Saturday, February 3, 2024

2023 Review


Overall Summary: I had an exceptional year with regards to Fitness, a solid year with regards to Finances, an OK year with regards to Faith and a subpar year with regards to Family. Following are my wins and failures, by the 4 areas I evaluate myself in on an ongoing basis.



Faith/Personal Development Wins:

  • Completed 346 Bible App plans to close out the year with 704 total.
  • Read 40 books
  • Created vision board for age 60, consisting of 10X target goals.
  • Cleaned out drawers/closet and donated excess to charity
  • Did seasonal job with my favorite disaster relief organization, to include build out and tear down of processing center (7 weeks total commitment).
  • Total porch remodel, to include new columns, base boards and swing. Also ripped out carpet and installed wood flooring for basement landing. Sanded/replaced popcorn ceiling in kitchen corner above stove.
  • Added sod and brick retainer in front yard.
  • Did some form of community service each quarter, including paying for child's Church camp, visiting my aunt twice, buying Ensure for cousin battling cancer and picking up half of bill for huge extended family dinner, paying for bus driver's COPD medication. Also did a Habitat for Humanity build.
  • Attended firearm training. Cleaned handguns using YouTube instructional videos.
  • Mentored a few people and sent daily motivational quotes to tribe throughout the year.
  • Made major improvements on Historical Fiction


- Other than firearms training, did not fire weapons.

- Did not learn any new skills.

- Weak garden season.

- Never really got out in the community (homeless feedings, etc.)

- Failed to follow up improvements on Historical Fiction



Family Wins:

  • Two extended vacations with wife
  • Rock City day trip with wife and granddaughter
  • Family veteran's gravesite (3 state) tour
  • Picked up granddaughter regularly (library/park, etc.)
  • Helped son-in-law coach grandson's baseball team.
  • Regular 529 Plan contributions for grandkids, including setting up new grandsons.
  • Regularly cooked hot meals for wife.
  • Helped daughter and granddaughter plant/harvest garden.


- Didn't do any vacations during second half of the year (Florida trip got canceled due to reserve being closed/seasonal job prevented late season Blue Ridge visit)

- Didn't make regular time to hang out with/coach up kids and son-in-law.



Fitness Wins:

  • Ended year 8.5 pounds lighter, but stronger in all core lifts
  • Did something intentionally hard each quarter: Appalachian Trail section hike (17+ miles) in January, 20+ mile road hike in June, completed 75 Hard from August 1 - October 14 and did very laborious job from October 30 - December 21. Also averaged 20,037 steps per day in December.
  • Averaged 13,922 per day for entire year (3,400 more per day than in 2022).
  • Reduced daily alcohol consumption by 47% from 2022, including going 75 consecutive days with none at all.
  • Improved macros from previous year, to include reducing fat consumption and increasing protein and complex carbohydrates in diet.
  • Started tracking calories burned.
  • Per DEXA reading, decreased body fat by more than 6.7% and got a serious 6 pack for the first time in at least 15 years.
  • Got a physical and two dental cleanings.
  • Observed record monthly lows for resting heart rate (59.4) and average heart rate (68.9) in August while increasing water intake and starting 2x daily workouts.
  • Kept up with a very physical job during December, likely the result of being in such good shape after completing 75 Hard.
  • Added probiotc and greens supplementation.


- Stopped tracking macros in late November due to time constraints bought on by job, which led to diet suffering remainder of year.

- Failed to get annual heart checkup due to job commitment (rescheduled for February 8)

- Didn't do enough recovery/rehab work, leading to neck strain and other aches and pains.



Finance Wins:

  • Grew IRA by 7% before withdrawals (3% gain including withdrawals) and overall net worth by 5%, even though I maintained a very conservative portfolio with only about 25% stock exposure. Was able to generate more income than my IRA withdrawals using dividend-paying stocks (15% returns), treasury bills (4.5% average returns), high yield CDs (4% average), a bond fund (4.4%) and large cash reserve (which ended the year paying 5% interest).
  • Stuck to plan of using 72T exemption to pull from IRA w/o penalties and move money not spent to post-tax/minimal taxed accounts (high yield savings, I-bonds, brokerage accounts and real estate trusts), increasing those holdings by 14%.
  • Grew wife's retirement accounts by 36% due to her contributing most of her pay check (minus insurance premium) and us staying aggressive with her investments (technology index fund and retirement date fund)
  • Generated an additional $7,000 (post-tax) from seasonal work that went entirely to savings/giving.


- Fear of the market kept me from generating far more wealth in our largest bucket (my IRA) in a year the S&P index gained 25% overall.

- Failed to match the S&P index with my own stock picks in both my retirement account and both our brokerage returns.

- Did not aggressively pursue income opportunities (starting a business, looking for consulting opportunities, etc.) outside of investments.


