THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY DAY: A Choose Yourself Day

Aubrey Marcus’s step-dad invented an artificial vagina.

His step-dad’s pregnant wife wasn’t having sex with him. This made him very unhappy.

So he refitted a flashlight with some wet, spongy thing and called it a “fleshlight”.

I love this story because it takes something that felt very upsetting to me for some reason and made it seem like a public service.

I started laughing and Aubrey told me, “It was really amazing to see the letters come in. ‘This device has saved my marriage’. The Fleshllight became the best-selling adult male product of all time.”

Well, I’m an idiot for even trying to judge. I’m always an idiot when I judge.

Even when I’m judging myself an idiot, I’m probably an idiot. Which sounds idiotic.

Aubrey wrote the book, “Own Your Day, Own Your Life“. How to live an optimal day in terms of health, happiness, productivity, love, relaxation, and much more.

I read it. I loved it. And I asked Aubrey a ton of questions about it.

I either hate a book or LOVE it. “Like”, the basic grammar of social media, feels like a mediocre emotion to me.

One of the benefits of having a podcast is I can read a book and if I have more questions I can call the author, see when they will be in NY, and invite them on my podcast so I can ask whatever I want.

First, I watched Aubrey’s other interviews. He did a good one with Tim Ferriss. So right in the beginning of my podcast with him I told people to watch Tim’s podcast.

The worst podcasts are the ones that just repeat what every other podcast and article says.

I like to take my guests out of their media messages and stories. I want to have real conversations.

I want to make a new friend. You can’t make new friends just repeating the same stuff they said elsewhere.

So I asked about the Fleshlight. Then I asked him how much money he made.

Then I asked about cold showers.

I’ve had on about 50 guests telling me about their ideal day.

I’ve had on Rich Roll who is an ultra iron man athlete. I’ve had on Sanjiv Chopra who wrote about the five keys to health.

I’ve had on Dan Buettner to talk about the “blue zones” where people live over 100 with high quality of life. What makes them different?

I’ve had on Aaron Carrol who writes about our wrong assumptions about foods on everything from fats to MSG to alcohol, etc.

Tim Ferris told me his optimal days to achieve peak performance.

I’ve had on Arianna Huffington (twice) to talk about sleep and Jesse Itzler who trained for a month with a Seal living in his house. I’ve had on Tony Robbins, Tim Kennedy, Dan Harris, Sean Stephenson, and on and on to talk to me about how to live an optimal healthy life.

Aubrey’s book is great because I felt it gathered many of the information from so many of my podcasts and sliced it in a new way: how to live for 24 straight hours using science to determine the healthiest way to live each hour.

I loved it.

But I don’t live it.

Here’s my day today. Some of it comes directly from Aubrey’s book because I’m going to try it.

Some of it comes from doing 50-100 podcasts where the healthiest people in the world say the same thing.

Some of it has been my routine for 18 years. Trial and error (much error) has helped me figure out my ideal day.

But it changes every day.

Each podcast involves me reading one to five books by the author, watching other interviews they did, and then asking 50-300 questions during the podcast to clarify things I didn’t understand.

I wasn’t always healthy.

I was 20 lbs heavier two years ago. I had constant stomach aches every morning. I had chronic anxiety which would effect my sleep and my decision making.

Two years ago I had so much stress over a breakup that I started seeing “floaters” in my left eye and part of my left leg went numb for months when I coughed in the wrong way.

For years I’d get tired in about five minutes if I did any physical activity at all.

Now I’m healthier. But, of course, I’d be pretty cool with it if I died tomorrow.

My kids would be sad. But I’ve been a good dad. And my friends and the people I love would be sad. But I’ve done good by them.

Why not leave at the top?

This is my day today.

Because I’m easily suggestible, some of my new habits are from yesterday’s podcast with Aubrey Marcus and his book.

I hope his ideas work, because some of them are painful.

Some of my habits are things that have been working for me since about 2010 or 2002.

And some of my habits (particularly eating habits) are from podcasts scattered across my last 350.

MORNING:

A) WAKE UP WITH THE SUN

Jordan Peterson suggests waking up the same time each day. Arianna Huffington and Sean Stephenson suggests eight hours a day.

