Sleep masks

A woman sleeping with a sleep mask

I’ve been wearing a sleep mask for about three years now.

At first (for a few days), I hated the sensation of having something wrapped around my face. But that was short-lived.

It didn’t take long for me to start seeing the major benefit—increased melatonin.

Our body’s produce melatonin naturally to help promote sleep. It’s the chemical in our brains that goes, “It’s dark now…must be time for sleep!”

So it’s no wonder that a sleep mask—something that blocks practically all light from our eyes—helps us sleep through the night. It keeps everything dark until we take it off or until it falls off our faces as we toss and turn.

I messed up my mask this weekend and have been without it the past two nights. Holy shit. I’ve woken up several times each morning as the sun peeks through my window.

A new one is in the mail. And I recommend anyone who is hesitant to give it a shot for a week or two.

Four

Vacation.

Three

On…

Two

Write.

One

Can’t…

Effortless

I just finished reading Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most by Greg McKeown.

It was the perfect sequel to the book that changed my life last year: Essentialism—The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

This book challenges the notion that anything important or valuable has to be hard work.

Hard work is lovely, but it’s wildly beneficial to us if we stop and ask: “What would it look like if this were easy?”

I’m a slow reader…and I flew through this in two days because I enjoyed it so much.

My biggest takeaways:

• Burnout is not a badge of honor.

• The more you complain, the more you have to complain about. The more grateful you are, the more you have to be grateful for.

• When you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. When you focus on what you have, you get what you lack.

• Establish clear conditions for what ‘done’ means, then stop.

• There is no mastery without making mistakes. And there is no learning without the courage to be rubbish.

Sleeping in

A baby sleeping
Me at age 7.

I hate sleeping in.

When I’m up, I’m up. Sometimes it’s a nuisance but I’m mostly grateful.

I like hopping right out of bed and starting my day.

Perhaps this was born out of necessity since I don’t use my phone for the first two hours of the morning.

I’m of the opinion that extra sleep is best gained by going to bed earlier.

But what do I know? I’m just a guy typing on his keyboard at 6:30 in the morning.

Sleepy pants

My day is always twice as difficult when I don’t prioritize sleep the night before.

It always blows my mind how easy it is to sacrifice good sleep…since the consequences are heavy and immediate.

After a night of poor-quality sleep, we…

• have less energy
• are less motivated
• have less willpower
• aren’t as creative
• aren’t as kind

But who needs all that?

My bet is: If everyone on the planet got consistently good sleep, there would be fewer deaths and accidents in the world.

Worst case scenario…we’d get more done.

Get some sleep.

Two people learning piano

Two people playing piano together

There are two people who both want to become amazing piano players.

Person 1 spends weeks researching and buys one of the nicest keyboards they could find. Person 2 buys a cheap one on Facebook Marketplace in a day.

Person 1 is amped to sit down and play, but at random times. When they practice they play for hours, but then go days without touching their keyboard. Person 2 practices for 10 minutes each day no matter what. Person 1 plays when they are motivated. Person 2 builds a system where they play no matter how they’re feeling.

Person 1 jumps around to learn all the songs they love most. Person 2 spends most of their time practicing the fundamentals—scales and chords.

Person 1 talks about playing piano a ton and posts about it on social media. Person 2 actually plays piano a ton and doesn’t talk about it much.

Person 1 takes long breaks from playing when they hit a wall or lose interest. Person 2 pushes through these ruts and improves drastically each time they do.

Person 1 is intimidated by others who are much better than they are. Person 2 finds friends and strangers alike to learn from and be inspired by.

After one year, Person 1 has spent an enormous amount of time thinking about being a great piano player…while Person 2 is actually becoming quite good.

Person 1 has built a gorgeous-looking blueprint. Person 2 got right into the muddy trenches and went to work—making mistakes every single day until things began to flow.

Whether it’s learning an instrument, starting a business, or creating anything, we all want to be more like Person 2.

Why I don’t promote my business

A woman raising her arms in a sunflower field with bubbles in the air

In the past week, two different people have asked me why I don’t use my blog or newsletter to promote my business or try to get leads.

