Learning to climb

Someone rock climbing up a mountain

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

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

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

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

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

It was a humbling reminder:

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

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

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

But that’s all nonsense.

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

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

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

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

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

Uncomfortable leadership

Soldiers saluting the American flag

The skill I’m currently working on improving is the skill of leadership.

It could go by other names, but in general what I mean is:

Setting standards and limitations and sticking to them—at the risk of making myself or others uncomfortable.

This includes:

• Calling someone out for being late to a call.
• Telling someone I’m disappointed in them for not following through with a commitment.
• Being offered money and saying ‘no’ to a prospective client I don’t see as the right fit.
• Voicing frustrations to close friends, colleagues, or even acquaintances.
• Telling a friend I can’t or don’t want to hang out, without giving a long-winded explanation.

Putting some of these into practice has made my heart pound and my face hot with nerves.

It’s scary to risk tension with another human being. But so long as it comes from a place of love and respect, and not superiority, it’s absolutely necessary.

But again, this is a skill.

It’s an art and a science.

I’ve heard people try to be a leader when they were really just being condescending and belittling. That’s not effective.

What is effective is telling someone with your words or your actions:

I love and support you completely. Here’s what you can expect from me. And here’s what I am expecting of you.

Last month, I gave a client a challenge to create a step-by-step system for the business he wanted to start. Two sessions in a row, he didn’t do it.

As promised, I told him I was disappointed. Not because I am the big bad boss who gave him homework…but because he was neglecting actions to better his life and do what he really wanted. I said, “This is for you man, not for me. When this happens, it makes me feel like you’re not taking what we’re doing here seriously.”

That was that and we moved on. A week later, when we next saw each other, he looked over at me at some point and said, “Thank you for laying in to me and calling me out. It’s exactly what I needed to hear.”

I can’t promise every situation will be received so well. Again, this is an art and it will take practice setting your own standards and maintaining them.

People will get defensive. Some will fight back.

But so long as you are coming from a place that’s looking out for everyone’s best interests, trust that you’re not being an asshole.

You’re being a leader.

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

Tim Ferriss

How to win no matter what

I like to set up systems where no matter what, I win.

In my coaching system, for example, my goal is to have as many fun and fruitful conversations as possible. It has nothing to do with closing a certain amount of clients or making a specific amount of money. Ironically, that stuff often happens naturally when I just focus on bringing a ton of value to the conversations I’m having.

I reach out to a ton of people, and most don’t reply, which is totally normal and okay. But when someone does reply, even if they’re not interested in any sort of coaching experience, I get to catch up with someone from my past or meet someone new.

Even if they don’t turn into a paying client, I still win. I win when I have a conversation and enjoy it.

How can you turn a loss into a win? By changing the definition of winning.

I love chess and Brazilian Jiujitsu. In both, the only way to improve is to play (and lose) a lot. Having a competitive nature is healthy, but if you get pissed every time you get checkmated or tapped out, you’ll never become a grandmaster or a black belt.

The subtext here is that every time you make a mistake or suffer a loss, it opens the door for you to find lessons and make improvements.

I watched a YouTube video about how to defend an ankle lock in jiujitsu. Then, last year, a guy got me in an ankle lock, didn’t really know what he was doing, and yanked on my foot. I popped several tendons and was out for a month.

While that video was great, the experience will stay with me forever. I haven’t been caught in an ankle lock since. I’ve prioritized the defense so I never have to go through that again.

You can read the best book or watch the best video on what you want to improve…and you should!

But learning on the job is the only real way for you to track where you are on your journey.

Dive in. Make mistakes. Learn. Repeat.

One skill to rule them all

A keystone skill is a skill which can be used to enhance multiple areas of your life.

One of the most important keystone skills is that of conversation.

If you are really good at listening to another person, displaying curiosity and helpfulness, and communicating effectively…you will be a force to be reckoned with.

Since these are all skills, that means they can be practiced and improved. Doing so is well worth your time.

Why diets don’t work

Because they typically require that you overload yourself with a bunch of new rules and habits.

Now, if you’ve read any of my stuff in the past, you know I love rules and habits. They are the path toward a healthy, fulfilling, and ultimately free life.

But they need to be learned and adapted slowly, progressively.

If the 95% of failed New Years resolutions teaches us anything, it’s that going balls to the wall with good decisions isn’t enough. Those decisions have to be engrained in your day to day…set in stone.

When something is a habit, it’s easier to simply do that thing than it is to think about doing it. It feels like it does itself.

Making extreme and immediate changes to your routines may bring you success in the short term, but there’s a reason every single winner of The Biggest Loser has gained all (usually more) of that weight back within two years.

Overloading strong habits will inevitably lead to burnout and a sense of failure. Surprisingly, this doesn’t lead to lasting change.

I’ve had many clients feel pumped up after a coaching session and do this. At the end, when we come up with their Next Actions, they get antsy.

• “I’m gonna go to bed before 11am each night.”
• “I’m gonna exercise every morning.”
• “I’m gonna read at least 20 pages every day.”
• “I’m gonna meditate every morning for 30 minutes.”

Every single one of these actions is beautiful and would certainly be powerful if applied to one’s life. But going from zero to all of these is impossible to maintain.