Normally I go to sleep around 10pm so I can wake up around 6pm. But since I now do standup comedy many nights, I don’t always wake up around 6pm if I’m going to get eight hours.

But today I woke up around 7pm. I got about 7 hours of sleep.

B) MOVE: I did 30 pushups. Aubrey makes the excellent point that “movement is medicine” so why not start the day moving.

C) WATER: Aubrey makes another excellent point: “If you slept seven hours, that’s at least seven hours without water. You’re probably dehydrated and that’s a problem since the body is 70% water.”

Water reduces anxiety, clears inflammation, fuels the brain, etc. I might be slightly misquoting him but others say this as well (Hal Elrod in his “Miracle Morning” and on my podcast).

I drank a liter of water in the first half hour.

D) SUPPLEMENTS.

I used that water to take supplements. I often forget to take supplements because I usually don’t drink water in the morning.

I took, Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium, probiotics, “Super Digestive Enzymes”, Vitamin D3, DHEA, and something called GabaCore, which I don’t know why I’m taking but helps me relax a little.

Magnesium has helped me avoid a problem I’ve had recently where my leg cramps at night.

And I take the probiotics and enzymes because there is more serotonin in the stomach than in the brain.

According to Loretta Breuning on my podcast (and Aubrey), serotonin is the neurochemical that gives a great feeling of well-being. It makes you feel like you are an integral part of the tribe of humans. That you belong.

People say, “I don’t know why I think this but I feel it in my gut”.

They say it like that because the gut is six million years older than the brain and there’s 100 million of this powerful neurochemical in the gut. More than in the brain.

So taking care of the gut is important.

E) BRUSH TEETH AND LISTERINE

I haven’t been to a doctor in at least 32 years now. Maybe a little longer. (please don’t leave a comment saying I need some sort of prostate test. I’m not going to do it).

But I have been to a dentist (I know, I know, dentists are doctors. But you get it).

I’ve had massive dentals pains in the past 30 years.

The leading cause of suicide in the 1800s was dental pain.

I’m too lazy to floss (I know I need to do it. One thing at a time) but I brush my teeth about three times a day and use listerine to kill off any bacteria.

I also put listerine on my forehead because it tends to get oily there and I don’t want adult acne on my forehead.

F) BREATHE THEN SHOWER BUT WITH A TWIST

Ok, Aubrey, I did it.

I went in the shower, I took about 30 deep breaths to calm myself down.

And then I turned on the shower to maximum cold and stayed there for 20 seconds. To be fair, I went about 2/3 the way to maximum for 10 seconds, and then went maximum for 20.

It was painful. I told Aubrey yesterday, “If you are wrong about this, I’m going to hunt you down and kill you.”

Wim Hof Method , who I should I have on my podcast, recommends the cold shower. There are enormous benefits. But maybe most important, if you can handle 20 seconds of super cold shower, you can probably handle anything.

Wim Hof has climbed Mt. Everest without a shirt.

And there’s over 300 clinical studies showing the benefits of starting the day with a max cold shower.

I did it. And you know what? It actually feels great.

I only like doing things where I can feel the results immediately. I don’t like to take supplements because you can’t always feel the results right away.

But I took the cold shower two hours ago and I still feel it. It’s like this weird glow inside my body.

Can I handle anything the day has to throw at me?

I have no clue. But I can definitely notice the difference from one of these showers, I feel it right now, and I plan to do it again tomorrow.

G) MOVE MORE

I live on the sixth floor. I never take the elevator if I’m by myself. I run down the stairs or run up the stairs several times a day.

I hate the gym. So whatever I can do, I try to exercise in ways to avoid the gym.

William Beteet, who has been on my podcast, says that’s ok but the only thing to really reduce anxiety without medication is to get on a treadmill for 20 minutes.

And Tim Ferriss told me to exercise with kettlebells. Aubrey Marcus said the same thing.

I’m not going to do it today. But maybe I’ll start at some point. I know it’s important. I just hate the gym.

H) LIGHT

I took a 20 minute walk outside. “Light is important,” Aubrey said. I forget why but I guess just like light is important for plant growth and the growth of most living things on the planet, it’s probably good for us.

Light has Vitamin D. And many people who don’t get enough light get “Seasonal Affective Disorder”, i.e. depression.

