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93: Mitch Tries the Project 50 Challenge

Jan 11, 2022

The concept seems simple. Commit to seven rules for 50 days and become a different person by the end of it. The #Project50Challenge has been going viral on social media, and producer Mitch has decided he’s going to give it a go. The Who Cares guys how the seven rules could be a framework for The Core 4 and whether or not it sounds a bit too ambitious.

Read the rules of Project 50 and consider joining as Mitch tries out the challenge.

Episode Transcript

This content was originally created for audio. Some elements such as tone, sound effects, and music can be hard to translate to text. As such, the following is a summary of the episode and has been edited for clarity. For the full experience, we encourage you to subscribe and listen— it's more fun that way.

Scot: "Who Cares About Men's Health." We talk about the core four, which is to be healthy now and in the future, you need to focus on your nutrition, your activity, your emotional health, and also your sleep. Plus the one more, you've got to know your genetics.

You would think that focusing on and maintaining those things would be easy, but a lot of times they're not. So that's why a lot of us make resolutions at the beginning of the year. That's why a lot of people take part in challenges at the beginning of the year to try to refocus and work on one of those aspects, or many of those aspects.

Producer Mitch talked about on our last show, when we were talking about the letter to ourselves, something he's doing, and Troy and I were both intrigued. It's called Project 50. So, Mitch, what's this Project 50? Talk to us.

Mitch: So Project 50 is a 50-day challenge. So you set up a calendar, you mark out your 50 days, and you commit to following seven rules. And these seven rules you need to do every single day for 50 straight days. And the concept is that over 50 days, if you stick to these seven rules, you'll basically be a different person than you were when you started.

That's kind of the thing that really shocked me and what got me interested in it. You see some of these posts, and it's everyday people to begin with, and then 50 days later, they . . . I don't know. They look healthy. They're excited about life. They're sharing some of the new skills and talents that they've worked on. They talk about their mental health being improved, etc.

For me, I'm really excited to just commit to 50 days. I'm going to tell you right now, there are some things that I will not be doing after 50 days. But simple seven rules, do it for 50 days, see how you feel.

Scot: All right. And what are the seven things?

Troy: I like it.

Scot: Yeah, what are the seven rules?

Mitch: Here we are. Rule number one, wake up before 8:00 a.m. every single day.

Troy: Nice. That's a good start.

Mitch: But the caveat is you have to get at least six hours of sleep at night. So for me, I guess during quarantine, in particular, it got really hard to get up even a minute before work was supposed to start. You're working from home. Why would I get up? Why would I treat myself right? I can roll over and turn on the MacBook from bed. Why would I get up? So you start out just waking up, but that other part kind of goes in with our core four. Make sure you get enough sleep.

And so after waking up at 6:00 a.m. every single day . . . for me at least, that's when I've been getting up. I'm starting to find my sleeping patterns have been changing. And I really enjoy the mornings actually. I've really been liking that part of it.

Scot: All right. Well, before we go to rule two, I think Troy wanted to say something and I have a question about this six-hour sleep thing. That doesn't seem like enough to me.

Troy: Yeah, it doesn't either to me, but I like, too, that it just says to just wake up before 8:00 a.m. I think if you stick to that, and you just stick to that routine, you're going to get the six hours or six-plus. It says gets at least six-plus hours. So I kind of like it that it doesn't say get eight hours of sleep a night or get seven hours of sleep. It just says get up before 8:00 a.m. My guess is if you do that long enough, you will fall asleep at night and you will get that sleep.

Scot: Oh, sure. Just because your sleep pattern will shift. You'll have to. You'll naturally just want to fall asleep because . . . Okay, cool. All right. So the reason you like it is rule number two. What's rule number two?

Mitch: Rule number two is do your morning routine. Now, the morning routine has its own little set of rules. And it's one hour, no distractions. So no phone, no social media. If you have enough time, you can go meditate, walk, simply deep think, whatever. So you have an hour that you need to kind of create a routine of your own that does not involve hopping on your phone.

For me, I've always wanted to do some meditation stuff. So I've been able to meditate. I make myself a breakfast. I do the morning pages, which I think Scot has mentioned before, where you just take out a journal and write your thoughts down for three pages' worth just to kind of get it out of your head. I've put on a jacket and walked in the morning for that hour.

