I have a particular client who has been doing absolutely stellar work recently. I commented as such, how much she’s accomplished and how far she’s come, and she said “It doesn’t feel like it.”

As a father, something I notice is that my kids never seem to age. I mean, they obviously do, but they never seem to. The only time it becomes apparent is when I have cause to really reflect on what they were like in the past, most usually because I look at a picture of them from the past. I see my children every day, so their growth is always incremental from the last moment I saw them. Taken in small doses, it seems to vanish entirely. Only in big chunks can you notice a distinct change.

On occasion, write down what your life is like on that day. Date it, and just put it away somewhere. That way, on occasion you can look at these snapshots the way I occasionally look at old pictures of my kids. And just as I say “wow, they really have grown,” you can say the same for yourself.

Moving a mountain never feels like moving a mountain. Because you don’t move mountains; you move rocks. But if you move enough of them then the mountain moves, too.

Mark the Occasion

People often have big epiphanies or major breakthroughs that don’t actually lead to any changes in behavior or lifestyle. The inertia of your daily life is a powerful force.

If you think about it, most of what you’ll do each day is set. You’ll sleep, probably in the same spot you slept the night previous. You’ll wake up and do some amount of “morning routine” that doesn’t change. You have to spend X hours a day feeding and grooming yourself. You probably have a schedule of work. And so on.

And in order to do any of these things with even a prayer of efficiency, you probably do them in a relatively stable order. So you don’t have a whole lot of time left over to begin with. And now you’ve had this huge epiphany, but it might not affect most of the stuff I just mentioned. Did your major breakthrough change the fact that you have to sleep and eat and shower and go to the bathroom and dress yourself and talk to your children and pay your bills? Maybe it changed how you do some of that, but if 85% of your day stays the same, how do you expect the new idea to stick?

So… move your desk.

Or your bed. Or park your car in a different spot. Or get a radically different haircut. Do something that you’ll see every day and will remind you that you did that thing specifically to mark the occasion of a major idea that you want to act on. Disrupt your own routine without abandoning what it gives you. So that the idea has something to grab onto, to stick to, and grow.


Some folks will put about a hundred times more mental energy into lamenting the loss of something than it would take to either get it back or make a new one.

There are a very, very small number of “once in a lifetime” things. Most things you value can be repaired or replaced – from favorite mementos to interpersonal relationships. Either accept that it’s gone and move on, or work to undo the damage caused by its absence.

But sorrow will carry you down with it. Shed, and move forward.

The No Jar

Most people say “no” far too reflexively. They dismiss or decline before they’ve even thought about it. They say no to things because they’ve said no to them before, or because there was even the slightest bit of uncertainty in the option, or even because they’ve set their internal default to “no.” This is a terrible habit.

Why? Because a reflexive “no” almost never gains you anything in life, but every single thing you said “no” to was an opportunity to gain something, even if only information. Your two options for answering any opportunity should be “conditional yes” or “deliberate no.”

A conditional yes is just that – a yes, “if.” It’s a good first answer. But the other is equally valid if done correctly. There’s nothing inherently wrong with saying “no,” of course. You can – and should – say “no” to a great many opportunities. But don’t let it be your default or your reflex. Think about why.

How can you raise the cost of a “no” on yourself? Simple. Keep a “No Jar.” It works just like a swear jar (a concept that can be applied in lots of interesting ways), except that instead of putting in a dollar when you curse, you put in a dollar when you say a reflexive no. A “deliberate no” is free – so if you take your time, think about it, come up with several reasons why the answer is “no” and what would have to be different to make it a “yes” – then that’s different. That’s free. But a “no” fired off within seconds of hearing the option? That costs a dollar.

“I don’t know what I want to eat tonight,” you lament. Your friend or partner suggests a place, and you immediately scowl and say “nah.” Boom – one dollar in the jar. Looking for work and a family member sends you a job listing? If you immediately trash it, that’s a dollar. The point isn’t to force you to say “yes” to everything; that’s why it’s a dollar and not $100. It’s just to raise the cost of saying “no” just a little bit so that you’re more likely to give each option a proper weighing and build a habit of keeping an open mind.

And here’s the side benefit – when you’re ready to say “yes” to something truly great, you’ll have a little startup capital to do it with.


A clean house is a fortress in which you can weather any siege the outside world can throw at you.

No matter what your living situation is, it’s improved by cleaning it. You can live out of a car, but it’s still better to live out of a clean car. Clutter is the fertile soil in which grow the weeds that will poison and choke you.

Clean your space.

Take A Break

Kids break stuff. It’s sort of natural. You should encourage it.

Don’t make kids afraid to break things. You should teach them healthy respect and not wanton destruction, of course. But they shouldn’t be afraid to touch things and experiment and even take them apart.

How else will they learn how to put them together? Most sense of the physics of the world comes intuitively, though contact and experimentation. You can’t ever understand how a hammer feels, predict the arc of the swing in your hand, if you’ve never done it. Reading about hammers, watching videos about hammers – it’s not enough. You’ve got to swing one.

And for kids, sometimes that means swinging them onto little toy cars in the driveway. It’s okay.


In the world of sales, compensation is often divided between a flat salary of a certain amount, and then a bonus or commission that’s variable based on sales numbers and performance. Some other professions work this way too, but sales is the most well-known.

