The PERMAH Wheel

A plant growing out of a dead tree

One exercise I do with my coaching clients is work through the PERMAH Wheel.

Simply write down each letter and declare, on a scale from 1-10, how satisfied you are with each category. Then, explain why you gave that answer.

P: Positive emotions

How positive or optimistic are you with your environment or routines?

How often do you approach things with excitement, gratitude, or light-heartedness?

Do you feel like life is happening to you or for you?

E: Engagement

How engaged do you feel with the world around you: your relationships, your work, your free time?

How are you utilizing your strengths?

How present and focused are you in your day to day?

R: Relationships

What are the quality of your connections with your friends and family?

How much value are you getting from them? How much value are you giving in return?

How strong is your support system and how much energy does it provide you?

M: Meaning

Do you know why you do what you do? How strongly do your actions align with your deeply-seeded values?

Do you have a sense of being connected to something larger than yourself? (This doesn’t have to be anything religious.)

A: Achievement

How strongly do you feel you can say you’re going to do something and then do it? How often do you take action toward the things that matter to you?

This is less about, “How much money do you have,” and more about, “How consistently do you pursue things?”

H: Health

How are your eating habits? How consistently are you getting 7-9 hours of sleep? How often are you exercising?

Also, how much time do you spend being intentionally mindful: meditating, spending time in nature, taking a pause?

Your answers to these questions can unpack areas you may want to direct more of your energy. I hope you find it helpful in some way.

This simple habit makes me super happy

An iPhone resting on a wood floor

Aside from keystone habits (habits that make other habits easier) like good sleep and exercise, there’s no one habit to rule them all.

A fulfilling life typically consists of a number of healthy routines and practices. I do enjoy giving out tips and tricks on my favorites, but here’s one I often forget about:

Start your mornings without looking at your phone.

The mornings should be about control. They’re your time to take charge and set the stage for the day.

If I have a sluggish and lazy morning, the rest of my day is sure to follow suit.

And nothing pulls me out of the driver seat like looking at my phone right when I wake up.

You never know what you’ll see in your messages or on social media that will pull you away from the present moment. You could get stressed. You could get pissed off. Hell, maybe nothing will happen.

But that’s the point. Checking your phone is like pulling on a slot machine; it comes with infinite uncertainty. And uncertainty is not the best way to start the day.

I’m not saying you should neglect your obligations. But consider taking an intentional pause before you dive right into them.

Taking just 10 or 20 minutes to drink water, make some coffee, or do some stretches will do wonders for your mindset and your ability to have a productive day.

Your emails and notifications aren’t going anywhere.

I go the first hour or two with my phone on airplane mode each morning. I work for myself, so I know that’s unreasonable to ask of most people.

I’m also aware that some folks have wild schedules, families, and jobs where they are basically on-call.

But if you can’t take 10 mindful minutes out of your morning to pause before you start your day, then you are the person who most needs this in their life.

Why I torture myself

A woman running on a dirt road

A few weeks ago, I was trying to explain the value of inflicting discomfort or “pain” upon myself to a friend.

She was puzzled.

This was understandable. It’s difficult to put into words, especially because the benefits are intangible and feelings-based.

But I’ll do my best here.

Intentional discomfort

I described the freezing cold showers I often take. Most people shudder when I do this. A shower is supposed to be a peaceful and enjoyable endeavor.

But even the occasional cold shower can boost your immune function, reduce depression, and speed up your metabolism.

I also told the story of when I ran a marathon in 2020. During the last seven miles, my legs stopped working and it was possibly the most uncomfortable two hours of my life.

“Why didn’t you just stop,” she asked, befuddled.

Several reasons. Firstly, I ran it with my jacked military buddy who kept pushing me to continue, especially when I most wanted to quit. Without his accountability, there’s no chance I would’ve completed those 27 miles.

Secondly, I was excited for the sense of accomplishment of doing something I didn’t think I could physically do. My buddy and I both chugged a Coors Light after we finished. I hate Coors Light, and that was the best beer I’ve ever had in my life.

But the last and deepest reason is the crux of this blog post.

Pain ≠ suffering

A woman with a sword in her neck

Like most animals, we have evolved to see pain as a malfunction or as an alarm. We feel pain and our brains go, Oh shit, something’s wrong.

This is obviously a good thing. If a bear were to start eating you in your sleep, you’d want some sort of alert.

But over the many years of our evolution, as we’ve advanced societies and stepped away from battling the elements…many of us still make this association when it’s not necessary.

You’ve probably gone for a run or started working out only to stop a few minutes in. Why?

