MYST 85 Trevitorial: Success Without Total Effort?

Is he giving 100%
Is he giving 100%

Photo by Vincezo Di Giorgi via StockSnap

“Don’t put in half the effort, unless you are okay with half the results!”

What an excellent motto. I’m happy to say that I wrote it….well, I wrote it after reading it in a LoseIt Community group from another member. (Today’s show is not going to exclusively be about weight loss.)

I’ve mentioned this many times before (and I will continue to for as long as I run this show) but I am very active using the app LoseIt for weight loss. Actually, I am one of seven Ambassadors who work to help provide some guidance to the millions of members, and especially the newer members who may need a bit virtual hand-holding.

But not all guidance is from the Ambassadors. In fact, the amount of help we provide is trivial when compared to the hundreds—no thousands—of posts every day from experienced and successful member who only want to share their ideas and help others find success.

Theordora has been a LoseIt member since May 2015, and already she is an active and enthusiastic supporter of everyone around her. She is still actively working toward her weight loss goal, and so her words of wisdom are from the perspective of someone who still struggles day after day, and who victoriously emerges from the fight each day. Or…sometimes her victory isn’t as obvious, but she never quits and is always a positive influence.

“Don’t put in half the effort, unless you are okay with half the results!”

That applies to everything in life, not just weight loss. I mean, LoseIt is all about counting calories and finding a healthy weight, but for me, it is much more than that. LoseIt is a support system. It is a family of “virtual friends and neighbors” who are always ready to lend a helping hand, a few words of wisdom, or that gentle kick in the butt if needed.

I needed those words today, for a few reasons, none of which having to do with food.

My legs hurt today. Yesterday, I rode 120 miles to an incredibly exciting meeting for our school’s union (I am the local president). I am still not permitted to drive, so my vice-president drove me.) Two hours there. Seven hours sitting, trying to stay awake. Two hours driving home. I arrived home with legs as stiff as possible. And they are not much improved today.

And they hurt. Walking is painful. Sitting is painful. I realize it sounds like I’m whining—and maybe I am—but bear with me, I have a reason. I was feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t want to do anything but sit in my chair with my dog on my lap. I wanted to be at ease. I wanted to rest.


But how will sitting and resting help me fully recover from my knee replacements? (Answer: not at all!) I was acting like my students. They carry their books in their backpacks, but rarely open them, assuming that the knowledge will magically migrate from the printed page to their brains without any effort. Me? I’m hoping that if I rest enough, my strength and flexibility will return without the effort of exercises.

More specifically, without the pain of exercises. Pain hurts, you know?

Mmmmm. How do you think that will work? Tomorrow I see my physical therapist, Nick. He is going to measure my knee flexion. Resting is easier, but do you think that will give me much improvement?

No. All morning I was giving far less than 100%, yet knowing that tomorrow, I would be hoping for 105% improvement.

The same applies to this show. I’ll be honest (as if you don’t already know) but I am struggling with MYST. I still enjoy running a podcast. I enjoy the recording, and the transcribing, and the promoting.

But I am running low on enthusiasm. I’m running low on ideas. I want to have my show, but I am acting as if putting in 50% effort is enough for 100% performance. And we all know, that is not right.

What about you? Are you trying to write a book? If you are, you know that the words don’t magically appear. You need to sit down and write. And write. And then write some more. Is it fun? Probably not every day. (PT isn’t fun, but I still need to do it!) Choosing to walk instead of drive isn’t necessarily fun, and choosing to eat celery and peanut butter isn’t as desirable as a piece of cake, but that needs to be done if you want to change your weight.

The bottom line is this: if you want success, you need to do the work. There is no other way around it. Even if you fire someone to transcribe your notes, you still need to give your assistant the notes. If you don’t do the work, you won’t get the results.

Theodora is right. If you don’t put it 100%, don’t expect 100%. (I am going to use that line when I address my students at the beginning of the semester.) It might hurt. It might be difficult. It might not be what you really want to do right now.

But where do you want to be tomorrow? Our success tomorrow depends upon our decisions and actions today.


Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

MYST 84 Trevitorial: Diet or Exercise?

or photo-1422207175003-e5b7d45ceb7b  or Rainbow-Run-2014-018 Dave Maier


Which is it? Diet or Exercise?

When people hear that I once weighed 305 pounds (138kg) and was able to lose—and keep off—125 pounds (57Kg) I still get asked the same question:

“So? What’s your secret?”  As if there is a secret to successful weight loss!

I almost always get the same response to my reply: “Diet and exercise.” It is a little half-frown, a micro-step backwards, and then, “Ohhhhh.” As if that secret wasn’t good enough.

But that is it! Diet: in other words, eating the correct amount of calories and Exercise: moving more to burn more calories. Nothing else. But…there is more to it than that!

This show will focus on the three phases of weight loss, and how “diet and exercise” remains the foundation of successful weight loss even as how “D & E” habits become modified through each phase.

Nothing can stay the same and remain successful. Things always change, even how you lose weight.

And first, I want to thank one of my LoseIt friends, Mike Pfirrman. He posed a question in the LoseIt forum about this topic, and in crafting a response, I realized that I don’t think I’ve ever really addressed this specific topic. So, thank you, Mike! I hope that your question will eventually help many people, even beyond the world of LoseIt!

His question was “If weight loss happens in the kitchen, why am I reading than nine out of ten people who are formerly obese, regain all their weight over a 5 year period if they don’t exercise?”

His question actually addresses not “weight loss” but “weight maintenance”, which requires a different mindset. But I will get into that shortly.

The genesis of his question is that many people come to LoseIt as ask what exercises they need to perform in order to lose weight, and the stock answer is a variation on this: “Weight loss happens in the kitchen. Fitness happens in the gym. Focus on eating correctly, because you can’t out-exercise bad eating habits.”

And I stand by that answer. It is true. Mostly. In this show, I will dissect it more accurately, addressing each weight loss phase.

The first phase is “Early Loss.” Especially when a person has a lot of weight to lose (50 or more pounds) it is not uncommon that not only is the person overweight, but they are also under-active. And their lack of activity is partly due to low/no stamina, painful joints, shortness of breath or other weight-exacerbated conditions that already exist.

Could an overweight person focus on exercise only and lose weight? Certainly. Will they? Unlikely. If a person has been sedentary long enough combined with bad eating habits, becoming consistently active enough to promote significant weight loss is probably not a realistic goal. I will take myself as an example. When was 305 pounds, I struggled to slowly walk a quarter mile (400m) with my dog Ozzy. By the time I reached that point, I was short of breath to the point of being lightheaded. I had no stamina. Physically, I was all I could do to walk that short distance. If someone had told me, “Trevor, the only way to lose weight is to start a P90X routine” my response would have been, “Sure. Right after I eat this container of ice cream.”

No. In that “early loss” phase, we need to focus on something that is equally hard but within the realm of physical possibility. We need to focus on finding a correct diet. And by “diet”, I mean calorie budget. Personally, I do not subscribe to the idea that any one food, food group, or macronutrient is the source of all weight problems. I know that many people have strong beliefs about this. Some promote eating paleo, some promote low fat, some promote gluten free, some suggest no artificial sweeteners, some no processed carbs, some want meal replacement shakes, and so many others.

