Act Versus Tact, a poem:
Your gut will often be right.
But excited, with prudence guts fight.
You’ll rush a decision.
Because first can feel just like foresight.
But should ye learn when to pause
To consider your cause
Good fortune will outdo your plight!
I struggle setting realistic goals.
When I don’t live up to the expectations I get disappointed in myself. Then I’m too hard on myself. So I set even more outlandish goals to compensate for missing the goals.
Hell, sometimes I just set too many goals. Or I set them and lose interest. Or I get in a rut. Or I forget about them.
Goals can be great. There’s nothing like crossing a big goal off a list. Or they can kill you if you don’t keep them in check.
So I’m trying something new. No timelines. No expectations. Just a short list of small personal goals.
I believe today each goal below will add happiness to my life. I may complete them. I may replace them with different goals. These are what I’m contemplating today.
10 Small Goals:
- Learn to crack an egg with one hand. Because I enjoy cooking and want to make fewer messes.
- Bench press 225 pounds 10x in one set. Because I want to get back in peak shape and this one will take commitment.
- Write 5 thank you notes. Because I would like to practice gratitude.
- Perform an act of service for a stranger for nothing in return. Because I’d like to work on compassion.
- Meditate once per day for 5 minutes (for 5 days). Because I’d like to get better at understanding my emotions.
- Entertain conversation without arguing with someone with a different point of view. Because I would like to get better at listening.
- Journal about something that made me laugh or something that made someone else laugh. Because life’s more fun when I’m not taking myself so seriously.
- Journal about something I’m struggling with and publish it. Because I’m convinced the best writing is honest – and I’d like to work on that.
- Journal about something that inspires optimism and excites me and publish it. Because it sounds fun.
- Journal descriptively about a happy memory. Because I want to.
Are you done with that bench or can I have a turn? I’ve been waiting all day to get on my burn.
I’m tryna get strong because inside I feel weak. But pretending it won’t take me months ’til I peak.
If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, lean muscles don’t hurt, but neither does beer.
In the gym like in life consistency rules; also true is that you’ll meet lots of tools.
The most you can hope for is not to be one and to always remember life’s best when it’s fun.
Put on your mask. Hide underneath.
Else others will see you. They’ll see that you bleed.
Dress up. Choose your costume. Conceal your real name.
Then no one can stop you from fortune or fame.
Hide as anonymous. One lost in the crowd.
Control who gets glimpses. Even then only shrouds.
Deny all your struggles. Lie about your pain.
Others will see them. That’s unwanted shame.
Hide from the horror of losing what’s loved.
If they see your true colors. They’ll leave you. They’ll run.
The mask is the safest. A tested disguise.
Though you can see past it might trick others’ eyes.
Masks grant perfection; protection from pain.
A shield to your weakness; an umbrella in rain.
Hide from your feelings and abstracts like love.
Keep the world beneath you. And let nothing above.
So put on your mask. Don’t you dare take it off.
Or the world will hurt you. And hurting will cost.
If I take off the mask I’ll stand so exposed.
The truth to confront from my head to my toes.
This mask cages demons. It’s darkness, despair.
Yet I long for the sunshine, the wind in my hair.
I. DON’T. WANT. THIS. MASK!
The world must see. This is who I am.
And my soul must break free.
I moved 1,200 miles across the country this year, but it hardly captures the ground I’ve made.
I’m a (human) gestation period through a yearlong personal and professional development program. (See Praxis). Since January, I’ve been apprenticing under the Founder & CEO of a tech/accounting startup–which recently closed a $4.2M Series A funding round. (See Ceterus). I’ve experienced unprecedented growth as part of both. It’s been the most difficult, stressful, chaotic, roller coaster ride I’ve ever taken. These have also been the most rewarding, invigorating, fulfilling, and actualizing months of my life.
During this time I’ve gained exposure to all the nitty-gritty business of doing business. I’ve also come to recognize the brilliance of people passionate at work to create solutions. I’ve seen the trenches and served on the frontline of what I consider to be a great entrepreneurial endeavor. I’ve experienced a few victories. And I’ve come to know defeat. I see both as allies for learning now.
