Are we too comfortable? Do we complain too much?
Modern life is filled with modern conveniences that are engineered to make life easier and more enjoyable. But what if these contemporary comforts masquerading as a panacea of pleasure are really a double-edged sword? What have we lost in the process of gaining comfort?
Is there value in choosing to be uncomfortable and adding discomfort to our lives? What are the benefits?
These are questions Michael Easter addresses in his book The Comfort Crisis, and in this interview. As he’ll explain in the podcast, he’s traveled all around the world and interviewed an interesting cast to learn why you should inject challenge into your life and not get too comfortable.
In case you’re not familiar with Michael Easter, he’s not only an author, but a contributing editor at Men’s Health magazine, columnist for Outside magazine, and professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His work can be found in Men’s Journal, New York, Vice, Scientific American, and Esquire.
So if you’re interested in hearing why Michael Easter chose to spend a month in the Arctic, what he gained from the experience, and how you can include more discomfort in your own life, you don’t want to miss this podcast!
0:00 – Pre-order my new fitness book now for a chance to win over $12,000 in splendid swag: https://www.muscleforlifebook.com/
6:20 – What is the “comfort crisis”?
7:31 – How does too much comfort harm us individually and collectively?
10:06 – Should we make things harder for ourselves?
11:15 – How do you introduce “productive discomfort” into your life?
15:22 – Boredom increases creativity.
18:27 – The effects of solitude.
19:57 – Did you learn something about yourself by being alone in the arctic?
22:46 – How much comfort is appropriate?
28:15 – Is it wrong to “savor” life?
33:57 – How long have the benefits stuck with you?
35:47 – What is misogi?
47:16 – Where can people find your work?
Mentioned on the Show:
Pre-order my new fitness book now for a chance to win over $12,000 in splendid swag: www.muscleforlifebook.com/
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Mike: One of the promises of my new book, Muscle For Life, which is available for pre-order right now at muscleforlifebook.com is that it can produce an outstanding level of fitness in all sundry in just a few hours per week. And that’s why it has three workout routines for both men. And women. So that’s six in total that readers can choose from.
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And again, it is available for preorder right now at Muscle for Life book.com. F o r lifebook.com. And if you go preorder a copy now, you will be entered to win over $12,000 of awesome fitness swag that I’m giving away, and you can find all of the details of the giveaway [email protected] Hello.
Hello, This is Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today. If you haven’t already, please do take a moment and subscribe to the show in whatever app you are listening to me in so you don’t miss any new episodes. And it helps me by boosting the ranking of the show in the various charts.
Now this episode About comfortable versus uncomfortable? Are we moderns too comfortable? Do we complain too much? Do we avoid discomfort too strenuous? I think most of us would agree that modern life is filled with many modern conveniences, and it is engineered in so many ways to make life as easy as possible to require as.
Effort as possible to be as enjoyable as possible. And that sounds nice, but what if these contemporary comforts masquerading as a panacea of pleasure are actually causing problems? What if this is a double edged sword? What if we are losing something very important in our nature? Through this process of becoming more and more comfortable, is there value in issu?
Comfort. Is there value in choosing discomfort, at least a certain amount of discomfort? And that is the topic of today’s podcast. This is an interview with Michael Easter who wrote a book called The Comfort Crisis, All about these kinds of questions. And in this interview, he’s going to explain how he embraced discomfort in a rather extreme way, and some of the insights that he.
From that process and his thoughts as to why we should work to inject more challenge into our lives and not allow ourselves to get too comfortable. And in case you’re not familiar with Michael, he is not only an author, but he is also a contributing editor to Men’s health. He is a calmness for Outside magazine.
He is a professor at the University of. Las Vegas and you can find his work in many big publications, Men’s Journal, Vice Scientific, American, Esquire, and more. Hey, Mike, it’s nice to meet you and thanks for some of your time this afternoon.
Michael: Yeah, likewise. I’m glad to be on this should be fun. Yeah,
Mike: I think, Who made this intro?
Was it David? Oh, I don’t know, man. I don’t know. Somebody did well. Thank you to whoever made this. Intro as I’ve been looking forward to this discussion cuz it’s something different than the stuff I normally talk about, but something I think very relevant and I’m curious to, to hear some of your thoughts about what’s going on.
So you have this book. I think it’s, that’s the easiest place to start, which is really the theme I guess of the discussion is gonna be the book. And it’s the comfort crisis. And what do you mean by that?
Michael: So the basic premise of the book is that as the world has become more comfortable over time in a lot of ways, just think of everything that influences your daily life, right?
