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Disillusionment and Bouncing Back

I want to talk about illusions, disillusionment, bouncing back, and the study of others to pick your path.

I have had two major disillusionments in my life.

The first was finding out what it really was and was not to be a pilot and officer in the US military.

The second was finding out what is was to pursue a career in high finance.

Both of these are lofty goals that I had to work years to attain. Both are goals that many talented people aspire to. Both involved beating out fierce competition.

Becoming Maverick (Top Gun)
Becoming a pilot took 8 years of work. It was a dream I had since I was 3 years old and one I really started pursuing at age 15. I actually started caring about my grades in high school. I won a congressional nomination to attend the US Air Force Academy. After finding out a had a slight red green color vision deficiency that prohibited me from flying in the Air Force, I won a cross commission to the Navy. I planned to be on a ship and see the world but it turned out I could fly in the Navy because they have a different color vision test. Gotta love medical bureaucracy. I competed against a bunch of other student pilots and won a slot flying search and rescue helicopters out of San Diego.

Finally, after 8 years of schooling and training, I arrived at my first operational Navy squadron- and was almost immediately disappointed. I wasn’t ready for the humdrum. The wild difference in quality of fellow service members. I realized that being a Navy pilot was not going to be all that interesting and that personal growth was going to cap out pretty quickly. But…I had 9 years left of military obligation. Luckily, I was going to have a lot of time sitting on a ship at sea or in a prefab shack in the desert to figure out my next move.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Chasing Money.
Since I wasn’t going to change the world by being a pilot, I decided I was just going to get really rich instead. I mean, it’s the mid-2000’s and everyone is doing it. So, I set myself on a path to become an investment banker and hedge funder manager- hoping to make money fast and then opt out of the rat race. So, I got myself into a top business school. Then I unleashed a guerrilla networking and interview campaign into the world of investment banking, leveraging my military and business school ties. This resulted in 3 offers (2 bulge bracket, 1 boutique) though I had no internship and no previous experience.

Even by my second year of business school, as the world was melting down in 2010, I kinda had the suspicion that I was chasing money and that this path wasn’t going to turn out very well. It didn’t. My heart wasn’t in investment banking and after 9 months- I was let go. This was fine by me because though I loved the people I worked with- I didn’t enjoy the work. I had planned to leave in another year- but this was a more merciful path. So, chasing money left me unemployed, with debt, and the opportunity to think things over, again.

I have now drunk the Kool-aid of entrepreneurship, location independence, and proper mindset.

Lemons, Lemonade
I view disillusionment as a good sign because it means that I’m still naive enough to believe in something. It’s proof that I have not become as cynical as I feared. Disillusionment teaches you caution, but hopefully it also teaches you how to spot the genuine article.

Hope and disillusionment go hand in hand. Hope is the emotion that makes you pour enough time and resources into a path such that disillusionment becomes possible. You can’t become disillusioned if you never commit. But you can’t accomplish anything or grow without committing either. So, you really have no choice but to commit and then keep your eyes open as your trudge along.

The bumpy path I took certainly taught me a lot. I gained skills, resources, and contacts. I earned credentials. I matured. It’s a truism that everything is what you make of it.

Shakespeare, Hamlet: “for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”

I still really haven’t figured anything out. I seem to have some really good entrepreneurial opportunities ahead of me. My hastiest decision was to get married after four months of dating but that has worked out quite well. I guess partner selection is a decision path that evolution has figured out while career selection is not.

After two years of learning random skills, talking to lots of people, reading lots of books, and multiple failed experiments in sales and marketing- I seem to have learned a thing or two. I’m definitely not there yet and haven’t really decided on a destination in any case. But, I’m committed.

How to Get Over Disillusionment
The only way to get over disillusionment is to find something else to commit to. Something else to pour your heart and soul into. It’s the only way to get over heart break or business failure too.
It’s not just as easy as “getting up one more time than you are knocked down.” This is more like learning how to walk again after a really bad car accident. You only have a  few of these disasters in your life, so don’t take them lightly, but also don’t squander the opportunity to learn your lesson and forge ahead to something greater.
You find that next thing through activity. After licking your wounds- you have to put yourself out there.

How To Avoid Disillusionment
Learn from other’s mistakes.
There is no story that hasn’t been told. No story of broken hearts, broken dreams, false promises, is new. They are all very, very old.
It happens in mythology, religious texts, history, biographies, everywhere. Read. Get some perspective.
Siddhartha-Buddha. The Israelites. The Allegory of the Cave. Lawrence of Arabia. Gandhi. Cassius Clay-Muhammad Ali. Fight Club. The Matrix.
Talk to people who have been around the block. Read biographies and histories. Study counter examples.
There are people who have found meaning in religion and others who have not. Try to decide what kind of person you are. Try to distill what is in the experience of others that leads to good results or poor ones.
Same with business. Some people chase money and end up being perfectly happy and donating lots of it to schools and hospitals and other worthy causes.
This is all very hard to predict or prescribe, but you can increase your chances of picking a good path for you by making an informed decision through study.

There are probably three paths here
1) Get lucky. Pick one path early on and that happens to be the right path for you. Dalai Lama (14) seems like this kind of guy.
2) Be cynical. Never commit to anything. You will avoid a mid-life crisis but may have a full-life crisis.
3) The Standard Route. Pick something. Become disillusioned. Get up, dust yourself off, pick something else. Keep moving forward.

In any case, be kind to yourself when you have your moment of crisis as your illusion pops and your hopes for the future suddenly evaporate. You feel bad in the moment because you feel you have lost something- but it never existed. You may feel you have wasted much time, and that can be true. But you probably learned something along the way that you can apply going forward. Be grateful for the lesson, and don’t waste the opportunity to pick a good path forward.

-Cover photo by Ferran Jordà. Picture titled: “The cave / La cova”. Flickr creative commons.

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How To Build A Travel Site

On my travels to Ho Chi Minh City I met an interesting fellow named Chris Kirkland of TokyoCheapo.
He’s a Brit who loves Japan, travel, kung fu, entrepreneurship, and metaphysics. So, we had a lot to talk about.
Chris recently gave a talk in Saigon breaking down how he got a travel website up to 50,000 monthly visitors.
I like to hear entrepreneurial stories of how they got where they are today. I especially like when they aren’t too far removed from the trials and tribulations- and when they aren’t selling anything. Video Here

Here are some of my takeaways from the talk.

Need an Idea?
Look at the marketplace. Then look at yourself.
See if there is something in the marketplace that you can piggyback on or react against. Take an assessment of what you like and how you live and spend your resources (time, money, energy). Look for opportunities.
TokyoCheapo is, in part, a reaction to online and print magazines in Tokyo that espoused the highlife while making no mention of how most people live- in a world of non-infinite means, making daily tradeoffs.

Figure Out a Content Strategy
Ask yourself what people want and do your damnedest to give it to them at the highest quality you can.
Good Value: who doesn’t like the optimum trade off between cost and benefit?
It’s more about execution than the initial idea. Travel sites about luxury, value, and bargain all can succeed or fail.
Useful content gets shared. Timely, useful, catchy content gets shared a lot.
Create a beastly resource- like Neil Patel from QuickSprout recommends (he produced a gigantic article on SEO).
TokyoCheapo created a guide titled “3 days and nights on 10,000 yen” as a reaction to popular pieces they were seeing about how Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world. The guide is practical, shareable, and timely (a big media outlet picked up the guide). The “frugal lifestyle” audience would obviously eat this up.
The traffic bump to the website endured. Google is going to like the links and the time people stay on page.
People share for specific reasons- and “Contagious” by Prof. Johan Berger is a great primer and here is fantastic summary by Social Triggers.
Make your content shareable, valuable, and eye catching.
Godzilla Kittens and snappy headlines really help.

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Figure Out a Monetization Strategy
Ask yourself how you are going to fund this thing.
TokyoCheapo uses hotel referrals and Adsense. Other travel sites are always trying to erode this income stream so the next step for CheapoGuides will be selling ebook city guides. Also, they are always looking to expand to other cities.
Look at that. CheapoGuides is planning world domination. So, you can start off with a little travel website and end up with an excuse and the means to travel to lots of cool cities around the world. You can begin on a path that leads onward and upward. Proper thinking, risk taking, planning, execution, and luck at each stage facilitates the next move.

More on Monetization
If Google is going to be your sugar daddy- make sure you please Google. The CheapoGuides team routinely tests their site for speed because Google cares about it. Having in depth articles means that people stay on the site longer- which Google likes too.

There are lots of moving parts and you have to make sure you are looking at all of them.

Who You Work With Matters
Chris co-founded TokyoCheapo with Greg Lane. There partnership was based on common interest.
So, find like minded people and work with them. Make marriages of passion, not marriages of convenience. Passion works. That’s why there are so many love hotels in Tokyo.
Sites are people too. Partnerships or just friendships with complimentary sites in your space can drive quality traffic. You sell flip flops, they sell sun glasses.
The CheapoGuides team has worked with numerous writers and much of their content is initially generated by someone else. “Hey, I found this deal.” “Hey, here’s a cool strategy I use.”
So, be open. Listen to your market. They’ll tell you want they want. If you are your market- even better.
People are even calling themselves “Cheapo’s” when the submit travel tips.

I hope you find this breakdown helpful.

Chris is a great guy and is bent on becoming a media mogul. You can find him generally in Japan or Europe. He has a sexy podcast voice and is pretty in fuschia.

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Chris and I at a Japanese Jazz bar in Saigon.

