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If you want extraordinary performance, know extraordinary performers.

Joshua earned a PhD in Astrophysics and an MBA, both at Columbia University, where he studied under a Nobel Laureate. He teaches and coaches leadership at Columbia, NYU, and privately. He has founded several companies, one operating globally since 1999, with a half-dozen patents to his name. He competed athletically at a national and world level.

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FROM THE BLOG

40,000 Burpees!

posted by Joshua on July 24, 2014 in Fitness
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I don’t keep track of my total burpees, but since my last update at 30,000 burpees in January since starting at ten a day on December 21, 2011, I hit 40,000 somewhere around now. In the past I’ve celebrated milestones by writing about the value of burpees. Today I’ll write general thoughts.

Moving up to fifty a day (two sets of twenty-five) from forty (two sets of twenty) was my largest single jump. I did it because my sister’s basement, where I was staying during my apartment renovations, had a low ceiling that limited how high I could jump, making burpees easier. I stuck with the number when I moved back home.

My latest challenge is to start my burpee set right away. The jump to sets of twenty-five led me to pause before starting since that amount is so much harder than the amounts before. I’ve cut down that pause a lot, which I feel increases my discipline, a skill I find applies across my life.

I still remind myself during the exertion of doing twenty-five burpees, when I find I can’t breathe enough to meet by body’s demand and my legs feel like giving out, that I’m only exerting for ninety seconds. Yes, they’re hard, but what is ninety seconds? I waste more time during a commercial break watching TV.

The jump to twenty-five has also let to building chest muscles. Nothing big, but at least they’re developing somewhat and I’m not doing anything else to work them, so I can’t think of what else could do it. Maybe diet? I’m inclined to think I passed some threshold for muscle development there.

I added inverted rows, which is like an upside-down push-up but I hang on to my counter top and pull myself up. They work the main thing burpees don’t—my back. Probably shoulders too. And they don’t require any equipment, no risk of injury, don’t depend on weather, and most of the other benefits of burpees.

I’m proud I did that one day of 370 burpees, prompted by a guy in England who did 66,795 burpees in one year by starting with one on the first day, two on the second, and continued until he did 365 on the last day. Respect!

Fifty burpees a day affects other exercises more intensely than lower amounts. That is, last summer I was doing forty or fewer per day and when I ran twelve miles or so, the two exercises affected each other, but not that much. Now when I run that far, that evening’s burpees are a lot harder, as are the next morning’s. Actually, come to think of it, I noticed that the first time I ran that far. After a few more long runs that effect was smaller. Maybe I just had to rebuild some muscle.

Ninety second twice daily comes out to two-tenths of a percent of my day. That’s how much of my time I spend on this activity. Add recovery time of another ninety seconds, inverted rows, changing clothes, and other side stuff and it comes out to around one percent of my time. One percent! That’s nothing! The benefits come across every part of my life. The challenge of doing burpees has nothing to do with time. Some of it is effort, since they’re hard, but not impossible. They’re all about the mental fortitude of doing them. Everyone has ninety seconds to spare every day, fewer if you do fewer burpees. With few exceptions, anyone who says they don’t have time for exercise is lying to themselves.

That said, it’s hard to start a set of enough burpees to work you hard. Even with the experience of 40,000 burpees, every single set I do is hard. The few minutes before I do every single set, my mind starts cringing with anxiety and fear, coming up with excuses not to do this next set. Starting hasn’t gotten any easier, I’ve developed skills to overcome bigger challenges.

That said, when I start a set of ten or fifteen, I don’t feel that anxiety and fear. I just do them. I used to cringe at sets of those numbers, but no longer. I feel like I’ve tamed that number.

In all this time, approaching three years, while I’ve had minor ailments like a runny nose, I haven’t gotten seriously sick. I’ve injured my arms, back, and feet in ways I thought would have kept me from doing my burpees, but somehow they didn’t stop me. I thought the back problems would have done it, but I just paid more attention when I did them and I was fine. I’m confident the extra exercise both decreased my susceptibility to sickness and increased my tolerance for annoyance, meaning I got sick less and when I did get sick it didn’t bother me as much.

Have you watched an hour-long television show lately? Congratulations, you spent more time watching it than I spent doing burpees in over a month!

Have you stubbed your toe or gotten a sunburn recently? Then you sustained more injuries doing that than I did in all my burpees ever.

Posting here and talking to people about burpees added a layer of accountability and fun. I don’t mind that I’ve tied this SIDCHA into my identity. The more you share what you love, the more people share back with you. As I’ve written, “Sharing what you love fills your life with sharing, love, and stuff you love.”

I’ve enjoyed getting other people into burpees—friends, family, clients, random people on the internet, etc. I hope they don’t just sample them, but turn them into full-fledged SIDCHAs.

Come to think of it, one reader told me he started doing one-hundred burpees a day in four sets of twenty-five. Respect! I can’t help but feel the tug to increase my numbers, though those numbers start encroaching into the rest of life, which two sets of twenty-five don’t. I loved what he wrote after that. He said many of his friends didn’t understand the point of doing it, to which he responded it was time to get some new friends. My personal development taught me that “dropping friends who bring you down can hurt, but improves your life.” The ones with whom you share deep mutual value will come back and the free time from the others gives you time for new friends you’ll share more value with.

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Read my blog, learn about yourself, get hired

posted by Joshua on July 23, 2014 in Blog
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One of my readers used my blog in a job interview. I don’t think he planned it, but he got the job. Here’s his story: I used your Introvert/Extrovert X-Y axis in an interview a few years ago. He asked “Are you an introvert or an extrovert”, and I said “Neither, and that’s a dangerous[…] Keep reading →

Student-driven inquiry-driven project-based learning rocks!

posted by Joshua on July 22, 2014 in Education, Leadership
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The KQED blog in San Francisco that covered my using inquiry-driven project-based learning teaching entrepreneurship at NYU recently covered something more remarkable: a student-created program in a high-school where the students create and do their projects on their schedule. The article, “This Is What a Student-Designed School Looks Like,” speaks for itself, describing how a[…] Keep reading →