Chaos and Quiet – Kids and Marriage

As anyone with kids knows, life is chaotic and exciting, in both good and bad ways. Clutter and noise. Frantic food preparation. Homework. Activities. Music and sports practice in the house. It’s both fun and annoying and stressful and life fulfilling. Realizing you are raising two young people to have values and morals and life skills for the world they’ll one day be released to is incredibly satisfying and give meaning to our lives. But man, can that chaos be challenging.

When LoudBoy is yell-singing (or yinging as we call it, Will Farrell has a good example)

and the dog chasing/barking at him and me or Holly going at it with Birdsnest about something, I try to remind myself to enjoy these crazy moments. While I try to stay in the moment and not look ahead, it’s hard not to think about how short these years are with young children. How small the window is for them to believe in Santa and reindeer, and how the excitement they feel in anticipation of Christmas brings our cynical adult selves back to a lighter and wonderful place. The movie the The Polar Express  embodies some of this, as kids begin to lose that Christmas spirit. So we need to savor these life moments, and not let our own thoughts or stresses muddy these family times.

In the not too distant future, the house will be quiet of loud music or piano practice or kids fighting. It will just be me and my spouse, or you and yours. And what then? Kids have a tendency to be a black hole of love and attention, sucking in and taking a lot, and it takes an effort to make sure the light of your love reaches out to the person you married as well. We’re friends with several couples, and know other acquaintances, that haven’t been able to get out of the kid gravitational pull. They’re in essentially sexless marriages focusing nearly entirely on raising kids. While not necessarily disdainful towards each other, in fact they probably do love each other, but are merely apathetic towards a passionate relationship as husband and wife. So what do these people do once the kids are grown and out of the house? One of my friends already covertly complains in the form of jokes about his lack of sex life, and they’re youngest is three, so that means a long spell of dissatisfaction if he sticks it out and things don’t change.

That’s why it’s important that during these times when things are the craziest in our lives that we buttress or build a solid marriage with our husband or wife. One of my mentors always said that, though it was difficult, the best time to market and do business development was when you are the busiest with work. Because if you don’t, when you complete the work or project, you’ll be left wondering what you’ll do next. We need to continue to plant and maintain our marriage garden, so when the quiet times begin, we simply move to the next chapter with our best friend and lover.

That means taking care of ourselves physically and being as healthy and good looking as possible. It means getting that relationship dynamic right – if you’re a man, lead and be a Captain – the marriages noted above, without exception, the husband allows the wife to make 90% of their family decisions…not a good dynamic. That means taking time to do activities and share time with just our spouse, be it classes, or workshops, or the gym, or date nights, or weekend getaways. It means finding  a hobby that keeps us happy, and bringing that happiness back to the marriage. It means reflecting and talking and snuggling and being intimate so that connection isn’t lost. That’s one reason why regular married sex is so important – it’s a connection that you can’t have with anyone else and brings two people together, regularly, in an intimate way.

So learn to embrace the chaos, even if it drives you crazy right now, since it will soon be eerily quiet in the house. Find and grow new passions and hobbies, both outside the marriage and with your spouse. Show your kids what a good, passionate marriage is like, because they will model their own relationships after yours. Doing these things helps us to have happy, lifelong marriages and to buck the divorce trend so prevalent today. As I mention in my book, it is so easy to fall into the trap of kids at the center of the family, and it takes awareness to keep the family dynamics in check for the long-term benefit of everyone.

Good luck to all in this crazy holiday season, hope your preparations are going well!

American Girl dolls: you’ve gotta be shitting me!

I thought somehow I made it through my daughter’s youth without any inclination towards dolls of any sort, a major coup. She showed no interest in them, instead choosing to do arts and crafts, Legos, and other projects of her own ilk. When she was maybe 4 years old, my MIL gave her an American Girl doll, but Birdsnest showed no real interest in it, and it sat on her dresser on the display stand for years. Then, one day maybe 5 months ago, she started being interested in it. Apparently some of her 3rd or (now) 4th grade girl friends had some and they played with them on play dates and talked about them at recess. That’s cool. She already had a doll and wasn’t asking really for anything more – no clothes, no accessories, no kitchenette, no horsie, nothing.

But now, this Christmas season, dear daughter of mine REALLY wants a new doll. Now I knew nothing about these things, thought they were maybe $30. I was way off. So after seeing what the deal was, we’ve already told her she’s not getting one, $120 for a doll! But I’m a sucker, and someone at work had a practically new one (very similar to her chosen one) for $60, so I pulled the trigger and it will be from Santa (yep, at 9 she believes, for not much longer I think, better make it count). That’s still a lot for a doll, but then, when I started looking at accessories, that’s about when I lost my shit, being an old miser that I am. For example, these accessories for a doll picnic:

food

 

Cute – three deviled eggs, some microwave popcorn, a sundae, ants on a log, and a couple of stuffed animals for the dolls to play with. This can be yours for the low, low price of $50. What!? $50 bucks for a few cents worth of plastic?!  You can buy this nearly 4′ tall bear (below $35), and still have enough for two grand slam breakfasts at IHOP, along with your microwave popcorn. And who uses a rotary dial phone anymore? Puhlease.

bear

Or what about this:

spa chair

How can a doll go through such a tough life, without a day at the spa? Plus, you can start brainwashing your young daughter into the entitled princess she can become, complete with Mani-Pedi station and Cosmo magazine. This can be yours for only $110. My wife just went to a real overpriced spa on vacation for less than that shit.

Here comes my personal favorite. What does any future doll mariner need but a boat. Only $175.

sailboat

I’ve bought rowboats and canoes, with oars or paddles, for less than that bullshit.

And after a long day at the spa, after boating of course, your American Girl doll can have a good night sleep in her new bed:

bed

This one is only $175. Meanwhile, I got LoudBoy’s real bed, similar in the pullout nature of a second bed, for nearly the same price. Fuck that noise!

One of my coworker’s wife has a seasonal job at one of these doll companies’ call centers, and I’ve heard multiple stories of grandparents (presumably) with more money than brains, spending well over $1,000 on this crap. :HeadExplodes:

head explodes

So she may get an off-brand outfit at Target instead to go with the new one, and that’s about it on the doll front. This shit is crazy, when you can buy real clothes or accessories for less than doll stuff, and I feel totally out of touch with reality after stumbling upon this bizzaro world recently. The Lego stuff is crazy expensive too, but our kids, and all the neighbor kids, will spend hours and hours year round building stuff, so that seems like a better deal at the end of the day and inspires building and engineering and creativity versus training of the next entitled princesses who’s goal is to acquire and consume.

