Cultivating Mindfulness, Peace, and Joy

Tag: Writing

Not Knowing

This poem was written on the top of a mountain ridge in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.


Not Knowing


Atop a mountain ridge, the lush and scarred valley below, 

a valley of beauty and also sorrow 

for the fires that came through just weeks ago. 


The merciless fires that tear through this land, 

scorching the earth and burning tall trees to the ground, 

the sound of its crackle, the smell of its smoke 

Made my eyes water, filled my lungs, made me choke. 


And I’m choked up again as I see proof of Earth’s warming, 

we’re heating up quickly, I take this as a warning; 

a warning that collapse is upon us right now, 

a warning that I might just have to allow 

the inevitable to happen, the unthinkable to unravel, reality to unfold.


I keep getting older and nobody told me 

The pursuit of the good life would be so much work. 

And the work changes, the targets move.

Am I changing or am I growing?


There’s no way of knowing, 

and the not knowing sucks.


It’s hard, it’s unpleasant, it’s scary and ominous, ever present. 

I just want to know who to be, how to help. 

So I pick up my shovel and dig to uncover the self; 

The self that resides under all these layers of noise.

I dig and I deepen and deep down there’s a boy

Who just wants to get better, to be enough. 


So I dig into the depths of unknown, 

not knowing what I’ll find, not knowing if I’m digging in the right place, 

but certain that I must dig, I can’t be complacent. 

And if I choose non-complacency, I’m choosing resistance.

I want life with ease and also betterment.


Not knowing, the hardest place to be, yet it’s where growth happens.

I have to acknowledge I’m choosing this path, 

I can make the not knowing my friend, get familiar.

And know what it’s like to not know, it’s peculiar.


To not know, to begin again.

To let go of the past and the future, just present.

Resting in the blessing of presence.

No worry of what might be or clinging to what was.

Accepting and trusting of what is.


I am in the seat of my own liberation.

And with a little more practice of concentration 

and awareness I can see. I am awake.


I am awake enough to know 

that these trees did not know when the fires would come 

to singe their trunks and topple their branches. 

These native trees that grew and grew and survived 

until it became their time. 

If the trees can grow into the unknown, so can I. 

I am awake. 

I know I do not know. 


I Took a Two-Year Sabbatical and Tried To Blog About It Weekly; After 30 Weeks, I Realized I Was No Longer “On Sabbatical”

It’s a weird experience, feeling like you are waking up to your own life. It’s even weirder to type those words with the intention of sharing them with the internet. But that’s how I feel. Not that I abruptly un-jacked from The Matrix and have instantly awoken to a new, real world, but gradually, as each day passes, as my practices deepen and evolve, I feel like I’ve been becoming incrementally more in tune with all that my life is. I feel like I see things more clearly. When someone is upset, I get less caught up in the emotion of the moment and I can see the story behind the pain. When all I’m doing is standing in the middle of a forest, I can more clearly see the layers and depth of beauty that surrounds me, the abundance of life around me and within me. What does all this hippie-dippie gobbledygook have to do with my setting out to create 104 weekly blog posts chronicling a 2-year break from the working world and then giving up 30 weeks into it?  

For starters, it’s because, in my hard-to-describe state of feeling a little more awakened or alive or some such clichéd word, I am realizing that it no longer feels like I’m “On Sabbatical.” For many, the term “sabbatical” implies that the leave is short term and that there will inevitably be a return to the work once the sabbatical is over. I see no return in my future. From the ashes of my past and the soil in my foundation, only new growth can emerge. The idea of writing a weekly blog documenting my time away from the working world suited me, until it didn’t. What once felt like a worthy practice, an easy launchpad into the world of writing, an exciting endeavor I could one day look back on with interest, now just feels restricting. I don’t want to write because I have to write. I want to write because I want to write. 

I find it extremely challenging to write my honest to goodness Truth. I can hear many critical voices murmur as I dare to write without filter, without edit, without restraint. “No one cares.” “Why are you doing this?” “People will judge you.” “What will your parents think?” “You sound like an esoteric cloud-dwelling hippie.” These voices and their siblings offer formidable resistance. Adding to the resistance with my own arbitrary deadlines and rigid framework of “one post about my sabbatical every week” no longer feels useful. Being awake enough to myself to be able to see this is but one example of how it feels like I am no longer “on a break” but that I am metamorphosing into a new being with a new quality of consciousness. 

Even writing that sentence, an inner critic says “you sound ridiculous.” But it’s my Truth! I’m feeling ready to start documenting and sharing more of my Truth. 

As I continue to live out my days by practicing, among other things, letting my intuition, and the intuition of my partner and children, guide me, weird things are happening. Awesome things. Powerful things. Where to begin? 


A week after New Year’s on Monday, January 9, the first day of 2023 when the holiday buzz had finally worn off for most everyone, people everywhere were likely having their first “real Monday” of work in a few weeks. Well, right now, I don’t have a “job,” but I did get to work that morning; even though I had a long list of things I wanted to do for the week, out of seemingly nowhere I felt a strong compulsion to write a letter to my friends. It was hitting me that it was now 2023, the actual year I would be moving from Minnesota to Costa Rica with my family, indefinitely. My available time to share with friends was about to start dwindling at a rapid pace. I felt a sudden urgency to prioritize scheduling a day of connection with each of my closest friends. Here is an excerpt from the letter that went out that day: 

Through practices of contemplation, meditation, and reflective writing, my values, the things I most care about in life, are becoming more clear. When I did the Brene Brown exercise of boiling down all of the things I value in life into two words (found here), the two words that emerged for me were: Time and Family.

For me, Family is another way of saying: relationships, community, socialization, friendship, connection, and of course actual family. All of these notions of interpersonal relationship and connectedness roll up to my “parent” value of Family.

When I think of Family, I think of you. Regardless of whether or not we keep in frequent communication in future years, our friendship is definitely something I value right now. And, in a way, right now is all any of us has.

When I think of Time, I know that I don’t want to waste it. But what does it mean, to “waste” time? To me, it means protecting my Time from distractions, and investing my Time living in ways that serve my values. There is no better way for me to do this than to spend my Time with Family.

And so, I’d like to schedule some Time to be with you before I depart Minnesota.


In the weeks that followed, I utterly enjoyed my friendships. I hang out with my friends and I enjoy it–obvious, right? What’s been surprising, though, is that time and time again, this phenomenon keeps occuring that I’m not yet totally able to explain. Before, when I would see my friends, we would shoot the breeze, play games, eat some food, you know, typical friend hang stuff. But now when I see my friends, we open. Things get real.

The examples are many:

  • I went over to a friend’s house during a weekday for lunch. She had the day off and her husband works from home, so on his lunch break the three of us were able to have a chat. Instead of the typical “catching up” chat, they shared a recent story where they’d had a disagreement about parenting, which opened up into a larger conversation about their relationship, how they communicate, and how they make each other feel. There were tears. It felt to me like a big elephant in the room had been addressed and moved through. A day later, she sent me a text saying our talk was “therapeutic” and “reinforced a lot of the reasons why we love each other and are committed to raising the best family we can.” 
  • A former coworker reached out asking for advice about her career. I agreed to a lunch and she opened up about her dreams and her financial concerns. We explored what her real fears were. A few months later, she left her corporate position and now owns her own business. 
  • At a guys poker night, a friend mentioned in an off-hand comment that things weren’t going very well at home. Rather than zoom past that uncomfortable topic (like every other guy at poker did), I made sure not to leave the gathering until we actually talked about it. At one point we stepped outside and I gently inquired deeper to see how he was doing with it all. He shared more, and I could see in his body how it felt good to unload some of the tough stuff. At the end of the conversation, we embraced and he thanked me for caring and asking about his life. 
  • A previous advertising client reached out for a Zoom call to discuss her career change ideas, and at the end of the call said our chat “felt like a therapy session” for her. 
  • In the middle of recording one of my pilot podcast episodes, my guest felt comfortable enough to share a tear-filled, emotionally charged personal story. 
  • For the first time that I can remember, I had a phone conversation with my father where we both cried. 
  • A close friend keeps coming to me with news of his bad days, tough feelings, stress at home, frustrations about parenting. I see the pain. I see how I had been there a few years ago. It’s like I’ve climbed over a fence but he’s still on the other side, and he doesn’t even know there’s a fence there, and I don’t know how to help him get on the other side without telling him how to do it which will only make him avoid the fence at all costs. But at least I can see the fence now, and we’re talking about the important stuff. 
  • I go to my 20-year high school reunion and, by the end of the night, three different people tell me some version of “you are helping me remember what it is to dream for myself.”
  • We had a couples hang with another couple and they offered to talk about their therapy sessions, an eating disorder, and some challenges they have around their home. I got the sense these aren’t topics they discuss often with others; something about the conditions Kristyn and I created brought these more real topics forward. 
  • And speaking of Kristyn, all this “real talk” has some positive flavor to it as well. I keep getting more in love with my partner. Our support of each other keeps getting more and more layers of foundation. Almost like wrapping a ball in a ribbon or crochet paper. Every time we practice contact nutrition it’s like another layer of protective paper protecting our relationship. It’s becoming fortified. Once I cried to her explaining how thankful I am for who she is and that, just by her being who she is, she helps me live more in my own values. That moment was one extra fortifying layer adding further strength to our partnership.

Writing all this out, maybe crying is a theme here? (˃̣̣̥‿˂̣̣̥)

My friends keep opening up to me. Around me. Am I just seeing this now where I wasn’t seeing it before, but it’s always been there? No. It’s not just perception. Things are unfolding differently now. I’m making choices when discomfort arises. I’m choosing not to avoid, but to linger in the uncomfortableness. I’m choosing to dig into my friends’ tension with them. I’m figuratively holding their hand as we dive into the scary, unfomortable depths of their feelings, their relationships, their desires, their pain.

I focus on staying grounded, on remaining unattached to my sensations and my thoughts. I reconnect to my breath again and again, and I do my best to mirror back to my friends what they share with me, to bear witness to their stories, to aid their personal inquiry. I keep falling into roles of therapist, counselor, couples mediator. Is that just what being a good friend is? Listening, being supportive, being helpful? Or is there more to the story, here? After we have these tough conversations, I keep hearing things like “that felt therapeutic” and “thanks for letting me get that out” and “man, I wasn’t planning on getting this real over salads.”


I feel like I’m onto something. I just don’t know exactly what that thing is yet. I know it feels good to show up for my friends, to invite in their reality, and to attempt to navigate the hard stuff with them as their ally. I’m going to keep doing that and see where it leads.

I don’t know where it’ll take me, but my guess is that it won’t take me back to a cubicle selling TV commercials on broadcast news that I don’t even watch.

I’m grateful to my past self for documenting the first thirty weeks of my time away from the working world. It doesn’t feel like a failure that I only lasted thirty weeks out of 104. It feels like that’s how it had to be. That writing was right for that time, and they will forever exist (as long as I keep paying to renew my domain :D) for me to look back on.

Now, though, I have this feeling that there are bigger projects to tackle, more important research and writing to do, more exciting endeavors to pursue, more value to offer the world. What it feels like now is a new beginning. A fresh start where I get to write the rules of my own life. And instead of committing to the rule of “one weekly blog post documenting the journey of my two-year sabbatical,” the new rule is “write often, and write your Truth.”

On Sabbatical – Week 29: Gratitude For Authors, Monitoring Behaviors, and Living Deliciously

I kicked off this week by making a brand new recipe for my beloved Kristyn’s birthday. 

Our favorite restaurant in the Twin Cities is Bar La Grassa. It’s a hip Italian joint in the trendy North Loop neighborhood in Downtown Minneapolis, and everything about this place is spectacular: the craft cocktails, the entire menu section dedicated to bruschetta, the mouth-watering entrees, the housemade pasta… it’s all just so damned good. Kristyn has enjoyed their Gnocchi with Cauliflower & Orange in the past, and our neighbor so graciously mentioned that she’d found this recipe from a Minnesota food blogger who created a make-at-home version. 

