Ideas vs. execution

Dillan Taylor's business ideas

I have a running list of business ideas in my Notes app. I’ve done nothing with 99% of them.

People can be super protective of their ideas.

But ideas are cheap. They mean nothing. They’re just words on a screen.

I don’t even know what some of these ideas mean. “1 hour blog or copy editor”??

Anyone can write a sentence in their phone. Execution is an entirely different thing.

Coming up with ideas is safe. It’s fun to fantasize about these things coming to life.

What’s scary is trying to make them happen.

I loved the idea of building a coaching business. I didn’t love putting myself out there and trying to get people on a call with me (at first).

When people are coming up with business or content ideas, my advice is always the same:

Just help one person. If you can get one person to give you their time, money, or attention, then you can get two.

And so on.

But people spend all their time in the blueprint and strategy stage. That’s a brilliant way to get nothing done, but to feel as though a lot is getting accomplished.

How to know you don’t suck at something

A dart on a dartboard that missed the target

I’ve tried my hand at podcasting, YouTube, and writing online.

The only thing I would consider successful has been this blog. It has anywhere from 40-700 unique readers per blog post.

Nothing crazy. But way more than when I started in 2019. Back then it was just me and my friend Grace reading my overly-confident preachings as I told people what to do and what not to do in their lives.

She still reads the blog today, which is a good sign.

But I want to briefly mention a helpful measure for success. It’s not some arbitrary number of readers, followers, or subscribers. It’s much more human.

People being nice when they don’t have to be.

This can be as simple as a friend sending a message saying they really liked today’s blog. It could also be a stranger reaching out and sharing their thoughts on the work we’ve done.

My blog about moving to NYC got 712 unique readers. That was cool. People shared it on Facebook and LinkedIn. I think it was so popular because it was a “huge” life decision for my personal and professional life.

It felt amazing. For a day.

But a few weeks later, I got an email from a guy in India. I had no idea who he was. I thought it was spam at first. He told me about his favorite pieces I wrote, dating back months and months. He said this:

“I relate on so many levels with your approach to life (Like Core Principles). And I’ve started working on certain things after reading your blogs (Like preparing for high-altitude treks like your triathlon). Your blogs have inspired me to write more too!
Anyway, just wanted you to know, you’ve got a fan from India. Thanks for being you.”

I saved this email. It made my eyes water.

Numbers are great. They mean we’re reaching more people. But messages like this are truly priceless. They keep creators moving. He didn’t have to send me this.

I don’t share this to boost my ego. My point is: If we stick with something consistently, make tiny improvements, and try to bring value to others…eventually, people will dig it.

I can’t give a masterclass on blog writing. I just sit down each morning and write short paragraphs about what I’m thinking and learning.

No hurry; no pause. I don’t have to sprint, but I can’t stop.

To anyone who wants to create anything, my advice would be just that.

(PS—I’m writing a book on creating. It’ll come out this summer. Pre-order it here. Or, send hate mail here.) 😎

Friction

A red cube on a black surface

With habits we want to do more of, we can reduce the friction. We can make it easier for us to do whatever those things are.

Examples:

  • Bring gym clothes to work so it’s easier to workout right after the day is done.
  • Leave a notebook on top of the coffee machine so you can journal while the coffee is brewing in the morning.
  • Find a buddy who can be an accontability partner, to make it easier to consistently go to the gym, to a foreign language meetup, or any other activity you want to improve yourself with.

With habits we want to do less of, we do the opposite: we add friction.

These past few weeks, I’ve been trying a stupidly simple strategy for watching less YouTube on my phone.

On top of deleting the app from my phone, I changed the rule for myself. I can watch as much YouTube on my phone as I want. I just have to log in and log out each time.

That little bit of added friction, that extra step…It’s enough to make me realize that I don’t actually want to watch anything in particular. I just want to stimulate and distract myself.

It works. I feel little to no compulsion to log onto YouTube on my phone.

But there are YouTubers I subscribe to and want to watch each day or so. That’s fine, but it means at the end of the day, I have to sit down on my couch and pull it up on my TV. It’s my version of Netflix.

This makes it more intentional. I’m not scrolling through the algorithm waiting to be entertained.

For yourself, what do you want to do less of? How can you make it harder for yourself to do that thing?

Relying on extra willpower and discipline is a fool’s game.

Fight back

Two people fighting in a field

I’ve heard some helpful models when it comes to making decisions:

  • If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.
  • Listen to your body.
  • Trust your intuition.

These are lovely and quite useful. But they can also be utter nonsense.

Last night, I returned to my jiujitsu class after sitting out for a year. Everything in my body was telling me not to go.

