Experiments on building a career without a degree.
Study hard, get good grades, get a degree, and you’ll get a job. We’ve heard this story for decades, and it’s no longer true. Degrees are overpriced and they don’t match up to real-world experience.
We need a better story.
In this podcast, I show you that better story. Every week, I interview explorers, creators, and dropouts who are taking the leap into the real world and building a life and career on their own terms. Most of them are not wildly successful household names (yet). They are human. They have the same insecurities that you and I have, and they fail just as often, if not more.
Take a listen as we discuss self-education, entrepreneurship, building a career from scratch, dropping out of college, and tons more with some of the most innovative young people out there. Hopefully you can learn as much from them as I have.
A few months ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about an idea for a book I had. The concept for this book had been swirling around in my head for over a month, gaining clarity every day. I felt good about it, and I felt like I had explored it pretty deeply.
When I told him about it, he told me he had written about a similar idea before and wanted to share some insights that might help me out.
He went on to send me 6 articles and blog posts that he had written, all exploring the very idea I had considered my own.
The first reaction was discouragement, because the idea that I had taken ownership of seemed to have already been explored by someone else. It lost its value because it wasn’t unique to me. Questions popped up in my mind that I hadn’t thought of before.
Is it worth sharing this if someone else has already understood and shared this topic? Will my work be irrelevant since it’s already been done? Is there a point in sharing it?
These questions lead me to an important realization:
People don’t own ideas.
Any idea you’ve thought of has probably been thought of by another human at some point in time. We’re all humans. We share a lot of the same struggles, so naturally we share a lot of the same thoughts.
Ideas float around. They are available to everyone with a brain. It’s easy to think of a good idea. It doesn’t cost anything to think of a good idea. So why are some people better than others, if all the same ideas are available to everyone? What separates people?
Action. People own execution.
50 people can have the same brilliant business idea, but the one who executes it is the one who owns it. Nobody can execute an idea in the same way you can. Each human, even with the same idea, will bring the idea into reality in their own unique way.
People don’t own ideas. People own execution.
If I could go back to my 18-year-old self and give one piece of advice, it would be this:
Figure it out.
Figuring out how to figure things out is the simplest, hardest, most important skill (attitude, mindset, call it what you want) that you can develop to make yourself better.
Don’t let your lack of specific hard skills keep you from committing to something exciting. We move from ledge to ledge, paralyzed with indecision and the belief that we aren’t prepared enough, too afraid to make a leap of faith. You don’t have to have the required skills to commit to doing something amazing.
You can figure it out. Relying on skills that you think you need but don’t have will land you on a never ending chase after the untouchable.
Otherwise, make an excuse and stare at the problem you have while doing nothing.
You will never be prepared enough to have the full confidence to do something worth doing. The timing will never be right. You will never have enough credentials or external support. It’s easier to default to “Once I have X, then I can do what I really want.” X is simply something you value less than the thing you really want. It is easier to chase X than what you really want because failure is acceptable. If you fail to achieve X, you never even wanted X in the first place. You wanted something else.
Betting on yourself is much harder. People skirt around the truth before decisively choosing to be bold, take a risk, and bet on their ability to figure it out on the spot.
The harsh reality is that sometimes you won’t be able to figure it out. You’ll get yourself into a situation where you either have to swallow your pride and ask for help or failure is inevitable. The other part of this reality is that if you care about what you’re doing, most of the time you will figure it out.
I used to book up house-painting jobs before I knew how to hold a paintbrush. I was confident enough in front of customers to book big jobs, not because I gave off the appearance of a veteran painter, but because I knew I had the ability to figure it out when I got to that point. I showed the customer that I was on top of my shit. I owned the project. They didn’t have to worry whether or not I knew how to paint, they assumed I did because I assumed I could learn it.
Then, 2 months later, I would be standing on the job site with my crew, painting that house. My painters didn’t know how to paint either. They assumed I knew. So, when they ran into a problem, they would ask me what to do, as if I had faced this exact type of challenge before. I hadn’t. So what did I do?
I used my brain with all its current knowledge and experience to solve the problem to the best of my ability, in that moment. I didn’t know what the end would look like when I began solving the problem, but I figured it out as I went. Sometimes my current skills and experience were enough, and the solution just required some experimentation on the spot. Sometimes, I couldn’t figure it out at all, and I had to call someone to ask for help. Sometimes, I couldn’t call anyone and I was stuck with failure. Either way, I figured it out.
Every small or large obstacle can be moved or skirted. There is always, always, always, always, always a way.
Finite and Infinite Games is a playful philosophical book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It felt like watching a really good TV show, where you just can’t wait to see what happens next.
There are two types of games: finite games and infinite games. Both exist in the real world. Finite games are played within set rules, or boundaries, and they have a clear beginning and a clear end. Finite games are played for the purpose of ending the game and declaring a winner and a loser. Winners earn titles once the game is over. Finite games have an audience, which is what gives the title its power. Think of a game of chess or a game of football.
“One does not win by being powerful; one wins to be powerful. I can therefore have only what powers others give me.”
Infinite games have no beginning and no end. Infinite games have rules and boundaries, but they are not played within rules and boundaries. In fact, infinite players play with the rules and the boundaries of the game, not within them. Infinite play is played for the sake of continued play. There are no winners and losers–play is always continued, even in death.
Finite games are played within infinite games. Infinite players freely enter into finite games. If one must play, one cannot play. In entering into a finite game, as long as they are to play the game seriously, they must choose to forget that they have chosen to enter into a finite game.
Throughout the book, Carse describes finite games as theatrical and infinite games as dramatic.
In the middle of a finite game, where competition is high and one is playing to win, to forget that one is playing is to take the game seriously. To remember that one is playing is to remember that every action one takes is a playful part of a finite game within an infinite game, and one has chosen to play by certain rules for certain reasons. In remembering, one can no longer win or lose the game because the game itself loses its seriousness and becomes a playful act.
“All the limitations of finite play are self-limitations.”
The style is very unique. Throughout the entire book, Carse only states facts. He does not make any judgement calls or give advice for how one should live their lives. He only presents a vision of the world as infinite play and possibility, and lets you experience it to make your own judgement call.
Carse applies this playful vision of life through the lens of slavery, sex, politics, sports, death, nationalism, society, culture, and many other facets of life.
This post depicts an outlook on life strongly influenced by this book, since I was in the middle of reading it when the events in the post happened.
One of my major takeaways is that I am an infinite player in the game of life. In any finite game I find myself playing, whether it’s building a business, the laws of government, or romantic relationships, I must periodically remind myself that I have chosen to play it freely. I am always able to act freely and enter into or exit out of any finite game. Some finite games are beneficial, and some are not.
“The joyfulness of infinite play, its laughter, lies in learning to start something we cannot finish.”
This book heightened my sense to detect when to keep playing the game and when to stop.
I didn’t really have a New Years Resolution this year. I couldn’t pin down one thing I wanted to do. I wanted to do a lot of things, so I figured I’d just do things consistently, track them well, and see what happens.
Here’s the spreadsheet I made at the beginning of the month:
I wanted to meditate more, I wanted to read more, and I wanted to write more. I also wanted to write more thank you cards… but I gave that one up after 3 days. I’m OK with that.
I missed 2 days of meditation, and 3 days of writing. I’m also OK with this (although the worst part is the blank spaces messing up the continuity of the spreadsheet). I ended up writing a total of 33 times in 31 days, since I wrote multiple times in a single day several times.
Here are my writing results:
What did I learn?
Tracking things daily is not that hard.
After you firmly decide what you want to do, it becomes ingrained in your subconscious after a few days. I didn’t really need to check the spreadsheet, but it felt satisfying to add another “x” in the column. It also made it more stressful for me to miss a day.
Sometimes you’re wrong.
I thought I wanted to do thank you cards every day. I could have done it, and it would definitely be valuable for me. For some reason it didn’t feel as important as the other 3 items, so I cut it and decided to focus on the others.
You will mess up.
If you’re consistently doing things, you will mess up. The only way you won’t screw anything up is if your ideas stop at the perfect picture you create in your head. Perfection is impossible in reality. But reality is impossible without action.
While I did miss 2 days of meditating and 3 days of writing, my results and growth were exponentially better than if I hadn’t decided to do and track these things daily. Patting myself on the back for now.
I like reading a lot more than I thought.
If you talked to me 3 years ago, I would have told you I’m just not good at reading. Now I realize that’s bullsh*t. I refused to read because I was so used to being forced to read certain books in school. When I freely decide to read on my own, and I get to choose which books I want to read based on what interests me at that time, it becomes a creative party in my brain.
This month I found myself reading as procrastination, when I used to procrastinate reading.
I won’t be blogging much in February. I’ll still be writing every day, though, for a February project (stay tuned).
I’ll still be reading every day. I enjoy it too much to stop (plus I need to finish all the books I’ve started).
I’ll still be meditating every day. I enjoy the 5-10 minutes of silence every morning. It allows me to practice forgetting and redirecting my focus consciously.
A few days ago, I went on a run. It was about 6pm, and I still had a bit of work to get done for the day. I laced up, turned on my music, and I was off to the races.
Only, my tasks were rattling around in my mind still. I had a weird gut feeling that something just wasn’t finished. I couldn’t ignore it. I was right… My work wasn’t finished! I still had to do it when I got back from my run.
I didn’t end up going that far. I turned around early, and headed back. When I got home, I hadn’t ran that far, I felt drained, but I got my work done.
Today, I went on a run. It was about 7pm, and I still had a bit of work to get done for the day. This time, I decided to forget about my work. In that moment, I wasn’t working–I was running. I had consciously decided to direct my focus to what was happening in my present.
While I was running, thoughts about my work came up. Each time it happened, however, I reminded myself: You’ll get it done. Just not now. You’re running right now.
It happened a few times, but after I kept pushing away thoughts of my work, I forgot about it altogether. I ended up running 2x as far as I ran the last time, and felt more energized when I got back.
I sat down and got my work done easily. I felt great. There was no reason for me to worry.
No matter how hard I try, I cannot do both at the same time. I’m either going to be running or I’m going to be working.
Buying into this takes a good amount of trust. You need to trust yourself and the systems you’ve set up. By worrying constantly about what I had to do later, I was expressing to myself that I’m expecting myself to forget about it.
Imagine if someone else did that to me. It would be annoying and I’d feel offended that they didn’t think I could take care of my work. Instead of my own thoughts coming up reminding myself of my work during my run, imagine if somebody kept calling me and interrupting my music and my run.
“Hey, Simon, remember? Remember that thing you have to get done? Don’t forget! You need to get that done when you get back.”
Why is it OK for me to do that to myself, but it wouldn’t be OK for someone else to do that to me? I’m giving myself preferential treatment. That’s not right.
Forgetting is an art. It’s a constant struggle to focus on what you’re doing that moment while ignoring things you have to do that aren’t a part of the current moment. If you are unable to dive into the task at hand, you’ll feel like you’re constantly working on something, but you won’t get anything done. Talk about a waste of energy.
Forgetting only comes after you’ve made a conscious decision on what to think about and what to forget. You should not forget things just so you won’t have to worry about them. Pushing away your thoughts is only half the battle.
You can only push your work away if you’ve set up systems that you can trust.
Otherwise your efforts are futile. Your annoying, pestering self will be right about you. If you haven’t set up a system for yourself, you will forget to do that thing later, and so your other self has every right to pester you.
Write it down. Organize your thoughts and your tasks. Use spreadsheets. Use notebooks. Find something that works for you. Create systems to track your actions so your brain doesn’t have to.
Successful people don’t achieve so much because they’re constantly doing things–they achieve so much because they can effectively chunk things out and complete them (FULLY complete them) one at a time. They track everything, and they trust their systems. Once they finish something, they know they don’t have any reason to worry about it anymore. At that point, it becomes second-nature to ignore the pestering self and focus on the moment at hand.
What I write on my hand gets done by the end of the day.
These are my Life Journals. In October 2015, I bought my first one (blue one on the left). I kept hearing that journaling was a good habit for various reasons, but never took it that seriously until one day I finally cracked down and got one. I go through a journal every ~1.5 months.
Once I run out of space, I buy a new one.
Supposedly, journaling is supposed to help clear your mind. It’s supposed to help you get your thoughts out of your head. A journal is a place to store your thoughts for future reference, but also a release valve for your thoughts regardless of future reference.
I sometimes refer to my journals. They tend to be pretty disorganized.
There’s a loose criteria for what makes it from my brain into my journal. I use it as a tool for different purposes, and they are always changing.
Sometimes I simply write down the things I have to do that day. Sometimes I write down every thought on my mind and it turns out to be an unintelligible ball of text.
I write what feels important. Often, it ends up being a simple theme or word that seems relevant to my life. Sometimes I just feel compelled to write down a certain thought. For most of these thoughts, I don’t ever refer back to them.
I only have one rule when it comes to my journal.
Don’t fake reality.
My journal is a place I am not allowed to tell lies. Only honesty flies in there. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of writing, and I’ll realize that what I’m saying is a lie. As soon as I realize it, I correct myself and write about that. There’s no bullshitting myself when I’m writing in my journal.
We lie to ourselves, often without even knowing what’s happening. We accept false shortcuts as truths because it’s easier to tell ourselves stories than it is to think through the reality of what’s happening.
Most of the time, honesty brings out our own faults clearly. It’s hard to admit our own faults, and so it’s hard to be honest.
But nobody sees my journal, so it doesn’t matter in there.
Journaling has given me a place to be honest with myself. It’s given me a place to put my most important and meaningful thoughts, and a place to admit when I don’t know why they’re meaningful yet.
Journaling has given me a way to flip back through my life story. Every once in awhile I’ll get sucked into one of my old journals and just flip from page to page. Most of it is very familiar–some of it seems foreign.
All of it is part of my story.
If my apartment was burning down, that stack of journals is the first thing I would grab. They carry the story of my most honest self, and that growth is more valuable to me than anything else I own.
I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. I was pitching a customer, and it was going better than usual. I was on top of my game today. With every objection she threw at me, I had the perfect answer and communicated it without a hitch.
Not ready to get the house painted? “If not now, when? You’ve got me here, now, and you know I’m going to get it done right. Why risk waiting until it gets worse?”
Too expensive? “This is 10x cheaper than the cost you’ll have on your hands when the wood starts to rot. Don’t you want to get it fixed the right way, now, rather than wait until it’s worse and more expensive?”
My confidence was at an all-time high. It was a good day. Then, my phone buzzed again.
I booked the job. $2750. She told me I really knew what I was talking about and that she had no more excuses. There’s not a better feeling in sales than turning 6 hard no’s into a confident yes. She handed me the deposit check, and I went to my car feeling like a badass.
Shit. I pulled my phone out of my pocket. 17 missed calls. Oh boy.
I was running a house-painting business that summer. I quit college to do this full-time because I got to be a real entrepreneur, book real jobs with real customers, make real money, and the best part? I didn’t open a textbook the entire time.
My crew was working on painting a house that day. It was towards the end of the summer, and they knew what they were doing by now. I had already struggled through most of my customer issues for the summer. My painters were well-experienced, and I spent most of my days doing estimates, meeting with customers, or running my marketing team. It was nice to not have to worry about production.
I had finally figured it out. I could book jobs, pass them onto my production manager, and he would take care of them. I barely had to pick up a paintbrush by this point, let alone show up to the job site.
The only time they called me was if they unexpectedly ran out of paint, or needed me to bring them another ladder. But they never called me 17 times within 20 minutes. Something had to be wrong…
Ok, uhh, I’m not sure how it happened, but basically we tipped over a bucket of paint and it’s all over the roof.
I had never been in this position before. I couldn’t have taken a class on it, and I couldn’t have had a mentor explain to me in advance what to do in this unlikely one-off situation.
So what did I do?
I figured it out.
The time was going to pass regardless of what I did. The paint was already on the roof, I was 20 minutes away, and something had to be done. That’s all I knew.
I told my production manager to put water on it. I didn’t know if that would work. I asked him if the homeowner was there. “No,” he said.
It was one of those moments where I could only think of one word to say to myself, and I said it over and over.
“Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.”
I called my production manager every 5 minutes for an update, and he said the same thing every time: “It’s working, but it’s really slow.”
I eventually got to the job site, climbed up on the roof, and began scrubbing paint. I told my painters to all get back to work and finish the house, and *don’t spill any more paint*. I used different tools every few minutes to see what worked best. None of them worked best.
I scrubbed for about 2 hours. Then, when it was mostly gone, I called the customer and let her know what was up. I told her, tactfully, that we had spilled paint on the roof, but we cleaned it up quickly and you can’t really tell what happened. I let her know that I’d be scrubbing for another hour to make sure it’s completely fixed.
In the moment, I had no idea what to do. I ended up doing the right thing because I wasn’t over thinking it. I was simply reacting to the situation, using whatever abilities I had at my disposal.
This moment taught me an important lesson. You will always run into situations in which you find yourself unprepared, and it’s impossible to prepare for everything.
The ability to just “figure it out” is the most important ability you can have.
It’s the ability to put yourself into a situation knowing full well that you might not know what to do. It’s putting yourself on the spot. It’s trusting yourself to rise to the occasion, whatever the occasion. It’s accepting that preparation is only important because it lends itself to making you more effective for game-time. Without gametime, practice is futile.
Luckily, that customer was a sweetheart, and appreciated my honesty. We still got paid for the job, because I had simply decided to “figure it out.” Though, I never got any extra compensation for my near heart-attack.
I stepped outside. It had rained all day, and I could feel the moisture in the air.
For some reason, I’d always loved thunderstorms. They reminded me of nights from my childhood when my family would gather on the porch, blanketed by the safety of our house, watching the violent swirl of rain and lightning rip through the neighborhood from what seemed like a far distance. We were right in the thick of the chaos, but it didn’t feel like it. All 6 of us would stand together, silent, in awe of the powerful and destructive force of nature unfolding before our eyes, invoking a sense of peace and calm within each of us.
I walked into the parking lot, heading towards my car. The air smelled like rain and it brought back that same sense of peace and calm I used to have. I felt happy.
It was my second time visiting this new friend in this new town. I had parked in the same spot as last time. As I approached my parking spot, something was off. A brief moment passed that felt longer than it should have felt. I looked around, as if to second-guess the fact that I was standing here, in this spot, right now.
It was gone. Disappeared. My stomach dropped.
A thing that I had so clearly owned had vanished. My own possession, which I had worked for and paid for, which had carried me on multiple journeys across the country, which is uniquely part of my story and mine alone, had been ripped away from me.
As soon as I gained proper functioning of my senses, I concluded that one of two things had happened. Either someone had broken the window, hot wired my car and driven off, or some vulture towed it as part of his job description. I’m a big believer in not over-complicating things, so I assumed the more reasonable latter.
My fists were tightly clenched. I paced around with an air of haste. My sense of peace and calm had transformed in a matter of moments. I’d been in this situation before, so it wasn’t confusion that I felt. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I found the sign I was unconsciously looking for, and dialed the number, almost automatically.
“What kind of car is it?…Uhhh…yeah I’m pretty sure we have it…Well I dunno for sure, I haven’t seen it…They’re closed…Monday at 8:30 am………I’m in Georgia, bud…8:30 Monday…”
I felt as if I was chained to a wall. I had nothing but my words with which to fight for what was rightfully mine, and my words didn’t matter. They shattered like sugar glass against the structure that had been imposed by some faceless voice on the phone, utterly out of my reach. If I screamed, I felt as if the sound would fade to silence no more than 2 inches from my face, reaching nobody. I felt helpless.
I started walking. It was still wet. The moisture in the air felt sticky and gross.
I saw my apartment, but kept walking. I was heading for the tow company lot. Initially I didn’t realize I had made up my mind, but my quickened pace told me everything I needed to know. I was not going to let somebody impose their own structure on me. I decided to take control of the situation. I was in charge of my own freedom and I wouldn’t let anybody take that away from me.
It was a 30 minute walk to the lot, so I had some time to devise my plan.
There would probably be fences, and they would probably be locked up with a chain. I could climb over the fence no problem; I had done so many times before.
I had my snowboard and a bag of winter clothes in my car since I hadn’t fully moved into my new place yet. In that bag was a ski mask, so I could conceal my face in the likely event that I was caught on a security camera.
My license plates were attached to my old address, halfway across the country. I would be difficult to locate. The towing company was a small local company, so I assumed they didn’t have enough disposable resources to justify fighting a legal battle over a lost tow fee. I needed to register my car in my new state anyways, which I would do first thing that week. That way the license plate they had on file would no longer be valid. I was betting on the fact that pursuing me would be too much of a cost to be worth it.
I also had a set of pliers in my car, which I would use to loosen the chain. This might take some work, but it could be done. Once the chain was loosened, it was a matter of busting through the fence. I would just need to pick up enough speed. My Jeep could take the hit, no problem.
I had arrived. It was time to make the move. I jumped the fence easily and stealthily made my way to my car. I opened it up, located my ski mask, put it on, and grabbed the pliers. My heart was pounding.
I ran over to the fence. The chain was thicker than I had imagined. I worked on it. I found the weak spot and tried to pry it open. It wouldn’t budge. I kept trying. I must have been working at it for 30 minutes. I looked at my watch and less than 5 minutes had passed. I stuck with it.
After 10 minutes, I had noticeably chipped away at the metal. My hand was cramped. I switched hands and kept working.
It was dead silent. I was focused completely on the metal in front of me. I had never felt so alive. I was committed and there was no turning back now.
30 minutes later, the gap in the metal was almost as thick the chain itself. I lined up the hole with the adjacent chain link, grabbed each side firmly, and ripped it with all my strength.
It worked. The chain popped off, and all that was left was a weak fence held together by a small lock. This was doable.
I hopped back in my car. This was it. A leap of faith. I revved my engine, ready to make my move. Clutch off, gas on. I heard a metal clatter from the rocks that my rear wheels spit at the car behind mine. I was off to the races. 50 yards stood between me and my freedom. 40… 30… 10…
My foot instantly felt cold and wet. I looked down. I had just stepped in a puddle. I was a 5 minute walk from my apartment, back in lucid reality.
None of that happened. It was at this moment that I fully realized how truly free I was.
I was not chained to a wall, and my words were not meaningless. It wasn’t that I had no choice. I had every choice in the world. This was always the case. Taking my car by force would not earn back my freedom. I already had the freedom I desired.
I never had to accept the structure imposed on me from that faceless voice on the phone. I could choose to play this game in any way I wished. I could choose to wait until Monday and pay like the man on the phone had suggested, or I could choose to covertly break my car out of the lot by force. Both had subjectively unequal risks and costs, but both were equally available to me.
I glanced at the puddles in the road, and felt the soft moisture of the air on my skin. That familiar sense of calm and peace come over me once again, but this time I felt strong. I felt in control of the same situation that had me voiceless and powerless less than 15 minutes ago.
Just as I had the freedom to break my car out by force, I also had the freedom to wait until Monday and pay to get it out. I could weigh the risk and cost of either scenario, and choose the one that made the most sense for me. I didn’t have to take my freedom back by force – I just had to realize that my freedom had never been taken away.
The ideal situation was that I never got towed in the first place, but this had already happened. It wasn’t part of the game I was playing currently. The game I was playing was confined in the reality of this moment. The only set boundaries were events from the past. The future held unlimited possibilities, and I could bend those boundaries any way I want, thinking through the costs and risks, acting as freely as I pleased.
It is difficult to accept our own freedom. We play games in life all the time, but what we must remember is that everything we do, we do by choice. This does not mean we are always consciously thinking about this choice, but at one point we chose to play the certain game by certain rules. My initial frustration came about because I had decided, in the past, that it was more beneficial for me to simply wait and pay the tow fee rather than go through the trouble of breaking it out by force and assuming the potential risk of doing so.
To ignore this fact of choice is to disempower yourself and to unknowingly become a victim of a decision you, yourself, made in the past.
To accept this fact of choice is to realize that all seriousness, even the most dire, is a result of a free, playful choice to participate in a game that can be taken back at any point.
I write about “taking action” all the time. It’s one of my favorite topics to write about for several reasons:
- It’s something I must constantly remind myself to do.
- It’s an incredibly simple concept and breaking it down to bare principles is enjoyable.
But taking action isn’t always the answer. Action becomes pointless when it’s not tied to a specific desired outcome. Action for action’s sake is meaningless.
The point of work and action is to bring you closer to a desired goal. If that goal is unclear, so becomes the action.
Why are you taking the action you’re taking? In what way will that action get you closer to where you want to be? Where do you want to be, specifically?