I don't know if maybe I'm the only diehard millennial in the room, but I'm used to waking up and immediately hopping on my phone. I'm used to immediately checking the news and doom-scrolling and seeing what everyone is doing on social media and texting and getting work emails and everything. And just leaving my phone on airplane mode or Do Not Disturb mode for that first hour and listening to music and just taking that hour for me has been amazing.

Even if I don't end up meditating, even if I don't end up doing all the pages or whatever, just having that hour has really kind of helped get me some perspective and lowered my anxiety.

Scot: Do you have a morning routine, Troy?

Troy: I do. And I think what we're going to find is, as Mitch goes through a lot of these other things, you can really combine these to where you are bringing these other things into that morning routine.

I will say, as I'm hearing Mitch talk, I really like the idea of not checking email in the morning. I don't check work email the first thing in the morning, but I'm looking at texts I might have received while I was sleeping or whatever, or checking personal email. So I like the idea of just completely eliminating that.

Scot: I have kind of a similar routine. So a few years back, I would set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. to get up in the morning, and then I'd hit snooze until like 7:45, and I'm just like, "This is dumb." First of all, it's annoying to my wife. And second of all, either sleep until 7:45 or get up at 6:00.

So I implemented a morning routine with the morning pages. I have one eight-ounce cup of coffee in the morning. It has since expanded into I do some physical therapy exercises, which I really enjoy, some stretches. In the morning, I make my breakfast, and I really look forward to that routine.

At first, that's kind of what got me out of bed when I struggled with that for a long time. That time just to yourself and just kind of having a habit you don't have to think about too much that you enjoy is really, really useful. Cool.

Troy: I agree. Yeah, I like to exercise. I mean, that's what I do. But I think, again, Mitch is going to get to that where it seems like some of that stuff you could tie in where your morning routine involves some of the things he's going to mention here shortly.

Mitch: For anyone who's thinking about maybe doing this or kind of hesitant, take a look at what you do for the first hour of your day right now. Now that I've started to build my routine, in the last four or five days, I'll be like, "Well, what do I do for the next 10 minutes? Oh, I could do this."

Just to start the day off with something that's just for you and to start the day with doing something that's good for you, I cannot tell you how much better the rest of the day feels. You've at least done one good hour for yourself that wasn't work-related or filled with the news or whatever.

Scot: What's rule number three then?

Mitch: Rule number three, exercise for one hour a day. And here is the kind of . . .

Troy: That's a lot.

Mitch: It is. Here's the twist to it all, though. That one hour can be based on your fitness level, and that includes walking, stretching, running, yoga, bike, gym, whatever.

And so I originally was like, "Oh, man, I can barely do half an hour yet. I'm still trying to get back into the swing of everything." But some of the people online, it's like, "Hey, I do a 30-minute weight routine in the morning. And then I go for a 30-minute walk with my dog in the evening." And there's an hour.

You have some people that are doing stretches, evening stretches just before bed, and they'll do that for about 15 minutes or so.

And so you kind of build in an hour worth of activity, whatever it is, whether it be getting your heart rate and sweating for those 30 minutes a day, like we've talked about on our show, or just being a little more active and walking and working on yourself in one way or another.

For me, I've been having a hard time getting up to that full hour of, say, cardio or that full hour of a really heavy weight set that I've been trying, so I've been doing a walk. And it's been great. I feel tired at night and I feel like I have more energy. And it's been really, really cool.

Troy: And it sounds like that's now part of that first hour of the day where you're . . .

Mitch: Yes.

Troy: Yeah, you've been able to tie exercise into that, so it's not like you've just got an hour here, an hour here, an hour . . . Yeah, you kind of combine these.

Scot: Which is good because I was looking at these rules and it wants a lot of hours.

Mitch: Yeah.

Troy: That was my thought too.

Scot: Where do you have time for anything else, right? So that's good that you can combine.

Troy: There are more hours coming up on this. That was my thought. Who has this amount of time?

Scot: Instead of exercising for one hour a day on rule three, I wish they'd say, "Do something physical or activity." Because I think in my life, I've discovered that my physical therapy exercises, which are not really technically exercises because they don't necessarily make me sweat, but they make my body feel better and they helped me rehabilitate some of the nagging issues I've had. I think there's value in that, and I think our culture devalues that because exercise is this very narrow thing that it has to be run, or lift weights, or bike.

