One question: the best feedback you’ve ever gotten

Two men giving feedback to one another at a conference table

Receiving feedback from our friends, family, and colleagues is one of the quickest ways we can improve ourselves.

It can also be extremely painful.

Our egos can get hurt. Not everyone’s opinions are valid. We see what people really think about us.

But building thicker skin and understanding we’re far from perfect are some of the most valuable things we can do. I ask for suggestions for this blog. I do regular improvement sessions with my closest friends. It can be uncomfortable but it always leads to something better.

If none of that interests you but you want to make improvements in your relationships, health, or work…ask this question to the people closest to you.

What’s something you’re afraid to tell me because you think it would hurt my feelings?

The answers you hear may sting in the short term. But you’ll start being more mindful, improving skills, and seeing reality for what it is.

Try it out. Let me know how it goes.

4 questions to avoid repeating mistakes

A table full of writing utensils

It’s been a while since I emailed you guys a blog. 11 days to be exact.

While I’m sure some of you are delighted by this, it’s left me feeling guilty. When you subscribe to something, you do so because you expect value from it.

Some of you support the blog financially. Some of you neglect your children and careers just to read what I write. I’m so grateful.

The truth is, I put too much creative work on my plate at once. Here’s my to-do list from the last 30 days:

  • finish rough draft of Do The Thing!
  • restructure my community’s website
  • write 2-3 blogs per week
  • edit YouTube videos, podcasts, and TikToks for YGG
  • manage new clients in my coaching business
  • go on three vacations with my friends and family

Too much.

But now that I’ve crossed off a few of these items, I’m ready to clean up, reflect, and make sure this doesn’t happen again. I thought today’s post would be a good time to do an exercise I found on Instagram.

It’s called the AAR Method (after-action review) and it’s used by the Navy Seals. It’s a four-question framework. In sharing the model with you all, I’ll give my answers for each step.

1. What did I intend to accomplish?

I tried to move in the direction of what I want my work life to look like.

It’s threefold:

  1. writing blogs and books
  2. running a podcast/YouTube channel
  3. having my one-on-one coaching business

To me, it’s a fulfilling cocktail of conversations and deep work.

2. What happened?

I started sprinting in this direction with no real plan and with little help. My schedule and timelines were up in the air. I got to things when I could get to them.

Problem was, I often felt creatively empty after spending hours of bandwidth on one or two things. I also felt the effects of task-switching. After hours of writing in the morning, coaching in the afternoon, and editing in the early evening, I’d be absolutely drained by 5pm.

3. Why did it happen that way?

I didn’t create any organized systems for keeping everything on track. With everything left to chance, my days were cluttered and sporadic.

I also just expected myself to be able to handle all this. There are these sexy Instagram-worthy archetypes of entrepreneurs doing a thousand things and working 12-hour days.

In reality, most of us have about four to five hours of deep, undistracted work in us each day. So putting eight hours of writing and editing on the calendar was destined to fail.

In summary: unrealistic expectations and a lack of organization.

4. What will I do next time for a better outcome?

Give each day of the week a theme. On these days, I write. On those days, I edit.

Some sort of digital system would also be useful for deadlines. I’m working on that with services like Evernote and Trello.

Finally, next time new projects present themselves, I’ll ask myself: “How much harder will this make things for me?”

I usually go to great lengths to keep from being busy or overloaded. I’d like to never get there again.

I think these questions will help.

The 2 options for learning something

A girl in a kimono karate kicking in mid air

Last week, I took my friend to her first jiujitsu class. She’s athletic and open-minded so I thought I’d show her the misery I put myself through on weeknights.

While she enjoyed it, she said it was…a lot.

I remember when I first started in 2020. For about three months, I reluctantly went to class only to flail around and have someone control my every move. It was demoralizing.

But slowly, I began to defend myself. I got submitted less and less. Eventually, I even beat a few teammates.

The learning curve was steep. Going from total noob to slightly less of a noob was quite a journey.

My face just about every class.

So while learning a move in class last week, I looked over at my friend choking her partner. Her eyes were as wide as they could stretch. Most people aren’t used to bending and suffocating other people for fun. It can be overwhelming.

She took it easy and only sparred with a few people. They took it slow with her and talked her through everything. I’m lucky to be at a super welcoming and friendly gym.

Afterward, she wasn’t entirely sure if it was something she’d want to commit to. I completely understood. It’s hard to market.

“Hey, would you like to try something really really uncomfortable and grueling, that will take you a pretty long time to get even remotely good at, while you roll around in a puddle of other people’s sweat night after night?”

Jiujitsu, everybody.

Whatever she chooses to do, I was quite proud of my friend for giving it a go. It made me realize that we really only have two choices when learning, pursuing, or attempting something new.

Option 1: “One day…”

Option 2: Day 1.

Getting in shape. Learning an instrument or foreign language. Starting a business. We can either start these things or wait.

Starting is exhilarating, ungraceful, and often discouraging. When we begin to climb the mountain, we see how tall it actually is. We can also imagine the downsides pretty easily. It’ll be scary. We could fail. We might look stupid.

But waiting can be an unfulfilling trap. When we create all these conditions that have to be met before diving into something, years can go by and we realize we’re standing in the same (or in a worse) spot. These downsides are usually more long-term and therefore are harder to anticipate until a ton of time has gone by. It’s tough to imagine the regret you’ll feel ten years from now.

An example of this difference is building an exercise habit.

The cons of going to the gym are simple. You don’t know how to use certain equipment. You’re out of shape. You’re not sure which exercises to do. It’ll be unfamiliar and tricky before any results are had.

But the cons of not exercising regularly are cloudier and easier to ignore. It’s hard to motivate ourselves with the possibility of being deeply disappointed by our bodies years down the line. But that’s exactly what happens to many of us. We look at ourselves and wished we started working out a while ago.

That’s because we’re so afraid of Day 1. But it all starts there.

What are you avoiding? What’s Day 1 look like for you?

5 things I’d tell my 18-year-old self

Dillan Taylor at Kings Dominion in 2012
Kings Dominion, fall 2012.

My 10-year high school reunion is tonight. I’m thrilled.

I can’t believe it’s already been a decade. I remember wearing the tye die tank top in the photo above, walking through the neighborhood near our freshman dorm, and smoking a joint with my roommate.