Naturally, they come back and tell me in the following session that they fell off with their Next Actions, usually with a tone of failure.

But that’s not a failure in execution; it’s a failure in planning.

It sounds boring as hell, but the only true way to build strong habits is to ever so slowly integrate them into your life.

I have strong exercise habits; it took me three years.

I have strong productivity habits; it took me nine years.

I have strong relationship habits; it took me 27 years.

The things that will sustainably change your life will take time. That sucks to hear, but it’s the only way.

From strangers to family

Carlos Catania Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Last night was my first day back to the jiujitsu gym in four months.

I took time off because I had a bunch of family events for the holidays and trips and flights I didn’t want to miss out on. I didn’t want to increase my chances of getting COVID.

Spoiler alert: I got it anyway.

There are a number of life lessons I could write about (and have written about) from my short time doing jiujitsu. But today, I want to talk about something you can apply to any type of practice or community.

Being a n00b

Last winter, I remember hopping into class for the first time. It was fucking terrifying.

The thing was, I wasn’t really scared to get my ass beat—though that would happen each and every night. I was aware that that was simply part of the process going in.

No, what intimidated me was jumping into something with a group of people who already knew each other for years.

My thoughts: They are a family. I am an outsider.

I felt the same way when I started acting in the theatre program in college. They are a family. I am an outsider.

It’s tough when everyone:

• tells stories you were never a part of
• knows everyone’s names and facts about them
• is constantly talking and laughing with everyone else besides you

How to change things

To be clear, by no means was I ever excluded or belittled at my gym. There’s just a noticeable difference between feeling truly close with the people you practice with and not.

The lesson here: That closeness doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s analogous to building trust with someone. It’s an organic and slow process.

Slowly but surely, I would talk more, tell more jokes, and get enough time in with my gym peoples to tell stories of my own.

One day, I was talking to a classmate before class, and I said something like, “People should feel lucky to come in and join your guys’ gym.”

She raised an eyebrow and unironically retorted, “You mean, join our gym.”

Holy fuck. I’m in.

Conclusion

I got lucky to become closer with an amazing group of people. Not every group of coworkers, athletes, or neighbors will come together in such a way and that’s okay.

The point here is: When you enter a new community, the feeling of being the outsider can be daunting and often discouraging.

You may think, They already have their group. They don’t need me.

But if you keep showing up, keep listening, keep caring, and the group is a good bunch…then after a bit of patience and consistency, you’ll find you have another family.

My old thoughts: They are a family. I am an outsider.

My thoughts now: We are a family. Outsiders welcome.

Use people’s names

A smiling bartender

Yesterday, I went on an errand run in the morning.

I got my teeth cleaned at the dentist and my car tuned up at the shop.

Dale Carnegie’s self-help classic, How to Wins Friends and Influence People, is quite archaic in its language (consistently referring to women as secretaries, etc.). But it’s a classic because of its timeless tips on how to conduct yourself in social and professional settings to more easily connect with others.

My favorite tip is probably the simplest:

Use people’s names.

You don’t have to be Donald Trump to love the sound of your own name. Everyone does.

Whether its your nurse, your server, or your mechanic…using someone’s name does several things:

1) It gets their attention.

When the two guys were walking around and fixing up my car, I used their names after reading their name tags. Before then, they were asking me routine questions without making much eye-contact. When I used their names, they would basically stop what they were doing and look directly at me.

When I was a server, whenever people would use my name (if they weren’t an asshole), I felt like I wanted to do more for them.

“Hey Dillan?” will always get more attention than “Excuse me sir?”

2) It shows respect.

When you use a stranger’s name, they will very often look pleasantly surprised—as if no one has ever called them by their name before.

This is probably because for most of us, we’ll meet someone, learn their name, and forget it completely after one or two seconds.

That’s because we don’t genuinely care to learn their name in the first place. But if I told you I’d give you $100,000 to go to the grocery store, meet 20 people, and remember all their names…you would do it effortlessly.

Actually using someone’s name—especially right after learning it—is a surefire way to remember it quickly.

Just don’t overdo it. I got pitched by a salesman last week and a typical sentence from him sounded like:

“Dillan, that’s awesome. And you know what’s so awesome about that Dillan…is Dillan, when you told me that…”

Dude, I get it. You know my name.

It’s obvious when people are doing it to appear respectful versus when they genuinely want to treat you like a human being.

Which brings me to the last benefit.

3) It reminds everyone that we’re all just a bunch of humans.

It’s very easy to go about your day and see others as nameless, faceless extras in the movie of your life.

But she’s not Dentist 1 and he’s not Mechanic 3.

Those are humans who have families, hobbies, and anxieties. Treat them as so.

It’s a great habit to get into. And you never know…you could make someone’s day.

The 5-step formula for developing a passion

A buddy and I were discussing our passions yesterday. Music and coding for him. Coaching and chess for me.

To mirror Cal Newport’s thesis in So Good They Can’t Ignore You, we both agreed that we didn’t begin to feel passionate until we got really good at what we were doing.

Many people think they have to have innate talent or aptitude for something for it to be their ‘thing.’ That’s nonsense.

