Exponential Ideas

Sometimes I’ll get an idea that I like and think has potential, but for lack of available juice it’ll pretty much stay in the back of my head. Since starting this blog, I’ve gotten a nice outlet for those ideas – I can put them here. All the potential results of this are positive:

  1. Maybe it already exists! Funny anecdote – when I was a kid, I told my parents I had a great idea to save on our gas bill. I had realized that wood burns, and thought that it would be BRILLIANT to just put wood in a metal box and burn it instead of paying for gas like a sucker. So… I invented a wood-burning stove. I invented backwards. My parents swear I was a smart kid, but most of the stories of my childhood are like this. Apparently I “invented” the icebox the same way. The point is that just because you invented calculus, doesn’t mean someone else didn’t do it sooner. It’s good to pay attention to the world. So maybe this idea I’ve come up with already exists, and someone will read this blog and tell me about it, and then I’ll have the thing I want!
  2. Maybe it doesn’t exist, but someone will steal the idea and make it. Why do I think this is a good outcome? Because then I’d have the thing, which is all I really want. If I was going to make it myself, I’d do it. This is me being honest that I’m not. I use a lot of juice on other stuff, and I don’t have an infinite amount to spend on every idea. I have to pick my battles, and I’m working on a lot of other things that make me happy.
  3. Maybe it doesn’t exist, and no one makes it, but at some point I’ll circle around to it and do it myself. If that ends up being the case, it’ll probably be because a lot of people gave me good feedback.

I think one of the reasons you often see a lot of good ideas/innovations come from the same person or organization is because once a big part of your juice and daily life is dedicated to “develop ideas I have,” it obviously becomes easier to explore the possibilities of them when they come up. If you spend a lot of time writing, it’s easy to write something new that comes into your head. If you spend a lot of time building stuff already, it’s easy to build a new thing. Which is a good lesson in itself!

Anyway, now I feel like I wrote a lot of words about ideas in general and didn’t actually talk about this random idea I had. It probably won’t be worth the build-up, but I’m committed!

Here’s the idea: I run into a lot of emailed newsletters. Lots of people whose thoughts I enjoy have them, lots of industries that are relevant to me produce them, etc. The problem is that I don’t want 25+ email newsletters and I’ll never read them all if I get them. What I would LOVE is a software solution that lets me create an account and sign up for email newsletters through it, and then on whatever interval I request (daily, weekly, only Tues & Thurs, whatever) compiles all the newsletters into a single PDF (with links intact!) and emails that to me. Sort of like customizing my own e-zine out of the newsletters that exist. Then I can throw that e-zine on my Kindle or iPad or whatever and read it at my leisure.

Does this exist? Should it? Feedback welcome!


This isn’t going to be my normal blog post for the day, so you’ll sort of get a bonus one today. A few posts ago, I defined a term that I wanted to use in that post. The term was “juice,” and here’s what I meant by it:

Whenever you’re working on something, a lot of resources get used – time, money, effort, calories, social capital, decision-making fatigue, mental energy, sacrifices, and so on. Rather than write all of that out, I’m going to collectively lump all of that together under the term “juice.” So when I use that term, that’s what I’m talking about: the wide variety of resources, both tangible and intangible, that are required to make things happen.

I wanted to have that term defined in its own post, because I intend to keep using it (I think it’s a helpful concept in a lot of conversations), and I wanted to have a post to link back to. So I’m once again using the blog as an idea-organizer – thanks for playing along!

Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Today is my son’s first birthday!

While no one can predict the future, I don’t have any plans to have any more kids (I’m blessed with three, and I think we’re at capacity!), so that means this is likely the last 1st birthday I’ll be directly involved in for a while. At least until the grandkids start showing up, which is probably a ways off yet.

Buddy is a smiling, happy, active boy. He stomps little happy feet all the time, and laughs easily and often, even for a baby. He eats like a horse. He absolutely adores music, especially when his grandfather plays the banjo. He can beat on the bongo drums pretty well himself.