You clearly don’t love it anymore. Everyone is going to be miles ahead of you by now. You’re tired and trying to slow down, just rest.

This is what my intuition was telling me. It was not a hell yes. Resistance was miles high.

But I went anyway.

Right when I got there and saw my old friends, my energy came back. We hugged, we laughed, and I got my ass kicked.

A lot of people tell me they’re intuitively led. Our intuition is a powerful thing.

But it’s not so impressive when it keeps us from doing the things we know are good for us. I’m not a fan of relying on willpower and discipline to get things done. But sometimes it really is as simple as sitting down, forcing ourselves to do something that isn’t super fun, and doing the work.

If I listened to my body every day, I’d spend those days on my couch watching YouTube on my phone.

It’s important to ask oneself: Is this intuition or is this Resistance?

Up late with no regrets

Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington fighting in UFC 272

This Sunday was the first Sunday in a year where I intentionally scheduled nothing.

Coming into the weekend, I realized that meant I could do something I haven’t done since January 2021.

Watch the UFC fights.

It’s the only sport I care to pay for and make time to watch. When people start talking to me about football, I usually stop them in their tracks. (Is Brett Favre still playing?)

Since the fights are almost exclusively on Saturday nights, I’ve had to skip out on them. They run late, usually ending around 2am.

That’s not conducive to waking up at 6am to prep for morning and afternoon sessions. I didn’t have to worry about that this weekend.

On Saturday, my buddy and I competed in a chess tournament. He did great, going 4-1 and securing third place in his section. I did okay, with two wins and three losses.

We got a late dinner and some beers. He asked if I wanted to hang with him and his roommates at their place to watch the fight. No, in fact, I did not want to do that.

Instead, he dropped me off, I made a vodka drink (not a whiskey drink), and bought the fights.

They were incredible. It felt like an old piece of me I loved was awakened. I was standing up and cheering in my living room.

On paper, it sounds quite lonely to pay for a UFC card, drink a cocktail, and stay up late all by oneself. But it was me-time I’ve been craving for months.

I woke up Sunday morning much later than normal—around 9am. I was groggy and slightly hungover (from three drinks, thanks 28 years of age).

And I was happy.

There was nothing on my calendar. I had nothing to do. I drove back to Baltimore to pick up my jacket and sunglasses I left at the tournament the day before. It was a gorgeous day. A best buddy called me and we chatted for two hours. I read a comic book. I listened to a podcast.

I got nothing done. And it was a productive day.

Productive for my mind and soul (whatever that means). It was peaceful. I could get used to this.

Today, I feel well-rested and ready to jump into the week. I’m a fan of taking weekly vacations—which I think normal people just call “weekends.”

Let’s try this again

A Rook on a wooden chess set

Today, my buddy and I are competing in a chess tournament.

It’s organized by Charm City, the chess club that put on the first one we did in December. That went well. I got third place.

Then, a few months ago, I had a chess-existential crisis. I wanted to quit. I played another tournament and hated every second of it.

Now, with my new and improved mindset, I’m going to spend the day with my friend and try to have as much fun as I can.

I’ll shoot for open, tactical, and dynamic play. I’ll try to meet people. I’m excited.

I’ll tell you how it went on Monday.

I don’t know what the balance is

Stones on the beach balancing on one another

I hate hustle culture. Obsessing over productivity. Getting shit done. Making moves. Creating projects, relationships, and wealth.

I also love it. I crave it…when I’m in the mood.

There are weeks where I’m on my computer all day working on this or that. Not because I feel I have to, but because it’s fun.

There are also weeks where I’m so burnt out, I don’t give a shit about anyone or anything.

Do we have to work 40 hours a week to build something meaningful? Absolutely not.

But I do think there’s merit (especially when creating our own thing) to working pretty damn hard? At least in the beginning.

I’m in a good place with my coaching business. A huge part of that was my willingness to flood my week with calls and work on weekends. That allowed me to coach more people and be more available to opportunities.

However, I’ve hit a point of diminishing returns. Now, working on weekends, always being on…it deflates me. I had my day in the sun with it. But it no longer serves me. It got me here. And it’ll keep me here.

But the only reason I’m able to message my clients and tell them “no more Sunday sessions” is because I’m totally in a place to do so. I’ve earned it.

And that’s the keyword here. Earn.

We don’t get something from nothing. We don’t get promoted on our first day.

So the question for me is: What’s the balance between working hard and not destroying ourselves?

I’m sure the answer is different for everyone. I’m still trying to figure mine out.

My precious

Michael Schur's TV characters, including Michael Scott and Leslie Knope

Michael Schur is an American comedy writer. After writing for SNL, he co-wrote The Office, Parks and Recreation, and other big-time favorites.

