Inadvertent Benefits of Flexible Dieting

Again, The Atlantic releases an incisive article called The Myth of Easy Cooking by Elizabeth G. Dunn.  Here are the main takeaways below from the article: 

"The decision to cook from scratch may have many virtues, but ease is not one of them. Despite what we’re told, cooking the way so many Americans aspire to do it today is never fast, and rarely easy compared to all the other options available for feeding ourselves.

The problem is that none of this actually easy. Not the one-minute pie dough or the quick kale chips or the idiot-proof Massaman curry, every last ounce of which is made from scratch, from ingredients that are sourced and bought and lugged home and washed, peeled, chopped, mixed, and cooked.

Meanwhile, technology has made appetizing, affordable cooking alternatives easier and easier to come by.  Food delivery services like Seamless, Munchery, and SpoonRocket carry prepared meals to your home in minutes.  The rise of fast casual restaurants from Chipotle to Sweetgreen has made counter-service takeout a dinner option that won’t make you hate yourself in the morning."

And here is the punchline and the lesson you should take away from this article:

"I love to cook, and wish I still had those wide-open Saturday mornings in which to make wholly unnecessary coffee cakes, or lazy Sunday afternoons for poring through old cookbooks, hunting for new projects. But I think we should talk more realistically about what’s involved in from-scratch cooking, the sacrifices it entails, and the fact that little of the complexity offered by today’s published recipes is really essential to cooking a delicious meal."

The cardinal feature of flexible dieting is tracking your carbohydrates, fats, and protein. While this may seem like an onerous process, I have long argued that for someone with ambitious career aspirations and many obligations in life, flexible dieting can actually save time.  When a flexible dieter is resolute on hitting their macronutrients in the most efficient manner possible while maximizing flavor, they tend to intuitively pick a handful of their favorite foods, season liberally but simply, and cook in a way to really maximize the "Return on investment" of food preparation.  They get into a routine that saves time and does not detract much from enjoyment of the food.  As a personal anecdote, I only spend 20-25 minutes in the kitchen preparing food everyday. My grocery runs each week last a whopping 10-15 minutes. 

A flexible dieter who insists on concocting complex meals will find in short order that this habit saps cognitive energy that could be allocated towards more fruitful tasks, results in a larger margin for error when tracking, makes it more cumbersome to track, and creates complications when macro adjustments need to be made.  Opponents protest that this complexity adds flavor and more satisfaction to the consumption of the meal.  However, the corollary to this rebuttal are the following questions that should be entertained: How much more satisfaction are you really deriving from adding complexity if you are already maximizing your diet with foods you inherently enjoy and utilizing seasoning and simple cooking techniques that offer a whole lot of bang for their buck? What is the opportunity cost?  What else could you be doing with that time?  Let me reiterate what Dunn states in the article:

"...and the fact that little of the complexity offered by today’s published recipes is really essential to cooking a delicious meal."

I do not want to overstep my boundaries and universally prescribe flexible dieting.  Truthfully, to maximize efficiency one should probably just consign themselves to a granola bar diet and conversely, to maximize flavor one should cook from scratch and labor away in the kitchen for hours each day.  Life requires a more analytical approach though. Be aware of your cognitive biases.  Consumers tend to conflate complexity, novelty, variety, and price directly with quality. The truth is often times more nuanced and it is wise to acknowledge at what point you are maximizing the ROI of your time, money, and energy.  You need to prioritize what is important to you in life.  If you happen to be someone who wants to excel professionally and physically while not sacrificing too much flavor or time on food preparation, flexible dieting may ideal for you.

Here is the link to the article:

A Physician's Guide to Bodybuilding

I recently wrote an article for New York Muscle Radio.  I started listening to this podcast a couple months ago and they are at the forefront of practical and scienctifically based approaches to bodybuilding. They have interviewed renowned luminaries in the fitness and nutrition industry such as Lyle McDonald, Skip La Cour, Jeff Willet, Mike Tuchscherer, John Hansen. After reaching out to compliment them on their valuable contribution to the fitness community, they invited me to write an article for their website. Here is the article below.


A Physician’s Guide to Bodybuilding

10 years ago, there was an ethos in the bodybuilding community that championed an all consuming focus on diet and training at the expense of other life priorities. In recent years, we have witnessed a new ethos where bodybuilding should be integrated into a trainee’s life so that balance is maintained.  This definition of balance is ultimately an individual one and what is most salient is that the individual can be at peace with their priorities when life as a whole is taken into context.  

