2016 and counting…

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:


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.

Best,

M.E.

 

Stay Hungry.

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.

 

The Weapons With Which You Wage War

Mine is a pen. Or a keyboard. Or for that matter any method for capturing words and thoughts.

I write. I talk. I ramble. I fall into an unconscionable stream of consciousness.

It’s not a flight mechanism. It’s my fight response.

Whenever I face difficulty be it in work, in relationships, or any walk of life, I fight my way through it by recording and meditating on my thoughts. Sometimes it’s more word vomit than anything else. Sometimes it’s regurgitation of ideas I liked that came from someone else. Whatever the case may be, unless or until I work things out for myself I consider surrender as a non-option. Until I’ve formulated a response from my own mind I’ve not been true to myself.

It’s not just post hoc rationalization or a closing argument of justification. I fight with my ideas. Even the ones that aren’t entirely formulated yet. Sometimes you’ll find yourself amidst a battle with only a dull sword and that’s okay. If that’s all you’ve got just swing harder.

I often equate the creative process to war through use of metaphors and similes. It’s the most appropriate description I can fathom. I’ve never fought in the war. I guess I’ve been in a few fist fights. Feel free to ask how the other guy faired sometime. But in my mind creating is like war. The most significant difference is that it’s a war against self.

Within us all there are features of creativity, of optimism, of hope. There are also the features of destruction, pessimism, and worry. Call it the Angel-Demon complex if you will. I feel that I always have two competing interests constantly doing battle. One drives personal evolution. The other settles for mediocrity or even self-defeat. At times I feel it’s okay to give in to either. At other times I feel there’s a clearer path for choosing.

But just like any war, when creating there will be casualties. There will be victors and there will be losers. These are simply different, competing versions of yourself. One version of yourself will emerge heralding its success. The other can skulk defeated or it can promise a better rematch down the road.

The choice is yours.

If you choose to make the most of your life you’ll be constantly pitted against yourself and not only external forces. You will be faced with the constant decision to choose which voice you wish to follow. One will beckon you toward self-actualization. The other will beckon you toward the status quo, or worse.

It’s all about how you choose to assess the battle. You can fight on through ’til the end. You can go home because you ran out of ammo. In your day-to-day it might feel of no consequence. In real war the choice might not be granted. In the war of creativity it’s not granted either. Unless you resolve to live an uneventful life, you’ll always be forced into action.

Whether you like it or not, if you want to make a dent in the universe, you’ve got to go into war with the weapons you’ve got. Sharpen them when the enemy retreats. Otherwise do the best you can with what you’ve got, where you are, when you are there.

It’s not so much about what you walk into battle with. What’s more important is that you walk out at all.

So pick up your sword–whatever that is for you–and start hacking away.

What 38,000 Words Taught Me

Take-Home Message: Set goals. Stick to them. Witness your life change.

I wanted to write. So I did.

I wanted to express myself. So I did.

I wanted to set a goal and stick to it. So I did.

Over the past 31 days (today included), I have blogged and journaled as part of a personal development project. In this one month, I have learned far more than I ever anticipated. I have felt stretched and I have felt exhaustion. I have also felt relief and satisfaction.

On many occasions, I had to force myself to remain committed to this goal. It was not easy. On a handful or more days, I sat in front of my computer, evening closing in, wondering what it is I would use my words to accomplish.

Some days, I would wake up and review what I had written the night before and ask myself, “What the hell was that?” Other times, I would reread something and find a handful of typos and ridicule myself. But every time I woke up, and I looked back, I felt something else. I felt a sense of pride welling up inside of me from staying committed to a goal that proved to be so difficult. I felt challenged and yet confident that I had risen to the occasion in the days that it was most difficult. I felt alive for doing something I loved every single day and for overcoming all of the excuses I fought along the way.

In the process, I learned a lot about myself and about creativity.

I learned how important it is sit down and write out my thoughts the moment I feel inspired so as not to lose a portion of it. I learned the necessity of taking the time to follow a thought to its conclusion rather than being satisfied halfway through and stopping.

I reaffirmed what I already knew about the value of seeing something through to completion, but in a whole new light. I learned about writing and creating as a discipline, and how important it is to the creative process to work when there’s no inspiration in sight. I took a graduate course in foregoing sleep to make time for working toward a goal.

I learned how it feels to put my work on exhibition for the world. I learned a lot about the type of audience my style of writing fits. I learned plenty of areas I can improve with my writing, too. I learned a lot even about the way that I write, not just the process, but the tone, the words, and the phraseology that are my go-tos.

