All posts by tremendousblog

Why You Should Tell Your Boss You’re Not Coming in on Friday

In my prior career in medical software, I worked both five and four day weeks. Guess which one I preferred?

Correct! But I was also rested and refreshed on Monday when I worked 4 day weeks. 5 day weeks? Not so much.

Late in my tenure in software, I was asked to create a feature that was the most complex work I had ever done in 14 years in the field. I made almost no progress for months despite a lot of effort. I was beginning to think it was impossible. I also hadn’t taken a vacation day in 6 months.

Then I went here (highly recommended) for 3 weeks and came back. I looked at the task again, saw it with new eyes, and got to work. I accomplished more that 1st day back than I had in the prior 3 months.

Research is emerging that rest is a necessary precondition for productivity. Microsoft Japan went to a 4 day workweek and saw productivity go up 40%. Perpetual Guardian, a financial services firm in New Zealand, did the same and their profits increased by 12.5%.

If we’re rested, we’re healthier, happier, more creative and more productive. In my investment business today, where I have no one to answer to other than myself, I alternate brief periods of focused work with long stretches away from that work. My actual active time can be as little as a few hours per week, and the results are beyond what I expected.

So with that in mind, I think I’ll go test out my new hiking boots!

What I’ll Be Doing The Next Time I Fail

Sometimes, we all miss the mark. When I do, I have the tendency to yell at myself in the most hectoring tones imaginable. Maybe you do too. Most of us would never talk to a friend that way. If we did, we wouldn’t have many friends for long.

Enter Kristen Neff, Ph.D., a professor at UT-Austin who researches self-compassion. In an interview with Dr. Peter Attia, she explains how to take the compassion we routinely extend to others and extend some to ourselves.

One practical technique I will be trying the next time I fail is to put my hand over my heart and say something supportive to myself. Who wants to try it with me?

My natural inclination is to think this is the road to laziness and failure. However, Dr. Neff cites research showing that performance actually improves as people learn to both give themselves a break and give themselves constructive, rather than bullying, criticism. And our lives get a lot more pleasant too!

Some interesting moments:

This podcast is also available via Apple Podcasts.

The Swami Who Taught Me About Politics

If I want to bring about positive change during these turbulent and polarized times, then first I’m going to have to deal with the turbulence and polarity within me.

Swami Asokananda

I have a lot of friends and family whose political views are quite different from mine. In normal times, that might be barely noticeable. But during a contentious election and several highly politicized national crises, these differences in views can come to the forefront and even overshadow the wonderful relationships I have with them. If I’m not careful.

Enter Swami Asokananda, the Spiritual Director of the Integral Yoga Institute in New York City. I recently received an outstanding message from him via the Institute’s newsletter.

His message made me consider to what extent I’m really listening to those whose views are different from mine. Where might they be right? And aside from correct or incorrect, how can I listen to them in a way that conveys respect and care? I cannot change the overall situation, but I can work for unity rather than division in my own personal relationships. Maybe if I can do that, it can start a chain reaction of respect rather than divisiveness.

Some key points:

  • “Though it seems obvious to me that my point of view is accurate and true, it’s vital for me to keep in mind that in all likelihood I’m often overlaying the facts with assumptions, judgements, and opinions that have been fed into me from who knows where and when.”
  • “How am I reacting to points of view different from my own?”
  • Am I creating further division, or am I fostering more unity?
  • “To see our conditioning is not easy. To shift it is even harder.”
  • “We have an opportunity to play a role in the evolutionary shift in the consciousness of the planet.”

I have included his entire message below. You can get more messages like this by signing up for the Integral Yoga Institute’s newsletter here.

Message from Swami Asokananda
The election is over, but we are still undergoing
turbulent times in a divided nation. And it won’t
take much to polarize us even further. When Sri Swami
Satchidananda (Sri Gurudev) arrived on the shores of
New York City in 1966, our country was also going
through seismic cultural shifts. I know that, for me, the
teachings and practices of Integral Yoga arrived at just
the right time to guide me in a positive direction and a
life purpose.

One of my main sadhanas (spiritual practices) at this time is to be more
aware of what energy, what intention, what motive I am bringing into each interaction. Why am I speaking with this person? What outcome am I looking for? Have I thought about it? As I watch more closely, I’m
discovering that there are different forces at work within me that are going on in pretty much all my conversations.

Even in our own sangha (spiritual community) there are people with very diverse points of view—as is often the case in any family. How am I reacting to points of view different from my own? How well can I listen and take in what the person is saying? What can I learn about myself from this interaction and my own behavior? Am I creating further division, or am I fostering more unity? If I want to bring about positive change during these turbulent and polarized times, then first I’m going to have to deal with the turbulence and polarity within me.

It is important to remember that we are all products of our experiences.
Though it seems obvious to me that my point of view is accurate and true, it’s vital for me to keep in mind that in all likelihood I’m often overlaying the facts with assumptions, judgements, and opinions that have been fed into me from who knows where and when.

To see our conditioning is not easy. To shift it is even harder. One of the
reasons that Sri Gurudev founded the Integral Yoga Institute was this
recognition that spiritual growth is difficult without a supportive
community. As we watch our own thoughts and try to live with integrity, sangha means that we are also looking for ways to support and lift up one another. Also, our being a part of the IYI gives us the field where we are able to move from a small self-interest to a larger, shared interest. We come together so that we can connect to something bigger than ourselves. We have an opportunity to play a role in the evolutionary shift in the consciousness of the planet.

