First off, I think it’s important to mention that I am not a musician. I like to mess around on a few instruments and I know how to form chords on a couple of things but I have no musical training and I don’t really read music. The other thing I should mention is that I am TERRIBLE with gear. In the past I have had guitar pedals and recording software and never have I ever figured out how they really work. I tinker with things but I typically don’t have the patience to fully learn, and therefore utilize, any piece of gear. This week I wanted to force myself to focus on learning a new piece of gear.
Five Day Discipline: Spend at least 30 minutes each day learning how my new MIDI controller works.
A few weeks ago I bought a MIDI player for $99 retail (I know, retail is for suckers). I got it to make demoing my songs easier (while I don’t consider myself a musician I do like to write songs) and the more I learn about it the easier that process will be.
I’ll be honest (please assume everything else I have ever written is a lie), music software confuses the dickens out of me. Recording is nuanced and all the levels and buttons are never explained well enough for a layperson like me. I mean, the MIDI keyboard I have came with three different software programs plus it requires a fourth program to actually record music. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Anyway, my week of learning was fruitful. I figured out mapping the pads, switching programs, tap tempo and quickly switching between 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 and 1/32 notes. I would have never learned a lot of those things without this week of exploring and researching and watching YouTube videos. I still have a lot to learn but this week was a great kickstart.
If you’re interested in my cheeky product review of the Akai MPK Mini see below:
Bless you if you endured all three minutes of that video.
This Five Day Discipline wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever done but now I’m better prepared to use my MIDI controller so it did it’s job. Now I can get to the fun part which is the making music part. If only the MIDI controller could magically turn me into a musician…
When it comes to beauty products I’ll be the first to tell you that I am clueless. I don’t make this claim in a macho, macho man sort of way. The fact that I just made a Village People reference should tell you all you need to know about my quote masculinity unquote. Really, by most archaic standards I’m not a man at all. I am unskilled with women, I don’t own any guns and the chest hair that I do have is less than impressive. Gaston I am not. That being said, I’ve never cared about my skin. So I thought, why not see how the other half lives*?
Five Day Discipline: Apply/wear/use a face/mud/charcoal mask each night. Forgive the forward slashes I’m not exactly sure of the verbiage used here. In short, smear stuff on my face.
Over the course of the week I tried different masks with different claims. “Cleansing”, “detoxifying”, “refining”, etc. I didn’t notice a difference between any of them but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they did whatever they claimed to do. As with wine, I am untrained in the subtleties and nuances of beauty products.
Either way, they all smelled really good. And the cool mud felt nice on my face. And they also made my skin feel softer. My one complaint would be that my skin felt oily each day after using a mask. I don’t know though, maybe that’s what healthy skin is supposed to feel like?
Ultimately, I enjoyed this week quite a bit. It didn’t take nearly as long as I expected and it gave me an excuse to be silly. Plus whatever health benefits it provided my skin. I can’t say that I care anymore about my skin now but I can see myself doing this from time to time. Not daily though, I don’t like my skin being in a perpetual state of oily.
*My sweeping generalization of women being into beauty products and men not being into beauty products is made for simplicity’s sake. I understand some women don’t care about their skin and also that some men are all about it.
If I’m going to be making a duck face the least I can do is also be wearing a duck shirt.
Have baseball players been wearing a mud mask underneath their eyes this whole time?!?
The cool thing about Five Day Discipline (*gives self high-five for creating Five Day Discipline*…*remembers that even his closest friends don’t read his blog*…*crawls back into self-loathing hole*) is that if you do it right it addresses all areas of your life. Mind, body & soul. That said, I don’t often pick things specifically for my physical fitness. I’m not lazy, I simply care more about the other areas of my life. And exercise is normally time consuming and time is precious or something.
Five Day Discipline: Climb stairs for twenty minutes each day. I did this each day while I was at work either on my lunch break or a “smoke break”. (No, I don’t actually smoke but I do love the smell of smoke so if you partake feel free to smoke around me. I am always down for some second-hand.)
No need for a play-by-play from this week. I walked up and down stairs for twenty minutes each day, I sweat a little bit and I ________ (fill in the blank here because one must always present three things). The co-workers I polled swore that they couldn’t smell me post-stairs so I’d rate my sweat level at “acceptable, though not ideal.” There were a few days where I felt a small amount of soreness but for the most part my legs felt normal this week. I’ve been running daily now for 320 days in a row so my legs are conditioned for movement, that allowed me to avoid most of the would-be soreness.
And while I didn’t particularly enjoy the climbing aspect of this week I did like getting away from my desk. And getting outside. I was able to do most of my stairing (not a word but should be) outside on beautiful days full of bird song and cool breezes and metropolitan pollution. So, yeah, that beats being inside looking at a TPS report.
