Tattoos and Family Tree

Regardless of what you personally think about tattoos, you must admit that A) they are usually very personal for the person getting them and B) some are very cool art. Mine qualify for A) and for me B) as well, though opinions on art quality are very much individualistic.

I got my first tattoo at about 20 years old and my last a couple of years ago at 36. I don’t regret any, but certainly appreciate that other’s perception of mine may be different than my own. My wife doesn’t particularly like mine, but she’s got her own favorite style and mine are for me. Knowing what I know now, I probably would have done things a little differently, but for the most part my tattoos don’t look like a random hodge-podge pile of shit like many you see at the county fair. Though done over a period of years, I was able to roll in existing work into a semi-thoughtout half sleeve of a large family tree concept. It includes my wife’s family crest carved into a tree, representation of my kids, and something for my immediate family roots. Forgive the poor presentation of a partial arm:

tree 1 tree 2

So why did I decide to permanently ink myself with a family crest of my wife’s family? Or with a family tree idea? First, my representation of my kids on the outside and most visible part of my arm (not shown) will always be a large part of who I am. They are integral to my daily presence and even when grown, moved on, and out of my house, will be a reminder of what the love of two people can create (regardless of what can happen from now to eternity). Second, my wife’s family name is my daughter’s middle name, and the crest is both a a representation of the combination of our two houses as well as a nod to my children’s family background from their mom’s side. I don’t have a family crest of any sorts, and feel very much part of her family anyways. It’s not an epic fail like a name if things were ever to go awry.

If you are interested in getting tattoos, here’s some general advice:

  • Think long and hard. It’s a very personal decision, but often not getting one is the right choice
  • Where you place them is always important. Personally, I like to have mine in places that can be covered up if needed. They are visible at the pool, and peak out of short sleeve shirts, but besides that I’m the professional looking dude if needed. Mine also aren’t scattered all over my body, which provides, in my opinion, a cleaner look and one that looks better.
  • If you like them on your back, recognize that you’ll never see it. Sounds dumb to state that, but I have one on my back, and it’s often forgot about.
  • It’s fine if you want one that is clearly visible (on your leg, on your forearm, on your neck), but recognize people will be judging you without even knowing you. It may not matter to you, but may impact certain life/job options for you.
  • Finding the right artist and tattoo shop is critical. This can’t be overstated. If you are just getting a chinese symbol or peace sign, it probably matters less, but any real art should be done by the best you can afford. This requires some research. If you don’t know who you want to go to, visit a few shops and ask to see the various artists portfolios. Make sure they are up to snuff with cleanliness.
  • Figure out your style. My wife likes more realistic, asymetrical works, while I enjoy more traditional pieces with linework. I’m not sure what holds up best over time (they will fade and the crispness of that first year will sort of melt, so consider that when deciding your work). Then find an artist who matches your style. Yes, most artists can do most works, but they often have a preferred style as well, along with strengths and weaknesses.
  • Don’t neglect the artist vibe, walk away if it’s not right. One of my pieces, I used an artist a friend recommended. The vibe was off, his artwork had to be redone before inking per my request (and in the end, it still didn’t capture the vibe I was looking for), and I wish I had done things differently. It looks good, and I’m mostly happy with it, but the experience wasn’t great and it could be better. Contrast that to working with an artist who matches your energy or vibe. You’ll be much happier. Most tattoo artists aren’t happy go-lucky Mary Poppins type, but you should connect on some level with your dude or lady who is working on you.
  • Work with your artist on the design if you don’t have the chops. While a few of my pieces were cut and dry, most were designed as a collaborative process with the artist. They often have some great ideas on things to make them look better.
  • Plan for the future. If you get one, think about if maybe you want a bigger piece (like a half or full sleeve, or larger work on say, your back) and take the time to plan out an option to roll in pieces to look like a planned conglomeration instead of a hodge podge of shit.
  • It will hurt. Getting inked is somewhat annoying to fucking annoying depending on where you get it. Truth. Deal with it like a man.
  • Follow aftercare instructions. This is critical. If you are picking tattoo scabs, your skin can scar making it look like shit. My typical aftercare instructions included gently washing with anti-bacterial soap like dial, and putting aquophor healing ointment on it. This has been great for me, but your recommendations may be different.
  • Item 1 again – think long and hard, often the best decision is not getting one.

If you want a good book (rated 4.5 stars on ‘Zon) on the what it’s like on the inside, I recommend Jeff Johnson’s Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories, and My Life in Ink. I found a copy at my local library, which always my preferred choice for you and me.

