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Wellness Wednesday for March 22, 2023

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

What is your idea of an ideal world? This is mine:

In the ideal world, it would be a free association of peoples worldwide; a utopian-like loose-knit affiliation of like-minded individuals. One would be a citizen of the world, not of a sovereign state. Countries, with their artificial borders would vanish along with the need for the military. As nationalism would expire, so too would patriotism with all its heroic evils. No police force would be needed anywhere on earth; no locks on the doors, no bars on the windows. Prisons, judges and juries would become a thing of the dreadful past. People would live together in peace and harmony, happiness and delight. Pollution and its cause – over-population – would be set to rights without effort, as competition would be replaced by cooperation. It would be the stuff of pipe dreams come true.

I've been getting super into Landmine exercises and complexes since my wife got one. Anyone have one? What exercises do you do? What are some weird ones I might be missing?

This is commonly used technology IMO - the same thing as the Pledge of Allegiance, or daily prayers. Many cultures have regular rituals designed to align the individual's psychology towards the group's values. There's no reason why this couldn't work to align the individual to their own values.

My gut feeling is that using "I am ..." statements would work better than just reciting the factual benefits of exercise. E.g. "Exercising is a priority of mine. I enjoy exercise. I am someone who exercises regularly. I am often in the mood to exercise, and even if I'm not, I will do so anyway." and so on. These target your identity, how you think of yourself, so are more likely influence your actions (e.g. I think you want to compile a list of the scientific benefits because you have as part of your identity "I am someone who updates their behaviour based on scientific evidence").

How do I stop worrying about the future?

Im reading and seeing all this new AI stuff that seems to come out everyday. I just cant help feel the progress is fast and only getting faster.

I can’t help but worry about my own future while reading and thinking about this… Am I, a software engineer, going to have a job in 2030? In 2025? Should I be learning a trade right now, in preparation? Will a trade be a good job when every now-redundant white collar worker turns to the trade as well?

and then my thoughts spiral towards all of humanity. Society in general, will our governments adapt fast enough, will ….

How do I stop this kind of thinking? It doesn’t feel productive and seems to just make me worried, with seemingly no upside. I’ve mostly always been optimistic about the future so this feels very weird.

ChatGPT 3 and 3.5 are shit at writing code. A couple of days ago I gave them another shot, I thought "I have the perfect task for this". Had to use an API, it's a well documented API from a OS, and the use I wanted to do was the most straightforward use possible. Just had to be done in Go instead of C (which is how people usually use it). I could probably go on google and easily find the function I wanted to write, verbatim, in C so all chatgpt had to do is translate it in Go. Couldn't do it. Literally every line was wrong. Also it crashed.

I'm not going to pay 20 dollars to see if GPT-4 works better, but, the way I see it, it can go one of two ways. Either this approach doesn't pan out, and nothing changes for us. Or it does pan out, in that case it will have been trained on code we wrote: you and I. We're going to be the last generation to get a free ride on the immortality train. Think about it, isn't that cool? If this were the case you should pity the zoomers who come after us and will have to die like mere mortals.

As for the job, whatever, if AI can replace programmers it can replace most other knowledge workers too. We're all on the same boat, misery likes company.

One thing I would bear in mind is that people have been predicting that programming would be a dead job for a long time now. When I was a teenager (circa the turn of the century), I had adults tell me that there was no future in programming and I should learn computer repair instead. Needless to say, programming is still quite lucrative and computer repair is not.

The reality is that we just don't know what will happen. Neither you, nor me, nor anyone. Your fears may come to pass, but then again they may not. Whenever you feel anxious I would just remember that people have made predictions like yours before and been dead wrong. As far as what to do on a practical basis, it's the same as it ever has been. Keep your skills current because the industry constantly changes. Be ready to adapt to new trends and become good at those things. We don't work in a business where you will retire doing the same exact job as you are doing today, but that has been the case for a long time.

First off, I'm well aware of the perils of the availability heuristic.That said, I have been hearing convincing-sounding warnings of imminent disaster my whole life. Is this your first panic of this kind? Some doomer warnings I still believe are, at their kernel, true. But the future doesn't arrive as quickly as you think.

And let's say I'm wrong and the future does arrive quick, singularity style. This is a future you can't prepare for. With climate change or peak resources, you could at least take up homesteading and buy guns and land in Canada. Afraid of nuclear war? Build a fallout shelter. Etc etc.

