On July 26, 2014 I was sitting on the couch in my living room when I suddenly announced to my then future wife Bianca that I intended to bike at least an hour a day (or run 30 minutes when I was traveling without a bike) indefinitely. I’d actually maintained a streak of this nature for 250 days in 2008 (ending when I traveled to Bangladesh), so I was aware of what this commitment would entail.
I don’t know how to explain it, but there are pronouncements we make in life that we know, despite our confidence, won’t last: “I’m going to quit smoking,” “I’m going to get on a diet,” “I’m going to read a book a week.” But there are others that, deep down and despite outwardly sounding no different than those to which we fail to adhere, actually mark a true turning point. A few examples for me include when I became a vegetarian 15 years ago, when I started Capital Good Fund seven years ago, when I met Bianca three years ago and knew that she would become my wife, and when I started this new streak in 2014.
Two years on, I’ve realized a lot of benefits from the effort, in no small part because I’m the kind of person who, by going a few days without working out, can find it increasingly difficult to get back in the swing of things. The streak has ensured that I set aside time every day for myself and for my health–something that is of critical importance given how many hours I work and how stressful my job can be. And it has also allowed me to maintain a pretty high level of fitness and a healthy weight.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that I’m terribly proud of the streak. For starters, the vast majority of my rides have been indoors on the stationary bike; this makes sense during the coldest and iciest of winter days, but the point was not for me to default to riding indoors even when the weather is perfectly suitable for riding–the point was, in part, to get me outside, especially since I spend most of my time in front of a computer. Moreover, far too many of my rides have consisted of going through the motions as opposed to riding with purpose and carrying out my training plan. One of my other goals was to use the streak as a means of living a more discipline life, meaning that I would get up early to ride and watch my eating more carefully so as to lose weight. Alas, this has not come to fruition.
I have to recognize that there are also so many things I can do in a day. If I add up working 9 to 10 hours, talking Chance for a walk, and meals, I’m only left with a few waking hours for other things. Were I more of an automaton I would fill them with writing blog posts, cycling more than just an hour, and reading. Instead, I often myself too too tired to do much more than watch YouTube videos on the couch.
Can I do more? Can I somehow commit to being more disciplined, to making each day a more perfect resemblance of my ideal day as opposed to a simulacrum of one? Am I asking too much of myself or failing to realize my own potential? Or is it inevitable that by focusing on the social entrepreneur within I crowd out the poet?
I don’t know the answers. A few months ago I wrote that I would write at least 500 words a day–a statement that has fallen in the category of commitments I didn’t really believe I could maintain. Similarly, I find it hard to believe that I have an internal flip I can switch and and suddenly find a hidden reserve of energy and dedication. Maybe I need to step back and recognize that I am already more productive than the average person; that one can only do so much in a day; and that I should be proud of what I already do instead of bemoaning what I don’t or can’t. Indeed, perhaps if I reduced the pressure on myself I would have more energy to further approach my ideal self.