I love Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome:

• Doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.
• Finding it difficult to accept your accomplishments.
• Questioning whether you’re deserving of accolades.

It comes in many forms.

Not taking on a certain project or job. Avoiding reaching out to a person who intimidates you. Feeling fear and anxiety about not being worthy.

If any of these things paralyze or debilitate you from taking action, that’s not good…obviously.

But one thing I’ve realized about myself in the past year is something rather counterintuitive:

I don’t ever want these doubtful feelings to go away.

Of course, I don’t ever want these doubtful feelings to keep me from doing the things I want to do. But I’m okay with their existence.

These thoughts:

Can I really do this?
• Do I deserve people’s money?
• Am I actually able to make a prosperous career for myself?

They don’t keep me under the covers. They fire me up to get out my ass out of bed each morning and say, “Fuck yeah. I can do all these things. Let me prove it.”

Courageous and fearless are not the same thing. Being courageous is taking action despite feeling afraid.

I’m afraid almost every day. And I like it.

It makes me work hard. It makes me take action to be less fearful. It helps me connect with other people who are scared too.

So long as this remains true, I welcome my Imposter Syndrome with open arms.

Being fearless is overrated. Be courageous instead.

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

A trick to getting what you want

A plate of pizza crusts

I love cliches.

There are TONS of them in the world of self-improvement. After diving deeper and deeper into that world for the past four years, I’ve realized that that’s because living a great life, while bitter work, is genuinely quite simple.

I could list out a bunch of my favorite, powerful cliches, like:

• Suffer now so you may thrive later.
• When you obsess over things you can’t control, you lose twice.
• Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

…But I’ll just focus on one for today.

If you dedicate yourself to helping others, you’ll get everything you want.

This is true in business, relationships, and your overall health and well-being.

Of course, you still have to look out for yourself. Not sleeping for five days straight because you’ve been helping every person you can is not ideal.

But in general, focusing on finding ways to serve others does several things to help get you where you want to be.

1) You make more money.

Numbers have never motivated me.

After starting my own business last year, I tried to come up with a financial business plan, but it never seemed to drive me to work better or harder.

Then, when I started coaching, I threw away all my “business plans.” The new plan was (and still is):

Have as many fun and powerful conversations with people as I possibly can.

Since this adjustment in my mindset, I’ve made more in a few months than what I thought would take me three years to attain.

If you’re helping people…if you’re bringing them value…they will want to reciprocate with their own money, time, or attention.

2) You grow your network effortlessly.

Networking doesn’t have to involve suits, cocktail parties, and business cards.

That stuff’s fine, but not necessary.

A major lesson for me in the past year:

You don’t need to search far and wide for a diverse and valuable network. You have everything you need right in front of you.

I didn’t know this until I started reaching out to friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances from my past. I’ve had fruitful conversations with folks of all kinds of passions, skills, and personalities.

Naturally, this has increased my chances of being referred to. People have mentioned me to others when discussing blogging or life coaching. I’ve even helped a few people wanting to start a YouTube channel. This wasn’t because I’m a pro filmmaker (I only have 110 subscribers); it was because I have a YouTube channel and people in my network know that.

To mirror the first point, if you provide value to others, they will stick around. Not so much in a transactional sense, but because you make their lives better or easier in some way. And for the vast majority of people, they’ll want to give back.

3) It makes you happier.

There was a study done to prove this.

They had people fill out a questionnaire to measure happiness levels. Then, half of them were asked by an actor to do them a favor.

Not only did this mean they were helping another person, but they also typically engaged in light conversation with the actor.

The subjects took similar happiness quizzes at the end of the experiment.

92% of people in the “favor group” reported much higher levels of positivity, gratitude, and overall happiness.

Conclusion

The next time you feel stuck, ask yourself, “How can I help?”

Or better yet…”Who can I help?”

Finding ways to be of service to others will in turn help you prosper in your personal and professional lives.

The person you should be like

A blooming flower in a field

Until I was about 25, I thought relentlessly, Who should I be like?

I looked to successful friends, role models, even characters in movies or plays.

When I was in high school, I would listen to the music my friends liked even though I didn’t really enjoy it.

Last year, in trying to make YouTube videos on self-improvement, I tried my best to copy my favorite filmmakers who made the same content.