Chris and I sat down for an hour and did a podcast about fear and the entrepreneurial journey when we were both in Saigon. PODCAST here

My stream of conscious notes from the video:
Partner with like minded people
Challenge basic assumptions: Tokyo is expensive. Everyone says so. Is that true? Could you live cheaply in Tokyo?
Look for analogs and things to riff off of in the market. Ask yourself if things can be done better or differently. There are sites for living the high life in Tokyo. What about the budget conscious?
Quality at good value is always a strong proposition to a large demographic.
3 days and nights on 10,000 yen. Catchy, attention grabbing.
Ask yourself- how do I make this more useful? What would someone want to see? What would I want if I knew nothing (avoid the curse of knowledge).
Look for ways to add value such that you level up the whole game.
Try to figure out share ability, like ability, vitality. Ask yourself what people like to share? Things that make people share outlined in “Contagious”
80/20
Timing matters. Plan ahead or maybe get lucky.
Piggy Back off larger platforms. Visit Japan.
One really good article can make your sight
Pay attention to organic search and write content around it
Headlines matter. They get the click, the share. They spark curiosity
Take chances on talented but unproven people. You can offer them exposure, they offer you quality content.
Write mammoth articles. Lots of keywords. Long time on page. Repeat visits. Sharing.
Podcast helps broaden your reach
Allow people to be comfortable in a personal identity that aligns with your branding. “I’m a cheapo. Thank you.”
Make friends with other complimentary players in the market. Tokyo Cheapo and Tokyo Desu.
Optimize the site for speed. Google penalizes sites that don’t have a satisfactory user experience (load time, time on page, number of links).
Hotel affiliate bookings and adsense. Now writing an ebook with crowd funding (publisizer). Sell a guide book. Maybe an app. Parlay up. Step by Step. You can start small and with work, patience, some savvy, you can just keep growing and become more skilled.

***Chris is highly disparaging of the American Expat lifestyle

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Getting Over Your Fear of Failure

break·through (brākˌTHro͞o). noun
1. a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development

The vast majority of my personal development has been gradual and incremental. It has also been a mix of haphazard and intentional. I’ve had plenty of lessons I’ve had to learn again, to my embarrassment and pain.

But sometimes there is a moment. A very clear moment that changes everything. I had a major personal breakthrough recently and feel it’s worth sharing. I sat down and kinda manufactured it. It was pretty damn cool.

If you’ve had a major personal breakthrough, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or email me: Pat at HappinessTornado.com

This article is quite lengthy, so the first part is high level summary. Later, I get into the whole narrative and then I end with a more expanded step-by-step guide.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Some Cool Results of getting past my fear of failure:

This breakthrough took me about 3 hours of work. Since that day:

  • I now only sleep 4 hours each night (down from 7)
  • I’ve gained 20 lbs. of muscle (145 to 165 lbs)
  • I’ve won two “entrep in residence” competitions resulting in revenue or profit share
  • I can write thousands of words a day of copy, ebook, emails (substantive communication- not chit chat), business plans
  • I’ve travelled throughout SE Asia and met hundreds of location independent entrepreneurs

Overview

This process is meant to help you tackle some core fear that is holding you back from taking the action you want. Fear of death, fear of failure, fear of rejection (social or romantic), etc.

In it’s simplest form:

  • Pick a fear that you want to deal with.
  • Take time to breathe and be present (in the moment, free of distraction) as you grapple with the emotions and memories.
  • List off all the things in your life connected to this fear- your current situation (the present), your worries (the future) and root causes (the past) of that fear.
  • Now think of the things that counter that fear (the opposite of the statement you made in the list- one for one). Either positive things from the past or simply opposing statements about the future.

In a brief step-by-step:

  1. Set aside a good amount of time free of distractions
  2. Pick a Fear you want to deal with
  3. Write out all your thoughts, feelings, memories around that fear. Experience that fear.
  4. Become present. Straight posture. Closed eyes. Curled toes. Belly breathe for 10 breaths. Repeat as many times as you like.
  5. Write out thoughts, ideas, and memories counter to your fears. If you fear failure, explore your successes. If you fear death, explore your rich life and the things that can happen. If you fear being lonely, explore all the wonderful relationships you have and the quality of person you are. Experience this counter state. Success, Rich Life, Love.
  6. Become present. Straight posture. Closed eyes. Curled toes. Belly breathe for 10 breaths. Repeat as many times as you like.

How to practice being present:

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  • Posture: sit up straight. On the floor or in a chair.
  • Eyes: close them and stare at your nose or forehead. Or keep them open and stare at a single point.
  • Toes: curl them if sitting. Curl with each in breath if sitting on floor. It reminds your mind that it has a body.
  • Breathe: 10 deep belly breaths. In through nose, out through mouth. Inhale- push belly button out. Exhale- belly button in.
  • Thinking: think or don’t think. Don’t fight it. If you are thinking- just observe what you are thinking but don’t judge it or resent the fact that your mind isn’t “clear”- whatever the hell that means. Don’t have inner dialogue about your inner dialogue. Don’t suffer about your suffering. :)

A moment on Gurus

Anti-guru guru-dom. I think it’s pretty much impossible to avoid becoming a guru if you seek to have an impact and some of your thoughts get recorded and disseminated in this world. People want gurus and will elevate “leaders” to this place even against the will of that individual. Can’t fight the need of people to have a leader.

I aspire to be more a Warren Buffet and Ben Franklin (Poor Richard) anti-guru rather than a Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins guru-guru. Experienced, down to earth, well traveled, nonjudgmental. Don’t know where writing this woo-woo stuff is gonna take me- but here we go.

Couching Expectations

I believe my breakthrough was a result unique to me because I’ve told others about it and I’ve explained the whole process and no one else has had a similar kick to the head. I’m telling you a story- not giving you a recipe (TLDR- the Recipe is at the end of the article).

But, it’s not the recipe. It’s not me. It’s you.  Plain and simple. I have no answers, just a story. Hope it helps.

My Breakthrough Story

Background/Ground Work

I’ve been consuming a lot of content for a long time. I believe that you get compound interest and network effects from every conversation, experience, book, art, and podcast that you encounter. I’m a big fan of histories, biographies, business, personal development, fiction, and philosophy.

So, this emotional work was more the :last piece of the puzzle” rather than “the answer in a box”. The last snowflake that causes the avalanche.

Desperately seeking a Solution to my Discontent

I have always been a malcontent.

I’m a self directed learner and so I was never happy in grade school. Didn’t do homework, missed as many days as possible while still being allowed to advance to the next grade.

In undergrad at the Air Force Academy, I couldn’t really stand the military discipline (yes, I’m an idiot). It always felt like a lowest common denominator form of control. I was going to be a pilot- someone to be trusted with making decisions- so….let me make decisions.

Then in the Navy, wow- that was worse. Pretty much every activity was pointless and every policy really, truly was directed at mouth breathers. There is also some really adverse selection in the higher ranks where 5% of the senior officers are awesome leaders and 95% are pretty mediocre bureaucrats. My superiors. The people that were literally in charge of my life.

Then I was an investment banker for a year. I knew I’d hate it before going in. I fought like hell and got in. I did good work and all my coworkers are friends, but boy did I hate it there. They knew it too. 9 months later I got fired/happily quit. That was 2011.

So, lot’s of discontent.

I’ve also done a lot of fun stuff and made great friends and have a great family. It’s just- damn, something ain’t right- and it’s pretty central to the meaning and purpose of my life. What am I doing?

Committing to Failure

Then we go through 2 more years of me attempting and failing to become an “entrepreneur” or whatever the hell that means. I’m doing consulting work and leaning on my wife’s income, living off savings when not making money.  It just feels like I’m falling. I never feel like I have traction or that I am building something or that I know where I’m going. It really sucks- especially with two small boys. One who has a minor heart condition that requires surgery to fix (he’s fixed).

I Love People

I try to find the answer in other people because I know it ain’t in me. I go to World Domination Summit 2013 and join Dynamite Circle and The Foundation 2014. I network like crazy in Chicago. I’m trying to copy success by bumping into other successful people and asking questions. I’m happy to even buy an “answer” or a “business in a box.” Desperation is a stinky cologne.

I’m taking lot of action. I’m meeting people. Having tough conversations. Introspecting. Searching. Spending money- buying magic beans.

Some of it worked out though. See this POST about networking with awesome people.

On Sunday, November 27, 2013: this happened.

In the morning I went with my wife to her Buddhist temple. We do some guided meditation with a temple elder. The elder tells me that I’m self aware, but I need to seek to understand myself more and that will help me to understand others. I’m so unaware that I do not remember this excellent advice and have to ask my wife to repeat what was said and then email it to me while we are driving home.
Me = Buddhist of the Year.

When we arrive home, my wife is kind enough to take the boys out and leave me a quiet house for the afternoon as I sit down to tackle this Mindset Module in the TF2014 curriculum.

I work through the online course module, taking things seriously and doing some serious soul searching. The process goes like this:

Face Your Fears

I decide to take on my fear of failure. It’s been two years since I’ve had a job and steady income. I’m terrified that I’ve made some terrible mistake trying to own my own business and be my own boss (enterpernuehsip is hard to spell). I’m terrified that I’m going to have to go back into a corporate life and that it’s going to be 35 years of eating someone else’s shit every day. Every month I’m not in some aggressive career track, I’m sacrificing upwards of $20,000 in compensation- I’m paying a serious price here. My parents are 70 and need financial support. My young boys need money. My education debt needs money. My underwater San Diego condo needs money. This sucks. I feel like I’m missing something essential to having business success. I’m too greedy, too set in a military/MBA mindset, too ADD, too arrogant, too selfish, too irresponsible…whatever leads to not being able to figure it out even though plenty of people have figure it out- and I’m meeting those successful people all the time. Painful.

