There are two people who both want to become amazing piano players.
Person 1 spends weeks researching and buys one of the nicest keyboards they could find. Person 2 buys a cheap one on Facebook Marketplace in a day.
Person 1 is amped to sit down and play, but at random times. When they practice they play for hours, but then go days without touching their keyboard. Person 2 practices for 10 minutes each day no matter what. Person 1 plays when they are motivated. Person 2 builds a system where they play no matter how they’re feeling.
Person 1 jumps around to learn all the songs they love most. Person 2 spends most of their time practicing the fundamentals—scales and chords.
Person 1 talks about playing piano a ton and posts about it on social media. Person 2 actually plays piano a ton and doesn’t talk about it much.
Person 1 takes long breaks from playing when they hit a wall or lose interest. Person 2 pushes through these ruts and improves drastically each time they do.
Person 1 is intimidated by others who are much better than they are. Person 2 finds friends and strangers alike to learn from and be inspired by.
After one year, Person 1 has spent an enormous amount of time thinking about being a great piano player…while Person 2 is actually becoming quite good.
Person 1 has built a gorgeous-looking blueprint. Person 2 got right into the muddy trenches and went to work—making mistakes every single day until things began to flow.
Whether it’s learning an instrument, starting a business, or creating anything, we all want to be more like Person 2.
In the past week, two different people have asked me why I don’t use my blog or newsletter to promote my business or try to get leads.
The answer is simple: I don’t want to. But here’s why.
1) It doesn’t work.
Not in my line of business.
Coaching is about building relationships with people through fun and powerful conversations. This is all done by reaching out, getting curious, and diving deep with individuals…not by sending a mass call to action and impersonally asking people to come to you.
Scenario 1: Someone you went to high school with posts the link to their website in a Facebook status telling everyone they’re giving free coaching sessions.
Scenario 2: Someone you went to high school with messages you asking how you’re doing. You hop on an hour-long call with them and share stories of what you both have been up to for the past decade. You discuss how you both have grown and the direction you’d like to head toward. You hear them talk about their coaching business and how passionate they are about helping people. Maybe at some point they invite you to a coaching session as a gift to see if they can help you too.
Which of these is more likely to lead to you sitting down and doing a session?
You might be thinking: neither. That’s normal. Most people don’t know what life coaching is. They’re afraid of being open and exploring vulnerabilities with someone they barely knew in high school.
But some people are totally down. So if they are, we schedule a call and explore what’s possible in their lives. But this only happens after the proper time has been taken to build that connection.
Here’s the catch…there is no catch. I love connecting with, reconnecting with, and learning more about people. So no matter what, I win. If we have a lovely hour-long chat about what they’re up to, I invite them to a coaching session, and they say no thanks, I still got everything I was hoping for.
I’m not here to “close” clients, hit my numbers, or get any sort of result. I’m here to have as many fun and powerful conversations as I possibly can. If a conversation leads to a paying client, cool! If not, cool!
Which brings me to the main reason I don’t promote my business on my blog or newsletter…
Someone told me last week that they disagreed with something I wrote a year ago on this blog.
To which I replied: “I have no doubt.”
I write one of these blogs every day (except on Sundays). It’s used more as a journal than a medium for sharing my thoughts. It would be truly impossible for 100% of people who read it to agree with 100% of what I say.
That’s not to say I’m free from criticism. Far from it. I post this for all to see. I’m thinking out loud…and it would be hypocritical if I got hurt when others thought out loud back at me. I welcome messages and challenges.
I love when people disagree with me, thinking I’m missing something, or am being unfair. It leads to fun and hopefully fruitful conversation.
Even more so, I love when I disagree with myself. Sometimes I’ll go back and read random blogs I wrote a few years ago and cringe at my preachiness and self-righteousness. But I’m grateful for that disgust because it means, hopefully, that I’m growing.
You can please some of the people some of the time…but some people will always quietly hate you.
I heard a quasi-debate the other day between friends.
The question at play: What leads to a person’s success—hard work…or luck?