We live in climate control. Food is easy to access. We’ve engineered movement out of our days. We don’t really have that many challenges, I would say outside anymore, out in nature like we did in the past. Like all these different ways that the world’s become more comfortable, that’s all great that’s happened, but.
Also taken away a lot of the things that make us healthy, right? So if you want to get dorky about it , the, an anthropologist would call this an evolution, evolutionary mismatch where environments we, we evolved in these environments of discomfort, and so we developed this drive to always want to do the next most comfortable thing, don’t move if you don’t have to. If you have access to food, overeat it, , right? Stay in shelter, all these type of things. But now that our world has become comfortable in all these different ways that kind of backfires and is associated with a lot of the problems that we have.
Mike: And is that now what are some of the, let’s say, knock on effects that.
You have observed and obviously talk about in the book how is this harming us individually?
Michael: Collectively? Yeah, so I, I identify a handful of discomforts that we used to face all the time in the past that we’ve engineered out of our lives and All of them have their own effects.
But just to take a few. So hunger, right? In the past there was not a lot of food. People were hungry all the time and we had to work for that food, right? But nowadays, when you look at the research, like 80% of eating is driven by reasons than other than physiological hunger. Like people eat because it’s a certain time.
People eat because they’re stressed. Because they’re bored, et cetera. And so this is tied to our astronomical rates of obesity and the diseases that it can lead to. People take an average of like 4,000 steps a day. Because through all of time it didn’t make sense to move any more than you needed to.
But life used to throw effort at us, like to live was to put in effort into life. But now we don’t have to do that anymore. So again, that ties back to our crazy rates of heart disease certain cancers, diabetes, et cetera. But even mental health problems I argue are often a consequence of how we’re living nowadays our lifestyle.
So for example, We’ve engineered physical challenges out of our lives. For example, people don’t take on rights of passage anymore, right? And that’s associated with a lot of mental health problems like anxiety and depression. And we know this from when in the nineties a lot of helicopter parenting started.
So parents stopped, started taking challenge out of their kids’ life. Those generations born after that. Off the charts rates of mental health problems but even things like, we don’t go outside into nature anymore cause nature’s uncomfortable. It’s unpredictable. We spend 95% of our time indoors and we also know that nature, although it’s.
Uncomfortable. It is good for us good for our good, for our brains in a lot of ways. Improves our productivity. Our focus decreases, stress decreases. Depression, improves hap nature is like organic Xanax, more or less, and we rarely go out into it anymore. And on. I identify a lot of different ones, but those are some sort of top level ones.
Mike: So then, The message is if we made things a little bit harder for ourselves, we’d be a little bit happier.
Michael: Yeah. I think that the, look, here’s the deal, it’s like we’re wired to not wanna be uncomfortable, right? Cause if you were uncomfortable in the past, that was indicating you might actually be in some trouble here.
But nowadays it’s not. But the stuff today that positively improves your life. Invariably always comes with a dose of discomfort If you wanna improve your fitness. You’re gonna have to train, you’re gonna have to train harder. Exercise sucks, right? , Like it’s hard. If you wanna lose weight, you’re gonna be hungry.
If you wanna even improve your mental health, you’re probably gonna have to unpeel some onions and go to some places you don’t wanna do, and ask yourself some hard questions about. Why do I feel this way? And make some changes that are inevitably gonna be uncomfortable. But once you get over, once you get through the discomfort, the sort of adaptation period, you come out on the other side of that, improved and healthier physically, psychologically, spiritually, emotionally, all that kind of stuff.
Mike: What are some of your preferred ways to introduce, let’s say, productive discomfort? Exercise is obvious and a lot of people listening they’re probably doing that and they understand firsthand that yep it never gets easier. You just get better. It’s true though. It certainly in the case of fitness and a lot of people listening, I’m sure they’ve dieted and no matter how.
Optimized your diet is you’re gonna be hungry from time to time. You shouldn’t be starving. That shouldn’t be the Overwhelming experience of dieting. It shouldn’t just be, Yeah, I was basically just hungry all the time. But yeah, you’re gonna be hungry and you have to be comfortable, and you have to understand that doesn’t mean that you need to rush and go eat.
And sometimes you do, as you mentioned, it’s more of a psychological or it’s an emotional thing. And so if you were to ask yourself, let’s say you go, Ooh, I really could eat this really highly palatable food right now I’m hungry or I really want that. If you ask yourself would I eat if I just had some beans that were cooked, would I eat those right?
