On Experience

Put down the book and go do it.

Swim lessons

In general, the best way to understand something is to experience it. You should spend more time doing the right things than studying them. One hour of experience can teach you more than a lifetime of research.

Jesus didn’t recruit his disciples and then put them in a classroom for three years. Instead, he taught them through experience first and instruction second.

Experiential learning is how everyone learns best. Great teachers, great parents, and our great God get this. It’s how we’re wired as human beings. Why fight it? Why pretend it doesn’t apply to you?

For example, you learn how to swim by swimming. Yes, you can read up on it beforehand, and you can get lessons from an instructor while you’re in the water, but all the swim smarts in the world are meaningless without the experience.

If you’re not getting in the water, odds are you’ve got a block you need to work through. You’re afraid. Why? You’re ashamed. Why? You’re proud. Why? You’re discouraged. Why? You can either work through the block, or work through the book. The brave work through their blocks; the cowards hide behind their books.

The goal is not to learn as much through information and as little through experience as possible. The goal is to learn as much through experience and as little through information as necessary.  The former is about trying not to get bruised or embarrassed. The latter is about getting it done.

With so much information available, it’s easy to get lost in “just a little more.” We conflate knowing things in our minds with knowing things in our lives. Getting more facts may inform you, but getting more experience will transform you. Which one are you after? Do you want to be a great theorist or a great practitioner?

The masters of anything are the ones who have done it, are doing it, and will continue to do it. They can give you the facts, but they can also tell you the stories. They know of what they speak because they live it every day.

What do you need to stop studying and start doing? Make the transition and you’ll discover that experience really is the best teacher.

 

Why Heat and Cold are Good For You

My journey into the fascinating world of heat therapy and cold thermogenesis

 

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Most of us have been conditioned to believe that the best temperature is the one that’s the most comfortable. But the latest science is revealing that we’ve got it all backwards. It turns out that our bodies thrive on extremes. Getting really hot and really cold actually makes us stronger, healthier, and happier.

My journey into this new world began by watching a documentary on Wim Hof, aka The Iceman. It’s entertaining if nothing else.

This inspired me to do more research on the health benefits of temperature extremes, which led me to Rhonda Patrick.

 

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To summarize some of the latest findings:

Heat therapy health benefits:

  • Increases your ability to use endorphins and feel less stressed
  • Increases your focus and attention
  • Increases BDNF for new neurons…helping you get smarter and remember better
  • Improves your athletic endurance
  • Increases your muscle growth
  • Detoxifies your body
  • Decreases your Alzheimer’s risk
  • Leads to longer life via the creation of more heat shock proteins
  • Increases your insulin sensitivity

Cold therapy health benefits:

  • Helps you feels less stressed and more relaxed
  • Reduces your insulin spikes by increasing insulin sensitivity; keeps your blood sugar levels low
  • Reduces inflammation and speeds workout recovery
  • Improves your athletic performance
  • Revs up your metabolism and burns your bad fat (white fat)
  • Releases dopamine, endorphins, and noradrenaline, making you feel much happier; fights depression
  • Gives you increased focus and energy, leading to greater productivity
  • Helps you live longer
  • Creates a stronger immune system, meaning you get sick less often
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Helps to protect your brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s

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At this point, I was in. But I knew I needed to ease into it. So I started by wearing the Cool Fat Burner vest for two hours every morning. Obviously, given the name, some people wear this thing for weight loss, but I wanted to get the cold thermogenesis health benefits. It definitely helped me transition into greater cold adaptation.

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Next up I began taking contrast showers. Experts have found that alternating between hot and cold make both more effective. One simple way to do so is by taking a shower at your normal temperature, then doing 10 rounds of 10 seconds hot and 20 seconds cold. I used an interval timer on my phone to cue the transitions and let me know when I was done.

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Then I began looking into infrared saunas. Ben Greenfield does a great breakdown on their health benefits, but they tend to be pretty expensive.

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So I began thinking about what I could do to get really hot, really fast, really affordably. I was already running, so I began wearing a sauna vest and sweatshirt, creating a kind of mobile sauna experience. I found a great sweatband too. Suddenly my runs became more than runs. I was becoming acclimated to the heat and reaping the huge health benefits.

Getting so hot made it easier for me to ditch my contrast showers and go straight into cold showers. I noticed an immediate improvement in my mood and energy levels throughout the day.

I no longer complain when I start getting hot or cold. Instead, I remember all the health benefits and embrace the extremes as my friends.

 

On Fatherhood

Lessons learned over the last six years

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Kate (3), Molly (1), Leo (5)

I’m approaching six years of fatherhood. Given that tomorrow is Father’s Day, I thought this might be a good time to reflect on the experience so far.

Being a good dad has been harder than I thought.

I’ve always liked kids. Their playfulness, creativity, curiosity, and innocence is such a great contrast to the harsh and sometimes dull realities of adult life. But I think that my appreciation of children led to some naivete about how challenging good parenting would be. Being a bad dad is easy – you’re either not there, or you’re absent when you are there, or you’re just annoyed or unloving when you do engage. Being a good dad requires the willingness to constantly give yourself away – to sacrifice your time, energy, and tasks in order to address the endless stream of wants and needs that children bring. Of course this is obvious to anyone who’s been in the game long enough, but for me it’s been a progressive revelation. One thing that’s made it especially challenging is that I thrive on solitude and silence and these are not gifts that children bring! I’ve learned that so much of effective parenting is about self-management – managing my time, emotions, energy, and expectations so that I can bring my best to my kids instead of my leftovers.

Parenting is heart work.

I got this concept from the excellent book of the same title. The emphasis on heart change and inner motivations over surface change and behavior modification is so key. I review my Kindle notes on this book from time to time because it’s so easy to forget how important it is that I relate from God’s heart and my heart to their hearts. If you only read one book on parenting, make it this one. This is the foundation.

