Be great

OK so due to special request, we are bringing back regular-ish DONUTS.

And it’s nice to pretend like it was all because someone asked me to, but really, it’s been something I’ve been thinking about, too.

I’m not sure how regular-ish, but at least weekly. We’ll see how it goes.

In a way, it sort of feels like this is the beginning of DONUTS Season 2.

Sort of like Stranger Things S2, which, structurally and thematically, is very similar to Stranger Things S1.

But it’s a little more familiar, goes a little deeper.

A few months ago, I was watching some CrossFit videos on YouTube. (lol, don’t judge.)

One of the videos featured Katrin Davidsdottir, who is like Fittest Woman on Earth a couple years running now, which is a pretty big deal because the level of competition at the CrossFit games is at an all-time high these days.

(Also, fun Viking fact I learned from watching CrossFit videos, since there are a lot of Icelanders competing at the highest level. But they have a whole different system for figuring out your last name. We’re used to a system where you adopt your father’s last name. In Iceland, they take their father’s first name and add “son” or “dottir” to the end. So Katrin Davidsdottir => Katrin, daughter of David. Which is pretty kewl but you can also see how that can be confusing when trying to trace lineage and stuff like that. But I guess it works in Iceland because there’s like 200 people there. They qualified for the World Cup, BTW!)

Anyway, Katrin has this kewl coach who reads a lot of books and they are always talking about stoicism and stuff like that.

I just remember this one line where Katrin is basically like, “my greatest fear is reaching my goals.”

And I just remember that really striking a chord with me at the time.

It’s sort of a re-interpretation of the idea that it’s about the journey, not the destination, but in a more relatable way because we’re humans. We need destinations. The destination is always sort of looming.

(All of which sort of applies to the philosophy of running, BTW.)

Andre Agassi talks about a similar phenomenon in his autobiography, if I recall correctly, where he talks about the psychology of motivation and more importantly, the psychology of giving up. I’m paraphrasing and making up numbers to make his point, but it was basically along the lines of where they did this study of people trying to lose weight by going on diets. And they found that like 98% of the people went on this diet would fail.

But the interesting part was how they failed. Like if their goal was to lose 20 pounds, most people would get really, really close. Like, they would lose 18 pounds and then just fall off the wagon and gain all the weight back, sometimes even more.

Which is crazy, can you imagine? You lose 18 pounds. You’re two pounds away from your goal. And then you just blow your load and lose all your gains. All your hard work goes out the window.

The point was basically, the closer we get to the finish line, the more likely we are to screw it all up.

This is particularly pertinent in tennis, which is such a mental game that is often decided by a few key points and how you see it through when the end is near will determine whether you win or lose even if you, after the fact, tally up the total points you won and lost. You’d find that the net is close to zero.

So the enemy isn’t your opponent. The enemy is yourself. The enemy is this idea of a finish line that you put in your head.

We’ve all been there.

When you think you’ve arrived, that’s when you relax. And that’s when you’re at your most vulnerable.

Which brings us back to Katrin, whose worst fear is reaching her goals.

Her worst fear is the finish line.

I bring all of this up because, in a way, we finished Season 1 of DONUTS.

DONUTS Season 1 was really about rebuilding myself in the way that I always wanted to. I think from the age of 18 to the age of 30, I never had the chance to really take a second and step back. It was go-go-go from one thing to the next. You were always sort of catching up. There was always so much to do. And things just kept piling on.

So this last year was like a huge opportunity to do all the stuff that I always wanted to do, that was always in the back of my mind like, you know I need to do that.

And boy we did a lot of stuff.

We quit smoking cigarettes, a constant, aching source of self-loathing. We lost like 30-40 pounds (down from a peak of 215 at one point post-SF). We got buff. Deadlift ~400 lbs? No problem. We also started running. A few weeks ago, we ran our first half-marathon at a respectable pace (and successfully qualified for the NYC Marathon next year baby, wewt!!!!).

And we also figured out how to make videos.

(People are always like, why do you say “we.” Who is “we.” Is there someone I don’t know about? Did you hire a DONUTS intern?? But no, it’s just me. IDK why I say “we.” But for whatever reason like, it always feels like a collective effort. Because it’s not something I can do alone or in isolation. Like, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this stuff without the support of my family and my friends and all the people that I care about and that care about DONUTS. IDK.)

Plus all the little things like partying and drinking less (a lot less), reading more (a lot more), and being more present when it came to my family, my friends, and my community.

Also like the totally dumb stuff, like simple things that made a big difference in my vibes like getting a respectable haircut and a nice pair of fitted jeans. Kissed a girl (or two).

All that good stuff.

I mean, I can objectively say that in the last 18 months or so, I pretty much accomplished all the goals I set out to accomplish. (Which BTW is I think the first time that has happened. I think part of it is because the time is right. Part of it because of experience and learning from past failures. And part of it is because of DONUTS. Like writing about stuff and sharing it held me accountable in a new kind of way.)

And for that, I should be extremely fearful.

Because that means, according to Katrin and Andre, I’m in the dangerzone.

