Don’t Let Somebody Pissing In Your Cornflakes Keep You From a Balanced Breakfast

I had a helluva week last week. A lot of shit outside my control almost derailed my week, my work, and my attitude. Except then I remembered an important truth and it turned everything around (well, almost everything). But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A Case of the Mondays

By the time I sat down at my desk and fired up my laptop last Monday morning, my inbox was already overflowing. I had a long to-do list. And I was fired up.

I love Mondays so spirits were high. It was going to be a great week. I could feel it.

Minutes after logging on, my laptop bit the dust. I don’t just need a laptop to work. My laptop is my work. My business runs almost entirely online. I spend 60% of my day banging on a keyboard. And the other 40% on video calls.

The nearest Apple store was 20 minutes away. So I jumped in the car fully prepared to go buy a new device. But holding out hope it might be an issue tech support could fix quickly.

I showed up to the store minutes after it opened. But a surprise was waiting for me. Just that morning, the store began operating on scheduled appointments only – even if you just needed to buy something.

In order to get in, you needed an appointment, a clear temperature, and a mask. (Did I mentioned I forgot a mask?) The rep at the door told me the soonest available tech support appointment was 10 days away. But I could get in to buy a laptop if I was willing to wait 2 hours. The day is saved!

I jumped in the car. Drove 5 miles the other direction. Bought a mask. Drove back. Waited in the parking lot for an hour. Got in the store. Purchased a new device. And good fortune struck – they let me drop off my broken laptop.

By the time I got back home, it was 3:30 pm. I’d spent pretty much the whole day chasing my tail. I was frustrated. But I told myself to chill out.

“Take a breath, Mitch,” I advised myself. “You can’t win ’em all.”

Fail Friday

I planned to drive to Denver Friday. Part of the team was flying in. We planned to work together that afternoon, then do happy hour that evening. I looked forward to seeing everybody.

But fate had other plans.

I booked a rental car Thursday afternoon. It cost $60. What a steal, I thought. I pulled up to the airport at 6:30 am. Which is where I learned about my mistake. Apparently I’d booked the wrong date. No cars available. Time to make a hard sell.

“Ma’am, I’ve got to be in Denver today. I’m willing to get creative. What’s it going to take?”

Her fingers flew over the keyboard. She began negotiations over her walkie talkie.

“I can get you to Denver today as planned,” she said. “But it’s going to cost you.”

She swiped my card for three times the anticipated cost. Then directed me to the pickup station. I counted my blessings and skipped off happily into the sunshine. Well, kind of.

I jumped in the car and hit the road. Two stops before Denver. First, to grab a coffee. Then to swing by the house for a few personal effects. I love a good morning commute. I had an audiobook loaded up. This was going to be a great day.

Lol.

I pulled off at one of those fancy Super Targets with the Starbucks inside. Just happened to be on the route back home. I was feeling extra froggy too. Because I ordered a Big Boy Coffee. (Venti Blonde Roast with a Blonde Shot).

I marched back out to the car ready to go. And that’s when I discovered I was in for quite a ride. Just not the ride I expected.

I tried to unlock the car. No dice. All they’d given me was a key with a chain. No fob.

Once. Twice. Three times I tried. That lock was not budging. I circled the perimeter. No other keyholes. Four. Five. Six times I tried again.

I took a deep breath. This is just a cruel prank. I’m going to turn this around.

And that’s when I noticed a bright pink sticky note on the keychain.

“Won’t unlock when locked” the note read. Brilliant!

So I dialed the front desk. Who redirected me to a roadside emergency line. Sat on hold for half an hour. Called back into the desk. Explained the situation. Transferred my call. Then again. Then back again. Finally a voice that said help is on the way.

A half hour passed. Then another. I began pacing around the car. The Super Target Mom’s club was beginning to show up. Concerned stares directed my way. I kept pacing. Once. Twice. Three times I circled the car. Four. Five. Six times. I felt like Joshua and the Israelites circling Jericho.

Another half hour passed. Temptation started a conversation. I could be in and out of Target with a lawn chair, beach umbrella and a six pack in no time I thought to myself. Tailgating Target – all these shopping moms would love that, I bet.

I considered smashing the window. Insurance will cover it, right? I wasn’t in the mood to cause a bigger scene. So I waited. And I paced.

After two hours hanging out in the Target parking lot, a mechanic showed up and picked the lock. I decided to cancel my trip. Returned the car. Stopped by for a refund. And summoned a $30 Uber ride home.

“I’m still going to make the most of this day,” I told myself.

I was down but not out.

From Pissed Off to Pacified: A Tale of Two Parking Lots

I spent combined 4.5 hours sitting in parking lots last week. Just waiting.

Circumstances outside my control put me in those parking lots. But I had a choice to make. I could wait angry. Or I could let it be.

Both times I defaulted to frustration. But why? Frustration did not change the situation. Except to make waiting more painful.

I failed to shake it off Monday. I let a situation beyond my control ruin my day. And I marked an “L” in the win-loss column on the day.

But Friday I remembered an important truth. One that turned everything around. I could not change the situation. But I could change my attitude.

So instead of pacing angry. I decided to laugh.

I laughed at the statistical improbability of renting the one car that didn’t unlock with its key.