Before I had kids, I massively underestimated them. I had no idea a one-year-old could have so much personality; I sort of assumed they were all pretty generic until at least kindergarten. I certainly had no idea that a two-year-old could express complex ideas or be intentionally funny. And I couldn’t have dreamed that a seven-year-old could be the most interesting, fun and brave person I knew.

Added all together with the extra months, I’ve raised about 11 years’ worth of kids, given that their current ages are 1, 2.5 and 7.5 respectively. Sometimes it feels like about a hundred years.

Sometimes it feels like a few days. A blink.

I couldn’t possibly list everything I’ve learned about being a parent, every mistake I’ve made, every victory. But here are some big, big takeaways about parenting while I’m thinking about them:

  1. Kids want to be good. They just want to be active. Don’t spend your precious time trying to prevent them from doing bad stuff. Point them in a positive direction and let them run. Put all your effort into rewarding and encouraging good behavior, and you’ll almost never have to punish bad. I can’t remember more than a dozen times I’ve had to actually punish a kid with a time out or something – instead we spent a ton of time creating reward games for good behavior and heaping praise on kindness whenever we saw it. It’s worked so far.
  2. They are so, so, SO smart. You will never be prepared for how much smarter they are than you think they’ll be. They will figure you out fast. That also works both ways – they can perfectly understand you much younger than you think. By six months they’re not creatures of pure instinct any more, and you would be shocked at how much language they understand by then. You can just talk to them, and they’ll understand way before they’re actually able to talk back. They can also open everything you think they can’t open. At 7 months, Buddy unlocked a pin-protected phone. I mean, then the little “hacker” licked it, but still.
  3. You teach them literally 100% of their behavior. They don’t do anything you don’t teach them to do. If they bug you for snacks, it’s because at some point you gave them snacks when they did that. If they cry after you put them to bed, it’s because at some point you let that cry convince you to pick them back up. You can do whatever you feel comfortable with, but if you ever find yourself exasperated and asking “why do they DO that,” just remember it’s because you taught them to. That extends to a lot of behaviors as they get older – they’ll curse if you curse, smoke if you smoke, drink if you drink. You’ll never hide it from them. Use them as your reason for being better. More than anything, teach them to love.

I’ll miss having a little baby, but not nearly as much as I’ll enjoy the person he’ll grow into. Each of my children is more awesome today than they were yesterday; they become cooler people every day, and I love being there for it.

Happy Birthday Buddy, you entire meatloaf. I love you.


I had a conversation with my seven-year-old daughter yesterday. I noticed she had a bandage on her thumb, and I asked her how she got it (the stories of my child’s myriad injuries are always great).

She said, “I was using a sharp knife to cut a cucumber and I accidentally cut myself. It was GUSHING BLOOD.” (Note: That probably means there were three drops, as my daughter’s talent for hyperbole is well-documented.)

I said back, “Oh, then you need more practice. Remember to count your fingers before you start cutting so you keep track of where they all are, and remember that you shouldn’t have to press hard. If the knife doesn’t go into the vegetable easily, you’re using the wrong one.” She agreed, and confirmed that the knife had indeed worked easily, but she’d forgotten to count her fingers so her thumb was in the path of the blade. She assured me she’d remember next time.

We then rode along quietly for a few blocks (this conversation happened in the car) while I thought about that exchange. Then I commented to her:

“Do you know that there are parents out there that would have heard you tell you me that story, and because of it would have told you that you’re not allowed to use the knife any more until you’re older?”

She made a face not unlike this one:

We talked about that for a while. About how parents often see their kids make mistakes, and conclude immediately that a particular activity is beyond them or that they should be shielded from it. Too often parents think their job is to minimize harm – real and imagined, actual and potential – instead of to maximize learning.

