We Are Either Growing or We Are Dying

As humans, we are the most unpredictable creatures on the planet. We have such varying mental and emotional capacities, that as individuals, our actions are almost impossible to predict. But physically, we are much easier to figure out. We are conceived, we grow, we stop growing, and we eventually die. The framework of this process is completely beyond our control, but we do have quite a bit to say about the inputs and the outputs of each of these stages. Our actions play a part in how healthy we are during each phase and how long each phase may last (especially the period between early adulthood and middle age).

Further, the quality of the later stage (old age) depends highly on the quality of our most critical, middle age stage. If we can stay healthy and maintain a level of strength and fitness that resembles our earlier adult years, we can extend this stage and the transition into old age well beyond what most people believe is possible. But if we fail to maintain this level of health and fitness, the momentum of sedentarism will build to a point that will feel almost impossible to overcome.

Running The Longevity Gauntlet

Us humans are running the longevity gauntlet, we always have been, and we always will be. The gauntlet that we are running today looks different from the one we were running a hundred years ago, and much more different than the one of a thousand or a hundred thousand years back. And the gauntlet will look much different in the next couple decades as well. The gauntlet is always changing due to breakthroughs in medical science as well as personal lifestyle choices.

Each of us is running the same gauntlet, but because of personal choices each of us makes in the way we live our lives, this gauntlet looks a lot different for each of us. For some the gauntlet feels like an endless set of obstacles, while for others it seems almost non-existent.

Most people living in the Western world address the gauntlet via medical treatments, prescription drugs, or questionable supplements, each of which is designed specifically to help us clear the current hurdle we face in the gauntlet. If we are lucky, and most are, we clear the hurdle, take a breath and then find ourselves facing the next one, which modern medicine has been working diligently on a treatment for. We undergo that treatment and if we are lucky enough, we survive and get to face the next hurdle. This is the gauntlet.

Micro-Adventure Primer

"Adventure is a state of mind, a spirit of trying something new and leaving your comfort zone. It's about enthusiasm, ambition, open-mindedness, and curiosity." - Alastair Humphreys

A Quick Escape From The 9-5

Micro-adventures are close to home, easy to plan, and maximize the core ideas of what an adventure is all about.

We don't need to travel far and away to experience an adventure. There are so many opportunities for adventure within an hour drive from home. Living the adventure life is as much about quantity as it is about quality. Find the right balance and we are on our way.

Don't get so caught up in the planning stage (i.e. getting permits and campsites and all the logistics), gear acquisition, and all the other stuff, that it becomes so overwhelming that we end up pushing back the date so often that we eventually cancel the adventure. Or if we do go through with it, we are more than happy to postpone the next adventure for a date further down the road to allow for more planning. Eventually, we trade the adventure life for something that is a lot less of a hassle.

Try new things as much as possible. It will expand our overall skill set and learning something new is an adventure in and of itself. 

Find a fun and exciting destination, like a waterfall, water slide, or a cave, then make the adventure just getting there (and getting back). 

And remember, an integral part of any adventure is the unknown (eg the possibility of getting a little lost). So don't over plan!

5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Add Years to Your Life

There are quite a few things we can do to add quality years to our lives, unfortunately there is a lot of clutter that we have to wade through to find out just what we need to do to live longer. Some are extreme, some are completely mundane, and some involve plain luck (like the guy who lives to 105 while smoking and drinking daily). It’s not enough to just follow someone else's lead. We need to take the best science we can find and figure out how to apply it best to our lives. And then we need a little luck.

“And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years.”

Cut The Sugar

Not only is obesity a major culprit in many of the diseases Americans are suffering from today, but it also accelerates the aging process itself, even more than smoking, according to the largest ever study of the telomeres (our “chromosomal timeclock”) in human cells.

When lifestyle factors were taken into account, however, dramatic differences emerged. The difference between being obese and being lean corresponds to 8.8 years of extra ageing. From New Scientist.

The consumption of sugar is the single-most contributor to weight-gain and eventual obesity in humans. Not only will cutting your sugar intake help with attaining and maintaining a healthy weight and body composition, but your skin will benefit as well.

80 Percent of All Deaths Are Lifestyle Related

This is the statistic that gets me up and going in the morning. Simply stated, we have a say in determining whether or not we are going to get one of the aforementioned diseases. All we have to do is live a healthier lifestyle than we have been living. And even a little bit helps. Just adding a regular walk to your daily routine will add several years (healthier years) to your life. Cut a little sugar, do a few push ups, it all adds up.

