Know that everyone has lived a story that you’ve never heard.

Understand that everyone has a different set of beliefs, and they feel that they have very good reasons for having those beliefs.

Know that everyone has at least one thing that they’d give up everything for. 

Put your phone away when someone is trying to have a face to face conversation with you.

Understand that people crave shared experiences. Keep a look out for those experiences.

Respect people’s dreams, loves, and hobbies. Never, ever belittle these things. 

Know that people love to hear, “me too!”

Know that the things you hate the most might be someone else’s most beloved things.

Know that, at first, most people value themselves more than they value you. This is natural.

Take every opportunity to use the word they treasure the most – their name.

Let bad jokes slide. A chuckle won’t kill you.

Forgive quickly and often.

Compliment people when they’ve earned it.

Admit mistakes, and don’t be afraid to reveal your vulnerabilities.

Look people in the eye when speaking or being spoken to. Also, smile.

If they share something personal, handle the information with utmost care.

When conflict arises, assume you’re at fault before passing judgement.

Never bring up their past failures, but don’t hide your own.

Avoid taking about yourself too much. Tell your story when they want to hear it.

Understand that people just want to feel important and be valued.

Understand that many people just want someone to be proud of them.

Understand that not many people had happy childhoods.

Find joy in learning more about people.

Assume that everyone has masterful bull sh** detection.

Understand that nobody enjoys being wrong. Be civil when arguments arise.

Put other people’s needs before yours.

Above all else, love people without exception.

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What would You From Five Years Ago think of Present Day You? Let’s take a quick trip through time.

Close your eyes, and take a moment to put yourself where you were five years ago.

What were you doing?

What made you happy at that time?

Who did you love?

What were your most pressing concerns and goals?

Now, open your eyes, and come back to present day.

What would that person five years ago think of who you are at this very moment? Would they be excited seeing where you ended up? Would they be underwhelmed? Would they question your thinking? Would they marvel at your accomplishments?

Five years ago, I was working as an IT Support intern at an accounting firm. I was dating a lovely girl who was also my best friend. I had no money. I envisioned being in debt with student loans for the next 10+ years. I hated cats. I aspired to live in the same small Mississippi town forever and never leave. I hated programming, and never wanted to write another line of code after I finished my college courses. I was primarily concerned whether or not my internship would become a full time job that upcoming summer. I had no greater aspirations.

Then I come back to present day.

I’m writing this post from a cozy apartment in California. I share this apartment with that same lovely girl who’s now my wife and still my very best friend. We have a cat. It’s the best cat. We’re debt free. I work at an amazing software company where I’m a full time programmer. I saw Star Wars Episode VII on Hollywood Blvd on opening weekend. I spend my days wondering how I’d like to surprise myself five years from now.

Not happy with what you’re seeing? That’s okay. In doing this, you gained perspective. What can you learn from that version of you from all those years ago?

No matter what you discovered, here’s to the next five years. See you then.

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March 2, 2016

Finding the Badlands

At age 24, Theodore Roosevelt lost his mother and wife on the same day in the same house. His true legacy as one of the great American leaders was born out of what he did next.

To combat his grief, Roosevelt left the cozy society of New York to venture out into the Badlands of North Dakota.

At that time in history, this region of the country had earned its name. Dangerous and unforgiving, it was home to only the most hardened adventurers.

It was through these turbulent years spent as a rancher that Roosevelt gained the grit and passion that defined his later achievements. On his return back home, he would go on to form the Rough Riders, become the police commissioner of New York City, become Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and of course, the 26th President of the United States.

Through rigorous adventure and seclusion, he journeyed to grow stronger and overcame his grief. On this, he remarked:

Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough.

In times of hardship, where are your Badlands? Where do you go — physically, spiritually, or emotionally — to find strength and courage?

Roosevelt could have easily let his grief overtake him, but instead, he ventured out to a remote place that at first brought him fear and curiosity.

As many other great people have done in the past, don’t hide from the storms in your life.

Seek out your Badlands, and find understanding.

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Sometimes, taking a hard look at the worst case scenario is key to accomplishing great things.

There are many things in life that we just won’t do. We often feel like there’s no point, or we care too much about what others will think.

Yesterday, I encouraged you to email your heroes and apply for that awesome job. If you have some hesitations about doing those things, ask yourself this question posed by Tim Ferriss in his book, The 4 Hour Work Week:

If I do this, what’s the absolute worst case scenario? Could it have a major negative impact on my life? Do the potential benefits outweigh by the negative aspects?

Let’s take an example from above.

If you email your hero, the worst case scenario is that they won’t respond and nothing will ever come of it.

What’s the upside to this? I can tell you.

A few months ago, I emailed Derek Sivers, the former CEO of CD Baby, just to say hello.

The result? He emailed back.