I don’t want to raise porcelain dolls that are afraid of knives. I want to raise scarred, knife-savvy badasses. You need to exercise some judgement here – I’m obviously not handing a knife to my toddler – but overall I think we err way too much on the side of caution.

When the bandage comes off my Beansprout’s thumb, she’ll be no worse for wear. But the impact of the confidence she gets from my encouragement and support as she learns to command the world around her will last forever. The Beansprout has many amazing qualities – she’s kind, she’s smart, she’s charismatic. But my favorite of all her positive traits is that she is dauntless. Fearless and unstoppable. And it’s not born from a lack of realism – she’s fallen out of plenty of the trees she’s climbed, taken plenty of nose-dives off the back of her bike, gotten stung by the bugs she catches. It only makes her quicker, more resilient, more sure of herself.

When I see her dangling from a tree branch, every nerve in my body shouts at me to run over, to grab her, to shield her from the consequences of her actions. But instead, I steel myself and say “find your footing, swing over to the next branch. I bet you can go even higher.”

While writing this, the Beansprout came over and asked me what I was doing, and when I told her I was writing about her, she asked if she could write something:

My dad is the best dad in the world. My mom is the best mom in the world. Try your hardest at everything you do!

(The preceding was typed entirely by the Beansprout, including proper punctuation and capitalization, and with no direction from me. I only added the italics. Photo evidence below.)


We are not meant to be static.

Change anxiety is a very real thing. Status quo bias is huge. We fear any disruption to any part of our lives. I think I understand why.

If you never change willingly, change will happen to you none the less. But change that happens to you unexpectedly can often be change for the worse. If all your changes are for the worse, then you’ll fear change and you won’t do it willingly.

Get it?

You’re going to go through changes either way. Nothing lasts forever. So go out and pick the ones you like! Shout “you can’t fire me, I quit!” to all of life. Train yourself to be comfortable with change when it happens, so you can better ride the storm of unexpected disruption, and to grasp the many positive changes that slip by you because you’re otherwise moderately comfortable.

Devil take “moderately comfortable.”

Sometimes things should be discarded even though nothing is wrong with them, to make room for better things. Jobs. Relationships. Clutter. Locations.

The goal of your life isn’t to build a barricade against the world. It’s to live in that world!

Someone I used to work with, who was one of my favorite co-workers ever, just left her job. She didn’t get fired (in fact, they adored her there), nor did she leave because she had another job offer. She didn’t dislike her job – she sings the praises of the company and the work they’re doing. So why did she leave?

The same reason a butterfly leaves a perfectly good cocoon. It was time. She’ll do something new, something amazing, see more of what life has to offer. It’s her change, and she can do whatever she wants with it – it didn’t happen to her. She made it happen.

So can you. It’s thrilling.

Turn and face the strange.

Happiness & Success

Sustainable growth, improving in the face of success, and realistic costs. That’s what I’m going to talk about today. I’m going to put down my thoughts about why we can improve sometimes but other times it feels hard, why the biggest barrier to your future success might be your past success, and why you can “be anything you want” – if.

Before I get into it, I need to define a term I’ll be using a lot in this piece. The term is “juice.” Whenever you’re working on something, a lot of resources get used – time, money, effort, calories, social capital, decision-making fatigue, mental energy, sacrifices, and so on. Rather than write all of that out, I’m going to collectively lump all of that together under the term “juice.” So when I use that term, that’s what I’m talking about: the wide variety of resources, both tangible and intangible, that are required to make things happen.

Part I – The Scramble

When you’ve got nothing, success is easy. That’s because when you’re literally at rock bottom, nearly anything counts as “success.” If you’re broke and you go out and make fifty dollars, that’s a huge win. And I don’t mean to say that in a derogatory way or diminish it – it is a huge win. If everything about your current situation is bad, you won’t waste any juice on maintaining any part of it, so 100% can go towards forward movement.

