The 21 Convention: My Presentation to 20-Somethings

This may not be for everyone, and it’s pretty long, but take a look if you like.

I was asked to speak at this year’s convention in Orlando, Florida, in July and the video has just come out on YouTube. I believe it’ll be promoted on The 21 Convention site around December 8 or so, so this is like a sneak preview. The presentation itself goes a bit over and hour and then there’s a Q&A. Here’s what I cover, all from a human animal evolutionary perspective and in the context of young men in their 20s:

  • General precepts of the human animal and our current domestication in The Zoo Human that underlies all manner of dysfunction
  • Who am I and what’s my story
  • The paleo / Primal Diet
  • What to eat and what not to eat
  • Learn to become a competent cook
  • When to eat and when not to eat (Intermittent Fasting)
  • High, moderate or low carb
  • Health benefits of Real Food combined with Intermittent Fasting (Autophagy)
  • Ditching mind creating fantasies that induce unearned guilt and shame that underly actions that work against your well being
  • Evolutionary social hierarchies vs. centralized, authoritarian hierarchies
  • Non-exclusivity in male / female relationships

Interestingly, almost all of the Q&A focussed on the latter, social aspects of the presentation.

Oh, yea, and I gave the presentation barefoot.

Richard Nikoley

I started writing Free The Animal in late 2003 as just a little thing to try. 20 years later, turns out I've written over 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from diet, health, philosophy, politics, social antagonism, adventure travel, expat living, location and time independent—while you sleep— income by geoarbitrage, and food pics. I intended to travel the world "homeless," but the Covidiocy Panicdemic squashed that. I became an American expat living in Thailand. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. ... I leave the toilet seat up. Read More


  1. Kelly on November 26, 2011 at 11:54

    It’s curious that there were no questions about your diet.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 26, 2011 at 12:00

      Indeed. Possible explanation is that they’ve been exposed to that via Sisson & others, but perhaps not my particulr brand of individualism.

      • Anthony on November 26, 2011 at 12:19

        Yep. I think about half of them were at least somewhat familiar with paleo dieting, but all of them were much more intrigued (and challenged) by the philosophical points of the speech. Had you focused exclusively on diet I think the questions would have been equally abundant though.

        In all cases, great job Richard and thanks for sharing.

      • Kelly on November 28, 2011 at 04:34

        Maybe your audience didn’t need to lose a ton of weight. Individualism is definitely your niche in the paleosphere. Regarding Sisson, he is different. His abs originally sold me on his primal blueprint. From that perspective your mid section doesn’t sell the diet as well. Just eating real food seems to work very well for losing weight on the very overweight person, but not as well for someone needing to lose 20 pounds. I think more emphasis is needed at that stage on restricting calories, like cutting alcohol, nuts and dairy. I assume this is why you are on your current diet restrictions?

      • Richard Nikoley on November 28, 2011 at 06:42

        You’d be correct, Kelly.

  2. Brett Legree on November 26, 2011 at 12:59

    Awesome video, Richard – I shared it on Google+ as a few of the people who circle me would be interested to hear what you have to say.

  3. Tin Tin on November 26, 2011 at 20:24

    Nice presentation. That’s the calmest and most measured delivery I’ve seen you give in a video.

    This is completely off topic, but how are your doggies these days? I haven’t seen an update for a while.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 26, 2011 at 21:04

      Pretty good. Rotor, the older male will turn 13 in Jan. He’s fine. Recently cut his amount of food because I want to keep him very lean as his legs get a bit more wobbly.

      The bitch is still a bitch, at about 6.

  4. Swedish on November 27, 2011 at 06:03

    Interesting presentation, Richard. Have you ever tried eating a raw diet and I don’t mean a raw vegeterian diet but raw meat, fish and eggs. I’ve been interested to try it, I’ve read that some people who eat raw have much more energy and feel better and it also It makes sense to eat raw food because that’s how humans original ate and there’s no wild animals that cook there food.
    Cheers from Sweden

    • Richard Nikoley on November 27, 2011 at 13:28


      Well, I eat plenty of raw fish, sushi and sashimi. And I do carpaccio and tartare from time to time. I enjoy those and I’m sure there are other raw preparations I’d enjoy. But I love cooked meats too.

      I’m not convinced of the exclusive raw meat advocates. There’s a book by Richard Wrangam out recently that speaks to this: Catching Fire.