I laughed at the ridiculousness of being stuck in a Target parking lot for two hours on a Friday morning that was not Black Friday.

I laughed at the idea of driving down a highway with a smashed out window. And I laughed at the image of returning the car and telling the story.

I laughed at the thought of a Target Mom calling the police to report somebody breaking into a rental car in the parking lot. And I laughed at the hilarity of a hypothetical front page local newspaper detailing the arrest and the silly circumstances that led to it.

And finally, I laughed at myself for getting mad over something I could not control.

Sometimes life throws curve balls. You can whine about it. Or you can learn to adjust. Things do not always go as planned. (Imagine how boring life would be if they did?)

But you always have a choice about how to respond.

A Head Full of Bouncy Balls

Reading a book is a lot like tossing a bouncy ball inside a racketball court. Except this court acts more like a vacuum. And once in motion, a ball will remain in motion, changing course only upon impact.

Introducing new ideas is like adding more bouncy balls to the cage. Each new book increases the count of hurtling projectiles by one. And so on.

Eventually, with all those balls a-bouncing, collision becomes inevitable. Two different ideas collide, each exerting an impact upon the other. And this event fundamentally alters the original course of both projectiles.

When Ideas Collide

When you only have a few balls bouncing, collisions happen less frequently. If you don’t increase the number of bouncy balls, the ideas you introduce first will remain constant longer.

It’s only once you begin to introduce new ideas rapidly that the rate of collision begins to accelerate. When this happens – for better or worse – your original ideas become vulnerable to impact. It is no longer a matter of if your original ideas will face a collision, but when.

When ideas collide, it’s the idea that packs a greater force that carries more influence. By virtue of traveling at a greater velocity or bearing greater mass, some ideas delivers a more violent blows upon others. In some cases, those blows cause the deterioration of lesser ideas altogether. In other cases, the impact simply causes a slight alteration in course – for both ideas.

Collision As The Goal

I’ve heard it said before there are ‘no new ideas under the sun – only new combinations of old ideas.’ I believe this to be true.

And if it is true, the best way to increase the likelihood of two old ideas colliding to create a new, interesting combination is through consistent addition to the total number of different ideas bouncing around.

One sure way to increase the probability of unique collisions is to increase the total number of balls in play. But what if you not only want to ensure it eventually happens – you also want to reduce the amount of time it takes to happen? In that case, you could also introduce more balls more frequently.

With more balls colliding more frequently, the rate at which new, unique combinations of old ideas happen will increase. Not all collisions will be unique. And not all unique collisions will be useful. But that’s not really the point, is it?

You can’t often predict which unique combination of old ideas will fundamentally alter the course of the game. And you especially can’t appreciate new, unique combinations if you don’t also observe the impact of new ideas as they act upon others.

But if you’re deliberate about the balls you add and observant enough (and maybe a little lucky), you might just witness the collision of two ideas the world has been waiting for.

Or you could just sit back and enjoy the site of a bunch of bouncy balls flying through the sky, violently smashing into one another. (As far as consolation prizes go, that also sounds pretty cool. But what do I know, I’m just a guy talking about bouncy balls on the internet.)

Putting Yourself In the Way of Success

There’s a story about a guy named Edwin Barnes who desperately wanted to go into business with Thomas Edison (you know, the 10,000 ways how not to make a lightbulb guy).

Anyway, ol’ Barnes didn’t have a penny to his name and he’d never met Edison. But he focused so hard on his goal he convinced himself it was inevitable. All he needed was one shot to speak with the inventor.

So one day Barnes stowed away on a train and just showed up out front of Edison’s workshop declaring he’d come to go into business with him. Impressed and taken off guard, Edison offered Barnes a job – an hourly wage job doing “work unimportant to Edison.”

Haters might say he failed. But legend has it Barnes saw the job as the start of his business partnership with Edison. He put himself in the right place. All he needed was the right time.

Five years passed. Still no sign of opportunity beyond his hourly wage job. But Barnes did not flinch. And that’s precisely when his moment came. 

Edison released a new machine which his salespeople claimed to be unsellable. The invention fascinated Barnes. Who approached Edison with a proposal. 

“Tom, just give me a shot and I’ll sell this widget like ice-cold lemonade on a Mississippi summer day.” (okay, so I have no idea what he really said, but you get the picture)

And sell it he did. So successfully, in fact, that Edison entered into a business agreement with him to sell the machine all over the country. Which made him rich beyond imagination.

But this story isn’t about getting rich. It’s about the power of intention mixed with deliberate action.

Barnes did not wait around hoping and wishing that a great career opportunity might just happen to him.

He fixated on a specific outcome. Then he put himself in the way of opportunity.


Post inspired by Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich. Originally published via a weekly newsletter I write about how to live a more self-directed life.

Success vs. Fulfillment

I think it’s difficult to find real success unless you prioritize fulfillment.

Sure. You can get rich. Gain status. And win the praise of others. But if you’re unfulfilled, does it even matter?

When I think about my own life and how I’ve defined success over the years one thing seems constant – the goal posts always move.

Each achievement challenges further achievement. Incomes goals, career goals, status goal…you name it. Anytime I’ve been prioritized “success” over fulfillment, I’ve found it fleeting.

On the flip side, when I’ve prioritized fulfillment, I’ve found something altogether different to be true – an ability to be content without sacrificing future ambition.