But the more you gain, the more you have to care about what you’ve gained. If you work incredibly hard to turn a plot of arid land into a farm that can grow crops, that’s a huge win. But now you have to maintain that land – the farm will go south fast if you don’t pay attention to it. So you can’t put the same amount of juice into the next acre as you did to the first one.

When you push off against the side of the pool while you’re swimming, you get a great burst of speed to start. But then you’ve got to propel yourself while also staying afloat.

I recently had an interaction with a company that fell well within my area of expertise, and within that sphere, they were doing a lot of things wrong. But overall they were successful – clearly they were doing something right in other areas. Because I don’t ever want to think I have all the answers, I started digging a little deeper; maybe I was the incorrect one after all. But no, I’d found that similar experts had said similar things about this one area, even though the company was doing pretty well overall. So why weren’t they fixing this one thing?

Because 100% of their juice was fueling the maintenance of the things they’re doing well. They’re spinning plates. Their growth has been very rapid, but that means they don’t have a lot of their processes locked down, efficient and automatic yet. They’re scrambling. That doesn’t mean they won’t figure it out and ultimately be successful (they might!), but it does mean that future growth is going to be very, very difficult until they do.

In other words, their current success is hindering their future success, because instead of having juice to spend on growth, they’re spending it all on maintenance. You’ll always spend some percentage of juice on maintaining your existing successes – nothing will ever be truly automatic – but you want that outlay to be as low as possible, so you have enough left over to keep growing.

Part II – That Which Is Unseen

Frédéric Bastiat (a brilliant 19th-century economist) wrote about how it can be extremely difficult to grasp the reality of things that don’t happen but could have. If you slack off on maintaining your car and then have to pay 100 dollars for a repair as a result, you feel that very sharply. But if you slack off at work and as such don’t get a hundred dollar bonus that you otherwise could have, you don’t feel that nearly so much – maybe not at all. In both cases you’re a hundred dollars poorer than you could have been, but your mind treats those scenarios very differently. In other words, we feel the pain of losses much more sharply than the pain of foregone gains.

We’re always on the lookout for losses, but we’re nowhere near as good as spotting the places where we’re foregoing extra gains. This is true always, but it’s especially true if you’re already doing pretty well! If you’re dead broke, you’re looking out for any opportunity to make money. But if you have a comfortable income, you’re not as tuned to the opportunities where you could be making more if you changed things. If your business is generating good revenue, you’re not as aware of the places where it could improve.

Part of that is because you’re spending juice on just maintaining what you’ve got, so you have less for new ideas. But another big chunk is that we tend to think, “If I’m successful, I must already be doing everything right.” We let our egos get in the way. It’s good to be proud of your accomplishments – it’s just bad to be too proud. Leave yourself enough humility to improve.

Another reason we’re bad at that is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that only people more successful than us can teach us anything. And as you get more successful, naturally that pool of people shrinks down. But someone doesn’t need to be an expert to teach you something. Even if you’re successful, you’ve found one of potentially thousands of paths to get where you are. Other paths might have taught you different things. You took Path 1, so now that you’re here you’re successful, but you’ve reached a plateau because you’re great at Thing A but not so good at Thing B. Someone who took Path 2 might not have been as successful because they never learned enough about Thing A, but along the way learned a lot more about Thing B than you.

So before you’re quick to say “Who are you to tell me how to run my business, if you’re not as successful as me,” ask yourself – are you the maximum level of success you could possibly be, or is there room for improvement despite the fact that you’ve done well? And if there’s room for improvement – then you don’t know everything, and thinking that you do is holding you back.

Part III – Everything You Ever

When we tell kids “you can be anything you want,” we’re trying to be encouraging. To let them know that their destiny is their own. My favorite Dr. Seuss quote (and one of my all-time favorite quotes, period) is:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.

