Sharpening Your Sword

Solo 22 | Sharpening Your Sword


How are you using your quarantine? This episode was scheduled in haste after Peter McGraw received an uplifting email from a friend and SOLO listener who is using the quarantine to “sharpen his sword.” Peter’s guest talks about his nearly 60 30-day challenges and how they make him fulfilled but difficult to date.

Listen to Episode #22 here


Sharpening Your Sword

This episode was scheduled in haste after I received an uplifting email from a friend and Solo follower. He talks about how he’s using his quarantine to sharpen his sword. We also discuss his nearly 60, 30-day challenges that he’s been doing for a few years and why that makes him fulfilled, yet un-dateable. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.

Our guest is Chase Johnson. Chase is a Salt Lake City resident who works in digital marketing, but none of those matters. Chase is an ideal guest for Solo and you’re about to find out why. Welcome, Chase. 

Thanks for having me, Pete. I’m happy to be on here.

This is impromptu and this is also a first. This is my first ever remote episode of Solo and it’s happening remotely for two reasons. The obvious one is we are being sequestered or so, and thus we’re not able to be in the same room. The second one is I am in the middle of the desert in Joshua Tree and as I’ve mentioned, Chase is in Salt Lake City. This is a bit of an experiment. This episode has been rescheduled once. There were plans to do it in-person in Salt Lake City and I changed my plans and canceled on Chase. I got a thoughtful fun email from you. Rather than type out a response that was equally thoughtful, I called you. You said something in that email that made me want to get you on the show immediately. Do you know what that is? 

It’s got to be one of my last paragraphs around the dating scene.

No, not at all. I’m not interested in your dating life at the moment. Not that it’s not extraordinary, I’m sure. You had said that you were using this time to sharpen your sword. I liked that for two reasons. The first is that I use a sword metaphor in my new book, Shtick To Business in chapter six. It’s called Work Hard or Hardly Work. I talked about the master craftsperson. I use the example of the blacksmith who looks like he’s slaving away pounding metal as drudgery. Every swing of the hammer matters to him. Every swing is artistic in that way. The idea is that all that work, you end up creating a sword. How amazing is that? My argument is that the act of making the sword can become pleasurable, enjoyable, satisfying in and of itself. It’s not just the outcome. I love the fact that you use that idea of sharpening your sword metaphor. The second one is I’ve been doing a little bit of writing around the pandemic and especially adjusting some of the lessons from the book.

I did a webinar and I told the audience to wake up. This is a call to action. If you are not working on your health, relationships, career, economics, if you’re not figuring out how your life is going to be different and better coming out of this, how are you going to be better prepared for the next Black Swan, which we’ll talk about the next crisis, whatever it may be, and you’re just sitting and watching Tiger King, you’re missing an opportunity. What I liked about your email, we want to start with that is, it sounded like your first few days in quarantine and being sequestered were a little Tiger King-like.

I binged Tiger King a couple of days and I learned a valuable lesson. I was able to reflect.

Go and set it up. Let’s not be abstract. Let’s get into the details. At some point, you got a message. You’re going to have to be homebound, you’re not going into the office and so on. I know this is going to sound familiar to the average reader, but take me through your thoughts, feelings and actions in those early days.

From my perspective, when I got the call and we got the word that, “We’re going to transition into working from home over 2 or 3 days. Get your stuff and get prepared to work at your home or wherever it is convenient for you.” When I got that message initially, I said, “This is going to be great. I am going to be able to eat and drink as I please.” Pete, as you know but your audience probably does not, I am a large craft beer aficionado. That is one of my big passions and I am sitting on heaps of craft beer. I’m thinking to myself, “It’s going to be great. I’m going to be able to have some beers with dinner, maybe 1 or 2 too many, roll out of bed a little hungover, go to work, do my thing.” I led that life for the first week.

How old are you, Chase?

Thirty-two, the ripe age of Karl Malone’s number.

I wanted people to know 32 because you’re in that the idea that you might approach your quarantine in that way versus me. I turned 50. I’m not a big drinker, to begin with. The last day I had alcohol was March 7th or assuming March 6th, and the last day before that was February 28th.

Are you tracking your alcohol consumption?

As I’m talking to you, I’m pulling up an Excel spreadsheet. 

Before we talk about me, I want to know what is tracked.

This is a relatively new invention for me. There’s this saying that what gets measured gets maximized. I’m a data person, not hardcore but enough. When did I start this spreadsheet? I started it on Saturday, November 24th. I track the quality of my sleep on a 1 to 3 scale, 3 being great, 1 being terrible, 2 being average. I track the quality/quantity of my creative work on the same scale. I track my caffeine intake and that is, do I have 0, 1, or 2 espresso drinks? I track the number of salads I’ve eaten as a rough proxy for how well I’m eating. I track the number of drinks I have, whether I’ve had any marijuana, those are my two vices. Since I’ve arrived in the desert, I track whether I’ve gone for a walk or a run, and I track whether I’ve done 100 push-ups. I have noted what my workout is and I have any notes of anything special going on or happening that’s there. I haven’t run any of the correlations yet. Especially the most interesting one will be to look at the previous day’s activity and sleep or the day’s activity and sleep as you might imagine.

I don’t mean to do a product plug here, but have you heard of the Whoop watch?

