Starting Over

This week, I had Carlos Catania on my podcast. He’s a fourth degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

As he took me through his journey through the belt system, he made a simple claim which completely changed the way I see improvement.

He said that each time he progressed to the next belt–purple belt to brown belt for example–he wasn’t climbing the totem pole; he was starting over.

“You may be the best purple belt in the tournament; beating everybody, winning every time…but once you get that brown belt, you’re the worst brown belt in the group. You’re starting over.”

This pattern continues even at the highest levels. Again, he is a fourth degree black belt (training for about 25 years), and admits he still has much to learn and that there are plenty of grapplers out there who could destroy him.

We can take this lesson and implement it in any skill we wish to improve.

I feel my content is improving: my videos are looking better, the podcast is sounding more captivating, my website looks more organized…With all of this, it literally feels as though I have ‘leveled up.’

But all evidence from the past tells me each time I feel this way, once the high is over, I feel the greatest amount of Resistance I’ve felt yet. Once that ‘tier’ is reached, the standards and responsibilities to maintain those standards ascend as well.

When you get better at something, you want to be consistent with your new skills and abilities. This experience can be inspiring, crippling, euphoric, and agonizing all at the same time.

The pain doesn’t go away. Learn to love it. Each time you get better, you’re just starting over.

Very Very Good

The tides ebb and flow. This past week, there were a few days where I felt stagnant in my business and personal life. I felt unmotivated and sluggish. I was on a low.

Yesterday, I recorded an amazing podcast that I can’t wait to publish, I posted an episode with my Brazilian JiuJitsu coach which I absolutely love, I made serious progress on my new website (releasing soon), and one of my best friends called me and we talked for 2 hours.

Recognize that life is lived in highs and lows. Appreciate and learn from both. Don’t attach yourself to either. Whatever state you’re in right now will not last.

Nothing very very good or very very bad ever lasts for very very long.”
-Unknown

5 am Frustration

The plan today was for me to workout with my buddy at his place. We usually start “ripping” (his term) at 8:30 in the morning. Today, however, his work obligations meant we had to start at 7am.

Shit, I thought. That’s usually when I wake up.

Excited for the challenge, I agreed. I went to bed early, woke up at 5:30, and wanted to die.

After sleepwalking through my morning routine and drinking a cup of coffee, I turned my phone on to see that he had to cancel. I sat there, eyes half closed, and wanted to throw my phone out the window.

I had wasted exhaustion for no payoff. I had a full day ahead of me. I couldn’t go back to sleep after chugging a cup of Joseph.

In the midst of my frustration, I sat back for a second and asked myself a few questions to accurately assess the situation.

Is there anything I can do about already being up and caffeinated? No.

Did my buddy give a shit about having to cancel? Yes. Super apologetic.

Did he tell me why he canceled? Yes. A client messed up and he had to fix the problem.

Do I know what kind of stress he’s going through? No.

Workout or no, would I be exhausted today anyway? Yes.

Will I make it through this? Yes.

I will make it through this, I’ll get my work done, and I’ll happily go to bed earlier tonight.

On the Beach with Mom

Today is a good day.

No work. No email. No social media.

Just sitting on a beach, reading a book next to Mom.

I was going to split the day; working in the morning, then squeezing family-time in somehow.

But no.

When my mom is no longer here, when we can no longer laugh together, I will be sad.

But I will think back to this day, and I will smile.

Because today is a good day.

‘Don’t Want’ List

Much of my peace in life can be attributed to making decisions based on this list. By no means am I perfect (I still live with my mom for God’s sake), but I’ve spent the last few years focusing on how I can mold the life I want to live. The best place to start that is by defining exactly what you don’t want.

I don’t want:

• To look forward to the weekend

• To be on someone else’s schedule everyday

• To spend money on things just to make my life look more interesting

• To be tied down to a certain place (living or work)

• Friends who aren’t pursuing something

• To look back one day and ask why I didn’t go for the things I wanted

• A body that looks and feels weak and slow

• To save money for 40 years, have fun when I can, retire, and then enjoy my life

Real Regret

When discussing regrets, I’ve never heard anyone say that they regret taking a certain action.

