Write like a motherfucker

A person writing with pen and paper

Last night, I finished another chapter of Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. It was my favorite one yet.

The book consists of captivating Dear Sugar columns; people write in asking for her advice and she tells gripping, emotional stories and gives life-changing insights.

The chapter I read before bed last night was called “Write Like a Motherfucker.” In it, a woman wrote in looking for much needed motivation. She’s a writer who doesn’t write. She’s often paralyzed by her depression.

She writes:

“I’m…a high-functioning head case, one who jokes enough that most people don’t know the truth. The truth: I am sick with panic that I cannot—will not —override my limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude, to write well, with intelligence and heart and lengthiness. And I fear that even if I do manage to write, that the stories I write will be disregarded and mocked.”

What powerful vulnerability. And what a concrete example of someone who wants something but believes there’s something in the way.

To be clear, I am NOT downplaying the role of mental health here. I love that Cheryl opens by recommending professional help to this woman. The power of not having the energy to do what we want to do is stark.

But the reason I love this chapter so much is because Cheryl throws down some masterful tough love.

The phrase tough love often gets a bad rep. People tend to get distracted by the first part, tough: possibly unpleasant, firm, or uncomfortable…that they forget about the second part entirely, love: coming from a place of “I care about you and your wellbeing.”

I believe in accepting others for who they are and showing consistent compassion to ourselves and those around us. But I also believe in challenging ourselves and those around us for the sake of pushing humans to be better.

Cheryl hits her with this hammer:

“The most fascinating thing to me about your letter is that buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing, there’s arrogance at its core. It presumes you should be successful at twenty-six, when really it takes most writers so much longer to get there.”

Wow. No pity party here.

I can only imagine how much this stung to read. But Cheryl does a fantastic job in relating her own experiences and assuring her that this all comes from a place of love and care. Plus, the point is not: Does this sting? The point is: Is this true and is this useful?

Going through mental chaos is God damn difficult. In many cases, it can be debilitating. But unfortunately, that doesn’t remove the work that needs to be done.

Cheryl describes humility: not being up too high or down too low, but on the ground level. She writes:

“We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce. You have limitations. You are in some ways inept. This is true of every writer, and it’s especially true of writers who are twenty-six. You will feel insecure and jealous. How much power you give those feelings is entirely up to you.”

The negative feelings we experience are absolutely valid. But the work still needs to be done. It’s up to us to continue to show up and do it.

“Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig…

You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug.

So write…Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”

(Strayed, Cheryl. Tiny Beautiful Things (p. 60). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

2nd vaccine

I got my second vaccine yesterday. I slept in an extra hour and a half this morning—something I never do.

My body aches and I’m exhausted. But I have a long day of work today so I won’t be taking it super easy.

As shitty as it feel physically, it feels nice to have habits and systems in place which help me take care of the things I want to get done.

One of my favorite phrases comes to mind today:

No hurry; no pause.

Meaning, I don’t have to rush anything, so long as I show up every day and do the work.

2 Dills

A bowl of pickles

There are days where I’m energetic, motivated, positive, proactive, ambitious, present, and on top of my fucking shit.

There are days where I just want to sit in bed for 12 hours and watch YouTube videos and I have to fight tooth and nail not to. I’m anxious, tired, lazy, uncertain, and doubtful.

But regardless of what kind of day it is, I will:

• Show up and do the work
• Be kind to others
• Be as helpful as I can

So long as I can keep these in my daily life, the Dark Dill will never win.

The battle between emotion and logic

A mannequin with brain labels

This has come up countless times in recent coaching sessions and in my life in general…

There will be a story or some limiting belief that I know rationally to be untrue.

But despite my brain’s knowledge of this fact, my heart will ache from fear and my emotions will declare that nothing has ever been truer.

For example:

“I don’t have what it takes to run a sustainable business.”

Logic:

Lol what?

A year ago you had never even heard of life coaching. Now it pays your bills and your business has been growing each month since you started. You also help coaches directly in growing their businesses.

