Mindless Eating

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I just finished reading Mindless Eating It’s an interesting book about the psychology behind how we eat. Here are the key points about that book:

1. We make 200 Food decisions per day and we aren’t aware of it.

2. To eat less or more (or healthier), we need to control the different causes that can influence us.

3. Causes can be:
-The size of the package (Costco vs standard size). In other word, you will eat more chips if you buy a big bag vs a small One.
-The visibility/disponibility of the food…like the access to a coffee machine at your desk vs walking to Starbucks. You will drink way more coffee with the first option.
-The people you eat with will influence how you eat. If your co-workers eat at McDonald’s everyday, the chance you eat crap is higher.
-Your lifestyle will have an impact on how much or how healthy you eat (Ex: Watching TV vs doing sports).

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You Should Cheat

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”Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salvator Dali

Before you start insulting me, let’s make something clear, I’m not talking about relationships. Let me explain myself. We all do things that doesn’t fit in our ideal life. The best examples are eating fast food, drinking alcohol, taking load of caffeine, watching TV, browsing the internet, playing video games or being lazy. The list could be longer, but you see the point. Tuesday, I’ve received my copy Fallout 4 by Amazon. For those, who don’t what I’m talking about, Fallout is post-apocalyptic video games. The game is huge and can easily suck you in for hours. I took my copy and put it aside. I wanted to make a simple experiment. I told myself that would only play saturday (for the whole day) if all the important stuff I wanted do would be done (gym, writing, reading and projects). Without committing myself, I would have easily spend all my free time playing and I’m not joking. To my surprise, I was way more productive that way. What I can see about that…

  • My gaming experience was even better because I’ve delayed the reward. I was awaiting that moment all week.
  • I wasn’t ashamed to play for my whole Saturday, because everything I wanted to be done, was finished.
  • I did way more during my week by avoiding anything related to TV. I felt more satisfied about myself, therefore I was more happy and less stressed.

Cheating can also help you build habits. I love to drink Red Bull. I know it’s bad for the health. I remember in my college years, drinking 2 cans a day. Nowadays, I avoid it as much as possible. The best way that I used to stop was to let myself cheat once or twice a month. I’ve avoided the pain of removing what I like from my life, but at the same I’ve reduce so much the quantity I drink that it doesn’t have significant impact on my life.

Trying to be perfect is impossible. It’s a recipe for frustration. Let yourself deliberately cheat, not too much, but just enough.

How to (Really) Read a Book

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A good book deserves an active reading. The activity of reading does not stop with the work of understanding what a book says. It must be completed by the work of criticism, the work of judging. The undemanding reader fails to satisfy this requirement, probably even more than he fails to analyze and interpret. He not only makes no effort to understand; he also dismisses a book simply by putting it aside and forgetting it. Worse than faintly praising it, he damns it by giving it no critical consideration whatever.Mortimer J. Adler

This is the logical follow-up How to Read 50 Books in a Year. Reading a book doesn’t finish with the last page. Far from it. Work needs to be done afterward. That is in my opinion the most important part of reading a book. That will be the make or break in what you’ll get out of the book. Really reading a book means to be an active reader. If you go from point A to Z without any work, chances are that you will forget 99% of the book in a year. Here are some thoughts about my reading process.

*I’m active during my reading. That mean I highlight things of interest. It can be interesting quotes, stuff to apply in my daily life, interesting resources (books, movies, authors, music, etc.) or just interesting facts. In other words, highlight everything you find interesting. I don’t hesitate to write ideas or comments inside my books. They are my personal working tools. They aren’t meant to stay blank. You will read at a slower pace. That’s fine, it’s not a race. No need to rush.

*Once the reading is done, I write a summary of the book in Evernote. You can use whatever tools you want for that. I used to have a desktop folder with summary written in Word documents. To each is own way. You could write them on paper sheet if you want. In the summary, I’ll write about: the author, the subject/themes, what I thought about the book (make a critic of it), what I learned and whatever ideas that comes to my mind.

*After that, I will transcribe all book notes (things that we’re highlighted) after the summary. I’ll usually keep the most important stuff. I think notes should be well-organized for a later consultation. Dividing by chapters is probably the easiest way. Writing all your notes will boost the retention of what you just read. It can be a long process, but you’ll get use to it with time.