Feels like Shit

So, fear of failure seems like a good fear to tackle.

I write down all my fears around failure and money.

It feels terrible. I feel this fear as acid around my heart. Like if you ripped my chest open and poured acid on my heart- that’s how it feels. Tight and hot. I sit there with all this fear and the acid and I ask my body for more of it. I intensify the feeling.

Become Present

Then, after a short while- I straighten my posture, I curl my toes, I close my eyes, and I belly breathe for a short while. I become present rather than worry about the future and the past.

I notice that while breathing deeply from my belly, I don’t feel the acid around my heart.

I then stop being “present” and the acid comes back.

So, I become present again with straight posture, curled toes, eyes close, belly breathing. That fixes it.

I’m beginning to physically realize that I’m in control of my fear and I can make it go away instantly.

Flip the Fear

Next, I ask myself what is the opposite of failure…and to me that would be “success”.

So, I list out all of my greatest successes in life. All the times I worked really hard against fierce competition and came out on top.  I actually have a pretty decent track record of success.

So, I focus on the day of my graduation from the Air Force Academy. I had just survived a double roll over car accident in my brand new Subaru WRX and still had 16 stitches above my blackened left eye and scabs on my left temple. I’m a lucky idiot. But I digress.

Bask in the Glory

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I had just accomplished something I’d set out to do 6 years earlier as a Junior in high school. I’d beat out lots of talented young men and women all along the way. People who were all trying their hardest too.  I felt the shiny leather shoes on my feet, my high necked parade uniform, my white hat, the sun on my face as I hugged my parents and the Thunderbirds roared overhead and 1,000 other newly appointed military officers and their families all celebrated. I put myself right back there with the sights, sounds, smells, touch, and emotions.

To me, that kind of accomplishment feels like a euphoric layer in-between my brain and my skull. I feel electric and strong and giddy.

And then I become present and that sugar rush of happiness goes away. Then I open my eyes and shallow my breathing and the sugar rush comes back, but a little diminished. I can make that great sense of accomplishment and happiness come and go to.

So, I’m seeing that I’m not my fear of failure and I’m not my success stories, I’m me. I’m in control of these emotions and states of mind. I make them come and go at will.

I Am

I am something more substantial than these things. I’m the boulder in the stream. Sometimes the water is calm and sometimes it’s raging but I, me- the boulder, do not move. The emotions flow around me regardless. I’m still here, they go away- downstream.

Lastly, I write out affirmations or positive statements that directly counter the statements of fear that I wrote out earlier. I trying to write in the affirmative “I will succeed” rather in the negatory “I will not fail” as much as possible.  Once that was done, I felt incredibly light. I felt really at peace.

New Self Identity

I realize much later that what I’ve just done is slam a new personal identity into my mind- searing it in there. I now knew that I was a success. I was going to be a successful entrepreneur, just like I’d been a successful athlete, student, officer, pilot, grad student, finance peon, friend/brother/son/husband/father.

My other three identities are that of athlete, good person (integrity, honor, duty), and grinder (I don’t quit).

Cool stuff happens when you decide to put down the bag of bricks you’ve been carrying around. Things get much easier. Lots and lots of good things have happened to me since that day.  It was a really, really cool day.

Have you had a similar experience? Please comment below.

If you have any questions or anything to share, just shoot me a message at @PatrickLarsen on Twitter.

A few things have changed in me/for me since that day:

-I only sleep 4 hours at night now, down from 7. That’s two REM cycles. I enjoy a siesta as well if I can get it. No alarms ever.

-I’ve put on 20 lbs (…mostly muscle, some fat, not cutting yet). Going from 145 lbs to 165 lbs (65 to 75 kgs) and increasing my strength vastly in major lifts- bench, squat, dead lift. Flexibility also increased due to martial arts and yoga.

-I spent 60 days traveling to Manila, Puerto Galera, Ho Chi Minh, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Portland OR meeting location independent entreps. Also had trips to Panama and Tokyo.

-I throw SaaS/Entrep meet ups in Chicago monthly and 10-15 people attend, from as far away as St. Louis

-I’ve met two need friends for life (weird simpatico) and dozens more genuine friends- mostly entrepreneurs or education reformers

-I won “entrepreneurship in residence” competitive applications for Recruiting Ninja by Dane Maxwell and a new SaaS venture from Gary Nealon. Both involve revenue or profit share. Both were highly competitive processes. Both wins are directly tied to my mindset, my ability to learn quickly, and some massive action I’ve taken in marketing experiments I conducted pretty much just for the learning.

-I can write thousands of words a day

-Business ideas come easily. Not crappy ones either. Sometimes semi-crappy. They come pretty fully formed: MVP, marketing plan, target customers, price points, database structure, UI/UX, what products/services to copy/compete against/JV with. Homeschool idea I’m working on.

OK, here’s the Recipe

Feel the Fear

  1. Sit down with white paper in an isolated place. Clear everything. Turn off everything. Get ready for some heavy lifting.
  2. Pick a central fear that you know you must grapple with. Fear of Death. Fear of Failure. Fear of never finding Love. Fear of Judgment. This process will work on smaller fears too though- like “I’m afraid to make cold calls”
  3. Write out all the fears, thoughts, worries, concerns, scenarios, feelings, scripts, judgements you have surrounding that fear. These are your “negative affirmations”
  4. Focus on how writing all this stuff makes you feel. It probably makes you feel stressed and fearful. If it does, plunge into that feeling. Intensify it. Note where you are physically feeling the tension in/on your body. Ask yourself for more of that feeling. Sit with it for a while.
  5. Now, become present by:
  • Straighten your posture. Straight back and head
  • Close your eyes. Stare at your forehead or nose ridge through your eyelids to fix your gaze
  • Curl your toes. This reminds your brain that there is a body attached to it.
  • Belly breath 10 times. Slow, deep in through nose. Slow, deep out through mouth. Use whatever pacing and technique you like.
  1. Notice in that moment of presence what you felt and what you did not feel.  Mental and physical sensations.
  2. Reflect on how that fear likely went “away” while you were breathing with your eyes closed, back straight, toes curled.
  3. Feel the fear come back and the stressful physical sensations when you are not being present.
  4. Become present again. Then “come back” to “un-present”
  5. Feel the fear come back- maybe the same, more, or less.
  6. Realize that you control your fear. It obeys you. It is not an essential part of you but something transient that you can make go away anytime you want. It doesn’t drive you. It doesn’t define you. It’s not real. It’s not you. You are not your fears. You are not defined by them. They are not an essential part of you. You can live without them.
  7. Play with mental imagery if that helps. Imagine yourself as something solid and unmoving (a boulder in the rapids) and your fear as something moving, non substantive, ephemeral (water, smoke, shadow). You are permanent. The fear is not. You are the core. Your fear is not.

What’s the Opposite

  1. Now with white paper, write out actual, personal life experiences that are highly counter to your fears that you previously wrote out. If you fear failure, write about your biggest successes. If you fear death, write about the times you took physical risk and where ok and felt exhilarated and alive. Write about the times you felt the most happy, the most centered, the most unworried, the most content.
  2. Take each individual situation and sit with that really good feeling for a while. Bask in it. Relive it in as granular and fine a detail as you can. How your shoes felt on your feet. Where the sun was. The sounds, the smells. Everything. Shift your focus around in your memory.
  3. Notice where in your body you physically experience these good feelings.
  4. Now, become present. Close your eyes, straighten your posture, curl your toes, and belly breathe.
  5. Notice in that moment of presence what you felt and what you did not feel. Mental and physical sensations.
  6. Reflect on how that happiness/success likely went “away” while you were breathing with your eyes closed, back straight, toes curled.
  7. Realize that you control your happiness. It obeys you.  It is not an essential part of you but something transient that you can make go away anytime you want. It doesn’t drive you. It doesn’t define you. It’s not real. It’s not you.
  8. Play with mental imagery if that helps. Imagine yourself as something solid and unmoving (a boulder in the rapids) and your happiness as something moving, non substantive, ephemeral (water, smoke, shadow). You are permanent. The happiness is not. You are the core. Your happiness is not. You may play with different visual metaphors when contemplating happiness vs. fear.

Flip the Script

Reverse your statements around your fear.

  1. Take a previous Fear of Failure statement like and write something counter or opposite to it.
  2. Simple: “I am afraid I will not be able to provide for my parents as they age.” becomes “I will provide for my parents in their old age. They will have no fear or stress about their resources.”
  3. Complex: “I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. I fear I’m lacking something essential and that I will never succeed. I’ll end up having to work for a corporation and hating life.” and turn it into: “I have everything it takes to succeed. I am fully equipped and ready to succeed. I have all the tools, experience, resources, and drive necessary to succeed. People less capable than me, with less resources than me, have succeeded wildly- and I will too.”
  4. Positive statements: “I am” are preferable to negative ones “I am not” “I will not” but sometimes the negatives ring more true. Try out both versions of a statement and see which you like better. Generally, “Don’t picture a white elephant” results in seeing a pale pachyderm. “I will not fail” will likely be less impactful and beneficial than “I will succeed”
  5. Pick a New Identity
  6. Build up a new identity for yourself. Live that archetype. Cultivate avatars that embody that identity for you.  See if you can slam that new identity into place for yourself.
  7. A simple positive statement like “I am an athlete” may be enough. Play with it.
  8. To explain this Self Identity thing: if you are out of shape- don’t try to tell yourself to drink water and stretch for 20 minutes and eat grilled chicken and buy sporty clothes and get up early on the weekend….Just tell yourself you are an athlete. Once you believe that, you will make the right decisions as they come up to get in better shape because those are the decisions an athlete would make. It’s way more effective than trying to keep in mind the 10,000 things athletes do to be athletes.
  9. For trauma victims- I think trying to substitute an identity of “victim” for one of “thriving survivor” would be helpful.
  10. “Bad students” blossom when they find their calling as a “insert future profession here” because it become a part of their identity. I’m bad at math, but I’m an awesome mechanic, writer, painter, scientist (lot’s of scientist will tell you they are bad at math).
  11. For corporate malcontents, it might be “future successful entrepreneur”. Take the blue pill.

