Hacking & Reading: 6 Tips to Start Reading More Starting Today

“What is the last book you read?”

Can you answer this question?  If not, why not?  If so, what is it?

If the answer to this question is a Shakespearean play that was forced down your throat in high school, this article is for you.

Typically, I average AT LEAST a book per week.  AT LEAST.  Here are a few helpful tips to aid you in your journey of reading more starting today:

 1.  Commitment

A sure fire way to read more this week than you did last week?  Read.  Actually read.  Common sense is not always common practice.  Go to a brick and mortar or Amazon and purchase a book.  For all you Amazon Prime lovers, invest in a recycle unit.  Mother Nature thanks you, and you will need one.

2.  Infidelity

It is 100% okay and legal (I just verified) to cheat on your cellular device with a spine-bound book.  You already read a novel’s worth a week worth of status updates from people you despise and do not like.  Social media is engineered, ENGINEERED, for your attention.  What you value is a derivative of what earns your attention.  Mindlessly sharing an article, political belief adds little to no value and robbed you of your greatest resource – time.

3.  Consistency

Carve out a period of time each day for you and your book.  5 minutes.  10 minutes.  15 minutes.  Meditation and mindful practice is all the rage these days.  I can not begin to describe the value of losing myself in a book for a few moments.  5 minutes later, I was centered.  I highly recommend reading first thing in the morning as part of a routine.  Step 1 – Get out of bed.  Step 2 – Make coffee.  Step 3 – Read for (insert time).

4.  Ambiance

Once I am ready to read and mellow out to a current read, I set the mood.  Noise cancelling headphones playing white noise is a strong recommendation.  Particularly the composers Hans Zimmer (I listened to the ‘Inception’ soundtrack while writing the herniated disc blog post) or Brian Eno.  If Brian Eno’s work is good enough for airports to mellow out frantic passengers, it’s good enough for you as you take a few minutes and read.

5.  Move On

Be prepared to move on from a book that is not working for you like you would any other relationship.  Does the author’s tone, delivery, or diction not resonate with you?  F*ck it.  Move on.

A friend recently did not enjoy a read and was powering and laboring through a read.  I recommended he move on since he understood the author’s thesis and another 100 plus pages of case studies was not going to deepen his understanding.  So, he moved on.

He moved on to a book that immediately resonated with him and one in which he strongly recommended to a group of his peers.  Moral of the story:  you’re not married to a book.  Understand the concepts and move on to the next one.

6.  Listen

Always have an audio book in the queue for your commute or low intensity steady state cardio.  Personally, I subscribe to Audible, and listen to at least one new book each month.  February, I made it through 3 in 10% less days (that whole 28 versus 31 days thing).  Playback at 1.5x.  You’ll easily turn a 10 hour book into 6 hours and 40 minutes – 3 hours and 20 minutes of saved time listening.  If you can not listen to 1.5x playback I would offer that you are not fully invested and all-in.  Go all-in.

Read.  Read some more.

Let me know what you’re currently reading!

 

 

 

 

 

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Think Like an Engineer

How do you know if you are on the right path? Is there content in your actions, is your current situation a means to an end? Are you able to equate your life to a great purpose?  I asked myself these questions all the time, and always struggled to answer them.  My story is a quest for purpose to find answers to why, just like an annoying kid that keeps asking why and won’t let it go.

I need to know why, I need to ask the question, “Does this make sense? Does this work?”  I have a hard time with bureaucracy, the layers and layers of road blocks and administrative actions that create ten times more work for the executor, than the actual action itself.  I need things to make sense, I try to rationalize all things in life (Disclaimer: does not always work well in relationships) and extract the all the details then complete the task.

During four deployments to the Middle East, there were plenty of tasks to accomplish to get the mission done, I was fortunate enough to have a lot of control and authority over my division.  Some things were done by the book – many were not.  I wrestled with the question, was it ok to fail due to bureaucratic red tape, or could I do something to accomplish the mission?  More often than not, the answer is you can always do something, it requires you to take action and it is not always pretty. I was surprised that working with people in the military that are content with not doing their job, kicking the stone down the road and neglect their responsibilities.  I could not tolerate this type of behavior, or be around people that were mentally prepared to fail.  So I asked myself, “Does this make sense? Does this work?”  These were the questions that guided my transition out of the military.  The system no longer made sense to me, and I could not subject myself to that self-torment any longer.

With the decision to start a new life and forgo the security of a paycheck was easier than I thought, but I needed to find purpose outside of the military and went searching.  This landed me at a job fair with Fortune 500 companies and some of the best graduate school programs in the world, and needless to say, after a panic attack, I did not find purpose working for someone else’s vision.  So this left me with the challenge to create my own purpose and own “why.” After much soul searching and many self-help books about finding purpose, I concluded my core principles are that I like building things and solving problems.  With my “why” clarified, I could now answer the more mundane questions of “what” and “how.”  I landed on coffee because how multifaceted and intricate the whole process is, from farm to cup, it is a very dynamic and problem infested business that would allow me to build connections and bridges all over the world while solve complex systems. Boom! Nailed it!  The details and roadmap are still being written, but the hardest part has been answered, and I can now free to live with purpose.

