It’s Not About The Money

Take-Home Message: Money holds its value in the opportunities it creates as a tool.

Money came into existence as a wonderful human response to expanding opportunities for trade. (If you want an in-depth explanation, I highly recommend The Origins of Money by Carl Menger.) It rose to popularity neither by government edict nor rule of law, but as a mechanism from innovative people to lower the barriers for attaining prosperity.

Consider this example: Three villagers would like to trade. Tom offers a cow and wants a sword. Bill offers 15 chickens but wants a cow. Wes offers a finely crafted sword but wants chickens. To facilitate this trade, all three villagers must participate and engage with one another, deciding the value of each item in correspondence to the next.

Money expedited this and allowed people to taste wealth in ways never before imaginable. It happened by eliminating the broker-dealer and third-party negotiations necessary to trade. It allowed people to deal directly with whomever they sought to do business.

Somewhere along the way, though, this perception of money as a tool for increasing global prosperity became muddied. Whatever the reason(s), be it greed, power, status, it took on a new reputation to many as the ultimate goal rather than for its role.

As money transformed into an object of obsession from its former glory as a brilliant innovation, it lost some of its value. It lost its story as a mechanism for peaceful dealings with others and as a resource for facilitating mutually-beneficial exchange.  It lost its value as a means for global progress to its competing interest as a symbol of status, wealth, authority, power, or success.

I used to count myself among the crowd who views money in this light. I used to think piles of Benjamins equaled happiness. I desired the symbol it represented, and I thought of the freedom immeasurable wealth would afford. I failed to account for the intrinsically valuable experiences, relationships, and memories to be sought after in life.

All of these former thoughts and beliefs represent a key misunderstanding of not only money but also of value. I failed to see the subjectivity of value. My flawed understanding could not make sense of how different things could possibly be worth different prices to different peoples, and at different times. My error became apparent quickly as I grew and witnessed a change of value in my own life. Many things that I once thought valuable hold little if any worth to me still today. In coming to this realization, I became aware of the importance not of money as a symbol but of money as a tool.

I faced many questions on the way to this truth. Like, what is money without happiness? What is money without someone to share it with? What is a fortune without a family or friends? What is an immense income without fulfillment in labor or life? What is prosperity without purpose? And many more…

In answering these questions for myself, I am convinced of the importance of seeing and understanding subjectivity in determining worth. What I value is not necessarily the same as what you value, and vice versa. If we all valued the same things and with the same intensity, trade could not occur and the weak would be subject to the whims of the strong.

Because of this truth, though, it is imperative that we allow each person to determine what he or she values, and to allow them to pursue those things so long as they go about it peacefully.

Money holds a valuable lesson for us in this regard. It provides us a living model to observe the different preferences of all people interplaying in a beautiful orchestra of human interaction. It’s not about money as the end-goal, though. We must not forget about its origin as one of the most powerful tools for facilitating peaceful exchange among men.

Hating The Other Team Isn’t Fandom

Take-Home Message: Don’t be a fantagonist. Let love fuel your passions, not hatred.

Wasn't I just a lady-killer?
Wasn’t I just a lady-killer?

I remember the first shirt my parents ever put on me with the logo. I was just a little tike at the time and had no concept of fandom, let alone team loyalty. At two years old, I rocked that tiny crop-top Oklahoma State outfit like it was my job. It paired nicely with the boots, chaps, and cowboy hat I wore a few years later, the Halloween costume turned outfit of choice on any given day. Still years later, for my 13th birthday, when my mom and sister decorated my bedroom in the colors of my future alma mater, I possessed little understanding of the qualities indicative of a true supporter. I was still in the phase where insults about the rivaling Oklahoma Sooners equaled confirmation in my eyes. Little did I know I was missing the entire point of being a fan, of wearing the colors of my team win or lose, and of simply enjoying the game for the beautiful thing it is.

Throughout the years I have explored the meaning of fandom and observed the definition in action from various capacities, through different lenses, and by vast numbers of unique personalities.

My conclusion is simple: Being a true fan requires love for your team. Riding the bandwagon does not. Rightly so, a significant difference separates the two, though it may take a trained eye to identify these differences when you are out tailgating on game day. Against the crowd, everyone wearing the team colors may appear to be a fan, but the truth is simple: real fans love their team, fake fans hate the opponent.

Think for a moment about any number of the outings in which you have participated, be it a sporting event, a political rally, a religious conference, an organization meeting, or any scenario for which you have been present where the ultimate goal rested on the advancement of some agenda, be it winning, voting, promoting, raising awareness, evangelizing, and so forth, ad infinitum. Whatever the matter may be, we naturally, when coming together for such a cause, assume that an opposition to our cause exists somewhere among society. In many cases, this opposition is readily identifiable: you can judge it by the colors worn or the flags waived, the words spoken or the rhetoric invoked. However, this process becomes greatly muddied when the people standing on the same side of the aisle as us are not at all satisfied working toward the same agendas.

