Failure and Pushing the Envelope of Success

College proved to be a journey I could have never imagined prior to experiencing it. Following all the troubles and abuse I faced in high school, my initial plan for college was to get in and get out as fast as possible in an effort to start medical school in another city or state away from my tumultuous family. I figured I could power through four years of college and handle any difficulties as they unfolded; little did I know that this was a dangerous plan as being a premed student requires much preparation, research, and a fortitude knowing that the next few years will get progressively difficult. In short, I had none of those, yet life was set to provide me with an experience geared to teach me valuables lessons, most importantly on failure in relation to success.

My junior year of college was when everything around me came crashing down…time finally caught up. In that year alone, my GPA fell from nearly a 3.6 to nearly a 3.1, my family life was terrible, and I went through a rough break up. Looking back, it was one of the most miserable years of my life. I was mentally and emotionally worn out from the years prior as well as the ridiculous amount of work I was putting in at the time. My time, energy, and focus were dangerously stretched across multiple activities, work, and many classes. To make matters worse, I took quite possibly the two most important classes a premed can take that year, both with less than stellar results. I even had to retake one three times.

The remainder of my college career was spent on salvaging what I had left of my GPA. I scrambled in my last three semesters as I packed on as many upper level science courses in an effort to prove that I could handle difficult course work, shutting everything out except for school. It was extremely daunting and at one point I called my best friend telling him I was ready to quit. But I pushed on and as fate would have it, I managed to raise my GPA and successfully complete all the classes I took and I walked away from my senior year exhausted yet proud.

Looking back, life presented me with countless opportunities to give up in college, especially in the last few years. My junior year was one checkered by numerous failures and defeats, milestones which accommodated setting everything down and quitting. I say milestones because failure, as I have learned, is not an end point but rather a check point along the often times rough road to success. When viewed in a grand scope, success comes in spurts, an amalgam of small victories over the course of time. We’ve all heard of stories where people fail, fail, fail over many years to finally overcome one obstacle to launch them to stardom. It took Tom Brady years to be noticed and respected and now he’s arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history. It took Michael Jordan 7 years to win a championship in which every year he lost to the same team, and he is the most prolific basketball player the world has ever seen. It’s easy to view such failures as just that, circumstances of defeat. Conversely, they pose as small successes on our journey to achievement.

When you strive for success, pour your heart, soul, body, and mind into achieving your goal, you’re pushing your limits to their extremes. And anyone and anything pushed to the extremes is bound to fold at some point. For humans, this is failure. It’s impossible to give it your all, 100%, and not falter along the way, to develop a few chinks in the armor. However I challenge you to view these bends and cracks not as defeats, but rather as feedback from the journey you’re on, blemishes from when life hit you hard, without permanent damage. If you’re truly giving it your all, failure is merely an indicator that you’re pushing your limits. The only way to know where your limits end and to subsequently broaden them is to strive at maximum towards your goals. When I went through my junior year of college, I remember countless times where I knew I was in despair, as if time had slowed down and all the effort I was putting in was getting me nowhere. Looking back however, I realized the fact that I kept pushing and kept adapting in spite of failure broadened my limits and my threshold for discipline and tenacity.

The road to greatness and achievement may seem daunting at times, sometimes it may even feel like you’re not progressing at all. Yet failure and success go hand in hand; it’s difficult to strive at your maximum limits without failing along the way. Its these failures that remind us that we are pushing the envelope of success, and amidst all the pain and despair that failure can bring it is important to remember that in the grand scope of attainment, it brings us closer rather than farther to what we want to accomplish.

The Top 5 Things I Learned from Being in the Pickup Community

My teenage years were anything but normal. I was subject to traumatizing verbal abuse throughout high school and watched as my family crumbled within the span of a decade. This did a number on my confidence. In short, I had none. On top of that I came to believe I was unattractive and unworthy of being loved. You can imagine how this affected my interactions with women; at first I was clueless when it came to talking to girls, then I became fearful when I realized it, and eventually I saw every “failed” attempt as an affirmation of my already worthless self-image.

