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Algorithms, Habits, Epigenetics, and Motivation

As I continue to search for better ways to optimize our training in the gym and life outside, I came across what I think is an interesting and powerful correlation between algorithms, habits, epigenetics, and motivation.

I am breaking down this connection in more detail over the next several weeks but I wanted to start with the idea of motivation. Piers Steel, author of the  book, “The Procrastination Equation”, did a meta analysis on papers related to the science of motivation and came up with an equation. The equation is Motivation = Value x Expectancy / Impulsivity x Delay. You could also add “Energy” to this equation and say that Motivation = Energy X Value X Expectancy / Impulsivity X Delay. In this  equation we need the numerator (Energy, Value, and Expectancy) to be high and the numerator (Impulsivity and Delay) to be low, if we want the highest motivation.

I discussed the importance of Energy in a recent blog post and here I feel it is applicable because even,if you are motivated, you need energy to take action.

We can break down each of the other parts of the equation, as well. Value could also be considered your “WHY”. We have discussed this on many occasions and it is certainly applicable here. The bigger your “WHY” and the more connection you can make to it, the greater chance you will be motivated to take action. Of course, in this example, the “WHY” is only part of the equation.

Expectancy could also be considered your belief. No matter how much you say you truly want something and how big you say your “WHY” is, if you do not believe you can achieve it, your motivation to take action on a consistent basis is not going to be high.

Impulsivity in many ways could also be considered distraction. In modern society, the opportunity for distraction is at an all time high. Technology overall is a fantastic thing but it can also be an incredible distraction. If we are not aware of this potential for distraction, we let the tools use us rather than us using the tools. For me, I would say that television is probably my biggest distraction. During the week I am up early every morning and don’t get home until after 7pm on most nights. Although I value my sleep and know its importance, it can still be easy for me to get sucked into watching television and missing out on some of that much needed sleep. For instance, I would not say I am a fan of professional basketball yet I find myself sometimes staying up an extra 30 minutes to an hour to watch the playoffs. This can be true even if the game is between two teams I could care less about. Where do you find yourself being distracted?

Delay can mean procrastination and that you keep putting off something you have every intention of starting. As coaches, we see this version of delay on a very regular basis. A few of my favorite examples are:
1. I need to get in a little better shape before I come to the gym. (How has that been working for you?)
2. I really would like to learn Jiujitsu. It seems like such a cool art to learn. ( So, whats stopping you and when would now be a good time.)
3. I’m going to start my diet next week, month, year etc. (I’ll give you a different way of framing this. If you are eating, you are already on a diet. So, rather than thinking you have to change everything at once just make one small change today rather than waiting for the opportune time for the perfect mystical diet.)

Delay doesn’t have to only be about putting things off but can also be about setting goals that are too far in the future or too big to be accomplished in the near future. It is fine to have audacious long term goals but you still need to reverse engineer those goals to what can be done in the present in order to maintain your motivation.

So, what  do algorithms, habits, and epigenetics have to do with motivation? The connection lies primarily in belief. When we think of what makes us what we are, what comes to mind? Some may say that our genetics play a huge role in who we are. Others may say that we are in control of who we become and the result of who we become is based on our actions and behavior. There has been a debate of nature vs nurture for some time but I think everyone would agree that both play an important role in who we are and who we become. I am currently taking a taking a course called “Epigenetic Precision Performance Coaching” and am finding it fascinating. We are all born with certain genetics and depending on what you deem as important, it is certainly true that some have been blessed with better genes than others. However, what I find most interesting is that how our genes get turned on or off or in other words expressed is largely due to lifestyle factors. Science emphatically supports this and if you believe this then you should believe you are largely in control of your health and fitness because you are ultimately in control of your lifestyle behavior.

Our lifestyle can be though of as a set of algorithms. in his book “Homo Deus” Professor Yuval Noah Harari  says, ” Algorithm is arguably the single most important concept in the world. If we want to understand our life and our future, we should make every effort to understand what  an algorithm is, and how algorithms are connected to our emotions.” If you think of the majority of your day as a series of “IF/THEN ” statements you can see his point.

Another way of thinking of algorithms is a series of habits. Again most of our day is habitual. So, the quality of our day and ultimately our life is largely based of the habits we have established on a daily basis. These habits affect our gene expression for good or bad.