I’ve never felt more limber than I have these few months. I’ve never felt more open to possibility.
In the past six months, I’ve:
- Designed, built, written, sent, and analyzed countless email campaigns–for different businesses and for personal branding.
- Participated in and studied sales cycles from start to finish–in a number of different industries.
- This includes conference selling, cold-calling, web demos, email drip campaigns, data analysis, and much, much, more.
- Drafted copy for, posted, managed, and tracked talent acquisition cycle from initial contact through interview process, and final decisions.
- Prepared and overseen daily, weekly, bi-monthly, and periodic sales reports.
- Researched and vetted hundreds of different web applications and softwares–while learning dozens. Some for business, some for self. Many have even been implemented into existing practices.
- These include: Applicant Tracking Systems, Calendar Schedulers, Video Conferencing, Task Automation softwares, Customer Relationship Management tools, Web hosting, Web Design Platforms optimized for inbound marketing, Landing Pages, Lead Generation & Enrichment softwares, Email Validation software, Facebook Ads, Linkedin Ads, Job Posting Platforms, Recruitment Platforms, Web forms, Marketing Automation software, Email marketing software, Customer Survey/Satisfaction software, Contact Directory databases, Automated Referral Software, et al…
- Learned to write/code in Markdown language and brushed up on HTML 5 & CSS
- Recorded and filmed a public speaking workshop with Isaac Morehouse – Edited & Produced by Derek Magill
- Facilitated, Captured, & Edited nearly half a dozen photoshoots (Right now I’m using a Canon T5i Rebel with an EF-s 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. Photoshop for edits.)
- Created & launched a podcast series, Meanderings, with my friend and colleague, Taylor Foreman.
- Published over 20 blog posts (personal, company page, and others), and garnered nearly 1,500 unique site visitors to my personal website. Here’s a look at my top-performing post.
- Read 20 books.
- Narrated and Produced my first Audiobook, Why Haven’t You Read This Book?
- And later this summer I’ll publish my first book with Isaac Morehouse, Don’t Do Stuff You Hate (Details forthcoming).
This is merely a snapshot of the things I’ve been doing. It hardly does justice to all the learning that’s been happening behind the scenes. It’s been an incredible journey so far.
I couldn’t summarize what it’s taken to get here.
There have been many long hours, late nights, and early mornings. There have been whole days where I felt like I was banging my head against the wall. There have been weekends where I didn’t turn the lights on or leave my apartment and stayed glued to the couch, entirely spent. There have been dozens of late-night ice cream and beer errands.
There have also been some of the brightest, happiest, and most hopeful hours of my life. There have been dozens of “Aha!” moments. There have been countless small victories with violent fist pumps and silent cheers.
And there has been an incredible support network beside me through Praxis, my family, co-workers, and friends.
2016 has been monumental already. I look forward to sharing all that precipitates in the coming months as I continue to grow.
As always, thanks for reading.
If you can reach only two percent you’ll be successful. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling. Two percent will make you a fortune.
Consider the global marketplace. It’s vast. 7.4 Billion people is an impossible market to reach. It’s unrealistic. You’ll never sell to everyone. And it doesn’t matter. Two percent is still a huge crowd. Exchange even one dollar of value with that crowd and you’re in like Flynn.
Say you can’t reach that many people. Say you can’t create value for them all. Simple, don’t try to. Just increase your value offering. Up the ante to $10 of value created. Voila! You’re filthy rich, and made the world a better place by hundreds of millions of dollars.
You might say that’s simple, unrealistic computation. I don’t disagree. Figuring out one perfect equation would be immensely difficult. But you don’t need the perfect equation. In life, like algebra, there are plenty of ways to solve for x. You only need one of them. Just plan on showing your work.
The success of your product, idea, business, or service has never been about the number of people you reach. It’s always about the amount of value you can feasibly provide to the people you do reach.
Want a sure route to success? Don’t try to save the whole world. You’ll fail 100 percent of the time. Only throw life preservers to the drowning. For every person you can’t reach, increase your value offering to those you can.
