Change and Happinness

“They say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

Andy Warhol

I recently came across this Warhol quote while reading Ed Mylett’s new book the power of one. I wanted to bring up Ed here because I believe in giving credit where credit is due and were it not for his book, I may not have come across these words and been inspired for today’s post. I think Ed would agree but the idea is not to be original, but to continue sharing ideas while adding your own unique perspective and experience to each thought, and to continue spreading important thoughts so they can touch more people’s lives. Ryan Holiday is a tremendous author whom I admire, and who has changed my life. Much of his work is derived from his take on the ideas of famous thinkers like Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus. Just because everything he says is not original, doesn’t mean it can’t be valuable and isn’t worth repeating. While the original message is often powerful, it is Holiday’s unique take on the thought that makes it meaningful. Thus I stand on the shoulder of giants to use their genius to inspire my own thoughts.

The theme of today’s post is change. What type of changes do you need to undergo in order to take yourself from where you are today to where you want to be? No matter who you are, upon a critical review of yourself and your life, most of us would arrive at the conclusion that we can make some kind of change that would allow us to become a better and happier person. That isn’t to say that we aren’t deserving and worthy of joy and happiness as we are, but it is an admission that we can, most likely be even better.

What does it take to change? Simply put, energy. Newtonian (Isaac Newton is the person who spoke the standing on the shoulder of giants quote which I paraphrased earlier by the way) physics tells us that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force, and an object in motion will stay ion motion unless acted on by an external force. What is required to make a change in the status of your being is exactly the same, it takes force and energy. Your life will not change, the speed of your progress will not accelerate unless you dedicate the energy to exerting force toward the goal of enacting change.

The laws of thermodynamics tell us that energy is neither created nor destroyed, it is only transferred. Therefore the energy behind every successful endeavor in the history of the universe, whether it was something as grand as the forming of the planets, the beginning of life, or as miniscule as a woman starting her own business or a man transforming his health by losing 50 lbs it does not matter, those things all took energy and that same energy is still present in the universe waiting for you to harness it.

You harness that energy first recognizing what your burning desire it is. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is all about recognizing your desire and then building a detailed plan for making your desire into reality. In order to change you must first know two things, where are you today, and where do you want to be? After this you decide how long you will allot to this change, what micro goals you will set in order to get there – making sure to be as specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound as possible.

Finally, you must decide why you want to change. Your why may be the most important part of all this. Without a compelling reason to act, a reason to undergo the struggle that is change, you must have a valid reason. This reason must be powerful enough to you that the thrill of the prospect of success, the pain of potential failure and fear from the pain of change will be less than the pain of staying the same.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Leo Tolstoy

This idea of change from Tolstoy isn’t saying that you need to change so that you can conform to the world in order to be accepted. It is saying that by changing yourself you allow yourself to change the world for the better, by being the best version of yourself. Paulo Coelho said in the Alchemist that when we pursue our own personal legend we are serving the universe by taking care of that one part of the universe for which it is our responsibility to care, our self. When commit to self analysis and to personal growth, happiness, and excellence, you are ignoring the 99.9% of all existence that is above your control and taking control of your own destiny by focusing on the little part of the universe which you can control. That being your mind and how you will respond to any given set of circumstances, what Viktor Frankl called the last of the human freedoms.

Remember, it is not up to you to ask what the meaning of life is, rather life is asking you? What will the meaning of your life be? Take a good look at yourself and figure out who you are and who you want to become. By committing yourself to personal growth and happiness, by taking the effort to make beneficial changes you are making the world better. You owe it to yourself to be the best version of yourself you can be.

Be the force that will bring about the change in state of your life.

Please visit my Youtube page below to view the video commentary on this post.

Right to Life or the 2nd Amendment?

Alexandria Rubio (10), Alithia Ramirez (10), America Jo Garza (10), Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez (10), Eliahana Cruz Torres (10), Eliana Garcia (10), Eva Mireles (44), Irma Garcia (48), Jackie Cazares (10), Jayce Luevanos (10), Jose Flores (10), Layla Salazar (10), Makenna Lee Elrod (10), Maite Rodriguez (10), Miranda Mathis (11), Neveah Bravo (10), Rojelio Torres (10), Tess Marie Mata (10), Uziya Garcia (10), Xavier Lopez (10).

The twenty-one names listed above represent sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, friends and beautiful humans with so much to be hopeful and optimistic for, These are the 19 students and two teachers killed at Robb Elementary on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

The year is less than halfway over and there have already been over 200 mass shootings (mass shooting being a minimum of 3 individuals shot) with over 7,000 deaths. This says nothing of the over 9,000 additional gun deaths caused by suicide.

