Core principles

Every individual or business should run on a small set of core principles.

I just updated mine:

1) Curiosity before solutions.
2) Make people feel loved and heard.
3) Serve; don’t please.
4) Do the things I love all the time and get better at them.
5) Take nothing personally.

I read 70 books in 2021—Here’s how

A pile of books on the floor

This blog won’t be much different than the one I wrote last year on how I read 64 books in 2020. Well…the difference is about six books.

In my coaching conversations, I’ve heard many people say they want to work on their reading habit.

Let’s start with that last word.

1) I make a habit out of it. (i.e. I read every day.)

Even if it’s just two pages.

In a session yesterday, my client said, “.1 is more than 0.”

Something is better than nothing. Let’s put that into perspective.

If we read 10 pages a day, every day for a year, that’s 3,650 pages.

That means we could read Infinite Jest, Moby Dick, five 200-page novels, five 100-page stories…and still have 408 pages left.

I like reading for 10-30 minutes as part of my morning routine. Sometimes I’ll read as I wind down before bed.

Not everybody has the luxury of working for themselves like I do. People have jobs and families. But I find it hard to believe a person never has ten minutes to themselves for a bit of reading.

In short, it’s about consistency, not speed. I’m a wildly slow reader. Reading practically every day compensates for that.

2) I don’t read shit I don’t like.

If continuing to read something feels more like a chore or an obligation, I put it down.

I’m not saying other people should do this. I have friends who feel accomplished when they stick with dense and challenging reads all the way through. That’s great.

But personally, that’s not why I read. I want to enjoy myself. I’m not in school anymore and I’m not looking to challenge my brain. I want to be entertained, to be intrigued, and to learn things I can use in the real world.

Time reading something I don’t like is time away from something I could possibly love.

3) I keep book notes.

Dillan Taylor's book notes

In my Notes app, I keep simple, bulleted takeaways from what I read.

I try to put them in my own words to make it easier for me to remember and apply them.

I’m not certain this allows me to read more, but it definitely makes me feel more engaged with what I’m reading. It also allows me to go back a year from now and revisit what I got out of a book.

4) I log what I read on GoodReads.

To anyone who cares about a reading habit, I strongly encourage making a GoodReads account.

There, one can…

• set reading goals
• see what their friends are reading/have read
• get recommended new books
• keep track of everything they’ve read

Be sure to follow me. 😊

Conclusion.

The most important two things are to read consistently and to enjoy it.

Reading because it’s “what someone should do” feels dull and pointless.

I got to enter many different worlds this year. Here’s to 70 more in 2022!

The R word

Every now and then I talk about Resistance.

The concept comes from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield—a book I read once a year.

Resistance is the invisible force that keeps us from doing the things we want to do and living the lives we want to live.

It takes many shapes: fear, procrastination, justification, anger, shame…

It says: “You don’t have to do this right now. Do it later. It’ll be easier and more enjoyable if you do this in the future.”

Most of the time, Resistance sounds reasonable. We can’t start until we do this thing, until we have more knowledge, until we have more confidence.

I’m writing a book. Each and every time I sit down to start typing, without fail, I find reasons to wait. I set out to begin writing at 9am, but won’t start until about 9:45.

Readers of this blog know I’m not a big grind-hustle-discipline guy. I don’t think we have to torture ourselves to live a life worth living.

But the simple truth is we don’t get something from nothing.

There are plenty of things worth doing that we won’t feel like doing. Whether it’s something small like reading or working out, or something with higher stakes like starting a company.

We can just start. It’s time.

My internet went out

So I had to write this on my phone.

It’s the little things we don’t appreciate until they’re taken away from us.

I wrote letters to all the people I love—Then I read them to them

A pencil, a piece of paper, and an envelope lying on a marble table

Back in October, I visited a few coaching friends in Vancouver Island, meeting them in person for the first time.

While at one friend’s house, we were discussing the things we felt incredibly grateful for. The same thought popped into my head that always does when I ponder what I appreciate most: my tribe of friends, family, and colleagues.

But this time, I had an insight.

Rather than vaguely trying to express this more to the people in my world, I decided I would be as intentional as possible.

I would craft hand-written letters to those who matter most. I would thank them and explain as best I could why they mean so much to me. Then, I would read the letter to them.

I’m not even close to totally completing this task (which I think is a good sign). But I have done several and would like to share what I’ve learned.

1) Expressing gratitude is euphoric.

Let’s get the selfish stuff out first.

Anyone who’s ever done a metta (loving-kindness) meditation knows the immediate rush of joy that comes from truly wishing someone well. We imagine someone we love and we picture them being free from harm and fear. We envision them being totally fulfilled. We see them laughing with the people they love.

