7 Life Hacks That Aren’t Hacks At All

1. Document your life. – Spend no more time wondering how to keep a journal, searching for methods, or reading reviews on notebooks and digital note apps, just write. Write something down about this day, then do the same thing tomorrow, then the next day. Don’t tell yourself you need to start at the first of the year, or the month, or the week. Start on a random Thursday, and don’t stop.

I have written something about every day in my personal journal since October, 2012, and there is likely not a day that I wouldn’t remember if I read it. How did the habit start in my case? By writing a few bullet points about the day and nothing else.

Example (fictitious):

2015-11-05 – Saturday

  • Had lunch with John at Cracker Barrel.
  • Worked on Project until my computer broke and I had to fix it all afternoon.
  • Walked through the neighborhood and spent time reading Mark Twain before bed.

2015-11-06 – Sunday

  • Sunday dinner with Megan’s family.
  • Cowboys lost to the Eagles.
  • Talked to Bart on the phone before bed.

That’s all you need to remember a day when you’re getting started, especially if it’s surrounded by simple data points from other days. Start small and sustainable.

Nothing is as satisfying as looking back over a whole year and knowing how you spent your time.

(That’s one purpose of a journal. Another and significant purpose is to express emotions and quiet your mind. Do this as needed, but burn when done.)

2. Take time to reflect. – Once you document your life, stop and look at it. Are you spending your time like you want to? Many of us remain sedated in the rhythm of life and are afraid to take inventory. There is no more healthy thing you can do than to stop and ask if you’re doing now what you will want to have done. 

A second major benefit is remembering the good. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to think of only the negative things and how unnatural to recall the positive? Gratitude brings happiness but takes effort.

3. Develop a tolerance for pain, discipline, and consistency. – When we google “how to lose weight,” we’re actually looking for shortcuts to results without discomfort. Focus on developing patience with the discomfort and you won’t need shortcuts. Modern living is convenient and makes us think we can accomplish amazing things without sweat, but it’s a lie. Resistance is built in to meaningful progress. It will never eradicated, so it should be embraced.

4. Develop an intolerance for pleasure, procrastination, and indifference. – We cut ourselves way too much slack. Those who are disciplined have learned to envision the consequences of inaction while they are still invisible. We don’t remember that we’re going to die, not acutely. We will run out of time, but daily life hums us to sleep and we forget. The feeling only arises at certain moments, like when the seasons change or on New Year’s Eve.

We don’t often consider that life can change, sometimes very quickly, and the easiest time to start on a thing might be now. We waste many days in a vague motion with no clear direction, and we can’t see how this will be bitter in the end. We’re like cars idling through neighborhoods, looking at Christmas lights, taking it as it comes, when we should be like the lead driver in the secret service—our routes are memorized, our destination is certain, and absolutely nothing matters more than getting there.

5. Always remember you don’t know the full story. – Always in such a hurry to judge situations, we forget the most basic truth: we don’t know everything. We don’t know what has made a person the way they are. We don’t know why the man on the side of the road is begging or why a person was rude to us on the phone or why we smiled and said a jovial “Take care!” to the cashier and she didn’t even look up at us. What if she buried a family member yesterday? Well then, she has the right to be distracted. Every time you feel the judging instinct rise up (and if you’re like me, this is often), remember that you don’t know the full story.

6. Assume people know more than you. – Which also means expecting that they can teach you something. Think this about everyone, especially the people you’re prone to look down on or overlook. This is even helpful if your specific purpose is to teach the person. Knowledge is attractive when shared in humility.

7. Appreciate your friends for what they are. – Don’t make them what they aren’t. Don’t withhold yourself from them because they don’t fully fit your preference. One friend might be really good at certain kinds of conversations you like, but you may have another kind of conversation you don’t relate on. Don’t throw them away because of the part you don’t enjoy.