      • J. Stanton on November 28, 2011 at 01:41

        Be careful with Catching Fire — Wrangham’s dates and interpretations of the data re: domestication of fire by pre-humans are, to put it very politely, not universally accepted.

        He also plays fast and loose with other “facts” in the book, too — like the claim on p.46 that food only sits in the stomach for 1-2 hours and that humans “lack the carnivore system for retaining food for many hours”. It takes 4-5 hours for the stomach to fully empty from a mixed meal, as a brief perusal of the research will tell you. (Meat increases stomach acidity and GI transit time.)

        I could go on for quite a while about the assumptions, distortions, and fabrications in the book…Wrangham is a vegetarian, and like many vegetarians, twists the facts to fit his preconceptions.

        There’s a reason all the puff quotes on the jacket are from cooks and laymen, not anthropologists.


      • Neal Matheson on November 28, 2011 at 07:58

        I very much enjoyed raw horse, liver fish etc when I lived in Japan. In fact I used to eat Ba-sashi on a very regular basis. I even ate raw, or to be factual, half-cooked chicken which I admit did feel wonderfully dangerous. It was all delicious but I honestly couldn’t say it did me any harm or good. Europe isn’t really set up for raw meat eating so unless I had killed it myself I wouldn’t eat it raw.
        Raw people always seem nice (apart from the fruit wanker) but I don’t hear much grounding for doing it except vague stuff about enzymes. H/Gs past and present seem to do pretty well cooking their food which is good enough for me.
        As an aside are kitaans hunter gatherers, I though they grew crops? and as a further aside I have met quite a few raw vegans, even fruitarians but I am the only paleo eater I know (apart from my daughter), are we that odd?

      • Neal Matheson on November 28, 2011 at 07:59

        p.s. how rude can I be on this blog, I wanted to use a far ruder word to describe the banana prick.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 28, 2011 at 08:03

        As rude as you like to be. Personally, I aim for intermittent rudeness.

      • LXV on November 29, 2011 at 12:43

        “I wanted to use a far ruder word to describe the banana prick.”

        Add a hyphen in there and I think banana-prick is a pretty apt rude way to describe him.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 28, 2011 at 08:09

        Hey J

        I haven’t actually read the book, just a number of reviews & critiques.

        At any rate, I was more referring to the less controversial idea [i think] that cooking foods generally renders them more bioavailable. I think less important than _when_ hominids began cooking food or had cooked food available to them (charred carcasses from a forest fire, for example, is that the cooking of food plays some role in our evolutionary development.

        But who knows for sure, really? That’s why I hedge my bet and eat food both raw and cooked. In terms of animals, raw = egg yolks, various fish, fish eggs, and some meat such as carpaccio and tartare from time to time. I think next time I do tartare, I’m going to chop up a bit of raw been liver in it.

        And, of course, I eat a variety of fruits and vegetables both cooked and raw.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 28, 2011 at 08:11

        Oh, and I forgot one of my all-time favorite raw foods: oysters on the half shell. Favorite way is with finely chopped shallots in red wine vinegar.

      • gallier2 on November 28, 2011 at 11:10

        But that’s not raw, that’s “still alive”.

      • J. Stanton on November 28, 2011 at 19:19

        Usually I just down my oysters naked…perhaps with a drop or two of lime juice or Sriracha if they’re not fully fresh. I have a good connection up here, though it’s seasonal.


      • J. Stanton on November 28, 2011 at 19:05

        It’s absolutely true that cooking foods — particularly plants — renders them more bioavailable. Cooking eggs makes the biotin in the yolk available, when it would otherwise be bound to the avidin in the white. And it’s certainly the case that cooking meat makes it much quicker to chew and digest.

        (In general, I find it interesting that cooking is far more important for making plants bioavailable to us than for making animal tissues bioavailable…and I think that says a lot about the order in which they probably occurred.)

        Wrangham’s speculations about the role of cooking in the evolution of modern human social systems are entertaining, and perhaps even correct. However, the evidence continues to support that these changes occurred on the accepted timescale (<350 Kya), not starting 1.6 Mya as he claims.

        In short, Catching Fire is much like his other books: some entertaining and plausible speculations, surrounded by a combination of deliberate falsification (he repeatedly conflates primitive agriculturalists with hunter-gatherers) and utter bosh.