This felt more impactful because I was sitting five feet from each person I read a letter to.

I could see their smiles and tears. I got to hug them afterward. I got to hear them stumble to find words that match the moment.

The idea of the exercise is to leave nothing up to the imagination. “Here are the specific reasons why I love you.”

Once that message gets across, the powerful connections I had with each person felt twice as strong.

2) This exercise is the easiest thing to do that brings life-changing results. Low input; very high output.

That sounds kind of businessy. Let me explain.

Each letter takes about 20 minutes to write. I type it out in a Google Doc first. This only takes about five to ten minutes because it’s effortless to write words that are sincere.

Then it takes another ten minutes for me to put pen to paper and transcribe the Doc.

The next time I would see the person, I would: tell them what I did, grab the paper as they panicked, and start reading it aloud.

In less than 40 seconds, our relationship would become wildly stronger.

I even gave this as a Christmas gift to my aunt and uncle. I have no idea if that’s just a cop-out from getting a “real” gift. But they both absolutely loved it so I think I’m off the hook.

3) There are a lot of things we keep to ourselves.

Here’s what I mean.

I’m lucky to have candid and loving relationships with my friends, family, and colleagues. But no matter how open and communicative we are with one another, there will always be thoughts and emotions we feel that the other person isn’t 100% aware of.

That’s also why I suggest doing a feedback exercise with those close to us. It paints a clearer picture of the lens our friends use to look at us.

We can let our actions tell the story. That’s a lovely thing.

But we can also remove the middle-man and get right at the heart of things. I’ll end with an example.

I wrote one of these letters to my dad.

In it, I told him what he did that meant the world to me. Last year, when I decided to not go back to school, quit my full-time job, and start my own business, I thought he’d be furious.

I was out front of my mom’s house, pacing on the sidewalk, when he told me on the phone I had his full-fledged support.

When I relayed this to him in my letter, he had no idea about the impact of that moment.

All this to say: We can always express our love and admiration for people more than we normally do. There’s always more to know.

I highly encourage anyone reading this to write just one letter to someone they appreciate. Tell them why they’re loved. Tell them what they mean. Tell them how much they’re needed.

Then see how they light up.

X-mus

Merry Christmas, ya’ll!

2 days of rest

I’ll be taking the next two days off.

Enjoy your holiday with those you love!

It doesn’t take much

Avocado toast with: bacon, eggs, tomato, and sprouts & a mixed berry cream cheese pastry I forgot the name of. Without exaggeration, the best dessert I’ve ever had in my life.

A few weeks ago, one of my friends told me she was stopping by in the morning.

My insecure self began wondering if I did or said anything I needed to apologize for. Then I wondered if she just wanted me to hide her boyfriend’s Christmas gift.

She showed up with paper bags. “This is to celebrate all you’ve done.”

The night before, I got dinner with her and her partner and told them about a huge business opportunity that had just come my way.

“I’ll always buy you pastries to celebrate your wins,” she said. I hugged her.

Normally, gifts aren’t my love language (they’re quality time and words of affirmation). But food is a different story.

Aside from being wildly appreciative to have a tribe of friends who support me and want the best for me, my insight was this:

It really doesn’t take much to express that.

That food was delicious, but she could’ve also just said, “I’m really proud of you and happy to see you working toward what you want.” It would’ve meant just as much.

It sparked a question for me to ask consistently.

What’s the simplest thing I can do to make this person I love feel heard, cared for, or supported?

The answer is never anything complex or demanding.

Writing bug

As I’ve been spending more time writing my book, I’ve felt inspired to write more.

I’m planning on publishing more articles on Medium. (Go ahead and follow me there!)

And I’m already brainstorming future books. One step at a time though.

Tomorrow, I’ll update you all on how the current book is coming along.

Cheers.

Omicron

A couple of my friends either caught colds or COVID these past two weeks.

The second of four waves that Nicholas Christakis predicted is upon us.

Naturally, many of us will be more conservative now and stay inside more.

I have cold symptoms this morning. An achy face and sinus issues.

Hopefully this won’t get worse and affect the holidays with my family.

For now, I’ll sip my coffee and tea and keep chugging along.

Slowing things down

A party of friends giving a cheers with their champagne glasses

As 2021 comes to a close, I’ve been intentionally taking my foot off the gas.

Scheduling fewer calls, not doing any outreach for the business, and having more days where nothing is scheduled.

It’s been tough, to say the least.

It has exposed the fact that I’m a workaholic. I don’t work 12-hour days or anything like that…but I like to feel productive on a daily basis.

But now that I’ve been learning how to slow down, I’m terrified.