This process is not always clear, with many smoke screens and muddy waters ahead.  The best advice I can offer is to just ask yourself the questions above, and think like an engineer, “Does this make sense? Does this work?”  The answer might not be as clear as you would hope.  Job security, money, mortgage and marriage are all very real and complicated issues that have to be addressed, and I guarantee you will continue with your current path while the pain and discomfort are minimal.  For us humans, it normally takes a large pain point to clarify our purpose, and in efforts to avoid that, I urge you to ask yourself the tough questions now, so the universe does not have to for you.  Discover your passion, and fight to live with purpose, it is why we are all here.  When our time is up, the number of integers in your bank account will not define you, it will be erased from history, but your impact in this world, that legacy is worth living for.

2 Herniated Discs: 5 Lessons a Year Later

“Fuck.  This sucks.”

A year later, I can recall saying this like it was yesterday.

Alone.  Naked with a bathroom towel around my waist.  Shaving cream on my face.

As I laid on my bedroom floor, breathing heavier and heavier, I knew something was wrong – more importantly, something was not right.  Shooting and excruciating pain resonated down my left leg.  Pain – originating in my lower back spread like wildfire down my left glute, hamstring, and calf – made EVERYTHING impossible.

Sitting in a chair?  Nope.  Walking?  Nope.  Standing in front of a mirror in order to shave?  Nope

Well, everything with the exception of laying in bed and watching ‘The Office’  (Michael Scott, what a guy).

This was day number 3 of these symptoms and I knew I had to seek medical treatment.  Once I decided to go to the hospital, it became a logistical nightmare.  Getting dressed.  Putting on my shoes.  Oh, and I had to remove the shaving cream, too.  The worst part of getting myself to the hospital?  My vehicle is a 6-speed manual transmission.  Now, I consider myself a spiritual man, but without question, I saw Jesus and Buddha each and every time I shifted gears.  Traffic lights that were red, that is when I saw the Devil.  I may have made it 3 miles before I stopped my car, and lowered the seat long enough to allow the spasming muscles to calm long enough so I could make it to the hospital.

Once at the hospital, my vitals were taken and I was ushered back to the Emergency Room.  “On a Scale of 1 – 10, how is your pain, Sir?”  Naturally, what is this relative to so I ask, “10 – what’s an example of a 10?”  Nurse, “Giving childbirth.”  Despite the endless pain I still mustered a bit of wit, “Based on my vast experience of childbirth – it’s an 11…[the nurse didn’t look happy]…but seriously, an 8.”

The nurse would have the last laugh as she had me stand and perform several poses (it felt like a god damn yoga routine) for x-rays.  After wanting to collapse on the floor like a sandbag, the Dr. came in to give me his analysis.  “Mr. Jones, it appears that you may have herniated a disc,”  [no shit]  “and I will go ahead a prescribe you some painkillers and you’ll need to follow up with your primary care provider.”

The days and weeks that followed, it took me nearly a month to ‘feel’ remotely better.  I rapidly lost weight due to a combination of the narcotics and the pain.  Once the pain subsided, stomach ulcers formed due to the medication and lack of food in my digestive tract.  Win-win.

How did you hurt your back?

Simply put, there is no one true causal factor.  The only people who injure their backs in one secular event are ones involved in a traumatic accident.  For me, a collection of factors compounded the symptoms from a ‘tweak’ to herniated discs.  In no particular order, these include:

  • Golf (asymmetric loading at its finest, i.e., Tiger Woods),
  • Running (years later, I now understand why one leg hurt more than the other),
  • EXTENDED hours of sitting at a computer desk,
  • Minor Back ‘tweak’,
  • Stress,
  • Weight gain (can’t train [what is life?] + can’t move+ stress = might as well eat),
  • Weightlifting form (once you’re on a slope of shitty movement patterns, adding weight is not advised to said shitty movement patterns).

One particular afternoon, 365 pounds squat for a set of 5 sent a shooting pain down my back.  I knew something was wrong.  At the time in my training, I was avoiding the deadlift because of symptomatic sciatica in my left leg.  Huge mistake.  Instead of strengthening my back, I avoided it.

The above bullet points were the dynamite and the lighting of the fuse occurred when I bent over to pick up a barbell with a flexed, unbraced spine and then – boom.  Herniation of the L5/S1 disc.  Herniation of the L4/L5 disc.  Basically, a pair of jelly donuts leaked their contents and this jelly placed pressure on nerves that triggered pain.  A lot of pain.  But damn, I do love me some donuts.

