century Flemish inscription on a cathedral wall in Amsterdam. In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, he emphasizes the importance of acknowledging that which cannot be changed. This is especially difficult for those of us who refuse to accept anything short of success.

On a miserable night in December of 2012, I moped around my apartment entryway, gym bag in hand, not wanting to go outside. For an entire week I had been dreading the upcoming squat session. I had eventually dragged myself off the couch, pulled on my shorts, and laced my Chucks.

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Stepping Out Into the Cold, drawing by Steve Ko

I was due for a 3×5 squat set at 340 lbs., the heaviest ever for me at that point. Just as I had celebrated my previous week’s session at 338 lbs., I lamented that I would have to lift even more the next time. I had never lifted more than 315 lbs. prior to this new progression powerlifting program, let alone doing three sets of five reps at 340 lbs.

After days of avoiding the gym, though, I had to go.

I couldn’t think straight as I drove through traffic. My throat tightened and my jaw clenched at the thought of being stapled under the weight. What would I do if I got stuck? What if my knees blew out? I was terrified. The thoughts kept crashing down on my mind in merciless waves.

I had a heavy heart as I parked in the lot and grabbed my duffel bag from the trunk. I checked in at the front counter and started to warm up.

The work weight sat on the ends of the bar, and I stood in the power rack in front of it.

“A good supply of resignation is of the first importance in providing for the journey of life.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

 

NL 22 Arthur Schopenhauer The Brilliant Beast Blog
Arthur Schopenhauer, 19th century philosopher

Three hundred forty pounds.

I closed my eyes. I could not change the weight in front of me. I had to try to lift it. I couldn’t go back to a previous training level to ease the situation. This is where I was in my journey of strength.

I resigned myself to the challenge. I steadied myself, accepted that I was scared.

I started to breathe in and out. On the in breath, I visualized the failure of my squat, the pain of being crushed under the bar, the embarrassment in front of everyone at the gym.

Felt the fear, let it fill me, and allowed the heavy feelings soak into my mind, soul, body.

Then I let go of my breath, released the fear. Let the darkness flow out of me. Breathed it in again, then breathed it out. The tension in my gut released a little.

Three hundred forty pounds. I accepted it. I invited the fear without being overcome by it. The opposite of beast mode.

Pema Chodron describes Tonglen in The Wisdom of No Escape. It’s the Zen practice I was using in front of the bar. I was “seeing pain, seeing pleasure, seeing everything with gentleness and accuracy, without judging it, without pushing it away, becoming more open to it.”

 

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Pema Chodron, Tibetan Buddhist monk

By balancing the fear with the lighter side of things, I got comfortable with it.

“…the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply…”  – Seneca the Younger

My mind was not my own when lost in abstract fears. But I took it back as I breathed. Cut through the fog, saw the fear, saw clearly what was scary.

“… fear has to do with wanting to protect your heart.” – Pema Chodron

I realized that I didn’t have to do what I couldn’t do. The point was not to complete the set. The point was to become stronger and better for myself. I had been focused on the false requirement that every set and rep of the session had to be completed. That completing this session would prove to the world I was strong.

Thus I opened up my heart to growth. I breathed in the fear, burden, failure, the chance that the weight crush me or that I drop it. I let it all come.

And I breathed it out! I relaxed. I felt the ease and self control in my out breath. Created space for myself.

Fear can suffocate, stifle us into paralysis. And this is how we develop fearlessness and move again. Tonglen. Take in the fear, then let it go. Walk the line on the edge of danger. Look death in the eye.

The fear lost its power as I finally became sober in mind. I opened my eyes and grabbed the bar. Ducking under, I set my shoulders against the bar and prepared to lift it off the rack. I still felt the fear, but I knew what it was and moved ahead with calm and focus.

I didn’t finish all the reps that night, but I did most. On the next session a couple of days later, I completed the sets! And yes, it was on to the next weight. Growth!

Months earlier, I had breezed through the weight progressions. But then the fear became heavier than the weight, and it became essential that I familiarize myself with it.

This was growth. It was real training.

Marcus Aurelius writes in Meditations “… for he who has preferred to everything else his own intelligence and daimon and the worship of its excellence… will live without either pursuing or flying from death”.

