Listen to Yourself. Honestly.

Views of the Bonneville Salt Flats after a rainy weekend. If you like this, check out my Instagram.

You’re too scared to flourish. But I don’t blame you. I used to be too.

Lying to yourself and blending in is easy. Lots of people do it. Being your truest self can be the scariest thing in the world.

Is blending in a bad thing? Not necessarily. Will it make life easier and more comfortable? Absolutely. Will it get you where you want to be in life? Probably not.

By listening to yourself your life will see radical changes you never imagined possible. Stop fighting who you naturally are and just be.

I wake up every day at 530am.

Waking up early used to be something I hated.

In high school and college I was the guy that would start getting tired at 10pm while everyone else was just starting the night. I would always get made fun of for it. I was always told to “Quit acting like an old man and just live it up for once.”

When it came to morning brunch I’d be up by 8 or 9 am when my friends were never up until noon. That meant I was up with nothing to do and no one to hang out with. I always envied their ability to sleep in late. I wondered what was wrong with me and why I couldn’t be “normal.”

I’d try to sleep in, but my body literally wouldn’t let me. I swear it would sense the sun peeking over the horizon and my internal rooster would start crowing at me. It takes thick black curtains for me to be able to sleep in. But as time has gone on and I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate this part of myself more and more.

6:30am at Precita Park in Bernal Heights, San Francisco. If you like this, check out my Instagram.

My parents were postal workers my entire childhood. That meant I was up before the sun to get dressed and ready for the day too. I was at daycare before most adults woke up.

I love the serenity that comes with being the first one up.

On the weekdays I’ll use my early start to pack my bag for the day, grab a snack and head out the door without having to rush. I get on the bus at 6:40am so I don’t have to deal with insane San Francisco traffic, and end up making my trip in 45 minutes as opposed to everyone else who takes anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours to get from San Francisco to Mountain View. And since I get to Mountain View before everyone else I take an hour to stretch, workout, shower, and grab breakfast. All this and I’m still at my desk before 9am.

Waking up early allows me to slow down and enjoy the day. When you’re perpetually rushed, it’s hard to enjoy anything.

On the weekends I take a little time to wake up slowly, read and be quiet. I tend to have the most creative energy from 6-10am, so when I feel like it I start to dive into work I want to do — things like reading or writing or whatever feels right that day. Most work I have to do can be saved for later in the day.

It took me years of hating my early mornings to realize the benefits waking up early could bring to my life. By listening to my body and accepting what comes naturally I’ve learned to supercharge my days.

I workout daily, often multiple times.

That statement probably makes you think I’m some kind of fitness nut. Let me explain. Because people give me shit all the time for how often I’m in gym clothes.

When I say I workout multiple times a day, it’s probably not what you’re thinking. My idea of a workout is just getting off my butt and doing something active. Sure, I do “workout” probably 4–5 days a week, but I’m active 7 days a week.

Being active is great for your mental and physical health. Getting out and exploring the world around you not only helps you stay healthier, it also develops new neural connections, it lets you see things you’ve never seen before, and it widens your world perspective. There are so many benefits to being active.

Hiking the forest near Half Moon Bay with my roommates. If you like this, check out my Instagram.

My work week tends to limit my ability to explore but every chance I get I’m out in the woods, out biking the city, or doing something that gets me away from a screen.

24.2 mile bike ride through the city, across the bridge & up Marin Headlands. If you like this, check out my Instagram.

I don’t workout for the vanity, I do it for the way it makes me feel and the benefits it brings to my life both now and in the future.

Focus on just getting your body moving to enjoy the activity instead of working out so you can fit into a swimsuit or pose for Vogue. Do it for the enjoyment that comes with mindful exploration of your body and the world. When you stop working out for some external vanity and start doing it for you and your future self, it won’t feel like such a task.

I eat healthy.

To be more exact: I eat unprocessed, gluten-free, and dairy-free when possible. And I eat very little meat.

I try to eat how I would eat if I were an animal that had to fend for himself. Because at the end of the day, we’re all animals. Some of us more domesticated than others. We weren’t meant to be consuming the large amounts of everything we currently do just because the way food has become commoditized—especially all the processed foods.

As a kid I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And I looked like this.

My nickname in high school was Fat Joe, like the rapper.

People used to make fun of me all the time growing up. I wasn’t just the butt of peoples’ jokes, I was the joke. It wasn’t something I’d wish on anyone.

I spent years trying to figure out how to eat healthy. I’ve tried every diet you can imagine. I’ve tried eating bodybuilder “clean,” I’ve tried sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, low fat, and everything thing else in between.

What I’ve landed on is the way I currently eat: Unprocessed, gluten-free, dairy-free as much as possible and very little meat.

Now I get teased, but for different reasons.

I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not one of those sick freaks that strictly maintains his diet in order to keep his six pack. I enjoy cake and ice cream when the time calls for it. I eat food if I’m hungry and the place I’m eating isn’t serving anything I would prefer. I put cheese on my eggs in the morning. I enjoy life plenty.

But when the opportunity presents itself to eat the way I prefer, I do.

The key to maintaining my healthy lifestyle has been that I don’t diverge from my preferences dramatically very often. And when I do, I don’t do it for an extended period of time.

The thing that kills attempts to maintain a healthy lifestyle is our ability as gluttonous beings to convince ourselves that a little bit won’t hurt. Not this one time.

A little won’t hurt. Not this one time.

Sure, a little here an there won’t hurt — that’s totally right. What does it is when we eat poorly one day and then the next day we tell ourselves “Well, I ate bad yesterday so I can eat poorly today because I’m feeling fat [or lazy or whatever adjective you prefer to use].” Which turns into a few days of eating that way because we’ve started to get comfortable in our new, poorer eating habits. Which then turns into weeks of poor dietary choices and lands us at “Damn what happened to me?”

In order to change my life and maintain a healthy lifestyle I had to stop obsessing about the micro of my daily actions and start thinking about how my daily habits effect my long term. A little now won’t hurt as long as you get back on track tomorrow.

A few big waves won’t turn into a tsunami if the tide calms back down quickly.

And now, after about 5 years of maintaining my weight through regular diet and exercise, I look more like this.

Stand up paddle boarding Lake Tahoe in May. If you like this, check out my Instagram.

Not only do I look healthier, I also feel healthier. Eating the way I do gives me energy to go about my day without obstacles. It keeps me from having to go to the doctor. It let’s me feel comfortable in my own skin.

I eat the way I do because of how it makes me feel and the benefits it brings to my life.

PS — I never eat anything that tastes bad. And neither should you. ;)

Seductive Shrimp Salad — Ya that’s a title. If you like this, check out my Instagram.

Listen to yourself. Honestly.

I didn’t write this article to tell you how to live your life. This is my story, and that doesn’t mean any of this is right for you. But maybe some of it is. Who knows.

I hope this article motivates you to start listening to yourself.

The best advice I can give to you is to take the time to explore yourself. Try things you think might make your life better. Give each a few weeks. Be patient. Slow down and be mindful of the experiences you have. Live in the moment and be conscious.

Do you wake up with more energy? Do you sleep better at night? Do you feel more alive, in general?

If you like how it feels, think about making it a permanent change. If you don’t, then don’t. Be you, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Let your light shine.

Nothing worth doing is going to happen immediately, but the sooner you stop fighting what is natural for you the sooner you can start flourishing. And I wish that for everyone.

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