Saturday, December 12, 2015

December Reflection

      December is hands-down the best month for reflection. The cold drives you into the warmth of your home, and sooner or later on your Christmas break you pick up a journal or a laptop and start to chew on some undigested mental cud. I feel myself starting that distantly familiar process as I stand here at my make-shift stand-up workstation, sipping on lemon zinger tea and peering out over adjacent backyards, brown with a backdrop of grey.

       It's amazing how life never happens how you think it will. As my year progressed and I grew in new ways, I gradually became unmoored from the monthly goals I had established a year ago. The payoffs of some of my goals, like building my own website or starting my own Youtube channel, were too remote to motivate me to pursue them over other things I was doing. What were those other things? Well, getting married, obviously. Learning how to be a good husband has taken a lot of time and mental space I would have otherwise dedicated to other interests. But we're making progress. I've also increased my workouts with my friend and fellow-resident Justin Grant to three times a week, and we are planning on competing in the Crossfit Open in April. In addition, we recently started the Gracie Combatives Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu course, with an eye to earning my Blue Belt by July (Justin already has his from several years ago).

       Why these new goals in particular? I can trace much of it to the influence of The Art of Manliness in my life. As Brett McKay has said on many occasions, a man should be strong and able to defend his family. His journey of fitness over the past couple of years has inspired me to take my own to new heights. I realized that I wasn't gaining any strength by my free-spirited exercise sessions of various kinds, and that goals and structure are key to making gains. In particular, Brett has pursued Olympic-style weightlifting, and both he and Tai Lopez (another important influence on my life over the past year) have been learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Providentially, Justin Grant moved to Wichita just as these interests were starting to coalesce, and he shares my passion for constant self-improvement, physical fitness, and manly skills. He has also been extremely generous with his time and his home gym, and I have learned much more with him as my tutor than I would have otherwise.

      I have also made great strides in my career. As most of you know, I signed a three-year hospitalist contract with Appalachian Regional Healthcare System in Boone, NC, starting next December. Though my long-term goal remains starting my own Direct Primary Care practice, I'm excited to get really good at hospital medicine, and also for the seven days on / seven days off schedule that will allow us to travel and cultivate new interests and skills. We've also been accepted by Samaritan's Purse at a hospital in the Peruvian Andes mountains for July - November, although we are not sure that's where we're going. In the meantime, I'll be moonlighting more in rural Kansas hospitals to gain more experience and make some money for a down-payment on a house.
      Over the course of the year, I've jotted down self-improvement goals for 2016 and 2017 as they've come to me. As I've noted above, the Crossfit Open and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will be a big focus for the first half of the year. Other areas I want to develop include:

-Relational: Continue to make monthly goals with Mindy, make it a habit to ask better questions of friends and acquaintances, visit far-off friends
-Public speaking: Record myself speaking 21 times, take advantage of opportunities to speak
-Music: Start playing guitar again, learn 21 new songs
-Spiritual: Do yoga, fasting, Bible meditation, and family prayer on a weekly basis
-Intellectual: Read 21 works of mythology, classical literature, philosophy, poetry, or biography on a weekly basis, continue to blog at least monthly
-Medicine: Go through study folder on a weekly basis, keep trying to read the equivalent of 21 journals per month, answer practice questions on a weekly basis
-Medical missions: Go on a 3-4 month medical mission trip to a hospital in a Spanish speaking country, do lots of OB, and build relationships with the staff there
-Spanish: Go back over grammar before my trip, start using two more verb tenses, expand my vocabulary every day while in Latin America
-Psychological: Start logging my dreams in an Evernote document, play the Situational Awareness Game on a weekly basis
-Gustatory: Learn new cooking skills by going to classes at Williams-Sonoma, smoke meat every month (started in November)
-Physical: Log all my workouts, go for walks on off-days
-Efficiency: Time-track 21 times this year, consistently get up before 7:30 AM on weekends.

-Consistency: Continue to build on the habits and skills above
-Residential: Buy a house that will facilitate my long-term goals, place solar panels on roof
-Environmental: Make collections and learn identification of trees, birds, flowers, insects, mushrooms, rocks, and grasses of WNC, hike somewhere new and camp every month
-Home economical: Start raising chickens and goats, raise a big garden, start canning, plant fruit trees, start making goat cheeses and fermented foods, reduce waste, compost
-French: Spend time preparing for and traveling to a French-speaking country
-Music: Learn to play the banjo
-Craft: Start learning carpentry, build a chickenhouse, root cellar, man hutch
-Psychological: Take a tech sabbath every other Sunday
-Physical: Get back into rock climbing
-Career: Find new mentors for different areas of my life, join 2 hospital committees
-Travel: Visit 3 far-off friends and 2 new countries
-Intellectual: Conduct 7 home science experiments

       Technology can be the greatest asset or the greatest hindrance to the accomplishment of these goals. I will continue to utilize Evernote, this blog, the "Reminders" app, and the "Hours" time-tracking app to help me stay motivated to change, and plan to try out the "wodlist" workout tracking app and other project-specific apps to help me along the way. 

      As you may have noticed, there are 12 areas of focus for each year instead of one focus for each month. I plan to use the "Reminders" app to keep track of these different areas, and each month's post will probably hone in on a few of the most actively pursued areas that month. As the next two years unfold, I'm sure some of these goals will recede in importance while others will increase, much like this year. I will periodically post revisions or new goals as they come up.

      The people I surround myself with will be another major determining factor in my success, and unfortunately that is something I can only partly control. Nevertheless, I'm on the lookout wherever I go for like-minded people whose passion is self-improvement.

      As I finish this discussion, I'd like to share a word on one of the foundations my self-improvement philosophy, which is service. Much like in business, in which the best service you can be to the world is to offer a great product, your personal life is the most inspiring and helpful to others when you are yourself a role model of virtue. In addition to pursuing the good life in the form of health, wealth, love, and happiness, everyone should also seek to live out the higher purpose of service to others and to God (if you are religious). The beautiful thing is that this aspect mostly falls into place if you are pursuing the other areas of the good life in their correct proportions. That being said, over the coming weeks and months I will be searching for more ways I can serve the world, starting with my wife, family, God, patients, friends, and acquaintances.

      As you enter another new year in a few weeks, chew on the following words, taken from an ancient Roman tradition via The Art of Manliness, written on a picture frame in my room and on my heart. 

      Remember that you will die. Remember to live.

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