On one end, we can be given all the best tools and resources necessary to live amazing lives; but if we don’t take action and actually use those tools…nothing will happen.
We need to do the work.
On the other end, we don’t choose anything about ourselves: to be born, who our parents are, where we’re born, our brain makeup, etc. If we grow up in a neighborhood where education isn’t available and drugs and violence are rampant…it would be almost impossible to develop an “I’ll just work my ass off” mentality.
We need to be lucky.
The Growth Mindset—the belief that we can improve in anything with enough time and effort put into it—is real. But it’s only real if a person believes it’s real. Hence the word mindset.
And a person can only believe it’s real if they have the luck and means to—e.g. a community which challenges them, an inner ability to pursue things, or access to the internet or to books.
As with almost every debate, my stance is that two things can exist at the same time. In order to be successful we must put in the work consistently…and we have to be lucky.
I just finished The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.
It was a super helpful, albeit cheesy book on running a business.
Here are my two biggest takeaways:
1) Being a Technician—i.e. being skilled at your craft/service—does not qualify you to be a business owner.
Great bakers, coaches, or carpenters don’t necessarily make folks who are great at running bakeries, practices, or home remodeling companies. Running the back end of a business is a completely different ball game.
In short, there’s a huge difference between working in your business and working on your business.
2) Your business is not your life; it should fuel your life.
I needed to hear this.
For the past year, I’ve been growing my first ever business and have become more and more passionate about it as it grows each month. Thinking about my business—creating clients, scheduling calls, inviting people to coaching sessions….I would be focusing on this stuff almost 24/7.
I wore that like a badge of honor, but I had to be reminded that that wasn’t my life. My life is my friends, my family, my health. My life is the freedom I enjoy with the people I love. I want my work to give me more freedom, not chip away at it.
If anyone owns any kind of business, or is at least considering it (no matter how big or small), I would consider this book mandatory reading.
Last night, I really wanted to stay up and watch YouTube videos on my phone. I wasn’t tired enough to go to bed at my ideal hour: 10pm.
I recently listened to a podcast where a comedian talked about the Addict Brain. He was using it in the context of cocaine and cigarettes, but said it applies to almost everything we do.
To be clear, I have friends and clients who have been to rehab and have been sober for years because of their addictions. By no means have I experienced an archetypal, debilitating addiction to drugs or alcohol.
But the Addict Brain is at play whenever we are faced with something we know is no good for us but our mind tells us: “Don’t worry, it makes sense for you to do this!”
Logically, I’m 100% certain I will regret these things if I do them:
• DoorDashing a large Wawa sub with mac and cheese instead of cooking a decent meal. • Staying up watching YouTube on my phone until 12:30 at night. • Skipping my meditation, the gym, or jiujitsu. • Watching porn. • Playing video games instead of going to class (when I was in high school and college).
When I have been faced with these decisions, logic is never at play. The Addict Brain throws rationality out the window. I say I’m certain I’ll regret these things because I have mountains of evidence which prove that to be true. I’m never happy or fulfilled after doing any of these things.
So last night, when I had all the energy in the world to stay up later and watch my favorite chess streamers…I turned my phone off and tried to sleep. After 20 or 30 minutes of tossing and turning, I woke up this morning, slid my sleep mask off, and began my morning routine feeling refreshed and grateful.
Thus is the age-old battle between instant gratification and long-term fulfillment.
I’m fulfilled when I’m:
• Eating well. • Getting great, consistent sleep. • Active and mindful. • Present. • Productive.
The thing is, all this stuff takes time. It’s a slow burn. It compounds, meaning it takes a while to feel the effects but the longer we do it the stronger those effects are.
Example: I’m not just working out this afternoon so I can feel accomplished today. I’m working out this afternoon and then consistently after so I can look good with my shirt off, do fun and athletic things in the future, and be in great shape for my partner and family down the road.
But it all starts today.
