Everyday Superpowers

A friend of mine once slept in his car for three months.

He moved across the country for a girl. A few months later, they broke up.

So he needed a new plan, fast.

He had just accepted a job that was a bit out of his league, and the thought of declining because he couldn’t afford the cost of living in the city embarrassed him.

Student loans and credit card debt had piled up – he didn’t have free cashflow to afford an apartment.

So he found a parking garage.

His first night, he woke up at 3:30 am in a cold sweat. He peeked out the window from his reclined seat to find a cop parked in the spot next to him. He knew if his cover was blown, he could be arrested. So he laid there – frozen.

In time, he planned his day to a tee. He set his alarm to avoid security guards. He got a gym membership so he could bathe. It forced him to show up to the office early and leave late.

Over the three months, he paid off over $15k of debt and developed a remarkable reputation among his co-workers. Not to mention he earned a great story.

When I think about his story, I’m inspired by the lengths he went to make his situation work. He drew a bad hand – and bluffed it into winning the pot.

He didn’t win the lottery or have a miracle fall out of the sky. But he leveraged his will as a superpower.

His story makes me wonder, maybe superpowers don’t have to be the stuff of myth. What if tough situations are opportunities to develop them.

 

*This post originally appeared in my weekly Crash Newsletter earlier today – where I share inspiration, and the week's best content on careers, personal growth, and how to get ahead. If you're interest in learning more, sign up here!

Exploring as Catharsis

Do you ever get the urge to explore something new? I do – often.

Something about venturing out into the unknown acts as a release. Even in the small detours – like a new route home from work, or a new path on an afternoon walk.

I think exposure to new environments expands our minds, even subtle changes. Disparities from routine offer fresh perspectives.

The explorations don't have to be geographic, either. Consider a few modest changes with significant benefits:

  • Rearranging furniture
  • Swapping light bulbs with different hues
  • Working remotely or from a coffee shop, instead of the office
  • Using noise-cancelling headphones versus the usual ear buds (cough *Airpods* cough)
  • Changing up your playlist
  • Alternating to standing from sitting

All of these small steps give me a major release – not just in reduction of stress, but in a more significant way. New experiments yield new glimpses of joy. It's almost like each new experience unlocks one more small secret to the universe.

Maybe it seems silly. But it works for me.

Against Monotony

We live in a great big world. How much of it have you experienced? I try to ask myself that from time to time. Especially when I find myself stuck in a routine that's begun to produce diminishing returns.

A quick change of pace can go a long way. Major alterations go even further.

The real secret is not in changing for change's sake – there is value to be had from routine – but in changing to expand your point of view.

If you're like me, doing the same thing over and over again eventually leads to a wall that impedes progress. Mixing things up combats against that.

Experience the Orange

A decade or so ago at a leadership training seminar, the speaker gave everybody an orange. He set the clock for two minutes. The only instructions he gave were "to experience the orange." For two minutes, everybody observantly peeled back the layers of the orange – intently cataloging every nuance.

Suddenly I held more than some orange table fruit.

Again, it seems silly. But I still remember it.

Sometimes approaching things in a new light, gives you an entire new perspective. If you're down and out or feel like inspiration is lacking, maybe it's time for your to experience the orange.

Go explore something new. Or go explore something familiar in a new light. There may be some new secret waiting for you to uncover it.

 

 

Your Student Debt Isn’t Fair

Get good grades. You must!

Why?

To get into a good college, of course!

What happens if I get into a good college?

You'll be able to get a good job, naturally!

What if I don't want to go to college? Isn't there another way?

That's nonsense! College is the way.

Sound familiar?

A Narrative Trap

College owns the narrative. For so long college has been the de facto next step, people take for granted there are other options.

It's so embedded in our social paradigm it's become an almost expected conversation topic. If you're under 25, chances are somebody's going to ask about it – and not even who you'd expect.

Where are you planning to go to college?

What are you studying?

Where did you go to college?

What are you going do after college?

...

But you know who's not asking – employers.

That's right. Fewer employers care each day. Instead of a degree, they want to know you have skills, the ability to show up, and the willingness to dive in and work hard.

Still, the barrage of questions from your parents, friends, relatives, and guidance counselor can make it feel like your option set includes college or bust.

Information Costs

The cost of all information – except bad information – is rapidly on the decline. Today, you carry around more knowledge in your pocket than the combined intellect of every previous generation.

Whatever you want to learn, you can access with the proper Google search. In this age, asking good questions is actually a more valuable skill than going to college.

The decrease in cost of information also means knowledge is no longer esoteric in nature. To paraphrase wise words from my good friend T.K. Coleman – "The age of the school of mystery is over."

You don't have to pay some institution for secret information that unlocks some parallel universe where you're successful. Why would you pay for what you can access cheaper, faster, and more personalized to your goals?

Today, you can design the universe of your own success deliberately and at a low-cost.