My friend told me it took him two years to develop a love for programming. It was supposed to be a means to an end for him. He got good enough to land a well-paying job to support himself and his interests. Once he got good enough to quickly put pieces together and solve interesting problems, it became more than just a 9 to 5; it became exciting.

On a smaller scale, I’ve been interested in chess for the past year or so. Within the past month, however, I’ve experienced a serious uptick in my skill level. This has correlated to a spike in my interest. What was once a hobby is now a passion.

I’ve known many people who have sadly stated they are unsure of what they’re passionate about. This is tough, but there is a formula to solve this problem:

1) Try a shit ton of things→

2) Ditch the things that feel like pulling teeth→

3) Practice the thing(s) you like most every week→

4) Get really fucking good at it→

5) Boom. You now have a passion.

It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen quickly, but it is simple.

Keep going.

Never too late

Yesterday, I caught up with an old friend for a few hours. It was lovely.

In the past, she was flakey and non-communicative. This was frustrating.

She told me she was working on it. So I curiously asked her what strategies she was using to work on her communication skills. She looked up at me and said, unironically, “Stuff like this.”

I smiled.

I don’t mean for this to sound condescending, but it’s never too late to improve: skills, relationships, habits.

Seemingly out of the blue, a friend has reappeared in my life. All her own doing.

It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

That one song

Workaholism

Some call it that.

Whenever I spend a decent time away from work, I’m always itching to get back into a productive space.

I’m incredibly grateful for this.

I couldn’t imagine having a job where I’m counting the days until the weekend.

Actually I can….I did this for a few months and I quit.

Whenever I talk to my friends who have full-time jobs they don’t necessarily love, it always feels like I’m shitting on their life choices. That’s not my intention at all.

My stance: It doesn’t have to be your work, but every single person should have an activity or a skill that excites them—that makes them ‘itchy’ when they spend too much time away.

Studies show that people enjoy their jobs more when they spend more time outside of them doing things they love: tennis, writing, playing an instrument.

I recommend that your thing not be something passive like watching Netflix. Movies and shows are lovely and they should be consumed, but it would be much more fulfilling if you had an active practice that was totally your own.

What excites you? What challenges you? What skill do you love improving?

Do it. Do it all the time. Get better at it. Repeat.

The 2 types of fun

Here’s a short article everyone should read.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve been sick in my apartment with nothing but time on my hands.

Basically, we define fun as something that is purely pleasurable and enjoyable. But there are actually two types of fun:

Type 1 Fun: Pure fun, untarnished by setbacks

The traditional idea of fun.

These are the things that provide us with dopamine. With smiles and laughs.

For example, when I play a riveting game of chess where I defend well, set up brutal attacks, and win in style…it feels amazing.

Dillan Taylor having fun winning in chess
A well deserved win after a long, tactical game.

When you think about improving in a skill, Type 1 Fun is what gets the spotlight in your mind. It’s the magazine cover. The glamor shot.

It’s fun to imagine yourself as a chess champion, or in great physical shape, or as a phenomenal writer.

But what actually gets you there?

Type 2 Fun: Suffering now; fun after the fact, in retrospect

This is all the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff.

Type 2 Fun is an investment. You sacrifice your comfort now so you can reap the rewards and experience more Type 1 Fun later.

Running sprints does not sound like fun. But it’ll feel great when you finish. You’ll get a runner’s high, be in better shape moving forward, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.

My version of this has been working through chess exercises.

A not so fun chess exercise
The goal is to find the winning combination in your head.

What sucks about these exercises is they can be incredibly boring.

But the worst part about them is that they’re incredibly necessary.

Firstly, they can occasionally be fun. Staring at a puzzle for ten minutes and finally figuring it out is a lovely feeling.

But the point of this Type 2 Fun practice is to set you up for future Type 1 Fun.

You may not notice it in the moment, but it’s almost always boring practice that gives you the skills to play better and improve at what you do.

Playing hours of scales is boring, but those scales are setting you up for more improvisation and soloing, which is fun.

Therefore:

Playing hours of scales = fun

It’s the same with exercise, writing, coding, editing, or any other skill.

Conclusion

Spend more time doing Type 2 Fun. Deliberate practice. Repetitions.

This will bring you much more fun and fulfillment in the long run.

We are all familiar with the life-changing Harry Potter books.

But none of us saw JK Rowling locked in a hotel room banging her head against her keyboard for hours on end.

Because that’s not fun…not yet.

How I stopped being so insecure

An insecure woman on a beach

I struggled with crippling insecurity for years.

It was impossible for me to attend social settings, scroll social media, or have deep conversation…without obsessing over what other people thought about me.

Most of us want to be seen as impressive or interesting in some way. There’s nothing wrong with that.

What’s unfortunate, though, is allowing these desires to affect our thoughts and actions.

I used to say things I didn’t mean, appease people I didn’t care about, advertise myself on social media to appear cool/woke/adventurous…

None of this ever brought me any closer to happiness or fulfillment. It just felt like I was putting on a show.

So what changed?

It didn’t happen over night, but there was a slow, noticeable shift once I started pursuing my values wholeheartedly.

I asked myself:

What do I find most important in life?
What do I want out of life and out of myself?
What value do I want to provide others?
What problems do I want to solve?
What skills do I need to master to make all this happen?

None of these questions ask how you can fit in with other people’s values.

