6 months on Keto no dairy, no meat: yes, I'm alive

I don’t often get into the specifics of my diet with people unless some prying occurs. I guess the shock, borderline appalled, looks I’ve gotten have led to a negative association with doing so. It comes off as extreme, that I get. What I don’t get is that people seem to rather jump off a bridge than attempt it. I get responses as if it's the most unaccessible, miserable thing in the world. This baffles me, mostly because I thoroughly enjoy it, more than any nutrient paradigms I used to follow, and it has taken little to no effort to stick with. I want to bring it up here to try and explore that disconnect by providing my take on the experience. Despite my obsessions with health, nutrition, fitness, longevity, I’ve always strayed from being prescriptive or promotional about my own fitness/diet optimizations I’ve done through ~10 years of self experimenting with training and nutrition. But I’m in a really healthy place in my life now, both physically and mentally, so it might be useful to start opening up more about it.


I follow the ketogenic diet, macronutrient profile of 75% fat, 5% carbs, 20% protein, that much has become known in this blog. What I haven’t brought up is that I also don’t eat dairy or meat. If you know anything about keto, you may associate it as the ‘cheese, bacon, steak, and whipped cream’ diet and maybe once doubted the credibility of its health benefits or thought welp, I could do that. Yep, not I. Although, my friends on keto thrive on a fully normal keto diet consisting of all that good stuff, so I don’t doubt that it can be just as beneficial if done the right way. More on that in a bit. 

So how and why? Always start with why. My convoluted journey down health optimization lane began after high school, when it suddenly was up to me to control my lifestyle and stay fit. That became glaringly real when the freshman 5…10 started to kick in. I played team sports all my life—daily practices, weekly competitive games, and fueling meals were the norm. Fit was the default, it wasn’t something I had to actively think about or deploy intrinsic motivation towards. But when college came, that went away. After about 6 months of play and ignoring the biological reality that eating crap and studying and/or partying all night leads to a reduction in fitness, I kicked back into gear. Never a team sports person despite being brought up that way (will do a post on this next), I joined the boxing team. I loved the strength and power I started gaining, but a ceiling was reached in terms of physically leaning out. Next step was diet. I started eating less processed foods and thinking more about what I put in my body, step 1. I cut out meat, step 2. I cut out dairy, step 3. There wasn’t any specific reason why I cut those two things, I just stopped wanting them and thought that had to mean something. The more fit I got from boxing and weightlifting, the more I was able to listen to my cravings, my body started wanting things that would best fuel and repair it. 

So that was a thing for a while. Lots of produce, seafood, protein powders/bars…very low fat, high carb. I fell prey to the Ancel Keys deception, see my post on that. After 5 years of this, I started hearing more about keto from some of the thought leaders I most trusted—Tim Ferriss, Peter Attia, David Perlmutter, Joe Rogan, and on and on. In true marketing fashion, after about 6 touchpoints I started researching it myself and eventually was convinced to reduce my carb intake drastically and up my fats. 6 months later, I went full keto. 

This is a bit of a reiteration of my last post, but adds the background behind the no dairy/no meat keto masochism (friends’ words, not mine). It’s just what I’ve always done. Even if my body could physically handle it, I had no desire to bring the two back in when starting keto. I was a bit worried because I hadn’t heard of anyone keto sans meat or dairy, but I figured I’d give it a shot for a month. As Jordan Peterson said when his daughter requested he try the carnivore diet for a month, “You can do anything for a month. I could hang from a windowsill by my fingernails for a month”. I’ve now been consistently in ketosis for 6 months, no dairy or meat. Still hangin strong.

So…how? The most concise answer is consistency. I basically cycle through the same foods every day. I’ve never needed or craved diversity in my diet, I’m such a creature of habit and I love reducing the number of decisions (also represented in my Steve Jobs wardrobe) I make in a day so this was like a breath of fresh air. I track my foods on MyFitnessPal to make sure I’m on par with my macro percentages and catching my nutrient deficiencies. Any gaps I have, which are bound to occur with this limited diet, I supplement. I’ll do a post on my specific food and supplement routine at some point but that’s the gist. 

Why am I baffled that this seems so difficult to people? Because it’s really simple, much simpler than the S.A.D. diet. But for those who value more diversity, there are a few paradigms that by following I think can work wonders for your health and how you feel just on its own.

  1. Track your food to maintain the right macro percentages, keep calorie count in check, and catch micronutrient deficiencies.

  2. Fill the micronutrient gaps that aren’t being ameliorated with food with medical-grade supplements.

  3. Avoid processed foods/fillers/preservatives.

  4. Have a 12- to 15-hour gap between meals every 24 hours (i.e. intermittent fasting).

  5. Eat to live, don’t live to eat. 

Hobby for yourself

I always wanted to have a blog and be super diligent at regularly posting. So a couple of years ago I set one up and forced myself to write daily. And I hated it. It gave me anxiety knowing I ‘had’ to write something that day, and posts became forced and disingenuous. I was trying to write prescriptive, instructional posts that I thought people would like, when really no one was reading them and I hated writing them. And like most things you don’t enjoy, you start putting it off. The time gaps between posts began to widen and I failed at my promise of daily, which heightened the anxiety. This is bad, don’t do this. 

A shift that I’ve adapted in the past year is to write for myself. I tap the keyboard with whatever flows out of my brain. I keep a running list in Evernote of inspirations that come to me when I'm exercising, traveling, walking, working, whatever. These are ideas that sparked my interest, ones I’d enjoy further exploring and picking apart. When I sit down to write, I then pick one of those bullet points and get to exploring. I don’t plan or make a layout or research. The organic nature of this approach leads to the conversational, informal style I prefer.

I understand many people enjoy the research-driven writing, stats-supported concept exploration. With my first blogging attempt, it became clear that I don’t. I like picking a single proposal/idea/notion for the shape and spilling my thoughts and experiences into it. It’s therapeutic for me, adding clarity and shape to what I’m really thinkin up there. My mind often feels like a convoluted highway of thoughts—ruminating, speculating, wondering, questioning. I’ve found the most effective way to define the roadways is to write. Putting it into words straightens the highway out, makes each thought more tangible. Often when I start writing, the article becomes something I didn’t expect it to become. The idea manifested into how I must’ve truly perceived it but that my conscious mind hadn’t yet recognized.  

If you’re going to take on a side project for fun, doing it for anyone but yourself just makes it work and defeats the therapeutic effect a hobby is meant to have. 

A type A's taste of nurture over nature

My father’s parenting style was always more reprimanding than praise-driven. That sounds negative, maybe it was in some cases, but I mean it in the literal sense that in order to get me to do something or stop doing something he would critique a flaw rather than praise a strength. 

It’s fascinating how the young, predetermined mind will cling onto very specific moments, as minute as a sentence or word or facial expression that gets locked into the hippocampus as a clear memory periodically spurred with a déjà vu. Moments that on the surface are unremarkable, yet they’ve stuck for whatever reason and likely do more to shape who we become. 

A couple of those that come to mind are two reactions by my father to sentences I once said. I said “It is what it is” to some conundrum I now don’t recall. He retorts, “I hate that sentence. Don’t see it that way, something can always be done.” As a young tomboy, I always sought the approval and praise of my stoic, tough father so hearing this, I internalized it. I don’t think I’ve said it since, and every time I hear it I have an urge to push back on the notion. I interpreted it as a push to take action rather than accept things as is. Change is the world’s default state, it’s up to us to influence and guide that change. All is possible with the right doing. But the vital key is doing, not sitting and accepting. 

