It’s Always Today (in Philadelphia)

There are two choices.

1) Constantly look toward the future for fulfillment.

“I’ll be happy when…”

“Once I do x then I’ll feel y.”

“As soon as I have x then I’ll be y.”

We can look for tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes.

It’s always today.

2) Choose to be happy and fulfilled now.

What if this moment, in all its chaos, in all its uncertainty, in all its discomfort…What if this moment right here and now were perfect?

Happiness can’t be something we become, only something we can be (deep).

If you delegate your own happiness to your future self, you’ll just run into the same thing you’re feeling now, later.

Don’t procrastinate your satisfaction.

Feel that shit right here and now.

Fixing Your Relationships

Are you in a toxic relationship? Let me clarify.

We often think we do a bunch of different things. But we can see it as being in a bunch of different relationships.

You have a relationship with work.

You have a relationship with health.

You have a relationship with clothes, food, friends, reading, sleep…you name it.

The question is: How healthy (or toxic) are your relationships?

A year ago, my relationship with work was that of stress, exhaustion, and lack of fulfillment. Once I quit and started running my own businesses, it became one of immense joy, excitement, and meaning.

Three years ago, my relationship with the gym was that of insecurity, discomfort, and reluctance. Once I pushed through enough Resistance and got fit, it became one of love, energy, and even necessity.

When I attempted suicide three summers ago, my relationship with figuring life out was that of avoidance, confusion, and darkness. Once I began taking intentional steps toward something better, it became one of gratitude, resilience, and total fulfillment.

TL; DR:

It is crucial to understand the strength (or lack thereof) of your relationships with the things you do.

It is even more crucial to understand that if you aren’t happy with a certain relationship, you can change it.

How to Change the World in 2 Hours

I almost killed a guy yesterday.

Well, not really. But I thought about it.

It was just one of the numerous negative thoughts boiling in my head as I was driving around. Running on just five hours of sleep, I was truly the worst version of myself. That’s when I realized:

How many of us are out and about in the world–sleep deprived, groggy, improperly fed–interacting as a shitty version of ourselves?

Let me explain.

After I caught myself contemplating running over that dude (To be fair, it was a biker on a narrow, winding road–How dare he?), I finished up my errands and went to the gym.

Despite wanting to just go home and lay down, I dragged myself through an intense workout. Without fail, I walked out feeling almost high with endorphins. There was a smile on my big, dumb face and as cheesy as it sounds…I felt like myself again.

It was as if I woke up from the Matrix. The thought of bringing harm to another person (even one of those damn bikers) was anathema. When I stopped by the store for a protein bar, I had this incessant urge to compliment people through my mask. I said I liked this dude’s Red Hot Chili Peppers shirt. He and his wife laughed. He said, “Ah, thanks man!”

I tell this story to highlight two key things:

1) I don’t care how many times you’ve heard it before. Every single one of us needs to get good sleep and exercise regularly.

I understand people’s frustration in having this preached at them. These are two simple practices, but they require a series of difficult habit-changes. It’s not as simple as: “I’ll just get better sleep,” or, “I’ll start exercising regularly.”

If it were that easy, we’d all be the best versions of ourselves.

The hardest part of doing either of these is getting over what I call the habit void.

When you’re trying to do something that’s good for you, the habit void is the uncomfortable stretch of time where it just sucks and you’re seeing zero benefit.

The first month at the gym is sweaty, insecure, and exhausting. Once over the habit void, the sixth month at the gym is fluid, exciting, and energizing.

The first week of going to bed earlier is restless, frustrating, and stressful. Once over the habit void, the fourth week of going to bed earlier is relaxing, peaceful, and fueling.

We can justify and make excuses all we want. Whether you like it or not, sleep and exercise are two things you absolutely need. You may see them as asshole-acquaintances. The best solution is to make them your best friends.

Which brings me to #2.

2) If each of us (or at least most of us) got great sleep and regularly exercised, how much better off would the world be?

I know that sounds grandiose. Hear me out.

If another hour of sleep or a single workout can transform me from cranky, easily-irritated, and judgmental…to peaceful, patient, and compassionate…what the hell would society look like if we all took doses of these healthy practices?

I don’t think we’d all hold hands and sing Kumbaya (especially during a pandemic). But I do believe we’d feel a greater sense of community, connection, and genuine care toward one another.

We would feel better. We would be more confident. We would be happier.

These are NOT small things. They bring with them a snowball effect of countless other positive features.

We would be more efficient. We would be more willing to help others. We would be more present.

Maybe this is all a pipe dream. But I don’t think so. We’ll never get everybody to do the things they need to do.

But we can control what we do and make it more accessible and appealing to others. At the very least, we can experience the benefits of healthy practices ourselves and use them to brighten someone’s day.

Even if it’s just one dude and his Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt…

Nice Guys Finish…First?

“Nice guys finish last” is bullshit.

There are annoying limits to someone being too nice or not assertive enough…but for the vast majority of people, if you are kind to me then I’m MUCH more likely to help you out.

Do girls like bad boys? Assholes?

With the girls I’ve known and have been with, most say yes…for a short while.

The general consensus is that being with a douche-bro is exciting and spontaneous for a bit. But then, after a week or even a few years, they realize it’s not sustainable.

How many shows or movies have you seen where the mom dates a sweater-wearing dud after divorcing her leather jacket-wearing wildcard?

I’m getting off track here. My goal is to champion the nice guys.

The trick: How can you be a respectful and loving human being without letting others walk all over you?

The solution: set boundaries.

Be it with your boss, strangers, even your best friends…you must project to others that YOU are in control of your time and energy.

