My Current Experiments

Today’s Lesson: Try, try, and try again.

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I have written before about the importance of living “an experimental life“. I think one of the best things we can do to experience the most life has to offer is to be curious and experiment. You can experiment with big stuff or easy stuff. It doesn’t matter. The point is to change your life around, turn it upside down now and then, and find out who you really are. You might find what is necessary in your life by distilling what is unnecessary. I thought you might like to know 3 of my current life experiments, just for fun. I have a lot of experiments going on but here are three that revolve around better sleep (something many of us struggle with):

 

1. Giving up caffeine. I still have mixed feelings about this one but I can definitely say there have been advantages. I think this is only week three but I have had no lattes (my daily habit for the last 6 years or so), no soda, no caffeinated teas. I drink water, herbal teas, mineral water, and sometimes club soda, kombucha, or tonic water.

So far, I have lost two pounds over three weeks (nothing to do with the caffeine, I know, but the sugar in the lattes) and I am sleeping a little better, but to be honest, I have not noticed a dramatic difference. Still, a little better is still better. I have slightly more energy throughout the day (but again, probably not the caffeine so much as the missing sugar crash). Stupid Starbucks. I’ll stay caffeine free indefinitely but the results, I would say, are out so far on this one.

2. No screens for at least 30 minutes before bed, and no screens in the bedroom. This has been a tough one. Not only do I typically check my social media and email before bed, but also it is how I like to wind down. Nicole and I will snuggle up and watch an episode of something on Netflix or some YouTube videos right before bed. However, all leading research in the field points to screen time as one of the biggest culprits for sleepless nights, throwing off our circadian rhythm. Stupid evolution. We have also banned all other non-sleep activities (except adult play-time) from the bedroom.

We have a fun fill-in, though. We sit across from each other on the sofa before bed, and take turns reading a book to each other. One person reads while the other massages their feet, and then we switch. It is wonderful!

So far, I seem to be sleeping slightly (but again, not remarkably) better. This might also be due to the caffeine thing.

3. Waking up a half-hour later. This was a risky experiment but it has been paying off the most, so far. I normally wake up at 6am and leave the apartment by 7. Usually, I arrive to work with about 10 to 15 minutes to spare, depending on traffic. Personally, I find the thought of waking up before the sun disgusting and appalling and I can not believe that any human would do it voluntarily. Stupid society. Out of desperation and anger, I decided to draw a line in the sand. I had no idea how I would hustle fast enough to get out the door on time, but I was done waking up at 6.

I decided to set my alarm for 6:30 and see what happened. Turns out, I just do everything faster. It is a bit of a rush and I end up leaving closer to 7:10 now, but I have not been late yet (it would be okay if I was but I take it as a matter of pride to always be where I agree to be when I agree to be there). Oddly enough, I also wake up before the alarm goes off.

This is the most dramatic of the experiments so far, in both action and results. Just waking up on my own 10 or 15 minutes later than when my alarm was set makes a HUGE difference in how I feel for the rest of the day. Less “fogginess”, less anger, less pouting, more energy, more efficiency (I love efficiency!), and no real loss of time. It’s crazy.

 

So there you are. Quick update on some of my current little life experiments. What are you trying, or what can you  try, to keep yourself in the mindset of living an experimental life?

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It’s the Waking Up

Today’s Lesson: Sometimes you have to look at a problem backwards to move forward.

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I have been hearing a lot of experts speaking about needing enough sleep. Our lack of quality sleep seems to be reaching alarming proportions.

Personally, I have no trouble falling asleep. I have already written about my experiments with sleep but I realized something new today. The trouble with having good sleep does not lie in the “sleeping” part. Most people sleep just fine. The problem is having to wake up at the wrong time.

I wake up 3 hours before I have to be to work (an hour and a half of that is spent driving, so I actually wake up an hour and a half before I have to leave for work). For me, waking up properly means having time to “ease into” the day, which includes having breakfast, checking messages, often blogging, and almost always making a latte to go. Most of my grooming has been shifted to happen before I go to sleep so I do not have to wake up even earlier.

I find going to bed at 10:30 pm and waking up at 5:30 in the morning is not a good habit for me. Yet, going to bed at midnight and waking at 7:00 am has no ill effect at all. Same hours of sleep but the times are shifted.

I have to figure out how to shift more of my morning routine to my evening routine so I can rise a little later and hopefully curb some of the deleterious effects of waking up before the sun.

If you ask me, no one should have to do that. Sleep tight.

 

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Should I Stay Up And Have Fun or Go to Bed Early?

Today’s Lesson: You have to pay if you want to play.

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Yesterday was Monday and we were invited to have drinks on the beach with some friends. Nicole had to get up early for work today so we had to consider the trade-off. (I made extra strong lattes this morning!)

We decided we could stay out until 10:30 which ended up being closer to midnight (on the beach, beautiful crescent moon, hanging with friends… how do you give that up before midnight?!?). It was a good time but as with any choice, every minute past 10:30 came at a price, to be paid this morning: waking up feeling sluggish, consuming extra caffeine and sugar, using more energy to focus, etc.

