What Justin Bieber taught me

A crowded concert

Until a few years ago, I was certain I hated The Biebs.

My reasons:

• He probably doesn’t write his own music

• Pop lyrics are basic and lack depth

• His stupid face

One day, I was listening to the Skrillex and Diplo song Where Are Ü Now, and I asked my buddy, “Do you know who’s singing?”

He looked at my blankly and retorted, “Are you joking? It’s Justin Bieber.”

My universe turned upside down. Everything I thought was true and real turned out to be a mirage. My very being turned to ash and I had no idea who I was…

Joking aside, I was struck. How could this person I despised make me feel such joy and raw emotion with his simple lyrics and angelic voice?

That’s when I realized my hatred for the young pop singer had nothing to do with him. I was just being a jealous twat.

He had more money and women at age 18 than I’ll ever see in my lifetime. All he had to do was sing a simple song and millions (if not billions) of people would listen and love it.

I was humbled when I realized I had been singing along with JB for months without knowing it was him on the track. It sounds ridiculous but that was the moment I thought, Maybe pop music doesn’t have to meet my expectations. Maybe music is just any collection of sounds that people find enjoyable.

Thank you, Justin (we’re on a first name basis), for enlightening me…and serenading me.

Lessons:

• It doesn’t really make sense to hate someone for their success—they’ll still do what they do, and we’ll just be salty about it.

• Just because we dislike a certain kind of music or entertainment doesn’t mean its bullshit (e.g. For the life of me, I don’t understand how most TikToks are good, yet they have millions of likes so fuck me I guess).

• When we have powerful feelings against another person, it’s important to check in with ourselves and ask why.

Our batteries

I couldn’t write this blog during my morning routine because I had an early call.

Now I can feel the lack of creative juices flowing as I type.

Hence why I do certain things at the start of the day.

It’s important when we choose to complete tasks.

For months, I would try to moonlight passion projects for the evening (after a long day of deep work), and be baffled by my lack of motivation and energy.

We only have so much in a day. We’re not Elon Musk. We’re us.

So we must utilize our time before our batteries run out.

No wrong thing

The most useful habit I’ve ever developed is that of taking action.

We want to do all these things but only have a certain amount of time and energy.

Steve Chandler says that when people say they don’t know what to do or how to do it, they simply haven’t decided yet.

We want to write, make music, build a business, start a YouTube channel….

We’re pulled in all these directions and as a result we take no action because we don’t want to pursue the “wrong” thing.

What if there is no wrong thing? What if there’s just whatever you’re doing?

Car engines and shitty clients

Gears spinning

Yesterday, my coaching friend was venting to me about a shitty prospective client experience. Also…my car died. The engine completely gassed out. What a day.

With my friend and her possible client, they had made an agreement and when she called to set up the first payment, she discovered that this prospective client blocked her on Messenger and was ducking all her calls.

She asked me what I thought.

How I felt about that situation is exactly how I feel about my car dying:

Naturally frustrated…but empowered.

Shitty, wildly inconvenient, and aggravating circumstances are guaranteed in our lives. Meaning, we have absolutely zero control over when they will occur (the definition of inconvenient).

What we do have control over, however, is how we handle and what we learn from these events.

She will have more frustrating ordeals with clients. I will have more car troubles.

But now, we’ll both be better equipped to take action and respond with cooler emotions under the stress.

Now she knows how to reach out with love and respectfully call a person out. Now I know how to simultaneously schedule a car tow and mechanic appointment.

Don’t wish things were easier. Wish you were better.

Jim Rohn

When to say yes

There’s a popular tip in the self-improvement world…

Learn to say no.

This is absolutely vital in protecting our time, energy, and values.

But I’ve been learning that there really is a counterbalance to it.

We must learn to say yes, too.

In the past, I’ve followed the rule: If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.

But there are plenty of events or experiences I was hesitant about only to find out they would change my life:

My coaching program, martial arts, nights with friends, trips, starting a business…

It’s crucial to set boundaries so we know what we must say no to. But it’s just as important to know what we should take chances on and allow in our lives.

Yes.

Jim Carrey

10 Saturday morning tips

A cup of coffee on a heart of coffee beans

1) Whether you’re working on a project or watching Netflix, leave your phone in the other room and on airplane mode. Do what you’re doing and enjoy it.

