Age and Abilities

Working in a factory, I am amazed by how many workers in their thirties and forties conduct themselves as if they were in their fifties and sixties. They work manual labor jobs, but their bodies reflect those who live a sedentary life. Couple this with poor dietary choices and the result is premature aging. Not knowing their psychological status, I would dare say that none of them want to die early. But if they are fortunate to live to an old age, what will be the quality of their lives?

Regular daily physical activity has been a way of life for virtually every person who has reached the age of 100 in sound condition.

Dr. Alex Lief, Harvard Medical School

I recently read the above quote in my studies on exercise and older adults. Imagine living to 100. The century mark is still a rare occurrence even with what seems to be an ever-increasing average life expectancy. It would be amazing to live that long, unless you couldn’t enjoy it when you got there.

Daily physical activity. Is this the cup of “enjoyable” life we should all be drinking? When I think of Dr. Lief’s point, I can only think of all the older (the ones close to a 100) that I have met. A few stand out that seem to be truly enjoying life. They were more than just functional. They were thriving in both body and mind. What sets them apart from their peers? Living that long there is no doubt they have had their fair share of pain and heartache. And yet, they keep moving on with a light in their eyes and a smile of their faces.

Almost everything we have been taught about aging is wrong. We now know that a very fit body of 70 can be the same as a moderately fit body of 30.

Dr. Walter Bortz, We Live too Short and Die too Young

Imagine a fit 70-year-old with the physical capabilities of one that is 30. I know some, and no doubt you have met a few as well. Imagine if at 30, you didn’t have the metabolic age of someone in their fifties. Both scenarios are possible. And like a good mutual fund balance, the earlier you start, the better.

But this post is more than just having a fit body into your senior years. Your mind and your outlook on life plays a significant role in how you age.

Everybody hopes to reach old age but when it comes, most of us complain about it.

Cicero

The earlier you start complaining about your age and limitations, the worse you will age. You could condition yourself to become the decrepit individual with no joy and light in the eyes. Nobody would say they want that as their dream. Don’t let it be you. Build your body through movement and good nutrition. Guard your mind and don’t let those negative age-related thoughts become your reality.


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Better to Have and Not Need

A glutton has an endless desire to accumulate more. They are always hungry, and their appetites are never sated. Like the glutton, the materialist has the same appetite, only theirs are for things. They can never have enough. If it is shiny and new, or if it is rare and hard to find, they want it.

Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.

Franz Kafka

The beauty of Kafka’s words is that it goes beyond gluttony and materialism. It seems to speak of something of a higher nature. Like the carpenter, it is not about having all the hammers but having the right variety of hammers capable of performing the necessary work.

Rather than outside possessions, consider the following internal possessions:

Can you have too much knowledge, too much wisdom? We all know the consequences of a lack in one of these, but there is no harm in an excess.

Can you have too much discipline or too great a work ethic?

What about courage? Better to be courageous, than to lack it in your time of need.

Would you rather have an abundance of faith or not enough of it?

What about love? Antonio Porchia said, “In a full heart there is room for everything, and in an empty heart there is room for nothing.” Without love in your heart, you will truly be barren.

Food comes and goes. Too much spoils. If you eat too much, your body will hold an undesirable excess.

Possessions will only last for a short time. Fortune gives and takes away. Whatever you have left in the end, you will leave behind.

The acquisition of virtue is sublime. It imprints a mark on your eternal soul. And wherever the soul travels in this life or the next, its character will remain intact. Better to have on that day of your need than to be without and suffer the consequences.


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One Day, This Day

As the sun comes up, I face towards it, and like an Egyptian of antiquity, stare straight into its center. It is a beautiful blessing to look upon its face and consider how fortune has favored me. I am alive. I am well. As far as I know, all my friends and family, all those I consider dear to my heart, are also alive and well. We have survived to see another day. This is a blessing. The air we breathe, a blessing. The Sun with the power to create and destroy, a blessing.

In this moment, I think upon the day before me. Like the Sun, will I be light? Will I shine, and radiate, and be a blessing to others? What good will I do this day?

One day is worth a thousand tomorrows.

Ben Franklin

This day is all that matters. No would have, could have, or should have. Can I go to bed tonight with the knowledge that I did all in my power to do? If I wake tomorrow to see another day, I will continue to build upon this foundation created over a span of yesterdays. But if not, I am at peace. I did today, all that I could do.

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A 4% Investment that Pays for Life

Some say compounding interest is the 9th wonder of the world.

