If you choose to lead, you must also choose to leave the field.

You must head to the sidelines and encourage your people to claim the victories. Advise offscreen and direct your team towards the goal when they need your help. Cultivate a passionate team, praise their strengths, and coach their weaknesses.

To win as a leader, be of service to those doing the winning.

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May 27, 2017

Life Currency

We all have a life currency—an area of our life (not including money) which, when we have it in abundance, we consider ourselves wealthy.

Some people’s life currency is in relationships. They attract friends easily and feel most accomplished when they develop a large friend community.

Others choose a life currency in travel. They feel most at home on the road or exploring the unknown. Their richness is derived from experiences.

Some choose to build their life currency from a career. They dedicate most of their time and energy to a cause or an organization, and they consider themselves wealthy from their professional accomplishments.

Others choose to build life currency in family. They set out to raise a happy and healthy children and dedicate most of their time to family upbringing.

With this in mind, remember that we all have our own idea of life currency. Not everyone shares your values or dreams, so be careful not to judge others if they’re not chasing your preferred life currency.

Also, like money, life currency is best used when given away. If you’re pursuing a career, build your skills in an effort to serve others and meet their needs. If you’re traveling, use those experiences to give back and enlighten the world around you. If you’re building relationships, build those relationships out of love, not out of a desire for acceptance. And if your currency is in family, raise a family built on values, so that those you raise can go out into the world and make something good of it.

Whatever life you choose, live it richly.

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May 27, 2017

Earn It

You have to earn it
every day
or what you know
will become what you knew
and what you do
will become what you did.

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May 25, 2017

The Great Directives

I believe that in life, there are three directives that are unavoidable and essential for a quality life. These Great Directives choose us from the moment we’re born, and we risk squandering life if we ignore them.

The Great Directives are as follows:

Use money for good

Money chooses us. We can’t avoid it, but many of us fear and misunderstand it. It comes into our life out of necessity, but often leaves our life through waste.

But to achieve a full life, we must choose discipline and control over our money.

Choose to use money efficiently and effectively. Choose to give it away when there’s a need. Choose to use it as a tool for good rather than a means of self-worth.

Become a wise master of money or risk becoming a slave to it.

Embrace your health

Our body is the greatest gift we’ve been given, and our health is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.

Our health reveals our discipline, passion, and vitality. While some may lose their health to age or misfortune, to knowingly abandon our health is to abandon our potential.

Improving your health is the only selfish act that creates a selfless outcome: to be healthy is to be present, mindful, and useful, and the world desperately needs more useful people.

Care for others

We live on a planet of 7 billion people, yet many of us choose to focus our life’s attention on just one — ourselves. No matter who we are or where we live, our life was created, influenced, and will be remembered by other people. We’re raised by a family, given knowledge by teachers, find passion in lovers, and inspired to greatness by leaders. To go through life without compassion for others is to forfeit our humanity.

Be compassionate, serve people, and celebrate life by caring for others.

Avoid these directives at your own peril.

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Here’s what I’ve discovered over my 4 year journey to financial peace.

Being broke doesn’t mean you’re broken

“I’m broke,” you’ll say, and you’ll hang your head and feel terrible. According to most people, being broke is the ultimate form of not having your sh** together. Running out of money means running out of life, energy, and opportunities.

We feel bad about being broke because we associate our financial situation with who we are as people. Our self worth is tied too closely to our net worth.

But you’re not defined by the size of your bank account. A rich jerk is just a jerk who happens to have money. But a compassionate person who’s broke is still compassionate; they might not have much money at the moment, but they’re still quite valuable.

Our resistance to financial change is built on shame

The heart of all money stress is rooted in shame. We feel ashamed that we struggle with money. We feel ashamed that we can’t afford to live like our peers. We feel ashamed in our inability to save even a penny for our future. It’s exhausting.

In my talk with Kyle Naylor, he described shame as one of the most destructive forces in our lives. It leads to depression, self-doubt, inaction, and many other negative physical and emotional effects.

