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?
A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.
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?
• 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.
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.
• 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.
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.
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.
• 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.
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.
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.
There are TONS of them in the world of self-improvement. After diving deeper and deeper into that world for the past four years, I’ve realized that that’s because living a great life, while bitter work, is genuinely quite simple.
I could list out a bunch of my favorite, powerful cliches, like:
• Suffer now so you may thrive later. • When you obsess over things you can’t control, you lose twice. • Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
…But I’ll just focus on one for today.
If you dedicate yourself to helping others, you’ll get everything you want.
This is true in business, relationships, and your overall health and well-being.
Of course, you still have to look out for yourself. Not sleeping for five days straight because you’ve been helping every person you can is not ideal.
But in general, focusing on finding ways to serve others does several things to help get you where you want to be.
1) You make more money.
Numbers have never motivated me.
After starting my own business last year, I tried to come up with a financial business plan, but it never seemed to drive me to work better or harder.
Then, when I started coaching, I threw away all my “business plans.” The new plan was (and still is):
Have as many fun and powerful conversations with people as I possibly can.
Since this adjustment in my mindset, I’ve made more in a few months than what I thought would take me three years to attain.
If you’re helping people…if you’re bringing them value…they will want to reciprocate with their own money, time, or attention.
2) You grow your network effortlessly.
Networking doesn’t have to involve suits, cocktail parties, and business cards.
That stuff’s fine, but not necessary.
A major lesson for me in the past year:
You don’t need to search far and wide for a diverse and valuable network. You have everything you need right in front of you.
I didn’t know this until I started reaching out to friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances from my past. I’ve had fruitful conversations with folks of all kinds of passions, skills, and personalities.
Naturally, this has increased my chances of being referred to. People have mentioned me to others when discussing blogging or life coaching. I’ve even helped a few people wanting to start a YouTube channel. This wasn’t because I’m a pro filmmaker (I only have 110 subscribers); it was because I have a YouTube channel and people in my network know that.
To mirror the first point, if you provide value to others, they will stick around. Not so much in a transactional sense, but because you make their lives better or easier in some way. And for the vast majority of people, they’ll want to give back.
3) It makes you happier.
There was a study done to prove this.
They had people fill out a questionnaire to measure happiness levels. Then, half of them were asked by an actor to do them a favor.
Not only did this mean they were helping another person, but they also typically engaged in light conversation with the actor.
The subjects took similar happiness quizzes at the end of the experiment.
92% of people in the “favor group” reported much higher levels of positivity, gratitude, and overall happiness.
The next time you feel stuck, ask yourself, “How can I help?”
Or better yet…”Who can I help?”
Finding ways to be of service to others will in turn help you prosper in your personal and professional lives.
In the past, whenever something I wrote didn’t resonate with someone, I would go into a mild panic. Insecurities would bubble to the surface and I would assume I was wrong about everything.
Luckily, by exposing myself to respectful arguments and by putting my work out on a daily basis…I’ve been able to completely shift my mindset.
When I read that he wanted to push back on one of my philosophies, I didn’t shrivel; I got excited.
Having debates can be uncomfortable, but only if you feel married to your ideas and that what you believe is tied to your identity. This can feel like passion, but it often leads to unnecessary suffering. When someone disagrees with a deeply-held belief of ours, it feels like they’re disagreeing with who we are.
If instead we recognize they are simply disagreeing with an idea or concept, it makes it much easier to verbally spar.
It’s possible to become excited for a fruitful exchange. The worst case scenario? You have your mind changed—which isn’t a defeat, but instead a great victory on your journey of growth.
As we get older, it gets harder and harder to stay in consistent contact with all the people you’d like to keep in touch with.
But if you’ve ever tried to set up a call or a hangout with a buddy, you might have heard this little nugget:
“Sorry, I’ve been really busy lately.”
What this really means, however, is:
Sorry, you just haven’t been a priority lately.
On face value, this response is nonsense. ‘Too busy’ implies that in the past week, they simply haven’t had five minutes to send you a text or call you up.
The subtext behind this explanation is that they haven’t devoted any brain space to communicating with you because they’ve had other things on their mind.
And guess what…
People are generally busy. We have careers to focus on, families to see and take care of, and our own bodies and minds to tend to.
It can be frustrating and hurtful to feel like your friends are ‘too busy’ for you, but:
1) Would you want to force it by spending time with someone who doesn’t truly want to engage?