Because you didn’t like the discomfort.

Your brain assessed the situation, said fuck this, and aborted the mission. It declared that something was wrong. You might have even decided in your mind, I can’t do this.

But you certainly can.

Hypothetically, if I told you I’d give you $100,000 to complete an intense, hour-long workout, you’d feel much more capable.

Here, the action is the same. The pain is the same. The only thing that’s changed is your relationship to the pain. Which proves we can alter the meaning and power of discomfort.

When I’m running, the voice in my head tells me, “You have to stop. You can’t keep going.”

But then I just remind myself: It’s only pain. Nothing’s wrong.

But what does it mean?

To be clear, my friend wasn’t advocating for a purely pleasure-filled life with zero obstacles and zero challenges.

Her main question was: “Why do you make yourself do things you hate?”

In fairness, I have no idea how to quantify the benefits. I can’t say that I’ve made this much more money or I’ve taken this or that action.

But I can vouch for an increase in confidence I feel when doing difficult things.

If I can run seven, miserable miles with legs that don’t work, I can surely sit down and write when I don’t feel like it.

If I can stay under that freezing cold shower water when my fight or flight system is begging me to turn the knob, I can certainly take on projects that I feel unqualified for.

Why do I torture myself?

In short:

  1. To strengthen my courage muscle—proving to myself that I can do things I don’t think I can do (or that I’m scared to do).
  2. To reinforce the truth that although I’m in pain, I’m certainly not suffering…I might even be thriving.


I turn 27 today.

I’m almost as old as my mom was when she had me.

Ten years ago, I was a junior in high school. That doesn’t feel like a decade.

Ten years from now, I’ll be 37. And I’m sure that won’t feel like a 10-year gap either.

I’ve enjoyed getting older each year so far. I love the maturity and wisdom that comes with age.

Perhaps I’ll feel differently one birthday in the future. But for now, I’m just enjoying the ride…which I assume is the only thing I can do.

One of the best gifts I receive on a daily basis is you, the reader, giving me your attention for a few minutes each morning.

Thank you so much. I am eternally grateful.

Here’s to 27 more!


Two nights ago, I celebrated a birthday with a small group of close friends.

It was absolutely lovely.

The only issue? My buddy and I stayed up crazy late after everyone else left to continue drinking and play chess.

I spent the night on the bathroom floor.

My college self came out and I spent the whole day yesterday in bed as a breathing corpse.

Did it suck?


Was it worth it?



I’ve written and erased these words about four times.

The truth is, I didn’t sleep well at all and I’m exhausted.

Good sleep is the keystone to everything else in your life.

Prioritize it.

It’s free energy, creativity, and clarity.

Even typing out these simple words feels strenuous.

A nap is in order.

Tea time with a demon

A statue of a baby demon

When the Buddha spent a month under the Bodhi Tree pursuing enlightenment, he was challenged by the evil demon King Mara—bringer of death and desire.

Mara’s army rushed toward the Buddha, but he did not plea or run away. Instead, he placed his hand on the ground and calmly stated that the seat beneath the tree was his and that they were welcome to join him.

The sword of each soldier fell to the earth and turned into a flower.

The moral of the story? LSD was strong even in 500 BC.


Negative thoughts and emotions are omnipresent. For the vast majority of us who don’t plan on spending years training to be a monk…anxiety, doubt, envy, longing, depression…these are things we must battle with almost every day.

The problem is: Many of us approach these demons by vigorously wishing them away.

A few years ago, when I was struggling with suicidal thoughts and depressing episodes, I refused to take action until the demons left me alone.

But they’ll never go away.

As of right now, I’ve never been happier with myself or my life…and the demons are still around.

The only difference? I have a healthier relationship with them.

By following the Buddha’s example, by inviting the demons in for tea with open arms, they become laughably weak. Their swords disappear.

It’s analogous to when a bully is making fun of your shoes. The second you join her and start talking shit about your shoes too, her words become utterly powerless.

Today, the thing that brings me the most mental pain is my anxiety over money. It has crippled and even paralyzed me at times.

That’s my demon. I handle it in two steps:

1) Clearly identify the demon

Not in the Western sense of tracing it back to its source from some childhood memory. There’s validity in that, but in the moment it’s not my priority.

For this, I note each thought, feeling, and physical sensation.

• “I feel tightness in my chest.”
• “I see images of me getting evicted.”
• “I can hear the disappointment in my friends’ voices.”

By simply articulating each and every thought and feeling, I get a sense of clarity and lightness.

2) Invite the demon in for tea

This can take practice.