Other things to keep in mind:

Personal reflection and self awareness are effortful and slippery. You are really good at hiding from you. You might need to write things down or talk things out with someone else to nail this stuff down. “Stuff” being your whole mind, ego, psyche, soul…

Patience. I think my ten years of reading, my life experiences (success, failure, financial ruin, death of loved ones, near death of self, love, kids, travel, education, art, conversations, friendships, enemies, hate, fear) all got me to a tipping point.  It took a lot of intentional and haphazard cultivation.

Be open. I read a lot. I talked to a lot of people. I am not a Buddhist, but I went to my wife’s temple. I give credence to past wisdom that has been tuned over millennia about what is a good life (psalms, sharia, Aesop’s fables, golden rule). Then of course, you take what’s best for you and shelve the rest.  Mediation “doesn’t work” for me, but I keep trying. I try things out. I share my experiences and am open to suggestions, feedback, and criticism (gasp! Criticism).

No new problems, but there are new answers. Reading a lot will give you comfort in the fact that other people have been in your situation and pulled through. Their solution might not be applicable to you, but it can’t hurt. You will likely have to update the advice and customize it to your situation, but at least you aren’t starting from scratch.

No cookie cutter solutions to life. Don’t hold yourself to any one else’s standard. Not for your mental game, not for a definition of success or failure or happiness or anything. Take input from the world, reflect, digest, synthesize, and customize. You belong to you and you alone.

Becoming present isn’t meditation. I still have no idea what meditation is or isn’t and if I’m even doing it, or doing it right or wrong. This is pattern interrupt and a reset. Becoming present it shoving your pen into the little black hole with the red reset button in your mind. Like some Taiwanese electronics, all these processes and faults and errors have compiled in your mind and you’re getting junk on the screen. If it’s music- it’d be like when your 2001 mp3 player crapped itself and you heard the precursor to dubstep music all of a sudden. Just a cacophony. Turn off your speakers. Force quit. Hit the reset button for 10 breaths and see what happens.

As a Westerner, you may think that it’s very strange and counter to our highest self actualization to “cast aside” happinesses. I find that cultivating “contentment” in whatever situation I’m in is personally preferable to seeking happiness. I personally view happiness as an ephemeral sugar rush and not a sustainable, desirable state of being. Win the lottery. Happy. Happiness goes away and you are left with your base level contentment. Same thing happens if you lose your legs. Therefore, focus on the state of being content. The irony of “Happiness Tornado” is not lost on me- but to me that’s more about activity than end state and permanence. You can aspire and work and climb while being somewhat content. I don’t think that 100% contentment is ever going to be achievable for me personally as a state of being- nor do I necessarily believe that is desirable. I am a fighter and a climber. I need to strive. At least now as a 30-something. I leave room for change. Sebastian Marshall’s “Ikigai” is fantastic on this topic.

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Other People Are Your Rocket Fuel

There are a few tried and true ways to be a happy person and to accelerate your learning.
Chief among them are to find:
Mentors that aren’t too far ahead of you (1-5 years), and
Peers- quality people right around your level with the same goals and constraints (time, capital, experience, fears)

Turns out having the right group of people around you is great for being content, being happy, being centered, being athletic, being successful, being sober, being creative…being anything better than you are now.  Isolation has it’s benefits, but “people” are where most of the answers are…if it’s the right group.

Where do you find these people? It’s no longer the case that you have to luck into them. You can join communities where they concentrate online.  You can then go to conferences.  For certain populations like location independent entrepreneurs (LIE’s, no, we won’t call them that), you can actually find them in certain cities in the world (Saigon, Chiang Mai, Bangkok).

For entrepreneurship, I like:
Dynamite Circle (DC)
Pioneer Nation (PN)
World Domination Summit (WDS)

That’s really the key.
Find concentration’s of the right people for you to learn from right now and for who you want to become in the future.
There will be novices and elder statesmen and peers in each place. So there will be people for you to mentor, people for you to be mentored by, and people who know exactly what you are going through right now.
Find the people climbing the same mountain as you. Then keep climbing with them. It’s still your legs, your heart, your lungs carrying your pack- but it’s way easier with great people ahead of you, next to you, and following you.

After WDS and PN, I notice a lot of people enjoying the afterglow and the new friendships. A good number of people (generally first time attendees) are filled with genuine surprise and awe that there could be so many kindred spirits in the world. “I thought I was the only one. I always felt like an odd duck.” You are an odd duck. It’s just that there are lots of odd ducks in the world. And birds of a weird feather flock together and dance awkwardly together.

 

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Laura Roeder. Say Anything. Love it. Pioneer Nation 2014.

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Unabashed kindred spirits at a Japanese jazz bar in Ho Chi Minh City. Chris Kirkland of HoboCEO

But, that’s the thing. I think that people have a certain core set of beliefs and traits that become their lens for the entire world. When you hang out with people who share the same lens as you, there is instant rapport. If part of that lens is being open, generous, and kind- then you will be around lots of people who are positive. Then you are naturally going to come away feeling really good about yourself and that group of people. That has been my overwhelming experience at World Domination Summit and Pioneer Nation in Portland.  It has been my experience with all the people I’ve met through Dynamite Circle in SE Asia as well.

It’s a great thing, but it is no longer a surprise to me. Chris Guillibeau and friends have been putting out a certain message for a while now and that has attracted a certain type of person. For the purposes of Pioneer Nation- it’s people who are serious about carving out a little fiefdom of their own in the world (physical or digital) where they call the shots. These Pioneer’s also tend to be generally open to new experiences, new ideas, and making new friends. It’s a very good mix because life and business are best done in a very social and open way.  This isn’t the case with all entrepreneurs (see affiliate markets or the diamond trade), but it’s the case here.

I find that my business opportunities and my day to day enjoyment is almost entirely a function of the people I spend time with, and in turn- the person I am becoming because of the learning and shaping these relationships impose upon me.

If you think that you have nothing to offer, that’s not correct.  You really do.
Just start a conversation and listen first. After you have said, “Hello” and then listened to 20 people- you will:
1) gain insight into the mind and “market” of the group/individual dynamics. In the case of DC or PN, what makes an entrepreneur tick and
2) you will now be able to make introductions between people who haven’t met. Network effects with you as a hub

That’s how you start. Meeting people allows you to test ideas. Ask questions. Confirm/ Disconfirm. Read body language. Practice speaking, pitching, joking, rapport building, seduction…whatever. You hear life philosophies, business models, best practices, tales of caution, metaphor, allegory, jokes, fables…all so rich in experience and meaning.

I just spent the better part of 7 weeks finding concentration nodes of location independent entrepreneurs and the learning experience was incredible.  Portland, Chicago, Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh, Puerto Galera, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok are filled with entrepreneurs. Sometimes you have to seek them out- but it’s generally as easy as finding the right cafes, co-working spaces, Eventbrite, Meetups.com, twitter, conferences, brunches, drinks after work…etc.  These entreps are social as hell for the most part. Just say hello.

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Coworking hub in Saigon and an epic selfie for an athletic supplement entrep

My main point though is that you are not alone. You live in a world filled with people who will understand you and support you and accelerate your dreams if you are brave enough to seek these others out and brave enough to open up, to drop your armor.

If your life is not full of supportive people- fire them. Fire them right f-ing now. Your family or your church or your friends will welcome you back with open arms in 5 years when you’ve made it. But, if you don’t let go- you might never make it. Then you’ll resent yourself and all those you tried to keep from offending….

Other thoughts:
Network effects are exponential. Non-linear. Non-predictable. Cultivate them to the utmost. Every time you talk to a person- you are talking to every experience, person, book, song, and image they have ever encountered. The richness of life increases exponentially with the number of people you have IN-DEPTH, NON-TRIVIAL conversations and relationships with.  That means 5 true friends and 2 true mentors. Not 1,000 twitter followers.

Tribal behavior and fear govern your initial responses to almost every situation in life. Cast this off as soon as possible. You live in cities surrounded by anonymity and friends who are not blood relatives. You don’t have to fear rejection. You don’t have to fear starvation. You don’t have to fear pretty much anything. So, remember that you are not in a tribe in 100,000 BC- though your DNA and your spine and your limbic system and your non-neocortex brain all firmly believe that is exactly where you are.

Travel is the only way to gain the proper perspective on life.

Reading biographies is a great way to cram more life experience into your short, non-reflective, random, chaotic life.

Life is iterative. Copy success until you stumble upon an original thought. Claim that it was all you. Or claim that you stood on the shoulders of giants and thank everyone. Be humble. It’s irrelevant because the journalists and historians will strip away all the humility and context and make you a god anyway.

You are going to die. So are your parents. So are your kids. So are your grandkids. Hug the shit out of everyone. Have every conversation worth having and even more than weren’t- because you can’t judge that a priori. Leave nothing unsaid, unwritten, unsung, unpainted because it’s gonna die with you anyway. That also means you really don’t have to worry about anything- because nothing is going to last. Carpe The Shit Out Of This Diem. #FightClub. But not #YOLO.

Who Controls American Political Power

anarchist-protesters

This post is in part a reaction to the April 2, 2014 Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC- lifting all limits on federal campaign contributions.