After starting my own business, I read countless business and self-help books to figure out who I should emulate to become prosperous.

In my work, my relationships, and my creative endeavors…I’ve spent an ungodly amount of time asking that same throbbing question…

Who should I be like?

As we get older, one of the frustrating (and uplifting) things we realize is that cliches are cliches for a reason: They remain true.

We can turn to one of the top five cliches to answer this uncomfortable question:

Be like you.

In a world of seven billion humans, there is only one person on the planet who has the exact same combination of interests, strengths, and perceptions as you have. And it’s…me.

Just kidding. It’s you.

Of course, it’s necessary to be influenced by others. Soak in ideas and motivation from the people you respect. There’s always something to learn from everyone.

But only you can take what you learn and make it totally your own.

I’ve written about 1000 blog posts on this site you’re reading. There’s not a single word I haven’t taken from something else.

My mom and teachers taught me how to read and write.

All my ideas have come from experiencing the outside world—conversations with friends, stories, and lessons I’ve learned and pondered over.

But they’ve made it onto this screen because they’ve traveled through the filter that is my brain and then out of my fingertips and onto the keyboard.

Thus making them mine.

The same is true for everything you do and say.

What do you value and cherish? What excites you? What do you love?

Do that. Do it all the time. Get really fucking good at whatever you hold dear to your heart.

Because that’s you.

When you do that, you don’t have to be like anyone else. You can be the coolest person on earth.

You.

This is progress

This morning will be the first organized public event I attend since everything shut down in March of 2020.

I’m pumped.

My sister cheers for her local high school. Their football team is playing the high school I went to.

Not only am I grateful to get to see her compete and do something she’s interested in…but going to an event makes me smile.

Progress is insuing.

People are getting vaccinated.

Things are opening up.

There’s much work to be done and people have certainly suffered unnecessarily, but we are taking steps to get back to “normal.”

At some point, you’ll be able to walk into a crowded concert hall and no one will be wearing masks and it’ll be totally natural.

That’s called progress (or Florida). And it should be celebrated.

Nothing’s wrong

Yesterday, I was being coached by my partner in my coaching program.

He and I were diving into the stress and anxiety I feel over money and growing my business.

I thought we were heading in the direction of:

“I’m doing great. I don’t need to feel this anxious.”

But then things took a turn and I had a simple but unexpected insight:

You’re very new at this whole ‘running a business’ thing. It’s perfectly natural to be stressed out.

Wow…yeah.

I’ve been coaching for nine months. Did I think I would be making six figures at this point?

I have 12 regular paying clients. I’m serving others. I’m helping people take action toward the things that matter most to them.

I’ve been thinking that something’s wrong because I’m not totally financially set yet.

But nothing’s wrong.

Everything is as it should be, including the stress.

Realizing that anxiety is perfectly normal makes me less anxious.

The only option for me is to continue doing the work and stay on this trajectory.

A year from now, I’m excited to look back and smile at this blog post.

The Four Tendencies

I’m currently reading Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (And Other People’s Live’s Better, Too).

The tendencies help you understand how you respond to expectations—both internal and external.

Here they are (in no particular order):

Upholder

Meets outer expectations.
Meets inner expectation.

“I do what others expect of me—and what I expect from myself.”

Questioner

Resists outer expectations.
Meets inner expectations.

“I do what I think is best, according to my judgment. If it doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it.”

Obliger

Meets outer expectations.
Resists inner expectations.

“I do what I have to do. I don’t want to let others down, but I may let myself down.”

Rebel

Resists outer expectations.
Resists inner expectations.

“I do what I want, in my own way. If you try to make me do something—even if I try to make myself do something—I’m less likely to do it.”


No tendency is better than another. And they each contain a wide variety of personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.

I’m an upholder/questioner.

What about you?

Take the 60-second quiz here to find out and learn more about your tendency!

The one thing every happy person does

I’ve been trying to get my shit together for the past four years.

After reading tons of self-improvement books, logging 130+ coaching hours, and reflecting with myself and others on how to live a great life…I’ve discovered that there’s not just one single formula or idea to make it happen.

But there does seem to be a mindset that every person who is happy or fulfilled seems to possess:

Focusing on what they can control and not what they cannot.

The old adage goes:

If there’s something you can do about it, do it. If there’s nothing you can do about it, then obsessing over it just means you suffer twice.