As stated above, the demon isn’t going anywhere. So you might as well become friends and get the most out of your time with him.

The obvious caveat here is that I’m not a therapist or psychiatrist. These are just strategies that have lasted millennia and can help you the next time a demon knocks on your door.

You can try to slam that door in his face, but he’ll just grow bigger and stronger.

Make him a cup of tea, and he’ll shrivel down in strength and size.

I hear they prefer Chamomile.

Be more like the people you respect

Two friends bumping fists

Simple advice I heard from a friend the other day.

It’s lovely because you don’t have to change who you are or pretend to be something you’re not.

It’s more like a ‘build your own character’ practice.

She said she loved the fact that her friend deleted Instagram because it was bad for her mental health. So my friend changed her own relationship with social media.

It got me thinking.

What are things people I respect do that I wish I did more of?

So I made a list in my Notes app. Here are the first three examples:

• Change out of sweats and into work day clothes to feel more professional and productive.
• Get cheaper, more unique, and more thoughtful gifts for friends and family.
• Actually go hiking and spend more intentional time in nature.

What about you? What do you respect in the people you know? How can you do more of those things in your own life?

Embarrassing moment at the gym

Yesterday at the gym, this guy was benching without a spotter.

I was on the elliptical when I heard a loud boom as his weights came crashing to the floor.

Someone rushed to help him and he looked violently embarrassed.

I’ve been there. We all have.

I could only imagine what was going through his head. I tried to put myself in his shoes.

“Everyone thinks I’m an idiot or I’m weak or I’m a loser…”

But my immediate reaction to seeing this:

Oh shit, that guy dropped the bar. Hope he’s all good.

Then I went right back to focusing on my cardio.

That’s when I was reminded that when something embarrassing happens to you, it’s highly likely that no one else really cares. They definitely don’t care as much as you do in the moment.

Don’t believe me?

What are some cringe memories you have? You know, the ones that make you contort your face or audibly groan.

Now, think about an embarrassing memory someone else has.

Much harder, right? That’s because we’re almost always focused on ourselves and what others think about us.

I spent half a second thinking about that dude who dropped his weights. Then I went right back to looking at myself in the mirror to make sure I looked okay.

What pain do you want to feel?

After starting a freelancing business last year, a number of unique stressors came into my life.

• How will I find my next project?
• Where do I find good clients?
• Can I pay my bills next month?
• How will I make this work?

I’ve had plenty of days where my financial uncertainty and stress has lumped itself in my chest in the form of physical pain.

That sucks.

But oddly enough, it’s all been worth it. Here’s why.

• I never count the days until Friday or the hours until the end of the workday.
• No one tells me when to show up to work, what to wear, or how to act.
• My schedule is crafted entirely by me.
• PTO is not a thing. If I want to take a long weekend trip to visit friends, I can.
• I can work wherever I want so long as I have my laptop and an internet connection.

Now, I’m not saying you should care about any of these things too. I know many people who would be an anxious wreck if they were in charge of their own schedule.

My point is: No matter what you’re doing in life, discomfort and sacrifice are unavoidable.

The question you need to be able to answer is: What discomfort or pain do I want to feel and what sacrifices am I willing to make?

What would make it all worth it to you?

Fuck your identity

A robot who is confused by its identity

I’ve talked in the past about cultivating an identity for yourself.


I’m a person who…

• takes care of their health
• does anything for their friends
• works hard for the things they love

I think crafting and molding an ‘identity’ is great if it gets you to take action toward the things you care about. But on the other end, I find it to be totally poisonous.

Recognizing your strengths, weaknesses, and innate interests is a healthy practice of self-awareness. But tying yourself down to an identity can do some serious damage in the long run.


I’m not a person who…

• goes to the gym
• is musical
• puts themselves out there

We are not some concrete structure where the rules and foundations are set in stone. It may be uncomfortable to deviate and stretch our comfort zone, but once we’ve done it, by definition, we are no longer a person who doesn’t do that thing.

Fuck your identity.

Keep your identity small. “I’m not the kind of person who does things like that” is not an explanation, it’s a trap. It prevents nerds from working out and men from dancing. 



Roses are red.

Violets are blue.

This blog is shit.

Fuck you.

Meditation, basically

Most of us have this internal feeling that something is wrong with us. Things can be going great in our lives. We have access to food and clean water. We have shelter. We have people who love us…

Yet we still experience fairly consistent anxiety, doubt, uncertainty…all that good stuff. There’s this lingering feeling that This isn’t enough or I should be doing more.

