4 Life Lessons from Star Wars that Make Us Better Human Beings

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Few movie franchises have had a global reach the way Star Wars has. Relatable characters. Incredible saber duels. Fascinating ethical and political dilemmas.

Best of all, Star Wars offers incredible life lessons. Here are the best lessons from the Star Wars franchise, which can teach us about our own lives.

Lesson #1 — It’s never too late to do the right thing

In Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader (the bad guy who also happens to the father of the heroic protagonist Luke Skywalker) gets into somewhat of a pickle.

From the moment Vader decides to join the dark side decades earlier, he commits heinous acts against the rebel alliance (the good guys).

As viewers, we believe Vader represents pure evil and is incapable of any good deed.

Until a very decisive moment.

At the end of the film, Vader witnesses The Emperor (his boss) inflicting immense suffering on his son. Vader is torn between either furthering his power as a member of the dark side or saving his son from utter destruction.

Vader chooses the latter.

He grabs The Emperor and throws him down a deep hatch, inevitably leading to The Emperor’s death. Consequently, Vader suffers fatal injuries as a result of the skirmish, but not before confessing his fatherly love to his son Luke.

Galactic Lesson #1: It’s never too late to do the right thing. Vader, despite all his wrongdoings, came through for his son when it mattered most.

At a certain point, we believe with enough wrongdoing there’s no going back. We think we’re in too deep.

But it’s not about climbing all the way out of the hole. Sometimes full redemption isn’t possible. The next best thing is to take one small step back into the light.

Next time you’re in a bad place, think of Vader. We may not be able to right all our wrongs. But we can, as Al Pacino says in the film Any Given Sunday, “climb outta hell one inch at a time.”

Lesson #2 — Everyone has a good side and a bad side

Throughout the series, we see “good” characters tempted by evil. Conversely, we see “evil” characters tempted by good.

Our heroic protagonist Luke Skywalker is not immune to the allure of evil. The Emperor tempts Luke to the dark side towards the end of Return of the Jedi.

Before engaging in battle, The Emperor puts on his best sales pitch. He attempts to convince Skywalker to join the dark side and fulfill his true destiny.

We see on Skywalker’s face the temptation. He looks like he’s been offered a tasty treat he knows he shouldn’t eat.

Skywalker knows the odds of the rebel alliance (the good guys) are stacked against them. It would have been easy to join forces with The Empire, along with his father, and dominate the galaxy for the foreseeable future.

Skywalker eventually snaps out of the temptations of the dark side. The rest is history.

Galactic Lesson #2: Everyone has a good side and a bad side.

In Buddhism, there’s a belief that within all of us, there are seeds representing positive and negative attributes. For example, there are seeds for positive attributes such as courage, love, listening, and happiness. Additionally, there are also seeds for negative attributes such as greed, anger, jealousy, and fear.

It’s our responsibility to water the seeds of positive attributes and let the negative seeds sit idle. There is potential for bad in the good, and there is potential for good in the bad.

The world is not black and white. To label people as bad and good is too simplistic. All people are capable of right and wrong. It’s about leveraging the good and checking the bad.

Skywalker checked the bad. Can you do the same?

Lesson #3 — Stillness is the key

Through the use of “The Force,” Jedi knights have the ability to make objects fly through the air. For background, The Force is a power only a few individuals have the capability to harness. The use of The Force is best displayed when an individual is in a state of calmness.

This is best depicted during a scene in Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back. We meet Yoda, the short and green-like creature who trains Luke Skywalker.

In an unfortunate turn of events, Luke’s spaceship sinks to the bottom of a creek. Luke attempts to utilize the force to levitate the ship out of the creek but to no avail. All seems hopeless until Yoda, a man a quarter of Luke’s size (if that), single-handedly levitates the ship out of the creek and onto safe ground.

When we watch Luke use The Force, it doesn’t look natural. He’s trying too hard. You can see the grimacing on his face.

But with Yoda, it’s a different story. Yoda is always in a state of Zen-like calmness. He remains calm and hones in on the task at hand. Cool, calm, collected.

Galactic Lesson #3: To take a page from author and modern-day philosopher Ryan Holiday — stillness is the key. Great accomplishments are best done in a state of calmness.

You can be doing almost anything. Writing a paper. Hitting a golf ball. Speaking with a friend. Almost everything we do is best executed when we slow down.

Once we start forcing the action and trying to control everything, then we run into problems. There is a natural flow to performing at a high level, but we do ourselves a disservice by going against our nature.

Slow down. Breathe. Maximize your upside by achieving stillness.

In other words, channel your inner-Yoda.

Lesson #4 — Fear is a deadly motivator

Before Darth Vader turned to the dark side, he was known as Anakin Skywalker, a promising young Jedi knight.

Anakin was a moral man. He wanted what was best for the galaxy and served as a protector of the people.

Until he didn’t.

The biggest factor in Anakin’s shift from good guy to bad guy was the motivation of fear. Anakin feared losing Padmé, the love of his life. Anakin had dreams of Padmé suffering a painful death.

Anakin allowed fear to run his life. He could no longer make rational decisions. Paranoia became his new normal.

With fear, Anakin became susceptible to the influence of others. Anakin would listen to anyone who could alleviate his fear.

This is where Senator Palpatine enters the picture, a corrupt political senator and eventual mastermind of the evil Empire.

Palpatine promised Anakin if they joined forces, they could save Padmé (spoiler alert: they don’t save Padmé).

Anakin’s fear turns to anger and bitterness, which leads to his shift to the dark side.

Galactic Lesson #4: Fear is a deadly motivator.

We cannot run our lives living in fear. Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of losing everything we have.

Those who live in fear protect what they have. There is no motivation to take risks, explore, and try new things. Fear drives us into our shells, insolated from the opportunities that exist beyond us.

Worst of all, fear leads to awful decisions. The world becomes a zero-sum game and everyone is out to get us.

We must move past fear. All we can do is focus on what we can control and make the most out of every opportunity. Is that too much to ask?

Do not lead with fear. Instead, lead with curiosity and hopefulness.

There you have it—four life lessons from the Star Wars franchise. Now go forth and do great things.

And may the force be with you.

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When to Say Yes and When to Say No

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To say yes or to say no? Should I be a “yes” person, or should I be a “no” person?

Life advice can be paradoxical. You can find plenty of advice telling you to say yes in life. Stephen Colbert told a crowd of college graduates to be “yes and” people. Shona Rhimes wrote an entire book titled Year of Yes.

Just say yes. Sounds straightforward.

But every time we are taught to say “yes,” we are taught to say no. Robin Sharma says to say no to the little things so you can say yes to the big things. Amit Kalantri says, “Real freedom is saying ‘no’ without giving a reason.”

Do we default to yes or no? That is the question.

There are no hard and fast rules when to say yes and when to say no. Instead, use guidelines to make decisions. As with many things in life, we should evaluate each decision on a case-by-case basis.

Bottom line — don’t do anything stupid. Use common sense. These are guidelines, not rules.

Below you will find three reasons to say yes and three reasons to say no.

3 Reasons to Say Yes

1. Say yes when there isn’t anything better to do

On the evening of October 16, 2003, my dad asked me if I wanted to attend Game 7 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) between the New York Yankees and their archrival, the Boston Red Sox.

My 10-year-old self told my dad I would prefer not to go. Instead, my dad took my younger brother to the game. The rest is history.

Long story short, the Yankees won a thrilling extra-innings game that ended on a walk-off home run by Aaron Boone. It is considered one of the greatest baseball games ever played.

And I could have been there. Instead, I may as well have been watching paint dry. I regretted the decision immediately.

This is a classic example of when I should have said yes. When you’re doing something of triviality or nonimportance is when then you should be most receptive to saying yes.

Yes, I’d rather hang out with my friends than watch TV. Yes, I’d rather attend a cultural event over reading the paper. Yes, I’d rather go to a Yankees game than sit pretty at home.

Don’t let time fillers take time away from memorable experiences. Ask yourself, “Which of these experiences will I remember better five years from now?”

2. Say yes to something that slightly scares you

Say yes to something that makes you a tad uncomfortable.

Talk to a stranger. Play a sport you haven’t played before. Attend a seminar about which you know nothing.

What scares us is showing vulnerability. We don’t like to show weakness. We don’t like show ineptitude (I’m going to be the worst player on the team!). We believe if we show vulnerability, this will result in embarrassing ourselves.

But it’s in our moments of vulnerability we grow the most. Say yes to the uncomfortable work. One of the best ways to earn respect is to put yourself out there. Take the dive.

3. Say yes to games

Always say yes to games. Yes to cornhole. Yes to card games. Yes to trivia.

Games forge bonds among the people you do them with. The people I’ve played trivia with the last few years have become some of my closest friends.

Games reveal a side of people you can’t find in alternative settings. Games challenge you, force you to think differently, and can provide extremely humorous moments.

It’s not whether you won or lost. It’s how well you connected with those you participated with. Say yes to games.

3 Reasons to Say No

1. Say no when your values are threatened

In specific circumstances, a yes to a bad choice is simultaneously a no towards your values.

If you value hard work, you should say no when there’s an opportunity to cut corners. If you value your honesty, you should say no when it’d be easier to lie to somebody. If you value respect, you should say no when you see your peers acting nasty.

We have all experienced moments when we feel like saying no but end up saying yes. Peer pressure doesn’t make things any easier. We must hold firm to our values, which starts with saying no.

2. Say no when your priorities are threatened

Let’s say you prioritize components of your life in the following hierarchy:

  1. Family
  2. Wellness
  3. Work

If work is destroying your health, you may need to say no to your job. In this context, “no” could mean finding a new job or telling your boss you can’t take on certain projects. Wellness takes precedent over work.

You can say no with confidence if you’re clear on your priorities. Use “no” to make it clear what components in your life take precedent.

3. Say no to set boundaries

At some point, you have to draw the line. Take this lovely conversation between myself and my friend:

Me: “Hey, can I come over to your house this evening?”

My Friend: “Sure thing.”

Me: “Can I grab some food out of your fridge?”

My Friend: “Sure thing, make yourself at home.”

Me: “Can I crash on your couch?”

My Friend: “Absolutely not!”

Me: “Sob.”

“No” draws a line in the sand. No is your greatest defense when others attempt to cross the line you have carefully drawn.

Without no, there are no boundaries. Without no, you are at the mercy of what other people want. You become a piece of trash that others kick around on the streets.

Don’t become a piece of trash others kick around through the streets. Just say no.

Yes and No — Your Greatest Assets

If used wisely, yes and no become your best friends.

Yes is your key to the city. Say yes to opportunities. Say yes to challenges. Say yes to games.

No is your protective armor. Say no to what goes against your values. Say no when your priorities become messed up. Say no to set boundaries.

If used wisely, yes and no become your greatest assets. Use them with care.

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One of The Best Lessons I Learned From Any Book I’ve Read

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Last year I read the book Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke. Duke is a former world champion poker player turned business consultant.

Her book discusses the psychological workings within the game of poker and how those lessons can be applied to our everyday lives. One of the reoccurring themes in her books is the concept of “resulting”.

What is resulting? It’s our tendency to equate the quality of our decisions with the quality of our outcomes.

If the team won the game, the coach must have made all the right coaching decisions. If a student performed poorly on her entrance exam, she must not have studied hard enough. If you made $10,000 in one day of market trading, you must have made the right financial decisions.

We assume if the outcome is good, then the preparation and decision-making leading up to the outcome were on point. If the outcome was bad, we must not have done the proper work to succeed.

This is a dangerous way to think. There’s more to the story.

Bad Decision — Good Outcome

Not studying for an exam, only to still ace the test. Allocating your savings on a game of blackjack, only to double your money in one sitting. Hitting a poor golf shot, only for the ball to bounce off a rock and land on the green.

The outcome in all three of these scenarios was desirable. We aced the test, won lots of money, and landed the ball on the green. Job well done.

But we’re kidding ourselves.

All three actions/decisions were poor ones. If we can recognize bad decisions, we are less likely to repeat the same action, despite the favorable outcome. Our humility tells us we may not be as lucky next time around.

Where the danger lies is being blinded solely by the outcome. This is where the concept of resulting comes back into play. For better or for worse, we live in a results-driven society. Nothing matters but the bottom line.

Don’t fall for the trap. Eventually, bad decisions will indeed become bad outcomes. Just like poker is a numbers game, so are outcomes when making bad choices.

Good Decision — Bad Outcomes

Working day and night, only to be passed over for a promotion. Executing a perfect baseball swing, only for the ball to line drive directly into the fielder’s mitt. Saying all the right things, only for your crush to refuse a date.

There are times in life we do all the right things. We work hard. We prepare. We make the right decisions. And then what happens? We see all our hard work and preparation blow up in our faces.

If the outcome wasn’t what we wanted it to be, do we change our decision-making and strategy?

Assuming our strategies and processes are of the highest quality, then the last thing we should do is change course.

We must learn to accept that there are factors completely out of our control. A bad bounce. Poor timing. Luck isn’t always on our side.

Heartbreak city. But sometimes that’s how life goes.

To quote Admiral William H. McRaven, “Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform, you still end up as a sugar cookie.”

If you’re confused by the sugar cookie reference, think of it as pouring your heart into something that doesn’t pan out in the end. We all become sugar cookies at one point or another. And you have to be ok with that.

Process > Outcome

When you were a child, there’s a good chance a parent or coach told you the following, “it’s not whether you won or lost, it’s whether you tried your best.”

This advice is no different than the resulting concept previously discussed. As much as we obsess about the end result, what matters the most is your approach.

Did you execute? Did you follow the advice from those you respect? Did you put the time in? These are the questions you must ask yourself.

Avoid resulting. Instead, analyze the process. Be critical of the process, not the outcome. This is what your youth sports coach was trying to teach you.

Do your best and forget the rest, and let the (poker) chips fall as they may.

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When Addressing a Problem — Start by Doing Nothing

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“Don’t just do something, sit there.”

The above quote was uttered by Judson Brewer, who I had the opportunity to listen to (virtually, of course). Brewer is a psychiatrist, author, and professor who’s spent ample time hearing other people discuss their problems.

It came as a surprise then that someone who’s a trained psychiatrist telling his audience to “sit there” instead of doing something.

How does that make any sense?

Our friends and family confide in us their toxic relationships, frustrating work pursuits, and embarrassing personal matters. There’s a reason they’re coming to us. Obviously, they want our help.

Or is that really so?

Time to think again.

When someone comes to you to sound off, there’s a good chance they’re indeed looking for advice. But there’s also a good chance all that person wants is space to vent.

Is this person seeking advice or venting? That is the question.

We must understand when a person is venting versus when they’re seeking a solution. Let’s dive deeper.


When we vent, the last thing we want to hear is somebody giving us advice. Venting is disjointed. Venting is a stream of consciousness. Venting is word and emotion dumpage bundled together.

Is this a time to provide advice? Is the person who’s venting ready for a solution?

Hell no.

Imagine giving advice when you yourself are venting to a friend. You lay it all out there, only to hear your friend attempt to fix everything.

That’s when we get to “you don’t understand what I’m going through” or “that won’t work.”

If life were that simple.

As much as we want to be supportive, it’s in moments of hearing others vent that we must fight back the urge to “resolve the matter.” No ribbon bow just yet.

To return to Dr. Brewer, “Don’t just do something, sit there.”

Sit and listen. Let your friend dump all their thoughts, feelings, and baggage for as long as they need to do so. Don’t plot how you’re going to make things right. It’s hard to listen when you’re already figuring out what you’re going to say that will save the day.

Don’t be a hero. Humbly sit there and face the music.


The venting is done. Congratulations! Thank you for serving as the sacrificial lamb, the punching bag, the doormat to your friend’s hardships.

It was a rough experience. Now let time dissipate. As the adage goes, “time heals all wounds.” Your friend needs to quell emotions and make sense of the situation.

Let time pass. and when the moment is right, reengage with that person.

But how do we know the time is right? Simply ask. “Do you want to figure this out?” Or even better, your friend comes to you asking, “what should I do?”

At this point, the person has communicated they want to come up with a solution. It’s now your turn to do the talking. Either you give advice, or (and this takes maturity to check your ego), you recognize you don’t have the credentials to provide the proper advice/help.

We can’t expect to have the solution to all your friend’s problems. We all have different expertise. The person you seek out for financial advice may not be the same person you seek out for relationship advice.

And that’s ok.

It’s your job to recognize your gaps and let others fill them in, not for your sake but for your friend’s sake. Find somebody who will best address your friend’s problem.

Trust the Process

It’s a simple progression. Vent — compartmentalize— resolve.

First, let the person vent. Allow for nothing to be left unsaid.

Next, give the individual space to compartmentalize — or make sense of the situation once emotions have quelled. Detachment can lead to clarity.

Finally, get to resolving the matter. Whether it’s you personally playing the problem-solver or referring the matter to somebody better equipped to handle it.

Don’t just do something, sit there. Only after sitting do you do something.

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When You Can’t Get Something Out of Your Head — Do This

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“How do you release your mind from something you can’t address at this current moment?”

A few days ago, a friend approached me with this question. He expressed his desire to live in the present but was having difficulty doing so due to whatever was troubling him.

We happen to be sitting on a ski chairlift. Therefore, I only had a few minutes to provide a satisfying answer. Call it wisdom from the lift.

My immediate response was to address the problem as soon as possible. Don’t wait. Face your problems head-on. Once you’ve tackled the problem, you’re free to live in the moment.

If only it were that simple.

My friend expanded by explaining why he posed the question in the first place. He was debating how to communicate with a woman he recently went on a first date with.

