Are we allowed to feel bad?

A toddler playing with their stuffed dinosaurs.
Me and my thoughts yesterday.

I had a really shitty day yesterday.

After showering and getting dressed for my three back-to-back coaching sessions in the morning, I sat down in my office. Of the three calls scheduled, one canceled last minute, and two didn’t show up at all. 0/3.

Sometimes I welcome a canceled call for the extra free time. But three in three hours took an enormous mental toll.

Waves of financial anxiety and doubts of self-worth came rushing in. I even made a Twitch account out of spite. I mumbled: “Stupid coaching. I’ll just be a streamer. Coaching is stupid anyway…”

Whenever this happens it feels like two entities are competing with one another: Logic and Emotions.

Logic was telling me:

This is not even close to the end of the world.
• Lots of people in lots of places have it WAY worse than you do right now.

• Why are reacting this way?
• People would kill to have your problems.

But despite all this, my Emotions kept rubbuting:

• This fucking sucks and I’m sad.

I felt it in my eyes and face. It was like my vision was slowing down.

Luckily, I had a fourth session scheduled in the afternoon. My goal was to not bring any of my energy from the day into our conversation.

We did our session and it was amazing. He had incredible insights, he made me laugh, and we had a lovely deep dive into his thoughts and fears.

Only after we finished did I tell him about my day. He said he could tell something was up simply from my body language when we hopped on the Zoom. I thanked him for his time and for making my day better.

In the evening, two of my best friends invited me over for dinner. I was a bit nervous because I was doubting my ability to have a clear and present conversation.

On top of that, one of the friend’s dads just had a funeral. How could I deserve to complain about my day when she just buried her father?

It’s not a competition

We swapped stories and it was bittersweet to hear her discuss the anxiety and closure-filled week. When she asked about how I was doing I figured I’d just be candid and open up.

They both listened to every word I said and showed nothing but love and support.

When I admitted it was weird to talk about my “problems” knowing they had just gone to her dad’s funeral, she immediately responded: “It’s not something to compare.”

Really good peoples.

We drank wine and played with their dog and my grey day drifted off like storm clouds. The tension in my eyes was gone. I just felt grateful.

Lessons

1) It’s possible to both a) acknowledge our good fortune and b) feel sad…at the same time.

2) One of the most important things to have in life is friends to whom we can open up wholeheartedly without being judged or scorned.

3) We will never arrive at a day where we’re completely safe from shitty things or negative emotions. We can only improve our skills in handling them and ask the people around us for help.

4) I’m going to be a professional streamer.

5) Lol jk.

The best thing about writing this blog

It’s not the recognition from people who read it.

It’s not the number of readers increasing each month.

Those are lovely, but the best thing by far…

Writing every day makes it so much easier to articulate our thoughts and put words to them.

Since starting this daily blog two years ago, I’ve become a wildly better speaker and communicator overall.

That’s priceless.

All good, dog

Yesterday was strange.

One canceled session, two no-call no-shows, and a ton of dead time. I don’t do well with dead time.

I rarely have even one call in a day that doesn’t happen. Yesterday there were three.

As uneventful as the day was, it was mentally draining. Fears and doubts about my ability as a leader came creeping in.

But then something happened which made me forget about all of that.

My best friend dropped off his dog so I could watch him for the weekend.

Hank the dog playing at the park

Life ain’t so bad.

Thursday swims

My best buddy and I did a triathlon a few months ago.

Prior to that, I could barely swim a single lap without gasping for air.

Since then, he and I have swam every Thursday morning at our local center.

It’s been a slow progression, but each week I find myself swimming more and more laps without having to stop for a break.

With practice, we have no choice but to get better at something. We inevitably begin to flow and figure shit out.

If I keep swimming, I’ll get better. If I stop, I won’t.

30 more visits with Grandpa

A grandpa smiling while sitting on a couch
Not my Grandpa lol.

Vacay

I went on a lovely family vacation this past weekend. Lakehouse, swimming, tubing, laughing.

But the most memorable moment came when I walked down to the boathouse to find my Grandpa standing at the bottom of the walkway. It looked like he was mentally preparing himself to ascend a mountain.

He had just gotten a pacemaker put in days before. I asked him what was up.

