How to Explain Anything to Anybody

Have you ever been tasked with explaining a complex or highly detailed idea to another person?  Imagine your close friend inexplicably says “I’ve never seen Star Wars, what’s it about?”.

First of all, why hasn’t your friend seen Star Wars?  That’s a separate matter which must be addressed offline.  The real question is how do you explain a mega movie franchise that has spanned over five decades?

Poor Star Wars Explanation

Without giving it much thought, you may jump right in and say the following: “So there’s this guy named Luke Skywalker and he meets Obi-Wan Kenobi who’s a Jedi master.  Obi-Wan teaches Luke the Force and they get chased around by the evil empire led by Darth Vader, who actually turns out to be Luke’s father….”.

Your friend interrupts your Star Wars monologue and asks what the Force is.  Unless your friend has the whole afternoon to spare, there isn’t going to a satisfactory end to this conversation.  The only way to explain something this complex is using the Communication Sandwich Strategy.

The Communication Sandwich

This strategy is broken into three components.  Just like a sandwich, the first and last layers are the same, while the middle portion varies.

1. Opening Summary

No matter what it is you’re explaining, you should open by summarizing the information in one to two sentences.  Your opening summary is the most important step as you never know how long the person you’re talking to is willing to listen.

The listener could lose focus or interrupt you with a question.   If you ramble too long, the key information is lost and the listener will be less inclined to listen.  Your goal should be to get through the opening summary without the listener losing focus or interjecting with a question.

Going back to Star Wars, my opening summary would be: “Star Wars is about the conflict between the rebellion (the good guys) trying to fight for their freedom against the evil empire (the bad guys) that takes place in a futuristic space setting”  (editor’s note: I realize Star Wars has a million interpretations, please let me know how you’d summarize Star Wars!).

2. Detailed Description

If you managed to get through the opening summary and your listener doesn’t have a look of bewilderment, nice job!  From that point either the listener can ask clarifying questions, or if there aren’t any immediate questions, you can jump into the details.

Depending on what you’re explaining and how engaged your listener is, you must decide how much detail to provide.  If I’m explaining Star Wars to somebody who couldn’t care less, I could limit or cut out this step entirely.  But if the listener is deeply engaged, I’d go ahead and talk all about Jedi Knights, the Force, the Death Star, Darth Vader, and our fan favorite Jar Jar Binks (don’t hate).

3. Closing Summary

Once you’ve explained the details it’s critical to wrap it all up.  As smart as we all are, none of us can remember everything that was explained in one sitting.  You must ask yourself: what do I want the person to remember from this conversation?

Based on the serial-position effect, we tend to remember the first and last pieces of information in a series the best.  Therefore end your explanation with how you started.  Summarize what your topic is at its core.

Once I’m done explaining all the intricacies of Star Wars, I wrap up by repeating elements of my opening summary. I’d say something like: “Star Wars is about the conflict of good vs. evil that takes place in a futuristic space setting.”  Repeating the main idea will ensure the listener doesn’t lose sight of the most important information amid the many details.

Beyond Star Wars

The communication sandwich strategy can be used in countless scenarios.  Teachers can use it when explaining an academic concept, corporate leaders can use it when explaining their company culture, and referees can use it when explaining the rules of a game.

Life can get complicated.  That’s why it’s critical we understand how to take the complexities of life and transform those ideas into simple chunks others can understand.  Simplifying complexities is the key to communication.

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Being Funny vs. Having a Sense of Humor

What’s so funny?

The world we live in is filled with hardships.  Every one of us faces unique struggles catered to our lives.  Amid all of this, one of the most common pieces of advice is to not take life too seriously and learn to laugh at ourselves.

Some may interject with “I’m not funny – how am I supposed to lighten up amid my struggles?”.  There’s a misconception that one has to be funny to enable the lighter side of life.  In reality there’s a difference between being funny and having a sense of humor.  By differentiating these two concepts, you’ll come to realize all you need is a sense of humor.  No “being funny’ required.

Being Funny – External

According to, the word funny is defined as “providing fun; causing amusement or laughter; amusing; comical“.  Being funny is the ability to make others laugh.  You tell a joke and others laugh.  You tell a comical story and others laugh.  Being funny is an external act.  How funny you are has no bearing on whether you make yourself laugh.

Sense of Humor – Internal defines the term sense of humor as “the ability to find things funny, general enjoyment in doing so, or the particular types of things one finds funny“.  Having a sense of humor means only making yourself laugh.  Unlike being funny, you don’t have to worry whether somebody else is laughing.  Maintaining humor is an internal act.

There are plenty of ways to seek out humor.  Watch a TV show and laugh.  Watch a petty argument between two strangers and laugh.  Most importantly, observe your own life as if you’re in a sitcom and laugh.  Only with a sense of humor can you laugh off your day to day mishaps.

So What?

Hopefully now you recognize the difference between being funny and having a sense of humor.  It’s critical to have a sense of humor.  And the good news is having a sense of humor doesn’t require one to be funny.  Even if you’re the least funny person in the world, you still have the ability to maintain a sense of humor.

Why is it important to have a sense of humor?  Humor allows us to lighten up and put things in perspective.  We all can relate to moments in our lives where we felt embarrassment.  If something was truly embarrassing and you don’t want to think about it, I’m truly sorry.  But if something happened worth a dose of humor then by all means embrace that humor.

Additionally humor creates some of our greatest memories.  These are the moments we laugh so hard we can hardly breath.  The funniest moments occur when something is unintentionally funny.  Unintentionally funny moments are those in which something seemingly serious or mundane turns out to be so funny you can’t help but laugh your socks off.  Unless you have a sense of humor, you won’t recognize those unintentionally funny moments.  What a shame that would be.

Don’t worry about being funny and making others laugh.  As long as you can laugh at yourself and look at the world through a humorous scope, you’ll be well on your way.

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The Four Pillars of Life

People say life is all about having a healthy work-life balance.  The concept of a work-life balance is incomplete.  Life cannot simply be broken down as time spent working and time spent outside of work.  Our lives are much more intertwined and deserve a bit more complexity.

Instead of analyzing life as two entities (work and life), think of life consisting of four pillars.  Every action one takes can be designated under each pillar.  The four pillars of life are self, career, relationships, and world.  Below I will break down each pillar, and afterwards, explain the importance of combining multiple pillars at the same time.

1. Self

Think of this pillar the way people think about what it means to conduct self-care.  It’s important you do things that benefit yourself.  This could be something as simple as maintaining personal hygiene (showering, brushing your teeth), taking care of your health (sleeping, exercising), as well as leisure activities (watching TV, reading).

2. Career

Of all four pillars, this is likely the easiest to identify.  The time spent on your career can include the hours you spend at work, as well as the hours spent working at home or on the road.  For many people, the time spent on their career takes up the highest percentage of their time compared to the other pillars.

3. Relationships

The time spent with friends or family fall under the relationships pillar.  It’s critical we allocate time towards maintaining current relationships while nurturing new ones.  Honing in on our relationships can feel secondary, especially when life gets busy.  Therefore we must proactively set aside time to connect with those we care about.

4. World

Think of the world pillar as doing things that help the greater community.  Volunteering your time, donating to causes, and supporting social movements are all examples of contributions one can make to make the world a better place.

Intertwining Pillars

It’s critical to incorporate a balanced life between the four pillars.  Perhaps too much time is spent on one’s career while relationships fall by the wayside.  For others, the issue might be too much emphasis is placed on oneself while not enough energy is channeled into helping the greater world.

