On Personal Equity: Who Owns Shares of You?

Take-Home Message: Be smart about who you let influence you.

Motivation speaker Jim Rohn famously coined the phrase, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

If Jim is right, then you can probably get a glimpse of your identity by looking at your circle of confidants. However, I’ve also heard it remarked that this assessment falls short. It does not account for the other intellectual influences that might be quite prevalent in shaping your identity, like books or bloggers, or the websites you frequent.

I have a tendency to agree with Jim, that we do, to a degree, become the company we keep. Because of this, I think it’s quite important for the achievement of your goals to assess carefully the individuals to whom you grant a stake in your life and how their influences are shaping you.

In many ways, your life is a lot like a business. (Corporations are people, too, right?) Of course, there are many different types of businesses and varying facets according to each type. Let’s take a look at some of these similarities, and why the company you keep effects that.

Similarity One: If you make an income, it’s likely from an exchange of your own skills or services to someone else who wants them. How well or how poorly you provide this exchange in accordance with your price will determine your perceived worth in the marketplace to others. Of course, you might not set your price, you might work for a wage that your employer offers you in exchange for your work. How well you demonstrate your proficiency at your current wage rate determines your value to your employer–it likely determines your opportunity for advancement and continued employment, among other things, as well.

Similarity Two: You both need a PR firm. Your reputation is usually up for negotiation. Just as when you’re working, the way you deal with others in your day-to-day relationships will play a role in what others think about you. In the marketplace as a business, consumers’ opinion  can make or break you. In life, it’s not quite as drastic, of course, but, a poor reputation can make it difficult to earn an income or go about the pursuit of your own interests hassle-free.

Similarity Three: Whoever makes decisions for either, is actually the boss. In most businesses, there is a “Decision Maker” who is calling the important shots. These decisions could be reliant on many different individuals providing support like analysts, a Board of Trustees, or even shareholders. Sometimes, [in business] the decision maker’s hands are tied by the influences or opinions of these other parties. It usually depends on the breakdown of equity held in the business by each party. In your own life–much like Rohn said about your five closest companions–how you’ve granted equity and to whom can play a significant role in your decisions. This is why I believe it so important to evaluate those roles carefully.

If you’re running around letting every person whom you come in contact with influence your mindset, goals, or opinions, you’ve effectively taken out an IPO on yourself and let the world buy up shares and call the shots for you. If you’re doing this, stop now and try to buy back as much of your equity as you can.

A little less drastic example, though, can be taken by assessing those five people–or however many it realistically is for you–you’re confiding in and the ideas you’re regularly contemplating. How much ownership of your life have you granted to these? If you can’t clearly see this, then consider a recent decision you’ve made and the process you went through to reach it.

Did you consult anyone before making a decision? If so, whom and what influence, if any, did their opinion have? Did you weigh your decision against a personal code of conduct or some guiding philosophy or information? Or did you reach your own, independent conclusion, free from consultation?

I think it’s important to be aware of this process you undergo in decision-making in your life. It’s not so important who these people are, so long as you’re aware and approve of their influences. However, if your personal Board of Trustees is the deciding factor for every choice you make, and you are unaware of it, you might be do yourself a world of good by taking a minute to figure this out.

Why? Because each of them is operating under his or her own self-interest. Their advice to you is an extension of the reality they live in. If in any way thier interests conflict with yours, then you’re doing a disservice to yourself by allowing their interests to compete with your own for title to your life.

The point of the matter is that you are the only one who has to live with the decisions you are making. So, if the company you are keeping is satisfactory to you and meshes well with your values, then perhaps you have nothing to worry about. The imperative part is that you’re aware of the role these influences play in your life.  Like business as in life, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” So, be sentient of these guiding forces and be cautious to grant equity only where it’s beneficial to the fulfillment of your own life’s goals.

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.

The Conversation You Should Be Having

Take-Home Message: People love talking about themselves. Give them a chance.

“Hi, I’m Mitchell.”

“Hi, Mitchell, I’m [Insert Name]”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise. So, Mitchell, what do you do?”

That’s the script to each new interaction I’ve been programmed to rehearse. It happens on auto-pilot. On many occasions, I catch myself regurgitating these words like lines from a play. It’s not because I’m superficially interested, either. It’s something more Pavlovian than that. It’s the response I’ve been conditioned to recite for years, as if we’re all merely products defined by our roles in society, rather than humans with passions, a family, and a story.