The numbers are concerning, and they indicate an obvious problem: the United States has a mental health problem. 9,000 suicides by gun death alone, to say nothing of the other suicide causes, plus over 200 individuals deciding to pick up a firearm and engage in mass shootings of their fellow humans indicates rampant internal turmoil, pain, hatred, anger, and distress, all of which fall under the umbrella of a clear mental health issue that must be addressed.

Few would argue against the existence of an apparent mental health crisis. The alarming statistics surrounding the issue are glaringly apparent. What fewer Americans are willing to admit is not only that we have a mental health crisis, but that we also have an equally apparent though less admitted gun problem in this country. Combine the mental health crisis with the ready availability of high-powered, high-rate-of-fire rifles such as that used by the perpetrator in Uvalde, and we have hundreds of mass shootings a year.

The United States does not have a monopoly on mental health, but it is the only developed nation where repeated acts of gun violence have occurred with nothing being done other than a brief period of mourning, where politicians who understand the need to seem empathetic and human will call for thoughts and prayers but little else. They will then turni their backs and proceed business as usual, which for many of them means pandering to accepting donations from the National Rifle Association and other gun manufacturers or lobbyists who put them in office, and reassuring their constituents that they will continue to be own as many and as varied guns as their ashen hearts desire, because their right to own guns is more sacred than the right to life of anyone who might be harmed by such a gun.

If the issue is merely a mental health issue, an issue of disturbed people rather than an issue of beyond easily assessible sophisticated weaponry, then why do we not see mass shootings occurring in other countries? Only in America, where we have not only a mental health problem, but also a dangerous and unhealthy obsession with firearms do we observe ideal conditions for guns and mental health to combine like fire and gasoline to explode into tragedy after tragedy.

Without the easy availability of powerful firearms, these sick and disturbed people who go on shooting sprees at worst go on a stabbing spree, or hit people with their car, both means of terror we have seen before. Are such tragedies any less tragic? Of course not, but we can all appreciate the fact that such violent outbursts committed with a knife wielding madman, or a lunatic behind the wheel of an SUV are far less deadly than what a single teenager with a gun can inflict. The idealist in all of us would hope for a world with no mental distress and no outbursts of violence, but until we can such a recognize such a utopia where all of humankind’s negative emotions are extinct, we ought to do what we can to minimize impact of such violence.

Is the United States the only country to suffer from mass shootings? No. In Port Arthur Australia, 35 people were killed in 1996. 17 people were killed at the Dunblane School in Sterling UK/Scotland in 1996. In 51 people were killed at a mosque while attending prayer in Christchurch New Zealand in 2015. What does make the United States unique is the idiotic refusal to recognize a problem and failure to enact any meaningful legislature to prevent future disasters.

Think gun control doesn’t work? Each of the above countries enacted sweeping reform and legislation restricting gun ownership policies. In Australia, measures were placed on what types of firearms normal citizens could own. The result was a greater than 50% reduction in gun related homicide AND suicide by firearm deaths in the following years. No mass shootings have occurred in Australia since 1996. The UK decided to ban certain types of firearms and began performing mental health screenings on those who wished to purchase firearms. Only one mass shooting has occurred in the 26 years since, and in the UK people are 60x less likely to die from a gun than they are in the United States, even adjusted for population differences. In New Zealand following the 2015 Christchurch shooting, parliament passed sweeping regulation restricting firearm availability by 119-1, imagine such cooperation in government. Nope, not in America where even the death of children is a split issue that some would consider a necessary sacrifice in order to maintain their sense of freedom.

Don’t tell me that they don’t have mental health problems in those countries, because they do. Is population a factor? Maybe slightly, but even when adjusted for population, you are still over 6x more likely to die from a gun in the United States than in the next country in the list of “developed nations”, that being Cyprus. And do not tell me that this is just the price of freedom. Each of the countries above is a free and democratic society, where among other liberties the citizens enjoy, is the liberty of likely not being killed by a senseless act of gun violence.

Ensuring the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (words that came from an even earlier and equally sacred document as our Constitution, that being our Declaration of Independence) of every American should be the first responsibility of the government, not supporting what is clearly a very dated, misleading, and abused constitutional amendment to bear arms. Too many people in this country remain willing to let other people and their children die for their own rights and misplaced notion of freedom. Believing that our founding fathers were omnipotent, infallible, and that their word would be law for all eternity is complete lunacy. As time progresses so too does our understanding of the world, and as such we must ensure that our policies and attitudes are equally dynamic so as to keep up with an ever dynamic world. The founding fathers would likely have been appalled at the slaughter wrought by our own populace against itself as a consequence of a wildly misunderstood and misinterpreted second amendment.