And so, in a fashion not unlike one of our first dates, where I first had Kristyn over to my place and made her fettuccine alfredo, I rolled up my sleeves and did my best Bar La Grassa impression, gnocchi-style, complete with a couple of bourbon old fashioned’s. 

The dish turned out absolutely delectable. What really stood out about this evening, though, was not the lip-smacking tastiness of my concoction, but instead it was the deliciousness of the vibe we created in our home. Italian guitar strumming through the speaker. Candles flickering on the table. Cabernet in our glasses. Our kids were so into the peacefulness of the setting that, when we were done eating, they allowed Kristyn and I the space and time to slow dance in our family room while they busied themselves with their winter capes we’d just dug out of storage. It was a Monday evening as parents in the suburbs, but it felt like a Friday night on the town. These little touches made the evening feel special, indulgent. Even though it was my life, it felt like I had entered a nicer, higher plane of existence reserved for celebrities and royalty. It was an ordinary Monday made extraordinary with the addition of just two potent ingredients: effort and novelty. That’s really all it takes to keep life spicy. We can induce the pleasure of novelty simply by applying a little effort to find or create newness with the things we already have. 

Side note: if you try to make the Cauliflower Gnocchi recipe (which I heartily encourage you to do), use two pans, not one, so you can sauté the gnocchi separate from the cauliflower and shallot, and double the butter. I audibled both of these decisions while making it, and was very happy with both of those choices. 


This week I finished Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before, a book about habits. I’m very curious about the power of habits, and this book offers a multitude of insights on the topic. One of the bigger takeaways of the book is that habit formation is an individual endeavor and that one approach will not work for everyone. We each have different tendencies (based on our life experiences and genetic dispositions), and only based on our unique tendencies (such as how we respond to inner expectations versus external expectations) will a particular approach to habit creation be successful. 

One of the habits I’m forming with fairly reasonable success is to take notes of books (and podcasts) as I consume them. Rather than reading an educational book or listening to an insightful conversation and then letting the knowledge slip out of my mind as I make room for the next content, I slow down and take notes I can reference later. Of course, the process of writing the notes down is often enough to cement the idea into my brain more permanently. These notes sometimes turn into mini book reports that I publish on this blog, like The Most Important Lessons from “10% Happier” or Lessons From “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer

As I was wrapping up my notes on Better Than Before, I noticed a pattern, a sort of formula with books, specifically non-fiction books in the self-improvement realm. The formula goes like this:

Pick a topic you’re curious about –>

Research the crap out of it, which includes: reading tons, talking to friends, and interviewing experts –>

Document everything as it unfolds –>

Observe connections or patterns that emerge –> 

Map out or define these connections or patterns in some sort of diagram, flow chart, table, list, or framework, and –> 

BOOM, there’s your book 

(Plus, you know, writing 50,000 or 100,000 words in a compelling, expertly crafted, and easy to digest way)

While it may sound a bit obvious (as I read what I just wrote above), this noticing felt like a revelation to me. All of these self-improvement books I’m reading share a common thread – they all have their own sort of framework that the author has “created” (although some authors note they haven’t created anything per se, they have simply noticed and documented something that was already there). In Katy Bowman’s book Move Your DNA, she shares a Venn Diagram she created with a large circle titled “Movement” and within it, a smaller circle labeled “Exercise,” explaining the paradigm embedded in the book’s thesis–we are too focused on exercise routines and are ignoring the much larger picture of body movement that affects every cell in our body every moment of every day. In Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the framework he put together is so obvious it’s the title of the book!

In the case of Better Than Before, one of Rubin’s frameworks is the Four Tendencies, where she groups every person into one of four buckets, based on how they respond to inner and outer expectations: Upholder (serves inner and outer), Questioner (serves inner, rejects outer), Obliger (serves outer, rejects inner), and Rebel (rejects inner and outer). She capitalizes each of these tendencies as if they are proper nouns with the same credibility and “properness” as Christmas or Egypt, even though this idea of labeling these tendencies was just a notion she came up with during the research phase of this writing project. Yet, as a reader, I noticed myself reading these labels and this framework as truth, as fact; a smart person wrote this well-researched book and is capitalizing these terms, so this must be the way things are.

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin - Kara J Miller

Noticing patterns and creating useful frameworks and lenses to view the world through is the helpful work authors contribute to the world. It’s what transforms an idea into a useful idea. It’s what takes reams of research and converts the findings into something one can internalize. I feel like I have now noticed a pattern in how authors notice patterns, and it feels like I’ve just accessed a cheat code on how to write a useful book. 

Now the question is–do I have the courage and the discipline to play the game in which I can use my new cheat code? 


When I started training for a marathon in 2020, I stole an idea I’d seen a friend posting about on Facebook; I created a simple spreadsheet to track how many miles I ran every day. I also used the Nike Run Club app to track my miles, but apps come and go (I’ve since switched to Strava), but no matter what mile tracker app I use, my spreadsheet never changes. I found tracking my miles in this way to be extremely useful and also rather enjoyable. I’m not claiming this method will work for everyone, because not everyone shares my tendencies, but I really enjoyed having a numerical and visual account of how my weekly and monthly mileages were progressing. I was motivated by beating my previous week and by seeing my monthly miles stack up over time. I don’t know if I would have been able to complete a marathon without this system of monitoring my quantitative progress. 

This week, I returned to this idea, except I’m no longer training for a marathon. Instead, I’ve started tracking other behaviors, other practices I have decided are the practices that align with my values, that I believe in, that I want to hold myself accountable to practicing on a weekly basis. I created two separate worksheets: Mind and Body. For both of these, I’ve decided to use the measurement unit of minutes–the number of minutes I spend doing the practice each day.

On the Mind worksheet, I’m tracking: Meditation, Spanish, and Music. I considered adding Writing, because it is a Mind exercise I’m deeply interested in practicing, but I’m jotting down notes so often throughout the day, it would be too cumbersome to track.

On the Body worksheet, I’m tracking: Strength, Cardio, Yoga, and Being Outside. I’m not training for any particular physical endeavor. I am interested in developing a body that is well-adapted to a natural life over the long term, minimizing potential for injuries and maximizing healthy longevity. With what I’ve been learning about the body and movement from people like Tony Riddle and Katy Bowman, I believe that a variety of movement practices is the key to achieving my body goals, so I’ve set up a rotation of dedicated exercise practice six days a week with the following cadence: Strength, Yoga, Cardio, Strength, Yoga, Cardio, Rest. I included Being Outside on my Body tracker, because it is just so freaking nourishing to be outside, so regardless of whether I’m running, walking, hiking, playing with my kids, or sitting under a tree, I’m going to monitor how many of my daily minutes I’m spending immersed in nature. 

Time is our most limited resource. What gets monitored gets done. My intention is that by monitoring the behaviors I most want to develop into habits, I’ll have the same excitement and motivation that I did when tracking marathon miles, and eventually I’ll be living a life in perfect harmony with my aspirations. (At which point, I’ll probably change the goals again, ha!)

Probably not so coincidentally, as soon as I finished making this tracker, I felt compelled to go for a walk outside. I hiked around the trails at Westwood Nature Center in St. Louis Park, MN, and it felt invigorating. It was a cold day. I saw two other humans. I saw many deer hunkered down, turkeys squabbling, squirrels scavenging acorns, and pileated woodpeckers hacking away to prepare for winter. I felt more alive being in the midst of all these creatures working hard at their own survival.

Pileated woodpecker adding some sonic ambiance to my woodland stroll


This week I also started and finished the book The Year of Less by Cait Flanders, a memoir in which Flanders shares her journey of detaching from the habit of mindless shopping and consumerism. I’ve always been skeptical when people would claim to finish a book in a day or three. I’m a slow reader. But this book was a fast one for me. Upon finishing it, I felt compelled to send Cait a quick email. I wanted to thank her for writing the book, to thank her for the value I got from it (I hadn’t really considered making “internet friends” with similar interests until she mentioned meaningful relationships she’d made that way), and, more than that, I wanted to share how I related to her on several levels, to lob a hook into the water that I feel like a kindred spirit and am open to connecting more deeply than as just a reader of her book.

I then remembered hearing Dan Harris share on his podcast that one of the ways he first got into relationship with Dr. Mark Epstein was by reading his book and then reaching out to Epstein to set up a call, which Epstein agreed to.

Eureka! This gave me the idea to write the author of every book I read, as long as they are living, and thank them for the book. I don’t necessarily aspire to meet and become friends with all of these others, but as someone who’s dabbling in this whole writing business, I know how hard it is to put words down, so the very least I can do is to thank them for their effort. It feels karmically right. Plus, I’ve been in sales my whole career. I know how to do successful cold outreach, and that’s when I was peddling every business owner’s least favorite expense–advertising. It can’t be harder to write someone a thank you note. What’s the worst that can happen?

I started this new gratitude practice with Cait Flanders, and I’m looking forward to continuing this tiny way of giving back to my writer teachers out there. 

On Sabbatical – Week 28: Words of Work, a Tree Branch Hammock, and a Rabbit’s Foot


I started out this week like I have many other weeks of sabbatical–feeling aimless. Many Monday’s I will make a list of what I want to do that day and that week, and I will look at the list and feel like I have a lot to do, and I will not know where to begin. I’ve tried many productivity apps and journaling systems, but try what I may, I often get a feeling of Monday Doom: so much to do, so little time, clueless where to begin. 

Luckily for me, I have a life partner who listens, holds space for me, and allows me to process thoughts through conversation. It’s incredible how useful it can be to externalize my thoughts with another person; so often the act of putting my thoughts into words that are cohesive enough for someone else to understand reveals the answers to my questions without the other person needing to say anything. In a Monday morning conversation with Kristyn, I was able to see that I know I don’t ever want to have a “job” again, a job where someone else is in control of how I spend my day. Therefore, if my plan is not to jump into some preset system but instead to forge my own path, then of course it’s going to feel aimless because I am creating the aim as I go.

This realization brought me some relief; however, it also made me consider the following–how can I carve out a custom existence for myself without completely reinventing the wheel? How can I make this easier? Who can I model myself after? There clearly are other humans who have exited the traditional workforce and embarked on a less traditional, less linear path. And I do have some role models, but none that I want to emulate entirely. This line of thinking launched me into a vortex of studying the online presences of some of my role models, to really study how they present themselves and market themselves to the world. I started bookmarking and screenshotting websites like crazy. I subscribed to email newsletters. I worked on building up a picture of what my ideal lifestyle design really is. What do I like about the work other people have done? What gap do I see in all of their collective work, what questions have been left unanswered that I want to devote myself to? What am I uniquely positioned to do in this world, that my unique combination of skills, experiences, and interests will best serve the greatest good? How does one answer questions like this??

Surprise surprise… I went for a hike to process. During this hour-long walk, I left myself a ten-minute Voice Memo. The following mental downloads came to me. 

I may have these exact details wrong, but I liked how in the book Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin tells the story of her friend who wanted to write a book, and to form the habit she scheduled the time from 11am-1pm every day to be dedicated to writing. The power of Scheduling helped her form this habit. Three years later, her book was done. I love this! I love this use of time, this way of harnessing the power of the long term to one’s advantage. Over time, if I do small, incremental actions consistently, big things get done, big change can happen. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. 

I want to have confidence of what my vision is and where I’m headed, so that I can be laying down meaningful daily bricks toward building my own Rome. I’ve learned (from many sources including The Dalai Lama, Carmen Spagnola via Kristyn, and various guests of the Ten Percent Happier podcast) not to have too much attachment to the end result, not to be focused on completing my “Rome” to some precise specifications. But, I do believe in the power of the strategy of small practices and actions done consistently over a long period of time, and it would sure be nice to have a concrete direction for my actions. For example, if my vision was to become a professional beach volleyball player, then it would very easily become clear that my daily practices need to include a ton of physical exercise, strength training, sand workouts, and the like, as well as a focus on nutrition and on studying the game. When my vision was to complete a marathon, it became crystal clear that I needed a plan, a roadmap of weekly mileage recommendations, to get me across that finish line. I followed this 16-week plan from Runners World, scheduled all the runs in my Google Calendar, ardently followed the plan as best I could (with a few adaptations along the way for the inevitable curve balls of life that arose), and presto–I ran a marathon. 

