In this episode Ari talks with Chris Dancy, aka The Most Connected Human on Earth. Chris and Ari talk about the best ways to use self-tracking to understand yourself better and make positive changes in your life. Ari also talks about some of the things he's been working on lately such as: Hacking travel with specific nutrients, salivary cortisol testing, his latest IFTTT recipes, and some of his favorite healthy meals.
Chapters: 00:00:00 Hacking Travel w CapraColostrumhttp://amzn.to/1lDCtwr00:01:30 Hacking Travel w Oil of Oreganohttp://amzn.to/1vCAZur00:01:50 Aloha Green Smoothie Drink http://bit.ly/1kn84Wf00:04:40 HRV training w Stress Dr. App http://bit.ly/1knaZhK00:05:30 Salivary Cortisol Testing http://bit.ly/1knbkkA00:08:40 Cue Testing http://bit.ly/1knbDf200:10:30 Sleep Trackers - Sleep Cycle App http://bit.ly/1kncoVv00:13:13 Sleep Tracking - Beddit http://amzn.to/1vCOHh500:13:40 Selling Stuff on Ebay w FancyHandshttp://fncy.it/QoFr8500:14:50 FreeCycle http://bit.ly/1nmDueR00:15:30 Ebay Sell for me http://bit.ly/1nmDMSQ00:16:25 Ari's IFTTT Interesting Links http://ift.tt/1nmEn7h00:17:05 Ari's IFTTT Less Doing Book Club http://ift.tt/1nmElw000:17:20 Aris's IFTTT Instagram Weekly Digesthttp://ift.tt/1nmE0JH00:18:30 Using resistant starch to heal guthttp://amzn.to/1lDH3ee00:20:40 Find good lawyers @ Lawkick https://lawkick.com/00:21:10 Leg of Lamb Recipe http://bit.ly/1nmGhEU00:23:45 Vphoto http://bit.ly/1nmGAj400:24:20 Cholesterol and Health http://bit.ly/1nmHXxX00:26:40 Resistance Training Wards Off Depressionhttp://bit.ly/1nmIkZz00:28:20 Interview w Chris Dancy http://www.chrisdancy.com/00:29:00 Chris Dancy on Twitter http://bit.ly/1nmJvbq00:30:00 Chris Dancy's Twitter Service Spherehttp://bit.ly/1nmK3y600:31:00 Chris Dancy's Slideshare http://slidesha.re/1nmKFUl
ARI: My guest today is Chris Dancy, who has been called by many outlets the world’s most connected man, technologically speaking. Hi, Chris. Thank you for talking to me.
CHRIS: Hi, yeah. It’s not LinkedIn connections.
ARI: Right, that was the first thing I thought when I saw it. I have to start with this, because every time I give a talk, I always ask the audience this question, and it’s sort of my stumper for people. I say, “Everybody raise your hands really quick if you can tell me what you had for breakfast this morning,” and most people raise their hands and can do it.
Then I say, “Okay, great. Now do the same thing if you can tell me how many emails you sent last Tuesday.” Nobody usually can answer that question, and then I get into quantifying and stuff. I’m not asking you, necessarily, but I bet you probably have that answer.
CHRIS: Yeah, by hour, and by type of person.
ARI: So what led you to become so quantified and so connected?
CHRIS: It started about 5 years ago. I was – excuse me, I’m still finishing my breakfast.
ARI: No problem. Sorry about that.
CHRIS: That’s fine. I was looking at the job landscape. I had just turned 40, and I was looking at the job landscape over the next 10 years, and I figured by 2020, a lot of the skills that I had as an IT professional in management – I had traditional SQL background and other things – just weren’t going to be around. I just saw so much automation happening, and the barrier to understand and use technology had just dropped exponentially through at least the [inaudible 00:01:34]. Definitely I think in this decade, we’re seeing that barrier drop even lower.
The few areas I really looked at, things like bioinformation, I couldn’t go back to school and become a bioengineer; I wouldn’t have the time. But one of the things I found was personal informatics, and I thought personal informatics was really interesting, from a lot of points of view.
