Dan John: Wandering Weights, Issue # 173

Wandering Weights
Our Epic Journey Through All Things Heavy, Issue # 173

NEW ARTICLEDan John: After AssessmentsThe question for the average client quickly becomes, “Now what?” How do we get the clutter out of their heads? How do we clean up their lives, so they can do what they need to do? [CONTINUE READING]


It was a nice weekend. I stayed home, went to a birthday party, napped and watched the Oscars. I don’t know what the Oscar people did to speed things up, but it was nice to see everything finish on time. I thought after last year’s Best Picture gaffe, we would see some changes and we certainly did.

Just before my 40th high school reunion, one of my friends won an Oscar. As you go through life, you pick up certain trophies and life accolades that you might want to bring out at your 40th reunion.

Of course, if your buddy has an Oscar, well, he wins. I’m not sure if it is ultimate in “One-Upmanship,” but this has to be in the running.

This week, I start on the road again. I’m going to Denmark and I really enjoyed my last trip there. This week on the internet, I must have received 50 notifications about this article on hinging. I thought it was fine, but I was very happy the article went mainstream.


“Bending at the hip takes the pressure off the back muscles,” says Liza Shapiro, who studies primate locomotion at the University of Texas, Austin. “Instead, you engage your hamstring muscles.”

And by “engage the hamstrings,” she also means stretching them.

“Oh yes! In order to hip hinge properly, your hamstrings have to lengthen,” Shapiro says. “If you have tight hamstrings, they prevent you from bending over easily in that way.”

Tight hamstrings are extremely common in the U.S., Kennedy says. They may be one reason why hip hinging has faded from our culture: Stiff hamstrings are literally hamstringing our ability to bend properly.

But hip hinging isn’t totally lost from our culture, Shapiro says. “I just saw a website on gardening that recommended it, and many yoga websites recommend bending at the hips, too.”

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I didn’t think this article was anything fancy or illuminating, but I did think number five was absolutely true.


5. Fitting in” is highly overrated. Be you. Confidence is sexy. Besides, great leaders didn’t get where they are by following the crowd.

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I believe that same “truths” we find in fitness are also true in finances, friendships and food. This article probably is a bit more extreme for some, but the principles are worth not only your time and attention…but your action.


It’s fairly easy to figure out how much you need to save to retire early. The trickier shift is making the lifestyle changes needed to save that kind of money.

It’s a much bigger change than just cutting costs here and there. You need to stack a bunch of the savings choices on top of each other — moving to a cheaper neighborhood, cooking all your meals at home, biking to work, buying clothing only rarely, cutting out expensive coffees, not indulging your kids. And when you’re done, you’ll have a new lifestyle, one that’s unorthodox in a consumerist society.

And as people living unconventional lives have done for decades, early retirees seek out kindred spirits online.

“Some of the closest friends we’ve made are online through the early retirement space because they’re the most like-minded,” says Mrs. Frugalwoods (the couple requested not to use their real names). “That’s a real source of satisfaction and enjoyment for me, and I love being able to reach people and talk to them about the joys frugality can bring you.”

Many extreme savers simply love cutting costs, self-sufficiency, and tinkering with a budget. The Frugalwoods couple fits this bill. They do a lot of services for themselves — a concept they call “radical insourcing.”

“Earlier this year Mrs. Frugalwoods for the first time allowed me to cut her hair,” says Mr. Frugalwoods. “A few YouTube videos and a bottle of wine, and we got it done.” (His wife reports she was pleased with the results.)

Their YouTube-fueled self-sufficiency covers not just haircuts but bike repair and pet grooming. Not only that, but the couple rarely buys clothing, dumpster dives occasionally, and spends $0 on entertainment (“Paying for entertainment is like admitting defeat,” they have written on their blog). They estimate that they spent around $13,700 last year on non-housing-related expenses. By contrast, the average US household spent more than double that: $34,000.

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There is nothing new in this article, 95% of weight/fat loss happens in the kitchen.But, exercise still has great value. I don’t always like this “either/or” mentality when it comes to life but you see it all over the diet and exercise world. Carbs make you fat. Carbs are the answer. Keto or vegan. This particular section does a nice job with balancing some of these conflicting ideas.