Something kicked in during my later years of high school and I finally decided to learn how to communicate with women…from “professionals”. The internet was quick to introduce me to the world of the Pickup Artist, or PUA for short. With the help of dating gurus, online seminars and forums, ebooks, and dozens of articles, I’d submerge myself for the next several years into the depths of the dating world. In the end, my perspective had completely changed and I had come away with valuable lessons I had never anticipated, ironically most not having to do with women at all. Here are the top 5 things I learned from being in the Pickup Community.

1.) All I Ever Wanted Was a Girlfriend

When I first began my journey in the Pickup/Dating world, I thought I’d be the happiest man if I only could get a girl’s number, so I made this my primary goal. I learned several nearly bullet-proof techniques of getting a girls number within the first few minutes of meeting her. I got so good at getting numbers, I lost count of how many I was getting. I had one problem though, none of the girls would call me back. My goals then evolved into getting first dates, then second, then making out and getting physical, etc. You can see where I’m going with this. However, none of this was fulfilling. Scoring numbers and dates with random women, public make outs, and meaningless one night stands truly didn’t appeal to me, if anything I was quite repulsed by them. The process was trying to tell me something though: I just simply wanted a girlfriend. One girl that I could share my love, time, and life experiences with, someone to be exclusively committed to long term… and I’m still the same way today. Other people might see things differently, it’s easy to get lost in the carelessness and frivolity of no-strings-attached relationships and the many games of the dating world, and in no way am I saying those people are wrong for indulging in them, but I’d still take a committed girlfriend any day.

2.) You Can’t “Fake it Till You Make It”

One of the things I heard PUA’s across the board say was “fake it till you make it.” I can successfully say this does NOT work, at least it didn’t for me. Suffering through all the abuse I went through as a teenager left me with zero confidence and self-concept. So I did what was recommended and I attempted to fake my way through the world…and boy did I fake everything. I’d assume the persona of movie characters , charismatic actors, dating gurus; I changed my hair style multiple times to suit the generated images I had in my mind, my interactions with others were how I perceived those people would act. It was all a facade to hide the chaos going on inside me and people saw right through it, especially women. No matter how hard I tried not to be me, that was all others could see. The fact of the matter is, who you are at your core will always shine through at some point in time. Confidence arises from embracing that core and no amount of faking anything will get you very far with other people…except for maybe attracting the wrong kind of people into your life.

3.) It’s What’s Inside That Counts

The most profound part of being involved in the PUA world was being introduced to the concept of “inner game.” This is what dating gurus use to describe what’s within a man that allows him to attract others; his core values and belief systems about himself and the world around him. Little did I know it then, but it was this aspect of the dating world that I needed to grasp the most, one that is applicable to everyone’s life. No amount of skills, pickup lines, clothing, etc. was going to grant me success with women if I didn’t have a deep love, respect, and belief in myself. All of the techniques I learned on the outside, the fancy one liners, the sure fire tactics to “score” a woman’s number all proved to be fruitless as I was virtually empty and struggling with myself on the inside. This is how it is in all areas of life however; we cannot hope to attract what we want unless we are at first full from within. We cannot hope to be loved if we are devoid of love and we cannot hope to be charismatic and confident if we are not enamored with who we are on the inside.

4.) Authenticity and Integrity are Most Important

You hear women say it all the time, “just be yourself.” There is a lot of truth to that simple cliché but men as a whole seem to have forsaken it all together, for many reasons. Many a man has “been himself” and expressed his true love and feelings to a girl only to be shot down and rejected. Now, being honest with your feelings is very important, however many men express their emotions and operate with women coming from the place of desperation and insecurity. They feel a need to make their emotions outright because they feel deep down that they are inadequate and perhaps if a girl knew how they truly felt about her, maybe she’d be more open to accepting them. Yet being true to yourself means believing a woman will be attracted to you for who you are and not jeopardizing your values and self-worth to try to win her over by smothering her with needy compliments and pickup lines. Being authentic and having integrity means being whole on the inside and recognizing that who you truly are is enough for others to love and accept.

