One Easy Exercise to Help Stop Seeking Money as a Means to an End and Focus on Your True Passions

Do what you love and the money will follow.

-Dr. Marsha Sinetar, author of Do what you love and the money will follow

We’ve all heard it and are sick of hearing it. One of the overused quotes that’s been touted over and over again by law of attraction fans since the new age boom. Or so is our image.

But I think there is truth to the quote if applied in a practical way. Let me explain.

The problem with how we frame money in our lives

We humans tend to look at money way as an end goal, rather than a means to achieving a goal. We think that getting money is what makes us happy, rather than the wonderful things that we can do with that money.

The sad consequence of this truth is that rather than using the creative and resourceful tool of our minds for maximizing the achievement of the things we want in life, we focus too much on “how can I get more money?” when we should really be asking “what do I really want in life?”

The act of merely receiving money doesn’t actually bring more happiness — except for the game of getting money itself (which can be quite fun, but can eventually burn us out if it doesn’t come with a deeper context of living our lives in a fulfilling way).

This is why I love Tim Ferriss’s Dreamline exercise. The Dreamline exercise is a quick activity to first decide all the things you want/goals you want to achieve in the short term, then determine how much money it will take to achieve them. Once you know what you want and how much it will cost, you can come up with a specific plan for getting the money needed to achieve those goals.

But many of us have it backwards. We think, “after I make X amount of money, THEN I will be able to travel“(replace travel with that thing(s) you want to do but are putting off doing). But the time, energy, and money never come because we waste our creative energy on figuring out how to make money, rather than utilizing our creative energy to do the thing we want (like travel, learn a new hobby, etc.).

Valuing your life over money does not mean living like a monk!

Lately, we read “if you want to be successful, sell your stuff! Move to a smaller, cheaper apartment! Live frugally!”

While I do believe minimizing distractions and streamlining your life is important, I don’t agree with the asceticism that people sometimes equate with personal development. For some people, minimizing money spent on possessions allows them to spend that money on other things they value more, like travel for instance. Others, might value owning a nice car or owning a nice house, more than they value traveling. For those people, getting rid of those things or avoiding pursuing them would actually hurt them, as they would be resisting what it is they truly want.

I think most people value a balance of material possessions and world experiences. I’m currently saving up for a new car,  AND getting ready to challenge my fears and go skydiving for the first time!

Find out what YOU want, and go for it.

An Exercise to Put Your Career and Earnings into Perspective

Sit down with a pen and a pad (or an open word processor if that’s your dealio). At the top, write “What Would I do if I already had all the money I needed? How Would I live my day to day life? ” Alternatively, you could write “How would I spend a billion dollars?” Don’t worry about calculating prices at this point. The point of the exercise is to figure out what things you would do in your life if you already had all the money you could ever want.

It’s a very simple exercise. From here, list out everything that comes to your mind. Just move your pen and don’t stop writing no matter how silly the ideas that come out might sound. As your thoughts flow, and you get those “silly ideas” out of the way, strong insights about what you really want to do, begin to pour out. I like to set a timer (10, 15, or 20 minutes) just to give the activity a concrete beginning and finish.

When you’re finished, go back through the list and read all of your ideas. You can then go through with a pen and circle or star all the best ideas.

What would I do if I had all the money I ever needed? And how would I live my day to day life?/How would I spend a billion dollars?

  • Eat all organic whole foods, every day.
  • Go skydiving.
  • Travel to Italy.
  • Buy a convertible.
  • Travel to Guam.
  • Learn Chinese
  • Learn a martial art like Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
  • Fly a plane.
  • Lie on a hammock in the Maldives.
  • Perform a solo guitar concert in front of 100 people.
  • Take first in a breakdance competition.
  • Learn how to corkscrew.
  • Eat fugu (blowfish).
  • DJ at a beach party
  • Go to France.
  • Learn how to cook 10 kinds of pasta.
  • By a motorcycle.
  • Release 25 videos on my YouTube channel.
  • Write 50 blog articles.
  • Live in South America for one year.
This is a quick sample exercise to help give you an idea of what I’m talking about. For visibility purposes, I went back and highlighted all the ideas that I really liked want to do (rather than adding a star or check as mentioned in the article).  Note this list is probably much shorter than the list you will actually make, as you will be continuously writing for a set amount of time like ten or twenty minutes.

This tool is a basic awareness exercise help you become aware of what it is you truly want. There are a few options for what you can do with those realizations after this exercise. Most of these exercises really deserve their own separate articles to explain explain them in full. But I will briefly describe the ideas here in order to give you a direction.

Once you are aware of what you would do/how you would live your life if you had a billion dollars

You need to integrate those desires into your life in way that you’ll stay focused on them every moment of the day, regardless of your moods or circumstances. You need to make sure you never forget what you are working toward.

The Dreamline

If you haven’t read The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss yet, I highly recommend you read it. It was the book that finally opened my eyes to the concept that you don’t need to be rich to live your dreams, you just need to first focus on what you want to do in life and then you can figure how much money you need to fulfill that.

After having done the exercise outlined in the article you are reading now, you can use those ideas to create your own Dreamline. For more information on exactly how to do the Dreamline exercise, check out this page on Tim Ferriss’s blog (or read The 4 Hour Work Week for a more in-depth explanation). He also offers this nifty blank Dreamline template here.

Basically, you are taking your ideas you gathered from doing the activity in this current article and are forming them into concrete goals with a time frame. Then you determine the required amount of money to do accomplish these goals. Also by making a concrete goal, you are picking the thing you want to do the most (the thing you want to work on right away) and making it a top priority in your life.

For example: “What would I do if you had a billion dollars?” If one of your items was “Go skydiving,” then this would be on your Dreamline:

Go skydiving….. by August 2016…… $400.

By getting really specific about what it is you want, how much it costs to do it and when you will do it, your brain will figure out what you need to do to come up with that money. Also you will feel the drive to make that money so that you can achieve that goal.

Another purpose of the Dreamline is to turn your more general goals into refined concrete ones. So if you want to “live an adventurous life,” the Dreamline then helps you break that down into a concrete goal, which can then be achieved by doable actions. What does “live an adventurous life mean?” Maybe you want to skydive like me. Maybe you want to travel to Africa. Whatever it is, make it into a specific, actionable goal.

The Vision Board

I’m a big fan of the Vision Board, also known as a Goal Board. It is a large (usually made of cork) board that you hang in the place in your house where you spend the most time every day. On this board you display your goals in a combination of words and pictures. It’s a powerful way to constantly be reminded every day of what you want. And keeps you focused.

Once you have your list of things that you would do with one billion dollars, go ahead and load up your Vision Board with those things! You can print out a list of those things and pin it up there. Also, pictures plant themselves deep inside your brain. For example, if your goal is to go skydiving, pin up a picture of a skydiver! If you want to play cello, pin up a picture of a cello! The powerful impact the pictures have on our physiology will keep us focused and motivated.

Pick one thing you want to do and expand it in your journal

Once you have came up with a list of things you would like to do with a billion dollars, a great exercise is to pick one and expand it! Free-write about it. Ask yourself and answer these questions: Why do I want this? What will I feel when I achieve it? What will I feel if I don’t achieve it? How will I achieve it?

These are just the questions I ask myself. Feel free to explore your own questions, or your own method of journaling.

Prayer

I don’t subscribe to any faith. But I use “prayer” as a means of setting my intentions of what I want to work toward every day. I will explain this in detail in a future post, but every night before bed (you could do it in the morning, or both) I tell “God” or “the Universe” exactly what it is that I want. My exact goals. And I ask for the focus and strength to tackle them.
I think prayer works because It allows us to cut through all of our negative beliefs about what is possible, and focus on exactly what we want. And when we ask ourselves what we want and think about it enough (no matter how large or far away the goal may seem), our brains begin to determine what actions we need to take to achieve them. Prayer in this way changes our own psychology and beliefs about what is possible, and gives us a good attitude for achieving our desired goals.

In short, “pray” or ask the universe for what you want. Even if you aren’t religious (I’m not) and even if you think it’s a stupid idea and won’t work (I did, but am continuously surprised when I keep achieving things that I once thought were impossible for me).

Give it a try. The worst thing you could do is be closed-minded to something that would otherwise serve as a powerful tool to helping you achieve the life you want.

Of course like all advice, take these exercises/tools with a huge grain of salt. Try out many things and drop what isn’t useful for you.


So that’s it for today. Don’t focus so much on how to make money. Rather, focus on how to do the things you want to do in life (money is only one component of the “how”). If you do so, you will more efficiently use your resources to come up with the money you need, in order to do the things you want. And asking yourself “What would I do if I had a billion dollars?” is one exercise you can do to figure out what you want, and put life and money in perspective.

This simple paradigm shift could change your entire way of looking at life.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started now.

 

What Lifting Weights Has Taught Me About Learning Japanese

So, I accidentally made a body transformation picture. It’s not very scientifically rigorous, but it still proves a point.

Tony Michael Head transformation picture.

I never even meant to make this. I was milling through old photos and found this picture of  me three years ago.

I was completely shocked at how different I looked. The one on the left was taken August 2012. I was 55 kilos (121 lbs). The more current picture was taken August 2015 and I was 68 kilos (150 lbs) at the peak of my bulk.

