Find Your Leverage

Everything in life comes easier if you can find a leverage point.

Archimedes once famously said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”

The same holds true for our own lives.

It’s not always obvious what we have to leverage. Especially when we’re just starting out.

We lack knowledge. And experience. And money. So we set out to learn, to work, and to earn.

Over time we accumulate resources. But the value of those resources are not always obvious.

It’s easy to comprehend the accumulation of wealth. We can quantify it. It’s divisible, and a medium of exchange.

But what of our knowledge and experience? These presumably hold value, too – at least, they must, because they’re the basis for our ability to earn.

Over time, our accumulated knowledge and experience appreciates in value. Except most people only tap into its potential through transactional exchanges of their time – a certain number of hours converted into a certain number of dollars.

Likely because it’s the easiest to quantify and exploit – our average, collective understanding of leverage tends to be limited to money.

So people gravitate toward accumulating money – and using leverage – to achieve financial freedom. But how much faster could you go if you made use of all forms of leverage – knowledge, experience, capital?

What if every new lesson you learned made you twice as productive?

What if you could figure out how to bottle and harness your knowledge and experience – without additional inputs of time or labor?

How To Reduce the Chaos of Endless Choice Realities

One big challenge of life is figuring out what targets to aim at. We live in a time and world with nearly unlimited choices as it relates to careers, location, income goals, industry, and beyond.

So how do you navigate this – to ultimately discover the “right” target to take aim at?

Here’s one suggestion to get started: Find one goal you could aim everything you’ve got at.

By picking a goal that requires you to aim above the horizon, you force yourself to imagine who you must become in order to achieve that goal. 

This is a useful strategy for several reasons.

1. It allows you to orient yourself. Where (and who) are you today, versus where you’d like to be as a result of achieving your goal (and rather, who you’d like to be).

2. It reveals disparity. Moving toward your goals necessitates progress and change. You cannot become who you must be by accepting your current circumstances. Goal-setting contrasts the future you desire against the reality of your present, which enhances your own self-awareness.

3. It gives you a roadmap for how to behave. When you set a goal, you choose a target to take aim at. Which gives you a focal point into the future that you can work backwards from. Some choices will help you make progress toward that focal point, while others will lead you astray. 

Negotiating With Your Future

Setting goals forces us to detach ourselves from our past and present circumstances. Even without taking action on them, it offers an exercise in future-orientation.

If you really want to make headway toward your goals, then you’ve got to take inventory of your life –from the choices you make to the activities you spend your time on to your current available resources.

Taking inventory reveals positive and negative stock.

If you discover things that are holding you back, then if you really want to achieve your goals, you’ll be forced to address the baggage in your life.

Sometimes, you’ve got to sacrifice those demons at the altar of your future in order to stand a shot at advancing ahead.

Changing Course

As you go throughout life’s adventure, you’ll likely discover other targets worth aiming at – goals that you’d rather pursue. And you’ll almost always have different interests pulling you in different directions.

If you can go all-in on at least one thing – even if only for a short period in your life – you’ll build discipline, you’ll gain credibility, and maybe most importantly, you’ll build momentum.

You won’t always achieve the goals you set out to. Often, your pursuit of one goal will reveal an entirely different, more exciting path – when that happens, change course. 

This variety of life, though, should not be a cause for anxiety. Instead, it’s a good cause for excitement and enthusiasm about the endless possibilities that are waiting for you.

But you’ve got to start first. 

There are opportunities out there that you don’t know about yet. And you likely won’t discover them until you take aim at something and start moving toward it.

That’s the great adventure of life. It’s an ongoing discovery process, and you can always change course as new opportunities reveal themselves.

Why Is It Difficult For A Rich Man To Enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

There’s much ado about money being the root of all evil. It would seem especially so among those who haven’t earned it.

Behind veils of envy, I imagine, those of lesser means point to those of great means, scoffing. “You know what they say about rich men and heaven, right?”

But I seriously doubt the acquisition of wealth itself has anything to do with entering the kingdom of heaven. That it likely has much more to do with our relationship to money.

For instance, there’s a startling similarity between people who are consumed with money – whether they have it or not.