But most importantly, I think if you take away all the technology and you take away all the systems that manage the technology, all you’re left with is the information and life. We see more and more of that. Some people even say they suffer from information overload. And if that’s true, understanding that information and managing it is going to be a huge, huge job. Not technically, but from an interpretive level.
But more importantly, for us personally. I mean, we go to our doctors, and our doctors, to your opening keynote question, our doctors don’t know what they saw us for, and if they do, it’s very minor. But we remember how painful it was, or why we were there for the last time.
So how do we harness all that information and get it into our lives? And I spent the last 5 years actually creating systems to kind of route all this hyper-personal information, including email – actually, email’s one of the easiest ones – into a repository that I could understand.
ARI: I agree that email is one of the easier ones, actually. Forgive me for pointing this out, but in some pictures, I’ve seen of you, you look like you were a lot heavier before, right?
CHRIS: Yeah. I’ve lost about 110 pounds so far. What I did was I had about 3 years’ worth of data – behavior, so who was I with when I ate this, where was I located when I had a bad night’s sleep, what music did I listen to before or after an event that made me feel amazing. Just lots of information anywhere from my life. Days where I spent over $100 on things that weren’t for me.
ARI: Oh, wow.
CHRIS: A lot of behavior type information, because all of financial systems and location-based systems, they all are feeding into the same repository. I just started, the first I’d say 20, maybe 25 pounds were just simply looking at situations that were really bad, where my activity was very low or my consumption was very high, and saying, “What were the conditions around that? Is there anything in common?”
It turned out a lot of the times, there were. The first thing I discovered, there were very toxic people who I thought were really wonderful, but they led me to eat or not rest, which actually made me eat worse, in really profound ways.
After I sorted through the toxic people and limited my exposure to them pre- or post- any type of consumption, a couple hours before a meal or something, I then just started working on very simple things, like is there a correlation between how I rest and when I eat?
To your point, eating breakfast was something I never did, but I found out I was eating so late in the night and I was getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom – because I have a motion sensor near the toilet, so when are you going to the toilet? Very, very simple stuff like that. I don’t have to record anything. That’s the key, is none of this information I manually record. It all just happens seamlessly in the background.
So once I got a lot of those things under control, I just engineered some environmental stuff to lose maybe 20 pounds. Twenty pounds was enough to make me at least be interested in wanting to get healthier. And then I just started doing some life hacks. If I wanted to read Facebook or check out Twitter, I had to be walking. If I wanted a meal that cost under $5 for a single person, I had to walk to it. Regardless of what it was.
Just doing simple things like geo-fencing my credit card for food establishments where they were junk food. I couldn’t use it there. I had to get cash, which was an extra step. A lot of what would seem to be really easy, but kind of “Oh, I never would’ve thought of geo-fencing a credit card.” Simple stuff we could do because technology’s there and the information’s there but providers don’t give us any access to it.
I always tell people, if you go to Safeway or any grocery store in your area and you say to your grocery store, “I don’t want any more discounts. I want you to give me my club card purchases for the last 6 months in a spreadsheet, and I want to know when I buy fruits and when I buy toilet paper. I just want to see the information. I want to see what I’m buying.” They won’t give it to you. They’ll send you a box of receipts.
ARI: Right. Okay, there’s like 17 questions I want to ask you, so I’m trying to get these in the right order here. One thing is, you said this is all seamless; you’re not manually inputting this stuff. I constantly make that argument with people, that it’s like you don’t have to really think about this stuff. This information is happening to you, so you might as well capture it, quantify it.
The one area that I have always had an issue with that, and I’m curious of your solution here, is the food tracking aspect. Because you can have the motion sensor by the toilet, you can have the Fitbit on your belt, but to identify the food that you’re eating, if you’re not scanning a barcode – which would already suggest it’s not that healthy – how are you doing that in a seamless fashion?
CHRIS: Yeah. You need to really build up a food database of things that are good for you, and then once you have that food database, you can reduce the friction by simple little life hacks. You don’t need an elaborate program to do that; you could just use something called ConTEXT, which basically is a text-based program where you text a certain code to a phone number and it logs something for you.
Zapier and IFTTT both have push-based message things. So you literally can just text real quick, three or four keywords of what you’re eating, and it’ll actually capture that and you’ve already got it tied to the calories and stuff. That’s simple.