Now, if it’s a no man, that, that’s not physiological hunger, right? Yeah. Physiological hunger. You’re eating the beans and you’re gonna like the beans actually. Yeah, exactly. So those are a couple things. Listeners, they’re already thinking with that stuff, but what are some other productive
Okay, here’s one. So the through line of the book is that I spent More than a month up in the Arctic. Okay. And so the reason for that is because I was reintroducing myself to all these forms of discomforts that our ancestors would’ve used to face in the past all the time. So one of the things that I faced up there, Was I didn’t bring my cell phone cuz there wasn’t a bar within a hundred miles.
I didn’t bring a computer, I didn’t bring a tv, I didn’t bring a book. I didn’t bring a magazine. I didn’t whatever. So all of a sudden I found myself in an interesting position and that’s that I’m bored again. Like when is the last time you’ve had sustained boredom for a long time. Probably not too often.
And that’s because the average person now spends more than 12 hours a day engaging with digital media. So that’s from cell phones, that’s from TVs, that’s from computers, that’s from podcasts, That’s from on and on. And boredom is uncomfortable. There’s a reason that we avoid it. But it actually can be a good thing.
So if you want to think about why humans evolve to be bored in the first place I basically described as this, is that boredom would kick in any time that the whatever we are doing, the return on our time invested had worn thin. So let’s say that we are, it’s 10,000 years ago, you and I are sitting on a hill.
We’re trying to hunt a deer or whatever, right? So we’re waiting for deer to come through. Nothing’s coming through. But we need food, right? There’s no seven elevens, there’s no marketplaces where we can go get food. So boredom would kick in and basically be. This is a waste of you guys’ time. You need to do something else if you wanna survive.
It’s this discomfort. It’s the use of discomfort to incite change, right? So we would go do whatever, pick berries, dig up some potatoes, whatever, right? So boredom often compelled us to do something more productive with our time, right? But now you look at what happens when people get bored today. They just pull out their cell phone or watch Netflix or whatever.
And this is this is bad. So there’s a few things that come with all this time that we spend buried in our phones. Cause we don’t wanna be bored. One is, we know it’s associated with increases in anxiety and depression and decreases in. Productivity, and that’s because your brain gets pretty burned out when you’re focused out on the outside world all the time.
Whereas boredom often takes you inward for a while as you figure out, what am I gonna do with my time? You think inward, your mind wanders. That’s more a rest state for your brain. Number two, boredom is associated with increases in creativity. So there’s. Wild studies where they’ll take one group and they’ll be like, Yeah, do whatever the hell you guys want.
And inevitably people just pull out their phones and wait in a room and mess around. Then they’ll take another group and they will bore the hell out of them, and then they will give both groups a creativity test. And the board group consistently comes up with more answers that are deemed more creative than the non-board group.
Okay? And then finally, like I think about it like this, One of my favorite quotes is from William James psychologist in the early 19 hundreds. And he says that your life is essentially a collection of that which you are aware of. So nowadays, okay, 12 hours of media day are we really gonna look back on our lives and be like, Oh man, thank God that I watched season nine of Gossip Girl.
Man, that was like one of the greater moments of my life. I’m so happy I did that. No some
Mike: people, , maybe I wanna meet that person. Yeah.
Michael: So I told you that to basically tell you this is. There’s a lot of focus today on, to improve your mental health, to improve your productivity, to improve all this, whatever use your cell phone less.
We gotta use our cell phone less. And it’s like everybody knows that, right? But the problem is that when people reduce their phone screen time, it’s like, what do they do? They go, Yeah. What are they replace? This is boring. This is boring. What do I do? I’m gonna watch Netflix. Your brain does not know the difference, right?
So I advocate for trying to figure out how can I add more boredom into my life And the way that I what I usually recommend to people is go for a walk outside for 20 minutes every day and just leave your phone at home. And because there’s also. Ancillary benefits to being outside, which we can get into if you want, but it’s gives you this period to totally just like decompress and you’re gonna notice more, you’re gonna think differently.
And it just is, it’s just like a good way to chill out and come up with great ideas.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s I recently read a book called Wired to Create, if I’m remembering the title correctly. And it was good. It was just an evidence based review of creativity basically. And then also sharing anecdotes.
And as a common denominator among many creative people, and let’s say creative geniuses, big names that people would recognize is daily walks.
Michael: . Yeah. Yeah, totally. And they’re probably not, scrolling Twitter the whole time. They’re just like,
Mike: for, fortunately for them, there was maybe, fortunately for us, for humanity, there was no Twitter then.
Yeah, exactly. Cause in a lot of cases, these are, these are people going back hundreds of years.