But our positive money changes come from forgiving ourselves for past money mistakes and not letting shame dictate our actions. We’re all in need of positive financial changes and we’re all capable of making them happen. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Money habits reflect our life habits

We’re not the size of our bank accounts, but we are what we choose to do with those bank accounts. If we hoard our money, we’re hoarders; if we give it away, we’re givers; if we want more, we’ll take more until the well runs dry. The habits we build around our money are the habits that define our lives.

As Lynne Twist says in her book, Soul of Money,

Money is so intricately interwoven with every other aspect of our lives that when we take a stand to make a difference with our life, it has an organizing effect on our relationship with money, and when we take a stand to make a difference with our money, it has an organizing effect on every other part of our life.

So when we develop healthy money habits, we’ll develop healthier life habits as well.

Money management is a craft that can (and must) be learned

Most people approach new financial habits like they would a diet plan: they start on a Monday, quit their habits cold-turkey, find themselves growing restless by Wednesday evening, and accept defeat by Friday morning.

Money changes must be adopted slowly, and money management must be approached for what it is: a skill that can and must be learned through research and experimentation. Read a personal finance book, listen to a personal finance podcast, or seek out a reliable financial advisor. Just don’t fall for quick changes; in the world of money, that leads to being scammed, losing more money, or simply developing more destructive habits.

Take the time to learn how to manage money the right way. The investments you make in your financial education will pay for themselves.

Financial peace comes not from frugality or extravagance, but from balance

Ultra frugality creates misers; ultra extravagance leads to a joyless life; the spot in between is where you find financial peace.

When my wife and I paid off our debt and began looking to the future, we planned for the route of ultra frugality — we’d give up everything to save every penny we could.

And for what? We didn’t know.

We had a few vague goals in mind to fuel our ultra saving, but we knew that those goals didn’t align with our true passions in life.

While we’d love the opportunity to retire early (and we’re still on a path to do so), we’re already living a life of happiness by striking the balance of frugality and extravagance. We save most of our income, but we dine out often and love traveling throughout the year. We have business ideas, non-profit/charitable goals, and an extensive list of life quests to complete, none of which are cheap.

We live with balance, we’re happy, and we’ve achieved financial peace.

So remember: you’re not defined by the size of your bank account, but instead, what you do with that bank account; if money mistakes come along, embrace them and seek opportunities to learn how you can avoid those mistakes in the future; lastly, find balance in your financial life, and you just might find financial peace.

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A major part of my job is hiring talented software engineers and building productive, happy teams. Here’s what I look for when I interview and evaluate engineers.


Ego will kill your career almost as quickly as punching your boss in the face. I’ve seen arrogant people drag their teams through the mud, and I’ve seen smart people look ignorant because of a stubborn attitude.

I keep an eye out for ego when speaking to candidates. Do they make past successes all about themselves rather than praising their team’s involvement? Do they assume to know everything there is to know about their craft? A good candidate understands that there are always opportunities to learn, and success often comes from the influence of better, smarter peers and leaders.


One of my favorite questions to ask candidates is: what are your core values? It’s a question that doesn’t have a cookie-cutter answer, and requires an honest response to avoid sounding cliché. Most importantly, it’s a clear indicator of selfish vs. selfless.

A candidate who values success and praise will ultimately choose selfish actions to achieve those values, while a candidate who values service and compassion towards others will abandon self to do good for those around them.


I once spoke to a candidate who, when I asked about his process in working with teams, described to me how he routinely goes over the heads of his teammates to get things done. Sometimes, he told me, he’d even go over the heads of his management. As he described it, he hated being wrong; if the team unanimously disagreed with his decision, he’d throw his hands in the air and say, “well, I guess we’ll all just be wrong together.”

This was discouraging to hear.

A great candidate understands that the strength of a team comes from mutual respect and collaboration among all involved. A member who thinks themselves better than the collective team represents a weakness for the group, and a team is only as strong as their weakest member.

People focus

Great products aren’t about the people creating them; they’re about the users who adopt them. A great engineer understands this, and places the users’ wants above their own. I look for candidates who are empathetic towards people from all walks of life and have an open mind to different points of view. When they successfully adopt this mindset, they’re better able to provide what users crave the most—genuine service.


It’s not just about being skilled at your craft—that’s certainly important—but I believe competence is shown in three key behaviors:

  1. Showing up on time when it’s time to show up
  2. Delivering what’s due when it’s due, and
  3. Delivering quality work at every opportunity

To me, this describes the “pros” that I’ve encountered and had the pleasure of working with in my career; I love hiring these people.

