Mt Wilson: A story of tarantulas, road rash, and a sick view.

Most people who live in LA know what the San Gabriels look like. Look north, and you'll see some massive mountains that separate the LA area from the Mojave desert. They're 68 miles long, and 22 miles wide, and happen to be one of my favorite places to play. These are a few pics from yesterday's Mt Wilson hike, for anyone curious what's on the other side of the mountain once you cross over that front peak.

 It actually starts off pretty smoothly.

Dat elevation gain.

 A few miles up and the trail gets smaller.

View toward LA (blocked by the mountains)

 Over the peak, view toward the inside of the range. Literally nothing but mountains and woods, any way you look :) This is what I came here for.


Ran into this guy on the way back down. We both scared each other...I almost stepped on him (accident!) and he just froze there. The most massive tarantula I've seen that wasn't in a pet store.

I tried to jog down to beat the sun, tripped over a rock, flew forward and slid down the trail. (So graceful...lol) Not the smartest move with a pack on. And shorts. Still worth it :)


Why Do People Procrastinate?

Procrastination is a topic that comes up at some point with everyone - for various reasons we put things off that we know we should be doing. I just got back from a long vacation, and that first day of getting back into work mode and out of play mode (for the most part) usually tends to feel like it drags on forever. It gets easy to feel like putting things on the back burner or drag things out, which creates a vicious cycle of procrastination. Why do we do this?

For some people it's fairly easy to get themselves to do things they've been putting off. It's as simple as removing distractions (which can help everyone) and then filling that time with finishing more important things instead. When I have assignments I need to get done removing distractions is essential because it removes the temptation to stop what I'm doing and start something else (the looks more fun at the moment) instead. Taking the time to outline things and break bigger projects into manageable steps helps, too. But sometimes that isn't enough. When that's the case, it's the attitude that's the problem.

Negative thought patterns tend to contribute to procrastination. If you realize that your thoughts at any time are leaning more toward to negative than the positive side of things, something needs to change. It's easy to get bogged down by negative thoughts, but this is also something you can change once you take notice of it. Journaling (overview of your day and what happened in it) has been proven to help banish negative thought. The main reason it helps is because it takes a load off your mind and puts your thoughts onto paper, making it easier to analyze things you've been mulling over and then let them go. A lot of people are analytical thinkers and find it hard to let go of things until they feel like they've mentally sorted them out. Journaling streamlines that process, talking to someone about whatever you've been mulling over (sort of audio journaling if you think about it) can help as well.

While procrastination is a bad habit according to most people, it is also a natural behavior. Even animals in the wild exhibit some signs of it, they stay confined to one small area where they get most of the water, food, and basic needs met and generally don't do much beyond that. There are animals that have hundreds of times bigger roaming areas available than they typically use, who continue to stay in a smaller general space. It's easy and normal to feel unmotivated to do more when things are already okay. We're creatures of comfort. The key to being motivated to do more than what we're doing to just get by is 1 part desire and 1 part structure. Don't be hard on yourself for not being motivated or not doing more, but do realize that it's a natural way to feel and can be changed if want to change it. Either accept things as "okay" as they are, or find out what's driving your desires and identify the structure you need to change them.

Self discipline is similar to a muscle, in the sense that the more you practice it, the easy and more natural it comes to practice. Impulsiveness is a major hindrance when procrastination is concerned. Sometimes even when distractions are removed it's hard to stop thinking about them, or keep from getting bored. Delayed gratification is a good tool to get impulsive behaviors under control. What do you catch yourself doing when you should be doing something else? Once you identify what those main things are set up situations where you can choose between a small reward in the short term and a bigger reward in the long term, and attempt to choose the latter. This conditions you to be more patient and as a result (besides having your work done faster) it tends to motivate people do more naturally. The discipline to stop procrastination is a slow but not impossible process.

I'll leave it there, but if you haven't checked out "The Now Habit" by Dr Neil Fiore it's an amazing resource for figuring out why exactly we procrastinate, and how to overcome it.