Will I make walking stairs a daily thing? No. Not because I didn’t enjoy or benefit from it but mainly because I don’t like getting sweaty in the middle of my day. I’d probably rather finish those TPS reports than sweat at work. But the stairs aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be there for me if I ever need them.
P.S. I apologize for not getting a good “Stairway to Heaven” reference into this post. I tried, but it seemed too forced. It stressed me out trying to get in a Led Zeppelin reference, caused a bustle in my hedgerow even.
I’ll be frank, I don’t like giving my money away. Who does?!? I guess, like, really nice people maybe. But I’m not one of those. I have all the excuses to not be generous with my money (I do have four kids after all!) but in the end they are exactly that, excuses. I’ve been blessed beyond measure and in general I’ve been fine keeping that to myself. Not in a malicious way, mind you. It just doesn’t come naturally for me. I keep my head down, my blinders on and I live in my own world with tunnel vision. But what if I was willing to look outside of myself and give just a little bit to someone else?
Five Day Discipline: Donate $10 each day to a different charity.
The truth is that when I conceived this as a Five Day Discipline I anticipated giving away $5 each day but when it came time to make my little picture I only had a ten dollar bill. I had a few ideas on where I would give but nothing set in stone and three of the five days ended up coming from suggestions.
Day 1 – NILMDTS Remembrance Walk: Team Carrying Caroline. Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is a non-profit that provides photography for families who have lost an infant. My only real fear in life is outliving my children so I cannot even begin to imagine the hurt the families are going through. This organization comes in during this painful time and gives the families a beautiful image to cherish and honor their child. I picked this organization because a family member lost an infant within the last year and this is a charity that they support that has
Day 2 – World Vision. I was introduced to World Vision many, many years ago through church and have sponsored a child through them with my wife for the past 10 years or so. They help impoverished communities around the world through education, clean water, protection and economic empowerment. They’re what one might call “good people”.
Help get rid of poverty around the world by giving here: World Vision
Day 3 – Hispanic Federation’s UNIDOS Disaster Relief and Recovery Program. My introduction to this organization is entirely tied to my love of Broadway musicals, more specifically Hamilton. Show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is of Puerto Rican descent and still has family on the island. When Puerto Rico was hit last September by Hurricane Maria he began urging people to donate to UNIDOS. Check out his charity single “Almost Like Praying” here.
Day 4 – Dog Rescue Ranch. These gals (and guys) rescue, rehabilitate and find homes for canines in North Texas. They take in dogs from puppy mills, local shelters and strays and that’s pretty b@rking cool if you ask me. I haven’t owned a dog in years (RIP Hershey) but I think all of God’s creatures deserve a good life. Except opossums (*shudder*).
Day 5 – Preemptive Love Coalition. This charity was suggested to me by a friend online (yay for the internet!). Preemptive Love Coalition provides emergency relief in war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq and they also provide jobs for refugees. I’m pretty unplugged when it comes to politics and world events and things of that nature but even with that being said I know there is a strong need for aid in areas impacted by terrorism and war. And that it is somehow a hot-button issue. It shouldn’t be. This isn’t politics, it’s humanity.
If Preemptive Love Coalition strikes a chord with you and you’d like to donate then click these blue words.
And so this week of Five Day Discipline comes to a close. Five days, five different charities. The funny thing about giving is that you often end up getting something back. I’m not talking prosperity gospel here, but the good feeling that you get when you do a good deed, even something as small as give $10. I feel like I got back more than I gave this week. I didn’t miss the money from my bank account (partially because I’m a bad grownup who doesn’t monitor that kind of thing very closely) and I really enjoyed learning what charities and other organizations people are passionate about.
So, I had the thought to keep going with the donations. I can’t afford to give away ten dollars every day but I could give away five dollars a week ad infinitum. That’s just one less cheeseburger in my belly. And five dollars and Five Day Discipline both start with “five” and I am an absolute sucker for alliteration. In order to keep me accountable, and learn about different charities and the people of the internet, I’m going to post each Friday (on Instagram/Facebook not this blog) and solicit charities or organizations that people like to support. I’ll pick one to give my $5 to each week. I know it’s not much but if the old adage of “every little bit helps” is actually true (it is) then at least I’ll be doing a little bit of good. And if you think about it, doing a little bit of good is a whole lot more than doing no good.
