How many choices in your daily life are essentially toss-ups? Pizza or home cooking? Wine or liquor? Netflix or night out? Should I go to the gym or not? Every day, nearly all of these discrete choices are a 50/50 call. You could just as easily land in one place as the other. If you changed one thing you do within the first twenty minutes of waking up (I am going to give you three), however, or you had just a little bit more energy from a high fat, low sugar breakfast, maybe you choose differently. Maybe it ceases to be a question at all. Of course you’re going to the gym. Then, by going to the gym, you are less stressed that night as a result. So you have sex. Then you sleep better. Then you wake up more vibrant and with more energy. And you have set in motion a positive cascade of choices. The tipping point was one small change with breakfast. You exchanged your Apple Jacks for an avocado and all of the sudden your day was different, your week was different, maybe your whole month was different.
Nick Saban, possibly the greatest coach in the history of college football, tells his players to follow what he calls The Process. He tells them that the average down in football lasts about seven seconds. If they want to win an SEC championship, or a national title, they should focus on that smallest unit of measurement. Seven seconds. Don’t get lost in the big picture, he says, and risk taking your eye off the prize. Focus on what’s in front of you, focus on something you can chew and swallow. Focus on the micro, in other words, and the macro takes care of itself.
That’s the approach we’re going to take: The way to own your life is to own your day. Today. Because that’s all you have.
The Samurai master Musashi told students in The Book of Five Rings that, “When you freely beat one man, you beat any man in the world. The spirit of defeating a man is the same for ten million men. The strategist makes small things into big things, like building a great Buddha from a one-foot model. The principle of strategy is having one thing, to know ten thousand things.”
To live one day well is the same as to live ten thousand days well. To master twenty-four hours is to master your life.
The first thing we do with them is the first thing I’m going to do with you: examine your day. What do you do when you wake up? What do you eat? Are you getting enough of this vitamin or that one? Are you seeking good stress and avoiding the bad? Are you taking advantage of dead time when you travel? How do you wind down after long day? Are you having enough sex? These little things add up. The little things are the big things—even for some of the most accomplished people on earth. If you fight in a cage for a living or dance live on television in front of millions of people, those smallest details can be the difference between success and failure. If you are the everyday kind of superhero, the one that works hard to support a family, or build your career, these details are the tipping point between a life of passion and zeal, and a life of grey monotony.
Level 1: The Power Shower
There are some savages in our midst who hop into the shower every morning, crank the cold knob as far open as it can go, and grit their teeth while they do their scrubbing and shampooing and teeth-brushing, until the discomfort of the cold slowly wears off and they can finally breathe normally again. I’m not asking you to do that. In fact, I don’t actually think that’s the most effective strategy for getting you to the place, mentally, that you should be as you prepare to start your day in earnest.
Instead, what I want you to do is to turn the shower to hot and take your normal shower. Don’t dawdle, don’t hide from the day under the heavy stream of hot water, but don’t sprint either. Take care to wash and care for yourself in a way that leaves you satisfied. Then, once you’ve completed the actual hygienic part of your shower, and while the water is still hot, begin a cycle of Wim Hof breathing (thirty breaths or until you feel a tingling sensation in your extremities, whichever comes first). At that moment, turn the water as cold as it can go and let it hit every part of your body. Your reaction, likely, will be to gasp for breath. Listen to your body’s reaction. Listen to the cold. It’s telling you what to do: breathe more. Continue with the Wim Hof breaths until your body and your breathing have calmed to their pre-cold state. When you no longer need to breathe deeply to withstand the cold, hold your breath at the end of your next exhale (this is called the “bottom” of your breath) for as long as you can, until you feel the reflex to grab more breath. If you feel too lightheaded, feel free to sit down in the shower under the stream. Falling on your ass is not a hormetic stressor, it’s an emergency room visit with a better than 50-50 shot, if the statistics hold true, of being treated by a doctor who will have no idea what you were thinking. The Power Shower
1) Turn the shower to hot and wash
2) Do Wim Hof breathing (30-50 breaths or until tingling and/or mild light-headedness)
3) Turn the shower as cold as it can get
4) Continue Wim Hof breaths until breathing calms
5) Hold at the bottom of breath until the gasp reflex kicks in
6) Optional: Repeat breathing cycle up to twice more, at your discretion, with cold water running continuously or with periods of warm water between cycles to create contrast.
Total cold water exposure = ~3 minutes
A typical power shower takes about ten minutes all-in, and as part of that you should aim to be in the cold water for a minimum of three minutes. If you want to go for a second or third round of breathing and cold go for it. You can even briefly turn on the hot water to create contrast in between your breath cycles. Listen to the signals from your body, explore and experiment. But at the bare minimum, just do your best to have three minutes of continuous cold exposure somewhere in the process.
To the uninitiated, three minutes of cold exposure probably sounds both like an impossibly short amount of time for such profound effects and like eternity to endure. But once you’ve done it’ll be hard not to become a convert and three minutes will feel like a small price to pay for feeling immortal. And once you’ve gotten comfortable with the power shower then you can take your practice up a notch, to full cold immersion.
From the book OWN THE DAY, OWN YOUR LIFE: Optimized Practices for Waking, Working, Learning, Eating, Training, Playing, Sleeping, and Sex. by Aubrey Marcus. Copyright © 2018 by Aubrey Marcus. Published on April 1, 2018 by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.