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104: Letter from Your Past Self

Jun 07, 2022

Back in January, Scot challenged the Who Cares guys to write a letter to their future selves rather than creating New Year’s resolutions. Six months on, they open their letters and find out a little something about themselves.

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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: All right. Before we get to the show, I wanted to say thank you to Troy.

Troy: What did I do?

Scot: You sent me a graduation present.

Troy: Oh, yeah.

Scot: It was very much appreciated. So here's how this went down, Mitch.

Mitch: Okay.

Scot: My wife goes out to the front porch and gets an Amazon package and brings it and hands it to me. And I'm like, "Well, that's weird. I haven't ordered anything recently." So I opened it up, and I look at it and it's some sort of light, but it's weird. This is really weird. I don't know what's going on. This must be somebody else's package.

And that's when it dawned on me to look at the label, right? No. It's addressed to me, my address. If I ordered this, what? Did it accidentally have something in my cart and I clicked order? I mean, I had no idea what it was. So I'm like, "Who's sending me a gift?" And I looked at the thing again, and I still can't tell what this thing is.

So then I finally find the one with the little message. Troy, I'm going to go ahead and let you tell me what the note said.

Troy: Scot, the note said, "Dear Scot, Congratulations on your graduation. May you always serve as a beacon in the dark as this toilet light serves you." And then added "From the MD to your BS." And then, "(MS)," since you're now an MS. "Every time you see this toilet light, I hope you think of us, Scot."

Scot: I'll tell you I haven't laughed out loud like that in a long time when it finally hit me what was going on and what that thing was. And my wife was like, "What?" And I explained it to her. She rolled her eyes hard when she found out what it was.

Troy: That's great.

Scot: She was like, "Can't you just turn the light on?"

Mitch: No.

Troy: No, you can't.

Scot: I was like, "Well, this is so you don't have to." So I don't know what bathroom it's going to go in. Probably not our main bathroom because she doesn't seem to be too supportive of it.

Troy: She's not thrilled with the toilet light. We might have to have a talk with her about the value of a toilet light since both Mitch and I are huge fans now.

Mitch: Life-changing.

Scot: Yeah, I explained that to her and she rolled her eyes hard again twice. Anyway. Troy, thank you very much for the present of the toilet light, which we've talked about before, about how it's life-changing for you two because then you don't have to turn on the main light, and it's easier to go back to sleep if nature calls in the middle of the night.

Troy: Yeah. Well, I'll tell you what, Scot. I think the toilet . . . sometimes I ask myself, "Have I done anything of value in my life?" And I think about this podcast and I say, "Well, has this podcast done anything of value?" And then I think about the toilet light. If nothing else, we've inspired people to buy the toilet light, and it does help.

Mitch: It does.

Troy: It does help with your circadian rhythm. I love it. I love the toilet light.

Scot: Just paying it forward, man. Paying it forward.

Troy: Paying it forward to you, Scot. Join the toilet light club. Congratulations.

Mitch: Yeah, congratulations.

Troy: Congratulations on your graduation. It's a huge accomplishment.

Scot: Hey, guys. You ready to read your letters from your past self on the show?

Mitch: Do we have to?

Scot: Yes. We have to.

Mitch: Okay. All right.

Troy: My letter is going to arrive in January, so I'll just be trying to remember what I wrote.

Scot: All right. Back on January 4th on "Who Cares About Men's Health," instead of doing New Year's resolutions, we tried something a little bit different, because sometimes when you repackage things, it might be a little bit more effective.

At its core, sitting down and reflecting or thinking about where you are and where you want to be, that's not a bad thing. But sometimes, New Year's resolutions, we know they don't work, so we tried a different approach. We wrote a letter to our future selves.

There was a little bit of a miscommunication. Mitch and I already got our letters because one of the things that we decided was maybe you should review these things a little bit more often than every year. Troy, he's getting his at the end of the year, but he says he can remember most of it.

So we're going to read our letters and we're going to find out where we are about . . . what? It is five months, almost six months later, where we are here.

