I recently spent a week relaxing in the French territory St. Barts near St. Martin. Here are some of my favorite photos from that trip.
I recently spent a week relaxing in the French territory St. Barts near St. Martin. Here are some of my favorite photos from that trip.
Here is a “behind the scenes” look of the cover creation process for the cover redo of The Shadow Realm. The main goal of this cover is to depict Grimbald going to war against some Cerumal. I’m quite pleased with how it came out. Sebastian is an amazing artist. Find his work here
First he usually sends me some concept work based on the character’s description like this:
Then he proposed some positions for Grimbald and we decided after some discussion to go with number II.
Next Sebastian sent me the following iterations:
This was an amazing book that essentially distills the wisdom from Tim’s hundreds of podcast guests. I further distilled it for this blog post with the lines/quotes that I found most personally impactful. I hope this sample encourages you to pick up a copy of the book, it’s an amazing read and well worth your time. Today I am grateful for Kindle highlights.
“More than 80% of the interviewees have some form of daily mindfulness or meditation practice”
“Life is short. Put another way: A long life is far from guaranteed. Nearly everyone dies before they’re ready.”
“If I sleep poorly and have an early morning meeting, I’ll cancel the meeting last-minute if needed and catch up on sleep.”
“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”
“Suffer a little regularly and you often cease to suffer.”
“If you can’t seem to make yourself happy, do little things to make other people happy. This is a very effective magic trick.”
“Ketones have an anti-catabolic protein-sparing and anti-inflammatory effect.”
“If you don’t have cancer and you do a therapeutic fast 1 to 3 times per year, you could purge any precancerous cells that may be living in your body.”
“There is also evidence to suggest— skipping the scientific detail— that fasts of 3 days or longer can effectively “reboot” your immune system via stem cell– based regeneration. Dom suggests a 5-day fast 2 to 3 times per year.”
“The most important thing I’ve learned about nutrition is you need to deserve your carbs . . . to deserve [hundreds of kcal of carbs] post-exercise, you need to be sub-10% body fat. And the quickest way to know if you have sub-10 body fat as a male is: Can I see the lineal alba [vertical separation] on your abs? In other words, can I see all ab rows? One ab row doesn’t count; you’ve got to see them all. In other words, you have to have penis skin on your abs.”
“I think the best magnesium out there is magnesium threonate, if I were to pick one.”
“Men, if you wake up and you don’t have a boner, there’s a problem. Yes or no? One or zero? Boner, no boner?”
“Even if it was to get on a bike and ride for 15 minutes to reset things. I learned early that it seemed any time I did that, I didn’t get jet lag.”
“Once an hour, every hour, randomly identify two people walking past your office and secretly wish for each of them to be happy. You don’t have to do or say anything— just think, “I wish for this person to be happy.”
“Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
“If [more] information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” TF: It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.”
“I would make a billboard that says, ‘It Won’t Make You Happy,’ and I would place it outside any big shopping mall or car dealer.”
“If you don’t have 20 minutes to delve into yourself through meditation, then that means you really need 2 hours.”
“I like to study what Seth doesn’t do as much as what he does. Seth has no comments on his blog, he doesn’t pay attention to analytics, and he doesn’t use Twitter or Facebook”
You are putting too much pressure on yourself. Perfectionism is the ENEMY of the idea muscle . . . it’s your brain trying to protect you from harm, from coming up with an idea that is embarrassing and stupid and could cause you to suffer pain. The way you shut [this] off is by forcing [the brain] to come up with bad ideas.
“When You Complain, Nobody Wants to Help You”
“My parents always taught me that my day job would never make me rich. It’d be my homework.”
“It’s only real if it’s on the calendar.”
“When you are just starting out, we can be sure of a few fundamental realities: 1) You’re not nearly as good or as important as you think you are; 2) you have an attitude that needs to be readjusted; 3) most of what you think you know or most of what you learned in books or in school is out of date or wrong.”
“The biggest mistake you can make is to accept the norms of your time.”
“In the wrong environment, your creativity is compromised. At 30, I assumed my strengths would always be with me regardless of where I applied them. I was wrong. Truth is, your environment matters.”
“If you have two of something, you will break or lose one and end up with one remaining; if you have one, you will break or lose it and be screwed.”
“If you want to be tougher mentally, it is simple: Be tougher. Don’t meditate on it.”
“If she [my daughter] does not try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in her adult life, I will worry that she may have missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience . . . a life without drugs is neither foreseeable nor, I think, desirable.”
“If I give you 5 grams of mushrooms or 300 micrograms of LSD and tell you to sit on that couch for an hour, you are guaranteed to have a radical transformation of your experience. It doesn’t matter who you are. A freight train of significance is going to come bearing down on you, and we just have to watch the clock, to know when it’s going to happen.”
“To not do something because you might get injured is a terrible reason not to do something.”
“And in order for art to imitate life, you have a life.”
“And I think ultimately, sometimes when we judge other people, it’s just a way to not look at ourselves; a way to feel superior or sanctimonious or whatever.”
“The difference between the people you admire and everybody else [is that the former are] the people who read.”
Alain de Botton
“Advice to your 30-year-old self? “I would have said, ‘Appreciate what’s good about this moment. Don’t always think that you’re on a permanent journey. Stop and enjoy the view.”
“The best art divides the audience. If you put out a record, and half the people who hear it absolutely love it, and half the people who hear it absolutely hate it, you’ve done well, because it’s pushing that boundary.”
“A successful writing day is a day that I suffer in the morning, and I have fun in the evening, fun by writing. [I should] not describe this as fun. It’s also painful . . . I’m in a kind of trance.”
“Trust your reader. Understand that he or she can fill the empty spaces. Don’t over-explain.”
“When you sit down to write, there is this process of purging, this process of cleansing, where only the important things remain.”
“Try smelling with your mouth open, as you’ll get more information.”
“Josh has no social media, does no interviews (except my podcast, for which he often says to me, “You fuck!”), and avoids nearly all meetings and phone calls. He minimizes input to maximize output, much like Rick Rubin. Josh says: “I cultivate empty space as a way of life for the creative process.”