Imagine you invest $4 a day for 20 years at 6% interest. Four dollars is a small sum of money. After twenty years, you would have almost $60k. If you did it for 40 years, it would be closer to a quarter of a million. Not bad for $4. If you only made a $100 a day, those $4 is just 4% of your earnings.

How many people know this but don’t do it? After all, $4 a day is $120 a month. $120 a month is a bit more daunting.

And if you do invest the money, you are not guaranteed the return. The interest could change, the value of the currency could change, or disaster could hit. No guarantees. No security.

What if there was a guarantee? What if there was a sure-fire way to get a return on a 4% investment, a return that would pay dividends for the rest of your life? Would you do it?

If you said yes, then it is time to invest in yourself. What is a 4% investment into yourself? It is…

One hour of your day.

Imagine spending one hour of your day:

  • Working on your fitness. How much more enjoyable would be your life in your senior years?
  • Reading. How would this improve your mental development and ability to think critically?
  • Meditating. Oh, the peace of mind and presence that could be achieved?
  • Developing a hobby into a future career. Doing what you love and getting paid to do it. That’s a hard one to beat.

One hour a day doing something that could make your life better. It might mean sacrificing something else. Is there something you could cut away? Anything, that is not as important as your future you? Who is too busy to spend one hour a day improving one’s self?


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A Tyrant to Yourself

A tyrant would tell you how to live. He would expect you to serve at his pleasure. To him, you do not have the capability to live life on your own terms. Therefore, he would take that opportunity from you. He believes your life belongs to him.

This does beg the questions. Can you live life on your own terms? Can you make the best decisions for you do you have to be led by a parental hand?

I trained myself in the school of self-control and self-denial. It was hard on me, but I would rather be my own tyrant than have someone else tyrannize me.

Henry Flagler

A person lacking discipline must be guided. Without discipline and/or guidance, you incur upon yourself unnecessary suffering manifested in the form of poor health, financial hardships, and unrewarding relationships. At the worst, your inability to control yourself could result in a stay at a local penitentiary.

Marcus Aurelius said, “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” Through discipline and temperance, you can become your own tyrant. This is a key to getting where you want to go rather than have someone lead you to where they want you to go. If you want to be your own master, then you must learn to rule yourself.


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The Blessing of No

A young Albert clocked in and sat at his desk. A stack of paperwork was waiting for him. For the other clerks in the office, it was a full day’s worth of work. For Albert, he could be finished in about two hours. It was an easy job, almost too easy. He didn’t mind it there. At the least, it paid the bills.

Last week, he was pegged for a promotion. The promotion came with a considerable raise in money. He could use the money. He could spend it on his girlfriend. He could send some of it back home to keep the family business running. He remembered one of his mottos: Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value. Climbing up the corporate ladder was success in the eyes of others. But for him, that was not the person he wanted to be.

Yes, the money would have been nice, but moving up also came with a serious drawback. His two hours of daily work that he crammed into an eight-hour shift would be traded for 10-12 hours of actual work. His stress levels would increase, and he would have neither the time nor the energy for his thought experiments. Those thought experiments were the most important part of Albert’s day. It was where he could dream about time and space and the speed of light. It was where Albert Einstein could develop his theories.


The last I checked, I am no Einstein, but let me share with you a little story…

A few months ago, I was approached about a promotion opportunity. I thought about it and went ahead with the process. I had my reservations about it, but it would pay more money and offer better benefits.

But there would be some drawbacks about the position as well. I would have to work more hours, and they would be at night. I would have more stress. I would have less time and energy for my own thought experiments. On top of it all, I would have to stop coaching my son’s parkour class, a class that I love to teach. The cost of making more money and having more benefits was a hefty one. I considered it and believed I could make it work. I proceeded with the process. Once again, I am no Einstein.

Through the process I went until I came to the last assessment. It was a half-day ordeal that took the other half of the day to decompress from. When the smoke cleared and I received the results, the answer was to try again next year.

The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now.

Zig Ziglar

I did my best and didn’t make the cut. It was a no, a big, fat, blessing in disguise. I know my path, and I tried to deviate from it. I almost made it, but the universe put a stop to it. I almost traded what I wanted most for something not nearly as important. Unlike Einstein, I did not have the discipline to see it through. Hopefully, this lesson will not be lost on me.


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Pud to Stud

In the gym, if you try to look like a stud when you are not, you will embarrass yourself. You will either get hurt or look foolish. Maybe, even both. The best thing you can do is stick to the basics, overload your muscles in a slow and progressive way, and develop your strength through consistent practice.

Isn’t this the way to go in any endeavor we choose to pursue?

Imagine a soldier on the battlefield. Before ever seeing the battlefield, that soldier spent hundreds of hours in training. He did the work to perfect his skills on an individual and a team level. Before gaining competency, the soldier had to start out as a new recruit.