It’s a simple as that. Now go do it.
Six months ago I sat salivating over South Carolina’s tastiest chicken biscuit and an irresistible business opportunity.
I had flown to Charleston to pitch a pretty aggressive business development proposal to my then-boss. My presentation projected 200% growth for his company in 12 months, led entirely by yours truly. It was ballsy. It was unlikely to be accepted. But I believed I could do it and I had to try.
I didn’t know what was going to happen when I took that 1,200-mile flight to a city I’d never visited before to pitch the most aggressive presentation I’d ever crafted to a man I’d never met. But I wasn’t scared. Quite the opposite. I was as alive as I’d ever been.
So when my proposal was rejected I didn’t lose an inch. I gained miles. What I did that day made me proud. It gave me confidence and resolve. It gave me closure. It made what happened next seem natural, providential even.
My experience has given me an acute awareness that failure is part of life. I’ve learned failing usually signals an opportunity to succeed at something else, perhaps even greater. What happened in South Carolina that week did not shock me. It came as no surprise. Not to me. I’ve been working my entire life to position myself for the exact type of situation that unfolded.
What I didn’t know when I got on the plane to leave Oklahoma was that I wasn’t going to South Carolina for this proposal I worked so hard to create. I was following a path years of diligence had carved for me.
It was 24 hours before my proposal and I had taken maybe a bite out of my biscuit. I lost my appetite for food. A new hunger had taken hold of me.
Sitting before me on that table was more than South Carolina’s best breakfast food. There was also opportunity served. The type of opportunity so one-of-a-kind you can’t even dream it up. But for me it was also the kind of opportunity that made me hesitate and ask myself, “Am I capable of this?”
The shellshock wore off with the rejected proposal, and I knew what I had to do. Nothing would stop me. No one would stop me. I knew the only way I could answer that question was to meet it with my best effort. So I did. And everything fell into place.
In the following weeks I uprooted and moved 1,200 miles away. I had no second thoughts. I hadn’t even figured out how I would make it all work when I left. But I found solidarity in the drive. I knew I would make it. I believed I would.
In the short months that followed I learned just how capable I was. Capable of working hard. Capable of learning. Capable of observing. Capable of improving at least 1% or more each day. Capable of waking up early and working ‘til late. Capable of dedicating myself to labor I believed in and capable of being mentored. I was as capable as I was willing to be.
Now I no longer worry if I’m capable. Instead I believe with enough resolve, effort, and willingness to get in the trenches and deliver, I am capable of anything. Anything. And I intend to prove it. Every. Single. Day.
I’ve come a long way since that chicken biscuit, but I’m still as hungry as ever.
Present day, I report directly to the Founder & CEO of a VC-funded startup. No two days have been the same since I started. I’m intellectually stimulated and challenged daily. I get to dive in and solve problems all the time. I get to learn new softwares and help design and implement new processes. I have 360 degrees of exposure to a rapid-growth business that’s taking an $81 billion industry by storm. And I’m only 24 years old.
I could be in law school or working toward an MBA. Instead I experiment daily with actual business operations and with actual entrepreneurs. I could be married and working on a family. Instead, I’m single and creating a fulfilling life. I could have taken a high-paying corporate job, grown roots, and bought a house. Instead, I‘m mortgaging myself so I can be an asset wherever I choose to go, with no cap on income potential. I could be living out any number of prefabricated lifestyle templates. Instead, I’m not. Instead, I’m blazing my own trail and I’m creating a life governed by my own terms.
It all happened because I bet on myself. Not on a credential. Not on conventional wisdom. Not on the status quo. It happened because I refused to follow the beat of someone else’s drum. It happened because I needed to prove to myself what I could do given the chance to thrive. It happened for me and it can happen for anyone who wants to go out and discover the life they’ve always wanted.
Your story to the life you’ve always wanted can begin anywhere, too. Mine started with a chicken biscuit. And that’s why I believe it when people say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Stay hungry, my friends.