Anyways, enjoy your dolls people, some are more useful than others.

sex-doll

AMD does a resort – 5 recommendations

Prelude

My wife and I are mid-westerners with family and frugal values. We had done a number of vacations pre-kids, including our honeymoon, that would best be classified as “Excursion Focused.” That is, we went somewhere and did various activities of the region. A week camping and rafting on the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park. An Alaska trip to Denali, with shitty cabin rentals. Our honeymoon was a bed and breakfast trip to southwestern U.S. where we traveled to a number of national parks. With kids, our trips have been all within a 5 hour drive or so. Visiting museums and activities in bigger cities. Camping. Renting a cabin on a lake. For kids, a beach anywhere will do. These were all nice times, but busy and various amounts of work involved, as anyone with kids knows. We thought staying in a resort lounging by the beach would not be up our alley. We were wrong.

The Trip

We just returned from a week at an all-inclusive in the Mexican Caribbean and it was lovely. We did spend one day on a bus trip off the resort, seeing some local culture, and while worthwhile, it was the most stressful day of the trip (maybe something to do with the 2-year old twins that sat next to us that took turns screaming and throwing tantrums for the better part of the day – everyone on that bus was ready to form a line to smack those shitty parents [and they were shitty] as we departed – but I digress).

So if you’ve never gone on one of these trips, or even if you have, here are five brief recommendations that will make it better.

  1. Tan before or wear lots of sunscreen – it is fucking cold where I live right now, and very hot down there with strong sun. Both Holly and I spent some time in the tanning beds before we left. I have gone exactly once in my life before trying to build a base, so tanning is always hilarious for me. Not wanting to sunburn my junk, I had some funny tan lines from this endeavor. By doing this, we didn’t burn like some of the people down there (some looked bad) despite soaking up a solid 7-8 hours of sun most days.
  2. Go to an all inclusive place that is Adults-only – There are many different types of resorts. From some where you pay a-la-cart to those that your fee covers dinner, rail drinks, beer or wine to those where once you’re on site, everything is covered (mid-to-top end alcohol, all food, stocked room with candy and bottles of booze and so on) with the exception of spa services or excursions. Then, you can stay at a place for families (often for less money) or a place that excludes kids. We stayed at the latter and it was way more relaxing for a lot of reasons. We are very fortunate that we have a Grandma in the area that was able to stay at our house with our kids and make sure things run smoothly while we’re away. This was the first real trip without the children and it was a totally new experience for us, one that opened up a lot more options. Which brings me to…
  3. Bring your lube, you’ll have lots and lots of sex – If you have a decent relationship, and set the table before hand (we were joking with each other for months about going to “Sexico”) it can be a great way to rekindle those fires, build some new memories, and reconnect in ways you may not have since your honeymoon. We had way more sexy times on this vacation than we did on our honeymoon, and did things that even after 15 years together we hadn’t done. As soon as you come into one of these places, they set the table for romance. Champagne, music, decor, suites (even the standard ones) with huge showers and spa-tubs designed for two people, king size beds, a couple Adult channels with porn on, and so on. The first night we were there, after a few beverages and taking in a few hours at the resort Holly leans over and says “Wow! There’s a lot of drinking and fornicating going on here.” Everyone is relaxed, holding hands, and having a lot of sex I am sure. Oh, and I had no issues with sex toys in my checked bags, just make sure you take out the batteries :)
  4. Relax; and lock your phone up, no need for it here – It’s no secret we’ve had a higher functioning level of stress this year for a number of reasons. On a Stress Scale, with 10 being going through a death or divorce, and 0 being not a care in the world, and a well functioning family rhythm with multiple kids being maybe a 5, our house has been at a 7 or 8 for much of the year. Higher than normal. The vacation was 0 to 1, with hardly a care in the world for a week. I disconnected completely and threw my phone in the room safe, without turning it on all week. Holly didn’t check any work e-mails and used it for a few pics and Facetiming or talking to the kids and Grandma a few times. We sat by the beach or pool, drinking pina coladas or tequila, reading books (we finished 4 between us and started 2 more) or simply visiting or sunbathing. I don’t think I’ve been that relaxed for that long ever.
  5. Go with friends – Some may disagree, but going with friends was a great time. We met 5 other couples down there (the organization and getting everyone on the same page was a pain, but most couples were there for most of the week), and with that many, you felt no obligation to always be together or anything. Couples did day trips and beach walks and dinner by themselves, or in smaller groups. You could leave, have an afternoon siesta and sex, and not be missed. And let’s be honest, if you’ve been married for a long time, it can sometimes be boring with a week with just your wife – even if you throw in some alone time at the spa or whatever. Everyone had a fun time together, and fun times with their spouses. All were married, most with kids, so getting away made everyone feel relaxed and sexy and happy. Plus, it’s a nice bonding experience with friends, whether close or not so close – for us, we had both kinds on this trip.

We thought a week was about right, especially with children at home. It was nice to returned tanned, relaxed, and with a little bounce in our steps. We feel much more recharged and capable of dealing with life again. We were able to save and pay for our trip before we left, so we didn’t even have any of those money issues to come home to. I highly recommend something like this for couples in a similar position to us. While we have other bigger family trips planned for the indefinite future, this is something we’ll do again if life allows.

Interviewing sucks, time to relax

It’s no secret that I’m looking to find a better opportunity and something that engages me more than where I’m at right now. Definitely in a lull here at work as we close out the year, but I’ve dealt with some pretty crappy people and issues this year and not exactly sure what more to do about that. So I’ve been applying for awhile now to positions that suit me and my ambitions. Some have certainly been pretty far out of my wheelhouse, some much more in it. I’ve previously had two interviews for other positions and did another one today that I’m sure was competitive. I thought I did well and knew one of the people I interviewed with, but it was still pretty stressful. I took the last week and a half to brush up on the various technical, regulatory and policy issues that would be required in the position since my skills in this area had eroded some – so it was like cramming for a test. Stressful, glad it’s over, interviewing sucks.

I feel this whole year has been full of similar events, between either my wife or I. She’s changed jobs and had surgery. I’ve been dealing with my own ups and downs, and between the two of us, it hasn’t led to as much ups/downs between the sheets as we’d like. In a few short days though, we’re leaving on real vacation, for the first time ever (besides a night here or there at a hotel) without the kids. We’re shutting off phones, and will be enjoying the venue and ourselves while we recharge and reconnect. Much needed.

Anyway, in case I don’t get anything written to drop while I’m away, adios until I am back.

tropical_beach_view

10,000 Kettlebell Swings in November

Preface

I was dealing with some injuries this fall (ankle, shoulder) that limited what I could do in the gym. My typical routine of olympic lifts, powerlifting, weightlifting, running, and other activities were limited while I tried to heal. As such, I couldn’t do as much cardio as I would have liked, nor the full spectrum of workouts. One thing I could do was kettlebell swings (KBS), so once or twice a week would do a workout with usually a 2 pood (32 kg or 70 lb) bell, Russian style (just to eyeball level). Stuff like 100 KBS for time, but 3 burpees at the top of every minute; or 5 rounds of 25 swings, 20 pushups, 10 pullups.