Choose Social Debt, Not Student Debt

If you're dying to go into debt at a young age, then go into social capital debt. Go ask people for advice. Offer to buy them a coffee or lunch. Then ask all your burning questions about life and take notes. (Pro Tip: always send a handwritten thank you note after)

If you have ambitions about a particular type of role, then seek an expert out. Be respectful of their time and come up with good questions. But don't be afraid to approach them.

No one starts out with all the answers. Everyone starts somewhere.

Even if you're contemplating college, do yourself a favor and do some due diligence on what opportunities might interest you.

After you've done your research, be honest with yourself: is college the best way to get to where you're trying to go?

If it is, then power to you. If not, then don't put up a bunch of hurdles for your future. Serious.

It may seem like a great idea now, but when you graduate and the jobs in the industry you thought you wanted to go into have disappeared, and you're making $35k per year...$350 per month in student loan payments becomes A LOT OF MONEY FAST.

It's Your Story

The world wants you to believe you need college to live a successful story. But that narrative is bullshit.

Your story isn't dependent on some third-party riding in with a silver bullet to save the day.

It's not fair and it's not honest to say your success depends on some other institution.  It doesn't.

Your success depends on your makeup.

Are you willing to do the hard things?

Can you get up early, show up on time, and stay late?

Will you give up some nights and weekends to be successful?

In a world where everyone else walks one way, take hold of the advantage of going a different direction.

You owe it to yourself to at least consider your options first.

 

Decisions By Proxy

I got a new pair of roller blades for my 8th birthday.

Immediately, I begged dad to take me to the park. The street no longer presented a challenge.

Marching directly to the playground, I climbed up the steps to the tallest slide, slipped on my blades and stared toward the bottom.

"Should I do it?" I asked my dad.

"I don't think it's a good idea, Mitch," he replied.

That's all the encouragement I needed. I jumped to my feet and lurched forward.

The moment ended as quickly as it began. I ate it – hard. But at least I tried.

The experiment earned me several scrapes and an important lesson: bad outcomes hurt less when they result from your own decisions.

My dad and I laugh about that incident to this day. Still, I can't help feeling a little pride. Yes – I made a reckless decision. But I made the decision.

Outsourcing Your Decision-Making

Contrast my example above with another story.

Several years ago, I worked in an office next to a warehouse. We shared street parking. Signs clearly marked the tow away zones. But we rarely saw them enforced.

On one occasion, a few new employees asked others if they ran a risk parking in the tow away zones. Some tenured employee told them they'd never seen a car towed – so the new folks parked there.

That afternoon the city towed their cars. The new employees acted outraged. What an injustice!

One requested reimbursement from the company for the incident. This confused me at first, but the longer I thought about it, the more it sank in.

This individual wasn't mad just because of the car towing – he was also mad because he'd relied on someone else's judgment to inform his decision. He saw the tow-away signs. But he made a calculated risk based on the information from what seemed like a credible source.

In short – he allowed someone else to make his decision for him. On that day, his proxy turned out wrong.

The individual felt justified in his outrage because he had a scapegoat upon whom he could blame-shift. Had he never asked anyone and chosen to park in the tow away zone, he would've bore full culpability.

Instead, by outsourcing his decision, he relived himself of responsibility for his poor decision.

Stuck Holding the Bag

We all rely on proxies to inform our decisions from time to time.

Consider product reviews as a small case and point. Or referrals from friends about the best dentist or auto-shop.

Still, we ultimately bear the cost if we act on the information and the choice turns out poorly.

What about the bigger decisions?

Like who to marry, whether or not to go to college, which company to work for, or which city to live in.

We all know people who've made decisions like this by proxy. Sometimes it works out. But when things go poorly, the person who provided information is rarely stuck holding the bag.

No – we have to live with the choices we make, even if we relied on information from someone else.

Skin in the Game

For big life decisions, I try to avoid advice from people without skin in the game. Sure, I'll ask for movie referrals. But for the big stuff, I do my best to own my decisions.

If the choices blow up in my face, I have no on else to blame but myself.

Still, occasionally it's useful to seek out third-party opinions – if even just to shock-test your ideas.

I've found over time that people who have no skin in the game as to the outcome tend to give advice based solely off their own experience. They don't account for the arbitrage of their experience adjusted to yours.

People who have an actual investment in your outcomes, on the contrary, bear some of the risk if shit goes awry. I think something about that risk makes them simultaneously more affected, and more level-headed. They have to live with the weight of their opinion.

No – this does not mean you should fully outsource your decisions to them. But it does increase the odds that their advice is better suited for an outcome that's good for you (not just them).

Proxies Don't Pay

Whether you heed others' advice or not rests on your own shoulders. When you request advice, you still get to choose what to do with it.

You're never obligated to make decisions you don't agree with. Don't forget, you own the final say.

But, if and when you make a poor decision, if you relied on someone else's faculties, remember: it's you who has to bear the full cost.

Though they may "feel" guilty – you have to live the decision, not them.

So don't be flippant. Proxies provide additional points of view. But they don't have the power to make the call – you do.

Own your decisions. Even when you make bad ones. Don't cede responsibility to anyone else.

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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