“Dude,” I coughed. “When my sister is a freshman in college, we’ll be 30.”

“Whoa,” he retorted.

At the time, that idea seemed so far away that it would never actually come true. But now it’s less than two years away.

Before I take tequila shots with a bunch of people who didn’t know my name in high school, I’d like to reflect on who I was when I graduated. In the moment, I’m sure I felt like I had finally grown up. In reality, I was just an insecure teenager with a driver’s license.

If I had an hour with that 18-year-old doofus, what would we talk about? Would he be impressed by me? Would he judge my mustache? What would I say to him?

Probably these things…

1) You’re supposed to feel confused, self-conscious, and clueless.

No one has their shit figured out, especially at 18. We’re all just dumpster fires hiding behind beautiful Instagram photos and Facebook posts.

It felt like you were the only insecure kid in high school. But you’ll soon realize that everyone else was just really good at hiding it. I didn’t start feeling truly confident in life until I was 23. And that was after failing college and trying to kill myself.

As a life coach, I work with people of all age brackets. I know 50-year-olds who are still figuring out what they want to be when they grow up. You’ve got plenty of time.

You’ll never “arrive.” There is no solution or formula to life that makes the rest of it smooth sailing.

So just keep putting yourself out there and trying new things. Your values and interests will change as you do. But you have to take action and go out and explore.

2) Don’t go to college until you can specifically state what you want to work on and why school is the best choice for that.

You were a trash student, dude. A 2.2 GPA in high school.

Why do you think putting tens of thousands of fake future dollars on the line would make things easier for you? On top of that, you’d have no supervision and access to all the booze, drugs, and women you could imagine. Does that sound like it would produce high levels of commitment and productivity?

Swallow your pride and stay home for now. Get a job at a restaurant, start saving money, and build creative skills. It will suck to see your friends go off to four-year universities. But you’ll be grateful in four years when you’re not paying $1000 a month for a piece of paper you’re not using.

3) You’re not really valuable right now, but you absolutely will be.

I don’t mean you’re useless as a human being. But at this time, in both the dating market and the general economy, you don’t have much to offer.

It sucks to hear, but if you start slowly building your skills, you’ll be super attractive years from now. That goes for women, businesses, and collaborators.

Right now, girls tend to be attracted to fun. You’ll see that when you go out drinking.

But as you go deeper into your 20s, they tend to be attracted to confidence, drive, and security.

So, if you start working out, developing skills you can sell, and treating yourself and others with respect…you’ll be unstoppable.

4) Be as kind as you can as quickly as you can.

The phrase “Nice guys finish last” is bullshit.

What it actually means is don’t sacrifice your values to make others happy. But do care about the happiness of others.

The more you make people feel welcomed, heard, and cared for…the more they will want to be around you and take care of you too. The most important thing in life (aside from your physical health) will be the relationships you build over the years.

Stop talking shit about people. Stop complaining about things you can’t control. Always seek the lesson and value in every situation.

That is the ultimate kindness: seeing life as something happening for you and not to you.

5) Don’t listen to me.

I can talk for hours about all the things I wish I did more of and less of.

I could tell you to take great care of your body, become financially literate, ask out more women, start playing chess or doing jiujitsu, build a writing habit, and never make a Twitter or Instagram…

But you’ll figure all of these things out from sheer necessity.

The best way to learn how to do something is to learn how not to do it. I can give you all these insights because I’ve done so many things poorly.

And to deprive you of mistakes and regrets you’ll experience would be to limit your ability to grow and learn.

Go out and do stupid stuff. Create cringe memories. Overdraft your checking account.

The people who know the most are typically the ones who have been through the most. Put yourself through the wringer and you’ll have no choice but to be the best version of yourself.

Now go, my son. Smoke a bowl and play guitar for four hours.

You’ll find your way eventually.

How to send a cold email to someone you respect

An iPhone with email apps on the home screen

I’m writing a book on creating. Over the past six months, I’ve been interviewing creators and entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes.

Many of my friends have asked me how I got into contact with some of these big names—folks like Eric Rosen, Derek Sivers, Courtland Allen, and Steph Smith.

The answer is intricate and complex…

I emailed them.

Around 30% of those I reached out to, all of whom I genuinely adore, responded to my message. Then, shockingly, they agreed to share their time and energy with me. But why?

Well, there are a few basic principles every cold email should have. There’s also a simple formula to make structuring this outreach fun and easy. I’ll share both in this post. Then, I’ll share the exact email I sent to Steph Smith, a badass content writer.

Caveat: There is no way to guarantee that someone will respond. Most people simply won’t and that’s okay! You’ve gone from not talking to them at all…to not talking to them at all.

Let’s start with the step-by-step formula.

Cold Email Must-Haves

1) A personal and human intro.

Anyone can tell when they’ve been spammed a copy and pasted message. It’s impersonal and robotic. It invokes zero motivation in the recipient because they know the sender doesn’t actually care—they’re clearly just sending that same message to the masses.

So right out the gate, it’s vital to convey that you genuinely know who this person is, that you’re familiar with their work, and that you respect them for it.

That way, they know they’ve just been emailed by a human being who is actually interested in their time or resources.

2) Why you’re writing to them.

Cut to the chase.

Who are you and why are you sending them this email?

3) A clear and simple call to action.

What specifically are you asking for?

Would you like their time? Their feedback? A reference?

Make the ask so understandable that they’ll have to say either yes or no. A great finisher question is: Is that something you’d like to do?

Highlight the value they’d be getting out of it. They need to know what’s in it or them.

Also, paint the full picture of exactly what it is they’d be saying yes to. How long would it take? How much effort would be required on their end?

Answer any possible questions or objections before they think of them themselves. Not only does this put them at ease and make it more likely that they’ll agree to the thing, but it also shows them they’re dealing with a professional who is prepared and organized.

4) Give them an out.

Most people, especially those of higher status or prestige, will have no problem saying no to a stranger. Again, they’ll likely just not respond. Which makes sense; they’re busy!

But, a subtle yet impactful thing to end on is something that gives them permission to say no. It can be as simple as: It’s totally okay if you don’t have the time or interest for this right now. Just thought I’d shoot my shot!