I’ve experimented once with a wearable device. I’m a little old school for that. I don’t like being monitored. I don’t like the idea of having to have my phone on. I don’t like that connection thing. I still wear a windup-style watch. We’ll get into a little bit about my retro experience. Whoop, if you want to sponsor Solo, we would welcome you because my understanding is that Whoop is the best of the wearables. It’s so good that they charge an astronomical amount of money for it. They do it as a subscription, which is impressive. I would consider a wearable if my physical life was more of a struggle. The idea of doing that to improve my physical life 5%, it’s not worth it. If I was 50 pounds overweight and I was quitting smoking and I wanted to make this major revamp in my life, I would lean on something like that. I think that would be useful. I like how you were starting to interview me. It’s such a Chase Johnson thing to do.

[bctt tweet=”Drinking like an asshole is anything over two drinks.” via=”no”]

Honestly, I walk away from a lot of dates and I get the following text of, “I feel like I told you a lot. I don’t know a lot about you.” I present you with a challenge here, Pete, that’s going to be getting to know me versus me asking you way too many questions.

It’s fine. If someone follows Solo, they have to like me a bit because you get a lot of me. I can’t help it. You are a longtime follower. 

Longtime follower and first-time caller.

You’re stoked. You’re like, “I can have an extra beer.” That’s life and that went on for a week?

I would say approximately a week. I was going through the motions of work. Work is crazy as you would imagine in healthcare staffing. My directive is changing frequently. It became this vicious cycle of working until 7:00 or 8:00 at night and then coping with a lot of beer. That was not a fun lifestyle to be leading after a week or so. I mentioned in the email to you that something profound hit me by happenstance. I was listening to a podcast and one of the lines in the podcast said something to the effect of, “You have an interesting opportunity in quarantine and I would challenge you to pretend as if there is an ultimate version of you in the room with you. How would that person analyze the decisions that you are making?” Right then and there, from that point forward, I changed on a dime.

I’m going to ask you, do you mind if I publish the email? 

That’s fine.

I’ll also put the email in the transcript for people if they want to see it.

Pretending that there was another ultimate version of me and analyzing myself that was a profound thought for me and it has dramatically shifted my behavior. I don’t know if it was a parable in Shtick To Business or where that story came from, but the sharpening of the sword or the swinging of the hammer has become an ultimate obsession for me. I was thinking probably of a heavy alcohol consumption day for me was two beers. That was a lot for me to be consuming and I noticed it impacted my sleep. Tracking and measuring, those types of things are profoundly more interesting to me now than they were before.

I like my lack of ability to be articulate. I’m yelling at people to wake up and this is their call to action. Then someone else on some other podcasts puts it perfectly about this ideal authentic version of yourself.

I do also think the background of that fellow. I don’t know a ton about him. He was a guest on another podcast. His name is Jay Shetty. The interesting thing about Jay or what I know about Jay is that he spent a decent amount of his youth as a monk. I don’t know if it’s ever or since he was sixteen, he’s never sworn. He lives a clean life and he has a different perspective than most. That could be a factor in him being able to be super articulate enough.

I’m willing to mix it up a little bit. You hear that and it is interesting that you can hear something one time and it has this profound effect on you. My version of this, and I’m paraphrasing, this is also a wise man, Confucius. I’ve talked about it a number of times already. Forgive me if people are getting tired of it. I’m going to make it more modern. It’s that people have two lives, and the second one begins when they realize they only have one. It’s easy to drink, snack, Tiger King meme your way through this pandemic as you pass the time until we’re eventually furloughed or non-furloughed. This is a rare opportunity. For most of us, it will likely be a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a disruption in our habits and our schedule to create some space. I know some people are challenged by this. If you are a working parent, working with children, now homeschooling and everything, you’re totally screwed. If you’re solo, “Wow.” This is something that I am going to look back on. I have to be fairly optimistic about the future. It’s in my nature, and then my look at this is it remains as optimistic as you can be in the face of this tragedy. I’ll look back on these days warmly and fondly because of the opportunity. It’s giving me a chance. I’ve called it my sabbatical from my sabbatical. You hear this, you notice, you immediately have this transformation. What starts happening differently?

It’s like the stars are aligning, in the sense the 30-day challenge that I had for March was I was journaling in February and I was noticing that I wasn’t excited about my day or how I was living my life. I outlined these personal rules for myself that I classified as the Five Foundations For a Good Day. This is completely personal to me. Some are transferable to other people but others are not. Throughout the month of March, I’m focusing on doing each of these five things every day. One of those things is giving myself at least an eight-hour sleeping window. Maybe a 15, 20-minute buffer on either side to fall asleep and wake up. The next thing is an hour of movement. Before the quarantine, that would look like a spin class or going to the gym and weightlifting or boxing or yoga. In quarantine, that developed into an hour-long walk if it’s a light day. If it’s a heavy day, do you know what a Murph is? Are you familiar with that?

Yes. Murph is pull-ups, push-ups, air squats and run for a time.

Run first and then all of those and then run to finish as well.

I turned 50. In the morning, I did 100 pull-ups, 500 push-ups and 1,000 air squats before lunch. Let’s take the temperature of my body at this age thing. I regretted the air squats because they got tedious but it was fine. I didn’t do any running. The thing about Murph is you do a mile run?

It’s a mile to start and a mile to finish.

Murph is harder than what I did.

Murphs are tough. It took me a while to build up to a Murph, to be honest. I would do half Murphs for the first little bit. Now, I can do a full one.

We’ll try to get a picture of you, but for the reader, when you hear about you liking craft beer, it’s easy to think of this guy who’s got this big bushy beard and a big beer belly and so on. You do have a cool mustache, but you are a thick guy.

It’s Corona mustache, let’s be clear. It’s not going to be on my face after this quarantine.

I’m not a big fan of mustaches. It looks good on you. I must admit.

