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Doing Nothing Is the Secret to Getting More Out of Life



IT STARTS AT 4:00 AT THE a throbbing and incessant pain behind my left temple on a Saturday. I try to fall asleep again, but can’t – the second missed notice – and around 6:00 am I have another day of weekend work.

It’s fall 2020 and I run the risk of losing my job at ESPN. Two decades of overtaking others – by writing books and hosting a podcast, among other things – and being proud of friends who said, “How do you do all of this?” Convinced me that I should do more now got to. I should find solace in all of the skills I have developed to support my wife, Sonya. our three children; and my mother-in-law who moved in when she retired. Not me.

Around noon I can’t concentrate and have to lie down. Soon I am hyperventilating as burning pain spreads to my stomach and then to my fingers and toes, suddenly inflamed and too sensitive to touch. In the emergency room, Sonya speaks for me while I undergo a CAT scan, which thankfully rules out a brain aneurysm.

The bad news, the neurologist says, is he’s seeing more people like me for whom the pandemic is exacerbating stress, which is ignored until their anxiety levels are so high that it doubles.

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According to a survey by the Cleveland Clinic, seventy-seven percent of us say we’re a lot more stressed out now. Fifty-nine percent say the Covid quarantine did more harm to our mental health than the 2008 economic crisis. Still, 66 percent of us live the old manners of manhood and rarely discuss the pain and mental health impact of the pandemic.

“And that’s how you end up here,” says the neurologist. His advice? Don’t come back

The stress I feel – I decide I have to do something about it.



Lesson 1: Identify When to Not Be Frantic

I don’t have to do anything. This is what I get into with my therapist: Allow idleness to flow into my day. “Rest will relax you,” he says. Then, a few weeks later, I get a call from my boss with an executive in Human Resources and they fire me.

Now the crisis is real. I can feel the fear and dread of impending poverty driving me to crazier productivity, fueled by the urge – primal and real – to provide for. My therapist recommends starting with a walk.

It’s not the mandatory nothing – I still don’t mock anything – but the walk will separate me from everything on my laptop. I’ll keep it short, stay on the shady street of my quiet suburb and listen to a biography of Douglas MacArthur because I’m not going to be productive. But I actually feel calmer and still full of energy when I come back, which makes me curious. Can nothing be a productivity hack?

It turned out that Thomas Edison and his staff would spend hours just thinking. This led to some of the team’s greatest realizations. Bill Gates took a long week of thinking to go alone to a remote area to just read and think. That has inspired many Microsoft victories. These days, Stefan Sagmeister takes a full year off every seven years. It has made his New York-based design company one of the most sought-after in the world because, as he says in a TED talk, every sabbatical offers unparalleled insight and excitement for future projects.

Sagmeister remained true to the request and declined my request to speak to him, saying, “During this unusual time, I try to minimize my planned time in front of the screens and on the phone.” That is Baller.

I orient myself to these entrepreneurs and literally plan idleness based on the calendar that I have overflowing with projects. On some days it is the half hour hike that my therapist recommends. On other days, it’s a block of daydreaming when I write about projects that I might one day pursue. Sometimes it acts as a sports coach to my nine year old twin boys while they study from a distance. As with everyone else, for me, downtime produces real results. It was during a daydream session that I hit upon the idea of ​​starting a paid online community to help creatives learn from each other in ways they can’t on social media.

A small company is born.



Lesson 2: Trust the Power of Idleness

IN MY EMERGENCY, I read books like Andrew Smart’s Autopilot: The Art and Science of Doing Nothing that formulates a theory as to why unplugging the power cord is so important. When regions of the brain “do nothing,” says Smart, “they are actually organizing for later use”.

This neural recovery has a name, the resting state network (RSN), and also has a function: promoting creativity. This is what the neurologist who laid the foundation for studying the RSN, Dr. Marcus Raichle of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The colleagues kept Dr. Raichle in the early 2000s for being crazy about hooking people up to MRIs and watching what happened in the brain when the subjects were doing nothing physically.

“You’d just lie there,” says Dr. Raichle. But he found that “your brain is constantly active,” suggesting that neural calm is never calm. “Problems are solved,” he says, even without our knowing it.

