1. I thought I would look cool with a mustache. I was wrong.
2. Need an easy appetizer to bring to someone’s party? Baked brie. Always a hit.
3. The best way to show that you love someone is by baking them a giant cookie.
4. You should not rely on wearing funny t-shirts to be funny.
5. Emotions are contagious. If you’re happy, everyone around you starts to feel it. If you’re bummed out, same thing.
6. The world is full of awesome strangers. Talk to them.
7. Drink Gatorade to cure a hangover. Actually, drink Gatorade before going to bed to prevent a hangover.
8. If everyone else is crying at a funeral, you probably shouldn’t. One person needs to be the rock for others to lean on.
9. Sometimes you can’t prevent people from making their own mistakes. But you can be there to pick them up when they do.
10. Listening allows for better conversations
11. Work hard to find a job that you love. Or one that’s going to get you the job that you love.
12. Being proactive at work allows you to create projects you want to work on.
13. The only person who gives a shit about your career is you. Not your boss. Not your company. Only you.
14. If you want something, ask for it. Not everyone is can read minds.
15. Groups naturally need a leader. Whether it’s your friends trying to pick a restaurant or your team on the field, man up and be the person to make decisions.
16. The rule for casual dating – an honest talk about what you’re looking for at the beginning will save you drama down the road.
17. Date when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely. (Something an older kid told me when I was 15)
18. Don’t try to fix the person you’re in love with.
19. Try to fall in love with people who already love themselves.
20. If you’re living with a partner, always close the bathroom door. That shit is nasty.
21. At 9 years old, poop jokes were hilarious. 20 years later? Same thing.
22. Parents may have the best intentions, but not the best perspective.
23. Ladies, if you want your man to change his wardrobe, just tell him he looks handsome when he wears what you like.
24. Your best friends are the ones that made it to your wedding.
25. Bow ties are awesome.
26. You can’t make friends with salad. (I tried)
27. All women love french fries. Make sure to share.
28. Anyone can be creative. It takes two things: the bravery to start and the willingness to keep going
29. Weird is just awesome that everyone else hasn’t figured out yet.
One of my friends at work gave me the book “Born To Run” to read a while back. It sat on my desk collecting dust for about 6 weeks until I had a long flight to Germany and I started reading it. It’s written by Christopher McDougall who sets off on a quest to figure out the secrets from the greatest ultra distance runner in the world.
And it’s not just a boring technical running manual. It’s a story with incredible (real) characters, amazing insights and solid science. But above all, it inspired me to get off my ass and go for a run. Not because I felt guilty about it. It inspired me to rediscover the fun in running. To run with a smile on my face.
The deep dive into the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico, the cutting edge science and the human psychology lend themselves to uncovering a lot of lessons. Here are the top five that I gleaned from the book:
1. Humans are born to run. Love it. Do it. Leverage it to make your everyday life better. Don’t let your body atrophy because of a desk job and a sedentary lifestyle.
2. Life should be fun. The Tarahumara runners are some of the distance runners in the world. Why? Because they smile when they do it. Because they’ve been taught that it’s fun to run since and early age. And they never lost it.
3. Age is but a number. Sure, the prime age for a distance runner is 27 years old. But a 60 year old runner can still run as fast as a 19 year old. Your peak athletic ability descends at a slower rate than it ascends as you age. Especially if you train your body and give it the activity, nutrition and lifestyle it’s designed for.
4. Escape to nature to find happiness. One of the characters in the book ran to escape heartbreak. He found solace and peace through 50 mile runs over mountains, forests and fields. For you, nature can mean escaping the city, or simply finding a quiet spot in a park. But take the time to appreciate nature. It allows you to go back to who you are as a human being.
5. Technology doesn’t solve everything. In fact, it can work to create more problems than it solves. Complicated running shoe technology have systematically skyrocketed running injuries. In trying to solve problems, we’ve created technology that doesn’t allow for a natural running style. We are trying to out-engineer our bodies. The same thing happens in the workplace. Emails have systematically gobbled up our time. If you want to do work, do work. Being CC’d on an email chain isn’t doing work. Thinking and creating is.
