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Why Workout Motivation Doesn’t Last

Keeping regular workout motivation is hard. Here’s my latest video on what to do about it (it’s only 4 minutes, so give it a view!):

Most of us can’t seem to work out daily. We look on the internet for workout motivation. We keep searching for the right exercise gear, clothing, and right workout program. Sometimes, when we hate ourselves enough, we decide that we have to change. We even start exercising and it goes on for a while, but then we fail.  What’s going on here? Why can’t we do something that we know is good for us! Let’s find out.
Oh, by the way, you can check references to every single claim I’m about to make in the video description on YouTube. Let’s look at 3 reasons why we can’t stick to a workout program and what we can do about it.
First of all, we treat exercise as something that’s done only in the gym. Or when we have the proper workout clothes on. Or if it’s done in the morning. If we miss the first few minutes of class at the gym, or we have to leave early, we say that it doesn’t count. We say it only counts if we’re completely drenched in sweat, and are pushing our bodies to their limit. But the science says that any and all physical activity counts. When you take the stairs, it counts. When we park far away in the parking lot, it counts. A good rule is to stick with what’s called the ventilatory threshold–the point at which it is hard to hold a conversation with someone. Research says that at that rate, we feel good about ourselves and want to keep exercising. And when we start liking exercising, we don’t need workout motivation to keep doing it.
Secondly, most of us treat exercise as a chore or punishment. It’s something that we “have” to do, “should” do. We’ve heard the scientists, or our own doctor has told us that we need to workout. And that’s exactly why we can’t get ourselves to exercise. When you workout to reduce your cholesterol, or to be “healthy”, you won’t feel motivated to work-out. When we “should” all over ourselves by telling us that we have to do this, we must do this, we create resistance. Our minds immediately say “oh yeah? you can’t make me exercise!” The solution? We are much more likely to do things that we decide to do for ourselves. This is called Self-Determination Theory. Stop making exercise into a punishment and find a reason to enjoy it. We’ll get into the best reasons to workout in just a moment. Before that, let’s look at…
Thirdly, the reason we fail at exercising daily is because we make it about losing weight. We don’t know how we will look like in 6 months, 12 months. And so, we give up when we don’t see any changes quickly enough. That’s the danger of making weight loss or looking good into your motivator. We don’t know when it’s going to happen. Instead, the research shows that people who make exercise and physical activity into something that makes them feel better right then and there, they stick with it.
It’s having more energy, it’s feeling better about the day, feeling more in control. Find a reason that you yourself decide, not a reason that someone else gives you.
Even if weight loss/looking good is your second or third reason to work out, you will still be less likely to workout. You dilute the energy of your goals by having too many reasons to move. Make it about making your day better and you’ll stick with it. In conclusion, remember 3 things:
  1. Exercise doesn’t happen only in the gym or in gym clothes. Find ways to move everywhere you go.
  2. Stop “shoulding” on yourself. Find a reason to exercise for a reason you enjoy – making your day better, feeling more energized, jamming to music, being in nature, or being with your friends.
  3. Stop making it about weight loss or looking good. That will definitely happen, but move to enjoy life now, not in the future.
In short, find ways to move throughout the day, and do it in a way that you enjoy and improves your day right now. Getting started with an exercise habit will change your inner identity so that if you do want to hit the gym and push yourself hard, you can one day.
If you make working out into a gift for ourselves to improve our day, you won’t need motivation to do it everyday. How can you do that today?
Leave a comment in the video to let others know, and hit the like & subscribe button for more of these videos.

Health Series – Video 1

Hey folks,

The more people I work with, the more I’m learning that people are interested in learning how to lose weight.

There is just so much misinformation, myths, and craziness related to helping people lose weight. Diet pills, fad diets, silly exercise machines, and everything else in between. Real science, real evidence is ignored too often.

I decided to do something about. Over the next month, I’ll be making a series of YouTube videos can help people. Since much of my audience is South Asian in background, I decided to focus on that in making this video below, but anyone can learn from it.

Check out my first video, and be sure to like, subscribe, and comment on it!

My hope is to use this information to talk about going to a whole foods plant based diet. You can read about a series I wrote before as it is right here.

Be A Guest In Your Own Home: Letting Go of Attachment

There’s a beauty in being a guest at a friend’s home. We feel comfortable and we love the company. There is no attachment to their home. There’s also an unspoken expectation at the end of the trip:

When it comes time to leave, we can drop our attachment to that place and move on. We are happy when we are there, but it doesn’t cause us suffering when we have to go.

It’s even easy to get into action with chores. How much easier it is to do the dishes, or tidy up the place when we’re a guest at someone else’s home!

Yet, when it comes to our own home, we feel very differently. In our own homes, we are often miserable sitting alone. We work endlessly to change things up. Dishes remain undone in the kitchen sink. Our attachment to our home causes suffering, and it also serves as a shell to retreat from the challenges of life.

The whole place can become a sty and we put up with it, unless of course we’re having guests over as well! Then we tidy the place up.

But what would happen if we could be a guest in our own home?

And what if we could be a guest in our own lives?

A Guest In Our Body

Western thought puts emphasis on my house, my job, my body, my looks, my my my. Eat, breathe, and sleep with your goals. Burn yourself up to make sure you get there!

But what if we saw ourselves as guests in this body visiting only for 70–80 years?

We would live our lives with a lot more grace, a lot more compassion, and indeed, it would be easier to get into action without the pain and suffering. The drama of our lives would be enjoyable, without the misery.

This is one of the deepest teachings of yoga. In my lifetime of studying yoga, this was one of the first lessons I learned at the age of 5.

We mistakenly think yoga is all about twisting ourselves into crazy shapes. But the main texts on the subject have almost no mention of these poses, or asanas.

Instead, it teaches us the secret to living. It teaches us to cultivate non-attachment to the temporary. It teaches us ways to engage with the world more fully without the pain of “I” and “mine.” It teaches us, in short, to be a guest in our own homes. In our own lives.