Does he text the woman while on vacation? Perhaps it would seem too desperate. But if he waits to text her back after the trip, the momentum built from their first date might fizzle out.

To text now or to text later, that is the question.

We both agreed texting the woman at that moment was not the right decision. But if not now, then when? Tomorrow? The day after?

Simply telling my friend to text the woman later doesn’t alleviate his stress. As a consequence, my friend is unable to fully engage in the present moment. Ultimately, being present is my friend’s end goal.

But what if there’s another solution? What if there’s a way to postpone a decision while still alleviating our stress, which can allow us to fully immerse in the present moment.

Unresolved Matters

My friend was experiencing something called the Zeigarnik effect. Goodtherapy.org defines this concept as the following:

A tendency to remember interrupted or incomplete tasks or events more easily than tasks that have been completed.

If something is left undone, it weighs on our minds. It’s why we remember cliffhangers so well (think The Sopranos series finale).

In my friend’s case, the matter of texting the woman was weighing on his mind. To him, texting the lucky lady represented an incomplete task.

With this mindset, the tendency would be for my friend to send the woman a text now. At least my friend could stop worrying about texting the woman and focus on enjoying our vacation.

But my friend and I agreed to hold off on sending any texts until after the trip. The stress is still in effect. In order to alleviate the stress without resolving the matter now, there’s one more step.

Make a Decision on The Decision

It’s not the act of texting her that must be finalized, but rather the decision of when to text her. Instead of making a decision, make the decision when you will complete a task.

Let’s repeat that:

Instead of making a decision, make the decision when you will complete a task.

By allocating a specific time for resolving issues, you can lift the tense matter infiltrating your conscious and live more presently in the moment.

Due to the Zeigarnik effect, there’s pressure to make a decision now. At least that will alleviate the issue weighing on your mind.

We feel pressure to make a decision. Sometimes the mistake isn’t making the wrong decision but rather forcing a decision prematurely to alleviate the stress. Our inclination to address problems as soon as possible can be detrimental.

In my friend’s case, rushing to text the woman back to alleviate stress could hurt his chances at a second date. Is the sudden stress relief worth a missed opportunity at a second date?

My friend not only decided to postpone texting the woman but also decided when exactly he would text her.

The solution isn’t always to act immediately. Instead, decide how you’ll act and then decide when you follow through with that action. By allocating a specific time, you can put your best self forward to enjoy the present moment.

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8 Things You Should Do Every Day That Take Less Than Ten Minutes

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There’s a lot we can do in a day.

The problem is life happens and we end up spending hours on only a couple of activities. The main culprits are work and screen time. We work all day; then we pop on a form of entertainment until bedtime.

Let’s change that.

I’ve listed 8 things you should consider adding to your day. And none of these activities have to take very long.

1. Go For a Walk

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

Spend a few minutes each day going for a walk. The opportunities are endless.

In the morning to walk your dog (if you’re lucky enough to have one). During your lunch break. In the evening to watch the sunset.

Going for a walk is a great form of release. It breaks up your day. It also is a way to get your creative juices flowing. Don’t believe me? A Stanford University study found our creative output increases by 60% when walking compared to sitting.

So get off your tush and move those legs!

2. Message an Old Friend

“Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends.” 

— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Text/message someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. We can all think about previous stages of our lives. In those previous stages, there were people that meant a lot to us.

An old high school or college friend. A work colleague from five years ago. Your old neighbor before moving neighborhoods.

Think about what it feels like to receive a message from someone you care about yet you haven’t spoken to in months (and sometimes years).

It’s a great feeling. So share those vibes with somebody else. It could make their day.

3. Be Bored

“When you pay attention to boredom it gets unbelievably interesting.”

— Jon Kabat-Zinn

Yes, that’s right. Spend time each day doing absolutely nothing. Let your mind wander.

If you’re never bored, you’re missing out. There is countless research demonstrating the value boredom has on our creativity, problem-solving skills, and general well-being.

4. Discuss an Idea

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Most of what we discuss on a day-to-day basis is not of great depth. Unless you are in an academic setting, it’s difficult to spark conversations on ideas.

This is a travesty. The most meaningful conversations are about ideas. What’s the meaning of life? Why do bad things happen to good people? How do we sort out our political differences?

Spend time discussing ideas.

5. Take Inventory of Your Breathing

“For breath is life, so if you breathe well you will live long on earth.”

— Sanskrit Proverb

To breathe to be alive. It’s something we should never take for granted. Yet, we hardly think about how we breathe.

Because we don’t think about our breathing, we start doing it poorly. We begin breathing through our mouths. We don’t breathe deeply enough. We don’t fully exhale.

These are all problems.

Meditation is a great way to address our breathing woes. If you don’t like to meditate — or don’t have the time — you can spend a sliver of your day (it could be one minute) to take inventory of your breathing. Making a conscious correction to your breathing can overtime address how you breathe when you aren’t thinking about it.

Want to learn more about breathing? I highly recommend the book Breath by James Nestor. You’ll never look at breathing the same way again.

6. Find Something That Makes You Laugh

“A good laugh is a mighty good thing, a rather too scarce a good thing.”

Herman Melville

Laughter fuels us. It gives us life and brightens our day. But for some of us, laughter is a depleted resource.

In a perfect world, our days are filled with unanticipated laughter. Unfortunately, we all get in our groundhog day-esque modes with little to no laughter.

In these scenarios, if you find laughter is not a part of your day, you must manufacture it yourself. Listen to a stand-up comedian. Find a YouTube video of your favorite comedic scene.

Don’t just sit there, laugh about something.

7. Read a Book

“I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.”

— Orhan Pamuk

Simply reading isn’t good enough. What you read matters just as much as the fact you’re reading in the first place.

We all know people that spend hours reading every day, but not a minute of that reading was of a published book. I could spend hours every day reading the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and claim I’m well-read.

But we’re missing out on books. There’s something about reading a book that you don’t get when reading the news. The news gets repetitive. Books have a way of presenting fresh perspectives.

Read a dang book.

8. Stretch

“You are only as young as your spine is flexible.”

— Joseph Pilates

Want to improve your posture, increase your range of motion, and prevent future injury?

Then stretch.

A few minutes in the morning or evening can make a huge difference.

Every task listed can be done with brevity. Time is a precious resource, and each of these tasks is time well spent.

If you implement all these activities to your day, that’s an A+ for you.

But even if you can squeeze one of these activities into your daily routine, it can pay dividends down the road.

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When You Feel Dread - Ask Yourself This Question

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“It’s not as bad you think. It’s all in your head.”

This is what my mom told my 5-year-old self before seeing the doctor for a standard shot. Like many young kids, I was fearful of getting a shot. The thought of a stranger injecting a needle into my arm was cause for concern.

“It will just feel like a pinch in the arm.”

Ok, sure mom.

But in reality, it was exactly that — a pinch in the arm.

All that worry and dread, and for what? The shot may as well have been filled with excruciating pain; at least that would have justified my anxiety.

But no, just a little pinch and I was well on my way with a grape-flavored lollipop.

This childhood story is relevant for all my loyal 5-year-old readers, but it’s also relevant to any adult reading this.

How so? It turns out, adults aren’t so different from children. We don’t grow up as much as we think.

Defining a Pinch

How exactly should we define a pinch? Literally speaking, it’s the act of gripping something between the finger and the thumb.

But metaphorically speaking, let’s think of pinching as playing things up in our minds as bigger deals than they actually are. As adults, we can think back to childhood where we played up our pinches.

But here’s the catch — we play up the pinches as adults.

Even as adults, there are things we dread to do. It could be doing the dishes. It could be finishing up a write-up for work. It could be waking up early.

We dread seemingly mundane acts. And for no good reason. For our own sanity, we ought to rid ourselves of our unnecessary dread.

Analyze the Act

When faced with an act accompanied by dread, ask yourself one simple question:

“What am I actually doing?”

For a moment, don’t answer the question yourself. Instead, imagine an alien observed your actions. How would an alien describe what you’re doing?

See an example below:

What I dread: writing a paper.

What the alien observes: myself lying on a couch using my fingers to tap keys on an electronic device.

Think about that. According to the alien, what I dread is lying on a couch moving my fingers to a device.

No, I’m not getting waterboarded. No, I’m not being chased by lions while hunting for food. I’m lying on a couch, typing letters on a screen.

Seeing your life through an alien puts things in perspective. What you dread, the alien sees as completely mundane.

Sounds like a pinch in the arm if you ask me (or not even).

The Pinches of Life

It turns out, much of what we negatively anticipate is no more than a pinch in the arm.

The examples are endless. Think about things we dread, and then ask yourself, “what are you actually doing?”

  • Doing the dishes — physically washing glasses and popping them into the dishwasher
  • Writing a paper — moving your fingers to a keyboard
  • Waking up early — opening your eyes and pulling yourself out of bed

It’s easy to play up each of these acts. Humans are fantastic storytellers, and the stories we tell ourselves about seemingly mundane acts can turn into nightmares.

If if you’ve created a “nightmare,” ask yourself the same question.

“What am I actually doing?”

Asking yourself this question gives us perspective. And we can all certainly use more perspective, especially when we’ve taken seemingly mundane tasks and blown them out of proportion.

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How to Recover From a Setback - Hit the Reset Button

Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash

“Today is going to be a “#great day!”

This is what you shout at the top of your lungs when you get out of bed in the morning. You’ve committed today is YOUR day.

You’re going to own your workout, ace your job interview, complete your pending chores, and have an adventurous night with your best friends.

Sounds like a good day to me—only one problem.

You overslept and missed your workout window. Even worse, you have less time to prepare for your job interview. Now you have to bolt out the door and skimp out on breakfast.

Not a good start to your “#great day!”.

New Beginnings

A new year, a new month, a new week, a new day. Nothing says a fresh start like a beginning.

When we start, there’s a wave of optimism. Perhaps you remember the first day of a new school year. You tell yourself, “this is the year I’m going commit to x, y, and z.”

The problem is things don’t always go the way we plan them to.

We get hurt. We stumble. We blunder. We drop the ball. We embarrass ourselves. We let others down.


Next thing you know, it’s a month into the school year, or a few hours into your “#great day!” and things aren’t going so swell.

If only life had redos. If only we could build time machines to go back and right our wrongs.

Unless you know something I don’t, time travel isn’t a possibility. What is possible is the next best option — hitting the reset button.

Hit the Reset

Sometimes all we need is a little refresh. There’s a feeling once you’ve started, there’s no going back. But why not take a moment. At that moment, you can reassess how your day is going and make the decision to reset.

That reset could be a power nap, positive self-talk, or a deep breath.

Let’s return to your “#great day!”. Your morning hasn’t gone the way you hoped. You skipped your workout and skimped out on breakfast. On your way to the interview, you have two paths.

One path is to continue with the bad vibes. The fact your morning hasn’t gone well is now affecting your mental preparation for your big interview.

In sports terminology, you’re letting the last play interfere with your confidence on the next play.

The other path is hitting the reset. By reset, you’re recommitting to your mindset when you woke up that morning. A reset generates that fresh start feeling we so desperately need.

Reset Frequency

How often are you resetting?

We’ve all gotten off to bad starts. Bad start to the year. Bad start to your day. Bad start to your corporate softball game. We let beginnings set the tone for the rest of the journey.

That’s when it’s critical to have the reset mindset handy.

Missed the mark on your new year’s resolution? Then recommit to starting again today.

Slept in past your alarm? Decide you’re owning the rest of the day.

Gave up four runs in the first inning? Commit to executing perfectly the rest of the game.

Don’t let bad starts define your effort and execution moving forward. Instead, hit the reset to generate the fresh start you need.

Real-World Application

Take the current calendar year we’re living in. The world was desperate for a fresh start in 2021, considering the shit storm that was 2020.

Did we get off to a great start? The realist in me says not quite. COVID-19 cases skyrocketed in January. And did I mention there was an insurrection on the United States Capital?

2021 resolution? More like 2021 insurrection.

This was not the start we were hoping for. Does that mean the rest of 2021 is a throw-away?

Absolutely not.

Why? Because we can always hit the reset. Reset to recommit to your values. Reset to discontinue any negative momentum you’re carrying. Most importantly, reset for your own well-being.

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A Non-Scientific Explanation of Nature vs. Nurture Through Pencil Sketches

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On the first day of my high school psychology class, my teacher wrote down the following:

Nature vs. Nurture.

My teacher explained a reoccurring theme in psychology — and throughout numerous other subjects— is the interplay of nature and nurture.

As a class, we discussed whether nature or nurture matters more in the development of a person.

Is our success and wellbeing defined by genetics (nature), or is it determined by our environment (nurture)? Is your friend a happy person because she was raised that way, or does she possess a “happy gene” that causes her to be a naturally happy person?

There’s no way to provide a satisfying answer to the nature vs. nurture debate. What we can agree on is that both nature and nurture are factors in our development.

My goal is not to settle the debate but rather to share an illustration that best depicts how nature and nurture influence our lives.

Enjoy the art, but actually, please pardon the amateur sketches.

Nature Defines The Range

In the sketch above, you see a series of ranges. Each range represents our subject Jill’s possible ability levels by skill. The skills displayed are reading speed, endurance running, and memory capacity. For the sake of the example, let’s say Jill is 12 years old.

Now let’s get into the nature/genetic component.

Genetics does two things.

First, it determines what our initial strengths and weaknesses are. In the sketch, each range’s left end represents the starting point of each of Jill’s skills.

Second, genetics determines upside — or one’s potential. In the sketch, the longer the range, the greater the upside.

Jill has incredible potential when it comes to endurance running. If she puts the time in, she could be one of the top runners in her district. But if she sets out to become the next Ken Jennings (Jeopardy trivia extraordinaire), that’s probably not the best idea considering her less than average memory capacity.

If our abilities in life were predetermined at birth, what’s the point of trying? Thankfully, nature doesn’t tell the whole story. Just as nature (genetics) doesn’t paint the full picture, there’s another element we need to add to the mix.

Nurture Defines Where We Fall On The Range

In the updated sketch above, you now see a dot within each of the ranges.

When we first met Jill, she was 12 years old. Now she is 22 years old and has had ample time to develop a variety of skills. Interestingly enough, she has spent the same amount of time running long distances as she has studying useless information only useful for trivia (not sure why, but roll with it).

If nature wasn’t a factor, Jill should be equally as good at running as she is as at remembering useless facts. Obviously, this is not the case. Jill’s genetic range limits her ability to recall information. But when it comes to distance running, the sky is the limit.

Nature determines your upside. Nurture determines where you fall on the upside scale.

Maximizing Your Abilities

People don’t like to talk about limitations. If somebody wrote a book about accepting your limitations, it probably wouldn’t sell very well. People don’t like being told they have limited ability.

Instead, some of us were taught if we work hard enough, anything is possible.


In that case, with enough effort, I could jump as high as LeBron James or defeat Ken Jennings in a game of Jeopardy. News flash: neither of those things is happening.

If this visualization does anything, it shows you the only person you should be competing against is yourself. Your goal should be to get your dot to fall to the right end of each of your ranges. This is called maximizing your potential.

Be the best student you can be. Be the best athlete you can be. Be the best employee you can be. Keep pushing that ability dot as far to the right as possible.

Let’s return to Jill. When it’s all said and done, Jill’s grid should look like this (assuming she cares about all three skills):

We can’t control our genetic upside. But we can control our effort to maximize our potential in every avenue we choose to pursue.

“Comparison is an act of violence against the self.”

Iyanla Vanzant

Our varying potentials are why comparison can be extremely detrimental. Why measure yourself against others when every person has their own genetically gifted upsides?

If you’re genetically gifted in a specific skill, you do yourself a disservice by comparing yourself to others not as naturally gifted. Conversely, if you’re not as gifted in a certain area, it can be discouraging to see the separation between you and others.

If we truly focus on what we can control, we can’t waste a second scolding our parents for poor genes in a certain area. All we can do is maximize our ability.

It’s not about being the best, but rather being the best you can be.

Cheesy yet true.

Let these horrendous pencil sketches show you we all have a ceiling. The question is, are you willing to work hard enough to smack your head at the top?

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5 Fantastic Quotes From a Book You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

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In 1903, a man named George Horace Lorimer wrote a book titled Letters From A Self-Made Merchant To His Son. The book is a collection of letters from a wealthy 19th-century businessman to his 20-something-year-old son.

It wasn’t until halfway through the book that I realized the letters were not real. Lorimer had fictionalized the characters and the letters.


I wanted the letters to be real. Why? Because they were written so dang well.

So dang well, I decided to share with you the five best quotes from the book and explain why each quote is relevant to our lives.

Let’s begin.

Quote #1

“It isn’t what a man knows, but what he thinks he knows that he brags about.”

When you’ve known something all along, your less enticed to announce your knowledge to others. Tell everyone the sky is blue and see what happens.

But let’s say you learn from a lesser-known source of groundbreaking information. With this “new information,” you feel the urge to tell everyone. You want to show off — or brag about — the rare knowledge you possess.

The keyword in Lorimer’s quote is“think.” If you think you know something, that may imply the information isn’t 100% confirmed. If something was common knowledge, why would you only “think” of it?

There’s a wide gap between thinking and knowing. Thinking is entertaining an idea. Knowing is the belief in a strongly held idea.

Quote #2

“When you’ve soaked up all the information you can hold, you will have to forget half of it before you will be of any real use to the house. If there’s anything worse than knowing too little, it’s knowing too much.”

We are inundated with information. If you add up what you were taught in school, what your parents preached, and the news you consume, that’s a whole lot of information.

You have to sort the good information from the bad. It’s not about acquiring knowledge but rather ascertaining what information is worth keeping and what’s worth forgetting about. If you keep around useless information, it may distract you from getting to the good stuff.

