Every Meal Is…

I walk into the closet and over to the safe. I punch in the numbers on the keypad, turn down the handle, and open the door. The heavy stuff at the bottom is the gold. On top of it is a wad of cash. These are mostly small bills and are not neatly stacked. On the top shelf is a few scratch-off lottery tickets.

The gold is the long-term currency that I won’t touch. This is the foundation upon which I build.

The paper money is nice to have, but in time I will burn through it. It is the fluff in the safe. It takes up more space than necessary.

The lottery tickets are even more volatile than the cash. Most likely, they will end up in the trash. But they also provide a nice rush of dopamine. Though the chances are slim, there is always the possibility of the hitting the big winner.

[Note: The above is only an illustration. There is no safe in my closet. It is not currently in my budget.]

Every meal is… A short-term investment in how you feel and perform, a mid-term investment in how you look, and a long-term investment in your freedom from disease.

Alan Aragon

Every meal and snack you eat is the currency in which we operate. Our bodies are the safes.

The short-term investment is the calorie-dense, nutrition deficient food we consume. This is the fast food, processed foods, desserts, and high calorie beverages. They are designed to be visually appealing, exceptionally tasty, and engineered to keep us coming back for more. Like the old Lay’s commercial, “No one can eat just one.” These short-term investments are the culinary roller coasters taking us through the metabolic highs and the inevitable lows. They are the lottery tickets in the safe.

Our mid-term investments are the foods that can help us get to where we want to go. They provide a stable fuel source. This is the cash in the safe. We can trade the cash for more lottery tickets or exchange it for gold. As we go, the fuel gets burned. If it doesn’t get burned (action), the body will find a way to store it (fat). If we only hold onto the cash, it will be like the fluff in the safe taking up more real estate than we desire.

The long-term investments are the well-balanced and nutrient dense foods we consume. They will be used by the body to improve the foundation and infrastructure. The body will not waste this but use it to its advantage. There is no roller coaster and no burn through with this. This is our gold.

Buying lottery tickets is a risky investment. Maybe during the high, we will hit on something big. But remember, most lottery winners will eventually end up where they began if they don’t end up worse off. The cash is nice but holding onto it forever does us no good. What we want to do is resist the urge to buy the lottery tickets and trade our cash for gold. Acquiring gold requires discipline. It means we must forego the urge to invest in the short-term and minimize our mid-term holdings. The gold is a precious metal that will hold its value and give us a stable foundation for the future.

Every meal is an investment. How much we get on our returns is up to us.

Two Minds

Little Minds

It starts with a wish:

  • Want more money.
  • It all to be easier.
  • More comfortable.
  • Worry-free.

Sometimes wishes are acted upon:

  • Go back to school to hopefully get a higher paying job.
  • Take the steps to become more efficient or to reduce the workload.
  • Check out from the adventures that life has to offer and watch more television and play more games.
  • Don’t let responsibility be a cause for stress.

Most wishes are well-intended. Who doesn’t want a better life? But for the little minded, it never goes beyond the wish. They are perpetual dreamers without the ability to turn their wishes into reality. As soon as adversity comes their way, they come to a full-stop. Their dreams get derailed, and they find themselves in the same place if not in a worse one.

Great Minds

We have all heard stories of heroes who overcame adversity. They hit the wall, but they didn’t let the wall end their journey. Instead, they found a way to get over, go around, or push through. How were they able to do this when so many around them stopped?

The heroes also had dreams and wishes, but these dreams and wishes evolved into something greater. They have a purpose. As the great yogi Paramanhansa Yogananda once said, “ A wish is a desire without energy.” Actionable purposes are the engines that get us to our intended destinations. Without them, we do not move in the direction we want to go. We remain stagnant.

An obstacle makes us think smarter and work harder. Overcoming it makes us stronger and more resilient to future obstacles. There will always be detours, snares, and pitfalls along the way. Great minds realize this and don’t let it hinder them. Rather, they embrace the challenge it presents. If the purpose is great enough, nothing short of death will deter it.

Great minds have purposes; others have wishes. Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.

Washington Irving

Since this post ultimately ends with action, here is your call to action:

No doubt you have a dream. Is it only a dream or has it become a purpose? If it is not a purpose yet, then it is well past the time to get up and get moving. Put action into the dream and go beyond those with the little minds. To be a great mind, we must have a purpose that will not get derailed by the obstacles in our way.