So if you’re a competent, humble, empathetic collaborator with a heart of gold, let’s work together.

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On Writing Well by William Zinsser

This book is great for anyone who’d like to write better non-fiction. In it, Zinsser outlines his four principles of effective writing: clarity, simplicity, brevity, and humanity.

I listened to the audiobook, which spans about two hours; after only thirty minutes, I already felt more confident about how to craft better non-fiction pieces.

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

It’s clear in reading this book that Sol Stein thinks awfully highly of himself, but his confidence is well-deserved. The literary genius gives us everything we need to know to write compelling fiction—topics such as how to start a novel, building strong characters, constructing plot, and understanding the form and function of popular genres.

After reading this book, you’ll have no more excuses; go write your novel.

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There’s a Minotaur in my closet. I’m sure of it.

I’m six and that’s too scary for a boy my age.

It’s dark and I can see his glowing red eyes through the cracks in my closet door, and I can smell his acid breath from under my blankets.

If I lay still, I swear I can hear his snorts from behind a curtain of shirts and pants. I know I’m not dreaming because I only dream of school or space or Star Wars. I don’t dream about Minotaurs.

I can’t stay here under the blankets forever. My friends told me that Minotaurs can sense fear and they like to eat little boys for late night snacks. I’m really afraid and I bet I’m really tasty (because I like donuts and candy).

That Minotaur is going to eat me up. I have to get out of here before it’s too late.

Mom,” I whisper loudly into the room across the hall where my parents are sleeping. I don’t want to attract too much attention from the Minotaur. I hear movement coming from their room, but no response from Mom.

“Mom!” I say it a bit louder this time. My only hope.

“What?” She stirs. I hear my dad groan a question mark.

“There’s a minotaur in my closet!” If the Minotaur wasn’t on to me before, he definitely is now. Only a matter of time before he stomps through the closet door and eats me up.


“Can I come sleep in your bed?”

There’s a long silence. Then a snort behind the closet door.

“Just for 5 minutes?” I plead.

“5 minutes,” she agrees.

Now for my escape.

I carefully fold off my blankets and take a tip-toe step onto the floor. The wood floor below me creeks. Did I hear a huff just now? A puff? Time is running out. I have to get out of the room before the Minotaur attacks. He’s going to break down the closet door and gobble me up.

I bet I’m delicious.

I place a second foot on the floor and hold my breath. Did I smell the Minotaur’s breath steaming out of the closet? Is it warmer in here? I swear I can see his red glowing eyes through the crack in the closet door.

I hear my mom’s voice find its way into my bedroom, “you coming?”

I don’t respond. Can’t risk disturbing the Minotaur further. It’s now or never.




I dash for the bedroom door and hold my breath again. The Minotaur won’t catch me. My Star Wars socks make it hard to run on the wood floor, so I glide like a figure skater towards the open bedroom door. I’m sure of my escape when suddenly, my closet swings open to reveal the angry Minotaur! He huffs and snorts and kicks a hoof.

The faint light from the hallway reveals the Minotaur as it charges after me. He’s as tall as my ceiling and as scary as I’d always imagined. His eyes are glowing bright red and he snorts angry, hot steam from his nose. I turn back towards the open bedroom door and skate like a madman.

I might not make it. I just know he’s going to grab me with his strong, hairy hands and eat me up with his sharp teeth. I don’t want to be a Minotaur snack!

I hear my mom’s voice again, “honey?”

I turn back to look at the Minotaur, his claws reaching out to grab me, when he awkwardly places a hoof down on my slippery wooden floor and topples right over onto his snout. He makes a loud grunt and kicks a closet door clean off its hinges.

The Minotaur’s fall startles me and sends me stumbling towards a pile of Star Wars action figures near the door, but I grab hold of the door handle and fling myself into the hallway.

I made it. I don’t turn to look back at the damage.

I hurry into my parent’s bedroom and find them sitting up, waiting for me. “What was the commotion, son?” My dad asks.

“It was that Minotaur,” I reply nervously, “he tried to eat me, but I got away. I was too quick for him.”