Across the country right now many students are being duped into believing myths of a causal relationship existing between higher education and upward mobility. It’s long past time purveyors of this perverse notion carefully reassess their commentary.
At best, it is an inaccurate assessment of reality. At worst, it is a fatal error. It’s naive to assume a degree determines equity or value in the marketplace. A degree, much like a driver’s license, is no more than a signal. Just as a license does not indicate ability to drive, a college degree indicates no special aptitude for performing tasks necessary to earn a wage. Each serves as an emblem, neither as a guarantee.
Unfortunately, many young people are marinated in this unhealthy distortion of reality for 15,000+ hours before being released into the great big world to investigate for themselves. It’s hardly a surprise so many choose to pursue a college degree. From a young age, I too heard the fiery sermons about going to college to ensure landing a good job. I heard all about how degree holders, on aggregate, make over $1M more than non-degree holders.
Sadly, I bought into the lies…
I went off and I earned my college degree. Thankfully I only wasted four years. During this prison sentence I realized how inadequate institutions of higher education are at determining a person’s ability to earn an income.
I’m not one who sits still and classrooms are the bane of my existence. So I skipped most of my classes while there. I still did well on the homework and was an ace at examinations, but my poor attendance cost me many top marks. No skin off my nose. My real education while at college was hard-earned on my own beyond the confines of cinderblock cells. It’s outside the classroom where I learned to create value for others.
My senior year of college, I might as well have dropped out. Looking back I wish I had. I wasted a lot of time trying to skate by as the end neared. My periphery compliance prevented me from giving more attention to my interests. I could’ve gained more from that time.
For instance, I launched my freelance career that year. I also bartered with a handful of other students to complete their assignments or take entire courses for them. Each moment I spent in the classroom withdrew time and effort I could have better spent growing these businesses. I learned far more from both of these activities than I ever did in a classroom.
I also learned from these transactions that many people don’t give a shit about the education element of higher education. Most inherently recognize that it’s only a signal, not an indicator of skill. They’d be content simply purchasing the signal if it was possible. But heaven forbid they forego four years of revelry. What’s sadder yet is that many young people can’t formulate a decent response as to why they’ve chosen to pursue a degree. They’ve never flipped the burden of proof. Many of the reasons, if challenged, would better justify simply moving to a college town for four years, finding a job, and foregoing school altogether.
Challenging the Narrative.
While the reasons for seeking a degree are as many and varied as are the institutions ready to provide one, the number of young people amassing crippling debt burdens is even greater. Young people are being cheated. Not [only] by lenders and the government. But also by a fraudulent education system. The product these institutions market is not what it claims to be. In most cases, I’d even argue the product is harmful to the wellbeing of its consumers. Sadly, it’s more a feature of the system than a flaw of it.
The folklore of the institution of education pretends otherwise: “Attend school as long as possible. Make stellar grades. Listen to the teachers and professors. Get a good job. Don’t worry about what it costs. Your education is the best investment you could ever make.”
This narrative is bullshit.
For one, it’s blanket statement applied gratuitously to every student in every circumstance. Rarely would you ever hear a guidance counselor tell a student he or she should consider making different plans after high school. This isn’t unfair. It’s unrealistic. Some people are not cut out for the classroom–I might even argue that most aren’t.
For those who can manage to learn inside the borders of a class, assuming that college is always the best option is dishonest. In many cases the cost of obtaining a higher degree comes at much too high a toll. The debt can be paralyzing and the incessant ranking against peers demoralizing. Furthermore, the authoritarian exposition in which most formal education is set harmfully stifles creativity and originality of many of its brightest pupils. Some young people would be best to pursue learning on their own terms.
Speaking of learning. The institution of education presumes good grades and obedience to the pedagogy equates to an understanding of subject matter. Again, this is erroneous. In some cases it might be true. But it is certainly not true of every student in every case. Speak not of cheating, but the academic system as structured encourages rote memorization and rewards those who best regurgitate material. This diminishes the incentives of developing sound logic skills, of challenging the status quo, and of discovering answers for oneself.