What have I learned?

Well, it has been a year since I was in the hospital for the back injury.  Here are 5 things herniating a couple of discs in my back have taught me:

1.   Recovery (without surgery) is an on-going process.

I had to deconstruct the whole model – everything.  Once pain symptoms were removed from the injury, the real work began to deconstruct the casual factors that made the discs herniate originally.  I’ll tell you what will not correct postural alignment – creating a bench press that far exceeds what your body can structurally squat or deadlift.  Benching 290 lbs for 3 sets of 5 reps is cool and all but not when you cannot bend over and pick up 135 lbs without shooting pain.

2.  Hinge, squat, flexion, and extension – oh my!

I will not forget the first time I put my spine in slight extension in order to maintain a ‘neutral’ spine for single arm barbell rows [hey, have to start somewhere] – my SI joint popped into place.  In the last 6 months, I can not begin to tell you how much my body has adjusted and realigned stemming from postural issues since 2015.

The very movements commonly believed that are ‘bad’ for your back are the exact movements required to make your back better.  Squat.  Deadlift.  Progressive, incremental loading.  Sandbag movements.  Lower back tight?  Take a 120 lbs. sandbag for a walk.  I GUARANTEE your back will thank you.

Quick test – bend over and touch your toes.  Can’t do it?  Fix yourself.  Another test – sit in the bottom of a squat for 10 minutes.  Can’t do it?  Fix yourself.

3.  The best kind of fitness is one in which you remain consistent.

If you discuss fitness, a sensitive topic for many which serve as an extension of their identity.  CrossFit.  Powerlifting.  Strongman.  Bodybuilding.  MMA.  BJJ.  Yoga.  Running.  Triathlon.  Pilates.

Ultimately, who. fucking. cares.  Live a healthy life.  If your vitals and blood work comes back a hot mess, something is wrong – you are not fit regardless of the medium of fitness in which you choose to practice.

The one that works for you is one that you implement and remain consistent with each day and improve upon each day, too.

Hypertrophy gains in order to bring out your delts?  Fuck yeah – do you.

Another fahve pounds for 3 sets of fahve on your linear progression?  Fuck yeah – do you.

Editor’s Note:  The sole ‘fuck no’ is reserved for those who sell Ponzi schemed juices and cleansers – you’re the absolute worst.

4.  The ghost of yesterday haunts you for as long as you choose.

I once competed in an NPC Men’s Physique Show.  I once ran 26.2 miles.  After the injury, I looked more like the Michelin Man [an anterior pelvic tilt does wonders for your abs] and I could barely walk from my car to work.

I was defeated.  Defeated by the comparision of who I was in that moment against who I was in years prior.  During the rehabilitation process of physically deconstructing everything, I too had to deconstruct the expectations I placed upon myself.

The greater the expectation, the greater I grew unsatisfied with the day’s small win.  I ran 1.0 mile today – still slow as fuck.  I deadlifted 225 lbs pain free – still weak as fuck.  This iterative loop played over.  And over.  And over.

Of all places, the loop stopped while at a yoga class.  Standing half naked in black, Nike shorts with my Michelin Man physique – I stared myself in the mirror.  And then I chuckled and smiled.  I could do a hot yoga pose before with minimal effort, but now, I was all over the damn place.  All I could do was just laugh.  At that moment, I accepted who and what I became and ultimately where I was at on that day.  Yoga is a practice in which you, your mind, and body serve as a vessel for your interpretation of that pose on that given day.  My vessel resembled a tugboat on that day but damn it, it was a glorious tugboat at that, too.

5.  I am not dead.

Read that again.  I am not dead.  Fitness hurts.  A lot.  I ‘feel’ like I could hurt myself again.  Well, so be it.  More people get hurt by inactivity than actual activity.  And the time to get stronger, bigger, and faster is now.  As you read this, I hope you eliminate any and all excuse as to why you did not get to the gym.

The only thing worse than being unable to physically go to the gym is mentally choosing not to go when you’re physically able.

And so, in that vein, today, you’ll find me at the gym squatting, benching, and doing a couple of 800m sprints.

 

2017 Manifesto: Domination.

My 6-speed transmission in life has been stuck in neutral for quite some time.  Sometimes, it felt like we hit reverse but oh well.  More importantly, How can you drop the hammer and hit the floor the accelerator unless you have an idea or clue where you’re going?  I propose you could in an aimless direction and ‘enjoy the journey.’

Well, ‘forget the journey.’  ‘Enjoying the journey’ is a one way destination towards mediocrity and average.  Two words which are my kryptonite.  If I’m average, it’s time to re-evaluate life.  Well, we’ve re-evaluated life and now I know where I am headed.