  5. Razwell on November 27, 2011 at 08:20

    You’re a good public speaker , Richard. It is either something you have or don’t have. Bill Clinton had it too.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 27, 2011 at 12:20

      Thanks, Razwell. Fortunately, I see lots of room for improvement, so on my list is to do more of it.

  6. Madbiker on November 27, 2011 at 11:14

    Thanks for posting this, Richard, and for speaking at this conference.

    I’m a married woman and not in any way able to imagine the difficulties men, young or old, are experiencing out there in the marketplace of dating, ideas, and information. You succinctly described how not only diet but attitude, politics, and behavior can lead to becoming better men who know themselves as righteous human beings rather than pawns or scapegoats in games played by politicians and women who think they know better.

    You asked awhile back “Why Are YOU Paleo?” My answer is: because it helps me be my best, be the best for my family, help them be their best. But that is only part of it. Paleo has helped me see so many other things clearly. Cutting out sugar and grains has calmed my brain and emotions to a great extent. I have better relationships and am a better student (self-taught as I may be, no desire to return to school at the moment). By freeing my own female animal self, I’ve become more feminine; not less intelligent (perhaps more so) or less strong in my own way or diminished as a person, but in fact I’ve become more comfortable with myself, my womanly and parental instincts, my monogamous heterosexuality and my role as a wife and mother – all things that society at large seems to think are backwards, symptoms of Stockholm-syndrome by marriage proxy, or of slavery, or just psychosis brought on by the trauma of subjugation to male dominance (I went to a very liberal public university in case you can’t tell ;-) )

    I was wondering if I would ever find a real man to marry – one who could walk tall and proud, fix things, be confident in himself and his abilities (regardless of what those abilities were; the confidence was what mattered), and not one who felt he needed to fill every waking hour or spend every dollar chasing experiences and stuff to make him feel like a “man.” I was lucky that I did finally find him: a Navy man (like yourself) who proudly works a blue-collar job as a welder that makes him happier than his former job as a manager for one of the worlds largest telecom corporations.

    I worry about the lack of “manliness” I find around me. Girly looking boys are peddled as attractive to women who are hyper-aggressive and frankly, frightening. I’m glad there is a movement afoot to show men how to reclaim manliness, confidence, a sense of self, and leadership. Soon, I hope, there will be a movement to reclaim femininity as well.

    • rob on November 27, 2011 at 13:04

      Okay so that was a long post about manliness, what do you bring to the table?

      If I threw a quarter against your rear end, how hard would it bounce?

      Are your breasts firm?

      It’s a two-way street, a manly man expects an ass you can park a truck on, and boobs that ride firm and high.

      If not, then maybe your manly man is not so manly. Maybe he is just settling for what he can get.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 27, 2011 at 13:10

        Is that really called for, rob? I enjoyed her post and the message, which I took as: we all need to stive for attractiveness (physically, mentally, socially) to the opposite sex (or, principally, whatever turns you on).

      • Richard Nikoley on November 27, 2011 at 13:11

        And did she not say that the grills need to step it up, too?

      • Madbiker on November 27, 2011 at 13:53

        Thanks, Richard. Women do need to step it up. For too many years our whole social fabric has been woven from threads of a feminist spin that has ultimately proven to be the undoing of the cloth.

        I study Evolutionary Psychology as a layperson. I don’t think that only the residents of the Ivory Tower of Academe have any special aegis under which to operate; they only convince others that they are special by pretending to it. EP is not really accepted in most academic circles, and proponents or students of the discipline are considered, at best, unenlightened children, or, at worst, chauvanist-Nazi-patriarchal drones who jump at the most convenient philosophy through which they can exp0und their backwards views.

        It all sounds so conspiracy-theorist, I know.

        For years (since I was about 12 or so, so that’s over 20 years), I’ve felt like I was living in some weirdly created world that shunned intelligence but rewarded drone-work. And I could not figure out why I was unhappy or what the problem was. I see more clearly now. But I cannot be prescriptive for others in the same boat; if anything, I’ve found that people have to come to their own individually special moment of clarity. Only then can they tolerate, accept, and then eventually swallow the message that you and so many others are spreading.

      • Madbiker on November 27, 2011 at 13:25

        “Okay so that was a long post about manliness, what do you bring to the table?”

        In the SMP, nothing. I am off the market. For my husband, you may have to ask him. I think he is happy with regular sex, a clean and welcoming home, and no drama in his life.