COVID-19 safety precautions have changed how we connect with each
other and share the teachings. There are still plenty of ways you can be of service to IYI and deepen the benefits you can receive from coming
together as a sangha. Think: What can I offer? What skills or experience
can I bring to the table? If you can’t think of what would be useful, reach out to me or our interim executive director, Hamsa, or any board member. We will find just the right Karma Yoga for you, according to the time you have available.

Through this mutual caring for this beloved organization, we will bring out our own potential and keep IYI shining bright for our city long after this pandemic ends.

Spiritual Director

The Nut Butter Cups I Don’t Hate Myself for Eating

I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but given the nutritional profile (22g of sugar), I can’t justify eating them on a regular basis. I recently discovered Evolved’s Keto Cups at Whole Foods, which are now an after-workout staple for me.

The chocolate is higher quality than the Reese’s, and the fillings are delicious and healthy. I particularly recommend the Coconut Butter flavor, which was my favorite among the many I’ve tried.

I recommended these to a relative recently and she ordered a large assortment online and found them outstanding. With just 1 gram of sugar, and no added sugars, it’s something I can enjoy any time.

These nut butter cups are designed to fit a ketogenic diet, which I do not follow, but they’re delicious regardless. Enjoy!

The Best Discussion of COVID and Vaccines

Today, we are all thinking the same thing. Where are these vaccines? And are they safe? In this podcast, Dr. Peter Attia (Stanford Med, NIH, Johns Hopkins) interviews Dr. Paul Offitt (CHOP, vaccine expert, on the FDA committee that will approve any COVID vaccine). This is the best discussion I’ve heard on the topic.

Some things I got out of this episode:

  • Vaccines are coming soon
  • Many vaccines have good safety profiles
  • There are numerous vaccine candidates, with a variety of approaches. Our bets are spread, which gives me confidence something will work.

I listened to this episode at 0.7x speed, given the technical nature of the topic and the speed at which the guest speaks. Enjoy!

The FDA Approved Mask I Wear

With evidence indicating that cloth masks may be less effective than surgical/N95/KN95 masks, what type of mask should we choose? And how do we know that the one we’ve chosen is safe?

I’ve been wearing these KN95 masks for several weeks and have come to love them. They only touch your face at the edges, which I find more comfortable. The earloops are thick and cushioned, providing better comfort. And as someone who wears glasses, I find that these fog my glasses less than anything else I’ve tried, provided I fit the adjustable nose piece carefully.

I’ve done yoga classes in this mask and walked all over town in it, and I actually forget I’m wearing it sometimes. I never thought that would happen. I find myself handing these out to friends and family in the hopes it will protect them as well.

This mask is on the FDA approved list. Go to Appendix A: Authorized Imported, Non-NIOSH Approved Respirators Manufactured in China (Updated: October 15, 2020). Then, see the manufacturer name, Guangzhou Nan Qi Xing Non-Woven Co., Ltd. This gives me greater peace of mind that it will work as advertised.

If you’re ready to dive in and buy a box of 50 at a lower price, the link is here.

Stay safe and stay strong everyone!

How I Think About COVID Risk: Calculate the Risk of Any Activity

There is no such thing as perfect safety. If you live in an apartment, even if you stayed home 100% of the time, viral particles could potentially make it through a faulty ventilation system. (This may have been the cause of numerous SARS infections in 2003 at a Hong Kong apartment building called Amoy Gardens Block E…see p. 137 of SARS in China: Prelude to Pandemic?).

So how do we know what is reasonably safe to do and what isn’t? Enter the microCOVID Project, a research-based calculator that can estimate the risk of contracting COVID from virtually any activity.

The calculator uses your location (and its COVID prevalence) along with other assumptions (who is near you during an activity, what mask they’re wearing, etc.) to calculate how likely you are to get COVID in a given situation. For example, going to the grocery store for 60 minutes in my area is 200 microCOVIDs. This means that if I went to the grocery for 60 minutes once a week every week for a year, I’d have a 1% cumulative chance of getting COVID from that activity.

Play around with the assumptions. For example, the grocery scenario assumes I’m wearing a cotton mask. I don’t do that. Instead, I wear a KN95 mask from the FDA approved list, which cuts the risk in half, to 100 microCOVIDs.

Is this calculator perfect? I’m sure it’s not. But it provides a useful way to estimate risk and decide if an activity is worth it to you or not. In a time when we are forced to think about risk more than usual, it is a valuable tool!

The Best Place to Get a COVID Test in NYC

I recently had a possible COVID-19 exposure when a close friend tested positive. I needed to know right away whether I was infected so I could avoid exposing my wife. With multi-hour waits at many test sites and long turnaround times for results, I knew the usual test sites weren’t an option.

Instead, I went to Formation Health in Midtown Manhattan. I had no appointment and showed up at 7:30pm. I was the only patient (there were 2 medical staff) and they saw me immediately. I was in an out of their office in 10 minutes and had my (negative!) result in 15 minutes. My wife did the same and got her negative results right before I did (kudos to her for finding the place!). This clinic has extensive hours, 7 days a week.

This rapid test-and-isolate model is what can defeat this virus. You get the result quickly and you don’t take the chance of exposing yourself to COVID at the test site itself.

The test is the BD Veritor antigen test. It has a high degree of accuracy, though not quite as high as a PCR test. But it is readily available with quick results you can act on immediately. The physician I spoke to through my own insurance (not Formation) assured me that with no symptoms and a negative test result, I was negative with no need to isolate.

If a person had a negative test but had typical COVID symptoms, or if they had a positive test but no symptoms, they could also get a confirmatory PCR test, which is the most accurate test available.

The cost was $195. Your insurance may cover it. For me, the extra cost was well worth it for the extraordinary service, safety of the test site, and fast, actionable results. That said, unfortunately, the cost could be a barrier for some.

Stay well everyone!