I suddenly feel very proud of myself.

“Those monsters never can seem to catch you,” my mom chuckles, “you’re just too fast.”

I climb up into their bed and slide between them into a warm space waiting for me. We all bring the blankets up to our chins and snuggle into a dark and cozy sleep.

Monsters are afraid of grown-ups, so they can’t hurt you when you sleep in bed with mom and dad. But grown-ups scare me too, sometimes.

I wake up the next morning in my own bed. My room is tidy, even after last night’s close call with the beast. Dad must have brought me back to my bed during the night. I bet he scared away the Minotaur; looks like he fixed the closet door, too.

My friends are never going to believe this.

Later that night, I make a terrible discovery.

There’s a Werewolf in my closet. I’m sure of it.

It’s my seventh birthday and that’s too scary for a boy my age.

It’s dark and I can see his glowing orange eyes through the crack in my closet door.

“Mom,” I loudly whisper into the next room, careful not to disturb the snarling beast waiting among my shirts and pants, “there’s a Werewolf in my closet!”

My friends told me that Werewolves love eating up little boys like me. I bet I’m delicious.

“5 minutes?” I plead.

A long silence, then my mom’s welcoming voice.

“5 minutes.”

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April 26, 2017

Paterson: Movie Review

This movie gave me quiet, tender feelings.

The conflicts were muted, the love was pure, and in one important scene, the mere sight of a fresh notebook inspired an unusual feeling of warmth.

The film spans 7 days in the life of the title character and aspiring poet, Paterson. He wakes up each day to his “silent, magic” wristwatch with his girlfriend, Laura, snuggled closely next to him. He eats the same bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and gives a silent nod to their third wheel, Marvin, an English Bulldog.

After breakfast, Paterson heads off with his lunchpail to his job of being a bus driver for city transit. By night, he visits with Laura on their couch and listens to stories about her dream of the week — painting, learning guitar, or starting a cupcake business. His night ends when he takes Marvin for a walk and makes a stop at his favorite local bar on the way (Marvin waits outside, grumpily).

During occasional breaks in the day, we find Paterson sharing his poetry with us, the audience, a rare opportunity since we find him apprehensive towards sharing his poetry with others, even Laura. It’s in Paterson’s “Secret Notebook” of poetry where we begin to truly understand the world Paterson is experiencing, especially since Paterson himself has so little to say in dialogue form. A simple box of matches becomes an ode to his Laura. His daily bus ride becomes a meditation on metaphysics and existentialism.

The poetry is simple, yet layered and lovely. And in many ways, it reflects the rhythm and flow of the film itself. Scenes are quiet and reflective, often with no dialogue at all, choosing instead on one occasion to pan around the mumblings of a quiet bar and allow us to tell our own stories of the lonely people inside.

An avid movie-goer might expect Paterson to arrive home on day two — after the status quo is established — and find that his simple life has been turned upside down. This is especially anticipated after Laura whispers to Paterson early that morning that she dreamed they were going to have twins one day. But writer/director Jim Jarmusch uses Paterson as an opportunity to embrace the simplicity of a happy life and undoubtedly share his love of poetry. The film drifts by happily with only a few unexpected twists, representative of one’s typical life experience rather than an attempt to artificially surprise the audience.

I was most refreshed by the central relationship between Paterson and Laura. There’s little talk of conflict or misunderstanding. It’s clear from the beginning that these two care deeply for each other, and the film never strays from this central thread. Their dreams are celebrated together, and the climactic scene near the end is felt by them both (though they process the tragedy in their own, true-to-character-ways). When these two are together, we can’t help but feel at peace, and unusual feeling for a medium that’s built on conflict; it’s likely one of the only movies I’ve seen that breaks the film rule that all dinner scenes must devolve into a raging conflict.

In fact, some of the major household conflicts actually come from their dog, Marvin. He’s territorial of Laura and generally makes life a little worse for Paterson. Ashlee and I enjoyed a laugh when Paterson sat on the couch across from a grumpy Marvin in act three and said softly, “I don’t like you, Marvin.”

Paterson isn’t for everyone. It’s awfully slow and you’ll feel all 115 minutes, but it’s rewarding in its restraint. You might also find yourself appreciating the poetry of it all.