A Personal Tale

When I graduated college I set a pretty ambitious goal for myself: double my income every year.

It was easy at first. Year one. Year two. Even year three. But as you can imagine it became more difficult in time. Through my first five years in the real world, I almost succeeded too. But then I discovered something I didn’t anticipate. More money did not make me happier.

As obvious as this might sound to you, it was actually difficult for me to understand. Because I had a wrong notion about success. I believed success was a function of keeping score.

That belief really led me astray for quite some time. It had me looking out into the world at what others were doing. Comparing myself. And then beating myself up over all that I had not yet accomplished by my age. Which honestly got pretty exhausting after awhile.

Two Steps Back, One Leap Forward

A few years back I left an awesome job at a company I loved. I’d been there awhile. I’d climbed the ranks. And I was making great money.

But something had gone missing. I’d lost the fire for my work.

For awhile I tried to rediscover it. I tried working harder. I tried working less. I tried journaling. I tried therapy. I tried changing up my schedule. I tried changing up what I was working on.

But the more I searched the less vigor I felt for my work.

After months of battling with this, I found a new outlet – an opportunity to go work on something entirely different. To leave behind one opportunity and pursue the next. A new challenge, if you will.

It scared me. But (thankfully) after some prodding from a friend, I made the leap.

I went from big fish in big pond to a small pond where status had no bearing. I took a +40% pay cut. I left a team where I’d been around longer than almost everybody to a team where I was very much the new guy. I went from a role where I knew exactly what it took to succeed to a role that I was larger learning everything on the fly.

And a surprising thing happened – I rediscovered my fire for my work.

Somehow my status and income had both declined but my happiness increased. Who knew, right?

How To Find Fulfilling Work

Roman Krznarick has an awesome book on this topic you should check out. It’s called How To Find Fulfilling Work.

In the book he highlights five dimensions of fulfilling work. Here they are:

  • Earning Money (Extrinsic)
  • Achieving Status (Extrinsic)
  • Making a Difference (Intrinsic)
  • Following Your Passions (Intrinsic)
  • Using Your Talents (Intrinsic)

Basically, we all have our own motives for doing what we do. Krznarick explains how some of those motives originate by watching people – see also mimetic desire. Krznarick called these extrinsic motives. These are the things we all usually think about when we define success – like money, titles, where we work, who we know, etc.

But in the stories Krznarick researched, in most cases, people who pursued extrinsic factors actually ended up less happy. They were missing something.

Krznarick argued that the motives that come from within – which he calls intrinsic factors – are actually the key to unlocking fulfillment in our work and lives.

He tells stories about people who left 6-figure consulting jobs to work in non-profits. Or left their high-status jobs to pursue their art. And a whole collection of other examples where people “traded down” (lower income and status) to become happier.

People became happier as the moved closer to roles that used their talents, made them feel like they were making a difference, and stuff they were passionate about. In most cases, they made less money and did less glamorous-sounding work (at least at first).

As surprising as it might sound, Krznarick’s theory suggests it’s actually not the money or status that makes us happy. Rather, it’s the stuff that makes us come alive that leads to real success – success from fulfillment.

Searching For Your Own Answers

It’s nothing new for people to be searching for answers. What’s the meaning of life? How can I be successful? How can I live a happy life?

Questions like this have challenged people centuries. Thankfully a lot of people have kept good notes. And there’s so much we can learn from exploring other people’s struggles on these same topics.

I’m very much still on my own journey of personal development. But I’ve found a lot of answers – and a ton more questions – by digging deep into how other people have approached questions like these in their own lives and careers.

Here are a few resources I’ve found useful throughout the years:

How to Find Fulfilling Work By Roman Krznarick

How Will You Measure Your Life? By Clayton Christensen

Outwitting the Devil By Napolean Hill

Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World By René Girard

Start with Why By Simon Sinek

Do What You Are By Paul & Kelly Tieger & Barbara Barron

The War of Art By Steven Pressfield

You Don’t Need a Job – You Need Guts By Ash Ambirge

There are countless other good resources out there for exploring questions about success, happiness, fulfillment and the like. It’s a personal journey. And these are tough questions to wrestle with. But it’s worth it.

28 Things I’m Thinking About at 28

*The following post was adapted from a fall 2019 private journal entry – which I’m sharing publicly here now for the first time.

28 Things I’m Thinking About at 28

Something about birthdays always gives me pause – almost as if it’s a biological reminder to reflect on my life – to give an annual accounting of how I’ve spent my time.

This year is no different – and in the spirit of the sensationalist, click-bait times we live in, I’ve aimed to present this year’s reflections in as thoughtful manner as possible.

So here goes nothing.


Journal Entry – 6:20 p.m. November 18, 2019

1. Alchemy

Transforming the errors of my youth into golden nuggets of wisdom and life lessons (so I don’t repeat the same mistakes).

2. Mining

Extracting more value out of life – both from my time & labor, as well as the little things.

3. Treasure

Both wealth-building (present & future) but also why – I believe I have more good to offer the world if I’m financially independent.

4. Mental Hygiene

Practicing to live better mentally – less stress, more good vibes.

5. Physical Health

We won’t live forever. Both physical and mental self-care are critical.