        “If I threw a quarter against your rear end, how hard would it bounce?”

        Not very hard, to be sure. I have two babies under 3 years old, and while I accept the responsibility to keep myself in shape, my better half seems willing to accept it will take some time to get my butt back into quarter-bouncing shape. I love him for that and so much more.

        “Are your breasts firm?”
        Yes. I breastfed both of my kids for over a year each, and did not experience sagging like some women do when they partially breastfeed or do not breastfeed at all. I still have the solid and perky B-cups I had early on. I think breastfeeding could be one of the best kept secrets as far as boob-youth is concerned, but YMMV.

        “It’s a two-way street, a manly man expects an ass you can park a truck on, and boobs that ride firm and high.

        If not, then maybe your manly man is not so manly. Maybe he is just settling for what he can get.”

        Maybe. He does not seem to be settling. My husband gamed me from the start, even though I did not recognize it as such. He was honest and upfront about what he wanted from me, how he chose to live his life, and what he wanted to do with his time, and what I would get in return. I respected that, immensely. He is the first person (male or female) from whom I received so much honesty about the expectations we had of each other. And I loved him for it, and I still do.

        One of those expectations was that during hunting season (7 days a week in our NotW), I might not see him for hours, if not days, on end. Seven years into our relationship, I still have no problem with this. His honesty compels me to love him; I’ve been with liars who lie just to preserve the peace. It only serves to make women crazy and angry.

      • Erika on November 27, 2011 at 17:26

        What an idiot.

      • Sonagi on November 28, 2011 at 17:58

        If I threw a quarter against Rob’s head, would the hollow skull amplify the sound?

  7. Marissa on November 27, 2011 at 11:17

    Do you think the idea of being a “rational being” is compatible with viewing oneself also as an animal?

  8. Anthony Dream Johnson on November 27, 2011 at 15:22

    Madbiker, just wanted you to know that I’ve read all your comments here and have enjoyed them, short as they were, immensely.

    Thanks for watching Richard’s speech and leaving some feedback/thoughts.

    — Anthony

    • Madbiker on November 27, 2011 at 17:11

      Thank you, Anthony. There are some quality female voices in the paleosphere, and some in the manosphere, but overall I think I am a part of a very small minority. Many women want “manly men” but either don’t know how to attract them, recognize them, or maintain relationships with them once they find one.

      Paleo has done more for me than just losing weight and being physically healthy. Then mental health and social relationship benefits are tremendous. Being paleo means going against the grain in ways far beyond the practical; once in the metaphorical realm, the potential for rebellion is limited only by the lengths to which one is willing to practice freeing his or her inner animal.

      • Jasen on November 28, 2011 at 16:43

        I appreciate and enjoy your well written responses . I think you bring quite alot to the table. Your husband is a lucky man.

        Rob, it’s men like you that give the rest of a bad name. I would follow up with some choice words but I don’t use language like that in front of ladies.

  9. Jim Arkus on November 27, 2011 at 16:48

    There was a deficit of cursing in this video, but I still really enjoyed it.

  10. Paul d on November 27, 2011 at 20:15

    Madbiker. Great post. Loved it. Glad you have found happiness in your relationship and see beyond cultural conventions of what makes a man significant (his paycheck). So many relationships are founded on implicit contracts that are never stated.

    Richard, I will check this out later. The topic is of interest.

    And apologies for Rob. I think he mistook your statement of feminine empowerment as his mummy being critical of him as a little boy. Powerful contented feminine women = scary emasculating invasive demanding mothers through a mummy complex (-:
    Paul d

  11. Steve on November 28, 2011 at 07:47

    Nice talk. Thought-provoking concerning government especially.

    I agree entirely with your statement that once you drop religion, your life immediately improves, but you didn’t say how. I noticed my anxiety level dropped immediately. I assume that is because I had been trying, as many do, to convince myself of the truth of religion. When you stop, the cognitive dissonance evaporates and anxiety drops. I also became a free-thinker in many areas where I had previously been conformist or even a doctrinaire. After all, if religion was wrong, what else is wrong? And there is no authority I recognize to tell me I can’t ask questions.

    Thus, I’m more willing to explore areas I thought I already knew well, such as politics. I majored in political science before becoming a lawyer, and actively participated and followed politics as a junkie for most of my life until a year or so ago I just gave it up and stopped watching the news. I am so much happier now. If I could only get my family to stop watching local news.