Here’s a sneak preview of the first chapter from the prequel I am working on for the Age of Dawn series. This story will mainly follow Lillian Thorne and Baylan Spear in the continent of Tigeria. My goal is to give these characters an interesting backstory before they met Walter and to do a bit more “painting” about the world’s lore. Please keep in mind this is UNEDITED. Much may change with the finished version.
Time to read: 10-15m
Chapter 1 – Brenna
The country was vast, treeless, and red. Jagged hills rolled past like the spines of ancient beasts. The earth flowing beneath Lillian Thorne’s barefeet was studded with stones worn smooth, the only relic that there had once been water in this wasteland. The arcing contours made her foot bones ache, but it was a welcome relief from the miles of stabbing gravel that made up the path over the last ridge.
With every step she left ruby footprints. Her blood smeared over the blood and sticking sand of someone marching in the line before her, blotting out their perfect tracks. Blood mixed with blood mixed with nothing. That’s what they were now, nothing, merely tools to be used and discarded once they no longer functioned.
It wouldn’t be long until she fell from infection. She didn’t have Ribwort oil to cleanse her wounds. She had nothing. She was nothing. She had trousers and chains.
The chains never stopped tinkling with her every plodding step. They were all bound at the wrist with a pair of manacles joined to another length of chain binding their ankles. Each set of chains was bound to the man in front and the man behind, making fleeing on foot impossibility. Every slave gang always had at least a pair of elders in the group. They were dead weight. The Tigerian’s were far more intelligent than she thought.
She loathed her enslavement and her Tigerian slavers, but what she hated more was how the chains prevented her from making a proper squat so streams of hot piss didn’t run down her legs, burning at her wounds. Then it would dry and the odor was so foul it made her wretch when the wind blew back it in her face. It felt as if everything in this world was against them.
She’d been enslaved for well over six months by her estimate. Now she welcomed the Shadow Realm’s warm embrace with a stoic smile. A gale tore a curtain of sand from the from trackless plains, whipping it over the marching men and producing groans of discontent.
The sun was a relentless orb of hate, casting its rage upon the backs of the enslaved. Sweat trickled down the furrow of the muscular back marching in front of her. She watched the way his pinched scars fluctuated and twitched under slabs of leathery muscle. They were a map that only lead to a grim future. It was a future that told of turning big stones into smaller stones, toiling over farms, mining, or perhaps if you were lucky becoming a Tigerian’s pleasure toy. At least then you could spend some time inside, out of the heat. The price of disobedience was lash strikes to the back so hard they cut through flesh and rent muscle, stopping at bones.
Lillian raised her arms, her once porcelain skin raw and red with sunburn. The chains sang with the tireless clinking of metal on metal. She swept a length of obsidian hair out of her eyes and behind her ears, her hair brittle with sweat, dust, and sand. Her upper lip was a bit fuller than the bottom, both wilted and scabbed, the act of smiling all but lost.
No one spoke to her and she spoke to no one. Every slave kept to themselves, deep in their own personal forms of torture.
One of their two captors circled the marching line and Lillian watched him in her peripheral vision, never looking directly at him. She learned her mistake the hard way and had the lash wounds to prove it. Tigerian’s didn’t take defiance lightly, stomping the sparks down before they became a fire.
She had read much about the Tigerians before arriving on the realm, but it didn’t prepare her for their cruelty. She knew they enslaved men, but never would she have guessed that she could possibly be captured. Her arrogance and pride lead her here. She’d been a fool.
Lillian and Baylan Spear, her betrothed, were sent by the Arch Wizard of the Silver Tower to take the pulse of the Tigerian realm. Bezda Lightwalker, the Arch Wizard, said they were to observe only and act like they were slavers. It would be a simple task, she said.
They left the realm of Zoria a little over seven months ago, spent weeks on the Warwick traversing the black waters of the Far Sea, only to be lead into the arms of an awaiting band of slavers on the shores of Tigeria. They had been betrayed by Captain Derwood, a man’s whose loyalty to the Silver Tower apparently only went as far as the highest bidder for his cargo. They were bought and sold, their bodies exchanged like a commodity into the hands of countless slave masters. She no longer kept track who owned them now. It didn’t matter.
The awaiting slavers shouldn’t have been a problem for Lillian, for she had been blessed with the Dragon god’s strength. There were two known gods in the world, the Dragon and the Phoenix. The Dragon granted women, and rarely men, the ability to conjure fire from the air, control the nature of the winds, call stone from the earth, and for those particularly blessed, summon lightning from a cloudless sky to strike down their enemies. The Phoenix granted men the ability to mend the most grievous of wounds, summon impenetrable shields of light, telekinesis, and for those of the most advanced blessings teleportation through portals.
The slavers however knew they were from the Silver Tower and thus guessed correctly that they could use magic. The Silver Tower was where the wizards of Zoria went to cultivate their talents with like-minded peers. To Tigerians, they were a rare form of human that would fetch a mighty sum of coin with the right auctioneer. The Tigerians had countermeasures prepared for their powers.
Equalizer crystals were a forbidden artifact in the Silver Tower. They could nullify a wizard’s powers, rendering their strengths to that of mortal men untouched by the gods. They were supposed to have all been destroyed or lost, according to the Silver Tower’s scholars. It seemed their knowledge had been severely lacking in truth.
She had reached for the Dragon, planning to turn the awaiting slavers into pillars of ash. They laughed. Then they slapped chains on her arms, legs and neck, the locks clicking with a deadly finality. No.
Baylan was sold into a separate slave gang, both screaming as they were torn from each other with cheeks glossed with tears. She watched him fade away until he was speck cresting a sand dune, watched until there was nothing more to be watched.
She clung to life with the fire of revenge and the ever-fading love in her chest. She tried to keep her love bright, but it was invariably beaten out of her, spirits crushed under the crack of their master’s lashings. She had all but given up, fate accepted. Why she continued to fight to live was still a mystery. She came to the grim realization that she would never see him again.
She gazed down at the Equalizer crystal, suspended from a heavy chain from the iron collar around her throat. The Equalizer pulsed with a pinkish glow as she tried to reach for the Dragon but found only a wall of glass, blocking her from its power, always just out of reach like an unrequited lover’s grasp. She stopped trying and the crystal once again became colorless, resting between the valley of her firm breasts.
She peered down at her bare breasts, trying to remember how much larger they had been before her body started cannibalizing what little fat stores remained on her figure. She couldn’t remember. Her mind was muddled from the ravages of malnutrition and crippling exhaustion. She thought they were nice once. She watched as strip of dried skin peeled off the edge of her right breast, flitting away in another stinging gust. She ran her tongue along her mouth searching for some vestige of moisture, dragging at her inner cheeks, mouth always filled with the tang of her bleeding gums.
Toshi, one of their two captors, swayed from the back of his Tougere mount. Tigerians had humanoid bodies, though that was about where their similarities started and ended. They had feline heads with all the features of a cat, eyes gleaming and wide as saucers, teeth like razors. Their bodies were lithe and covered in pelts in every pattern from spotted blacks to striped browns. They were typically shorter than men, but there were a few who towered over them. The facet of cats that they most seemed to embody was their pitiless cruelty.
She watched him watching her from under the slits of a swathe of hair that had fallen over her brow. There was no way he could’ve known he was watching her, but to be safe she quickly averted her eyes. More fearsome than the Tigerians themselves were their Tougere mounts.
They’re much like mountain lions found in the Mountains of Misery from her home in Zoria, except about ten times as large. They were more than sturdy enough for a man to ride, their heads as big as a torso with enough crushing power to hew a man into halves. She only knew this because she’d seen it happen to a disobedient captive. From their mouths emerged pairs of canines as long and sharp as short swords and from their enormous paws were talons keen enough to disembowel a man with a single swipe. She’d seen this too.
Toshi’s coat was jet back with a few smears of white as if someone had inverted a cup of cream over his head. He wore a burnished breastplate that he polished every night, though dented and marred with the signs of hard use. Along his waist and bouncing against the edge of his saddle were ornamented pairs of scimitars. They padded away, every step of the Tougere thumping at the earth. They dwarfed horses in weight and power, though their legs were squat, making them easy to mount for Tigerians.
Leading the gang was Taji, his coat the pattern of tabby cat and Tougere’s mirroring his coat such that at times they appeared one in the same. He preferred the spear and shield, both resting across the back of his saddle. Curled among them was his lash, mostly used not as a weapon but as punishment for malingers.
All she wanted was a comb to straighten her mess of hair and a knife to slit her throat with. Was that too much to ask?
Night fell and with it came bone chilling cold. The path became a forest of dead trees, all bark and leaves stripped away and leaving only ivory skeletons behind. They marched onward, huddled under threadbare blankets providing just enough warmth to keep them alive. A woman fell from the cold one too many times, halting the gang as she staggered into the nameless face in front of her. The man grunted with annoyance, jabbing an elbow into her ribs.
“Sorry,” she muttered.
The man replied in Tigerian, a language she was only starting to glean words and phrases. “Careful,” he said. His hair was curly and an oily black, cascading down bony shoulders.
The gang came to halt and with it came blessed silence. For a moment, the chains didn’t jingle. She smiled the broadest of smiles.
Toshi dismounted with a growl, setting his golden eyes at the back of the line. Lillian stared down at her feet, eying her toes white with cold. She knew what fate would befall this unfortunate soul. She didn’t have to look.
Toshi’s sword slipped from its sheathe with a murderous ring. She saw the mirror bright finish passing under the edge of her vision, reflecting a sliver of the grinning moon. His paws scraped at the earth, toenails clacking on stones. The sound of metal chopping into bone. The woman let out a gut twisting shriek. Toshi continued chopping, first through her wrists and then through her wrists and finally her head.
It was apparently more efficient than simply unlocking their manacles. Or perhaps Toshi simply enjoyed this method of killing. She would become tonight’s stew and one did not resist what little food you were given. If you did, you were force fed.
There was a time when she resisted consuming the flesh of men. Even that was squashed down. She remembered her mouth being pried apart and throat squeezed by fur lined hands. Her eyes were hot with resistant tears. Spoonfuls of human stew were shoved down her mouth and they forced her to swallow. The punishment for vomiting was steep. It was difficult to sell slaves on the verge of death.
The dead woman’s manacles were stowed in a saddlebag and her body strapped to the Tougere’s rump. Blood trailed from her wounds, streaking its hind legs and matting in its fur. Lillian lifted her eyes to regard the woman’s face, but gave a grim snicker at seeing she had been beheaded. She wondered which part of her she would be forced to eat. She seemed to have a fair amount of fat on her buttocks and legs.
Lillian’s throat worked in tremulous waves, jerking her head away before her guts betrayed her. She saw the tree limbs were coated in a thin layer of ice, the weight of it making them bow. She let out a long controlled breath, mastering her body.
Taji growled and waved his paw for them to continue. “March,” he said in Common.
Their chains rattled to life, stabbing at her ears with renewed ferocity. Everywhere she went chains jingled. Even in her sleep she heard their rattle, a constant reminder of her captive state. When a man shifted by the campfire, they whispered of new tortures. They were always jingling.
They took no rest tonight. It was unusual and sharpened her senses from the stupor of endless marching. They must be behind schedule, or perhaps drawing nearer to their next destination. Lanterns sputtered from poles clutched in Toshi and Taji’s hands, gently creaking as they swung. Toshi padded along at the side of the main body of the gang and Taji as usual, lead from the front.
The sun crested the horizon, showing the sinuous path winding among the dead trees. Their white skin became the colors of fire as the sun started to warm her cheeks. Their shadows stretched out like demon’s claws raking at the scorched ground.
Something approached from the north. It was a black speck at first, materializing into what she guessed was a wagon. Then came the gentle creak of wheels spinning on greased axles, confirming her suspicion. A pair of lanterns burned at its corners, illuminating a human driver. She used a horse to pull her carriage, which was strange. Strangest of all was that the driver appeared to be female. Lillian wrinkled her brow and found herself giving a nervous swallow. She turned to look further down the line of captives, seeing everyone else in a nervy state of shuffling feet and licking sunburned lips. A few even met her eyes for the first time.
Mutters passed over the group, some wondering if she would be their new master. Was their anything more despicable that one willing to enslave their own race for coin? Lillian thought not.
Toshi drew up from their flank and joined Taji at the front to welcome the wagon or perhaps slay its owner. The Tougere’s fat tails lashed at the earth as they were made to halt, waiting for the carriage to arrive. One of them let out a rumbling growl, triangular ears twitching at the echoing sound of stones crunching under wheels and hooves clopping at the earth.
Taji drew his barbed spear and laid it across his lap and Toshi placed his hands on his ornamented hilts. It all looked perfectly natural with a sprinkle of caution, the way anyone would greet someone on the road. She wanted to tell the unsuspecting traveler that they were killers. Taking another man’s life meant nothing to them. One wrong word and the driver’s blood would meet the earth.
A woman traveling alone in this Dragon forsaken country. How had she survived this long without managing to become enslaved or worse? She had to be a slaver, Lillian reasoned.
“Hello there!” the driver called, voice filled with hearty mirth. She gave an eager wave, slowing her carriage to stop about twenty paces away. A genuine smile spread up her face. The expression seemed so foreign. She stood in her chair and gave a slight bow, though never lifting her eyes from the Tigerians.
She was stunningly beautiful. And clean. So wonderfully clean. There were few times when Lillian had felt even a measure of attraction for another woman and this was one of them.
The traveler’s eyes were a hard gray, face narrow with a small nose and lips full. Her hair was a silky black with silver highlights that spilled over a jet black corset trimmed with violent reds. Not very practical attire for the road, more appropriate for the bedroom. Lillian’s eyes traced down between her full breasts and to her hips, eyes locking onto a sheathed long sword with an ornamented guard. No ordinary traveler. What was her play?
Her arms were latticed in an intricate opalescent armor that had to be Milvorian steel, the only metal capable of withstanding the onslaught of Dragon fire without melting. Shrouding her hands were gauntlets perfectly forged to their shape as if her hands had been used as a mold, the fingers tipped with talons that appeared very functional. Lillian’s eyes drifted to her legs, lingering between them, then stopping at rings of throwing daggers wrapped around her thighs. From her mid-thighs to her feet was a swirling line of Milvorian steel wrapping them in a protective shell. A Tower Assassin? Perhaps a Scorpion from the far reaches of Zoria?
“How does the road treat you?” The traveler said in Common, gesturing while she beamed. She dropped the reins and vaulted over the edge of her cart, landing with a deft thump.
The Tougere’s raised their hackles, dropped low to pounce and faintly growled. Taji hefted his spear under his arm, directing it at her. Toshi followed his lead, half-drawing a scimitar from its scabbard.
“Who are you?” Taji said brusquely, like every past word that emerged from his cat-mouth.
The traveler raised her hands in a show of innocence, metallic talons gleaming in the fire of the rising sun. “Please, please, friends. I come in peace. Your weapons offend my good tastes. Is this how you greet a fellow traveler?”
Taji leaned forward in his saddle, peering into the traveler’s eyes for a long minute.
She inclined her head and bobbed her eyebrows, never once breaking from his stare. Taji let out a satisfied grunt and leaned back in his saddle.
The traveler came forward, lowering her hands to rest easily at her sides. The closer she came the more wealthy she appeared, her clothing and armor possessing layers upon layers of fine textures. The slaves huddled together at Lillian’s back, in fear or for warmth she couldn’t be certain.
“My name is Brenna and this is Stanley,” she said, turning back to gesture at her horse who pawed at the ground in response to his name. His coat was almond and he had a luxurious cream colored mane that had been braided and tied off with intricate knots at the end. Who was this woman?
“And you are?” She offered her hand to the Tigerian’s, neither of them taking it, regarding her with deadly stares. A Tougere snorted out a breath, torso flexing like a smith’s bellows. “Very well, I see formalities and pleasantries are beyond you so I shall cut straight to business. I seek a pair of Tigerian slavers who are known as the Taki brothers. Do you perhaps know where I can find them?”
The Tigerian’s drew their mounts a bit further apart, creating a space between them in what might be the start of a pincer attack.
“I know not of these brothers,” Taji said, each word coming out in a strained effort.
“That is rather unfortunate,” Brenna said, boldly sweeping between the space they created. Her gaze flicked from each of their faces as she passed. “I am told they are moving a slave I seek to purchase. They were coming from the Golden Hill estate, not too far from here I think.” She lifted the chin of the first slave in the gang, peering into his eyes, then turning his jaw to inspect his face like he was merely horseflesh. “Do you mind if I have a look?” She didn’t wait for an answer, moving on to the skeletal woman chained behind him.
“These slaves are not for sale,” Toshi rumbled, voice laced with threat.
Brenna stopped, dropping her metallic hand from the second slave’s jaw and turned to look at him. “Well, everyone has their price and I have no shortage of marks. May I?”
Toshi opened his mouth to speak, but before he could Taji answered with a nod and gesture for her to go on.
“Thank you, you are most kind,” she said with a pleased smile. Brenna made her way further up the line, whispering questions to each slave that Lillian couldn’t hear.
Brenna approached Lillian, finely manicured eyebrows arcing up as she met her eyes. Her eyes were large, swimming with grays and flecked with bits of gold. They almost looked kind had they not been on a slaver.
Lillian found her jaw involuntarily flexing, fists balling up tight and taking every measure of her self-control to avoid reaching for the Dragon. She crossed her arms and drew her blanket tight against her lithe form.
Brenna brought her face within inches of Lillian’s, inspecting her. Brenna’s skin was flawless and without a single smear of dirt. She smelled sweet, like cinnamon and vanilla. “Calm, I mean you no harm,” Brenna whispered, voice raspy.
Lillian noticed how foul she smelled next to her, the strong tang of weeks old urine wafting up from her nether regions. She didn’t want to remember how long it had been since her last bath. Back in Tower she bathed everyday. She smelled good then. She would spend an hour combing her long hair and pinning it back with a diadem. But now she was a stinking slave.
“Slavers,” Lillian growled then spat on her boots. It was a waste of precious water and would likely earn her a few lashes from Taji’s whip. It was still worth it.
Brenna peered down at her boot and scoffed. She slowly raised her hand and grasped Lillian under the jaw, the metal on her hand cold as ice and making her skin prickle. The metal of it was certainly Milvorian steel. “Are you Lillian Thorne?” she breathed.
“Maybe,” Lillian grunted.
“For the sake of your freedom, it is critical that you speak the truth.” Brenna said, turning Lillian’s head to expose her ear and speak into it.
Lillian glowered at her. She sucked snot from her sinuses and into the back of her throat, preparing a nasty glob of spit for this one.
“I’ll ask one more time. Are you Lillian Thorne?”
“Yes,” Lillian hissed.
“Do you know the Kuro brothers?”
She gave a few quick nods. They were her former masters on the Golden Hill estate. Why did she want to know? She and Baylan were together for a brief time there, before she was once again torn away before she could say goodbye. It was one of many times where she was sold to a new master. Perhaps there was an opportunity to return to Baylan with this slaver.
“What are you doing?” Toshi growled from the front. Brenna turned to give him an appeasing smile and a raised index finger, dropping it when she turned back to Lillian.
“Can you tell me what they look like?” Brenna whispered into her ear.
Lillian nodded again, biting her inner cheeks to prevent herself from screaming. She could never forget them.
“Tell me,” Brenna prompted.
Lillian stammered, throat dry and unfamiliar with this much use. “The youngest is missing his middle finger, the oldest has a long scar over his right eye, the middle one… an arrogant shit.”
The corners of Brenna’s lips rose in a gleeful smile. “I have searched long for you.”
Toshi was padding up the line on his mount, sword whispering from its sheathe and hanging loose from his hand. He stopped a pace from Brenna. “Tell you. These not for purchase.”
Brenna’s hand was like lightning, sword ripping from its sheathe and slicing across Toshi’s neck with a wet click. Blood poured in a wave from his throat, spilling on the Tougere’s head. In one continuous motion her sword traveled onward like an artist’s brush, finding home in the Tougere’s gaping mouth and out the bottom of its throat. She withdrew her sword from its maw before its bear-trap mouth could slam shut.
Slaves yelped and gasped, shuffling back as far as their fetters would allow.
Toshi tumbled from the saddle, hands uselessly trying to staunch the flow of red from his throat. His Tougere slumped down onto its face, haunches raised into the air.
That’s all you get for now! Stay tuned for more.
I rewrote the whole book from scratch using only the major plot points for the new version. The book length has been just about tripled, topping out at 148k words. The story is way better and if you haven’t yet read it, now is the time to sink your teeth in.
*wipes sweat from brow*
Grab it here:
I’m very fortunate to have learned to love reading when I was in elementary school. I started with Goosebumps books by R. L. Stine, which were horror books for kids. They’re laughably scary now, but I remember them having quite an impact on me at the time. They were addictive. I had a few friends who read them too. We’d swap them around and discuss them in school, discussing how stupid the characters were to walk into the abandoned house rumored to be haunted by the vindictive witch. Then I moved onto R. L. Stine’s YA books, the Fear Street Saga.
These books were pivotal in my youth and likely for countless others. I would still suggest reading them today, not Goosebumps, but Fear Street. In hindsight, these were dark books for a kid to read, comprising a tale of betrayal, revenge, and unrequited love. These books did not end happily.
Then there was a period in High School for about a year when I hardly read at all, the time swallowed by socializing, chasing girls, and video games. Then I made a new friend who was an avid reader and thus reignited my passion for reading. We would spend weekends from morning to night at the now closed Border’s books, gathering stacks of books and magazines and lugging them up to the cafe area. Being the poor students we were, we would bring our own food and drink in bags and eat at the cafe. And of course, it was rare for one of us to cough up the funds to actually buy a book.
This period was a turning point for me. I realized everything I wanted to learn could be learned without the help of a school teacher. I discovered that I didn’t need anyone but a book to teach me what I wanted to know. [This is of course discounting the immense value of mentors, though I did not know that then.] I taught myself how to program, studied physics, computer architecture, science, hacking, read fiction, dug into philosophy and more. I realized that school was only for the lazy and those without the mental fortitude to take self-directed education.
I learned that there were few things that excited me more than learning new stuff. Knowledge really was power. Knowledge was the key to unlocking the mysteries of life. The vicious thing about learning is that the more you know, the more you realize how little you know.
I carried this hunger for knowledge with me throughout college and after. Last year I read more books than I ever had in a year and upon reflection, found the experience immensely enjoyable. It really made the year feel like it was an incredibly valuable use of time. Audiobooks have become one of my favorite ways to digest a book, as I now drive over 100 miles each day for work. As I’ve said before in previous blog posts, it’s a great use of “dead time.”
READERS: How did you discover your love of reading? Please let me know in the comments!
I set a goal to do something interesting with my girlfriend once a month. It was hit on most occasions. The condition I put in place to achieve the goal was a monthly google calendar email alert. I love gcal. It’s great for these types of cyclical goals. Groupon has been an awesome resource for finding super interesting and reasonably priced activities. Most notably we recently attended a glass blowing class, which was a lot of fun! It’s great way to have a novel experience and potentially find a new hobby.
I had another goal to meet up with a friend at least once a month. Low bar, right? Maybe its a symptom of being old, maybe from taking on too much other shit, but I’ve felt like my time was continually regimented and restricted this year. Spending 2.5 hours commuting everyday certainly has not helped this cause. I made a good attempt at meeting this goal, but sometimes fell short due to not following up with initial contacts for planning a meetup.
I came super close to hitting my financial goals for having $xxx in liquid assets. I had a few shitty trades (option trading) at the end of the year due to improper risk management that really hurt my both account and my trading confidence. I’m still chipping away, but it has been a harsh lesson in risk management and how tail risk can eventually get you. I’m trying to write it off as part of building my skill base for trading as I’ve started experimenting with more complex instruments such as Iron Condors and Butterflys.
I set a goal to write 1,500 words every time I write (M-Sat, Sunday off), which I’m pleased to report I hit on most days. Times where the bar was not hit was typically due to extenuating circumstances. I thought 1,500 would be far more painful that it turned out to be, but once again I’m surprised by how well the “formal process” of goal setting works. There really is something magical about writing a goal down. I believe the act of writing it crystallizes the intention in some part of your unconscious mind that keeps you driving for its success.
Book sales have been frustrating at best. Perhaps my expectations are too high. I am a long way from being able to write full time. Something needs to change. I have some ideas I’m going to try in an attempt to put this business back on course for freedom.
I started training BJJ in January of 2016 and have fallen in love with the sport/martial art. It has been a refreshing break from weightlifting. I was hoping it would be a little easier on the body than weightlifting, but it’s significantly harder. I’ve dislocated my shoulder multiple times and it seems like some joint is chronically sore. Despite that, I wouldn’t stop going unless my body totally failed. What I love most about it is the difficulty. It’s very cognitively engaging and I think as a beginner requires a lot of focus to determine how to put your body into new positions and movements.
There is also the aspect of training with a community that hits the social piece that I think a lot of us have lost in our electronic screen-filled lives. While Working in IT I spend most of the day with my headphones on trying to block out the distracting chatter of the office, spending most of my time with my monitors. I think an important part of being a human is having daily social connections with a group.
The goal I’m most excited about hitting this year was finally cracking the elusive 100 books read mark. I managed to wrangle 107. For full transparency the vast majority of the books I “read” were actually audio books, however I can read far faster than I can listen. It was a way to leverage my abysmal commute. Below are my top picks for the year and all of my books read:
Ego is the Enemy was my most gifted book of 2016. Do yourself a huge favor by buying and reading this book. Some of my notes:
You have to be careful you don’t let ego get the best of you, especially after time of success. Nurturing the ego is a form of death. Robert Greene, refers to this as “dead time.” “There are two types of time in our lives: dead time, when people are passive and waiting, and alive time, when people are learning and acting and utilizing every second.” To be entrapped in our ego, is to recoil from the world around us, to retreat into solipsism, and to chain ourselves to “dead time.” Ego can ruin aspiration and success, and how it can get in the way of learning from failure
Seneca: “He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a living man.”
Epictetus: “It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows”
Bill Bradley: “When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win”
Harold Geneen: “People learn from their failures. Seldom do they learn anything from success”
The Lessons of History is short and jam packed with gems. This book is fucking brilliant, buy it. Read it.
Some of my favorite passages:
“Even when repressed, inequality grows; only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom; and in the end superior ability has its way.”
“…But a tornado can ruin in an hour the city that took a century to build; an iceberg can overturn or bisect the floating palace and send a thousand merrymakers gurgling to the Great Certainty. Let rain become too rare, and civilization disappears under sand, as in Central Asia; let it fall too furiously, and civilization will be choked with jungle, as in Central America. Let the thermal average rise by twenty degrees in our thriving zones, and we should probably relapse into lethargic savagery. In a semitropical climate a nation of half a billion souls may breed like ants, but enervating heat may subject it to repeated conquest by warriors from more stimulating habitats. Generations of men establish a growing mastery over the earth, but they are destined to become fossils in its soil…”
“…The startled animals scurry away at our coming; the birds scatter; the fish disperse in the brook. Suddenly we perceive to what a perilous minority we belong on this impartial planet, and for a moment we feel, as these varied denizens clearly do, that we are passing interlopers in their natural habitat. Then all the chronicles and achievements of man fall humbly into the history and perspective of polymorphous life; all our economic competition, our strife for mates, our hunger and love and grief and war, are akin to the seeking, mating, striving, and suffering that hide under these fallen trees or leaves, or in the waters, or on the boughs.”
“…So the first biological lesson of history is that life is competition. Competition is not only the life of trade, it is the trade of life— peaceful when food abounds, violent when the mouths outrun the food. Animals eat one another without qualm; civilized men consume one another by due process of law.”
If you’re a human and you sit for a significant part of your day, you need to read Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World
Some of my favorite passages:
“Some experts argue that sitting is even more pernicious than smoking. An Australian study conducted in 2008 reports that every hour of television watched after age 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. By comparison, smoking a single cigarette reduces life expectancy by 11 minutes. Dr. Levine claims that for every hour we sit, we lose two hours of life.6 The typical seated office worker has more musculoskeletal injuries than any other industry sector worker, including construction, metal industry, and transportation workers. One researcher’s conclusion: sitting is as much an occupational risk as lifting heavy weights on the job.”
“When we sit for long periods, the muscles in our lower bodies literally turn off and become inactive. Simultaneously, we automatically adopt positions that don’t utilize the critical muscles and connective tissues that stabilize and support our trunk and spine.”
“…the actual cause of pain or sickness can be very elusive, and assigning blame can be difficult. If a beaver chews away at a tree for nine days straight and then a mild breeze knocks the tree over, what caused that tree to fall? Sure, the wind finished the job, but without the beaver’s long hours of arduous work, the tree would have been just fine. When it comes to many modern ailments, our sedentary lifestyle is the hardworking beaver that weakens our bodies and primes us for pain and disease. It’s time we stand up to our sitting world.”
I really wasn’t expecting much new from The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor, but it was surprisingly filled with a lot of stuff I didn’t know about food science. This book goes DEEP on the food industry’s vile practices they use to get you to consume their shit.
Firefight (The Reckoners) – Brandon Sanderson
She Sat He Stood: What Do Your Characters Do While They Talk? – Ginger Hanson
The Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed – Mark Divine
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Half the World (Shattered Sea Book 2) – Joe Abercrombie
Trading in the Zone: Master the Market with Confidence, Discipline and a Winning Attitude – Mark Douglas
Stealing the Corner Office: The Winning Career Strategies They’ll Never Teach You in Business School – Brendan Reid
Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement – Katy Bowman
Half a War (Shattered Sea Book 3) – Joe Abercrombie
The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath – Ben S. Bernanke
The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning – Marcelo Gleiser
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers – Ben Horowitz
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration – Ed Catmull
Stock Options Trading Strategies: 3-Digit Return Opportunities On Large Monthly Amplitude Cycles – Julian Sebastian, Juris Doctorate
The Lessons of History – Will Durant, Ariel Durant
Power vs. Force – David R. Hawkins M.D. Ph.D.
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
How to Develop Story Tension: 13 Techniques Plus the Five Minute Magic Trick Guaranteed to Keep Your Readers Turning Pages – Amy Deardon
The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships – Neil Strauss
Blood Song (A Raven’s Shadow Novel) – Anthony Ryan
Spartan Up!: A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life – Joe De Sena
Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing – Melissa Mohr
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win – Jocko Willink, Leif Babin
Market Wizards, Updated: Interviews With Top Traders – Jack D. Schwager
#AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness – Gary Vaynerchuk
Third Circle Theory: Purpose Through Observation – Pejman Ghadimi
The Daily Trading Coach: 101 Lessons for Becoming Your Own Trading Psychologist – Brett N. Steenbarger
Get Rich with Options: Four Winning Strategies Straight from the Exchange Floor – Lee Lowell
Kissinger: A Biography – Walter Isaacson
400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman – Adam Plantinga
Sharp Ends: Stories from the World of the First Law – Joe Abercrombie
Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal – Tom Shroder
Lying – Sam Harris
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – Bessel van der Kolk M.D.
Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job – Jon Acuff
Uglies – Scott Westerfeld
The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph – Ryan Holiday
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman – Richard P. Feynman
Getting Started in Options – Michael C. Thomsett
Why Isn’t My Brain Working?: A Revolutionary Understanding of Brain Decline and Effective Strategies to Recover Your Brain’s Health – Dr. Datis Kharrazian
Ego Is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday
ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror – Michael Weiss, Hassan Hassan
The Physics of Wall Street: A Brief History of Predicting the Unpredictable – James Owen Weatherall
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It – Kelly McGonigal
Elantris – Brandon Sanderson
Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution – Neil deGrasse Tyson
Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction – Philip E. Tetlock, Dan Gardner
Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade – Adam Minter
Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum – Gavin Francis
Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime – Val McDermid
$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America – Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer
The Miracle Morning for Writers: How to Build a Writing Ritual That Increases Your Impact and Your Income (Before 8AM) (Volume 5) – Hal Elrod
Men Explain Things To Me – Rebecca Solnit
The Prince – Niccolò Machiavelli
The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Tower Lord (A Raven’s Shadow Novel) – Anthony Ryan
The Invisible Man – H.G. Wells
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us – Michael Moss
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders – Vincent Bugliosi
My Antonia – Willa Cather
The Call of the Wild – Jack London
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World – Andrea Wulf
You’re It!: On Hiding, Seeking, and Being Found – Alan Watts
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything – Ken Robinson
The Screwtape Letters – C. S. Lewis
Queen of Fire (A Raven’s Shadow Novel) – Anthony Ryan
The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It – Scott Patterson
The Great Courses: The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries – Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives – Leonard Mlodinow
Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground – Kevin Poulsen
The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results – Gary Keller, Jay Papasan
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown
The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months – Brian P. Moran, Michael Lennington
Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender – David R. Hawkins M.D. Ph.D.
Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection – Jia Jiang
Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ – Giulia Enders
Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It – Kamal Ravikant
The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game – Sam Sheridan
Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Success – Napoleon Hill
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life – Mark Manson
I Can See Clearly Now – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future – Martin Ford
The Road to Character – David Brooks
A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing – Burton G. Malkiel
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – Carol Dweck
The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism – Jeremy Rifkin
The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome – Susan Wise Bauer
The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage – Daymond John
Up From Slavery – Booker T. Washington
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything – Don Tapscott, Anthony D. Williams
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival – John Vaillant
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lamott
Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass series Book 1) – Sarah J. Maas
Treat Your Own Rotator Cuff – Jim Johnson
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? – Frans de Waal
Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World – Kelly Starrett
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela – Nelson Mandela
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brené Brown
The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor – Mark Schatzker
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain – John J. Ratey
Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes
Where Are the Customers’ Yachts?: or A Good Hard Look at Wall Street – Fred Schwed
Fear and Trembling – Soren Kierkegaard
The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection – Michael Ruhlman
See my 2015 in Review below:
I’m reading (listening to?) the massive unabridged audiobook Don Quixote and finding it utterly hilarious, especially the proverbs of Don Quixote’s sidekick, Sancho Panza. In the book there are some slow points and a few annoyingly long tangential stories, but excluding that it’s a great read. Here’s an excerpt from the book with one of my favorite conversations between these two lunatics. I love both of these characters. I think I may at some point have to model one, if not both of them in one of my books. I put the proverbs in bold and italics to emphasize them.
“I can sign my name,” responded Sancho, “because when I was a steward in my town, I learred to make some letters like they use to mark on bales, and they said that it was my name. Besides, I can pretend that my right hand is maimed and I can have someone else sign for me. There’s a remedy for everything except death, and holding the power and the staff, I’ll do whatever I want. And what’s more, he who has a bailiff for a father… And since I’ll be governor, which is higher than bailiff, come on and we’ll see what happens! Let them scorn and slander me! They’ll come for wool and go back shorn and the lucky man has nothing to worry about. And the foolish remarks of the rich man pass for wisdom in the world. And being governor and liberal at the same time, as I plan to be, they’ll think I’m flawless. Make yourself into honey and the flies will eat you up. As my grandmother used to say: you’re worth as much as you have. And you can’t take vengeance on the landed gentry.”
