How 10,000 Hours Of Deliberate Practice Can Still Fail

Published May 11, 2018 in Mindset - 0 Comments

“I’m going to help you stay motivated to practice, so you can succeed.”

“But I’m already motivated. And practicing. But it’s not getting me the result I want.”

“Ummm… hmmm…”

In the book Peak, the authors reveal the results of their research on athletes, musicians, and a couple guys who developed the ability to memorize really, really long strings of digits.

The authors’ goal was to discover what makes people great. What makes people masters of a certain ability. And the best way for everyone else to get there. Like playing the violin like a master. Or performing a prostatectomy without any cancer reoccurrence.

The author’s research was Malcom Gladwell’s inspiration for the now famous “10,000” rule.

Peak, however, reveals how the rule has been misinterpreted. First of all, the 10,000-hour number comes from the average amount of practice time expert violinists performed by age 20. Some had done more – some less. And this was simply by a certain age. It didn’t automatically bestow them expert status.

Plus, the research revealed simple practice was not enough. It had to be what the authors call deliberate practice. This involves consistently pushing yourself beyond the edge of your abilities, so your brain and body adapt, while getting useful feedback. For example, studying the chess matches of grandmasters and attempting to predict their moves, and studying why they did what they did, while under the watchful eye of a qualified teacher, is deliberate practice. Playing tournament chess, is not. Pushing yourself to play the banjo faster is deliberate practice. Playing a tune (diddy?) you’re already comfortable with in a concert, is not.

Not so simple and sexy as 10,000 hours, is it?

The book goes into more detail…

… but it’s still missing something.

One of the most prominent case studies, is a college-aged man who practices memorizing digits. The author read him a single digit per second, until finished. Then, the man repeated the whole string. The average person might be able to handle eight digits, which falls within our short-term memory. Through practice, however, the man was able to memorize and repeat back 82 digits flawlessly.

Peak briefly mentions how the researchers chose an athlete, assuming he’d have a natural propensity to push through a challenge. Later in the book, the authors dabble into motivation again, mentioning its importance for practice. They briefly cover setting aside time in your schedule, accountability within a group, and the drive to look good in front of others.

It’s a shallow treatment compared to their thorough studies of deliberate practice.

And that’s what I think is missing.

We now have a very clear picture of what someone must do to succeed, if they’re already psychologically, emotionally, and – dare I say – spiritually aligned with what they want to achieve. Researchers found key differences between good, expert, and world-class musicians. They got a very clear picture of… let’s call it… “the second half of the story.” These men and women have already proven they can identify and overcome their weaknesses. But what about the first half of the story? What if someone wants to learn a new skill, but has impediments that are not solved by working on the skill itself?

For example, perhaps someone wants to become an expert investor. They’d like to use deliberate practice to improve their craft, but are unknowingly dealing with a psychological self-destruct mechanism, put in place by an alcoholic mom who spent every penny of the family’s money.

Or someone who’s trying to attract the opposite sex, but whose parents felt only contempt for each other, and never spoke. This person could spend 10,000 hours in a bar with the guidance of a successful friend, but still never overcome the programming that’s doing the damage.

In both cases, it’s like someone spending 10,000 hours trying to clean up a spill, without plugging the broken pipe that’s causing the mess in the first place.

Something else is required, where the prospective expert needs to reach back, to realign what is internally out of whack, while progressing with the deliberate practice. And this work is more vital in the more important areas of life. The parts that, if not mastered, cause the most pain.

What do you care about more? Loving relationships with other people, or memorizing digits? Which has more potential for emotional and psychological hang-ups?

If therapeutic work combined with deliberate practice, we could have a complete system for helping someone become a master. And they don’t even have to start as average. Their life could be in psychological and emotional shambles. If something could help them become ready to benefit from deliberate practice, it wouldn’t just be life-changing, but life-saving.

5-Second Quiz Reveals How Much Hidden Tension You Are Suffering From

Published March 28, 2018 in Health - 0 Comments

20 minutes ago, I stood up for a break from my first daily round of writing. I began a series of movements to loosen up my joints, increase blood flow, let go of emotional gunk… and get the energy cranking in my body.

I sent waves rolling up the front of my body, culminating in rotating my shoulders. As I enjoyed the waves, I scanned my body for where some hidden tension might be.

Let’s focus on your upper chest, where your pecs tie into your deltoids.

Aha. Instantly, I noticed the waves struggled to flow through that part of my body. Like the rolling ocean surface lapping up against a rock outcrop. So, I continued to focus on that area without judgement, and observed tension begin to melt away.

Then I stopped to jot this down in my notebook.

Everyone wants to get rid of their pain. It’s a multi-billion-dollar market.

But getting rid of tension, when it’s still at the “merely annoying” level?

Not nearly as lucrative – massage businesses notwithstanding.

Because pain gets your attention. Tension, on the other hand, stays anonymous.