The second—I said “I don’t get it” to a silly joke not noteworthy enough to be linked to the memory. He snapped “Don’t say that, you sound stupid.” The sting that came from that, and who it came from, was enough to have a similar impact on me. It created a new behavior, or more accurately a repressed behavior, in order to prevent a similar sting in the future, i.e. never saying "I don’t get it", or anything similar, again. His reaction may come off as harsh, but I also wonder if we’ve gotten a bit soft when it comes to parenting. The curtness of it is what made it effective. And it was ambiguous enough for me to derive my own meaning, which ended up being to ask intelligent questions. Be specific on the disconnects in communication and knowledge, it’ll get you answers more quickly and effectively. How is someone going to help you with an “I don’t get it"? That gives them zero direction for how to reframe. It provides no insight into the gap that exists between you and understanding, preventing them from helping you fill that gap.

I’ve recently been inspired to psychoanalyze my upbringing a bit and peel the layers of my current state to find ones likely grown from how I was raised, thanks in part to reading “Truth" by Neil Strauss. It’s been somewhat scary and vulnerable but mostly fascinating and enlightening. I’ve always believed nature trumped nurture. I studied bioengineering and economics, I work in technology, I read nonfiction for fun. For better or worse, I’m a quintessential type A—a serial analyzer and logic-driven reasoner. The guiding first principles I rely on are evolution and the scientific method. But I’m increasingly learning about the impact of upbringing. How the interactions and experiences in the young formative years play a similarly large part in creating our layers of self. These ingrained memories are little tastes of that.

 

Meetups won't make you Elon Musk

I don’t like networking meetups. They’re forced and boring. It’s a crowd of eager, wide-eyed neophytes seeking answers from people who have a few big names on their resumes, justifying their ability to charge $30 for an hour powerpoint presentation. People flock to these with an expectation that if they hear how someone else did it, they can just go and do the same and yield the same results–beginners relying on other people’s experience to tell them what to do to be successful. But has any exponentially successful professional ever come out of these cult-like gatherings? I can just see Elon Musk in his early days of entrepreneurship laughing at the idea of spending his precious time sitting on a foldable chair listening to a Stanford grad talk about the need to “build for users not for profit” or to “be religiously data-driven”. He was busy building a new payment system and, later, four companies that have drastically altered four different industries. 

Relying on other people’s success to give you answers will not suffice if you want to be exponential. Doing will. Getting your own real-world experience will. The world's default state is change, and at a rate that has increased daily since the invention of the computer. Today is a different day than when that Stanford grad launched the startup that her powerpoint is presenting. And the only people who have shifted society’s paradigms and altered the direction of humanity for the better are ones that did completely novel things of their time, went against the grain, intentionally ignored conventional thinking and regulatory standards in order to reach a new level where no one’s been before. 

My Career Lesson Nuggets

I’ve experienced more in the past 2-3 years in regards to business and life than I probably have in my entire 25 years. Switching from medicine to tech, becoming a software engineer having never written code, moving across the country alone, leaving bigwig corporate to do my own consulting for startups, and taking startups from 0 to over a million user reach. These formative, whirlwind years helped me to grow immensely and calibrate how I choose to interact with the world to optimize business relationships, career, and success. 

In this time, I’ve kept track of the lesson nuggets that represent pivotal realizations learned from failures and I regularly read back through them to guide decisions and actions. I’m constantly adding to this list unique lessons that come from trial and error moments (startlingly common), here’s what lives today. 

Keep in mind, these are career-focused. I’ve also learned a number of lessons about life, personal relationships, mindfulness, health, and happiness but that’s not what this post is for. Career isn’t everything but being the productivity-obsessed and independently-employed human I am, it tends to intertwine with my personal life in more ways than one. I like it that way. 

  1. Write and speak with conviction, simplicity, and clarity. No one’s giving you points for saying “ameliorate” instead of “improve”. Hemingway is a legend for a reason.

  2. Embrace big vision. Thinking big is the first step in executing big.

  3. Take initially uncomfortable calls, meetings, networking events and go into them ripe with confidence and enthusiasm. I’m almost always happy I did, everyone has something to teach you.

  4. Be confident in your abilities and experience. People don’t doubt you until you doubt you. You get to where you want to be by acting like you’re well equipped to be there and like you’re one of the best people to be there. You must be your own advocate.

  5. Initiate, do, act before being asked or instructed. Startups are often lacking in direction and structure, be a self starter that contributes value by default. It’s overhead for any manager/leader to incessantly assign explicit work, be someone who does the work without needing that, but be sure it’s the RIGHT work (read Effective Executive by Peter Drucker). 

  6. Have strong opinions, loosely held. Be open to other ideas and insights, that’s how you learn and that’s how the best results arise—synergy across many minds working in tandem with one another.

  7. Speak with the 'Yes, and’ approach. Collaborative, open, and explorative. Not argumentative, rigid, or arrogant.

  8. Do it now. Don’t push it to later. It doesn’t always need to be a scheduled meeting, if a topic comes up that can be addressed now then address it now. 

  9. Don’t accept money or gifts if you can help it. Pay for the coffee, the lunch, the drink. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the simple act is remembered.

  10. Launch the point of the meeting sooner. Meetings can be bottlenecks on their own, don’t make them time eaters more than they need to be. State the goal, accomplish the goal, summarize a recap/action items, finito. 

  11. Define successful processes and repeatedly apply them. Test processes until you find one that works then apply it again and again.

  12. Be thankful for what you have and nourish it. Don’t assume the comfortable and nice will stay there whilst you look for something better.

  13. Go for the top. Don’t accept a no from someone who can’t tell you yes. 

  14. Don’t be frustrated or ashamed with being an underdog. Everything starts somewhere. If you want to be somewhere where you can make an impact, you have to do just that—make an impact, be a driver in the success, prove your worth with execution and results. 

  15. Let others finish speaking. And deeply listen. Don’t just think about what you'll say next. Don’t interrupt. Let people finish their thought, their sentence, their input before jumping in. 

  16. Be Nice. People work with people they want to work with. Surround yourself with successful, smart people and make them want to work with you by being kind and giving and respectful.

  17. Think for yourself and construct your own beliefs and values, speak to them with confident conviction. Don’t constantly feel the need to cite a book or podcast for credibility or argument sake. Think for yourself, have your own truths and beliefs and back them with a sound argument that you yourself constructed, confidently. 

  18. Take others’ words with a grain of salt, don't immediately see them as truth. Internalize them as insight that you deconstruct for your own purpose, think about what it truly means and how it applies (if it applies) to your own life. 

  19. Stop skimming. A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

  20. Don’t ever take business personally. 

  21. Go first. Introduce yourself first, smile first, call first.

  22. Be decisive. 

  23. Don’t ask a question just to ask a question. Do it because you really want to know something, and make that known, follow it up, continue the conversation upon the answer. Be interested and curious and humble and open. The wise man once said nothing, if you don’t have an output-driven question, shut it.

  24. Have a clear, defined proposal for what you can do for someone or a company when you meet with them. Don’t expect them to come to you with a proposal, you know your contribution and skills more than anyone. Plus, you know what you want to do, so own that, set the stage. 