You don’t have to live a life of austerity or become a monk to address this.

The beauty of mediation is that you don’t even have to stop having these feelings; the goal is just to recognize and identify them.

We all know what it’s like to be angry for an entire hour. But that can be cut down to under a minute by simply capturing all the sensations of anger when they appear.

“I feel slightly hot in my face.”

“I see images of the event that made me mad and hear sentences of things I should’ve said.”

“I’m experiencing distain for this person.”

It sounds overly simple. But by being totally open and honest with what exactly is going on can severely weaken the power of that anger.

This is true for any negative emotion you feel.


Feeling shitty feelings doesn’t make you shitty. They’re unavoidable.

That doesn’t make them fun, but understanding this truth does make them manageable.

The next time you’re sad, notice the difference between:

My life is sad, and

I am feeling sad right now

The discrepancy is both subtle and enormous.

It’s Always Snowy in Philadelphia

Snowy weather in Philadelphia

Last night, I made a game-time decision to drive up to Philly to beat the snow and visit my friends for the weekend.

Three short lessons and I’ll have you back to the rest of your day:

1. Before you pack up the car, write a list of every item you want to bring on paper or in your Notes on your phone. 

As you put items in the car, cross them out or delete them. This may feel tedious at the time, but it’s the only way to ensure you remember 100% of what you want to take (leaving or returning). 

The same thing is true when you go grocery shopping. When I shop without a list, I always come back with more donuts than anticipated.

I made a list for this last-minute trip, but it was too vague. I wrote ‘Work Stuff,’ so I brought my laptop and notebooks. But I forgot my mouse and keyboard.

I’ll be fine without them, but taking six seconds to write those things down would’ve saved me the inconvenience.

2. Visit your damn friends.

There are only so many opportunities to spend memorable, quality time with the people you care about. Take advantage of them.

Take the long weekend. Buy the plane ticket. Pack the car.

It’s always worth it.

3. Have conversations with your friends with no phones in the room.

And old friend told me years ago, “When you’re with someone and they have their phone out in front of them face up, it’s basically a big fuck you.”

Some of you might get defensive when you hear this, but it’s true. It tells the person that they are not the priority. It says, I’ll give you my attention until I get a notification.

Look around the dinner table and see how many people have their phones out.

Unless you’re waiting to hear back about your brother in the hospital, put your fucking phone away when you’re spending quality time with friends. A few dives into your phone can completely upend a conversation.

Last night, the three of us sat and talked and caught up for three hours. Not one of us looked at our phones. It can sound corny, but this meant our only option was to look at each other and actively listen to everything that was being said.

99% of the time, you don’t need your phone. 

Put it away. Keep it in your coat pocket. Hell, leave it in your car.

You’ll survive.


Use people’s names

A smiling bartender

Yesterday, I went on an errand run in the morning.

I got my teeth cleaned at the dentist and my car tuned up at the shop.

Dale Carnegie’s self-help classic, How to Wins Friends and Influence People, is quite archaic in its language (consistently referring to women as secretaries, etc.). But it’s a classic because of its timeless tips on how to conduct yourself in social and professional settings to more easily connect with others.

My favorite tip is probably the simplest:

Use people’s names.

You don’t have to be Donald Trump to love the sound of your own name. Everyone does.

Whether its your nurse, your server, or your mechanic…using someone’s name does several things:

1) It gets their attention.

When the two guys were walking around and fixing up my car, I used their names after reading their name tags. Before then, they were asking me routine questions without making much eye-contact. When I used their names, they would basically stop what they were doing and look directly at me.

When I was a server, whenever people would use my name (if they weren’t an asshole), I felt like I wanted to do more for them.

“Hey Dillan?” will always get more attention than “Excuse me sir?”

2) It shows respect.

When you use a stranger’s name, they will very often look pleasantly surprised—as if no one has ever called them by their name before.

This is probably because for most of us, we’ll meet someone, learn their name, and forget it completely after one or two seconds.

That’s because we don’t genuinely care to learn their name in the first place. But if I told you I’d give you $100,000 to go to the grocery store, meet 20 people, and remember all their names…you would do it effortlessly.

Actually using someone’s name—especially right after learning it—is a surefire way to remember it quickly.

Just don’t overdo it. I got pitched by a salesman last week and a typical sentence from him sounded like:

“Dillan, that’s awesome. And you know what’s so awesome about that Dillan…is Dillan, when you told me that…”

Dude, I get it. You know my name.

It’s obvious when people are doing it to appear respectful versus when they genuinely want to treat you like a human being.

