Engineering Your Alpha This New Year?

Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief at The Huffington Post, published an article on LinkedIn, Happy New Year! 12 Steps To Thriving in 2015:
Happy New Year! The New Year is a great opportunity to drop those things which no longer serve us, like our collective delusion that burning out is the key to success. This year, start your journey from burnout to thriving with the 12 steps (because we are all addicted) from my book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, now available in paperback in the UK.

1. Unless you are one of the wise few who already gets all the rest you need, you have an opportunity to immediately improve your health, creativity, productivity and sense of well-being. Start by getting just thirty minutes more sleep than you are getting now. The easiest way is to go to bed earlier, but you could also take a short nap during the day -- or a combination of both.

2. Move your body: Walk, run, stretch, do yoga, dance. Just move. Anytime.

3. Introduce five minutes of meditation into your day. Eventually, you can build up to fifteen or twenty minutes a day (or more), but even just a few minutes will open the door to creating a new habit -- and all the many proven benefits it brings.

4. Listening to your inner wisdom, let go of something today that you no longer need -- something that is draining your energy without benefiting you or anyone you love. It could be resentments, negative self-talk or a project you know you are not really going to complete.

5. Start a gratitude list that you share with two or more friends who send theirs to you.

6. Have a specific time at night when you regularly turn off your devices -- and gently escort them out of your bedroom. Disconnecting from the digital world will help you reconnect to your wisdom, intuition and creativity. And when you wake up in the morning, don't start your day by looking at your smartphone. Take one minute -- trust me, you do have one minute -- to breathe deeply, or be grateful or set your intention for the day.

7. Focus on the rising and falling of your breath for ten seconds whenever you feel tense, rushed or distracted. This allows you to become fully present in your life.

8. Pick an image that ignites the joy in you. It can be of your child, a pet, the ocean, a painting you love -- something that inspires a sense of wonder. And any time you feel contracted, go to it to help you expand.

9. Forgive yourself for any judgments you are holding against yourself and then forgive your judgments of others. (If Nelson Mandela can do it, you can, too.) Then look at your life and the day ahead with newness and wonder.

10. Make small gestures of kindness and giving a habit, and pay attention to how this affects your mind, your emotions and your body.

11. During your day make a personal connection with people you might normally tend to pass by and take for granted: the checkout clerk, the cleaning crew at your office or your hotel, the barista in the coffee shop. See how this helps you feel more alive and reconnected to the moment.

12. Use a skill or talent you have -- cooking, accounting, decorating -- to help someone who could benefit from it. It'll jumpstart your transition from a go-getter to a go-giver, and reconnect you to the world and to the natural abundance in your own life.
At the beginning of every year, people write down all these goals and objectives concerning their career and personal health. What's the basic problem with all this? Nothing in particular except it's self-absorbing nonsense that most people forget after a few weeks or days.

That's why I really like Arianna Huffington's post because it strikes a balance between taking care of yourself, which we should all be doing and giving back to others in big and small ways, which we should also be doing. In fact, I would argue that giving back to others is far more important than being self-absorbed and focusing solely on yourself.