2) It’s much better to say, “I can’t believe I did…” instead of “I always thought about doing…” Just do whatever that thing is. Worst case: you have a great story or experience to share.

3) It may feel cool to reject exercise and fitness. But what’s really cool is being able to do something athletic and not be out of breath.

4) Train yourself to meet people where they are, not where you want them to be. We have absolutely zero control over whether or not someone changes. We have total control over how kind and compassionate we are to them.

5) Make amends. Even if you were never at fault, apologizing and getting closure is so much better for the soul than living with resentment.

6) Never judge another person’s music taste. We like what we like and if it makes us feel something, that’s enough.

7) A conversation can easily be made more vibrant by asking Why or How questions.

8) Ask someone, “What would you love to be working on right now?” They almost always have an answer and you learn about their aspirations.

9) Write more. Even if it’s once a month. Writing makes you a better speaker and thinker.

10) If you haven’t ‘failed’ several times in the last six months, then you’re not challenging yourself enough. Do more difficult things, fail at them, and learn.

A day of chores

Today I’m taking the day off to help my mom with chores and projects around her house.

For whatever reason, this has always been something of high Resistance for me. I’m not handy at all, so stuff like that probably makes me insecure. Working with her tends to make me feel like I’m in high school again. Plus there’s likely a number of other deep and unconscious mental blocks which make helping her out difficult.

Again, I have no idea why and I wish it wasn’t the case.

My attempt to combat this is to shift my mindset through practice.

I’m approaching today as someone who is thrilled to help out his mom who has done so much for him. It’s the least I could do. It’s a no-brainer to take a day off to make her life easier.

For the people we care about, this kind of stuff is well worth the investment. I don’t want to be 40 years old and have my 70-year old mother resent me for never being there for her.

No. I want her to look back and feel lucky to have me as a son…just like I feel lucky to have her as a mom.

That’s a tall order, but it starts today.

What could you do or say today that would strengthen one of your relationships?

Do it. See what happens.

Two questions to ponder today

1) What change would I absolutely love to make in my life?

2) What is standing in the way of me making that change?

Getting choked out five times in five minutes

In the past month, I’ve experienced an increase in skill in Brazilian Jiujitsu. As a white belt, these confidence boosts are incredibly motivating.

Few feelings are better than the feeling of improvement. I feel more capable of helping and teaching newer students. Certain submissions and defenses are becoming more automatic. I was feeling high.

Then yesterday, I rolled against a purple belt in front of our coach. Naturally, he wanted to show his stuff…so he absolutely destroyed me.

He may as well have been wrestling a toddler.

All of the ego boosts I’ve felt in the past month turned to ash during those five minutes. But as horrible as it was, it was a truly beautiful experience.

Why? Because of the useful reminders which came from it:

1) Be proud of your improvements, but know that the work is never done.

2) There will always, always, always be people who are much better than you.

3) Everyone has something to gain by (respectfully) getting their ass beat.

How to get people to read your stuff

A man playing basketball

Here are all the things I’m proud of at the moment:

• The strength of my relationships
• My fitness
• My coaching business
• The fact that I know at least basic martial arts skills
• My intermediate chess abililites
• This blog
• My ability to listen to, connect with, and coach other human beings

What do they all have in common?

They’ve taken a fuck-ton of time (in metric units).

The cliche goes:

“It’s only taken me ten years to become an over-night success.”

Perhaps there are freaks of nature who are naturally good at the things they do. Good for them. But for the other 99% of us, getting great at the things we care about will take countless repetitions.

I’ve been writing this blog every day since October 2019. Those first pieces make me cringe. I had no idea how to string ideas together and I used big words to sound more academic. And for months, each blog was averaging two readers: myself and my super supportive friend. (Thanks Grace!)

Now, there are hundreds of folks tuning in each week and I couldn’t be more grateful. But that hasn’t happened because I’ve found the perfect way to market my stuff or because I’ve shoved it in the faces of enough people.

It’s like that because I’ve sat down each morning and typed out my thoughts. Eventually, I got a little better at writing. My average of two readers went up to three. Then four. And so on…

I’m always skeptical when I see ads like, “Get 100x MORE followers in ONE month!!”

Fuck off.

