Leadership

Leadership isn’t something interesting until you’ve seen it done well first-hand. Leaders are not the same as managers or bosses. Leaders inspire action. Simon Sinek has written a multitude of amazing books on what it takes to be a leader in the real world.

The most effective leader I’ve ever known (and the sole reason great leadership is one of my life goals) is Mark Milecki. Mark was my General Manager at the Cheesecake Factory. And although we were just working with burgers and fries, he taught me how to take care of people, solve problems, and lead by creating leaders. We did an amazing podcast (#13 – Leadership, Done Right) on his climb of the ladder from busser to top-level GM. We also discuss his son’s battle against a rare form of leukemia.

In a nutshell, a leader must:

• listen to everyone, learn about everyone
• make everyone feel valued, but hold everyone accountable
• take responsibility for their own actions as well as their followers actions
• be willing to do the work that they request of their followers
• inspire others to be independent

This blog post is dedicated to the Mileckis.

Success

What is success to you? It has to be subjective. Success is not having this amount of money, or this amount of followers. You have to define what you want and what will make you successful.

My dream is to create content (podcasts, short films, writing, other posts) that reaches people and inspires them to climb the mountain of life. As of right now:

• I have around 100 podcast listeners
• I have 39 YouTube subscribers
• My last video currently has 33 views
• This blog has fewer than 10 consistent readers
• Only 4 people have subscribed to my weekly newsletter

In terms of reaching people, none of this is even close to the kind of numbers I’m dreaming of. But a few days ago, one of my closest friends reached out to me and told me everything he loved about my stuff, as well as the things that didn’t click with him. That’s success to me. People I care about consuming what I create and being inspired to think about it and how they can implement it in their lives.

I don’t give a shit about the numbers right now as I’m starting out. Perhaps they will remain low until I find my real footing. All I can do is focus my energy on improving my abilities and remain true to my Why. That’s all any of us can do. Don’t get bogged down by “lack of results.” Get better, and stay true to your purpose, and the numbers will eventually follow suit.

Trick Your Mind

It’s stunning how upset people get when you tell them they can do things they don’t think they can do. We like to be the ones who declare our own capabilities and inabilities. Aside from the countless videos I’ve made on YouTube and Instagram about building discipline and habits, here’s a simple mind-hack you can start today in order to make you more disciplined and gritty:

Tell yourself, out loud or in your head, that you are this person.

Practicing kickboxing is really tough at first (as is any new skill). One thing that made the shitty beginning stages fly by was the way I thought about myself doing it. Mentality is 90% of anything you’re doing. I would show up to class not knowing what I was doing, but in my head I was thinking “I’m a fighter.” I would talk about it, practice in and out of the gym, watch fights at home, and consume it. So although my skills were that of a novice, by all accounts, I was a fighter.

If you want to learn sign language, there’s not a legally-defined amount of words one needs to be able to sign in order to declare themselves someone who knows sign language. Practice it. Consume it. Be curious about it. You’re a person who knows sign language.

Don’t compare your skills to those of others unless you are learning from them. I suck at filmmaking. I have no idea how to edit clips together to tell a cohesive story. But guess what? I have a YouTube channel where I’ve made several films all on my own with the help of no one. I’m a filmmaker.

It doesn’t have to be an arrogant way of inviting yourself into every club that exists. Just because I clipped my nails today doesn’t mean I am a stylist. That’s obviously not my point. But when you want to get into something, don’t hold yourself back by focusing on all the things you can’t do. Lose yourself in your own curiosity and declare in your mind that this is the person you are.

I am a fighter.
I am a YouTuber.
I am a podcaster.
I am productive.
I am one who exercises.

Just because I’m not particularly good at any of these, doesn’t mean I can’t live those lives. The next time I don’t feel like working out, I’ll say, “Well, you’re someone who exercises, so you can’t skip the gym.”

You are…?

Left Breathless

One of the most memorable and best uses of my time was the two hours I spent walking through the Holocaust Museum yesterday. This short post is dedicated to the time and dedication it took to collect all the art, photos, artifacts, stories, and data from one of the worst human rights tragedies, which were all collected and displayed in such a horrifying and beautiful way.

Before you begin the exhibit, you take an I.D. card of a Jewish man or woman who lived through the Holocaust. Each card provides information of where they were from and you get their perspective of the beginning, middle, and end of the Nazis’ expansion and destruction. You take the card to be reminded that although we speak of this atrocity in terms of unbelievably large numbers and statistics, each one of those numbers was an individual.