In fact, it’s one of the draws of sales. A variable bonus or commission means you can earn more in an immediate way. But it’s also something that some people avoid, because it comes with uncertainty.

That’s why many sales roles have a mix. Sure, there are sales roles that are “straight commission” (no salary at all), and others that are normal salaried or hourly roles with only a nominal or even non-existent commission structure. But a hybrid is the standard.

Now imagine that you’re in sales, and you’re given some control over your compensation package. You can increase the commission percentage at the expense of decreasing the base salary, and vice versa. You have some knowledge of your own abilities, of course, but you can’t predict the future so you can’t guarantee your sales numbers. How would you configure your compensation?

I’ve been in that position, and here’s what I did: I minimized my salary to the level where it exactly covered my essential bills. No extra, no fun money, just keeping the lights on. And then everything else went into maximizing the commission.

This is a pretty viable strategy for a lot of things in life. Make sure your minimum costs are covered, then go high-risk/high-reward with the rest.

Do In A Day

You, like most people, probably vastly overestimate what you can get done in a day. Same with a week and even a month.

But like most people, you also probably vastly underestimate what you can get done in a year, ten years, or your life.

I’m not sure why that seems to be the barrier. But for most folks, you should be more ambitious with your years and more deliberate with your days.

I know it sounds strange to say this, but you can probably only accomplish one moderate thing each day. One! Everything else is mostly filler and treading water, because those things actually take up a lot of your day. Just working and feeding yourself and sleeping and stuff takes up a lot of your juice, and if after all that you only accomplish one decent thing you’re in fantastic shape. Why fantastic? Because think about what it would look like if you accomplished 365 moderate things all in a row.

That’s why you underestimate your years.

Putting Down Your Thoughts

I really like the term “putting down your thoughts” as a euphemism for writing. It’s more accurate than I first realized.

Imagine picking up a dozen small objects from around your house all at once – a stapler, a frying pan, the TV remote, and so on. Hold them all at once, without anything to carry them in. Now try to do anything. It’s pretty tough!

In order to be productive, you have to put some of that stuff down. My thoughts are like that, except they’re sticky. They don’t want to be put down. They all demand my attention, flashing lights and bright sounds, calling on me to engage with them. Some of these thoughts are negative and imposed from the outside. Some are quite positive and fun, but still demanding!

“Putting them down” is, well… putting them down. So I can free up my brain for a bit. Writing just quiets them for a while, appeases them. They’ll be back, of course – they never stay down long. But it’s manageable.

It’s especially helpful to get unstuck from loops. Sometimes a particular snippet will just repeat ad nauseum and I can’t move past it. Unless I write it down. From there I can build it out to its natural end or just exorcise it completely, but I can take it off the track of my mind.

I carry a notebook, pencil and pen wherever I go. I used to rely solely on note-taking apps, but sometimes the thoughts aren’t words, sometimes they’re pictures or graphs or symbols, and a note-taking app won’t do. But a notebook is always ready.

Some thoughts are tremendously, horrifically bad. Intrusive, unpleasant thoughts can spring when we least expect it. We have fears and anxieties within us, and plenty of ammunition for them externally. It’s only natural that sometimes you have a thought so bad that it will poison you and destroy you if allowed to remain. Like a wild animal that’s gotten a taste for human flesh. Only one thing to do.

Put it down.


I was a late adopter of cell phones for my age bracket. When I was 20 years old, one of my jobs was as a stable hand. I loved it. I lived on the farm, and worked 3 hours each morning from 6 AM to 9 AM in exchange for free room and board plus a modest salary. The rest of the day was mine to do what I wanted, and I worked a more serious, career-focused job while maintaining an incredibly low cost of living. I had a junker car that I owned outright. I had no debt and no real bills. And no cell phone.

Humorously enough, I had a computer and internet. Just no phone. I wasn’t impossible to reach – you could email me! If, you know, I was in front of my computer to check it. Which was almost never.

Of course, cell phones weren’t what they are now. The first iPhone was still years away. Phones just called and texted people. Maybe they played Tetris. And I was perfectly happy not having one. Eventually, though, they got better and better – and soon their allure became irresistible, as this small pocket device could replace a large number of bulky objects, and I’m very pro-stuff-reduction.

The problem is, this awesome little computing machine was also… well, a phone.

Nowadays, I’m not a stable hand. I’m a father of three who remotely manages a team of a half-dozen people and reports to several others. In other words, I need to be reachable, virtually 24/7. The little computer that I wanted became a little computer that I didn’t want, but it’s still attached to a phone I didn’t want then, but do need now.

I’m not anti-tech. I’m no luddite, by any means. But modern society, even in recent memory, used to have assumptions that for large swaths of your day you were just unreachable, and that was okay. It didn’t come with guilt, it didn’t come with panic. Modern life wasn’t built on the explicit assumption that every member of it can be contacted at any time.

I definitely have “contact anxiety.” If I’m out of contact for even a short period, I tend to start to worry that something bad is happening.

Someday, though. Someday when my modern work is done, I’ll retire. And I won’t retire from being productive, no. I’ll be building and writing and thinking and whatever else I want to do until they put me in the ground. But some day I’ll retire from everyone’s contact list – it will be hard to get ahold of me, and I will not feel anxious or guilty about it, and I will love it very much.