So this is "Who Cares About Men's Health," bringing you inspiration, information, and a different interpretation about health and men. My name is Scot. I bring the BS to the podcast. He brings the MD, Dr. Troy Madsen.

Troy: I'm here, Scot, even if my letter is not here.

Scot: And Mitch brings the microphones. Welcome to the show, Mitch.

Mitch: Hey there.

Scot: All right. So I dug out my letter. I thought it was going to be really cringe reading my . . . I felt weird writing it, so I thought, "I'm going to get this and I'm going to think it's dumb." Actually, I didn't think it was that dumb. So please don't make fun of me, because that will change my whole . . .

Troy: Yes, because we would have if we think it's dumb.

Scot: Well, I guess I would . . .

Troy: We'll just stay quiet. We'll stay quiet.

Scot: No, I would expect no less than you to tell me.

If you did not hear the original episode on January 4th, Episode 92, you might want to go back and listen to that. Even if you don't, you might want to adopt this. I found this to be a good exercise actually, writing this letter to future me, because when I read my letter when it came a few months later . . .

And by the way, you do this through a website called You write it. You tell it when you want it to send that letter to you, and then just you're minding your own business on one day, and this letter comes to you from yourself and you can go, "Oh, yeah, I remember that. I wanted to do that," or, "Oh, yeah, I've actually stuck with that." And I found that I actually kind of stuck with some of this stuff.

So, Mitch, do you want to go first? Troy, do you want to go first? Do you want to say anything before we jump into these letters?

Troy: Maybe I'll go first since I don't have my letter. Like I said, I misunderstood the assignment. And I unfortunately did refer to it as an assignment.

Scot: Yeah, very painful. It wasn't something you were looking forward to doing or it wasn't something you thought, "Oh, this will make my life better." It was an assignment.

Troy: It was an assignment. I didn't truly embrace it. But I had mine set to come in a year, so I'm not going to get it until next January. But it will be kind of funny to read it because a whole lot has happened since then.

So this was early January we wrote these, and I basically just said, "I'm writing this to myself because Scot told me to do it." And I think I said some things in there like . . . It was kind of one of those, "Well, I hope you're still doing this and doing this. I hope you're still running and I hope you're still eating well," and that kind of thing.

So it wasn't particularly profound. But it is funny to think back on it now, because I do hope I'm still doing those things at that point. And I think that doing those things at that point will be a whole lot more challenging than I thought it was going to be.

Scot: Mitch, do you want to do your letter next?

Mitch: Sure. And one of the things I found was really interesting with this exercise is that in my many, many, many self-help books that I've read in the years, they've always been like, "Journal. Put your thoughts down," whatever, but I can never commit to that.

But something that was really surprising, especially upon reading this letter, was it was an exercise in kind of self-compassion and self-understanding. And writing it in your own voice to yourself was something that was very impactful in a way that no journaling I've ever done before has been that way. So I love this. I love this so much.

I'm going to talk around the curse words, but here we go.

Scot: Why are you swearing at yourself, Mitch? Come on.

Mitch: No, it's chill. All right. Here we go.

Scot: All right.

Mitch: Dear Mitch. Well, the last few years have been a trip, huh? A plague, earthquake, a hurricane in a landlocked state, riots with overturned cars, and military presence in downtown Salt Lake City, an insurrection. Just another round of unprecedented times in your lifetime full of them. Kudos to you for surviving the best you can.

I would also like to remind you of all the good things because it can be so easy for you to forget them in the face of such overwhelming circumstances. You have begun to focus on your health in a way that will set you up for success in the next act of your life, making great strides including quitting smoking, something you've never been able to do, beginning physical therapy to finally overcome your limitations you've had since high school, and got over yourself enough to seek the mental health professional to help you unearth and work through the root causes of your now officially clinical anxiety.

It's hard, and it sucks most days, but you're doing it and you should be proud of yourself for that, even when there are slip-ups or setbacks.

In the face of people telling you to give up on your professional aspirations and hustling for over a decade, you finally earned a career doing the work that you love with a great team that supports you. It's time to settle in and get down to the work you've always wanted to do. Don't let the stability be confused for stagnation. You can leave the struggling hustler side of yourself behind.

