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.

 

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?

How I Stopped Fearing Failure

Take-Home Message: Your past failures do not have to define you, nor should you let them shape who you are becoming.

We are all afraid of something and for our own reasons. There’s something about the object of our fears that gives rise to extreme vulnerability. This vulnerability stems from our expectations, I think. When we examine our experiences being vulnerable and tend to focus on the bad ones more than the good, we establish an avoidance to situations or events that resemble the bad experiences.

This is my story about how I let the fear of failure and the avoidance of vulnerability resulting from that fear control my life, and how I ultimately overcame it.


Back when I was a little tike, around four years old or so, my family had a massive chocolate labrador retriever named Beau. He was a dinosaur compared to the miniature person I was back then. His towering behemoth figure required more food than any beast I’ve ever before witnessed. So much so, in fact, that we used to keep a feeder for him inside of his outdoor pen.

One morning, the little devil of a four-year-old I was, went outside to play. For some mysterious reason, I meandered into Beau’s pen and thought it a good idea to kick his feeder. To my demise, the nest of wasps inhabiting the feeder took my rampant eviction notice to them as quite the threat. Responding like wasps notoriously respond to such behavior, four-year-old  me learned a rather abrupt less about cause and effect that’s never left me. I’m not sure what I had expected, but it definitely wasn’t a hundred sores from stings.

To this day, flying, stinging insects give me the chills. I vehemently despise all of them, even realizing the small likelihood of repeating that incident if I give them their space. Today, I think this fear is somewhat irrational. However, after much analysis of it, I’ve come to a conclusion that I think holds water for all fears.

I’m not afraid of being stung. I’m not even really afraid of these members of the Order of Hymenoptera. My fear lies in something deeper, less tangible, and entirely out of my control. My fear of these flying creatures comes from the vulnerability I once felt as a result of an ill-begotten interaction with them. As a defense mechanism to this vulnerability, my fight-or-flight instinct has adapted to kick in when one of these flying, buzzing triggers is around, and put me on high alert.

It is my belief that this vulnerability is key to understanding the nature of all of my fears. I have found this to be the control in all of the fears I have examined which have passed in and out of my life throughout the years. It’s not so much the actual thing so much as this feeling of being exposed, vulnerable, and defenseless to the inevitable. And yet, today, I believe that this vulnerability is little more than a result of poorly devised expectations.

As I examine the biggest fear that was once prevalent in my life, I can see this deeply rooted avoidance of vulnerability as the source of this fear: The fear of failure. As I look a little closer, I can track the time and places of the experiences and instances that sowed this fear and the series of decisions that led to these circumstances. But more importantly, I see the absence of considering failure as a possibility, as I expected myself to be flawless. As a result, I was totally unprepared to deal with failure when it came knocking.

I think back to the time I told my dad I could manage skating down the 10-foot slide at the local park after someone gifted me a pair of roller blades for my eighth birthday. Pride dismantled.

I think back to the time I was up to bat in little league with two outs and the game on the line and struck out. And how I ended up riding the pine for game after game following this. Whif, I blew it. I let the team down.

I think back to the time in eighth grade when I participated in my first public speaking contest and forgot the words halfway through and cried in front of a panel of adult judges. Humiliated.

I think about the time freshman year of high school when I washed my blue socks with my white uniform, dying it blue and coach still made me wear it in the biggest tournament of the year. Distractingly embarrassed.

I think about the time that I ran for Student Council President and didn’t get elected. And the time I ran for FFA Chapter President and lost to someone younger. Overwhelmingly discouraged.

I think about the time I pleaded with the leadership in my church about keeping the younger and older students together and how they refused, and how I walked out on organized religion because of it. Utterly shaken and confused.

I think about the last game of baseball I played as a senior in high school that I pitched and walking off the field knowing I would hang it up forever. Goodbye, glory days. Distraught.