Which brings me to the last benefit.

3) It reminds everyone that we’re all just a bunch of humans.

It’s very easy to go about your day and see others as nameless, faceless extras in the movie of your life.

But she’s not Dentist 1 and he’s not Mechanic 3.

Those are humans who have families, hobbies, and anxieties. Treat them as so.

It’s a great habit to get into. And you never know…you could make someone’s day.

Rules are good

Not too many, of course, but we all need structure.

Principles. Boundaries. Limits.

Play around with them.

I did the keto diet for two years. Quite restrictive. In the end, it wasn’t what I wanted. But I still need rules. I can’t just eat whatever the fuck I want whenever I want.

You don’t have to shame yourself if you break the rules you set. Just readjust them until you find a harmony between healthy and doable.

Two cheat meals in a week? Sure.

Seven cheat meals? No.

You have to know where the line is by trying to draw it.

Whatever pulls you away from the life you want to live: porn, procrastination, social media…

Set some rules, stick to them, and see how you respond to following them.

It sounds restricting (and it is, by definition), but just like a budget is a rule for your money, rules for anything else are designed to give you the freedom to live healthily.

And freedom rules (get it?).

A friendly, shitty reminder

Something to remember when you feel like you’re falling into a black hole of anxiety and stress:

There were folks—individuals, families, and entire civilizations—who worried about the exact same things you’re worrying about.

• How do I take care of myself?
• How do I maintain my relationships?
• What’s the best way to spend my time?

Entire empires and dynasties have come and gone. Do you know any Samarians or Mayans?

Probably not.
That will be you one day.

Do you know you’re great great grandmother?
Probably not.

One day, you’ll be that great great grandmother that no one remembers.

That sounds really shitty, but it’s the truth.

I’m not saying you don’t matter and you’re not allowed to feel anxious. I’m saying that sometimes it’s useful to remember:

At the end of the day, we’re all just a bunch of pretty smart chimpanzees walking around on a floating rock like ants in space zooming around at 18,000 miles per hour.


Why self-help (usually) doesn’t work

A woman practicing self help by running

After hitting rock bottom at 23, I converted to a religion practiced by millions of ambitious individuals around the globe: Self improvement.

Classic books. YouTube videos. Podcasts.

I was consuming hours of content a day in the hopes it would inspire me to build a better life…and it did.

Kind of. Let me explain.

Studies show that when you imagine yourself doing something in the future—exercising, being super productive, writing for hours—the same parts of your brain light up as when you’re imagining someone else entirely.

This is why we’re so confident that we can make a change or build a habit before we actually start (i.e. New Years resolutions). Then we sit down to write that first paragraph or run that first mile and our brain goes, Wait, what the fuck? You mean I actually have to do this?

And thus is the problem with self-help content.

It’s not that it’s all woo-woo BS (though much of it is). The issue is that it’s really good at making you feel energized and motivated. But energy and motivation don’t get things done; taking action does…Typically, it’s consistent, difficult, boring action.

You can read How to Win Friends and Influence People as many times as you want. You can internalize Dale’s lessons, laugh at the sexist 1930s language, and picture yourself at a bar striking up conversations with everyone you meet. That’s all great.

But nothing actually happens until you put yourself out there in social settings and apply what you’ve learned.

In other words: Anything you get out of self-help content is just wasted time or money if you don’t put it into action to make a change.

For two years, I read about 10 books on entrepreneurship. They inspired me to start my own business. They helped me think about how to be productive. Gary Vee yelled at me until I could imagine myself grinding away.

You can probably see what’s coming here.

“…inspired me…”

“…helped me think…”

“…I could imagine myself…”

Nothing got done. No businesses were started.

Every time I sat down to try, I was overwhelmed by how intimidating and uncertain the tasks were. In my mind I was thinking, This isn’t nearly as glamorous as my imagination made it seem, Gary.

Of course, it’s important to get inspired. We all need to think. You have to be able to imagine yourself doing the things you want to do.

I’m not telling you to avoid personal development content. I just want you to avoid the mistake that millions of consumers—myself included—have made, and recognize that none of that content will do the job for you.

If you want to make a change, getting pumped up is 5% of the battle. The other 95 is you stepping out of your comfort zone and putting in the often uncomfortable work.

Eventually, I started my own freelancing business. But it wasn’t because I read the perfect book. It was because I stopped dipping my toes in the freezing cold water and just dove in. It was absolutely terrifying, but something was actually happening.

Action → Motivation → Results → Repeat


Whenever you feel inspired by something—a blog, a conversation, a book…don’t just stop there. Write down specifically how you’re going to use that inspiration or lesson in your life going forward.