You must answer these questions before you decide to take action, as your efforts will be arbitrary otherwise. Here’s a simple concrete example:
You notice that you are running low on food. You want to be able to eat tomorrow, so you decide to go to the grocery store. The action you take is going out to your car, driving to the store, and picking up food. After having taken that action, you have now arrived at the place you imagined yourself – back in your apartment with enough food for the next few weeks.
A specific action has been taken in order to fulfill a specific goal. This requires thinking through the action, purpose, and repercussions of doing so.
To take action without a specific purpose is to accept that you cannot change the situation. The moment you carry out a defined, purposeful action with a known end is the moment you accept the fact that you have the power to change your own situation.
The following is a quote from the beginning of Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action:
“Human action is purposeful behavior. Or, we may say, action is will put into operation and transformed into an agency; is aiming at ends and goals; is the ego’s meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment; is a person’s conscious adjustment to the state of the universe that determines his life.”
Action is meaningless without a desired end-point. To act for the sake of taking action without understanding what progress you expect defaces the very purpose you are trying to achieve.
The best way to get irrelevant feedback on your ideas is to talk about them. Countless times, I’ve had an idea for a project or a business I wanted to do. I’ve told my family and friends about it, and the feedback is almost always great.
“What a good idea!” they say. Then, since I’ve already gotten good feedback, I don’t feel the urge to test it in real life. Something inside me is already satisfied from the approval of people I trust.
A good friend of mine once called this process “idea-masturbation”.
I didn’t take into account that I haven’t tested the idea in a way that actually means something. Most of the time, the people I’m asking aren’t even the ones who can accurately tell me if it’s a good idea or not. Their opinion is just as relevant as mine, and both are irrelevant compared to somebody with skin in the game.
Let’s say we’re talking about a business idea.
The only people who can tell you if your business idea is substantial are the ones who would be willing to buy your product or service. Your friends and family can praise you for being creative, innovative and smart, but that means nothing. In fact, it can actually hurt you. Receiving that positive feedback so early makes you feel satisfied for not having done anything. Then, you feel less inclined to chase the positive feedback.
The best form of that feedback is making a sale. It’s real.
When you have an idea, find the quickest possible path from where you are now to the point when somebody hands you cash for it. If you can’t get anyone to hand you cash for it, ask them why. Maybe they’re not the right type of person. Maybe your idea isn’t quite what they’re looking for, but it can be with a little modification.
Ask them what they would buy from you instead of your current idea.
Next time you have an idea, keep it hidden from the people you trust. Don’t talk about it until you’ve taken an action that gets other people to talk about it. Then, you can ask your friends and family for feedback. Only this time it’ll be different. You’ll have some experiential results to show, discuss, and learn from.
Instead of saying “I’m thinking about creating X for Y type of people, what do you think?”
You’re saying “I created X for Y type of people, then I tried to sell it to 5 of them and none of them liked it for Z reason. What’s the best way to turn X into something Y would want, considering Z?”
A specific question like the latter will yield specific insights. You’ve now made intentional progress. Even at this stage, the advice from your friends and family will be nearly irrelevant compared to your attempts at getting cash-in-hand.
Brainstorming sessions are different than an active negotiation. In an active negotiation with a potential customer, their money is at stake. In a brainstorming session, anything is possible and creative ideas fly all over the place, feasible or not.
Both interactions are important in their own place, but one of them is much more representative of tangible success than the other one. Testing things in the real world is always, always, always more effective than testing things in your brain. Use your brain to think, but make sure that leads to more than just thinking.
The idea of wearing a suit to work has always been weird to me. Suits are uncomfortable (especially ties) and they limit my range of motion. If it’s hot out, suits make me sweat more than I need to.
Wearing a suit makes you seem more “presentable”. Suits are commonly known to be more professional and make things more serious. They create a distinct separation between work and play. If you’re working, dress professionally. If you’re playing, wear gym shorts and look like a bum.
People wear suits to impress people. Wearing a suit is putting your appearance above your comfort. This is clear because suits are uncomfortable but they make you look good. Why is it more acceptable to value your appearance over your comfort than the opposite?
Why would you wear something that is physically limiting while you’re working? Are you afraid of going into a professional meeting in a t-shirt? Why? Will the people you meet look down on you because you wore what’s comfortable for you instead of what’s been arbitrarily decided as the socially acceptable thing? Do you want to work with people who look down on you for that reason? Why is that more socially acceptable?
I understand suits for certain occasions like big events or weddings. That’s more of a traditional atmosphere, it happens only every once in a while, and people want to have nice pictures. It’s a special event.
Going to work every day is a different story. It’s not a special event.
I treat my work like play because I enjoy it, and to do otherwise would be to make it boring. If I cared about the appearance of my work over the content of my work, then I probably would wear a suit. Doing so would reflect my values.
I’m going to put out my best work and act with the most confidence if I’m in the most comfortable state. For me that’s jeans and a t-shirt. I value my own comfort, even when I’m want to impress people. I’ll impress them more by being comfortable in my own skin than if I try to put on a show by wearing an extravagant suit.
Startup culture has trended away from suits. The classic uniform of someone working at a startup consists of jeans and a t-shirt with the company logo on it.
Maybe it’s a generational thing. What do you think?
For a long time, freedom has been my strongest value. I try to follow my own feeling of freedom like a compass in everything I do. This led me to drop out of school, become an entrepreneur, write a book, and tour the country in an RV.
When I first experienced pure freedom, it came in the form of living in the moment. I let go of a lot of my “earthly” belongings, and freed myself from a single geographic location. Then, I started to free myself mentally. I let go of worries, insecurities (this book helped me), and expectations.
I did a great job becoming “free”, but I quickly realized there was a lot more to freedom than eliminating possessions and freeing your mind in the moment.
Sometimes freedom means discipline. Sometimes freedom means more structure and more rules. Sometimes you must sacrifice freedom in the moment for long-term freedom, unless you want the opposite, and that’s a hard truth to buy into.
Since coming to this realization, I’ve created some rules for myself. It seems counterintuitive, but this structure is what gives me freedom in it’s purest form.
Self-imposed structure is crucial to building the unique, sacred freedom that I desire. Most of these rules are not automatic for me. They reflect my deepest values and it requires consistent effort to act on them instead of doing the easy thing.
Here are some of my rules:
- Choose relationships over money (IE: don’t stress about losing a couple bucks if a valuable relationship is involved)
- Under-promise, over-deliver
- Don’t watch the news
- Help other people turn off the news
- Read, write, and meditate every day
- Be honest with people, including myself, even if it will hurt someone’s feelings
- Avoid pills of any kind
- Step into fear whenever possible (most of the time it’s really just excitement)
- Travel somewhere at least once per month
- Watch sunrises and sunsets
- Trust my gut over authority, even people I respect deeply
- Don’t drink sugar
- When details keep me from action, ignore the details
- Opt to discuss ideas instead of people
- Take a moment each day to remember that nothing really matters
- Choose intriguing experiences over saving money
What are your rules?
We have the tendency to unintentionally set concrete limits on ourselves. This doesn’t always happen consciously or on purpose. Oftentimes it happens in the form of ambitious goals that seem productive.
“I will make $100,000 in 2017.”
“I will publish a book by the end of the year.”
On the surface these seem like empowering goals. But deep down, are they really empowering us? Could thinking in finite terms like this be limiting our potential or overwhelming us to the point of inaction?
What if we switched from setting finite goals to asking questions that have infinite answers?
“What could I do to make $100,000 in 2017?”
“If I published a book this year, what would it be about?”
There are infinite answers.
Questions aren’t as concrete as specific goals. They don’t focus on an end goal, they focus on the problem at hand right now. It can be taken in any direction. This means more potential for creativity. This means lower barrier of entry to take action. They lead to more questions, like these ones:
“How many words per day would I have to write to publish it in 2017?” “Is that possible?” “Who would read it?” “How much money would I make from it?” “What would I learn from the experience?” “Would people see me as an authority?” “What would it give me the confidence to try next?”
Thinking in terms of infinite questions opens up endless possibilities. There are no limits to the questions you can ask, and there are no limits to the answers you can find.
In setting finite goals, we naturally highlight the space between us and the goal in our minds. The focus is not on the end goal of making $100,000 that year, it’s on the space between you and that goal. The focus is on your shortcoming. It’s on the negative space between where you are and where you want to be. It’s a big chunk of unrealized potential, and that can be demoralizing.
When we think in questions, there is no end point. The space in focus starts at your question and continues in any and every direction. Then, it’s up to you to pick a direction and run with it. And if you don’t, you haven’t fallen short. You’re exactly where you were. You have lost nothing.
Let your first question lead to another, and to another, and to another. Before you know it, you’re being driven by sheer curiosity and acting on pure creativity.
You have no more limits. You’re not expecting to reach a certain point or to fall short from a specific point.
When you think using finite goals, the downside to action is failure.
When you think using infinite questions, there is no downside to action. Any progress you make is positive. Instead of accomplishing the goal or not, the only outcome is that you find an answer to your question. Either that or it remains unanswered – and not every question is worth answering.
Don’t set goals. They force you to focus on what you haven’t accomplished.
Ask questions. They invite you to engage in your curiosity and create only potentially positive situations.
“Sorry I never got back to you, I’ve just been so busy…”
We’ve heard and said this far too many times. What does “busy” even mean? If we decline invitations or put off projects because we’re busy, is there actually something in our way, or are we using the word to defer our responsibility to think?
I’m guilty of this. I don’t always want to think, and sometimes I’d rather be comfortable than manage my time effectively.
Being busy is just a cop out caused by mental fog. When you decline an invitation for a legitimate, specific reason, you have no trouble stating that reason.
Falling into the busy trap is far too easy. There isn’t much of an incentive to avoid it. Our culture romanticizes the word “busy”. People who are busy have more things to do, so they must be really popular or working towards something great. Right?
On the surface, it seems to make sense. But it stops making sense when we attempt to define the word “busy”.
Using busy as an excuse to not do something means this:
You really don’t want to do that thing and don’t care enough to define exactly why.
If you did care enough, and you did define why, 9 times out of 10 you’d find that there is still a way to do that thing by using some basic critical thinking and problem solving skills. It might require effort to reschedule or sacrifice on down time, but there is a way.
Convincing ourselves that we are “busy” makes it seem OK to do anything even when we’re not actually being productive. Sometimes busy represents browsing social media and not feeling like getting anything done.
But for some reason, being busy is equated with being productive. Sometimes that’s true, but be honest with yourself for the moment. Think of a time you told yourself you were busy lately. Were you genuinely productive?
We have more hours in the day than we think we do. It’s not that we’re actually too busy to do what we want to do, it’s that we don’t account for our hours effectively.
It’s time to stop making excuses for why you can’t (won’t) do the things you want to get done. Find the time to get these things done. The time is there. Bill Gates and Elon Musk don’t have any more time than you do – they just account for it and use it more effectively.
This tool (below) is called an Hour by Hour. I used it religiously when I ran a house-painting business in college. It helped me manage my time when I found myself having more responsibility than I ever imagined.
Between hiring, managing, paying employees, finding new customers, collecting payments, keeping my personal life stable, and everything in between, I was not ready. This tool saved my life and drove me to produce over $60,000 when I was 19. It’s foolproof (if you actually use it and stick by it).
Here’s an example from that summer:
The Hour by Hour forces you to account for every hour of your time, and it is a harshly visual way to realize how much time you’re actually wasting. Here’s how to use it:
- Every night, plan out the following day (you can plan several days in advance too).
- Do not leave any cells empty. If you don’t know what you’re doing from 9-10 am on Saturday morning, pick something. If you’re sleeping in that day, write that. If you’re browsing facebook, write that.
- Be specific. Do not use anything like “free time”. Pick something to do in your free time.
- Do not only use work-related items. Include family time, time for friends, personal time, time for relaxation, and everything in between.
- Refer to this spreadsheet throughout the day by keeping it open on your phone.
The example above is a good example. Here’s a bad attempt for the same days:
Notice how vague it is? There’s way too much room in there for leeway. What does “marketing” mean? It could be any number of things, and when I’m tired from waking up early, you better believe I’ll choose the easiest possible thing if I gave myself that option.
If there’s not a specific predetermined action in front of you, you will opt to do something unfocused. Don’t give yourself the freedom to choose what you do during the day. Choose what you do the night before when you have time to think it through logically.
This is so important to understand. Be specific. Be clear. Set rigid rules for yourself so you don’t have to rely on your willpower when you’re busy hustling through the day. Switching modes from doing to thinking is difficult and throws you off. It’s best to distinctively separate them.
Most days you won’t follow the schedule to a tee. That’s okay. You will know exactly what you didn’t accomplish, and you can move it to the next day or determine that it wasn’t worth doing. That’s much better than having a foggy sense of what you accomplished during the day and not knowing where you stand.
There was a strikingly clear causation between the managers who updated and stuck to this spreadsheet regularly and the size of the business they ran that summer. It was simply a matter of time management. For us, running the business wasn’t difficult. We had mentors guiding us through the whole process. The hard part was keeping track of our time and doing everything we needed to do without going overwhelmed. This spreadsheet was the key to taking consistent action.
It was the lynchpin between 19-year-old me quitting because I was overwhelmed and had too much on my plate and 19-year-old me running a $60,000 business.
Try it out.
Advice 1: Don’t do stuff you hate.
Advice 2: Grind through the bullshit to get to where you want to be.
Both are sound pieces of advice. But they seem conflicted…
If you shouldn’t do stuff you hate, why would you go through stuff that you hate in order to get to where you want to be? Doesn’t it make sense to start by doing stuff you enjoy? But if you only do stuff you enjoy, you’ll miss out on developing the discipline that gets you to where you want to be. This discipline allows you to create things that build off of each other rather than enjoying the pleasure of each moment every day.
Young people commonly hate things like sales, monotonous tasks, or cold calling. They don’t want to be just a cog in a machine. They want to be challenged. They don’t want to do the same thing over and over and they don’t want to feel unimportant.
What a lot of them miss is the fact that you can find importance, meaning, excitement and growth in cold calling and other seemingly boring tasks.
I’ve had people who love writing tell me that they hate monotonous tasks. Writing is monotonous. Every time you write, you sit down at a computer, and push buttons for several minutes in a row, sometimes hours.
Of course there is a lot more to writing than pushing buttons on a computer over and over. There’s a creative process behind developing and connecting ideas. The ideas have to be communicated clearly and concisely, and it’s always an improving process.
The same goes for cold calling. Dialing numbers on a phone and reading a script is monotonous. But there’s a lot more to cold calling than just that.
Cold calling gives you an opportunity to present value to people, then hone your communication skills based on constant feedback. You get the chance to talk to hundreds of customers and improve yourself quickly using the rapid feedback.
You may be selling the same product, but you can turn it into a project that develops you into a better person. Try 50 calls while you force yourself to smile. See if that makes and noticeable difference in the quality of your calls or your sales numbers.
Try 50 calls with an aim of getting 5 rejections before quitting.
Try 50 calls by telling a story within your sales pitch.
Try 50 calls where you spend the first 5 minutes asking the customer questions that have nothing to do with the product.
The possibilities are endless, and so is the potential for what you can learn.
By conducting fun experiments, a monotonous job turns into a playground littered with value-creation and growth opportunities.
If your goal is to do the same thing every day, then read the script and don’t think about what you’re doing. You have that option (until your company realizes you aren’t providing much value and fires you).
If your goal is to provide value and to be better, use each call as an opportunity to do so. This is also an option, and it’s up to you to choose it.
Experiment. Test new things. Adjust based on what you learn. Just because your job sounds monotonous doesn’t mean it has to be.
Extract meaning, value, excitement and growth in everything you do.
Those things will not seek you out, and they are not located in a specific industry or job description that you think you want.
Opportunities to create value for yourself and your company are endless, yet they are still contained within that “cold-calling” job that used to sound dreadful before you really thought about the possibilities within it.
Chances are, you don’t know what you hate.
You probably don’t know what you love, either. The only way to find out is to try things. You can’t know until you dive into something completely. This process can take months which is why it’s so frustrating for people who are impatient.
But forgoing the several-month-long process stifles your ability to explore all that an experience has to offer. Then, deciding whether you love or hate it will be an uninformed decision. Sometimes, you will learn that you truly hate it – but not if you only try it for two weeks.
Try something for 3 months. Actively explore and experiment within that realm. Grind through the bullshit, and use your experiments to make it exciting and new. If, after 3 months, you find that you really hate that thing, THEN stop doing it. Give yourself the time to explore what each opportunity has to offer before deciding that you hate it.
Don’t do stuff you hate. But until you really know how you feel about it, grind through the bullshit. In the meantime, actively make it exciting by proactively experimenting and challenging yourself.
Building new habits is hard. We are creatures of habit, so once we get into a routine it becomes tough to change. It helps to start small and wean yourself into the new habit day by day, little by little, without much expectation of the outcome.
Then, 3 or 4 days later, you get into the swing of things and it becomes easy to keep up with. The hard part is starting, but once you’ve done that, the daily action that was once uncomfortable because comfortable. It feels automatic. Once you’re at that point, what’s uncomfortable is not doing the thing that you do daily.
But there are more factors that go into building habits.
Your environment, location, people, surroundings, all play a part in the degree of comfortability when changing habits.
Once you’ve developed a habit, it’s easy to stick with when you’re in control of your environment. You have a schedule, you wake up in the same place with the same people, and that’s what makes it easy to stick with. When you’re in your element, comfortably in your routine, consistent habits like reading, writing, and meditating daily become seamless quickly.
The real test comes when you change your location, people, and surroundings. It instantly becomes much harder to stick to your routine because while your routine isn’t being changed, other factors surrounding you have changed. It’s no longer automatic. Changing your environment and trying to continue daily habits that you’ve been doing lately is almost like starting new habits completely. It’s uncomfortable again.
This is why everyone slacks on their goals when they spend time with family for the holidays or when they go on vacation or extended trips. An environment change prompts that uncomfortable, uncertain feeling. It can be frustrating, but…
What if this is a good thing?
The most growth that comes from choosing to build a habit of reading every day doesn’t come 2 months in when it’s a natural, consistent part of your routine. Growth is at its peak when you are struggling the most. It’s like a muscle. If you want to continue to build your muscles, you must continue to push the limits. Body builders don’t bench press the same weight throughout their training. Once the weight becomes comfortable, they switch it up. They add weight or add an exercise and make it uncomfortable for themselves again, because they know that’s the only time growth happens.
In a new environment, you’re introduced to new ideas with new people, you get excited about new things, experience new dynamics, and you have a new schedule. Sticking to your daily disciplines in new places and around new people is the hard part.
Being pushed into new environments forces you to readjust. You have a choice to either react to your new environment, or to let your environment mold around your habits. Your new environment doesn’t naturally prompt the daily habits you built into your routine when you were at home, comfortably in your routine, so choosing the latter is like choosing to build a new habit altogether.
If you choose the latter, it may take a few days, but you will readjust. Then, when you change your environment again, the same thing happens. You must re-readjust. The key to staying consistent is to stick to the principle behind your actions, and the reason you chose to do them in the first place.
Don’t let your environment decide what type of person you want to be. Decide what person you want to be, then be that person in every environment you find yourself in. Understand that it’s not easy. You do these things to develop yourself, knowing that the work is happening when you are struggling.
If your goal is to build yourself, does it makes sense to choose the easy path when things get tough?
Moving somewhere new
Old love, old pain, dissipates.
Only you remain.
When we’re young, we dream of being superheros, firefighters, pilots, movie producers. We have our entire lives ahead of us, and the possibilities are endless. As we get ushered through school, we quickly learn that the path that we’re incidentally on doesn’t have much room for dreaming.
The path is this: make it to 12th grade, graduate, then pick a major from the list of options and go to college so you can get a job.
Throughout our entire lives, everyone around us is on the same path, doing the same things, working towards the same goal. On this path, we must pick one thing to be. Some of us can pick to be an engineer, some can pick to be a teacher, some can pick to be a therapist. We are discouraged from picking multiple things, even if we are interested in multiple things. It’s not realistic to be a writer who takes photographs, produces videos, and runs a soccer league on the side, because there is no specific track in school that teaches this.
“Realistic is the most common path to mediocrity.” – Will Smith
Anyone who veers from the set path is perceived as a “failure” and a “dropout”. For this reason, it doesn’t seem like there are any options other than failure. And no child–rightfully so–wants to be perceived as a failure.
We learn a lot in school, but one thing we don’t learn is that we have the ability to choose something else. We don’t learn that if we are bored by a subject in school, it would be objectively better for our growth to ignore that subject and focus our energy on learning something that does naturally excite us.
We don’t learn that education is about genuine growth and challenging ourselves to be better. Education is not about how we are perceived by our GPA, extracurricular activities, standardized test scores, and volunteer hours. The scale is the same for everyone, because the goal is the same, and so is the path.
But people are not the same. Pick any two 22 year olds and ask them their ambitions, and it will be apparent that each human has their own individual agenda.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
In school, we receive positive feedback for being average. I’m not referring to the C average grading scale. I’m referring to the average modus operandi for a student. The one in which people strive to get ‘A’s, follow the curriculum, and do what they’re told so they can be seen as “above average”. Being average is being normal. This educational approach is the “average” way, since most people do it. For some people, being normal is good. For others, it is bad.
The opposite of average is exceptional. To be exceptional is to choose activities that make you feel alive, school or not. It is to let the growth of yourself drive your educational choices. Exceptional people put their own development above the grade system in school. They are not defiant to the grade system in school on principle, but they use it when they can for their benefit, only following the curriculum when it lines up with their own personal development goals.
In school, we receive negative feedback for doing things that are different.
Throughout high school, Neil Degrasse Tyson was very influential for me. I made it my mission to meet him one day and have a conversation with him. His objective mindset about the universe fascinated me and kept me up at night.
During college, I found out that he was coming to my school to speak. This was my chance. I got my tickets, then found out I had a calculus final exam during the talk. This final was worth something like 30% of my grade for the semester. I talked to my teacher about making up the exam and going to the talk. I thought surely they would be happy for me, since I was incredibly excited about the talk, and my exam could be rescheduled while the talk couldn’t.
He told me no. So I got in contact with the math department director, and made my case. Colleges brand themselves as the places where big ideas are talked about, and where people go to learn. Surely I couldn’t be the only one who saw that attending this talk was more beneficial for me skipping it to take the exam. I could easily take the exam a day early, people have done that before.
They would not budge. They told me that I would fail the class if I missed the final. It felt like I was being threatened for defying authority.
I skipped the talk and took my final.
The passive, victim mindset that had rewarded me with good grades in school for all my life took over. I got a 40% on the final and failed the class anyways because my mind was at the Tyson talk, engaging with big ideas about the universe and extraterrestrial life, and the importance of curiosity about the natural world.
Writing this gives me great remorse. I wish I could go back and tell the math department director to f*** off and get out of the way of my learning. Since when did educational institutions prioritize rules and structure above *education*? I felt baffled, powerless and utterly frustrated.
Now I know this has been the case far too long.
School kills creativity and enforces conformity. It is not the place people go to be exceptional and unique. School is where people go to be average and normal. They go to follow directions and sacrifice their own imaginative ambitions for a realistic track.
Do not let a system outside of yourself drive your education. Put your own interests, goals and passions in the driver’s seat, and you will live with no regrets.
“The man who does not value himself cannot value anyone or anything.”
– Ayn Rand
“Selfishness” is a bad word in our society. We grow up hearing “sharing is caring” and “be fair”. These aren’t bad things to do, but they come with a strong underlying implication that being selfish is bad.
It makes sense on the surface – you should be compassionate and care about other people. Nobody wants to hang out with somebody who is only focused on themselves, and don’t care about anyone else.
This may work for social situations, but when we let this mindset bleed into our pivotal life choices, things can get dicey. Biologically, every human cares about themselves more than anyone else. To deny this is to fight our own biology.
If everyone is focused only on themselves, then everyone’s best interest is taken care of. Everybody provides for themselves, and nobody expects anybody else to provide for them. This is an empowering mindset that gets lost when we put the focus on caring for other people more than ourselves.
When people begin to focus on other peoples best interests above their own, those people develop a dependency on the support. Eventually, they lose the ability to take initiative in their own lives which creates a vicious cycle.
When one places his own interests above anything else, he is able to satisfy himself before anything else. Once he is satisfied, it becomes easy for him to provide for other people.
In a capitalistic system, people are selfishly rewarded for providing value to other people. The market is the decider of value. If a business satisfies the market, they will profit greatly in the form of money, and the market will profit greatly in the form of the solution the business provides. If a business fails to satisfy the market, people will not gain value from it. As a result of this, the business will not profit.
