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.

Let the dog cry

A Golden Retriever looking up and smiling

I’m dog-sitting for my friends.

Each morning, after breakfast and our long walk, he cries.

Every minute of whimpering feels like an hour. My internal alarms go off and I anxiously go through my checklist. Are you hungry? Do you have to poop? Do you want to play?

So I do all these things. Still crying.

When I texted my friend to ask what they do, they calmly replied: “I don’t know, ignore it? He’s a big, furry baby, Dillan.”

So after making sure he’s good to go, I just go about my morning.

Eventually, he stops.

This made me think of our minds.

For seemingly no reason at all, our brains are in panic mode telling us something is wrong. We jump to solutions and distractions. Fix fix fix.

Only to prolong the alarms.

The practice of mindfulness doesn’t aim to stop negative thoughts. The goal is to simply be able to recognize negative thoughts as they inevitably appear.

So, “I’m never going to be financially stable” becomes “I’m having a stressful thought about not being able to pay my bills. I feel it in my chest and throat.”

This rarely makes the experience more fun, but it does look at it from an objective space.

I used to connect being tired with my life being shitty.

One night of bad sleep and I would spend my day thinking, I feel like garbage I have no motivation I am garbage the world sucks I suck.

Then one morning during a meditation, I was asked to focus on the physical sensations of being exhausted. I felt my heavy eyes and throbbing forehead. I watched the sentences and images of thoughts float by.

It was as if the clouds had parted.

“I suck” became “Oh, I’m just tired.”

Nothing’s wrong.

We can just let the dog cry for a bit and see what happens. Eventually, he’ll lay down and rest.

Turkey Day

It’s 4:56am.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m thankful for you, reader. If you’ve ever spent ten seconds reading (or hating) my stuff…

Thank you.

Please enjoy your holiday. 😊

No one cares where I went to school

Two students sitting down on the grass at university while doing their homework

In early 2020, I wrote a shitty blog ranting about college.

I still hold all the same opinions. But today I’d like to briefly discuss one aspect.

The fact that I run a profitable business that sustains my life and fulfills me at the highest level. I help people create the lives they want, get organized, and even grow their own businesses.

And in the last four years, not a single person has asked if I went to school.

Not where I went to school. If.

I’m not saying any of this to brag. I’m a college dropout who spent most of those four years living with his mom because he couldn’t afford anything else. (To which I’m incredibly grateful. Thanks, mom!)

The point is this.

In the past, people cared about where we got our credentials. Today, most people just want to know if we’re useful.

“Where did you graduate?” is now “Can you help us?”

I have friends making six figures because they taught themselves how to code. I know folks with great jobs because they’re great people who learn well and have strong interpersonal skills. I do well because I’ve developed the skill of coaching and curiosity.

All of which is possible without paying $80,000.

The caveat here is that of course there are professions where schooling is entirely necessary. I don’t want a surgeon who taught herself how to cut people open.

I don’t think college is a bad idea. It’s just not the only idea. There are many other ways to do interesting things and make money.

Many companies would ask me: What are your credentials?
“Alcoholism,” I would say. “Bankruptcy and divorce.”

Steve Chandler

I went too far

A little girl wearing a mask and holding a teddy bear also wearing a mask

I like to create rules.

Boundaries and guidelines for living a healthy and principled life.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve added two rules to my chart:

  1. I can only drink alcohol twice a month.
  2. I can’t give unsolicited advice.

I’ve changed my mind on both of these. Let me explain.

Let’s start with the second one: giving advice.

I recently read The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious, and Change the Way You Lead Forever. (Here’s my review of the book if you want my quick summary.)

In short, giving advice isn’t always the best way to help someone. We usually provide solutions to the wrong problem and, while we don’t like to admit it, our solutions aren’t always that good.

I soaked this in. The last chapter is a reassurance that giving advice isn’t evil, it’s just not always the most effective option.

Despite this, I processed the whole thing as: I must never give advice.

So, when I inevitably did, I felt gross. I felt like a bad person who was hurting my friends and colleagues.

It didn’t take long for me to go, Yeah…I don’t think I’m supposed to feel this way.

As for my drinking, that rule came from puking two nights in a row while on vacation. Naturally, I woke up that second morning certain I would never drink again. I’m sure I’m the only person who has ever pretended to decide that.

But this weekend, I went to DC to have dinner at my friends’ apartment. They cooked a delicious meal and offered me a glass of wine.

I thought, You know what, I DO want one glass of wine. Maybe even two.