Why Touching Strangers is Good For You

Hear me out before you dismiss this one, there is a lot of science behind it. Touching people, even those we don't know, has a subtle unconscious impact. I should preface this also by saying that when I say touch I'm referring to a *light* touch on the arm, shoulder, or something similar. Downright groping someone or touching them for uncomfortably long will have the opposite effect of what I'm about to discuss. Here goes:

A huge portion of the way that people communicate is through nonverbal cues. Since so many of them are given off at once: Body language, tone of voice, eye contact or lack thereof just to name a few, we interpret these cues largely through our subconscious. Most of the time people don't even realize why they're getting certain vibes off people that have nothing to do with the words that come out of those people's mouths. One of the pioneer studies on the power of touch was done in France, using an attractive French guy to ask out women chosen at random in public in the name of science. For half the women he lightly touched their arm while asking them out, the other half he did not touch them at all. the results? The women he touched were twice as likely to give him their phone number versus those he didn't. Those are some pretty staggering results. The kicker, when asked (after being told the proposition was in the name of science) most of the women reported not even realizing he had touched them. It was light, subtle, and highly subconscious.

This phenomenon of people reacting positively to a subtle touch was repeated in many subsequent studies around the worlds...servers in restaurants who lightly touched their guests when asking if there was anything else they needed before handing them the check received higher tips consistently. Another study showed that complete strangers were more willing to help someone pick up a stack of discs they dropped when they had lightly touched someone when asking for directions beforehand. In all these cases people acted more positively and compassionate after a slight touch.

This might be confusing to quite a few people who highly value their personal space. Some people recoil at the touch of a stranger. Interestingly enough, some of the tests subjects did as well, but generally still acted nicer toward the strangers anyhow.

This has been shown to some extent in non-human mammals as well. Mice and primates also get pleasure from social touch. This is part of the reason for grooming cliques. Grooming effectively takes only about 10 minutes per day, but the cliques tend to groom for hours on end. The reason being it is as much of a social thing as it is a necessity. Touching also can signify confidence and slight dominance.

We have a particular type of nerve fiber - mainly found in our arms and faces - that has developed specifically to infer pleasure from social touch, such as the light arm tap I mentioned above. They are connected to the part of your brain that deals with emotion (the insular cortex), in this case pleasurable emotion. So part of the reason a light touch is so effective is because we are literally wired to glean some sort of pleasure from it, whether we realize it or not.


How to Kick a Bad Habit

Habits are patterns of behaviors that govern our day to day life. I talk about them a lot because they make or break us; our habits determine who we are, how successful and happy we are, and how much we achieve in life. Most of our habits are acted out subconsciously, without us even realizing what we are doing. The reason why? We evolved to be able to put repetitive things on a mental back burner to free up our minds to concentrate on other tasks at hand. It would really be a drag to have to concentrate hard every time we did something like walking. This is how bad habits can creep into our lives without us realizing just how much of a hold they have on us until it is too late, and we begin to see effects that we don't like.

The awesome thing about good habits is that one you actually start them, they are just as automatic as bad ones. If you have things in your life that you aren't liking, something needs to change. Figure out what habits are producing the undesired effects, think about what little steps you can do to change them, then hold yourself accountable to follow through.

We all have something called "keystone habits"...small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives. Exercise is a common one, because it conditions you to put effort into something productive that you can see visible results from on a regular basis. Once most people start regularly exercising they subconsciously adapt other healthier and disciplined behaviors as well. It's one of the awesome mental benefits of working out. Find out what your keystone habits are, it's a game changer. Once you know what really makes an impact on you it is easier to motivate yourself to stop what you want to stop doing, and start what do wish to.

One of the ways I got out of the habit of eating unhealthy things was to think more carefully about what I'm putting into my body. As the old washed up cliché goes, we literally are what we eat. What you're eating is going to be broken down and supply nutrients to build your body. I started looking at junk food as what it really is, something that I probably didn't want chilling in my body, dragging down my energy. Once you start viewing things that aren't bad for you that way, thinking about the effects they'll have inside of you, junk food starts looking different. The first couple weeks of cutting out sugar sucked, but once they were over the cravings stopped. After that it's smooth sailing.

