In April 2022 I stated I was going to undertake a 100 Day Challenge. It’s July 2022 and those 100 days are now over. I’ve had some time to reflect. I wanted to capture my preliminary thinking, reaction, and response to the exercise. Strap in.
Where it started
tl;dr – This year I turned 50, and I wanted to do something for it because why not. Truth be told, I may be 50 but I’m the best I’ve ever been in many areas of life. I felt like celebrating that – to keep climbing. Originally I wanted to diet down, finally get really lean, and post a rockin’ pic on my birthday. Well… that didn’t happen as diet continues to be a struggle for me (more on this later). But I did decide instead to try 100 days of more discipline.
One thing I’ve learned in life is that if the bite looks too big to take, you won’t take it. It’s why in software development we take 1 13-point story and break it down into 13 1-point stories that logically support and provide a path towards the desired outcome. If you just then follow the path/plan/process, it just works and you will arrive at your desired outcome. It may not happen in your preferred timeline, and your level of satisfaction in the outcome (if it even happens) is all TBD. But what’s important to remember is:
Slow progress is still progress. Even if all I did today was take 1 step… I took 1 step. In 100 days, I will have taken 100 steps. Sure it took me 100 days, but I’m still 100 steps ahead of where I was.
I think it was just serendipity that when I came back to think about “what to do for my 50th?”, it happened to be just a bit more than 100 days out. We dumb apes like nice round things, including numbers like 100 (plus it adds another “place”: hundreds… ooo! ahh!). So a 100 day challenge sounds good.
I chose 4 small areas for the challenge: read, yoga, workout, eating.
Every day I had to read something meaningful, useful, towards growth (so reading Slack all day doesn’t count). It has to be something that expands me, grows me, educates me, or just… makes me smile. It could be haiku – talk about a low barrier of entry, as it takes almost no time to read that. Or I could read a page in a book. Or a chapter… well, that’s too ambitious, but for sure there’s no ceiling on how much is read.
I just want to make sure I read SOMETHING every day.
This isn’t real yoga. By “yoga” I mean just moving my body through a full range every day (if there’s a better 1-word term for what I’m doing, suggestions welcome). I sit at a desk at a computer all day typing. I need to get up, stand up, stretch, bend, squat, deep breathe, etc. The gym stuff is good, but it can leave me sore and tight, which then just compounds when you sit crunched over a computer all day.
Use it or lose it is real.
Of course the gym. But also, more dry fire practice. If I’m going to get good at this red dot thing…
Eating – and being less fat
Yes, fat. I don’t want to lose weight. I don’t want to lose muscle mass/tissue. I want to lose fatty tissue from my body. It serves me no purpose: it’s summer in Texas and I don’t need the insulation.🥵 It’s just weight I carry around that contributes more wear and tear to joints and other things. Plus, I just don’t like the way I look naked in the mirror, y’know? I reckon I could stand to drop at least 40# of fat tissue to get acceptably lean.
All this work in the gym – I’ve built something, and I wish to carve off this cream cheese and see it. I’ve long wished, I’ve long tried and failed and tried and failed and tried and failed. But… try again I must. At least each time I learn something that gets me 1 step further.
Well, spreadsheet. I launched Numbers, new spreadsheet, 100 rows of dates, 4 columns one for each challenge. I had to make an entry for each day about what I did. I kept the spreadsheet open, window visible, on my personal computer’s 2nd monitor so it was always visible and present to me. What’s the opposite of “out of sight, out of mind”? “in sight, in mind”?
I gave myself grace about not being 100% successful every day. Yes, I wanted an entry for every day and THAT needs to be 100% (even if I fill in yesterday’s entry during today, vs as I go along today). But if what I put in was “Forgot to read…” or “Ate like an asshole”, thats ok. I want to record my failure days, those days when I’m less than stellar and didn’t live up to my own expectations. I mean, it happens, we’re human: we falter. What purpose is served by me suddenly “cheating” and cramming in a haiku before bed, just so I can fill in a “positive” note on the cell? What am I gaming, for whom, and why? Naw… just record what did happen, even if I’m embarrassed about it, learn, and move on. It’s cool, and as well I thought it’d be interesting to see what it looked like for reals looking back on the track record 100 days later. So, be honest.