Anything I do that’s impressive or interesting—not that I think I’m an impressive or interesting individual—is the pure result of doing things I think are cool and fun to do.

Growing a business. Writing. Coaching. Making sketches…

I do these things because I want to, not because I think getting really good at them will impress others.

I don’t care about the person with 20,000 followers on Instagram. I care about the person with 14 followers who posts videos of them playing the trumpet and slaying it.

Don’t do what other people think is cool.

Do what you think is cool.

Become so good at what interests you, you force others to be interested in it too.

Which belt are you?

Young girl with a white belt

In Brazilian Jiujitsu, you work your way up the belt system: white, blue, purple, brown, and black.

The difference in skill levels between the belts are noticeable and tangible.

But I’ve noticed that even for less tangible skills—things like communication, parenting, or humor—it can be helpful to see things through the lens of which belt you have for it.

Within the past year, I have become obsessed with chess. When I began to take it seriously last summer, I would get overly frustrated when I would play and get destroyed. It was like people who were better than I was were fluent in a language I couldn’t speak.

Then I thought about the jiujitsu comparison. That’s when it hit me:

Oh, these folks just have higher belts than I do.

I’m a white belt and I’m playing blue and purple belts.

Now I do that with everything.

When I blunder a sales pitch, I remind myself that I’m a white belt in negotiation.

When I timidly reach out to prospective clients, I remind myself that I’m a white belt in running my own business.

As my confidence and aptitude in chess increases, I remind myself that I am now a blue belt. Now, I look to purple belts in chess to challenge me and I’ve started helping my white belt friends improve their game.

The only way to get to the next belt is to show up every day, make a ton of mistakes, and hone your craft.

In jiujitsu, you start to fail when you compare yourself to others. As a white belt, it doesn’t make sense to compare myself to a blue belt. She’s been practicing for longer than I have. The only way to bridge the gap is to roll (spar) a ton, get put in terrible positions, and learn how to get out of them as I get choked out along the way.

The next time you find yourself struggling or comparing yourself to others, ask yourself…

Which belt am I?

The 3 people you need to get better at anything

Man playing chess

Yesterday, I tried to convert one of my best buds over the phone. I told him he should start playing chess. To my surprise, he agreed.

We set up a time this weekend to play online so I could show him the fundamentals and basic strategies.

I immediately realized I had completed the “skill trifecta.”

To improve at anything, it’s best if you have:

1) Someone who is better than you.

A mentor. A coach. A teacher. Someone who is an expert compared to you who can drive you to learn from your mistakes and show you how it’s done.

I recently hired a chess tutor to do just that.

2) Someone who is equal to you.

This is the Goldilocks rival: not too much better than you, not too much worse, but just right. Every time you “go up” against this person, you must put all your skills to the test because there’s no guarantee who will come out on top.

One of my other best buds and I play chess regularly. He is still a smidge better than I am, but we’re even enough to make our matches enticing and perfectly challenging.

3) Someone who is below you.

Selfishly, you need someone you can reliably destroy so you can measure how far you’ve come from the beginner stage. But this is only 10% of it.

The other 90% of having someone much newer than you is the fact that you now have someone to teach. You become the expert for someone else.

When you teach something, you get to learn it twice.

Studies show that when you are forced to articulate concepts or lessons to someone who is less skilled, they become more solidified in your own mind. Jiujitsu students, for example, who begin teaching, work their way up the belt system much faster than those who never teach.

It can sound grandiose, but my buddy who wants to dive into chess…has just become my apprentice.

Simply talking on the phone with him about basic chess terms…I explained the difference between a pin and a trap. As I was speaking, I thought, “Whoa. I guess I actually am not a complete idiot when it comes to chess.”

Everybody is an expert to somebody.

Conclusion.

Find an expert. Learn from them.

Find a worthy rival. Challenge them.

Find a student. Teach them.

Why you always give up.

The Growth Mindset is the simple belief that your energy and effort will be rewarded.

If I just keep exercising, I will get in shape.
If I just keep testing and working, my business will thrive.
If I just keep putting in the time, it will be worth it…

Most people fall off whatever it is they set out to do because they hit a point where they don’t believe they will be rewarded for their effort. This makes sense.

If you hate exercise and spend weeks working out with no noticeable results, why continue?

Because you’re almost fucking there.

Looking at all the things that make me feel completely fulfilled—my work, my relationships, my health…there’s a common thread that ties the success of all of them together:

I was patient.

It takes time to create the life you want to live. A ton of time.

I’m incredibly “lucky” to do work that pays me well and that I love. I put lucky in quotes because it took so much work to get to this point. Hours of teaching myself skills to up my value. Holding back tears when I didn’t know how I would pay my bills the next month. Dealing with gut-wrenching levels of uncertainty. Living at my mom’s house for three years…

There were obviously a number of other factors involved: Learning from mistakes, decision-making skills, a totally supportive network…But the point is this:

Life is God damn difficult. If you give up on what matters to you when it inevitably gets difficult, you dig yourself a deeper hole.

If you want to learn piano, you sit down and practice it every day. Some days, you feel like a God as you improve your finger skills. Other days, you want to throw the piano out the window because you suck and can’t even string chords together.