Whether it’s Isaac Newton under the apple tree or I’m out for a walk, Dr. Raichle argues that we are often at our best when we are most relaxed. That’s true for me. I am happier and think more clearly because of my planned downtime. Even though I have more work than ever before, I’m less stressed. I realize that I’ve been doing the wrong thing for 20 years. I don’t have to wrestle and pin down and rule the hours of each day. I can move with them, enjoy them as they are. I find time for even more downtime.



Lesson 3: Doing Less to Feel More

AT A SPECIFIC POINT In the spring of 2021, it doesn’t seem like a good thing to say that I am using rest as a guide to optimize productivity. I’m beyond hacks. I am now developing a worldview with idleness – the nothing prescribed long ago – as the core sentence.

As the artist and author Jenny Odell says in her recently published book “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy”, “such“ nothing ”cannot be tolerated [by modern society] because they cannot be used or appropriated and do not produce any results. “Odell connects the less-is-more ideology with the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, who built a garden and a school of thought on the assumption that the good life results from the careful study of everyday life.

One day I call Tom Hodgkinson just before he leaves the office early so that he can really see his vibrant city on the bike ride home to his apartment. Hodgkinson runs The Idler, a mindset as well as a magazine published in London: his team hosts events and even a full-blown academy to teach the art of simple pleasures, which some consider indolence but actually heightened intelligence. “People feel that men have to act responsibly, which means they have to be slaves in the office to take care of their families. But then they turn 50 and their wives hate them and their children are grown up and don’t know them, ”says Hodgkinson. “That is irresponsible for me.”

We’re talking about the Harvard Grant Study, a longitudinal project that followed WWII Harvard students from childhood to death. The most important result over decades and career paths? Happiness is a by-product of the relationships you have with your friends, but especially with your family.

“Happiness is love. Period, ”wrote one of the chief researchers of the Harvard Grant study.

“Exactly,” says Hodgkinson.



Lesson 4: Nothing + Nothing = Everything

WHILE THE WEATHER WARMS UP, I quit my job to teach my daughter how to roller skate. I try to keep up with my twins as they play Just Dance on the Nintendo Switch in 2021. My walks get longer and I leave my cell phone behind. I watch the rising sun limit the tree line. I distinguish chirping birds. At home, I answer fewer emails and start praying, which I haven’t done since I was a kid. It is both an act of faith and a fellowship with silence.

I haven’t had a headache in weeks, but I hope that we can all, as Hodgkinson puts it, be “evolved and superior people.” We still have time to remember where this busy world will take us, even as the world opens again. “Look where it has taken you,” says Hodgkinson.

“Exactly,” I say.

It ultimately led me to realize that idleness is not laziness. I still do a lot. But the things that I plan every day manipulate and streamline all of the things that I pursue. The void concentrates me not only on my work, but, as Epicurus would have had it, on the grainy life outside: the multicolored silence of dawn when I stand in my kitchen in front of my coffee; the high-pitched cries of laughter at night when my kids and I play together.

Lately, every lunchtime, I’ve been walking the path that leads to a river that flows behind my house. One day I meet a photographer who points to a swan and tells me it’s rarely seen in our part of Connecticut. That’s why she brought her camera with her: capturing that which seems prosaic, disposable, nothing, but for the trained eye is beautiful and even transcendent.

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Men’s Health

Zack George on Coming Back From Injury To Totally Dominate the NFG



Zack George last performed live in January 2020. Then the world turned into the COVID vortex, which was just slowing down. The events and competitions that are the motivational elixir of life for elite CrossFit athletes have all been moved to online formats, with Zack and his peers training in their own gyms and submitting videos for official review. Many top athletes have reported that, as you can imagine, it just wasn’t the same.

Zack stepped on the floor of a live competition for the first time since the pre-lockdowns at the National Fitness Games earlier this month. He won dominantly, which is even more notable after a hip injury that eliminated him from the online CrossFit semi-finals in May of this year.

The Men’s Health SQUAD team was there to see Zack crush the first two workouts on his way to the title, and a few days later spoke to him about his thoughts on what had happened, how it felt to do that again what he loved and his crucial advice on how to get the most out of your performance when you compete in your first competition of your own.