One word:  domination.  Total domination.  We’re talking levels of:

  • Germany dominating Poland in 1939,
  • The United States (and friends) dominating Iraq in the Persian Gulf War in 1991,
  • The 1927 New York Yankees,
  • The 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls,
  • Microsoft with the Windows operating system, and
  • Apple with the iPod.

Dominate [dom-uh-neyt] verb:  to rule over, govern, or control.

What is it that I intend on dominating?  The domains in which I chose to enter.  The arenas in which I step into and take battle.  We’re not talking Theodore Roosevelt’s cold and timid souls that know neither victory or defeat.  We’re talking stepping into the fucking arena like Gladiator, slaying the competition (eat a dick Commodus), and then triumphantly asking to a degenerate crowd, “Are you not entertained?”

This is what I will dominate:

When you think of the word ‘leadership’ your first thought will be:  Patrick Jones.

When you think of a ‘Naval Officer’ your first thought will be:  Patrick Jones.

When you think of ‘Information Warfare’ your first thought will be:  Patrick Jones.

When you think of ‘Information Professional’ your first thought will be:  Patrick Jones.

Not second.  Not third.  Not Top 10.  Your first fucking thought.

Now, you may find yourself asking, “Self, who is Patrick Jones to believe such thoughts?”

Well, I am glad you asked and here’s two answers:

1.)  Who am I NOT to think such thoughts?

2.) Who the fuck are you to tell me that I am not capable?

3.)  Why don’t you believe the same for yourself?

In my life I have been told I embody traits such as arrogance, cockiness, narcissism, and intense.

To everyone who has told me such things:

Thank you.  You are right.

In an effort to become more ‘humble,’ I have realized I wear it like a $5 cologne from the drug store.  Smells like shit.  Doesn’t work.  Pass me another fragrance of ‘arrogance’ and I’ll wear it like Acqua di Gio.  Hell, I even attempted to become more humble to ‘silence’ my ‘haters.’  What a fucking mistake.  Haters – I don’t know how many I had but damn I need more of them.  Hashtags of #patjones #patjonesing #coachpat exist so why attempt to stop and why not add more?

People who are ‘your friends’ are the absolute fucking worst and serve nothing more than to project their own insecurities onto you and to what you stand.  Haters only concern themselves with gossip and using their creative outlet to figure out what is going on in other’s lives.  There is about a group of 15-20 people TOTAL in my life (family and my band of brothers) who I genuinely care about what is going on in their lives.  Outside of that, I could care less.

Side note:  If you haven’t managed to piss someone off within the course of the day, then what did you stand for – the middle ground?  Being a ‘Yes’ man?  Cool story, bro.  You’ll always have a place in the work force because you comprise (at least) 80% of it.

Too often a humble brag is used in order to sheepishly convey accolades or accomplishment.  Team #blessed or ‘I’m so humbled to blah blah blah’  Fuck that.  Everything is earned.  Life certainly does have a way of humbling you with a swift kick to the dick and a serving of humble pie.  Only you can choose if you continue to feast on yesterday’s meal (the humble pie) or if you’re hungry for your next.  So do these things:

  1. Swallow the humble pie,
  2. Pay compliments to the chef, and
  3. Crush some steak at your next meal (if you’re vegan, crush some kale?  Gowen help me out here.)

You decide how long you savor the humble pie – no one else.

Where are we going with all of this as I crush some decaffeinated coffee at Starbucks on a Friday night?  A few highlights:

  • That life, as we know, is not about following passion.
    • If you choose to ‘follow your passion’ then Godspeed.  You’re better served locating the north star and heading in that direction in order to locate Santa Claus, his reindeer, and his slave workforce (aka his elves).
    • Kudos to you and your nobility of finding your passion.
    • Get really fucking good at something.  Become successful with it.  Then become passionate about that success.  And repeat.
  • Be You.
    • Ruffle feathers.
    • Piss someone off.
    • Love everyone.
    • Stand for something.
  • Stop posting about politics on Facebook.
    • No one cares.
    • There’s enough of that shit.
    • Endlessly sharing unoriginal content says more about you than it does the shared post.
  • Ponzi schemes are everywhere.
    • I will not join your fasting-cleanse diet.
    • I will not join your 10 member workout group to get sweaty.
    • #fitfam is the fucking worst family since The Waltons.
  • Detox from social media.
    • The NewsFeed will aimlessly consume you.
    • Most people are not that interesting (see endless shares).
    • Read a book.  Seriously, titans of industry – do you think they aimlessly consume shitty information that is DIRECTLY targeted for your consumption?  Facebook spends millions to engineer your addiction – congrats.
    • ‘Staying in contact’ is a bullshit excuse to not call someone.
  • And finally, I will dominate 2017.  Stay tuned.

Props to Grant Cardone’s ‘The 10x Rule’ for fueling this manifesto on a Friday evening – after back squatting, eating 2 pop-tarts, and benching – this came out.

Goodnight.

Love,

Patrick