This week’s Five Day Discipline was more about closing a loop than anything else. If you’ve read this post then you know that this whole thing started by accident. If you haven’t read it, basically it says that Five Day Discipline was born out of me going to a restaurant that I had never been to for five days in a row. Well, me almost going to a restaurant that I had never been to for five days in a row. I didn’t quite succeed that first week (you can read all the sordid details in the link) which is why I am back repeating Week 1 for Week 53.
Five Day Discipline: Eat at a restaurant I have never eaten at before each day.
Where I went really isn’t important (but if you’re curious about where I went just look back at the Five Day Discipline Instagram page). The real reason I don’t want to mention the names is because to give an honest review of them I would have to say some less than flattering things and that’s just not me. Positivity or bust! I could never be a critic of any kind. Though I should say that none of the places were awful and one of them I will probably end up eating at regularly.
But the bigger victory here was that I revisited my Week 1 Five Day Discipline and succeeded this time. I don’t consider that Week 1 as a failure because I didn’t know that it was going to become a thing for me, but to me it made sense to close the loop, so to speak, and end the year where I started it.
So, now I am here. An entire year of Five Day Discipline behind me. What comes next? Simple: Six Day Discipline. I’m kidding. The next phase for me will be continuing Five Day Discipline but allowing myself to repeat or do variations on things I’ve chosen previously. Until now, I had never repeated the same Five Day Discipline twice. While I will likely continue to do mostly things I have never done before, I’m looking forward to revisiting some of my favorites over the past year like yoga or learning Spanish. Not eating a crown of broccoli each day though. Forget about it.
It’s no secret that I don’t eat what anyone would consider a “healthy” diet. I drink Dr. Pepper early and often and all the stuff that healthy eaters reserve for their cheat days, well, those are just my regular days. I’m getting better but I’m still a long ways away from eating like a “reasonable adult”. Recently, in my journey through cyberspace, I discovered a man named Jesse Itzler who has eaten only fruit before noon for the past 27 years. I figured if he has found such a practice worth doing for that long then surely I could give fruit five days of my time and see what it’s all about.
Five Day Discipline: Eat only fruit before noon. I debated whether or not I would keep my morning coffee this week since that was drinking and not eating but ultimately decided to drop the coffee for the week since I put milk and creamer in it. I wanted to only consume completely natural things before noon for this week.
To prepare for this week I went to the grocery store on Sunday evening and bought two bunches of bananas, a bag full of oranges (technically mandarins), a pineapple, a bag of red grapes, a container of strawberries and three granny smith apples. Plus, we already had some frozen blueberries in the freezer. I really had no idea how much fruit it was going to take to keep me full for five days.
I won’t bother you with a daily breakdown of what I ate but in general I had two bananas, two oranges and an assortment of the rest of the fruits. I didn’t eat them all at once but as I got hungry I would eat a little more.
Now, I have seen click bait on the internet warning me not to ever eat bananas if I’m worried about belly fat etc. but really all I care about is how my body feels. You don’t have to be a food scientist to know what makes your body feel good and what makes it feel bad. And fruit makes it feel good.
I always felt satisfied never stuffed
I felt awake and ready to tackle my tasks
I felt energized, not sluggish at all
I didn’t miss my normal breakfast foods (eggs, hashbrowns, chicken biscuits, etc.)
Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely ready for eating something other than fruit at noon. Maybe it was because my body needed protein, maybe it was just because I wanted variety. It wasn’t because I was hungry, the fruit kept me plenty full.
Going forward I plan to make fruit a much bigger part of my morning. What I really, really liked about eating only fruit before noon was that it essentially took 1/3rd of my day and forced me to take care of my body. Still, I won’t be committing to only fruit before noon completely because every Saturday my kids and I get donuts and let’s be real I’m not missing donut day. But, maybe weekdays? I’m not sure yet but I know that if I want to keep feeling good in the mornings that fruit is a big part of the equation.
For the purposes of this blog post I decided to take two online tests to determine once and for all whether I was an introvert or an extrovert. Not surprisingly, I am what is called an ambivert, meaning I am both introverted and extroverted. Or neither, depending on how you want to look at it. Essentially, an ambivert displays the traits of both and the way in which an ambivert is currently behaving is completely situational. I can, without much fear, get on stage and perform in front of a group of people I don’t know. But meeting new people? No thanks. I strongly dislike taking my kids to team sports and Cub Scouts where I know I am going to have to interact with people I don’t know. Kid birthday parties? Forget about it. I mean, I go to all these things but they are normally the hardest parts of my day and the source of my highest anxiety.
Five Day Discipline: Introduce myself to someone each day.
My rule for myself was that if a co-worker introduced me to someone that I wasn’t counting that. It wasn’t enough to meet someone new. I had to do the work and get out of my comfort zone and do the actual introducing.
