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Things that worked 

2016 was the most satisfying and successful year of my life. Relationships strengthened, did a ton of personal experimentation, and as a result I saw two career promotions and started an exciting new journey in a startup. Below are some of the things that fueled that success. 

(in no particular order) 

MiBand– I love to hate this little device. Of all the fitness trackers I’ve tried, it’s probably the simplest and most accurate, especially for sleep. It’s also the cheapest. But because of its band design, I keep losing them! Because of the price, I keep buying new ones…

LaCrosse ball – it fits in a bag, it’s five bucks, and the best way to get rid of knots in your muscles. Roll out your aches and pains and instantly feel better. LaCrosse Ball Massage video. 

Saigon cinnamon – avoid the cheap cinnamon on the market, it’s terrible for you. Saigon cinnamon is marginally more expensive but healthy. I used it to help transition to black coffee off of excessive milk and sugar. A few pinches of cinnamon to neutralize coffee’s bitterness and I was set. Check your local supermarket or health food store. On Amazon.

Trap Bar Deadlifts – after hurting my back two years ago and developing sciatica, deadlifting has been sadly excluded from my regimen. Late last year I realized my gym has a trap bar and tried that on a whim. Life changing. I can now deadlift pain free. In fact, my sciatic pain has all but vanished.

Podcasts – on-demand radio shows with some of the coolest people alive. Endless knowledge and entertainment for every flavor. In fact, I love them so much that I decided to start my own podcast! Here are my top five favorites:

  1. The Tim Ferriss Show – probably most helpful in my personal Journey. Such a wealth of knowledge. See my Tim Ferriss Show Notes here.
  2. The James Altucher Show – he’s not a self help Guru because he’s still figuring it all out for himself. What a great show.
  3. Exponential Wisdom – Peter Diamandis and Dan Sullivan make predictions about a remarkable future, and it’s awe-inspiring to listen to. See my Exponential Wisdom Podcast Notes.
  4. The Way I Heard It – enthralling is the only way to describe the standalone true stories that the legendary voice of Mike Rowe weaves.
  5. Common Sense and Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. Both shows are stimulating and endlessly entertaining.

(Honorable mention to Radio Lab, Art of Charm, Reply All, Bulletproof Radio, Star Talk Radio. All unique and great.)

Cutting out sugar – I went for three months without sugar on the Slow Carb Diet. At first I realized how addicted I was to sugar when trying to quit. But post-sugar-withdrawal I felt better than ever. Food tasted amazing, inflammation subsided all over my body, even my gums felt great.

Fasting – about once a month I would fast for a day. I would eat the evening before, and not eat again until the morning after. (but tons of liquids). It gives an amazing perspective on life and your relationship with food. It was not easy but so rewarding.

Stoicism – it’s not an ancient philosophy, it’s a way to cope with the shit life throws at us, and thrive in those unexpected surprises. It’s especially powerful because of its simplicity. Seneca’s letter On the Shortness of life is profound: life isn’t short, it’s wasted. Stoic philosophy is thousands of years old, but secular school of thought reads like it was written today.

Video Game Music – video game music is composed for the purpose of focused concentration. They want you to keep playing. When doing any focused tasks, from data entry, to coding, to cleaning or meditating, video game music has been amazing in helping me stay on point. My favorite is the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack.

Meditation – Mindfulness. It changes everything. Gives a richer life, with more gratitude for the good, and ability to cope with the difficult. So many misconceptions about what it is. The free Take Ten Challenge on the Headspace app is a great start to learn more. Tara Brach and Sam Harris have great free 10-15 minutes guided exercises.

Even more basic: sitting right where you are, take three deep, slow breaths. Feel the air pass through your nose, and into your body. Three mindful breaths a day and you’re well on your way to living a more fulfilling life.

Relationship Building – I once had a manager tell me that work and friendship should be separated. Come in, do your job, go home. That never sat well with me.

Last year I made it a priority to stop networking, treating people as numbers, and to start adding value to people’s lives. That included making friends with co-workers. The payoff was a funner work environment, more meaningful relationships, and career growth.

Ice Baths – if you want a natural high, spend five minutes in ice cold water and see how you feel after. Blog post after my first ice bath.

Books – so many great books, but here were some of my favorites in 2016 (not in order):

  • Ready Player One – 80’s nostalgia meets a dystopian future. By far my favorite book read last year. Loved it so much that I read it twice!
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I started each morning with a stoic meditation from here as my guiding principle for the day. The book lasted me just over a year doing that. Blog post here. 
  • Anything You Want by Derek Sivers. The anti-business book. Great book, prime yourself for it by listening to Derek Sivers on Tim Ferriss. 
  • I moved your cheese – I accidentally bought this book, about mice in a maze. It’s a fictional story with a set of real takeaways about life and our career choices.
  •  The Truth by Neil Strauss. The legendary author recounts a journey that started with his failures in monogamy and lead him into the strange worlds of alternative relationships (polyamory, swingers clubs, etc). The ending leaves the reader with profound takeaways for their own love lives.
  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel. Another excellent anti-business book.
  • Fight Club – the most unexpected self help guide of our generation. I read it several times a year.
  • The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday’s best book, and an excellent stoic manual. The title says it all.
  • Happy by Derren Brown. It’s hard to believe that a successful entertainer and TV personality can also write a book of such depth. A deep dive referencing philosophy and history looking to find happiness and value in life and death.

Death – throughout the year I found different ways to Meditate on death. Death is the ultimate motivator to do more with life. I made a Deathclock, Journaled to a death panel, and incorporated it into my meditations. Amazing podcast on death here. 

Published inChallengesLearnSuper SnacksTim Ferriss podcast notesTop


  1. Willem van Leeuwen Willem van Leeuwen

    I think I read 5 or 6 of your posts. You’re real, down to earth and seem like a more proactive person than me haha; actively experimenting, writing, learning etc.

    I normally don’t leave comments but you’ve stated a few times that no one sees your stuff, don’t be too negative. You rock.

    • vlad vlad

      Willem, thank you for the kind words! Made my day!

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