There is nothing you can do to prepare for singularity even if the doomer warnings you're hearing are true. If people with coding jobs are in big trouble everyone's in big trouble. Let be.

You’re a software engineer, but computers will soon know how to program each other. Will they ever be able to fix each other? I don’t see the roles of computer technician and sysadmin going away soon, so I’d direct your continuing education toward the fixing side of your industry.

As for the bigger questions, I advise you to read Ecclesiastes

and the Sermon on the Mount.

Physical activity always helps me, going on a walk, listening to music, etc. Meditation seems to help a lot of people. Avoid substances (esp. pot can increase anxiety) and try to get a good night of sleep every night.

If not try talking to friends and therapy? I hate to give the run of the mill stuff you’ve probably heard of, but there’s a reason it’s standard.

A little bit of a life hack for those wanting to learn technical fields fast but only as far as the application is concerned. Might be very obvious to some, but new to me.

By this I mean, let's say you want to find the area under the curve bounded by f(x)you learn there is a technique called integration. You will just call integrate(f(x),lb,ub) in your programming language of choice and wouldn't need to waste 4 months of your life learning how to compute integrals by hands. All you need to know is that a thing called integration exists and it's edge cases such as negative area. And you are off to the races, you can "learn" integration in a day.

Unfortunately, I haven't found any such book that caters to this type of "learning" for anything. I've been trying to learn optimization and every book I've come across it's the whole dog and pony show of hand calculating the solution. I don't need that! I have tools like PuLP, Gekko and PyMOO to do that for me. Just tell me the name of the thing that finds the area under the curve! (Gekko looks very cool to my untrained eye, most simple syntax and has ML integration for objective and constraint functions)

Solution? Read the documentation of packages that solve the general class of problems. I'm getting some decent mileage reading the docs of the packages above. Most documentation for technical problem solving packages have some sort of theoretical introduction in the beginning.

The approach above does have some silly failure modes. I initially learned ML by reading Sk-learn documentation years back and not knowing theory made me do retarded shit like applying scaling before splitting into test-train sets or using regression metrics for classification problems, etc. I don't exactly know how to avoid this without actually knowing the theory. (Sk-learn documentation is actually very good, I just bungled it by trying to rush it)

@JhanicManifold any opinions on approaching "learning" optimization this way? Any pitfalls to watch out for?

I'd consider negative "area" to be a central case of integration, part of the basic definition, rather than an edge case ... but "edge" vs "central" is a matter of opinion.

I would say the worst edge case is functions without a priori bounds (whether on the function itself, on one of its derivatives, on variance...). Show me the most advanced deterministic adaptive quadrature algorithm your package has, and allow me to pick a truly arbitrary f(x) to give to it, and I can make the error (actual_integral - integrate(f(x),lb,ub)) arbitrarily large, even if actual_integral is 1. Use a stochastic algorithm and I can't guarantee "arbitrarily large" for the error, but I can still get "arbitrarily large in all but an arbitrarily small fraction of runs".

Your package docs will hopefully warn you about that, if you know what you're looking for. I just checked Matlab integral for an example, and a careful reader of "uses the absolute error tolerance to limit an estimate of the absolute error" in their docs will stop and say "wait, an estimate?" Looking at scipy, the quad doc says "An estimate of the absolute error", but the quad tutorial just says "an upper bound on the error", which they probably think is a fine description because it's almost always true in practice...

Sorry if this all sounds kind of nitpicky. I might be feeling pissy right now because I wrote an algorithm which is perfect in exact arithmetic and has been getting heavy use for months, becoming a core part of user workflows ... and now people are finding floating-point-arithmetic failure cases that I really should have anticipated.

I think instead of reading the documentation of libraries I'd try to read the main books on the theory, but only reading the first part of every chapter and very lightly skimming the rest, doing none of the exercises. Like, you understand what an integral is within like 30 minutes of having the problem stated to you, and the best ressources to be introduced to the problem are still the textbooks, they just happen to come with hundreds of pages you don't need. When I first learned ML I just spent 2 days reading Murphy's 2012 book without worrying about any of the details, I just wanted to get a small introduction to literally every method so that I could get a sort of mental picture of the entire field.