Money is simply a medium of exchange (especially fiat money). Its value is predicated on a shared superstition. We hope others will value money along a similar scale, should we present them with it in exchange for something else we desire.

Obsessing over money as a primary end is a distraction. When it comes to the Kingdom of Heaven, apparently it can be a fatal distraction.

But why?

I imagine it has less to do with money and much more to do with idolatry. People have always enjoyed fashioning gods out of gold. Especially when God’s voice seems distant, or absent altogether.

It’s unfortunate that many people likely read scripture about money and become jaded. “Well I’ll just swear off money altogether since it’s evil!”

Ok, sure. I bet you will.

Swearing off money is easy if you have nothing valuable to offer the world. But it’s much harder if you want to be valuable. Because money follows value.

So, let’s imagine, then, that God has called His people to become the highest, best versions of themselves. To truly embrace what John Piper calls “Christian Hedonism” – to lose ourselves in the pursuit of the pleasure we find by pleasing God.

What then should we do if God’s highest calling leads us to become valuable to other people? If we’re rewarded handsomely for leaving the world better than we found it, what are we to do?

I believe the root of the matter has less to do with material wealth than with spiritual health.

Perhaps your pursuit of what is meaningful requires vast sums of money. So be it. Why should you be cheated out of salvation? Especially considering the difficulty in acquiring vast sums of money.

Perhaps your pursuit of what is meaningful requires enduring suffering? So be it. Why should your struggle be any more or less noble than the pursuit of what is meaningful along another dimension?

It’s a rather Marxist reduction to suppose God wants us to obsess over all things according to their economic utility.

We are called to our own battlefields. It’s our response to the call that matters. Plenty of people ignore the rooster’s crow. Some due to money. Some out of lust. Others for the sake of power.

But money is no more or less evil than anything else that we fashion into false gods. It would serve us well to remember that.

Approaching 30

I turn 30 later this month.

Which is a weird feeling – retiring from my 20s. The past decade was a harsh teacher. Especially the first half.

Over the past 10 years, my life has taken quite a few twists and turns from what I originally expected.

By most accounts from my teenage and early-20s something, I’m a failure. I did not – nor am I on my way to becoming – a pediatric neurosurgeon. Nor a corporate finance attorney.

I’m on quite a different path. A path I didn’t know existed a decade ago.

Where my life and career are not a function of expectations – or a false sense of obligation. Rather, I have agency over the design of both. Which is freeing. But also comes at a high cost.

The weight I carry today somehow feels lighter and heavier than the weight I carried a decade ago.

Part of that is the sheer challenge of attempting to build a life and career on my own terms – rather than opting for the conveyor belt, assembly line version most people settle for.

Another part is the weight of responsibility. Which is probably the starkest contrast between who (and what) I am today compared to who (and what) I was 10 years ago.

The Big “R” Word.

It’s easy to shirk off responsibility for everything that happens to you when you don’t have a purpose in life.

That was me entering my 20s. Somebody who liked to point fingers. And play the victim card all too often. Even though I fancied myself as someone ambitious, assertive, and self-reliant.

But I wasn’t really. Defaulting to the traditional path as a plan for my life stole my agency from me. It freed me from the burden of critical thinking about what to do with my life – and more importantly, who I should become.

As I approach 30, I recognize many of the errors of my youth. Some are quite embarrassing. Even if useful lessons.

I also recognize the opportunity of the present – and my responsibility for whatever time I have left. To make more of myself than I was yesterday. More of myself than I was a decade ago. And more of myself tomorrow than I am today.

After all, what hope do we have in growing old if not that we’re getting better with time?

My 2020 Reading List In Review

2020. What a year, right?

But on the bright side…after binging through every conceivable movie and tv show, I still found quite a lot of time left to read.

What about you? Read anything good? I know I did. In fact, my year was full of tons of what I like to call “gateway books.” You know, books that unlock a corner of the universe you didn’t know about before.

Anyway, as a fun exercise, I went back through every book I bought, started, reread, listened to, browsed, shelved, was gifted. I rated them. Tallied up my costs. Then built a spreadsheet. Which you can browse here.

