Discover more from Year Of The Opposite - Travis Stoliker's Substack
How to Start A Year Of The Opposite. #YearOfTheOpposite
A step by step guide to start your own year of the opposite. The results from my first Year Of The Opposite.
I've been pondering over the approach I should take for this newsletter. Should I pen it down from a personal viewpoint, narrating my story in first person? Or would it be better to focus less on me and more on the practical steps and tools others can incorporate into their lives? I'd truly appreciate your thoughts on this matter, so feel free to email me (just hit reply) or leave a comment with your suggestions.
For the time being, I've chosen to blend both approaches when appropriate. Initially, I believe it's essential for me to share my personal journey with the Year of the Opposite and the outcomes I experienced. But when possible, I'll shift the focus towards being more general and actionable, since that's the kind of content I personally enjoy reading.
During my peer mentoring sessions, I picked up an invaluable lesson: "Speak from experience. Don't give advice." I feel this insight is particularly relevant here.
In my previous post, I talked about how, after Joe's passing, I was unable to shake off my depression, becoming quite the burden for my loved ones. I knew I needed to change something, so I embarked on the "Year of the Opposite."
I believe it's crucial to begin by disclosing the extent of the deterioration in my health, to provide you with some context. Since selling Liquid Web in 2015, I had been plagued by Essential hypertension (high blood pressure), Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), Hypertriglyceridemia (high triglycerides), Impaired fasting glucose, Rosacea, below-average cardiac fitness (Vo2Max), occasional bouts of gout, and at one point, my weight had soared to a staggering 246 lbs.
I feel quite self-conscious sharing that photo, and it's challenging to put it out there. My discomfort stems not only from vanity, although I admit that plays a role, but also from the fact that this period of my life, when I was at my heaviest, coincided with the birth of my first and (currently) only child. The best parenting advice I've ever received is: "Give them a good example to look up to."
Unfortunately, I was setting a terrible example for my son. Worse still, at this period in my life, according to the American College of Cardiology ASCVD Risk Estimator, I faced a 16% chance of dying from a cardiac event within the next decade.
My original goal was not to improve my health or lose weight, but to cure my depression. However, having already committed to tackling my depression through the Year of the Opposite, I decided that some of my initial "opposites" would focus on my health. At the beginning stages of my journey, I wasn't yet aware of the extensive scientific evidence supporting the significant impact of exercise, diet, and sleep on an individual's happiness and mental well-being.
The research is very compelling that physical activity is 1.5 times more effective than counseling or the leading medications.
Step 1 of the Year of the Opposite: Select a new "simple" habit that is an alteration in your daily routine that you can consistently commit to performing every single day.
The alteration you introduce shouldn't be an insurmountable task. Instead, it should be achievable, beneficial, straightforward, and distinct from your typical routine, ensuring that you can consistently incorporate it into your daily life.
Good Ideas for First Steps:
Wake Up Early & Make The Bed (What I choose)
Take a walk
Write a journal for 5 minutes
Floss your teeth
Read for 5 minutes
Call a friend
Bad Ideas For First Steps
Go to the gym everyday (Too easy to break, it’s hard to get to the gym every single day)
Eat healthy (Again, too easy to break. Too Vague & no one eats healthy every day)
Stop using Social Media/Tech/Etc (Too many things require it. Too hard to maintain. It’s good to cut back, but hard to completely eliminate.)
Bike ride instead of use a car (Too hard. Especially if you have snow)
Give up drinking, smoking, drugs, etc (Great goal. But too hard to start. You want a simple win on this first goal)
The first step's goal is to achieve a small success that you can build on. You should choose something that is simple, but not necessarily easy. Remember, "simple" and "easy" are different.
"Easy" means you can do something without trying hard, while "simple" means it's not complicated and is easy to understand, but you still need to put in effort.
Once you've picked your first habit, try to do it every day! It might sound tough, but believe in yourself – you can do it!