Read the full, exclusive interview and find a workout from Zack below so you can train like the champion.

MH: How does the body feel?

ZG: Actually quite good. I thought I was going to feel a lot more sore. To be honest, I’m a bit surprised at how good I feel.

When we talked on Friday evening, you had just won the first two events of the weekend. How many have you won in total?

I managed to win five out of six so I was a little disappointed not to win all of them. I finished second in the deadlift, bike, and power snatch. I thought my judge gave me two reps and I didn’t question it at the time, but when I asked her about it she said I didn’t have any. So she miscounted in my repetitions. So Reggie [Fasa] won that.

How long were you there for the first time live?

A year and a half? Maybe even longer. I went to Strength In Depth as an individual long before COVID. It feels like it’s been a lifetime.

How much did you miss it

It’s one of those things that you don’t know how much you’ll miss it until it’s gone. When the gyms all closed during the lockdown, people suddenly realized just how much they relied on the gym for mental health, not just physical health.

After just doing online competitions for so long, forget what it is like to compete in person. It’s a strange feeling. They don’t know if you actually miss it or what it feels like to stand in front of a crowd or against other physical athletes.

Going to this competition was a little nerve wracking just because I hadn’t done it in so long. I realized how much I missed it. That spurs us on as athletes and drives us on. It’s our passion to compete live in front of an audience and on the main stage you push so much harder. It gave me a huge boost in motivation.

Do you consider yourself a “gamer” who is successful in live competition?

Yes, definitely. I think I’m a pretty smart athlete who knows how to properly set up workouts and get them right the first time. Take the first workout at NFG which was rowing and running. Since I was in the final heat, I had the advantage of being able to see everyone else in the earlier waves. So I knew what the current fastest time was and worked out the splits. I had to do every lap in 2 minutes 50 seconds and get under the time.

I like this quick strategy element the most. For example, if you’re competing online in the Open, it doesn’t matter if you screw up three times as you can repeat the workout. But when you compete live, you have to get it right the first time. And I love that print.

You looked incredibly relaxed at those first two events, considering it was your first time performing live in such a long time …

Since I’ve been in sport for so long, I always practice my pace and make sure my laps are constant. You could see who the people are who aren’t competing as often as they were flying through the first workout trying to win it. But then they totally die and each round takes longer and longer. You cannot recover.

I’m lucky enough to be sponsored by G-Shock so I set my watch on the intervals I knew would win my workout, and as long as I was on the next lap before it beeped, I knew that I would be on the right track. I always control my time, but it’s a great feeling to have that buzz on your wrist when you’re well into the next lap. It’s such a good tool to use.

Am I correct in thinking that you are setting a new PB in the Squat Clean Event?

Yes. It was an 8kg PB and I felt like I had a lot more in the tank. My PB-Rein was back in 2018 and that’s not because I haven’t had the strength to beat it since then. But because I know that in a competition I need 155 kg to win, I just lift 155 kg. If I don’t have to push for a new PB, I won’t. I don’t do the maximum unless I have to and in training I don’t want to walk 100% because of the risk of injury and the stress on your joints.

On NFG, Dan Tai hit 165. Reggie failed on 165 so he logged his good build of 160. I had lifted 157.5 so by the time I went into the final exercise I knew I would have two events remaining when I got third or above, had mathematically locked the competition win. What I did on my second lift.

So I thought I’d jump the hell on 168 and then make it very comfortably. If I had felt a pull in my hip or knee on the second lift, I would have made it and would have been happy with third place, but everything felt great. So I think that in the future a clean of 175 kg is in there.

How much confidence that your hip was fine?

It was big. I haven’t lifted more than 140kg in training in the past three months so getting a new PB has been very rewarding. Both that all the accessory work I’ve done paid off in terms of strength and that my body can withstand the strain.

The whole competition was very leg dominant. It was brutal on the legs. Rowing and running, then wattbikes and deadlifts, assault bikes and thrusters, wallballs … everything was long-legged. Having so much volume on my lower body and feeling good was a great confidence factor.

What was the toughest training for you?