Quite a difference, huh? Now I’m not claiming to be huge, because I know compared to many dudes, I’m not. But it was eye-opening to see for the first time actual progress I had made – 13 kilos (29 lbs) of muscle and a big improvement of strength was gained during the last three years.

I have no idea what is typical of a natural lifter who has been putting in his time consistently for three years; I hear a lot of different ideas.

But seeing this change made one thing clear in my mind…

Consistency…even to the point of blind faith will inevitably lead to results.

The most shocking thing about all of this was that the entire time, I never felt like I was making gains. I often felt frustration when I went to the gym because I wasn’t sure what I was doing was actually working. And to be honest, it wasn’t in the beginning. I wasn’t doing it right. I made a ton of mistakes.

If I had had the knowledge I have now, who knows… maybe I could have made the same progress in one or two years. Like I said, I have no idea what is typical of the average person.

But, despite the maybe slow progress, despite the mistakes I made (not counting calories or macros, not sticking to programs long enough) I had the faith to stick to it. The faith that no matter what, as long as I kept at it, things would straighten out.

And eventually, it did straighten. Things started to  come together.

Learning Japanese (or any language) is a lot like weight lifting

You spend lots of effort over a long period of time with minimal return on investment. You spend the effort doing it consistently. Both are strenuous(weight lifting on the body, Japanese on the mind) but you rarely see progress as it’s happening.

In other words the progress is glacial. It happens so slowly and incrementally that you don’t notice it. But it’s there. As sure as global warming is in effect and the polar icecaps are melting, you are gaining muscle and getting bigger. You are also getting better at Japanese, provided you are making that consistent effort and showing up every day.

Now I know I’m not the best Japanese speaker in the world. I still have tons of improvement to make. Just as I have yet reach my fitness goals. As you can see by the picture, I haven’t reached マックスパワー(max power) yet.

I don’t have a before an after pic that lets me readily view my results with learning Japanese, but looking back

there was a time when…

  • I was afraid to hang out with Japanese speakers who couldn’t speak English because it meant I had to rely on my terrible Japanese.
  • I would watch Japanese movies/anime with subtitles because I couldn’t understand it.
  • I couldn’t read and write 2500 kanji characters from memory. Heck, there was a time when I couldn’t even read the kana.
  • Shonen manga (children’s manga) in Japanese was too difficult for me to read.

There was a time when I couldn’t talk my way out of a friggin’ paper bag.

I’ll stop now because I’m really worried about coming off braggy. Compared to where I want to be, I still really suck at Japanese. Nevertheless, looking back now in retrospect, I have made great improvements in my ability to speak Japanese. Just like I was able to transform my body, I was also able to transform my mind from someone who doesn’t speak Japanese, into someone who does.

And the common thread was consistency in my daily actions combined with just a little blind faith that if I just put my head down and kept moving forward no matter what, I would eventually see progress.

So that’s it. That’s my spiel for today. I hope some people will read this and feel a bit motivated to just commit to being consistent in their endeavors, even if when they feel like giving up.

If it was possible transform my body from being a skinny and weak dude, into a slightly less skinny, much stronger dude in a few years, the same is possible for you – whether that be lifting weights, learning to speak Japanese, or any other long-term endeavor.

 

Turn Painful Emotions into Inspired Action Using a Journal

Have you ever heard that emotion is energy in emotion?

I have somewhere, more than once. Honestly I have no idea where it came from. But I believe it to be true. Based on this simple truth, any emotion that one experiences whether it be pleasant or unpleasant, can be used as energy to fuel your actions and produce desirable results.

Framed in this way, all depression, sadness, anger, hopelessness, or any emotion that you find unpleasant can actually be transmuted into action that can create positive change in your life.

I’m not a spiritual/emotional guru of any sort, but I have found this to be true in my own life. In fact, I believe that those so-called negative emotions are there for a reason: to alarm you to the fact that you are not living the life you desire/living your purpose/getting your needs met.

Those feelings are there to tell you when you are making the wrong choices (or neglecting to make choices at all). A lot of people want to avoid these feelings, ignore them and NOT feel them. However this resistance creates even more stress; not only do you have the unpleasant emotions, but now you are resisting feeling them. This resistance creates even more unpleasant emotions.

Rather, we should be feeling the depth of these emotions and channeling that pain into motivation which charge us into to taking action.

It’s not enough to know that those unpleasant emotions can be channeled into motivation. You need a tool for doing so. I have found using a journal to be an effective tool to funnel my own unpleasant emotions into positive, inspired action that has helped me create much of the success I have experienced in life.

I always carry my journal with me, everywhere.

It’s always in my backpack when I’m on the go. At work its on my desk. At home its on my night stand.

Anytime I start to feel down, angry or sad. Anytime I feel depressed, lonely, or like a failure. Anytime I feel like I’m unsure of what step to take next in life, what to do, or where to go. I bust that puppy out and begin to …

free-write.

Free-writing is a technique that’s often used as a warm-up or a brainstorming activity by writers in order to get their mind flowing and their pencil moving. It helps them slice through those writer’s blocks.

I found that by using the same technique, I can let my thoughts and emotions (which are often tied up in a big confusing mess) pour out onto paper in a way that can be observed more easily, rather than just floating around in my head.

Free-writing helps your thinking become a more organized. You could just allow your thoughts and emotions to mill around in your mind without expressing them. But the racing mind fueled by the pain of unpleasant emotions will create branching, never-ending thought streams, which are hard to resolve due to their complexity.

Writing your thoughts down on paper as they arise causes you to lock in on one train of thought for longer, allowing some time and insight for solving the problem at hand,  rather than getting swept up in the never-ending streams of thoughts.

So what is free-writing anyway?

Sit down with a pencil and paper (or perhaps open a blank Document on your computer if that’s your thing) and simply write nonstop for a predetermined amount of time with no breaks. That’s free-writing. 

For example, five or ten minutes – perhaps longer. When you run out of things to say, you can either keep repeating the last word, or start writing “Now I don’t know what to say, but I have to keep writing…” or something similar to keep your pen moving. Often new thought threads will appear out of nowhere, even If you thought you had nothing to say.

This works well for helping writers overcome the dreaded writer’s block because it lowers standards of what you write so much that it becomes impossible to NOT to write. When you lower your standards for what you write so much that ANYTHING is okay, your judgmental mind will loosen its grip on you. As a result,your thoughts flow onto paper much more fluidly.

Couple free-writing with the power of observing your emotions and being present, and you have a wicked combo that will allow you to be aware of the entirety of what you feel. You can then discover what action needs to be taken in order to deal with your emotions effectively.

How to start

First, recognize the next time you are in a funk. Notice when you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, lonely or anxious. In that moment say to yourself, “Alright, I have an unpleasant emotion inside of me and it doesn’t feel good. But I embrace its existence fully because I know it is there to help motivate me to make a positive change.”

In fact, the degree to which the emotion is painful is equivalent to the degree it will help motivate you to make change. The more painful, the bigger motivation.

Once you have the proper accepting attitude toward your emotions it is time to pick one of the two prompts:

  • “Right now, I feel…”
  • “Right now, I want…”

Then, just write.

Once you got your prompt, start the timer for however long you feel like (I like ten minutes) then starting with the opening line and just keep writing without stopping. All that really matters is that your pen keeps moving across the paper.

I will give a brief example of what your free-write could look like:

Right now I feel a little bit sleepy, a little bit worn out, and a little bit ready to sleep haha. Actually I don’t know what I’m gonna write about. This is kinda weird because I’m writing for my blog and everyone’s gonna read this. So ironically, I want to judge what I’m writing so it comes out perfect but fittingly if it comes out bad that’s okay, since that is the point of this exercise, to lower your standards of what you write about so that your thoughts and words flow freely without getting all stifled…

So there it is, an unedited impromptu free-write as an example of what to do except for the spelling errors ‘cuz that’s just embarrassing.

“Right now I feel…” is great at times when I might be feeling depressed, hopeless, or nervous because by writing about the exact sensation that I’m feeling, it causes me to focus my attention into the present and actually experience the sensation of the emotion itself, rather than get wrapped in the story I’ve created around the emotion with my mind.

We often experience emotions, which are real, physical sensations inside our body. Then, in response to feeling them, our brains try to justify the feeling by attaching a thought or story.

Have you ever been in a “bad mood?” Maybe someone did or said something that provoked anger in you, then you carried that anger with you throughout the day, interpreting other events throughout the day as more events to be angry about, even though you probably shouldn’t have. Perhaps you “took it out” on a spouse, friend, or child.

Often when we feel a challenging emotion (such as anger), and rather than experiencing just the emotion itself, we get wrapped up in this story in which more and more thoughts are created by the mind and more and more emotions are then created and intensified.

Writing about and describing how you feel keeps you in the present moment, i.e., keeps you focused on exactly whats going on right now. In doing so, you’ll often realize things that you didn’t previously, and by making those realizations, the solution to your problem becomes clear.

“Right now, I want…” is also great because it gets you focused on what you actually want RIGHT NOW. That I believe is your ultimate purpose and drive in life.