The problem with only knowing the theory so shallowly is that you're kind of brittle to modifications and expansions of the problem statement. Like, how would you solve the following problem: you have a company that has an industrial process with 10 free parameters, and they have a yield function F(x) : R^10 -> R that they want to maximize, but the exact physics if the process is unknown or very complicated. Each trial run to compute F(x) costs 1 million dollars (and of course F(x) has some unknown variance), so so far they only have around 30 data points {x_i, F(x_i)}. Your job is to advise them on how to pick the next point x_i to try in order to maximize their profits (which increase with yield, but decrease with additional suboptimal trials). And what if F(x) is nonstationary? Maybe the machines degrade over time, and the optimal parameters change...

Funny you say that because in my experience Youtube ML tutorials have been mostly terrible and make those kinds of mistakes as well. There are tutorials on many abstraction levels and the ones I am talking about are the ones that go straight into implementing a solution. In retrospect, this problem can be avoided by NOT skipping all the slides of the PowerPoint that don't have any code or math in them, as they usually cover a high level overview.

I finally caved and shelled out the twenty bucks for GPT-4. I cannot recommend it enough. Much digital ink has been spilled discussing its reasoning capabilities, and they are noticeably improved, but what you don’t see until you interact with it yourself is the model’s graceful command of the English language. Perhaps it’s the novelty, but the generated text is an absolute joy to read. The word choice is varied and fluid, but never comes across as pretentious or inefficient. The truly deep understanding is still missing, but there is an attention to detail that makes it feel alive and thoughtful.

What are the current usage limits? Does the history work? What is the maximum input length for a single comment (presume 8k tokens)?

Last I checked it was at 25 queries every 3 hours. The history bar on the left was there, but idk if it works. I don’t know the max input length, I don’t usually use large inputs.

Yes last it heard it was reduced to 25 messages/3 hours, and that they were possibly reducing it further.

Imagine going to Jurassic Park and complaining that they only let you see a few dinosaurs. You got to see dinosaurs in real life for twenty dollars.

I can see dinosaurs everyday, I just need to look for the nearest bird out my window.

For twenty dollars they better be bigger than a turkey and worth the cost of admission!

ChatGPT had it's per token costs dropped by an OOM lately due to backend optimizations, likely from pruning or teacher-student distillation.

Presumably they'll get around to doing something like that for GPT-4, which might bring about significant cost reductions in the near term.

After being interested and also trying out the local only versions, I'm also caving now. I want to see state of the art LLM.

Right now the payment page seems to be erroring out, but I'll get to it soon.

I think my pillow is making me snore at night - have you tried an anti-snoring pillow before?

Never heard of anti-snoring pillow - what's the mechanism? Would be glad to hear any reports too.

Here's a sample diet calculation just to share my experience, potentially catch any errors and commit to the process.

I am 37 and weigh 77 kilograms. I hit the gym two times a week (not "a couple" of times) and would like to go back to going three times a week when things at work go back to normal. I am small-boned and don't put on muscle easily, so my 77kg include a couple of love handles and I would like to slim down to 72kg without losing much muscle. This should help me get to seven pull-ups and put my body fat percentage at 17%.

Step one: maintenance diet, as-is

There are lots of various ballpark estimators of your daily caloric needs online and they are all the same. I picked the first one, plugged in my sex, age, weight and level of physical activity and got 2310kcal.

Skeletal muscles are the body's luxury organs, so unless you perform manual labor for a living, the body will eagerly deflate them if you don't eat enough protein or keep them stimulated. To keep the muscles fed, you need about 2g of protein per kg of body weight. That's 154 grams.

NB: Precision is not really important, I am not planning to weigh my food and you shouldn't either, but I can't be arsed to round everything my small homemade diet planner does.

Then there's fat. You don't want to go below 0.66g/kg (or your hormones will act up) or above 0.88kg/g (no real benefit and your portions will start getting too small to be satiating). So, 51 to 68 grams per day.

Fill the rest with carbs. The formula for calories per gram of protein/fat/carbs is 4-9-4, so this leaves us with 271-309 carbs.

  • Calories: 2310

  • Protein: 154

  • Fat: 51-68

  • Carbs: 271-309

Step 2: smoke testing the numbers

I then itemized everything I ate during the last few days. It's a bit of a hassle, going to the fridge and recording everything of importance, but you only have to do it once. Homemade soups and stews are the biggest hurdle, so I cheated: for the soups you can copy the macros from your local food delivery service, and for the stews just do the big stuff: meat, potatoes, veggies. Restaurant soups are usually fattier than homemade ones, so things should cancel themselves out.