Yesterday, I was catching up with a fellow entrepreneur friend. We talked about the prospect of me helping him rewrite content on his website.

When he offered to exchange yoga lessons for my writing, I had to set a “boundary” at the risk of hurting his feelings.

I said: “Thanks man. But at this point in time, yoga isn’t something I value enough to pay for, so I don’t think I’d be willing to exchange hard working hours. But the next time you do a free group session, I’d love to hop in.”

You know what he said?

“Word. I totally feel that man.”

And then we moved on…

Notice: I 1) thanked him for his offer, 2) explained my honest feeling toward his offer, 3) said no clearly (without actually saying the word no), and 4) offered something new moving forward.

This may seem like a benign example. But when I spoke those words, I could feel the adrenaline. Saying no. Setting boundaries. These are tough to do and they can create a strange amount of anxiety.

The sacrifice: Short term discomfort for long term wellbeing.

I risked hurting his feelings by telling him I didn’t value something he’s passionate about. But even if he was hurt (which he wasn’t at all), setting this boundary would prevent even greater damage to both our futures.

If I reluctantly said yes to his offer, I’d be doing work I normally love with a sense of resentment. I’d also probably see his yoga sessions as a chore more than something new and cool to learn.

None of this is fair to either of us. It’s dishonest.

People pleasing might seem like the respectful thing to do in the moment. But in the long run, it’s actually the least respectful thing you could do to someone.

Don’t be a nice guy or gal just to appear as one.

Be a nice guy or gal because it will bring you and others lasting happiness.

Are You Bored Yet?

Well are ya punk?

One thing that separates the pros from the amateurs is the ability to be bored.

As we do things over and over–even things we really love–they become easier, more automatic, and as a result…more boring.

The trick is two-fold:

1) How can you make it less boring by adding some zest and variety?

2) How can you make sure you show up each and every day, despite being bored?

Let’s start with #2.

Anyone can do a thing when they really feel motivated to. What’s much harder, and MUCH more important, is to do that thing when it’s the last thing you feel like doing.

Sitting down to write when you just feel like laying in bed on your phone proves that your mood doesn’t determine your ability to get work done. A doctor doesn’t “doctor” only when they feel like it.

It can sound dramatic to some…but the only real way to get lasting fulfillment in what you do is to act like a professional and show up each and every day.

You don’t feel like practicing your instrument? Good; sit down and work on your scales. You don’t feel like exercising? Good; get your ass to the gym. You don’t feel like reaching out to that family member? Good; pick up the phone.

Doing things when you don’t feel like it doesn’t make them any easier. What it does is solidify the fact that this is what you do.

It’s funny to me how the people who tell me it’s okay to skip days at the gym are often people who never go themselves. The people who tell me it’s okay to not be productive all the time are often people who aren’t running their own business. The people who tell me it’s okay to splurge and eat what I want are often people who don’t take great care of their health in the first place.

(I agree that breaks and rest are super important. This is just a pattern I’ve noticed.)

A professional doesn’t feel like doing the thing any more than the amateur. They just don’t let that feeling dictate whether or not they do it.

As for #1–adding more flavor to the things you do regularly…

As the weeks go by, how can you make incremental changes to increase the difficulty (and therefore your interest) of your consistent habits?

This is why gym-goers gradually increase the weight they lift, why people decide to read two chapters a day instead of just one, why some set their alarms to wake up 15 minutes earlier.

To ensure that we don’t get stuck in a boring rhythm, we have to make things interesting. Challenging, but not so challenging that we give up.

Take anything that you do all the time. How could you make a small change to make it more engaging?

For me: I set a rule a month ago that I had to go to jiujitsu at least once a week. Now that that has been engrained in my routine, I’ve set the rule to going at least twice a week.

Eventually, I’ll bump it up to three. Then four.

There are plenty of weeks where I go every day. But there are also weeks where I don’t go at all. With these rules in place, my mood is taken out of the equation. I don’t have the option to skip a week.

I care about jiujitsu. Therefore, I have to be a professional and go. It’s what I do.

Where do you want to be a professional?

What do you want to do? Better yet, who do you want to be?

The One Thing

Here’s a great exercise for planning how you will accomplish your humungous, far out, lifetime goal:

1. What’s the one thing you want to do SOMEDAY?

ex. “I want to make a full-time income by life-coaching.”

2. What is the one thing you can do in the next 5 YEARS to make that happen?

ex. “Establish a profitable individual and business coaching business.”

3. What’s the one thing you can do THIS YEAR to make that happen?

ex. “Develop my coaching and marketing skills–to bring the highest possible value to clients and to make myself seen.”

4. What’s the one thing you can do THIS MONTH to make that happen?

ex. “Continue learning new coaching skills and have a clearer online presence.

5. What’s the one thing you can do THIS WEEK to make that happen?

ex. “Revamp my coaching page.”

6. What’s the one thing you can do TODAY to make this happen?

ex. “Add my testimonials to the coaching page.”

7. What’s the one thing you can do RIGHT NOW to make this happen?

ex. “Copy and paste my emailed testimonials and put them in their own folder in my Notes.”

This lovely exercise answers the question:

What should I do right now to take a step toward accomplishing this enormous thing I want in the future?

Why You’re Not a Piece of Shit

Well, who knows. Maybe you are.

You’re lazy. You don’t follow through. You quit things you say are important to you.

At least, that’s what you tell yourself…Let me explain.

The vibe in the air seems to be that some people are disciplined while others are lazy. I don’t buy it.

We come from tens of thousands of years of primates. Our sole job for 99% of our existence: survive.

In other words: in a world of evading dangerous predators, finding food and water, and keeping ourselves warm in the freezing cold…our brains have evolved to seek instant gratification.