These are the major lifestyle factors that take healthy years off our lives:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity and Sedentarism
  • Drinking Heavily
  • Chronic Stress

The key is to make as many small changes as we can to get the greatest effect. Swapping marathons for couch time would be a definite improvement, but if we are still doing the other bad things, we really won’t get the results we are hoping for. In fact, being a chain-smoking ultra-marathoner might actually take years off our lives.


Abraham Maslow places our need to be self-actualizing at the top of our hierarchy of needs, but instead of developing his theory of what this need consisted of, he took the reverse engineering approach. Maslow studied people that he had observed to be living self-fulfilling lives, and determined that they all had common characteristics. He concluded that self-actualizing people were:
  • Experiencing life fully, vividly, and selflessly.
  • Making life choices that led to progression not regression (growth over fear).
  • Listening to their inner voice and letting the self emerge.
  • Taking responsibility for themselves.
  • Having peak experiences.
  • Self-examining, finding their defenses and then giving them up.

Basically, a self-actualizing person is someone who is growing into the best person they can be.

Happiness and Flow

Flow - “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

Happiness - a temporary feeling of enjoyment that not only comes from doing something exciting, but usually involves learning something, accomplishing something, or overcoming some kind of challenge. Otherwise, the feeling of “happiness” you are experiencing is really just the feeling of having fun. Fun is great, even awesome, but it is not happiness.

Man's Search For Meaning

By Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was a German psychiatrist imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps during World War 2. He writes about the suffering that he and his fellow inmates endured, the cruelty of the guards, and the even greater cruelty from the inmates appointed to a level of authority over the rest.

Frankl learned that suffering is an inevitable part of life, and without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.

Everything can be taken from man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Frankl came to realize that if a prisoner could keep his faith in the future, he had a chance to survive, but if he lost his faith he lost his spiritual hold leading to mental and physical decay.

There are two types of people, the decent man and the indecent man.

Strength Training 1 - Introduction

Physical activity is one of the key lifestyle risk factors that warrants attention. Lack of regular exercise and excess sedentary behavior are clearly associated with cardiovascular risk and mortality in both men and women. Diminished levels of fitness as measured by exercise testing correlated with increased risk of mortality. Even modest incremental increases in physical activity and exercise yields a measurable reduction in mortality. The effect of exercise on health outcomes appears to be dose-dependent. Also, increased physical activity favorably impacts a range of cardiometabolic indices, including weight, blood pressure, glycemic parameters, blood lipids, inflammation, and psychosocial factors.

Our Reprogramming

So here we are. We understand that the life we have been living is one that we did not choose. We are working on forgiving ourselves for wronging others in the past as well as forgiving others for wronging us. We cannot and will not be victims, no matter how much cover it provides us. We understand that while the programming of our subconscious may be extremely difficult to alter, we have much more control of our consciousness and its interaction with our subconscious.

Our conscious needs and desires can override and even take control of those of our subconscious.
We have determined that we do not want to keep traveling down the path we are currently on. We want to travel along a path of our own design and we have the power to make that happen. The trick is how do we make that happen. While the answer to this question will be unique for each of us, there are a few questions that are more universal that we can try to answer.

Getting Stuck on a Need

Getting Stuck on a Need

From birth and well into our childhood, each of our needs should be satisfied by the people in charge of us. But as we approach the end of our childhood, most of us understand and accept that we are solely responsible for the satisfaction of each of our needs. Without thinking about it too much, we seem to understand that these needs are arranged in some kind of order. If we can’t afford food, we probably can’t afford to date. If we can’t pay rent, joining a social group is not going to be top of mind. But once we satisfy these lower needs we are free to work on the satisfaction of these higher, being, needs. And yet, so many of us cannot seem to get past these lower need levels.

The house isn’t quite big enough or in the right neighborhood. The job doesn’t quite pay enough to feel secure in its need satisfying capabilities. For many of us, our deficiency needs have been satisfied many times over, and yet we still seem to believe it to be deficient. We seek perfection in areas where good enough really is good enough.

Using the Wrong Need Tool

Using the Wrong Need Tool

For most of our ancient ancestors, the satisfaction of a lower need probably led to the natural satisfaction of the next need. For the hunter, becoming proficient at hunting satisfied our need for food, and the same skill we used for hunting, the use of a spear or bow, probably helped satisfy our need for safety at the same time. Being a good hunter probably made an individual highly sought after by the opposite gender and probably led to a pretty high feeling of oneself and one’s standing in the community. The tool used for our physiological needs was also great for each of our other, higher, needs as well.

The same argument could be made for the gatherer as well. Being a successful gatherer would likely be attractive to the opposite gender looking for someone who could produce and raise enough offspring to adulthood. This person would be praised, on some level, for raising a healthy family. Being a successful gatherer reverberated up the needs hierarchy as well.

