From quitting bad habits to pushing through your blocks and reading a book a week, this blog has helped people like you achieve more personal and professional success, one step at a time.
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Update: Here is the video, below.
I know who I want to be. Do you?
An important part of discovering / creating your own future is to find out, or plan, who you are going to become.
This sounds kind of obvious– doesn’t everyone think about this?– but in reality, it isn’t often done.
That’s because exerting your will on the universe is hard.
It is a constant push– back and forth– between you creating the world you want through your actions, and the world pushing back on you saying “nope,” or deflecting you, like a soccer ball hitting a goalie.
You can get distracted or upset by this. Over time, life takes over, so you spend more energy on management and juggling what exists vs creating what doesn’t exist at all.
Eventually, you lose track of exactly who you want to be. You forget about it. Momentum eventually goes to zero.
I met with Dale Stephens yesterday, who I was mentoring while he was at the Thiel Fellowship. He knows exactly who he is planning to become in the “new” education movement. In comparison to Sugata Mitra, Sal Khan, etc., he has to know or he will be forgotten and/or trampled.
I also saw Ryan Holiday say “don’t plan too much” on Chase Jarvis’ show (which I’m going to be on next week btw), but I don’t agree. A deliberate positioning in regards to the future is, I think, ultimately necessary.
As you get older (if you’re ambitious), you realize this. Yes, I just played the age card. :)
So ask yourself: who is it that I want to become?
Do you know? If you do, great! It will help you find out who to meet, what you need to know, what skills to obtain, and everything else.
It’s if you do not know that you have a problem. I wouldn’t know how much money to raise for our company if I didn’t know how our company worked. I wouldn’t know who to hire if I didn’t know where we were going. It’s craziness that I ever would.
Yet people let the ocean of the universe move them in whatever direction fate “intends” (as if fate really intended anything).
Well, I have news for you. No matter who you are, I know what your future is.
Your future is to grow older, slowly become irrelevant and have outdated views, eventually die and become food for the living.
That is what the universe “wants.”
I heard a great quote the other day from Horace Mann:
So get to it. Thank you.
People always talk about “missing the boat,” but I think differently.
I think of opportunity as a series of subways, running through a station, one after the other.
What station you are in doesn’t matter. You could be near or far, but that’s irrelevant. Where you start is just a matter of chance, and isn’t something to worry about at all.
What time you arrive doesn’t matter either. You may have missed the subway, and that’s fine. It’s a missed opportunity, but nothing to really worry about, because after all, another subway is coming.
The reason this metaphor is important is because a missed subway is physical, and it’s an easy thing to accept. Seeing things in this way helps you accept the present.
What happens when you get to a station and the subway has gone?
Well, you definitely don’t run. There’s no point.
What you do is wait for another subway to pass.
Be patient, it’ll get here.
Then, get on that one. After all, you have places to go.
Where to even begin?
So, I’ve been away a long time. A few people have noticed.
Most probably haven’t. That’s ok.
There were times a while back where I was blogging often. Others where I blogged only once a month.
Maybe it evens out. Because of some posts, the new visitors and subscribers keep coming in. Sometimes at a rate of thousands a day– not bad.
But that’s no reason to be lazy. I promise– I haven’t been.
In October, Chris and I published a second book together. It got 100 reviews on the first day– almost unprecedented. And my previous book Flinch has been in top Kindle books downloaded for over 18 months.
But since mid 2012, I’ve also been working on a company.
The name of that company is Breather.
I am co-founder and CEO.
Wow– I can’t believe I’m finally talking about this. Crazy.
The team we are starting with is truly amazing.
After that, he helped start a bank, Simple, that is now helping to change the way banking is done. Simple went on to raise $13M in funding and has had over 100,000 people on its waiting list, ready to use the service.
Alex said to me recently, “I knew I wanted to do this 10 minutes after you first told me about it.”
Caterina Rizzi has been around almost since the beginning. Without her it would probably still be a stupid idea in a single crazy person’s brain.
Cat is a powerhouse of a different sort. As you get to know her, you’ll see what I mean. She truly helps make a vision into a reality.
Together, the three of us are going to turn this crazy idea into an amazing, real thing.
Well, at some point soon, we’ll talk about that. It shouldn’t be much longer. :)
With the starting team complete, though, we did feel it was time to announce something, so that is what you’re looking at. Feels good.
If you really feel you can’t wait, SXSW is about to start, and some people do know. Feel free to ask around– I’m sure you’ll learn a thing or two. :)
In the meantime, stay tuned. And if you’re looking for a new challenge, get in touch. Maybe this is it.
We live in a time where more information and resources are available than ever.
The Internet has made it possible to connect with people you would have never been able to otherwise. Social media provides us with the incredible power to reach out to anyone.
With all the resources that come with the so-called “information age” we live in, many of us squander the benefits of access by reading useless websites or following celebrities– a huge waste of time.
Think about it. There are hundreds of people out there who are either doing what you want to be doing. There are thousands you can learn from. It’s easier than ever to find and meet these people. All it takes is a little time and effort.
This week I am challenging you to do something we often talk about, but rarely act on: find a mentor.