I’m learning to focus not on the standards of the world, but on the development of my own excellence. The more I pay attention to my own self, the less I worry about comparing myself to everyone else. Consequently, I keep control of my own trajectory.

As Seneca puts it, “None of [the mind] lay fallow and neglected, none of it under another’s control…”

To powerful living!

Steve

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NL 22 Seneca The Brilliant Beast Blog.JPG
Seneca the Younger, 1st century philosopher
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Earthing, Rain or Shine

Ground yourself.

The sky emitted that pure atmospheric blue earlier this week that only comes after intense rain. The wholesome downpour in Los Angeles had finally subsided.

So naturally I joined the radiant sun and walked barefoot to the park. I made it a point to wear shorts and sandals to maximize my connection to the grass and the sunlight.

And sitting on the grass, I let flow the Earth’s energy to my body.

Literally!

Between 1,000 to 2,000 thunderstorms raged elsewhere in the world at the same time as the one here in Los Angeles. Lightning struck the ground 5,000 times per minute around the globe, as it does all day, every day. These flashes transfer electrons from the sky to the ground.

I took full advantage of those electrons.

It’s called grounding, in physics terms. Buildings are grounded to minimize the buildup of static charge inside. This reduces risk of fires from sparks. When we ground ourselves outside, we call it Earthing. By making skin contact with the ground, I am taking the voltage difference between the Earth and me down to zero. I equalize my surface charge with that of the Earth.

Why am I not already at a neutral, zero surface charge? Because as I walk around, sit down, and go about my daily domesticated life, electrons rub off of me onto the non-conductive floors and objects I touch. Wood, carpet, and linoleum are barriers to electrical conductivity from the ground. So I don’t get the replenishing electron flow from the Earth.

Think about the last time you made skin contact with the Earth for at least ten minutes. Say, at the beach or the park? Was it more than a few hours ago? Days? Weeks? Months? Years??

You’ve probably done science experiments in grade school or middle school where you rubbed a glass rod with a furry cloth and it attracted hair and feathers. This happened because the glass lost electrons to the fabric rubbing it. This positively charged the rod, thus pulling other objects with electrons, like hair, feathers, or dust, to it.

We learned how to undo the stickiness of the glass rod. Replenish its supply of electrons to balance out the surface charge. Namely, touch it with your hand. The electrons from your body neutralized the rod’s charge.

After many months of rubbing off electrons, we humans build up and maintain a positive charge on our bodies.

Build up of positive charge on the body is related to inflammation. People with carpal tunnel syndrome, autoimmune diseases, poor circulation, chronic sinusitis, and intense joint pain, conditions stemming from chronic inflammation, found relief from grounding in multiple experiments. Even if you are not dealing with severe symptoms, grounding yourself regularly can lead to positive results.

We can neutralize ourselves simply by walking around barefoot outside and spending time on the grass, dirt, or sidewalks. Concrete happens to be a gentle conductor of electricity. Since most sidewalks are in contact with the Earth below it, you can ground yourself just by walking on it barefoot.

I like getting my feet dirty and feeling the immensely stimulating ground texture under my heels and toes. You might not share that excitement with me. And I realize this is an activity usually associated with hippies or the homeless.

But you don’t have to start by shopping around downtown barefoot. If anything, walking in and of itself brings great benefits for me as stress relief. Take a walk at the end of your day, and if you feel inclined, take off your shoes for a few pioneering steps and see what it’s like.

Or try Earth Runners sandals. They are a new take on old world Mexican sandals embedded with copper plugs that connect you to the ground through silver threading in the laces. Earthing without being barefoot.

I use an Earthing mat at home to ground myself when it’s pouring rain outside. For those of you in colder climates, this is a tremendous life hack.

Marcus Aurelius once advised, “Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul”.

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Consider that we humans came into existence covered by the electromagnetic shield of the Earth, and that maintaining that connection is key to good health. How wonderful that we can absorb the same energy as all other living beings around the globe!

Perhaps Earthing is not just about taking in charge from the ground. Maybe we are also giving our own energy to the world, to someone Earthing just on the other side of the planet.