Once you are thinking about exactly what it is you want in that moment, the free-writing allows your thoughts to flow on your paper so that you can become aware of important elements of that desire, such as why do you want it, how will you feel once you have it, what steps do you need to take to get it, and how long will it realistically take to achieve it.

I believe that the more clearly you are able to answer these questions. The more motivated you will feel in taking the right action to achieve you goals.

Journaling: the key to clarity

Free-writing is a versatile tool that you can use for many different circumstances: brainstorming solutions to problems your having, figuring out your next life goals, pulling yourself out of depression or any painful feeling you may have, or just maintaining your focus on success in general.

Sometimes emotions we feel can be complex. They become tangled up in knots along with our thoughts, and untangling them in a way that makes their energy and resources available to us can be tricky.

Free-writing for me has been one of the ways I’ve been able to effectively sort out my unpleasant emotions and turn them into energy to help spur me into inspired action, and I hope it will do the same for you too.

How have you used a journal to process challenging emotions? I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments!

 

 

 

Waking Up Early is Da Bomb for Productivity

Beautiful sunrise on Mt. Fuji

For the last two months now, I’ve been waking up at 6:20 am.

It takes some getting used to, but once adjusted, I found that it really helps productivity and focus.

Why did I start waking up at 6:30 when I don’t really need to be awake until 7:45? Well I’ve had a busy schedule working on many goals at once, as well as other important tasks: writing this blog, music gig this month, new side project with my Japanese studies, and other daily tasks such as reading, journaling, and gym. I found myself faced with so many tasks that it was a nightmare to get everything done throughout the day. I was feeling hurried trying to get all this stuff done every day with no time for myself to unwind and relax.

Waking up one hour early to study Japanese, rather than trying to fit it in after work, proved to have some benefits.

Doing your highest priority task first in the early morning ensures that it gets done with your freshest attention and energy

After the initial moments of morning drowsiness fade away, the warm morning sunlight shines in through the window and hits your skin (and that good ol’ coffee kicks in). You find myself more alert and focused than any part of the day.

For me, rolling out of bed, pouring that big cup of Joe, and immediately getting started on my largest and most important task of the day soon leaves me with a sense of accomplishment knowing that I got a critical task for the day finished.

I mean, you could just save that important task for after work but I imagine work would leave you tired and with less mental resources to work with. Especially when you just want to relax, right?

It is natural for humans to wake up with the sun

I’m actually talking out of my ass on this one. But I imagine that it would be most natural for humans to wake up with the sun. I’m assuming that having not evolved with digital alarm clocks to wake us up in the caveman days, we relied on our biological alarm clocks to sense the sunshine and wake us up when appropriate.

If it is true that waking up with the sunlight is natural for us, then it follows that repeating this behaviour would cause us to feel our most alert, focused and engergetic (as well as optimize other biological process in our body). Doing this along with making sure you meet your nutritional needs could be gold for optimizing brain performance.

All about experimentation and finding what works for you

I dunno. This is probably super obvious for some people. But for me it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and even after I finish this current project with Japanese I will continue to wake up at 6:20 on the daily and get my most important tasks finished.

I know everyone’s different and that’s why some people choose to get their most important tasks done at night (I remember hearing one of Tim Ferriss’s podcasts about his most creative period of the day being late night).

Let me know if you guys have had any experience with this. And if not morning, what’s your most productive time of the day?

Why Losing Hair Is the Best Thing That Could Happen to You as a Man

Man with shaved head and sunglasses
Credit to Llima Orosa over at Flickr
https://flic.kr/p/aWZzz

So I sat down to write what I thought was going to be a short article talking about a subject that is very personal to me. I meant to share a few viewpoints about why I think losing your hair (male pattern baldness) is actually one of the best things that could happen to you as a man.

What happened was as I got started, I accidentally wrote a fairly comprehensive guide on how to positively frame hair loss in a way that drives you to become the best, most attractive man you could be. I believe taking this approach is the only true “cure” to hair loss and I feel like if every man had access to this information many millions of self-esteems would be saved as well as millions (billions?) of dollars spent on potential treatments that don’t work, or perhaps surgeries that never quite satisfy.

Please share with anyone you feel could benefit from reading this =)

It’s all about how you frame it

Nothing that ever happens to you is good nor bad, no matter what other people say. What matters is your frame of mind and beliefs about what happens to you, and how you respond to it. Example?

Mr. A wins the lottery. As a result, he becomes broke and miserable because of how he deals with the occurrence of receiving a large sum of money. Maybe rather than investing the money into his future, or otherwise spending it intelligently, Mr. A gets into drugs, gambling  or some other destructive lifestyle.

Conversely, Mr. B loses his job, goes bankrupt, becomes poor and loses everything. But he decides to take the pain of that situation and let it motivate him to take massive action. Mr. B decides to build up his money-making skills which eventually leads him to acquire an abundance of money and success.

Can you see how the way a person responds to a situation can either create a positive or negative outcome depending on that person’s attitude and actions?

This post is about more than why losing hair is a gift to men. On a meta-level it’s about the importance of changing your perspective on things that seem negative at first, so that you can respond to them in a way that brings you the results you want. It’s a post that I feel can benefit both men and women equally.

There is a common view that male hair loss is a disease – something to be covered up, medicated with Rogaine or some other anti hair loss drug, or fixed with surgery. This is in fact, nothing a but a negative frame – a negative outlook on a situation that can cause much unnecessary pain. I actually believe that losing hair is one of the best things that could happen to you as a man, and that it can also lead you to being the best, most attractive person you could possibly be. Let me explain why.

roman soldier

Why losing your hair is the best thing that can happen to you as a man

Massive leverage to make positive changes in your life

This  isn’t about positive thinking and or deluding yourself into thinking being bald is cool. I don’t at all care for that kind of delusional positive thinking. What I’m saying is that if you actually ask yourself the question “why is hair loss the best thing that can happen to me as a man?” you will come up with real, valid answers that will support the belief that it is.

Perhaps the best effect that losing your hair can have on you as a man is that the pain of losing something that you once felt was important to your identity and sense of self-worth can create pain. So much pain that it motivates you to create huge changes in your life that can make you a much better, more valuable, more solid, more confident male than your previous identity. A man who is even more attractive to women.

Where as the average pretty boy may or may not be striving for personal improvement (see note below), the man who starts to lose their hair (I know from experience), goes “oh shit, oh shit, girls aren’t gonna like me anymore because I’m gonna be the bald guy.” If the proper attitude is taken, they can use this pain to motivate them to create massive change in their life, and make themselves exceedingly awesome!

Men are concerned about hair loss because they are projecting what they think women are attracted to, based on their own perspective as a man. Most men place high value on a woman’s physically beauty. So they assume their own physically beauty is as equally as important to women (well, actually a mans “looks” do play an important factor, but for reasons different from what you might think).

The reality is that a mans physical beauty has much less to do with attraction than they realize. The most attractive qualities to women are confidence, charisma, social skills, being a leader, being funny and able to give positive emotions, being on one’s purpose (i.e. living your passions and working toward achieving your dreams), being strongly rooted in your own reality (being unaffected by other people’s words, thoughts and opinions), being a solid person that women can rely on. Alpha male qualities.

Note: I am not saying that good-looking guys are not hard-working and not striving for success. I’m saying that when faced with a challenge and the threat of losing ones hair, one can become massively motivated to create change in their life. More than the average person who does not face such a threat.

Where a man’s “looks” fit into all of this

male model

Us men want to be sharply dressed, and well-groomed with good hygiene. Being physically fit and muscular is also a plus. These things all matter because they are signals to a women that convey other important information about you that could deem you attractive or not.

Being sharply dressed conveys social awareness, attention to detail, and an overall self-awareness that shows you know how to communicate yourself to the world through your image. It can also reflect high social status.

It’s a given that you should have your personal grooming and hygiene sorted. Being well-groomed with good hygiene shows that you take care of yourself (and therefore could potentially take care of others); if you can’t even take care of yourself, how can a woman rely on you to take care of her if she needs it?

Being physically fit and muscular 1) Signals genetic fitness. Also health. It all signals that you are an active person and move your body a lot. 2) Shows the girl that you would be capable of physically protecting her if the time came.


Now that you see a couple of ways that this emotional leverage can manifest, lets look at a more detailed list of ways that this leverage can improve your life.

Areas where leverage can compel you to change

Causes you to max out other important facets of your look

There are areas of your physical appearance that are more important than the condition of your hair! These areas include:

  • Your fashion and your ability to coordinate/accessorize,
  • Having a healthy, vibrant skin tone (maybe having a nice tan),
  • Your muscular development and fitness,
  • The vibrancy that you physically exude when you are healthy: good posture, clean hygiene, and looking healthy and energetic.
  • Relaxed facial expressions, solid, constant eye contact, and good posture! Powerful, masculine body language.

If you can think of anything I left out, please post it in the comments below!

Causes you to focus on your positive traits

There are many positive things I never knew about myself before, or at least did not focus on before I started losing hair. Losing your hair teaches you to focus on and magnify your own positive traits. That focus itself is a muscle that grows over time and use! Maybe shaving your head unveils that sexy shaped dome that you didn’t even realize you had. Maybe you start to focus on your beautiful eyes more, that killer smile, or perhaps non physical character traits like your good sense of humor, or ability to connect with people.

