Book Review: Bigger, Leaner, Stronger

To continue my summer of self improvement, I was able to read another book this summer, just before my vacation. The second book I read (after the School of Greatness) was titled ‘Bigger, Leaner, Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body’ by Michael Matthews. I actually had a few reasons for reading so much this summer. The first reasons was there was not a whole lot on tv. Second, I wanted to start getting my mind ready for school. Third, I truly want to start improving my life as much as I can in different areas. And finally, I had a Google coupon for some cheaper books, and figured I would pick a few that stood out to me (one of which is the book I am reviewing now).

Growing up , I was always very active, playing with friends, running in the street, or playing sports. As I got into High School I focused on swimming as my only sport and did everything I could to better myself. That sort of mentality has always stuck with me, especially when it comes to being in shape and taking care of myself. Overall I am in fairly good shape, with the exception of being more on the thinner side. I have always been slim… almost as if it was a curse. For the life of me, I have always had a problem gaining weight (I know some of you wish you had this problem, but for me, it is frustrating, as just like overweight people, I have body issues as well). I eat and eat and work out and never seem to be able to change my look, and that is where this book comes in,

I had recently heard about this book as it helps to debunk a lot of myths we believe about weightlifting, and it helps to focus in on what you are trying to do, and without wasting time. I have tried different workout routines, followed advice from trainer and professionals alike, and never am able to stick to a routine that has shown me results. But for some reason, I feel this time will be different. I have recently started working out following this routine and have already felt a difference in my strength. The best part about this book too is he not only tells you the science behind everything, but explains why certain things will work and others do not. From there he actually provides you not only a workout plan that fits your schedule, but he also provides you a nutritional spreadsheet too to help you maximize your gains.

At the end of the day, for me it gives me a new reason to be excited about going to the gym as well as a way to focus on my lifting and eating habits, and hope to start feeling better about myself here soon.

If you are interested in reading this book, you can check it out here.

If you want to follow Michael Matthews, you can find his Instagram here (his other social media links are on his website), and his website here.

Have you check out this book before, or have another workout read that is worth exploring? Please share your findings and results below!

Please subscribe to my blog and follow me on Instagram. I hope to chronicle my journey in school and connect with like minded people. People who want to learn and grow and help others along the way.

Learning About Myself with 23andMe

Like many people, I have always had an interest in where I came from and what my ancestry was like. Growing up I knew some of the basics, such as that my entire Dad’s side of the family was Jewish and from Eastern Europe and that my Mom’s family was a mix of English and Norwegian. However I also knew that there was quite a bit else that was mixed in. When I got to college, I felt myself pulling away from the religious aspect of my Jewish heritage, and that didn’t leave me much left to identify with. My girlfriend (now wife) is 100% Portuguese, as she is actually a First generation. My best friend is Middle Easter as he was actually born in Iran. Me? I was born in Tucson Arizona, to parents born in the US, who were born to parents born in the US to parents who may or may not have been born here… we simply did not have good records of it.

With such great technology and advancements in DNA research, there are now a lot of great options for learning more about your ancestry and where you come from. So I decided to look into a few options and learn more about myself. I decided on 23andMe as I like the information they were providing and what they were looking to build with their own findings. In hindsight, Ancestry.com DNA may have been a better option as I have heard it is slightly more accurate, and I also have a lot of family that did it, and they will link you together. Either way, I wanted to share my experience with you and the whole process.

When I signed up for 23andMe, it was quite simple. I chose to pay a little extra and get the Health and Ancestry service, to not only know about my ancestors, but to also see if I have any genetic markers for things such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, etc. When my package arrived, the instructions were very simple to follow: essentially you spit in a tube and put it int he mail (that’s in a nutshell, as there are a few other steps). Once that is complete I also set up my online profile which consists of many optional surveys to provide the 23andMe company with information they can use to help enhance their database and provide more accurate findings of yourself. The questions are simple in regards to race and gender, to more interesting questions such as sleep patterns, anxiety and other health related items. Again, this is all used to help build profiles based on DNA submitted in hopes of learning more about what our DNA does and to better identify people through these means.

Once everything is sent in, the process takes about 6-8 weeks before you get your results. Once those results come in, you get an email that links you to all the reports they provide on you. I received my results last week and I could not wait to dive in. The reports were a very cool mixture of ancestry markers, health screenings as well as other markers (many of which I know already and of those, some they got right and some they got wrong). For me, the first thing I looked at was the Health markers. I am a bit of a hypochondriac so I had to make sure right away that I was ok. And thankfully, there was nothing that showed I would be at a higher risk for anything they would test for. After that, I had to dive into my ancestry.

