10 lessons learned in 2022

A 2022 calendar on a desk

They are:

1) Labels are limits.

We give ourselves disempowering labels and attributes all the time. Here are a few I heard from some of my coaching clients this year:

  • “I’m a chaotic person.”
  • “If I’m not certain I can do something, I can’t do it.
  • “All I need is more confidence…I’m just unconfident.”

None of these are true.

They’re just excuses meant to justify why we haven’t been living the life we truly want. If we’re chaotic, it makes sense that our physical and digital lives aren’t organized. If we’re uncertain, it makes sense that we haven’t put ourselves out there to try something new and scary. If we’re unconfident, it makes sense that we’re waiting and putting things off.

In my coaching experience, I’ve seen people of all ages and careers drastically change their personalities, habits, and values.

Nothing is fixed. Nothing is set in stone. The only thing keeping us from doing what we want is whatever fear, story, or label we tell ourselves to keep us from taking scary action.

2) Men and women are different.

Wooden cutouts of a man and a woman

And that’s okay. Actually, it’s necessary.

There are noticeable, meaningful, and beautiful differences between males and females. That is true of all animals. And what blows my mind most is that that is considered a controversial statement in 2022.

We can start with physicality and work our way down. Height. Weight. Muscle mass. Bone density. Fist size. Hip width. Fat distribution.

These are all averages, of course. I know women taller than most guys I know. And I know men who are more feminine than some women I know.

Which is a great segue from hardware to software.

Anyone who thinks gender is entirely a social construct has never taken testosterone or estrogen.

In Carole Hooven’s book T, she points to research done on men and women transitioning. Without fail, the women who began taking testosterone reported heightened levels of sex drive and decreased levels of empathy and emotionality. And men who started estrogen therapy reported increased compassion and emotional connection to others. I doubt society was telling these people to change in this way.

And no, that’s not to say women are too emotional or that it’s okay for men to be sexual deviants. It’s just useful to look at what makes us different from one another.

We can also observe the spectrum of masculinity and femininity:

Masculine energy: logical, assertive, resilient, seeking discomfort, conquering, direct.

Feminine energy: nurturing, intuitive, allowing, creative, gentle, accepting, indirect.

This can explain why men and women choose different professions, are often confused by the other sex, and are attracted to different characteristics. We’ll end #2 with that last point.

I’ve been single most of my life. So this year I became fascinated by what men and women are looking for on the dating market.

On dating apps, for example, men swipe right on (say yes to) 65% of women. Women swipe right on 3% of men.

That actually makes sense when we realize that women have way more to lose when pursuing a sexual relationship. They could get assaulted. They might get pregnant. They should be pickier than men.

Most women: “I want a guy who I connect with emotionally, who makes me feel safe, and who I can envision having a child and a ton of fun with.”

Most men: “See hot girl. Want hot girl.”

Moving on before I get canceled.

3) Porn is sexual junk food for the brain.

A man with glasses staring at his phone

For the vast majority of heterosexual men, porn is not a good thing.

It weakens sex drive, makes men ashamed of themselves, increases the risk of erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, raises our tolerance so we crave more intense porn, makes talking to women even more terrifying, devastates men’s body standards and sexual expectations for women, and decreases motivation and willpower in other areas of our lives.

Quitting porn has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my sex life and health. But it’s hard. Reading Brett McKay’s How to Quit Porn was super helpful.

A 10-year-old boy with an iPhone will see more gorgeous naked women in five minutes than a man 100 years ago would see in his lifetime. Our brains are not evolved to handle that kind of stimulus.

On the flip side, I don’t think porn is empowering to women.

People say, “sex work is work.” Sure, I think if you’re a consenting adult, you should be able to choose whatever life path you want. But if the goal is to get men to stop objectifying women, making more porn seems like an odd approach.

Banning porn would be wildly impractical and downright impossible. But I don’t think it should be free. I dread the day my son gets internet access and can find whatever he wants at any time.

For anyone who wants to learn more, but doesn’t want to read a whole book, I’d suggest one of these resources explaining your brain on porn:

4) Anyone can, but most people won’t.

Can anyone get in great shape? Can anyone pack up and move to Australia? Could anyone really go downtown and ask out 20 people?

Yes.

But most people won’t. Most people (including myself) have a plethora of fears and stories stopping them from doing the things they’d actually love to do.

Different people have different starting lines, of course. It’s a lot easier for me to be moving to Argentina in a few months than it would be for my friend who has a one-year-old, two dogs, and a home to look after.

But if you live in the western world and are above the poverty line, you can really do anything you want.

One of my clients recently shared her fear of staying productive and healthy over the holidays. “I want to,” she said. “I really want to work out, eat well, and read over these next two weeks. But it’s impossible when you’re traveling and spending time with family.”

Then I asked, “If I said I’d give you a million dollars to have a super healthy and productive couple of weeks, what would you do?”

She smiled and told me working out, eating clean, and finding time to open a book would be effortless.

So again, we can do anything we want. The question is not: Are you able to do this thing? The question is really: How incentivized are you to make this thing happen?

One helpful model I like is asking myself, “If I knew I was going to die five years from today, what would I do?”

My answers to that question always lead me to do scary and fulfilling things. Flying to Vancouver to pursue a woman. Starting a coaching business from scratch with no experience. Moving to Buenos Aires. Spending quality time with the people I love.

In my experience, the people who do cool shit aren’t fearless; they’re courageous. Courage is being afraid but doing the thing anyway. Unfortunately, so many people wait until the fear goes away to live the lives they want. Then they wake up at 50 and wonder what they’ve been doing all this time.

5) Getting in great physical shape is the best thing you can do for yourself and your future family.

I got pretty cut this year. (Bragging? Maybe.)

And I’ve gotten to experience many short-term, superficial benefits.

First, I feel super confident with my shirt off. At the beach, on a summer run, changing in the locker room.

It’s not like women come sprinting out of the woodwork once I peel my v-neck off. But the internal peace I feel knowing that I’m good under the hood is hard to put into words. (The funny thing no one tells you is that when you start to get jacked, 95% of the compliments you get come from other guys.)

Second, I’m mentally sharper.

Many of us have experienced feeling like crap, then forcing ourselves to work out, and all of a sudden we feel awake and ready to go. Aside from the endorphins putting us in a better mood, we also know we just did something difficult and worthwhile. This makes us proud of ourselves and puts us in a more grateful headspace.

The actions needed to get in shape are actually pretty easy. It’s the patience and consistency that’s hard.

Here’s all I’ve done this past year to get a body I’m immensely proud of:

  • go to the gym 1 to 3 times per week
  • use the Fitbod app as a personal trainer to tell me what exercises to do when I’m there
  • eat well more often than not (avoiding sugar, refined carbs, and processed foods)
  • work out with my PT buddy twice a month
  • drink supplements like Creatine and Aminos (These are both legal, over-the-counter substances lol.)

That’s it. I just did these things almost every week.

None of them are difficult. It’s the “almost every week” part that’s difficult.

I hated going to the gym for an entire year. I needed my friend to go with me otherwise I’d leave after one set of one exercise. But once I started feeling and seeing real changes in my muscles and body fat…and once I got more familiar with all the machines and equipment and knew what I was doing, I was hooked.

The last superficial plus I’ll share is an example.

I had a lovely evening with a lady friend earlier this year. The morning after, she told me she really enjoyed grabbing my arms and feeling a good bit of muscle on them.

Is getting jacked necessary for being attractive? Absolutely not.

But in general, people are more sexually attracted to folks who are fit. We’re wired to think they’d make healthier offspring and it signals to us that they are disciplined enough to take care of themselves.

I’ll end this point with something more long-term. Here’s a quote from Dr. Peter Attia:

“If you’re over 40 and don’t smoke, there’s about a 70 to 80% chance you’ll die from one of four diseases: heart disease, cerebrovascular disease [stroke], cancer, or neurodegenerative disease [Alzheimer’s, dementia].”

As more of my friends have children, as I just spent two weeks in Virginia watching my grandpa die, and as another year comes to a close…I’m seeing more and more that my health isn’t just for me.

It’s for my future wife, my future kids, and everyone else. If working out and eating well today means I get one more year with the people I love most, it’ll be worth it. I want to be a 60-year-old man who can pick up his grandkids and play with them.

Freak things happen, but an unfortunate number of early deaths are simply because someone didn’t take good care of themselves.

That wasn’t my grandpa, and it won’t be me.