With that in mind, let me share 12 personal tips on how you can engineer your own alpha this new year and thrive. I would highly recommend you read my thoughts and feel free to share your own thoughts with me or through comments on this blog post:
  1. Get some quality sleep: Growing up, my dad used to make fun of my brother and I whenever we'd go out to the wee hours of the morning. "You're the sleep deprived generation," he would say. Now in my early forties, I know exactly why he kept harping on us to sleep. A good night's rest is absolutely crucial for your health. I can't overemphasize how crucial quality sleep is to your central nervous system, heart, and overall well-being, not to mention controlling your weight. When it comes to sleep, treat it as a top priority and get informed on how you can improve the quality of your sleep. My tips? Go to bed and wake up the same time of day, exercise early in the day so you're tired at night, stay hydrated throughout the day, eat properly (see below), snack on pumpkin seeds to relieve anxiety, don't eat a heavy dinner, turn off all electronic devices an hour before bedtime, keep your room cool but feet warm, invest in a great mattress and pillow, try sleeping on your side or back, and most importantly, don't think of anything but sleep when you're ready to hit the sack and sleep a minimum 8 hours a night. What else? You might find this weird but try inclining your bed by six inches so you sleep on a slant. Andrew Fletcher is a huge believer in the benefits of  sleeping on an inclined bed, but others have also written extensively on the benefits of inclined bed therapy (Don't knock it till you try it. Took me less than a week to get used to it and will never go back to sleeping in a horizontal position. But the most important thing for me is my pillow, which I'll never part with, even when traveling).
  2. Start your day off right: I'm  going to be honest with you, I'm not a morning person. Never was and never will be. Nothing annoys me more than cheery people early in the morning. I always hated morning meetings and avoided them like the plague if I could. I especially hated those 7 o'clock meetings at the National Bank listening to sell-side analysts spew their bogus recommendations and later on, those 8 o'clock meetings at the Caisse where internal portfolio managers regurgitated all the nonsense the sell-side was feeding them. Total and utter waste of time! My routine was always to shut the door of my office till about 10 or 11 o'clock so I can focus all my attention on markets. I still do that except now I don't rush in the morning which is priceless. I get up slowly, drink lots of water with lemon, have my healthy shake (see below), and watch a bit of CNBC Sqawk Box while I do my morning stretches. I then get on my computer while sipping my cup of black coffee and review my emails, check out market news, look at some stocks and get ideas on trading and write my blog. I typically plan out my blog topic a day in advance but sometimes I wing it. I love reading, writing and watching markets in the morning. It's my time to relax and focus. You might not understand but writing on pensions and investments helps me trade better and look at markets with a unique focus which very few people have, even those working at pension funds!
  3. Stop dieting and start living: I absolutely hate diets. I remember when I first got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis back in June 1997, everyone was telling me to rigorously follow the Swank diet for MS because "it's a miracle". My neurologist at the time, Dr. Gordon Francis, was unconvinced and told me that he saw more than a few patients on the Swank diet that actually got worse. When it comes to dieting, my friend's father, a pathologist, gave me the best advice a long time ago, "All diets are bad for you because they stress you and deny you the pleasure of food. Stop dieting and start living!" I know, all of you are now jumping on the paleo diet even though that's not how cavemen ate, or swear to me that a non gluten diet is best (even if you don't have Celiac disease), but I'm going to share with you a wise ancient Greek expression, "Pan Metron Ariston" which translates as "all good things in moderation." When it comes to eating properly, one of the best books you should read (even if it's far from perfect) is Dr. Joel Furman's The End of Dieting: How to Live for Life. He will teach you the importance of eating G-bombs (Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, and Seeds) but don't become obsessed with his recipes, understand the big themes and why eating the right food in abundance is so important to your health. 