6. Gratitude

This is a daily battle. But I believe it’s important to remain aware of the gift life is – and for what I have.

7. Joyfulness

Happiness has been an afterthought to ambition most of my life. I want to enjoy my life in the present though. To live joyfully now – not just with hope toward the future.

8. Curiosity

I’m never as fully alive as when I’m in hot pursuit of something I must know or prove.

9. Integrity

I want to be known – I crave to – as someone who deals honestly & fairly with others.

10. Compassion

I’m at constant odds with my desire to reason & my capacity for being human – without the latter in tact, I’ve lost something of grave importance for living a full life, and for achieving my potential. Remember to be human.

11. Identity

I’ve spent most of my life figuring out who I am not – and who I do not want to be. I feel more aware and comfortable with who I am each time I make one more step of progress toward that.

12. Hopefulness

I wouldn’t know what to do with my life if I didn’t carry an unshakeable belief that there is better out there – even if I can’t fully comprehend it.

13. Confidence

There’s no sense in standing for anything except what I believe to be right – the world will try to screw us one way or the other 😉. So might as well be comfortable living with myself.

14. Balance

I have a default “all or nothing” setting. It’s tough to be at odds with that – but it’s also necessary to find and practice balance. Which includes being at harmony with myself and my emotions.

15. Friendship & 16. Family

What’s the point of any of this if we can’t share it with anyone?

17. Fellowship

We live in a time where being present is constantly at war with everything else happening in the world. I want to get better at prioritizing and cherishing the limited, precious times and opportunities I do have with those who are important to me – not just idle time together – but time well spent.

18. Courage

The world can be scary. The odds are not in favor of the good guy. And that makes it all the more critical to fight to protect our individualism.

19. Encouraging

We’ve all got shit going on in our lives – that does not excuse me from building others up. I wouldn’t be where I am had others not encouraged me. Remember to pay it forward.

20. Patient

Damn. It’s exhausting to feel like I’m always being a reactionary… I want to protect my sanity and joy by getting better at letting things outside my control play out before flying off the handle. Remember to breath.

21. Thoughtfulness

It’s easy to take others for granted. I want to get better at acknowledging, recognizing, and communicating my appreciation.

22. Originality & Creativity

I have something unique and valuable to offer the world. Sometimes it’s hard, scary, vulnerable-feeling to put it out there. But it’s worth protecting that by persevering through.

23. Perseverance

Some days are tough. But nobody’s going to carry the water for me – and even if they offered, I won’t let them.

24. Personal Agency

I alone am responsible for my life, my actions, my choices, my words…and the consequences of those. No one else can carry my blame.

25. Industriousness

It’s not enough to work hard when the time we have is scarce. I must also invent my own way to prosperity.

26. Masculinity

Everything about being a man is part of the fabric of who I am – the good, the bad, the ugly. Masculinity is something to be embraced not renounced. Bridges and skyscrapers weren’t built by manicured hands.

27. Faith

My beliefs have been challenged more in the past decade than I ever imagined. I’m still working through the gaps – maybe I always will be . But I believe my life has a purpose higher than me. I can’t perfectly describe or articulate it. But I crave understanding of that purpose – and to be lost, wholly, in pursuit of it.

28. Love

My capacity and patience for the mysteries of my heart have forever been tethered to my faith. In periods of spiritual stagnation, love has felt like something within my control – cold, distinct, in-form, and calculated. In periods of deep spiritual longing – it has felt totally overwhelming, fierce, and both entirely incomprehensible and far beyond my control and mental faculties. Yet, in spite of the ebbs and flows – love has revealed its steadfast qualities to me. Through its unwavering – and at times undeserved – loyalties from others. And thought it’s consistent, sometimes soft but never-absent calling.

Wrestling with God: My Lifelong Battle with Doubt

I haven’t been confident about what I believe for a long time.

Is God real? Does he love me? Has he spoken to me? Do I have a divine purpose?

It’s a problem I’ve wrestled with for years. The world pressures us to hold strong opinions about everything under the sun. And admitting I don’t know sucks.

But truth be told, when it comes to faith I just flat out do not know.

Longing for God

I want to believe. Honest. There are days when I long for God. To know there’s something bigger out there in the universe. Something divine. Something eternal.

But I’ve never been able to reconcile that longing.

Is it just residue from my church upbringing? Is it my own ambition – reaching for the unreachable? My pride – leading me to believe that I’m worthy of speaking with God? Is it legitimately the Holy Spirit at work in my life?

I see a peace of mind faith could bring. But blind faith just because it makes me feel better? That’s always felt like a cop out.

If I’m going to believe anything – I want to feel the conviction of its truth in my bones. And that’s where I’ve always struggled.

Evidence vs. Experience

Forget the science. I’ve read books. I’ve looked under all the rocks. There are convincing arguments on both sides.

But every argument misses something huge – the kind of validation that can only come through personal experience.

I can’t say with confidence I’ve ever experienced God.

No matter how bad I want to believe it. A skeptic inside challenges every possible encounter.

I know I’m not the first person to ever doubt my faith. Or fully renounce it for a spell. Even the lead singer of one of my teenage favorite bands recently came out with a startling announcement about his faith.

Maybe doubt is something anyone with faith struggles with from time to time. And maybe that’s part of the point, too. Hell, if it were easy, would it be worth it?

