"Rule #1: Never lose money.
Rule #2: Never forget Rule #1."
- Warren Buffet
While having little money and large aspirations is not a sought after scenario, it does force one to quickly learn the principles of keeping and growing whatever money we may have. I'm not here to tell you how to make money
(yet) because I'm still figuring that out myself, but I will share with you the principles of sound personal finance that I have managed to piece together. Sure, your daddy probably has more money than I do, but I've asked for the trials, tribulations, and opinions of dozens of old people with money by this point, and some smart ones too. That's called research. Besides, taking financial advice from people rolling deep in the green is the equivalent of asking the largest, most backned-up bro at your gym for fitness advice. Broscience and old-money finance are both to be avoided. What we want is advice from millionaire teachers
, retired 30 year-olds
, and people that beat the odds to keep and grow more money than they should have.
Needless to say, I'm not going to be some pompous ass and tell you quit buying $4 coffee if you're serious about financial security and independence; but, I am going to lay out what I've found to be the best way to utilize whatever amount of longterm savings you are working with. The amount of money you currently have, or the amount you are able to put away every paycheque, is of minimal importance. What we will investigate are referred to as principles for a reason; they apply to all cases. The point here is to keep as much of your money for yourself as you can and grow it in an intelligent way. The government, inflation, money managers, charities, the Chinese, Chinese restaurants, restaurants in China, restaurants here, and there, and everywhere, and everyone in between want your money. Here's how to keep it for yourself.
Young Money vs Old Money
Why would you follow the same financial advice as someone 5 years from retirement? Do you accept party playlists from your grandmother? As a youngling, risk can and should be acceptable. Financial risk
is the variance in your portfolio over time. More than that, risk is any doubt you may have about any aspect of your life - money, love, business, or otherwise. A young person with 50 years of money making left in them has a much larger tolerance for risk than someone set to imminently cash out to feed their retirement. As such, you can weather a significant drop in your long term investments and still recover and, historically, this is what you have to accept if you want to generate significant returns. Accepting risk is not a license to be stupid with your money, but just know that you're going to have to put something out there if you expect anything back.
Risk in finance is impossible to avoid outside of textbooks. The key to longterm growth and success is minimizing that risk in relation to the expected size of the gain
. According to the super smart Nassim Taleb
, assymetry between the gains and the costs or errors is really the only reason humans have advanced
scientifically or technologically and the same principle can work for your money. While taking this to the financial extreme equates to buying lottery tickets to fund your retirement
, smart people will understand that you can apply this on a smaller scale to help guide you through the endless choices in assets and securities. In short, accept risk but make sure the pay-off scales better than the pain.Debt
Get rid of it. Seriously. Actually, and ironically, we are currently living during a historical low period for interest rates in Canada and much of the Western world. With the Bank of Canada giving money to RBC and its buddies
at ~1% interest, this means that everything from mortgages to car loans to student lines of credit are being given away like candy
. While it can make sense to hold onto a mortgage at 3% when you can expect 6-8% return on equities (that's called leverage), the cut of my jib says to avoid debt at all costs.
Mortgages are the most acceptable debt type of debt in Canada and I fully expect to carry one at some point; this is fine. Credit card debt on the other hand, or other high interest lines of credit, are an absurd thing to hang onto. Paying 18% interest on anything other than the purchase of a printing press is a ridiculous debt to carry and is only helping to subsidize the increasingly awesome rewards
on credit cards for the rest of us. I do not mean to deter those of us not lucky enough to win the birthing lottery
from funding their dreams of attending an amazing school or starting our own businesses. Simply, I want you to get rid of your debt before moving on to saving and investing for future you. Cool? Cool.Compound InterestAlbert Einstein is often (mis)quoted
as saying that compound interest is man's greatest invention, and I would have to agree. I can't fully understand the power of compound interest in the same way that I can't comprehend infinity
, but that does not mean that both concepts are not extremely useful
. The extraordinary power of compound interest
is yours to benefit from only if you start saving now. Get on it.
Looking at an example, let's say that you are just out of school and can invest a solid $5000/year for the next five years; that's smart. On the contrary, let's say you figure, fuck it, five years is not going to make a difference in the long term. I'll let future James handle it. Well, assuming 6% interest and the other 40 years of investing are the same, you just cost 67-year old James $275,000 in FREE MONEY
. The longer you choose to wait to start saving, the exponentially more you are going to have to save in the future to make up for your inaction. Like most things in life, investing for the future is almost all about showing up. So help out your Depends wearing and Viagra popping future self by investing now.
Compound interest's evil twin is called inflation. Recent historic values of inflation in Canada have hovered between 2-3%
. This means that to not lose purchasing power (read money), you need to secure at least that same rate of return. Central banks seem hell bent on keeping a similar and stable rate of inflation into the future. For our applications, this means that inflation just shit on your 0.8% savings account. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that putting your money into a savings account is any way to save for your future. Of course, savings accounts are perfect for money that you may need access to sooner rather than later, but don't think that they are any way to grow your long term savings. Realistically, the only reason to shop around for a bank is for lower fees or for swooning lenders into giving you a better mortgage rate. Put your money where it counts (see next).Debt vs Equity (And Not Paying Someone For Them)
Buying a bond is buying someone's debt. Many bond holders do not seem to know this, all they know is that government bonds are an (almost) risk free way to enjoy modest growth. Many people do not even realize that there are bonds issued by other institutions than the government, particularly corporations. This isn't wartime, and unless you want to get shit on by some of the worst returns in history
, I suggest you do some research before tying up your hard earned for the next 10 years at 1.6% interest. Don't be afraid to hold off a little to take the time to learn before you start throwing money around (and yes I realize that my inflation discussion was scary-wary). Bonds can, and should, play an important role in a diversified portfolio
. The general rule is to have 100 - (your age) as the percentage of stocks in your portfolio. Basically, young people have fewer bonds because they can make more money elsewhere, while older people should have a higher percentage of bonds as a hedge against an equities crash. Simple stuff.