  4. My typical day of feasting: As I stated above, I wake up and pour a glass of room temperature Eska water with lemon. Lemon water can really improve your morning and day. I then prepare my shake which consists of organic Kale (freeze it), half a cup of organic frozen blueberries (sometimes I add blackberries, strawberries or my favorite, frozen cranberries), one organic banana, unsweetened almond milk and a tea spoon of raw organic honey and Ceylon Cinnamon. I can't overemphasize the benefits of Ceylon Cinnamon, especially when combined with non pasteurized honey. But there are huge benefits to blueberries, bananas and kale too, which packs a lot more fiber and nutrients than spinach. I also add a table spoon of NutraSea lemon flavored fish oil to my a shake once it is prepared using my Nutribullet (love it but there are others too), but don't ever add fish oil to your mixer (mix in the shake once it is prepared). After I drink my shake, if hungry, I will eat half an English muffin with peanut butter and jam. I also have another glass of room temperature Eska water with lemon before I drink my cup of black coffee. Get hydrated early on and keep drinking a lot of water all day. You will urinate a lot but that's healthy and will help you maintain regularity. For lunch, I typically prepare a small salad bowl where I mix arugula, endives, red peppers, chick peas, avocados, and grilled chicken or a can of Rio Mare tuna (in water) or I have a nice kale and grilled chicken salad. I typically drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and squeeze half a lemon or make a dijon vinaigrette with white or apple cider vinegar. If I had huge meal the day before, I sometimes just steam broccoli (no more than ten minutes as I like it crispy) and drizzle extra virgin olive oil and squeeze half a lemon (I add a bit of Kalas sea salt to my broccoli and salads). At dinner, I like eating a Greek salad with fish, chicken, veal or lamb (try eating baked salmon twice a week for diner). I then have some fruits at night (whatever is in season, like tangerines in the winter) and snack on pumpkin seeds if I am watching some television. I never eat any junk food or sweets (not a sweet tooth) so I don't buy chips, cookies, ice cream and chocolates (once in a blue moon, dark chocolate is fine). I prefer eating pumpkin seeds, almonds and walnuts if I need to snack on something (again, don't overdo it, a handful of nuts a day is fine).
  5. It's perfectly fine to cheat once in a while: We are not machines that can eat the same food every single day. Sometimes we want to feast on junk food. Once in a while I enjoy a great cheeseburger and red wine at Nouveau Palais restaurant, a delicious pizza at Amelios or a chicken souvlaki pita at the original Arahova on St-Viateur and then cross the street to pick up some fresh bagels at St-Viateur Bagel. Montreal has great restaurants and I love eating delicious food, including tasty junk food. I don't beat myself up if I cheat once in a while but the key here is not to make it a habit (once a week or once every other week means just that!). And if you know you're going to cheat, eat lightly the rest of that day.
  6. The only vitamin you really need is the sunshine vitamin: There is only one vitamin I have been taking religiously for years, vitamin D. I use Seroyal D-Emulsion 1000 citrus and mix 7 to 10 drops in a glass of water which I take at dinner, my largest meal. Most of you should be taking a minimum of 1,000 IUs a day but I recommend at least 3,000 IUs daily. There are important reasons to take vitamin D and in my extensive research, this is the one vitamin that everyone should take regardless of where they live (myth is we get enough from the sun but we don't because of all the crap we spray on ourselves).
  7. Other supplements: You can literally go crazy on supplements but my philosophy is if you eat right, you don't need to waste money on supplements. I believe in food, not supplements, but sometimes we need to supplement our diet. One supplement that has gotten my attention lately is krill oil but I warn you, do your research and read the ingredients carefully before buying this supplement. I can tell you from experience, you should never buy MegaRed or any crap they sell at pharmacies and stick to the best possible kind of krill oil (I use Neptune krill oil by Trophic but there are other excellent brands). If you want optimum health, it might be worth looking at krill oil, vitamin B12 and other sources of Omega-3, like NutraSea fish oil). But again, if you eat properly, there is no need to supplement your daily regiment with expensive products which have not been scientifically proven to benefit your health (unlike vitamin D, which has had many double blind placebo controlled studies).
  8. Exercise but don't overdo it: My new philosophy is try to stay at the gym no longer than 45 minutes. I start off with ten minutes of elliptical to warm up and then go straight to my workout where I try to do as much circuit training as possible so my heart rate stays elevated and I burn more calories. Because of my MS, I adapt my circuit training to seated positions or to doing things which I can do and stay safe. One of my favorite circuit training routines is combining shoulder press with chest press and seated rowing. The machines in my gym are right next to each other and I can finish that workout fast and get the hell out of the gym with a nice pump that lasts two days until my next workout. I see so many people at the gym that either overdo it on cardio machines, lift excessive weights or just look like space cadets not knowing what they're doing, it's truly sad and pathetic. If it's one thing I would tell all guys out there looking to lose their belly is to stop doing situps or crunches and start eating right and doing circuit training, using all your body muscles. Most women understand this which is why they are the superior gender (look at how women train at the gym and how guys train; the former know what they're doing).