I’ve heard a few people say that and we’ll see what it looks like out in the real world, but that’s terrifying to me.

Eight hours of sleep, one hour of movement. 

The next thing is personal to me. It’s don’t drink like an asshole rule. Drinking like an asshole to me is anything over two drinks. You’re exceeding your limit at that point. The rule in place, a lot of my brand group is centered around craft beer. That drinking like an asshole is somewhat inevitable. I said, “If I do drink like an asshole, that means zero beers the next day.”

You have a penalty for failing that one. 

There’s that one. This one might be a little bit more transferable. I try and drink half my body weight in ounces of water per day. The one I had trouble defining, with those previous four, all of them are metric and number-based. This fifth one, I had a lot of trouble getting to the bottom of. I’m chatting with my therapist and friends on how to quantify this. I’ve identified it as intimate relations or intimate interactions and something like what we’re doing would qualify in my mind. I felt scummy when I tried to quantify it. After about 5 or 6 days, I said, “I’m going to define intimate interactions for myself similar to how the Supreme Court defines pornography. You know when you see it.”

The idea is that you’re pursuing some intimate interaction every day and the better the quality, the better you would “score” that.

The reason I wanted to bake that one in is there would be days that I would be working long hours and the only interactions I would have would be with work people. The work people are great and important to me but I also would say friends and family are equally, if not more important in my life. Fostering those relationships, you have to focus on it.

This was in February that you were doing this?

This was in March. It coincided with March 13th, the day my world changed a little bit and I could still focus on those things. The first week of quarantine, I was liberal with that rule number three of if you’re drinking too much. I compensated with more water the next day or whatever that looks like. I’ve violated that a little bit.

What strikes me about you is you’ve seemed to me to be a work to live person. You’re clearly good at your job. I have no doubt about that. It’s a hunch but I’d be surprised if your manager’s not happy with you. That said, you and I share some similarities, but that’s a difference. For me, I’m a live to work person. In part because the nature of my work even though it doesn’t necessarily make me money, I still treat a lot of my creative endeavors like work rather than hobbies.

That speaks to the quality of your creative work. Wouldn’t you agree?

Perhaps also, some of it is I have a head start on you. I wouldn’t be surprised, Chase, if ten years from now, you’re not working in digital marketing. I’ll give you my example of this. Let’s talk about your 30-day challenges or your Five Foundations for a Good Day, which I like. How many 30-day challenges have you done?

I had to put together a presentation for my marketing group. It looks like February of 2018. I had tracked all of my 30-day challenges from 2015 through January of 2018. It looks like June of 2015 is when I started. I don’t have great documentation for all of it, but I don’t believe that I’ve missed a month of 30-day challenges since then.

Let’s put it 50-plus. You’ve done a lot. How did that start? First of all, it makes me sad that you haven’t documented them even if it’s just in a journal. I feel like that’s a missed opportunity. For the reader, Chase and I started chatting and I was like, “Shut the fuck up.” What always happens in these podcasts, it’s like you’re in the elevator and someone drops some bit of gold that you can’t recapture so to speak. Chase, how did you phrase it? 

[bctt tweet=”Your success does not need to build up the other person, and the other person’s success does not need to build up yours. ” via=”no”]

I’m good at the doing. I’m bad at the documenting.

I like to say I’m good at producing, I’m bad at promoting. It helps to have a 1, 2 punch.

Can I ask you? I know you don’t want me to be interviewing you, but I feel like the promoting aspect for both your book and the podcast has been exceptional. You’re doing well at promoting those things. Was that a conscious switch that flipped rather?

It was, yes. First of all, thank you. With the book, a few things happened. One is I know pride is one of the seven deadly sins, but I’m proud of the book. I believe the book is good. I’m willing to say when things aren’t good. Besides being entertaining for the right audience, there were some useful takeaways in there. I’m doing a disservice to myself and to other people if I don’t do my best to get it out there. I also invested a lot more in this book than I did my previous book. I’ve financed this book. I have even more skin in the game also, which is an idea that I like a lot. Solo, I don’t think I’ve done a good job. I’ve done a good job of promoting Solo within my little circle. One of my big to-dos while I’m in the desert and beyond is to start getting the word out about this. I had been relying on a small number of followers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook LinkedIn and then frankly listen or word-of-mouth, which has been incredible.

I feel like I don’t remember the last day that has gone by that I haven’t talk about your podcast.

You’re not the only one. I have friends and it comes up on dates. I need to get it in front of some bigger mouths, big speakers, big media outlets and beyond to get the word out and I feel the same way. Solo has an important uplifting message. There’s product-market fit. The people who are reading are optimistic. They’re tired of being embarrassed. They recognize that there’s more to life than marriage and kids. By the way, congratulations if you are reading without children and less than desirable spouse because if you had any cracks, they are showing right now.

I feel for people. I’m seeing it in some of my friend groups that relationships that were held together with duct tape and shoestring are falling apart quickly.

One of my next episodes is with a divorce lawyer/mediator. I don’t know when it will come out. It may even come out before this, to be honest. I’m doing it after this, but I feel like it’s important that you might get trumped.

That’s totally fine. That sounds more important.

Fifty-eight or so of these 30-day challenges. Do you remember how it started?

It started with a presentation at work. A coworker of mine came in and it was a fluffy team meeting and she was presenting about this fellow named Matt Cutts. He was at the time the head of Web Spam at Google. My role in marketing at that time was ranking all of our sites higher in Google. This presentation she brought in was from my digital marketing hero. This guy could do no wrong. He was talking about how he subjected himself to a 30-day challenge. His challenge was to write 1,000 words a day and at the end of this challenge, he would have a book or a mini-novel.