But if you tell yourself, “I’ll never get good at piano,” you will inevitably stop practicing. And as a result…you don’t get good at piano.

Then you go, “See! I knew I couldn’t get good at piano…”

You prove yourself right. Your action (or inaction) solidifies the identity you’ve set for yourself.

Flip that around.

Identify as someone who keeps at it despite the difficulty. Identify as someone who patiently practices until their efforts are rewarded.

Often times, the person who wins the game is just the one who plays the longest.

I have no clue
Two men mining for diamonds
Keep going, my friend.

10 Rules for Better Disagreements

Yesterday, a buddy asked me what kind of society I wanted to live in.

Aside from the typical responses (equality of opportunity, no poverty, compassion), I tried to think of something a bit more realistic.

I wish I lived in a society where we could have disagreements with one another.

It seems like most people are so eager to chop another person’s head off if they disagree with them. Disagreeing is a skill. It can be improved with better conversational habits and mindfulness.

Here are my 10 Commandments for having healthier disagreements:

  1. Understand that no matter what, there will always be a ton of people who disagree with you about pretty much everything.
  2. You have zero control over another person’s thoughts or opinions. You have complete control over how you engage in conversation.
  3. If you approach a conversation with the hopes to validate your already-held beliefs, instead of to learn, you will lose.
  4. Changing your mind—and admitting that you’ve had your mind changed—doesn’t make you weaker; it makes you stronger than most people.
  5. Don’t say “I could be wrong but…” and then provide your opinion. This is a cop-out and is not a substitute for true humility.
  6. You cannot construct a proper argument if you cannot perfectly articulate the other person’s argument. They must be able to say, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”
  7. If you have a physical reaction to someone else’s opinions, slow down and ask more questions.
  8. Approach every conversation with the assumption that everyone knows something you don’t.
  9. You are most likely wrong about most things. Don’t see being wrong as an error; be thrilled to be wrong so you can improve your awareness.
  10. Confirmation bias is in each of us and it’s inescapable. It will always feel amazing to listen to things we agree with and it will always feel terrible to listen to things we disagree with. Challenge what you agree with and be open-minded to what you disagree with.

How to be excellent

Excellence is not a requirement for action; it is the result of action.

You wouldn’t shame a child for not being able to walk or talk.

We don’t expect someone to speak a language they have never practiced.

There are prodigies. There are those who are naturally amazing at certain things. But for the other 99% of us…

The only way to be excellent is to sit down, every single day, and do the work.

Stupid questions

“Was 1917 in World War I time?”

My friend asked me last night as we sat down to watch 1917.

I chuckled. “Yes.”

The subtext under my voice was, “Of course it was, you moron.”

We do this a lot. Someone asks a question we are shocked they don’t know the answer to. Then we give them the same condescending tone we use when we learn someone hasn’t seen Good Will Hunting.

This quick and subtle jab at someone’s intelligence or experience may seem playful, but it can really do some damage.

Someone trusts you enough to ask you for an answer they don’t have. Then with your response, you shame them for not knowing while trying to show off how smart you are.

It’s likely that the person just accepts the jab and moves on. It’s also likely that they feel dumb and avoid going to you for answers in the future.

Is there such thing as stupid question?

Yes. Because we’re all pretty stupid in our own right.

Do you know the answer to everything?

If you don’t ask questions which make you feel stupid, is that because you’re smart as fuck, or because you’re not putting yourself out there?

Have you seen Good Will Hunting, you idiot?

Don’t Take My Advice

I understand the contradiction here.

I’m telling you not to take advice. If you don’t, you would have indeed followed my advice. Trippy.

There are a million different people with a million different experiences with a million different ways of doing things.

You are you.

Regardless of how successful anyone has been, you must always remember that they have values, stories, and strengths which differ from your own.

I’m not saying you should ignore every single person who could teach you something. Observe others. Get inspired by them. Try out their methods.

Just don’t feel like a failure when their methods don’t produce the same results for you.

Try a bunch of shit and see what works and what doesn’t work for you.

One day, someone will look at your process and try to emulate you.

You Don’t Need Permission

For most of my life, I put off pursuing things I was interested in.

Here’s why.

Like most others, I had tons of ideas and plans of what I wanted to do, what I was going to do, what I should do…

Then months would go by and I’d be in the same exact spot.

No blog. No muscles. No business.

Just words.

It took me years to understand why.

The obvious answer? Fear. Fear of failure. Fear of getting what I wanted and then having to deliver.

But it goes a step deeper than that.

What held me back all those years was this:

I was waiting for permission to pursue the things I was interested in.

Permission from whom? I have no idea.

“I can’t start taking myself seriously as a writer/actor/entrepreneur until I build my credibility up first. Then people will allow me to do it.”

It felt as though anything I hadn’t mastered was an exclusive club. A club where I did NOT feel welcome. But then I just looked around and tried to find exactly who wasn’t letting me in. All I found were ghosts.

I’ve had family members and a few friends passively judge my life decisions. But it was all short-lived.

If you just say fuck it, keep your head down, improve your skills, and do something you find interesting and get better at it every week…a few months from now you’ll be shocked by how far you’ve come.

You don’t need permission. Just start.

Motion vs. Action

One of my greatest struggles is falling into the motion trap.