Here’s how you will do that.
Today’s homework is to reach out to someone you don’t already know and ask for advice.
Even though this can be scary and uncomfortable, the returns can be enormous. People are hesitant because it feels “forced” and they don’t want to look like they’re taking and not giving.
One way to alleviate this is to ask: “What do I have to offer this person?”
The value that you offer could be anything from user experience feedback, to talking about a shared interest. When you think of it as a shared give-and-take, it’ll feel more natural and less like some kind of networking exercise.
Take a minute a write down a few things you have to offer someone.
One great place to find potential mentors is at events. Go to events, conferences, and meet-ups, ready to ask questions. If you show genuine enthusiasm, you’ll have already established a good rapport and connection, which will make everything that much easier.
If going to an event is too scary, you can also build a relationship from email or Twitter. Almost everyone responds well to tweets–sometimes even better than email. Even if they don’t, you won’t have lost anything by reaching out.
Don’t forget to use the network that you already have. Make a short post on Twitter or Facebook, asking your friends if they know anyone who is an expert in knitting, coding, writing, or whatever else.
As you do this, you’ll discover that it’s not actually that painful. Most people are more than willing to share their knowledge with someone who is interested. There is absolutely no risk in reaching out – and who knows, you may find an invaluable life-long mentor just by taking this one step.
So choose someone. Reach out to them and offer to meet them. Today.
I woke up at 5:30 this morning after a weird dream about Professor X and Wolverine.
It was one of those mind reading things. Wolverine was trying to save the day from something (whatever it was), but Professor X knew about it and wanted to stop him. Wolverine was trying to sneak out.
I think I was Wolverine, maybe. I don’t remember.
Anyway, I got asked the other day on Facebook about my habits:
Would love to see a blog (or just a reply) on your morning routine and nightly routines…
I know the epic 5,000 post covers this is some details.. but I’m noticing how “good” days and “bad” days can largely be guided by how we start and finish the day.
PS Let’s see a picture of the finished ink!
Right. Here’s what I do.
My life is structured around a set number of goals to complete every day. Some of those goals are tiny, others are large. Here is an incomplete list in picture form:
As you can see, I have tiny habits, like ”Smile at a stranger” (which breaks my usual pattern of looking grumpy all the time), and then I have large ones, like “Finish all to-do’s,” which is a pointer to a another HUGE list in another app.
When I finish all of my habits for the day, like the ones in the list at right, I’m done. But there’s more to it than that.
I also deliberately plan the order in which I will do these, and the reason I do this is because it helps keep me cheery and motivated to do more.
So I wake up and immediately floss and weigh myself. These are like little wins that get me started on my habit building. Then I go into “Process mail“ and maybe ”Take fish oil“ (very good for you btw).
Then my day is started and I’ll go into my calendar and see what my day is going to look like.
I also force introspection every day through a habit of free writing, which helps me think about my own path, or my work, or whatever else I feel like putting some thought into. You cannot trust yourself to think through important stuff in your head only. Because we are so distracted, it simply does not work. So this forces it to go on paper, where I won’t quit until I hit like 750 words.
So it’s almost like my day is structured with easy win > hard win > easy win > hard win-style loops that will keep me from feeling exhausted. Some stuff is easy, others are hard. With breaks obviously. And of course I forgive myself if ever I don’t get everything done. I draw a lot from Alcoholics Anonymous style ideas so that I can think one day at a time.
The final thing I wanted to mention about this is that often, at night, it is a great idea to just do one more thing. It can be small or big, doesn’t matter, but it helps set you off on the right foot and feel like you were extra productive today. For you that could be anything, maybe doing pushups, or writing a blog post.
It’s like bitch slapping tomorrow’s to do list with a kind of “OH YEAH? I GOT IT DONE TODAY” type attitude. Not sure why, but it works.
P.S.: The tattoo he’s talking about above, by the way, is a memento mori sleeve I got done by Yann Black, a well-known tattoo artist who happens to live 5 blocks from my house. It’s early in the morning right now, so I’ll put a picture of it in another post.
Every successful person does something that absolutely terrifies them. Whether it’s public speaking or giving your boss a resignation letter, no one has ever made it to the other side without taking a stumbling leap of faith.
But how do we deal with those monsters and demons that pop up at every corner telling us that we’ll never make it, that we’re not good enough, that we don’t have what it takes?
Answer: You suppress the hell out of it.
I’m not talking about lying to yourself or losing touch with reality. I’m talking about deliberately steering the direction of your mind during high-pressure situations. You know that expression people say whenever someone is on a tightrope or high in the air? Those 3 little words of advice that people have used over and over again – “Don’t Look Down”. You don’t ignore the danger or pretend that you’re not a thousand feet in the air. But you do put one foot in front of the other and stay focused on where you’re going. If you forget to “Don’t Look Down”, you draw your attention away from the goal and head straight towards failure.
Adam Carolla, who holds the record for Most Downloaded Podcast Ever, once said “My job is to talk like nobody is listening”. We should all be that lucky to adopt a life-philosophy as freeing as this. Pretend your actions are being completely ignored. Pretend that no one is around to judge you. A networking opportunity is a thousand times easier when you have nothing to gain. A product release is a million times more fun when you have nothing to lose. Pretend that no one is listening.