Today, when you get back to “your” home, just for one night, see yourself as a guest. See what happens and leave a comment below.


Changing your life requires a steady drip of thoughts day by day. Empty a bucket of water in an area, and the area will be dry the next day. But start a trickle of drops from that same bucket, and the area will stay wet. That’s how we change our minds, hearts, and souls. Drop by drop. Article by article. If this philosophy of changing and reinforcing your life appeals to you, please subscribe to the email newsletter.



The Art of Travel: How I stopped hating my vacations and loving them instead

Most of us never learn the Art of Travel and we’re worse off for it. For many, taking vacations remains a stressful, painful, and exhausting experience. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Travel is supposed to be relaxing, rejuvenating, and even life-enriching. After all, that’s what “Eat, Pray, Love” taught us, right?  Isn’t travel the antidote to our boring monotonous lives? Anything can happen, adventure is within our reach! Go see the world before it’s too late! Just take the plunge, travel, and you’ll change your life. That’s what Walter Mitty taught me:

But why is it almost never like this for most of us? If you’re like me, you might have waited for the magic to kick in. But at the end of the trip, you’re just left exhausted, and just dying to get back to your normal routine.

It’s because we haven’t given thought to the art of travel.

Over the last 2 years, I’ve not only spent time traveling across the United States, Canada, and India, but I’ve also spent a lot of time talking about it with close friends. One of them is the incredible Valerie Lai, a great friend for ten years who has traveled much of the world solo. After leaving her job and saving enough, she is traveling across South-East Asia and Australia and learning Muay Thai, Mandarin, and flying planes.

Some trips are great, and some are downright miserable and exhausting where I’ve just wanted to just lie down not wake up for 3 days after.

So, what makes travel suck and what can we do about it? Here’s what I’ve learned…

Doing Too Many Things

Ash and Pikachu with a Pokeball
You don’t have to catch ’em all. Incidentally, I have never watched Pokemon in my life.

Your not a Pokemon Trainer! You don’t have to “catch ’em all.”

You don’t have to visit every single place on your list of attractions. There’s no need to party at every club. You don’t have to blow your money on every little trinket. Nor do you have to worry about taking the perfect “authentic” photo with the simple villagers of wherever.

Most people get 2-3 weeks of vacation time. They pick a destination they’ve always wanted to go to. They pick 7-8 highest ranked sights, and then decide to do that. Maybe they’ll go on a guided tour where they hop on a bus, snap a bunch of photos, upload to social media, and go back to the hotel.

And this is all without mentioning the family fights, tension, and exhaustion if we’re traveling with someone. We’re forgetting the long rides cramped in cars waiting, waiting, waiting to get to the main location. By the time we get to the “main attraction,” we’re too exhausted.

In the midst of all that, the desire of not wanting to miss out on any location seems stupid, but

We think travel is move, move, move. The art of the travel teaches us to slow way way down.

Expectations

Like all forms of lust, wanderlust will leave you drained, empty, and looking for the next high or “hit.”

You will be left unsatisfied even when you get to your dream vacation because your expectation will never match reality. And the cure? It will always be somewhere else but where you are.

For the frugal ones, we may even feel dread at seeing all that money spent away on over-priced souvenirs, expensive restaurants to sample “authentic” food, and high admission fees to see a view.

Luxury travel remains a privilege for the affluent class. The rest of us need to budget, and save up for a while to go to our dream destination. Perhaps you’re funding your trips from working full time and saving every penny. Perhaps a tax return or an unexpected bonus is funding your trip.

The art of the travel teaches us that we never need to break the bank to enjoy a new location. It teaches us to spend mindfully, not lustfully.

Showing Off

Group of people looking at Niagara Falls through their Camera distracted from the art of travel.
In trying to look interesting to others, we’ve forgotten to be interested in where we are.

Are you traveling to show others that you visited all these amazing destinations, or because you have a genuine desire to see, experience, feel, touch, and listen to something you’ve never experienced?

It is encouraging to know that more people than ever before are looking to explore the world. People are waking up to the idea that we need to buy experiences, not things. We’re taught to Carpe Diem! because You Only Live Once (YOLO) and we show off how cool we are with #wanderlust, #travel, and #onelove.

But in our urge to show people how interesting we are by traveling, we’ve forgotten to actually be interested in our journey. This isn’t travel, this is growing your social media following. We’re using our snapshots to craft a fairy tale, deluding ourselves into thinking that if others believe the tale, it must be true.

Taking a picture with a caged tiger, bathing a domesticated elephant in South-East Asia, taking a picture with impoverished locals and Instagramming yourself with #bethechange #onelove, doesn’t mean you traveled. Just because you look like a globe-trotting, trend-setting, wanderer, doesn’t mean you are.

Were you actually there? Or were you framing the shot and the caption for your picture? Keeping up appearances is exhausting and burdensome.

The art of travel teaches us to put our phones and cameras away, except for the rare moment that needs to be captured. I promise that the resolution on reality is better than your 12 megapixel phone.

 

The Art of Travel

Man doing yoga on rock overlooking a lake
Good Travel is Good Yoga

Yoga can teach us a lot about the art of travel. When we use yoga’s principles and apply it to travel, we can start to enjoy the relaxing, rejuvenating, and transformative effects of travel.

Breathe

In a yoga class, the breath is always the priority. It’s supposed to be long and flowing. If we find ourselves holding our breath, we’re missing the point. Good teachers will tell you to back off and go into child’s pose. The breath is the calm center of your experience. The point of yoga is to embody that calm center.

In the context of travel, if you’re in go-go-go mode all the time, going from one place to another despite how tired, exhausted, bored, depressed you’re feeling, you’re missing the point. It means it’s time to breathe instead.

Stop. Go sit in a cafe instead. It’s okay. You’re not a failure for not visiting every single attraction in your city.

Travel slowly instead. Instead of visiting 7-10 places in 2 days, plan for only 1 place and explore it fully.