20 Random and Interesting Things

  1. How long exactly is the present?
  2. Scientists estimate that there are, in the known universe, 10,000 stars per grain of sand in the world.
  3. There are more atoms in a single grain of sand than stars in the universe. (Source for 2 & 3.)
  4. The Fermi Paradox (the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations and various high estimates for their probability). 
  5. The fact that seasons changing always feels like a surprise despite it happening every year.
  6. John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States, born in 1790, has a living grandson. He had two living grandsons until one passed away in September, 2020.
  7. From this article: “When President Obama was born (1961), President Herbert Hoover was still alive (1874-1964). When Hoover was born, President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) was still alive. When President Johnson was born, President John Adams (1735-1826) was still alive. And just like that, we’ve connected present day to the Founding Fathers.”
  8. Take a selfie and set a timer for 8 minutes. When the timer goes off, look at the picture to see what you were doing when the current sunlight coming through the window was just leaving the sun’s surface. 
  9. At night, while falling asleep, I’ve often realized I’m falling asleep, gotten excited about sleeping, and woken up from the excitement.
  10. The more fashionable your clothes are presently, the more foolish you feel later.
  11. “Phone” used to mean a rectangle on the wall moms and dads talked on sometimes. Now it’s a rectangle in their hands they tap on most of the day.
  12. Texarkana, TX is closer to Chicago, IL than to El Paso, TX.
  13. The Library of Babel. It’s a short story conceiving of a library that contains all possible combinations of words in books. Literally all. You can read the story here. There’s a digital simulation here. Go to the simulation, type in what happened to you last night at 10:00 PM, and there will be a book with the exact words in it. There will also be another passage somewhere in the library that reads the same way verbatim, except for one letter is different, and another where two letters are different, and so on. In fact, you can paste this paragraph in the search and it will be there.
  14. American slaves were enslaved much longer than they have been free. (The first documented birth of an African slave in America was in 1606. The slaves were declared free in 1865. That means slavery existed in pre-America/America for 259 years before freedom was declared, which was a mere 155 years ago.)
  15. The cicadas that hiss at the end of our summers are usually 2-5 years old by the time we hear them, though some species are as old as 17 years.
  16. Every book written before 1874 (or so) was written by hand, and many books for a long time afterward. That may be obvious, but in this digital age it’s also amazing. Legend has it that Tom Sawyer was the first book composed on a typewriter, but the story is debatable.
  17. Not only is all food and fuel brought to us on trucks, every material used in the construction of every building, and every item inside every room of every building was, at some point, on a truck—those annoying and loud road monsters that we hate driving next to. The exceptions to this are rare: Food you’ve grown in your own garden; things you’ve brought home straight from the factory in your car; anything else?
  18. Similar to #15, everything your eyes see that is not of nature was designed by someone, from the pattern of the bricks on the walls of your house to the fonts and colors on the menu of the fast food place down the street. Every pattern in every fabric, every cable, light bulb, door lock, lug nut, lampshade, shoe sole, spice label, logo, and cookbook—everything that is not naturally occurring was designed.
  19. People who are wrong often think the wrong thing with exactly as much force and commitment as those who are right. Is anyone wrong on purpose?
  20. Spoken language is gibberish, and written language mere scribbling, to which we attach ideas and meaning. It’s organized chaos that brings clarity.

Andromeda

Adam Evans, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve talked about the Andromeda Galaxy recently, but I will do so again with no apologies because I’m on a kick.

A fact I didn’t know until this year is that, apart from the Milky Way, there are 7 other galaxies visible to the naked eye in our night sky in the right conditions.

Here’s what the Andromeda Galaxy might look like with the naked eye in a very dark place.

ESO/B. Tafreshi, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

My eyes have seen many things. A man urinating on the sidewalk in Chicago; a burnt piece of toast; a toenail under a church pew. I feel I’ve been robbed to not know until just now that I could use those same eyes to see a galaxy of a trillion stars hovering in the midnight like an accidental paint smear.

Check out this image the Hubble telescope captured.

This image, captured with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the largest and sharpest image ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy — otherwise known as M31. This is a cropped version of the full image and has 1.5 billion pixels. You would need more than 600 HD television screens to display the whole image. It is the biggest Hubble image ever released and shows over 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters embedded in a section of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disc stretching across over 40 000 light-years. This image is too large to be easily displayed at full resolution and is best appreciated using the zoom tool.

Zoom around on the full resolution here (better on a computer).

Someone made a video on YouTube panning around the image, and watching it will threaten to crush your soul.

Comments under the video I appreciate:

Imagine someone in Andromeda is watching “Gigapixels of Milkyway [4K]”

Then I remind myself that the distance between any 2 of those points of lights needs to be measured in LIGHT YEARS!

I don’t know which is more terrifying to grasp: (1) the number of stars or (2) the volume empty space surrounding them.

There’s probably some huge galactic war we have no clue about

In 2021, NASA will be launching Hubble telescope’s big brother, James Webb Space Telescope. What will it reveal?

*

What does this mean for us? Why does it make my soul tremble with awe? Some see the image and wonder how people could ever doubt God’s existence. Others look and wonder why God would make so much just to impress a tiny species on a nearly invisible speck of dust called earth and then remain hidden (or allow that impression) when they suffer.

Whatever the truth is, it’s absolutely spellbinding.

Over It and Still Creating

I sometimes wonder what great creators later thought about their works.

Once I had a dream where I met John Steinbeck in an American diner in the 50s. When I looked around the room I almost missed him because he was waiting tables. Starstruck, I approached him and told him how much his work meant to me, how much I admired it, and how great it was in general. He looked past me and shrugged, then someone from the kitchen called his name and he put out his cigarette and went to get the tray.