The hardest part is actually building the common food database that you normally eat, because a lot of us go, “Oh, I don’t have that every day.” But it’s amazing, if we actually took time to – it was Tim Ferriss that said a few years ago in 4-Hour Body, just photograph your food. We do eat the same stuff all the time. So it’s not that hard to do.
But a step beyond that, because I really got interested in the ingredients in the food, not just the calories. So then I started using this little program called Lose It. Lose It would send me a nice email at the end of the day with all the sugars and fats and starches and stuff, and all I did was have that email then piped in, parsed out, put into a spreadsheet, again using automation like IFTTT or Zaptier.
ARI: You’re the only guest I’ve ever had who’s mentioned Zapier and IFTTT, and those are like my sort of obsessions. I spent like 3 hours the other night just playing with different recipes that I could do. How many IFTTT recipes do you have?
CHRIS: Between IFTTT and Zapier, I probably have 1200.
ARI: Okay, wow. I have about 160. Twelve hundred, all right.
CHRIS: They fall into life categories, so financial, entertainment, health, spiritual. I’ve got 10 areas of my life that I monitor at any given time, and then those 10 areas have all things, like health would have food, activities, sleep, etc., blood work. Yeah, so what I do is all the recipes then have the part of my life – knowledge work, how many emails, you asked about emails.
All those 10 areas, and then they fork out into different things. So creating an Evernote, creating an appointment, those things are all then forked, and then a category is created. That way I can get the information visually into a calendar, and then secondarily into a flat file, and then the third way I do it is push things that I want to actually measure and do graphs on into spreadsheets.
So display it, save it so I can run it through something I use, Stanford’s [sp] Deep Learning Engine for flat files – large, huge flat files of information I get sent – and then spreadsheets. So that’s why there’s so many recipes.
ARI: It’s interesting to me, too, because obviously you can collect all this data – and this is something with me; I use my data to overcome Crohn’s disease, and I lost a bunch of weight, and I sort of saved myself from dying. But I didn’t really know what to look for. My feeling was that I’m not a data scientist. If you collect enough data, something might pop.
CHRIS: Neither are data scientists.
ARI: Yeah, right.
CHRIS: They have some very fundamental principles, which are just basically the scientific principle, and the most important thing to do is not tell yourself you can’t be a data scientist. You can be. I’m an accountant. The first rule of data science is when you think you’ve found something, prove it wrong.
ARI: Sure. Actually, I think that’s a beautiful way of looking at it. In my case, I started to see correlations between food and energy levels, of course, and then inflammation markers that I was doing with blood work and other things that I could quantify that way. So that’s when I started to hit that. But originally, it was just like – for me, it really started with I had been getting blood tests every 5 weeks for 3 years. I had all this data, I was like, “Let me do something with it.” So that’s really how it started for me, but I didn’t know what correlations I was looking for.
Do you have that seesaw a little bit, where it’s like you can collect all the data, you’re not necessarily looking for a correlation, and then it sort of comes out? Or how do you decide what you’re going to test?
CHRIS: Yeah. It kind of happened by accident. You know I always save everything in these 10 buckets of my life, and then for me, understanding next – I needed to visualize it. I had no way of seeing – I knew I could collect it and say “Okay, these are all the health things and these are all the financial things and these are all the entertainment things, like what’d you watch last night, what’d you eat last night, and how’d you feel about it,” but I had no way of seeing it.
So it was really when I started putting it into a calendar, at least I could then look at a day and see a day’s worth of activities, almost like a Facebook Timeline, but on steroids, like everything that could’ve possibly happened in a day. There’s pictures of my calendars all over the internet. But it really wasn’t until I color-coded it and made those 10 areas tied into different colors – so work, anything that had to do with getting paid, was red, and all the subsystems within that. Health was green. I did this really simple color coding on it, and then I just go to my Google calendar and say “Are there blotches in the day that are like heat maps for collected information?” Remember, because any [inaudible 00:11:40] would be good. And if there were, I’d say, “Okay, that’s interesting. Now let’s see days where those blotches aren’t there. Are there any things that happen on or around that time?”