Michael: And even one thing too that I talk about in the book is that We’re rarely in solitude anymore. When I was up there I had times where I would be the only person within, 20, 30, 40 square miles, right?
Like totally alone with no, no form of contact, which is like, Whoa. That’s the most alone I’ve ever been in my life. Cuz even today when we’re like, Hey, I need some alone time. It’s like you go into your room, but then people still have contact with people through text messages, through podcasts, through all this, through media, whatever.
Like we’re rarely just with ourselves, right? And it’s uncomfortable at first. It’s this is, I think, one of the reasons why lots of people like try to meditate and they stop cuz they’re like I found that the person inside my head is freaking insane. . Yeah. But if you look at a lot of the research, and we know that hey, being lonely isn’t good for people, but being lonely means that I wanna be with people, I wanna have connection.
I just can’t figure out how to make it right where a solitude is going. I’m electing to be alone. I’m electing to spend this time to learn something about myself, and that’s also something that’s been used throughout history by creative people, leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs. All these people throughout history would take periods where they were just completely removed from society and use it to be, to think, to come up with ideas, to be more productive, to get to know something about themselves.
Do you feel
Mike: like you learned something about yourself? How long were you up there, by the
Michael: way? More than a month.
Mike: Okay. And do you feel like you learned something about yourself in that
Michael: time? Oh, totally. Yeah. Across the board a lot of different things. But in terms of the solitude thing, it’s yeah, once you’re up there, all of a sudden you go, So much of how we behave in daily life is a reaction to someone else or society, right?
We do things because they’re on like the list of what you do in life to be a successful person or whatever. But when you remove
Mike: society, at least maybe somebody who fits in. Yes. I think for so many people, that’s probably number one on the list. I just wanna fit. I just want to fit in. Be like, I don’t wanna rock the boat.
Yeah. I just wanna be liked. I don’t want anybody to look at me weird or think about me weird.
Michael: Yes, exactly. But once you remove society from the equation, it’s. Oh man, like how would I live life if there weren’t society around? What do I really want to do with my time? And so once you start asking those questions, it starts to get interesting.
And for me at least, like I can theoretically understand that, but once you are completely alone in the middle of freaking nowhere, that is like getting smacked in the face with that concept. Like it’s a two by four,
Mike: and so for you, in terms of maybe what did you experience?
Was it a paradigm shift or was it just new ways of looking at things?
Michael: Yeah, I think so. I think part of the thing about being up there that long is like you start to strip away a lot of layers and What do you end up missing? Cause you’re up there, you’re totally removed. And I found for me, like I miss two things.
I miss my wife and I miss my dog. And I’ll say like a five thing I missed is because we only packed in like maybe 2000 calories a day, but we’re burning like 4,000 just like hiking around. And that would be like food, but that doesn’t count. Okay. Yeah.
Mike: Can’t get away from that. You were starving slowly starving to death.
Michael: speaking. Yeah, exactly. So I think that sometimes those periods of removal can help you strip away what’s really important to you. And again, it’s like you, we can all like grasp that abstractly for me going. You have to experience it, like you said. Yeah. Yeah. You gotta experience it, because then it changes your behavior when you experience something. I think on that really deep level, it changes your behavior when you return to, for me, at least when I return home. Yeah.
Mike: And so then what are your thoughts in terms of how much comfort is appropriate? To live with. How much comfort you, you talked about what’s too much and there is excess comfort in people’s lives, but what are your thoughts in terms of balancing hardship and and comfort?
Michael: Yeah. I think what happens is that people, because we have come up and with relative, I can assume probably if you’re listening to this podcast your life is like going all right on some level, if you have to worry about how much muscle you have, that suggests to me that like you, you probably or your priors
Mike: are one or the other.
Michael: So I think about it this way. I was on this dude’s podcast. Maybe three months ago, and the sky is. Unbelievably wealthy. He had this really like company. He sold for a lot of money, and I told him, we were talking about, he’s Dude, you were up in the Arctic for like more than a month.
He’s I could never in a million years do that. Like never. And I was like, Dude, you’re just, you just think you can’t do that because you had the luxury of being born in like 1978 or whenever you were born, right?
Mike: And now you have heated floors in your bathroom,
Michael: yes, exactly. And someone who takes out your trash and all this shit.
So like I think that people and I don’t know if this answers your question, but I think that people chronically want undersell their potential, what they’re capable of. Like we hear of stuff like that and it’s just like, I could never do that. And it’s dude, like think of how hard life was.
Thousands and not millions of years. So the balance has tipped so far, and what happens is there’s this concept I talk about in the book called Prevalence Induced Concept Change, and it basically states that as humans and humans be, as humans become more comfortable over time, we don’t have an ability to look back.