He told me he gets out of breath easily and so I held out my hand to help him up the steps. Once we made it up the first section, he thanked me and assured me he could take it from there.

“All good Gramps,” I responded. “We’ll go up together.”

We got to the deck and he took it from there since he had the handrails to balance himself. I walked back down to the dock to grab the beer I wanted and I noticed I was crying.

It wasn’t a sob. My mouth wasn’t moving. But tears streamed out of both eyes.

This was the first time I got a ‘slap in the face’ reminder of the universal truth: Our time is limited here.

A new lens

After that happened, I saw my Grandpa in a different light. I already love talking to him. He’s hilarious and one of the cleverest men I’ve ever known.

But for the rest of the weekend, I didn’t just enjoy my talks with him…I cherished them.

Every joke and story he told, I found myself uncontrollably beaming. I also looked at my calendar to find the best weekends in the coming months to drive down and visit him and my Grandma.

On top of that, I did some math.

My Grandpa turned 80 this year. Assuming he lives to be 90 years old, I have 10 more years left with him. But that’s incorrect.

On average, I see my Grandparents three times per year. Maintaining that trajectory, I don’t have 10 years left with my Grandfather…I have 30 more visits.

After this weekend, I can check off one of those boxes. 29 to go.

Is this depressing?

No. Not to me.

Talking about this shit is sad, yes. But I much prefer to be open and candid about the inevitable, rather than bury my head in the sand and pretend like death doesn’t exist.

I know people who do the latter and they tend to be the ones who shut down when the worst occurs. Not productive.

Understanding that we’re all approaching death isn’t morbid. It’s empowering.

It forces us to desire more presentness, listening, and compassion.

It invites us to say “Yes” to the things that matter more often: trips with friends, phone calls with family, playtime with kids or pets.

We can obsess over the number of checkboxes we have left with the people we love…or we can focus on the quality of each of those boxes before we check them off.

Having people we love who are alive is a gift. We get to call them, laugh with them, disagree with them, hug them, learn from them…

Even with someone we don’t particularly like—if we found out they had a month to live, we’d forgive their faults and forget our grievances with them. We’d hear what they had to say and make sure they were comfortable and cared for.

What if we did that more often with more people?

Conclusion

It’s up to us to enjoy the box we’re currently checking.

I’m not dreading the number of boxes I have left with my Grandpa. I’m ecstatic for the next box I get with him in a few months.

Why you don’t need confidence

A confident woman looking in the mirror

I coached a fellow coach yesterday who said she wanted to leave the session with enough confidence to do x, y, and of course…z.

We started exploring.

What’s your definition of confidence? What does it look/sound/feel like?

When in your life have you been truly confident?

How much confidence have you decided you need before you can take action? On a scale from 1 to 10?

She told me about her career as a teacher. She studied education for seven years and then jumped into teaching kids, year after year after year. She said when she stood up and taught a classroom she knew who she was and what she was doing.

I reflected back: “It sounds like you gained tremendous confidence after learning and practicing something for many years…And now you’d like that same level of confidence with something you’ve only just started.”

We explored further.

She explained that as a teacher, she could provide the answers, but as coaches our job isn’t to give away solutions but to help others discover the solutions they already have access to.

She had an insight: “When I’m coaching, I’m not the teacher. Life is the teacher. I’m just supposed to be with them in that space where they can learn their own lessons.”

“Holy fuck,” I said. “That’s awesome!”

When I asked her what her biggest takeaway was, she responded without pause: “I don’t need to worry about confidence. I need to focus on authenticity. I’ll show up as me and practice until I get really good at everything I want to do. The confidence will come.”

Sheeeeesh. I wanted to her hug through my laptop screen.

This was such a lovely example of overcoming one of the most powerful stories we tell ourselves: I need more confidence so that I can…

Don’t get me wrong, confidence is amazing. The flow that comes from a belief in oneself can be euphoric. But it’s not a prerequisite for taking action, it’s a byproduct.

Natural talent is fun, but most of our confidence comes from doing something a lot and getting better at it. When we think we need more confidence what we really need is more practice.

Just jump in. The confidence will come.

Dying to get back

I went on a lovely family vacation this weekend. Dad’s lake house. Thursday to Sunday.