Go, walk the earth. Let your foot grip the ground, as it was meant to, and welcome in the energy of the universe!

To powerful living!

Steve

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Continue reading “Earthing, Rain or Shine”

Travel in Wellness and Spontaneity

You don’t have to iron out every detail of a trip to have a fun, safe time. Leaving room for spontaneity can let in some amazing experiences that you just can’t plan.

If you’ve ever traveled with me, you know I’m pretty obsessive about daily nutrition and mobility. If you have that same need for taking vitamins and doing your stretches like I do, then you know it’s tricky to plan longer trips. But being able to appreciate the small things during travel is a big part of why we do it.

A few wonderful things that deeply touched my wife and I during our last trip: free bus rides, belly laughs with strangers, spot-on food suggestions in unfamiliar neighborhoods, and a look into the real, raw character of locals.

A couple of weeks ago, we trekked through the crisp winter of the Pacific Northwest with packs secured to our backs. The steamy puffs of our breaths led the way, the air crisp and the streets shiny from rain. We came upon many friendly, robust people in the cozy shops along the drizzly streets of Seattle.

We made friendly conversation with shop owners along the bustling Pike Place Market, bus and Uber drivers, and baristas and waiters who diligently tended to coffee shops and cafes. The perpetual overcast sky made it extra lovely to step inside of stores and public transit. It also seemed to have weathered and made wise the residents of this town.

We rolled through the snowy redwood forests along the coast up to Vancouver by train, and found another town that was used to the cold, but very different from Seattle in character. English in numerous foreign accents mixed with equal amounts of musical French tones.

A bright young British waiter in Gas Town shared a list of places to see on New Year’s Eve; the brusque Downtown poutine restaurant owner with braided beard proudly served up excellent smothered fries; and the humble staff of a unique Aboriginal hotel welcomed us to a place full of First Nations art: bold, colorful, and spiritual.

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the holidays. As with any great trip, though, we had a few, let’s say rough, days. I barfed my soul out (twice) from food poisoning. While I was sick in bed, the fire alarm went off in our hotel and we had to evacuate.

As soon as I was recovering, my wife had mild hypothermia after a short hike in the below-zero climate; on our way back we missed the bus and delayed our return to our hotel.

To top it all off, a hefty earthquake in Vancouver gave us a bit of a shake. Being Californians, we sort of let our attention drift past it and continued to watch Netflix in our room.

It wasn’t any one of these things that was particularly difficult. It was all of them combined over eleven days of travel.

In the face of these difficulties, though, we had a blast and made it back alive and well. Unlike me, wife does not like to set out on a trip without ample planning and a set itinerary. We used a foundation of tools and habits to navigate unfamiliar territory and unexpected circumstances.

We made many decisions – how to get somewhere, where to eat, and what to do next – on the fly using these tools. But the tools were only as useful as we were ready to benefit from them. We made use of habits to prime ourselves for spontaneity.

Habits

Have a Daily Routine

I know, I just said we were being spontaneous. But having intention and a general flow in mind for each day  allowed us to choose the end points as they appeared in front of us. We still avoided planning it all out ahead of time.

  • Mornings:
    • As much as I could, I journaled in the morning. I used the Five Minute Journal and my own notebook for solidifying thoughts. It helped to reflect upon the amazing, the stressful, and the mundane things that happened each day and to write them down in my own words.
    • Breakfast and/or Butter Coffee. We found the nearest, best coffee shop or cafe. I got a cup of coffee whenever I could to add to my thermos, which I prepared with grass fed butter inside.
    • First point of exploration. We didn’t restrict ourselves to a fully scheduled day, but having one place or activity to start served as a guideline.
  • Midday: We left this time of day open to continue something great from the morning or find something else to do before dinner. For example, a tour guide that took us below the streets of Seattle suggested getting food in the International District. This brought us to a hot, tasty meal in a dumpling house where I got my veggie fix for the day.
  • Evenings: The sun set around 4:30 p.m., so it was important that we started to think about where we were going to get dinner earlier. This allowed us to figure out how to get back later, or end up within walking distance of our resting place by the time it was dark.