So I took a walk because it’s getting warmer and the sun is out and I wanted light first thing.

And I try not to talk on the sidewalk (although that’s hard in NY). Nassim Nicholas Taleb once told me on the podcast to try to walk on grass like our ancient ancestors to build up personal anti fragility.

I need to work on my personal anti-fragility.

I) FOOD

I don’t keep food in my apartment (see my article “The Airbnb Diet”).

Any food I buy, I eat. And I can’t help myself: I buy snacks. It’s impossible to order a bag of potato chips in a restaurant.

This is the only thing I know for sure about food. Processed carbs and sugars are bad.

I can’t explain the science why. People say, “it causes inflammation”, which is bad for all sorts of reasons.

But everyone from Peter Thiel to Jordan Peterson to Sanjiiv Chopra to Tim Ferriss many more has said sugar is evil on my podcast.

This is probably the one food decision that everyone agrees on.

I ordered eggs and avocado. Eggs for the protein and because it feels filling. And avocado because of the “healthy fats”. I still don’t know what that means. But most people I’ve trusted on the podcast say, “Avocado is the perfect food”.

I also ordered coffee.

J) READ

I shut off computer and phone. I can’t help but be distracted if the computer or phone is on. Much easier to just shut off temptations.

I then read. I read, in this order:

1) a GREAT non-fiction book.
2) a spiritual-oriented book
3) a GREAT fiction book.

The non-fiction book will teach me things.
The spiritual book makes me feel good and gives me tools for the day.
The fiction book teaches me to be a better writer.

I’ve been writing for 28 years but maybe 1/10 the writer I would like to be.

Today’s books:

1) “Factfulness” by Han Rosling (Bill Gates says its his favorite book ever)

2) I read a book by Timothy Keller on “Prayer”. I love Eastern philosophy books or Eckhart Tollle style books BUT I also thing the underlying philosophy of Christianity is beautiful and lately I’ve been replacing my traditional notions of meditation with ideas about prayer.

3) “The Largesse of the Sea Maiden” by Denis Johnson. My favorite author of short stories by far.

I’ve read his first collection of stories over 300 times. This is his second collection. Sadly, he just died. I’m actually very sad about it.

Such a gentle soul in his writing. Someone who tried to figure out the world by experiencing it and then writing it. And never quite figuring it out.

Sometimes the non-fiction book will be motivated by whatever podcast I’m doing that week. So yesterday and day before I was obsessively reading Aubrey’s book.

But today, I read whatever was next on my list. And it’s so interesting I feel like my brain is expanding. That’s the definition of a good non-fiction book. I won’t read a non-fiction book unless I get that feeling.

Else it’s useless.

How much do I remember from a good book?

About 1%.

2% if I take notes.

K) WRITE

I’m writing this post. Or I’ll write 10 ideas and then write a post

But often I’m writing either posts, books, 10 ideas, answers on Quora, articles for any of the businesses I’m involved in, or even reviewing scripts (I am an adviser on Showtime’s “Billions” although this season’s writing is over thank god and I don’t plan on doing that ever again).

I used to publish every day. Now I don’t.

I’m sort of embarrassed now because in my post archives I’ve written over 2200+ posts in the past few years.

But I also have about 1000+ drafts. And some of them are VERY embarrassing. And I forgot that I’ve hired a team of people to help me sort through all my posts.

BUT they can see the drafts.

OH NO!

L) THERAPY

I love therapy.

This is my second session of the week.

Life is pretty hard. And as one of my podcast guests, Gary Gulman, has said: It’s Every. Single. Day.

I use a therapist the way someone would use a statistician.

I’m not trying to find the root causes of my problems. I’m not sure how useful that is.

I know some of the roots:

a) the usual stuff about parents.

b) my insecurities from when I was 12. We are always 12 at heart and all of those insecurities stick with us (“I’m ugly”, “Nobody will like me”, “I have to be smarter than everyone else to have self-worth”, etc.)

c) trauma from breakups (people cheating, people with tempers, people beating me up, breakups that I wanted to do but were too afraid to do, etc)

d) trauma from losing all of my money several times.

But here’s how I work with a therapist (and my therapist is the best I’ve ever had after 20+ therapists in the past 30 years).

“I have problem X. You’ve seen 1000 people with problem X, what is the solution that works the best.”