This is more “fair” than putting your interests on the backburner for the sake of others.
Selfishness is a virtue. We are each born with this knowledge, and lose it with time.
We exist for our own sake, not for the sake of anyone else. The achievement of our own happiness is our highest moral purpose. Anything other than that is a distraction.
I bash college all the time. I dropped out after 3 semesters, and it was the best decision of my life. Most people who know me would be surprised to hear me say that I’m actually glad I went to college. Given the opportunity, I wouldn’t go back and change anything about my experience.
Mainly, going to college taught me why I, and so many other people, don’t belong in school. I despised my classes, and had I not endured them, I wouldn’t have truly understood why it was so wrong for so many people.
Light is only light when compared to darkness. Color is only colorful when compared to something black & white.
Without spending so much of my time in school, I wouldn’t have developed such a deep understanding of what true education is and should be.
I’m grateful for my college experience. It launched me into an adventurous, entrepreneurial, growth-intensive part of my life. While I wouldn’t go back and change it, I would not choose it again.
There are some things college gave me that nothing else would have been able to, other than my deep understanding of education.
No other time in life can you make 20 new friends by the end of the day by leaving your door open and sitting in your living room.
No other time in life do you experience maximum freedom and minimum responsibility.
Your life is your own, your choices are your own, and you are utterly independent for the first time in your life. You are surrounded by hundreds of people your age who are entering a new stage of their lives, and naturally open themselves up to new ideas.
It’s such a unique social experience, and you have enough independence to explore it to the fullest extent.
I still don’t like college, and I recommend against it for most people. But these facts beg the question: Is there a way to get the benefits of that independent, pivotal, social experience without going to college?
Does it have to cost thousands of dollars? Does it have to be counter-productive for an entrepreneurial career?
This is a tough problem to solve. Programs like Praxis give the career benefits of college. Students graduate the 9 month program debt-free and with a guaranteed full-time job. The Praxis community and social experience is a pretty impressive contender, too, but it isn’t quite the same as living in a dorm with hundreds of other people your age.
The college social experience is great, but I’m not sure it’s worth paying tuition for just that benefit.
What have you done to build a social circle outside of college?
“Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.”
This quote from Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich outlines a very strong principle: The principle of desire.
Not just any weak desire that pops up every so often – an intentionally cultivated desire that “transcends everything.” You decide to do something, and you think about it constantly. Your mind fixates on the vision of it. It soaks into your subconscious, and you start to dream about it. You think about it when you’re doing anything other than working towards it. You can’t help but come up with creative ideas related to it. It becomes part of your core. It evolves into an obsession.
I’ve experienced this first-hand, and it’s incredibly powerful. A desire can do wonders when it becomes an obsession. When this happens, it seems like the only possible outcome is accomplishing your desire. No matter what the path consists of, the endpoint is nothing short of a certainty.
When you’re not consciously focused on it, your subconscious mind works on it. You’ve told yourself that that’s what you desire long enough for it to become a part of your reality.
You inevitably take action on it. You try different things, even without doing much conscious planning. Before you know it, you are much closer to the goal than you thought and you might accomplish it in a roundabout, unexpected way..
When I first found out about Praxis, I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of it. I knew I had value to bring to their business, and I knew I could learn a lot from being around those people.
I had no real connection with any of them, and no idea how to start. The desire to work for them became an obsession. It seemed inevitable that I would end up working for them, although I had no idea how it would happen or how long it would take. I didn’t know what value to bring or how to do it.
I tried for 5 months doing different things like recruiting and marketing to provide value for them. I failed a lot, and actually gave a negative impression in my unsuccessful efforts to help. Turns out it’s not a good idea to represent a company in front of their customers without letting them know first.
After enough failures, I gave up on my goal. I resolved to become a customer and told myself I didn’t want it that badly. I could do something else and just go through the program. But deep down, the desire was stronger than ever.
5 months later, I work for them. My desire was so strong that it was an inevitable reality.
There is a paradox here.
Had I not been driven by my blind desire for my goal of working for Praxis, maybe I could have found a quicker more efficient, less uncertain path.
It was only after I had “given up my goal” on the surface that it ended up coming to fruition. I let go of the constant obsession and decided to focus on myself.
Telling myself it was no longer my deepest desire was my way of letting go of the expectation of accomplishing it. It was still there, but I was no longer blinded by the power of the desire. It was hidden within my subconscious as an already-decided intention, while my conscious mind was freed up to focus on building my daily habits.
Naturally, this hidden desire still affected my conscious actions.
While desire becomes stronger and the more rooted with meaningful intention when you let it consume you, this can take away some of the practical and logical thought that goes into making calculated decisions.
Once you know what your definite goal is, it is no longer necessary to let it consume you every day. You can then maintain a healthy sense of detachment from your goal and from the outcome which will allow you to operate more confidently as you approach it.
You will navigate your way around the obstacles that stand in your way with a calm and cool sense of poise.
“Because he has no goal in mind, everything he does succeeds.”
A desire that turns into an obsession is a powerful thing. It commands you to act on it, and it seems to will its way into existence. Think and Grow Rich is riddled with examples of people who have accomplished seemingly impossible goals by simply letting their obsessive desire guide them.
However, once you reach the point of knowing that your desire is an obsession, and knowing that it is definitely something that you have set your intention to, and knowing that it has sunk into your subconscious mind, let go.
Let go of the outcome. Focus on what you do each day and trust that your actions will line up with the desire that you have submitted to your subconscious mind.
Often times the path towards our goals doesn’t make sense as we experience it. We can only connect the dots backwards, not forwards.
So, as we are moving forward toward our goals we tend to excessively worry because it doesn’t seem like we’re going the right direction. This is natural, even though we may be going the exact right direction.
In letting go of our desire once we’ve let it become an obsession, we are trusting our own ability in each moment to do what makes sense. Of course we will still mess up, and of course the path won’t be a direct shot. But that constant worry, doubt, and frustration will fade away as we move towards our goal, trusting that we will accomplish our desire lucidly, without letting it blind us along the way.
A business is a relationship between two people where each person receives something subjectively valuable from the other person.
Value can come in the form of money, labor, food, etc.
Person 1 needs something done.
Person 2 has the capability to do that thing.
A business is created when Person 1 pays Person 2 to do the thing.
There is a mutual understanding that Person 2 must do a good job in order to be paid.
There is also a mutual understanding that Person 1 must pay if Person 2 does a good job.
Branding, websites, social media, logo designs, software, employees, office space, legal documents, and anything else that goes into a business is secondary.
Do something for somebody.
This book is like the bible of Eastern Philosophy. It’s a very short, fundamental work of philosophical Taoism.
Written by Lao Tzu around 4th century BC, the timeless lessons within are still applicable today. I picked up this book because it was the top recommended book by Tim Ferriss podcast guests.
Translations are fluid, but the title translates to something along the lines of: “The Book of the Way”.
A major theme is detachment. The lessons talk about detaching yourself from outcomes and desires, and living in line with the way things naturally are. Here are some quotes I liked:
“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.”
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did this ourselves’.”
“Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.”
“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”
This book, while very abstract, paints a good picture of calming, stress-free way to live. If one were to live by this book completely, worries and insecurities would not exist for him. It touches on the dichotomy of the very life we live. Evil is what gives Good its value, and lightness is only light respective to darkness. Death is a part of life, and so we should only embrace it. To worry about things like death and change is objectively pointless, and this book does a good job of painting that picture.
I suppose this book is often recommended by high-achievers because it’s easier to dive into fearful situations when insecurity is absent.
It’s a very short read, so I recommend checking it out. Very eye-opening.
When we’re young we don’t have much of a sample size of life to take from. We don’t realize how things build up over time and compound, sometimes exponentially.
Let’s say you start a lawn mowing business during the summers in your teens. Your first summer, you’ll have, say, 5 clients. If you stick with it for 3 summers, you may have up to 50 clients.
If you stick with it, eventually your efforts will become more effective. You’ve gotten better at your marketing tactics, sales skills, and production management by repetition, and your neighborhoods are used to you. You’ve carved out your spot in the market by sticking with it over time. People expect you to be there, they talk about you, and they spread the word about you. Your customers talk to their friends and you get more referrals. You’ve built a reputation by providing value consistently over time.
If you continue on this path for 10 years it’s not crazy to say you could own a million dollar business. You simply will have had enough experience to practice, practice, practice, and vontinue developing your skills along with your business.
Now, imagine that after mowing lawns for 2 years, you decide to quit and pursue something else. It’s starting to get boring, the work isn’t that fun anymore, it’s repetitive, and you feel like you’d learn more doing something else.
So, you start a t-shirt printing company. You’ve always been interested in it, and some friends have been asking about t-shirts so you decided to go ahead and fill the need.
It’s new, it’s exciting, and your knowledge and customer base from your lawn company give you a headstart. After 3 months, you decide to slowly close out your lawn company and transition to the t-shirt printing company full time. You slim down your clients and sell your equipment.
Now, it is possible to start up a new company while maintaining your old company. Instead of selling it and dismantling it, you could find the right people to delegate and automate it. However, the process of automation takes about the same amount of energy and time as starting up an entirely new business from scratch, especially in an industry like lawn care. You have to systematize everything, find people who are willing to stay and treat it with the care and passion of an owner.
So your t-shirt company does well, and you grow it to be even bigger than your first company. Eventually, you get bored. You want to try something else again. Big surprise!
Extrapolate this pattern of starting a new venture every 2 years. Imagine yourself 10 years down the road. You end up with 10 years of experience in several different industries, but the only thing you have to show for it is a 2-year-old company, the size of… well, a 2-year-old company.
I’m not advocating either path. I’m pointing out that wisdom and the importance of patience can be gleaned easily from experiencing more. We are often impatient. We want to be successful NOW, and while most of us know the importance of being patient, we have trouble realizing it before experiencing it first hand.
You start to see the effects of this principle in the first two to three years of working on something.
If you’re old enough to have sunk your teeth into multiple projects for a few years each, you see the effect that time has on your effort each year. Your effort compounds.
If you’ve worked on the same thing for 6+ years, you also know how the compound effect works.
Often times, a 16 year old who has done nothing but go to public school for her entire life won’t have this scope.
And without this scope of view, building a career intentionally will be difficult.
When you experientially understand the relationship between time and substantial success, it is much easier to make deliberate decisions and create opportunities for yourself. You choose based on the vision of something greater, and it’s easier to pass up distractions in the moment.
Once you understand how experiences build off each other and plan your life with that in mind, the sense of urgency and impatience that leads to bad decisions or lengthened development disappears.
The following is a brief, general overview of the 3 steps that humans go through when evolving into a new mindset:
The first step is awareness. Once you bring your awareness to the problem at hand, then you’ve successfully separated yourself from your problem. You and your problem are two different things, according to your viewpoint.
This creates a detachment that removes emotion from the equation. Now, you can look at the situation objectively and without any bias.
After you logically understand why you’re changing your mindset, the next step is to act on it as if the change has already been made. In doing so, you will feel uncomfortable. You will feel as though you haven’t made any change, and you’re acting against your nature. This is true, because any change will prompt actions that disagree with your previous mindset. This is the root of change.
“Fake it ‘till you make it.” Act as if the change has already been made.
As you act against your previous nature in order to build a new set of patterns, your self-identity will alter. This is the final step to changing your mindset.
By changing your day-to-day actions, you will start to realize that you are no longer the person you used to be. Instead of identifying as someone with your old mindset who is trying out your new mindset, you will begin to identify as the type of person who has your new mindset. This is paramount to lasting change.
On the surface, competition seems negative. It often makes those involved angry and heated, and is equated with conflict.
Competition comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s a one on one duel of physicality, and sometimes half of an entire country is pitted against the other in a battle of political interests.
Growing up, I hated competition. I was a little brother. When you’re young, 2 years is a big difference, and my brother Eric made sure I knew it. He beat me at everything, and wouldn’t let up. It was demoralizing.
For a long time, I avoided competition because of this. My self-image was that of someone who usually loses. This hurt me on multiple fronts. Not only would I avoid competition in the first place, but when I did find myself competing, I would avoid trying my best because I told myself the carrot at the end of the stick was too far to reach anyways.
This is a common, debilitating mindset. We avoid trying our best so we have an excuse for losing. In short, we are expecting ourselves to lose to avoid future disappointment, and in doing so we refrain from testing our true efforts, skating by on autopilot.
Competition is actually a very positive thing.
It not only requires you to test your own best abilities, but it forces the other person test their best abilities by giving them a true challenge. It is a mutually beneficial exercise.
The very worst thing that you can do for somebody in a competition is to let them win and not give them a true challenge. Doing this is choosing to not truly test them in a way that will help them grow, uncover truth about their own abilities, and realize what they can do to improve themselves.
It’s a beautiful thing when two people are pitted against each other, both exercising the extent of their respective abilities. Competition, in its nature, generates improvement.
It demands the very best effort, solutions, creativity, and innovations.
Recommended to me by Isaac Morehouse, this quick read was an engaging one.
While this book applies the “Inner Game” to tennis specifically, the principles can be easily applied to much more than tennis. The Inner Game is the psychological game we play with ourselves when we compete or perform. It involves 2 selves: Self 1 and Self 2.
Self 2 is you. Your actual potential. Your natural consciousness in the present moment. Self 2 is in charge when you feel like you are “in the zone”.
Self 1 is the ego and the criticizer. Self 1 is the one who is constantly coaching Self 2, and analyzing each and every moved based on the future and the past.
The premise of this book is that peak performance comes when we learn to quiet Self 1. In order to experience what’s happening in the present moment, we must disrupt the chatter that distracts us. Only then will we be able to naturally perform with our most relevant abilities.
Self 1 acts based on anything but the present moment situation. It will get frustrated by things like future expectations and nervousness, and then it will try to step in and take over, the act of which causes more distraction and hinders performance. In trying to help, Self 1 creates obstacles that make things worse than they were before.
Instead of constantly telling yourself to remember the correct footwork and form you learned in practice, Gallwey suggests that simply watching the ball and hitting it without thinking will result in better performance.
A key principle behind this claim is the fact that you’ve spent the time to practice and learn the form. Then, when it’s time to put your practice to the test, the best thing to do is to simply trust Self 2 and its abilities.
When precise, leaves nothing but
Stark, pure, clarity.
The short answer is that I was 6 days behind on my daily blogging for the month, so I had to catch up.
But why was I 6 days behind?
In the past 13 days, I’ve been to 8 major cities:
Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Atlanta. The trip has changed a little bit since I drew that map.
I’ve been on a journey from the west coast to the east coast. I’ve been driving a lot, working remotely, and I simply let my blogging slip away until today.
A lot has changed in the past year.
In March, I launched a college campus tour, which landed me stuck living in an RV in California with no money.
So I drove back east and sold the RV. But I was already in the middle of a transition, and I didn’t want to continue living in Ohio. So I packed up my car and moved back to California. This time I would get an apartment, gain some stability, and get myself back on my feet.
Well, 3 months after moving to California, here I am driving back east.
I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart, even though I didn’t realize it until I dropped out of college. Since I realized this, I’ve known I wanted to start my own business. What I didn’t know was how difficult this can be.
In the past I’ve tried to start several businesses, but they mostly ended up as great learning experiences disguised as failure. I learned that it’s near impossible to force myself to be obsessed with something I’m not naturally obsessed with.
I’m naturally obsessed with education. I could talk for days about my core beliefs on education, how I think they should be implemented, and why our current school system is failing so miserably.
Ever since I discovered Praxis towards the end of my tour, I wanted to work for them. Praxis is the physical manifestation of my core beliefs on education. They inspire education through freedom and creativity.
I never thought I would be OK working for somebody. I wanted to create my own alternative. But I had tried for almost two years tripping over my feet the whole time. Praxis seemed to be doing something right. I decided I would join them, since they’re fighting for the same cause.
Praxis is the only company I know of that I would sacrifice my desire to be my own boss for the ability to create a bigger and more immediate impact.
That’s why it was worth driving back across the country for the 6th time this year. I’m moving to Charleston, South Carolina to build the company that will make college obsolete.
I have big plans for myself and for Praxis. Stay tuned.
Right now, I’m sitting in a Waffle House outside of Atlanta, GA.
Across the street, there’s a Wendy’s, a Burger King, and a McDonalds.
What a world we live in. I can literally pick from hundreds of dinner options within 10 minutes, without moving more than 500 feet. In fact, I bet I could even call McDonalds, order over the phone, and get them to bring my food across the street to Waffle House without moving an inch.
For how often people talk badly about fast food restaurants, they do a pretty amazing thing.
Think about everything that goes into a fast food restaurant.
Companies have to supply the food. Cattle is raised and butchered, and potatoes are grown and picked, along with everything else that goes into the food. Somebody feeds his family by getting paid to do that.
Then, all the materials must be shipped to the restaurant by truck. Somebody feeds his family by getting paid to do that, too.
Then, the restaurant employees cook the food and operate the restaurant. They feed their families by getting paid to do that.
Finally, a customer pays for the food while sitting in his car, and brings it home to feed his family.
There are so many other nooks and crannies within this supply chain that I skipped. Thousands and thousands of people earn their living by making sure their part of the supply chain operates properly. Accountants, operations managers, CEOs, truck mechanics, the list goes on.
This is an immense and intricate ecosystem of mutually beneficial relationships, all based on the idea that each person is free to choose for herself.
Yes, fast food is incredibly unhealthy. You don’t have to eat it. You have the option to choose what food you eat. But people eat it all the time.
People eat unhealthy food for the convenience and cost.
In the past 100 years, society deeply desired the convenience that McDonalds provides. Hence why companies like this popped up and became so successful. They were filling a clear desire in the market.
It is not criminal to sell people unhealthy food. What’s criminal is not giving them the option to choose for themselves.
If only politicians understood this concept.
I hear people complain about how unhealthy McDonalds is all the time.
If all the fast food restaurants disappeared in an instant, we would no longer hear complaints about the unhealthy food.
Instead, people would start complaining about how annoying it is that they can’t get a quick cheap meal!
This post goes out to McDonalds, and all the other gross fast food companies. They are physical manifestations of what it means to live in a free society.
“Don’t you think it’s a little harsh to tell college students they’re wasting their time? Not all of them fit the stereotype that you portray in your blog posts. Some students will be really successful because of college.”
Are you sure? I know there are some wicked smart people currently attending college. But are they exercising their highest potential through the things they do in college?
Most high-achieving college students are high-achieving because of the things they do outside of college – not the fact that they attend all their classes and have a 4.0. It’s their side-business or their role as Club President or their starting position on the varsity team that makes them impressive.
Is it really false to say that an above-average individual is wasting his talent by simply attending classes and doing exactly what he’s told, and nothing more? When did “success” become following set rules, instead of creatively building unique solutions?
Maybe if I continue to poke fun at college, smart people will start to realize that they’re selling themselves short. I’m confident these people could use their talents much more effectively if they just bet on themselves instead of an outdated system.
If you really pry, you’ll find out that most people go to college out of insecurity. They choose a college, not based off an empowering position of confidence in their own abilities, but based off of an insecurity of their own abilities.
They grow up hearing about how college dropouts are failures and college graduates are successful. They hear this for years, and it starts to sink in. They start to associate personal success with what college they get into, instead of their own efforts to grow into their unique self.
It’s destructive. Once you are conditioned in this way, you must manually break the pattern. It’s tough.
Learn to get excited at the sign of uncomfortable situations – this is where learning and growth happens.
Learn to consistently apply your knowledge through action – knowledge without application is useless.
Learn to look at each situation for what it is. We use shortcuts like college=success and dropout=failure to describe patterns. But patterns change over time. The shortcuts we use must be continuously reevaluated and updated.
Learn to break the rules and suggest better ones.
Learn to actually learn, detached from any labels or credentials that come with it.
Learn to bet on yourself. Put yourself on the spot, and allow yourself the option to fail under pressure. In the real world, failure doesn’t get you an ugly “F” branded on your permanent record. In the real world, failure makes you smarter than you were 5 minutes ago. Period. Move forward.
Learn to stop relying on authorities.
Rely on yourself.
College is history. It’s an overpriced, overvalued, inflated bureaucracy.
College used to be “the thing to do after high school.” It largely still is, however people are starting to realize that a bachelor’s degree will get you about as far as a professional recommendation from your parents if you don’t have any proof of real value that you’ve created to go with it.
The core meaning of education has been lost in the bureaucratic jungle that is the public school system. Instead of focusing on actual education and challenges to improve, students are corralled to think and perform like robots. School provides almost no opportunities to create real value in the world.
From age 5 and all the way to 22+, students participate in a rat race towards empty credentials that teaches nothing more than how to follow specific rules.
This is why dropping out of college in 2014 has been quite possibly the best decision I’ve ever made. January 2017 will be my 3-year anniversary.
It’s been an incredibly journey. I began learning how to bend the rules. I learned how to test my own ideas and find better rules. I learned how to communicate my ideas, and how to be creative on command. The list goes on, but instead of listing skills I’ve learned, here are 3 things I did that helped me gain a real education:
I started a podcast.
Initially this was meant to be an excuse to interview people I found interesting. I just wanted to learn about how people were building their careers without college, and copy their strategies. I would record the conversation, then leverage it as content from my own personal brand, while stealing their tactics. It worked like a charm.
I mostly interviewed friends and acquaintances at first. This gave me an opportunity to get into deep conversations with people in a setting where they would be excited about telling their story.
Aside from learning the semantics on how to record audio and host episodes, my guests provided practical strategies on starting online businesses, talking to your parents about dropping out of school, learning a language, and much more. I learned more starting a podcast than I did in 1.5 years of college.
I toured the country in an RV.
All I wanted to do was build an alternative. I had no idea where to start, so I got together with my friend and fellow college dropout, Ben, and we decided to go on tour. We wanted to travel, and create a dialogue with college kids to find out what their pain points were (if any).
We thought that by jumping into something in a bold way, even though we didn’t have a specific plan to start, we would figure it out as we went along as long as were doing something.
This experience taught me so much about myself. Aside from any of the business strategies I learned about how NOT to launch a business, traveling the country simply gives you a perspective you can’t get by staying in one spot. I talked to people from all different walks of life, and they shed their perspective on the college system.
It turns out that plenty of college kids know from first hand experience that college isn’t that valuable. When I asked people why they went to college, this is the answer I typically got:
They just don’t know what else to do because they are so used to doing what they’re “supposed” to do.
I wrote a series on this experience. Here’s Part 1.
I applied to Praxis.
On my tour, I found Praxis through word-of-mouth. Praxis is a 9-month apprenticeship program for young people who want to start their careers by doing real world work without going into debt.
I applied to the program and got in as an apprentice. I joined an incredible community of motivated young people who consistently challenge each other to be better.
I built a website, refined my personal brand, and started blogging because of Praxis. My learning continues to grow exponentially.
What have you done to educate yourself in 2016?
The value of words is apparent. We know it when we see it.
We all know those people whose words carry immense value. They seldom speak out, but when they do, it seems like every word is calculated and perfect for the situation. They’re wise, insightful, and don’t waste words. The things they say feel heavy. They feel important.
Conversely, we all know those people whose words have little or no value. They speak any time they get the chance, and clearly don’t put much thought into what they say. Their words feel light, can be annoying, and often times aren’t worth reading or listening to.
What we don’t see is how our own words are viewed. Obviously they are important to us, they’re our words… but are they valuable to the people who read or listen to them?
Two factors make up the value of your words:
Quantity and quality.
If you are very well-read, objectively intelligent and wise, but you post on Facebook 12 times a day, your words will lose value. It’s reality. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. People can’t keep up with that. They will get used to glazing over your words because they simply don’t have the time to take in your top-notch wisdom.
If you publish an incredibly insightful blog post once every 2 months, your words will also lose value. People will forget about you. They will not have enough reminders to keep up with your writing, so they won’t expect it. It’ll be a nice surprise every once in awhile, but nothing to read into too much.
It’s best to find a balance between the two. Speak up enough to be regularly noticed by people who strongly subscribe to your ideas, but not too often that it cheapens your words.
Let’s add quality to the equation.
First, let’s define high-quality words and low-quality words.
High-quality words are those that are clearly thought through. They’re clearly backed up with solid facts, and they offer some form of value to the people reading them. Whether it’s new insights, new perspective, practical, actionable tips, or something of that nature, high-quality words are directly valuable to the people reading them.
Low-quality words are the opposite. They often come from a place of frustration, anger, or something of the sort. They involve complaints, groundless claims and assumptions, and personal attacks. These words do not provide value to the reader. In fact, reading these words often becomes a cost to the reader. Sometimes the cost is emotional, sometimes it’s wasted time and energy.