With all this emphasis on grades and obedience and little demand for providing real social proof of an attained skill or prowess in an area of study, the school releases these young, barren minds into the world on the job hunt. Saturated with lofty ideals and a sense of entitlement cultivated by years of promise that arriving at that this moment would pay dividends, receiving a diploma often marks the pride before the fall.
It’s no wonder many young people walk around jaded and plagued by despair. They’re not much different than many millions who have lost it all in the stock market on speculation. Except in most circumstances every adversary the young people ever had egged them on to push all their chips in on college. At least with the stock market there’s an air of skepticism that goes with the territory.
The narrative of college also fails to critically engage young people in thinking about what they could do instead. This is perhaps the most grotesque error. The advent of technology has put an instruction manual on any possible skill in the pocket of every young person. What young people need instead of college is experience. College takes away time and focus from gaining meaningful experience. It also presumes that the degree is a more valuable signal than the experience that could have been gained in the same amount of time. I caution this thinking.
There are also many other classic arguments like: “You need college because you’re no Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg.”
I say great. The world might not need another Microsoft, Apple, or Facebook. Most people don’t have revolutionary ideas, but they do possess revolutionary points of view. It also might be intellectually lazy to set the status of ‘billionaire mogul’ as a standard of success of foregoing college or dropping out. Their stories still provide useful examples though, even if–especially if–you don’t have a revolutionary idea.
Here’s why. You don’t have to have a revolutionary idea to forego college. You just need to figure out what people want and how to deliver that to them. This is where your revolutionary point of view will come in handy. Whether those people you’re providing value for are potential employers, consumers, customers, friends, or anyone. Create and sell what people want, and you’ll always have whatever you need. You don’t necessarily have to provide exceptional products. You have to provide products or services that people want, exceptionally. And this doesn’t require a degree.
Some other examples.
There are rappers, musicians, artists, athletes, writers, chefs, business owners, and even eight U.S. presidents who don’t (or didn’t) have college degrees. You don’t need one either. Learn to recognize what people want or could use. Figure out a way to get it to them at a price they’re willing to pay. That’s all. If you can figure that out then all of college and higher education is obsolete.
But what if I’m studying business?
You won’t get business acumen in the classroom. College as a prerequisite to business acumen is a myth MBA-types and elitists cower behind. They lurk behind their lofty suffixes because deep down they’re afraid of the truth. The truth that their time and effort was all for not. That it was wasted. That they could have obtained it better, cheaper, or faster. I pity those who entertain this mindset for their lack of intellectual depth. Somewhere in their pasts, someone must have eradicated their imaginations. They are no longer humans, but computers. They’ve traded in their outside-the-box thinking for algorithms and actuarial science. They’ve given up sentient thought.
If they had any imagination, they could fathom abstract like success and achievement as existing outside a vacuum. They could recognize that income potential and upward mobility are not static ideas, but fluid, ever-changing enigmas with subjectively calculated value. Degrees are no different.
A Degree’s Value is Subjective.
Just because the world says a degree is worth a lot doesn’t mean potential employers will care. It also doesn’t mean it will necessarily make a person feel more successful or happier. Much like a bottle of water is worth more than a diamond to a thirsty man in the desert, the ability to create value is worth immensely more to an employer than a degree–even an ivy league one.
Today, obtaining a college degree is easier than it ever has been. That’s what makes it so dangerous to tout its value and necessity. It’s simple supply and demand, or what I’ll call degree inflation. The more people that have a degree, the less value it holds to differentiate you in the marketplace.
Because of the massive influx, the signal that a degree once held has dwindled from a flare to an ember. If you want to distinguish yourself, a degree is a poor mechanism for doing so. You could use some social proof or a value proposition instead. You could use experience or a skill set. You could use any number of things as a better signal–even if you want to use these in conjunction with a college education. But don’t fool yourself that the degree alone is sufficient.
So, say you feel like college is not for you. How do you go about creating a better signal?
Simple. Here’s one method I propose:
Make a short list of a handful of things that interest you. Whatever they are, write them down. Don’t be afraid to go big.
