I’m privileged to be a member of the premier organization dedicated to the study and reconstruction of the Renaissance martial arts. The member’s e-list has some lively debate, and some regular gems. Here’s one from last Monday:

I have come to the realisation that the basics are the entire art.

That struck a deep chord in me, as it seems to be human nature to seek out “the secret”, a short cut, a silver bullet, a … you get my meaning. There seems to be something in human nature that want to discount the simple, basic truths. No, they’re not “sexy” or “cool”… but they work every time they’re applied.

The basic teachings of sword fighting are the entire art. We learn refinement along the way as our experience grows. The basics of becoming fit encompass the entire “art” of creating a new self. As we act, we learn. As we learn, we can refine and fine tune.

Debating minutia won’t produce real-world results. Only the basics applied, and applied consistently. Only when you’re in motion can you correct your course.


Practice Days

A one-minute message from my friend, Dr. Paul. We can practice having days consistent with becoming fit. If we consistently practice having “fit” days, we’ll find ourselves… moving in the right direction. 

Dr. Paul uses driving as a metaphor for life. Notice the car he’s driving. He’s moving forward, and in the driver’s seat. He’s had a lot of practice.

Before and After

In my last post I promised “before” and “after” pictures, and a couple of “in between” pictures for good measure. I hope these are satisfactory.

I’m sorry I don’t have better pictures. First, we lost essentially all of our photographs in a 2007 fire. Second, when I started to deliberately address my weight problem, it was an eminently personal decision and the thought of taking a photo didn’t cross my mind. In retrospect I’m sorry for that, but there we are. Lastly, you don’t really want to see me flex my “never been touched by sunshine” bellybutton… really.

I hope my silly scribbles on the photos doesn’t put anybody off.

You’ll see

  1. XXXL Blimpy Boy (2007)
  2. XXL “Bulbous But Not Quite As Bulky” Boy. The photo was taken after I successfully rode 33 miles on my trike. This was my first organized cycling event. (2007)
  3. XL “Half way there.” At this point I could rejoin my martial arts club without injuring myself due to excess baggage.
  4. L “Just Right” Me at martial arts practice. We were practicing basic dagger drills.

I’ve not specifically tried on shirts yet. XL is too big, and I suspect that even L may be too big around the middle. I’m tall and lanky, so a medium shirt may be too short, length-wise.

Aperture-1.jpg Aperture-10-1.jpg
Aperture-5-1.jpg Aperture-7-1.jpg
Aperture-8.jpg Aperture-9.jpg

I’m pleased to announce that “Phase One” of my fitness journey is officially over. My first post on 28 March tells about the “last straw” that compelled me to change my mind and get control over my body. I wrote:

Not eating like a pig and moving my butt more will make a significant, positive impact on my cholesterol levels.

Over the last few weeks I’ve successfully maintained a consistent weight without “rebound”. Finally, I went into the doctor’s office to have blood drawn and cholesterol measured.

These results are as follows. All but one fall within the “optimal” range.

Total Cholesterol optimal
LDL near optimal
HDL optimal
HDL:LDL Ratio optimal
Triglycerides optimal

Wearing new pants and bearing the victory shake.I did two things to celebrate. The first was to buy new pants. I’ve been wearing the same pants — drowning in them — since I started this journey. I lost ten full inches around my waist. I bought two new pairs of black jeans. My shirts are all too big still, but I’ll buy new shirts as the budget allows.

The second was a nice meal and… the victory shake! Dark chocolate with almonds.

I’ll put some new before/after pictures up soon.

Use this audio player to hear the audio companion, or download it. (Duration 4’58”)

good-bad-01-1.jpgWe humans have a tendency to run around slapping labels on things without thinking about whether that’s a beneficial activity. Don’t get me wrong, now. Labels can be useful. For example, slapping the label “dangerous” on the idea “jump off cliff” contributes towards a longer life.

Les McGuire and Dr. Paul have both talked about the dubious nature of the terms “good” and “bad”. Our society uses these terms loosely. When something pleasant happens, we whip out the “good” label. When faced with unpleasant conditions out comes the “bad” label. Unfortunately, hasty use of “good” and “bad” can lead us to jumping to the wrong conclusions. An old story illustrates this.

There once was an old farmer who had a son and a horse. They were very poor and worked from dawn to dusk to provide a meager subsistence for themselves.

One night a fierce storm knocked down a tree, and broke a fence. The horse escaped in the night. The next day a neighbour came by to see how the old farmer fared. When he saw that the farmer’s horse had escaped, he cried, “Oh, how terrible! How will you tend your field? It’s truly a rotten day!”

The old farmer shrugged his shoulders and said, “How do you know that’s bad?”

Some time later the horse found its way home, accompanied by some wild horses. When the neighbour came by he exclaimed, “What luck! It’s a good day for you!”

The old farmer shrugged his shoulders and said, “How do you know that’s good?”

Not two weeks later, the son was taming one of the horses. The horse threw the young man. In the fall he broke an arm and a leg. The neighbour, upon hearing the news, exclaimed, “Harvest is starting. What horrible luck! I thought my day was bad, but this!”

The old farmer shrugged his shoulders and said, “How do you know that’s bad?”

Three days later the king’s men came to town, conscripting all able-bodied young men to serve in a war. They passed over the old farmer’s son because of his injuries. The neighbour was dejected because his two oldest sons were taken by the king’s soldiers. “How lucky you are! My sons are gone, but you still have your boy. Be glad for this day, my friend!”

The old farmer shrugged his shoulders and said, “How do you know that’s good?”