The first two competitions were back to back with a five minute break in between. After running and rowing the first workout, I thought I went out too hot and my legs felt chipped. But those five minutes were enough time for me to recover. In the second training [rowing and sandbag carries] it all came down to mental strength. It’s not that the sandbag weighed so much that you couldn’t physically walk. The only reason people left was because their legs were burning so badly. But you can mentally block that out. For me, the only reason I started running as soon as I had that sandbag on my shoulder was because I was mentally broken. And I wouldn’t let that happen.

Do you feel that with the win you are well equipped for the season?

It does. It gives me confidence when I go to my next one, the Madrid Crossfit Championship in October, knowing that my body can handle the load. It’s a tremendous thing mentally – to be sure of your ability to handle the volume.

What advice would you give to a first-time competitor?

The first thing you should do is make sure that you really enjoy the weekend. Lots of people put a lot of pressure on themselves and take it all too seriously. If you make a mistake, you dwell on it and in the end have not enjoyed anything from the experience. Nerves are normal, but don’t be too strict with yourself.

Second, try to take away a lot of the things that you have learned. Perhaps it is a weakness that you would like to leave and work on. Or maybe it is something that you are much stronger at than you thought you were. You may find that you need a better pace for longer workouts, or you need to be able to push harder at sprint events. Incorporating these lessons into your training is key to improving your next competition. It’s half the battle.

Third, consider your diet. It’s so important and a lot of people get it wrong. You need to pack enough easily digestible and easy-to-eat foods. My goal is always to have one proper meal throughout the day and then eat a gummy sweet and malt bread with a lot of moisture.

New competitors can often do four workouts in a day and eat nothing. You can get so involved in being in the right place at the right time at any event that you forget about the food. You need food if you want to be at your best. So eat, eat, eat!


Complete a 20-calorie attack wheel and 20-calorie series within a minute. Then rest for three minutes. Perform a total of six rounds.

“I managed to do 5 out of 6 laps and get the repetitions under a minute,” says Zack. “Let the tunes run and send them!”

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Men’s Health

Lee Crooks ready to ‘Offload’ as Hull FC launch men’s mental health programme



Hull FC becomes the newest rugby league club to run Rugby League Cares’ offload program.

Offload is an initiative by former professional rugby league players with the aim of helping men improve and maintain their mental health and fitness.

The project has already been successful in a number of different clubs in Yorkshire and the Pennines and, through their foundation, the Black and Whites will be running a pilot project in the city.

The FC will play six hour-long “games” from the Community Hub at MKM Stadium with the help of former UK international Lee Crooks, who wants to use his own life experiences to help others in his hometown.

The program starts on Thursday October 7th and is open to all men over the age of 16. Sessions are offered to make the “squad members” comfortable when they want to share troubling issues or mental health issues.

Crooks will lead the program and over the course of six weeks he will use the rugby league as a platform to discuss topics like stress and coping, build positive mindset, analyze negative thinking and build resilience.

A part of Offload since its inception, the FC Hall of Famer is running a number of programs across the country and encouraging men who may be struggling to participate and get involved.

“It’s for like-minded men to come in and talk and discuss,” said Crooks. “We deliver slides and talk about various things.

Hull FC legend Lee Crooks.

“It’s just about getting people to come in and chat and talk about the problems they encountered in life or during lockdown, and it’s all provided by former rugby league players who have suffered from some mental health problems themselves.

“When I signed up for Hull, I got married when I was 17, and while I didn’t have a lot of rugby issues, I struggled with the family, being a husband and having two young children when I was 20.

“Because of the family side of things and the insecurity of being a father or husband, I struggled a little.

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“It is only when I look back now that I realize that that was the problem.

“I grew up in an area where talking about emotions was considered a sign of weakness, and I think a lot of people still do.

“Men don’t talk about their problems as much as they should, and the biggest statistic we publish is that 78 percent of all suicides are male, the ones if you can’t get it off your chest.

“Many workshops are about what I have overcome and what people can do for coping mechanisms from a mental health perspective.

“Just being able to do the workshops has really cleared up the backlog of things that I’ve had in the back of my mind for some time.

“You don’t have to be a rugby fan, you can play rugby yourself, but if you want to come down and talk and get rid of something, we’ll try to discuss things.”