It’s like going to a steakhouse and filling up on bread before the steak arrives (unless bread is your thing). Filling up on less desirable content leaves you less room to focus on good content.

Quote #3

“It’s easy to stand hard times, because that’s the only thing you can do, but in good times the fool-killer has to do night work.”

In difficult times, it can be obvious what needs to be done. The mantras are endless. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Keep calm and carry on. If you get knocked down, get back up.

Get tougher, keep calm, and get back up. Simple enough.

This is what Lorimer is getting at. In difficult times, it’s obvious what must be done because “that’s the only thing you can do.”

It’s when things are going great when it’s harder to motivate yourself. Success breeds complacency. Why continue striving when you’ve already reached the mountain top?

Lorimer says, “in good times the fool-killer has to do night work.” Once you have reached the mountain top, will you continue the night work? That’s the real question.

Quote #4

“Petty details take up just as much room in a manager’s head as big ideas.”

Our minds are endlessly churning throughout the day. In fact, the average person has over 6,000 thoughts per day.

That is insane.

What’s even more insane is of those +6,000 thoughts; a substantial portion of those thoughts are likely to be “petty details.”

What will strangers think if I wear blue pants today? Why did Brittany Spears cut off all her hair? When was the last time I heard a song by Ray Charles?

Petty implies something is of little importance. The energy spent on petty details takes us away from getting to thinking about what actually matters. We only have a finite amount of mental capacity. It’s called “capacity” for a reason.

Former United States President Barack Obama knows something about avoiding petty details. Obama was known for limiting his wardrobe during his presidency.

He was quoted saying, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

That’s right Barack. You can’t worry about what color suit you’re going to wear when you should be deciding how to prevent the economy from disintegrating.

Trivial matters take time and energy away from critical matters. We have a limited amount of brainpower each day. Therefore, don’t sweat the petty stuff.

Quote #5

“When you’re through sizing up the other fellow, it’s a good thing to step back from yourself and see how you look. Then add fifty per cent to your estimate of your neighbor for virtues that you can’t see, and deduct fifty per cent from yourself for faults that you’ve missed in your inventory, and you’ll have a pretty accurate result.”

If you were confused the first time you read this, read it again. Though the quote is wordy, the lesson is powerful.

Humans tend to overvalue their own abilities and qualities in relation to others. In social psychology, this is called illusionary superiority.

I have a better understanding of politics than the rest of my family. I’m more self-aware in social situations compared to my friends. I work harder and sacrifice more compared to the rest of my colleagues.

Hate to be that guy, by you’re not as special as you think (and neither am I).

Lorimer says you should “add fifty per cent to your estimate of your neighbor for virtues that you can’t see.” Perhaps your colleague does more work than you give him credit for.

Conversely, Lorimer says you should “deduct fifty per cent from yourself for faults that you’ve missed in your inventory.” This compensates for your inflated perception of your qualities and abilities. Perhaps you slack off more at work than you care to acknowledge.

Recognize your flaws and while also recognizing how we undervalue the ability of others. Humble yourself and give others the benefit of the doubt.

Take these five quotes with you and internalize them. Though Lorimer’s words were written over 100 years ago, some life lessons are timeless.

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What Are You Willing to Give up in a Post-Pandemic World?

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COVID-19 has been tough on all of us. We fear for the health of ourselves and our loved ones, unemployment has soared to historical numbers, and many of us have been stuck at home for almost a year now.

Amid the struggles, one nice component of a pandemic world has been the gift of time. Overnight, many of us received hours back into our days.

Time spent commuting to work — gone. Parties on the weekends — no more. Long weekend trips to visit extended family — a thing of the past.

Time has been given back to us. What have you done with this added time? Maybe you have been reading more. Perhaps you started journaling or writing (as I have). Maybe you developed a daily exercise routine. Or you have been spending more time with your loved ones.

If you took advantage of the added time provided by the pandemic, that’s great news. And want to hear some more great news? The global health pandemic will eventually end, and apparently sooner rather than later.

That’s great and all, but what does this mean for your newly developed hobbies/habits?

What to keep, what to give up?

Since the pandemic began, I’ve started reading and writing. Before coronavirus invaded my surrounding area, I was neither reading many books nor blogging. The gift of time allowed me to pursue both activities for hours on end.

But this can’t last forever.

At some point, the world will open back up. One day I’ll wake up, and the ample time I took for granted will disappear.

With less time, decisions must be made. Do I continue reading and stop writing? Do I stop reading and only write? Do I continue both and give up my steady exercise routine? Or I could continue all three (read, write, exercise) and ditch all future social engagements.

What a lonely life that would be.

Post-Pandemic Prioritization

In a post-pandemic world, difficult decisions must be made. What are you willing to keep in your life, and what are you ready to give up?

It comes down to prioritization. With less free time in a post-pandemic world, you must decide what’s worth keeping.

Do you value daily exercise over your newly developed cooking routine? If so, you may need to kiss your gourmet cooking goodbye. Do you value your social life over your reading routine? If so, you may need to decrease your aggressive book goal for the year.

These are the conundrums we will face. Better to think about these things now. If not, you will be in for a rude awaking.

Make a List

Create a list of all the things you’ve started pursuing since the pandemic. See my list below:





Watching lots of movies

Sleeping at least 7 hours

Once I’ve listed out my added life activities since the pandemic, I then order each activity from highest priority to lowest priority:

1. Sleeping at least 7 hours

2. Writing

3. Reading

4. Meditating

5. Cooking

6. Watching lots of movies

If the pandemic magically ended tomorrow, I’d commit to continue sleeping 7 hours and writing. Reading and meditating become secondary, while cooking and watching a ridiculous amount of movies become afterthoughts.

I recommend you do this exercise to put your added activities into perspective. By identifying your highest priority pandemic activity, you’ll increase the odds of continuing that particular activity well after the pandemic has ended.

Twenty years from now, you can look back at the pandemic and proudly say you developed a newly found passion, began a healthy habit, or nurtured a budding relationship.

Recognize the best pandemic additions to your life through prioritization. Then commit to your prioritized pandemic habits long after the pandemic has passed. If not, the pandemic — just like your positive habit — could dissipate.

Whatever positive component you’ve started during the pandemic, make a plan to have it last.

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Why We Should Be Polarizing

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What does it mean to be polarizing? When we say someone is polarizing, we usually mean people either “love ’em or hate ‘em.”

The act of polarization divides people. A polarizing movie is either applauded or lauded. A polarizing political figure is either supported or refuted. A polarizing piece of artwork is either accepted or rejected.

The real question is, do we ourselves want to be polarizing? Do we want to do something that people will either love or hate? Do the positives of your admirers offset the negatives of your detractors?

There’s no golden rule on if and how polarizing one should be. Polarization is more an art than a science. The key is to ascertain what situations to be polarizing and when to hold back.

Before diving deeper, let’s meet polarization’s polar opposite — the people pleaser.

The People-Pleaser

If polarization is the act of dividing people into separate groups, then the act of people-pleasing is attempting to be as likable as possible.

A people pleaser’s goal is to earn as many people’s approval as possible. People-pleasers default to the safest, most politically correct, and least controversial option. No ruffling feathers.

There are certainly pros to being a people pleaser. Less conflict means less time butting heads with those who disagree with you, which means more time minding your own business. Additionally, you are less likely to create enemies had you instead decided to “ruffle some feathers.”

But do we want to be permanent people pleasers? Should we go through life acting in a way that will give us the most thumbs up?

The answer is no.

Polarizing vs. People Pleasing — A Balancing Act

We shouldn’t always seek to polarize people, nor should we always act to please as many people as possible. There has to be a happy equilibrium — harmony between the yin and the yang — to achieve the proper balance.

The question becomes when is it appropriate to be polarizing, and when should one avoid conflict? Let’s dive deeper.

Polarize to Create An Impression

In Western cultures, we’re taught to stick out. To be an individual. To think differently. To go against the status quo.

To stick out, you must channel your polarizing side. Think of polarization not as forcing some on your good side and others on your bad side, but rather conveying yourself as a unique individual. The way to come off as “unique” is by revealing your true authentic self.

Polarize to convey who you really are. You only have one shot at a first impression. Imagine stepping into a job interview. This is a great opportunity to flex your polarizing side.

If you’re interviewing for a competitive role, odds are you are competing against other highly qualified individuals. How are you going to separate yourself? The answer — be polarizing.

Tell the interviewer your quirky work habits. Tell the interviewer about your passion for philosophy and how it affects your everyday decision making.

Is there a risk to revealing your polarizing side? You bet. But these are the calculated risks one must take to stand out. The person evaluating you may embrace your polarizing side. That same person may also think you are completely insane. Being your authentically polarizing self weeds out what would not have been the right fit.

When people say “be yourself,” what they actually mean is “be your true polarizing self.” What is unique is also polarizing.

People-Please to Choose Your Battles

To be polarizing all the time would be exhausting. Expressing your political beliefs, continuously going against the grain, doing what others aren’t doing could lead to burn out.

“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction.”

— C. Joybell C.

Sometimes it’s easier to step back and go with the flow. If you polarize in every situation, you won’t have much energy to polarize when it matters most.

Polarize to leave a strong impression. Polarize to stand up for what matters most. Polarize to separate yourself from the crowd. Then, know when to step back.

Strategic polarization is the name of the game.

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A Selfless Benefit to Suffering

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What is the benefit of hardship and suffering? To suffer is to be human, and we all suffer differently. The love of your life breaks your heart. Physical pain destroys your well being. You get cut from the team you worked so hard to make.

Where’s the silver lining to our hardships and suffering? We’ve all heard the term “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” It’s true — suffering and hardship can build resilience, perseverance, and toughness, traits all of us should seek.

But is that it? There has to be more to suffering other than “building resolve.”

My Bummed Toe

For over a year, I suffered from chronic foot pain. Every step I took resulted anywhere from mild irritation to excruciating pain. I tried everything from rest, new shoes, and physical therapy with no luck. Eventually, I elected for surgery.

I’m happy to report after a few grueling weeks post-surgery, things are looking up. But thinking back, was there any good to my chronic foot pain?

I try to find a silver lining when possible, but when it came to my foot pain, I was stumped. What good did chronic foot pain do? All it did was prevent me from doing the things I love to do for far too long, in addition to the mental stress related to the matter.

Dealing with the pain did in fact build resolve. Additionally, the foot pain limited what I could do, which forced me to develop other hobbies.

That’s great and all, but I’ve discovered there has been an even greater benefit as a result of my hardship.

Suffer to Support the Suffering

Before my foot injury, I did not know what it felt like to experience chronic joint pain. When I’d meet somebody suffering from joint pain, I couldn’t relate.

Now when I meet someone going through joint pain, I can relate.

This is huge.

The best way to understand what somebody is going through is to go through the same experience yourself. Difficult experiences create opportunities for greater empathy. Console others for what you’ve also experienced. This is powerful.

Think of your hardships as preparation to support others down the road. A personal breakup will help when consoling your friend going through their own breakup. Getting cut from a team or having been passed up for a promotion, in turn, will help you support others going through their own setback. Your physical pain will prepare you to help those going through their own physical pain.

If your entire life was smooth sailings, how could you support those going through hardship? Personal success and happiness are for the self. But when you experience suffering and hardship, think of it as the potential to benefit others down the road.

Paying it Forward

We should not seek out suffering. And we don’t have to — it’s inevitable. Take the words of Viktor Frankl:

“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death.”

Take what is ineradicable suffering and use those experiences to be there for someone in need. If you’re only thinking about yourself, suffering can be miserable. But when you step out of yourself and see how you can contribute to the lives of others, you’ll realize suffering provides us all incredible opportunities for impact.

Use personal suffering to support the suffering of others.

Take today’s suffering and transform it into empathic support for someone tomorrow. Life is unpredictable, but through hardship, whether that’s physical, emotional, or spiritual, you’ll be better equipped to support the needs of others.

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We Need to Create More and Consume Less

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We live in a consumer society. Eat more, watch more, read more, buy more. More, more, more.

Consumerism has become the staple of our livelihoods. Think of a typical day: consume breakfast, consume the news, consume your favorite streaming show. We consume so much; we are referred to by businesses as consumers.

Are we human anymore?

This begs the question — where is there room for creation? We spend so much time consuming; there isn’t enough emphasis on creation.

Unfavorable “Creative to Consumption” Ratio

In the current season of The Bachelor, one man must decide his soul mate among 32 women. For every one man, there are 32 women— a ratio of 1:32.

This is what we like to call an unfavorable ratio.

The ratio seen on The Bachelor isn’t so different from our consumption to creation ratio. We spend a lot more time consuming than we do creating. In fact, some of us don’t create at all. Our lives may resemble 32 women and no man.

Is 0:32 even a ratio?

One goes through life only consuming. But here’s a thought; almost everything you consume was created by somebody else. Much of what we take for granted wouldn’t be possible without the creative motive of others.

The delicious bowl of pasta. The catchy song on your Spotify playlist. The device you’re using to read these words.

People had to hold off on consuming content to sit down and create something of their own.

Favorable “Creative to Consumption” Ratio

As mentioned earlier, we are all heavy consumers. Read this article, buy that smartphone, eat these cookies.

There’s no escaping the allures of consumption, but even with a little effort, we can allocate a small piece of our time to creating something new.

Instead of reading all day, write something others will read. Instead of eating what others cook, throw some food together for you and your family. Instead of listening to music, string a few beats together yourself. Instead of buying Apple products, create your own technological empire (this last one may take a bit longer to accomplish.)

The opportunities to create are endless.

Consume to Create

It may appear I’m opposed to conspicuous consumption. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s great to enjoy the fruits of other people’s labor. I’m all for a lazy afternoon consisting of food deliveries, streaming shows, and reading.

But there’s a reason to consume other than for sheer enjoyment. We always have something to learn. Consume to inspire action of your own. Consume to launch a creative mindset. Consume with the motivation to create.

All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original — Austin Kleon

Take what you’ve consumed to motivate action. Piece together your greatest influences and make them your own. That’s the heart of all creation. But remember to credit those that came before you.

Humans weren’t put on this planet to consume mindlessly. Before advanced civilization, our ancestors were expected to create everything themselves.

We need to get back to previous times. And by previous times, I don’t mean a hunter-gatherer society. What I mean is sitting down and creating something yourself.

True fulfillment arises through creation. Food always seems to taste better when you make it yourself. The same goes for everything else we create.

Now go out and make something. Create what others will consume.

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If One Book “Changed Your Life,” You’re Doing it Wrong

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Photo by Darwin Vegher on Unsplash

Ever heard this line before:

“This one book changed my life!”

Okay, hold your horses. Though you may have heard someone make that claim, it’s quite the statement to make. Did one single book change the whole trajectory of your entire life?

I tend to think not, and here’s my controversially bold statement:

The person that claims one single book changed their life is the same person that doesn’t read enough books.

Those that commit to reading will likely tell you different books have impacted their lives in different ways. There isn’t one single book to get hung up on when there are countless lessons to be learned.

One Book — One Lesson

A few years ago, I read the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. As the title indicates, there are seven lessons (habits) introduced in the book. They are displayed below:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win-win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw

Of the seven lessons, lesson #2 resonated the most with me (Begin with the end in mind). I distinctly remember Covey describing the scenario of witnessing your own funeral (morbid, I know.)

What would people say at your funeral? Who would show up? What would close friends and family remember you for?

How you answer these questions should dictate the choices you make in life. By beginning with the end in mind, you’re able to assess the actions you take today.

Starting with the end in mind was my top personal takeaway from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Did I find the other lessons useful? Absolutely. But from my own experience, there is a defining takeaway from each book I read.

Bread Crumb Lessons

Imagine the best lesson from every book as a bread crumb. As I go through life reading books, I take a bread crumb from each book. That way, I can take the best lesson from each book and implement each in my life.

Below I’ve provided an example. I’ve provided my top takeaway for the following three books:

How to Win Friends & Influence People —Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.

The 48 Laws of Power —Control the options you present to others.

The Champion’s Mind — By noticing a trait in somebody else, you yourself have the potential for the same trait.

Instead of basing my life entirely on one of these three books, I take the best lesson from each book and fuse them into my life.

Taking lessons from books is similar to taking lessons from those you interact with. Just like you shouldn’t emulate your life entirely around one person, the same rule applies that you shouldn’t emulate your life entirely around one book.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him”

This expression can be slightly altered when it comes to books. It could go like this:

In my readings, every book I read contains a lesson to be learned, and in that I learn from it.

The more you read, the more bread crumbs you pick up. Read enough, and you’ll have a sack of bread crumbs to guide you through life.

Read enough to take the quality from within the quantity. Immerse yourself into many books and walk away armed with the tools, skills, perspectives, and habits to enhance your life.

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Guilt Isn’t Required to Take Responsibility

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Photo by Rahul Jain on Unsplash

Guilt and responsibility are two of a kind. These two words are sometimes used interchangeably. But do they mean the same thing?

I think not.

Understanding the difference between guilt and responsibility can go a long way towards greater accountability. Is it possible to take responsibility without feeling guilt? Is guilt required to assume responsibility?

Before we can answer these questions, we need to understand what guilt and responsibility mean independent of each other.

Let’s get into it.

The Meaning of Guilt

We’ve all experienced guilt at some point. But what does it mean?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines guilt as the following:

The fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty

In every day life terms (not legal terms), we experience guilt when we acknowledge wrongdoing. I feel guilty because I lost your money. You feel guilty because you ate all the french fries without sharing.

It’s easy to identify guilt. With guilt comes emotions such as shame, embarrassment, and sadness.