If you are in the DMV area, and have never been, please take an afternoon to spend an hour or two walking through this extraordinarily important place. It is free, and it will leave a mark on you. It left me with a feeling of stillness. Not a calming stillness, but a stillness which left me breathless and unbalanced, physically and mentally.

Discomfort

Sometimes, a lot of the time, you’re going to be be uncomfortable. That’s just a fact. I used to despise the saying, “get comfortable being uncomfortable,” but it’s one of the most useful skills on can build.

Mind – It’s comfortable and easy to focus your mental efforts on entertainment and gossip. Take a second to think about how much time in a day you spend learning (on purpose). The world is constantly changing, and we must learn everyday…about the world, about ourselves, about the people and things around us.

Body – It’s comfortable to eat whatever the fuck we want and to lay on the couch instead of go to the gym. Those things are fantastic as a rare treat, or a celebration of your hard work, but you can’t live your life like that. And for those who respond to that saying, “I sure can! Watch me!” Okay, I’ll watch you live a garbage lifestyle through many years which you’ll probably pass on to your kids to create more garbage people. Suffer in the short term so that you and your genes will thrive in the long term.

Spirit – It’s comfortable to hate things about people. It’s fun to gossip and talk shit about people when they are not around. But this is like a slow-working poison. It’s bad for you, the people close to you, and the people you meet in the future. Kindness is easy when you’re in a great mood, but Jesus does it feel impossible when you feel like nothing. But difficult does not mean impossible. Be a kind person to your loved ones and enemies, without letting people walk all over you.

Don’t shy away from discomfort, welcome it into your home, and it will make you bulletproof.

Your Thing

Every one should have a thing. Something that is just for them, which they do by themselves (or with a few others who share that thing) which brings them peace. Preferably something challenging and where a skill can be improved.

This can be playing the piano, swimming, juggling, doing sudoku, yoga, reading comic books, taking bad (or good) photography…

I spoke to a buddy yesterday and he said he lacked a thing. And he was certain it was creating a void in his life.

These are my things:

– Writing this daily blog (I don’t mind if no one reads it. It’s just for me to start my day with releasing a small bit of creativity and philosophy. I don’t like journaling so I have to find replacements)

– Martial arts (Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu test my body and mind and I learn newer and better ways to move, defend myself, and learn)

– Editing podcasts and YouTube videos (It is not necessarily pleasurable during these processes, but the satisfaction of having completed the editing journey is truly meaningful to me. It’s like, “Hey, look at that! I did that!)

If you don’t have a thing, find one. Experiment. It’s crucial to one’s happiness and meaning. Make sure it’s something you do alone (or worst case, with a small group of individuals). Just for you. Not because you want to brag about it or show it off to your friends…it’s just your thing.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

BJJ: The art of grappling and submissions. To the layman, it looks like two sweaty athletes violently hugging each other. But it’s one of the most captivating and exhilarating activities one can do with their bodies and their minds.

My BJJ journey began yesterday. I’m not even a white belt yet. I have no skills. My coach showed me a few chokes and then we went to war. The way we started our rolling (sparring) session…it’s something I’ll never forget so long as I live.

As he was in a defensive state, I approached him, confused and timid. I chuckled and said, “I don’t even know where to start.” He looked at me calmly and without hesitation said, “Just start.”

In that moment, all of my worries of doing the wrong thing, looking foolish, or getting my ass kicked, simply faded into nothing. And for the record, my coach (a fifth-degree black belt) did kick my ass.

The point is: In whatever you’re doing, when you’re terrified to start because you have no idea what to do or where to go, just start. You’ll make so many wrong moves, your ego will be battered, you’ll look like a doofus…But as time goes on, almost like a funnel, you’ll get sharper, you’ll get smoother, you’ll get quicker. And three months will go by and a newcomer will start their journey. Then you won’t be the new guy or gal anymore. You’ll teach them. You’ll kick their ass.

As an end note, I can’t recommend picking up a martial art enough. It’s one of the absolute best journeys one can embark to develop their discipline, confidence, physique, and mental toughness. It’s also a phenomenal community of the kindest and most helpful people you’ll ever meet. Learning Muay Thai (and now BJJ) at Level Up Gym saved my life and helped shape me into the man I am now. And I’ve only just begun my journey. If you have even a little bit of time and money to spare, Google local martial arts centers in your area. It will be terrifying and you’ll feel like a fish out of water, but I swear to you…it pays you back fifty-fold.