Whenever we choose to do something, we are also choosing not to do every other thing instead. When we choose to stay out late, we are also choosing not to have a relaxing evening at home and choosing not to have needed rest, and not to watch our favorite show, not to have spare time while preparing for bed, etc.

There is nothing wrong with the choice to stay out late once in a while but I often hear stories of people waking up regretting their choice because they did not realize it was their choice. They speak as if the night before happened to them instead of the other way around. We make our lives happen. Every choice is valid of its own accord but it is good to remind ourselves that for each choice we make, we are also choosing many other things by default.

Put another way: nothing in life comes free. We have to pay to play.

 

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Waking Up Tired

That fuzzy-headed, throbbing-pulsing, vision blurring moment when you wake up and remember you only fell asleep an hour and a half ago…

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Since I don’t drink alcohol that often, it is pretty rare for me to hang up having regretted the night before. I know the feeling, though, of waking up nauseous to a spinning room. Sometimes it happens just from having too much fun the night before and not going to bed early enough.

Nicole and I spent most of last night making each other laugh when we knew we both needed to be up early. The only problem was, we were having so much fun it seemed worth it.

It totally was.

Of course, we both woke up tired and added an extra shot to our lattes but a little lost sleep is only regrettable if the penalty is lasting damage to your health, wealth, or well-being.

 

Today’s Lesson: You should always get plenty of rest. Except when it is more fun not to (but observe the difference between really having fun and sort-of being entertained–only one of them is worth it).

 

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4 Ways To Live Better: Aren’t You Curious?

This week, there is a theme: my 5 favorite tips that help me live better. I hope one of these tips help you live better, too…

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I have covered the importance of eating more plantsbeing active, and having great integrity.  There is no disputing the myriad benefits of a plant-based lifestyle for your health, the environment, and kindness to other animals. Eating vegan helps your body run more efficiently, being active helps the machine of your body continue running, and having great integrity (keeping your word, even to yourself) ensures the other habits will stick and helps you be someone others look up to. Figuring out 5 ways to live better was not something that happened by accident for me, which brings us to today’s post.

4. Be Curious. Living an experimental life is important to me. Having profound curiosity about why things work and how is, I think, at the core of all great discoveries. It is embracing an ever-evolving love of wonder. I have learned more about myself and the world by wondering about and experimenting with ideas, thoughts, and physical actions than I could ever hope to learn from four years of academia followed by forty years of sedentary thinking and living.

If anything, I have learned to be cautious of my assumptions (like, “the only way to learn to be good at something is to pursue a degree”). There are some things that are socially trained into us that are not always good or even factual. Any neuroscientist, for example, will tell you that you clearly and obviously use close to 100% of your brain, though many people believe we only use 10% of our brain. We have read it in popular culture, there are movies about it, the myth is so pervasive I just assumed it was true for most of my life. However, giving it even the slightest test of logic makes the myth crumble… No active part of our body only uses 10% of itself. It’s ludicrous. It would be like using our ten fingers the way we do now… but having 100 fingers. How could the body possibly operate with that much inefficiency?

Being weary of assumptions is at the core of curiosity. I assumed, for example, I needed a lot of sleep, so I experimented with my sleep patterns for a year. Growing up in a split-religion home, I became curious about theism, so I attended a different church every week for more than a year and read both the Bible and the Qur’an. I was curious about my diet so I learned about being vegan and food production, and then I tried going vegan… three times. It finally stuck but of course, it required three different experiments to figure out what worked for me.

I can not help but wonder about everything, including people, which is why I share about what I have learned regarding leadership on my blog. Some things, like leadership, are a life-long curiosity experiment. I am always learning, adapting, and trying new things to be a better, more effective leader. I do not know if anyone will ever figure out all there is to know about leadership (you can tell by seeing how many books are written about leadership each year). I will likely experiment and be curious about leading throughout the rest of my life.

I have described three elements of curiosity: embracing wonder, being cautious of assumptions, and creating experiments. Experiment with these three elements of curiosity rather than just assume I know what I am talking about and see what wonders you can find.

 

Today’s Lesson: Being curious leads to discovery, keeps life interesting, and fights off stagnation. Ask questions about everything. Try new things, including new thoughts and ideas (you don’t have to stick with them–try them on and see if they stick with you), and most of all, live an experimental life. It’s just more fun.

 

 

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Living An Experimental Life

I’m fond of saying something I swiped from one of my favorite thought leaders, Seth Godin: “Fail big or fail often”. I tell my team members I don’t care which one they choose, but if they are not failing then they are not pushing themselves hard enough to find their limits. They are only staying in their comfort zone and not risking anything personally or professionally to really find out who they are. Of course, I give them a safe space to fail and provide air cover when needed.

It is an important distinction, failing by reaching out of your comfort zone to find your limits, but today I want to tweak that a little. Obviously, failing, by definition, has negative connotations. I am not trying to contribute to a philosophy of failure for the sake of failure (but using the word “fail” to illustrate what success looks like does make a dramatic talking point).

