While I’m glad I quit the following things over the past decade or so, that doesn’t mean I recommend you do the same. As you’ll see, I have no idea what I’m taking about.
Your mom/wife/Michelle Obama/favorite influencer knows better. Listen to them.
All I can say is quitting these things has worked out well for me so far. But maybe I’m self-justifying, which is one thing I can’t manage to quit no matter how hard I try.
So let’s get into it.
✗ I quit sleeping on a big soft bed.
In my twenties, I’d lie on my budget Ikea bed and dream of having a luxurious hotel-style mega mattress. It seemed rational, too. As the mattress industry loves to remind us, we spend a third of our lives sleeping, so splurging on the best would seem to be a reasonable investment.
It’s like dropping multiple months’ salary on an engagement ring to demonstrate the depths of your love, y’know?
But then, while living in Valencia, Spain in 2019, a series of events led me in the opposite direction: onto the cool, hard, un-luxurious floor.
I had a nightmarish sleep. But, like an anti-Princess and the Pea, there was also something invigorating about it. So I kept at it. And, as I wrote in my story about how I ended up sleeping on the floor, it led me to change what I dream about dreaming on.
Today, both Kim and I floor sleep Japanese-style, on thin mattresses on tatami mats.
✗ I quit shopping for clothes.
I used to enjoy hunting for designer deals at department stores like Winners and TJ Maxx. And, if I was feeling flush, I’d go to the mall and shop around there, too.
But then I discovered merino wool.
The downsides of merino? Only a few brands make quality merino apparel, it’s super expensive, and they don’t sell off their excess to Winners. But, since I rarely need replacements and know where to go when I do, I don’t shop around anymore.
✗ I quit following the news.
Go ahead and judge me for being an unconcerned citizen. But please only do so after you’ve gone through the same thought experiments I did that convinced me to almost entirely quit the news.
Since you probably won’t click that link because you’re too busy keeping up with the news, here’s a quickie:
The Too-Busy-to-Be Concerned Citizens
Imagine a town where everyone stopped following the news and refocused all that mental effort, energy, and money toward positive action. They volunteered, attended community meetings, and/or worked more and donated their additional income to charity.
Would the town be a worse or better place?
Also, consider applying the treatment I found for reducing my information overload (a.k.a diabetes of the mind):
Pronounced wide-body, it stands for, What will I do differently based on this information?
✗ I quit tanning.
It’s not that I’ve become one of those vampires who avoids all direct contact with the sun. The jury’s still out for me on whether the sun’s as dangerous as some say.
I quit tanning because:
- I have better things to do than lie around. I used to need time to relax when not at work, but now my work is relaxing in its own right. And, when not “working,” there are too many other things I’d rather do during a nice day.
- My tan comes as a bi-product. I spend way more time outdoors working out, volleyballing, walking, picnicking, and even working on my computer than I used to.
- Vitamin D is no luxury to me. Kim and I have spent the past four years swapping hemispheres between Vancouver and Cape Town to enjoy eternal summers, so the sun’s rays aren’t something special I feel the urge to overdose on anymore.
✗ I quit arguing.
As much of an idiot as I acknowledge myself to be, I believe a lot of people are even dumber. But I don’t bother trying to convince them of it anymore.
Doing a lot of research for my post on how to change someone’s mind changed my own mind on that matter.
Arguing‘s a waste of precious breath. If you strongly disagree, I don’t want to hear it.
✗ I quit counting how many countries I’ve visited.
My goals as a moronic, hormonic 20-something were to visit 100 countries and bang 100 chicks by the time I was 30.
Both are ridiculous examples of Goodhart’s law: When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.
It’s not that I don’t care to visit new countries anymore. It’s just that A) I prefer to spend a longer time getting to know countries, and B) There are plenty I hope to go back to.
If I live long enough to visit 100 countries, super. But even then I won’t know it because I’ve stopped counting.
✗ I quit eating vegetable oils.
Deep Nutrition, by Catherine Shanahan, scared me away from any oils derived from un-oily plants (e.g., corn, cotton, grapeseeds, canola, sunflowers, and whatever the heck margarine’s made from).
I won’t pretend to understand the mechanisms that make them unhealthy. But Dr. Cate seems to have a good grip of the biology and she’s persuasive. There are plenty of other yummier oils left to choose from, anyway.