I am a proponent of simplicity in many endeavours, finance being no exception. This is why I love the work and advice from authors such as Dave Chilton
and William Bernstein
. In particular, the latter is a proponent of asset allocation and the idea that the class of the asset is more important than the particular asset
. For example, putting your money into the stock market has a much greater effect than putting your money into stock X,Y, or Z. See the rule above for how to execute on this.
The idea above which proposes asset classes as the most important factor in deciding where to put your money is simply a consequence of no human being able to predict the future. Interestingly enough, it has been shown that the only indicator of a mutual fund's performance is its cost. This means that the lower the cost, and the less actively managed, a mutual fund is, the more likely it is to perform well.
That being said, avoid management fees like the plague and stick with low cost index funds. If you try to beat the market, you probably won't.
Bernstein summarizes: "If you believe [the market] is efficient (and you are right). . .the best strategy is to buy an index fund. If you believe it is efficient (and you are wrong) you will earn the market’s return but a few actively managed funds will beat you. But if you bet that the market is not efficient, the probability of underperforming is high. The risk, in short, is much greater if you bet on inefficiency rather than on efficiency."
TFSA vs RRSP vs Non-Registered (and Tax)
So you read the national post this weekend and read that only somesmallnumber% of young canadians are contributing to an RRSP. Well holy shit Stats Canada
, maybe that's because most young people do not have the annual income to benefit from the tax-deferred growth in an RRSP and would be better putting their money in a TFSA. Honestly though, it doesn't matter as long as it's not a non-registered account. Non-registered investment accounts are for those people already maxing out their TFSAs and RRSP which, statistically, is not you.
As far as TFSA vs RRSP, it really doesn't matter. The accounts were designed to offer the exact same benefits
; however, it helps you more the more tax you pay. If you are in a high tax bracket, RRSPs are more palatable because they reduce your income tax. Ideally(?), you’ll be making less money and paying less tax in retirement. Young people barely weaned off the teet/ just out of school might prefer a TFSA. Those same people may be more focused on home ownership or a car before retirement, although they shouldn't be. (cough) Compounding. (cough) Morons. Taking money out of a TFSA before retirement yields no penalty. An RRSP probably will (counterpoint
). RRSPs are appropriate for people who want to defer income (read taxes) from a period of higher income (working) to a period of expected lower income (retirement). TFSAs are for everyone not wanting to pay taxes on their investment income. Just don't be an idiot and overcontribute
- Holding a foreign e.g. American, company's stock in a TFSA will get you taxed on them there dividends. Holding them in an RRSP won't.
- Once you take the money out of your RRSP, you’ve lost the contribution room that you originally used. TFSA contribution room gets added to the next year's ceiling.
I don't know enough (yet) to confidently pass judgement, but I do know you shouldn't tie up the next 25 years of your money in a house because your mom totally made money on hers
. Buying a home as a hedge against your ignorance is not a good bet. Buy a home because you want to live there. Take your annualized return, subtract taxes, realtor and city fees, etc. and compare to other investments. Even against the insane Vancouver real estate market, both the TSX and NYSE have outperformed it over the past 35 years.
Buying a home is helpful because it forces you to save, but if you're disciplined you can often do better elsewhere.
Realistically, I only know one thing about real estate which is the same concept that applies to all investments (again, that's called a principle): regression to the mean.
For real estate, I like to consider how this principal applies to housing prices and income ratios. When people in major Canadian cities start putting 80% of their incomes toward housing, that's probably not when I'm going to be buying a home. Then again, I did used to spend quite a bit on Pokemon cards. Fool me once..
While I may not have figured out how to make the most money (although I certainly have some ideas to test), I can be confident that I'm not going to lose what money I do have to management fees, inflation, or stupidity. At the end of the day, it's your money, it's your life, and you can do whatever you want with it. Really.
P.S. My U.S. readers can substitue Roth IRA for TFSA and 401(k) for RRSP and most things will hold true. International readers are on their own.
Recommended reading: IWTYTBR
, The Wealthy Barber Returns
, Canadian Couch Potato
, The Intelligent Investor
, The Intelligent Asset Allocator
I thought Lloyd
proclaiming the similarities between women and the salmon
of the Capistrano would make a great intro for this particular piece, but alas, I'm not clever enough to use it. Besides, the French are assholes
. Moving on, most supplements suck. They usually suck because too many people are taking them for the wrong reasons. These wrong reasons are often friends who have just started a cycle and have "never felt better
". Like these loveable dupes, I too have fallen for these misconceptions, but I am happy to finally share with you one supplement I am fairly confident is the proverbial shit: fish oil.
I supplement with fish oil, and have been since high school, because I do not often indulge in whole foods high in omega-3s, such as cold-water fish, flax seeds, krill,...seaweed.. what is this? Awesome foods used to be high in essential fatty acids
, but then the military-industrial complex ran out of enemies and morphed into the food-industrial complex. Now we eat corn and soybeans for three squares a day and have horrific fatty acid ratios
. That's not helping my lifts, but this article will help yours.
