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April 20, 2024 - We put a pen to paper on this day. It's been two years since I last wrote on this blog. That is something. Why not? I am primarily lazy, with a mix of fear and the list of excuses I manage to make that I carry around daily—resistance, as Steven Pressfield likes to call it. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Story of my blog.

But. I'm here today. Writing once again. Trying out a new workflow to see if I can recapture the essence of why I did this in the first place. Those two years of not writing were effectively two years of listening to myself, making excuses and then trying to decide what I would do. Can you believe that? Two years of doing nothing! It should frustrate you to read that, yet we all seem to have those pockets in our lives. The things we tell ourselves we want to do but then find all the reasons why we don't.

So bear with me. My goal is simple (at least, this is what I've convinced myself to hit the keyboard finally).

I'm here to learn. I'm here to explore and figure out who I am, and along the way, perhaps I can impart a little wisdom from what I've learned. Namely in the form of the books I've read and ideas I've built up over the past forty years. 

As I noted above, I'm attempting to work with a new workflow that brings me closer to what I read and, hopefully, to what I write. How does that work? I finished this book this morning, so it's fresh in my mind. In the past, it could be up to two months before I revisit a book and then hope to decipher my notes into something reasonable. It makes the timing a challenge. I'm also taking notes differently. I've highlighted and annotated the book as I read, and now I'm downloading all that info into my notability app. From there, it's coming into this blog post. So it's all happening simultaneously to hopefully be more efficient at truly remembering the ideas that stuck with me. 

Moving on.

For those unfamiliar with Dean Karnazes, he is considered The Ultramarathon Man and for good reason. He helped to define and bring the sport to the mainstream with his first book, The Ultramarathon Man and has gone on to compete in most of the biggest endurance races while also being one of the sport's most prominent ambassadors. You could say that the sport has hit the mainstream now. 

This book looks back at Dean's life while capturing his work leading up to competing in the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in his mid-fifties, having completed it numerous times before but now facing his age and what that means for him and the sport. Part treatise on running, part autobiography, this book captures the pain and humour of the sport and Dean's life while also grappling with what it means to run, why we do it, and what happens when we get older and perhaps can't compete at the same level. I've been on a slow trajectory towards running myself, so sprinkling in books on running has helped to fuel that new (I almost called it passion, but I'm not willing to go there yet).

"To me, running is a grand adventure, an intrepid outward exploration of the landscape and a revealing inward journey of the self. These are the things that keep me going, the lust for exploration and the quest to better comprehend who I am and what I'm made of."

I admire this a lot. I tend to think about reading the same way, minus its physical nature; reading takes me on similar paths. Exploring various topics and ultimately trying to understand the world and myself better. This blog is an outlet for that experiment. Dean finds those types of answers out on the trails and roads when there is no one else there but yourself. What do you tell yourself when you are 80 miles into a 100-mile run and don't think you have anything left to give?

Dean often reflects on the inner dialogue during a race and the ups and downs that occur throughout. Runners can go through some of the most extreme emotions during the race, but one thing I was not expecting was the feeling that can come after:

"I was particularly susceptible to post race bouts of self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. Nothing I did was enough. Ever. A disparaging inner voice interminably whispered in my ear that I was a pathetic failure, a fraud. My performances were lamentable."

It's not what you expect from someone who can run for 100 miles at a time. An invincibility seems to make these individuals seem superhuman, and yet, there it is, just like when we deal with imposter syndrome or feel like we aren't good enough to do what we want. It doesn't matter who you are in a lot of cases. Two years is a long time not to write a post. There is a strong sense of Imposter Syndrome, mixed with 'why bother' and 'who cares' all layered on top. It's easy to run away from those feelings and stay away. Dean reflected on this idea regarding running as a form of escape.

"Running is a form of escapism; few runners would. Deny that. The metaphor of running away from one's problems is hardly allegory, and it was certainly the case for me. Though why is that such a bad thing? Having a release valve allows the buildup of toxic fumes to be vented periodically. … Running could be at once irresponsible and responsible in this regard, a way to escape the madness of modernity and reemerge refreshed and washed clean."