It's important to remember that you found your own way to this point and you should be proud of that. Many of your setbacks have come from relying on the outdated and blindly general advice of others, including the guidance of those who do not have your best interest in mind, whether it be the firm direction from a mentor who made his fortune in the 1970s, a group of roided-out jerks on social media trying to tell you how to be healthy, or even the advice of a borderline cult leader speaking through a teapot.

I genuinely hope that you start trusting yourself more. You're the one in the driver's seat as you navigate this topsy-turvy world. You're strong, smart, and capable, and deep down you know what is best for you.

Listen to that gut of yours. Seek out the novel, the bizarre, the joyful. It's led you to great places before, right now, and it will in the future. Sincerely, Mitch.

Scot: Wow. That was awesome.

Mitch: I guess.

Troy: That was. I'm so glad I don't have my letter right now. It would've seemed superficial and lame compared to that.

Scot: Yeah, I'm going to be going next, so that's my big fear. But that was really, really insightful. One of the things that I did love is you were very kind to yourself. I really loved that. And you patted yourself on the back for just making it to this point. And you have made some great accomplishments. So, yeah, I agree with Past Mitch. Good job.

Mitch: Thank you.

Troy: And I agree too, yeah.

Mitch: I put off this for so long when you first assigned it. I think I ended up sending it middle of February to be honest because I just didn't know what I was going to write. But there was a moment in time that it was just like, "You know what? Let's just do this and be nice to yourself." I don't know why I have to keep telling myself that, but it's like, "Be nice to yourself," and it was an exercise in that.

Troy: Yeah, and I like it too because it's being nice to yourself, it's recognizing where you've come from, the trajectory you're on. And I think it's great, too, because it just keeps you saying, "Hey, let's just stay on this trajectory, keep doing what we're doing." And you also recognize the potential pitfalls along the way and the distractions and talk about those.

And so I think it's a good reminder as you wrote that to your future self to continue to watch out for those distractions and those things that seem to potentially make you think that maybe you're not doing as good a job as you are doing and things that have gotten you down in the past. So I really liked how you framed it.

Mitch: Yeah, it sounds better than a resolution.

Troy: I was going to say I like too that you made reference to . . . I'm assuming that was to Scot and to me in the letter.

Mitch: Oh, yeah, of course.

Troy: The great team you're working with?

Mitch: Yeah, definitely. For sure.

Troy: Okay. Thank you.

Mitch: No, you guys are great.

Troy: We'll take credit for that.

Scot: I'm a little bummed because he preempted the obvious joke there, like, "I'm a little bummed I wasn't mentioned in your letter, Mitch." But I was. What are you going to do?

All right. Here's my letter. And I love how I tried to . . . Troy framed this as an assignment and I tried to frame it like this was spontaneous.

Dear future me, had a quick moment to write so I thought I'd drop a line.

Troy: Just happened upon this website and thought, "Why not?"

Mitch: Who are you trying to fool? Yourself?

Scot: I don't know.

Troy: Future Scot is like, "Wow, Past Scot was so spontaneous."

Scot: Actually, no. I'll tell you exactly. I remember what was going through my mind. I had the hardest time starting this letter. So I just had to let go and say, "Just write something and then just kind of go with it." So that's exactly what that line was all about.

I started and stopped this assignment, as Troy would put it, numerous times because that first line was so tough for me. So that's what that was.

Mitch: Same.

Scot: I had a quick moment to write, so I thought I'd drop a line. How are things? I just had some time off over Christmas break. It was great to have a little time to reflect without the hecticness of everyday life. Like every year, the holidays provide an opportunity to slow down and consider how things are going.

Of course, after the season of gluttony, eating and exercise are on my mind. Not to say I don't always think about nutrition and activity. They seem to be a constant struggle and at the forefront of my mind all the time, especially this time of year.

I think about how nice it would be not to have to think about them, but that's not the world we live in. A couple of hundred years ago, activity was central to getting food. Today, calories are everywhere and no real energy is needed to acquire them. It's a constant struggle to get my needed daily activity and eat well.