I need to parent each of my children differently.

Again, nothing new here for those already in the trenches, but part of successful parenting involves understanding how each child is unique and then adjusting your parenting strategy accordingly. It’s about you adapting to them, not them adapting to you.

We joke that in terms of personalities, Leo is our dog, Kate is our cat, and Molly is our monkey. Leo loves people and is loyal, adventurous, and wants to cuddle close. Kate is strong willed, responsible, and happy to do her own thing. She’s relational, but on her terms. Molly is playful and affectionate but also quite mischievous and has already earned the nickname Bandit.

With these different personalities comes different needs. Right now, Leo needs to know I enjoy being with him and he also needs my patient, gentle instruction. Kate needs to be invited into more of my adult world and be treated with respect. Molly needs to have fun with me and feel included in my life.

Quality time goes a long way.

If you don’t date your spouse, your marriage can very quickly descend into task-management mode. If you don’t carve out time to have fun with your children, one-on-one, and invest in building the relationship, your parenting can very quickly become all about rules, rewards, and punishments.

I try to do something special with each of my kids once a month. Sometimes it’s as simple as a Happy Meal and the Playplace. They love it. Other times it’s a park or a bike ride or a trip somewhere new. The point is that we’re having fun together and they feel cherished by me.

I always come away from these times liking them more. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. I need it as much as they do. It helps me remember how great they are and appreciate their uniqueness instead of just being annoyed when they misbehave. And the more securely attached they become to me, the more their behavior tends to improve as well.

I’ve found that in general, maybe means never. If I don’t schedule these times, they won’t happen. So I do. Speaking of scheduling…

Consistent schedules and routines make life easier for everyone.

We are structured around our house. Maybe to a fault. But we all need it. We have wake times and mealtimes and walk times and play times and quiet times and bedtimes. We have daily routines and expectations and things we know we can count on.

One example – scripture reading, prayer, and songs before bed. After toys are picked up, baths are taken, teeth are brushed, and pajamas are on, we plop down on the couch for a Bible story, some prayer time, and some singing. Our children love this routine and always look forward to it. Per the usual, they never want it to end. Sometimes it evolves into tickling and wrestling. Other times it devolves into arguing and we shut it down fast. But the important thing is that we all know it’s there.

I need to grow with my kids.

I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth restating. Children grow and change so fast that just when you think you’ve got it figured out, they’re on to something new and you need to catch up. My job as a dad is to relate to my kids as they are and as they will be, not as they were and as they won’t be. The leash should be getting longer, not staying the same length or getting shorter. This is as much about my mindset and flexibility as anything. It’s also about paying attention to their development and responding appropriately instead of being lost in my own world and work.

Time flies.

The days are long but the years are short. My goodness, they really do grow up fast. I heard this so early and so often that it almost became a platitude, but boy is it true.

When I scroll back through Instagram and look at pictures of Leo as a little kid, I feel a mixture of joy and sorrow. Joy because of his growth and the good times we’ve had together, but sorry because of the recognition that I missed a lot of it because I was too busy, distracted, or annoyed to be fully present with his journey.

I’m working on really cherishing every moment instead of just trying to make it through each day.

More is caught than taught.

My children are always watching me. They’re watching what I do and how I do it. They’re observing my attitude, body language, conversations, responses to problems. I can give the best pep talks and life lessons but at the end of the day, people do what people see and kids learn more from observation than information. I am their role model, for better or worse.

Dare to discipline.

Yes, I stole James Dobson’s line here, although I’ve never read his book and don’t agree with his politics. But discipline is important and Dobson certainly didn’t invent it. The Bible is full of imperatives on disciplining our children – not to punish them, but to train them. The discipline is for their own good.

When I walk through Wal-Mart and see parents who don’t know how or why to discipline their kids, I feel concerned for their family and for our society. We know where this leads.

When I see parents say no, set limits, and enact consequences, I want to give them a high five. Their kid may be screaming, but they care more about doing what’s right than being liked.

Culture matters.

“We don’t do that in our family” is a powerful line when applied appropriately. This one is pretty fresh as our kids are still so young, but Leo is already bringing back words and behaviors he’s learned from peers that we simply don’t want to incorporate into our family culture. It’s my job as the dad to be a sort of filter for what we allow into our home. And more importantly, to explain why. If I don’t proactively create our family culture, then society will automatically fill in that space, often with negative things.

Some of the best parenting moments happen on the way.

I’m learning to invite my kids to join me for errands, house projects, problems I’m solving. It teaches them about life, but it also creates more time for us to be together.

I don’t always do this. Sometimes I need space to recharge or focus on the task at hand without a gazillion questions coming at me. But when I do, it often creates a kind of relational margin that fosters some meaningful moments and conversations.

For example, I invited Leo to join me on my run the other day. He rode his bike and got to see my usual route. We talked about goose poop and snapping turtles and rabbits and shared a cookie at the end. Nothing earth shattering, but he got his bucket filled and I still got my run in.

Some of the most important questions I’ve received from my kids have come at the least convenient times for me but the most convenient times for them. They can come when I’m middle of a task, or exhausted after a long day, or totally in my own world. But they are on the way and I don’t want to miss them.

Relax.

Sometimes I expect my children to act like adults, which is just ridiculous. It’s so easy for me to have unrealistic expectations of them when all they need to be doing is playing, using their imaginations, making mistakes, being silly, getting messy, and acting like the kids that they are.

Some parents are too hands-on while others are too hands-off. For me, being a good dad in this season of life involves letting my kids be kids while simultaneously growing our relationship, pointing them to God, and guiding them into greater maturity.

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Are you a dad? What are some of the things you’ve learned along the way?