I don’t think you have to wake up super early, run marathons, or work 10 hours a day to be successful.
BUT I do think there’s power in waking up earlier than most people.
I had to get up for a 6am swim slot the other day and although I hated my life, it was cool to see the sun come up. I felt so productive getting in an insane workout as everyone else I knew was still asleep.
Since then, I’ve been setting my alarm 10 minutes earlier each morning from my original time.
I’m writing this blog while the only other thing awake around me are the squirrels and the birds.
I’m about to go on a run with a buddy before the sun bakes down on us.
I had a lovely discussion with a coaching friend yesterday on the utility of saying sorry.
It’s something I’ve been trying to work on lately—my tendency to apologize when it’s not necessary.
I always laugh when someone says sorry at the grocery store when I almost run into them. I’ll think, You literally didn’t do anything wrong.Why are you sorry?
And yet I do the same thing when it comes to coordination or business chats. What scares me is not how much I apologize or qualify myself…what scares me is that I don’t even realize when I’m doing it.
In the past month, four people have told me to stand up for myself and stop saying sorry. Whoa.
But at the same time, I like that I’m always willing to apologize to friends—sacrificing my pride for the possible harmony of a situation. I care about my friends’ feelings. Sue me.
The debate at play is:
What’s the difference between kindness and people pleasing?
In other words: When do people appreciate an apology and when do they genuinely not give a shit?
What I’m learning is…most of the time, they don’t give a shit. If we are unapologetically ourselves, if we come from a good place, and if we’re willing to learn from our mistakes…then saying sorry is almost never needed.
It can actually be pretty annoying.
Hence the problem with people pleasing: It has the opposite effect; no one is pleased.
Does anyone really appreciate the paragraphs of text explaining why someone has to cancel plans this weekend? Does a fourth apology in five minutes actually carry weight? Do we respect when someone is hyper-focused on not hurting our feelings?
I would be willing to bet the answer to all these is no.
People are generally okay with us living our lives. And if there’s an issue, a good friend would be open and honest with us and address what’s going on.
Obviously, I’m not saying we should throw away our self-awareness. But I do believe that walking around on eggshells doesn’t help anybody. We can trust that people are adults. Everything hurts someone’s feelings. All we can do is roll with the punches and handle each situation with openness, love, and good faith.
In the self-improvement world, saying something like that is sacrilegious. But let me explain what I mean with a story.
In the past year, I’ve become obsessed with chess. Yes, mostly inspired by watching Queen’s Gambit. But I play every day and will be entering a tournament soon.
I’ve had it in my head that I want to become an International Master. To the layman, this means being in the 98th percentile of chess players. Players at this level and above study for hours in a day. They enter professional tournaments. They read all the best chess books.
This would be me, I confirmed.
But over the last few months, that’s panned out to be much harder than I anticipated.
I would set time aside to study and build my chess skills, but if something else came up, that allotted time would be the first to go. When I would sit down to work through a dense practice book, the Resistance would be so high that I would quit and just play matches online. My chest would fill with anxiety when I would be practicing my endgames instead of working on my business or anything else to make money. One of my favorite hobbies was becoming a guilt-inducing chore.
It took a while to realize what I had to do…I had to give up on my dream of becoming a world-class chess player.
This statement sounds more dramatic than it actually is. Let me explain.
I did not, and will not, quit chess. What I did quit was the mentality of invisible pressure I put on myself to reach some sort of benchmark.
Once I did that, there was a wave of relief. Since dropping the dream, I’ve actually been studying and practicing chess more—not because I have to, but because I want to.
In a session yesterday, a client wisely said, “Going to the gym doesn’t mean you have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger. Playing on a wreck team doesn’t mean you have to make it to the NFL. Doing an open mic night doesn’t mean you have to be Bill Burr.”
We can simply do things because we enjoy them. We don’t always need a profound reason or purpose.
When I couldn’t study chess at the level of Master, I had to ask myself, Do I actually want this?
No. I just liked the idea of reaching that level. But I hated what it took to get there. And guess what…
Maybe I’ll never get there. Maybe I will. Regardless, there’s zero pressure on my shoulders and that will let me have fun playing and studying the game I love.
Until a few years ago, I was certain I hated The Biebs.
• He probably doesn’t write his own music
• Pop lyrics are basic and lack depth
• His stupid face
One day, I was listening to the Skrillex and Diplo song Where Are Ü Now, and I asked my buddy, “Do you know who’s singing?”