His #1 piece of advice for creators:

Don’t be precious with your material.

At Saturday Night Live, they would write sketches that would most likely not be performed. And for the best ones that did see the stage, they’d be over in five minutes. And unless they were the .1% of skits that made it onto YouTube, they would never be seen again.

Years of this taught Michael to not hold so much emotion in the things he created.

“I didn’t try to do shitty work,” he said. “But no matter how funny I thought the thing was, I had to be willing, at any point, to embrace the fact that my work was, in fact, shitty.”

I’ve never written one of the best television sitcoms in history (let alone two of them). But I do write this mediocre blog.

There have been times I chose not to write about something because I didn’t have the mental energy to really flush it out and talk about it in any sort of interesting way. I don’t want to waste material, I’d think. Lol.

The beauty of writing a blog almost every day, and of it being entirely my own…is I can do whatever I want.

I could literally write a blog titled “My ass” with just a photo of my naked butt. There’s nothing stopping me from doing that.

Anyway. Since I can do as I please, I’ll often churn or repeat ideas I wrote about months ago. I can’t keep track of all 1500 blogs I’ve written, so I’m sure I have pieces with the same message, the same jokes, the same sentences word for word.

I also have blogs I can’t stand to read now. I’ve said things I disagree with today. I’ve written things I’m not proud of.

This is all to say: If I held my work as precious, I’d probably be depressed. Good enough has to be good enough.

The second I have too many criteria for something being “good enough” is the second I stop typing.

The perfect morning

It is my birthday. And I couldn’t be happier with how I’m spending the morning.

Phone is off. Coffee is hot. I just read my favorite book for 20 minutes and am now writing in my fourth favorite blog.

I got too fucked up this weekend in NYC. No alcohol for a while.

After slowing way down, I’m ready to use the new boundaries I set to put my head down and build something special. The fire is rekindled. I’m in the mood to show up as a professional.

Resistance can’t win. It doesn’t stand a chance.

I’m 28. And time is only continuing to tick.

Here’s to another year!

Back to the office, kind of

A cool office where young people are working

My friends and I spent the weekend in Brooklyn.

I have stories to tell from the trip but right now I’m feeling super foggy. I turn 28 tomorrow. At this age, all it takes is one night of drinking and poor sleep to throw me off for half a week.

I’m here, sitting in my chair. But it also feels like I’m not here.

Fun blogs to come this week.

Another getaway

I’m spending the weekend in Brooklyn with a group of friends.

I’m always excited to explore my future home.

When I get back, I’ll share pictures, stories, and insights.

Coming up this week:

  • Downloading a dating app for the first time
  • Quitting coffee
  • Slowing down while being super career hungry

See you Monday.

Boundaries

If we set boundaries, people will meet them.

I’ve been slowing things way down in my business this year. Everything out of necessity.

I stopped taking on new clients in December. And now I’m experimenting with new guidelines to free up time, energy, and bandwidth.

I asked one client if he was okay if we went from two sessions a month to one. He was fine with it.

I told my weekend clients I’d no longer be doing calls on Sundays. They were fine with it.

When people ask me for a call past 3pm, under no circumstances do I accept. I also have a maximum of three sessions per day. No more.

What shocks me every time is how okay with these boundaries people are. Most people are willing to do most things, we just have to ask for what we want.

But we have to ask.

I almost quit chess

Two people playing chess on a giant chessboard

January was a rough month for my chess career.

It was the first time since getting into the game in 2020 where I just didn’t feel like playing. It wasn’t fun. That scared me.

Was this all just a phase? Was my fling with chess over?

I trudged through my chess workbooks and daily puzzles. But I wasn’t enjoying it.

Then I got my ass beat in a classical tournament. I lost three out of three games. Coming off of a tournament in December where I got third place…it was crushing.

I went from thinking I was hot shit to wondering if I should ever play again.

But it wasn’t the awful tournament that made me unmotivated. I felt that way before the event. Why then? I spent over a year consistently amped to log on to chess.com and play every single day. And now I didn’t even want to look at my board.

What changed?

Then it hit me.

In chess, each player has an ELO rating. It’s a number that basically tells you how good you are.

When I started playing over quarantine, I was around a 900. Now, I’m around 1650. Grandmasters, the best players in the world, are close to 2800.

Dillan Taylor's chess rating over the year of 2021
Thanks, Queen’s Gambit.

From December 2020 to November 2021, my ELO steadily increased. Every few months, I’d be another 100 rating points higher.

Now, I’ve hit a ceiling.

My rating hasn’t increased at all in three months. It’s the heaviest plateau I’ve experienced.

My insight was: Most of my fulfillment in chess has come from my increasing rating. That’s not sustainable.