If you continue on the same trajectory, you’ll get anything you want.

Emotions:

Lol true.

It’s only a matter of time before people figure out you’re a fraud. You’ll probably have to go back to waiting tables when this all comes crashing down.

The Solution:

So what can we do when we feel a lump in our chest despite our logical awareness?

We can take action anyway. We can continue to show up and do the work.

Who says we have to be fearless? Most heroes aren’t.

They’re courageous; they take action in spite of their fear. We can do the same thing.

I’m creating a program for coaches right now. I’m terrified that no one will be interested. But that has nothing to do with me showing up today and reaching out to 100 coaches.

The next time that story pops up, I’ll politely respond: “So what?”

Early morning runs

I don’t think you have to wake up super early, run marathons, or work 10 hours a day to be successful.

BUT I do think there’s power in waking up earlier than most people.

I had to get up for a 6am swim slot the other day and although I hated my life, it was cool to see the sun come up. I felt so productive getting in an insane workout as everyone else I knew was still asleep.

Since then, I’ve been setting my alarm 10 minutes earlier each morning from my original time.

I’m writing this blog while the only other thing awake around me are the squirrels and the birds.

I’m about to go on a run with a buddy before the sun bakes down on us.

I enjoy these early mornings.

A single question

Has helped me stay on track with my business, health, and relationship goals…

It is:

If you continue doing everything the exact same, will you be where you want to be in a year?

Our batteries

I couldn’t write this blog during my morning routine because I had an early call.

Now I can feel the lack of creative juices flowing as I type.

Hence why I do certain things at the start of the day.

It’s important when we choose to complete tasks.

For months, I would try to moonlight passion projects for the evening (after a long day of deep work), and be baffled by my lack of motivation and energy.

We only have so much in a day. We’re not Elon Musk. We’re us.

So we must utilize our time before our batteries run out.

No wrong thing

The most useful habit I’ve ever developed is that of taking action.

We want to do all these things but only have a certain amount of time and energy.

Steve Chandler says that when people say they don’t know what to do or how to do it, they simply haven’t decided yet.

We want to write, make music, build a business, start a YouTube channel….

We’re pulled in all these directions and as a result we take no action because we don’t want to pursue the “wrong” thing.

What if there is no wrong thing? What if there’s just whatever you’re doing?

Unfamiliar environment

This weekend, I’m staying at my mom’s house. They’re out of town and I’m watching the dogs.

Trying to follow your normal routine in a different environment is strange.

Although I have access to all the same things as any other day—food, a space to work, a comfortable bed….

It’s not the same.

I feel out of place. It even feels like I can’t do the same quality work.

Our brains are odd in that they designate certain environments for certain tasks and regimens.

I love these dogs…but God am I looking forward to going back home.

Work and play

A little boy playing in a pile of leaves

After a week-long vacation, I’m back in my home office itching to get back to work.

I’m grateful to love what I do.

People talk about work/life balance. I have no idea what the perfect formula for that is or if it even exists.

My typical process is this:

Spend a few weeks working → Crave a vacation → Take a vacation → Crave getting back to work → Get back to work → Repeat

It works for me (get it?).

What I love about this process is how much better I get at my work by taking intentional breaks. Like letting our muscles recover after a workout, we counterintuitively get better results the more we set aside time for fun and relaxation.

I can’t stand when people say they sleep less so they can get more done in a day. That’s ludicrous.

You get more done in a day when you’re well-rested and full of mental energy. If that weren’t the case, insomniacs would be the most successful people on earth.

Sleep. Rest. Fun. Play time.

These are essential to our productivity and our well-being.

Take that trip. Go on vacation.

Then get the fuck back to work.

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

All different, all the same

As a life coach, I have conversations with two to seven different people each day.

We discuss their goals, obstacles, mindsets, and ideas.

While there are certainly patterns and similar areas of Resistance, each session is wildly different than the last.

Why? Simple.

Each human being is wildly different than the last.

