The Awesome 30-Day Push-Up Challenge

It's August, and that means it's time for another entry in the Year of the Habit. (See previous entries in the series here.)

July was a pretty good month. The "Looking Outward" goal was a worthwhile experiment, albeit difficult to quantify. It's something I still need to work on, but I think I'm getting better. It's all about the mindfulness.

Now for something completely different:

I want to do 10,000 push-ups in August.

That's a lot of flipping push-ups.


Why do I want to do 10,000 push-ups?

  1. Because I've been lazy in the working out department lately.
  2. Because it's a quantifiable goal, and I feel like I've been copping out with the intangible habits this summer.
  3. Because push-ups are one of the best exercises ever.
  4. Because it's going to be really freaking hard, and achieving it would be ridiculous and awesome.
  5. Why not?

So, here's the plan.

Obviously, I'm not going to do all 10,000 push-ups at once. Therefore, push-ups can be done any time, anywhere.

10,000 push-ups divided by 31 days equals 322.58 push-ups per day.

That's 6.45 sets of 50 push-ups per day.

Or 9.77 sets of 33 push-ups per day.

Or 12.9 sets of 25 push-ups per day.

Or 25 push-ups per hour for twelve hours.

Or whatever's your pleasure.

Fifty has become my standard set, so I'm going to shoot for seven sets of fifty every day. That will give me a slight, mostly negligible buffer.

I'll be adding a counter to the sidebar on so you folks can keep an eye on me and my increasingly sore arms. I'll also be logging all of my push-ups on Fitocracy (see my review here).

I think that's all there is to it. Care to join me?

Time's up... LET'S DO THIS.

(P.S. Yes, my thesis is done! Just in time. Stay tuned for a big post about it in the near future.)

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Year of the Habit: July

Happy July to you fine folks. We’re halfway through 2012!

Let’s recap the year so far:

  • January: Started flossing every day.
  • February: Stopped biting my nails.
  • March: Attempted to read every day. Unsuccessful. Currently reading The $100 Startup.
  • April: Health nut month. Was Primal 80% of the days in April.
  • May: Tracked all of my expenses via Saver.
  • June: “No Wasted Days”. This was an abstract goal, and so it’s hard to quantify the results. Still, I consider it a success.

Here’s why:

  1. I moved out of my parents’ house, which has largely been a boon to my personal productivity. As I mentioned in that post, being out from under my parents’ protection has been instrumental in lighting the fire under my ass. I’m buying my own groceries. Cooking my own food. Doing my own laundry. It’s all very grownup like. The complacency of living at home is gone, and being on my own is much more conducive to getting things done.
  2. I’m in a band. Finally. About a month ago, I had a million dollar idea: “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Facebook for musicians?!” I googled it, and of course, there is one. So I signed up and got a message about a week later for a local band looking for a bass player. Despite the fear of meeting up to audition with strangers, I learned the songs, met my fellow bandmates, and we hit it off. I’m thrilled to actually be in a band and playing music with people for the first time after ten years of playing bass. We’re rehearsing throughout the summer, and we plan to gig in the fall.
  3. I have a kick ass music podcast. Yes, this is sort of old news, but I’m really proud of it, and it’s still going strong. I’m not sure why you haven’t subscribed in iTunes yet.
  4. My advisor has declared my thesis “just about done”, which is huge. Stand by for more on that soon.
  5. I created the QLE VIP Mailing List and 25 Things: The Quarter-Life Enlightenment Manifesto. This is the first step in kicking QLE into high gear and making it better than ever. I’m sure you know this, but QLE VIPs are the people who care about the site the most and want to be the first to know about the latest cool stuff going on here. If you sign up (it’s free), you’ll get 25 Things as a thank-you present. And I’ll love you forever.
  6. I’ve begun collaborating with some brilliant folks on the Internet, which I’m both incredibly humbled by and excited about. Since beginning QLE last year, one of my main focuses has been to develop relationships with people and be somebody people wouldn’t mind doing something with. I can’t say much about what’s going on behind the scenes yet, but stay tuned.