I have no idea if true democracy would work in America or any other modern country. I would like to think that a representative democracy would work well given the right incentives, accountability, and feedback loops.

I think it’s clear that American’s (and many other citizens of many other countries) are deeply suspicious and dissatisfied with their current form of representation and government. Everyone is trying to find that better way, and many are willing to sacrifice their lives in the attempt.

Why did the Arab Spring stall?
Why did “Hope and Change” never materialize in the US?
Why were Banksters never held accountable, nor the political electees and appointees who were supposed to be watching them?

Manufactured Gridlock
You have to admit that change hasn’t come though most common people agree that it is sorely needed and yearned for. What then, has held it back?

I think Sen. John McCain is the only politician who had to pay a price for the disastrous financial Meltpocolypse of 2008 (“Great Recession is not very emotive). Incumbency rates haven’t change all that much- regardless of Tea Party hype in 2010.

If I were a sneaky rich guy- putting in a dissenting third party that would keep Congress from getting anything done at all is a very good way of protecting the status quo- especially when most American’s would cast their ostracon for any of the Wall Streeters (and the politicos).

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. But this all sounds a bit Machiavellian, no? Let’s follow the money.

Election Money
So, let’s look at some numbers regarding the money involved in American elections and appropriations:

In 2012: It cost about $1.7M to get elected to the House and $10.5M to get elected to the Senate. In 2011: Congressional discretionary spending was about $1.35T (CBO).

There are 535 members of Congress. 100 Senate, 435 House. These 535 people divvy out somewhere around $2.5B per person. Alternatively, you could think that the House divvies out $3.1B per member and the Senate divvies out $13.5B per member since they pass the same bill (ironic that it’s called a bill).

If you bought every single election, it would cost you only $1.8B- all 535 seats.

$1,350,000,000,000 Discretionary spending
$1,800,000,000 Cost of funding every election campaign

Return on investment (ROI) of a donated dollar is $754.40 per $1 donated to a campaign if you got to control all spending through your Congressman. If you want to be unsophisticated, you’d spend $3.6B and back both sides of each race to guarantee that you have a friend in office no matter what.

State and local spending is trillions more, but I can’t find all the data for that.

The Price of Control
If you want to be sophisticated, you probably only need 40 Congressman and 10 Senators to make sure that no one messes with your monopoly. That means an outlay of only $173M if you fund one side or $346M if you fund both sides of each race. These are the averages.

The 2012 Mass. Senate seat won by Sen. Warren cost $40M. Some senate races are much less costly.

Obviously donating $5.00 doesn’t get you the Congressman’s personal number. But there is an amount that does and it’s not very high- especially for multinational corporations.  The Congressman’s chief of staff would pick up the phone any time you called if you bought one dinner plate for $20,000.

Corporations are Really Rich People Too
So, I’m not sure what McCutcheon v. FEC will result in. It’s not clear that things will change that much- because the large pools of money have been unencumbered for a long time. It’s not a new phenomenon. All throughout history, for better or for worse, the powerful (in money, political influence, military might) have set the course.

In modern times, America is far, far richer than China. The fact that rich, powerful people have to run for office in China but not in the US should make it inescapably clear that American money has found a more efficient, private way of controlling the affairs of the country- not that American billionaires are uninterested in wielding political power.
Economist Infographic breaking down this dichotomy

All In The Family
So, how do Billionaires make sure their tiny voices are heard?

If I were the ancestral head of some powerful company and I was smart enough to keep it private- here is how I would maintain political and economic power.

My sons I would groom to wield true power. They would know how to invest time and money. They would know how to lead people and companies. They would know how to hide in the shadows and allow others to suffer the slings and arrows. They would know how to crush their enemies by proxy. They would have serious business educations.

They would be far to sharp and educated to run around kissing babies and begging for money.  They would steer the ship of the family alcohol, agriculture, mining, finance, government services, energy conglomerate and leave lesser pursuits to lesser people.

So, where would the political power come from?  One way to capture and maintain power would be to take a vapid, tall, good looking cousin of the family and making sure they were groomed to take my money and win elections.

They would be the high school quarterback who dates the prettiest cheerleader. They would go to a popular university in one of the states the business operates in. They study something easy, like history or political science. Maybe they’d go to law school, but probably we’d put them in some local gov’t post while selling insurance.

An everyman with a story of rolled up shirt sleeves, and perhaps redemption. Putting them onto a current political staff right out of college is far too obvious.  Military service is a plus- but it’s quiet risky. Grooming these puppets is expensive. National Guard or the Reserve is perfectly acceptable.

So, after sufficient grooming, their climb through local, state, and then national government would begin. See the grooming of George W Bush or George Prescott Bush (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_P._Bush).

The Bush’s do it slightly different because they are grooming Presidents and not Congressional lackies. But they are the most visible example. The Bush’s control many billions through private equity firms and the steering of government contracts.

Hopefully, the cousins would never realize how they are being vastly underpaid for the billions of dollars of value they are delivering to the parent company. They would remain cheap and ignorant and congruent when they were delivering their stump speeches.

Intentional, intergenerational breeding of vapidness and ignorance is one possible explanation (though not the best) for statements like:
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Missouri Senatorial Candidate Todd Akin (2012) was leading by 11 points (51 to 40) before this statement. Pity.

So, generation after generation- the smart kids in the direct line of the founding entrepreneur would be raised to run the business. And generation after generation, vapid cousins would be groomed for political office.

Thought experiment over.

The Answer
I have no clue.  What do you think it is?

I think that transparency, accountability, and harsh, immediate consequences are a good start.

Immediate, public declaration of every dollar spent on campaign funding would be a small start.

And for god sakes, please track changes to legislative bills. Really, this actually does not happen now. We have no idea which law makers add or delete what from anything that gets voted on.

When you drag a Congressman or Fortune 500 CEO or City Comptroller out into the street to tar and feather when they are found to be corrupt- there is powerful signaling to the rest of the concerned population.

What would you really like to see happen?  What is keeping it from happening?

The American Tree of Freedom has not been watered in quite some time. What better place than this? What better time than now?

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Making the most of Business School

(photo caption: Rest assured, Michelle Oh-Bee is networking awesomely at this commencement ceremony/party)

This post is about how to make the most out of your business school experience. However, the general principles transfer well to corporate life, entrepreneurial life, and life life.

General Summary:
1) Be intentional. Have a purpose/end goal and do what it takes to hit it.

2) Be flexible. Allow your tactics (what you are doing) and your strategy (high level what, and why) to change based on new information (about the world, career fields, and a changing you)

3) Invest in people. That means give generously of your time and attention to others, to mentors, to mentees, and to your own personal development

4) Be nice. Network your ass off. Give hugs.

As background, I earned by MBA from the part-time program of Chicago Booth in 2011. I was able to do this while working in the Navy as a associate professor at the Illinois Inst of Tech for the Navy ROTC program.  I was able to secure job offers in M&A investment banking at UBS (healthcare NYC), Credit Suisse (healthcare SF), and Lincoln International (general M&A Chicago). I did this with no internship or prior finance experience and was networking in the economic environment of 2010.

Also, business school is not something I would recommend to most people. However, if you can go to a top 20 global business school AND you have clear reason on why you are going- that’s different. But, that’s not the case for 97.24% of people who attend business school each year.

Beginning of my advice to some who posed the question on Quora, “”What is the best way to make the most of going to a top business school?

In my humble opinion (many, many more successful people than me out there with top MBAs)…

The best way to make the most out of b-school is to be extremely intentional about a couple things and very open about a couple things.

Intentional Networking: start networking with alums.
Tell them either:

1) I know exactly what I want to do out of b-school.  What you do. Gimme an internship and I’ll blow you away.

2) I don’t know what I want to do. I would like to learn more about what you do.

Networking with alums (or humans in general) works best when you have two or more strong bonds (b-school PLUS something like: where you grew up, undergrad, a sport, a special interest, a religion, a cause, a family history/background, a prior career).  I was very, very successful at networking with military people in investment banking that went to service academies and top business schools.

Intentionally pick careers/industries where you can take several paths and still succeed.

Most people get out of IBD in two years and go to a corporate role in the industry they covered or in some other finance role. VERY FEW people who start in IBD stay more than 5 years.

Consulting: this is a job search. Same as IBD, you likely won’t be a consultant 3-5 years out.

Corporate: tried and true.  Pick something interesting to you that has the opportunities you want for yourself.

Want to end up in VC? Go to a Tech company in SF and get to know all the Stanford grads. Work for a large company, understand finance, then work for a startup, understand operations- and network like hell the entire time into VC (but you still won’t get in…)

Be open to:
Meeting lots and lots of people.

Be INCREDIBLY social.  Organize drinking outings, vacations, clubs.

Grades DO NOT MATTER.  Do the bare minimum. The classes won’t prepare you for a job. You just need the jargon and the confidence.

B-school is about getting hired, not getting trained.

You get trained on the job. You get the job by being good in your interview. You get the interview by networking.  (Job here can be defined as landing an internship).

Mentors:
Cultivate some professors as mentors.

A mentor is an older and/or more experience and/or more connected/powerful person who can accelerate your growth if they like you and care about you. You earn mentors by being someone worth of precious time and attention.

Cultivate ass-kicker friends. Seek out the best people you can find and be as genuinely and kind and helpful to them as you can.

Don’t compete against any students for anything. It’s stupid. The world is very abundant. Even if you think you are competing against that one other person for some coveted whatever- your life will be fine if you don’t get it.  What you need is friends. Your life is fucked if you don’t have great friends coming out of b-school.

