The Unmistakable

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They criticize me for harping on the obvious; if all the folks in the United States would do the few simple things they know they ought to do, most of our big problems would take care of themselves.” – Calvin Coolidge

Have you ever search for your keys only to find out they were in your hand? The answer can be straight in our face and we can be blind to see it.  What we search can be so obvious, it’s natural to look elsewhere.

A while ago, I was trying to find ways to improve my strenght at the deadlift and overhead press. My first instinct was trying to find shortcuts. Maybe a new supplement could be my savior? Maybe I could add a new assistant exercise to my training? What if I wasn’t stretching properly? You can see where this was going.

After thinking about it, I concluded that if I wanted to get stronger, I needed to do more strength. As simple as that. I’ve added a few sets of singles (doing the maximum for 1 rep) to each session and after a week I was already seeing a big difference. We often try to find shortcuts, hacks, tips, tricks or whatever. We want to find the easy way to do things, because we want to avoid the hard way.

You want more money? Instead of cancelling your Netflix account, you could just find an another job or ask for a raise. You need to lose weight, drinking Coca-Cola Zero won’t make a big difference. What you need is to eat less carbs period.

We don’t need the new cool apps, the next productivity hacks or that new trendy idea. What we need is to stop bullshiting ourselves for one moment and do what fucking matters.

Randomness #4

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Life/Culture

[*] Gary Bettman’s Hockey Goal (Wall Street Journal) – Great article about Gary Bettman’s work with the NHL. No matter what we can say against him, since he’s the job, NHL revenue has increased by 1000%.

[*] The Sweat Solution (Gratland.com – Short film) – A 17 minutes video about the birth of Gatorade in Florida. It was used at first by University of Florida football team.

[*] Hardcore History Podcast – I’ve discovered that podcast at the beginning of the year. I’m a bit late about that one. It’s already a top blog on Itunes. If you want to learn about The First World War, the Vikings or the Khans Empire, it’s the place to go. I’ve personally started with Prophets of Doom.


Self-Improvement

[*] What I Learned About Life After Interviewing 80 Highly Successful People (jamesaltucher.com) – James Altucher is an interesting writer. He’s also the host of his own podcast. Among his guest, the billionaire Mark Cuban. In this article, he make a summary of what he learned doing all his interviews for his podcast.

[*] 10 Tips for Successfully Working from Home (Art of Manliness) – Ever dreamed of working from home? Here are a few useful tips to achieve that goal and make it success.

[*] Productivity Advice I Learned from People Smarter Than Me (NY Observer) – Great article by Ryan Holiday. He talked about what he learned from great people…past or present. You’ll learn a bunch of stuff from the likes of Napoleon, Andrew Carnegie, Montaigne or Robert Greene.


 Health/Fitness

[*] Oil Bags: The Rise of the Idiots (T-Nation.com) – Funny article in sense, but not so much after all. Learn about stupid people injecting “site-enhancement oil” to artificially inflate muscles. You can guess that complications follow afterward.

[*] Brain Drinks Might Make You Less Smart (Wired) – An article about the brand of drink “NeuroSonic”. After some research, it look like it doesn’t help you being smarter. 

[*] Detoxes: an undefined scam (Examine.com) – Tired of hearing about cleanse and detox? It’s surprising how much people believe in it. Science says it’s all a scam. A must read.

[*] Can drinking wine really replace exercise? (Examine.com) – It’s an answer to an article that claim that red wine could replace an hour of exercise. Welcome to the world of catchy headlines and bullshit journalism. Thank God, Examine is here to save the day.


Books

[*] Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game – Remember the movie with Brad Pitt? It’s the book that inspired it. It’s simply great. One of the best book I’ve read in a while. The book explain how the Oakland A’s were at the top of the MLB at the beginning of the 2000s despite being the poorest. How can the poorest team do almost as good as the richest (cough Yankees cough)?

[*] The Magic of Thinking Big – A classic self-help book published in 1959. This book was recommended by many authors. I remember Tim Ferriss saying it was one of his favorite. It’s the perfect book to read at the beginning of the year. It’s a great kick in the butt.

[*] You Are Now Less Dumb – I’m a reader of the author’s blog (You Are Not So Smart). The book is about human delusions about themselves. It’s good popular psychology. You’ll learn a bunch of stuff…and you’ll be less dumb in the end.