I learned that I use too many commas and sometimes try to fit too many thoughts into one sentence. I learned that I overkill ideas, sometimes. I learned that I repeat myself. I learned that I repeat myself.

I learned that sometimes the word that perfectly completes a thought is profane. I learned that it’s okay to use a preposition to end a sentence with. I learned that  writing is a self-regulating process and the only rules that matter are the ones important to me.

I learned that I produce sub-par shit sometimes, and that it’s okay. I learned that some of the pieces I think are my best are actually the worst in others’ eyes. I learned that I shouldn’t be so precious with my ideas, and that destroying ten drafts before making a good one often leads to a better end-product.

I learned that music with lyrics can sometimes bring to the forefront of my mind an entire new train of thought–Looking at you, John Mayer, Slow Dancing In A Burning Room (See, Let’s Your Stuff Burn, Save Yourself).

I learned that it’s okay to be wrong. And I learned that it’s okay to be right.

I learned that what works for me doesn’t always work for others. And that what works for others doesn’t necessarily work for me.

I learned that I write best first thing in the morning or last thing before I sleep.

I learned that sometimes it’s best to walk around all day masticating on an idea before attempting to put it into words. And I learned some thoughts aren’t ready to be put into words and require more extensive meditation.

I learned that writing about a new topic every day doesn’t allow me to produce the most meaningful results. And I discovered ways to improve this in the future.

I learned that some topics don’t interest me, and I found some that I could spend all day, every day on.

I learned that it doesn’t matter what other people think of my work, if I’m doing what I have to do for myself. But I also discovered that when you put yourself out there and start working toward something unswervingly, people take notice.

I learned that a lot of people have goals and dreams they really want to work toward and accomplish but they’re allowing something to stand in their way.

I learned that in the grand scheme of the essential human drama, we all, for the most part, face similar trials and difficulties.

I learned that sometimes the valuation I have of myself isn’t realistic or fair. And I learned about a lot of areas in my life I would like to work to improve.

I learned that growth can be rapid with enough concentrated effort. And I learned that screwing up gets easier when I cut myself some slack.

I learned that facing my fears is easier than it seems, and that reaching for my goals isn’t so scary, either.

I learned all these lessons and many more just by focusing on something that I wanted to do for a short period of time. I felt growth take place in my life in a way I have seldom felt before.

In the scheme of the universe, I didn’t do anything miraculous. I didn’t change the whole world. But what I did was miraculous for me. I changed my world. I found answers about myself to questions I had. I looked some of my fears in the eyes and made them blink first. I peered into my own mind searching for meaning, and I found plenty. It was tough, yet it was so easy.


I wanted to write. So I did.

I wanted to express myself. So I did.

I wanted to set a goal and stick to it. So I did…

What is it that you want to do?

What are you waiting for?

Not For the Faint of Heart

Take-Home Message: If you want to be great, you have to want it more than anyone else.

If you want to be decent at something, all you need to do is put in a fair amount of effort. You can do this at your leisure. It does not take a significantly concentrated amount of labor to develop an average level of skill at anything.

If you want to be above-average, let’s say, “good” at something, it takes a little more effort, and a little more drive. It takes maybe twice the amount of time, and maybe twice the amount of sweat. It’s still pretty attainable for just about anyone who chooses to do so.

However, in between good and great, there is a weaning process. It’s a black-tie, invite-only type party. Not everyone gets in at the door, needless to say. If you want to be great, you’ve got to be somebody, I mean, really somebody. Not just anybody. YOU have got to be somebody exemplary.

You’ve got to be able to fuel your tank with minimal sleep and caffeine, sometimes. You’ve got to know how to ask for help, and not in the crummy sort of way. You’ve got to have a vision and relentlessly pursue it. You’ve got to be able to carry the weight of your world on your shoulders. You’ve got to be able to tune out detractors. You’ve got to be able to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn sometimes and start taking names minutes after your feet hit the floor. You’ve got to want it more than anyone else.

You have to know people, too. You’re probably close friends with tenacity, resilience, and self-motivation. You probably on occasion rub shoulders with autodidacticism. You probably study frequently with someone named self-improvement. You might even hang out with a mentor, and regularly visit with others aspiring-for-greatness in their own areas.

Between good and great, winners are made. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the guy paying the ante waiting for the perfect hand. Great is calling the flush with two suited cards and casually shoving your whole stack into the middle of the table. You don’t do it to be a badass. You do it to win. You don’t do it for the reaction. You do it from the expectation you have of yourself. You don’t do it for anyone but you.

