Yesterday, one of my best friends from Rwanda and I took a lovely stroll around a local nature park.
While we were sitting and chatting on the dock by the river, I zoned out for a second while she was talking.
The good news is that it wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in what she was saying.
I zoned out because I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I have access to such beauty and fulfillment in this life.
• Daily access to food and clean drinking water. • A comfortable bed. • A job I absolutely love. • A tribe of friends and family who are alive and healthy. • This blog, where I can write out my thoughts and hear what others think about them.
It can be easier said than done…but one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself (in good times and in bad) is hyper-focus on what you have and what you’re grateful for.
After a week-long vacation, I’m back in my home office itching to get back to work.
I’m grateful to love what I do.
People talk about work/life balance. I have no idea what the perfect formula for that is or if it even exists.
My typical process is this:
Spend a few weeks working → Crave a vacation → Take a vacation → Crave getting back to work → Get back to work → Repeat
It works for me (get it?).
What I love about this process is how much better I get at my work by taking intentional breaks. Like letting our muscles recover after a workout, we counterintuitively get better results the more we set aside time for fun and relaxation.
I can’t stand when people say they sleep less so they can get more done in a day. That’s ludicrous.
You get more done in a day when you’re well-rested and full of mental energy. If that weren’t the case, insomniacs would be the most successful people on earth.
Sleep. Rest. Fun. Play time.
These are essential to our productivity and our well-being.
As always happens, the incredible vacation I’ve been enjoying this week is suddenly coming to a close.
Tomorrow in the early morning, I hop on a plane back to Maryland.
Here’s a short list of my favorite things I’ve done this week in Denver as well as the lessons from them:
1) Spending every day with some of my closest friends.
Friends are meant to spend quality time with. We’re social creatures and the relationships in our lives shape who we are and what we’re capable of.
Yesterday was my best buddy’s birthday. We all spent the day at the biggest park I’ve ever seen, drank spiked Kombucha, and played spike ball. (Wow, so much spike.)
Visit your friends. Invest time and money into the people you love. It pays dividends as the years go by. I’ll remember that day at the park forever.
2) Playing chess every day and going rock climbing.
There will always be a part of me that loves to party: staying up late, drinking, experimenting with drugs…
But at the ripe age of 27, I find I don’t have time anymore for relationships where that’s all we do.
It’s important to find friends you can do challenging things with, have beautiful conversations with, and inspire each other to learn and take action.
I brought my buddy into the world of chess. It excites me to see him beat his other friend with the lessons and practice we’ve shared. It also excites me to show him how much I improve at rock climbing since he and his partner brought me into that world.
3) Waking up to the view of Denver and the Rocky Mountains.
From my friends’ high rise apartment, I can look out right now and see the entire Denver skyline, Red Rocks amphitheater, and three enormous snowcapped mountains.
I’ve never seen so many dogs, Teslas, and open spaces for humans and dogs to roam around…in one place.
It’s important to go exploring. It’s always a lovely learning experience when you get out of your little bubble and meet other humans in their bubbles.
Getting out of my bubble for a week has been well worth any amount of time or money I put into this excursion.
In short: Visit your friends, find friends you can do challenging things with, and get a dog…or a Tesla.
The skill I’m currently working on improving is the skill of leadership.
It could go by other names, but in general what I mean is:
Setting standards and limitations and sticking to them—at the risk of making myself or others uncomfortable.
• Calling someone out for being late to a call. • Telling someone I’m disappointed in them for not following through with a commitment. • Being offered money and saying ‘no’ to a prospective client I don’t see as the right fit. • Voicing frustrations to close friends, colleagues, or even acquaintances. • Telling a friend I can’t or don’t want to hang out, without giving a long-winded explanation.
Putting some of these into practice has made my heart pound and my face hot with nerves.
It’s scary to risk tension with another human being. But so long as it comes from a place of love and respect, and not superiority, it’s absolutely necessary.
But again, this is a skill.
It’s an art and a science.
I’ve heard people try to be a leader when they were really just being condescending and belittling. That’s not effective.
What is effective is telling someone with your words or your actions:
I love and support you completely. Here’s what you can expect from me. And here’s what I am expecting of you.