When I look at the big picture and ask myself, “I’m 25. What am I doing with my life right now?” My answer is: I’m teaching karate, which I love; I’m playing music, which I love; I’m writing, which I love; I’m podcasting, which I love; and I’m doing it all out there on my own. I’m not saying I’m a paragon of success — far from it, and there’s still a long way to go — but it’s hard not to be content with and grateful for who I am right now. I’m still reaching for things, of course, and there are still things I want to achieve and things I wish I had… But those will come sooner or later, as long as I don’t give up. You can’t fail if you don’t give up.

So. Anyway.

In the interest of continuing to move forward and be awesome, July is going to be another abstract sort of habit.

I call it “Looking Outward”.

Sometimes, the solution lies within us and can only be accessed by creating an oasis of quiet. I’ve been trying to do this a lot lately.

However, I think that just as often, the solution lies outside of ourselves… but we’re often to busy looking inward to notice.

One of the things I tell my junior karate instructors is that you have to look outward if you’re going to be a good teacher. When you’re first starting out, you’re usually worrying about yourself: Am I saying the right things? Do I look stupid? Are the kids bored? Did I mess up?

You’re so busy worrying about YOU that you don’t even notice how the class is doing, which makes it very difficult to teach well. You have to stop blindly focusing on what you’re doing and look outward, at the students. When you do that, you’ll notice who needs help, and that will tell you what you need to teach. The lesson will unfold naturally from there.

I’m going to try to be a better observer this month. I’ll let you know what I see.

Thanks for reading! Want more? Grab the free QLE Manifesto. Perhaps follow me on Twitter. Need something? Email me.

Year of the Habit: June

It’s June 1, and that means a new habit.

But first, the year in review:

I actually don’t have much to say about May’s habit. I was successful. My most expensive area was Auto, which comprised about a third of my spending. I only filled up with gas twice though, which pleases me. The Payments category took up another third of my spending, mainly due to student loans, which I’ve now consolidated. Food came in next at 10%. I ate out four times last month, not all of which were necessary, but not bad overall.

I’m pleased to report my number of unnecessary expenses was fairly low. I did buy a couple of t-shirts, which are my guilty pleasure. I spent a bit of money on Mother’s Day, and a little on personal items. I spent $23.90 on ten apps in iTunes, which I suppose is a lot. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with my spending habits, and I’m going to continue tracking expenses in the coming months.

Bonus Habits

These are additional habits I’ve picked up along the way this year.

  • Writing every day.
  • Taking cold showers.
  • Working out regularly, including doing yoga every day in April. This is an area where I’ve fallen off the wagon. Since the 30-Day Challenge ended, I’ve been reduced to going to yoga once or twice a week, which I’m not happy about. Subsequently, I’ve also lost most of my early rising habit. I’m not sleeping as late as I used to, but I’m nowhere near waking up at 6:30 AM every day as I did in April. I’ve let my thesis flounder as well. This is obviously due to a lack of self-discipline on my part, and I’m working on it.

Which brings us to June.

I’m unhappy about losing my early riser habit and the resulting drop in productivity. With that in mind, in June I’m going to try something I’m calling “No Wasted Days”.

What’s that mean?

I’m going to try to get something done every day in June. I’m going to try to make every day worthwhile. Whether that’s working on my thesis, or QLE, or exercising, or learning new music, I want to put my time to good use on a daily basis.

At the end of each day, I want to be able to able to say, “Today I did something that will help me get to where I want to be.”

Even though this habit seems vague, it’s something I feel I need to focus on right now. I’m about to undergo a major lifestyle change, which I’ll discuss in more detail next week, and it’s going to require that I bring my A-game. Shit’s about to get real, as they say.

Thank you so much for reading, have an exceptional weekend, and I’ll see you guys Monday.


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Year of the Habit: May

Mayday! Mayday!

Welcome to the fifth installment of The Year of the Habit 2012.

As is customary, let’s review the year so far before revealing May’s habit.