Next, make a short list of things you are good at. Not just things your mom tells you you’re good at. What things would everyone you know say you’re good at?
If any of the items on these two lists merge then congratulations. You’ve found a starting point. You are now equipped to find a business owner who has a need for a service that lives at the intersection of your interests and skills. When you find said business owner, ask if you can shadow him or her for a week or more. If this is granted, do it ASAP. Take notes. Learn everything you can and constantly assess ways your skills could add value to the operation.
At the end of the shadowing, first, draft a thank you note to the business owner. Along with it, draft a proposal on how your unique interests and skills could be engaged valuably to the business owner. From what you learned about the business in shadowing, detail what you witnessed. “The following areas could benefit from innovation, and I’m just the person to do it.” Why? Because you want to learn and improve his or her enterprise and at your age you need experience more than money. Do not pitch your skills. Do not pitch your financial situation. Meditate on the business owner’s vision and pitch your desire to help achieve it.
When you’re hired, as you most likely will be and begin working to fulfill this agreement, document your work. Build a portfolio as you go of the projects you create–if the info isn’t sensitive. Start a blog or build a quick website to host the things you learn and to feature the projects you create. Boom. You’ll never have to worry about a degree again.
To all the young people out there who have fallen victim to statistics and the social commentary about college, don’t fret. The same opportunity is open to you. While your limited availability might impact your prospect to gain real experience, openness to ideas, a strong work ethic, a hunger to learn and unswerving dependability can help you overcome that.
Ultimately, it’s your life.
Whether you choose to pursue a college education or not is entirely up to you. Don’t make a blind decision. Be mindful of the opportunities you’re foregoing and the time, effort, and money you might be wasting. Don’t rely on a degree as a signal of your worth. Create a better one.
“Step away from that edge, young bird!” The teacher’s stark, reprimanding voice sent me catapulting from my day dream. “You’ll fall to your death.”
“Oh! But what if I fly?” I boldly replied.
“That’s nonsense. Get your head out of the clouds,” she said. “No one’s ever done it before. You weren’t made to fly. Now sit down, you’re disturbing the class.”
I challenged her. I was not about to give up so easily. “How do you know I won’t soar?”
“Sit down and shut up,” the teacher, not in the mood for a debate, exclaimed. “You’re putting ideas in the other students’ heads. Do you want them growing up believing myths?”
“What if staying nested is a myth?” I asked. Her lectures could not stifle my inspiration.
“Class, listen up,” she started in–the teacher did love an audience, “Let me make this explicity clear once and for all. You were not made to fly. The stories you’ve heard are simply tall tales passed down for ages. Make believe fables. There is no flying. If you leave the nest, there is only dying. Nest life is the best life. What lies beyond the edge of this kingdom is not suited for birds. One foot over the nest’s wall and you will plummet to the earth, meeting a most dissatisfying doom. You must stay here and learn. That is your only hope for survival.”
I could not take it anymore. No teacher would stifle my dreams.
“But I don’t want to survive! I want to glide! I want to feel the wind rushing beneath my wings, to sit atop clouds, to chase lightning bugs on the breeze, and to greet the morning sun with a song from the heights! I must fly! I just must!”
I ran to the edge and threw myself over, hearing gasps followed by an uproar. Then, only the violent rush of wind filling my sinuses and ears.
I hurtled downward picking up speed. Everything around me, a blur. “I might not make it!” The thought rushed to the forefront of my mind. “What if the teacher was right? What if I die?”
“NO!” A roar unlike anything ever produced from my lungs erupted. I don’t even know where it came from. The startling noise ushered from my beak caused me to flinch and toss my arms out beside me.
Everything slowed. I could see. Was I not to die after all?
“Wait a second…I’m flying!” I chirped as loudly as a young bird could chirp. Today was not my day to die. Today surely was my day to fly!
When a bird flees its nest for the first time, it has no backup plan. It doesn’t slink to the edge and assess how far away the ground might be. It doesn’t fall from the nest.
It jumps. It spreads its wings. It becomes what it was meant to be.
You were meant for more than the safety of your nest.
Take flight today.