The last two points assumed that words were high quality. Let’s assume this time that they are low quality.
If you don’t put much thought into your words and you post on Facebook 12 times a day, your words will definitely lose value. People will probably even call you out for this.
If you rarely speak up, but when you do it comes in the form of complaints, truths that are clearly false, and assumptions without solid ground, your words will be more valuable than if you’re putting this type of content out 12 times a day. But… that’s not saying much.
If you constantly complain, offer no value, and claim things without backing them up, your words will lose value. Period. People will start to glaze over what you say, unconsciously assuming your words won’t be valuable.
It’s best to always say high-quality things.
In summary: say high-quality words often, but not too often. Don’t say low-quality words.
As a child, Josh Waitzkin was recognized as a chess prodigy. He would practice every day with his friends in Washington Square Park. Josh went on to win several world championships in chess by the age of 12, before applying his learning principles to the art of Push Hands Tai Chi, where he also won the world championship in Taiwan.
In this book, Waitzkin details his journey from beginner to master in both of these skills.
A lot of this book consists of Josh telling his story, so it can drag on at times. However, there is a lot to be gleaned from his story about learning at a high level.
The book isn’t so much about how to pick up a new skill and do it as a hobby – it’s about how to become the best in the world at something. He doesn’t talk that much about specific practice regimens and the process of actually learning the skill. Instead, he dives into different frames of mind that help or hurt people when they’re learning something new and trying to become the best at it.
The “entity mindset” of learning is the belief that intelligence is innate, and unrelated to practice. Somebody with this mindset, when trying basketball for the first time, will say: “I suck at basketball.”
In this way, telling a child that he is so good at math is actually hurting him. Though it seems positive, he is learning helplessness. He is learning that regardless of how much consistent effort he puts into math, he will be good at it. Same goes for the opposite.
The “incremental mindset” of learning is one that focuses on continuous growth. Instead of saying “I suck,” someone will say “Hmm. That attempt was bad. I wonder what I can do to make the next one better.”
Focusing on the incremental mindset, competition and learning is viewed as a playful game. Success is associated with effort, not outcome. Expectations no longer matter, and failures are simply learning opportunities.
He goes on to discuss how he approaches high-level competitions. He talks a lot about mindfulness, stepping into the flow of the game, and it seems like a major part of his strategy is not thinking too much. Relying on the skills he has gained from consistent practice and confiding in his own ability to perform on the spot is what allows him to do so.
The Art of Learning got me excited about the idea of 1-on-1 competition. Throughout his journey competing at high levels of Chess and Tai Chi, the way he describes these instances make them seem like they’re from a different world. Once you step into the ring, it’s just you and the other guy. A battle of wits (in chess) or a battle of physical prowess (in Tai Chi). These moments seem similar to public speaking. No lifelines. Completely on the spot. Doing it live. If you mess up, the only thing you can do is accept it publicly and move forward using your best efforts.
Overall, great book. I recommend reading it.
“Make People Better.”
Every day for the past week, I’ve re-traced this phrase on the back of my left hand.
I do this every so often, when a certain idea or principle compels me. It’s an active reminder.
In the past I’ve written things like:
Leaders have an endlessly important responsibility to move groups of people forward. Other than their skills and knowledge that they gain through experience, leaders are no different than followers. We all start the same. Some people end up leading groups of followers, and most people end up in groups following leaders.
Neither one is better than the other – we need both to move forward.
This week, I’ve adopted “Make People Better” as an overarching leadership principle. It encompasses the complex responsibilities of a leader in three words.
Leadership is not about being friendly. It’s not about being liked or exerting power or authority. It’s not about being feared. It’s not about being worshipped. In fact, it’s not about the leader at all.
Leaders exist to move people forward. To make the people who follow them better.
My lacrosse coach in high school was an excellent leader. He was nice to us sometimes, but most of the time he was pretty hard on us. We respected him to no end. We didn’t see it as harsh or mean, because he made it abundantly clear that he was going to make us better at all costs.
Sometimes this meant he had to be an asshole to get a point across. Sometimes this meant he praised us publicly for a good performance.
To him, it was ONLY about making us better. That meant conditioning us. That meant calling us out when we screwed up.
It meant being honest with us.
I played attack, so I specialized in offense. Defenders are equipped with longpoles to make it easier to play defense on us. Whenever there was a mismatch and an attack ended up with a shortpole playing defense on him, this was a prime 1 on 1 opportunity.
We called this specific play “A”. The instigator would yell out “A”, and everyone on offense would run away from the goal, clearing space for the attack to take advantage of the 1 on 1 opportunity.
One time early on in the season, I had a shortpole playing defense on me. Despite the entire team yelling at me from the sidelines, I didn’t recognize the opportunity to run “A”. So, my coach pulled me off the field and made me sit on the sidelines for 2 quarters. He told me why, and said he wants someone in who will recognize scoring opportunities.
I was pissed. I wanted to play! I knew I could help the team out by being on the field.
It must have been hard for him t deliberately call out a 15 year old and watch his feelings get hurt. But it wasn’t about my feelings. It was about making me better.
You better believe I never missed an opportunity to run “A” for the rest of the season.
Being a leader requires placing the value of honesty and improvement above that of the amicability of the relationship. Respect is earned through honesty.
Here are 5 of my favorite books I read in 2016, in no particular order:
I have always been self-conscious, and questioned my own decisions. Atlas Shrugged helped me to place my highest value on my own decisions and desires.
One of the main principles behind Rand’s Objectivism is that individual human achievement is the most pure of all values.
This book changed my life. It introduced me the concept of “selfishness as morality”. We are in an age in which giving to people in need stands on higher moral ground than pursuing one’s own self interests.
Rand challenges this principle, and suggests the opposite. She shows, through a captivating fictional story, the dystopian macro result of placing more value on need than contribution.
Pearson has a way of understanding and explaining the over-arching trends within our market and economy. He shows with hard data that stability and security are on the way out, soon to be replaced by freedom and entrepreneurship.
He provides tons of practical advice for how to begin investing in entrepreneurship to get yourself ahead. There are so many ways to develop skills and create a signal of your value that transcends any college degree or credential, and this book outlines several.
This book is the cornerstone of all self-improvement works. It is focused on the power of mental imagery and visualization. Tony Robbins and Jim Rohn both endorse this book.
Through practical exercises and real stories, Maltz shows how high performers in any field use the power of mental imagery to create results in reality. Your thoughts truly become reality, and Psycho-Cybernetics is the place to start if you’re interested in managing your own thoughts intentionally.
If you want to change the world, this book is for you. Thiel throws out all the standard startup advice and offers a radical perspective that will achieve radical results.
Most startups go from 1 to 1.1 to 1.2 to 1.3. They start in markets that have already been proven to work, and they improve on what’s already there.
Thiel offers a new way of thinking. Instead of improving, he suggests thinking outside of the box completely, and creating something that hasn’t ever existed. This way of thinking has resulted in companies like Tesla, Paypal, Uber, and AirBnB – companies who have achieved rapid success by truly altering the world
We hear all sorts of advice for finding fulfilling work. Find your passion, stop doing stuff you hate, do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life… There are countless relevant but sometimes impractical pieces of advice out there.
The harsh truth is that there isn’t a 100% perfect job for everyone. Part of life and work is dealing with the things you don’t like while you can’t do the things you love. This is such a unique balance for everyone, and Roman Krznarik sifts through all the strategies, and breaks down this challenge into an easy-to-understand way of thinking.
Have you read any of these? What did you think?
I’m challenging myself to read 52 books in 2017.
Some of them I’ve already read, and most of them have been recommended by colleagues and friends. Most of these will be audiobooks that I work into my routine.
Want to read some good books yourself? Check out this epic Praxis book recommendation list.
I already started a couple of these. You don’t have to wait until January to start improving yourself!
Here’s my list:
|2||Grinding It Out||Ray Croc|
|3||How to Find Fulfilling Work||Roman Krznaric|
|4||Start with Why||Simon Sinek|
|5||The E-Myth Revisited||Michael Gerber|
|6||De-Mythify: Finding Freedom in your Small Business||Korbett Miller|
|7||Gorilla Mindset||Mike Cernovich|
|8||The War of Art||Steven Pressfield|
|9||The Obstacle is the Way||Ryan Holiday|
|10||Trust Me, I’m Lying||Ryan Holiday|
|11||Made to Stick||Heath Brothers|
|13||Man’s Search for Meaning||Viktor Frankl|
|14||The Speed of Trust||Stephen Covey|
|15||The Art of Power||Thich Nhat Hanh|
|16||The Slight Edge||Jim Collins|
|17||Crucial Conversations||Kerry Patterson/Joseph Grenny|
|18||The Hard Thing about Hard Things||Ben Horowitz|
|21||The 48 Laws of Power||Robert Greene|
|24||The Education of Millionaires||Michael Ellsberg|
|25||Finite and Infinite Games||James Carse|
|26||The Inner Game of Tennis||Timoth Gallwey|
|27||Get Backed||Evan Baehr|
|28||The War of Art||Steven Pressfield|
|30||Never Eat Alone||Keith Ferrazzi|
|31||Be Obsessed or Be Average||Grant Cardone|
|32||The Act of Creation||Arthur Koestler|
|33||The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels||Alex Epstein|
|34||The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity in Childhood||Susan Engel|
|35||The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck||Mark Manson|
|36||Human Action||Ludwig Von Mises|
|37||Outwitting the Devil||Napoleon Hill|
|38||Once a Runner||John Parker|
|39||How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World||Harry Browne|
|40||Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable||Tim Grover|
|41||Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand||Leonard Peikoff|
|42||There is Nothing Wrong with You||Cheri Huber|
|43||Born to Run||Christpher McDougall|
|44||The Power of Habit||Charles Duhigg|
|46||Rich Dad Poor Dad||Robert Kiyosaki|
|47||Secrets of the Millionaire Mind||T Harv Eker|
|49||Straight Line Leadership||Dusan Djukich|
|50||The Art of Learning||Josh Waitzkin|
|51||The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership||John C. Maxwell|
|52||The Radical Leap||Steve Farber|
Have any recommendations? Let me know!
Freedom is more than financial freedom. It’s more than the ability to do remote work and set your own hours.
It’s more than being able to choose who you spend your time with, and it’s more being able to choose any career you want.
In fact, those are merely symptoms of freedom. Freedom starts with your mind. It starts with your thoughts. You can have all the tangible freedom in the world but still be a slave to your own frame of mind.
Freedom is a frame of mind – not a situation.
It is not won or given. It is built. It is earned. It is created.
Freedom is built from within. Once you free yourself from incessant worries, judgement, expectations, other people’s’ opinions, and your own opinions, your situation in reality will become free.
Freedom comes when you realize that everything you do is for yourself, and when you fully embody this perspective in your actions.
When you’re free, you don’t work out because anyone tells you to. You work out because you know going through the process is valuable for you, and so you choose to persist.
When you’re free, you don’t do your homework because your teacher tells you to. You do your homework because you genuinely gain value from it, and so you choose to spend time on it.
When you’re free, you interact with people under the assumption of genuine intent. You act on reality, not expectations.
Chances are you already have the freedom you seek. You just haven’t acted on it.
I met Chandler through an internship we both did in college. He’s an example of someone who just doesn’t quit. He’s always moving, always grinding, and always having fun doing it.
Chandler is the author of 5 bestselling books including “Book Launch” and his most recent book titled “Published.”. He’s also the founder & CEO of Self-Publishing School, the #1 online resource for writing your first book. Through his books, training videos, and Self-Publishing School, he’s helped thousands of people on their journey to writing their first book.
Here are his top 3 book recommendations:
Check out Chandler’s article on Business Insider, visit his website, or find him on Facebook!
A couple days ago, I wrote a post about my experience running out of gas at midnight in the middle of Utah.
The post got a lot of attention. People particularly commented on my use of descriptive language and storytelling. I don’t typically get comments like that, but that’s because I don’t typically write like that.
I thought back to a lot of my previous posts, and I noticed a general theme in my writing style. I typically write like a self-help author. It’s mostly second person, and involves me directly talking to the reader giving them insight.
This makes sense, because I am a self-help author, but if I’m being honest, I sometimes get bored with my own writing. Using the same tone, style, and language gets stale after a while.
Not that this style is bad, but some variation keeps things exciting. It was time to change it up.
So I intentionally wrote that post with a different style. Instead of describing an experience and immediately telling the reader how it relates to them, I focused on the story itself and left the reader as an independent observer.
Focusing on the story naturally entices and engages the reader. It captures their attention. Descriptive stories are more fun to write, and more fun to read.
Storytelling is the best way to convey thoughts, ideas, feelings, and knowledge. Stories engage people. Once a story starts, it’s hard not to listen to what happens next. It’s one of the most captivating ways to pull in an audience get them engaged and grab their attention.
To take it further, I told my story in the present tense as if it were happening right then and there. I also used first person to make it feel more real and allow the reader to identify emotionally with me as they were reading it.
Instead of writing: The car sputtered. I tried to turn it on. No luck.
I wrote: The car sputters. I try to turn it on. No luck.
Notice how the subtle change in tense shifts the entire tone of the statements? Instead of reporting what happened as if the event is over, the reader hangs onto each statement as if it’s happening right then and there. You want to find out what happens next, because it hasn’t happened yet!
This is probably part of the reason people felt more engaged and inclined to comment that they enjoyed the writing and the story.
Neither style is better. If I only wrote using descriptive first-person present tense language, that would get old after awhile too. The key is to switch it up consistently.
Telling your story in the first person and with present tense will open up opportunities for you to use more descriptive language it has a way of making you sound more personal, which makes people connect with you on a more personal level.
Try it out, and leave a link to your post! I would love to read it. Keep writing.
I’m writing this post to tell you that you don’t have to write in order to blog. Technology has created so many shortcuts for us – you can literally speak into your phone and turn it into a blog post within minutes.
In fact, that’s exactly what I’m doing right now.
I’m currently driving across the country. All this time in the car has made it hard to stop, sit down and spend time to write a blog post. But I still need to write every day. I needed a way to continue writing every day while still spending most of my time in the car. I turned to my smartphone to solve this problem.
I learn through speaking. Talking through ideas helps me connect and develop my thoughts. It makes storytelling easier and allows me to more accurately portray my ideas.
So I whip out my Google Docs app, open up a new document, and click the microphone button on my keyboard. Then I start speaking about what I’m doing or thinking about or what I want to blog about. Everything I say turns to text.
The initial thought dump doesn’t have to be edited so I can say whatever I want and change things later.
Usually, I end up with a long, unedited, unformatted bulk of text. Then, all I have to do is edit. I move some statements around, delete some, and add some so it makes sense.
This makes it a lot easier to start blogging because it’s a much smaller initial time and energy commitment. The editing afterwards can take as little as 5 minutes.
Try it out!
I’m driving somewhere in the middle of Utah. The gas light has been on for 20 minutes or so, but it usually lasts pretty long. I can make it, I tell myself.
The car sputters. It shuts off. I try turning it back on. No luck.
I check my phone – no service.
I roll past a green sign that tells me the next gas station is 15 miles away.
I continue rolling down the hill, slowing down by the second. I make it as far as I can with my blinkers on to end up on a bridge, in a valley, at the bottom-most point. Imagine it like the bottom of a halfpipe. My car is filled with everything I own, since I’m moving across the country.
Directly on my right side is a cinderblock. There was no shoulder space since I was in the middle of the bridge. If I want to get myself out of the middle of the highway, it would be a long, grueling quarter-mile journey uphill.
The feeling of hopelessness sets in. My only hope is if somebody stops to help me. Either that, or I push my car off the bridge, then walk 15 miles to get gas and 15 miles back in the middle of the night. That would take hours.
I’m not one to sit still wait for things to happen to me. I like to take control of the situation and do what I can to fix it. The thought of deferring the outcome of my situation to somebody else, which is utterly out of my control, sounds pointless to me. Maybe someone will stop – but until then, I might as well do what I can to make progress.
So I start pushing.
Inch by inch, the car felt heavier and heavier.
My knees were buckling. My body was leaning into the car almost horizontal to the ground. If I stopped to take a rest, gravity would render 10 minutes of my work useless in 5 seconds.
Every time a car passes, I signal them to help. No luck.
I’m still in the right lane since I’m on a bridge. Each car carries the unlikely possibility of instant death as it zooms past, 5 feet away from me at 65 mph.
My mind flips between two extremes. One minute I’m motivated about putting in the work to dig myself out of this situation – the next minute it seems impossible and I want to give up.
I make it about 50 feet in 30 minutes.
Then a pickup truck pulls over in front of me. A country-looking man steps out and approaches me. Without saying much, he whips out his chain and hooks it to the back of his car and the front of mine..
“You ever done this before?” he asks.
I reply, “No, but I’m a quick learner.”
“Keep it in neutral. I’m the gas, you’re the breaks,” he says. “That’s how this works.”
He has an air of utter competence about him. He’s done this before. He doesn’t say much, but each word carries importance and trust.
I think about how often I meet someone like this, and it feels rare. It was comforting. There was nothing around us except the truth of the situation we were in, and the truth of how we were going to solve it.
30 minutes after the initial feeling of complete hopelessness set in, I was at a gas station filling up, thanking the man who towed me 15 miles. He went on his way, and I went on mine.
This post goes out to that guy. The guy who decided to stop and help because he knew he had the tools to make it happen. The guy who had confidence in his abilities. The guy with few words, but plenty of meaning. He saw a problem and provided a solution, without the hint of a doubt in his mind.
Be like that guy.
As I hop in my car and drive off, all I can think is: This’ll be a great blog post!
Young people typically have a reputation of being unreliable and lazy. Your reputation has a huge impact on the opportunities you create for yourself, so differentiating yourself in this aspect is key to jumpstarting your career.
A reputation is not a carefully crafted façade built around how you want people to view you. It is a natural, genuine perception that people develop about you based on the actions you consistently take.
Building a solid reputation does not require caring about what people think of you. In fact, it requires the opposite.
By making a conscious choice to be hyper-reliable, you are choosing to value your own personal development above people’s perception of you.
You are making the choice, not to be known as the person who gets shit done, but to consistently get shit done.
You are making the choice, not to be known as the person whom people trust, but to consistently be honest.
You are making the choice, not to be known as the person who communicates well, but to consistently communicate well.
Socrates said, “Be as you wish to seem.”
Your reputation is a direct reflection of your actions. Don’t build your reputation – be it. The reputation will follow, and so will the opportunities.
It is an art. And it starts with being hyper-reliable.
Hyper-reliability is not a talent. It’s a willingness to put in effort.
Here are some practical tips to begin crafting yourself professionally:
If you aren’t organized in your own life, you won’t be able to be organized with other people. People want to work with organized people. They want to know that you won’t let things slip through the cracks.
Start by organizing your digital life. If you haven’t already, create a predictable, uniform system to organize your pictures, documents, videos, and any other files.
If your email is out of control, archive everything and start from scratch. As you check your email throughout the day, go through every email and unsubscribe or label it accordingly.
Develop a system for keeping track of your tasks. Here are some helpful tools:
– Evernote – note-taking and sharing
– Trello – categories and checklists
– Asana – checklists good for team tasks
– Google Drive – Mobile documents and spreadsheets
– A Journal – tactile note-taking
I currently use a combination of two different journals (one personal and one professional), Google Drive, and Trello.
It may take some trial and error before you get a repeatable system that works, but start by creating something. You can adjust after you test it out.
By organizing your own life first, you are clearing mental space for more important matters, and practicing attention to detail.
Think about all the details, but be brief and concise in your communication. Don’t add any unnecessary fluff sentences, thoughts, or streams of consciousness in your emails or texts. Think through messages before you send them.
For each sentence, ask yourself: “Is this necessary? Can I leave this out and still communicate the thing I’m trying to get across?
The goal is to communicate exactly what you need to communicate in the fewest amount of words. Stick to the point.
When someone is relying on you to complete a task, assume that they are just a tiny bit worried won’t follow through.
This does not mean you should email someone every time you have a question. This means that when you do have the need to communicate with someone, go into the details and ensure you don’t miss a beat.
Over-communicate in quality, not quantity.
This will give you the impression that you should go over all the details when communicating without overdoing it too much.
People will notice that you’re taking the time to think through the options. You will quickly develop trust because people will see that you’re on top of the situation.
If you are on top of it but you don’t communicate your results, nobody will notice, leading to the same questions they’d have if you weren’t doing anything in the first place. That’s when people begin to worry a little bit more
Before you send a message or ask for help, try to solve the problem first. Invest 5 minutes in thinking creatively about how you can find the resources on your own and create a solution that works.
If, after you’ve thought critically about the problem, there is a clear bottleneck that requires somebody else’s input or resources, then go ahead. But be organized and stay efficient.
Keeping these 4 points in mind will turn you into a reliable badass. Over time, your trust bank will continue to build.
They will trust you because you are genuinely honest. You will be the person people go to when something needs to get done, because you will be someone who gets shit done.
Nothing’s worse than a fence-sitter. They value other peoples’ feelings over their own principles.
They’re passive. They follow. They complain.
Opinionated people are the ones who carry humanity in a direction. Sometimes it’s the wrong direction. Sometimes it’s the right direction.
These leaders take us to new places. Once we’re there, we can look around and see things from a different angle.
Often, it turns out the leader didn’t take us to exactly the right place we want to be – or we changed our mind about where we want to be.
Fence-sitters reserve the right to complain in this case. After all, they never said they wanted to be there. They never said they wanted to be anywhere. They just said they didn’t want to be here.
The leader is the one who heard them, picked them up, and made a guess to try to solve their problem.
Be opinionated. Choose something. Hurt people’s feelings in the process.
20 days ago, I started a Ketogenic diet. I started it strictly because I wanted to experiment with how my body reacts to food.
It’s been an interesting ride so far. I’ve learned a lot and had some really interesting results.
At first, it was difficult to adjust. It took about 5 days of feeling lethargic and needing daily naps for ketosis to fully kick in.
It took a couple weeks to get comfortable with choosing the right foods. I would avoid eating out in order to craft my own meals and make sure they had the right components.
Now that I’m comfortable with the target foods, it’s easier to accept an invitation to go out with friends. I typically stick to meat and vegetables, and avoid bread and carbs.
At first, I avoided carbs at all costs. Now, I know my limits. I can even have a beer or two without throwing anything off.
Positive Effects of the Diet
I’ve needed less sleep. Typically, I sleep 8-9 hours per night. Since I’ve adjusted to the diet, I need 6-7 most nights.
I’ve been able to stay up till 12-1 and get up at 6-7. It’s easier to pop out of bed, too.
I’ve also had more energy. I feel the urge to work out to release pent up energy, when I have to unwillingly force myself to work out consistently.
There’s a slight increase in mental focus. If you’ve ever taken Adderall, it feels like a very mild version of this. I’m able to sit down and complete tasks without letting distractions take me off-course too often.
It’s a constant exercise in discipline. I still like sugary foods, and desire them often. But to keep these positives listed above, I consciously avoid them.
Negative (or neutral) Effects of the Diet
I am always thirsty and my mouth gets dry. I drink a lot more water. Therefore, I have to go to the bathroom a lot more.
My mouth also often has a metallic taste to it.
Initially I was limited in social environments. I couldn’t go out and get beers with friends, or even go out to eat because most of the food has too many carbs and I didn’t know what to choose.
However, after getting used to the diet this becomes easier.
It doesn’t have to rule your entire life once you’re comfortable with the habits and effects.
I’ve really enjoyed it so far. I’ve been traveling a lot which makes it harder to find options on a budget, so a couple days ago I actually decided I was going to quit.
Then, when I had the opportunity to eat, I couldn’t bring myself to eat a non-keto-friendly meal. I want to keep my commitment, plus I’ve really enjoyed the extra focus and energy. I’m gonna ride it out.
10 more days.
Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis. Praxis is a 9-month apprenticeship program for kids who want more than college. Praxis places participants in high-growth startups, giving them experience creating value in a real business.
He’s been obsessed with creating a better option for the past few years. In this interview, Isaac dives into the story of how he turned this radical idea into an actual business. He talks about scalability, future goals, past struggles, and finding the first customer, and much more.
This episode is one of my favorites. Apart from Praxis, Isaac opens up about anything from personal branding to parenting. He also takes questions from current participants towards the end.
This was a truly engaging conversation, and I hope you enjoy it!
Find Isaac here.
On my flight today, I observed man and woman bickering at each other. They were finding their seats and frankly acting quite childish. Every time I thought the argument had ended, one of them threw in another snarky comment at the other to escalate it out of pride. We’ve all been there.