That isn’t me. I believe that total calories is the problem, and to fix that problem you need to change your total calories consumed. So, with that in mind, and with the help of LoseIt, I found a calorie budget that worked for me. I learned to eat the correct portions (oh, yes, “portion control” is a major component) by weighing and measuring my foods. I logged everything I ate, because how else do you really know what you’ve eaten. And I ate my budget.

And in the first phase of my losing, that worked. I started losing weight and at the same time, I started making portion control and logging a daily habit. I made it part of my routine life. I made it a new habit, a good habit. All because I was focusing on only one thing, day after day.

After the losses had progressed for a few months, I moved into “Continued Loss” phase. I had dropped from 305 to under 275 in about 3 months. It was a nice steady progression and I was about 20% towards my goal. But during that time, I still needed to walk my dog every day. I didn’t do anything special related to exercise. I just walked my dog, but by the time I reached this point, I had started walking longer distances. I was walking up to a mile, sometimes twice a day.

At this point in the weight loss journey, physical activity started to become easier. I started walking more, sometimes even without Ozzy. My losses continued to accumulate. My calorie budget would slowly drop with each logged loss (about 8 calories per pound) but I was still eating the full budget and still losing weight at a fast pace (around 2 pounds a week—I was still 95 pounds from my goal.) But it is during the “Continued Loss” phase that exercise first needs to be addressed.

Remember, as you lose weight, you need fewer calories for survival, which means your budget will drop. Oh, not much at first, but over those first three months, my daily budget had dropped by about 320 calories! That will continue to work for a while, but eventually, especially when you are close to goal, that “budget only” loss plan will give you a budget that is so low as to be unsustainable and unhealthy. The only way losses will continue is by increasing activity.

During the “Continued Loss” phase, you need to gradually increase your activity. This can be simply walking longer and longer distances (as I did) or adding different activities (bicycles, swimming, weight lifting, etc.) You still need to follow your budget, but these new activities will give your losses a bit of a boost because you are now burning even more calories. And when you are close to the goal, you will need to eat those exercise calories because your base budget might be nearing that “too low” zone (below your Basal Metabolic Rate).

Okay, so in “Early Loss”—the first 20-25%, you focus on changing your eating habits, and very slowly add gentle activities.

“Continued Loss” phase keeps the budget focus but brings more exercises to the plan, enhancing your losses and at the same time, building stamina, strength and physical confidence.

The last phase is what Mike was talking about. “Maintenance” is a different aspect of weight loss, and is where most people stumble and fail. If you have solely been using calorie restriction for weight loss, by the time you are at a normal BMI, your calorie budget will be low. Very low. Again, possibly at that unsustainable level. And to continue living on such a restricted budget–continue for the rest of your life, which is how long maintenance lasts—you will probably become one of those “nine of ten” that Mike mentioned.

But if you had successfully made the transition from primarily focusing on your budget to keeping to your budget while increasing your physical activity, you will probably be that one of ten. You will have discovered that sweet spot between activity and budget and when you find that, you are on the smooth ride for success.

That is what I was able to do. Through my losing phases, I increased my activity, which remained almost exclusively walking, to the point where walking 7 miles was nothing. One day (May 10, 2012) I walked over 42000 steps with a 44 pound (20Kg) backpack. That was 18.5 miles (29.6Km), in only 6.5 hours. Yes, I was tired, but not exhausted. I walked 18.5 miles when a year earlier, I couldn’t walk ¼ mile.

My maintenance continued successfully because I kept walking. When I was on the job at the hospital, I added 50-70 flights of stairs a day, to add to my activity. I still ate my budget, and logged all my foods, but now the focus was more on activity (because the food aspect had become a good habit.)

Oh, you noticed I said “my maintenance continued successfully…” using the past tense? Yes, that is correct. My maintenance period ended, and it ended for the same reason Mike’s “nine out of ten” failed. My activity came to a grinding halt. About a year ago, my knees failed to the point where walking any distance was incredibly painful. I was back to that ¼ mile limit, not because I was short of breath, but because my knees, both “bone on bone” would feel like small blast furnaces had been implanted under my knee caps. I could still—had to—walk at the clinical sites, but no stairs, ever. And I only tolerated the walking because I had a cane, strong anti-inflammatories during the day, and strong narcotic pain killers for after work.

And the weight came back. At my peak loss, I was down to 175, and for about 2 years I fluctuated between 175 and 185, which I considered my success zone. And then in the summer of 2014, that ended, and the weight began adding up. I’m now at 205, twenty pounds over the upper border of my success zone. All because I couldn’t drop my budget low enough, and enhanced by the fact that my walking was negligible.

Now that I am fully one month after knee replacements, I foresee a return to my success zone again. It will take until March or April 2016, but I will get back. I now know how to get there, and know what it takes to stay there.

If you are in any of the three phases of weight management, I hope these ideas are helpful. Leave a message in the show notes or use my Speakpipe message system to leave me a 90 second voice mail!

Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

MYST 83 Trevitorial: Educated or Experienced?

Where was I? Did I abandon you?

In my last show, I promised that you’d get another episode in the following week, and that while you were listening to it, I’d be in the hospital recovering from my bilateral total knee replacements.

Obviously, that didn’t happen. And the reason it didn’t work are actually a good lesson that I needed to learn. Maybe you will be able to learn from it, too.

This episode will be about my surgery, and I will go into a fair amount of detail, partly to explain why I was absent, and partly to remind myself of exactly what I went through.

In my room, immediately after surgery.
In my room, immediately after surgery.

I made a mistake. Yes, I know. Shocker, but I’m not perfect.

See, I’m a registered nurse with 19 years of experience. I teach at a local college, and I have groups of clinical students at a local hospital every semester. Knee replacements are a common procedure that we see. Consequently, I am familiar with their treatment course. I have been unofficially working with a physical therapist who gave me a number of exercises to speed my progress and I actually did practice those prior to surgery.

I’m also a guy, and as such, I can be blinded by my ego and assumptions. I know how all those patients do after their knee surgeries, and since I am only 51 and in generally good health, not only will I naturally recover faster, but my knowledge of what to expect will give me an added edge. That will allow me to quickly advance through the inpatient recovery period with maximum functionality. I’ll probably be the one patient who is ambulating up and down the halls all day, just exercising my legs and preparing for discharge. And I know how to stay on top of the pain, yet not use too much pain medicine that could fog my brain a little.

Um. Do you have the sense of some foreshadowing in that paragraph? Do you see possibly where my plans might fall apart?

It all started before the surgery, which was Wednesday, May 20 at 7:15am. In anticipation of my convalescence period, I spent the preceding weeks doing as many household tasks as possible, because I knew that I would be very limited for a few weeks. And as the surgery approached, I realized that I didn’t have time to record an episode for Thursday, May 21. With everything I needed to accomplish, I needed to complete items that had a higher priority than the MYST episode. (As much as I need all of you, and appreciate your listenership, I live with my wife and her needs must be met first.)