We went tubing, boating, and swimming every day. I ate garbage and slept in a bunk bed.

One of my favorite parts of taking breaks like this is that I’m always itching to return to my space and routine.

It’s Monday, my favorite day of the week…and I sit here with a smile on my face.

3 days of little tips (pt. 3)

Ask each of your close friends—or the people who know you best—what they think you’re biggest strengths and blind spots are.

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

The more people you ask, the more you can put together patterns and work on things. Plus, you’re guaranteed to hear things you never thought you would hear.

3 days of little tips (pt. 2)

Start a life calendar.

For each month, jot down things you’d like to remember: events, accomplishments, insights.

As the years pass by, it’s difficult to remember the year we did certain things, let alone the month.

3 days of little tips (pt. 1)

Keep a list of your favorite quotes in your phone.

I’ve had one since 2016 and it’s lovely to go back and see hilarious things my friends said and insightful quotes I read from my favorite books.

Good

A man climbing up a steep rock

One of the most popular personal development cliches is to embrace failure. Fail forward. Fail over and over again so we may improve our skills.

On a recent phone call with my friend and business mentor, we discussed the vitality of challenges. He brought up Jocko Willink’s famous concept: ‘Good.’

My friend and his team recently underwent a huge transition in their business, with him taking on a bigger leadership position. He was telling me about the newest obstacles on his plate: maneuvering the varying values among teammates, finding the best practices for communication, and finding bigger and better clients.

As he laid all this out I couldn’t help but think: Good for you.

As I told him this, I explained that he’s becoming a wildly better leader. He’s experiencing stress tests. No one improves by doing the same thing every day and never being challenged.

I tell the same thing to my fellow coaches all the time.

Many coaches hesitate to take action because they’re afraid of looking dumb, having an awkward conversation or encounter, or not coaching well. I’ve experienced all of these and it sucked every time.

But it was after blunders like these where I felt the most growth in my skills as a coach and as a business owner.

People think they should get better before taking action so they make fewer mistakes. That’s backwards. We must first take action and make a ton of mistakes, for that’s the only way to get better.

The next time something challenging comes up in our lives, we can sit back and think, Good.

How I maintain my energy

A pile of double A batteries

On a coaching mastermind call yesterday, we discussed ways we stay energized.

For me, it’s three things.

1) When I’m in a rut, I check my health trifecta.

• Am I getting at least seven hours of sleep each night?
• Am I eating a lot of processed foods and sugar?
• Have I exercised at least three times this week?

2) I take one weekend off each month.

I happily work on weekends since that’s when many of my clients are available. But once a month, I take a long week or weekend off to travel somewhere (usually on the east coast).

It’s a refreshing break after three weeks of hard work and I always return home feeling amped to get back to my routine and do it all over again.

Since I have no kids or other major responsibilities at this time, I figure I should take advantage of it while I can.

3) I spend a lot of time doing things I enjoy.

Chess, martial arts, exercise, quality time with friends, reading…

I find it vital to our souls to spend a good amount of time away from anything having to do with work or money. Like a vacation, it makes us appreciate our time back even more.

We should all have a thing. Preferably something challenging—a skill or a craft—we can practice and get better at.

For me, these three things are perfect substitutes for any drug or stimulant.

Marry pt. 2

The wedding I went to this weekend was amazing.

I saw old friends I haven’t seen in years, got all dressed up (something I love to do), and danced the night away.

I also:

• DoorDashed $60 of McDonald’s at 1am and fell asleep before it arrived.
• Laughed until I cried as my friend crawled (literally) into the room the morning after.
• Am pumped for the five weddings I’m attending in 2022.
• Feel eternally grateful for staying in people’s lives.

Fun fun fun.

Marry

I’m going to a wedding today. My first one since pandemic began.

A friend from college. Approaching 30 is weird.

The only thing I’m nervous about is my tendency to go to bed around 9:30pm. Maybe not tonight.

Maybe tonight I party it up in the dirty Jersey.

Pray for me.

Out the gate

It’s the end of week 2 of writing my new book. Here’s an update.

The book will come out on or before my birthday, March 2, 2022. It will consist of creators and entrepreneurs who just took action and did the thing.

Yesterday I did my first interview. It was amazing.