We all have exceptional qualities in ourselves as well as imperfections, so might as well focus on the good qualities and feel gratitude for having them rather than dwell on imperfections that we can’t change! This ability to do so is a muscle that needs to be developed. Losing your hair could be a potential threat to your ego that could cause you to build this muscle.

Man pushing male symbol

Develops your masculinity

If you take a positive frame to your receding hairline, you can use that motivation to turn yourself into a more solid, man in his masculine polarity. Women who are in a feminine polarity will be more strongly attracted to men in their masculine polarity. I.e, alpha male characteristics. These are:

  • Social skills and charisma: a big social group for a man is representative of a large network of social support for a girl to feel secure in, evolutionarily speaking.
  • Leadership: being a leader of men,
  • Non-reactivity: being cool and collected at every moment – the opposite of losing ones head,
  • Confidence,
  • Wisdom,
  • Financial success,
  • Being rooted in your reality – being a man that creates the world he lives in, and being at home in it. Being relaxed in your environment.

These alpha male characteristics can all be improved with effort, completely independent of how many active follicles are on your head.

Builds your character strengths

Become a better person by developing character traits that are important to you. Maybe this means, laughing a lot and having a good sense of humor. Being a confident and courageous person. Having and sharing wisdom. Living compassionately. Treating others as you wanted to be treated.

By developing the character traits that you want and becoming the person you want to be based on your values, not only do you become a man of high character who is loved and respected by other people (including women), but by becoming the man who YOU want to be, you build self-esteem that comes from within yourself. This can not be shaken by external influences such as other people’s opinions. Having this core self-esteem is what being a solid, non-reactive masculine force is all about.

chinese character for strength

Motivation to create a positive ecosystem of emotions

The the previous point was about being the person you want to be. This next point is about building the life that you want to live. Surround yourself with passions, interests and hobbies that you enjoy. Have creative pursuits, that drive you and give meaning to your life. Spend time with friends that you respect and that respect you – friends and a social group that inspire you to always improve, and that always holds you to the highest standard.  Enjoy ample relaxation through out your day, and also tension to drive you to action when needed.

Most of all, have fun. Fun fun FUN! Let fun be the motivating force for everything. Seek to add more humor to your life. How much fun I’m having defines what I call living a happy life. And if you center your life around fun, playfulness and humor, you will also give the gift of happiness to others that you interact with, because it will spill out of your being. Others will be affected by your positive, fun, light-spirited mood. They will be inspired by your successes. Not only will your life be set up the way you want it, but others will enjoy your company and want to be a part of your world as well.

Your skills and how you relate to women

Like most other points in this post, this one ties in with the others. “Skills with women” refer to your general experience with women. How do you react around women? Are you nervous? Stumble over your words? Needy? Or are you confident, charming, smooth? How do you relate to women? Do you find it hard to make a connection? Are you able to connect and build a romantic world together? Are you sincere and honest? These all are skills, in that they are attributes that can be learned. If you don’t have them already, these skills can be  acquired with proper education and experience.

couples statue

There are plenty of books/information out there in the dating world and an endless pool of women to gain experience interacting with! Losing one’s hair could give them the feeling of “oh shit, I need to start learning to attract with my personality and character more”, and thus motivating one to educate himself and get the experience that can make him awesome with women! Just look at the story of Neil Strauss, author of The Game. He started at zero, and learned the skills to be extraordinary with women! Did I mention, he’s bald? 😉

The extra effort you put in makes you develop yourself way further than other men who don’t face such a resistance and don’t need to build up their skills. Unfortunately, because these men aren’t faced with resistance, they are hardly motivated to improve. Think about the movie “The Karate Kid.” At the beginning of the movie, he is a weak fighter and gets his ass kicked by the bullies who are OK at fighting. Because Daniel-san, the main character, faces such hardship due to an area that he is lacking in, it causes massive leverage for him to put in tons of hard work in order to gain the skills. Because he puts in a massive amount of effort – much more than the other bullies who were good enough fighters to start with and therefore, more complacent – he ends up surpassing his rivals and being the better fighter in the end (not to mention experiencing a massive growth in his character).

Losing your hair allows you to be the Karate Kid of your own personal story. Whether you decide to see it as a positive experience and allow that motivation in your life, or not, is up to you.

adam and eve picture

About masculinity

Being bald is actually a very masculine image! Think of all the masculine celebrities that are popular with the women. Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel, The Rock and Chris Daughtry to name a few. What do these celebrities have in common? They are all bad-ass.

Aside from just looking manly, losing your hair brings you into your masculinity by causing you to stop being a little princess and focus on things other than your looks. Not that fixing your image isn’t important. I do think its big, especially for how you feel about yourself, and also indicating other attractive aspects of yourself. That’s why I talk about hitting the gym and fixing your fashion and all that.

But here’s something I want you to consider. Focusing too much attention on your looks in order to attract is actually a very feminine quality! Evolutionarily speaking, women attract with good looks because it signals fertility. Men attract with leadership and social status, demonstration of eminence (such as an instrument, sport or career), charisma, confidence, and humor. This is because these traits all demonstrate the stability and access to resources that a man has that would create a secure, stable environment to be in so that the women could reproduce and feel safe from danger.

Imagine a man and woman on a date. Imagine the man is constantly checking his hair in the mirror, fixing his hair, padding down and fixing his shirt during the date. What kinda image do you get? Is he a very masculine man? Or kind of feminine? I think feminine.

Whether you become more obsessed over your looks (and therefore, move towards femininity) or decide to max out your masculine qualities by taking control of your life, your character, social skills and other things to be described later, is really up to the attitude and perspective that you take about the experience. Decide right now that you will spend some effort in creating your best image through fashion, time in the gym and good health. But then you will move toward your purpose in life and create that masculine character that the feminine truly desires.

What to do if you start losing your hair

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I strongly feel that the best action – better than surgery or anything else – is to fully accept it. Take a positive frame and actually see your self as a more attractive, better person BECAUSE of it. Be grateful that you are having this experience because as long as you take the proper frame, it will motivate you to kick ass at life and become an awesome person!

Ask yourself, “why is this experiencing of losing my hair a gift? What edge do I have over other men who are not losing hair?” Ask yourself questions and you will find the answers. This is perhaps the most important step because asking the questions will begin to change your beliefs about yourself and your attitudes about the experience. Why don’t you start now! Ask yourself this question and post your answers in the comments below. Your answers will help you and potentially other people!

1) Decide what hair style looks best on you and rock it

We can always do the best with what we have. For some people, it might mean getting a different haircut and styling it differently. Others may want to shave it completely (me in that camp). There are different lengths and razor sizes you can shave to, so find out what you like best! Also, play around with facial hair. Full beard? Little scruff? Sideburns? Chinstrap? Goatee? Experiment and find your best self!

three men with old style facial hair
Choose your next facial hair style from one of these three stylish chaps!

2) Work on your fashion

Look fresh. Look clean. Learn how to coordinate colors. Think about accessories such as sunglasses, piercings, necklaces, etc.. Maybe get a tan. Tans signal an active, healthy person and are seen as attractive by most people. No need to go overboard, or become a fashion prince, but work on finding your best presentation of yourself and keep that. Remember, how you dress will communicate to women and the world how you feel about yourself, as well as indicate social status. You could even pick your favorite bald celebrity, or even Google search “sexy bald celebrities” for some ideas to model your fashion/facial hair/hair after.

For my fellow foreign comrades here in Japan, if you’d like to up your style and fashion game, my buddy Daniel Bamford writes a lot about it on his blog. E.g. this fashion tips article featuring yours truly.

3) Hit the gym

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Need I say more? Build up that physical masculinity – strength, size, DAT chiseled body. Six-pack abs. Also, just looking and feeling healthy. Did you know working out also makes you smarter?

I’m not even saying I think this is the most important thing, and probably won’t do you very much good in the absence of the other steps. However, becoming physically the man who girls want will certainly help. Most importantly, it will make you feel like the man who women want. And how you feel about yourself is everything.

4) Fix your diet

Eat and supplement your nutrition in a way that’s gonna cause you feel and look your best. If you feel your best your brain will run optimally, which will literally impact all other areas of your development. Especially helpful for building that ecosystem of positive emotions!

5) Throw yourself into an attractive lifestyle – AKA Ecosystem of positive emotions

In other words, focus on designing a life for yourself that YOU love! Build skills in something like dancing or playing an instrument. Do fun, adventurous things like bungee jumping or skydiving. Surround yourself with cool, inspiring people who also live attractive lifestyles. Read interesting books, and watch interesting movies and programs. Buy that car or motorcycle that you’ve always wanted to buy.

If you have an interesting life, you also become an interesting person that other people want to be around. Again, this is all about creating that ecosystem of positive emotions for yourself to live in. Do it for other people but most importantly, do it for yourself. Do it because it’s the happiest life you could possibly live!