It’s well-known in the chess world that once you hit 1600, you’re considered an advanced player. At that stage, it takes much more serious studying and practice to improve.

I felt silly. If I expected my rating to continue climbing the way it had been, I’d be a grandmaster in the next five years. That’s actually impossible.

So if my unsustainable, ego-driven path landed me in a rut, what can I do now?

Well, I decided to change what I wanted out of the game. It sounds corny, but I made the decision to just have as much fun as I can when I play.

I changed my style entirely. I began playing a different opening. Before, I focused on slower positional play. Now, I go for more open and exciting tactical play.

It has led to more losses. But it’s also led to more dynamic and flashy wins.

My passion for chess feels immediately revitalized. In the coaching world, we say: What got me to this level is what will keep me from getting to the next level.

What got me to this level: Caring deeply about how good I was.

What will get me to the next level: Having as much fun as I possibly can whenever I play. (And studying and analyzing and blah blah blah.)

My buddy and I have another tournament coming up next weekend. I’m pumped. 😎

Wordle

I’m on the Wordle train.

As someone who tends to get addicted to games, this one is perfect.

You can only play once per day. Usually no more than five minutes.

Try it out.

Getting rid of all my stuff

I want to be fully prepared for my move to NYC.

Part of that process means taking as few items as possible with me.

My bed. Some clothes. My electronics.

For everything else, I’m starting over. New desk. New furniture. New desk chair. Maybe a book or two. Everything else on my Kindle.

As I minimize my possessions, I can already feel my mental energy charging. Life just feels easier when we don’t own that much stuff.

I made a list of things I’d like to buy when I get to Brooklyn. I’m excited.

A weekend of nothing

“Take a picture of us taking a picture of us.”

Readers of this blog know last week was an impactful one for me.

An intense level of burnout led me to change my entire workflow moving forward. That began this weekend.

Minus any trips, vacations, or special events…this Saturday and Sunday mark the first weekend in a year I didn’t work at all. No sessions, no planning, no creating.

I hiked with my buddy. We played chess. My friends took me rock climbing. Two besties are in town from Rwanda and Philadelphia (two equally foreign and exotic lands). We all got brunch in DC Sunday morning.

It was lovely, to say the least. There was no optimization, no brainstorming, no building. Just stories, laughter, and quality time with close peeps.

I love worky-type stuff. But space away from anything (and anyone) is essential. I forget that sometimes.

To “regular” people who enjoy their weekends, this may sound odd. But these past two days have quite literally felt like a vacation to me. I have to learn how to do nothing once or twice a week. Like anything, I’m assuming it’ll come with practice.

Days one and two are checked off. I’ve already begun the process of maneuvering my time slots with my weekend clients.

It turns out most people are accommodating when we simply ask for what we want.

I could get used to this.

New principles

A man in a suit sitting and working at his desk

Last week, I watched this video on non-negotiable principles.

The dude in the video—Alex Hormozi—is super bro-y but he provides a ton of gold. The video made me consider my business’s principles.

I’ve had them written down on my whiteboard since the start of the new year. I realized five was too many. I couldn’t even name them off the top of my head if someone asked. That means they were just sentences that sounded nice.

So I trimmed them down to three.

1) Curiosity before solutions.
2) Help people so much, they don’t need me.
3) Take nothing personally.

It’s not like customers and clients are going to start flooding through my door now that I have three principles. But even seeing this refined list on my whiteboard makes me feel clear and established as to what I stand for.

If I hire people in the future, I now have a set of must-haves. My favorite line from the video is:

“Most people shouldn’t work for your company.”

Because most people won’t embody all three of these principles. That’s okay. It’s about finding the ones who do.

We don’t need to run a business to have two or three core principles, though. What are yours?

I’d love to hear them.

Logo poll

Hi friends!

I need your help. I ran a design contest for the new logo of my LLC.

Can you please take 10 seconds, look at the final eight designs, and tell me which one is your favorite.

Here‘s the link.

The future of this blog

My backyard.

I don’t believe in having idols.

Taking inspiration from people we admire is great. But seeing someone as God-like or more than human seems creepy to me.

That said, one of the people I look up to most is Derek Sivers.

His book Anything You Want is the reason I wanted to start my own business. He’s given several TED Talks. And last month, I interviewed him for my book on creating.

I’d like to share an answer of his and how it inspired my newest creative endeavor.

Dill:

“Why is absolute control over what you create so important to you? Self-publishing (and printing) your books, coding your website in HTML, building things with your hands, etc.”

Derek:

“I hate bloat. It feels like pollution.

Quick-publish tools are filled with bloat because they have to cover every scenario.