The most potent example of this in action depicts the conditional fan or supporter. Here are some of his most distinguishing characteristics:

  1. He is the guy that shows up to the game more buzzed than the rest of the crowd around him (except maybe the college frat guys).
  2. He’s usually wearing the colors of the team for whom he’s rooting, though it’s probably one of the only shirts or hats of this team’s which he owns.
  3. He yells more obnoxiously than those around him. He does not know all the words to the fight song—nor does this inhibit his invocation of his own remix. He usually spends most of the game belittling the referees and other team.
  4. His stake in the game is insignificant, if existent, at all.
  5. He HATES the opponents, and all supporters of them.
  6. His cheers for the team he is representing pale in comparison to his degradations of the opponent.
  7. He will not wear the colors the following day, regardless, but he will insult anyone wearing the other team’s.

The descriptors above are meant to paint into your mind a picture of the “fantagonist.” He is around us, everywhere, in every movement, cause or group with which we have stood in support of an idea or purpose. To our demise, his presence or portrayal as a member among our group is more often than not more harmful to our cause than most of the good we seek to advance. He is the bad apple in the bunch. He is the nail picked up by our tire. He does all of this with no idea of the significance of his action upon those individuals who live outside the world of our fandom. He is associated with our cause only on the fringe, but he is contrary to all we hope to promote in our own delighted support. He is the fan that everyone from the other side thinks of, however, when they envision doing battle with us. Among us loyal fans, he is the biggest imposter, a hollow pretense cloaked in team memorabilia, but to everyone on the outside, he’s got the goods.

Even for these fans, though, there exists in play a simple litmus test to identify this wolf in sheep’s clothing. Nudge them softly, though. All you must do is pinpoint the other team this fan would support over your team. Put your finger on these entities which hold more weight to this fraudulent fan, and you will have arrived at an understanding of his true degree of fandom. The more contingencies he possesses, the less a fan he is of your cause, team, or proposition. Made simple, this looks something like, “I support Oklahoma State, so long as they are not playing ________________.” The question can be reframed in any number of ways depending on the issue at hand, but the effect remains the same: People will always prioritize according to their highest preferences.

Too often in my own short life, I have embodied this same behavior. I have found myself rooting against things for all the wrong motives. I have been the loudest, most virulently hostile ringleader, at many points for causes in which, though I may have held an infinitesimal stake, my interest in said stake was birthed from ulterior motives. Most notably among these causes has been my hatred down to the cellular level of illegitimate authority imposed upon me. Until very recently, however, I viewed this hatred of authority through an opaque lens.

From my own seat in the nosebleed section, I was chanting at the top of my lungs for liberty to decimate the other team, and to do so at all costs. Meanwhile, I raged onward as a self-proclaimed fan, continually fueling my buzz and obnoxiously announcing flagrancies toward the political pundits above the cheers of my neighbors for each goal liberty scored. I was wearing a Ron Paul shirt in the 47th row of the stadium waving my picket sign, upon which, boldly emblazoned in bright letters visible to the entire crowed was the word “SECEDE!” This was not love of liberty. This was hatred of the state on display.

I was enraging the fans on both sides of the field, and I was finding little fulfillment in the cause, aside from the sick, twisted arousal I gleaned from starting forest fires of debate among the natives. I was not a true fan of liberty. I was a hate-fueled fraud. Instead of victory solely for victory’s sake, I sought victory for my own team only at the expense of all the other teams.

This hatred was equivalent to rooting for everyone to beat the Yankee’s solely because I was a Bo-Sox fan. Love of any cause, though, is standing tall during the ninth inning of a blowout at Wrigley Field, proudly smiling that I had the chance to watch my team, and making plans to come back again next week to do it all over again.

This epiphany has made all the difference to me, and it has drastically changed both my worldview and valuation of camaraderie. I want to be a Cubs fan of liberty. I want to be the Poke’s fan for freedom. Sadly, my team is not going to win this year. In fact, we might not even win next year, but I heard we are building the program from the ground up, and we have a great recruiting class the next few years.

So, in light of this, I think I’ll pack my poncho and maybe even an extra fleece in case there’s a chance of snow. I’ve even got my tent loaded up so I can camp outside the stadium and snag a front row seat. Hell, I might paint my face. It’s okay that you are cheering against my team, though; I’ll still save you a seat. Anyway, I hope to see you there, I hear it is going to be the matchup of a century.

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.

Reputation Markets Change Everything.

Take-Home Message: The rules of the game are rigged against you. Do not be dismayed. Entrepreneurs to the rescue.

