What Environmentalists Can Teach Us About Balance

Life is all about balance.

Perfect balance is what you find in the exact middle of the spectrum, in between one extreme and another.

Between work and play.

Homeostasis.

Mr. Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance?
Daniel: Yeah.
Mr. Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?

The Karate Kid (1984)

Is recycling actually a bad idea?

The environmentalist will say that recycling is good for the environment. You reuse resources such as paper and that means that less trees will get cut down.

On the other hand, the office that hasn’t gone green and isn’t recycling is wasting resources.

S. Landsberg says that if you recycle too much paper, trees won’t get chopped down, and forests will shrink.

“Environmentalists can quote reams of statistics on the importance of trees and then jump to the conclusion that recycling paper is a good idea. But the opposite conclusion makes equal sense. I am sure that if we found a way to recycle beef, the population of cattle would go down, not up. If you want ranchers to keep a lot of cattle, you should eat a lot of beef. Recycling paper eliminates the incentive for paper companies to plant more trees and can cause forests to shrink. If you want large forests, your best strategy might be to use paper as wastefully as possible-or lobby for subsidies to the logging industry.” 

Following the logic of the above statement, if everybody was an environmentalist, we’d all go green and that would be a problem.

Conversely, if everybody wasted paper, that would also be a problem.

It looks like there has to be a balance between recycling paper and wasting paper.

In actuality, the ongoing tension between environmentalists and anti-environmentalists is wherein the nugget of wisdom lies.

Paper conservers are the yin to the yang of paper wasters.

Without either side passionately fighting for their ideology – there would be no balance.

What pesticides can teach us about balance

Turns out that pesticides can have harmful effects on our health.

But if we were to stop using pesticides on fruit, for example, then there’d be less fruit for people to eat which would also be bad for our health.

Landsberg credits this observation to biologist Bruce Ames:

“Environmentalists call on us to ban carcinogenic pesticides. They choose to overlook the consequence that when pesticides are banned, fruits and vegetables become more expensive, people eat fewer of them, and cancer rate consequently rise.”

You have to strike a fine balance between using pesticides and refraining from using them.

If you’re really bothered about pesticides on food, going organic is a great option. No point cutting corners on the food you eat to fuel your most precious asset – your body.

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Habits Built Are Not Habits Lost

Over and over and over again I find that consistency, a little and often, goes a long long way.

Whatever project you might have going on at the moment – whether it’s a passion project or working on your fitness – just keep at it a little and often.

There will be doubts along the way (i.e. this might not work, this is sh!t, what’s the point, I not seeing any immediate returns/success) but doing something consistently will ALWAYS yield great results over time.

ALWAYS.

And just having faith in that conclusion is what should carry you to achieving it in the end.

Doing something consistently is the reward in of itself

Framing the fact that you’re able to do something consistently is the reward in of itself.

That a huge part of your overall success.

Essentially, that is success.

If you don’t see results in the short-term, keep at it and you’ll reach that point where a sudden influx of results will start coming your way.

Reference experiences

If you managed to go to the gym 3x a week, every week, for 3months in a row, you’ve got a reference experience to back up your routine-building abilities.

But say you were to be suddenly sidelined due to injury, you’d be confident in yourself to be able to easily slip back into your gym routine once fully recovered simply because you’ve done it before and you’d be able to do it again.

It’s only when you don’t have this sort of reference experience to instil that sort of confidence that you run into self-doubt and uncertainty.

You might be thinking how do I know that if I put in the effort, I will definitely gain a reward later?

Well, in the very beginning you simply don’t – you can’t because you have no previous experience that would substantiate this idea that ‘consistency yields good results’. There is no evidence.

But as you accumulate experiences and make habits, these habits will be a testament to you’re ability of building new habits and sustaining them.

Habit memory

So even if you’ve built a good habit but for some reason or another you’ve dropped off – you stopped going to the gym or stopped cycling or stopped flossing – you’ll have the confidence in yourself to be able to get back on in because you’ve done it before.

A habit built is not a habit lost.

Because you have the reference experience, there’s a lot of confidence that stems from that, confidence in the fact that you could easily fall right back into the habit.

This is what you could refer to as habit memory.

Similar to muscle memory (i.e. your muscles getting used to certain exercises), your body remembers your habits and repetitive behaviours.