Install WordPress and publish the word “Hello!”, and you’ve installed 884 PHP files, 602 Javascript files, 19 database tables, and hundreds of thousands of lines of code that are filled with bugs and security holes.

Or just type “<html><h1>Hello!</h1></html>” and save it as index.html, uploaded to a simple Linux server, and voilà. You now have a website with only one file and one line of code.  No security holes.  No problem to maintain it.

I hate dependencies. I have no subscriptions. Well-meaning companies say, “Oh don’t you worry about that, we’ll take care of it for you for only $10/month!” I think long-term so $10/month is $6000. And now you’re dependent on this company. If they raise their rates or go out of business, you’re screwed because you made yourself dependent on them.

So for each of these situations, I’d rather avoid the bloat, save the $6000, be un-dependent on any company, and just figure out how to do it myself.

That said, for the book publishing, I just wanted the highest possible quality, and I wanted to keep the rights so that I could do whatever I want with the books in the future. I could license them, translate them, rename them, give them away for free, or whatever I want. When you sign your rights away to a publishing company, the copyright is no longer yours to do what you want with.”


My first thought was, Shit, I use WordPress for my blog. Am I a loser?

While I might in fact be, I got an idea. In the next year, I’m going to transfer this blog over to a website that I code entirely by myself.

I’ve tried my hand at learning to code before. I got the fundamentals of HTML and CSS down. But I’ve always stopped short because I never really had anything to work on. There are only so many sample cat websites I can make until I get bored.

WordPress is easy and convenient. I don’t mind that. But creating my own site from scratch just sounds fun. I can already feel my future headaches as I try to learn Python or Javascript.

This won’t happen this month. It’ll be a slow and steady process. And I’m excited.

As I do with my book, I’ll keep you updated with every step along the way. Stay tuned.

Stupid games

Dice and pieces on top of the board of a game

Naval Ravikant said, “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”

This sounded a bit harsh and over-dramatic when I first heard it. It took me a while to actually get it.

We often play “stupid” games:

  • trying to be the smartest person in the room
  • looking really cool on social media
  • making as much money as humanly possible
  • being on our phone for hours each day

I have coaching clients who have played tons of these games. I’ve played tons of these games.

The question is: What does it look like to win the game you’re playing?

If you climb your way to being the absolute coolest person on Instagram (whatever that means), what would you be able to do with that? What would that mean for your life? What would that fulfill?

If you feed your phone addiction and make sure you never miss a notification, or respond to every email as quickly as possible, what would winning that game look like?

In my experience, the prizes of these games often include being kind of happy for a short time…then going right back to whatever our normal state is. After that, it’s feeling disappointed that this thing didn’t bring us enlightenment.

An even darker example is texting and driving, one of the stupidest games out there. 400 fatal crashes happen each year from driving while using our phones.

But what is ‘winning’ texting and driving? Not having to wait 10 minutes to see what our friend texted us?

In 2020, my mom was completely stopped at a red light waiting for it to change. A young man hit and totaled her car at 50 mph. He was texting.

I always think, I wonder what he was doing on his phone and I wonder if it was worth it? He played a stupid game and won a stupid prize.

So which games bring us awesome prizes?

For me—and I would argue for most of us—it’s all the cliche stuff:

  • being a great friend/son/daughter/etc
  • getting physically/mentally fit
  • improving skills
  • being kind and curious

So, what games are you playing?

If you were to win that game, what would that look like? Would it be worth it?

Thanks, ya’ll

I got several messages about yesterday’s blog.

I commit to being open about everything that happens to me on here. But I sometimes fear that I seem like I’m craving attention.

My promise is that I’ll talk about what happens to me and what I learn from it.

Thank you for the support and the shares. It makes this whole life thing that much easier.

I ran away

The sun shining through the woods

Last week, I joked about running away from everything and spending time off the grid. This weekend, I did just that…sort of.

I’m pretty sure I had a mental breakdown from Tuesday to Sunday.

I’ve never experienced anything like it. I’m still sorting things out so I’ll try to make sense of much of it today. In this blog, I’ll go through:

  1. What happened
  2. What I learned
  3. What changes I’ll make moving forward

Let’s dive in.

1) What the hell happened to me?

I woke up exhausted on Tuesday. But not a typical exhausted.

I’ve gotten bad sleep before. This was different. This wasn’t sluggishness or fog. I was awake. It was strange.

I felt no excitement or joy…None.

Whoa. I ran an experiment. I wrote out all of my favorite things and imagined myself doing them at the highest level. Spending time with friends and family laughing hysterically. Growing a business I love. Living in my new NYC apartment. Playing in chess tournaments…I felt nothing.

I wasn’t looking forward to any of it. In fact, I resented and was angered by anything I had to do last week. Client sessions, admin work, plans with a friend. I didn’t want to do any of it.