He looked at my blankly and retorted, “Are you joking? It’s Justin Bieber.”
My universe turned upside down. Everything I thought was true and real turned out to be a mirage. My very being turned to ash and I had no idea who I was…
Joking aside, I was struck. How could this person I despised make me feel such joy and raw emotion with his simple lyrics and angelic voice?
That’s when I realized my hatred for the young pop singer had nothing to do with him. I was just being a jealous twat.
He had more money and women at age 18 than I’ll ever see in my lifetime. All he had to do was sing a simple song and millions (if not billions) of people would listen and love it.
I was humbled when I realized I had been singing along with JB for months without knowing it was him on the track. It sounds ridiculous but that was the moment I thought, Maybe pop music doesn’t have to meet my expectations. Maybe music is just any collection of sounds that people find enjoyable.
Thank you, Justin (we’re on a first name basis), for enlightening me…and serenading me.
• It doesn’t really make sense to hate someone for their success—they’ll still do what they do, and we’ll just be salty about it.
• Just because we dislike a certain kind of music or entertainment doesn’t mean its bullshit (e.g. For the life of me, I don’t understand how most TikToks are good, yet they have millions of likes so fuck me I guess).
• When we have powerful feelings against another person, it’s important to check in with ourselves and ask why.
Yesterday, my coaching friend was venting to me about a shitty prospective client experience. Also…my car died. The engine completely gassed out. What a day.
With my friend and her possible client, they had made an agreement and when she called to set up the first payment, she discovered that this prospective client blocked her on Messenger and was ducking all her calls.
She asked me what I thought.
How I felt about that situation is exactly how I feel about my car dying:
Naturally frustrated…but empowered.
Shitty, wildly inconvenient, and aggravating circumstances are guaranteed in our lives. Meaning, we have absolutely zero control over when they will occur (the definition of inconvenient).
What we do have control over, however, is how we handle and what we learn from these events.
She will have more frustrating ordeals with clients. I will have more car troubles.
But now, we’ll both be better equipped to take action and respond with cooler emotions under the stress.
Now she knows how to reach out with love and respectfully call a person out. Now I know how to simultaneously schedule a car tow and mechanic appointment.
Don’t wish things were easier. Wish you were better.
1) Whether you’re working on a project or watching Netflix, leave your phone in the other room and on airplane mode. Do what you’re doing and enjoy it.
2) It’s much better to say, “I can’t believe I did…” instead of “I always thought about doing…” Just do whatever that thing is. Worst case: you have a great story or experience to share.
3) It may feel cool to reject exercise and fitness. But what’s really cool is being able to do something athletic and not be out of breath.
4) Train yourself to meet people where they are, not where you want them to be. We have absolutely zero control over whether or not someone changes. We have total control over how kind and compassionate we are to them.
5) Make amends. Even if you were never at fault, apologizing and getting closure is so much better for the soul than living with resentment.
6) Never judge another person’s music taste. We like what we like and if it makes us feel something, that’s enough.
7) A conversation can easily be made more vibrant by asking Why or How questions.
8) Ask someone, “What would you love to be working on right now?” They almost always have an answer and you learn about their aspirations.
9) Write more. Even if it’s once a month. Writing makes you a better speaker and thinker.
10) If you haven’t ‘failed’ several times in the last six months, then you’re not challenging yourself enough. Do more difficult things, fail at them, and learn.
Today I’m taking the day off to help my mom with chores and projects around her house.
For whatever reason, this has always been something of high Resistance for me. I’m not handy at all, so stuff like that probably makes me insecure. Working with her tends to make me feel like I’m in high school again. Plus there’s likely a number of other deep and unconscious mental blocks which make helping her out difficult.
Again, I have no idea why and I wish it wasn’t the case.
My attempt to combat this is to shift my mindset through practice.
I’m approaching today as someone who is thrilled to help out his mom who has done so much for him. It’s the least I could do. It’s a no-brainer to take a day off to make her life easier.
For the people we care about, this kind of stuff is well worth the investment. I don’t want to be 40 years old and have my 70-year old mother resent me for never being there for her.
No. I want her to look back and feel lucky to have me as a son…just like I feel lucky to have her as a mom.
That’s a tall order, but it starts today.
What could you do or say today that would strengthen one of your relationships?