Based on the plethora of papers I found when researching for this article, fish oil risks falling into the same category as coffee and climate change for research study subjects. As we know
, coffee is bloated with benefits, simply because it's an easy thing to study and get funding for. It works the same way for researchers who throw climate change into the title of their study to secure funding from different sources, e.g. The Relationship Between Maximal Jump-Squat Power and Sprint Acceleration in Athletes, and Its Effect On Global Warming Trends
. Luckily for you, I have plundered the depths of Google Scholar to reveal that much of what has been touted about omega-3s is true.
Not quite the fountain of youth but coming close, omega-3 fatty acids can still keep your arteries taut as a preteen Swedish boy
by improving blood lipid levels
and reducing high blood pressure
, lowering your risk for cardiovascular disease. Omega-3s also improve the function of another fairly important organ - the brain. DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) has been shown to dampen brain inflammation
, lessening your chance of having a stroke or developing dementia. It can also only help brain farts
. In addition, there is emerging evidence that both EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA could play an important role in the prevention of Parkinson's disease
, although most research thus far has focused on animals. Lastly, and most exciting for the futurists out there, a high omega 3:6 ratio has been shown to lengthen telomeres
, meaning that a fish oil supplement could help slow, or even repair, age related damage to your DNA, i.e. you age slower. This is great news for those of us hoping to be as badass as Sylvester Stallone when we're 60
, but we'll save ourselves the excessive bone growth
While money may make the world go 'round, morons spending money on fat loss and muscle building techniques makes the money go 'round. I may loathe fat metabolizers that "burn, torch, and annihilate" or protein that is "super mega stacked", but I can get behind omega-3 supplementation as a means to a physically robust end. Particularly interesting is its tract record of preventing and reversing insulin resistance
. Insulin is critical for regulating blood glucose levels, and can help you lose fat or gain muscle, depending on how you manipulate it. More directly, omega-3s have been shown to enhance fat loss in obese patients
, and even help us young, healthy men and women get yoked (read: augment muscle protein anabolic response
). The geriatric population will benefit too
. So whether you are old or young, healthy or obese, omega-3s can help you get/stay lean and muscle bound. Average, middle-aged people will apparently have to wait on further research.Pro tip
: Take more omega-3's. I understand that you're already taking them on a regularly irregular basis, but most studies concluding that omega-3's can help you get strong, smart, or immortal use doses of at least 1.5g of DHA (sufficient EPA dosing follows
). Taking a look at your fish oil stash is more likely to reveal something along the lines of 150 mg of DHA per capsule. Yeah, so you're going to need 10 of those. Alternatively, the poor student in me reaches for the fish oil with the lowest Price:DHA ratio, which I know to be the NOW Ultra Omega-3's at bodybuilding.com
. Prove me wrong
and everyone benefits.
Looking for a safe stance on vegetarian sources of omega-3's? Me neither. If I truly feel the need to supplement something in my diet, it makes sense to grab the densest source of that nutrient. This is why I only supplement my omega-3 intake with fish oil, and not hemp seed, flax seed, or other vegetarian sources. Doing otherwise would be like prescribing a hard-gainer
a hefty increase in iceberg lettuce for mass gains. Exactly.
The reason animal sources are superior for our intents and purposes has to do with the composition of the fatty acids making up each respective source. Vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids are composed of ALA (alpha-Linolenic acid). ALA is a precursor to the formation of EPA and DHA; however, humans suck at the conversion process
. This is where the iceberg lettuce metaphor comes in. ALA is not sufficient to increase your levels of EPA and DHA, but it does provide benefits itself, such as helping diabetics control blood sugar
and helping chubby people get slim
. Just make sure you are taking it for the right reasons.
In conclusion, omega-3 fatty acids are awesome, and so can you
“Whatever you do, do it well and the world will thank you.” Prof. Andrew Lewis
People create and the hive
disseminates, not the other way around. In a world where sharing is easy, are we running out of quality things to share? Not yet, at least in my opinion, but like smoking and burning fossil fuels used to be cool
, we at least need to be aware of where we are heading so that we can correct course if required. It could easily be a matter of scale, but there seems to be an abundance of shit in the world. For newer readers not familiar with my vocabulary, shit is defined as anything not efficiently useful or simply beautiful. As we share more, more often, choosing to share shit based on ease of sharing makes overlooking, and ultimately forgetting about, anything efficiently useful or simply beautiful easier to do. This is the opposite of what we should want
(see the top).
I don't mean to put collectivism
in a negative light; on the contrary. Individuals do better work within a collective world. Being able to put out your work for critique and review as soon as it's done, or even while it's being done
, is a twenty-first century privilege. Then being able to put it into as many hands as will have it at the speed of light, or 5 Mbps for those in rural postal codes
, is amazing for the producer. By making sharing easier, we are slowly ridding ourselves of gatekeepers and middlemen
that suffocate society's creativity. The take away is that the network should be relied upon for what it is best at - distribution. The collective has no special powers, and has never written F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, produced any of deadmau5's songs, nor designed any of Frank Gehry's buildings. Of course, I found out about these works at some point in time through the ultimate collective, the internet, but Wikipedia tops out at regurgitating their birth dates.
Every technology has constraints. As our global culture homogenizes, we tend to use fewer technologies on a wider scale. This could be dangerous as everyone starts to produce similar content, or at least not dissimilar content. To rip off this essay
, the internet used to be cool. Before Facebook or Twitter or Wordpress templates, everyone had weird and unique portrayals of themselves online through their own websites (see my blog
). Now, I only know people as the finite combination of where they went to school, their favourite quotes, and which pictures of themselves they think fit well in a square shaped box, and which are more suited to a larger rectangular box. This defining example is one of many, and we could easily explore music
, art, or any other interaction between us and the world that is increasingly viewed through the constraining lens of the internet, as Jared Lanier discusses in his manifesto
. Granted, we are the platform, but we can also be more. We can be self fulfilling, but not if we are too busy nitpicking the tools. We need more people who say fuck these tools
, people who start using them, challenging them, and then yell about how much they suck, how they need more. Maybe then I can start discovering people more than 140 characters at a time.