Before long, we’ll all be flustered, rushing to the accountant’s office with a stack of papers and a shoebox of receipts, begging them to perform a miracle. Meanwhile, we’re hoping not to get pulled over on the way to the office for speeding, or a seatbelt ticket, or for running a red light. Then, once we finally find a parking spot, we all hope that it doesn’t take more than 45 minutes, or we’ll earn a parking ticket.

You may have taken the highway to the accountants office, so, there may have been a toll. Of course, you’re already in your car, with your state-issued driver’s license, your mandatory insurance, tag, license plate, title and registration. Not to mention the money you put into the tank, or the oil, or the filter, or having the tire rotated recently. Those maintenance charges were all yours, though.

At every turn, there is a barrier. At every stop, there’s a new fine, tax, expense, surcharge, fee, or request for “charitable contribution.” On top of that, there are things to think about like putting food on the table, keeping the lights and water on, putting back for some future child’s college (or paying tuition already), regularly maintenance the vehicles, mow the yard, feed the dogs, clean the house, and on and on and on…

We stretch every dollar, nickel, and cent as thin as it will go. We stretch every hour and minute to cross of item after item of perpetually multiplying checklists. And for what? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Is there a way for our burden to be lifted?

How do we manage to juggle all of the impositions, restrictions, regulations, licensure requirements, fees, taxes, and (I’ll call it for what it is) bullshit that piles up commensurate our own lives’ duties?

One of the ideas I’ve been recently examining focuses on the role of entrepreneurship and innovation as means to combat these impositions in our lives and to free back up our money and time so we can spend both of them where we would rather prefer. So we can spend OUR money and time on OUR lives.

It’s basically the tangible application of public choice theory into the marketplace. , It’s ideas like Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Yelp!, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Tinder (Regardless of how you feel about it, Tinder achieves this), dating websites, AirBnb, HomeAway, and an exponentially growing number of other brilliant ideas from entrepreneurial minds.

It’s this concept of what I’ll refer to as reputation markets. Each of these takes the wants, needs,  and preferences of consumers, just like me and you, into account, and transforms not only the way we find businesses and people, but the way we perform transactions. And they’re drastically reducing prices for these things we want.

Not only do these lower transaction costs, though. These applications also provide a means of feedback. They put accountability back into the hands of consumers and service providers alike. It removes the need for “regulations that keep us safe.” It eliminates the middle man. It puts people with people. It’s the Peer-2-Peer revolution, and it’s dramatically transforming every facet of our lives–if we’ll only embrace it.

So, what does this revolution mean for us? It means that with every new advancement, we achieve a new means for finding whatever it is for which we are searching.

It means when I’m landing in an unfamiliar city, I don’t have to jump in a car with a cabbie about whom I know nothing. With the press of a button, I can signal my desire for a ride, while simultaneously checking out the reputation of the driver. And then I can punch another button and find a cool place to eat I’ve never been, and the driver can drop me off. And hell, if I have one too many drinks (and would prefer not to risk a DUI), I can just hit the same button again  to make it home safely.

It means when I’m doing an artistic portrait photoshoot and I need to find a lens that I don’t own, with the touch of a button and a quick charge to my VISA, I can summon this lens from outer space via the magic of entrepreneurial innovation and the stork will drop it off on my front porch the next day.

It means when I’m taking a vacation with my family but don’t want to stay at some cookie-cutter hotel or resort, I can search for someone’s vacation home and rent it directly from them for the amount of time I’d like to stay.

It means if I need something done around my house that I don’t know how to do or simply don’t have the time to do, at the click of a button, someone other people have trusted into their homes before me will show up and trade me money to accomplish the task at hand.

It means you can find someone with similar interests and connect.

It means you can find something to buy or rent. It means, too, that you can sell your stuff for cash. Instantaneously.

It means that we don’t need someone standing between us at every transaction. It means we don’t need anyone to keep us safe. We’ve got 2 billion friends out there watching our back, using their experiences to rate services at every turn–and this number is growing each day as entrepreneurs find creative ways to provide affordable internet worldwide.

It means you can have your life back and your money back. And it’s all right down the pipeline. So, pull out your Smart phone, visit the app store, and see what brilliant ideas entrepreneurs are cooking up to give you back your lives and hard-earned cash.

P.S.– As I spend more time in-depth researching these ideas, I will provide more data and scholarly resources to assess the way these innovations change human interactions in a positive way. (At least, that’s what I hope to prove).

Free the Hostages. Or Else.

Take-Home Message: If you are not pursuing your valuable idea, you are keeping your standard of living and the worlds’ lower than it has to be. Become the hero in your own story.

What if I told you I know your dirty little secret? What if I told you I knew how many hostages you’re holding right now? I know how you’re keeping them quiet. I know why nobody’s going to do anything about it.