I mean, I do bodyweight exercises on days that I even weight train for 5 or 10 minutes, and that even kind of helps loosen things up as well. So that falls right in there as well.

Again, I think we're conditioned to think that does not have value, like, "Oh, you're just squatting your bodyweight." Well, I think it does, because I think it does stretch things out and I think it's good for you. It gets the blood moving, that sort of thing.

Troy: Oh, for sure. Increases your range of motion, joint health, all that stuff. So I agree, a lot of value in that.

Mitch: So we've got our bit of sleep, one of our core four. We've got a bit of physical activity, another part of our core four. But the next one is rule number four, which is read 10 pages a day. And those 10 pages need to be from a motivational, psychological, business, or educational book.

I have been delighted, to be honest, about sitting down and reading 10 pages because I'm reading stuff that I would not normally read. Usually, when I read, I read for entertainment, and so I'm reading "Dune" or a sci-fi novel or something fictional, which is fun and which is fine, but I'm finding some of these books that I'm reading to be absolutely fascinating and kind of giving me different perspectives on myself, on history, on society at large.

And it's been really, really kind of cool that they've chunked it down to just 10 pages. Depending on the book, that can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. You're not reading a whole chapter. You're not reading a whole book. You're just sitting down and chunking away a little bit every single day.

I do that with my morning routine. I read while I'm eating my breakfast, I write, and then I meditate. That's what I kind of do with my morning. And I can knock out a couple of rules at the same time.

Troy: And what seems to be people's take on this? Again, I'm trying to think if you're trying to manage your time, are they potentially listening to audiobooks as they're exercising? Or is it that you have to be sitting down with a hard book with paper, not reading on your phone? I'm curious how people approach this.

Mitch: Are you just trying to multitask the best you possibly can?

Troy: How can I do this all in one hour in my morning routine? That's kind of what I'm thinking, honestly.

Scot: And there's nothing wrong with that, Troy. I mean, we're chuckling at it, but if you could, why not?

Troy: Yeah, if you can condense this to an hour, do it. That's what I say.

Scot: I don't know. Maybe there is something also to be said of spreading some of this out throughout the day. I don't know.

Troy: Maybe so.

Mitch: There are some people that are doing the audiobook thing. And they'll do it when they work out or they'll do it on their morning walk or whatever. So then they don't have to read and they can kind of double up like you're doing.

Scot: I might modify that for myself. I might do it 10 minutes a day because . . .

Mitch: Oh, sure.

Scot: . . . I can commit to that. And like you said, some books, 10 pages might be really dense. But 10 minutes, if I'm like, "Oh, I didn't get my book read yet," I can go, "All right. I'll just sit down for 10 minutes now." And a lot of times when I do that, I end up reading longer anyway.

Troy: Yeah, and that seems very reasonable. I mean, if you've got a book and you're reading it, and like you said, it's very dense or you're giving something a lot of thought, it's a . . . They talk about the self-help books here, education, maybe it's philosophy, something like that. It seems like it would make sense to say, "I'm going to have three pages, and really put some thought into this," rather than just trying to get through 10 pages.

Mitch: And that kind of moves us towards the next one if we're trying to make as much time as possible. The thing that's been really kind of difficult, but I'm so glad that I'm making the time for it, is rule number five, which is to dedicate one hour towards a new skill.

Troy: This one is crazy. Yeah, this is the one that jumped out at me like, "Whoa, that's a lot of time. What would I do?"

Mitch: So I'm focusing on two things. I'm getting back into photography and advancing my cooking. So I bought myself that "America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook" that I talked about. It is 800-and-something pages, and I read or cook for an hour. And then I got another book that's about photography, and I got myself a new camera. In the coming weeks, they have little activities. So I'll go out for an hour, snap some pictures, and come back.

And originally, it was just like, "Oh my god, I'm not doing anything but Project 50," the last couple of days. There are just so many . . .

Scot: Yeah, when I looked at this, I thought the same thing.

Troy: I know.

Mitch: But let me tell you right now, I have appreciated so much chunking out an hour of my day just to learn something.

Scot: Sure.