Every one of us have faced pillar imbalances at some point in our lives.  Part of the solution is rescheduling or reprioritizing your life.  Unfortunately many of us are too busy to properly balance the four pillars of life.  The key is to combine multiple pillars at the same time.  It’s critical to intertwine pillars into the same activities, which creates moments of greater impact.

While there are numerous pillar combination scenarios, I’ve highlighted a few notable ones below:

Self + Relationships: Think of things you do solo but could also be done with one or more people.  Find a friend who’s willing to be your workout buddy.  Instead of individually reading a book, find a community or book club to discuss it with.

Relationships + World: Forums to make a difference are also a great way to meet like-minded people.  You’re likely to build strong relationships with people who believe in the same vision and values as you.  Alternatively you can bring a friend along to volunteer with you.

Career + World: Does your job already intertwine with benefitting the greater community?  If the answer is yes, then great!  If the answer is no, then talk to your team for potential volunteer days or how your work can better support the community.

Self + Career: Find ways your career can improve you as a person.  Does your job challenge you to personally grow?  Perhaps there are opportunities to work on your listening skills, which will serve you better when at interacting with family at home.


As I write this post I’ve come to the following conclusion: it’s not only balancing our lives we strive for, but also interconnecting our lives.  Instead of growing yourself, why not do it with a group of people?  If you’re a workaholic, why not allocate some of your work time to benefit the greater community?

Don’t let a lack of time be an excuse for an unbalanced life.  Intertwine your life to get a healthy dosage of all four pillars.

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Productive Solitary Confinement

Much emphasis is put on things we shouldn’t do throughout our days.  Don’t watch TV.  Don’t mindlessly scroll through Instagram.  Don’t eat fast food.  Don’t watch cat videos.  Don’t check your email every ten minutes.

We have to say no to so many things because we live in a world of endless possibilities.  Our possibilities are greater than our ancestors with the advent of technology.  At this very moment I could decide to call a friend, online shop for things I don’t need,  or spend the next hour on Instagram.

On a daily basis we are bombarded with things we shouldn’t do.  We must draw the line between what we feel like doing and what we should be doing.  The question is: how does one create an environment to do only those things he or she should do?  Let’s turn to a bizarre hypothetical to figure this out.

Bizarre Hypothetical

Imagine a scenario in which you are sentenced to solitary confinement for 24 hours.  The sentencer (in the goodness of the system) explains you can leave after four hours of confinement under one condition: you do only things that are a good use of your time.  Before entering confinement, you’re allowed to bring personal items to pass the time.

If you can bring whatever you want but can only do things things worth your time, what do you bring?  First think about all the productive things you should do.  Perhaps you should exercise, read, and update your resume.  In that case all you’d need to bring is weights, a book, and a laptop.  Anything that could tempt you to waste time should be left behind (or the WiFi should be turned off).

Imagine for the next four hours doing only those three things.  You could get a nice burning workout, read well over 100 pages of your book (even if you’re a slow reader), and update your latest job description to your resume.  Not too shabby.

Normal World Application

Let’s be real, the idea of a productive solitary confinement is extremely far fetched.  The purpose of this exercise is to realize what’s possible when one eliminates the possibility of doing things not worth their time.

Though you may never be locked up in solitary confinement, there are instances in which we experience periods of confinement.  Perhaps you’re home alone on a rainy day.  Maybe your socials plans fell through and you have an entire evening to yourself.  If you’ve been on a long plane flight you know the feeling of being confined to the same seat for an indefinite period of time.

What if in these instances you made the commitment to do only things that should be done?  This is possible through a few simple steps:

  1. Identify moments of confinement (or simulate solitary moments for yourself)
  2. Decide what you should do
  3. Do only those things

We take these steps to rise above the plethora of options that makes us prisoners in our own lives.  With a lack of discipline, we fall prey to the time sucks of life. Therefore it’s in our moments of freedom we must limit our options.  Limiting options enables us to do only what we should be doing and eliminate the rest.  Instead of facing a block of time and chastising Instagram or Netflix, empower yourself to focus on the right things and pursue them to the fullest.

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Finding The Root Of Your Pain

Life consists of pain.  This is a universal experience for all humans.  Pain can be experienced physically throughout our body as well as mentally or emotionally within our minds.  Naturally when we experience pain, we’re quick to pinpoint the issue.

The fact we assess pain quickly is a good thing.  It means we desire to get rid of it as fast as possible.  While it’s good to address pain quickly, the act of making a snap assessment doesn’t necessarily indicate it’s an accurate assessment.  The issue lies in that by swiftly acting to make things better, we don’t properly address the root of the pain.

A personal example (which some of you may have experienced) is the unpleasantness of low back pain.  It goes without saying I’m not a doctor.  I’m using a metaphor of back pain based off my own experience.  Please consult a professional for any medical problems!

Low Back Pain

One evening I was tying my shoelaces and afterwards felt inflammation in my lower back.  Over the coming weeks and months this became an ongoing issue.  As a problem solver, I began attempting pain alleviation through foam rolling, applying heat, and stretching directly where the pain existed.  I was convinced the problem rested solely in my lower back.   Initially I did not entertain that the cause of my pain was a result of weaknesses in other parts of my body.

While there’s no debating my back was in pain doesn’t necessarily mean it was the root of the pain.  In reality the issue was weaknesses in the areas around my lower back.  I began stretching my hips, hip flexors, and hamstrings.  As a result I noticed drastic improvement in my back health.

Finding the Root

To find the root to a problem one must evaluate the big picture.  Dealing with my back, I was forced to evaluate the whole anatomy of my body.  Our bodies, just like our lives, are interconnected.  Therefore to address pain one must take into account all external and internal variables that could contribute to the pain.

There are countless examples of miss identifying the root of pain.  See below three instances in which we seemingly identify the root of each of these people’s problems:

  1. The root of your neighbor’s alcoholism is a lack of self-control
  2. The root of an athlete’s knee pain is their knee joint
  3. The root of child’s headache is too much sun exposure

These problems and roots seem pretty straight forward.  After further analysis, it turns out the root of the issues were the following…

  1. The root of your neighbor’s alcoholism is a lack of self-control loneliness
  2. The root of an athlete’s knee pain is their knee joint tight quads
  3. The root of child’s headache is too much sun exposure dehydration 

In all three examples, what turned out to be the root cause may not have been obvious upon first analysis.  It’s a common mistake to find a solution to the consequence instead of the root.  Solving the consequence may help in the short run, but surely the root will generate a consequence of the same magnitude or greater in the future.  Therefore it’s imperative to properly identify the root, which is only discoverable through deep personal introspection or through the help of those you trust.

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Having Your Own Standards

In 2015, Stephen Colbert was the Wake Forest University graduation commencement speaker.  He stressed the importance to have your own standards.  I love this mentality because it pushes us to consider what standards to hold ourselves to.  Sometimes standards imply the bear minimum, in which case it’s beneficial to hold a standard beyond what’s expected.

The concept of having your own standards is critical, but how does one apply this general concept into specific elements of their life?  The key is to identify instances in your life when there are gaps between common standards and personal standards.  I have an example from my own life that hopefully paints a clearer picture.

Shooting Hoops

Anyone who plays or watches basketball knows the goal is to put a rubber ball through a metal cylinder.  It doesn’t matter if the ball hits the rim three times or bounces off the backboard.  As long as the ball drops through the hoop it’s considered a made basket.