Terrified that I’ll want things to stay like this. The fear is that I’ll never step on the gas again.

We hosted a Christmas party on Friday and it was amazing. All my local friends, pizza and sweets, hilarious games, everybody gone by midnight, no cleanup…perfection.

I figured I’d be hungover on Saturday so I did something I haven’t done in months.

I didn’t schedule anything.

Usually, this gives me anxiety. I never know if I’m doing the “right” thing. Or what to do at all.

But that morning (and afternoon), I laid on my couch with a smile as I watched YouTube videos and played chess. Nothing to do. Nowhere to be.

It wasn’t so scary after all.

But my possibly irrational fear is that I’ll want every day to be like this. This feels funny to type out because I’m sitting at my desk on a Monday morning preparing to write my book for three hours and then go to the gym.

I don’t want to do it all the time, but I like working my ass off. Not because it gives me a sense of self-worth but because I find it fun.

So the question moving forward, after the holidays, becomes:

How can I harmonize working hard and slowing down?

As I figure this out, I’ll let you know.

Here’s an exercise (2/2)

After completing Exercise 1 from yesterday…

Write out a list called “Things that drain me.”

Again, try to write down ten things.

Now, answer two questions:

  1. How can I do more of what energizes me?
  2. How can I do less of what drains me?

Here’s an exercise (1/2)

Write out a list called “Things that energize me.”

Try to fill in at least ten things.

I’m sad and I don’t know why

A gorgeous winter landscape with the Sun going down

Maybe sad is the wrong word.

Last week, one of my clients said the same thing happens every winter: From December to February, he just wants to quit his job, not talk to anyone, and smoke weed by a campfire.

I feel that.

Not that I really want to do any of those things, but I do feel a twinge of sadness or dissatisfaction and I can’t pinpoint the source.

Yesterday, I called my best friend to tell him that and see what his thoughts were. But after ten minutes of just chatting and laughing, my state had completely changed.

I had energy. Things felt light again. What happened?

Aside from being a social creature who gets filled up by human conversation…I was reminded of an inconvenient truth.

Our states and conditions are constantly changing.

Happiness is an emotion. Just like rage or sadness. I don’t think we can genuinely “be” happy; I think we can feel happy. Being assumes it’s ongoing and everlasting.

This is why I don’t strive for happiness. My goal is fulfillment.

We can be fulfilled and still be sad, stressed, or uncomfortable. So during times like these—when it’s colder and darker than usual—I stick to my fulfillment system:

Every day, every week, I do the things I love and try to get better at them: Quality time with friends/family, coaching, chess, exercise, reading…

Yesterday, after work I wanted to:

• cancel a run with my buddy
• skip the gym
• watch YouTube and porn until midnight

I didn’t do any of that. Despite my mind telling me what was good for me, I stuck with what I knew: You won’t be happy to do these things, but you’ll be glad you DID them.

It’s true every time.

Likewise, when I choose not to do the things I know I regret after—watching porn, staying up on my phone, ordering $40 of DoorDash—I’m thankful 100% of the time.

How the hell do I conclude this blog?

Basically, I’m feeling grey at this point in time, and that’s okay. Nothing’s wrong. There’s nothing to fix.

I’m confident that if I just keep living with my values and doing the things I know make me a fulfilled person, the grey will subside.

Meow.

Am I an asshole?

Here’s one of my favorite parables (I’m not actually certain it’s a parable, technically):

If you go out into the world and happen to run into an asshole, you just met an asshole.

If during your travels, you run into 30 assholes, you’re the asshole.

I used to work with this woman who thought the world was out to get her on a daily basis. She complained about people, judged others, and gossiped constantly.

Each week, it seemed like something wildly unfortunate and unfair would happen to her. This confused me until I realized an odd, almost spiritual truth:

The world is what we think it is.

Whether we see life as a gift or as a burden, it all comes from within.

I used to think people sucked. And lo and behold, they did.

But once I started working on myself, improving my life, and seeing people as fascinating…they became much more lovely.

It’s all one big self-fulfilling prophecy.

I deleted email from my phone

A person deleting the email app from their phone

Last year, like many during the pandemic, I became even more addicted to social media.

After reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and watching The Social Dilemma, I deleted my Instagram—which up until that point was my favorite.

My fears were that I would become disconnected from my circles, that I wouldn’t be able to share my funny ideas, and that my creations wouldn’t get noticed.

After two days, I was stunned to find I was still alive.

Not only that, but I felt like I was thriving. My mind felt decluttered. I had no choice but to only focus on the actual world around me.

I won’t drone on about the pros and cons of social media and modern technology. Instead, I’d like to briefly discuss how my phone addiction manifested itself in my life once again.