There’s something in November. It’s Novel November or something where people try to write a book in a month. There are people who do this. I’m misspeaking, I don’t know the name of it.

I received that presentation and said, “That’s interesting. If my hero in digital marketing can do that, I wonder if I can incorporate that into either my work life or my personal life.” The fifth challenge that I did, I got a lot of notoriety around it and it was the ego boost that propelled me forward. That fifth challenge was I ate a meal with someone different every day for 30 days. I had this Google sheet and people could sign up and block time on my calendar. It was great and the reason it got a decent amount of traction was I would recap our meal and what we talked about, assuming it wasn’t super personal and this person’s relation to me. It was rewarding and it was cool to see people take their own spin or do their own versions of that after enduring that challenge of mine. I’ve had a few little blips like that where there will be some that are super notorious and are on people’s radars and it’s fun. I want to say that’s the icing on the cake and doing the challenges themselves is the cake itself.

Before we get back to your quarantine and what you’re doing day-to-day, give me a couple of versions of either 30-day challenges that you quite enjoyed that you’re proud and happy about, and then others that people responded to.

I would say a few that I won’t forget. One is walking 1,000 more steps incrementally per day for 30 days.

I know about this one because we have a close mutual friend, Mark Ferne. He was a guest on I’m Not Joking with his wife, Stephanie Green in the Calendar Of Fun episode. He’s how I know you. I feel lucky that I met you through him. He told me about this one and that’s a memorable one. 

That was a memorable one, especially towards the end when you’re getting into 25,000, 26,000 steps the next day, 27,000. I’ll never forget what those days look like in the last five days. It was wake up early, get as many steps as I could before I go to work.

You are not on a treadmill, you are outside for this.

Solo 22 | Sharpening Your Sword


I was outside. I have some of these documented. It looks like the month of July. I had a decent amount of daylight as well. I wake up early and walk around every one-on-one at work. I would force them to go outside and walk with me. I’m a social guy. I take over Mark Ferne quite a bit. My calendar was full. I remember there was a concert at this big outdoor amphitheater that I went to in one of the last days of the month. In between the opener and the headliner, I was doing laps around the entire stadium. I want to say it’s something like 267 miles walked over the course of that.

The only thing close to what I can imagine that to be, this is many years ago, I and a buddy did a 22-mile walk around San Francisco one day.

Is that the entire perimeter?

This was pre-GPS map it out stuff. We did a big circle across The Golden Gate Bridge and did the full thing, and then ended the day at San Francisco Giants game. It was quite a day and that was a lot of walking. I’ll be honest, my feet were cramping by the end. That’s a good one. What else have you got?

I’m in a similar vein. I liked and hated training for and running a marathon in 30 days. We’ll go with the bad and on the good. The reason I did not love that was I destroyed my knees doing something like that. I’m a relatively fit guy and not having the ability to run still long distances. This was a year ago that I did this challenge. I don’t think I could run more than 3 or 4 miles without being in severe pain. That sucks. That’s the gift that keeps on giving. The good thing about that, the ego boost is against the wishes of my doctor, I ended up running the marathon in pain. It was a small marathon. It’s the Grand Valley Marathon in Colorado and there are 27, 28 runners and I took third place. That felt good. I’ll reflect a decent amount on that.

Do you have any 30-day challenges that when you look back on, you’re a little embarrassed by?

Yeah, I do. For this audience, this one might be appropriate. I was in a six-year relationship with a girl. These 30-day challenges probably started halfway through that relationship. To be honest, they took precedence over a lot of my relationships at the beginning of these, looking through some of these previous challenges.

Some of them are consuming. Is that a fair way to say that?

For sure and some of them have tertiary impacts like when I was dating this girl, no processed foods. It’s one that I’m looking at and things like that. That impacts my live-in girlfriend. I wasn’t mindful of that but in June of 2017, I had a 30-day challenge of be single in the midst of a six-year relationship.

Was it a trial period? You’re like, “I’m going to be single for 30 days,” and see what it’s like.

Precisely because I was trying to manufacture “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” type of thing. I ended up liking my 30 days of singlehood. My partner at the time did not like the 30 days of singlehood. We didn’t get back together. At the end of 30 days, I said, “I’m done here.” I’m embarrassed that’s how I did it.

First of all, we should talk about a screenplay because there’s a rom-com style movie in that or a Solos-com or so-com style movie in that idea. If you’re reading this blog, you are stealing our idea if you write that screenplay. I don’t find that as cringe-worthy. I could tell people can’t see your face as you talk about this and your body language. They can feel your pace slow down. A strong relationship can handle that idea. My question is, did you do the 30-day challenge as an experiment or was it a little bit of a chicken shit way to break up?

It was a little bit of both, to be honest. Personally, I was probably done with the relationship. This was me testing the waters of how done I was. Had it been difficult for me, I probably would have continued on with the relationship, but it wasn’t super part of the time for me.

Forgive me, I didn’t mean to use that term. The reason I say that is I have these little mini-sermons of sorts sometimes when it comes to Solo. Oftentimes people have a lot of guilt within relationships when it comes to them pursuing their happiness. The reason is that they feel guilty because pursuing their happiness will make someone else less happy, and then they sacrifice their happiness to not make someone else less happy. That kind of relationship is ultimately doomed. The best relationships are two people pursuing what makes them happy. I like the term remarkable, good life, whatever. Happiness is loaded. I liked the idea that if you are in a partnership, the best partnerships are you’re both pursuing your best life. It’s not making the other person’s life less good as a result.