One practical step you could take to achieve this is to do this journal exercise. Take out a piece of paper (or open Word Document) and brainstorm a day in your ideal/perfect life. Imagine you woke up in a day of your ideal life. What do you do? Cook an amazing breakfast? Or eat out an amazing 5-star restaurant. Then how do you spend your morning? Performing live music in front of an audience? Conducting workshops? A peaceful walk in the park? Bungee jumping in New Zealand? How about your afternoon? Catching up with friends or loved ones? Or perhaps surfing in the ocean all day? How about your evening? Get as creative as possible and don’t hold back by saying “Oh, thats impossible, I could never do that!” Just imagine if you had the time and money to do anything you wanted to do, and write that down.

Doing this journal activity will allow to you to realize how you truly want to live each day of your life.

Piggy bank

An important note about money: sort out your financial situation! I want to talk about money in the context of using it to live the life you want. Of course, money itself is a status signal alone and will attract favorable attention from women. However, we don’t want to get caught up in the pursuit of money just as a status marker alone. Most importantly, is that you are earning the money needed to support the lifestyle you want to live. Really, you just need to be making the money that you need to support your ideal lifestyle, interests, and creative pursuits. Whether that be travel, playing music, running charity events, or whatever it is you want to do. Remember, you don’t need to be a millionaire to buy a sports car!

6) Fully own it

Man, don’t ever deny it, try to hide it, or make excuses in any way. Fully accept it. Don’t just accept it, fucking LOVE IT! Because your hair is You, it’s unique, it’s cool because YOU think so. There’s this cool thing that happens where your attitude about yourself rubs off on other people. If you think you’re unattractive, your attitude will show it and other people will feel it. If you think you’re awesome, other people will feel that because your facial gestures, vocal tonality and posture will show it!

Final words

Well that’s it. I hope this post has helped you overcome any uneasiness you may have encountered over having a receding hairline. I hope this post has shown you that as men, our most attractive attributes are ones that can be increased with knowledge and practice. And that hair loss can be a motivating force that accelerates the rapid gain of those attributes.

For the men and women who have read this and are not faced with the challenge of losing their hair, I hope this post has showed you that one can have a seemingly negative experience, and transform it into an incredibly positive one. And that the ability to do so is a muscle that can be developed with practice. As mentioned before with the analogy of winning the lottery, no experience is inherently good or bad. It all depends on how you perceive it and the actions you take in response to it.

Let’s all do our best to develop our ability to reframe and respond to situations, as it is a useful skill that can be used over and over again with the never-ending challenges of our lives.

Thanks for reading.

Tony

Progress Bars: A Simple Way to Use A Journal to Increase Motivation

Making what I call progress bars is a simple and effective way of journaling. It has increased my consistency and motivation for maintaining productive habits every day, such as studying Japanese, performing self-hypnosis, practicing meditation, and living a healthy lifestyle.

download progress bar

Progress bars are daily checklists that allow you to track whether or not you have done your scheduled tasks for the day. I call it a “progress bar” because it looks like the kind of progress bar that you see when downloading something on the internet, or even in an RPG-style video game that shows visually the amount of experience a player has and how much more experience they must gain in order to “level up.”

What is easy to do is easy not to do. – Jim Rohn

Some simple tasks like meditate ten minutes every day are so easy to do but also, easy to forget/not do. Making a simple checklist that you mark off once a day helps you remember that you have or haven’t done that task yet for the day (I forget all the time whether or not I’ve meditated that day). Implementing the progress bar helps you remember and keeps you accountable.

For example, if I wanted to practice reading Japanese one hour every day this week, I would create a progress bar labeled “Read Japanese – 1 hour” and draw a bar divided into seven squares (each square representing one day that week) .Then every day I read Japanese for one hour, I simple check off the box for that day. I’ve also found that for myself, doing “sets” of one week seem to be the most effective, as a opposed to having one long bar composed of thirty days (or however long the current goal spans).

a hand drawn progress bar
An example of a progress bar from my own journal

The short-term vision increases focus and motivation to complete the task. Thinking in terms of one or two weeks at a time seems easier than thinking in terms of months or years. If I implement a task for a month or longer, I simply break the month up into weeks (or sometimes two weeks) and focus on completing the shorter progress bars one at a time, rather than drawing up the longer, more intimidating thirty-day bar.

Tasks I have personally used the progress bar for:

  • Drink two liters of water a day (recommended daily intake for my body weight).
  • Practice meditation for ten minutes every day.
  • Practice a self-hypnosis program once every day (and then cut down to once a week).
  • Practice speaking monologues in front of the mirror in Japanese for the purpose of increasing Japanese ability,  and conversational ability in general.

Why drawing up progress bars is awesome and helpful for achieving your goals

You can clearly picture your goals

Having a progress bar, like the ones in RPG video games, give you a way of visualizing your progress and estimating when you will complete a goal – much like gaining experience points. It is this very characteristic that makes video games fun and addicting. By using progress bars as a tool, you are turning yourself into a real life video game character.

8-bit video game character

Giving your goals a time frame turns the abstract into actionable steps

The progress bar allows you to visualize abstract goals in terms of one or two-week chunks, which turns the goal into something that is actionable. An example from my own life: drink enough water is a great goal to have, but unfortunately it’s too vague to be implementable and one might be confused about what drink enough water even means in terms of action. If we can’t see the path to the goal, we are sure to not take action. However, drink two liters of water every day for one week is very specific about what needs to be done. I now know exactly what to do in order to “drink enough water.”

If a goal is longer than one week, it will require more than one progress bar. There are two strategies to tracking goals longer than a week.

  1. Focus on completing the current progress bar for the week. Then upon completion, evaluate how you feel and decide if you want to implement a new progress bar for the next week using the same goal, or if you want to modify your goal for the next week. For example, maybe drinking 1 gallon of water a day was making you sick so you decided to change the goal to 3 liters everyday for the next week.
  2. Use the progress bar system for a month or longer in order to establish the habit, then drop it. Once you find yourself automatically doing the task daily without even thinking about it, you can do away with using the progress bar all together. Using the previous example of drinking water every day, obviously at some point I am going to want to stop tracking my water consumption. In other words, I want it to be a deeply ingrained habit that automates itself. Much like going to the gym (I’ve been doing it for three years now so no need to track it) and studying Japanese using my SRS program (been doing it for six years every day, no way I’ll fail to do it now!). All I need to do is do a month-long challenge (breaking it up into four progress bars – one for each week). After completing the challenge, drinking enough water everyday should now be a long-term habit! If not, I’ll do another one month challenge and repeat until it is!

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Wrappin’ it up

Progress bars are a neat little system for tracking the completion of daily tasks and moving one forward toward their goals. I like making progress bars because it’s so freaking simple. It takes literally 20 secs to sketch up a quick one in your journal that you can carry around with you to check off once you complete a task for the day. It helps me remember my daily tasks and also increases my motivation in completing them because visually seeing the progress helps me make my abstract goals tangible. Because I can actually see the progress, I know and feel that it is taking place and as a result, my motivation snowballs.

Everyone will have their own preferences for things like how the progress bar is drawn, how many days are included in one bar, how it is labeled and etc., so I recommend experimenting in order to find the style that best suits you and your needs!

Enjoy =D

Smoking Cigarettes, Buying Sports Cars and Why it’s Important to Sometimes Do Crappy Workouts

Let’s face it. In life, nothing is ever perfect. Nothing is ever the way we planned it. We always have good intentions. We always tell ourselves we’re going to do something a certain way and stick to it.

But then life happens: we get sick, we drink too much the night before, a surprise meeting comes up, we get injured, etc..

More than always doing a good job, its most important that we do a job. Let me explain.

Monks carrying out the process
Carrying out that habit day after day is the golden ticket.

The habit of carrying out the process is the most important thing in the completion of any goal. This is why I always focus on maintaining the habits that I want to stick to daily. This includes going to the gym for example. Even the days when I’m hungover, or am sick and feel terrible, I still go to the gym anyway. I do a crappy workout on purpose! Just to maintain the habit. Even if I normally squat 100k, but on a given day I only feel good enough to just squat the 20k bar, I will do that. Even if I scrap my entire routine for that day, and just curl the pink dumbbells, I will make a point of at least showing up.

Show Up Every Day, No Matter What!

Going to the gym just for the sake of maintaining the habit, even if done poorly, is a million times better than not going at all — no, it is infinitely better. A crappy workout is infinitely better than no workout at all. 1 is an infinitely larger number than 0. Sure, maybe 100 is better than 1, but at least doing “1” a day maintains the habit, which is the most important part.

Doing the hardest workout of my life, but just for one day, means nothing in the absence of habit.

Consistency is the key to progress.

I learned about this concept through my journey of studying Japanese. I had high hopes for myself every day. “I’m gonna study 5 hours of Japanese every day without fail!” I said. But you know what? All kinds of things came up that prevented my promise to myself from happening. But the most important thing was that I at least stuck to doing a little Japanese every day, even if only for one minute. Just one Anki review. If I at least made that commitment, I would maintain the habit of studying Japanese every day. Over time, that motivation snowballed and most days I did actually hit that 5 hour mark.

I have Khatzumoto to thank for learning this. Read about it in his fantastic article over at his blog All Japanese All The Time.

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Our daily habits must be strong enough to stand the test of time.