Motion refers to planning, strategizing, and learning. These are all lovely and incredibly necessary.

But it’s all too easy to get stuck in motion: trying to come up with the perfect plan…making sure I’m absolutely ready to move forward.

What happens though, is that all of this learning and preparation makes me feel as if I’ve actually accomplished something. When really, I’ve just been preparing to accomplish something.

Reading about copywriting, taking notes, and researching where to find work are all great things. But if I only did that for a year, I would get evicted from my apartment.

At the end of the day, no one has paid me money to write copy for them–which is the desired outcome. It also pays my rent.

The solution is simple, and terrifying: spend some time preparing, then put your gloves on and jump into the mud.

At the University of Florida, professor Jerry Uelsmann did a study with his photography students. He divided the class into two groups: half would be the “quantity” group and the other half, the “quality” group.

The quantity group would be graded by sheer number of photos taken; if they turned in 100 photos each week, they would get an A.

The quality group on the other hand, would be graded on a single photo for the semester. They had months to focus on taking and editing the absolute best quality photo they possibly could.

At the end of the semester, Jerry noticed that the quantity group were turning in pictures which were wildly better than the quality group. He also noted that the quantity group’s pictures drastically improved as the weeks went on.

The lesson: planning and pondering can only do so much for you. The real juice comes from taking a shit ton of action, practicing, and removing yourself from perfectionism.

Jump in.

Learn to Code

After two years of half-assing my way through random coding bootcamps and tutorials, I’ve finally begun my programming journey with intention.

It was clear that using scattered, free services online–while this is a tactic I advocate for everything else–wasn’t incentivizing me enough to stick with it. After reading this post by one of my idols, and paying $50 for this goofy little book, I feel committed and energized.

This blog is not meant to convince you to learn how to code–though I do think it would be a fulfilling experience (and it’s easier than you think). Instead, I want to highlight the euphoria of learning something which made no fucking sense to me a week ago.

This:

…used to look like this:

It’s a damn good feeling.

Obviously, I’m still a novice. But sitting down and pushing through the Resistance it takes to learn something entirely new provides two life-changing lessons:

1) It doesn’t take long to become better than 99% of the world at something.

After one jiujitsu class, you’re better at defending yourself than most people who have never tried a martial art.

When you read through one well-written article on Copywriting, you understand how to write advertisements better than almost everyone alive.

After spending one week consistently working through my coding book, I’m showing my Kindergarten-level code to friends with no experience and they look at me like I’m a hacker.

2) Once you get over the hump, momentum takes the wheel.

Sitting down to learn something completely new is daunting. It feels as though you’ll have to practice intense grit and discipline each day until you are a master.

Of course, getting better at anything will require persistence and hard work, but it’s not as brutal as one would think.

You don’t need to be crazy disciplined to show up every day to learn; you just need to be disciplined enough to learn the core concepts so you can get by and fill in the blanks as you go.

When I lived in Germany, the first month of practicing my German was rough. I couldn’t keep up in most conversations and I was convinced I would never improve.

Then, one day, something clicked. I walked down to the Cafe with my German buddy. After walking about a mile, I realized I had been speaking German the entire time. The epiphany was:

I could finally carry a conversation, not because I had remembered enough words, but because I had become good enough at the grammar to consistently structure sentences.

In other words: Once I became sufficient with the core concepts (grammar), I could easily speak and fill in the blanks (by just asking how to say certain words).

Learn new shit. It’ll be hard. Sometimes very hard. But it won’t be very hard for very long. And it’ll be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.

Throw Your Baby in the Fire

One of the most crucial life skills to master is the art of receiving feedback.

Again, this is a skill: something which can be developed and improved with intentional practice.

It is understandable why most of us are so bad at taking criticism. We’ve created something. We took time and vulnerable energy out of our day or week to put something together. We love this thing.

Then we hand it off to someone who wasn’t here to see how hard we worked on it. We say, “Please, any and all feedback would be great.”

But it isn’t great. It stings. We question our relationship with this person immediately after their first utterance of suggestions.

How dare they impartially give me exactly what I asked for? How dare they not take one look at it, confirm that it’s perfect, and disprove each and every one of my insecurities??

No, silly. This is supposed to be an uncomfortable experience.

You’ve just created something out of thin air. Your very essence is identified with it. It’s your baby.

But you only see it from one perspective: that of unconditional love and acceptance.

If you genuinely care to improve this thing–to make it as good as it can possibly be, you need to give it to someone who will respectfully tear it to shreds. You need someone who loves you to make you cry.

Last week, I put together my new Superhero coaching page. The first thing I did (the first thing I always do) was send what I built to a select few who are much more talented than I am. One of whom was a writer. One of whom, a web designer.

I had not planned for this, but they each responded with a full page of notes. The writer dissected every nook and cranny for punctuation and grammatical errors. The web designer broke the page down visually from the eye of a viewer being marketed to. There was not one bit of feedback that was repeated by the other.

This couldn’t have been more helpful, but as I was making my adjustments, it didn’t take long for my defensive walls to raise.

Moving down the page, as I read the note “You wouldn’t use a semicolon here,” I found myself mocking the edit in my head with the voice of a child.

No. Stop it. I had to restrain my emotions.