When part of your body resigns itself to chronic tension, you literally don’t get the memo. In fact, like an unruly teenager or thieving employee, your body hides the evidence.

Which is why, if asked, you may claim, “I’m not tense!”


We’ll test whether you are, in a moment. Before we do, keep in mind that virtually all joint and muscle pain has its roots in tension. It throws you out of alignment.

Just yesterday, I was getting some training from a coach of mine, and we talked about a celebrity in the personal development niche. One of the biggest names of all time. My coach happened to know that his body is riddled with constant pain, because of the tension he’s carrying around.

So, here’s a quick exercise to prove whether you’re suffering from chronic, hidden tension:

Sitting here, reading this message right now, how does your body feel?

If you notice tension, then you’ve got your answer.

On the other hand, what if your body feels fine?

If so, then I’ve got news for you:

You just passed the test… to prove you are engulfed and imprisoned with full-body tension that’s completely hidden from you.

Surprised? Skeptical?

Let me explain…

Feeling “fine” is the perfect way to describe the sensations of a physical body constantly blocking signals of chronically contracted muscles.

If you had zero tension, you wouldn’t say you feel fine. You’d say you feel divine. A melted mess of gooey extravagance, that somehow simultaneously feels primed to spring to action, whenever and wherever needed. Pulsating with warmth. Radiating love. A fully-charged, dynamic battery. And so much more.

That’s how a true lack of tension feels. Just ask a baby.

Not quite there? That’s okay. You can return to that state of being. Right now, I’m phasing in and out. Soon, I’ll embody that state virtually all day and night.

A major key, is to consistently upgrade yourself.

When I do my morning ritual to loosen and enrich my body, I’m not merely warming myself up to a state of “normal.” Instead, I seek out new levels of relaxation and alignment. Every day provides the opportunity for more progress.

There are physical practices that help… psychological ones… and some downright weird ones.

It’s just like the buildings under construction, that I can see beyond my computer screen, as I type this. Right now, a crane swings to lift and place new material. Nothing is static. The workers do not assemble a wall of concrete blocks, just to take it back down. Every day, the building becomes more refined.

As living beings, we have an advantage and disadvantage, compared to the building.

The disadvantage is, we can accumulate more tension and emotional gunk throughout our day. Barring some seriously inclement weather, the building will simply stay where it is, left untouched. So, we’ve got to get some extra momentum going. When it comes to eliminating chronic tension, “2 steps forward, 1 step back” is the norm.

Fortunately, we have an advantage that the building doesn’t possess. We have a choice. We’re the creators.

How Ray Dalio’s Principles and Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. Completely Screwed Up

Published March 18, 2018 in Copywriting - 0 Comments

While scrambling some eggs yesterday, I shook my head in frustration, bolted over to my computer, and began busting out this public service for anyone writing a book.

You need help. Your opening sentence is terrible. Chances are, nobody else will tell you. So I will.


Then read these two opening sentences and decide which is compelling… and which is boring as hell:

“We watched in horror as nine months of files began deleting themselves. The Toy Story sequel, which the world was already buzzing about in anticipation, was self-destructing… and we couldn’t stop it.”


“Every morning, as I walk into Pixar Animation Studios – past the twenty-foot-high sculpture of Luxo Jr., our friendly desk lamp mascot, through the double doors and into a spectacular glass-ceilinged atrium where a man-sized Buzz Lightyear and Woody, made entirely of Lego bricks, stand at attention, up the stairs past sketches and paintings of the characters that have populated our fourteen films – I am struck by the unique culture that defines this place.”

Here’s another pair:

“$700,000 gone in a whiff. Our client was furious. I was humiliated. Most CEOs, in this position, would publicly fire the employee responsible. I did something different.”


“When we are children, other people, typically our parents, guide us through our encounters with reality.”

Here’s what I did.

I took the opening sentences from Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. and Ray Dalio’s Principles… and gave them a makeover. No, they’re not perfect. They could use a second set of eyes. As well as a fact-checker. But those are minor points compared to how I changed the tone of the opening.

Specifically, I used one of the most powerful techniques I’ve ever learned about the craft of writing, when it comes to opening sentences.

Call it the James Bond Technique.

I’ll get to the specifics of the technique in a moment.

First… how dare I critique the words of a self-made billionaire or the driving force behind one of the most successful film studios in history?

Because, apparently, nobody else did.

These two gentlemen, Ray Dalio and Ed Catmull, hammer home in their books how their companies’ success derived, in part, from honest feedback. Sometimes scathing, encouraging, specific or vague feedback… but always welcomed.

That dynamic disappeared when they scuttled off by themselves to pen their messages to the wider world. I can only guess, but I wonder if their own reputation harmed them. Perhaps their editors were afraid to throw their first drafts back in their faces and roar, “You lost me in the first paragraph!” Maybe the authors got solid feedback but ignored it. Or maybe some things just slipped through the cracks.

Either way, Ray Dalio and Ed Catmull had the opportunity to produce works on par with their previous careers. Instead… they wrote mere darn good books.