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.

The PERMAH Wheel

A plant growing out of a dead tree

One exercise I do with my coaching clients is work through the PERMAH Wheel.

Simply write down each letter and declare, on a scale from 1-10, how satisfied you are with each category. Then, explain why you gave that answer.

P: Positive emotions

How positive or optimistic are you with your environment or routines?

How often do you approach things with excitement, gratitude, or light-heartedness?

Do you feel like life is happening to you or for you?

E: Engagement

How engaged do you feel with the world around you: your relationships, your work, your free time?

How are you utilizing your strengths?

How present and focused are you in your day to day?

R: Relationships

What are the quality of your connections with your friends and family?

How much value are you getting from them? How much value are you giving in return?

How strong is your support system and how much energy does it provide you?

M: Meaning

Do you know why you do what you do? How strongly do your actions align with your deeply-seeded values?

Do you have a sense of being connected to something larger than yourself? (This doesn’t have to be anything religious.)

A: Achievement

How strongly do you feel you can say you’re going to do something and then do it? How often do you take action toward the things that matter to you?

This is less about, “How much money do you have,” and more about, “How consistently do you pursue things?”

H: Health

How are your eating habits? How consistently are you getting 7-9 hours of sleep? How often are you exercising?

Also, how much time do you spend being intentionally mindful: meditating, spending time in nature, taking a pause?

Your answers to these questions can unpack areas you may want to direct more of your energy. I hope you find it helpful in some way.

Why I torture myself

A woman running on a dirt road

A few weeks ago, I was trying to explain the value of inflicting discomfort or “pain” upon myself to a friend.

She was puzzled.

This was understandable. It’s difficult to put into words, especially because the benefits are intangible and feelings-based.

But I’ll do my best here.

Intentional discomfort

I described the freezing cold showers I often take. Most people shudder when I do this. A shower is supposed to be a peaceful and enjoyable endeavor.

But even the occasional cold shower can boost your immune function, reduce depression, and speed up your metabolism.

I also told the story of when I ran a marathon in 2020. During the last seven miles, my legs stopped working and it was possibly the most uncomfortable two hours of my life.

“Why didn’t you just stop,” she asked, befuddled.

Several reasons. Firstly, I ran it with my jacked military buddy who kept pushing me to continue, especially when I most wanted to quit. Without his accountability, there’s no chance I would’ve completed those 27 miles.

Secondly, I was excited for the sense of accomplishment of doing something I didn’t think I could physically do. My buddy and I both chugged a Coors Light after we finished. I hate Coors Light, and that was the best beer I’ve ever had in my life.

But the last and deepest reason is the crux of this blog post.

Pain ≠ suffering

A woman with a sword in her neck

Like most animals, we have evolved to see pain as a malfunction or as an alarm. We feel pain and our brains go, Oh shit, something’s wrong.

This is obviously a good thing. If a bear were to start eating you in your sleep, you’d want some sort of alert.

But over the many years of our evolution, as we’ve advanced societies and stepped away from battling the elements…many of us still make this association when it’s not necessary.

You’ve probably gone for a run or started working out only to stop a few minutes in. Why?

Because you didn’t like the discomfort.

Your brain assessed the situation, said fuck this, and aborted the mission. It declared that something was wrong. You might have even decided in your mind, I can’t do this.

But you certainly can.

Hypothetically, if I told you I’d give you $100,000 to complete an intense, hour-long workout, you’d feel much more capable.

Here, the action is the same. The pain is the same. The only thing that’s changed is your relationship to the pain. Which proves we can alter the meaning and power of discomfort.

When I’m running, the voice in my head tells me, “You have to stop. You can’t keep going.”

But then I just remind myself: It’s only pain. Nothing’s wrong.

But what does it mean?

To be clear, my friend wasn’t advocating for a purely pleasure-filled life with zero obstacles and zero challenges.

Her main question was: “Why do you make yourself do things you hate?”

In fairness, I have no idea how to quantify the benefits. I can’t say that I’ve made this much more money or I’ve taken this or that action.

But I can vouch for an increase in confidence I feel when doing difficult things.

If I can run seven, miserable miles with legs that don’t work, I can surely sit down and write when I don’t feel like it.

If I can stay under that freezing cold shower water when my fight or flight system is begging me to turn the knob, I can certainly take on projects that I feel unqualified for.