Mitch: When was the last time you did that? I mean, outside of a school environment where you just had to go to class because that's what you had to do. Just something that you're interested in, just doing it for an hour.

We always say we don't have time to do it. We always say, "Oh, man, how are we going to fit that in?" Well, I'm Day 5 now and I've learned everything I need to learn about how to make substitutions in every dish I can imagine. This is a new power, a new skill I have that will help me the rest of my life and it's only happened because I spent an hour of my life doing it.

And so I'm pro rule five. It seems really, really hard, but if you have the ability to just give yourself an hour, I cannot tell you how much just a sense of accomplishment, how much enjoyment I'm getting out of just making an hour for myself.

Troy: Oh, you've inspired me, Mitch. I saw a video recently of a woman who said she was going to learn to dance. You may have seen this at some point, but she films herself dancing at various points and then becomes a really good dancer. That's going to be me.

Scot: That's awesome.

Troy: I'm joking. I would be a horrible dancer.

Mitch: It could be.

Scot: What? No.

Mitch: If you want to dance, do it.

Troy: Can you imagine me trying to do that? I guess I could, but . . .

Scot: The only one laughing is you, Troy. I mean, I think if that's something you want to do, if you dedicated an hour towards that every single day for 50 days . . .

Troy: You would be a really good dancer.

Mitch: You would be a really good dancer.

Scot: You would probably be amazed about . . .

Troy: I don't know if I could take myself seriously trying to do it.

Scot: It might take the first five or six days, but eventually, you would, I think.

Troy: Yeah.

Scot: I mean, that might be kind of fun, right? Or guitar. Who knows what? But not only is this good for your emotional and mental health . . . because with photography you can get in that flow state, which we know is good for your emotional mental health. But other types of things when you're learning, you're exercising your brain, right? And there's research out there that shows when you do new things, it actually helps stimulate your brain and can help prevent the onset of dementia later on in life. So, rule five, I like it.

Mitch: And then we've got our last two rules. Rule six is follow a healthy diet. Just commit to it. I've been doing meal prep. I've been doing all the recipes that TD, Theresa Dvorak, taught us. I got a book about healthy meal prepping and meal planning, and so I've been cooking big batches on Sundays and eating it through the week.

It's not what I would have always thought about doing, weighing my food and measuring my food, but here I am. I'm going to try it for 50 days and see what sticks and see how I feel.

Scot: Yeah, I think here it says . . . maybe I missed you saying this. No alcohol, no soft drinks, generally less sugar. Yeah, that's kind of their overall recommendation. They don't go any deeper than that.

For the New Year, the healthy diet for me is I always eat my healthy veggie egg breakfast with oatmeal that I always do. If I can do that, I always feel good. And then I need to have at least one meal I can eat that's good for me at work. Those are my two. That's how I'm trying to keep it simple.

Troy: Nice.

Scot: Anything else on rule six, or do we want to go to rule seven?

Mitch: No, it's just that core four thing, right? It's that diet, and just do it for 50 days.

And then the last one is kind of reflective mental part of it, this kind of mindful part of it. It's track your daily progress. I do it every night. I write down the positive and negative experiences that I have had with the program.

There's something about spending time not only working on yourself, but also reflecting on what is and isn't working and actually making sure that you spend time every day saying, "Is this working for me? Is this not?" Actually devoting just a little bit of your time of your day to write down, "I did not like that kale salad. It was gross. Let's not ever cook it again. Cross it out." And rather than just being like, "Oh, I'll never be able to eat healthy," it's just, "Well, tomorrow, we'll try something a little different."

My workouts, it's like, "Oh, man, that was way too intense today. Did not love that. Let's spend some time tomorrow taking a rest day." Rather than just blindly trudging through and committing to something, actually being a part of the process, being mindful of the process, being there for the process has been really great. I already know some things I'm going to continue to do and some things I'm going to not do after the end of these 50 days.

Troy: Well, I like it. Again, like you've mentioned, Mitch, it incorporates so much of what we talk about on here with the core four. And it incorporates that whole piece of . . . we've always talked about, "Give it a month." Here, you're giving it 50 days and you really try and make it part of your routine.

Again, the biggest challenge for me, as I looked at this, is how do you find this much time of the day and do it consistently? Not just be like, "Hey, I'm going to do this for today," but, "I'm going to do this every day." It sounds like you can kind of combine some of these things and there's some overlap there. Yeah, I like it. I like what you're seeing with it too.

