It’s Time to Stop Joking About Being Shitty

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New Year’s 2007 was rock bottom for me. I’m not exaggerating. I somehow passed out in a crack house after consuming WAY more tequila than any 18-year-old should, and the night ended with me projectile vomiting all over the front porch as my friends left disgustedly. I slept on a mattress on the floor, and over half the people there were high on something, super racist, or both. My only saving grace were two friends I had there who remain my friends to this day. Without them dragging my hungover ass to Denny’s the next day, and eventually disassociating us from the denizens of said crack house, I’m not sure where I’d be right now. It was a pretty fucked up time in my life, but what happened next was worse. For years after that, I wore that night as a badge of honour.

Let me explain: 19-year-old me was a piece of shit too. By then, I’d already developed an alcohol problem that I still wrestle with today. At wild parties, I’d often talk about New Year’s 2007 to garner approval from the “cool kids”. I was somehow content in my shittiness, and used it as a social poker chip in conversations to go all-in. “Oh, you think you had a wild night? LET ME FUCKING TELL YOU A STORY…” It was gross, immature, and shameful – my most pathetic attempt at trying to earn the approval of others. I even thought that was what they wanted to hear. Every time I told that story, people would smirk, ask questions, laugh… How was 19-year-old me to know I was being a dumb brat? Not only was I perpetuating toxic behaviour; I was indirectly telling other people I approved of it! Well, no more. I’m putting my foot down, and you should too. Here’s why.

You’ve probably done the same thing, albeit in less dramatic ways. It’s most insidious in self-deprecating humour – [Why go to the gym when I have ice cream? LOL. #iloveicecream #fatforever] – and a lot of us are guilty of it. When we joke about our terrible habits, we’re actually seeking approval for our idiocy and choosing not to change. We know what we’re doing is unhealthy, yet we continue to brag about it. Why? Why do we come back after a weekend bender and give our coworkers a tally of how much we drank? Why do some meat eaters joke about “never touching a vegetable”? Why are we proud of being so unsustainably busy that our health suffers? WHY DO WE CELEBRATE BEING BROKE?!?

This attitude makes us poorer. If we don’t hear enough positive influences, we accept shittiness as the norm. If Tom, Dick and Harry make $4,000/month and blow it all on booze and cocaine, only to roll in all fucked up on a Monday to high-five each other, THEY’LL NEVER BREAK OUT OF THAT CYCLE. Be the person who brags about good shit, like “I worked out this morning and I feel great” or “my savings rate this year is through the roof”! Sure, you might not make Tom too happy, but who cares? You can choose to recognize your bad habits and change into the beacon of health, wealth and intelligence YOU KNOW YOU CAN BE… or you can just keep joking about your low bank balance, get a few chuckles, and stay poor forever.

A weird thing happens when you start being vocal about healthy habits instead of joking about shitty ones. The people around you don’t want to be left in the dust and adopt healthy habits too! My friend C texted me: “You also have inspired me to get healthy.” J messaged me also: “I think I’m gonna see if I can just get up earlier and walk to work the scenic route”. Oh, and remember Mike, the dude with the ridiculous car? HE TRADED IT IN FOR SOMETHING WITH TWICE AS MUCH FUEL EFFICIENCY AND HALVED HIS MONTHLY PAYMENTS. And thanks to A’s frugal eating habits, I’VE now adopted a mostly vegetarian diet and am losing weight so fast, it’ll only take me a month to hit my goal weight! (More on that soon.)

Comedy is tragedy plus time. Do you really want to be tragic FOREVER, just for a laugh? Didn’t think so. Stop joking about being shitty. Let’s boost each other up and conquer the fucking world. It’s all uphill from here.

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My Secret to Hyperproductivity

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A few days ago, I had all of the following done by 12 noon:
– took 15,000 steps
– listened to 90 minutes of “The 48 Laws of Power” on audiobook
– wrote ‘Why Eating Out Makes Me Sad’
– read Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” cover to cover
– grabbed office supplies for my photography business
– and most importantly: even had two beers at the pub!

At no point did I feel rushed or stressed, and I’m happy to say mornings like this are a regular occurrence for me now. I exercise, expand my personal knowledge, do a bit of work, and even take time to relax… All before some people take their lunch break.

Sure, Ben, you’re probably thinking. You can do all that before 12 noon because you’re an entitled douchebag without a day job. Try working for 8 hours a day like the rest of us.

Uh, well, I do. By midnight that day, I was up to 28,000 steps with a 7-hour liquor store shift behind me. Even then, no rush and no stress. I felt more productive than ever, and it was all due to a simple idea I like to call “compound tasking”. Here’s how it works.