Sunday, October 15, 2023

75 Day Challenge Summary


I finished the 75 Hard Challenge yesterday. As I’ve stated previously, I was already in pretty good shape (for an old guy) when I began this program, having spent the previous 22 months tracking macros, working out regularly and working on improving sleep and eliminating stress whenever possible. That said, I have been amazed by the progress I’ve made in just 75 days on this transformative mental toughness program. Before I summarize the results, let me share the daily rules required to be successful with this challenge:


·       Take a progress picture.

·       Follow a diet. No alcohol or cheat meals.

·       Drink a gallon of water.

·       Read 10 pages of an entrepreneurship or self-improvement book.

·       Two 45-minute workouts, one of which has to be performed outside.


When I initially started this program, I told my two accountability partners that I doubted I would be able to finish, but had finished reading the 75 Hard book and was tired of kicking the can down the road. However, as with most things positive, momentum kicked in and, like that snowball rolling down the hill, I kept making more and more progress as time went on. Additionally, instead of just reluctantly trudging along, I made a few of the steps harder, just to avoid the possibility of mis-stepping. For example, I added a third workout on most days consisting of dead-hangs and planks to keep my surgically repaired shoulders limber and my core strong to handle the constant workouts. Instead of just reading, I highlighted what I read, then went back and took notes of the highlights, which I kept in a running email to track my takeaways from each day. In addition to my diet, which was to consume real food, with the only exceptions being protein drinks and bars, I tracked macros along the way and made adjustments to my protein, carbohydrate and fat consumption based on how I was progressing. For example, for the previous 22 months, I had adhered to mostly a high protein, moderate fat, low carbohydrate diet. During 75 Hard, I realized my abs became more visible after a few days of consuming lower amount of fat. And after I really dialed in my macros, I discovered my true overall daily maintenance calories was less than I previously had thought.


Contrary to what me and some buddies thought would be the most difficult part of the challenge, consuming a gallon of straight water ended up being the biggest pain for me. It’s just so boring. And if I drop the ball early, I end up paying the price late, getting up numerous times each night to pee, which has an adverse effect on my sleep. I also really started feeling the long hill hikes in my low back, hips and knees the last half of the challenge. However, the benefits far outweighed the complaints at the end of the day.


Onto the results, which follows:

·       I lost 10.6 pounds overall

·       I added 4.6 pounds of muscle and lost 15+ pounds of body fat

·       My body fat percentage improved by 6.7%

·       I lost 2.5 inches off my waist and added ¼ inch to each arm

·       I got stronger in all of my lifts, both in low and moderate rep counts, which implies that both my strength and endurance improved

·       My pull-up, push-up and plank maxes all increased

·       My average and resting heart rates both improved


Some lessons learned from the 75 Hard Challenge:

·       Avoid monotony by always having contingency plans. My go-to workouts when I was away from home and couldn’t get to a gym included body weight squats or extra hikes. And I kept protein drinks and bars on hand in the event there weren’t any good options for food.

·       Find something to do to feel in the times previously spent doing things not allowed during the challenge (drinking, binge-eating, etc.).

·       Track everything. While the daily progress pic is meant to provide ongoing motivation, tracking my macros, workouts and reading allowed me to gain motivation from progress there as well.

·       Build in some recuperation time throughout the routine, especially if you are older (mid-50s for me), or, like me, have bulging discs and a lot of joint and muscle pain to deal with. I’m looking into cold showers, cold-plunging and some yoga/stretching coming out of this challenge.


Going Forward


I consider this a huge accomplishment. What makes me feel better is that those closest to me, like my wife, children and best friend, all told me they never doubted me because they consider me to be highly disciplined. When I was told that, my imposter-syndrome immediately jumped to the surface, which reflects that this is something I need to work on, as it is likely holding me back.


Previously, I had decided on going directly into Phase 1 of the challenge, which is an additional 30 days of the same 5 main tasks, but with 3 additional requirements. However, an opportunity has presented itself which will require me to push Phase 1 back a bit. I’m very excited to get to work with an organization I did some volunteer work with before in a paid consultant/project management position or a period of 5-6 weeks. One of my goals during this challenge was to use the self-reflection and self-improvement readings to come up with a business idea or potential career opportunity and really believe that this situation is a direct result of all of the work I’ve put into this program.


During the time between now and beginning this seasonal work project, I will continue to follow most of the principle required for the 75 Hard Challenge, although I’ll likely go back to one workout per day, along with some recuperative efforts to heal up this old body some. I’ll also likely decrease the amount of straight water I consume, although not by much. I’ll probably read even more, as I need to develop a new management strategy more in line with the responsibilities I’ll be undertaking. Additionally, I’ll continue to work on sleep quality, as this is one area I didn’t make the progress I was hoping to during this challenge.


God-willing, more to follow….Stay Strong…

2023 Review

  Overall Summary : I had an exceptional year with regards to Fitness, a solid year with regards to Finances, an OK year with regards to F...