Then I noticed a big sparkly wedding band on her left hand. It all made sense.
This was a married couple who had probably been together for a while and perhaps lost their spark. From my point of view, the only thing they had in common was the wedding ring. It really seemed like they weren’t happy together.
They gave up everything for each other when they were young. They rode the honeymoon phase of the relationship straight into a wedding, after only knowing each other for a year. Gradually, they got to know each other more and got to know themselves less. They developed a rut in their communication, and everything started to stagnate. These communication habits among other things prevented each of them from growing in their own way, so they both held each other back unknowingly. They now resent each other for it. Now, despite their unhappiness, they refuse to be one of those couples who get divorced for any number of reasons.
OK… I’m clearly generalizing here. Obviously I don’t know enough about this relationship to make an accurate judgement call. They could be very happy together, and this could be just how they interact. The bitterness also could have been a rare occurrence since it was a 6 am flight.
But for argument’s sake, let’s assume my generalization is correct. After all – if not here, this scenario surely exists somewhere.
What’s holding them together?
Is it the wedding ring? This is a symbol for love, and at one point it accurately represented their relationship. But people change, relationships grow, and it no longer fits. Yet the ring is still on her finger.
Is it the fear of being labeled as “divorced”? This is a symbol for failed love. It carries embarrassment, shame, and heartbreak. Those feelings are here, yet the label is not.
What if those symbols never existed? Would it be easier to act rationally in accordance with the present situation? Have the symbols hindered their ability to look past them?
For starters, they wouldn’t be married. They would merely be two separate people who used to love each other, but don’t anymore, though they still live together and they share a fair amount of habits and family relationships.
I’m convinced that even the most glamorous of wedding rings doesn’t have the power to hold together a dead relationship. It must be deeper than that.
Is it the unwillingness to break comfort of the habits they’ve developed over years? Is it the fear of being alone? Is it indecisiveness stemmed from sheer uncertainty?
It could be any combination of these.
Because she still wears the ring it on her finger, she examines the symbol itself; not what it was created to represent.
It doesn’t take much thought to look at the symbol and be reminded of what it stands for. It takes a lot more thought, energy, and emotion to look past the symbol and depict the objective reality of the situation.
They did that once when they got married.
Symbols blind us from reality. They are shortcuts. In this ever-changing life, it is impossible to wrap something up into a nice label that always fits.
They are useful tools, but we must consistently reexamine the substance behind the symbol.
The only reason symbols exist is to represent what’s behind them. It’s the changing reality that gives the symbol its value, and to rely on it without examination is to ignore reality.
When we default to relying on symbols instead of assessing reality, we lose touch with what the label once represented.
A college degree is a symbol. It says “this person is good enough to work in a job in X field.” Once upon a time, that symbol was accurate. But we have evolved and a college degree no longer accurately represents competence, just like the relationship evolved, rendering the wedding ring meaningless.
A job title is a symbol, when really it represents the certain actions someone does in order to accomplish certain tasks. It is not always uniform, and these tasks and actions evolves as the business does.
We call ourselves Christians, Atheists, Republicans, and Democrats without really knowing what they mean.
Symbols are here to represent something that innately cannot be represented. Use them with caution, and think.
When you’re having trouble creating, try consuming.
Consume blog posts, articles, podcasts, audiobooks, and videos. Read, listen and watch. Observe the world around you.
Once you’ve started consuming, you will hit a point. At this point, the new information in your brain will come together to form an original idea. This idea will have components of your recent consumptions, but it won’t be the same. It’ll be new. It’ll be worth sharing.
Then, create. Write a blog post, write an article, have a conversation, write a book, or make a video. Write, speak, and build. Use the idea to create something through action.
We must consume. It is the fuel of creation.
We consume creations, then we apply our own perspective and create again. This is how we grow.
We must choose to create.
Creating is what gives consuming its value. Without creating, consuming is like learning a language but never speaking it with someone.
It is learning without applying. It is gaining knowledge in vain.
Start by creating. If you’re having trouble, go back to the top of this article.
When you can’t think of what to do, stop thinking.
You will put yourself in motion, which will result in displacement. From this new spot you will have a new vantage point.
Then, you can think again, with a new perspective.
And when you get stuck, go back to doing.
Doing and thinking are mutually exclusive. If you’re doing, you can’t be thinking. If you’re thinking, you can’t be doing. It’s one or the other.
When you think too much, your body will know it’s time to get moving. When you do too much, you’ll need to step back and think.
There is a happy balance.
Without thinking, doing is ineffective.
Without doing, thinking is unproductive.
I get asked this question a lot. This is a pretty serious topic for most people. Parents play such a huge role in our lives, so when they disapprove of our decisions, it’s hard to ignore.
This happens so often because of the nature of the shift our generation is going through.
Our parents grew up seeking a degree because they knew it would provide the safety and stability that their parents didn’t have, and thus valued so much.
Instead of safety and security, young people now value freedom. This is a result of the outdated school system paired with the global interconnectedness that technology has brought.
As freedom becomes more valued, it also becomes more within our grasp.
Digital entrepreneurship has replaced a college degree as the most efficient way to start a career. It is now more of a risk to go to college than it is to start an online business. Taylor Pearson dives into this topic in his book, The End of Jobs. I highly recommend reading that.
The sad truth is that many parents simply don’t understand this, or don’t accept it. They spent a large portion of their careers saving up money so you could go to college and have the safety and security.
I don’t hold anything against them – it must be hard to have your kids tell you that the decisions you based your entire career and lifestyle on for 40+ years don’t make sense for you. To hear, “Thanks for saving 18 years for my college, but I really don’t think college is worth it.”
Understand that your parents want what’s best for you. They want you to be safe, because it’s their job to protect you. They naturally want you to make safer decisions to minimize risk. And for their entire lives, college has been the safest, default option.
It’s not about convincing your parents they’re wrong. It’s about helping them to understand why you’re making the decision you’re making.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you want to avoid an argument at all costs. You want them to know you value their opinion and their insight. This is the first step in getting them to understand, or at least accept your decision.
The best way to get into a yelling match is to openly reject their opinion. Your parents usually have an explainable reason for why they disapprove. If you respect that, the chances are higher that they will respect yours too.
Welcome their opinions with genuine curiosity. Show them that you value their feedback. Thank them for weighing in with their opinions, but when you disagree with what they say, be polite and honest, telling them that you respectfully disagree. Explain your reasoning.
While you want to understand and be grateful for their input, that doesn’t mean you have to agree with them.
Realize that you don’t need your parents’ approval to live your life. They are your parents. They created you. But they are not you. You’re the one who gets to make your own decisions with your own life, just like they do with theirs.
Have confidence in your decision. Don’t let their opinions make you second-guess yourself.
If you hear them out, thank them for their input, and rationally explain yourself with unwavering confidence in a way that makes sense, they will notice. They will see that you’re driven. They will see that you have thought through the options and come to a rational decision. It might take a while because of the shocking difference in culture and values, but they will come around eventually.
Every situation is different. I’d like to offer up my time to help you if you’re struggling with breaking the news to your parents. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for some 1-on-1 help with this.
Ben is back – this week on Thursday.
It’s hard to commit. During transitions, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking, planning and strategizing. The more time you spend doing this, the less time you can spend doing something meaningful. Thinking and doing are mutually exclusive.
In this episode we talk about what it takes to fully commit to something, switch off your thinking brain to avoid second-guessing yourself, and push through the inevitably unenjoyable portions of the journey.
We mention Don’t Do Stuff You Hate (which is free until Dec. 3rd)!
Once upon a time, I was an International Baccalaureate student. This was an elite group of students within my high school. We had more homework, read more advanced books, and were held to a higher academic standard than the rest of the students.
While I despised the schoolwork, I quite enjoyed the social atmosphere of it – this was ultimately what made it bearable.
In high school, I got to goof off with my friends during the day. In college, the dorm experience is unmatched when it comes to socializing and making new friends. It was fun.
I had fun in school because I put most of my energy during the day towards things other than schoolwork. I would study social dynamics and behavior of the people around me for fun, something that is very transparent in a high school. I observed, and learned a lot about how people interact, why drama is created, and what to do about it. I would talk my friends through their problems and I enjoyed giving rational advice because I understood the situation from an objective point of view.
I remember the day I stopped trying in school.
It was 8th grade, and I had a crush on a girl. We were in math class together. As a 13 year-old, it got me a lot of attention when I pretended like I didn’t care about school, and that’s one thing I cared about: getting that girl’s attention.
That day, we were all supposed to be quietly working on our math problems. Instead, I would give her looks and mess around, showing that I don’t care about working on my math problems even though that’s what the teacher said we were supposed to do. I really felt like a badass.
Over time, avoiding schoolwork became a habit, even after the girl was gone.
But I’m convinced this habit wasn’t a product of the girl. It was inevitable. I never really tried in school up to this point. I had been a straight-A student because the assignments were easy and I was generally a bright kid.
Eventually it was clear to me that I couldn’t stand it. Most of the time I either didn’t do the work and accepted a 0 on the assignment, or found a way to complete it without actually doing it.
I remember one time I had a 4000-word extended-essay that I had known about for over a year. Some kids started a year early. Some started 6 months early. I started 2 days before it was due, and stayed up all night cranking it out. This was the biggest writing assignment of my high school career. I honestly couldn’t tell you the topic. That’s how little I cared about that assignment.
Deep down I never cared about school. The stuff I was supposed to be learning didn’t matter to me. It didn’t excite me in the slightest. Out of the 20+ books I was supposed to read in high school, I probably actually read 4 or 5. And I look back on those ones fondly, because I was genuinely interested in them. I wasn’t able to bring myself to spend my time reading the other ones because I didn’t care.
No teacher could make me care. My parents couldn’t make my care. The threat of not getting into a good college couldn’t make me care (I was confident I could figure that out when I got there).
Sometimes I was able to will myself to give a solid effort, but only out of respect for the teachers I liked, and the effort came in rare, short bursts.
Having the drive to excel is completely unsustainable when the thing you’re putting your energy into isn’t returning excitement or motivation.
My modus operandi in school was not learning my subjects, but figuring out how to get good enough grades to pass. That’s the goal, right? I was pretty good at it.
I even got my IB diploma, something not everybody earns even after going through the program. I barely got it based off my test scores, but scraping by had worked for me up until this point. It was a game.
A’s are better than B’s which are better than C’s, right? But why? If I got a C, I still passed the class. My life went on as normal. Sure, my GPA would drop, but I didn’t feel any immediate effects from that, and quite frankly, I was totally content with having 2.something.
I went through the motions for the entirety of high school feeling like an imposter every day. I never brought this up to anyone. My own self-confidence was damaged because of it.
Every day I felt like I was digging myself into a deeper hole. Every day it got harder to bring it up to anyone. Suggesting the idea that school was hurting me more than helping me would be utterly ridiculous. So I kept quiet and plugged along, treating my entire life the same way as I treated my school assignments – the only way I knew how to treat anything: half-heartedly.
I was a smart kid. I had a lot of common sense. I was well-spoken, well-written, and I had big aspirations. I had a strong work ethic, just like the other elite International Baccalaureate students. But my attitude towards academia was the same as that of the druggies who smoked cigs in the corner of the school parking lot.
In either group I was an imposter.
This attitude was wrong by all the standards I had grown up with, and those of everyone around me, so I had a looming sense of guilt for it. But this didn’t change the way I acted. No amount of guilt could change my true inner values.
School told me that I should be studying math, science, reading, government, history, and writing. School told me that I can pick from electives like psychology or economics. School told me what I should like. How I should act. What goals to have, and what I’m supposed to do to get there.
School never asked me what I wanted. School encouraged me to do something exciting. It only made me feel guilty for not being excited about what everyone else was supposed to be excited about.
This ultimately lasted 3 semesters into college, where, yet again, I had a blast with the social scene, and avoided schoolwork at all costs. I skipped class most days because there wasn’t a point in me going. I knew that even if I went, I would find a way to be distracted and I wouldn’t really gain value out of it, so why waste the time walking there when I could read a book I enjoy or hang out with my friends?
The 3rd semester, I failed 3 out of my 5 classes. The only ones I passed were Psychology and Philosophy, with a C in both.
This was the last straw. My student loans were piling up, and it seemed like I was getting worse and worse at school. I had a lot of ground to make up if I was going to stick with it.
I had finally found something that excited me – entrepreneurship. I ran a house painting business over the summer and felt the highs of making sales, the lows of screwing up the production of those deals, and I made it out alive with a valuable skillset backed by an exciting story.
I finally got to apply my mind to something real, in a practical way. I felt my own success, and for the first time in my life I didn’t feel like an imposter.
So I went back to college for a 4th semester, and resolved to put that new-found energy back into my college courses.
Remember what I said earlier?
“Having the drive to excel is completely unsustainable when the thing you’re putting your energy into isn’t returning excitement or motivation.”
I lasted 3 days, then I dropped out. This was undoubtedly the most liberating decision I’ve ever made, and it’s lead to my proudest moments as a leader, author, and entrepreneur.
I really don’t.
Does a part of me hope you read this?
Do I hope you gain value when you read it?
But in the end, I’m not writing for you. I’m writing for myself. I’m being selfish.
I’ve been on a daily blog post streak for two weeks.
Yesterday, I released a podcast, but I didn’t write a blog post. All day, I tried to convince myself that releasing the podcast counts. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt for not writing. I recorded that podcast a month ago and it was all set to release. All I had to do was add the intro/outro and upload it. I felt like I was using my podcast as a cop-out to not write because I didn’t feel like it.
So, I wrote two today. This one and that one.
I know that writing every day and putting my thoughts and ideas out there for the world to see is good for me.
Writing is creating. Creating is putting ideas into reality. Putting ideas into reality is paramount to having an impact on the world and the people around you.
Writing every day is a practice in discipline. I don’t always feel like writing, but I do it anyways because I previously decided that it would be good for me. I didn’t feel like writing tonight, but I sat down and forced myself to do it. Now I’m feeling great.
Publishing a post every day consistently puts me in the spotlight – a place where fear is abundant. Instead of avoiding this fear, I get to play with it every day. Now I’m comfortable with it. Putting my ideas out there for the world to see guarantees I will be judged, disagreed with, scrutinized, praised, commended, or any combination.
So I will continue to put my blinders on. I will create and ship every day, even when I don’t feel like it. I will continue to do this for myself because I know it’s good for me.
We humans naturally gravitate towards habits, comfort, and patterns. We also have the capability to consciously break our own patterns and instincts to create new ones based on our imagination. It’s fascinating.
Growth happens when we break these patterns and replace them.
Bringing yourself to start something new is hard. It’s an entirely different process than continuing to do something you’ve been doing. You’re doing something that is uncomfortable by nature, which goes against your human instincts.
When I think of changing my habits, I see an image of myself stopping a moving train. After it’s stopped (which is a hefty task in and of itself), I have to push the train in the other direction and get it moving again.
I’ve been blogging every day for 13 days. It was really hard for the first few days. It would take me hours but now it’s just part of my routine.
I’ve been on a ketogenic diet for 15 days now. It was hard to adjust, mentally and physically, for the first few days. Now it feels like part of my routine.
Starting is the hardest part. Keep that in mind when you’re starting something new. If you force yourself to be uncomfortable for 3 days, chances are it will start to feel comfortable on the 4th.
Mitchell kicks ass.
This was an engaging conversation with Mitchell Broderick, the first Praxis Participant.
Mitchell’s worldview is fascinating to me. He is able to look at situations objectively and act in a rational way while acknowledging emotions, but not submitting to them.
He offers insights on self-improvement, mindset, building a career path, and much more.
Topics we discuss:
Self-Esteem vs. Self-Confidence
How tough beginnings lead to strength
The reality of sales and cold calling
Why he got fired from Taco Bell
Hitting rock bottom
College as an investment
Being the first Praxis Participant
Reach out to Mitchell:
Artists and creatives are consistently under-paid, or expected to work for free. Though I have written previously about how offering free work can be a good strategy for starting up in a new field, it’s a pattern worth investigating.
It’s not that people aren’t willing to pay. And it’s not that art is undervalued. It’s just that art is seen in a different light than most other professions.
Have you ever seen a house painter do work for free just to get his name out there?
I know I haven’t. And I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t either. Painting sucks. It’s not enjoyable, and everyone knows that, including the customer.
That’s the difference between art and everything else. People create art because they love it. It’s a creative process that allows you to express emotions, thoughts, feelings, or whatever you want to express. It’s fun. It’s personal.
It can be a “trade”, much like house painting is a “trade”. The service is traded for money. House painting, however, is always a trade, while people do art for fun all the time.
So maybe this is why: everyone knows art isn’t necessarily a trade, thus it’s harder to pay somebody for something they would be doing for free anyways.
Let’s flip this scenario around.
Maybe it’s not that customers view it as harder to pay artists. Maybe it’s that artists know in their hearts they would do it for free, so they create a mental block that keeps them from confidently demanding a payment.
Think about something you really enjoy doing that produces value. For me, it’s photography. While I have gotten paid to do photography, I’ve done mostly free work because I enjoy it. Some of which I bet I could have gotten paid for if I pushed for it, but I didn’t, because I enjoyed it and didn’t feel like someone should pay me to have fun even though it was providing value for them and I could have used the money.
I’ve also done house painting, but never for free. Every time I approach a house-painting customer, my mindset is totally different from when I’m doing photography. There’s a rock solid mutual understanding that if I’m going to put in the work to complete a quality job, I’m going to get paid well for it.
I wonder what would happen if I approached a photography customer the same way. If I went in with certainty that my work was highly valued and is unquestionably worth trading for money.
Artists can, will, and do work for free. But art and creativity is unanimously valuable. Thus, people are willing to pay for it.
All you have to do is ask. Own it.
I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. On one hand, I gain tons of value from the relevant articles and blog posts that my friends post. On the other hand, it’s tough not to let the new updates distract me from what I’m doing.
Constant distractions make it hard to get deep tasks done. The continuous starting/stopping prevents creative momentum from building.
So I created a game to combat this. The game is called FB123.
The concept is simple: limit yourself to checking Facebook 3 times per day.
Write “FB123” on your hand at the beginning of the day. Every time you check Facebook, cross off one of the numbers. Once you’ve crossed off all 3 numbers, no more Facebook until the next day, when the numbers reset.
This works for several reasons. First, it forces you to use Facebook in chunks. Instead of hopping on and off and constantly switching tasks, you catch up completely and filter through everything on your plate in one sitting. That way when you close the app, you forget about it and are able to fully move on to the next thing.
Turning off Facebook push notifications will make this 10x easier.
Then, once you start the next task, you won’t be tempted to check notifications as they come, since you will have a chunk of time when you can catch back up after the notifications build up.
This also eliminates FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), since you are not missing out on anything – you are simply being more efficient with your time.
By consciously setting these limits, I was able to turn Facebook into a tool that I control, not a distraction that controls me.
The first day I tried this, in lieu of checking Facebook, I opted to:
- Read a book
- Go on a run
- Have an engaging phone call with my brother
On top of this, I got more done and felt more productive about my day than I typically do.
This concept can be used for email, texting, or any other form of communication to increase efficiency.
There is one two-word trait that requires no special skill, can be done by anybody, and will make you more valuable than any amount of experience and knowledge.
Before we get there, I have a story for you.
I used to have this roommate. He was a great guy, super friendly, but sometimes could be forgetful. I was in charge of the internet bill, so when I got the bill every month I would pay it, then charge him for half of it on Venmo.
You can request money on Venmo, so this made the process easy – err, it should have.
After sending the request, I forget about it because there are more important things to focus my daily energy on than half of an internet bill. Plus, once I had requested the payment, no more reminders should be necessary – this is meant to be a one-time simple task.
A few days would go by, and randomly I would have a mini panic attack. I realized that the internet bill situation was still not resolved. So I would remind him.
Another few days would go by. And another reminder.
He always paid it within a week, but not without 2-4 separate reminders from me. This happened… Every. Single. Month.
When a task or an exchange involves more than just yourself, there’s a degree of trust that goes into the interaction. I had to request the money, then trust that he would see it and fulfill the request.
This became an incredibly frustrating exchange because after completing the task, I had to do the same task over and over again, with the effectiveness of it being completely out of my control.
This was completely unnecessary, and a direct result of the other party not following through.
Which leads me to my point.
These two words will change your life. This is the number one trait you can develop in your personal and professional relationships. Making this a habit is more valuable than any amount of experience, knowledge, or credentials.
This requires no skill, but it does require a small amount of effort.
I’m not perfect, and I have not followed through on many occasions. Looking back, these moments have lead to shame, embarrassment, and a negative self-image.
Not following through causes people to trust you less. You start to develop a reputation of flakiness. You create unnecessary work for the people around you. Commitments that you make lose their meaning, and it starts to become OK to not do something if you don’t feel like it, regardless of what or whom is counting on you.
This is what happened with my roommate. Luckily, it was a meaningless internet bill. Can you imagine if this was a different relationship where there was more at stake? If I had to count on him for my business? For my livelihood? For the satisfaction of customers or employees?
You should approach every interaction you have with respect, follow through and courtesy. Spend the extra small amount of effort and follow through.
You will build your reputation as being somebody who is gets shit done. People will trust you more. You will be the go-to person when somebody needs help or needs something done right. You will save the people around you time and stress. People will go to bat for you. People won’t be so quick to question your judgement. People will talk about you as somebody who is reliable, competent, and respectful.
People will hold you to a higher standard. They will expect more out of you. This will hold you to a higher standard, and so you will hold yourself to a higher standard, and you will be better for it.
This requires no skill, no experience, and no prior knowledge. The cost is so low and the reward is so high. By developing follow-through as a habit first, you will put yourself in a position to gain experience and knowledge from the people around you who want to spend time with you and work with you.
Try it out.
I’m spending Thanksgiving with my lovely aunt Jill. I’m lucky to have her close by in California while the rest of my family is in the freezing cold on the east coast.
Jill is a musician. She’s incredibly creative and artistic, and it shows when you meet her.
Last night, I was in Jill’s studio at 11 pm playing with the African guitar shown in the picture above. I’d never seen one of these things before. I was instantly drawn to it.
In her soundproof studio, there are about 100 different instruments in it. It’s like a playground for creativity. It’s full of musical equipment and instruments I’ve never seen or heard of before – anything from bongo drums to ukuleles to pianos, and everything in between.
Being in here makes me feel like a kid. New instruments to explore, new sounds to be heard, and best of all: no rules or instructions.
That’s the cool thing about music. Instruments are just that: instruments. Tools we use to implement sounds. Much like a surgical instrument is a tool for a person to do surgery, a musical instrument is a tool for a person to play music.
Without the surgeon, the surgical instrument lays uselessly idle. Without the musician, the musical instrument remains uselessly silent.
There are traditional ways to hold and play each instrument, but these are only suggestions. Beautiful sounds can come from instruments being played in nontraditional ways. Experimenting with a new one for the first time calls for pure creativity.
I couldn’t help but relate this process back to learning.
Experimenting with a new instrument is a most pure form of learning.
Using your sight, you develop a hypothesis of what it will sound like based on the material, and any previous experience you have with anything similar.
You test the hypothesis by touching it, hitting it, plucking the strings, or pressing the keys. A sound is created.
You hear the sound, and touch, hit, pluck, or press something else. A new sound is created. You start to recognize patterns, one by one.
This is exactly what I did with the African guitar. After 10 minutes of playing, I became familiar with the basic sounds that the instrument makes and how to create them. I was able to create simple patterns and simple melodies.
From there, it becomes a matter of practice and muscle memory to actually develop some talent over time.
None of this can be taught in a textbook or in a lecture. It must be learned hands on. The tactile and sensory feedback of actually playing with an instrument engages our brains and bodies in a way that is utterly natural and coercive.
I can’t think of a time I experienced this feeling of pure exploration and creativity in school, other than playing on the playground at recess.
Be a kid again. Explore something new, and experience what it’s like to learn.
I love teaching people. There’s something exciting about passing on insights from my own experience and watching somebody take it, internalize it, and accomplish a goal.
It’s validating. It shows you that what you’ve done not only worked for you, but will prove valuable as a story and example for others.
Watching somebody accomplish a goal as a result of your teachings builds confidence, which turns you into a better leader. You’re able to own your process, and people notice that demeanor.
Most people wait until they’re an expert before they teach. Which means they never become a leader because it takes a long time to become an expert – sometimes longer to consider yourself an expert.
Here’s my principle:
You don’t have to be an expert before you teach something.
You just have to know more than average.