Investing In Yourself

All-in this year, I spent something like $1,200 on books. Which is amazing, because I actually budget about $100 per month for learning and reading. (And technically, I was under budget by about $50, so hooray for that too.)

But – the reason I like to review costs, not just what I read, is because I like to double check I’m actually investing in my education. Not just spending money to spend money or fill up bookshelves or appear smart. If the books I buy aren’t improving my life, then what the hell am I doing?

And yes, I know. “Improving my life” is quite the generality. Basically, for a book to improve my life, I want it to do entertain me, educate me, inspire me, inform me, piss me off, make me cry, make me feel something, level up my thinking, make me better at business, make me better with money, make me a better writer…or any other reason I damn well please in the moment.

But this year, I’d say I did pretty well, too. Because of all the books I read enough to review, I only rated a single title with a lowly “one star.”

Here’s a fun, detailed breakdown:

Okay, so my star rating doesn’t necessarily correspond to my ROI from a given book. Occasionally I’ll read a book I don’t love but still find value out of. So my start rating is somewhat arbitrary – aside from denoting how well it delivered on whatever function it served for me.

When Ideas Have Sex

I love discovering connections between different, seemingly unrelated ideas. In fact, I’d wager it’s one of my favorite things. Plus, I love going down new rabbit holes with ideas. So, I often read broadly across multiple categories, then explore subjects deeply that fascinate me.

This year, I had several big monomaniacal stints. Here are a few of the categories that delivered all-expenses paid vacations to visit Alice in Wonderland:

Fiction (Especially J.D. Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut)

Business (Especially Accounting, Finance, and Management)

Marketing + Copywriting

Memoirs

Personal Finance + Real Estate + Investing + Passive Income + Taxes

Faith + Spirituality + Moral Philosophy + Christian Hedonism

And there were others, too. But those were some of the big ones. As an added layer of fun, I wanted to word cloud the various topics I read most. Here’s a fun image of those:

Keeping My Head Full

In 2020, I also decided to write a book (expected to publish in spring/summer 2021). It’s primarily about how to navigate your education, career, and finances in order to get the most out of life.

The first draft is finished and I’m in the 2nd draft / editing phase. Which is exciting. Because I’ve spent the last handful of years thinking about and talking about many of these ideas. But in December 2020, I decided to stop talking and start writing. And write I did. In fact, between the book, chapter outlines I wrote nearly 60,000 words in one month. Combine that with my regular newsletters, blog posts, social posts, and sales emails and we’re probably easily in the ballpark of 100,000+ words. In one single month.

Cranking away content like that can be tough. Let alone if your head isn’t already full of ideas. So fortunately, I lived the better part of this year like a sponge – absorbing ideas and soaking them up.

Which came in handy when it came time to sit down and spill my guts onto the blank page. And I can’t wait to share the final product.

A Final Word on Reading

There’s more data and information being created on a daily basis that was in existence for most of history. Think about that for a moment. We live in a time and era completely saturated with ideas.

Which is great. Except for when you consider how few people take advantage of the “right” kind of information. Books offer that in a way that social media, blogs, podcasts, and “the media” just cannot compete with.

And there’s good reason for that, too. Because not just anyone can (read: will) sit down and crank out a book. Let alone go to the trouble of editing it, publishing it, and ensuring its circulation.

In a sense, books act as a sort of high-fidelity information filter. Meaning that reading a book about a topic is very likely to be much more information than just browsing the web. Of course, there are still plenty of shit books out there.

But books are an incredible frontier of affordable and accessible knowledge. With books, you can educate yourself – and become an expert on anything. Without relying on college or credentials or anybody else. And if you don’t believe me, just ask my good friend, Will Hunting (Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting):

“You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library.”

Anyway, in case you’re looking for some awesome books to add to your list, I’ve made my whole list available public here. All of the 3-5 star books, I’d most likely recommend.

Happy reading.

Dissatisfied Patience As the Key To Navigating Your Early Career

“I’m going to be the VP of Marketing.”

I could feel the tension in the room build before the words even finished leaving my lips. Sitting across the table from me was the guy who’d been hired to lead sales and marketing. He’d just asked a probing question about where I saw myself in the future.