The answer is simple: I don’t want to. But here’s why.

1) It doesn’t work.

Not in my line of business.

Coaching is about building relationships with people through fun and powerful conversations. This is all done by reaching out, getting curious, and diving deep with individuals…not by sending a mass call to action and impersonally asking people to come to you.

Scenario 1: Someone you went to high school with posts the link to their website in a Facebook status telling everyone they’re giving free coaching sessions.

Scenario 2: Someone you went to high school with messages you asking how you’re doing. You hop on an hour-long call with them and share stories of what you both have been up to for the past decade. You discuss how you both have grown and the direction you’d like to head toward. You hear them talk about their coaching business and how passionate they are about helping people. Maybe at some point they invite you to a coaching session as a gift to see if they can help you too.

Which of these is more likely to lead to you sitting down and doing a session?

You might be thinking: neither. That’s normal. Most people don’t know what life coaching is. They’re afraid of being open and exploring vulnerabilities with someone they barely knew in high school.

But some people are totally down. So if they are, we schedule a call and explore what’s possible in their lives. But this only happens after the proper time has been taken to build that connection.

Here’s the catch…there is no catch. I love connecting with, reconnecting with, and learning more about people. So no matter what, I win. If we have a lovely hour-long chat about what they’re up to, I invite them to a coaching session, and they say no thanks, I still got everything I was hoping for.

I’m not here to “close” clients, hit my numbers, or get any sort of result. I’m here to have as many fun and powerful conversations as I possibly can. If a conversation leads to a paying client, cool! If not, cool!

Which brings me to the main reason I don’t promote my business on my blog or newsletter

2) I do this shit because I enjoy it.

Each and every morning, I sit down and type a short blog and hit Publish. And every Thursday, I build my newsletter for Friday morning.

It’s therapeutic. It develops my skills as a writer, thinker, and content creator. And above all, it’s fun.

I love sharing my thoughts with close friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike. I’m honored that they would spend even 60 seconds reading what I have to say.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve had several fruitful conversations stem from people disagreeing with something I’ve posted. When 600 people read something you write, they’re going to have some thoughts about it.

Anyway, if my focus for this stuff was results-oriented: leads, subscribers, followers, etc…I’d burn out in a week.

I have no interest in mixing the thing I do purely out of love and joy with business goals and targets. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing…it’s just not my bag of wine.

From my limited experience in creating content and publishing it, the major piece of advice I give people is this:

If you’re going to create content, make sure you love doing it first…because if you don’t—if you’re solely doing it for a result—those early days where nobody’s interested will destroy your soul.

Feed your soul instead. Create shit because you love it.

Please like everything I write

Someone told me last week that they disagreed with something I wrote a year ago on this blog.

To which I replied: “I have no doubt.”

I write one of these blogs every day (except on Sundays). It’s used more as a journal than a medium for sharing my thoughts. It would be truly impossible for 100% of people who read it to agree with 100% of what I say.

That’s not to say I’m free from criticism. Far from it. I post this for all to see. I’m thinking out loud…and it would be hypocritical if I got hurt when others thought out loud back at me. I welcome messages and challenges.

I love when people disagree with me, thinking I’m missing something, or am being unfair. It leads to fun and hopefully fruitful conversation.

Even more so, I love when I disagree with myself. Sometimes I’ll go back and read random blogs I wrote a few years ago and cringe at my preachiness and self-righteousness. But I’m grateful for that disgust because it means, hopefully, that I’m growing.

You can please some of the people some of the time…but some people will always quietly hate you.

What you need to be successful

A successful person on top of a mountain
Not me.

I heard a quasi-debate the other day between friends.

The question at play: What leads to a person’s success—hard work…or luck?

On one end, we can be given all the best tools and resources necessary to live amazing lives; but if we don’t take action and actually use those tools…nothing will happen.

We need to do the work.

On the other end, we don’t choose anything about ourselves: to be born, who our parents are, where we’re born, our brain makeup, etc. If we grow up in a neighborhood where education isn’t available and drugs and violence are rampant…it would be almost impossible to develop an “I’ll just work my ass off” mentality.

We need to be lucky.

The Growth Mindset—the belief that we can improve in anything with enough time and effort put into it—is real. But it’s only real if a person believes it’s real. Hence the word mindset.

And a person can only believe it’s real if they have the luck and means to—e.g. a community which challenges them, an inner ability to pursue things, or access to the internet or to books.

As with almost every debate, my stance is that two things can exist at the same time. In order to be successful we must put in the work consistently…and we have to be lucky.

Certified Insight Coach

Today, I graduate from my 16-week coaching academy.

In this time, I’ve received a ridiculous amount of training, made friends with coaches on six different continents, and leveled up as a coach and a business owner tremendously.

Each week, we turn in our report. Here’s my last one:

What did you learn?

I learned firsthand:

  • that you can do anything well if you’re willing to practice it every single week.
  • that mistakes, No’s, rejections, ruts, doubts, fears…are all fuel.
  • how to run and grow a sustainable business with zero advertising or promoting.
  • how to stand up for myself—my time, my energy, and my life.
  • that I don’t have to do more or work harder to get what I want.
  • how to run a group call.
  • how to ask for what I want.
  • how to be an effective speaker, communicator, and coach.
  • how to run toward the things that scare me—proposals, asking to connect, inviting people to coaching sessions, and giving feedback (all of which I LOVE doing now).
  • what it’s like to have a family of friends and colleagues I’ve never even met before.
  • how to provide the space.
  • how to be a leader.
  • that I don’t need to know how to do something in order to do it.
  • that it’s okay to be scared, so long as it doesn’t keep you from taking action.
  • how to Vox John so much that he asks everyone to stop Voxing him as much.
  • that no matter how unprepared, terrified, or confused I am…I’m ready.
  • that I’m damn good at this.
  • that I know so much.
  • that I know so little.

And who did you become?

I became:

  • an extraordinary coach.
  • an effective business owner.
  • enriched by this process.
  • humbled by the same process.
  • a certified Insight Coach (duh).
  • wildly confident when: coaching anyone, helping coaches, and sharing my thoughts and stories.
  • a member of the ICC team!
  • so good at chess that I destroy Tomas every time we play (can you believe he’s a chess tutor?).
  • someone who runs workshops and group calls.
  • a guy who is fearless and terrified at the same damn time.
  • the best version of myself I’ve ever encountered.
  • even funnier than I already was (which I thought was impossible).
  • a mentor, a mentee, and a friend.
  • a master.
  • a life-long student.

Today is graduation day, but I feel like the party is only getting started!

The E-Myth

I just finished The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.

It was a super helpful, albeit cheesy book on running a business.

Here are my two biggest takeaways:

1) Being a Technician—i.e. being skilled at your craft/service—does not qualify you to be a business owner.

Great bakers, coaches, or carpenters don’t necessarily make folks who are great at running bakeries, practices, or home remodeling companies. Running the back end of a business is a completely different ball game.

In short, there’s a huge difference between working in your business and working on your business.

2) Your business is not your life; it should fuel your life.

I needed to hear this.

For the past year, I’ve been growing my first ever business and have become more and more passionate about it as it grows each month. Thinking about my business—creating clients, scheduling calls, inviting people to coaching sessions….I would be focusing on this stuff almost 24/7.

I wore that like a badge of honor, but I had to be reminded that that wasn’t my life. My life is my friends, my family, my health. My life is the freedom I enjoy with the people I love. I want my work to give me more freedom, not chip away at it.

If anyone owns any kind of business, or is at least considering it (no matter how big or small), I would consider this book mandatory reading.

Laughing on a boat

A couple laughing on a boat
A better-looking, more muscular version of me.

I took most of this weekend off to spend time with friends.

We had a shrimp boil, played corn hole, and drank Coors Light on a boat. Simple living.

It was one of those weekends where you find yourself belly-laughing every five minutes or so.

Being on the water. Telling jokes and stories. Discussing ideas about life.

I’m not a religious man. I don’t really believe in purpose or destiny…

But I dare say that’s what life is all about.

The Addict Brain

A female addict drinking wine and smoking a cigarette

Last night, I really wanted to stay up and watch YouTube videos on my phone. I wasn’t tired enough to go to bed at my ideal hour: 10pm.

I recently listened to a podcast where a comedian talked about the Addict Brain. He was using it in the context of cocaine and cigarettes, but said it applies to almost everything we do.

To be clear, I have friends and clients who have been to rehab and have been sober for years because of their addictions. By no means have I experienced an archetypal, debilitating addiction to drugs or alcohol.

But the Addict Brain is at play whenever we are faced with something we know is no good for us but our mind tells us: “Don’t worry, it makes sense for you to do this!”

Logically, I’m 100% certain I will regret these things if I do them:

• DoorDashing a large Wawa sub with mac and cheese instead of cooking a decent meal.
• Staying up watching YouTube on my phone until 12:30 at night.
• Skipping my meditation, the gym, or jiujitsu.
• Watching porn.
• Playing video games instead of going to class (when I was in high school and college).

When I have been faced with these decisions, logic is never at play. The Addict Brain throws rationality out the window. I say I’m certain I’ll regret these things because I have mountains of evidence which prove that to be true. I’m never happy or fulfilled after doing any of these things.

So last night, when I had all the energy in the world to stay up later and watch my favorite chess streamers…I turned my phone off and tried to sleep. After 20 or 30 minutes of tossing and turning, I woke up this morning, slid my sleep mask off, and began my morning routine feeling refreshed and grateful.

Thus is the age-old battle between instant gratification and long-term fulfillment.

I’m fulfilled when I’m:

• Eating well.
• Getting great, consistent sleep.
• Active and mindful.
• Present.
• Productive.

The thing is, all this stuff takes time. It’s a slow burn. It compounds, meaning it takes a while to feel the effects but the longer we do it the stronger those effects are.

Example: I’m not just working out this afternoon so I can feel accomplished today. I’m working out this afternoon and then consistently after so I can look good with my shirt off, do fun and athletic things in the future, and be in great shape for my partner and family down the road.

But it all starts today.

It begins with our next meal, with tonight’s bedtime routine, with the next workout. And then the next one. Then the next. And so on…

The Addict Brain wants to keep us from being healthy and fulfilled. But fuck that.

My religion

A person praying next to a bunch of candles

I am not religious at all, but here’s the closest thing I have to a faith-based belief:

Every single one of us has the ability to create the life we want, and the only thing in our way are the stories we tell ourselves.

These stories may sound like…

• “I’m just not x.
• “I don’t know how to y.”
• “I need to be more z.

But they’re all complete nonsense. Understandable nonsense…but nonsense all the same.

There are people without limbs in the Olympics, blind musicians, and impoverished and oppressed people who become financially free.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy and that doesn’t mean we should do nothing for those less fortunate. It’s a battle for all of us. Some will have to fight harder than others.

Me, for example…I grew up in a great neighborhood, had loving and supportive parents and friends, and have never feared for my life. I have both gone through hell, and at the same time, had it super easy.

This isn’t some “being broke is a mindset” blog. I advocate for compassion and understanding of all.

But I encourage anyone to fight for what they want, wherever their starting line is.

How you do one thing

I’ve found that when one area of my life begins to slip, so too do other areas.

When I skip on a bunch of exercises in a week, it tends to be an unproductive week of work as well.

When I have an unproductive week of work, I feel less secure in my friendships.

When I feel less secure in my friendships, it’s harder for me to cook healthy meals.

The opposite is also true. When one thing is going super well, other facets of my life seem to thrive.

“How you do one thing is how you do everything.”

Letting go

I had a lovely coaching session with a client this past weekend where he let something go after seven years.

He had been writing songs since he got out of college and they have been unfinished all this time. The challenge is, his music tastes have changed a ton so he doesn’t feel inclined to go and finish the songs he started years ago.

By talking it out, he decided to let those songs go and archive them.

“I’m not going to finish them and there’s a reason why.”

He decluttered his life. He made space for more time and bandwidth.

What can you let go of to do the same?

You don’t need

You don’t need a better computer to become a writer.
You don’t need a better guitar to become a musician.
You don’t need a better camera to become a photographer.
What you need is to get to work.