The best leaders learn as they teach. It keeps their perspectives open, updated and fresh. It helps them connect with their students because they understand the problems they’re going through on a very close and personal level – because they just figured out how to solve them.
For example, I recently picked up photography. I don’t have much experience with it, but about a month in, I have more experience than somebody who is just starting now.
This actually gives me an advantage over people with years of experience. Somebody who is just picking up photography is about to go through the same thing I went through in the past month. The experience is fresh in my mind, and while I may not have all the answers, I have highly recent and relevant insights into the specific struggles they may encounter.
Learning and teaching simultaneously is powerful. Teaching somebody else accelerates your own learning because it forces you to review what you learned in new ways, and articulate it in a way that makes sense to someone else.
Don’t wait to be an expert. Don’t be afraid to teach people what you know.
This episode is part 1 of a new series called True Talk Tuesdays with Ben Cummings. This series will be a weekly 10-20 minute podcast with where we dive deep into one topic or idea. Likely this will be an idea or lesson we have been wrestling with over the past week.
I am very growth oriented, so this will help me move solidify some of the lessons I’m learning each week, while letting you in on the raw details of my struggle and journey.
Entrepreneurship is all Ben knows. Since age 10 he has been closing deals and delivering value, starting with landscaping and currently in video production.
Ben and I went on an RV tour across the country to convince kids to drop out of college. In this episode we briefly touch on this experience before we dive into practical examples on how to build lasting habits.
We want to keep True Talk Tuesdays raw, so be prepared for some laughing, some unscripted goofiness, but most of all, valuable insights.
Discipline is freedom.
One week ago, I started a Ketogenic Diet. People use this diet to lose weight, gain mental clarity, and increase their daily energy.
I’m generally healthy, and I’m not trying to lose weight. This is strictly an experiment to see how my body reacts to a calculated change in diet. Plus, I’m interested in the mental clarity and increased energy.
Our bodies are truly fascinating. They are bio-machines. Much like a car performs based on the fuel it is given, our bodies perform based on what we eat, adjusting as necessary.
I’ve never seriously experimented with my diet before, other than short-lived vague resolutions like “eat more vegetables” or “eat less candy”, so this whole thing is new to me.
I did some research online, asked a few friends, and came up with a grocery list. This article by Chase Paisley was helpful when choosing what to buy.
Really, it’s quite simple. Stick to 30% protein and 70% fat (saturated and monounsaturated), and avoid carbs and sugar altogether. This means foods like fish, chicken, green veggies, butter, and coconut oil.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a nutritionist. I oversimplified this to make it easy for me to digest. Pun intended. Do your own research before trying for yourself.
A couple friends had recently discussed the diet around me, and the idea of manipulating my mood and energy through selective eating intrigued me, especially since it was minor routine and diet changes – nothing drastic. I still had to cut out things like beer and fruit, but it was only 30 days – I knew I could last, and I was excited about what I might learn.
From the moment I bought the groceries, I was committed. This was partly because I had just invested $100 in food, but also because I was genuinely interested in the experiment.
The first few days were tough. My body was not used to running off of fat instead of sugar. I craved sweets, and my meals were unsatisfying. Alas, I pushed on. My body began to adjust within about 5 days.
I was presented with plenty of opportunities to eat sugar that I normally would have taken without thinking about it. Instead of switching to autopilot and submitting to my impulsive desire, I took a step back and reminded myself that I had committed to something bigger, something more important. One cookie pales in comparison to an opportunity to test and learn something new about my body.
I always imagined that limiting myself in this way would make me weak. I thought dieting would hinder my freedom and make me a slave to healthy foods.
Now I realize it makes me strong. It makes me more free. It puts me in charge of my actions based on my chosen values.
It was surprisingly easy to demonstrate my self control and pass up impulses for sugar after I had decided to do the diet. I was choosing to pass up sugar, because I had already taken stock of my values and decided that my diet experiment was more valuable.
After a few days, this revolutionary thought process became automatic.
I had been blogging and documenting a lot, so I decided to do a short video entry every day to capture my meals and how I felt during the shift.
I stuck with it. It was easy, since I was already practicing daily discipline. This built up small wins, and gave me some confidence in my own self control. So I slowly, naturally, started adding things.
I would meditate most days and exercise a few times a week. Now I am committed to doing both of these daily.
I wrote blogs and thank-you cards every once in a while, when I felt inspired. Now, it’s a daily habit that I am committed to.
I started small.
My goal is to meditate every day. Not meditate for 20 minutes. Some days I meditate for 2 minutes. Some days I meditate for 10 minutes.
My goal is to exercise every day. Not to exercise for 2 hours. Sometimes I do 10 pushups. Sometimes I run 6 miles.
The important thing is that you stick to it, and commit to daily growth. Setting low benchmarks makes it easier to start, and once you start, it’s easier to continue.
Before I knew it, I was on a streak. On top of avoiding sugar and sticking to the Ketogenic diet, I’ve done each of the following every day for 7 days:
- Keto Diet vlog entry
- Blog post
- Write a thank you card to somebody
Previously, I’ve tried to turn these into daily habits. I tried to start all 5 things at once, but it was too daunting so I gave up.
Starting small is the key.
Find a way to get some small wins under your belt. Commit to one small thing. Show yourself that you can be disciplined on a small level first, then you’ll naturally start adding other things you care about and it won’t even seem like a big deal.
Discipline is freedom.
I launched my podcast 10 weeks ago, to the day. It was never meant to be a life-changing project or one of the best podcasts out there, but I did have specific reasons for starting it the way I did.
- I wanted an excuse to interview interesting people. People are generally flattered when you ask them to come on your podcast, and I knew this would give me a reason to not only hear their story in depth, but to record it and listen back without being creepy.
- I wanted to build a digital backlog of valuable content. Every one of the conversations I’ve put out has been valuable to at least one person.
Before it launched, I was just beginning to build my personal brand and put it all in one place. I had a book, some impressive work experience, and social media pages, but that was about it. My digital paper trail was lacking and this seemed like a fun way to add to it.
It’s tough starting something from scratch. I had to accept the fact that I wouldn’t see much or any benefit from this for months, or years. I was also putting some pressure on myself. I had interviewed 6 people before I launched my first episode, so if I didn’t follow through, I would be letting people down. Social accountability is healthy.
I’ve already benefited massively from this project – and not all of it was intended.
I’ve picked up some valuable habits, insights, and book recommendations from my guests. I also learned about a wide range of topics from language-learning to parenting and everything in between.
I got better at asking questions and listening. It’s a noisy world, and everybody has something to say. I love to talk about myself, but my podcast has trained my listening ear.
Hosting a podcast interview is quite an experience the first time. There’s the pressure of the audience (represented by the recording device) that feels like it’s analyzing every word you say.
Guests aren’t always the best at staying on track, so you have to take control in the form of asking good questions. You have to tease the most valuable stories or insights out of your guest. It’s an art.
I’ve found that asking questions about specific events or memories are very helpful in teasing a specific and valuable lesson out of somebody.
I got better at speaking. Speaking in front of people is hard because you’re not just speaking your mind, you have to actively ignore the clear awareness that people are listening. This is hard, but the only way to get better is to practice.
I learned some basic design and podcast hosting. I didn’t have a budget to outsource any of this at the time, so I designed the logo myself and figured out all the mechanics behind RSS feeds and hosting a podcast on my own. Isaac Morehouse has an article that was very helpful if you’re thinking about starting a podcast.
If you’re on the fence, just go for it. Commit to 10 episodes. If you absolutely hate it, stop. It’s not about having the most popular podcast. It’s about learning how to provide value while developing yourself and your brand.
This week we have a special short edition. It’s about 10 minutes long.
I was in Austin for a conference last weekend, and I had an interesting debate about whether or not college is worth it with my Fasten driver (Uber for Austin).
I was able to record it and couldn’t resist posting it up as a podcast, so here you go.
We go back and forth about the cost of acquiring knowledge, real world experience, the current value of credentials, and much more.
I’ve known Andy for a few years now. In the summer of 2016 he bought a one-way ticket to Alaska. Up there, he bought a truck, lived out of it for 2 month while vagabonding around. He sold the truck for $1000 more than what he spent on it, then headed to Europe for 1 month.
Andy’s always been the entrepreneurial type – can you tell?
Sidenote: I visited him up in Alaska for 10 days, and let me tell you – it was awesome. If you like traveling and haven’t been, do it.
Anyway, a few nights ago he sent me a text out of the blue that said something like this:
So here’s the deal- I’m flat broke and I gotta get some cash reasonably fast. So… I’m taking some of my scrap leather from my boot making days and making some journals to try to sell. I just created an Instagram profile a few minutes ago to show these journals on. If I tag you or something, just go with it.
Hell yeah! I love seeing people make moves and create under stressful situations. I showed my support by following him and liking his photos.
Less than two hours later, he sent me this:
His first sale!
All he did was make a journal and create an Instagram profile to showcase his journals. He didn’t worry about setting up a supply-chain, or doing extensive market research, or even creating a website. He got to the point first.
He found the shortest possible path to go from idea to first sale.
He utilized an existing platform and kept it simple.
Here’s what Andy wrote about his experience:
When I got back home I had $100. From there I packed up a 1966 camper and drove West, towards Salt Lake City to work for a pre-revenue start-up.
I found an ad on craigslist of a guy who would let me park my camper in his driveway for $50 a week. I’m still flat broke but working full-time at this start-up. I had some leftover leather from a college project so I figured I would try to sell these journals to keep up with my finances until this start-up takes off.
Oddly enough, from the time I decided to start making the first journal to my first request it was less than three hours.
When you’re young, the opportunity cost to dive into an exciting idea is as low as it will ever be. Take advantage of that, and sacrifice 3 hours to create something and see if it works. You’ll learn a valuable lesson no matter what happens, and you might even end up with a cash flow generating side-hustle!
I used to think making my bed was completely redundant. It didn’t make sense to me. Why was I supposed to make the bed look good in the morning, spend all day doing other things, only to come back at night and mess it up instantly?
My parents tried and tried to work this into my routine, but it was a constant struggle. I wasn’t OK doing something I thought was pointless. As soon as I moved out, my bed looked like scrambled eggs 24/7 for years.
For the past 3 months, I’ve made my bed every single day. Without fail. Before you get too impressed though, I will say: Making your bed really isn’t hard.
There wasn’t a specific moment when I made a conscious decision to do this. There was definitely some reasoning behind it, but it just kind of merged into a daily habit that made sense. I had just wrapped up my cross-country RV tour, and I was craving some sort of structure.
Making my bed every day became an integral part of that structure. It allows me to start my day off with a sense of organization. When I’m in a tired haze after just waking up and popping out of bed, my brain feels exactly how my bed looks: Totally scrambled.
I’m a hands-on learner, so taking a few extra seconds to physically straighten up my bed brings a sort of organizational clarity to my mind. This is powerful at the very beginning of a day.
It also gives me a sense of control; a feeling of being in the drivers seat. My bed may have consumed me all night, but the moment I wake up, I’m in charge.
The first thing I’ve done that day is successfully accomplish a problem. This immediately creates a sense of confidence in your ability to step up and tackle problems without hesitation.
“The bed was messy and I made it clean.”
You can say this with pride.
Yes, it is a small and mostly insignificant problem, but it’s not about the bed. It’s about what your brain goes through when you make your bed. Do not underestimate the momentum that can be built from this. Even the smallest steps done at the right time build on each other to create a day full of intense productivity.
Now, it’s important to note – making my bed isn’t the magic formula for a perfectly productive day. Of course I have days where I make my bed and then everything else goes to shit.
But, picture this: on the worst day possible, I’ll come back home, cursing myself for everything that went wrong, and I’ll be greeted by my nicely made bed. It serves as a token of my accomplishment. A reminder that, in the storm of everything going wrong, I was still able to keep one small part of my life under control.
That ends the day on a positive note and allows me to start fresh the next day.
Tim Ferriss talks about this in his podcast, along with other morning rituals.
Try it out. It takes 10 seconds each day. That’s not a very high cost for the potential reward.
Photo Credit: Jess Dalene
A few weeks ago I bought a DSLR camera.
I’ve always been interested in photography, but never had the courage to really invest into it until now.
Within 2 days of buying the camera, I had a $300/month contract with a local co-working space to photograph two of their events every month.
How did this happen?
I literally walked into their event with my camera, didn’t know anybody, and I asked if they could use some photography work for free since I wanted to practice. Throughout the night I was taking pictures, networking with people, and gaining hands-on photography experience.
The pictures turned out great and I shared them with the coordinator for free. She offered to pay me if I committed to 2 events/month because she liked the photos so much.
There’s no doubt I was a bit lucky getting a paid gig out of my first free one. So I investigated further. I tested different strategies with different potential customers.
It turns out this is a science.
After experimenting, adjusting, and testing, I’ve figured out why this method worked so well. I’ve also learned how to recreate it with consistent results, and I want to share it with you.
I am going to teach you step by step how to make your camera pay for itself in 30 days or less.
Part 1: Do Free Work
Starting by doing free work has three main benefits:
- Get hands on experience
- Build your portfolio
- Make connections (leads)
Step 1 – Find the work.
The first thing you need to do is find potential customers. I recommend starting with events since they are easy to find, easy to approach, and there’s always a need for photography. These can be sporting events, professional events, conferences, concerts, anything really.
This journey begins where all self-directed learning starts: Google.
Search: “Events in (my city).”
Yep. It’s that simple. You can get more specific if you’d like.
You’ll find a lot of concerts this way, and you might get linked to a local news outlet calendar. Both of these are worth checking out.
You can also check Facebook events or Meetup.
You don’t necessarily need to stick to events. You can also offer free professional headshots, senior photos, etc. as long as you’re confident you can deliver quality shots.
Action: List 10 events that seem interesting to you.
Step 2 – Make the offer.
Now you have a list of 10 events. When the first one rolls around, it’s time to make the offer to do free photography.
I did this in person on the day of, a couple hours before it started. You can call ahead too, but I’ve found it’s more difficult to convince someone anonymously over the phone to trust you.
Seeing you standing there with your camera is proof that you’re really a photographer and you’re there to take pictures. There are no surprises. They don’t have to make a decision to pay you. Having a free photographer show up last minute is never an inconvenience.
Even though this approach is short notice, it often comes off as an unexpected surprise and they will typically be happy to welcome you in.
Here’s a sample pitch of what to say when you walk in:
Me: Hey, how are you?
Me: Do you guys have a photographer for the event tonight?
Them: No. (OR) Yes.
Me (If no): Would you like me to photograph the event? I can send you the pictures for free afterwards. This will help me build my portfolio.
Me (If yes): I’ve been getting into photography lately, would you mind if I took some extra pictures? I’ll send them to you for free afterwards. This will help me build my portfolio.
Be confident. Don’t overthink it. The fact that you’re doing it for free should loosen you up a bit. There’s no pressure.
The only objection I can see happening is them showing resistance if they already have a photographer. They may be worried you’ll get in the way.
In that case, say something like this:
“It never hurts to have extra photos. I’ll stay out of the other photographer’s way. It’s completely free, and you won’t be taking advantage of me because I want the experience.”
Note: You can also approach the other photographer and ask if he needs help with capturing other angles.
Just walk in and be honest. They won’t be able to tell you aren’t experienced. Be yourself.
There will be a time and place for professionalism, but don’t worry about that now – your goal is to get some photos to use as social proof. Just get in the room and have fun. A added bonus is some additional experience and connections.
Step 3 – Shoot the event.
I won’t focus on the details of this since I’m focusing more on the business side. I want to accelerate you to get your first paid gig in the shortest amount of time possible.
I’m assuming you have some general knowledge on actually taking photos and have already played around with your camera a bit. If not, the best thing you can do is get a camera and start practicing now.
When I pitched free work initially, I had been exploring my camera and taking shots around town for several hours the day before. The barrier is low, but it helps to have some background. It’s pretty straightforward. Just get started.
If you don’t have a camera yet or haven’t used it much, here are some in-depth resources that might help you:
- Extensive Guide on Buying a new Camera
- How Cameras Work – The Specifics
- In-Depth Guide on Shooting Events
In short: Show up on time, take pictures, and be friendly.
Action: Before you leave the event, find the contact info of the event coordinator.
Step 4 – Deliver.
Deliver the photos within 24 hours. Give them all your photos, even the iffy ones. People like to have options, and the quality of photos can often be subjective.
I like to hand them over in person on a flash drive. You might have to spent $5-$10 but it’s usually worth it. These things are universal and it gives you an opportunity to talk with them face to face afterwards, so you can fully leverage this connection.
Keep in mind photos take up space quickly on Google Drive.
Step 5 – Leverage this.
Here’s where it all becomes worth it. As you’re handing her the flash drive, your customer is ecstatic. She just got free professional photography that she can use for marketing, you were easy to work with, you delivered within 24 hours, and after she takes a look at the photos she’ll be even more impressed.
Action: Ask for a testimonial and 3 referrals.
These two pieces are pure GOLD. Do not miss this step.
You’ll never get them unless you directly ask. This is why it’s beneficial to give them a flash drive so they have an incentive to meet up in person after the job is done.
Print this out. When you’re delivering the photos, have them fill out the sheet on the spot. If you did a good job they will be happy to oblige.
I’ll show you how to leverage this later in the series.
Congratulations! You’ve just completed and delivered your first project. Approach all the events on your list. Do 4-7 free events and you’ll have hands on experience, enough content to build a killer portfolio, reliable social proof, and a list of contacts that will connect you with your first paying gig if you play your cards right.
Comment with your questions!
Part 2 will cover using your photos to create a professional portfolio. Coming soon.
I recently had two interviews for a company I’d really like to work for.
For the first one, I didn’t prepare much. I wrote down some questions, but I went into it trusting that I would know what to do in the moment. The interview went pretty well, but there were definitely some things I wish I said differently. I stumbled through a couple questions and my overall confidence wasn’t where it could have been.
Luckily, I got a second interview. This time I would be ready.
So I tapped into what I had learned over the years from various business coaches, self-improvement experts, and my knowledge of human psychology.
The goal: Trick myself into feeling incredibly confident right before I hop on the call.
Step 1: Visualization
Interviews naturally create jittery feelings. I wanted to deal with these feelings of nervousness, so I detached myself from the outcome.
Ultimately, the decision is out of our hands. We can only control how we perform in the interview. The rest is up to the person making the hiring decision. Nerves come from the uncertainty of the outcome.
But we don’t even desire the outcome. We desire the feeling the outcome will bring; that feeling of accomplishment that comes with winning.
This outcome and the feeling it creates are two separate things. We can forget the outcome and create this confident, winning feeling in another way.
Then, the outcome doesn’t matter. We will continue to live our lives and bring passion and excitement to our work, capitalizing on other opportunities.
Sure, missing the initial opportunity might still bring a period of feeling bummed out. But this is a short-term symptom. The feeling of confidence and empowerment outlasts it (if you decide to let it).
To combat these nerves and detach myself from the outcome, I visualized the day I got the decision. Specifically, I focused on the opportunities that excited me most in each scenario.
After 10 minutes, I had two paragraphs: one where I got the job and was excited about moving to Charleston and working with inspiring people towards an inspiring vision. Another one where I didn’t get the job, and was equally excited because I had the freedom to be my own boss, work on photography, and build my own business teaching entrepreneurship to artists and creatives.
I was now completely detached from the outcome and free to do the interview without jitters and expectations clouding my mind.
Step 2: Affirmations & Self Talk
Our thoughts and words create our reality.
If the dominant thoughts in your head are consistently negative, your mood will follow suit. Conversely, if you walk around all day telling yourself “I’m f***ing awesome,” you’ll feel that way. Here’s an example.
I started by writing down a number of traits I wanted to embody for this interview. I wrote them from the first person and with certainty in mind. The idea is to word them as if they are firm truths, and they always have been. For example, instead of writing “I try to be confident,” I wrote, “I am the type of person who is always confident in his actions.” Some of these included:
I’m incredibly decisive.
I don’t care what people think about me.
My instincts consistently lead me to say the right thing.
I thrive in uncomfortable situations.
I’m f***ing unstoppable.
I opened up the voice recording app on my phone, took a few deep breaths, and recorded myself saying these phrases with enthusiasm and confidence. I ended up with a 10 minute recording of a (seemingly) highly-successful version of myself telling me how awesome I was.
Pretty cool, right?
I think so. Some people will probably laugh at me for this, but guess what? I don’t care what people think of me. Myself told me that twice this morning.
30 minutes before the interview I listened to this recording twice.
Step 3: Radically shift your body language.
Radical changes in your body equal radical changes in your psychology. For this reason, Tony Robbins jumps into a pool of 57F degree water every morning.
“I do it because there is nothing that can change everything in your system like a radical change in temperature…” ~ Tony Robbins
It’s not enough to change your spoken language through affirmations and self-talk. This is only half the battle. Your body language needs to change too. In order to fully embody this psychological change, you must make a radical shift in your body.
T-minus 10 minutes.
I quickly hopped in a freezing cold shower for 1 minute. I got out, dried off, and spent the last 5 minutes pacing around my apartment, getting loose, getting excited, and throwing my arms up in the air and shouting in celebration as if I had already gotten the job. “I’m the perfect fit for this! I’m fucking unstoppable! I know they will hire me!”
(The photo for this blog post is an action shot of this happening).
I know, it’s crazy. If you didn’t laugh at me on step two, have your fun now. It was only a matter of time.
But I still don’t care. I felt like Superman.
The second interview was 10x better than the first one. I didn’t stumble over any questions. I was clear and confident in my responses. I was able to pull up relevant and impressive examples on the spot. The entire conversation flowed naturally, and at the end of the interview, they told me they were impressed.
Was it perfect? Probably not.
Did I get the job? I don’t know yet. I find out next week. I’m detached from the outcome.
Did I accomplish my goal of feeling genuinely more confident? Absolutely.
Try these for your next interview and let me know what happens!
This week, I started a challenge to blog every day for 50 days. So this morning I sat down at the computer, opened up a document, and started thinking.
What do I blog about?
A few ideas came to mind, but nothing that compelled me to make a quality post.
I asked myself:
What do I write that people want to read? What will people find valuable?
I kept thinking and thinking and nothing compelling struck me. It’s not that I don’t have anything valuable to say – I know my experiences can help people out. They already have, and I’ve barely scratched the surface.
But pulling it out of the depths of my mind on command while I’m sitting at my computer is a different story. It doesn’t just happen.
Plus, I was looking at it the wrong way. Instead of asking what people might find valuable, I should be asking what is valuable to me that I can write about? Chances are, a post about something that is valuable to me will resonate with people who have similar values.
Alas, I was still uncompelled.
Then, I realized something: All I’ve done today is sit down at my computer and think about what might be valuable to write about. That’s pretty boring. Upon reflection, some of my best ideas have come to me while I’m occupied with something else.
So I closed my computer and went about my day without thinking about writing.
I did my laundry, I restocked my groceries, I worked on some of my Praxis deliverables, I created a video (Simon Thoughts Episode 2), I had some engaging conversations conversations with some friends at the Impact Hub, and I went on a run.
During my run, the idea for this post came to me, and it was compelling.
Often, it can be a good strategy to force yourself to put content down on the page as a start. But if there’s a strong block, usually there is a reason for it. In this case, it helps to stop overthinking it.
All good content starts with doing something. Something other than thinking about what to write.
What makes the content valuable is the experience behind it. Value seldom comes from sitting and thinking.
Take action first, document afterwards. Documentation is a communication of value. Without the experience, there is nothing to document.
Meaningful content does not come out of thin air. Meaningful content comes from meaningful experiences.
So if you want to write, start by not trying so hard. Do your thing. Be you. Engage with other people. Engage with ideas.
Document it later.
“Travel is the best form of education.”
That’s what Kamal said to me at a gas station in Benchley, TX.
Kamal was the cashier. It was Day 4 – the morning after our first tour stop at Texas A&M.
I remember this like it was yesterday. As I walked in to pay, his gaze was immediately filled with curiosity. It wasn’t long before he asked me about our behemoth of a vehicle which was taking up the entire parking lot. I began to tell him our story, but before I could finish, his own concerns with the college system seemed to pour out of him involuntarily. The passion in his voice grew by the second. He was clearly moved by our message and our journey.
As I was walking out, I realized I just missed a sales opportunity! I grabbed one of my books and ran back inside.
“Hey man, I can tell our movement means a lot to you – would you like to buy my book? It’s only $10 and it’ll help us get to the next town.”
He gave some push back, and it took about 3 ‘no’s before he caved, popped open the cash register and handed me a $10 bill.
Asking for a sale is uncomfortable by nature, but we were running off of the high from the previous night’s tour stop – I felt unstoppable.