You may feel that you’re wasting your time by throwing away all your other time. But like a good yoga class, you will get a lot more out of that one place that you would hurrying from place to place.

Go Slow

It’s never been about getting into complicated pretzel like shapes when we do yoga. It’s always been about being at the edge. If you do that, you will get the full benefits of the class.

In the same way, when traveling, it’s okay to back-off. Fulfillment can happen when we’re at our edge. We must fight our mind to not over-extend ourselves to practice the art of travel.

The edge often means saying no to the tour buses. The edge means fighting with out ego that wants to pull out our phone and take photos of everything we see and forget to actually see the city with our own eyes.

It may mean sitting in a cafe. Perhaps talk with locals and let serendipity take over. Book a vacation apartment or home instead of a hotel. For the most part, it’s a lot cheaper and you will now have a base to interact directly with locals. I recommend using Airbnb to find places to live at.

Join Airbnb with this link to save $25 on your first trip.

Be

What a revolutionary concept! Yoga teaches us to be what we truly are. It teaches us to embody that calm strong center of your being. Your true being does not need to be in chasing mode. It doesn’t need to seek more thrills and entertainment. Your true self sees a bit of itself in everyone you meet, no matter what race, nationality, or religion they belong to.

The art of travel is truly found in meditation. When we meditate, we reconnect with this true inner sense. When we do that, we ground ourselves in an calm peaceful open energy ready to enjoy the vacation fully. We are not in frantic chasing mode. It takes us out of the state of wanderlust that can never satisfy us, and more into adventure, appreciation, and enjoyment of where we are.

And when we get there, our trip will definitely relax us. Transform us.

Practical Implications

When I now travel, I pick one destination at a time only and spend at least one full week there. This is assuming I’ve picked an interesting enough location.

Instead of a hotel, I tend to either find a friend’s place to stay at, or use Airbnb close to the city square. This is not just an economical decision, but part of the philosophy to do with the art of travel.

I then tend to explore the city more fully and slowly. The camera rarely comes out except for a really interesting or memorable moment. I like to spend time in cafes as well (not a Starbucks), and I’ve struck up some great conversations with the barista and other patrons. This has often been the most memorable and best parts of my trip.

There’s a lot of walking involved as well, instead of driving. Since I’m living near the city square, this ends up being easy.

Conclusion

More people than ever have the freedom to travel and see the world. But we are missing out on the art of travel. We are instead opting for frantic, rushed, short visits to many places. We’re not really even there, choosing to interact with that place with our tools instead of our eyes, mind, and heart.

We’re missing out on the benefits of travel by doing this, and we’re exhausted, tired, and left wanting for more with emptier wallets when we travel this way.

Yoga teaches us to slow down (slow travel). It tells us to respect our edges. It tells us to be grounded first to explore the world. When we do that, the art of travel becomes the magic of travel.

Leave a comment below to share your own experiences with stressful travel, or implementing the art of travel below. Also…

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Preventing Disease With Feet, Forks, & Fingers

Preventing Chronic Disease

If anyone you know has ever been affected by heart disease, diabetes, certain forms of cancer, hypertension, etc., the science of these chronic diseases is very clear: you can slash up to 90% of the risk (even if you genetically pre-disposed to it) by changing what you do with your feet, forks, and fingers. So says Dr. David Katz, the Director of Yale’s Prevention-Research Center, and a host of the best doctors across the world.

Feet: your movement; exercise level

Forks: what you eat

Fingers: smoker/non-smoker status

It is laughably simple how easy it is to take control of our health destinies by just taking charge of these 3 things. And it is laughably simple how easy it is to make those small changes.

And yet so few of us do them. How can I change that?

This is the question I feel committed to working on for the next 30-50 years.

During my undergrad years, I had little clarity on where I was going with my career. And indeed, the last few years of my life shows a graph where I developed some very specific skills, but the industry changes do not have a perfectly coherent story.

It felt like I was drifting, and it was frustrating. I am not drawn to the idea of working my way up the corporate ladder. Impact, and the interestingness of the work have been far more motivating factors for me. With a few rare exceptions, such work has been eluding.

I resented myself and others for getting their life paths so much earlier than mine. But now, I am only grateful. If I hadn’t stumbled into the barriers, I wouldn’t have uncovered the work I can do for the rest of my life.

Changing what people do with their feet, forks, and fingers is therefore something I can spent the rest of my life doing. I wish to help others be their best selves by taking control of these 3 things.

But if this is indeed so simple, why don’t people do it already?

The Hidden Reason Why We Don’t Change Our Health and Lives

  1. You don’t have the right information: There is more information out there than ever before. There is also a lot more misinformation, and disinformation out there. People are easily persuaded to do things that aren’t in their best interests long-term. The Paleo Diet, Atkins Diet, etc come to mind. So, people lack the ability to think clearly. This needs to change.
  2. You don’t have the right motivation: jobs, families, errands, a broken car, etc get in the way of someone from truly taking charge. So many people pull at our attention. It’s hard to get motivated when you get home at night when you’re overwhelmed. So, people lack the ability to take charge of their lives.
  3. You think it’s hopeless: What’s the point? I’m always going to be ___ (insert story here). This is also very dangerous because it means that you essentially see yourself as incapable of change. This either means that you’ve tried and failed, or you’ve seen others around you try and fail. Deeper down, it means that people don’t know how simple change can be.

This list can be longer. A simpler way of stating the above can be: You and I have weak, flabby muscles of making deliberate choices and following through. You and I have outsourced our thinking to others and doing it ourselves is scary, uncomfortable, and we’re afraid of failing. As a result of giving away our power, we have become powerless and hopeless. To change our lives, we must change this script.

And so, this is the purpose behind a new project I’m working on. While the website is not developed as of August 2016, I will spend significant efforts developing the type of content that can truly help people throw away the script of powerlessness, and embrace deliberate choice. On this website, I hope to empower others to think for themselves and strengthen their mental muscles (as well as outer muscles) to be their best self.