So for me, it was about the visualization of the data. It really made me easy for me to start to look for – I don’t want to say problems, but at least understand the relationship to the patterns of activity I had in my life.
I think after that, it really got into what you’re talking about a bit more, and that was – a lot of people think that I spend all this time looking at information, and I don’t. That would take a lot of time. So what I do is if I think I have a problem – and I have friends and peers and family that will tell you, they’ve seen this in action: I’ll go searching, like Scooby-Doo, I’ll go looking for “What was it?”
Sometimes it’s just as simple as I had a bad day. I mean, there is no data point. There’s nothing – you’re not going to find anything; you just have to accept that. But sometimes you can actually find real tangible sources. Spending more than you should on something that you don’t need once in awhile is okay, but getting – and then you can actually route alerts. Like you’ve got this much left, you spent this much at this location, you have [inaudible 00:12:56] glass or pebble or something crazy like that. You start to get feedback loops. Feedback loops are very, very powerful, because you just set up little routines in your life that say “This is really important to me.” We all have a feedback loop for sleep. We all say, “Gosh, I didn’t sleep good enough. Oh my gosh, I only got 6 hours of sleep.” But we don’t actually look at the bigger picture. Maybe 6 hours of sleep is enough for you, and actually beating yourself up over 6 hours is not the healthiest thing.
Audio, like right now I’m at about – hold on, let me look – I’m at 74.5 decibels right now when I’m speaking to. If I sustain 75 or 76 decibels for more than 30 seconds, I actually get feedback from a little light that lights up. It’s just about low friction, reintroducing myself to my casual connection to everything around me.
ARI: Huh, okay. That actually sort of leads to my next question: if you wake up with a sore throat, for instance, what do you do? Other than having a glass of water.
CHRIS: The first thing I do is dread, like “I’m not going to have the flu!” Because I’m one of these people that I’m always dying. I’ve got no problem admitting that now. It’s like man flu or whatever they joke around and call it.
No, there are some things biologically that I don’t try to figure out. Colds and flus are one of them. My body is interesting, like everybody else’s body, but I also understand there’s a lot I will never understand about it. Doctors haven’t solved the cold yet. So I actually take things random, like colds or sore throats, as kind of a clue that “Okay, there’s something wrong in the system, and the best thing I can do is rest.”
A lot of times, if I’ve been traveling a lot or I’m just really stressed out and I can’t sleep, I used to really just lay in bed and stress about it, and now I just understand, from a purely data point view, just because my mind is racing, doesn’t mean my body doesn’t need some rest. You just force yourself to lay there. That’s where a little bit of mindfulness comes in and you do a body scan or something like that.
So I think the one takeaway that a lot of people miss when they read about the Chris Dancy, world’s most connected man silliness that people say about me, is that it really was just a casual reintroduction to a body and a mind that I had so sorely neglected for so many years.
ARI: Okay, and I really appreciate that, because what I tend to talk about with people in my work a lot is that there’s this loss of self-awareness. All this stuff is going on, and people are just – and that’s sort of the illustration of that – because every now and then, when I say “What’d you have for breakfast this morning?”, there’s a couple people in the audience who don’t raise their hands. They have to really think about it.
So that’s bad. That’s really bad, and if you don’t know that Tuesdays are your worst day, for whatever reason that is, or that if you don’t sleep well then you’re probably going to drive like an idiot and you’re going to have a fight with your boss – that self-awareness is something that’s so powerful, and it does come back to something very basic, which is that mindfulness and breathing and just sort of being aware of things.
So I think it’s really wonderful to hear someone – and I’m sorry to keep using this, but the most connected man, to say that it’s good to just check in with your body sometimes. That’s great.
CHRIS: Yeah, but journalists don’t like to write about that.
ARI: Right. Well, I like that. And that’s the thing, is I’ve tracked so much of my life, and I don’t, right now, use anything on a daily basis. I have a Basis watch which I’ll use sometimes when I’m doing things. I’ve tested a lot of things for people. I don’t do sleep tracking. I don’t do that stuff anymore because I feel like I’m aware. I don’t need the quantification specifically for that. When I want to deal with a problem, I’ll look at that stuff and whatnot.