  25. Just relax, everyone’s a human just trying to get by too. Be candid and transparent and genuine as much as the situation allows. 

  26. Step up when the leader doesn’t show. The people that are there were expecting a leader, they were prepared to be led, now they don’t have that. If you step in and do so, it's a relief to all and you get a free opportunity to flex those skills. 

  27. Be humble and embrace sacrificing what you are for what you want to become. In the beginning, you don’t have credential or experience leverage in your career. Be open to doing things for others for free and embracing the opportunity to learn and prove your capabilities.

  28. Have a few key questions that are deep and thought-provoking that you ask others consistently. This helps you find patterns in answers. It also launches meaningful conversation vs. small talk networking. It’s memorable, people remember how you made them feel not what you said. 

  29. Treat clarity and transparency as prereqs. This is vital for doing business. Before agreeing to partnerships, make sure I’m on the same page with the partner as to their expectations, where they are currently, and their plan for the future. This mitigates discovering gaps and misalignment at a point when you’ve already invested time and resources to the partnership.

  30. Speak ill of no one. Gossiping is so many things–none of which are useful, effective, or positive.

  31. Develop ubiquitous language, consistent communication. Use a naming convention for product lines and business efforts. Most people are scared to ask if they don’t know what something is, thinking they’re supposed to. That’s inefficient and wastes time.

  32. Zero bullshitting. Don’t sugarcoat out of weakness or hesitance.

  33. Take ownership. 

Let your cravings be your macro calculator

One of the beautiful things about keto, or any clean diet that supports healthy, whole food nutrition, is the clarity it gives your body. It sets you up for success because it develops a baseline healthiness that becomes your new default state. Once you reach that point after a few weeks of clean eating, your habits/cravings/tendencies start to shift towards healthy, without much physical effort or cognitive load. Healthy is your new automatic. The key is to leverage this new state and move to hands-off, to trust this new healthy baseline and give your body the reins—biological cruise control. You can now let your body steer what you do because it’s clear of toxic preservatives, mind-fogging sugars, nutrient deficiencies, and unbalanced macros. It’ll tell you what’s best for it because it now knows what healthy is and it wants to maintain that state. 

I find the cravings shift most interesting because of how useful it can be for informing what and when to eat. For a while when getting started on keto, I tracked my foods to get a sense of what to eat to get the right macronutrient percentages I wanted. It was a fairly big diet shift for me so my body didn’t know what it needed to maintain it yet. If I just listened to my cravings, I’d be running to the nearest restaurant serving chocolate lava cake, the Salt and Straw in Hayes, or the farmers market for fresh juicy fruit. There was a period of applying cognitive effort to ignore cravings and assign what I would eat in a day. I had to rely on my research-driven brain to tell me what to eat to get the most out of this new diet. My body was a useless, carb-hungry machine that I had to reluctantly ignore for a bit. 

Once I reached ketosis and my body developed its new baseline, I started to internalize what foods to eat in a day and no longer needed to bother going into MyFitnessPal after every meal—I didn’t need to track foods to know what to eat. I no longer had to ignore my body and rely on my brain to tell me what to eat. My cravings were shifted to those that would support the new baseline—to healthy fats, nutrient-rich greens, and good proteins. My steadfast sweet tooth that had been around since my first lollipop had virtually evaporated. The thought of rich chocolate or carb-heavy fruits wasn’t remotely appealing if you can believe it. Coconut oil-doused sautéed spinach, salted ripe avocados, and pan-seared fatty salmon, however, were all suddenly mouth-watering. 

I now always rely on my body to tell me what to eat next. I do this by thinking through the list of keto foods and meals I cycle through and whichever appeals to me most, whichever sparks a craving, I make. I’ve found I feel so much better doing this. Your body knows what it needs, we just need to give it the clarity to do so by developing the right healthy baseline via a clean diet. If I’m low on potassium, I crave avocado. If I’m down on electrolytes, I want dill pickles or salt-covered anchovies. If I need more protein, I crave a big piece of salmon or peanut butter. If my fat is low, I reach for coconut oil or bulletproof coffee. 

Getting to this state is useful in almost every way. Our brains only have so much mental capacity in a 24-hour period. The less time you spend on frivolous, minute decisions the better. It’s why Steve Jobs wore the same turtleneck every day and Tony Robbins eats the same breakfast every morning. Save your cognitive capacity for the more important decisions and tasks that fill your day. Plus, no one likes to constantly think about food and tracking macros and nutrients. It can lead to an anxiety-filled black hole that diverts your attention and distracts you. Of course, it’s important to live and eat clean and at first this is much easier said than done. It won’t start out as automatic but applying the initial effort to build up these habits and put your body in a state from which it can take these decisions off your mental load, will get you there. 

Ketogenic Series: Eating out on Keto

One of the first few questions I hear from people thinking about going keto is “how do you go out to eat on a ketogenic diet?” with a questioning look, likely wondering if I live the life of an antisocial hermit with my coconut oil and avocados at home. This is one of the biggest misconceptions of this fabulous diet. You absolutely can maintain a social life and go out with friends while maintaining ketosis. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist. Here are a few of my takeaways:

Pick a protein

Almost every restaurant is going to have a fish or meat dish. Pick one that has the protein as the focus, grilled/sauteed/pan-fried/baked/or steamed, and comes with a side of something. This way, if the side isn’t ketogenic friendly you can swap for another, e.g. swap potatoes for broccoli or soup for a salad (hold the dressing, stick to olive oil). The more isolated the foods are the better, more swapping power. A soup or curry or salad are more difficult because they tend to have non-keto fixings mixed in the meal.

Know before you go: if you have a dinner out planned, try to keep your protein count low throughout the day and get plenty of healthy fats in because dinner will likely be heavily protein since this is your best bet when eating out on keto.

Examples: fish (ideally salmon or tuna), steak, burger no bun, lamb

Stick to low carb veggies

It’s easy to think you’re eating keto when your plate is full of micronutrient-rich veggies, but if most of your plate is the color of the rainbow you’re likely surpassing your carb limit. Many restaurants offer a side of asparagus or broccoli or sauteed spinach, those are ideal. Avoid sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, potatoes, and peas. Keep veggies minimal, about ¼-⅓ of your plate, with the majority portion coming from protein or healthy fats.

Know before you go: if you know you’re going out to eat and there are few protein or fat options, eat zero vegetables or fruits and plenty of good fats throughout the day so your carb count stays on point.

Examples: asparagus, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, brussel sprouts

Avoid sauces or dressings

Ah the hidden killers. Barbecue, salad dressing, steak sauce, gravy, etc. Who knows what are in these things, the waiter doesn’t and you sure don’t. Look out for “dressing”, “sauce”, “marinated”, “coated”, “creamed” on the menu, or ask your waiter for deets. Cream sauces may be ok but these, like most foods in America, tend to have sugar thrown in there. If you’re in a nicer place you might be safe, where ingredients are more likely to be made in-house with whole foods. No shame in asking if you’re unsure.