You can make things easier on yourself by first realizing you have habits that are producing results you don't like (that in itself is major) and then being more mindful when you catch yourself doing them. Consistency is important, once you repeat something 21 times it becomes a habit, it comes naturally. The key is making it that first few steps, and keeping at it. It all comes down to a little willpower and a lot of consistency.


If Winning Was Easy, Losers Would Do It.

Too many people take the easy route in life. Or if not easy, settle for "just okay", instead of their actual dreams or full potential. Life is hard enough as it is, so why put any more effort into things that are more difficult...right? That is the mindset of mediocrity. The mindset that so many of us fall prey to. If you are content with never seeing your full potential, or can't be bothered to suffer through a bit of discomfort in the moment to achieve what you want most, then this post isn't for you. Enjoy being normal, enjoy letting life happen to you instead of taking charge of it.

We all have the ability to do whatever we set our minds to. This is often said but it bears repeating, because somewhere along the twists and turns of life it's evident that a lot of people give up and forget this fact. There is nothing like completing a difficult feat, especially something you are passionate about. Not only from the joy of achieving the thing you did, but also from the sense of worth and accomplishment it brings. There are precious few people who have the courage to do something *because* it is hard.

Children have a good understanding of what it is to follow your dreams, because at that stage in life everything is still an opportunity, still a goal waiting for you to go get it. As we get older many of us start to feel defeated by hardships that have happened in life, and forget about what we really want. But it's never too late, the opportunity to have or be anything you dream of is always there. Some people feel like going back to school, training for something big, or doing what it takes to make their dreams happen is useless because it will take too long. Not true. The time will pass anyway, regardless of if you go for your dreams or not.

Don't fall into the pattern of taking the easy route or settling for less when you know you can accomplish so much more. On the route to awesomeness you will inevitably pass "decent"...and this is where most people stop, because fuck it, they're getting by. It's easy to do and that is precisely why you shouldn't. Taking the easy route is being run by life instead of taking charge of it. You would be surprised at how life changing just a little bit of effort can be. You're worth it.

Neil deGrasse Tyson said it best:


Why a Big Ego is the Opposite of Confidence

This is inspired by yesterdays post "How Not to Give a Fuck About What Other People Think Of You". As I wrote that, it dawned on me that a HUGE part of how we perceive other people and their actions, is through our own ego. Learning how to stop judging others will help you stop wasting energy wondering what others are saying about you. In other words, when you are used to constantly judging people you observe or come into contact with, it's only natural for you to assume that others are doing the same about you. Judging others is self projection.

Your ego is a sense of self directly derived from the comparison of others to you. A big ego is not true confidence because it's fed by other people, it's a false sense of confidence that constantly needs to be fed and does not last. The best way to lose an ego is to 1. Be honest with yourself about the real reasons you feel the need to judge people and 2. Recognize those thoughts, and STOP judging. Recognizing when you are being judgmental is half the battle. Most people just let their thoughts run through their head and they go with it...it takes courage to take control.

Ego is a big part of why people obsess so much over what other people think of them. I'm not saying that once you grow and expand your mind to recognize and stop judgmental thoughts that people will magically stop thinking negatively of you. What I am saying is that it's kind of like out of sight, out of mind. When your mind is off the petty stuff in general, it makes room for deeper thinking. You cannot control what other people do or say anyway, and trying to is futile. You can, however, choose to think beyond that. If you reduce your judgmental thoughts of others, it's a given that you wont be too concerned about their judgmental thoughts of you, or judgmental thoughts period. Also when you focus less on others, you can focus more on yourself.

Real confidence and self esteem comes from within, and can't be changed based on others opinions. Ego is the exact opposite, it's our idea of who we are based on the feedback we get from others. It lives on attention. It's a part of your psyche, but not the whole of it. It can be tempting to let it consume you, especially when people are feeding it regularly...but without have a true sense of who you are, and self esteem, you will feel hollow the minute it stops being fed. Food for thought.