CHRIS: Yeah, and that’s something else, is I did sleep tracking for awhile and then I stopped, and then I started again once I got a low friction routine. So if I can find a really low friction routine for sleep collection, I’ll do it. I hate wearing stuff to bed, but something like the Beddit wraps around your mattress. So you don’t have to wear anything; you just sleep normally. Really low friction feedback things are very powerful ways that you don’t have to think about it, and it’s there for you.
But you certainly don’t have to collect everything, to your point. I really like being able to Google search my life, and if your information’s in a Google calendar, you literally can Google search your life, and that’s pretty cool.
ARI: What about internal biologics? Blood testing, DNA…
CHRIS: That’s actually the second way I got started with all this. The first thing was just collecting my behavior online, like sending emails and posting things online. But the second thing I did was – and a lot of this is out on my SlideShare. If anyone uses SlideShare, I keep all my presentations out there.
But I went to my doctor – he’s a nice guy. I don’t want to say his name, but he’s getting up there in his years. I’ve seen him for 20 years. But he forgets, and I’ve got a chart like this thick, and I’ve got a companion chart this thick.
I went to him 4 and a half years ago and got copies of my medical records. He handed them all to me, and then I had them scanned, and then I paid someone a Mechanical Turk – I was really exposing myself, but I didn’t care; I needed it – to actually transcribe every single medical record I have and then to take every single blood result I have and put it in a spreadsheet. And to this day, if I do see Dr. Alford [sp], I get my results sent to me, and they go into this walking medical record I have for myself.
So I didn’t have a chronic disease like you mentioned earlier, but I did have this yearning to understand. So often, I would go to see him and say “I read up online…” and he’d get this flustered look on his face. But it’s a whole ’nother level thing when you go “My blood results are these levels every year at this time.” “How did you know that?” “Because I have 20 years of them here on a spreadsheet. Would you like to see them on my phone?” And those are very simple things that we can do to take care of it.
Unfortunately, in the United States – and I don’t know about the rest of the world – we wait until you’re chronically ill or you’re terminally ill, and then we become Quantified Selfers. But until then, it’s this freakish technology Utopian thing that people with lots of money or OCD do.
And that’s not true. You don’t have OCD, and you’re not this technological guru when you have cancer. You’re concerned about making it to the next day. If you’ve got a chronic disease, you’re not worried about being the world’s most connected person; you’re worried about not affecting your family and your life.
But we don’t label it that then. I don’t think doing it when you’re healthy makes you any more pathological or fetish-like than doing it when you’re sick, and I think we really need to stop this kind of “technology’s hurting us” routine.
ARI: Yeah, that’s really funny that you put it that way, actually, because I’m obviously a special case like you as well, but I just did a test that I haven’t done before, which was adrenal stress. It’s you spit in a vial four times a day. What people don’t realize is that when your cortisol is very high, you actually feel really good and you’re amped up and you’re energetic and ready to go. But that doesn’t mean that that’s a good thing. But nobody’s going to get tested when they’re feeling good.
So I am, I’m testing my cortisol right now, just because it’s interesting. But you’re absolutely right. People wait till something’s broken. They don’t want to take the preventative measures, and a lot of times they don’t realize how small those preventative measures can be.
CHRIS: Right. I always tell people, your body is like a vehicle. Building a routine, or at least an awareness, is just putting a dashboard in it. It’s not narcissistic. You wouldn’t put a dashboard in your car
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or empty. Like all of a sudden it was like “Oh my gosh, I’m empty all of a sudden!” But that’s how we live our lives.
I think if we just took a little bit of time to say “I’m not going to wait till the check engine light comes on. I know it’s about this many miles, and I know how I’ve been driving.” Awareness. The check engine light never comes on. And when it does, all the work you did with being kind to yourself and the processes you’ve created help you manage through it. So much of our life we just leave in the doctor’s office, or we leave when we say “it was a smart, healthy food choice.” No, it’s a smart, healthy moment by moment decision, and that’s up to you.