Perhaps the difference is dust mite-small…

… and I care only because I’m a writer who lives and dies by crafting pieces that get attention. I don’t get to say, “I’m Ray Dalio so slog through most of what I’ve written because the gems you learn will be worth it.”

The truth is closer to… I saw what could have been. Especially in Creativity Inc. Spoiler Alert: A rough, nearly-complete copy of Toy Story 2 was almost destroyed because of a technical glitch. The peeps at Pixar watched in real-time as it got erased, but salvaged a back-up copy stored on an employee’s personal laptop. When they transported the laptop back to the studio, they wrapped it in blankets, and all held it as they walked across the parking lot.

Guess when you read that incredible story? Not on page 1, where it belonged. Not on page 10 or even page 50. First, you must meander through Ed Catmull pointlessly recounting his schooling and job history before getting to anything approaching action or drama. And he made his dent in the world telling stories.

Look, I get that Ed Catmull was taking the reader through an opening montage much like a Pixar film, highlighting the various characters. The use of movement in the opening is good. But he buried the powerhouse opening. Something gripping.

Something that could have made his readers gasp.

I’ll stop picking on Ed Catmull. Instead, I’ll return briefly to Ray Dalio’s opening, simply to say it’s only one step above “Humans do things, often involving other humans and objects too. And stuff.”

Now the James Bond Technique.

Think about how James Bond films begin. 007 could be tracking a terrorist in the midst of a crowd watching a snake and mongoose duke it out… chasing a suspect through cavernous hallways in the middle of a desert town… or careening through traffic on a winding highway.

You may have zero clue what’s going on…

… but you’re hooked. And you’ll figure things out as they unfold.

The openings dive into the middle of the action. When you’re crafting an opening sentence and you’re in doubt – and you should always be in doubt – then defer to the James Bond Technique.

Start in the middle of the action.

At the height of tension. Get the reader hooked. Weave in the exposition from there.

Look through my other blog posts, to see how often I do it. Even here, I chose a scene of mild mental anguish from my life, rather than the more obvious “Here’s a trick to make your opening sentences more gripping…”

Special thanks to Sol Stein, author of Stein On Writing, for opening my eyes to how crucial first sentences are. He did a much better job describing the stakes, than I have.

I might keep calling out poor opening sentences, as a public service. It’s not just Ray Dalio or Ed Catmull who have eye-grabbing tales of struggle and triumph. Or James Bond, for that matter. Everyone who sits down with something to say, can harness a moment of pain from their lives to create interest, bonding, and facilitate the change they want to make in the world, with their writing.

Asking This Question Guarantees You Will Fail At Everything

Published March 14, 2018 in Mindset - 0 Comments

I can’t count the number of times at a business seminar, marketing conference, fitness expo, gym, workspace, or restaurant… someone describes a skillset they achieved… and then a person in the crowd asks the magic question that guarantees failure.

They could be talking about building a business. Or losing 50 pounds. Or writing a book.

Inevitably someone will pipe up, “How much time do you spend per week, writing?” or “How much time do you spend per week, on your business?”

Which are both examples of the magic question that guarantees failure:

“How much time do you spend on [fill in the blank]?”

Wrong question. Wrong mindset. And I’m not sure if there’s a cure.

As soon as I hear that question, I know that person’s doomed to fail.

Yeah, I’m an asshole.

Yes, it’s sooo arrogant to write something like this.

I’m also right.

Here’s why:

That question opens a doorway into the person’s thinking. It shows their brain is weighing the pros and cons of spending time writing a book. It wants to determine the bare minimum number of hours required to do something abhorrent –  to barely scrape by with a positive result.

They might as well ask, “How long do I have to hold my nose and do something I hate, just to bask in the results? To hell with feeling fulfillment and enjoying the growth along the way, or aligning myself with the flow of life. Just give me the guaranteed minimum I must do. The cut-and-dried answer. I want my life’s canvas to be paint-by-numbers.”

You’re screwed.

You haven’t even started, and you’ve already projected a path of deeper and deeper suffering as you slog through hours of forcing yourself, until you finally throw your hands up in the air and quit.

If you’re asking how many hours of writing you need to put in, to write a book… then follow Nike’s advice in reverse:

Just don’t do it.

If you ask how many hours per week are required for a project to increase your income, just don’t do it.

If you ask how many hours of exercise you need to spend in the gym, to finally get in shape… just don’t do it.

Instead, take a step back. Figure out what you can do, where time commitment is a non-issue. Because you actually want to dive in and relish every moment. Or, even better, time is a non-issue because you’re obsessed with what you’re doing.

The best definition I ever heard of a writer, was from Sol Stein: “Writer’s cannot not write.”

Writers don’t ask how many hours they need to put in. They’re too busy doing it. Day after day. Because they can’t stop.

When I first began an unusual kind of standing meditation, I asked my teacher, “What’s the maximum amount of time I can do this every day, without diminishing returns?”