I was 24 years old – and the low man on the totem pole of a company I’d been at less than 9 months. With one sentence, I’d thrown out the window all office social norms, niceties, and any reverence for ‘the way things are done.’

At the time I had no way of knowing how many challenges that single conversation would later create for me. I was young. Ambitious. Relentless. On occasion, reckless. But I was out to get mine. And no one could stand in my way.

Full of Piss and Vinegar

Like a young buck with a chip on his shoulder. That was me for the the better part of my early 20s. And admittedly, from time to time still is.

I walked with the air of a swagger I’d not yet earned. It was less of entitlement and more of conviction. An unshakeable belief in myself and my ability to win. Like a young fighter eager to touch gloves with the reigning champ.

But, like many a young fighter, I learned the hard way – it doesn’t matter how hard you punch in the first round of a 12-round match. A career, like a boxing match, is a game of endurance.

I made a lot of mistakes early in my career that can be attributed directly back to my youth. My eagerness. My ego. My impatience.

I wanted to be recognized for what I knew I could become. Before I’d proven it. And that’s a tough sales pitch no matter how good you are.

You Are Your Greatest Opponent

Ambition travels with a lot of baggage. Especially in the early days. Left unchecked, it breeds a weird kind of schizophrenic paranoia.

It breeds doubt. Anxiety. Pressure. And a laundry list of conspiracy theories:

  • Is somebody else doing better than me?
  • Should I be farther along than I am?
  • Could I be working harder than I am? Longer hours?
  • Do other people know how hard I’m working?
  • Is my contribution known and evident?
  • Am I getting credit for my efforts?
  • Should I be making more money?
  • Am I being taken advantage of?
  • Is my title impressive enough?
  • Do my coworkers respect me?
  • Am I a fraud?

Imposter syndrome is a function of pretending to be something you’ve not yet fully become. It’s natural in any transition period. But mostly it wastes precious energy. It redirects mental and physical resources toward perpetuating myths rather than converting those into value in reality.

I learned that the hard way.

A Better Coping Mechanism

Along the way I picked up several valuable lessons. Here’s one of them:

Opportunities come easier when you’re doing good work and paying close attention – than when you’re trying to convince people to create them for you.

At several points in time, my work became a cry for attention. I’d go above and beyond simply because I believed it to be my best way to get noticed. It was not about doing good for the sake of good work. It was a shell game.

I learned that working to get noticed is a passive approach to creating opportunities for yourself. It’s manipulative. Both to yourself and the person you hope to convince. It screams “I’ll do good work when I want something.” But there are only so many carrots you can dangle in front of someone before you run out of carrots.

Instead, I discovered a different approach. It’s offered me more satisfaction, more control, and more opportunities than I can count.

The secret lies in approaching life with a dissatisfied patience.

Ever since I discovered this mindset, I’ve been happier. More fulfilled. More content. More deliberate. And not surprisingly, more effective at creating opportunities.

How To Practice Dissatisfied Patience

Instead of worrying about opportunities outside my control, I try to focus on the present circumstances.

  • What opportunities do I have to improve things I already have domain over?
  • Is there a way to improve a process to free up more time?
  • Are there any ongoing problems I have the ability to solve – for myself or for others?
  • What activities do not require anyone else’s permission?
  • How could I take [X project] to the next level?

In other words, I try to shift the focus from future uncertainty to a local present. Instead of worrying about what I think I could become, I focus on what I can do to do my very best here and now.

When I stopped waving my hand around like a madman hoping to get called on, and instead just focused on doing good work, I discovered I got called on a lot more often.

This did not mean losing the fire in my belly to do more, to be more, or to achieve more. Instead it meant channeling it – so that if and when an opportunity does present itself, I’d not only be ready, but I’d be the obvious choice.

Don’t Let Somebody Pissing In Your Cornflakes Keep You From a Balanced Breakfast

I had a helluva week last week. A lot of shit outside my control almost derailed my week, my work, and my attitude. Except then I remembered an important truth and it turned everything around (well, almost everything). But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A Case of the Mondays

By the time I sat down at my desk and fired up my laptop last Monday morning, my inbox was already overflowing. I had a long to-do list. And I was fired up.

I love Mondays so spirits were high. It was going to be a great week. I could feel it.