I think about the first time my heart was broken as an 18-year-old boy because I had tied my identity up in a relationship. Crushed. Lesson learned.

I consider the time that I won a statewide election and my reputation was put on display for nearly 24,000 students, thousands of parents and educators across Oklahoma. And how I threw it all away for a few good times and a handful of misguided decisions. That one stung worse than the wasps. Entirely exposed and despaired.

And I think about the day I was asked to move out of my fraternity house as chapter president because on my watch someone’s life had been put in danger and I hadn’t done anything to prevent it. Some lessons hurt worse than others. Ashamed and Abandoned.

There are many more situations and experiences that come to mind when I think about the thousands of branches of this root system to my vulnerabilities. I think about how each of these made me feel and how I responded in the face of these different adversities. I think about how I could have better handled these, too, had I simply set more realistic expectations for myself or even contemplated the what-ifs if failure arrived.

In many cases, I can see how earth-shattering these failures were to me and how they altered my focus looking forward in life. I grasp now how prevalent this fear of failure became in shaping the narrative of my life. Back then, even contemplating a decision that looked like it had the potentiality of failure would cause me to shutter, much like seeing a bee or wasp. And why? Not because I was scared of facing the actual event or hurdles that stood in the way. Instead, it was because I couldn’t bear to think about revisiting the vulnerabilities that had once consumed and shaken me so profoundly.

It wasn’t even fear of failure or fear of bees or wasps, ever. All of these fears boiled down to an avoidance of vulnerability, as if being detached and tough all the time could provide me security and also happiness.

I allowed the horror of vulnerability to live rent free in my mind, and in so doing ceded the authority of my life to this force that had erected itself only by the expectations of myself I had poorly constructed.

I believed that I could not fail. And as a result, any time I caught the scent of failure looming anywhere near a pathway, I briefly flashed back to a multiplicity of failures that caused me to lose sight of my own valuation of myself; these failures that had rendered me vulnerable. Each time I did this, I cautiously, almost absentmindedly flipped my blinker and changed lanes, refusing to consider where exactly it was I was rerouting to. I only knew I had to drive as far and fast away from the possibility of failure and the feelings of vulnerability, because, after all, I could not fail, not me.


And then I began reading…

I read Atlas Shrugged and I watched as the world crumbled around Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden despite all of their efforts to keep it afloat.

And I read, too about how Ayn Rand’s works had been rejected by publishers before she ever made it.

I read about Lysander Spooner’s fight to provide cheaper mail to the United States in lieu of the postal monopoly and how he ultimately died a poor man, by the hands of thieves preventing his success at every turn.

I read about Henry David Thoreau’s withdrawing from society to be the arbiter of his own life and about the time he was thrown in jail for refusal to pay property taxes.

I revisited stories about Michael Jordan being cut from his high school basketball team.

I read about one of my favorite authors, Oscar Wilde, dying in exile because of his sexual orientation.

I read about Thomas Paine, the man dubbed responsible for stirring the motivations for the American Revolution, being jailed in France and then being cast out in America upon his return for his ideas about religion, and how he died broke and despised.

I read about Socrates choosing to swallow hemlock rather than to defame his character.


I read story after story about people who looked directly into the face of failure and dared not quit. I read about them overcoming defeat and vulnerability and rejection to achieve greatness. I read about their resilience and drive. But most of all, I read about these individuals as people who lived life by their own terms and refused to take a second look for the opinions of others. They had made themselves entirely vulnerable, yet found so much strength in their own valuation that the opinions of others could not stop them…

And it all clicked. I saw these dozens of scenarios in my own life where dissatisfaction, disappointment, and defeat loomed over my head. I saw the vulnerability and fears I experienced as the response to my own disapproval of myself. I saw the unrealistic expectations I had been striving to reach for what they were, and that by keeping these in place, I was setting myself up.