6) When you start something, it never ends up being what you think it’s gonna be.

I started this blog in 2019. It was meant to teach people about habits and self-improvement.

I avoided talking about myself because I was certain nothing about me was interesting. There was also a fear that people would think, who the hell cares about you and your experiences?

The opposite turned out to be true. The most successful pieces I’ve written have reliably been about my own travels, anxieties, and insights. I go back and read my early stuff and it’s like reading a crappy A.I. who copied other personal development creators.

I’ve also tried my hand at several YouTube channels. Vlogging. Sketch comedy. Mindset tips.

None of them stuck.

I even had two podcasts. One with just my friends and me BSing and one where I’d interview guests on their specific passions.

They both faded out because I didn’t really know what my message was or who the shows were for. All these things combined made me feel like I was a guy who could never finish anything. I couldn’t see things through. I feared I lacked enough grit and resilience to create something worthwhile.

Then this year, as I was interviewing creators for my book, I got an idea.

What if I took my favorite medium, YouTube, and my favorite thing, interviewing awesome people, and combined them? Enter: The YouTuber’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Now, I get to learn from some of my favorite creators in the space—how they started, what their systems are, and everything in between.

Little did I know, I’ve been building all the skills needed to do this all along. Interviewing, editing, uploading, recording myself, listening to my own voice, working with designers and engineers, sharing my opinions…

The next job you take, the next business you start, the next door you open…It probably won’t be the thing you take to your grave. But it will get you closer to whatever the next door is.

You just have to choose.

When you do, one of two things happens.

  1. You love it, and now you know what you want to lean into.
  2. You hate it, and now you know what you want to avoid.

Sitting around and strategizing over the perfect podcast idea is the best way to never start a podcast. But sitting down, hitting the record button, and uploading shitty conversations is the first step to having the podcast of your dreams five years from now.

Don’t worry about what it could be. Just choose something that sounds fun and start. You’ll learn what it’s meant to be along the way.

7) We can double our quality of life by prioritizing our sleep.

Another health one.

I’ve doubled down on my sleep this year and I feel like a God. Late nights and partying are still fun from time to time. But the benefits I get from consistent 8 hours blows everything else out of the water.

Being well-rested makes us more creative, motivated, and happy. Being stricter about bedtime, getting right out of bed in the morning, drinking way less alcohol…These simple acts have a compounding effect.

(image from Deepstash)

Here are easy ways to get much better sleep:

  • go to bed and wake up at the same times as much as you can (including weekends)
  • track your sleep (I use the free app SleepCycle)
  • give yourself an extra hour in bed (if you want 8 hours of sleep, go to bed 9 hours before you wake up)
  • keep it dark before bed, and make it bright when you wake up
  • wear a sleep mask or use blackout curtains
  • avoid drinking anything before bed so as not to wake up to pee
  • keep your phone away during the first and last hours of the day
  • dial down caffeine and alcohol use

8) Dating apps suck.

I have several friends who have met awesome people on dating apps like Bumble and Hinge. I’m even going to be the best man at a bestie’s wedding this spring and they met on Tinder.

Whenever and however two people meet each other and fall in love, that makes me happy. But these are the exceptions, not the rule. And there’s a darker side to dating apps I wish more people would talk about.

Firstly, the experience is quite different for men and women.

Women get way more matches. This means they get more oddball dudes in their inboxes that they have to sift through. It also means they’re able to ghost several guys with ease.

I spent two months on the apps and it was terrible for my mental health.

I’m a fairly confident young lad. I like who I am. But after just a few days on one of these services, I felt as though I was an ugly and useless trash monster not fit for this world.

Above all, I’m afraid of what it’s doing for future generations. Dating apps, along with all other social media, are slowly destroying the need for a very important skill…

The ability to go out into the world and talk to people.

I mean really talk. Sit down face to face and have a conversation. Be able to debate, ask curious questions, look people in the eye, and share personalities and stories.

Teenagers today have higher levels of anxiety, depression, and anti-social behavior than we’ve ever seen. And I don’t think the remedy to that is to disincentivize them from going out and meeting people. Staying inside and staring at our phones just doesn’t seem to be the way.

Since the popularization of dating apps, fewer and fewer men are meeting women and having sex. That’s because we’ve created a “Facebook Marketplace” for dating. People scroll through, see if someone is hot or not, maybe get some idea of their hobbies or interests, and swipe yes or no.

Whereas meeting someone in person makes us much more likely to find them attractive. A picture tells us nothing about what it’s like to be in a room with them. I bet countless people have said no to a guy or gal on an app that they’d absolutely love if they met at a party.

I met some cool women on these apps. While it never blossomed into anything, I don’t regret my time with them. But the mental strain of the dating app rat race wasn’t worth it to me.

That’s why in 2023, I’ve set a goal to ask out 100 women. Face to face. Out and about.

The idea is to eliminate my fear of rejection through pure exposure. And obviously, it’d be great if I met someone awesome before getting to 100 invites.

9) Who’s in your hospital room?

Lake Gaston, 2009.

My grandpa died last week. Prior to, I spent a week down in Virginia with my family to be with them and be by his bedside during his final days.

I’ll write more about him and that time in another blog. But this part is actually about something I learned from Kevin Hart.

My company got to see him speak in Philadelphia right before COVID hit. It was more of a self-improvement talk than comedy.

He told the story of his brutal 2019 car accident.

“Man,” he said. “They told me I might be paralyzed for the rest of my life. When I couldn’t eat or go to the bathroom on my own…you know what I had in that room with me? It wasn’t my fame, my house, or my Instagram following. The only thing in that hospital room with me were all the relationships I built over the years. My team, my friends, my family…”

Since then, I’ve used this as a model for living my life.

If I got in a horrible car accident today who would be there in my hospital room when I woke up? Those people have to be prioritized now.

While it was quite an emotional time, I could smile looking around grandpa’s hospital room. Seeing my dad, my aunts, my grandma, my stepmom, my half-brother…This group of people was just a representation of the life this man created and the lives he touched. He made every single one of us feel special.

That’s what I want to do: make the people in my life feel special.

10) I have no choice but to live a fantastic life.

Manhattan, 2022.

Before my grandpa went, he told us all, one by one, what we meant to him and how much he loved us. He said he lived a great life and had no regrets.

And as I spent those days there, I would look at my grandpa while he was sleeping in that bed. My old man’s old man.

It didn’t take long for it to really sink in. That will be me one day.

A long long time from now, after Elon has taken us all to Mars…I’ll be an old man dying in a hospital bed. That inevitable fate is coming for me and every other person I’ve ever known, loved, and laughed with. I’ve known that and I write about it often. But seeing a physical manifestation of it was 10 times more powerful.

By truly understanding that certainty—that I will die one day, I felt only one thing.

I have no excuse.

Between now and whenever that day is, I have absolutely no excuse but to live a phenomenal life. How can I be rude to a friend, get pissed if a waiter gets my order wrong, or sit around wasting a day…knowing that it’s all going to end someday?

I feel so empowered to sit at this desk and work on projects I love, to charge more money in my business, to travel to other countries, to call my friends and family more, to stay in great shape, to learn more about the world and the people in it. There’s a fire under my ass.

This year, I’ve learned the importance of spending more time around birth and death. Playing with my friends’ kids brings an energy to the room that’s not possible otherwise. It makes me feel lighter and more joyful. It makes me imagine the kind of father I’m going to be.

Thinking and talking about death and dying makes me feel so present and appreciative of the people and opportunities I have at my disposal.

Some might think us all dying one day means none of this matters. I like to use that to my advantage.

Since none of this will really matter 500 years from now, why wouldn’t I go after what I want? Why shouldn’t I ask out a beautiful woman at a coffee shop? What’s stopping me from charging the kind of money I want to charge? Who cares?

Most of us go around waiting for permission to live the lives we truly want. But sometimes certain events can wake us up.

Thanks for waking me up, gramps.

Fin.

Hope you got something out of that!

Please, dear reader, do me a favor. I’d love to know the biggest lesson you learned this year. Please email it to me.

Thanks for your support. Here’s to another year. 🥳

Why I ate Mcdonald’s last night

I ordered McDonald’s last night. Why?

Because I wanted to.

One Big Mac. One Spicy McChicken. One Large Fry. Delicious.

For the whole month of September, I consumed zero:

  • alcohol
  • sugar
  • pasta
  • bread
  • processed food

Doing 30-day challenges like this always enlightens me about portion control and cravings. I ate McDonald’s and didn’t feel ashamed because 80 to 90 percent of my diet is nutritious.