 Entertainment

[*] The Interview (Netflix) – A lot of buzz around that movie because of all the crap that happened with North Korea. It’s a fun movie with Seth Rogen and James Franco. Not oscar worthy, but an enjoyable two hours.  You can either buy it on YouTube or watch it on Netflix.

[*] The Guest (movie) – I didn’t know to expect from that independent movie, but I really liked it. The soundtrack is great.  The story is simple. A soldier introduces himself to the Peterson family, he claim to be a friend of their son who died on the front. Once he is welcome inside the home, a series of weird events occurs. The movie has a strong 80s vibe. We can see it as an homage to old John Carpenter’s or James Cameron’s movies.

[*] Rogue Legacy (Game on Steam) – Nothing new under the sun. The game was published in 2013. It was on my list since a while. I almost didn’t game in 2014. I gave a try to this one. It’s amazing how a game with simple graphic can be so addictive and good. My younger self playing the old Nintendo would have been crazy about it. The game bring two interesting thing…when you die you comeback as the child of you hero. The castle you explore randomly change when you die. I like new concepts like these.


Misc

[*] Experts Say These Are The 20 Best Beers In The World (Businessinsider.com) – Not a recent article. It’s from August 2014. But, if you’re searching for a must try beer list. It’s a good one.

[*] 7 Ways to Level Up Your Morning Coffee Routine (Art of Manliness) – Coffee must be one of the best thing in the world. Ok ok I’m a coffee addict…I know! #2 is something I’ve never thought about. It’s a wonderful idea. And I should try #6.

Randomness of July 2014

In “randomness”, I’m posting about the interesting stuff of the last month. It can be quotes, books, articles, websites, movies or whatever I think you could find interesting.

I’m kind of late this month. I was in the Balkans for 15 days and I’ve come back a week ago. The trip was awesome. I had the chance to visit Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro. I won’t go in more details.

[1] I rarely read fiction book and I want to make amend of that in the future. Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale was my first move on the good path. It’s the first book of the James Bond series. It’s more or less the same story as 2006 movie but in Cold War setting instead of the present. You can also take off the poker game by baccarat. A good book pack with action.

[2] I read a quick book just before leaving to Europe. It was Nate Green’s Bigger Smaller Bigger. The author take us in its adventure to get 20ibs of muscle in 28 days, lose 20ibs in 5 days, and get it all back. It’s interesting on the self-experimentation perspective. If you have any interest on getting muscle mass, I think it’s a good inspiration for it.

[3] I had the chance to see the legendary hardcore band Cro-Mags in show upon my return from Europe. I was surprise to see how many well-known rock bands say they were influence by them. One interesting stuff is that I thought the lead singer was in his late thirties…he’s in fact more than 50. I’ve done some research and the guy is an advocate of healthy lifestyle. He is the author of the book Meat is For Pussies about the lifestyle of being vegan, athletic and strong. I’m not vegan but the book look good and I would be curious to read it. Even the MMA fighter Jake Shields is a fan of the book.

[4] I’ve stumbled upon a quote from the business thinker Peter Drucker: “What gets measured gets managed.” Whatever you’re goal, if you can measure it, it will be way easier to achieve it. For example, if you goal is to lose weight you can measure your carbs intake or the calories you’re eating. I’ve noticed that the habits changes I wanted in my life were way easier to achieved when I was measuring the goal and tracking the progress.

[5] If you want to watch a weird documentary, I suggest Room 237. It’s free on YouTube. It’s about theories from fans on Stanley Kubrick’s Shining. It’s fun to see all those odds theories like the idea that Shining double meaning is the genocide of Indians. The fan show all the clues that point toward that theory. You’ll see theory like the Holocaust, the thematic of the Minotaur and much more. It’s nothing really serious, but it’s entertaining. My favorite part was the study of the set, I think it’s the best part.

[6] Do you like board games? One of my friend as a hardcore boardgamer and he always try new Kickstarter projects. Last time I went to his place, we’ve played a game of Kremlin. It’s an updated version of the old 1980’s game from Fata Morgana and Avallon Hill. It’s a strategic game of influence that take place in Soviet Union. The goal is more or less to take control of the Politburo.

[7] One of my favorite book is Letters From a Stoic by the roman philosopher Lucius Seneca. The book was written 2000 years ago and it could have been written today.  I’ve bumped into one of my favorite quote from the book last week: Now I bear it in mind not only that all things are liable to death but that liability is governed by no set of rules. Whatever can happen at anytime can happen today.” Whatever can happen someday, could happen today. You will die someday, but not rules says it shouldn’t be today, in a week or in 65 years.