Step 2: Track Your Progress, Celebrate Your Wins, & Repeat Every Single Day
As I embarked on this journey, I came across an exceptional book that became an instant favorite. "Atomic Habits" by James Clear provides invaluable insights into cultivating positive habits and dismantling negative ones. I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Below are the key takeaways I gathered from "Atomic Habits":
The 1% Rule: Focus on making tiny, 1% improvements each day, which will compound over time and lead to significant growth.
Habit Stacking: Combine new habits with existing ones by using the formula "After [current habit], I will [new habit]." This helps to integrate new habits seamlessly into your daily routine.
Environment Design: Set up your environment to make good habits easy to follow and bad habits difficult to maintain. This includes minimizing distractions and making desired behaviors more accessible.
The Two-Minute Rule: Break down new habits into small actions that can be completed in under two minutes, making it easier to get started and maintain momentum.
The Four Laws of Behavior Change: To create a new habit, follow these four steps – make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, and make it satisfying.
The Inversion of the Four Laws: To break a bad habit, do the opposite of the Four Laws – make it invisible, make it unattractive, make it difficult, and make it unsatisfying.
Habit Tracking: Monitor your habits using a habit tracker to maintain awareness of your progress and maintain motivation.
The Goldilocks Rule: Engage in habits that challenge you just enough to stay in the zone of optimal difficulty, keeping you motivated and engaged.
Identity-Based Habits: Focus on adopting the identity of the person you want to become, rather than solely concentrating on the outcomes you want to achieve.
Temptation Bundling: Pair an activity you need to do (but may not enjoy) with an activity you love, making it more appealing to complete the less enjoyable task.
At the time, I didn't recognize it, but my Step 2 closely aligned with the principles from "Atomic Habits." I employed several of its strategies, with Habit Tracking and Habit Stacking likely being the most significant.
Habit Tracking: Securing early successes is crucial, and you can't improve something without monitoring it. That's why tracking your performance is essential. I use an app called "Way of Life" for habit tracking. However, the tool itself isn't as important as the process. Don't let tools hinder your progress. You can utilize a notepad, calendar, Google Sheet, Habit Journal, or anything else that works for you. The key is to track your progress daily.
Consistency is crucial: However, don't let the pursuit of perfection undermine your progress. The age-old saying holds true—nobody is perfect. It's likely that you'll miss a day or make a mistake, and that's alright. The important thing is to acknowledge it, confront the lapse, and then resume your efforts without delay. This is why it's essential to choose a first habit that is simple to achieve.
Take It Slow: If you're like me, you'll begin to experience immediate benefits once you consistently achieve a goal. It's quite remarkable, actually. It may seem odd that a straightforward task like making your bed every day could provide a sense of satisfaction, but it did for me. It demonstrated that I was capable of change.
Keep in mind that, in my entire 40 years of living, I had never consistently made my bed, so this was a significant shift, despite its simplicity. The key is not to let this initial accomplishment convince you that you can conquer the world. For now, focus on simplicity, consistency, and progress tracking. Just because you've made one small change for a few days doesn't mean the habit is firmly established. The most crucial aspect is to complete this one simple habit every single day.
Your aim in Step 2 is to create what "Atomic Habits" calls "Identity-Based Habits." Focus on adopting the identity of the person you want to become, rather than just concentrating on the outcomes you want to achieve.
If your habit is to walk every day, you want to be a walker.
If your habit is to wake up and make the bed, you want to be an early riser.
If your habit is to read a passage every day, you want to be a reader.
If your habit is to journal every day, you want to be a writer.
Identity-based habits involve taking on a new self-image to encourage lasting change. For example, if someone wants to change from staying up late to waking up early, they should adopt the identity of an "early riser."
To practice this identity-based approach, the person should start with small, consistent actions that match their new self-image. In my example, I slowly adjusted my bedtime and wake-up time, set an alarm to wake up, and made a new rule that if I woke up early naturally, I would get out of bed and start my day instead of trying to go back to sleep. These actions supported my new identity as an early riser.
Additionally, I thought about any limiting beliefs, like the idea that I wasn't a "morning person," and replaced them with empowering beliefs that lined up with my desired identity. I wasn’t a “night owl that woke up early today”. I was “an early riser”. It seems like a small change, but eliminating that limiting belief is surprisingly powerful.