100 Days Later…
It was good. I am glad I did it. I learned about myself, and about a few things that I believe will serve me well. The big lessons I got out of it are: to continue to embrace process focus, and that discipline done poorly is better than none.
Even if you’re process-focused you ultimately still care about the outcome. Both process-focus and outcome-focus care about the outcome. The difference is what you are focusing on. Where is your attention? Where is your mind? Is it on that thing over there in the future (outcome-focus)? or this thing right here right now (process-focus)? The outcome matters – it’s about how you get there, about where you put your effort.
As a software developer, process is king. We talk about agile vs. waterfall, scrum, kanban, standups – all of these are processes. We apply process and promote process to our teams and clients all day every day. And that if we just do the process and do it right, it works! It just works! (to paraphrase JonTron)
If I follow 5/3/1, Westside/conjugate, Starting Strength, Texas Method, StrongLifts 5×5, Bill Starr 5×5, Mountain Dog, Renaissance Periodization, Barbell Medicine, Garage Gangsters, RPE, RIR, etc… it’s all processes. If you just do the things and you do it right, it works… you’ll get bigger and stronger.
In shooting a handgun, you have to acquire grip, hold well, align sights, press trigger without disturbing the sights, manage recoil, follow-through, repeat if necessary. Again, there’s a process. Heck, unloading a semi-automatic pistol requires a particular order: 1. remove magazine, 2. rack slide (3. verify). If you rack then remove, it may not be unloaded. Process.
Now, there’s always a process, there’s always an outcome; what do you focus your attention on? Back in 2019 when I took Gabe White’s Pistol Shooting Solutions class, a huge lightbulb came on regarding the effectiveness of process-focus. Of being in the moment of this shot now. That shot, it’s in the past. That other shot? it’s in the future. But this shot? Be here: grip, sights, trigger, viola. And the results of that weekend were beyond my expectations. Then there’s my performance a month later at the Rangemaster Master Instructor class in November 2019. High? Revolver day, perfect score on qual tied with Weems and Labonte (Labonte won the shootoff). Low? Completely fucking the Casino Drill (Tom ran the timer) in front of Tom and a poor showing on the qual (passed, but 91%). I was so outcome-focused that weekend – “Daub, don’t fuck this up.” – and so what did I nearly do?
And so here in the 100 days, I get to a new level of process-focus understanding.
This is pretty simple: just keep lifting. I’ve been lifting since I was a teenager, most seriously from 2011 to today; after 11 years, I think it’s habit and “part of me”. I have to continue to adjust what and how I lift to manage fatigue, wear-and-tear, progress, and quite simply – enjoyment. I gotta enjoy the lifting. I like lifting heavy, but I have to take an even longer road to get there now. But I think it’ll be good – because of something I heard Dave Hoff said about “owning the weight” regarding progression. Yeah… I need more of that.
A number of people have expressed concern over my lifting. I appreciate that I have so many people in my life that care about my well-being. Know that my long-term motivation around lifting is: to not be decrepit. There’s far more to my lifting and workouts than I show on Instagram, and everything is ultimately guided by my lifetime desire to not be decrepit. I want to be like Sonny:
Dry fire… I have been doing more of it. I trailed off a bit towards the end because of other life things, but I’m coming back to it. I don’t get too bent out of shape over those things, because often I find stepping away from something for a moment to let things simmer, I find when I come back to it the notion I was working on will be more refined. It’s all good. But that said, I do need to pick up my game.
Eating / Defatting
This remains a struggle for me. However I did have one solid outcome from the 100 days.
I was able to get a more refined look at how “eating outside my windows” costs me, and THAT is the thing I need to give attention to before anything else. And once I get that managed, then I can truly let it rip.
See, I might leave my office around 6 PM. Supper’s in the works but not yet ready. Glorious smells and “taste this” stimulate the appetite. I snack on something. I keep snacking. I’m probably 500 cals in, and then supper consumed on top of that. And that doesn’t do me good.
If I keep to my time windows (pre, breakfast, lunch, shake, supper) and eat ONLY then, that’s what I need to do. Then it’s just “do the math” and “prep according to the math for a week of meals” and do it to the right cal total and macros and boom… just do the thing and do it right and don’t eat like an asshole outside of windows, and it will just work.