Email.

Over the past year, I’ve grown my own business. It’s been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done (and continue to do). But along with such a feat have come all the usual entrepreneurial tropes.

Workaholism. Burnout. Being glued to my phone.

Today’s blog is about that last one. After quitting Instagram, it felt like there was an energy that needed to be exerted. For several months, I would let this energy out by reading, playing chess, or talking to a friend.

But once my business became even a tiny bit established, I found myself checking email and Facebook Messenger every three minutes or so.

I would check Gmail between every set at the gym. It was like opening the fridge to see if there’s any food moments after we just did that same thing.

The more successful I became, the more entrenched in these apps I felt. Until last week, I had to ask myself a question.

“Why do you absolutely need to check your email?”

Not want. Not feel strongly that you should. NEED.

100% of the time, the answer has been the same: I don’t.

So as the title of this blog states, I deleted Gmail from my phone.

Lo and behold, the world seems to be running fine. I have all my limbs and my friends are still alive.

I now check my email once (sometimes twice) a day on my computer. There have been zero fires to put out and not a single person has noticed.

The caveat here is that I work for myself and people are rarely relying on me to respond to them quickly. But I challenge anyone to set up a two-check boundary for email and see if anyone actually notices.

I look to Tim Ferriss’s quote:

“Email is a very convenient way of simulating forward motion without actually accomplishing anything.”

The next time we rush to check {insert favorite app here}, it may help to ask these questions first:

  1. Do I absolutely need to check this right now?
  2. What specifically am I trying to accomplish by checking this? (i.e. Am I just looking for an easy distraction?)
  3. What if this can wait?

To many, this may sound elementary. But these last few days without having something to compulsively check have felt euphoric.

It’s been the mind-equivalent to selling half my stuff and decluttering my home.

I won a trophy

A black pawn with a King's crown on a chessboard

My friend and I played in our first chess tournament this Saturday.

It was one of my favorite days ever. Not because of any result, which I’ll get into. But because of how fun the experience was. Let me explain.

1) I got to spend the day doing something I love with one of my best friends.

The tables eventually filled with boards and the chairs with players. I couldn’t take a picture of that because phones weren’t allowed in the room during play.

We got there an hour early. That’s my style. For any event, I’d rather be an hour early than a minute late.

We settled in, validated my parking in the Hilton garage, and prepared.

My buddy brought a couple books and his laptop to do some last-minute studying. I took a different approach.

Since the hotel was right across the street from the Johns Hopkins campus, I took a 30-minute stroll. It was gorgeous.

A sign on the Johns Hopkins campus
I got mild anxiety walking around a school again…as if I was late to class.

I walked past their cafeteria, quad, sporting facility, as well as the largest gym I think I’ve ever seen.

I wasn’t thinking about chess at all. I was meditating over how cool it was to finally be competing in this thing I fell in love with over the past year.

It was refreshing to clear my head. I didn’t think twice about not doing any last-minute studying.

Before a big fight, a reporter went into the locker room to find Floyd Mayweather playing Xbox. He said, “Aren’t you going to warm up for the bout?”

Floyd glanced over and smiled. “If I’m not ready by now, I’m not ready.”

Yes, I compare my chess playing to the greatest boxer ever. But that’s how it felt. I was as ready as I could be. And that made me feel totally present as I floated by those Hopkins students.

2) We got to nerd-out with other chess peeps.

A crowded hallway during the Charm City December Action Chess tournament
Everyone waiting to see the next round’s pairings.

This tournament broke the Baltimore record for the largest private chess competition. There were 96 registered players. 51 were competing in my section.

Everyone was so kind. Between rounds, we could see almost every table in the lobby with a chessboard on it and people analyzing their last game or playing blitz.

It was cool to know that everyone in the room enjoyed chess so much that they too signed up to play in a tournament.

There were four rounds (games). We had a 30 to 60-minute break between rounds to eat, chat, and chill. Then the next pairings would post and we’d make our way to our tables.

The Round 2 pairings.
My Round 1 win. This was the first time I ever wrote down my moves during a game. I felt official as fuck.

For more than half of the players, it was also their first tournament.

Each round, you got paired up against someone with the same record as you. That way one would hopefully play people closer to their skill level. It also meant that each round got harder…and more fun.

3) I played well.

My first game was against a 13-year-old kid. I felt bad.

He was clearly newer to chess and I obliterated him. Starting out with a win boosted my confidence but I didn’t want to get complacent and expect each round to be that easy.

My friend lost his first game, unfortunately. He got paired against a pretty good player.

In Round 2, I got placed with another player who was 1-0. He was a super nice 20-year-old who drove down with his two buddies from Harrisburg, PA.