And you know me, I like to overcomplicate things. So this year, I'm going to try to simplify. For nutrition, I have three rules. Number one, always eat my veggie, eggs, and oatmeal breakfast. I do pretty well with that, so I can build on it. Second, always have food prepared for lunch at work. Third, stop eating at 6:00, which will give me a 12-hour fast.

For activity, two rules. First, do your daily physical therapy exercises and stretches for your nerd neck and hamstrings and glutes. Second, sweat 30 minutes a day. The cornerstone is strength exercise. This can be with body weight or weights or kettlebells. I guess for both goals my hope is consistency.

I also realized I have a couple of personality traits I'd like to improve because they introduce stress into my life. First, I overthink things. I'd like to think less and do more. I know I'm a better reviser than creator, so create, don't overthink and talk yourself out of things. Also, when you talk yourself out of things, it's because you're scared or don't want to exert effort. So just do it.

Second, I spend a lot of time in the future thinking about things I have to do or how things are going to be different in the future. I'd like to be more present and deal with future things at the appropriate time. I don't have to think about all the things I have to do at home when I'm walking my dog.

Maybe starting a to-do list, I can completely vacate those thoughts from my head until I have to deal with them. Just open up the to-do list and engage with what needs to be done at that moment.

Anyway, I hope you're doing well and look forward to hearing back from you about how you're doing. Sincerely, Scot.

So that was my letter.

Troy: It was good, Scot. I liked it. Like you said, it's one of those things, and that's kind of what it took for me too, although I didn't put nearly that much effort into it. It was just sitting down and just writing something. For me, it was just writing that line saying, "Well, I'm doing this because Scot made me do it." Yeah, you're kind of led into it like maybe catching up with a friend or something and dropping them an email.

But you got into very specific things there in terms of your goals, and yours definitely seemed more resolution-focused than maybe Mitch's was, where his was kind of more, "Let's keep going the direction we're going," where you had very specifics in there.

Curious, reading it now, how do you feel about your resolutions and the things you talked about there?

Scot: So I had forgotten about a lot of that until I read it again. For one, the living in the moment has . . . it kind of went away. And also, the thought of, "You overcomplicate stuff," was good to read again, because just a couple of days before we did this show, I reread my letter and I read that to myself. So I recognize that's an ongoing problem, and I kind of forgot that I was going to try to do that, so this reminded me. It was a nice, gentle reminder.

I did really well on my morning breakfast, but when I was in my Master's program, sweets and comfort food, I just couldn't keep them out of my mouth. The person who empties my garbage at work knows more about my emotional state from week to week than probably anybody else in my life just based on what's in there. It's like packages of cookies and packages of Juicy Fruit, because I chewed a lot of Juicy Fruit gum.

I started out exercising really, really well, and I put the ego aside and I really worked on doing good form and just building strength up slowly. And then things kind of fell apart.

I discovered during this process how hard it can be if you have something in your life that all of a sudden kind of takes over your life. Really, as stupid as it sounds, because it should be like, "How hard is it to eat well and get some activity?" But all that stuff fell aside for about a month and a half in the middle of this Master's program. But I'm back at it now. The letter kind of reminded me that was something that I wanted to do.

And I'm going to start working on just doing things and living in the moment again.

So it was just a good reminder of things that I kind of wanted to accomplish, and some I've done okay, and some . . . that little nudge to, "Oh, let's reboot that," was helpful in those letters.

Troy: So it served its purpose. I mean, it's one of those things where . . . like you said, it's a good reminder that a lot of things you're doing well and other things, just maybe refocus things you forgot about.

Mitch: Well, I appreciate that you took a moment to emphasize behaviors and mindsets and things, because for me that was the real focus. Like, coming up with a goal to eat breakfast certain ways or "be healthier, be whatever," those are resolutions that happen all the time and they have a try or fail state. But by focusing on mindset, focusing on attitudes, that's powerful stuff to recognize that in yourself and commit to changing it and stuff. That's the kind of stuff that'll cause real change, I think.

