I think A J Jacobs is rapidly developing into one of my heroes. He is a magazine writer who on the side lives out, what he terms, “experimental journalism”. He takes on seemingly ridiculous, yet intriguing, challenges and writes about his experiences. He reads the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. He spent a Year Living Biblically trying to live it all out, even the really random parts of the Bible. He outsources his life to a team of personal assistants in India.
He learns along the way and shares his discoveries. It’s very entertaining. Jacobs has an easygoing and, for someone who writes almost exclusively in first person, surprisingly non-egotistical style. He works hard at his projects, preparing ahead, and doing research throughout.
In his latest undertaking, he attempts to become Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection. This is more difficult than it sounds. He plans to go from the normal slightly overweight and out of shape male to heroic fitness. Whilst trying to achieve this, he also intends to improve the condition of all of his body parts: skin, nose, hands, etc. all in two years!
One of the first roadblocks he runs into is the sheer volume of information and theories on how to be fit. The second obstacle is that much of the information is contradictory. There is no agreed upon, guaranteed path to health. Even trusted experts don’t agree with one another.
But the main impediment to super health is self control. No surprise there. Jacobs manages to overcome the problem with a variety of methods. When he has trouble giving up his favourite snack, he writes a large cheque to the American Nazi Party and vows to post it next time he gives in to temptation. He finds this kind of negative motivation very powerful.
Another trick that works for Jacobs, though not as dramatically effective as the negative motivation, is to digitally age a photo of himself (there’s an app for that) so that he can better imagine himself in the future. Being able to picture his future self (“old A.J.”) helps him to stick to his goals.
He also finds inspiration in two examples in their nineties – his own grandfather who remained involved in community affairs long after his formal retirement, and fitness expert Jack La Lanne, who kept a busy professional schedule, spreading the word about healthy living, right to the end.
If you enjoy a humourous take on life, then you’ll definitely enjoy this book.