James Clear

What’s your system?

A bunch of electronic chords plugged into a system
The inside of my brain.

We all have a system for doing things.

Some of us reject the the word system. That’s fine, but we all have a series of actions we take or don’t take with everything we do. Habits are just a form of systems.

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
― James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Our bank accounts are the sum total of our financial habits. The way we look and feel is the sum total of our diet and exercise habits. How messy or tidy our space is is the sum total of our cleanliness habits.

Last month, I got terrible sleep. Since my sleep quality is the sum total of my sleeping habits, I did some investigation.

I noticed I was:

• on my phone a lot right before bed
• eating later in the day
• drinking more alcohol than usual

So I improved the system. No phone after 10pm. Not eating past 8pm. No alcohol on weekdays.

After just one week, my sleep quality has improved drastically and I feel ten times more refreshed and energetic.

Dillan Taylor's sleep report
My sleep data from Sleep Cycle.

In a recent conversation with a coaching friend, she told me, “It’s impressive to me how you set a goal and just attack it.” I was truly touched by her compliment, but right away I explained that that’s not how I approach things.

In the self-help world, we’re told to set SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.
e.g. “I’m going to lose 15 pounds by August 2nd.”

I understand the utility of setting such specific goals, but they don’t light me up at all. I usually change my mind halfway through working toward them or if I do accomplish them, I’m left with this empty feeling and simply ask, “Now what?”

I much prefer systems.

To be more clear: I prefer designing systems which allow me to consistently doing the things I enjoy and get better at them. Here are a few of them…

Coaching:

I reach out to a certain number of people each week and update my client notes every Monday. I’m not working toward a defined number of clients or a specific dollar amount. I just love coaching and growing my business, so I have a system in place which lets me do those things well every single week.

Exercise:

I’ve never set an exercise goal. I couldn’t care less about how much I can bench or squat. But I love exercise, so I make sure I go to the gym three to four times each week. The cycle: push muscles (chest and triceps), core, pull muscles (back and biceps), and legs.

This blog:

I look at the analytics of this blog about once a year. I’m eternally grateful for how the number of readers has increased, but I don’t do it to raise traffic. I write this blog each morning because it helps me shape and get clarity on my thoughts on things. I’ve become more articulate and I get to share stories and ideas with friends and people outside my circle. So I’ve made it part of my morning routine.

Conclusion

So I’ll ask you: How can you create a system for the things you enjoy so you can do them more and do them better?

Do you reject systems? If so, why? And does rejecting systems lead you to take more action or less?

If I had a million dollars

A pile of hundred dollar bills

If you won $1,000,000 tax-free…and had to spend it on things for yourself (meaning: no buying things for others, investing, or saving), what would you purchase?

In other words: If you were forced to splurge on yourself, how would you do it?

Here’s mine. I would…

• Pay off all my debt—student loans, credit card, car payments.

• Buy a team—accountant, travel agent, nutritionist, personal trainer, chess tutor, editor.

• Start a YouTube production company.

• Buy a retreat for coaching.

• Update all my tech gear—camera, microphone, computer.

• And of course…buy plane tickets to go on trips with my friends and family around the world.

What would you do?

Losing power

For the first time in my adult life, we lost power at my place.

We lit candles and reminisced over the good days when we could sit on our phones with the lights on. Instead, we had to sit on our phones with the lights off.

It got me thinking…what else do we constantly have at our disposal that we totally take for granted? It didn’t take me long to realize the answer: everything.

The fact that I…

• can see and hear
• have all four of my limbs
• don’t have any major disease
• have friends
• have parents and grandparents who are alive

The list could literally go on forever.

One day, these things will be taken from me. The only thing I can do is cherish them in the present.

Anxious dogs

Three curious dogs looking up

I’m watching my mom’s dogs for the week. They’re both anxious as hell.

One has separation anxiety. The instant I walk out the door he starts barking and crying until someone returns. The neighbors love it.

The other can’t make it halfway around my apartment building without trying to shed her harness off. She gets terrified by the sounds around her: cars, birds, cicadas…and pleads to head back to the house.