“There’s a guy in India who does six hours,” he said.

Think of a champion athlete. They don’t ask how many hours they need to devote to training in the arena, or the gym, because those are the only places where they feel at home.

Good luck competing with them.

Instead, figure out where others have no hope of competing with you, because you’re too obsessed with practice. Or, if that paradigm doesn’t jive with you, figure out where hours become lost because you just don’t give a shit. You’re too busy practicing.

Here are two ways how:

  1. If something just isn’t you, don’t bother.

If I could snap my fingers and make it happen, I’d enjoy sampling the Rockstar lifestyle. I remember reading one of the Motley Crew guys saying sex with four women at once was too many, and two was too few, but three women simultaneously was just right. I wouldn’t mind verifying that. But trying to spend hours per day, and years of my life, practicing a musical instrument with that goal in mind, would be insane.

On the other hand, I cannot not write. It’s me. How many hours per week do I write? Per day? Who gives a shit? I can’t stop. It also happens to bless my life. Perfect combination. Find yours.

  1. If you know a practice that truly is you, but you’re still struggling with your commitment, then there’s an inner issue to work out.

Again, I want to emphasize, make sure it’s something that truly is you. Don’t beat your head against the wall just because you want the toys and trinkets on the other side. Find a wall you can enjoy knocking down.

Once you do, arrange your day as best you can, so you can practice when you have the most energy. An old friend of mine taught, “Do the thing you fear, first thing in the morning.”

Here’s another version: “Do the thing you obsess over, first thing in the morning.” Or before you go to bed at night. Or whenever you’re primed for peak performance.

And don’t ask how much time you have to put in, in the morning.

Now that you know the question that dooms you to failure, you can scout out similar questions. They all revolve around minimal effort, guaranteed results, and dumping the responsibility of deep thinking onto another person. Here are a few examples:

“If I only had to pick one…”

“What’s the best way to begin?”

“What’s [anything that can be answered with a single Google search]?”

“How hard is it to…”

“Yeah BUT how do I…”

Ouch. I’ve asked questions like this, many times. See if you’ve done the same. Then compare different parts of your life – where you’ve excelled and where you’ve stumbled. Where do you ask these questions more often? And is it correlation… or causation?

When It Is Time To Move On

Published March 3, 2018 in Mindset - 0 Comments

“Now that you’re living in Aurora, I can give you shifts at the Parker and Smoky Hill stores. They’re closer, and we need people there,” my supervisor said.

“That’s great,” I said over the phone. “Actually, could I keep doing one shift at Broadway on Sunday, just for old time’s sake?”


When I got my job as a sign-spinner in 2011, I lived close to downtown Denver. The gold-buying business’s nearest store was on Broadway street, about 17 minutes south of where I lived.

So, five days a week, I stood on that street corner.

Broadway and Nassau. For almost nine months.

To this day, I can imagine every detail of the sidewalk, the auto shop across the street, and the weird characters that lived around.

That job became a lifeline of drudgery, which I clung to as my life shifted in scary ways. Sure, it sucked… but the mindless routine was sweet relief for me.

The street corner became a second home. Complete with memories of the time I dialed 911… sweltering in 100-degree heat… dancing in the middle of a blizzard… watching cops silently swarm the check-cashing store next door… getting assaulted by a crack head…

I loved it.

Then, when I moved to Aurora, commuting to the Broadway store didn’t make sense. I felt a pang of loss. Hence, me asking my supervisor to go back – at least once per week.

When the first Sunday came around after my move, I approached the corner to begin my shift… and something felt different.

All the energy around me felt dead. The passing cars, the occasional breeze, and everything else seemed just a bit more muted and lifeless.

“I was supposed to move on,” I thought to myself, “but I didn’t.”

After a couple more weeks to confirm this was true, I asked my supervisor to take me off Broadway.

“The end of an era,” I thought.

It seems like such a silly thing (when your life consists of waving a sign, meditating, writing, and sleeping, small things take on significance). But – in more or less overt ways – we all cling to things that are familiar, even if they’re not right for us. Because we prefer suffering we’re used to, rather than the unknown that could be better. And we romanticize lame circumstances because we doubt we can claim something better.

How often do people live in the same home for years, just because they’re “settled” and moving would be too much of a pain in the ass?

Or the same job?

The same spouse?

How often do we declare something feels right, when we’re just clinging to our comfort zone?

How often do we overstay our welcome, because we’re trying to soak in the last bits of an energy field that’s already gone?

Here’s how to tell if you are.

Ask yourself:

“Am I choosing this because it’s fulfilling for me, and part of my growth… or am I hunkering down because I’m nervous about something new? If I doubt I can have something better, is this rational or emotional? What’s my evidence?”

I didn’t ask myself those questions. So it took me an extra few weeks, to figure it out.

Some people take a few extra decades.

I did end up seeing that Broadway store a few more times. Occasionally, I had to work a shift there. Then, as the business went bankrupt, I hauled furniture out of the store and closed it.

