Mohan Zhang

The places that made me are the places I love

Overlook

Portland, OR

Ain’t nothin better than the snow-covered ground / Where the rain never lets to the snow in this town

Castle

I wasn’t supposed to tour this house because it was out of my budget, let alone buy it. But something mysterious happened when I stood in front of it for the first time on a rainy winter day in 2013 (actually my second day ever in Portland, OR).

I got out of my realtor’s car, looked up at that maple tree in the front yard, noticed the width of the streets, and this very modest house with an almost unreasonable setback from the sidewalk.

Then suddenly, a flash of an out-of-body experience hit me. It felt like a thousand good memories from my future found me in that moment, reassuring me that the choice had already been made.

I knew then that this would be my home for many years to come.

Now almost a decade later, with arguably more time spent away from my house than me being in it, Portland has become my preferred place for creativity and personal development.

Here on this sleepy street in this quiet neighborhood, I’ve built an environment where I control almost all the variables, which makes it very easy to run n=1 experiments (that’s the personal development) and relax all the guarded layers (that’s the creativity).

The energy is great here and I can count on a good night’s sleep.

Music

Stories of journeys and places, stories of personal growth, stories of poetic love, and stories told from the outside perspective. These are my stories.

I’m an unlikely singer/songwriter and producer who writes primarily as an autobiographer, hoping not to miss the beauty in my own life. As such, my music is deeply personal and introspective.

I blend elements of pop, indie, folk, rock, electronica, hip-hop, and spoken word to create a sound as varied as my perspective, cultivated through an upbringing that spans four countries, cultures, and languages.

I write everywhere I go (it’s a big part of my process), but I am happiest when I’m putting it all together in my home studio in Portland, OR.

Stories

You can find my work on Spotify and Apple Music. The early stuff is raw, but everything released in the 2020s is actually kind of ok.

I used to maintain a dedicated subsite for all my music-related stuff, but honestly, my goal is to produce music that stands on its own, so I don’t need anyone to read about it. Just listen to it and decide if you like it or not. And if it speaks to you on some level, I’d love if you could follow me on Spotify.

Personal Development

I run a lot of experiments on myself and my environment. It started initially as I was trying to diagnose a skin issue (2022: likely a chloramines allergy, with 95% confidence), but then kind of became a lifestyle.

If you want to see my eyes light up, just ask about any of the things on this list. Not all of this was in Portland, nor are all of these things purely about physiological effects, but this section lives here because my house is kind of my lab at this point and the place where I am most likely to try or explore something new just for kicks.