Because the more you do something, the more automatic the process/behaviour becomes and you don’t have to consciously think about it when you’re doing it.

It becomes a habit.

Discipline is the bridge between a ‘want’ and a ‘have’ and habits are the vehicle which will allow for sustained growth and consistent progress.

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Lifestyle & Dietary Revelations Part 1

Hemp seeds

I bought hemp seeds recently cause I heard they were extremely healthy for you, boasting a very good protein profile as well as being rich in omega-3 acids.

Hemp seeds are known as the little heart-shaped seeds but actually they come in shells that are high in nutritional value like insoluble fibre that is becoming less common in the over-processed modern diet.

What’s shocking is that people de-shell hemp seeds and throw away the shells.

Sure, it’s a bit annoying to chew on the seeds, can get stuck in your teeth, or scratch your throat even, but it’s such a waste to throw away so much nutritional value rather than just eat it and reap the immense health benefits.

Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are regarded as a super food of sorts because of the inflammatory, mood-boosting, and anti-cancerous potential.

It’s a good source of magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and above all else – selenium.

In fact, brazil nuts contain extremely high levels of selenium.

That’s why it’s best you limit yourself to 1-2 Brazil nuts daily.

If you eat more, you risk selenium toxicity which can lead to diarrhoea, nausea, brittle hair as well as hair loss, and a metallic taste in your mouth to name a few effects.

The realisation I had that blew my mind was that even a superfood that has all these health benefits can actually have dangerous health consequences if misused.

Nuts in general (and hemp seeds…again)

Turns out that because nuts and hemp seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, they can go rancid if not stored properly.

For instance, Brazil nuts have a high amount of polyunsaturated fats in them so they can go rancid fairly quickly if not stored properly.

I read somewhere that hemp seeds can be stored for up to a year if refrigerated.

Bottom line: it’s important to store nuts and hemp seeds in the fridge or at the very least in a dry, airtight container that is hidden from direct light (as light can cause a chemical reaction that could in turn lead to rancidity).

Sauna

Chilling in the sauna is such a beneficial pastime.

It relaxes, detoxifies, and rejuvenates. It works wonders for your skin.

But perhaps most importantly, the sauna can activate two genetic pathways that curtail the stress of ageing, according to Dr. Rhona Patrick, ph.D in biomedical science and expert on nutritional health.

One of these pathways includes heat shock proteins which are activated by heat stress. These proteins decrease the rate of cell degeneration.

Interestingly, the effects of these proteins can extend for up to 2 weeks after going to the sauna.

It also activates a gene called Fox03 which is a gene that creates proteins that protect cells from inflammation and oxidative stress.

What this translates to is this: the more you go to the sauna, the lesser your risk of developing any form of cancer.

Magnesium supplements

It’s interesting how you want to do the best for your health and well-being by taking supplements, but if you’re just blindly taking them, you may as well stop and save yourself the time and effort.

Case in point.

I made the mistake of buying the wrong magnesium not once, but twice.

I’ll tell you where the mistake lies.

Both of my magnesium supplements had Magnesium Oxide (i.e. MgO), which is poorly absorbed by the body.

MgO supplements contain 60% magnesium but they’re less bioavailable and for this reason are poorly absorbed by the body.

On the other hand though, magnesium citrate supplements, which have 15% magnesium, are much more bioavailable that MgO and are a better choice for magnesium supplementation, according to a 1990 study published in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition.”

Basically, using the better absorbed magnesium citrate is a better bang for your buck than supplementing on MgO.

Magnesium lactate and magnesium chloride are also more bioavailable and hence better absorbed than magnesium oxide.

Just goes to show that with anything, you have to get a deep understanding of what you’re doing and immerse yourself in the subject at hand.

Taking supplements blindly isn’t good enough, you’ll spend your money, spend the time taking them, but if you’re doing it wrong – nothing’s going to come of it.

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Live Your Life Fully – Embrace the Highs and the Lows

One of you got in touch with me via whatmybrosaid@gmail.com and asked something along the lines of this:

“I feel caught in a perpetual battle between what I want and what others want for me, between contentment and angst. I try to live my life in two separate modalities at once. But, if I live in two opposing modalities at once, how can I expect to ever feel satisfied, and how on earth can I be authentic?”