Sometimes, if you resist change, it has a way of insisting.

What Makes Your Task A Joy Or Torture

Published February 19, 2018 in Mindset - 0 Comments

“How many trucks are you guys going to unload before lunch today?!”

My co-worker and I shrugged our shoulders, as we grabbed dirty floor mats from the trailer. Ted, our boss, flashed an impish smile before walking away. He was thrilled with how much we were busting our asses.

This was circa 2014, when I unloaded trucks for a living. Every afternoon, 12 of the monsters lurched into the commercial laundry facility, pregnant with thousands of pounds of dirty pants, shirts, floor mats, and other assorted grimy stuff. The two of us unloaded them all, one by one. Then, we finished our shift with a huge trailer from Fort Collins. That required a forklift.

We threw almost everything into giant baskets that ended up weighing over 250 pounds, and sent them through a complicated conveyor system.

Some of the laundry was so nasty, we threw up as we handled it.

One truck contained clothes from a spice factory. That stuff smelled nice.

Most two-man teams could unload six or seven trucks before the first, and usually only, break.

My co-worker and I set records. One day, we managed to unload ten trucks before the “lunch break” at 6PM.

Before working that job, if you had told me the mass of stuff two people were required to move, and the time-period they had to get it done by… I would have sworn the task wasn’t humanly possible.

That job expanded my beliefs, for the human body’s capabilities.

Just yesterday I was reminded of this. While enjoying the Sky Lounge at my new apartment, I watched gym goers next door, march up and down the parking lot while carrying kettlebells. Then, I looked one block over, where a new building was under construction. There, workers hauled all kinds of metal and wood back and forth. Huh. On one side, people were paying good money to drag heavy stuff around, for their health. On the other side, people were getting paid money to drag even heavier stuff around, because that’s their job. What if the gym goers could volunteer to help the construction for an hour? I guess the local GDP would slip a bit.

Anyway. While unloading trucks, I learned what can make your daily task a joy… or torture. Here goes:

  1. Sleep. If you get a good night’s sleep, you’re a full battery that may or may not require food. If you lose out on quality sleep, you drag ass. This spirals downward into a miserable day. Your head hurts. Your body’s weak. You stress about how much everything sucks.
  2. Coffee. There’s a reason I put this 2nd, instead of 1st. If your sleep sucked, then coffee will trick you into getting near normal, but not quite. Millions of people think it’s normal to trudge through their life like this. On the other hand, if you get good sleep and add coffee to the mix… you’re closer to, as Sgt. Blain Cooper put it, “a goddamned sexual tyrannosaurus.” Or just a regular tyrannosaurus.
  3. Peeps. When you’re surrounded with good peeps, it’s a fun upward spiral. You help each other. You’re in the flow. You enjoy the synergy. But when you’re stuck with bad peeps, it’s like gears grinding and wearing out. Energy drains from your body.
  4. The future. Friday’s were a joy, because our three-day weekend was on the horizon. That energized us to overlook the pain and finish faster. But your vision of the future can also be quite the hot potato, if you mishandle it. If we began unloading the first truck and thought about truck number two… three… four… five… that drained our energy. Keep a firm grasp on your distant vision. But save your dwelling mind for the next immediate step.
  5. Meaning. When I worked the mat-folding shifts, I emptied a basket the size of a Subaru… only to see two more full ones wheeled in. That’s when I realized why poor Sisyphus experienced the worst hell, when he pushed that boulder up the hill, only for it to come crashing back down, ad infinitum. When I fixated on how there would always be more freshly-washed mats to fold, a little speck of despair crept into my work. I would have been better off focusing on how I was helping businesses around Denver, display nice, clean mats for customers entering their domains.
  6. Competency. When I switched to another position in the company – a big mistake – I realized it’s crucial to feel like you’re good at what you do, or you can at least grasp it and improve. If you feel hopeless at your job, you get scared and feel like a loser.
  7. Food. I had to figure out how to consume maximum calories with nutritional value, for the least amount of money. Bad digestion meant dragging ass.

When I pondered this list a few years ago, I realized none of these items required a fancy position, or degree, or even much luck. I also realized that, if I ever had a job that prevented me from the positive side of this list (like a company with bad peeps), I’d quit. Because even a pay cut, or harder work, was worth the joy of good sleep, coffee, peeps, a future, meaning, competency, and enough food to keep me going. They’re worth more than anything, so it’d be insane not to prioritize them.

The Absolute Best Showerhead In Existence

Published February 13, 2018 in Uncategorized - 0 Comments

From the Seinfeld episode “The Shower Head”

Kramer, Newman and a ‘salesman’ are at the back of a van in an alley.

Salesman: All right, I got everything here. I got the Cyclone F series, Hydra Jet Flow, Stockholm Superstream, you name it.

Jerry: What do you recommend?

Salesman: What are you looking for?

Kramer: Power, man. Power.