I challenge anyone to read the obituaries or stories of the victims The article contains a few small details about the 21 people who lost their lives in what is only the most recent but somehow still not most deadly mass-shooting in the United States. Read their stories and tell me why you aren’t moved. Tell me why those children and their teacher’s death is a price you are willing to pay so that you can own 10 high powered assault rifles. These aren’t statistics. These are human beings. They had favorite pass times, best friends, joyous experiences remaining to be lived, meaningful contributions to be given to the world, and laughter and love to share.

Yes the blame rests on the clearly disturbed young man who pulled the trigger, and perhaps also on a society where more and more people are falling through the cracks, not being given the proper nurture and care they need. Of course we must do a better job of helping our people get access to the resources that can combat mental health disorders and stop such tragedies from even occurring. But we cannot tackle this problem by facing only one side of the issues. The larger problem remains obvious that so long as firearms are readily available, they have the potential to be used in harmful ways such as which this week is only the latest example.

Any human with a conscience and soul should be angry at such tragedies, and rightly so, most are. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, or Stoneman Douglas, to name only a few of the school related mass shootings, why weren’t they enough. Many believe something needs to be done yet for some reason what must be done is still a hotly debated issue despite the obvious evidence of successful prevention of gun crime from some of our closest and most similar allies in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Among the most commonly suggested ways to prevent gun violence from the gun-loving crowd is the idea that we arm schools by training teachers and giving them firearms or placing more heavily armed guards on school campuses. In order to reach meaningful change we must show respect and consider the opinions of others, so lets do that. The idea of armed personnel who can respond to or prevent a deadly tragedy sounds somewhat appealing. Using Uvalde as an example however, we must take into consideration that one single untrained, disturbed teenager with a gun was able to force an entire police response team into a stand-down for over an hour while he continued his murderous rampage. I am not criticizing the Uvalde police department though many are. I was not there so I do not know all the details, and I cannot begin to pretend I understand the fear that must come from facing a man with a gun who wants to harm me. However, the idea that arming our schools will prevent shootings buckles when we consider again that a single untrained gunman was able to render an entire trained response team of armed police ineffective. If the people who are trained to protect us are unable to incapacitate a shooter with a LEGALLY purchased weapon, we have a serious problem. Perhaps we should consider banning such weapons that are so dangerous that they terrorize even police.

The other argument against gun control is that criminals don’t follow laws, so gun regulation won’t effect them. Well, we know that the Uvalde Shooter purchased his assault-rifle legally just days before and with little issue. How many other mass shootings were perpetrated with legally acquired firearms. Even amongst those acts of gun violence with illegally acquired firearms, we can be sure that most of those guns are being manufactured legally right here in the United States and are probably acquired legally somewhere along the distribution change before falling into the hands of criminals. Again, this highlights the need for gun reform.

Any responsible gun owner, which I count myself, ought to be willing to submit to stricter enforcements including restrictions on type of firearms we can purchase, mental health evaluations, and holding periods required before a gun can be delivered. If we are unwilling to undergo the slightest inconvenience in enjoying our second amendment rights such that others can have the right to live than shame on us. America used to be a place where people cared about their communities and would put the needs of the whole above their own selfish wants. This isn’t socialism to say we should work together. It is community and care. I would happily agree to an annual mental health screening if it meant a father could drop his daughter off at school and not wonder if that was the last time he would ever see her. I would happily agree to settle for owning a shotgun or two instead of an AR-15 if it meant that a middle school boy could sit in science class and worry about cellular respiration, or what he should say to his crush during recess – you know, normal kid stuff, rather than wonder which piece of equipment from the lab he would use to defend himself if or when a shooter walked through the door.

These enforcements would put roadblocks in place that may not stop all mass shootings but would significantly reduce the frequency and greatly move to ensure the safety of our public, something we should all be invested in protecting.

Read the stories of the victims here and tell me why your right to bear arms is more important than their right to life:

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-05-25/victims-of-uvalde-texas-school-shooting.

If you would like to help the grieving community of Uvalde, consider donating to one of several GoFundMe pages here:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/mtdrdc-texas-elementary-school-shooting-victims-fund

If you would like to take meaningful steps to curb the impact of gun violence, contact your 2 state senators and local representative.