Examining Epictetus #38: Inward Beauty

A somewhat fit body, clothes that fit well, good hygiene. When I am out in public, this is the way I want to present myself. I don’t want to look like I am indifferent and have little regard for my external appearance. Some may consider this vanity. I consider it appropriate and professional. It is not easy making good first-impressions and opening new networks when your appearance causes others to shy away from you.

But wait you say. Shouldn’t we focus on the inside more than the outside? Why should we be judgmental of another’s appearance? They cannot help what they look like. To this, my response is that I do not judge the things that are outside one’s control. And though I am responsible for what is within my control, I try not to judge what is within another’s control. After all, one’s choices are appropriate to them and right in their eyes. Therefore, I will do my best not to judge them at all. But regarding my own person, I will continue to do my best not to be repellant to others.

Give me beauty in the inward soul; may the outward and the inward man be at one.

Socrates

My true focus is on the inward soul. This is the part of me that is eternal. The outward shell will eventually succumb to the ravages of age and dis-ease. The body will break down and be no more. I can do my best to delay the process, but ultimately time will be the victor. Death is inevitable, and I will return to the dust from whence I sprang.

If  I want to be beautiful, then it is to the inward soul I must turn. This is the true beauty I seek. So, how do I make myself beautiful? It begins with choice.

You are not your body and hair-style, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too you will be.

Epictetus

Inward beauty is the pinnacle of virtue. And to be virtuous, one must continually make good choices. Let us look at the four cardinal virtues.

Wisdom

Wise choices are well thought-out. They are often made through good counsel and with the best intentions for not only the individual but also for those around them. A fool does not do this. Their choices are both rash and irrational. A fool will repeat his mistakes because he fails to learn from his poor choices.

Discipline

Those lacking discipline fail to see the big picture. They might have an idea of the greater rewards to come, but they choose immediate gratification available to them now. They choose not to wait. Rather than keep working, they make the choice of least resistance.

Discipline is a matter of staying the course unto the end. Small, fleeting rewards pale in comparison to the greater treasures that come to the persistent, pro-active, and patient.

Justice

Do the right thing. The righteous will do this consistently. The wicked will not.

I can’t say I have always been consistent, but I do my best. I’m reminded of these words from the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers:

Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.

Vince Lombardi

I can strive for perfection and who knows, maybe I’ll catch excellence along the way. I can protect my inner citadel with filters on the things my mind consumes. I can think before I act in a way that is beneficial to more than only myself. When I see fraud, I can call it out lest I too become fraud.* These things are within my control. This is the path of the righteous.

Courage

About 30 centuries ago, King Solomon gave us this proverb:

The lazy man says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be slain in the streets!”

Proverbs 22:13

Lions are fearsome creatures that can wreak havoc on a village. If everybody barred their doors and hid inside what would happen? Back in Solomon’s day, there was no doorstep delivery by drones, no indoor plumbing, or electricity to power the refrigerator and streaming services. 3, 4, and 5G was unheard of. Cabin fever wasn’t the worst problem one faced. However, starvation, dehydration, and sanitation were. It would be preferable to deal with the threat of a lion outside than to stay locked down within the confines of one’s home. The heroes back in the day courageously went about their business. And if there was a lion walking down the street, they dealt with it.

Threats to our existence forcing us to stay within the safety of our homes have been around long before anything we have seen over the last couple of years. Predators, cosmic impacts, plagues, and war have taken its toll on our species, yet we have survived. Humanity is resilient, and it was not by hiding. It was not by staying in place. It was through action. And that takes courage.

Courage is a beautiful choice. Where others seek shelter, the bold go forth. They move themselves, their communities, and their species toward progress. We can either be stagnant in our evolution, or we can take the required steps for growth.


Socrates understood that beauty starts on the inside. Epictetus, who undoubtedly studied Socrates, further elaborated on this concept because the world still preferred external beauty over the internal. Today, things have not changed. We continue to chase after the fleeting and ignore the eternal.

We may live in this world, but we don’t have to do what the rest of the world does. We can look inward and create a beautiful soul. We can make our inner lights shine so bright that others will admire the beauty we possess. This beauty we can take with us into the next life.


*If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud. -Nicholas Nassim Taleb

Finding Love

“Nobody loves me!”