Compound tasking and multitasking are completely different beasts. The first distinction is that compound tasking comes into play when you have both a professional goal and a personal goal, and want to work on both at the same time. Multitasking tends to be all about work. Examples of multitasking include Elon Musk’s version of productivity – “he sends emails while scanning invoices, holds meetings and takes care of business on his phone at the same time, and even texts with his children on his lap”. (One could argue he’s also spending time with his family in the last example, but let’s come back to that in a bit. There’s only one hard no-no about compound tasking, and we’ll talk about that at the end.) On the other hand, compound tasking looks more like this – I get my exercise by walking 5 kilometres to the office supply shop while answering business texts on my phone, and I listen to mind-expanding audiobooks at the same time. My work obligations are taken care of, I’m looking after my health, and I’m actively learning… ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

I try to adopt compound tasking in all my activities. Even my shifts at the liquor store involve it, and I deliberately chose that side job with compound tasking in mind. For one, it expands my knowledge of beer, wine and spirits, which is a hobby of mine. On top of that, it provides me great exercise as I unload the weekly orders. It also gives me just enough downtime to actually stop and think about things. The job isn’t very mentally taxing, and I often formulate new business ideas and write post drafts as I work, usually while pacing the store to burn calories. And SOMEHOW, I’m getting paid for it all just by being present and stocking the occasional shelf! Compound tasking even reinvigorates me as I work because I’m working on a personal goal at the same time. I volunteer for the most physically active tasks to get more in shape, and end up looking super productive in the process! You can do this too!

Can you do double duty on your goals and attack personal accomplishments during your workday? Harvard Business Review suggests that “walking meetings support cognitive engagement, or focus, on the job”, but maybe you just want more Fitbit steps like I do. Look into them. Maybe you’re a security guard and most of your job involves just staying in one place. Can you listen to an audiobook or podcast instead of just throwing on Top 40? Trust me, the Adele lyrics never change. What if you’ve got a side hustle in addition to your day job? Write down ideas for your 10-to-2 while you work your 9-to-5!

Ever wonder why achieving a personal goal seems so hard? IT’S BECAUSE YOU PRIORITIZE THEM LESS THAN YOUR GODDAMN DAY JOB. STOP THAT.

A final note: Don’t attempt compound tasking with your friends and family. They’re not “a task that needs to be done”, they’re people. Spend time with them fully, and engage them with undivided attention. If you follow my advice on compound tasking, you’re gonna end up with more time anyway. Don’t forget to use it wisely.

Why Eating Out Makes Me Sad

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Mr. Money Mustache said it best: Look at me, I am renting this huge venue and paying an army of servants to prepare food for me!

Yep, that’s how I feel now. When I enter a restaurant, it all feels like the worst kind of transaction. From the moment I open the door, I’m spending money on literally every encounter. It really skeeves me out. You know that feeling you get at strip clubs? Kinda like that.

“Welcome to W____ S­____! Table for two?”

Welp, someone’s paying that hostess, I think to myself. It’s me. I’m paying her wages just by dining out like an idiot.

“How’s your day going?” she says.

“Fine, thanks.”

Ugh. All that trouble for a canned response.

I’m led to my table and handed a menu of oversalted pasta and old meat in white bread. Yum.

*****

There was a time when I loved eating out. Lost in the idea I deserved luxury at every turn, I had no problem spending hundreds on a Michelin-star meal. Now that I’ve had that experience – ugh. – I decided to learn how to cook so I wouldn’t fall into that trap again. Now, I see making meals at home as an immense privilege! You mean I get to use FRESH ingredients, LEARN an art form with a huge potential to save me more MONEY, AND I get the added benefits of INCREASED HEALTH and SEX APPEAL? (Okay, maybe that last one’s just me, but everyone loves a good cook, so…) Then, there’s the benefit of making things EXACTLY how I like them without having to explain to some 16-year-old I’m indirectly paying that, no, I don’t want your pancakes because your pancakes are shit. There’s really zero loss to cooking at home. My roommates and I eat like kings. I mean, look. This is from our last two months.