Limiting beliefs are negative thoughts or assumptions about yourself, others, or the world that stop you from reaching your full potential. These beliefs often come from past experiences, society's influence, or learned behaviors, and they can create a mental barrier that keeps you from growing and achieving.
Limiting beliefs can show up in different ways, such as doubts about your abilities, fears of failure, or beliefs that some goals are impossible. They can slow down progress by affecting your mindset, actions, and overall view of life. By finding and challenging these beliefs, you can replace them with more empowering thoughts, which can help unlock your potential and enable you to go after your goals more effectively.
The goal here is to identify your limiting beliefs and face them.
Sadly, you may find that some of your friends and family hold limiting beliefs about you and they may try to enforce that old image onto you. It’s important to remember that for many people, your changes don’t inspire them, they confront them. People may not like that you are changing because it exposes the fact that they are not. Ignore those people. Don’t let others place limiting beliefs on you. This isn’t that big of an issue with a change like ‘waking up early’. But when we get to changes like running barefoot… or giving up alcohol if you choose to… you’ll see this behavior come up a lot from friends and family.
Once you feel pretty confident that you've become the person with this new habit, and it's not just a goal you're trying to achieve, you can move on to step number three. This could take you a week, or it could take you all year, but don't move on to step 3 until you've developed an identity-based habit.
You don't have to be perfect, but once you can confidently say, "I'm a walker," "I'm an early riser," or "I'm a reader" - and your significant other won't laugh at you! - then you're ready to move on to step 3. Don't rush it.
Step 3: Habit Stacking
Next you’re going to Habit Stack. Habit stacking is a technique where you build a new habit by linking it to an existing one. This approach makes it easier to incorporate new habits into your daily routine, as you're using the established habit as a trigger for the new behavior.
In my case, I had successfully established the habit of waking up early and making my bed each morning. Once I felt confident that this habit was firmly in place, I decided to stack another habit on top of it - flossing my teeth daily. This was an area I had struggled with my entire life, and I dreaded admitting my shortcomings to my hygienist twice a year. Despite my genuine desire and promises to her that I would floss, I just couldn't stick with it. By employing habit stacking, I was able to overcome this issue once and for all.
To do this, I took advantage of the momentum and structure provided by my existing habit of making the bed.
Every morning, after making the bed, I would go straight to the bathroom and floss my teeth. By associating the new habit with the existing one, I created a natural, seamless transition between the two activities. Over time, the act of making my bed automatically triggered the thought of flossing my teeth, making it much easier to maintain both habits consistently.
In this way, habit stacking allowed me to build upon my success with waking up early and making the bed, leading to the successful integration of flossing my teeth daily into my routine.
I'm aware that everything I've mentioned may come across as remarkably simple, right? To be honest, I can't help but feel a tad embarrassed discussing it. As others are constructing spaceships bound for Mars, founding multi-billion-dollar enterprises, or mastering the ability to walk once more, I find myself sharing thoughts on making my bed and flossing my teeth. I realize it appears ludicrous. Nevertheless, for reasons unknown, this method has been successful for me, and it seems to resonate with others too.
And remember: ‘Simple’ doesn’t mean ‘Easy’. Everything here is very simple. But that doesn’t make it easy.
Employing this straightforward method enabled me to establish lasting habits and genuinely transform my life. It's not an exaggeration to say that these changes might have saved my life.
So let’s talk about the results. Remember that when I started this journey in March of 2022, according to the American College of Cardiology ASCVD Risk Estimator, I faced a 16% chance of dying from a cardiac event within the next decade.
Just 6 months later on September 19, 2022 I had a doctors appointment and was given some of the best news of my entire life. My ASCVD Risk Estimator, the risk of me dying from a cardiac event in 10 years, went from 16% to 2%!
My doctors officially cleared me! I was able to stop taking all of my medications and all of my medical conditions had been resolved.