Two of my clients are wealthy and successful businessmen. One might think my time with them would be about performance and optimization.

But with one, we exclusively focus on his health and morning routine habits. We don’t even discuss his work.

With the other, we brainstorm ways he can add more creativity into his daily routine. Again, we never discuss any of his major business decisions.

We’re all the exact same in that: We are all constantly trying to make sure we’re spending our time well.

But that looks completely different for each of us.

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.

Sometimes you don’t

Sometimes you don’t have to do anything profound or special.

Not every workout, idea, conversation, (or blog post) has to be the best one ever.

Usually, what’s most important is just sitting down and consistently doing the work.

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!

Monthly trips

I take one vacation every month.

I recommend everyone do this, regardless of their occupation.

It doesn’t have to be a long weekend trip states away. It can simply be a day-trip to a national park 30 minutes away.

Time away from your routine and working life is vital. Not only does it give your brain a refreshing reset, but it also lets you better enjoy your routine and work when you return.

When you don’t think about work at all for a day or a weekend, you come back to it with new energy, new excitement, and new perspective.

When I get back to work on Monday, I sit down at my computer with a smile on my face. I’m both eager to be productive and eager for my next vacation.

Take some time for yourself.

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.

Why I don’t write on Sundays

It’s not because it’s Lorde’s day.

It’s simply to give myself a rest.

Not that sitting down to write for 30 minutes is a taxing task, but giving yourself breaks with everything you do is vital.

I used to go to the gym six days a week. I love exercise, but this was actually hurting my muscles and my overall progress.

There needs to be space between everything you do to give yourself time to breathe and build up clarity.

Examples:

• Working out every other day
• Taking five-minute breaks for every 30 minutes of work
• Going for walks
• Spending intentional hours in a hobby or passion (preferably something that has nothing to do with how you make money)

Especially for the ambitious folk, rest can be difficult to prioritize. But recovery time counterintuitively produces higher quality results in the long run.

Rules are good

Not too many, of course, but we all need structure.

Principles. Boundaries. Limits.

Play around with them.

I did the keto diet for two years. Quite restrictive. In the end, it wasn’t what I wanted. But I still need rules. I can’t just eat whatever the fuck I want whenever I want.

You don’t have to shame yourself if you break the rules you set. Just readjust them until you find a harmony between healthy and doable.

Two cheat meals in a week? Sure.

Seven cheat meals? No.

You have to know where the line is by trying to draw it.

Whatever pulls you away from the life you want to live: porn, procrastination, social media…

Set some rules, stick to them, and see how you respond to following them.

It sounds restricting (and it is, by definition), but just like a budget is a rule for your money, rules for anything else are designed to give you the freedom to live healthily.

And freedom rules (get it?).

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.

What do you do when you feel empty?

When the cursor blinks on your blank screen?

When you feel bored with your routine?

When you don’t have the energy to practice…

Simple.

You show up anyway, make adjustments, and do the work.

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.

Rest up

For the last two years, I have scheduled nearly every hour of every day.

To some, this might sound robotic and insane. To me, it has provided a structure that allows me to get everything done that’s important to me.

I’ve been pretty sick the past few days, so I’ve said fuck it to my usual scheduling routine.

At first, this made me feel insecure and uneasy. The uncertainty of how I would spend my time was not fun.

Then, when I didn’t die, I realized everything would be okay.

When I recover, I’ll continue with my normal system. But this is teaching me the value of unstructured days off. It’s actually more fun to get things done on free days—because I don’t have to do anything. Everything I do is simply because I want to.

Rest up.

5 Steps to solving any problem

From Ray Dalio’s Principles.

An unsolved Rubik's Cube

1) Define the goal.

Whether it’s in your work, a relationship, or your health…you have to know what you’re working toward and what you want.

e.g. Get more work done, improve sex life, build an exercise habit

2) Define the problem(s).

What is getting in your way of reaching the goal?