People regret the areas in which they didn’t take action; we regret the things we didn’t do…even if it’s disguised as something else.

For example, I can say I regret going to college; but what I really regret is not spending that time and those tens of thousands of dollars on other things (e.g. travel, investing in myself, making mistakes which won’t put me in decades of debt, building skills, etc).

When you think about the regret you’ll feel by doing something, ask yourself: how will I feel if I don’t do this?

Essentialism

1. What are the most important things to you? What do you want most out of life and yourself? What value do you want to provide others?

2. What do you do too much of which gets in the way of pursuing these values? What is nonessential that fills your schedule?

3. What don’t you do enough of to give light to what matters most? How can you eliminate these from your day to day?

Quarterly Reflection

Every 3 months or so, I do a goal-setting exercise. Over the course of a year, I can easily see what is consistently important to me and what would be okay if I let go.

On a regular sheet of paper (lined or otherwise), I make two rows and three columns. The top row is Short-term, and the bottom Long-term.

The vertical columns are Finance (goals for my money), Stuff (things I want to buy), and Personal Development (skills or habits I’d like to acquire).

I fill each section out for both the short-term (the next 2 years or so) and long-term.

It takes about 10 minutes and is a therapeutic way to analyze what you want and pave the way forward.

Double Your Reading Speed in 12 Minutes

Not shitting you. This works. It will take practice, which loses a lot of people. But who wouldn’t want to double their reading speed (without losing comprehension)??

  1. Read comfortably(using your finger or a visual pacer) for 4 minutes. Set a timer and read as you normally would. When the timer goes off, mark where you stopped with a pencil.

  2. Now, set your alarm for 3 minutes. (Again using a visual pacer) Try to reach where you stopped at step 1 before the 3 minutes are up

  3. Set your alarm for 2 minutes. This time, don’t worry about comprehension Try to get to that same point in 2 minutes. Go line by line and have your eyes follow your visual pacer as fast as possible.

  4. Set your timer for 1 minute. Same thing. Don’t skip and lines and don’t worry about comprehension at all. Just follow the pacer with your eyes line by line as fast as you can to get to the same ending point.

  5. Chill. Set your timer for 2 minutes again. Start from where you made the pencil mark. Read comfortably with your visual pacer for 2 minutes with comprehension. Count the number of lines you read, multiply that by the amount of words per line (add up the words from three lines then divide by three to average them out), then divide that number by two. This is your new reading rate per minute.

    I got this from Jim Kwik’s book Limitless. It increased my reading speed by 52%.

The Other Side of Fear

Jamie Foxx asks his kids, “What’s on the other side of fear?”

A simple concept. Why are you nervous? Why are you afraid? What’s going to happen to you?

We get anxious as if someone is going to come out and stab us.

I thought that when I failed out of college, I would suddenly sink into a black hole and drift for eternity…

Instead, I just woke up the next morning and started my day.

What’s on the other side of fear? Nothing.

Get up and start your day.

What Can You Do?

People really don’t care about what you can’t do. They only care about what you can do.

How often do you spend time thinking about the value people don’t bring you? You probably never think about those people at all. Why would you?

If I said your best friend’s name, I doubt your first few thoughts would be, “They’re my best friend, but they don’t make me laugh as much as I would like, and they could be more organized in their professional life, oh and also their sense of style isn’t that great…”

That’s psychotic. Instead, you’d probably flash to a memory or think about how they make you feel when you’re in a room with them.

The same is true with your goals or pursuits. People don’t give a shit about your obstacles or failures. They really only care about what you produce and the value you provide.

College Dropout Who Sucks With Computers

Man, this sounds so cliche; but you really can learn how to do anything.

I’ve stated countless times in my life: I struggle with retaining information; I’m not a tech guy; I’m not business savvy. This is all following the fixed mindset.