My Health Conditions resolved:
Essential hypertension (high blood pressure)
Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol)
Hypertriglyceridemia (high triglycerides)
Impaired fasting glucose
below average cardiac fitness (Vo2Max)
While I wasn't able to cover every step that led me to where I am today, I promise to share more in my upcoming article. This article was getting kinda long and I didn’t want to bore you.
In the next installment, I'll delve deeper into my personal journey, provide insight on my blood work results and biomarkers, and continue to try to offer actionable steps for those who wish to embark on their own journey of self-improvement.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. Your support means everything to me. If you found this helpful, would you kindly let me know by replying to this email? I value your feedback and appreciate any thoughts or comments you may have.
The usual disclaimers:
I want to acknowledge that none of the accomplishments I've shared with you are particularly remarkable or profound. I recognize that I am not the first person to use the methods and strategies that have worked for me, and I have likely been influenced by others without realizing it and without properly crediting them. For that oversight, I apologize.
I am sharing my story not because I think it's amazing or unique, but because it is a testament to the power of simplicity and consistency. By adopting small, manageable habits and sticking to them every day, I was able to transform my life in just one year.
It's often said that people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade. While I believe that's true, I also learned that I am capable of more than I ever imagined in just 365 days. And I know you are too. I want to be your biggest cheerleader.
Travis Stoliker | The Year Of The Opposite.
Uplift Weekly - Humans Are Awesome
In this week's Uplight Weekly, we have an incredible news story from Devon, United Kingdom, that I find particularly interesting given my past experience with Liquid Web and its energy consumption. I've always been troubled by the amount of energy our data centers used, especially knowing that most of the power was wasted in cooling off the machines. The story we're featuring today highlights a practical, community-oriented solution that tackles this very issue and has even allowed some swimming pools to reopen.
Data centers house numerous computers and servers that perform complex tasks, such as storing and processing vast amounts of information. These tasks require a significant amount of electrical power, and as the computers work, they generate heat. To prevent overheating and ensure the systems continue to function properly, data centers have to invest in cooling systems that consume even more energy. Unfortunately, this often results in a considerable amount of power being wasted, as much of it is used just to cool off the machines.
In the United Kingdom, energy prices have increased substantially and this has caused some public pools to be forced to close due to financial issues. A washing-machine-sized data center in Devon has found a clever way to make use of its excess heat generation by using it to heat a public swimming pool. The data center, provided by startup Deep Green, is surrounded by oil to capture the heat, which is then used to heat the pool to about 30°C 60% of the time, saving Exmouth Leisure Centre thousands of pounds. This partnership has really helped the leisure center reduce its astronomical energy and gas costs over the last 12 months.
The concept, developed over five years, is relatively straightforward: hot oil is pumped into a heat exchanger to warm the water in the pool. Deep Green, which specializes in providing computing power for artificial intelligence and machine learning, also refunds the leisure center's electricity costs for running the "digital boiler." Seven other swimming pools in England have already signed up for the scheme. As energy prices soar, this innovative solution helps cut costs and prevent pool closures due to financial constraints. In fact, since 2019, 65 swimming pools had closed, with rising energy costs cited as a significant reason, and this solution has allowed some of them to reopen.
In the future, this could inspire other creative ways to repurpose excess heat generated by data centers, reducing their environmental impact and benefiting communities. For instance, similar solutions could be employed to heat schools, hospitals, or even residential buildings, making it a sustainable and community-oriented approach to energy consumption. This story exemplifies the power of innovation and the potential for technology to positively impact society.
This technology could also be used for cryptocurrency mining operations, as they share similarities with data centers in terms of heat generation and energy consumption. Crypto mining involves the use of powerful computers to solve complex mathematical problems, which in turn validate transactions on the blockchain network. This process requires substantial computational power and consequently generates a significant amount of heat.
Applying the same concept as the Devon data center, excess heat from cryptocurrency mining operations could be captured and repurposed for heating purposes, such as warming swimming pools, buildings, or other facilities. This would not only make the crypto mining process more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly but also contribute to local communities by reducing their heating costs and dependence on traditional energy sources.