Minutes after logging on, my laptop bit the dust. I don’t just need a laptop to work. My laptop is my work. My business runs almost entirely online. I spend 60% of my day banging on a keyboard. And the other 40% on video calls.

The nearest Apple store was 20 minutes away. So I jumped in the car fully prepared to go buy a new device. But holding out hope it might be an issue tech support could fix quickly.

I showed up to the store minutes after it opened. But a surprise was waiting for me. Just that morning, the store began operating on scheduled appointments only – even if you just needed to buy something.

In order to get in, you needed an appointment, a clear temperature, and a mask. (Did I mentioned I forgot a mask?) The rep at the door told me the soonest available tech support appointment was 10 days away. But I could get in to buy a laptop if I was willing to wait 2 hours. The day is saved!

I jumped in the car. Drove 5 miles the other direction. Bought a mask. Drove back. Waited in the parking lot for an hour. Got in the store. Purchased a new device. And good fortune struck – they let me drop off my broken laptop.

By the time I got back home, it was 3:30 pm. I’d spent pretty much the whole day chasing my tail. I was frustrated. But I told myself to chill out.

“Take a breath, Mitch,” I advised myself. “You can’t win ’em all.”

Fail Friday

I planned to drive to Denver Friday. Part of the team was flying in. We planned to work together that afternoon, then do happy hour that evening. I looked forward to seeing everybody.

But fate had other plans.

I booked a rental car Thursday afternoon. It cost $60. What a steal, I thought. I pulled up to the airport at 6:30 am. Which is where I learned about my mistake. Apparently I’d booked the wrong date. No cars available. Time to make a hard sell.

“Ma’am, I’ve got to be in Denver today. I’m willing to get creative. What’s it going to take?”

Her fingers flew over the keyboard. She began negotiations over her walkie talkie.

“I can get you to Denver today as planned,” she said. “But it’s going to cost you.”

She swiped my card for three times the anticipated cost. Then directed me to the pickup station. I counted my blessings and skipped off happily into the sunshine. Well, kind of.

I jumped in the car and hit the road. Two stops before Denver. First, to grab a coffee. Then to swing by the house for a few personal effects. I love a good morning commute. I had an audiobook loaded up. This was going to be a great day.

Lol.

I pulled off at one of those fancy Super Targets with the Starbucks inside. Just happened to be on the route back home. I was feeling extra froggy too. Because I ordered a Big Boy Coffee. (Venti Blonde Roast with a Blonde Shot).

I marched back out to the car ready to go. And that’s when I discovered I was in for quite a ride. Just not the ride I expected.

I tried to unlock the car. No dice. All they’d given me was a key with a chain. No fob.

Once. Twice. Three times I tried. That lock was not budging. I circled the perimeter. No other keyholes. Four. Five. Six times I tried again.

I took a deep breath. This is just a cruel prank. I’m going to turn this around.

And that’s when I noticed a bright pink sticky note on the keychain.

“Won’t unlock when locked” the note read. Brilliant!

So I dialed the front desk. Who redirected me to a roadside emergency line. Sat on hold for half an hour. Called back into the desk. Explained the situation. Transferred my call. Then again. Then back again. Finally a voice that said help is on the way.

A half hour passed. Then another. I began pacing around the car. The Super Target Mom’s club was beginning to show up. Concerned stares directed my way. I kept pacing. Once. Twice. Three times I circled the car. Four. Five. Six times. I felt like Joshua and the Israelites circling Jericho.

Another half hour passed. Temptation started a conversation. I could be in and out of Target with a lawn chair, beach umbrella and a six pack in no time I thought to myself. Tailgating Target – all these shopping moms would love that, I bet.

I considered smashing the window. Insurance will cover it, right? I wasn’t in the mood to cause a bigger scene. So I waited. And I paced.

After two hours hanging out in the Target parking lot, a mechanic showed up and picked the lock. I decided to cancel my trip. Returned the car. Stopped by for a refund. And summoned a $30 Uber ride home.

“I’m still going to make the most of this day,” I told myself.

I was down but not out.

From Pissed Off to Pacified: A Tale of Two Parking Lots

I spent combined 4.5 hours sitting in parking lots last week. Just waiting.