World Series

Last night, the Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros in game one of the World Series, 5-4. It was a special night, as Ryan Zimmerman was finally rewarded with his first World Series home run in Nationals history.

I don’t give a shit about baseball. I didn’t watch the game. I looked this information up two minutes ago.

The point is, the internet has almost an unlimited amount of free information. Use it to make you know things you otherwise wouldn’t.

”An educated person is not necessarily one who has an abundance of general or specialized knowledge. Educated people have developed the faculties of their minds so that they may acquire anything they want, or its equivalent, without violating the rights of others.”
Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

30 Minutes

“All of humanity’s problems, stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
– Blaise Pascal

Could you spend 30 minutes in a room, simply sitting and thinking? In this age of technology and distraction, even the most enlightened of us find it difficult to resist stimulation of some kind—social media, texting our friends, Netflix, pornography…But if you struggle violently to just sit down and be still of mind and body, I think that’s a problem.

Practicing meditation has saved my life when it comes to my desire for artificial distraction. Sitting and focusing on the present moment (the breath, the sounds, the feeling of my body sitting down in the chair), you realize how beautiful this moment is. And this moment. And this.

My favorite meditation apps (I know, sounds counterintuitive) are Headspace and Waking Up. But besides organized, guided meditation, just try to sit for 30 minutes with your phone on airplane mode. Set the timer, and for that half an hour, pay attention to your thoughts and the world around you. Notice the things in your field of vision in focus and out of focus. Focus on your breathing, from the beginning of the inhalation, to the end of the exhalation.

Enjoy the stillness. Enjoy having nothing to do in that time.

Force Yourself

In creating “self-help” content, one of the deepest criticisms I have received is that I make it sound too easy to get your shit together, especially when it comes to people with paralyzing depression whom simply getting out of bed in the morning is a win. As if I’m saying, “all you have to do is acquire these awesome habits and you’ll be become super productive and get in great shape.”

This shit is hard, people. That’s why people get inspired by motivational speakers. That’s why people hire personal trainers and nutritionists. When left to our own devices, we are often shitty managers of our personal well-being.

I’ll clear the air with some sort of video in the future, but:

– No amount of personal development is a substitute for professional help if you require it.

– If you have some sort of debilitating mental or physical disability, my stuff isn’t for you.

My stuff is for the people like me, who for so long, simply lacked the ability to force myself to do things I knew were good for me, but didn’t feel like doing. Watch this video. Joe Rogan does a fantastic job of articulating this in terms of exercise.

The vast majority of us think we can’t do something, but we simply lack the ability to force ourselves to do it. This ability can be learned, and it can be trained like a muscle. I have experienced it firsthand.

Do

The biggest piece of advice I’d give to my younger self is this:

Stop talking. Stop thinking. Do.

It’s lovely to discuss with your friends or in your own mind all the incredible things you think you could do to make your life more adventurous, productive, colorful, lively…But often times, we say these things out loud, and the train stops when we get that dopamine hit of hearing, “Wow, that would be cool,” or “Yeah, I think you’d be really good at that!”

Not that I am any sort of success story, but I dreamt of starting a podcast for over a year. Dreamt…Tinkered with the idea, mentioned it to my friends, articulated how I’d go about it. I got a ton of affirmations about how my friends would listen to it and how they’d love to hear my voice on iTunes. But as Newton’s sixth law of Not Actually Doing Shit concludes, a year went by and I had nothing to actually show for it.

You have to just do, man. Once I finally swallowed my fear of imperfection (which never goes away when you create stuff), and just started putting things out there, the ball began rolling. I look back at the first podcasts I created and laugh at how unskilled I was. BUT I CAN ONLY DO THAT BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN DOING IT EVERY WEEK FOR ALMOST A YEAR. If I had never started, I wouldn’t have acquired any skills, any knowledge, and worse, I wouldn’t have ever experienced that deeply fulfilling feeling you get when you have a delicious conversation with someone, edit it for several hours over several days, upload it, and see it in your iTunes library and know that that is your creation.

It literally doesn’t fucking matter at all what you want to do. For the love of Allah, just shut up and starting doing it. You will suck. You will not gain the respect of those who are better than you right out the gate. But you will get better, (and if you keep going) much better.