It happens all around us, and it walks with us through each new stage in our lives. Questions about what you wanted to be morphed into questions about your major, or any other classifying information. Whatever the question, the result is the same, and I’m guilty of it, too.

I call it qualifying by classifying. It’s really an easy recipe. You take a glassful of notions you have about an individual, add two shots of answers to surface-level questions, maybe stir in a pinch of prejudice, garnish with a stereotype, stir, and then you drink this mind-numbing libation. Add rash judgment according to your preference.

This isn’t healthy. All this does is continue a broken narrative that our existence is pointless. It adds to this group-think mentality that our own intrinsic, individual characteristics don’t matter. It adds to the propagation of society as a swarm of worker bees, beholden to the hive. It grants us each a label according to our role–rather than our personality–as if it’s our duty–rather than our choice.

But, there is still hope.

It happens by working on our delivery. Instead of asking someone what they do, ask, “What’s your story?” or “What keeps you up at night?” or even, “What are you passionate about?”

Watch the fire light in their eyes. Why? Because people love talking about themselves, detailing their passions, and telling their stories. What they likely don’t get often is someone eager to listen. This is not mere conjecture. Research has proven that the areas of the brain that respond to self-disclosure are also associated with reward. People really, truly, love talking about themselves.

Here’s the beauty of this, though. When you engage someone else this way and set them into motion about their story, you will learn more about them than you would by asking them what they do or about their major. Why? Because when you show interest, it allows others to let down their guard and make way for a friendly conversation. Before you know it, you’ll be figuring out how your aunts went to high school together or planning a cookout.

But why does it even matter?

Here’s why. Because a lot of people haven’t thought out what makes them happy or evaluated what they would do differently if they could. They’re just like you and me, moving through life, searching for answers, only to find more questions. But something happens when someone engages us and we get to talking. The wheels start turning and it awakens these feelings and inspirations that we’ve either repressed or forgotten about. Sometimes, all someone needs is to feel like they have the permission to let it all out. We can do that for other people, and it doesn’t even cost a thing.

But why do I care or why should I?

Here’s why I care. Not long ago, someone asked me what made me come alive. He asked me about my goals and my ideal life, where I envisioned myself in a few years, and why it all mattered to me. It floored me. I thought this guy was the most impressive person I’d ever spoken to. Why? Because he made me feel like a rockstar. He challenged me to provide answers to questions I had not even articulated for myself.

I walked away from that conversation remembering him. I remembered how he made me feel, too. And I couldn’t shake the questions. They stuck with me. So, over the course of several weeks following that conversation, I hashed out answers to a lot of those questions. All of this from just a simple conversation, that only took a few minutes of a stranger’s time.

Now, I’m not  proposing you do this as charity. You can approach it from a motive of self-interest. You can even look at it as a key for networking better and making people remember you. You can do it from the joy you’ll likely receive from witnessing someone light up as they describe their story to you. You can do it to feel like a good person.

It doesn’t really matter why you choose to, or even if you choose to at all. But, I assure you, you’re leaving value on the table in every interaction you have if you’re continuing to engage people solely based upon their occupation or education.

I dare you capitalize on that missed value and to join me in making this change. It’s no easy one. It requires a process of undoing years of socially-cultivated colloquial. No matter how I look at it, though, all I see are opportunities–and years of missed opportunities from just scratching the surface. The ripple effects of those opportunities turned into action are impossible to know without trying.

So, will you join me?

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?

Please Offend Me.

Take-Home Message: Whatever it is, stand for your brand.

Writer’s Note: This post was inspired from an entrepreneurship e-course. The following is a quote from this text:

“everything you put out there in the world needs to clearly stand for something. Because when you stand for something, others can stand with you. But when you hesitate; when you try to appeal to as many people as possible with your message, your business offerings, your services, your products, your website, your copy, your blog posts, your social media updates…you cockblock people from being able to decide if you’re for them, or not. And if they can’t tell, the answer will always be no.” –Ash Ambirge, You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts


Have you ever met a real-life metamorphagus? In muggle-speak, the closest thing I can equate this to is a chameleon or shape-shifter. The type of person to whom I’m referring is the one who will, in the matter of one conversation, effectively change his or her mind about any matter so as to appease you or the audience. I think this is not only intellectually dishonest, but I think it’s lazy.