Still. Doubts aside, I’m after the truth. And I have to live on this earth either way.

Pascal’s Wager

A long time ago, my boy Blaise Pascal wrestled with the same dilemma. And he came up with a clever coping mechanism.

Pascal made a wager with the universe. I’ll paraphrase for you.

He argued that it makes sense to live like God exists – whether it’s true or not.

If we die to find out we were wrong, well, we sacrificed some material pleasures. Maybe a few good times. And overall, maybe saved ourselves from a lot of immorality.

But if we die to find out we were correct, well, then there’s an infinite gain to be had.

I like this wager. Really. It makes sense to me. Except I take one big issues with it. This wager leaves me wanting more. Here’s why:

I don’t want to live a life based on avoiding consequences. I want a life of abundance – a life in pursuit of purpose and truth. And I don’t want to give up parts of my life I enjoy just to avoid burning in hell some day.

Positive vs. Negative Reinforcement

From a young age most of us are taught good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished.

Real “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” type stuff.

Faith and religion aside – we’re supposed to do good and avoid bad. To follow rules. Keep in line. And do what we’re told. Or else.

But it’s precisely the “or else” that pisses me off. Especially when it comes to faith (as it’s often packaged).

I don’t like fear-based arguments for faith. To me its no different from the life insurance agent who throws your mortality in your face then whispers, “You’d want your family to be taken care of if you died, right?”

It’s predatory. It feels directionally incorrect. And truth be told, if that’s real faith, I’m not interested.

Because here’s why – I know I’m flawed. I will mess up. A lot. And if the expectation for messing up is damnation, then what’s the point? I’m already screwed.

Exploiting fear makes me resent the idea of faith even more. If faith is worth practicing at all then it’s got to be more than fire insurance, yanno? It’s got to be something that offers hope for more – something that offers a promise of rewards far greater than I could ever imagine.

A Game of Endurance

A few notable influences come to mind as I think more about my pursuit of faith.

The first is C.S. Lewis. The way he describes his discovery of faith has stuck with me through the years. His book Surprised By Joy offers what I believe to be an incredible insight. The discovery of a joy so strong, so good, so worthy – that he longed for it.

The second is Kahlil Gibran. In The Prophet he drops a hot take on joy and sorrow. Here it is:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked…The deeper your sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you contain.”

I remember reading that for the first time and thinking to myself, “Yes! He gets it!” It describes the understanding I’ve developed from my own experience – that joy is a game of endurance. Not suffering for suffering’s sake. But enduring for the sake of unlocking even greater things than we know.

As Paul wrote, “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

I’m also reminded of Job – which has forever been one of the most meaningful yet challenging passages of scripture for me.

I’ve always wrestled with the why behind Job’s story. Why would God deliberately allow one of his faithful servants to be set up to fail?

Maybe it was a sign of trust. Maybe it was God’s own display of faith. Or maybe God knew that only through enduring could Job fathom even greater joy than he previously knew. Whatever the case, I’ve always thought if faith is real then I want a faith like Job’s: “Shall we accept good from God and not adversity?”

(For another excellent read on the same notion of endurance, check out Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.)

The Chief End of Man

Other influences that come to mind – Christian Hedonism, as popularized by John Piper’s book Desiring God. (I’m thankful someone put this book in my hands at age 17 when I walked out of the church and never looked back.)

The idea of Christian Hedonism captures another fascinating point of view when I think about faith – Piper offers one single word change to a common accepted view about faith. And it’s a radical difference.

Traditional View: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Christian Hedonism: The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

What a stark contrast, right? The traditional view conjures up an image of something entirely undesirable (at least to me)– a bunch of people sitting in church pews listening to sermons and singing hymns for all eternity. In other words, I always interpreted it as a call for self-limitation. That our highest and best exercise of faith is by restraining our impulses – by following rules and sacrificing everything as the cost of admission.

And I’ve always wrestled with that. Because if God is real…and we were made in His image…all entirely unique… then that’s not by accident, right? Maybe our highest and best exercise of faith is by discovering our uniqueness and leaning into it.

My good friend Isaac Morehouse paints it nicely in this post (which was also featured in a chapter of our book, Don’t Do Stuff You Hate):

“Christian’s purpose in life is to take delight in existence, and take delight in God delighting in them for being delighted. God created humans so that he could take pleasure in them, and seeing man take pleasure in life is what most pleased God.

I always associated the idea with a line from the movie Chariots of Fire, where the deeply religious Eric Liddell is chastised by his sister for missing church because he was running. He said, “When I run I feel His pleasure.” Not merely that Liddell was having a pleasurable experience himself, but that he felt the pleasure of God as he ran.”

Hedonism As Life Purpose, Isaac Morehouse

Unfathomable Abundance

There are so many other thoughts I have not catalogued here. But I had to get these words down. I’ve been wrestling with this issue for over a decade – and it’s intensified with age.

I want to know to truth. To understand my purpose. Or at least reach a conclusion I can carry with confidence.

Which brings me full circle. I’ve been reflecting more and more on how to build a life worth living. It’s a topic that constantly pesters me. And the issue of faith has been a constant undertone in my own narrative.

Yes. I’ve been wrestling with all this. It’s an extremely personal issue. But recently I was struck by something new – a thought that has never before occurred to me.