20 years. 200 years. 2000 years, and be like, Man, I have it so good. In the grand scheme of time and space, we adapt to the next most comfortable thing. And then the last thing that came before it is all of a sudden unacceptable. You can’t do that. Yeah. So I think, that’s a round, that’s just part
Mike: of the human condition it seems.
It applies to a lot of people’s complaints about a lot of
Michael: things. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. We’re always searching for problems, and I, to answer your question is I think it’s probably personal, but I think that most people are going to probably err on the side of being too comfortable At the end of the day.
It’s humans used to walk like 20,000 steps a day every single day. And now it’s whoa, I had this crazy day
Mike: with 15 nutritional deficiencies and Yes.
Mike: All that kind of stuff. And then worrying about getting attacked. One of 42 different animals that Yeah.
Is going to kill you. You’re not gonna get away and
Michael: Right. With a piece of, and their shoes or like a piece of reed on their foot or whatever, if they’re even wearing something like that. So it’s a long way of saying that Humans are capable of doing a lot of things and a lot of, and tolerating a lot.
And so I think that sometimes we just tend to err on the side of not of underselling ourselves frankly. We just are like, Oh, I can’t do that. No, that’s too hard. That’s too whatever. That’s too X, y, z. When the reality is that we probably could do. Things if we just put ourself in a position to be willing to tolerate things, and I’m not advocating, destroy your body or go to extremes, that kind of stuff.
But I do think that, hopefully that answers your question. That’s one of those, that’s like a case by case. Did you
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So again, to get all of the giveaway sauce, go over to Muscle for Life book.com. Muscle o r. book.com. Do you think it it’s also connected with, I think this came from Ray Dalio and his book principles. He talked about a spectrum right of savoring life on one end and striving on the other end.
And the point that he was making is you can’t have both. You can have one or the other. And he’s not gonna tell you he chose what he chose. And he’s, he was a striver for a long time, and then now he’s more of a saver or he is becoming more of that in, in his, later in the later part of his life, he has unlimited money and whatever.
He did what he wanted to do. But that’s something that has just stuck with me because I think there, there’s truth in that, that if you want to. Achieve significant things, you are going to have to deal with a lot of discomfort. There’s just no way around it. But that may not be for everybody.
Some people, they may, so long as they’re making the conscious choice of, Eh, I’m gonna take it easy. I’m gonna take it slow. I’m at a saver life. I’m gonna put more time into relationships and just having fun and messing around that wouldn’t be for me. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the wrong choice to make.
Michael: Yeah, I think about it as it’s a, you need one for the other. So in order to really appreciate, the savoring element of this, and I haven’t read his book, so I’ll probably be getting this wrong, but in order to appreciate the savoring element, you probably have to like, Strive one point, right?
If he had just kind, I know people though that it
Mike: seems like there, there’s not much striving, there’s never been much striving. They just take it easy and they, I’m sure they have their ups and downs. We all do, but I’ve just never seen, they’ve never really. Displayed
Michael: that . Yeah. And I would argue that probably the highs for them are gonna be lower Sure.
Than they would be for someone who strived for something and then got the win and then can save it. So I’ll tell I’ll tell you a story to illustrate this point for me, and it goes back into what we were just talking about, about, finding problems and perspective.
So when I fly up to the Arctic, I gotta take five different flights just to get to this plane that’s like the size of a pack of gum to take it out. And it like lands on the tundra, right? But the first flight I had to take was from Las Vegas up to Seattle. It’s a 7 47. Now I hate flying. Okay. I hate the turbulence.
I hate the fact that the bathroom is cramped. I hate the fact that the coffee sucks. I hate the crying baby next to me. I hate the movies on the screen in front of you. They’re always terrible. They’re like brate movies, right? Everything about flying is awful. Okay, . Then I go and spend a month in the Arctic.
If I want to get water, if I want anything to drink, I have to hike down to a stream and get it. And I gotta carry it back up to camp. I’m carrying an 80 pound pack on my back the entire time. If I wanna go to the bathroom, I gotta hike out across the tundra and I gotta squat and I have to bring a rifle too, cause there’s grizzly bears everywhere.
I’m freezing cold the entire time. I’m wildly underfed When I take that 7 47 back to Las Vegas, what do you think my experience of that flight was like? It was freaking amazing. . I hadn’t sat in a chair in more than a month, right? So all of a sudden this seat that’s all cramped is Oh my God, this thing is great.