More than just aesthetics and scratching that vanity itch, bodybuilding has been a wellspring of many qualities such as determination, consistency, stoicism, precision, and incisiveness for me.  However, anything in excess can become a detriment.  I hail from a time when it was considered the norm to:

1. Eat every 2-3 hours for fear of catabolism and to stoke the metabolism

2. Only consume meals consisting of carbs and fats or protein and fats because the combination of carbs and fats in a single meal would presumably lead to immediate body fat accumulation irrespective of caloric intake

3. Perform 2 hours of cardio per day to achieve fat loss

4. Run myself into the ground with training because it presumably correlated with more potential gains

5. Restrict myself to performing cardio on an empty stomach in the AM and apart from weight training

I am currently 27 years old and a Resident Physician.  I became enchanted with bodybuilding when I was 18 years old as a freshman in college.  After I received my undergraduate degree at 22 and as the impending years of medical training loomed closer and closer, I knew that in order to reconcile my two passions of becoming a physician and bodybuilding, it was imperative I streamline the process.  Thanks to eminent drug-free individuals (Matt Ogus, 3DMJ, Chris Jones, and the ilk) who spearheaded a more science based approach to bodybuilding and a personal willingness to experiment and course-correct along the way, my approach to bodybuilding was distilled considerably as I ruthlessly eliminated the superfluous. As of today, I have competed once in a bodybuilding contest, dieted down a total of 6 times with 5 of those times occurring through my medical training, and have not missed a single scheduled training session since I embarked on this journey 9 years ago.  In the following paragraphs, I would like to offer some practical advice on how to integrate bodybuilding into your life from the perspective of a physician who maintained this pursuit through medical school and am currently continuing to do so through residency. 

First and foremost, learn the first principles of nutrition and training.  Without this foundational knowledge, you will be relegated to a shotgun approach to bodybuilding that will consequently leave you expending efforts that not only fail to yield measurable results but also could be potentiallycounterproductive. I would highly recommend you continue educating yourself regularly through videos, articles, podcasts, and status updates on a regular basis from sources such as 3DMJ, Matt Ogus, Chris Jones, Brad Schoenfeld, New York Muscle Radio, Omar Isuf, Jeff Nippard, etc.  By understanding first principles, you can take a more nuanced approach to bodybuilding fulfilling the checklist of what actually matters. Among the myriad of training routines out there, it all boils down to progressive overload and getting stronger in a rep range of anywhere from 4-20 repetitions with the basics (deadlifts, pull-ups and/or pull-downs, row variations, chest press variations, chest flies, crunches, bicep curl variations, tricep extension variations, calf raise variations, squats, machine squats and/or leg presses, overhead presses, lateral raises, shrugs). For nutrition, tending to caloric intake first and macronutrients second will go a long ways in steering your progress towards fat loss or building muscle. 

I cannot stress enough the value of hiring a coach if one has the financial means to do so.  Time is your only non-renewable asset in life and a coach can potentially save you years of self-experimentation by streamlining the process. I have personally worked with two coaches for 4 out of the 9 years I have been training. I can also say without a shadow of a doubt that working with these coaches expedited the learning process in a magnitude that self-experimentation could never even hold a candle to.  Another overlooked merit of coaching but profoundly valuable nevertheless is the peace of mind that accompanies working with a coach.  Hiring a coach will allow you to squash perpetual self-doubt, make more rational rather than emotional decisions, and allocate your cognitive reserves towards other activities to cultivate eclecticism. 

When seeking a coach among the glut of respectable coaches out there, it behooves the trainee to appraise what credos he/she upholds.  If you do not respect or admire the coach as an overall person, the relationship will be off to a rocky start and portends disillusionment and disappointment.  Coaching involves much more than just assigning macronutrients, training, and cardio recommendations.  With how all encompassing bodybuilding is, especially when dieting down, emotions must be taken into account.  While I may ruffle some feathers here, I believe that an individual seeking to balance bodybuilding with a demanding career should seek a coach who has firsthand experience of the same conundrum.  While I am not insinuating that those who coach as their primary profession have no insight into the adversities of a client in a high-octane profession, it is more probable that a coach with a demanding career will be able to empathize.  Case in point, compared to a coach who has a career on the side, a coach who coaches online and works from home as their sole profession would probably not bat an eye when recommending a client perform 1.5-2 hrs of cardio per day, not to mention splitting it up from weight training.  