I doubt my ancestor from 15,000 BC ate lunch thinking, “I really need to watch myself. I’m starting to see some love handles.”

Instead, he was probably thinking, “Holy fuck I hope I don’t see any lions today.”

My point is: it takes an incredibly long time for evolution to make even the tiniest of changes to our brains. Since that is the case, we have to realize that in our modern age, we are advancing our technologies and societies MUCH faster than we are advancing our own hardware.

We certainly know a lot more than the average human 300 years ago. But our brain chemistry hasn’t changed that much.

So, what’s the point of me saying this? It’s simple:

Give yourself a fucking break.

Holding yourself accountable is awesome. I playfully shit on myself every day.

“Don’t eat that, fatty.”

“Stop complaining and get your ass to the gym.”

“Get off your phone and do something productive, you lazy piece–“

Anyway. A healthy amount of calling yourself out is great (people hate it, but fat shaming myself is the only way I stay in shape).

However, it is vital to understand that just because you’re not the most motivated or productive person on planet earth…that doesn’t mean you’re broken.

We are working with ancient hardware in a super modern world.

It’s hard for you to build great habits because building great habits is fucking hard.

It’s hard for you to squash bad habits because squashing bad habits is fucking hard.

Most people who are crushing it in life are no smarter than you are. Hell, I’m doing pretty well myself and I’m a just a man-baby with a keyboard.

The things which often set these folks apart are tiny changes which have astronomical impacts:

• Changing the environment to make good habits easy and bad habits hard.

• Removing distractions–social media, news, email, etc.

• Getting over the habit void–i.e. the period of uncomfortable time where there hasn’t been any benefit yet to implementing a habit.

These are all doable for each and every one of us.

That doesn’t mean they are easy. It just means…dare I say it?

You can do it.

Motion vs. Action

One of my greatest struggles is falling into the motion trap.

Motion refers to planning, strategizing, and learning. These are all lovely and incredibly necessary.

But it’s all too easy to get stuck in motion: trying to come up with the perfect plan…making sure I’m absolutely ready to move forward.

What happens though, is that all of this learning and preparation makes me feel as if I’ve actually accomplished something. When really, I’ve just been preparing to accomplish something.

Reading about copywriting, taking notes, and researching where to find work are all great things. But if I only did that for a year, I would get evicted from my apartment.

At the end of the day, no one has paid me money to write copy for them–which is the desired outcome. It also pays my rent.

The solution is simple, and terrifying: spend some time preparing, then put your gloves on and jump into the mud.

At the University of Florida, professor Jerry Uelsmann did a study with his photography students. He divided the class into two groups: half would be the “quantity” group and the other half, the “quality” group.

The quantity group would be graded by sheer number of photos taken; if they turned in 100 photos each week, they would get an A.

The quality group on the other hand, would be graded on a single photo for the semester. They had months to focus on taking and editing the absolute best quality photo they possibly could.

At the end of the semester, Jerry noticed that the quantity group were turning in pictures which were wildly better than the quality group. He also noted that the quantity group’s pictures drastically improved as the weeks went on.

The lesson: planning and pondering can only do so much for you. The real juice comes from taking a shit ton of action, practicing, and removing yourself from perfectionism.

Jump in.

Writing a Blog Every Day for a Year: Here’s What I’ve Learned

A year and a month ago, I sat down to write my first blog.

It was about starting something new. Something scary. Not knowing what would come of it.

I’ve written every day since then (except Sundays). Here’s what I’ve learned:

1) Things become MUCH easier when willpower is taken out of the equation.

I don’t sit down each morning and decide whether or not I should write a blog. There’s no battle. I have no choice. It’s what I do.

At first, I was afraid (I was petrified) that I’d quickly run out of interesting things to say. I’ve learned however that creativity is a skill; it’s like a muscle. Meaning if you exercise it, practice it, and use it all the time…you become wildly better.

2) If you want to create things for others, you have to love doing it for YOU first.

If I set out to write blogs and newsletters with the priority of gaining an audience, I would have quit after two months.

Things like fame, followers, and money…it’s okay to want these things (we shouldn’t have to lie to ourselves). But if they are your #1 motivator, that’s just unsustainable.

Building trust in people with your ideas, your products, or your art…none of this happens in a week. I’ve been working hard(ish) for over a year and I just began to experience an uptick in readership.

My advice to anyone who wants to pursue something like this:

Ask yourself, “Am I willing to do this all the time for a year or two before anyone really starts to care?”

If the answer is no, I suggest you recalibrate.

I’ve never hesitated in writing these blogs because I fucking love writing them. They’re a fast and easy way for me to work out whatever is on my heart and mind. It’s like I have a journal public to all.

Even if I had a readership of one (myself), you’d still find me sitting here and typing.

If after writing that first blog, I fantasized about how amazing I would feel a year later, having written every day, it would have been distracting.

The only way I could keep at it: sitting down each day and focusing on nothing but today’s blog. Tomorrow will come. Trust me.

Do it because you love it, not because it might bring you rewards. If you get really fucking good at it, and continue to bring value to others…the rewards will inevitably come.

3) Cringing at your past work is one of the best feelings.

When I read my old shit, I want to fold into myself like a dead spider and shrivel away. I love it.

Looking at your old work–especially when you first started–is such an embarrassing experience. But why?

It’s because you’re so much better now than you were then.

You have better taste. You’re improving. You’re moving forward.

If you’re not disgusted at the work you did a year ago, that should worry you…

TL; DR.

Doing something creative/fun/interesting every single day is one of the most rewarding things you could do for yourself.

A year from now, you’ll be glad you started today.