Remain limber

Hips, knees, feet, back, shoulders, you name it. Traveling on foot is physical! Pick a simple set of movements and bring minimal equipment to do them. Body weight exercises require the least packing, of course.

  • I used one Iron Woody Fitness band in the evenings for strength, when we didn’t have an extremely tough transit the next day.
    • How I did deadlifts and rows: step on the middle of the band and, bent over with a solid torso, pull up on the ends. Grab closer to the feet, keep arms straight, and use hips to push up for deadlifts; grab closer to ends of band, remain in bent position, and pull up with arms for rows.
    • For resistance pushups: wrap the band behind upper back and hook the ends in hands. Get in pushup position, trapping the band ends on the floor. It takes a bit of adjusting on the ground to get in the right position. A bit uncomfortable, but a good exercise if you maintain a solid torso and keep your hips from bending.
  • I did hip mobility in the mornings before getting fully dressed.
  • Calf stretches and squats were perfect for waiting to cross intersections. Always happy to give locals fodder for conversation!
  • Overhead arm stretches on the bus and train, using the rail overhead.

Tools

Nutrition on the Go

It’s difficult to eat well on the road with limited resources, so draw a bottom line below which you will not drop. I packed some stuff and found the rest on the go.

  • Good fat is non-negotiable for me. It’s my best fuel and wellness weapon. This is usually something that’s hard to pack and carry, so finding fresh sources of good fat is key.
    • Butter coffee. I get unsalted grass fed butter at specialty grocers if available. To prep for the day, I slice a chunk into my Thermos in the morning, and add a cup of the best possible coffee once I find it. Shake and magic. Best butter so far: Kiwi Pure, New Zealand brand from Whole Foods in Vancouver. Bam!
    • Egg yolk – the unparalleled healthy fat fix outside of grass fed butter. When there’s no Whole Foods, cafes that serve eggs are key. I get my yolks minimally cooked, like soft boiled, poached or sunny side up.
  • Green leafy veggies. Best bet is Chinese restaurants. Bok choy, on choy, you choy. Delicious life savers.
  • Micronutrients. I bagged my supplements in day and night portions. Eleven days’ worth fit into a small plastic tupperware. Each morning I pack a day baggie with me to take with butter coffee or breakfast. For this trip we brought an extra suitcase, so we usually had a room to return to each night. This allowed us to keep things there while we walked around the city.
    • Mornings: Vitamins D, K2, B12, Methyl Folate.
    • Night: Mg (Natural Calm powder in water), Vitamin C, and Kelp.
    • Other essentials:
      • Extra Vitamin C. One of the cheapest and most effective supplements. I pack almost a full snack baggie full and take a little throughout the day if I have the sniffles.
      • Activated charcoal for food poisoning and after eating wheat, beer, wine, or fried foods.

Last Minute Navigation

So how do we do things last minute? Here are some of the apps we used:

  • Yelp and Foursquare (better for international) for single source coffee, the nearest bank, and the tastiest croissant.
  • Google maps for public transit.
  • Hotel Tonight app for last minute hotel deals. Genious tool found by my genious wife.

Books we read for quick background info on places:

  • Lonely Planet Seattle. Gives both objective and opinionated reviews and tips.
  • Frommer’s Seattle Day by Day and Frommer’s Vancouver and Whistler Day by Day. Great culture insights to both places.
  • Fodor’s Vancouver & Victoria. Great guide to neighborhoods for pedestrians.
  • All of these books had the maps in good shape from the library, so we made good use of these as well. Nothing like a good paper map to see the bigger picture! I know, I can be old school.

So, use habits and tools to allow yourself to make decisions as you go and to travel in wellness. The important thing is to be open to the spontaneous interactions with people and get yourself immersed in the moments that happen. Prepare and then explore!

What have you used to find your way around unfamiliar towns? Are there specific habits you’ve utilized on longer trips? I’m planning on more travel in the near future, so any insights will be appreciated!

To powerful living!