For this step, don’t start thinking about solutions yet. The point is to dump all possible obstacles standing in your way.

e.g. Distractions, lack of romantic passion, hate the gym

3) Diagnose the problem(s).

Now that you have defined the challenges keeping you from your goal, go a level deeper and identify where those problems are coming from or why they exist.

e.g. Distractions—I keep my phone on my desk and my email open during work; Lack of romantic passion—I’ve been having sex with the same person for years and want things to be more interesting; Hate the gym—I’m insecure because I’m out of shape and don’t know what I’m doing when I work out

4) Create a plan.

Armed with your specific problems, design a specific set of actions to resolve them.

This is arguably the most important step. It’s why you’re doing this in the first place; otherwise, you’re right back to where you were before.

e.g. Distractions—Put my phone on airplane mode and keep it in another room while I’m working, only check email twice each day; Lack of romantic passion—Sit down and have an open and honest conversation with my partner about how I feel and what I want, brainstorm ideas with them; Hate the gym—Find a workout buddy who knows what they’re doing and join them at the gym, slowly getting fitter and more knowledgable on how to exercise well

5) Execute the plan.

Do the damn thing.

A plan can be perfectly crafted, but that doesn’t mean anything unless you put it into action.

This will be the difference between you actually making things happen and you simply wishing you could make things happen.

A solved Rubik's Cube

Put your phone down and look at me: How to focus.

Couple not focusing on each other.

Many of us think we can focus on several things at once.

That’s bullshit.

Unless you’re combining a focusing task with a mundane task (like listening to a podcast while doing the dishes), multitasking–or multi-focusing–is impossible.

The human brain is designed to focus on one thing at a time. This is why we can’t listen to two conversations at the same time and take in all the information. It’s why we crash our cars when we’re texting. It’s why we have to ask our friends to repeat themselves when we’re thinking about something else.

We can’t focus on one thing when something else has our attention. It’s a zero-sum game.

This has consequences for our work, our relationships and our minds.

Work:

Man not focusing on his work.

Most of my coaching clients and friends admit to having ten tabs open on their screens while trying to get shit done. Email. FaceBook. Articles. News.

It is natural to feel like we’re taking care of ten different things at once. But the result is that we get absolutely nothing done.

Dissecting our attention like this blocks any chance of getting into a flow state (getting in the zone). This is where the magic happens. No matter the type of work–creative, business, learning, planning–long periods of focus on a single task is the key to absolute productivity.

Even if it’s something as simple as answering emails. Sitting down for an hour to craft well-written, personable responses…those would be some of the best damn emails ever sent.

People are distracting too. Someone is working on their computer, trying to get in the zone. Then, a coworker casually pops in their office to say hi. Harmless right?

On average, it takes the brain 17 minutes to return to the level of focus it had prior to distraction. This is why highly productive people lock themselves away, close their doors, and shut off their phones.

Relationships:

Guy not focusing on his friend working out.

When I’m talking to someone, and they’re looking down at their phone, I wait.

Not passive-aggressive. Not spiteful. Just patient.

The typical response: “I’m listening.”

No you’re not.

Listening means you’re looking at someone, taking in what they’re saying, and responding with a thought-out idea of your own.

When someone isn’t completely listening to us, we notice it. It feels like they’re not really there. Like they’re somewhere else.

When we’re showing our friends a movie we love, this is why it hurts when we see them on their phones.

How crazy is that? Even when we’re sitting down watching a screen, we want to feel that shared connection with others. What the fuck, stop staring at that tiny screen–stare at this bigger screen with me.

Focus our minds:

Girl not focusing on her surroundings in a pool.

Attention is like a muscle. It’s a skill, which means it can be trained and it can be weakened.

People who take breaks from smart phones and social media, for example, admit heightened levels of focus on their task at hand.

It’s amazing what can happen when there’s literally nothing to focus on besides whatever is in front of you. In that moment, it’s all that exists. It’s your entire world.

A conversation. A project. A problem.

I have several friends who are unable to concentrate on any one thing for 15 minutes. It’s scary.