10) So what actually works for weight loss?

At the individual level, some very good research on what works for weight loss comes from the National Weight Control Registry, a study that has parsed the traits, habits, and behaviors of adults who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for a minimum of one year. They currently have more than 10,000 members enrolled in the study, and these folks respond to annual questionnaires about how they’ve managed to keep their weight down.

The researchers behind the study found that people who have had success losing weight have a few things in common: They weigh themselves at least once a week. They restrict their calorie intake, stay away from high-fat foods, and watch their portion sizes. They also exercise regularly.

But note: These folks use physical activity in addition to calorie counting and other behavioral changes. Every reliable expert I’ve ever spoken to on weight loss says the most important thing a person can do is limit calories in a way they like and can sustain, and focus on eating healthfully.

In general, diet with exercise can work better than calorie cutting alone, but with only marginal additional weight loss benefits. Consider this chart from a randomized trial that was done on a group of overweight folks: The group that restricted calories lost about the same amount of weight as the group that dieted and exercised, though the exercisers didn’t cut as many calories.

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I really enjoyed finding this blog. I deep dived into it and I was very impressed. “Effective” thinking actually appeals to me at so many levels.


The five habits are:

1. Understand deeply
2. Make mistakes
3. Raise questions
4. Follow the flow of ideas
5. Change

Let’s explore each of these a little.

Understand Deeply

Don’t face complex issues head-on; first understand simple ideas deeply. Clear the clutter and expose what is really important. Be brutally honest about what you know and don’t know. Then see what’s missing, identify the gaps, and fill them in. Let go of bias, prejudice, and preconceived notions. There are degrees to understanding (it’s not just a yes-or-no proposition) and you can always heighten yours. Rock-solid understanding is the foundation for success.

Make Mistakes

Fail to succeed. Intentionally get it wrong to inevitably get it even more right. Mistakes are great teachers — they highlight unforeseen opportunities and holes in your understanding. They also show you which way to turn next, and they ignite your imagination.

Raise Questions

Constantly create questions to clarify and extend your understanding. What’s the real question? Working on the wrong questions can waste a lifetime. Ideas are in the air — the right questions will bring them out and help you see connections that otherwise would have been invisible.

Follow the Flow of Ideas

Look back to see where ideas came from and then look ahead to discover where those ideas may lead. A new idea is a beginning, not an end. Ideas are rare— milk them. Following the consequences of small ideas can result in big payoffs.

These are the four basic building blocks for effective thinking. The fifth is Change.


The unchanging element is change— by mastering the first four elements, you can change the way you think and learn. You can always improve, grow, and extract more out of your education, yourself, and the way you live your life. Change is the universal constant that allows you to get the most out of living and learning.

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This series of letters from a father to a son is timeless. I love the idea of explaining education like a platter of food. “You don’t want to be bashful” when it comes to education, take a big helping.


What we’re really sending you to Harvard for is to get a little of the education that’s so good and plenty there. When it’s passed around you don’t want to be bashful, but reach right out and take a big helping every time, for I want you to get your share. You’ll find that education’s about the only thing lying around loose in this world, and that it’s about the only thing a fellow can have as much of as he’s willing to haul away. Everything else is screwed down tight and the screw-driver lost.

Some men learn the value of money by not having any and starting out to pry a few dollars loose from the odd millions that are lying around; and some learn it by having fifty thousand or so left to them and starting out to spend it as if it were fifty thousand a year. Some men learn the value of truth by having to do business with liars; and some by going to Sunday School. Some men learn the cussedness of whiskey by having a drunken father; and some by having a good mother. Some men get an education from other men and newspapers and public libraries; and some get it from professors and parchments—it doesn’t make any special difference how you get a half-nelson on the right thing, just so you get it and freeze on to it.

The first thing that any education ought to give a man is character, and the second thing is education. That is where I’m a little skittish about this college business. I’m not starting in to preach to you, because I know a young fellow with the right sort of stuff in him preaches to himself harder than any one else can, and that he’s mighty often switched off the right path by having it pointed out to him in the wrong way.

