Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Wintertime Update

It's been six months since my last life update-- which means it's time my vast blogosphere audience how a few select personal development projects have been going. Here you go!

1) Music

Ever since I was in medical school, I've kept lists of music, movies, and books that people recommend to me. I've been slowly chipping away at the book list over the past year, but the music and movie lists have been woefully neglected for years. This summer, I reached the tipping point of boredom with my same old music, so I decided to level up. My approach was to sign up for the free 3-month trial of Apple Music, then switch to the nearly-free Amazon Music trial for another three moths of unlimited music downloads. Though it took me 4 months, I worked my way through all 80-ish artists on my list, and downloaded over 1000 songs. More importantly, I've discovered new artists in genres I already enjoyed and expanded into genres like jazz fusion, samba and bossa nova, classical, and indie singer-songwriters. Though the list continues to grow, some of my favorite artists from the last few months are:

- Gungor (the trio of albums "One Wild Life")
- Yo-Yo Ma
- Astrud Gilberto
- Jenny Lewis
- Avicii
- Plej
- Bon Iver
- Snarky Puppy
- Derek Webb (new album "Fingers Crossed")

Though my explorations have recently slowed, I'm excited about continuing to discover new mid-expanding jams. Next up in this area would be to get back into playing music myself. I'm thinking 2019 will be the time for that, but we'll see.

2) Swimming

Sometime this summer, my back started bothering me more, resulting in a change of focus from weightlifting and gymnastic strength training to swimming, massage, and physical therapy. I'm happy to say that my back feels 90% better, and that I'm starting to refocus on gymnastic strength training. But in the interim, I've made huge gains in my swimming ability, cutting my mile swim time down from 43:00 to about 38:00 in just a few months. Counterintuitively, the key to making these gains was to not make improvement a goal. In fact, I barely even recorded my times for the first few months. My one and only aim was to get in the pool once a week. If that happened, it was a win. Only after several months of relative consistency in the pool did I start challenging myself to hit certain times. By that time, it was easy to get to the pool, because I had started enjoying it. In fact, I have been achieving a more meditative state while swimming than in any other activity right now. After all, gliding through water in a rhythmic fashion is the original, primal "flow state."

Another big factor was a tip I picked up from Tim Ferriss a couple years ago on swimming technique. The basic idea is to give one small kick for each stroke, just a little flick to help turn your body from one side to the other. This massively decreases the energy used up by the legs, and results in drastically less fatigue. The next time you're in the pool, try it out!

3) Relationships

After nearly a year in Boone without a sense of belonging, Mindy and I found a great small group through the Crossroads service at Boone United Methodist Church. In a stroke of providence, our first visit to the church happened to be the day of the first small group meeting. We've really enjoyed getting to know the other couples in the group, most of whom are also relatively new to Boone and relatively newly married. A few of us guys have also started meeting for lunch periodically to get to know each other better. Our relationships with some other local couples have also continued to grow, and we're excited to see that continue.

I've also been able to keep up with a few college friends better now that I'm back in the Southeast. Back in October, I was able to join my old buds Kevin Lloyd and Jacob Hall for a backpacking trip through Dolly Sods, West Virginia, which was totally amazing. And I've been able to see Ben Carr, Sam Cox, Andrew Shank, Lee Robeson, and Brett Hoffecker recently, which has been life-giving. If you're reading this and I haven't seen you lately, hopefully we'll fix that soon!

As we head into 2018, I've started ruminating on the big picture for the new year. I'll put up something soon along those lines!

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