Here’s Dr. Cate’s list of good and bad oils, along with a brief explanation, if you’re curious.
✗ I quit devouring non-fiction books.
Prior to September 22, 2015, the day I started lifelogging, I consumed non-fiction without digesting because I thought reading tons of books made me smarter.
But now I don’t remember which books I read, let alone what smarts they supposedly bestowed upon me.
These days, after reading a non-fiction book, I go back through it a second time, take notes, and put it to practical use by asking myself, “What one thing will I do differently based on what I’ve learned?”
This slows my consumption down. But it also slows the knowledge’s swirl down the memory drain.
✗ I quit mouth breathing.
This is a good example of putting the non-fiction I read to practical use.
If I hadn’t read James Nestor’s book, Breath, I might not have taken on the challenge to tape my mouth shut at night to force myself to breathe through my nose. I would’ve thought I’d suffocate. But the opposite happened. My nasal airways gradually opened up like a middle-aged man’s hips after years of yoga.
Now I don’t walk around like a slack-jawed, fly-swallower everywhere I go.
More importantly, the science Nestor shares in his book seems to indicate I’m being healthier by having my nose filter air. And I’m experiencing evidence it’s true. For instance, I don’t suffer from hay fever anymore.
See my story, How to Stop Mouth Breathing and Become a Nose Breather, for more exercises, tips, and motivation.
✗ I quit snacking.
Pre-pretirement, I kept a drawer full of granola bars, sweets, and half a Subway sandwich beside my desk. They kept me energized for all the intense pivot tabling, emailing, and conference calling I had to do. Outside of work, I also made sure to pack plenty of food to keep from getting hungry. Or, even worse, hangry.
But then, sometime around 2015, I started to read about how having many meals a day might not be the healthiest or even most energizing approach. Somehow, this convinced me to experiment with putting my snacks out of sight and try eating way less frequently.
First, I jumped off the breakfast bandwagon. It was a bumpy ride at first, but within a month I lost all cravings for food in the morning. And I felt more energetic for it.
Then I did a three-day fast. One of the many things that experience taught me is that hunger is way less physical than mental.
It’s like checking your emails. You feel the urge to do it all the time and it feels good and harmless—productive, even. And you worry that if you don’t do it for a few days, you’ll end up in big trouble. But then you try and… it’s no big deal. You realize most of the emails you’d typically waste your energy on are worthless junk.
Now, instead of snacking all the time, I only eat once or twice a day, when it’s convenient. Usually, that means lunch at around 3 p.m. and dinner whenever Kim wants. And I regularly go days without food.
It’s easier. It’s more flexible. I feel just as good, if not better.
And I have extra drawer space.
✗ I quit casting my feet.
Have you ever broken an arm or leg before?
If so, you know what too much time in a cast does to the body part it’s protecting.
Well, most shoes are casts. They make the tough, robust, and flexible feet we’re designed to have soft, fragile, and immobile. And this has knock-on effects for everything above.
Katy Bowman taught me so in Move Your DNA. She also broke the unwelcome news that flip flops aren’t much better for different reasons you can read about in her book if you care to know.
So I freed my feeble feet from their casts…
…and I got achilles tendinitis. Like moving from sleeping on the bed to the floor, I should’ve made a slower, gentler transition. But I persevered. Now my Lems Primal 2s runners and Xero Cloud Jesus sandals feel natural.
✗ I quit wiping and whizzing all wrong.
Jump over this one if you don’t like potty talk.
I used to be a scruncher. Now I fold, wipe, fold, wipe, toss. It uses much less toilet paper and reduces the risk of my fingers poking through and getting dirty.
Kim’s changed her wiping ways, too.
One day, hopefully we won’t wipe at all. Bidets are the way to go, so whenever we have a permanent home, buying one will be number one on my shopping list. (Or number two?)
I used to be a stander. Now at home I sit down to pee. It’s more relaxing and less messy. No toilet seat up versus down debates, either.
✗ I quit watching sports.
Time zones and remote beaches rescued me from couch-bound NFL and NBA fandom.
The “worst part” of moving to Geneva, Switzerland in 2008 for work was being six hours ahead of EST. I couldn’t watch primetime sports anymore, which forced me to do better things with my prime years.
Then, in 2011, I moved back to America. But not North America. Panama City, Panama. Since Panama’s in EST, I could fill my weekends watching football and basketball again. Alternatively, I could drive out of town to go surfing at beaches beyond the reach of cable TV. I chose B.