I frequently work with clients who have issues fitting training into their schedule while juggling a career and family on the side.  A force multiplier habit for me, and what I tend to recommend, is to train in the early AM around 4:30-5:30 AM at a gym near their job location and shower at the gym after.  The time you shave off by adopting this habit is almost unparalleled. This affords you the opportunity to circumvent the nuisance of AM rush hour traffic by training at a gym near work, to train in an empty gym so that waiting for benches, dumbbells, machines, squat racks, and platforms is abolished, and to avoid an extra drive home just to shower.  I would like to preempt the uproar about the pains of training so early in the morning by conceding that I used to strongly advocate that training without a couple meals in me would be a severe handicap.  Ironically, after being consigned to this as my only option through my clinical years in medical school, I noticed that I was actually slightly stronger training in the AM.  If you cannot train on a full stomach, train on an empty stomach and eat after in your car.  If you need to eat before training to avoid hunger pangs, have something lighter so that a distended stomach does not interfere with training. After the initial adjustment period of a couple days, I am confident that that you will agree theupsides of training early in the AM outweigh the downsides considerably especially in light of other life obligations. 

Cardiovascular exercise does not need to be performed in a separate session apart from weight training.  If you are incorporating cardio into your routine, perform it after your weight training session so that energy for weight training is not sapped.

Acknowledge the law of diminishing returns.  Depending on your routine, after a certain point, longer training sessions do not correlate with more gains.  My weight training sessions last approximately 1 hour and I train 5 days a week.  Drop sets and training past failure should be used judiciously, if at all. Cardiovascular exercise is a great tool for fat loss but taken to excess can be a detriment. I find that when I start exceeding 30-40 minutes of cardio per day, the benefits plateau considerably and recovery is impeded.

With the advent of flexible dieting, there has been a burgeoning of admiration for variety and novelty. This is certainly preferable to restricting yourself to traditional bland bodybuilding foods. However, I personally find that novelty should be tempered.  Not only does an unfettered quest for variety lead to decision fatigue where you expend your limited cognitive reserves on questions like “What should I eat next?” that could be used for other more fruitful activities, it also precludes you from establishing a routine that can save you precious time.  I personally prepare all my meals every morning at 4:00 AM and it takes 20-25 minutes.  I consume around 4 meals/day and while each of these 4 meals is different, I maintain consistency with the foods I use throughout the week.

Avail yourself of pre-cooked meat that can be bought in bulk at stores like Costco.

Establish routines and avoid multi-tasking when activities require higher order cognitive demands.  Routines allow you to go on autopilot to accomplish mundane tasks more efficiently and conserve cognitive reserves for activities that offer more return on investment for that input of cognitive effort.  Resist the impulse to check social media when studying or reading about more complex topics. Refrain from checking your phone while training that not only unduly prolongs your training session but also detracts from the flow experience of full psychological and physical immersion in training. 

Lastly, learn to detach yourself from your emotions and just execute the plan. Motivations and emotions are ephemeral.  There will be days when fatigue will set in like an ominous fog.  These are exactly the times when you need to cultivate stoicism and just get the job done.  If there is one thing I have learned on this journey in the past couple years, it is that unskilled thoughts such as self-pity, anger that others can not sympathize with the sacrifices attendant to training and dieting, and rumination on aspects that are out of your control only perpetuate a barrier that makes it less likely you will follow through on achieving your goals.  It probably is not a coincidence that today I consider it an immense blessing rather than a sacrifice that I even have the opportunity to bodybuild. The glass is always half full. 

Whether you incorporate some or all of these tips into your life, I hope this article has at least inspired confidence that the pursuit of bodybuilding and a demanding profession are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, they can serve to complement each other if pursued intelligently.




De Novo Nuggets

More than any hack you will ever learn for select endeavors in your life, I am a firm believer that a philosophy of life should be established first. It will not only be the lens through which you view everything, but it underpins where you direct your efforts, what relationships you invest in, amd what you find valuable in life.  It is not a coincidence that many successful people refer back to philosophic teachings from the Stoics and Buddhists. 