So there you have it. But what tattoo post would be complete without some lovely tattoos. Happy Friday.

girl nipple tattoo patrick swayze child tattoo fail twilight unicorn dolphin tattoo

Standard American Diet is SAD

Le sigh. We have had my MIL watch our kids for part of the summer, and we’re very fortunate both for strong family relationships and the cost aspects of this benefit. But MIL is very unhealthy, and despite starting to read great books we’ve lent like Wheat Belly, and giving lip service to “trying” various diets (weight watchers, Atkins, whatever) she still refuses to change her poor habits. This despite being about 100+ lbs overweight, having diabetes, and needing another hip surgery (but the surgeon won’t do it until she loses weight). Yesterday, I came home to her idea of good food for the kids (that she brought into our house).

SAD

So we have the main food group grains well established, plus the chip group. Breaking this box of goodness down we have corn chips, Cheerios, ice cream cones, a loaf of bread, pretzels, a box of saltines, and another bag of dill pickle chips and I think a partial bag of table sugar. You may notice some zucchinis, onions, and tomatoes on the edges – those are from our garden.

The kids LOVE when grandma comes because they are looped up all day on this crap. And despite telling her we don’t eat this stuff (and have a fridge full of more nutritious foods) she insists on “treating” the kids. Now lest you think we’re food nazis, or are perfect in our own right, we aren’t. We may not buy bread or flour products any more, but we don’t push too hard against this behavior as baking and treating the kids brings her happiness. But as soon as she’s gone, most of this crap ends up in the garbage, and the kids are back to having an apple with almond butter or cheese stick for a snack.

Every birthday party and picnic we’ve been too this summer has this same stuff. Oreo cookies, potato chips, hot dogs, jello salad. You know the drill.

jello salad

All we have the power to do is decide what goes into our pantry, our bodies, our children’t bodies, and our minds. The kids are picking up that they don’t feel as good eating flour (though they choose to do so anyway – it just tastes so good!). They recognize that people who don’t care about what goes in their bodies often look that way (as they pointed out at the water park this week). When I talk to friends and neighbors who are looking to lose weight, I always tell them ditch the bread, ditch the flour, stop drinking soda, and everything else will fall into place. “What will I eat at the restaurant with friends?” they ask. “Burger without the bun, and a side salad” is my standard response. Changes don’t have to be drastic.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is so bad. The same sheeple feed that fattens up the livestock also fattens up the sheeple. Subsidized corn and wheat and soy that is cheap and easily processed. I usually point people to Mark’s Daily Apple for the first step towards improving, and usually to Hawaiian Libertarian for the more cynical viewpoint. They build on each other, and when you see why we’re being duped as a society to eat like this, you have incentive to change.

Some of the better Kaoni posts on diet:

Of course, Robb Wolf has a great intro (link on the right for Paleo Solution), Denise Minger’s new book (Death by Food Pyramid) is good, and the The Primal Blueprint is easily digestible to the lifestyle as well.

While I’d like you, my friends, and family to all be healthy, that’s not something I can control. If you’re like my MIL or brothers and simply don’t care enough, despite health issues, that’s your choice. Or you could follow many of the success stories seen on MDA and go a different route – but that route means giving up most of the SAD and getting over the hump that most encounter. Everything in moderation (don’t shoot for perfect or you’ll fail), but what you’ll find is that when you reincorporate flour and processed stuff in the middle grocery store isles back into your diet, you’ll feel worse.

I encourage you to find others to join you in your healthy eating quest, usually those that live in your house are a good group. There may be push back, but every improvement area needs a champion. That can be you. Educate yourself and decide how you want to be. You can thumb your nose at the SAD, but you don’t have to look down on the people, mostly they don’t know any better. Best of luck on your journey.

One final note: my wife is a big fan of Everyday Paleo’s Sarah Fragoso and we have a couple of her Paleo Cookbooks. For those with kids just ramping up to get back to school, perhaps my favorite post of hers is from a few years ago where she chronicled her family’s menu (and kids’ lunches) over a week.  The post is A Week in the Life, check it out if you need ideas.
 

My Kids Learnin’ Stuff

“That… that… that fucking dog!”

Those are words my lovely daughter spoke at about 4 years old after seeing dog poop on the floor. How do you think she learned to say that? She was essentially copying my wife’s Holly typical reaction for seeing the same thing. That was an eye opener and my wife got the big ole stink eye from me.