Seek out diverse courses and experiences. Don’t track select heavily into any one career field, especially accounting (total commodity skill).  Take the bare minimum for what you need for the initial career you want. Focus on soft skills with a little bit of numbers.  Take the best courses from the best professors regardless.

Travel. Go on trips.  Rack up debt.  Move overseas. Default :) MODERN FINANCE. YEAH! This is called “adverse selection” btw

Stretch yourself. Once you are in a top MBA- just push and stretch. Don’t get caught up in the whole “I’m perfect and the smartest and need perfect grades to validate myself.”  Stay uncomfortable. Raise your had often, but not too often. Be willing to say stupid things occasionally, but not too often.

Everyone is book smart in your program.  Seek out the people who are business savvy, people savvy, and life wise.

No one cares about your GMAT score. Never mention it first… or second.  (ps. I got a 90% GMAT score, 680 without studying and took the test 3 days before deploying for 9 months to Kuwait/Iraq to command Combat Search&Rescue helicopter missions. See how just knowing my score doesn’t mean shit? See how no matter what I say about my score- it sounds a bit like I’m a ridiculous douche bag?)

Realize that the first job you get out of b-school is likely just that, a job- not a career.  Americans don’t have careers anymore. No company is going to keep you around past age 40 unless you are amazing.  Either way, your fate lies in your own hands.

Have a ridiculous amount of fun. Laugh a lot.  Learn. Be curious.  Be outgoing, friendly, genuine.  Know everyone, like everyone.

Congrats on getting in. That really was the hardest part.

Cool Links:
Business Insider: Advice to Graduates (related but off topic)
UC Berkeley Advice on Networking
The Power of Mentoring

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Things I’ve Learned in Puerto Galera, Philippines

I came to Puerto Galera to meet awesome people and become friends with them. That’s exactly what happened.

Below are either things that I learned for the first time or things that got massively reinforced during my trip.

Things I Learned about Business:

  • Focus. Have a clear vision and execute. Put your head down- push forward. Come up for air, look around. Decide the next point to push to (get good advice, see what’s working and what isn’t, see where the market is going) then put your head back down and push…hard.
  • Advice from trusted friends is critical to success in life and business. Find people a couple years ahead of you (in business) and get their counsel. Timeliness of their relevant experience is key.
    -Dynamite Cirle (www.tropicalmba.com) workshop, roundtable-ish
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  • Solve a problem. Solve a damn problem. Hey, are you solving a goddamn problem?
  • Look at the market. See what is working. Look for gaps. Look for what is working in one place and you can apply it somewhere else.
  • Copy success. Find the people who are crushing it and do what they are doing. Find one thing they aren’t doing well and do that one thing well.
  • Make an offer and see what happens. The market will tell you if there is a business there.
  • Set a minimum effort that you are going to commit to in order to reach the next decision node. Set a nodal goal where if you do X amount work, you intend to learn Y- or definitively confirm or disconfirm Z.
  • “I need to make 20 calls that last a minimum of 20 minutes each”.
  • “I need to make an offer and close at least 5 people in 5 days with an optimized landing page.”
  • Sometimes mindset precedes success. Sometime success precedes a better mindset. There really isn’t a set path.
  • Action is the best teacher. Great advice is great. But action that truly tests the reaction of the market is better. Like learning martial arts, you don’t know how good you are until you fight. Regardless of what the sensei says.

Things I Learned about the Philippines:DSC_7604 best 600 fixed

  • This is a country of great beauty. It has an abundance of wealth in its people, its soil, its culture. I am a fan. People are deeply kind.
  • The country has deep seated, pressing problems around opportunity, education, mobility, and good governance. Prostitution and corruption are rampant.
  • The expats here are each unique individuals, however these people do fit into certain categories. And, people can span multiple categories at any one time or over time. I’ve met some of the best and some of the worst people in my life here…which means I’m doing something right.
  • The Charlatan: Stay as long as people trust you and move on once you’ve burned them a couple times.
  • The Sex-pat: whores ever day. Every single day.
  • The Reformed Sinner: I’ve lived life. Now I’m ready to grow up. Kids, family, entrepreneurial business.
  • The Evangelist: generally religious in nature. These people have clear principles and purpose. They are here for a reason.
  • The Broken: life has not been kind and the damage is near irreparable. Veterans with PTSD, popping pills. Alcoholics, Sex Addicts, Drug Addicts.
  • The Drifter: at home no where. Always passing through. No ties.
  • The Escapist: running from something. Still finding themselves. Healing- not broken. The book is not yet written.
  • The Hustler: I’m here to live cheap and build something. I’m baselining, learning, networking, iterating.
  • The Vacationer. Vanilla whitebread
  • The Traveler: I travel often or full time. I write or run a business that supports it, but the travel is what is key.

Things I learned about People:

  • Trust them first. Then they will trust you. Open the kimono. Then give a hug. Uhmmm, that’s getting sexy.
  • Sharing drinks go a long way. Or other experiences. But mostly drinks.
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  • People who meet at the end of high selection factors/steep gradient journeys will have natural rapport. Meeting a group of expat entrepreneur’s in Puerto Galera, PH tells you a lot about the other person (and about yourself) before you ever speak. Confirmed in Saigon.
  • High selection factors have introduced me to some of the best and some of the worst people in this world. At the Air Force Academy, at Chicago Booth, in Investment Banking, in Puerto Galera- on the Good: I’ve met millionaire entrepreneurs, incredible leaders, saintly kind people. On the Bad: I’ve met corrosive addicts, murders, and thugs (violent robbers, human predators). It’s hard for Good and Bad people to get in, but both get in and they are all interesting to observe and interact with.

Things I learned about Myself:

  • Travel makes me happy because of the experiences and learning and excitement and problem solving
  • Meeting amazing people makes me happy
  • Growing root and being part of a small community makes me happy (physical or virtual community, but, hugs are better than emoticons)
  • Opening up and trusting people with my hopes, my dreams, my fears is healthy.  When those people are wise and kind and savvy, they are going to give you amazing insights, advice, and support because they can now tailor the advice to you rather than say very generic things. Generic advice is not how you accelerate your life. Finding mentors and confidants who know you granularly and deeply and give you wise counsel is how you live the best life and become the best possible version of “you”.
  • I can be happy anywhere. I can be happy alone. But I want my family with me. I’m shaping a life so that my family can be anywhere they want doing anything they want (to good purpose).
  • I need space to think and grow from time to time. I can get caught up in minutiae whether I’m in Chicago or in Puerto Galera.
  • I really, really love motorcycle rides in tropical mountains, flipping off boats, talking business. SCUBA is good too. Need…adrenaline.
  • I can make quick, genuine friendships with lots of different kinds and “strata” of people. I should never fear rejection. Giving hugs works like fishing with dynamite.

Please feel free to start a conversation in the comments.
Best,
Pat

Video: riding motorcycles in Puerto Galera to Calopan, Mindoro.

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TMBA 219 Love Letter about Business Mindset

So, sometimes a piece of content just hits you.
That’s what happened to me with the podcast episode “TMBA 219, 5 Entrepreneurial Thought Experiments”.

I was impressed by the breadth and depth of the value carpet bombing Dan and Ian conducted. Steady, brutal, complete.

So, here are my thoughts. It’s not a transcript of the podcast- but a summary and expansion of certain topics.

ps. Einstein was the kind of CONCRETE though experiments- not esoteric ones. He developed his theories thinking about the metaphor of the train, the light, the sound. Not about sub atomic particles. His head wasn’t in the clouds. He put his ear on the pavement.

Game Selection
“Make money, don’t let the money make you. Change the game, don’t let the game change you.”
~Macklemore & Ryan Lewis “Make the Money” [LINK]

You can determine a lot of your future success by intentionally choosing:
-The market
-The competition
-The time
-The offering
-The strategy
-The team (you included)
-How all this fits into your skills, strengths, weaknesses, network, passion
-Iterating until you find a fit between all that.  Damian Thompson at Linchpin is a great recent example of this process.

To paraphrase Dan Kennedy: If you have the right audience, the right demographic, you will succeed. “Give me a great list, I’ll sell them anything and everything. Give me a bad list, I can’t sell them anything.”

What’s your objective? What is success to you?  Because you can get it.  Define your own success.

Malcolm Gladwell- being in the top of your class at Boston College is mentally way better than being in the middle or bottom of the class at Harvard (Book: David and Goliath).

Being a top 1 percentile kid is just the minimum bar of admission to Harvard. Your talent in high school is not a very good predictor of your future competitiveness at Harvard (or Juilliard or the NBA). Once you get into those hallowed halls, you might be a “C” student because there are top 0.001 percentile people there.

That may ruin your life as your self confidence plummets- you switch majors, you drop out, your hormone levels and body language and personal interactions and internal dialogue all become “C Student” and not “Top One Percentile Ass Kicker”.

But, if you went to BC- maybe valedictorian, top performer, best post-graduate opportunities, BMOC.  Maybe you end being a real mover and shaker in your initial major (say medicine) and not a nobody in your backup (say…art history…no offense. Humanities people often end up employing Engineers and Scientists).

Or play basketball in Italy instead of never making it in the NBA. I’d rather live in Florence than Oklahoma City, sorry.

So, chose carefully who you are going to hang out with, where you are going to fit in (top, middle, bottom), and who you are going to compete with.

Also consider how you will conduct yourself. What you want to give, what you want to get, where you are headed.

Be intentional. Eyes wide open.

Niche Selection, Be The Best
Selection Criteria: You have to be the best or don’t go in.  See Jack Welch and General Electric.