[pic- surrealist oil painting by Jeff Christensen]


Lessons on How Not to Give a Fuck...About What Other People Think About You

All of us care to some extent what other people think and are saying about us, and that is a part of what makes us humans. Human beings are a social species. The problems start arising when that becomes the main factor behind the decisions you make on a daily basis. You end up being driven by fear of criticism, afraid to be who you really are. I am a firm subscriber to the belief that what other people say about you is none of your business. You can be the nicest person in the entire world and do nothing but good for everyone that you come across...and someone somewhere would still find negative things to say about you. People are funny like that. We only have a certain amount of energy, there is no point wasting it on fruitless efforts like figuring out what everyone is saying about you.

Easier said than done, you say? How exactly does one simply give less fucks about what others are saying about us? This is is pretty simple. How much do you love yourself? Who and what is important to you? Use as much of your energy and resources that you possibly can focusing giving love and strengthening THOSE things. If you put as much energy and emotion as you possibly can into loving yourself and being the best version of yourself that you can possibly be...there wont be any left over to waste on negative people or things.  It's also important to remember that people aren't focusing on you and your every little fuck-up...people are too bust worrying about themSELVES when they go out, their own fuck ups and slips. This is true for everyone.

Anyone who has every achieved anything great, or anything at all, has their fair share of people saying negative things about them. It comes with the territory, it's just a part of being alive. You can either rise above it, or let it consume you. You either run your life, or life runs you, no exceptions.

My brother plays something called the "rejection game" to get him out of his comfort zone, and as a result it really helped him grow as a person and I've begun doing it myself sometimes too. Basically the rejection game is getting yourself used to putting yourself out there and doing what you want, regardless of what others will think...especially if you think others will have something negative to say about it. For example: Asking out that super hot girl (or guy) you happen to pass, going to an event you really wanted to go to...solo. It's called the rejection game because even if you do get a "no" or don't have the outcome you expected, that is encouragement to go try again, and again. Eventually you get used to stepping out of your comfort zone and confronting your fears, you get used to not giving a flying fuck what other people think when it comes to achieving your goals...and a lot of times, you get a better outcome than you expected.

People are always going to have negative shit to say, but the main people doing the talking are the ones with too much time on their hands because they aren't doing much with themselves anyway. Progressive desensitization is a real thing, getting used to doing things that make you uncomfortable. If you don't, you are doomed to a life stuck in the little boring bubble that is your comfort zone.


The Importance of Being Social

"Strange is our situation here on earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of others." - Albert Einstein

Human beings are social creatures, we all know this. People are meant to be around other people. As an introvert myself I love my alone time (ok - need it), but being around other people, especially those we care about, opens our minds in ways that we can't do alone. We get new points of view, different ideas, and connections to achieve more than one could ever possibly do solo. We accomplish things as a society that no other species or creature on earth has, because humans have the unique ability to work together and form networks. We've achieved amazing feats of mental and physical strength because of this. Some scientists theorize that the need for social interaction was the driving force of the evolution of humans superior intelligence.

Being social is actually good for our health as well. According to "Subliminal" by Leonard Mlodinow "social relationships are so important to humans that a lack of social connection constitutes a major risk for health, rivaling even the effects of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, obesity..." In one of the most in depth studies on sociology researchers tracked about 5,000 people, giving them each a "social network index" number according to how many social ties they had and interacted with regularly. Those who placed on the low end of the spectrum were over twice as likely to die within the nine years of the study than those who placed higher. That was some pretty shocking information, but it makes a lot of sense. The emotional support we get from those we care about has a huge impact on our moods, and our lives in general.

Social pain is actually processed through the same parts of the brain as physical pain. That connection also explains why social pain can affect our bodies physiological processes. Not only can social ties help ease things such as stress and other problems, apparently a lack of them can cause problems to manifest. Food for thought.

We are definitely all different, there are people who need other people much more than others, and some who truly get enjoyment out of being alone, and prefer it. Research shows that effects (positive and negative) vary based on the individual. Either way, it couldn't hurt to remember just how important our friends and loved ones are to us.

I know this is a lot more clinical than my usual posts, but the subject came up while reading "Subliminal" - an amazing book about how our unconscious mind works - and piqued my interest to do a little more research. The human mind, and all it's intricate connections, really is an amazing thing.