Day 365: Take the polar bear plunge
I spent a hefty chunk of December contemplating a perfect Day 365 of The Time Hack: the final day in the year-long time perception experiment that began January 1, 2011. It had to be big and embody the spirit of the project — a representation of the venture that would sit front-and-center on the site’s homepage for all Internet eternity.
Skydive? Too expected. Get shot out of a canon? Too difficult to arrange.
Two nights before the project would end, I sat down with friends and mapped a route across the continental United States. I’d attempt to roll through four U.S. time zones in 24 hours — a feasible task if one doesn’t urinate and drives about 90 mph through the middle of the country. The task seemed a solid, octane-fueled finale.
Hours before I was to hop in a car and skirt westward, however, I realized that capping the project off with such a bang would mark the entire experiment as a 365-day exercise in entertainment. While from the beginning, many of the time hacks ended up being quite funny (e.g., Day 17: Recite the alphabet in public), the project was not entertainment at its core.
It was intended to be a tool.
Over in the “About" section, I point to research that suggests that both a person’s perception of how time passes and the sharpness of that person’s memories are dependent, in part, on the number of new experiences he or she has during a given day.
So if new experiences slow a person’s perception of time, The Time Hack was the tool by which I’d attempt to make 2011 the longest year of my life.
But more importantly, it was a tool to demonstrate how one can positively apply scientific data to daily life.
For generations, mothers have told their children not sit around and let life pass them by. The Time Hack was an effort to confront the time-honored adage and demonstrate the science-backed benefits of making the most out of life.
In short: Do more and your perception of life will change for the better.
Get out the house and experience the world first-hand, put yourself in unusual and uncomfortable situations. Go to trapeze school, eat dinner with a homeless person, participate in a Shaman ceremony. Dye your hair green, study finance, travel to a third world country, ride motorcycles, take sword fighting lessons, play football, eat bugs — do it all. Try anything and everything.
But it can also be simpler than that. If you typically walk down 1st Street on the way home from work each day, then tomorrow ride a bicycle down 2nd.
Why? Because participating in new and dynamic activities could significantly extend your time on this planet — or at least your perception of it.
And that’s precisely why I wanted to end the project here: jumping into a body of water during winter. It is an experience that shows you, the person reading this right now, the feasibility of doing this project yourself.
I’m really going to miss the Time Hack. It helped make 2011, by far, the best year of my life. From fighting an amateur boxer on day one to training with a former Olympic fencer on day 364, I faced a myriad of life experiences that most are unlikely to ever encounter in one year.
As with any bit of scientific research, however, you take what you’ve learned and move forward with a new perspective on the world. So the Time Hack will live on. Case in point: I write this while researching a trip to Texas, where I hope to join in on my first rodeo.
Thanks for all of your ideas, Time Hack fans, and may you keep the Time Hack spirit truckin’.
Special thanks to science journalist Dave Mosher and interaction designer Liz Danzico for countless hours and even days of help on this project. Additional thanks goes to neurologist and time perception guru David Eagleman for helping to design the project.
[Note: In the coming weeks I’ll sort through my data, show off some highlights and post a link to the project’s complete set.]
For future projects and updates, I can be found on Twitter @mattdanzico.
- I believe I yelled “Day 365” while running toward the the ocean in Coney Island, New York.
- I took three steps into the ocean and then dove, falling into the water on my left side.
- After my first dive, I jumped up and raised my hands and let out a “whoo”, echoing a passerby who was cheering me on back on land.
- I dove in two more times, once to my left (completely submerged) and the second to my right (leaving my head above water).
- I ran back up the beach holding my arms over my chest and told the camera “that was an interesting year”.
- I first put my hands on my knees out to catch my breath and then sat down with a towel to get warm.
What happened on day 365? Find out here.
I believe from the time I ran down the beach to jump in the ocean to the moment I exited the water was 54 seconds.
How long did it take? Find out here.