Why do I torture myself?

In short:

  1. To strengthen my courage muscle—proving to myself that I can do things I don’t think I can do (or that I’m scared to do).
  2. To reinforce the truth that although I’m in pain, I’m certainly not suffering…I might even be thriving.

Tea time with a demon

A statue of a baby demon

When the Buddha spent a month under the Bodhi Tree pursuing enlightenment, he was challenged by the evil demon King Mara—bringer of death and desire.

Mara’s army rushed toward the Buddha, but he did not plea or run away. Instead, he placed his hand on the ground and calmly stated that the seat beneath the tree was his and that they were welcome to join him.

The sword of each soldier fell to the earth and turned into a flower.

The moral of the story? LSD was strong even in 500 BC.

Kidding.

Negative thoughts and emotions are omnipresent. For the vast majority of us who don’t plan on spending years training to be a monk…anxiety, doubt, envy, longing, depression…these are things we must battle with almost every day.

The problem is: Many of us approach these demons by vigorously wishing them away.

A few years ago, when I was struggling with suicidal thoughts and depressing episodes, I refused to take action until the demons left me alone.

But they’ll never go away.

As of right now, I’ve never been happier with myself or my life…and the demons are still around.

The only difference? I have a healthier relationship with them.

By following the Buddha’s example, by inviting the demons in for tea with open arms, they become laughably weak. Their swords disappear.

It’s analogous to when a bully is making fun of your shoes. The second you join her and start talking shit about your shoes too, her words become utterly powerless.

Today, the thing that brings me the most mental pain is my anxiety over money. It has crippled and even paralyzed me at times.

That’s my demon. I handle it in two steps:

1) Clearly identify the demon

Not in the Western sense of tracing it back to its source from some childhood memory. There’s validity in that, but in the moment it’s not my priority.

For this, I note each thought, feeling, and physical sensation.

• “I feel tightness in my chest.”
• “I see images of me getting evicted.”
• “I can hear the disappointment in my friends’ voices.”

By simply articulating each and every thought and feeling, I get a sense of clarity and lightness.

2) Invite the demon in for tea

This can take practice.

As stated above, the demon isn’t going anywhere. So you might as well become friends and get the most out of your time with him.

The obvious caveat here is that I’m not a therapist or psychiatrist. These are just strategies that have lasted millennia and can help you the next time a demon knocks on your door.

You can try to slam that door in his face, but he’ll just grow bigger and stronger.

Make him a cup of tea, and he’ll shrivel down in strength and size.

I hear they prefer Chamomile.

Embarrassing moment at the gym

Yesterday at the gym, this guy was benching without a spotter.

I was on the elliptical when I heard a loud boom as his weights came crashing to the floor.

Someone rushed to help him and he looked violently embarrassed.

I’ve been there. We all have.

I could only imagine what was going through his head. I tried to put myself in his shoes.

“Everyone thinks I’m an idiot or I’m weak or I’m a loser…”

But my immediate reaction to seeing this:

Oh shit, that guy dropped the bar. Hope he’s all good.

Then I went right back to focusing on my cardio.

That’s when I was reminded that when something embarrassing happens to you, it’s highly likely that no one else really cares. They definitely don’t care as much as you do in the moment.

Don’t believe me?

What are some cringe memories you have? You know, the ones that make you contort your face or audibly groan.

Now, think about an embarrassing memory someone else has.

Much harder, right? That’s because we’re almost always focused on ourselves and what others think about us.

I spent half a second thinking about that dude who dropped his weights. Then I went right back to looking at myself in the mirror to make sure I looked okay.

What pain do you want to feel?

After starting a freelancing business last year, a number of unique stressors came into my life.

• How will I find my next project?
• Where do I find good clients?
• Can I pay my bills next month?
• How will I make this work?

I’ve had plenty of days where my financial uncertainty and stress has lumped itself in my chest in the form of physical pain.

That sucks.

But oddly enough, it’s all been worth it. Here’s why.

• I never count the days until Friday or the hours until the end of the workday.
• No one tells me when to show up to work, what to wear, or how to act.
• My schedule is crafted entirely by me.
• PTO is not a thing. If I want to take a long weekend trip to visit friends, I can.
• I can work wherever I want so long as I have my laptop and an internet connection.

