A Tribute to Man’s Best Friend

Take-Home Message: Dogs can teach us a lot about living and how to treat others.

In Loving Memory, Amos Earl.

He was more than a dog. He was family.


I remember the day we brought him home. His jovial, genuine enthusiasm for life impossible to disguise, Amos's nub of a tail wagged a hundred miles per hour. He possessed this strange habit, like a contortionist, of shaking and twisting his rugged, canine frame into an almost "U" shape, as if his abdomen was made of rubber. We even wondered for the first few days if we would be able to keep him because of his rambunctious nature.

He had a gentle, loving spirit, though, which ultimately won everyone's heart. In no time at all, he had become an important part of our family. His life created a ripple, whose wake extends as an example of joy, contentment, and love for all who had the privilege of knowing him. In many ways, the lessons we can glean from this companion, friend, and dog could teach us all a lot about how to live.

As I labored alongside my dad last night, shovel in hand, tears swelling in both our eyes, I reflected on many of the heartwarming memories brought to life by Amos, and contemplated some of the instructions he gave us on how to be better people.

  1. Live in the present. Amos rarely got worked up about anything. Every moment of his life seemed to be as good as the previous or the next. Whether you found him napping on the couch, hiding, tucked away inside his kennel away from the world, or stalking the holder of any food item, he never wanted for wonder. You could always find him entertaining himself whether chewing on his paws, or licking his crotch. He enjoyed life as it came to him.
  2. Be overcome with happiness. Amos had a special relationship with each member of his family. He would do the whole contortionist, nub-wagging charade every time someone came through the front door. He  would even greet strangers similarly. He would go absolutely nuts, even if it was the fifth time you came home. He never failed to show his joy at being reunited with those for whom he shared a bond.
  3. Eat ice cream regularly. Amos loved ice cream. He would revel at the chance to choke down a Sonic soft-serve. If you ever even offered him a taste, you'd better have watched your fingers, they might have met the same fate as the cone. He enjoyed the simple things in life, and among these, ice cream was high on the list.
  4. Don't conceal your affections. If ever you took a spot on the couch, you better bank on Amos coming to join. He had no shame in this. He shared your seat, whether there was room or not, and he would climb right on top of you. He would jump up on your bed and keep your feet warm for the night, too, if you'd let him. He had little, if any, regard for personal space. He seemed to place a high preference on quality time with his friends and family, and we could all take a page out of his book.
  5. You're never too old to play. Amos was never big on fetch. He was more of a "keep-away" or "tug-o-war" kind of guy. He loved to be chased, and he loved to fight you off if you ever could catch hold of whatever poor toy he held hostage in his trap. Even into his older years, he made an effort to engage whoever would give him a cross look in a playful bout. Even if you riled him up wrestling, he would never bite. His gentle spirit spilled into all areas of his life, and he never seemed to take things too seriously.
  6. Say what's on your mind. Amos was a bit quirky, too. If ever he needed or wanted something, whether he thought it time to eat or go fetch the paper, he'd let you know. He would bay and whine a whole concert for you. I'm glad for all the times he gave me a front row seat, and carried on conversations with me. He was never afraid to tell you what he was thinking.
  7. Enjoy the ride. He seemed to be at the height of happiness riding shotgun. It didn't even matter if you rolled the window down or not, though he'd love it if you did, just riding next to one of his buddies seemed to be as good as it got for him. He gave us a good example of how we should value and cherish the time we have with our friends, family, companions, and loved ones. He treated people well, he made them feel appreciated and valued always, even in the smallest of gestures. You didn't have to be going anywhere in particular, he was just happy to be along for the ride.
  8. Be thankful for what you have. Amos could turn a pile of trash into hours of entertainment. He could create a whole new world for himself from a ragged, old tennis ball in the backyard or a pair of dirty socks. He didn't need much to get by and to be happy. Common things taken for granted or considered garbage by others were every day miracles to him. He saw the beauty of life all around him and embraced it. He demonstrated a higher form of living for us to consider.
  9. Be remarkable at your job. When your absence is felt, you've had a powerful impact on those around you. Amos did just this with his life. He held on and never complained. In fact, he never made any excuses or mention of the pain or complications spreading through his body, though, perhaps if he had, we could have caught it sooner. He just kept on loving and living. He played his role as companion and friend to each of us sensationally. And he hung on for dear life to see to it that each of his kids grew up and he saw them off to college and adulthood before throwing in the towel. He created value in each of our lives, not from a sense of duty, but from a place of loyalty, affection, happiness, and self-esteem. He never tried to be anything that he wasn't. With Amos, what you saw was what you got, always. He never shied away from being himself, and being himself meant pawing a way into your heart. He became irreplaceable in his time here, and his absence is felt.
  10. Love unconditionally. Every dog I've ever met earns top marks in this category. Amos certainly does. You couldn't stay mad at him, and he would never let you. Even after he'd ruin the carpet, destroy a shoe, or break into the trash and disseminate it across the house, those big brown eyes, cowering down behind the closest piece of furniture would melt your heart. He knew when he messed up, and he couldn't hide his guilt. But he would always apologize in his own way. He would come nudge your hand or sing to you in his Tenor 2, or come give you a look asking permission to hop up on your lap. He would never let you go to bed mad, and would attempt to reconcile beforehand if you were about to leave the house. Even if he caught a swat from his nefarious actions, he wouldn't change his tune toward you. He was relentless in this regard. He might shy out of the room for a few minutes, but he wanted to be around his forever family, his people, his tribe, and would soon come frolicking into the room where you were. He did not exhibit prejudice. He did not act prideful. He loved his people, and he was loved back. He was a model friend, and a great listener. He knew how to console when you needed it. He knew when to come plop down next to you and enjoy a movie, and talk you into a nap instead. He loved you whether you took him on a walk or gave him a treat, or just scratched his ears when you passed him in the hallway. He didn't ask for anything in return. He was a giver. He lived his love for others, and he painted a portrait of how to treat others. He was the best dog a family could ask for, and if dogs go to heaven, I know he'll be sitting there by the gates, waiting to greet every new person alike with that little nub-a-wagging, and his butt shaking.

These four-legged, furry teddy bears come into our lives and plant seeds which eventually take root. They grow to become more than just friends, but our closest of companions. They show us love, friendship, loyalty, and so many more lessons on how to interact with the world around us. Amos was a rare dog and had uncanny human characteristics. He has been with us for nearly ten years, and grown up with us. He will be severely missed. Much like he has made a difference in my family's lives through the joy he has brought the world, I hope these reflections upon his examples can add value to your life.

Amos-3

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.

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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