And that’s what happened. The three of us finished a bottle then drank water and played games for the remainder of the night.

I said out loud, “Ah. This isn’t the problem. Getting fucked up is the problem.”

Believe it or not, I just don’t enjoy getting wasted as much as I did when I was 20 years old. Go figure.

The next night, I got dinner at my other friends’ house and we each had one hard Kombucha (I know, we’re tanks). It turns out that when I only have one or two drinks I tend to not make shitty decisions.

Conclusion

I erased both of those rules from my whiteboard.

The lesson?

It’s a great thing to notice areas of improvement in our lives. We have the power to make changes in our habits and tendencies to create something better.

But it’s even more healthy to reassess those changes and course-correct if they’re not fully meeting our needs. We can ask: Is this really a problem? If so, is this the best way to address the problem?

Then when our needs shift we can adjust again. And so on.

I don’t really drink unless it’s a social event and I’m not rushing to preach my worldviews to people. But I will have a beer here and I’ll share some opinions there…

All I can do is try to be healthy and helpful and apologize when I overstep.

That’s the new rule.

Fuck Off Day

A woman waving goodbye to her toddler son as he runs out with his backpack

Last night, I went over to my best friend’s house for dinner.

He and his partner were telling me about the move to intentionally add alone time into their relationship. Now every Tuesday around 4pm, they take turns leaving to go do something and give the other person the house to themselves. Tongue in cheek, they’ve been calling it “Fuck Off Day.”

It’s funny because a person could hear this and think, Oh, you’re trying to spend more time separated...sounds unhealthy.

When in fact, it’s one of the healthiest things I’ve ever heard a couple do.

They have an incredible relationship. And this practice is intended to maintain that strength.

I’m not an expert in love…but this truth can be applied to everything else in our lives:

Space from people, environments, and activities (especially ones we love) is essential.

Let’s go through some examples in order.

People:

We all need alone time. We need to know what it’s like to simply sit with our thoughts and emotions.

I used to think I was just a wildly extroverted guy. Then I realized I was just surrounding myself with people so I never had to confront my anxieties. When we’re alone, there’s nowhere to hide.

Aside from that, time away from those we care about creates room for us to miss them.

It’s in someone’s absence that we truly notice what they bring to our lives. Until they return. We can’t fully appreciate something until it’s taken away from us.

Since I moved out of my mom’s house, we’ve grown ten times closer. She’s not my roommate anymore. She’s my amazing mother.

When I visit friends from other cities, I cherish every hour of conversation I have with them. I know that when the weekend is over, we’ll go back to our lives hundreds of miles apart.

In breakups, we can logically know that it’s for the best…yet we still feel the agonizing pangs of loss not having this person to laugh or be romantic with.

All this to say: We need space from people to solidify how much we love and appreciate them.

Environments:

Why do we take vacations?

For the Gram, yes. But also to just fucking get away.

Away from our routines, our neighborhoods, our kitchens.

There’s something liberating about being in a totally new place. We’re often not even sure what the place is going to look like or what it has to offer. We just know we’d like a change of scenery.

I take one trip every month. Sometimes to another state. Sometimes out of the country. Why?

Because I work on weekends. Several of my clients work nine-to-fives and I don’t do calls on weeknights. That means I often work seven days a week. And that means I can only take so much before I have to get the fuck out of here.

I love this office but after a certain amount of time, any room can feel like a prison cell.

So I go somewhere. I visit a buddy. I see my family. I go hiking. Sometimes I just take the weekend off and host a friend here at my apartment.

It’s actually nice to not do my morning routine for a few days. But then, after taking that space, I quickly crave my old environment. I miss my desk, my roommate, my bed.

Then when I return home, I feel refreshed. I get back into my habits and rituals feeling reignited.

All because I took some time away from them.

Activities:

I love chess.

But there’s a reason I don’t play it for eight hours a day. It’s the same reason I don’t do anything for that long.

I’d get sick of it.

I had a session yesterday with a super ambitious salesman. He loves his job and is always eager to do well and help his team.

But the job is so time-consuming that he feels he doesn’t have any time for himself. So we created some boundaries for him to set and build that time (i.e. space).

I asked him: “What would you be able to do with the free time you create?”

He responded immediately: “I’d do my job better.

He wants space from his job so he can be more present and capable when he’s in it. That’s how I feel about chess, coaching, and everything else. That’s why we need rest days from the gym—to allow our muscles to rebuild themselves and recover.

TL; DR:

Intentional time away from the people and things we love strengthens our relationships with them.