2) You can use that time to take care of other essentials for yourself—hobbies, career, or other relationships.
To those who receive the ‘I’ve been busy’ text:
Don’t let it insult you at your core. Take the opportunity to put effort into other areas. But if it’s a serious situation, bring it up with the other person and tell them how you feel.
To those who send the ‘I’ve been busy’ text:
Be straight up with the person. If you haven’t truly cared about catching up or spending time together, say so. It can sound harsh, but ripping off the band-aid means feeling the immediate pain and discomfort now…and avoiding this worse, throbbing and lingering pain that can last months or even years.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “We should catch up man…” then immediately think…Do you really mean that?
• How will I find my next project? • Where do I find good clients? • Can I pay my bills next month? • How will I make this work?
I’ve had plenty of days where my financial uncertainty and stress has lumped itself in my chest in the form of physical pain.
But oddly enough, it’s all been worth it. Here’s why.
• I never count the days until Friday or the hours until the end of the workday. • No one tells me when to show up to work, what to wear, or how to act. • My schedule is crafted entirely by me. • PTO is not a thing. If I want to take a long weekend trip to visit friends, I can. • I can work wherever I want so long as I have my laptop and an internet connection.
Now, I’m not saying you should care about any of these things too. I know many people who would be an anxious wreck if they were in charge of their own schedule.
My point is: No matter what you’re doing in life, discomfort and sacrifice are unavoidable.
The question you need to be able to answer is: What discomfort or pain do I want to feel and what sacrifices am I willing to make?
Regardless of what you have going on, we all go through unwanted periods where we feel stuck. In our work. In our relationships. In our bodies.
Aside from true mental health issues (which I know little about), this ebb and flow…this push and pull…it’s inevitable.
One strategy I use when this happens to me is a process I call trimming. Here’s how it works:
1) Eliminate the unnecessary tangibles.
The literal, physical objects you own. Chances are you own more than you need. Way more.
Schedule one to three hours on a weekend. Put on your favorite playlist. Go in your closet, room, and office.
One by one, take every knickknack, every piece of clothing, every dusty box…Rate how much it means to you on a scale from 0 to 100. If it’s anything less than a 90, get rid of it.
A helpful question to ask is, “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I pay to have it?” For many things in our lives, the answer is $0.
People often make serial killer jokes when they enter my space because it’s spotless and organized 100% of the time. But it’s not like I’m cleaning my room every day. I just don’t own enough stuff for it to ever get cluttered.
As cliche as it sounds, decluttering your space has an incredibly positive and immediate effect on your mental clarity. I feel like I have room to breathe when I spend my days in a clean and organized area.
One last note for the sentimental folks:
I’m not sentimental. I keep a shoe box with my favorite memories over the years, but that’s it. So I know I have my biases.
If you truly care about something, keep it. You don’t have to get rid of all your stuff; you just have to be honest about whether you actually get value from something, or you just feel it gives you value when you remember you have it.
Possession bias is real. We overestimate the value of things when we own them already and we underestimate the value of things when we don’t.
It may hurt in the moment, but the fear of not having something is always more powerful than actually removing it from your life.
Get rid of those shoes you haven’t worn in two years.
2) Identify the draining intangibles.
Toxic relationships. Limiting beliefs. Low ROI activities.
This step takes a bit more work because these are more ambiguous.
The key here is to capture the things that are draining you of your energy and work backwards to find their source.
I’m frustrated by my friend’s flakiness and lack of communication.
Why → It’s exhausting to be the only person in the friendship putting effort into it to keep it alive.
Why → One of my core values is communication and I feel like he and I see things differently on that front.
Why → Because I haven’t voiced my frustrations clearly and effectively.
Result → I need to set up a call with him to candidly express how I feel and find some sort of a compromise.
I procrastinate on the scarier things I need to get done to run my business.
Why → I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and I doubt whether or not I can make it work.
Why → I’m not clear on exactly what actions I need to take.
Why → I haven’t broken down my projects into specific, actionable tasks.
Result → With each bigger, broader project, I need to break them each down into the smallest tasks possible so I am crystal clear on what I actually have to get done, step by step.
I feel unmotivated to do certain things I know I need to do.
Why → I’m almost always tired.
Why → I don’t get consistently good sleep.
Why → My nightly routine gets damaged because I often look at my phone the last hour or two I’m in bed.
Result → Set a rule: When I lay in bed to go to sleep, absolutely no phone use. I can only read or try to sleep.