The only reason these claims were true was because they paralyzed me with fear so I didn’t even try to debunk them. It’s like saying, “I suck at drawing,” but never trying to practice it. Yeah, of course you suck at drawing. You don’t draw!

In the past two weeks, I have started my own business, taught myself basic coding languages, built two new websites, and learned a new video-editing software.

This is not a brag. The point is: there’s nothing special about me. I don’t have some innate talent or skill. The fixed mindset says that some people can and some people can’t. That’s bullshit.

All of these things came to me simply from intentionally placing my time and energy into them. Anyone can do it; even a college dropout who sucks with computers.

Layers

Last night, I had an in-depth conversation with my good friend about him and his high school sweetheart. We talked about threesomes.

It was not at all where I thought the discussion would go, but it was honest and thought-provoking nonetheless. He stated that it was something they’ve never told anyone else, and I certainly had never gone down that rabbit hole with any couple who had done it.

Point is: everyone has layers to them you don’t even know exist. This layer was uncovered not because I pried and prodded; I merely asked curious questions.

Kind Words

It is such a cliche, but you have no idea how powerful a compliment can be to someone.

Reaching out and saying that you noticed their efforts, or simply noting that you enjoyed something of theirs…

This could be the difference between them slowly fading or building momentum and becoming limitless.

Multitasking

…is the bane of getting shit done.

Our brains are not designed to focus on more than one task at a time. Even people who claim to be great multitaskers; all they’re doing is rapidly shifting attention from one thing to another. Nothing is happening simultaneously.

I built a website for a client last week. It was an arduous, ungraceful process. I thought that was because I had to teach myself a set of skills of which I wasn’t privy. However, looking back, I realize my inefficiency was due to a weak process.

I would start my work at 9am, look at my schedule, and read “Work on Website.” It was chaos.

What the hell does that mean? Work on Website???

I would be working on the layout of the home page, realize I need more interesting buttons, then need the social links to those buttons, then proper descriptions of those social accounts, then the right picture placements…until eventually, 4 hours would go by.

Rather than feeling accomplished for working on several aspects of the site, I felt tired and confused because I did maybe 20% of each task. Looking up, the site barely felt any different.

What if I just focused on the layout of the home page? Well, I certainly would’ve completed it. Then, with that real sense of accomplishment, I could build momentum and carry that with me to the next step.

Multitasking is not productive; it’s the exact opposite (unless you’re a server). Spend quality, mindful time focusing on the one thing you’re doing…and it’ll get done (well).

3 Questions

These are questions I ask myself and write down at least once a month:

• What are the most important things in my life right now?

• What am I doing each day to put effort into those things?

• What is getting in the way of these efforts?

Fade

“If you study even the smallest bit of science, you will realize that, for practical purposes, we are nothing. We’re basically monkeys on a small rock orbiting a small, backwards star in a huge galaxy, which is in an absolutely staggeringly gigantic universe, which itself may be part of a gigantic multiverse.

This universe has been around for probably 10 billion years or more, and will be around for tens of billions of years afterwards. So your existence, my existence, is just infinitesimal. It is like a firefly blinking once in the night. Nothing that we do lasts. Eventually you will fade, your works will fade, your children will fade, your thoughts will fade, this planet will fade, the sun will fade…it will all be gone.

There are entire civilizations that we remember now with just one or two words like ‘Sumerian’ or ‘Mayan.’ Do you know any Sumerians or Mayans? Do you hold any of them in high regard or esteem? Have they outlived their natural lifespan somehow? No.

If you don’t believe in an afterlife, then you should realize that this is such a short and precious life, it is really important that you don’t spend it being unhappy. There is no excuse for spending most of your life in misery. You’ve only got around 70 years out of the 50 billion or however long the universe is going to be around.”

  • Naval Ravikant, from Tools of Titans (552)

TL; DR – Chill. Enjoy it.

Cold Showers

I know, I know…

For the years in which I’ve been obsessing over personal development, taking cold showers was the one thing people preached that I easily brushed aside. I tried it once and promptly decided, “fuck that.”