    I’m approaching your anarchist point of view with an open mind and active curiosity.

  12. Aaron Curl on November 28, 2011 at 08:21

    Great talk Richard. Are you concerned with all the questions they asked about only voting? It seems like these guys were raised to vote since the age of 6 months old. You covered several topics and they only asked about voting. I honestly don’t understand why people can’t see evil as evil. You can be a part of the problem or part of the solution.

  13. Anthony Dream Johnson on November 28, 2011 at 08:32


    I would argue that voting is not the problem — it’s what we’re voting on. Rather than vote on things that are optional, we vote nationwide on matters of life and death. Income tax for example is not so bad because of the % … it’s horrific because it’s backed by violent enforcement. IE, don’t pay, and you’ll be dragged off to jail. Refuse to go to jail, and you’ll be shot.

    That’s a hell of a lot different than losing services by not paying a tax, income or otherwise.

    In this sense btw, I am in full agreement with Richard that voting is evil and a massive waste of time.

    — Anthony

  14. Dave Sill on November 28, 2011 at 16:49

    Great talk, thanks for posting it. Even though I agreed with most of it, I still found it quite thought-provoking–and motivational.

    I understand your reasons for not voting. On the national level, you’re right: one vote doesn’t matter. On the local level, though, it’s not unusual for one vote to decide an election. If one of the candidates is mainline evil and another is significantly less evil, e.g., Ron Paul or Gary Johnson, then I don’t think it’d be a waste of my time to vote. Also, even though you don’t buy into the government, and demonstrate that by not voting, if you pay taxes you’re still supporting it in the way that really matters to the thieves running the show.

    As for the motivational part… I’ve been paleo/primal for a little over a year. As I type this, I’m about 23 hours into my first real fast. I’ve intentionally skipped meals before–and even that would have been inconceivable to me a year ago–but never a real, honest fast. I feel pretty good, too. I’m hungry, but it’s not overwhelming.

    Thanks again.

  15. Scott Miller on November 30, 2011 at 15:26

    Watched the first 10 mins, will return to finish later. Good substance to the talk.

    1] But the back and forth walking needs to be calmed down in the future. Very distracting — maybe not as much for people in the audience, but definitely for video recording, because the camera tracking you constantly is quite annoying.

    2] Richard, just being honest, but you look like you’re carrying quite a bit of bodyfat — I’m guessing you’re around 17-18%. Maybe higher — wearing the black shirt was a good call because it best hides the bulge. You know I’m a big fan, but this caught me off guard. And if you’re out there representing the virtues of paleo, it’s not a selling point that the speaker looks a little on the heavy side.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 30, 2011 at 16:07

      I know, Scott. This was an awful year for me. Having spent months of it in chronic pain from a herniated cervical disc, not being able to sleep or workout and at various points, it was difficult to give a shit about anything,

      I’m almost all the way back, now.

      • Scott Miller on December 5, 2011 at 14:44

        Glad to hear.

        BTW, where do you live? I’m always traveling and if ever in your area I’d like to meet up for lunch or dinner.

      • Richard Nikoley on December 6, 2011 at 08:20

        Yea, sure. I’m in San Jose, CA.

      • Scott Miller on December 6, 2011 at 20:14

        Ah crap, I was just in Napa a few days ago with my gf! lol

  16. Justin on December 2, 2011 at 23:17

    Wow excellent talk! I liked when you were asking all those questions at the beginning. The two that stuck out to me were, “Do you spend your time fighting and arguing about who can rule you next?” and “Are you a human garbage can?”

    You’re doing great work, keep it up my friend!

  17. Veronica on December 6, 2011 at 09:33

    Really enjoyed this presentation- thank you so much for sharing. It was well organized, informative, and all the material presented is backed up and solid. It was refreshing to hear, and I hope more people get this message of a healthy way to live. Looking forward to more from you, as usual! All the best- Veronica

  18. Richard Nikoley 21 Convention Presentation | Anthony Johnson | The Dream Lounge on December 9, 2011 at 15:49

    […] is Richard Nikoley’s full 21 Convention speech. He raises some good questions and ideas. In his own words the presentation focuses […]

  19. Reclaiming the Self « Proxima Thesaurus on January 25, 2012 at 17:16

    […] been thinking about this presentation lately, partly because I’ve heard the words “libertarian” and “anarchist” […]

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