So I think the only way to remedy this situation is to set even higher, loftier goals.

I mean there are things I have already been thinking about, sort of the natural progression of a few things I’m already doing. Like, I would like to run my next half-marathon at an 8 minute pace, down from ~10. I would like to be able to bench sets of 225 comfortably, squat sets of 315 comfortably, and deadlift sets of 405 comfortably. (Right now we can do sets of 205, 275, and 365, and it’s not that comfortable.)

But the real goals are about DONUTS.

Like more videos, more stories, more characters, more subscribers, more views. And at some point, we need to start making money (although I figure this will be way down the line).

And also just figuring out what DONUTS really is.

(We’re working on some things behind the scenes so we’ll get into specifics at a later date.)

One aspect I want to highlight more of are OTHER people’s challenges along with my own.

So if you have a personal challenge you’d like to take on, and I know you do, please hit me up ASAP!!!

Because I also think one of the ongoing themes of DONUTS is how people take ownership of their lives in beautiful and unexpected ways.

Here’s a stupid example to get you guys thinking about your own personal challenges.

Like one thing I’ve been thinking about trying is like a 5-day fast, which sounds very exciting to me, lol, among other things. And would be kewl to document.

So it could just be trying out something stupid and new. (I’m thinking about starting next Monday, I’ll keep you guys posted.)

Or you could be like my friend Vahe.

He just quit his job the other day as a well-paid software engineer at an SF tech company.

He’ll be in NY this weekend.

I’ll have my camera.

OK, figure we might as well end with a mini culture club for this comeback post.

I recently finished Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Mrs. Fletcher was a chill read, story of a divorced middle-aged woman’s existentialism after her kid leaves for college. Hint: she ends up filling part of that void with internet porn. The book’s about the suburbs and loneliness and… also identity politics, believe it or not. It’s hardly groundbreaking but a chill, easy read, I guess. I mean, it’s mostly about sex, lol. If not sex, then the innuendo of sex or the contemplation of sex or the motivation of sex. Life in the ‘burbs, baby.

This was like the first time I read a new fiction book that just came out (thanks for the rec Anna!) and I’m generally satisfied with the experience.

Ready Player One was a very different read, recommended by Chris Carr (and also Casey Neistat). The book’s actually a few years old but there’s a new Steven Spielberg directed movie coming out next spring which makes it extra relevant.

I will say, it was a gripping page-turner. Couldn’t put it down, mostly at the expense of sleep. And it brings together a lot of themes that are right up my ally. Computers and video games and virtual reality. The economic inequality of the suburbs in the future. Most of all, it’s just a really fun adventure. You know this type of book, about the kid fulfilling his destiny. Who doesn’t like that book.

Oh yeah, it’s also 80s-themed (even though it takes place in the future), which seems to be a very trendy thing these days (although Cline wrote this ~2009-2010 or so, published a couple years later).

Since, as you know, Stranger Things is similarly supercharged with 80s nostalgia. (I guess we’ve just gotten to that point in time where people who grew up in the 80s rule the world now? If that’s the case, can’t wait for the 90s. Cuz the 90s was obviously the best.)

Well, you guys don’t need me to tell you about Stranger Things besides that S2 lived up to the sky high expectations of S1.

But my favorite 80s-themed TV show is one that you probably haven’t watched and one that just ended (forever) a couple weeks ago.

Halt and Catch Fire!!!

It’s one of those rare shows that started slow but really grew up into something truly special.

With the best shows, after a while, the characters become your family. And this was so true of Halt. Every time I watched a new episode, it was like going home.

And the ending was just perfect.


So book-wise, I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to read next, but I have a few options on deck. I guess it will depend on my mood tomorrow when I’m on the train.

Up first is The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. He’s the guy that just won the Nobel for Literature. The book is about a butler in postwar England so I guess like, emo-Downton Abbey vibes? I’ve already been carrying this book around with me for a couple weeks but Ready Player One was so enrapturing I never got to starting it.

I also have The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I haven’t read this since I was a kid in school and IDK, I recently got the urge to re-read it from the perspective of an adult. For a 13-year old girl to be so wise in such times. Yeah, I need to see that again from older eyes.

The other book I bought recently was the new Leonardo Da Vinci bio by Walter Isaacson. There’s a good New Yorker longread about it. I mean it’s Da Vinci and Isaacson, so that’s pretty much self-explanatory.

The only curveball here is that, while checking out, on a whim, I also added Benjamin Franklin, also by Walter Isaacson to my cart. (They got me with the, CUSTOMERS OFTEN BUY THESE TWO ITEMS TOGETHER, button. Slaves to the algorithm, man.)

And I’m gonna be honest like, I know I’m supposed to read Da Vinci cuz it’s new and now. But I’m sort of leaning toward Franklin just because it’s America, you know.

America is in such a weird place right now and it would be kewl to see how a great man dealt with troubling times back in the day.

I mean we already know.

He did it by being fucking great.

And we are all sort of fucking great in our own way.

So maybe that’s the answer.

Forget about all the noise. (This week is particularly noisy.)

You do you.

Be great.

See you next week.