I’ve always been puzzled by it. I understand the incentive structure of it, I think. People want to be well-liked, so they project a false image of themselves onto others. Or, they might not even know it’s a false image. They simply project whichever image they think would satisfy their interlocutor. The short-term gains of doing this seem to be more inviting than the long-term gains of standing their ground on issues and potentially risking the loss of a friendship or offending a new acquaintance. It’s an interesting strategy, I think. However, I  propose operating by a different one.

I’m more of a believer in the words of Dewey Cox: “Walk Hard.” You’re going to encounter people with whom you disagree. In fact, you might even meet people who resent you for disagreeing with the way they see the world. When that happens,  I think you’ve gotta take it in the face and walk as hard as you can. At least, I believe if you want to be true to yourself this is how you should operate.

In fact, I think we detract value from the world–where we otherwise could have created value–by seeking only to appease others. When we delicately tiptoe within the boundary lines of allowable opinion, we are not doing anyone any favors. More importantly, though, I think we miss out on meaningful conversations and opportunities to learn about how someone else experiences the world differently than us. That information is invaluable.

Now, I do not think the goal should be to offend others. There are definitely some  methods to go about sharing your beliefs and ideas that are more harmful and less well-received than others. However, this does not mean you should be afraid to.

You should also dismiss and banish from your mind’s eye myths like “political correctness.” In a world of politics, anything disagreeable to the government is heresy. For instance, when I was in college, I once heard an administrator give a speech on hazing. They defined it as “Anything that makes someone uncomfortable is hazing.” How shameful. I think that’s some bullshit attempt at creating a society of victims.

If something offends you, maybe you should broaden your horizons. If you’ve offended someone, then maybe you’ve done them some good. I know that when I interact with someone who offends me by their beliefs they stick in the back of my mind more than someone who attempts to appease me. It sits there and dwells, and I chew on it like cud.

And what ends up happening as I replay those conversations in my head is that I stumble upon some nugget of truth either about that person or their beliefs that I previously didn’t know. They taught me something, even if it wasn’t some grand philosophical truth, their defense of their beliefs gave me something I didn’t before have. In so doing, they showed me into their head and revealed to me not only what they believe to be true, but also, they showed me how my beliefs are being received.

The latter part is the more important part to me. It’s another valuable reason for having conversations without fear of offending others: it allows us to sharpen and refine our own beliefs, our own conversations skills, and our ability to persuade and argue effectively. It makes us think critically and it makes us face some oftentimes harsh realities about the ways others are perceiving us. Next time you offend someone, keep this in mind: they might have done you a favor; they gave you a free signal that you’re either shitty at selling your ideas or they’re too narrow-minded for you to want them to be your friend.

However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes people get so caught up in their ideas of what’s unacceptable table talk that they refuse to even participate or grant you an audience. Well, a huge fuck you to them too for being so obtuse. Those are the type of people with whom I wish I could go back in time and watch a George Carlin show live. I would piss my pants laughing at how uncomfortable it made them to be exposed to ideas that conflicted with their shallow worldview.

And here’s why: I think the essence of learning involves bringing new knowledge into our heads. New knowledge always accomplishes one or more of a handful of tasks. It reaffirms what we already know, it disproves what we thought we knew, or it blows our minds by introducing something we’ve never before encountered.

That means every transaction of learning involves bringing something into our mind that was not previously there. If we are always walking around being so damned easily offended by new information or hyper-sensitive to knowledge that contradicts our current views and beliefs, then we’re equivalently anesthetizing ourselves to knowledge.

And so we’ve come full-circle back to the shape-shifters and chameleons, because that’s exactly what I think seeking to appease people does. It’s like condemning a whole generation to go without books, or like putting your brain inside a jar of fluid and placing it on a shelf to collect dust. You’re wasting opportunities to participate in one of the most beautiful miracles we as human beings can possibly partake in: experiential learning. And for what, to save face?

Here are some hard facts about life:

  1. The people who actually love you will get over it. Whatever it is, if they’re really worth having in your life, they will not hate you for your ideas or beliefs, nor patronize you to the point you can’t stand it.
  2. The people who don’t matter will remove themselves from your life. They’re all sweethearts like that. If they can’t get over your ideas or beliefs, they’ll hit the road, Jack.
  3. What you say about your character isn’t necessarily voiced by what you believe, so much as is said by how you believe it and how you defend it when challenged. If you’re abandoning your beliefs because of the way other people make you feel, then you probably never really believed it.
  4. Get tough. The world is full of non-believers in your ideas.