This issue tends not to slap you in the face on a daily basis, which is the essence of the problem. The trickle down effect is in full swing, and slowly evolving problems such as these tend to cause the most damage and fail to be identified before it's too late, if at all (think climate change). There are no defining choices or actions, because we can barely define the problem. More than anything, it's an attitude. Perhaps the degradation in the richness of our communication is just another consequence of choosing easy over important. Work without pride is work without importance, for yourself and for everyone else. If you have a good idea, don't be afraid to show everyone, and be even less afraid to make it awesome. When your project is good enough, that's when you should really start to work. The ultimate project should be ourselves
, and after some serious introspection, I bet we will find few of us are doing a good job. Specifically, you should go out your way to produce work that defines your inner state,
and take credit for it. So whether that means posting a 2 minute video that took you weeks to make, or committing to write something of substance, do it to be a person instead of a predictable source of shallow nonsense.
Who's the next tech billionaire that matters? Gates and Jobs gave everyone the platform, the Google Guys gave order to our connection, Zuckerberg brought everyone together, and now, and now what? The next logical step is giving people something to talk about, something to care about, something to connect about. Without striking individuals, we risk turning our lives into a giant Google+, where nothing happens because no one cares
. There's no point in being connected if no one has anything to say. So take the photo, create the song, start the company, write the blog, and make it unique.
If you're going to lift, make it heavy. For me, lifting plays out similarly to most other topics explored on this web log. I find that the maximum value in most endeavours is extracted in focused bursts. This leads me to lifting harder, yet less often, than many. Lifting hard is a relative term; I am not the strongest person on the planet
or even in my peer group
. However, this doesn't mean that I should forgo building a stronger body for something less taxing. Pushing myself in the weight room has significant carryover physically and mentally. There are a number of reasons why one may want to lift heavy, the most relevant of these being that it makes one look cool. Looking cool is the reason you should start lifting heavy, and the abundance of physical benefits is why you should keep doing it. Egomaniac or not, heavy lifting is for you.
This post has an obvious focus on the physical, and lifting heavy objects should be an obvious good for your body. Despite what I think is obvious, people tend to opt for other forms of exercise, if they opt for one at all. Not everyone has to like what I like, and I salute the dedicated runners, yogis, and crossfitters out there and am often among their ranks. However, when the going gets busy, I tend to eliminate and simplify until heavy lifting is the only formal exercise remaining. This happens not only because of my tastes, but because of the abundance of benefits that heavy lifting furnishes with a relatively small time investment. Increased bone density
and stronger tendons
are two often overlooked, but important, benefits to lifting and play a key role in staying mobile and active as we age. If old ladies hit a power rack instead of the bridge table, we'd have fewer cases of osteoporosis and better commercials on television
. The geriatric population could also benefit from a little more power
and some added muscle mass
, which heavy lifting provides.
Young or old, heavy lifting is for you.
While stronger tendons are a worthy cause, I mostly just want to look (more) awesome. There are no shortcuts to getting strong or to having a strong looking body. Given, some people are born stronger than others, but this should not stop us from improving. Physical appearance is a by product of physical performance. The cast of 300
famously went all out, with a focus on exactly this tenet,
to craft an amazing physique for each and every cast member. Even in the land of Hollywood that is steroids and shortcuts, they still had to do it the slow and heavy way. Part of the reason these actors looked so badass was because of muscle density. Few of them weighed more than 170 or 180 pounds, but had physiques more appealing than most 230 pound freaks. Heavy lifting is the best method for improving muscle density
and will have you looking strong, powerful, and athletic rather than big, bloated, and slow. To summarize, here is a picture of an incredibly muscle dense Spartan.
Why not do the opposite? It's called diminishing returns
. Lifting heavy is the best bang for your physical buck, providing you give it the focus it deserves. The simple act of lifting can be enjoyable and rewarding, but when I have to choose between torturing myself under the bar and enjoying myself at the bar
, I'm glad I only have 2 or 3 sessions a week. The simplicity of lifting heavy extends to tracking your lifts and progressing. While I used to keep a training journal, I found it a burden after my workouts became increasingly location independent. I can remember one top set of deadlifts, but the overzealous routine of 4 sets of 3 exercises requires something with a perfect memory. On top of the convenience it provides, progress under heavy lifting is easily decipherable. When my top set of squats this week was 2 reps shy of the mark last week, I know I'm screwing up. Conversely, it's hard to decide whether I conquered or faltered after 2 sets of my press went up (well, not counting the middle one), but then I destroyed my flyes (except for the last set), oh, and I did a pre-exhaust. Knowing whether you are progressively overloading is the only information you need to determine if you are improving. When you're working hard and still suck,
Now that everyone's keen, how doez we doz? The first tenet is – don't be cocky. There is a tendency when lifting heavy to think that if this much is good, two more plates must be better. Thinking like this is an excellent way to end up with a herniated disk or shoulder impingement and will not have you looking like you're ready to kick some alien ass
. To avoid this, start light and slowly progress, taking longer breaks between sets and workouts. Personally, I can easily take up to 5 minutes between sets of 4 to 8 reps and usually 2 to 3 days between workouts. I can follow this supposedly soft as baby shit routine and still get stronger because I only perform exercises of high value
and almost never miss a scheduled workout. Cutting your time investment by 50% means that you don't miss workouts. Don't. Miss. Workouts. The line between efficient and lazy is fine, don't cross it. Furthermore, I recommend lifting in a reverse pyramid style,
wherein you tackle your heaviest set first, after a sufficient warmup. The sufficiency of your warmup is a personal call, but Craig Ballantyne knows what he's talking about
if you don't. I find that this method allows me the most strength and best performance on my heaviest set, which you want. If another order works for you, then do it. Whether you're making the switch from either no weights or no impact weights,
the transition will be uncomfortable and the workouts intense. Feed the warrior
and you'll be fine.