It was with my coach and the head of my coaching program. Not only was it just pure fun, but I also got a vivid timeline of the extraordinary events of his life which led him to creating the community that has changed mine. The interview lasted an hour but I could’ve gone on for three more.

I can already tell one of the biggest challenges in writing this will be replaying these interviews and finding a clear and cohesive way to transcribe them into chapters. I’m already subconsciously asking, What can I cut out? What has to be included? How can I arrange this?

It also got me pumped to simply learn more about the awesome shit people have done and are doing. I’ve secured five other interviews, ranging from someone who runs a national jiujitsu school to someone who built an art collective in Rwanda.

What I learned this week:

1) Sometimes people are too busy to tell you about themselves, but most of the time they’re thrilled to do so. People love feeling interesting. So one of the best things we can do is be interested in people.

2) No matter what we want to create, the only thing getting in our way are the stories we tell ourselves.

3) Conditions will never be “perfect,” so we might as well take action now before we’re ready.

Preorder your copy of Do The Thing here.

Dance if need be

Sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves is put on our favorite album and pace around our home.

Mouth along with the songs. Dance if need be.

Start the day right.

How long does it take to build a habit?

A woman building the habit of flossing her teeth

Every month or so, I watch a video of James Clear talking about habits. Here’s the one I watched yesterday.

It’s always a refreshing realignment. His explanations are scientific, actionable, and best of all…simple. His book Atomic Habits is one I feel everyone should read.

Be it from his book, his blog, or his interviews, here are the big things I need to remind myself each month:

1) The quality of our habits tells us everything about our lives.

The number in our bank account is the sum total of our financial habits. The way our bodies look and feel is the sum total of our diet and exercise habits. The state of our living space is the sum total of our cleanliness habits.

We don’t need to “clean our room”; we need good cleanliness habits and then our rooms will always be clean.

2) We repeat what we enjoy.

Discipline and willpower will only get us so far…and most of the time they don’t get us far at all.

This is why the failure rate of fad diets is so high. Torturing ourselves into being healthy is wildly unsustainable. Statistically, the best results come from tiny, progressive changes in our daily habits.

Short exercises. Eating fewer processed foods. Drinking a glass of water.

None of these sound glamorous. That’s because they’re not. What sounds sexy (and I see this in coaching sessions all the time) is throwing five new habits on our plate at once.

“I’m gonna…”

• do an hour-long workout five times a week.
• finish four books this month.
• wake up at 5am on weekdays.

The same thing happens every time. The person, fueled by motivation, crushes the first day or two. But then when they return to their normal state, they remember they don’t enjoy the work needed to sustain any of these systems. They went from 0 to 1000 and gassed out. They ran a marathon without training for it.

It doesn’t sound as cool but the effective approach would be: “I’m gonna…”

• work out for five minutes before I shower.
• read at least two pages each morning.
• wake up five minutes earlier each morning.

It’s the unsexy, incremental changes which move us toward the person we want to be. But those changes have to be easy and enjoyable.

3) It takes forever to build a habit.

I don’t mean: Ugh, this is going to take forevvverrr.

In the personal development world, we often hear numbers thrown around for how long it takes our brains to feel something as habitual. I’ve heard 21, 66, and 100 days.

These are all averages so there’s no guarantee how long anything will take for anyone. It could happen this week or in eight months.

The truth is, building a habit takes a lifetime. If we stop doing the thing for any reason then we’ll have to start over.

I’ve been doing the same morning routine for almost four years now. There have been plenty of weeks where I’ve strayed or neglected to do parts of it. And each time, I have to slowly build it back into my ritual.

As James says, when people ask how long it takes to build a habit, what they’re really asking is, “How long do I have to work?” In other words, How long until I can just go on autopilot?

But our autopilot capabilities will always be tested, no matter how deeply ingrained the habit is. Changes in schedule, priorities, interests…Anything can throw us off course.

It’s up to us to steer ourselves back toward where we want to go.

Ugly beginnings

Last week, I announced I was writing a book. It’s about what it takes to stop thinking and start creating what we really want to create—be it a business, a YouTube channel, a blog, whatever. It’ll consist of lessons and stories from badass creators and entrepreneurs who just did the thing.