If you want to be great, you shouldn’t be looking externally for approval, reassurances, or permission. If you want to be great, go look in the mirror and tell yourself you can every day. If truly you want to be great, the only thing that can stand in your way is yourself, but you wouldn’t let that stop you either. If you want it, it’s yours for the taking.

So, what is it you want to be known for? What do you want to be great at? Write it down, right now. Hang it up where you can see it every morning. Think about it when you wake up and before you go to bed and every spare minute in between. Find out what small steps are required in between then and now. Start working on them now.

Make a positive step toward that goal each day. Refine your vision until there’s no more fog clouding your focus. Visualize it. Write down the goals you find as necessary toward achieving the end-game, and stick to them.

Don’t fear sweat. Don’t be intimidated by exhaustion. Don’t get caught up being good. Run through the base. Go until the whistle sounds. Fight until the bell dings. Don’t stop until you get there.

You can do it. Go now.

Why You Should Try Journaling

Take-Home Message: Journaling allows me to track my personal growth and hold myself accountable. It also allows me to free up my mind to focus on other things.

Journaling to me is like dropping breadcrumbs along the pathway of my life. It allows me an outlet for venting my frustrations, for cataloging growth, and for detailing both specific events and the progression of specific thoughts.

I highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling with finding their purpose in life, or simply seeking to grow personally. It has been a tremendous practice that has allowed me to become more empathic with others and more keenly aware of my own identity.

As far as empathy is concerned, having a journal reminds me where I’ve been, and in so doing, allows me to relate with others who are facing or have faced similar circumstances in their lives. Sometimes flipping back through the pages even grants me a viewing into perspective on a certain situation that I once possessed but lost over time.

One of my favorite aspects of journaling is that it’s like walking through an art gallery of my life. In one chapter, I can see bright, boisterous times and read about how I felt. Some pages are marred with the difficulties of a blue or dark period, and the struggles I faced during those times. In other portions, there are detailed portraits of who I want to be, and viewing them allows me to see how much progress I’ve made since. But on every page, there’s a snapshot of myself that keeps me grounded. It’s been a powerful resource for self-development and learning to overcome adversity.

Personally, I keep two journals and a commonplace book. One journal, I keep on my computer. This journal contains my most intimate thoughts, reflections on life, and a general discourse on all things that go through my mind. The second journal, I keep in the cloud through two applications: iCloud/iPhone Notes and Evernote. This is my “Idea Journal.” It’s where I record all of my ridiculous thoughts ranging from entrepreneurial ideas and reading lists to blog posts and book ideas. Finally, in my common place book, I record my favorite thoughts, quotes, and inspirations from the things I read. Sometimes I briefly scribble what these words meant to me at the time I read it, other times I just catalog it. This system works for me, but you might find a different method to work better for you.

It’s not just a tool for self-improvement, either. It can be for any reason you want; that’s half the beauty of it. If you’ve never tried, I highly suggest you give journaling a whirl. Why not today?

Creativity As A Discipline: Viewer Discretion Advised.

Take-Home Message: When you’ve run out of gas, pull off to the shoulder and continue on foot.

Creating a masterpiece takes energy. Like love or war, simple passion isn’t enough. You’ll need more than sweet nothings and grenades. When the honeymoon ends or your wingman goes down, it might rattle you to your core. You might want to quit. There is always this choice: call it off and abandon ship or man the fuck up and get tough.

You can wayfare through life casually making advances on trollops of your wasted mind, hoping the shallow intercourse rekindles your flame. OR, let your fight through the drudgery reignite the heat of passion, burning in you a newfound lust for conceiving your magnum opus.

Choosing to create only when feeling inspired is like holding the face of your infant potential under two inches of water in the kiddie pool and telling it to swim. You commit a homicide on self-realization. You circumcise inches from the fullest version of yourself. You banish your love child to a preventable ending.

Someday you’ll find yourself in the trenches splattered in mud, out of ammunition, with nothing but a bayonet and a prayer: you can either face your fears or run away. You might not achieve glory. You might get shot. Either way, you have a choice to make.

One of these options transforms your shadow into a coward to follow you the rest of your days. The right choice showers light upon the darkness of your wildest fears, blinding them. It sends forth a higher version of yourself bursting free into existence from the ashes of the weary, worn, fear-ridden corpse formerly standing there.

This choice has a name. I call it Discipline. You embrace it like a long-lost lover or tremble with fear from it your whole life until it murders you in your sleep.