If you understand this process, you then should have the belief that you can change almost anything. Therefore if you truly value something your expectancy of being able to achieve it should be high and as result your motivation.

Change and improvement may not be easy. It certainly may not be fast but it does not have to be mystical. Change and consistent progress is possible. It is simply a process. More on this process in part 2.

The Happiness Diet!

I think nearly everyone is in agreement with the fact that nutrition is one of the critical areas if you are pursuing life optimization and being your best self. We have discussed this on many occasions in the past. However, the book , “The Happiness Diet”, brings to light another important aspect of diet which is just how important your diet is regarding not only having a lean and energized body but a sharp brain and balanced mood.

I think the tendency is to focus on diet in terms of how it affects our body composition, weight, performance and health in general. What we may not be as aware of is foods powerful affect on how we feel. I remember first being introduced to this idea when reading Dr. Barry Sears book, “The Zone Diet”, many years ago. He repeatedly suggested thinking of food as a drug. He mostly was referring to its influence on the hormones insulin and glucagon. Although those hormones are important, food affects much more than that.

A quote from the book, ” What if you discovered that the best place to begin your personal pursuit of happiness is at he end of your fork? Emerging research from the fields of neuroscience and nutrition shows that by changing what you eat, you can improve your mental and emotional well-being. You can stabilize your moods. You can improve your focus. You can even make your brain grow.”

“A large study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that eating processed foods, such as refined carbohydrates, sweets, and processed meats, increased the risk of depression by about 60%. Eating a whole food diet on the other hand, decreased the disease by about 26%.”

The recommendations for “Happiness Diet” are much the same as we have been making. One main recommendation is to avoid the MAD or SAD! This simply means avoid the modern American Diet of the Standard American Diet which is high in sugar, vegetable oils, and processed foods. There are many studies out there that may support different dietary recommendations, as far as what is best; however, there is no study saying a diet consisting of sugar, vegetable oils, processed foods, and flour is good. Therefore, if you eliminate those things and eat whole foods you are moving in the right direction.

If you need a little extra motivation to stay away from processed foods, the book gives some interesting facts from that industry. Some of the biggest brands in the processed food industry are owned by tobacco companies. Both Nabisco and Kraft are owned by tobacco companies. Just saying, that these companies aren’t know for putting the health of their  consumers as a priority and they spend 10 billion dollars a year marketing to kids.

If you need another reason to stay away from processed foods consider this. “Deciphering food label ingredients leads to unappetizing results. Take the innocuous-sounding castoreum, which is used to enhance the flavor of puddings, candies, and some frozen dairy desserts. You might be surprised to know that it’s derived from beavers—beaver anal glands.”

We can get very precise with recommendations for nutrition, supplements, etc., but first you should get a handle of the basics. This is our basic philosophy.

Learn to commit. Focus on the process and realize progression will not be a straight line but more of a zig zag. It will not be perfect and it doesn’t have to be.

More on Sleep and Human Nature

More on Sleep and Human Nature

Last month, April, was our sleep challenge month. I am happy to report that I have had several people tell me that they made an extra effort to get more sleep. I also know from my experience that this means that many people didn’t make the attempt to get more sleep. This could be because they really don’t believe it makes a difference, don’t care to make a change, or haven’t found a way to make that change. That is a normal part of human nature. Change is not easy. If you don’t have a big “Why” to ignite the will to change or don’t have the tools to make the change, then it probably won’t happen. In this last email on sleep, I want to give you a few more “Whys”, which may ignite the fire to change.

In a recent podcast #1109 with Joe Rogan, neuroscientist Matthew Walker covers the importance of sleep. He discusses many of the same things I have mentioned in earlier emails but I wanted to emphasize a few more. Specifically, he talks about the correlation between all cause mortality and lack of sleep. In other words, those who don’t get adequate sleep (between 7 and 9 hours each night) tend to die at an earlier age. He also talks about the correlation between lack of sleep and cognitive decline, cancer, and Alzheimers disease. Here are a few other ideas he discusses related to lack of sleep:

1. 30% decrease in physical performance
2. Negative Effect on emotional well being
3. Reduced cognitive development
4. Reduced skill acquisition
5. Increase in injuries