He was much better than my first opponent. But over time, I was able to chip away at his kingside, win his Queen, and be up so much material that he eventually resigned.

I could see him get visibly frustrated with himself during our game. We shook hands and wished each other well for the remaining two rounds. My buddy also won his game.

I was most nervous for Round 3 since I assumed my opponents would only be getting better. I was correct.

My third opponent was a calm and quiet guy with long hair. It was also my first game with the black pieces, which meant I moved second.

That was one of the most intense games I’ve ever played. I pressed him, then he pressed me, then I broke through. Then he blundered a piece. I was winning. My heart was pounding. Then…I blundered a piece! We got back to an even game and he got me in a perpetual check. We agreed to a draw.

I was kicking myself a little for not converting a won game. But I was mostly just happy I didn’t lose. A draw is .5 points. I was 2.5/3. My buddy, who lost his third game, was 1/3.

Last Round.

For whatever reason, this was the first game where I wasn’t nervous. Maybe it was because I was exhausted. We got there at 10am and it was now 4:30pm.

The guy was talkative and kind. I thought he would be my toughest opponent. But I won his Queen in 11 moves.

After that, I started trading pieces and chipping away at his defenses. I had checkmate in two so he resigned. He was pissed.

I felt bad because we were the first ones done out of 26 games. I was relieved to be finished and thrilled I didn’t lose a game.

I finished 3.5/4. My friend won his last game to go 2/4.

What this means.

To my surprise, I got third place out of 51 players. That obviously felt good.

The final standings.
I’ve never actually won a trophy before.

It also means I now have a professional record in chess. I have a provisional rating of about 1400. That’s like a rating with an asterisk.

Once I play 25 games (21 to go), I’ll have my actual rating.

Last night, I signed up for my next tournament—The 59th Annual Baltimore Open. It’s next month and the players should be quite good.

But for now, I’m celebrating a phenomenal start to my chess career. I played well, got some hardware, and had a blast with my good friend.

What more could I ask for?

My first chess tournament

Two men playing an intense game of chess

Last summer over quarantine, one of my best friends and I started playing chess together online.

It was just something competitive we could do while trapped in our homes.

I knew how to play from years prior, but had never taken the time to learn the game’s basic principles, strategies, or tactics. Now, I had a mission—a purpose.

To beat my buddy.

He was better than I was so the bitter taste of defeat was a powerful motivator to improve. My ELO (rating) was around 900.

We got super into it for a few months until I fell out of love with the game entirely. I looked at a board and couldn’t care less what happened on it.

Then I, along with 62 million other folks, watched Queen’s Gambit.

The show single-handedly increased awareness and interest in chess tenfold around the world. Chessboard sales skyrocketed. Chess streamers and commentator channels had enormous boosts in their following. I was a part of all these statistics.

Then something strange happened which improved my chess skills tremendously.

I got Covid.

For the first time since starting my own business, I took a week off and did nothing but order DoorDash and play chess. Five to ten hours a day.

My rating went up 100 points in four days.

Since then, I’ve played consistently online, read books, analyzed games, hired chess tutors, and spent hours watching my favorite YouTubers go over games and teach. Here’s my rating in 2021:

Today, that same friend and I are playing in our first over-the-board tournament in Baltimore.

I’m excited and proud of how far we’ve come in a year. I’m nervous to lose to an 11-year old kid. And I’m grateful to share one of my passions with one of my closest friends.

We play five games in six hours. It’ll probably be exhausting…but I’m so pumped.

On Monday, I’ll post about how it went and what I learned from the experience.

Wish us luck. 😊

Icebreaker deck

This is not a paid promotion.

As a gift for yourself or someone else, I highly recommend BestSelf’s Icebreaker—Deeper Talk deck.

This deck of cards is loaded with powerful questions which spark phenomenal conversations. When friends are over I’ll often take these out and take turns picking random cards and asking these questions in a circle.

Time flies every single time.

It’s like having a game night but you also get to have deep and intimate conversations with the people you’re with.

10/10.

Friend systems

I had my biweekly phone call with one of my best friends yesterday. She lives in Rwanda.

Last week I realized we had been keeping the chain going for a year and a half. And we have no plan on stopping.

What an easy system for staying in touch. We just picked a time that works for us, set a calendar event for every two weeks, make adjustments when we need, and just show up.

On the call, I thanked her for her consistency in this.

She chuckled and said, “You made the calendar invite. All I do is answer the phone.”

But that’s exactly it. That’s all we need. It’s a system that runs itself.

It’s a small amount of effort which has led to countless hours of connection and deep conversation. She knows everything about me. My…

Wins. Fears. Opportunities. Projects. Relationships. Heartbreaks. Accomplishments.

