The optimal human performance formula: the basics

Good news: Scientists have discovered a simple, effective trick to reach your optimal performance and be the smartest human you can be.

Bad news: You’re not gonna do it.

Here is the trick:

  • Breathe deep,
  • Drink more water,
  • Sleep 8 hours every night
  • Eat more vegetables,
  • Move your ass
  • Go outside

For optimal results, do it every day.

I am sure I am not blowing your mind with novel insight.

You probably are aware that air, water, sleep, and exercise are important. But because these are such basics, we tend to discount them. They are not newsworthy, they won’t make the headlines, and they don’t help you delude yourself that „this time will be different, because you have one more magic trick up your sleeve.”

You probably have heard those points before, but you have a list of concerns and cannot deal with a yet-another morning routine that will take your precious time away from you.

But there is more good news: taking care of these basics seriously will have an immediate effect on your to-do list.

“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance.”

Power of Full Engagement

In a best-selling book „Power of Full Engagement”, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz have listed 4 sources of energy that can fuel your attention, performance, and productivity:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • mental
  • spiritual

And your „Biggest Bang for the Buck” is the physical level by far – it is the cornerstone of the other ones. Unfortunately, Humanity has a fascinating ability to forget important lessons.

Breathing

Physical energy is derived from the interaction between oxygen and glucose.
„Surely I know how to breathe!” You may think to yourself.
If you feel constant anxiety or are low-key stressed all the time, here me out: you may be breathing incorrectly. Shallow breathing can very often influence your mood, focus and energy levels. Throughout our evolution, we would shallow breathe only when there is danger, or we have to chase after prey.
So guess what? Your body is releasing cortisol based on your crappy breathing.
But you are sitting in front of your laptop, doing none of those things and yet getting stressed like your life depends on it.
Proper breathing:

  • Your arms are back
  • Your belly sticks out while you are breathing (that is the diaphragm)
  • Air goes in through your nose
  • Inhale is at least 3-4 seconds

Watch this video of two navy seals explaining how to breathe:

A sidenote about your laptop/smartphone:

When you are sitting in front of a laptop or holding your smartphone with two hands, you are constricting your lungs.

  • Your arms get close together, closing your chest and lungs
  • Your head is down, constricting the air canals
  • This position is similar to how you would hide from a predator, prompting your body to release cortisol

Homework:

  1. Watch the navy seal video
  2. Set a timer in your phone for every 3 hours that says “breathe”
  3. If you work on your laptop, buy a keyboard and a monitor.

Drinking Water

Drinking water, we have found, is perhaps the most undervalued source of physical energy renewal.

Power of Full Engagement

Your body has lots of water, chances are you know that. But if you are like me, you probably keep putting other stuff in it, like:

  • Coke
  • Coffee
  • Tea

Even though they contain it, none of those things ARE water.

They have much lower PH (they are acidic), which means your body has to work hard to filter them before the water content can be used in metabolic processes.

On top of that, beverages tend to flush out the essential salts ( Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium ) out of the body. All of these elements are needed to keep your brain spinning to ingest my insightful blog posts.

A study published in “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience” has found evidence that drinking water improves cognitive performance in both children and adults. Hydration for health is collecting empirical evidence for the many benefits of just drinking water.

Homework:

  1. Buy a water bottle and put it by your computer
  2. Put a post-it on it that says „Drink Me.”
  3. Drink whenever you feel foggy

Sleeping

Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity.

Brain rules

I am writing this for you as much as I do it for my own benefit. Every once in a while, I will get deep into a fun automation project – a book, or a new Netflix series and realize that it’s 3 am already.

The next day is totally wasted and I promise to never repeat that mistake until the next time. Goddamnit, Artur!!

  • Yes, you need 8 hours of sleep.
  • You are not as productive at 10 pm as you thought
  • Go to bed

Arianna Huffington, the founder of HuffPost has decided to devote her entire career to promoting sleep and in this TED Talk, she explains why:

Homework:

  1. Set an alarm that says „Go to sleep” at, say 21:45
  2. Go to sleep when the alarm rings

Moving your Ass

Physical activity is cognitive candy. Civilization, while giving us such seemingly forward advances as modern medicine and spatulas, also has had a nasty side effect. It gives us more opportunities to sit on our butts.

Brain rules

Apart from the countless evidence that exercising keeps your body healthy, it also helps you think.
Read more about Ass-Shaking here
Exercise gets blood to your brain, bringing it glucose for energy and oxygen to soak up the toxic electrons that are left over. It also stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connecting.

