How I Work

Take-Home Message: Find what works for you.

This exercise has been circulating among my Praxis friends and colleagues, and I accept the challenge. In this post, I answer questions about "How I Work."


Location: HQ is Enid, OK, but I travel around as I feel.

Current gig: Contracted Programs Associate with The Foundation for Economic Education; Freelance Photographer; Praxis Student

Current mobile device: iPhone 4S

Current computer: 13" Apple Macbook Pro (Mid-2009 Series) Upgraded 8GB RAM

One word that best describes how you work: Resourceful.

What apps/software/tools can't you live without? 

Google Calendar, Gmail, Square Register, Microsoft Word/Excel, Google Docs/Sheets, Adobe Creative Suite (Namely Photoshop, InDesign), Notes App, Passbook/Wallet, Maps, and Uber

What's your workspace like? 

I work for the first few hours of every morning wherever I am (at home, or from a hotel room, etc.). I check email, social media and analytics, grab a book (usually philosophy in the mornings) and a cup of coffee to start off every day. I also run through a to-do list.

I carry my briefcase and camera bag everywhere I go. In my briefcase, I carry universal adapters, chargers, a 10' ethernet cable, 1TB external hard drive, various-sized thumb drives, one large legal notepad, one small legal notepad, assorted pens, Sharpies, highlighters and ink refills, page-tab Post-Its, a screen cleaner, at least two books, and my commonplace book. In my camera bag, I carry my camera, alternate lenses, external flash, charge-ports, spare batteries, Square Reader, multiple memory cards, lens cleaners, and various other necessities.

I can set up shop anywhere in under three minutes (I've timed it), and tear down in same. I guess you could call it digital nomadism.

What's your best time-saving trick? 

Drink lots of coffee, work through breakfast/lunch, and wear a watch. I move faster, the world moves slower.

Also, minimize windows I'm not working with so as to remove distractions. I also try to listen to music to the beat of how quickly or what type of work I'm concentrating on. This sets my pace.

What's your favorite to-do list manager?

Google Calendar isn't the worst. I set alerts on my calendar for an hour or so in advance and check this list last thing before bed and first thing in the morning each day. Also, I carry various notepads with a to-do list on it each day. The fulfillment I receive from crossing items off my list is euphoric, truly.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without?

Canon Rebel T5i. It's light enough weight I can carry it anywhere. I shoot pics several times per week of random things. For me, it's a a sense of escape. Beyond those three, I just need books. Always books.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Problem-solving. My work is versatile and resourceful. I'm regularly learning on the fly and adapting the new systems I learn to existing problems in other areas. Because I always challenge the status quo, I'm constantly looking for more efficient ways to do things. This helps me usually anticipate problems before they arise or adapt quickly when they do.

What are you currently reading?

I keep a running list of what I'm reading on my website here. I like to read several books at once across different subjects to feel stretched. Currently, this is my list:

Desiring God: Meditations of A Christian Hedonist, John Piper
Discover Your Inner Economist, Tyler Cowen
The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and EffectivenessEpictetus
Medidations, Marcus Aurelius (rereading)
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Religion and Politics, Jonathan Haidt

What do you listen to while you work?

I use Spotify, Youtube, and iTunes Radio. My music tastes are rather eclectic.

When writing, I prefer either silence or classical piano, some of my favorites being Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2 "Moonlight" (Beethoven), Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488 (Mozart), and Claire de Lune (Debussy). I also enjoy writing to the works of Thomas Tallis, see Spem in Alium.

When I'm not writing, I prefer Indie (Favorite Band: Frightened Rabbit), Acapella (Favorite Group: Vocal Spectrum), Acoustic or Instrumental (Michael Henry & Justine Robinnett)  or '70s & '80s Classic Rock (Van Morrison, Beach Boys, Cat Stevens (pre-Yusuf Islam), The Beatles, and many more). Another cool artist I like is Aino Venna. I occasionally hit up the Disney movie soundtracks, too.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?

I'd consider myself an "outgoing introvert." I draw my inspiration from within and too much time around groups exhausts me. I have no problem approaching a stranger with conversation and public speaking gives me an energy in its own right. But, I need time to read, write, and reflect each day to recharge my batteries.

I'm most comfortable sitting in an overstuffed chair, with a craft beer or espresso, a good book, a notepad, my computer, and a pen.