Before you try to find the perfect challenge or set of practices to add to your life to make it more fulfilling, first eliminate any waste.
When someone has cancer, you don’t just pump them full of antibodies; you remove the tumor.
When a writer is editing their draft, they don’t just add better paragraphs; they cut out all the unnecessary ones.
When you’re going through a rut, don’t put more things on your plate; throw away all the nonessentials getting in your way.
Put in the work now to make things easier for yourself going forward.
A buddy and I were discussing our passions yesterday. Music and coding for him. Coaching and chess for me.
To mirror Cal Newport’s thesis in So Good They Can’t Ignore You, we both agreed that we didn’t begin to feel passionate until we got really good at what we were doing.
Many people think they have to have innate talent or aptitude for something for it to be their ‘thing.’ That’s nonsense.
My friend told me it took him two years to develop a love for programming. It was supposed to be a means to an end for him. He got good enough to land a well-paying job to support himself and his interests. Once he got good enough to quickly put pieces together and solve interesting problems, it became more than just a 9 to 5; it became exciting.
On a smaller scale, I’ve been interested in chess for the past year or so. Within the past month, however, I’ve experienced a serious uptick in my skill level. This has correlated to a spike in my interest. What was once a hobby is now a passion.
I’ve known many people who have sadly stated they are unsure of what they’re passionate about. This is tough, but there is a formula to solve this problem:
1) Try a shit ton of things→
2) Ditch the things that feel like pulling teeth→
3) Practice the thing(s) you like most every week→
4) Get really fucking good at it→
5) Boom. You now have a passion.
It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen quickly, but it is simple.
Whenever I spend a decent time away from work, I’m always itching to get back into a productive space.
I’m incredibly grateful for this.
I couldn’t imagine having a job where I’m counting the days until the weekend.
Actually I can….I did this for a few months and I quit.
Whenever I talk to my friends who have full-time jobs they don’t necessarily love, it always feels like I’m shitting on their life choices. That’s not my intention at all.
My stance: It doesn’t have to be your work, but every single person should have an activity or a skill that excites them—that makes them ‘itchy’ when they spend too much time away.
Studies show that people enjoy their jobs more when they spend more time outside of them doing things they love: tennis, writing, playing an instrument.
I recommend that your thing not be something passive like watching Netflix. Movies and shows are lovely and they should be consumed, but it would be much more fulfilling if you had an active practice that was totally your own.
What excites you? What challenges you? What skill do you love improving?
Do it. Do it all the time. Get better at it. Repeat.
It was impossible for me to attend social settings, scroll social media, or have deep conversation…without obsessing over what other people thought about me.
Most of us want to be seen as impressive or interesting in some way. There’s nothing wrong with that.
What’s unfortunate, though, is allowing these desires to affect our thoughts and actions.
I used to say things I didn’t mean, appease people I didn’t care about, advertise myself on social media to appear cool/woke/adventurous…
None of this ever brought me any closer to happiness or fulfillment. It just felt like I was putting on a show.
So what changed?
It didn’t happen over night, but there was a slow, noticeable shift once I started pursuing my values wholeheartedly.
I asked myself:
What do I find most important in life? What do I want out of life and out of myself? What value do I want to provide others? What problems do I want to solve? What skills do I need to master to make all this happen?
None of these questions ask how you can fit in with other people’s values.
Anything I do that’s impressive or interesting—not that I think I’m an impressive or interesting individual—is the pure result of doing things I think are cool and fun to do.
Growing a business. Writing. Coaching. Making sketches…
I do these things because I want to, not because I think getting really good at them will impress others.
I don’t care about the person with 20,000 followers on Instagram. I care about the person with 14 followers who posts videos of them playing the trumpet and slaying it.
Don’t do what other people think is cool.
Do what you think is cool.
Become so good at what interests you, you force others to be interested in it too.
Yesterday, I had a lovely conversation with one of my best buds.
We all love talking to our closest friends, but some chats just hit different.
Here’s what I value in conversations with friends:
• Humor: Are we both laughing a lot? • Vulnerability: Can we candidly talk about our fears, anxieties, and emotions? • Tactics/Strategy: Are we able to help one another come up with actions to improve our lives? • Genuine curiosity: Can I give you 100% of my attention when you’re speaking and you do the same for me?
I was reminded yesterday that I’m lucky enough to have people in my life who check each of these boxes.
What do you value in a friend? Who meets (or doesn’t meet) those values?