The Meaning of Responsibility

Alright, so what’s the deal with the responsibility?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines responsibility as the following:

The quality or state of being responsible: such as moral, legal, or mental accountability

Let’s hone in on the last word, “accountability.” To be accountable means you take responsibility. If you’re a CEO, you’re accountable to your shareholders. If you’re a parent, you’re accountable to your children.

Accountability says nothing about whether or not the fault is yours or somebody else’s. You assume responsibility and do what needs to be done.

Responsibility And Guilt

It’s totally conceivable to experience guilt, to then be followed by a sense of responsibility.

I’m guilty of losing your money; therefore, I feel a responsibility to pay you back. You’re guilty of eating all the french fries; therefore, you feel responsible for ordering more food for the table.

When there is wrongdoing, guilt ensues. It’s in our moments of guilt we take responsibility for our wrongdoings and respond appropriately. The negative emotions that accompany guilt, such as shame, embarrassment, sadness, are the same emotions that motivate responsibility. I screwed up and feel bad; therefore, I take responsibility for fixing the problem.

It’s easy to take responsibility when the fault falls on you. Your guilt is in full effect. But what happens to responsibility when guilt isn’t a factor?

Responsibility Without The Guilt

It’s much harder to take responsibility when there aren’t the negative emotions that accompany guilt. Some people won’t even take action unless guilt is present.

But here’s the catch: you don’t need to feel guilty to take responsibility.

Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, spends time discussing what he coins the Responsibility/Fault Fallacy. His main idea is people wrongfully take responsibility only when it’s their own fault.

What would happen if all people operated this way? Quite simply, not much would get done.

Remember — guilt isn’t required to take responsibility. You can take responsibility for the solution without being at fault.

I’m not guilty of previous generations’ missteps, but I take responsibility to make amends for future generations. I’m not guilty that my siblings trashed the kitchen, but I take responsibility for cleaning up the mess. I’m not guilty of how others act, but I take responsibility for how I respond.

Responsibility is a choice. It’s easier to take responsibility for yourself, but what about when it comes to dealing with other people?

Responsibility > Guilt

To create prolonged action in others, one must inspire responsibility.

To inspire action, invoke responsibility, not guilt.

Mark Manson says guilt is past tense while responsibility is future tense. The question isn’t who’s at fault. The past is the past. At a certain point, there’s no need to bicker about who takes guilt when we need to start taking responsibility.

When we push guilt onto others is where we experience problems, especially when guilt is non-existent. If your goal is to enforce guilt to achieve responsibility, that strategy can backfire on you. Pushing guilt onto others can cause people to take less responsibility. 

To create change for the better, we must inspire responsibility from those that aren’t being held responsible.

Take responsibility for what you are not held responsible.

We’re taught to take responsibility for our actions. It takes a higher level of mastery to take responsibility without the emotion of guilt. 

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Why Discipline Is the Key to Freedom

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Photo by Jason Hogan on Unsplash

What does it mean to be free?

There’s this notion being free is being able to do whatever it is you want to do. Wake up when you want. Eat what you want. Say whatever you want. Be whoever you want.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you believe in freedom as doing whatever you want, you’ll come to realize freedom is just an illusion.

With freedom comes consequences. If you are free to buy whatever you want, you blow through your money. If you are free to eat whatever you want, you purge on junk food and feel like crap. If you are free to say whatever you want, you run the risk of being punched in the face.

Is this idea of “freedom” what we want? And is it truly what we need?

Freedom Through Discipline

To experience true freedom, one needs discipline. Jacko Willink, a former Navy Seal and currently a leadership consultant, coined the following expression:

Discipline = Freedom

Does this equation make any sense? I always thought discipline and freedom were polar opposite. Freedom is the coach potato who plays Fornite until 4 am. Discipline is that dude who wakes up at 4 am to go swimming in the ocean (I swear that’s a thing).

What gives? How do discipline and freedom have any relation?

It turns out discipline and freedom go hand in hand. The more disciplined you are, the more freedom you have.

I’ve identified three ways discipline generates freedom in life. Let’s dive in.

1. Discipline = Freedom of Time

The discipline to wake up an hour earlier gives you a “free” hour. The discipline to not check your phone during a project allows you to finish the project faster, which creates more time.

Now compare that to the “freedom” of waking up past breakfast or the “freedom” to check your phone when you please. These undisciplined acts decrease how much free time is available.

We may not be able to buy time in the traditional sense. But through discipline, we can generate extra time in our days.

Our most valuable asset is time, therefore buy it through discipline.

2. Discipline = Freedom to Choose

Discipline generates options for the future. If you’re disciplined today, you’re free to choose in the future.

Imagine you’re a high performing high school student (it’s ok if you weren’t, I’m sure you turned out just fine.)

If you had the discipline to follow your teachers’ guidance, you were likely to perform well academically. Your academic success is noticed by colleges, which provides more options where you could attend school.

3. Discipline = Freedom of Motion

The discipline to stretch allows you the freedom to move your body.

The discipline to eat healthily gives you the freedom of more energy throughout your day.

Eating healthy and stretching takes discipline. Even if you work out, it’s easy to discredit the need to stretch.

Discipline is preventive work. What we take for granted — such as our health — can be taken from us. Discipline is doing what should be done, even when it’s easy to put off.

The Freedom Prison

We all love freedom. But with freedom comes responsibility. Take the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt:

” Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”

A frightening prospect indeed.

If we’re not careful, we become prisoners of our own freedom. Freedom can paralyze us. Freedom can lead to bad decisions.

At this point, it sounds like freedom is the worst thing ever. But it can also be the best thing since sliced bread.

Through discipline, you get to experience the best parts of freedom. We have the freedom to be disciplined.With discipline, more freedom is available. 

With freedom comes responsibility.  Generate more freedom by living a disciplined life.

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Some Thank You’s Mean More Than Others

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Saying “thank you” is something we say to people throughout our days. We thank loved ones, friends, colleagues, and strangers.

We think of thanking people as a simple concept. When someone does something for you, you thank that person.

After thinking deeply about the meaning of “thank you’s,” I’ve come to realize not all thank you’s are valued equally. Some thank you’s are more meaningful than others.

Thank you’s can be broken down into two types: expected thank you’s and unexpected thank you’s.

What you will find is one kind of thank you is more meaningful than the other.

Expected Thank You’s

Most thank you’s occur after somebody does something in which a thank you is expected. Expected thank you’s acknowledge somebody has performed an act of service or has completed a task.

See a few examples:

  • Thank you for paying for lunch
  • Thank you for picking up the dry cleaning
  • Thank you for finishing the report

It’s obvious when an expected thank you needs to be said. But if somebody is expecting a thank you, is it truly meaningful?

This leads us to the better kind of thank you.

Unexpected Thank You’s

It’s totally acceptable to thank people for no specific reason. Tell somebody thank you just because you felt like doing so. Unexpected thank you’s let the other person know they are valued, recognized, and loved.

See specific examples below:

  • Thank you for being such an incredible friend
  • Thank you for all the work you do day in and day out
  • Thank you for always having my back

Notice these “thank you’s” aren’t specific. They acknowledge the bigger picture.

Here’s the best part — you can say unexpected thank you’s anytime you want. You don’t have to wait for a good deed. The next time you see somebody you care about, tell that person you’re grateful for who they are and the work they do.

The best thank you’s are those when the person least expects it.

You may have had the experience of receiving recognition from a peer when it was least expected. Do you recall how that made you feel?

It’s elating and reaffirming to have somebody tell you how much they value you. Remember how that feels and share the good vibes with somebody that deserves to hear it.

Thank ’Em All

Thanking people comes in different forms. Continue thanking people for the things they’re expected to do. That’s a given.

But be certain to thank others, “just cause.” It’s the unexpected thank you’s that make all the difference.

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5 Most Influential Books I Read in 2020 (And 49 Other Book Reviews)

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Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

At the beginning of 2020 I set a goal to read 12 books. I thought one book a month was beyond reasonable.

If I had known the year we were going to have, I would have quadrupled my reading goal. With normal obligations down the drain, I was allotted ample time to read.

The result was 54 books. Of all the books, I narrowed down my top 5 most influential books of the year. While I thoroughly enjoyed my top 5 books, I also believe these books are highly beneficial to anyone who cares to read them.

Once you get through the top 5 books, feel free to check out my all too brief recap of every other book I read this year organized by genre.

Let’s get to it!

1. Atomic Habits by James Clear

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I’m going to say it — every person should read this book. As the title suggests, this is a book about habits. But it’s so much more than that.

James Clear explains the importance of habits in terms of compounding. A small act everyday compounds into massive change over long periods of time. He also breaks down the different components of a habit and how to make (or break) a habit.

Most self-development books on the market are criticized for not offering any actionable advice. Unlike the rest of the genre, Atomic Habits provides countless tools to improve your life.

This was the most impactful book I read all year. Read it!

2. Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl

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If you don’t question your life after reading Frankl’s psychological masterpiece, I question you as a human.

Frankl was one of the millions of Jews living in concentration camps during World War II. Before the war, Frankl was a trained psychologist living in Austria. He survived the war and published the book in 1946.

Frankl discusses life in a concentration camp from a psychological perspective. What was the psychological makeup of the prisoners? What mindset did it take to survive? What is the meaning of life amid unthinkable suffering?

This is by no means a light read, but it will make you think deeply about your life.

3. The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey

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A book about tennis, really?

You don’t have to be a tennis player to appreciate this book. If you are interested in performing at the highest level or looking to coach somebody, this is the book for you. Championship football coach Pete Carroll wrote the forward for the book. That should tell you something.

Gallwey breaks down years of tennis coaching from the mental perspective. Topics include visualization, how the mind interacts with the body, and the keys to getting your mind right for competition.

Performance psychology is a growing field, and this book is one of the best out there. I wish I had read this book 10 years ago, but better late than never.

4. So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

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One of the defining themes of 2020 was the call for social justice due to the countless acts of police brutality towards African Americans. Throughout the summer, the New York Times and Amazon recommended a slew of books on race and social justice.

Of the books I read, So You Want To Talk About Race was the best. Why? It wasn’t written by a college professor. Oluo cuts right to the chase. It feels like a real talk conversation. No fluff or academic jargon.

Oluo’s style felt like a deep conversation between friends on the topic of race. Concepts such as intersectionality, affirmative action, the model minority myth, and microaggressions are discussed.

Whether or not you agree with Oluo’s beliefs, it’s a thought-provoking read that will challenge your beliefs.

5. Extreme Ownership by Jacko Willink & Leif Babin

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When former Navy Seals tell you about accountability and ownership, you believe them.

Willink and Babin break down specific missions from the Iraq War around the year 2006. The purpose of the book is to teach effective leadership. There’s no better place to understand how to lead people than through stories of life and death. The leaders — in this case, Navy Seal commanders— are responsible for not only executing missions at the highest level but also ensuring the safety of their troops.

With so much on the line, Willink and Babin educate their readers on the importance of steal-proof planning, prioritizing, ensuring open lines of communication, and decision making.

This is a must-read for anyone looking to lead a group of people.

A Super-Brief Review of Every Book I Read in 2020

And here’s an all too brief recap of every other book I read this year by genre. Enjoy!

**Note — any book in bold I also highly recommend. Any books not in bold I’d still recommend, but only after you’ve read the bolded ones.


Zero to One by Peter Thiel & Blake Masters— Great concepts discussed for any aspiring entrepreneur. Thiel simplifies what makes a great business into comprehensible components.

What It Takes by Stephen Schwarzman — If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like for a billionaire to self-indulge on all his great achievements in life, read this book. We get it; you donated money to Yale and have brilliant ideas. There are some interesting life lessons, but too much of the “I’m the smartest person on the planet.”

The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone — Big goals, big dreams. Cardone is all about setting goals 10x what you imagined, working 10x harder than you think, and implementing the 10x rule to practically all components of your life. He could have just said work harder than everybody else and left it at that.

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki — Kiyosaki stresses the concept to stop spending and start investing. Easy read and a nice reminder to have your money work for you.

Extreme Ownership by Jacko Willink & Leif Babin — See book #5

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene — Describing this book as controversial would be an understatement (it’s been banned in some prisons). Greene introduces 48 different strategies to obtain, sustain, and perpetuate power. Some interesting ideas, but would have been a lot more useful for an imperial emperor 2,000 years ago. At least a few rappers appreciate the book.


Leading with the Heart by Mike Krzyzewski — Krzyzewski, known better as Coach K, is one of the greatest basketball coaches ever to live. If there’s any takeaway from this book, it’s the importance of developing strong relationships with every person you lead. This book is filled with anecdotal stories on how Coach K went about connecting with his players. I’d recommend this book for any basketball junkie.

Above the Line by Urban Meyer — Meyer has coached two different college football programs to national championships. He spends most of the book discussing the importance of accountability within his programs. Solid coaching book.

The Carolina Way by Dean Smith — I was a little disappointed with this book, considering I’ve always admired Dean Smith, the man behind the legacy that is the UNC-Chapel Hill basketball program. The book tries too hard at applying the lessons from the court to executive board rooms. This made the book longer than necessary. There are good lessons, but you have to dig for them.

The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh — This was the best of all the coaching books I read this year for one simple reason. Bill Walsh is brutally honest when it comes to coaching. He acknowledges the mental toll coaching had on his well-being. Lots of great principles, but you question the costs by which success is achieved.

The Mamba Mentality by Kobe Bryant — Go inside the mind of one of the greatest athletes of the 21st century. In his own words, Kobe Bryant delivers his methodologies regarding his preparation, competitive will, and legacy. Regardless of your opinion of Bryant, there’s no questioning his drive to be the best.

Social Science

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Tatum— This book is more than its catchy name title. Tatum does a deep dive into the dynamics of race. The book is longer than necessary, though the section on biracial experiences is well worth the read.

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo—This book is unique in that DiAngelo dives deep into the psychology behind racism. I appreciated the time spent on the juxtaposition between individualism and collectivism, which is the cause of many of our problems regarding racial understanding.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo — See book #4

Democracy For Realists by Christopher Achen & Larry Bartels — I still believe in democracy after reading this book, but it was a close call. Achen and Bartels provide countless studies on why American citizens cannot rationally elect presidential leaders. The hardest part about the book is adjusting to the academic density. If you can’t handle the whole book, read the introduction, and you’ll get the gist.

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell — Gladwell uses his storytelling prowess to explain why our first impressions of people stink. He spends time discussing the case of Amanda Knox, CIA mishaps, and the Penn St. football scandal and weaves them all together in a neat theory on the dangers of first impressions. An important read for anyone looking to improve their social skills. Also, it’s Malcolm Gladwell, so you really can’t go wrong. 


Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke— Duke is a former world champion poker player turned consultant. This book is all about decision making and game theory. You don’t need to understand how poker works to appreciate this book. A fantastic book for anyone looking to hone in on their decision-making skills.

The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey — See book #3

The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt — Few books manage to combine both Eastern and Western philosophies to understand the route and meaning of happiness. This book does that.

The Champion’s Mind by Jim Afremow—Afremow is a sports psychologist by trade who’s trained countless Olympic athletes. A lot of pep talk but nothing too groundbreaking about this book.

The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker— Becker wrote this book months before passing away. He discusses the lies humans tell themselves to live a meaningful life. Not the kind of book to brighten your day, but fascinating if you’re a sucker for the darker sides of psychology.

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert — Highly recommend this book to anyone. Gilbert uses humor and wit to examine why humans are atrocious at remembering past experiences and predicting how they’ll feel in the future. The result of these shortcomings is our inability to know what will ultimately make us happy.

Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl — See book #2

Influence by Robert Cialdini — This book is marketing 101. Cialdini provides a roadmap on influencing people to buy any product or idea. Chapters are devoted to concepts such as scarcity, social proof, authority, and reciprocation. If you’re a salesperson or marketer, this is a must-read.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown— Brown is the queen of authenticity in the psychology world. Her go-to discussion point is the importance of demonstrating vulnerability to achieve authenticity. A good book if you’re feeling down about yourself and need a quick pick-me-up.

Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect by Bob Rotella — Calling all golfers to read this book. Rotella provides the psychology behind what facilitates a premier golfer. Every time I hit the course, I look over my notes from this book.


The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday — This is the perfect book for anyone facing hardship. Holiday enlightens readers on the countless hardships historical figures encountered throughout their lives. You’ll be ready to embrace every obstacle that comes your way.

Stillness Is The Key by Ryan Holiday — Another classic written by Holiday. He takes lessons from Stoic philosophy and weaves them into our everyday lives. The main theme is how one achieves stillness/tranquility amid the craziness that surrounds us.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius — This book is a collection of private thoughts and journal entries from Marcus Aurelius, the last great leader of the Roman empire. Based on the wisdom and maturity by which Aurelius thinks, you’d wish more leaders today think like him. Though Aurelius isn’t a philosopher in the traditional sense, his private journal entries are some of the most famous pieces of literature in all of philosophy.

On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche — If you’re looking for a healthy dosage of pessimism, Nietzsche is your guy. This book feels like a never-ending rant by Nietzsche when it comes to the shortcomings of religion. He also questions what originates the morality by which humans live their lives. Fun stuff.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle — The lesson is the same throughout; live in the present moment. Tolle manages to deliver this same message in 37 different ways.

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma — This is a cute fable about a hotshot lawyer that leaves behind his “successful and rich life” to become a monk. The lawyer turned monk returns home to teach his western friend lessons from his monk practices. Cheesy plot line but worth the read if you‘re in the mood for a cheesy fable.


Shoe Dog by Phil Knight — We think of Nike as one of the world’s premier brands. How hard was it for Phil Knight to build the brand that it is today? Once you finish his memoir, you will realize it’s a fluke Nike survived. A fantastic read for any aspiring entrepreneur.