Turns out I've been eating at maintenance and hitting my protein goals, but eating a bit too much fat. Given that I haven't been getting fatter or growing bigger muscles recently, that result made sense, so I was ready to take the next step.

Step 3: weight-loss diet

Now that I had all the data I need, I could calculate both my weight loss diet and compare it to my recent menus. Gentle dieting means eating about 500 kcal less than your maintenance calories, keeping your protein intake fixed, bringing yout fat intake in line with the guidelines and filling the rest with carbs. This should result in about 500 grams of weight loss per week. Plugging the numbers into the formula, we get:

  • Calories: 1810

  • Protein: 154

  • Fat: 51-68

  • Carbs: 146-184

With this data, I could then start fiddling around with my diet, trying to bring it in line with the new goal. When everything is in a bunch of tables, it's quite easy to play around with numbers. There were some easy changes: that 3.2% milk you add to your protein shakes does add up to 130 extra calories you can slash from your diet if you switch to 1% milk or 330 if you switch to water. Then I just had to slash a little bit here and there to get where I wanted.

I also planned to add an hour of walking to my daily schedule. First of all, it's extra 250 kcal of energy expended: as I lose weight, my daily maintenance calories will slowly reduce to 2160, leaving me with only 350kcal worth of deficit; it will also function as a safety buffer against things I might miss in my diet.

Step 4: maintenance diet, to be

When the dieting is done, I will need to adjust my diet to the new caloric balance:

  • Calories: 2160

  • Protein: 144

  • Fat: 47-63

  • Carbs: 253-289

Basically, no real changes (+/-10 grams of protein is nothing), just a chance to eat starchy sides more often.


The biggest hurdle was getting my wife on board. She doesn't like scrawny dudes, I kept telling her that 72kg isn't scrawny at all, she kept disagreeing, but I nagged and nagged until she relented. She didn't even roll her eyes when I went through the fridge and the pantry, taking pictures of nutritional value labels. In return I didn't force her to weigh anything. As I've written above, I am fine with eyeballing stuff.

Despite the changes required to achieve this caloric deficit being so small, I can feel it. I go to sleep without feeling full and actually look forward to having breakfast when I wake up.

Calorie tracking turned out to be easier than it sounds. Everything you buy ready to eat is easy to keep track of and you only have to calculate the values for the stuff you cook once.

The numbers look good enough. Your protein calculations should ideally be based on muscle mass and not body weight, but it's not worth doing all that, just overestimate by a fair margin and you'll be good. Get on BCAAs and creatine if you are not on it already, you'll need it for the cut.

The psychological process of cutting sucks. Your lifts go down in weight, tired and hungry all the time, etc. I am 78kg (170lbs) at 14% body fat right now, which is by sane measures "healthy" but I'd need to get around 10% or below for visible abs and a more "aesthetic face" I am really dreading the process of starting a cut, I feel great right now, high energy levels, plenty of physical strength, etc. I don't even know if it will be worth looking marginally better.

But you definitely need to cut if you are 77kg at greater than 17%bf (assuming your height is below 6'2).

I feel great right now, high energy levels, plenty of physical strength, etc. I don't even know if it will be worth looking marginally better.

Well, the leaner you are, the harder it must be to cut, as you have to steer your metabolism away from the muscles and towards the remaining body fat. If I ever get to 14% at 78kg I think I'll be ecstatic.

But you definitely need to cut if you are 77kg at greater than 17%bf (assuming your height is below 6'2).

I do. I don't trust my Chinese smart scale too much, but its figures match what I see in the mirror

If I ever get to 14% at 78kg I think I'll be ecstatic.

Assuming your height is around 5-10-6'1, given your current stats. It should be possible 1.5 years from now for you to achieve 14% at 78kg. I'm overestimating a bit because you are 37 and if you can't do 7 pullups, some foundation needs to be laid. Expect around 3 bulk-cut cycles.

It's not a bad place to be, but bodybuilding is a bottomless pit. First, you want the bicep definition, then you want the bicep mass, then you want the mass and definition, then you want the popping bicep vein, then you want the popping bicep vein without a pump, then you want the vein to be visible from a mile away.

A lot of bodybuilders have body dysmorphia but in the opposite direction as teenage females, they think they are too small. lol

I have been having strange nights lately. Waking up at 4am, unable to go back to sleep even when I feel super tired physically etc. Not particularly stressed about anything that keeps me awake. Trying the most low risk advice online nowadays like cutting before-bed screen time and magnesium citrate supplements. Haven't seen the results yet but it has been relatively little time. My bed is comfortable I suppose.

