- Big Wins: Small Changes That Accumulate Over Time
28 Aug 12
This is a big win (making a very small change in your routine that you don’t even notice after a week but that adds up over time) disguised as a small one (taking the stairs.) I am more concerned that you get the big lesson here, but I think that a story about a small application of this lesson is the best way to explain it.
Two years ago, I went on a hiking trip with my friend Ben Stafford out in Rocky Mountain National Park. I knew about the trip for about 3 months, and I was worried that my legs wouldn’t be able to handle the long hikes (16 miles some days) over the rocky terrain. So, I started taking the stairs as often as I could. I noticed that I wasn’t actually building my legs up, though. Taking the stairs was easy. So, I resolved to take them two hat a time for the next three months. It was difficult for the first week, I’ll admit. You’d be surprised how much easier it became after that, though. It quickly became a habit and it is now it feels unnatural and tedious to take one stair at a time. In fact, after about a month, I stopped noticing that I was doubling up on the stairs. (Two years later, it is still a habit!) As a consequence, my legs are stronger and I now get up the stairs with speed and ease. (In the short term, my hikes were much easier!)
I didn’t take a gym subscription, changes to my schedule for more workouts, no time on a leg press, and no aching muscles to build up my legs. Just a very minor change to my daily routine that took no additional time (but a little additional effort, at least at the beginning.)
What minor change could you make to your daily routine that will add up over time and help your achieve a significant result?
I don’t care how you walk up the stairs, but I do care about you making small positive changes that accumulate over time to something much bigger.
- Big Wins: Audiobooks
08 Jul 12
This is the first post of a series that will focus on improvements I’ve made in my life that have led to advances in my productivity, effectiveness, or general well-being. I call these things big wins.
Back in high school, I remember a few people recommended that I listen to audiobooks. I tried, but never got into it on a regular basis. Audiobooks were something that my family listened to in the car on long road trips, but nothing more.
That changed last summer. A post by Sebastian Marshall pushed me over the tipping point, but recommendations from multiple friends led me that far. I must have read the post at the right time. At first, I tried finding free audiobooks, but most were classic novels with low quality narrators. I listened to a few, but only on long drives. I couldn’t seem to get into them otherwise. On my quest for contemporary non-fiction books, I signed up for an Audible account. They seemed to have the best selection and had a deal going on for new subscribers.
That was June 2011. Since then, I’ve purchased about 30 audiobooks and so far I’ve listened to more than 20 of them. Most of them were non-fiction (on a wide variety of subjects), though a few were fiction. I’ve learned quite a bit and I have made many changes to the way I live my life due to what I read (er.. listened to..) in the audiobooks.
I do not use audiobooks as a replacement for reading. I still read physical books that I have to hold in my hands, as well as digital books on my Kindle and iPad. (I am currently reading Brothers Karamazov, Deleting the State, and It Starts With Food the old-fashioned way. I can read multiple books concurrently as long as they aren’t the same genre.) I use audiobooks for when I would otherwise have dead time, such as walking to work, cooking, washing the dishes, or generally doing menial tasks that do not require my full attention. Without changing my schedule, I consumed an extra 20+ books in the past year. I’ve learned a little bit about neuroscience, exercise, diet, philosophy, economics, the founding of Google, the lives of people who have accomplished great things, self-discipline, productivity, travel, and more. I’ve also listened to some excellent literature and bought a physical copy of a few of the titles so I can spend some more time with them.
The majority of the books I listen to are informational books. This isn’t a coincidence: I can listen to informational books in 20 minute chunks without getting lost since most of the information does not rely heavily on what came immediately before it. I save the philosophical books and novels for long drives, plane rides, etc.
This year, I am on track to listen to 50+ audiobooks, again without changing my schedule. I am not pushing off tasks or projects to listen to audio, nor am I cutting into my regular reading time. I am simply being more diligent about listening to audio while I am doing menial tasks. For the past 3 weeks, I’ve gone through a book and a half a week.
A few times a year, Audible runs a $4.95 sale. For a few days they list 200+ titles, mostly popular titles that people actually want to listen to, at $4.95 each. At that price, you can grab 5 great books for $25, which is an insanely good price, considering that the books usually go for between $13-$25 a piece. Each time this sale comes around, I stock up on great titles.
Another way I can listen to so many books is that I play them at 1.5x speed. I think most of the narrators are fairly slow compared to how my friends speak, so listening to the books at 1.5x sounds fine to me. This allows me to listen to an hour of recorded audio in 40 minutes.
A note on podcasts: I haven’t explored them. I know there are many excellent ones that my friends listen to, but audiobooks have been more than adequate for me this past year. I will look into podcasts again soon. I am sure there are a few that I would enjoy listening to each week.
My number one complaint with listening to audiobooks is that my headphones are always tangled. I am currently looking into bluetooth headphones to solve this problem. I think not having to deal with wires will be a significant improvement. (Have any recommendations?–Let me know in the comments.)
What could you learn if you consumed an extra 20 books a year without changing your schedule? More importantly, what are you missing out on? Give audiobooks a try and let me know how it goes.
- Photo Credit at The Daily Caller
02 Jul 12
Last week I had a photo credit at The Daily Caller.
See the original photo.
- Giving to beggars: My policy, reasons, and recent outcomes
23 Jun 12
I have a policy when it comes to giving to people who come up to me in the street and ask for money to buy food or some basic necessity: I tell them that I do not carry cash (this is the truth, I do not carry cash), then offer to purchase for them what they say they need the money for. (I won’t purchase them alcohol, drugs, weapons, cigarettes, or things like that. But, who actually tells you they need those things?)