That is a high bar in my opinion. In most relationships that I’ve been in outside of little fling type of things, I feel like one party is building up the other party. At least in my personal experience, it’s hard to find something that each person is making the other person better. Would you say that’s maybe a personal problem or do you think that’s a genuine problem throughout society?

Let’s talk about this from Pareto optimal, Pareto superior. Essentially the idea is that within most relationships, you’re at least Pareto optimal. That is no one is worse off in a sense. The Pareto superior is that no one’s worse off and maybe both people can be better off. I forget exactly how it is. I’m not anti-partnership. I’m not even anti-marriage. I just think it’s over-prescribed. What ends up happening is because people believe they ought to be in a partnership of some sort, marriage or otherwise, they end up cutting too deep. They end up making too many sacrifices in order to have this thing. It is a tall order. Marriage should be a tall order in that way. I don’t think that my success needs to build up the other person and the other person’s success needs to build up me. When a person is pursuing their success, it shouldn’t hurt me and vice versa. That’s what I’m saying. The ideal relationship is we’re both pursuing the growth path. We’re both making the best of our lives. That’s the way we believe that our lives should be good, i.e. remarkable. As a result, we’re not making each other’s lives less remarkable.

Can I ask how many relationships that you know are achieving that?

I would say it’s probably 10% to 25%. 

[bctt tweet=”Being a human sometimes demands imperfect partnerships.” via=”no”]

That’s higher than I would have thought.

I’m being generous. The math on these things gets difficult because in some ways, what’s happening is the presence of that other person is making up for some deficiency in some important way. The idea that together we as a team are better off than we would be separate. Let’s be honest, the economics of being a human being sometimes demands imperfect partnerships. I recognize that some of this whole podcast comes from a place of privilege, I’m going to admit that. I don’t have a solution for someone who is having such a hard time making ends meet that they need to compromise on the quality of a partner in order to be able to afford housing, shelter, healthcare, food and so on. I’m sympathetic to people who make compromises for their own survival.

We’re both lucky in that regard that we can afford to live and maintain a lifestyle without a partner.

Turning 50, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my life and wondering if I’m truly walking the talk of a remarkable life. Your D-Day was on March 13th. Mine was a little later. It was on March 23rd. On March 22nd, I found out that the cafe across the street from me was going to be closing down and I wasn’t going to be able to use that space. The coworking space that I had hacked together wasn’t going to be available. The gym and the amenities in my building were going to be closing. I was going to be facing being sequestered in a lovely one-bedroom apartment, but one that I knew I would go crazy in. Los Angeles is not a good place to be sequestered in the same way as New York City is. LA is better than New York. What makes those cities great are the people, the places and the things to do. It’s not like you have a suburban house where you have everything and you never have to leave. I made the decision that Sunday to get out of there.

Where you’re at now was a split-level decision. That wasn’t planned out, where you are.

I made that decision on Sunday. I left 24 hours later and drove out. I packed bags that afternoon and then the next morning, I got in my car and I found this place online. I have it indefinitely right now.

I’m theorizing or projecting here a little bit. I’m rewinding a little bit. If I didn’t have to afford a lifestyle, I wish I could quit my job and only do 30-day challenges and bump up the extremeness of those 30-day challenges. Thirty days in prison, 30 days in the dark, 30 days doing crazy stuff and exploring the depths of the human soul. One of them that I’ve explored or thought about was 30 days of solitude and no interaction with another person. I feel like you’re doing that digitally, but are you capitalizing on that? From what I’ve seen, it feels like you’re remote.

I’m in “The Joshua Tree” area. The park is closed but you can still hike in and stuff. I am in I would call it a neighborhood. There are other homes and other people around. You have to drive on a dirt road to get here. There’s BLM land, Bureau of Land Management land probably half a mile away from me. That’s where I do my walks. I’m on the phone a lot. I still text. I have some internet. It’s not great but where I’m taking this gets back to the old school part of me. I’m in a great place. The owner of this place is an audiophile and has a rack of vinyl probably 200-plus albums there. I told her a little bit about my tastes. She dropped off something from her own personal collection. There are maybe 1,000 CDs behind me.

I have not watched television or a movie. I’ve watched a little bit of YouTube clips here and there on occasion, but I have not turned on a TV since I got here. My evenings are reading and writing, that’s it. I turn my phone off at a certain point in time. I disconnect from the internet at a certain point in time. I’m treating this as a monk adjacent and it’s been great. I have my little list of things here. There are column goals or whatever. I had this little small piece of paper. It says 100 push-ups, walk. Every day I want to do 100 push-ups. I want to do a walk. I want to try to get a little sun, not every day, but I want to make sure I get sun. This is a sunny place at most. It’s read and detach, no alarm. I have not set an alarm since I got here. I go to bed when I feel tired and I wake up when I wake up.

You’ll appreciate this, Pete. I haven’t had an alarm. I’m trying to timestamp this since 2017. In 2017, I did year-long challenges in addition to my 30-day challenges. This is what makes me ultimately un-dateable in my opinion. My life is structured in boxes and whatever. My year-long challenge of 2017 is to get a shredded six-pack of abs.

I remember this. I also heard about this from Mark.

This challenge was the most mentally and physically taxing thing in my life. To hit on what we were talking about is no alarm clock. I would have to set my alarm early during 2017 because it was two hours in the gym every day. If I wasn’t in the gym or at work, I was doing laundry, I was meal prepping, I was doing dishes. My entire existence was spoken for and it was miserable. One thing I should mention, I’m relatively notorious for these 30-day challenges and year-long challenges. I say the un-dateable in jest. I feel like it’s taken a long time but I’ve broken down the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law. Previously, I was very strict. If I didn’t follow these challenges to the tee, then I would be hard on myself and the people around me. Now it’s like, “This is what I’m striving for this month.” If I hit it 90% of the time, that’s good enough. That makes me a more pleasant human to be around and I liked that version of myself a little bit better as well.