With that said, here are some transcribed segments from the De Novo Nutrition Podcast that struck a nerve with me. Whether you are into fitness or not, perhaps this will inspire you to question assumptions you have and perform some thought experiments:

“Be brutally honest and objective with yourself about the facts. Stay based in reality about what you can actually succeed in. If you come to conclusion of this objective reality that you’re not as good as you want to be, we aren’t saying to give up, but find your role. The interesting thing about the internet is that there are opportunities for many niches. If you can hone in on a niche that you’re very good at, you shouldn’t even feel like you need to force it, it should happen naturally. Life hits hard in the long term, so if you spend 30 years believing you’re going to be something and being only around “yes” people, I’m sorry but it’s going to be ugly when it finally hits you in the face. 

It is important to enjoy the process, but at what point do you start asking yourself “Am I investing myself too much in this process and not receiving anything from it? Is it detrimental b/c I am skewed too highly towards this orientation vs. being goal oriented?”  I think the only way to define detriment at this point in time is if it doesn’t allow you to do the things to fulfill your basic needs of life living in current society. 

Regardless of what you believe, you know you only have a certain number of years here. You should try to maximize the experience for yourself. Happiness is obviously tied to that. My life consists of being as sustainably happy as I can. 

A multi-potentialite is someone who has a wide variety of different skills and they are relatively proficient in all of them and they can interconnect all of these skills in unique and novel ways. It can be difficult for that sort of person in this kind of society because you are often told that you need to pick one thing to be good at. 

He told me something that really changed my life. He said you don’t have to compete if you don’t want to. Opting out is a choice. We often forget that and we think we can’t quit and need to keep pushing. You can quit and start investing in something else very quickly. Especially in your early days, it’s important to pay attention your natural advantages that you have and they can be keys about your strong points and filter you into things.  What you’re good at is a good thing to pick for your obsession. You have to have an interest first, then dabble, then commit, then you can go all in. 

To tie it back from sports into life, it’s no mistake that the next thing you do, you will be good at it. If you got good at bodybuilding, there’s no mistake the next thing you do, you will take those talents over. You are well equipped with a nice base. Elon Musk, he did paypal and it was a multi-billion dollar stepping stone. Gary V, and had stepping stones. Profits aren’t always fiscal. Profit can be what you learn of the mind. 

You should think often about how you are going to feel when you realize you have minutes or seconds left before I die. What are you going to review in those moments? If you can move forward and put yourself in that place and you have a list of tangible things, you need to get moving on that list. It’s very simple. This thought experiment, don’t be afraid of it because you will inevitably be thinking those things. Your time is finite, that is a fact. 

You and other people know Fitness Jorge. But you’re getting a chance now to find real Jorge. The best part about it is that now you can pursue other things and become a better version of yourself but in the long run, if you stay in fitness you can give more back too b/c you weren’t totally consumed by it. It’s a beautiful thing. One of the worst things is to be a one trick pony where "This is the only mode of me, this is all I know how to do" because what happens when that is gone?

At some point, you have to enter the real world where you do need to get a full time job where fitness, training, and eating can’t be your full time job because it can consume you. I think that it’s very defining what you choose to do at that crossroads. It’s almost like you’re shedding that reptile skin. But what are you shedding to do? On one fork, you can shed and keep stubbornly chasing what wasn’t [offering you any ROI]. That’s when an experimental mistake becomes an actual mistake. Failures are beautifully packaged life lessons.

I feel that as a society, we are too much like consumers. I went to the mall the other day and it was like people flooded buying things. So, wait let me get this right. M-F you work all day and then if you’re lucky, you get 1 free day and you choose to spend it in MORE CORPORATIONS and give it right back to them!?!? If you don’t be careful, you’re going to get lost in eating too much.  We already have that in this society with food. But even of the mind [referring to Game of Thrones].”

Optimizing Multi-Tasking

It seems that multi-tasking, which used to be characterized as a badge of honor, has recently been characterized as a badge of idiocy.  This denigration of multi-tasking tends to be corroborated by the declaration that the brain is lousy at constantly switching between tasks and compelling it to do so will detract from performance.

I recently read an article on The Atlantic called The Zen of Adult Coloring Books that made me reconsider and reflect on the appropriate implementation of multi-tasking in my life.  The author, Julie Beck, expounds on the merits of adult coloring books, mainly that it allows her to enter a pseudo-blissful meditative state.  What I would like to emphasize in regards to multi-tasking from this article is the justification for why she derives the most benefit from these coloring books while watching television.  She states the following:

"Why do I need to do two things at once? Why can’t I just sit quietly and enjoy a TV show? I really do think that a lifetime of multitasking has left me occasionally incapable of subduing the entirety of my mind with one activity. If the front of my mind is occupied by the show, and the back is focused on picking colors and staying in the lines, there’s not room for much else. It’s a sort of mindfulness that’s more like mind-fullness."