Ask yourself: If I’m not the best but I want to be in that fight, what makes the best?
What’s the gap between where I am and where I will need to be?
Who is the best? How do I become the best?
Who do I have to meet? Who will I have to be? What do I have to do? What do I have to learn?
Where am I now and what will it take to get to where I want to go? What are the steps, what is the roadmap?
Ok, start the journey?

External vs. Internal responsibility. What is it about me? What can I do, what can I improve?

“Improve your soul, improve your      roll” ~the Dan

Read books. Take notes. Be an intentional learner. Share. See what other smart people think. Push and pull about meaning.

Here’s a link to a SaaS niche selection framework I wrote up [LINK]

Niche down.
Find a Deep niche.
It’s Cheaper to get momentum. Cheaper to get customers. Less competition. Expand into a vacuum. Almost get sucked along for the ride.
Any small victory is important, celebrate them.
Successes allow you to hire better people faster and better.  This is because you can pitch them better than if you had nothing small to focus on.
You are more clear on what you are doing because you are niched down (also true for getting investment).  Clarity is attractive to leadership, team building, and capital raising.

Gear Selection
Metaphor of riding a bicycle.
A person can always decide 1) What gear you are in, 2) What road you are on, 3) How fast to Pedal, 4) Who you ride with
Caffeine, sleep hacks, time mgt- that’s mostly how fast you are pedaling.
Leveraging teams, organizations, platforms- that’s changing gears.
Same effort can make you $10 or $10,000,000 depending on the level you are operating at- what gear you are in.
Same effort can feed 100 needy people or 100,000.

The Parley
Where you are today is not where you will be tomorrow, in a year, in five years.
Play the long game.
Be patient. Build skills, expertise, and connections that will yield high rates of compounding returns over long periods of time- even if you have to sacrifice gains in the short term.
Build expertise, build on your successes (momentum and publicity and endorphin release and body language), build systems, build relationships, build confidence (in yourself, others in yourself, aka credit, credibility).

See how Michael Covel met with top Wall Streeters LINK. One little crack break open the whole dam [LINK]

Rob Walling- step ladder approach. http://casjam.com/rob-walling-shares-his-approach-to-scaling-a-portfolio-of-startups/

Become who You Want to Be. You can Do It in a Moment.
Paul Graham: if you want to start a successful startup, become the type of person who starts successful startups.
Realize you are a tool to be molded and shaped. You can change, quickly, to the form that best suits the task at hand. How do you know what form to take. Study success and failure and mediocrity.  The same tool in different situations has vastly different results. A hammer can be used for building space stations, opening beers, and murdering kittens.
You can decide the tool and the use. You can decide the timeline and the goal. You can decide the purpose and the scale.
You can change all of these as the situation dictates, and you should.
Some people are overconfident in their abilities, some lack confidence. Taking action and seeing results is the only way to know for sure.

Become a Better You
Adopt a routine of self analysis, feedback from others that you trust, and self improvement.

Root out blind spots. Address them. Ask people to help you. Surround yourself with people you trust to tell you like it is. Surround yourself with people you will actually listen to- or how will refuse to let you ignore them.

Be ruthless with yourself. Find weaknesses, address them (with systems, habit change, consulting, coaching, team members) or find ways to at least not get hurt by your weaknesses.

Learn how to swim or don’t get in the ocean- but don’t go confidently out into the ocean if you know you can’t swim. It’s gonna be a quick experience.

But, there are lots of ways to problem solve your weaknesses or problem solve around your weaknesses.
You don’t have to accept the script. Write a new one. Wear floaties. Get a boat. Hire a life guard. Wear a snorkel. Buy fish at the market. Ride dolphins like Van Damme.

Learn from Others. Never stop your Education.
Decode success stories. Deconstruct them. Case study method.
Then, hopefully, reach out to that person and get feedback on your thinking, get the story from the operators perspective (maybe not accurate or complete- like an autobiography), make a strong friendship.

You flatter the person greatly by taking a deep interest in their life. Practice listening skills often and intentionally. Perhaps you gain not only a friend, but a mentor.

See how Michael Covel gained entrée into Wall Street through intentional networking and iteration.

Mentors are critical. Dan had a business mentor. Most successful people do. See “Mastery” by Robert Greene for more on mentors.

What to Learn
See if old stuff applies today. See if there is wisdom, timelessness. (The advice of seasoned, wise business people- HBS class of ’63)

There obviously needs to be some mix of learning:
-What was, but is still relevant (people, cash, culture)
-What is now, what’s very current, very hot
-What is coming, the future

Learn Useful Skills
Are there skills that are fast to learn, useful, and widely applicable?
Find skills and measures of competency that are Non-falsifiable.

Pick metrics where you can’t lie to yourself.
Sales- a quantifiable result.
Accuracy of accounting/metrics really matters.

Example: Business accounting? Maybe- but then you also have to have the experience to make the knowledge relevant.
Can you acquire the usefulness of accounting quickly or does it take time to understand how the sheet moves around and how you make changes
Most people who know accounting are useless in business. But, that may be what makes it useful to learn if you have or are gaining the experience.
There is no shortcut to experience.  See “Streetlights and Shadows” by Klein.

Most important skill: Selling 
You are always selling anyway.
You are selling yourself to all your relationships (I’m a good person who is worthy of continued thought and attention).
You are selling yourself to yourself (self confidence, self love).
You are selling yourself or your products or services to the market (whether as an employee, a consultant, a freelancer, a salesman of products or services).
Learn to listen. Learn to sympathize. Learn to empathize. Learn to see what people fear and help them with that. Learn to see what people love most about themselves (or their life) and validate it.
Mirror people: clothes, body language, speech patterns, tone.
Genuinely like and care about people and the rest will take care of itself.

Intentional Living
“If you had to spend the next 5 Years in one city, which one and why?”
Think hard about what you want and where you need to be.
If you want to live a life of impact, where do you need to be and who/what needs to be around you to facilitate that?

Staying forces you to grow roots, to form long term relationships and be considerate- or conniving.

If you focus in entrepreneurship, then SF and NYC are the logical choices. Highest density of Entrepreneurs. Access to capital. The ability to meet people, hire teams, secure businesses, get excellent feedback.

The Medium Term Stretch Goal
Buy a jet in 5 years or your mother will die.
What business would you pursue to achieve the goal.
Go after a large market that is evolving fast, in flux, with positive forces on supply and demand side. Complex, dynamic markets have lots of holes and friction, you can address either.

Constant improvement, iteration, stretching, just in time learning, reflection, kaizen with creativity.
Day 1: do one thing poorly. Then learn what you need (just in time learning) to do it well.

If you were starting from scratch in your current business, how would you get yourself to XXX level of success.

1% improvement each day leads to 3,700% improvement in a year.

Bill Gates: “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

Mindset is Key
What’s going on in your head determines everything that happens in your life and how you react to it.
Mindset is your lens to the world. But, it’s two ways- not just incoming light, but outgoing as well.
Mindset determines what information and stimulus actually comes in, gets notice (Slug Bug).
Then mindset determines what you do with that stimulus, how you react, what you learn.
Then mindset determines what action you take and your motivations behind that action.  And on and on.
Everyone’s Biggest mistakes are all head games.
Everyone’s Biggest success are all mindset too.

Capital Investment. Hubris. Being Ready
If you don’t know what to do with $10,000, what the hell would you do with $10,000,000?
You might cause great damage to yourself, your life, your business.
Be humble, be patient. Wait until it’s the right time.
If you have an abundant mindset, you will know that there are oceans of money out there and they are always going to be there waiting for good businesses to invest in: great teams with great ideas and great business models aimed at great markets at a great time to be doing all of it.
Be a person worthy of investment.
Build a business worthy of investment.
Then the money just shows up.
Otherwise, you are a crook.

The Metrics of Success Matter
Realize when you are in a domain where you can self deceive. Guard against it by choosing the right metrics and controls.
If you are operating a business- there are established metrics that matter. “New Metrics” should be viewed with great skepticism.
Revenue, growth, margins, profit, cash flow, customer churn, customer concentration, capital efficiency, ROI, ROIC.
Tried and true.
Don’t lie to yourself. Very few businesses are actually a business without profits (let alone without revenue).
The Internet gives you wiggle room. You can focus on not selling and tell yourself you are doing well.
Traffic, eyeballs, downloads, emails, followers…
Traffic is stupid. Customers, product, pitch, relationship is important.
You are dealing with humans who need to take action to sustain your business.

You aren’t good enough to be Disappointed
Professional’s have the right to be disappointed in their performance.
Pro’s have already done the work to get better. If you get on stage and blow it, you can be disappointed.
Amateurs only have the right to go work harder at the craft. Be willing to improve to attain a certain level of mastery. Be hungry for it.
If you are an amateur- You get on stage, you blow it, you just have to tell yourself- “Well, time to get back to work. I obviously need to improve.”
“You’re not good enough to be disappointed. You’re bad enough to get to work.” ~James Clear.

James Clear: http://jamesclear.com/good-disappointed

Jam Sessions
Actively create environments for you to be maximally productive.
Productivity doesn’t “happen”. You have to make it happen.
Intention. Goal. Structure. Accountability. Focus.
Use of Time, Iteration: 50 minutes on. 15 minutes off to recharge, assess the last 50 minutes and to plan the next 50 minutes and work better. Do this for as long as you want or can endure. You can do this over days. It’s a sprint interval workout.
Fit: This is great for project based work.
Accountability: Have at least one partner there too for support and accountability. As you stare at them over your laptop and you see them working, you work harder. Sled dogs.
Distractions: You need to clear your calendar to make this work- or push all your other activities to the morning or evening but not during Jam Session time.

IDEA: Go after online/pay for education
Go after for profit education models. University of Phoenix. Kaplan.
Leverage on both sides. Banks want to loan, students want to take on loans. High perceived ROI on both sides.