I feel this way about my new book, which is I really could have used one more edit. I know that at the end of that edit, what I would have said is, “It needs one more edit.” Someone said to me, “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.” That’s useful for your 30-day challenges. I’m sure if people are reading, first of all they are like, “These guys love each other. They don’t care about us.” Can you rattle off a few more of these? Give people a flavor of the wide array of ideas.

I’m going to go down this list from oldest to newest. I started this with a journal every day. I went on to write a thank you card to someone new every day. I went on to 30 days of challenges. That was random, like how many push-ups can I do or whatever it was. That next one was to eat a meal with someone different every day. The next one was a 60-day workout challenge. I’ve done some workout routines to do for 60 days. The next one, usually January of a year-long challenge. I will focus on that for the month. January 2016, I did wake up before the sun. For all of 2016, I woke up before the sun. The next one was no processed foods. The next one was to use Duolingo for at least fifteen minutes a day and finish a book. Some of these are tee-balls.

What about some of the more challenging ones? The marathon one is big. 

I touched on some physical ones and some mental ones that were a little bit tough. I did this challenge two times where in December of 2016, I had some long hair. I spent the month of 2016 selling raffle tickets. You’d buy a $5 raffle ticket. If I chose your name at the end of the month, you get to choose where we’ll donate all the raffle money and what I was going to do to my hair for a week. That one was a little bit of mental anxiety as far as like, “What am I going to look like out in public for a week?” Luckily for that version, my mom won. In a subsequent one, our mutual friend, Ray Bradford won, and he’s not nearly as kind.

I did a 30-day challenge once. I did 30 days of yoga. It was interesting. That might have been a few years ago. I didn’t just sign up for a regular yoga studio. I signed up for CorePower. For people who know CorePower, those classes are typically hot. It’s not a big room but they’re hot classes. I had decided to do that because I had figured out since the age of 13, 14 or so, I had been working out almost exactly the same way. Lifting weights, high-intensity training, basketball, lacrosse. I’d mix it up. I had more diversity at that age, but I thought it would be good for my body to do just yoga for a month. I had a striking transformation. I lost about ten pounds. I can’t say that I had ten pounds to lose necessarily, but what happened was I lost the weight because if you spend an hour a day with your shirt off, looking at yourself in the mirror in a room with largely attractive women, you clean up your eating. You talked about secondary and tertiary effects. What was striking about it, I remember the first day distinctly. I walked in the first day going to CorePower, “This is day number one.” I have a 30-day membership thing. I did this class called Hot Power Fusion. I showed up in the class with my basketball shorts and my T-shirt. I don’t know what the room’s set up.

The room was set at 105 degrees or 100 degrees. It’s a hot and sweaty thing. You’re doing yoga and you’re doing these challenging poses and stuff. I remember I was in this one pose and I still remember the yoga teacher’s name because I talked to her about it later. Her name is Laura Lee or Lauren Lee. We’re in this difficult pose and I’m pouring sweat. She was like, “You’re strong. You’re encouraging,” and I start crying. Months later I saw her. I told her the story about this. She looks at me and she goes, “Yoga can bring out a lot in you.” By the end, I was a pro. I was in these tiny shorts, no shirt, strong, flexible. It was a breeze.

One 30-day challenge that was mentally exhausting that I need to touch on that similar like you had that day one transformation. I don’t know how this has slipped my mind until now. I did a 30-day challenge with probably four of us. It’s rare that I get people to join me on this because I feel like a 30-day challenge needs to be personalized to something that is sucking in your life that you want to change. One of my friends pitched this to me and I thought it was genius. He wanted to do 30 days of fear. Something that scared you every day for 30 days. That could be something lame like going up and talking to that attractive female that you wouldn’t otherwise talk to.

I disagree. That’s a real fear that men have.

In my typical Chase fashion, I constructed a few things in there that were less fears and just dumb. One day I took police-grade pepper spray to the face from a friend that was a police officer. That one was another one that was a gift that kept on giving for 24 hours. There were 4 or 5 of us that started, and I want to say only 1 or 2 of us finished because it was an attack on your senses every day. You know that you had to do something difficult every single day. By the end of it, I was super exhausted but you also know what fear looks like after that.

I’m glad you brought that up because the morning of my birthday was this physical challenge. Largely, it was enjoyable because it wasn’t devastating. I felt good the next day. It was reinforcing in a sense. The afternoon was designed to be the same, but for my thoughts and feelings. I did the stereotypical Joshua Tree psychedelic experience in the afternoon. I had an autoresponder on that said, “Big day, I’m taking a break from the internet. If this is an emergency, I don’t know what to tell you.” As an aside, there was a new station that wanted to interview me for a story, but they couldn’t get through. 

Was it for the book or the podcast or something?

It’s for the book and this webinar that I was doing. I would have been worthless anyway for that. I’m glad I wasn’t available. We’re living in a scary time and it’s being broadcast 24/7 by our news and by our social media and so on. I had this idea as I was walking through this, I use this term neighborhood loosely, and these are little Ram style homes on big five-acre plots. There are a lot of people with their dogs and their fences and their NRA stickers and so on. I was reflecting on how everybody is afraid all the time. Some of us are afraid of big things like we’re afraid for our grandparents or parents with Corona. We’re afraid for our jobs and our livelihoods. We’re also inundated by small fears like anxieties that we’re not well equipped to deal with at 5:00 in the morning and so on. I was thinking about how the better I can conquer fear in my life. The freer I’ll be. I’ve always been motivated more by freedom.