For more information on Offload and to register, please contact Crooks at

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Men’s Health

Africa: Modern Masculinity in Africa – Pressures, Expectations and Breaking the Mold



From juggling the traditional and the modern to just a few ways to express your inner fears. The DW show The 77 Percent examines what masculinity means for African men today.

What does it mean to be an African in the 21st century? What pressure are men under? And how do we define masculinity in the modern world anyway?

These were just some of the questions the panel was asked in the latest edition of The 77 Percent’s Street Debate in Nairobi, Kenya.

Conversations about masculinity and masculinity are not unique to the African continent. But many African societies now find themselves in an often stark conflict between traditional and modern values.

“The majority of us come from a patriarchal society,” said Charles Okumu, the moderator of the Man Enough program in Kenya, which seeks to redefine traditional roles and masculinity.

“There was a way we should act, or see how our fathers treated our mothers.”

Tradition meets modernity

In many African societies – especially in rural communities – traditions still play an important role in everyday life. Men and boys are often brought up to see the “man” as the dominant force and provider in the household amid changing social norms.

In fast-growing cities like Nairobi, it is even more difficult to keep up with modern values ​​in the face of persistent ideas of what makes a man a man.

“Some of our patriarchal paths that we inherited from our background are not really helpful in modern life,” said Okumu. “There are still some who want to behave like our fathers. But on the other hand, modernity has taught us to deal better with ourselves.”

The Kenyan influencer, radio host and comedian Eric Omondi has seen a great deal of development in Kenyan society compared to a few decades ago.

“While the roles were clearly defined back then – the man who brings the bacon home and the woman who cooks it – they no longer exist,” Omondi told DW.

Juggle expectations

As modern and traditional values ​​collide, African men, especially the younger generation, find it difficult to live up to expectations on both sides.

“There is a fight that comes from within,” said Okumu. “To want to do things that are morally right in the modern way … But there is this inner struggle of still not wanting to let go, as we saw our fathers show us the way.”

Many men still feel the pressure of their families to live up to these male “ideals”.

“The expectations are great and [often] unrealistic, “said Omondi.” From his parents’ demands that he keep paying it with his younger siblings and aging parents – aka Black Tax – to his wife or girlfriend’s need for a new hairstyle, facial and a house on a hill [while] to be emotionally present and sensitive to all of your feelings. The list goes on and on. “

Okumu believes that boys have also lagged behind in education, albeit inadvertently.

“For the past decade or so, there has been an emphasis on girl education and empowerment – which I fully support,” said Okumu.

“However, it was done at the boy’s expense, and now these boys and girls have grown up. These girls are now better informed, make more informed decisions, and make more money leading to a much more informed one [woman]? “

Focus on mental health

This discussion of masculinity also highlights the importance of the mental health of African men – an issue that remains difficult to openly discuss.

“Most African societies have an implicit need for men to ‘man-up’ – so that all the emotions a man feels should not be expressed openly or even privately,” said comedian and influencer Eric Omondi.

“Because of this, many have [men’s] Challenges are swept under the carpet and rarely discussed “

Infertility, domestic violence, and financial abuse in Omondi’s cities are just some of the many problems African men face and are reluctant to talk about, even among family and closest friends.

If left unaddressed, these issues can lead to higher rates of gender-based violence, depression, and suicide in men, Omondi said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide rates in Africa are above the global average. Stress in men was compounded during the COVID-19 pandemic, with job losses and isolation taking their toll.

But more African men are talking about the pressures they are under.

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Resources like Okumu’s Man Enough program encourage participants to move beyond traditional gender roles.

Okumu also emphasized the importance of providing boys with good role models from a young age.

“Boys become the men they see around them,” he told DW during the street debate.

“We have to make a conscious choice to talk to our children, not because we feel that way [this or that] defines masculinity, but helps them see how easy it is to be a responsible person. “

Comedian Omondi believes that African men today can benefit from adopting values ​​from other cultures while remaining true to their roots.

“Now that the world has become a village, it’s not far-fetched to grab a little of what works from western or eastern cultures and blend it with our very rich African culture as modern men,” said Omondi.

If you are struggling with your mental health or have thoughts of suicide, don’t hesitate to seek help. Find resources for mental health services in your part of the world here:

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