Never, ever say something assumptive like: Looking forward to speaking with you soon.

That comes off as passive-aggressive. The person will think, “Huh? I haven’t agreed to speak with you soon.”

Keep it light. It takes the pressure off them and shows them you’re not some needy person begging for their time.

Now that we have the structure, let’s move on to the most important concepts to keep in mind.

Key Principles of a Cold Email

1) Keep it short.

Less is more. No one wants to read a bunch of long paragraphs with no spaces in between. Would you be pumped to read a poorly-typed novel from a stranger when you have a million other things to do?

If a word, sentence, or paragraph can be deleted and have the email still make sense, scrap it.

If reading your message feels like a chore, they’ll likely just chuck it in the Trash bin.

2) Care.

While there’s a ton of psychology involved here, I’m not advocating for manipulating people.

Everything in your email should come from the heart. Remember, these are for people we genuinely respect and value. That also makes it easier when they don’t reply. It’s probably because they’re doing the work that we cherish. And if they do reply, it’s just an unexpected bonus.

3) Be persistent but not annoying.

Most of the time (but not always), I’ll send a follow-up.

I call it being “lovingly persistent.” Not pushy. Not needy. But staying true to asking for what I want.

At some point last year, Lynne Tye—founder of Key Values, stopped responding to my emails. I sent her a follow-up because I really wanted to talk with her. Not only did she respond and set up an interview, but she told me she massively respected my “persistence and hustle.”

To drive this home, here’s a real-life example.

Steph Smith wrote the book Doing Content Right. It’s helped me tremendously with the structuring and planning of my blog and book.

Here’s the word-for-word message I sent Steph:

“Hey Steph!

Got introduced to your book/Gumroad course and I’ve been tearing through it. I’m stunned by the level of detail you put into everything you do. Thanks for helping me grow my blog! 😎

In short: I’m writing a book on creating. 

I’m about halfway done and have a few interviews left to do. It comes out this summer and I’d love to write a chapter on you. Would you like to contribute?

It would be no more than an hour of your time for a video call. Plus, I can send you the questions beforehand to speed things along. What do you say?

No worries if you don’t have the time or interest. I’m sure you have to say no to most things!

Dillan ✌️😇”

That’s it. She got back to me a few days ago and we’re in talks of setting something up next month.

If you want to reach out to someone you dig, do it. You have nothing to lose. Just know that you most likely won’t get a response and that’s totally fine.

But the answer’s always no when you don’t ask for what you want.

Doing so has allowed me to talk to some incredible people. It can help you do the same.

A simple trick for learning things faster

A young boy at a laptop trying to learn something

I’ve been keeping a ‘Get Better’ list ever since I read Ultralearning by Scott H. Young.

While it’s wildly effective to hone in on our strengths, it’s good to balance that out by improving our weaknesses. If we only did the things we were naturally gifted at, our capacities to grow and experience life would be severely limited.

I sucked at chess when I first started playing. But after playing and studying consistently for almost two years, I can now play in tournaments and enjoy beating my friends.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, I have a handful of hobbies and passions. Chess is one. But I also love rock climbing, writing, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

The goal is to get pretty damn good at each of these things I spend my time doing. And the main way I stay up to date on what to focus on is with my ‘Get Better’ list.

Simply put, it’s my list of weaknesses in each of my favorite activities. It includes my coaching business, friendships, and even my dating life.

Whatever makes the list, I know I need to find a way to drill it. Obviously, things like chess or jiu-jitsu are easier to practice because there are specific exercises or puzzles I can chip away at.

But there are more ambiguous weaknesses like: “Holding space for friends instead of giving advice.” How does one drill that?

Well, the next time one of my close friends is going through something, I can make an effort to listen twice as well and acknowledge that I see and hear them. No suggestions. No problem-solving.

It’s like working out a muscle that doesn’t get a ton of action. I did the same thing with curiosity.

Last year, in building my business, I had to reach out to a ton of people. This was super tough because I wasn’t naturally curious about others. But after five or ten connect calls with people from my past, I found myself genuinely wanting to learn more about whomever I was speaking with.

The muscle was getting stronger.

We can do this with anything. So if you made a ‘Get Better’ list, what would you want to improve specifically?

Do tell. I’d love to hear about it.

Time doesn’t fly; you’re just not paying attention

People say: “When you’re 10 years old, a year is 10% of your life. But when you’re 50 years old, a year is only 2%. That’s why time speeds up when we get older.”

I think that’s bullshit.

When we’re young, everything is a novelty. We’re learning about the world, about our environments, and about ourselves. We try new things: activities, styles, hobbies. We know very little.

Then as we get older, for better or worse, most of what we do becomes routine. We pick the things we like and we do them over and over again. Or, unfortunately, some of us become akin to factory workers; we wake up, go to work, come home, watch TV, wait until the weekend to have fun, and repeat. Our lives become familiar.

I do the same thing. Although I have the freedom of running my own business and creating my own schedule, I still have my own version of clocking in during the week.

So what’s wrong with this?

Well, nothing’s wrong with it per se. But it does allow our minds to shut off. Let me explain.

Habits are great because they let us go on autopilot for things we want to do (or don’t want to do). I’ve gone to the gym so consistently that sometimes it feels like I just wake up there.

And that’s my point.

You ever drive to work (or somewhere you go often), and when you get there you realize you don’t remember the journey? It’s because you’ve done it so many times your brain doesn’t have to be on guard. Meanwhile, if you took a different route to that same place, you’d be much more alert and mindful because you’d have to make new decisions.

That’s what happens to us in our week-to-week lives. When there’s no newness, when we’re doing the same things over and over again, we wake up one morning and realize it’s already May.

“Where the hell did four months go?”

Nowhere. Time moves at the same rate for each of us. Some just pay attention better than others.

So how can we be more mindful? How can we slow down time? Two ways.

  1. Newness
  2. Gratitude

We’ve covered newness a bit. In this lies adventure, spontaneity, and curiosity.

This is something I could use way more of. I’m a super scheduled person. So I’ve been trying to leave more unstructured time in my calendar.

Trips also help—especially last-minute trips. Surprise your partner. Surprise yourself. Take a weekend off, go to the airport, and take the cheapest flight to somewhere random.