Now, I’m not saying you should care about any of these things too. I know many people who would be an anxious wreck if they were in charge of their own schedule.

My point is: No matter what you’re doing in life, discomfort and sacrifice are unavoidable.

The question you need to be able to answer is: What discomfort or pain do I want to feel and what sacrifices am I willing to make?

What would make it all worth it to you?

Fuck your identity

A robot who is confused by its identity

I’ve talked in the past about cultivating an identity for yourself.

Examples

I’m a person who…

• takes care of their health
• does anything for their friends
• works hard for the things they love

I think crafting and molding an ‘identity’ is great if it gets you to take action toward the things you care about. But on the other end, I find it to be totally poisonous.

Recognizing your strengths, weaknesses, and innate interests is a healthy practice of self-awareness. But tying yourself down to an identity can do some serious damage in the long run.

Examples

I’m not a person who…

• goes to the gym
• is musical
• puts themselves out there

We are not some concrete structure where the rules and foundations are set in stone. It may be uncomfortable to deviate and stretch our comfort zone, but once we’ve done it, by definition, we are no longer a person who doesn’t do that thing.

Fuck your identity.

Keep your identity small. “I’m not the kind of person who does things like that” is not an explanation, it’s a trap. It prevents nerds from working out and men from dancing. 

Ideopunk

Meditation, basically

Most of us have this internal feeling that something is wrong with us. Things can be going great in our lives. We have access to food and clean water. We have shelter. We have people who love us…

Yet we still experience fairly consistent anxiety, doubt, uncertainty…all that good stuff. There’s this lingering feeling that This isn’t enough or I should be doing more.

You don’t have to live a life of austerity or become a monk to address this.

The beauty of mediation is that you don’t even have to stop having these feelings; the goal is just to recognize and identify them.

We all know what it’s like to be angry for an entire hour. But that can be cut down to under a minute by simply capturing all the sensations of anger when they appear.

“I feel slightly hot in my face.”

“I see images of the event that made me mad and hear sentences of things I should’ve said.”

“I’m experiencing distain for this person.”

It sounds overly simple. But by being totally open and honest with what exactly is going on can severely weaken the power of that anger.

This is true for any negative emotion you feel.

TL; DR

Feeling shitty feelings doesn’t make you shitty. They’re unavoidable.

That doesn’t make them fun, but understanding this truth does make them manageable.

The next time you’re sad, notice the difference between:

My life is sad, and

I am feeling sad right now

The discrepancy is both subtle and enormous.

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.

A friendly, shitty reminder

Something to remember when you feel like you’re falling into a black hole of anxiety and stress:

There were folks—individuals, families, and entire civilizations—who worried about the exact same things you’re worrying about.

• How do I take care of myself?
• How do I maintain my relationships?
• What’s the best way to spend my time?

Entire empires and dynasties have come and gone. Do you know any Samarians or Mayans?

Probably not.
That will be you one day.

Do you know you’re great great grandmother?
Probably not.

One day, you’ll be that great great grandmother that no one remembers.

That sounds really shitty, but it’s the truth.

I’m not saying you don’t matter and you’re not allowed to feel anxious. I’m saying that sometimes it’s useful to remember:

At the end of the day, we’re all just a bunch of pretty smart chimpanzees walking around on a floating rock like ants in space zooming around at 18,000 miles per hour.

Relax.

Why self-help (usually) doesn’t work

A woman practicing self help by running

After hitting rock bottom at 23, I converted to a religion practiced by millions of ambitious individuals around the globe: Self improvement.

Classic books. YouTube videos. Podcasts.

I was consuming hours of content a day in the hopes it would inspire me to build a better life…and it did.

Kind of. Let me explain.

Studies show that when you imagine yourself doing something in the future—exercising, being super productive, writing for hours—the same parts of your brain light up as when you’re imagining someone else entirely.

This is why we’re so confident that we can make a change or build a habit before we actually start (i.e. New Years resolutions). Then we sit down to write that first paragraph or run that first mile and our brain goes, Wait, what the fuck? You mean I actually have to do this?

And thus is the problem with self-help content.

It’s not that it’s all woo-woo BS (though much of it is). The issue is that it’s really good at making you feel energized and motivated. But energy and motivation don’t get things done; taking action does…Typically, it’s consistent, difficult, boring action.