After applying all the feedback given by my two confidants, the page–which I was already incredibly happy with–looked 20 times cleaner.

My advice: If you actually care about what you’re creating, you have to allow people you trust to destroy it.

We need objective, non-attached eyes to chuck our babies into the fire. Then, out of the ash, we can grow and guide them to become stronger than we could ever imagine.

Find your team. Use them. They care about your improvement.

It will ache. But it will also give you wings.

Pick Your Battles

Last night, I was at a 3 year old’s birthday party at an indoor obstacle course/jungle gym sort of thing.

As I was jumping on the trampolines and playing dodgeball with the kids, I accidentally landed on a trampoline at the same time as a young boy. He was 2 years old and while we didn’t bump into each other, he lost his balance, fell and began crying.

I felt terrible. His father–who up until then was on his phone the entire time–ran up and grabbed him. I immediately started apologizing.

He looked up at me and said: “He’s 2 years old you fuckin’ retard.”

Inevitably, after hearing this reaction, I lost all sympathy. Something strange happens when I sincerely apologize for something I’ve done and the other person doesn’t accept the apology and continues to try to make me feel worse about whatever it was. Maybe it’s a prideful flaw on my end.

I quickly realized that nothing I was going to say would calm this guy down. I needed him to leave. He kept calling me all sorts of insults in his baggy jean shorts and skinny pale arms dangling out of his wife-beater.

“Alright buddy. Have a great night,” I repeated.

As he was leaving the pen, my buddy lost his frustration and stood up to defend me. I was grateful to have a friend stick up for me, but this was not the place to battle. There were kids and parents all around.

I was almost laughing as I had to hold my friend back. He shouted, “You don’t talk to people like that man! He sincerely apologized and you’re being an asshole. You weren’t even watching your kid. You were on your phone the whole time.”

Employees walked up to us. Kids were standing frozen and eyeing us. This was not how I expected a toddler’s birthday to go. With one arm I was holding back my buddy on a God damn trampoline; with the other I was shooing away this white trash adult who clearly had a bad day…

Craziness.

Once things settled down, we finished the party and no one else had any idea what happened. That was a tangible example of the utility of picking your battles.

I’m at the point now where if I absolutely had to, I could physically defend myself against someone with no martial arts training. My buddy has been training in Muay Thai and MMA for years. If it were us against one skinny, clumsy dude…it wouldn’t be much of a fight.

But this was not the time or place to even think about fighting. We were in a kids’ party place. The dude was holding a 2 year old. He was irate. He was an asshole. He was clearly just looking for something to be upset about. Who knows, maybe his life sucks. Based on his first reactions and the way he was talking to me, I knew the only solution was for him to finish blowing off steam and just leave.

There was nothing he could’ve said that would get to me. Objectively speaking, he looked and sounded like a loser. When my pride surfaced and I felt the urge to talk back to him after his disrespect, one of my favorite quotes came to mind…

“Their punishment is their life.”

That guy will probably mouth off at someone else for something minor next week. He’s probably miserable right now. He’ll probably be miserable for the rest of his life. Who knows?

All I know is that he didn’t need me to fan the flames of his shitty personality any further. I also know that next time, I don’t think I’ll jump on a trampoline when there are a bunch of kids on it.

Lastly: The one verbal slip-up I made was when he condescendingly said to me, “This isn’t a fucking playground.”

To which I replied, “Well, yes it is.”

Day 24: Your Billboard

24/30 – If you could put anything on a billboard, what would it say?

I have a few…

• “The formula for fulfillment: Try something. Do it all the time. Get better at it.”

• “What good can you do today?”

• “What you are right now is a combination of every decision you’ve ever made.”

I’m also reminded of one of my favorite memes:

“Injured? Go fuck yourself, you injured piece of shit.”

Day 20: Out of the Dark

20/30 – What are controversial opinions you hold?

“Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?
If the answer is no, you might want to stop and think about that. If everything you believe is something you’re supposed to believe, could that possibly be a coincidence? Odds are it isn’t. Odds are you just think what you’re told.”

Paul Graham

Oh boy. Here goes…

Most people aren’t meant to be in a life-long relationship. People change their values and evolve and it’s highly unlikely that two people will evolve in a way that perfectly coincides with one another. Most marriages end in divorce; and we all know there are plenty of unhappy, unfulfilling partners who stay together.

This doesn’t mean I’m anti-marriage. It just means I’m anti-marriage if the two partners aren’t absolutely, drop-dead, madly in love with one another.

• We have an enormous problem with American law enforcement; but the problem is not racist cops. The problem is a combination of poorly-trained cops, mistakes, and awful portrayals in the media. I think defunding the police is a terrible idea. They should be funded more so they can train way more frequently, get much better psychological evaluations, and so that our image of cops can be that of respect instead of what it is now. When most people–including myself–see a a cop car, the prevailing feeling isn’t that of safety; it’s of intimidation and fear. All the hard evidence shows us that there is no proof of an epidemic of racist cops, but you wouldn’t gather that from watching nothing but horrible videos of black people being killed by white cops on TV. The media doesn’t tell the whole story, which is genuinely warping our understanding of crime and violence in this country. I also think it’s a problem that any sort of criticism of Black Lives Matter (the movement, not the sentiment) gets you pinged as a bigot or a racist.