Show people how to make money. Show them how to get the tools they need to achieve their goals.
Pat Flynn is solving a more profound problem with “make money online” than with “pass an architecture test”.

Give more resources to help people learn how to be independent.

In Closing
I’m obviously a big fan of Dan, Ian and the TMBA team, and the Dynamite Circle.
You really don’t have to create “new” content.
You can iterate by consuming lots of good content and just making inferences, connections, summaries, distillations, deep dives, extrapolations, and expansions.
Takes a lot of pressure of trying to be all creative and brilliant and shit.

Please feel free to comment, question, push back, or heap praise.  Insults also welcome- but remember- you started it :)

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Hitting the Road

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“All that is gold does not glitter. Not all those who wander are lost.” ~Tolkien.

My 45 days of travel starts…now.

I’ll be writing, consulting, and networking like a mo fo.

I’m spending time in the SE Asia entrepreneurship hotspots and making as many genuine friendships and having as many real conversation about life, businesses, happiness, and family that I can.

My itinerary looks something like this:

Feb 18-30. Puerto Galera, Philippines. Badladz Beach Resort. Dynamite Circle workshops.

Mar 1- 13. Ho Chi Minh City, Thailand. Meet up with expat entreps. Learn a bit about the city and my heritage as a Vietnamese and a child of war (wouldn’t have been born otherwise).

Mar 14-23. Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Mar 26-30. Pioneer Nation, Portland Oregon. 500 current or aspiring entreps. My tribe.  Thanks to Chris Guillibeau and his entire team.

Then perhaps back to Japan to see the sakura (cherry blossoms) and reunite with my family.

I’m taking this trip for many reasons, but the primary reason is to continue to invest in myself massively and to connect with amazing people around the world.

Why do I chose expat entreps? Because it’s a fantastic selection factor. If you can only know a few things about a person before you decide if they are going to be interesting, dynamic, engaged, thoughtful, creative, fun…what would those data points be? I have my list.

Life in Beta, Constant Learning and Giving

In search of experiences, friends, mentors, and students. You learn by doing (be in and of the world), you learn by being taught (find a mentor), you learn by teaching (be the mentor).  So, I’m doing all that.

I mentor a young engineering student in Mangalore, India that I’ve only met on Facebook (not creepy) and I send that student all sorts of info on philosophy, decision making, investing in yourself, becoming a better writer, student, person.  It’s incredibly educational and gratifying for me at least.

I have cultivated relationships with a couple mentors that have had a disproportionate impact on the course of my life. I would not trade their friendship and mentorship for any amount of money.

Take the Pain NOW or Later

I think that life is a journey- a rough journey. It’s a fight at times. You are going to have to take pain and you are going to to have to seek out pain to grow.  I have continually sought out goals where I have no business attempting the thing and slim odds once I completely committed to the path.  More often than not, I got what I sought. Even if I didn’t, I grew.

Leaving my family for this long is going to be very painful, but, it puts incredible positive pressure on me to make it worth it.  I sleep 5 hours a day (2 REM cycles at night, .5 to 1 REM cycle siesta- no alarms ever).  So, I have 19 hours to work, make friends, walk, eat, think, play, be still. That’s a pretty full day.

What you seek, what you get, your path

Glitter glisten gloss. I’ve aimed myself at some goals that turned out to be wrong. I wanted to be a rich hedge fund manager and so I got myself into a top business school (Chicago Booth) and focused on becoming a health care investment banker (offers at Credit Suisse SF, UBS NYC, Lincoln In’t Chicago with no internship or prior experience). Not a mistake, but a misstep.  My learning and connections and work have been beneficial to my life, but I think I could have gotten to where I wanted to go without the detour.  Perhaps not.

But all that glitters is not gold. I know lots of rich people who are miserable. I know lots of millionaires that I am much more wealthy than because I have time, I can think scary/risky thoughts, I can speak my mind, I can travel anytime, I can spend time with my wife and kids and sacrifice business opportunities instead of the other way around.

I would also not trade my physical and emotional scars for anything. The last two years of painful, desperate wandering have taught me so much even though every day I worried about putting food on the table (not really, but emotionally). Wrecking my brand new WRX, my ruined ankle, my devastated trading account, my b-school mountain of debt, my heartbreaks….wouldn’t trade any of them. Black gold. They don’t glitter, but they are infinitely valuable to me. They are the carbon in the iron that make me steel now.
Polish me, sharpen me, hammer me (travel, learn, live, give, mix shit up) … now I’m a samurai sword.

ps. the sun does glitter gold on the water in Panama….it really, truly does

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Ready, Steady, Go

So, here we go. If you know a couch I can crash on or a great place to eat with an acceptable risk of dysentery (Taipei night market- I have bested you), shoot me a message.

Where I wrote this post from:

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Some articles for you:
Chris G’s blog on taking trips

http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/the-big-trip

A fantastic 2013 blog roundup by Mish&Rob

http://www.makingitanywhere.com/best-blogs-2013/

Invest in Yourself by Ben Casnocha

http://casnocha.com/2013/05/invest-in-yourself-at-the-low-end-and-high-end.html

Why you should just keep giving to have a happy and awesome life. “Give and Take” by Adam Grant via the amazeballz crew at BrainPickings

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/04/10/adam-grant-give-and-take/

(message me if you want the audiobook)

Great quotes about the Journey

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/journey

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James Altucher’s Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Mastery

Well, I’m still reeling from reading this amazing piece by James Altucher.
“The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Mastery” by James Altucher, posted on Quora

Fucking awesomesauce.

I believe that James has been through so much and come out the other side that he is a bit enlightened.

Flawed, but enlightened.

Not to the great extent that you think about a Ben Franklin or  Martin Luther King Jr.  These great people had well documented flaws but they still reached “buddhahood” in any modern sense. Centered, altruistic, in a state of flow, inspirational.

When looking at incredible figures from the past to emulate, take care. History scrubs out the defects- religion buries them.  Jesus and Buddha (Siddhartha) had flaws and no one thinks about those flaws anymore.  This sets up an unrealistic expectation of what you should strive for in life and in your own mental state.  It sets you up for failure- like trying to dunk on a rim 20 feet in the air- not gonna happen no matter what.

I find it useful to find modern day people to emulate because you can see them for their greatness and their baseness. You can forgive yourself your failings and still do great things because these “filled in” inspirational characters are making massive contributions despite the warts. People like Ai Wei Wei, Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, Bill Clinton, Cheryl Sandburg, Sonia Gandhi- you can watch them in real time- they are (haven’t yet been) deified.

Ascetic_Bodhisatta_Gotama_with_the_Group_of_Five

So, back to this piece by James. It is great.

It touches on some many important points and riffs on one of the three most important books in my life, “Mastery” by Robert Greene (non-affil link).

You need to commit to decades and decades of effortful practice to mastery something.

That means you have to:

1) Pace Yourself: 4 hours a day- not 20 hours a day.  Ibankers and Silicon Valley wiz kids and every Tiger parent- I wag my finger at you.

2) Multi-Disciplinary: master at least two areas to 99 percentile competency.  Usually, that means one general skill and one niche skill.  Selling + managing  a hardware company = Jobs.  Market capture + software development = Gates.  Oil Refining + Distribution = Rockafeller.  Then there’s Leonardo Di Vinci…
Corporations and Academia want you to be as narrowly focused as possible. It gives them maximum benefit while destroying your employability elsewhere (your bargaining power).
So, the way to make sure that food is always on the plate and no one can take away your livelihood is to have at least two areas of high competence. The farther they are apart- generally- the more valuable the combination will be because the combo (and the insights gained) will be much more rare and disruptive.
That means you are better than 99 out of every hundred people in the world who are also trying to do the thing you do.  It probably take 2 years to get here, but it only takes 2 weeks to get to 95 percentile and only 20 minutes on Google to get to 90 percentile competency.  Don’t believe me?  Google “how to take better photos with your camera phone.  Read 2 blog posts and watch two youtube tutorials about rule of thirds, golden ratios, lighting, positioning, how to hold your phone steady, composition.  Boom- you are now better than 9 out of 10 people who take photos with their phone.

3) Ridiculous Love for and Commitment to yourself, the art, the knowledge, the journey, the community. Call this persistence, determination, stubbornness, OCD, focus, dedication, devoting, zealotry, religious fervor…

It’s ok to switch tracks. It’s ok to have meltdowns and get your teeth kicked in and to lay down and bleed awhile.

But, you have to get back up- because that is why we are here. To get back up. You’ll lay down forever one day, so don’t worry about being tired. In the long run, we will all get plenty of rest.  This is not contradiction of pacing yourself.

4) Luck, Talent.  When sperm hits egg, some things happen.  Everything else after that needs to happen too to one extent or another.  But, when sperm hit egg- Shaquille O’Neal was going to have a shot at being the most dominant basketball player of all time. Not saying that he was, but he’s in the conversation with Jordan having the clear edge but that’s the only name. Shaq, if given proper nurturing and avoiding death or dismemberment, was going to be very tall with lots of muscle, fast twitch, heart/lung capacity, visual acuity, body coordination, bone structure

5) Find Mentors. Life is too hard and too short to go it alone. Find knowledgable people, get them invested in you, extract their knowledge in a conscientious way. You have to be worth their time or you have to appeal to something in them that they give you time though you are currently not worth it. Mentors compress the learning curve (insights, frameworks, examples, feedback) and the success curve (introductions, best practices, savviness).

What two fields would you like to be a master of?
How would you combine them for maximum impact?

Who are the 5 people in the world that would be the best mentors for you? Now…what is your plan for reaching out to them?