So, next time you find yourself cornered at a bar with the greasy dude who wants to impress you with how much you guys have in common, throw him a curve-ball. Make him dance by bringing up something you believe to be true that you know he won’t. And then just watch. I dare you.

You’re not hurting your brand by offending others. Others are hurting your brand by keeping you afraid of being yourself. Don’t let your brand be that of a coward or a shmoozer. If anything, be labeled an extremist. Embrace your ideas, beliefs, and the facts you know to be true, and go out into the world boldly, unafraid, and eager to learn and face whatever comes your way.

No License Required

Take-Home Message: These applications are revolutionizing the way we complete tasks.

One of my favorite topics involves the use of technology as a means for making our lives better. I am utterly fascinated by innovation, and the way it ceaselessly transforms our world.

Take the smart phone, for example. Even in my lifetime, this was once inconceivable. Yet, today, nearly every 11-year-old has access to a full warehouse of tools that at one point in the not-so-distant past would’ve cost almost a million dollars. (Here’s a cool article that discusses this advancement more.)

A growing trend today allows individuals to make even more use of technology to live better, more opportunistic lives. It’s the rise of the peer-to-peer freelancing industry. These softwares and applications are vast and growing, and they are revolutionizing the way people interact.

These applications don’t simply allow people to be more informed. They free us. They allow us to seek out directly the people, products, skills, or services we crave in a timely, affordable manner. They have dramatically decreased the overhead cost of running businesses, too. Imagine connecting with someone from around the globe to do your company’s billing or data entry at a fraction of the cost (which subsequently is much higher than the wages they might otherwise earn). It’s a win-win for everyone.

Here are some highlights from a few of my favorite examples of these innovations:

Upwork/Elance“Anything that can be done on a computer – from web and mobile programming to graphic design – can be done on Upwork. ” Upwork/Elance allows individuals to create accounts showcasing their talents and their hourly rate. It allows users to sort through and interview applicants, select the one they want, and rate the performance. It gives you access to over 10 million freelancers in more than 180 countries, and is a leading platform for global talent sourcing.

Freelancer“Post your project and receive competitive bids from freelancers within minutes. Our reputation system will make it easy to find the perfect freelancer for your job. It’s the simplest and safest way to get work done online!” Freelancer has similar features to Upwork and Elance, however, with the added element of allowing service providers to issue bids for the project proposals.

Wonolo: “Work now. Get paid. Live life on your terms.Don’t let job schedules run your life. Wonolo connects you with immediate hourly or daily jobs from the biggest and best brands, allowing you to work where you want, when you want, for whomever you want.” Wonolo allows users to find temporary work immediately. At the touch of a button, employers can post jobs and find someone to fill their need. Wonolo is a means to “leverage technology to create a flexible workforce to solve unpredictability in business.”

TaskRabbit: “TaskRabbit allows you to live smarter by connecting you with safe and reliable help in your neighborhood. Outsource your household errands and skilled tasks to trusted people in your community.” TaskRabbit is allowing people to take back control of their hectic lives by connecting with people who can help them.


If you are interested in learning more about talent sourcing platforms, check out this list of 50.

Let Your Stuff Burn, Save Yourself.

Take-Home Message: Don’t get too worked up over stuff.

This week trying to clean up my hard-drive, I deleted 10 years of music by accident. Oops! Before I knew what I had done, I emptied my Trashcan, and sent it walking forever. (Or so I thought, I found a way to recover it, but that’s for a different post.) This accident reignited an ongoing thought-experiment about the importance–or rather, lack of importance–of stuff.

Like me, you’ve likely encountered some variety of the “burning house” scenario at a point in your life. Throughout the years, your answer to that question has likely evolved with you, too, much like it has for me. The more I grow, the easier that question becomes to answer. For one simple reason: Stuff doesn’t matter (it’s how you use it).

So, contemplate this famous question for a moment: “If your house were burning to the ground, and you could escape only with what you can carry, what would you grab?”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been contemplating the underlying life lessons about questions like this–go figure. But specifically, I’ve spent a lot of time in deep thought over minimalism. I’ve been thinking about this not as some sort of strike against civilization or mark against consumerism. I don’t really care about that angle. It’s intrigued me because waking up tomorrow without any of my stuff sounds entirely liberating. It sounds like a new kind of freedom.