Unsurprisingly, I was shown to be 99.9% European, with less than .1% being a mixture of East Asian and Yakut. of my European Ancestry, I was shown to be 47.3% Ashkenazi Jewish, which makes sense since I know my Jewish family came from Germany, Poland and Austria. The biggest category on my list however was Northwestern European, at 50.5%. This was a mixture of British and Irish (21.6%), Scandinavian (9.5%), French and German (7.7%), Finnish (<0.1%) and what was categorized as ‘Broadly Northwestern European’ (11.6% – which is likely my Norwegian heritage I know of). To me this was all very fascinating and gave me a better sense of belonging! Another cool part of this, is of all other users who use 23andMe, it shows me those who are related to me. Only one name I recognized (1st cousin once removed), but it found 1,233 DNA Relatives. It also was able to determine how many markers I have in common with Neanderthal Ancestry, which was surprisingly higher at 281 markers, which is more than 54% of all 23andMe users, and 1st among relatives I am connected to.

Beyond the Health and the Ancestry, 23andMe also provides a list of other features as well. Features they determine based on the surveys I answered as well as what other people have answered as well. They are not meant to be a diagnosis or even be accurate. But to tell you things that are likely to be true. From this information they did get a few things right: I am likely to not have red hair (I do not), I am likely to be average or below average weight (I am below average), likely to have darker eyes (this one is close, but mine are hazel, so I will confirm this) and likely to have straight hair (mine could not be any straighter).

However, for all the items this predicted accurately, I felt there were far more discrepancies that were not accurate. Again, this is based on people similar to me with my genetic makeup and is not meant to be 100% accurate. But my concern was with just how much they got wrong (makes me think what else is not accurate). According to this report I am unlikely to have dimples (I do), a widows peak (I have that too) and I am likely to have detached earlobes (sorry, wrong again).

Aside from these items, I found it all very interesting. The ancestry part felt very accurate to me, and that was ultimately what I was looking for. I am sure over time some of my other reports may change as more people provide information and the database for 23andMe grows. Until then, I will be satisfied with what I found.

Have any of you ever tried 23andMe, or perhaps another service such as Ancestry.com? I would love to hear about your experience! Please share your experience below or please let me know if you have any questions and I would be happy to share more!

Please subscribe to my blog and follow me on Instagram. I hope to chronicle my journey in school and connect with like minded people. People who want to learn and grow and help others along the way.

Behind Every Man: Finding My Motivation and Drive to Make This Career Change

We have all probably heard the saying before that “Behind every great man, is a great woman.” This saying essentially says that every man is held up by a woman in his life, whether it is his mom, girlfriend or wife. While I do not think it is entirely accurate, in my situation I cannot help but to feel this is correct.

For the last 11+ years, I have been working in Tech/Business. My very first job was an entry level contract position at Google and I have been working my way up the corporate ladder (at various companies) since then. I started at Google right out of college and found it to be very exciting while I was there. However, even during this time, there was a part of me that was not happy. Not satisfied. I found an email I had written to my Dad a month or so after I left Google expressing my unhappiness in the corporate world. At the time I looked into going back to school as well as joining the Fire Academy. However I have outstanding injuries from my career as a collegiate swimmer and figured I would not pass a physical. I also discussed this with my then fiance (now wife) and she was very understanding and at the time encouraged me to do something I enjoyed. I looked into some options at the time, but as I have discussed in other blog posts, I felt stuck. I was engaged to be married to the woman of my dreams and all I wanted in life was to make her happy, support her and give her everything I felt she deserved. At this time, I decided the best option for me was to stick it out in the corporate world, find a job I enjoyed and make my money.

For years I bounced around between jobs, focusing on what parts I enjoyed, and trying to “fix” the areas that made me unhappy, After 11 years of this, I have found that overall, this line of work just isn’t for me. I had to find my passion. This is where the title of this blog post comes in. For me, my motivation and my change came from my wife.

A few years ago, my wife started a side business making hair accessories for kids. it started out slow, but as it grew I could see her excitement with it. Over time we discusses what she wanted out of this and what she wanted to do. At the time, she told me her goal was to build the company up enough that she no longer had to work her day to day job, could potentially get enough people to help run the company, that she could spend more time at home with the kids. As her business grew, I enjoyed very much helping her, build the business and achieve her dreams. I worked harder to find a better job for myself so that I could help support her and to help her quit her day to day and go with this full time. Near the end of 2015, we realized how closer we were. But we also needed more space. My wife’s business was taking up a good portion of our house, and with our growing family we needed more space. I was thinking about leaving my job then to do what I am doing now, but we needed the money to buy a bigger house and to help her expand. Last year we not only were able to buy a new house, but my wife was able to quit her job and do her side business full time! The drive and motivation she has shown over the last few years to get something she wanted, gave me the motivation to escape my unhappiness in the corporate world, and to do what I needed to find that occupational pleasure I was missing (which was ultimately spreading negativity to the rest of my life).

I have discussed this at length with my wife as well, and have her full support in going back to school and that we will be able to make it work. And while there are some other unforeseen circumstances that have come into this, and she has been on the fence for some time whether or not she made the right decision, I feel that had she not made this move, she may have always regretted.  I cannot thank her enough for her support and her leading by example.