Educated by Tara Westover — Inspiring and Powerful. I don’t know what else to say about this book. Westover discusses her absurd childhood and how education changed her life.

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins — After reading this, you’ll be motivated to run through a brick wall (please don’t). Goggins examines his life from his time as a heavily obese man turned Navy seal turned endurance athlete. This guy is a beast. Anyone aspiring to maximize their human potential ought to check out Goggin’s story.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai — Yousafazi tells the story of her life growing up in Taliban controlled Pakistan. She’s best known as the girl shot by the Taliban, but only a small portion of the book is about that incident. Malala takes a stand on education as a human right that all boys and girls are deserving of. Great read for any globally-minded citizen.

Becoming by Michelle Obama —Michelle Obama discusses life growing up in Chicago and living an ambitious life climbing the corporate ladder, only to realize her true calling of public service. Oh, and she casually becomes the first black first lady of the United States. Some parts of her story dragged, but overall well worth the read.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank — It’s Anne Frank. It’s her personal diary. Inspirational, profound, and yet heartbreaking. Need I say more?


Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty — Shetty incorporates monk teachings to a Western audience. What makes this book legitimate is that Shetty lived as a Buddhist monk in India for 3 years. What makes this book illegitimate is the countless accusations authors/influencers have made accusing Shetty of stealing quotes and making them his own. It’s a shame because I liked this book. Regardless of who said what, there’s lots of good content.

Atomic Habits by James Clear — See book #1

Range by David Epstein — This book is all about why generalists thrive in a world focused on specialization. Epstein goes against the grain and acknowledges sometimes quitting is a good option when better alternatives are available. What I appreciate most about this book is the amount of unconventional advice you won’t get elsewhere.

The Positivity Tribe by Christopher J. Wirth & Chris Wilderberg — A fable about high school students and the importance of maintaining a positive attitude amongst adolescent struggles. Quick and easy read. Highly recommend it for young adults.

12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson — And here we go. Peterson is arguably the most polarizing and controversial academic/thought leader on the planet. I respect his teaching when it comes to ethics and morals. His views on gender are where he gets himself in trouble. Evalengtical Christians love him. Secular progressives hate him. You be the judge.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin — I appreciate books that tell people what not to do instead of always telling people what to do. This book is filled with lots of cliches. Can’t hurt to read but most useful for those who experience self-defeating thoughts.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz — An all-time classic. Miguel Ruiz provides four life lessons to live your life by. He keeps the book short and sweet—great content in a quick punch.

What to Say When You Talk to Your Self by Shad Helmstetter — This is all about positive self-talk. It seems a little silly, but Helmstetter provides specific, actionable items to improve how you talk to yourself.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman — Don’t let the “love” in the title scare you. If you intend to improve any relationship in your life (romantic or platonic), this is a MUST read. Chapman breaks down the five different ways people prefer to receive love. The concept of the 5 love languages is well-known, but very few have read the book. Let’s change that.


The Lessons of History by Will & Ariel Durant — If you want to understand the world in 102 pages, read this book. Explore the dichotomies between capitalism and socialism, aristocracies and democracies, and religion and secularism.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari— An all-time classic of a book. Who knew history could be so fun to learn about? I don’t consider myself a history buff, but I’m one step closer to being one after completing this book.


Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed — Become your best self-therapist. This book is a collection of anonymous letters from people experiencing everything from tragedy to relationship problems. Strayed provides advice on how to navigate these difficult circumstances. Filled with wit and humor, Strayed is a phenomenal writer and a profoundly empathetic human being.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield—Not to be confused with The Art of War. Tap into your inner creativity with this classic. Pressfield explains we all have creative juices. The way to tap into our creative side is by defeating the “resistance” that we all experience. Fantastic read to bring out your best creative self.

The Sports Gene by David Epstein — Ever wondered why Kenya and Ethiopia produce the best long-distance runners in the world? Epstein answers that question and numerous others in this book about the science/biology behind athletic performance. A fascinating read, especially for those into long-distance running.

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan — Keegan was tragically killed in a car crash less than two weeks after graduating from Yale. What remains is her collection of short stories that will move you. Keegan touches on death, the purpose of life, and love. Incredible writer.

Blue Zones by Dan Buettner — Blue Zones are places in the world where people live the longest. Buettner examines four “blue zones” and identifies why people in these communities live the longest. The book has great takeaways in terms of exercise and diet, but perhaps too much emphasis on anecdotal storytelling.

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Avoid Extreme Language

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Photo by Mark Rasmuson on Unsplash

What’s wrong with the following statements?

“Today is the worst day of my life”

“Marcus is my best friend”

“You never listen to me”

“I’m always right”

“I love taking the subway”

“I hate Harry Potter”

Each one of these statements uses extreme language.

Things are either the best or the worst. We either love or hate people. I either always do something or never do something.

Is there any between? Is it possible to see the good and the bad in every situation faced and every person encountered? Is it possible I sometimes do what you ask? Why is it “always” or “never”?

The world appears to be black and white. In reality, we live in a world filled with gray areas. If the world is filled with gray areas, then our language should match that reality.

There are three common scenarios in which we use extreme language. Let’s break down each one:


“Marcus is my best friend”

“Today is the worst day of my life”

Is Marcus really your best friend? If Marcus is your best friend, where does that leave your friends from previous stages of your life?

And is today actually the worst day of your life? Perhaps it is, but there’s also a chance you’ve been through far worse.

If you were to ask yourself these questions, you might think twice about your proclamations.

Humans are myopic creatures. We exaggerate what’s in the present moment as being far greater or worse than previous experiences.


“I hate Harry Potter”

“I love taking the subway”

As they say, “hate is a strong word.” To say you hate something is an extreme statement. Do you actually hate Harry Potter? Or are you simply not much into the fantasy genre?

It’s naive to believe the word “hate” should be removed entirely. But it should be limited to times when we truly despise something and not to be used liberally.

Alright, enough about hate, let’s talk about love. Do I really love the subway? I’ll admit I like it a lot, but to say I love the subway seems a bit much.

What do you think my imaginary girlfriend would think if I told her I loved her and then used “love” to explain my feelings towards the subway?

Love and hate are not to be eliminated from your vocabulary. Both are powerful words that are appropriate when the time is right. Therefore pick your spots to say you love or hate something.


“You never listen to me”

“I’m always right”

“Never” implies you fail to do something 100% of the time. Imagine a parent proclaims you never listen to what he/she asks. If you truly failed to follow through on what your parent demands 100% of the time, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be where you are today (unless your parents are utter morons).

And how about those who say they’re “always right.” Are there people who are right about everything 100% of the time? If so, jokes on me.

It’s safe to assume nobody has all the answers. To say you’re always right is opening a can of worms. And I don’t like worms.

A Simple Solution

Let’s rework the opening statements. See below:

“Today is the worst day of my life” → “Today has been a hard day”

“I hate Harry Potter” → “I’m not much of a Harry Potter fan”

“You never listen to me.” → “You hardly do what I ask”

“Marcus is my best friend.” → “Marcus is one of my best friends”

“I love taking the subway.” → “I thoroughlly enjoy taking the subway”

“I’m always right” → “I’m right about a lot of things”

What seems like a subtle difference — rephrasing a few words — can make all the difference.

If you’re looking to prove a point, you’re more likely to get others on board with moderate language. Problems and polarization arise when we resort to extreme language.

Extreme Language = Polarization

The last thing we need is more polarization. We can barely agree on anything these days.

Words are powerful. Therefore use them wisely.

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Shut Up and Listen – 5 Strategies to Stop Interrupting People

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“Stop interrupting me!”

We hear this complaint all too often. Humans are social creatures, yet many of us (especially men) aren’t the best at letting others talk.

Over and over again, we’ve been told the ability to listen is paramount.

Great, so shut up and let the other person talk. Great job!

In reality, it’s not that simple. We interrupt others in more contexts than we realize. In fact, a Stanford University study demonstrated people disagree on what constitutes an interruption.

Amid the confusion, we can all interrupt less and listen more. Below are five strategies to stop interrupting people:

1. Embrace the Silence

Whenever we meet somebody new, we like to engage in a flowing conversation. Transitions between statements are seamless. I talk, then you chime in with another thought.

What seems like a continuous conversation could be perceived as one person interrupting the other. An attempt to engage in a flowing conversation has resulted in us cutting off each other’s statements.

What is it we’re avoiding? The silent gaps between statements.

Don’t look at silence as an awkward pause, but rather an indication the person you’re speaking with has fully communicated their thought.

Let the other person finish what they’re saying. Nothing too groundbreaking.

The inability for others to express themselves is far worse than a brief moment of silence.

2. Hold the Questions

See the conversation below:

Person #1: Yesterday I had a make a run to the grocery store…..

Person #2: (interrupting person #1): Why were you shopping for groceries? We just bought some yesterday.

Person #1: Well, if you let me finish I can explain!

Many of the questions we ask are in the midst of somebody telling us a long story or giving a thorough explanation. If you’re engaged, you may think asking questions is a signal you’re actively listening.

While this is true, we need to allow the person to continue with their dialogue. There’s a chance your burning question will be answered if you wait.

The only scenario in which it could be acceptable to interrupt somebody is an immediate need for clarification. If there is immense confusion, then interjecting with a question might be appropriate.

This rule is more of an art than a science. If a question is appropriate, then do ask. But do so with caution and sparingly. The speaker needs time and space to express their thoughts.

3. Resist the Joke

This can be hard to resist.

Perfectly timed jokes can be planted as a pun or innuendo based on what the other person says. Cracking a joke at the wrong time with the wrong person can be costly.

I will admit there is some gray area here. If you’re with your best friend and have the kind of relationship in which you feel comfortable cutting them off with a witty quip, go ahead and channel your inner comedian.

But we can all recount situations in which an attempt at a perfectly timed joke occurred at an imperfect time.

Resist the joke. And if the joke is too good, wait your turn to speak.

Will the joke be as funny? Maybe, or maybe not. At the very least, you can rest easy knowing you let each person convey their thoughts.

4. Embrace the Repetition

See the following conversation between a father and his son:

Father: Before you leave for the party, just remember — don’t drink and…

Son: Yes dad, I know this already. You’ve only told me this a million times.

Father: Why do you think you’ve been told this a million times?

If somebody is saying something of high importance, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the same lesson before.

The most important life lessons deserve high levels of repetition.

“The eight laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition.” — John Wooden

When you hear something you’ve heard before, resist chiming in and saying you already know. Practice listening to the repeated lesson. Learn to embrace the repetition.

Imagine your parents telling you never to drink and drive on only one occasion. What kind of parenting would that be?

5. Stop Guessing What the Other Person Will Say

If we think we know what a person will say, we may attempt to finish their thought.

An attempt to finish another person’s statement is a lose-lose. There are two likely scenarios, neither of which would serve you well.

Let’s say I interrupt my friend and correctly guess what she’s about to say. What do I gain from doing that?

Practically nothing, aside from possibly alienating my friend.

Now imagine I interrupt my friend and incorrectly guess what she’s about to say. Not only do I alienate my friend, but I also look like a total clown in the process.

Resist the urge to assume what others will say. Failure to do so will only bite you in the butt.

Takeaway Strategy

Entrepreneur Ray Dalio has a terrific strategy to avoid all the previously mentioned pitfalls.

Dalio discusses in his book Principles to practice the 2-minute rule. The rule is quite simple.

The 2 minute rule specifies that you have to give someone an uninterrupted 2 minutes to explain their thinking before jumping in with your own. This ensures that everyone has time to fully crystallize their thoughts without worrying they will be misunderstood or drowned out.

Ray Dalio

It’s that easy; let the speaker speak for at least two minutes. This allows the speaker to “crystalize their thoughts.” In other words, the speaker can fully express their thoughts without being cut off.

People deserve to be heard. Give others space and time to express themselves fully. It’s a sign of respect.

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The Paradox of Rest

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The ability to rest is crucial to our well-being.

We tend to think of resting as a physical act. Lie down on the couch and watch TV all afternoon. Take a 3-hour afternoon nap. Sleep in on the weekends, only to wake up once lunch is being served.

We assume the more physical rest we get, the more relaxed we should be. Does that sound right to you?

I can tell you that doesn’t sound right to me.

If quarantined lockdowns of 2020 have taught me anything, it’s that too much physical rest is detrimental. Millions of people have had more time than ever to rest physically, yet millions of people are more stressed than ever. The numbers are staggering.

Very quickly, I realized this extended downtime wasn’t ideal.

Too much rest can lead to restlessness

What in tarnation is going on here?

Let’s explore the relationship between our minds and our bodies — and in the process, turn our restlessness into rest.

Mind and Body

The relationship between mind and body has been described as separate but intertwined. Some believe mind and body are one and the same, while others believe they are completely separate. There is much debate between these two sides.

For a moment, let’s imagine the mind and the body as separate but intertwined. The body and the mind function on different planes while interacting to create a symbiotic relationship.

How do we combat restlessness by mediating between mind and body?

Rest the Body, Race the Mind

Our attempts to disconnect can backfire on us.

You want to take your mind off something troubling you, whether that’s your job or a failing relationship. You lie in your bed, and where does your mind wander to?

Where you least want it to go.

In your attempt to rest your body, you race your mind. That’s what we like to call an inverse relationship.

There is an inverse relationship between resting your body and resting your mind

The solution? Let’s flip this situation upside down.

Rest the Mind, Race the Body

Your attempt to disconnect your mind by lying down didn’t work out the way you hoped. You say, “screw it, I’m going for a walk/run.”

Once you get your body moving, your mind relaxes into a calm and clear state. This isn’t a groundbreaking discovery. Exercising one’s body is connected to a plethora of mental benefits.

“Strength of mind is exercise, not rest” — Alexander Pope

You went from destructive thoughts to a restful state of mind—all from the simple act of moving (racing) your body.

A Balancing Act

We must be cognizant of the inverse relationship between resting the mind and resting the body. Rest one, and the other races into action.

Consider putting the following mantra into your daily life:

Rest the body, exercise the mind. Rest the mind, exercise the body.

Life is all about balance. Plan your day to rest your body, and other parts of your day to rest your mind.

5 Unconventional Things to Be Grateful For

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Earlier this year, I started keeping a gratitude journal. Before going to sleep, I would write down three things I was grateful for. I found myself practicing gratitude for the same two things:

Health and family.

I felt like a broken record when it came to my gratitude practice. While it’s fantastic to be grateful for one’s health and family, there are countless other things to think about when practicing gratitude.

My inspiration to get more creative with my gratitude practice sparked once I started using a smartphone app called Gratitude Plus. The app offers a feature where you can see what other users are grateful for all over the world.

Seeing the diverse array of things people were grateful for inspired me to become more creative with my gratitude practice.

As a result, I’ve come up with five unique things one can be grateful for.

1. Human Innovations

Underground trains, Boeing 787 airplanes, wheels, electricity, advanced medicine, 60-story buildings

I was sitting on the NYC subway and thought to myself, this is absolutely incredible. Most people cringe at the thought of the NYC subway system but hear me out.

Somebody built this. I wish thanks for the thousands of people who poured their waking hours digging underground holes, building steel train cars, and putting down miles upon miles of rail lines.

This was all done so people like you and I can hop on a train uptown and get downtown in under ten minutes.

Think of the countless other technological innovations to be grateful for. We live in a time that those before us couldn’t imagine or experience.

2. A Funny Moment

That funny comic strip you read in the paper. The perfectly timed joke dropped by your friend. The lady on the street who stopped you and thought you were a movie star.

Pay homage to those fleeting moments of laughter. Appreciate those moments and be grateful for them.

3. Anything That Engages the Senses

A cup of hot chocolate that warms your freezing hands. A slight breeze amid the sweltering heat. The smell of recently bloomed flowers on an early spring day.

The senses we experience should not be taken for granted. To experience through our senses is to experience life. Express gratitude for those moments of pleasure.

4. The Kindness of Strangers

The woman who graciously explained where to find the best food in town. The boy who returned your lost wallet. The passenger who gave up their seat so you could sit down.

Be grateful for those people whose names you don’t know and never will know. Be grateful for the deeds strangers have done for you. You may never be able to return the favor, but by all means, remember those random acts of kindness and be being grateful for them.

5. Acquiring Knowledge

A fantastic book on the history of the world I just finished. A thought provoking quote that reframed my perspective. Something a high school teacher taught me.

Express gratitude for acquiring knowledge. It is a privilege to learn.

Additionally, have an appreciation for the people — living or dead — who devoted their lives to education. Most of what we know was learned by somebody before us.

Find Gratitude in the Specifics

When practicing gratitude, be as specific as possible. The more specific you think, the more things you’ll be grateful for.

Think critically of everything you engage with daily. Ask, “Is this something I can be grateful for?” More times than not, the answer is a resounding yes.

We take for granted the little things. Therefore it’s our responsibility to find beauty in the little things.

We can be grateful for plenty of things beyond our health and our loved ones. Illuminate your world by practicing gratitude for all that surrounds you.

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Your Life Is an Experiment

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There are plenty of metaphors for life. You may have heard one of the following:

  • Life is a game
  • Life is a stage
  • Life is a dance

There’s merit to each of the above metaphors, but there’s one metaphor for life that doesn’t get enough love.

Life is an experimen

Don’t worry, no bunsen burner or lab coat is required.

When it comes down to it, our lives are a series of experiments. These experiments help us learn, grow, and develop as people.

Any good experiment follows the scientific method. If you’re rusty on what the scientific method is, here’s a nice overview.