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I was a little surprised by this article. I discussed it with Tiffini and we had a really interesting conversation. To say that both Tiff and I come from humble backgrounds would be accurate, but we were interested to see that, although you can’t buy happiness, you can buy a bit of emotional well-being.


But, assuming they demonstrate real quantities, what, on average, do they tell us? “We found that the ideal income point,” averaged out in U.S. dollars, “is $95,000 for [overall life satisfaction],” says Jebb, “and $60,000 to $75,000 for emotional well-being,” a measure of day-to-day happiness. These are, mind you, individual incomes and “would likely be higher for families,” he says.

Peter Dockrill at Science Alert summarizes some other interesting findings: “Globally, it’s cheaper for men to be satisfied with their lives ($90,000) than women ($100,000), and for people of low ($70,000) or moderate education ($85,000) than people with higher education ($115,000).”

Yes, the study, like those before it, shows that after the “satiation point,” happiness decreases, though perhaps not to Monty Burns levels of dissatisfaction. But where does this leave most of us in the new Gilded Age? Given that “satiation” in the U.S. is around $105K, with day-to-day happiness around $85K, the majority of Americans fall well below the happiness line. The median salary for U.S. workers at the end of 2017 was $44, 564, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Managers and professionals averaged $64,220 and service workers around $28,000. (As you might imagine, income inequality diverged sharply along racial lines.)

And while the middle class saw a slight bump in income in the last couple years, median household income was still only $59,039 in 2016. However, we measure it the “middle class… has been declining for four decades,” admits Business Insider—“identifying with the middle class is, in part, a state of mind” rather than a state of debt-to-income ratios. Meanwhile, as wealth increases at the top, “the country’s bottom 20% of earners became worse off.”

This may all sounds like bad news for the happiness quotient of the majority, if happiness (or Subjective Well Being) requires a certain amount of material security. Maybe one positive takeaway is that it doesn’t require nearly the amount of vast private wealth that has accumulated in the hands of a very few people. According to this research, significantly redistributing that wealth might actually make the wealthy a little happier, and less Monty Burns-like, even as it raised happiness standards a great deal for millions of others.

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So, hinge at your hips, count your calories and understand material security. Life can be pretty simple.

Until next week, keep on lifting and learning.


Don’t miss this one…Dan on what to do after assessments: [CONTINUE READING]


The Sword in the Stone


Chapter Seven


Tilting and horsemanship had two afternoons a week, because they were the most important branches of a gentleman’s education in those days. Merlyn grumbled about athletics, saying that nowadays people seemed to think that you were an educated man if you could knock another man off a horse and that the craze for games was the ruin of scholarship—nobody got scholarships like they used to do when he was a boy, and all the public schools had been forced to lower their standards—but Sir Ector, who was an old tilting blue, said that the battle of Crécy had been won upon the playing fields of Camelot. This made Merlyn so furious that he gave Sir Ector rheumatism two nights running before he relented.

Tilting was a great art and needed practice. When two knights jousted they held their lances in their right hands, but they directed their horses at one another so that each man had his opponent on his near side. The base of the lance, in fact, was held on the opposite side of the body to the side at which the enemy was charging. This seems rather inside out to anybody who is in the habit, say, of opening gates with a hunting-crop, but it had its reasons. For one thing, it meant that the shield was on the left arm, so that the opponents charged shield to shield, fully covered. It also meant that a man could be unhorsed with the side or edge of the lance, in a kind of horizontal swipe, if you did not feel sure of hitting him with your point. This was the humblest or least skillful blow in jousting.

A good jouster, like Lancelot or Tristram, always used the blow of the point, because, although it was liable to miss in unskillful hands, it made contact sooner. If one knight charged with his lance held rigidly sideways, to sweep his opponent out of the saddle, the other knight with his lance held directly forward would knock him down a lance length before the sweep came into effect.