The most loved and popular people in the world also receive the most hate-mail.
To focus on negative outcomes and hurtful criticism is a good way to ensure failure. Giving power to our doubts is an invitation for our feet to slip off the tightrope.
I used to think that my fears meant something. I used to think it was important to ‘get to the bottom’ of these negative thoughts and find out where they were coming from. I was wrong. Like George Clooney said in Three Kings, “The way it works is, you do the thing you’re scared shitless of, and you get the courage AFTER you do it, not before.”
So whatever it is you’re worried about – horrifying failure, people who don’t like you, or plummeting to your own gruesome death – suppress that shit and move forward.
And when you make it to the other side, remember to pat yourself on the back and take a deep breath.
I made this for the guys at KoPoint. It’s nice to be making this kind of content again occasionally. :)
“Louder is not the answer. More is not the answer. The important moments in life happen with your friends and by yourself. Nothing important won an Academy Award. If everything in life is getting louder, I’m going to get quiet.”
Everyone is flawed. No single person has every answer.
Success, as a process, comes from learning as much as you can. As you figure out what your weak points are and correct them, you will become better. Your patterns will get more efficient. You’ll get more done in less time. Finally, your patterns will change.
Over the past few months I have had certain goals– different ones than I usually have for a totally different kind of project. All of these goals are things I have never really done before, and I wasn’t sure how to achieve them.
It was during a meeting a while back that it clicked. I was too stuck in my own patterns and making decisions based on my own worldview. As Bruce Lee would have said, my prison was my own ideas. I needed a change.
Here is how I did it.
Today’s homework is to make decisions, for at least one day, as if you were a totally different person.
Find someone you admire. You may not like everything about them, but in at least one capacity, find someone you feel does things right.
Take the quality you like about them and, in that quality, act exactly like they do.
Here are two examples of ways I have done this recently– but you can use this for anything.
One guy I know is amazing at connecting people, and I needed to meet more people, more often. So I set myself two goals– one, to meet two people every day, and two, to connect others as often as possible.
One of the advantages of this being a person you know is that you can literally text them– as I did, often, and ask– “hey, how would you behave in this situation?”
Turns out, this works. They answer the text, and they dictate the behaviour. You change your pattern as a result.
A second quality I wanted to emulate was to be more aware of my spending, and I had recently been reading a book about John D. Rockefeller Sr, Titan. (Ryan Holiday also recommends this one.) One of his primary attributes was to carry around a book in which he recorded all of his spending– even though he was wealthier than almost anyone around him. So I started doing this with the Traveling Salesman Field Notes edition. It works.
Do this today.
Choose someone. Act like them. It really is that easy.
I strongly believe that all people are addicts.
No matter who you are, you’re addicted to something. It may be booze. It may be drugs. It may be doing fuck-all with your life.
I have a lot of friends that are in AA, and at least one that is going into rehab this week. So with respect, here is my 12 step program for procrastinators.
This works. I am not kidding.
Procrastinators such as myself have done the following things.
You know this already. You are doing nothing with your life and it disgusts you. You have good taste, you have big dreams, but you do nothing. You will never be good at this. Admit it. Accept it.
I have been talking about this for years. You have to let go and let the system do its work. A good system tells you what to do and makes you into a better version of yourself. Find such a system, it exists for everyone.
Give up on the myth of “making decisions.” Only ask the system (which you chose) what it wants you to do, and do it! Since you built it, you will be doing what you want to do at any given time.
Again: this works.
You have accepted your errors and are not trying to avoid them. Personally, I used to be late and cancel appointments all the time. I accepted that I was being an asshole and moved on from it. Accept and admit your flaws and move on.
Ditto what’s above.
You know, as I write this, it’s fascinating to me how much this really applies to all facets of life. Lift (and its dead predecessor Leap) work very much on this system. One day at a time. Let the system do its job. Get support from those who care.
Since you have designed this system (or chosen one that works), there is no fear of problems with productivity or letting a system make you into something you’re not. You chose it, you filled it with work. Now you just have to have faith in it.
Your own flaws must become totally apparent to you. Consider yourself 100% weak because it’s the truth. You’re a human being, not a machine, and you will never be able to behave like a machine. So just do your best each day, accept your errors and admit to them.
Repeat after me: “You know I promised you that I would do work for you last month, and I was late/never delivered? I’m sorry about that.“
Keep yourself honest at all times. Don’t lie to yourself or the whole thing will begin to break down. The human mind is a very self-deceiving thing if you let it. If you fail, that’s ok, just start over tomorrow.
Always look back to it. Have it on your phone. Remind yourself to use it. Make it the only thing on your home screen. Whatever works. Just keep it in contact at all times.
I have believed for at least a year now that absolutely everyone can benefit from using the 12 steps on their productivity problems. I’ve subconsciously been using them for a long time, and only recently did I realize it.
So that is why I’m sharing this.
There, I’ve done it. If you think it can help, please share it too.