Honestly, I could care less if you're lifting for sets of 3 or 8 and so could most people. The greatest benefit in lifting heavy-ass weights is derived from challenging and dedicating yourself to long term improvement. It's easy to become complacent, and while pushing yourself in the gym may seem frivolous, smaller actions serves as a platform for greater change. From my experience, most people don't need more rest, more time off, smaller challenges, or lesser goals. They crave challenge and purpose, and pushing yourself physically is a great place to start. So no thank you to complacency, I'll keep my ambition high and my weights heavy.
I am done school. Likewise, many of my friends have also recently finished their formal education, and I think they'll agree that it's easier to evaluate what we went through now that it's over. It is often difficult to understand what you're doing when you're in the midst of it. It is for this reason, I think, that many of us ended up at university in the first place: we were busy doing.
It's easy to go through the motions head down without a known purpose. In life, there is no shortage of tasks to do, of milestones to hit, or of achievements to unlock. We each have the responsibility to ensure we are doing what we want, and that we are doing it passionately. With this, I take a critical look at my recently completed education, to gain perspective and determine how to approach both my future and self-directed learning. If this sounds reasonable to you read on, and don't worry, you will not be tested.
Another motivation for this post is to distinguish education and learning. Learning is a choice – not something done unto you, while education is useless without it. Education and learning can, and should, be complementary activities. Perversely, we learn only at school or work, yet learn poorly in either of these constructs. We fail to learn much outside of the classroom as school does a poor job of stimulating an interest in learning. Often, the result is the opposite of the intention – any curiosity once held is squashed while learning is made to be neither exciting nor fulfilling. After eighteen years of classes, how many people do you know that are genuinely interested in science or the arts? How many people come out of school excited about what they have studied? And how many come out of school excited to be out of school?
What needs to change? Access to data has changed what we should be learning. From the time my grandparents were in school to when I enrolled as a chicken-legged frosh
, we've gone from having $1000 sets of encyclopedias with a finite amount of increasingly outdated information to having $300 phones with access to ever expanding, highly searchable, and easily shared information. Over this time period, with the marked evolution of information access, schooling of the populace should have changed just as dramatically. However, most of my schooling was spent too like my grandparent's: attend class, read at home, write a test - repeat. I retained little of the information presented, the focus most of the time, yet took away enormous benefit from the relatively small amount of time where collaboration, creative processes, and true problem solving (completing the square doesn't count) were the focus. Invaluable resources exist at school in the form of great teachers and inspiring peers and I can only imagine how much more I could have profited were those ratios switched.The How
The notion of a polymath is somewhat lost today. We need only look to the badasses produced by the ancient Greeks
and the amazing progress and output from key renaissance contributors to gauge the merit of a polymath. A well rounded education is more than favourable – I would argue that it is more fulfilling and natural than its counterpart. What can't be argued, however, are the measurable advantages that come from exposing ourselves to a varied education in arts, science, and physical training, in their most general. Those who avidly pursue the arts may experience side effects such as increased language skills, better memory, and favourable adaptations in brain structure
. Exercise almost obviously benefits learning and plays a crucial role in proper brain development when we're young, memory retention when we're old
, and likely a gazillion
other ways I need not reference. These two components in a well rounded education are where many of us lack focus and and attention. Combining these with the usual curriculum of rational thinking and process oriented work will only improve the graduates being sent out into the big wide world
Plato's academy was not a poor excuse for a movie theatre
. Van Gogh painted in the french countryside. Einstein famously went for day-long walks. The point is that unique ideas, revolutionary ideas, rarely come out of standard operations in disengaging and unappealing environments. The optimal learning environment will be unique to the individual, although there are common links. Many of the suggested improvements, calming instrumental background music and exposure to nature, would appear to have come out of some hot-boxed hippie commune, and they probably did. What we care about is that they work; those tactics have been shown to increase content retention and problem solving
and increase productivity
. Whatever environment you prefer, just make sure you choose it. We spend most of our working lives in stale classrooms and impersonal offices, so opt for more inspiring work places
on your own time.
We overestimate our abilities to figure things out and forget that we learn by doing. Student interaction, real time feedback, and open ended problems
increase engagement and interest, which leads to better retention and increased understanding. Free time and open ended problems may seem soft to the 120-hour work week investment bankers
, but setting aside a small portion of our time to curiously explore what interests us is a good idea
. Free time coupled with curiosity only produced Wikipedia, Facebook, Khan Academy, and a gazillion other innovate companies and projects. But don't worry, if you're too busy I'm sure someone else will do it
. Traditional thought processes have gotten us a long way and these processes are invaluable. Different academic and social contexts call for different types of problems, teaching, and learning. I only argue that we could benefit from from a variety of approaches and that none should be discounted simply for tradition's sake.