Anyone who has been in this situation before? Any advise would be appreciated. I want to avoid waking up in the middle of the night if possible in the first place and if not then fall asleep back quickly again.

I go through this occasionally, too. Something I've found helpful is lowering the air temperature.

The following comes from an interview with Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist:

The second is keep it cool. Your body needs to drop its core temperature by about 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit to initiate sleep and then to stay asleep. And it's the reason you will always find it easier to fall asleep in a room that's too cold than too hot. So aim for a bedroom temperature of around 65 degrees or about 18 degrees Celsius. That's going to be optimal for the sleep of most people.

I've found his book "Why We Sleep" to be helpful. Though, you could probably pick up most of the sleep improvement tips just from interviews he's given on Youtube. Hope you can fix this.

This is something I deal with. (Since I'm still dealing with it, I might not be the best source of advice, but here we are.) I've read some pop-sci type articles that human are inclined to be bi-phasic sleepers and our monophasic sleep is a relatively new cultural practice/expectation. Anecdotally I find I tend towards bi-phasic sleep when I'm not on a schedule (backpacking trips, vacations, etc). I get sleepy in the evening, doze off for a few hours, wake up for a few hours sometime in the middle of the night, and then doze back off until just a little after dawn.

Things to consider to keep you asleep:

  1. What's your workload like right now? Are your days jam-packed? Even if you're not stressed, sometimes open mental loops will keep the brain distracted enough to wake up. Something something evolutionary psychology sabertooth tigers, I guess.

  2. Be aware of when you're intaking stimulants. Caffeine can last a while in the body so I normally cut off my caffeine intake (coffee, tea, soda, etc) somewhere around 1PM.

  3. Keep your bedroom as dark as humanly possible. Black-out curtains have made a world of different for me. (The city council recently decided all the streetlights needs to be the equivalent of automobile high beams, lest the criminals murder us all in our sleep.)

Things I've found that help me get back to sleep:

  1. Read something light and undemanding for a little while. I find about 20 minutes works for me.

  2. Ged out of bed and do something easy and mindless. Do the dishes you decided need to be soaked, pack a lunch for the next day, etc.

  3. Sleep on the couch or stretch out on the floor. Sometimes just the change of scenery helps. No idea why.

Humans are not naturally biphasic - direct sleep studies in modern hunter gatherers show they sleep mostly like we do, in a single 'phase', and for similar durations as modern humans. Biphasic sleep seems to be mostly a medieval Europe thing.

Responses inline (because I'm banned for challenging the normie gender ideology):

Ban evasion gets you a permaban.

French press black coffee. Measure your water and coffee by mass instead of volume.

Espressos are hard to make in an automatic machine. DeLonghi is probably the most widely available automatic coffee maker that uses actual beans. Melitta and Nivona are fine too. Jura and Gaggia are too expensive. Don't buy Bosch, Siemens, Philips or Krups.

James Hoffman

He has an impressively punchable face.

You might be fine with a cheap coffee maker, a coffee bean grinder and whole coffee beans. Grind them beans fresh just before use, to desired consistency. (Generally, if you were using something like a french press to brew the coffee, the ideal coarseness of the beans would approximate kosher salt. I prefer going a little finer if I'm using a regular percolator. Experiment a little.)

The way I've described is an easy way to upgrade the average coffee routine.

1050 pounds???

As someone mostly fed up with the unpleasant side effects of Ritalin, I was looking forward to skipping as much of the queue as possible when it came to getting an ADHD scrip from a private doctor in the UK. Please tell me that's not a typical consultation fee.

I was put on vyvanse in elementary school and later had to be institutionalized due to the mental health effects. I did not complete high school(although I have enough community college credits to earn a diploma) because I missed too much time for mental health treatment and my psychiatrist said that my initial ADHD diagnosis was probably incorrect. I am still unable to trust doctors and rely on folk healers or chiropractors.

All that being said, I have a functional life. I hold a steady job in the trades, I don’t particularly want to become a symbol manipulator, and while my childhood was unnecessarily shitty, plenty of people’s was.

All that is to say that your experiences of the lows resonate with me, while the highs seem comparably meaningless.