I know I don’t want a “traditional job” ever again. Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly what I do want. I’ve learned about myself enough over the past six months to know there are certain activities that are largely energy-giving to me (hiking on trails, making music, writing, playing with my kids, cooking a tasty meal, meditating, yoga, volleyball…), but I haven’t been trying to string them together in any productive, career-oriented way. So far, it’s been more about experimenting with different practices and behaviors and taking note of which ones feel right, resonant, important. I have been intentionally not thinking too far ahead, not worrying about practicality, profitability, or perfection, and instead drawing my focused inward, to the present. But, much like how the decision we made 4 years ago to move to Costa Rica made a lot of other decisions along the way more clear (knowing how important Spanish immersion school was, knowing we’d be changing employment, knowing whether or not a certain repair on the home would be worth it since we knew our move-out date…), I am wanting another hit of the clarity that comes from commitment to a direction. 

I then recalled what I had seen on the websites of Spring Washam, Oren Sofer, Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss, Shawnell Miller, and others who are their own business, and noticed something in my mind’s eye; when you condense your life into a Navigation Bar, you are forced to pick a just a handful of words that you live by, a few choice labels you want your essence to be about. I had seen words like: Author, Books, Podcast, Newsletter, Blog, Speaking, Courses, App, Group/Club, Events. These words aren’t personal value words–those are a different set of words to live by. NavBar words can help act as useful containers for one’s work. I don’t want to simply exist and be content with stillness only. I want to do my part to make the world a better place, to make my life’s work meaningful, and to make sure I give back to the planet more than I’ve taken before I die. I want to work. I want to try. And at some point, if I’m going to find water by digging a well, I just have to pick a spot, start digging, and keep digging

What spots am I going to pick to do my digging?

What kind of work do I want to devote myself to? 

What do I want my words to be on the top of 

What words do I want to hang my hat on? 

And then it hit me, this idea and felt sense of being my authentic self, of living a life that I’m so confident in and unashamed of that I’m OK with it being public, that I’m OK with sharing it. A public way of living where I know I’m genuine and that I’m not being a fraud (by, for example, talking about how great being vegetarian is but then eating a bunch of meat myself, or by inwardly despising advertising but making my living from the industry anyway). If I hold that thought, of being so authentically me that I have no shame of being public with it because I am always just being me… that level of honesty, that’s what’s going to get me there.

I walked with this idea for a bit, and then I noticed a particular tree situated twenty feet above on the uphill side of the trail. One of its thicker branches was shaped with a natural hammock-like parabola to it, and this thick branch extended outward from the trunk at an easily mountable height of four feet off the ground. I marched up to it, climbed in, positioned my mittens under my tailbone, laid my head back, and immediately a sense of ease and peace washed over me as I gazed up at a sparse winter canopy and the bright blue sky beyond. 

I then uttered, “I’m now lying in a tree and looking up at the sky. And I think I need to give myself permission to write. That is what I’m holding myself back from. To ask for and to give permission to take large chunks of hours to indulge in my interest of writing. To muster the courage to write the piece about leaving Corporate America, about leaving a successful career and why. It’s time to write that. It’s time to write the harder stuff.” 

Answers arriving in a Tree Hammock

After a while I got down from my tree branch cot and, as I reached the wide open lowland area that sits right at the intersection of the narrow path that leads back to my neighborhood, I concluded the walk like this:

“And now I’m sitting here in a squat, gazing toward the setting sun (ridiculous that it’s this close to the horizon at 2:34pm), and I’m reminded of the balance of accepting that the way things are right now is totally fine. There’s so much peace and joy of sinking into… now. Today is great as it is. I don’t need to worry too much about building toward some big outcome, some epic destination. Kristyn mentioned earlier that everything I was talking about this morning was outcome-based. She’s right. I have a lot of conditioning and training from the business world about focusing on outcomes. So as I’m squatting here in my hiking boots, sinking into the soft, squishy earth of dying leaves and wet soil, I want also to sink into having a dream day, today. Whatever that means for today… going to bed with the feeling of completeness, of wholeness. That I turned over some stones today, and that the stones I left unturned were left so intentionally, mindfully. Today was not the day to turn over those stones. And that’s OK.”


Morning meditations are starting to feel less like something I have to make myself do and more like something I just do. I went to bed before 10pm last night, and this morning I woke up at exactly 6:00 with no alarm (I’ve been setting my alarm for 6:15 and groggily waking up). I now have some extra time before the kids get up, and I’ve already done some stretches and am now writing this! 

I followed up on yesterday’s contemplations by revisiting some of the websites of people I like. I made my way to Gretchen Rubin’s homepage, and BAM! Her opening line hit me like a ton of bricks. The featured sentence on her homepage reads, “We can accept ourselves and also expect more from ourselves.” I’ve examined the paradox between ambition and acceptance many times, and seeing this on her site gave me a conflicting sense of validation mixed with hopelessness. In a way, I feel validated that a successful author shares in my focus on this topic, on its importance. It makes me feel more connected to her and that perhaps I am onto something significant if a successful writer is also intrinsically intrigued by this yin and yang of contentment and striving. But it also makes me feel hopeless. Who am I to attempt to do anything valuable in a realm that’s already been explored by experts, by wiser, more knowledgeable, more skilled people? Who am I to write, to blog, to podcast, to create my own newsletter? Will I really be able to create anything so valuable that the world is truly better off because of my creation, as opposed to if I’d dedicated all that time to planting trees or whatever else? Ugh. 


On Friday I convinced my kid that was home from school to strap on the winter gear and head out to the snowy woods. Getting children out the door during Minnesota winters is a massive struggle, moreso with a highly sensitive child that doesn’t enjoy the feeling of snow pants and walking around in large, thick boots (especially when the destination is a “boring hike” and not sledding with the neighbor kids), but once we got going and started noticing nature’s interesting gifts, she quickly forgot about the comfort level of the snow gear. 

As we got to the very end of the small trail, the very first reasonable checkpoint to turn around and return home (which is as far as I could convince my kid to go), we came upon a most peculiar sight. About 5.5 feet off the ground hung the rear portion of a rabbit carcass, skewered onto a sapling. We discussed how it might have gotten there, and we couldn’t come up with any definitive theory. We were flummoxed.

Upon returning home, my child wasted no time telling Kristyn what we had discovered. It was a most unusual sighting, after all. Kristyn, in return, wasted no time with her response to this news. Without hesitation, in supremely witch-like fashion, Kristyn’s response to learning of a skewered rabbit carcass within walking distance of our house was–we need to get that rabbit’s foot. 

The back half of a rabbit just hanging around

Armed with some latex gloves and a tree trimmer, Kristyn bounded away from the house with the fervor and pace of a Black Friday shopper hellbent on beating everyone else to the best deals in town. She retrieved the foot, began the curing process, and traipsed back into the snowy lowland area behind our house to place the remaining bits in an area more easily accessible to the wildlife and the worms. Our child was understandably uneasy throughout this process, it being her first encounter with dead animal bits up close, but she fed off our energy and was curiously asking questions, and once the foot was sealed in a mason jar of isopropyl alcohol, she made sure it was placed in a location she and her sister would be able to look at it. 

My experience throughout this whole ordeal was one of gratitude and of most pleasant surprise. I was thankful to myself and to my kid that we went through the painstaking process of gearing up to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and move our bodies along the snowy path that led us to the rabbit remains. And, moreso, I was so pleasantly surprised by Kristyn’s reaction to the situation. The idea had crossed my mind that “hey, rabbit’s feet are lucky, and we just found one,” but I did not consider actually retrieving it. Kristyn had never done anything like this before, but she acted as if we had just found a pot of gold and decided to leave it out in the woods. I was proud to watch her so highly value an opportunity to gain more connection to the land around us. It’s fun being married to a witch. 

On Sabbatical – Week 18: Climbing Aboard the Creative Process Struggle Bus

I’m growing an awareness of how much I covet the morning hours of the day, the time immediately after either a) I’ve dropped the kids off at school, or b) I’ve successfully gotten them out the door for my partner to take them. That first hour of spaciousness in the day feels especially juicy, important, critical. I know it’s when I’m at my freshest, my energy tank at its fullest, that special time of day where I can crank out maximum productivity, creativity, or whatever is calling that day. It is a gift to gain clarity about my body and mind, how it works, its natural rhythm and tendencies. The first hour of space in the day is, usually, when my brain operates at maximum capacity. I’m beginning the practice of planning out my highest priority “thinking tasks” for this time each day, and I cherish the opportunity that I have to delight in this spaciousness. 

One would think that with the freedom of time that comes with removing oneself from the workforce, there would be ample time to pursue several hobbies, tackle all those pesky around-the-house projects, even learn a new language, but as embarrassed as I am about admitting it… it doesn’t feel that way. I don’t feel free. I feel conflicted. Being on a quest of self rediscovery is not a simple, straightforward path. Over the last few months, I have been removing my old behaviors and thought patterns, and giving myself space, space enough to see what surfaces from within. The problem is not that I can’t think of what I want to do; the problem is I have an abundance of ideas. In theory, I have an extra six hours of “free time” without kids every day, but I’ve also essentially stopped buying restaurant food, which means more meal planning, more cooking, and more dishes, which all take time. Plus we have an international move to plan. And there is a decent-sized list of creative projects I’d like to tackle. There is not enough time to master all of these things overnight. Part of the challenge is there is no roadmap I am following; I am a voyager sailing the seas of my inner self with only my concentrated listening to guide me. When you have a job, your weekly structure is more or less dictated for you. While it can feel constricting to not be in absolute control of your time, it is also a challenge to navigate the nebulous abyss of free time. It’s easy to feel like I’m wasting time or that I’m not making the best use of a particular hour because I’m stumbling my way through learning how to use Plug-ins in Garageband, or staring at a blinking cursor in WordPress for ten minutes because I’m hitting a writer’s block. Self doubt creeps in. “Why are you even bothering to write now? Where is this going to get you anyway? Is this really the absolute best thing you could be doing right now to get closer to your vision? What even is your vision?” I’m getting the sense that it will be helpful if I create some sort of weekly structure to prioritize my actions and to align them with my values and vision. And probably figure out that whole vision thing…

As I attempt to learn how to be a creator, I find it particularly challenging to have little structure. No “right way” to go about it. How much structure is a creative person supposed to have? Do I make appointments with myself so that I stay on track with practicing all the things I want to practice? Or do I let it flow and just follow the energy of whatever excites me in that moment? Is there value in “pushing through” a writer’s block (or a songwriter’s block), or do you acknowledge you’ve hit a creative dead end for the time being, get up, and do something else? I think I’d like to have some conversations with my creative friends about this and read more about the creative process (as I go and add Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way to my library queue). 

In other news this week, I did create what some might call my first “song” with my new home studio setup. It’s barely a song, but it has sound, rhythm, and a tiny bit of shape, and you can listen to it on the internet, so I think that clears for my definition of song. You can listen to it here: It was a real treat playing it for my kids. As I loaded it up on our speaker in the family room on an early weekday morning, I watched with delight as my children and partner reacted with genuine, positive interest by shaking their hips and bobbing their heads. The kids wanted to hear it again in the car on the way to school. When the climax of the song hit, when all of the tracks in the early part of the song are layered together and converge (all three of them), my child, with a keen ear for instrumentation and harmony, exclaimed, “Wow Dad, you must’ve been playing some of those instruments with your feet!” How long can I get away with my kids believing I can play drums, bass, and keyboard at the same time before showing them how the sausage gets made? 