To quote myself from that first blog:

“If you’re worried about beginning because your work will be garbage, don’t. It will be. The trick is to understand the value of sucking and keeping at it until you develop the potential quality your idea deserves. Here we go.

Start.”

Where Do Your Habits Live?

A week ago, I wrote about my new lair.

Having specific jobs for specific spaces is life-changing.

Working at your dining table can feel cool and freeing, but it can also make things foggy.

Is this where I work…or where I eat? When do I stop one thing and start the other?

Once I moved into this new apartment and began working in a separate studio, two things became wildly easier: work and sleep.

I have zero distractions while I’m working because I’m in a space where productivity is all that exists.

I fall asleep almost immediately in my room because my bed is all that exists.

Every habit should have a home.

Studio = Productivity
Room = Sleep

This is where I cook. This is where I read. This is where I exercise. Combining spaces can do damage to one or all of the habits you’re trying to entertain there.

I read about this crazy study from James Clear’s Atomic Habits:

“In one study, scientists instructed insomniacs to get into bed only when they were tired. If they couldn’t fall asleep, they were told to sit in a different room until they became sleepy. Over time, subjects began to associate the context of their bed with the action of sleeping, and it became easier to quickly fall asleep when they climbed in bed. Their brains learned that sleeping—not browsing on their phones, not watching television, not staring at the clock—was the only action that happened in that room.”

Where do your habits live?

My Identity

What do you identify as? No, not that.

I’m referring to the link between our identities and our actions.

In my personal and professional experience, I’ve noticed that one of the leading causes of an unsatisfying life is: a disconnect between what we do and who we want to be.

In the past, I’ve said that I value my health and fitness. Meanwhile, at the time, I was eating whatever I wanted and was barely exercising. Consciously or unconsciously, I felt like a piece of shit.

It can sound grandiose, but take a look at your values and brainstorm exactly who you want to be when it comes to each one. Pair them with your consistent actions and pinpoint any discrepancies. Here are mine:

Friends/Family

• I’d like to treat my close friends like they are my brothers and sisters–supporting each other in our pursuits, giving feedback when necessary, always laughing…

• I want to help make my mom’s life easier and more enjoyable. She has given me everything good in my life and giving her back even a fraction of it would make it all worth it.

Business

• When it comes to learning, trying new things, and pursuing interesting projects, I’d like to always emulate a Growth mindset. Meaning, with everything I do, I know that if I simply put in enough time and effort, I can become good at anything–especially things which terrify me.

• I never want to chase money. Instead, I always want to chase helping others solve problems. Seeking value over seeking rewards from doing so.

• Having said that, I never want to feel the pit in my chest which comes from wondering how I will pay my bills. I’ve been there before. It’s a dark, cold place.

Health

• I want 80 to 90 percent of what I consume to be nutritious and productive for my body. The other 10 to 20 percent–so long as I am aware and intentional about it–can be left for junk and poison. I like to have fun too.

• I always want to be moving. I’d like to become a black belt in Brazilian jiujitsu and I want the gym to be a consistent part of my life: 3-5 times each week.

• I never, ever want to be uncomfortable with my shirt off.

Coaching

• Whether it’s a client or anyone else who wants help, I want to dedicate myself to helping them live the healthiest, most productive, most fulfilling life they possibly can.

• I want to bring so much value to a person’s life, they don’t think twice about paying for sessions.

That’s who I want to be.

Who do you want to be?

Doing the right thing is easy. After all, when your behavior and your identity are fully aligned, you are no longer pursuing behavior change. You are simply acting like the type of person you already believe yourself to be.

James Clear

Good Investments, Bad Investments

“The best investment: investing in yourself.”

Cheesy. Self-helpy. But true.

Outside of the stock market, I have made–and continue to make–a number of investments which make my life easier, more enjoyable, and more fulfilling.

I have also made investments which have proved to have terrible ROI.

Here they are:

1. Good Investments

• My new apartment–$1100/mo

My mom let me live with her for free while I got my shit together. For that, I am eternally grateful; but having this new place to pay for has given me two things: the freedom to live an adult life, and the hunger to work well and increase my income.

• Supplements (Athletic Greens and LMNT Electrolytes)–$122/mo

Supplements are tricky. It’s hard to accurately pinpoint their benefits. It’s not as if I feel awful when I don’t take my nutrient shake. But even if it’s just a placebo, I feel mentally and physically strong knowing that I have all the essential nutrients and vitamins in my system at all times.

• My own studio–$140/mo

Moving into this new apartment, my roommate and I arranged that I would take the den and turn it into my own space for work and productivity. Separating this from my room has done wonders for my ability to focus and pursue deep work.

• Gym memberships–$110/mo

With the combination of my weightlifting gym and martial arts gym, I make sure to get consistent and well-rounded exercise. Aside from the physical benefits, practicing Brazilian jiujitsu has thoroughly changed my life. Increased confidence, a sense of family, an ability to defend myself…these are all priceless.

2. Bad Investments

• College–$60,000

Although I have a massive amount of debt for a degree I do not have, I do not regret going to college. What I regret–and lament–is making $20,000 decisions at the age of 18. I was a child, and I went to college because that’s what you do. Not because I had a goal or a plan. Just go and see what happens. Well, what happened was it didn’t work (for me). And now I am indebted to the young fool that I was.

• Friends who don’t share my values–Mental and emotional exhaustion

This has been one of the toughest realizations for me. Not all of our friends are helping us cultivate a happy and healthy life. This is incredibly sad, but totally natural. Identifying those who don’t make your forcefield stronger is one of the best things you can do for your wellbeing. I’ve spent an unfortunate amount of hours caring for and mending relationships with people when I should’ve just cut the cord.