Paul Cézanne did not set out to paint The Card Players
. He probably had some free time, oil and a canvas, and inspiration. Great work, meaningful work, does not come out of following directions or working within the proverbial box. Sitting down with a set of instructions, confident that there is a correct answer, helps students to learn a process, but this is not the type of problem solving we need in today's world. Using an algorithm does not equate to understanding
, which is a huge oversight on the part of those structuring curriculums. The focus in school on problems of this nature may be attributed to ease of analysis. It's easier to assign grades, rank students, and judge performance when the answers are yes or no, a or b, 3 or 4. Easier is not often better, and here it holds. Too many problems are simply too complex to fit into a neat set of steps, and it's exactly these problems that we need to be learning how to solve.
Being out of school is only going to accelerate my learning and I hope the same holds for you. I now have a full schedule of electives and class starts whenever I see fit. School isn't perfect and I don't expect it to be. I simply think that rather than continue to fine tune what is already in place, we could benefit from an overhaul. That overhaul starts and stops on your own time. Keep learning.
P.S. Seth Godin's e-book
is a great resource for those interested in a thorough critique of current education.
Despite what your mom has told you, most people are not satisfied with their bodies. Also despite your mom’s commentary, this is considered both a good and a bad state of mind. Knowing that you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake does not have to be depressing; it can serve to motivate positive change. Looking to improve your body’s function or appearance is an admirable goal. We have all known people who carried extra baggage that decided to shed their fat and the health complications that come with it. Whether they did it to prolong their life or to get laid more often is not a concern for others, what matters is that it happened.
There are some, however, who take this state of mind too far by pushing the bounds of their bodily changes or by tackling the challenge too quickly. Balancing these two motivations, I explore how to most probably attain what most people are looking for: more muscle, less fat. This is what people are truly striving for when they either want to “lose weight” (what your mom says) or “get huge” (what your little brother says). Either way, let's do this
Forget losing weight. Strong is the new skinny. (Camille Leblanc-Bazinet)
The first question arises: why the distinction? Those who want to lose weight know fat is the primary target and strive to become healthier. Where they falter is their ambiguity in attempting to reach a well defined goal. In most situations, science and I have found that specific goals are better than vague ones
and lead to improved results. Applying this, you will find that a goal of 10% bodyfat will get you an upgraded birthday suit more surely than will a goal of getting ripped/shredded/(other aggressive sounding adjectives). Combining specificity with singular focus
is only going to better your chances of success. Basically, doing something always beats not doing something better.
The question now becomes: what to do? I was formerly obsessed with training and spent an embarrassingly large amount of time researching any and every fitness topic. Since my high school days, I have streamlined my approach while maintaining or improving my rate of progress. In my experience, the simplest tenets providing the most benefit for body recomposition are as follows:
These are not the only paths to a slim and sinewy end. Can you lose fat eating new foods every day? Yes. Can you eat all day
and not put it back on? Yes. Can you hit the gym for some bullshit pump and tone action and still look like a porn star? Most definitely. The problem is that most people (including myself) cannot determine the calories in their dinner at a glance, have no self control, and were not born built like the proverbial brick shithouse. This does not mean we are doomed to fail. Just like most murderers stop murdering once they’re locked up, eliminating temptations and limiting options is the best way to approach your workouts and diet. The mindless (in a good way) protocols listed above will help you do just that.
Elaborating, there are perfectly valid reasons why these strategies should work. By eating daily the same foods in the same quantities, it is easy to make minor adjustments when progress stalls. For example, it is simpler to go from six slices of bread a day to two, than to vaguely “eat less” or “eat 500 fewer calories per day”. No one can definitively say what 500 calories looks like, but everyone can identify four slices of bread. Consider that humans are programmed to eat as much fat and sugar
as we can shove down our gullets. Instead of fighting this urge, simply limit your exposure to these tasty delights by restricting food options and your cravings take care of themselves
. Out of sight, out of mind.Next
, resistance training is better than cardiovascular training for fat loss
. This is assuming you're not slamming back Ho-Hos and using cardio binges to offset extra calories. All things considered, weight training is the best return on investment
when it comes to exercise and body composition. Considering that progressive overload
is a first principal of resistance training, you may want to focus on that. Lifting for progressive overload means all you should focus on is lifting more weight for more reps. This may seem obvious; however, most of your gym-going buddies are probably lifting the exact same weights they were last year. Pick a few basic exercises
, track your lifts
, and forget about hitting your delts from every possible angle.
Finally, intermittent fasting is just plain awesome, as previously discussed here
. It's a truly hormone pumping, fat burning, and muscle building eating strategy. Fasting alone will not sculpt you the ultimate lady/man-pleasing physique, but it will make your quest simpler. Revolutionary tactics make for an exciting game of Risk, but small changes and laser like focus
is a better approach for creating lasting change.
At the end of the day I’m just like everyone else: tired
. This doesn’t mean that we need to set the bar lower and expect less of ourselves. It means that more than hard work, we need smart work and more than realistic goals, we need smart goals. It is within this frame of mind that I present these James Chalmers approved ideals and hope they will serve you to do more with less.
(Credit to Martin Berkhan
for the terminology.)
“Multitasking is dead. It never worked and it never will.
Intelligent people love to sing its praises because it
gives them permission to avoid the much morechallenging alternative: focusing on one thing.”
– Timothy Ferriss
Like you, I have a lot of shit to do. Also like you, I never have a comfortable amount of time in which to do it. This is not a bad thing. If I had proceeded with many tasks at a comfortable pace, I’d be stuck somewhere between the tenth grade and learning to preheat the oven. Work is work and needs to be done. However, launching yourself headlong into four different tasks without a plan is a surefire way to slowly get none of them done. Solicited or not, I’m here to help. So, without further ado, let’s take a critical look at: Multitasking.