What's your sleep routine like?

It's like a 16-year-old boy's relationship status. On-and-off again all the time. Sometimes I do really well at racking up eight hours per night, and sometimes even more. But usually I operate a rolling cycle of a couple weeks snagging a handful of hours or less each night before playing catch up.

I like to stay up well into the next morning working often. When I'm on the brink of extreme exhaustion, I sometimes find a new sense of inspiration in my writing. It's usually these times when the words simply spill out, without holding back or without over-thinking. So, I enjoy this sporadic cycle. It works for me.

Fill in the blank: I'd love to see___________ answer these same questions.

Satoshi Nakamoto or Ash Ambirge. Realistically, I think everyone with a desire for self-improvement should try this exercise.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

"Don't ever let anyone tell you something you know to be untrue." –Evan Burns, Founder & CEO, The Odyssey & Olympia Media Group

I helped launch The Odyssey at Oklahoma State University in fall of 2011 with a few other students. In my second year, I moved from the creative side as an editor to managing a sales team of six–it was my first job in sales. After 3.5 months, I was the only remaining sales executive. Evan and I discussed the difficulties I faced when he shared this advice with me. He told me to stop walking into sales meetings like I was a college student and to regard myself as a professional, and as the CEO of the branch. This dramatically altered the way I approached sales– and all types of confrontation and leadership roles since.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Demand excellence from yourself in all things. You are the only one who can control the quality of work you produce. If you want better, do it.

Until Failure.

Take-Home Message: Don't erect more barriers for yourself. When opportunity knocks, kick down the door.

Your best work could be waiting for you. Maybe you've dubbed yourself as someone unqualified to complete one of your ideas. Maybe you've given up when success was just another furlong down the path. By fabricating excuses, we erect more hurdles to jump over on our way to greatness. Whatever the case, don't forego that greatness for mediocrity.

One famous example of this from history can be found in the story about the Sistine Chapel:

"In 1508, 33-year-old Michelangelo was hard at work on Pope Julius II’s marble tomb, a relatively obscure piece now located in Rome’s San Pietro in Vincoli church. When Julius asked the esteemed artist to switch gears and decorate the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, Michelangelo balked. For one thing, he considered himself a sculptor rather than a painter, and he had no experience whatsoever with frescoes.*"

Reluctantly, Michelangelo accepted the job and set to work on what is regarded to this day as one of the most outstanding art portrayals of the relationship between God and Man. In spite of this acclaim for Michelangelo's work, the painting allegedly came at a great personal cost to him.

In a letter of correspondence crafted as a poem to his friend Giovanni da Pistoia**, Michelangelo mentioned various physical hurdles the painting required of him. These include an alleged developed goiter from looking upwards as well as complaints of his face making a nice floor for paint to drip upon. He also made reference to a desire to leave the project.

"My painting’s dead. I’m done.
Giovanni, friend, remove my honor’s taint,
I’m not in a good place, I cannot paint."

–Michelangelo's Letter to Giovanna da Pistoia

Popular conjecture even remains that Michelangelo may have developed partial-blindness from painting on scaffolding while laying on his back. While some historians dispute this claim, it no less dismisses the great physical toll this work took upon Michelangelo.

Yet, in spite of this, Michelangelo's work prevails as one of the most hailed pieces of artistic creativity and insight. And all in spite of his initial reluctance to accept the gig, and his claims of not being a painter.

I reflect on this story because I think it holds many truths about our own pathways toward success. I often find myself analyzing any and every decision until I can come up with enough excuses to entirely dismiss the choice. This is an unhealthy practice. In fact, it's cheating myself when I do this. I'm cheating myself not only out of an opportunity for success, but also out of an opportunity for substantial personal growth.

We are all expert con artists with ourselves, though, because we intimately know the things that make ourselves most uncomfortable and dismayed. When I have big decisions, I find it hard to overlook these self-erected barriers with the confidence that I can overcome them. Yet, each time I say to hell with it, and decide to go follow my gut, find a way and keep moving, I can feel the growth that takes place as a result–even if the hurdles have to be climbed rather than jumped.

I think this is an important element for every self-starter out there. I've been dealing with it for most of my life, and the more people I talk to about it, the more I find it to be a common thing to overcome. For me it has taken a conscious effort and an awareness of this to begin making strides toward eradicating the unhealthy excuses altogether. Following your gut shouldn't be so scary. It should feel natural.