But that’s okay. I had a plan, and I thought it a pretty good one indeed! My surgery was early in the morning on Wednesday. I knew that I wouldn’t be doing any physical therapy that first day, so my only activity will be resting and keeping up with pain control. I’d be out of surgery by noon, and in my room by 1pm. A few hours napping off the anesthetic, and then I’d be relatively awake and alert. As evening rolled around, my wife would go home (she had to teach the next day) so I’d be alone in my room. A room with wifi. And so in addition to my computer, I also brought my portable microphone, because I was going to record a show “on the road”! Yes, I would record a show from my hospital bed, and get it loaded and ready to publish for all my awesome listeners.

Plan #1: Record on the night of surgery for an interesting point of view. Dead on Arrival.

About the only part of that plan to be accurate was “my wife would go home”. I was never fully awake and alert. I think I have good pain control. I know I was getting pills every 4 hours, and occasional IV morphine (probably relates to me not being awake and alert.)

But I had other issues that night.

For surgery, I chose to have a spinal block. That is where the anesthesiologist injects the anesthetic into my spinal canal, and that deadens everything from about the navel down to the toes. I chose that because it actually provides about 2-6 hours of relief after the surgery, allowing he long acting anesthetic that my surgeon injects into my knees to begin working. I also wanted to avoid a general anesthesia (breathing tube, gas) because there is more nausea and vomiting from that, and that just isn’t fun.

So I went into the surgical suite and the doc injected my spine and I laid down waiting for it to work. Eventually, everything went numb, much like when the dentist numbs your teeth before drilling. You know, he/she will inject some novacaine in just the right spots so you feel almost nothing, just those little bits of pain once in a while. Right?

The surgeon start checking my body parts. I couldn’t feel anything. So he started the first incision. And I can tell you that he begins the incision above my right knee moving down, because I felt that! The anesthesiologist said, “Whoa, we don’t allow you to feel anything!” and he knocked me out hard.

So late that afternoon, I am trying to work off both anesthetics. Very slowly. I wasn’t clear of the after-effect, but I was certainly losing the numbing effects. I got a thirsty (I love ice chips.) Got a little hungry (mmm, orange jello.) Oh, yippee! Passing gas! These are all signs that everything is waking up. And at this point, I was still thinking “Maybe I can still record tonight.” I even stood at the bedside, for about a minute before I almost fainted.

Except one organ refused to wake from its slumber. I won’t go into too many details, but after surgery, a patient needs to prove that they have good kidney function. And they have 8 hours to meet that challenge.

And I failed. And I begged for a one hour extension and was granted it. I pounded water like it was a forbidden food.

And I still failed. And so, I experienced another lesson: straight cath. Yes, where the catheter is inserted into the bladder to drain it. Now, over my 19 years, I’ve done this many times, and each time I told the patient, that this will be uncomfortable but over quickly.

Oh. My. God. What a lie!!!!

I have never had such pain in my life! Now, the good thing is once it reaches the bladder, the pain is instantly gone. Until it is removed. But I will never gain use the words “little uncomfortable” again. Never!

And of course, the eight hour time limit starts all over.  Kept chugging water, and discovered that when you need to use the bathroom, a call light is never answered fast enough. However, my urinal was in reach and, well, let’s just say, I passed that test with flying colors.

By now it is nearing midnight. And I realize that there is no way on earth I was recording anything tonight. I decided to take that off my to-do list and replace it with one thought: “Survive until morning.”

Wednesday arrived and I was feeling pretty good. I had received meds every four hours, and that was working. The lab tech came in and drew some blood. I ate breakfast. Hmm. Maybe I can record today. It will be a day late, but still…

And then physical therapy showed up. And after a few exercises, I was wringing from sweat and fell asleep. Missed my scheduled pain pills. Lunch, with a few walks to the bathroom, and another PT session. More almost uncontrolled slumber. Dinner. Got pain pills, forgot to ask for the IV anti-inflammatory. Walked in the hall after supper, about 200 feet. Felt good, like I accomplished something.

Fell asleep. Until 1am. And the realization that I hadn’t received two doses of the anti-inflammatory (which is only given if I request it) and one missed pain pill schedule put me way behind the pain curve. I was in horrible pain. More pills, IV anti-inflammatory medication, and IV morphine finally brought it under control. Big lesson: take charge of yourself. If you don’t speak up and ask for something, no one will know you need it.

But that pretty much set the tone for the remaining days in the hospital. PT, pain pills, sleep. Over and over. I don’t remember big chunks of my time there. I do remember the times the pain was bad. But mostly, I was always tired.

And there was a good reason for that feeling of tiredness. I donate platelets through the American Red Cross. And for each donation, they always check my hemoglobin level, or the amount of oxygen-carrying iron in my red blood cells. I am always on the high end of normal 15-16g. I found out later on Thursday that when my CBC was checked, my hemoglobin was 9.9! That is way anemic! Now, it was to be expected after having two knees replaced but that explained why I was so exhausted while in the hospital and continue to this day. I’m doing what I can to help it. I am taking iron pills, and eating meals of liver (good thing I like liver) but it will still take a while for my body to replace all those red blood cells. So my profound tiredness will continue for a while.

Plan #2: Record as soon as I get home, because I’ll get back to normal quickly.

Well, that plan was doomed to failure for a few reasons. First, I really had a hard time getting a good level of pain control. It’s hard to focus on anything—creative or passive—when everything hurts. Not the sharp, stabbing pain of the initial incision or catheter placement, but the dull, deep throbbing ache that never went away. I would move from icing my knees, to elevating my legs to reduce the swelling (which was considerable), to gentle walking, to trying to sleep, to taking maximum amounts of pain pills, trying to find a pattern that would give some relief.

And I was still exhausted. Getting cleaned up, dressed and walking to the living room was tiring. When physical therapy started, I was a dripping puddle of sweat, looking for a place to sleep.

And I could not think of anything to talk about. I had no motivational spark inside me.  I thought it was gone. It was like when they opened my knees, something more than blood leaked out. I was just here. I couldn’t imagine beyond myself.

Oh, speaking of blood leaking out, a couple days after leaving the hospital, my legs started to display incredible bruises. From hip to ankle, inside and out, I as bruised. Big, ugly red-black bruises. (Ah, that explains some of my low hemoglobin!) If you go to the show notes at you will see some of the pictures. The bruises didn’t hurt, but they were scary-looking!

This was 1 weeks after surgery
This was 1 weeks after surgery
Even my ankles were bruised
Even my ankles were bruised
My first post-op check. I really wanted to peel that off!
My first post-op check. I really wanted to peel that off!

I wrote this script on Wednesday, June 10, exactly 21 days since surgery. That was the first day where I feel as though I can concentrate on something like this. And I still don’t know what to write about, but maybe this will be entertaining and informative enough for you.

This entire experience has been a major growth opportunity. While I really wish that I had never needed the surgery, part of me is glad because now I have a better understanding of my patients, and how they feel about things that seem so minor—to the nurses—but to the patient are very important.