With about 5 weeks before our tropical vacation in December, I wanted to tighten up as best I could to try and lose the few extra pounds on my midsection and look good at the beach and in the bedroom. My friend randomly texted me this workout from T-Nation: The 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Workout. From the article:

To create and refine this program, myself and 18 other coaches and athletes met several days every week to put it to the test. Here’s what we experienced:

• Everyone got leaner, dropping a waist size or two, in 20 workouts.

• Every coach or athlete made visual muscular improvements in their physiques, adding lean body mass.

• Every trainee increased his grip strength and greatly increased work capacity and athletic conditioning. They could all train longer and harder when they went back to their normal training programs.

• After the program, every trainee saw a noted improvement in his core lifts. PR’s fell like dominos. Full-body strength and power shot through the roof.

• Abs were more visible. Glute strength was tremendously better. The abs and glutes “discovered” how to work again, leading to athletic improvements in sport and in the weight room.

I thought “what the hell” and started on November 1. Twenty workouts later, on November 30th, I finished my 10,000th swing. Here’s my experience.

The Protocol

If you don’t feel like reading the T-Nation article, here’s how it was set up:

  • 2 days on, 1 day off
  • 1.5 pood bell (24 kg/53 lb)
  • Swings done Russian style
  • 5 rounds of swings as rep intervals 10, 15, 25, 50 (essentially 100 reps per round, or 500 reps total per workout)
  • Between each rep interval of swings you do a single weight movement (reps as 1, 2, 3, or 2, 4, 6, or something else that is challenging, heavier the better), I did the following over the course of the month: front squats, back squats (squats from 135 – 185# with varying rep intervals), thrusters (115#), walking lunges (95#), pullups, chinups, bent over rows (95#), pushups, dips, push press.
  • The article’s rest interval in the article was inconsistent, in one spot it said rest 30-60 seconds between each rep interval (10, 15, and 25) and 2-3 minutes after each set of 50. In another spot it basically said to plow through each set of 100, and rest 30-60 seconds. I started out resting between each rep interval and the longer rest after the 50 rep set, but found that was pretty easy , so quickly cut the rest down to the minimum, plowing through each set of 100 with a 45-60 second rest after the 50 swing set before starting the next round.

Keep good form, and don’t let the bell swing too far back between your legs or your chest to come down too far. Many of the pics and videos out there show much more chest drop than is safe in my opinion. If you have to drop much lower than below, you’re using too heavy of a weight. With any sort of volume, your lower back will be fried. Stable back, tight abs, nice hip pop. Smooth light butter, not like you’re fighting it.

KBSwingkettlebell swing formMy experience with this positive, but I wouldn’t do it again. It was one of the more boring workouts I’ve done. I wore a belt since that’s a lot of lower back movement and fatigue can get high. As a result I stayed healthy throughout the month. A sore back a few times, but nothing too bad. Day 1 I did barehanded and had blisters in places I never had before. After that, I used gloves, but early on blisters were an issue until my hands got callouses.

Keep in mind I was already doing 2-pood swings regularly so dropping 17 pounds and doing this wasn’t too big of an adjustment for me, your results may vary. My workout times varied from about 35 minutes to under 23 minutes depending on the weight movement I was doing and what I did for rest intervals. After getting through workout 12 (of 20), I decided to do the first to sets (10, 15) as 2 pood swings and the last two as the normal weight to make it more challenging, so in total, 1,000 swings were at the 70 lb weight. I rarely made it through the 50 rep set unbroken, usually breaking between 30-35 reps, and finishing it up after a short break (15 seconds or less).

I was happy, but not blown away with my results. My diet wasn’t great, so I’m sure that contributed some, but here’s what I found:

  • Cardio ability went up, a lot, and quickly. 20-30 minutes of pretty high intensity cardio in that frequency is pretty solid
  • My shoulders, arms, and especially traps got noticeably bigger.  My lower back/core, and upper back felt stronger, though not sure if they got bigger necessarily. Also, I now have the G.I. Joe Kung-Fu grip after gripping that bell for so long.
  • I may have leaned out a little in the mid-section, but like I said, my diet wasn’t the best, plus stress and travel made eating super clean tougher. I will still look good on the beach, but won’t be rocking 6- pack abs, my body fat just didn’t get low enough. My bodyweight didn’t change, so if I did gain a couple of pounds of muscle (looks like it), I probably did lose a couple of lbs of fat. That’s not huge in the grand scheme of things, but still an improvement.

It is intended as a standalone program, and for the most part, I kept it as such. I squeezed in a couple extra 30-40 minute runs and bench press workouts (chesticles for the beach), but besides that kept the program as intended. I think I could have added more and still recovered well, but wanted to see how it would go as designed. Like I mentioned, it got a little boring, but was still fun to mix it up a little and do something like this just to say you’ve done it. I’m mostly healthy at this point, so will go back to my more traditional workouts. It will be interesting to see if any of this translates over.

Mixing things up instead of just doing the same thing over and over again can help you get out of a rut and give some motivation where maybe it is lacking. Deciding to take off on a 10 mile run a little under trained. Or throwing on a weighted vest for a hike. Or deciding to heavy singles every minute on the minute for an hour. Leaves you sore and satisfied and ready for that next challenge workout. Give it try this winter. I have been doing  a ’12 Days of Christmas’ workout on Christmas eve or Christmas day for the last few years (1 rep of something, 2 reps of something else – then 1 rep of the first thing, and so on). Get the snow shoes out, or try training for a cross country ski race if you’re in the northern climates. This is the time of year to not let yourself go, so when spring and then summer roll around, you’ve already made improvements (or at least limit the damage).

Strategies for building wealth for normal people

wealth_buildingMoney has been on my mind recently. I’ve been interviewing for new positions, and if the right opportunity came along, I’d certainly be willing to make less money than I do now – happiness and a challenging/rewarding position can trump a more lucrative dollar amount any day of the week if the big picture family finances are sound. I also recently met with a financial planner that we’ve known for a few years. Now, he’s going to try and sell me products, but I’ve already told him my philosophy of lowest fees possible and index fund investing. What he does offer is various tool kits to assess where we are at and if we are on track for our goals, and I believe they do offer competitive Term life insurance which may be something we may purchase more of if we need it. I think we are on track, but we’ll see.