And with it, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I saw a way to overcome these and learn to respect and love myself again. I saw, finally, the point of having courage as a motive, rather than fear. And with these revelations, I unlocked the chains that had been restraining me from my own freedom and happiness.

I would like to close with two quotes, because I think they summarize these lessons nicely. Both are contained in You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts: 

“Have the courage to live. Anyone can die.” –Robert Cody

It isn’t our deathbeds we’ve got to fear; hell, it’s over then. It’s the quiet moments of every single day that slip in and out of our consciousness; the ones at 3AM when our brains are finally quiet enough to turn their attention to the stuff the matters…the stuff we’ve been ignoring. It’s the slow, steady torture of our own thoughts; the thoughts that reflect the truth we’re most afraid to discover. You’re a pussy. A coward. A fraud. A two-bit has been. Your life means nothing, and all you can do is sit there with your dick in your hand, watching it pass you by.

Talk about regret.

Going out on a ledge and royally screwing up isn’t half as humiliating as not having the guts to get started in the first place.

You will screw it all up, you know. And that’s a good thing to know out of the gate, because now you can stop worrying about it. You can stop worrying you’ll make a fool out of yourself if you try and start your own business, because you can rest-assured that at some point, you will. What a relief! You can cross the fear of the unknown off the list, because now you know. You will screw up. You will suck. You will get angry. You will feel like a fool. You will fight battles. You will lose battles. And at some point, you will hate everything. And you will hate everyone.

But once you get past all that, you know what stops happening? You stop hating yourself. And that is worth its weight in 1,001 business flounders. You can look yourself in the eye again. –Ash Ambirge, You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts

And with that, I bid you to be fearless. I challenge you to ditch the victim mentality and to go out and own whatever it is that you feel led to do. Stop your worrying and letting your fears govern you. Stop being dismayed by your feelings of inadequacy or vulnerability. You’re going to fail. Expect it. And when it happens, you’ll be able to wipe the dust off and get back in the saddle. Go take life by the horns. You can do it.

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?

Don’t Let It Fester.

Take-Home Message: Master your emotions or they will surely master you.

Writer’s Note: This topic was inspired by personal readings from two of the great Stoics, Marcus Aurelis and Epictetus. 

“When is the last time you lost your temper?”

I was posed that question in an interview during my senior year of college and I had no idea how to answer it. To this day, I can only guess what the interviewer’s definition of a right answer would have been. But, it most certainly was not mine. I replied, “I can’t remember.” Like I was some kind of saint or something.

My response might have been a sick result from years of cultural indoctrination suggesting that getting mad is all wrong. From what I knew about the interviewer, I was guessing he wanted to hear me say how anger is bad, happiness is good, blah, blah, blah, unicorns shit rainbows. What a moron I was.

I’m sure he was thinking quietly to himself, “This kid is full of shit.” Everyone with a pulse gets mad. Or, at least, I think we should. Man, did I botch my answer.

I failed to respond honestly based upon what I thought on the matter. And here’s what that is: I do not think anger is inherently bad. I believe it to be a rational response most of the time. What makes it bad, though, is when it goes unaddressed. When it’s allowed to fester.

Each time it’s allowed to do this, it is like pulling the pin and clenching a grenade. And then, when something else happens, and it goes unaddressed yet again, it’s like pulling another pin, and filling both hands. What happens after a while is that  there’s this walking, ticking time bomb, just waiting for someone to add another grenade to the stockpile so it can go nuclear. This is an unhealthy practice to say the least.

This afternoon, a colleague and I discussed this very topic. I confided in him about the tendency I have to allow things that piss me off to fester, and how I want to master it. I want to be a zen master when it comes to this, and not allow other people to rain on my parade. Why should I, anyway?

He had a simple suggestion for how he deals with moments such as these. “Allow yourself to get mad. And then let it go.” He said it’s a practice that he uses to address the inevitable and to move on about his life without it affecting his day. Just find some way to vent and don’t explode on anyone.