Use Heat for Health and Happiness

Happiness like all emotions is difficult to define but we all know it when we feel it. The goal of this blog is and always has been to help people discover joy and build lasting happiness by sharing powerful ideas from historical philosophers and thought leaders, discussing the latest scientific research, and by examining the lives of others so that we may emulate them as we forge our own path to happiness and wellbeing.

By now we have all come to recognize that physical and mental health play a large role in happiness. Optimal biological and neurological function leads to a healthier life, which gives us greater opportunity for experiencing happiness. By focusing on ways to improve our physical and mental health, we are to make ourselves happier. This post is about how to improve physical and mental health by using deliberate exposure to heat.

The research may not be entirely novel but it is fairly new to me and thus I wanted to share what I have learned about the power of heat. A number of recently published studies indicate a plethora of positive results from heat exposure that include improved hormone levels, elevated immunological function, and decreased stress.

Heat exposure has been linked to decreased incidence of CardioVascular disease as exposure to heat increases the heart rate and improves vascular health – the same responses we see from cardiovascular exercise. Increased levels of BDNF (Brain Derived Nootropic Factor) have been associated with regular heat exposure, leading to lower levels of depression and anxiety, as well as the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Heat exposure also was associated with an increase in growth hormone, improving metabolism and boosts energy.

Each of these factors facilitates greater happiness. Less cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease means longer and healthier lives, less depression and anxiety means greater quality and enjoyment of life, and more energy and better metabolism means we are more engaged and better able to participate in the wonder of existence.

The methods and observations in the studies varied but generally speaking one could expect to see eugenic effects from hot tubs or saunas with as little as 1-2 sessions of 15-20 minutes a week. The best results appeared to occur when core body temperature was temporarily elevated to between 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit. Water temperatures were sufficient to do so at roughly 103 degrees Fahrenheit while sauna temperatures were typically in excess of 155 degrees.

This comes with the obvious caveat and warning to please use caution if you intend to adapt heat bathing into your wellness routine. Please consult a doctor or physician before engaging in such an activity to ensure that you are able to safely do so. Please also beware the warning signs such as dizziness, light headedness, extremely elevated heart rates and more. The logic behind this is to be exposed to heat long enough to elicit eugenic effects without causing harm.

I fully intend to incorporate several sauna sessions a week, when possible, so that I can ensure I am doing everything within my power to take control of my own wellbeing. Part of the beautiful thing about happiness is that it is largely correlated to biological factors and simple rules of science which we can leverage to improve our overall well-being.

Below are a sample of the sources where the claims in today’s article came from, all of which were introduced to me as a listener to the Hubermanlab Podcast.

Sources:

https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-018-1198-0

https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/493392

Expect Greatness

“The people who are crazy enough to change the world are the ones who do.”

Steve Jobs

A common theme amongst those who are successful in any realm of life are those who are optimistic and those who believe they are capable of being successful.

Brene Brown found that those who were happy believed they were worthy of happiness.

Any champion athlete, even an underdog, was successful because they believed they were worthy and capable of being a champion, even when no one else did.

Heroes like Mother Teresa or the recently departed Dr. Paul Farmer improved the lives of thousands if not millions through their dedication to service. They were undaunted by the seemingly insurmountable vastness of human suffering, and dedicated their lives to helping others.

Civil rights leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela improved the lives of their countrymen and created massive waves of improvement in racial equality the world over because they believed they could.

Visionaries like Steve Jobs changed the world because they believed they could.

Great things are impossible unless we truly believe that they are possible. When we expect things it enables our best and brightest self to show up.

Prepare to Die

Now that I have your attention, please know that the title of this article is not a threat. Instead it is sincere bit of hope and advice that you will take to heart. Ben Franklin once famously quipped that the only certainties in life were death and taxes. I can’t help you with your taxes, being barely able to fill out my own simple returns even with the help of TurboTax. It is a wonder the IRS hasn’t thrown me in chains yet. What I can help with is in the discussion of how to prepare for dying and how to use it’s inevitability as something that motivates us to live happier, more meaningful, and more fulfilling lives before that moment comes.

I am no expert in dying, no more than anyone else. I do have a reasonable amount of thoughts on the subject thanks my exposure to the thoughts of other wiser and more intelligent men and women, themselves no more acquainted with death at the time of their writings or speeches, who devoted a great deal of thought towards the subject of death. This article is not about the act of dying or what comes after, we can save that theoretical discussion for another day. This article is about how to use the certainty of death to add value, beauty, and meaning to the things we do in our lives; to encourage us to take advantage of what precious little time we do have; and to prioritize the most important aspects of our delicate lives.

