Fifteen More Things to Do or Know
on the Path to Excellence

By Chris Kostman

Originally published in ULTRA Cycling, June 1996

This is the sequel to 55 Things. The two were later combined into 70 Things.

About five years ago I penned a little manifesto on simple and not so simple things one can do or know in order to tread more softly and gracefully during life on this planet. This was originally a handout for a human performance lecture I gave to the scientific diving program at U.C. Berkeley, then I published it a few year later in Over The Edge and ULTRA Cycling magazines. This is the sequel to that original work. I hope it serves you well.

  1. Travel. Expand your horizons by seeing firsthand that there is life beyond your natural home turf. Enjoy and learn from the diversity that you see and experience both across your country and abroad. Get a little perspective on things by taking yourself out of your comfort zone.
  2. Learn a foreign language. Languages provide beautiful insight into cultures and mindsets through their vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. Enrich your vocabulary by adding that of a second or third language to your current built-in dictionary.
  3. Take pictures. Keep photos of the moments, memories, and people of your life experience in order to help better remember them all, as well as share them with friends and family down the road. It sometimes seems goofy to line up and pose a shot at some get-together or party or event, but do it. Remember, a picture says a thousand words.
  4. Keep going to school, taking classes, expanding your repertoire. Continuing education is one of the most powerful and meaningful things you can do with an evening or two or three a week. So check out the local community college or university extension program and see what they have to offer. You'll be surprised!
  5. Take naps. Sometimes the body needs a little extra, so don't be ashamed to give it a break once in a while. We're a culture of chronic under-sleepers, so take some time to get caught up on sleep every so often. You'll find that your productivity, energy, and attitude will increase dramatically.
  6. Pay or pay now later, but know this for certain: As Dr. Michael Shermer says, "There are no free lunches in an entropic universe!" Everything has a price, a string attached, because every action causes a subsequent action or reaction. And what began as the Big Bang will eventually become the Big Crunch, so eventually EVERYTHING has its price!
  7. Eat according to the seasons. It's a very recent and decidedly weird situation that we can essentially eat any food at any time of the year, thanks to the current global economy and fast jet delivery of foreign foods. But the body expects to be in tune with the seasons and its own local climate, so don't stray too far from what would have been natural as recently as fifty years ago. Besides, why support the waste and pollution generated by flying and trucking in strawberries from Mexico or kiwis from New Zealand? Are your year-round taste buds more important than fighting pollution or supporting the local economy, not to mention throwing your body out of whack?
  8. Grow something. It doesn't have to be a full-blown organic garden, but plant and grow something, somewhere. Plants, fruits, vegetables, they'll grow just about anywhere: on the roof, in the bathroom, on a window sill, on a fence. Growing something brings some green into your life and space, produces more oxygen for the world, puts one in touch with the natural rhythm of things, and can even fill a dinner plate or two.
  9. Words to live by: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If there's nothing to lose when staring at or dreaming of a new venture or possibility, then just go for it!
  10. Be flexible, like Gumby. This means physical, mental, and emotional flexibility! Work on your range of motion, expand those parameters you live by (or learn to disregard them altogether), and live to stretch, reach, and grow.
  11. Understand that aerobic exercise is not only about specifically burning calories while working out. More importantly, regular aerobic exercise will accelerate your metabolism all day long, allowing you to build overall fitness, burn fat, and live healthier at all times, not just while actually training. So get the workouts in consistently, but enjoy the fruits of your commitment at all times by stepping back and seeing the bigger picture of how you are positively impacting your body and life.
  12. When you go shopping or errand-running by car, don't waste time and fuel by searching for a close and "convenient" parking spot. Just pull in the lot and take the first spot you see. That way, you save the time you'd have spent looking for a closer spot, you keep your stress level a bit lower, AND you get a little exercise and movement in while walking fifty or a hundred yards. You'll feel a lot better for it!
  13. Know that when you've gotten by with less, in any forum and for any reason, then you can always get by with more. As people "progress" through life, they become accustomed to more and more conveniences, money, opportunities, social events, etc. Then if something seemingly dramatic and life-changing happens that "takes some of this away," it's possible to feel like it's impossible to go on. But it's at those times when one can reflect on when life was "simpler" and there was "less" going on and see that it's the quality of life and experience, not the quantity, that matters most. Learn to be happy with a little and you'll not only feel that you have more, but you will have more.
  14. Remember the slogan of The Republic of Tea: "Life should be enjoyed sip by sip, rather than gulp by gulp." So slow down, enjoy things a bit longer, live with Tea Mind, rather than with the American coffee break mentality. Why hurry up just so you can screech to a stop for a few moments to pour some caffeine in your veins and then start the insane pace all over again? No! Slow down and you'll find life not only more enjoyable and memorable (literally), but also far more productive, truth be told.
  15. Commit your life to the constant reinvention of yourself!