I really appreciate this report/testimonial. I was diagnosed with ADHD in middle school, but the psych recommended against medication since I was doing more than fine in school (high intelligence and an interest in math goes a long way); I have a sibling who was not so lucky and ended up on Adderall 5 days a week. I frequently wonder how much more successful I'd be if I were medicated, but since I did manage to find enough success even with frequent useless days due to getting distracted by whatever, I've decided to leave well enough alone.

As tempting as being able to focus all day, every workday, is, your "lows" section is exactly the sort of thing I'm concerned about with amphetamines, so good job contributing to my resolve not to touch the stuff.

Thanks for your post. I have been curious about taking adderall in the past but reading your experience makes me not want to take it. I have a close friend who takes it and his behaviors are often obnoxious and selfish like the ones you described doing. I'm also prone to depression and anxiety so I'm glad to know that I should avoid it on those grounds as well.

I'm a nerdy guy looking to develop my action-taking side. Bookishness is nice and all, but the reserved temperament doesn't jive with my dreams to become an action-hero.

What actions did y'all take to become more risk-taking and less prone to analysis paralysis? Maybe something a bit more specific than "just take small risks and scale upward!" I'd venture a guess that certain hobbies and activities -- certain sports, handiwork, skilled trades -- develop the qualities of manly self-assurance more than others. Has anybody undertaken a similar path to self-improvement?

I started partner dancing. First ballroom, then swing. I’d recommend starting with some type of swing dance.

I also started doing yoga. A lot of action taking imo is just having better kinesthetic awareness or awareness of where your body is in different scenarios. The key is to practice it so much it becomes effortless or subconscious, you just sort of become graceful.

Most non-nerdy people don’t understand how crucial this is because it’s just kind of the default for them. I’d argue @udfgt is getting at something similar, but contrary to his testosterone fueled declarations physicality is what’s important to masculinity, not a capacity for violence or some outdated ability to provide basic sustenance needs 10,000 years after the invention of agriculture.

Trust me, you want to be wary of the type of man who will just tell you to lift and learn to shoot guns and chug beer and ride motorbikes. First off it’s a hollow definition of masculinity. (Although the focus on family and leadership, if there, is important.)

Second, if you start trying to move in those circles with no understanding of how to use your body, you’ll get hurt. Perhaps permanently. Too many gym bros are willing to just yell “PUSH!” when you’re struggling with the last rep of your set, even if they claim they’re all about safety outside of a workout.

This isn’t to say that all of ‘pop masculinity’ is bad, but speaking from personal experience you ought to be wary.

I think the wariness of pop-masculinity is warranted and cultural attempts to reclaim masculinity are often reactive. There are political reasons for that. The Left hates pretty much all traditional masculinity and so mocks it with reductive caricatures of anger, excess and bravado. The Right often responds, intentionally or not, by embracing this caricature of masculinity. Boomer-tier memes of guns n' trucks abound. That these things are considered "masculine" with no reference to craftsmanship, robust physical culture, or the higher virtues like honor and courage leaves the impression that men are chasing shadows of a once-unified ideal. I'm not naive enough to think that this was ever a settled image -- there were many of masculine archetypes through Western history. But these archetypes share traits. A few of them are a willingness to take physical risks, an emphasis on physical development, and an honor culture.

So of course testosterone matters in cultivating the physical and psychic qualities of manliness. It's no secret that testosterone levels in men have been declining and that our culture encourages this emasculation. That passive entertainments like video games and sportsball are indicators of modern male identity is a tell that our culture is degraded. They're abstractions of war and sport. The solution, best I can tell, is to meet the realities again. Lifting heavy objects is probably the most direct way to do that. I prefer bodyweight exercises to start with. It's possible to do many improving workouts with one's body in a small space. Plus, it helps to avoid the problem you identify with lifting too much with improper form. I think it's important to get a good foundation of balance and flexibility before lifting heavy stuff for those who aren't used to using their bodies for labor.

Swing dance seems like good fun. I'll look into it.

Yep sounds like we’re broadly in agreement. I’ve got nothing against lifting weights and agree it’s probably the best way to gain strength muscle etc. My problem is with the culture typically associated with lifting nowadays.

East and west coast swing are probably the most accessible styles. The coasts are just where the dance developed, geography doesn’t really matter for them.