  • January: Started flossing every day.
  • February: Stopped biting my nails.
  • March: Attempted to read every day. Mostly unsuccessful. Currently reading Buddhism Plain & Simple and The Art of Expressing the Human Body.
  • April: Health nut month. With the help of the Seinfeld productivity method, I was able to chart my healthy and unhealthy days quite easily. I had six unhealthy days in April, all of which occurred on either a Saturday or a Sunday, and most of which were special occasions (birthdays, christenings, etc.). My longest streak was seven healthy days in a row. Twenty-four healthy days out of thirty total means I was Primal 80% of the time, which I’m happy with overall. Coincidentally, that ratio exemplifies the 80/20 principle, which suggests that shooting for perfection usually lands you somewhere around an 80% success rate. I would have preferred it to be slightly higher, but 80/20 is a good balance, and visually representing my eating habits visually was a valuable experience. Weekends are obviously the most challenging days to eat well, while I’m able to remain in healthy mode throughout the week. In general, I’m considering April a success.

Bonus Habits

In addition to my monthly goals, I’ve also adopted some bonus habits that have made a huge difference in my 2012 so far. These include:

As I’ve said before, these unplanned habits speak to the power and momentum of small changes.

What’s Next? Dollar Dollar Bills, Y’all.

May is money month.

I’m actually a little nervous about this one, because numbers are evil, but it’s a step I need to take. My thesis is very close to done, and soon my singular focus will be on ways to make sufficient income.

But what makes one’s income “sufficient”? Well, that’s what I intend to figure out.

During the month of May, I’m going to be tracking all of my expenses.

This habit will provide me with several useful bits of insight:

  1. By knowing how much I spend in a month, I’ll know approximately how much I need to make to live.
  2. I’ll be able to identify needless spending that has hitherto gone unnoticed.
  3. I’ll be more mindful about how I spend my money knowing that it’s going to be recorded.
  4. I’ll be able to use my spending data to develop a budget for the future.

Of course, I’ll be using an iOS app to track all of my expenses. I’m going to start with Saver, but I also plan on testing out a few others. I’ll let you know of my favorites.

May is going to be a challenge in the sense that this is one habit I don’t love. Unlike trying to eat healthy or write every day, which were fun and enjoyable, I’m not looking forward to seeing where my money goes. But, it’s necessary, and I’m sure the experience will be enlightening.

And that’s what we’re all about, isn’t it?

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Year of the Habit: April

Happy April! Don’t you love it when the first of the month falls on a Sunday?

I’m ultra excited about this month’s habit, but first, let’s recap the year so far:

  • January: Started flossing every day, and still going strong! Can’t wait to stick it to my dentist.

  • February: Stopped biting my nails, also still going strong! I’m almost at the point where I feel like I can say “I used to bite my nails”, which is crazy.

  • March: Attempted to read every day. This was somewhat of a failure, as I couldn’t bring myself to get in bed early enough to read every night, even for five minutes. Alas, The Shadow of the Wind remains unfinished. However, I did manage to read two books last month: Enough by Patrick Rhone (exceptional; see my review here) and Minimalist Business by Ev Bogue. In addition, my good buddy Rich and I just started reading Catch-22, and I think treating the book as a joint-venture will yield a particularly fruitful reading experience.

I’ve also picked up some Bonus Habits along the way, which were not assigned to a particular month. These include publishing Monday–Friday, and going to the library on a semi-regular basis to work on my thesis — which is almost done.

Before my 25th birthday, I was also adhering to a strong workout routine every day. Since my 25th birthday, however, my dedication to my usual diet and exercise regimens has been unsteady.

That brings us to April. It’s beach season!

That’s right; April is going to be health nut month.

There are several tools and sub-habits I’m going to implement this month, most of which I’ll relate to you in future posts this week.

As you know, there are two components to healthiness: diet and exercise. I’m going to focus especially on the diet aspect during April because 80% of your body composition is determined by your diet. Part of the reason I burned out on my last workout regimen was that I tried to do too much. I was exercising six days a week at home in addition to yoga and karate classes. That’s unsustainable.

Eating garbage guilt-trips you into working out for four hours every day. It’s much easier to eat well and exercise spontaneously, when you feel like it. Exercise should be fun and invigorating, not exhausting.