5.) Just Go For It

Looking back, every interaction I ever had with women, whether it lasted one minute or one year, whether it ended up in heartbreak or a relationship, I am truly thankful for. Every one taught me about myself, what I liked and didn’t like, my tolerances in others, and my standards for relationships with people. Most importantly, it taught me courage. The pain of rejection is temporary, at least for me, yet the rush of adrenaline and the feeling of accomplishment when you muster the courage to approach a girl and ask her out is truly a great reward and sets you apart from all the guys who fail to act when they see an attractive woman. So go for it; you might get rudely shot down, you might get a polite yet flattered “no thanks”, or you might just end up with the next girl who’ll be your girlfriend, but the courage and confidence it took to approach her is something you can apply rewardingly throughout your life.

There is No Spoon

There Is No Spoon: On Life, Reality, and Authenticity

There is a famous scene in The Matrix movie where Neo visits a group of the Oracle’s disciples after speaking with her for the first time. Much to his surprise, these students turn out to be children performing remarkable feats, one notably bending a spoon simply by looking at it. The child gives Neo the spoon and tells him to try, yet Neo isn’t able to. The child replies: “Do not try and bend the spoon, that is impossible. Instead realize the truth…there is no spoon. Then you will see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.” Neo goes on to bend the spoon within seconds thereafter, but the powerful message behind this scene sometimes takes people a significant amount of time to fully grasp. While it can be easy to understand that we ourselves need to change and adapt to the world around us,  we often tend to forget the other half of the equation: that there is no spoon.

So what does the spoon represent? How can this powerful message be applied to our lives? The spoon is analogous to reality, the world around us. Barring nature and it’s powerful forces, humans live in a world predominantly dictated by society and it’s many influences. An extensive “reality”, society is comprised of the accepted beliefs, trends, styles, standards, thoughts, and morals of billions of people around the globe. Thus it is through these concepts that our reality is largely composed of. However, none of those are real. In fact, this “reality” we buy in to isn’t real at all, there is no spoon. As children we are told not to color outside the lines, as teenagers we spend years struggling to fit in, as adults we tread mediocre paths to careers and wish for success in a way that society has deemed acceptable…yet none of these constructs are real. In fact, that is all that they are, paradigms that are commonly practiced and “normalized”, yet largely nonexistent. What is outside the lines and who drew them? What are we struggling to fit into as teenagers? Can success and knowledge be defined outside classrooms, 9-5 jobs, and degrees on the wall? Realizing that the molds and thought patterns of society aren’t real is your first step in moving towards an authentic life where you envision and erect your own reality.

The liberation that comes therein after such a realization frees us from society’s pressures and constraints. However, acting upon such an awareness takes courage. Realizing there is no spoon exposes us to the vast unknowns of life where there are no guarantees, yet where creativity, change, and faith abide. It’s not easy living life on your own terms, following your passions and dreams; we are suddenly exposed to ridicule, rejection, and failure. Yet the dangers of such phenomena are more welcoming and rewarding than living a life dictated by societal influence and conformity. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinions; it is easy in solitude to live life after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” So go forth and always remember there is no spoon.

 

Wellness 101

Wellness 101 – A Basic Guide to Living Healthier in 2014

The health craze here in the U.S. is rampantly sweeping the nation, however obesity, disease, and physical pain still remain as the most prominent states that most Americans find themselves in. Navigating the vast realms of touted health supplements, diets, and regimens now takes tremendous time, knowledge, and research as companies flood the markets with varying products and programs. How do you know what really works and what is a scam? Where do you begin? Here I provide my top 10 ways on how to maximize your body’s potential and live a healthier life in 2014 and beyond. Some of these may seem like common sense to you, others might be surprisingly new information, combining all of them yields a human body functioning at optimum peak health

1.) Get Good Grub in your Gut

Why is diet always mentioned in anything written about health? Because we truly are what we eat whether you accept it or not. If you find that you’re always getting sick, chronically tired, and/or are overweight, odds are a million to one that you have a poor diet. What you put in your stomach will directly influence you from head to toe, it’s that simple. Fill your body with junk and that is how you will feel on a daily basis. Instead, radically change your diet this year. Make it a point to consume lots of fruits and vegetables every day, limit your carbohydrate intake to whole grains such as wheat bread and brown rice, STAY AWAY FROM SODA, drink lots of water, snack on nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pine nuts, and try your best to stick to white meat such as fish and chicken. I guarantee you that a healthy change to your diet will be the remedy to most of your health problems, no drugs required.