Over the years I’ve played shooting games where the basket only counts if the shot is a “swoosh”.  The swoosh is the sound the ball makes when the ball goes through the hoop without touching the medal cylinder.  It’s the purest shot in basketball not only because it makes a great sound, but also because it indicates the shot had the utmost precision.

Playing basketball games that required a swoosh shifted my frame of mind.  Instead of aspiring to the standard of making shots, my mind zoned in on swooshing shots.  I found I began swooshing a higher percentage of my shots.  More importantly my shooting percentage (shots made out of total shots taken) increased.  Keep in mind the majority of shots made aren’t swooshes, but still result in a positive outcome.  This aligns well with the old adage “Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss you land among the stars”.   Some of my “misses” would be makes for those with lower standards.

The Swoosh of Life

I recognize most people reading this have little to no interest in improving their jump shot.  Regardless you should ask yourself, “what’s my personal swoosh?“.  Your personal swoosh establishes your own standard that goes beyond the common standard.  Find areas in your own life where you attempt to swoosh it when others simply attempt to make it.  Perhaps your swoosh is to take 15,000 daily steps instead of the common standard of 10,000 daily steps.  Let’s say on a specific day you manage only 12,000 steps.  You may not have achieved your personal swoosh but you still surpassed the standard of 10,000 steps.

An objection to creating one’s own personal higher standard is experiencing disappointment.  Some people may feel if they set the bar too high, they will continuously fall short.  It’s vital to accept in order to set a higher standard, you must be ok with a higher rate of failure.  Swooshes wouldn’t be special if you achieved them with such ease.  Your swoosh should only be achieved in the moments your true potential is realized.


Even if you come short of your personal swoosh, by setting a higher bar for yourself, you will increase the likelihood of meeting or exceeding standards set by others.  Establishing a swoosh narrows your target, which gives you clarity on the specific result you desire.  Just as important, creating your own standard gives you a sense of control within your life.  It feels empowering to create rules within your own life, especially when it feels others are constantly making rules for us.

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Appreciating The Best Of People

One of my all time favorite quotes is from the transcendentalist poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.  He famously said:

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

I love this quote (with the exception of male bias) because it explains that no matter who you cross paths with, every individual has an insight or experience that which you do not.  By realizing every person has something to offer, you create the open mindedness to learn from any and all people.

Pertaining to people we like, it’s easy to learn from those we respect.  Think of one of your closest friends.  Your friend, like all human beings, has flaws.  You appreciate all the great aspects of your friend, while tolerating or even learning to love their flawed characteristics.

But what about people we don’t see eye to eye with?  We have a tendency to focus on the bad aspects of the person, while downplaying what could be seen as a redeeming quality or an insight you could learn from.

Below I’ve provided a rapid fire of examples featuring different kinds of people that fall under this category.  These people include public figures and acquaintances you know in your everyday life.

Next Door Neighbor – Generous person BUT never stops talking

Professional Athlete – Great teammate BUT very cocky

High School Math Teacher – Incredible sense of humor BUT is bad at math

Crazy In-Law – Wonderful pastry chef BUT believes in all conspiracy theories

It’s easy to view these people and only focus on their negative aspects.  It would be a shame to not learn from the good these people have to offer.  Instead of the negatives, walk away observing the right things.

One trick to focus on the good of people is to flip the positive and negative aspects in a statement.  The word “but” is usually used after a redeeming quality, but right before acknowledging somebody’s flaw.  For example, “He has an incredible sense of humor but is bad at math”.  It’s easy to ignore his sense of humor once we get to the “but” of the statement.  Anything said after “but” devalues what was said beforehand.

To fix what we think about our high school math teacher, simply switch the order of the sentence to the following: “he is bad at math but has an incredible sense of humor”.  By restructuring the statement, we’re more likely to value the teacher for his humor.  The most profound piece of a statement is how it ends, therefore end with the positive aspect to remember the person by.

Call to Action

Think of somebody in your life that you believe is unintelligent, uncharismatic, unlikeable, or just plain annoying.  Next identify the aspect you appreciate about that person.  There are two benefits from performing these steps.  One is you learn to value and appreciate all people.  Secondly, through the act of observing positive traits in others, you yourself can better implement those traits or lessons into your own life.

Bottom line: humble yourself when evaluating other people.  To pass up on the special aspects of another person would be doing that person and yourself a disservice.    Always remember that no one is special but everyone has something special to offer.

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Building Your Habit String

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg discusses how to build a habit.  He breaks habits down by including three components, which include the cue, the action, and the reward.  The cue serves as a reminder to perform a habit.  The action is the actual habit performed.  Finally the reward is the feeling or physical thing received for performing the habit.  For example let’s hope we all have the habit of brushing our teeth each morning.  See the habit breakdown below:

  1. Cue – Get out of bed
  2. Action – Brush teeth
  3. Reward – Teeth feel fresh

Performing positive daily habits is critical to our health and well being.  Regardless of how many positive habits you’ve developed, there is always room to add more to our days.  The question becomes how do you add multiple habits to your day?  This involves a two step process, which includes first what I call the rapid habit time block.  The second step is to string the habits together.

Rapid Habit Time Block

When planning your day you should set aside a block of time devoted to the habits you’d like to develop.  The amount of time allocated to habits depends on your personal schedule and how many habits you want to incorporate.  Keep in mind many of the habits we aspire to build don’t take much time in our days.  Let’s say you want to build the habits of meditating, journaling, and stretching.  Devote 10 minutes to each and you’re only asking for a half an hour of your day.  For sake of an example let’s say you’ve decided to do these habits 8:00-8:30am each day.

Stringing the Habits

Once you’ve set aside a time in the day for meditating, journaling, and stretching, you must then decide the order in which you perform each habit.  This is a personal choice, but regardless the order it’s important to move quickly from one habit to the next.  The reason for this is to hone in on the cue.  If you recall the cue is the reminder to perform a habit.  By stringing habits together, the ending (reward) of one habit also serves as the cue to begin the next habit.  See the process below, with the understanding that the order of the habits are meditating, journaling, and stretching:

Habit #1 – Meditating

  1. Cue – 8am alarm reminder to meditate
  2. Action – Meditate
  3. Reward – Mind feels clear

Habit #2 – Journaling

  1. Cue – Mind feeling clear after meditating
  2. Action – Journal
  3. Reward – Satisfaction of getting thoughts onto paper

Habit #3 – Stretching

  1. Cue –  Satisfaction of getting thoughts onto paper
  2. Action – Stretch
  3. Reward – Body feels more limber


In order to bring new habits into your life, you must first decide when to do the habits and then string them together.  One of the biggest reasons why we don’t perform habits (aside from laziness) is we simply forget.  Remember that the key is in the cue.  By stringing habits together, the momentum of completing one habit cues us to take on the next habit.  Grouping your positive habits together will decrease the likelihood of forgetting about them.  Eventually the string of habits will become as second nature as brushing your teeth.

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Arranging your Smartphone Apps

Over the last 10+ years smartphones have become an integral part of our lives.  This technological innovation has become extremely polarizing.  Smartphones allow for unlimited productivity and possibility in the palm of our hands.  Conversely, smartphones can be a massive distraction and can negatively impact our general well being.

One thing we can all agree on is smartphones aren’t going anywhere.  If anything, the technological world will continue innovating, which will create a world where smartphones continue to grow in importance.  The question is how do we utilize our smartphones to encourage productivity and wellness, while minimizing the negative aspects?  One solution is to strategically arrange how your smartphone apps are displayed on your screen.