Last month, I gave a client a challenge to create a step-by-step system for the business he wanted to start. Two sessions in a row, he didn’t do it.
As promised, I told him I was disappointed. Not because I am the big bad boss who gave him homework…but because he was neglecting actions to better his life and do what he really wanted. I said, “This is for you man, not for me. When this happens, it makes me feel like you’re not taking what we’re doing here seriously.”
That was that and we moved on. A week later, when we next saw each other, he looked over at me at some point and said, “Thank you for laying in to me and calling me out. It’s exactly what I needed to hear.”
I can’t promise every situation will be received so well. Again, this is an art and it will take practice setting your own standards and maintaining them.
People will get defensive. Some will fight back.
But so long as you are coming from a place that’s looking out for everyone’s best interests, trust that you’re not being an asshole.
You’re being a leader.
A person’s success in life can be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.
There are TONS of them in the world of self-improvement. After diving deeper and deeper into that world for the past four years, I’ve realized that that’s because living a great life, while bitter work, is genuinely quite simple.
I could list out a bunch of my favorite, powerful cliches, like:
• Suffer now so you may thrive later. • When you obsess over things you can’t control, you lose twice. • Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
…But I’ll just focus on one for today.
If you dedicate yourself to helping others, you’ll get everything you want.
This is true in business, relationships, and your overall health and well-being.
Of course, you still have to look out for yourself. Not sleeping for five days straight because you’ve been helping every person you can is not ideal.
But in general, focusing on finding ways to serve others does several things to help get you where you want to be.
1) You make more money.
Numbers have never motivated me.
After starting my own business last year, I tried to come up with a financial business plan, but it never seemed to drive me to work better or harder.
Then, when I started coaching, I threw away all my “business plans.” The new plan was (and still is):
Have as many fun and powerful conversations with people as I possibly can.
Since this adjustment in my mindset, I’ve made more in a few months than what I thought would take me three years to attain.
If you’re helping people…if you’re bringing them value…they will want to reciprocate with their own money, time, or attention.
2) You grow your network effortlessly.
Networking doesn’t have to involve suits, cocktail parties, and business cards.
That stuff’s fine, but not necessary.
A major lesson for me in the past year:
You don’t need to search far and wide for a diverse and valuable network. You have everything you need right in front of you.
I didn’t know this until I started reaching out to friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances from my past. I’ve had fruitful conversations with folks of all kinds of passions, skills, and personalities.
Naturally, this has increased my chances of being referred to. People have mentioned me to others when discussing blogging or life coaching. I’ve even helped a few people wanting to start a YouTube channel. This wasn’t because I’m a pro filmmaker (I only have 110 subscribers); it was because I have a YouTube channel and people in my network know that.
To mirror the first point, if you provide value to others, they will stick around. Not so much in a transactional sense, but because you make their lives better or easier in some way. And for the vast majority of people, they’ll want to give back.
3) It makes you happier.
There was a study done to prove this.
They had people fill out a questionnaire to measure happiness levels. Then, half of them were asked by an actor to do them a favor.
Not only did this mean they were helping another person, but they also typically engaged in light conversation with the actor.
The subjects took similar happiness quizzes at the end of the experiment.
92% of people in the “favor group” reported much higher levels of positivity, gratitude, and overall happiness.
The next time you feel stuck, ask yourself, “How can I help?”
Or better yet…”Who can I help?”
Finding ways to be of service to others will in turn help you prosper in your personal and professional lives.
I like to set up systems where no matter what, I win.
In my coaching system, for example, my goal is to have as many fun and fruitful conversations as possible. It has nothing to do with closing a certain amount of clients or making a specific amount of money. Ironically, that stuff often happens naturally when I just focus on bringing a ton of value to the conversations I’m having.
I reach out to a ton of people, and most don’t reply, which is totally normal and okay. But when someone does reply, even if they’re not interested in any sort of coaching experience, I get to catch up with someone from my past or meet someone new.
Even if they don’t turn into a paying client, I still win. I win when I have a conversation and enjoy it.
How can you turn a loss into a win? By changing the definition of winning.
I love chess and Brazilian Jiujitsu. In both, the only way to improve is to play (and lose) a lot. Having a competitive nature is healthy, but if you get pissed every time you get checkmated or tapped out, you’ll never become a grandmaster or a black belt.