Constantly change things. Keep doing the things you love but find different ways to do them. Do them with different people. Try activities that scare you.

I have a phobia of heights. Right now, I’m slowly using rock climbing to squash that fear through exposure.

As for gratitude, this is a habit that can be built quickly.

Not only can we begin our day by writing or saying three things we’re grateful for. But we can also just start telling the people in our lives why we love them and what they mean to us.

It only takes a sentence.

I try to do this frequently. They don’t always respond with the same sentiment. But that’s not because they don’t feel the same way. It’s because they haven’t built that habit yet.

Want to make a good friend uncomfortable? Tell them how they’ve positively impacted your life. Watch them scramble for words. It’s lovely.

Anyway, my two questions for you are:

  1. How can you add more newness to your weekly life?
  2. Where can you express more appreciation?

Answering these questions will help you create your own time machine.

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.

On confidence

Confidence is not a necessity. It’s a reward.

I’ve had nearly a thousand coaching conversations with people. I’ve heard it every week for over a year.

“I just need more confidence.”

In other words: “I must first have this internal emotional change. Then and only then will I be physically able to do what I want to do.”

It’s totally understandable. But it’s nonsense.

If confidence is the belief in oneself, how can we have such faith when we’re unskilled and inexperienced in a thing? Unless we’re full of ourselves, we’ll naturally be nervous and unclear. That’s okay.

Being scared has nothing to do with us being able to do something. We do scary stuff all the time. If we don’t, it’s not because of inability; it’s because we choose not to.

Running a business. Talking to people we’re attracted to. Improving a skill.

We often think: “I need to learn X so I can do Y.”

When in reality, it’s: “I need to do Y and then I’ll learn X.”

Do first. Then feel confident as a reward for doing.

Don’t wait for it to fall into your lap.

Next level

A man playing a virtual realty video game

I’m shifting my business. It’s scary.

2021 was the year of building my one-on-one coaching practice from scratch. Mission accomplished. It had grown to the point where I had to stop pursuing new clients in December.

So I spent this winter focused on my current clients, writing my book, and learning how to slow down. The last time I created new income was at the beginning of January. I’ve been living off a decent cushion for myself, but I can’t move to Brooklyn in October if I don’t build something new beforehand.

In my community, we say: “What got you to this level is what will keep you from getting to the next level.”

What got me to the level I’m at was my client-creation process:

  1. Reaching out to people individually, connecting with them, and building a relationship.
  2. Inviting everyone I talked with to a coaching session. Coaching as many of them as I possibly could and seeing if it was a good fit.
  3. Making it easy for them to work with me (financially and schedule-wise).

I loved it. I still do. My one-on-one clients are some of my favorite people on the planet.

But there are only so many hours in a day, week, and month. Rather, I only have so much energy. I’m not some super-entrepreneur who can put in 10-hour days. Even if I could, I don’t want to.

First of all, people don’t actually work 10-hour days. We can’t even work for eight hours. Sure, we can be in the office for that long. But we only have about three to four hours of genuine focused attention at our disposal.

Secondly, with what I do, I get drained pretty fast.

My job consists of listening deeply to a person, being wildly curious about them, and challenging them. Doing this with multiple people for multiple hours would make anyone tired.

That said, I can’t keep doing the 3-step system I mentioned above. It got me here, and it’ll keep me from getting to where I want to go.

So what will get me to the next level?

Something scaleable. A service where I’m not trading my time for money. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • A group program for entrepreneurs.
  • Only high-paying referrals for one-on-one clients.
  • A content marketing strategy.

In the first sentence of this blog, I said I was scared. That’s not quite true. I’m unclear. And that can often be mistaken for fear.

At this stage, I’m interviewing startup founders to hear about their stories and challenges. It’s already giving me a clearer picture of what I can help folks with. But I don’t quite know what service I want to provide yet.

Luckily for me, I learned a valuable lesson last year: We don’t have to know how to do something in order to do it.

On top of that, we don’t have to be fearless in order to do what we want.

I don’t exactly know what I’m doing yet. But I know I’ll do it.

And when I do, I’ll tell you all about it.

(PS—Connect with me on Twitter for more regular updates and insights! @DillTho)

Done, or perfect?

My friend and I are recording a podcast episode today. Our first one didn’t go so well.

It wasn’t absolutely cringe, as the kids say. But it was tough to listen back to.

We gave too much backstory. We didn’t interrupt each other enough. It felt like we were taking turns giving TED Talks.

But we wanted to start a podcast simply because we enjoy our conversations and hope others would too. Something happens when you hit “record,” though. When you see that blinking red light, the butterflies settle in. It’s easy to feel like everything spoken must be funny or groundbreaking.

I’m so glad we had a mediocre first recording. We can’t grow or improve until we run a test and gather data.

We could’ve prepped and planned for months, trying to create the perfect conversation. But what we did was so much more efficient.

We said fuck it, let’s just do it and see what happens.

Done is better than perfect. Because perfect usually means doing nothing.

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.

The future of this blog

My backyard.

I don’t believe in having idols.

Taking inspiration from people we admire is great. But seeing someone as God-like or more than human seems creepy to me.

That said, one of the people I look up to most is Derek Sivers.

His book Anything You Want is the reason I wanted to start my own business. He’s given several TED Talks. And last month, I interviewed him for my book on creating.

I’d like to share an answer of his and how it inspired my newest creative endeavor.

Dill:

“Why is absolute control over what you create so important to you? Self-publishing (and printing) your books, coding your website in HTML, building things with your hands, etc.”

Derek:

“I hate bloat. It feels like pollution.

Quick-publish tools are filled with bloat because they have to cover every scenario.

Install WordPress and publish the word “Hello!”, and you’ve installed 884 PHP files, 602 Javascript files, 19 database tables, and hundreds of thousands of lines of code that are filled with bugs and security holes.

Or just type “<html><h1>Hello!</h1></html>” and save it as index.html, uploaded to a simple Linux server, and voilà. You now have a website with only one file and one line of code.  No security holes.  No problem to maintain it.

I hate dependencies. I have no subscriptions. Well-meaning companies say, “Oh don’t you worry about that, we’ll take care of it for you for only $10/month!” I think long-term so $10/month is $6000. And now you’re dependent on this company. If they raise their rates or go out of business, you’re screwed because you made yourself dependent on them.