But for whatever reason, I decided to give it another go this past week. I’ve done it everyday.

Cold therapy boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation. I don’t really know what the hell that means.

Instead, the benefits I’ve taken away have been much more psychological. When you step forward and the freezing cold water hits your skin, your fight or flight instincts kick in. Obviously, our tendency is to go “oh fuck,” and step away as quickly as possible. Some people develop mental toughness by just enduring the freezing discomfort; but I’ve taken a different approach.

Before embracing the water, I take a deep inhale. Stepping into the shower, I release an even deeper exhale. If I focus solely on the breath at that moment, as if I’m breathing into the areas of discomfort, I can barely feel the cold sensations.

When guys or gals who aren’t trained in martial arts try to fight, you often see them flinching and flailing their arms around spastically. Again, this is them losing control to their flight or flight mechanics. Trained fighters however, are much calmer and more composed under such instinctual strains. Time seems to move at a slower pace for them.

This is what happens in a cold shower. You’re basically training yourself to slow down time when your mind wants your body to go crazy and escape.

Pain is not the same as suffering. Suffering is often a choice.

Respect vs. Support

Creating content is tricky business.

How can I create and share stuff I love, promote it, try to bring value to people, and avoid annoying others as I ask them to check it out, like it, and subscribe to it?

If there’s a perfect balancing answer to this question, I have yet to figure it out.

Seth Godin once wrote in his blog: “Creators have two choices: to be judged or to be ignored.” I choose judged. Always.

In the beginning, my aim was to be a great marketer. Gary Vee would inspire me to constantly create and promote my blogs, videos, podcast episodes, collaborations, etc. There’s definitely something to consistently creating and building things. Not only does it force experience and practice upon you; it also increases the chances of catching the awareness of new consumers in terms of a numbers game.

But it often felt slimy. I hated asking people to like my YouTube videos and subscribe to my channel. Unfortunately, the only way for a YouTube channel to grow and reach more people is when its algorithm recognizes it from people liking the videos and subscribing to the channel. I hated asking people to rate and review my podcast. Unfortunately, the only way for a podcast to grow and reach more people…you get the deal.

Aside from those two major forms of content, I write this daily blog. I’m okay with it being mostly for me. It’s lovely to start the day by dumping improvised thoughts onto the screen. Sometimes I only feel like writing for 2 minutes. Other days (like this one), I have the energy to work through longer, more intimate stories. Typically, the longer something is, the less likely it is to be consumed in its entirety. Anyway, a lot of times I really enjoy what I write, so I publish it on other social medias. Sometimes the post gets 20 likes; sometimes it gets zero. I have noticed over the year that a number of people have either begun ignoring them, stopped using FaceBook, or have blocked me so as not to see my frequent posting…playing hard to get.

It’s nerve-racking and slightly embarrassing to admit that you want a following or a community as a creator. I do want that. Whether it’s 1000 or 100,000…I want to provide value, lessons, stories, and entertainment to people who will accept it.

As of now, I’m aware of my lack of polish. My videos aren’t professional grade and I’m already unable to watch the first ones I filmed because they make me cringe. My skills as an interviewer and conversationalist also need improvement before my podcast makes it on the top charts…but I’m so much better than I was a year ago when I started all this.

To try to answer the question I opened with: What if instead of trying to constantly shove my stuff in the faces of others, I focused most of my attention on producing the highest quality I can so others will hop on the train without me asking? Don’t like and subscribe. Like and subscribe if you love it. In the meantime, I’ll just be over here doing what I love.

I’ll end this with a story:

When I uploaded my first podcast ever, I posted it on FaceBook. It got about 100 likes and several comments. I was stoked. People were congratulating me for actually starting something I had been talking about for a while. I thought, “100 likes on the first one? This is gonna be easy.” Then the more I uploaded—the more content I created—the engagement quickly fizzled away. When I posted my tenth episode, I felt so accomplished and I was certain that it was my best one yet. It got 2 likes.