The Health Benefits of Cocoa

Countless studies are proving the health benefits of cocoa, which include cardiovascular health, insulin improvement, cognition and memory, and even skin health. These benefits are primarily from the flavanols that cocoa contains. The darker and more natural the source, the more beneficial. Cocoa powder seems to offer the highest concentration followed by dark chocolate. Note the capsules really are just an easier way to consume a large amount of concentrated powder.

Flavanols are just one of six forms of flavonoids, all of which offer highly beneficial antioxidant effects and can also be found in fruits, vegetables, and teas.

Wants vs. Needs

Wants vs. Needs


As humans, we all have needs that must be satisfied. Here is a quick recap of these needs as explained by renowned humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow:
  • Our physiological needs - food and water.
  • Our safety and security needs - shelter to protect us from nature and a community to protect us from the external environment.
  • Our need for love and belongingness - we must have a partner that we can love and that loves us as well as a circle of friends that we can confide in.
  • Our need for esteem - we must feel important to our group or community (external esteem), but most importantly, we must see the value in ourselves (internal self-esteem).
  • Our need for Self-actualization - we must ultimately feel that we are becoming the person we are supposed to be.

The satisfaction of each of these needs is important, and while they don’t necessarily have to be satisfied in order, we must at least feel confident that we are satisfying a lower need before we are free to satisfy a higher need. These needs are not just important, they are required for our survival - physically, mentally, and emotionally. The feeling we get when we satisfy a true need can be described as enjoyment and even happiness.



"Health is the most precious gain and contentment, the greatest wealth" - Gautama Buddha

Happiness and contentment are not the same. Happiness is excitement, or at the very least, the lack of boredom. To be content means to be satisfied, not to settle.

The source of all dissatisfaction appears to stem from the ability to compare experiences and then infer that one's state is not ideal.

Contentment is a state which is ideally reached through being happy with what a person has, as opposed to achieving one's larger ambitions.

There is a belief that one can achieve contentment by living "in the moment,” which represents a way to stop the judgmental process of discriminating between good and bad.

“Happiness comes after contentment.” - E.A. Cabaltica

Happiness is Excitement

Happiness is Excitement!

What Is Happiness?

Since the beginning of time, maybe even earlier, many extremely intelligent human beings have been trying to figure out how to answer this question. To Socrates, happiness is what all people desire, that everything we do can be ultimately broken down to the goal of achieving the feeling of happiness - “since it is always the end goal of our activities, it is an unconditional good.” William James believed “happiness is created as a result of our being active participants in the game of life.” And Aristotle said - "Happiness is a state of activity."

 “When you see someone who is genuinely excited, look at the expression on their face and what do you see. Most likely you see the look of happiness.”

The Five Monkeys Experiment

A researcher puts five monkeys in a cage. There’s a bunch of bananas hanging from a string, with a ladder leading to the bananas. When the first monkey goes for the bananas, the researcher sprays all five monkeys with freezing water for five minutes. Some time later, when a second monkey inevitably tries to go for the bananas, the researcher once again sprays all five monkeys with the cold water for five minutes. The researcher then puts the hose away and never touches it again. But, when a third monkey tries to go for the bananas, the other four attack him to prevent him from climbing that ladder. They are afraid of the punishment that may come.

The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem

By Nathaniel Branden

1. Self-Esteem: The Immune System of Consciousness
Self-esteem is:
1. Confidence in our ability to think, confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life; and
2. Confidence in our right to be successful and happy, the feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our needs and wants, achieve our values, and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.

2. The Meaning of Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and as worthy of happiness.

We depend for our survival and well-being on the guidance of our distinctive form of consciousness, the form uniquely human, our conceptual faculty - the faculty of abstraction, generalization, and integration: our mind.

Was It An Adventure?

Was It An Adventure?

The Four Agreements

By Don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, offers us some words of wisdom to help us understand why we are the way we are and gives us guidance on how to break free from the conditioning and programming that has dominated the way we have been living our lives, and create our own path based on a new set of values of our own design.

The person that we have become is based on programming and conditioning that began before we were even born and continued through our childhood and into our adulthood. That programming is continually reinforced daily via our friends, family, society, social media, mainstream media, and even the government.

These rules that we are programmed to follow and the self-judgements that it leads to are all part of what Ruiz calls - The Domestication of Humans.

Stumbling on Happiness

By Daniel Gilbert

The goal of the book is to help the reader understand what happiness is and isn’t, why we have such a hard time finding it, and some possible solutions as to how we can get more of it.