I eat primarily home-cooked meals, farm-raised meats, and organic produce. Fancy boy, right?

But the truth is I’m not well-versed at all when it comes to nutrition. The same goes for fitness.

I go to the gym three times per week, do jiujitsu two or three nights a week, and see a personal trainer twice a month. To someone who doesn’t exercise, that may seem like a lot. But I’m not doing intricate or complicated workouts. It’s all simple yet consistent.

And that’s the key word here: consistency. You are what you do consistently.

One fast food meal won’t make you overweight or out of shape. Consistently eating junk and never exercising will.

Just like one great workout won’t make you an athlete. Consistently making yourself sweat and eating mostly well will.

So, what are you doing (or not doing) consistently? What results are you getting?

10 tricks to living a shittier life

An ostrich with its mouth wide open

Since attempting suicide in 2017, I’ve been obsessed with living a better life. I’ve even made a career out of helping people improve theirs.

But for those of you who have it too good, are too fulfilled, and are looking to downgrade…here are 10 easy tricks to help you start living a shittier life today.

1. Talk shit about people when they’re not around.

By saying things about others you would never say to their face, it makes you more resentful and cowardly. Also, when you gossip and badmouth around friends, they’ll subconsciously wonder if you do the same to them when they’re not around.

People get drained by toxicity. This is a great way to decrease people’s energy when they’re with you.

2. Laugh at exercise.

67% of Americans are overweight. That’s totally fine. The number should be higher.

Exercise has a plethora of benefits: increased confidence and energy levels, mental clarity, heightened motivation and willpower, increased general attractiveness, lower risk of disease later in life, and more strength overall.

So it should be avoided at all costs. Try viewing it as this uncomfortable, sweaty activity only meant for athletes. Be confused as to why anyone would put themselves through physical strain. Making fun of it will make you feel better for not doing it. Tell people you love your body by doing nothing to protect or improve it.

This is a great way to feel worse physically and mentally throughout your day.

3. When in conversation, focus on being right.

99% of people know something you don’t. But they must never know that.

Act as though you are enlightened and have all the answers. This will make conversations with you boring and non-collaborative. Be the teacher, never the student. Don’t ask questions. Constantly preach your knowledge to others, especially when they don’t ask for it.

When someone disagrees with you, the goal should not be to understand where they’re coming from and find common ground. The goal is to explain why they’re wrong and you’re right. Shame them into believing this if you have to. That will guarantee they never will and it will disconnect you both entirely.

This is a great way to keep people from feeling safe to explore their thoughts around you.

4. Drink more coffee, soda, and booze than you do water.

75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Again, those are rookie numbers.

Consuming a lot of caffeine and sugar can increase anxiety and stress levels. Downing alcohol frequently weakens the immune system and lowers sleep quality. This is all a perfect cocktail (pun intended) for a shittier life.

Drinking water protects organs and tissues, carries nutrients to cells, and flushes bacteria from your bladder. Sounds awful.

Skip a cold glass of water and reach for coffee first thing in the morning. This is a great way to start the day in a manic state.

5. Avoid doing the things you think would be cool to do.

We all have things we’ve been talking or thinking about but have taken zero action on. Learning Spanish. Dance classes. Starting a business, blog, or podcast. Painting. Piano. Pickleball.

The more we avoid actually doing any of these things, the more regret we’ll feel when we’re older. The pain of longing is guaranteed to feel shitty.

There will always be 1001 reasons why it’s inconvenient to start something. Let those excuses keep you from having more fun, improving your skills, and being more fulfilled.

This is a great way to wake up at 60 and question why you didn’t actually pursue your dreams.

6. Start and end your day by looking at your phone.

If you’re looking to add compulsion and anxiety to your life, this is one of the simplest ways.

Rather than giving your mind space to wake up or wind down, feed it with notifications, news, and chaos. Reading, stretching, or meditating would make the rest of your day more peaceful and present.

Fuck that. Keep your brain spinning every waking hour.

This is a great way to never feel done and to be addicted to a screen.

7. Give in to most of your cravings.

We all indulge. But try to avoid moderation. Make indulgence a lifestyle. Give in to temptations several times a week.

Junk food. Porn. Entertainment. Booze.

Doing this over and over again will supplant this story that you’re addicted to your cravings. When really it’s just a habit you currently have that can be broken or replaced. But don’t let your mind know that.

Treat yourself to whatever meal you want. Skip exercises or difficult things. You’ve earned it. Your body doesn’t care that you’ve earned it but hey…you’ve earned it.

This is a great way to be less fit and powerless against your compulsions.

8. When talking to others, talk more about yourself than about them.

Being interested in others is the best way to make them interested in you. They’ll feel seen and heard. People will enjoy your company more. They’ll feel connected to you.

Steer clear of that. Avoid asking curious questions. Definitely don’t ask follow-up questions to prove you’ve been listening. Try to stick to your stories and your opinions. Keep it one-sided.

This is a great way to weaken rapport and have worse conversations.

9. Take responsibility for the emotions of other people.

There are 7.98 billion people on the planet. If you do or say anything that could offend, frighten, or rub someone the wrong way…you should be arrested.

You’ll never agree with anyone 100% of the time. So it’s best to walk on eggshells and muzzle yourself to avoid any confrontation or misalignment. Don’t be yourself. Definitely don’t ask for what you want. If there’s even a slight chance of someone else being uncomfortable, stay silent.

It’d be easy enough to apologize or have a conversation if you ever do hurt anyone. But it’s best to avoid it entirely.

This is a great way to remain a shell of yourself.

10. Stay soft.

View discomfort as the worst-case scenario. Challenging moments will strengthen you. They’ll sharpen your communication and problem-solving skills. Avoid that.

You should be triggered easily. We all care about things. But you should get unhinged whenever you see or hear something you don’t like or agree with.

Shun people who have differing opinions from you. Judge them. Question their morality and humanity. Try to shame others into believing what you believe. It’ll never work. But you’ll feel superior and enlightened.

This is a great way to stay mentally weak and to keep your head in the sand.

Hope that helps! Let me know if these 10 tips help you decrease your quality of life.

Dying, chess, and grapes

My cousin, shortly before I checkmated him.

I spent this weekend at the lake house. My grandparents were supposed to be there, but my grandpa was in the hospital.

He had a mini-stroke two weekends ago, got let out the next afternoon, then had to go back the following day because something was wrong with his liver.

Him being 81, none of this was shocking. But it was deeply troubling.

Since they couldn’t come to the lake, I left early Sunday morning to stop by Norfolk and see them on my way home. I’m so glad I did.

How many visits left?

Lake Gaston, 2020.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a blog about the finite amount of time we have with people. The example I used was my grandfather.

Assuming someone lives to be 90, and assuming we maintain a relationship with them, how much time left do we have left with that person?

Well, we simply subtract their age from 90. Then, we multiply that by the average number of times we see them a year.

I see my mom once or twice each week. She’s 58. So that’s about 2496 more dinners and walks with her.

My family in Wisconsin and I see each other once a year or so. They’re in their late forties. So that’s roughly 42 more weekends at the lake with them.

I see my gramps about three times a year. He’s 81. So I have about 26 visits left.

Grapes and tuna fish sandwiches

A plate of grapes sitting on a dining table

When I got to my grandparents’ place yesterday, my grandpa was in the shower after just getting home from the hospital. Grandma made me lunch and we sat chatting at their dining table.

When my grandpa came out, he sat down next to me and held out his left hand. The stroke made him unable to use his right. I focused intently on him. He was visibly frustrated. Who wouldn’t be after losing their functionality?

“Dotty,” he signaled to my grandma. “Help me put in my hearing aids, just in case Dillan says anything worth listening to.”

We all burst into laughter.

It was a gorgeous day outside, so we set up the balcony chairs and sat overlooking the bay next to their apartment. Grandma made tuna fish sandwiches and got us a big bowl of grapes.

For 30 minutes, it was just me and grandpa out there talking about business, travel, and science. I always try to ask him questions about his past, his experiences around the world, and his fondest memories. It’s always a hoot to hear him tell stories about my dad and aunts when they were growing up.

Grandma eventually joined us and we just sat out there talking. I don’t even remember what we were discussing. It didn’t matter.

The only thing that mattered was I was there and we were happy.

