David De Las Morenas (website: HowToBeast), primarily writes about men’s fitness. Recently though, he has expanded to writing about stress, mental health, life habits and more. He’s published several Amazon bestsellers and I enjoy a lot of his articles.
While his writing is definitely geared towards men, I’ve found that many tips he writes easily apply across genders.
This is especially true in the book he just released, Calm, Cool, Collected (CCC), which focuses on ways to deal with stress and anxiety. The content seemed to align well with my own book Mastery Of The Mind and I wanted to check it out.
The book layout reminded me of Way Of The Superior Man by David Deida. At a bit over 100 pages, it’s not a long read (I finished it in around 3 hours), and each chapter is quite short with a point Morenas wants to get across. The writing style is very casual and enjoyable.
Three Key Points That You Can Apply In Your Life Right Now
While there are many sub-points in CCC, here are 3 main points you can take away after reading the book and apply right in your life right now to improve how you deal with stress and anxiety:
1. Fighting reality is useless and causes unnecessary stress. Instead, accept it.
I hammered this point in Mastery Of The Mind, and I’m glad Morenas discussed it.
You might have experienced this. Maybe you complain about your job, the amount of negative thoughts in your head, your weight, your dating life, some physical injury…
But this is a waste of your mental energy and time. What’s the point in fighting? It is what it is. Instead, you can accept reality as it is, and focus your energy on IMPROVING the things you aren’t too happy with.
So if you are unhappy with your weight, focus on setting up habits that will get you to go to the gym.
If you are unhappy with your dating life, focus on setting up times to go out and socialize, get over approach anxiety, or browse profiles on online dating.
If you don’t like your job, focus your energy on searching for a new one on your off time from work.
And while you focus on improving, you can still be grateful for all you have!
You might be a bit overweight, but at least you have the power to change and aren’t completely bed-ridden.
You might be single, but society is EXTREMELY sexually open these days, compared to the past where if you had sex with the wrong person you could be decapitated.
You might not like your job, but it gives you a steady paycheck so you can enjoy your life, and you can use the fuel of dissatisfaction to find a new one.
Complaining about a situation is useless. Focus on accepting and being grateful for all you have, while continuously improving and moving forward.
2. You should always remain “open” and never “close” yourself off.
This was the main point Morenas focused on after the introduction chapters and the most important thing I personally took away from the book.
When you are open, you are enjoying life, happy to talk to others, accepting what happens, and moving forward constructively and strategically (whether things are good or bad). You are also enjoying what’s in front of you, making the most of every opportunity.
When you are closed, you snap at people (say if they interrupt you during work), you tense up, your shoulders rise, your chest gets tight, and you generally feel shitty. You have a lot of negative thoughts in your head that you are entertaining and getting trapped in, constantly churning and spiraling into negative moods, depression, and anxiety.
When you are becoming closed, Morenas suggests four steps to step out of the tailspin spiral:
1. Notice that you are becoming closed – Become aware of how your body is tensing up, your negative thoughts are multiplying, you feel anti-social, and so on.
2. Accept the reality – Accept that you are becoming closed. You aren’t bad or wrong, you’re just reacting to what most people don’t like, pain or life not being exactly as you want it to be. But then you have to realize that you can’t change the reality as it is, you can only accept it and move forward constructively.
3. Breathe deeply – Deep breathing is the #1 recommended non-medical approach to curbing anxiety. When you get anxious, your heart rate rises and your breathing becomes shallow. Not enough rich oxygen is getting to your body, especially your brain, and your thinking becomes crappy. This leads to chest tightness as well, and the combination of the tightness and shallow breathing will make you feel even MORE anxious: fast multiplying negative thoughts = fast shallow breathing.
To counteract this, purposely slow down your breathing. Try breathing in one second, then out one second for a while. Then move to a rate of in for two seconds, and out for two. You might find that closing your eyes helps as well, and if you can do it, lay down.
4. Relax your shoulders and open your chest: thoughts follow action – When you get frustrated, angry, sad, or anxious, another two body reactions that happen are your shoulders rising up and you curling inwards. Visibly, it looks like you are trying to protect yourself. Instead, roll your shoulders back and keep your chest up and open.
Dale Carnegie mentions in How To Stop Worrying And Start Living that action follows thought and thought follows action – If you think positive thoughts you will feel better and your body will relax. If you do things associated with positivity (smile, shoulders back, chest up), you can’t help but feel better. It sounds stupid, but try it.