That’s where real results and changes occur.

Knowledge isn’t power until you do something with it.

So do something with it.

Do this when you’re in a rut

A guy in a rut

Regardless of what you have going on, we all go through unwanted periods where we feel stuck. In our work. In our relationships. In our bodies.

Aside from true mental health issues (which I know little about), this ebb and flow…this push and pull…it’s inevitable.

One strategy I use when this happens to me is a process I call trimming. Here’s how it works:

1) Eliminate the unnecessary tangibles.

The literal, physical objects you own. Chances are you own more than you need. Way more.

Schedule one to three hours on a weekend. Put on your favorite playlist. Go in your closet, room, and office.

One by one, take every knickknack, every piece of clothing, every dusty box…Rate how much it means to you on a scale from 0 to 100. If it’s anything less than a 90, get rid of it.

A helpful question to ask is, “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I pay to have it?” For many things in our lives, the answer is $0.

People often make serial killer jokes when they enter my space because it’s spotless and organized 100% of the time. But it’s not like I’m cleaning my room every day. I just don’t own enough stuff for it to ever get cluttered.

As cliche as it sounds, decluttering your space has an incredibly positive and immediate effect on your mental clarity. I feel like I have room to breathe when I spend my days in a clean and organized area.

One last note for the sentimental folks:

I’m not sentimental. I keep a shoe box with my favorite memories over the years, but that’s it. So I know I have my biases.

If you truly care about something, keep it. You don’t have to get rid of all your stuff; you just have to be honest about whether you actually get value from something, or you just feel it gives you value when you remember you have it.

Possession bias is real. We overestimate the value of things when we own them already and we underestimate the value of things when we don’t.

It may hurt in the moment, but the fear of not having something is always more powerful than actually removing it from your life.

Get rid of those shoes you haven’t worn in two years.

2) Identify the draining intangibles.

Toxic relationships. Limiting beliefs. Low ROI activities.

This step takes a bit more work because these are more ambiguous.

The key here is to capture the things that are draining you of your energy and work backwards to find their source.


I’m frustrated by my friend’s flakiness and lack of communication.

Why → It’s exhausting to be the only person in the friendship putting effort into it to keep it alive.

Why → One of my core values is communication and I feel like he and I see things differently on that front.

Why → Because I haven’t voiced my frustrations clearly and effectively.

Result → I need to set up a call with him to candidly express how I feel and find some sort of a compromise.

I procrastinate on the scarier things I need to get done to run my business.

Why → I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and I doubt whether or not I can make it work.

Why → I’m not clear on exactly what actions I need to take.

Why → I haven’t broken down my projects into specific, actionable tasks.

Result → With each bigger, broader project, I need to break them each down into the smallest tasks possible so I am crystal clear on what I actually have to get done, step by step.

I feel unmotivated to do certain things I know I need to do.

Why → I’m almost always tired.

Why → I don’t get consistently good sleep.

Why → My nightly routine gets damaged because I often look at my phone the last hour or two I’m in bed.

Result → Set a rule: When I lay in bed to go to sleep, absolutely no phone use. I can only read or try to sleep.


Before you try to find the perfect challenge or set of practices to add to your life to make it more fulfilling, first eliminate any waste.

When someone has cancer, you don’t just pump them full of antibodies; you remove the tumor.

When a writer is editing their draft, they don’t just add better paragraphs; they cut out all the unnecessary ones.

When you’re going through a rut, don’t put more things on your plate; throw away all the nonessentials getting in your way.

Put in the work now to make things easier for yourself going forward.

Don’t do more. Do less, but better.

50% more

What would it look like if you were 50% more compassionate today?

50% more:

• patient
• kind
• sympathetic
• helpful

What would that look like?

Give it a try.

The 5-step formula for developing a passion

A buddy and I were discussing our passions yesterday. Music and coding for him. Coaching and chess for me.

To mirror Cal Newport’s thesis in So Good They Can’t Ignore You, we both agreed that we didn’t begin to feel passionate until we got really good at what we were doing.

Many people think they have to have innate talent or aptitude for something for it to be their ‘thing.’ That’s nonsense.

My friend told me it took him two years to develop a love for programming. It was supposed to be a means to an end for him. He got good enough to land a well-paying job to support himself and his interests. Once he got good enough to quickly put pieces together and solve interesting problems, it became more than just a 9 to 5; it became exciting.