Maybe methods like that exist, maybe they don’t. I personally have zero interest.

The only thing I care about is consistently showing up to do the work.

This leads to improvement, which leads to higher quality, which leads to more value, which leads to more people interested, which leads to improvement, and on and on it goes…..

Having difficult conversations

A man and woman talking to each other at a picnic table

A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.

Tim Ferriss

I had one yesterday morning.

After months of patiently figuring out what I wanted to say and when I wanted to say it, I called one of my best friends.

The goal was to lovingly and respectfully tell him that I didn’t want to be the only one putting in effort in our friendship anymore. In so many words, I said, “I know you love me and care about this relationship, I just wish you would show it.”

As expected, he took it incredibly well. He apologized immediately and declared he could easily make a change.

I felt so grateful. One, because I have a friend I can have open, honest, and productive conversations with. But two, because one of my strengths is initiating possibly difficult conversations.

Not all of my uncomfortable phone calls have been successful, though.

There’s no guarantee that the other person won’t get insulted or defensive. The only things within our control are our energy, our intentions, and how well we listen.

All easier said than done.

Here’s a simple checklist I use before preparing for a difficult conversation:

1) Do I care about this person?

2) Will having this conversation benefit both of us in the long run?

Example: Ending a relationship you don’t feel invested in—hurting someone in the short term, but saving them even worse heartache in the long term.

3) If they were to handle this horribly (this meaning my open and honest thoughts and feelings), is this someone I want in my life anyway?


I’ve had a number of difficult conversations over the past few years—most received well, some received poorly.

Here’s what I’ve learned…

Firstly, people are surprisingly willing to have deep and uncomfortable conversations…but most people are hesitant to initiate them. In other words, they want to resolve the tension, they’re just waiting on us to make the first move.

My advice: Get good at making the first move.

It takes practice, but it’s a crazy rewarding and useful skill to improve.

And finally, as we improve this skill of starting necessary conversations, we improve as people.

We begin to get clearer on what we value and what we don’t. We also get better at fighting for those values.

What do you value? When’s the last time you had a difficult conversation about it?

Untraining

A mother and her daughter doing yoga

Two of the hardest things I’ve ever done have been:

• getting myself to stop saying “like” as a filler word, and

• getting out of the habit of talking shit about people.

The first step for both was to practice mindfulness and simply acknowledge when I was doing them.

I would start and stop thousands of sentences because I noticed I would automatically use “like” four times in four seconds.

I would also have to pause in conversation because I realized my friends and I were naturally complaining about another person behind their back or insulting them for laughs.

We can train ourselves out of habits that aren’t serving us. What’s more, we can replace them with ones that do.

One of my strengths is my ability to speak and articulate my thoughts. Not saying “like” every other word has helped with that tremendously.

As far as talking shit about people when they’re not around, it’s poisonous. It creates this tendency to look for the bad in people. Plus, it chips away at the trust in relationships.

If you have a friend who talks shit about everybody when they’re not around, what makes you think they don’t do the same thing to you?

When I was trying to untrain myself out of this habit a few years ago, I would force myself to add to the conversation something I respected about the person in question. This can feel unnatural at first, but what I found was that no matter how I felt about someone, there was always at least one thing about them I could praise.

Slowly but surely, I felt myself seeing people in a much more positive and appreciative light.

There’s a lovely piece of advice from Kevin Kelly:

“Compliment people behind their back. It’ll come back to you.”

What would you love to untrain out of your life? What would that take?

How donuts can change your life

A woman holding a donut in her hands

A few months ago, I was watching television with a couple friends.

The volume was so low that I could only make out every fourth word or so. Despite that, we watched two or three episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Finally, my friend asked, “Can you turn it up? I can barely hear what they’re saying.”

My other friend obliged, turned the TV up several notches, and all was right in the universe.

I was struck. It was such a simple example of wanting something to happen without doing anything to make it happen.

What was lovely about it, though, was what it took. All someone had to do was ask. Then boom, they got everything they wanted and made life better for others as well.

It reminded me of the Bag of Donuts theory.

At a party, there’s an unopened bag of donuts. Everyone wants a donut, but no one wants to be the first person to make a move.

An hour goes by and the bag is still untouched. Then, one brave and rebellious individual pops the bag open and enjoys their tasty treat.