I predict that making these changes will also have ripple effects in finances, business, relationships, not just health. And occasionally, to reflect on personal matters, I will keep writing here as well.

So, where have you failed to create change so far in life? What is the single most important challenge in your life right now?

I’ve love to hear all about it below in the comments section or via email at dpvtank [at] gmail dot com.

Why Digital Health Apps Won’t Save Us

A Digital Health App Won’t Help You Get Fitter, Live Longer, and Sleep Better

Touted as the ultimate fitness app, the Fitbit is a marriage of digital health with wearable technology. The device and app sold by the millions. Turns out that Fitbit‘s heart rate tracking is dangerously inaccurate.  Fitbit is meant to help you track sleep, measure activity throughout the day, give you notifications to workout, etc.

This is an emerging trend. I closely follow Rock Health, a venture fund dedicated to digital health. Each week, its newsletter mentions funding deals in the digital health space. Massive amounts of capital are allocated to companies where technology trumps common sense.

The premise behind these companies is that digital technologies will help us fix our health. However, I would like to argue that this is not the case. If Peter Thiel were to ask me his contrarian question, “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?“, I would say that the premise behind most digital health companies is misguided. Technology will not help us save ourselves (at least in this case).

Why?

I’ve spent the last 3 years reading hundreds of medical journals in my spare time, and trying to make sense of how we can live longer, healthier, and fuller lives. I’ve spoken with hundreds of doctors, nutritionists, public health officials, and professors in related fields. I started writing in this space late last year, and got a lot more involved in this field by leading the Outreach team at NutritionFacts.org this year.

What has come up repeatedly is the importance of education, and people carefully curating their social, emotional, and mental lives to support their growth. Health is a game of changing the mindset of people, and apps are not designed to change mindsets. They’re designed to be addictive. Tracking sleep is pretty useless unless we address what’s keeping us up at night.

When a technology tool helps us reconnect to that old-fashioned sense of curating our lives, then we can change. Otherwise, a Fitbit used to make you fit makes as much sense as a Californian touting their environmentalism by driving an electric car, but using a dryer for their clothes instead of drying it in the sun: a useful illusion.

We tend to use shopping as a means of relieving the anxiety in our lives. For many of us, shopping in a traditional mall has replaced shopping technology products. And if they’re “personal development” oriented, hey, it’s a good thing, right? Sadly not.

Life changes begin with a change in mind-set. There is no gadget or app that will accomplish this for you. There is hard work involved. It means quitting mindless consumption of media designed to keep you complacent. It means taking charge.

Markets and consumers live on the hype and bust cycle (yes, I know it’s called boom-and-bust cycle you Keynesians!). And while technology companies in this space can be highly valued, I do not agree with their worth. They may have the market caps, the sales, etc. But does it change a person’s life, even incrementally? Would the fittest Fitbit users have achieved their level of health even without the device and app? I would argue yes.

I would bet that an infinitesimally small number of companies in the digital health space actually create products that matter. Ginger.io and Omada Health comes to mind. Most on the other hand, are focused on allowing technology to trump common sense. Many will undoubtedly sell well and make their investors a tidy return, but by tapping into the public’s need to consume away their anxiety for health, giving them an illusion of better control.

What’s the alternative? The alternative is to change what we consume (for our bodies and our minds). The return on that investment will be astronomically higher.

This is somewhat ironic for me to write, as a person deeply interested in figuring out how digital health can change the world. In my recent grad school application, I wrote about this in depth. It seems like I’m criticizing an industry which I wish to impact.

Not so. I was mistaken a few years back when I wrote this post. I too fell into the trap of pursuing value from the market’s perspective compared to value in terms of how lives can be affected. Since 2013, my viewpoint has changed substantially. Ideas of space exploration, and rubbing shoulders with billionaires and celebrities had a glamour attached to it, but was far too superficial.

Instead, this decision to work in digital health is much different. I’m in it for the long haul: a lifetime. I see my work as tackling the harder problem of changing mindset, perception, and motivation by using technology. I dare say this work may be less profitable than marketing a “magic” app, but I will be satisfied with the value I create.

A Letter to President Mamau on Climate Change

Re: How To Become a Real Climate Change Activist and Save Your Nation

President Mamau, this is an open letter to talk to you about climate change.

It is heartening to hear about your recent move into a role of real power and responsibility to become the President of the Republic of Kiribati. After 12 years of stagnant affairs, you now have the opportunity to really tackle a lot of the issues that your nation and people are facing.

You now have a global stage to talk about putting a stop to climate change. I previously wrote to your predecessor about this, but I received no response on the public email, nor on the twitter account. I hope under your leadership, you will take REAL effective action.

You have the power to deliver a message of personal action to all those who listen: an action that would do more to slowdown the advance of climate change than anything else. You have the chance to truly empower every person to individually take action to put a stop to climate change.

I do not wish to sell you anything. I do not work for any industry interests. All I wish to do is share an idea that can transform the world significantly and help you save your country. If you approach it with an open mind, you will find that my claims are cited and accurate. While this action is simple, it could be difficult for many to implement. Yet, you will become a force of powerful action to all those with whom you share your message.

Your predecessor tried mostly to “urge” leaders to take action in the form of signing a climate deal, implementing carbon credits, switch to renewables, etc.

If you believe that any one country or any one company pledging to reduce their carbon footprint will matter, you are deceiving yourself, and losing precious time in the process. All these issues are massive and ordinary people cannot rally against them. We must surrender our power in the hands of the powerful. You cannot spread a message of true hope this way.

Here is what you must do: you must encourage individual action because you and I cannot afford to keep waiting and hoping and giving away our power to those that have no interest in changing. You tried that for a lifetime and it has not worked.

For instance, converting to wind and solar power will take 20+ years and roughly $43 trillion.1 Do you have this time? How will you encourage organizations to spend this much money? Even if a hundred of you spoke, action of this scale will take a while to implement.