Steve

 

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Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge Steve Back BrilliantBeastBlog.jpeg
The beautiful Lynn Canyon suspension bridge in North Vancouver

Links:

The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day

How to Make Butter Coffee

Iron Woody Fitness bands

My go-to Kelly Starrett hip mobility exercise

Yelp

Foursquare

Hotel Tonight app

Lonely Planet Seattle (Travel Guide)

Frommer’s Seattle day by day

Frommer’s Vancouver and Whistler Day by Day (Frommer’s Day by Day – Pocket)

Fodor’s Vancouver & Victoria: with Whistler, Vancouver Island & the Okanagan Valley (Full-color Travel Guide)

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Note: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

I will only link to tools that I have used, found meaningful, and that I believe could benefit my brilliant readers.

Decision Fatigue

Brilliant Friends,

Decision-making burns resources as much as physical activity. It requires mind energy and biological fuel, sometimes as much as hiking a 14-mile trail or playing a two hour long game of football.

Tim Ferriss talks about the biological cost of each decision we make. We have a finite amount of decision making power per day, and it is essential to an effective life to allocate that resource wisely.

This probably is not the first time you’ve heard this principle, and you’ve probably dwelled upon and implemented it in your life.

So just like with physical performance, we can build up our capacity to make decisions and to make them better and better.

One tool for increasing decision making capacity is the 80/20 principle. I’ve found that certain people demand more of my resources than others, and it’s often not someone that I want to spend more of my decision making power on.

It’s important for me to triage the people, questions, concerns, and problems that I choose to engage, especially at the start of my day.

To do this, I have to be sharp with the responses I use to address people. If I determine that someone is bringing up a problem I choose not the address in the moment, I let them know that we’ll return to that later. The hard part is how to do that without making them feel bad, but sometimes I can’t worry about that.

To follow the 80/20 principle, I choose to spend 80% of my decision making energy on the 20% of problems that will make the most impact for my company, life, and well-being.

Having a set of premade decisions for common problems helps to conserve resources. For low-cost or low-level decisions, pick a route and stick to it every time you are confronted with the same or similar problem. This saves you the time, energy and attention it would have taken to weigh all the options every time. And you become more consistent.

For mid-level decisions, where the cost of a mistake is significant but not debilitating, it often comes down to a simple choice. Both sides, both possibilities, both forks in the road could be good options, and it simply comes down to the one you choose. For these problems, practice going with your gut feeling.

Trust your intuition, feel out the right one, and make the call. Don’t second guess yourself. Don’t waste resources.

For the high-level, high cost, irreversible decisions, put all your time, effort, and attention into making the right choice. Sometimes it will never reveal itself to you as the correct decision, but you can conclude that it was the best possible thing to do.

And that’s what matters at the end of the day.

Let me know your thoughts.

To powerful living,

Steve

Click below to hear Tim Ferriss’ podcast on How to Avoid Decision Fatigue

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ep-44-how-to-avoid-decision/id863897795?i=325332026&mt=2

Wikipedia article on Decision Fatigue http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decision_fatigue#cite_note-NYT_mag_story-1

A BULLETPROOF® article on Decision Fatigue caused by poor nutrition and how it traps people in poverty https://www.bulletproofexec.com/why-eating-saps-your-willpower/

Get Sunlight

Brilliant Friends,

Get sunlight every day as soon as you wake up, or as early as possible in the day.

Sun touching your skin induces production of vitamin D, essential to thousands of gene expressions.

Sunlight causes production of sulphur, also essential to your body’s functions. It gives you the sort of “high” that you might have noticed from being outside.

So being in the sun helps your body function and literally makes you fell better.

It can will help set the circadian rhythm in you, if you’re having trouble sleeping early. This also helps you get up earlier, feeling ready to go sooner after waking.

If you can’t get outside first thing in the morning, or you have to push it off because you’re running late, do it later. Just try to get a little every day. Start somewhere. You’ll find that you want more and more of it, and it’s a habit that gets easier and easier to do.

To powerful living,

Steve Ko

Join My Newsletter

Brilliant Friends,

I’m writing about strength. Mobility. Mind cultivation, meditation, focus. Good eating of real food. Earthing and connecting with nature.

Meditate with me, go deep on strength training, throw off your shoes and have the earth’s energy. Eat well, sleep better, be stronger through exploration of food, thought, and form.

Change the world with me. We are each a part of the universe, and as we become better, the universe becomes better. Realize your power. I’m seeking to release my true potential, and I ask you to do the same.

