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Living with a SEAL and Monks [Best Books Read in 2018]

Dec 05, 2018 | Posted by Cristina in Newsletters

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How can someone tell how much I enjoyed a book? By its cover. The best books look like they’ve been hit by a train, abandoned in a coffee shop, or given to school kids to play with it.

Living with a SEAL” is one of those books.

Jesse Itzler, the author, is an entrepreneur, former rapper and endurance athlete who runs 100 miles races and only eats fruits til noon. He went from being an MTV rapper to starting Marquis Jet, the world’s largest prepaid jet card company, and selling it to Warren Buffett. He also founded a record label that produced anthems for sports related campaigns and teams, and now he owns the Atlanta Hawks basketball team.

In 2005, Jesse signed up for the San Diego ultramarathon – a race where you had to run at least 100 miles in 24 hours. He did that as a relay, together with 5 more friends. By that point, he had finished a few marathons and had been running almost daily since 1992.

It was then that Jesse noticed Navy SEAL, who was running alone the entire 100-mile race. SEAL was raising money for charity: several of his friends died in Afghanistan, and, although he wasn’t a runner, he entered the competition to raise money for Special Operations Warrior Foundation that gives college scholarships to the children of fallen special operations soldiers.

It was SEAL’s first ultra-marathon. By the the 70-mile mark, his kidneys were failing, he had broken several small bones in his feet, and had shin splints so bad that he wrapped his feet in compression tape. That didn’t stop him and, using mental strategies that he learned throughout his training, he completed the race.

Jesse was so impressed that he found out SEAL’s number, cold called him, and asked to come live with him in his house in New York, in Central Park West, and train him for a month. SEAL accepted, with the only condition that Jesse does everything that he says.

Living with a SEAL” is a recollection of that experience, and one of the most empowering and fun books I’ve ever read. It’s Jesse’s journal from December 2010, where he details each and every one of those 31 days that he spent living with SEAL in his house, all the training he did, what he learned and how it changed him forever.

It was later revealed that SEAL’s name is David Goggins, and I went on to devour every interview he ever gave, as he’s one of the most fascinating and inspiring human beings. If you don’t believe me, check out these “before and after” photos of him and read the caption.

By the way, his first book, “Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds“, just came out! I pre-ordered it and will get back with a review after I read it.

I also recommend you these interviews:

And if you already read Jesse’s book, I recommend that you also read his second one, that came out this year. It’s called “Living with the Monks” and it’s an enlightening sequel to his first book. Jesse spent 15 days living in a monastery and kept a journal during that time.

For me, the key takeaway from his second book was the math regarding our relationship with time and how out of balance that is. Here are two examples that made Jesse rethink time, put it into perspective, realize what’s important and prioritize accordingly:

1: Jesse’s parents are 88 years old, and he sees them about four times a year. If they live to be 92, then that would mean he only has 16 more times to see them. How old are your parents? How often do you see them?

2: Here’s Jesse’s second example regarding time: “The average American male lives to be about 78 years old, and I’m 49 at the writing of this book. That means if i’m average […] that’s only 29 summers left… and I LOVE SUMMERS!

A similar exercise made me rethink my time spent on social media. Back in 2015, I grew tired of wondering where my days went. I had a hunch that I was wasting too much time on social media, but I kept telling myself that it’s a vital part of my job. Since I love having data that can backup (or disregard) such statements, I installed a tracking app that measures exactly how and where I spend my digital time. A month later, when I analyzed the data, I freaked out. I had been wasting one hour of my life, every day, on social media (Facebook, to be more precise), and that was only on my laptop… mobile probably would have doubled the number.

If it doesn’t seem like much to you, do the math. One hour per day, 365 hours per year… it adds up to 15 days per year. How much would you be able to accomplish if you had two extra weeks this year?

After drastically limiting my social media consumption, I decided to try a one-week experiment without Facebook and went cold turkey. In December 2017 I closed my account without telling anyone about it. One year later, that experiment is still going on, since it proved to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my mental health and anxiety. Sure, I’m still on other social media networks, just in a more mindful way. I’m back in control.

An average woman lives to be about 80 years old. I stopped using Facebook at 30, which means that I’ve gained back around 18,000 hours of my life. I’m glad that I spent a few of those hours reading empowering books such as these written by Jesse Itzler, or listening to David Goggins’s inspiring story.

Every day do something that makes you uncomfortable.” – David Goggins

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