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Newsletter #32: The Two Types of Workouts

When I reflect on what is consistently working in my life, I often turn to my exercise habit. I work out six days a week, alternating between cardio days (a combination of HIIT and running) and resistance days (barbells, dumbbells, bodyweight). Objectively speaking, it’s one of the longest running and best maintained habits in my adult life. This doesn’t mean I’m particularly fast or strong, just consistent.

My workouts fall into two categories:

  1. Workouts where I feel like I “killed it.”
  2. Workouts where I’m happy just to have made it through the workout.

Workouts in the first category feel great. For instance, it might mean that I maintained a good pace during a run or that I hit a new PR (personal record) for a specific lift. Of course, it’s easy to feel positive and upbeat when I meet or exceed my expectations. Unfortunately, workouts of this type are not the norm. In fact, they’re the exception.

Workouts in the second category don’t feel great. Instead of feeling like I’m “killing it,” I feel like I’m the one being killed. These are the days when I’m not firing on all cylinders. If I’m running, my legs feel like lead weights and each mile drags on interminably. If I’m lifting weights, I’m feeling every creaky joint and achy muscle as I drop to the bottom of a barbell squat and each rep elicits an audible groan. These sessions don’t feel good; they’re a grind. Even worse is the fact that these workouts are frequently more common than those in the first category.

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus offers sound advice on the importance of mindset:

Don't seek to have events happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen, and all will be well with you.

It’s taken me 25+ years to develop a consistent and satisfying exercise habit. Mindset has played a critical role in maintaining that consistency and satisfaction. I’ve learned to embrace the second type of workout as readily as the first. After all, things don’t always go as we wish. I’ve taught myself to find satisfaction in the process of grinding through a workout: to appreciate the act of showing up, to celebrate my continued commitment to this habit, and to hope that progress is being made even if it isn’t readily apparent in the moment. I also recognize the blunt reality that getting through bad workouts gives me a chance to experience the good ones.

It’s taken decades to embrace this mindset in this one small facet of my life. Unfortunately, I haven’t been as successful in adapting this approach to other habits. Writing is one of them, but it’s still a work in progress. And you can bet that—as of late—there’s been way more category two days for that activity.

Now onto this week’s recommendations…


  • Digital Afterlife: Michael Standen asks us to consider how to deal with our digital assets after death and shares his written directives to his next of kin. This is a great idea for something that I haven’t really thought about.
  • Digital Kinship: How the Internet Is Reacting to the Loneliness Epidemic: Rex Woodbury examines how the internet fosters community and kinship through online relationships with creators, the shift from status to belonging, and the increasingly social nature of the economy.
  • Embrace the Grind: A magic card trick provides a key lesson with real-world implications: sometimes the most tedious process can appear magical to the outside observer.
  • How Important Is Passion? It Depends on Your Culture: A recent study looks at differences in cultures with “individualistic” orientations versus those with “collectivist” leanings. The important takeaway: “motivation assumes different forms in different sociocultural contexts.”
  • How to Eat an Elephant, One Atomic Concept at a Time: A business analysis on how Figma and Canva are capturing market segments from incumbent Adobe (Photoshop and Illustrator). The upstarts optimize for specific emergent market use-cases (this is Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation through a difference lens).
  • How to (Finally) Find a Productivity System that Works for You: Good, simple advice: “You don't need the best method, you just need a method that works for you. And there is no way of knowing what works for you until you try it and see what happens.”
  • How to Start a New Country: Balaji Srinivasan explores an intriguing possibility: the creation of a new country in the digital space.
  • It’s Not Cancel Culture, It’s a Platform Failure: Explores the toxic phenomenon of “Twitter’s Main Character” and “context collapse” which occurs when “a surfeit of different audiences occupy the same space, and a piece of information intended for one audience finds its way to another — usually an uncharitable one — which then reads said information in the worst possible faith.”
  • Meaning in the Margins: On the Literary Value of Annotation: Excerpted from a new MIT Press book: “Annotation can limn texts when these ‘silent embers’ illuminate knowledge that is useful, relevant, and timely.”


Odds & Ends:

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