In the next 20 minutes, all the donuts are gone.

The Bag of Donuts theory tells us that plenty of people often want the same thing we do…they’re just waiting for someone else to initiate and “give them permission” to take part.

We can be that someone else.

It can feel scary (terrifying at times)…but we can ask to turn the TV up. We can ask for help. We can ask for whatever we want.

We can open that bag of donuts.

What I want to be when I grow up

A mother holding her daughter in a corn field

Here are all the things I’ve ever wanted to be:

• astronaut
• teacher
• rescue swimmer (shoutout Aston Kutcher)
• boxer
• running back at the Naval Academy (lol)
• kicker for a D1 school
• guitarist of a punk rock band (“Where are you?”)
• pro soccer player
• psychologist
• business owner (#entrepreneur)
• music producer
• German translator
• drummer
• sailor
• actor
• father (ladies)
• famous podcaster
• famous YouTuber
• blogger
• web designer
• life coach
• International Master in chess
• purple belt in jiujitsu

I look back at many of these and smile.

The reality is that most of the things we’ve ever dreamed about being or doing in life won’t come to fruition. NOT because we don’t have what it takes, but because we only have so much time and energy to expend in one lifetime.

For many of these, I liked the idea more than doing the actual work it took to make it a reality.

I enjoyed learning how to keep a beat on the drums, but in order to become great, I would’ve needed to practice all the time. Since I had no drum set, no money to pay for lessons, and had a full course load in college…becoming a drummer at that time didn’t feel like the right move.

And there’s the main point:

If the Resistance of the thing outweighs the value we get from it, it’s okay to strategically quit.

We’re not failures for cutting off the energy we’re putting into something. By saying no to one thing, we’re saying yes to something else.

Last year, I tried to do a daily vlog—posting a video of my life and thoughts every single day for four months…

I made it two months before I completely burned out. It became a chore I dreaded; not a fun and challenging creative pursuit.

So I quit.

I said no to a thing I set out to do. But in turn, I said yes to giving more time and mental energy to building my business, making it one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

There’s a stigma against jumping around from hobby to hobby. People say, “I don’t really know what I’m passionate about. I can never really stick to one thing.”

Who said we have to?

Why can’t we just do what feels exciting and challenging at the moment?

If we do that, two things will happen:

1) We get to experience a bunch of cool shit by trying new things, and

2) We up our chances of finding something we’re willing to keep putting time and effort into.

Four magic questions

When dealing with a thought or a limiting belief, answering these four questions can provide some serious clarity:

1) Is this true?

2) How do I absolutely know this is (or isn’t) true?

3) What effect does believing this have on me?

4) What if the opposite is true?

How to love rejection

A woman giving someone the hand

One simple lesson from Jia Jiang’s book Rejection Proof has completely changed the way I see:

• sales
• talking to women
• doing scary things

That lesson is:

When you get rejected, it says nothing about you and everything about the person doing the rejecting.

It doesn’t mean you suck; it just means it’s not the right fit right now.

When I get “rejected” by a female or a prospective client, I think, Good. Now I know they’re not the right person right now.

Why would I want to go on a date with someone who doesn’t want to, but says yes anyway to save my feelings. Why would I work with someone who is only hiring me because they can’t say no?

Rejections and No’s weed out all the folks who don’t have the right chemistry or compatibility for your current goals. They also get you closer to the folks who are the right fit for whatever you’re looking for.

No’s also make you stronger, if you let them. They can harden your skin and sharpen your vision for people and things which align with your values.

They can also help you make adjustments and improvements. Testing and analyzing helps you go, Hmm. People seem to respond better when I do X instead of Y.

In my first full-time sales job, a day of rejection would often leave me feeling drained and defeated. This shit’s hard.

But if we can see each rejection as an opportunity to get closer to the people who are the right fit for us…it can make us unstoppable.

Learning to swim

A pig swimming
I’m the pig.

This June, my best buddy and I are doing a triathlon.

I’m super confident when it comes to the biking and running portions…but I have no idea how to swim even one lap without having to stop to rest.

So I did what any sensible person would do: I recruited a friend for help—she was a D1 swimmer and has 14 years of experience competing and teaching.

I felt bad for adding another commitment on her plate, but she got even more excited than me. (As I said in my article about exchanging value with friends, people usually love sharing their skills with others.)