It’s not only true, it’s an important lesson to teach. But I think it’s incomplete – we leave out an important bit. I’m not the brilliant poet that Dr. Seuss is, so forgive me, but:

Some roads are expensive
And others are cheap.
Some paths are quite shallow
And many are steep.
You can still be a winner
When you’ve just lost the game.
You can take any path,
But they don’t cost the same.

To put it in a much geekier, less-poetic way: We don’t really teach our kids about opportunity cost, and we should. Yes, you can be anything – you can be a schoolteacher or an astronaut. But by any measure, being an astronaut is much, much harder to accomplish. If we measure success only by the end result, we’re getting a very skewed view of reality.

If I offered you a choice between a new Kia Forte or a Ferrari 458, which would you want? Most people would probably take the Ferrari. But if the choice instead was between a Ferrari 458, or a Kia Forte with $200,000 in the backseat, which would you choose now? Sure, a Ferrari is cooler than a Kia. But that’s measuring only the end result. The two hundred grand that the Kia didn’t cost might have bought a lot of cool stuff. That’s “that which is unseen.”

The lesson here is absolutely NOT that we should tell kids not to strive for things that are hard or require a lot of juice to get there. But everyone – kids and adults alike – should recognize that sometimes the thing you think you want costs way, way more than things that would make you equally (or more!) happy.

Putting this all together: Maybe you’re pretty successful. Maybe you wish you were more successful, but for some reason the trajectory has slowed for you. When you were broke and hungry you got motivated and took off like a rocket, but now the steps are longer and you’re not growing like you used to. You had an idea of where you wanted to be by now, but it was based on the rate of growth you saw ten years ago and that rate has slowed, so now you’re not where you thought you’d be.

It’s time to look around. Look over your past successes – are they fueling you, or draining you? Is it taking a lot of your juice just to maintain them, or are they giving you more? If it’s the former, then go reinforce or even rebuild them. Delegate your authority. Someone I used to work for just named a new CEO for his company so he could focus on a new project – that’s bold and correct, and not everyone can do that.

Doing that will help you in another way – it’ll put the spirit of the hustle back into you. You won’t be resting on your laurels, you’ll be back to doing something new. And with that will come the learner mentality again; you’ll pull yourself away from thinking you know everything, because you’ll face more failures, false starts, and setbacks. That will keep you humble and humility will help you learn. That which is normally unseen will reveal itself to you.

And then you can take stock. Success is a journey, but at some point you have to decide what it really means to you. You have to define the terms of your own happiness, and that’s going to involve a little price comparison shopping, too. There’s all different kinds of happiness, and they all cost different amounts of juice. But there’s a particular kind of happiness out there that’s ideal for you – you have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can find happiness that costs just the right juice.


I have an excellent method for exploring new ideas or learning about new topics. This method works especially well when you have virtually zero background in the new area, and it feels too overwhelming to start.

This happens to people all the time. They decide they want to get into something new, but the incredible width and depth of new information feels daunting. I’ve worked with many clients who have exactly this problem, and countless more people I’ve just interacted with who express it. Since this method works really well, I’m going to share it with you.

Start with just one “thread.” What’s a thread, in this context? Literally any source of information pertaining to the new topic. Let’s say you want to learn about baseball. Your first thread could be anything – a Wikipedia article on a team, a person who works at a stadium, a book on the history of the sport. Interact with that thread – read the article, peruse the book, have a conversation with the person. That part’s easy, and probably what you would have done anyway. Here’s the actual method, though:

Your goal in that interaction is to come away with three more “threads” to follow.

So let’s say you’re talking to the friend that works in a stadium. Ask that friend whatever you want to know, but make sure you also ask for three different suggestions for new sources of information. A book he suggests, a show she watches, another person they think is also knowledgeable. Write these threads down.

Then pick one of the three and go interact. Watch that show, read that other book, talk to that other person. Make sure you get at least three new threads. So if you watch a show, maybe you write down the name of one of the people on it to look them up later because they seemed interesting or knowledgeable. Maybe you learned about a new player you want to follow on social media. Write them down!