Memento mori

That’s Latin for “remember that you’ll die one day.” It’s a reminder we could all use on a daily basis.

Many people shy away from any conversation about death and dying. Depending on peoples’ experiences, this can be a rigorous topic. It can come off as morbid and depressing.

But I think burying our heads in the sand when it comes to death is one of the most damaging and unhealthy things we could do. Meanwhile, shedding light on it and speaking about it openly brings with it so much opportunity.

Here are two reasons why.

1) It softens the blow.

My grandpa will pass one day. It’s possible that that happens before I get all 26 of my remaining visits with him. When that happens, I’ll be devastated.

But I won’t be crippled by it. I won’t collapse. I’ll look back with gratitude that I got to have conversations with him about Brooklyn on his balcony while eating grapes.

2) It makes it easier to be present and grateful.

When someone truly understands the simple fact that none of this will last forever…the only option is to be mindful and appreciative of all that they have.

How can I get into a comment war with someone…How can I get pissed at a server…How can I ghost a friend who’s texting me…when I know that I and everyone I’ve ever known will be dead one day?

It’s things like my grandpa being in the hospital that really wake me up. They remind me. Hey, don’t forget.

I’ve returned from this trip with renewed energy. I feel so lucky that I’m young and that all my friends and family members are alive and healthy. I get to do work that fulfills me. I get to meet beautiful women. I get to travel. I get to.

Every phone call. Every bit of quality time with people I love. They feel ten times as impactful.

I’m paying attention. I’ve been reminded. Thanks, gramps.

Son, father, grandfather—2013.

Savage race

One of my fitness goals is to do at least one strenuous event each year.

2020 was a marathon. 2021 was a triathlon. And today, my buddy and I are doing a Savage Race.

Apparently, these races are pretty chill. We get to chug a beer after slogging through five miles and 30 obstacles. I was told we’d be covered in mud by the time we cross the finish line.

Despite today being a high of 95 degrees, I’m pretty excited. I love taking part in activities I’ve never done before, especially with my good friends.

I leave for NYC tomorrow. So I’ll post my results on Monday.

I’m off coffee

A woman holding a coffee mug under the setting sun

Yesterday was a big day for me.

Two months ago, I embarked, for the second time, on a journey to quit drinking coffee. I went cold turkey for attempt #1 and nearly died. So this time, I took a much slower approach.

Step 1: Drink either half cups or use fewer grounds to make weaker coffee.

Step 2: When the bag of grounds is out, switch to Four Sigmatic‘s mushroom coffee—which contains less than half the amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee.

Step 3: When the mushroom coffee is depleted, switch to tea.

I did step three yesterday. It was a bag of black tea I stole from my roommate and it had about 10% the caffeine as a normal cup of Joe.

I worked a full day of sessions and writing and felt incredibly fulfilled. The reason why may sound silly to most.

In the past, I’ve gone through bouts of physical addiction to things like Adderall, nicotine gum, and alcohol. I’m sensitive to relying on chemicals to live my life (i.e. be funny, be productive, or take action).

I don’t mean this in a hippy-dippy sense, but I want to be pure—all-natural. I want to connect with others, take risks, and work hard entirely on my own. People in sobriety are probably rolling their eyes as they read this.

I’ll still have a cup of coffee, drink beer, and experiment with substances. But for the same reason I take months off of drinking, I never want to come close to feeling like I need a chemical.

The next step will be moving to green tea which is weaker than the kind I’m sipping now. Eventually, I’ll just be drinking cold water in the morning.

It’s only been a day without coffee, so I don’t have a ton of data. But I can say this much…

Dillan Taylor's sleep data

I slept through the entire night—something I never do. Waking up felt like a time machine. I also didn’t crash or slow down at all yesterday afternoon. I could get used to this.

When I first wrote about wanting to quit coffee again, I got several messages. Some assured me I didn’t need to. But many sent me products and suggestions on how to best go about weaning myself off it.

Thank you for reaching out. Cheers.

Sick thoughts

I’m sick. It’s not COVID.

This usually happens twice a year when the temperature changes. Cold symptoms. Cough. Congestion. Sore throat. It’s not fun but I tend to survive.

One thing that the pandemic has taught me is how often I used to go out into the world while sick. I’d go to work, hang out with friends, or go to the gym.

My Ph.D. in Bro Science tells me that coughing in the same room as others is a great way to spread whatever it is. I feel a refreshed sense of courtesy.

On Friday, when things felt super mild, I called my friends before going over to their place for dinner. I explained exactly how I felt and they told me to come on over.

But for the rest of the weekend, I canceled all plans. I’m coughing up a storm. My head feels like it’s full of mucus. The only plus is that my voice is twice as deep from the sore throat.

This is starting to sound like, “Look at how virtuous and ethical I am for canceling events while I’m ill.” But I seriously used to push through stuff like this in the past. It’s crazy to me now.

Once when I was quite sick, I showed up for my shift at the restaurant I used to work. The GM took one look at me and asked, “Are you sick, dude?” I said yeah and he promptly told me to go the fuck home.

Who would’ve known it would take a global pandemic for me to see that being around others while sick isn’t a great idea?

Not me.

Quitting coffee (for a second time)

A cup of coffee on a table surrounded by a pile of coffee beans

Last year, I tried quitting coffee cold turkey. It sucked.

It led to two of the most miserable days of my life. I had to cancel my calls the second day because my head hurt so bad. It felt like the life had been sucked out of me.

I figured, I only drink a small cup each morning. Nothing crazy. Apparently, that’s all it takes to spark a caffeine addiction.

To be fair, I’d rather have a caffeine addiction than need something like booze or cocaine to get me going in the morning. But it pisses me off that I “need” any substance to function.

People laugh about it like it’s a good thing.

“Don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee.”
“I need my coffee.”
“I’m not a human without my coffee.”

We’re basically okay with being a slave to a chemical. What if we were to say, “Don’t talk to me at night until I’ve had my evening beer.”

I’m not shaming any addicts or people with prescriptions. It’s just strange to me that we have a culture where the norm is to physically require a powerful chemical—which caffeine is.

If this sounds harsh, keep in mind: I’m talking to myself here.

So today I started the weaning process. I used 50% less ground coffee and less water. This morning’s cup was weaker and smaller. I’ll continue chipping away at this until I run out of filters. Then I’ll switch to black tea.

The end goal: Only drink water and a few supplements in the morning. Coffee will only be a treat on vacation.

I’ll keep you all updated. If this blog suddenly stops, I probably went into caffeine withdrawal.

Hungover without the alcohol

A woman holding a glass of wine

Two nights ago, my sleep tracker told me I got two and a half hours of sleep. I woke up in pain.

I trudged through my first two sessions yesterday. Then for my third, he asked if we could reschedule. I was elated.

I said sure and I regretfully texted my personal trainer to reschedule our afternoon workout. Then I did something I never do.

I took a nap.

Three hours later, I woke up feeling human again. The day ended with a few fun and energy-filled calls.

But I wanted to briefly mention some Bro Science…

My hypothesis: Much if not most of the pain we feel during a hangover is sleep deprivation.

Firstly, when we drink, our sleep quality goes out the window. It doesn’t relax our minds; it sedates us. But alcohol aside…

I go months without drinking. Those periods don’t just lead to me feeling amazing. I have to eat well, exercise, and sleep 7-9 hours each night. There have been sober mornings of awful sleep and it genuinely feels like I’m hungover.

That’s what yesterday felt like.

So aside from the nausea, the headache, and the dehydration…how much of the physical pain of hangovers is simply because our brains didn’t get any sleep?

A weekend of nothing

“Take a picture of us taking a picture of us.”

Readers of this blog know last week was an impactful one for me.

An intense level of burnout led me to change my entire workflow moving forward. That began this weekend.

Minus any trips, vacations, or special events…this Saturday and Sunday mark the first weekend in a year I didn’t work at all. No sessions, no planning, no creating.

I hiked with my buddy. We played chess. My friends took me rock climbing. Two besties are in town from Rwanda and Philadelphia (two equally foreign and exotic lands). We all got brunch in DC Sunday morning.

It was lovely, to say the least. There was no optimization, no brainstorming, no building. Just stories, laughter, and quality time with close peeps.

I love worky-type stuff. But space away from anything (and anyone) is essential. I forget that sometimes.

To “regular” people who enjoy their weekends, this may sound odd. But these past two days have quite literally felt like a vacation to me. I have to learn how to do nothing once or twice a week. Like anything, I’m assuming it’ll come with practice.