Kids are terrific mimes of our words and actions. If you read a lot, and make it a priority in your house, it’s likely they’ll be more apt to do that as well. If you laze around and watch television, they’ll accept that as the norm. If you work out at home or swim laps while the kids have swim lessons they are likely to copy you or keep with an activity that they see you enjoy. I’ve been doing some personal training of a neighbor who is getting back into exercising and my 9 year old has been joining us for some of those of her own desires (I having them do mostly bodyweight movements).

If you want to see your kids do an activity, introduce them and support them, but they won’t all stick. My 7 year old beat me in chess the other day (admittedly, I suck, and barely know the names of the pieces, still referring to them as “horsey” and “castle”) but he has very little interest in doing swim team again. He is obsessed with playing a simplified version of table top RPG Dungeons and Dragons (that I recently introduced them to, but a story for anther day) but has no interest in learning how to bat or throw a football properly. Get him on a soccer field though and he’s an absolute obsessed beast with some inherent talent.

In general though, my kids are following in my wife and my footsteps. Newly minted 9 year old Birdsnest is a bookwarm, aspiring pianist, and crafter (necklaces, bracelets, duct tape wallets, is working on crocheting) and LoudBoy (7) loves video games and playing legos. These are things my wife and I do or enjoyed ourselves growing up. Both are very active, as my wife and I are.

The kids also accept their share of basic chores that we have them do (emptying dishwasher, doing their own laundry, helping water plants or garden, taking the dog out). There is no reason why kids can’t be playing a role in keeping the household tidy. Back in the day, these young ‘uns would be helping to feed calves and clean manure in the family farm, so having them clean their room, put away laundry, do the dishes, and sweep the floor is not exactly slave labor. This basic work ethic is learned, and I believe structure here should be taught sooner rather than later.

As we’re about to start school learnin’ again in a week, our kids have had a good education on other things this summer. Mostly though, this summer has been about having fun and being a kid, without the constant supervision of parents. The kids get to run around and play with sticks and play flashlight games while the parents talk smart around campfires. What a life!

Setting and chipping away at HUGE goals

how to eat an elephant

I strongly believe that we should all set some huge, scary goals that stretch you well beyond your current spot in life. These should be things that if you tried them tomorrow, or 6 months from now, you would fail.  When looking ahead, you should be shaking your head a little saying “I have no idea how I could ever accomplish that!” And then take that thought and switch your perspective, knowing that it can be done, but you have to take tiny, little steps on a near-daily basis and commit to it. These goals should be like a beacon in the night, like the star over Bethlehem, guiding you on your journey. Some examples of the kind of goals I’m talking about:

  • Losing 50 or more pounds
  • Running a marathon, or completing a triathlon
  • Getting completely out of debt
  • Retiring at 50 years old
  • Starting a side-hustle business, and turning it into a full time gig
  • Switching careers mid-stream to something that you have passion for

These things, when looking at them today, are very intimidating. Most of them you have a lot of control over the ability to accomplish them.

I like motivational speaker/life coach Tony Robbin’s acronym CANI – Constant And Never-ending Improvement. Basically, you do very small things each day and keep track of those small things in a notebook or diary. Just writing these things down is a way to both motivate and track progress, even if that progress is not even really tangible at this point.

For most of us, we tread water each day – get the kids up, pack lunches, go to work, make dinner, play and relax, go to sleep. Even if you exercise, it’s usually to stave off age more than to accomplish a set goal. All that is fine, it can be a fulfilling life by simply treading water and smelling the roses. If you are happy, then you’ve accomplished what we are all striving to achieve in this world, then you can ignore anything else I have to say. If you feel things could be better, then CANI to a large goal is often a large contributor to life fulfillment. Most of those example goals above are solid since they all, in their own way, provide an opportunity to pursue passions, instead of being obligated to work or live for someone else. Or in the case of weight loss, improve health to allow you to pursue other life opportunities, and often to feel more love for yourself.