I suppose the benefit of running is that the escapism into it still leads to some benefits, namely health and the release valve mentally, as Dean notes. However, not writing tends to lead us into other distractions unless we are doing something productive like working out. Social media and our technology are big ones. 'Well, I'm not going to write on this thing so I may as well use it for other things.' Pulling ourselves away, though, and focusing on what is important is so important in today's day and age. There are infinite distractions. There is only a finite amount of time to do the things that bring us alive.

Dean, although called to running, realized as time went on that it wasn't the Running that he loved as much as the pursuit itself—all the other things that come with running and the training to reach new heights and accomplishments.

"Running had taught me that the pursuit of a passion mattered more than the passion itself. If you loved basket weaving, be the best darn basket weaver you could. Pour your heart and soul into your craft and it will bring you immense fulfillment. Running was my thing."

I think about reading and working out in the same regard. Pursuing something is where we spend most of our time anyway. What is running in a race without the hundreds of hours we put in and the struggle to get there? It can be challenging to recognize that, though. It can be difficult to realize that we often enjoy the pain and suffering, but when we quit, we ignore those aspects. Writing is complex, yet I'm sitting here with a book open and a beer beside me (Cabin Brewing's latest in their Super Saturation Hazy IPA series, Giga Saturation; it's fantastic, by the way). What isn't there to love? Why wouldn't I want to spend more time doing this? 

"Our actions in life ultimately shape who we are, though perhaps our inactions exert more of an everlasting influence. Many people are not happy with what they do, yet possibly worse, many people simply tolerate what they do and never take the initiative to do anything about it. Either out of fear, complacency, or sheer exhaustion, they go through the motions day after day of living a life that is less than what they'd hoped. Inaction becomes permanent, and suddenly it's too late. Perhaps the only tragedy approaching that of a young life cut short is a long life unlived."

Damn. There it is. Tolerating inactivity seemed to have been my jam for the last couple of years. Dean sees it. He sees it in himself, yet if he laces up those shoes, he will push that all aside and get out there and do what he loves. He has built the habit and recognizes the internal challenges, yet chooses to run anyway. What are you metaphorically running away from right now? For me, it was writing. It's more things, but I'm here trying to get that first step underneath me again. 

As the book winds down, Dean leaves us with some final wisdom that he has taken from ultramarathon running.

"I think we run 100 miles through the wilderness because we are changed by the experience. What takes a monk a month of meditation we can achieve in twenty-four hours of running. With each footstep comes a slow diminishment of self, the prickly edges of ego whittled down until something approaching the divine emerges. Even during a race with no shortage of human folly, great moments of clarity are achieved. Running an ultramarathon builds character, but it also exposes it. We learn about ourselves, we gain deeper insights into the nature of our character, and we are transformed by these things. To know thyself, one must push thyself."

The slow diminishment of self and the whittling down of ego. Meditation can get us there, but Dean is correct; it takes much longer, even years. Perhaps the destructive nature of running 100 miles brings us closer to the edge we need to see ourselves at. We all believe we are standing at the edge because we are busy, but as David Goggins says, we are probably only at 40%. 

I'll leave you with the final piece from Dean's book I captured. It's his look at running overall and the lessons he has learned over the years distilled down into a few sentences. Replace running with anything. Replace running with writing. 

"Running is not about racing or winning, it is about the human challenge and the exploration of self. Running is a conversation, an education, a revolution, an awakening. We discover who we are through the movement of our bodies, and there are lessons to be learned in running alone much as there are in running large races. But in the end, the experience is about you and the trail. We are not the sum of our achievements, but an ongoing story that continues to be told with each day, with each step."

What is your story today? My story is that I decided to flip open my iPad and write a few words. To chase after this voice inside me that says why don't you keep writing on your blog? Why don't you try writing a few words? I don't know where it comes from, but it keeps asking, so here I am. It's not 100 miles, but perhaps there is a parallel in the discomfort felt. And like running, we can show up each day and train/write. We are an ongoing story, so if you are reading this, you, too, have a choice to pick up whatever you are sitting on. The trail isn't going to run itself.