If  you can’t handle plain protein or veggies, stick to:

  • Cream-, olive oil-, coconut-, yogurt-, or butter-based sauces e.g. tapenade, hollandaise, tzatziki, curry. Make sure they’re unsweetened and ideally made in-house.
  • Veggie-based, e.g. salsa/pico de gallo, guacamole

When in doubt, go simple

If there are crazy words you’ve never seen, the waiter can’t be bothered with your keto questions, you’re traveling in a foreign land where no one knows what ‘macros’ means, stick to the basics. Better safe than keto flu in the middle of your Morocco vacation. Order a meal that consists of ingredients you can count on one hand. If you’re still unsure about those <5 ingredients, keep the portion small and give the rest to your yolo friend. This goes back to 1’s point that isolated vs. combined foods are optimal.

Don’t overthink it

If you stress too much every time you go out, you’ll either stop going out and become the hermit mentioned above or you’ll quit keto. Anxiously scanning each menu item and mentally counting the macro content is not sustainable for anyone involved. Follow the few key themes in this post and you’ll be just fine. Still stressing? Fast or eat a higher percentage of fats for 6-12 hours before or after the meal.

Ketogenic Series: From low-energy fruitarian to hyper-focused Keto

My inspiration for the Ketogenic diet came from a dinner with a friend in SF about a year ago. He was telling me how energized and great he feels and attributed it to the lifestyle and diet he’s acquired over that past year. This consists of a very low-carb, high-fat diet with intermittent fasting and caloric restriction. He often eats 1500 calories a day or less! His typical breakfast consists of a hard-boiled egg, watermelon or cantaloupe, and bulletproof coffee. He’ll have a salad with fish for lunch, nuts for snacks, and a small protein-focused meal in the evening. He’ll allow for a 14 hour fast a day, i.e. he stops eating around 6 pm and eats breakfast the next day around 8 am. His motivations stem from both immediate and long-term optimization. Immediate: he gets increased energy and focus and feels healthier overall. Long-term: these methods have been directly linked to longevity, reduced risk for Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and chronic pain. 

Fruitarian Struggles

The reason this came up is because I was relaying my recent bouts of low energy and afternoon slumps. I knew my diet and exercise routine were extreme, and that I concocted it myself from miscellaneous research, assumptions, and trial and error. Given that I have no formal education in nutrition science, I knew there were likely multiple things I could do to improve my energy levels and overall health. I assumed I was eating healthy—all natural foods, no meat or dairy, no processed food, tons of fruits and veggies. But I knew I wasn’t feeling the best I could, so I was open to advice from someone who reported feeling awesome. Plus, one of my obsessions is optimizing for longevity (long lifespan and healthspan) so that was a big driver as well. 

Fat Fears

I bypassed the part about the caloric restriction. Number 1, I like to eat. Number 2, my workouts are pretty intense and strenuous, I don’t think I’d last long without an ample refuel. Everyone's biology is customized and unique, if he feels good on that number of calories then that may work for him, but I’ve always needed a standard (2000-2300 calories depending on my day’s activity level) amount of sustenance to feel satisfied in a day. But what I did take away from the conversation was the low-carb, high-fat approach. I had heard a lot about this from the Tim Ferriss and Ben Greenfield podcasts that I’m always listening to (check out Tim’s Dom D’Agostino and Peter Attia episodes). They’re big advocates of the Ketogenic diet for vitality, preventing and reversing chronic illnesses, and overall health. So this idea was already seeded in my brain, as yet overlooked because of the notion that had been embedded in my mind that fat is bad and leads to high cholesterol—one of the great misconceptions derived from the packaged food industry’s monopoly on nutrition research (e.g. the USDA’s food pyramid is upside down). I had an aversion to fats to an extreme extent. Essentially, the only fat I was getting in a day was about 2 tablespoons of peanut butter with my morning oatmeal and afternoon protein shake. Otherwise, I was eating salad with lime juice instead of dressing, fruits and veggies for snacks, lean fish, and all natural protein bars/powders. This fat aversion came from my own incorrect assumptions on nutrition, developed from all the unsupported or biased inputs from society and the media (look up Ancel Keys). So this would need to be a big paradigm shift for me, but I was willing to give it a shot considering I kept hearing of its value. 

Today

This was 1 year ago. I am now full-on Ketogenic, eating 75% fat, 15% protein, 10% carbs per day and am in ketosis 24/7. That ends up being about 30-40 grams of net carbs per day. To put that in perspective, 1 banana contains about 27 grams of carbs! The biggest adjustment for me was going from eating 6-7 servings of fruit a day or more, to 0. This is the primary concern I hear from people, ‘I couldn’t give up fruit’. Trust me, I thought the same thing. Some days I was borderline Steve Jobs fruitarian level—snacking on a whole bag of grapes or cherries throughout a work day instead of meals. My mom always had to do a massive grocery run whenever I was visiting to make sure there was enough fresh produce. If I can give it up, I’m confident any human can. The most fascinating part of the keto diet is the shift in cravings to that of what will best support your new energy source. After about 5 days of eating keto, if done correctly, you enter ketosis. I.e. your body starts utilizing ketones for energy (fat) instead of glucose (sugar). At this point, you can let your body do the work—avocados, nuts, and oils sound delicious, while fruits, artificial sugars, grains are unappealing. But it wasn’t the smoothest transition for me, here’s a peek into my experience:

Keto Attempt #1, 2017

After that dinner and making the decision to try keto myself, I started by ordering foods on Amazon to kick off this new extreme macronutrient profile. I bought egg white protein, wild sardines in olive oil (recommended by Tim), macadamia nuts, MCT oil, and coconut oil. I ordered from Instacart a truckload of avocados, salmon, eggs, coconut milk, and nut butters. I hate tracking food and macros, I think it’s a consuming and neurotic activity that negatively affects simply living your life. But I had to start getting a feel for what macros were in what foods. I used MyFitnessPal to enter in foods I was previously eating in a day to get a feel for what I needed to change. I realized my diet of low-fat, primarily fruits and veggies was taking in at least 200 carbs a day! I couldn’t believe it. My macros were so incredibly skewed to carbs. In my attempt to eat close to nature and maintain a ‘healthy’, whole food diet, I wasn’t getting a full nutrient profile by any means. My favorite fruits were pineapple, bananas, apples, and grapes—some of the highest carb fruits out there. I also ate oats, high-carb veggies, rice crackers, and high-carb protein bars. All of this was about to change.

As soon as my new keto goods arrived, it was kick-off time. Aaaand the first day was rough. I did a head-first dive into the ketogenic diet (no more than 25 g of carbs a day). I cut out 90% of the fruits I was eating and over 60% of the veggies I was eating in order to reach the 10% of carbs a day. These were foods I was previously snacking on incessantly—bags of grapes, carrots, blueberries, bananas, a Tupperware full of pineapple. That first day I felt really off. It was way too big of a change for my body. I had a terrible taste in my mouth, my mouth kept watering, I felt uncomfortably full and borderline ill—what I now know was a bad case of Keto Flu. It takes a week or two for the body to get accustomed to the low-carb diet after coming from a high-carb diet, and it can take even longer to enter into ketosis. I quickly learned that I needed to ease into the diet and supplement the right way. It was after this struggle day that I reduced the extremity a bit and began incrementally reducing my daily carb intake rather than drastically cutting it. I wouldn’t return to full-on keto for a few months, after slowly reducing carbs and doing some more research. The second time around, I did it right. Hence why I’m still keto thriving today. A couple of right things I introduced: I supplement with electrolytes, magnesium, extra salt, plenty of water, vitamin D, a multivitamin, and vitamin C, I added more calories from healthy fats, and I incorporated more low-carb greens like spinach, broccoli, and asparagus. 