So I encourage you all to reflect on this coming weekend on some super-stretch goals. Then, take that first step on the journey, and keep track of that step. Buy a small notebook, and take a minute each day to put the date down and what small step you did for the day on life improvement or towards your goal. For example:

  • Maybe you want to open a photography business, since you love the beauty of nature and love the energy of weddings, but you don’t even know how to work your camera. So you would write in your diary “Looked at community college classes on photography.” Then, another day you could check out a book on photography from the library as your single step of the day. Another entry could be “read 10 pages in photography book.” Another could be “practiced aperture settings on various garden flowers” or “talked to neighbor about shooting photos for teenage son’s senior pictures for free as beta test of skills.”
  • If you want to get rid of $20,000 in debt, the first step may be taking a detailed look at your finances with your spouse, and perhaps not making any changes at this point but just really concentrating on what the situation is. Then a diary entry may be “drank water from the drinking fountain today instead of buying a soda” or “brown bagged it instead of buying lunch.” Another may be “continued to save receipts for the month, dear wife is too, so we can see where we’re spending money.” Then bigger steps can be made like “committed to cutting budget by 20% over next two months” and “cut cable television” and so forth.
  • If you hate your job and want to explore a new field that you have passion for, it is going to likely take more training. First, you may decide to do some research to make sure it is worth it, both from a financial aspect as well as from a life fulfillment aspect. Often the dream is different from reality. Maybe you reach out and make contact with someone who has worked in the field. Most people will give you the good and the bad. Then maybe it’s “discussed with husband about this idea.” Then, maybe a diary entry is “started on-line savings account to squirrel away $100 from each paycheck for training/tuition/classes.” and “checked out book from library, read 20 pages tonight, still excited about this path.” And so on…

I’m just like you, I have goals that scare the shit out of me as I look at them from afar, but I chip away at them little by little, not exactly sure how or when I’ll get there. I’ve done this before, and know to have faith in myself, to take it day by day, and to have patience. You can’t swallow that elephant whole, and if you try will will surely fail. You’ll lose faith and patience and quit. Celebrate small goals each day or week and you will surely succeed.

I wrote about this very subject over at Return of Kings awhile back. In my mid-20′s, I wanted to not only complete an Ironman triathlon, but to qualify for the World Championships. The problems were many – I smoked, I was totally out of shape, didn’t know the first thing about road biking, and I didn’t know how to swim (besides not drowning). Over a period of three years I chipped away at these goals day-by-day, session by session, and qualified for Kona on my second try (almost did it in my first). I still have those training logs, and filling those out each day was like connecting the dots to an endpoint I couldn’t quite see, but knew was there.

Have a stretch goal to focus on is like having someone ride shotgun in your head. It helps guide in small ways decisions you want to make, and can sometimes give you tingles as you focus your life energy in a positive way instead of merely treading water. I know you all have your own secret goals and dreams. What are you going to do TODAY to take that small step towards it?

You can’t change some things about your spouse

A lot of times, changing your own behaviors and actions can result in changed behaviors or actions in your spouse.  Start eating better and exercising, and damn?! Isn’t it amazing, she does too. She doesn’t want to be left in the dust. Start being appreciative and finding the positives in situations or not being dragged into arguments, and isn’t it funny how the venomous balloon that normally fills up the room deflates and she may even act nice. Anyways, we all get that.

But I have come to the conclusion long ago, that we simply can’t change certain inherent things about ourselves or our spouse no matter how hard we try or nag (as Bea has written a couple of nagging posts recently). You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but your husband won’t even notice the dirty socks he through on the ground. Or the mirror with the toothpaste scum. And your wife may not notice that her car needs an oil change or her tires are low. I say, simply deal with it and accept it’s part of who they are. Some things are impossible to change.

marriage annoy

For fun, I thought I’d shed some light on me and Holly, and this isn’t intended to be mean but factual. I have let go of being pissed about this stuff long ago, and simply shake my head a little (and her towards me) as we lightly grumble about it.

First my things that get’s the Grrr from my wife:

  • Being a whirling dervish in the kitchen (I make no small movements, and this often results in broken dishes and people staying out of my way)
  • I don’t clean dishes very well (and break a lot of them to boot)
  • Nor do I clean the counters, or stove, or wipe things down – if clutter is gone, that’s clean to me.
  • Shove stuff in drawers or cupboards (this is probably her biggest thing. I do my best to put things away, but if I can’t find it in 2.7 seconds I shove it in a spot – at least it’s off the counter or floor – this applies to laundry, toiletries, dishes, and other household or gardening goods)
  • If not doing anything in particular, I often grab a spot and settle into a book. This can annoy her if she’s expecting me to contribute or if she’s motivated for something.
  • I do not ever clean out the refrigerator. Old food can be rotten or growing legs, I just simply don’t notice. I think of expiration dates as more of guidelines than anything to follow hard and fast :)

For Holly, things that are invisible to her but not me:

  • Doesn’t know how to tell time, our family is constantly waiting on her to get out the door
  • Shoes get littered in the house wherever she decides to kick them off
  • In general, she’s much more prone to not see clutter, and not clean up after herself (which coming from a hoarding family can frustrate me sometimes, but at this point, it is what it is – a perfect example is our side-by-side master bedroom sinks which are a sharp contrast in the clutter spectrum, mine: tidy and clean; her’s: looks like a goat got into Bed, Bath and Beyond, ate the makeup and hair section, and proceeded to blow up on her side of the vanity)
  • A full garbage can anywhere in the house is invisible and can’t be seen
  • Likes to play the game of “Dishwasher Chicken” to never empty the dishwasher if she can possibly help it. We now have daughter Birdsnest to help, which does help.

That’s really about the extent of it, I’m guessing you do things and your spouse does too that they’ve been doing since you met that drives you a little bananas. Now we both contribute to chores in our own way, and it all balances out, but it’s funny, no matter how much we nag at each others, from now until we’re 90 years old even, I don’t expect any of these behaviors to change.

stop nagging

Happiness Musings

We’re conditioned to think that if we have the right stuff, or are with the right person who behaves in a certain manner we will be happy. If only we had the right jobs, and our kids were at the top of their class or First Chair in band, or if we only got laid more we would be happy. The reality is that these things may result in a transient happiness. These things provide a timed code to unlock the happiness combination and make us feel good for a short while, but once that code expires, we are once again searching for that next code to make us happy. Many find that code shopping and acquiring. A new pair of shoes – happy (for a short bit). A new iPad – happy (and distracted) for a bit – like a rat hitting it’s lever for a dopamine release/food pellet. Over and over again. Sex – great and very much happy feelings and connection with our partner, but only for a bit. If you don’t have something inside to fall back on, or hate other circumstances of your health or life, you’re going to creep back to an unhappy state once again very quickly.Filling the void with consumption isn’t the secret to happiness.

The state of happiness comes from within, and you can go to that state with a Master Key to unlock that state whenever you want. You don’t need outside influence to get there, just inside awareness, gratitude, presence and making the most of wherever you currently find yourself. Take deep breaths and instead of letting the constant stream of self talk and your mind going on and on about stuff that happened and stuff you’re planning to do and worrying about stuff that will never happen but you’re playing it out anyway – tell it to SHUT UP – and simply let the state of joy into your life. Bad situation? Your car broke down? Waiting for a tow? You can wait in your car, maybe listen to some music, and still be happy. You can turn that raincloud in your mind to sunshine, and perhaps take the opportunity to have an in depth conversation with your traveling companion about life or when you broke down on a family vacation with your family or how you learned to change a tire.

I’m not immune to this message either. Work stresses and shit people and situations get into my brain like a parasite and try to interrupt my fun family times. I’m getting better about building a moat to keep them out, and enjoying the moment more. Deep thoughts and staying present, remembering how lucky I am in the moment, and expressing those thoughts to those I love are a weapon against the usurpers of my happiness. One thing that contributes to happiness, or the ability to build on your current happiness, is something I’ll talk about more (and have talked about before), but is constant conscious incremental improvements every day. You don’t need to be perfect, but taking little steps each day in the right direction absolutely makes a different in your life quality, even if you aren’t sure how. Believe.

 

AMD’s Alex Peck – interview in Men’s Fitness (Sept. 2014 issue)

So chalk this up with the FBI phone call to things I didn’t expect to do this year. Back in May, I conducted an interview with a writer who was helping with a piece on CrossFit for Men’s Fitness magazine. It was a weird interview in that A) I was traveling, at an airport with my family and about to board a plane and B) I had no idea what direction the article was going in. As regular readers know, I have some general issues with CrossFit, and one of those is the fact that nearly everyone I know who has done it for any length of time has gotten injured. Most are minor, but I now know six people at my former gym who have had to have surgery for various things that were either caused, or contributed by, CrossFit. So that was the gist of the interview I gave them and what made it in the magazine.

The article in this month’s magazine (Sept. 2014) was focused on various individual’s experiences (maybe 12 total) with CrossFit. Mine was a more contrarian opinion, but overall they captured a typical cross-section of experiences with the program.

men's fitness Alex Peck

 

So if you’re in the grocery store and want to read AMD’s thoughts, I’m on page 93 of that issue.