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The only sin I ever did commit was lying to cover up a murder.

I told them I was innocent, that I didn’t even know the guy and those bastards had it all wrong.

I didn’t kill him; that’s the lie I told.

But I never meant to lie. You told me it’s wrong to lie and that the devil himself comes at night to claim sinners and liars.

Now I’m a sinner and a liar, Momma. I should’ve told the truth about killing that bastard while his bastard kid watched. I know I’m wrong, but I didn’t want to get caught, Momma.

You always told me Poppa was a lying son-of-a-bitch, and if I lied, I’d be a sinner just like him. I never wanted that, Momma. Honest.

So I want to be honest with you now, Momma.

I want you to know I’m not like Poppa. I was gentle. I told the boy that everything was going to be okay. I didn’t hurt him. I got blood on his shirt, so I wiped it off. But I swear I kept honest with him, Momma. I told him things were going to be okay, and I left him be.

I didn’t mean to lie, Momma.

I watched the bastard and his kid come home. I had a key. I hid where they couldn’t find me. I didn’t make a noise. I watched them open a can of black beans and make soup. It was just them, that bastard and his kid. I didn’t hurt the kid; he’s okay, Momma, I promise.

I came out after they got done eating their soup. I was hungry, but that’s not why I came out. I walked into their dining room with my shotgun and I told that bastard he couldn’t do nothing more to me and that’d be the end of all that. He got mad and came at me so I shot him in his chest. He died real quick and I saw his boy get real scared and piss himself when I walked over to wipe the bastard’s blood off his shirt.

Then it got real quiet so I told the boy to stay put and everything was going to be okay and I didn’t know what else to do. They didn’t finish the soup but I don’t think I was hungry no more. I don’t know who the hell would want to eat black bean soup, anyway. So I ran out of the house and dropped my shotgun at the door.

You always told me to be honest, Momma, but as soon as those cops picked me up from the roadside, I knew I was going to do something bad, Momma.

I lied. I’ve sinned, Momma.

I told them bastards I didn’t do it. I kept my head high and I told those bastards in blue to go to hell (right along with that bastard I killed). It just came out, my lie. I was real scared, Momma.

They took me in, and here I am now. Please don’t hang up on me, Momma. I didn’t mean to go off and tell a lie like that. I didn’t get up this morning and set out to be just like Poppa. I know what you always told me about him. You said he’d kill me if I crossed him and I saw you cry a lot the day he walked out. But you said it was good, because he wouldn’t be bringing those lies back into our house.

I’m glad he’s gone, Momma.

Are you glad?

They told me I’m in a lot of trouble. I know it’s wrong, but I don’t see all this fuss for just a little lie, Momma.

They told me I might not see you again. I might be getting put away for a long time and I might never come out.

I’m just like him now. I guess that’s why I’m in trouble. His sins are my sins now, Momma. I’m a sinner just like Poppa and I’ll die one, too.

Maybe I’ll die in here, Momma.

Maybe I’ll get to see Poppa again if I die.

But until that happens, I’ll never sin again as long as I live, Momma. I’ll tell the truth now and never lie again.

I’ll tell them I killed Poppa with my shotgun and his new bastard kid saw the whole thing. I’ll tell them I tried to wipe the blood off the boy’s shirt and that’s why my hands are covered in the stuff. I’ll tell them Poppa was a lying son-of-a-bitch and I deserve to be put away because I’m a lying son-of-a-bitch too, Momma.

I’ll make this right, Momma.

Would that make you proud, if I told the truth?

Tell me I’ve done good, Momma. That’s all I want. I don’t want you to be mad at me. I just want know I’ve done good, after all.

Please, Momma.

I put Poppa down, just like I know you wanted. You never said it, but I know you wanted it just like I did. He walked out on you all those years ago. He was a lying son-of-a-bitch. His new boy won’t hear no more of his lies. I told the boy it was all going to be okay. I wiped Poppa’s blood off his shirt just like Poppa wiped your blood off his and I told him it was going to be okay. God’s honest truth.

I guess I’ll go the grave with a dirty sin under my belt. Maybe the devil himself will come to claim me tonight.

But you know what? It felt good, Momma.

It felt good.

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