Yesterday after Thanksgiving dinner, I had a chance to talk finances with my Father-in-law. He’s a man I respect a lot, and my wife insists he was a millionaire when he retired in his late 40’s. Whether that is true or not, I’m not sure, but I know he has investments. So we got to talking a little, about my recent visit with the Financial Planner dude, and if he worked with one. He did, but was ready to go somewhere else because returns weren’t as good as he’d hoped and his dude was charging him 3% per year to run his portfolio, this on top of any fees the funds charged. My mouth dropped. As I was getting our info together for another meeting with the guy I met with, Holly and my cumulative expenses across all IRA’s and 401(k) investments were 0.18 percent (I have one sizable chunk in an IRA with a total expense ratio of 0.08% which is outstanding). I explained my philosophy of low expenses, of the unlikelihood of actively managed funds regularly beating the market, and the fact they have to beat it by that expense percentage over and over to simply beat the market compared to a low-fee Index Fund. For Christmas, I’m getting him both The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing and The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning, two books that should be in anyone’s personal finance library. It’s somewhat surprising that with basic understanding of key investing principals, we can know more than our parents or about 80% of the population that are getting a death by a thousand cuts by their broker or financial adviser. Or even worse, not investing or saving due to the intimidation factor.

I’m not wealthy, and we’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but we are on a path to building wealth. You can read about our transformation here. With so many variables and desires in life, far be it for me to say exactly the best way to build wealth for anyone. With that said, a few things that worked for us, for those that are in position to take advantage of these (or can change their life situation to step back, and restart).

  1. Cut back on spending. After the bare necessities, a big strategy we employ is thrift store shopping. Kids get bigger, wife’s taste change, maybe your size changes. Instead of the GAP or Banana Republic, or Old Navy (nice deals there sometimes), go to the local Thrift Shop and find nearly new clothes for pennies on the dollar. Other ways to cut back spending is make your own coffee and lunch, spend some time and make dinner with fresh meats and veggies (stop, or minimize, restaurants that are filled with shitty oils and MSG and carbs), and maybe make your own gym. The payback comes sooner than you think (if you spend $1000 on a well equipped gym, and spend $100 a month for two memberships, and you actually use your home gym, after 10 months you are working out for free. This doesn’t work for everyone as some people need that social aspect, or need to get out of the house. Your results may vary).   The big ways to cut back spending though are A) buy a reasonably priced car for cash or the shortest loan possible (meaning, you buy a MMM Scion or other top ten cheap cars) instead of a new Lexus B) buy a reasonably priced house, which brings me to the next point:
  2. Buy a foreclosure, or fixer upper with cosmetic issues, or smallest house in the best neighborhood as possible. We’ve done this option a couple of times now. We bought a foreclosure across the street from a lake (you know – we overlooked the $1 million lake homes, had lake views, but paid about 10% the cost and much less in taxes). We fixed up that house, finished a basement and sold it for about twice what we bought it for (10 years later). After selling that house, we bought a house in the bottom 10% in size in the best neighborhood we could. We live next to the developer of the subdivisions’s house, which probably has the largest, or close to it, square footage in the neighborhood. I don’t expect you to score similar deals, but if you are looking to make an investment, finding a the cheapest house in the right location can make a huge difference in setting the table for financial success while enjoying the perks that come with it (good schools, close to work, low crime, parks, etc.)
  3. Save and Invest – To build wealth you must save, you must invest. It sounds intimidating, but it really isn’t. The folks at Vanguard (who I am NOT affiliated with by the way, they are simply awesome) will walk you through anything. Build a $1000 emergency cash fund at a separate bank than your normal service as a start (helps you sleep well at night), then after that, start saving. If you company offers a 401(k) it is retarded to not put in at least up to your match, even with fees (you get 100% return on company match which is essentially free money. So if they match 50% of your contribution up to a max of say, 4%, then if you put in 8%, you really are getting 12% of your salary being saved for retirement). Not going to get into the Traditional versus Roth 401(k) or IRA debate, but if you go traditional, you lower your taxable income. For us, we hedge our bets and  have both, though weight it towards reducing taxes today. If you hope to retire early, having money to last before you can access Social Security (assuming it is still solvent) or your retirement accounts will be necessary. Again, Vanguard (or other brokerage firms) can open a taxable account and you can start socking away money in there. Don’t be intimidated by this. It is really not that complicated. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.
  4. Eliminate Debt – with the overarching philosophy of saving and cutting back on spending you naturally come to the third leg of the stool which is eliminating debt. Obviously, consumer and credit card debt offers nothing. Pay that shit off ASAP. Other debt is still a drain on real income (student loans, mortgage, car payments) but are often less interest. Mortgage and student loans you can deduct on your  taxes so depending on their rate, it may be merely psychological to pay them off early (which still may be worth it). At 4% interest rate, you may be better off investing and possibly getting 7% or more. Car payments should be as short as possible. My wife and I won’t enter into a loan longer 2-years, and eventually we’ll be paying with cash. But the real killer are the credit cards. The best financial play is to pay your cards off before investing, but I still think you need to invest (at least in a 401k even if you have CC debt) to get the ball rolling. We were putting 10% of our salaries into our 401(k)’s even when we had CC debt and that move eventually paid off. At this stage, we are debt free except for mortgage, with two paid off cars (2007 and 2013 Hondas). It helps you sleep at night to pay off debt.

Those are really the key things. Take the long game, be frugal, don’t compare yourself to others, and simply grind your way towards building wealth. You don’t have to live like a pauper, but take advantage of different activities that cost less – camping, hiking, local swimming, day trips, nature, canoeing, library, hunting, campfires with friends, volunteering versus Mega-Vacations each year, New Cars, iPads for everyone, fancy dinners, happy hours, golfing, lots of fucking consumer shit. Change your perspective and you can build wealth.

I have 60 pages of financial discussion in my Book which includes 12 Pillars of Personal Finance for those that want to read more (and get more perspective on marriage and life as well). It is really not that hard. I don’t have time for staying up on the stock market. I am not a tax specialist. And if I can figure out a consistent way to build wealth, so can you. It just takes a little time, and a little effort.

Finally, if you like motivational speakers, and money matters, check out Tony Robbins’ new book. It’s not perfect, but has some basics and is a fun read (I admittedly like TR, and love to listen to his audiobooks. They are motivating and have a very positive mindset. This book is no different.).

Generational bootstrap pullin-up; plus job and college talk

[long one, rambles some, goes on a topic slant by the end – you’ve been warned]

I don’t want to get into a big political, socio-economic debate, but simply wanted to share my personal experiences with trying to rachet-up each generation and the likelihood of that. Obviously, social programs, education, and parental choices play a huge role in this (to go from poverty to even middle-class is a big step), but each situation is individual. The start of our life’s version of Monopoly is the hand we’re dealt at birth. After that, it’s up to your social environment and inherent drive and opportunities to determine the path you take.

bootstrap

While I have no idea on the social-economic mix of my readers, I’m guessing most are of middle-class families, trying to do what’s best for their them and their brood. Obviously, we’re cut from the same cloth. My wife and I made our fair share of mistakes, but have made traction the last few years big time. The biggest reason we have generally been successful and have made improvement from our original birth lot: education, hard work, good jobs, and good decisions. Oh, and maybe a little luck, but mostly the aforementioned not lucky things. Plus, marrying the right person and being in a stable, loving relationship, which will likely help our kids. Like you, one of our main goals is to have our kids life be happier/easier/better than our own. Just like  past generations. We feel lucky for the opportunities we were given, and hope to impart knowledge and skills and perspectives to our own children. Like most people, some of our relatives either weren’t given the opportunity, or didn’t adhere to the perspective, and ended up at the same level (or worse) than their roots. This is a brief illustration of how your lot in life isn’t defined at birth. I’m sure some of you have more interesting or better stories than mine, I’d love to hear them (privately or in comments).