The 40 hour work week is antiquated

So if you are working in a factory, making something, and hitting some production quota, maybe a 40+ hour workweek is still necessary. Or maybe if you are a skilled tradesman working on project deadlines where you physically have to complete the tasks, then I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say a normal work week may still be needed. But for many, we don’t need this arbitrary number to hit productivity goals. I loved this quote from Office Space, when Peter was meeting with the Bobs (consultants evaluating people’s roles in the company, and if they were valuable or not):

Peter Gibbons: Well, I generally come in at least fifteen minutes late, ah, I use the side door – that way Lumbergh can’t see me, heh heh – and, uh, after that I just sorta space out for about an hour.

Bob Porter: Da-uh? Space out?

Peter Gibbons: Yeah, I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I’m working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.

Big Dick Chronicles (on my blogroll) talks about how efficiency trumps brute strength. While he doesn’t come out and say it, if he get’s his work done, it sounds like he’s got time to do what he wants, at least when he’s on the road:

At the end of the day, these things only matters because I push myself. I’ve learned to be proficient with my computer skills, knowledgeable in my field, and willing to work as much as needed to get the job done. But what sets it all apart is learning to be outrageously efficient with my work flow, to the point that it looks like I’m not even trying.

For many of us white-collar people, we have to be chained to our desk for 40 hours whether it’s productive time or not. There are a few times a year where 40+ hours a week are really needed to crank out stuff, get deadlines completed, and make sure shit gets done, but most weeks, like Peter Gibbons above, I spend much less time doing actual work. And like Adam from BDC, I’m good at my job, am efficient and often make it look easy. Captain Capitalism talks about this as well in his book Bachelor Pad Economics, where he recognizes us drones are trapped in an antiquated system but we should use our downtime for good: for learning, for developing a business plan, for something productive at least instead of reading Reddit and simply being entertained.

The United States is particularly good at training worker bees to accept the hive mentality. Nowadays our time away from work is still encroached by work through smart phones and e-mail. It sucks, and most days I don’t check work e-mail at home. While I disagree with working until 80, this professor at a Danish Research Center thinks a 25 hour work week is ideal. If you aren’t in a blue-collar, physical production world, many jobs simply waste time on busy work that doesn’t provide much value, taking us away from our passions, kids, hobbies, and things that really matter.

Workers in the Netherlands average 29 hour work weeks (and 4 day work weeks are nearly mandated). In Norway and Denmark, the average work week is 33 hours.  Japan and the U.S. among others still remain very high, near or above 40 hours. But this isn’t necessary productive time. There has been a 63 percent increase in online shopping and a 31 percent increase in running errands since 2011 according to a 2013 study by the Captivate Network. Yet worker productivity remains high, or even continues to climb. 

Tim Ferris in his book The 4-Hour Workweek talks about how to slowly get your boss to start letting you work from home. Lifehacker also talks about it in this article. They have some great comments after the article from regular people that ring true to me, like this one:

The 40-hour work week for offices is one of the most counter-productive policies a company can have. I’ve noticed that most people are actually more productive if they have shorter work days, because there is less temptation to goof off. We all know we can’t focus on this stuff for 8 hours, and we all fill at least part of our day with web browsing or socializing with co-workers. Most of us have no idea just how much of our time is wasted at work rather than put to good use.

If you start keeping track though, two things will happen:

- You’ll feel guilty.

- You’ll notice that you don’t spend even six hours of your day actually being productive.

When I started going home early, working basically a 35-hour week instead of a 40, I noticed that I was working for most, and sometimes all of the time I was in the office. I went from being productive for about 6 hours per day during a 8-hour day to being productive 6.5–7 hours per day during a 7-hour day. I’m lucky that I can get away with it where I work. Most places get angry when you stop pulling your full 40, even if your productivity noticeably dips as a consequence of working a “full day”.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the freedom to check out at 2 pm. The 40 hour week is very arbitrary to begin with, and if you’re meeting your clients’ needs and productivity goals, there is no reason why this shouldn’t be changed. But companies don’t want to do this for whatever reason, maybe because it will show the emperor has no clothes. I think it would result in happier, healthier and more productive workforce with a better work-life balance.  This is the reason why starting your own company, or consulting firm, is so great. You have no boss breathing down your neck about the TPS report procedure and keeping you chained to your desk just to adhere to social norms. It’s a tough step to go alone, and most won’t, so perhaps you could utilize some of the strategies above to start expanding at least your time spent working from home. You’ll likely see more productivity, your boss should be happy, and you’ll be happier if you can get your head around the concept of getting your stuff done, then doing what you want to do – at home. Instead of just looking like your busy, as working in an office requires.