The Kaizen Principle

The idea of just doing the smallest, most sustainable action is not new either. It’s a philosophy that was modeled around the Japanese business principle “kaizen.” The principle follows that when you want to create change, you don’t start with huge modifications in the structure. Rather, you make very small, incremental changes over a long period of time.

When applied to things like personal development and goal achievement, this means that you don’t start huge. You commit to very small, achievable actions until they become a habit. Then you slowly increase those habits over time.

For example, if you wanted to quit smoking but find yourself bending and breaking every time you go cold-turkey, then start with very, very small changes. Let’s say you currently smoke a pack a day. For the first two weeks, you would start with removing one cigarette from the pack so that you are only smoking 19 cigarettes a day. Make 19 cigarettes a day the new habit. Then after two weeks, switch to 18 a day. Then maybe the next two weeks 16 a day.

Cutting down so slowly seems ineffective. It seems like it would take forever to get down to the goal of zero cigs a day. But guess what? Going at your current path of making large, unsustainable changes is not working. If you keep that up, you will most likely never quit! Better to make slow, sustainable changes over the next few months and actually quit for good.

Here’s the interesting thing that happens. When you make small changes and stick to them, you still feel a sense of accomplishment when you stick to it. That sense of accomplishment then gives you motivation to stick to your current goals and do more! Literally there is a snowball effect on your motivation that propels you toward the completion of the current goal at hand.

This example can be applied to the goal of losing weight. Rather than going for your garden variety crash diet and trying to lose 20 pounds a month, it’s better to aim for only two pounds a month. There is a high chance that with the low, sustainable goal of two pounds a month, you will build the habit of eating your target calories for the day and maintaining your desired weight permanently. Whereas knocking 20lbs off in a month is not sustainable, causing your weight to snap back up like a frikkin’ yo-yo in the near future.

How to Buy a Sports Car, Even if You Are Dead Broke

Let me give you another musing from my life. I am currently saving for a sports car. I don’t know how I will come up with the money for that. But you know what? I am saving anyway. How you say?

sports car with suicide doors

Well I took an envelope and I wrote the words “Sports Car” on the outside of it. I put it on the table in my living room. For now, I have committed to putting at least 100 yen (roughly 1 US dollar) in the envelope a month. This idea seems wild right? How could I possibly stash away enough to get that open-top convertible that I desire. At one dollar a month, it will take until I’m 70 years old until I save up enough money to buy it, right?

Well, here’s the thing. 1 dollar a month is the bare minimum. I can stash away more if I please and some times I will. But here’s where that snowball of motivation comes in. One dollar a month is a small amount, but it is still progress. As I see my sports car fund slowly growing over the next few months, I will see that progress and feel good about it. I may even decide I could stash away more. Maybe 10 bucks for that month, or even 100 bucks. The bigger I see the fund getting, the more motivated I will be to make it a priority to add more money to it.

As I get closer to my financial goal of having enough money to get that car, I may even be motivated enough to start doing a few part-time teaching gigs in order to reach the end of that goal a bit faster. This is the kaizen principle at work.

Motivation Overrated?

Let’s go full circle back to crappy workouts.

I’m not telling you to do crappy workouts every time. Even doing crappy workouts half the time is probably a bad idea. But even that, is still better than being inconsistent.

I’m just saying things happen, and motivation to achieve goals waxes and wanes. The best thing you could do is make the process of achieving your goal a habit. A habit is more important than any amount of motivation you could have.

Like brushing your teeth. Do you brush your teeth because you have willpower? Because you are extremely motivated? No, you do it because it’s a strong habit. Make going to the gym like brushing your teeth. Make studying Japanese like brushing your teeth and you will never have to worry about things like motivation again.

How to Use Nutrition to Enhance Your Brain

Nutritious fruit

Your body is a machine

If you are seeking living a life of excellence, I recommend starting with optimizing your diet.

People often don’t realize the effect that poor nutrition has on their mood and mental state. Much research has linked vitamin deficiencies and food allergies to the more vague, global ailments of depression, anxiety, brain fog, ADHD, and poor memory.

Our body is a biological machine. The food we put in this machine are the necessary ingredients to make the machine run, such as gas, oil and electricity. If the ingredients are soiled or missing entirely, the machine will not run properly.

The mind is not some nebulous entity that floats around in space but rather a reflection of what’s going on in your body. Think of your body being like a computer, and your mind is like the software. If the hardware of the computer is physically damaged, it can affect how the software runs, causing it to run slowly, faulty, or perhaps not even at all. Based on personal experience as well as a few good books I read, what follows is what I have found to work for myself. Taken with a grain of salt and some experimentation, I feel it might work for others too.

The take-home message is to not write it off, nor blindly believe it, but to experiment! Try it out and see how you feel. Do a one month, or six-week challenge. Whatever you want! Just doing that experiment may be eye-opening and cause you to change your lifestyle forever.

Cutting out the crap

The simplest (although arguably not the easiest!) thing to do is to cut out the things in your diet which are disruptive to your biology. Starting with cutting the bad stuff out is easy because you don’t have to worry about what supplements you need, or if you’re getting enough of each essential nutrient on a day-to-day basis.

Allergens: Gluten and Milk     

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Many people have allergies to gluten and milk and don’t even know it! The effects of the allergy may be subtle, such as brain fog, depression, ADHD, anxiety, memory loss, and etc.. I would recommend doing a six-week challenge — eliminating all dairy and gluten to in order to find out if you are one of the people with gluten or milk allergies that don’t even know it.

Sugar

According to research from the University of Los Angeles, too much sugar can cause free radicals to form in the brain and impair the nerve cells from communicating.

Coffee

Coffee is a highly addictive stimulant. Used in moderation it can be beneficial as it temporarily boosts concentration and energy. However, use it excessively and you run the risk of overstimulating your hormonal system and causing adrenal burnout. For a man, this means burning out your testosterone and killing your sex-drive! I’d recommend checking out this video series (especially the first video by Paul Chek to get a nice overview on the effects of coffee on your body (both negative and positive). Also, this video has a nice concise bit on the effects coffee as well.

Alcohol

Excessive drinking can lower your moods, cause a mental and physical dependence. Some research also shows that drinking can lower testosterone. Also, being hung over can be painful and exhausting, sapping drive for carrying out goals.

Other toxins: Trans fats, mercury, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and pesticides

Your brain evolved to thrive off of real, nutritious whole foods! Aim to increase the time you spend in the kitchen a bit in order decrease the chemical laden, factory produced foods which are full of chemicals and other toxins, and increase the amount of nutrient filled whole foods you eat. Your brain will thank you for it and reward you with clearer, quicker cognition.

Adding in the required ingredients to make the machine work

Scientist

Now that we’ve eliminated some of the junk that’s bogging down the machine, time to throw in some ingredients to help soup it up! I’m not a huge fan of supplements. I think they are a bit overrated, as they are another market for someone to exploit and make money off of people. It is also debatable how bioavailable vitamin and mineral supplements actually are. Meaning, it’s possible that we are spending all this money on vitamin supplements just to pee them out.

If possible, I would get ALL my nutrient requirements from a diet consisting of whole foods. However, I do supplement some vitamins just in case. Especially the ones that people commonly have deficiencies in. I have noticed improvements in my mood and performance since I started taking vitamin supplements (although I recognize it could be a placebo though). I recommend every one experiment with it on their own to find what works for them.

Many of the supplements that I take are recommended by Dr. Hyman in his book “The UltraMind Solution” — a fantastic read for anyone wanting to expand their knowledge on nutrition and how it relates to optimum brain performance.

Dr. Hyman says that 92% of Americans are deficient in some kind of vitamin, 80% are deficient in vitamin D, and 99% are deficient in essential omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential components that make up our biological machinery. Remember, if the machinery (body) becomes faulty, so does the software (the mind).

My supplements

Note: The daily vitamin recommendations that follow are taken from The UltraMind Solution  and are also listed on Dr. Hyman’s website.

Vitamin D – I love being in the sun so I try to be out in it and get as much vitamin D as I can naturally. I also supplement with 2000 units of vitamin D a day. The recommended intake is 2000 to 4000 units a day.

Fish oil – For my essential fats I just pop a fish oil pill every day and forget about it. Also, living in Japan, I naturally eat a lot of fish (as well as eat a lot of avocado). Dr. Hyman recommends omega-3 fatty acids with EPA and DHA in a ratio of 300/200. Take 1,000mg twice a day.

Calcium/Mag – Two vital vitamins for the brain. Magnesium is important for testosterone production in men. Best taken in a combination calcium+magnesium vitamin. Calcium should be 600 to 800mg a day and magnesium 400 to 600mg a day.

B complex  Important for healthy brain and body function. Make sure folate is at 800mcg, B6 is at 50mg, and B12 is at 1000mcg per day.

Zinc (especially for men) – Not especially recommended by Dr. Hyman to the best of my memory, but it is important for the production of testosterone in men. High testosterone is important for men because it is our source of vitality, competitive nature, and drive to overcome fears.

Multivitamin – Like I said before, eating a diet varied in different colors of whole foods is important, but just to cover all my bases: A multivitamin that contains all the essential vitamins and minerals.

