The Read, Write, Run Protocol

As is true with every essay I write, the words below should not be considered prescriptive advice. I am not a doctor, nor an expert—and you should think for yourself (and/or talk to a professional).


I believe I have discovered the HOLY TRINITY of physical and mental health—a group of activities that, when performed in concert, has created a 1+1+1=100 scenario. Put another way, I believe the “routine” of sorts I have established has unlocked a transformative improvement to my well-being.

These are strong claims, I get that, but bare with me and explore the process.

Note—it is not some voodoo spiritual practice that gets you a six-pack in six days, so long as you stand on your leg for an hour and buy some super fancy equipment. I will just go further to say that the processes are not revolutionary in any capacity nor are they new. Sometimes, “innovation” comes from bringing things together in ways that unlock hidden potential. (On the meta level, this bringing together seemingly unrelated stuff concept is an idea I am super interested in).

Reading, Writing, and Running.

Three activities you surely have done several times in your life. Three activities that are about as mundane as they could possibly be. When done in concert, though, I believe they unlock something truly remarkable.

Over the last month or so, for the first time in my life, I have _religiously_ spent hours per day: reading, writing, and running. I have done some combination of these things before—for example, in college, I spent a lot of time reading (long-form books) and writing (very short essays for my old blog) but I did not spend time running. A year ago, I spent a lot of time running but basically no time reading books or writing essays. You get the point—I have done these things before (read lots of books, written lots of essays, run lots of miles), but I have not, before, done them all in concert for an extended period of time. I have never followed them all to a protocol.

And now, looking back on the past four weeks of commitment, I see something special. I see that being consistent—doing the read, run, write protocol over and over—has unlocked something big inside of me.

Reading

I have been reading lots of books. When I say lots of books, I mean something like three to four books a week. This number scares people and often creates a few reactions: 1) are you even reading the books (the short answer is yes I am, though for non-fiction/history books, of which I read a lot, I do skim at times, but for fiction I certainly try and read every word, so long as I like the book), 2) how do you have time for this? (I basically find myself reading a book instead of basically doing anything else outside of doing work, fitness, and doing things with friends. I do not use any app where I am scrolling down a feed.), 3) what do you read? (I read anything—largely fiction books and history books (mainly about inventors) but there is no strict protocol). I usually read physical books. (My bookshelf is here)

Writing

I have been writing lots of words (at least a lot for me, and a lot compared to what I see the average person writing). I write at least 2,000 words a day right now for this blog (the write 1 million words effort), and I am thinking of bringing this number up to 3,000 relatively soon (think about it like adding a plate to your bench press). I also write a decent amount for work and do scribble notes to myself (I keep a notecard for every book I read) but a bulk of my intentional writing—where I am looking at a cursor blinking and pushing through to get my thoughts out—that happens currently on this blog that you are reading right now. I am not the best writer in the world—far from it—and I am primarily writing as a tool for thinking, rather than communicating. The latter skill is extremely common and valuable—I think the former is under-utilized, as writing can be a form of self-therapy/self-study/self-analysis.

Running

I currently run five to six times a week, generally outside (rarely on the treadmill), and normally somewhere between three and eight miles per run. I am not particularly good at running. I am not a speed demon or someone who can run infinite miles. I was especially not good growing up—my friends and soccer coaches called me turtle as a commentary on my speed—but now I feel relatively confident, especially with running long distances. I am getting better and noticing improvements. I also lift weights, but running I find to be the most directly meditative experience.

Back to the protocol, READING, WRITING, AND RUNNING…

Here is broadly how it works—when I read, I pick up ideas. They can be practical ideas or broad concepts, but I generally am reading books with the mindset of what can I take away from this story. It can be an extremely small anecdote or a big to be or not to be style lesson—anything counts.

And then when I write, I tend to take that idea and play with it further. I wrestle with the knot that is stuck in my head and untangle it until I can make sense of it. This is not a linear process. Sometimes writing in one session just gets the knot partially undone. Sometimes I am able to make decent progress in one sitting. It takes time, but flexing the muscle of my brain helps me make sense of whatever that knot is.