So, when opportunity knocks, stop holding out to see if it will ring the door bell and eventually leave if you don't answer. Stop fearing the uncomfortable scenarios pursuing new chances might create. Stop squashing your chances for greatness. You might be a sculptor instead of a painter, either way, you're an artist. Just pick up the damn brush and start painting!


*"7 Things You May Not Know About the Sistine Chapel." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2015.

**http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/jun/19/giovanni-da-pistoia/

An Exercise.

Take-Home Message: General thoughts regarding my competitive edge as an entrepreneur.

Writer's Note: This is a different type of post than the ones I have been doing. It is drawn from the challenges of Chapter 9 of You Don't Need A Job, You Need Guts.

"Today, I want you to think about your edge as it relates to your thing. And once you find that edge, how can you use that to help you name your business? Or your project? Or your organization?"

–Ash Ambirge, You Don't Need A Job, You Need Guts

This post is my own personal exercise for identifying my edge in the world. I had to get the words out. It hurt.

One-word Descriptors of Me. How I View Myself (Positive):
Eccentric. Confident. Strategic. Intuitive. Learner. Reader. Observer. Bold. Daring. Relentless. Achiever. Personal. Open-minded. Enthusiastic. Inspired. Bored. Eager. Hungry. Hustler. Persuasive. Resilient. Spiritual. Intrigued. Passionate. Fearless.

One-Word Descriptors of Me. How I View Myself (Negative):
Critical. Rash. Dramatic. Affected. Insensitive. Unsympathetic. Skeptical. Cynical. Sarcastic. Pushy. Aggressive.

How I Think Others View Me:
Determined. Cocky. Judgmental. Too critical of self. A bit cheesy, but somewhat inspiring. Sometimes-shy. Sometimes too loud. Troubled. Different. Anti-authoritarian. Well-meaning, generally. Argumentative. Unrealistic/Idealistic. Outside of the box. Contrarian. Hipster-ish. Artistic. Challenging. Driven. Wordy.

Important Background Details (Short-hand version, chronologically/Each of these is a story of its own):
Small town. Middle child (complex). Independent. Well-read. Imaginative. Agricultural. Athletic. Over-achiever. Arrogant. Grandiose. Subject to peer-pressure. Challenging of authority. Paying for my sins (I still have the receipts). Depressed. Determined to overcome. Humbled. Quiet. Reaffirmed. Inspired. Courageous. Motivated. Goal-oriented. Searching for answers. Fearless.

Ideal Lifestyle:
I will work from anywhere/My office will be the world. I will travel regularly. I will work with people from all walks of life. I will spend time with my family and prioritize them (someday when I have one). I will have and maintain a minimum of 3-5 sources of income. I will have a cabin in a mountainous region. I will work no more than 50 hours per week. I will feel a sense of community where I live and be involved as a contributor to that community. I will invest in businesses I believe in regularly. I will mentor less-experienced or younger men throughout the course of my life. I will work with [a] mentor(s) throughout the course of my life. I will write and publish regularly. I will read regularly. I will be engaged philanthropically and charitably. I will coach my son's or daughter's baseball/softball team (someday when I have kid(s)). I will work at least an hour every day for myself, be it for business or for self-improvement. I will live within my means.

Desired Fields My Business Would Fall Into. Into What Industries Would My Business Be Categorized (If someone else were describing it's place):
Marketing. Communications. Consulting. Technology. Law. Media. Management. Organizational/Efficiency Specialty. Leadership. Self-Improvement. Education.

Components I would like to include in My Business for me to find it fulfilling. What I must do to feel like my skills are being utilized:
Writing. Speaking. Photography. Social Media. Marketing. Strategic problem solving. Networking. Sales. Planning. Inspiring. Improving efficiency. Utilizing technology. Brainstorming. Design. Leadership. Self-Improvement.

My Demographic/Criteria for clients (Whom I would love to and believe I can help most): People. Small-businesses. Middle-class. Entrepreneurial types. People who were once inspired, but have lost it. People who want more but don't know how to get there. People who have lost their vision. People who want to add value with their labor. Hard-workers. People who work with their hands for a living. People who feel like there is not enough time in the day. People who have an inclination toward optimism, but are uncertain and indefinite about why. Natural problem solvers. People who share my vision for making the world a better place.