Some books teach you through information. Some inspire you through stories. Some motivate you to get off your ass and run. For me, Born To Run was able to accomplish all three.
When opportunity knocks, there’s a very simple and polite thing to do – answer. If you’re not basking in superstar status, the chances are that opportunity doesn’t knock every day. Taking a moment to listen and consider an opportunity costs you nothing. And yet the potential benefits could be tremendous.
Most people are afraid of opportunities. Why? Because they represent change. Opportunities can fuck up the pleasant little life that you’re living. They can make you move cities, change industries, leave the people that you’re comfortable with. They represent a chance for failure. They represent a chance for rejection. So most people avoid being confronted with real opportunities. They would rather stick to dreaming about what they want in front of the TV instead of getting off their ass to answer the door.
If you reject opportunities from afar, than you never risk the failure associated with actually chasing something that you might want. You never get to know if that opportunity is real or not. You’re playing it safe for the sake of your ego. At the very least, have the balls to see if you can capture the opportunity that’s available in front of you. Then decide later if you want to keep it.
There are times when we all want to get noticed. To stand out in a crowd. To command people’s attention. In a conversation with a behavioural psychologist, I discovered that one of the easiest (and must underutilized) ways to do this is to smile. And it got me thinking – there are plenty of ways to get noticed.
There are simple things that you can do to gain the attention of the masses. There are also more difficult ways that require time and dedication. However, the harder ways are often the way that you get noticed by a discerning few.
HOW TO GET NOTICED – THE EASY WAYS
- Wear ostentatious outfits
- Start a fight
- Bring a puppy (or a cute baby)
- Spend money
- Point out a problem
- Say “fuck”
HOW TO GET NOTICED – THE HARD WAYS
- Be stylish in the details
- Be persistent
- Make people think
- Fix the problem
- Have your reputation precede you
- Lead a group
This week’s inspiration is all about breaking the rules. Nike paid filmaker Casey Neistat to make a film about its Fuelband and #makeitcount campaign but instead of shooting a straight advertisement for Nike, Neistat took the money, went on a 10-day around the world adventure and created an advertisement for life.
You’ve done the hard work. You put in the hours. You hit the gym. You did the drills. You have game time experience. You’re preforming well, but you can’t get to the next level. There’s a missing ingredient. That ingredient is a pinch of swag.
Swag. It’s the confidence to execute. It’s the willingness to take the game on your shoulders. It’s ability to deliver a win in in a clutch situation.
To be clear, it’s not cockiness. Derrick Rose has swag, but he’s not an asshole. He’s a grounded guy. But he has confidence. Confidence that the hundreds of hours he spent working on his delivery is going to pay off. And that swagger is what gives you the confidence to take the shot. Preparation and experience is what gives you the skill set to nail it.
Without swag, you’re not taking enough shots. You’re not putting yourself out there and chasing the opportunities that you want. Without swag, you’re giving up before even trying.
Find your swag. Find it and start taking your shots. Because your swagger is your ticket to the next level. It will transform you from a bench player in to an all star.
Strength is a funny thing. It’s built by being tested. If you want to lift heavier weights, you test your muscles until they grow stronger. If you want strong creative ideas, you have to challenge your mind to produce creative insights, thoughts and art. Strong character is demonstrated by being able to do the right thing in sketchy situations. Returning a lost wallet. Being honest when it’s simpler to lie. Being able to go out, have some drinks with your friends and be above extramarital temptation.
These thoughts on strength inspired me to put words on paper. Consider it a manifesto. A “call to arms” to be strong. Because life doesn’t always go the way that you wish it would. But these challenges are tests. They test your mind, your body and your character. And these tests make you stronger.
The “Be Strong” Manifesto
Life is a test. And only the strong succeed.
So be strong. Lift heavy burdens. After all, that’s how we get stronger.