She’s heard me at my highest and lowest points this past year. I’ve never met her husband but I feel like I’ve known him for years. Just from an hour and a half chat every two weeks.

The point of this blog is not to tell others to do exactly what we do. It’s to highlight how easy it is to do something truly vital in life: stay in contact with your God damn friends.

One day we won’t be able to.

Whenever that day comes, I’m looking forward to saying, “I’m glad we did that,” as opposed to, “I wish we did that.”

Another trip to Brooklyn (pt. 3)

Yesterday, I gave a synopsis of my weekend in NYC. Give that a read before reading this blog.

Here are my takeaways:

1) Getting sexually harrassed is surprisingly not fun.

It’s kind of a funny story, and I’m willing to joke about it…but having a guy look over the urinal at me peeing was mildly traumatic.

I’ve thought about it every time I’ve used the restroom since it happened.

And I’m a tall, fairly in-shape guy who can defend himself. I can’t imagine what those situations are like for, say, women who don’t have these physical advantages.

2) More venues and events should prohibit cell phones.

They did this at the comedy show. But I would love to go to a restaurant where this was the rule as well.

When we don’t have anything to distract us, we’re forced to be present with the people we’re with. We can genuinely take in our surroundings.

On many occasions, I like to leave my phone in the car. That’s when I truly feel like I’m part of the world.

3) I don’t think I want to live in Williamsburg.

That’s the “wealthy, hip, and yuppy” neighborhood in Brooklyn.

My buddy and I walked through it and the vibe just didn’t land with me. Many people looked as though they had a stick up their asses. They seemed calculated.

This is all just a generalization. We stopped to talk with one dude who was super kind and helpful. But he was Australian so that doesn’t count.

We’ll see. I have ten months to narrow things down.

Another trip to Brooklyn (pt. 2)

Tomas Virgadula with Manhattan in the background over the East River
Said good buddy.

I spent the weekend in Brooklyn with my good buddy.

It was a much chiller few days than when I first visited back in September…So I’ll briefly go through what we did and tomorrow I’ll finish with my takeaways from the weekend.

Thursday

I drove up to New Jersey to stay with a friend for the night. In typical 2021 fashion, this would be the first time meeting her in person.

She and her husband hosted me and took me out to dinner. I felt bad because I typically go to bed around 9pm and only got five hours of sleep the night before.

I almost fell asleep at the brewery we went to after the restaurant.

Friday

Since they live just outside the city, I took the NJ Transit into Manhattan. The train took about an hour.

From there, I hopped on the A and took it to Brooklyn. (Do I sound like a New Yorker?)

Since my friend was on a coaching call, I sat on his stoop and watched Game 6 of the World Chess Championship—where Magnus Carlson got his first win against Ian Nepomniachtchi.

He let me in, we hugged, then we drank seltzers and played chess.

That evening, we took the train into Manhattan to see a comedy show at The Comedy Cellar.

Beforehand, we got dinner and I had to use the restroom so we walked over to the public one in Washington Square Park.

At the urinal, a homeless guy looked over the divider to watch me pee.

My first thought was, No way. He’s definitely not doing that. I could feel him looking at me and my first fear was that I was about to get stabbed. I braced myself to grab his wrist or punch him in the face.

But then I realized what was happening. I turned and said, “What the fuck are you doing buddy?”

He apologized, then did it again after four seconds. I said, “Fuck off dude,” and walked to the sink to my confused friend. He didn’t know what happened.

Then another guy came in to use the urinal on the side. The homeless guy switched urinals to be closer to him, did the same thing, and the new guy also told him to piss off.

We walked out half-disgusted and half-laughing about the situation.

My buddy told me, “You get all the New York experiences! I’ve lived here for 12 years and nothing like that has ever happened to me.”

“Yeah, I feel so lucky,” I replied. Then we headed to the show.

We sat in the front row.

They took our phones so no one could record or take pictures during the performances. I loved that.

Ensuring people stay present and keeping an up-and-coming comedian from being canceled by a blogger…I’m a fan.

The show was fantastic. We got out around 10pm, walked to the closest street corner, and I heard, “Dillan?”

I turned around and saw one of my friends from high school. “What are the fucking odds?!” I replied.

A group of friends taking a selfie on a Manhattan street corner

Saturday

The purpose of this weekend was to walk around neighborhoods I would possibly move to.

We trotted around Williamsburg and Bushwick, got lunch, met up with another buddy, and hung out at his place for a couple hours.

A super low-key day. We stayed in, got sandwiches from a bodega, and watched movies.