Scot: I'm going to say, Troy, if you're like me and, Mitch, if you're like me, I initially looked at that and I thought, "That's a lot of hours." And then after I listened to Mitch, how you were incorporating it in your life, it reminded me that there's a beauty to committing to something.

We, I think, as a species like to figure things out, right? You can initially look at something and dismiss it, but once you dive into it, and it's part of your life, and you're like, "Wow, this is going to take more time than I'm ready to do. How can I make this more efficient? How can I combine some things?" you start figuring out how to integrate it in your life, which is also an important part of this whole process, I think.

It's realizing that it might be different for you, it might be different for me, but I can incorporate this into my life. I enjoy problem-solving like that. So I don't know if that's been enjoyable for you, that aspect of it, but that's a good reminder hearing you talk. So thanks for that, Mitch.

Troy: What do you think, Scot? Are you going to do it?

Scot: I already get up before 8:00 a.m. I have a morning routine. I think I can manage this exercising for one hour a day. Read 10 pages a day, sure. The new skill, as rewarding as that sounds, I just don't know where I find that hour. Healthy diet is something I'm trying to work on and I do a daily journal anyway. So I'm kind of doing a lot of this.

The only thing I'd have to commit to would be an hour towards a new skill. I'm still in my master's program, and I just don't know that I have that time right now. But after school, I might be able to do that. Maybe I'll think about it. Maybe there's a way I can incorporate that in my life. I'm going to take my own advice and not be dismissive and see if there's a way I can maybe incorporate that.

Troy: I know. I'd love to find a way to make that piece more practical. That's my biggest hesitation. Like you said, Scot, I feel like on these other things I'm doing pretty well. Obviously, the night shifts throw me off on the getting up and all that kind of stuff. But in terms of just the new skill piece, an hour a day, that's a lot. Maybe I'll do 15 minutes a day. I don't know.

Scot: And maybe you combine rule three, which is exercise an hour for a day or get activity, and rule five, a new skill, and that new skill is dancing. There are probably a lot of great YouTube videos. Just think, man. You thought Laura was excited when you cooked her a meal. Do you know how excited she would be if you took her out dancing, and you could dance?

Troy: I was thinking more like breakdancing, like pop-and-lock kind of stuff. That's kind of where I was going with this. Not so much social dancing.

Scot: All right. Fair enough.

Troy: I don't know if she's going to think that's quite as cool. But I was thinking that'd be pretty cool.

Scot: When you take her out to Main Street and set down your piece of cardboard to start popping and locking and street battling with the locals.

Troy: Exactly. Put my hat out there for some money. That's what I envisioned.

Scot: All right.

Troy: We'll see how it works out.

Scot: Yeah, let's all check in with each other in 30 days and see how this works.

Troy: Sounds good.

Scot: Or not 30 days, but halfway, the halfway point.

Troy: Fifty days, yeah.

Scot: Yeah. And then we'll do it at the end as well. Mitch, it sounds fun. Look forward to this journey with you and maybe we'll join you on parts of it. I guess we'll find out. I don't think Troy is going to really try a new skill. I guess if I'm being honest, I probably am not either.

Troy: I'm going to do it just because you said that, Scot. But I'm going to commit 10 minutes a day. That's what it's going to be. Right now, I'm feeling 10 minutes a day. I'm going to learn a new skill, 10 minutes a day. I'm going to do it.

Scot: I can't wait to find out what that skill is. That's going to be fun.

Troy: Me too. I have no idea.

Scot: All right. If you want to join us, you can do so. We'll put the link in the description. You can also go and have a back and forth with us. There are a lot of ways to do that, and Troy is going to tell you about those.

Troy: You can email us at Reach out to us on Facebook, We'd love to hear from you on our listener line, 601-55SCOPE. And I think that covers it, doesn't it?

Scot: I believe that it does.

Troy: That's it.

Scot: Other than thanks for listening.

Troy: Other than Scot's personal cell number, which I'm going to give you right now.

Scot: Thanks for listening. If you found this valuable, please share it with a friend if there's a particular episode or you've found this episode valuable. That's the best way to help us grow the podcast. Thanks for caring about men's health.

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