Me? I started hanging out with some gun guys, learned how to shoot, learned how to ruck and move inna woods, and generally started training with violence in mind. I think martial skills are important for men, and developing your martial prowess should be a priority. Not only is it good for your self respect, it reveals a lot about what you are capable of, and importantly what you aren't capable of yet.

Beyond just the larp, it gets you thinking about how you might train for resiliancy in other aspects of your life. Once you busted a boot out in the middle of nowhere and have to pack out for 10 miles with shitty gear, you realize how important preparedness is. Once you break out of the mindset that everything will be taken care of for you, you start to take on responsibilities. You start to think "maybe I should know how to use a turniquette" or "what would I do if my food supply were gone?" And then, through those evaluations, you start to take actions. You plant a garden. You learn trauma care. You lift so you can carry your wife out of a burning building. You become an asset rather than a liability.

And through the skills you gain, you start building. You inhabit the spirit of masculinity, and by inhabitating you become masculine. It's all about slow, methodical, appropriate steps taken to help you, your family, and your community build resiliancy. And, if nothing else, larping out in the woods is fun; don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I'm naturally very disagreeable and aggressive and had the opposite problem of being "too reserved", my parents got called to pick me up from school for getting in trouble so many times that at one point they just gave up and told the teachers to deal with it.

However, I was exposed to a lot of people from the opposite side of the temperament spectrum in college and work because I pursued a very "nerdy" STEM field. Here's what I think the easily identifyable failure modes of "nerds" are.

  • Stop thinking you are a nerdy guy, seriously. Of course, there are clusters of people along certain dimensions which is why stereotypes exist. But those stereotypes are descriptions, not prescriptions.

    If you are a heterodox thinker in any capacity, you will soon realize that is is extremely easy to find yourself outside of one of those clusters.

    A lot of people get programmed by their surrounding cultural landscape into pretending to be things they are not. Ask yourself, are you really reserved? Or do you just think that's how others expect you to act and as a result, you act that way? Are you really a nerd? Or do you just wear glasses?

    Try formulating a strong sense of identity along the lines of; {I believe in X} {I want Y} {I do Z} {My values are ABC}. Instead of I {I am a X}. It's a worthwhile exercise because it's extremely unlikely that you aren't pretending at least a little bit or your values/wants might not be yours but might be imported from elsewhere.

    Once you have a strong grasp of who you actually are, it's much easier to be unapologetic about your beliefs, ideas and wants, because they rest on strong foundations.

  • Start lifting. Don't listen to the doubters or naysayers or "dadbod" propaganda, the benefits of having additional muscle mass are so lopsided in their favor, you would really need to go well out of your way to justify not lifting once you are aware of the upsides (This link is the tip of the iceberg).

    Having some muscles not changes your mental state in the way you are aiming, it will also change how others act around you. Some people will naturally take a submissive role in their interactions with you if you are bigger than them and eliminate the need to be assertive/unreserved. (This might not work as well if you are short).

  • Wildcard. Maybe you are a pussified version of yourself because you have low Testosterone, or too much prolactin, or whatever. A large chunk of your mood and demeanor especially in the negative direction is neurochemically modulated. (Look into Andrew Hubermans work.)

Convince yourself that getting out of your comfort zone will improve yourself or your life, or give you the life you want to live instead of the one you feel stuck with. Be honest with yourself about what you really want and then work to fix what's holding you back.

For example a few years ago I was very obese and pretty depressed about it. I consistently ate between 4000 and 5000 calories a day without a second thought. I was able to return to a healthy weight through diet and exercise because I believed it would improve my life. Today, a few years later, I've kept the weight off because I know that going back to my ridiculous eating habits would ruin my life again.

Also, shaming and ridiculing yourself can be useful if you don't want to feel shameful and ridiculous. I told myself that binge eating is disgusting and not done by the type of person that I want to be, so I don't do it very often anymore. In your case, if you don't want to be bookish, and want to be more action-taking, tell yourself that bookishness isn't "nice and all" but is actually bad and lame and you should do what action-taking heroes do, since you want to be like them.

Sure, but I'm quite fine with reading and developing myself in that direction. I really do regard a liking for books as a strength. Many great men like Theodore Roosevelt have developed mind and body in tandem. The habit I'd like to "shame" is risk-averseness, so I don't think I substantially disagree with this response.

"Bookishness" is, I think, pathological exactly when reading becomes a habitual escape from the world. Think people who read self-help books but never apply any of the tips. It's easy to defer action in favor of more research; cowardice is easily disguised as prudence.