What I Learned

I tell people who want to try keto the following — 

  1. Go at least 2 weeks on a low-carb diet (<30% carbs) before launching into full keto macros

  2. Have someone who is experienced with ketosis guide you through the process. There is a right way to do keto and a wrong way to do keto, and it’s very easy to do it the wrong way. And doing it the wrong way will lead to feeling awful and making you never want to try again.

  3. Supplement correctly, see 2. 

  4. Have patience and perseverance. It’s not going to feel great for the first 5-7 days, especially if your body is used to high-carb.

Since going full keto, my mood, productivity, focus, energy, and sleep have all drastically improved. My moods are much more stable and nonreactive, I’m hyper-motivated and focused with work, I no longer have mid-day energy crashes, and I need about 2 hours less of sleep to full rejuvenated. Not to mention the fun in the diet itself. So yum. I wake up to fat-filled Bulletproof coffee, I douse salads and fish with oil, I eat big spoons of nut butter and handfuls of hearty macadamia nuts for snacks, I crush a big bowl of salmon coconut curry for lunch, and I’m continually discovering new keto-friendly recipes that taste like I’m cheating. And what comes as a surprise to people is that I spend LESS money on food and have to order it less. Keep in mind I use to survive on produce, items that would go bad after a couple of days. So I was always ordering fruits and veggies and going to farmers markets. Now, a lot of what I eat comes in containers that last or can be frozen. Coconut oil, MCT oil, coconut milk, nuts, almond milk, nut butters, salmon (frozen), broccoli (frozen florets), olive oil, sardines, eggs, etc. The only perishable items I have to worry about are avocados and some greens like asparagus and spinach, but even those last far longer than the organic strawberries I used to buy and have to pick out moldy ones within a couple of days. 

The Gist

In the short time I’ve been in ketosis, I have been so in awe of its effects that I’ve been reading constantly trying to better understand the physical changes and how I can further optimize them. I’ve accumulated both personal experience and research knowledge that I’ll continue sharing on this blog. My biggest takeaway thus far has been the incredible revelation that food truly is medicine. Any problem you are having—headaches, nausea, anxiety, depression, pain, insomnia, fogginess—can and should be addressed with food first. Food is our fuel. It is the primary input we can 100% control, why don’t we acknowledge the gravity of that power and harness it for our immediate and long-term health?

I am not a Visionary

An enlightening, initially pride-depleting realization I’ve recently come to—I am not a Visionary. I’ve built my career around the early stage startup realm and vision is a big component to innovative companies, but that’s not where I thrive. I’m the exact compliment to a Visionary. I’m an Executer. I don’t spend my time brainstorming big ideas out of thin air, I spend my time calculating the most effective execution strategy for big ideas. I spend my time peeling back the layers to successful companies and studying their processes and steps that got them to where they are. I spend my time analyzing an existing landscape in a startup and its market, and craft the best Get Shit Done approach. This is how I choose my founders that I work with. I *synergize* best with visionaries. BIG visionaries—planning a roadmap is much more enrapturing for me when it’s never been done and it has the potential for global impact. I think of myself as a big cone filter--founders throw their box of fairies, rainbows, and unicorns down the filter, I analyze what we have, what we need, and what’s already out in the world, and design a system of calculated and thoughtful unicorn/fairy/rainbow development and release. What’s the most effective engineering/design team structure? What target audience should we focus on? Who should we approach for partnerships? Which product features should we include or shelve for later? What should the development cadence and process look like? What’s our priority list? What’s our timeline and target milestones? These are the questions I like to ask. And any one of my founders will tell you I do, after they ask questions like—How can we disrupt this market? What’s a problem that effects more than 10,000 people? What’s never been done to solve this problem? The perfect duo. 

Nothing is more satisfying to me than immediately talking strategy and plan of attack. I can’t discuss big ideas without doing this. I’ll be the asshole in the room writing out an execution roadmap, calling manufacturers, and assigning engineers tasks while Elon and Bezos are brainstorming how to become a multi-planetary species. Founders provide the block of beautiful, rare, carefully mined block of marble, I start chipping away to build the statue. Founders give me the materials for a stunning beachside mansion that’s never been built into the rocks in that way, I construct the unique but lasting structure that turns the materials into an inhabitable anomaly. 

I’ve focused a lot of mental energy into developing self awareness in the past year, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. The trick is to develop a self awareness that remains an open box, avoiding boxing yourself into the traits and behaviors that you’ve recognized in that introspection. We are all malleable, influenceable creatures. We are not static or concrete. Thank god. If we want to change, we can. Even if we don’t want to, we do. Some more often than others, depending on how often your surroundings are altered. It’s certainly uncomfortable at first, but vital for growth—lack of movement is death. But I believe it’s important to seek and acknowledge the core components of what makes you tick, the foundational skills and motivators that remain throughout the fluidity of your life, observe and become aware of them, and leverage and apply them in a way that allows you to be your best self in the world. 

Must fulfillment come from the tangible?

I remember some of the most satisfying flow states I’ve experienced were days in my graphic design course in high school. I spent hours immersed in a concept I was crafting in photoshop. When I was finished, and it received praise from my teacher and others, it was a deeply satisfying feeling. I had a tangible art piece that came from thoughts and random neuron firing (that’s all creativity really is, see my post "The Philomath's Dilemma V2"), harnessed by my hands putting it onto a computer screen. Most instances of a flow state followed by deep personal fulfillment come from something that leads to tangible evidence of the work put in during the flow state. There are many opportunities for this in school. Art class, English essays, plays, projects, presentations. But in adult life, you must seek it out yourself. I’ve envied engineers and designers and artists because this is a default occurrence in their careers. They’re creators. Tangible evidence of their work is the only way for them to continue on with those careers. It’s very black and white whether they’re doing well or not so well in those careers (except maybe artists, where output is much more ambiguously valued on a personal vs. general level). There is tangible evidence of their work in the form of an app, home, website, machine, product, or otherwise, that either sparks user adoption and revenue or it doesn’t. They can look at something or touch something that made someone’s life better and say “I built that”. 

So what gets managers, leaders, and strategists off? How do we reach that sense of fulfillment without a tangible product that was shaped with our own hands? Can we achieve second-hand fulfillment from the team we led in shaping that product? Can it be as strong? I was an engineer for over 2 years before moving to product and strategy. Nothing was more satisfying than discovering a bug or getting a feature request from stakeholders and being able to dive into the code and fix it right then and there, with my own hands, and display the fix in the same meeting. It felt powerful having the ‘doing’ power that no one else in the room had, especially considering their deep reliance on the product's success. That was fulfilling. 

But with great ‘doing’ power came a lot of dictating and micromanaging. It was a constant “Add this” “Fix this” “Change this”, all focused on very minute, tiny things that made me feel like I was becoming increasingly separated from the product’s mission and north star. Tweaking a button color or moving a label too many times will do that to you. Of course, this wasn’t always the case. We solved many challenging, interesting problems. We replaced the entire deposits system for a 30-year-old bank with 30-year-old tech, not an easy feat. But considering we were the only hands capable of shaping the perfect gem they wanted, much of the specs were nitty-gritty gripes from the executives. That’s when I realized I couldn’t always be the low-level, front-line creator. I needed to step back over that line, and do the high-level thinking of product direction and strategy. 