Yesterday was Day 1. She arrived with training equipment and a set of drills to improve my technique and stamina.

I thought swimming correctly would be incredibly difficult…

And it was.

It was one of the hardest fucking things I’ve ever tried to do.

She showed me how to properly align my shoulders, chest, and hips in the water. I would watch her and swimmers in nearby lanes swim down and back with ease. It all made sense to me.

Then I would push off and try it all myself and after swallowing a liter of water I’d have to stop about halfway to catch my breath. I’d come up laughing and shaking my head. It looks so easy, I thought.

I kept reminding the both of us that this would take practice. While slightly discouraging, I knew I wouldn’t become amazing at it immediately.

“This is why we’re here,” I repeated to myself.

She was patient and supportive and slowly but surely, I could feel slight improvements. I was able to swim further and further without stopping. By the end of our hour and a half time slot, I could swim from one end to the other without taking a break.

In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a big deal. But compared to my first attempted lap, I felt like a totally new person.

Day 1 was a success. It was fun. And it was my first step to being prepared for this triathlon.

The major lessons:

• You don’t need natural ability to improve in something.

• Just focus on getting 1% better right now.

• Ask people for help; they’d probably love to take part.

No matter what

There are plenty of days where I don’t feel like writing this blog.

I have no ideas and resist exploring my thoughts.

On other days, I’ll spend 45 minutes hashing out a thought.

What matters isn’t the amount of time I spend writing or even the quality of the writing.

What matters is that I show up every single day and do it.

What could you get really good at if, no matter what, you had to show up every single day and do the work?

Unfamiliar environment

This weekend, I’m staying at my mom’s house. They’re out of town and I’m watching the dogs.

Trying to follow your normal routine in a different environment is strange.

Although I have access to all the same things as any other day—food, a space to work, a comfortable bed….

It’s not the same.

I feel out of place. It even feels like I can’t do the same quality work.

Our brains are odd in that they designate certain environments for certain tasks and regimens.

I love these dogs…but God am I looking forward to going back home.

Some questions

Questions to ask yourself consistently:

• What’s begging for my attention right now?

• What Resistance am I running into?

• How am I complicit in the discomfort in my life?

As always, I’d love to hear and discuss your answers.

Bowling is…cool?

Last night, while waiting for a friend to join me at the bar, I overheard a guy talking to his buddy.

He was explaining how good he was at bowling.

Firstly, I love hearing about anyone’s passions…but if you’re going to start bragging about something, maybe bowling isn’t the ideal activity.

But more importantly, my eye-rolling reminded me of an important fact:

If you’re good at something, other people will say so for you.

Be a guide, not a boss

A sign that says "Don't be a prick"

One of the first lessons I gathered from my coaching mentor:

“People don’t do well with solutions they’ve had little or no part in creating.”

I’ve learned this through experience…

Coaching people who want to make a change. Giving unsolicited advice to friends. Preaching on this blog.

No matter how good your advice is, how useful it is, or how “right” you are…you simply can’t make or force anyone to do, think, or feel a certain way. They have to reach that place on their own.

The solution? Provide people a space for them to explore and make decisions. Listen deeply. Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.

This is contextual, of course. Sometimes, tough love is needed. When I was in my darkest place, listening to Joe Rogan and having him proverbially grab my shoulders and tell me to get my act together was exactly what I needed.

But I write this in response to what I see so many people doing (including my past self). That is: Feeling frustrated because you’ve given a person the correct answers and they keep doing the same things.

But the correct answer isn’t enough. We all know what simple things we could be doing to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled. Yet we don’t do them.

Why? Because we have to come up with those answers (and why they’re important) on our own.

In the life coaching sphere, we say, “Coach the person, not the problem.”

We all have similar problems but we differ in how we see them and how they’re impacting us.

It’s hard work, but we must be a guide, not a boss, if we want to bring about change.

A guide helps people maneuver through places they want to go. A boss tells people where to go.

You’re nobody’s boss. But you could be a guide to anyone.

I’m not a natural

At a recent dinner, I heard one of my least favorite compliments.

When discussing my coaching business and my podcast, someone claimed, “He’s a natural.”

They were trying to show support and truly meant well, but I’d like to dissect that claim a bit.