So what happened at Texas A&M?
It was Day 3. We had just rolled into College Station, and did a victory cruise around campus, blasting music and pulling the eyes of college students on their way to class.
Our first pop up concert was tonight. The business plan was pretty solid, but there were a few logistics we still had to figure out:
Where do we set up?
This was a big hurdle. We had a 23’ RV with a 12’ trailer; finding an effective and legal spot to park it was no easy task. Plus, every town was different, so we had to start this process over at each school.
For this, we literally spent hours searching on google maps, and visiting the spots in person to check them out. We eventually found a park that looked like it might work called Wolf Pen Creek Park. Luckily this park had outlets, so we could go all-out with our PA system and DJ equipment. However, it was a mile off campus. It looked like there was some student housing nearby, but we had to do something to bridge the gap and get more people around campus to see us.
Which leads to our second logistical problem:
How do we get people to show up if it’s not a high-traffic area?
For this one, we reverted to marketing 101 – canvassing. We put together a flyer, printed out thousands of them, and spent a few hours that day dropping them on car windshields in student parking lots on campus. This method had been effective in hiring employees in the past, so it was worth a try.
I pictured a college student sulking back to his car after begrudgingly taking an exam for which he was utterly under prepared, only to notice this on his windshield:
During the day, we added to our Snapchat story with goofy moments on campus, at the park, and around our RV so students could see we were approachable, and know where to meet us for a free concert later.
If it worked, everyone who was intrigued enough from the flyer to check out our Snapchat story would be entertained with a little sneak peak of the Xploration Station.
Before we knew it, it was go time. We set up the drum set, PA system, and book booth and we got started.
For 2 hours, nobody came. We tried different stage formats, wrote different enticing messages on our whiteboard sign, called out to people with our mic instead of playing music, and we kept adding new content to our Snapchat story and our social media profiles. Instead of getting discouraged, we decided to have fun regardless of what happened. We adopted the Kevin Costner mindset, put our heads down, and kept doing our thing.
Two hours later, we found our groove. People of all ages started filing in. It was working.
Some of them told us they saw us across the park and couldn’t not check out what was going on. Some of them said they saw our Snapchat story. We issued about 15 dropout degrees that day, and sold 4 books. We didn’t sell any t-shirts.
A big part of our philosophy on education involves learning through childlike curiosity. Kids naturally want to explore, touch things and play, and this is the most valuable part of the learning process. School fights this.
During the day, this group of little girls stopped by with their babysitter to check out what was going on. They were intrigued by the drums and the music equipment, and they couldn’t help but touch and explore them. It was really fascinating watching their curiosity run wild.
In that moment, I had a profound realization.
These kids were wandering around touching instruments, driven by pure childlike curiosity. They had never experienced anything like it, and this fueled them. They each tried different instruments and sounded awful at first, but they got the hang of it after a few minutes.
All day, we had wandered around trying to find a place to set up, driven by pure childlike curiosity. We had never experienced anything like it, and it fueled us. We tried different setups and at first nobody came, but we got the hang of it after a few hours.
By putting on this tour, we were exploring and learning in the same exact way the little girls were exploring and learning about instruments – unhindered by the structure of a classroom and driven by natural curiosity and passion. It was fun. We didn’t have to teach anyone what we thought education would be, because we were living it.
We issued them each a Dropout Degree. We may have gotten that babysitter fired… Oops.
Every single person we saw agreed that college wasn’t that valuable anymore – even the ones who were currently in college. But they didn’t see themselves quitting because there wasn’t a better alternative, and although they didn’t admit it, social pressure.
This experience was AWESOME. This day remains one of the coolest memories of my life. For months, we had been planning, thinking, whiteboarding, and talking about what we were gonna do. Finally, we did it. We took action and made something happen. It was a small start, but it was a start.
We learned that putting an idea into reality is hard. It’s a lot of work, and usually it doesn’t end up how you imagine it. Which is the very reason creating something new is such a valuable learning experience.
There is no better feeling than putting yourself on the spot in real life and seeing what happens.
Later that night, after we packed up, the three of us were debriefing the day in the camper. We heard a knock on the door.
A man in his 40s was standing there. He began praising us for the message we were spreading, somewhat incoherently. It seemed like he was speechless and didn’t quite know how to communicate the reverence he had for our journey. He left us with a package of glow sticks, and stuck a few on our front door handle out of courtesy as a gift of his gratitude.
After this wild experience, the possibilities seemed endless. It was hard to fall asleep that night. I felt like I was glowing, and it had nothing to do with the glow sticks.
We spent the night in College Station, then headed to Waco, TX to hit up Baylor the next day.
This is Part 3 of a series I’m doing on my experience touring the country in an RV trying to convince people to drop out of college.
Part 2 | Part 4 coming soon.
This one is pretty controversial. It’s a topic that’s extremely close to my heart. I’ve always had strong existential views on the meaning of life, the universe, and what it means to be human.
I have nothing against the belief of God or religious people; in fact, I find peace, community and purpose just the same — only, in my own way.
In this episode, I discuss why I’ve been an atheist since I was 9, and questions like these:
What happens when you die? How do I have meaning in my life?
Diana is a Praxis Participant. She recently graduated from the program and now has a full-time job as a Sales Manager at MailLift. Most of her peers are picking out bed spreads for their dorm rooms right now.
Within months after being hired, Diana started creating real value for her company. She took initiative by building an onboarding process to help train new employees in an efficient and systematic way.
She is now an expert on self-directed learning. We talk about project-based learning, homeschooling, immersion, failures, effectively setting goals with deliverables, and much more about learning and education.
She also talks about how school stifled her creativity as a young kid, how she would approach starting her career from scratch knowing what she knows now.
Diana is truly breaking the mold and creating a unique path for herself. 10 years ago, a story like hers was considered risky. Now, a path like this clearly makes more sense than spending 4 years and $60,000 on a college degree.
If you have questions, reach out to Diana here:
This was my new reality. In just a couple of weeks, I was going rogue. Packing up my belongings into an RV and heading out into the unknown, following nothing but my own instincts, to convince people to drop out of college.
We needed a plan.
We gave ourselves about 3 weeks to prepare. This meant stripping down physical possessions, planning the route, calculating expenses (gas, food), setting up potential income streams, and generally figuring out how to do the tour.
After the excitement from buying the RV simmered down, reality set in. This was no easy task. Ben and I were both kind of in over our heads. But that didn’t stop us. It made it even more exciting.
At this point, it was difficult to articulate our goal to people. It felt right, but definitely could have used some time to mature.
We wanted to change the way people thought about education. We wanted to get college kids to understand what college was in reality, and to shake them out of their hypnosis of thinking college was some sort of golden ticket that made it OK to continue being passive and not enter the harsh real world that requires real effort.
We had tons of different ideas on how to convey this message, but could only try one at a time. So we recruited our friend Jason, the DJ, and devised a plan to set up pop-up concerts on or around college campuses. We would draw people in with music and engage with them on a human level, sharing our vision for education and being real with them about college.
Here was our plan:
We would issue Dropout Degrees for free. The Dropout Degree was a pamphlet that briefly outlined what’s wrong with college and what a real-world, self-education alternative might look like. It was our way of poking fun at the unimportance of a college degree. This pamphlet would drive people to our website and social media.
We would then upsell “The Bundle.”
The Bundle was a package for $25 that included my book and a T-Shirt.
We toyed with the idea of creating Xplor shirts and swag, but realized nobody would recognize our logo yet. So we decided to go with something everyone would recognize:
I mentioned this in passing to my friend, Claire, a dropout who appeared on my podcast, and she connected me to a local printing company, Outfit Good. I put in an order for 100 shirts.
If people didn’t buy The Bundle in person but they were interested in following our journey, we’d drive them to our social media profiles, all of which funneled to our website, which had a lead capture and a value-offering.
We set up our systems with one tangible goal in mind:
Capture the information of people who were intrigued enough to follow our journey.
This was a start, because it would give us an opportunity to interact with them, and eventually figure out how to offer solutions to their problems.
We spent about $800 on t shirts and were selling them for $15 (in the bundle) or $20 alone. We planned on visiting 14 colleges, so we needed to sell just 4 shirts at $15 a piece at each school in order to break even.
I ordered $400 worth of books and sold them at $10 each (bundle or not), so breaking even would require 3 book sales at each school.
So 4 bundles per school would make us profitable on the materials. This didn’t include gas or food, so we set our goal for 8 to make up the difference.
This couldn’t be that hard, right?
The goal really wasn’t to make money. It was a growth experience from the beginning. We realized it was likely that we would lose money on this venture. It was well worth it.
Next was planning the route. A lot of thought went into this. There were a few key variables:
- Targeting colleges with the highest dropout rates – makes sense, right?
- Gas efficiency. Driving a 16,000 lb house-with-wheels across the country at 6 miles per gallon isn’t cheap.
- Timing. We had 2 months to hit as many schools as possible before finals ended in May.
As mentioned in Part 1, I wanted to visit Austin, Texas. I heard it was a cool place, and since I was breaking all my self-imposed shackles, I had the freedom to go anywhere – why not somewhere warm?
So we began planning the route with Texas in mind as the first stop. Initially, we wanted to go to the southern states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia) and loop back around to the midwest. The route changed about 7 times during this process.
Here’s the final version of the table I used to track those key variables:
Planning the route was draining.
This is where I hit my first internal roadblock.
At the very beginning, this tour was born out of pure passion, freedom, and excitement. Planning the execution of the tour meant putting some structure to it. This was initially a struggle, but that struggle reminded me that pure sunshine and rainbows only exists in your head. If you want your ideas to change the world, in reality, you must bring them to reality. Structure exists for this reason, and to avoid it is to defeat the purpose behind your ideas in the first place.
Our departure was looming. I was excited, nervous, freaked out, and didn’t know what would happen. Doubt crept in often. I felt alone. Most days I questioned my own sanity.
Then, out of the blue, the day before we left, I got an email from the owner of that T-Shirt company, Andrew (who also recently came on the podcast). It read:
Subject: Man, fuck college.
We haven’t had the chance to chat yet, but I wanted to reach out and first thank you for giving us the chance to print the shirts for the Xplor tour. I think what you are doing is awesome, and I only wish that I had met someone like you years ago. My college story happens to be exactly what you are trying to stop.
Nobody in my family had ever gone to college before, so I thought that I needed to go in order to prove something. It turns out that seven years and thousands of dollars of student loan debt later, I actually run a relatively successful business with a great partner, and I in no way use any of my formal education in doing so. I use to think that not going to college would be a huge mistake, and it turns out that actually going to college was an even bigger mistake. It’s such a joke. The educational system has failed countless students, and continues to do so to this day.
Hopefully you will be able to positively influence some students to rethink their path, and know that going to college, getting a shit job for some corporation that doesn’t care about them, and then retiring isn’t how life has to be. That’s what was pounded into my head, so when I got my bullshit corporate job, I thought I would be set for life. Turns out luxury cars don’t sell during a recession and I got laid off, and the company didn’t even flinch in doing so. I recently saw a quote from an entrepreneur, but I can’t remember who it was. It said, “being under someone else’s employ is hazardous to my financial well being”. And I couldn’t agree more.
I got on the Xplor site and saw that you will be in town in April. I would love the chance to sit down and chat with you if you had some free time. We wanted to check out your book so we got a copy off of Amazon. I’ll be sure to pass it on to someone in the future who is considering college their only path.
Take care my friend. And thank you for all that you are doing for students like me. They will appreciate it down the road.
In all the chaos and uncertainty, moments like this are what kept me going. That day, Andrew reminded me of my why. He reminded me that I wasn’t the only one who felt disenfranchised by this whole behemoth of an education system. He reminded me that I was a spokesman of this movement; I was a leader; I had a firm purpose.
Emails like this would happen more and more along our journey.
Ben and Jason got to my Columbus apartment at about 4 in the morning on the day of our departure. I remember this because they were running a few hours late prepping everything, so I unexpectedly fell asleep. I abruptly awoke to someone standing on top of an RV, knocking on my second-story window.
We packed my things, buckled up, and headed south.
This is Part 2 of a series I’m doing on my experience touring the country in an RV trying to convince people to drop out of college.
This is the story of a kid who believed he could change the world with an idea.
It was mid February, and the RV had been ours for about a week now. I was in my apartment in Columbus, Ohio, talking with Ben on the phone.
I met Ben a few years back through my old company, Young Entrepreneurs Across America, at the annual training conference. He was a college dropout who owned a landscaping company called Edgeline; I was a college dropout who managed a painting company. We immediately connected.
Ben was the guy who went all-in on this adventure with me; the only one crazy enough to share my vision. We had a mission, and we were going to change the world. More on this later.
That night, Ben was sitting in his car in the Edgeline parking lot. The camper was parked inside the chain-link fence, which surrounded the property. From the outside, he could see the top of it tower above the fence.
He noticed a couple of girls in their lower twenties walking by, glancing up at the RV over the fence.
“They just stopped,” Ben said to me over the phone. “Now they’re taking pictures of it over the fence…”
Maybe you would have the same reaction if you saw it for the first time.
To understand where this all started, let’s rewind a week:
To set the stage: I recently quit my job, and my relationship had just come to a catastrophic end. To say the least, I was ready to take a big jump into something new.
We took the weekend to visit Ben’s cottage in Petoskey, MI to develop the branding for Xplor, an alternative school for creatives. Neither of us knew how to build the business, or what exactly the program was, but we knew we had to get started or else we’d never figure it out.
That weekend, we made a website, created a simple lead-capture, and released a wacky, attention-grabbing video.
Our plan was this: Drive viewers from the video to our website, then filter potential customers by offering a College Dropout Survival Guide for email optins. Xplor was born.
Well, actually Xplor was born a few months before that…
Let’s rewind once more:
Xplor originally started as a Project XQ submission to build a new high school. For us, it was all about helping kids learn and grow in a way that was natural to them.
School had forced me to learn things that weren’t exciting in a way that wasn’t engaging. I experienced firsthand how school kills creativity, and how detrimental it can be to a child’s aspirations and development.
Ben had a similar story – he was never challenged in school. He was the type of kid who would skip school to play drums and cut lawns for cash.
I realized this in 2014, almost 2 years into college, and dropped out because of it. I was then catapulted into an ongoing deep philosophical exploration on what education really was in its core form. I no longer valued credentials, classroom politics or job titles, which cleared space for me to pursue the root behind the concept of education – what makes us grow? What does “educated” mean? Why is it important? How is it being done? Why didn’t it work on me? How should it be done? Is it different for everyone? Is it possible to scale up individualized education for the masses? How?
Here are some fundamental truths about education that I learned during my explorations on the subject:
- Education is growth.
- Growth happens when we’re genuinely challenged by doing something uncomfortable.
- We all have a “range” of actions that feel comfortable. Growth occurs when we stretch past that feeling of safety, and do actions that make us feel nervous or physically uncomfortable (examples: public speaking, learning new finger patterns on the guitar, operating a DSLR camera for the first time)
- We only thrive and achieve lasting growth in those uncomfortable situations if we a) understand and value and practicality of the lesson, or b) are excited by the process. Or both.
- Doing an uncomfortable thing consistently makes it eventually become comfortable.
School largely ignores these fundamentals. Instead, it focuses on teaching already-known principles in a comfortable setting. The lessons in school are not very practical when it comes to producing results in the real world. Students often don’t care about the growth they’re supposed to be having, and so they don’t achieve lasting growth.
I ended up publishing a book on what I learned during this exploration period.
But there was still more to learn. I was (and still am) obsessed with learning and human development. I had to figure out the best way to educate people, because I couldn’t let what happened to me continue to happen to impressionable, unsuspecting kids.
Most of my friends thought I was crazy, but in my heart I knew the public school goliath was making backwards progress. It was doing the exact opposite of what it was supposed to be doing.
Directly, it teaches valuable subjects like math, science, and history. But the structure of school indirectly teaches obedience, and suppresses individuality and creativity. I knew there was a better way, and I was determined to find it.
Months before the “cottage hustle weekend” in Ben’s Petoskey cottage, as we dubbed it, we submitted this video to the Project XQ competition. It was an attempt to capture how we believed education should be handled. Keep in mind, we didn’t have a clear vision of what the school would be or how to implement it. It was such a massive project and we didn’t want to overthink it – so we just got started and kept it real.
Our video didn’t make it that far in the process, so we decided to build our school on our own.
Fast-forward back to that weekend in Petoskey.
After being denied by Project XQ, we decided to create our own solution. I knew how to run a house-painting business, and Ben knew how to run a landscaping business, but neither of us knew how to build a school.
We didn’t hide from this fact. We embraced it and started small. What we lacked in experience, we made up for in clarity of purpose.
We left that weekend after creating a website with a value-offering, a lead-capture, and a marketing video, knowing we would test first and make adjustments later.
This simple online structure was a great start, but it didn’t seem like it was enough.
We genuinely felt like we were creating a worldwide movement. We were changing the paradigm of education – challenging the foundation on which the century-old multi-billion dollar public school system was built. You’re not supposed to challenge things like that.
It only seemed fitting that a bold statement like the one we were making should be executed in an equally bold way.
Ben and I had contemplated the idea of going on a nationwide tour to launch the business on and off for several months. It seemed like the perfect way to get wide exposure, test our ideas, and have fun doing it. Though, it never really seemed like a reality – until the day we left Petoskey.
On the drive back to Detroit, I had this intense longing to buy a plane ticket and explore somewhere I had never been. Particularly, Austin, TX. After all, our whole brand was based around being an explorer – testing new things, finding new paths, and going into the unknown.
This wasn’t the first time this desire came up. Remember, I was going through some pretty intense career and personal transitions. Shifts like that often call for drastic measures.
It was the perfect storm – we were riding the wake of completing our first true action-steps on Xplor, and I had that overwhelming urge to pick up and leave everything behind come over me.
In that moment, we approached an RV dealership on the highway. We looked at each other in solidarity.
“Want to check it out?”
No more than 6 hours later, we were proud (mobile)homeowners.
Sidenote: I have a strong auditory memory, so certain songs bring back specific memories for me. This song reminds of the day we bought the RV. Back to the story:
Some would call this an impulse buy.
I call it a passion-fueled educational investment. We didn’t necessarily have the money, but since when do people avoid spending money they don’t have on “education”?
This was different – it aligned with the fundamental truths of education. I didn’t invest this money so I could sit in a classroom and learn how to launch a business by putting on a tour. I invested the money so I could try something new. Test. Explore. Step outside of my comfort zone. Come alive. Meet new people. See new places. Spread my ideas. Develop my ideas. Go into the unknown. Grow in my own way. Learn how to teach others to do the same.
Some people still look down on me for making this “risky” decision. I wholeheartedly believe it would have been more risky to stay where I was, save my money, and ponder about what might happen if one day we went on tour.
In my heart, it felt more right than anything I had ever done. We were going to change the world. We were doing something so unique, people wouldn’t be able to ignore us.
The worst case scenario was this: our school doesn’t take off and I still learn and grow more than I ever imagined.
Now, back to that night in February:
As Ben was describing the two girls taking pictures of our camper over the fence, everything seemed to make sense. This was the perfect plan. We hadn’t even left yet and we were already drawing attention.
This was the first bit of validation for me. I now knew that the thing we had created was intriguing people. It was working. The RV was a travelling, interactive billboard that we were about to bring across the country along with our vision of a better education.
We had the vehicle and the vision.
Next, we needed a plan.
This is Part 1 of a series I’m doing on my experience touring the country in an RV trying to convince people to drop out of college.
David is a sophomore at Ohio State University building a modern fast-casual BBQ restaurant. In this episode, he talks about what it’s like to start a restaurant at 19 years old.
We also discuss:
-What education means
-Mistakes of a 19-year-old entrepreneur
-Minimum Viable Products
-Classic entrepreneurial mistakes
-Challenging the status quo
David is an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. He’s logical, practical, and keeps things simple.
I’m still working on convincing him to drop out. I’m sure he won’t last all 4 years.
So fix up some BBQ pulled pork, get comfortable, and enjoy the conversation!
I’ll be doing a 5-part series over the next 5 weeks where I dig into issues that mean a lot to me.
My goal is to dig past the surface and get you to develop an opinion on controversial or meaningful topics. I’ll discuss topics like love, death, the meaning of life, religion, and anything that every human confronts with at some point or another.
Comment with your thoughts on the episode, and include a topic you’d like me to cover.
Hopefully I can share some tidbits of wisdom from the perspective of a 22-year-old dude. But most importantly, I want you to question yourself and come to a strong opinion.
Without further ado, here’s episode 1:
More and more “inexperienced” young people are getting hired every day without degrees, thanks to Derek Magill and his rogue advice. Though they might not have much experience, they’ve adopted certain habits that clearly set them apart and make them seem like an expert.
Employers are constantly complaining about the lack of good employees. Most college graduates have zero experience and don’t know what it means to be on time, or follow through. Here are some of the most impressive, easy traits that blow employers’ expectations out of the water – degree or not.
Rock solid communication
This goes for email, text, slack, phone calls, everything. Be an over-communicator. Be fast. Be concise. Be effective.
You may find yourself communicating about things that your employer doesn’t necessarily need to hear about. But when you’re starting out, doing this will quickly give you a reputation of somebody who doesn’t miss any details and is always on top of it.
This will lead to more responsibility and more trust.
If you ever find yourself asking the question: “should I let my Business Partner know about this?” then the answer is yes. Nobody has ever ruined something by communicating too much, but things have been ruined by lack of communication.
A practical tip: Schedule yourself to check email at 10 am and 4 pm (or two other times that fit in your schedule). Blocking your time like this will keep you from wasting time tracking email during the day, while also allowing you to be punctual and not miss anything.
Clearing the path
In his latest book, Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday writes, “Clear the path for the people above you and you will eventually create a path for yourself.”
It’s hard to know exactly what you could do that would be valuable for the company you want to work for when you’re just starting out or trying to prove your value from scratch. It can be scary when you don’t feel like you have the experience to be effective.
A good rule of thumb is to look at what somebody who currently works there is doing, and do one thing to make their job just a little bit easier. Clear the path for them to the best of your ability. Whether or not it provides real value for them, by trying it and following through, you’re showing that you’re ready to help, and you’re capable of completing a task. This goes a long way.
It can be as simple as sending them 3 good stock photos for their blog, or sending them a cold-email template along with 10 customer prospects. When they see that you are willing and capable, they will trust you, and you will eventually carve out a place for yourself and earn more responsibility.
You don’t have to get results right away – just show them that you’re willing to take on a project and follow through.
Genuinely listening to understand
The principles for building strong, meaningful relationships apply to both personal and professional relationships. Summed up, the most important thing you can do for any relationship is to genuinely listen to understand.
Be interested. Ask questions, and learn about the people you work with. The goal of this isn’t to make it seem like you care, but to actually care. Don’t fake it. Fish until you have something of interest to both of you, and develop a real connection by understanding who they are and why they do what they do.
When you approach your relationships in this way, you will:
- Truly enjoy your working relationships with people because you know them as friends and human beings.
- Become liked by almost everyone because you are able to connect with them on a human level.
When you’re just starting out, asking too many questions can make you feel like you’re inexperienced and not good enough. This is common, so you’ll have to push through that feeling and ask anyways. People realize that you’re new, and it’s more of a red flag if you stay quiet and act like you know everything already. This goes back to communicating, but there’s more to it.
If somebody at your job asks you to do something and you don’t understand why, question them. Don’t be aggressive, but if you genuinely don’t understand why, ask them why. You aren’t a robot who’s put there to do tasks. Creatively solving problems and bringing new, valuable ideas to the table is an opportunity to show your unique strengths, regardless of how much experience you have.
Always make sure you understand the mission of your company. If you’re just starting out, it’ll take some time for it to fully sink in. So ask questions until it sinks in. Realize that you’re doing the company a disservice if you avoid taking the extra time to fully understand the vision. If you don’t, it can be difficult to put meaningful energy into it, and the results will lack because of it.
Photo Credit: No Hipster Stocks
Since I was a young lad, I had a strong interest in photo/film work. I wanted to be a movie director.
Luckily, my parents had a camcorder. One of these.
When I was 10, I would storyboard these elaborate movie plots, develop characters, then use the camcorder to direct and film the scenes with my friends. We would shoot skateboarding scenes, fight scenes, you name it.
The movie I remember most involved a skateboarding gang (my friends and I) vandalizing an apartment building, going to jail for it, then escaping from jail. It was a blast. Don’t worry, no apartment buildings were actually vandalized, we used cardboard boxes and other props.