My Grandparents – My grandmother is a Native American tribal elder. Raised as a half-indian orphan, she was adopted into a farming family, and came from the humblest of roots. Native American’s are some of the poorest in our country. I spent a summer internship working for the Indian Health Services, and despite federal aid and income from casinos, most are well below the poverty line. My grandmother was fortunate in some ways to live close to the reservation with her ancestral roots, but marry into a stable farming family. My grandfather was a farmer, raised in a stable but poor family. My grandfather inherited the family farm and raised 6 kids. Christmases at my grandparents were magical when I was a kid, and despite the reality of the situation, it seemed like we were showered with gifts. The love and camaraderie at family dinners was palpable, and I have the fondest of memories helping on the farm when we visited. But knowing what I know now, they were really struggling to get by, even after my dad had relocated. Dealing with pricing of milk, silage, and farming on a small family farm is rarely easy. My aunt and uncle took over the family farm a couple of decades ago, and my grandparents currently live in a family-owned farm house with social security and the small tribal stipend as their sole source of income. They are still generous and loving and instilled great life lessons into us, though never really had a pot to piss in.

My mother’s parents did not come from noble beginnings either. My great-grandfather was a moonshiner in prohibition days, and my grandfather and his brother got stopped by Al Capone’s men at the border saying it would be his last delivery to the Chicagoland area. My grandfather worked odd jobs, while raising a family of 10 (8 kids) with a homemaker (as was customery back then) in a 3 or 4 bedroom apartment, then house. They were stacked on top of stacked. My mother talked about how she had to wear old socks held up by rubberbands because they couldn’t afford new ones, and whips out historic old poor meals like goulash and cabbage and potatoes on occasion from her childhood.

Holly’s Grandparents – I don’t know as much about my wife’s ancestry except that her mother’s mom died at a young age, and like my own grandmother was raised by her aunt who was motherlike, though poor. They had a bunch of kids too, though whatever happened after the death of her mom fractured my mother-in-laws family. Holly’s father’s parents owned a farm that had been passed down in the generation. Hard work and frugality was the norm. Not much love was provided by her grandmother, a tough bitter diamond til the day she died, but her grandfather was warm-hearted, strong willed, and had a great sense of humor (apparently. He died before I met him). They too had a large family (5 kids if I remember right), and despite being land rich, they didn’t have a lot of extra money.

My Parents – My mom and dad are still together, and moved away from the local region where they were raised around the time they  married to a moderately sized city. Most of their brethren stayed within shouting distance, and generally did ok for themselves. My dad was a mailman (hated his job for a long time, but felt locked in with the salary – a dangerous thing), who retired at 55 to a modest pension, and recently (at 65) to social security. Not wanting to let the excitement of life pass her by, my mom has worked at two nursing jobs the last 10 years, and her original one for 30 years before that. She worked part time so that we could have a hot breakfast and meet us afterschool, be present at our cub scouts and sporting events, and keep hot meals for my dad. We had stability, some nice extravagances at Christmas, but as I got older saw that we were in the bottom quartile in our community, a solid middle to upper-middle class suburb. Still, we had a nice childhood, and the hard work ethic from my parents upbringing were instilled in us, as was their frugal nature (though it took awhile to stick).

Holly’s Parents – Enjoying a nice middle-class lifestyle with the original Mr. Mustache, Holly was both comfortable but humble. Then her parents got divorced, the kids split up from each other (very odd, especially in today’s society), and spent her formative years holed up with her mom in small apartments and a spendthrift nature, somewhat impoverished. Her father had money, but was frugal and hardworking, not paying for college or any other benefits to my wife or her brothers. My father in law one of my favorite people, by the way. Her mother continued to make poor choices, frittering away her very modest paychecks on things she didn’t need (a habit that continues to this day), and having health issues that in part stemmed from poor diet choices. Retired now and leaving on a modest state pension and social security, she is a big part of our, and the kids’, life but isn’t a model to emulated.

Us – So starting at two generations ago, and depending on what you want out of life (agriculture and farming can be rewarding and/or lucrative, and has inherent life lessons and rewards/challenges), our families were prosperous in family alone, with a strong value system. The subsequent generation of our parents made small steps in income, while instilling a lot of the value system they saw. Today, my wife and I are both living in an area we never could have fathomed as kids, while still trying to impart those same values of hard work, family, humility, and service that were prevalent in our own lives. It’s far from a mansion, and while only 25 miles from where I grew up, offers many more opportunities should life allow them and the children take advantage. We are working our way to both monetary wealth as well as life wealth.

We are happy most days, and are satisfied with our lot in life. I’m sure my own grandparents were too, in their own way, but we’re certainly able to relax and work differently (less physical, more mental) to achieve the same goal, with (as is common in today’s society) more material things. Still, our favorite family activities remain reading, board games, and family movie night, while enjoying the fruits of our labor at the neighborhood pool or at friends house. I’m hoping that one day, with the opportunity to get educated with a reduced debt load and good advice (on Majors, on where to go to school, on what college is really intended for [vocational school, not party/social time]) that they’ll be able to raise that generational notch a little more.

The Future – I have an engineering degree and it is no secret that many days I hate not so much the job, but the clients I am forced to work with, which is a nice way to say many days I hate my job. Other jobs I haven’t liked that much either, at least after awhile (usually several years, for various reasons not related to the work itself). My wife also has a four year degree, but finds her work fairly satisfying and worthwhile. For us, at this stage in our life, our four year degrees have worked out monetarily and allowed us to start off on the right foot, regardless of what happens in the future. But in today’s world with rising college costs and lessening white collar work, I strongly promote the idea of alternate blue-collar, skilled trade work. And I’m not alone. Mike Rowe, and the Art of Manliness, have a great article on blue collar work. This is something I briefly mention in my book, but will flesh out much further for my own kids, the positives and negatives of this. Blue collar. White collar, both have the ability to be successful, and sometimes it is not an obvious choice.

This Mike Rowe response to a question about a why not to follow the crowd and your passion went like this:

Like all bad advice, “Follow Your Passion” is routinely dispensed as though it’s wisdom were both incontrovertible and equally applicable to all. It’s not. Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it. And just because you’re determined to improve doesn’t mean that you will. Does that mean you shouldn’t pursue a thing you’re passionate about?” Of course not. The question is, for how long, and to what end?