When I go to the bathroom, I just, It’s not ice. Exactly. It’s not ice. They have hot coffee. That’s great. I hadn’t had coffee in more than a month. I ate 20 bags of pretzels. When I watch that movie on the seat back, it’s Fast in the furious, like 29 or whatever one we’re on.
It’s Oh my God, this movie’s unbelievable. How is it not one like 29 Oscars? This is great. And then it’s like when I go to the bathroom, I hit that little button in hot water, which I hadn’t had on my hands for more than a month. Comes out of a freaking plane at 30,000 feet. That’s a long way of saying there are so much, so many amazing things about modern life that like we just don’t appreciate.
Like modern life is freaking amazing in every way, but if you don’t ever get out of that, if you don’t ever deprive yourself of certain things and have to put yourself in positions that are gonna be tough I don’t think you can pre appreciate it as much. We could
Mike: probably try right?
Intellectually at least to maintain some sort of perspective.
Michael: You can try, but it’s not gonna hit you as hard. It’s if you would’ve told me, Hey man, no, the plane flight is great on that plane up there. I would’ve been like, Yeah, go gear yourself. It’s yeah, I get it, but this sucks right now.
That’s not gonna change my feelings on it. Yeah, I can intellectually process that, but until you actually experience things, back to what you said before, it’s like it’s, it doesn’t hit as hard. And I’m not suggesting at all that everyone go up to the Arctic for more than a month, but what I am suggesting is that there are ways to get.
Out of that loop that can sometimes lead to complacency where you’re maybe not as grateful. Cuz I think like the number one thing for me, how I changed is like, of course I came back and I was like fitter than I’d ever been. All these things, right? But the biggest shift for me was perspective and appreciation for my daily life.
Like what I have and that like colors every single interaction I have, it’s just like really deep gratitude, right? And so if I have that, then every moment of my day is gonna be better. And how
Mike: much of that has stuck with you? How long has it been now since you’ve returned?
Michael: So I was up there, that was like two years ago now.
and definitely it’s hung around. It’s not as intense as when I first got back. When it first, when I first got back, it was just like, I was just like walking around like a smiling idiot cuz it wasn’t cold outside, but it’s definitely hung around. Cuz I’ll find myself I think we adapt to the circumstances that we put ourself in most often, right?
So I’ll definitely catch myself where I’m like complaining about something . I’m like, why am I complaining about this? And when I can do that’s a win. I can’t always do it. But that’s why I still try to do, something that, that mimics that, not to the that extreme, but every year, cuz it’s like a nice reset.
It’s like we’re living, I argue in the book like on one end of the pendulum right now, and it’s if you don’t ever swing that. Pendulum over to that other end from time to time. We miss a little bit.
Mike: I think that’s a part of, I haven’t done any of them myself, but probably part of the appeal of Spartan Races and tough mutter and I think there are others where you just go get dirty and tired and you just do hard stuff.
I know also, Mark Divine, the ex Navy sealed guy, nice guy. He’s come on the show a couple of times. He does what I think he calls it Cook Coro or something. It’s an intense two or three day mimics a little bit of hell week. Gives, gives you a little bit of a taste of what that’s like. And he gets people coming to it and I know people will who.
Do those types of things, we’ll often say similar things to what you’re saying right now, just it helps them maintain perspective. Yeah, for sure. And one other question I have for you. What is Moogi? I don’t know. Am I pronouncing that right? Yeah. You sogi Moogi, Mao, one of those.
Michael: Yeah. Part of this journey, I meet this dude whose name is Marcus Elliot. Do you, have you heard of him? Nope. Okay. So there’s two things you need to know about him. The first is that he’s a little bit of a seeker, so he counted cards to get himself through college. He was going to Burning Man when it was just like this little thing in the desert, right?
Old school Burning man. And he lived out of a VW van for a while, but the second thing you know about need to know about him is that he is brilliant. So he went to, he got his MD from Harvard and he decided he didn’t wanna be a doctor. He wanted to revolutionize sports sciences. and he actually did it
So he’s one of the very first people that really started to quantify human performance. He does all this stuff with like movement tracking and AI and big data and whatever. So he has contracts with the nba. Every nba draft pick goes through his system. He’s got a facility in Santa Barbara and one in Atlanta.
is got contracts with the nfl, all these other leagues, right? But he also realizes that what improves human performance and potential can’t always be measured, right? There are like certain intangibles that you just, I dunno, you can’t measure it, right? It’s like, why is it that certain players.
You’re just like end of the game. So you have it. Yeah.
Mike: And some don’t.