Instead, what I want you to consider is embracing a life of experimenting. When we experiment, we are not playing a pass/fail game. We are trying something new, reviewing the results, and either re-assessing and trying again, or adopting, tweaking, and moving forward.

When I realized this, I realized how much I have already embraced this idea and how much of my life revolves around experiments. I think experiments are important because they help define who we are. They help us learn what we are capable of and drive us to improve. I invite you to consider what you can experiment with in your life.

Here are many (but certainly not all) of the life experiments I have tried. Some of these I continue to practice. Some I have discarded. Some I am still tweaking and practicing. I encourage you to try some of these or create your own:

 

  • Being vegan. I did not start animal-free and I failed at maintaining a vegan diet many times before I got it (mostly) right.
  • Waterless showering. I tried using dry shampoo and some weird astronaut soap for a week. I made it three days…
  • Fasting one day a week.
  • Eating food with absolutely no added spices for three months.
  • Turning my whole wardrobe into a two color palette (black and gray) that I could simply mix and match without giving thought to what I was going to wear each day.
  • Only shopping at local merchants, no big box stores. This was a very worthwhile one. Highly recommend.

A full year of sleep experiments, including:

  • Going to bed one minute later and waking up one minute earlier every day until it affected me mentally and physically (turns out I only need about 4 hours sleep to function normally).
  • Sleeping on the floor with no pillows.
  • Following a Circadian rhythm (sleeping about 4 hours during the day and about 4 hours at night).
  • Taking a three-week vacation and logging how much sleep I naturally provided myself when I removed all time cues. I started a stopwatch when I went to bed and stopped it when I woke up to track how many hours I slept and I removed all clocks and watches from the house, plus moved my bed into the walk-in closet so I could not use the sun as a visual time cue. Incidentally, when I am left to my schedule and free to go to bed and wake up when I please, I average about 5 hours of sleep per night (and go to bed somewhere around 3:00am) and wake up completely rested (around 8:00am).

 

…and much, much more. I continue to experiment with my body, with time management, even with my blog (I recently turned off commenting and date-stamping posts and started focusing on publishing to my public profile, for example). I love experiments and living an experimental life.

 

So today’s lesson is easy: learn about yourself or the world by trying new things, considering the results, and trying again or trying something entirely different. The idea is to learn. I hope you come up with some  great experiments of your own. Feel free to share about your experiences or ask questions on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Tumblr.

Have fun experimenting!

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Today’s Lesson: Sleep And Lose Weight! [141011]

“I’m just tired of these lingering 15 pounds,” I said, “But by the time I get home, I am exhausted and there is still a ton of work to do.”

Nicole thought about it and said, “Get more sleep.”

“What? To lose weight?” I asked. She is pretty clever. She pointed out three things I had not given thought.

 

  1. Most people are sleep-deprived (including me). I sleep 5 or 6 hours each night, but sleep is not the same as rest. I wake up probably a dozen times throughout the night which means I am not completing the sleep cycles my body demands. Stupid, inefficient body.
  2. When we are not getting enough rest, our bodies want more fuel. If your body is not able to do its job while you sleep (repairing, healing, and rebooting), then it will look for the resources to do its work elsewhere, which means it will ask for more food to provide more energy so it can do what it would normally do while you sleep.
  3. If you are sleeping, then you are not eating. I actually added this one, but it is obvious, right? If I get 8 hours of sleep instead of 6, then there are 2 fewer hours where I am likely to snack, munch, drink, or otherwise stuff my face. 

 

Personally, I think this is the best diet plan I have ever heard! I probably will not follow through as recommended (sometimes my brain just refuses to shut down) but I will commit to going to bed earlier and trying not to spend so much time during a day sitting instead of moving around.

Nonetheless, more rest is probably a good prescription for all of us. Let’s take the Sleep Diet challenge!

 

 


 

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The Lesson I Learned Today… 140621

Embrace insomnia.

I have a (sort of) gift. I can go to bed as late as I want and still wake up at any time I want without an alarm clock. It is a useful ability sometimes but it has its drawbacks. The main downside is it does not work in reverse; I can not sleep as late as I want.

On any given day, I pretty much wake up with the sun, like a rooster, except rather than crowing in the morning, I am often groggy and irritated by the fact I am awake.

I think the rooster has it right, though. I am awake; I know I wake up early no matter what. Why agonize about it? Instead, I am going to do what I seldom remember to do: lean into it. Embrace my insomnia.

If I’m going to be up anyway, there is no point in being upset about it. It is just more time to do things I enjoy (like this!) or be otherwise productive.

When my eyes pop open in the morning (no matter what time), I am going to start reminding myself that waking up is still the best alternative I know to not waking up. I have another moment of life to embrace. I am alive. I am grateful to be awake and my body is powered on! Rather than rubbing my face and starting my day with a heavy sigh (or cursing the cat for also not letting me sleep), I am going to try welcoming the morning and day with energy, happiness, and vigor.

Insomnia doesn’t have to be bad any more than a billion dollars has to be bad. If you have it, you might as well do something useful with it, right?

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