Typical Home Screen

When you unlock your smartphone what do you see?  Most likely you’ll be viewing between 16-24 apps, which also are the apps you spend the most time using.  It’s important to recognize just because an app is used frequently doesn’t mean it’s a good use of your time.  This realization sparked my motivation to rearrange the apps on my smartphone.

Extreme Makeover: Smartphone Edition

Below is my home screen before changes were made:


Before making changes to this screen, let’s categorize smartphone apps into three groups.  Foundational apps are required frequently and act as tools to assist in your everyday life.  Time Sucks are the apps we open when we’re bored and want to “kill time”.  The last category are aspirational apps that provide genuine benefits to our life, but may not necessarily be top of mind.  I’ve provided examples of each category below:

  1. Foundational: Messages, Camera, Google Chrome, Maps, Calculator, Clock
  2. Time Sucks: Instagram, Facebook, Candy Crush, YouTube, TempleRun, Snapchat
  3. Aspirational: Headspace (meditation app), Podcasts, Tabata (fitness app)

The goal is to arrange your apps in a way so your home screen consists of only foundational and aspirational apps.  To do this it’s important to identify the apps you open when you’re bored and need a form of distraction.  These apps should be placed out of sight when you unlock your smartphone.  It’s like saying you want to eat less candy but leave a bowl of M&Ms lying on the kitchen counter.  If you want to eat less candy, leave the M&Ms in a hard to reach cabinet.  Whether it’s Instagram or consuming candy, to decrease a negative habit place the trigger out of plain sight.

After completing this exercise, my smartphone home screen now looks like this:


You’ll notice all social media and gaming related (time suck) apps have been removed from my home screen.  After removing the time sucks, I brought in the aspirational apps.  These applications (Tabata, Headspace, Podcasts, Gratitude Plus) I desire to use more frequently.  By placing these apps in the home screen, I’ll be reminded to access them more consistently.  At the same time I’m less inclined to use the time suck apps which are now out of sight.


Rearranging your smartphone can make the difference in your daily output.  Perhaps instead of crushing candy, you could be journaling your thoughts or listening to a thought provoking podcast.  While ridding technology completely from our lives is an unrealistic ask, we can still be discipline in how we arrange our smartphone app layout.  Over time you’ll experience how a simple change to your phone can make a huge difference with how you interact with it.

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3 Issues With The Slogan “Better Than Yesterday”

Every year I come up with a slogan to live by.  At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s I’ll put on a wristband with the slogan I’ve selected.  The chosen slogan for 2020 was Better Than Yesterday.  I chose this slogan because I liked the message of constant self improvement from the day before.

As the year has progressed, I’ve come to realize there are shortcomings to the slogan Better Than Yesterday.  My feeling towards the phrase festered to the point I’ve recently removed the wrist band from my arm.  Scandalous to say the least!  You might think what is wrong with the phrase?  After some deep thinking I’ve come up with three reasons why the slogan Better Than Yesterday doesn’t live up to standards.  Afterwards I’ve come up with an alternate phrase to counter Better Than Yesterday.

1. Unrealistic Expectations

Better Than Yesterday indicates you should always be better than the day before.  Unfortunately that’s not how things work.  Even if you give your best effort, there will be days that don’t go as well.  Let’s say you play golf everyday for a week.  Anybody who plays golf knows there are days you can’t sink a putt or keep a drive in the fairway to save your life.  This idea that if you play seven consecutive days and play marginally better each day is unrealistic.  You might start forcing the action to play better, which will in turn make you play worse.  You’ll go from thinking  Better Than Yesterday to instead thinking Worse Than Yesterday.

2. Pressure to Take No Days Off

If you wake up and shout Better Than Yesterday, your mentality becomes one-upping whatever you did yesterday.  If your goal is to one-up what you accomplished yesterday, you likely won’t take time to recharge.  Over time your mind and body will fatigue. Eventually you’ll begin to see diminishing return on your efforts.  The mental frustration along with physical fatigue can lead to burnout.  Think back to our golf example.  If you played poorly the last few days you might have a burning desire to get back out the following day to make amends.  The issue may not be your physical swing, when in reality your mind is pressing too hard.  The best solution is take time away from the course, which can reset your mind to perform at a higher level.

3. Too Short Term Oriented

Comparing yourself to yesterday can cause a loss of perspective.  There may not have been improvement from yesterday, and if there was improvement it was too marginal to even notice.  The real growth happens over a longer period of time.  Think back to when you were a child and tracking your height as you aged.  From your perspective you look the exact same height as you did yesterday.  If you’re always making a comparison solely to yesterday you aren’t going to notice your physical height increasing.  Now compare your own day to day perspective with somebody who only gets to see you once or twice a year.  That person remarks how much you’ve grown from the last time he or she saw you.  The reason this person notices the growth is because their comparison point is from the last time they saw you, whether that’s three months ago or a year ago.


It’s critical to maintain perspective when tracking your growth over time.  We choose how we look at the past, which as a result influences our current perspective and motivation for the future.  Therefore compare your ability today to where you were over a longer period of time.  The slogan Better Than Yesterday should be converted to Better Than Last Week, Better Than Last Month, or Better Than Last Year.  You decide which length is right for you based off your unique challenges.  This shift allows for a longer term perspective while eliminating unnecessary pressure and unrealistic expectations to improve day to day.

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Optimal Time Blocking

When you set out to complete a list of tasks, it’s advisable to delegate a specific time of day to devote to each task.  This is widely known as the practice of time blocking.  There are plenty of resources that discuss the importance of time blocking.  What doesn’t get discussed as much is deciding when each task should be completed.  In order to optimize time blocking, you should align your most taxing tasks with the time slots in which you will be most productive.   Let’s look at an example with our friend Sally’s to do list.

Sally’s To Do List

  1. Read one chapter of a book
  2. Clear her email inbox
  3. Finish her quarterly report

Let’s say Sally is awake 7am-11pm, which gives her 16 hours waking hours.  Like most people, Sally has obligations.   Let’s define obligations as any block of time in which Sally is busy.  This would include such things as driving to work, family time, and scheduled meetings.

After taking into account her obligations, Sally looks at her calendar and notices she has openings during the time frames of 7am-9am, 1-3pm, and finally 8pm-11pm.  This means out of Sally’s 16 waking hours, she has 7 free hours to plan out for the day.  Let’s define any waking and non-obligated window as “You Time”.

Sally must decide when to complete each task during her “You Time”.  When doing this, there are two variables Sally should take into account.  These variables are the task’s mental investment and her most productive time slots.  Let’s see how Sally addresses each variable.

Task’s Mental Investment

The first factor is to look at each task and grade how mentally taxing the task is.  Mentally taxing tasks require intense concentration, and in some instances involve high levels of creativity.  Sally recognizes finishing her quarterly report is the most taxing, followed by clearing her email inbox.  The least taxing is reading a chapter of her book.

Productive Time Slots

The second variable is recognizing when during the day one is most productive.  Sally has already made the self evaluation she is most productive first thing in the morning.  In the afternoon Sally is slightly less effective than the morning and by night time she’s least effective.


As mentioned in the opening, The key is to align your most taxing tasks with the time slots in which you will be most productive.  With this strategy in mind, Sally plans her day to complete the quarterly report 7-9am, clear her email inbox 1-3pm, and finally read a chapter of her book sometime during the 8-11pm time frame.

Many (including myself) have ineffectively planned our days in which our productive times don’t align with the most mentally taxing tasks.  If you’re most productive/creative in the morning, the most common pitfall is clearing your inbox right after you wake up.  There’s a desire to “catch up” and respond to a flood of unopened emails.  If the morning is your most productive time of the day, you’re better off completing a task that requires greater mental capacity.  The emails can wait!