Everyone finds motivation in different places in their life. Some have a friend or family member. Others loo up to those trailblazers and leaders of their field of interest. Where do you find your motivation? What is your inspiration. Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below!

Please feel free to subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram. I hope to chronicle my journey in school and connect with like minded people. People who want to learn and grow and help others along the way.

The Art of Self-Discipline

As I have now mentioned numerous time (and will likely mention again… that is what I do), I do not enjoy writing. One of those reasons is that I have a hard time of coming up with things to write about. Because of this, I started to keep a task list of different blog titles and what to write about. Today’s blog post, for the last month was actually geared to be written as part of the “Self-Improvement series” articles I have written in the past (and will write about again in the future).

I wanted to write about Self-Discipline, my struggles with this and what I am doing to work on it. However, a couple weeks ago, I was speaking with my therapist about this and she helped me really see this differently. For as long as I can remember, I have always felt that I have struggled with self-discipline (as I am sure many of you have as well). I feel that far too often I start something and never finish. In all honesty, I am surprised I am still writing blog posts!! Far too often I will do things such as starting a new gym routine, or eating healthier or reading more books…. and then after a week, a month or maybe a year, I slip up and find myself back exactly where I started.

Now in reality, this is something I still need to work on, so it does fit in line with my self-improvement process. However, I have come to learn I am not as big a failure at this as I originally thought. As it turns out, this is common. Extremely common. The problem is not that I lack self-discipline. In reality, the fact I am attempting these things shows the drive and determination needed to have self-discipline. My problem is that I am attempting to do something, that I do not generally like, alone. If I was extremely happy and loved what I was doing, the motivation to do this would be easier. I love going to the gym for example, however after a period of time, the routine gets boring and I no longer enjoy it and I find it harder to go. Eating healthy is easy at first because I feel better and see results, however I am such a picky eater I end up craving some sweets, and before I know it, I have consumed 4 Cinnabon’s in 3 days.

In speaking with my therapist, the secret I have discovered to this, is that failure rate when going about these things alone, is much higher than when you do these things with others. I.e. if you are having trouble going to the gym, get a gym partner? Not eating well? Get a friend to eat well with you. Do not enjoy writing or journaling? Come up with a good topic about something you are passionate about and start a blog. A blog that others are reading and keep you accountable for continuing to write. For me, I feel as if I am letting my readers (the handful of you who keep coming back) down.

So the truth is, I do not necessarily lack self-discipline. I lack the support to do a lot of what is needed of me. For years I have been unhappy with my job and my motivation to stay has always been to support my family. But that in itself has caused problems. My wife has always supported me going back to school, but that is now just becoming a reality. And with her support, and the support of the rest of my family, and my drive to help others and be happy, is all the self-discipline I need to better my life.

Do you struggle with Self-Discipline? What are some of your secrets to staying on track? Please share your secrets below, or any other comments you may have!

Please also feel free to subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram. I hope to chronicle my journey in school and connect with like minded people. People who want to learn and grow and help others along the way.

Back from Vacation. Back to Reality

While I may still be a bit jet lagged, I am now back from my vacation and already back into full work mode. Our plane was delayed a little on Tuesday night and by the time we landed, went through customs, got our bags and got to the car, it was 2 hours later and our kids were exhausted. But I was in bed by 12:30 and had to be up bright and early for another day at work…. so with that, back to reality!

For our vacation we spent our time on the Island of Faial in the Azores. I personally have never been out of the country, so that in itself was a fantastic experience. But this island, was essentially heaven on Earth. Faial is amazing in its history and beauty. The people are all friendly and happy and aside from the mugginess, the weather was beautiful!

Over the course of the 8 days I was on the island, we did so much: checked out the Capelinhos (volcano), the Caldeira (crater), the Marina, Pico (an adjacent island), Pedro Miguel (town my in-laws grew up in). We drove around the island, walked, ate and drank! So much food and so much to do! I am not seafood eater so I missed out on a lot of the local cuisine, but there was still plenty for me to choose from.

The last few days we were on the island, was also the start of Semana do Mar (the Week of the Sea) which is a large yearly festival right in the marina. They close down streets, and their is music, dancing, food and lots of happy people!

This trip was SO MUCH FUN, and we did so much… so much I could write 10 blog posts. But as of right now, I am beyond exhausted and still jet lagged, so this will have to do :-). Please check out my Instagram account for a few pictures from my trip.

Now that I am back, it is also time for me to get back to reality; work, school, and creating a better life for myself and those round me!

Have you ever been to the Azores? Please share your experiences below… or share one of your favorite vacation spots!

Please feel free to subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram. I hope to chronicle my journey in school and connect with like minded people. People who want to learn and grow and help others along the way.