My Sabbatical – Week 4 – Prioritizing Pursuits And Accepting The Truth Of My Actions

A sabbatical is glorious in many ways, and it also has its challenges. With the stripping away of a more rigid daily and weekly structure, with a reduction of commitments and obligations, which grants me additional free time to allocate as I choose, comes a challenge. A challenge of variety, of options, of opportunities, of… open-endedness. There are many endeavors I wish to pursue, and all of them require minutes of the day (although some, such as living more mindfully, can be practiced throughout the day). How to prioritize? I have many goals I want to tackle all at once. I want everything to happen now. I want to be fluent in Spanish. I want to have five songs written and produced. I want five boxes to fill themselves of the stuff we don’t need and donate themselves to places and people that will use them. I want this blog to write itself. There are ten different website updates I want to make to this very site, not to mention the three other websites I want to be building, but each little change takes me ages since everything is a first, and firsts have a steep learning curve. And I know this kind of sounds impossible and “woe is me,” but even though I don’t have a day job right now, even with all those extra hours in the week, it’s still hard to make time for all of these things. Or even half of them! What things make the cut and which get left for later? This is the mental battle of my early sabbatical. 

I’ve noticed, though, that I am making time for certain things. I am preparing (and happily eating) home-cooked food daily. I’ve set up an exercise space in the basement and am getting out on the sand volleyball courts regularly. I am saying “yes” to my kids almost whenever they ask to play with me. Perhaps it turns out that the actions I’m making time for are my top priorities. We are what we do. 

Impromptu scooter ride midday on a weekday, because on sabbatical, Dad says, “Yes!”

One of the goals or tasks I keep writing down on my various lists is the project of purging. I’ve been wanting to purge, purge, purge. Strip things down. Declutter our house. Declutter my mind. But with planning for international travel coming up next week and trying to live slowly and not be too “busy,” I haven’t been making room for big purge projects. However, one thing I have been doing is playing with my kids and being present with them. Maybe that’s a fair trade-off? Maybe that’s what this week of sabbatical is supposed to be about. If I had been on a decluttering spree and grinding away at my laundry list of hobbies, I would have missed the following interaction with my kid.

With a delightfully tactful and simply-stating-an-observation tone, I had commented, loud enough for my kid to hear, on how hard it is to see any portion of the actual wood floor in our playroom. Any parent can relate. The kid stopped, eyed the playroom up and down, and turned their head to me and replied, “Daddy, I think we have too many toys.” Oh, I agree, young one. I agree. And so, without any further prodding or encouragement needed, we purged. Now, it was not the poetic, total toyroom overhaul that it could have been, but together, we picked up stuff and agreed whether it should be shelved or binned. 

And so, by letting go of the perceived need to be self-improving and making progress doing my long list of goals, and simply being a present father with my child, I not only got some decluttering done, but I also had a positive, bonding moment with my child. 

Letting go is getting me where I want to go. 


TANGENTIAL PARENTING HACK: If your 4-7 year old kid doesn’t enjoy “picking up” the play room or bedroom, suggest “neating” instead. Our kids all out sprint the other way when we mention picking up a room, but if we neat it, carefully replacing items to their homes ever so delicately and neatly like a member of the royal family might, oh, neating is so much fun! 



Sunday, June 12, 2022

I messed up earlier today. I intervened when I should have done nothing. Or rather, I spoke instead of silence. Silence is tragically underrated. Silence is where magic happens. A silent lake at night divulges a loon’s call from miles away. Silent, tantric stares with your partner can unlock an unknown depth of intimacy. Silence is where you learn. 

My co-parent and our kids were having a calm, strategic bedtime negotiation around the remaining screen time of the night, and since it was a “Mommy Night” (we trade bedtime nights), I was doing my job, which at that point was to stare out the window and do nothing. Be a fly on the wall. Let what happens, happen. And then, all of a sudden, I wasn’t doing my job. During a pause in the mildly tense but perfectly under control negotiation, I commented that, “this conversation is sure taking a long time,” attempting and failing to imply the logic of, “think of all the minutes of screen time we could have gotten by now had we simply agreed on something and started watching.” I just couldn’t help myself from intervening and trying to help the situation. The thing is, the intent of offering assistance doesn’t make all actions right. And the discomfort I felt in that moment is a me problem. 

Upon conversation with my partner and further reflection, many of my missteps in life stem from an underlying tendency toward perfectionism. A sense of editing and revision to live every moment with maximum efficiency, maximum rightness. Why is that instinct there, to always be improving, always be optimizing, maximizing, even if it doesn’t matter? I have a few ideas, and I’m also jotting it down as a future journal prompt for further unpacking. 

Ultimately, I need to trust my partner to live their own parenting journey. And I need to trust my children to have their own journey. From every stumble, at least I can always learn. 



Sunday, June 12, 2022 continued…

I had been on such a high to come out in the gazebo tonight and write. I got what felt like a huge breakthrough earlier tonight by taking “one teaspoon more” as I embarked on nighttime cleanup duty, which started out with picking up the front yard while it was still light out. 

When it’s a Mommy Night for bedtime, it’s a Daddy Night for cleanup. I ventured out to pick up the day’s toys, chairs, and miscellanea. I left the camping hammock suspended between our two Eastern White Pines for last. It was a gorgeous Minnesota summer night, and the sun was just about to set over the neighbor’s house to the west. But I had cleanup chores to do and a long list of personal hobbies to pursue after that, so I briskly unclipped the hammock from its straps and had it half packed into its stuff-sack when I froze. I looked up and the pink and orange setting sun and thought to myself, “What the heck are you doing right now? You love sunsets and this weather is lush.” And so rather than charge ahead on my task list, I slowed down, reattached the hammock, and sank in to a reflective meditation by sunset. And laying there, ever so gently rocking back and forth, gazing up at the canopy overhead and the drifting clouds above, I had the following epiphany. 

You can sum up one of my truest pleasures in life in two words: being outdoors.

These are phrases transcribed from the 4:22 Voice Memo I captured on my phone while in that hammock meditation: 

  • “I find myself realizing that being outdoors does bring me joy. It’s as simple as those two words. Being outdoors. … Every time. Every time I’m connecting with nature, it brings this overwhelming sense of peace, where I feel like I can actually… touch my soul, feel my soul.”
  • “It feels… indulgent. Like I’m somehow not deserving of just sitting outside and enjoying the sunset, like I should be doing other, more productive, things. For my family. For myself. But… this is nourishing myself. Just, chillin’ horizontally, on a hammock, with my weight suspended, with a gorgeous sunset, underneath a forest canopy, is… one of the best things there is in life! And I just need to remember that in my day to day. When I’m outdoors, my bucket is getting full.”
  •  (Tangential commentary on the benefits of hammocks): “There’s something about the way a hammock works on your body… because you’re horizontal, because your hips are relieved of any pressure, the opposite of when you’re sitting… because you have this anti-gravity posture, it feels like you’re… cheating, like you’ve found the loophole of physics to allow your body to relax. It’s like the same tranquility of floating in water, but without all the work of paddling and holding your breath, not to mention the needing-to-find-a-spot-to-swim bit.”

I can’t get over how cool it is to be experiencing the recurring theme that slowing down and doing less results in more clarity, more joy, and, paradoxically, more progress



Sunday, June 12, 2022 concluded…

Eventually, the sun did set, and duty called. It was time to put away the dishes away, so I headed inside and popped in my AirPods. I’m washing, listening to this “Wondewall” remix on SoundCloud, and I’m dancing, quite well I might say, and it’s hitting me, that dancing may be a “tier two” passion of mine. If I’m being honest, I’m no Michael Jackson, but I do have rhythm. I started playing piano at 6 and played until middle/high school, where I transitioned to saxophone. I also played drums in the church youth band. I played a few small-town gigs in a jazz combo. I went on to play in Jazz Band at the University of Minnesota. I’m constantly tapping out percussive beats and improvising goofy song lyrics with my kids. And yeah, when it’s dishes time, I drop in the AirPods and get my dance on. Is there any better way to get the dishes done than to dance with them?

It’s good to acknowledge your strengths. I believe there is huge benefit to leaning into one’s strengths. And as vulnerable as I feel writing this, that I will come across as arrogant, I believe that it’s OK to be proud of my skills and that there is power in naming things, and so I will name that I have a skill of shared rhythm with my kids. Shared rhythm is one of the many concepts I’ve learned from Kristyn, and I believe that it’s an area that I often excel in, and I’m connecting just now that it may be in part because I’m a naturally rhythmic person. Shared rhythm is not necessarily percussive, of course; having a back and forth conversation or going for a walk together are also shared rhythm. But in the literal sense, I can feel things click with the young ones. For example, when my kids ask me to do “Run-Unders” with them, they are referring to me dribbling an extra large yoga ball, in our basement, as high as I can without ricocheting back off the ceiling, in a consistent, steady beat, so they can time out a sprint underneath without getting tagged by the ball. It’s wicked fun, and in the game we share the rhythm of the bouncing ball. (Of course, the huge yoga ball does eventually crash into them, but only when they choose the rhythm of silliness and stopping mid-sprint to let it crash into them, at which point I let go of the old game and pivot to align with the rhythm of silliness.) 

Then it was time to do the dishes for real, not just dance to a remix of Oasis’ crowd-pleasing masterpiece from the 90’s, and I switched over to Spotify. Spotify is one of the few apps I happily pay for every month. It’s a rare subscription bill I look at and am 100% at peace with paying. I absolutely love having the world’s music at my fingertips. Of its many delightful features, Spotify’s algorithm customizes a set of six “Daily Mix” playlists tailored to your listening habits and grouped by an overall “feel,” with “Daily Mix 1” typically being more of your frequently played, go-to songs, with Daily Mix 6 being the collection of the 10 random songs of that one obscure genre you secretly like and rarely, but every so often, listen to. I hadn’t used this feature in a while, and today, Spotify curated the most serendipitously customized “Daily Mix 1” to not only my specific, eclectic taste in music, but did so in a series of 8 or 9 songs in a row that perfectly fit the mold of the mood I wanted to be in. First with a couple blood pumping, foot-stomping jams like “LIGHT” by Parcels and Jungle’s “Smile,” then into a more relaxed, but still toe-tappin bass line of Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up – Pt. 1”, and then slower still with a brand new release from Jacob Collier featuring Lizzy McAlpine and John Mayer, “Never Gonna Be Alone”… and as I’m writing this about music, it is really hitting me that music, rhythm, dance… these also are things that make my soul shine through.

Being outdoors, music, good food, family… what more does a man need?

And yet, even as I’m dancing away, synchronizing my dish scrubs and rinses with the beat of some of my favorite tunes by my favorite artists, allowing the rhythms and melodies to take over my body, in my own house… I’m noticing that it’s hard to truly, truly let go, to truly be the wacky, shirtless dish dancer that my soul wants to be. I think up more outrageous dance moves than I actually allow my body to do, even when no one is watching. It’s like there is this deeply rooted fear of judgment of others, fear of doing things someone might judge me for doing, fear of doing something other than what society expects me to do. 

Above all else, I need to allow me to be myself.



Writing is hard. I’ve had different pieces of this post written for a while. Procrastination gets the best of me. Steven Pressfield’s “Resistance” is real. It’s easy to find excuses to do anything but simply opening up a blank page and starting to write. Self-judgment. Perfectionism. Resistance takes many forms, and they all get in the way of doing the work. I suppose I am grateful to have made the first step, which is acknowledging their presence and typing this paragraph anyway.

OK, enough yammering, onward to Week 5 – a week in Costa Rica!


The 5 Biggest Takeaways from John McPhee’s “Draft No. 4”

There are writers, there are great writers, and then there’s John McPhee. 

Having not read much about writing and the writing process ever in my life, and then reading Draft No. 4, it feels as if I endeavored to learn Spanish by plopping myself down in The Zócalo in the heart Mexico City. 

It would take a lifetime to get on McPhee’s level of creative nonfiction writing, but there are five key takeaways in the book that anyone who writes anything (even emails) can extract and implement today to level up their writing. 

