I wear shorts under my pants

So that when I’m at work I can instantly go from “professional mode” to “coach mode” in a matter of seconds without needing to go to the locker room.

I wear a t-shirt or polo underneath whatever I’m wearing for the same reason: I can strip down to “coach mode” instantaneously. I suppose I’m like Clark Kent.

But in all seriousness, I do this to eliminate decision fatigue. It turns out that the quality of our decisions gets worse the more of them we have to make. It’s why doctors tend to get diagnoses wrong later in the day, and why judges tend to give harsher sentences later in the day. Their brains are spent from making too many decisions.

It’s why Mark Zuckerberg wears the same t-shirt every day, as Steve Magness describes in Peak Performance:

“At the end of 2014, in Zuckerberg’s first-ever public Q&A session, the question that garnered the most attention was, ‘Why do you wear the same T-shirt every day?’

‘I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community,’ replied Zuckerberg, clarifying that he had ‘multiple same shirts.’ He went on to explain that, when taken together, small decisions–like choosing what to wear–add up and can be quite tiring. ‘I’m in this really lucky position, where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than a billion people. And I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life,’ he said.” (p. 142).


Drinking on St. Patrick’s Day

I remember being a freshman in Chautauqua Hall on St. Patrick’s Day. March 17th, 2006. It was a Friday.

Some time mid-morning the guy across the hall walks into my room and says, “Are you being a loser and going to class instead of going out?”

Today I would be baffled by such a question: “Are you going to work instead of going drinking?” Thankfully that never happens to me, but if it did I would be gravely concerned about the person asking the question. I would wonder if the person was struggling with alcoholism. I would suggest the person seek help from an addiction counselor, and I would be confident that going to work is the right decision for me.

But when you’re 18-years-old you don’t have that perspective yet. Your brain is still craving acceptance from your peer group. If the group wants to skip class to go out it takes an enormous act of courage to do the opposite. Loneliness looms in that act of courage.

Granted, the United States has an unusually high drinking age. In most parts of the world it–where the drinking age is 18, 16, or even 14–it’s normal to drink. It’s normal to go to a pub and have a pint with your professor. It’s normal to walk into that pub and see people of all ages having conversation and listening to music. Binge drinking is much less common.

Here, binge drinking is a huge problem, and it creates situations where courage is needed to avoid it. Some people don’t get around to acting courageously until they’re in their 40’s. Some people never do.

Better to do it while you’re still in college.

[PS–I went to class that day. There ended up being plenty of students there.]

How to do a pull-up

Recently a female soccer player trying to do a pull-up said to me, “I can’t pull myself up at all. Maybe I’m just not meant to do pull-ups.”

Another player overheard her and said it better than I could, “This is going to sound weird, but you just have to think you can.”

Indeed: Follow your heart and your body will catch up.

I could have told her to start with assisted pull-ups and isometric holds, or I could have told her about the importance of strength-to-body weight ratio. But no, this athlete isn’t there yet. First she needs to change her thinking.

After all, thoughts become words, which become actions, which become habits.

How I sleep

Important note: Don’t try to copy my routine if it doesn’t work for you.

I go to bed early. 8 p.m. would be late for me to stay up during the week.

I put my phone on airplane mode before I go to bed. If the university burns down in the middle of the night I won’t know about it until morning. That’s what emergency services are for.

I read a book right before falling asleep–I love reading and it helps make me sleepy. No screens are allowed in bed unless a new season of Game of Thrones, Ozark, or Stranger Things has just been released.

I meditate right before I fall asleep, watching my breath go in and out. It’s the only sustainable meditation practice I’ve found so far.

I do not set an alarm. I sleep until I wake up feeling rested.

If you came of age in the mid-to-late twentieth century you were told that the only effect of sleep deprivation was daytime sleepiness. We now know that’s nonsense–that sleep affects every aspect of performance in a significant way, including athletic performance.

Researchers are now in the midst of studying the link between sleepiness and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Drug addiction

You wouldn’t put a loaded syringe next to a drug addict and expect him to resist the temptation to use it.

And yet you regularly put your phone next to you, expecting you’ll get anything done worth doing.

Our top performances happen when we’re fully engaged in our work. We focus, stretching ourselves just a little further than we think we’re capable of. Despite the discomfort we stay in the present moment.

The presence of your phone makes top performances nearly impossible.

I can hear your objection already: “Maloney, you’re just another curmudgeon telling us teenagers how addicted we are to our phones.” Yes, I am, but I’m also right, and I can prove it. Take this passage from Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, And Thrive With The New Science Of Success:

“For a study published in The Journal of Social Psychology, researchers asked a group of college students to complete a series of difficult motor tasks when their cell phones were visible. Sure enough, their performance was significantly worse than a control group where participants’ cell phones were not visible.  Things got even more interesting when all the participants’ cell phones were removed but the study leader’s cell phone remained present. Incredibly, even when the phone visible wasn’t their own, study participants’ performance suffered.” (p. 63).

My personal strategy: for 80% of the day my phone is on airplane mode and out of my sight.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Why I ride my bike all winter

In August 2017 I bought a bicycle from Hollyloft in Jamestown for $400. I did not buy it because I’m interested in biking. I bought it because I’m interested in saving money.

“Ryan, you spent $400 to save money?” Yes, I did, and I will, a lot.

Because I bike or walk to work every day, I’ve only put 1,500 miles on my car since August. In that time I’ve spent $107 on gas, $80 on repairs (it turns out cars break less when they’re used less), and $750 on insurance. After 10 years of owning this car the depreciation rate is negligible, and I don’t make monthly payments because I would never buy a car I couldn’t pay for outright.

Projecting out for a total year, my cost is $1,499 to own this car. Compare that to the average yearly cost of car ownership: $8,469. My yearly savings is $6,970, or $580/month.

And here’s the beautiful part: If I take that $580 and invest it in the stock market, in 10 years I’ll have $100,484. (Here is how I came up with that.)

Right now lots of people are complaining that they took away parking spots in front of Dods Hall.

Apparently, lots of people think those parking spots are worth $100K each.

[PS — if you’ve been paying attention to the links I’ve posted on this blog, you’ve noticed I love Mr. Money Mustache’s website. Here’s my favorite article from him on car ownership.]