Naturally, I’ve been reaching out to said badasses this past week and will continue to do so.

Much of my outreach has been to people in my network. A ton of “Who do you know’s.” But I’ve also been sending direct messages and emails to my favorite creators: podcasters, YouTubers, musicians.

One out of twelve of them has responded so far. And I’m thrilled with that ratio!

The woman who responded, an incredible entrepreneur, is well-known in the Indie Hackers world. She wrote one of my favorite articles of all time. She posed all the normal responses one should before committing to anything (especially with someone they don’t know):

• What exactly does this entail?
• How much time will this require?
• I might have to say No to protect my time/energy.

It’s vital to bring these up immediately when anyone asks us to do anything…and she did it in the most respectful and candid way. Once we’re totally on the same page, we’ll see if it’s something she’d like to do.

The first ‘set-in-stone’ call I set up was with one of the most powerful creators and entrepreneurs I’ve ever known: my coach.

He’s built a community of over 100 life coaches from six different continents and has radically changed the trajectory of my life. It’ll be an honor to sit down with him for an hour and learn more about his journey.

Aside from that, I’ve gotten in touch with several friends of friends who are doing wildly cool and impactful things: running an arts collective in Rwanda, becoming a standup comedian, running a charity which provides underprivileged kids with toiletries…

I couldn’t be more excited to continue exploring.

In just one week, here are my biggest takeaways:

1) Most ‘big time’ people will say No Thanks or won’t respond. When that happens, I’ve lost nothing. We’ve gone from zero contact to zero contact. And who knows…eventually someone will get back to me.

2) Most people are so down to help—especially if they’re getting something out of it and it’s not a huge time commitment.

3) As Byron Katie says, “You can have whatever you want in life if you’re willing to ask 1000 people for it.”

Only 988 more to go.

Preorder your copy of Do The Thing here.

Fulfillment formula

A woman in front of a chalkboard with formulas written on it

Here’s an overly-simple formula to ensure a level of fulfillment in our lives:

Step 1: Find something we like to do that’s difficult

Step 2: Do it all the time

Step 3: Get better at it

Step 4: Repeat steps 2 and 3

Be it an instrument, a sport, or a craft…having an activity we look forward to or something that challenges us is crucial—especially if it has nothing to do with our work.

When it comes to this, I’ve found that “Find your passion” is shitty advice.

Every now and then, someone finds something they are obsessed with immediately and that’s lovely. But for the other 99% of us, passions are developed…not found. They are grown like a plant, not discovered like pirate’s treasure.

In his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport proves that the number one factor in how passionate a person is with something is their amount of experience/skill level in it.

We’ve all felt this. As we get better at something, we have more freedom to play around and do cooler shit, which tends to make us enjoy it more.

I’ve felt this with soccer, chess, tennis, jiujitsu, and writing.

Not that I’m particularly good at any of these things…but I have gotten better at them and have subsequently felt an increase in how much I enjoy doing them.

What do you like doing? What would you love to do consistently until you get pretty damn good at it?

Some days are perfect

It’s 10pm as I’m writing this.

Today, I cried tears of joy while driving home.

I got breakfast and mimosas with one of my best friends and his fiancé. I haven’t seen them in months since they’ve been up north preparing to have a baby. Today, I met that fucking baby, held her, and reached enlightenment.

Then I met my other friend to see a movie—The Green Knight—in theaters for the first time since the pandemic began. We rode scooters back to his apartment in perfect weather.

I drove straight to my mom’s house to take care of her dogs—walk, feed, and play with them.

Finally, I met up with another best friend to play chess, go out on his boat, and grab dinner. Leaving the dock, I looked back at the pink-sky sunset over the water and couldn’t believe this all happened in less than 12 hours.

I write about the lessons, struggles, and questions I explore on a daily basis. But sometimes I just need to sit back and reflect on how fucking grateful I am to have the life that I do.

My friends, my environment, my capabilities…

I’m not sure if I deserve them, but I certainly try to.

I think I like today. I think it’s good.

First book!

I’m writing a book. It’ll come out toward the end of 2021 or early 2022.

It’s about shutting the fuck up and just creating what you want to create: a business, a podcast, a blog, whatever.

I’ll be interviewing creators and entrepreneurs to gather insights on what it takes to just do the thing.