I miss the tangible evidence that came with being a builder, but I’ve been able to shift my sources of fulfillment. It now comes from the success of my engineering team in completing and releasing a robust sprint, the feature I prioritized yielding beneficial results, the designers I led creating a compelling UX, the users/clients I support providing positive feedback, the process I implemented becoming an effective productivity machine, the startup I'm helping build hitting hockey stick growth.

Maybe the fact that I used to be a creator provides the contrast for me more so than others. But I believe they are vastly different career focuses that cater to different personas. It’s valuable to know what works best for you and which you can harness the most fulfillment from. Because that’s all any of us are lookin for. 

Make your rest days active

Humans are meant to move. The structure of our body is built around that truth (if you haven’t already, check out Born to Run by Christopher McDougall). We’ve gotten away from that default state because of desk jobs, automated transportation, and laziness combined with society’s ever-increasing convenience. And once our default state becomes still and inactive, our cycle of endorphin addiction is broken and we forget how great moving makes us feel. This is likely because we’ve evolved to enjoy and seek out laziness and rest. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors certainly needed it after a full day of chasing buffalo and gathering tree nuts. But Joe in accounting, a desk-ridden 45-year-old on track for heart disease who takes the subway to work then the subway home to watch the Sopranos before sleeping and doing it all over again does not. 

It can be the smallest effort: getting up and walking for 5-10 minutes every hour, taking your hour lunch break to eat and walk, or combining your call meeting with a stroll (muting when a hill comes along). When a colleague asks to go for coffee, suggest a walk and talk instead. Get back into that endorphin cycle, remind your mind how much it loves and craves this vital hormone.

I’ve always been a borderline insanely active human, so I never thought much about this. But the way I was active was by purposely going to the gym to have an intense workout then stop and go to work and sit. I’m kinder to my body now. I still have those intense workouts, but they’re not the be all end all of maintaining an active lifestyle for me anymore. I have a couple of ‘rest days’ where I sprinkle movement throughout the day, long walks through the city mostly. Sometimes yoga and stretching as well. And since starting this, even on my intense gym days, I have urges throughout the day to get up and use the body perfectly designed for movement. I used to have an ever-present dull lower back pain, tight muscles, and afternoon antsiness. These have all nearly evaporated. It’s such a simple solution, move. 

I read a lot about evolution (Sapiens, On the Origin of Species, The Selfish Gene, Sex at Dawn, Idiot Brain…), and it’s amazing how many solutions come from going back to basics and looking at how our ancestors lived and behaved. It informs much of what we need in order to thrive in our own lives today. As we know, evolution is significantly slower than societal development, i.e. our modern daily lives are a bit different than our hunter-gatherers’ but our basic needs align in more ways than we know. 

Make your rest days active. Raise your default state to periodic light movement. Avoiding days of little to no movement will keep you healthily in that endorphin cycle that’s so key to human existence. Doing so will also make it easier to add on a few of those intense gym days a week. 

Dannyism #2: You don't get to pick your hills

When you’re cycling up a steep hill, a few things are happening with your body and head. Your body is strained in every way, your legs are running on autopilot because your perception of movement seems to have been replaced with a burning fire from your calves to glutes. Your core is clenched, fighting to keep you stabilized and upright. Your mind is telling you all the giving up phrases, “there’s no way I can finish this”, “this is impossible”, it’s doubting your body’s capabilities and looking for an excuse to stop. Sounds like a great situation doesn’t it!? And people do this daily through Marin county bike trails…willingly. Why? Because hills in cycling are a resource that forces a cyclist to work their ass off. With sprinting or weight lifting or HIIT training, your mind can trick you into stopping before your body has maxed out. With hill cycling, stopping could send you zig zagging down a busy road (speaking from personal experience in the lovely but intense Marin headlands), straight into another cyclist/car, or if you’re in CA, down some unfriendly rocks into the ice-cold bay. You don’t get to choose whether to keep going. You have to. It’s a useful tool for those who might find it more difficult to push to physical limits at their own doing, i.e. most of us. Put yourself in a situation where the environment has to choose when you get to stop, not your mind. 

You don’t get to choose your hills. They come around the corner and once you get going, stopping could be seriously harmful and might set you back further than when you started. Fighting to the top brings you to that beautiful view and a minute to rest. Yay, another life metaphor! Challenges come out of no where, shying away or backing out too early will never move you forward. You’ll stay stagnant at the bottom, no scenic view for you. If you tried to pick your hills, you’d seek out a bunch of baby hills leading to somewhere less fulfilling. When that next big one comes around the corner, be grateful for the opportuntiy and take it on full force. You’ll be glad you did.

Don't Skip the Nooks and Crannies!

I flew to Annapolis to visit my mom for the weekend and it was the exact dose of rejuvenating family time that I needed. Most of the weekend was spent having one-on-one long talks with her, one of which was during our traditional post-dinner walks. When I was younger, we used to have these nightly. We share the quirk of feeling most comfortable and ourselves when moving and active, so these walks always invited the open and deep conversations that were otherwise rare. Resurfacing that tradition this weekend reminded me of my mom’s eccentric walking habits. Number 1, she walks like a madwoman being chased by wolves (I know where my compulsory endorphin addiction comes from) and number 2, when walking cul-de-sacs and corners, she unfailingly walks right up to every edge exclaiming, “Don’t skip the nooks and crannies!” When I was younger, this was an annoyance that yielded an eye-roll and reluctant running to catch up after I tried to turn around too soon. Now, I realize what an important metaphor for life it was and still is.

It’s easy to short yourself here and there, to metaphorically cut corners. At the time, it seems like it has a minuscule impact but over time, the repeated inch-long shorts accumulate to miles lost.

I like to think my stubborn young mind unconsciously internalized this lesson and applied it to my life and career. I hold myself to a certain standard, and this applies to the big things as well as the minute details, nooks and crannies as mama Harrison calls them. No one is watching my mom walk making sure she hits the corners, she does it for herself. She probably did it one day and from then on that was her standard. Be your own competitor. Have high standards and requirements for yourself, reach them, and only allow yourself to go up from there. One short becomes two becomes many, and just like that your standards are lowered and you lose against yourself.

Dannyism #1: Consistency is the Enemy

Every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 am, I peel myself out of bed, down a keto coffee, and jog down my hill to Equinox for the most intense spinning class I’ve ever experienced. Or more accurately, the most intense WORKOUT that’s concentrated into 45 minutes. My boy Danny is a hardcore 30-something, 5 ft 6 powerhouse who has taught this unique class for over 10 years and has completed over 50 Ironmans for which he minimally prepares for in his spare time. He’s quite a force to start my day with. On top of the blast of endorphins I get from his class, he fills our minute rests between sets with stories and motivational affirmations I call Dannyism’s. One from last week that I deemed worth sharing: Consistency is the Enemy. 

Let’s look at what he means by that from a spinning perspective and then talk about how it applies to nearly everything. I always avoided spinning because the thought of sitting in one spot turning petals around at the same speed for 45 minutes sounds like the active version of watching grass grow. But what keeps me going back to this class is change. We go hard then stop. We stand up then sit down. We increase resistance then decrease resistance. Change is a constant in his class. Not only does it make time go by faster, I get much more out of the class. My net power far surpasses a steady state class. My mind is activated, ready and counting down for the next change. With each change, I forget how the previous state felt and I start anew. We all know that much of our performance is driven by mindset. The switch of activity tricks the mind into thinking it’s starting fresh, much more stimulating than “19 minutes down of this, 26 to go”. 