How many times have you heard someone say that? How many times have you felt that way in your own life? The feeling of not being loved weighs deeply on the mind. It brings on feelings of moroseness, frustration, and depression. Everybody wants to be loved. And when you don’t feel it, the emptiness within grows and eats away at your very being.

The truth is that most people are loved. Maybe they haven’t found that special someone to spend the rest of their lives with yet, but they are still loved by others in their network. The problem is they don’t recognize it. They do not feel as if they are loved. And the words, “nobody loves me,” is usually expressed to those they trust, to those that do love them.

And in the off chance that nobody really loves them, they must ask themselves why. Why does nobody love them? Hopefully, the answer to that question leads to more questions. Hopefully, it leads back to the one asking it. With a little digging we can find out the reason. We can get to the root of the problem and find ways to correct them.

If you would be loved, love.

Hecato of Rhodes

This is maxim that stretches back through the ages. If you want to be loved, you must be willing to love first. We must go beyond the selfish mindset of “nobody loves me.” We must first learn to love and freely give our time and devotion to that pursuit. If we want to receive, me must give.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

We have grown up with tales of giants. Cultures around the world claim they once existed. And even today, tales of hidden giants and their remains surface in the media. Did they exist? Are they still out there?

I have never seen a giant, nor have I seen firsthand their skeletons. I have seen structures that look like they may have been built by giants, but who can say for sure? And though literature throughout the ages have covered their existence, I have never read anything written by an actual giant.

If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Sir Isaac Newton

Newton gives credit to the giants whose shoulders he stood upon. Who were they? Was it Goliath, Loki, or the big man living at the top of the beanstalk? No. Newton’s giants were of ordinary stature but of extraordinary talent. His list of giants included Aristotle, Descartes, Galileo, and Kepler. In time, Newton himself became a giant upon whose shoulders others stood upon. And if I want to see farther, whose shoulders will I stand on? Of course, I have my own giants that I look to, individuals who have lived exemplary lives leaving behind works and words that have survived the ages. By studying them, I can stand on their shoulders and see a little farther. Who knows, there may even come a day when others may be able to stand upon my shoulders to increase their vision. I don’t want to let them down or cause them to not see  as far as they can.

To stand upon the shoulders of the greats who have come before us is a privilege that can only come through a lifetime of learning and personal growth. It is available to all who wish to see a little farther.

A Step of Faith

What is faith? Is it not believing in someone or something even if you can’t see it? I don’t think about the air I breathe. I never consider if it has the right mixture of gases. Breathing is a natural function, and I have faith that my body will be able to use the air it takes in.

Blind faith is different and often dangerous. Whether it is an over-confidence in one’s abilities or a disconnect from the reality of one’s circumstances, blind faith can be disastrous. Eating an unknown mushroom can result in negative consequences up to and including death. Walking in complete darkness can have similar results. if you are going to have faith, blind faith is not the one you want to have.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I love these words from Dr. King. I see the staircase in front of me. I know that what I want is at the top even if I don’t completely understand the full value of what is up there. My only choices are to stay in place or take the first step. The consequences of not moving are more dangerous than the action of taking the step. Action begets action. One step leads to another. I have faith that my legs and heart will get me to the top. This is faith. It is not blind faith, but faith in the process of doing what I was put one this earth to do. It begins with the action. Therefore, I must go.

Confidence for the Win

Merriam-Webster

Belief in one’s own abilities. How do you get this belief? Hone your abilities. Practice. The speaker that lacks confidence is lacking in practice and experience. The singer that didn’t memorize the words to the song will lack the confidence to perform on the stage.

Why is my son not a better wrestler? It is not because of physical ability. It is because he lacks confidence. How so? He is a novice. He only knows a few techniques and has yet to master them. His teammates and opponents have more years of experience. They have a larger arsenal of techniques and moves at their disposal. They have spent more time practicing. But as Alec gets more time on the mat, as he grows in experience and continues to practice, his confidence will improve. He will become a better wrestler.

If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.

Carl Lewis

Winning and winning consistently is a product of confidence. It is a product of a belief in your abilities. That belief comes through practice, which in time will lead to mastery.

My Dirty Doorstep

There is one that I love like a brother. However, he is almost the exact opposite in personality, communication, and demeanor. As much as I love him, there are times I don’t want to be around him. It is simply too stressful.

