3 Lessons I Learned After Cutting Out TV, Alcohol, and Sugar

A few months ago, my wife and I quit our jobs, sold everything we had, and moved to South Korea to teach English for a year.

Back in America, I drank a ton of beer. I usually had 2–3 drinks after work most days of the week. My excuse for drinking that much was I worked at a stressful job while in full-time grad school.

I watched a ton of TV too. I rewatched Breaking Bad, Community, and Samurai Champloo. My wife and I binged on Dexter, SOA, and The Walking Dead (and the lesser-known Fear the Walking Dead). Tons of shows. I always knew what happened in the “latest episode” of whatever people were talking about.

I consumed a ton of sugar as well. The American diet has more sugar than almost anywhere (in my pizza? BBQ sauce?? Are you kidding me?), and my wife and I had sodas with dinner and ice cream on the couch.

But not anymore.

I haven’t drank in over a month, which is incredible. I feel like a new man. I regularly watch 2 episodes a week now — the latest Samurai Jack (I’ve been waiting for the reboot since ’07) and Better Call Saul (because the Breaking Bad universe has me hooked for life). That’s it.

No sugar, either (except for the occasional slice of cheesecake — Korea has bomb cheesecake). I’m sick of onions now. Seems like all I eat is meat, fish, rice, a ton of veggies, and water.

But you know what?

I feel fucking awesome.

1. I Can Perform Exponentially Better, Faster, and Stronger

Small things become big things.

I hadn’t jogged in months before Korea. But once I jogged for the first time, things started changing.

Of course, the first time was rough. I think I went about 1.5 miles before I had to stop and walk back home because I was cramping.

But small things become big things. Long-term consistency always beats short-term intensity.

Which would you rather have — a million dollars right now, or a penny that doubles in value for 30 days?

If you chose the penny option, you would have about $10.7 million dollars in a month.

This type of compound interest momentum is only amplified by removing limiting, negative behaviors. Remove sugar, alcohol, and TV? I have more time for running, and for longer distances. I’m not itching to get home to crack open a cold one or catch up on all my shows, so I might as well run harder and longer.

Beyond physical health, this reflects in other areas — I read a ton now. Why? Hell, what else is there to do? I found myself just sitting in our apartment after browsing through the YouTube rabbit holes because I didn’t know what to do with myself.

If you remove negative behaviors from your life, it’s easier to adopt positive ones.

I write a ton now, even if it isn’t that good. I better food. I sleep longer and better. I’m happier and more have a more positive mindset than many of my colleagues.

Momentum begets more momentum. I achieved this through removing limiting behaviors and working to develop all areas of my life instead of “relaxing” in numb oblivion.

2. I Confront Difficult Issues Head-On By Default Now

In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés had finally landed in Veracruz after a long sea voyage to begin a great conquest of the realm. Their opposition would be fierce, and many of his men were reluctant to take on such a force.

His solution? He ordered all their own ships to be burned.

There would be no turning back — they would either conquer their enemy, or die in battle in a foreign land.

Two years later, Hernán Cortés had effectively conquered the legendary Aztec Empire.

Retreat is easy if you have the option.

When you know there’s a safety net, you’re more prone to falling back on it. The options for escape and “redo’s” are constantly there. This is especially true for TV and alcohol. If you know there’s a drink waiting for you after work, or a blissful oblivion in front of the TV, it’s much easier to avoid dealing with issues head-on in favor of “retreating” into escape.

You inevitably experience struggle, pain, and conflict, from all around you. But if you remove the safety net; if you burn your ships; if you destroy your escape pods…

All that will be left is you and the problem. Will you fix it?

There’s no escape — you have to.

Recently, I learned I accidentally burned an important bridge with an old coworker. It was my fault, and I felt terrible.

With no alcohol, TV, or unhealthy binge eating to numb my discomfort, I had no choice but to deal with the issue head-on. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t one of those let’s-write-a-feel-good-blog-post-about-overcoming-adversity things. I’m still dealing with the fallout, and will for a some time.

But imagine if I had never dealt with it? Just kept putting it off, pushing it down…

“The truth might hurt, but what hurts more is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.” -Marcus Aurelius

If you remove your retreat, you have no choice but to confront issues head-on with everything you’ve got.

It’s scary to burn your ships. But it can be wildly effective.

3. Alcohol, Sugar, and TV Limit My Drive to Be Successful

Look, I don’t have anything against any of these 3 things — in the right context.

There’s nothing wrong with me drinking a beer, even a few beers.

There’s nothing wrong with me consuming processed sugar.

There’s nothing wrong with me watching TV!

In fact, in the right context these can be healthy, productive uses of my time. But there’s the rub — most people don’t know how to use these 3 things as an effective tool to recover, relax, and rest. Instead of paying the price for success, we end up forfeiting our chances. For a long time, I didn’t either.

But once I begin to let these 3 things get the better of me…when I consume too much sugar, when I rely on alcohol to relax after a stressful day, when I spend my time that was supposed to be spent on creating on watching Netflix

That’s when these 3 tools turn on your and become your master.

About a week after I committed to abstain from drinking, I went out to a poker night with some other English teachers. Everyone brought beers, wine, someone even brought sangria, of all things to have in Korea.

It was really uncomfortable when I told them no thanks, I wasn’t drinking. Which trains you in a difficult lesson — you do things only because you want to, not just because someone pressures you to.

You don’t learn that lesson if your desire to grow is combined with limiting people-pleasing behaviors. Cutting out things like alcohol will help train you.


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