Use your brain. Form strong opinions. Express them.
Use your heart. Have strong values. Don’t compromise them to fit in.
Figure out who you are. Establish a strong identity. Project a strong sense of self.
Be strong for your friends. Be strong for your family. Support the people that you love.
Build a strong network. Surround yourself with strong people. People who push you to be stronger.
Test your strength. Again. And again. And again. You’ll come out stronger.
Welcome the next big challenge. Because now you have the strength. To confront it. To own it. And to wrestle it to the ground.
Be strong. Be successful.
The inspiration for this manifesto came from two things. The first was the fact that I pushed myself to hit a personal goal that I was working towards for a long time. The second was someone who was able to help me reboot from a recent challenge. These words helped me. What’s helped you?
You have friends of friends. You have friends. You have best friends. And then you have life long friends. This story is about one of my oldest friends – Chris. We’ve been buddies for almost 20 years, which is amazing.
Over the course of two decades, I’ve learned a lot from him. But after a week of drinking scotch together in Hong Kong, it was apparent that we are still teaching each other things. And not just about expensive scotches.
Four years ago, Chris was working as an investment banker in New York. He was busting his ass, working crazy 80 hour weeks for some rich assholes. And then the markets crashed. The whole industry was thrown in a tailspin. He was in a situation where he wasn’t sure that his company was going to be able to pay him. So, he bounced.
He moved from New York to Beijing to learn Chinese. After a couple in Beijing, he connected with a guy that he knew in college. Together, they started their own private equity firm. After a couple of years and a stint in Shanghai, he’s now in Hong Kong running their company.
Let’s take stock. Four years ago, his world went to shit. But instead of sitting around trying desperately to hold onto his old lifestyle, he let go. He got the fuck out of there and made his own opportunities. He now speaks fluent Mandarin and pretty good Cantonese. He’s the boss instead of the employee. And (best of all) he makes his own hours.
What I love about Chris’s story is that he took lemons and making fucking awesome lemonade. At some point in our lives, we will all find ourselves in a situation that sucks. It can be school, a job, a relationship, an apartment or even a city. You think, fuck it. I’m out of here. I can do better somewhere else. But it takes balls to leave. It doesn’t take any courage to hang around and complain, trying to get your old life back. It takes courage to let go. To move on and actively search out your next opportunity.
The courage to embrace change - that is what’s cool. And that is what Chris taught me.
I play a lot of ultimate frisbee. I’ve written about it before here and here. Recently, I was selected for a high level men’s team that represents Montreal. They’re good. The level of play is higher than any other team that I’ve been a part of. They’ve won national championships and they’ve gone to worlds. For my ultimate frisbee career, this was a move up for me. When this happened, I was REALLY excited. It would give me a chance to learn from a group with a high level of experience, strategy and skill.
And then something interesting happened – they changed my position. I normally play a cutter, because I’m quick on the field. They changed me to a handler. The football equivalent would be moving a wide receiver to play quarterback. When this happened, I almost shit my pants. I had no idea why they thought that I would be a good handler. I had basically no experience in that role. I didn’t know the positioning, strategy or throws required. I was in fear of seriously screwing up and getting benched.
The stark reality of promotions is that people usually get pushed into positions of greater responsibility by being really good at the tasks that they already do. The challenge is that the new position often involves a completely different skill set than what was required from the previous role. Basically, because you were good at one thing, you’re asked to do something completely different. Because you’re an awesome art director, all of a sudden you’re expected to manage creative teams and guide other people’s work. But being good at concepting and art direction doesn’t give you the skill set to manage people. It’s a totally different beast. You have to deal with egos, motivation, creative opinions and strategy.