If you aren’t as productive in the morning, than responding to emails upon waking up may actually be a good use of time blocking optimization.  You’re better off saving the major writeup for the early afternoon or late evening.

In summary when planning your day, identify your optimal non-obligated time frames and then plan your tasks accordingly.  Simply put, know when in the day you work best and make the most of that time.

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Exchanging Problems

Let’s follow the short tale of Richard and his five problems.

We begin as Richard is seeking a job.  At this point he’s unemployed and can barely pay his rent (Problem #1).

Finally after months of searching Richard lands a job.  Though he can pay his rent, Richard finds his job unfulfilling and dreads going to work (Problem #2).

Thankfully Richard is a hard worker, and manages to rise the ranks into a position he is satisfied with.  All good right?  Wrong.  Despite the fact Richard has a job he likes, the job offers no work life balance (Problem #3).

Richard learns how to properly manage his time better, which results in more free time.  With more flexibility, Richard decides to consistently hit the gym.  He realizes pretty quickly his fitness has dropped significantly since high school (Problem #4).

As we know Richard is a disciplined guy.  After months of training Richard gets into the best shape of his life.  Anxious to test his endurance, Richard begins researching upcoming marathons in his area but can’t seem to find any (Problem #5).

What do you notice about the problems as they progress?  How does Problem #1 (unemployed/can’t pay rent) compare to Problem #5 (can’t find nearby marathon race)? It’s safe to assume all of us would rather deal with finding a marathon compared to finding a job.  Richard’s problems decrease in severity as each problem is properly addressed.

What Richard is doing is exchanging bad problems for less bad problems.  Obviously Richard doesn’t exist, but many of us have faced similar problems.  Once a problem is solved, we upgrade to a less serious or better problem that didn’t exist before.  This is a never-ending cycle throughout our lives.  The ideal scenario isn’t to have no problems, but rather reach a point in which the problems you’re dealing with are minimal in the grander scheme of things.

I used to think all problems were bad.  That is the furthest thing from reality.  There are good problems and bad problems.  We can all think of examples of bad problems.  But when is comes to good problems, we still manage to exhaust ourselves stressing over them.  The next time you’re stuck in the grocery line, remind yourself that’s a good problem to have.  Instead of the problem being a long line, it could have been not having enough money to buy the groceries in the first place.  Good problems serve as a a reminder we’ve reached a point in which the bad problems have been solved.

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The Problem With New Years Resolutions

We’re approaching that time of year when people begin chirping about New Years resolutions. Typically a resolution is a personal goal you set for yourself that you’ll religiously do every day in the coming calendar year.  As we all know, resolutions are more of a joke since it seems more times than not, people don’t actually follow through.

I’m not going to explain techniques on how to create the right resolution, or even try to explain how to follow through with it.  Instead I’ll explain why resolutions don’t make sense.  But to simply explain why they’re bad isn’t good enough.  Nothing is more unappealing than telling somebody there’s a problem without offering a solution.  Having said that, below are three reasons why resolutions are bad, and one resounding solution to this nonsense!

Reason #1 – Creates Procrastination

Let’s say you decide on December 17th your New Years resolutions is to exercise at least 30 minutes every day.  Does that mean you don’t exercise at all until the New Year?  Perhaps waking up at 6am to workout seemed like a great idea in mid-December, but by January 1st may not seem so appealing. By creating a resolution that you agree to start sometime in the future, you run a risk. The longer an idea wanes without taking action, the less motivated you’ll be to accomplish what you set out to do.  

Reason #2 – Allows Failure to be an Option

It’s January 1st and you’re ready to attack the 30 minute daily workout routine head on! Unfortunately by mid-January your flaming passion for exercise has mysteriously vanished.  At that point you say the magical words, “well there’s always next year”.  The second your resolution begins to slip, you think the resolution for the year is a lost cause.  Resolutions can create this feeling.  The moment we slip up, we may as well give up and wait for next year.

Reason #3 – Bad Timing

Think long and hard about New Years Day.  It’s likely you’re either on vacation, with family, or away from home.  Maybe you had too much fun New Years Eve, and therefore the thought of exercising the following day sounds like your worst nightmare.  Why is it that we decide to begin resolutions on a day when most of us are not in our daily routines?  In a way, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

The Solution

This is very simple.  Start your resolution today!  This means as soon as you finish reading this paragraph.  Don’t wait for New Years or sometime in the future.  There will never be a perfect time. The moment you come up with a resolution is the same day you should start it.  Take swift and immediate action towards whatever it is you’re aspiring to accomplish.  And if you slip up, realize this is not a one year challenge but an ongoing lifetime pursuit.  The world is your oyster, so get after it!

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How To Clear Your Mind

What separates humans from other living creatures is our capacity for higher level thinking.  While it’s great we have powerful minds, it can also be our worst enemy.  Everyday our minds jump from thought to thought.  This can be detrimental to our well-being.  It prevents us from living in the present, whether that’s enjoying the small pleasures of life or focusing on the task at hand.

So how do we manage all these thoughts swirling around in our heads?  You do it by writing things down.  By writing things down, we remove the urge to keep things stuck in our heads.  I’ve categorized three different types of things that lurk in our minds.  They are tasks, ideas, and baggage.  I will briefly explain each category and why it’s beneficial to write each down.

Writing Down Your Tasks

Tasks can be considered errands, or things that must get done.  On days in which there’s a lot to do, it can be stressful keeping track of everything.  When this happens, write it all down!  Part of our stress can be attributed to our fear of forgetting something.  By writing down each task, it allows us to approach our objectives in a calm and organized way.

Writing Down Your Ideas

Ideas can include things such as your next great startup idea, the punch line to a funny joke, or potential names for your new pet.  As humans we are gifted with creative minds.  The problem is many people don’t record their ideas.  As a result these ideas slip from our minds.

Writing down ideas is beneficial in two ways.  First it prevents us from letting those ideas slip into the oasis.  Secondly it allows us to build on past ideas.  For example let’s say one day you write down your idea for a startup.  The following day you write down the name of the startup, potential target markets, and so on.  As they say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were your creative ideas.

Writing Down Your Baggage

Baggage can be things such as emotional scars, regrets, long-held animosities,  and all those other unpleasant feelings.  Is it critical to write down what we’re feeling.  Some may argue venting about your problems to others is the solution.  While I do agree there is a time and place for that, I’m also a firm believer there are things that can only be expressed through written language.  It can be hard to fully convey your feelings verbally, especially when it’s something you’re extremely emotional about.


If you’re looking to release your mind from all the bombardment of thoughts, take the time to write things down.  You’ll become more productive and creative.  Most importantly, you’ll provide an outlet to release your mind of the negative thoughts swirling around in your head.  If the end goal is to clear our minds, the most simplistic way of achieving that is by writing everything down.

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Post-Decision Bias

Everyday we are faced with decisions.  Once a decision has been made we live with the results. When reflecting we tend to categorize previous choices as the right decision or the wrong decision. There’s a problem with this.  With many decisions, we can never definitively say whether it was the right or wrong one.  Let me illustrate this with a personal example.

On a daily basis I’m faced with a critical decision during my morning commute.  Like many New York City residents, I take the subway to work.  The original subway I get on is a local train, which means it makes every possible stop.  What’s interesting is I have the option to step off the train at my second stop, in order to get on the express train.  The express train makes fewer stops, and therefore I can get to my desired stop faster.