Live powerfully!

Steve

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

Meditation and Powerlifting

My Brilliant Friends,

I used to think meditation was for religious people, or Buddhist monks. I first tried it in high school though and noticed some very real benefits to sitting, breathing, and focused mind exercising.

More than just “clearing” the mind, it’s a practice of setting yourself back to zero. Equilibrium.

Meditation helps me to take root in myself and come from a place of solid foundation. I’m aware of myself, who I am, why I think and feel what I do in specific situations, and how I react to cues. Knowing this through quiet breathing and awareness of the things that live in my mind allows me to let it go and just be myself.

During my first powerlifting meet, breathing and awareness helped me to stay calm and focused. More than the amount of weight I was attempting, the newness of everything, the nervousness of being there for the first time, and being in front of the judges and spectators could have been an overwhelming wave of stimuli. I warmed up a bit and went to my car to turn on the emWave2, for some breathing, calming down, and focusing. This substantially leveled me out and positioned me to utilize all my skill and strength that I had built up during training. I successfully achieved my goals for squat and deadlift. Bench press wasn’t a great concern, but I did hit a PR as well.

EmWave Powerlifting Meditation

Some short and long term benefits of meditation that I experience:

  • Calms nerves
  • Self awareness. Seeing where thoughts come from, identifying fears.
  • Letting things go that are necessary baggage
  • Reduces effects of lack of sleep
  • Focus and concentration improve
  • Ability to be clear minded in the middle of stressful situations
  • increases oxygen to the brain and rest of body
  • Happiness
  • Pure joy and bursts of laughter, if you get deep enough long enough
  • Helps relationships, from increased self-understanding
  • Mind healing. You become aware of traumas, sources of stress, and become empowered to work through them.

For powerlifting, it’s invaluable. Anything that requires a high level of performance can benefit from focused breathing and mental equilibrium.

At the 2014 California State Championships in Irvine, I pulled my first “official” deadlift of 391 lb. Watch me take a deep breath in and out before grabbing the bar, in front of the judges and everyone.

I didn’t really know if that was gonna come across as weird, but I wanted to give it a try because it’s something I do at the gym before challenging sets. Most often, at the peak of our performance demands, the challenge isn’t in our musculoskeletal capabilities, but in our minds’ ability to allow that power to be released in full.

On my hardest training days, when I had trouble getting myself to put on my shoes and get out the door, it was a battle of my mind. I didn’t want to face the heavy weight on the bar, for fear of failing, fear of getting injured, fear of being weak. I dragged myself many times to the gym when I did not want to go. And when I got there, most of those days I performed better than ever once I tucked my head under the bar and lifted it off the rack. The key was to jump through the fear, grip the bar, and do what I knew I could do.

Tim Ferriss encouraged me through his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, to “feel the fear and do it anyways.” He challenges his readers to identify the worst case scenario, the thing we feel most afraid of, and when we do that, we realize it’s not so bad after all.

To do this, especially in the moments of paralyzation from our greatest fears, it helps to have trained yourself to go the route of courage. I’m more able to face challenges now if I am meditating regularly and identifying my weaknesses, my kryptonites, and simply knowing that they exist. I recognize my weaknesses in real time because I know them. I practice pausing before I react, focus on the problem at hand, and harness my resources and skills to effectively address the problem.

When the problem is a heavy weight in front of me, and fear of getting crushed by it, getting injured, or embarrassed, it’s in the mind that I first address all of this. I take a moment away from the bar, close my eyes, and take a deep breath or two or three. I concentrate on the breath going out, revel in my brain’s love of oxygen, and come back to my core self. I become me again, let go of the thoughts and nagging possibilities, and when I’m clear and strong, I open my eyes and step up to the bar.

Only then can I grip the bar, suck in air, and crush it.

To powerful living,

Steve

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Steve EmWave2 Meditation Powerlifting

Note: the links to the EmWave2, which is a heart-rate variability device used to aid in meditation, and the book The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, are affiliate links with Amazon.com. I get a percentage of their sale if you use the link to make a purchase. I only share things that have made a significant impact on my life in this blog. Hope you check them out and enjoy!