Michael: Yeah. Why is Tom Brady sucks at being an at everything athletic, right? Like I could beat him in a foot race. But he’s the greatest ever cuz he’s got something on board, right? He’s figured out ways to work with what he is got. So what is that?
So to get to that, he does this thing called Mao and the idea is that once a year he’s gonna do something really hard in nature. Okay? So there’s two rules to Ma Sogi. The first rule is it’s gotta be really hard, which he defines as saying you should have a 50 50 shot of finish. And the second rule is that you can’t die.
And that’s like a tongue in cheeks. Gonna be my
Mike: question. , What about dying of,
Michael: Yeah. Tongue in cheek way to say, basically be safe, Don’t be an idiot. So he’s done things with he’ll get like a group of, four people or whatever. He’s done some alone. But he’ll get a group of four people and a couple of them are probably like pro athletes.
And then the other two could be like an accountant or whatever who just, you know And they’ll go do a task in nature. So one year, for example, they got this 85 pound boulder and they walked it, I think five miles underneath the Santa Barbara channel. So like 10 feet. So one guy would dive down, pick up the boulder.
Walk 10 yards, come up for air, the next guy would go over and over and tell this rock is a point B. They’ve also done simpler stuff where it’s like, Hey, we can see that mountain in the distance. Let’s try and get to the top in a day. And the idea is that he is trying to mimic challenges that humans used to face in the past.
So as you think about how humans evolved and when we were, for thousands of years, We had to do challenging things in nature all the time, like all the time. And this was without safety nets. And this was stuff that the world would just show us. So this could be from a hunt having to move from summer into wintering grounds, could be from like a tiger lurking in the bushes, right?
And each time we would accomplish one of these, we would learn something about our potential. We would be shown what we were capable of doing, right? But in modern life, You’re often not challenged that way anymore, right? Like you can never be challenged. To your point about the savers is like you can go through life and have a halfway decent life, right?
You got a job, you got food on the table, you all have a family to come home to. And never be challenged, but by not being challenged, you miss something about your potential. So if you think about like human potential is a big circle around us. By never going out on the edges, it’s like you just live in this little circle inside of that.
So the idea of ma Soge is that I’m gonna go explore those edges and see what’s out there. Because again, it’s gotta be really hard. 50 50, Like even today when people take on marathons, it’s not, am I gonna finish, it’s, am I gonna finish in my goal time of three hours, 45 minutes, or whatever it is, right?
So what happens is that two things tend to happen for people when they do these. The first is that you inevitably reach a point where you think you’ve hit your. You gotta quit. You can’t go any further. But if you can put one foot in front of the other, you’ll get to a point where you can look back and be like, Hey, I thought that was my edge back there, but I’m past it.
So I have sold myself short here. And that raises the important question where else in life am I selling myself short? And then the second thing is it helps people reframe fear. So fear as we evolved, like failure used to mean you could die, right? So we are wired to really avoid failure at all costs.
But failure today is often like Oh, I spelled something wrong in an email to my boss, or I messed up on a slide, or whatever it might be. Yet we still fear those things. We just fear failure at all costs. So by engaging in an environment where you could fail, You can also realize, you know what, like failure’s not that big of a deal.
And then you can take that back into your everyday life and it can move the dial for you.
Mike: It’s interesting, I think of that from an evolutionary perspective too, because naturally people who could just figure out how to not die, were being selected for obviously. Yeah. And it makes me think of that X factor that that certainly kept some people alive, and it might have just manifested as luck, but some people, they just seem to get more luck than average.
Yeah. Or they just figure out ways. You see a lot in the business sector now as, I guess is where you see a lot of this, right? And people who are. Repeat offenders, they just, they go from one industry to the next and they just figure out how to make things happen. Yeah. And and I think a lot of that is done and that is
Michael: that X factor.
Yeah. It’s that X factor. And also they’re willing to put themselves in a position with a high where they might fail. Yeah. Yeah. It’s like everything you do in life that has a reward is gonna come with some degree of risk. Some things are riskier than others. But I think one of the, one of the great things about this idea is that, This is that first rule of 50 50, right?
So like my 50% is gonna be different than your 50% is gonna be different than your 50%. So for example, my mother who is 72 years old, she walks her dog on this like mountain every day. There’s a trail that’s six miles, it goes to the top of this mountain. But she’ll do the first, she’ll do three miles basically, cuz she, doesn’t, can’t go that much farther.
She read about this concept in my book and she was, I’m gonna try and get to the top right and along the way she’s It was hard. I had to stop, I had to breathe, whatever. But she made it. And when she got home, she was like, Man, I didn’t think I could do that. This indicates to me that I probably am more physically capable of my thought.