Why Does this Matter To Me?:
I want to see others succeed, especially the underdog. I have a passion for working with people who feel overlooked, under-appreciated, undervalued, disregarded, or underestimated. I feel a connection with people who have felt this in their life because I can relate. I want to empower others. I want my work to improve the quality of lives of others and myself. I envision a better world; I want to help others do this, too. I want to live freely; I want others to, as well. I want to have flexibility. I want to innovate. I want to constantly learn. I want to push myself and everyone around me. I want to incorporate as many, if not all, of my passions, hobbies, and skills into my business. I want to find better ways to do things. I want to be financially independent. I want others to be financially independent, too. I want my work to be built upon a platform that allows me to educate others about the things about which I am passionate–namely, individual and economic liberty, entrepreneurship, self-improvement and innovative technology. I want my work to be an extension of my belief system. I want to live virtuously. I want my work to create value at every move. I want to make the world a better place.


This was an incredibly difficult exercise. I will edit and add to this regularly as I continue to refine my ideas for entrepreneurial ventures. As I continue to work through the course, "You Don't Need A Job, You Need Guts," I will shape the ideas I have into a tangible business idea, and from there, work to develop a business plan from it for self-employment. Anticipated completion date of course: October 31, 2015. Deadline for completion of business plan: October 1, 2016.

Sentiment Sells.

Take-Home Message: We all like to feel special, connected, seen, relevant, and important. Accomplish this with your business, and never work another day.

Writer's Note: These are my personal reflections upon completing Chapter 8 of Ash Ambirge's You Don't Need A Job, You Need Guts.

Let's do a quick experiment.

Tell me about the first time you fell in love. Think about how you felt. What did the object of your affections say or do to make you feel the way you did? How did you respond? Contemplate on that for a moment.

I recently reflected on one of my own personal love stories: with writing (See For The Love of Words). I became enamored, nay consumed in my love affair with words and written language as a means of reaffirming my identity. It allowed me to discover things about myself–and it still does each time I make love with the words. It makes me feel relevant in this great big world.

Now, your experience with your loved one, or "soul mate," if you've found him/her, is likely a much more passionate affair. It probably reaches much more deeply into your soul, reaffirming your identity, bringing out the best in you, and complementing your worldview in a way that brings you immense delight.

What else?

Now, imagine if you could develop a business model that made someone feel all of those things.


This is a good marketing example of a simple product whose message captures this concept.


The goal of this thought experiment is to think about this individual whom would be the likely consumer of your product or idea. It's to think about the characteristics your product or service can offer to reaffirm what he or she already knows about himself or herself, and saturating this product or service with that message.

Business, after all, does not exist simply to provide things people need. It's about giving people what they want, when they want it, where they want it, and at a price they can afford. But, it's still deeper than that, too. It's about providing something that does more than its intended use. It's about adding value to lives.

So, when you can identify this individual, your intended consumer, and find out what makes him or her tick, you can begin to feel out what things reaffirm his or her identity. In so doing, you create the opportunity to add new, meaningful value to their lives through your product or service.

Once you've done this, you no longer have to sell anything. You merely have to be the friend who introduces two perfectly compatible people, and then let the magic happen on its own.

Business is about people. But not all people, it's about finding THE people, the ones who can benefit most from what you're offering and crafting the entire business to make them feel seen, relevant, important, and whole.

Here are the questions Ash posed which spurred my thoughts on these matters:

And so I ask you now: Who’s your business soulmate? Who’s the person doing the searching? What are their unique perspectives, ideas, and opinions as it relates to your thing? And, most importantly, what will you say to them that they’ll hear?– Ash Ambirge, You Don't Need A Job, You Need Guts

So, who is your business soulmate?

About Mitchell


Mitchell is a cowboy turned startup professional and Director of Marketing @ Crash. He’s a former champion meat grader. Author of Don’t Do Stuff You Hate. Narrator of Why Haven’t You Read This Book? And previously Chief of Staff at Ceterus – where he helped scale a team from 20 to 150 while quadrupling revenue.

He’s radical about creating a better future and helping others do the same. Unsolvable problems and conspiracies are his favorite conversation genres. The keys to his heart – fine Bordeaux and Hemingway novels.

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