ARI: What do you think – and of course, I know this depends on the person a little bit, but what do you think is the most important metric? Or actually, a better way to put it, someone who’s just starting with this. I don’t usually recommend people get the Fitbit or things like that. I think there’s some information there, but a lot of times they get it and they don’t look at it. What do you think is a really important metric for people to start with?
CHRIS: Toxic people. I have a friend who I’ve known for about 18 years, and he was having a problem last year with some people – he was getting really stressed out at work. I just started asking him, “Would you keep track of who you go to lunch with?” He said, “Why?” I said, ”Just write down who you go to lunch with every day.” He goes, “Well, sometimes some people, sometimes other.”
But long story short, after about 3 months of doing this, he found out that it’s this person named Jim. Every time he ate lunch with Jim, he exponentially had a worse day that afternoon or the next day. And it turned out, upon asking other people, Jim was kind of this low friction, almost this radioactive – you didn’t see it, but it was affecting everybody – type of thing.
Understanding toxic relationships and not being afraid to get rid of them is probably the most important thing. A lot of my friends and family will attest to you, I have no problems just removing people from my life. Sometimes it’s hard, because you don’t want to do it, but if you want to track something, every time you feel a little bit of stress, just write down who you remember being with within the last 3 hours, and do that in a spreadsheet for a couple weeks. Just see if there’s any patterns.
ARI: That’s really interesting. No one’s ever suggested that. I think that that’s a great one. Do you still do that particular quantification?
CHRIS: Yeah, except mine’s really kind of crazy. When I meet people, I usually try to get people in my calendar, and then I’ll actually zap in with a reading. So I actually know when I meet someone how I felt during that interaction. If it’s someone new or going to be casual, temporary, I don’t bother measuring them, but the second time I meet people, I try to get as many readings as I can.
Because beyond just physically not liking someone – which sometimes happens; it’s just the way it works. When you meet someone, you have a weird energy with them. But you can get through that if you get to know them. But sometimes, there’s just this stuff you don’t see. Like I said, it’s like radiation. You just don’t see it, but it’s affecting you.
Understanding and identifying those people. Human relationships, at the core, are the only thing we really have in life. If we’re living, even if we’re sick, the relationships we have in our life are the only thing we have left. Just because it looks good, doesn’t mean it is.
ARI: I love that. Okay, also, this is me geeking out, but can you tell me specifically the process that you go through to quantify when you meet someone? You’re using the BodyFit?
CHRIS: Yeah, I use the body media. I use heart rate and my posture.
ARI: And your posture? How are you measuring posture?
CHRIS: Something called LUMOback.
ARI: The LUMOback, okay. I’m actually waiting for my LUMO – it’s a small one. It’s supposed to go right here.
CHRIS: LUMOlift? Yeah, that’s a nice one.
ARI: Interesting. So what, you get more erect or something, your posture changes if you meet someone that you don’t like?
CHRIS: No, I’m more slouchy with people that – people who are engaging me, I actually kind of do this.
ARI: Perk you up.
CHRIS: I sit and stand better. My heart rate’s a little bit higher, and my actual phys
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when I’m slightly bothered. These were things I would’ve – they were imperceptible before. And a lot of times I’ll meet people and they’ll know about this, and they’ll say, “Hey, I’ve met you twice now. Can you send me who I was to you?” and I’m like “Sure.”
So often, we’ll meet someone or we’ll read about them online or we’ll look at their Facebook or we’ll look at their LinkedIn or something, but that is not who they are. So you’ve got soft data, which is what you do online; you’ve got hard data, which is your physical reaction to things; and you’ve got core data. Those are things like 23andMe, Exogen, uBiome, all these types of hard data inside you information. Blood results, anything you can do that’s really deep inside you.
So I think core data, hard data, and soft data, if you look at is as a hierarchy relationship – now, this is really geeking out. Sorry.
ARI: No, please, bring it.
CHRIS: It really starts to make a lot of sense. There’s a company – I just mentioned them, Exogen, that does this DNA breakfast. Your DNA breaks every day. It’s a consumer service, so they’ll test your DNA breakage over 6 months. You don’t have to pay them every time they do it.