Day 1: Robert. I met Robert in the break room and as soon as I introduced myself he was off to the races. I found out a lot about where he came from and his work background, etc. I really like people like this because conversations with them don’t feel like work. All you have to do is listen. I’ll see him most weekdays so I am glad to have made the connection.
Day 2: Tina. Tina was holding the door open for me on Tuesday (who says chivalry is dead?) and I took that opportunity to thank her and introduce myself. Because of a “welcome the new guy” email she knew that I have four kids and she too has four kids. Having that in common made a conversation with her really easy. She sits in my department so I’ll be seeing her often. In fact, I would up sitting by her during lunch in the break room on Friday.
Day 3: Jessica. This one wasn’t so easy. I walked right up to her desk and said, “Hi, I’m Daniel.” I didn’t have a good lead-in or excuse and I think she was wondering why I was there at all. I chose her because she is very much “with child” and I thought the fact that I have four kids would sort of ease her why-is-this-man-I-don’t-know-trying-to-talk-to-me apprehensions. I was wrong. Or maybe she was just busy. Or maybe she is extremely introverted. Whatever her reasons, her responses to my questions made it pretty clear to me that the sooner I left the better. So I left as quickly as possible. Can’t win them all.
Day 4: Antonio. He is part of the cleaning crew at my building so one day when I walked into the bathroom I saw him cleaning the sinks and introduced myself to him. It turns out that he speaks Spanish and very little English which is great for me. I’ve been learning Spanish and looking for people to practice with and Antonio said I could practice with him. Since meeting each other we’ve already had two short conversations in Spanish. I’m really excited about this connection.
Day 5: Zanetta. Many people at my company are allowed to work remotely a few days a week and most of them choose to do so on Fridays. So my office was a ghost town. I was looking around for people I didn’t already know but I wasn’t having any luck. Finally, around 3:30pm with the day winding down I decided to just start wandering the building. Eventually I happened upon a lady who had a candy jar sitting out. One thing I know about the corporate world is that people who set out candy are usually super nice. I asked her if she minded if I had some candy (“of course you can”) and then introduced myself. I doubt I will see much of her because her desk is quite far away from mine and we are in different departments but hey, I completed my Five Day Discipline and I got some candy (KitKat, if you’re the curious type) out of it.
So, what is the point? What did I learn? Why have you spent your precious time reading this blog post? When I started this week I was both scared and excited. Scared because I don’t like introducing myself and excited because I knew that I would meet some nice people. And while not every introduction was comfortable I now know five new people at my office, one who will be a great Spanish resource for me. It wasn’t always easy to introduce myself but in the end it was well worth it. You never know what sort of connection you might make with a simple, “hello, my name is…” Maybe now I won’t be so afraid to take my kids to their friend’s birthday parties. Maybe.
Five Day Discipline: Spend thirty minutes each day working on a puzzle. I didn’t have to finish a puzzle each day I just had to spend time on one.
The idea behind this week was that puzzles are fun and relaxing and I was starting a new job this week so I wanted to be able to relax at the end of each day and not be thinking about the new job.
Day 1 and 2 went according to plan. I chose a Mickey Mouse puzzle and an animal puzzle from my childhood and put the pieces together. They were fairly easy so I managed to complete them each on the days that I worked them. No funny business.
The first word Mickey Mouse ever said on-screen was “hot dog” (also spelled hotdog). The more you know…
Seagull sound effect. Missing puzzle pieces is annoying. More Seagull sound effects.
Then my week took a turn. Do you recall from two paragraphs ago when I said this week was supposed to allow me to relax? Well, on Day 3 I chose poorly. I picked a puzzle called “Hand With Reflecting Globe” that was a picture of M.C. Escher’s “Hand With Reflecting Sphere”. Why the puzzle used “globe” instead of “sphere” I can’t say but the internet tells me it should be “sphere” and the internet is all-knowing. Anyway, I cracked into this thing not knowing that it would be the hardest puzzle I had ever done. It wasn’t the piece count (551) but the fact that not every piece had hard edges and that there was no color and only stippled value (a term I (re)learned this week).
Around the same time I chose this puzzle I started getting headaches and being unusually tired. Now, I’m no doctor but my theory is that my new job of staring at a computer screen all day was messing with me. That, plus coming home and then staring at these cursed dots. So, medium story short this week was actually pretty exhausting to me and didn’t end up being relaxing at all.