Consistency yields complacency. It impedes growth. Too much consistency breeds ingrained thinking patterns and habits that allow for autopilot functioning. Autopilot functioning is easy and therefore boring, it causes a lack of stimulation that will reduce what I call your frequency. Frequency is the value you unleash into the world that can be transferred to others around you. Stimulation yields frequency if leveraged correctly. It comes from the new, the uncomfortable, the unfamiliar. Seek out change-->get more stimulation-->increase your frequency.

Start small, take a new route to work. Look at behaviors in your life that have been around for a while and aren’t adding value. Join a new meetup. Reach out to the budding acquaintance to hang instead of your usual crew. Call your clients instead of email. Try a new workout routine. Wake up an hour earlier. These switches might be uncomfortable at first, which brings me to one of my go-to quotes from James Hillman: “Anytime you’re gonna grow, you’re gonna lose something. You’re losing what you’re hanging onto to keep safe. You’re losing habits that you’re comfortable with, you’re losing familiarity.”

Shaq's here and SF can't be bothered

So I met Shaq yesterday. 

I'll occasionally contemplate why on earth I pay over $200 monthly for a gym and then I'll remember when a legendary all star and his posse walks through the door looking for a good place to workout. 

I had already been at Equinox for a couple hours. After a week-long trip to London and Stockholm, I've returned hungry for good gym workouts. I had left to run hills for a bit and was walking back into the gym with the plan to shower and leave to start my day. I see a massive hulk of a man walking up the steps from the other side. A part of me thinks it might be Shaquille O'Neil or at least someone relevant due to his sheer size but it didn't click until someone else asked him for a picture. I immediately stopped and asked for a selfie, cranking my neck to make eye contact.

Then, of course, I wasn't going to leave until I spoke with him. So my workout became twice as long and my workday was put on a back burner, this was once in a lifetime. 

So I bumble around doing workouts I'm too tired to do. He looks over a few times which in my mind gives me the invitation to go up and chat, which I did. 

What impressed me most about this eventful morning was the response of everyone else in the gym. They looked for a bit but then got on with their workouts and days. This is the other reason that reminds me why I love Equinox and, further, SF. Surround yourself with high caliber people. Do so by joining high caliber gyms, clubs, meetups, grocery stores, coworking spaces, etc. Go places where exponential people hang out. Doing so puts yourself in a high-frequency environment in which a celebrity is simply an equal. And if that becomes the new baseline, that's the standard you subconsciously fight to meet. Humans like equality. And if you're a remotely observant person, your surroundings impact your actions. Seek exponential surroundings, get exponential output.

How to launch a career you'll actually like: A letter to my post-grad brother

Dear Carter,

I want to offer you some advice that I wish I’d been given at your age. Don’t follow conventions. Don’t put yourself in the box defined by society’s traditional way of thinking. We have endless paths to choose from — x have already been paved, and the remaining infinity minus x haven’t even been mapped out. A 9–5 job in consulting at some big company doesn’t need to be your christening into the business world. There are many more opportunities out there in which you can carve your own unique career path that aligns best with your personality, skill set, and interests.

It’s hard to acknowledge and go after this because we’re a product of the environment we live in and the mindsets we grew up around. Fortunately, we had a very stable and loving upbringing but unfortunately, it was traditional and unexceptional. This doesn’t set us up for the mindset needed to be a disruptor carving our own unique paths. We have to actively try and think differently, push against traditional thinking, peek outside of the box comfortably constructed around us, and seek opportunities that are uniquely optimized for the career paths we want. I’m not saying you should try and become the next Mark Zuckerburg or Elon Musk. I’m not advocating that you drop everything and try and start your own business (although I’d always support that direction if you’re mentally prepared to go at it 100%). What I am advocating for is that you look outside of the standard entry-level positions that many of your fellow econ majors have likely signed on for. What excites you? What can you spend hours on, forgetting what time it is, forgetting to eat because you’re so interested or focused on that thing? What do you read about? What success stories resonate most with you? Who do you most admire? These are questions to ask yourself when deciding where to look for your first career step. It gives you a sense of the industries to look at, the contacts to reach out to, the companies to read more about, the biographies and documentaries to study.

Now, it’s important to know that your first career step by no means will dictate your future. You can pivot many times before you find what it is you’re good at and enjoy doing (and often that’s the case considering personal experience is the quickest way to calibrate). But what it will do is shape and mold you and start tacking on the experiences that will influence the opportunities that come your way and the next steps you’ll take. So, ideally, the first step includes one or multiple of the following: 1. it’s in an industry you like, 2. it has employees or a founder whose work you admire, 3. it’s a role in which you can craft a skill you want to grow.

Time is our greatest asset. The 10,000-hour rule — Malcolm Gladwell’s proposal that it takes 10,000 hours of focused work to become an expert at something. What do you want to become an expert at? If you know now, you’re one step ahead of where I was at your age. And you have so much time ahead of you to hone it. Go find any job that touches that expertise, it could be a bottom-of-the-barrel intern position, and put your all into it. You might not make much money at first but the focused hours you spend on it will help you climb the ranks and reach the success you want. And at that point it won’t only be financial success, it will be life success because you’ll be an expert at something you enjoy. If you don’t know what you want to become an expert at but you do know what interests you, select a few mid-tier and low-tier startups and companies associated with that interest. Find its employees on LinkedIn and Angellist. Message them a humble note in which you simply ask to help them wherever they need it. Do your research on the company, speak about how fascinated you are in the product or mission and say you’ll work for free to be a part of it. Tell them what you’re good at and skills you can offer but leave it open to allow them to tell you the gaps that you could fill. You don’t really have marketable skills yet, these are yet to be defined. Be adaptable, agile, and flexible. Optimize for the company you’ll work for, the industry you’ll work in, and the people you’ll work with. Don’t optimize for the role description. Worst case scenario: you don’t get a response. Best case scenario: you get hired. Most likely scenario: they allow you to help them out for a few weeks, you work your butt off and prove your worth, they bring you on as a paid employee. You’ll learn an immense amount in 2–3 focused and dedicated years on the front-lines in the industry, at which point you can leverage your time and experience to climb the latter to the next tier, one step closer to your north star.

Love,

Your east-coast-corporate-escapee-to-west-coast-startups big sis

Thoughts on Burning Man

Upon returning from the desert in '17 after my first burn, a blunt contrarian friend of mine offered a few words on the festival which I dubbed worth sharing -- 

So if I ask you to help me push my car out of a ditch, you may well agree. But if I offer you $10 to help me push my car out of a ditch, you’ll likely think: Are you kidding? My time is worth much more than that. In other words, the mere act of putting a price tag on a good or a service bumps people from the social to the economic mode, and reduces their natural inclinations towards altruism (which doesn’t truly exist, BTW) and generosity. So it seems that Burning Man has managed to create an entire city operating in the social framework rather than the economic one.