So, what’s your number? Is it one? Two? Maybe more. How many dependents do you have? How many people do you interact with each day? How many neighbors, relatives or friends do you see regularly? Think about everywhere you frequent.

Now, think about the grocery store where you shop. Think if it wasn’t there. How much further would you have to drive? What about your favorite barbershop/salon, what if the stylist you always visit wasn’t there, where would you go, instead?

I want to paint a picture for you about what your standard of living would look like if someone else had not taken a risk, however small, to open their business in proximity to you. Your life would at least be different, right? I think so.

I think about where I would eat if the restaurants I frequently patron weren’t nearby. I think about how much more I would rely on Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and (God forbid it) USPS to deliver the things I might need in lieu of the entrepreneurs in my area.

And when I think about that, I also think about my portion of the exchange I take part in on a regular basis. I’m not talking specifically about the exchange of my money for someone else’s labor or service, though. I’m talking about the exchange that happens when someone else offers their service that makes my life better, and being able to only offer them money or a “thank you,” as payment. Something is missing. Where’s the value I’m creating, in return, for them?

This is what I mean when I ask how many people are you holding hostage. It’s a question I asked myself last week when I got my haircut. It’s a question I asked myself yesterday when I went to the coffee shop. It’s a question I asked myself today when I ate lunch. Where is the value I’m creating in return for all of the benefits to my lifestyle others have contributed around me?

So, when I ask you how many hostages you’re holding, I’d like you to take a moment and reflect on your own standard of living. Reflect, too, on all the people whose lives could and would be better if you turned one of your ideas into reality. Who would be stopping by your store to pick up one of the latest products you were offering? How would this change their lives? How could their standards of living be improved?

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned in the past year can be summarized in one word: alternatives. I could rant now about opportunity cost and foregone preferences, but I won’t. Let’s focus on the positive alternatives. After all, it’s the lack of these that holds the world hostage.

So, what positive alternatives do some of the ideas you’ve been contemplating hold? What are you working on that’s better than what the world already has? What’s your secret ingredient? What angle do you have that no one else does?

The answer is simple. It’s you. You are unique. You have your own background, story, experiences, and ideas. Without you, the product or idea you’ve been thinking of or you’re going to think of next could never come into existence the way that it has or will by your mind.

“Because there are people out there looking for you—your people—who need you to be you, and do things exactly how you would do them. (And will ultimately pay you to do them your way.) They need your experience. Your skills. Your stories. Your thoughts. Your visions. Your advice. Your opinion. Your recommendations. Your ideas. Your expertise. Your knowledge. Your fuck-ups. They need you. No matter what you’re selling, YOU are the main product.” –Ash Ambirge, You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts

So, when I ask you how many hostages you’ve taken, what I’m really asking is what kind of value could you add to your life if you pursued one of these ideas, made it a reality, and offered it to the world? By refusing to follow your dream, ambition, and vision for a better world you are effectively holding yourself hostage.

You’re holding your family hostage. You’re holding your neighbors, relatives, and friends hostage, too. You’re holding everyone in the world hostage, too, whose standard of living would be better off through your creative idea.

You’re holding them all hostage to the status quo. You’re holding them hostage to the “way things are, and the way they’ve been” mentality. You are the one holding them all hostage, though, because you are the only one who sees the world the way you do, and therefore, the only one who can imagine, design, create, and implement YOUR idea the way you could.

Now, I’m not condemning you for this. Neither am I attempting to say you should feel obligated to do this for others. You shouldn’t. I don’t like altruism. What I do like, though, is the idea of man as the hero in his own story. i.e. You are the hero in your own story. You’re the one living your life, after all. So, don’t make yourself out to be a villain by keeping your idea locked away, forever untested.

You have the ability to test out your own vision on the world if you’ll just try it. Just give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen? You could fail. That’s it. No shame in that. Plus, there’s something about taking that risk that will change you in the process.

It will yield confidence, self-assurance, and alertness. You’ll become sensitive to the needs, wants, and behaviors of others as you begin not only to look at them as acquaintances, friends, or family, but also as customers or potential customers. You’ll begin to care about bettering their lives through your labor.

You’ll come to appreciate the risk others have taken, too, in their own enterprises. You’ll begin to witness the whole world as a series of exchanges, not just the kind where money is traded for stuff, but where creativity and labor are transformed into value for others.

But, sadly, you’ll begin to see others who abuse this, too. And when you do, it will reinforce your drive to make the world better. It will make you want to accept your fate as the hero in your life. So, what’s stopping you?

Do you really want to make the world a better place? Good. Set the hostages free.

Ideas’ Lives Matter

Take-Home Message: Don’t add to the infant-mortality rate of newborn ideas. Record these. Hold them dearly. Use them to better your world.