Athletic Accomplishment and sports background;
High School:
Football – all conference lineman
Track- 4:46 mile, 2:05 800 meters

Bodybuilding competition 3 events
Powerlifting: Competition- 320# bench, 500# deadlift
Gym PR’s:
Bench Press- 350
Squat 315 x 20
Deadlift 365 x 20 touch and go
Trap bar Deadlift 367 x 20 for 3 sets
Kipping Pullups  1x 50
1,000 pushup in 45 minutes

Endurance and Crucible Events:
Completed 24 Hour Walk

Martial Arts:
Aikido – purple belt
Tae Kwon Do
Jeet Kune Do
Brazilian Jiujitsu- Black Belt
Pan Am Gold Medalist at Black Belt
Medalist at blue, purple, and brown at Pan Ams
Atlanta Open Gold Medalist
Arnolds Gold Medalist
NAGA Gold Medalist

Coaching Certifications:
AFAA personal training certification
Nautilus Training Certification
Super Slow Level 1, Level 2, Master Instructor
Cossfit Level 1 Certification
Crossfit Kettlebell certification
World Kettlebell Club Fitness Trainer certification
Crossfit Endurance Certification
Crossfit Kid’s Certification
Crossfit Powerlifting
Training for Warriors level 1 and 2

Bioforce Conditiioing Coach
Sealfit Basic Certification
Parisi Coach certification
Circular Strength Training certification
Precision Nutrition Coach
Primal Health Coach

Other courses:
TacFit
FlowFit
Clubbelll Strength
Plan Strong
Functional Movement Screen
Kokoro Yoga
Boris Sheiko Seminar
Crossfit Mobility

When hearing the credentials, he said, “Yes.”, he would listen to the new guy.  I had to then inform him that the  “new guy” was me. I have often caught  myself doing the same thing. This is just another interesting example of human nature. As humans, we are certainly not always logical. If we are aware of this it can help empower us in making better decisions. If we are unaware of this or ignore it, we will sometimes be left with making decisions that, unfortunately, we will have to learn from the hard way.

What David Goggins Can Teach Us about Option Facilitation

I consider part of my job as a coach is to be an option facilitator. In my mind, an option facilitator is someone who can give a different perspective or reframe of a particular situation or problem in order to enable the person to see a different path to a solution.  Lately I have taken on a different perspective of what that means and how being a good option facilitator is of value.

I certainly have my own ideas and opinions and I realize those come with my own biases. These biases  are created from my life experiences. In the pas,t when offering options, I would have a tendency to look at those options in a very black and white manner. With a “this is the way” mentality came judgment on what is “right” vs. “wrong” . For instance, we are currently in the midst of a nutrition challenge which we started near the the first of February. In the past, I may have approached this as the “best” plan for everyone. What I am working hard on is trying to convey with this particular challenge is that it is only one of many different nutritional approaches. There are many different approaches that can help you to improve the quality of your health, mental and physical performance, and ultimately your life in general. The goal is to experiment for yourself to see if it is something that works for you.

If you choose to experiment,then it is my job to assist you along the way and hopefully provide some new perspectives on how to make a successful  go of it.  We all will have barriers that get in our way. Sometimes we just can’t see a way around or through those barriers. What I hope to bring to the table is the fact that exercise, nutrition, training, and life optimization is my job and what I think about almost all day everyday. Using the nutrition challenge as a example of option facilitation process here are few barriers that I’ve encountered  and a few options to address them.

1. How will i have enough energy to train when I’m not eating carbs?
With the exception of Jiujitsu all of our traiing at Alliance is an hour or less. Most training sessions are designed to be intense but short in duration. If you are eating up to 150 grams of carbs a day, you will have enough carbohydrate to replenish your glycogen stores. Once your body becomes more accustomed to burning fat for fuel ,it will be even easier for most. I have found that it may take some time to adjust. It may take 21 days for most and longer for some others.  However, the fear of not having enough carbs typically comes from prior information and beliefs which may actually not hold true for us.

2. I like bread, pasta, alcohol, etc. and “can’t” give them up.
The key word here is “can’t”. If you really mean, “I don’t want to or “It’s not that important to me” then that is a different story. If you truly believe you can’t then I would argue differently. One of my favorite quotes I have seen recently related to this is from Gary Taubes. In his book “ Good Calories, Bad Calories”.Gary says that “Sloth and gluttony are not the reason for being over fat but that they are a symptom.” When your diet consist of consuming a lot of sugar you are setting up a perfect storm of hormones to wire your brain to want more of the same. By breaking the cycle you will find your true self.