Circumstances outside my control put me in those parking lots. But I had a choice to make. I could wait angry. Or I could let it be.

Both times I defaulted to frustration. But why? Frustration did not change the situation. Except to make waiting more painful.

I failed to shake it off Monday. I let a situation beyond my control ruin my day. And I marked an “L” in the win-loss column on the day.

But Friday I remembered an important truth. One that turned everything around. I could not change the situation. But I could change my attitude.

So instead of pacing angry. I decided to laugh.

I laughed at the statistical improbability of renting the one car that didn’t unlock with its key.

I laughed at the ridiculousness of being stuck in a Target parking lot for two hours on a Friday morning that was not Black Friday.

I laughed at the idea of driving down a highway with a smashed out window. And I laughed at the image of returning the car and telling the story.

I laughed at the thought of a Target Mom calling the police to report somebody breaking into a rental car in the parking lot. And I laughed at the hilarity of a hypothetical front page local newspaper detailing the arrest and the silly circumstances that led to it.

And finally, I laughed at myself for getting mad over something I could not control.

Sometimes life throws curve balls. You can whine about it. Or you can learn to adjust. Things do not always go as planned. (Imagine how boring life would be if they did?)

But you always have a choice about how to respond.

Putting Yourself In the Way of Success

There’s a story about a guy named Edwin Barnes who desperately wanted to go into business with Thomas Edison (you know, the 10,000 ways how not to make a lightbulb guy).

Anyway, ol’ Barnes didn’t have a penny to his name and he’d never met Edison. But he focused so hard on his goal he convinced himself it was inevitable. All he needed was one shot to speak with the inventor.

So one day Barnes stowed away on a train and just showed up out front of Edison’s workshop declaring he’d come to go into business with him. Impressed and taken off guard, Edison offered Barnes a job – an hourly wage job doing “work unimportant to Edison.”

Haters might say he failed. But legend has it Barnes saw the job as the start of his business partnership with Edison. He put himself in the right place. All he needed was the right time.

Five years passed. Still no sign of opportunity beyond his hourly wage job. But Barnes did not flinch. And that’s precisely when his moment came. 

Edison released a new machine which his salespeople claimed to be unsellable. The invention fascinated Barnes. Who approached Edison with a proposal. 

“Tom, just give me a shot and I’ll sell this widget like ice-cold lemonade on a Mississippi summer day.” (okay, so I have no idea what he really said, but you get the picture)

And sell it he did. So successfully, in fact, that Edison entered into a business agreement with him to sell the machine all over the country. Which made him rich beyond imagination.

But this story isn’t about getting rich. It’s about the power of intention mixed with deliberate action.

Barnes did not wait around hoping and wishing that a great career opportunity might just happen to him.

He fixated on a specific outcome. Then he put himself in the way of opportunity.


Post inspired by Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich. Originally published via a weekly newsletter I write about how to live a more self-directed life.

Success vs. Fulfillment

I think it’s difficult to find real success unless you prioritize fulfillment.

Sure. You can get rich. Gain status. And win the praise of others. But if you’re unfulfilled, does it even matter?

When I think about my own life and how I’ve defined success over the years one thing seems constant – the goal posts always move.

Each achievement challenges further achievement. Incomes goals, career goals, status goal…you name it. Anytime I’ve been prioritized “success” over fulfillment, I’ve found it fleeting.

On the flip side, when I’ve prioritized fulfillment, I’ve found something altogether different to be true – an ability to be content without sacrificing future ambition.

A Personal Tale

When I graduated college I set a pretty ambitious goal for myself: double my income every year.

It was easy at first. Year one. Year two. Even year three. But as you can imagine it became more difficult in time. Through my first five years in the real world, I almost succeeded too. But then I discovered something I didn’t anticipate. More money did not make me happier.

As obvious as this might sound to you, it was actually difficult for me to understand. Because I had a wrong notion about success. I believed success was a function of keeping score.

That belief really led me astray for quite some time. It had me looking out into the world at what others were doing. Comparing myself. And then beating myself up over all that I had not yet accomplished by my age. Which honestly got pretty exhausting after awhile.