On a smaller scale, I’ve been interested in chess for the past year or so. Within the past month, however, I’ve experienced a serious uptick in my skill level. This has correlated to a spike in my interest. What was once a hobby is now a passion.

I’ve known many people who have sadly stated they are unsure of what they’re passionate about. This is tough, but there is a formula to solve this problem:

1) Try a shit ton of things→

2) Ditch the things that feel like pulling teeth→

3) Practice the thing(s) you like most every week→

4) Get really fucking good at it→

5) Boom. You now have a passion.

It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen quickly, but it is simple.

Keep going.

Never too late

Yesterday, I caught up with an old friend for a few hours. It was lovely.

In the past, she was flakey and non-communicative. This was frustrating.

She told me she was working on it. So I curiously asked her what strategies she was using to work on her communication skills. She looked up at me and said, unironically, “Stuff like this.”

I smiled.

I don’t mean for this to sound condescending, but it’s never too late to improve: skills, relationships, habits.

Seemingly out of the blue, a friend has reappeared in my life. All her own doing.

It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

That one song


Some call it that.

Whenever I spend a decent time away from work, I’m always itching to get back into a productive space.

I’m incredibly grateful for this.

I couldn’t imagine having a job where I’m counting the days until the weekend.

Actually I can….I did this for a few months and I quit.

Whenever I talk to my friends who have full-time jobs they don’t necessarily love, it always feels like I’m shitting on their life choices. That’s not my intention at all.

My stance: It doesn’t have to be your work, but every single person should have an activity or a skill that excites them—that makes them ‘itchy’ when they spend too much time away.

Studies show that people enjoy their jobs more when they spend more time outside of them doing things they love: tennis, writing, playing an instrument.

I recommend that your thing not be something passive like watching Netflix. Movies and shows are lovely and they should be consumed, but it would be much more fulfilling if you had an active practice that was totally your own.

What excites you? What challenges you? What skill do you love improving?

Do it. Do it all the time. Get better at it. Repeat.

You can’t be everything to everyone

It doesn’t matter how many people laugh at your joke; there will always be people who find your words offensive.

It doesn’t matter how even-tempered or rational you are; there will always be people who think you’re foolish and disagree.

It doesn’t matter how good your intentions are; there will always be people who misconstrue them.

If a YouTube video has a million views, it is guaranteed to have thousands of thumbs downs, regardless of its quality.

It doesn’t matter how many people don’t dig your thing. What matters are the people who do.

Tim Ferriss

Don’t read books you hate

Beautiful dark flowers

For years, I was convinced I had terrible taste.

I hated:

• Poetry
• Drinking more than one cup of coffee
• Jazz
• Classic novels
• Card games

I remember forcing myself to listen to weird hipster music and painfully spending hours reading books I wasn’t enjoying. All the while thinking, You like this, you’re enjoying this.

Fuck that.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t dig these things. I’m just saying that I don’t.

You should always keep an open mind and be willing to experience new stuff, but you can’t force yourself to like something.

It doesn’t matter how much your friend loves this movie. If it doesn’t resonate with you then it doesn’t resonate with you. No amount of explanation or argument on their part will bring you much closer to the love that they feel for it.

A good analogy for this is when I tell people I hate smoking weed—it makes me insecure and diminishes my social skills.

I always get the same response from marijuana advocates (Jesus I sound like a 60-year-old Republican):

You just need to find the right strain.

Yes. I need to keep experimenting with this thing that makes me feel miserable until I like it.


I could just do a little bit once in a blue moon to the extent to which I’m comfortable.


It took me until I was 26 to come to terms with the fact that I simply don’t enjoy most classic novels. That’s okay.

I pick one up from time to time. But I never pressure myself to enjoy it (or even to finish it).

When I was in high school, I would literally play music my friends liked and I hated because I didn’t want to admit that my favorite bands were Blink-182 and Green Day.

Again, fuck that.

Life is too short to read books you hate.

You can be open minded and challenge yourself, but there’s no need to torture yourself with something just because other people love it.

Put on some American Idiot. Open your Harry Potter books. And don’t apologize for the things you enjoy.

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it.

Dave Grohl

What do you do when you feel empty?

When the cursor blinks on your blank screen?

When you feel bored with your routine?

When you don’t have the energy to practice…


You show up anyway, make adjustments, and do the work.

The 2 types of fun

Here’s a short article everyone should read.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about as I’ve been sick in my apartment with nothing but time on my hands.

Basically, we define fun as something that is purely pleasurable and enjoyable. But there are actually two types of fun:

Type 1 Fun: Pure fun, untarnished by setbacks

The traditional idea of fun.