Then there was how to hold the lance for the point stroke. It was no good crouching in the saddle and clutching it in a rigid grip preparatory to the great shock, for if you held it inflexibly like this its point bucked up and down to every movement of your thundering mount and you were practically certain to miss the aim. On the contrary, you had to sit loosely in the saddle with the lance easy and balanced against the horse’s motion. It was not until the actual moment of striking that you clamped your knees into the horse’s sides, threw your weight forward in your seat, clutched the lance with the whole hand instead of with the finger and thumb, and hugged your right elbow to your side to support the butt.

There was the size of the spear. Obviously a man with a spear one hundred yards long would strike down an opponent with a spear of ten or twelve feet before the latter came anywhere near him. But it would have been impossible to make a spear one hundred yards long and, if made, impossible to carry it. The jouster had to find out the greatest length which he could manage with the greatest speed, and he had to stick to that. Sir Lancelot, who came some time after this part of the story, had several sizes of spear and would call for his Great Spear or his Lesser Spear as occasion demanded.

There were the places on which the enemy should be hit. In the armoury of The Castle of the Forest Sauvage there was a big picture of a knight in armour with circles round his vulnerable points. These varied with the style of armour, so that you had to study your opponent before the charge and select a point. The good armourers—the best lived at Warrington, and still live near there—were careful to make all the forward or entering sides of their suits convex, so that the spear point glanced off them. Curiously enough, the shields of Gothic suits were more inclined to be concave. It was better that a spear point should stay on the shield, rather than glance off upward or downward, and perhaps hit a more vulnerable point of the body armour. The best place of all for hitting people was on the very crest of the tilting helm, that is, if the person in question were vain enough to have a large metal crest in whose folds and ornaments the point would find a ready lodging. Many were vain enough to have these armorial crests, with bears and dragons or even ships or castles on them, but Sir Lancelot always contented himself with a bare helmet, or a bunch of feathers which would not hold spears, or, on one occasion, a soft lady’s sleeve.

It would take too long to go into all the interesting details of proper tilting which the boys had to learn, for in those days you had to be a master of your craft from the bottom upward. You had to know what wood was best for spears, and why, and even how to turn them so that they would not splinter or warp. There were a thousand disputed questions about arms and armour, all of which had to be understood.

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T. H. White does such a marvelous job in this opening section of the chapter outlining the basics of jousting and tilting. If you continue reading the series, we will meet Lancelot and his uncle, Uncle Dap, is one of these experts on armor and jousting. Lancelot, of course, is usually considered the ultimate in jousting and fighting in the series; White will add a lot of insights into how he evolved into such a man.

The chapters reflect the opening of the book. We began this story with a review of Kay and Wart’s weekly curriculum. Here is “the afternoons:”

“In the afternoons the programme was: Mondays and Fridays, tilting and horsemanship; Tuesdays, hawking; Wednesdays, fencing; Thursdays, archery; Saturdays, the theory of chivalry, with the proper measures to be blown on all occasions, terminology of the chase and hunting etiquette.”

So, we have had stories involved with hawking and archery. We will return to both fairly soon. This new chapter focuses on tilting and horsemanship with a bit of chivalry tossed in for good luck too.

The deeper I look at this book, the more it becomes apparent to me that this is more than just a book about knights and transfigurations: it is a book about learning. It is a book about education. White’s “most popular” quote, at least if you dive into the internet, is this from an upcoming chapter:

“’The best thing for being sad,’ replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, ‘is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.’”

This is usually what you see quoted online, but Merlyn continues:

“Learning is the thing for you. Look at what a lot of things there are to learn—pure science, the only purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes in biology and medicine and theo-criticism and geography and history and economics—why, you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it is time to learn to plough.”

After this amazing speech, White sends Wart off to meet the badger to round off his education.

White plays with time again in this chapter. His mention of the Battle of Crecy, August 26, 1346, seems to throw our timeline for the events of The Sword in the Stone off a bit again. I don’t worry about the exact dates, of course, as I have noted before in these writings.

The reason this battle is important is that it was won by the use of the longbow and it was the moment that jousting and tilting became nearly useless. Armor couldn’t hold up to the longbow and became a fashion show. The value of armor became limited, but it was always nice to have around to impress your friends.

Until next time…


If you missed it last week, here’s part one of Mike Prevost’s rucking series[CONTINUE READING]

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