The Significance of Draft No. 4

The first draft is the hardest. Putting words to a blank page is every writer’s plight. 

If you lack confidence in setting one word after another and sense that you are stuck in a place from which you will never be set free, if you feel sure that you will never make it and were not cut out to do this, if your prose seems stillborn and you completely lack confidence, you must be a writer. 


McPhee says to expect a 4:1 ratio of time between the first draft and the second, third, and fourth drafts combined. If the first draft takes a month, then you should be able to produce drafts two, three, and four within a week. 

The way to do a piece of writing is three or four times over, never once. For me, the hardest part comes first, getting something – anything – out in front of me. Sometimes in a nervous frenzy I just fling words as if I were flinging mud at a wall. Blurt out, heave out, babble out something – anything – as a first draft. With that, you have achieved a sort of nucleus. Then, as you work it over and alter it, you begin to shape sentences that score higher with the ear and eye. Edit it again – top to bottom. The chances are that about now you’ll be seeing something that you are sort of eager for others to see. And all that takes time.


McPhee goes on to remark about “the interstitial time,” the downtime in between writing and editing where even though you aren’t putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, your brain is still at work. 

What I have left out is the interstitial time. You finish that first awful blurting, and then you put the thing aside. You get in your car and drive home. On the way, your mind is still knitting at the words. You think of a better way to say something, a good phrase to correct a certain problem. Without the drafted version – if it did not exist – you obviously would not be thinking of things that would improve it. In short, you may be actually writing only two or three hours a day, but your mind… is working on it twenty-four hours a day, but only if some sort of draft or earlier version already exists. Until it exists, writing has not really begun. 


The essence of writing is revision. This understanding takes a huge weight off the first draft. There’s no pressure. The first draft is not going to be good. Masters like John McPhee don’t expect it to be good. Know the bar is extremely low on a first draft. Are there words on the page? Your first draft is a success! 



McPhee has encountered many expert editors throughout his career from who he has gleaned several revision processes that work. 

One of these is, when reviewing an early draft, to read it top to bottom and simply circle or highlight any word that seems like it could be improved. Then revisit each of these highlighted words and work out better ones. 

Use a dictionary, not a thesaurus. 

You draw a box not only around any word that does not seem quite right but also around words that fulfill their assignment but seem to present an opportunity. While the word inside the box may be perfectly O.K., there is likely to be an even better word for this situation, a word right smack on the button, and why don’t you try to find such a word? If none occurs, don’t linger; keep reading and drawing boxes, and later revisit them one by one. If there’s a box around “sensitive,” because it seems pretentious in the context, try “susceptible.” Why “susceptible”? Because you looked up “sensitive” in the dictionary and it said “highly susceptible.” With dictionaries, I spend a great deal more time looking up words I know than words I have never heard of—at least ninety-nine to one. The dictionary definitions of words you are trying to replace are far more likely to help you out than a scattershot wad from a thesaurus. If you use the dictionary after the thesaurus, the thesaurus will not hurt you. So draw a box around “wad.” Webster: “The cotton or silk obtained from the Syrian swallowwort, formerly cultivated in Egypt and imported to Europe.” Oh. But read on: “A little mass, tuft, or bundle . . . a small, compact heap.” Stet that one.



Most stories have a beginning, middle, and end. But that thinking is a little restrictive. Say you’re writing a business story following the life of a high-performing B2B Sales Executive, and in the day you are shadowing the subject, nothing overly exciting happens until 4:45 P.M., when the Sales Exec finally reaches the C-level buyer at one of his biggest prospects on the phone. A meeting is set, the phone call ends, and the Sales Exec packs it in for the day. Will the reader be most engaged if you write this story chronologically, making the reader slog through 80% of the piece before they get to the best part? Perhaps a different structure, one that’s not a straight line, would be best? Maybe you line up an interview with the C-level buyer, and get their perspective from that fateful day. Then you could have parallel stories from each subject’s point of view, ultimately arriving at the moment of truth – the phone call. Now we’ve got something worth reading! 

One of McPhee’s examples about how he used structure to tell the best story involved a bear. Malcolm Harris from The New Republic sums it up well. 

Inspired by the preponderance of natural cycles in the Arctic, McPhee shapes a story about Alaska around a circle. The first half of the arc will take place linearly, progressing from the beginning in the straightforward humanly experienced direction of time. Halfway through, the narrative flashes back to an earlier point, which we follow to the end, which is also the beginning. McPhee’s concern is less a desire to ape the movement of the moon, and more that the trip’s most dramatic event (a grizzly bear encounter) occurs earlier than it would ideally, which is “about three-fifths of the way along, a natural place for a high moment in any dramatic structure.” McPhee makes even the limited power of narrative sound awesome: “You’re a nonfiction writer. You can’t move that bear around like a king’s pawn or a queen’s bishop. But you can, to an important and effective extent, arrange a structure that is completely faithful to fact.” You can’t move bears, but you can move time, and that’s just as good.


It Takes As Long As It Takes

Giving yourself deadlines for a good piece of writing has adverse affects on the quality of the writing. This is especially important if the piece requires research, interviews, and observations out in the world.

Say you’re writing a piece about successful Chief Marketing Officers and the daily habits they attribute their success to. You seek out to collect data, making phone calls and lining up interviews with your dream list of subject matter experts. Having read enough similar books and essays, you know you will need at least five CMO’s thoughts to have enough substance for the piece. After many hours of phone calls and attempts, you’ve only been able to interview two people. You told yourself you wanted to get this project done in two weeks, and now one week has already come and gone. Do you press on with just the two sources and hope it will be enough? One path – change the deadline. It takes as long as it takes. Don’t change your vision and plan because of a deadline.


Keep an Open Mind to the True Story

Continuing the above example, perhaps one of your two interviewees was particularly colorful, open, illuminating. The interview was supposed to be thirty minutes; it went for two and a half hours. Perhaps she was ultra dialed in to her daily regimen with a laser focus on how each minute of her days are spent. Perhaps, then, the best path forward is to alter the plan for the piece entirely, and write a personal profile on this one CMO. 

The story is what the story is. Your job as the writer is to have eyes open enough to see it. 



What’s your biggest takeaway from John McPhee’s “Draft No. 4”? What other sources of writing inspiration and knowledge have you found particularly useful? Let me know in the Comments! 

Tribe of Mentors – Top Takeaways from the Life Advice Masterpiece by Tim Ferriss

I read Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From the Best in the World. Now you don’t have to! (You still should, though. You can buy it here from Amazon.)

I gained IMMENSE value from this book. So much so that, while reading it, I made a point to glean at least one takeaway from every person in the book and have cataloged the juiciest pearls of wisdom below.

Much of the advice in this book contradicts other advice in the book. This is why it is wise to heed the insight of Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō while reading the advice in this article, or when receiving any advice anywhere:

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; instead, seek what they sought.” 


My advice? Focus on one insight that really speaks to you, internalize it, and take action on it. Then move on to the next.



Most Interesting Recommended Reading List



Steven Pressfield
  • Get real-world experience. Be a cowboy. Drive a truck. Join the Marine Corps. Get out of the hyper-competitive “life hack” frame of mind. Get out into the real dirt world and start failing. You’ve got ten lifetimes ahead of you. 
  • When hesitating to get into a hard workout, remind yourself that afterward you’ll be able to think, “Nothing I face today will be harder than what I just did.” 
  • The disease of our times is that we live on the surface. We’re like the Platte River, a mile wide and an inch deep. Real work and real satisfaction come from the opposite of what the web provides. They come from going deep into something – the book you’re writing, the album, the movie – and staying there for a long, long time. 


Susan Cain
  • Minor key music is elevating and transcendent, not sad like many people think. 
  • Set up your life so that it is as comfortable and happy as possible – and so that it accommodates your creative work. 
  • I love espresso, but I only allow myself one latte a day, and I save it for when I’m doing my creative work because it has trained me, Pavlovian style, to associate writing with the pleasure of coffee. 


Kyle Maynard
  • “Not dead, can’t quit.” – Richard Machowicz, former Navy SEAL
  • “Follow your bliss” has become my true north. Thinking about what makes me happy doesn’t give the same clarity as what gives me bliss


Terry Crews
  • The more you run from your fears, the bigger they get, but the more you go into them, the more they tend to vanish like a mirage. 
  • Competition is the opposite of creativity. 
  • Life is not a “young man’s game,” it’s an “inspired person’s game.” 


Debbie Millman
  • Busy is a decision. 
  • I do not believe in work-life balance. I believe that if you view your work as a calling, it is a labor of love rather than laborious. Your calling can become a life-affirming engagement that can provide its own balance and spiritual nourishment. Ironically, it takes hard work to achieve this. 


Naval Ravikant
  • Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want. Happiness, or at least peace, is the sense that nothing is missing in this moment. No desires running amok. It’s okay to have a desire. But pick a big one and pick it carefully. Drop the small ones. 
  • The genuine love for reading itself, when cultivated, is a superpower. The means of learning are abundant – it’s the desire to learn that’s scarce. Read what you want, not what you’re supposed to. 


Matt Ridley
  • Specialize – the great human achievement is to specialize as a producer of goods or services so that you can diversify as a consumer. Self-sufficiency is another word for poverty.
  • Listen to books as you fall asleep. By setting the timer carefully and rewinding a little every time you wake, you can miss almost none of a book. 


Bozoma Saint John
  • Be the change you wish to see in the world. 


Tim Urban
  • Working as a writer on your own hours, it’s tempting to get into the romantic notion that you don’t play by society’s rules – you work from home in your underwear, you do your most inspired writing at 3 A.M., you never set an alarm, etc. The problem is – it doesn’t work well. Make a schedule for yourself. 
  • Obsess over figuring out the funnest, most exciting, most natural shape of yourself as a writer and start doing that. Imagine you are writing for a stadium full of replicas of yourself – now you know exactly what topics interest your audience, what writing style they like, and what their sense of humor is. By focusing inward on yourself as a writer instead of outward on what you think readers will want to read, you’ll end up creating the best and most original work. 


Janna Levin
  • Life is the obstacles. There is no underlying path. Our role here is to get better at navigating those obstacles. Strive to find calm, measured responses and see hindrances as a chance to problem-solve. 


Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  • We need a new diversity – not one based on biological characteristics and identity politics but a diversity of opinion and worldviews. 


Graham Duncan
  • Dropped off daughter late at school and I was impatient, so she asked me, “Dad, what exactly would be the worst thing about being late?” It completely shifted my mindset.


Mike Maples Jr. 
  • Step back, slow down, and ask the five whys. Get five levels deep with “why” to find the root cause of an issue. 


Soman Chainani
  • Have something every day you’re looking forward to. 
  • Don’t use “steppingstones” in your career. It says you clearly aren’t invested in what you’re doing. You have one life to live. Time is valuable. If you’re using steppingstones, you’re relying on someone else’s path or definition of success. Make your own. 


Dita Von Teese
  • You can be a juicy ripe peach and there’ll still be someone who doesn’t like peaches.


Jesse Williams
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid?


Dustin Moskowitz
  • Most people blame others or circumstances in their life for their suffering, but Buddhists believe we are the causes of our own suffering.


Richa Chadha
  • Be so good they can’t ignore you. 


Max Levchin
  • “The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting.” – Walt Disney


Neil Strauss
  • The secret to change and growth is not willpower, but positive community.
  • The outcome is not the outcome. What we think of as endpoints to a goal are really just forks in a road that is endlessly forking. In the big picture of life, we don’t know whether a particular success or failure is actually helping or hurting us. Think instead: Did I do my best,  given who I was and what I knew at the time? And what can I learn from the outcome to make my best better next time? 
  • Criticism is not failure. If you’re not being criticized, you’re probably not doing anything exceptional. 


Veronica Belmont
  • Bad recommendation – take all feedback into consideration. Not all feedback is created equal, and not all ideas from your users are good ones.