In essence, solely watching TV or solely coloring in her adult coloring book required such little effort and mental cognition that it left her inattentive enough that her mind started wandering towards negative thoughts. However, by combining the two, the mental cognition required of her facilitated what I would refer to as a quiescent flow state. I am reluctant to call her state a genuine flow state because genuine flow states tend to only occur when the activity is higher than average difficulty and the individual participating in the activity possesses higher than average skills. I think we are in unanimous agreement that neither watching TV nor coloring within lines fulfills the aforementioned criteria.

However, what we can deduce is that for lower cognitive order activities, multi-tasking can actually result in a more blissful present state experience.

I'll finish this post by culling some activities from my life to serve as examples:

1) Weight Training:  Despite what you may think, weight lifting requires a considerable amount of cognitive effort when intensity is high. If you doubt this, I would invite you to perform a set of barbell back squats at 80% of your 1 rep max to failure while thinking about something extraneous to actually lifting the weight. It simply isn't going to happen without you either failing to lift the weight or suffering a catastrophic injury. In addition, this is the one activity in my life that puts me in a genuine flow state. However, that also presupposes that I am not multi-tasking during the hour I am lifting. With that said, it may be no surprise to you that the hour I set aside to lift weights is something I consider sacrosanct. I eschew phones (even between sets), conversations, and paying undue attention to those around me as they all detract from the flow experience. If you are familiar with the bliss from a flow state that I propose is unparalleled by any other experience, you will understand why I consider it a sacred time.  This leads me to my next conclusion. When people tell me they podcast while lifting weights, I am inclined to believe that they are either not comprehending a single concept from the podcast or they are not lifting with any significant intensity. 

2) Conversation:  1 on 1 conversations. This is another activity that I like to focus all my cognitive energy on as it can be the source of a heaping dose of dopamine when conversations delve into insightful topics.  However, conversing shrewdly about more complex topics tends to require that the individuals refrain from multi-tasking.  

3) Eating and podcasts: I find that the combination of eating and listening to podcasts an immensely harmonious experience. While both activities certainly are fulfilling on their own, the combination of the two requires just the right amount of attention where I fall into a quiescent flow state akin to how Beck feels when she combines adult coloring books with television. This may be unique to me but I can not make the same claim when combining eating with reading. I find that reading requires so much cognitive energy that it detracts from my present state enjoyment of the food I am eating.  It is probably no coincidence that reading is an activity that, when performed by itself, is one of the most common activities associated with flow states. 

In conclusion, next time you reflexively disparage or kneel at the altar of multi-tasking, vet it through a more nuanced filter that is unique to the potential activities and to you. 

Here is the link to the article: The Zen of Adult Coloring Books



11/10/15 Musings

The BMI (Body Mass Index) has always been an unreliable proxy for health, primarily because it does not distinguish between lean tissue and fat tissue. This article sheds light on how the waist-to-hip ratio correlates much more strongly to higher risks of dying than the BMI. How much stronger? This quote illustrates the magnitude perfectly:

"...carrying weight around the midsection puts people at higher risk of dying than being obese. This was true even if someone was “normal weight” according to their BMI, but had “central obesity,” as the study terms it."

The takeaway here is even if an individual has a normal bodyweight,  central obesity still increases their risks of dying compared to those who do not have central obesity.

Google makes an unprecedented move by opening sourcing its TensorFlow software. This is an inflection point in how Google operates because they have a track record of being tight lipped with their coveted software codes. Google's rationale behind this was so that outsiders could improve on this relatively nascent software and redound to Google's benefit.  

The change in Google's philosophy is something to take note of here in our current networked age.  It is axiomatic that in order to succeed in many businesses today, you need to provide value first to garner credibility and trust. Many of the most successful online prep coaches in the fitness industry started their careers by providing advice on bodybuilding/fitness forums or writing articles gratis.  I know this because I watched some of these coaches acquire a following and now have such a thriving clientele that some of them rely solely on online coaching to make a living.