When faced with a host of new responsibilities without the proper training, it’s easy to panic. Since you just got the new position, you sure as fuck don’t want to screw it up. It increases your stress levels and distracts from actually performing. To move up gracefully, and surviving the handicap of not having the full skill set for a new role, there are five key things to do:
1. Stick To What You’re Good At
The first thing to do is to stick to what you’re good at. The skills that got you to where you are. The experience that got your selected. When you first enter into a new role, a big mistake is to try and prove that you can do everything. The truth is that everyone expects you to be able to be able to those things that you haven’t learned yet. By trying to do them without guidance or experience, you’re just going to prove that you CAN’T do them to everyone. So, lay low on your weaker points for the first little while. For the first big game, you want to stick to your core skill set. If you’re fast on the field and can only throw with 95% accuracy within 30 meters, then stick to that.
2. Get A Mentor. Or Two.
The next step is to get a mentor. The goal is to find someone who is willing to teach you the ropes and fill out your skill set. You want someone who has been there before. The good thing about a team or a big organization is that there are a lot of people who can help you out. And don’t be afraid to approach a couple of people. Some people can help you with throwing. Some people with cutting. With positioning. With defense. Ask everyone what you need to do better in order to play better on the team. Get constant feedback, tips and improvement. The goal is to get enough tips so that when you practice, you are practicing the right things.
3. Practice. A Lot.
To fill in the skill gaps required in your new position, you need to practice. A lot. It’s all about repetition. Getting enough experience under your belt that the movements are easy and automatic. The goal is to have near-perfect execution in practice. When it comes to game time, you can focus on the important things, like reading the opposition and adjusting your strategy. This step is often the toughest, because there is no shortcut. You just need to put in the hours to gain the experience. Dirk Nowitzki’s recent NBA playoff record of nailing 24 straight free throws was a product of practice. He credited it all to a couple of late night shooting sessions during their eight day game-less stretch in the playoffs. He just put in the reps.
4. Game Time – Introduce New Skills.
After a couple weeks of practice, you have a shiny new skill set that you want to incorporate into your game. But treat the introduction of those skills as a test. If they work, then keep using them. If not, then try to figure out what when wrong and fine tune. If worst comes to worst, go back to the practice stage. Keep on working on your skills until they’re game ready. There is no need to force new elements in before they’re ready. The key is to introduce them as a part of your game, and than carry on with the swagger that you had all along.
5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Until you have the full skill set required, keep on faking it until you make it. Don’t show the weaknesses in your game to your opponents on the field or to your clients in the boardroom. Just keep on practicing and working the extra hours until you get those skills locked in. People always assume that if you’re on the team or in the room, that you’ve earned your way there. Don’t prove them wrong by volunteering the information to show that you’re not.
Getting the call up is exciting and terrifying at the same time. Whether you’re moving into a new role at work or on the playing field, the emotions are the same. There is the enthusiasm at the opportunity to move up to the next level. There is the fear of failing now that the stakes are that much higher.
In order to be successful in a new position, you need to round out your skill set. But you don’t have to do it all at once. The reason you got the call up is because of what you’ve already proven that you can do. You can take your time and introduce the new elements as you get more comfortable with your role and yourself.
Why are you doing what you’re doing now? Maybe you’re doing it for fun. Or for the experience. Or because there’s nothing better to do.
There is a host of reasons for being in the job that you’re in. When starting out, the answer is often experience – you value real world experience in an industry to act as a foundation before you start building your career. You grow your book. You prove to people that you know what you’re doing and learn the on-the-job lessons.
The easiest answer is money – the job pays you what you need to get by and live your life the way you want it. Some people value free time over money – the job allows you to leave at an appropriate time so you can spend time with your family or skateboarding or travelling.
But there’s also power – the ability to reign over others and have your opinions heard. And then there’s recognition and celebrity – it’s nice to have your ego stroked and be known as one of the “leaders” in your field. To wield that star power has an intoxicating allure.
And the list goes on and on. But reasons all have something in common – they lead to happiness. Money gives you cash to buy the stuff to make you happy. Experience gives you leverage to create a happy career. Free time gives you the opportunity to spend time doing the things that make you the happiest.
There can be a lot of reasons why you work at your job right now. But they should all lead to happiness.
If what you do everyday isn’t enabling happiness in your life, then what will?