So for each of these situations, I’d rather avoid the bloat, save the $6000, be un-dependent on any company, and just figure out how to do it myself.

That said, for the book publishing, I just wanted the highest possible quality, and I wanted to keep the rights so that I could do whatever I want with the books in the future. I could license them, translate them, rename them, give them away for free, or whatever I want. When you sign your rights away to a publishing company, the copyright is no longer yours to do what you want with.”


My first thought was, Shit, I use WordPress for my blog. Am I a loser?

While I might in fact be, I got an idea. In the next year, I’m going to transfer this blog over to a website that I code entirely by myself.

I’ve tried my hand at learning to code before. I got the fundamentals of HTML and CSS down. But I’ve always stopped short because I never really had anything to work on. There are only so many sample cat websites I can make until I get bored.

WordPress is easy and convenient. I don’t mind that. But creating my own site from scratch just sounds fun. I can already feel my future headaches as I try to learn Python or Javascript.

This won’t happen this month. It’ll be a slow and steady process. And I’m excited.

As I do with my book, I’ll keep you updated with every step along the way. Stay tuned.

Quantity over quality

Here’s an excerpt from Atomic Habits by James Clear:

On the first day of class, Jerry Uelsmann, a professor at the University of Florida, divided his film photography students into two groups.

Everyone on the left side of the classroom, he explained, would be in the “quantity” group. They would be graded solely on the amount of work they produced. On the final day of class, he would tally the number of photos submitted by each student. One hundred photos would rate an A, ninety photos a B, eighty photos a C, and so on.

Meanwhile, everyone on the right side of the room would be in the “quality” group. They would be graded only on the excellence of their work. They would only need to produce one photo during the semester, but to get an A, it had to be a nearly perfect image.

At the end of the term, he was surprised to find that all the best photos were produced by the quantity group. During the semester, these students were busy taking photos, experimenting with composition and lighting, testing out various methods in the darkroom, and learning from their mistakes. In the process of creating hundreds of photos, they honed their skills. Meanwhile, the quality group sat around speculating about perfection. In the end, they had little to show for their efforts other than unverified theories and one mediocre photo.

TL;DR: Experience and action-taking beat pondering and planning any day.

More feedback

I’m in Philadelphia visiting two of my best friends.

Connor, Laura, Dill.

(This picture was taken last year.)

They hosted me yet again for a lovely weekend of fruitful conversation, laughs, and suburban Philly walks.

One of the things my buddy and I did was a feedback exchange.

These can be tough. He even told me he was uncomfortable before he started diving into the things he wrote for me.

But I’ve done several of these now, and they have only led to…

• both parties growing/improving
• deeper connection
• intense gratitude

We had to answer these questions:

1) When have I hurt you?

2) What do you think would be most beneficial for me to improve?

3) What’s something you’d like me to know?

4) When have you been impressed by me?

5) What do you think I do better than most people?

On Monday, I’ll write about how it went and what I got out of it.

Another trip to Brooklyn (pt. 3)

Yesterday, I gave a synopsis of my weekend in NYC. Give that a read before reading this blog.

Here are my takeaways:

1) Getting sexually harrassed is surprisingly not fun.

It’s kind of a funny story, and I’m willing to joke about it…but having a guy look over the urinal at me peeing was mildly traumatic.

I’ve thought about it every time I’ve used the restroom since it happened.

And I’m a tall, fairly in-shape guy who can defend himself. I can’t imagine what those situations are like for, say, women who don’t have these physical advantages.

2) More venues and events should prohibit cell phones.

They did this at the comedy show. But I would love to go to a restaurant where this was the rule as well.

When we don’t have anything to distract us, we’re forced to be present with the people we’re with. We can genuinely take in our surroundings.

On many occasions, I like to leave my phone in the car. That’s when I truly feel like I’m part of the world.

3) I don’t think I want to live in Williamsburg.

That’s the “wealthy, hip, and yuppy” neighborhood in Brooklyn.

My buddy and I walked through it and the vibe just didn’t land with me. Many people looked as though they had a stick up their asses. They seemed calculated.

This is all just a generalization. We stopped to talk with one dude who was super kind and helpful. But he was Australian so that doesn’t count.

We’ll see. I have ten months to narrow things down.

A weird key to success

A man wearing a snorkel and flippers in the middle of a crosswalk

It’s strange to claim that I’m successful. But I certainly feel like I am.

As we’ve heard many times before, the word “success” means something different to everybody. It’ll mean something different to me even three months from now.

But for now, I can pay my monthly expenses comfortably, I have an amazing tribe of people in my life, and I use my time exactly how I want. Success.

I’ve read tons of self-improvement books and watched just about every motivational video on YouTube. There are loads of tips and strategies successful people teach us.

Having a routine, practicing mindfulness, failing often.

But I’d like to reword that last one.

Whether we’re developing our careers, our passions, or our relationships, I’ve discovered this truth:

In order to be successful we must be willing to look like a fool.

A healthy business comes from the willingness to put ourselves out there. I’ve messaged people asking to connect and they’ve ghosted me with a wide birth—probably thinking I’m selling something or working for a pyramid scheme. (Four people this year have straight up asked me, “Is this an MLM?”)

No, this is Patrick.

Early in my coaching career, I was terrified to reach out to others. My fear was that everyone would see me as a salesman when I just wanted to talk or reconnect.

Would I invite them to a session? Yes, maybe. But if they declined I didn’t care at all. I just love talking to people.

These fears were beaten out of me as I continued to reach out to people every single week. Now when someone doesn’t respond or ghosts me, I couldn’t care less. Who’s next?

As far as my passion for chess…

I started playing consistently during lockdown last year. One of my best friends said we should play.

It was something we could do online together. And we’re both competitive so I had the drive to improve. My sole purpose for several months was just to beat him. He was better than I was and each time he beat me it stung.

But I kept coming back for more. I started studying and practicing each day. Here’s my rating over the past 12 months.

Dillan Taylor's chess rating

Notice the dips and plateaus. Those periods were not fun. They were discouraging.

But like the stock market, if we zoom out and look at the big picture, the long term, we can see that I’ve only gotten better as I’ve stuck with it.