What investments are you making that give you a great ROI?

What investments are you making that give you diminishing returns?

Do Cool Shit; Don’t Take Pictures

Instagram is my favorite social media tool. I deleted mine last week.

Without getting into whether or not you should be using such apps, I’d like to talk about my weekend.

I spent four days in North Carolina with some of my closest friends. We laughed, played soccer, ate mushrooms, watched anime, had political discussions, and drank copious amounts of wine.

Driving home last night, something hit me as I went to send my mom a picture of my time there: I didn’t take a single photo from the weekend.

This wasn’t intentional; it was simply a byproduct of not having a reason to use my phone.

I felt the typical compulsions to post something–to share a photo to commemorate the amazing time we all had. Preferably, it would be a semi-funny action shot of the gang–perfectly representing our shenanigans. Alas, I had nothing…or so I thought.

Actually, I have everything. It’s everyone else who has nothing.

I have memories, new ideas, stronger connections, a sense of love and depth. So what if I don’t have a photo I could post? What would that bring me? In my experience, it would provide about 24 hours of likes and heart emojis. But I already have real-life heart emojis.

My question is this:

The next time you attend a lovely event, or have an incredible time, would it be enough to just experience it?

If you post it, wouldn’t that make it not about the memory, but instead about others seeing you do something cool?

Maybe not. Maybe you get genuine fulfillment by posting such memories. But it’s an interesting thought experiment.

What would be so bad about not posting anything after an amazing time? Then it would be yours. Just for you and those you were with. You’d have stories to tell. People would listen, instead of double-tapping their phones for a 2-second congratulations.

We all have those 3-minute videos from concerts we’ll never watch again.

The next time you have an amazing time, don’t take any pictures. Just take it in.

Love What’s Real

No hangover this morning. Just a few hours of sleep, awful breath, and the same shorts I’ve been wearing for 3 days.

Spending this long weekend with best friends has been refreshing and therapeutic. But it’s time now.

I don’t see it as returning to “reality.” Work is reality. But so is play. When you’re breathing, when you’re thinking, when you’re laughing…it’s all real.

The only thing you can do is love what is real, here and now.

What

What is something you’ve always wanted to do?

What is standing in your way?

How can you make it happen?

Artsy AF

My hands are frozen as I type.

I’m sitting next to a slightly open window in Asheville, NC. The breeze makes it harder to type but the sound and smell of the morning trees makes me feel artistic as fuck.

I’m visiting my best friend, his girlfriend, and another friend…with another one of my best friends. Friends.

In the last 24 hours, I have been reminded of three things:

1) An 8-hour road trip can feel like 2 hours or 20. It just depends on who you’re riding with.

2) Being irresponsible and having fun feels better when you take intentional time to do so.

3) Visiting your friends–especially your best friends–is worth it 100% of the time.

Read the First Sentence of This Blog Post

This one.

Now read the third one.

Yes, this one.

This is how Copywriting works. The first sentence’s only job is to get you to read the second sentence; and so on…

People might write off Copywriting if they are not interested in business endeavors, but understanding its basic laws will change the way you look at ads, websites, articles, everything.

Aside from selling my Copy to clients, learning about Copywriting has drastically improved my writing. There’s a simple rule which any writer can use:

Each and every sentence, word, and letter…must be absolutely necessary on the page. If you can get rid of it and have the idea still make sense, you must.

I Disagree With You

People are complicated. Well, they should be.

When I can’t pin down a person’s opinions after a quick chat, it warms my heart. I like learning that a liberal wants strong borders, or that a conservative is pro-choice…not because of the opinions themselves, but because it proves the beautiful and often-chaotic truth about people:

Humans are intricate. To actually understand someone usually requires a series of deep and curious conversations.

Of course, this is not always the case. We all know the people who, for example, are strident Republicans on each and every issue.

Or 22-year old me–When I was in college, it didn’t matter what the topic was; I was a bleeding, card-carrying, Twitter-activist liberal. I didn’t have to do research on opposing viewpoints. For I was a liberal. It is I, Liberal Man.

Only once I left my college bubble, began listening to and reading more conservative thoughts, and stopped seeing every political/social discussion as a debate I had to win…did I finally come to the above realization.

People are complex in and of themselves. But our opinions muddy the waters even more because the major issues we face are never black and white. Despite the vibe on social media or mainstream news networks, all of our major political and social issues require numerous, lengthy, patient conversations. This is fucking difficult, which is a problem. Until we face it, people will continue to flock to Twitter, FaceBook comments, or 5-minute CNN blurbs to duke it out.

This is why podcasts have become so popular. A single episode of the Joe Rogan Experience gets played anywhere from 100 to 300 times an entire day of CNN.

Why? Because people are realizing that listening to others have genuine conversation for three hours is about 100 to 300 times more informative (and transformative) than hearing four people shout at one another on a panel or in a comment thread.

What specifically do you believe? Why do you believe it? How did you come to that conclusion? What are the strongest counterarguments to your views? What evidence do you have to support your claims? What counter-evidence exists?

Answering these questions takes a TON of time. But in order to make progress as a society, we simply must be able to answer them.

Shouting in people’s faces won’t make them hear you. Calling people bigots or idiots because they disagree with you won’t bring them to your side.

Instead of saying, “HOW COULD YOU THINK THAT??”, we could try, “Oh, I actually disagree with that. How did you come to think that?”

I’ve said this in the past and people did not like it. All I’m advocating for is that we listen to one another, especially when we disagree.

People are complex. Who knows…perhaps we agree on a lot more than we realize. Only one way to find out.

Where’s Your Solitude?