For a month and a half at the beginning of the summer, no one took me up on my offer. I would get uneasy looks, then the person would decline and walk away. Two examples:
1. A man told me a story about how he had AIDS and how he was in a shelter, and he stands in front of the post office (where he and I both were) opening doors for people so that he can get money to go to Publix and buy juice to drink. It just so happened that I was going to Publix (directly across the street), so I made him my normal offer: “I don’t carry cash, but go across the street with me and I will buy you juice at Publix.” Unsurprisingly to me, he did not take me up on my offer. He said, “Oh, I can’t go to Publix. I’ll manage.” It was obvious to me that he didn’t want to get juice… he just wanted money for other things. (By the look of him, it was likely drugs.) So, I walked away, and he continued asking people for money. (I wonder if he changed his story?)
2. I work in downtown Atlanta right now. I walk down the street multiple times a day, and get asked for money at least once a day, usually more. This story is true (and typical of what usually happens): As I was walking between my office and Georgia Pacific, a man approached me and asked me if I could spare a dollar for a sandwich. I told him that I do not carry cash, but I would walk one block down the street with him to the food court and buy him a meal. He looked kind of worried and said, “No, that’s okay,” and walked away. This happens most of the time. I can only assume these people want something other than a sandwich, but don’t want to admit it. It is strange to me that they do not take me up on my offers, though. [EDIT: It was pointed out to me that it does not necessarily follow that people want this money for other things. See the comments.]
After a month and a half, I actually had two people take me up on the offer, just a day apart. One was a woman, the other a man. The woman took me up on buying her a MARTA (Atlanta’s metro system) ticket to somewhere on the other side of town so she could get to a women’s shelter. The man wanted soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant so he could be clean for an interview. I have no idea whether the stories they told me were true or not, but that does not matter to me. I made an offer, and I held up my end of it once they accepted. I can only pray that these individuals use what I bought them to help alleviate their situation.
Some people have asked me why I do this. Here are my reasons:
-Offering to buy someone food or basic necessities instead of immediately rejecting them and walking away acknowledges that person’s human dignity. These people get treated as less them human all day, so the least I can do is acknowledge their dignity and offer to help them out.
-Offering to buy someone food or basic necessities weeds out most people who want money for something else, such as drugs or alcohol. I’ve made the over dozens of times with only two people taking me up on it so far. This way, I can help people who really need it. I know this isn’t a perfect system, but I think it is better than just giving out cash. If people actually need help, I feel an obligation to help them.
-In 2008, when I attended my first FEE seminar, Dr. Anthony Carilli finished out the week by telling the attendees that, besides being a professor, speaker around the US, and an umpire for minor league baseball, he is a volunteer fireman. Why? In his words, “If you believe in the free market, you have to be willing to do your part to support it.” I’ve thought about that statement a lot in the last four years. If I advocate abolishing government welfare programs, I have to be willing to help people out with my own time and money. I am trying to do that.
Some people I know have objected to my practice. One guy said that I am just providing temporary relief to their problem and it doesn’t really help them. So, when I asked him what he recommends, he cited a privately run homeless shelter that has strict rules about work, but actively helps people get jobs and is surprisingly good at doing so. But the guy who told me this does not donate to such shelters or individuals, and isn’t actively trying to start one. That is fine with me. It is his time and his money, which he can do what he wants with it.
One of my favorite professors at Hillsdale always says, “Once you confront a situation or possibility, you have to own it.” The situation I am confronted with on a daily basis is people asking me for help. This is my way of owning it. I know it is not perfect, but I am trying to do what I can.
- Photo Credit at Huffington Post College
06 Jun 12
Back in March, I had a photo of a Hillsdale College Center for Constructive Alternatives lecture picked up by Huffington Post College in an article entitled, “The 13 Most Conservative Colleges.”
- Photo of Reagan Statue in Dream Villager Magazine
06 Jun 12
My photo of the Reagan Statue at Hillsdale College that was picked up by the National Review Online was just picked up by Dream Villager Magazine to accompany an article by Andrew Roberts! Download the PDF of the article, or view the article online (go to page 30.)
- I am Engaged!
14 Jan 12
On December 24, 2011, at around 12:45 a.m., Amanda Kate Rubino and I got engaged.
Check out Amanda’s blog, The Ring Diaries, to see the ring and for more info.
- Interview with John Durant
15 Nov 11
Originally posted at The Primal Challenge blog. Enjoy!
I had the great fortune of being able to listen to a lecture by professional caveman John Durant at Hillsdale College last night. I also got to hang out and chat with him for the evening and he graciously agreed to do an interview for The Primal Challenge! Click on the link below to listen to the interview.
Interview with John Durant (approximately 13 minutes in length)
Topics: The gourmet hot dog party that started it all, the role of community in keeping you with your new identity, advice for people who want to start blogging or doing something in health, why so many libertarians are attracted to paleo, and advice for people just starting out with paleo.
For those of you who don’t know him, John is a barefoot runner who started the NYC Barefoot Run, a health entrepreneur, and a libertarian who runs a popular blog on the paleo lifestyle, Hunter-Gatherer.com.
I had a great time chatting with him and learning from him. Thanks, John!
Here is a photo of John at the Hillsdale Lecture: