Digestable #41: Obstacle Course Race Training, Joe De Sena, Procrastination, Secrecy Razor, Darwin on Art

Hey everyone!

Here’s the latest Digestable, the short, weekly email where we ramble down Curiosity Street. This edition was emailed to subscribers on February 21, 2022.

Ramble on!

Training for the Spartan Beast: I’ve posted my 4-component training program to prepare for the 21km Spartan Beast at Big White this summer. Each component is to be completed weekly and they work together like four legs of a chair. Remove one of the legs at your peril! The four legs are: 1. The Easy-Pace Long Run, 2. MovNat Session, 3. High-Intensity Metabolic Conditioning, and 4. … (read the rest on my website!).

Joe De Sena: Fire, Ready, Aim! Love him or hate him, there is something for everyone to learn from the potentially insane creator of the Spartan Race. I enjoyed this recent podcast interview of Joe by the legendary vegan endurance athlete, Rich Roll (hat tip to Eli Stauth for the recommendation), where Joe shares his provocative parenting advice. Let’s just say my kids should be grateful they have me for a dad and not Joe . . .

Here’s a short video interview that provides insight into Joe’s background as well as footage from his infamous Vermont farm where he has inflicted his Spartan-style suffering on countless people:

Procrastination is Part of the Creative Path: Darren Aronofsky is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter who also studied social anthropology at Harvard. You’ve likely seen at least one of his movies, they include Pi (1998), Requiem for a Dream (2000), The Wrestler (2008) and Black Swan (2010), the biblical story, Noah (2014), and most recently, Mother! (2017). Darren has a thought-provoking take on procrastination. I found this quote of his in Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors, a book that was gifted to me by Arlyn Stoik (thanks Arlyn!):

“I think procrastination is a major part of the creative path. If you think you are just wasting time in general, even though you may not know it, your mind and body are solving problems you can’t face head on. So it’s okay to take a walk, get lost in a bookshop, watch a movie, or go for a swim (just don’t get lost on your phone).”

The Secrecy Razor: Here’s another razor (simple heuristic or rule of thumb) from the teachings of Jesus: practice being a secret giver.

Much has been said about the merits of generosity and how it benefits not just the receiver of the gift but also the giver. “It is better to give than to receive.”

Maybe we’ve got generosity nailed, but then we often get shortchanged of the benefits by announcing it to the world on social media (to inspire others to also be generous, of course). 2000 years ago, apparently, they would use trumpets to announce it so I guess this desire to announce our feats of generosity isn’t a new phenomenon! But you will unlock additional benefits if your giving is in secret. In his most famous sermon, Jesus advised:

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets . . . to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” 

Matthew 6: 1-4

Here’s another way to think about it: what kind of person do you want for a spouse, friend, business partner, or neighbor – one who is only charitable towards you when they can receive recognition for it? Or one who will act generously towards you even if no one finds out about it.

Of course, we want the latter, so we must also strive to be the latter. We won’t magically become this type of person unless we hold secret giving as a core value, and if it is truly a core value we will practice it regularly.

When you receive recognition for your public acts you have maxed out the benefits you can receive for that act: kudos. And often insincere kudos, because people are assuming your charitable act is merely a PR stunt. We love to announce our “giving back” initiatives, but as the admired businessman Ricardo Semler warns: “If you’re giving back, it’s because you’ve taken too much.”

When you give in secret, you accrue the additional benefits of developing a character that wins the trust and respect of the people most important to you, and that is the foundation of the deep, rich relationships we crave and need.

Quote I’m Pondering – Charles Darwin on the discipline of appreciating art:

“My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive.

A man with a mind more highly organised or better constituted than mine, would not, I suppose, have thus suffered; and 
if I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use.

The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character,
 by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”

— Charles Darwin on his fading ability to find music, poetry, and art as emotionally evocative in his old age (Source: The Autobiography of Charles Darwin). Credit to Tim Ferriss for sharing this.

This quote arrived in my email the same day I had been discussing this exact phenomenon with my wife over our morning coffee. We were reflecting on how bizarre it is that we need to have discipline around engaging with art and creative pursuits when we also find them intrinsically enjoyable. Sometimes creating and enjoying art is an act of war and an act of faith, and I think it is worth putting intentional effort towards this. How do you fend off artistic atrophy?

Where did your curiosity lead you this week? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks again for following along. I’m having a riot putting these together, so if you are enjoying this newsletter I’d love it if you shared it with a friend or two and we can keep the great conversations growing.

Yours truly,
Jeff

P.S. Here are some fun photos of the last Spartan Race I completed with my wife, Amanda. See what fun you’ll be missing out on? It’s not too late to register.

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