This past weekend, I moved into my new fancy-shmancy apartment.

Aside from finally moving out of my mom’s house, the biggest perk has been my new studio. I used to work, read, sleep, chill, meditate, masterbate, cry…all in one room (in that order?).

After mixing work and play for almost a year, my perceptions of my room became progressively warped. When I would work, I would look over and see my warm and inviting bed, tempting me to come hang out. When I would take time to relax, I would see my desk and feel guilty because I felt I should be getting things done.

Now, I pay an extra $140 in rent to have a completely separate space for all work and productivity-related practices. Two days in, and I see that this is a priceless investment.

The cognitive dissonance I felt in the past has entirely vanished. When I’m in my studio, all I want to do is work. That’s all I can do. When I’m in my room, all I want to do is read (for pleasure) and sleep.

There’s utility in setting up intentional spaces for yourself. This is why I prefer going to the gym over working out at home. I have plenty of equipment and resources to get a great workout in in my living room; but the gym gives me accountability. If I fuck around and half-ass my workout at home, there are no repercussions; if I do so at the gym, I rightfully feel like I’m insulting a sacred place.

Intentional spaces for solitude are vital for productivity and fulfillment. Where are your spaces? Reach out any time and let me know.

Social Media Pro

This morning, in a “Practices/Advice” chapter of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism, I read a tip which I absolutely loved:

Use social media as if you were the social media director for a company.

In other words, only log on if you have a clear, specific intention or goal.

Using FaceBook, Instagram, or Tik Tok for aimless entertainment is what these apps are designed for. It’s how they get you to spend more time on screen and how they make the most money possible.

How many of your friends or “followers” are your actual friends or people in your circle?

If you use social media to stay in touch with relatives of acquaintances, how much time per week would that actually take? Probably less than 30 minutes. The average FaceBook user spends 16 hours on site each week.

The next time you use social media or open your phone, ask yourself:

What is my specific intention for using this right now?

A New Home

I’m writing this in an empty room. There’s no lighting but the early morning cotton candy sky, and books and recording equipment splayed about the floor.

Yesterday, this entire apartment was empty. Now, it contains all of my belongings. I live here now.

I woke up at 6am this morning and my first thought was where the fuck am I?

Home, I answered. It’s a good place. It’s a good day…

It all seems so very arbitrary. I applied for a job at this company because they were hiring. I took a desk at the back because it was empty. But no matter how to get there or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift of making that place their home.

Creed Bratton

Moving Out

Three years ago, I was in the worst place I’ve ever been in life. After failing out of college (among other disasters), I had to move back home with my mom and pursue Project ‘Get Dillan’s Shit Together.’

It took about 2 years to get said shit together.

There are a thousand things I can say about the suckiness of living at home. Seeing all my friends start new lives, meeting new partners, and going on adventures outside of the same county we went to high school…the comparison game is hard to avoid.

But with this little post, I’d like to give a shout out to the net positive: I was given a free home–a headquarters to gather myself, organize my life, and figure out what my values are and how to pursue them.

I’ve accomplished all of that. And this morning I am packing up a 26-foot UHaul with my entire room. My home base since 2008 has been gutted and will be replaced with my sister’s belongings.

I feel so grateful that my mom let me shelter up here and genuinely allow me to figure everything out. Sorry it took me 26 years, Ma. I guess that’s better than 30?

Thank you to my mother for saving my life during the time I needed it most. We rarely sit down for dinner together as a family–me, my mom, and my sister. Yet, I feel like the first thing I want to do is come back tomorrow and sit down at the table and eat together…

I accidentally typed “home” instead of “back” in that last paragraph.

Have you ever been incredibly excited to do something, and at the same time, incredibly anxious and reluctant?

Kasey Musgraves put it well:

Is there a word for the way that I’m feeling tonight?
Happy and sad at the same time

The Joke That Never Works

Over the summer, two of my close friends were in town visiting family.

Excited to see them, if only for a few minutes, I called them to learn that they had already headed back home to Philadelphia.

In hindsight, they were leaving a chaotic family experience, dashing back to a city with a strict curfew during a pandemic, and exhausted–not from a weekend of leisure, but one of stress and obligation.

Unfortunately, none of these facts were present in my mind when I heard the wind of their open car windows on the other end of the phone.

I was hurt. My friends didn’t care to stop by and say hi.

If I had taken a second to consider what they were going through, I would’ve realized: No shit! They have much more important things to worry about right now. You’ll see them soon enough.

I tried to play it off with a joke. A joke that in fact, never works. I call it the “Thanks for the invite” joke.

This is a joke that attempts to playfully jab others for excluding you in some way. I’m not joking (clever). It literally never works.

My words in this particular situation were something like, “Well I guess I’ll go fuck myself.” Meaning: I guess I’m not important enough to give 5 minutes to.

Here’s why this joke always fails:

1) It’s not funny.

You’ll never hear anyone actually laugh at this type of joke.

Jokes have to be funnier than they are anything else: mean, clever, offensive, etc.

2) It promotes shame.

If you want to question why others have excluded you, then just ask. Hiding behind a “joke” is cowardly.

This kind of joke only stands to produce guilt; if that’s your motive, then you don’t actually care to get to the bottom of things for a resolution.

Which brings us to…

3) It doesn’t make them want to include you anymore than before.

If you say “I guess I didn’t get the invite!,” and the person then invites you, you know they are doing so out of guilt rather than a genuine desire to spend time with you.

If my friends turned around after I said what I said, it would have just been an awkward and obligatory meet-up…

It sucks to be excluded from things, but it’s bound to happen. You can either accept it, or in something like my case, you can take a second and think about what the other person is going through to figure out if you should actually be a priority or not.