Here are all the things I’m proud of at the moment:
• The strength of my relationships • My fitness • My coaching business • The fact that I know at least basic martial arts skills • My intermediate chess abililites • This blog • My ability to listen to, connect with, and coach other human beings
What do they all have in common?
They’ve taken a fuck-ton of time (in metric units).
The cliche goes:
“It’s only taken me ten years to become an over-night success.”
Perhaps there are freaks of nature who are naturally good at the things they do. Good for them. But for the other 99% of us, getting great at the things we care about will take countless repetitions.
I’ve been writing this blog every day since October 2019. Those first pieces make me cringe. I had no idea how to string ideas together and I used big words to sound more academic. And for months, each blog was averaging two readers: myself and my super supportive friend. (Thanks Grace!)
Now, there are hundreds of folks tuning in each week and I couldn’t be more grateful. But that hasn’t happened because I’ve found the perfect way to market my stuff or because I’ve shoved it in the faces of enough people.
It’s like that because I’ve sat down each morning and typed out my thoughts. Eventually, I got a little better at writing. My average of two readers went up to three. Then four. And so on…
I’m always skeptical when I see ads like, “Get 100x MORE followers in ONE month!!”
Maybe methods like that exist, maybe they don’t. I personally have zero interest.
The only thing I care about is consistently showing up to do the work.
This leads to improvement, which leads to higher quality, which leads to more value, which leads to more people interested, which leads to improvement, and on and on it goes…..
A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.
I had one yesterday morning.
After months of patiently figuring out what I wanted to say and when I wanted to say it, I called one of my best friends.
The goal was to lovingly and respectfully tell him that I didn’t want to be the only one putting in effort in our friendship anymore. In so many words, I said, “I know you love me and care about this relationship, I just wish you would show it.”
As expected, he took it incredibly well. He apologized immediately and declared he could easily make a change.
I felt so grateful. One, because I have a friend I can have open, honest, and productive conversations with. But two, because one of my strengths is initiating possibly difficult conversations.
Not all of my uncomfortable phone calls have been successful, though.
There’s no guarantee that the other person won’t get insulted or defensive. The only things within our control are our energy, our intentions, and how well we listen.
All easier said than done.
Here’s a simple checklist I use before preparing for a difficult conversation:
1) Do I care about this person?
2) Will having this conversation benefit both of us in the long run?
Example: Ending a relationship you don’t feel invested in—hurting someone in the short term, but saving them even worse heartache in the long term.
3) If they were to handle this horribly (this meaning my open and honest thoughts and feelings), is this someone I want in my life anyway?
I’ve had a number of difficult conversations over the past few years—most received well, some received poorly.
Here’s what I’ve learned…
Firstly, people are surprisingly willing to have deep and uncomfortable conversations…but most people are hesitant to initiate them. In other words, they want to resolve the tension, they’re just waiting on us to make the first move.
My advice: Get good at making the first move.
It takes practice, but it’s a crazy rewarding and useful skill to improve.
And finally, as we improve this skill of starting necessary conversations, we improve as people.
We begin to get clearer on what we value and what we don’t. We also get better at fighting for those values.
What do you value? When’s the last time you had a difficult conversation about it?
Two of the hardest things I’ve ever done have been:
• getting myself to stop saying “like” as a filler word, and
• getting out of the habit of talking shit about people.
The first step for both was to practice mindfulness and simply acknowledge when I was doing them.
I would start and stop thousands of sentences because I noticed I would automatically use “like” four times in four seconds.
I would also have to pause in conversation because I realized my friends and I were naturally complaining about another person behind their back or insulting them for laughs.
We can train ourselves out of habits that aren’t serving us. What’s more, we can replace them with ones that do.
One of my strengths is my ability to speak and articulate my thoughts. Not saying “like” every other word has helped with that tremendously.
As far as talking shit about people when they’re not around, it’s poisonous. It creates this tendency to look for the bad in people. Plus, it chips away at the trust in relationships.
If you have a friend who talks shit about everybody when they’re not around, what makes you think they don’t do the same thing to you?
When I was trying to untrain myself out of this habit a few years ago, I would force myself to add to the conversation something I respected about the person in question. This can feel unnatural at first, but what I found was that no matter how I felt about someone, there was always at least one thing about them I could praise.
Slowly but surely, I felt myself seeing people in a much more positive and appreciative light.
There’s a lovely piece of advice from Kevin Kelly:
“Compliment people behind their back. It’ll come back to you.”
What would you love to untrain out of your life? What would that take?