I couldn’t agree with him more. This negative energy needs to be explored and channeled. It needs to be released in a healthy way. This could be going to the gym, or yelling into a pillow. It could mean calling up a friend or sibling. It could mean hitting a punching bag, but for the love of all things good, don’t hit the person who’s irritated you.

So, with that suggestion in mind, I’m going to continue working more on becoming the master of my own life. I’m going to consider everyone as neutral. What they say and do is their business, and how I respond is mine. If they irritate the living stew out of me, so be it, I’ll go pick up something heavy and set it back down. But, I won’t lash out, and I won’t let it ruin my day. And most importantly, I’ll stop being afraid to get angry.

5 Things I Quit in 2015

Take-Home Message: Stop doing shit you hate.

Writer’s Note: This post was inspired by entrepreneur, investor, author, speaker, and personality, Gary Vaynerchuk.  


Recently, I heard some good advice about improving my life. I masticated on it for a while and have finally taken it to heart. The advice is simple: Stop doing shit you hate. I’m certain if you follow through with this advice, this can save you a lot of grief, just like it has me.

Here are some of those things that no longer cause me emotional distress (as often):

1. Working for Demeaning People: I take it as a point of pride to have made this commitment to self. After a handful of experiences working either for or with people who cut me down on a regular basis, regardless of performance, I vowed to eliminate this from my life altogether. It cost me great emotional distress, anxiety, and energy. In fact, it made me loathe these people, and it cultivated a pessimistic, cynical attitude in me. When that happens, I am no longer motivated to do my best work. So, I quit doing it.

2. Standing in Restaurant Lines: First of all, if you ever walk into a restaurant with me and the wait is longer than 30 minutes, I’ll likely tell the host they should raise their prices. It’s simple supply and demand, people, really. I decided to stop letting something that was out of my control get me bent out of shape, though, I just quit patronizing these restaurants during rush hours.

3. Finishing Every Book: I have been putting down books for years halfway through, but only recently did it become intentional. Usually, I would pick right back where I left off, no matter how much time had passed, out of a sense of commitment, and desire to finish. When I realized I was wasting my time, I decided to just stop and start reading interesting things instead. In fact, my reading productivity and speed has dramatically increased by adhering to this commitment to stop. It’s a simple idea, really, read the book until it becomes a drag. Or, open up to the parts that have something of value to you, and read until it stops generating quality input into your life. Stop wasting your time with things that aren’t helping you that are perfectly within your control. Put the book down. Find one you like.

4. Getting Upset in Discussions: I sometimes am still the world’s worst at this, but in the summer of 2015, I became aware just how badly I failed in this category. That’s when I made an active decision to take back control of my emotions when engaging others. Prior to then, when I would have a conversation with someone with whom I disagreed, it would infuriate me. I exhibited intellectual hubris, if even for no good reason. I realized this was not effective. In fact, I saw just how destructive it could be in relationships with others, even acquaintances. So, I decided to change this. It’s a work in progress, still, but I’m making significant ground.

5. Visiting Malls in December: I made this pledge at the end of 2014 and intend to stand by it. First, you’ve go to find the parking spot, which could take hours. Then you have to go out in the cold. After that, be prepared to fight your way through crowds of people on the brink of violence. No thank you. This holiday season, I’ll be sending Jeff Bezos a Christmas card, and shopping from the comfort of my couch. Thank you, technology and entrepreneurship. Instead of braving the crowds, I think I’ll maintain my good mood, brew a pot of coffee, and curl up with a nice book.

I realized by continually allowing these situations to infuriate me, I was playing the victim to my circumstances. I chose to improve my life with these few small steps, and eliminate these instances from my life to avoid the distress and irritation they inevitably cause. If you’d like to better your life by saying no to things you hate, please join me, today. Let me know what you hate in the comments section below.


Here ‘s a word from Gary Vaynerchuck, whose’s advice inspired this post.

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.