If you’re really curious as to why you didn’t get an invite, reach out and inquire. But never use the Thanks for the invite joke, or anything like it. It doesn’t work and it doesn’t get you what you want.

Just For You

What do you do that is completely, entirely, 100% for yourself.

If you do something incredible, and then post that thing on social media, by definition you have done at least some of that thing for others.

What do you do–that you would still be doing–if you were the only person on Earth?

A Truth About Your Sleep

Bro-Science tip of the day:

Subtract one hour from the amount of sleep you think you got.

After using the SleepCycle app almost every night for three years, I can support this claim with consistent evidence.

The app tracks your time spent in deep and shallow sleep and gives you incredibly useful data: sleep quality, time in bed, time spent asleep, etc.

One of the most shocking discrepancies I notice each night is that my “Time asleep” is always an hour (or an hour and a half) less than my “Time in bed.”

This makes sense. Not only does it take us a while to actually fall asleep, but once we do, we inevitably toss and turn and half-wake up in the middle of the night or in the morning.

When you think you’ve gotten 8 hours, you’ve really gotten 7. Don’t rely on when you think you went to bed and when you think you woke up. These are rarely accurate.

For me, this was a hard pill to swallow. I had to accept the fact that I needed to start going to bed even earlier if I wanted to achieve the amount of hours of sleep I desired.

Last night, I “went to bed” at 9:42pm. I “woke up” today at 6:45am.

Time in bed: 9 hours, 3 minutes

Time asleep: 7 hours, 56 minutes

Get some sleep.

Learn to Code

After two years of half-assing my way through random coding bootcamps and tutorials, I’ve finally begun my programming journey with intention.

It was clear that using scattered, free services online–while this is a tactic I advocate for everything else–wasn’t incentivizing me enough to stick with it. After reading this post by one of my idols, and paying $50 for this goofy little book, I feel committed and energized.

This blog is not meant to convince you to learn how to code–though I do think it would be a fulfilling experience (and it’s easier than you think). Instead, I want to highlight the euphoria of learning something which made no fucking sense to me a week ago.

This:

…used to look like this:

It’s a damn good feeling.

Obviously, I’m still a novice. But sitting down and pushing through the Resistance it takes to learn something entirely new provides two life-changing lessons:

1) It doesn’t take long to become better than 99% of the world at something.

After one jiujitsu class, you’re better at defending yourself than most people who have never tried a martial art.

When you read through one well-written article on Copywriting, you understand how to write advertisements better than almost everyone alive.

After spending one week consistently working through my coding book, I’m showing my Kindergarten-level code to friends with no experience and they look at me like I’m a hacker.

2) Once you get over the hump, momentum takes the wheel.

Sitting down to learn something completely new is daunting. It feels as though you’ll have to practice intense grit and discipline each day until you are a master.

Of course, getting better at anything will require persistence and hard work, but it’s not as brutal as one would think.

You don’t need to be crazy disciplined to show up every day to learn; you just need to be disciplined enough to learn the core concepts so you can get by and fill in the blanks as you go.

When I lived in Germany, the first month of practicing my German was rough. I couldn’t keep up in most conversations and I was convinced I would never improve.

Then, one day, something clicked. I walked down to the Cafe with my German buddy. After walking about a mile, I realized I had been speaking German the entire time. The epiphany was:

I could finally carry a conversation, not because I had remembered enough words, but because I had become good enough at the grammar to consistently structure sentences.

In other words: Once I became sufficient with the core concepts (grammar), I could easily speak and fill in the blanks (by just asking how to say certain words).

TL; DR

Learn new shit. It’ll be hard. Sometimes very hard. But it won’t be very hard for very long. And it’ll be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.

Climbing Stairs, Climbing Mountains

A few days ago, a client and I were discussing the magic of breaking big, scary tasks into bite-sized, manageable actions.

She said something that was so profoundly articulate in that moment:

“I just need to keep making decisions.”

That simple statement took a series of files in my brain and organized them all into a concise and accurate sentence. It brought two major concepts into the light.

1. Climbing stairs

When it comes to getting ‘big’ things done, we see the enormous staircase in front of us. But we don’t seem to notice the first step or two laying at our feet.

Just like climbing a giant set of stairs, attacking major projects or life events can be daunting.

But here’s the kicker:

You do not ‘do’ a project. You complete a series of Action Steps–one at a time, until you make significant and sufficient progress on the greater task at hand.

How do you ‘climb’ a set of stairs? You place one foot onto the first step. Then you use that leg to propel yourself forward so you can land on the next step with your other foot. Repeat.

2. Climbing mountains

No matter how much time, effort, or energy we pour into our objectives, the work is never done. We are about to hit a milestone where we can sit and relax, until we are smacked with the reality that there’s always more work to be done.

More conversations to have. More adjustments to make. More decisions to be made.

We often think, “Once I do/get x, then I’ll be set.”

Once you get that awesome new job, you’ll also have to: develop a new schedule, learn new skills, cultivate new relationships, organize new work/life harmony…

Once you make the amount of money you want to make, you’ll also have to: reallocate your spending, update your taxes, reflect on your lifestyle…

Once you move to that city you’ve been dreaming of, you’ll also have to: make new friends, learn your way around, acclimate to the new culture and structure, rework your new routine…

I’m not saying to never pursue goals or milestones. I’m also not advocating that we never feel a sense of accomplishment when we get things done.

The point is: once you reach these goals and milestones, you must understand that your work is not over. It is never over. This realization will save you from the heartache as you climb without a feeling of satisfaction.