BUT-it actually had a pretty cool unintended consequence. That Escher puzzle taught me to rethink my approach to difficult puzzles. Because there was no color I eventually realized that what I had to look for was shape instead. By the last day of working on it I had organized all of the pieces into groups by shape. I’m sure this isn’t a new technique to you, dear reader, but for me it was the first time I had done this. Likely it’s an ancient approach that was created by cavemen and cavewomen and has some clever name and I am a great fool for not knowing it already. Lob your virtual stones upon me. Such is life. Now I know. Next time I won’t be so stifled by the stipple.
Hello Darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again. Well, when I say “again” I mean “for the first time in longer than I can remember.” I never purposefully spend time in silence. I like noise (which is a good thing because I have four kids). When I get into my car the first thing I do is decide what I am going to listen to. The answer is never nothing (OR “always something” for those of you who don’t like double negatives). Why would I sit in silence and have to listen to my own thoughts? That sounds dangerous.
Five Day Discipline: Drive in silence. No radio. No CD player. No tape player. No auxiliary jack. No piping anything through my phone. No podcasts. No music. Nothing but the sound of silence.
Now, I didn’t outlaw the sound of my own voice which turned out to be a good thing. On the first day I ended up singing out loud or talking to myself for most of my hour-long drive. I am so used to noise that when there was none my instinct kicked in and I made my own. Eventually though, somewhere near the end of Day 2, I was able to drive and keep my mouth shut.
What I Missed: Talk radio about the Super Bowl and the NBA trade deadline, a few podcasts that I have taken a liking to (thanks, Week 38 Five Day Discipline) and music. All things that could easily be caught up on.
What I Gained: Loooots of quiet time. My drive time ended up being about 12 hours this week so when I wasn’t cursing drivers in traffic my mind had plenty of time to wander. During those first two days of talking out loud I wound up brainstorming several ideas for podcasts. I can’t tell you what they are because the ideas are proprietary (read: probably lousy and I don’t want to embarrass myself). Now, I don’t know that a podcast is necessarily in my future but regardless without this week of silence those ideas never would have occurred. There were other ideas and thoughts not related to podcasts as well. Nothing life changing or earth shattering, but my mind was free to bounce wherever it wanted, instead of focusing on what someone else was saying or singing, and so it did.
It was frustrating at times to be stuck in traffic and unable to pass the time with music but this week was actually much easier than I expected. I really thought it was going to be torture but it ranged from merely mildly annoying to refreshing and useful. Will I be keeping a “silence in the car” policy forever? No, but I do think I am going to experiment with mixing silence into my routine just to see what happens.
P.S. A friend of mine saw my mention of podcast ideas this week so he reached out to me saying that he’s been wanting to get into the podcast world and now we’re set for a lunch to discuss ideas and a potential collaboration. THIS IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT WHEN I SAY YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN YOU SWITCH THINGS UP. Sorry for yelling. I hate to yell. Really I’m quite mild-mannered. But my point is that without this week of Five Day Discipline this friend and I would not be getting together for lunch. Maybe we’ll podcast together, maybe we won’t. But we’ll definitely have a fun lunch that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred.
P.P.S. The previous postscript could easily have been integrated into the blog post I just like postscripts so I figured I’d make it one. Cheerio.
Five Day Discipline: Play Solitaire every night. I hadn’t played in years so I actually had to look up the rules of how to play. I chose the “draw three” version because it is supposed to be more difficult. I didn’t want easy wins I wanted something worth savoring. Well, as much as a game played alone (where the outcome is almost completely determined by random chance) could be savored.
Now, when I originally came up with this as my Five Day Discipline I didn’t give it a time requirement so, in order to not cheat myself, I ended up playing each evening until I won at least one game. That kept me from haphazardly dealing, playing one quick and losing hand and then going to bed. It also meant I was up late on a Friday night playing for an hour and a half because the cards weren’t going my way. Curse you, Random Chance!
I played using different decks of cards that I got from my grandparents after they passed away. This made it more than just a game of Solitaire. I was holding cards that they had held and used for years. The cards even smell like their old house still. I’m a pretty sentimental person so this was special for me. I’ll say nothing else about it because even virtual tears are hard to watch.
The game itself was pleasant enough. I expected to be bored because, come on, this is 2018. We have virtual reality and hoverboards and we’ve been to the moon (allegedly)! But sometimes going back in time isn’t going backwards. Solitaire was a nice, slow way to wind down my day that didn’t require too much brain power but still kept my interest.
As I am going through different Five Day Disciplines I am noticing a trend: if I end my night looking at a screen then I don’t sleep as well. Curse you, Screen Time! The weeks where I have finished off my day with journaling or playing piano or crossword puzzles I have woken up more refreshed and ready for the day. I am more joyful and feel more accomplished. This week I am glad to add Solitaire to that list of things to do late in the evening that allow me to be at my best.