• astronaut • teacher • rescue swimmer (shoutout Aston Kutcher) • boxer • running back at the Naval Academy (lol) • kicker for a D1 school • guitarist of a punk rock band (“Where are you?”) • pro soccer player • psychologist • business owner (#entrepreneur) • music producer • German translator • drummer • sailor • actor • father (ladies) • famous podcaster • famous YouTuber • blogger • web designer • life coach • International Master in chess • purple belt in jiujitsu
I look back at many of these and smile.
The reality is that most of the things we’ve ever dreamed about being or doing in life won’t come to fruition. NOT because we don’t have what it takes, but because we only have so much time and energy to expend in one lifetime.
For many of these, I liked the idea more than doing the actual work it took to make it a reality.
I enjoyed learning how to keep a beat on the drums, but in order to become great, I would’ve needed to practice all the time. Since I had no drum set, no money to pay for lessons, and had a full course load in college…becoming a drummer at that time didn’t feel like the right move.
And there’s the main point:
If the Resistance of the thing outweighs the value we get from it, it’s okay to strategically quit.
We’re not failures for cutting off the energy we’re putting into something. By saying no to one thing, we’re saying yes to something else.
Last year, I tried to do a daily vlog—posting a video of my life and thoughts every single day for four months…
I made it two months before I completely burned out. It became a chore I dreaded; not a fun and challenging creative pursuit.
So I quit.
I said no to a thing I set out to do. But in turn, I said yes to giving more time and mental energy to building my business, making it one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
There’s a stigma against jumping around from hobby to hobby. People say, “I don’t really know what I’m passionate about. I can never really stick to one thing.”
Who said we have to?
Why can’t we just do what feels exciting and challenging at the moment?
If we do that, two things will happen:
1) We get to experience a bunch of cool shit by trying new things, and
2) We up our chances of finding something we’re willing to keep putting time and effort into.
One simple lesson from Jia Jiang’s book Rejection Proof has completely changed the way I see:
• sales • talking to women • doing scary things
That lesson is:
When you get rejected, it says nothing about you and everything about the person doing the rejecting.
It doesn’t mean you suck; it just means it’s not the right fit right now.
When I get “rejected” by a female or a prospective client, I think, Good. Now I know they’re not the right person right now.
Why would I want to go on a date with someone who doesn’t want to, but says yes anyway to save my feelings. Why would I work with someone who is only hiring me because they can’t say no?
Rejections and No’s weed out all the folks who don’t have the right chemistry or compatibility for your current goals. They also get you closer to the folks who are the right fit for whatever you’re looking for.
No’s also make you stronger, if you let them. They can harden your skin and sharpen your vision for people and things which align with your values.
They can also help you make adjustments and improvements. Testing and analyzing helps you go, Hmm. People seem to respond better when I do X instead of Y.
In my first full-time sales job, a day of rejection would often leave me feeling drained and defeated. This shit’s hard.
But if we can see each rejection as an opportunity to get closer to the people who are the right fit for us…it can make us unstoppable.
Yesterday was Day 1. She arrived with training equipment and a set of drills to improve my technique and stamina.
I thought swimming correctly would be incredibly difficult…
And it was.
It was one of the hardest fucking things I’ve ever tried to do.
She showed me how to properly align my shoulders, chest, and hips in the water. I would watch her and swimmers in nearby lanes swim down and back with ease. It all made sense to me.
Then I would push off and try it all myself and after swallowing a liter of water I’d have to stop about halfway to catch my breath. I’d come up laughing and shaking my head. It looks so easy, I thought.
I kept reminding the both of us that this would take practice. While slightly discouraging, I knew I wouldn’t become amazing at it immediately.
“This is why we’re here,” I repeated to myself.
She was patient and supportive and slowly but surely, I could feel slight improvements. I was able to swim further and further without stopping. By the end of our hour and a half time slot, I could swim from one end to the other without taking a break.
In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a big deal. But compared to my first attempted lap, I felt like a totally new person.
Day 1 was a success. It was fun. And it was my first step to being prepared for this triathlon.
The major lessons:
• You don’t need natural ability to improve in something.
• Just focus on getting 1% better right now.
• Ask people for help; they’d probably love to take part.
One of the first lessons I gathered from my coaching mentor:
“People don’t do well with solutions they’ve had little or no part in creating.”
I’ve learned this through experience…
Coaching people who want to make a change. Giving unsolicited advice to friends. Preaching on this blog.