Upon reading the word multitask, many are picturing some pimple faced tween
instant messaging with their friend (read: fifty year old sexual predator) while simultaneously reading The Hunger Games and listening to music. This is the most obvious example of multitasking, but not the most troubling. (In fact, I wrote this article while listening to Above and Beyond's Essential Mix
, which was just the ambient noise I needed to focus while my housemates were playing COD
). I'm more concerned with people who are attempting multiple tasks at once, all of which demand more than passive attention. Walking and talking is fine by me.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, however, there's not much to debate when multitasking has been scientifically proven to make people dumb
, and especially if you think it doesn't
. Compounding the suck is the inevitable time loss
when your focus switches to another task. The more you alternate tasks, the more time you waste. It’s simple math. Time is needed to become re-familiarized with the work and to resume the point you were at in the process. One study determined multitasking to be up to 40% less efficient
than singular focus, depending on the complexity of the task. Some scientists go so far as to say multitasking is impossible
. Based on my limited knowledge of neuroscience, this is true, as we would require two brains to multitask just like computers require multiple processors to truly multitask
. Multitasking or "task switching”, either way, it's preventing you from producing your best work in the least time.
Now that you are singularly focused, one time saving strategy I find effective is setting unrealistically tight deadlines to expire before they get you into trouble
. Parkinson's law states that tasks will fill the time allotted to them, so use this to your advantage. To justify their procrastination, many people use an excuse like, “I work best under pressure”, or “I can’t get motivated with such a distant deadline”. Cool. So set a crazy tight deadline and get to work. Self imposed deadlines can be just as effective as concrete ones, especially if the deadline ends with the beginning of something awesome like binge drinking
, weekend plans (with or without binge drinking), or a workout. Whatever you enjoy, it’s often effective to schedule a work period beforehand.
Knowing now that multitasking is not an ability we want to develop, why do countless people still do it? (Not) dropping everything to start a more urgent task gives people a chance to play the hero. In fact, multitasking is an almost sure sign that you care and are working hard to do a good job. However, just because it makes you feel good, doesn’t mean you should do it
. This mistake is put on display in gyms everywhere. People want everything at once and attempt to lose fat, gain muscle, get stronger, improve flexibility, up VO2 max, and make a sick playlist, all in the same workout. What actually happens is, well, nothing. These are all admirable goals, but muddling your focus leads to mediocre results. Instead, pick one task and own it.
Multitasking may not be the worst waste of time in the world, however, it becomes harmful when it disguises itself as a beneficial action. We do more and more of it, expecting greater returns, yet only find ourselves more strapped for time. It leaves no room for relaxation and, as a result, we are always running on half empty. I’d rather run on full, half of the time. Our mantra for self improvement should be - Stress. Recover. Repeat. - instead of trying to make difficult or boring tasks pleasurable and inevitably extending the time required. It's for this reason that everything awesome like sprinting, sex, consciousness, and reading my articles are most appreciated in focused bursts. Multitasking, abandon it.
What you see below are demonstrations of the stretches I perform each evening and often postworkout. They proceed down the page in the order I perform them and generally move from the bottom of the body to the top. They are held for thirty seconds (or longer) each side. The more you focus on each stretch and the muscles you are working, the more effective the stretch will be.
These specific stretches have been selected by trial and error since beginning to stretch consistently in high school. The selection has also benefited from the accumulative research done thereafter. These stretches are intended to hit all major muscle groups with multiple stretches for areas I find particularly stubborn, such as the hip flexors and pectorals.
This being my personal routine, it is tailored for me and may not be the best option for everyone.That being said, feel free to add or subtract stretches and play with the holding times. When doing so, keep in mind that the stretches you hate most are likely the ones you most need to be doing. The whole production should take no more than ten minutes, which is less time each day than most people spend online looking at cuddly animals.
I have labelled each demonstrative image with the targeted muscle group(s) and a set of tips for performing the movement correctly. Also, I have marked four of the stretches with an asterisk (*) to form a condensed routine of the most valuable stretches if for some reason you only have two minutes or want to stretch multiple times per day.
Too tired. Too busy. Don't care. Watching Two and a Half Men, and the list goes on. Despite the mediocre excuses, maintaining flexibility and mobility as we age (and get stronger) is far from a waste of time. For an activity so dense in benefit, most relegate stretching above flossing, and below sorting socks, on their list of things to do. I'm here to change that (and to get you to floss more
In the fitness world, a dichotomy exists within the activity selection of the sexes. Too many females spend too much of their formal exercise time throwing down the same biomechanically unbalanced stretching routine they learned from their creepy grade 8 gym teacher. Contrastingly, meathead males saunter around the gym with shoulders rolled forward and toes pointed outward as if given a walking tutorial by Mr. Hyde. Wherever you may fall on the inflexibility spectrum, I have emerged from the depths of mid semester hibernation to bequeath you with my thoughts and prescription for improved flexibility.
For simplicity's sake, I have entitled this post with the word 'flexibility'. But, within that notion falls mobility, range of motion (ROM), and posture. All of these are building blocks for a well balanced, high performing, and long lasting body. Stretching is not the only way (or perhaps not even the best way) to improve in a number of these categories, however, my impression is that few people do it consistently and even fewer do it correctly. The neglect to stretch overlooks an untapped source of improvement in the way your body feels and performs.
To get this party going, I will explore stretching's impact on ROM. Most adults can't tie their shoes without a charley horse, but this is not God's/Vishnu's/Tom Cruise's fault; everyone is born with the capability to descend into an ass-to-grass squat. It is a sedentary and biomechanically perverted lifestyle that takes this away from you. Take it back with static stretching which is shown to significantly increase ROM
and often superior to dynamic training.