I’m going to be Primal as much as possible this month, but of course, you can’t be perfect all the time. In particular, I have my monthly Manference dinner, Easter, and my little cousin’s birthday this month, all of which will present culinary hurdles. But, that’s OK. Remember the 80-20 principle. By identifying my potential fat days in advance, I’ll be able to anticipate them and act accordingly over the course of the month.

Furthermore, I’m going to use the Jerry Seinfeld Don’t Break the Chain method to track my healthy eating days. Seeing how many days in a row you can perform your habit is an excellent strategy, and it’s worked quite well for me so far this year.

How’s your Year of the Habit going?

For more about my health regimen, see the following at Mark’s Daily Apple:

  1. Primal Blueprint 101
  2. The Definitive Guide to the Primal Eating Plan
  3. 10 Real-Life Reasons Why the Primal Blueprint Works for Me

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Year of the Habit: March

Happy March to you and yours!

Last month, I declared 2012 to be the Year of the Habit, the goal of which is to facilitate more effective New Year’s resolutions by making one small change each month, rather than trying to reinvent yourself overnight.

Here are my 2012 habits so far:

  • January: Started flossing every day. I’m pleased to report that this is still in effect. I can’t shower without flossing. Take that, scolding dental hygienist.

  • February: Stopped biting my nails. I’ll spare you the photographic evidence, but this has also been going very well. Scratching itches is exponentially more satisfying. I need to cut them because they’re new and subsequently fragile, plus they’re getting in the way of my bass playing. I also still feel the urge to bite, so I’m going to stay mindful with this one.

As an aside, I’ve found that concentrating on these habits also inspires me to make positive changes in other areas of my life, even though they’re not “official” Year of the Habit changes. Specifically, I’ve gotten into the habit of writing and publishing every week day, and I’ve also developed a workout routine that I’ve been diligently adhering to for several weeks now. These “bonus habits” speak to the momentum of small changes. Even a little change can make you feel great and inspire you to get better.

That brings us to March, also known as the month of the gods. After careful consideration — and in the spirit of Dr. Seuss’s birthday — I’ve decided to make reading my habit for the month.

Since buying my Kindle, I’ve been reading a lot more, but my consistency leaves something to be desired. I’m constantly reading on the Web, but I’d like to dedicate more time to reading actual books (on my Kindle).

I’m going to keep it simple and focus on reading for at least a few minutes each day, usually before bed. I only read one book at a time, and I’m looking forward to finally finishing The Shadow of the Wind.

My favorite part of finishing a book is choosing which one to read next, and this reading habit will be a great help in that department.

How’s your Year of the Habit going? What small change are you making for March?

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Year of the Habit

The problem with New Year's resolutions is that people try to do too much too fast. A little self-improvement to go with the new year is great, but declaring you'll eat healthy, exercise more, wake up earlier, finally write that novel, and be a better person all at the same time is too much to manage. Transforming into your ideal self overnight is impossible, and that's one reason so many New Year's resolutions fail.

When it comes to getting better, baby steps are often much more effective than huge leaps. You can't just decide to start waking up at 5am if you're used to sleeping until 10:30am. At least, I can't. Waking up a few minutes earlier every day, however, makes it much easier. It's what Merlin refers to as "fresh starts and modest changes".

But uh, Andrew. It's February. No one cares about their New Year's resolutions anymore.


I didn't really have a resolution this year, or if I did, I can't remember what it was now. However, I did manage to develop a couple of new habits in January.

The first was to publish something original five days a week. This will be my fourth straight week of publishing an original piece Monday through Friday, and it feels really good. I've been sticking to a routine of writing at night and auto-posting every morning at 4:30am. This allows those of you who are email subscribers to wake up with a new article in your inbox each morning. Keeping to this schedule helps both of us; it helps me write consistently, which helps you read consistently.

(Side note: I just updated the email newsletter template, so it's much nicer to look at. If you haven't subscribed yet, it's a great way to stay up-to-date. You'll never miss an article and won't have to remember to visit the site every day. Click to subscribe via email.)