Natural gas is an intermediary solution. However, hydraulic fracking uses 70-140 billion gallons of water annually, and the emissions are still significant.2

What will you do when your peoples way of life is threatened when the oceans are fishless by 2048?3,4 How can you avoid the fact that 3/4th of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted?5,6 By giving out more licenses as your Republic is doing? Do you give away the last vestiges of your dwindling fortune or will you ask for something more that everyone can do?

How will you stop the 1-2 acres of rainforest that are being cleared every single second?7 How will you reconcile that the hunger for a so called better life is infecting the rising middle class as the population increases and reaches 8 billion? 10 billion?

So what is the most powerful action that everyone can take to stop climate change? What is this thing that causes more greenhouse gases than all of the transportation sector put together? What action could it be that all of us can start taking to halt climate change?

You may laugh at the suggestion I am making. But that would be to your detriment. While you may be applauded by many as you rally against climate change, the actual impact you will make will be minuscule compared to the impact you can make.

The answer is simple: encourage people to stop or limit eating meat, stop consuming dairy and eggs, and yes, stop eating fish.

Here’s why:

As per the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation modes.9 As for carbon dioxide, livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of it annually, or 51% of all worldwide emissions.10

Cows raised for their meat produce 150 billion gallons of methane every single day.11 Methane is 25-100x more destructive than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period to the environment.12, 13

Beyond that, raising animals for food is responsible for 65% of all nitrous-oxide emissions – a greenhouse gas 296x more potent than carbon dioxide which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years as per the United Nations.14

Are we really going to ask industry to stop polluting when most of the pollution and inaction is due to the willful ignorance on our plates?

Even if we were to stop using fossil fuels, we would exceed 565 gigatonnes limit by 2030, all from raising animals.15 Instead, if we worked to reduce methane emissions, we would create tangible benefits immediately!16

We are also failing to look at the tremendous amount of resources used to eat meat, dairy, fish, and eggs.

1,800 litres of water are used to produce 1 lb of eggs, and 3,406 litres of water are used to produce 1 lb of cheese.17 As for red meat such as beef, it takes 5,678 litres of water to raise 1 lb of beef.30 Indeed, animal agriculture uses between 20%-33% of all fresh water in the world today.18

Animals used to produce food take up a third of the earth’s ice free land.19 Animal agriculture has created more than 500 nitrogen flooded deadzones around the world in our oceans making it the leading cause of ocean dead zones, water pollution, and species extinction in the world.20,21

Why is this?

Because every minute, 7 million pounds of excrement is produced by animals raised for food in the United States alone.22 Because 130 times more animal waste than human waste is produced in the US alone – 1.4 billion tonnes from the meat industry annually.23

Indeed, the leading cause of rainforest destruction is livestock and raising feed for livestock.24 We could push for them to not cut the rainforest, or find other practices. Or we could stop people from wanting to eat meat and tackle the issue at the root.

What about world hunger? How will we feed such a growing number of people? Well, the fact is that we are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people, yet the vast majority of the land and resources are used to raise animals and their feed instead.25

On any given area of land, plants can produce 15x more protein than animals.26 We can feed the world.

If you advocated people to take personal action by cutting the animal foods, you would make each person contribute 50% less carbon dioxide.28 Each person you inspire would help save 4,100 litres of water, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions every day!29, 30

President Mamau, changing the world begins with changing ourselves. You can be a true messenger of peace. It is not difficult, nor do you sacrifice your health for it. The science on this is indisputable: when people stop eating meat, dairy, eggs, and fish, and get their nutrition from whole plant based foods, their health improves for the better. I invite you to spend time watching Forks Over Knives, and reading the credible non-industry funded research such as The China Study.

All it requires is a small change every day to eat less animal foods and eat more plant foods. Like with everything, we can get used to this. There is incredible variety, deliciousness, and abundance to be found in this way of life. Whatever discomfort you face initially will go away as people adapt to the rich flavours of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and spices.

Will you take this simple action that can save you, your people, and your country? Will you keep speak into the deaf ears of faceless bureaucracies powered by financial interests and power structures? Will you spread the message that can make a difference?

Will you inspire people to take action or will we spend another decade talking more about “awareness”?

The choice is yours.

In writing this, it has been my hope that you look at this issues afresh. I hope it changes your thinking and gives you a sense of real hope. You now have a message of personal action to give everyone. If you wish to speak further, feel free to reach out to me. In my own small way, I have been taking action to work on the same problem that you have been. We are allies ultimately.

You have more to gain from spreading this message than anyone. Don’t let the will of the tongue get in the way of the life of the planet.

I wish you all the best in your new role!

Sincerely,

Dhawal Tank

Canada

The following is a list of citations for all of my claims:

  1. The Cost Of Going Green Globally
  2. “Draft Plan to Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources.” EPA Office of Research and Development. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2011.
  3. “Overfishing: A Threat to Marine Biodiversity.” UN News Center.
  4. “General Situation of World Fish Stocks.” United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  5. Science, “Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services”.
  6. National Geographic, article Nov. 2006
  7. World Resources Institute, “Keeping Options Alive”.
  8. World Population Data Sheet
  9. Fao.org. Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment.
  10. WorldWatch, November/December 2009. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC, USA. Pp. 10–19.
  11. Ross, Philip. “Cow farts have ‘larger greenhouse gas impact’ than previously thought; methane pushes climate change.” International Business Times. 2013.
  12. “Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions.” Science Magazine.
  13. Ibid.
  14. “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.
  15. Oppenlander, Richard A. Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. . Minneapolis, MN : Langdon Street, 2013. Print.
  16. U.N. Press Release, Climate Summit 2014.
  17. “Meateater’s Guide to Climate Change & Health.” Environmental Working Group.
  18. 27%-30%+ of global water consummation is for animal agriculture. 
  19. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Livestock a major threat to environment”
  20. NOAA News, 2014.
  21. “Risk Assessment Evaluation for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Office of Research and Development. 2004. ; “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.
  22. 335 million tons of “dry matter” is produced annually by livestock in the US.“FY-2005 Annual Report Manure and Byproduct Utilization National Program 206.” USDA Agricultural Research Service. 2008.
  23. Animal agriculture: waste management practices. United States General Accounting Office.
  24. “Livestock impacts on the environment.” Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (fao). 2006. ; World Bank. “Causes of Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon”
  25. Cornell Chronicle, “U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat, Cornell ecologist advises animal scientists”.
  26. “Soy Benefits”. National Soybean Research Laboratory. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
  27. Oil, water: “Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003.
  28. “Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK.” Climactic change, 2014.
  29. “Water Footprint Assessment.” University of Twente, the Netherlands.
  30. Journal of Animal Science. “Estimation of the water requirement for beef production in the United States.” 