Probiotics – With all the nerves in your stomach, it is literally your second brain. Probiotics are important to restoring the healthy bacteria in your stomach which help you digest food. An unhealthy balance of this bacteria can lead to food allergies, and food allergies can lead you to feeling slow and sluggish, unsure why. Because I am in Japan and it is easy to get, I eat kimchi and natto every day. Yogurt is also a good option. But you can use kombucha tea or other probiotic supplements.

Protein (for lifters)  Again, I favor getting protein from whole foods in a perfect world but sometimes, I feel the need to supplement. I follow the standard advice of 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass a day although I realize some of the research points to the fact that 0.82g per pound of lean body mass is all we need (perhaps even less).

There are periods of time when I don’t supplement with protein while doing a hard weight training regimen, and maybe don’t do my best to make sure I’m meeting my macro needs. I’ve noticed that during those periods of time when I get less protein, I feel more exhausted throughout the day and even my sex drive drops. When I start supplementing protein again I usually feel immediately better by the time I wake up the next day. Anecdotal evidence sure, but I’ve found it to work best with me.

Finding that golden macronutrient balance

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Metabolic typing has been talked about in great lengths in Paul Chek’s book How to Eat, Move and be Healthy.

Metabolic typing is the idea that there is no single macronutrient balance that fits everyone. Whether you should eat higher carbs, lower fat, or lower fat, higher carbs is determined by your genetics. This is because your ancestors evolved in different regions of the world while eating different types of food available in those regions. People living closer to the equator enjoyed more of a plant-based diet (higher carb) while people closer to the poles ate more animals (protein and fat) and therefore evolved differently in order to handle their diets.

Eating the correct macronutrient balance for you alone is important because it will make or break your mental focus and energy. Eating too much carbs if you’re a person suited to a diet higher in fats will make you dull and have a hard time concentrating. Eating too many fats if you have high carb genetics will leave you feeling unsatiated and drained all the time.

It’s up to us to experiment with different macronutrient balances to see what suits our body the most. In the book How to Eat, Move and be Healthy Paul Chek teaches you indicators that your body will produce to let you know if you’re eating in alignment with your metabolic typing. Note: apparently, Paul Chek learned about metabolic typing first through the book The Metabolic Typing Diet by William L. Wolcott and Trish Fahey. I have not read this book however. I learned about the diet from Paul Chek.

Getting Proper Hydration

Your body is made up of 75% water. Making sure you drink enough water throughout the day and getting proper hydration is imperative to having optimum brain and body performance. What I do is drink half of my body weight (lbs) in fluid ounces a day. For example, I am 145lbs, so half is about 72.5oz of water. That is roughly a half a gallon. I don’t track how much water I drink anymore, but I did a one month water challenge in the past. I tracked my water intake every day for one month and made sure I was drinking at least a half a gallon of water a day. This gave me a feel for how much water is sufficient for my body per day.

Other important factors

Fitness

Picture of row of dumbells

This topic deserves a whole ‘nother article in itself. But getting the proper amount of exercise is so important for your body and mind. One study showed that exercise can be even more effective than in lowering depression than medication! Humans are thinking and moving creatures. Before the age of cars, computers and minimal movement in confined spaces for a living, humans were constantly on the run from predators, searching for food, and traveling to different places by foot. When we are moving around is when we are in the best mood and the most resourceful.

Exercise has been shown to increase BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), which is a compound in the body that speeds up the generation of new brain cells. Also, becoming physically fit has been shown to improve the cardiovascular system and how fast oxygen is shuttled to the brain. Improving how fast our brain can receive fuel improves its performance!

Sleep

There seems to be a lot of debate over how much amount of sleep is optimal for humans. All I know is that if I don’t get at least seven hours of sleep, the next day sucks shit.

Sleeping helps you recover physically and mentally, allowing your body to recover from the daily stress and relax. Stress can be so damaging on the brain, causing poor memory concentration, and even mental exhaustion. People who are in a chronic state of stress have poorer creative thinking skills as well as social skills.

Consider what the stress response is. When humans were living in the wild, before our technologically advanced civilization, they experienced the fight or flight response in the forest when they came across some sort of predator such as a bear. The brain needed to shut off functions that were unnecessary to fighting and or running from a bear at that time. Shutting off those parts of the brain temporarily impaired certain parts of our brain while we were in fight or flight mode.

Even though we are usually not running from bears anymore, we still experience this same fight or flight phenomenon in response to other stressors such as money problems, breaking up with romantic partner, going to a job interview, etc.. If not dealt with effectively, these stressors can cause certain parts of our brain to shut down, rendering us unavailable to tap into our own resources that we have in order to deal with the situation.

We need to find things in our life that allow us to wind down and relax.

Meditation is a fantastic way to do this.

Meditation

I like to think of the cerebral cortex and the higher thinking capacities of the brain as a muscle. The more you use it, the better you get at things like focus and concentration, will power, logical and analytical thinking, and situational awareness. Even memory can be improved through meditation. Meditation is like weight lifting for your brain.

There are many different philosophies and methodologies for meditation. The one I use involves sitting still in silence and focusing my attention on my breathing (although I believe there are countless other methods that work just as well). Basically, by focusing on your breath, becoming aware of when your mind wanders and refocusing back on the breath every time your mind wanders, you are exercising that very focus itself, as well as how to refocus your attention on what’s important at the time (your breath). You are strengthening your ability to step outside and observe yourself and to notice when you become out of focus. Extremely important for living life in the present moment and maintaining focus on goals.

Another downstream effect of meditation is that it causes you to become present to the moment, so that when stressors arise in your life you have the resources to be able to deal with the stressors effectively. This allows you to live a lower stress life.

Conclusion

Well there it is, I have giving you the best tools that I have found based on my education and personal experience. I invite you to experiment with them yourself and seeing what works for you.

Signs pointing in multiple directions, all labeled
Everyone must discover what is the “right way” for themselves.

Everyone is a bit different in what works for them specifically. At the same time, we are all human and are built similarly on a biological level. The key is experiment. Experiment, experiment, experiment! Try out some of my recommendations, and see how you feel. If you notice an improvement in your mood, little by little you will be motivated to experiment more, taking yourself further and further on the path of brain optimization. That is what motivated me.

Let’s recap the post:

Your body is a machine

Depression, anxiety, brain fog, ADHD and other vaguely definable ailments can be the outcome of essential vitamin and mineral deficiencies, as well as an overload of allergens and toxins.

 Eliminate

-Food allergies: gluten and milk

-Coffee

-Sugar

-Alcohol

-Other toxins: Trans fats, mercury, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and pesticides

Supplement

-Vitamin D: 80% Americans Vitamin D deficient

-03/fish oil and DHA

-Calcium/Mag

-B complex

-zinc (especially for men)

-Multivitamin

-Probiotics

-Protein (for lifters)

Macronutrient balance

-Get a healthy balance of macronutrients according to your own genetic makeup. Listen to your body in order to discover what balance works best for you.

Other important factors

-Proper hydration

-Exercise

-Sleep

-Relaxation

-Meditation

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed =)

How the Words We Use Affect Our Reality

Picture of brain

Let me start off by saying that when I first got into the personal development game at the age of seventeen, I started with watching films like “The Secret” and after initially getting into the new-age stuff for a few years, I developed a distaste and distrust of anything smelling remotely like bullshit. I had a feeling that all this hype about positive thinking and changing your self-talk was just B.S. promoted by personal development book authors and film directors as a magic pill that would cure anything. Because humans have a natural impulse to go for the quick fixes, naturally, the promise of the magic pill would sell.

However, having suffered failure to stay motivated to take the right kinds of action that would bring me the kind of experiences and things that I wanted in life, I finally decided to go to work with this stuff. I began to see it as the underlying foundation for success and the missing link in my own development. I realized that my perceptions and negative beliefs I had about myself and what was possible were putting me in unresourceful negative states like depression, apathy, and helplessness and those states were making it impossible for me to take actions that would lead to success.

I felt like taking the right actions were impossible but that was only a feeling created by a negative belief that caused me to quit early. Had I not had the hindering belief, taking the right action would otherwise be very possible for me to do! It finally dawned on me what all these other successful people and personal development authors were talking about was real. Thoughts and self-talk are the foundation of beliefs. Beliefs form perceptions which determine how you interpret an experience. An emotional state is then produced depending on how you view that situation (good, bad, angry, depressed, excited, etc.). The emotional state you experience will determine what kind of action you will be motivated to take. Those actions will determine your success or failure. In other words, I realized if I changed my negative self-talk, I would change my emotional state and consequently, whether I succeeded at a goal or not.

How Words Affect Your Physiology

Words you use to describe an experience will affect how you view the experience and the significance it has in your life. Changing how you respond to that experience changes the course of your life either positively or negatively.

Words are like cogs in your brain. Words interact with each other and create your perceptions and beliefs which inspire you to a certain action. They are the makeup of your emotional state. Literally your thoughts are an habitual circuit in your day-to-day life that produces certain states of mind. People generally have the same kinds of interpretations, thoughts, reactions to people, feelings about their job and or lifestyle every day, and those habitual thought circuits produce similar emotional states every day. The handful of emotional states that you experience on a day-to-day basis are produced from the habitual thoughts that build up your perceptions and beliefs about yourself and the world.

