I’d like to bring your attention to Brad Stulberg who researches, writes, coaches, and speaks about health, well-being, and performance. I discovered Brad via Twitter, where his frequent mythbusting posts will get you re-thinking diet, sleep, fitness and training, and our mental states.
His most recent work is The Passion Paradox. His latest combines research and personal stories that shine a light on how to discover and cultivate passion, and how to identify when passion can have beneficial or harmful outcomes. On the topic of Passion Brad advises:
“There is a big problem with the phrase ‘find your passion,’ which often sets people up for failure and frustration. If you expect to just magically fall into an activity that you feel immediately passionate about, and makes you feel immediately good, then what ends up happening is you might find something that might be great for a week or two, but then suddenly it gets hard, or you get frustrated, and then you assume, Well, this must not be the thing I’m passionate about, so I’ll try something else.”
Read this detailed interview with Brad about The Passion Paradox.
I felt an immediate connection with Brad, whose research shows the fitness and wellness tips that usually get the most hype, and are touted as “the latest” (and therefore “better”), are in reality what I term “Silicon Valley Snake Oil.” As I describe in The Unquantified Self, the things that are proven to work are old school and common sense.
Brad says he has been on “a circuitous path to health and performance. I always just followed my interests and landed here, after time spent as a competitive athlete, McKinsey consultant, public health student, and now an author and coach.”
You may have noticed that I post and repost the mantra “movement is medicine.” Brad concurs:
“The importance of movement is huge for me. I’ve always had a physical practice; never specialized; some days taking an hour walk; 30 + minutes per day; the impacts on my physical, mental health, and overall well-being are really important. I view exercise as a part of my job as a writer.”
Similarly, Eugene-based Skye Nacel told us that his approach to coaching and training is based on the “functional strength” movements he does every day as a tradesman. These are the kinds of movements humans have done since the dawn of time to survive and live.
A lot of Brad’s Tweets and social messaging ends with the idea of “it’s hard. Keep at it.” I asked Brad for recommendations about how to break through the behavior patterns that block progress:
“A community of support provides accountability, compassion, and shared experiences. We need to hear feedback from others in a community because we tend not to believe in ourselves.”
I can attest to the positive power of belonging to a fitness/wellness community. Here are three fitness/wellness communities that support me:
1. During the mid-1990s I got to a point in my Vipassana meditation practice when I determined it was time to go all-in, or drop it altogether. I decided to jump in the deep end of the swimming pool. I volunteered at the Northwest Vipassana Center at least one weekend a month, and eventually got invited to join the board of directors. Working closely with meditators who have restructured their lives around mindfulness has been simultaneously inspiring, motivating, and intimidating. Now that decades have passed, I can authoritatively say my association with this community of dedicated meditators has improved my meditation practice (which more about a way of living than sitting on a cushion) and has literally saved my life.
2. As a by-product of producing Northwest in Motion’s precursor, the Velocity Cycling Blog in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, I’ve had the good fortune of being a highly-visible member of the Pacific Northwest’s cycling community. That role has had the positive effect of making me feel accountable as a cyclist, runner, and athlete. Related, I’m the co-manager of Cascade Bicycle Club‘s High Performance Cycling team. Both of these factors keep me motivated to maintain good enough fitness so that I’m (usually) adequately prepared for any ride, run, hike, or ski outing that may come along.
3. I’m an avid participant at my local YMCA’s group fitness classes. When I first moved to Seattle in 2007 I did the group classes at Herriott Sports Performance (now Métier), but domestic obligations led me to shift to the Y. I’ll admit I was skeptical at first, but I really value the down-to-earth sense of community at the Y. Now I’m a regular at 3-5 classes per week, which has the bonus effect of mitigating chronic lower back pain.
Lightning Round Questions
Water or Vitamin Water?
Coffee or Bullet Coffee?
Sleeping or Sleep Hacking?
Mediterranean or Keto?
Brad says: “Everyone should read The Passion Paradox! If you are confused about what it means to be passionate you should definitely read it. It slays some sacred cows: passion can be hard; circumstances can change; How can you have drive and not let it control you, that’s a big part of the book too. I’m getting great feedback from high-school teachers, athletes, executives, founders — it’s neat to see people in all walks of life benefit from the book.”
Check out Brad’s writings in Outside Online.