This was a shock to my system. I’m always excited. I love projects. I love talking to people and spending time with those I love.

But the only thing I truly wanted to do was run away to a cabin in the woods and not talk to a soul. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t fly.

I had a week of calls. Much to do, like any week. My next vacation is Brooklyn at the end of the month. My first thought was, Just make it until then. Not a chance.

The problem-solver that I am, I worked hard to find the source of all this.

I went through every interaction, every experience, everything I did and said in the past two weeks. Is this a trauma thing? Am I nervous about something? Did I do something I feel guilty about?

No. No. And no.

Then what the fuck is wrong??

Mindfulness told me that nothing was wrong. There was nothing to fix. But that’s much easier to say when I’m not in the thick of it.

I used my Ph.D. in Bro Science to dissect things. It felt as though my brain wasn’t producing dopamine. It was hard to laugh. I had zero motivation to do anything. I dreaded waking up and attacking the day.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m always laughing, I’m always motivated, and I love waking up and getting moving.

I cried a few times.

Here’s why:

  • I felt awful
  • I had no idea why I felt so awful
  • I both wanted to be consoled by my friends and not talk to anyone
  • I felt guilty for showing up to calls as (barely) half a person
  • With my limited knowledge of mental health, I thought about how many people experience way worse than what I did

Not fun.

This continued each day. I went to bed hoping I’d wake up refreshed and back to normal. Then I’d get up disappointed and reluctantly head into my office.

On Thursday, I had a session with my coach. When I laid out everything I was going through, we dove in. Without recounting the entire session, here were my major takeaways:

  1. I need more support.
  2. I work every day and didn’t even realize it.
  3. I’ve built an accidental brand of someone who’s unstoppable and has it all figured out (lol).
  4. In the 10 days of February, I had given myself to (held space, helped, served) 53 people for 36 hours.
  5. I’m working on too many things.

Holy shit. I was totally burnt out.

With this blog, with becoming a leader in my coaching community, with building more and more relationships in life and business…

People have been asking for my time and attention more than ever before. My output—the amount of value I’ve been trying to give—has been blowing up like a balloon. That balloon popped last week.

As I’ve reminded myself countless times in the past: It doesn’t matter how good we are at time management—there are only 24 hours in a day. We can’t trick Father Time.

I was giving 100 things 1% of me. As opposed to giving one thing 100% of me.

That session gave me a ton of clarity on what was going on. But it didn’t make me feel any better.

The next day on Friday, I was in a session with someone and I realized I hadn’t been listening to them for about 60 seconds. My eyes started watering.

I felt terrible. It was unprofessional of me to try to power through this. I finally understood the merit of taking a mental health day.

So I took a mental health weekend.

I reached out to the seven people I had sessions/plans with, told them I needed to escape for a few days, and then asked to borrow my friends’ dog, Hank.

I got an Airbnb an hour away. Seven of seven people responded with nothing but well-wishes and heart emojis. ❤️

I packed some clothes and a book, picked Hank up, and we headed off the grid.

So…

2) What the hell did I learn?

When we got to the place, I dropped my bag and phone off. Hank and I left immediately to explore the local hiking trails.

When we got to the first one, I let Hank off the leash and he galloped around the trees with glee. Hiking with a well-trained dog should be an American pastime.

He found a stick and handed it to me. I thanked him for the gift and we walked aimlessly.

A few things hit me in those first few minutes in the woods:

  1. I don’t do this enough.
  2. Intention is a beautiful thing, but so is doing something without a goal or purpose.
  3. Life is 40 times more enjoyable outside without a phone.

The sun was going down so we went back to the Airbnb. I fed him and ordered dinner for myself.

The evening was spent reading, playing with Hank, and thinking.

When we woke up, I gave him breakfast and we went straight back out to the trails. It was snowing. He looked even more graceful sprinting through piles of white.

Back at the place, I made a cup of coffee and started reading a novel. A few minutes in, I realized I was enjoying it more than I had in the past. 90 pages in and it felt like I was soaking it in for the first time.

What was different?

Then the insight struck me. This was the first time in months I had picked up a book simply because I wanted to read it. It wasn’t for my routine. It wasn’t my 30 minutes of morning reading. I was just reading a good book on a snowy morning with some coffee and a dog lying at my feet.

“I need more mornings where I don’t care what time it is,” I said out loud.

“Quiet, I’m trying to sleep,” muttered Hank.

I stopped reading when I wanted to stop, not because it was time to stop. I could get used to this whole “not scheduling every hour” thing.

We played more tug-of-war, cleaned the place up, and checked out. Before returning home, we hit a nature park and wandered around for an hour or two. Every ten minutes that passed was like a percentage increase in my life battery.