It’s made me think that I could walk out the house without anything and rebuild my life, being cautious to only include the most important things. I don’t know if it’s realistic or not, because in the moment, there’s no telling how I would respond. I might be concerned only about making it out with my life, or ensuring that everyone makes it out alive. Who really knows?

The purpose of this thought experiment though, is not to condemn material things. I enjoy the material possessions I have quite a lot, and many of them greatly improve my standard of living. Rather, the point is to identify the most important things in life, so as to remove any of the idle attachments I’ve made with inanimate shit.

Most of your stuff can be replaced easily. And some of it can’t. But even the stuff that can’t be replaced is likely more valuable intrinsically than for any other reason. The intrinsic value is merely a product of your mind, anyway, so you don’t need to carry any of this with you, the value is all inside your head. As for all the other things, they are not as important as you think, really. They are just things, and you might be letting them control your life.

I really think things often can become barriers to our own greatness. When we place an unhealthy attachment on things, we tarnish our faculties for valuation. I think this is one of the most important things a rational, mature adult can possess: the ability to distinguish priority among the pointless.

Among these possible priorities, the most important one is your life. Your own life matters more than any of the shit in it. Your own life, that force of your existence, is more important than any of the things attached to it.

If your house is burning down, it doesn’t matter what you grab if you never make it out. Think about that. All of the shit is pointless without you. So, in essence, you are the thing that determines the value of all the rest of the stuff. Without you, it’s pointless. I repeat. Without YOU, all of the shit is pointless!

So, as I conclude rambling about this thought experiment, I’d challenge you to weigh the value you find in your own life. If you can properly determine this, then you’ve arrived at a good starting point to make incredible personal growth. If you know your own value first, then the value of everything else, big and small, becomes a lot easier to determine.

If you know what you’re worth, then in contrast, you can see how unimportant all of these things are without you. If you can do this, you’ve uncovered a path to self liberation.

America’s Greatest Homecoming

Take-Home Message: Good traditions should endure.

October represents a special time for every member of the Cowboy family. It’s a month when older siblings enjoy the privilege of introducing new and future members of the family to time-honored traditions that make Stillwater, Oklahoma the home of this yearly family reunion.

Each year, over 80,000 past, present, and future Cowboys join together to celebrate a rich legacy of familial cooperation, alumni and undergraduate achievement, and of course, Cowboy football.

To mark this celebration, students begin preparing many months in advance. In September, the campus evolves into a hub of chaos, hype, industriousness, and creativity, It remains this way until the Friday evening before the homecoming football game. On this evening, the hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of preparation culminate into the debuting of over a hundred and twenty years of history on display through the form of house decorations, hand-crafted signs, and a sea of orange.

On this special night, both distant and immediate members of the family join together, filling the streets to observe the spirit of Stillwater, Oklahoma on display. The dozens of house decorations merely serve as placeholders for of over a century of accomplishments, generosity, and commitment to excellence.

These massive, meticulously-tended to decorations serve as worthy placeholders, though. Each portrays its own unique definition of what it means to count yourself among the Cowboy family. Spanning at up to 80 feet and standing nearly 20 feet Ito the air, these brilliant emblems of cooperation, ingenuity, and creativity narrate the stories of many past family role models.

These incredible decorations take time, thoughtfulness, strategy, and resourcefulness. They join together around 200 students, per decoration, who have never before worked together, laboring round-the-clock, toward a creation that grows from infancy to adulthood in under two months. It is truly a beautiful microcosm of industry, engineering, innovation, and thrift.

To put things into even more stark perspective, consider these statistics: Eachecoatyion utilizes approximately 130 boxes of pomp (tissue paper), at 7,200 sheets per box, totaling 936,000 sheets, each cut into 1/4″ squares. That’s  3.744 million pieces of paper, not to make mention of the hundreds of feet of aluminum pipe, and likely miles of welding rods used to bbirth these behemoth artistic structures.

Though college as the establishment represents something different to each of us, I am proud to count myself a part of this Cowboy family, and to have had the opportunity to have participated in this rich tradition. I look forward to witnessing these masterpieces on display, and joining in with the tens of thousands of my Cowboy siblings as we celebrate 125 years.