What Is Food?

Today’s Lesson: What happens to any battery that is constantly overcharged?


Apple iPhone 3GS li-on battery (Wikipedia)

Peter Diamandis is a BIG thinker with a rare ability to explain complex concepts in plain language. While answering a fan question on the Tim Ferriss show, he said something that struck me:

“Food is just a mechanism for turning sunlight energy into (biomechanical) energy.”

That got me thinking. Although we have many emotional, physical, and chemical reactions to food, at its base food is simply fuel. Our bodies are essentially machines designed to transport and protect our brains the way our cars are machines designed to transport and protect our bodies. That means bad things can happen if we over-fuel, under-fuel, or use the wrong fuel to run our body machines.

Over-fueling provides more energy than can be effectively burned off, causing energy storage units to bloat, stagnate, and corrode (all the problems that come with being overweight). Under-fueling means the machine can not run effectively and may lead to premature engine wear and seldom used parts deteriorating and breaking down when needed most (all the problems with not having enough nutrition). Using the wrong fuel is probably the worst, leading to physical, sometimes irreparable, damage. Drug abuse, for example, is like putting hi-octane fuel into a car that requires regular unleaded. It will burn fast, backfire, and possibly ruin the engine altogether.

As with any machine, years of continued abuse will contribute to faster wear and tear, breakdowns, and eventual self-destruction.

If you think of food as simply the mechanism we have to convert sunlight energy into physical energy, it takes away the emotional attachment. Think about what type of fuel, and how much of it you are putting in your tank (I mean, body) the next time you stop to refuel (I mean, have dinner).


An Easy Way To Have More Energy

Some days seem to drag while others zip by. You are the same person every day, so why don’t you have the same energy each day?


Some nights you sleep well, some are a struggle. For the most part, you have your daily routines, eat pretty much the same types of food, and for the most part have the same amount of activity each day.

It all seems to average out but I have noticed people’s energy (meaning awareness, activity, and acuity) is all over the map. Some days we drag and feel sluggish, others we seem to come out swinging and hit home runs all day! Why isn’t our energy level average most days?

The easy answers, I know, are always external factors like sleep, caffeine, exercise, etc. Today, while I was driving, the sky was overcast and I did not care for the music playing in my car and I felt really bored and on the borderline of a headache. Then, one of my favorite songs came on just as the sun came out and before I knew it, I was singing and tapping my feet and I felt lively and alert.

During moments of the day, I had lots of energy–when I was engaged and enjoying myself, and during other moments all I wanted to do was nap.

I thought I did not sleep well last night or maybe I needed an extra caffeine or sugar boost today. Then I realized I was responding to external stimuli but the energy was coming from inside of me the whole time. I generated the energy I wanted when I wanted it. When I felt bored or depressed in a moment, I let that take over. All I had to do, though, was put on a good song, or smile and move and suddenly I felt better. I could have done that the whole time!


Today’s Lesson: You choose your energy level.



What Gives You Energy?

Some things provide energy. Some things take it away. Do you know which is which, for you?


I was listening to an interview with Brad Feld, a successful entrepreneur and angel investor. He said, “You have to figure out what gives you energy and do more of the things that provide positive feedback loops to your brain.”

What an interesting and clearly obvious statement that is also challenging. I do not think I have sat down and thought about which activities or tasks, specifically, make me feel like I could keep doing them forever. I have also not put time aside to consider which activities, specifically, drain my energy and make me want to avoid them.

Off the cuff, I know philosophical discussion and big-picture problem solving are things I enjoy. Same for physical activity (aside from gym-centric exercise) like walking, bicycling, organizing, and even moving furniture lift me up even as they tire me out. The common thing I see there is things that involve exploring or meeting definite goals charge me up. Things that have endless tasks or never-ending goals (let’s lift something heavy and put it back down 50 times or great job meeting that sales goal–here’s another one that’s even harder and guess what’s waiting after that one?) pull away from my spirit.