For simplicity, I’ve consolidated portions of the scientific method into three parts: the hypothesis, the experiment, and the analysis of data.

Hypotheses Of Life

Whether you realize it or not, we formulate hypotheses, or predictions, constantly.

See a few examples below:

  • I predict drinking a glass of milk before bed will help me sleep better.
  • I predict I’ll attract my crush at work if I dress better.
  • I predict a career in journalism will be my most fulfilling career path.
  • I predict moving to Florida from the frigid north will boost my mood.
  • I predict by benching heavy weights 4x a week, my chest and arms will look like this guy.

At face value, we don’t view these predictions as hypotheses. But that’s exactly what we’re doing.

We’re predicting the future based on information we’ve acquired through research and observing other people’s experiences (case studies).

We’ve got our hypothesis lined up; let’s get to the fun part.

Life Experiments = Life Experiences

You may have to reread the previous heading. Notice how close the words “experiments” and “experiences” look and sound. I like to think this is not a coincidence.

At this point, we’re simply experiencing (experimenting) with life. We take action on our previous hypotheses.

I’m going to chug a glass of milk before bed, dress to the nine to attract my soul mate, quit my current job and pursue a career in journalism, move to Miami Beach to live my best life, and go hard at the gym to look like this guy.

Analyze Data

Alright, how did I do? See my results italicized.

  • I predict drinking a glass of milk before bed will help me sleep better — Horrible idea, stomach cramped all night.
  • I predict I’ll attract my crush at work if I dress better — Smashing success!
  • I predict a career in journalism will be my most fulfilling career path—Best decision of my life; work is more challenging and fulfilling.
  • I predict moving to Florida from the frigid north will boost my mood—Results inconclusive; miss my core friends up north but love the warmer weather.
  • I predict by benching heavy weights 4x a week over the next two months, my chest and arms will look like this guy — No chance.

Live And Learn

Experimenting with life is critical. Those who are willing to experiment the most will learn the most.

We’re told to live life to the fullest. What that really means is we should be experimenting with life to the fullest. You don’t know what works until you try it.

If you’re afraid of failure, do not fear. When it comes to experiments, there are no failures. You’re simply testing your theories (taking action) and learning from your results (analyzing data).

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it best:

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

To live is to experiment. And to experiment with life is to experience life.

The world is not your oyster, but rather your lab. You’re the tester and the test subject.

Have fun with it all; it’s how to live life to the fullest.

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Why TED Talks Are Destroying Us

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TED Talks have become the epicenter for great ideas. Influencers from all walks of life stand on a stage and deliver a 5–20 minute talk about a subject ranging from psychology, education, productivity, relationships, business, among other topics.

Watch a few videos and you’ll feel enlightened. What a professor at a research institution spent years of their life studying you’ve learned in 15 minutes.

It seems too good to be true.

We think by consuming a few TED Talk videos, we’ve acquired knowledge to carry us through our lives.

The harsh reality is TED Talks are ruining us. But how so? What’s wrong with consuming content to make us healthier, smarter, and more productive people?

There are two major problems, along with one simple solution.

Problem #1 — Consolidation

Think about how a top-viewed Ted Talk came to fruition. For example, take Angela Duckworth’s TED talk on the concept of grit. Before her TED talk, Duckworth wrote a book titled Grit, in which she discusses the importance of having passion and perseverance to follow through on long term goals.

If you read Grit before watching Duckworth’s TED talk, you’ll recognize plenty of details are left out from the book. Duckworth glosses over concepts in 30 seconds — the same concepts discussed for pages on end in her book.

Watching a TED Talk is like watching a movie that’s based on a book. If you watched the Harry Potter movies without reading the books, would you be considered truly knowledgeable?

I’ll let a Harry Potter fan who bothered to read all the books be the judge of that.

Problem #2 — Lack of Pondering

Consuming TED Talks is a passive experience. You watch the video, quickly digest the information, and then continue on with your day. The whole lesson is completed in one sitting.

There must be breaks between concepts. It’s during breaks you have time to ponder what you learned. During times of pondering, one can immerse in whatever ideas, arguments, or concepts were discussed.

TED Talks are not designed to encourage pondering. As soon as you finish the video, you go on with your screen time, whether that’s checking emails or surfing the web for dank memes.

The Solution — Read a Dang Book

Yeah that’s right, crack open a book. Instead of consuming TED Talks, read words on a page.

Books force you to stretch a concept over weeks at a time (unless you read at this woman’s pace).

In the time you read a book, you enter what I’ve deemed the read-ponder seesaw. Read for a while, ponder for a while. Read some more, ponder some more. Read during the day, ponder at night.

It’s the moments of pondering, or self-reflection, that stamps the content of a book into our minds.

What’s most important isn’t the consumption of content, but rather how we internalize that information within our minds and into our lives.

When it comes to deep learning, there are no shortcuts.  I’m not saying ditch TED Talks completely. There’s a place for content in short bundles. TED Talks are a nice way to preview content if it’s worth digging into further.

Just ensure TED Talks don’t remove the need to read books. TED Talks should supplement books, not replace them.

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Why Having a Positive Attitude Isn’t Enough

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Have a positive attitude!

We hear this advice all the time. Have a positive attitude and things will work out.

Unfortunately life isn’t that simple. Our lives are filled with heartbreaks, losses, failures, and setbacks. There has to be more we can do than prop up the ideal of a positive attitude.

I’m not opposed to having a positive attitude. In fact, I believe maintaining a positive attitude defines how close we get to realizing our life potential. The only problem is that positive attitudes don’t just drop from the sky. A specific mindset is required in order to generate an authentic positive attitude.

Let’s dive deeper.

Enter the Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck achieved positive psychology stardom through her groundbreaking book Mindset. She defines two kinds of mindsets people can have: growth mindsets and fixed mindsets.

Dweck describes a growth mindset as maintaining the belief that skills grow through effort. People with a growth mindset are focused on getting better. With enough effort, change is possible. Any trait or skill can be developed from bad to good or from good to great.

If growth mindsets represent the ideal, then fixed mindsets fall on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Dweck describes those with a fixed mindset as focusing on permanent traits. The key word is “fixed.” Anything that is fixed remains the same over time.

If ability remains the same over time, why try? Any attempt to improve looks plain stupid.

Sucking at Math

How does one’s mindset affect one’s attitude? There’s no clearer example than learning the subject of math.

Let’s meet Sarah and Leo, both of whom struggle at math. Sarah is aware of her struggles, but believes through hard work she can improve and eventually become great at math. Leo is also aware of his struggles, but continuously tells himself he “sucks at math.”

An onlooker can easily claim Leo has a negative attitude while Sarah has a positive attitude. All Leo has to do is change his attitude. Right?

Not quite.

What Leo needs to focus on isn’t his attitude, but rather his mindset. Why? Because a positive attitude is a byproduct of having a growth mindset.

Currently Leo believes he sucks at math, which indicates he has a fixed mindset. Leo can be as positive as he wants, but until he has a mindset makeover not much will change.

In order for Leo to succeed at math (or anything else in life), he will need to convert from having a fixed mindset to having a growth mindset. As a byproduct, he will go from having a negative attitude to a positive one.

With this understanding we can come up with two simple equations:

Growth Mindset = Positive Attitude

Fixed Mindset = Negative Attitude

The Cart Before the Horse

Having a positive attitude without a growth mindset is putting the cart before the horse. It’s like learning multiplication before addition. It’s like teaching a child to walk before they learn to crawl. It’s like….

You get the idea.

The best thing you can do is maintain the belief that through effort things can change. Belief in change generates the positive attitude society values.

Focus on maintaining a growth mindset. The attitude will take care of itself.

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The Relationships With Your Smartphone

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What kind of relationship do you have with your smartphone?

I’ve been asking myself this question all the time since watching The Social Dilemma. If you haven’t seen it, definitely watch it. If you have seen it, then you know by the end of the movie you’re ready to delete all social media and destroy your phone.

Ok maybe don’t destroy your phone. But we can all agree our phones have dominated our lives, and sometimes not for the best. One particular study found we check our phones 96 times a day.

Oh my.

I think we can do better than that.

Previously I’ve written about strategically arranging our smart phone apps to decrease time wasted on our phones. That particular post addresses how to curb phone usage once we’ve opened our phones.

What hasn’t been discussed is our overall relationship with our phones. By better understanding our respective phone relationships, we can better curb our phone usage.

For discussion purposes, I’ve broken down the relationships between people and their phones into three categories.

Lab Rat Phone User

Lab rat phone users check their phone the second it buzzes in their pocket. The moment a notification is sent, the lab rat user stops everything they’re doing to check a potentially meaningless notification.

Imagine you’re having a heart-to-heart conversation with your friend. While you friend listens, he checks his phone because it made a “ding” sound.

Are you serious right now?

It’s as if a computer chip has been installed into your friend’s brain, instructing him to check his phone at the moment of vibration.

Operating as a lab rat phone user is destructive to your well-being as well as to those around you.

Email Phone User

Email phone users are one step up from lab rat phone users. Instead of mindlessly checking one’s phone at the moment of vibration, one chooses to peer at their phone after an intermittent period of time.

The same way you check your email every 10 minutes is the same frequency in which you check your phone.

Let’s go back to the conversation you had with your friend. Your friend has graduated from a lab rat to an email phone user. Instead of your friend checking his phone mid-conversation, he waits until immediately after the conversation to see what he missed in the last 10 minutes.

In this scenario, your friend had the discipline to check his phone after the important conversation, despite his phone “blowing up” in that timeframe.

Is this better than before?


But is there still room for improvement?


Desktop Phone User

The desktop phone user treats their phone as if it’s a monitor attached to a specific location. At home this means placing your phone in a defined area, and ideally somewhere you can’t hear, feel, or see when a notification is received. When you go to check your phone, you place it back in the defined area.

But what about when you’re on the go? In this situation it’s advisable to stick your phone in your bag. Each time you check your phone, you must open your bag, check your phone, and then place the phone back where you found it. If you don’t have a bag, the next best thing you can do is silence your phone.

It’s not about being disciplined, but rather making it difficult to check your phone.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear explains the best way to curb an undesirable habit is to make it difficult to perform. By placing your phone in a hard to reach place, you’re discouraging yourself from repeatedly checking your phone.

As a desktop phone user, your friend has no idea his phone is “blowing up”. He can fully engage in the conversation between you two.

Removing distractions in order to fully engage should be the norm, not the exception.

What To Aspire To

The goal is to become a desktop phone user. But don’t think about defining yourself or somebody else in each category.

Realistically we’ve all floated between being lab rat phone users, email phone users, and desktop phone users. The key is minimizing time spent as a lab rat phone user, while maximizing the time spent as a desktop phone user.

You decide when you check your phone, not the other way around. Tell yourself you will check your phone an hour from now, and not at the moment of vibration.

Making these commitments will decrease the number of times you check your phone, which in turn will generate more time to be present and do the things you were meant to do.

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3 Things Not To Do When Apologizing

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We all make mistakes. Unfortunately some of those mistakes can hurt another person. We’ve been taught the right thing to do in these circumstances is apologize.

While it’s all dandy and nice to apologize, where we can miss the boat is how to go about apologizing to another human being. You may have had the experience of apologizing, only to have the other person lash out even further.

Let’s say you’re with a group of friends and you make an off color joke. One of your friends doesn’t take a liking towards your poorly worded joke. A few minutes later you approach the friend and say the following:

“I’m sorry if my joke offended you. I was only trying to build off the previous joke. I hope you can forgive me.”


Not only is this apology weak, but your friend is even more upset as a result of your half-ass apology.

How could this apology be crafted differently? There are three problem areas, which we’ll break down to better understand how one can go about crafting the proper apology.*

1. Don’t Say “If”

Let’s take the first part of the apology:

“I’m sorry if my joke offended you.”

By saying “if”, it may appear you’re casting the blame on the offended party and not yourself. The rational is “perhaps if my friend wasn’t so sensitive, he wouldn’t have taken offense to the joke in the first place.”

You messed up — not your friend. By taking accountability, you can more authentically apologize to your friend.

See a few more examples how “if” can sink into our apologies:

  • “I’m sorry if I hurt you”
  • “I’m sorry if you interpreted that as offensive”
  • “I’m sorry if you felt that way”

Drop the “if” and say things as they are.

2. Don’t Justify Your Action

Let’s take the second part of the apology:

“I was only trying to build off the previous joke.”

You might have a good reason for explaining away your wrongdoing. While it may feel right to explain or justify your joke, it won’t remove the pain your friend experienced.

Remember, the intention of an action doesn’t nullify the pain experienced by the recipient. If somebody is hurt, take accountability and fess up. Trying to explain your reasoning may not always be the best idea, unless emotions have quelled and there’s room for further dialogue.

3. Don’t Make It About You

Let’s take the third and final part of the apology:

“I hope you can forgive me.”

You shouldn’t apologize to relieve a burden you’re carrying. Apologizing isn’t about about letting the wrongdoer off the hook. Apologies are about the victim, not the culprit.

There’s a chance your friend may not be ready to forgive you. If your apology isn’t accepted and you get upset, that means you were apologizing for your own well-being.

Apologize to support your friend, not to make yourself feel better.

Apologizing The Right Way

The best strategy for any apology is to be as straight forward as possible. Let’s rework our original apology:


“I’m sorry if my joke offended you. I was only trying to build off the previous joke. I hope you can forgive me.”


“I’m sorry about what I said. That was very disrespectful on my part and I promise this won’t happen again.”

When apologizing: be gracious, be humble, take accountability, and let the other person know you’ll be better. Say things as they are. The person will more likely appreciate your honesty and your self-accountability.

We’re all human. We will mess up and will want to apologize because we’re good people.

When you voice your apology, make it count. Not for your sake, but rather for the person that needs to hear it.


*The book So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo influenced some of the ideas in this post. I highly recommend the book.

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4 Reasons You Should Be Sports Literate

Photo by Mario Cuadros from Pexels

Let’s talk sports! If you’re not into sports don’t stop reading just yet. This post is designed specifically for you (but sports fans by all means please read on.)

Every person should have a respectable knowledge of sports. Specifically one should know the results of big games and be able to list the major players on the best teams.

You may say, “Why do I need to keep up with sports? It’s so boring, I don’t understand the rules, and there are more important things happening in this world.”

Sports are not the be-all and end-all, but they are an important part of society. In order to engage with others and be a well rounded person, you should have a foundational base of sports knowledge.

Not convinced yet? See below four reasons you should be sports literate.

1. Sports Are a Safe Topic

Think of all the major headlines you hear about each day. Polarizing political controversies, tensions between bordering nations, failing economies, global health pandemics, natural disasters, and major sporting events. Of these news topics, which of these would you feel most comfortable speaking to a stranger about?

The obvious answer is sports.

Sports are not polarizing and do not involve the loss of life. Of all the topics you could discuss with a stranger, sports is your best bet to minimize the risk of angering or upsetting another person, while still effectively connecting with somebody on a personal level.

2. Sports Bring People Together

Nothing brings people together quite like sports.

Cities know this. When a hometown team is competing for a championship, in no other instance will such a high percentage of a city’s population be watching the same event.

Colleges know this. It’s no coincidence colleges plan their homecomings when their respective football teams are playing.

Nations know this. Events such as the Olympics and the World Cup captivate the entire world unlike anything else. Sports generate national pride, while bringing the world together in a symbolic gesture of peace.

3. Sports Are Cross-Generational

Imagine what the world will look like in 100 years. Now compare what will still be relevant that far in the future to what is relevant today. What will people still care about?

Fashions fade. Technology advances. Empires rise and fall. Culture adopts new forms of entertainment.

But sports are here to stay.

In 100 years the Cubs will still be playing baseball in Chicago, Liverpool will still have a heated rivalry with Manchester United, and the New York Knicks will (probably) still be losing basketball games at historic rates.

4. Sports Transcend Demographics

If you have the opportunity to drive across the country, you’ll realize people live drastically different lives from each other. Imagine meeting somebody who doesn’t look like you, talk like you, while also having differing religious and political beliefs. What’s a topic that has the potential to forge a bond between you and that person?

By now you should know the answer to that question.

The Importance of Sports

People say sports is just a game. And that’s true, it is just a game. But very few things in this world have the power to bring people together the way sports can.

You don’t need to be a sports expert, but you should have enough knowledge to expand the number of people you could connect with. Therefore engage in sports to open your world to new relationships.

You never know who you’ll meet.

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How To Truly Get To Know Somebody

It’s hard to get to know people. Just when we think we’ve got somebody figured out, time and time again we are pleasantly surprised. A person we thought wasn’t interesting turned out to be extremely dynamic. Conversely, those we thought to be fascinating turned out to be less than extraordinary.

What was the disconnect? What caused us to think one way about somebody, only to find out that person is not who we thought they were?

The easy answer is time. The more time we spend with people, the better we understand their character and personality. But this doesn’t paint the full picture. In fact, time can be a misleading variable when getting to know others.

Aside from time, there is another important factor that must be taken into account when evaluating others. This other factor is context. But before delving deeper into evaluating people in different contexts, we need to first understand the danger of evaluating others through limited contexts.

The Fundamental Attribution Error

What is the fundamental attribution error? In academic terms, it’s defined as “the tendency people have to overemphasize personal characteristics and ignore situational factors in judging others’ behavior.”*

In simpler terms, when somebody else does something bad it’s a reflection of their character, but when you do something bad it’s because you’re having a bad day or you have a legitimate reason to justify your behavior.