Following significant victories, Roman Generals celebrated with spectacular parades called Triumphs where they marched through the city and were praised and honored by all. During these parades, it was common for a member of the General’s retinue to stand behind him and quietly whisper in Latin the phrase “memento mori”, remember you will die. The point was not to be a buzzkill or to be some harbinger of doom, but to keep the General feeling modest and grounded even amidst their greatest and most ego-gratifying moments. The idea is that we must remember that no matter how much we love ourselves or are loved by others, how great and extraordinary are our achievements, one day we will die and whether in a few years or a few generations, our selves and all of our achievements will have faded into mere memories or even into complete obscurity.

Roman Emperor and Philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote “Alexander the Great and his mule driver both died and the same thing happened to both. They were absorbed alike into the life force of the world, or dissolved alike into atoms.” It didn’t matter if you were Alexander the Great himself, someone whom history still remembers today, or his mule driver, of whom very people may ever have bothered to learn his name, both are dead and gone and whether great or small their accomplishments are relegated to mere footnotes of history. Remember that you will die, and use that reminder to drive you not to the acquisition of fame, fortune, or applause, but to spend your time wisely doing work that is truly meaningful and impactful.

I recently participated in a self-exploration activity that I learned from Robin Sharma in his book “Everyday Heroes.” Robin called this activity the tombstone statement, and the objective was to write out what you would want your obituary or eulogy to say about you after you passed. I took about 20 minutes to think about it, and 20 more minutes or so to write out my proposed eulogy. I am going to keep the specifics of what I wrote personal but I can say that they did include: dying at a (very) old age; charitable organizations and programs I founded; adventures; conducting myself with integrity; and friends and family. What this did was allow me to look within myself and to truly see and understand that which was most important to me, especially when it may involve something I wasn’t aware might actually be so dear.

My wish to die old (165 was the age I used – we shall see) indicates that health and longevity are important to me. Ergo I must maintain a healthy diet, take care of my body with movement, stretching and exercise, and that I should be aware of advancements in science and medicine so that I can ensure I am doing all I can to not just live long but live well.

Establishing charitable organizations and programs would mean that I give my time in service of others and that I accumulate enough wealth so that I can then lend that wealth towards the betterment of others. This is a call to work hard but to do so without losing sight that the real value in work is in creating value for others, not merely financial value for myself. It reminds me of the importance which doing work and spending my life in service of others holds within my heart.

Having adventures mean saving money to enjoy those adventures but also being willing to step outside my comfort zone and to make temporary sacrifices in order to enjoy extraordinary and unusual experiences with people and places across the glove (and maybe across space – who knows).

Conducting myself with integrity means having a firm understanding of myself and of the type of person I wish to be. It means having goals for my character and understanding which principles are in line with my ideal self, such that when tested I know the best decision in any choice is the one that most honors my ideals.

Lastly, I described experiences with friends and family members, and that I wished – in the scenario of my hypothesized death – to be surrounded by friends and family at the moment of my passing. This indicates the importance of the relationships in my life. It is a call to remember to be present in their lives and to be vulnerable while also allowing those I care about to do the same. It is about being aware that fame, fortune, and applause will not comfort you in death nor make you feel proud of your short time on earth, but that those with whom you were close will. It wont be the things we did per se that matter, but the way we feel about those things and about the way we felt being around the people who were present when we did those things, those people who were with us through the memorable cinema worthy moments and the mundane and forgettable alike, and who remind us that those ordinary experiences with extraordinary people were really the most precious moments of the whole journey.

I would encourage each of you to do the tombstone exercise on your own and to take it seriously and slowly so that you get a meaningful use of your time. I did mine a few days ago and even since then it has been often on my mind, serving as a compass to guide me towards making the decisions that will lead me to the wonderful life I wrote about during this activity.

It is easy to get carried away chasing pleasure, accolades, to endeavor on pursuits that bolster our ego and swell our pride. Death can be frightening until when we recognize death as a necessary precondition for the experience of life. From there we realize that the finality of life, that it ends in death, is what gives it meaning. Without death there would be no need for urgency or action, anything we wanted could be postponed indefinitely. Nothing would seem as beautiful because in a state of eternal existence, there would always be not just the potential but perhaps the inevitability that something more wondrous and special would come along, and the beauty of the current moment would lose its luster. That life is finite in duration should comfort us as it encourages us to act, allows us to enjoy, and by its very nature of having an end gives meaning to the entire experience. As Seneca famously wrote “it is not that life is short but that we waste a great deal of it.” Do not waste any more time. Grow to understand that which is most meaningful to you and prioritize that. Remember that you will die. Memento Mori.

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