The tricky question is what, if anything, one should take away from it. Unfortunately, the results are not extrapolatable. That’s because, although it’s true that the people who give you food and massages and rides all week were technically strangers, they weren’t just any strangers. They are your fellow tribe members (“burners”), i.e., your ‘in-group”.  As I mentioned to you, from Robert Sapolsky’s ”Behave”, homo sapiens brains are hard-wired to respond favorably to “in-groups” and negatively to “out groups” (although who falls into each category is dynamic and can change rapidly).  The real, harder question has always been: How do we foster cooperation between different in-groups, or otherwise stated, with an “out-group"?  Here, Burning man has little to offer….

Based on Sapolosky’s work, I would love to do an experiment with testosterone and oxytocin with those 70, 000 participants in the dessert:

Testosterone has gotten an awful reputation, whereas oxytocin has gotten a Teflon presidency that is not deserved. 

Testosterone does not invent new pathways of aggression; it increases the volume of the pathways that are already there.  But, what testosterone is mostly good for is that it makes you do what ever behavior is needed to hold on to status when it is being challenged.  So, if you are a baboon it's obvious what you do--that is aggression. In humans, if you set up a situation in which you gain status by for example being generous, then, testosterone makes you more generous.  if you took a thousand Buddhist monks and shot them up with testosterone, they would just run through the streets doing random act of kindness to see who would do the most of them the fastest! 

Oxytocin is involved in oceanic feelings of cooperation, mother-infant bonding, monogamous pair Bonding, etc, i.e., an amazing, wondrous prosocial hormone. But when you look more closely, Oxytocin makes you much nicer, more empathic to people who you feel are just like you-to "in group" members. When it comes to "out group" members, it makes you more crappy to them, more preemptively aggressive, less cooperative.  In other words, more xenophobic.

On the level of philosophy:

"Life is,” as Dostoyevsky wrote, "and it is our job to figure out what the 'is' is". That’s one of the core responsibilities of being human, and this perhaps serves as at least one unconscious drive for the yearly mass exodus to the desert...

A Note to Investors: Here's what to look for in 2018

Preventative health is hard.

It’s hard for medical students because their education has a strong focus on reactive care (e.g. pharmacology, surgery) vs. proactive care (e.g. nutrition, mindfulness, fitness). It’s hard for practicing physicians because they’re incentivized by pharmaceutical companies to promote reactive medicine and treatments. It’s hard for pharma companies because they make money from developing and selling drugs that fix problems vs. prevent problems. It’s hard for private health companies because consumers don’t prioritize health spending until they’re sick.

So here we stand today, with this hard problem that’s pervaded us since the dawn of medicine and with its progress moving forward at a pace decades behind the speed at which technology has managed to positively disrupt other industries. Over 70% of the US is overweight or obese and 45% suffer from at least one chronic illness, yet the top 3 causes are preventable (poor nutrition, inactivity, and tobacco use). Tech is improving nearly every aspect of our lives, while America's obesity count has been increasing every year since 1995. I'd say this should be a priority over flying cars and food delivery apps.

So, what's the solution?

It begins with rallying consumer interest. With consumer demand comes money, with money comes research, with research comes useful products and progress. Consumers will be the ones to change the future of health. It won’t be the sluggish government, not the regulated insurance companies, not the archaic medical school programs, and not the backward pharmaceutical industry. Consumers have the autonomy and power to quickly drive change, and rallying consumer interest is done by appealing to innate desires in an immediate way.

Investors sense the opportunity

According to Rock Health’s 2017 Funding Report, companies delivering consumer health information as a primary value proposition dominated 2017 funding, reaching $1.6 billion with 41 deals. This means that technology dedicated to empowering users to better understand and improve their own health surpassed technologies for clinical decision support, disease monitoring, disease diagnosing, and EMR. Consumers are the gas (or charge) for the vehicles that the big players drive in the health space. Health companies and investors accelerate towards what consumers care about. And, thankfully, this is shifting. 

Consumers are catching on

Consumers are starting to take health into their own hands. We're seeking out more transparency and control. We're ordering 23andMe and EverlyWell testing kits to learn about our genetic health risks and traits. We're subscribing to Care/Of to receive personalized supplement packs. We're using ShareCare and Apple HealthKit to manage all of our health information in one place (and Apple's working on taking that even further). We're visiting Forward to receive technology-driven concierge healthcare. We're using MyFitnessPal to track caloric intake and nutrient deficiencies. Consumers are taking initiative. Perhaps this is due to the increasing costs of healthcare. Or maybe it’s the growing trends of lifestyle brands and health influencers spanning the media (think SoulCycle, Urban Remedy juice cleanses, and Bulletproof coffee). It could also be a result of this increased funding going into consumer health companies causing improved options–a chicken or the egg question. Or maybe, and this is my favorite guess, consumers are recognizing the importance of preventative health and are seeking their own methods of addressing it. Regardless of the triggers, this is a good thing. 

What's next?

Consumer interest and investment funding are both important catalysts in the adoption and growth of preventative health. 2017 was a big year for both. I strongly believe that this will further increase in 2018–consumers will embrace their newfound control over their health, and investors will help fuel their options.

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Seek out the Struggle

If you want to see progress from your training, particularly in the form of increased muscle strength, it comes down to one thing - pushing yourself past your comfort level.

If you're not reaching a point where you are struggling to lift that last rep or run that extra 100 yards or hold that pose for a final few seconds, then your body won't change. It has no reason to if its working within its capacity. You have to overload it, do something that shocks the system. If you're not giving your muscles more stress than they are currently built for, they have no reason to change. Our bodies change only when they need to, i.e. when they're exposed to a stress that they must adapt to.

My absolute favorite quote I live my life by - "Sacrifice what you are for what you want to become". Seek out the struggle, you'll thank yourself for it later.

Sprinkles of Lion

I think sprinkling your day with little motivating tidbits is a valuable strategy for implementing a positive growth mindset. The little things truly are the big things in this context because our daily interactions accumulate to encompass our thoughts, and therefore our behavior. By motivating tidbits, I mean things that you interface with repeatedly throughout the day that can provide a spark of motivation when you aren't looking for it and aren't expecting it. Thereby, consistently building and strengthening the brain's connections associated with motivating objects, words, and/or phrases. 

First example - passwords:

My work computer requires a password in 4 locations, 1 for each environment our application is deployed to. I have to type it upwards of 50 times a day. For security reasons, I have to change it every 60 days. So in the past year, I decided to start setting the password as a word or phrase associated with a goal I'm looking to fulfill for myself within those 60 days. After the 60 days, ideally I'll have met the goal and will change my password to my next objective. Each time I type the password in those 60 days, a connection sparks in my mind. And the compounding affect of those sparks consciously or subconsciously directs my actions towards the goal. It's along the lines with hypnotism, but it's self imposed, voluntary, and simple to implement. It's something we do every day all day anyway, why not give it the chance to do something useful? Some examples I've had are - focus18, thinkBig18, hawaii18, breathe18, explore18.

Second example - lock screen:

I look at my phone an obscene amount throughout the day, each time coming face to face with the lock screen before opening it with touch ID. Another example of frequent and nearly unconscious face time - a prime opportunity to leverage the human minds' controllability. So I have a photo of a badass lion as my lock screen background. It lights a little fire in me every time I see it. Granted, it had a stronger effect when I first changed it but it still causes my mind to make the connection to the associations I have towards the animal, which are drive, power, and strength.