Though it’s not the intention, using the word “natural” tends to ignore the countless hours of practice, anxiety, and discomfort a person must go through.

You would never call Tom Brady a natural. He’s been playing football almost every day since he was a child. Along the way, he’s been intercepted, sacked, and doubted tremendously by others and by himself.

When people tell me…

• I’m a natural at podcasting, they haven’t heard my first podcasts where I couldn’t string a single idea together.

• I’m a natural at coaching, they haven’t seen all the hours I put in each week to be a better coach and business owner.

• I’m a natural at living a disciplined life, they haven’t seen my first 23 years of being a true mess—failing out of college, accruing massive debt, and trying to end my life.

99.9% of people aren’t natural at anything. This shit takes work.

You never know what’s going on behind the scenes. The next time you see a master, don’t think, They’re really good at this; instead think, They must’ve been practicing this for a long time.

Remembering

We know how to live better lives.

We know that:

• being fitter will make us look and feel better
• more time on social media will make us more anxious
• staying up super late will make us exhausted the next day
• more time with loved ones and with our passions will make us more fulfilled
• expanding our comfort zones will provide us more opportunities….

So why do we struggle with all these things we know to be true?

Because in a sense, the day to day hustle and bustle of life clouds our vision. We get distracted. We forget.

When I’ve had a long ass day, my brain’s not thinking about how to optimize my wellbeing before bed; it’s craving the dopamine of watching another YouTube video as I slide under the covers.

I’m thinking: Yes, I know that in the past staying up late watching YouTube makes me more tired when I wake up and it makes the day harder…but this time, I really need to stay up and watch YouTube.

I forget.

Then, like clockwork, I wake up the next day and remember…usually with some self-loathing.

But what if I was able to remember before suffering the consequences?

One strategy I use to remember is by reinforcing the fact that I tell myself lies.

“I won’t regret: staying up late…eating a sixth donut…skipping the gym…blowing my friend off…”

Lies. All of them.

One of my best friends once said:

“Resistance always comes in reasonable forms.”

Our forgetting what is good for us always seems rational in the moment. It’s only after the fact that we see what’s really going on.

Let’s get in the habit of remembering what we already know.

Otherizing

It’s incredibly easy to “otherize” someone.

They’re just another:

• refugee
• thug
• liberal
• Republican
• straight white man
• bossy woman

But if you were to go up to any individual who ticks the boxes for any of these categories…after one conversation, you’d discover a complex world of struggle, stress, and livelihood.

Take me for example.

I’m a straight white man—as are many of my closest friends.

Does that encapsulate me? Does that define who my friends and I are as human beings?

I certainly recognize and acknowledge the privileges I have, but no one who knows me would say I’m just another straight white man.

Yet when we don’t know a person or a group of people intimately—regardless of their size, shape, or color—it’s all too easy to place them in a box.

I used to think that super left-wing people were overemotional and irrational.

Only when I actually put in the time to have good-faith debates and discussions with the more liberal-minded people I knew…did I begin to see my error in thinking.

When I wouldn’t get yelled at for stating my opinion…when I would hear reasonable and well-constructed arguments…I would think, Wait, but they’re liberal. Aren’t they supposed to be crazy emotional and triggered right now?

I was otherizing them.

Conclusion

No matter how much you think otherwise, you can’t actually know a person until you get to know them.

You don’t have to love them or agree with them, but you can recognize that they are in fact a human being—made of the same set of organs, bones, and worries that you’re made of.

2 stripes

Last night, I got my first two stripes on my Brazilian jiu jitsu belt.

This is my first ever milestone in the sport. It tells others, “I’m still a newbie, but it’s not my first day.”

I remember in the first three months of starting, I literally thought to myself, I’ll never get better at this.

It’ll be so fun to think back to that thought when I earn my blue belt, purple belt, and so on…

The lesson:

If you feel like you can’t get better at something, practice it every single week for a year and see what happens.

Sitting by the river

Yesterday, one of my best friends from Rwanda and I took a lovely stroll around a local nature park.

While we were sitting and chatting on the dock by the river, I zoned out for a second while she was talking.

The good news is that it wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in what she was saying.

I zoned out because I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I have access to such beauty and fulfillment in this life.