Chess, like many things, goes like this:

Step 1: “I’m getting pretty good! I feel like I could beat anyone….”
Step 2: “I’m not sure I even know the rules. I suck. Maybe I should switch to checkers.”

And the cycle repeats. At every level.

The point is, when I’m not feeling on top of the world, I play with less confidence. But I play nonetheless. I may get destroyed and that always hurts…but if I just keep at it, the graph will continue to go up.

And finally, relationships.

A turning point in the health of my friendships came when I decided to be completely candid with my thoughts and feelings. In other words, I became good at having difficult conversations.

Speaking my mind. Setting boundaries. Being vulnerable.

I’m lucky to have a phenomenal group of friends, and it has been through my willingness to be open that these relationships have grown even stronger.

TL; DR

It can be quite scary, but if we are willing to risk foolishness, we’ll get good at just about anything.

It’s not a “gift”

A mom and dad giving their daughter presents for Christmas

During Thanksgiving lunch this week, one of my family members complimented me when asking about my business.

The past three months have been quite good for me. After a little over a year, my coaching business is established, profitable, and sustainable.

After hinting at all that, someone said, “I’m not surprised. You’re a natural.”

It was an incredibly kind gesture, but I thought to myself, What the hell are you talking about?

With anything I’ve ever gotten good at, the only thing “natural” has been my level of interest in it. That’s the one thing that feels totally out of my control.

I wasn’t interested in school, so I skipped and failed classes until they kicked me out. I wasn’t interested in my full-time sales job last year, so I quit and started my own thing.

But when I’m into something, it gets all of my time, love, and attention.

Before, it was acting. Now, it’s coaching and chess. In the future, it’ll be something else.

Anyway, I know this sounds ungrateful, but when someone labels skill as a “natural” thing, I feel like it discounts all the difficult hours that went into developing it.

I’m not a natural business owner.

In the last year…I’ve had three-week runs of pure terror, worried that I can’t make this work. I’ve spent hours on LinkedIn and Indeed looking at more secure full-time gigs. In June, I was at lunch with my mom physically shaking from anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to make my next rent payment.

Thankfully, I’m not in that place anymore. But none of this was natural.

It came from consistent practice. $12,000 in coaching programs. Hundreds of hours honing the craft of coaching. Countless awkward and uncomfortable conversations. Over a thousand rejections. Doubt. Fear. Stress.

But to be fair, it’s hard to see these things.

It’s like Instagram. We see the finished product but not what led to it.

We see the success but not the hours behind it.

Obviously, I didn’t say any of this to my aunt. I’m not that much of a douche.

I smiled and said thank you. And now I’m back to work, putting in more hours so next year I can look like a prodigy.

No one cares where I went to school

Two students sitting down on the grass at university while doing their homework

In early 2020, I wrote a shitty blog ranting about college.

I still hold all the same opinions. But today I’d like to briefly discuss one aspect.

The fact that I run a profitable business that sustains my life and fulfills me at the highest level. I help people create the lives they want, get organized, and even grow their own businesses.

And in the last four years, not a single person has asked if I went to school.

Not where I went to school. If.

I’m not saying any of this to brag. I’m a college dropout who spent most of those four years living with his mom because he couldn’t afford anything else. (To which I’m incredibly grateful. Thanks, mom!)

The point is this.

In the past, people cared about where we got our credentials. Today, most people just want to know if we’re useful.

“Where did you graduate?” is now “Can you help us?”

I have friends making six figures because they taught themselves how to code. I know folks with great jobs because they’re great people who learn well and have strong interpersonal skills. I do well because I’ve developed the skill of coaching and curiosity.

All of which is possible without paying $80,000.

The caveat here is that of course there are professions where schooling is entirely necessary. I don’t want a surgeon who taught herself how to cut people open.

I don’t think college is a bad idea. It’s just not the only idea. There are many other ways to do interesting things and make money.

Many companies would ask me: What are your credentials?
“Alcoholism,” I would say. “Bankruptcy and divorce.”

Steve Chandler

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.

The value of heartache

A woman holding a neon heart against her chest

Life can fucking hurt.

Between people dying, hearts breaking, and a million other things which make us physically ill…we’re guaranteed to feel powerful negative emotions at times.

Yesterday, my coach told me, “There’s no system for grief.”

In other words, sometimes we’re sad and we don’t fully know why and there’s no formula to make it go away right now.

We have to just sit in it. And learn from it.

As readers of this blog know, I try to find the lesson in everything I do. After a painful experience, I allow myself to feel my feelings, and then I’ll ask things like:

What was the value in this?
What have I learned?
How can I use this as an opportunity to grow?

It doesn’t make shitty circumstances and more pleasant. But it is a long-term strategy for drastically improving as a person.

I handle myself with grace and respect when it comes to breakups, tough conversations with friends, and uncomfortable business dealings. I don’t take things personally and I never lose my temper.

How have I gotten so good at these things?

Because I was shit at them in the past.

I’ve tried to shame women into being with me (oh, to be 20). I’ve treated friends like garbage until they did what I wanted (sorry, Phil). And I’ve been stunned and speechless on the phone when a potential client told me “No thanks” (this year lol).

It’s through moments like these—memories that make us cringe—where the real growth happens. If someone doesn’t have any cringy memories, I assume they’re the same person they were in high school.

I treat women with respect because I know from experience how awful it is when I don’t. I’m open and honest with my friends because I’ve seen how sustainable and fulfilling that is over being passive-aggressive. And I’m detached from outcomes in my business because I’ve felt the agony of obsessing over a result and it not going my way.

It sounds David Goggins-y, but we learn from pain. Only if we let ourselves, though. Only if we seek the lessons.

We all want wisdom. But we don’t want the thing that brings us wisdom.

Feel…but learn as you do so.

I really don’t want to have a baby this week, but I’d be fine if I did

A baby smiling in the grass next to her teddy bear

Whenever we want to do something cool or useful—travel to a new country, create a business or a piece of content, or have a difficult conversation with someone…

We come up with aggravatingly reasonable justifications to not do that thing.

It’s not in the budget. I don’t know how. The timing isn’t right.

But the timing will never be right.