Newman: Like Silkwood.

Kramer: That’s for radiation.

Newman: That’s right.

For close to 15 years, this scene wasn’t funny for me at all. Because the Seinfeld episode – where Jerry, Kramer, and Newman suffer from pathetic low-flow showers – hit too close to home.

When I lived in my childhood home, I was spoiled. I didn’t think twice about the quality of our showerhead.

My wake-up call began in college. The dorm showers provided a pitiful amount of pressure. But I didn’t pay much heed – no appliances were top-tier in the building.

Then, when I lived in Florida and later Colorado, I realized the bitter truth:

Most showers suck.

It’s not just limp pressure. The designs are lousy. Even with showerheads that offer your choice of setting. Water can hit you with a needle-like singular spurt. No thanks. Or drizzle on you from a ring, like you were planted in a delicate flower garden.

My frustration grew because I knew a real shower’s potential. Where water sprayed you so evenly, over such a wide surface area, that it felt like a dense fog was pushing you. Instead of raining down on you, the water enveloped and danced over your skin. Like a blanket of mist.

I ordered fancy showerheads from Amazon. 5-star reviews gushed how great they were.

Meh. They never quite lived up.

What surprised me most, was my childhood home’s unassuming shower nozzle. It didn’t flare out to the size of a dinner plate. Instead of seven different spray settings, it featured only a button to cut off the flow.

Sometimes, I’d try to convince myself I was idealizing the past. Until I visited home and its spray greeted me like a warm blanket, fresh from the dryer.

I’d never experienced anything like it elsewhere… except… a cross-country trip when I stayed at a Super 8. Much to my shock, they somehow almost captured the essence. But that was only a fleeting caress…

For almost 15 years, I wondered. And searched.

Until, during a visit home for Thanksgiving, I asked my mom where she got that showerhead. Within mere minutes, she showed me a link to a local hardware store’s website.

I purchased one. A few days after I returned home, it arrived in the mail. For some reason, I hesitated to make the switch. Maybe I didn’t want to face more disappointment. But, after moving apartments and bringing the new showerhead with me, I knew it was time.

As soon as I screwed it in place, turned the water on, and stuck my hand into the blast… I knew I’d finally found it.

Since then, instead of languishing in a cold, damp room while tolerating a small section of my body getting rinsed with water… I’m transported into a vibrant vortex of cleansing mist.

All from a humble showerhead. Here it is:

The Absolute Best Showerhead In Existence.

Why Taking A Break To Check Facebook Keeps You Weak

Published February 4, 2018 in Mindset - 0 Comments

“I was scrolling through my Facebook feed…”

After my friend saw the look on my face, he followed up with, “I know… I know. But the thing is, it’s not like I’m just using Facebook all day. Actually, it’s more a form of recuperation. See, after I dived deep and did a bunch of work, I took a break. Caught up on what some friends were up to. Saw some stupid shit posted. It’s how I unwind my brain.”

Yeah, except that’s not what’s actually happening.

I understand the idea. There is a chain of logic.

Someone puts in a half hour of tough work. Okay, fine, we’ll pretend it’s an hour (are you timing yourself? I bet it’s not an hour). Then, when they begin to feel restless and a little burned out, they “take a break” by switching to the mindless puke river on Facebook.

This gives them some relief. And, after an hour (okay, fine, we’ll pretend it’s only a few minutes… you’re timing, right?) they switch back to work again.

But here’s the thing…

That’s not what’s actually happening. Internally, anyway.

You’re not giving yourself a break from burnout.

Instead, when you’ve worked with focus for half an hour, you begin inching towards the edge of your comfort zone. Your brain begins to balk at the intensity of the work. It begins to send signals of mental pain and anguish.

From here, you make a few choices.

First, you choose how to interpret those signals. Virtually all people give them a bad interpretation. They need a break!

Then, you choose what to do about it. Virtually all people give in to the Siren song of Facebook, and crash themselves on its shore.

Here’s the problem:

When you begin to feel “burnout” during some intense work, and you’re tripping towards the edge of your comfort zone, and you feel mental pain… this isn’t necessarily a danger to avoid or soothe away. Instead, it’s an opportunity to intensify your brain’s power to focus. It’s your chance to expand your comfort zone. And use both your new superpowers to build a healthier, more prosperous, more fulfilling life.

Think of it this way:

Let’s say you’re doing some bicep curls, to strengthen your arms. You’re capable of 10 repetitions with 50 pounds. As you lift the iron dumbbells over and over, the burning heats up in your muscles. By the 7th rep, you can’t ignore the searing pain. Then, during the 8th rep, as the intensity doubles… you drop the dumbbells to the floor and take a break.

“Whew, that was close!” you say. “I almost burned out! I’m glad I’m taking a break before I get back into it.”

You feel fine. And why shouldn’t you? You avoided pain, and you can claim you accomplished a workout…

… except you stopped right before the workout began to matter.* You saved yourself from going through the repetitions that would trigger your growth. Congratulations.