I like feeling accomplished. I like knowing a blog post has an end and that I have reached the end of this bike trail but there is another one nearby if I want to explore more, or I can do this one again and find what I missed before.

What about you? What are the things that seem to give you more energy? What is the common theme among them? How can you use that to your advantage for the rest of your life?


Today’s Lesson: Do more of what gives you energy and say no to more of what takes away your energy.




Skills Versus Passion: One Makes Winners

I would take someone who is passionate about what they do over someone who is good at what they do any day.


I run several professional sales teams. I would take any one of my teams and pit their knowledge and skills against any other team in our company with no fear they would fare quite well. They are very good at what they do.


Until they aren’t.

I saw the most remarkable and, at first, confounding, thing today. After endless preparation, practice, and set-up for a huge sale, I watched my team pretty much fall on our face. We came in last against amateur teams that have barely had time to develop. In fact, we actually taught the other teams how to create a successful sale. They followed our every move as instructed. So, what happened?

How does a seasoned, professional team (sales or otherwise) fall to underdog up-starts? The answer is clear to me. Passion. The amateurs brought passion to the table today. They were hungry. They had something to prove and they set on a mission to win, not because they wanted big numbers or were being pressured by their superiors but because they wanted to win. 

Sadly, I must admit I did not see that same gleam of ignited focus or desire in my team’s eyes today. I saw professionals who looked and operated professionally, but with tired gazes, maybe worn-out from all the pressure to succeed, and the work and energy put into preparing. Maybe they put so much of themselves into it that they forgot to leave a little energy left to devote to the most important part of success: understanding why you want it.

This is where a leader’s work starts, though. Now it is my turn to find that spark and nurse it back to a flame. If teams always had that drive, that passion to win, then they would never need leaders (and many managers would be out of a job).


Today’s Lesson:  You can do everything right and still fail. Skills, therefore, are important but not crucial. With or without them, if you have passion, you can win. The catch is, passion is not something learned from the employee manual. You can teach skills. You must ignite passion.



Why We (Think We) Fail, Pt 3 of 3

Do successful people really feel motivated and inspired and have limitless energy all the time?


Do you sometimes feel like a failure? There are moments when I am not grateful for what I have or ignorant of what I have accomplished while also being envious of what I don’t have and aware of what I have not accomplished. I sat down to consider what sometimes makes me feel like I am not doing a good job living my life. I think there are three big reasons. I wrote about Comparing Yourself to Others and Defining Success in Context. Let’s explore another one:

Lost (or never found) passion. 

Follow your dreams. Do what you love. Find your passion. There are many variations of similar trite phrases and heartfelt quotes meant to inspire people to pursue lofty goals based on personal intuition and emotion. The problem with the idea of following one’s destiny is that many of us, including me, are not so passionate about a single thing we will pursue it doggedly until we find absolute success or die trying.

It has taken me nearly three decades to accept this ubiquitous advice is plain bad. It provides no tools to find your “passion”. Most people do not have a specific, concrete dream they are interested in following. For example, I love music but not as much as Prince, who devoted his life to it. I love writing but I am not as passionate about telling stories as Stephen King. I want to do more than write all the time. I love living a vegan lifestyle but not enough to devote years of my life defending animal rights or trying to bring down the entire factory farming industry. I have strong emotions about all those things and many others but there is not one that lights me up so much I wish it was the only thing I could do the rest of my life. I do not wake up and go to bed every day solely thinking about any of those things.

There are people who are passionate about a single thing and that is good for them, I guess, but I see no reason for anyone to feel bad about not having the energy, time, motivation, inspiration, or wherewithal to devote large swaths of their life to a singular, primary purpose (when there are infinite things and purposes to explore).


Today’s lesson: You do not have to chase your dreams, especially if you do not have one or if you have too many. You do not have to follow your passion, especially if you are not that passionate about anything yet. Maybe you will find your passion. Maybe you will never find something you are particularly passionate about. Either way is okay. Just make time in your life to do things you love. There is no requirement for you to become a slave to your ideas or ideals. Do not feel guilty for being anything less or more than you are willing to be in this moment.