When it comes to earning a living and being a productive member of society – I don’t think people should limit their options to those vocations they feel passionate towards. I met a lot of people on Dirty Jobs who really loved their work. But very few of them dreamed of having the career they ultimately chose. I remember a very successful septic tank cleaner who told me his secret of success. “I looked around to see where everyone else was headed, and then I went the opposite way,” he said. “Then I got good at my work. Then I found a way to love it. Then I got rich.”

One of the best websites in the ‘Sphere on this topic is Apocalypse Cometh. Check out this, and this, and this, and this. If one day the posts aren’t there, they include things like electrician, welder, website designer, HVAC, Carpentry, Diesel Mechanic, other mechanic, interpreter. Being able to work at heights (and like it!) for transmission lines or bridge maintenance or wind tower repair will keep you in demand. In many ways, you’re better off taking a tech class at a tech college than going to college to get a History Degree (a fate narrowly avoided by my wife, who got a science degree and now makes more than me). Don’t be a sheeple with the other parents, for you or your kid. There is a lot of satisfaction in building something or keeping something alive, and not being burdened by a $100,000+ college debt because little Johnny or Jill has to major in sociology or business (just check out Worthless an admittedly great book on not picking a shitty major that are universally accepted as “good”). Just be (or have your kids be) themselves, learn on their own with their potential passions, and if it is one that needs to be fed by tuition then do it, otherwise: avoid the trapping of western society (i.e. buying lots of shit you don’t need, including a house), live and enjoy as much for free as you can, and save as much as you can. Instill this in the next generation and they’ll be 100x further along than their H.S. peers who followed the masses into hundreds of thousands into debt for a $30k per year job.

Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to have your kids be different. There are more ways to ratchet up your generational and offspring success than following the map that society provides.  You and your offspring can grow in ways you can’t fathom. Don’t be afraid to teach that. One thing we’re already teaching our kids is the value of entrepreneurship and thinking outside the box. We’ll see how life unfolds. All options are open, but I will do my best to influence my kids’s choices so they won’t waste money on a degree that won’t pay off.

If interested in Music or the Arts (and many will disagree with me), by all accounts I will support that, but don’t believe a formal education is necessary to support a career or a passion in that. The chance to be Yo-Yo Ma (where such training is necessary) is so minuscule, and so obvious at a young age, that unless you have an obviously talented person in the arts (like winning state competitions by high school), don’t fall prey to the standard practice to a fine arts degree. Better off doing self study, figuring out website commerce, and starting your own business. Even if it fails, you’ll learn some actual skills that can relate to real world business, unlike a fine arts degree. And this from a dad who is paying for music lessons and hoping for a great musician. I am always a realist.

Obviously, this isn’t the shortest or most thought out post, but whatever. My family came from humble beginnings and now we’re making our own path…I hope the next generation’s success and values continue to grow, both mine and yours, whatever that may mean. Money does not equal happiness, nor is that the definition of success, but it does provide freedom and opportunity. That’s all. Have a nice weekend, and check out some Dirty Jobs on Netflix if you get the chance. Mike Rowe is awesome.

Brief thoughts on a milestone reached

views

I officially hit 500,000 views of this blog in the last 24 hours. Some people get that much in a week or a month, it’s taken me many months, but to me that number is still big. I started this whole thing on a whim to help me work through some of my own thoughts and actions, and was/am mostly writing for me. To have other read my semi coherent ramblings is a privilege. Really. When I started I was at a place where I wasn’t happy simply floating through life or my marriage, and decided to stop accepting mediocrity in myself. Simply writing about it here made me more aware of my own behavior and results of my actions, which kept me on point and prevented falling back into an apathetic existence. As a result, I’ve continued to push the boundaries of learning and leading and the last few years have been the best in my marriage and most likely my life. I hope to say that every year, but the change is palpable.

Thanks for reading and sharing in some of my experiences. During that time my wife got fired, got a new job, quit a year later. I stepped up and took leadership of our family. I had a vasectomy and hence wife going off hormonal BC. I shared some of our bedroom thoughts and experiences. I ended up in the hospital where I thought I would die from MRSA. My wife had hip surgery. Ups and downs that marriage and life is. I’ve grown as a person and am still trying to improve in areas, and still trying to remember to stay present and be happy. But I look back to who I was just a few years ago, and I’m a better person, husband, and father.

When I started, I had no idea what I was doing. Still don’t really, just sort of made it up as I went along. I continue to do that. I’ve got an LLC now, I’ve got other sites made or in the works. I purchased a mic and plan to start podcasting on one of those other sites here shortly, without any endpoint in mind. Just for the fun of it really. Depending on how that goes, I may try and bring that here. It would be a blast if I could talk Holly into it as well, but we’ll see. I’m just having fun here and giving you all blasts of my brain dumps. Value may vary. More cool stuff on the horizon, and writing and interacting with you has been a great experience for me.

Finally, thanks for those that comment and share your thoughts. I may not respond as often as I like, but I read most of the comments. However, I get comments from people on posts that are years old at this point, and have to prioritize my time. It is nice to know you’re not alone in your experiences in this life and what you go are going through, others have as well, and sharing helps us all. Have faith that the stuff you plant today will grow and blossom. Thanks for reading!

Christmas shopping, what we’re buying 2014

My goal is to have shopping done by Thanksgiving. At this stage of my life, unless I’m looking for a specialty item or gift certificate at a local restaurant, I don’t step foot in a physical store for the holidays. Nor most other times for that matter (with the exception of Costco, where we primarily purchase food items and various household items). The mall, Target, wherever is usually so stupidly busy after work or on the weekends, not to mention the throngs of black Friday shoppers, it is more stress than happiness. Plus, I’m really not much of a consumer.

Anyways, we’re buying a few things for our trip, so I started and mostly ended our holiday shopping today. We are so fortunate to have a nice home and a nice family, with most of our wants covered as well. We aren’t driving high-end cars, my kids don’t have their own room televisions, nor their own iPads or whatever. They have enough. We have enough. Which makes Christmas sometimes hard, or maybe easy, when you don’t feel so materialistic about getting things. Obviously, I’m not a Gift Language (as in The 5 Love Languages) so have a hard time both buying gifts and receiving them. I asked for some new workout socks for Christmas. That’s all I really want or need. Holly wants a new taller faucet for our kitchen sink. The kids want iPads (which they aren’t getting), but instead will get just a few things to supplement their existing stash of crafts and legos and video games.

We (I should say my wife) still makes gifts for people. She crochets hats, scarves, and blankets, and had a side hustle for awhile selling really nice beaded jewelry. Stuff like below. I’ve asked if she wanted to sell on a page linked to the AMD site and thus far she’s declined. She’s really talented and creative, even taking metal working classes and making things like silver chain-link bracelets. Don’t be afraid to use whatever talents (woodworking, card-making, knitting, vehicle repair [as in homemade gift certificates for oil changes or whatever) to give your time and efforts as gifts. People really appreciate this.necklace and earings

So here’s a few things we are getting this year (all 100% true), including some standard gifts for others like teachers and the like. No recommendations for novelty ideas or gifts. Though funny on occasion, I find the thrill fairly quick to wear off. If you’d like any ideas, MMSL Forum had a funny thread on Christmas Gift Ideas, some pretty good random ones for those that are struggling for that special someone. A quick note – any Amazon links are affiliate ones, meaning I get a small percentage just like others who run this program. It costs you nothing more, and last year I was able to make enough to pay for my webhosting service, so much appreciated.