The scariest part? They’re totally unaware of it.

How do we pull people out of the Matrix when they don’t know they’re in the Matrix?

Tristan Harris

Conclusion:

Couple focusing and laughing with each other.

When you’re working, when you’re having a conversation, when you’re focusing on something…leave everything else alone.

Ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing I should be doing right now?” Then do that thing. Do it 100%.

Watching Netflix with a buddy? Watch the shit out of it.

Hearing your partner vent about their day? Listen, absorb, and respond.

Working on your computer? Close your email, close your tabs, and dive into deep work.

Rather than doing ten things to the first degree, try doing one thing to the tenth degree.

You’ll be amazed at the results.

Asleep at This Keyboard

This morning, I feel utterly exhausted.

It’s days like this where I have to fall back on my habits.

Dragging myself through my morning routine–planning, reading, writing, stretching, meditating…It feels as though I’m on autopilot.

Thank God for habits. This process is so engrained in my being that it’s easier to just do the thing than it is to think about doing it.

Why build strong habits?

Because they will keep you afloat when you feel like a lazy piece of shit.

Nice Guys Finish…First?

“Nice guys finish last” is bullshit.

There are annoying limits to someone being too nice or not assertive enough…but for the vast majority of people, if you are kind to me then I’m MUCH more likely to help you out.

Do girls like bad boys? Assholes?

With the girls I’ve known and have been with, most say yes…for a short while.

The general consensus is that being with a douche-bro is exciting and spontaneous for a bit. But then, after a week or even a few years, they realize it’s not sustainable.

How many shows or movies have you seen where the mom dates a sweater-wearing dud after divorcing her leather jacket-wearing wildcard?

I’m getting off track here. My goal is to champion the nice guys.

The trick: How can you be a respectful and loving human being without letting others walk all over you?

The solution: set boundaries.

Be it with your boss, strangers, even your best friends…you must project to others that YOU are in control of your time and energy.

Yesterday, I was catching up with a fellow entrepreneur friend. We talked about the prospect of me helping him rewrite content on his website.

When he offered to exchange yoga lessons for my writing, I had to set a “boundary” at the risk of hurting his feelings.

I said: “Thanks man. But at this point in time, yoga isn’t something I value enough to pay for, so I don’t think I’d be willing to exchange hard working hours. But the next time you do a free group session, I’d love to hop in.”

You know what he said?

“Word. I totally feel that man.”

And then we moved on…

Notice: I 1) thanked him for his offer, 2) explained my honest feeling toward his offer, 3) said no clearly (without actually saying the word no), and 4) offered something new moving forward.

This may seem like a benign example. But when I spoke those words, I could feel the adrenaline. Saying no. Setting boundaries. These are tough to do and they can create a strange amount of anxiety.

The sacrifice: Short term discomfort for long term wellbeing.

I risked hurting his feelings by telling him I didn’t value something he’s passionate about. But even if he was hurt (which he wasn’t at all), setting this boundary would prevent even greater damage to both our futures.

If I reluctantly said yes to his offer, I’d be doing work I normally love with a sense of resentment. I’d also probably see his yoga sessions as a chore more than something new and cool to learn.

None of this is fair to either of us. It’s dishonest.

People pleasing might seem like the respectful thing to do in the moment. But in the long run, it’s actually the least respectful thing you could do to someone.

Don’t be a nice guy or gal just to appear as one.

Be a nice guy or gal because it will bring you and others lasting happiness.

The One Thing

Here’s a great exercise for planning how you will accomplish your humungous, far out, lifetime goal:

1. What’s the one thing you want to do SOMEDAY?

ex. “I want to make a full-time income by life-coaching.”

2. What is the one thing you can do in the next 5 YEARS to make that happen?

ex. “Establish a profitable individual and business coaching business.”

3. What’s the one thing you can do THIS YEAR to make that happen?

ex. “Develop my coaching and marketing skills–to bring the highest possible value to clients and to make myself seen.”