No matter how good your advice is, how useful it is, or how “right” you are…you simply can’t make or force anyone to do, think, or feel a certain way. They have to reach that place on their own.
The solution? Provide people a space for them to explore and make decisions. Listen deeply. Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.
This is contextual, of course. Sometimes, tough love is needed. When I was in my darkest place, listening to Joe Rogan and having him proverbially grab my shoulders and tell me to get my act together was exactly what I needed.
But I write this in response to what I see so many people doing (including my past self). That is: Feeling frustrated because you’ve given a person the correct answers and they keep doing the same things.
But the correct answer isn’t enough. We all know what simple things we could be doing to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled. Yet we don’t do them.
Why? Because we have to come up with those answers (and why they’re important) on our own.
In the life coaching sphere, we say, “Coach the person, not the problem.”
We all have similar problems but we differ in how we see them and how they’re impacting us.
It’s hard work, but we must be a guide, not a boss, if we want to bring about change.
A guide helps people maneuver through places they want to go. A boss tells people where to go.
You’re nobody’s boss. But you could be a guide to anyone.
They were trying to show support and truly meant well, but I’d like to dissect that claim a bit.
Though it’s not the intention, using the word “natural” tends to ignore the countless hours of practice, anxiety, and discomfort a person must go through.
You would never call Tom Brady a natural. He’s been playing football almost every day since he was a child. Along the way, he’s been intercepted, sacked, and doubted tremendously by others and by himself.
When people tell me…
• I’m a natural at podcasting, they haven’t heard my first podcasts where I couldn’t string a single idea together.
• I’m a natural at coaching, they haven’t seen all the hours I put in each week to be a better coach and business owner.
• I’m a natural at living a disciplined life, they haven’t seen my first 23 years of being a true mess—failing out of college, accruing massive debt, and trying to end my life.
99.9% of people aren’t natural at anything. This shit takes work.
You never know what’s going on behind the scenes. The next time you see a master, don’t think, They’re really good at this; instead think, They must’ve been practicing this for a long time.
• being fitter will make us look and feel better • more time on social media will make us more anxious • staying up super late will make us exhausted the next day • more time with loved ones and with our passions will make us more fulfilled • expanding our comfort zones will provide us more opportunities….
So why do we struggle with all these things we know to be true?
Because in a sense, the day to day hustle and bustle of life clouds our vision. We get distracted. We forget.
When I’ve had a long ass day, my brain’s not thinking about how to optimize my wellbeing before bed; it’s craving the dopamine of watching another YouTube video as I slide under the covers.
I’m thinking: Yes, I know that in the past staying up late watching YouTube makes me more tired when I wake up and it makes the day harder…but this time, I really need to stay up and watch YouTube.
Then, like clockwork, I wake up the next day and remember…usually with some self-loathing.
But what if I was able to remember before suffering the consequences?
One strategy I use to remember is by reinforcing the fact that I tell myself lies.
“I won’t regret: staying up late…eating a sixth donut…skipping the gym…blowing my friend off…”
Lies. All of them.
One of my best friends once said:
“Resistance always comes in reasonable forms.”
Our forgetting what is good for us always seems rational in the moment. It’s only after the fact that we see what’s really going on.
Let’s get in the habit of remembering what we already know.
• refugee • thug • liberal • Republican • straight white man • bossy woman
But if you were to go up to any individual who ticks the boxes for any of these categories…after one conversation, you’d discover a complex world of struggle, stress, and livelihood.
Take me for example.
I’m a straight white man—as are many of my closest friends.
Does that encapsulate me? Does that define who my friends and I are as human beings?
I certainly recognize and acknowledge the privileges I have, but no one who knows me would say I’m just another straight white man.
Yet when we don’t know a person or a group of people intimately—regardless of their size, shape, or color—it’s all too easy to place them in a box.
I used to think that super left-wing people were overemotional and irrational.
Only when I actually put in the time to have good-faith debates and discussions with the more liberal-minded people I knew…did I begin to see my error in thinking.
When I wouldn’t get yelled at for stating my opinion…when I would hear reasonable and well-constructed arguments…I would think, Wait, but they’re liberal. Aren’t they supposed to be crazy emotional and triggered right now?
I was otherizing them.
No matter how much you think otherwise, you can’t actually know a person until you get to know them.
You don’t have to love them or agree with them, but you can recognize that they are in fact a human being—made of the same set of organs, bones, and worries that you’re made of.