Some of these threads won’t pan out or will go to dead ends, but that’s why you strive for three each time. Your list of interesting leads will grow and grow, and you’ll pick and choose the ones that seem most interesting. Sometimes you’ll find several threads lead you to the same new one, and then that one will become very enticing! Follow it, see where it leads.

In around 2012 or so, I became really, really interested in economics and political science. This is the method I used to learn about it. I started with a single blog that someone shared, but from there I read books, met economists, studied papers, and really fell into the world. I loved it, and the learning was phenomenal. After one particular three-hour conversation, a brilliant economist with the Canadian government asked me where I earned my Ph.D. That was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received, because I just learned what I did with this method.

It’s not groundbreaking or revolutionary, but it is very directed. The idea is loosely based on the small-world experiment; the basic idea is that all of these interesting pieces of information are connected, so you can start literally anywhere and if you follow enough threads you’ll become an expert. And more threads will point to better information, so all you have to do is be open-minded and follow any thread presented to you, and the natural way these things connect will lead you to good information.

The hardest part about this method is being very deliberate about getting three leads out of every interaction. If you don’t do that, you’ll lose inertia and end up just circling around the same dozen or so impact points, getting surface-level knowledge but never really going beyond it. But if you commit to turning each thread into three, your knowledge pool will grow forever. You can, of course, stop whenever you want – but learning is always a life-long journey. Take the long way home.

Priority Number One

Lots of things can be important to you. But only one thing can be the most important.

Everything has a ranking. The space between them may be razor-thin, and many things may vie for the top few spots. But there may come a time in your life when you have to choose between the two most important things, and on that day you’ll find out what number one truly is.

That doesn’t mean this is an easy thing to think about. But in reality, we act as if we already know the answer every day. Every choice we make, we’re implicitly prioritizing one thing over another – we prioritize convenience over health and money when we eat fast food. We prioritize family over career when we call out sick to take care of our kids.

But we’re often inconsistent. We prioritize today over tomorrow when we buy that new toy we don’t really need, but we prioritize tomorrow over today when we put aside more of our paycheck into a retirement account.

We’re inconsistent because we often haven’t really thought about the big picture. Try this: Make a list of everything that’s truly important to you. Family, wealth, happiness, fun, all of it.

Then rank them. Pit them against each other in your mind and decide which would win until you have a true hierarchy.

Then ask yourself if you’re really acting every day as if that were true.

And if you want a real “life hack” – once you’ve made that list, draw a line after number 5, and cut the list off there. Trash everything below #6. If it didn’t make the top 5, it’s probably just a distraction from the really important stuff.

Fault Lines

Most people have a terrible habit of making excuses.

Sometimes people rush to point the finger at someone else when a mistake happens, trying to foist the blame onto another party. That might be a bad habit, but it has two things going for it: one, sometimes it’s actually correct, and two, sometimes it’s actually helpful. If you’re pointing the finger accurately (i.e. at the person who actually made the mistake and should fix it), then your only real issue is tact and diplomacy. But at least you’re moving towards a solution.

That’s not, in my experience at least, what most people do. Most people don’t rush to blame others; maybe out of kindness, maybe just out of fear of the finger being pointed back at them. No, in my experience people are quick to blame the universe, or fate, or something like that. They say things like “it couldn’t have been helped,” or “no one could have seen that coming,” or “society is to blame,” or something like that.

I call those “fault lines.” Lines that try to hand-wave away fault… but also because they’re structurally dangerous places to build.

You see, you can’t build anything meaningful on that kind of sentiment, even if sometimes it’s true.

Sometimes things are going to happen that are genuinely not you fault – or even anyone’s fault. But saying that helps exactly no one get better. If a tornado hits your house, that’s not your fault – but if you stand around staring at the rubble of your home, unwilling to act because the mess wasn’t your fault, your life isn’t going to get any better.