Now it would seem obvious to step off the local train in order to get on the express train.  Here’s the problem though.  Let’s say I make the decision to take the express train.  Once on the platform I hear the express train has been delayed.  Even worse when the express train arrives there’s no room for new passengers.  This means I have to wait for the next express train.  At this point I’m regretting my decision of stepping off the local train.

Looking back it’s easy to assume I made the wrong decision.  But not so fast!  I’ll never know if there were delays on the local train.  As any New Yorker knows, anything can happen on your morning commute.  There easily could have been delays on the local train.  Despite that, I’m still pouting on the platform questioning my life decision.

We must remember we can’t always be certain the correct decision has been made.  Think about the all the decisions you’ve made in your life, big or small.  Anything as small as deciding what to eat for lunch or as big as deciding where to attend school.  After a decision has been made, we are left wondering whether we made the right decision.  It’s common to question our decisions when things start to go wrong.

When things start to go wrong, remember that you likely have no idea what would have happened had you chosen a different option.  The following statement I’ve decided to call Post-Decision Bias, which is the following — we overemphasize the negative in what we have and overemphasize the positive in what we passed up on.  For all we know the other choice could have been even worse!

So the next time you make a decision, remember that all choices have pros and cons.  This includes the choice you made and the alternative option you passed up on.  Once you make a decision, accept it and then figure out how to make the most out of it.

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Appreciating The Anticipation

One of the most overused expressions is the following: “the journey matters more than the destination”.  Don’t get me wrong I wholeheartedly believe in this principle.  The problem is it’s been thrown around so much, to the point it has become somewhat of a cliché.  It wasn’t until I read the following passage from the novel The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff that I fully internalized this concept.

“The honey doesn’t taste as good once it is being eaten; the goal doesn’t mean so much once it is reached; the reward is not so rewarding once it has been given.  If we add up all the rewards in our lives, we won’t have very much.  But if we add up the spaces between the rewards, we’ll come up with quite a bit.  And if we add up the rewards and the spaces, then we’ll have everything.”  


Now let’s break this down.  I’ll examine the rewards as well as the spaces between the rewards.


A “reward” can be something we hope to receive as a result of hard work.  Examples include receiving a job promotion, making the varsity basketball team, or winning the Noble Peace Prize.  But there’s another type of reward.  Rewards can also be things we quite simply look forward to.  This can include such things as a party, a long awaited vacation, Christmas Day, the debut of Jay-Z’s new album, or the Super Bowl.

When it comes to rewards, especially things we don’t have to work towards, we focus on the actual event.  That’s a shame considering these “rewards” make up only a small portion of our lives.  This is where the “spaces” component comes into play.

“Spaces Between the Rewards”

Think of “spaces” as everything except the actual thing you’re looking forward to.  In many instances the spaces can be the anticipation for what’s to come.  There are countless examples.  The tailgate before the big game, the day before Christmas, or the car ride to the party.  I’d imagine in hindsight fond memories were made.  But did you appreciate those moments as they were occurring, or were you too focused on the actual event?

What’s important to realize is the reward is not always what we expect it to be.  Sometimes it’s exactly what we expect and we’re thrilled as a result.  But there are other times we are extremely disappointed by the reward.  Perhaps the party you were looking forward to turned out to be a complete bust.  But the fact you were looking forward it, had spent time talking about it with your friends, and had blasted you’re favorite music on the way there must mean the whole ordeal couldn’t have been an entire bust.


Regardless of the rewards we receive in our lives, whether through hard work or upcoming events, make sure to recognize the beauty that lies in the anticipation.  The anticipation is consistently pleasurable, while the reward —  well, that isn’t always the case.  Therefore recognize the anticipation as an extension of the reward, which at times is the best part of the reward.  As a result you’ll appreciate more aspects of life and have a better perspective of things as they unfold.

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Urgent vs. Important

From time to time I’ll highlight a specific point made in a book I’ve read in the past.  The book The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is an all-time classic.  I believe the best point made in that book is understanding the difference between tasks that are urgent versus those that are important.

In his book, Stephen Covey defines urgent as something that “requires immediate action.”  Conversely Covey defines importance as something that “contributes to your mission, your values, your high priority goals”.  Using these two components,  a task can be any of the following:

  1. Important but not urgent
  2. Urgent but not important
  3. Neither important nor urgent
  4. Both important and urgent  

Obviously we don’t want to prioritize tasks that are not important, even if they appear urgent (for example taking a phone call from somebody you would rather not speak to).

What we’re left focusing on are tasks that are important and urgent, as well as tasks that are important but not urgent.  As you’ll see it’s the tasks that are important but not urgent that matter most.  Being able to recognize this is critical to living out your life with the correct priorities.

Important And Urgent Tasks

Tasks that fall under this category typically occur when you’re pressed for time.  In my life this could look like submitting a job application that’s due in three hours or picking up my brother from school. These tasks are essential because, well I’d be a pretty lousy person if I blew off picking up my brother, and failing to submit an application before the deadline would be completely irresponsible.

Important and urgent tasks are what I like to categorize as putting out fires,  They’re the things that keep us preoccupied and stressed.  Completing tasks of this nature can relieve our anxiety levels and give us gratification for getting stuff done.  The problem is if we only focus on “putting out fires”, we can never arrive to the most essential tasks in life.  These “essential” tasks fall under our next category.

Important But Not Urgent Tasks

These are the types of tasks we know are important but because they’re not urgent we relegate them to “later when I have more time.”  Examples include exercising, spending time with loved ones, reading, and planning for the future.  What you’ll notice is these tasks are very important to living a fulfilling and meaningful life, and I’d argue even more important than the aforementioned “important and urgent” tasks.  But would you say these tasks are urgent?  Most likely not.

This essentially is where the problem lies.  The things that are most important in life are the same things we continuously put off.  We are too busy dealing with “important and urgent” matters (putting out fires) we lose sight of the things that we’ll be grateful for down the road.  Eventually the important tasks that weren’t urgent suddenly transform into urgent matters.  Having a heart condition from a lack of exercise is urgent.  Addressing a failing relationship because you didn’t put the time in is urgent.


We all can do a better job devoting time to things that are important but not urgent.  Don’t be the person who says “life happened” or “life got in the way” when making an excuse for not keeping in touch with loved ones.  An effective strategy is to time block a portion of your day to something important but not urgent.  Even 15 minutes daily can make all the difference.  This may seem burdensome now but you’ll thank yourself down the road.

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4 Reasons To Clean Your Room

During your youth, it’s likely at some point you were expected to clean your room.  Usually we do it because somebody told us to do so, and not because we wanted to (with some exceptions).  Through these experiences, many of us have associated tidying our rooms as a chore that’s done just for the sake of cleaning.

When it comes to tidying our rooms there needs to be more profound reasons for doing so.  In previous posts I’ve mentioned the importance of finding the “why” in everything we do.  The same can be applied when cleaning.  Below are four reasons why we should tidy our rooms (aside from your room looking more presentable).

Reason #1 – Save Money

Imagine you wake up one day and go to brush your teeth.  You notice you’re running out of toothpaste.  Let’s assume your bathroom is a mess and you don’t have a good understanding of how your spare toiletries are organized.  You spend 30 seconds looking for toothpaste and then make the decision to stock up on more toothpaste later that day.  Fast forward a week later when you’ve finally made the decision to clean your bathroom.  After sorting through everything you find five unopened tubes of toothpaste.  See where I’m going with this?