Where do you record your ideas? Or, do you at all? I find this to be an important practice for me in my own life. For the most part, if I don’t empty the noggin’ every now and then with what I like to call a brain dump, I get all obfuscated and can’t focus on anything.

The ideas start to distract me from everything else I try to work on. They’re like little brain gnomes roaming around in the garden of my mind. So, sort of like that Mucinex commercial, I decided to send the gnomes a-packin’, and started eradicating them. Well, not completely, but I keep a physical notepad and a notepad in the cloud, too, filled with ideas I’ve been working through for years. I get them out of my head to be explored later and free myself up to focus on whatever task is at hand. This has immensely aided in my productivity.

Now, the reason I’m confiding in you about journaling my ideas is because I think it’s one of the most important steps toward freeing yourself. If you want to start a company, or you want to earn some money on the side, or write a book, or even research a topic later, write it down so you don’t forget. As they say, “The sharpest mind is duller than the dullest pencil.” Or however the phrase goes, you get the picture. If you’re not recording your ideas, you are cheating yourself out of your own creativity. It’s like you’re planting the fruit but never picking it.

Stop doing that. Stop doing it now. Write down an idea you had today before you go to bed tonight. Don’t worry about whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea. And then tomorrow, do it again. Keep a notepad by your bed when you sleep. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I’ve awoken in the middle of the night with a story idea or some crazy thought I wanted to keep for later and didn’t have my notepad—or was too lazy to get out of bed to find one. It’s like I burned money every time I did that—even if it was only fiat currency, I could have been on the verge of a breakthrough or something.

More importantly than simply writing down the ideas, though, is developing a practice of revisiting these ideas on occasion, and cultivating them. If it’s a business idea, in particular, fleshing this out some more could be the first step toward breaking the chains that currently are keeping you chained to your cubicle. Your billion-dollar idea isn’t worth the time you took to write it down if you’re never going to take action with it.

The important part is to develop the habit of doing so now, so later, when you have your BIG idea, recording and reflecting on it is already second nature. Even if it’s just an intermediate idea standing between where you are and an even better idea down the road, if you don’t develop the practice of doing it, you might not ever get there.

So, once you have a basket-full of ideas, spend a couple hours some evening working through a few of them. Test them to see if they hold water. If it’s something you want to know about, do a Google search and find some info, or find an online forum and start asking questions. If it’s something you want to do, look at your calendar, or just book the trip.

Since the risk with ideas is minimal or nonexistent, you’re not committing to anything by reflecting on them. But, if it is a business idea, there is a potential huge risk of never exploring the feasibility of this idea being put into practice. Ask yourself, is that a risk you are willing to take?

And, if it’s an idea you’d like to monetize, there are tons of resources available via the internet to find out more details about putting your idea into motion. Or, you could start by writing up a mock business plan. Whatever it is, just get to cranking.

If you’ve refined your idea, and think it’s possible, though, go a step further, and identify if it’s more than just a good idea in theory. Spend some time thinking about if there’s an actual demand for your idea. Figure out if it’s something people want.

Here is a quick litmus test for answering those questions. It’s from Ash Ambrige’s You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts:

Make a chart that addresses these.

  1. What is your idea?
  2. Who does it target? Be specific with the demographic.
  3. Is your idea something your target market would actually want?
  4. If they want it, are they able to buy it?
  5. And finally, if they want it, and they’re able to buy it, are they willing to buy it?

I did this exercise with a couple of my ideas today, and figured out a lot of things through a few minutes of Google research that I hadn’t factored in. It was a helpful practice. It helped me sort through the reality distortion that usually takes place when I become passionate about a new idea I have. That’s important. You can love your idea and think it’s brilliant, but, if it’s A) Impossible to implement; or, B) Nobody is willing to pay for it, then scrap it, or attempt to refine it.

If you don’t ever spend the time recording or reflecting on your ideas, though, you’ll never even make it this far. So, we’ve discussed why you should record your ideas. We’ve discussed  why you should vet your ideas. Now, what are you waiting for? Join me today in living more freely. Grab a notepad and start scribbling away.

Get Your Own Yardstick.

Take-Home Message: We all possess unique metrics for measuring success. Stop using others’ to measure yours.

Writer’s Note: This blog was inspired by Chapter 3 of Ash Ambirge’s You Don’t Need a Job, You Need Guts.

As a senior in college, I went down with a sinking ship. I had been elected nearly a year prior as president of my fraternity (or Noble Ruler, as we called it inside the cult). Have you ever watched a dumpster fire? That’s basically what it was like for me. You just know the fire is out of control, and there’s no stopping it, but a fire that out of control is hard to look away from.

Anyway, so one month before my term ended, I was terminated and evicted from the house. Along with seven of my close friends, most of whom were also in leadership capacities, I packed my shit and hit the road. I won’t bore you with all the details (that’s what the “Ask Me” page is for) because I want to focus on a specific aspect of this trial.