And then I run, and when I run I try my best to accept my body as water—I let my thoughts pass through me without judgement. I do not try to think about anything in particular—I just let the ideas flow. Depending on the season, I normally end up in similar places mentally if I am stuck on ideas from books I have read or things I am writing about. I will think about essays I want to write or businesses I want to build or people I want to talk to. Rarely, though, do I find myself fully focused on the run for the entire run. I am always seeing ideas float into me. This has pros and cons. I will weave in and out of that—kind of like meditation where you are told to focus on your breath and thoughts will come in and the question you must ask yourself is what to do with those ideas. You can judge them or you can just let them float into you. I think one benefit of running versus meditation is that your body is busy thinking about moving your feet one step further and your cardio keeping up with that so you may be pushed into a ~scary thought of sorts but your body does not have the capacity to pursue a fight or flight reaction. Therefore, the thought just becomes an object that you can let pass through you.

After a run, I normally feel calmer. The same is generally true with lifting, but with lifting, which I do five to six times a week, too, I actually do have access to my phone. When I run, it is normally 30 minutes to an hour of fully phoneless/technology-less activity. Me and the brain – the monkey mind getting my full attention. Letting the mind out its cage for a bit every day strengthens my taming ability (I believe).

I end my run generally with thoughts on some of my former thoughts. And this gives me inspiration of what to write about and what to read about. This completes the loop and gives me energy to continue the process for the days to come.

So if I could recommend one thing—it would be to try out a week of the READ, WRITE, RUN protocol. Take it seriously. Do not miss a day that you do not have to. Frame your brain as something capable of digesting ideas, generating concepts, and executing against them. It will change how you approach new things—rather than just learning to learn this protocol will give you a structure of purpose. You will be excited to read. Excited to run. Excited to write.

I am so excited to execute the protocol. I literally look forward to it. Is that weird? I imagine that could be kind of weird? I treat this a bit like a sports team of sorts, except I am the only player on the team and I am not being compensated and there is no real competition with anyone other than myself.

It makes me feel amazing. And there is no one really watching. No one cares if I run. No one cares that I write. No one cares what I read. But I do. I do because it is strengthening my brain and soul (and there are also many physical benefits). I feel those benefits. I feel the ability to be more present. My thoughts feel sharper. I feel quicker. I feel more capable of being patient. The protocol is a loop that compounds over time. The more I do it, the better I get at it. The easier it is to read a book, write an essay, and run a mile.

I remember, when first starting out, all of those things were so intimidating. I could not run a mile easily. I was nervous. I was failing and it made me feel bad. Bad physically and mentally. And then someone gave me advice: just slow down. So I slowed down and ran a slow mile. Eventually, I ran two slow miles, and beyond. And eventually, after lots of hard work, I ran a marathon.

Same thing with writing. If you never write essays, publishing just one is hard and laborious. I have published thousands. Literally. The marginal fear of publishing one more is present but SO LOW relative to where I started.

And the same is true with reading books—if you have never opened a book for a while, you may feel anxiety about seeing something like Fountainhead (700 words!) pop up on your desk. THIS THING WILL TAKE FOREVER! Someone told me something that was quite life changing: just read what you are interested in. It does not matter how far you get, just chase your curiosity. Now, I read books of all sorts of genres and do not read anything that I am not interested in. Reading for me is no longer chore—it is literally something I prefer doing to say, scrolling Twitter or watching Netflix. It did not start this way but it surely is this way. So just picking up the habit was life-changing.

The thing about doing these things over and over and over is that you get a compounding benefit. They become easier and easier to do, and your ability to do them improves greatly over time.

The thing about doing these things over and over and over IN CONCERT (meaning you are following the read, run, write protocol and have a routine of doing all of them in some way repeatedly), I believe, your advantage compounds even further. I believe you unlock a truly truly special set of superpowers. Your brain goes into a flow-esque state more easily and readily and you are capable of processing and producing more THINGS than you used to by a long-margin.

So the protocol—the meshing of these ideas—that is what I would tell people to explore. You may be surprised.


Aside, where else in your life can you find 1+1 = 3 opportunities. Is there a better word for this category of stuff? Perhaps it is certain people you bring together where magic explodes. Perhaps it is certain ideas. Or materials. Or technologies. Finding those special combinations—that is an interest of mine. Bringing together ideas that are not obviously compatible but showing that once abstracted and brought together, you could create something amazing with them. That is a powerful concept.


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