When you thoroughly organize your personal belongings, you get a clear picture of everything you own.  Once you know how much of everything you own, you never make the mistake of buying something that you already have.  Simple in theory but many of us (including myself) struggle with this.

Reason #2 – Create a Happy Place

Now I want you to imagine you’ve had a miserable day.  Perhaps work or school wasn’t great.  Somebody said something you didn’t appreciate.  Worst of all you were out with friends only to see your favorite team blow it in the final minutes.  You head home feeling sorry for yourself, only to be greeted by a room in total disarray.

After a trying day we deserve to return to a calming environment.  When you’ve had a messy day, the last thing you need is a messy room.  When your room is in order, you’ve created an environment that allows you recover and mentally prepare to attack tomorrow with more resolve.

Reason #3 – Reconnect With Your Past

Once you decide to clean your room you’ll likely stumble upon items that spark past memories or experiences.  Perhaps you find old letters, pictures, or certificates.  By reconnecting with old items, we relive our past.  From a firsthand experience by cleaning my own room, I found items that sparked memories I’d forgotten about for over a decade.

Finding old items may inspire you to reconnect with an old friend.  It may inspire you to recommit to an old passion or hobby.  Perhaps that old golf club in the back of your closet reminded you of the days when you were a half-decent golfer.  Or that trumpet at the bottom of the pile reminded you to start practicing again.  By reviewing our old belongings, we reconnect with our past.  And by reconnecting with our past, we can implement those things that we lost touch with into our present lives.

Reason #4 – Recognize What’s Most Important

Picture yourself opening up your closet full of shirts.  You have 15 shirts you don’t think much about and five shirts you absolutely adore.  Now what if you removed those 15 shirts you didn’t care much for and just kept the ones you loved?  Next time you open your closet you’ll be welcomed only by the things you care for.

By removing the things we don’t care much for, we can focus on the the things we care most about.  In the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo implores her readers to keep only those things that “bring joy”.  I believe this is simple but true.  Imagine the feeling being surrounded only by the things that bring you joy.  You’re much more likely to appreciate the things you have and recognize what’s most important.


There you have it.  Clean your room for the reasons listed above.  I find it’s much easier to do something when you fully understand the positive consequences.  So the next time you’re inclined to put off cleaning your room, think not about the dullness of the act, but instead think about saving money, creating a happy place, reconnecting with your past, and identifying what’s most important.

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Hierarchy of Conversation

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

Eleanor Roosevelt

Ever wonder why in some instances a conversation is incredibly engaging and at other times you just want to punch the person talking?  Why some conversations seem absurdly dry while others have you entranced, wondering where the time went?  Typically when speaking with an individual or a group of people, you generally speak about one of three things: people, events, or ideas.

There are always appropriate scenarios to discuss people, events, and ideas.  But I believe our buddy Eleanor Roosevelt is onto something.  Let’s dig a little deeper.

Talking About People

According to Eleanor Roosevelt if you find yourself talking about people all day you’re a “small mind”.  Congratulations give yourself a pat on the back!

In all seriousness though talking about people isn’t the worst thing, as long as you’re talking about others for the right reasons.  Unfortunately people spend a lot of time talking about people, famous or not, for the wrong reasons.  One of the not so pleasant conversations is discussing those who rub you the wrong way.  You might tend to gossip or say things about somebody, that if present, they would not appreciate.  On the flip side you may talk about people because, wait for it……your life isn’t that interesting.  By talking about other people in some instances, you are vicariously living your life through others.  Waking up each day dying to know what’s new in the life of Beyoncé is not good use of your time or your life.

Talking About Events

Alright so you’ve realized talking about people isn’t necessarily the most productive conversation.  Now it’s time to talk events.  Events include such things as historical events, personal experiences, and current events.  Discussing events, in many instances, includes people.  Instead of talking about people though, we are discussing the dynamics between people that make up the event.  Now we’re talking multilayered concepts.  This includes people and their actions that make up the event.  It’s interesting to discuss with others how past events, whether personal or historical, influence our current lives.

Talking About Ideas

This is the holy grail of conversation.  If you really want to understand somebody’s true values and how they see the world, discuss ideas.  What exactly do I mean by ideas?  Basically ideas are things that are intangible.  An easy way to get to an idea is by asking the “why?”.  There are tons of examples: Why do people do bad things?  Why did Kanye West interrupt Taylor Swift at the VMAs?  Why is Game of Thrones the most popular show?

The beauty of discussing ideas is it’s completely subjective.  There is no right answer to answering why people do bad things.  Therefore there is no obvious end to the conversation.  That’s why we’ve been discussing these same concepts for generations.  If there was a definitive answer we’d all agree and that’d be the end of it.  Best of all, discussing ideas reveals a lot about the motives, values, and purpose of the people you’re speaking with.  It’s a great way to reveal what makes those around you tick.


Whether you’re at the family dinner table, out with friends, or on a first date, it’s a good exercise to think about what types of things you talk about.   Talking about people and events are a safe bet, but discussing ideas push us to better understand the world around us.  While it may seem beneficial to jump straight to discussing ideas,  it’s important to know your audience and gauge what level of conversation is appropriate at a given time.  A good strategy is breaking the ice by discussing people and events.  Once you feel the conversation flowing, begin asking the “why” and spark conversations that get to the deepest levels.

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3 Life Lessons From Dogs

Every year people spend millions of dollars seeking the answers to life.  We attend seminars, read books, and listen to every podcast.  What we are seeking is happiness, success, and fulfillment.  Being bombarded by different theories and programs can get extremely overwhelming, especially in this day and age in which many of us suffer from information overload.

It’s funny though like a lot of things in life, sometimes the answers we seek are sitting right in front of us,  and in this case literally.  I’m talking of course about dogs!  The same values thought leaders in the field of self-development preach are the same values we can acquire by observing creatures that consider sniffing each others rear ends as a formal greeting.

Below are three life lessons I’ve learned from observing our furry four-legged friends.

1. Living In The Present

Dogs are masters at living in the present.  What’s on their minds is whatever is occurring in the moment.  Dogs don’t think about what tomorrow will bring or dwell on something that happened a week ago.  They are in tune with the sensations around them in any given moment.  When a dog is playing outside all it’s thinking about is catching squirrels.  That same dog is not concerned about when the fun will end when the owner decides to pack it in.  

So next time you’re enjoying a Sunday afternoon in the sun, enjoy the dang moment!  Stop worrying about what Monday will bring.

2. Loyalty

One of the worst ways to describe somebody is the following, “he shares every characteristic of a dog except its loyalty.”  Ouch!  

When all else fails dogs have a knack for staying loyal to their owner or fellow pack members.  When was the last time you met a dog once and it absolutely adored you, and then the second time it was as if there was serious beef.  As if somehow the dog learned something about you and was now anywhere from jealous, envious, or held a grudge towards you.  I’ve never experienced or imagined a dog doing this towards another living creature.  As humans we can certainly learn a lot from dogs when it comes to loyalty.

3. Relentlessness

Mark Twain once said, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” This quote rings true when it comes to the two dogs that live with my parents.  One dog is 11 years old and very mature.  The other dog is less than four months old with unlimited energy.  When these two dogs playfully fight, the older dog dominates every single time.  

What is remarkable is the sheer relentlessness on the part of the puppy.  Despite being pinned hundreds of times, this little creature has no quit.  Once pinned, this dog immediately gets up and gets right back into the face of the older dog.  In the end the older dog tires out and eventually retreats.  Imagine as humans getting rejected and thrown down (hopefully metaphorically) hundreds of times. Next time you feel nothing is going your way, channel your inner puppy scrappiness.  If you push through enough rejections, you’ll eventually come out on top.