I was standing in my kitchen. Normal day. When a thought came to mind:

“God is not trying to cheat you out of anything.”

It’s so simple it made me laugh. Honestly.

I think my notion of faith has always been at odds with religion. To me, faith has always been about breaking free. An act of liberation. Where religion is about constraint. Following rules. Dutiful sacrifice.

And maybe my views of religion have marred my views on faith. Who knows?

This is a continuous journey. And tough one. But that makes it worth it – regardless what I discover.

To be continued…

How Will You Measure Your Life?

A decade ago, legendary thinker Clayton Christensen delivered a powerful commencement to Harvard Business School grads. His speech came only months after overcoming the same type of cancer that had taken his father’s life — which gave extra pause for reflection.

Sadly, Christensen lost his battle with cancer earlier this year.

But he left behind a rich legacy of insight through writings like The Innovator’s Dilemma, The Prosperity Paradox, and many other best-sellers. Christensen spent the better part of his career asking important questions about how we can build better businesses and more fulfilling lives.

The past months, our team at Praxis has written about big changes impacting the future of education and careers — like ballooning student debt, degree inflationchanges in job requirements, the rise of online learningno-code tools, and more.

Today, I want to share why we believe changes like these matter for young people thinking about their futures. And how the ideas Clayton Christensen left behind offer a roadmap for approaching our lives and careers in light of many major shifts happening in the world.

In his book, How Will You Measure Your Life?, Christensen describes two types of strategies people use in planning: deliberate and emergent.

  • A deliberate strategy, Christensen described as the process of planning for anticipated opportunities. In other words, a deliberate strategy involves planning for a specific outcome. (Like going to college to pursue a particular occupation.)
  • An emergent strategy, on the other hand, continuously evolves as new, unanticipated problems and opportunities arise — more of a “work hard and play it by ear” approach.

Ultimately, Christensen suggested the best way to approach our careers is by following an emergent strategy — continuously experimenting with new opportunities — until we discover a path that both fulfills us and meets our needs.

Christensen’s advice aligns well with our philosophy at Praxis.

As we think about the future, we continue to aim to design an experience that enables young people to approach their futures emergently. By rapidly experimenting with new types of work, gaining context for their skills, and increasing their exposure to different opportunities, Praxis participants expedite their discovery process.

Our world is being reshaped rapidly. Computing power continues to expand exponentially. The growth of data continues to climb. Starting a business is becoming ever more affordable. Technological shifts are creating, eliminating, and changing our jobs (and how we do them) at an unprecedented rate.

These changes have dramatically increased the opportunity cost of waiting to gain experience in the real world (especially if waiting also involves accumulating debt). And in many cases, delaying experience means gaining theoretical knowledge or skills that may no longer be relevant once you enter the real world.

At Praxis, we recognize the pressure many young people feel to have their entire lives planned out before they get started. And we want to change the narrative.

We believe the most effective way to discover the kind of work that makes you come alive is by running experiments in the real world — until things click. But until then, don’t stress about having it all figured out.

Christensen said, “What’s important is to get out there and try stuff until you learn where your talents, interests, and priorities begin to pay off. When you find out what really works for you, then it’s time to flip from an emergent strategy to a deliberate one.”

If you’re still in school or early in your career and feel the pressure to have it all figured out, take a breath. Everything will be just fine. And if you want help coming up with a strategy — don’t hesitate to reach out.

Onward.

Mitchell


This post was originally published in our Praxis weekly newsletter, and has also appeared on the Medium publication: On Breaking The Mold.

What It Means To Build A Legendary Brand

I am by no means a seasoned marketer.

I’ve never built a billion dollar business, nor orchestrated an IPO roadshow campaign. I have not led a major brand overhaul or released multiple product lines. No one has ever invited me to speak about marketing on their podcast or at their conferences.

But none of that makes me under-qualified to speak at length about my experiences with legendary marketing, lastings brands, and world-changing products.

Before I was ever a marketer, I was a consumer. And a legendary consumer I have always been.

When I encounter a brand that makes me feel like a different version – an aspirational version – of myself, I latch onto it. I promote it. I tell everyone I know about it. I preach its gospel from the mountain tops.

Brands that do this so-so occasionally convince me to part with a few dollars. But the ones that do it in a legendary way become part of my own personal brand story arc. That story arc makes up the fabric of who I say I am.

My Logo-Bar Identity

Like a NASCAR driver, my personal brand bears a tapestry of logos, slogans, and points of view that help define and describe who I am as a person. Powerful brand’s logos offer symbolism for explaining my identity to others in ways words often cannot.

The most effective brands deliver more than products into the world. They shape the backdrop of many stories of my life. In many cases, these brands affect nostalgia of former, better days. In other cases, they lay a path of possibility for who I’d like to become.

But here’s a secret I’ve learned as a consumer that lays the foundation of my core belief a marketer:

The best brands don’t sell products. They reveal a version of ourselves who we aspire to be.

Brands That Describe Me

So many brands inspire me. But the ones I really love act as a proxy for one aspect of my personality or another. Every brand that achieves some aspect of this does so because of the story I associate with the brand – and what that story means to my identity.