And she usually has a great solution. Sometimes she will tell me. But sometimes she will use a trick to get me to figure it out.

Here’s her two “tricks”:

1) KID TRICK: “If your daughter came to you with this problem, what advice would you give her?”

Usually the answer is then obvious.

2) BUSINESS TRICK: “If you had this situation in business (e.g. someone not calling you back on an important deal being equivalent to a woman never calling me back) what would you do?”

Usually the answer is obvious.

How can you apply these two tricks?

A) Find someone you love. Pretend they have the problem. What would you tell them.
B) Find something you are GREAT at. Pretend a version of the problem is happening in that situation. What would you do?

Two important things I always learn from her:

– keep expectations low. Happiness = Reality divided by Expectations. You can’t change reality overnight but you can change expectations in a second.

– don’t make decisions when you are feeling anxiety. Recognize when your thoughts are coming from anxiety. This takes practice.

M) FRIENDS

For many years I played Scrabble at 5 in the morning with my friends Ari and Dina Pace Shackelford when I lived 60 miles north right along the Hudson River.

It was like we all drifted ashore for awhile after being shipwrecked from the horror of our lives.

And we clung to each other over Scrabble first thing in the morning so as not to sink further into our respective depressions.

I don’t have many friends. But the people who have been there at my low points (and when I’ve been there for their low points) are people I can see years later and start right back up.

So Dina meeting me for coffee for first time in three or four years and we will catch up.

N) FOOD

I don’t like to eat a full lunch. I don’t know if this is good or bad. But it makes me feel ill to feel fool in the middle of the day.

And, again, I don’t store food.

So I order from Juice Press two smoothies. They have to have a lot of greens and a lot of proteins. And I order smoothies instead of juices to retain the fiber of the underlying greens.

O) NEW CREATIVITY

I love YouTube now.

Maybe as much as I love writing. Kevin Alloca, one of the heads of YouTube, recently came on my podcast after writing his book on what makes videos viral.

So I’m going to launch two different YouTube channels. One is a post-game analysis of every podcast.

We have an audience now for each podcast. Afterwards, the guest leaves and we analyze what we learned and what I could have done better.

With Jasmine we’re also launching, “Jasmine and James Do Stuff” where we talk or argue about whatever is important to stuff and, sometimes, we do stuff.

I like to “Choose Myself”. And I know from my HBO days that video editing is just as much part of the story as the story itself. So I want to learn to edit.

Every week now, Jay Yow comes over and we edit together what I’m working on and he shows me new things.

Plus I will read ads for my podcast with him. He can edit those!

I’m in the middle of pitching various TV shows. But I hate doing that. I feel like I’m outsourcing all of the power to Hollywood. It’s one giant middleman that’s going to disappear.

I have many reasons for thinking of this.

Suffice to say, a YouTube channel that gets 2mm views a month is doing better than 95% of TV shows and is probably more creative and satisfying.

This assumes no podcast. Some days are podcast days. Or podcast prep days.

I love my podcast. I’ve been doing it over 4.5 years.

But I’m also addicted to new things.

P) PHONE CALLS, EMAILS, BUSINESS and the BUSINESS OF BUSINESS

I save this for later in the afternoon. Creativity has to come first or all is lost.

Some days are worse than others. Some days

I return a dozen calls or more to keep track of the various things I’m involved in. I’ll also usually call one or two friends. And try one of my kids (the hardest of all to get ahold of. It’s like they are deep undercover spies somewhere).

This makes me sound important. It’s actually the reverse. If I were important, I’d return ZERO calls.

Instead, I’m usually scared and desperate for information so I call and call and call to find out as much information as possible and see how I can help with emails, ideas, introductions, etc.

The other day I came up with a great idea for one company I’m involved in. They are building a non-lethal gun. “Wrap Technologies”. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve seen.

If I have any thing called a “legacy” in life (a word I don’t like since I’ll be dead when I have one) I hope it’s being involved in this company that will save millions of lives.

I hope they use my idea.

Q) JASMINE

In October I started seeing someone.

I realized something: Relationships are REALLY hard.

Everyone always told me, “the right relationship will seem easy.”

This is completely false.

I love this person and I’ve never had to work so hard on myself to make sure I communicate my feelings, understand her communications, and every day bring more and more surprise and joy and understanding into the relationship.