It begins with our next meal, with tonight’s bedtime routine, with the next workout. And then the next one. Then the next. And so on…
The Addict Brain wants to keep us from being healthy and fulfilled. But fuck that.
I am not religious at all, but here’s the closest thing I have to a faith-based belief:
Every single one of us has the ability to create the life we want, and the only thing in our way are the stories we tell ourselves.
These stories may sound like…
• “I’m just not x.“ • “I don’t know how to y.” • “I need to be more z.“
But they’re all complete nonsense. Understandable nonsense…but nonsense all the same.
There are people without limbs in the Olympics, blind musicians, and impoverished and oppressed people who become financially free.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy and that doesn’t mean we should do nothing for those less fortunate. It’s a battle for all of us. Some will have to fight harder than others.
Me, for example…I grew up in a great neighborhood, had loving and supportive parents and friends, and have never feared for my life. I have both gone through hell, and at the same time, had it super easy.
This isn’t some “being broke is a mindset” blog. I advocate for compassion and understanding of all.
But I encourage anyone to fight for what they want, wherever their starting line is.
I had a lovely coaching session with a client this past weekend where he let something go after seven years.
He had been writing songs since he got out of college and they have been unfinished all this time. The challenge is, his music tastes have changed a ton so he doesn’t feel inclined to go and finish the songs he started years ago.
By talking it out, he decided to let those songs go and archive them.
“I’m not going to finish them and there’s a reason why.”
He decluttered his life. He made space for more time and bandwidth.
Our bank accounts are the sum total of our financial habits. The way we look and feel is the sum total of our diet and exercise habits. How messy or tidy our space is is the sum total of our cleanliness habits.
Last month, I got terrible sleep. Since my sleep quality is the sum total of my sleeping habits, I did some investigation.
I noticed I was:
• on my phone a lot right before bed • eating later in the day • drinking more alcohol than usual
So I improved the system. No phone after 10pm. Not eating past 8pm. No alcohol on weekdays.
After just one week, my sleep quality has improved drastically and I feel ten times more refreshed and energetic.
In a recent conversation with a coaching friend, she told me, “It’s impressive to me how you set a goal and just attack it.” I was truly touched by her compliment, but right away I explained that that’s not how I approach things.
In the self-help world, we’re told to set SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. e.g. “I’m going to lose 15 pounds by August 2nd.”
I understand the utility of setting such specific goals, but they don’t light me up at all. I usually change my mind halfway through working toward them or if I do accomplish them, I’m left with this empty feeling and simply ask, “Now what?”
I much prefer systems.
To be more clear: I prefer designing systems which allow me to consistently doing the things I enjoy and get better at them. Here are a few of them…
I reach out to a certain number of people each week and update my client notes every Monday. I’m not working toward a defined number of clients or a specific dollar amount. I just love coaching and growing my business, so I have a system in place which lets me do those things well every single week.
I’ve never set an exercise goal. I couldn’t care less about how much I can bench or squat. But I love exercise, so I make sure I go to the gym three to four times each week. The cycle: push muscles (chest and triceps), core, pull muscles (back and biceps), and legs.
I look at the analytics of this blog about once a year. I’m eternally grateful for how the number of readers has increased, but I don’t do it to raise traffic. I write this blog each morning because it helps me shape and get clarity on my thoughts on things. I’ve become more articulate and I get to share stories and ideas with friends and people outside my circle. So I’ve made it part of my morning routine.
So I’ll ask you: How can you create a system for the things you enjoy so you can do them more and do them better?
Do you reject systems? If so, why? And does rejecting systems lead you to take more action or less?
I’m watching my mom’s dogs for the week. They’re both anxious as hell.
One has separation anxiety. The instant I walk out the door he starts barking and crying until someone returns. The neighbors love it.
The other can’t make it halfway around my apartment building without trying to shed her harness off. She gets terrified by the sounds around her: cars, birds, cicadas…and pleads to head back to the house.
Logically, the first dog must know that someone will come back home. They always do. And the second dog must know that nothing is going to attack her while we’re on our walk. Nothing ever does.