An example was in my first room on the fourth floor, I had an over-bed table and a night stand. And I kept my computer on the nightstand, and other items like my water, and some snacks, on the over-bed table. Both tables were within easy reach. (I wasn’t able to record on my computer, but I was alert enough to put in a movie and watch it, at least for a little while until I fell asleep.) One night, the nurse was “organizing” and she move the nightstand out of my reach. Well, in addition to my computer, that is also where I kept my glasses and my phone and when I woke up in the middle of the night, nothing was where it was supposed to be. It was frustrating. And all because the nurse wanted the room more “organized.” This will help teach my students that patients have such little control over their situation, making arbitrary changes to their room is a bad thing.

On day three, I was moved to the eighth floor, because they were closing the fourth floor due to low census. Okay, that was fine. Except the staff forgot my shaving kit. And they forgot to bring my elevated toilet seat (such a wonderful invention!) I actually had to ask three different people before finally someone brought it up for me. Frustrating. Also on the eighth floor, I had an arrangement with my nurses that I wanted my pain pills every four hours, and they were to wake me if I was sleeping (which I never was—I generally only slept two to three hours at a time while in the hospital.) So, that Friday night, they were due at 9pm.  A half hour or so early, I called the nurse, reminding her that my pain was climbing and that I wanted them as scheduled. She agreed and said she would be in my room at 9pm. Except that when she finally arrived, it turned out to be 9:30. “Oh, I got tied up with another nurse, and it slipped my mind.” Pain control is important. And when you commit to providing a service—pain pills, or anything else—you need to honor that commitment. She didn’t. That bothered me.

So what have I learned?

Even when a person is educated—maybe especially when—that is not the same as experienced.

Education can act as a hindrance to positive performance.

Making plans off of assumptions based on education and not experience is a very bad idea.

And when you make a promise, no one really cares what the excuse is when you don’t meet your obligation.

How does this apply to you?

Let’s say you want to start your own podcast. And you decide to use my mentor’s course (Meron Bareket’s Podcast Starter Kit.) You sign up, watch all the videos, do all the prep work, and everything is running smoothly. You are now educated in podcasting.

But you won’t know what podcasting really is until you record your first shows, submit to iTunes and start getting reviews. That is when you start becoming experienced. (And that form of education never ends.)

As of today, June 12, 2015, things are looking good.
As of today, June 12, 2015, things are looking good. Yes, those are eight inch (20cm) incisions

Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

MYST 82 Trevitorial: How to Fail Faster and Easier

Six Essential Techniques to Guarantee Failure at Anything You Attempt!

Success? Sure, we all want success. Or at least we think we do. But so many people seem afraid of success that they self-sabotage their plans, which inevitably brings about the failure that so consumed their lives with worry.

If you are going to worry about failing, and think only how bad it will feel to not achieve your goals, I guess we need to make sure that you are able to achieve your absolute and abject failure as quickly and painlessly as possible. That way you will have more time to worry about your next doomed plan.

I’ll steal from David Letterman, counting backward from the least likely to bring catastrophic failure to the one that is sure to end your plans, but unlike Mr. Letterman, I was able to refine my list to the top six essential techniques.

Number 6 Set a Goal which is Too Aggressive or Based on Fantasy

People who embark on a weight loss journey often want to reach their goal as fast as possible, so they vow to eat only 500 calories a day until they lose their 150 pounds. Or they announce “I will only eat foods that begin with the letter X Y or Z.” Or “I will only eat food that is orange.” That will not work. Trying to lose that aggressively will give you rapid losses—for a few days—and then your feelings of starvation will creep up and urge you to “have just one piece of bread” and soon all your previously controlled dietary needs will crash upon you and you will regain everything that you lost, and then a few more pounds. And you will say to yourself: “See? I know it wouldn’t work.”

Maybe you have a physical goal: I will walk the Appalachian Trail, but I will be the first person to walk the entire 2160 miles backwards so that I can become famous! You’ll be famous. In your own mind, because before you get to the first camp shelter you will have fallen, hit your head on a rock and hopefully knocked some sense into you.  Or your Appalachian Trail goal could be a little more realistic: Hike the entire length but setting a new speed record (hiking it in less than 46 ½ days. Is that doable? Maybe. But I’ll explain more in…

Number 5 Skip the Legwork

So you want to hike the AT fast? If you don’t practice, hiking in all conditions, in all terrains, and have huge mental, physical and emotional stamina, you won’t succeed. You will burn out and fail. And you will realize that everyone who said “It can’t be done” was right all along.

Legwork is all the preparation needed for any endeavor. If you want to start a podcast, you should listen to many different shows for examples of what works and what doesn’t. Then find someone to help you learn the secrets. (Meron Bareket was my teacher with his Podcast Starter Kit.) Can you do it on whim, and completely alone. Yes, certainly. And iTunes has hundreds or thousands of shows where the creator made a couple shows and then quit. They worked themselves into failure.

If you want to lose weight, you actually need literal leg work—get off your butt and move! You can count all the calories you want, and eat all the gluten-free, GMO-free, fat-free food you want, but if you are not burning more calories than you eat—because you are moving more than you used to move—you will do nothing but fail at weight loss.

If your goal is to become CEO of your company and you currently work in the mail room, you need a plan on how to move up. It won’t just happen because you carry the mail to someone in a corner office. You can read all the self-help books you can find, you can combine The Secret with Think and Grow Rich and How to Win Friends and Influence People, but if you don’t actually implement any of those strategies, you might as well have simply continued to read your Spiderman comic books. (Maybe a magic spider will bite you and transform you!)

No, without a plan followed by action, you will certainly succeed in finding fast failure. This is very similar to…

Number 4 No Skin in the Game

Part of planning and preparing usually requires a buy-in. A commitment. You may need to take some classes to learn needed skills, which is a commitment of time and effort. And you still have no guarantee of succeeding even if you graduate at the top of your class!

If you want to create podcast, you will need some basic tools and while some are free, some have one time or recurring fees. A website host may want payment for twelve or more months up front. And you still need to build a website. Can you do that on your own? Maybe, if you have the skill to create a good website. But you may need to hire someone to do it for you.

Maybe your goal is to fund your retirement by winning the lottery. You need to buy the ticket first, and you know that almost certainly, you will not win. That money will be gone. Forever.

But you need to have emotional skin in the game, too. You need to be mentally ready for the project, and be prepared for the inevitable assault of negative thinking from friends, relatives, coworkers and yourself. When you make a commitment, you need to tell people about it so that you have some external accountability. And that can be risky and intimidating. I mean, what if you fail? Then that person, or those people, will know that you failed. That will crush you, right?

But you know the old saying “No pain, no gain?” It’s true. Having skin in the game increases your chances of success, but also shows you exactly how much you have to lose when that failure happens.  And when will that failure happen?

Number 3 Never Set a Deadline

This is a really powerful idea. You should give it a try.

Create a goal. Make some plans. But very carefully never commit yourself to a deadline. See, when you do that, you avoid absolute and definitive failure because you can always tell your accountability partners that you are “working on it.” And as long as you are still working on it, there is still a chance—however slim—that you will finish as planned.