  9. Boost your sex life: A lot of guys out there should pick up John Romaniello and Adam Bornstein's book, Man 2.0 Engineering the Alpha: A Real World Guide to an Unreal Life: Build More Muscle. Burn More Fat. Have More Sex. The book discusses how hormonal dysfunction is impacting men and what they can do to naturally boost their testosterone levels. It's far from perfect but I highly recommend you read it and understand the main advice. One of the things they recommend is that guys stop watching porn and start having more sex. In fact, very few guys (and some gals) understand how pornography is ruining their sex life. A lot of the problems you're experiencing "down there" are in your head, not between your legs! Stop watching cheesy porn and go out there and meet someone special and experience the benefits of sex, which are physical and emotional. Notice I am talking mostly to guys out there because when it comes to sex and romance, women are once again the superior gender (they get it!).
  10. Stay positive and mentally healthy: I can't emphasize enough how prevalent mental illness is out there. My father and brother are psychiatrists who know this all too well. It hits every strata of society and if you think you are immune, think again. CEOs, regular workers and all types of people across socioeconomic backgrounds will experience depression/ anxiety or worse in their life. If you need help, don't be ashamed to seek professional advice, it will be the smartest thing you ever do. Surround yourself with positive people who love you and want the best for you and do whatever it takes to get back on track mentally. Life is full of stresses, and while most of us can handle them, sometimes it gets overwhelming and people need to seek professional help to cope with their struggles. Don't stigmatize people, help them seek the help they need to get back on track. Regular exercise, eating properly and having great relationships do wonders for your mental health but sometimes it's not enough. Just remember, mental illness is a disease that can strike anyone, regardless of how rich and powerful they are. When you feel overwhelmed, don't wait or put it off, seek professional help. Also read a book by Dr. John Sarno, The Mindbody Prescription, to understand how your mind is impacting your body, causing many of the aches and pains you experience.Another book I highly recommend is Power Up Your Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter and Alberto Villodo. It's truly excellent and will teach you many things about improving your well-being.
  11. Gain control of your financial health: I see far too many people living way beyond their means, literally a paycheck away from financial ruin. If you're sinking under a mountain of debt, you need to take control, make a plan, and forget about keeping up with the Jones, this will ruin you. Learn to live within your means and become financially literate, understanding how to properly invest your hard earned money. One book I have long recommended to friends who don't have time to trade or worry about markets is William Bernstein's The Intelligent Asset Allocator: How to Build Your Portfolio to Maximize Returns and Minimize Risk. It's an excellent book that will teach you how to properly diversify your portfolio and when to rebalance it.
  12. The gift of giving and helping others: There is nothing more gratifying in life than giving and helping others. A big reason why I blog is because I love sharing knowledge and helping people understand the chaos of markets. But there are other ways to help people directly or indirectly like giving to charities or just helping people in need. Focusing on helping others will help you put your own problems into perspective. Talking with my father and brother helps me understand the hardship people are living out there. A lot of this stuff is so gruesome that it's never reported because it would offend most people. But there is a lot of pain and suffering out there and we can all do our part to help make our community and the world a better place to live. Try doing what you can to help and it will help you put your own struggles in perspective.
On that note, the family of Sarah Stott is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for a 22-year-old whose legs were severed by a train in Montreal earlier this month. An online crowdfunding campaign, started two days ago by Stott's best friend, to help Stott and her family, reached almost $25,000 by early Wednesday morning.

Please give what you can help Sarah get the best care possible. The funds will go directly to Sarah and her family to help alleviate the financial stress she will incur so she can focus on her recovery.

Also, watch the CTV report and please donate to Grayson's GoFundMe page and help his family raise the funds they need to renovate their house.

I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year! I will keep on posting my comments on markets and pensions and I'm working hard on my Outlook 2015, which will be published next week. Stay safe, have fun, don't overdo it on food and drinks, and remember the most important things in life are all around you, just take the time to enjoy them.