But, hey, you can say you’re balanced and productive.



*Exercise physiology enthusiasts can debate about what truly triggers maximal adaptation via growth – time under tension – volume – frequency – intensity – whether training to failure is good or bad… just go with the metaphor, instead.

Innocent Marketer Ordered Off Premises By Police During Interview

Published January 30, 2018 in Mindset - 0 Comments

“When the cop started knocking on my door, I knew I had to answer. They kicked me out of my room. I tried talking to the front desk, but the cop said, ‘NO. YOU NEED TO LEAVE THE PREMISES NOW.’”

That’s what David told me, when I called to find out what was going on.

Jeez, and I thought I had a frustrating time getting on the conference call.

A couple weeks earlier, David had asked to interview me about hooks in marketing and salescopy. We set a date and time.

A couple days before our interview, my apartment sent a notice that they’d be testing their siren system. They didn’t know when. But it could fall during our interview. Not exactly pleasant background noise. Even a 5% chance of the alarm blaring during our call, was unacceptable.

I found out I could lock myself in the club house’s theater room.

On the way down, the elevator lurched to a halt and I wondered if a cable would snap, rocketing me to the ground floor. I jumped out on the 1st floor. It was a premonition of things to come.

Two minutes into our call, my WIFI dropped. I called back in with my phone, breathing deep and making sure to enter all 50 or whatever digits to get back on the webinar line.

David admitted I wasn’t the only one having challenges. “I’m hosting this call from my hotel room and I asked the front desk if I could stay in my room a bit longer. They said I could, but I don’t think everyone knows. I’m getting knocks on the door.”

“Do you have the Do Not Disturb sign up? Worked for me in Vegas.”

Later, I’d find out how useless that suggestion was. But during the call, I noticed several times David disappeared for half a minute or so. I figured he had a bad connection.

After over an hour, David ended the call, his voice fading out so much that the final note of the interview was garbled noise tumbling into silence.

“Are you kidding me?” I thought.

So I called him, to find out what happened.

Turns out his connection wasn’t bad at all – at least not at first. He just muted his line, when the hotel staff began banging on his door, demanding he leave. He ignored them as best he could.

Then the cops showed up.

He didn’t ignore them. While keeping his phone close, David grabbed his things and tried reasoning with the police as they hustled him out the door. They wouldn’t even allow him to speak to the front desk.

I felt my brain re-wiring as I listened and realized how wrong my first impression was. There I was, feeling frustrated with how the call was going. And it turned out, David was holding his shit together while almost getting arrested.

Lessons learned:

  1. I realized that I could have been a little more patient. If I were to assess myself, I was over 90% there. But that still leaves an extra 10%. Refining how you conduct yourself is tricky in situations like this. When do you push forward? When do you allow? The further you shoot up the social strata, the trickier it gets. A go-to way to guide yourself, is monitor whether you’re getting upset, rattled, or annoyed… and whether you’re letting that get to you. If yes, work on yourself. If no, then you’ll have a much better grasp of what to do.
  2. I made a mental note to remember what happened, if I ever have trouble on a call and get frustrated. I can always remind myself that people have handled worse things. Like almost getting arrested. The only more disruptive events I can think of are getting robbed or attacked by a wild animal. I moved out of Baltimore, so I think I’m relatively safe from the first. I’ll just make sure to not take calls in the woods.
  3. You never… never… never know what’s going on behind the scenes or on the other end. You’re either making up your own facts, or interpreting a small percentage of the facts available. When David’s line kept cutting out, I figured it was a bad connection and nothing more. Which happens. But I would have felt completely different in the moment, if I had known he was juggling a phone, a laptop, and a police escort.
  4. On the call, we were discussing “hooks” for a sales message. I described how I always try to find the juiciest fact that can grab a reader’s attention, and bring that to the forefront of a sales message. In addition to that, I try to find something incongruent. Something weird. The story of a millionaire who was bankrupt. The heart health secret discovered in a dangerous explosive. Water that makes you older. Then… the call itself became life-imitating-art. When I talked with David afterwards, I told him that he now has a story he can tell for the next five decades. Every time he hosts a meeting, or speaks at an event, or even when he’s chatting with someone new… he can say he was almost handcuffed and thrown in jail for hosting a conference call about marketing. He found his personal hook. “Nothing bad happens to a writer,” I said on the call – and I repeated that to him.

“Dude, I’m jealous!” I said.

“You can reference me!” he replied.

And that’s what I’m doing now.

You don’t have to be a writer, to transform challenges into a story.

You can be someone interviewing for a job. Or going on a date. Or teaching something to your children.

What embarrassed you in the past? What caused you pain? What do you want to push away, not talk about, and hide from?

Bust it out, instead. Because, just like fears dissolving when you confront them, a painful past can become a positive force in your life, if you’re proud to share it. I hope David is.