I look to my mom’s advice on not being ready to have kids. She says…

“I hear so many young people say, ‘Ugh, I absolutely can’t have a kid right now. I can barely take care of myself…’ I said the same thing when I was 29. I was a waitress who partied all the time. But you figure it out. You just do. You have no choice. I had my son and was like…Oh, well, this little boy is my life now. I finished school and started my career. I did all the things I was sure I wasn’t ‘ready’ for.”

My mom obviously doesn’t advocate for shitty parents. She’s commenting on our human ability to adapt and figure things out, especially for the hard stuff.

I don’t want to have a child today or this year. But if I did, I wouldn’t just throw it in the dumpster. I’d do everything I could to make it work! I’d change my budget, adjust my values, and make new decisions for the long term.

Having a baby is a huge example, but we can apply this truth to anything else.

In starting a business or an organization, say, we may feel unqualified to do so. But when we just do it and create clients, customers, and members…we become qualified through practice. Again, we figure it out.

I didn’t know how to run a blog when I started this one two years ago. I had a clunky Squarespace website that was difficult to maneuver around. My writing was meh.

But after posting every day since then, I’ve developed a rhythm and an audience for my ideas. It feels like second nature at this point. Again…I figured it out.

My mom was absolutely not ready to have me at 29. Now I’m about to be 29.

She’s still alive. I’m still alive. So her not being ready was a reasonable fear-based illusion.

What do you not feel ready for?

How good am I at chess?

A little girl sitting in a park next to a chess set

The answer: I am both an expert and have no idea what I’m doing. It just depends on who we ask.

Last week, I was playing and tutoring my younger brother and cousin. We were playing online on a Zoom call.

They’re both newer at the game and aren’t too familiar with fundamental chess tactics and strategies. They were mostly winging it. It was a bloodbath.

As I was mopping the floor with them, I would explain why I was doing what I was doing. Each move I made, each idea I had…I would articulate it.

My cousin said, “How are you able to think so many moves ahead?”

This is one of the most common questions people ask about chess. The answer is: I’m not. It’s just pattern recognition. In some way, shape, or form, I’ve seen that series of moves before. It simply comes with practice.

But what struck me as I was giving two teenagers an instructive beating was something my entrepreneur friend told me last year: Everyone is an expert to someone.

They were listening to me as if I were a Grandmaster. When really, I’m not that good at chess. Again, it depends on who we ask.

Last month, I played a couple chess hustlers in Washington Square Park in NYC. I won a game, felt enlightened, and then played a Master. Him playing me was as easy as me playing my younger relatives. Easier, actually. He didn’t even have to think.

The same is true for any skill. It doesn’t take long for us to get into the top percentile. Understanding the basics puts us miles above someone who has never taken the first step.

Dillan Taylor's chess rating in 2021

I started playing chess because it was something I could do with my friend over quarantine. Like many, my interest became an obsession after watching Queen’s Gambit in the winter.

But I’ve only been playing consistently for about nine months…and I’m in the 96th percentile of chess players.

Of course, the road to 97th, 98th, and so on will be quite the battle. But I show this to emphasize the power of two things: starting and consistency.

It’s easy to compare ourselves to people who have started and have been doing a thing consistently. But that just means if we start and do that thing consistently we’ll be in a much better spot.

Nine months ago, I could’ve compared myself to players at my level now (and I did). But I just focused on what I was doing that day or that week and tried to inch my way forward.

“After one jiujitsu class, you’re better than 99% of people who’ve never taken one.”

Start. Then get a little better each week. It won’t take long to become an ‘expert.’

But never forget that you also have no idea what you’re doing.

How this daily blog saved my life

A little boy with glasses reading a book

I was a fairly negative person until I was 23.

People did shitty things and it felt as though life was happening to me, not for me. I blamed others—or, even more vaguely, “society”—for my shortcomings.

It couldn’t have possibly been my lack of work ethic or my non-existent skills. No, clearly the universe was out to get me.

A big part of changing those thoughts was actually brought on by starting this blog.

For two and a half years, I’ve been typing my thoughts out every morning at this desk. The big fear I had when starting was that I would quickly run out of things to write about. I mean, a fresh blog every day? How interesting do I think my life is?

It turns out, our lives are quite fascinating…if we allow them to be. It’s a choice.

We can choose to go through our days as curious observers. I call this the Researcher Mindset. In other words:

Every single conversation, event, or mishap has value. There’s a lesson in everything. If there isn’t, that’s only because we’ve chosen not to look for it.

I’m not a “Everything happens for a reason” guy. I think things just happen…and we have the awesome power to derive meaning and wisdom from those things.

Let’s go through two examples—one small-stakes and one high-stakes.

1) A potential client says No to my business proposal.

No matter how smoothly the process goes up until the sales conversation, I have no control over how a person reacts when I say the dollar amount.

I’ve said a number and had people calmly say, “Oh, that’s it? Cool!” And I’ve said that same number and seen people baffled and think I’m joking.

People have ghosted me, dodged my messages because the money aspect scared them away, and flat-out asked to end communication with me. Needless to say, for a person running a business and trying to help people, this can be wildly frustrating.

In the early days, it was easy to take rejection personally. I would think…

How could they do this to me?
People suck.
• I can’t catch a break.

Shockingly, feeling that way and giving off that energy never made anyone change their mind and sign up with me. It just made it harder to be present and loving with the next person I was talking to.

So I began using my Researcher Mindset.

With every proposal conversation, I ask: What did I learn from this? What can I take away from this?

By asking these questions, I’ve improved as a business owner tremendously. People get back to me quicker, they’re more comfortable negotiating, and things are just clearer in the conversation overall.

2) My mom dies.

I’m well aware that my mother’s passing will be the worst day of my life.

But I actually don’t even have to wait for that day to use the lesson I’ll learn from it. Let me explain.

What I assume will smack me in the face will be the full understanding that no matter how much we care about a person, our time with them is limited. We will all fade.

The lesson here is simple. The only thing we can control is how much we cherish and utilize our time with these people while we have it.

When my mom invites me to something, I say yes. When she tells stories, I listen.

Conclusion

It can be hard at times, sometimes it may feel impossible.

But the most powerful question we can ask on a consistent basis is: How can I use this?

It’ll make us more resilient, more positive, and more appreciative.

it certainly has for me. Be a Researcher.