Gifts For Others – We don’t buy too many gifts for others. Thankfully, we’ve talked our families into moving away from this tradition as we all have enough stuff. We just want to spend time with each other. So gifts for others consist usually of things for teachers and close friends that we just want to give something they wouldn’t normally buy for themselves. Our “go to” gift is Penzeys spice gift boxes. My wife splurges on spices and buys them nearly exclusively from Penzeys. Their gift boxes are about $15-16 and are very well received, plus check out on-line coupons, you can often get free gift boxes or other stuff. We’ve even bought, or gone in with others, the big gift boxes for wedding presents which are almost always one of the most unique and well received gifts they receive (and you’re thought about every time they use them). My favorites are the Chicago and Chili 3000 for the griller in your family.

Video Library – Since we don’t have cable, we have a half-way decent family library. The adult side doesn’t get watched as much, but we still break out Fight Club or the Matrix or one of several romantic comedies on occasion. The kids’ library consists of mostly Pixar movies, and a few Dreamworks films (How to Train Your Dragon, Shrek), along with Star Wars box sets , key Disney movies like Frozen (must have watched that about 20 times the first month we had it) and Tangled, along with a few randoms like Annie and the Wizard of Oz. In the winter months, or as a come-down from crazy summer days (or rainy days), these get watched very, very frequently and we’ve found them to be well worth the money spent. I actually like every one of those films and am a big fan of the Pixar group. Shitty movies by the other studios (Turkey Run, Nut Job, etc.) are one and done, so find them at the library or Netflix instead of buying them – stick with the Majors. When we go to the movies, we usually bring our own snacks and try to see late first run movies at the discount place, but buying a movie can be more economical as an entertainment choice. Two of the best are on DVD this holiday season, and we’ll be buying them for family Christmas Gifts. If you have kids and haven’t seen the two below, they are great and receive the AMD highest recommendation for multiple watchings (we’ve seen the first Dragon film probably 20 times and I still get goose bumps watching the flight scenes – great musical score too, and the second one is just as good, though much different tenor). I’m not a big superhero movie guy (most are very ‘meh,’ though the Christopher Nolan Batman movies are very, very good), but GotG is way funnier and takes itself much less seriously than the other Marvel or DC films. A few older jokes you might think are slightly inappropriate will go over your kids’ head. My 7 year old loved the movie as much as me.

Educational stuff – I’m an enginerd and my kids have their own interests and abilities, but are both very smart. Birdsnest (9) is writing plays on the computer with dialogue and parts for her friends, so will be getting a few workshop sessions for the children’s theater group in town that has a class for kids K-5 on playwriting and acting. Loudboy is possibly a future engineer or something similar, his mind works similarly to mine at that age. He will be getting Snap Circuits Physics Kit. This is something I’ve had in my cart for 6 months, and will pull the trigger for this Christmas. Almost 1,500 reviews, mostly 5-star, at Amazon. Teaches basic electrical engineering/circuit concepts in a fun way. Recommended for ages 8-15, but younger may be possible if you help them. So excited for this, about $45.

Games – My kids got the D&D Boxed starter set ($12, includes dice), that we play with still (and love) earlier this year. We also found the Game of Life at the thrift shop for $1.50, which is a popular game in our home. We love board games at our house in general and are great times. For Christmas, after doing some board game research, we are buying Ticket To Ride

Intended for those aged 8-12, but again, 1,600 reviews, mostly 5-star, sounds awesome for both kids and grown-ups. When interested in something, I research a lot. The next boardgame I plan to buy when the kids get older is Galaxy Trucker (recommended for 10 and up, a little much for my 7-9 year olds even if they are playing chess already, but sounds awesome for the Star Wars/Sci-Fi geek I am, can’t wait to buy this one – a little pricey  but sounds awesome and is highly rated). For video games this year, for under $20, we’re buying Minecraft for the console so the kids don’t hog my wife’s iPad. For the Grown-ups, we’re getting Cards Against Humanity which will be great with our frequent friends and neighbors gatherings (now that the kids take care of themselves).

For the Missus – Sorry, I have nothing for you here. My most difficult purchase every year. When I’ve bought lingerie, it has usually tanked as our tastes and comfort levels are so much different. Christmas sex toy shopping can be done together at sites like Adam and Eve, that can be fun and my wife and I have done that before for Christmas. Or you can try and surprise her with adult films, see my post here for ideas.  Your results may vary. Me: I will get my wife a new faucet, and not sure what else I’m getting her, except this great swimsuit for our early December trip (for me, seriously, only $15 – gonna be both funny and awesome, since A) I don’t quite look like that, yet. and B) confidence is sexy). What more could she ask for? What are  y’all getting your wife or husband? I need some more ideas as faucet doesn’t scream awesome to me.

 

7 Ways to Boost Testosterone without TRT

Testosterone is the most important hormone for men, though it impacts women to a large degree as well men produce 7-8 times as much. Produced by the testicles, it plays a key role in physical development, including muscle, hair, bone mass, and general health and well-being. It also greatly impacts men’s sexual arousel and general aggressiveness. As you likely realize after seeing the various ads and other news articles, as men age testosterone levels decrease, starting as early as 30. From this Elite Men’s Guide article:Testosterone-Levels-by-Age

Low testosterone has been linked to increase fat, decreased muscle mass, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, erectile dysfunction and cognitive function. Some men with low testosterone, who later receive treatment, say they felt they were in a fog. Now this isn’t my area of expertise by any means. Personally, nearing 40, I still feel like things are working as they should and I have no complaints in the body composition, health, or bedroom.

But many men do suffer from low T, and low T is a definition that is individual to you, and somewhat hard to pin down. So as people are looking for a quick fix, some turn to pharmaceuticals, and things like Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). I know very little about this subject, but Rebecca Watson (AKA Serenity) has made this a key part of her coaching practice and knows a lot about the subject. If you are interested in learning more or exploring the best way to evaluate this in your life, you should contact her, her website:  http://lowtwife.com/coaching/ . From what I’ve seen, it’s a complicated practice dependent on a good practitioner. Testosterone production and TRT therapy can be impacted by current medication or diet so it’s far from a one-size-fits-all. While I haven’t contacted her, Rebecca appears very knowledgeable on the pitfalls and common misconceptions and may be able to help some navigate this arena. I only ask that you do your own research as well, as I still feel this is a relatively new health area (hormone replacement therapy) and while it may yield results, some of the short- or long-term impacts may not yet be known. Anyway, not to get too far off topic from the subject at hand.