Earlier last month, I also wrote about how I was trying to develop a flossing habit by using Plackers in the shower. This has been going very well, to the point where I feel weird if I don't floss at least once a day. Mission accomplished. Take that, dental hygienist.

Flossing is a tiny little thing, but because it's a small change and I made it as easy as possible to achieve, I had little trouble turning it into a habit. Sources say that thirty days is a good benchmark for developing new habits. If you can do something for thirty days, it becomes part of your routine. Plus, saying you'll do something for thirty days sounds much easier compared to telling yourself to change for the rest of your life. With this in mind, I introduce to you:

2012: The Year of the Habit

I've decided to ingrain a new habit each month this year by focusing on one thing at a time. A little change every month doesn't sound too hard, right? For February, I've stopped biting my nails. I've tried to do this several times before, but never using the thirty-days method.

I'm confident I'll be able to get through it, and I look forward to choosing a new habit in March. If you make one new habit a month for twelve months, then you'll be a whole new you when 2013 rolls around.

I'll be keeping you updated of my progress as the month goes on. If you'd like to pick a habit of your own, or restart one of your resolutions, then let me know on Twitter! Having people to hold you accountable is a big help. Strength in numbers!

Have a great week.

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Seize the Spontaneity

Sometimes, the things we know are best for us are the things we find hardest to do. With the new year, we find ourselves saying, “I want to write more”, or “I want to exercise more”, or “I want to floss more”. But these things are hard, and sometimes the motivation to just do the thing is elusive.

One component of what makes these activities difficult is that they often have intrinsic barriers to starting. With writing, you have to be at your computer and open a new document. With exercising, you have to put on your workout clothes, leave your house, and go to the gym. With flossing, you have to measure out the ideal length of floss, wrap it around your fingers, and remember how much you hate flossing.

These acts seem inconsequential, but they actually inhibit us from doing the thing we know we should be doing. Sometimes even the smallest barrier is enough to sap our motivation. The thing doesn’t get done, and we feel crappy about it.

The solution, then, is to minimize barriers as much as possible, which is something Merlin and Dan talked about in episode 47 of Back to Work.

One way to reduce barriers is to choose tools that make things easier. I keep a notepad on my desk so I can quickly write things down if an idea comes to me. Likewise, I use Alfred to launch apps on my Mac, so all I have to do to open a new document is hit CMD + Space, type “b” for Byword, and hit Enter. This process is much easier than moving my mouse down to open the Finder, clicking Applications, then clicking on Byword. It makes it very easy to start writing.

You can figure out ways to do this with any activity. Laying out your workout clothes the night before, for instance, might increase your likelihood of actually exercising. You might also figure out ways to workout at home, so you eliminate the barrier of having to travel to the gym.

I get in trouble with my dentist every six months for not flossing enough, even though I know how important it is. But so far this year, I’ve flossed every day this week because of three little changes. I started using Plackers instead of regular floss because they’re easier to use. Second, — wait for it — I started flossing in the shower. I don’t know why; it just makes more sense to me as part of my shower routine. I also put the bag of Plackers on top of my towel rack, so I can’t get to my towel without moving them. This forces me to floss every time I take a shower, i.e. every day. So far, so good.

Now occasionally, if you’re like me, you’ll experience a random fit of inspiration. You’ll know exactly what you want to write, or the weather will be beautiful and you’ll want to go running, or you’ll just feel like flossin’. I get these little windows of energy from time to time, but the problem is that they’re fleeting. Sometimes I’ll wake up, see it’s a beautiful day and want to get outside and workout… but then I’ll pick up my iPad or get distracted by music or something on the Internet. By the time I break away from the distraction, the motivation is gone, and it’s lunchtime anyway. Oh, well.

The key here is to seize the spontaneity. Choose tools and methods that make your barriers as small as possible, and use any windows of energy to smash through them right away. The smaller the barrier, the less energy needed to overcome it, so you’ll be able to stop waiting for divine inspiration and start doing more of the thing you want to do.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s a 50 degree January day here in Connecticut, and I have some sprints to do.