Science: Coffee is not our friend

I love coffee. Coffee’s combination of complex flavors and the satisfaction of a craving that it delivers is just… indescribably wonderful. I also enjoy that it seems to affect my physiology more strongly than most people. I’ve joked for years that I’ll never need speed because I’ve got caffeine. Yes, that’s foreshadowing.

My doctors told me to completely cut out coffee in December. The thought was every bit as emotionally difficult as cutting out wheat and dairy earlier in the year. After psyching myself up for a few weeks, I quit my 3 to 6 cups per day cold in January. After six weeks, I experimented with bringing it back as a daily habit, but in much smaller doses. The experience has shifted the way I think about caffeine dramatically. Now, I’m preparing myself to cut it out permanently in April. I’ll reserve enjoying a cup of coffee as a very occasional luxury.

It turns out my experience can be illustrated with science.
That's right, bitches. It's science time.

According to a Johns Hopkins study quoted in this piece from Forbes:

In essence, coming off caffeine reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood. The only way to get back to normal is to drink caffeine, and when you do drink it, you feel like it’s taking you to new heights. In reality, the caffeine is just taking your performance back to normal for a short period.

Yep. When I’m on a coffee high, everything seems great. But those “optimal caffeine flow achieved!” moments I used to gleefully tweet are fleeting. After the (quite miserable) withdrawal, I couldn’t deny that I was performing at least as well off of coffee as I was on it, and got more done overall.

It gets worse: Based on other studies, caffeine hampers your emotional intelligence in a vicious cycle.

When caffeine disrupts your sleep, you wake up the next day with an emotional handicap. You’re naturally going to be inclined to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink to try to make yourself feel better. The caffeine produces surges of adrenaline, which further your emotional handicap.

I hate this, but it’s consistent with how coffee affects me. Eliminating the caffeine ramp-ups and ramp-downs has been a big step in my quest for the even keel of emotional serenity.

Coffee is damn tasty, and I love a caffeine rush, but I no longer see it as a buff. Now I see it as a delicious ritual, but a temptation to overindulge to the point of self-destruction. It doesn’t ever make me a better (higher performing) person — rather, it reduces me. I really can’t afford that if I’m to reach my potential.

You might like to read Caffeine: The Silent Killer of Emotional Intelligence in its entirety on Naturally, YMMV. If you’re a night person, you may not be a pitiful junky like me, because caffeine affects night owls less than morning people.

DMB Means Summer

I’m listening to Gaucho, from DMB’s latest, Away from the World…

I can feel the wind on my face, blowing off the Columbia as the sun sets over the Gorge Amphitheater. I can see the lighting rigs flash and glint as they sway above the stage. I can smell the smoke wafting. I can feel the flip flops between my toes, and the anticipation of friends huddled as we press against the fence at the bottom of the lawn. This joy will stay with me all year; the thought will lighten the darkest times. It’s the perennial, precious, spiritual thrill of summer, when the world is at its best.

“We’ve gotta do much more than believe, if we wanna see the world change. We’ve gotta do much more than believe…”

Goals for 2013

Rocket Lift’s purpose is to help our team live the lives we want while making a difference for clients and projects that improve the world. (We happen to make great websites.) Sounds nice, right? But it only has meaning if we take it seriously, which means assessing how we’re doing.

I was excited to see Tim Smith write up [Edit: now a broken link] his goals for the year ahead, making plain exactly what it means for us to help him live the life he wants. (It’s also great because successful people set goals.) I’ve asked everyone on our team to write up their own personal goals for 2013.

Here are mine.

Doing Cools Things

  • By end of June, spend at least half time on local food
  • Write something worth reading at least once a month
  • Learn improvizational jazz piano
  • Make a showcase of WordPress as a garden for personal data-ownership and controlled social connections


  • Visit my brother in Denver at least once for a couple of weeks while working
  • Travel overseas while working
  • Visit Kirsten and Eric in Minnesota while working
  • Live for a month in Eastern Washington while working


  • Resume regular contact with good friends
  • Remain every bit as in love as I am right now
  • Track data on SAD in a quantified-self style.


  • Maintain 150lbs
  • Learn to cook food I love without dairy and gluten


  • Make Rocket Lift kick ass and thrive without my full time attention
  • Sell $10k/month of [that exciting thing that’s a secret]
  • Pay off debt, leaving only student loans

This post is part of the thread: Annual Goals and Review – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.