Days one and two are checked off. I’ve already begun the process of maneuvering my time slots with my weekend clients.

It turns out most people are accommodating when we simply ask for what we want.

I could get used to this.

I ran away

The sun shining through the woods

Last week, I joked about running away from everything and spending time off the grid. This weekend, I did just that…sort of.

I’m pretty sure I had a mental breakdown from Tuesday to Sunday.

I’ve never experienced anything like it. I’m still sorting things out so I’ll try to make sense of much of it today. In this blog, I’ll go through:

  1. What happened
  2. What I learned
  3. What changes I’ll make moving forward

Let’s dive in.

1) What the hell happened to me?

I woke up exhausted on Tuesday. But not a typical exhausted.

I’ve gotten bad sleep before. This was different. This wasn’t sluggishness or fog. I was awake. It was strange.

I felt no excitement or joy…None.

Whoa. I ran an experiment. I wrote out all of my favorite things and imagined myself doing them at the highest level. Spending time with friends and family laughing hysterically. Growing a business I love. Living in my new NYC apartment. Playing in chess tournaments…I felt nothing.

I wasn’t looking forward to any of it. In fact, I resented and was angered by anything I had to do last week. Client sessions, admin work, plans with a friend. I didn’t want to do any of it.

This was a shock to my system. I’m always excited. I love projects. I love talking to people and spending time with those I love.

But the only thing I truly wanted to do was run away to a cabin in the woods and not talk to a soul. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t fly.

I had a week of calls. Much to do, like any week. My next vacation is Brooklyn at the end of the month. My first thought was, Just make it until then. Not a chance.

The problem-solver that I am, I worked hard to find the source of all this.

I went through every interaction, every experience, everything I did and said in the past two weeks. Is this a trauma thing? Am I nervous about something? Did I do something I feel guilty about?

No. No. And no.

Then what the fuck is wrong??

Mindfulness told me that nothing was wrong. There was nothing to fix. But that’s much easier to say when I’m not in the thick of it.

I used my Ph.D. in Bro Science to dissect things. It felt as though my brain wasn’t producing dopamine. It was hard to laugh. I had zero motivation to do anything. I dreaded waking up and attacking the day.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m always laughing, I’m always motivated, and I love waking up and getting moving.

I cried a few times.

Here’s why:

  • I felt awful
  • I had no idea why I felt so awful
  • I both wanted to be consoled by my friends and not talk to anyone
  • I felt guilty for showing up to calls as (barely) half a person
  • With my limited knowledge of mental health, I thought about how many people experience way worse than what I did

Not fun.

This continued each day. I went to bed hoping I’d wake up refreshed and back to normal. Then I’d get up disappointed and reluctantly head into my office.

On Thursday, I had a session with my coach. When I laid out everything I was going through, we dove in. Without recounting the entire session, here were my major takeaways:

  1. I need more support.
  2. I work every day and didn’t even realize it.
  3. I’ve built an accidental brand of someone who’s unstoppable and has it all figured out (lol).
  4. In the 10 days of February, I had given myself to (held space, helped, served) 53 people for 36 hours.
  5. I’m working on too many things.

Holy shit. I was totally burnt out.

With this blog, with becoming a leader in my coaching community, with building more and more relationships in life and business…

People have been asking for my time and attention more than ever before. My output—the amount of value I’ve been trying to give—has been blowing up like a balloon. That balloon popped last week.

As I’ve reminded myself countless times in the past: It doesn’t matter how good we are at time management—there are only 24 hours in a day. We can’t trick Father Time.

I was giving 100 things 1% of me. As opposed to giving one thing 100% of me.

That session gave me a ton of clarity on what was going on. But it didn’t make me feel any better.

The next day on Friday, I was in a session with someone and I realized I hadn’t been listening to them for about 60 seconds. My eyes started watering.

I felt terrible. It was unprofessional of me to try to power through this. I finally understood the merit of taking a mental health day.

So I took a mental health weekend.

I reached out to the seven people I had sessions/plans with, told them I needed to escape for a few days, and then asked to borrow my friends’ dog, Hank.

I got an Airbnb an hour away. Seven of seven people responded with nothing but well-wishes and heart emojis. ❤️

I packed some clothes and a book, picked Hank up, and we headed off the grid.

So…

2) What the hell did I learn?

When we got to the place, I dropped my bag and phone off. Hank and I left immediately to explore the local hiking trails.

When we got to the first one, I let Hank off the leash and he galloped around the trees with glee. Hiking with a well-trained dog should be an American pastime.

He found a stick and handed it to me. I thanked him for the gift and we walked aimlessly.

A few things hit me in those first few minutes in the woods:

  1. I don’t do this enough.
  2. Intention is a beautiful thing, but so is doing something without a goal or purpose.
  3. Life is 40 times more enjoyable outside without a phone.

The sun was going down so we went back to the Airbnb. I fed him and ordered dinner for myself.

The evening was spent reading, playing with Hank, and thinking.

When we woke up, I gave him breakfast and we went straight back out to the trails. It was snowing. He looked even more graceful sprinting through piles of white.

Back at the place, I made a cup of coffee and started reading a novel. A few minutes in, I realized I was enjoying it more than I had in the past. 90 pages in and it felt like I was soaking it in for the first time.

What was different?

Then the insight struck me. This was the first time in months I had picked up a book simply because I wanted to read it. It wasn’t for my routine. It wasn’t my 30 minutes of morning reading. I was just reading a good book on a snowy morning with some coffee and a dog lying at my feet.

“I need more mornings where I don’t care what time it is,” I said out loud.

“Quiet, I’m trying to sleep,” muttered Hank.

I stopped reading when I wanted to stop, not because it was time to stop. I could get used to this whole “not scheduling every hour” thing.

We played more tug-of-war, cleaned the place up, and checked out. Before returning home, we hit a nature park and wandered around for an hour or two. Every ten minutes that passed was like a percentage increase in my life battery.

I discovered that this stuff…time in nature, electronic-free walks, mornings without a clock…these were no longer self-care luxuries. At the level I’m at now, they’re necessities.

With that said…

3) What the hell am I going to do with all this?

I brought Hank back home and chilled with my two friends for an hour. I told them about my mental state. They listened with care.

When they asked how the Airbnb was, I said, “Necessary, not enough, and expensive.”

While it was helpful, it didn’t remove the physical sensation in my eyes and throat. But it did show me what I needed to change.

First, I need to stop working on Sundays.

I’ve been willing to do sessions on weekends because several of my clients have 9 to 5s and I don’t do evening calls. But that means when I’m not taking a trip, my week looks like this:

Mon—write book, organize week
Tue—sessions, chess lesson
Wed—sessions, group calls
Thu—sessions, newsletter
Fri—sessions, creative work
Sat—sessions, maybe fun
Sun—sessions, chill before week starts

No days off. Literally. That’s stupid.

My brain has no time to shut off or unplug. I’m always on.

Last night, I turned my phone on airplane mode and watched six episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender (I have no idea who played in the Super Bowl).

Even that felt like a rarity. How often do we watch something on TV while on our phones? How many God damn screens do we need at one time?

So, here are my to-dos:

  1. Get back to everyone I’ve been blowing off.
  2. Reschedule my sessions/calls.
  3. Tell my clients I can’t work Sundays anymore.
  4. Spend more time without my phone and not looking at the clock.

I’ve already halted two projects I was working on. Taking those off my shoulders gave me an immediate wave of relief.

Moving forward, I’m going to be doing less. Less but better. Less but with more time, love, and attention. I’ll do more by doing less. Yes. Less.

Conclusion

I’m immensely grateful to have people in my life I can be vulnerable with.

Even this blog. I’m lucky to have an outlet where I can share stuff like this.

I also think about my mom.

I work for myself and have no one to worry about other than me. What if I was a single parent with a full-time job? I couldn’t just cancel everything and escape. Again, I’m lucky to be able to do what I do.

Please, if you’ve been through anything similar, share it with me. I’d love to learn more about the scope and scale of mental health.

Thanks for making it this far. I’m back and feeling pumped to do much, much less! 😘

Getting away

Hank the dog

Today, I’m borrowing my friends’ dog and staying in an Airbnb in the woods.

I canceled all my calls and obligations. Here’s what I sent seven people.

“Hey…! I’m so sorry. I know this is last minute but I’m experiencing some crazy burnout and need to get away. I’m rescheduling everything this weekend and running away to a cabin in the woods. Hope this lands well!”