At the time, it was the second biggest failure of my life to date. I crashed and burned. Publicly (Again). At one point, I had even been the patsy on the nightly news over the ordeal. It was a huge mess, and for quite some time, it flat knocked me out of the saddle. At that time in my life, I had no real mechanism for coping with that type of defeat other than impossible amounts of alcohol. (That was an interesting time, too, but another story altogether.)

This explosion, though, was the first step in a series of steps toward taking my freedom back. It led me to much introspection, and the conclusion I was forced to as a result is still among the greatest discoveries I’ve made in my life. I hadn’t been in control of my life prior to this, here’s why: I wasn’t using my own yardstick to measure my success. (Don’t be a pervert, that wasn’t a dick joke.)

Prior to that point in my life, I had been borrowing definitions from the world about what success meant. Trust me on this one, everyone in the world is happy to tell you what he or she thinks success looks like for you. Most of them are fucking idiots. They’re real leeches, and they sap the joy out of lives’. If this is you then stop doing it. You are a right annoying bastard. Seriously. The sickest part of it all, though, is that most of us buy into these fairy tales about health, wealth, happiness, etc. these spin-doctors are propagating without even asking if these things align with our own vision for our lives.

But here’s why I think we’re all so eager to present our vision of success and project it onto others: most of us don’t have the slightest idea what success would look like for ourselves if we were really doing what we loved. So, in order to cope with our own fears and inadequacies, we buy into the “American Dream Theory” and pretend to value things like financial stability, job security, and pension-plans. And in doing so, the picture of what we’re aiming for becomes completely distorted.

Newsflash: there’s no such thing as job security. And what the hell does financial stability even look like? What does a pension plan matter, either? If you’ve never done what you loved, then you’re not done working yet in my opinion. You still have more left to offer the world. You still have more to prove to yourself. You owe it to yourself.

So, after I got run over by the reality train and finally had enough of my self-loathing and moping around, I decided to kick myself in the ass and take back ownership of my life. It started with a few books, some notes, and lists, and then a few hundred more of each. I started looking myself in the mirror more, every day, too, and staring. I hated what I saw most days, but I was ready to overcome that and it became easier with time. Here’s what I did that changed my life:

  1. I got to know myself. I started narrowing my focus to the things I really enjoyed doing.

I love photography. I started taking pictures more. I live to write. I began journaling and writing down my ideas, though infrequently at first—now I do both every day. I am a nerd. I read every book I could find (See Good Reads for some of my favorites). As this list began developing, the pathway ahead of me came more into focus.

  1. So, after identifying these for myself, I thought about ways I could monetize some of those hobbies and interests.

Photography and writing were easier than reading. I sought out people who had a need for these and offered my services at what I thought was a fair rate for my time. They weren’t doing me any more of a favor than I was doing them. Participating in this mutually beneficial exchange made the world brighter, too.

  1. I had my ideas. I had a rough draft of a plan of action and I had some success. Next, I needed guts. These were the hardest to find.

I stood on the ledge for two years waiting to take the leap. I played along the 9-5 charades for a while and tried to save up some money before I tried to embrace this as a lifestyle, not just side-gigs. If you have ideas and dreams, you have to have money before you can do anything, right? That’s a lie I told myself, too. If your ideas are good, people with cash in hand will flock to you. Don’t let anything stand in your way. Not. A. Thing.

So, that’s my short-list, and there are realistically a thousand tiny things inside each of those items. Perhaps your dreams are more complex than mine and harder to monetize. That’s ok. The world needs surgeons and scientists, too. But don’t be afraid to change the game. Maybe your interest is in engineering. Cool, look at Elon Musk. Whatever it is, though, you have to become the arbiter of your life.

It starts with you. Spend some time alone, away from the influences of others. Fall in love with yourself. Explore your own ideas. Figure out what makes you tick. When you identify the intersection of your dreams and tangible things other people want, then just go knock it out of the park. Stop waiting. Get out a notepad and ask yourself, “What do I Want?”

Come Alive.

Take-Home Message: Do what makes you come alive.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Think about that question for a moment. Now, how many things came to mind? For me, it’s a laundry list. Most of these were just plain stupid, but all of them involved something similar: risk-taking.

Even some of the less-shitbrained ideas of mine throughout the years required risk to some degree. While a lot of them exploded in my face, I think back to some of those times and remember how alive they made me feel.

Like the time they told us not to throw that party in college that turned into a rager that the cops broke up. What a night. I think back to the time that a group of friends and I drove out to look at the house where a “crazy” lived and ended up getting shot at as we sped away. My heart was in my throat. I think about at least another half-dozen times that I shouldn’t mention, too. Two words: Pumpkin rolling.