The subtext here is that every time you make a mistake or suffer a loss, it opens the door for you to find lessons and make improvements.
I watched a YouTube video about how to defend an ankle lock in jiujitsu. Then, last year, a guy got me in an ankle lock, didn’t really know what he was doing, and yanked on my foot. I popped several tendons and was out for a month.
While that video was great, the experience will stay with me forever. I haven’t been caught in an ankle lock since. I’ve prioritized the defense so I never have to go through that again.
You can read the best book or watch the best video on what you want to improve…and you should!
But learning on the job is the only real way for you to track where you are on your journey.
I’ve been trying to get my shit together for the past four years.
After reading tons of self-improvement books, logging 130+ coaching hours, and reflecting with myself and others on how to live a great life…I’ve discovered that there’s not just one single formula or idea to make it happen.
But there does seem to be a mindset that every person who is happy or fulfilled seems to possess:
Focusing on what they can control and not what they cannot.
The old adage goes:
If there’s something you can do about it, do it. If there’s nothing you can do about it, then obsessing over it just means you suffer twice.
Yesterday, I signed up for my first coaching certification program.
It entails joining a community of coaches for weekly calls and trainings, intense practice, and accountability.
If the goal is to be able to pay for my life, why would I add this hefty monthly fee to my budget?
Simple: It’s an investment.
Life is not about saving money. It’s about putting that money toward things that will bring you massive returns.
The goal here is to become an extraordinary coach and business owner, making it easy to pay this program off.
On a smaller scale, I pay for a haircut once each month (and I’m thinking about bumping that up to once every two weeks). I could limit the amount of haircuts I get or even teach myself how to cut my own hair. But I love the way I look after I meet with my haircutter. We always have a lovely conversation, laugh our asses off, and I look fresh as hell leaving that place.
The fun experience and level of confidence I feel are well worth the cost to me, so I invest it happily.
What are you willing to invest in? What are you willing to pay money for that other people would scoff at?
I preach on and on about the importance of sleep. And it’s still the thing that most gets me in trouble.
Good or bad quality sleep is the difference between all other habits or tasks being much easier or much harder.
Here are some actionable tips.
• As it gets closer to bed time, make your environment darker. Turn the big lights off. Light some candles. This activates melatonin, the chemical in your brain which tells you it’s time for bed, making you more sleepy.
• For the love of God, set boundaries on screen time. Blue light is damaging to your eyes and it diminishes sleep quality. Turn the TV off before bed. Put the phone away. Read or listen to an audiobook or a podcast. My rule: No matter what, my phone goes on airplane mode at 10pm. I listen to an audiobook until I’m bored to death and then fall asleep.
• Get an eye mask. I didn’t like having something on my face at first; it felt claustrophobic. But I quickly got used to it. Like the first bullet, this keeps everything dark which helps you sleep through the night without waking as the sun rises and lights up the room.
• Before you do anything, drink cold water. A glass or two is ideal. Coffee is lovely, but the first thing your body needs is hydration. It just went seven to ten hours without water and is totally dehydrated. I’m stunned every time I feel like death in the morning and then feel instantly better after chugging half my water bottle.
• An inverse of the “Falling asleep” tip—Make your environment bright. This lets the brain know that it’s time to be awake and alert. Keeping things dark confuses the mind and makes it think we should still be asleep.
• If you have time (and most people do), do something you enjoy right when you wake up. Listen to upbeat music. Go for a walk. Do some stretches. Having a productive morning is necessary for setting the stage for the day, but you can make things easier on yourself by throwing in some fun, too.
• Avoid passive activities like scrolling on your phone or watching TV until after you’ve pursued some active activities. Things like: Reading, cooking, walking, stretching, exercise of some kind, writing, etc. Wake your brain up first and take charge. You’ll also find you probably won’t feel like doing something passive after being more active.
Of course, getting consistently high-quality sleep takes a bit of time and intention. Going to bed and waking up at the same times every day is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
It takes discipline, which makes it difficult.
Things come up. We want to have fun. Some nights we simply can’t fall asleep.