That’s when I realized two things:

1) The High School Effect
People are more likely to judge or dislike what you create if they know you or knew you in the past. This is not an excuse for poor quality; but it’s a lot harder to listen to the SoundCloud of someone you went to high school with than the SoundCloud of some random kid from New York. When you don’t have a face or personality to the name, all you’re thinking about is the content itself. You just hear his music; as opposed to what he sounded like in English class.

2) Respect and Support are two different things
Just because family, friends, and acquaintances respect the fact that you’re putting time and effort into creating things you care about…doesn’t mean they’ll be consuming your content every week. That’s why I got 100 likes on podcast #1 and 2 likes on #10. Most of my friends don’t give a shit about personal development. I welcome that. It forces me to work harder to pique their interest, and allows me to hone my skills so I can develop an audience which does give a shit. My good friend Molly Graham, founder of Low Blow Candle Co, once said in her Instagram story: “Stop liking my pictures and buy some fucking candles.”

I am eternally grateful to anyone who has spent even one minute looking at my stuff. For them, and for myself, I will never stop trying to get better so I can deserve the support…and I can’t wait to look back a year from now and see how far I’ve come.

Like and subscribe. Just kidding.

No Hurry, No Pause

I started writing this at the top of pages of my notebook. It’s a beautiful reminder…

“No hurry; no pause.”

Creating a better life for yourself doesn’t have to be done as quickly as possible. There’s no rush. You’ll find peace by getting 1% better each day.

And at the same time, peace will only come if you give it effort each day.

You can pursue a better life everyday without destroying yourself.

No hurry; no pause.

30-Day Movie Challenge

As a lover of films, this peaked my interest…but I’m not a big Instagram guy; so rather than posting each day, I’ll just take care of all 30 now.

1) The first film you remember watching.
Star Wars Ep. IV

2) A film you like that starts with the first letter of your name.
Dallas Buyers Club

3) A film that has more than five words.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

4) A film with a number in the title.
9

5) A film where a character has a job you want.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (an actor with Brad Pitt as my stunt double)

6) Your favorite animated film.
How to Train Your Dragon

7) A film that you will never get tired of.
The Shawshank Redemption

8) A film where you liked the soundtrack more.
Oblivion

9) A film you hate that everyone else liked.
Avengers: Endgame (time travel is cheating)

10) Your favorite superhero film.
The Dark Knight (or Avengers: Infinity War)

11) A film you like from your least favorite genre.
Failure to Launch

12) A film you hate from your favorite genre.
The Nice Guys

13) A film that puts you in deep thoughts.
District 9

14) A film that gave you depression.
The Big Short

15) A film that makes you feel happy.
Captain Fantastic

16) A film that is personal to you.
The Guardian (the first movie I remember loving as a kid, w/ Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner)

17) Favorite film sequel.
22 Jump Street

18) A film that stars your favorite actor/actress.
There Will Be Blood

19) A film made by your favorite director.
The Wolf of Wall Street

20) A film that changed your life.
Moulin Rouge!

21) A film that you dozed off in.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

22) A film that made you angry.
The Last Airbender

23) A film made by a director that is dead.
2001: A Space Odyssey

24) A film you wish you saw in theaters.
Good Will Hunting

25) A film you like that is not set in the current era.
Amadeus

26) A film you like that is adapted from somewhere.
The Shining

27) A film that is visually striking to you.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

28) A film that made you feel uncomfortable.
Uncut Gems

29) A film that makes you want to fall in love.
Silver Linings Playbook

30) A film with your favorite ending.
The Book of Eli

Fin.

Outside

Yesterday, I prepared a picnic with two of my close friends. We sat out at a local nature park.

It was gorgeous. There were barely any clouds and we sat next to a pond which mirrored the sky and surrounding forrest.

Humans have collectively spent much more time outside than they have inside (over the span of tens of thousands of years). Air conditioning is cool (get it?), but going outside is a natural (get it?) therapeutic.

Go outside.