Humans use memory to see the past, perception to see the present, and imagination to see the future, and each of these is much less reliable than we think they are. The higher evolved part of our brain, the neocortex, fills in what our memory, perception, and imagination leave out.

We are motivated to be happy, more than anything else in life, and we have been raised to believe that consuming things is what will bring us this happiness. The economy, the lynchpin of a stable society, depends on this to keep things running smoothly. But, we must understand that money and wealth cannot bring us happiness, it only sends us on wild goose chases leading to dead ends.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow is a state of mind that is very similar to what Abraham Maslow describes as an optimal experience. This state of flow can be described as having a sense that one’s skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand, in a goal-directed, rule-bound, action system that provides clear clues as to how one is performing. Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems. We lose our sense of self-consciousness.

The Insulin Cycle: Understanding How Insulin Works in the Body

During digestion, foods that contain carbohydrates are converted into glucose. Most of this glucose is sent into your bloodstream, causing a rise in blood glucose levels. This increase in blood glucose signals your pancreas to produce insulin.

The insulin tells cells throughout your body to take in glucose from your bloodstream. As the glucose moves into your cells, your blood glucose levels go down. Some cells use the glucose as energy. Other cells, such as in your liver and muscles, store any excess glucose as glycogen. Since glucose in the bloodstream is toxic, if the liver and muscle tissues have reached their capacity to store glycogen, the insulin will trigger the removal and storage of the remaining glucose in the bloodstream as fat.

The Longevity Gauntlet

For most of human history, human longevity stood at around 40 years, give or take a few. And the lifespan for most humans followed the same type of pattern, for many, a brutal ending at birth or within a couple years after, for the rest, a relatively safe run through adolescence and young adulthood. They progressed through adulthood, enduring the injuries and ailments that accompanied a mostly adverse environment, and if they were lucky, they facilitated the advancement of several offspring through childhood and into adulthood themselves. While most of our ancient ancestors had the physiology to make it into old age, their environment had other ideas.

Ironically, as we “evolved” from hunter-gatherer, to farmer, to factory worker, we seemed to actually be creating an environment that fostered more things that could kill us than things that could help us live longer. The air we were breathing got worse, the food we ingested got less natural as well as the liquids we started drinking, and the products we were inhaling. For a while we were experiencing the worst of both worlds, the high infant mortality rate of our hunter gatherer ancestors as well as the lifestyle causes of death of the modern era.

Then, around the turn of the 20th century, we began cleaning up our urban environment through improved hygiene and sanitation, as well as developing antibacterial medicines. This was the one-two punch that has drastically reduced infant mortality throughout the world. These changes vastly improved our expected lifespan (life expectancy at birth), but did little for the maximum age that humans could expect to live. In fact, even today, our life expectancy, at the age of 75, has gone up very little (see graphic below).

Simple and Hard vs Complicated and Easy

There exists a profound disconnect between how much our bodies, our brains, and our minds have been evolving. Each has been evolving on a completely different timescale. Our bodies have evolved over the past several million years, our brains have evolved over the past hundred thousand years, and our minds have evolved over the past hundred years.

During the first several million years or so, since we climbed down from the trees, we evolved physically to adapt and survive in this new environment. We walked more upright, we developed stronger legs, and we lost most of our ability to swing from limb to limb. This new environment offered a much greater variety of feeding options, but it also came with a price - more predators.

We were not physically equipped for this new environment, so we had to work as a team or even a tribe. This requirement for teamwork spurred and sped up the evolution of our brains, allowing us to develop tools and strategies that propelled us to the top of the food chain. Eventually, our brains figured out how to use our environment more efficiently and even control it. We transitioned, rapidly, from hunter gatherers to farmers.

As we tamed our environment, it created a social excess that allowed some individuals in society the freedom to pursue higher levels of thinking. The results of which echoed through society and fostered the far more rapid evolution of our minds. This allowed us to explore the sciences, develop processes for manufacturing, build magnificent cities, and eventual discoveries into the deeper workings of the body, the brain, and even the mind.

The Journey To Rock Bottom

Rock bottom is that place we find ourselves where we feel we have lost control over the events that are shaping our lives. In this moment, we become powerless, we become the ultimate victim. Rock bottom is a place that no one wants to go to and we will avoid it at all costs. But, in all actuality, this is the place where truly profound changes take place. This is the point where we realize that we have nothing else to lose by trying a completely different approach to how we are living our lives. This is when we let go. This is when we surrender. This is when we accept going along for the ride for a while, or maybe for the duration. This is when we let go of the reins and just let life happen.