I can already see I got back four responses from people with nothing but support and well-wishes.

This has never happened to me before. I don’t know the source of this anxiety and overwhelm. It came out of nowhere.

This is new territory for me so I’m learning how to manage it. I dare say there are several learning and growth opportunities here.

I’ll let you all know what those are when I return from playing with this dog off the grid. No phone. No wifi.

Just me, Hank, and a book.

Off the grid

I’m a workaholic. I learned that this winter.

When I stopped doing outreach for my business in December, I got depressed for two weeks. It turned out a huge piece of my identity was wrapped up in my ability to create clients and income.

These past few months have been me learning how to slow down. Some weeks are easier than others. These are good problems to have.

But today, I’m feeling burnt out and I have no idea why.

Every now and then, I have the insatiable urge to spend three weeks in a cabin in the woods. Off the grid. No phone. No one can reach me. Just me, my notebook, my laptop (without wifi), and a few books.

I’m resenting any and all obligations. It’s kind of scary.

So what do I do when this happens? What can I do?

1) Understand that this too shall pass.

2) Check my health trifecta:

  • Am I getting good, consistent sleep?
  • What have I been eating?
  • Have I been exercising regularly?

3) Declutter.

Remove things from my schedule and physical space.

Sometimes I tell people straight up, “Hey! I’m terribly sorry, I know this sounds strange. But I’m going through some burnout right now and I’m making the executive decision to clear my schedule. Would you be willing to reschedule for two weeks from now? Thank you!”

Plus, getting rid of half my stuff in any room cheers me up immediately.

4) Tell someone about it.

Powerful emotions should never be kept to one’s self. I’m lucky to have friends with whom I can share my demons. It’s a sin to not take advantage of that resource.

I plan to do all these things this week.

If the blog goes silent, I’m probably writing posts off the grid in the mountains of Montana.

I got drunk this weekend—and I don’t hate myself

Saturday night, my two good friends hosted a dinner party in DC. Me plus four of their other friends.

We drank wine (and scotch), ate delicious food, and played a plethora of board games. Laughter was had and new connections were made.

After the second glass of wine, I asked them if I could crash on their couch.

The next morning, I woke up with their cat laying on top of me. The sun was piercing through the balcony window. My head was pounding.

But I was happy.

I hadn’t had any alcohol in over a month. Readers of this blog know I take month-long pauses from drinking. Sobriety fascinates me. It wouldn’t shock me if, at some point in my life, I give up drinking entirely.

But lately, I’ve been eyeing my relationship with alcohol under a microscope. I don’t want to rely on it to have fun or be social. But I want to feel free to drink with friends if I so choose.

That’s what happened this weekend. It felt like I just had some drinks and played games with my buddies. Nothing embarrassing happened. I didn’t do or say anything misaligned.

When the three of us (four, counting their baby) woke up, we chatted, reviewed the night, and enjoyed coffee together.

I learned the two necessities for me to enjoy a night of drinking: responsibility and not having any work to do the next day.

If drinking to me means being able to do this once every month or two, that sounds lovely.

I got COVID

Dillan Taylor's COVID test

Again.

Tested positive this morning.

This is exactly when I got it last year—late January. It’s a winter tradition I suppose.

But this time I’m fully vaccinated. Now it feels more like an annoying inconvenience than a debilitating disease.

No canceled calls. The show must go on.

You win this round, COVID. But I shall return.

I’ve meditated every day for four years—And I still suck at it

A man sitting cross-legged while meditating

Meditation is an odd thing.

When I started getting my life together in summer 2017, I downloaded HeadSpace. Andy’s soothing voice introduced me to the simple concepts of mindfulness.

Following the breath. Focusing on each physical sensation. Noticing thoughts and images that appear and vanish.

Within a month of consistently doing three, five, or ten-minute meditations, I felt a shift in my emotional state. It wasn’t that I was less emotional per se, but the default response to my emotions became slowed down and lightened.

Someone does something shitty ➡️ I’m pissed off!

Turned into…

Someone does something shitty ➡️ Sensations of heat and tingling in my neck and face ➡️ Thoughts of me telling this person off ➡️ Noticing that all of that is just in my head ➡️ Deciding not to react in a shitty way.

The second process slowly became a habit.

By adding a simple and short mediation practice to my mornings, the rest of my days were drastically improved. I was kinder, more patient, and more appreciative.

Since I’ve been doing this almost every day for four years, one would expect me to be floating in the lotus position on the cusp of enlightenment.

But instead, I’m just a dude.

Half of my meditations consist of me forgetting I’m meditating. I’ll plan my day, get chaotically lost in thought, or worry about one of a thousand things coming up. Clearing my mind feels impossible.

Because it is impossible.

I now use the Waking Up app for my guided meditations. In it, Sam Harris provides a useful model:

“If someone had a gun to your head and told you not to think about anything for 15 seconds, or they would shoot you…you’d be dead in two seconds. If need be, you could probably keep your hand in fire for that long. But we can’t help but think.”

I hear people bash meditation all the time. “I’m not good at it…My mind is too jumbled…It doesn’t work for me…”

Welcome to the club.

Aside from severe mental health issues, every single person has something to gain by trying some kind of meditation practice. Even if it’s just three minutes of noticing what’s going on around them.

It’s not about doing more; it’s about doing less. Less reacting, more noticing.

My mentor often reminds me of a piece of advice he was given years ago:

“Don’t fit meditation into your life, fit your life into your meditation.”

For me, when I don’t have a ton of time in the morning, meditation is the first thing I skip in my routine. I regret it every time.

Conversely, when I don’t feel like doing it (which is most days) but do it anyway, I’m grateful 100% of the time.

Join me as I float to nirvana.

Another Dry January

I’ve done four Sober Octobers in a row now.

Last year, I added a “Dry January.” This year, I’m adding a third month of sobriety—probably June. (“Jeez Louise I’m not drinking June?”)

I look forward to these months. Feeling clean, healthy, and rested.

Three friends and clients have joined me this month.

No alcohol until February. Care to join us?

Email me if you’re down.

Omicron

A couple of my friends either caught colds or COVID these past two weeks.

The second of four waves that Nicholas Christakis predicted is upon us.

Naturally, many of us will be more conservative now and stay inside more.

I have cold symptoms this morning. An achy face and sinus issues.

Hopefully this won’t get worse and affect the holidays with my family.

For now, I’ll sip my coffee and tea and keep chugging along.

I went too far

A little girl wearing a mask and holding a teddy bear also wearing a mask

I like to create rules.

Boundaries and guidelines for living a healthy and principled life.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve added two rules to my chart:

  1. I can only drink alcohol twice a month.
  2. I can’t give unsolicited advice.

I’ve changed my mind on both of these. Let me explain.

Let’s start with the second one: giving advice.

I recently read The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious, and Change the Way You Lead Forever. (Here’s my review of the book if you want my quick summary.)

In short, giving advice isn’t always the best way to help someone. We usually provide solutions to the wrong problem and, while we don’t like to admit it, our solutions aren’t always that good.

I soaked this in. The last chapter is a reassurance that giving advice isn’t evil, it’s just not always the most effective option.

Despite this, I processed the whole thing as: I must never give advice.

So, when I inevitably did, I felt gross. I felt like a bad person who was hurting my friends and colleagues.

It didn’t take long for me to go, Yeah…I don’t think I’m supposed to feel this way.

As for my drinking, that rule came from puking two nights in a row while on vacation. Naturally, I woke up that second morning certain I would never drink again. I’m sure I’m the only person who has ever pretended to decide that.

But this weekend, I went to DC to have dinner at my friends’ apartment. They cooked a delicious meal and offered me a glass of wine.

I thought, You know what, I DO want one glass of wine. Maybe even two.

And that’s what happened. The three of us finished a bottle then drank water and played games for the remainder of the night.

I said out loud, “Ah. This isn’t the problem. Getting fucked up is the problem.”

Believe it or not, I just don’t enjoy getting wasted as much as I did when I was 20 years old. Go figure.

The next night, I got dinner at my other friends’ house and we each had one hard Kombucha (I know, we’re tanks). It turns out that when I only have one or two drinks I tend to not make shitty decisions.

Conclusion

I erased both of those rules from my whiteboard.

The lesson?

It’s a great thing to notice areas of improvement in our lives. We have the power to make changes in our habits and tendencies to create something better.