You can read How to Win Friends and Influence People as many times as you want. You can internalize Dale’s lessons, laugh at the sexist 1930s language, and picture yourself at a bar striking up conversations with everyone you meet. That’s all great.

But nothing actually happens until you put yourself out there in social settings and apply what you’ve learned.

In other words: Anything you get out of self-help content is just wasted time or money if you don’t put it into action to make a change.

For two years, I read about 10 books on entrepreneurship. They inspired me to start my own business. They helped me think about how to be productive. Gary Vee yelled at me until I could imagine myself grinding away.

You can probably see what’s coming here.

“…inspired me…”

“…helped me think…”

“…I could imagine myself…”

Nothing got done. No businesses were started.

Every time I sat down to try, I was overwhelmed by how intimidating and uncertain the tasks were. In my mind I was thinking, This isn’t nearly as glamorous as my imagination made it seem, Gary.

Of course, it’s important to get inspired. We all need to think. You have to be able to imagine yourself doing the things you want to do.

I’m not telling you to avoid personal development content. I just want you to avoid the mistake that millions of consumers—myself included—have made, and recognize that none of that content will do the job for you.

If you want to make a change, getting pumped up is 5% of the battle. The other 95 is you stepping out of your comfort zone and putting in the often uncomfortable work.

Eventually, I started my own freelancing business. But it wasn’t because I read the perfect book. It was because I stopped dipping my toes in the freezing cold water and just dove in. It was absolutely terrifying, but something was actually happening.

Action → Motivation → Results → Repeat

TL;DR

Whenever you feel inspired by something—a blog, a conversation, a book…don’t just stop there. Write down specifically how you’re going to use that inspiration or lesson in your life going forward.

That’s where real results and changes occur.

Knowledge isn’t power until you do something with it.

So do something with it.

50% more

What would it look like if you were 50% more compassionate today?

50% more:

• patient
• kind
• sympathetic
• helpful

What would that look like?

Give it a try.

You can’t be everything to everyone

It doesn’t matter how many people laugh at your joke; there will always be people who find your words offensive.

It doesn’t matter how even-tempered or rational you are; there will always be people who think you’re foolish and disagree.

It doesn’t matter how good your intentions are; there will always be people who misconstrue them.

If a YouTube video has a million views, it is guaranteed to have thousands of thumbs downs, regardless of its quality.

It doesn’t matter how many people don’t dig your thing. What matters are the people who do.

Tim Ferriss

Working through the fog

A field full of fog in the morning

I found out this weekend that I have Covid.
(Ever heard of it?)

To start, my symptoms are mild(ish) and I’m fine. By no means am I suffering at the level of others I have known. I’m lucky and grateful.

Having said that, everything is harder.

It is taking significantly more effort and to do the things I want to do: read, play chess, have conversations, get work done…

Naturally, I’m going easy on myself. I’m not holding myself to the same productivity standards as usual. I’m taking breaks and resting.

BUT…it still comes back to one simple mindset:

I am a professional.

According to Steven Pressfield, an amateur is someone who does the work when they feel like it; a professional is someone who puts in the time no matter what.

Working out when you don’t feel like it. Getting things done when you’re sick. Practicing your passion/hobby when you don’t feel motivated.

This is all very familiar to the professional.

An amateur would hear this and go, It’s okay to take days off.

Yes and no.

Yes in the fact that rest is necessary to refresh your mind and body.

No in the fact that most amateurs say this and really mean, It’s okay to take a lot of days off.

The people who tell me it’s okay to skip the gym are usually people who aren’t in great shape.

The people who tell me I don’t have to worry about being productive are typically people who don’t run their own businesses.

The people who tell me I don’t need to spend so much time on the things that interest me tend to have no real passions of their own.

I’m aware that this is sounding a little mean. I don’t mean to insult anyone. I’m just pointing out the patterns I’ve noticed over the years.

My point is: Being a professional is not about killing yourself to optimize every second of every day. It’s about working on the things that are important to you even when you don’t feel like it.

I’m sick. Everything is foggy, but I can still see.

I’m grateful to not be in a hospital. I’m grateful to have access to food and internet. I’m grateful to have a bed to take naps in.

I’ll take advantage of all of that when I need to. But until then…

It’s back to work.

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?

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.

What buying a lamp says about you.

Optimizer:

Someone who works tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome.