I discovered that this stuff…time in nature, electronic-free walks, mornings without a clock…these were no longer self-care luxuries. At the level I’m at now, they’re necessities.

With that said…

3) What the hell am I going to do with all this?

I brought Hank back home and chilled with my two friends for an hour. I told them about my mental state. They listened with care.

When they asked how the Airbnb was, I said, “Necessary, not enough, and expensive.”

While it was helpful, it didn’t remove the physical sensation in my eyes and throat. But it did show me what I needed to change.

First, I need to stop working on Sundays.

I’ve been willing to do sessions on weekends because several of my clients have 9 to 5s and I don’t do evening calls. But that means when I’m not taking a trip, my week looks like this:

Mon—write book, organize week
Tue—sessions, chess lesson
Wed—sessions, group calls
Thu—sessions, newsletter
Fri—sessions, creative work
Sat—sessions, maybe fun
Sun—sessions, chill before week starts

No days off. Literally. That’s stupid.

My brain has no time to shut off or unplug. I’m always on.

Last night, I turned my phone on airplane mode and watched six episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender (I have no idea who played in the Super Bowl).

Even that felt like a rarity. How often do we watch something on TV while on our phones? How many God damn screens do we need at one time?

So, here are my to-dos:

  1. Get back to everyone I’ve been blowing off.
  2. Reschedule my sessions/calls.
  3. Tell my clients I can’t work Sundays anymore.
  4. Spend more time without my phone and not looking at the clock.

I’ve already halted two projects I was working on. Taking those off my shoulders gave me an immediate wave of relief.

Moving forward, I’m going to be doing less. Less but better. Less but with more time, love, and attention. I’ll do more by doing less. Yes. Less.

Conclusion

I’m immensely grateful to have people in my life I can be vulnerable with.

Even this blog. I’m lucky to have an outlet where I can share stuff like this.

I also think about my mom.

I work for myself and have no one to worry about other than me. What if I was a single parent with a full-time job? I couldn’t just cancel everything and escape. Again, I’m lucky to be able to do what I do.

Please, if you’ve been through anything similar, share it with me. I’d love to learn more about the scope and scale of mental health.

Thanks for making it this far. I’m back and feeling pumped to do much, much less! 😘

Getting away

Hank the dog

Today, I’m borrowing my friends’ dog and staying in an Airbnb in the woods.

I canceled all my calls and obligations. Here’s what I sent seven people.

“Hey…! I’m so sorry. I know this is last minute but I’m experiencing some crazy burnout and need to get away. I’m rescheduling everything this weekend and running away to a cabin in the woods. Hope this lands well!”

I can already see I got back four responses from people with nothing but support and well-wishes.

This has never happened to me before. I don’t know the source of this anxiety and overwhelm. It came out of nowhere.

This is new territory for me so I’m learning how to manage it. I dare say there are several learning and growth opportunities here.

I’ll let you all know what those are when I return from playing with this dog off the grid. No phone. No wifi.

Just me, Hank, and a book.

Friend red flags

Three friends standing atop a mountain cliff

One of my besties came over yesterday and we discussed building new friendships.

As we get older and as our relationships evolve or fade, we learn a ton about the kind of people we want in our lives. The people we surround ourselves with are a reflection of our own values and desires.

She’ll be moving to DC this fall. So I asked her what her red flags would be while building a community there.

When she asked me what I wouldn’t accept in a friendship, a few things came to mind:

1) Negativity.

We’re all human. We’re all allowed to feel unpleasant emotions. But it’s hard for me to tolerate someone consistently complaining about things out of their control—especially if they’re taking zero action to make it better.

Any sort of victim mentality is a no for me dog. I like surrounding myself with people who take ownership of the life they’re creating.

2) Meanness.

Similar to #1, I guess.

I can’t stand passive aggression or bullying. Not so much when it’s directed at me, but when someone is mean to other people.

It sounds almost childish, but it makes my blood boil. When someone’s condescending, belittling, or downright nasty…

3) Dry conversations.

This is now starting to sound like I’m building a job application for the role of “Dillan’s friend.” I’m just trying to point out the traits that would make it difficult for me to build a deep connection with someone.

Whether it’s a friend, colleague, or romantic partner…if we can’t sit sober for three hours and have fruitful conversation, it just won’t work for me.

Sharing experiences, insights, and ideas. Telling stories. Asking curious questions. If this stuff isn’t present, what the hell are we talking about?

Anyway, I’ll be accepting applications online.

What are your red flags when it comes to making new friends?

Ty

Yesterday, I posted a blog about some burnout I’m feeling.

I got nine different texts from people asking if I was okay or offering to reschedule plans this week.