But it’s a great like “Oh wow, I’m in a relationship” or “Hey, I want to try a supplement” or “I want to start a very mild exercise program” or “I want to go to bed 5 minutes earlier each night,” it’s really interesting to then see, at a genetic level, did anything actually change? Did you have less breakage? That’s really hardcore stuff. I don’t know how far along they are in rolling out, but I know they were on Kickstarter or something.
ARI: No, they’re on Indiegogo.
CHRIS: Yeah. I actually met them and started with them back last year when I was at Singularity University. There’s pictures of me on the web getting my blood drawn from them and stuff like that. I’m a big fan of what they’re doing; I think it’s going to be a big breakthrough for QS [sp] and for healthy people and unhealthy people alike.
ARI: Do you do mood tracking? Because that’s one that I’ve never been able to really wrap my head around.
CHRIS: Yeah, I do mood, but mood is really different for me, because I think in so many ways – I try to log mood, and I still do. I’ll still use something simple like MoodPanda. The problem with mood is, the mood you log is always actually the mood that you are about to enter. It’s never the mood you’re in.
And then for me to actually get my hand around the mood I was in, I actually had to look at – gosh, these four areas of my life that really could be backward determinators. So there’s the biological factors, there’s environmental factors, there’s temporal factors, and then there’s contextual factors.
Biological ones would be all the things you could normally measure, or could measure. Environmental factors would be everything from ambient light, ambient sound, temperature, humidity, etc. Temporal factors would be what day of the week is it, is there a holiday, what season are you in, what time of day, when did the sun rise. Contextual factors would be are the other types of zeitgeist events or other things going on? Are you out of a job, are you in a relationship? Those types of things.
The feeds – and there’s 17 feeds from biological and 11 feeds from environmental – but all of those go into one spot that actually create a mood. So you can figure out your mood; just you have to figure out your mood yesterday or 5 minutes ago. You can’t figure out your mood right now.
ARI: Right, there’s that time shift. Yeah, and that’s the thing I always have trouble with. That was one issue. The other one was it was very hard for me to just straight up quantify it. It’s like, “Am I one notch happier than I was an hour ago? I’m not really sure.” So that was something that I never found to be very useful for me, because I was obviously doing it the wrong way.
CHRIS: Do it backwards. Then you’re like “Why would you care if it’s backwards?” At least then you can use it as an indicator for other things. So often, because we’re trying to do mood in real time, you can’t. But you have to be really dedicated to the craft, as it were, to really be into this.
And it’s not for everybody. I sometimes say we’re living in a data elysium, because to get the data out of most of these systems – Fitbit’s a perfect example. It’s not easy.
But I always tell people, if you really want your data out of these systems, there’s one life hack – and I don’t think I’ve said this to any reporter, and I’ve met with millions – well, not millions, but a lot of reporters over the last few years – there’s one life hack that I’ve never shared with anybody. If you want your data out of any system that has an expensive paid plan, you don’t want to pay for it, or there’s just no way to export it, almost every system will have a share feature. Share to Facebook or share to Twitter.
What I do is I set up fake Twitter accounts that are private, and I turn on auto-share for every single system. So the minute I touch it, it auto-writes the information onto Twitter. You can grab, you can scrape Twitter really easy.
ARI: Oh, yeah.
CHRIS: So it’s really interesting how they just won’t give us our information. I think J.P. Barlow said when it finds censorship, the internet routes around it. When you want your information, you will route around any system to get it.
ARI: Yeah, awesome. What are you looking forward to being able to track in the future?
CHRIS: Blood sugar. I want real-time blood sugar. I feel bad; I spent some time with Scott Hanselman from Microsoft on a plane going to South by Southwest, and he’s a diabetic and showed me his pump. I had no idea, because I’m not diabetic – although my father, I have a history of it in my family – I had no idea how much they had been through, diabetics, just with the history of the advancements in diabetes management. It’s really slow, when you look at how fast we’re moving with things like a Fitbit. It’s like, why isn’t that being addressed?
But one of the things I thought was really interesting were some of the advancements around real-time blood sugar tracking. Right now, that is too high friction for me to – I’ve played with it, I’ve done it, but that’s too high friction for anything I can tangibly have time to do with those results.