Patton Oswalt
  • Daily meditation, twice a day. 
  • Don’t try to have a “social antenna” rather than a moral or creative compass. Trying to second-guess what the masses will accept or reject always leads to stagnation. Work from within! 


Lewis Cantley
  • Design a life so you don’t need an automobile. 
  • Choose a profession that is easy for you to do and that allows you to be creative. 
  • Sugar is toxic. 


Jerzy Gregorek
  • I told one of my clients who blamed her husband for everything to take 100 percent responsibility for her part in their interactions. “This way, you will be free of trying to control him, and you will be able to find constructive solutions in your relationship.” 
  • Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.


Aniela Gregorek
  • “To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children… to leave the world a bit better… to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “If I accept you as you are, I make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Say no to negativity. 


Amelia Boone
  • No one owes you anything. 
  • For every major event in my life, I assign a song. I keep these songs in a playlist, ordered chronologically. I can go back through and listen and relive major experiences, both highs and lows. 


Joel McHale
  • Pursue the dreams that are planted in you already. 
  • Help people who are less fortunate than you.
  • Help the planet. 


Ben Stiller
  • Be here now. 
  • People are too aware of trying to figure out what’s “hot” and trying to emulate that. Ultimately, you need to develop your own voice as a creator. 


Anna Holmes
  • Follow your curiosity, wherever you can find it. Embracing a curious mind and always trying to learn more – about others, about yourself, about the world and our place within it – is an important way to express yourself. 


Andrew Ross Sorkin
  • Persistence matters more than talent. 


Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Everything’s a remix. Of course, there’s such a thing as being overly derivative, but I tend to value sincerity over originality. I perform better when I focus less on being original and more on being honest. 
  • Write as if it’s for an audience, even if you’ll never show the writing to anyone. By having to explain whatever is vexing you in writing to a “reader” with no prior knowledge, I’m forced to identify and parse all the elements and nuances of what’s really going on. 


Vitalik Buterin
  • Be interdisciplinary. 


Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
  • Live. Give. Forgive. 
  • Face fear full of hope, knowing that whatever challenge lies ahead, you are equal to it, and just deliver a message that is precisely the opposite of fear and defensiveness. 
  • Remember your ultimate destination every time you feel overwhelmed. Remembering that destination will help you distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted. 


Julia Galef
  • Avoid consuming media that’s just telling you things you already know and agree with. Remind yourself how much time you’re wasting by not learning anything. 
  • Uncertainty over Expected Value just gets folded into Expected Value. So, if I know that one of option A or B is going to be great, and the other’s going to be a disaster, but I’m totally unsure which is which, then they have the same expected value. 


Turia Pitt
  • Do a gratitude practice every morning, every day. Write down three specific things you’re genuinely grateful for. 


Annie Duke
  • Disconnect failure from outcomes. Just because you lose doesn’t mean you failed, and just because you won doesn’t mean you succeeded – not when you define success and failure around making good decisions that will win in the long run. 


Jimmy Fallon
  • Go for a walk.
  • Meditate. 


Esther Perel
  • It’s the quality of your relationships that will determine the quality of your life.
  • Different parts of me come alive when I switch languages.
  • Other people see you differently than the way you see yourself. That multiplicity of perspectives is essential to making us who we are.


Maria Sharapova
  • Losing makes you think in ways victories can’t. You begin asking questions instead of feeling like you have the answers.


Adam Robinson
  • If you want to change the world, you have to enroll others in your plans and vision. Not only that, but immense pleasures and satisfactions can be derived from focusing on others. The more you give to others, the more the universe gives you back in return.
  • Meditation is a way to relinquish control of the conscious mind so that the more powerful unconscious mind can take over, and analysis of the world improves. 


Josh Waitzkin
  • When dealing with a failure:
    • Find the thematic or psychological lesson hidden in the technical error (which hugely amplifies the ensuing growth)
    • Have a sense of the beauty and potency of how the loss is actively improving you while still in the thick of the pain of the blow. 
  • Do what you love, do it in a way that you love, and pour your heart and soul into every moment of it. Do not be subject to inertia. Challenge your assumptions and the assumptions of those around you as a way of life. 


Ann Miura-Ko
  • If you love something enough, it is far easier to really commit. 
  • Develop a philosophy of giving and generosity.
  • The practice of judgment and reasoning found in philosophy, history, and literature are skills we should to continue to hone. 


Jason Fried
  • “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.” – Betty Reese
  • “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt
  • “Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you, just measure it in inches.” – Andy Warhol
  • “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – William Bruce Cameron
  • Focus on your writing skills. It’s the one thing that really helps people stand out. More and more communication is written today. Get great at presenting yourself with words, and words alone, and you’ll be far ahead of most. 


Arianna Huffington
  • People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills. There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind… So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself. 
  • Burnout is not the price you have to pay for success. When we prioritize our well-being, our performance goes up across the board. 


Gary Vaynerchuk
  • Macro patience, micro speed. 
  • When feeling overwhelmed or unfocused, I pretend my family has died in a horrific accident. It sounds weird, but it’s what drives me. I go to a very dark place, really feel it, feel that pain in my heart, and then realize no matter what I’m dealing with right now, that it’s not even in the same universe of something like that. Then I become grateful for losing that client, missing that opportunity, getting made fun of, etc. 


Tim O’Reilly
  • Create more value than you capture
  • Roll out of bed, do a plank for two minutes and a downward dog for two minutes. This gets your metabolism going and makes you much more likely to do a more vigorous bout of exercise. 
  • Listen to your inner voice, which tells you what to choose. It is this ability to wait quietly for the right moment, rather than rushing about aimlessly, that can lead even an ambitious success-hunter to capture the biggest game. 


Tom Peters
  • They say “Thing big! Have a compelling vision!” I say: Think small. Do something super cool by the end of the day! Excellence is the next five minutes or nothing at all. It’s the quality of your next five-minute conversation. It’s the quality of your next email. Forget the long term. Make the next five minutes rock! 


Bear Grylls
  • Storms make us stronger. Don’t shy away from hard times. Tackle them head-on, move toward the path less trodden, riddled with obstacles, because most other people run at the first sign of battle. The storms give us a chance to define ourselves, to distinguish ourselves, and we always emerge from them stronger. 


Brené Brown
  • Problem identification is always a sound investment of time, money, and energy. Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” It feels uncomfortable to spend time and resources trying to figure out exactly what the problem is – we want to jump to fixing way too fast. Most of us are plagued with action bias and struggle to stay in problem identification. Getting clear about what’s wrong and why it’s a problem is the best investment you can make at home or work. 


Leo Babatua
  • You are good enough just as you are. Relax, and breathe into the moment.
  • Ask yourself, “What’s the most loving thing I can do for myself and others right now?”


Mike D
  • The structural demands of meditation are very doable in the context of our current lives. Twenty minutes when we get up and twenty minutes toward the end of the day. It is a safe place where you can go deeply into your own trauma and drama, free from fear. It decreases being reactive and clears space to be proactive. 


Kevin Kelly
  • Don’t try to find your passion. Instead master some skill, interest, or knowledge that others find valuable. You don’t have to love it, you just have to be the best at it. Once you master it, you’ll be rewarded with new opportunities that will allow you to move away from tasks you dislike and toward those that you enjoy. If you continue to optimize your mastery, you’ll eventually arrive at your passion. 


Ashton Kutcher
  • Shit or get off the pot. Too many people are waiting to get shit set up just right so they can do the thing they are gonna do. It’s time. 
  • Posting about it isn’t doing anything. It’s just like talk… it’s cheap! Too many people think they are supporting a cause, and the only thing they are doing is posting about it on social media. Doing something is doing something, everything else is just talk. 


Brandon Stanton
  • Be very careful with the moral high ground. Everyone has different moral codes, and very few people intentionally make immoral decisions. No matter how egregious the crime, the criminal usually has a reason for viewing it as morally acceptable. 


Jérôme Jarre
  • I wish we could all start seeing social media as having a giant billboard for millions of people every day. I know so many people who were against Trump but were talking about him, criticizing, on their social media every day. Would you put up a giant billboard of someone you don’t want to see elected? Probably not. 
  • Make yourself proud. 
  • You are 99 years old, on your deathbed, and you have a chance to come back to right now? What would you do?
  • Before eating, I pray. Not religiously, but more for setting intentions. Feel grateful for the food on your plate, especially if it has an animal product on it. 
  • We are all mini gods. I mean this in the sense of creators, in a way that should not feed our ego but our consciousness. This means the entire universe is not just outside but also within us. 
  • Prioritize connecting with what’s real: nature, your soul, your inner child. 
  • Most of the world is asleep today, playing a small role in a gigantic illusion. You can choose a different life. It’s all within. You will know the answers when you take the time to find yourself and trust yourself. 
  • If you are studying business/PR/marketing, then drop out today. The world is already full of marketers and businessmen. The world doesn’t need more of that. The world needs healers and problem-solvers who use their hearts. Your heart is a million times more powerful than your brain. 


Fedor Holz
  • Ask the right questions. Dive deeper and discover someone’s why. Ask how someone feels and why they behaved a certain way.


Eric Ripert
  • Being a good human, and the way to true inner happiness, is through altruistic actions, being mindful of others. 
  • Live life in three parts: 1/3 business, 1/3 family, 1/3 self.
  • The more you divide your focus, the more each endeavor can suffer from your lack of attention.


Sharon Salzberg
  • You are a person worthy of love.
  • If feeling overwhelmed or unfocused, ask yourself, “What do you need right now in order to be happy? Is it something other than what is happening right now?” 


Franklin Leonard
  • He has been described by NBC News as “the man behind Hollywood’s secret screenplay database, ‘The Black List.'” In 2005, Franklin surveyed 100 film industry development executives about their favorite scripts from that year that had not been made into feature films. Since then the voter pool has grown to 500 film executives. Now, more than 300 Black List screenplays have been made as feature films, including Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, and Argo


Peter Guber
  • The great majority of that which gives you angst never happens, so you must evict it. Don’t let it live rent-free in your brain.
  • Reinvent yourself regularly. See your world as an ever-increasing set of realities and seize the day.


Greg Norman
  • Your dreams are the blueprint to reality. 
  • Stand on one leg when brushing your teeth. 


Daniel Ek
  • If you dare, then you have already gotten further ahead than 99 percent of all the others. 
  • Good things come to those who work their asses off. 


Strauss Zelnick
  • Start slowly with working out; develop the habit of doing exercise for about three months and it’s likely to stick. Start with 2-3x/week. 
  • While it can feel embarrassing and uncomfortable to apologize, it’s a sign of maturity and good character. Unfortunately there is no particular magic to saying “I’m sorry.” Just do it. 


Steve Jurvetson
  • Having tasted synthetic meat, I believe it will accelerate the development of human morality, much like an economic alternative to slavery helped society acknowledge the horrors of slavery. When we look back 2,000 years, we can see how much we have changed as culture matures. It’s much more difficult to identify something that we do in our current lives and the mainstream considers moral, but our future selves will consider immoral. I believe that in a few years we’ll look back and marvel at the barbarism and stunning environmental waste (water consumption and methane production) of meat harvesting today. 
  • Celebrate the childlike mind. The best scientists and engineers nurture a mind that’s playful, open-minded, and unrestrained by the inner voice of reason, collective cynicism, or fear of failure. 
  • Neural plasticity does not disappear in adults. It just requires mental exercise. Use it or lose it. Bottom line: embrace lifelong learning. Do something new. Physical exercise is repetitive; mental exercise is eclectic. 


Tony Hawk
  • Stay present and make yourself available to your loved ones instead of chasing every business opportunity and keeping yourself distracted with work, hobbies, or travel. 
  • Success should not be measured by financial gain; true success is doing something you love for a living. Learn every aspect of your chosen field or craft, as it will give you an advantage over any competitors, and set you up for more – often better – job opportunities. 