It’s not surprising that I host a podcast called Solo: The Single Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life because my pursuit of freedom is profound that it guides many of my decisions, what I work on, who I work with, where I work, when I work, what I do for fun, how I travel, where I travel. It’s something that I value greatly. I subscribed by a do no harm version of freedom. I sequestered myself when I was asked this question myself. My desire for freedom is not, I’m going to run amuck during a time we’re trying to stop the spread of the virus, but I was thinking about how much more mentally free I could be if I could give up even more fear. I have no interest in doing your 30-day fear challenge. I’d have to push myself to do that, to be honest. I compliment you for doing it, but one of the benefits of doing it is when you can confront fear in that way, it can have this freeing effect on you.

I got some news alongside all of my coworkers. At least at my level, 7.5% of our salary is chopped off for the next four months. Voluntary furloughs are welcome too like if you want to raise your hand. I could financially get away with it. What weighs on me is I have a big job like what you’ve mentioned. Your boss would say glowing things about you. I would feel tremendously guilty to leave her with the rat’s nest that is my job. It’s difficult.

Is it because of your job is always like that or because it’s especially bad now?

It’s always complex but I would say the situation at hand has made it even more so.

I’m going to say this as someone who cares about you. If you’re that valuable, when this all ends, you should ask for a raise or ask for additional benefits. If you’re valuable that you feel guilty of leaving, they should be compensating you better than they are.

I’ve justified probably a lower compensation historically because I value that freedom that you and I have talked about. I have this weird intersection of the perfect amount of challenge with also the perfect amount of ability to walk away for a week. I can get away for a week and the world would be fine if I took a month, if I took a couple of weeks that might be a little tougher.

I had this conversation with a friend where she was considering taking another job. I said, “Before you take that other job or if you get the offer, you might want to go back to your employer and instead of asking for a raise, ask to keep your salary the same but only work four days a week.”

What was her response to that?

First of all, she said, “It would be difficult for my company to say yes because organizationally, they probably don’t have the means to allow that.” What I said was, “You should use that extra day to start working on your own entrepreneurial venture.” I would love to see you work four days a week and then start to turn your hobbies into businesses. That would be the equivalent of you getting a raise, but what you need more than money is time. You have a low burn rate. You’re not a person who has expensive tastes aside from craft beer. To the next step in your remarkable life is to start to shed the hours that you spend. I have a feeling you could do your job in four days 90% as well.

I like where this conversation has gone. The point I was going to make on that 7.5% at higher levels is much higher. I was surprised at how little that impacted me in the sense of most people would react like, “What am I cutting out? What’s next for me?” For me, even if I was still commuting to work and still had the same exact expenses, I feel like I’ve found something in quarantine that I didn’t know that I had and that’s adaptability. Myself and probably humans in general are beyond adaptable to the point that you could even imagine.

I’ve been surprised at even how willing people are to go along with all of this. That’s the first one. Let’s get back to sharpening your sword. That was a fantastic digression, first of all. I don’t regret doing it. You get this wake-up call and you immediately change your behavior. In what ways?

The drinking subsides. The hour of movement per day had digressed into I will walk for two of these one-on-ones and it was constrained to walking. For better or worse, I don’t like to admit this about myself, but when I hop on the scale in the morning that will dictate in my mind like, “Is this an intermittent fasting until lunch type of day or I can eat breakfast? It’s not that I crave breakfast or anything like that. I’ve stopped caring about that. I care more about, “I’m hungry. I’m going to eat.” It’s the superficial things that have gone by the wayside. I feel like that first week was selfish and I’ve got to work my tail off, and then I’m going to drink to compensate. Now my days are structured in a way of I’m going to work. Before this interview, I had a two-hour-long conversation with another friend and a quick fifteen-minute powwow with another friend. People are feeding off of positivity within quarantine because everyone is in the Tiger King rat race. I have the benefit of being there for a week and I know how people were feeling.

[bctt tweet=”Now is the opportunity to look around and know what is important to you and to give yourself permission to be okay.” via=”no”]

I had another conversation with one of the readers and I had said to her, “I’m concerned that you gave up your side hustle too quickly when the quarantine hit.” We talked through like, “This is an opportunity that you might be able to spin this business up.” I have this saying, it leads my acknowledgments, which is I like to give advice and I like to take advice. A lot of my conversations are one or the other of those things with a wide range of people. You’re right, there are a number of people who are struggling right now and uncertain. Uncertainty is adversive and can be paralyzing. It sounds like you’ve righted the ship a bit and people are leaning on you a little bit for some inspiration.

That’s what I’m seeing and feeling. That historically filled my cup as it were and that gives me energy.

It fits the intimate interactions. 

I get more strength or fortitude from giving advice versus receiving it. Especially when people impart that advice. I love to see a friend of mine is dating this guy and he’s long distance. They don’t subscribe to the same religion or ideological beliefs. She’s grasping at straws. She’s a fan, Pete. The funny thing is she was chatting with me on Marco Polo and she was talking about how like, “Maybe I can bend my moral standards.” She doesn’t want to have sex until marriage. “After three months of dating, either he bends to me or maybe even I bend to him.” She accidentally sends that Marco Polo to her grandmother. The grandmother responds with the same advice that I’ve been saying to her this entire quarantine, I call it my quarantime. The entire quarantime, I’ve been telling her like, “Do what’s right for you and be true to yourself. If that’s with this guy, follow that.” The grandma is saying the exact same thing. That has been the highlight of my week.