2.) Act like Arnold

                  In the gym that is! Arnold Schwarzenegger, back in his bodybuilding days, was known for his excitement and enjoyment during his marathon workout sessions. Watch documentaries, read his autobiography and you’ll see how truly happy he was working out. Approach your gym sessions the same way Arnold did, look forward to working out and enjoy it! The more you love exercising, the more it becomes a necessary part of your weekly routine and the seemingly insurmountable amount of discipline it takes to stick to a workout schedule will vanish. You already know of the vast benefits of exercising regularly and the deleterious effects of not working out at all. It is imperative that you incorporate both weightlifting and cardiovascular exercises in your workout regimen. Exercising with weights forces your bones and muscles to grow bigger and stronger and your maximum cardiovascular capacity (VO2 max) at maximum training is directly correlated to how long you will live. Let’s not forget the positive influence exercise has psychologically, boosting levels of the natural “feel good” hormones and relieving stress. The benefits of exercising are endless. In an age where technology abounds, finding out what to do at the gym for every muscle group is only a click/YouTube video away, all that’s keeping you from your dream body is yourself…

3.) Quench the Fire Within

                  TIME magazine once wrote a notable article on inflammation where they dubbed it “The Silent Killer”…a well given moniker. Inflammation spreads from conditions of simple joint pain all the way to heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. But what is inflammation? Inflammation is a natural biological response where your body attempts to remove harmful pathogens, cells, and irritants and to quell any stimulus that leads to physical injury. In short, it’s your body’s way of controlling damage on the inside. When you break a bone or tear a muscle, part of that pain, swelling, and burning is inflammation striving to tell you to stop what you’re doing in an effort to mitigate further tissue destruction. Joint pain is due to inflammation, your body’s way of saying you’re putting too much stress on your ligaments and tendons. So is inflammation good or bad? The answer is both. Inflammation is necessary for survival and often times your body does a great job of regulating it. Chronic inflammation, which occurs from ignoring bodily responses and consuming an unhealthy diet, is what causes chronic disease and pain in the majority of Americans today.

An unhealthy diet has been shown to cause massive inflammation throughout the body. Fried foods, chemical additives/preservatives, and lots of sugar all cause damage at a cellular level causing the body to react with inflammation. Large areas of tissue and vessel inflammation for prolonged periods of time cause damage to arteries and organs and creates a breeding ground for cancer and other diseases. Stick to foods with a high anti-inflammatory index such as almonds, avocados, fresh fish, peppers, garlic, spinach, chard, kale, pine nuts, dark leafy green vegetables, and drink lots of water throughout the day.

4.) Sweet Dreams

Much of sleep still remains a mystery to scientists today. Why do the vast majority of organisms need sleep to heal and rejuvenate? Why can’t we function without it? Why do some need more than others? For those uneducated in the process of sleep, sleep occurs in cycles: N1, N2, N3, and REM. N1-N3 sees your body entering sleep mode and relaxing, all leading to the deepest sleep stage, N3. In N3, your body slows down tremendously and energy is dissipated from core systems in an effort to heal other physical areas. Following N3 is the REM stage. This is where dreaming occurs and brain activity heightens.