ARI: I think that’s a good one, because there’s a lot that you can do with that data, both short term and long term. For instance, there was an article a couple weeks ago, they did this study on different relationships, like married people, and how low blood sugar can really affect the happiness of the relationship in general, because if someone has a hypoglycemic attack, basically, and then they just get aggravated and fight, and it happens at the same time every day, it sort of becomes a chronic, interpersonal condition.
CHRIS: I haven’t read that article, but I’m seeing someone, and I make sure that person’s always fed.
ARI: Nice. Very nice.
CHRIS: And it’s really funny, because a lot of times I think this person wonders, “Why is Chris always feeding me, and feeding me lots, and at very specific times?” But there is, there’s this blood sugar bump that happens with people. And sometimes, like I said, it’s imperceptible; you don’t realize you’re even going through it.
But just being aware. Being aware that you’re aware helps you be aware of others. The biggest problem with that is when you’re that aware of yourself, you watch other people and you’re just like “Oh my gosh, I feel so alone,” because you just have no idea you’re even in the room.
ARI: This is starting to feel like a support group for me now. All right, I want to be respectful of your time. I have one question that I like to ask at the end of this, is what are your top 3 tips for being more effective? From anything that you’ve ever learned and done or whatever, but just 3 things that make you more effective.
CHRIS: Probably in order of least important to most important, was probably get rest. Even if you don’t think you need it, take time to rest. Take time to not move. I don’t care if your mind’s going a million miles a minute; take time to be still.
The second thing is get used to impermanence. Get used to getting rid of and cutting systems, whether they’re organic or biological or digital, out of your life. Just cut them right out. People struggle so much with the perception of change coming that it’s actually, the perception of what’s coming, the change that’s coming, worse than the actual loss of something.
So get used to change. I use the word impermanence because of some mindfulness that I do. But get used to practicing change. I sometimes do something called Loving-Kindness Fight Club, where I’ll just put myself in situations where people are freaking out, just to practice. Because we don’t get practice not freaking out until we’re in a moment where we’re about to freak out. So go to grocery stores right before a storm, go out into traffic at rush hour. Practice not freaking out.
And I guess the last thing is just be kind to yourself. If you have a thought that you’re not good enough, say to yourself, “Well, that’s an interesting thought, that I’m not good enough.” If you have a thought to yourself that ”I don’t know how I’m going to make next month’s mortgage” say, “That’s a thought, and that’s a very real thought. I’ve got a lot of friends and family, and I’m not going to sit here and let that thought consume me.”
Thoughts are not us. They’re just chemical reactions that are happening because of what we didn’t eat or how someone treated us a long time ago. Us opting into those thoughts and allowing them to actually become the GPS for our behavior is where we fall into problems.
And if you do allow your thought to become the GPS for your behavior, be kind to that. Say “Oh look at that, I’m letting my thought drive me now. Oh look at that, I just was so mean to that person.” Just be kind to that process. If you can spend two seconds just being nice to something you think – it’s like, “Why do I have to do this?” You don’t have to, and that’s okay, and we’re all doing it.
ARI: Wow, great. Those are very profound, and thank you very much. Chris, where’s the best place for people to find out more about you and follow you and everything?
CHRIS: My website is just ChrisDancy.com. That’s just a bunch of media stuff, because reporters like to ask me silly questions. Not as good as your questions, so maybe the best place to find information is on your website.
But I’m also on Twitter. I’ve got a personal handle, @chrisdancy, where I just tweet like everyone else, my food and Instagram selfies. And then things I think that are technologically just really profound, it’s @servicesphere. That’s kind of where I – things I think that are really important for people to pay attention to, like yesterday there was some drone news I thought was really interesting. That’s about it.
And then I always encourage people, if you have questions, please email me. I answer emails all the time. Or I even tell people you can call me. I’m really easy to find; my phone number is all over the internet. I like the phone. My mom loved the phone. She’d sit there with the phone pressed to her neck, smoking a cigarette, ironing, in the ’70s and on. Yeah, I still want to be my mom, so call me.
ARI: Awesome. All right, Chris, thank you again so much. I really appreciate it. That was a lot of fun for me.
CHRIS: Thank you so much. Be well.