There are many ways to work towards increasing your body’s ability to create more testosterone naturally and become a beast. Do you feel all calm and cuddly ready to pack it in every day, or instead are you motivated to go out there and do some crazy stuff and accomplish something? Do you have to have caffeine or 5-hour energy to feel focused or concentrate in life, feeling groggy or disoriented otherwise? Maybe you should try some of these things and see how you feel, many have been shown to increase testosterone levels naturally, so try them before looking at TRT. But either way, if you suffer from some of the symptoms of Low T, at least start to figure out why, and what you can do about it. Bringing up those levels has the ability to greatly improve your life.

  • Lift Heavy Shit – If you’re just starting out, doing something like 3 sets of 10 as your body adapts may be a start, but when I’m talking heavy, I’m talking HEAVY, like 90-100% singles of 1 rep maxes of compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, benchpress, rows, presses with short rest intervals (like 1 minute). Stick to singles or triples, and I wouldn’t go higher than five reps. Stuff like Rip’s Starting Strength
    is a gold mine of information on form and protocol.
  • Shoot Guns – This article  http://www.webmd.com/men/news/20060728/guns-up-testosterone-male-aggression  showed a 100 times increase of testosterone in men (aged 18- to 22-) who shot guns compared to the control group. It’s a funny article, in that after measuring before and after testosterone in saliva, they also gave the men an opportunity to anonymously add hot sauce to a glass of water that someone unknown to them would drink. The gun-handlers put more than three times the hot sauce in, and were disappointed after the experiment when they found out no one really had to drink the hot sauce water. Anyways, shooting guns is a fun activity and does get things going inside your head and body. I’m not sure the time spike on the T production after the activity, but it may be a great date night activity where you then immediately come home and take care of business. Your wife may like it too, it can be a powerful feeling to shoot guns.chicks with gun
  • Sleep as much as you can – Especially if you’re lifting, sleep helps in so many ways. Testosterone and Cortisol are two hormones on the opposite end of a see-saw. If Cortisol is high, it impedes testosterone production, therefore doing whatever you can to reduce that stress hormone is good. A good night’s sleep is a great way to let your body recover which thereby reduces stress.
  • Reduce stress – as a follow-up on the previous item, chronic stress also produces Cortisol and is a major determinant to testosterone production. Stress reduction tools like prayer, meditation, yoga, laughing, deep breathing, and positive visualization should be implemented as often as practical if you are chronically bombarded by stress. This should lower your Cortisol production, and allow your naturally occurring testosterone to increase.
  • Lose weight – overweight men are likely to have low testosterone production. From this article on Everyday Health:

“not only does low testosterone seem to cause weight gain in men, the reverse also seems to be true: Obesity is one of the risk factors for lower than normal levels of testosterone. Physiologically, the relationship between low testosterone and weight gain in men can become a vicious cycle.

“Body fat contains an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogens,” says David Samadi, MD, chairman of the urology department at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Having extra estrogens triggers the body to slow its production of testosterone. The less testosterone you make, the more belly fat you accumulate, and so on.”For men who already have low testosterone, excess body fat can worsen the condition: “Fat speeds up the metabolizing of testosterone,” Dr. Samadi says. “Therefore, the more fat you carry around, the faster you’ll burn through the already low testosterone levels in your body.”

So how do you lose weight? I personally find a lower carb approach works well as does intermittent fasting. In fact, intermittent fasting boosts testosterone by increasing the expression of satiety hormones including insulin, leptin, and others, all of which are known to create healthy testosterone actions, this in turn increases libido and minimize T decline as we age.

  • Supplement – Vitamin D, Zinc, and whey protein (not to excess). Zinc is an important mineral for T production and according to this study  may contribute to elevating serum testosterone. How much zinc? The study referenced 30 milligrams a day, which appears to be a standard dosage you buy at the store. Vitamin D is also critical, especially in the winter where those of us in the northern climate can’t get strong enough sun in the winter to produce it naturally. A safe tanning bed may be used, or a vitamin D3 oral supplement will help. Do your research on dosage, as it may vary, you’ll often find 2000 to 5000 international units (IU) sold. Holly was on (I think) 10,000 IU prescription dosages in the past. I’ve written before about Vitamin D deficiency and it is common and really impacts semen quality, testosterone, and general feeling of well being. Finally, whey protein or Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), especially in common with strength training, help to raise testosterone levels as well. However, other studies have shown lowering protein and increasing fat raises T. From this Nutrition Express article:

“Researchers in Finland discovered a unique benefit of whey protein. In a recent study, they fed a group of older men 15 grams of whey protein isolate before and after a bout of resistance exercise. Muscle biopsies from the thigh were collected before, one hour after and 48 hours after exercise to determine expression of the androgen (testosterone) receptor. Androgen receptors are what testosterone binds to in order to elicit their anabolic (muscle building) effects in target tissues.

Androgen receptor mRNA responses were variable but tended to increase more during the whey protein isolate trial. The average increase one hour post-exercise was about 25% and this was maintained at 48 hours post-exercise. In contrast, there was little change in average androgen receptor expression during the placebo trial. ”

Which one is right? I don’t know, I supplement with protein powder after workouts and I feel ok, but your results may vary. I also take Vitamin D and Zinc and feel pretty healthy, motivated, and capable most days. 

  • Things to avoid – these may not increase testosterone, but these things decrease them and you should avoid them
  1. BPA – bisphenol-A is a synthetic chemical in plastics that leach out and has been shown to decrease testosterone in men. Avoid drinking from plastic bottles and use glass or stainless wherever possible. We make our protein shakes in glass mason jars with the metal shaker ball now.
  2. Soy – want bitch tits? Eat a lot of soy. Soy drives production of estrogen and reduces sperm count and testosterone.
  3. Alcohol – Alcohol impacts sleep rhythms so decreases the amount of growth hormone released if taken before bed so can impact recovery from that tough workout. With regards to T, when alcohol is in the liver it secretes a substance that adversely impacts (or is toxic to) the release of testosterone.

Just because you’re getting older, doesn’t mean you have to look like the typical middle-aged man with a paunch, erectile dysfunction, no motivation, who acts like Mr. Cuddles. Yeah, testosterone reduces naturally as we age, but we can do things to help ourselves and mitigate the impacts without going directly to expensive drugs. If you’ve tried some or all of these, and are still feeling not right, by all means contact someone who specializes in this area and see how you stack up. Just because you aren’t overweight or drinking a lot and are working out, doesn’t mean you can’t be Low T, so don’t rule that out as a symptom of you not feeling like yourself. Me, I’ll be intermittent fasting, trying to sleep a lot, getting some tanning (in preparation for my sexcation next month primarily), getting under that barbell and doing my best to stay virile and strong. So far it’s working for me, and hope it does for you as well.