Deadlines increase the pressure for you. That pressure can be destructive. We are all trying to have a less complicated life, trying to reduce our stress. Why purposely add self-imposed stress in the form of an artificial deadline? It seems to be counter-productive because we all know that focus and creativity stem from an inner calm, right?

And besides, if the project is based on your idea and goals, it should not matter if you reach your goal in a week or a year or a decade. It is all under your control. When you reach the finish line should not matter. Finishing is more important than meeting an artificial deadline, so why worry about it? It will happen when it happens.

Of course, the much greater likelihood is that without the stress that is induced by a deadline, you will stop working on your project and will never achieve the desired outcome. But that’s okay, with this technique you can still have a crushing defeat and still save face. You are “working on it.” But you could also…

Number 2 Let Someone Else Define Your Success

This is when you let someone—anyone—tell you what success looks like. Maybe you let magazines tell you what success should look like. You compare your body shape to that of the models in those magazines on sale at the grocery store checkouts (because we all know those photos are never photoshopped.) See? Now you know exactly how you must look to be successful in weight loss. Or you can go to your local gym and compare your outrageously absent washboard abs with that guy working on those free weights. You know, that guy who looks like he could bench press your car? Yes. He is showing you what you need to do to be successful.

When you sign up for a marathon, you can research to find the record times posted in the past. You can see who is running in the elite pack. You know that they will set the definition of success. And not only set it, but set it with an objective measurement: time!

If you are starting a blog or podcast, site visits and downloads are the measurement of success. Make sure you know who the leaders in your niche are, and how many people are on their email list and of course, make sure you know their monthly income. Those are objective data points that will help you know when you are successful, because if they can do it, everyone can, right?

When you let other people define your success, you are making it easy to move down the path to failure. So grab those magazines! Look at those models! And get working (but don’t set a deadline).

Or you could…

Number 1 Don’t Even Start

This is by far the easiest technique to guarantee not reaching your life’s goals, and making your dreams into your reality. It is the easiest and most efficient step to take to making your life so much simpler.

Just ignore your dreams. Live the life you have. It is easier. Safer. You will not lose anything. There is no risk. You will not lose face in front of family and friends. You will not miss any deadlines.

If you do not try, you cannot lose! It is the perfect “no lose” situation, and if you really want to make your life simpler and less stressful, just keep everything the way it is. Make “Living the Status Quo Life” your life’s motto.

You can achieve total failure before you even start. Now THAT is being efficient!

There we have it. My six essential techniques that you can immediately use, in every part of your life, to help you maximize the speed of your failure, thus giving you more time to try something else.


Of course, if you want to avoid failure, simply do the opposite!


Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

MYST 81 Trevitorial: Starting Over

Starting over. When we were kids, we’d call it a “do-over”. Golfers sometimes use the phrase “a mulligan.” In any case, they amount to the same thing: what came before does not count. What happens next is all that matters.

Putt   Photo by via

How many times do we truly start over? Oh, if you are trying to lose weight, it is common to succeed for a while, then regain all that weight and begin losing weight again. Or if you are creating a project, you might decide in the middle that everything is wrong and start a new project. Those are types of “do-overs.”

But when was the last time you made a major change to your life?

I bring this up because I my wife and I decided it was time to make a change. To start over. And we can’t wait! And maybe this will help you decide it is time to change, too.

Let me give you the backstory. We’ve been married for over 29 years, and will celebrate our 30th anniversary this September. We’ve only ever lived in Wisconsin for our entire marriage (and that won’t change) but have lived in four different—and very distinct—towns, with a total of nine different addresses. We’ve lived in Green Bay for most of our marriage, since 1991. We started renting a single bedroom apartment, then a 2 bedroom duplex. We bought our first home in 1993, our second in 2001, and our current home in 2006. Each home was bigger than the last. Our current home has 2700 feet of living area, plus 750 ft of storage space in the basement, plus a three and a half car garage for storage.

And for each home, we gathered more “things”. Holiday decorations. Furniture. Tools. Appliances. Books. Household do-dads and widgets. That basement storage area of about 750 sq ft (about 70 sq meters) and it is full, floor to ceiling with “stuff”. Oh, it is very well-organized, in labeled boxes, but it is full.

As is the rented storage unit (300 sq ft, or 28 sq m). Our garage is full of furniture and equipment filling one and half stalls. Just writing that makes me queasy with all that. My life is full of “stuff”. That isn’t an accomplishment, it is more of a sign of a cluttered mind.

That is the backstory.

The rest of the story is that my wife and I want to move. We want to find “the perfect home”, and we realize that may mean building it. And it may mean buying a new home before we can sell our current home (which can be expensive if the home doesn’t sell) because the type of home we want is popular and tend to sell fast!

We’ve been looking at homes. So far, none have been satisfactory.

Last night, we did something different. We looked at an apartment. It is a one bedroom place, with a small den. It has 1000 sq ft (93sq m), no basement, and only a single stall garage (plus outdoor parking.)

It is small, but very nicely designed. It is part of a large complex of buildings, with over 200 apartments in total.

And we loved it.

We have already completed our applications, and are hoping for an August 1 move in date.

That is scary!

We are going to pare our lives down to a basic level, a level that we have not experienced since our first apartment in 1985 after we married.

We need to sell—or give away—lots of stuff. And to be honest, writing that gives me a feeling of apprehension combined with a giddy sense of freedom!

We are going to truly downsize! That means giving up many activities that were time-consuming, but not all were bad. I will not need to mow or fertilize the lawn, but those were actually relaxing activities. No vegetable gardens, other than what I can grow in containers. No more shoveling the snow, or running my brand new snow blower, purchased last December and used for a total of five snowfalls last winter. That will be nice! But it also means giving up a large part of my home brewing hobby. I will not be able to bring my four keg kegerator, and since I don’t like bottling beer, I might just quit brewing beer.

We are going to reduce our belongings down to a bedroom set, a few pieces in the living room, a small dining room set and a desk in the den for school work and this podcast. The den will also become the library for all of our books.

We will need to keep our storage locker, because it contains many vintage items that are destined to fill our “perfect home”, but in the new apartment, it will be sparse—in comparison to our current home.

What is the purpose of this story?

My wife and I have almost 30 years’ worth of belongings. We have 30 years of life habits, collecting, buying, showing and storing things. And we are selling or giving almost all of it away. We are going back to the way we lived as newlyweds. Just the two of us, in our apartment (but now we have Ozzy our pug.)

Ozzy, our Pug
Ozzy, our Pug

But more than the physical act of purging belongings, this is a mental paradigm shift and THAT is what I want you to take from this. We are looking at life completely differently. We are changing our definition of satisfaction. We are taking strong and definite steps to reduce items and workload from our lives. Instead of spending hours every week simply doing routine cleaning, and many more hours doing simple yard work, we will have that time together to work toward our future.

When was the last time you changed your entire life’s viewpoint?

When was the last time you decided to change your life in a way that others can see?