Liv Boeree
  • The consequences of your actions matter far more than the actions themselves. 
  • Whenever I have to make a prediction about something uncertain, such as “How likely is my partner to get mad about me not doing the dishes?” I know try to assign a numerical percentage to fuzzy words like “maybe,” “sometimes,” “occasionally,” and “probably.” I try to picture exactly what I mean as a number on a sliding scale between 0 to 100. 


Anníe Mist Þórisdóttir
  • Try to stop worrying about the future. Focus on making the most out of every single day believing it will get you to where you want to be. 
  • Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become, and the hours of practice, and the coaches who have pushed you, is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back… play for her.


Mark Bell
  • Cut down on nervous tension by going up to people, introducing yourself, and shaking their hand. 
  • The way to get strongest is to lift what is optimal and not what is maximal.
  • You’re either in or you’re in the way. 
  • Ignore what everyone else is doing. Racehorses have blinders for a reason. 


Ed Coan
  • Do squats with pauses at the bottom. The only way to get out of the bottom once you stop is for your whole body to push and sync at the right time. 
  • How to devise a training plan you’ll stick to:
    • Write down every day of the week for x weeks
    • Write every set, every rep, and every weight for every single exercise predetermined for each day
    • Stop and look at the routine and ask yourself, “Is every single thing here doable?”
    • If you have to think about it, change it. Make it so that you know 100 percent everything is doable. 
    • When you start that routine, imagine how positive your mental outlook is. 


Ray Dalio
  • Think for yourself while being radically open-minded. 
  • Love looking at what you don’t know, your mistakes, and your weaknesses, because understanding them is essential for making the most of your life. 


Jacqueline Novogratz
  • Learn to balance and hold the audacity to dream a different world with the humility to start with the world as it has been. 
  • Live the Questions, which is a simple reminder to have the moral courage to live in the gray, sit with uncertainty but not in a passive way. Live the questions so that, one day, you will live yourself into the answers.


Brian Koppelman
  • Writers should follow their curiosity, obsessions, and fascinations. Writers should not write based on a marketing calculation of demand potential. 


Stewart Brand
  • CrossFit. Swagger in, stagger out. Repeat


Sarah Elizabeth Lewis
  • The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. 
  • There is no earth-spinning committee. Relax. We are all part of something larger. We can impact the laws of nature with how we treat the planet, and we can work with the laws of nature to manifest things in our world, but we can’t create these laws or destroy them. We live in a world governed by them. Feeling overwhelmed or unfocused? Get into nature to remind yourself of these systems and laws that govern movements. 


Gabor Maté
  • Ultimately, your gift to the world is who you are. It is both your gift and your fulfillment. 
  • Don’t confuse being driven with being authentically animated by an inner calling. One state leaves you depleted and unfulfilled. The other fuels your soul and makes your heart sing. 
  • Is what I’m doing right now aligned with my life’s calling? You have a choice in every moment. 


Steve Case
  • Lean into the future. Position yourself for what’s happening next versus what’s happening now. 
  • Be confident in the skills you have. 
  • Be fearless. Babe Ruth was not only the home run king; he was also the strikeout king. 
  • If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, you must go together. 


Linda Rottenberg
  • For leaders, rather than strive to be superhuman (“don’t let them see you sweat/cry/etc.”), strive to be less super and more human
  • Not only is crazy a compliment, but if you’re not called crazy when you start somethign new, then you’re not thinking big enough! 
  • (Nicely) stalking people is an underrated startup strategy. Find a little courage and reach out to a mentor you admire. 


Tommy Vietor
  • Don’t worry about making money. Don’t stress about having a plan. Try as hard as you can to find something you love. It will never get easier than right now to recklessly pursue your passion. Do it. 
  • I can feel my blood pressure go up as I try to figure out what to focus on. The world will go on if I don’t read/create/do everything. I will always be better off consuming a smaller amount of high-quality information than trying to consume it all. 
  • Stop looking at your phone. 


Larry King
  • The secret of this radio business; there is no secret. Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask a question. Don’t be afraid to sound stupid. 


Muna AbuSulayman
  • Do your best. But also, take it easy. 
  • When I overcommit, I lose focus and desire to do the work at hand. Learn to say no. Loss of focus can be a symptom of not caring about your work. This needs a lot of reflection and discussion with mentors to figure out whether you need a break, a vacation, or a change of career. 
  • The best investment I ever made was investing in my children when they were young. 


Sam Harris
  • No society in human history ever suffered because its people became too reasonable. Only a commitment to honest reasoning can allow us to cooperate with billions of strangers in an open-ended way. 
  • Having a podcast has allowed me to connect with a wide range of fascinating people whom I wouldn’t otherwise meet – and our conversations reach a much larger audience than my books ever will. I feel extremely lucky that my career as a writer and speaker has coincided with the birth of this technology. 
  • Don’t worry about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. Just find a profitable and interesting use for the next three to five years. 


Maurice Ashley
  • In order to become a Grandmaster, you must already be one. 
  • I wake up each day with the firm conviction that I am nowhere near my full potential. “Greatness” is a verb. I spend my years desperately looking to improve who I am from year to year. Greatness is not a final destination, but a series of small acts done daily in order to constantly rejuvenate and refresh our skills in a daily effort to become a better version of ourselves. 
  • Strive to be completely open and transparent in relationships. Speak truths that resonate from your soul. 


John Arnold
  • Advice is almost always driven by anecdotal experience, and thus has limited value and relevance. There is no universal path to success. 
  • Sitting through an unproductive meeting has huge opportunity costs. People struggle with equilibrating time and money. Many organizations fret over small, direct expenses, yet have no misgivings about keeping superfluous staff tied up in a conference room for hours. 


Mr. Money Mustache
  • The real measure of a good life is, “How happy and satisfied am I with my life right now?”
  • Look at every activity as you go through your day and think, “Is this contributing to getting me a better day – today – and if not, is there anybody in the world who has managed to design this activity out of their lives and still success beyond my level?”
  • A high savings rate (or “profit margin on life”) is by far the best strategy for a great and creative life, because it’s your ticket to freedom. Freedom is the fuel for creativity. 


David Lynch
  • Practicing Transcendental Meditation regularly will end your suffering and give you happiness and fulfillment in life. 
  • When feeling overwhelmed or unfocused, sit and desire ideas. 


Nick Szabo
  • Everybody is striving after social proof – from a close friend’s adulation to online likes and upvotes. The less you need positive feedback on your ideas, the more original design regions you can explore, and the more creative and useful to society you will be. But it could be a very long time before people will love you (or even pay you) for it. The more original your ideas, the less your bosses and peers will understand them, and people fear or at best ignore what they do not understand. But, making progress on your own ideas can be very rewarding in itself. 


Jon Call
  • If you can’t laugh at it, you lose. The exceptions to this quote suggest a powerful lesson. You wouldn’t laugh when people die, but that’s because you can’t always win in life. Sometime we do lose! But we better be able to distinguish between real loss and weakness of character. The sooner you can laugh about something, the sooner you can get on with your life. The sooner you can laugh at yourself, the sooner you will really be living life. 
  • When growing my social media, I focused on providing massive value. I curbed my postings to fit what was trending, what was most valuable from the analytics. 
  • To get the most out of stretching, don’t hold stretches for long periods of time, but break the stretching time into sets with rest periods. 
  • Tell your brain “no” when it wants to related to conversation with a “bigger” story. Let the desire go to “one-up” someone’s story with your own. The loss of the opportunity to possibly impress someone is far outweighed by what you learn when you ask more questions. 


Dara Torres
  • “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt


Dan Gable
  • Put a chinning bar up in your house. 
  • Don’t plan on “winning the lottery” right away, because it usually doesn’t happen. Doing a good job and building your assets is winning the lottery, but over time. Work hard every day, make progress every day, and make money every day. 


Caroline Paul
  • I encourage people to look up, make sense of the sky, and along the way experience an existential jolt. This may be ridiculous, but I have this belief that as long as we peer at the night sky, feel small, see the universe and say, “Oh, wow, all that mystery,” then we’ll drop some of our nearsighted hubris. Maybe even save the planet before it’s too late. 


Darren Aronofsky
  • Most of the game is about persistence. When you get an opportunity, you have to perform and you have to exceed beyond all expectations… but getting that chance is the hardest part. Keep the vision clear in your head and every day refuse all obstacles to get to the goal. 


Evan Williams
  • Mindfulness meditation has changed my life more than any other behavior. I feel like it rewired my brain (probably because it did). 
  • Be in a hurry to learn, not in a hurry to get validation. If you resist asking for too much, you will often get more. 


Bram Cohen
  • “Minimum viable product” means forgetting about succeeding massively and instead focusing all your efforts on desperately trying to not fail. 
  • Avoid sugar. All other diet advice is noise. 
  • It’s frustrating how there’s a fad of people mostly falsely thinking they’re gluten sensitive, while lactose intolerance isn’t even brought up. Most of the black and Asian people in the U.S. are lactose intolerant, and they’re served food that they’re incapable of digesting as a central part of every one of their school lunches. 


Chris Anderson
  • Live for something that’s bigger than you are. 
  • The best way to get things done is to let go. It’s often the case that people want to help you or work with you. But they can’t if you insist on holding on to tight control. The more you let go, the more people will surprise you. 
  • Many of us have bought into the cliché “pursue your passion.” For many, that is terrible advice. In your 20s, you may not really know what your best skills and opportunities are. It’s much better to pursue learning, personal discipline, and growth. And to seek out connections with people across the planet. For a while, it’s just fine to follow and support someone else’s dream. In so doing, you will be building valuable relationships, valuable knowledge. And at some point your passion will come and whisper in your ear, “I’m ready.” 


Neil Gaiman
  • If I’m feeling unfocused, I ask myself, “How long has it been since I actually wrote something?” and tell myself, “Stop doing whatever else I am doing because it isn’t actually work, and go write something.”


Michael Gervais
  • Every day is an opportunity to create a living masterpiece. We have far more control in our lives than many embrace. We create or co-create our experiences in life, and each day is a new opportunity to be fully engaged in the present moment. It’s the present moment where glimpses of our potential are revealed and expressed. A living masterpiece is not drawn on a canvas or etched in stone or inked by pen. It’s the pursuit and expression of applied insight and wisdom. 
  • It is through the relationships we have that we are able to experience what is true, beautiful, and good. It is through those relationships that high performance is expressed and our potential, meaning, and purpose are revealed. 


Temple Grandin
  • “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” – Henry Ford


Kelly Slater
  • Think for yourself. Everyone has a unique picture of how things work and function, and yours is as valuable as anyone’s. It’s sometimes the belief in yourself, open-mindedness toward others, and your delivery that allows things to be heard by others. 
  • Invest generously in others. Rewards will come back in unsuspected and abundant ways. 


Katrin Tanja Daviosdottir
  • Believe your best is enough. Your absolute best is the best possible outcome. That is a “win.” To do your best may sound easy, but it is anything but. It requires everything you’ve got… and no less. 


Matthew Fraser
  • I have realized that I value the results of a process more when I truly apply myself and make myself proud. 


Adam Fisher
  • Top down (macro thinking) means I consider the big-picture issues before the small when making decisions, and these big-picture issues dominate my preferences. It does not mean I ignore the small issues, as they are necessary but not dominant. For example, I invest in real estate where smart people want to live. While I could make money in other areas of the country, over the long term, this rule will be quite lucrative. There are other factors, of course, but this one is a requirement. 
  • Practice calendar architecture – designing and implementing a repeatable schedule every day. As an introvert, this requires a lot of alone time, and everyone around me protects this in my day. It is also designed to keep my day from being filled up with “gristle.”


Aisha Tyler
  • Live in a space of bravery in every aspect of your life: creative, professional, familial, and in relationships. Being brave means being present and willing to give of yourself regardless of result. 
  • You cannot do anything great without aggressively courting your own limits and the limits of your ideas. There is nothing more powerful than failure to reveal to you what you are truly capable of. Avoiding the risk of failure means avoiding transcendent creative leaps forward. 
  • Say not to everything that doesn’t energize you personally or creatively. 