Things I never learned in school

  1. What “work hard” actually means and how to do it.
  2. How to build strong habits and break bad ones.
  3. How to seek failure, mistakes, and lessons.
  4. How to be open and vulnerable.
  5. Strategies for romance.
  6. Time management.
  7. What to do when drugs or violence are present.
  8. How to solve complex problems.
  9. The importance of defining my values.
  10. That it’s perfectly normal to hate school.

Strengths or weaknesses?

A strong man working out in a Superman tank top
An older picture of me.

I’ve heard people say it’s vital to improve one’s weaknesses. I’ve also heard people argue we must instead build up our strengths.

I disagree with the notion that it must be one or the other. We can do both. Here’s how.

1) The Feedback exercise

This is a sobering and healthy activity to do with the people who know us best—friends, family, and trusted colleagues.

We ask them:

“Hey! I’m doing a research project and was wondering if you could help me out.

What do you think my biggest strengths are? My biggest weaknesses or blind spots?

What can I improve? What can I do more or less of?

What should I prioritize?

Let’s set up a call to go over all this if you’re down!”

This accomplishes several things. It…

• helps one see the lens with which others see them
• points out things a person isn’t aware of—the good and the bad
• provides a solid picture of one’s strengths to exploit and weaknesses to work on

2) Build on strengths

With a list of strengths, we can simply ask:

How can I use these on a more consistent basis?

How can I do what I’m really good at all the time?

3) Fill in the gaps

Here’s a lovely practice from the book Ultralearning:

Keep a running list of each weak spot for what we do. Examples for me include: chess, fitness, coaching, business management.

With my list of weak points (e.g. finding checkmates in chess, extra belly fat, inviting people to sessions) I now know what to practice so I can become more comfortable with them.

TL; DR

We can use our strengths more and work on our weaknesses.

Are you defective?

Almost everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, scared, and yet designed for joy. Even (or especially) people who seem to have it more or less together are more like the rest of us than you would believe. I try not to compare my insides to their outsides, because this makes me much worse than I already am, and if I get to know them, they turn out to have plenty of irritability and shadow of their own. Besides, those few people who aren’t a mess are probably good for about twenty minutes of dinner conversation.

Anne Lamott

One thing I’ve learned through coaching so many people is that every single one of us feels like we have a deficiency in some way shape or form.

I’m too x. I always do y. I can never do z.

It reminds me of social media. With today’s technology, we can advertise whatever kind of life we want people to see. The same is true for any sort of image we have.

We can look at someone’s LinkedIn and feel envy. But what we don’t see is them fighting with their spouse, having panic attacks, or consolidating their debt.

Everyone has their shit. Even the ones with their “shit together.”

The thing is, we’re not defective. We each have wildly different strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. We’re all capable of learning and growing.

If we were a car, we have the ability to take it into the shop, repair it, and spruce it up. Not everybody takes advantage of that truth, but it is true nonetheless.

A secret skill

A woman skilled at knitting

There’s something one of my best friends does that pisses me off in a delightful way.

She’s infuriatingly good at asking follow-up questions. We can be on the phone for an hour and I’ll realize we’ve been talking about me the whole time.

Two things happen when I come to:

  1. I feel like the most interesting person in the world, and
  2. I feel awful for hogging up the entire conversation

When I voice this, she makes it clear she just wants to know what’s going on in my life. But I still find I have to do a full stop and shift our chat to what’s going on in hers.

One of the biggest insights I’ve experienced this year is this:

Curiosity is a skill. It can be practiced and improved.

Before I started coaching, I felt like a sociopath because I wasn’t super interested in other people. But after months of pursuing conversations and asking follow-up questions, I felt a genuine increase in fascination. Now I think, Every human being is an anomaly.

There’s a cliche which states that the most interesting people are those who are most interested in people. I’ve seen this pan out.

Not that I’m curious to curry favor or trick others into liking me. But I’ve seen firsthand that people are more willing to spend time and money with me when I make them feel like the most interesting person on the planet.

Now, my friend and I have a secret battle to be the first to dive into the other person’s life. We’ll exchange deets for two hours, and I’ll think: Damn…WE’RE the most interesting people alive.

Practicing curiosity will improve our relationships, conversations, and overall worldview.

“If you could choose to be fascinated by the world around you, wouldn’t you?”

How to beat confirmation bias

Confirmation bias:

“The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.”

No matter how objective or reasonable we feel our opinions are, this psychological fallacy plagues every single one of us. From our sociopolitical opinions on down, we will always find it easy to find evidence which agrees with us and difficult to stomach evidence which disagrees with us.

With the power of the internet, one is guaranteed to find something somewhere (or a lot of things in a lot of places) that confirms what they already believe.

There are entire flat-earth communities. Q-Anon has over 10,000,000 members.

Mark Manson said:

“You used to have to go to medical school for two years to have an opinion on a vaccine. Now you just scroll through Facebook for 20 minutes.”

He’s right. Today, a person can decide what their opinion is, look at their phone, and find millions of people around the world who support and agree with them.

I hear people spouting their opinions with the confidence of a seasoned expert. Then, after a few questions, I see how shaky their arguments are.

So how do we combat this? The answer isn’t super fun.

It’s exposure.

The healthiest and most challenging thing we can do is spend intentional time researching the other side…

• Google “{my opinion} debunked”
• Have curious conversations with people we disagree with—for the sake of hearing new perspectives, NOT with the goal of changing minds
• Listen to podcasts/read books that challenge our beliefs

I’ve spent many hours doing all of this in 2021. This shit is hard.

It’s not mentally or emotionally enjoyable to pursue ideas which disagree with the ways we see the world. But it sure is healthy. It:

• strengthens our curiosity muscle
• lessens our tendency to be triggered by those we disagree with
• shifts our value of “being right” toward learning new things

Try it out. What are some opinions you would be uncomfortable putting to the test?

An important skill

Most people are willing to have difficult conversations, be vulnerable, and put themselves out there.

The problem is, most people are unwilling to be the initiator of these things.

A powerful skill I’ve developed this year is that of being the initiator.

• Asking for the things I want.
• Setting up plans and events.
• Being active, not passive.

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it.

Jim Carrey