Every few months, I check the analytics of this blog. But I often forget that people actually read it.

I just wanted to say thank you.

Thank you for spending a minute with me each morning. Thank you for your support.

It’s an honor! 💙

Off the grid

I’m a workaholic. I learned that this winter.

When I stopped doing outreach for my business in December, I got depressed for two weeks. It turned out a huge piece of my identity was wrapped up in my ability to create clients and income.

These past few months have been me learning how to slow down. Some weeks are easier than others. These are good problems to have.

But today, I’m feeling burnt out and I have no idea why.

Every now and then, I have the insatiable urge to spend three weeks in a cabin in the woods. Off the grid. No phone. No one can reach me. Just me, my notebook, my laptop (without wifi), and a few books.

I’m resenting any and all obligations. It’s kind of scary.

So what do I do when this happens? What can I do?

1) Understand that this too shall pass.

2) Check my health trifecta:

  • Am I getting good, consistent sleep?
  • What have I been eating?
  • Have I been exercising regularly?

3) Declutter.

Remove things from my schedule and physical space.

Sometimes I tell people straight up, “Hey! I’m terribly sorry, I know this sounds strange. But I’m going through some burnout right now and I’m making the executive decision to clear my schedule. Would you be willing to reschedule for two weeks from now? Thank you!”

Plus, getting rid of half my stuff in any room cheers me up immediately.

4) Tell someone about it.

Powerful emotions should never be kept to one’s self. I’m lucky to have friends with whom I can share my demons. It’s a sin to not take advantage of that resource.

I plan to do all these things this week.

If the blog goes silent, I’m probably writing posts off the grid in the mountains of Montana.

Quantity over quality

Here’s an excerpt from Atomic Habits by James Clear:

On the first day of class, Jerry Uelsmann, a professor at the University of Florida, divided his film photography students into two groups.

Everyone on the left side of the classroom, he explained, would be in the “quantity” group. They would be graded solely on the amount of work they produced. On the final day of class, he would tally the number of photos submitted by each student. One hundred photos would rate an A, ninety photos a B, eighty photos a C, and so on.

Meanwhile, everyone on the right side of the room would be in the “quality” group. They would be graded only on the excellence of their work. They would only need to produce one photo during the semester, but to get an A, it had to be a nearly perfect image.

At the end of the term, he was surprised to find that all the best photos were produced by the quantity group. During the semester, these students were busy taking photos, experimenting with composition and lighting, testing out various methods in the darkroom, and learning from their mistakes. In the process of creating hundreds of photos, they honed their skills. Meanwhile, the quality group sat around speculating about perfection. In the end, they had little to show for their efforts other than unverified theories and one mediocre photo.

TL;DR: Experience and action-taking beat pondering and planning any day.

I got drunk this weekend—and I don’t hate myself

Saturday night, my two good friends hosted a dinner party in DC. Me plus four of their other friends.

We drank wine (and scotch), ate delicious food, and played a plethora of board games. Laughter was had and new connections were made.

After the second glass of wine, I asked them if I could crash on their couch.

The next morning, I woke up with their cat laying on top of me. The sun was piercing through the balcony window. My head was pounding.

But I was happy.

I hadn’t had any alcohol in over a month. Readers of this blog know I take month-long pauses from drinking. Sobriety fascinates me. It wouldn’t shock me if, at some point in my life, I give up drinking entirely.

But lately, I’ve been eyeing my relationship with alcohol under a microscope. I don’t want to rely on it to have fun or be social. But I want to feel free to drink with friends if I so choose.

That’s what happened this weekend. It felt like I just had some drinks and played games with my buddies. Nothing embarrassing happened. I didn’t do or say anything misaligned.

When the three of us (four, counting their baby) woke up, we chatted, reviewed the night, and enjoyed coffee together.

I learned the two necessities for me to enjoy a night of drinking: responsibility and not having any work to do the next day.

If drinking to me means being able to do this once every month or two, that sounds lovely.

Ask

I got to interview Derek Sivers for my book this week.

He’s one of my favorite authors and TED-Talkers. He showed me that creating a business isn’t this some scary thing.

As expected, his long email of answers was crisp and delightful to read. At first, I was bummed to not get on a video call with him. But I quickly realized that copying and pasting his typed words would save about five hours.

I reached out to a lot of people I look up to with the same invitation. Most don’t respond. Some say No thank you. And that’s totally okay.

Tim Ferriss said, “It’s not about the people who don’t. It’s about those that do, and what you can do for them.”

I’m honored and humbled to have a chapter in DO THE THING! that starts with “Derek Sivers” in bold.

A lesson I’m learning is that we don’t get what we want if we don’t ask for it.