Shallow

Frustrated with myself lately.

I’m very shallow and I don’t like it.  I am a man, and realize this is not that unheard of, but I do wonder what it would be like to just not care at all about what my partner looks like.  I suspect I would end up dating much more genuine, good human beings.  I probably would be happily married by now.

There are some things that perhaps predispose myself to focus on looks.  On the myers-briggs scale I’m an ENTP which supposedly means I’m hard to satisfy.  I’ve also lived in some major metropolitan areas that have a reputation for focusing on looks (SoCal).  Lastly, I’ve done online dating which can be something of a meat market just sorting through pictures.  Some part of it has to be tied to a pride thing – that I’ll only settle for a pretty wife that will make other men jealous.

Not just talking about being healthy either.  I think it is valid to discriminate on healthiness, overweight/obesity etc.  That’s generally in someone’s control.  What I’m talking about is purely cosmetic looks.  Big boobs, makeup, heels, a pretty face, etc.

The implications of this have become worrisome to me.  At the moment I’m dating a nice girl who is legitimately beautiful.  However, occasionally this nagging thought of “man, wish she would get a boob job” will pop up and all I keep thinking about is how to bring it up.  It’s ridiculous.  She actually has nice, normal breasts.  I’m not sure what I would need to do to get it off my mind, maybe move to an area where plastic surgery is less common.  Also, less porn probably would help.

How is this going to play out as I age?  Will I be the creepy old man hitting on the 20-somethings?  I hope not.  Will I pressure my wife to get plastic surgery?  I also hope not.

Any thoughts on this?

~Dmitri

Exercise

This is a self-improvement post.  See all here: https://starandlotus.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/self-improvement/

Exercise is the epitome of something that is “important but not urgent.”  Rarely does not working out any one specific time have a large impact on anything, so it is pretty easy to neglect with the demands of life.  However, few things are more critical to your success, well-being, happiness and confidence than getting regular exercise.

I grew up playing sports, but didn’t really get serious about exercising until I went to a military college.  While I’ve had some low points, I have consistently stayed in great shape now for probably the last 8 years or so.  Even while deployed to Afghanistan, working all day, every day, I found getting that workout in just made such a difference for your mood and energy levels the rest of the time.  My net productivity was far higher taking the time to workout.

I might have some drivers keeping my motivation high  that others don’t.  Being a military officer, it’s important to set the example for junior personnel you are leading.  I  have also been in work situations deployed where I was very thankful that I was strong and healthy.  In the future I would want to be the example of healthy living to my children that my parents were to me.

While I don’t really want to make this too specific (there are plenty of workout plans out there for whatever your goals are), I do have some thoughts that might help folks who are new:

Intensity matters a ton.  Way to many people just do lazy cardio and wonder why they don’t get results.  You need to find whatever motivation to push yourself that works for you.  Whether this is exercising in a group like Crossfit, or keeping a workout log and always trying to beat your last workout (this is what I do), it’s just critical that you actually keep the intensity high enough to actually stress your body.

The next piece is to pay attention to your diet, this will let you hold on to your gains.  I’ll have another post on this.

The last thing is just pick a workout that you can commit to long term and stick with it.  If you try to do something too time-consuming, you’ll burn out very quickly.  I only actually work out a few times a week, but they are intense, and pretty much only an emergency will make me skip one.

Have fun getting your sweat on!

-Dmitri

*As an FYI, my specific workout is 3 days a week of lifting, with a focus on large muscle movements (squats, deadlifts, bench, or rows) followed by isolation exercises (curls, tri pushdowns, lat raises).  Overall goal is strength (for each exercise: 4 sets, 6-12 reps per set, last set to failure, I vary weight/reps deliberately to mix it up a bit).  Try to do cardio 2 days a week which I keep pretty short, no more than a couple miles run, but really push myself.  Ideally I try to mix in a day of interval sprints (75-100yrds) with fixed rests of ~minute.

Alcoholism #1

So, I am an alcoholic.  Or at least that’s what my military service has labeled me as and I’ve accepted it’s not worth the risk to second guess.  This one involves some sharing.

I was pretty late to the party scene, grew up as a nerd and went to a military program for college.  Didn’t really start drinking until my early 20s, and suppose I tried to make up for lost time.  It got worse after my first deployment.  Not explicitly PTSD related (I was never in a firefight and don’t want to claim that), just that deploying tends to dull your excitement for the normal things in life.

After several moves, my social life came to revolve around drinking.  Watching football and drinking, going to clubs and drinking, visiting family and getting drunk.  Naturally I didn’t see it as unusual because it was mostly just on the weekends and my friends also did the same thing to some extent (we tend to surround ourselves with those like us afterall).  Mainly the issue is once I start it’s pretty much a crapshoot of when I stop.  It came to a point where I was at a training course and ended up getting drunk at a BBQ, blacking out, and after my buddies got me back into my room, wandering back out and getting picked up by the base police.