“May God curse you, Sancho!” said don Quixote. “May sixty thousand devils haul you and your proverbs off! It’s been an hour since you started stringing them together and torturing me with each one. I can assure you that these proverbs will lead you to the gallows one day. Because of them your vassals will take away your government, or it will cause them to revolt against you. Tell me, you ignoramus, where do you find them? or how to you apply them, you idiot? For me to say a single one and apply it well, I sweat and work as if I were digging a ditch.”
“Before God, señor our master,” replied Sancho, “you’re complaining about very little. Why the devil do you get angry because I’m using my heritage, since it’s all I have? My only wealth is proverbs and more proverbs. And right now four of them come to mind that fit the situation exactly, like peaches in a basket. But I won’t say them, because good silence is called Sancho.
“That’s not you,” said don Quixote, “because not only are you not ‘good silence,’ you’re ‘bad speech’ and obstinate as well. But even so, I’d like to find out which four proverbs just came to you that fit the situation so well. I’ve been ransacking my brain, and I can’t think of a single one that’s à propos.”
“What better ones are there than never put your thumbs between your wisdom teeth, and to ‘leave my home’ and ‘what do you want with my wife?’ there’s nothing to answer, and if the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it’s bad for the pitcher? All of them fit perfectly. No one should take on their governor, nor anyone who’s in charge, because he’ll come out hurt, just like someone who puts his finger between his wisdom teeth, and even if they’re not the wisdom teeth, as long as they’re molars it doesn’t make any difference. And no matter what the governor asks, there’s nothing to say, just like ‘leave my house’ and ‘what do you want with my wife?’ And the one about the pitcher and the rock, a blind man can see it. So, why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye with never a thought for the plank in your own, lest it be said of him: the dead woman was frightened to see another with a slit throat. And your grace already knows the one about the fool knows more in his own house than the wise man in someone else’s.”
“Not so, Sancho,” responded don Quixote, “for the fool in his own house or in anyone else’s doesn’t know anything because on the foundation of foolishness you can’t build the edifice of intelligence. And let’s let it go here, Sancho, because if you govern badly, yours will be the blame and mine will be the shame. But I can console myself in that I’ve done what I should by advising you with truths and with whatever discretion I could. With that I’m discharged from my obligation and promise. May God guide you, Sancho, and may He govern you in your government, and take from me the misgiving that I have that you might wind up with the ínsula flat on its back, something that I could prevent by revealing to the duke who you are, telling him that the little fat person that you are is nothing more than a sack filled with proverbs and mischief.”
“Señor,” replied Sancho, “if your grace thinks that I’m not right for this government, I’ll give it up right now. I love the tiniest part of my soul more than my whole body, and I’ll survive simply as Sancho with bread and onions than a governor with partridges and capons. And what’s more, when they’re asleep, everyone is the same—the grandees and the little folk, the rich and the poor, and if you think about it, you’ll see that you alone made me start to think about being a governor. I don’t know any more about governing ínsulas than a vulture does, and if you think that if I become a governor the devil will carry off my soul, I’d prefer to go to heaven as Sancho than to hell as a governor.”
“By God, Sancho,” said don Quixote, “with just these last words you’ve said, I judge that you deserve to be governor of a thousand ínsulas. You have a good instinct, without which knowledge is worthless. Commend yourself to God, and try not to err in your main purpose. I mean that you should always keep a firm intent and purpose to do right in all things because heaven supports worthy aims. Let’s go eat now, because these people are waiting for us.”
Have you read Don Quixote? Have a favorite scene? Let me know in the comments!
Grab a copy here:
I’m swooning over the new cover of The Silver Tower (The Age of Dawn Book 3) created by Sebastian Horoszko. You can find Sebastian’s work here. It has been updated on both kindle and paperback formats. Check out this awesome paperback spread. Please let me know what you think!
And here it is printed! So awesome, despite the corners getting kicked around by the USPS.
I’m reading an excellent book that has inspired this post, Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World by Kelly Starrett. It’s so good it might even make it to the list as one of my favorite books for the year.
A point that has strongly resonated with me has been the author’s emphasis on the importance of movement breaks. As both an office worker, trader and a writer, I spend a lot of time parked in front of a desk. The book has a strong emphasis on moving into a standing desk, which fortunately my employer has provided for my office. At my home office I still sit, though I do implement the method of movement breaks described below.
The main concept is that by shifting into different positions other than the static sitting one most of us spend the majority of our time in, can do wonders to keep our bodies healthy. It prevents achy joints and stiff muscles from limiting your range of motion. To remedy this you must move. Frequently. The movement itself doesn’t have to be something that greatly elevates your heart rate, not that it hurts to get the blood moving a bit.
It could be as simple as a stroll about your house or office. It could be rolling out your wrists, doing some neck circles, and some light stretching. Starett suggests your breaks should be at least 2 minutes long every twenty-thirty minutes. At first, this may seem like a lot of breaks, but you get used to it and can use the time to think about what you’re working on by stepping back and getting a more macro perspective.
According to the book, and certainly from my anecdotal experience, when the body is inactive the brain does not fully engage and it becomes increasing more difficult to stay focused. Have you ever noticed the insights you get to a problem when you walk away from it? I think this is due to the health benefit and brain activation that happens because of the movement itself.
You have to put a condition in place to take these breaks, otherwise you’ll easily let them slide. I use a lightweight break timer on my computer which you can find here Every thirty minutes a popup appears on my screen reminding me to move. It’s hard to obey it sometimes, especially when it rudely interrupts you when you’re deep in thought or in the midst of a flow state.
In the book he offers a great list of options for routines you can implement during these breaks. The main idea is upon each break to focus on one area. The first break might be your neck, so you would do some neck rolls, stretches, and maybe some light massaging with a lacrosse ball. The next could be your wrists, so you would do some wrist rolls and wrist stretches. You get the idea.