Don’t Live Like a Victim

The world pretends everything is outside of the control of young people.

Can’t get a job? It’s college’s fault.

Student loans? It’s dubious lenders’ faults.

Don’t know how to pay your taxes? It’s school’s fault for not teaching you.

Don’t know how to save money? It’s your parents’ fault.

It paints young people as powerless. As victims of their circumstances. As incapable of ownership of their lives. Of their decisions. Of their destinies. This is all bullshit.

But becoming “an adult” does involve a lot of bullshit. Sometimes it downright sucks.

It sucks because many things about it are outside of our control. It’s easy to get lost focusing on all those things. But it doesn’t have to mean you can’t hope for better circumstances. In fact, we think you should.

The best way to start making things better is by getting started on all the things that are within your control, and fast.

Acknowledge Your Power

You have more power to deliberately design the life you want than the world would lead you to believe. Every day someone's preaching about how more opportunities will open up if only XYZ happened.

If only:

...college were cheaper, more young people could get a good education.

...loans were easier to come by, more people could start a business.

...mortgages were better subsidized, more people could have a home.

All of this is a bunch of whiny victim speak.

You don't need those things to go out and create your own life. Yes – you will need to work hard. You will have to challenge the assumptions most people live their lives by. And, you'll need to take courage to go chase after the things you want in spite of what other people say and believe.

But you don't need cheaper education. Nor more handouts. And you don't need more pity from other people.

What you need is the acknowledgement of the power you have – and to embrace it.

The sooner you do that, the sooner you unlock your freedom to design the life you want.

...more on this forthcoming.

The Temptations of 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 pin, 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.

*This was originally published on Quora in response to the question What is your advice for avoiding burnout in a high stress career?

 

Don’t Be Precious

You’re cheating yourself if you’re waiting for the perfect conditions to do your best work.

You don’t need four monitors to work. Maybe they help. But you don’t need them.

You don’t need the fanciest outfit to go to the party.

You don’t need the sharpest sword to fight.

You don’t need the suit and tie to impress investors.

All of these things may “help” but really they distract from the core thing.

You.

You are what makes all those other things assets. Don’t let them get in the way of your best work.

Interviews, First Dates, and Red Flags

Bob is excited.

He hasn’t been on a date in a while and Alice was pretty enough he told himself.

Bob’s mom had told him to just keep being himself and eventually the perfect “one” would come along. Is this the night she’s right?

No. Bob’s mom is wrong again.

Alice is nervous.

Alice gave Bob her number after meeting him at a bar last week. He seemed nice enough – and nothing looked too creepy on his instagram.

Alice has been on so many bad dates she stopped getting her hopes up.

In other words, the bar for a good date in Alice’s book is REALLY low.

But Alice is about to be disappointed again.


RED FLAG NUMBER 1*

When Bob first saw Alice, he was half-buzzed at the local sports bar. He elbowed his buddy Jim, “Hey, Jimbo, smoke show at 5 o’clock, checker out!” Before Jim could stop him, Bob made a beeline for Alice.

Only God and Alice know what he said, but to Jim’s surprise, Bob came back with her number.

A few days later, Bob told Jim he and Alice were going to dinner.*


RED FLAG NUMBER 2**

Instead of offering to pick Alice up, Bob tells her to meet him at the restaurant. Bob chose a local dive bar that has great burgers. Alice has never been, but decides maybe it could be fun.

Bob has already been there for a couple hours. He’s sitting at a table with several other guys. Alice walks in and Bob does one of those awkward hand gestures in the air to motion her over. When Alice walks up, Bob tells his friends, “This is the girl I was telling you about.” When Alice walks up, Bob high fives her.

Alice, polite, plays along.


RED FLAG NUMBER 3***

Alice tries to make polite conversation with Bob. She figures she’ll give it a chance. But Bob doesn’t get it. Instead of reciprocating questions, Bob talks. And talks. And talks.

Bob drones on about everything from his ex girlfriend and his fantasy football roster to how much money he makes and how cool his friends think he is.

Bob doesn’t ask Alice any questions. Instead, he tries to impress her by talking the entire time.


RED FLAG NUMBER 4****

After an hour and a half nonstop soliloquy, Alice interrupts Bob to attempt an exit. Bob hardly takes notice at first and keeps talking. Alice has to stand up from the table for Bob to break his stream of consciousness.

Bob – thinking the date went great – invites Alice over for a night cap. She politely declines.

Bob: “We should do this again sometime.”

Alice: “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”

Bob: “Really? I thought we had a great time.”

Alice: “Thanks for dinner, Bob. I really better be going.”


Assuming the candidate isn’t an axe murderer and brings it up in the interview – the above scenarios cover a number of the most common red flags to run away from. If you’re a hiring manager and have ever felt like Alice, God bless you.

*RED FLAG NUMBER 1:

Let’s pretend Bob is the candidate. He doesn’t know anything about the company – but he heard it sounded cool. He does no research before showing up. He took no notes on his initial phone screen call. Bob treats this role and company as if it’s no different than any other company.

Bob’s approach to the job hunt is like a drunk guy on a bar hitting on girls – with a quantity over quality approach. If Bob just hits on enough girls, surely one will talk to him.

This often comes out in the interview quickly. Look for key phrases from the candidate like, “What do you all do here?” or “I just thought the company sounded cool.”

**RED FLAG NUMBER 2:

Bob shows up to the interview unprepared. It looks like he rolled out of bed and made no effort to present himself. Plus, he’s behaving way too informally – acting chummy like everyone is an old college buddy.

He talks about the position as if it’s already a foregone conclusion. He’s not making any extra effort to stand out.

***RED FLAG NUMBER 3:

During the interview, Bob drones on and on. He takes 5 minutes or more to answer every question. He talks only about himself. He overshares information. He talks poorly about former employers and co-workers. He blames other people for mistakes. His best examples of experience are things that don’t indicate he has a depth of knowledge or expertise in.

Bob also asks no relevant questions himself. Bob takes no interest in the interviewer, the company’s mission, or the results that drive the role he’s applying for.

Bob does not reference how he can create value for the company – and seems entirely unconcerned with value creation. Instead, Bob focuses solely on himself.

***RED FLAG NUMBER 4:

Bob demonstrates he is socially unaware. Both from his interactions with the people he’s encountered while on site and the way he phrases some questions.

Bob borders on inappropriate with some comments. Something strange about Bob just gives you a creepy feeling, too. Bob tries to extend the conversation beyond the point it has clearly ended – suggesting he’s not aware nor respectful of others’ time.

Bob is also over-assuming. He behaves as if the interview is nothing more than a formality to get the job.

Don’t be like Bob.

*This post was originally published on Quora in response to the question What is the biggest red flag to hear when being interviewed?

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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