Consider some brand examples and the stories that surround them for me:

Amazon

What many people don’t know about Jeff Bezos is that prior to selling books on the internet, he worked as a successful quant on Wall Street in at a well-respected firm. When Jeff decided to leave, people laughed at him. They told him all the reasons it wouldn’t work. Even after he proved them wrong, when set his targets on other industries, experts still scoffed. They told Jeff to stay in his lane. Incumbents tried to destroy his company. Regulators attempted to interfere. And analysts underrated stock. Still, Amazon persisted, kept innovating, and continued beating prices. When some punk asshole tried to blackmail Bezos, he rose above it. Through every trial, Jeff Bezos proves he remains committed to the customer and to building something lasting. Amazon provides the de facto example of how I think business should be done.

Apple

Steve Jobs was not always the legendary innovator or product and design genius many revere him as. Long before the first iPhone or app, many found Steve to be a disagreeable asshole. But Steve did not care – he saw something different, something that would change everything. Steve believed every encounter with the brand that became Apple deserved to be special and human. He did not believe in following the mainstream. He believed in creating a new way of doing things, and in giving access to world-class technological experiences to a class of people the incumbents disregarded. Steve believed in bring revolutionary ideas and change to the world by empowering the individual. While everyone else focused on serving the business class, Steve brought personal computing – and free, democratized information access – to the masses. His legacy empowers BILLIONS of people to this day.

Budweiser

I drank my first beer at age 13 (If you’re reading this, sorry, mom). Alcohol was not allowed in my house growing up, so sneaking beers served as an act of rebellion at that time in my life. When my brother would leave his ice chest in his truck bed after trips to the lake during summers, I used to pilfer a few beers and share them with my friends. He and his friends drank Budweiser and Bud Light. The first drink out of every Bud Light takes me back to a specific time and place in my life of skirting rules and seeking thrills. Of being too big for my britches and wishing to be as cool as one of my biggest, earliest role models: my older brother. No craft beer can recreate the era of my life and sentimental, freedom-seeking experiences that are owned by Budweiser.

Levi’s

We didn’t have money growing up. Designer jeans were, as my mother called them, ‘a want, not a need.’ My dad wore jeans. But not just any jeans. Dad wore Levi’s. I remember curiously perusing through stacks of various-colored denim in my Dad’s closet as a kid. I marveled at the dark blues and the light, frayed almost-white fabric. I realized in time that my Dad viewed jeans as an investment. As a contractor, these were essentially part of his uniform. And as someone whose job requires trust, my Dad has always looked the part: jeans, a belt, a collared shirt tucked in, and work boots. When I got older, Mom outfitted me with Levi’s. I wore the hell out of them until years later when I could afford to buy designer jeans. And buy designer jeans I did. But here’s what I found, I’ve rarely found a pair of designer jeans that ‘fit’ me right. And I’m not just talking about the way the cuff breaks at the heel or the breathing room in the crotch. The jeans didn’t fit me because they felt impractical, overpriced, like a waste of money, and rarely lasted a justifiable amount of time considering the cost. As a brand, Levi’s has always dominated my denim market share –  both as a provider of a reliable, comfortable option, and a brand whose identity represents values of practicality and reliability that equal my own.

(PS – your boy here likes to rock those 501s and 505s)

Nike

Before we wore “Just Do It” emblazoned on shirts, or shoes ever had shox, Phil Knight labored for decades to bring his vision for a new brand of shoes to life. What he achieved likely outpaced his wildest dreams. Nike has since become a powerhouse brand, both provocative and empowering. It’s a brand for athletes, for dreamers, for those committed to never give up. And it’s the first brand of basketball shoes I remember putting on my feet when I took the hardwood for the very first time. Nike is a reflection to the years I spent waking up at 5 am to get a two-hour workout in before school. It’s the thousands of suicides, dribbling and shooting drills busting my ass to earn a spot on the Varsity team. It’s the first jersey with my number on it. It’s the sound of the swishing net when I made a winning shot, and the sound of the buzzer when we came up short. Today, it’s the comfortable brand I turn to leisure and workout wear – because when I wear Nike it reminds me of a hard-working, focused, relentless version of myself I still want to be.

What It Means For Marketers

Most marketers obsess over the latest tools. They scurry around like coveys of quail chasing “best practices” and Gartner magic quadrants. Seasoned- and new- marketers alike burn cash and demo products like schizophrenic maniacs trying to discover the latest growth-hack silver bullet to magically lift their business into the marketing stratosphere.

But what most marketers completely miss is how what they create makes people feel.

From content, to product, to company, most marketer overlook the experience of their customers at each interaction with their brands. And when this happens, their businesses fail to create lasting relationships with their customers.

As legendary CMO and godfather of category design Christopher Lochhead puts it:

“The most exciting companies create. They give us new ways of living, thinking, or doing business, many times solving a problem we didn’t know we had – or a problem we didn’t pay attention to because we never thought there was another way.”

The marketers (and companies) who succeed at this don’t just capture a big share of the market, they create a lasting legacy customers latch on to. Those experiences go on to shape more than their customers’ opinions of the brand. The most legendary brands give their customers a way to make a powerful statement of identity to their peers and the world at large.

And it doesn’t take a marketer to recognize that is a beautiful thing.

 

 

 

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Imagine yourself at the bottom of a set of stairs. This is you at the beginning of your career.

Your ideal career scenario stands at the top of the staircase.