4. What’s the one thing you can do THIS MONTH to make that happen?

ex. “Continue learning new coaching skills and have a clearer online presence.

5. What’s the one thing you can do THIS WEEK to make that happen?

ex. “Revamp my coaching page.”

6. What’s the one thing you can do TODAY to make this happen?

ex. “Add my testimonials to the coaching page.”

7. What’s the one thing you can do RIGHT NOW to make this happen?

ex. “Copy and paste my emailed testimonials and put them in their own folder in my Notes.”

This lovely exercise answers the question:

What should I do right now to take a step toward accomplishing this enormous thing I want in the future?

Where Do Your Habits Live?

A week ago, I wrote about my new lair.

Having specific jobs for specific spaces is life-changing.

Working at your dining table can feel cool and freeing, but it can also make things foggy.

Is this where I work…or where I eat? When do I stop one thing and start the other?

Once I moved into this new apartment and began working in a separate studio, two things became wildly easier: work and sleep.

I have zero distractions while I’m working because I’m in a space where productivity is all that exists.

I fall asleep almost immediately in my room because my bed is all that exists.

Every habit should have a home.

Studio = Productivity
Room = Sleep

This is where I cook. This is where I read. This is where I exercise. Combining spaces can do damage to one or all of the habits you’re trying to entertain there.

I read about this crazy study from James Clear’s Atomic Habits:

“In one study, scientists instructed insomniacs to get into bed only when they were tired. If they couldn’t fall asleep, they were told to sit in a different room until they became sleepy. Over time, subjects began to associate the context of their bed with the action of sleeping, and it became easier to quickly fall asleep when they climbed in bed. Their brains learned that sleeping—not browsing on their phones, not watching television, not staring at the clock—was the only action that happened in that room.”

Where do your habits live?

Good Investments, Bad Investments

“The best investment: investing in yourself.”

Cheesy. Self-helpy. But true.

Outside of the stock market, I have made–and continue to make–a number of investments which make my life easier, more enjoyable, and more fulfilling.

I have also made investments which have proved to have terrible ROI.

Here they are:

1. Good Investments

• My new apartment–$1100/mo

My mom let me live with her for free while I got my shit together. For that, I am eternally grateful; but having this new place to pay for has given me two things: the freedom to live an adult life, and the hunger to work well and increase my income.

• Supplements (Athletic Greens and LMNT Electrolytes)–$122/mo

Supplements are tricky. It’s hard to accurately pinpoint their benefits. It’s not as if I feel awful when I don’t take my nutrient shake. But even if it’s just a placebo, I feel mentally and physically strong knowing that I have all the essential nutrients and vitamins in my system at all times.

• My own studio–$140/mo

Moving into this new apartment, my roommate and I arranged that I would take the den and turn it into my own space for work and productivity. Separating this from my room has done wonders for my ability to focus and pursue deep work.

• Gym memberships–$110/mo

With the combination of my weightlifting gym and martial arts gym, I make sure to get consistent and well-rounded exercise. Aside from the physical benefits, practicing Brazilian jiujitsu has thoroughly changed my life. Increased confidence, a sense of family, an ability to defend myself…these are all priceless.

2. Bad Investments

• College–$60,000

Although I have a massive amount of debt for a degree I do not have, I do not regret going to college. What I regret–and lament–is making $20,000 decisions at the age of 18. I was a child, and I went to college because that’s what you do. Not because I had a goal or a plan. Just go and see what happens. Well, what happened was it didn’t work (for me). And now I am indebted to the young fool that I was.

• Friends who don’t share my values–Mental and emotional exhaustion

This has been one of the toughest realizations for me. Not all of our friends are helping us cultivate a happy and healthy life. This is incredibly sad, but totally natural. Identifying those who don’t make your forcefield stronger is one of the best things you can do for your wellbeing. I’ve spent an unfortunate amount of hours caring for and mending relationships with people when I should’ve just cut the cord.

What investments are you making that give you a great ROI?

What investments are you making that give you diminishing returns?