The old farmer knew that “good” and “bad” events are matters of perspective. Just because an event or condition is pleasing does not mean that it’s “good”. Neither does an unpleasant event or condition automatically become “bad”.

None of those circumstances were inherently “good” or “bad”. They simply were. Life happened. A horse was lost. A son was spared. Was the loss of a horse really “bad” given that hindsight?

My wife has been following a Japanese TV program which triggered all this reflection. One unflappable character made a statement along the lines of, “Deep regret is my friend. It helps me not repeat the same mistakes again.”

The rain falls on the just and the unjust. We don’t need to seek out deep regret in order to improve our lives. We can, however, take it easier on ourselves when confronted with those “bad” days, and not get careless on those “good” days. Gratitude and patience can keep us rooted.

Status: Successfully holding steady. 75 pounds (34 kg) lighter since March, over 105 pounds (48 kg) since last year.

I’ve had some requests from people who have difficulty reading for an audio supplement. This is experimental audio, a repeat of Just Shoot Me! I hope you enjoy it.

Use this audio player to list now, or download it. (Duration: 7’10”)

Music Credits

Bumper music is provided courtesy of Magnatune.com. Check them out. They’re not evil.

Opening Bumper:
6A0D8200-2D93-4BE2-96E0-11C774110184.jpgArtist: Five Star Fall
Album: Automatic Ordinary
Song: What Planet Are We On
Closing Bumper:
23F1FD51-0430-43BE-9136-7A3D59187BB7.jpgArtist: Jive Ass Sleepers
Album: Gettin’ Down to Business
Song: I Can Feel It

Just Shoot Me!

Getting fit is sometimes boring… mind numbing, check yourself into the funny farm monotony. Other parts of regular life are like that at times, too. In the last three weeks I shut myself in a closet, grit my teeth and ground away at a project. In successful investing, the same process will be encountered. Huh?

As I was plowing through this project to complete it, I hit a day where I turned my chair away from the computer because I was utterly demoralized. This project had dragged on for over a year, and I had committed to seeing my portion done regardless of the others on the project. The software was in shreds, and I could see no end in sight. In my frustration I shut out many extra activities (including regular blogging) and chained my body to the table in front of the computer. (Figuratively, folks!) But that day… I had nothing more to give. I was spent.

Having swiveled the chair around, I stared blankly at the wall of shelves, jammed full of books. I certainly didn’t want to look just above or below my line of sight. Tomes on the deep magic of computer science waited to assault my vision… the last thing I wanted to see. If I looked to the right, philosophy, law, languages, reference volumes would disappear from sight. My eyes would be looking at them, but nothing registered on the brain. The only other direction had books on personal growth. Ugh. That last thing I wanted was to be uplifted! How can I wallow if I let good ideas into my head?

I closed my eyes, and must have dozed for a short while for I came to my senses with a start. My black cat had heaved her fat carcass onto my lap and was purring madly as she eased her mass into a comfortable position. The sharp edge to my mood had dulled somewhat, and I chose to let her sit there for a while.

After some time I picked up a book that lay dormant, unfinished, for years. I wasn’t ready for the message back then and set it aside. I scanned the fading marks of highlighted phrases, when a short dialog caught my eye. I’ll substitute words to change the topic from investing to weight loss and fitness.

“I now realize why it is so hard for most people to follow a simple plan.”
“And why is that?” I asked.
“Because following a simple plan to become [fit] is boring,” said [fit] dad. “Human beings are quickly bored and want to find something more exciting and amusing. That is why only three out of a hundred people become [fit]. They start following a plan, and soon they are bored. So they stop following the plan and then they look for a magic way to get [fit] quick. They repeat the process of boredom, amusement, and boredom again for the rest of their lives. That is why they do not get [fit]. They cannot stand the boredom of following a simple, uncomplicated plan to get [fit]. Most people think there is some magic to getting [fit] through [dieting]. Or they think that if it is not complicated, it cannot be a good plan. Trust me; when it comes to [health], simple is better than complex.”

Kiyosaki, Robert, Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing, Chapter 8, editing mine.

The message that I got from this was not that one has to live a boring life doing things that one hates. What sunk into me was an old quote that I heard when I was younger. “Integrity is the ability to follow through on a decision long after the emotional peak is gone.” Something like that.

That brief message did help me to re-center my mind. I did take up my project again; not with burning enthusiasm but with the knowledge that despite all appearances, I was almost done. (And as of now, I am done.)

My progress on my weight loss had slowed to a crawl, but I still retained the determination to remain on the path. The path I was following was simple, but I had allowed skewed thinking in one part of my life to affect the other areas. I got “bored”, or rather, frustrated with the steady progress I was making on that project and decided to try a “get done quick” plan. I didn’t get done quick, but I certainly got grumpy in a hurry! 🙂

Why this long, rambling post? I’ve had a human experience. As a human experience, I’m certain that while the details may be particular to me, that others have had similar experiences. We get through them eventually… as we re-awaken from our stupor.

We can do things to mix up the routine, and those are so important to help mitigate the fact that the raw fundamentals need to be in place. There remains that gap between changing our course of action and that new path becoming a habit. Once it’s habit, we expend little to no energy thinking about it. It’s just a natural part of our life.

For the good news, I believe I’m somewhere in the range of where I should be, weight-wise. I’ll be getting some expert opinion… but I wanted to express that I’m grateful for everybody’s encouragement and support.

Status: 75 pounds (34 kg) lighter since March, over 105 pounds (48 kg) since last year.