3. It’s too complicated.
It can be if you make it so but it does not have to be. There are plenty of good and simple recipes in Marks book. Some people like to cook and experiment with new things and that great. I on the other hand am more of a creature of habit and prefer to keep it simple.
Sample day for me:
5:00 am Bullet proof coffee
6:30am 4 scrambled eggs with cheese and bacon
Before training- amino acid and ketone supplement
Lunch- Big salad with either chicken or hamburger
Dinner-Chicken, beef, and vegetables
Nighttime bio coffee with collagen and Heavy cream.

If you choose not to pursue this challenge, then that is fine and no judgment on that decision.This part is not always easy for me. I have a tendancy to get tunnel vision and as I mentioned earlier see things in black and white. However, I am working on reframing how I facilitate options and trying to open my eyes to see even more possibilities.

Another example of option facilitation is how I offer explanation and correction of exercise performance. I am trying to avoid telling someone they are doing something wrong but rather trying to give an option of how to do it better. I like to also think of this as planting seeds. You may not be ready for certain options when I offer them but hopefully the seed will be planted so that those options are still in your mind when or if the need for them arises. For instance, you may have heard these  recommendations regarding the performance of the deadlift.

2. Take time to get the setup. This includes getting in the right position with hip hinge and neutral spine.
3. Create maximal tension on the bar and take a breath into your belly before actually starting the pull.
4. Push through the mid foot while maintaining tension through the core (including lats) in order to stabilize the spine and transfer the power from your hips and hamstrings.
5. Reset between each rep to insure you have proper position and tension.
Sometimes you can perform well and not have any injuries or issues without doing all of the above. However, if you do have a problem then my hope is that you will have a process to go back to to correct it when you need to.

So, what in the world does this have to do with David Goggins. David Goggins is a retired Navy Seal and among his many seemingly impossible feats are performing over 4,000 Pullups in 17 hours and running 205 miles in 39 hours. Although he is never named in the book, he was the SEAL that Jesse Itzler lived with in his book called, Living With A Seal.  David was recently on a
podcast with Joe Rogan. His story was very inspiring especially, from a mental toughness and transformational standpoint. (Just as a warning the language on the podcast is of the rated R variety. )A few of the takeaways for me were:

1. Most of the limits we place on ourselves are based on our genetics or our environment but our mindset.

2. The person we believe we are to be is most often dictated by what others told us we could be and is often not a true reflection of our best self
3. To become your best self you have to face your fears and be willing to fail.
4. Take responsibility. Jocko Willink calls it “extreme ownership”. It’s not that you have to do everything by yourself or can’t accept help but realize you can’t blame others for your result.
5. Ask questions to yourself. As Tony Robbins has said, “The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask.” David said he used the question of “What if?” What would my life look like if I did this.  Another question you can ask is “How is that working for me?”.

In summary, what I often hear from people when I am presented with a problem is that it is hard or that they can’t. In some cases there may be an easier way and to choose the harder path is not necessarily the best. However, sometimes it is just hard. When it comes to can’t, there are probably somethings we actually can’t do. However, in my experience most of the time it is simply a matter of priorities, values, and beliefs. To use myself as an example and how David planted a seed and facilitated a different option for me relates to mobility and stretching. When David says that a doctor told him that he was the tightest person he had ever seen and that he would need 50,000 hours of stretching to correct himself, I thought of myself. I have thought of myself as being “naturally” tight and although I have spent a great deal of time working on finding the problem and trying to correct it, David gave me a different perspective when he says that he spends two hours a day stretching and that he has only missed two days in the last 5 years.

Lastly, I want to facilitate an option or another way of approaching your training. If you look at some of the amazing physical and mental achievements David put himself through you will see that he paid a price physically to accomplish those feats. When we have done crucible training and events in the past such as Kokoro, 20X, 12 Hours of Jiujitsu, the Crucible Challenge, or the 24 Hour Walk, they have all, in my opinion, been focused on survival. In other words you just have to get through and don’t quit. They definitely teach that you are capable of much more than you thought. The seed I want to plant is “what if” you put that same mental energy and focus on the internal aspect of training and tried to do everything better. Just maybe your training would be even better and your body, mind, and spirit would benefit just as much or more.