Becoming aware of the negative thought pattern “Oh god, now I have to go to work” and realizing the implications of what it means about your beliefs about yourself and the world, then changing it to a more accurate and favorable thought pattern will change your emotional state. You don’t have to go to work, you could just not go. But you “choose” to go to work to make the money to keep your life running. Saying “I HAVE to go to work” implies that you have no free will. It implies that you HAVE to because maybe you are “stuck” in this job and cannot find anything better, or do not have the skills to do anything better. Every person is probably a little different. “I choose to go to work” implies you have weighed your outcomes and are choosing the best possible course of action for now.

Taking a look at this example, it’s easy to see how words affect your physiology. Emotions are actual chemical reactions in your body. Having the thought that you HAVE to go to a job causes you to “frame” or interpret the situation as a helpless one, which makes you feel helpless. The feeling of helplessness is an emotion that causes one to feel lethargic and not take the right kind of action because why take action when you know it’s helpless anyway, right? Better to recognize that you actually CHOOSE to go to work, whether you enjoy it or not. This thought is more empowering because it gives you the feeling that you are in control, and if you wanted to, you could choose something else.

Look out, I’m peeved!

Tony Robbins talked about this phenomenon in great lengths in his best-selling book “Awaken the Giant Within.” He describes his favorite word to replace words like “angry”, “pissed”, and “outraged”: “peeved.” For example, if something negative happens to you, you could say “I’m really pissed off.” Just saying that will amplify the negative feelings of being pissed off! But What if when your buddy asks you what’s wrong? You answer “I’m a bit peeved.” Peeved. Lol. It’s kind of a funny word right? It softens the emotional effects that saying “I’m pissed off” would cause. Plus it’s just a ridiculous word anyway. Even just saying the word in a moment of frustration could make you giggle and interrupt the negative chain of thoughts. This could make you laugh and consequently, change your emotional state to a lighter, more positive one.

Let’s use an example from my life related to money stress. In the past, when I suddenly discovered an unexpected bill that was I required to pay off and didn’t have the sufficient funds in that moment, I might have said, albeit jokingly, “I just got raped by this giant bill.” Now, I say stuff like this in humor, so it’s not all bad. But what is the problem with this? I’m comparing the situation to getting “raped” which is a terrible tragedy for someone to experience. One’s thoughts and subconscious respond to those words by perceiving the arrival of this bill suddenly as getting “raped” which amplifies the intensity of the experience. Also, “giant” bill. Is the bill really giant? That’s funny because it looks like a normal-sized bill to me. The paper has the same size and dimensions as most other bills. But labeling it as “giant” causes it to be blown out of proportion in my own mind and makes me fear and feel more stressed out than if I were to view it as it really was: a bill that I don’t yet have the money to pay for.

Instead of saying “I just got raped by this giant bill” it would put me in a more resourceful state of mind to say “I just got an unexpected bill in the mail, and I’m feeling a little stressed because I’m not yet sure how I’m gonna pay it.” This not only a more accurate interpretation of the situation but it’s also more empowering because inherent in the sentence is the assumption that I am not sure how I will pay it YET, but at a future time I will be.

Now that we know how the language we use in our thoughts affects us, let’s look at some practical steps we can take in order to change our language, reprogram our physiology, and thereby choose more productive actions in order to create the experiences we want in life.

Practical steps to using your words to enhance your mental state

1) Notice. Be aware of your thoughts. Notice when you are using inaccurate words to describe your experience. Noticing that you are using ineffective language with yourself is the first step to changing it. For example, lets say you catch yourself either thinking in your own mind or telling someone else “I have to do XYZ…” Notice and ask yourself “Wait… do I really HAVE to? Is someone holding a gun to my head? Or do I CHOOSE to do it?” Most likely the answer is going to be “I CHOOSE to do it.” Even if it is not the best decision, it is one that brings a benefit in some way, i.e., “I choose to go to this job that I don’t really like every day because it brings me a stable paycheck and gives me a chance to possibly save and invest into something better someday.”

If you happen to be alone or in a situation where you really have time to reflect you can further ask yourself, “Is there a better choice that I could be making?” If you ask yourself that enough times, you will eventually come to an answer. The power of asking questions is another topic on its own and will be discussed in a later post.

2) Restate. After noticing a faulty labeling of a situation using step one, identify the unresourceful wording and restate the phrase aloud or in your head. If you catch yourself thinking or saying the same faulty thought many times throughout the day or week, and you restate it every time, eventually, the faulty pattern will be replaced by the new one. Building off the example above, let’s say you notice yourself saying to yourself and other people “I really hate that I have to work this job every day.” Well what’s wrong with this? “Hate” is a very strong word that could possibly be modified to lower the intensity. Also, as stated in the example from number one, “have to” is another faulty part of the sentence. Well how about this as a restatement, “Lately, I really feel unsatisfied with my choice to work this job every day.” This restatement implies that you do indeed make the choice to do this job every day, when you could possibly be making other choices, and perhaps, more satisfying ones.

The first example “I really hate that I have to work this job every day” implies that you are trapped and helpless because you “have to.” Also, the sentence implies you feel “hate” which is a very emotionally charged word. People kill each other in this world being in a state of hate. Not something you want to add to your mental/emotional state unless absolutely necessary for the situation. Note: I’m not saying you should never let yourself be in a state of hate. It is part of our emotional tool box because it has its place in this world. Maybe you’re in a situation where you witness someone physically harming a loved one or even yourself. Using the physical power that the emotion brings may be resourceful in that situation as opposed to just feeling “unsatisfied” with the situation. But using these examples show different emotions can be more or less resourceful depending on the situation.

3) Automate that language. Notice every time you catch yourself repeating that same negative phrase throughout the day/week and reword it every time you catch it. Make your newly worded phrase the go-to phrase. Make it a habit. Eventually, it won’t require any effort anymore as it will be automatic.

inspiring tree picture

More ways to harness the power of words

Music: Music is a tool that we can use to change our emotional state. Hell, even music without words has the power to produce massive state changes. Just look at how fast house music can cause one to want to jump around and dance. Imagine the right kind of music combined with words that are uplifting and inspiring. One artist I love to listen to is Kreva. I find his music super uplifting. Plus much of his lyrics are about seizing the best moments of life and living awesomely. Of course, you must understand Japanese in order to get the best of his music 😉

Fill your life with music that puts you in the emotional states you want to be in: inspired, excited about life, confident and courageous, and curious. If you fill your life with this kind of music, those lyrics will become part of your physiology. They will inhabit the thoughts of your mind, just as filling your life with negative music with negative words can cause you to be in a pessimistic, depressed, lifeless state. Just look at the lives of the musicians making that music. Their own lives are a product of the language they use, as well as the language they use is also a product of their lives – its cyclical.

Aim to cut out the garbage, and replace it with inspiring alternatives.

Books, movies, media, and the people you surround yourself with: It has been said by great people that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. A part of this has to do with the fact that as humans we unconsciously copy the language of our peers in our social group. Do an experiment. For the next couple days or so, observe the language you use and notice if you catch yourself saying the same words and phrases that your friends use, whether it be slang, foul language, expressions, etc.. Yes, those words have an impact on your physiology and state too!

Your job now is to either set up your environment and social group with people who you want to become like. This could either be done by actually spending time with those people, but if that’s not possible, it could be done by reading books written by great people whose lives you wish to emulate. Also, notice the language they use. Especially the empowering language. Commit to using that language more in your life. Keeping a journal helps as well because you can write down quotes and phrases that you particularly like so that you can remember it more easily and use it later. What great or famous person would you like to be your personal mentor and role model for resourceful language? How about Albert Einstein? How about Bill Gates? How about Gandhi? Well, you can! Read their books and/or famous quotes if they haven’t written any books and start using that very same language in your day-to-day life!

Affirmations: Affirmations are another fantastic way to program yourself with the right kind of language that will put you into resourceful states. Affirmations are easy. Just think of some kind of belief that you want to be a part of your mental state. For example, “Every day, I am improving my skills and am adding more value to people’s lives than the day before.” Repeat this sentence in your head over and over for a span of time. When I didn’t have a car here in Japan, I used to choose an affirmation to repeat in my head while on my forty-five minute bike ride to the gym. And sometimes back from the gym as well! Imagine the impact repeating the same belief you want to internalize over and over for forty-five minutes to an hour and a half a day, 3-4 times a week! Think of it as brainwashing yourself with belief that you would like to internalize. If you don’t like the negative connotation that the term “brainwash” can carry, think of it as “brain fortifying” or as I like to think of it, reprogramming your physiology.

Summary of this post:

The language we use affects whether we make productive decisions or not, because it affects how we interpret our experiences and what kind of emotions we have in response to those experiences. This emotional state will then determine how we respond to that experience: either consciously and productively, or reactively and non-productively.

Three steps to changing your language:

  • Notice when you use inaccurate or faulty language in your day-to-day life.
  • Restate the sentence in a way that produces a more desirable, resourceful emotional state.
  • Automate that language by catching yourself every time you use that same faulty language, and correcting it. Eventually, the new, resourceful language will become the habit.

Other ways to take control of your language and emotional state:

  • Music
  • Books, movies, media, and people
  • Affirmations

Enjoy!