Working at home also impacts your bottom line – no commuting costs (gas, wear and tear on your car), perhaps less money spent on work clothes, can eat at home (should be doing that anyway), more time to exercise and stay healthy, perhaps allow more flexible child care situation. And really, that’s where it has the most impact – ability to flex your time for life situations and saving untold time wasted in a car going back and forth each day.

dilbert work

17 months and 7 months Sober – My Brothers

Seventeen months ago, if I were a betting man, I would have put money on my brother being long dead by now at the tender age of 35 or 36. He had endured multiple hospital stays by that point and had one foot in the grave due to liver failure. My baby brother seemed determined to think alcohol didn’t also have its hooks in him, until he too found himself in the hospital with irregular heart beat this January and who knows what else that was at least partially caused by the sauce.

Now I know I’ve written about it before, but it is truly a miracle that Brother #1 is even alive and that Brother #2 has gotten help too. I rarely use the word “proud,” as in many cases I think pride is undeserved and inflated, but I am very proud of where they are today. They’ve both had a stronger conviction than I would have guessed, and they are a testament that rehab does work. Brother #1 was in an in-patient clinic for awhile where I know he struggled. But he met others that were in a similar boat and he’s made life-long friends with some as they came out of the fire like Phoenixes. Baby brother did an intensive out-patient program and did his meetings until he figured out his triggers and root causes.

Both have taken this second chance at life to start making small steps towards family and happiness. After his near-death stint and getting sober, Brother #1 was out of work for a long time, essentially homeless and living with my parents and Brother #2, getting some sort of gubment assistance. After a long recovery process, he improved his health to the point he was healthy enough to work once again. So he moved in with another relative to be closer to his three kids that he adores (instead of driving 2+ hours to see them) and got a job in his profession as a temporary employee. He’s interviewed (and feels a strong likelihood he may be offered a job) for another position that is permanent, makes better money, has insurance, and sounds much more mentally stimulating. Making baby steps each step of the way, he’s on his way to bigger things he wants to accomplish, like losing weight and beginning to exercise to the extent his body will allow.

My other brother is a bachelor, and since getting sober he’s found the inspiration to purchase a bug-out property with land that he can get out of town and shoot his guns at. I can tell it brings him mental calm to get away from some of the environment that brings him stress and contributed to his “need” to drink. He gets no cell reception, really no television, and is a couple of steps above a cabin in the woods. Perfection for him. I love it.

I’m not sure what caused the downward spiral, but maybe there are some lessons to be learned. Baby brother is simply a big, extroverted party guy without any real obligations in life. I believe he simply was bored and drinking was a way to make life feel better and less dull while spending time with his friends. His health deteriorated as his weight went up, but he never got a DUI, never got into any trouble, held down a decent job. He just let his problem impact his health. I’m hoping he finds passions and hobbies to live for, but he’s still figuring that part out. Oh, did I mention he likes guns? At least that’s something.

Brother #1 is more complex. He went from a funny, but mostly serious, guy with a positive outlook on life to a depressed shell of a man over a period of years.

I remember 10 years ago as he had gotten into biking, was recently married with a young kid, and seemed so happy. His relationship with his wife started out like many others – he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant so they married, plus they loved each other. At least at first, and in some ways even now they still do.

They had a second kid, bought a house, and I have a feeling it was a typical blue pill marriage. Wife wears the pants, husband isn’t the leader or has much of an opinion on many matters, and maybe is even a little lazy. Stress builds. Fights and blame occurs. Alcohol becomes a coping mechanism for the stress and unhappiness. Brother loses his job, starts drinking more. Finds another, loses another. It must have been really, really hard on them as a family and him as a person. I can’t imagine how beat down you feel when you are laid off, or let go, and you have to rely on your wife as the breadwinner when it used to be you. The bruised or broken ego, and loss of pride and identity. Or how the wife must feel for her husband, who is struggling with depression from that situation. She must want to support him mentally, but not get dragged into his sad world, and is likely feeling more pity than attraction to him.

So that’s what happened. I’m leaving out a lot of facts here, stuff that made me not have a relationship with him for years. They went through bankruptcy. She cheated on him. They had a third kid. After a few years of trying, and the same issues with my bro, they got divorced and got foreclosed on. He was absolutely crushed by the divorce and cheating, and spiraled out of control after that.

alcoholism stats

I don’t wish that experience on anyone – the whole thing. Depression and alcoholism go hand in hand, and they become so intertwined you can’t separate the two. Those two things were the key contributors to the whole collapse of a family, and what I thought would finally kill him.