If a 32-year-old man and a 75-year-old woman who both know and care about you give you the same advice, they are correct, or a 50-year-old stranger, the triangulation on that is 99.9% accurate. Let’s do it in this way. I’m going to try to hustle to get this out. I do a podcast every week and then occasionally I’ll drop one in earlier. Maybe there will be two in a week or something like that. I have a feeling that’s what I’m going to try to do with this. There’s a bit of a production lag, unfortunately. This is going on for a while. Anything else that you’re doing? I’m going to give you a chance to give some advice to readers or to me about quarantime that you think would matter.

I need to do a little bit 1 or 2 additional questions for you.

I want to say this. There are several candidates for this, but if I dropped dead and I should have someone that I hand Solo over to, you are a candidate for this just so you know. 

I will be honored. That will be so much fun. One of the things that you mentioned on this show was that March 22nd date when things started closing around you. You said, “I don’t know that I can be stranded in this one-bedroom apartment.” Can you tell me about that? You have a version of that but on a much bigger version. What makes it better in Joshua Tree?

There’s something psychologically different about it. There are some physical differences. First of all, this is a bigger space than I have in LA. I call it my box in the sky. Trust me I’m not disparaging it. It’s got a wonderful view. It’s super cool. It’s a great refuge home base thing. This place has a little extra space. It has a back patio that I can walk out of in a fire pit. It’s got windows on all four sides. It has green space or the equivalent of desert space everywhere. I look out the window and I see a Joshua Tree. I look out another window, I see another Joshua Tree. What it does though, it’s not where I’m blocked from my old life, which is you can’t go to your coworking space. You can’t go to your cafe, you can’t go to your gym. In that way, I can’t do any of those things either, but none of those things are across the street. The reminder that this wonderful and exciting LA living has gone. The vinyl and the CDs and all of that add this extra element of the old school. I’m living seriously old school.

I brought a bunch of pads of paper in my journal and I’m doing a lot of writing by hand. I brought a pile of books that were languishing a little bit because my LA lifestyle was being a little too much. This is exactly the thing I ought to have been doing. I have this idea, I’m going to probably try to come back here every April or May. What I should be doing is detaching myself every so often anyway. There’s just never a good time for it. This was the kick in the ass to do the thing that in hindsight was an obvious thing that I should be doing for a sabbatical anyway. I’m terrible about vacationing. I never vacation. The best that I can do is a retreat. If Bill Gates can go and spend a week in a cabin every year with a pile of books, my life’s not too important to do that also.

What I heard barely that I am glomming onto and I hope people also hear it is that this is the kick in the ass. This is your opportunity. The reason I asked about your place in LA is that my place is 400 square feet of concrete and windows. I’ll hop on Zoom calls for work and people are asking me, “Are you in prison?” It’s very dry. Where I’m going with this is the only thing that society expects of me is that I work, I’m lucky enough to still maintain my job and that I stay inside. With those constraints, it is infinitely fascinating how I have filled the time. For people, you are going to look back at this point at some point in your life. For me, I don’t want to be the person that said that, “I binge-watched Tiger King four times.” I want to be the person that completed a Murph ten times or explored a genre of book that I never would have thought. My uncle passed away and I inherited his iPhone and his music collection. It’s similar to what you have. I’ve spent evenings deep-diving into how he thinks and how he was listening to music in 2013. The cool thing to that or on top of that is I’ve taken his iPhone and there are 1,500 songs on there. I’ve created a Spotify playlist.

His Facebook page is still super active because he was a loved human. I shared that and people are stoked. He was a special guy to me. Now is the opportunity for everyone in their lives to look around and say, “What’s important to me?” and give yourself permission to be okay that it’s important to you. Craft beer is important to me. I’m not going to beat myself up that I have one craft beer every night. That’s not a problem in my mind. Whatever that is, it’s going to be unique for every individual, but honor who Pete is, honor who Chase is. Reader, honor who you are and explore the things that make you you.

I want to reflect on this. I have these different principles that I’ve been working on for these Solo principals. I do think that one is more important than ever, and it’s this idea to create more than you consume. It’s easy to get passive because you’re supposed to be at home and the easy thing is to flip on the TV. Creating stuff is hard. Making that sword is hard. The difference between watching someone make a sword and making a sword is at the end you have a sword. If you’re going to listen to music, that’s great. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with using consumption to create pleasurable feelings, to cope and deal, distract and so on. I’m not going to dissuade people from doing that. I like the idea of making a playlist that you share with other people because now you have something to show for it. I lean on people if you can start your one page that’s going to become your secret project. Even exercise is an act of creation because you are transformed by that. You have something to show for it as a result of it. I can’t tell people what that thing is. That’s impossible. Chase, I hustled this through after I got your email. Thank you for saying yes to this. 

It was fun, Pete.

I have one last thing. I’ll say. I figured out the name of this thing. It’s called Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo.

Is it November?

I don’t know if it is in November per se. I don’t know if it has to be any particular month. It has to be a month where you do it. There’s even a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, NaNoWriMo. I love that idea. I’m not going to do it. I’m not interested in writing a novel, but I love it if someone else would decide to do that. 

Some readers take some inspiration and do that. This has been fun. Can we do this again?

We’ll see. It would be fun when your 30-day challenge TV show or book comes out. I would love to have you on Solo: The Single Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life. Chase, thanks so much for your time. 

Thanks a lot, Pete.

You’re great. Cheers.


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