Time to Die, Part 3 (of 5)

How long before we become more than human?


Think about this: as technology progresses, we will soon be able to upload the human consciousness. Death itself will be something poorly described in old history books.

At first, I think our nigh-immortality will be a result of clever technology, like a combination of WiFi, cloning, and 3-D printing. When you die or your body wears out, you will be downloaded into a new body and can pick up right where you left off.

That may happen while your grandchildren or their grandchildren are still living. I think the last generation of humans who will die (as we know it) are alive on earth now. Within a hundred years, death may be as curable as the measles or polio.

What about three to five hundred years from now, though? What if science continues marching on, with unlimited resources and no loss of knowledge or talent (because death has become a thing of fiction)? How much faster could we free ourselves from the boundaries of earth and colonize other planets, ensuring our survival as a species?

Imagine what space travel could look like when we have the ability to upload our consciousness to a computer? We could travel farther than we have ever perceived. We could upload an astronaut’s conscience and genetic data, send him or her a thousand (or million!) years out of the solar system, and download the genetic and biological information into a freshly created body when he or she arrives at the destination.

Indeed, when we are able to live in cyberspace, why hold onto the relic of the human body at all? How far away are we from living only as energy?

If technology increased to let us ascended our fleshy packaging and live as energy, we could travel the universe at the speed of light. Light is so mysterious. We are only beginning to grasp what it is. For example, one of the great conundrums of light is that it exists as both a particle (stationary) and a wave (in motion) based on whether we are observing it directly. Another mysterious property of  light is nothing is able to outrun it. The speed of light is the hard speed limit set by the universe .

What if light itself is a form of life? What if light is the ultimate result of intelligence, technology, and exploration? Our destiny as creatures of energy may already be in front of us, all the time, everywhere.

If extraterrestrial aliens created technology to reach earth, even from the next nearest solar system, they would be so advanced to us that we would not even recognize them as living things. Just to get here, they would have to figure out the challenge of moving beyond Physics and Flesh. They would have to figure out how to survive for thousands or millions of years while traveling and figure out how to meet or beat the hard speed limit set by the universe.
Here is today’s lesson: maybe one day we will be the aliens… think about that the next time you enjoy a sunny day or turn on a light. Maybe some of that light is not coming from the stars. Maybe it’s them. Or us.



Commitment Anxiety?

I struggle with making time to exercise. Here is what I do to keep at it…


Some people love exercise. It puts them in a zone, makes them happy, or helps them alleviate stress. For me, exercise does not that. I don’t like it. For me, it is time-consuming, mindless, and boring. I would rather do dishes because at least I would feel like something was accomplished. I prefer immediate results over long-term results (and here, you could replace “exercise” with just about any goal). Nonetheless, I recognize both long-term and short-term results are important. I know I should exercise for the myriad benefits to health and wellness and because my body is a machine that needs proper care to function well, like any machine.

I find there are three secrets to making my long-term goals work for me.


  • Keep changing my approach. This keeps me from becoming bored and dropping it. For example, I might change the time of day I exercise (but I find I will almost never do it in the evening because I am usually mentally exhausted), or I will change the exercise itself. The last few weeks it has been push-ups and crunches. This week my morning exercise will be Sun Salutations.
  • Make it simple.I was waking up each morning and doing 30 push-ups and 20 crunches, basically 10 minutes of exercise. That’s it. If I commit to more, I find that I will procrastinate until it is too late. If I am feeling energetic and motivated and happen to wake up earlier than usual, I might go a little longer, but that does not happen very often. The way I see it, one push-up is better than none and 10 minutes is better than 0 minutes. I don’t beat myself up if I do not make it through the set either. Sometimes my energy or motivation is low. The important thing is I showed up and attempted.
  • I will not give up. Some days are better than others. Sometimes I am all over it; I have great command of my diet, plentiful energy, and all cylinders are firing. Other days, I am not into it. I might be feeling under the weather or just feeling depressed about my body. I am not going to commit 2 hours a day to working out because I have other goals to accomplish as well (and I do not like exercising that much), so I embrace that. My body is what I choose. If I have “extra padding”, it is because I choose to eat too much and exercise too little. That is okay (until it isn’t). I can choose to exercise more, too, when I am ready to sacrifice other time and energy to devote to it. I refuse to feel guilty or beat myself up for choices I consciously and willingly make. I accept the consequences (until I don’t, and then I choose to do better).