Two Steps Back, One Leap Forward

A few years back I left an awesome job at a company I loved. I’d been there awhile. I’d climbed the ranks. And I was making great money.

But something had gone missing. I’d lost the fire for my work.

For awhile I tried to rediscover it. I tried working harder. I tried working less. I tried journaling. I tried therapy. I tried changing up my schedule. I tried changing up what I was working on.

But the more I searched the less vigor I felt for my work.

After months of battling with this, I found a new outlet – an opportunity to go work on something entirely different. To leave behind one opportunity and pursue the next. A new challenge, if you will.

It scared me. But (thankfully) after some prodding from a friend, I made the leap.

I went from big fish in big pond to a small pond where status had no bearing. I took a +40% pay cut. I left a team where I’d been around longer than almost everybody to a team where I was very much the new guy. I went from a role where I knew exactly what it took to succeed to a role that I was larger learning everything on the fly.

And a surprising thing happened – I rediscovered my fire for my work.

Somehow my status and income had both declined but my happiness increased. Who knew, right?

How To Find Fulfilling Work

Roman Krznarick has an awesome book on this topic you should check out. It’s called How To Find Fulfilling Work.

In the book he highlights five dimensions of fulfilling work. Here they are:

  • Earning Money (Extrinsic)
  • Achieving Status (Extrinsic)
  • Making a Difference (Intrinsic)
  • Following Your Passions (Intrinsic)
  • Using Your Talents (Intrinsic)

Basically, we all have our own motives for doing what we do. Krznarick explains how some of those motives originate by watching people – see also mimetic desire. Krznarick called these extrinsic motives. These are the things we all usually think about when we define success – like money, titles, where we work, who we know, etc.

But in the stories Krznarick researched, in most cases, people who pursued extrinsic factors actually ended up less happy. They were missing something.

Krznarick argued that the motives that come from within – which he calls intrinsic factors – are actually the key to unlocking fulfillment in our work and lives.

He tells stories about people who left 6-figure consulting jobs to work in non-profits. Or left their high-status jobs to pursue their art. And a whole collection of other examples where people “traded down” (lower income and status) to become happier.

People became happier as the moved closer to roles that used their talents, made them feel like they were making a difference, and stuff they were passionate about. In most cases, they made less money and did less glamorous-sounding work (at least at first).

As surprising as it might sound, Krznarick’s theory suggests it’s actually not the money or status that makes us happy. Rather, it’s the stuff that makes us come alive that leads to real success – success from fulfillment.

Searching For Your Own Answers

It’s nothing new for people to be searching for answers. What’s the meaning of life? How can I be successful? How can I live a happy life?

Questions like this have challenged people centuries. Thankfully a lot of people have kept good notes. And there’s so much we can learn from exploring other people’s struggles on these same topics.

I’m very much still on my own journey of personal development. But I’ve found a lot of answers – and a ton more questions – by digging deep into how other people have approached questions like these in their own lives and careers.

Here are a few resources I’ve found useful throughout the years:

How to Find Fulfilling Work By Roman Krznarick

How Will You Measure Your Life? By Clayton Christensen

Outwitting the Devil By Napolean Hill

Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World By René Girard

Start with Why By Simon Sinek

Do What You Are By Paul & Kelly Tieger & Barbara Barron

The War of Art By Steven Pressfield

You Don’t Need a Job – You Need Guts By Ash Ambirge

There are countless other good resources out there for exploring questions about success, happiness, fulfillment and the like. It’s a personal journey. And these are tough questions to wrestle with. But it’s worth it.

28 Things I’m Thinking About at 28

*The following post was adapted from a fall 2019 private journal entry – which I’m sharing publicly here now for the first time.

28 Things I’m Thinking About at 28

Something about birthdays always gives me pause – almost as if it’s a biological reminder to reflect on my life – to give an annual accounting of how I’ve spent my time.

This year is no different – and in the spirit of the sensationalist, click-bait times we live in, I’ve aimed to present this year’s reflections in as thoughtful manner as possible.

So here goes nothing.


Journal Entry – 6:20 p.m. November 18, 2019

1. Alchemy

Transforming the errors of my youth into golden nuggets of wisdom and life lessons (so I don’t repeat the same mistakes).