WEEK 11 – Tuna tataki, spicy eggplant and “takeout” noodles
WEEK 12 – Scallop ceviche, tuna tataki, Atlantic razor clams
WEEK 13 – Sticky chicken, asparagus, and rice
WEEK 14 – Century egg congee
WEEK 15 – Rosemary steak and bacon lentil salad
WEEK 16 – Butter clams and crusty bread
WEEK 17 – Spinach omelette
WEEK 18 – Coriander-rubbed duck breast, bacon lentil salad, and smoked salmon crostini

Cooking, for us, is now a cakewalk as we perfect our recipes and learn new skills. Not only that, but it’s HUGELY enjoyable. Sipping brandy as the aromas of duck fat and orange zest fill the kitchen? Easily a peak experience. Nailing the perfect crust on a lamb persillade and then sinking your teeth into the most decadent rare meat you’ve ever had? Goddamn orgasmic. Mastering the comfort foods of your childhood and knowing you can have a soul-warming congee whenever you want? Bliss.

Resolving to cook one ambitious meal a week has done wonders for me, and I highly recommend you make that a goal for yourself as well. You get to find out where your food comes from, and you develop a healthy respect for the nutrients you’re putting in your body. Ever wonder why people who adult well have so many dinner parties? You get to make an entire evening out of simple ingredients that – if you’re doing it right – only cost $8-$10 a person! I used to get absolutely fucking obliterated at bars for $150/night, only to go home sad and alone. Dinner parties are the obvious win! AND: Instead of hiring a culinary slave horde for two hours every time I’m feeling peckish, I’m using all that money ON MYSELF. I’m investing in my health, my life skills, and my enjoyment. What an easy freakin’ choice.

Just cook. You’ll love it, I promise.

*****

“Hi, can I take your order?”

Oh, fuck you. I’m cooking at home.

Financial Planning for Your Life Expectancy

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77. I’m going to die when I’m 77.

I was playing around with this life expectancy calculator and dutifully filled in my personal info, dreading the results. Would I die like my dad did, from heart complications at 55? Or would I flip Death the middle finger like my grandfather who passed away at 84? It was hard to tell. On one hand, I was reasonably healthy for a 28-year-old. On the other, I was a regular drinker and wasn’t as active as I could be. I was fully expecting my number to be below 65, making all my retirement planning silly and useless, but what I got was 77. Respectable, I thought. Now that I knew, it was time to start planning for it.

Using this compound interest calculator, I punched in my current investments and contribution rate: $17,245 to start, $3,000 a year, 37 years to grow (until I’m 65), and 7% interest. The results were heartening. Even though it’s fuzzy math, it estimated $725,479 when I’m 65. Not a bad little number. I wasn’t exactly a millionaire, but I didn’t need to be. I just needed enough to carry me through to my life expectancy. Here’s what I found.

Accounting for inflation – I used 2% – I was able to adjust my $725,479 to what it’d be worth in 2053, when I’m 65. I was shocked at what inflation ate up. My spending power was only about $348,673 in today’s dollars. Since that’s the more relevant number at this point, I’m using that to calculate my retirement plan. I want to know my spending power, not some wildly-inflated, future number. You can calculate your current dollars for inflation here.

My “$348,673”, at 7% interest, gets me “$24,407” a year while it’s invested, or “$2,033” a month. That’s about in line with my current spending. I spend just over $2,000/month now. If I play my finances this way when I’m 65, I could live off my nest egg FOREVER. But let’s say for a second the financial climate of 2053 is a riskier one, and I no longer want my money invested in US equity. If I cashed out EVERYTHING – like an idiot, but I digress – I could pace my “$348,673” out to “$29,056” a year, or “$2,421” a month until an expected death at 77. I am, somehow, covered both ways! Well, that’s a relief. By sheer luck alone, I don’t have to make any alterations at all to my retirement plan! Yay!

You have the tools now in the links I’ve given you above. You NEED to run your numbers and make a retirement plan that works for you. Ignoring this post could be the difference between literal life and death. Being broke at 80 is a far different story than being broke at 25.

On a happier note, with my finances taken care of, I can now shift the focus towards health and living a longer life. Let’s look at the life expectancy calculator again. I filled it in as follows: M, 28, 5’ 8”, 180 pounds, high blood pressure, quit smoking, 3-5 drinks a day, somewhat active. My life expectancy: 77. The best way of increasing my life expectancy is to bring my exercise level from “somewhat active” to “several times per week”. New life expectancy: 81. I can go even further by bringing my alcohol consumption from “3-5 drinks per day” to “2 drinks or less per day”. My life expectancy then becomes 82. Uhh… FUCK THAT. I like my beer. One extra year is not a fair trade. More beer now.

This might be an extreme method of measuring personal finance, but it’s still a useful exercise. It took me 10 minutes to come up with the numbers you see above. If a 10-minute time investment helps you make better financial and health decisions FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, wouldn’t you take it? Tell us what you thought in the comments.

With that extra four years, maybe I’ll take up scuba diving…