Topic Category Year(s) Personal ROI
Cognitive personality theory Social 2023- Exceptional
Bioptimizers P3-OM probiotics Health 2023- High
MCT Oil Health 2023- High
Homemade ginger tea Health 2023- Medium
Acai Health 2023- Medium
Manuka honey Health 2023- Medium
Bioptimizers magnesium breakthough Health 2022- Exceptional
Whole-house water filtration Health 2022- Exceptional
Iron Neck Health 2022- High
Professional photography Expression 2022- High
Sauna + cold plunge Health 2022- High
Gravity boots Health 2022- Low
Airfryer Time 2022- Exceptional
Bidet Health 2022- High
BPC 157 Health 2022 Exceptional
Personal chef Time 2022 Medium
NADH Time, Health 2022 Low
Kneesovertoesguy Health 2021- Exceptional
Skincare Health 2021- High
Multi-city living Expression 2021- Exceptional
Airline status (Oneworld Sapphire) Time 2021- High
ErgoLab chairs Health 2021- Medium
Talk therapy Health 2021- Exceptional
Non-alcoholic beer Social 2021- Medium
Olympic weightlifting Health 2021 High
PRK Lasik Health 2021 High, but be careful
Magnesium L-Threonate Health 2021 High
Virtual assistant Time 2021 Medium
Red light therapy Health 2020- High
Value investing Money 2020- High
Austin Air airfilters Health 2020- High
Float therapy Health 2019- High
Self-pay blood work Health 2019- High
Stretching before bed Health 2019- High
Enneagram Expression 2019 Exceptional
Reading a book a week Expression 2019 High
Backpod Health 2019 Medium
Inclined sleep Health 2018-2019 Low
CBD Health 2018-2019 Low
Infrared saunas Health 2018-2019 High
Temperature-controlled mattress Health 2018- High
Structural Integration Health 2018- Exceptional
Systems and intentions > goals Expression 2018- Exceptional
Ayurveda Health 2018 High
Neem toothpaste Health 2018 High
Activated charcoal Health 2018 Low
Muse meditation headband Health 2018 Low
Onewheel Time 2017-2019 Low
Rock climbing Health, Social 2017-2019 High
Vitamin D Health 2017- Exceptional
Waterflossing Health 2017- Exceptional
Instant Pot Time 2017- Medium
Far-infrared heating pads Health 2016- High
Krill oil Health 2015- High
SAD lights Health 2015- High
Technical clothing Time 2015- High
Squatty potty Health 2015- High
Pranayama Health 2015 High
Training mask Health 2015 Low
Brute-force trying contact lens brands Health 2015 High
SIBO/FODMAPs Health 2015 Low
Weston A Price Foundation Health 2014-2016 Medium
Growing own food Health 2014-2015, 2020 Low
Homemade yogurt Health 2014-2015 Low
Rolfing Health 2014-2015 Medium
Glassware (no plastics) Health 2014-2015 Medium
Backyard eggs Health 2014-2015 Low
Daily smoothies Health 2014 Low
Deep tissue massage Health 2014 Low
Surfing Expression 2013- High
Raw vegan Health 2013 Negative
Vegetarian Health 2013 Negative
WWOOFing Social, Expression 2013 Exceptional
No microwave Health 2012-2020 Low
Fermented cod liver oil Health 2012-2015 Low
Galvanic skin response biofeedback Health 2012-2014 High
Gluten-free Health 2012-2013 Negative
Acupuncture Health 2012-2013 Low
Traditional Chinese Medicine Health 2012-2013 Low
Meditation Health, Expression 2012- Exceptional
Intermittent fasting Health, Time 2012- High
Big Berkey water filter Health 2012- High
No social media Health 2012- Exceptional
Binaural beats (Holosync meditation) Health 2012- Exceptional
Drink after eating Health 2012- Medium, not strict
Nose-breathing Health 2012- Exceptional
No restaurants Health 2012 Low
BJJ Health, Expression 2012 High
No soap Health 2011-2021 Low
No shampoo Health 2011-2019 Low
Earthing Health 2011-2013 Low
Yoga Health, Expression 2011- Exceptional
Fermented foods Health 2011- High
Restricting blue light at night Health 2011- Exceptional
Only drinking water Health 2010-2020 Medium
Cast iron cooking Health 2010-2015 Low
Eating only organic Health 2010-2015 Low
Paleo Diet Health 2010-2013 Medium
Barefoot/minimalist shoes Health 2010- Exceptional
Toesocks Health 2010- High
Stainless steel waterbottles Health 2010- Medium
No alcohol Health 2010- Exceptional
Confidence calibration Expression 2009-2010 Exceptional
No caffeine Health 2009- Exceptional
Study of the world’s wines Social 2009 Medium
Windsurfing Expression 2008- Exceptional
Electronic toothbrush Health 2007-2012, 2015- High
Protein powders Health 2006-2010 Low
Bodybuilding Health, Expression 2005-2010 High
Caffeine Health 2005-2009 High
Flossing Health 2000-2018, 2022- High

A natural reaction to this list is overwhelm. In fact, I was surprised myself at how many rows this table had when I started cataloguing all of my personal development experiments over the years. There’s a good chance I’ve forgotten another 30% or more of stuff I’ve tried over the years that has cycled out of my memory from being such low ROI.

I think of these types of experiments like compound interest, but for my mind and body. Each experiment or habit may only cause a little improvement by itself, but as you can see, this stuff adds up over time. Give it a couple of decades, and I am simply more consistent in my mind and body than probably 99% of people. It’s possible only pro athletes run themselves like this, but that’s not far from how I see myself in my 20s and 30s.

It works like this: the consistency makes me exceptionally good at being an executive and gives me the endurance to persist as an entrepreneur. These career decisions are how I turn my lifestyle into money in pursuit of a 99th percentile outcome. Incidentally, this is why you see so few experiments in the “Money” category above. I’m betting the proverbial farm on this particular strategy, but it seems to be playing out according to plan thus far.