This all sounds great in theory but I understand some may feel humans can’t be compared to dogs.  It’s easy to object and say dogs don’t have nearly the same cognitive capacity as do humans. Additionally dogs don’t have the same responsibility as do humans.  Dogs don’t have to deal with jobs, deadlines, and writing papers.  

While all this is true we can all do a better job practicing what dogs seem to have all figured out.  Be present, demonstrate loyalty, and be relentless.  In the end you’ll be happier and more fulfilled. You’ll have our furry four-legged friends to thank!

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3 Steps To Make The Perfect To-Do List

At one point or another you’ve likely created a to-do list.  You may have done this the night before or the morning of the day you wanted to complete a set of objectives.  What you might not realize is there’s a clearer way to complete your objectives in a more efficient manner.  For the sake of an example, let’s take a look at my fascinating life.  I have created a to-do list for today’s tasks, which I’ve recreated below.

My To-Do List

  • Clean kitchen
  • Watch South Park
  • Search for jobs

I know, I know, people tell me I’m living the American dream.  Once I’ve completed an objective, I check it off and move on to the next task.  This is how I used to go about making to-do lists, but in recent months I’ve implemented three specific steps when creating a to-do list.  They are to prioritize, specify, and time-block.

1. Prioritize

When creating a to-do list, it can be easy to lose sight of what’s most important.  Without thinking too hard I might put equal emphasis on catching up on South Park as searching for jobs.  This is where prioritization is key.  You need to identify which tasks must be completed and which tasks can wait.  Let’s go back to my awesome life.  Now that I understand the importance of prioritization, I number my tasks in order of importance.

  1. Clean kitchen
  2. Search for jobs
  3. Watch South Park

2. Specify

Based off my new and improved to-do list, I’ve prioritized cleaning the kitchen as most important (sorry South Park).  But what happens when I actually begin cleaning the kitchen.  Do I only clear the table?  Do I put all the dishes in the dishwasher?  The lack of clarity lies in the fact that this is a task, when in fact it should be a goal.  A goal is something that is measurable and achievable.  You know it’s a goal when there is a clear finish-line.  The more specific the better.  Take a look how I’ve transformed my list from tasks to goals.

  1. Load all dishes and start washer
  2. Identify five new job leads
  3. Watch two episodes of South Park

3. Assign Time Slot (aka Time Block)

After prioritizing and making each task goal-specific, it’s now time to assign each task to a specific time of day.  When most people make up their mind what they’re going to do, they don’t necessarily decide when they’re going to do it.  This can lead to one of the deadliest words in the english language… procrastination.  Since procrastination sucks, I’ve decided to assign each task a specific time slot.  By assigning a specific time slot, you’re less likely to put something off for “sometime later”.  Below is the final version of my to-do list.

  1. Load all dishes and start washer (12:30pm-12:45pm)
  2. Identify five new job leads (12:45pm-2:00pm)
  3. Watch two episodes of South Park (2:00pm-2:45pm)

There you have it!  Compare this to-do list to the original and recognize how much clearer the new version is.  In a nutshell, the more specific you are with your to-do list, the greater likelihood you’ll accomplish what you set out to do.  So as you venture off with your next to-do list, be sure to prioritize, specify, and time-block your tasks.

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Maximize in Minutes, Not Hours

People always complain there is never enough time in a day.  I get it.  There are too many errands to run, too many meetings to attend, and too many shows to watch.  You have 10 tasks and by the time you’ve completed five the day is almost over.  And that’s assuming you don’t waste time!

So what’s the solution?  No matter what there are 24 hours in a day.  The fact we talk in terms of hours and not minutes is problematic.  When you think in terms of hours, you likely block one task per hour, maybe two.  Perhaps you block an hour off to submit a report to your lovely boss.  Next thing you know you’ve spent 20 of the 60 minutes on Facebook.  Even if you completed the task (submit report to lovely boss) in the one hour time-frame, a valuable 20 minutes was wasted that could of gone to completing your next task.

Now this is where it gets a bit psychological.  Lets assume you completed your objective of submitting the report within one hour.  Even though the task was completed, there’s a problem.  In your mind if doesn’t matter how much time you wasted as long as the task was completed in the given time frame.  You’re tricking yourself for a job well done.

But what if you think in terms of minutes instead of hours?  If you do the math there are 1,440 minutes in a day.  When we think in terms of minutes our relationship with time changes.  You’re more likely to allocate tasks to the actual amount of time needed for completion.  

Now let’s go back to the submitting report example.  Now that you’re thinking in terms of minutes, you assign the necessary time (40 minutes) to the task.  You’re less likely to waste time knowing you’re on a tighter deadline.  And like magic you got an extra 20 minutes added to your day.  Now imagine if you had that same mentality with all your tasks.  Think about how much time you could add to your day!

In closing, if you want to get the most out of your day, think in terms of minutes, not hours.  This is what highly efficient people do.  It’s been observed CEOs attend 15 minute meetings.  Eight meetings in two hours ain’t too shabby.  Hopefully most of you aren’t that crunched for time, but if you’re looking to get more out of your day remember to plan in terms of minutes, not hours.

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How To Read A Book

Based on the title you may be thinking, “is this blog supposed to be for my 3-year-old son?”  In actuality this post is for anybody that plans to read at least one more book in their lifetime.

While most educated people can read at a high level, it’s surprising how few people read the right way.  I’m talking about the type of reading that allows for full retention and internalization.  What’s the point of reading a book if a month, year, or decade from now you don’t retain the lessons or values acquired through a particular book.

There are 3 types of readers: Casual Readers, Academic Readers, and Introspective Readers.  I’ll briefly touch on all three types.  After that you decide the type of reader you want to be.

1. Casual Reader

This is the type of reader that enjoys reading by the pool while getting a sexy tan on.  It’s done very casually and for pleasure.  What’s missing in this type of reading is active engagement.  A casual reader never has a pen or pencil to mark up the text.  Typically after completing a book, the casual reader in most cases will think about the book for a short period of time, but eventually the moral/message drops by the wayside.

2. Academic Reader

This type of reader is a bit more serious than a casual leader.  An academic reader developed good habits while in school.  When this type of reader reads a book, he or she is armed with a writing utensil.  With this tool a reader has the ability to commit to something my freshmen history teacher would call CUSS.  This stands for Circle, Underline, Star, Summarize.  CUSSing involves marking up the text while reading, also known as annotating (why my teacher couldn’t just call it that is beyond me).   There’s no further action once the book is completed, unless you’re the final type of reader!

3. Introspective Reader

The introspective reader is one that doesn’t just simply read a book, but instead devours it.  This reader is looking to maximize the teachings from the book and more importantly retain the information for a lifetime.  

This is done through the same process as an Academic Reader, but with one additional step.  After completing the book and annotating it throughout, the reader then returns to the beginning of the book.  The final step involves going through each page and extracting the main points onto a separate piece of paper.  This forces you to reread and write down the most important points.  Consolidating the main points leads to greater internalization.


To recap, see below the breakdown of each reader type:

Casual Readers: Read

Academic Readers: Read and Annotate

Introspective Readers: Read, Annotate, and Consolidate

If you want to retain information, you must do more than just simply read.  You must also internalize the lessons through annotating and consolidating.  Not retaining what you read five years from now is the same as having not read at all.  That’s why people reread books.  You should never reread books!  So be an Introspective Reader, not one that continuously reads and forgets.

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