Pre-order your copy (for half-off) here.

5 hours of sleep

Everything is harder when we’re not well-rested.

Everything.

I swam laps with my friend this morning and could only do about half as much as I normally can.

I didn’t feel like writing this blog.

I don’t feel like working today.

But what I do feel like doing…is getting some fucking sleep tonight.

Am I getting worse at chess?

A woman playing chess and holding up the king

The other day I was playing chess against a friend.

The week before, I had beaten him three times in a row. Naturally, I concluded that I would ride that momentum forever and never lose to him again.

When we played next, he beat me three times in a row. I considered quitting chess altogether…

Jokes aside, I must admit there was an emotional toll those three losses took on me. My thoughts were:

• Have I gotten worse?
• How has he gotten so much better?
• What did I do right last week that I didn’t do this week?

Then I heard about a psychological experiment that was conducted in the Air Force. They wanted to prove which method of feedback was more effective in impacting an officer’s performance—positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement.

Generals boasted as they pointed to clear evidence that punishing pilots for mistakes almost always led to improvements on their following flight. Likewise, praise tended to lead to worse results on their next go.

But there was a glaring issue with their testing.

When they were challenged to create a control group, they found that no matter what, soldiers who did super well one week tended to do worse the next week…and soldiers who did super shitty one week tended to do much better the next.

This highlights a popular statistical phenomenon: Regression to the Mean.

Basically in everything we do, there’s a natural variation—ups and downs, push and pull, give and take.

If we have an amazing week at work, things will likely even out the following week to bring us closer to our average. But it’ll feel like we’re regressing.

The same is true for any skill or activity—chess, business, exercise…

As of writing this, my ELO (number rating) in chess is 1420. Sometimes I play like a 1600 and sometimes I play like a 1200…but 1420 is about my average.

Nothing guarantees absolute consistency. In other words, sometimes we’re awesome, sometimes we suck, and both are fine. The more we do something, the more we move toward whatever our average is. When we’re on a low, it doesn’t mean we’re getting worse…and it probably means we’re about to experience a high.

The goal is to improve our mean so we can experience higher highs.

Sleep masks

A woman sleeping with a sleep mask

I’ve been wearing a sleep mask for about three years now.

At first (for a few days), I hated the sensation of having something wrapped around my face. But that was short-lived.

It didn’t take long for me to start seeing the major benefit—increased melatonin.

Our body’s produce melatonin naturally to help promote sleep. It’s the chemical in our brains that goes, “It’s dark now…must be time for sleep!”

So it’s no wonder that a sleep mask—something that blocks practically all light from our eyes—helps us sleep through the night. It keeps everything dark until we take it off or until it falls off our faces as we toss and turn.

I messed up my mask this weekend and have been without it the past two nights. Holy shit. I’ve woken up several times each morning as the sun peeks through my window.

A new one is in the mail. And I recommend anyone who is hesitant to give it a shot for a week or two.

Four

Vacation.

Three

On…

Two

Write.

One

Can’t…

Effortless

I just finished reading Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most by Greg McKeown.

It was the perfect sequel to the book that changed my life last year: Essentialism—The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

This book challenges the notion that anything important or valuable has to be hard work.

Hard work is lovely, but it’s wildly beneficial to us if we stop and ask: “What would it look like if this were easy?”

I’m a slow reader…and I flew through this in two days because I enjoyed it so much.

My biggest takeaways:

• Burnout is not a badge of honor.

• The more you complain, the more you have to complain about. The more grateful you are, the more you have to be grateful for.

• When you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have. When you focus on what you have, you get what you lack.

• Establish clear conditions for what ‘done’ means, then stop.

• There is no mastery without making mistakes. And there is no learning without the courage to be rubbish.

Sleeping in

A baby sleeping
Me at age 7.

I hate sleeping in.

When I’m up, I’m up. Sometimes it’s a nuisance but I’m mostly grateful.

I like hopping right out of bed and starting my day.

Perhaps this was born out of necessity since I don’t use my phone for the first two hours of the morning.

I’m of the opinion that extra sleep is best gained by going to bed earlier.

But what do I know? I’m just a guy typing on his keyboard at 6:30 in the morning.