Laura R. Walker
  • Get out of your comfort zone when you graduate. Ask yourself what you are genuinely curious about and explore it. Embrace the ambiguity and contradictions that life invariably will bring. Don’t spend time chasing a right answer or a right path, but instead spend time defining how you are going to approach whatever path you choose. What values most define you? What questions do you want to pursue? 


Terry Laughlin
  • Life is not designted to hand us success or satisfaction, but rather to present us with the challenges that make us grow. Mastery is the mysterious process by which those challenges become progressively easier and more satisfying through practice. The key to that satisfaction is to reach the nirvana in which love of practice for its own sake (intrinsic) replaces the original goal (extrinsic) as our grail. 
  • Five steps to mastery:
    • Choose a worthy and meaningful challenge.
    • Seek a sensei to help you establish the right path and priorities.
    • Practice diligently, always striving to hone key skills and to progress incrementally toward new levels of competence.
    • Love the plateau. All worthwhile progress occurs through brief, thrilling leaps forward followed by long stretches of seemingly going nowhere. Learning continues at the cellular level… if you follow good practice principles. 
    • Mastery is a journey, not a destination. There is always more to be learned and greater skill to be developed. 
  • Examine if you are truly driven by an intrinsic motivation or goal? His basic motivations:
    • To continually deepen his understanding of technique and performance. 
    • To have a life-changing positive impact on those he coached
    • To leave an enduring mark on the field, to leave the profession better off than he found it. 


Marc Benioff
  • I look at every failure as a learning experience and try to spend time with my failures. I stew on them for a while until I pick out some nugget from them that I can take forward. 
  • Fast one day per week. 


Marie Forleo
  • If you’re willing to be relentless, stay nimble, and keep taking action, everything is figure-out-able. 
  • Pursue every project, idea, or industry that genuinely lights you up, regardless of how unrelated each idea is, or how unrealistic a long-term career in that field might now seem. You’ll connect the dots later. 
  • Show up in every moment like you’re meant to be there, because your energy precedes anything you could possibly say. 
  • What are the specific business reasons you’re going to commit time, energy, and resources to regularly creating and engaging in that space? 
  • Whenever I feel unfocused or stuck, I do an intense physical workout. The goal is full sensory immersion. 


Drew Houston
  • If I could give my younger self a cheat sheet, I would give him three things: a tennis ball, a circle, and the number 30,000. 
    • Tennis ball: find something you can become obsessed with, like a dog with a ball
    • Circle: you are the average of your five closest friends. 
    • 30,000: people live for about 30,000 days. How many days down are you already? 
  • Think of your time like a jar, your priorities as rocks, and everything else as pebbles or sand. What is the best way to fill your jar? Do your own rocks! 


Scott Belsky
  • Great opportunities never have “great opportunity” in the subject line. What makes an opportunity great is upside. If the potential upside were explicitly clear, the opportunity would have already been taken. 
  • Set up a self-reward system for completing a phase of deep work, like a deep work playlist or special snacks. 
  • Don’t ask customers what they want; figure out what they need. 


Tim McGraw
  • We all should reassess what we think and believe constantly – in politics, in life, and in our thinking. 
  • Focus is the key to everything. 
  • If I had a billboard, it would say “DAD.” Especially as a dad of daughters, how I talk to them and treat them is crucial to how they see themselves. Reminding myself that I’m a dad makes me want to be the best parent I can be for my kids. 


Muneeb Ali
  • Ask yourself this question, “When I’m old, how much would I be willing to pay to travel back in time and relive the moment that I’m experiencing right now?”
  • I can add more value by going deep on a few things rather than engaging with a broad set of activities. 


Craig Newmark
  • Seems like all religions recognize the precept that you should “treat others as you want to be treated.” This simple reminder can help people act in a more benevolent way. 


Steven Pinker
  • “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” – Rabbi Hillel


Gretchen Rubin
  • Have my children read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, and the His Dark Materials books by Philip Pullman


Whitney Cummings
  • Fly high. You can only control your reaction and your contribution – choose the high road. Creatively, “fly high” is a reminder to always strive for an A-plus no matter how tired you are or how late it is. 
  • Writing a daily gratitude list in the morning has atrophied my negative thinking. It’s built up the muscle that focuses on what’s going well and how fortunate I am, which helps me be more productive, creative, and focused. 
  • Don’t network, just work. Just get better, and opportunities will naturally present themselves once you deserve them. 


Rick Rubin
  • You can’t really lose by dedicating yourself to what you love. 
  • Work tirelessly. I feel lucky and blessed in my life, and I know this is because I totally submerged myself in what I was doing. I spent my every waking hour, every day, enjoying it when I was doing it and truly living it. 
  • When you start something new, it’s good to ask a lot of questions from people in the industry and to learn from them. Remember, though, when people give you advice, they’re giving you advice based on their particular skills, experiences, and perspectives; the advice is from their journey, and every journey is different. Ask yourself “does this advice fit me?”


Ryan Shea
  • Three-phase workout.
    • 3-4 sets of bench press, squats, or deadlifts. 6-10 reps of 70-80% of one-rep max. 
    • 3-4 supersets of either
      • 15-20 pull-ups and dips
      • 10 bicep curls and tricep extensions
      • 10 shoulder presses, lateral raises, and front raises
    • Core
      • 4 sets of 1-minute planks alternated with 4 sets of sit-ups and leg raises
      • 1 set each of sit-ups, planks, side planks, and ball knee tucks
  • Instead of New Year Resolution, try a New Month Resolution.
    • April: Daily writing
    • May: No dairy
    • June: Daily meditation
    • July: No news or social media feeds
    • Try either elimination goals or daily behavior goals. 


Ben Silbermann
  • Create a chart of boxes representing every year of your life: ten years across and nine rows down. This puts time in a visual format and you can plot things on it. 
  • A lot of professions assume that you’re going to take eight to ten years just to achieve the minimum level of competence necessary to start to get quality work done. 
  • If regular exercise could be bottled, it would be a miracle drug. Everything in your life gets better if you find time to exercise regularly. 
  • The most important stuff in life has to be parallel-processed, like your relationships and your health, because you can’t make up the time by doing more of it later. Figure out a system so the stuff you need to do all the time happens, even while you might be placing disproportionate focus on one thing. 
  • If you have a habit of writing things down you’re grateful for, then your brain is constantly looking for those things, and you feel happier. It’s absurd in its simplicity. 


Vlad Zamfir
  • No one is qualified to tell you how you experience the world. 
  • I often decide to do something, or a while pile of somethings, then beat myself up for not doing it. It turns out that I often beat myself up to the point of depression for not doing it. I get depressed because I’m not doing what I think I should be doing. I’ve learned that it can really help to temporarily give up on everything. After giving up on everything, I am immediately relieved of depression. Sometimes this relief is all I need to start working again. Sometimes it isn’t, and I need to spend time doing other things before I’m ready. Often, I end up realizing my “somethings” aren’t important and I forget about them forever. 


Zooko Wilcox
  • (On telling people “no”) The realization that helped me was that the kindest and best thing that I can do for people when I get unsolicited requests is to give them a “no” explicitly, quickly, and firmly. 


Stephanie McMahon
  • “Do something you’re afraid of every day.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
  • At the first sign of thirst, don’t sip water. CHUG WATER.
  • Before bed, think of three things that made me happy during the day. It’s better than being grateful, because I would feel guilty if I didn’t say certain things I was grateful for, and I wound up saying the same things over and over. Focusing on happiness helps me put aside the day’s baggage and focus on what’s really important. 


Peter Attia
  • “For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – John F. Kennedy
  • If you set a goal, it should meet these two conditions: 1) It matters; 2) You can influence the outcome.
  • Don’t give in to the sunk cost fallacy. “You’ve spent X years learning Y, you can’t just up and leave now and do Z.” This is flawed advice because it weighs too heavily the time behind you, which can’t be changed, and largely discounts the time in front of you, which is completely malleable. 


Steve Aoki
  • Instead of following the trends, you want to identify them but not follow them. Focus on the energy of what you do. 
  • Music is our tool to engage with our feelings. 


Jim Loehr
  • “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children… to leave the world a bit better… to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; this is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The daily ritual of self-reflected writing has produced priceless personal insights in my life.
  • Anything quantified and tracked on a regular basis will invariably show improvement. 
  • Protection from stress serves only to erode my capacity to handle it. Stress exposure is the stimulus for all growth, and growth actually occurs during episodes of recovery. Avoiding stress will never provide the capacity that life demands. 


Daniel Negreanu
  • This exercise helps me to get present to the reality of a situation where I’m feeling unfocused or overwhelmed. I tell my story to myself from the perspective of a victim, then I tell the exact same story from a place of 100 percent responsibility. Victim: “I was late to an important event because my girlfriend took too long to get ready. It’s not my fault.” Responsible: “I acknowledge my breakdown in being late. In the future I am committed to making sure that I do everything I can to ensure that I’m on time.” 


Jocko Willink
  • Discipline equals freedom. 
  • Set up a home gym in the garage. It’s one of the most important factors to allow one to work out every day regardless of the chaos and mayhem life delivers. 
  • Work harder than everyone else. Outwork them all. 
  • Prioritize and execute. Pick the biggest issue in front of you with the biggest positive impact and execute on that. 
  • Read and write every day. Free your mind. 


Robert Rodriguez
  • When trying to do focused work, use two notepads (or two columns on one notepad): Tasks and Distractions. Write down a few tasks, then start doing the most important, major, even undesirable one. Set a timer for 20 minutes. While doing, if stray thoughts, distractions, or impulses come up, write them down on the Distractions pad. Do not do anything else but the major task until the timer goes off. 
  • Fácil! It’s a Spanish word meaning “easy” or “no big deal!” I like the idea of setting impossible challenges and, with one word, making it sound doable, because then it suddenly is. It’s a reminder that anything can be done, with relative ease and less stress, if you have the right mindset. 


Kristen Ulmer
  • When not in crisis, I consider “my life is great” as a cop-out, a stuck place, where learning is no longer available to us. Which is why you shouldn’t wait for crisis to happen before you take steps to go beyond what you’re capable of seeing on your own. Go to marriage counseling when your marriage is going great. Hire a fitness coach when you’re already in the best shape of your life. Bring in a marketing expert when your marketing department is already kicking ass. And watch next-level magic happen. 
  • Instead of a gratitude practice, try a fear practice. Fear is a sense of discomfort in our bodies, not our minds. Locate the feeling in your body, then following these three steps: 1. Affirm it’s natural to feel this discomfort. 2. Be curious about your current relationship with the discomfort. 3. Feel the feeling by spending time with it, like you would with your dog or friend. Turn toward discomfort and have an honest relationship with it. 


Yuval Noah Harari
  • When writing, publishing, and trying to sell a book, the DIY method just doesn’t work. Instead of looking for shortcuts, do it the hard and long way and rely on professional help. 
  • Nobody really knows what the world and the job market will look like in 2040, hence nobody knows what to teach young people today. Traditionally, life has been divided into two main parts: a period of learning followed by a period of working. By 2040, this traditional model will become obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives and to reinvent themselves again and again. 
  • Don’t trust technology too much. Make the tech serve you, instead of you serving it. 


The Secret to Writing Compelling Copy

There is one all-powerful fundamental writing principle that is the only guide you need in creating compelling copy for readers to devour. 

What is that writing principle? 

It’s being employed right here in this article, and you don’t even know it yet. 

Now your mind is racing. “What am I not seeing?” 

It’s right there in front of you. 

Is the secret to keep the reader in suspense? No. 

Is the secret to use short sentences? No. 

Is the secret to use straightforward language so as to not confuse the reader? No. 

The secret to writing compelling copy is:

In one line, entice the reader to read another line. 

In the next line, again entice the reader to read another. 

And so on, until you’ve willfully ushered them through your piece, whether it’s a blog post, an article, an essay, a novel, or an advertisement. 


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