I was extremely lucky that I didn’t get charged with public intox (was told the only reason I wasn’t was because I was a happy drunk and not an angry drunk and stayed respectful to the cops, take that as a tip).  As far as discipline goes, received a slap on the wrist and referred to an evaluation.  There I was diagnosed as an alcohol-dependent (alcoholic) and sent to treatment.  I did not react well to the diagnoses, however it was hard to argue with, I had to do a blood test and my liver was at the point where signs were showing (I was 28 and otherwise in excellent physical shape).

As far as treatment goes, it was all outpatient stuff.  The meetings with other service members on-base were actually not too bad, I felt I was helping other people.  The meetings with the practitioner were tolerable.  What I didn’t like was when I got back to my home base I was mandated to go to AA.  That I really did not like.  AA is a quasi-Christian-cultish thing and it directly felt like a violation of church and state.  I can definitely understand how it may be beneficial to some people (particularly if you are Christian or at least from a monotheistic religion), but it just would have been so much better if someone would look at toning some of that down in a updated version of The Big Book.  It claims to be open to all faiths, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it, particularly when you are forced to attend meetings almost fully made up with people who are devoutly Christian.  It’s a mindfuck to have to recite things you don’t believe in, it’s hard for me to really forgive my service for forcing me to do this 3 meetings a week for 6 months.

Anyway I was able to stay sober for 6 months pretty much out of spite and got out the program.  Naturally the story doesn’t end there, to be continued in part 2: https://starandlotus.wordpress.com/2016/08/04/alcoholism-2/

 

 

 

Personal Finances

This is a self-improvement post.  See all here: https://starandlotus.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/self-improvement/

A fascinating topic is money.  Now, it isn’t so much greed or the thought of luxury that makes it interesting.  To me, it’s the security having money brings that lets you take more risks and enjoy life fuller, just knowing that it’s there.  I certainly feel much more secure at work because I know I literally don’t need to work for 5+ years if it came to it, which makes me more comfortable and helps my work performance.  Money doesn’t buy you happiness, but not having money to take care of the ones you love certainly can make you unhappy.

I started pretty late on the saving/personal investing side, and kick myself now.  It’s really only been about the last two years or so that I got serious about saving.  Easily could have had a net worth $100K greater, but suppose some life lessons can only be learned the hard way.  Luckily, as I have strategically avoided (hmph) marriage, have spent long periods of time deployed where I can’t spend money, no longer drink, and am a mid-career professional I do enjoy a solid net worth compared to my peer group.

Anyways, I had a pretty big growing nest egg from owning my own house and condo and selling them both (will discuss properties in another post, highly recommend it, just the military forces you to be an absentee landlord which is less than ideal), so figured it was time to get started.  Like most things, I turned to reading to learn about personal investing.  Moving from some get rich quick let’s beat the market books (good luck if you want to try…) I settled on an approach that seems to be pretty widely supported by successful individual investors.  Big credit to my younger brother who pointed me to this stuff.

The general idea is to practice great saving (play good defense) so that you live well within your means.  Afterall, if you get in the habit of spending all your money, it doesn’t really matter how much you make.  Next, play smart offense by investing in what has, on-average, provided the best returns, which is a portfolio of minimally-correlated index funds/bond funds, optimized for your risk tolerance, and rebalancing at a reasonable rate through the market highs and lows.  In general, you want funds that minimize cost and taxes.  Nowadays this is relatively simple to do.  If this sounds crazy or confusing, let me suggest a few resources that really helped me out.

The first suggested resource is “If You Can, How Millennials Can Get Rich Slowly” by the personal investing author William Bernstein.  You can get it for free here: https://www.etf.com/docs/IfYouCan.pdf  –  This paper does a great job outlining the basics of living thrifty and slowly growing wealth, and points you to many excellent books for further reading.

The next resources is the popular blog “Mr. Money Mustache”  http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/  – This is written by a thirty-something self-made retired millionaire with some great points on living thrifty and investing.

The last suggested resource to use if you are completely scared to handle your money is one of the new “robo-investors” that have started popping up.  I like http://www.betterment.com – It uses an algorithm to basically invest in the way that Bernstein and Mr. Money Mustache encourage.  It also makes doing your taxes a lot easier, and has a lot of other really nifty features such as autodraft that make saving pretty mindless for a fee that is a small fraction compared most other investment help.  Thinking about my money less a great thing for me, because I’m pretty egotistical and I’ll probably try to beat the market otherwise.   Personally I have well over 100k in betterment – it’s my go-to slush fund outside of anything I’m not forced to put into a specific account (like our military TSP account).

There will be another post specifically on the saving piece, I’m still working that self-improvement project.

Good luck on your journey to financial security!

~Dmitri

My new post on saving:

https://starandlotus.wordpress.com/2016/09/07/saving/