It might not be your fault. But it is your responsibility.

Take yourself out of the victim mindset. You have varying degrees of control over the events of your life – but you almost never have no control. Remember when I said it wasn’t your fault that a tornado hit your house? Well… do you live in a high-tornado area? Is that public knowledge? You can’t control the weather, but you don’t have zero ability to make impact on the results. You could live somewhere else. And if your response is to start listing all the reasons why you can’t – the expense, proximity to your family, your work, whatever – then that’s still you making choices.

If a comet hits the Earth and we all die, that’s fate. If a tornado destroys your house, that’s maybe mostly fate, but some percentage poor planning. And if a tornado destroys your house a second time – well my friend, that’s on you.

That line of thinking will help you. Saying, “it’s not my fault a tornado hit my house” is a Fault Line. It’s structurally unsound. It won’t improve you life. It doesn’t matter if it’s your fault. It matters that your life could improve if you took certain steps, but you didn’t, because you cared more about blame than improving things.

Don’t accept that victim mindset. Don’t race to avoid blame or guilt – find a way to embrace accountability and responsibility. To do otherwise is to simply surrender to the universe and say you accept whatever cards fate deals out to you. I don’t. You shouldn’t, either.

How Can I Help You?

I want to help.

That’s about as concise of a statement about myself that can accurately summarize my goals while still being true. I won’t pretend I’m some altruistic, philanthropic angel, but I do get a lot of selfish happiness from seeing others succeed and knowing I helped, so it’s a win/win. Like probably 99% of people, though, I don’t always know the best way to help people.

Desire is not the same as knowledge. If someone is sick or injured, you can desire with all your heart for them to be better, but lack the knowledge to make it happen.

We spend a lot of our life trying to figure out the best ways to accomplish our goals. And for the most part, a lot of our societal structure is designed to facilitate that. What is a lot harder (and a much more solitary journey) is discovering that goal in the first place.

We ask high school students (or sometimes even younger people!) what they want to do with the rest of their lives, and expect real answers. Sometimes we’re trying to help them – if they say, “I want to be a veterinarian,” then we can leap into action and give them all sorts of tools and advice and methods to get to that.

We have a lot less to offer if they say, “I don’t know; I just want to be happy.” Or “I want to help people.” Perfectly reasonable things to want, but not specific enough for us to help. So we give flimsy, halfhearted attempts to get them to pick a more solid goal – we ask them “what would you do if you had a million dollars” and expect that to magically create a career plan for them.

We’re not comfortable with people not fitting into neat categories. We don’t like it if people want to leave options open. But many, many people reach a point in their lives where they realize that maybe they were a little to hasty jumping onto their first plan, and now they’re not only unsatisfied and unfulfilled, but they also feel trapped – they focused all their efforts on one thing, and now they don’t want to do that thing anymore.

What now?

If you want a nearly instantaneous way to increase your life satisfaction, help someone with something.

It doesn’t have to be huge. It doesn’t have to be miraculous. It doesn’t have to be a business. But I guarantee you that you’ll have a good day if at some point during that day you help someone carry something. Or answer a question for someone that’s lost. Or paint a door. Or change a tire. Or… a million different things.

Start small. But helping makes us feel good. Feeling good makes us think more clearly. Clear thinking gets us to our next goal.

I think the whole “what would you do with a million dollars” question is a terrible way to pick a career path or a life goal. But here’s another question that’s much better: If you had to spend 8 hours a day for the rest of your life helping people in any way you chose, how would you do it?

People need help. With everything. No one is an island. I can’t grow enough food myself to feed my family. I can’t repair an air conditioner. I can’t make shoes. There are literally billions of ways you can help.

If you start small, you may find that certain things come more naturally. When it’s all voluntary, you do the things that feel most natural and most satisfying. That can help you look at the world with different eyes. If you’re lost, just look around, and no matter where you are, ask:

“How can I help you?”