[8] You’re serious about weightlifting but you don’t know how much alcohol you should take? I suggest you read Dr. Jade Teta’s article on the subject: A Lifter’s Guide to Alcohol. I’ve learned a bunch of things because of it. Seriously, a whole book should be written about that subject.

[9] I’ve got my hand on a cooking book. It’s La Technique by Jacques Pépin. Each recipes or techniques are shown step-by-step with pictures. That is must to learn and master cooking techniques. This is something I’ve been putting off since a long time. I like to cook, but since a year and half I’m really lazy. Hopefully, this book will motivate me to get the job done.

[10] We will finish with a quote from Jacques Pépin:”All the great chefs I know – Thomas Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten – they are technicians first.” This can apply to any fields, you need to understand and learn the techniques if you want to become good. It’s the same whether you are a cook, a martial artist or a pilot.

Life Lessons from 7 Years of Weightlifting

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It’s been seven years since I’ve started the practice of weightlifting. I’ve been touching various types of training like Crossfit, bodybuilding, olympic lifting and powerlifting. I’ve tried tons of methods of training and eating. I’ve digest hundreds of articles on the internet. I’ve certainly acquired great knowledge of the field during those 7 years. Without a doubt, there was a good progression in physic and  in strength. I’m in much better shape and health than before. But most of all, I’ve gained many lessons that I can apply in my daily life. Today, I want to share those lessons I’ve learned from my seven years of weightlifting.

*Learning never stop. Often during the learning process, you’ll reach a point where you think you know enough. That is exactly what happened during my progression. I remember reading tons of materials on weightlifting from various resources, then one day I’ve come to conclusion that I didn’t have anything more to learn. I thought I was smarter than others. The problem is that I was out of new ideas. I became dogmatic about my training. I’ve also noticed a process of unlearning. The brain can’t remember everything, it needs from time to time a review of what he already know, otherwise you will forget stuff over time. I remember last year reading Built for Show, a basic bodybuilding book. I was surprised how much stuff I had forgotten simply by not reading and reviewing my notes. Then, reading Bench Press : The Science showed me totally new ideas I wasn’t even aware of.  I’ve come to conclusion that if I wasn’t among the best, I certainly had more things to learn. This idea applies to any another fields.

*Having the right resources. In anything you’ll learn, you will meet charlatans or people who don’t know what they are talking about. I’ve found that reading from the best in weightlifting is one of the most valuable thing I could do. I think of names like Eric Cressey, Jim Wendler, Lou Schuler, Bret Contreras, Mark Rippetoe and many others. Find the best in whatever you are doing and learn from them.

*Not going with the crowd. In the same vein, I’ve learned to be skeptical of what people told me or of what I’ve learned. In a gym, you’ll always meet people who think they know everything. They even try to teach other people. The worst is that they are average at best. They will often claim you the last bro science ideas and they will be dogmatic about what they do. You will be confronted to popular ideas that can be far from the best. It’s the same in boxing, in stock market investing, in cooking and I could go on for hours naming them all.

*Having a plan and sticking to it. I’ve made my biggest progression whenever I had a clear plan for my training and for my nutrition. Without a clear plan, you’re going anywhere but where you want. Imagine that you have a clear plan for learning to cook. You know wich class you’ll follow, how much you will practice every week, you have books from the best to read and you have plan progression with goals. You’ll probably make a good progression. On the hand, if you have no plan, you’ll probably won’t do much. And, by the way, you should stick to your plan. You can change it, but try it for while. There is nothing worse than juggling with different plans.

*Keeping track of progression. One of the best tools I think about is keeping a log of progression. In weightlifting it was keeping track of each exercises progression in weight and volume. In nutrition, it was more habit keeping track of different habits. I’m still amazed to see people come at the gym without anything to take notes of what they did.  Keeping a journal is another important tool. It is great to make a review of what you did good or bad from time to time. It’s the best way to know where you’re at. Philip A. Fisher words summarize this idea very well: “I have always believed that the chief difference between a fool and a wise man is that the wise man learns from his mistakes, while the fool never does“.

*Better worse than not at all. It’s better to lift weight on you worst days than not at all. I know plenty of people who will skip gym at the first sign of tiredness or stress. If you want to read a book, won’t you be closer to the end if you read 10 pages instead of 0?