Subtle Scars

Published January 19, 2018 in Mindset - 0 Comments

As I raced along the side of the road, I heard the rumbling of the massive engine behind me. Little did I realize that I was moments away from receiving an open, bleeding wound.

I tried look inconspicuous. As though I weren’t in any hurry at all.

But in truth, I was 100% focused on beating that machine.

Specifically, the school bus.

Every weekday afternoon during my first two years of high school, my routine was the same. The bus dropped a few of us off at the three-way intersection at the end of Meadow Road.

Then, as we walked our separate ways, the bus began the cautious routine of backing up… lurching forward… and turning around to speed off, from whence it came.

Meanwhile, my house stood 100 yards away. My feet weren’t as swift as a vehicle on wheels. But I had the head-start. I considered it a race. With an unspoken rule: I couldn’t actually look like I was racing. No, I had to appear aloof and above it all. “Oh, did I beat the bus to my house? Funny how it just happens like that…”

So, that afternoon, I power-walked along the road, monitoring the rumbling behind me. I knew that, as soon as the engine’s shrill picked up to a fever pitch, I’d lost. The bus would blast straight past me, and charge up the hill to victory.

But that day, it sounded farther behind than usual.

I scampered onto my driveway, and then up my steps.

The shrilling began reverberating behind me. Too late for me to win? No, not if I hurried.

Up four more steps. I grabbed the screen door handle, flung it ope…


What? Oh.

As I realized I yanked the metal edge of the door straight into the right side of my forehead, the bus roared behind me. I pretended it was business as usual… figuring that at a distance, nobody would realize what I’d done.

But I knew, so I rushed inside, and into the bathroom, to survey the damage.

The pooling blood, and dangling skin, confirmed I’d given myself a minor scalp injury.


So, the wound didn’t come from the bus…

… but my own stupidity, curtesy the misuse of a screen door.

After a brief reminder of the human body’s fragility – and washing myself off – I applied a band-aid. The next morning, even though I didn’t need it, I put on another band-aid. I figured that’d look better than a weird head scab. I don’t remember anyone asking me about it.

About 15 years later, there’s still a subtle scar.

This afternoon, when I looked in the mirror at the Denver International Airport, just before a flight to San Jose, I was reminded of its existence.  Not my first head scar either. The earliest – and far more noticeable – is directly over my Third Eye. Story for another time.

Until then, here are a few lessons I got reminded of, while looking into that mirror.

  1. Nothing bad happens to a writer.

Nothing bad happens to a creator. Every little – or not so little – ding and dent help shapes your ability to create something worthwhile. It makes you less inert, so you can become the catalyst you were meant to be. This is the more real-world version of Nietzsche’s quote “That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.”

Many times, when I read that quote, I remember a certain episode of The Simpsons. Homer, after suffering a heart attack, asks Dr. Hibbert, “Yeah but what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger, right?”

“Oh no quite the opposite! It’s made you weak as a kitten,” Dr. Hibbert replies.

Homer’s doctor might be right about your health. But what doesn’t kill you, can make you a better creator.

  1. Scrambling for something, will destroy you.

I was so desperate to beat that bus, I hit myself in the head with the door I was trying to yank out of my head’s way.

This example makes it easy to see how stupid it is to scramble.

When the scrambling is subtler, catching yourself in the act is trickier. Like if you’re desperate to get a job, and inadvertently repel employers. Or you scramble to find the right team member, and you drive away an A-player from ever working with you.

In those situations, you lose the benefit of the immediate whack to the head, so you never realize you were yanking too hard, and not paying attention.

You were using force instead of being empowered.

This is where the skill of discernment comes in. You must move your observation through time and space, to unearth the cause and effect you’re missing. Just writing this, reminds me of how difficult this is. Especially if you’re trying to resolve something causing you pain. Yet this is one of the most valuable skills on this earthly plane.

(Just now, as I paused from writing mid-flight – the captain announced to fasten our seatbelts. We shot into the worst turbulence I’ve felt in many dozens of flights. My stomach flip-flopped as if barreling through a roller-coaster ride. I wondered if the pilot were hiding the truth – that something was very wrong, and we’d plummet to the earth soon. I considered my options, remembering that being centered counts more in a crisis. Could I stay rational? Yes. At least, so far. Chances are, what you’re reading is not a posthumous publication, from a recovered Microsoft Surface Pro from the crash site – so we came out fine.)


  1. Sometimes, seemingly innocuous events lead to the deepest scars

Hitting my head caused barely any pain. But the evidence remains, years later.

Some agonizing events – like 2nd degree burns on my hand and foot – are now invisible to the naked eye.

Same with your psychology. Sometimes, it wasn’t the devastating humiliation, or the attack, or the betrayal, that changed your wiring. Instead, it was a symptom. The real trigger was a mere snowflake, that caused the avalanche.

So who cares? Perhaps because this can help shift your mindset from “I’m working to resolve this big, horrible thing” to “I’m re-writing a tape in my head, which is a challenge but I’m certainly up to the task.”