*As you can see, Fiction don’t follow the same pattern. I won’t use the summary/notes organization. I will start by saying what I thought about the book. Then, I will make a longer summary with quotes here and there if the book is like Game of Thrones or Dune. What I mean is that the book main point is to tell a story. The other option is to write you summary around the themes of the books. Here I’m thinking about Fight Club. Sometimes, you’ll have book that fall in between.

*The way you do your summary is personal. The important point is to do it. The way of doing will differ from person to another. Some people will keeps pages and pages of notes. Others will prefer the one page rule. It’s up to you. You can write on computer or by hand. You can use tables, images, whatever you want. The idea is to make it useful. For example, for my summary of The Borgias, I’ve included a map of Italy in 1492.

*I would suggest to keep a task list (if you read a non-fiction) when you are transcribing your notes. It’s a good way to make things you learn actionable. By doing that, you’ll commit to apply what you learn it the real world.

*I keep a system to check at least 1 or 2 old summaries/notes every week. That point is very important. You need to go back to your notes once in a while. It’s interesting to add new thoughts to your book notes after a year. You’ll see things differently each time you’ll return to it. I suggest adding new comments each time to make it a perpetual work.

I would rather read 20 books in a year with an active reading mindset than 100 in a passive reading way. I believe reading is an activity to make us grow. Making the most out of it make sense. See it as your personal school. You need to do your homeworks if you want a good grade. It’s the same for books. You need to do the work if you want to get the most values out of them.

How to Read 50 Books in a Year

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“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” George R.R. Martin

I never thought that one day I could have a “realist” goal of reading 50 books in a year. This is happening now. I’ve been asked by a few people how I read that much (I don’t think 50 is a lot, when some people a reading a hundred in a year). I don’t use fast reading techniques. You won’t find any hacks or shortcuts below. I’m actually a slow reader. I think anyone can do it with the proper mindset. Here are a bunch of ideas that could help you boost your reading in the next year.

*The first thing you should do is to make reading a priority. You probably watch TV for a few hours every week, play video games or browse internet (Facebook, Reddit, etc.). Instead of doing these activities, make reading your default option. I’m not saying don’t watch TV at all, but you can surely be creative and make more time for reading.

*One thing I do that help a lot is taking reading appointments. Whenever I have free time during the week, I’ll plug a 2-3 hours of reading in Google Calendar. Doing that will make you commit to do it. An other option would be to make a habit out of it, like reading 40 pages everyday. I don’t use that option because my days are never equal. But, I can see how it’s a great way to read much more.

*I suggest that you either always carry a book with you or one on Kindle (iPhone/Android). Dead times are underestimated. You easily lose few hours every week doing nothing. Read when waiting in line at the grocery stores, between gym sets, when waiting for meetings, in the metro or at any other dead times.

*I personally read 2 books at the same time. Usually 1 fiction and 1 non-fiction. Why am I doing that? Sometimes you won’t feel like reading a certain book. When you are tired, it will be way easier to read a fiction for example. You increase your chance of wanting to read something.

*It’s important to read stuff you like. If you don’t like what you’re reading, chances are that you will stop right at the middle. If you don’t like it, throw it away. As simple as that.

*I would say that one of the most important thing is to have a goal. Not aiming for an objective will make you fail. I know that I have to read 50 books before the end of the year and the goal is clearly inside my head. I track my progress and list each book I’m reading. I use a countdown to see where I’m at. It’s useful because you’ll know when you’ll have to read more. It’s just like project management, the closer you get to the deadline, the more time/effort you’ll put into your work.

*I think focus is mandatory. You need to make your reading a fun and relax activity. I usually make myself a coffee during the day or an herbal tea in the evening. Put your cell away. The last thing you want to do is check it every 2 minutes. And every time you stop, you’ll need to get your concentration back. I don’t use music when I’m reading, but some people like classical music.

Don’t know where to start? I did a bunch of book reviews if you need some inspiration: Moneyball, You Are Now Less Dumb, Steal Like an Artist, The Dip, 7 Years in Tibet, The Old Man and the Sea and Appalachian Trials.

The Five Minutes

A little can make a big difference. George Leonard expressed that idea in a similar fashion in his book Mastery. For him, the five extra minutes of work his the chief difference between an amateur and a master. In other words, “the five minutes” means giving the second effort.

Think about it. You want to learn cooking. If after each time you try a recipe, you give an extra five minutes to write about it. What was good. What went wrong. What you could improve the next time. Those extra five minutes in 10 years could be worth gold.