I know my friends Meron Bareket and Julie Sheranosher did exactly that a few years ago. (I featured their stories when I interviewed them in episode three and fourteen. (You can find those episodes at MYST/Meron and MYST/Julie.) They moved to a different country, while are merely moving across town, but the concept is the same. Strip down to what you need. Just that. And then find out what you can do with all the extra physical and mental space you find.

What can you get rid of? What are you doing, every day, or every week, that is doing nothing but stealing time and energy—and money—from you? What would you be able to do with those hours?

We all only have twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week. That is it. How we spend those hours are under our control. I’ve decided that mowing the lawn simply does not add enough benefit to balance the time I spend doing it.

Making a change like this is not easy. As excited as we are right now, when we actually begin the process of eliminating almost everything, the excitement will be replaced by other feelings. Possibly feelings of loss, possibly sadness, possibly fear of what the future will bring.

If you let those feelings control you, you will never become the person you are destined to be.

Take action. Now. Not Someday.


Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

MYST 80 Trevitorial: Reap What You Sow!

Baseball    Photo by Tyler Thomas, via

“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”  Yogi Berra (Major League Baseball catcher, manager and coach)

All of life, not just baseball, fits that quote. Successes and failures are mostly the result of our thoughts; our actions are the remainder of the cause. If you go into the classroom thinking “I hope I get at least a 60% on this test”, your mind is shooting for 60% as a goal, and you should not be surprised if you don’t get much more than that. Our mind controls our abilities.

Let’s consider a few ways that our mind controls our body. If you play darts, and you need a bull’s eye to win, do you think “I hope I don’t miss the board!” or do you think “I am going to hit a bull’s eye”? When you play a round of golf, you approach the tee with your driver in hand, and address the ball. Do you think “Oh, please, I hope I don’t look up and hook it” or do you think “Straight and true, 300 yards, no problem”? When you shoot a rifle, you look down the sights, but you don’t focus on the sights. You focus on the target. With both eyes open. And you focus on as small of a target as possible. “Aim small, hit small.”

Have you ever needed to write a speech? And you find that you have nothing. No ideas. You look into the creative well of your mind, and when you drop a pebble, all you hear is it hit a rock bottom? What is your first thought? If you think, “Wow, I don’t know what to say, I got nothing!” you will probably stay that way. For a long time.

Writer’s block stems from the idea, no the unconscious belief, that you have no ideas. Your mind, as powerful as it is, will make sure your belief is realized.

But instead, if you sit down with a note pad or laptop and just start jotting down thoughts, ideas, simple random neuron impulses, pretty soon you have a page full of things. Useful? Maybe. Maybe not. But you no longer have “nothing.” And maybe a word pops up and makes you think of another word.

Our mind controls our body. Do you know why you hit your thumb when driving a nail with a hammer? (And if you have ever driven a nail, you have hit your thumb!) You hit your thumb because as you swing the hammer, you briefly look at your thumb to make sure “you don’t hit it.” And what happens? You hit it, because in that instant you looked at your thumb, your brain said “New target acquired and locked in!” (This thought is frequently immediately followed by “Direct hit—dammit!”)

I used to be a bartender, and one of the most important lessons I learned was when you carry a drink that is full to the rim, never look at it while walking. You will spill it. But if you look at your customer as you walk, your focus will not be “don’t spill” but rather “deliver to customer, receive good tip.”

When you want to reach a goal, you need to focus on your goal. Make “achieving your goal” the focus.  How many of your watch (or play) football? Living here in Green Bay, Wisconsin, we are required to occasionally reference football. Often I will watch a game and one team will be dominating the other and by the last 5 minutes they might have a 14 point lead. To win, all they need to do is prevent the other team from scoring two touchdowns and a final 2-point conversion. The leading team goes into the…dreaded “Prevent Defense.” Yes. Their focus changes from scoring and beating the other team to “not losing their lead.” In the “Prevent Defense”, the team is willing to allow short to moderate gains but spreads their defenders out to contain against the long passes.

And what happens almost invariably? The other team quickly scores a touchdown, and starts a come-from-behind victory. Why? The leading team was more worried about not losing than they were about winning. Meanwhile the underdog team was even more focused on scoring because they had such limited time left in which to win. The leading team changed to a negative focus, a focus based on fear of failure, at the same time their opponent increased their drive and intensity for victory.

To bring that idea back to our weight management goal, I am telling you to focus on reaching your goals, not on what you will do if you fail to succeed. If you are always thinking, “I just don’t want to gain any weight this week” you probably will gain. Your mind is focusing on the verb in that thought (gain) and will tell your body what it needs to do to fulfill that verb’s meaning. Instead, if you continually think “I will continue to lose weight” your mind will key in on the verb (lose).

This isn’t magical thinking. You still need to eat the correct amount of food and move more. But it sets a subtle message to all parts of your body, keeping everyone on the same path because you won’t be sending mixed messages.

What are some other ways your mind can strengthen your resolve? When you lose enough weight that you can no longer wear your current wardrobe, buy new clothes (ideally at your local thrift store) and immediately donate your old clothes. Purge your closet! Don’t keep anything back. If it doesn’t fit—and fit well—it doesn’t stay. Keeping an outfit (“just in case”) is the same as the football “Prevent Defense” and you have subtly changed your focus from continued losses to “…but in case I regain…” and on what verb will your mind grab?  Regain.

Maybe you have an open bag of potato chips. “I hope I don’t eat any of those chips”. What is the action verb? Eat. What happens a little while later? You find yourself bag in hand, happily munching chips. The simple key step there is to not have the chips in your house. If you must have chips, then buy a bunch of single serving bags. Yes, they are much more expensive that way, but if you mindlessly grab a bag, you at least are limited to eating one serving. Hopefully you will regain control by the end of one bag.

You CAN do this. It IS within your control. It is ALL in how you think.


Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

MYST 79 Trevitorial: I Have No Willpower!


“I want a donut! I have no willpower!”

When was the last time you thought that? Maybe you have even shouted it, as you reach for a second donut at the office, or into that bag of dark chocolate covered almonds for the second—third?—time that evening?

We all want more willpower. But what is it?

Willpower is the ability to force yourself to do things that you really do not want to do. You are using the force of your mind to override what your emotions, habits, environment and peers want you to do.

Willpower is strong. Willpower will help you accomplish tasks that are unpleasant, or difficult, or contrary to your personal preferences. Willpower will help you reach deadlines. Willpower will make you look like a superman!

And you can run out of willpower.

Why? It is so frustrating. You would think that the closer to your end goal, and the longer your chain of successes, the easier it will be to power through to the end. But how many of you pick a goal, make a lot of progress and then stumble, fall, and never get up?

It happens. It is happening to me, right now. Last week we talked about being stuck, and how to un-mire ourselves. That isn’t my problems right now. Nope, right now, I am running out of willpower. I simply don’t want to keep fighting the weight battle. And it’s more than that, I don’t want to keep doing anything.

What happened to me? I’m Coach T! I help everyone find more success…and yet I’m telling you that my only desire is to plant my butt in my recliner and watch Game of Thrones.

What’s wrong with this picture?