Larry McMurtry, author of 45+ novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove, said the following about the book later:

I haven’t held Lonesome Dove in my hands or read it in years. I just don’t think much about my books, particularly not ones that go back 25 years.

(Source)

In another interview with NPR, he said the following:

If you don’t want to be realistic about your work, fine. If you think that such and such a book is the War & Peace of our time, fine and dandy. Nobody’s going to stop you from thinking that. I don’t happen to think that way. I think I’ve written some pretty good books. But I don’t think I’ve written a great book.

(Bold mine.)

It would be altogether unsurprising to me to learn that most of the art that has moved us the most came to mean almost nothing to those who made it in the end. For one thing, self doubt is too pervasive for it to not be a factor for some. For another, if what the creator makes is good enough, it will require every fiber of their energy and persistence to see it through to the end, and by the time they’re done with it they may wish they’d never even conceived of it. Lonesome Dove is 365,000+ words long.

While I wouldn’t dare compare myself to the two authors mentioned above, as a video creator for over 12 years now, I know keenly the feeling of always being compelled to create and always looking back on what I’ve made with indifference. It’s strange.

3 of My Favorite Workouts

Disclaimer: Exercise at your own risk. Listen to your body. I am not responsible for you hurting yourself doing one of these workouts.

Workout 1 – 300 Air Squats

This workout comes from my very favorite fitness account online, @DadWOD on Instagram.

Workout:

300 Air Squats for time

Every 30 squats, pause and do:

-15 Hand-Release Pushups

-15 Sit Ups

Put another way, set a timer and do 10 rounds of:

-30 Squats

-15 Hand-Release Pushups

-15 Sit Ups

See the demonstration here.

What I love about it.

  1. You need no equipment at all, only your body.
  2. There’s nowhere to hide on the pushups since you’re releasing your hands off the ground every time you go down. None of that half-way junk.
  3. It’s full-body and the 300 squats target your biggest muscle groups.

CAUTION: I am personally not a fan of sit ups. This workout rubbed the skin on my lower back raw. My new substitute for sit ups is a 4-count flutter kick (demo here).

Workout 2 – Kettlebell Khaos

This is my favorite kettlebell workout. When I first started doing it, I couldn’t get through the first round (there are 3). I’ll never forget the feeling when I finished the whole thing for the first time. It was blissful in one way and grueling in another.

Here’s the video that explains the workout:

And here’s the whole thing in text:

Round 1 – 10 mins

This round is an AMRAP (As Many Reps/Rounds as Possible), and you alternate the sides you work. Work through all 6 on the left side, then all 6 on the right, and repeat continuously for 10 minutes.

5 Kettlebell Pushup
5 Row
5 Deadlift
5 Cleans
5 Racked Squat
5 Shoulder Press

Round 2 – 40s work/20s rest
Snatch
Goblet Squat & Reverse Lunge
Alternating Single-Arm Swing
Cross-Body Clean
Swing to Squat

Repeat for other side of body.

Round 3
Kettlebell Swing/Burpee
1 swing/7 burpees
2/6
3/5
4/4
5/3
6/2
7/1

I started this workout with a 35 lb. kettlebell and couldn’t finish. Unless you’re in great shape, I would recommend starting lighter.

What I love about it.

  1. It’s very difficult.
  2. It’s full-body like few workouts are. I’m not sure if anything isn’t worked out here.
  3. I just feels so good to complete it.

CAUTION: Before you jump in to a kettlebell workout, please make sure you understand how to execute the movements.

Workout 3 – The Pfeil Pfurnace

If you really want to feel an insane burn in your whole body with a focus on your legs, here’s your plan.

For Time
-80 kettlebell goblet thrusters (demo)
-80 kettlebell swings (demo)
-80 kettlebell goblet reverse lunges (demo, but don’t do just one leg)
-40 burpees (demo)

This usually takes me about 18:00 minutes, and every minute is awful. It always gives me butterflies before I start; I always want to quit before the end.

I’ve worked through this sequentially, doing only thrusters until I’ve done 80, then moving on to swings, etc. You can also break it up into 4 rounds of 20 of each exercise. It’s impossible to make it easy, and that’s the point.

(My friends came up with this name after I put them through this workout one morning, and I changed the spelling for branding purposes.)

What I love about it.

  1. It’s very intense. You can feel the burn all day.
  2. It’s named after me.
  3. It focuses on the major muscles of your body, as good workouts should.

CAUTION: This workout could make you extremely sore. The first time I did it with a 35 lb. kettlebell, I was miserably sore for 5+ days.