What are your five minutes?

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.

1 Month Without Facebook

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Facebook is part of our lives since almost a decade. It wasn’t that much popular in the beginning. Today, nobody can argue that it isn’t the equal (or almost) of email. It can be useful for many things like invitations for parties, sharing pictures or for birthdays. It’s also great to keep in touch with our favorite authors, blogs or brands. Unfortunately, Facebook has is share of bad sides. I was wondering how much time a day I could spend on that social network and how much of that time was really useful. That was the cause of my month without Facebook. I was bound to respect some rules during that month. No Facebook at all except if it was for work, which meant that I couldn’t go on my private page. I could answer personal message if it was really useful and if it was my only way to reach that person. I’ve also extended the challenge to other social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. To help me during the challenge, I was writing a log of my experiences every three days. Then, I’ve removed the Facebook icon on my cell home screen. This was seriously helpful, simply not seeing the icon was good deal useful.

I can’t lie, the first few days were hard. I was going on Facebook almost instinctively without even thinking about it. It’s like my brain was triggered to go on it every once in a while. To my astonishment, it was even automatic when I was doing work or personal task. I couldn’t open my internet browser without going a 5 minutes on Facebook. My other problem was the sudden interruption of tasks to go on Facebook. With the challenge it was way easier to observe my behavior. It took nearly 10 days to stop my visits by mistakes. I still needed to control consciously my urges. After 20 day, it was already a habit to avoid it.

I’ve observe many interesting things during the 30 days challenge. Here are a few of them:

  • Social networks can create a huge lost of time : I’ve come to conclusion that I was easily spending 45 minutes to an hour everyday on Facebook (if not more). It was most of time split with many session of 4-5 minutes here and there. Never underestimate the cumulative time of small visits. Make the calculus (45 x 7) and you get 315 minutes in a week. What could I do with 315 minutes more? It’s more than 5 hours!
  • It can easily break your productivity : If you are unaware of it, you will interrupt your task to go on Facebook. research show that in a work environment, each time you make an interruption, you will spend 25 minutes going back to your original task (the time spent on the distraction plus the whatever you did after that). You will rarely go back straight to your original task. It’s also obvious that you won’t be as focus as you were when starting again. By the way, this can also be applied to not only Facebook but other things like reading news, emails, sms, etc.
  • Understanding the Facebook distraction help to understand other distractions : It’s a common pattern. We use distractions without being aware of them. In Power of Habits, Charles Duhigg talk about keystones habits. Starting a habit, can make you aware of other things that you want to change. This first habit will be like a domino effect on others.    I now see how much I’m loosing time watching sport news, looking at my emails a bunch of times a day or opening my cellphone for sms.  Once you’re aware of it, you can start working on the other distractions that come to surface.
  • Old distractions will be replace by new distractions : This is something interesting, at one point instead of going on Facebook as usual I was browsing the IMDB. Usually, I only go on that website once in a while (when I want to see a movie). Your brain will crave to find new distractions be aware of it.
  • I didn’t miss that much: Nothing that I’ve missed was really important. The only thing that could have been important was event invitations, but I was already receiving notifications by email about it. I didn’t miss anything dramatic by not going on Facebook.
  • Less and less noise: I read so many trivial things on Facebook it isn’t even funny. A break of Facebook spared me a lot of time reading things I don’t even care about.

During my 30 day challenge, one big question came to my mind: How can I do that for a year? Doing a challenge for a month is a thing, doing it for good is another. One good tool is the Parkinson’s Law that I learned a few years ago in The 4 Hour Workweek. The idea is to use force deadline to avoid any kind of distractions. For example, you want to read a book. Start a timer for an 1 hour and read it without doing anything else. Another tool that I like is the « don’t do list ». Make a list of all your distractions and keep track of not doing them (don’t go on sport news website, do go on YouTube, etc.). Leo Babauta in The Power of Less suggest to set limitations. For example : I can go X amount of time on Twitter each week no more.

I plan to go on with the Facebook diet, I will probably set myself a limit of time to use it each week. I would like to add my other distractions in it. Those distractions are : sport news (UFC and Hockey mainly), daily news, IMDB, emails, watching my cell all the time for sms and YouTube. My goal is to see new distractions come and simply cut them off. I think we lose a lot of time with distractions of any sort, time that could be much better spent elsewhere. Is it really worth it? Try it for yourself.