Piling on the positives, a 2011 study showed that athletes who use full ROM gain 10% more strength
while increasing ROM has also been shown to prevent injuries in professional athletes
, leading to half as many injuries
. Injuries suck, stretching doesn't.
Babies don't suffer from anterior pelvic tilt.
_Moving right along, having a flexible and balanced body also contributes heavily to good posture. Why do I, and why should you, care about good posture? In short, because everyone does. People with the most erect posture are consistently ranked as more attractive and more badass (which probably leads to more of this). Assuming these are qualities you aspire to have, stretch, as it improves both resting posture and gait. Posture is sexy, it's not complicated.
Transcending the physical, stretching has an abundance of mental benefits that will keep you sane long enough to enjoy the extra years it has given your body. Practicing yoga helps reduce levels of perceived stress and anxiety
and reduces bodily inflammation by 41%
, which is key for aging well both mentally and physically. And yes Lululemon, I understand that there is more to yoga then just stretching, but nevertheless, stretching is a critical component. Personally, I find that stretching, no matter the setting or intent, forces my mind to engage in the present and silences the neurotic voice inside my head. Putting together the mental and physical in such a way equates to what most would describe as yoga. Stretching is my diazepam.The quest for a better performing and aesthetically pleasing body can be an arduous one. Thankfully, stretching
can make it a little bit easier, a little less painful, and a little more effective if given the small amount of attention it deserves. James Chalmers approves.(P.S.
Look forward to a follow-up post this week demonstrating how to stretch effectively and efficiently, in case anyone considered pleading ignorance.)
For many people, living life plays out like learning a new game. Upon first observation, it can seem like boatloads of fun. It's hard to imagine wanting to do anything else (this was my experience as a child first spectating the best game of all time, Monopoly) and things appear to flow smoothly. Most people's misstep is rushing through all the fundamentals so they too can join in the fun. What inevitably happens is that the newbie flounders, and flounders hard. In real life, this strategy leads one to a place where goals are too complex to attain and you wake up everyday hoping a bus hops the curb and kills you on your walk to work. Throughout my articles there is a common link in revisiting basic actions to improve a desired result. This post can be viewed as the James Chalmers nutritional manifesto and will serve to motivate the need for more in depth future discussion on the topic. We now explore the nature and importance of real food.
First things first, I believe most people intuitively know what I mean by real food.
For me, real food consists of eating things that were at one time living or else were produced by something living. Foods included here are meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and nuts, among others. I would love to use the word natural to describe my food choices, but the word has been twisted and misused so many times in advertising to render it effectively meaningless. Notice foods not included in a James Chalmers approved diet are all the hydrogenated and maltodrextin filled delights that somehow make their way into our fridges and cupboards. It would be completely hypocritical of me to think that people are never again going to wake up hungover with a mysterious half eaten box of poutine in their bed, but the idea is to limit food products (as opposed to real food) to special occasions. Instead, power your body with real food most of the time.I will be the first to confess that most people, myself included, know very little about what the ideal diet should look like. When your doctor tells you to eat a varied diet
, he is really saying he has no idea exactly what you should be eating. All he knows is that it does not include the half kilo of Kit-Kats you've been putting back each week. This is the major reason most fail to eat satisfactory foods most of the time; there are no specific guidelines to follow with any certainty, only general ideas and their maybes and probablys. Despite all of the uncertainty, we know anything beneficial to come out of nutrition deals with real food and not low fat, no flavour laboratory concoctions.If most people have a handle on the difference between food and food products, then why do people often opt for the latter?
One confusion is between eating healthy and eating for fat loss. This magic show of words is often used by people as justification for the reason they are consuming their third Nutrigrain bar/ bowl of Vector/ muffin (read breakfast cake). Do these products contain "5 essential nutrients" and are a "good source of protein"? Sure, just like shit in a colourful box is still shit in a box. It's not hard to convince people that these products are in some way or another healthy, but what most people are looking for when they use the word healthy is fat loss. In my humble opinion, there are only a few factors that should go into any fat loss diet. These include consuming fewer calories, weight lifting (to preserve muscle mass), and adjusting your macronutrient ratios to something reasonable (intermittent fasting
won't hurt you either). Many of these points will likely develop into articles of their own in the future. For now, focus on eating the basics. Stop wasting your money on cleverly marketed corn and soybeans, and eat what you need, not what you want.
Pretty colours and funny cartoons are all they can offer you.
Unfortunately, knowing what you need to eat has become more convoluted than it should be. Many have become lost among the steaming terd pile that is popular nutrition and the useless minutia that consumes it. Popular nutrition is propagated by lifestyle magazines, talk shows, bros at your gym, and even crappy personal blogs. Many of these sources actually contain quality advice if you can decipher it from the nonsense. The problem arises when talk shows and monthly magazines have to continually release new content to keep viewers and readers interested. Men's Health will have you believe that magical foods are being discovered
every month in far off lands that allow you to shit more, weigh less, and be the ultimate biological machine. Most of the advice boils down to what Michael Pollen has neatly packaged as, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants." For the kind of results most people are looking for in the realms of feeling good and looking better, the basics provide ample working room.
I am not interested here in debating the benefits (or not) of particular diets such as vegetarianism or paleolithic options. The focus is on eating food that our bodies evolved to eat, which, as resourceful omnivores, is quite a lengthy list. The difficulty in promoting whole foods vs either supplements or shit food is that there is a lack of quality literature to reference. Rather than specific strategies to follow, I've hoped to motivate and share a basic understanding of good food vs bad food and where to (not) look for more information. Concluding, eat food, not too much, and read my blog. James Chalmers approves.