This was a “And then this happened” blog. Tomorrow will be the “And here’s what I got out of it” blog.

See you then.

Sober hangover

I got back from my NYC weekend late last night.

My first session today is at 7am—in 30 minutes.

I feel truly hungover from lack of sleep.

So much to tell the readers. But not today.

Tomorrow…

Work music

I love working to lo-fi, classical music, and videogame scores.

If you enjoy the same while doing deep work—writing, designing, editing—here’s a playlist I made for such occasions.

It takes a lifetime

I used to shame myself for not sticking to a habit.

I saw it as “slipping up” or “breaking.”

Then I had James Clear clear (get it?) this up for me:

People say a bunch of different things about the timeline of habits.

They say things like, “It takes 21 days to build a habit,” or, “It takes an average of 66 days.”

But none of that is true.

The question behind that question is: “How long do I have to work until the action becomes automatic?”

And here’s the unfortunate truth: It takes a lifetime to build a habit.

We’re constantly breaking good habits and dabbling in bad ones. The work never stops.

It’s not about never breaking. It’s about how quickly we can get back to work and keep moving in the direction we want.

Another trip to Brooklyn

A man standing on the Brooklyn Bridge looking over Manhattan

I’m moving to NYC in October 2022.

That decision came from a fairly nutty weekend spent there in September. I visited my coaching buddy and met him for the first time in real life.

We got very little sleep in those three days.

In a few hours, I’m heading up north for another round.

Here’s my plan before I move house:

1) Every two months or so, I’ll go up and stay with my friend for a weekend.

I want as much exposure as I can before moving my life there. It’s a three-and-a-half-hour trek, which is roughly two solid phone calls with friends.

The point here is to eat the food, meet some peeps, and desensitize myself from the fast-paced culture. Shockingly, things move a lot slower in the suburbs of Maryland than they do in New York City.

Finally, the main goal is to spend time around neighborhoods I might want to move to. So far, I’m thinking Williamsburg—which I hear is the yuppy and trendy area of Brooklyn. I’ve never tried elitism, but I’m down for anything.

This move is very much a business investment. I want to be surrounded by young folks who are pursuing fun and interesting lives and who have money to pay for someone like me to help them do just that.

I told that to my two friends in Brooklyn and they both said, “Yeah, you want Williamsburg. You’ll have to yup it up.”

2) In the spring, I’ll get an AirBnB for a week or two in the neighborhood I’m thinking.

I’ll take a few days off, but this won’t be a vacation. It’ll be a beta test.

I’ll have normal workdays. I’ll get a trial gym membership. I’ll go grocery shopping.

For two weeks, it’ll be as though I truly live there.

3) Prep for the move.

This means getting my finances ready to pay $2500 a month for rent and utilities. As well as moving with as few physical items to my name as humanly possible.

I’m basically a minimalist. But when I moved last year, I realized I still owned a shit-ton of stuff. I can’t imagine what non-minimalists (muggles?) go through when they move.

For budgeting, I’ve been using this stupid simple sheet from Female in Finance. A friend turned me on to her and it has helped tremendously.

As for the move, I plan on selling or donating 80% of my stuff so I don’t have to transport it. Books, furniture, my soul.

I’m excited, to say the least. And nervous.

Which is why this is the right choice. If I’m not doing things that scare me, I’m not growing…I’m not leveling up.

This weekend will be much more productive than the last.

So the journey begins.

First time at chess club

Last night.

I found out there’s a chess club in my city. They meet every Tuesday night in the Whole Foods cafe.

I showed up with my chess set and clock to a bunch of old men sitting and playing casual games.

For some reason, I was nervous on my way.

Not that I would get my ass beat (in chess). Something about hopping into a new community of people.

I guess at 27, I’m still giddy about making new friends.

They were some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. The youngest guy (he was in his forties) welcomed me to his board for my first game.

I played two gentlemen, two games each. I absolutely destroyed them.

We played for two hours until the grocery store closed. I told them about my first tournament coming up this month and they were super supportive…as if we’ve been teammates for years.

Needless to say, the nerves were gone.

Things are never as bad as the possibilities our minds make up.

I’ll see them next Tuesday.

The very simple truth about Black Friday

A clock with Black Friday signs around it

It took me about 25 years to realize this.

If we ever buy anything simply because it’s on sale, we did not save any money.

Example:

I don’t need a new desk lamp. Mine works just fine and I never think about replacing it.

If I see a sale online where a super fancy $300 desk lamp is now $100, that’s an incredible deal.

But I was never going to purchase that on any other day. My plan was to spend $0 on it because I had no demand for it.

If I bought it, I didn’t save $200. I spent $100.

The only way we save money from a sale is if no matter what, we were going to buy it anyway.