Gary Vaynerchuk, one of the most revered entrepreneurs today, achieved astronomical growth for his company by launching Wine Library TV on YouTube in 2006.  Gary V harnessed social media to educate consumers about wine free of charge. Gary now fields questions daily on his AskGaryVee Q&A YouTube show of charge. He's a staunch believer in the "jab, jab, jab, right hook" philosophy. The jabs signify providing value to and developing relationships with potential customers. The right hook signifies the attempt to convert traffic to sales, where you can finally ask consumers to purchase your product. 

Edward Snowden on StarTalk Part 1

As many of you know by now, Edward Snowden is the NSA whistleblower who brought intrusive government surveillance into the public spotlight. Below are some sage words from Snowden when he was interviewed on StarTalk. This will be Part 1 of the installment.

Snowden dropped out of high school and then went to community college. Here's his take on traditional institutionalized education:

"There's a real distinction between schooling and learning. You're education is full of many different things. Although guided learning, traditional learning in a classroom by mentors and instructors and peers is important, there's a critical element of experimentation. The people who I think understand the concepts fundamentally the most are the ones who make experimentation a part of their daily lives continuing it outside of the classroom making it who they are and how they live.

It's a question of who teaches the untaught? Knowledge has to arise from somewhere. There has to be a fountainhead from which it flows. That can't be a classroom because the teachers themselves had to learn it from somewhere. Original research, the scientific method, the pursuit of the unknown, and the questioning of accepted conventional wisdom and probing at the unknowns. The fact that the most interesting thing for someone who's interested in how knowledge is created are the problems that haven't been solved. It's not what do we know. It's what we don't know.

One of the great grievances I have of dropping out of high school early is that I never finished chemistry. People who are contemplating dropping out of high school or college and getting an early start, they reason that they don't need this and can get through life without it and achieve my goals and I'm already an expert in the areas where my valuable skills lie. I'm not going to be a  chemist, physicist, linguist, so I don't really need those courses. And they may be right. They may never need to use algebra again, or calculus, but at the same time they may find later in life they are working on a project or independent research or exploration whether it is intellectual or practical where had they learned that, there would be some synergy there. They have holes in body of knowledge that are difficult when you aren't going through a structured lifestyle path which is what the university or public education model offers us. 

It's really a preparation, a structure to continue you're own learning. Now there are always people who can self educate and make up for the gaps but it's really rare. And I don't think we should encourage people to go out on their own and hope for the best and hope they can make it. It's very difficult when you are young to foresee the kind of decision you're going to make, the kind of topics you will be interested in 20 years from now."

Media tends to sensationalize and exalt the archetypal Silicon Valley mogul who drops out of college and spearheads a pursuit that turns out to be immensely successful. Think Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg. Recently, Elizabeth Holmes, who dropped out of Stanford, has been all the hype. She is the pioneer behind Theranos, a health technology and medical laboratory services company, who purports to have developed a blood testing platform that uses a few drops of blood obtained from a finger prick instead of the conventional way of drawing blood from the antecubital fossa.  This kind of naive support for eschewing traditional education reeks of survivorship bias and if anything, we should acknowledge the benefits of both the traditional education system and self-directed learning. Even more importantly in today's dynamic world, cultivating an attitude of lifelong learning and growth has never been more vital. I am currently interested in regenerative medicine, specifically stem cell joint injections for various musculoskeletal maladies. However, I am under no illusions that it won't be surpassed in the future. Quite possibly in 10-20 years, there could be a new opportunity around the corner. It could perhaps be the opportunity that supplants stem cell treatments in the same exact way regenerative medicine is currently becoming a viable alternative to invasive procedures .


Whether you are a proponent of Snowden's whistleblowing efforts or consider him a traitor who deserves to be exiled from the United States indefinitely, it's hard to deny how intelligent he is. Let's peek under the hood of how a brilliant mind like this operates. What are his incentives? It is patently clear to me the guy is just in love with learning. His words echo the sentiments of other contemporary luminaries in variegated industries such as Josh Waitzkin, Tim Ferriss, Maria Popova, Gary Vaynerchuk. Here's Snowden again on his love for learning:

"The actual process of learning, of understanding the structure of our world and the way it all fits together for me as an engineer is fascinating, I can't get enough of that. Learning something new whether it's phase changes, deformations, whether it's law. All of these things and intricate variables that fit together to give us a framework to live in that surrounds us and that we interact with is amazing not just for understanding but also for power. You have to understand how everything fits together and where the levers are before we can start to manipulate them and see what changes."  


