Discover more from Year Of The Opposite - Travis Stoliker's Substack
How The Year Of The Opposite Started.
How living a year of doing “The Opposite” like George Costanza cured my depression, fixed my high blood pressure, and made me a better father.
Last year, at the age of 41, I faced the heart-wrenching loss of three close friends within a mere five-month span. They were all between the ages of 41 and 44. The overwhelming grief I experienced plunged me into a profound depression for the first time in my life.
Many of you are my friends, while others have yet to make my acquaintance. So it’s probably a good idea if I start with a brief introduction. I'm a tech and marketing professional who helped build a web hosting company, LiquidWeb, alongside my friends Matt, Chris, Jer, and Gregg. Together, we grew the company to employ 480 employees on two continents and achieve $70 million in Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR). In 2015, we successfully sold the company to a private equity firm for a staggering $224 million.
I've seldom mentioned this, as it may come across as boastful, but I became a multi-millionaire before reaching the age of 35. The wealth I amassed at such a young age exceeded my wildest expectations. This early financial success led me to believe that I had achieved life's ultimate goal, which I dubbed my "fake retirement." I didn't have a boss, so I indulged in late-night routines, sleeping until 2 pm and staying awake until 4 am. I often wore black t-shirts and sweatpants, projecting a slovenly image and demeanor. I ate whatever I pleased, avoided exercising, and generally shied away from physical activities. I even sported a shirt that mockingly read "SPORTS!" as an ironic statement.
Before long, my unhealthy lifestyle began to take its toll.
I gained over 60 pounds and developed a myriad of health issues, including high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, high cholesterol, rosacea, and poor cardiac fitness. Simple tasks like climbing stairs left me sweating profusely, as I found myself in abysmal physical condition.
My well-intentioned and caring doctors were quick to prescribe medications to address the various health issues resulting from my lifestyle. They prescribed fish oil for cholesterol management, Prednisone and Colchicine to combat gout, Valsartan to lower high blood pressure, and Fenofibrate to reduce elevated triglycerides.
In no time, I found myself taking four pills daily. They appeared to be effective, at least initially, as my levels decreased. However, as I failed to make any lifestyle changes, my levels gradually began to rise again. Consequently, my dosages increased, putting me on an unsustainable and potentially harmful trajectory.
Despite my poor health, life had its bright spots. I married an incredible woman who, I felt, was truly out of my league. Together, we had a son. I fulfilled my dreams of owning a lake house and a boat, and even drove a Tesla, allowing me to feel somewhat environmentally conscious amid my luxurious lifestyle. Additionally, I invested in companies that piqued my interest and became an active member of local boards that aligned with my passions.
But suddenly, everything changed in February of 2022. My close friend Joe died of a heart attack due in part to alcohol abuse. Remarkably, throughout my 41 years of life, I had been fortunate enough to avoid experiencing the sudden loss of anyone close to me. Joe's passing deeply affected me, and I struggled to cope with the intense grief I encountered for the first time in my life.
In July 2022, just a short while later, I faced the devastating loss of my best friend since age 2, Matt Hill, the founder of Liquidweb, who passed away at 41. Tragedy struck again merely 10 days later when my wife's cousin, a friend, and the officiant at our wedding, was fatally injured by a door in a bizarre accident.
Despite my life appearing perfect by most standards, the overwhelming grief and confluence of these events plunged me into clinical depression. I would awaken feeling despondent and retire to bed with the same heavy sadness, struggling to find a sense of purpose.
Rationally, I understood that my experiences paled in comparison to the hardships faced by others. This realization brought about feelings of guilt, making me question my right to feel depressed when I seemingly had it all. Yet, I found myself unable to break free from the grip of this profound sadness, even though logic told me it was unwarranted.
My attempts to cope with the sadness proved unhelpful as well. Discussing my feelings with friends only seemed to dampen their spirits. Similarly, I unfairly burdened my wife with the expectation that she could miraculously heal my emotional pain. My frustration with her inability to do so put a strain on our marriage, and my demeanor became increasingly difficult to tolerate. I was truly insufferable to be around.
I knew something had to change…
“If every instinct you have is wrong, the opposite would have to be right.” Is a line Jerry Seinfeld says to George Costanza in the Seinfeld episode The Opposite. I kept thinking of that quote.
It was then that I revisited Admiral William H. McRaven's commencement speech, titled "Just Make Your Bed."
In his address, he emphasizes the significance of waking up early and making your bed, as it provides an initial sense of accomplishment to start your day, setting off a chain reaction of positive transformations.
“If you want to change the world, start by making your bed”. I decided this is where I would start! Everyday I would wake up before 8am and make my bed. This might seem like a small task, but for someone that was never a morning person, it was a challenge.
This seemingly minor change of waking up early and making my bed had an unexpectedly profound impact on my life. It instilled in me a newfound confidence, nudged me towards an earlier bedtime, allowed me to enjoy breakfast with my 3-year-old, made me think twice about drinking alcohol the night before, and enhanced my productivity at work.