Solving Problems

Is the best way to make money.

People hate problems. They’re uncomfortable, nagging, and people are willing to pay someone to make them go away.

The more strain a problem puts on someone, the more they’re willing to pay someone to solve it.

Needing a hip replacement is a problem. Needing clean plates is a problem.

Neither one is necessarily better or worse than the other; they’re just different problems…but I’d rather pay someone to replace my hip and wash my own damn dishes.

Limiting Beliefs

For many years, people declared it was physically impossible for a human to run a mile in under 4 minutes.

Then on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister ran it in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds.

That’s impressive…but what is truly astonishing is that less than two months after that, someone broke Bannister’s record. Then someone broke their record. And so on…

Once someone showed us what was possible, we began doing it.

How many things aren’t we doing or pursuing because we are convinced they’re impossible?

Questions are the Answer

Our brains are wired to forget things.

In Jim Kwik’s book Limitless, he offers the 3 questions to ask in order to remember what you read; but these questions are applicable in everyday life as well:

1) How can I use this?

2) Why must I use this?

3) When will I use this?

Creatures of Habit

Every single thing we do is based on habits.

You can read and internalize these words because at some point, you developed the habit of looking at these 26 symbols and progressively comprehended them.

When your friend calls calls you, you don’t think “Whoa. My phone is making noise. My friend’s name is appearing on my phone. There’s a green and a red button. I will touch the green button to answer this call from my friend…” No. You just answer the damn phone without processing information. That’s because you’ve done it so many times that you’ve now developed a habit.

Have you ever rearranged the apps on your phone? You probably noticed that for the first few days, you naturally touch the areas where your most used apps used to be.

Obviously, receiving a call and reorganizing your phone are a lot easier than developing strong fitness and productivity habits; but our incredible brains provide us with an incomparable opportunity. If we put enough time and effort into something, eventually our brains will start thinking about it less and less. Once the habit is formed, it is no longer something you have to process. It’s just something you do…like being able to read these sentences.

Broken Eggs

What happens when an egg is broken open?

If it’s cracked from the outside, there is death;

But if it’s cracked from the inside, there is life.

A better life comes first from decisions inside.

Teaching Yourself…

…is fucking hard.

Learning is difficult to measure, so it’s tricky to grasp where you stand in the midst of teaching yourself new skills until you can apply them.

This week, I began teaching myself principles of design, various video editing tasks, and chess endgames. Interestingly, I found many lessons which can be carried through all three of these.

The biggest takeaways from this week have been:

• Creating well-defined goals in learning is essential. “What gets measured gets managed.” The goal can’t be “learn more web design…” What do you want to be able to do at the end of today that you couldn’t do yesterday?

• Trying to juggle multiple learning/practice sessions in the span of a few hours is a recipe for chaos and unproductive sloppiness. There was one day where in two hours: I read an article on design theories, edited a section of a YouTube video, brainstormed for a podcast, and went through two online chess lessons…At the end of those two hours, I didn’t feel accomplished; I felt confused. Batching learning into hours of deep, undistracted (no phone) focus is the most effective and satisfying way to develop our knowledge.

• Despite the difficulty, teaching yourself things is incredibly rewarding; and once you sit down for about ten minutes, you get lost in the flow of adventure.

Learn good.

Write This Down

It’s important to answer these questions on paper every so often:

• What are your values? What do you want most out of life and out of yourself? These are the most important things to you.

• What can you do each day to pursue these values? What are you doing do much of or too little of on your pursuit?

The Star of Your Movie

It’s a gift and a curse. You are the star of your movie. Your friends, family, and people you see often are the supporting actors. Everyone else, extras.

But here’s the thing: To everybody else, they’re the star of their movie.

It may sound dark, but no matter how much time and energy someone spends on another, we are each the main character in the movie we are living out. I find this to be quite liberating when we consider how much time we spend concerned over how much others are thinking about us.

These two truths help me in times of insecurity:

1) Nobody is thinking about you more than you are.

2) Everybody is worried about themselves.