But it’s even more healthy to reassess those changes and course-correct if they’re not fully meeting our needs. We can ask: Is this really a problem? If so, is this the best way to address the problem?

Then when our needs shift we can adjust again. And so on.

I don’t really drink unless it’s a social event and I’m not rushing to preach my worldviews to people. But I will have a beer here and I’ll share some opinions there…

All I can do is try to be healthy and helpful and apologize when I overstep.

That’s the new rule.

Day of disgust

A man pouring a beer into a glass

I missed yesterday’s blog.

This weekend was a strange one.

I visited a friend and my dad’s side of the family in Virginia. We all did what we usually do: drink and hang out.

November has led to some shitty mornings in the past since I take the entire month of October off from drinking alcohol.

But this weekend, I threw up from drinking on both Friday and Saturday night.

Sunday morning wasn’t a typical hangover. It was one of those mornings where one lies in bed like a vegetable and reconsiders their life decisions.

It was in that moment of disgust I decided to seriously cut down on my drinking.

I certainly don’t feel like an alcoholic, but my issue is that when I do drink, I drink like I’m still 20 years old.

I’m not.

I’m a 27-year-old man who doesn’t drink often and who takes good care of his body. Meaning, when I drink like I’m in college again, my body rejects it like poison (which it technically is). That’s not super sustainable.

So I’m revisiting my rules.

New rule: I can only drink alcohol two nights a month.

What I learned from my fourth Sober October

A jack-o-lantern next to a block calendar in October

In late September, I called my six-year sober friend.

When I told him I was doing Sober October, he responded, “Me too!”

I’ve always commended his ability to be social, go to bars, and dance…all without the liquid courage of alcohol. I’m an extroverted guy but I doubt I’d be the same chipper dude at a bar in Brooklyn at 2am if I were sober.

He asked me why I do it. Why do I take months off of drinking if it’s not a problem in my life?

The answer is simple: There’s a part of me that enjoys partying and occasionally doing less-than-healthy things. So long as that doesn’t get in the way of my work, my health, or my relationships, then I’m good. But a few times each year, I take a month off to remind myself that I don’t rely on alcohol to be fun, funny, or social.

This was the best month yet.

It only took about a week for me to forget I was doing any sort of “challenge.” It helps that I’m not close friends with any avid drinkers.

Here are my three biggest takeaways from this past month. None of them may surprise you…

1) It’s SO much easier to get good sleep without alcohol in our systems.

Not drinking tends to mean not staying up late or doing other drugs. But even if we go to bed at a reasonable hour, a tiny amount of alcohol in our blood can greatly diminish sleep quality.

I use the app SleepCycle to track my sleep data and this was my best month in four years.

Here are some specs from a random Thursday in October:

Dillan's sleep data from Sober October
Time in bed vs. time spent asleep.
Dillan's sleep data from Sober October
REM and NREM sleep.
Dillan's sleep data from Sober October
Other relevant data.

That’s good shit.

2) NOT waking up with any sort of hangover is the 8th Wonder of the World.

Tied to #1.

I’ve done many drugs in my life—both legal and not. Let me tell you about my favorite one.

The most effective and sustainable drug on the planet is being clean, well-rested, well-nourished, and energized.

A night of cocaine may have made me better at talking about myself for a few hours in the past. But a stable and healthy body has allowed me to compound my efforts, build a profitable business from scratch, and get in pretty damn good shape.

If I had one drug to choose from, I choose that any day of the week.

There wasn’t one morning this past month where I wasn’t ready to attack the day. Even if I was a bit tired or sick, not being wildly dehydrated and groggy made me feel like I could experience the full scope of my day.

3) Conversation is the most important thing.

I’m lucky to have friends who are way more intelligent and creative than I am.

The cool thing is, I get to talk to them regularly. They inspire me. They make me laugh hysterically. They challenge me to level up.

When I visited one of my best friends in Philadelphia last month, the vast majority of our time was spent sitting or walking and having deep and curious conversations.

Aside from the occasional coffee or tea, it was just our own sober thoughts and questions. That’s connection.

In a friend or a potential partner, I ask myself:

Can I sit down with this person and have a three-hour, totally sober, fun and fruitful conversation?

If the answer is no—i.e. if it feels like other substances or activities are necessary for us to connect—then I’ll never truly feel connected to that person.

In other words, I connect with others through conversation: opening up about ideas and emotions and making each other laugh.

Conclusion

I still haven’t had any alcohol since Sober October ended. I’m not craving it at all and to be honest, I haven’t really thought about it until I sat down to write this blog.

That makes me feel good.

I would never tell anyone how to live their life, but I can say this for sure:

The more we can learn to genuinely enjoy our sober minds and surroundings, the more rewarding and sustainable our lives will be.

(*I hope that made sense and I hope that doesn’t sound insensitive to anyone struggling with addiction.)

See you next October.

I asked my doctor friends about vaccines

Three doctors looking at

This is NOT a post trying to convince someone to get vaccinated. It’s a blog about humility.

How it started

A few months ago, I had a warm debate with a friend about the COVID vaccine. I found her arguments to be shaky and without much reassuring evidence to support them.

But it wasn’t what we were arguing about that struck me. It was the level of certainty she had about her opinions while clearly being nothing close to an expert herself.

Certainty that the counter-evidence was likely bullshit. Certainty that the 1% of medical doctors against vaccines are in the right. Certainty that the virus is being propped up so the government and big pharma may gain control over citizens.

In general, I’m less interested in what a person thinks and care way more about how they think.

The conversation with my friend eventually fizzled out, but I couldn’t help but think: Have you had this debate with any real medical experts?

This was my first dose of humility…because I hadn’t spoken to anyone in that field either. So I decided to change that.

I’m lucky to have friends and folks in my life who are either medical doctors or are surrounded by them. I reached out to each of them and asked for their expert opinions in a neutral way.

I didn’t state my thoughts and then ask for validation. I simply said: “I’m trying to get a clearer picture here. As a medical professional, would you be willing to share your thoughts on the COVID vaccine?”

Every single doctor I reached out to sent me paragraphs in response.

Here are the notable takeaways:

• “I’m extremely confident in my ability to read and dissect medical literature surrounding this topic. I think a lot of people who “do their own research” don’t know the first thing about how to conduct, analyze, or determine the relevancy of medical studies. A Google search is not even remotely the same thing.”

• “One of the reasons mankind is still alive is the existence of vaccines. Polio, Measles, Mumps, Varicella, Meningitis, Influenza, and more…would ravage us if we didn’t have vaccines. I think people have become more skeptical in the world today compared to 20 years ago about nearly everything and essentially with this first new vaccine coming in that time, it’s a perfect target for controversy.”

• “As far as reasons I support it? It’s literally the answer to this problem we are all dealing with. It is safe, it’s well researched, the studies are all massively in favor of it, and it’s the fastest and likely the only way to go back to our normal lives.”

• “After these years of education and practical training, I think vaccines are one those things that have received unnecessary negativity towards.”

• “I know there are people who can’t get it, and that is okay. I also know that people who chose not to get it aren’t necessarily selfish people, they are normally just extremely uninformed or misinformed. Everybody acts in a way that they think is best. But just because you think you’re right, doesn’t mean you are. And in this case, it is causing harm to other people. It’s everyone else’s job to protect those of us who are more vulnerable. It’s part of our societal duties.”

• “I understand people want to be wary about side effects which is absolutely fine, but everything we do in medicine is evidence-based practice. We all take the Hippocratic Oath and essentially we try to do no harm while doing what is right for patients.”

• “I would understand the resistance to the vaccine if there was legitimate cause for concern, but there isn’t. Every single time I see a new BS conspiracy theory pop up, I take a week or two to look at the research and listen to the various experts that I know personally or follow on various forms of media. Without fail, every concern has been comprehensively debunked.”

• “It baffles and frustrates me that people are so resistant to entertaining the possibility that they may be wrong. It’s led to so much vaccine resistance and done so much harm. It’s the reason we are still in this mess, the reason the delta variant is such a problem, and the reason so many people are dying unnecessarily.”

What to do with all this?

To be clear, if any of these doctors said something like: “I actually warn people against the vaccine because of x, y, and z…” I would’ve included that too.

These just happen to be all the major points made by the five people I reached out to. I’m also aware that five people isn’t a great sample size.

The point of all of this is highlighted in the first takeaway I listed: I don’t have the slightest clue of how to read and dissect medical studies. Likewise, my friends who think they can in a matter of minutes seem foolish to me.