There will be ups and downs and that’s okay. So long as you keep being mindful of the importance sleep has on the things you care about in life, you’ll be able to keep making adjustments.
In the past, whenever something I wrote didn’t resonate with someone, I would go into a mild panic. Insecurities would bubble to the surface and I would assume I was wrong about everything.
Luckily, by exposing myself to respectful arguments and by putting my work out on a daily basis…I’ve been able to completely shift my mindset.
When I read that he wanted to push back on one of my philosophies, I didn’t shrivel; I got excited.
Having debates can be uncomfortable, but only if you feel married to your ideas and that what you believe is tied to your identity. This can feel like passion, but it often leads to unnecessary suffering. When someone disagrees with a deeply-held belief of ours, it feels like they’re disagreeing with who we are.
If instead we recognize they are simply disagreeing with an idea or concept, it makes it much easier to verbally spar.
It’s possible to become excited for a fruitful exchange. The worst case scenario? You have your mind changed—which isn’t a defeat, but instead a great victory on your journey of growth.
Because they typically require that you overload yourself with a bunch of new rules and habits.
Now, if you’ve read any of my stuff in the past, you know I love rules and habits. They are the path toward a healthy, fulfilling, and ultimately free life.
But they need to be learned and adapted slowly, progressively.
If the 95% of failed New Years resolutions teaches us anything, it’s that going balls to the wall with good decisions isn’t enough. Those decisions have to be engrained in your day to day…set in stone.
When something is a habit, it’s easier to simply do that thing than it is to think about doing it. It feels like it does itself.
Making extreme and immediate changes to your routines may bring you success in the short term, but there’s a reason every single winner of The Biggest Loser has gained all (usually more) of that weight back within two years.
Overloading strong habits will inevitably lead to burnout and a sense of failure. Surprisingly, this doesn’t lead to lasting change.
I’ve had many clients feel pumped up after a coaching session and do this. At the end, when we come up with their Next Actions, they get antsy.
• “I’m gonna go to bed before 11am each night.” • “I’m gonna exercise every morning.” • “I’m gonna read at least 20 pages every day.” • “I’m gonna meditate every morning for 30 minutes.”
Every single one of these actions is beautiful and would certainly be powerful if applied to one’s life. But going from zero to all of these is impossible to maintain.
Naturally, they come back and tell me in the following session that they fell off with their Next Actions, usually with a tone of failure.
But that’s not a failure in execution; it’s a failure in planning.
It sounds boring as hell, but the only true way to build strong habits is to ever so slowly integrate them into your life.
I have strong exercise habits; it took me three years.
I have strong productivity habits; it took me nine years.
I have strong relationship habits; it took me 27 years.
The things that will sustainably change your life will take time. That sucks to hear, but it’s the only way.
As we get older, it gets harder and harder to stay in consistent contact with all the people you’d like to keep in touch with.
But if you’ve ever tried to set up a call or a hangout with a buddy, you might have heard this little nugget:
“Sorry, I’ve been really busy lately.”
What this really means, however, is:
Sorry, you just haven’t been a priority lately.
On face value, this response is nonsense. ‘Too busy’ implies that in the past week, they simply haven’t had five minutes to send you a text or call you up.
The subtext behind this explanation is that they haven’t devoted any brain space to communicating with you because they’ve had other things on their mind.
And guess what…
People are generally busy. We have careers to focus on, families to see and take care of, and our own bodies and minds to tend to.
It can be frustrating and hurtful to feel like your friends are ‘too busy’ for you, but:
1) Would you want to force it by spending time with someone who doesn’t truly want to engage?
2) You can use that time to take care of other essentials for yourself—hobbies, career, or other relationships.
To those who receive the ‘I’ve been busy’ text:
Don’t let it insult you at your core. Take the opportunity to put effort into other areas. But if it’s a serious situation, bring it up with the other person and tell them how you feel.
To those who send the ‘I’ve been busy’ text:
Be straight up with the person. If you haven’t truly cared about catching up or spending time together, say so. It can sound harsh, but ripping off the band-aid means feeling the immediate pain and discomfort now…and avoiding this worse, throbbing and lingering pain that can last months or even years.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “We should catch up man…” then immediately think…Do you really mean that?