For me, it’s the freedom to create a life on my own terms and a reputation strong enough to unlock the opportunities I aspire for.

The stairs represent the challenges and steps you must take to get there.

Each step gets you closer to your goal. Each step unlocks a little more of what you’re after.

The idea of the “company man” – where you work the duration of your professional life at one corporation – has long timed out. Today, the average tenure has dropped significantly – roughly 4.2 years.

The cost of information has dropped significantly, too. Meaning, it’s much easier to discover new opportunities, for companies to learn about you, or for you to start your own business – even if that’s as a freelance service provider.

Leverage

This means you have more leverage today as an individual than your parents or grandparents had.

You’re not beholden to one organization. The more skills you have and the stronger the reputation you have at signaling those skills, the more leverage you have.

Your journey isn’t limited to climbing one corporate ladder. It also means you’re not limited to climbing steps one at a time.

In the world we live in, focus on doing good work and the reputation you build will open opportunities for you.

Many of the best opportunities aren’t things you apply for – but the types of things that allow you to skips steps and get closer to your end goals.

Don’t worry about whether you’re staying at a company too long or moving around too quickly. Instead focus on

  • Adding value where you’re at however long you’re there.
  • Learning and engaging in meaningful work.
  • Refining your option set – by removing or avoiding the kinds of work you hate.
  • Documenting your work and learning – by building a digital portfolio or body of work.
  • Creating lasting relationships with people who push you to be better.

Your career is a discovery process. Go out and do what you need to do to discover and build a career and life that brings you fulfillment.

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*This post was originally published on Quora in response to the question Is staying at one organization for a long time good or bad for one’s career? Why? It’s received over 110,000 views in the past month.

The Ugly Truth About Burnout

The lights were off. It’s how I liked to work.

A faint glow from two 27” monitors and a MacBook Pro reflected off my glasses. Beneath my hoodie, the steady mind-numbing pulse of screamo bass outpaced the tap-tap-tapping from my keyboard.

I forgot how long I’d been there. I’d woken up around 4:30 am and I’d be there well until the evening hours.

Half a dozen years into my career, this was a typical day.

At least, until the day I had my first major health scare…

I stacked 80–100 hour work weeks regularly. No one made me. There was no formal “work hours” policy. Success was about results. But in the breakneck pace of a hyper growth company, there is never a shortage of problems or projects to get lost in.

That kind of environment is addicting, dangerous even. There’s an almost pornographic appeal to putting in long hours. Even when you tell yourself you’re having fun – which I was – eventually your faculties erode. The warning voice of conscience “you’re overdoing it” fades the longer you allow workaholism to prevail.

It doesn’t have to be this way. And probably it shouldn’t be. But it’s a picture of what life had become for me.

I ate like sh*t. Burgers. Pizza. Tacos. Fast food.

I rarely exercised anymore. Unless switching from standing to sitting or pacing on calls counts.

Not to mention the excessive intake – coffee to kickstart the day and alcohol to shut the mind off most nights.

Health took a back seat to work – both mental and physical health.

Then one day it went too far.

Not unlike any day, I rose early and slammed several coffees before anyone else made it to the office. But I remember it was a particularly stressful day.

That’s what set it into motion, I told myself: the stress.

It started as a small ache in my side. It slowly intensified through the morning. By 11 am, I was doubled over in pain, clutching my left side.

By 11:30, my entire chest felt tight and I was gasping to breath. Fearing the worst, I called for help.

I spent the rest of the day in the emergency room, doctors running tests. Fortunately, they determined it was not a heart issue. But it was clear my lifestyle had created the conditions for this scare.

Not even 30 years of age, my extremist workaholic lifestyle finally reared it’s ugly head…

When a doctor warns you that your work lifestyle is putting your life at risk, it’s sort of a wake up call that’s hard to ignore.

I felt the only real choice I had was to reevaluate everything.

Starting with my diet, exercise, and sleep routines – like cutting back from 12+ cups of coffee per day to 1–2 max, and prioritizing healthy eating. Then prioritizing regular exercise and 8 hours of sleep. These all made big impacts quick.

But they weren’t sustainable alone. I had to set boundaries and get mentally fit, too.

It was not easy.

I began weekly counseling and engaged with my boss. This was no way to live. I needed help and accountability.

Over the subsequent year, I experimented. I tried a number of different schedules and routines. I iterated often.

I fought a guilt trap – where working less made me feel paranoid, or like I was underperforming. It took consciously combatting this to overcome it.

The withdrawal from working aggressive hours also sent me into a minor state of depression. Because I had centered my life around my work, it was extremely difficult to begin finding meaning in other areas of my life again. But I made myself explore things outside of work. Eventually, this worked, too.

The countless experiments ultimately resulted in my removing a bunch of bad habits and replacing them with intentional decisions.

In time, I discovered how much power I had in deliberately designing my life – where I could find fulfillment in and out of work and everything else.

I don’t regret a single hour I put into the work I did – that ultimately pushed me to burnout. I truly loved my work. Instead, I just wish I’d have realized how important it is to have more than just work going.

The surest way to burnout is by not allowing room for any other meaningful activities in your life.

It happened to me. May you be wiser.

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*This post was originally published on Quora in response to the question What are some tips for avoiding burnout in a highly stressful career?