What is Biohacking

Biohacking is a term I came across a few years ago that I have become more and more intrigued with.  It seems more experts in the field of peak human performance such as, Dave Asprey, Ben Greenfield, Tim Ferris, etc. are into biohacking. So, what is biohacking?  Wikipedia defines biohacking as “managing one’s own biology using a combination of medical, nutritional and electronic techniques.  This may include the use of nootropics, non-toxic substances, and/or cybernetic devices for recording biometric data.  My interpretation of biohacking is that it is anything you utilize to dupe your body and/or mind into better performance.  It can also mean utilizing methods and technology to speed up these changes or improvements. If you use my definition, and are training at Alliance, you are already a biohacker. It is just a matter of to what degree. The first steps in biohacking are maximizing the effects of the fundamentals.
1. Exercise
2. Nutrition
3.  Sleep
4.  Stress mitigation
5. Mental work

I have decided to take my own biohacking to another level in 2017.  I realize I am not getting any younger but what I do have, at this time in my life, is more knowledge and experience than ever before. I also have access to more information and technology than ever before. If you are a member of Alliance, you have access to me which means you have access to everything I do. I will keep you abreast of what I am doing for my own personal biohacking and what the results are.

The process works like this:
1.  Decide what it is you want to work on
2.  Measure what you want to improve
3.  Implement and track your new strategy
4.  Track your progress my measuring at regular intervals
5.  Make a decision about the efficacy of the strategy based on the results. If you are getting positive results, continue or tweak in order to continue progress.  If you are not getting results, first, insure you were implementing the strategy consistently and correctly, then either discontinue strategy or tweak and test again.

Our online nutrition coaching program demonstrates how this process works.  The program consist of:
1. 12 months of daily nutrition lessons
2. Specific daily habits to be implementing and integrating every 2 weeks
3.  Daily accountability ( did you study the lesson/ did you do the habit for the day)
4.  Periodic measurement (body composition, weight, pictures)

The program has a proven track record of results, in terms of body and health transformation.  If you are following the program with at least 90% compliance you can expect results.  If you are not compliant, then you simply need to get on track with the plan.  If you are 90% or more compliant but are not getting expected results then there can be tweaks or hacks to the plan.

Looking forward to making 2018 extraordinary!

Commit, Show Up, Don’t Quit, Be Uncommon,
Billy

Motivation versus Discipline

With it being the beginning of a new year, everyone’s motivation should be high, but what is motivation? One rather vague definition is that motivation is the general desire or willingness to do something. Let’s take a look at what three different sources have to say about motivation and discipline.

First, lets look at what personal development guru, Anthony Robbins, has to say about motivation. Tony says that everything is motivated by one of two things either pain or pleasure. We will always move away from pain and towards pleasure. For most, the avoidance of pain is a more powerful motivator than seeking of pleasure. This is a simple concept but I have never seen it not hold true. The true power of this statement is that you can choose to frame things a certain way to enhance motivation. For instance, if you focus on the immediate physical discomfort (pain) of a hard intense training session you will be less motivated. Vice versa, if you focus on the benefits (pleasure) of the training, you will have greater motivation. For some, they are able to even derive pleasure from the discomfort. We use the saying “Embrace the Grind” all the time. This can have two meanings. First, it can simply mean that you need to realize that true success requires hard work and that to reach that success you need to embrace that fact. It can also take on a slightly different meaning in that you embrace, as part of your identity, a willingness to continuously strive to give uncommon effort which in turn gives you a sense of satisfaction. So, your motivation really boils down to what you value and what you choose to focus on.

One of the lessons that are part of our online nutrition coaching program includes the “10 Motivation Secrets”. One of those secrets is that “Discipline” is a myth. Famed strength coach, Charles Poloquin, explains motivation like this. ” There is no such thing as discipline. There is only love. Love is the most powerful creative force in the universe. What do you really love? Because you are the result of what you love most. You either love finely etched muscular abs more than donuts or you love donuts more than washboard abs you could do laundry on. It’s as simple as that”.