Now, don’t mistake this as a message to run rampant through the streets ensuing what most people believe anarchy to be. That’s not what I’m saying at all. (Though, be sure to invite me if you get the itch).

It’s not so much the acts that I remember being awesome (they’re all much bigger fish tales today). In fact, I think back to how stupid a lot of the shenanigans I pulled were. What I can’t erase from memory though is the way each breath tasted in the act of taking risk. There’s something about the uncertainty that awakened my spirit. If only there were a way to experience that energy and channel it for good…

That’s what people who change the world do, in my opinion. They take risks, personally, professionally, emotionally, spiritually, and every other -ly. They embrace the uncertainty in pursuit of ideas, and put them on examination in the world. That’s my goal.

I don’t want to wake up ten years from now knowing I had the idea for the next Yelp! and failed to follow through on it. Is that what you want for your life? I say not no, but HELL NO!

Being creative takes risk. Especially if you’re going to exhibit your art, or product, or the manifestation of your idea for all the world to see. It’s mortifying, petrifying, terrifying (Yeah, that’s a play on A Beautiful Mind).

This is something I’ve had on the forefront of my mind for a while: If I want to change, I have to do something differently. I can’t change by remaining the same.

So, what makes you come alive? For me, it’s the thought of working for myself someday. I know without a doubt that I will have to eventually. For now, though, I’m working on obtaining new skills, refining current ones, and adding as many ideas to my arsenal for when that ship sails.

It absolutely terrifies me to think about the failure that is possible, but, it also brings me an immense amount of satisfaction to contemplate overcoming that. Don’t get paralysis by your analysis (<<That’s a note to myself).

This is what Ash (Ambirge) said today that kicked me between the legs:

“What if, instead of complaining that you don’t have a job, you created one? What if, instead of blaming a failing economy for your woes, you went out and sparked the economy with your talents? What if, instead of removing responsibility from yourself, you stood up and said “I!” What if, instead of merely accepting reality at face value, you repositioned yourself among it? What if, instead of pursuing a tolerable life, we fought tooth & heart for something we’d be proud to call our own?”

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

Wow. I want the kind of guts that takes. I want to come alive by doing what I love. Hell, what if we all just did it?

Make It All Beautiful

Photo Credit: Joshua Earle: https://unsplash.com/joshuaearle
Photo Credit: Joshua Earle: https://unsplash.com/joshuaearle

Take-Home Message: Find a way to create so much value, that if you left, people would miss you. If you can’t be more effective, be more positive.

When I was 17, I began working at Jumbo Foods, like every guy with a car that age in Enid, Oklahoma. It was the first real platform for learning about the real world for me.

I learned pretty quickly that I was only supposed to bring six (6) carts in from the parking lot at a time. I learned that I was supposed to be cheerful and polite to customers. I learned that I was supposed to ask “Paper or Plastic?” I learned how to use a dust mop. I learned that tomatoes and bananas are bagged separately.

Needles to say, I learned every day on the job. But, as I began to learn many of the recommended practices of the day-in and day-out of a grocery store, I learned many ways that the efficiency of tasks could be improved.

At points, I even questioned why many of the practices existed at all. Except, I realized that, not everyone is looking around for ways to create value. The only reason I did when I began the job was because my dad ingrained that in me from a young age, and I didn’t want to earn a bad reputation as a poor worker.

Quickly, though, I realized that looking for ways to create more value, to do more tasks proficiently in less time was fun. I found it as a way to constantly challenge myself and to tap into unused potential.

Working at a grocery store took patience. Sometimes people weren’t the friendliest. Sometimes there were messes to be cleaned up. This is true in all walks of life, though, and I think the themes I learned early on at that first job translate well into all workplaces.

Sometimes, I find myself doing menial tasks even in the work I’m doing that I love. Have you ever compiled a hundred different short-answers into one excel spreadsheet? That’s just an example, but the point is that there are likely better ways to go about doing tasks that  aren’t the most enjoyable, even if it’s as small as changing my attitude.

Whatever the case may be, unless I’m looking for ways to do things more effectively, I tend to get bored when it comes to these types of tasks. The repetition makes me feel like another cog in the machine, and I hate that feeling. So, one of the things I’ve been challenging myself to do is look for ways to make tasks more enjoyable by searching out more effective tools for accomplishing them, and by turning these tasks into a game.

My challenge for you and one that I’m employing for myself is this: Look for ways to be innovative at every turn. If I can’t improve the efficiency, then improve my attitude when doing it.