Tell me if you smile right now while reading this if you don’t feel a bit better. But, the opposite is also true: if you frown, have your shoulders up, and crease your forehead… you can’t help but feel a bit worse and negative thoughts will come.
After reading this I started using this chain when I felt anxious for the next week and it REALLY worked well in bringing me back to the present where I could evaluate what was happening.
It’s very simple but extremely effective.
It also helped me enjoy things more. So instead of closing off when I was out with friends and feeling like I wanted to go home, I remained open to the adventure of what was going on and enjoyed some more randomness and fun.
Feeling bad right now? Try this chain and see what happens.
3. Perception and the 80/20 rule of life (what happens vs. how you interpret it).
In addition to trying to change reality and refusing to accept it by becoming closed off, many of us are guilty of negative perceptions of life all the time. We interpret EVERYTHING in a horrible way.
There is another important form of the Pareto Principle:
Life is actually 20% the events that occur to you, and 80% the interpretation or meaning you draw from those events.
Life is what you make of it. You can selectively choose to interpret things in a good way, and declare that that’s what you believe. You don’t HAVE to believe the negative thoughts in your head, because that’s all they are, thoughts.
So the fact that your significant other broke up with you could be horrible and you could say you’re a terrible person. Or, you could say that it’s probably for the better, and you guys breaking up means that you need to learn something, and can find someone you get along with more.
Your 9-5 job isn’t great, your boss sucks, and you’re under-utilized at work, but it spurred you to go down the road of entrepreneurship, or find a more challenging job that you love.
This is directly taken from stoicism, that you can almost always be optimistic and happy given any circumstance. Of course, you will mourn a relationship when it ends, and you might be stressed if you lose a job – these are normal, healthy reactions, and it’s important to feel and express all of these emotions. But after feeling those, you may be able to quickly feel much better by interpreting the events in a positive light.
My Criticisms For Calm Cool Collected
Nothing is perfect. While I really enjoyed the content and layout of the book, I had 2 main criticisms:
The point of being open vs. closed was repeated far too often.
The way Morenas wrote the book, was presenting a few introduction chapters, the concept of open vs. closed, and then expanding in every chapter on life – for example the importance of surrender, loving yourself, acceptance that you will eventually die, etc.
But at the end of every chapter after introducing open vs. closed, he usually presents the solution to the issues in life as staying open, and reminding the reader to breathe deeply, relax his or her shoulders, and so on.
I get what he was trying to do, because it’s true: in most cases focusing on breath, body posture, and being able to get back to the situation re-evaluating it in a more fair and positive light will fix a lot of issues… but the repetition takes away from the book feeling well organized and put together.
A better option, I think, would be to include a major section called “Open vs. Closed”, explain the difference, and how to remain open as he did in the chapter. Then, he could say “Here are X ways in which you might close off, and you should make sure to stay open for each one. Come back here for instructions if you need a reminder.” This would keep him from having to repeat himself over and over.
2. Cover design and title
A more minor detail, but I think the cover and title don’t do the book justice.
I think Morenas chose his cover and title to align with his brand, and I get that all guys want to be calm, cool, and collected (hey, I do :p).
But the content of the book is betrayed by the sort of cartoon-y cover picture, and a less serious title. Something along the lines of combining “finding a man’s way in life”, “life lessons a man must learn”, or “crushing anxiety for men” I think would have brought more attention to the book.
Other than a bit of repetition, Calm, Cool, Collected presents a well written summary of points in how to view life less seriously, and how to handle your anxiety. Morenas inputs shots of comedy and writes in a very casual tone, so it doesn’t feel like you’re being spoken to by a guru, but more by a friend or someone trying to help you.
His points on the importance of establishing proper habits, accepting reality, loving yourself, and more are explained in compact, easy to read, and short chapters.
If you have an interest in changing your thinking, finding ways to reduce your anxiety, and/or previously read Mastery Of The Mind and enjoyed it, you’ll love Calm, Cool, Collected.
P.S./Disclaimer: I cannot claim for this to be a completely unbiased review. David and I have collaborated on certain projects and he has given me some advice in the past regarding business. However, I decided to do this review without him prompting me because I found it to be a valuable resource, and have tried to provide as honest feedback as I can.