For example, let’s say you’re on the highway and somebody cuts you off. You immediately think “wow, what a jerk.” Now let’s say you’re the one who cuts somebody off. You wouldn’t call yourself a jerk. You had a legitimate reason to cut the other person off since you’re rushing home to catch the big game. You interpret your behavior as an isolated situational act, while you interpret the behavior of another person as a reflection of their character.

The fundamental attribution error occurs when we observe behavior in a single context. Our brains are lazy. As a result, we generalize the behavior in one context and assume that’s the person behavior in all contexts.

Increasing Contexts

How do we defeat the fundamental attribution error?

The solution is to increase the contexts in which we spend time with another person. To truly get to know somebody, it’s not the amount of time spent with that person, but rather the amount of time spent with that person in a variety of contexts. The error occurs when we evaluate people in limited situations. Therefore, to know someone better, we need to increase the number of situations spent with that person.

Focus on spending time with somebody at different times in the day, with different people, and in different environments.

Somebody grumpy in the morning could be super friendly in the afternoon. Somebody quiet at work could be very chatty outside of work. And yes, somebody who’s a jerk on the highway could be a total rockstar of a person.

Before claiming you know somebody, make sure you observe that person in a variety of contexts. If somebody says to you, “you don’t know me,” what they might be saying is “you only know me in this one context, which isn’t indicative of my behavior in other contexts.”

If somebody does turn out to be a jerk, at least you’ve done your homework. But if you put the work in and realize somebody you thought was a dud is actually a great person, then the effort was worthwhile.


*Information about Fundamental Attribution Error taken from Ethics Unwrapped

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3 Ways To Be Less Defensive

Humans are protective creatures. When someone calls us out on a belief, our first instinct is to become defensive. We end up alienating those who have challenged or questioned our beliefs.

Let’s imagine as a child you were taught that people get what they deserve, no matter the circumstance (also known as the just-world theory). You’re now an adult and your friend laments how unfair life can be. You pridefully say people get what they deserve. Your friend aggressively rejects that statement as false and proceeds to explain why your belief is wrong.

It’s game on. The two of you slug it out as if it was Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier in the Fight of the Century.

Defensiveness is a massive barrier to open dialogue. If we desire to engage in meaningful conversations, then we must learn to combat our defensive inclinations. Below are three strategies to become less defensive, and in the process, avoid an Ali vs. Frazier scenario.

1. Separate Your Beliefs From Your Identity

Identity, in simplest terms, is how you see yourself. Part of how you see yourself is dependent on the beliefs you hold. One could say your identity is dependent on your beliefs. Why is this problematic?

If you attach your identity to your beliefs, you’re putting a lot on the line. When your friend attacks your argument of a just-world, it feels as if he’s attacking your identity. This is why we hold on for dear life to our beliefs. When our beliefs are attacked, it feels as if our identities are being attacked as well. With this mindset, you will never concede a belief which has been dismantled because if you do, you’re giving up your identity. And no one wants to give up their identity.

The solution? Separate your identity from you beliefs. Therefore when your argument doesn’t hold up, your identity doesn’t fall apart. Denouncing your belief is not a death sentence to your identity.

2. Seek Truth In The Opposing Argument

“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story”

Walter Cronkite

The old adage goes that there are three sides to every story: your side, the opposing side, and the truth. If truth is what you seek, then you should be open and receptive to the counterargument. Apart from extreme circumstances, you can find truth in the counterargument, even if you believe that truth is surrounded by a pack of falsehoods.

Take the counterargument’s belief and combine it with your belief. This will bring you one step closer to the truth. Life isn’t black and white. Truth lies somewhere in the gray. And the only way to get to the gray is by identifying the truth that exists from all sides.

3. Check Your Ego

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid”


When engaging in an argument, it may feel as if our pride is on the line. This is related to the first point — separate your beliefs from your identity. It’s also related to the fact you must simply check your ego. If you value being right over seeking truth, you’re in for quite a struggle.

The ego tells you that your personal truth is the absolute truth. The ego desires to be right, because it will affirm your intelligence, superiority, and whatever else you want to tell yourself. Unfortunately nobody possesses the absolute truth. Only by checking your ego can you open your mind to opposing ideas. Check the ego and away we go!

Pursue Truth

The three strategies previously mentioned will help lower your defensiveness. But once we lower our defensive tendencies then what?

Instead of defending yourself, pursue the truth. Much of what we believe to be true is either incorrect or incomplete. Therefore, go into every interaction with the intention of finding truth. We should pursue truth the same way we pursue the things in life we most desire. You will be too busy pursuing truth to even think about getting defensive.

Drop your defensiveness, seek truth, and forget the rest.

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What To Do When There’s Nothing To Do

In previous posts, I’ve written much about the importance of planning your day. I’ve discussed why to plan your day in minutes, how to optimally time block, and how to differentiate between urgent and important tasks.

While it’s wonderful to plan the perfect day, in reality there are moments in our days in which nothing is planned. Let’s refer to unplanned time as dead time. When we arrive at dead time, we become bored. When boredom ensues, we like to say we’re killing time.

Anything with the word “kill” make me squirm. Why is killing time problematic?

The Killing Of Time

Life is short. Killing is bad. Time is valuable.

If you agree with these three statements, then you should also agree life is too short to kill time, even if it’s deemed dead time. When we say we’re killing time what are we actually saying? We don’t value time, or at least we don’t value certain parts of our day.

To kill something is to not value that thing. If you look at time as something that can be killed, you’re more likely to waste it. With this mindset not every minute is treated equally. If life is too short we can’t go around dictating which minutes to value and which can be tossed away.

Maximizing Our Dead Time

Why is it important to recognize how we utilize our dead time? Because dead time is everywhere. It surrounds us like a pack of wolves cornering its prey.

Dead time is the wait for your unpunctual friend. Dead time is waking up earlier than expected. Dead time is time spent in the doctor’s waiting room. Dead time is the period between finishing lunch and the end of your lunch break.

Dead time fools us. It’s sprinkled frequently but for such short periods of time. As a result we underestimate how much of our day is filled with dead time. This explains why people spend hours each day on their phones. Five minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but multiply those five minutes with how many times you check your phone and suddenly you’ve used up three hours of your day.


What’s Your Default?

When dead time occurs, what are your default activities?

This is one of the most important questions you will ever ask yourself. Most people have 2-3 activities they fall back on. Default activities can include scrolling through Instagram, reading a book, checking the news, texting friends, reading emails, listening to a Podcast, and people watching.

Let’s say your primary default activity is checking Instagram. If you spend ten minutes of daily dead time on Instagram, and multiply that by the total numbers of day in a year, you get the following result:

10 minutes x 365 days = 3,650 minutes = 60.8 hours

Therefore, in one year you spent almost 61 hours checking Instagram. Think about the other things you could have done with 61 hours. If you spent ten minutes of dead time each day reading a book you could read seven books in one year.*

Choose Your Defaults Wisely

Our days are filled with dead time. Therefore, what you choose to do in those moments becomes a major part of your life. Life is about what you do when there’s nothing to do. Ask yourself, “what are my current defaults, and are these default activities a good use of my time?”

Making the conscious effort to select your default activities could drastically improve your life. Instead of checking Instagram, read a book. Instead of checking your email, text an old friend. Instead of checking the news for the fifth time, sit in silence and see what creative ideas pop in your mind.

Charles Caleb Colton famously said “the true measure of your character is what you do when nobody’s watching.” Let’s pivot that statement and say the true measure of your capabilities is what you do when there’s nothing to do.

Time is one of our most valuable assets. Use it well.


*This is assuming you read a 300-page book in a little over eight hours, which is an average reading pace. Faster readers could read more than eleven books in 61 hours. More on this breakdown at Capitalize My Title.

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Mindfulness for Westerners

The practice of mindfulness, which is defined as an active and open attention to the present*, has become fully immersed in the Western world. Many Westerners struggle with the concept of mindfulness. Imagine how many Westerners would interpret the following quote from the book The Power of Now:

“At the deepest Level of Being, you are one with all that is”

Echhart Tolle

Cue the eye roll.

What we (and by “we” I mean my readers from the Western Hemisphere) need to have is concrete evidence. Saying “you are one with all that is” doesn’t cut it. We need data points to track our growth. Data is the new bacon. And dang nab it, we Westerners want some juicy bacon.

The problem is mindfulness doesn’t exactly entail bacon. Mindfulness isn’t something you chart on a board and write down your KPI’s (key performance indicators). Buddhist monks, who were the originators of mindfulness, weren’t discussing their quarterly progress towards enlightenment.

So how do Westerners, caught up in a data driven society, become in tune with mindfulness? Management consultant and author Peter Drucker famously said “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Let’s think like Drucker for a moment. What if there were KPIs to track our progress towards improved mindfulness?

If Drucker built a time machine and teleported back in time to collaborate with Buddhist monks, here are two strategies they’d come up with.

1. Count The Number Of Times You Return To The Present

If you’ve ever tried meditating, you know how hard it is to remain present. The purpose of a meditational practice is to clear your mind from the millions of thoughts that run through your noggin.

I’ve heard countless people say they have trouble meditating because their minds continuously wander. Instead of clearing your head, you plan out what’s for dinner, think through your workday, and contemplate your weekend. Some may consider their mind drifting off as a bad thing.

Here’s the catch, by recognizing your mind has wandered off, you’re able to return to the present. By realizing you’re not present, you return to the present. That in itself is a win.

Let’s say you meditate for five minutes, and in those five minutes you catch your mind drifting off 25 times. That’s 25 times you bring yourself back to the present moment. The act of returning to the present goes beyond meditational practices. The same goes for whatever you’re doing at any moment.

Don’t beat yourself up when you drift off. Instead, pat yourself on the back when you recognize the distraction and return to the present moment, no matter how brief of a return it is.

Mindful KPI #1 – Tally how many times you return to the present

2. Make Time For Activities To Be Fully Present

For large portions of our days, there are things we aren’t excited to be doing. Taking the trash out, commuting to work, and staring at your monitor screen are not likely to channel the mindfulness we strive for. If your entire day is filled with activities you couldn’t give two hoots about, your mind will begin to wander, and sometimes not to the best places.

If your day is filled with nondescript activities, it’s critical to schedule activities in your day that promote being present. Keep in mind meditation is not the only way to center yourself into the present. Depending on the person, this can include such things as working out, watching your favorite sitcom, or calling a friend.

Regardless of the activity, you should experience total immersion in what you’re doing to the point you lose track of time. Psychologists call this being in a state of flow. Athletes call this being in the zone. Actors call this being in character.

All you’re thinking about (if you are thinking at all) is the task at hand, whether that’s running through a park, nailing a 5-foot putt, or solving a crossword puzzle. Your mind is focused to the point you aren’t wondering what time it is, when a Covid-19 vaccine will be readily available, or who’s going to be sent home next on The Bachelorette.

Mindful KPI #2 – Tally how many daily activities cause you to “lose track of time.”

Mindfulness Opportunities

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to practice mindfulness and being present. We’re surrounded by gazillion distractions, worst of which is the buzzing smartphone attached to your body. We’re constantly reminded how much we suck at this mindful gig.

But don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself credit for the moments you are fully present. And the best way to give yourself credit is by recognizing measurable KPI’s that demonstrate your mindful gains. Reflect on each day and think about the activities that got you in the zone. If you didn’t allocate time today towards mindful activities, whether that’s swinging a golf club or solving a puzzle, think about implementing those activities tomorrow.

The same goes for the number of times you return to the present. Don’t think of losing sight of the present as a failure. Instead, recognize the success of taking a moment and bringing yourself back to the present.

Learn to combine practices from the Eastern and Western Hemispheres to make the masterpiece that is your life. It’s one of the most important things you’ll ever do.


*For a deeper analysis of mindfulness, check out this resource from Psychology Today

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Your alarm goes off and it’s 7am.  You shut your eyes for “just a few more seconds”, only to wake up and now it’s 7:30am.  Like a sprinter at the sound of a gun, you dash to the kitchen to cook up the fastest breakfast of your life.  You toss the eggs on the pan to cook, fetch a bowl of Cheerios, and slice a piece of bread.  

In just five minutes you cooked three eggs, made a bowl of cereal, and…..oh wait.

You forgot to pop the bread in the toaster before preparing the rest of your meal. 

Gosh darn it. 

Now, either, you skip the toast and end up hangry by 10am, or you bite the bullet and make yourself later than you already are.

Starvation or tardiness. Your options are either bad or bad.

First Things First 

Ground breaking news–when you’re cooking breakfast begin by toasting the bread first.  In the time it would have taken the bread to transform to toast, you could have prepared the rest of your meal.  What culinary expertise! Chef Gordon Ramsay please step aside. 

The act of popping the toast in first is a wonderful analogy for life.  Think of the toast as the task that will take the longest to complete.  Usually when we’re given a list of items to address, we tend to put off what will take the longest and start with the shorter tasks. 

We need to rewire our minds to stop thinking “what can I get done quickly?” and instead start thinking “what will take the longest that I can take one step towards completing now?”

Why are we wired to think in this nonproductive way? There are two answers to this question, both of which play off each other.

One-Thing-at-a-Time Fallacy

We’ve been taught multitasking is a bad idea, and by all means in many contexts that’s great advice. Don’t text and drive. Don’t watch TV while listening to your spouse complain. Don’t stuff your face with food while lecturing your child.

The problem is we take this statement too far, to the point we begin functioning in a linear format. In this linear way of thinking you tackle the first task, see it through until its completion, and only then move on to the next task. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, and it shouldn’t to you either.

Imagine you want to grow an oak tree with acorns. You wouldn’t plant the seed and stand around for 20 years until it’s fully grown, acorns and all. In the time between planting the seed and enjoying its acorns, you could watch every Oscar nominated movie, travel to every country on the globe, and become internet famous (whatever that entails).

The key point to remember is multi-tasking works when one of the tasks can be automated. Once the seed is planted, we let mother nature go to work. Considering we live in the age of technology, there are boundless opportunities for automation. Where we fall short is starting with something non-automated, only to realize we should have started first by “planting the seed” for what could have been automated.

Start by toasting the bread. The act of toasting is automated, so all we have to do is pop the bread in. While the oven works its magic, you can handle the other necessary steps to prepare your breakfast.

Fight the Gratification

In his book Atomic Habits, the author James Clear explains we’re more likely to do something when there’s a reward at the end. Upon the completion of a task, the simple act of crossing out, checking off, or deleting the task sparks the feeling of gratification.

If gratification is what you seek, you’re more likely to start with the shorter tasks and put off the longer term tasks. This is the reason why you take out the trash, call your siblings, and do the dishes, when in reality you should have started your expense report.

Completing short tasks is fools gold. Though you receive gratification for getting things done, in the process you’ve put off the expense report, which is your most important task of the day.

The hard part about starting the long term task is you’re not going to receive the gratification of marking it as complete. Starting an expense report, planting a seed, or popping toast in the oven don’t provide the same gratification as pouring a glass of milk. Unlike pouring a glass of milk, there are multiple steps to our longer term tasks, and therefore gratification isn’t as eminent.

Your goal is to be productive, not to create a false sense of accomplishment. The blissfulness of accomplishment will turn into regret for not addressing the more complex tasks.

Ordering Tasks Strategically

When planning your days, ensure you are thoughtful about the order in which each task is addressed. Keep in mind the two keys previously discussed.

The first key is to not fall for the one-thing-at-a-time fallacy. It’s possible to start one task, complete a different task, and then return to the original task. Therefore plant the seed, and while you wait, complete your other tasks.

Secondly don’t fall victim the allure of gratification. If you simply want to check boxes, you risk blinding yourself from the more complex and important tasks.

Next time you’re rushing through your breakfast prep, pop the toast in first. While the bread is toasting, attend to the cereal and eggs. Nothing is sweeter than having prepared the rest of your meal at the exact moment you hear the “ding” sound of the toaster oven. That’s real gratification.

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Why Assumptions About Others Aren’t Worth It


Don’t make assumptions about people.

This is advice we hear all the time.  In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz provides four lessons (agreements) for life, one of which is to never make assumptions about anything.  Ruiz spends a quarter of his book (yes a quarter) disowning assumptions and explains how they are damaging for yourself and the people around you.

Ok great don’t make assumptions about others, let’s all go on with our days.

That would normally be the end of this post, but unfortunately all of us, at one time or another, have succumb to the assumption bug.  It’s too easy to sit back and make assumptions about others.  We all do it.

In order to effectively resist the urge of assumptions, we must think about them through a risk and reward lens.

Risk and Reward

Risk and reward is a tool we use to dictate our decisions and actions.  The best decisions involve minimizing risk while maximizing the potential reward.  Put another way, the best choices create the mantra “everything to gain, nothing to lose”.

Financial investors invest in stocks low in risk but high in reward.  Gamblers wage low bets that have the potential for high payouts.  Shoot for the moon—as long as you have a safety net to fall back on.

When it comes to assumptions, the mantra should be “everything to lose, nothing to gain”.  There is massive risk with very little to no reward.  Let’s dive a bit deeper by breaking down the limited rewards and the numerous risks to assumptions.

Assumption Rewards

The greatest reward for having a correct assumption about another person is getting to say “I told you so”.  I told you he works for the government.  I told you she’s the child’s babysitter.  I told you she’s a junior associate at the company.  See, I told you so and was I right.

Is saying “I told you so” really a reward though?  From your ego’s perspective it is.  An accurate assumption feeds directly to your ego.  Jumping to a correct conclusion before others can give one a sense of superiority and being ahead of the curve.

If your ultimate goal is to look smarter than your peers, then continue on with the assumptions.  Keep in mind though, there is far greater risks to operating this way.

Assumption Risks

Below, I’ve identified three major risks when it comes to making assumptions about others.