A weird key to success

A man wearing a snorkel and flippers in the middle of a crosswalk

It’s strange to claim that I’m successful. But I certainly feel like I am.

As we’ve heard many times before, the word “success” means something different to everybody. It’ll mean something different to me even three months from now.

But for now, I can pay my monthly expenses comfortably, I have an amazing tribe of people in my life, and I use my time exactly how I want. Success.

I’ve read tons of self-improvement books and watched just about every motivational video on YouTube. There are loads of tips and strategies successful people teach us.

Having a routine, practicing mindfulness, failing often.

But I’d like to reword that last one.

Whether we’re developing our careers, our passions, or our relationships, I’ve discovered this truth:

In order to be successful we must be willing to look like a fool.

A healthy business comes from the willingness to put ourselves out there. I’ve messaged people asking to connect and they’ve ghosted me with a wide birth—probably thinking I’m selling something or working for a pyramid scheme. (Four people this year have straight up asked me, “Is this an MLM?”)

No, this is Patrick.

Early in my coaching career, I was terrified to reach out to others. My fear was that everyone would see me as a salesman when I just wanted to talk or reconnect.

Would I invite them to a session? Yes, maybe. But if they declined I didn’t care at all. I just love talking to people.

These fears were beaten out of me as I continued to reach out to people every single week. Now when someone doesn’t respond or ghosts me, I couldn’t care less. Who’s next?

As far as my passion for chess…

I started playing consistently during lockdown last year. One of my best friends said we should play.

It was something we could do online together. And we’re both competitive so I had the drive to improve. My sole purpose for several months was just to beat him. He was better than I was and each time he beat me it stung.

But I kept coming back for more. I started studying and practicing each day. Here’s my rating over the past 12 months.

Dillan Taylor's chess rating

Notice the dips and plateaus. Those periods were not fun. They were discouraging.

But like the stock market, if we zoom out and look at the big picture, the long term, we can see that I’ve only gotten better as I’ve stuck with it.

Chess, like many things, goes like this:

Step 1: “I’m getting pretty good! I feel like I could beat anyone….”
Step 2: “I’m not sure I even know the rules. I suck. Maybe I should switch to checkers.”

And the cycle repeats. At every level.

The point is, when I’m not feeling on top of the world, I play with less confidence. But I play nonetheless. I may get destroyed and that always hurts…but if I just keep at it, the graph will continue to go up.

And finally, relationships.

A turning point in the health of my friendships came when I decided to be completely candid with my thoughts and feelings. In other words, I became good at having difficult conversations.

Speaking my mind. Setting boundaries. Being vulnerable.

I’m lucky to have a phenomenal group of friends, and it has been through my willingness to be open that these relationships have grown even stronger.

TL; DR

It can be quite scary, but if we are willing to risk foolishness, we’ll get good at just about anything.

It’s not a “gift”

A mom and dad giving their daughter presents for Christmas

During Thanksgiving lunch this week, one of my family members complimented me when asking about my business.

The past three months have been quite good for me. After a little over a year, my coaching business is established, profitable, and sustainable.

After hinting at all that, someone said, “I’m not surprised. You’re a natural.”

It was an incredibly kind gesture, but I thought to myself, What the hell are you talking about?

With anything I’ve ever gotten good at, the only thing “natural” has been my level of interest in it. That’s the one thing that feels totally out of my control.

I wasn’t interested in school, so I skipped and failed classes until they kicked me out. I wasn’t interested in my full-time sales job last year, so I quit and started my own thing.

But when I’m into something, it gets all of my time, love, and attention.

Before, it was acting. Now, it’s coaching and chess. In the future, it’ll be something else.

Anyway, I know this sounds ungrateful, but when someone labels skill as a “natural” thing, I feel like it discounts all the difficult hours that went into developing it.

I’m not a natural business owner.

In the last year…I’ve had three-week runs of pure terror, worried that I can’t make this work. I’ve spent hours on LinkedIn and Indeed looking at more secure full-time gigs. In June, I was at lunch with my mom physically shaking from anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to make my next rent payment.

Thankfully, I’m not in that place anymore. But none of this was natural.

It came from consistent practice. $12,000 in coaching programs. Hundreds of hours honing the craft of coaching. Countless awkward and uncomfortable conversations. Over a thousand rejections. Doubt. Fear. Stress.

But to be fair, it’s hard to see these things.

It’s like Instagram. We see the finished product but not what led to it.

We see the success but not the hours behind it.

Obviously, I didn’t say any of this to my aunt. I’m not that much of a douche.

I smiled and said thank you. And now I’m back to work, putting in more hours so next year I can look like a prodigy.