A man looked up at the mountain before him, and embarked. He spent a year trodding up its hills, fighting the elements. He reached the top, feeling invincible and relieved. Then he looked up. He noticed that next to the mountain he had been climbing, stood another mountain twice as tall. With an accepting sigh and a smile, the man continued on his trek and began walking up the second mountain.

Should I Be Using This?

After several years of suggestion, I finally started reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.

In the opening chapter, he addresses questions I’ve been asking myself recently when it comes to social media use:

• How does this service align with my values?

• Is this the absolute best way to accomplish what I want to accomplish? What are the alternatives?

• What are the benefits and what are the costs of using this? Does one outweigh the other?

The book is lovely so far. In short, digital minimalism does not mean deleting every app and service or switching to a flip phone.

The lifestyle of a digital minimalist is that of using the absolute minimum amount of technology needed to fulfill one’s values.

Three weeks ago, after watching The Social Dilemma, I set out on a 10-day challenge.

The rule was that I couldn’t check any social media except for once in the morning, right after my morning routine. I could use the messages features. I could post if I wanted. But after my morning run-through, I could not check any type of notification.

What began as a difficult and cracked out 10 days has transitioned into a new philosophy on the value of social media. Like quitting soda, I had the shakes at first–reaching for my phone to check it and immediately putting it down as I remembered the rule. But eventually, the cravings and compulsions came to an end.

This severe reduction of phone and social media use has led to cosmic changes in my wellbeing:

I feel more present. When people talk to me, it’s noticeably easier for me to maintain eye-contact, listen deeply to what they’re saying, and piece portions of conversation together.

I’m less insecure. Since I’m not constantly looking at other people’s advertised lives, I don’t spend time comparing my “inside” to their “outside.” I also spend zero time thinking about who’s liked my post or how many likes I’ve received.

I’m forced to do the things I love. I’ve read more in these past 3 weeks than the previous 3 months combined. I’ve spent significantly more time working on freelance projects, building a business, and writing. When I’m in the presence of others, I talk to them…I mean I really talk to them.

I mentioned the balance between benefits and costs earlier. The most popular argument in the case for technology is that it’s possible to provide immense value. Of course this is true, and when it happens, it’s a wonderful thing.

Radical religious fundamentalists and white supremacists have been converted out of their bigoted ways through conversations on Twitter.

Aspiring artists, musicians, and creators (myself included) have been able to quickly share their content to large numbers of people.

The list of possible benefits goes on and on. But this argument contains faulty logic and misses the point for most people.

Is it completely justified to take part in something just because it is possible that you could derive value from it?

Do we do this with anything else? Should you stay in a toxic relationship because sometimes he/she might treat you with respect? Should you keep working this job that makes you miserable because it’s possible to find opportunity there? Should you keep using highly-addictive technology because you can occasionally connect with people you don’t normally keep in contact with?

I’m NOT posing these as rhetorical questions. These are questions you have to be able to answer yourself.

For me, the benefits of daily social media usage were: a way to chat with acquaintances from afar, posting fun videos, and enjoying memes.

The costs: insecurity by comparison, the massive loss of productivity, and the consistent seeking of approval.

An easy decision.

As always, every person is different. What works for me will not work for the next person, and so on. But I highly encourage you to at least ask yourself (write down if you have to) what are the specific benefits and costs to using technology the way you’re using it right now.

Once you have clear answers, compare them. It’ll be easier to make adjustments once you have weighed the effects.

“Does using this bring me consistent value, or am I just addicted to this thing that will possibly bring me value?”

‘Getting Things Done’ Review

(From GoodReads)

I think I need to stop saying that books have changed my life so frequently. My friends seem to be more hesitant when I recommend they read what I just read. But Getting Things Done has changed my life like no other, simply because I have actually been implementing the system since I picked up the book.

By doing so, I have had nothing but a crystal clear understanding of all the things I need and want to get done, which eliminates 95% of the stress.

The most impactful concept is this: We have anywhere from 30-150 inputs at any given time. To-dos, tasks, obligations, things to learn, calls, meetings, events. The human memory is terrible. Yet we shame ourselves for not being able to perfectly organize and structure all 150 of these inputs in our heads.

We have to Capture everything. Everyyythingg. By simply writing down each and every thing I have coming up (from “Donate box of books to bookstore,” to “Choose new primary color for website homepage…” The simple art of defining each Project into clear, actionable steps has lifted all the weight off my shoulders.

At the heart of the GTD process, you must create a system which you accurately and constantly Capture all your inputs, and then you regularly review that system (weekly).

This all might sound super robotic, especially for the go-with-the-flow types. David makes it very clear though:

GTD is not about getting more things done necessarily. It’s about having a harmonious, stress-free relationship with the things you want to accomplish.”

New Cat Food

At the beginning of the year, our cats’ food was discontinued.

I explained to them that it wasn’t personal–that it was just business. The ups and downs of the cat food market. They meowed and stared at me confusingly as I continued to pour their new, unfamiliar, unwanted pebbles of nip.

After two days of starving themselves, they reluctantly gave in. Betrayal was outmatched by hunger.

It didn’t take long for their complaints to stop. Aside from corporate not returning their emails, they simply adapted and grew fond of their new means of sustenance.

Yesterday, they ran out of food. We had to go to the grocery store to buy generic cat food because the usual bags we buy take a few days to arrive…Our cats are upper middle class.

When I poured them this temporary food, again, they gaping at me as if asking, “What the fuck are we supposed to do with this?”

The craziest part: this temporary food is the same brand that they were eating 8 months ago.

The next time you’re feeling a great deal of Resistance–when you say “I don’t think I can do this,” ask yourself:

Can I actually not do this, or is this just new cat food?