I’ll leave you with this quote:

“The truth of the matter is that it isn’t natural for human beings to spend the
majority of their lives doing the same thing over and over and over again every day,
until the day we’ve finally had it, and we crack…open a bottle of wine and gulp to
the grave.
It might seem normal, since that’s what everyone around us does, but just because
a lot of people do something, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
It means it’s popular, and there’s a difference.
Being popular doesn’t mean proof of genius, quality, or even just a good idea. It
means that a lot of people think it is.”
–Ash Ambirge, “You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts”

So, don’t be another brick in the wall. You have more potential than that. Go out and turn the world on its head. Go turn something dull into something beautiful. Take an hour-long job and find a way to do it better in thirty minutes.

Let me know about your successes. I’ll be recording my failures and triumphs here along the way.

Best of luck. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Life Is Not A Shower.

art sideTake-Home Message: Stop waiting for the things you want out of life to happen and just go get them. 

Were you ever asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? I was all the time. My answer has changed a lot over the years, but now I think it’s mostly an absurd question. These days, I believe I don’t have to wait to begin working toward that vision. I believe I can do it today.

It takes more than believing, though. It takes hard work. It takes long hours of focus on small goals. It takes a relentless pursuit of a vision. It takes grit. These are truths I’ve been learning from others who have committed to their dreams.

For some reason, though, I grew up very commitment-averse. The fear of failure used to be extremely pervasive in my life. It used to scare me just being around people who didn’t worry about orthodoxy, people who pushed all their chips onto the table for their goals. There was too much risk associated with chasing wild hares. It was best to play it safe, or so I thought.

I went to public school K-12. I spent 4 years in college. I looked for a job. I enrolled in graduate school. It was like following the instructions on the back of a shampoo bottle. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. There’s more to life than adding conditioner afterward, in my opinion. I didn’t want safe, I wanted fulfilling. So, I made a change. I decided to break the mold.

I realized that I wanted to be more than employed when I grew up. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to find fulfillment in the work that I did. I wanted to be challenged every. single. day. I wanted variety in my schedule. I wanted to work in natural light rather than in a cubicle under fluorescents from 9-5. I didn’t want to go into a massive amount of debt while trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to do with my life only to opt out to the first job that paid a “living wage.”

I didn’t want to survive, I wanted to thrive. I wanted to create value every day, in every circle, in every sphere, in every conversation. I wanted to be a living beacon of the phrase my dad told me when I was a child, “Son, every person you meet should be better for knowing you.”  I didn’t think I could do that unless I was truly happy with the story I was spinning with my life.

I wanted to be wealthy in spirit, and allow the joy I found in my labor to overflow into all of the other areas of my life. I wanted to create things that I saw as beautiful through my labor. I couldn’t do that by marching according to the status quo.

And then I found out something: other people had the same vision for their lives. Other people saw that something was missing, too. Other people, too, had an inherent desire to change the game. But more than that, I met other people who possessed a willingness to commit to their vision for their life and to go out and make it happen.

That’s where Praxis came into the story for me.

I heard about a program that allowed me to pick the skills I wanted to cultivate; a program that paired me with a small business or start-up company in the industry I sought; a program that treated me like a customer and wanted me to soak up every ounce of value for which I was paying…

It sounds almost utopian, right? Wrong. It’s real. It’s part of the educational revolution taking place right now. And today, I’m fortunate enough to begin this year-long professional development experience.

For the next year, I’ll be setting goals monthly and working toward them. I’ll be discussing the things I’m learning and how I’m working toward those goals one-on-one with my coach on a weekly basis. I’ll be working first-hand with a firm that is going to make me prove my worth every day, and I’ll be getting paid to do it. I’ll be rapidly learning about new industries, new concepts, and ideas that are new to me.

So, as I begin this experience, I invite you to join me in discussion about the things I’m learning. I’ll be cataloging much of the growth taking place right here, on my website, or as I’ll frequently refer to it, my living portfolio.

Some of it might intrigue you. Some of it might bore you. Some of these ideas might inspire you. Some of my opinions might upset you. Whatever the case, I will be recording it here, with one ultimate goal in mind: to grow personally. This is me declaring that I’m no longer afraid to fail; that I’ve committed to chasing my dreams no matter the cost.

If you don’t like what I say, let me know in the comments section. If you want to join me in conversation, please do. If you want to throw stones at my ideas or condemn my understanding of a concept, consider this an open invitation.

I chose to do this program because I realized I had a lot of areas in my life personally and professionally that I wanted to improve. Tomorrow, I want to know something I don’t know today. Next week, I want to understand something I don’t understand this week. Next month, I want to read faster than I read this month. Next year, I want to be a better communicator, writer, photographer, marketer, businessman, entrepreneur, thinker, philosopher, leader, friend, son, sibling, and man than I am this year.

Make me work for it. Challenge me with your questions and comments. Critique me. Tell me when I’m wrong. I value your feedback. I look forward to showing you what I learn along the way.

Cheers,

–M.E.