And she ended up booking this trip that she had been putting off because she was like, I don’t know if I can take that much walking that this thing is gonna require of me. So if you put yourself in a position, you can learn a lot about what you’re capable of. Cause I think that people chronically undersell their potential, which back to talking about why that might be, is that as we evolved, I think that you didn’t want people who.
Took on like thought they could do everything right? Those are the people who were the, hold my beer people and get in trouble, right? It’s hell yeah, I could jump over that through that chasm. Watch this. It’s see you later, right? Yeah. There he goes. Yeah. You want the people who are afraid of that, but if the world forces them to do that, if something is chasing them, they have to do it for survival.
They can do it,
Mike: endurance exercise is good for this kind of thing because a lot of endurance athletes, they’ll say that one of the main reasons they are so good at whatever endurance sport that they’re good at is they can just suffer more than the next guy or gal . And they just don’t give up.
They just keep going. Oh yeah. And a lot of just everyday normal people who really like to bike or run or swim or whatever. They’ll say that one of the reasons they really like it is to get to that point where it’s hard and they feel like, their body just wants to stop, but they keep going.
And then if they can push past that, if they can turn that corner, then they feel. I mean it, I’ve experienced it only a couple of times. I’m not really into, I do cardio every day, but it’s, 30 minutes of moderate biking. I’m not pushing myself that hard. I treat it more as exercise than training.
But I know again, a lot of people, that is a big allure is to reach that state. I’m not thinking of the term. There’s a term that they use for it, but where then they feel like they could run forever. Their body feels light. And often emotionally now they have a, almost an ecstasy kind of feeling.
Michael: Yeah, for sure. I’ve done some not like crazy long stuff, but enough that. Yeah, that’s totally where it’s at. Once you get to a certain point, you realize that it’s what determines how far you’re gonna go is what’s going on upstairs. That’s assuming you don’t blow out a knee or something.
Sure. And also I think that there are some people who are wired to take it too far, right? These are the same type of people who would like, who are probably dealing with some sort of, honestly like a psychological issue. And it’s a lot more socially acceptable to go run a hundred miles than it is to.
Drink your face off or cut yourself or something like that. And so there can be some, it can raise some questions, but I think people can, when you think about what the human body has evolved to do one of the things is to run long distances. Relatively slowly compared to other animals in the heat.
So we would, as we evolve, we would use this to our advantage on hot days to hunt animals, right? Cause other animals are way faster than us, but they can only sprint. So we’d keep bumping these animals slowly but surely. Chase ’em down, bump ’em, bump and bump ’em. And eventually they would just get so tired from sprinting, they’d topple over and then we’d spare ’em, right?
And we’d have dinner. and but those hunts, on average, they lasted 13, 13 miles. But of course they could go beyond and be like 20 miles. So nowadays, picking up dinners, going through the drive through at wherever Burger King and back then you just order . Just order it on your phone, man. Dude, bring it to you.
Mike: into your face. You don’t even get off
Michael: of the couch. Yeah, exactly.
Mike: Hey man, this was a great discussion. Again, I really appreciate you taking the time and the book is The Comfort Crisis, and then where can people find you? And if there is another project you’re working on that you want them to know about or anything else, let’s let them know.
Michael: Yeah. So I’m at easter michael.com is my website. There’s some other resources there. You can find stuff about the book. The book’s available for sale everywhere. It’s called The Comfort Crisis. I am working on another book that I’m keeping people in the loop about on my Instagram feed, and that’s Michael underscore Easter.
Mike: Cool. And what’s that book about?
Michael: It is called, So the Working Title’s, the Scarcity Brain, and it’s basically about how as humans evolve, we lived in these environments of scarcity, of all different kinds of things, like from food to information to stuff to the number of people we could influence and on.
And now we live in environments of abundance of all those things and how that is in turn affecting us.
Mike: Yep. It’s in a problem and a logical follow up, I think too. I’m assuming it came out of your experience and with the first book?
Michael: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. So I’ve been doing some traveling for that.
I was down in the deep into the Amazon and Bolivia over the summer, and I’m headed to Thailand in a little bit. So yeah, it Should be interesting. It’s always fun to report these things. I think sometimes my editor thinks that it’s just a excuse for me to go do rad, rad stuff and maybe it’s, you know what you get.
Mike: You get to write it all off though. Cause as a writer, hey, research. Exactly. Oh man. Thanks again for taking the time. I appreciate it. Yeah, of course.
Michael: That was a blast. I appreciate you having me on.
Mike: Absolutely. I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.
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