“The Buddha has a very different understanding of our existence. It is the understanding that birth and death are notions. They are not real. The fact that we think they are true makes a powerful illusion that causes our suffering. The Buddha taught that there is no birth; there is no death; there is no coming; there is no going; there is no same; there is no different; there is no permanent self; there is no annihilation. We only think there is. When we understand that we cannot be destroyed, we are liberated from fear. It is a great relief. We can enjoy life and appreciate it in a new way.”

Saddened to hear about Thich Nhat Hanh’s passing on January 22nd as his books and teachings have had a big impact on my life! I’ve built up quite the stack and have enjoyed all of them; he was a prolific teacher and writer and brought many of the Buddhist teachings into the West making them accessible for everyone.

Have you had a chance to read anything by him? I'd be curious to hear from you what your favourite book was of his.

From this stack, I’d probably start with Peace is Every Step or The Miracle of Mindfulness. He has a lot of books on specific topics too which are great.

Peace is Every Step looks at many of the situations we face in our lives and shows us how we can take those events and turn them into positives by how we react. Being aware of how our mind reacts and accepting the thoughts for what they are; just thoughts. It's a lifelong process but this book is a great first step.

The Miracle of Mindfulness is Thich Nhat Hanh's introduction to meditation and how powerful mindfulness can be in our lives. Practical advice and exercises as well as lessons that he has learnt over his life fill this book. It's a great practical compendium to Peace is Every Step and all of the other books that he has written.


If you are interested in additional books on spirituality, Buddhism, or mindfulness, I'd encourage you to check out this earlier post from 2020 on a few books you may want to check out. You can also check out this post to see some additional suggestions on mindfulness books that I've recommended in the post.

Our species' pace of change now outstrips our ability to adapt. We are generating new problems at a new and accelerate rate, and it is making us sick - physically, psychologically, socially, and environmentally." Heather Heying & Bret Weinstein

Note that the publisher's Portfolio Books sent me a free copy of this book to review for a fair and honest review. Here goes.

I wanted to like this book. I appreciate the ideas, especially around the speed at which technology is moving and my general agreeance that the pace of change is creating more problems than we seem to know how to manage. Hartmut Rosa coined the term social acceleration in his book of the same name, referring to the idea that society as a whole seems to be speeding up. Perhaps that low-level angst that seems to grip us all is a function that none of us know how to adapt to anymore other than by trying to hold on.

Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein, known for their DarkHorse Podcast, have been riding the wave of their initial popularity stemming from Bret's earlier speaking out against the intellectual woke mob coming after Universities and himself at Evergreen State College in 2017. His appearances on The Joe Rogan podcasts elevated him to someone of interest only to see the whole topic fizzle as big names like Sam Harris slowly backed away. I've personally listened to a few of their episodes early on and found some of the conversation interesting. For a counter-argument, I'd recommend

the podcast Decoding the Gurus who delve into this world of public intellectuals.

This book attempts to simplify some of these topics into manageable chunks while asking us to put on our evolutionary thinking caps and reflect on what people from our past may have done. I have to say there are some interesting ideas in here and some straight-up borderline crazy ideas (see not going to a doctor to get your broken bones set). In the area of health, I had to give my head a shake as the advice seemed dangerous. I appreciate the need to step back from antibiotics and consider the individuality of our bodies but please see a doctor.

The sections on raising children and our school system were necessary, and everyone should read the section on becoming an adult. The short Corrective Lens sections at the end of this chapter are worth reminding ourselves regularly, although they felt a bit superficial like much of the book. Ultimately, that was part of my complaint with the book. It didn't feel like a book that was well researched and thought out but perhaps more out of a need to capitalize on waning popularity. At some points, recommendations based on singular anecdotal experiences didn't leave me with a lot of comfort accepting what I had just read.

Rating: 3/5 for me. Recommended to anyone who happens to be a DarkHorse podcast fan and those generally looking for different views on our evolutionary behaviour and where we are today.

As for my final thoughts, are we placing too much emphasis on our inability to evolve as a species? Although I tend to agree that technology is outpacing our own evolution, I do begin to wonder if we put too much stock in the idea that our brains are running on this outmoded software when we have in fact designed and built everything around us. Something worth pondering as a lot of books today seem to base their narrative around this singular idea.

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