Studs in the workplace? It is the same concept. Knowledge must be acquired. Proficiency must be demonstrated.  Trying to be something you are not would damage your reputation and put you on the slow track to advancement.

If you want to be a stud later, you have to be a pud now.

Christopher Sommer, former U.S. national team gymnastics coach and founder of Gymnasticbodies

There is nothing wrong with starting out at the bottom. You won’t be there forever. As you refine your skills and grow in experience, you can rise to the top. You could be the stud that others look up to and depend on.

Alec practicing at the gym. Three hours at the gym a week. Constant work at home.

Needless Worry

I have been holding a little stress lately, and I think I can even feel it in my midsection. This stress is the culmination of many different things, mostly the things which haven’t even happened yet. It is an uncertain future, and it is affecting my mind today.

The choices of my past have led me to this. It is good that I reflect on the past in the hopes of not repeating it tomorrow. But once I give its the due measure it deserves, I must let it go and move on. It is one of the core tenets of my philosophy. It is also one of the hardest ones to adhere to.

On the way home from Parkour practice, my son asked me an interesting question. “What is Space Force,” he asked. He saw the flag during the National Anthem at the beginning of the Superbowl. I told him it was an attempt to get back to where we used to be. As a nation, we once used to be at the forefront of space exploration. But the years went by, the funding went away, and eventually so did our preeminence.

“Oh,” he said, “I thought it was to keep the asteroids from hitting the planet.”

A fair point. We then discussed our inability to stop such cataclysmic events. Our conversation ranged from asteroids, dinosaurs, ice ages, super-volcanoes, and floods. They happen every so often. And no matter how great or advanced we think we are, there are some things we cannot avoid. Seeing as how they are out of our control; we can’t worry about the possibility of them occurring in the future. We must live in the present.

A great many worries can be diminished by realizing the unimportance of the matter which is causing the anxiety.

Bertrand Russell

It was a simple run-of-the-mill talk we had, but I wonder if he can do it. Can he live a life in the present, free of the shackles that are attached to the past and the present? I hope he will be able to. I hope there will come a time that I may be able to do it also. I am not there yet, but I think I am getting closer.


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Habits Deciding Futures

How much time have I spent thinking of the past? How much time dreaming of the future? If only I had the opportunities. If only I didn’t have to work in this job? If, if, if.

All that time wasted in my youth. I was always in the past, always in the future, never in the present. Back then, my habits (what I was doing at that present time) were not helping me. I had a slew of bad habits and only a handful of good ones. My habits should have been a tool to drive success in the future. Instead, they were preventing me from maximizing my potential in the present.

People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.

F.M. Alexander

My path was slowly engineered. Of course, there were all sorts of obstacles. There were many setbacks of my own doing. And I say, “there were,” but in truth there still is.  And though I revert to thoughts of past and future, I spend less time there. I am more present in today. And being in the present, I am more aware of my habits. Which ones are helping me? Which ones are detracting? Slowly, I can correct the bad ones. I can design new ones that propel me forward. I can engineer my habits for success.

Once again, it is a work in progress, but I have noticed some interesting things. Opportunities are starting to pop up that I never imagined or tried to obtain. My future is starting to take a positive shift without me trying to plan for it. It as if my habits are starting to decide my future. Maybe they always have, and I just didn’t know it.


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Things Which Matter Most

What happens when I don’t have a plan for the day? I go through the motions. Of course, I get stuff done, but I also check my phone, watch a little television, piddle here, and piddle there. There is no rush, no sense of urgency, and no accountability at the end of the day.

What happens when I create a plan at the start of the day, or even better, the night before? I am focused and intent on checking off the boxes. I waste less time. At the end of the day, with tasks crossed off the list, I rest at ease knowing I made the most of it. Oh, the satisfaction if I get that list done.

But then, there are times I make the list and do not have the end results I hoped for. Somewhere along the way, I got sidetracked. I deviated from the plan. I started doing other stuff, stuff that was not on the list. If I had a quality list of items that held great importance, then I should have done those. If this is what mattered most, then I should have attacked it first.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you want to take your productivity to the next level, if you want to get the things that matter the most done, then do the following:

  • Make the list. Not “a” list but “the” list of the most important items you want to complete.
  • Start early and get it done. If other things come up, and they will come up, add them to another list or put them at the bottom.

Wow! There are only two steps. It is not difficult, but often the basics and the simple are the things that get missed the most. There are some great resources to make your planning super-advanced and technical, but they all have the same two things in common: Make a list, and Get it done.


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