I remember how excited I got about my movie ideas. I would think about them all day at school, and when I finally got home, I would get to work creating my next movie.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was actually educating myself better than my teachers were.
Here are some things I was learning:
I was the leader of the projects; the one with the ideas–with the vision. I was responsible for putting it all together. I had to coordinate our schedules and make sure everyone could meet at the right time to film a certain scene. This was tough when each of us had to ask our parents and then relay the information back through word-of-mouth communication. We didn’t have cell phones. Sometimes we would meet up to film a scene in the morning before school.
I couldn’t manage the filming, directing, props, acting, etc. all by myself. So I would give my friends tasks, like finding props, or getting everyone the right outfits, or taking over camera-work if I had to act in that scene.
I had all these ideas and visions for characters and stories, and I somehow had to bring those out of my head and into reality. I took it step by step, and I never really got overwhelmed because to me it was simply a fun project.
I would write all the scripts for my movies. They had to make sense chronologically, and the dialogue had to seem realistic.
How to use a camera
I learned how to get smooth shots by using tripods and skateboards. I learned about camera angles, lighting, and how to work a camcorder. I also learned that bulky camcorders are usually OK if you drop them on the sidewalk (sorry mom & dad).
By age 11, I gave it all up.
School was the primary focus in my life, as it is for just about everyone from ages 5-22. Not by choice, by obligation.
In school, I spent a majority of my time in a classroom learning things like math, writing, reading and science. These are no doubt important things to learn about, but I wasn’t very excited by them at the time. Instead, I was excited about creating my movies. I was learning more valuable skills by creating amateur movies with my friends than from my school assignments.
It’s not about the content of what you learn – it’s about the context.
Enjoying the process of learning is more important than what you learn.
In school, I was forced to learn certain things regardless of my interest in them. After school, the possibilities were as big as my imagination. There were no rules and no limits, and I could be as creative as I wanted to be. This invigorated me. If I stopped enjoying the filming I was doing, I would stop doing it. I was free to move on to something more exciting. In school, if I didn’t enjoy what I was learning, I had to do it anyways – or else I would get in trouble.
The context of learning in school is forced. The context of learning from my movie-shooting adventures was limitless and free. We thrive when we are free to explore our interests. We are stifled when we are forced against our will.
I gave up my creative endeavors because everyone around me encouraged me to stop ‘playing with my friends’ and focus on my schoolwork. I was an impressionable 10-year-old being trained to think fun = bad and schoolwork = good, regardless of how either thing made me feel. I didn’t think to question what all the adults were telling me. Probably because part of what they were telling me was to not question them.
As I’m writing this, it sounds criminal to do this to a young kid.
I can’t imagine how different my life would be if an adult I trusted had told me, “Simon, I can tell you’re really excited about your movies. Doing creative things you enjoy is more important than your homework. Let me help you edit the movie and put it together into a finished product; maybe we can submit it to a film competition and see if people like it.”
Instead, I listened to my everyone around me. I gave up my dream of being a movie director, and spent the next 9 years drudging my way through school, learning how to cheat on tests, half-ass projects, and skate by with bare-minimum effort in order to please my teachers.
What if I had quit school at age 10? I would know about the same amount of math as I do now.
What if I had kept making movies? I’ve heard 12 years of experience goes a long way in just about anything you do…
Stop getting schooled by school. Embrace your “weird” creative hobbies, dive into what you enjoy, and don’t ever submit to the limits that other people put up for you.
I write this story 12 years later, after realizing the hard way what’s really important when it comes to education. If you feel bored in school, you’re not alone. There is a better way. Reach out to me: email@example.com.
“The hardest working guy in painting,” Phil is a hungry entrepreneur and a practical problem solver. He is on year 2 building his company, Arete Pro Painting, and things are going better than expected.
I continue to learn from Phil every time I have the chance to talk to him. He has an objective and effective approach to business that just works.
We talk about the best/worst investment he ever made (it was the same purchase), how he broke records as a mentor, why he decided to move to Texas and start his own company, and more.
He’s always open to talk, so if you have questions don’t hesitate to reach out:
firstname.lastname@example.org | 512-387-5751
Ever wonder what it’s like to live in Santa Barbara? Here’s a video that captures the atmosphere.
This week I talk with Derek Magill, the Director of Marketing for Praxis. Derek helps countless young people jump-start their careers by encouraging them to sidestep traditional education paths and get creative about providing value.
People who take his advice typically end up going from bored college student to valuable asset doing meaningful work at a startup – often in a matter of weeks. Here is a recent example.
Derek and I cover everything from high school to building a personal brand to the best investment he ever made.
We had a few technical difficulties and got a late start, so the interview didn’t last as long as I had hoped. I plan to bring him on again for a more in-depth conversation in the coming months.
Check out Derek’s blog, you’ll be glad you did!
Andrew Goldsmith’s company, Outfit Good, printed my infamous t-shirts back in the Spring of 2016.
He had a $50,000 salary at 19. When he was laid off, Andrew told himself it was because he didn’t have a degree. He then spent 7 years working hard in school, and ended up starting his own shirt printing business, not using his degree or much of what he learned in those 7 years.
This is the classic story of someone who fell into the trap of playing the school game, and realized it 7 years too late.
This is why I do these podcasts. To help you realize that you don’t need college to do what you want to do. You just need to do it and correct course along the way.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
This is something I wish I learned much earlier than I did. It’s a secret your school teachers and college professors don’t want you to know. Quite honestly, a lot of them probably don’t realize it themselves.
Knowing this sooner would have saved me years upon years and thousands upon thousands of dollars that I spent on things I didn’t care about.
The secret is this:
All you need to do to begin your career is to start.
You don’t need any more lectures. You don’t need more debt to get another credential or degree. You don’t need any more tests. You don’t need permission. You don’t even need any experience.
All you need is to start.
One of my good friends once said: Try trying.
Give an honest effort. You will learn along the way.
Want to write a book?
Don’t spend $60,000 on an English degree. Just start writing the book. You’ll correct course along the way. Nobody said it will be perfect. An imperfect reality is better than a perfect fantasy. It’s your book. You are creating it. You imagined it in the first place. It’s only fitting that it is brought into reality on your terms.
Want to start a business?
Start the business. Don’t know how? Find someone who does, and ask them for help. If they say no, find somebody else. There is no shortage of people in the world. Will you mess up? Yes. Will it take a while? Yes. Just like the book, it won’t be perfect. That’s okay. At least it’s real.
Obviously writing a book and starting a business both require a lot of thought, planning and action. There’s much more to it than just starting, and it’s not that easy.
But you don’t need to know all of that right now. It doesn’t matter until you get there. Football players don’t plan out the 4th quarter during the pregame warmups. They focus on the first possession.
Take the first step first. Once you move forward, even if it’s in the wrong direction, you’ll be able to look at your problem from an entirely new spot. Then you’ll know what to do next, plus you’ll have a bit of momentum.
This is called learning. It can be done through creation, and it’s more powerful that way.
Learning isn’t a prerequisite.
It’s so easy to revert to passivism. We have been raised in a classroom and taught to wait until we’re “ready” before we try something. You will never feel ready.You don’t need to learn how to do something before you do it.
The act of trying something is what shows you how to do it.
Stop waiting until you’re ready. Start starting before you’re ready.
In his book The Four Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss wrote:
““Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.”
The truth is, your college professors need you more than you need them. But they don’t want you to know that. They would lose their jobs.
Until then, the problem grows.
It’s up to you to fix it.
Alex and I go way back. I met him at Ohio State while he was running two entrepreneurial/programming clubs on campus. He started coding in high school, and 8 years later he dropped out of school to work full time at Pillar Technologies, a Columbus tech company, making a nice salary and learning a ton through experience (something most college grads yearn for).
He’s a crazy guy with all sorts of unique perspectives. Alex keeps things interesting. We discuss a lot, listed below, but there was one thing we forgot to cover…
Hack City was an online IOS development course that he and I attempted to start together, but never got off the ground because we had too much focus on building the product and not enough on acquiring customers. We both learned a ton from it. I’ll probably write a post going deeper into this experience at some point.
Also, there is another audio interruption this episode, in addition to the slightly too quiet sound (still learning this whole audio engineering thing). See if you can find it.
Topics we discuss:
Reading a book/week
10 dark years
Building your skill and portfolio
Divergent thinking and how schools kill creativity
Ready, fire, aim approach to figuring out what you’re interested in
Cognitive biases, rewiring your brain
Value first mindset
Building habits over time
Brilliant video by Ken Robinson on How Schools Kill Creativity
Ken Robinson’s book, The Element
Isaac Morehouse and Mitchell Earl, Don’t Do Stuff You Hate
You can reach out to Alex on his website.
Ep 3 – Alex Cwiakala discusses quitting his job, buying a house, and starting a business in the same week
In this interview, Alex (left) talks about how he utilized college as a resource to find better opportunities to supplement his classroom education.
When Alex was 24, he co-headed a division with Young Entrepreneurs Across America, bringing in over $1M revenue in his first year (which is typically unheard of).
He went on to start a real estate company, CC Solutions, that is growing faster than expected. Alex is a fun-loving entrepreneur with a big work ethic, and I learn something every time I talk with him.
During the conversation, my phone beeps at me a couple times from calls. So far I’m 3/3 for some type of audible interruption in these podcasts. I’m thinking about planning it next time and making it a regular thing. It could be like Where’s Waldo, except you have to pick out the sound that wasn’t meant to be there.
Topics we discuss:
Surrounding yourself with the right people
Choosing opportunities based on your comfort zone
Utilizing college as a resource
Starting a real-estate business
Investing in self-education
Pros and cons of having a business partner
The 70/30 rule
Asana – Team tasks software
Check out Alex’s Blog, or reach out to him at email@example.com.
I tried college. All I got from sitting in classrooms for two years was a substantial amount of student debt.
After dropping my classes, I did everything I could to take risks and try exciting things in the real world. I experienced real freedom by being intentional and proactive about my life and career—something I never would have found in Hitchcock Hall’s lecture room.
Since dropping out, it has been my mission to build an alternative to college. To give kids like me a better option. One that inspires creativity and work ethic, not obedience and binge drinking. One that places value on actual results, not B.S. credentials (see what I did there?).
The problem is: I had no idea how to build a program like the one I imagine. I didn’t know where to start. I tried to attack this from a few different angles, but to no avail. In fact, the biggest thing I learned through this process was that I lack the necessary experience. It’s hard to start a new company in a new industry with no direction, a budding network, and limited industry experience. As much as I wish I naturally knew what to do to create my own solution, I’m more of a hands-on learner and I thrive in existing systems.
This was a humbling conclusion to come to. I followed the advice from books like The Magic of Thinking Big and Think and Grow Rich, and I thought big. I told myself I could figure it out if I tried hard enough, if I had the right mindset.
Don’t get me wrong, mindset is important – but mindset alone won’t give you a solid, effective plan of action. For that, you need experience and direction.
Then I heard about Praxis. An existing startup that provides apprenticeships to kids who want a better option. They inspire creativity and work ethic. They place value on actual results. Sound familiar?
So I decided to try to work for them. They’re tackling the exact problem I want to work on, and they’re good at it.
As Derek Magill’s blog posts discuss, the best way to get a job from scratch is to provide value for the company before you’re expected to.
This becomes tricky if you don’t have the experience to know what would be valuable for them.
I started following their blogs, podcasts, and I reached out to past and current participants in their program, learning as much as I could about the business, the industry, and the program itself.
I even went out on a limb and spoke in some college classes, in an attempt to recruit applicants for them. My efforts were ineffective and inefficient because I was targeting the wrong market.
Luckily, Praxis is a program for people who want to jump-start their careers. They place participants in apprenticeships with startups, giving them the experience to do what they want to do with their career.
So here I am, going through the application process with a goal of doing Praxis…on Praxis.
We’ll see where this goes. I’ll keep you updated.
Photo cred: Boz Nobel
If you’re like me, you always strive to be more creative, have better ideas, take more action, and be more effective. I’ve tested the following habits consistently over the past few months, and they definitely help.
Some of these may seem obvious, and we know they’re good for us, yet they can be difficult to fully commit to. To get past this, it helps to look at them from different angles–to understand the full scope of why they are good for us, and to tackle them in small chunks, consistently.
When you read, you’re consuming the thoughts of another person. Think of it as if you’re listening to somebody tell you about their experience. On top of that, reading is essentially exercising your brain. It subconsciously expands your vocabulary and strengthens your left-brain. Merely being exposed to words and stories on a regular basis helps your left brain connect your own words and stories when the time comes. After reading every day for a week, you’ll find yourself thinking, writing and speaking more eloquently without much effort.
Apart from the obvious benefits of exercising, running is a powerful mental exercise. The most value comes from using your mind to push past the moment your body tells you to stop.
This may seem obvious. But the next time you go for a run, when you get to the point where your body starts complaining, consciously push yourself harder for 1 minute. You’ll stretch you limits physically and mentally, growing more in that 1 minute than in the rest of the run combined.
Albert Einstein enjoyed sailing during his adult life. He was known to entertain guests out on his sailboat. However, whenever the wind would die down, he would often ignore his guests and feverishly write in his journal until the wind picked back up, when he would shift his attention back to the people around him. For this reason, Einstein was regularly described as a “compulsive scribbler”. He would draw pictures, write questions, ideas, or anything that came to his mind. It was his way of organizing his ideas, and it served him well.
Everybody has their own way of making sense of the ideas in their head. Putting them down on paper is one way to progress an idea from being abstract to concrete. I’ve carried a small journal around with me for almost a year. It’s a part of my life for which only I get to create the rules, and I use it to gain clarity and make sense of my thoughts.
4) Live in the moment
Many entrepreneurs seem to have an automatic problem-solving mechanism constantly running in their brains. This makes sense, because there is always a potential for improvement and innovation, and entrepreneurs are the ones who take on that responsibility. However, any amount of creative success can be meaningless without emotional fulfillment behind it. For this reason, temporarily replacing your problem-solving brain with a more perceptive and present mindset is vital when it comes to consistently producing results. There must be a balance.
Every day, find time to let your worries and responsibilities slip away. It’s harder than it sounds, but can be done by appreciating the details of a sunset, spending time goofing off with friends, meditation, etc. Temporarily shutting off your problem-solving mechanism opens up space to feel gratitude, happiness, and to re-calibrate the why behind your hustle.
It’s tough to start a new habit because it always seems so daunting. This becomes a catch-22, because if you challenge yourself to do too much, then it will be too daunting to start, but if you challenge yourself to too little, you won’t reap much of the benefit.
Start with small, bite-sized chunks. You can build it up later once you get into a consistent routine. For example, challenge yourself to run every day for 2 weeks. Even if you run for 3 minutes one day, it counts as a win. The consistency of action is more important than the quality or quantity of each chunk of action itself.
Today I interview Claire Coder, good friend and fellow dropout from Ohio State. She has started multiple businesses, most recently Aunt Flow, a buy-one, give-one subscription model for tampons. At 19 years old, she raised over $40,000 with crowdfunding and business competitions, and her company will begin sales in January.
We dig into some interesting and raw topics about being a 19 year-old entrepreneur, struggling through the learning process, nude modeling for money, emotional breakdowns, and much more.
It was a really entertaining conversation–I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
About halfway through a siren goes off in the background. But hey, it gives the conversation some character, so try to enjoy it.
Topics we discuss:
Her company, Aunt Flow
Entrepreneurial beginnings at 16
School vs. the real world
The need for attention and being honest about it
Alternative education: Praxis
Learning through trial and error and dealing with pushback in entrepreneurship
Claire misspelling tampons in a mass email
Mentioned, but not explained: Ready, Fire, Aim. This book is a game changer for entrepreneurs. Highly recommend reading, it will give you clarity and focus no matter what stage in business you’re at.
Today I interview Alek Halverson, a good friend of mine for years. Ever since he was a kid, he wanted to be on the radio. In this short interview, we cover how he got his first job running a daily radio show by age 19 with no degree and almost no professional experience.
There are a few funny things going on here:
First, we used Alek’s equipment, so even though I’m “hosting” the podcast, it sounds like I’m calling in to his radio show.
Second, there’s some quiet background music from a neighboring radio show, so you can jam out to the Cars as we’re talking (hopefully it’s not too distracting).
Topics we discuss:
Should you drop out of college?
Tips for learning on the job without much experience
The driving force behind building a career from scratch
How Alek handles screwing up on the air
What it’s like being the youngest person in a professional setting
Overall, it’s a quick interview, and you’ll find tons of valuable advice for how to approach early career building. Enjoy
How to contact Alek:
I wear this shirt quite often – it gives people a reason to strike up a conversation with me.
This morning, when I was ordering coffee at a coffee shop in Santa Barbara, I got a new reaction–one unlike anything I’ve experienced yet… More on this in a moment.
Now, I love talking about controversial ideas, dropping out of college, alternative education, etc., so when someone laughs at my shirt, I already know where the conversation is going. Usually it goes something like this:
Stranger: Haha! Nice shirt.
Me: Hey, thanks! Did you go to college?
Stranger: Yeah (looks down in embarrassment)
And it continues on from there, usually in a stimulating conversation about how over-credentialism is obsolete when compared to real value, and how technology has made it incredibly easy to sidestep the hoops that formal education drags their students through.
This may seem surprising (and it was for me until it became a consistent trend), but about 9/10 of the people I talk to in this context react positively and in agreeance. They clearly believe that spending time and money on a degree isn’t much of a valuable investment anymore in relation to starting a career. There are cheaper, faster, and more effective ways to get what people seek in going to college.
College is obsolete.
It is possible that my data set is slightly skewed because the shirt may act as a filter, meaning those who disagree have the tendency to curse me silently instead of speaking up.
Because of this, it’s important to note that people have spoken up in opposition before, and still do—it just happens much less frequently than examples like the one above. You have to expect some pushback when you wear a shirt that says “fuck college” in public.
But, since there are no “safe zones” in the real world, I continue to wear my shirt, people continue to generate opinions about it, and the earth keeps on spinning.
Back to the coffee shop.
The barista says to me, as I hand her my card, “That’s a funny shirt.”
Jackpot. There’s no better way to start the day.
I start asking questions. She tells me her mom pushed her into college in the first place, but now her mom always sends her articles about how degrees are losing their value. She has a communications degree, and claims it was 100% worth the money for her, despite the countless articles from her mother.
Woah. Backup. $30,000 for a communications degree that lands you as a barista in a coffee shop making minimum wage?
No offense to this girl—she is very nice, and I must admit, a great communicator.
But there’s no way that spending $30,000 and 4 years of her life is the thing that made her a good communicator. It can’t have been the classes, the notes, the lectures, or the tests. It was probably largely the years of communicating when she was working in coffee shops and interacting with people on a regular basis that gave her communication skills.
So I find out that she doesn’t have any other career plans right now, and despite the fact that she values what she learned in college, she didn’t need the degree to get the job she has.
I ask her about the most valuable thing she learned in college.
“The importance of rhetoric,” she answers.
Let’s stop there.
I believe that people have the tendency to defend past decisions based on their personal investment in them, more than on the objective value of the outcome of their decision at the present moment. This can be explained further with the Sunk Cost Fallacy.
For example, if you are 100 pages into a book that you decide isn’t enjoyable or valuable to you, you have two options:
1) Finish the book
2) Ditch the book
Choosing option number 1 would imply that you are placing value on the time you’ve already spent to read 100 pages because you’ve spent it–not because you see it as valuable.
Option number 2 implies that you understand the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and you accept that you spent something you value (time) on something that turned out to not be valuable. Since you realize this, you refuse to place further value on something that you have decided is objectively non-valuable (reading the rest of the book), so you ditch the book, losing no sleep in the process.
Now, understanding rhetoric is very valuable, and I’m sure the barista learned a lot more than just that in her college days. In fact, she likely knows more than most of us on the subject. I’m not trying to take anything away from her knowledge of communications.
But I can’t help but question 1) the practicality of the path she took, and 2) the value she places on it.
She is choosing option 1. She is placing her value on her degree and the knowledge she gained with it based on the fact that she spent $30,000 for it. Meanwhile she ignores the fact that she could have gotten to the same place she’s at right now without spending that much money and time.
While it can be upsetting to realize that you may have wasted thousands of dollars and 4 years of your life, what’s more upsetting is lying to yourself about it.
We can all learn something from this story. Be honest with yourself. Don’t place value based on what you’ve invested. Place value based on what’s valuable in the present moment.
I heard a knock on our dorm door. My roommate and I look at each other, wanting the other one to take initiative–neither of us wanted to pause our FIFA match.
After an intense silence, he knocked again. I gave in and answered the door:
He was a kid about my age, standing about 6 feet tall with blonde hair and blue eyes. “Do you guys want to make $8,000 this summer?”
I have never seen that amount of money in my life… “Sure. How?”
He briefly explained an internship that he had just completed, during which he ran his own house painting business over the summer. I wasn’t sure what to think–after all, none of my teachers had told me what to do in a situation like this. So I filled out his clipboard with my information, and went back to FIFA.
Fast-forward 1 month, an info session and a couple interviews later, I was officially accepted into the program.
As the summer approached, more and more I thought to myself, what the hell have I gotten myself into? I’m only a freshman! I don’t have any experience running a painting business. I’ve never even painted a house before.
But they promised to train me and walk me through their system, and I had already committed (told all my friends about what I was going to do), so I embraced my uncertainty and went on with it.
That summer was the best and worst summer of my life.
Having zero business experience whatsoever, within 6 months I had successfully sold and produced $60,000, profited $9,000, hired and fired employees, all while living on my brother’s couch.
Between the countless 18-hour days, paint spills on roofs and driveways, employees carelessly breaking windows with ladders or not showing up to work, and getting yelled at by unhappy customers for things that weren’t my fault and somehow finding a way to make them happy (even if it meant painting the house myself into the night), I can hardly say it was worth it for the money.
However, the personal growth I experienced was unprecedented and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned how to take responsibility for things that weren’t my fault. I learned the power of communication and expectation-setting. I learned about business strategy, marketing, sales, management, you name it.
Most days I wanted to stay in bed and quit.
The blunt reality: THAT’S the price you pay for this kind of intense personal development. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.
As the summer came to a close, I was definitely burnt out and ready to take a break. But I decided to do it again the next summer, this time teaching other interns how to run the business on top of running my own again. It was much easier that year, considering the mistakes I had learned from.
By my 3rd year, I was managing 18 college kids running their own branches across the state of Ohio, netting $750k in revenue. And I was good at it. All those failures had amounted to something. I had learned so much.
That year I won Executive of the Year, attended the annual retreat in Jamaica with the company’s top performers for the 3rd year in a row, and made over $50k while most of my friends were spending that amount of money to sit in class and complain about homework.
I don’t say this to brag–the point is, if you consistently and truly challenge yourself, after 3 years you’ll be pretty good at what you do. That’s a fact and it applies to everyone, including you.
They offered me a $70k salary to come on for a 4th year, manage more people and more revenue, basically doing the same thing I had been doing but more of it.
It was very enticing, and I initially accepted the offer. But something in my gut felt wrong. I felt like I was doing the same thing over again. To accept the offer would be to value immediate money and prestige over humility and long-term personal growth. And if my failure-ridden summers had taught me anything, it was that true challenge and experience are priceless compared to a nice salary.
Sure, I still had more to learn within the company, but I could feel my growth beginning to plateau. I wasn’t experiencing that exciting, gut-wrenching trial and error that I went through my first year. I knew I could challenge myself more.
So I did what any reasonable 21-year-old would do with a $70,000/year job offer.:
It took me a couple weeks to build up the courage to make that phone call, but I haven’t looked back since. I set out to consistently challenge myself and to continue failing, knowing that the money and fame would eventually follow if I stuck to that principle.
These are the decisions that define our lives.
To be alive is to grow.
That’s the point of all life on earth. Stay alive and keep growing.
That’s why we feel so unfulfilled when we remain stagnant. We crave challenges. We need adversity. Uncertainty is where we thrive. That’s why my gut told me to turn down more money than I’d ever seen at age 21.
You can literally see the shift in my mindset here. The thing that enticed me to sign up for the internship in the first place was the idea of making $8,000 in one summer. My failure-ridden summers had clearly shifted my values, which led to my seemingly strange decision three years later.
My point is this: Don’t jump into opportunities because they have the best pay, or because they carry the most prestige. The most valuable currency is your own personal development. This is especially true in your 20s. You can make a lot of money now, but if you’re not growing every day, you’re taking the easy path with a limited ceiling and it will eventually catch up with you.
Play the long game. Do the hard thing. Choose uncertainty. Choose growth. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Your future self will thank you.