1. Embarrassment

If you assume something that turns out to be false, it can be quite embarrassing.  You see a man with a younger looking woman and you assume it’s the man’s second go around at marriage.  He must have suffered a mid-life crises and this is his way of making things right.  You ask the man about his beautiful wife, only to learn the woman is his biological child.

Swing and a miss.

Now you look like a complete moron in front of this guy.  You’ve made an assumption that has backfired and now you are trying to figure out how to end this unpleasant conversation.

2. Hurt Feelings

Imagine you’ve started a new job. On the first day at work you meet a gentlemen who you assume is a junior employee.  You ask him how recently he started at the company and his response is he’s the founder and CEO.


Unfortunately the founder deals with this false assumption on a daily basis.  As a result, he deals with self-doubt, which is enhanced by your false assumption.

3. Confusion

Ever had the experience of listening to a long story, only to be confused the entire time?  Usually there’s one piece of information you assumed to be true, which caused the confusion in the first place.

If a friend tells you a story about somebody, it’s easy to make an assumption about that person to fill in the details.  Though we have powerful imaginations, the things we choose to imagine about others don’t always reflect reality.

The Assumption Wager

Once you understand assumptions through a risk and reward lens, you come to realize it’s almost never worth it.  Making assumptions about others is like placing a $100 bet and getting $102 back.  The reward is a net $2 gain and the risk is losing $100.

Would you place this bet?  Hopefully the answer is no.  And if you’d say no to a $100 bet with a $2 payout, then you should say no to assumptions.

Either you’re right about somebody and you get to say “I told you so”, or you’re wrong and you risk embarrassment, hurt feelings, and confusion.

The choice is yours.

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Why You Can’t Remember What Others Can

Imagine you’re speaking with a longtime friend you haven’t seen in years.  During the conversation, you bring up a memorable road trip the two of you took along with a group of friends.  Your friend looks puzzled and admits she has no recollection of the trip.  You think: “Is she serious right now?”.  How could your friend have no recollection of the trip, while you have fond memories of it?

This basic interaction begs the question: if two people experience the same thing, why does one person remember the experience while the other doesn’t?  More generally speaking, why do some people have better memories than others? 

The simple answer is genetics.  Some people are predisposed to remembering things better than others.  But that’s a lazy answer, and we’re not lazy people. 

We can understand memory better by first discussing experiences most people can remember, which can be broken down into three components.  After breaking down each component, I’ll connect all three to an overarching theme that is the grandaddy reason why we remember certain things and not others.

Monumental Memories

There are certain things most of us tend to remember.  The birth of a child, weddings, and graduations are all examples of what we’ll call “monumental memories”.  These moments are etched into our minds.  Why are these experiences things we’ll never forget?  

There are three components that make monumental experiences into memories we don’t forget.  The components are emotion, uniqueness, and importance.*  


Anything that elicits a strong emotion creates a memorable experience.  Weddings are filled with laughter and joy.  Funerals are comprised of sorrow and despair.  Even a seemingly trivial experience can be ingrained into our memories with the help of a strong emotion.  If you’re driving to work and see a hilarious billboard, the emotional kick of laughter can make the experience memorable.


We’re more likely to remember experiences that occur “once in a blue moon” as opposed to what occurs on a frequent basis.  Weddings are memorable for this reason because they are unique occurrences.  Now let’s say you’re a wedding crasher that attends weddings every weekend.  It’s unlikely the wedding crasher will remember every wedding.  All the weddings get meshed together because they are no longer unique.


We remember what we care about, and the things we care about have importance in our lives.  If you strive to climb the corporate latter, then getting a promotion is important.  The day your boss tells you you’ve been chosen for an upper managerial role is a day you will likely remember.  

The Grandaddy to Memories

Importance, uniqueness, and emotion all tie into one overarching theme.  Meaning.

What’s deemed meaningful is what’s remembered.  We become emotional because we have been moved by meaning.  We identity unique occurrences that create meaning.  We recognize something as important because it is meaningful.  

Failure to remember experiences is from a lack of meaning.  Therefore it’s not an issue of memory, but rather a failure in adding meaning to memories.  It’s easy to remember graduations and weddings because we’re conditioned to believe these are meaningful experiences. 

But what about my friend who failed to remember what I thought was a memorable trip?  From my friend’s perspective, the trip was a means of transportation from one place to the next.  From my perspective, the trip solidified our friendship.  It reminded me how fortunate I was to be part of a wonderful group of people.  

A means of transportation versus solidifying friendships.  No wonder I remembered the trip while my friend had no recollection.  

Find Meaning

We’re conditioned to believe only certain things are meaningful.  The thing is — most of life is mundane.  Therefore it’s our job to find meaning in the mundane.    

Meaning can be found anywhere you look, but you need to have the right perspective.  Not only are you watching the sun set, but you’re also internalizing the miracles of mother nature.  Not only were you helped up after a fall, but you recognized the kindness exhibited by strangers.  

Find meaning in your experiences.  Why?  Because a life of meaningful experiences leads to a life of meaning.  The issue isn’t a poor memory, but rather a failure to look at life through a meaningful lens.    


*If you’re wondering how I came up with the different components of memory, I was influenced by the two readings below:
Why Do We Remember Certain Things, But Forget Others?
Nostalgia, Emotions, and Why We Remember What We Remember 

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How to Make Better Decisions

Imagine you’re out to lunch and you’re deciding between a fresh salad or a juicy burger.  Part of you wants to order the salad for health reasons, while the other part of you wants to devour the juicy burger.  When the waiter comes over to take your order, what do you do?

Your decision is largely based on what mindset you’re in.  If you’re thinking short-term, you’re likely to order the burger to satisfy your craving.  If you’re thinking long-term, you’re likely to order the salad knowing it’s better for your long term health.  There’s a problem with this mental calculation.  You shortchange yourself by thinking only in terms of short term and long term.  One must recognize the full scope of pros and cons with every decision encountered.  In order to understand the full scope, there’s a third time frame that must be taken into account.  

Understanding the Mid-Term

Let’s say you order the burger.  You’ve made the decision to indulge in a short term pleasure in expense of your long term health.  While you’re stuffing your face, all you can think about is how great a decision you made bypassing the salad.  Leaves are gross anyway.

All is well as you pay the check.  You head back to your desk ready to tackle the rest of your workday.  Unfortunately by the early afternoon you start to feel the effects of the greasy burger sitting in your tummy.  You’re tired, lethargic, and feel like a sloth (according to yummypets.com, sloths are considered one of the five laziest animals in the animal kingdom — the more you know).

Was the energy-sucking effects of the burger a short term or long term consequence? The answer is neither. In truth, feeling like a sloth is a mid-term consequence.  The feeling of exhaustion falls between the short term burger indulgence and the long term health concerns. Mid-term consequences exist in almost every decision we make.  See a few more examples below:

  • Binge Drinking
    • Short Term – Euphoric night
    • Mid-Term – Hangover
    • Long-Term – Damaged liver
  • Lie to a Friend
    • Short Term – Avoid a difficult conversation
    • Mid Term – Lose a friend
    • Long Term – Diminished reputation within the community

Mid-term consequences can also serve us in a positive way.  Case in point below:

  •   Get More Sleep
    • Short term – Go to bed earlier
    • Mid-Term – Easier time waking up in the morning
    • Long-Term – Feel more energized throughout the day

So What?

Why is it important to take into account mid-term consequences?  Because it forces us to take into account the full scope of our actions, which in turn allows us to make better decisions. 

Think back to the burger vs. salad decision.  Without mid-term thinking, you thought the negative consequence of ordering the burger was solely your long term health.  Now insert the mid-term consequence, and you’re looking at a consequential double whammy.  Ordering the burger impacts your afternoon energy (mid-term) and your long term health (long-term). 

With this new mindset, you’ll be more inclined to make a better decision. The exercise of taking into account mid-term consequences makes you realize every decision you make carries more weight than you initially think.  A seemingly trivial decision can impact how you feel — not only in the moment, but also in the coming hours, days, and months.

If you desire to improve your decision making, think mid-term.  Ditch the burger, but if you choose to get it anyway, at least know what you’re getting yourself into.   

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The Secret to Laziness


At one point or another we’ve all been lazy.  We’re tempted to half-ass work projects, household chores, and class assignments.  Even the hardest working people have days they feel like giving less than their best.

We may think we’re taking advantage of a situation by slacking on work.  The problem is we don’t always consider how much additional work will result by cutting corners.

You may reconsider slacking when you understand there are two choices: either you choose to work hard the first time, or you choose to work less the first time, only to be faced with more work in the long run.

As an example, let’s take a trip back in time when we were high school students.  Yay!

Poor High School Paper

Imagine your high school English teacher assigns a 10-page paper due in two weeks.  You put off writing the paper until you find yourself staring at your monitor screen (or a piece of paper, shoutout to the baby boomers) at 11pm the night before the paper is due.

The thought of doing “a good job” is out the window.  At this point it’s all about damage control and finishing the paper without having to pull an all-nighter.  You come up with an incoherent paper that impresses nobody, not even yourself.

A week later you get a failing grade on the paper.  This brings your semester grade low enough to the point your parents get involved.  For the rest of the semester your parents micromanage your academic progress.  You find yourself spending twice as much time on homework.  What was once your free block at school has turned into required office hours with your English teacher.

Not a fun story.

Laziness Breeds More Work

The previous story is a perfect example of not making things harder than they have to be.  The entire paper fiasco could have been avoided by simply doing a good job the first time.

It’s human nature to minimize unpleasant experiences while maximizing pleasant experiences.  By writing a poor paper, in the short term you were minimizing an unpleasant experience.  Consequently in the long run, you created a greater sum of unpleasant experiences.

When we cut corners, we create more corners.  Cutting one corner may limit work in that one instance, but you end up creating four more corners.  The cumulative time of addressing those four additional corners will take longer than rounding (instead of cutting) the first corner.

There are countless examples of this phenomenon:

  • Instead of parking down the street you park in an illegal zone.  As a result you have to pay a fine at town hall, which is located across town.
  • Instead of putting the dishes in the dishwasher you leave them in the sink.  As a result your apartment is crawling with bugs and you have to call pest control.
  • Instead of responding to an email with thorough information, you end up emailing the person four additional times to provide further context.

In all three examples, less work was required if you weren’t lazy the first time.  Think of time as your currency and your tasks as a cost.  You can either spend a few minutes up front dealing with the issue, or you can spend hours addressing the problem after things have blown up.  Work compounds when a task is not done sufficiently the first time.

How To Be Lazy

If your goal in life it do as little work as possible, then put in the effort the first time around.  If you make things right in the first go-around you’ll have less work in the long run.

Working hard to be lazy sounds counterintuitive.  When you realize part of laziness is to minimize unnecessary work, it’s in your best interest to work hard from the get-go.  You gotta earn your laziness.

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Letting Go Of Sentimental Items

Throughout our lives we acquire things that over time create sentimental value.  Perhaps you have an item that has a memory attached to it.  That item could sit in your closet, basement, or garage.  You no longer use this item, but the thought of giving it away gives you anxiety.

We must ask ourselves, how do we coexist with belongings that have fulfilled their purpose, but maintain a sentimental attachment in our lives?

We send them off!

You may be wondering why this is the case.  Hopefully my backpack story will shed light on my reasoning.

My Odd Backpack Story

Throughout my last few months of college I rocked the backpack you see below.

Screen Shot 2020-08-03 at 6.55.02 AM.png

Aside from the awesomeness (or absurdity) of the backpack design, the thing that made the bag so special was how I acquired it.  You see, there’s actually quite a backstory to the bag.  My friend owned the bag and I convinced him to accept my Beats by Dre headphones in exchange for the bag.  Great choice!

During our negotiation over the backpack, my friend told me he wasn’t the first owner of the bag.  Apparently a college student at The University of Texas at Austin bought the bag.  Somehow my friend convinced the Texas student to give him the bag in exchange for something else.

This meant I was the third owner of the bag.  With this knowledge came added responsibility.  I wasn’t going to let the legacy of the green/pink JanSport backpack die on my watch.

The bag had a great run.  The combination of a 6’4″ guy walking around with a bright pink/green backpack made it possible for my friends, or anyone really, to spot me a mile across campus.  But as we know, all things must come to an end.  After graduating, I realized the workforce wasn’t going to be as receptive to the bag as my college community was.

There was a problem though.  Despite the fact I stopped using the bag, it still provided sentimental meaning in my life.  As a result, the bag sat in my closet for two years.  Eventually a hard decision was made.  I decided to mail the bag off to a rising senior at my alma mater.  Included with the bag were instructions – I recommended that the new recipient should pass the bag off to somebody else after graduation.

To my knowledge the bag has indeed been passed down yet again.  The current owner is the fifth owner of the bag.  If you see a bright pink/green JanSport backpack around Elon University, know it was once mine.

Letting Things Go

We must learn to let physical belongings go.  Letting go of my backpack, which made me feel uneasy at first, turned out to be a liberating decision.  I’ve come up with three reasons why it felt so great to let it go! (Had to reference the movie Frozen at least once in this post).

Forward Minded

The bag represented a clinging to the past.  After graduation, each time I looked at the bag it created a longing in me for a previous stage of my life.  The sight of the bag took me out of my forward minded mentality.

Once the bag was sent off, I felt a sentimental burden lifted from my shoulders.  I could focus on creating new opportunities without being bogged down thinking about “the good old days”.

Forge a Bond

It’s one thing to tell someone you trust them.  It’s another thing to give that person something of sentimental value.  The act of giving something of sentimental value to somebody is a profound indicator of trust.  It’s like saying “hey, I appreciate, trust, and respect you enough to give you something that has meant a lot to me”.

The recipient of the bag was very appreciative of the gesture.  We always had a mutual respect for each other, but passing down the bag forged a unique bond between us that I believe will continue for years to come.

Bring Joy to Others

I came to the realization that what made the bag special wasn’t my emotional attachment to it, but rather the pleasure other’s experienced when seeing the bag.

The bag created a feeling of warmth.  So then how was keeping the bag in my closet generating positive vibes?  I was doing the bag a disservice by stashing it in my closet.  If this sounds like a toxic relationship, I can confirm it was just that.

The bag had fulfilled its purpose in my life.  Therefore the best thing I could do was pass the bag off to somebody else who could continue the bag’s legacy.

Call to Action

Think about your belongings that at one time served a genuine purpose but have since become a memento.  If that item could be useful to another person, then figure out who would best fulfill the purpose of the item.  Since you’re giving away something of meaning, ensure that person is somebody you trust.

If you’re fearful of giving something sentimental away, remember this: what we fear isn’t losing sentimental belongings, but rather the memories attached to those belongings.

The act of giving doesn’t diminish your memories in any way.  If something is meaningful, you will carry those memories with you for the rest of your life.  In fact, by giving something away the item becomes even more meaningful and memorable.  There is power in knowing something of value is now in the possession of somebody you value.

Let go of the mementos holding you back.  In the process you’ll forge a bond with somebody you care about.  That’s what we call a win-win!

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Proactivity Over Reactivity

We hear all the time to be proactive with our lives.  It’s great to say we’ll tackle our days in a proactive manner.  The problem is we live in a world that doesn’t always conspire the way we hope it does.  We must ask ourselves, “how do we stay proactive when we’re pulled in a million directions?”.

I’m going to explore this concept through an email interface.  Don’t get too excited!

The World According to your Email

Imagine one evening you achieved the pinnacle of greatness, you cleared your email inbox.  Congratulations!  Before logging off you type up (or write down) what you want to accomplish the following day.

All is well when you wake up the following morning.  You have every intention to complete the projects you’ve set out to tackle for the day.  When you open your email inbox what do you see?

I’ll tell you what you see.  You notice your inbox has piled up from the previous night.  Without giving it much thought you start going through your unread emails.  Three hours later you once again clear your inbox, only to realize you haven’t accomplished much of anything.  Sob.

Anti-Email Checking

In this scenario, think of the unread emails as reactive tasks.  If Joe Shmoe has emailed you asking to schedule a call, you’re in essence agreeing to reactively accept a call.  From Joe Shmoe’s perspective, requesting a call was a proactive task.  He took the initiative to email you.

If you reply to emails all day, you’re passively accepting the demands of others.  Where does that leave you with your proactive tasks?  Scheduling calls and answering other people’s questions won’t necessarily help you achieve your daily goals.

Bigger Picture

Think of your email as a metaphor for your life.  Simply put: we can either proactively do things we’ve committed to doing or we can reactively address matters called upon by others.  It’s critical to ensure enough time is allocated to proactive tasks, or else we spend our days being in a reactive state.

Some of you reading this may have lives too demanding to get from a reactive to a proactive state.  I may not know your life well enough to remedy this problem, though I have one important idea to point out.  By being strategically proactive, you can limit the number of reactive situations you must attend to.  See a few examples below:

  • Proactively do your laundry to avoid reactively scavenging for a clean pair of underwear
  • Proactively plan your day to avoid reactively checking your email
  • Proactively eat healthy to avoid reactively addressing health issues


We should always strive to spend time being proactive.  While it’s great to embody a proactive mindset, it’s inevitable reactive moments arise unannounced.  At any moment your boss could ask you to finalize a report in the next 30 minutes, the fire alarm in your house could go off,  or your sibling could call pleading for your Netflix login credentials.

Regardless of what life throws at you, you should always ask yourself how much of what you’re doing is proactive versus reactive.  At this very moment I’m proactively drafting this blog post instead of reactively checking my unread text messages.

Don’t fall victim to the convenience of reactivity.  Instead be proactive.  Proactivity leads to moments of creation, accomplishment, and joy.  You run the day or the day runs you.

Now get off your email (unless I emailed you).

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