An Open Letter to President Anote Tong from the Republic of Kiribati

The following is a letter I wrote to President Anote Tong from the Republic of Kiribati. It was inspired by a conversation he had with Chris Anderson, the curator of the TED Conference.

11 January 2016

Re: Climate Change and Kiribati: The way we can all make a difference!

Dear Mr. President Tong,

It saddened me greatly to hear about the struggles that the people of Kiribati are facing. Climate change has become a very real problem for you, and sadly far too many world leaders are not reacting strongly enough to the threat it poses.

Listening to your recent conversation with Chris Anderson, I was left humbled and inspired by the courage of you and your people to face this challenges as you adapt to deal with this threat.

At the same time, I can understand your deep frustration in working with large organizations (governments and industry) to take this issue seriously, and take drastic action to curtail this catastrophe.

The status-quo is too profitable, easy, and comfortable for the powerful interests at bay. In the face of such odds, it is easy to get discouraged.

However, you hold a position of incredible respect in front of the people who come to listen to you speak. You have the power to deliver a message of personal action to all those who listen: an action that would do more to slowdown the advance of climate change than the laborious and unfruitful lobbying you have experienced in dealing with industry and governments.

I do not wish to sell you anything. I do not work for any industry interests. All I wish to do is share an idea that can transform the world significantly and help you save your country. If you approach it with an open mind, you will find that my claims are cited and accurate. While this action is simple, it could be difficult for many to implement. Yet, you will become a force of powerful action to all those with whom you share your message.

First let’s look at what the status quo solutions are: switch to renewable energy sources; recycle more; use more public transit; switch to electric vehicles and stop polluting as much.

These are all good solutions but the impact of them is limited.

For instance, converting to wind and solar power will take 20+ years and roughly $43 trillion.1 Do you have this time? How will you encourage organizations to spend this much money? Even if a hundred of you spoke, action of this scale will take a while to implement.

Natural gas is an intermediary solution. However, hydraulic fracking uses 70-140 billion gallons of water annually, and the emissions are still significant.2

What will you do when your peoples way of life is threatened when the oceans are fishless by 2048?3,4 How can you avoid the fact that 3/4th of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted?5,6 By giving out more licenses as you are doing? Do you give away the last vestiges of your dwindling fortune or will you ask for something more that everyone can do?

How will you stop the 1-2 acres of rainforest that are being cleared every single second?7 How will you reconcile that the hunger for a so called better life is infecting the rising middle class as the population increases and reaches 8 billion? 10 billion? The world population grows by 228,000 people every single day.8

In all honesty, you are either being deceived, or have resigned your power into the hands of larger players to solve this problem. If you believe that any one country or any one company pledging to reduce their carbon footprint will matter, you are deceiving yourself, and losing precious time in the process. All these issues are massive and ordinary people cannot rally against them. We must surrender our power in the hands of the powerful. You cannot spread a message of true hope this way.

Here is what you must do: you must encourage individual action because you and I cannot afford to keep waiting and hoping and giving away our power to those that have no interest in changing. You tried that for a lifetime and it has not worked.

So what is the most powerful action that everyone can take to stop climate change? What is this thing that causes more greenhouse gases than all of the transportation sector put together? What action could it be that all of us can start taking to halt climate change?

You may laugh at the suggestion I am making. But that would be to your detriment. While you may be applauded by many as you rally against climate change, the actual impact you will make will be minuscule compared to the impact you can make.

The answer is simple: stop eating meat, stop consuming dairy and eggs, and yes, stop eating fish.

Here’s why:

As per the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation modes.9 As for carbon dioxide, livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of it annually, or 51% of all worldwide emissions.10

Cows raised for their meat produce 150 billion gallons of methane every single day.11 Methane is 25-100x more destructive than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period to the environment.12, 13

Beyond that, raising animals for food is responsible for 65% of all nitrous-oxide emissions – a greenhouse gas 296x more potent than carbon dioxide which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years as per the United Nations.14

Are we really going to ask industry to stop polluting when most of the pollution and inaction is due to the willful ignorance on our plates?

Even if we were to stop using fossil fuels, we would exceed 565 gigatonnes limit by 2030, all from raising animals.15 Instead, if we worked to reduce methane emissions, we would create tangible benefits immediately!16

We are also failing to look at the tremendous amount of resources used to eat meat, dairy, fish, and eggs.

1,800 litres of water are used to produce 1 lb of eggs, and 3,406 litres of water are used to produce 1 lb of cheese.17 As for red meat such as beef, it takes 5,678 litres of water to raise 1 lb of beef.30 Indeed, animal agriculture uses between 20%-33% of all fresh water in the world today.18

Animals used to produce food take up a third of the earth’s ice free land.19 Animal agriculture has created more than 500 nitrogen flooded deadzones around the world in our oceans making it the leading cause of ocean dead zones, water pollution, and species extinction in the world.20,21

Why is this?

Because every minute, 7 million pounds of excrement is produced by animals raised for food in the United States alone.22 Because 130 times more animal waste than human waste is produced in the US alone – 1.4 billion tonnes from the meat industry annually.23

Indeed, the leading cause of rainforest destruction is livestock and raising feed for livestock.24 We could push for them to not cut the rainforest, or find other practices. Or we could stop people from wanting to eat meat and tackle the issue at the root.