It was a small change, but with a massive influence. Waking up early and making the bed was the antithesis of my behavior during depression. This got me thinking, what if I made more changes? Could they have an even greater impact? And so, I decided to embrace a "year of the opposite."
My plan was simple: I would do the opposite of what I had done before. It didn't have to be radical, like speaking Spanish instead of English or biking instead of driving. It just had to challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone. For instance, since I never liked mustaches, I decided to grow one. And since I had never played golf, I decided to become a golfer.
At the start of my Year of the Opposite, I didn't overwhelm myself with a long list of changes to make. Instead, I took it one challenge at a time. As I conquered each challenge, I gained more confidence and momentum.
As my friends and family became aware of my Year of the Opposite, they started to offer their own suggestions for what I should tackle next. Before I knew it, the list of changes had grown longer and longer throughout the year.
But because I was making the changes gradually and incrementally, the list didn’t intimidate me. Instead, the longer the list grew the more confidence I gained to keep going, to keep pushing myself, and to keep discovering new things about myself along the way.
In the following months, I made several significant changes: I quit drinking alcohol, stopped smoking weed, completed a half marathon, ran 7 miles barefooted, held my breath for 2 minutes and 45 seconds, ran a mile backward, briefly piloted an airplane, learned archery, swam about a mile across my lake, practiced shooting a pistol, won the Blazin Wing Challenge, and took a 9-minute cold plunge in a 35-degree lake, among other things.
The transformation didn't occur instantaneously, but it certainly felt swift! Within two weeks, I experienced a daily surge of energy, as if I were on Adderall. Within a month, my depression had vanished. And within six months, all of my lifestyle-induced ailments were "cured." My high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, rosacea, and high cholesterol were all resolved.
In this newsletter, "The Year of the Opposite," I'll share the insights I gained and the outcomes I achieved. I'll discuss both the highs and the lows, as well as my blood work, test results, and the research and science behind what worked and what didn't.
I want to be absolutely clear from the outset: none of my accomplishments over the past year were extraordinary or record-breaking. But that's precisely what makes them so remarkable! The changes I made are ones that anyone could implement if they desired to transform their life. If you're grappling with weight issues, sadness, anxiety, or depression, perhaps you could also adopt this approach and find it beneficial.
Thank you so much for subscribing. Next week I plan to share the results from my blood work, the changes in my cardiac fitness (VO2 Max), my weight change, and my blood pressure measurements.
Uplift Weekly - Humans Are Awesome!
Several years ago, I began sharing hard to find uplifting and positive stories on my Facebook page, summarizing them to the best of my ability. People seemed to really enjoy it. It's no secret that news outlets and social media often prioritize negative stories, as outrage tends to generate more clicks than happiness. Consequently, we find ourselves inundated with sensational, distressing stories from around the globe. This phenomenon not only contributes to societal polarization but also takes a toll on our mental well-being, as numerous studies have shown.
With this newsletter, I hope to include a portion that I call "Uplift Weekly," I aim to counterbalance negativity by highlighting the remarkable achievements of humanity. I'll be focusing on technological advancements, scientific breakthroughs, and any news that instills a sense of hope and pride in our world and its people. Here's to hoping that the steady stream of human ingenuity provides ample content for our weekly dose of positivity! :)
Without further ado, here is your Uplift Weekly
About 10-15% of our electricity on the electrical grid is lost just in the transmission of getting the energy to your house. When it comes to batteries, about 10-30% of the energy is lost. What if there were a type of material that electricity could flow through without any resistance and you didn’t lose any of the power? That’s what a SuperConductor is! Typically, superconductors only work at extremely low temperatures, which limits their practical applications. However, if a superconductor could work at room temperature, it could transform almost any technology that uses electric energy, from smartphones to maglev trains and even fusion power plants. The latest research, which still faces skepticism due to previous controversy around the scientists involved, could represent the first step towards this goal.
The Lives of Girls Around The World Are Getting Better. This article from Unicef highlights 6 amazing changes.
From 2012 to 2020, more girls completed secondary school - lower secondary school completion rose from 69% to 77% and upper secondary school completion rose from 49% to 59%.
The global adolescent birth rate has decreased from 51 to 42 births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 since 2012.
New HIV infections among adolescent girls is down by 33% in a decade, but girls still account for most new infections among adolescents.
There are fewer child marriages. In the last 10 years the proportion of young women marriages has fallen from 23% to 19%. However, millions of girls still at risk of marrying young.
Female genital mutilation declined in the last decade, in the 31 countries where it is practiced it has decreased from 41% to 34%. Sadly it still affects the lives of millions of girls.
Thank you for reading the first issue of The Year Of the Opposite Newsletter. Your support and encouragement mean a lot to me. If you're a paying subscriber, I'd be delighted to hear from you. Feel free to send me an email at email@example.com or leave a comment below.
If you found this newsletter valuable, please consider sharing it with someone who might enjoy it. Your help in spreading the word would be greatly appreciated.