Scot: I hope so because I get super frustrated when I'm trying to do stuff at work, and I'll start a project and stop a project and start a project and think, "Oh, this isn't good enough," or, "It should be this or that," and I make it complicated. And then I just don't do anything, right?

I don't know where that's come from in my life. I don't know if I've gotten older and I'm like, "Well, this really needs to be this way to be better." Because I know more, I have higher standards for what I need to do. And maybe what I'm working on isn't something I have a lot of experience with, so maybe I need to put those standards aside for a little bit and just do it and then adjust and improve as I go.

I mean, it's been paralyzing for me, those things. So yeah, it's been a good reminder.

Troy: Yeah, and thanks for sharing that with us too. Obviously, it's very personal and a lot of things that you recognize that you're trying to improve. Like Mitch said, focusing on more mindset and just general approach rather than those specifics, it was great to hear that. And I like, again, that yours had all sorts of different components to it with the specifics and then that broader focus as well.

I was going to say I think this activity, too, is kind of like what we've talked about with so many things. You find things that work for you and things that don't. I'm curious, are both of you going to write another letter to yourselves? Or what did you think about this?

Mitch: Yeah, I'm going to do it again. It was almost a punch to the gut when I read this again. It shot up in my email, and I was having a rough day. And there was something about reading my own kindness back to myself that just got me out of that funk.

Troy: Oh, wow.

Mitch: Yeah. It's like, "Remember, you can feel this way. You can act this way. You can appreciate these things about your life. Remember them in these moments where you're stuck in black-and-white thinking, where you're in a depressive state, where you're struggling to stay motivated and enjoying life." So yeah, when I'm having another day, I'll probably write myself another one.

Scot: Yeah, actually, maybe we should . . . So we're going to do another follow-up at the end of the year. Really, I think every three months would be probably better. Personally, I would do this every three months, because I think that constant reminder is good as opposed to every New Year's.

You get to the day before New Year's Eve and you remember all the resolutions you made. You're 364 days away from them, so it's like, "Oh, I guess I'll start over tomorrow."

But we know Troy is getting his in January. So, Mitch, I'll write one, you write one, and we'll do a third follow-up and see where we're at.

Troy: That sounds great. But I was going to say, though, like so many things we've talked about, a lot of times you find things that work for you and things that don't work. This just didn't really resonate with me. Maybe if I did sit down now and do it again and I got a letter in three months, it would really hit home.

But I think you just find things that work. For me, it's more I jot notes in my phone on different thoughts I'm having about different things that are on my mind. Or even hearing some of the things Scot talked about in terms of general approach and mental health things or things that we want to change just about our approach to work or stress or whatever it might be, that's what kind of what works for me.

And then I'll go back later, scroll through my notes, and read a note I wrote three months ago, and it kind of has that same effect like you mentioned, Mitch, of reminding me where I want to be and just bringing things back into focus.

Yeah, I think writing notes, whether it's a letter to yourself or a journal or notes like that, like I said, like I do in my phone, or whatever works, I think there's a lot of value in that. And then getting a chance to read it later. So I think just find what works for you.

Scot: All right. Well, if you want to participate with us, we're going to check out Troy's letter at the end of the year. Mitch and I are going to write another letter, and we would encourage you to do the same thing.

The website is And you can go on there and you write the letter yourself. You can make it public or private. I chose to make mine private. You could actually read some other people's letters, which was actually kind of interesting as well . . .

Mitch: Oh, yeah.

Scot: . . . to read what other people were saying about themselves. And you might want to do that to get some ideas going.

And then you can set it when it's going to arrive. So you could do it three months, you could do it at the end of the year, or whatever. So check that out.

When are you getting yours, Troy? January 1st? December 31st? What?

Troy: Whenever we wrote these. Was it January 1st? I don't remember.

Scot: It was January 4th.

Troy: It was January 4th. So mine is going to arrive January 4th, and what a different world this will be.

Scot: Yeah, let's check in.

Troy: It'll be interesting to read my very superficial letter. I'm looking forward to it.

Scot: We'll check in with each other with another "Letter to Future Me" follow-up on January 4, 2023.

Thanks for listening. Thanks for caring about men's health.

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