By the time I moved back to Vancouver in late 2013, watching live sports had lost its luster. I still listen to more sports podcasts than I should, but at least I’m not doing so with my butt on a couch.
✗ I quit disliking black licorice.
By applying tricks and strategies I learned while researching the factors that affect taste and how to train my palate, I successfully converted myself from a licorice hater into a licorice lover in thirty days.
Ok, “lover” is a bit strong. I don’t drool over the thought of licorice or anything. But if I were to go trick-or-treating again and have black licorice handed to me, I wouldn’t say, “Ew gross,” anymore.
Is there a practical benefit to getting over my dislike for black licorice?
No. Not unless I move to a licorice-loving Nordic country. But maybe you might be able to apply the tricks that worked for me to acquire a taste for some food you have an inconvenient dislike for.
✗ I quit shaving with a razor.
I’m not sure which was worse: the time I wasted shaving every other day from age 16 to 27 or all the in-grown hairs I got from doing so.
Since I suffer from male facial baldness and can’t grow a beard, I semi-seriously contemplated laser facial hair removal. Instead, I bought an electric trimmer to keep my patchy facial hair at a not-too-conspicuous stubble. With it, I waste a third of the time I used to dealing with my facial hair and rarely get in-growns anymore.
Here’s a kind of gross ingrown-hair anecdote:
I used to pluck my nose hairs, too. This led to painful ingrowns in my nostrils. And not once, but twice, the hair grew so far in that it pierced all the way through and popped out of a zit on the other outside of my nose.
✗ I quit consuming every podcast in my feed.
This is the most recent thing I quit doing.
In July 2021, I tried a “podfast”—I quit listening to podcasts for the whole month.
I didn’t make it all the way to August, but I made it long enough to realize that podcasts take as much as they provide—sometimes more.
My habits have changed. Rather than fill every empty minute with as many podcasts as possible, I carefully pick and choose a handful of episodes to enjoy every week. The rest of the time, I listen to music or my own boring brain. I also pay more attention to the world in front of me.
✗ I quit listening to my tiger mom mind.
I used to be my own tiger mom. When I missed a free throw, shanked a drive, or struck out, I’d nag myself for my stupid mistake and harp on how much of a loser I am. It’s not that I had low self-esteem. The opposite. I was self-confident enough to take the tough love and ask for more. I thought it made me better.
But then I read a hippie-dippie little book called The Inner Game of Tennis. It introduced me to a simple equation that changed my approach to self-coaching:
Performance = Potential – Interference
And the biggest source of interference?
By taming my tiger mind, I could learn more like a kid learns to walk: instinctively, surprisingly fast, and with a smile on my face even after I fall flat on it from time to time.
✗ I quit “doing abs.”
It started when I abandoned “arm day” during my second year of university. My friend Simon thought it was a stupid move. Without bicep curls and tricep extensions, I’d get way weaker. But it turned out that compound exercises like pull-ups and presses were plenty enough to pump up my pipes. Plus, they worked the rest of my body at the same time.
Including my core.
So ab exercises like crunches and planks were the next to go. And just as my arms didn’t whittle down to sticks when I stopped targeting them, my abs didn’t get soft and flabby. If anything, I feel more functionally fit than before. And the exercises I do are way more fun.
✗ I quit working out inside.
This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous.
Once I was released from the pulleys, cables, and chains of fancy gym equipment, I was free to ditch the gym and work out outside.
The vitamin D, fresh air, and freedom are fantastic. Sure, it sucks when the weather’s miserable, but isn’t the point of working out to make yourself uncomfortable?
✗ I quit thinking I know what’s best.
Looking back on all these things I quit doing in the past ten to fifteen years leaves me asking myself:
What will I quit doing in the coming ten years?
Some things come to mind:
- Following sports
- Drinking alcohol
- Having a smartphone
- Living between two cities
- Spending tons of time making YouTube videos
- Doing everything on this blog on my own
- Jumping/dunking on hard surfaces.
And maybe I’ll go back to doing some of the things I quit.
Who knows? All I know is I look forward to figuring it out and hope to have an even longer list than this one ten years from now.
Because it’s a lot more fun to be curious in all senses of the word than to struggle to be right all the time and worry about being wrong.
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