A collection of weird things I accomplished in 2014


Wade Kwon

I’m a skeptic at heart. I question statistics and procedure. I use myself as a test subject, while not trying to extrapolate those results to anyone beyond me.

I like to try out certain theories.

Join me as I review the nine weird experiments I conducted on myself in 2014. (No one was harmed in the making of this post.)

1. Giving up college football. In August, I vowed to give up watching my beloved Alabama play games from now on. It’s the only team I watched regularly, though I did channel-surf on occasion. I did leave myself a loophole: I would consider watching if invited to a game or a viewing party.

The Tide is playing right now in a close game against Ohio State in stage 1 of the national championship. I know it’s close based on the zillion updates on Facebook and Twitter and an occasional peek at ESPN.com. But I’m not watching.

I watched two games. My friend Ike invited me to the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa, with No. 1 Alabama against No. 15 Auburn. No way was I missing that. And it was a terrific, if heart-stopping, evening contest. At the afternoon tailgating, I took in the Ole Miss-Mississippi State game on one of the many TV sets (only way to avoid it was to close my eyes and plug my ears for 3 hours).

I also watched maybe 8 minutes of an Alabama game earlier in the season while waiting on a to-go burger order.

Results: (mostly) SUCCESS

2. Project Bulk, the final chapters. This experiment and the following one both came from reading “The 4-Hour Body” [Amazon | iTunes aff. links]. In 8 months of using the slow carb diet, I dropped my body fat to an excellent 15.7 percent. I had managed to lose 9 pounds of fat and gain 9 pounds of muscle.

And after 28 months on Project Bulk, 16 of them on slow carb, I stopped all calorie counting and protein counting. I basically live a new lifestyle of thrice-weekly workouts, 6 days on of slow carb and 1 cheat day.

Results: SUCCESS

3. Boosting my testosterone and vitamin D levels. I had my doctor run two specific tests for the sake of my curiosity: testosterone level and vitamin D level. Testosterone was normal, vitamin D was low.

For 60 days, I tried to boost both with a combination of 10-minute ice baths, and consuming more vitamin D (duh) plus cod liver oil, butter and Brazil nuts.

Vitamin D shot up, but testosterone dropped. Oops. That was November.

I don’t have the full results from a testosterone check on Tuesday, but it doesn’t look promising.

Results: MIXED

4. NOBNOM. Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Body,” likes to occasionally challenge his readers and fans. Over the summer, he came up with a contest called NOBNOM.

It stands for “No Booze, No Masturbating.”

Ferriss wanted to see if his focus and productivity would improve without regular hangovers and excessive self-gratification by giving up both for 30 days.

I can live without booze: I hardly ever drink. That part would be a cakewalk. But the Greatest Love of All? Hmm …

I made it through all of August without either, though it was definitely a real challenge in the last few days. Let us never speak of it again.

Results: SUCCESS

5. Improve as a storyteller. I set one major goal in my professional development for 2014, and that was focusing on developing my skill as a storytelling. I work on my public speaking regularly, but not on the fundamentals of telling stories.

I found a good outlet: Arc Light Stories, the series of storytelling events with amateur participants. I did one in February (and shared the video) and one in October (will share the video soon).

I have some better insights into story structure and delivery, and I’ll continue to work on these areas as long as I have breath.

Results: SUCCESS

6. Stop dating. I was on Match.com for all of 2014. It was a disaster.

The last time I subscribed to the site resulted in a beautiful relationship 5 years ago. But this outing was dreadful. I contacted a lot of women in a 200-mile radius and went out on a handful of dates.

And my profile was killer. I mean, dozens of haiku about me and everything.

I enjoy dating, so being stuck at home was not fun. But what I really want is lasting love, which I hear starts with a couple of dates.

(I’m going to talk more about the next step in an upcoming essay.)

Results: FAILURE

7. Dance like no one’s watching. My therapist loves group activities. Specifically, she loves for me to participate in group activities, to be out in the world.

She doesn’t care about results, which is a totally foreign concept to me. But she does care about my well-being, specifically my anxiety (which I’ll talk about more in that same upcoming essay — you really don’t want to miss it).

I find it easy to lock myself away from the world. I can read, write, watch television and movies, exercise, dine, cook, shop and nap from the comfort of home. Only once in a while do I feel the need to be around other people.

Unfortunately, a hermit lifestyle can exacerbate anxiety.

One suggestion she made early on was ballroom dancing. It so happened that I found a $20 deal for lessons, which translated into 20 group classes over 10 weeks. This was a steal, 15 hours of training for $20 total.

So, for two-and-a-half months, I spent Tuesday and Thursday nights in the fall dancing with strangers. I mastered the basic steps of waltz, tango, foxtrot, rumba, swing, hustle, mambo and salsa. I practiced at home with YouTube accompaniment.

I essentially re-learned many of these steps from scratch. I remember the steps differently from my class in college, so I had to unlearn my training from long ago and master the steps and rhythm their way.

I just need a partner …

Results: SUCCESS

8. No more shampoo.

I had been wanting to try the “no shampoo” experiment (some call it “no poo,” which I hate) for some time after reading about others’ attempts. No matter how much online research I did, I could not find any scientific data on shampoo vs. home concoctions.

And the blog reports were mixed: Some found great success, others deemed it a hair-damaging disaster.

Only one way to find out …

I’ve been using standard Head and Shoulders shampoo happily for most of my adult life. I’d wash my hair about three to four times a week on average, using shampoo and then conditioner. I’d comb and blow-dry.

The last year or so, I’ve been losing my hair at an accelerated rate, though I didn’t really notice till late in the game. I have found no medical issues, so it’s likely cursed genetics and my age.

Why not try a new hair-washing method, while I can?

Once a week, I use a weak dilution of baking soda for the first round, massaging it in and scratching my scalp with my nails. I rinse, then use a weak dilution of apple cider vinegar, again massaging it in followed by a rinse. No more blow drying, just a quick comb and some hair gel. On other days, I’ll simply rinse with plain water.

It’s a huge time saver. And it has passed the smell test, as my friend Ginny checked a few weeks into the program.

My hair is clean and still soft, though not as abundant (sob!).

Results: SUCCESS

9. The perfect pancakes. This wasn’t an official experiment, and certainly not on me (though I did have to eat the results, even the lousy ones).

I’ve made pancakes for a long time, and as much as I love them, I’m not crazy about mine in particular. Sometimes burnt, often heavy and dense. I would’ve been better off sticking to frozen waffles or dining out. (My recipe is unspectacular, using either Bisquick or pancake mix.)

I thought I’d try one method I’d read about: Using a squeeze bottle to dispense batter onto a hot oiled frying pan.

That did the trick.

It’s been messy going, trying to get runny batter into a plastic squeeze bottle without a funnel. (Note to self: Buy a funnel.) But using the bottle, instead of pouring it straight out of the mixing bowl or using a ladle, has resulted in round pancakes.

And not only are they round, but also light and fluffy. Even after freezing leftovers separated by parchment paper and reheating in the microwave, they’re still incredibly good. Slap-your-mama good.

Results: SUCCESS

I look forward to more crazy experiments in 2015. I hope you’ll tag along.


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