Logically, the first dog must know that someone will come back home. They always do. And the second dog must know that nothing is going to attack her while we’re on our walk. Nothing ever does.

But we can’t logic away our emotions.

I firmly believe that we should train ourselves to step away from powerful emotions which aren’t serving us. But that doesn’t eliminate the fact that we feel powerful emotions.

When I see someone get triggered during a socio-political conversation, I think: That’s not useful. But I never judge that person. We experience emotional responses that aren’t useful almost every day.

Extreme pride, shame, panic, disgust…These almost never serve us.

If I could explain to these dogs that they have nothing to worry about and they changed their behavior, their lives would become much easier. But how often does that actually happen?

We all know that person who got back with their shitty significant other after being cheated on twice. That’s clearly illogical. But we’re not logical beings. We make decisions based on our emotions and then justify them with logic.

We’re not awful people for having harmful emotions. But it’s up to us to not let them dictate our actions or decision-making.

Morning walks

Today I’m going on an early morning walk with my buddy.

I couldn’t think of a better way to jumpstart the day.

It’s a lovely reminder of how important (and impactful) it is to do something with others with no phone around.

No internet. No notifications. Just laughs and conversation.

Pick your stress

A stressed woman with her hand on her forehead

We often wonder or are asked, “What do you want in life?”

Naturally, this is an important question. It’s valuable to be able to paint a vivid picture of what our ideal life looks like or what we’re working toward. But I don’t actually think it’s the most useful question if we want to know these things.

Pain, discomfort, doubt, anxiety, displeasure…These are all totally natural experiences as we go about our lives. Unless a person has achieved enlightenment, they’re a liar if they claim to never feel any of these unpleasant emotions.

I live a fulfilling life. I love what I do, have amazing friendships, am healthy, and have a number of hobbies and passions I pursue…And I experience these shitty feelings all the time.

The question most people fail to ask themselves is this:

What stress am I willing to experience?

Let me explain.

Last year, I worked my first sales job and fucking hated it. I dreaded going to work, wasn’t good at it, and would come home utterly drained and void of energy to do anything I cared about. That was stressful.

During lockdown, I quit that job and started freelancing. I had to teach myself skills I’d never tried before and ask people to pay me to do them, wasn’t good at it, and never knew where my next paycheck would come from. That was stressful.

But here’s the thing: I was super willing to take on that second form of stress. The stress from my old sales job broke me. The Resistance was higher than the value I got out of it. But when I was freelancing, the freedom I experienced in creating my own schedule and living life on my own terms was totally worth the discomfort I was feeling.

Stress and discomfort are natural constants in life. What discomfort are you willing to go through? What makes it all worth it?

Sometimes I wake up depressed

Money, overwhelm, habits falling off.

I take very good care of myself…but I’m still a human being, which means sometimes I don’t.

What do I do when this happens?

• Tell my support system—friends, mom, colleagues.
• Let myself feel this way—i.e. don’t try to hide it or convince myself otherwise.
• Exercise.
• Help other people.

Ups and downs come and go. But neither lasts forever.

A friendly weekend

It’s always a bittersweet morning when a friend leaves after visiting for the weekend.

When he arrived on Thursday night, I thought, Wow, we have three nights. He’ll be here forever!

But as happens every time, the weekend flew by and before I knew it I was hugging him goodbye.

He left me with some insight as he packed up his stuff. He said it rarely feels like his trips last the perfect amount of time; it’s either not enough time or too much. “I prefer when it feels like I wish I had more time. I remember the trips purely as fun, with zero frustration. Also, it makes me excited for the next one.”

It certainly wasn’t enough time…I am looking forward to the next one.

Visit your friends.

VYF

I took the weekend off because one of my best friends is visiting.

He’s sitting right behind me on his computer as I type away on mine.

Today we’ll go for a hike, get some lunch, play some chess…

Life is good. Visit your friends.

Can I help?

In a session yesterday, a client told me about the two question he asks himself when talking to a prospective client.

I think they could be applicable to any kind of relationship:

1) Can I help this person or add value to their life?

2) Do I want to?