Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Look Ahead to December, and Beyond

         During my six-month hiatus from this blog, I graduated from residency, road-tripped out West, worked in a mission hospital in Togo, and moved from Wichita to Boone, NC. If you followed Mindy and me at, you know that we had a great experience in Togo. Click on the link if you haven't read about it. In this post, I'll simply be looking at where I am now and where I see myself going over the next 6-12 months. If that sounds selfish, I'll just point out that I focus on self-improvement with the hope you'll be surprised, gratified, and challenged by my ideas and experiences.

The 5 AM Miracle

        When I was in medical school, I lived with a dude who got up at 4:30 AM every morning. I'd mosey out of my room at 7:15 to find Ben reading or rolling on some little project, and part of me would wish I had the discipline to do the same. Seven years later, I now fully realize his genius. Though I can't speak for him, my experience tells me that getting up early is more a matter of planning and execution than grit. Good mornings start the night before.

        My biggest goal for the next year is to get into a productive and healthy morning routine, starting at 5 AM. On work days, that gives me 100 minutes to toilet, meditate, pray, journal, stretch, work on mobility and pain issues, and read. I'll also try to work in a couple power poses and some personal mantras I've developed if I have time. On off days, I can stretch it out another couple hours with additional reading, writing, and exercise. My goal is to read 4 books a month, with a good mix of self-improvement, spiritual, fictional, biographical, and medical titles. I'm also planning on putting reviews of each book I read on this blog to help me process, encode, and integrate what I learn.

       The main tools I will be utilizing will be focus@will, headspace, and mobilitywod, all of which I have recently bought subscriptions to. Focus@will is music scientifically designed to help you focus. It's what Adderall would be if it were converted to audio. Headspace is a mindfulness meditation app, which I've gotten into over the past few months. Seems like every day, I see another article touting yet another benefit of mindfulness meditation, and I will just add my voice to the choir. If mindfulness meditation could be made into a drug, it would be all most people needed. Everyone should be doing it, period. Mobilitywod is a program designed to "optimize your mobility, prevent injury, train smarter, recover better, treat your own pain and injuries, enjoy performance gains, understand your physiology, and help more people" on just 15 minutes a day of mobility work. So far, it has lived up to the hype. Thanks for the recommendation, Justin. You all should give it a look.

       My books for the next few months will include The Imitation of Christ, White Coat Investor, The Critique of Pure Reason, I Will Teach You to Be Rich, The Power of Habit, Originals, Quiet, The Road, The Mountain of Silence, Prayer (Tim Keller), and Tools of Titans. Hopefully you'll start seeing little reviews of each of these on here before too long. For my commute, my go-to podcasts right now are The 5 AM Miracle, Common Sense with Dan Carlin, Let My People Think by Ravi Zacharias, The New Yorker: Fiction, Homegrown Liberty, Brute Strength, The Tim Ferriss Show, and The Art of Manliness, but I'm always switching up the rotation. If you don't yet listen to podcasts, you are missing out on much. My life is so much better because of what I've learned from listening to a bunch of people smarter than me talk.

The Other 22 Hours
        One of the foundational concepts I picked up from my pal Warren Buffet is the "Two-List" strategy. It goes like this: Make a list of your top 25 goals. Then pick out your Top 5. The other 20 goals are not your "work on them when I can" list, they're you're "Avoid at All Costs" list. That list is the good that is the enemy of the best. When I think back over some of my goals over the past few years, I can identify many good goals that never cracked that top 5, and should have never made it onto my goal list. Starting a Youtube channel, building a website, establishing 21 professional contacts, quantifying 21 areas of my life: all good ideas, but with high opportunity cost. Fortunately, I never got around to any of them anyway.

       So instead of making monthly goals of dubious value, I'll be checking in every couple of weeks with book reviews, new ideas, and life updates. Things like archery, firearms, music, smoking meat, jiujitsu, rock climbing, and self-defense will probably take the back burner for now while I focus on my five primary areas of People, Mind, Spirit, Body, and Profession. I'll be going on day- or week-long trips with Mindy, joining communities, reading articles and books, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, worshipping, doing Crossfit workouts, and enjoying the outdoors. I still may occasionally have 21-day projects to do things like count macros, start a new collection, and build garden beds, but my morning routine should keep me moving forward in all the areas I need right now.

       Other strategies I'm implementing are personal retreat days every month, scheduled date nights every 1-2 weeks, and scheduled 24-hour fasts every 1-2 weeks. Today was actually my first personal retreat, and it was great. The personal retreat is a concept I got from Richard J. Foster's book The Celebration of Discipline which involves removing yourself from your normal environment and spending the day in contemplation. I stayed focused all morning, lost some steam in the afternoon, but brought it back to write this blog post and do some reading. I modified it to involve quite a bit of physical activity and get a few things accomplished, but it was still emotionally and intellectually refreshing. Mindy was super supportive, which made the process even more pleasant than it would have been. I hope this practice continues indefinitely.

      I'm especially thankful for the opportunity to get perspective today because tomorrow is my first day as a hospitalist at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. For the next few days, my focus will be almost exclusively on learning how to do my new job. As I step into my new role in our new home, I hope to continue to grow in presence, power, warmth, perspective, godliness, wisdom, humility, gratitude, and grace. As it happens, that's also my hope for you. Until next time, be wise, warm, and well.



  1. During your personal retreat you said you "stayed focused". What exactly were you doing during the personal retreat all day or what was the goal?

    1. Good question. The main idea is to be able to do "deep work." This time, I was focused on reading bigger chunks of books, journaling, meditating, and getting this blog post done. I also exercised. I plan to add in fasting, prayer, and who knows what else in the future.