I think in the world of the internet—where we can find anyone articulating any opinion—it behooves us to practice more humility.

When did experts become morons? Corruption is real and people make mistakes, yes. But what allows someone to feel certain they know more than someone who’s been studying that thing for decades?

We’re experiencing a strange death of expertise.

Which makes me eternally grateful to have people in my life I can turn to who know way more than I do.

If I were thinking of getting spinal surgery, and I had a friend—who’s a server in a restaurant, say—tell me they actually did some research and thought I shouldn’t because it could damage my vertebrae…my response would be: “What the fuck do you know about spinal surgery??”

Vaccines and spinal surgeries are obviously different things in scope and scale. But what I’m trying to hammer home is the ridiculous nature of listening to people who certainly don’t know what they’re talking about.

This goes for my friends who are for the vaccines as well.

In summary:

1) I don’t know shit. Neither do most of us…so we should turn to the people who do know shit before cementing our own ideas.

2) Skepticism is healthy, but the point of expertise is to have people we can trust to take care of the wildly complex things which keep our lives going.

3) The next time we feel certain about an opinion, we must ask: How much time have I spent challenging this opinion? Who can I talk to in order to challenge these thoughts?

Sober October begins

A pumpkin and a fall leaf during October

For the fourth year in a row, I will not be drinking a sip of alcohol during the month of October.

There are a few reasons for this:

  1. It’s refreshing to take a break from putting poison in my body.
  2. It makes it easier to crush it in my other health arenas: diet, exercise, sleep.
  3. Waking up well-rested and without a hangover is one of my passions.
  4. Even though I don’t drink all the time, it’s nice to prove to myself I truly don’t need or crave it.

I’m always excited to start.

And now, each year I’m adding an extra month of no drinking. This year it was January. Next year, it’ll be three months.

Let us begin.

Why is this so hard?

A red panda sleeping in a tree

Yesterday, I’m quite certain I experienced the effects of sleep deprivation for the first time in my life.

All three nights this weekend, I attended an event that led to me staying up late. Two of those nights I drank alcohol which always fucks with my sleep quality. And according to my tracker, I averaged four and a half hours of time spent asleep Friday through Sunday.

So what was yesterday like?

The Sleep Foundation lists these as the major symptoms of acute sleep deprivation:

  • Slowed thinking
  • Reduced attention span
  • Worsened memory
  • Poor or risky decision-making
  • Lack of energy
  • Mood changes—including feelings of stress, anxiety, or irritability

That sums my day up perfectly.

In the morning, I sat down with my cup of coffee and for the first hour of my day, I had to constantly remind myself of what I was doing. I would start one thing and jump to another, forgetting what I was doing in the first place. The pit of anxiety in my chest was thunderous.

At noon, I hopped on my regular Monday call with my coaching program and I don’t even remember what we did or what I said on it.

When that was over, I began my next three hours of work, made it about ten minutes, threw in the towel, and went and laid in bed.

I can’t remember the last time I started a day of work and then stopped in the middle of it. Unfortunately, this didn’t calm me down because my chest was telling me I should be working harder, not resting.

Ugh.

Why is this blog post called what it’s called?

It’s because it doesn’t matter how much I talk, write, or preach about how vital it is…sleep always seems to be something that’s easy to sacrifice.

Yesterday humbled me. So today, with my rested and refreshed brain, I’m writing down a few rules for myself on my whiteboard:

1) At 10pm, the phone must be on airplane mode.

2) If there are coaching sessions scheduled the next day, no more than two drinks the night before.

3) If an offer or request doesn’t light me up, I have to say No to it.

If we want to prioritize our energy, we have to treat it like a priority. That’s what yesterday taught me.

An extra hour of sleep

Sleeping in is one of my least favorite things to do.

When I wake up—regardless of how tired I am—I prefer to just get out of bed and start my day.

But for some reason, last night I only got about four hours of sleep. At least that’s what my sleep tracker said when I first woke up at 6:30 this morning.

I made the split decision to do something I never do.

I texted my friends to let them know I couldn’t join them on our weekly swim. Then I set a new alarm and went back to sleep.

Thank God I did. I don’t feel amazing right now…but I certainly don’t feel like the zombie I was when I first woke.

The lesson:

Living a productive life is great and all that….but sometimes we just need some extra rest.

30 more visits with Grandpa

A grandpa smiling while sitting on a couch
Not my Grandpa lol.

Vacay

I went on a lovely family vacation this past weekend. Lakehouse, swimming, tubing, laughing.

But the most memorable moment came when I walked down to the boathouse to find my Grandpa standing at the bottom of the walkway. It looked like he was mentally preparing himself to ascend a mountain.

He had just gotten a pacemaker put in days before. I asked him what was up.

He told me he gets out of breath easily and so I held out my hand to help him up the steps. Once we made it up the first section, he thanked me and assured me he could take it from there.

“All good Gramps,” I responded. “We’ll go up together.”

We got to the deck and he took it from there since he had the handrails to balance himself. I walked back down to the dock to grab the beer I wanted and I noticed I was crying.

It wasn’t a sob. My mouth wasn’t moving. But tears streamed out of both eyes.

This was the first time I got a ‘slap in the face’ reminder of the universal truth: Our time is limited here.

A new lens

After that happened, I saw my Grandpa in a different light. I already love talking to him. He’s hilarious and one of the cleverest men I’ve ever known.

But for the rest of the weekend, I didn’t just enjoy my talks with him…I cherished them.

Every joke and story he told, I found myself uncontrollably beaming. I also looked at my calendar to find the best weekends in the coming months to drive down and visit him and my Grandma.

On top of that, I did some math.

My Grandpa turned 80 this year. Assuming he lives to be 90 years old, I have 10 more years left with him. But that’s incorrect.

On average, I see my Grandparents three times per year. Maintaining that trajectory, I don’t have 10 years left with my Grandfather…I have 30 more visits.

After this weekend, I can check off one of those boxes. 29 to go.

Is this depressing?

No. Not to me.

Talking about this shit is sad, yes. But I much prefer to be open and candid about the inevitable, rather than bury my head in the sand and pretend like death doesn’t exist.

I know people who do the latter and they tend to be the ones who shut down when the worst occurs. Not productive.

Understanding that we’re all approaching death isn’t morbid. It’s empowering.

It forces us to desire more presentness, listening, and compassion.

It invites us to say “Yes” to the things that matter more often: trips with friends, phone calls with family, playtime with kids or pets.

We can obsess over the number of checkboxes we have left with the people we love…or we can focus on the quality of each of those boxes before we check them off.

Having people we love who are alive is a gift. We get to call them, laugh with them, disagree with them, hug them, learn from them…

Even with someone we don’t particularly like—if we found out they had a month to live, we’d forgive their faults and forget our grievances with them. We’d hear what they had to say and make sure they were comfortable and cared for.

What if we did that more often with more people?

Conclusion

It’s up to us to enjoy the box we’re currently checking.

I’m not dreading the number of boxes I have left with my Grandpa. I’m ecstatic for the next box I get with him in a few months.

How I maintain my energy

A pile of double A batteries

On a coaching mastermind call yesterday, we discussed ways we stay energized.

For me, it’s three things.

1) When I’m in a rut, I check my health trifecta.

• Am I getting at least seven hours of sleep each night?
• Am I eating a lot of processed foods and sugar?
• Have I exercised at least three times this week?

2) I take one weekend off each month.

I happily work on weekends since that’s when many of my clients are available. But once a month, I take a long week or weekend off to travel somewhere (usually on the east coast).

It’s a refreshing break after three weeks of hard work and I always return home feeling amped to get back to my routine and do it all over again.

Since I have no kids or other major responsibilities at this time, I figure I should take advantage of it while I can.

3) I spend a lot of time doing things I enjoy.

Chess, martial arts, exercise, quality time with friends, reading…

I find it vital to our souls to spend a good amount of time away from anything having to do with work or money. Like a vacation, it makes us appreciate our time back even more.

We should all have a thing. Preferably something challenging—a skill or a craft—we can practice and get better at.

For me, these three things are perfect substitutes for any drug or stimulant.

5 hours of sleep

Everything is harder when we’re not well-rested.

Everything.

I swam laps with my friend this morning and could only do about half as much as I normally can.

I didn’t feel like writing this blog.

I don’t feel like working today.

But what I do feel like doing…is getting some fucking sleep tonight.

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.

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.