The criminal justice system however, provides plenty of evidence that it targets black people and provides them with much harsher sentences. Again, I know racism exists and it needs to be weeded out…but we can’t find it where it doesn’t exist. That is how we backtrack.

Islam is not a religion of peace. I would never make a blanket statement about Muslims as people; nor would I advocate for any sort of oppression or stereotyping. But the statement that Islam is a religion of peace is insulting to those millions of Muslims living under the Qur’an’s unfortunate rules and regulations.

In the harshest-most circle, we have Jihadists. These are extremists and fundamentalists willing to blow themselves up to destroy the infidel. They want nothing more than for the entire world to succumb to the faith.

Outside that circle, we have Islamists. While these folks won’t resort to murder or violence like Jihadists, they specialize in organizing politically in attempts to change the political and social infrastructure of nations. They want the same goal, they just have a different means of getting there.

Finally, outside those two circles, there exist conservative Muslims who hold reprehensible beliefs about women, homosexuals, Jews, and apostates. 21% of American Muslims said in a Pew Poll that 9/11 was “somewhat justified.”

These three extreme circles of the faith make up (from a collection of Pew Research Center Polls) about 20% of Muslims. While there are many many millions of Muslims who would never wish harm upon anyone, who just want to live peaceful lives and wish the same for others…there are a disconcerting number of those who wish for quite the opposite. 20% of 1.8 billion Muslims is 360 million people. This is far from a “loud minority.”

This is not a criticism of Muslims as people. It is a criticism of a collection of archaic ideas which need vast reform in the Muslim world.

• Well, hopefully I don’t lose any friends over this. If you have any issues with any of this, please feel free to contact me. I’m always up for a good-faith conversation! Peace be with you.

Day 19: Thnks 4 th Advc

19/30 – Write a scene of a time when someone older than you gave you advice, and write about how you followed it or ignored it and the consequences:

I remember being on the phone with my Dad growing up. He would often say, plainly, “If you don’t buckle down, work hard, and get good grades in school, you’ll end up working at McDonalds. You don’t want that do you?”

No. Obviously I don’t want that.

Unfortunately for my Dad, I didn’t do any of those things. I shat my way through high school and college. (It honestly astonishes me; the low bar for graduating high school.)

Years after failing out of college, I’ve spent the last few months teaching myself skills online, selling them, running a business, creating my own schedule, and building the life I want to live. This of course–like he said–requires hard work; but it doesn’t require anyone to sit down in a classroom, shut up, put their head down, and get good grades.

In my eyes, the sentiment of such advice is to simply follow the herd. Do what the masses do. Go to school. Get good grades. Get an internship. Get a degree. Get a job. Pay off debt. Pay your bills. Vacation when you can. Find meaning where you can…

No thanks. I’d rather fight and struggle for something better.

Day 14: Top Tips

14/30 – Give your top 5 pieces of life advice:

  1. Take time to learn all the boring fundamentals of personal finance. It will probably suck, but you’ll experience much more long-term freedom and much less stress.
  2. Find something you enjoy doing that’s difficult, do it all the time time, and get better at it. If you don’t have this thing, try stuff out. A year from now, you’ll be glad you started today. (I can’t recommend martial arts enough).
  3. Talk to and spend as much time with your family and friends as you can. When you’re on your deathbed, the connections you’ve made in life will be all that you have.
  4. Give a shit about your health. You don’t have to become an Olympian or a vegan…But exercise at least 3 times a week and eat mostly clean.
  5. Spend intentional time thinking about and planning what you want out of life and out of yourself. Write down your goals, what you want your life to look like, what value you want to provide others…The more time you spend in a clear state of mind, the more likely you are to affect change toward those values.

Day 13: Interview a Famous Person

13/30 – What are three questions you’d ask someone you admire?

Dear Sam Harris (author/philosopher),

• While logically speaking, free will is an illusion…should we not live as if free will exists? i.e. Shouldn’t we act as though we can make choices on our own and are responsible for these choices?

• What are you probably wrong about?

• When was the last time you spent an ungodly amount of time lost in thought?

• (Will you come on my podcast/will you be my dad?)

Day 9: 20 Questions

9/30 – 20 questions you’d ask to get to know someone:

  1. When was the last time you cried?
  2. What keeps you going?
  3. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
  4. What’s your most embarrassing moment?
  5. What does your perfect day look like–hour by hour?
  6. What would your life look like if you knew you couldn’t fail?
  7. If you wrote a book, what would it be about?
  8. What are your limiting beliefs?
  9. What does the ideal you look like?
  10. Who do you think of when you hear the word “successful?”
  11. What are three books everyone should read?
  12. What is the most overrated thing in the world?
  13. What negative experience–one you wouldn’t wish to repeat–has significantly impacted your life for the better?
  14. What do you do when you feel stuck or unmotivated?
  15. What’s your favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
  16. Who do you dislike the most and why?
  17. If you could have dinner with three people, who would you choose and why?
  18. If you could master any skill, what would it be?
  19. You have the Infinity Gauntlet on. What do you do with it?
    (You are God. What do you do or change?)
  20. When was the most proud you’ve ever been of yourself?