The human body cycles through these four stages repeatedly during any standard sleep session. The most restful sleep happens when you allow your body to go through these sleep cycles several times over the course of the night. Some studies have even shown that our most rejuvenating sleep occurs between 2 A.M. and 6 A.M. where our core body temperature drops and cellular repair is at a maximum. A good night’s sleep reduces inflammation, restores neurological transmitters, and rebuilds tissues and organs among other things. Therefore it is imperative that you establish a regular slumber time and wake time, and try to stick to it as best as possible; look to get anywhere from 7.5-9 hrs on a nightly basis. You may not be able to stick to your fixed sleep/wake every day of the week, but strive to follow it on most days, your body and mind will thank you for it.

5.) Liquefy

                  I know, I know, the body is made up of 60%+ water, so you should drink at least 12 cups a day, blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard this before, nothing new. So do you follow it? The importance of water in our lives cannot be understated as its effects are far reaching. Healthy water intake is vital in achieving proper physical alkalinity. In today’s world of friend foods, refined carbs, and carbonated sugary drinks, many people walk around with acidic bodies. In the long run, this wreaks havoc on your health. Water helps keep the blood pH stable by balancing blood concentration and aids in filtration facilitated by your kidneys. A direct correlation has been found between hydration level and muscle strength/performance so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you plan on exercising. Water aids in digestion, making fecal matter and digested food pass through easier. Water also lubricates the body’s joints and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. Let’s not forget the benefits of water on the skin: our cells maintain a sensitive inner fluid balance, allowing them to function properly. This allows skin cells to retain moisture and proper shape, contributing to youthful, healthy skin whilst allowing the body to excrete toxins through sweat. The benefits are endless so drink up!

6.) 90° of Death

                  In the past recent years, extensive research has been done correlating serious health hazards with prolonged periods of sitting. The data provides many reasons for such a grim association. To begin with, many people sit with their elbows, hips, and knees forming roughly 90° angles. This has been shown to place a tremendous amount of stress on the elbows, lower back, and knees, especially if held for a long time, thus leading to joint injuries and inflammation. To make matters worse, many people slouch forward to alleviate the stress of sitting, leading to improper posture. Sitting in general inhibits efficient circulation, thus forcing the cardiovascular system to work harder than need be. Studies have shown an exponential relationship between sitting for hours and the likelihood of dying. A sedentary lifestyle also keeps your metabolism low and contributes to high resting blood sugar levels. So get up and move around whenever you can, especially if your job requires you to sit for a long time. Walk around while you talk on the phone, stretch your legs, move your arms, be active as much as you can, you’ll live a longer life because of it.

7.) Embrace your Inner Buddha

                  A healthy body isn’t possible unless you have a healthy mind. This is by far the most difficult thing to accomplish on this list as mastering your mind is a lifelong endeavor. But small habits yield big results over time and starting one small daily habit to improve your thinking will pay off in the long run. Meditation has been increasing in popularity in the past several years and for good reasons. Meditation isn’t a fad, its benefits are immeasurable and many people swear by it. The catch? It’s not easy, it takes practice. Starting slow is key, take a few minutes every day to sit and slow down your breathing; take long inhales and long exhales and try to focus all your attention on your breathing. If done correctly, you’ll get up realizing you’re a little calmer and a little more centered. The more you do this, the longer you will be able to meditate and take yourself out of a stressful day. Meditation has also been shown to lower blood pressure, lower blood cortical levels, improves focus, mental sharpness, and sleep and lowers depression.

Another ancient practice with psychological and physiological benefits is yoga. Yoga isn’t a matter of just stretching and contorting you body in seemingly ridiculous poses. The strength, focus, and flexibility required to execute yoga poses is an excellent way to clear the mind and zone in on the present  moment. People who practice yoga seem to enjoy both mental and physical health and combined with meditation will tell you it will change your life.

8.) Bringing Back the Bacteria

                  Not all bacteria is bad. On the contrary, without our intestinal bacterial flora, we wouldn’t operate nearly as efficiently as we do. Our gut is loaded with bacteria that facilitate in digestion and nutrient absorption. Our in-home bacteria also keep the bad bacteria and fungi in check. However, today’s world places much stress on our microscopic friends with the myriad of unhealthy foods, vaccinations, and drugs. Fungal infections, indigestion, and issues with bowel movements all indicate a potential problem with your level of good bacteria. Therefore it is imperative that you constantly replenish your gut with these little critters. The scientific world calls them probiotics with hundreds of them on the market. Do your research and ask your doctor before you begin to take a probiotic supplement…or you can simply take in foods that are high in beneficial bacteria, most notably yogurt and a few different kinds of cheese.