What about world hunger? How will we feed such a growing number of people? Well, the fact is that we are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people, yet the vast majority of the land and resources are used to raise animals and their feed instead.25

On any given area of land, plants can produce 15x more protein than animals.26 We can feed the world.

If you advocated people to take personal action by cutting the animal foods, you would make each person contribute 50% less carbon dioxide.28 Each person you inspire would help save 4,100 litres of water, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions every day!29, 30

President Tong, changing the world begins with changing ourselves. You can be a true messenger of peace as you explain to audiences worldwide that they too can change the world if they change their lifestyle. It is not difficult, nor do you sacrifice your health for it. The science on this is indisputable: when people stop eating meat, dairy, eggs, and fish, and get their nutrition from whole plant based foods, their health improves for the better.

All it requires is a small change every day to eat less animal foods and eat more plant foods. Like with everything, we can get used to this. There is incredible variety, deliciousness, and abundance to be found in this way of life. Whatever discomfort you face initially will go away as people adapt to the rich flavours of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and spices.

Will you take this simple action that can save you, your people, and your country or will you keep spreading the message of false hope? Will you keep labouring into the deaf ears of faceless bureaucracies powered by financial interests and power structures or will you spread the message that can make a difference?

Will you inspire people to take action or will we spend another decade talking more about “awareness”?

The choice is yours.

In writing this, it has been my hope that you look at this issues afresh. I hope it changes your thinking and gives us all real hope. You now have a message of personal action to give everyone. If you wish to speak further, feel free to reach out to me. In my own small way, I have been taking action to work on the same problem that you have been. We are allies ultimately.

You have more to gain from spreading this message than anyone. Don’t let the will of the tongue get in the way of the life of the planet.

Sincerely,

Dhawal Tank

Canada

 

The following is a list of citations for all of my claims:

  1. The Cost Of Going Green Globally
  2. “Draft Plan to Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources.” EPA Office of Research and Development. United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2011.
  3. “Overfishing: A Threat to Marine Biodiversity.” UN News Center.
  4. “General Situation of World Fish Stocks.” United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  5. Science, “Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services”.
  6. National Geographic, article Nov. 2006
  7. World Resources Institute, “Keeping Options Alive”.
  8. World Population Data Sheet
  9. Fao.org. Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment.
  10. WorldWatch, November/December 2009. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC, USA. Pp. 10–19.
  11. Ross, Philip. “Cow farts have ‘larger greenhouse gas impact’ than previously thought; methane pushes climate change.” International Business Times. 2013.
  12. “Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions.” Science Magazine.
  13. Ibid.
  14. “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.
  15. Oppenlander, Richard A. Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. . Minneapolis, MN : Langdon Street, 2013. Print.
  16. U.N. Press Release, Climate Summit 2014.
  17. “Meateater’s Guide to Climate Change & Health.” Environmental Working Group.
  18. 27%-30%+ of global water consummation is for animal agriculture. 
  19. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Livestock a major threat to environment”
  20. NOAA News, 2014.
  21. “Risk Assessment Evaluation for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Office of Research and Development. 2004. ; “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.
  22. 335 million tons of “dry matter” is produced annually by livestock in the US.“FY-2005 Annual Report Manure and Byproduct Utilization National Program 206.” USDA Agricultural Research Service. 2008.
  23. Animal agriculture: waste management practices. United States General Accounting Office.
  24. “Livestock impacts on the environment.” Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (fao). 2006. ; World Bank. “Causes of Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon”
  25. Cornell Chronicle, “U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat, Cornell ecologist advises animal scientists”.
  26. “Soy Benefits”. National Soybean Research Laboratory. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
  27. Oil, water: “Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003.
  28. “Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK.” Climactic change, 2014.
  29. “Water Footprint Assessment.” University of Twente, the Netherlands.
  30. Journal of Animal Science. “Estimation of the water requirement for beef production in the United States.” 

 

Ideas in 2015

I had originally decided to write this as a post with the best books I read in 2015, but ideas are a lot more general and books are not always the best place to get ideas. I hope these ideas serve you as well:

1. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

This book was a game-changer for me. Everywhere around us, the stories that rise to the top are stories of people who had massive success. We hear about stories of Zuckerberg, Gates, Warren Buffet, et al. We hear about companies such as Instagram and Uber which are creating or transforming entire industries. Seeing all this, I used to get down on myself. I would wonder why others were succeeding while I was not. Perhaps something was wrong with me. The ones who made it are just more special or more worthy than me to have made such quantum jumps.

Not so. The Slight Edge talks about the incredible power of changing the definition of success to taking any action towards a worthwhile ideal. The book also has the idea that success is easy if the practice of success happens over time.

Consider the idea of losing weight. You know that drinking soda will not help you in that area. However, if you’re with friends you realize that drinking that can of soda in that moment will not make you gain weight. But you also know that NOT drinking that can of soda will not help you lose weight. And that’s where we fail. It is easy to say no at that moment to that soda, but it also easy to say yes. Yet, compound decisions like that over a long enough period of time and we are not able to succeed with our weight goals.

You can apply this to all areas of your life: schooling, fitness, relationships, business, etc. In fact, I ended up listening to this book 3-4 times this year. I found it to be absolutely powerful and I highly recommend it. The book helps you really understand the idea of the slight edge and how it can be applied to all parts of your life. It really is the secret between success and failure in life.

As a result of this, I ended up taking and following through on an online course by the University of Berkeley and edx: The Beauty and Joy of Computing.

While it may not have an immediate benefit in my life, I understand that getting more skills under my belt that interest me will undoubtedly pay off in the long run. [for more on that, read Scott Adams’ highly fun book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.] There were more areas that I applied the slight edge in, which I will get into below.