I have:

• Daily access to food and clean drinking water.
• A comfortable bed.
• A job I absolutely love.
• A tribe of friends and family who are alive and healthy.
• This blog, where I can write out my thoughts and hear what others think about them.

It can be easier said than done…but one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself (in good times and in bad) is hyper-focus on what you have and what you’re grateful for.

Work and play

A little boy playing in a pile of leaves

After a week-long vacation, I’m back in my home office itching to get back to work.

I’m grateful to love what I do.

People talk about work/life balance. I have no idea what the perfect formula for that is or if it even exists.

My typical process is this:

Spend a few weeks working → Crave a vacation → Take a vacation → Crave getting back to work → Get back to work → Repeat

It works for me (get it?).

What I love about this process is how much better I get at my work by taking intentional breaks. Like letting our muscles recover after a workout, we counterintuitively get better results the more we set aside time for fun and relaxation.

I can’t stand when people say they sleep less so they can get more done in a day. That’s ludicrous.

You get more done in a day when you’re well-rested and full of mental energy. If that weren’t the case, insomniacs would be the most successful people on earth.

Sleep. Rest. Fun. Play time.

These are essential to our productivity and our well-being.

Take that trip. Go on vacation.

Then get the fuck back to work.

Lessons from Denver

The Rocky Mountains

As always happens, the incredible vacation I’ve been enjoying this week is suddenly coming to a close.

Tomorrow in the early morning, I hop on a plane back to Maryland.

Here’s a short list of my favorite things I’ve done this week in Denver as well as the lessons from them:

1) Spending every day with some of my closest friends.

Friends are meant to spend quality time with. We’re social creatures and the relationships in our lives shape who we are and what we’re capable of.

Yesterday was my best buddy’s birthday. We all spent the day at the biggest park I’ve ever seen, drank spiked Kombucha, and played spike ball. (Wow, so much spike.)

Visit your friends. Invest time and money into the people you love. It pays dividends as the years go by. I’ll remember that day at the park forever.

2) Playing chess every day and going rock climbing.

There will always be a part of me that loves to party: staying up late, drinking, experimenting with drugs…

But at the ripe age of 27, I find I don’t have time anymore for relationships where that’s all we do.

It’s important to find friends you can do challenging things with, have beautiful conversations with, and inspire each other to learn and take action.

I brought my buddy into the world of chess. It excites me to see him beat his other friend with the lessons and practice we’ve shared. It also excites me to show him how much I improve at rock climbing since he and his partner brought me into that world.

3) Waking up to the view of Denver and the Rocky Mountains.

From my friends’ high rise apartment, I can look out right now and see the entire Denver skyline, Red Rocks amphitheater, and three enormous snowcapped mountains.

I’ve never seen so many dogs, Teslas, and open spaces for humans and dogs to roam around…in one place.

It’s important to go exploring. It’s always a lovely learning experience when you get out of your little bubble and meet other humans in their bubbles.

Getting out of my bubble for a week has been well worth any amount of time or money I put into this excursion.

In short: Visit your friends, find friends you can do challenging things with, and get a dog…or a Tesla.

Learning to climb

Someone rock climbing up a mountain

Yesterday, my friends took me to their local rock climbing gym here in Denver.

I’m deathly afraid of heights. As in: when I look down and see nothing between the ground and my feet, I lose physical control of my body.

It was nerve-wracking and exhilarating watching my friends climb up the 50-foot wall, seemingly with ease.

Naturally, I started small. Just some low-level bouldering.

It was challenging, exhausting, and exciting. I would slip and fall off close to the top of my little 12-foot wall and my competitive nature wanted to jump right back on it and try again.

It was a humbling reminder:

With anything you want to do in life, you have to start on day 1.

Most people are afraid of the discomfort of the early days of improvement.

You could embarrass yourself. Everyone else is an expert and you have no clue. You don’t belong here.

But that’s all nonsense.

Anyone who’s better than you at anything…they started on day 1. The only difference is that now they’re on like day 1149 and you haven’t started yet.

So if you want to improve, start. Then do it more. Do it a lot. Get really fucking good at it.

Eventually, someone will look at you and think, I could never do that.

Then you’ll gently remind them that you were there too once.

One day, I’ll climb that 50-foot wall and talk about how I used to be terrified of heights.