9.) Keep Your Dentist in Mind

                  When you reach for that soda, cookie, and candy that is! Unfortunately, the health ramifications of high sugar intake stems far beyond cavities. After sugar is consumed, it enters the bloodstream where it is free to flow throughout your body. Your pancreas recognizes the increase in blood sugar levels and secretes a protein hormone known as insulin. Insulin acts as a cellular add-on; it binds to cells allowing them to grab onto sugar particles and sequester them into nearby fat and muscle cells for later use. Your blood sugar levels then return to normal and all is well…unless you take in large amounts of sugar all at once. Copious amounts of sugar in refined forms such as sweetened drinks, candy, pastries, etc. spend little time being digested and hit your bloodstream relatively quickly. That means all 48 grams of sugar from that Pepsi is now circulating within you within the hour of drinking it. Your pancreas secretes insulin and once again the process begins but after some time, your pancreas can only regulate so much sugar and eventually you’re left with unchecked sugar in your blood. Sugar on its own binds to cells causing them damage. These damaged cells then find their way into your arteries and throughout your body causing further damage to blood vessels and tissues leading to chronic disease like arteriosclerosis and diabetes.

Be very mindful of your sugar intake. If you eat a lot of fruit, you’re taking in plenty of sugar in healthy doses so try your best to keep away from sweets. Also, many people fail to realize that carbohydrates are sugars. Rice, pasta, bread, potatoes all get broken down into simple sugars at the end of digestion so keep that in mind when you reach for that dessert. If you find yourself constantly craving sugar, odds are your diet is mostly refined carbs and sweets, creating the perfect environment for fungus in the body which feeds off sugar wanting you to take in more. High blood sugar levels also create an ideal body for cancer as cancer cells consume large amounts of sugar as they divide and spread. Lastly, diabetes is running rampant in the U.S. and sadly will get worse before things get better. Many Americans live a pro-diabetes life with a poor diet and lack of exercise however knowing this, diabetes is a very preventable disease. By keeping your sugar intake moderate from healthy sources such as fruit, you’re saving yourself from a myriad of disorders that most people are heading towards.

10.) Debunk the Cholesterol Myth

Much of what society is led to believe about cholesterol is driven by the drug associations’ needs to sell statins, cholesterol lowering drugs. However, cholesterol in and of itself isn’t bad. Our cells need cholesterol to function and cholesterol is the derivative to several vital biological hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. Cholesterol is of two types: HDL and LDL. HDL cholesterol is good cholesterol and you want to keep HDL levels high. The liver produces HDL and production is actually stimulated by healthy practices such as exercising. LDL is bad cholesterol which is also produced by the liver, yet most LDL found in the body is derived from an unhealthy diet. Our bodies produce roughly 80% of the cholesterol that is flowing in your blood at any given moment. When we are taking in lots of cholesterol from food, our body decreases its production of cholesterol to accommodate the excess being taken in. This, coupled with a poor diet is what makes cholesterol dangerous. An unhealthy diet and lifestyle leads to damage in the walls of blood vessels such as arteries. Cholesterol finds its way into these damaged vessel walls and plugs up the scar; this leads to a hardening of the arterial walls and eventually causes a plaque buildup as more cholesterol piles up. This is what is called arteriosclerosis and can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Our job isn’t to check every food for cholesterol. Conversely, it’s okay to eat healthy foods high in cholesterol such as eggs and avocadoes, provided your diet is healthy and full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Get plenty of exercise and enjoy lean meats such as fish and chicken, stay away from fried, refined, and chemical-laced foods, and soon you’ll realize your cholesterol levels are at a healthy balance, no drugs required.