2. Mining

Extracting more value out of life – both from my time & labor, as well as the little things.

3. Treasure

Both wealth-building (present & future) but also why – I believe I have more good to offer the world if I’m financially independent.

4. Mental Hygiene

Practicing to live better mentally – less stress, more good vibes.

5. Physical Health

We won’t live forever. Both physical and mental self-care are critical.

6. Gratitude

This is a daily battle. But I believe it’s important to remain aware of the gift life is – and for what I have.

7. Joyfulness

Happiness has been an afterthought to ambition most of my life. I want to enjoy my life in the present though. To live joyfully now – not just with hope toward the future.

8. Curiosity

I’m never as fully alive as when I’m in hot pursuit of something I must know or prove.

9. Integrity

I want to be known – I crave to – as someone who deals honestly & fairly with others.

10. Compassion

I’m at constant odds with my desire to reason & my capacity for being human – without the latter in tact, I’ve lost something of grave importance for living a full life, and for achieving my potential. Remember to be human.

11. Identity

I’ve spent most of my life figuring out who I am not – and who I do not want to be. I feel more aware and comfortable with who I am each time I make one more step of progress toward that.

12. Hopefulness

I wouldn’t know what to do with my life if I didn’t carry an unshakeable belief that there is better out there – even if I can’t fully comprehend it.

13. Confidence

There’s no sense in standing for anything except what I believe to be right – the world will try to screw us one way or the other 😉. So might as well be comfortable living with myself.

14. Balance

I have a default “all or nothing” setting. It’s tough to be at odds with that – but it’s also necessary to find and practice balance. Which includes being at harmony with myself and my emotions.

15. Friendship & 16. Family

What’s the point of any of this if we can’t share it with anyone?

17. Fellowship

We live in a time where being present is constantly at war with everything else happening in the world. I want to get better at prioritizing and cherishing the limited, precious times and opportunities I do have with those who are important to me – not just idle time together – but time well spent.

18. Courage

The world can be scary. The odds are not in favor of the good guy. And that makes it all the more critical to fight to protect our individualism.

19. Encouraging

We’ve all got shit going on in our lives – that does not excuse me from building others up. I wouldn’t be where I am had others not encouraged me. Remember to pay it forward.

20. Patient

Damn. It’s exhausting to feel like I’m always being a reactionary… I want to protect my sanity and joy by getting better at letting things outside my control play out before flying off the handle. Remember to breath.

21. Thoughtfulness

It’s easy to take others for granted. I want to get better at acknowledging, recognizing, and communicating my appreciation.

22. Originality & Creativity

I have something unique and valuable to offer the world. Sometimes it’s hard, scary, vulnerable-feeling to put it out there. But it’s worth protecting that by persevering through.

23. Perseverance

Some days are tough. But nobody’s going to carry the water for me – and even if they offered, I won’t let them.

24. Personal Agency

I alone am responsible for my life, my actions, my choices, my words…and the consequences of those. No one else can carry my blame.

25. Industriousness

It’s not enough to work hard when the time we have is scarce. I must also invent my own way to prosperity.

26. Masculinity

Everything about being a man is part of the fabric of who I am – the good, the bad, the ugly. Masculinity is something to be embraced not renounced. Bridges and skyscrapers weren’t built by manicured hands.

27. Faith

My beliefs have been challenged more in the past decade than I ever imagined. I’m still working through the gaps – maybe I always will be . But I believe my life has a purpose higher than me. I can’t perfectly describe or articulate it. But I crave understanding of that purpose – and to be lost, wholly, in pursuit of it.

28. Love

My capacity and patience for the mysteries of my heart have forever been tethered to my faith. In periods of spiritual stagnation, love has felt like something within my control – cold, distinct, in-form, and calculated. In periods of deep spiritual longing – it has felt totally overwhelming, fierce, and both entirely incomprehensible and far beyond my control and mental faculties. Yet, in spite of the ebbs and flows – love has revealed its steadfast qualities to me. Through its unwavering – and at times undeserved – loyalties from others. And thought it’s consistent, sometimes soft but never-absent calling.