Do.

Some People

It’s a truly unfortunate fact, but once understood could save us a ton of time and mental strain…

Some people suck.

I currently make my income by serving tables and last night I had a purely low-class couple. By “low-class,” I’m not referring to their clothing or their skin color, I’m referring to the way they treated me and how my service was compensated. Not once did they say please or thank you. Each and every time I went back to the table, they needed something else. All I was thinking was “just get them out as soon as you can.” My expectations were low, but the final blow still hurt. Their bill was $90. I hand him the check and he slips me cash….5 bucks.

There is absolutely nothing more frustrating in the service industry than working your ass off for little to no payoff. I looked down at the depressed look on Abraham Lincoln’s face, said “I feel ya buddy,” but before I went into a pissed-off state of mind, I reminded myself something that put my heart at ease…

Some people suck.

3 Things You Need

In whatever you do, especially in a skill you wish to improve upon, you need three things:

1) Someone better than you. A mentor or a coach who challenges and inspires you to learn efficiently and desire the most out of yourself. Watch what they do. Listen to what they say. Spend time with these people and you will slowly accumulate their skills.

2) Someone of equal ability. A friend, teammate, coworker, rival…who is on the same level as you. Don’t improve merely to become better than them, but learn to love and bond over the growth process as you see this person and yourself advancing. Push each other. Win win.

3) Someone less skilled than you. So you may be a mentor for someone else. This gives you an opportunity to take all the lessons and hardships you have endured and pay it forward. When you teach something that you’ve learned, you get to learn it twice. Articulating your knowledge in a clear and concise way is the true test of how well you know what you’re doing. Also (on a more cynical note), it’s nice to get a confidence boost by seeing you’re not the worst at something. By seeing people who aren’t as proficient as you, it reminds you that you have improved, as long as it’s balanced out by the humility of “But I still have so much to learn.”

Balance these three things. Be inspired by each. They will help you climb the mountain.

Drink Water

This morning, I woke up to my alarm feeling violently groggy—almost hungover (even though I haven’t had alcohol in weeks). My sleep-aid app told me my sleep quality over the night was around 45%…my record low.

I forced myself out of bed more reluctantly than usual, went downstairs, and after going to the bathroom, did what I always do to start my day: drink a full glass of cold water.

Most of us don’t drink enough H2O. Even more don’t drink water right when we wake up, which should blow our minds when you think about the fact that your body has gone 7-10 hours (often times more) without water. It’s hard to fill up while you’re sleeping.

After my second glass, the fog began to fade. It felt as though I was coming back to life. Much of our exhaustion in the early morning could be eased by simply drinking some fucking water.

A water bottle helps. Fill it the night before and keep it cold in the fridge. It also helps you drink more throughout the day, and is perfect to take to a place like Chipotle (no wasting their cup and no temptation to get soda [poison water]). I prefer a Nalgene because it’s simple, cheap, and dishwasher-safe. If you feel like splurging, Yeti or Hydroflask are companies which offer great quality bottles. Perfect for camping or any activities where you don’t have time/access to keep refilling.

In honor of the cells in your body—before you reach for the coffee, drink a glass of cold water.

Everyone is Against You

A poem by Phillip Lopate (as seen in Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott):

We who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting,
as a group,
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
frustration
discontent and
torture
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift.
Your analyst is
in on it,
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband;
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us.
In announcing our
association
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves.
But since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community
of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center,
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make unreasonable
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your disastrous personality
then for the good of the collective.

Starting

Having an idea is fun. It’s perfect in all of its unknown potential. You have no idea what will become of it.

99% of the time, it will remain in your head and you’ll never attempt to make it tangible or bring it out into the real world. Because if you do, then it won’t be perfect anymore. It’ll be muddy, incomplete, worse than your friend or coworker’s idea. So we keep it bottled up, safe and sound, until years go by and we have an archive of all of these could have’s and should have’s…many of the best parts forgotten.

This is the first blog post on this website. And similar to the content of my YouTube channel and podcast, I have no idea if anyone will consume this. And I certainly have no idea if anyone will derive value from it. But what I do know is that if I just kept these ideas to myself, there stands a zero percent chance of reaching even one person. None of my dreams will be realized.

If you’re worried about beginning because your work will be garbage, don’t worry, it will be. The trick is to understand the value of sucking and keeping at it until you develop the potential quality your idea deserves. Here we go.

Start.