Satisficer:

Someone who accepts their option as good enough.

Buying a lamp.

Studies show that when purchasing a lamp, optimizers find the best quality or value lamp money can buy.

But satisficers are much happier with their choice of lamp.

Which one are you?

Loss

There are many ways to lose something.

You could wake up one morning and realize that something is gone.

That something could be snatched away from you.

You could decide to let that something go.

None of these are ideal, but I’d much prefer the last option.

Deciding to let someone go implies control. You’re saying, “I really enjoyed this thing and it pains me to do this, but it’s better in the long run to call it quits.”

The worst part about letting something go is the debate of whether you’re making the right choice or not. All of these justifications enter your mind telling you not to cut ties. It’s short-term pleasure against long-term well-being.

It’s hard. It’s necessary. It’s growth.

Sometimes, you just have to choose to lose something.

What scares you the most?

One realization which has greatly improved my life is this:

The thing that scares you the most is probably the thing you most have to do.

I’m not saying you should dump a bucket of spiders on yourself; but think about what scares you most in life.

For me, this can be something as huge as applying for a job I feel unqualified for, or as small as calling a relative.

Two things happen when you do shit that terrifies you:

1) You realize that you were more scared of the thought of the thing than the thing itself, and

2) You prove to yourself that you can do things you don’t think you can do.

Both of these are incredibly powerful. Stretching your comfort zone is one of the most rewarding and addicting experiences one can…experience (dammit).

The only problem is: It never gets any easier.

So again, I ask: What scares you the most right now?

Go do it.

Shut up and do it: Is that good advice?

If you haven’t heard of David Goggins, he’s an author and motivational icon. His philosophy?

You can master your mind and force yourself to do really shitty things. It’s his way of saying:

“Build mental calluses.”

“Conquer your inner bitch.”

“Shut up, and do it.”

This tough approach doesn’t work for a lot of people. I rarely use these techniques in my coaching or my own life.

But even though this gritty way of thinking doesn’t resonate with most, doesn’t mean he’s wrong. We do have a genuine ability to strengthen our mental toughness like a muscle.

I’ve experienced this by taking freezing cold showers, running a marathon after my legs stopped working, and getting destroyed night after night in Brazilian Jiujitsu.

Everybody’s different. Sometimes we need to be nurtured and guided through our decisions and habits. Sometimes, someone needs to grab us by the shoulders and tell us to stop being a bitch and just do the damn thing.

I didn’t really start to improve my life until I heard people I respect tell me to stop whining and start taking action toward the things that matter in life.

The balance between nurture and toughness will vary for everyone. How often should someone give us this tough approach?

No, not every time. But not never either.

Are marshmallows ruining your life?

A cup of marshmallows on a table

Give your future self some God damn marshmallows. Let me explain.

The age-old battle of self improvement is that of immediate pleasure vs. delayed gratification.

Many have heard of the marshmallow experiment given to children. A kid is given one marshmallow and are told that if they just wait 10 minutes, they will receive another. When the experimenter leaves the room, they observe the kids as they almost always squirm in their chairs and naturally devour their tasty treat.

We run experiments like this on ourselves every single day. Usually they are more significant than getting an extra marshmallow, but each “experiment” begs the same question:

Will doing this thing I want to do right now be a favor to my future self, or am I fucking that person over?

Answering this question in hindsight is easy. Answering it in the moment almost always feels impossible.

Should I have another drink before driving home?

Should I order fast food?

Should I go exercise?

In these immediate moments, the answers seem clear:

It’s just one more beer. I’ll be fine.

I’m starving and a Crunchwrap Supreme sounds divine.

I’m exhausted and the gym can fuck off.

Having to disregard your emotions and desires right now is incredibly difficult. That’s why so many of us don’t do it. It requires thinking about something as if from another person’s point of view. You have to play the part of a responsible third party.

You’ll regret getting pulled over way more than not having another beer.

You always feel like shit when you eat fast food.

You have never regretted getting a workout in.

When you do this, it can feel boring, lame, unadventurous…And hey, live your life. Say fuck it on occasion. But it’s incredibly useful to get in the habit of asking this question.

Will doing this thing I want to do right now help my future self or hurt them?

Or…

Two girls eating marshmallows

Am I okay with settling for one marshmallow, or can I hold out for something better?