But we can’t logic away our emotions.
I firmly believe that we should train ourselves to step away from powerful emotions which aren’t serving us. But that doesn’t eliminate the fact that we feel powerful emotions.
When I see someone get triggered during a socio-political conversation, I think: That’s not useful. But I never judge that person. We experience emotional responses that aren’t useful almost every day.
Extreme pride, shame, panic, disgust…These almost never serve us.
If I could explain to these dogs that they have nothing to worry about and they changed their behavior, their lives would become much easier. But how often does that actually happen?
We all know that person who got back with their shitty significant other after being cheated on twice. That’s clearly illogical. But we’re not logical beings. We make decisions based on our emotions and then justify them with logic.
We’re not awful people for having harmful emotions. But it’s up to us to not let them dictate our actions or decision-making.
We often wonder or are asked, “What do you want in life?”
Naturally, this is an important question. It’s valuable to be able to paint a vivid picture of what our ideal life looks like or what we’re working toward. But I don’t actually think it’s the most useful question if we want to know these things.
Pain, discomfort, doubt, anxiety, displeasure…These are all totally natural experiences as we go about our lives. Unless a person has achieved enlightenment, they’re a liar if they claim to never feel any of these unpleasant emotions.
I live a fulfilling life. I love what I do, have amazing friendships, am healthy, and have a number of hobbies and passions I pursue…And I experience these shitty feelings all the time.
The question most people fail to ask themselves is this:
What stress am I willing to experience?
Let me explain.
Last year, I worked my first sales job and fucking hated it. I dreaded going to work, wasn’t good at it, and would come home utterly drained and void of energy to do anything I cared about. That was stressful.
During lockdown, I quit that job and started freelancing. I had to teach myself skills I’d never tried before and ask people to pay me to do them, wasn’t good at it, and never knew where my next paycheck would come from. That was stressful.
But here’s the thing: I was super willing to take on that second form of stress. The stress from my old sales job broke me. The Resistance was higher than the value I got out of it. But when I was freelancing, the freedom I experienced in creating my own schedule and living life on my own terms was totally worth the discomfort I was feeling.
Stress and discomfort are natural constants in life. What discomfort are you willing to go through? What makes it all worth it?
It’s always a bittersweet morning when a friend leaves after visiting for the weekend.
When he arrived on Thursday night, I thought, Wow, we have three nights. He’ll be here forever!
But as happens every time, the weekend flew by and before I knew it I was hugging him goodbye.
He left me with some insight as he packed up his stuff. He said it rarely feels like his trips last the perfect amount of time; it’s either not enough time or too much. “I prefer when it feels like I wish I had more time. I remember the trips purely as fun, with zero frustration. Also, it makes me excited for the next one.”
It certainly wasn’t enough time…I am looking forward to the next one.
I started playing chess last summer. Since then, I’ve played almost every day.
One of the main reasons I got into it was because one of my close friends played as well. He would destroy me, and we’re both quite competitive so that was all the drive I needed to want to improve. I had a worthy rival: Someone just ahead of me to push and challenge my skills.
I read books, got a chess tutor for a month, and have watched mountains of chess content on YouTube.
After about a year of playing consistently, I finally feel like I’m at the point where I can play my friend and confidently beat him most of the time. (Sorry, Andrew!)
This makes me happy for a number of reasons:
1) Feeling our skills improve is one of the best experiences in the world.
Seeing our muscles get bigger, or timing sharpen, our understanding flow better…There is a motivating excitement that comes with any sort of visible growth.
What we’re trying to improve becomes more fun since we can simply do more things.
2) Competition is fun.
For many of us, that competitive drive will never leave. But as we get older, the hope is that we channel it in more productive ways.
Winning in chess is obviously more fun than losing (especially against a good friend), but what’s more fun is competing against my past self.
Seeing my ELO increase is jubilating. (An ELO is the number that rates a player’s skill level.)
It took me a while to break 1300. Now I’m trying to break 1400. And so on.