Now I know Derek Sivers.

It’s that easy.

Don’t be afraid to do crazy things every now and then. And if you need a little bit of confidence, just take a moment to ask yourself, “what’s the worst that could happen?”

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Spend five minutes on that exciting project that spins around in your head each night.

Apply for that job that you feel wildly unqualified for.

Send a sincere thank you to someone who’s done good by you.

Quit something that’s not worth your time.

Spend five minutes in a quiet place with your phone turned off.

Ask someone what their dream job is.

Send an email to your favorite author or famous mentor to compliment their work and wish them a nice day.

Buy doughnuts for a group of people.

Tell someone you’re proud of them.

Write down something positive and affirming about yourself in big, bold letters.

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How would you like to start a creative project that involved unlimited time and unlimited resources? Sad news – that project might just be doomed from the start.

Our creativity originates from and is motivated by our constraints. Limited time. Limited budget. Limited resources. Studies have shown that these characteristics lead to some of our best work.

Too much time can lead to procrastination.

Too many resources can lead to us squandering what’s available to us.

Take a look at some of the brilliant work by Austin Kleon, and you’ll see that being constrained is one of the primary drivers of his art.

Next time you want to kickstart your creative process, give yourself a hard deadline. The best way to avoid squandering your time is to limit how much of it is available to you in the first place.

Keep showing up, and stick to those deadlines. Good luck.

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Starting any new project takes quite a lot of guts and grit.

Whether you’re starting a blog, a company, a book, or any other project that requires high intensity over an extended period of time, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting every step to be perfect.

As I’ve stated before, one of the biggest components of success is in simply showing up.

If you’re writing a book, write every day.

If you’re building a blog, find a schedule and stick to it.

Naturally, when we work on anything every day, there will come times when the quality of the work isn’t to our highest standard, and you need to let yourself be ok with this.

Taking blogging as an example, one of the biggest reasons most bloggers fail is not the occasional low quality post. It’s because those bloggers don’t put in the time and stay consistent.

If you write 150 words every day for an entire year, you’ll end with year with over 55,000 words. Within this novel-sized bag of words, you might just find your next great idea.

With consistency, you’ll become a better writer.

You’ll become a wiser entrepreneur.

You’ll fill your life with a huge backlog of ideas that can be pulled from at any time.

Above all else, just be consistent.

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In recent years, we’ve lost the feeling of mystery and wonder at the world around us. Other than the deep oceans, we’ve seemingly discovered every piece of the natural world.

I’ve often felt that there are no more grand secrets to be found in the world, and that the only remaining mysteries are left to the most brilliant scientists, thinkers, and engineers among us.

Peter Thiel describes this feeling in his book, Zero to One:

Why has so much of our society come to believe that there are no hard secrets left?

It might start with geography. There are no blank spaces left on the map anymore. If you grew up in the 18th century, there were still new places to go. After hearing tales of foreign adventure, you could become an explorer yourself.

Today, explorers are found mostly in history books or children’s tales.

But as Peter goes on to say, we’re not done finding secrets in the world around us. We haven’t yet solved all of the great mysteries and problems in the world.

From a business perspective, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp discovered the secret that people are eager for affordable and accessible ways to get where they need to go. This discovery led to the founding of Uber.

When secrets are found, what we’re discovering are opportunities for change and continued innovation.

We can’t let ourselves become cynical at our surroundings. When we open our minds to physical, mental, and spiritual ideas, we just may uncover new secrets.

What will you do with the secrets you discover?

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February 23, 2016

The Conversation Game

Next time you strike up a conversation with someone, I would encourage you to play the following game:

Avoid talking about yourself for as long as possible. You can only talk about yourself if the other person asks you something about yourself.

You may be surprised at how much the other person enjoys this game (but only if they don’t know you’re playing).

If you haven’t already noticed, most people really enjoy talking about themselves. Even those who claim to hate talking about themselves simply haven’t had someone show genuine interest in what they have to say.

Once you get good at the game, you’ll notice a trend of great conversations. You may even start feeling icky when you have to talk about yourself.

If you get really good at the game, people may just start playing the game against you.

And that, my friends, is how you become great at conversation.

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I’ve spent the past year writing about money. Here’s a list of the highlights that came out of it so far.

  1. Diversifying your income sources helps you sleep a bit better
  2. Having a cash buffer in your checking account is invaluable
  3. People get super weird when you talk about money
  4. Investing is much easier than you’d expect
  5. Your money habits are the best reflection of your personality
  6. It’s very possible to retire before you’re 65
  7. Being debt free amplifies wanderlust
  8. Paying off debt is just the beginning
  9. Market declines are normal and present some good opportunities
  10. Buying a house when you’re young isn’t always best
  11. Good money habits == happy marriage
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