Today’s lesson, then, is this: don’t let yourself become bored with your routine. Keep your commitments simple (and over-deliver when you can). Make powerful choices and be aware when you choose, you also choose to accept the consequences of the action, and the non-action associated with your choice.



Today’s Lesson: Running On Empty [140913]

When you start each morning, you have a finite amount of mental and physical energy to carry you through the day. The amount you have each morning depends on how much you expended the day before and the amount of rest you have had to recharge (both mental and physical rest).


Just like your phone or car battery, everything you do–blinking your eyes, deciding where to eat, worrying about tomorrow, remembering yesterday, walking to your car, lifting weights, having a debate, drinking a glass of water, etc.–everything you do depletes some of that energy and some of the things you do give a little energy back (drinking water, eating good food and not eating too much, meditating, taking a nap, walking in nature, etc.). The trick each day is to spend your energy on things that give more back than they take overall.


Today, I was so mentally exhausted I did not want to make dinner and I did not even have the energy to decide where to eat. Nicole offered several options but I was so depleted they all sounded equally bland, even my favorite restaurants! I had a headache, I was tired, and I did not know what I wanted and did not really care, either.


Finally, though, I picked one and the act of deciding–of choosing a direction in and of itself–was enough to give a little energy back. Once I knew exactly where I wanted to go, I had a little more power and inertia to take myself there.


How often do we spend our life or career or relationships in the same dilemma, not knowing what we want and feeling so mentally depleted we don’t even have the energy to care?


By the time we reached the restaurant, I was ready to eat and feeling decisive and talkative again, and we had a great meal and evening out.


The lesson I learned today is sometimes just deciding on a direction can provide enough momentum to help you reach your destination.



The Lesson I Learned Today… 140627

You have a finite amount of energy allotted to you each day, just like your phone has a battery that needs to be recharged regularly.

Every action during your day depletes some of that energy (this is why, for many people, exercising in the morning is an easier commitment to keep than exercising in the evening).

You have to be very conscious of the things (and people) that deplete your energy and the those that give you more energy.

The trick is to do more of the things that add to your energy and less of the things that deplete it.

I didn’t do so hot at that today (it was a frustrating day and I tapped my mental and emotional reserves to help keep other people from spreading that frustration). I am still learning how to be judicious with my energy and fnd the right balance.

I am also learning which things add or deplete my energy. I am surprised, sometimes, which is which, and trying to (ahem) find the energy to do the things that provide more energy!

What is the one thing you can do all day and just be in a zone? What is the thing that always gets you charged up and excited to do more of it?


The Lesson I Learned Today… 140614

My productivity and enthusiasm practically doubles in the summer.

Maybe it’s the sun, the warm weather, or the combination of both, or it is that both contribute to helping me exercise which makes me feel better… I don’t know. Either way, I find it is easier to do nearly twice as much this time of year (mid-June) in Michigan.

I tend to wake up with the sun, which means in the winter my body wants to sleep until nearly 9 o’clock most days (but I still have to be up before 7). This time of year, though, I pop up about 6:00 am ready to go!

In the winter, I have trouble fitting everything in a day. I struggle with my writing, I don’t exercise as much, I gain weight, I eat more, I feel less energetic, and I watch more television.

In the summer, I blog daily, I make time for meditation, I bike, walk, run, jump rope, etc. And somehow, I even work more hours!

I am beginning to consider moving to a climate that allows me this kind of activity and productivity year round.

What do you think? What climate suits you best and where would you rather live or why are you in the perfect place for you?