According to Baumeister and Tierny (2012) in their book “Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength” willpower is not supplied infinitely. The more you use your mind to override your habits and preferences, the less you have and the harder it is to keep “powering on.” When you are on a weight loss journey, you are required to make constant decisions using willpower. Every day, for the entire journey, you need to make the same decision. Eat or not eat? Even if you pack a lunch (as I do) there will always be temptations around. Maybe someone brings a box of donuts to the office. Maybe you smell popcorn when you go to the gas station to pay for tank of gas. It might be the sight of pizza, or burgers, or chicken, in a television commercial.

Maybe your goal is to write a book. You have been working on this for months. You average 1000 words a day. When you sit down at your computer, you want to write a day’s worth of words….but you notice those dirty dishes. Or you check your email. Or you watch a dozen cute kitten videos on YouTube. You don’t plan to procrastinate the day away, but your ability to override your curiosity (or bad habits) is not strong enough.

Many things can happen to derail you off your planned path. Let’s look at some of the more common causes.

  • Are you bored?
  • Are you depressed?
  • Are you under stress (outside of this goal?)
  • Are you ill or injured?
  • Now that you are making progress, did you decide that the goal is not worth the effort?

Let’s look at the first three, because they are connected. Boredom, depression, and stress are all emotional responses to our current situation. How we address each is based on the source of that feeling.

Boredom might signify that your goal is not challenging enough. If your goal is weight loss, and you find yourself bored, you might need to make a change. Maybe you can change your menu for a while. Try a vegetarian—or vegan—diet for a month or two. Maybe you need to find a new cookbook, a new regional cuisine and make three new recipes a week. Maybe you divert from weight loss as your primary goal and switch to a fitness goal. (You can train for a half marathon, or a century bicycle ride.) Maybe simply adding a new activity, like swimming or yoga will be enough to give you a new appreciation for this goal.

Depression is powerful but can come on very subtly. Find a trusted confidante and talk about it. Maybe when you verbalize your feelings to someone, you can start to face the problem. I’m not talking necessarily seeing a counselor, but a good friend can sometimes be just enough of a listening ear. Sometime (at least for me) I find that when I talk to my wife about my problems, solutions seem to suddenly become more obvious. That does not guarantee improved results, but it does sometimes open my eyes to new possibilities.

External stress is tough. Maybe it’s the job, or the family. Maybe you are overcommitted to local groups and people. We all have only 24 hours in a day, and getting up earlier isn’t always the solution. Maybe you need to reduce obligations, and set boundaries. I try to never look at email after 7pm every evening. I have yet to read an email that arrives in the evening that could not have waited until the morning. And sometimes those late night emails only serve to add to our baseline stress. Set limits. And carve out time for yourself and your family. You—and they—need that as much and more likely more than your employer.

Illness and injury play a major role in this, and in looking at my situation, I think that is a major part of my problem. My knees are shot. I am less than 4 weeks from planned bilateral total knee replacement surgery. They hurt. All the time. From the time I awaken, to the moment I fall asleep. I can take narcotic painkillers to reduce the pain but it never goes away. That constant physical and mental stressor saps a lot of internal strength. When I get place in a position where I need to make a good decision, sometimes I just don’t.

It’s not that I don’t know the right decision. It’s that the amount of mental and emotional energy needed to make that decision is just beyond my capacity right now. And believe me, that lack of decision-making frustrates me more than you would believe!

What if you no longer want your goal? That happens. For a while, I had the beginning of a business plan for a brewpub (brewery and restaurant.) I had a floor plan sketched out, a menu, and beer recipes all planned out. I had a few buildings in mind. I only lacked the funds, and I knew several business bankers that might have been in a position to help me.

And then I started thinking about the long term. Yes, I love cooking, and I love brewing beer. Without being over-egotistical, I am good at both. But did I really want to commit myself to that job, day after day? Did I want to put myself in a position where my ability to improvise, to create meals and beers using new ingredients, making changes every time to find something a little better, is stifled because the restaurant and brewery demand consistency?

Did I want to buy a job? Because until—and if—that business became successful, I would be committed to working every aspect of it. Every day. Without vacation.

Was my love of cooking and brewing strong enough to overcome those challenges?

The answer was “no.” And when I finally came to that realization, I immediately had more enjoyment when cooking and brewing, because now I was doing it for the love of it, not because I was preparing for the business of it.

My goal had changed. It was not sudden, but after more than six years of tinkering with the plan, my excitement waned. And I am lucky! Can you imagine if my excitement had lasted long enough to start the business, only to find the monotony of consistency killing my joy?

It is possible that your willpower has dissipated because you subconsciously realize you no longer believe your goal is work the effort. And if that is the case, don’t fret about it. We all change over time. Just try to find another goal worthy of your efforts.

Okay. Now we know common reasons for our willpower to weaken. That’s great. But what are we going to do about it?

Willpower is used when two or more choices are given to you, and usually one of the choices has a greater immediate appeal (the taste of that double scoop of ice cream) over the alternative (go home and eat a yogurt or an apple.) That makes sense because if the “correct” choice was also the preferred choice, you would not need willpower, right?

Since decisions frequently integrate willpower, how can we reduce our total decisions in a day? We can plan and automate our life to reduce choice overload. In other words, we stop putting ourselves in positions where we need to decide.

Going back to the “Willpower” book, the authors suggest that reducing the number of choices we make will allow us to make better decisions. The best way of reducing decisions is to make them when our willpower tank is still full. Decide in advance!

I like to plan my meals in advance. Using my LoseIt app, I can log all my foods one or more days in advance. In doing so, I do not need to think about what I want to eat, I simply look at what I have already logged. Many times that is enough to keep me on the right path, but not always. I will admit it: sometimes I make choices that are not in my long term best interests.

So I enhance that pre-deciding by working together with my wife, so that we have both decided on daily menus. That way, if one of us seems to be slipping, we can help reinforce our decision. Working on lifelong goals is easier if you are not alone.

Something else we do together is grocery shopping. Oh, usually I am the one who actually walks the stores and buys the foods, but after we plan out meals for the next 7-10 days, we create a very specific shopping list. I buy only what we need to make the foods we want to eat. That way, my only decisions are which brand of each item I will buy. (And frequently, I use another question by using “which item has the lowest sodium content” as my deciding factor.)

When we have our meals planning in advance, and I only buy the foods I need, that greatly limits my options, and removes some of the mealtime decisions.

I talk about “5 Secret Tricks” of weight loss where I go into greater detail on how to plan ahead for weight loss success in my episode at MYST/5Tricks

Okay, so you know all about planning ahead. But still, even I fall victim to poor choices. So what else can we do?

Another great book by Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” (2014) where the author talks about how habits can cause problems, but we can also use our ability to create habits for positive results. A habit is nothing more than a response to a stimulus, repeated often enough that we can take that act without thinking.

How many of you drive a manual transmission car? I remember learning, and it was painful. At first. I shifted too early, or too late. I let the clutch out too fast, or too slow. I was terrible.

Until I had driven for a while. After a few weeks (maybe not even that long) I had learned how to shift based on the sound of the engine without thinking. I learned that in 1985. I hadn’t driven a stick shift since 1998, but I recently borrowed a friend’s car and drove it with hesitation. Habits don’t go away easily.