These are the things that provide us with dopamine. With smiles and laughs.

For example, when I play a riveting game of chess where I defend well, set up brutal attacks, and win in style…it feels amazing.

Dillan Taylor having fun winning in chess
A well deserved win after a long, tactical game.

When you think about improving in a skill, Type 1 Fun is what gets the spotlight in your mind. It’s the magazine cover. The glamor shot.

It’s fun to imagine yourself as a chess champion, or in great physical shape, or as a phenomenal writer.

But what actually gets you there?

Type 2 Fun: Suffering now; fun after the fact, in retrospect

This is all the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff.

Type 2 Fun is an investment. You sacrifice your comfort now so you can reap the rewards and experience more Type 1 Fun later.

Running sprints does not sound like fun. But it’ll feel great when you finish. You’ll get a runner’s high, be in better shape moving forward, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.

My version of this has been working through chess exercises.

A not so fun chess exercise
The goal is to find the winning combination in your head.

What sucks about these exercises is they can be incredibly boring.

But the worst part about them is that they’re incredibly necessary.

Firstly, they can occasionally be fun. Staring at a puzzle for ten minutes and finally figuring it out is a lovely feeling.

But the point of this Type 2 Fun practice is to set you up for future Type 1 Fun.

You may not notice it in the moment, but it’s almost always boring practice that gives you the skills to play better and improve at what you do.

Playing hours of scales is boring, but those scales are setting you up for more improvisation and soloing, which is fun.


Playing hours of scales = fun

It’s the same with exercise, writing, coding, editing, or any other skill.


Spend more time doing Type 2 Fun. Deliberate practice. Repetitions.

This will bring you much more fun and fulfillment in the long run.

We are all familiar with the life-changing Harry Potter books.

But none of us saw JK Rowling locked in a hotel room banging her head against her keyboard for hours on end.

Because that’s not fun…not yet.

Way more

You don’t appreciate having both arms work until you break one.

You don’t fully appreciate someone until they are gone.

You don’t appreciate your health until you’re laying in bed sick for days.

Take intentional time to reflect all the things you have going for you.

It’s way more than you think.

Working through the fog

A field full of fog in the morning

I found out this weekend that I have Covid.
(Ever heard of it?)

To start, my symptoms are mild(ish) and I’m fine. By no means am I suffering at the level of others I have known. I’m lucky and grateful.

Having said that, everything is harder.

It is taking significantly more effort and to do the things I want to do: read, play chess, have conversations, get work done…

Naturally, I’m going easy on myself. I’m not holding myself to the same productivity standards as usual. I’m taking breaks and resting.

BUT…it still comes back to one simple mindset:

I am a professional.

According to Steven Pressfield, an amateur is someone who does the work when they feel like it; a professional is someone who puts in the time no matter what.

Working out when you don’t feel like it. Getting things done when you’re sick. Practicing your passion/hobby when you don’t feel motivated.

This is all very familiar to the professional.

An amateur would hear this and go, It’s okay to take days off.

Yes and no.

Yes in the fact that rest is necessary to refresh your mind and body.

No in the fact that most amateurs say this and really mean, It’s okay to take a lot of days off.

The people who tell me it’s okay to skip the gym are usually people who aren’t in great shape.

The people who tell me I don’t have to worry about being productive are typically people who don’t run their own businesses.

The people who tell me I don’t need to spend so much time on the things that interest me tend to have no real passions of their own.

I’m aware that this is sounding a little mean. I don’t mean to insult anyone. I’m just pointing out the patterns I’ve noticed over the years.

My point is: Being a professional is not about killing yourself to optimize every second of every day. It’s about working on the things that are important to you even when you don’t feel like it.

I’m sick. Everything is foggy, but I can still see.

I’m grateful to not be in a hospital. I’m grateful to have access to food and internet. I’m grateful to have a bed to take naps in.

I’ll take advantage of all of that when I need to. But until then…

It’s back to work.

Rest up

For the last two years, I have scheduled nearly every hour of every day.

To some, this might sound robotic and insane. To me, it has provided a structure that allows me to get everything done that’s important to me.

I’ve been pretty sick the past few days, so I’ve said fuck it to my usual scheduling routine.

At first, this made me feel insecure and uneasy. The uncertainty of how I would spend my time was not fun.

Then, when I didn’t die, I realized everything would be okay.

When I recover, I’ll continue with my normal system. But this is teaching me the value of unstructured days off. It’s actually more fun to get things done on free days—because I don’t have to do anything. Everything I do is simply because I want to.

Rest up.