But it didn’t. And a funny thing happened. His ex-wife became his biggest cheerleader and they actually became better parents after this fiasco. They still have old scars, but he’s let go a lot of the hurt and anger (maybe not all of it, but most of it), and is now looking to the future, instead of being trapped in the past.

mirror prison

That’s a great lesson for all of us, though sometimes you need to put the past to bed before you can look forward. Therapy is a good thing, don’t be afraid of the cost or perceived stigma. It’s helped my brother. It’s helped friends who have had major past traumas to overcome. It’s helped friends who didn’t think they had any family issues (ha!) but were encouraged to go. It’s helped me. Finally, when you can understand past events and triggers, and put those to bed, you can look ahead and plan your next step to life and the awesomeness life holds.

For most of us, thankfully, we aren’t in this boat. It may impact our ability to look better than we do (empty calories, impacts testosterone production), but usually the social lubricant is fun on occasion. If you think you may have dependency issues, or have loved ones who do, there are resources. But you can’t make someone change, or change yourself, if the desire is not there. Despite some circumstances that weren’t ideal (how’s that for an understatement!), both my brothers came to the realization that they needed help, wanted to live, and cleaned up to pursue a better life. And we’re reestablishing a positive relationship as best we can, this time without booze to lube things up. Things are happier and more positive in both their lives, and I’m thankful I have the opportunity to enjoy them for hopefully many years to come. My sober brothers.

Chris Pratt – Guardians of the Galaxy – Workout and Diet

I occasionally man-crush on a movie and celebrity action heroes, and they sometimes serve as a motivating force for my own workouts or how I want to look. I’ve done posts on Brad Pitt (Fight Club), Tom Hardy’s traps (Warrior), and now, having just seen Guardians of the Galaxy (great flick by the way, a super hero movie that was funny and didn’t suck) want to share some Chris Pratt thoughts.

He’s played fat guy (Parks and Rec, Delivery Man), a Navy SEAL (in Zero Dark Thirty), and now a ripped dude fighting intergalactic bad guys.

chris pratt before and after

The 35 year old actor went from flabby to fit (cutting 60 lbs in 6 months) by eating much better (going low carb), cutting out all alcohol and making slow but steady progress. He worked 4-6 sessions per week (though another source said 7, it was a lot especially at an alleged 3-4 hours a pop, so your transformation likely won’t come as quickly – but take the slow steady approach), a lot of cardio to drop the fat with some weights. Besides bench press and back workouts which were moderate weight for a bigger guy (6’2, was something like 270 lbs starting out), weight sessions didn’t seem too heavy, and typical body-builder stuff in the 10-15 rep range. From Men’s Fitness, a couple example workouts:

WORKOUT 1

THE WARMUP

 Treadmill - 10 min at 5.0 speed.

Pullups 
Sets: 3
Reps: 5

Pushup
Sets: 3
Reps: 10

Squat
Sets: 3
Reps: 15

THE WORKOUT

Lat pulldowns 
Sets: 6
Reps: 140lbsx20, 150lbsx15, 185lbsx15, 15, 12, 12

Dumbell rows
Sets: 5
Reps: 80lbsx20, 90lbsx15, 100lbsx12, 12, 12

Barbell curls
Sets: 75lbsx15, 15, 15, 15, 15, 65lbsx10 (5 push ups after each set)

Dumbbell concentration curls
Sets: 3
Reps: 25lbsx10, 10, 9

AB CIRCUIT
Situps
Crunches
Side Crunches

WORKOUT 2

Five rounds
800-meter run
15 cleans (95lbs)
10 bench press (205 lbs)
5 box jumps (30″ box)

OVERALL PROGRESS
In 5 Months:
Maximum Pullups went from 7 to 30
Maximum Deadlift went from 225 to 315

From Business Insider:

Pratt’s workouts included P90X , running, swimming, boxing, and kickboxing, and he even completed a triathlon.

With the help of a personal trainer and nutritionist, the actor increased his caloric intake to 4,000 calories a day and drank tons of water.

I’m guessing most 35 year olds would like to look like this.

pratt-workout-vertical

It sounds like he likes being fit, and still works out about an hour a day, four days a week. A manageable schedule for most once you hit your goal weight or physique, and something I typically hit as well when in maintenance mode.