Whenever this person does something, I am quick to complain to the others in our mutual circle. My complaining may start off with the latest perceived infraction, but inevitably it will extend to all the previous faults that still bother me today.

Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof, when your own doorstep is unclean.

Confucius

I am far from perfect. I am stubborn, arrogant, and often sarcastic at the wrong moments. I can be petty, selfish, and unempathetic. For all my good qualities, the bad ones are just as prevalent and probably more noticeable to my friends and family. These are areas that need some serious work but are also ones that I do not like having pointed out to me by others.

All day long I can complain about the snow on my neighbor’s roof. Yes, that roof is a problem, but it is not my problem. I cannot control my neighbor’s actions, their roof, or the weather that brought the snow. The only thing I can control are my actions and my attitude. Marcus Aurelius said I should be tolerant with others and strict with myself. If I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, such as cleaning the mess on my doorstep, I would have no time to complain about the snow on my neighbor’s roof. I would have no time to complain about my friend’s problems.

If thy brother wrongs thee, remember not so much his wrong-doing, but more than ever that he is thy brother.

Epictetus

Patience is what I need when I am around my friend. His issues and the way he deals with them are his own best practice. And if it works for him, then I need to be less critical. I am not going to change this person, but I can love him for all the good qualities that makes him my friend. And if it rubs me the wrong way, then that is my problem. It is a problem with my perception and attitude, a problem that I need to correct.

We, the Sculptors

Candi Sambisari

In 2003, I saw my first Hindu temple in Indonesia. From the horizon, I couldn’t see anything. But standing at the edge of the complex, I could look down and see the whole structure. It looked like the builders created it from top to bottom, excavating and carving the solid stone beneath their feet. I was amazed at the beauty and complexity. I was amazed at the genius of the designer.

I have always loved looking at the old marble statues of antiquity. I can’t imagine the foresight and skill it took for Michelangelo to create his David from a solid block of marble that he chiseled away until he completed the image from his mind. The temple at Sambisari was no different only on a much larger scale.

Sculpture by Escultor Victor Hugo Yañez Piña

Many of us have seen the above image. Personally, I find it to be one of the most powerful impressions of what is possible. From the beginning, we see a misshapen lump of mass. Yet in the mind’s eye of the man inside is a vision of what could be. it is a vision so clear and so vivid to him. Tirelessly, he carves away the parts of him that is neither desired nor needed. This he will do until he can achieve the image he desires.

This has been my own personal vision for myself. In the beginning of my fitness journey, I was holding onto a large amount of undesirable mass. However, in my mind, I had a vision of something entirely different. Therefore, I began to shape and chisel away. I am not where I want to be yet, but I am working on it. Someday, I will finish this sculpture.

We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones.

Henry David Thoreau

We have all heard that our body is a temple. To build that temple, we must imagine what the final product will look like. Once we have a vision, we can make the plans and then do the work. It is up to us to decide how spectacular and beautiful we want it to be. We are the sculptors.

The Ability to Change

Some are quite gifted when it comes to common sense. They are no-nonsense, practical, and able to discern the ideal solutions to most problems they encounter. If one is lacking in common sense, it would be in their best interest to either get it or stay close to the one that has it.

Others have the book smarts. They can open a book, read it, understand it, and then apply it. Yet not all of them are the ones you would call in a pinch. The ones you do call most likely have the double-bonus combination of book smarts and common sense.

What make a person intelligent? Is it the one who gets the high marks in school or the street-smart individual? Or is it the one who is blessed with both? If any had the right to be called intelligent, maybe it would be this famous physicist of the past:

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.

Albert Einstein

The ability to change. This is the litmus test Einstein gave us. We either change or get left behind. We either evolve or die.

It doesn’t matter where you begin. The gifts you were blessed with help, but even that doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do along the way. What matters is how you travel the road and how well you adapt to the environment presented to you. The ability to change–the measure of our intelligence.

Did I always believe this? Of course not. I was too stubborn in my ways. I thought the hand I was dealt was not strong enough to win. Somehow, the deck was stacked against me. I claimed the victim before I even began, because I could not help but notice the stronger players in the game.

Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.

Jack London

If we only hold onto the cards we are dealt, we can never improve our position. We must discard the weaker cards that do not serve us. We must play the game to the best of our abilities and learn as we go. This is the intelligence we seek.