Homework:

  1. When you wake up, go for a fast walk, every day for a week. Just try it.
  2. Report back

Basics are your key to success

We search for “advanced tricks” and “pro tips” in a vain effort to save ourselves time and effort on the basics.

The harsh reality is that mastering the basics is the real “trick”. We gloss over them, because they are intellectually simple. Yet simple is not easy and it takes practice to engrain proper habits and foundations.

Maybe someday I will. Until them, I’ll keep having to remind myself to drink more water and move once in a while.

To rest – move

“It was stressful, so I went to the gym.”

WHAT?!

I have seen this scene a couple of times in TV Shows or maybe movies:

Some jacked dude picks up the phone. There is a woman on the other side. She wants to meet. He says something along the lines of:

“It was a stressful day at work, so I went to a gym. I am going to take a quick shower and join you in town.”

It sounded ridiculous to me. If he was stressed – why didn’t he have a nap?! The gym is the last place I think of when I am tired!

Enter Tony Robbins

I always wanted to go to a Tony Robbins seminar. Trought his career he has coached presidents, movie stars, business tycoons and thousands (or probably millions) of regular folks. This man is a machine.

His “entry-level” seminar is called “Unleash the Power Within” and focuses on helping you raise your standards and commit to a better quality of life. If you get a chance – it may be the best investment of your life.

Apart from many takeaways, 2 things stood up for me in regards to fitness and energy:

  1. We spent a bulk of time on dialing in the health. In the western culture we view our bodies as mere vehicles for the brain (Read here how I blame Plato and Aristotle), but the physical well-being is the engine powering our mental capabilities and the source of energy. We learned that the plant-based diet is right for you, that most of us don’t hydrate enough and even that somehow, the modern folk have lost the way to breathe correctly.
  2. These four days were 16-18 hours long. There was no slowing down, almost no food or breaks, and yet, I was pumped and full of energy throughout!

The key was alternating lectures with proprietary SYA technique. The SYA technique stands for Shake Your Ass.

It was also way more joyful!

And did we shake our asses like there is no tomorrow! The movement generated energy that helped us keep focus, improved learning, and enhanced the attention.

We also had Pitbull to help us.

The stress and exhaustion we sometimes experience in the modern world are radically different than what our bodies were accustomed to. We face no real danger from our overbearing bosses, nor do we have to fight for our lives daily, even though it feels that way. Physical activity gets your blood flowing, nourishing your cells, and restocking all the supplies. It grounds you in what is real and immediate.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwarz in the “Power of Full Engagement” agree with Tony Robbins. Cycling periods of physical activity with rest is the key to maintaining energy. Switching gears – mentally and physically – is the key to rest, not inactivity.

“The best way to manage your energy is to balance spending with replenishing.”

Sitting all day uses your mental energy, but let’s be honest – you are not moving much. Your exhaustion is mental, even though it feels the same way as physical. 

And, counter-intuitively, after a long, stressful day of work, the physical activity lets me gather my thoughts and rest.

According to Tony Robbins, there are

Eight gifts of pure energy

  1. Vital breathing and lymphasizing
    1. Breathe through your diaphragm, inhaling deeply
    2. Jump around, helping your lymph system to work
  2. Living water and live foods
    1. Drink water, for goodness sake
    2. Eat real food, ideally full of water – stuff that is green! (Except green cheese)
  3. Essential Oils
    1. No, not the magical aromatic ones. The ones like Olive Oil or Avocado. Monosaturated fats.
  4. Alkalinity
    1. Again, eat green stuff. It’s alkaline.
  5. Aerobic energy
    1. SHAKE. YOUR. ASS
  6. Maximum nourishment
    1. Just eat real food, mkay?
  7. Structural alignment and maximum strength
    1. Stretch.
    2. DO strength training.
  8. Directed Mind and heart
    1. Be a nice person. Don’t dwell on how people have wronged you. Think nice thoughts

Even though it all sounds a little woo-woo, it’s precisely what the doctors always said we should do. The more we keep dismissing all that as “basic”, the more critical it is to remind ourselves that we have bodies that need nourishment, water, and movement. We cannot keep punishing ourselves with Twinkies, Pizza, and beer and expect to be strong and healthy.

homer simpson eating GIF
Homer, following a Keto diet like a boss

We are somehow infected with the idea that good things have to be hard, inconvenient, and/or disgusting. It is all, of course, a matter of mindset, but physical activity can very well support mental performance. You have to get over your lazy self and shake your ass.

You’ll see you’ll feel better afterward and will have more energy to send these emails you’ve been putting off.