Here’s the twist! I monitor my bodyweight. I see how what I consume affects that aspect, as well as how I look in the mirror (e.g. size/swell of my gut). If eating between windows is helping me maintain, those extra 500 cals (or whatever) are necessary – which means when I DO eat within my windows, those window meals MUST account for that 500 cals somehow so I can still maintain! So I have to eat at particular times AND I have to eat more when it’s time to eat… and I gotta tell you, sometimes all the eating is a chore (look up Blaine Sumner chicken shakes).
So that’s the trick for me now: windows. Mrs. Hsoi has been wonderful in helping with meal preps. That I get to eat her cooking AND do the meal stuff is… wonderful. ❤️
I’ll get there. I do see finally #BecomingLean being within reach.
Discipline done poorly is better than none
If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.
“Worth doing poorly? Why would you want to do something shitily?” That saying just irked my sensibilities. But then I came to understand it. It’s more like: if it’s worth doing, it’s ok to do it poorly. Like one of those it doesn’t matter if you can’t dance, dance anyways sort of things, dig?
It’s that something is better than nothing. Now of course it’s not just any something, it still has to be something correct and directed towards desired outcomes. But done poorly is still done. And so, something is better than nothing. It’s not about going from 100 down to 10, rather it’s about being at 0 and going up to 10.
What’s magical is that even if say all you can give is a 3, if you keep giving that 3 every day, those 3’s add up. And then maybe one day, you’ll do 4. I recall one night wanting to go straight to bed. That means I skip brushing my teeth, but I tell myself to just go dry brush each surface once and be done. I do. Next thing I know, I’ve brushed every surface a few times, wondering why I didn’t just put paste on the thing… it’s not like it would have taken much more effort. And so next time, I do that. 3 becomes 4.
I managed to read 3 (almost) books.
- You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney
- A History of Heavy Metal by Andrew O’Neill
- Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto by Aaron Franklin (almost… tho I am finished with it now)
I am most happy about this. I love books… I have 3 large bookcases in my office stacked with books. I love going to the bookstore and coming home with neat finds. But, I don’t always get to read the books… I want to, I intend to, but time isn’t always there. However, I know it’s not that the time isn’t there; it’s more about how I am spending the time I have. Like I don’t need to scroll social media, I can read a book.
YANSS was a great start, because it’s a lot of little chapters. It’s an easy read, and once you get started it’s only a few pages to finish a chapter. So you make faster progress than 1 page per day. It’s a fun and enlightening book too.
The other two books were just things for fun. I didn’t want to have to read something serious, but they were both enriching. Andrew really hates hair metal. 🤘 And Aaron knows meat. I’ve been putting some of his teachings into practice to good outcome.
If there’s anything I’m really most proud of from this 100 days it’s this – that I’m getting books read. It may have been only 3, but that’s more than before. It feels really good, and I want to keep it up. I’m already into my next book.
I’m standing more. I need to stand moreer.
I also realized something… when I take a break at work, I kick my feet up in my chair and scroll media to kinda tune out my brain searching for a dopamine hit. Why am I not instead starting by doing some stretches and even getting on the floor and stretching and moving stuff. Do that just 5 minutes… then you can scroll or whatever.
Will start doing that.
I’ve been watching my squat, especially as I get into the hole and what happens with my upper back and hips. In part, it’s due to “being tight” because I get to a certain point and the tightness wins, tho I can continue to be mobile by bending, which isn’t quite optimal. So doing things like Asian squat-sits on the reg should help me open things up a bit, including my hip adductors. This’ll just be good for me all around.
I also think, with increased intention around my yoga times, I do some of the knee PT stuff and stretches. That will not only be good for the knees, but my entire lower body.
100 more days?
I did notice that within a few days of finishing the 100, I trailed off in keeping the diary. That’s ok as that’s not really needed long term (I think…). But I have been working to keep up with all the things. I do need to work on reframing my work breaks at least partially into “yoga” sessions. Heck, after I stretch I could do 5 minutes of dry fire practice. 🤔
I did think about trying to extend it out another 100 days, but I didn’t see much of the point. I got what I needed from the rigidity of this exercise, and what I really need is to just maintain the momentum towards it becoming just a part of me, just a normal everyday way of being. To maintain the structure of the 100 day challenge would feel artificial. But could it just feel that way because it’s novel and not yet a habit? Maybe. I’ll see. I have a Reminder repeating on a monthly basis to at least reflect on my performance in these areas.
Try it yourself
Seriously. Try it yourself.