*Find the key items. With time, I’ve found that nothing is equal. I mean that some things will give much greater benefits than others. I can give the examples of deadlift, bench press, overhead press and squats that are probably the exercises that will give the most rewards. In supplements, creatine and proteins will be the one that gives you the most benefits.  The problem is that we tend to focus on to many things and a lot of them aren’t that useful. It’s a simple application of Pareto 80/20.

*Don’t underestimate the obvious. In other words, if you have difficulty with progression, maybe it’s basics life needs that you aren’t respecting. Do you get enough sleep? Do you eat healthy food? Do you take much alcohol or caffeine? Is your stress to high? Those are all things that we most of time don’t look out, but they can make a huge difference on many aspects.

 *Be consistent. It is really hard to be consistent. I’ve had all the difficulty in the world to achieve that. Many things can disrupt your progression like a new work, travel, school, a new relationship and many other things. People who carry on even during these times will be reward with much greater progress over a long period. Otherwise, you can expect to have a progression in waves.

Those ideas have really help became who I am today. I apply them consistently in all the aspects of my life. You don’t only learn in books and in school, you also learn by what you do on a daily basis in your life.

Randomness of June 2014

In “randomness”, I’m posting about the interesting stuff of the last month. It can be quotes, books, articles, websites, movies or whatever I think you could find interesting.

[1] I’ve been reading Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus Notch Persson and the Game that Changed Everything. I don’t remember reading a book that fast. It was a really well written biographic book. It was a complete dive in the world of indy games. It’s also a great story of success. It will probably part of my series “On the Bookshelf”.

[2] Here is a great quote by Calvin Coolidge (president of United States from 1923-1929): “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.The quote is self-explanatory. Whatever gift or talent you have, whatever school degrees you have, it won’t get you anywhere if you are not willing to do hard work.

[3] Do you know about Examine.com? It’s an independent organization that presents research on supplements and nutrition. They have tons of references to research on their website. They just released their Stack Guides. They cover subjects like testosterone, fat loss, sleep quality, bone health, memory and much more. You can buy each of them separately or all of them for a lower price.

[4] You should listen to the Art of Manliness podcast with John Romaniello. John is a bodybuilder and the writer of Man 2.0. The podcast is touching subjects like testosterone, Joseph Campbell, hormone optimization, intermittent fasting, fitness, the definition of “alpha” and a lot more.

[5] An excellent quote by the writer Mark Twain: “I am a very old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never happened.” It’s easy to be stressed by many things in our daily lives. Most of those things aren’t that important. We tend to overestimate the impact of bad things on long-term. If you have a house over your head, food to eat, your family is in good health and so is yourself…probably that your other problems are not that much important. My best example…last week I’ve had problems with my cellphone. On the moment it was the end of the world. It took a matter of 10 minutes to get things in order at the cell company. One week later, I don’t even bother anymore. In three months I won’t even remember about it.

[6] I recommend two great articles by Ryan Holiday. The first is Things I Learned On the Way to 27. I relate to this article because I’ve turned 27 in June.  Here is a quote I’ve found impactful: “It doesn’t matter what age you are or how healthy you are: people die. They die unexpectedly. They die tragically. Sometimes they die violently. Never let this drift too far from your mind.” The other one is 30 Must Read Quotes From Icons of History Required To Turn Your Adversity Into Advantage. Get ready for the like of Marcus Aurelius, Churchill and Thoreau. I hope you like quotes!

[7] I’ve read 5/3/1 by Jim Wendler. It’s a weightlifting program as a book. I’ve you are in interested in powerlifting or bodybuilding, it’s worth taking a look. I’m currently doing that program and it’s breath of fresh air. 

[8] I’m cheating, it’s a July article, but here is Love is Not Enough on Mark Manson blog. It’s about the idealization of love and relationships. I was surprise by the intro on John Lennon and so you will. Great stuff. 

[9] Another good quote by the humorist Louis CK:You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person.” It’s true that we have so much difficulty nowadays to just spend time with ourselves. It’s like we are junkie for information or sensation. Being active non-stop. It’s not a surprise that we have so much anxiety and stress in our lives. On that note, I’m planning to read Mindfulness In Plain English.

[10] One more book that I’ve read was The Gallic Wars by Gaius Caesar. The title says everything, it’s the military campaign of Caesar in Gaul just before Rome Civil War. It’s really straightforward. Don’t expect things about the life of Caesar or the Roman army, it’s mostly a summary of the different military campaigns. It’s the only book that has been written by Caesar.