The Story of The Chained Elephant

By Jorge Bucay

“When I was a small boy, I loved going to the circus. Animal acts were my favourite. I was quite impressed by the elephant, who is, as I found out later, the favourite animal of all children. The elephant’s part of the show was a display of his huge weight, his immense size and power. Then, as the show was approaching its end, slightly before the elephant had to return to his tent, he was standing tied to a tiny wooden stake driven partially into the ground. A chain was wrapped around his feet. The size of the stake was very small, and the part of it that was driven into the ground was even smaller. The chain that was wrapped around the legs of the elephant was quite large, but it seemed quite obvious, even to my childish mind, that an animal whose power was so large, so immense that it could rip trees off the ground and hurl them to others, was more than enough to let the elephant just rise and walk away. That was the mystery of the elephant. What sort of immense force could keep the elephant tied to that tiny stake? Why didn’t he rise and walk away?

Our Deprogramming

Our Deprogramming - How Did We Get Here?

We need to take a really long and hard, and maybe even painful look at ourselves. All those things that we don’t like about ourselves, all those things that we don’t like about our lives, they were all caused by us. We did them. We did them to ourselves. We may not have created those things directly, we may not have asked for them specifically, but at the very least we created the part of our personality that allowed those things into our lives. We created the opportunity for those things to enter our lives and we chose how we would let the outcomes affect us.

We must question everything that we know about ourselves and the world around us. All the things about us, all the things in our lives, are there because of the choices we made. Most of those things were not caused directly by a single choice, but a series of choices, a chain of events, that may go far back. So far back in fact that we can’t even remember what the first choice was that started it all out. But this is where the solution lies. If we can figure out why we made the choices we have made, then we can figure out how to not make those choices again. The further we can trace back in the decision making chain of events, the closer we can get to the reason we made the choices we made. This will take us further into the core of who we really are, and this is how we will stop this cycle of questionable decision making. 

This was our programming, for better or worse. Assigning blame for our programming will do no one any good, least of all ourselves. We must first accept this before we can move forward.

Our Programming

Our Programming

“Our ideas are conditioned by the prejudices instilled in us by our parents, by our culture, and by the historical period we live in. They are further limited by the increasing rigidity of the mind. A bit more humility about what we know would make us all the more curious and interested in a wider range of ideas.” - Robert Greene from The Laws of Human Nature

The person that we have become today is not the person that we chose to be, nor is it the person that we would have chosen to be (most likely), if we were given the choice. But it is who we are, and it is who we have to live with for the rest of our lives. We are not just who we are, we are who we were conditioned to be. We have all experienced this conditioning since the day we were born (and maybe earlier). This conditioning has been reinforced our entire lives by our parents and extended family, our schools and the teachers they employed, the media, our neighbors, and our workplace.

The person we have become has been molded by the decisions we have made throughout our life. It may feel like we were consciously making those choices, but in reality it was our subconscious working covertly behind the scenes that was directing our decisions. And our subconscious is a direct product of our conditioning. This is our programming.

Our Hierarchy of Needs

Our Hierarchy of Needs

When us humans are navigating our way through life we are constantly faced with decisions that need to be made. Some of these decisions are simple, like what we should have for breakfast, or what color shirt am I going to wear. But sometimes we must make decisions where the benefits or consequences hold much more weight. Every once in a while these decisions can be life-changing - the proverbial fork in the road. Sometimes we make the right (better) decision, which can lead to a feeling of satisfaction or happiness, and sometimes we make the wrong (less better) decision which leaves us feeling dejected, remorseful, or maybe even ashamed.

When we make the right decision, we rarely reflect back on that decision and ask ourselves - “how did I come to make such a great choice,'' success can have a way of blocking out such self-questioning. But when we make the wrong choices in life, usually after we have gone through the five phases of loss and are now at the phase where we tell ourselves that we didn’t want that thing anyway, we might find ourselves asking why we made such a bad choice in the first place. We may have even known better, we saw the red flags, but still made the wrong decision.

Sometimes these decisions are made consciously and sometimes they are made subconsciously, but whichever it was it was made in an attempt to satisfy a need. And the level of consciousness that was present when we made that decision is what determines our understanding of why we made that decision.

Was the benefit (the satisfaction of the need) worth the cost we decided to pay, or the risk we decided to take? Did we use the right tool in our need satisfying toolbox, or did we use the wrong one? Most importantly, was it really a need or was it just a cleverly disguised want?

Understanding that we have a multitude of different kinds of needs and that they are arranged, more or less, into prioritized levels (a hierarchy) of importance, can go a long way in helping us answer these questions and maybe even give us guidance in making better decisions in the future.

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