Ultimately that’s what life is – living in two or more modalities.

Being aware of the good while it happens but having the sobering knowledge that it won’t last.

It’s the beauty of life.

Rather than be blind to it or constantly struggling to be in control, think of it like a rollercoaster or a river. You go with the flow and gently direct the way you go.

If you fight it by trying to swim upstream, that’s when you suffer. So when you have a high – enjoy it and make the most of it. And when it’s down, do what you can and it will pick up.

There are societal pressures but if you rise up, you’ll see it all for what it is. I was reading an interesting article by Bret Easton Ellis about Charlie Sheen and this is what he had to say about mid-life crisis:

“The mid-life crisis is the moment in a man’s life when you realize you can’t (won’t) maintain the pose that you thought was required of you any longer—you’re older and you have a different view of life and this is when the bitterness and acceptance blooms.”
I wouldn’t worry about it.

Don’t look for meaning or order in it. Because there is none.

The key is being able to detach from what you can control and what you cannot.

You make your choices and go with them regardless.

You can play two games, one of the career and the back-up and one of what you really want in your life.

You won’t know what you want and, in actual fact, the two things end up merging into one. You do certain things to get other things. As long as you have an over-arching strategy for where you want your life to be or go, you’ll be fine. It’s all lessons and experiences.

Life is up and down and high and low.

But the lows teach you about yourself and whether you’ve grown since the last low and give you context and comparison for the highs.

The trick is to be ok with yourself throughout those because those are external to you.

Meditation and all that stuff is good at entering yourself, seeing within.

Also living life and hardening yourself with life experience will show you the true nature of things. People cling on to deeply held beliefs for comfort.

Expose yourself to the grit of the world and things don’t seem to harsh. It seems ordered. Weak characters will say the jungle and the wild are barbaric. But there is beauty in it.

Beauty that a coddled person will never truly understand.

The adrenaline of a chase of a lion vs the fear of standing over the ledge of a tall building.

That’s the up and down of life.

It’s feeling.

It’s what’s being alive is.

Go be alive.

Test your limits and test your personal boundaries. There is a Polish saying: “Your ass will always go numb in cotton.”

If you do that, very quickly the existential woes and all that nonsense will go away because you’ll be busy living.

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Unplug to Reconnect

I could really do with some me-time.

I want to just chill out.

I don’t have time for myself.

I just need to…get away.

Sound familiar?

These are the words of people who are most likely spreading themselves too thin.

Because to every yin, there must be a yang.

And if you’re feeling this way, then you may need to take some time to fully unplug.

By unplugging, you’re reconnecting.

People say they’ll unplug on holidays.

But how many times a year do you go on a holiday?

Twice?

We need this form of mental and physical escapism much more often than that.

In the bustling day to day where you’re bouncing around from errand to errand, meeting to meeting, you need to be able to switch off, to recharge, and centre yourself once again.

Go to your special place, if you have one. For me it’s a walk in a park or relaxing in a coffee shop I frequent.

Or even exercise. Exercise has always been a refuge where I do some of my best thinking.

Get in touch with yourself and your inner voice.

Relax. Think. Reflect. Meditate.

“Your soul needs to reset”

Filmmaker, artist, and founder of the Webby awards, Tiffany Shlain emphasises how important it is to unplug by drawing an analogy to the ritual of Shabbat:

“Shabbat is a very old idea. If you really look at what some of the scholars from a long time ago wrote about it, it’s as though they’re talking about today. The idea is that one day a week, you need to get your mind in a different mode, you need to not work. Every week, your brain – and your soul – needs to be reset.

Your soul needs to be reset. That’s a great metaphor. It’s like hitting the reset button on my sense of balance (…) Some people say, ‘oh, on vacations, I unplug.‘ But when do vacations happen? Once or twice a year. There’s something about the weekly practice of getting a different mode of experiencing the world back that’s really important.”

The importance of renewal

If you’re working in a stressful job or find yourself spending a lot of time in a stressful environment, your body will mirror this stress by producing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

These are the emergency hormones that keep you alert, get you going, and fuel you to get stuff done at work.

Sometimes though, I get back from a hectic day and I still feel activated, as if I haven’t “turned off” completely.

Scientists called this a state of prolonged activation.

I don’t know about you but other times, I’d come back from a busy day and I’d feel myself becoming deflated, as if these stress hormones were flushing themselves out of my system.

Deflated, I’d vegetate, operating at the lowest cycles, realising how low my baseline energy levels are without these stress hormones to carry me.

But this is where you realise how important it is to do something restorative, something that will reset and renew you.

This is crucial because our capacity is limited.

Tony Schwartz, author of the New York times bestseller Be Excellent at Anything and president and CEO of The Energy Project, writes in Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind about this.

Here’s Tony:

“Your capacity is limited. The challenge is that the demand in our lives increasingly exceeds our capacity. Think of capacity as the fuel that makes it possible to bring your skill and talent fully to life (…).

Human beings aren’t meant to operate continuously, at high speeds, for long periods of time. Rather, we’re designed to move rhythmically between spending and renewing our energy.

Our brains wave between high and low electrical frequencies. Our hearts beat at varying intervals. Our lungs expand and contract depending on demand (…) Instead, we live linear lives, progressively burning down our energy reservoirs throughout the day.

It’s the equivalent of withdrawing funds from a bank account without ever making a deposit. At some point, you go bankrupt.”

When you finally reset and unplug after a long time of not doing so

So you finally take a prolonged break from your usual hectic and stressful work environment.

During the first few days of your break from work will be you just realising how low your baseline energy is. You might realise that, in the productivity sense, these days are a complete write off.

You’ll realise you’re tired all the time and need some downtime where you can focus on nurturing your body through restorative exercise and nourishing yourself with clean healthy foods.

You’ll also be catching up on all that lost sleep. Throughout the weeks at work it’s normal to lose a lot of sleep. When you lose sleep, cortisol levels in your body increase because how else would you remain conscious.

People go back to work after a week off saying, semi-jokingly, “a week’s worth of holiday isn’t enough.”

Because it isn’t.

If you don’t unplug and recover frequently, you’ll accumulate too much stress and exhaustion and burnout will slowly creep up on you.

What you can do to unplug better

“Be mindful of who you let into your stream of consciousness”

Unplugging is as important as it is inevitable.

But it’s good advice to also just look out for the reasons that accelerate the need for unplugging.

Especially if it’s a toxic personality who drains you.

For this reason, Tiffany emphasises the importance of who you let into your mind.

Here’s Tiffany:

“You’re letting those people into your brain and they’re going to influence your thoughts. I find that I even dream about some of the people I follow [on social media]. We need to be really mindful of who we let into our stream of consciousness.”

Create windows of non-stimulation in your day

Scott Belsky, author of bestselling book Making Ideas Happen and co-founder and head of Behance, the leading online platform for creatives to showcase and creative work, writes in Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind about the importance of being alone and creating windows of non-stimulation in your days

“Creates windows of non-stimulation in your day. Make this time sacred and use it to focus on a separate list of two or three things that are important to you over the long-term. Use this time to think, to digest what you’ve learned, and to plan.”

 

4 Practical Ways to Recover from Work (Backed by Science) – Part 2 of 2

This is the second part of a series full of practical tips on how to properly recover from work (you can read part 1 here).

Let’s dive right in shall we.

5. Take frequent breaks rather than save them up

If you need a break – take a break.

If you want to maintain high levels of productivity at work then you have to take regular breaks.

If you need a holiday – go on a holiday.

When you work for long stretches of time without taking a holiday, it can be exhausting and such an approach will only hurt you in the long-run.

You risk over-depletion.

Through over-depletion, you end up digging into your compensatory resources.

So when you take your holidays too late, it is likely you will face a more prolonged and difficult recovery process.

In fact, a lot of your holiday will probably be centred around bringing yourself (and your personal resources) back to baseline rather than expending energy to do new things or travel.

After all, if you’re in an over-depleted state – you don’t have much energy at your disposal.

Take regular holidays because if you deplete yourself, it will be difficult to recover from that and bring yourself back to baseline.

6. Don’t check work email during off-job time

If you get work email over the weekend and decide to check it, you are activating work-related systems during your leisure time.

Not only are you robbing yourself of 100% unadulterated leisure time, you’re actually doing yourself a tremendous disservice to your overall well-being in the long run.

What this means is that you are not recovering from work properly and that you are risking burnout in the long term.

Studies have shown that better psychological detachment in employee leisure time predicts better performance in the long-term.

In fact, employees who don’t respond to emails on weekend tend to perform better at work in the long run.

Easiest way to help your cause?

Don’t have email on your phone.

7. If you’re a workaholic, focus on exercising into your recovery time

You can read more about that here.

8. Get rid of hassles – Cut toxic people out of your life

Fritz et al. 2010 paper prerequisite

But you know how stress hormones are summoned by your body to tackle job-related assignments in the workplace?

Well, emotionally taxing people will draw on the same stress-related functional systems in your leisure time and will burn you out.

In his book Gorilla Mindset, Mike Cernovich emphasises that you cut out the negative people and spiritual vampires from your life because, otherwise, “you are fighting off stress, anxiety, and worry rather than pushing forward toward what you want to achieve.”

Toxic and emotionally draining people also affect your overall productivity, as filmmaker, artist, and found of the Webby awards, Tiffany Shlain posits in Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind:

“You’re letting those people into your brain and they’re going to influence your thoughts. I find that I even dream about some of the people I follow [on social media]. We need to be really mindful of who we let into our stream of consciousness.”

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Why Mistakes Are Good and How to Feel Better About Making Them

Mistakes are good.

As James Victore, author, designer, filmmaker, and educator writes in Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind:

“Mistakes are a part of life and often the path to profound new insights – so why try to remove them completely? Getting lost while driving or visiting a new city used to be an adventure and a good story. Now we just follow the GPS.”

Mistakes can show you possibility, an alternative perspective.

But mistakes have to be made if you or I are to learn and grow.

Mistakes open up a world that can facilitate unapologetic self-improvement.

According to Grayson Perry, the amount of mistakes you make can be treated as a gauge of how much effort you are putting into your work:

“You have to make mistakes, this is how you learn. If you’re not making many mistakes, I hate to worry you but you’re not working hard enough.”
If it weren’t for mistakes, the microwave wouldn’t have been invented.

The Microwave

Percy LeBaron Spencer loved nature.

He would always carry a peanut cluster bar in his pocket to break up and feed squirrels and chipmunks during lunch.

It’s funny how this bar would aid Percy in discovering the microwave.

How?

Here’s what Scott Belsky writes in Making Ideas Happen about the accidental discovery:

“One of the most famous examples of discovery by mistake is the invention of the microwave oven by Raytheon scientist Percy LeBaron Spencer during World War II.

While working on the development of a radar system to assist the Allied armies in the detection of Nazi warplanes, Spencer stood in front of an operating magnetron.

Later, the unassuming scientist realised that the candy bar that had been in his pocket had melted. Further experimentation to understand this accident created an entire industry.”

How to feel better about making mistakes

We live in a society that celebrates mistakes and glorifies failures.

Indeed, the mistakes don’t have to be yours as you can learn by observing others.

After all, we as humans are – as author of Mastery Robert Greene notes – primed for observational learning.

By learning through the mistakes of others, you are de factor cutting your learning curve into a fraction of the time it would take you to learn by yourself – through trial and error.

However, there is no better education than making your own mistakes and having to learn from them.

Making mistakes can be stressful though.

That’s why people are generally averse to making any sort of them.

They are afraid they might be ridiculed, reprimanded, scolded by others.

Above all however – they simply just feel bad about making them in the first place.

Indeed, areas of the brain related to avoidance are activated when mistakes are made.

So how can we feel better about making them?

It turns out there is a simple psychological answer to this question.

A study published in the journal Nature Communications by neuroscientists Stefano Palminteri and colleagues suggests that if people are given the chance to review and reflect upon their mistakes, they could feel good about making them.

This could also make them become less averse to making future mistakes and better embrace the lessons that ultimately come from them.

Palminteri and colleagues also found that making mistakes could be experienced as rewarding as reward circuits of the brain were activated upon reflection in participants.

Closing thoughts

With mistakes, you either win or you learn.

Microwave inventor Percy LeBaron Spencer won.

But most times, you simply learn.

Heed the lessons from these mistakes and you’ll be golden.

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