2. Giving > Getting

This idea was profound and was inspiring by a few books: The Go-Giver by Bob Burg, Become An Idea Machine by Claudia Altucher, and Choose Yourself by James Altucher, Charlie Hoehn (whom you should definitely follow), and the work I’ve done with BAPS Charities.

The goal of the list above isn’t to name drop, but to share the tremendous commonality of this idea to success and happiness that people have found again and again in all walks of life.

The idea is simple: the best way to have a fulfilling career, relationships, health, etc is to give first. James and Claudia Altucher propose the idea of giving out great ideas to people and companies. Coding, production, etc can all be outsourced, but good ideas cannot. The goal is to exercise the idea muscle (which is a muscle like any other part of your body) and give give and give the best away to people who can use it. This leads to conversations and conversations lead to opportunities to contribute. I have literally emailed founders at companies with ideas and gotten a positive reaction.

Textbooks for Change, Akira.MD, Ginger.io, and OpenCare  have been a few companies I’ve done this with in the last 2 months alone and have been blown away by how much I have learned about them, but also how appreciate they have been with my insights and ideas. In one instance, I have had a chance to become an adviser to the company.

Bob Burg and Charlie Hoehn mention that giving out ideas, but also connections, and opportunities will lead to more exciting career fulfillment. This is something that I plan to dive very deeply into in 2016. I find this method of forging a career to be a lot more rewarding than the apply via a cover letter and CV to jobs and move ahead. By giving with any expectation of getting anything back before any real tangible opportunity, we are much more likely to get a positive response back.

This technique above helped me make new friends as I’ve reached out to people I’ve admired and shared ideas that they may like.

3. Education != Schooling

 

John Taylor Gatto is a revelation. I first stumbled across his 5 hour interview titled The Ultimate History Lesson. As New York State’s teacher of the year, and New York City’s teacher of the year many times over, he had had enough and had to quit.

Gatto goes deep into the history of schooling and goes on to outline with startling clarity how modern schools are not designed to educate citizens, but rather designed to create a class of workers. These workers are conditioned over at least 12,000 hours of forced schooling to base their intellectual and emotional value and worth in external approval, have others set the agenda for their lives. The system is designed to enforce hierarchy and class structure so that most do not deviate from it.

He goes on to highlight alternative methods of education, which should develop the…

  1. Ability to define problems without a guide.
  2. Ability to ask questions that challenge common assumptions.
  3. Ability to work without guidance.
  4. Ability to work absolutely alone.
  5. Ability to persuade others that yours is the right course.
  6. Ability to debate issues and techniques in public.
  7. Ability to re-organize information into new patterns.
  8. Ability to discard irrelevant information.
  9. Ability to think dialectically.
  10. Ability to think inductively, deductively, and heuristically.

If you are short on time, at least carve out 1 hour to listen to his lecture titled “The Seven Lesson School Teacher: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

If you are more interested, there are many interesting ways to follow-up. Gatto’s book titled Weapons of Mass Instruction come to mind. There is also a massive open-sourced learning community that untethers education from schooling and encourage people of all ages to take control of their education. These ideas make it very clear that fixing schools won’t do it. For a real revolution, we must learn to educate ourselves. We must learn to take control of our own lives and not wait for the power-that-be to grant us the golden ticket of our destiny.

I know this all sounds very conspiratorial, but after doing your own independent reading and listening to the story that’s laid out, you cannot help but get how true the story presented above is.

Understanding these ideas helped me understand many of the feelings of general helplessness, loneliness, and poor self-image I have often experienced (or keep experiencing at times). Understanding the role of schooling in my life has given me such a large portion of my power back. It has helped me be bolder in my thinking in actions, fear less, and find happiness and self-worth in my own self.

4. Move!

Spark! The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey at the Harvard Medical School convinced me beyond a shred of doubt that daily exercise is a great lifetime practice not just for my body but also for my brain. As a nerd, it was the brain talk that convinced me to start exercising daily.

Aerobic exercise changes the brain completely and significantly impacts its ability to learn, manage stress, ward off and treat ADHD, depression, and addiction. The opening chapter alone is worth the price of admission as Dr. Ratey highlights the impact of exercise on a school population with an absolutely staggering impact.

I’ve been almost pretty disciplined since this summer to have kept a regular exercise habit going. Exercise has become a mainstay in my life and without it, I have a hard time thinking and functioning well. My body gets antsy after a while if I haven’t exercised. I highly recommend this book for those who do not take exercise seriously because it presents ideas on how the brain itself is impacted.

Credit goes to the incredible Special Ops trainer Mark Lauren for writing You Are Your Own Gym to help me devise a High-Intensity Interval Training program.

That was 2015 in a set of ideas. I’ve tried to present the most life-changing ideas above. I hope some of them were useful to you. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or clarifications you would like and I would be happy to go into them.

70% of New Businesses Fail…so what?

You may have heard the statistic that 70-80% of all new businesses fail within the first 5 years. This statistic is meant to act is a deterrent for you to venture out and experiment on your own.

The unstated fact remains that while 70% of new businesses may fail within the first five years, but do 70% of business owners fail? The answer is: no.

For most business owners, the failure of the business is not tied to their own personal failure. From my own personal experience running small experiments and a small start-up subscription box company a little over a year back, I can definitely say that while those business ideas failed to take off, I learned more about how business is done from those few experiments than I had from my 4 years of undergrad. It also cost me significantly less.

From talking with hundreds of entrepreneurs in my current role, I can confidently say that while many of them have had businesses that have failed, none of them have taken it personally. The lessons have been invaluable in growing their next venture.

Steve Pavlina puts it another way:

While a business or a job may cease to endure after a certain number of years, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing. You’re still going to learn and grow and create value along the way, regardless of the outcome. Just as a job can be a stepping stone, so can a business, and there’s no reason you can’t start a new business with the expectation that it’s only temporary. Jobs and businesses come and go. Your own personal growth is what endures. (source)

Do not let statistics deter your desire to experiment and try out new things. The failure of an idea or process is not the failure of the person. It is most likely a massive success in growth.