We don’t see each other every day. Which is new for me. In almost every prior relationship, the woman moved in almost immediately. Not this time.

But we are seeing each other today.

And I hope we do absolutely nothing.

R) FOOD AND ALCOHOL

I have two things I like to do for dinner.

1) I only order appetizers.

For some reason, I feel restaurants put all the flavor in the appetizers. I always think entrees are too heavy and too bland.

When Jasmine and I ate at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant (name-dropping again) after my podcast with him, I have to say, the entrees were worth it and he sat down with us for awhile and I felt important and felt like I was impressing Jasmine (I wasn’t).

2) Occasionally…alcohol.

For 6 years I stopped drinking alcohol completely.

But thanks to the podcast guests and their books, I see some of the benefits of occasional alcohol. So sometimes I’ll have a glass or two of wine.

S) STANDUP COMEDY

Three or four times a week I do standup comedy around the city. But I’m not doing it tonight and this is really just about today.

But when I do standup comedy, my evening routine is completely different.

I’m not a night person. But I love doing standup.

Something has to change at some point but I’m not sure what yet.

I’m 50 and I’m always trying to figure things out.

T) MORE JASMINE

I love her

—–

This is today. Tomorrow will be about 50% different.

Interspersed throughout the day I’ll try to do “micro meditating”.

I am an anxious person. Anxiety, for me, comes from feeling like I am not worthy for success.

So when success gets close, I get more and more anxious.

And then I make bad decisions. And then I lose the success.

Micro-meditating (and there are various methods I use for this), helps me keep the anxiety in control and also help recognize when I am about to make decisions because of anxiety.

I also should exercise more. But I try to walk a lot (or run up six flights of stairs whenever I go to my apartment).

Some days I see more friends. But how many close friends can one have? I’m trying more to just be really close with the friends I have an only occasionally make new friends.

On Comedy days I see friends more than on non-Comedy days.

I don’t like to end the day unhappy or anxious. But if I live the day I just outlined, I will fall asleep happy.

U) What will I do in the last half hour of the day?

Because today is a “Jasmine Day” and not a comedy day, I’ll

– talk
– listen
– read
– read to her
– we’ll listen to music
– we’ll …
– we’ll laugh.

(not sure if Jasmine approves me of talking about her this much. But…get used to it).

I’ve mentioned this before, but:

***
the average child laughs 300 times a day. The average adult….five times.

***

Today I wil laugh closer to 300.

And most of that is at night.

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  • Love ‘Jasmine’ in this post

  • James Buechler

    I think that sincerity is your strong suit. You might get a great deal from a yoga class, there are a great many styles, start with a beginner’s class. Point being that the anti-anxiety result from a class is off the charts.

  • Midlife Tribe

    This is so good, James. I wish I could convince you to contribute this kind of unique insight to Midlife Mentors. I’m banging my head on the wall, here. I just can’t seem to get a response from you anywhere. Seth Godin is on next week (I mention him to try and convince you that this is an honest project), and I’d desperately love you to follow him. Can u please consider it? peter@midlifetribe.com

  • angela sumner

    james! get nadine artemis on your show RIGHT NOW and solve all uyour dental problems once and for all.

  • Clint Ebeyer

    Very informative yet simple overview of your day. The high levels of creative time must be very rewarding. I like when you deliver practical, reality based writing that is able to be introduced into improving my life. Keep up the brilliant information you deliver daily. clint@fourreed.com

  • ami2much

    what happened to the fleshlight?

  • James Buechler

    James, buy your potato chips at the natural food stores and you can find all kinds that are much better than in the supermarket. Also, you can buy small bags one at a time rather than the gargantuan sizes.

    You can have a great time at home listening to something and Swinging your kettlebells. Rather than at a gym.

    Writing the morning pages is the best therapy I found yet.

  • Thank You James, You did it again :) Your stories help me affirm what I know & feel inside about my own life & experiences. I’m encouraged to keep moving forward every time I read something from you that resonates with my current daily activities. It is surprising to hear that some one other than I go through some of the same types of mental & emotional roller-coasters life has a tendency to present when you are not “actively” living your life. It feels Great to Chose Yourself.
    Elated & Grateful.