Here is Snowden describing the timeline from the inception of his desire to join the US army to his final commitment to foisting the NSA secrets out into the public.  It's a great habit to always question your assumptions and the status quo. It may not make you popular but what is fringe today could easily be mainstream in a very short time frame.

"As things developed, as we moved from 9/11 toward 2003 Iraq period, I felt I had an obligation to do my part for society. I signed up for the US army when everyone else was protesting the Iraq war because I really believed the government was telling the truth. That this was an effort to try and free the oppressed, to liberate people living in unfortunate circumstances. It took me a long time for me to develop any sort of skepticism at all even to the most overextended claims of the intentions of programs or policies, a better part of a decade."


Reconsider - Medium Blog Post

I recently read a blog post from the co-founder of Basecamp, David Heinemeier Hansson.  The link below will take you to that blog post. Below the link are some excerpts from the blog post with my commentary that are relevant to anyone with noble aspirations.

"Part of the problem seems to be that nobody these days is content to merely put their dent in the universe. No, they have to fucking own the universe. It’s not enough to be in the market, they have to dominate it. It’s not enough to serve customers, they have to capture them."

Like many things in life, dichotomies are misleading and fail to take into account nuances. There is a middle ground between apathy and world domination (however you want to define that) that can be just as fulfilling.


"But it’s more than worth a few moments of your time to reconsider whether that’s really what you want. Or, even more accurately, whether an incredibly unlikely shot at that is what you want.  Don’t just accept this definition of “success” because that’s what everyone is cheering for at the moment. Yes, the chorus is loud, and that’s seductively alluring, but you don’t have to peel much lacquer off the surface to see that wood beneath might not be as strong as you’d imagine."

Introspection is is an invaluable quality to cultivate, lest you allow others to steer your life in a direction that may be antithetical to your own personal idiosyncracies. Take the time to really self-reflect. You know yourself better than your significant other, your parents, your best friend, your siblings. 



Hansson goes on to enumerate his motivations for starting Basecamp that may resonate with others.....

"I wanted to work for myself. Walk to my own beat. Chart my own path. Call it like I saw it, and not worry about what dudes in suits thought of that. Independence isn’t missed until it’s gone. And when it’s gone, in the sense of having money masters dictate YOUR INCREDIBLE JOURNEY, it’s gone in the vast majority of cases.

I wanted to make a product and sell it directly to people who’d care about its quality. There’s an incredible connection possible when you align your financial motivations with the service of your users. It’s an entirely different category of work than if you’re simply trying to capture eyeballs and sell their attention, privacy, and dignity in bulk to the highest bidder.

I wanted a life beyond work. Hobbies, family, and intellectual stimulation and pursuits beyond Hacker News, what the next-next-next JavaScript framework looks like, and how we can optimize our signup funnel.

I wanted to embrace the constraints of a roughly 40-hour work week and feel good about it once it was over. Not constantly thinking I owed someone more of my precious twenties and thirties. I only get those decades once, shit if I’m going to sell them to someone for a bigger buck a later day."

There truly is more to life than your career. As the 40 hour work week becomes more elusive than ever in many career paths, that does not preclude you from seeking out pockets of opportunity that have been untapped. Time is your only non-renewable asset. Do not undervalue it.


"All this may sound soft, like we have a lack of aspiration. I like to call it modest. Realistic. Achievable. It’s a designed experience and a deliberate pursuit that recognizes the extremely diminishing returns of life, love, and meaning beyond a certain level of financial success. In fact, not only diminishing, but negative returns for a lot of people."

More is not always better. Too much food results in obesity. Too much leisure leads to torpor. Too much work leads to burnout. Too much caloric restriction during a diet leads to muscle loss. Too much lifting in the gym leads to inadequate recovery and overtraining. Be keenly aware of the law of diminishing returns and find that sweet spot. 


"The web is the greatest entrepreneurial platform ever invented. Lowest barriers of entry, greatest human reach ever. I love the web. Permission-less, grand reach, diversity of implementation. Don’t believe this imaginary wall of access of money. It isn’t there. Examine and interrogate your motivations, reject the money if you dare, and startup something useful. A dent in the universe is plenty."

In case you've been living under a rock for the past 10-20 years, the world wide web has revolutionized every single industry. Avail yourself of it. Use it intelligently. Cultivate expertise and knowledge in diverse fields. The pace of learning that can be achieved today is unprecedented.