3) The Growth Mindset is real.
The Fixed Mindset is the idea that every skill falls into having natural ability or not. Some people can and some people can’t.
People with a Fixed Mindset say things like:
• “I’m just not a musical person.” • “I suck at this.” • “This just isn’t something I can do.”
Of course, we all have certain strengths and weak spots. But the Growth Mindset states that if we just put enough time and energy into something, we can improve at it.
Example: I’ve said my whole life that I’m not a business guy. Now, after running a coaching business for about a year, I’m training and coaching others on how to run their businesses. Practice, bitches.
There have been plenty of times where I wanted to stop playing chess because I felt like I had plateaued. But I just kept playing and practicing.
I completed a sprint triathlon yesterday morning with my best friend.
A quarter-mile swim. A 12-mile bike. Then a 5k run.
I didn’t prepare for it nearly as much as I should have. Prior to the event, I only swam three times and ran two. Not ideal.
The swim was the toughest part by far. My arms were exhausted during the last few laps. Once I got out of the pool, it felt like I won the entire event…despite being like 200 people behind.
We went into the pool one by one, swimming through each lane down and back, then under the rope and into the next lane. We went in based on our swim times. Naturally, I went in with the last group because I assumed I would need to take a few breaks. I made friends in line and we bonded over our lack of ability.
My buddy went in way ahead of me….He had prepared properly. I got into the pool 15 minutes after he got out. Our plan to complete the triathlon together went out the window.
I was feeling insecure coming in because of my lack of training. I feared being surrounded by a bunch of super-athletes judging me for not taking this as seriously as I should’ve. But I learned something powerful yesterday.
There were folks of all kinds of shapes, sizes, ages, and capabilities competing. Here’s the lesson I gathered from seeing all these wonderful people do their thang:
There will always be a shit ton of people who are way better than we are at something. There will always be a shit ton of people who are way worse than we are at that same thing. It doesn’t make sense for us to compare ourselves to either group.
We should learn from and be inspired by those ahead of us and help and teach those behind us. We need only compare ourselves to who we were in the past. Am I better than I was last month? Last week? Yesterday?
When I was in line for the swim, I met an 82-year old who has done a ton of these events. I’ll leave you the advice he left me.
If you’re not having fun, you might as well stay home.
I’m woefully unprepared for the swim portion, but I’ll make it happen.
The date seemed to pop up out of nowhere.
It was a lovely example of the importance of being proactive so our future selves can be happier. There were several days where I decided not to go swim laps because I simply didn’t feel like it. It truly felt like I had all the time in the world to prepare.
“Not today. Next week though…I’ll definitely do the work later.”
The past month has been the best month I’ve ever had financially. It’s also been the worst month I’ve had mentally in 2021.
I’ve felt unorganized, my habits have slipped, and I’ve just been uncharacteristically not taking care of myself as well as I tend to.
But this week, I feel like myself again. I’ve had several ‘first day back’s. What the hell does that mean? (And is that grammatically correct? Probably not.)
Well, when we step away from something—a habit or routine—coming back to it, getting back on the horse, is always uncomfortable and full of Resistance.
When I skip the gym for a week, my first day back is always a sluggish, difficult workout. The same is true for my morning routine, reading, running, jiujitsu, chess, and any other activity that’s important to me.
The problem many of us face on our first day back? We forget that there’s something beautiful on the other side of Resistance. Better skills. More confidence. Improved health.
The crazy thing is that we once knew what these things felt like, but now they feel like distant memories.
When I was in high school, I could dribble and juggle a soccer ball with ease. I could shoot on goal for hours and place the ball where I wanted at times. Now, when I shoot a soccer ball almost a decade later, I have no idea where the ball will go. I’ve lost my touch.
There was a thing I once knew but have lost because I’m out of practice. Now, I’m not saying I’m going to start training to be a soccer player again…but if I truly wanted to, I could get it all back.
I’d just have to show up on my first day back, deal with the fact that I have to earn back my skills and flow, and keep practicing.