What about the habit of distractions? When you are trying to write your book, but see nothing but everything else that you need to do? How can we break that habit? Well, with a combination of planning and habit creation.

Let’s say you work at home. Make a new habit. Before you even turn your computer on, or open your legal pad, you make a circuit through the house. Any small task that you can complete in less than 5 minutes (for any given task) do it immediately. That may mean taking care of the dishes, or folding a basket of laundry, or making the beds. Whatever the tasks, they are small but distracting. Create your new habit:

  • Stimulus: Plan to write
  • Action: Take care of small distractors
  • Response: Sit down and complete your writing assignment

But when you are clearing those small tasks, you will certainly find things that need to be completed that will take longer than five minutes. That is when you implement the “Decide in Advance” model and create a schedule.  For example, maybe you pre-decide that after a five page minimum, as soon as you seem to hit a sticking point that is when you will take the dog for a 20-30 minute walk. By leaving the trigger open ended, you are not creating an arbitrary time to walk your dog. It could be that after five pages you discover that you found a very smooth rhythm. Stopping because of an arbitrary time signal could ruin the flow of thoughts. But by setting a minimum threshold, you guarantee some productivity before you take your first major pre-planned distraction. (And going for a 20-30 minute walk may be exactly what you need to recharge your creative center.)

After the walk (or whatever your task was) return to your previous assignment, and again, stop when you have reached a stagnant spot after hitting that minimum trigger level, and go on another pre-planned task.

This creates the habit of clearing the simple distractions, and building in escape route when your creativity dissipates.

What about eating habits? You will need to find an acceptable alternative to your trigger foods, and using the pre-decision model, you will either buy your foods in small single serving portions or you will repackage them after you bring them home. Yes, that will either cost more in money or time, but you will benefit in the long run. One of my triggers is potato chips. I can’t leave an open bag alone. An open bag will rapidly become an empty bag. So I only buy chips in single serving sized bags. When I find that I need chips (which is rare, as long as the bag is sealed) I can go outside (to the storage shelves in the garage) and bring in the one bag that is on the shelf. I can get my “chip fix” but it is self-limited.

Actually, that habit is also from Brian Wansink’s “Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solution for Everyday Life” (2014) because it requires that I not walk to the kitchen, but out to the garage and that extra walk is usually enough to let me reconsider my actions.

When my wife and I drive somewhere (and the drive is more than an hour in duration) we always pack a travel bag of healthy snacks. We created that habit because otherwise we would stop for gas or coffee and end up buying the immediately available foods (which are rarely good choices).  We drive from Green Bay Wisconsin, to Boston Massachusetts, to Maine, Ontario and home one summer. We covered more than 3200 miles, and we always had our snack bag in our car. We were able to maintain good control because we A) pre-decided our snacks and B) created the habit of packing our snacks.

We all need to make good decisions, every day. But if we use a little planning, we will be able to make fewer decisions especially later in the day when our willpower well is almost empty. And when we plan ahead, we can circumvent our old habits and lay down a new habit pathway.


Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

MYST 78 Listener Question: I’m Stuck!

We’ve all had it happen to us. We have a goal. It might be to lose 50 pounds, write a book, or start a podcast. We are full of energy, excitement and make steady–sometimes spectacular–progress.

And then suddenly, we get stuck!

No matter what we do, we are unable to move toward our goal. We might eve lose some of the successes that we created.

In the world of weight loss, that is called a “plateau”. Authors call it “writer’s block.” It’s real. It can be devastating and demoralizing.

And it happens to everyone.

Since it will happen to everyone at some point, we need to have a plan in place to deal with it, even to use it to help us rise to greater successes.

One of our Varsity Squad members, (and another LoseIt user, like me) Theresa, sent me an email asking for advice and help. Her question is directly related to her weight loss journey,  but my answer will apply to everyone who has been working long and hard toward an important goal.


Take a breath.

Let your mind and body wander. Try to find some way of destressing. Go for a walk on the beach. Plant some flowers. Take your dog for a walk. Go bowling.

Photo by Benjamin Faust via StockSnap

Let your mind and body recharge, re-energize your motivation battery, and then return to your journey, renewed and ready to tackle the challenges ahead.


As mentioned in this episode, LoseIt is my (as well as Varsity Squad members Theresa, Charles, Lace and Dan) recommended weight loss method. Get Lose It! Premium because it works.
Get Lose It!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

MYST 77 Trevitorial: Breaking Your Comfort Zone

I’ve never been on a mission trip of any sort. Here I am leading 10 nursing students to Hagley Gap, St. Thomas Parish, Jamaica on a service learning experience where we walked the hills–mountains–and provided cares to villagers unable to walk to the clinic. I averaged 7 miles a day (16-20K steps) and since my Fitbit records elevation changes, I also know that I climbed the equivalent of 150-200 flights of stairs a day. On my bad knees.

Bathing in the river (mountain rivers are very chilly) every afternoon helped my knees!

This trip was through the Blue Mountain Project, based here in Wisconsin. Please check out their site, and if possible, help them if you can. They are a very small non-profit organization, and as in all such groups, always need more funding, volunteers and supplies. Serving as a volunteer with BMP can be as short as one week and has reasonable fees ($99/night) and will likely change your perspective as much as it changed mine. I cannot wait to return.

My wife and I plan to return in the summer 2016, after my knees fully heal. I cannot believe how much this trip changed me. When was the last time you challenged yourself and broke through your comfort zone?

Arrival in Kingston, with my two students Michelle and Mandy
Michelle, Me and Mandy, Arrival In Kingston
Me, at the River
One Room Schoolhouse with Dividers
One Room Schoolhouse
How To Peel Sugar Cane
How To Peel Sugar Cane
Another Home
A local home
Children Need to Share Pencils
Students in this school must share pencils
Me and A Local Rastafarian
A Local Rastafarian and Me
Mandy Interviews Mr. Alphonse
Mandy Interviews Mr. Alphonse
Pea Soup with a Chicken Foot
Pea Soup with a Chicken Foot
One of the Local Children
A Local Child and his Coconut
Potato, Dumpling, Broad Beans, and Cow Skin
Potato, Dumpling, Broad Beans, and Cow Skin
Some of the Homes
Homes Across the River
Goats Were Everywhere
Photo Bombed By a Goat
Hibiscus, Blue Mountain Background
Hibiscus, Blue Mountain Background

I really recommend that you use an activity tracker to give you an accurate measurement of your daily activity.  You’re just steps away from better fitness.  Try Fitbit now.Fitbit One

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

MYST 76 Trevitorial: What’s Stopping You?

This is just a short episode today.

While you are listening to this, I am working in a small village, up the Blue Mountain in Jamaica. The village is Hagley Gap, and I am one the leader who are with 11 health care students and together we are continuing the work of the Blue Mountain Project.

I hope to record and upload video journals of my experiences while in the village. If I cannot upload them from the clinic, I will upload them upon returning to the United States.

When I return, I will also add photos to the post.

You will find the videos on my YouTube Channel.

Thanks for listening and come back next week for a regular length episode!